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PRinCipiA - Harapan Ong

The Hype:
Singapore's Harapan Ong has caused an online sensation with his technical abilities. Videos began to circulate some years ago showing a pair of hands doing extraordinary things. His style is natural, unassuming, and soft. But Aces appear, selections transpose, and magical things just seem to happen in Harapan's hands.

Principia is our very favorite kind of magic book: the kind of book that you pour over every page, trying out each and every piece inside. EVERY single effect in the book (and there are 60 effects described) is practical, fun and radically new. You also receive a special packet of gimmicked cards to use for some of the effects.

The concept of Principia is a magic book fused with a scientific paper on physics. By day, Harapan is a physics teacher and he uses the same laser-focus and precision in both his career and his magic. The results are magnificent.

Harapan's specialty is the under-the-spread cull, and he has created several new techniques in association with this classic tool. The book also features impromptu magic, gaffed card magic, and dead-on easy tricks you can do the first time you try them. We predict that Principia will be the most talked-about card book of the year, and that it will be studied and returned to for many years to come.

My Take:
I was just at Magifest in Ohio and it was wonderful. One of the things I saw a lot of attendees carrying around was their copy of Principia. Looks like Vanishing sold a ton of them. Joshua Jay said that he felt this was the best book they had published. Considering that the last three I had read were "Card Devilry" by J.K. Hartman, "Secrets" by Anthony Owen and "Game Changer" by Jason Ladanye, this is a strong statement to make. However, I do have to agree with them. This is a beautifully produced book with the highest quality of printing and binding. This is a book that is going to find a permanent home on my shelf. My copy was delivered in a resealable plastic bag and included a small packet of gaffed cards needed for some of the routines.

Harapan Ong is a physics teacher in Singapore. (Where Shim Lim was raised.) I have found that educators do a superb job at explaining and teaching. After all, this is how they make their living. A couple that spring to mind are Barrie Richardson with "Theater of the Mind" and Persi Diaconis and Ron Graham whose book, "Magical Mathmatics" is one of my all time favorite.

Mr. Ong has laid out his tricks as if he were teaching a physics class. "Abstract" denotes "Effect". "I: Introduction" is his opening statements about technique and problems solved. "II: Methodology" is opening statements on what is to come. "III: Results" is actually where the method is taught. "IV: Analysis and Discussion". Readers of "Apocalypse" are familiar with this from Harry Lorayne's writing. "V: Conclusion". This section I find fascinating because on a lot of the effects, Mr. Ong tells what he would do to improve the effect in the future or gives alternate ideas to try. It impresses me because it tells me that there is no ego involved that thinks this is perfect. However, most of us readers will think it is just perfect as is. Like a lot of us, Mr. Ong is his own toughest critic. It finishes with "VI: References" which most of us are familiar with as footnotes. He not only gives the sources for his inspirations but also the page numbers. This is some excellent crediting.

There are 60 effects in this book so obviously it would be impossible to hit each one so I will name a few that I found intriguing. He likes to take things that are already out there, turn them around and offer new uses. In the very first trick, Streamlined Pocket Transpostion, he takes Harry Lorayne's Flip Force and teaches how to use it as a card switch.

The book is divided into five sections. "Classical Mechanics: A reformulation of classic plots in card magic" Obviously these are his takes and techniques on some familiar plots. "Condensed Matter: More involved and unconventional card plots". A little more involved but still quite possible for the intermediate card worker to perform. "Particle Physics: Routines limited to small packets of cards", Self explanatory.. "Optics: A small collection of visual eye-candy for videos" Probably my favorite section of the book. He teaches the construction of some very nice effects that you can carry in your pocket. He does say that the effects would be great for video but I am sure with the proper lighting you could have some reputation makers here. In one, a card with a picture of a frog grows and becomes a prince. One caveat. They do require the skill of splitting cards so if you haven't done this in the past this would be a good project to start with. "Fluid Dynamics: Essays and effects on multiple pathways and The Trick That Cannot Be Explained". Multiple outs and Equivoque are discussed. While there are some very interesting essays on the Dai Vernon trick, it is not taught here but the essays are well worth taking the time to read. While five sections are listed in the table of contents, there is actually a sixth. "Beyond the Standard Model: Curious effects and gags for card magic." Where he discusses Ambigrams, teaches effects using a chess piece and one with a Kit Kat bar and he also touches on one of Martin Gardner's favorite subject, Topology, and teaches the construction of a Flexcard..

You are able to download a 50 minute video showing most of the tricks. As each trick is performed, the page number and trick title is displayed on the screen.

Now, to mention a few that really impressed me. The Kaleidoscope Production is a very pretty production of the four aces. I was watching the Poker Players Picnic Plus and wondering how this one got in there. It is a trick we all now. Ah, but wait, he throws a kicker in on the end that makes all the difference in the world. I have seen a lot of elevator effects but Jacob's Elevator is a really visual piece to add to your arsenal. "Twisting Morph" is one that I will be working on right away. Imagine Twisting the Aces in reverse. You start with four kinds face up and one by one they turn face down. Then in a flash they all turn into aces. Holy smokes! The idea of a video online demonstrating how the effects should look is an idea that more publishers should use. I have seen a lot of effects in different books that sound interesting and I would be much more likely to perfect them if I could see them in action. If I am fooled by a video, it makes me want to learn the effect much more than a casual reading in a book. Kudos to Vanishing for this.

Conclusion: Five stars on this one. When Josh said that it was his finest book yet, I was a little skeptical as the previous releases were such high quality. Turns out he was right. This is a fabulous book. Even if you don't perform any of the tricks, ti is a fascinating read. From self workers to the Sans Mind fans who like to build it themselves, this is a treasure trove for everyone. There must be a reason why I saw so many of the Magifest attendees carrying their copy with them. Mystery solved!
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