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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » How to Stop the Trivialization of Mentalism (91 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Stunninger
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There are a handful of complainers who opine about the 'trivialization' of mentalism. They make comments about mentalism being performed all too often on youtube, or being performed by magicians who are not really mentalists, implying this somehow adversely affects legitimate performers.

Why is it that Derren Brown is not 'trivialized' by all of the new mentalists who have entered the field, either as hobbyists, casual performers, semi pros, or those endeavoring to become pros? Or Christopher Carter? Or Ted Karmilovich? All of these top-rated mentalists do very, very well - despite the many youtube performers, the hundreds of new mentalism ebooks released over the past few years, and most magic distributors carrying many mentalism books and DVDs.

Why is this?

It is because these top rated mentalists are master entertainers. They are highly successful mentalists as a direct result of being highly successful entertainers.

Does the youtube mentalist have Derren Brown's showmanship skills?

Does the youtube mentalist have Christopher Carter's monster entertainment capacity?

Does the youtube mentalist have anything close to Ted Karmilovich's seasoned complete package of master entertainment, honed from decades of performing at the top end of the market?

Of course not, on all accounts.

Learning a method or being able to put up a video on-line does not a mentalist make. These performers also do not - in any way, threaten those master showmen, those genius entertainers, who thrive as full-time performing mentalists.

The same is true with top-rated magicians. Are David Copperfield, Penn and Teller and Criss Angel threated at all by the youtube generation? Do they feel 'trivialized' by all of the magic shops selling the secrets of magic in Vegas?

Of course not. Because they are master showmen, monster entertainers, whom audiences flock to because of their unique ability to ENTERTAIN.

By the way, something else that all of the top performers mentioned above have in common: not a single one has written a book revealing the methods in their complete act. Can you imagine Derren Brown or David Copperfield writing a book, or producing a video revealing the methods to their complete act? They would never do it.

Some of the mentalists who frequent this forum have done so. Over, and over, and over again. Then they complain that mentalism is being trivialized.

If you have something special, such as a mentalism show you have developed and honed over decades of performance, why on earth would you write a book revealing the secrets of your act, then make that book widely available through magic dealers, and allow that book to be sold on Amazon.com, ebay and anywhere else?

Those who complain that mentalism has been trivialised really need to look in the mirror and consider how much they and their peers have contributed to their methods being revealed and widely distributed through hundreds of ebooks, physical books and DVDS that teach their very best material.

If you study disruptive innovation (see Clayton Christensen's books) what many call 'trivialization' is actually a well-known, well-documented phenomena that affects most markets eventually. If you are successful selling any product or service, including a mentalism show, others will jump in and compete, including many at the low end of the market. It's not new. Happens all the time, in most markets. The answer is not to complain and whine about it, but to out innovate the low-end disruptors, offering new products and services the low end entrants cannot or will not.

That's exactly what Chris Carter, Ted Karmilovich, Derren Brown, David Copperfield, Penn and Teller and Criss Angel do. They are all master showmen who provide a level of entertainment that is simply very, very difficult to copy.
Tim Cavendish
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Philemon Vanderbeck
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Good points, although we should be careful to distinguish between inventors and performers (although there is some overlap).

Inventors publish, so that others will perform their creations.

As a performer, I have rarely created anything, so I am often reliant on the creations of others. I am thankful to those inventors who have graciously shared their efforts.

In the rare occasions that I have felt that I have created something original (which is usually actually a {hopefully} unique combination of other people's methods and works), I have only dared to publish it when it is no longer in my current performing repertoire.

Even the YouTube videos I have released have been routines that I no longer perform (although I maintain the copyright on the specific performance {e.g., script and presentation}).

I share my old routines in the hopes of inspiring other performers, who will hopefully create their own stories, or at least, modify my creations to suit their own personas.
Professor Philemon Vanderbeck
That Creepy Magician
"I use my sixth sense to create the illusion of possessing the other five."
Mindpro
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I think the OP has a skewed perception of the trivialization that is often discussed as well as a different understanding of these he references.

First I know for a fact, after personal discussions with many of the people mentioned, they DO experience the backlash of the trivialization of mentalism. Living and performing here in Vegas I can tell you it's quite evident here as well. You are fooling yourself if you think the trivialization perception is limited to just this forum and members.

The OP is also wrong if he truly thinks the creators he mentions release their true token and best works and effects. They don't. Perhaps a "lite" variation of it or a previous "basic" handling. Truth be told most of the "names" are no longer releasing much any more due to just this reason. Bob has seemed to transition to creating, teaching and coaching as his priority so yes, he will be releasing his content. Osterlind, Docc, and others still perform but have found a way to create an additional income stream (not as much as many think in the overall picture) while serving and sharing the community. But Ted, Docc and Richard and the others will be the first to tell you they are not sharing their personal best. Richard has made it quite clear he will never share his signature effect, period.

So first is the separation if this misperception from true fact or reality.

Next, I do believe Derren (as did Nyman) did release some works earlier on in a lecture DVD and books.

Of course any real working mentalist or full-time performer experience the backlash from the trivialization regularly. From audience members (usually kids or the youtube kiddies) shouting something out in the middle of a performance claiming they know how its doe, to Googling during a performance, to writing it on a slip of collected billets or papers, to coming up to you following a show telling you "they too are a mentalist" or "I know how it was done."

It also happens regularly, daily at my agencies, that we hear of this from bookers - clients, other agents, event planners, and of course the performers. Minutes after something is performed on television it is exposed on youtube, in a quick-release pdf, or on a public forum. Comments are then posted following these youtube videos that seem to do the most blatant damage, all in an effort for these guys to say "look at me, I know how it was done." What even sadder, is more than often in their exposure, they really don't know how it was done but the damage and trivialzation has still been done.

It is for this reason that my companies will not book a mentalist that has anything to do with magic or being a magician. Never a street or closeup mentalist either unless specifically requested. We work hard to educate and position our clients to know the difference between a mentalist and a magician doing mental magic or tricks.

I think the whole street/ambush "mentalist and close up mentalist takes something large, huge and impactful and diminishes in down to a street magic level. So this is also part of the trivialization.

Why write a book and share something you have honed for decades? The answer to this is simple. To some this is their passion and their own personal successful journey and at some point they want to share it with the next generation and community. I have been doing this myself lately with my area of specialty which is entertainment business and operations. After four decades of performing and touring, which I still do, I have been sharing my experience and insight on the business of entertainment. It is the business where success is truly created. Anyone can have a good or decent show, but you'll be performing it in your bedroom or basement without the business behind it to monetize it. So I get the want to share and progress the industry. It's also a healthy way for some to give back to what has been their passion for their career. But again, just because someone releases something doesn't mean it's their best or everything they have to them.

I personally think the true mentalists leaders in the community need to take control of this and stop this on the top level. I have shared my thoughts on how to do that and I do think you are seeing some starting to do this in this direction. I agree about the low-end deterrants.
Mindpro
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Btw, thanks for referring to those that care for this profession as complainers.
Paul S Wingham
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We live in an age where information is more freely available than anytime before and I think it is this combined to a lesser extent with magicicans performing mentalism in a magic set is what has marginalised mentalists and made it hard to claim to have any sort of "real" ability. I don't think you can stop the free flow of information unforunately so you need to keep on inovating to move ahead but rather pervesely, publishing said innovations surely just exacerbates the problem as that info easily slips in to the public domain.

In fairness to magicians performing mentalism in a magic set, for a community who rely on secrecy; we are very very poor as a collective at keeping secrets. Just the discussion in this forum gives too much information a lot of the time. Take the subject of billets. I bet just from simply piecing together a few threads you could completely determine what we do with billets. Perhaps not the actual method, but the gist of their purpose. try persuading someone who's seen that sort of info that you've got any sort of "power". It's impossible.

I don't think you can easily stop trivialisation but I do think that the more entertaining you are, the less people care about the method and any skills you may or may not be be claiming. Or at least you should still be able to entertain which is surely our primary job?
IAIN
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The other thing to address is the potential stagnation and suffocation of mentalism...without attempts of pushing things forwards or onwards, via presentations, methods and all things in between, you run the very real risk of things staying as they used to be but not in a positive and healthy way...

sometimes you need a bit of grit in with the oyster...

though saying that, oysters just look and taste like phlegm to me...

you get the idea though hopefully...

its a very difficult line to walk...

all art forms are living and breathing entities - the classic texts are classics for a reason, that doesn't mean though that others can't be added to them...

its all about quality, depth of understanding and ability.... and being open minded and honest about ourselves and our expectations...
Rolyan
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Quote:
On Dec 14, 2015, Paul S Wingham wrote:
We live in an age where information is more freely available than anytime before and I think it is this combined to a lesser extent with magicicans performing mentalism in a magic set is what has marginalised mentalists and made it hard to claim to have any sort of "real" ability. I don't think you can stop the free flow of information unforunately so you need to keep on inovating to move ahead but rather pervesely, publishing said innovations surely just exacerbates the problem as that info easily slips in to the public domain.

I do wonder sometimes who all these magicians are that people think are performing mentalism to such an extent that it affects mentalists.

Almost every single magician I know, including professional, semi pro and amateur, perform magic. They don't throw an odd bit of mentalism in. They may occasionally throw in a bit of mental magic, but even that's very rare. Most of the ones I know work very successfully and earn good money by performing magic, they don't want to change. Why would they?

Mentalism may be being trivialized but it may be more to do with whats happening in the community itself, rather than these alleged legions of magicians who everyone believes in now doing mentalism. Lets not forget that magicians doing an odd bit of mental magic has been around for longer than most performers on here were born. It's not a new thing. So although it's easy to sit back and blame the magicians, the trivialisation is probably something that needs controlling from within.
Paul S Wingham
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I don't think its the main reason for starters, but it must contribute to an extent. I'm referring to magicians who actually have some reach in the real world, so essentially tv magicians who often throw in some mentalism (in the UK I've seen troy, dynamo and others do magic and mind reading or at least mental magic in alongside magic). I'm not criticising, in fact I actually don't care because I think entertainment is the key and as long as you are entertaining, the rest is far less important. I don't try to portray an image of being some mystical guru with special powers.

I'm just making the observation that if you see your favourite tv magician do some mind reading alongside say an ACR, its hard to buy in to the concept that it is anything other than a trick. If you then go on to see a mind reader claimning they can pluck thoughts from your mind, you'll surely assume they are also just performing a trick? I don't think the majortiy of magicians / mind readers on here perform to enough people to fundamentally change peoples opinion, but I do think the tv magicians do. All that said, I still think it comes back to the fact that people are equipped to be well informed and subsequently its hard to portray real ability with a weight of evidence that suggests otherwise. Me and the mrs are constantly saying "lets google that" when we stumble upon something we are curious about. I'm sure the public do the same
Rolyan
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Perhaps you're right, although personally I don't think the public see it as black and white as some performers do.

For me, the availability of material to anyone who wants to pay, readily accessible through everyday shopping sites, justified by the argument that the author can publish any way he wants, does more damage than Troy. That availability, plus open access to secrets on here, plus the pretentious rubbish on you tube etc, is where the real problem lies.
IAIN
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To go off tangent a little, last year, there was twitter outrage over a photo posted, exposing a Dynamo levitation trick...people weren't angry at the photo, but that Dynamo was "cheating"...

Work that one out...
Paul S Wingham
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On Dec 14, 2015, Rolyan wrote:
Perhaps you're right, although personally I don't think the public see it as black and white as some performers do.

For me, the availability of material to anyone who wants to pay, readily accessible through everyday shopping sites, justified by the argument that the author can publish any way he wants, does more damage than Troy. That availability, plus open access to secrets on here, plus the pretentious rubbish on you tube etc, is where the real problem lies.


I agree Iain, It's the fact that people can without any real cost, access a huge body of material that says "this is how this works it's not real". I also agree its not black and white and in fact irrispective of framing and presentation etc, I bet some spectators have always walked away from a mentalism show thinking "he did some cool tricks". The association is surely impossible to entirely eradicate; I just think its worse today for the reasons mentioned. It's an interesting debate.
Mindpro
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As much as I despise the trivialization of mentalism, its amazing to me how so many magicians have just accepted the far more widespread trivialization of magic. If I were a magician, this would be of great concern. Magic used to be known for "its generations-old secrets" or "secrets handed down from generation to generation of magicians" (that's why claims of second, third, four or fifth generation of magicians was so impressive). It was widely known, understood and most of all respected by both the community as well as the lay public. If you were a magician of any type, you had inside knowledge and access, you had special respected skills and a level of prestige.

Today when the lay pubic hears "magic" or "magician" the immediately think some corny kids birthday party magician or David Copperfield-ish illusion shows (we know it's much more than that but not to most of the general public). The romance, intrigue and status is long gone from the perception of must of the public. Those in the community seem to understand this less. This is why when as a kid when TV magic cards hit the television, they made Marshall a millionaire, because it was everyone's (the public) first actual access to these great well-kept secrets.

Today magic is a joke when compared to it's former rich and protected history and legend. I would be much more concerned about this, but it actually also goes to prove my exact point that I for one don't wish for mentalism to be trivialized to this degree.
DynaMix
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It feels in some ways that magic as entertainment is a natural paradox.

I mean, the root structure of the relationship between magic and entertainment is correlated to this question. Throw in the additional factor of "time" and you have a formula for what we all see happening.

If magic and mentalism are "secret" by nature (mentalism more so given its objective), then the simple fact that we want to do them on stage, on tv, closeup - is almost its own paradox. Unlike being an actor, a musician, a dancer - we aim to entertain but do NOT want people to know how its done. That on its own sets up a lot responsibility.

We want to project this art form as a skill - YET, ANY kid can grab a Svengali deck and blow the minds of the uninitiated. Who of us has NOT experienced the following - in a casual situation, someone in the crowd knows uncle joey's favorite card or coin trick, and then performs it...and the crowd IS amazed! it's happened to me. Poor performance, poor presentation, but the drunk crowd around you loves the trick because...well hey, its MAGIC! It's inherently interesting and can amaze, on its own, simply BECAUSE it is magic.

This is what we want to project as an art form, as a speciality...this thing that anyone can do a poor version of, once they know the secret.

Is it the same for acting, for dancing, for other art forms?

With magic's decline specifically, I think the reasons are too layered to iron it down to one thing. But I do think the failure to modernize has hurt it. Lots and lots of comments on the Café make it seem pros want magic to stay "classic." to me that another word for "old and too formal". I think the blaine's and brown's of the world are exactly what was needed.

The last indgredient, the one of time - this is obviously a catalyst in so many ways. With information being generated and spread at unparalleled speeds I just don't think we can protect magic and mentalism unless we collectively see it as something worth protecting. with so many performers wanting to make it about personal prowess instead of audience entertainment, I just don't see how we keep it from trivializing...

Lastly, I want to make the distinction between pros and amateurs. I think of it like staying in shape. From what I understand, its much harder to get a six pack then maintain one. lol.
Well the professionals are much more motivated to delay or halt the trivialization of mentalism than the rookies. The problem is that the rookies, in their quest to BECOME better - perform a lot the offending actions that trivialize mentalism. When I look back on my own journey, I cringe. There's so much damange I have to undo because I simply did not realize or respect mentalism as seperate from magic. Just couldn't make the connection.

Several years and some high profile performances later, I am SO motivated to distance myself from frankly magic and mentalism. I just want be so entertaining that people book me and don't know exactly what I'm doing up there - they just know they love it and are intrigued by it, and WISH they could do it themselves... I know SO much better HOW I want to be percieved and what is psychologically required for me to gain that perception...but how is someone new to mentalism supposed to understand all of that?

*end rant*
JanForster
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Quote:
On Dec 14, 2015, Mindpro wrote:
...
Today magic is a joke when compared to it's former rich and protected history and legend. I would be much more concerned about this, but it actually also goes to prove my exact point that I for one don't wish for mentalism to be trivialized to this degree.
...


Love that, not the fact, but your words, it's what I am thinking since many years. Unfortunately. Jan
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eSamuels
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I'll throw in some perspective on one of the issues being discussed:

Information has always been power, but in the new age of the internet, where access to information has been democratized, there is a cultural lag in the morality of sharing information/'content.'

In the early years of music file sharing (late 90s), I witnessed a series of focus groups with younger music fans, gauging their behaviour and opinions on the act of downloading/using music for which they had not paid.
In general there was a knowledge that what they were doing was 'wrong' (at least from a legal standpoint), but there were two basic pieces of rationalization:
1. It doesn't hurt anyone (it's a victimless crime)
2. The 'music industry' is ridiculously rich and I have paid enough for other music.

FIlm industry research on movie downloading found similar results.

Even more interesting, when you question those who initiate the sharing (senders/uploaders), a different dynamic comes into play - they feel 'powerful' and 'influential,' as a result of their being able to 'share' content with the world.

Now, more than decade and a half later, as I once said on an industry panel, the horses are not only out of the barn with the door wide open, but there is an entirely new generation of horses born in the wild who don't even know that the barn ever existed.

While a much smaller industry, in many ways, magic has an even bigger problem, as sharing 'secret content,' produces even more powerful 'rewards' in the form of dopamine to the pleasure centers of the brain.

And here's the even scarier reality:
Despite every effort and millions of dollars spent on trying to curtail illegal downloading by the music industry (movies are a slightly different matter), their business model has suffered a death spiral in a frighteningly short period of time.

Yes, our 'industry' can make every effort to protect/encrypt/ID content, but finding a way out of whatever barn doors we use, is only a matter of time for those who are determined.

While this will be a constant threat for content creators, there are two ways in which we will never suffer the same threats as the music or film industries:

First: Those who have an interested in acquiring this information, represent a miniscule percentage of the population. And as we police our own, relatively small, community, we've made efforts to ostracize outliers.
Second: As performers, this presents an even more compelling reason to ensure that our performances are unique and not cookie-cutter. In other words, even if someone in the audience knows the secret to a method that is central to the effect (again I would emphasize that we are talking about a tiny group - relatively speaking), it is so well disguised that it flies past.
Mindpro
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Excellent post
Mr Salk
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All Trivia is now trivial.
Google proves there is no point in knowing obscure facts (Where is Tom Petty from?)

Robert Johnson used to play guitar facing the corner when he felt the burning stares of his fellow bluesmen.
Hiding the arcane is an eternal dance.
One we'll lose every time. If you can lose a dance?
.


.
Robb
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Information is freely available on how to play guitar. Or act. Or juggle. Yet, when people see a great musician or actor or juggler, do they jump on the web the next day to learn how they "did it"? No, not normally. I realize the analogy isn't perfect. After all, we mystery entertainers are purportedly doing something impossible so there is perhaps a peaked desire to know how we do what we do. Still, I think far the vast majority of folks, when they see a great magician or mentalist perform, they enjoy the show and let it go at that. People are busy.

The only thing that trivializes mentalism or magic is bad performances.
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Quote:
On Dec 14, 2015, Robb wrote:

The only thing that trivializes mentalism or magic is bad performances.


I disagree. There are certain tricks that can be so over-exposed they are flat out broken.
There is no puzzle-aspect of juggling or music; just skill. Once a trick is "solved" it becomes trivial to non-magicians.
I know how bed-of-nails and fire-walking work. They no longer hold any interest or mystery for me, even though I've never done them.
I expect the same is true for most laymen and spoiled-magic.
.


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