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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Mentally Speaking » » A Last Word from Osterlind (7 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

David Thiel
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"It is interesting that, as one gets older, a dichotomy develops inside one's brain. On the one hand I feel as young and vibrant as I did 30 or 40 years ago; doing shows, creating effects, and always thinking of what I can do tomorrow. On the other hand, part of my brain says to me that this can't go on forever..."

That's how "Inside My Mind" -- the last book of its kind from the very prolific Richard Osterlind begins. The 'of its kind' being referenced here are his thoughts and essays about the business of performing in the mystery arts. The Principals of Mentalism is a classic. So are the Field Manuals,The Osterlind Approach to Contact Mind Reading and Cold Reading and so many more.

But even among those books, "Inside My Mind" is different. Osterlind isn't lecturing from a stage. He's sitting across from you, sipping a cup of coffee and answering the questions you've had over the years with a charming honesty that will make you smile...even as you feel just a twinge of sadness because it also smacks of a good friend who is getting ready to say good bye.

The first chapter is called "My Story." Here is the tale of a kid falling in love with the spotlight. First as a drummer in a college cover band...and then as a magician doing stag parties for $300 a pop. This led to a gig at a restaurant...and then a power agent...and then booking after booking...those classic mentalism recordings and...well...you know the rest. It was a fascinating read and painted a picture of a guy with a clear vision of where he was going. This is the place where Richard steps off of the stage and shows you how who he was makes him who he is. (Does that make sense?)

In the second chapter "On Magic" you sit beside the "no where near famous yet" Osterlind as he contemplates magic and the things that give the effect power as well as the things that downgrade a miracle to a "trick." There's a lot to think about and as Richard -- a lifelong fan of magic -- shares his thoughts on what goes into building an effect that transcends reality.You get a sense of how this mind processes information...how it contemplates making something good better and making something better into something that is truly miraculous.

The third chapter "On Mentalism" is a frank no-frills discussion on what separates magician-think from mentalist-think. In Osterlind's opinion, "If you believe mentalism is magic with a mental theme, you wind up with all kinds of preposterous plots. They may be baffling but they sure are not mentalism and the audience won't believe you are a mind reader but rather, just clever." In this chapter he quotes Annemann. He references Kreskin. Dunninger and more. Each example is accompanied with a razor sharp POINT. This chapter could stand as a book all on it's own.

"Old Versus New" is the fourth chapter and it deals with the changing face of the mystery arts.Y'know: Houdini, YouTube, Dunninger...and a three page dissection of a packing box escape by a magician I've never heard of. What did come through loud and clear was the way Osterlind reacted to, thought about, speculated on, dissected and thoroughly processed what he'd just seen. This was a spellbinding (pun intended) process to sit through. I can honestly say that there were thoughts shared about this magician's act that had an impact on the way I think about aspects of my act. I am still not sure how Osterlind did that...

"One on One" may be the single best essay on how to perform FOR an audience that I have read by anyone...anywhere. If you have seen Osterlind perform live or on one of his DVDs you already have a clear understanding of how he treats an audience...how he works a room...how he makes his performance work for an audience of one or one thousand. The secrets he shares are worth the price of the book ten times over. I won't discuss them here...but if you perform, you really need to read this essay.

The professor comes back in the chapter called "Scripting and Blocking." This is information on how effects are presented to an audience. Does he follow a script? Does he follow an outline? Does he wing it? How does he stand...how does he position his volunteers? What's the deal with chalkboards, anyway? This would not be an Osterlind book without at least one nuts and bolts offering.

The next two chapters "Being Real" and "Being Your Own Person" are fascinating thoughts on keeping mentalism -- and yourself as a performer authentic and relatable. There's great advice here for the new performer just finding his or her way through the mentalism development jungle. But there's also some brilliant thinking...outstanding options...pure gold nuggets for experienced performers as well. These are the chapters I've read over twice now...and am still getting rewarded with new insights each time. These are among the most frank chapters in the book.

"Fame" is the last full chapter. It deals with what most people think success is and how it differs from how Osterlind defines it. His conclusions will surprise you.

I sat quietly for a few minutes after finishing this book and just thought about what I'd read. I thought about the guy who wrote it.

You cannot possibly discount the impact Richard Osterlind has had on mentalism. I would still be schlepping from show to show with my prized arm chopper under my arm had it not been for a chance encounter with the DVD series Osterlind did on the 13 Steps. It was my first encounter with real mentalism and I clearly recall sitting in my den with my mouth hanging open. In that instant I fell in love with mentalism...and joyfully jumped off of the magic battleship I'd been on for close to 20 years and into the mentalism dingy.

I still remember that moment: sitting in my den as Osterlind introduced me to the 13 Steps and wondering who this guy REALLY was. Effect followed effect and by the time I was done with the DVDs my brain ached. "WHO IS THIS Osterlind GUY?"

In the interest of full disclosure, some of you may know that Richard is one of my very closest friends. He started as someone who helped me with my first book. Then he became a mentor...and then he became a good friend. I had the pleasure of being his best man when he remarried his wife, Lisa. But if you know me at all, you also know I don't participate in the 'hype mill.' Neither does Richard. I mean every word of this review.

In closing: thank you, Richard. Thank you very much indeed.

"Inside My Mind" rates ten billets out of ten billets for me.

David
Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Except bears. Bears will kill you.


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The_MetalMaster
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I love this book. I appreciate the review because after I read it I decided to grab it off my bookshelf and give it another read this weekend. It amazes me how so few “mentalists” on the Café do not read or study any of Richard’s works. All the questions I see asked on the forums could easily answered by studying his books and videos. I truly believe Mind Mysteries is right next to PME and 13 Steps in required mentalism study.
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