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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Not very magical, still... » » Books that have shaped me (5 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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mastermindreader
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What do you mean? "The Amateur Magicians Handbook" is the greatest textbook on magic I've ever read.


[Correction to earlier post: The sentence that included, "it only compromises about a third of Catholic theology," should read "comprises" NOT "compromises." Kind of inadvertently changed the meaning of the sentence there. Smile]
stoneunhinged
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I meant school textbooks.
JoeHohman
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Hi, Stoneunhinged.

I thought about listing my finance textbook by Burden and Faires, but I thought that would have looked odd. (Funny, the thought of appearing odd has never stopped any of my previous behaviors...)

And yes, I remember SRA's! Haven't thought about them in YEARS.....
General_Magician
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Quote:
On Oct 1, 2014, mastermindreader wrote:
What do you mean? "The Amateur Magicians Handbook" is the greatest textbook on magic I've ever read.


[Correction to earlier post: The sentence that included, "it only compromises about a third of Catholic theology," should read "comprises" NOT "compromises." Kind of inadvertently changed the meaning of the sentence there. Smile]


I bought the book yesterday given your recommendation. It looks like it's going to be a great read.
"Never fear shadows. They simply mean there is a light shining somewhere nearby." -unknown

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General_Magician
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Hey Bob,

I read "The Trick Brain" but I noticed you thought another book was similar yet superior to the "Trick Brain." What was that book? I thought the "Trick Brain" was awesome and made perfect logical sense when it comes to understanding the mechanics of magic. What makes this other book you were talking about superior to "The Trick Brain?"
"Never fear shadows. They simply mean there is a light shining somewhere nearby." -unknown

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mastermindreader
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Any number of books are superior to the Trick Brain, which attempts to replace actual creativity with a mechanistic formula that produces ridiculously contrived effects. Pick a random prop from this list. Pick an effect from this one and pick a method from this one.

Sorry, but that's not how great acts are created.

I basically agree with this review that appeared in the November 17, 1944 issue of The Phoenix:

Quote:
WE are in a quandary about how to review Dariel Fitzkee's monumental new book, "The Trick Brain". His analysis of effects and methods, his breakdowns of thought processes in the invention of tricks are superb. The book is encyclopedic and worthy of book space in a working magic library. But, and this is purely a personal but, the core of the book is the "Trick Brain" which is a formula for the creation of new tricks.

This is the first time to our knowledge that anyone has ever tried to do this with trick plots.

OUR criticism then, must be on what we know of the story plot method. Walter [editor Walter Gibson], one of the most stupendous word producers that has ever lived...has found it impossible to work from a formula book.

Bruce [editor Bruce Elliott], a newcomer to the fiction racket, has written and sold about four million words in the last three years. He can't work from the formula books either.

WE are not isolated instances. We know most of the other commercial writers and none of them have been able to use...any of the plot devices. They are too mechanical. And even when the device has given you the whole set up, there still remains the tiny factor of the creative idea which must be added.

It is that little factor, creation, and we as commercial fiction mills would be the last people to talk about genius, temperament and all the other bushwah that 'good writers' kid themselves with, that louses up the mechanical idea like this. Proof of our criticism, we think, are the tricks which Dariel gives as examples of the way the Brain operates. They are mechanically contrived. There are no little touches that make them tricks which you really want to do. They are admittedly new tricks, but not worldbeaters. That, we suppose, is valuable. It is thought provoking; a great deal of awfully hard work has gone into it. But we don't think a new generation of Jordans or Annemanns will arise after having used the "Trick Brain" itself.

As a matter of fact, we think that the book will be more valuable to youse (sic) guys for the reverse of what Dariel meant it. And that is, that a thorough study of the magic methods contained therein will enable you to crack down new tricks and deduce the modus operandi thereof.

BE that as it may, Dariel certainly deserves a lot of credit for the work that has gone into this pioneering work."


Yes, Fitzkee did put a lot of work into the book, but as I said earlier, it is a poor substitute for actual creativity. The Trick Brain, sadly, is to magic, what paint by the numbers kits are to oil painting.
General_Magician
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I thought Fitzkee's book was brilliant. Loved it! The reason why I think it's brilliant is because part of understanding the Art of Magic is understanding the Science of Magic. Sure, you need creativity no doubt in the Art of Magic. However, there is also a science behind the art. So, Fitzkee's book helps in understanding the mechanics of magic, which the mechanics of magic is part of understanding the science of magic and the science of magic is part of understanding the overall Art of Magic. Science is just as important as Art and you can use science in helping to create and understand art. This applies in magic as well.

Edit: Bear in mind that "The Trick Brain" should only be considered a book towards helping somebody understand SOME of the science behind magic and that it's focus is primarily on the mechanics of magic. It is NOT a book that should be considered as something that gives somebody an OVERALL understanding of magic, just helping with the science aspect, mainly the mechanics of magic. Not the creative side of magic. But understanding the mechanics of magic helps one to be more creative with magic.
"Never fear shadows. They simply mean there is a light shining somewhere nearby." -unknown

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mastermindreader
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I disagree. You'll get a much more thorough understanding of the mechanics of magic from "Our Magic" and the works of S.H. Sharp. Contrivance is not science. All Fitzkee did was categorize and create a formulaic device that simulates creativity. I've NEVER seen an effective act or effect that was developed by following Fitzkee's advice. I've seen a lot of bad ones, though.

Again, painting by the numbers isn't art, nor is it particularly creative.

Could you provide some examples of great effects you invented by using "The Trick Brain" that you actually use in your performances?
General_Magician
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It didn't seem like he was contriving to me. It seemed to fit in quite well and make perfect lgocal sense. That being said, after I finish reading over a few books, I'll check into "Our Magic" and some of the works of S.H. Sharp. So what makes these books superior to the "The Trick Brain?" What is it about them that make them better towards understanding the mechanics of magic? Are they logical and make sense? Or are these books just an example of the creative side of magic rather than the science or logic behind the mechanics of magic?
"Never fear shadows. They simply mean there is a light shining somewhere nearby." -unknown

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motown
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On Oct 1, 2014, stoneunhinged wrote:
Isn't it interesting that nobody ever mentions textbooks on these kinds of lists?

No one ever says, Fundamentals of Physics, or Mathematics for Business, or the McGuffey readers (which begs the question of why home schoolers are so fond of them), or, say, what I'm about to list as my fifth book:

5. SRA cards

Most of y'all probably don't know about these. But the private school I attended in Taipei used SRA's reading system. And--without any exagerration whatsoever--those darn cards probably shaped my life more than anything else.

Honestly, what I've read has shaped me much less than my ability to read.
On my list Gardner's Art Through the Ages is a textbook and was required for Art History when I was in college. A few of the others on my list, while not text books were required reading for courses in school.
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Magnus Eisengrim
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Quote:
On Oct 1, 2014, stoneunhinged wrote:
Isn't it interesting that nobody ever mentions textbooks on these kinds of lists?

No one ever says, Fundamentals of Physics, or Mathematics for Business, or the McGuffey readers (which begs the question of why home schoolers are so fond of them), or, say, what I'm about to list as my fifth book:

5. SRA cards

Most of y'all probably don't know about these. But the private school I attended in Taipei used SRA's reading system. And--without any exagerration whatsoever--those darn cards probably shaped my life more than anything else.

Honestly, what I've read has shaped me much less than my ability to read.


LOL I was just thinking of SRA cards. In 1971 a bunch of nice Canadian kids got to slug through SRA cards telling us how to be a bunch of nice American kids.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.--Yeats
Magnus Eisengrim
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On Oct 1, 2014, JoeHohman wrote:
Hi, Stoneunhinged.

I thought about listing my finance textbook by Burden and Faires, but I thought that would have looked odd. (Funny, the thought of appearing odd has never stopped any of my previous behaviors...)

And yes, I remember SRA's! Haven't thought about them in YEARS.....


They wrote a finance textbook? I have their numerical analysis book next to this desk, as I speak.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.--Yeats
stoneunhinged
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On Oct 2, 2014, Magnus Eisengrim wrote:

LOL I was just thinking of SRA cards. In 1971 a bunch of nice Canadian kids got to slug through SRA cards telling us how to be a bunch of nice American kids.


I honestly can't remember anything about the cards other than having to slog through them. My friend Robert and I had a contest of racing through them as fast as possible. I wonder if there are any of them online somewhere. I could google "vintage sra", maybe? LOL!
Magnus Eisengrim
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Image


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Image
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.--Yeats
Michael Baker
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Jumping back in a bit late...

Greater Magic, 141 Tricks, and in fact most magic books that deal with tricks are reference books. They CAN be read cover to cover, but inmost cases, do not HAVE to be. I also consider them to be textbooks, especially if magic become the profession of choice, as with me. Much of the learning is achieved at the school of hard knocks. Smile

141 Tricks was the first book on magic that I ever got. I still have that copy, and maybe another half dozen more. It was released in several covers and there was an expanded version at one time. The sleight section taught me everything except what to do with the sleights, once I'd learned them, but the prop section was the kickstarter for what I do now.

I did not list The Trick Brain, although of course I have read it. If the book is taken at face value (a game or machine if you will, then I fully agree with Bob. However, I never saw use in that formula process. But, it was an eye-opener for me in that it made it possible to diagnose any desired effect when searching for a method. Knowing the objects and effects ahead of time is not the same as choosing them randomly.

General, I am surprised that you did not mention "Magic By Misdirection", the other in the trilogy.
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mastermindreader
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I agree, Michael. As I recall, my copy of the Ripley book was a paperback with a red cover.

As to, "The Trick Brain," I agree. Your point is the same as that made in the Phoenix review that I quoted. The value of the book is actually the opposite of what Fitzkee intended.
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Quote:
On Oct 2, 2014, mastermindreader wrote:
I agree, Michael. As I recall, my copy of the Ripley book was a paperback with a red cover.

As to, "The Trick Brain," I agree. Your point is the same as that made in the Phoenix review that I quoted. The value of the book is actually the opposite of what Fitzkee intended.


Red cover indeed. I don't have my copies in front of me at the moment, but I'm sure one of them has a black cover.

Regarding "The Trick Brain", I agree that it lacks the creative process. If Fitzkee intended it to replace that, he was wrong (IMO). But, it is not entirely useless as a process, so long as it is seen as a preparatory element. By following the formula as a practice aid, rather than a tool to design a trick or an entire act, it can be helpful in that it gives the student practice of the process of assembling tricks. Therefore, when it comes time to truly be creative, the technical elements can be quickly managed, instead of becoming focal points, which would ultimately bog down the artistic side of things.

Think of it as mental calisthenics. The same as the act of doing push-ups, sit-ups, etc. for the body are not the final goal. But, they make it possible for the body to achieve its "more creative" goals much more easily. I see it as just another specialized tool. It doesn't do everything, but what it does do, it does better than most other tools.
~michael baker
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mastermindreader
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I see your point Michael. I think, though, that SH Sharpe did a far more complete job of categorizing principles and methods. I think, though, that if Fitzkee had left out the "Trick Brain" part of "The Trick Brain," it would have been a far better book.
stoneunhinged
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On Oct 2, 2014, Magnus Eisengrim wrote:
Image


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Image


Wow!

Thanks, John.
stoneunhinged
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As far as magic textbooks go, I would love to have Greater Magic, but don't want to pop out $300, since I'm just a connoisseur of magic and not a magician. Am I missing something? Did Penguin do a $50 reprint?

I'd be glad to buy a couple of Bob Cassidy books for my library, but I'd want signed copies, because I'm special.

The last book I bought from a Café member wasn't signed. Bummer.

But I digress.

Back on topic: I also cherish Peterson Field Guides.
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