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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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Robb
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Awesome David! Great post and right on the money.
MysticJohn
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I have aways found it strange that some get into either magic or mentalism that have had no other desire or training in entertainment. Some seem to think knowing method is it.

I guess any art form would become trivial if you don't explore beyond methods. Drama, acting, blocking, stage craft, public speaking, perhaps a bit of local theatre wouldn't hurt. Lastly repect for yourself, if you plan on getting up on a stage without preparation and or doing an act you memorized from a DVD your nothing short of a cover artist and I use the word artist lightly.

I believe anything can become trivial if no repect to craft is paid.

My 2 cents Smile
Mindpro
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Quote:
On Dec 15, 2015, MysticJohn wrote:
I have aways found it strange that some get into either magic or mentalism that have had no other desire or training in entertainment. Some seem to think knowing method is it.


That unfortunately is part of the trivialization. It's knowing the "how" or method that is important to them. The false belief is that all effects are self-working - once you know the secret that's all there is. This is the actual trivialization. The problem today is that knowing or figuring it out, right or wrong (as in magic and now mentalism) is not enough, now they have to immediately make a youtube video or pdf and want to tell everyone that they know, how clever they (think) they are. I guess that is the whole point of the trivialization issue. It wouldn't be nearly as bad if it was a personal challenge and then with a devislish smirk, it was kept to themselves.
jstreiff
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I have no idea how I would present magic or mentalism as anything but art. To me the value of the presentation to the audience is the journey upon which we embark together. The effects become secondary to the emotional ride we share, and the methods become trivial technicalities in this context. If one does not seek to produce art, then all the prior comments above may apply. But if the journey is the thing and the audience emotions are tied to that journey, that is a completely different matter.
John
MagicalEducator
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On Dec 15, 2015, The Jack wrote:
There s always people that can t stop thinking about the method. But most of the time when they see an artist they confess they do not want to know and appreciate what they have experienced. To mention an artist and a great example, Rene Lavand. After 5 minutes audiences (real ones) didn t care about methods. And I think there are more examples but this one can be supported by anyone who has seen him performing for real audiences.


Some would say that if your audience is only wondering about the method then you've got some presentational problems.

jeff
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MentalistCreationLab
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First off most of you have no idea what some of us were speaking about when it comes to the trivialization of mentalism. Apparently! Since some of you thought the discussion was about Brown and Angel. Which by the way, when the topic first started it had zero to do with performers and more to do with methodology. However some people seem to be obsessed with the who is who and missed the conversation in its entirety. Which may have been a good thing looking back in hind sight since it does serve to hide the our secret terminology. What some of us were referencing is the transformation from the principal methodology of methods employed by the mentalist to that of the methods employed by the magician. Wherein most mentalism these days is based on nothing more than mis-direction and not the creation of mis-belief as it was a number of years ago. One only need to look at some of the many disclaimers currently in use to see that statement is 100% fact.

The original situation can be found below that relates to the trivialization of mentalism.

“With magic, the performer employs mis-direction. Directing the attention of his spectators away from the operation of the mystery while his hands or mechanical contrivances operate. With the mentalist, it is mis-belief. He must cause his audience to believe something other than which actually occurs, or instill that reasonable question of doubt.” Robert Nelson 1944

Now I fully aware many of you have never read the book that that is found in. If you did and understood it this topic would have never mentioned some of the people it has nor would it have been focused on some people as if they where or where not to blame for the resulting issue. It would also be clear why mentalism is not magic although the mentalist at times my employ mis-direction as a secondary method to achieve the end result.

Apologies if the above sounds grumpy as it is intended to set the record straight as to the original conversation from which this trivialization started several years back that appeared on more than one forum and not to sound like a purist although there is a good chance that I am one.

In addition, please note the way mis- is spelled which is again another part of the earlier secret language of the mentalist that was used during the 1920s and 1940s. By the time the change in the trivialization of mentalism started to occur and the principal method employed by the mentalist began to change so did the spelling for both of these words within the mentalist vocabulary also started to transform. Mis-belief would become miss-direction and there would be no more doubt instilled in the mind of the audiences.
Greg Arce
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Wow, I almost hate to put this out because I'm sure it might rile some. I'll start by saying that I sent it to someone else who had been discussing the changes that have happened lately. Mind you, this is just my opinion, but it is based on what I've seen happen in the last 7 or so years. Oh, well... here goes:

I actually agree that the Magic Castle has turned into the Mentalism Castle. I stopped going there over two years ago for that very reason.

I first moved to Hollywood in 2000. I was a half a block below the castle on Orange. Used to go there practically every night. For about the first five years I used to be the only one consistently doing mentalism. Once in awhile maybe two or three others would come in doing mentalism... especially in the impromptu rooms. I even remember meeting with three other mentalists and having the other magicians kind of treat us like nerds. As if we were the outsiders.

In the beginning I didn't have to worry about repeating or doing anything others were doing in the Castle. Little by little I started noticing a difference. I had to check out the other rooms to make sure I wasn't doing the same thing. I would see a comedy magician suddenly do Sneak Thief... I would drop my routine that night. A card guy would suddenly do a book test... so ended my book test for the night. I even have a funny story about doing one routine and then going into the Palace and seeing the basic routine done by a comedy guy. The audience in there had just seen me do that and they all turned and looked at me. I actually said to them, "He's a friend. I had to teach him something."

So, I go there a few years back and what do I see: just about every magician that used to scoff at mentalism is now doing it. This is what I saw that night in the Museum room: a mentalism set followed by another mentalism set followed by another mentalism set then one guy did cards and coins then another mentalist then another mentalist then one guy did some cards & ropes then a mentalist... etc, etc.

My friends, not magicians, got see three guys use the same electronic dice in the same night and that happened first twice in a row. Also they got to see two guys use the same electronic pad and pen to get the info. And at least three Sneak Thief renditions.

That's one of the many reasons I've kind of left it all behind. I don't like to be in the mix of the "IN THING" to do. I left that night thinking they should change the name to the Mentalism Castle. Over the years I've seen all the magicians I knew now having something on their site like: ESP SHOW or MIND READING, etc. Some still offer just magic but they all at least have something on their sites that alludes to the idea they also do mind reading.

I was in New York when the Blaine fad started and didn't like that either. Suddenly everyone around me was doing ambitious cards and biting coins. I was a teen when Doug Henning was big. At that time everyone around me started dressing hippie-like and EVERYONE was doing Anderson's Newspaper Tear. I had been doing it before Doug made it so popular and I had to drop it because now everyone was doing it... and with the same patter.

It just depresses me to see a large group not have a mind of their own. They instantly become lemmings and follow the butt in from of them.

Anyway, that's just my opinion. I merely lurk in the dark now, buy stuff that I'm curious about, and rarely even try to perform.


Hope you are doing well. Happy Holidays!!!

Greg
One of my favorite quotes: "A critic is a legless man who teaches running."
Philemon Vanderbeck
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I once helped a juggler friend of mine who wanted to perform a mentalism effect for an event by teaching him how to do a basic three-phase "one-behind" effect.

Afterwards, I talked with some members of the audience, and most of them knew exactly how it was done, but didn't care, because the presentation was quite entertaining.

There's a well-known thought in theatre circles that if you do a performance of "Peter Pan" that it's important that the audience sees the wires, even though we have the technology to make them practically invisible. Thus the audience doesn't waste time trying to figure out how you make everyone fly, but instead engage their "suspension of disbelief" and enjoy the show.

I think the same idea applies for some magic. By presenting something that's relatively easy to figure out, you allow your audiences to sit back and enjoy the real purpose of the show.

Of course, those performers who just present "tricks" with no meaning jealously guard the secrets (and do their best to conceal them), because that's all they have.
Professor Philemon Vanderbeck
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dsacks
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Thanks Greg
Withnail
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How to stop the trivialisation of mentalism... Stop doing it badly.
Yet again that oaf has destroyed my day
David Thiel
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“With magic, the performer employs mis-direction. Directing the attention of his spectators away from the operation of the mystery while his hands or mechanical contrivances operate. With the mentalist, it is mis-belief. He must cause his audience to believe something other than which actually occurs, or instill that reasonable question of doubt.” Robert Nelson 1944

Wow. Thanks, Bill. How many thousands of words have been written on this topic, which is settled with such a simple quote?

1944.

Perfect.

David
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DynaMix
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Greg's perspective is something that really hits hard for me.

A friend of mine who is big in the NY improv scene told me that a lot of her colleagues come from magic. Another friend of mine who is making his way through the stand up comedy profession (quite successfully) has several comedian friends who do magic, which is why he knew to book me recently (having been familiar with what we can do given a stage and a great crowd).

There are of course exemplary performers in our field who really show us what mentalism can be at its finest. Thank god we have them.
But - I underscore the point yet again - maybe its time we recognize magic and mentalism for what they are. Very powerful arts that can be done very easily very poorly.

You can't do a poor singing performance and wow a crowd. But you can do a horrible 1 ahead routine that you learned in 10 minutes, and still fool some. If you get lucky you might convince them you actually knew what they were going to choose or say. All for very little work on your own part.

Perhaps there are so many dang copy cats as Greg mentioned because its a very easy thing to copy, with no real penalty.

I think we are all in agreement that performing badly helps trivialize mentalism. I DO think the logic needs to shift to the performer. Someone above complained about it shifting to the performer, but I think this is where it needs to go. I've read on the Café time and time again when a Darcy Oake or a flashy young newcomer hits the scene (this is more magic related) - "oh he only gets votes because he's young and hip," - just a complete DENIAL of how important things like aesthetic, look, style, modernization are.
We want to be on the level of actors and music performers yet we hold ourselves physically and stylistically to nowhere near the same standards.

There's room for everything, all demographics, ages, sizes of people. And certainly style/look comes second to skill. But I think one way to grow and embolden mentalism is simply to breathe new life into it via a respected, stylish, intelligent and TIMELY performer. For me, DB certainly counts. From what I read, Dunninger seemed to captivate a nation in part by being timely - debunking spiritualists (perhaps more relevant at the time), pioneering new forms of entertainment (magic on radio/tv) etc. There has to be a modern way to tap into all of the technology and distrust of government/surveillance etc - I think we need someone to bring mentalism to the forefront by making it relevant, cool, and charismatic. I think it all matters.
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Sub-Cults are peculiar.

On one forum the Contact Jugglers are at odds with the Numbers Jugglers.
In the chess forums the Gambit players are mocked by the Hyper Modernists.
The yo-yo guys are flaming over which throw is the most Boss.

We are all floating in the same skiff, trading hats and arguing nomenclature.
.


.
Mindpro
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Quote:
On Dec 18, 2015, DynaMix wrote:
There are of course exemplary performers in our field who really show us what mentalism can be at its finest. Thank god we have them.
But - I underscore the point yet again - maybe its time we recognize magic and mentalism for what they are. Very powerful arts that can be done very easily very poorly.


That certainly is one perspective, but I believe in another. There are a small group or handful exemplary of performers that perform mentalism at its finest...they are mentalists. All others-wannabees, bad performing and magicians claiming to be mentalists are all in fact not mentalists at all, they are pretend, fake, pseudo wannabees, and nothing more.

That may sound harsh but its technically and unfortunately true. The problem today is simply this. In magic, any kid that gets a magic set or a self-working novelty store trick or sven deck of cards can claim to be a "magician." These are publicly available magic trick books and dvds that can allow ANYONE to learn and string together a handful of tricks and make the self-proclamation that they are a "magician." Cute. Now, today the very same approach is true of what they are claiming to be "mentalism."

First off, most of these guys truly do not understand what mentalism is, has been or should be. It's just an extension of their magic, and nothing more. This is true of some very well-established names in the business too unfortunately. Since they do not understand the differences and the true essence of mentalism, it therefore is what they "claim" to be mentalism. Hence, mental magic. Hence poor "mentalism" performances. Hence confused bookers and audiences.

There are no poor mentalists, they are magicians attempting to perform mentalism from a magic mindset, approach and understanding. And of course this is without anything other than self-proclamation - "I am now a mentalist!"

This is where the trivialization of mentalism begins. Then add the easy access through today's mediums and there you have it.

It doesn't have to be this way. There are millions of kids that learn or know a joke or that can read a joke book, but they in no way believe or view themselves as a comedian, why of course not, that would be ridiculous. Ludicrous. But read nearly every magicians bio. It either begins with or somewhere within is mentioned something to the affect of " I started in magic when I was 6 years old, 4 years old, 7 months old, in the womb..." It is preposterous. Now the same exact thing is happening to mentalism. Herein lies the the beginning of the trivialization.
Robb
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Kudos to what Greg and MindPro said... Greg's comment about three routines with "e" dice and the "e" pads points to something I've been feeling for awhile: "e"-mentalism is a big driver of the trivialization. Not the ONLY driver, but certainly a factor. Well, the truth remains though: those who are unique and not doing mentalism because it's "hot" or "easy" will still stand out and be the more memorable performers. There's no doubt about that. But the dilution of the title "Mentalist" is sad, disturbing and bad for the whole art. Can't wait until a hot new magic trend comes along and the lemmings move on...
Mindpro
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It also is not just about the entertainment or performance or entertaining the audience (I hate it when members say that). It is about much, much more. Successful mentalism is about the proper understanding, mindset, approach, perception, execution, unique performance dynamics, theatrics, belief, knowledge, skills and the whole package. It's not plug and play entertainment. Then their is the understanding of the audience - perceptions dynamics, beliefs,etc. It is much more than just being "entertaining."
DynaMix
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I understand what you are saying Mindpro and I'm inclined to agree - however I think your definition of mentalism is a very precise one.

Ignoring "right or wrong," for a second (and I think the way you view mentalism is to be commended), there are so many that would argue mentalism can be presented without going for the psychic or "pure mindreading" approach.

I'm not 100% sure where you stand on the "physical mentalism" that is all so popular - maybe this watered down version version is also helping trivialize - but I think the fact is, people have found a way to make people think what they are seeing is "real" without doing magic [or "mindreading"] - what is this called? Is it not mentalism? Even the big names (as you mention) confuse the issue.

The deeper and deeper I dig, the more I realize that unless you are really reading minds, or MAYBE a hypnotist or tarot/readings based entertainer - you are trying to convince the world you are skilled at something that you aren't actually doing. On top of this, the technical aspect is fairly easy (but the presentational aspects are certainly a very challenging challenge) - where does that leave us?

Are we trivializing mentalism? Or is already something "small" that we are failing to build up and make bigger? Why isn't there the same market for mentalism or magic as there is for stand up comedy or acting? You mention the person who tells jokes vs the comedian...My earlier mentioned stand up friend is nowhere near famous yet he has a very successful stand up career (full time) and lives in a much nicer place than most of my finance friends in NY. The fees he gets for a stand up performance or MCing a wedding (a big source of income he tells me) I'm officially jealous of!

(Not saying it can't be done, I'm sure it is by yourself and others - just noting there doesn't *seem* to be as big a need for mentalists and magicians as other entertainment).
MagicalEducator
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On Dec 18, 2015, David Thiel wrote:
“With magic, the performer employs mis-direction. Directing the attention of his spectators away from the operation of the mystery while his hands or mechanical contrivances operate. With the mentalist, it is mis-belief. He must cause his audience to believe something other than which actually occurs, or instill that reasonable question of doubt.” Robert Nelson 1944

Wow. Thanks, Bill. How many thousands of words have been written on this topic, which is settled with such a simple quote?

1944.

Perfect.

David


Except in 2015 the modern mentalist also uses the same tools as the modern magician. Mentalists also use their hands to switch b*l*e*t*, perform CT, *e*ks and more. They use all manner of boxes for predictions, Q & A and more. My reading of this quote tells me that both groups use the same techniques of misdirection, stagecraft, blocking and more to create a sense of mis-belief. This simply isn't exclusive to mentalists.

I now predict that everyone who is a "real" mentalist while chime in that I'm completely wrong. They will also claim to be the ultimate authority on the topic which of course is a fairly self serving argument. This idea that mentalists are so much better than magicians is also simply wrong. There is as much trivialization in magic as there is in mentalism but why blame magicians? There are good magicians and there are good mentalists. There are also bad magicians and bad mentalists.

The mentalists complain about the easy access of secrets, e-products and yet it's these same "purist" mentalists who are flogging all manner of products to anyone who'll pay the price. To me, this is the real trivialization. Check out the bottom of their posts and you'll see the links to their precious secrets. Go to Amazon and you'll find more of their products being hawked. To me, this is extremely hypocritical and you can't have it both ways. Why not employ some barriers so that a common magician won't be able to buy your precious secrets? And the answer becomes clearer.

jeff
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MentalistCreationLab
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“Mentalism is a commercial-mercenary. If you wish. It functions only for
profit.” Robert Nelson also in 1944 and in the same book

Wherein he clearly states the function of mentalism

“ The mindreading act, whether on stage, radio, club or park lot is a unique ballyhoo for the sale of
something. Usually it is a book of Psychology, Astrology or other “ologies.” A horoscope, a dream
book, an alleged charm-something is offered for sale. The purpose of the act is not only to Entertain,
but to create a demand for the purchase of this merchandise. This revenue ofttimes far exceeds the
salary paid.” and again in the same chapter of the same book also from 1944

Wherein the purpose of mentalism is stated.

Bill Montana "purist"
Mr Salk
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These are antiquated WWII theories on the separation of mind/magic.
Today I'm certain Magic-Effect sales dwarf those of Mentalism.

Nowadays the methods are so cross-pollinated the lines are too blurred to define.
.


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