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Extreme Edinburgh

Wow. Taking 2 magic shows to the Edinburgh Festival was intense. It was exhillarating and exhausting in equal measure. Here are 10 things I learned along the way:
 
1 Some people love magic even more than I do.
I met some amazingly dedicated magic enthusiasts who'd been to up to 10 magic shows over a couple of days. That's a lot even for me. But it's great to see people with a love for our art.
 
2 Doves are anything but silent.
When I wasn't doing my one-man show, I had the pleasure of performing with 2 other lovely magicians - James Pritchard and Oliver Tabor. Oliver's a dove magician, so our 8-hour drive oop north was accompanied by the sound of amorous doves hooting away. Yet strangely, when they're on stage, they remain completely silent. Still, it was cool to have some feathery friends joining us on our adventure.
 
3 When you have to carry your act up and down hills every day, you reconsider how essential each of your props are.
My large hoola-hoop-and-shower-curtain portable changing room lasted all of one day before I decided to slim down my act!

4 Flyering people to promote a show actually works.
You'd think that with 2,000 shows to choose from, people would suffer from flyer fatigue, yet I consistently recognised people who'd taken a flyer at our shows. Marion, our chief marketer and 'info guru', was a flyering machine! She was targeted and tenacious and if I wasn't already in the show, she would definitely have convinced me to come to it!
 
5 Wherever you go, people are people.
I've heard this adage before from showbiz veterans but hadn't experienced it fully until now. Having performed for everyone from 6 months to 60 years of age, and from Spain to Australia, it's lovely to see that a well-honed performance can generate the same laughs and gasps from them all.
 
6 When you get a spectator up on stage, you can't assume anything.
Like whether they can read without glasses, whether they can walk without a crutch, or whether they can even understand English. All of these I experienced, and all of them helped me grow as a performer.
 
7 You can still have a great show with a small audience.
While I was lucky to have some sell-out shows, I also had one performance with only 4 people in the audience. Yet it ended up being one of my favourite shows. I brought them all forward to the front row, introduced myself to each of them individually, and we had a whale of a time. Plus, they were my most generous audience (per person) of the whole festival. So small can be beautiful!
 
8 There really is no substitute for performing every day.
It was a revelation to see my show evolve and improve over the course of the week. By the end, I got a real feel for the shape of the show, as well as feeling relaxed onstage, which I'm sure came across to the audience, who in turn felt more relaxed. So anyone reading this, get out there, any way you can, as often as you can, and watch your performance improve no end!
 
9 You can live on adrenalin (and caramel macchiatos)
...at least for a while. On the first day I performed in 5 different shows, at 5 different venues, over 10 hours, then went home and reset all my props for the next day. Crazy, but I was so busy I didn't have time to worry or get nervous.
 
10 You can do more than you think.
When I signed up to take 2 shows to the Edinburgh Festival, including a 45-minute one-man show for which I had only 10 minutes of material, a little voice inside my head said that I was mad. But, 9 months and a lot of work later, I've now done a week's run and have a solid 45-minute show under my belt. I love Eleanor Roosevelt's quote that you should 'Do one thing every day that scares you', and I've enjoyed every minute of this wild rollercoaster ride.

6 Months in 6 Lines

Here's a quick recap of what I've been up to since September (deep breath):

Performed caberet at the Hot August Fringe and close-up at the International Magic Competition. Sessioned at the Session Convention, magic-ed in Michelin-starred restaurant and country manors, lectured in Liverpool, (almost) finished writing 'Plot Twists', performed in West End theatres, braved the stage in comedy clubs and prepared for the final of the Magic Circle Close-Up Competition. Oh, and last but not least, got married to the lovely Ruth. I even vanished her at the end of the ceremony. No, really!

Phew! I'm exausted just remembering it :) Now we're back up to date, I'll do my best to blog more regularly and keep you up to date with my magical manoeuvres.

Back to Blogging

It's been a few months since I last blogged, but I haven't been slacking. In fact, quite the opposite - I've been performing more than ever, which has left me with less time to type. Sooo, to keep you lovely peeps up to date, I thought I'd share some of the updates I write for my newsletter here in this blog. Stay tuned...

MAGIC review is, well, magic.

Peter Duffie has just given my '5 for £5' ebooks a good review in MAGIC magazine (the current FISM issue). You can read his whole review of each book there, but he finishes off by saying:

"You won't regret purchasing any of them."

So, to purchase any of them, click here.

The Magic Circular high-fives 5 For £5

Matthew Field, the Editor, has just reviewed my '5 for £5' ebooks.

Here are some highlights (the full review's in the August issue):

"Member Oliver Meech is an energetic young magician whose book, The Plot Thickens, I favourably reviewed last month...

The tricks are...often reminiscent of Paul Harris and Jay Sankey...

There's a great deal of imagination at work here...at £5 the booklets are a bargain"

Get your hands on the ebooks here.

Magic Bunny Nibbles on 5 For £5

A second good review for my new ebooks. Wil from Magic Bunny reviewed the Stage and Kids ebooks from my '5 for £5' series.
 
Here are some highlights (read the full review, which covers individual effects, here) -
 
“9/10

After hearing so much great stuff about The Plot Thickens I had to get hold of a couple of Oliver's ebooks and I was not disappointed. The two ebooks I have are brimming with great ideas and presentations.

Overall, I got so much out of these ebooks, not just in terms of effects I can use and adapt but from an inspirational point of view.

Bottom line: for £5 you can't go wrong. I defy you not to get something from these great ebooks.”
 
For the full list of effects and to get your copy, click here.

My Lovely Assistant assists with a review

Mylovelyassistant.com has just posted a good review of The Plot Thickens. Here are a few extracts (the full review can be found here):

"Rating: 4/5 stars.

 

…a fire-starter…It just might jump-start your imagination…At about $1 a trick, this book is a fun diversion and nice investment if you're looking for something a little different."

 

Get your copy here.

5 for £5: Kids - First Review

Here are some highlights from Tom Frame's Genii Online review (full version here):

"5 for £5: Kids (E-book) by Oliver Meech
£5 / $7.02
19 pages
Available at: http://www.olivermeech.co.uk

Fronkey:
This is Mr. Meech’s beastly version of the Split Thought card effect…It’s boisterous barnyard fun for everyone. I like it.

Achoo:
...it’s repellant, repugnant, revolting and vile and I’m ashamed to admit that my profoundly disturbed inner child likes it.

Mmm...Laces:
...instead of ditching the dirty work, you simply eat it. I like it.

Well, Blow Me (Adapted):
These are good ideas...I like it.

Lego Go Go:
The effect is quick, easy to understand and should appeal to the kiddies. I like it.

...these effects invite lots of audience participation, and they should entertain and mystify the young’uns.

Recommended."

Get your copy here.

5 For £5 ebooks: First Review

Tom Frame just reviewed '5 for £5: Coffee' for Genii Online. Here are some highlights (you can read the full review here):

5 for £5: Coffee (E-book) by Oliver Meech
£5/$7.02.
19 pages.
Available at: http://www.olivermeech.co.uk
 
"Oliver Meech, the creative dynamo who brought us The Plot Thickens (reviewed 2/21/09) is back with a series of themed e-books.
 
Unlike the majority of alleged creators who take the cheap and cheesy route of shooting a home-made video and selling it for $20.00, Mr. Meech earns my eternal respect for actually sitting down and writing these books. And at £5 a pop, the price is peachy.
...
He does a good job of teaching the material and he credits the individuals whose prior works have inspired him. Each effect includes additional thoughts or variations.
 
...if novel plots are your cup of tea, so to speak, I think you’ll be pleased. I really like the way Mr. Meech thinks.
 
These effects are designed to be performed in a coffee shop or in your kitchen, using common items.
...
Recommended."

Get your copy here.

The Circle Line

The Magic Circular, official magazine of The Magic Circle, just reviewed The Plot Thickens. Check out the July edition for the full review. Here's how it ends:
 
"It is refreshing to see a young magician (I'm judging Oliver's age by his photo in the book) approach magic from an original direction, and the book is highly recommended."
 
Get your copy here.

'5 For £5' Ebooks Released - Credit Crunch Conjuring

The first three releases in my new '5 For £5' ebook series are now available.

They're called '5 For £5: Coffee', '5 For £5: Kids' and '5 For £5: Stage'.

So, in keeping with the '5' concept, here are 5 good reasons to buy them:
  • Each one contains five fresh tricks.
  • They’re themed, so you can buy ebooks to fit your specific needs.
  • Since they're downloads, there's no need to wait for the postie.
  • They’ll tide you over until Plot Twists is released.
  • Last but not least, they’re a mere fiver each. That’s a paltry pound a trick!
  • Get your copies here.

    Man Friday

    Jamie D. Grant is the man responsible for the Magic Friday reviews on The Magic Cafe and Magician magazine. Rather than conventional reviews, he tries out other people's material in the real world. This week he performed Unwritten from The Plot Thickens. Here are some of his thoughts on it (you'll find the whole thing here):

    This is one of those tricks that just helps solidify you as a magician as opposed to someone who knows some magic tricks…And it played out really well on Friday. The great thing about it is that it’s not really a trick in itself. It’s just a magical moment that plays out after something else you’ve done.

    People laughed at the opening premise and the beginning is a great way to introduce everything…<introducing the contract> is a really funny bit and gets the energy going right off the top.

    Best Lines <i.e. reactions>:
    "Did I sign that? I signed that didn’t I?!?!"
    -It’s always amazing to see someone doubt themselves.

    "Get outta here, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL, LOL!!!!"
    - It’s a really fun bit…

    My Rating: 8.5/10. If for nothing else than the premise and idea, which I thought was great. And it leaves your card on the table, which is always nice.

    I’ve heard the phrase “This book will inspire you!” many times but it really rings true here…I don’t normally review an entire book but I would have to say that I enjoyed reading this when looking for an effect for Friday. Great work Oliver! And excellent crediting, as well. That was a pleasant surprise!

    Get your copy here.

    About About.com's Review

    Another month, another review for the The Plot Thickens. This time from Wayne Kawamoto at About.com:Magic and Illusion. Here are a few quotes (read the full review here):

    The Plot Thickens by Oliver Meech

    Rating: 4.5/5 stars.

    Refreshingly different…this one is a bargain…

    Many of the effects are commercial and appropriate for professional strolling sets. And overall, the effects are not overly difficult to learn and perform. The text is fun to read and there are lots of pictures throughout...

    Meech offers a worthy and fun read that will stimulate your creativity. I recommend this one.

    Get your copy here.

    Stone The Crows

    Jeff Stone, who publishes the excellent Stone Cold Magic Magazine every month, has reviewed the The Plot Thickens for the current issue. To check out the whole review, sign up to his online magazine. After all, you can never have too much free magic. Here are some highlights:

    The Plot Thickens by Oliver Meech
     
    Oliver Meech’s book is a top quality production…I think you should buy this book. The effects are great, and the methods are even better...

    The whole production is very thoughtful and thought provoking, and it’s clear he took the time to develop this properly. He also does an excellent job with credits...

    There are just a ton of great ideas in this book, and the writing style and thinking is just plain different from a lot of what we see today in the magic market. It’s worth picking up just for that.

    DEFINITE GEM!
     
    Get your copy here.

    MAGIC marks The Plot Thickens - another positive review.

    MAGIC magazine has just reviewed The Plot Thickens in it's March issue. Peter Duffie gave the it the thumbs up in the following review:

    The Plot Thickens

    Offbeat close-up and mentalism plots abound in Oliver Meech’s first book.

    There are over twenty routines and ideas in The Plot Thickens, which is divided into four sections: Stuff with Cards, Stuff with Coins, Stuff with the Mind, and a miscellaneous chapter.

    None of the tricks requires difficult sleight of hand. In fact, most of them are sleightless. The opening effect, Invisible Man, is a typical example of the lateral thinking that Meech employs. In it, you make one spectator invisible so another spectator can look through the invisible person’s body and see which card was selected. In Telling Your Ace From Your Elbow, you show a strange tattoo on your arm, and you claim that you found the design in an old book about predicting the future. After a card has been selected, you bend your arm, and the tattoo transforms into the name of the chosen card.

    The chapter on coin magic is no less impressive. You borrow a coin and draw as goldfish on one side and fish bowl on the other. You now spin the coin on the table to create the optical illusion that the fish is inside the bowl. You spin it again, but when it wobbles to a stop, the fish has vanished from one side and has reappeared inside the bowl on the other. In another effect from this chapter, a spectator swallows an initialled coin – not really! – and the coin appears in an “X-ray" of his stomach.

    The mentalism chapter contains excellent effects, as does the miscellaneous section. For example, you show several photographs, including one in wich the photo was taken from an angle such that the subject’s head is out of shot. You tap the photo on the table, and the photo shifts down a bit so that the head is now visible.

    While some of Meech’s effects may be off-the-wall, they are all practical and easy to handle. This is not a book of pipedreams. A lot of thought has gone into the methods and presentations. The unusual plots are like a breath of fresh air. Meech promises us a follow-up book called Plot Twists. I, for one, eagerly await his next publication.

    The Plot Thickens by Oliver Meech. 82 pages, 86 photo illustrations, perfect bound with laminated covers. £12.49/$21.53 plus shipping (varies by destination). Available from www.olivermeech.co.uk or http://stores.lulu.com/olivermeech

    Genii Joins In

    Tom Frame just reviewed The Plot Thickens for Genii Online. Since it's quite long, here are a few highlights (you can read the full review on the Genii Forum) -
     
    The Plot Thickens (Book) by Oliver Meech, £12.49/$21.53 + S&H
    8.25” x 11.75”, perfect bound with glossy cover, 81 pages, 86 photos
    Available at: http://stores.lulu.com/olivermeech

    Oliver Meech is a very clever and wildly creative young man from London…boy oh boy, Mr. Meech has some tasty, new plots in store for you…

    He possesses a cheeky sense of humor which he doles out at appropriate times. He includes a handy chart for converting British terms to their American equivalents. He provides his participants with names that relate to the plot, and our job is to discover the nature of that relationship. Goofy, fun stuff like that…

    The book is laid out well and I enjoy the novelty of it being oversized…

    I thoroughly enjoyed The Plot Thickens and I’m very impressed with Mr. Meech’s creativity. Buy this book!

    Highly Recommended.

    A Wedding On The Cards

    I'm currently splitting my time between sorting stuff for my magic and sorting stuff for my wedding. If I'm not careful I'll get my wires crossed and end up marrying Eugene Burger (not that he wouldn't make an ideal husband!).

    Lecture Theatre

    Speaking of meeting fellow magi, I'm looking to do some lectures in the coming months. It'll be a great chance to showcase my material, both old and new, go into more detail about my approach to magic, and get everyone involved in a short workshop on creating your own magic.
     
    If you'd like to see me at your club, wherever it may be, just send me the contact details of your club secretary or, even better, have them drop me an email at oliver@olivermeech.co.uk. Hopefully I'll see some of you in person soon!

    The Question Stands

    Chris Christo, a very nice chap from Cyprus, recently sent me an email asking if I was working on any stage/cabaret effects or childrens magic. I thought that some of you might also be wondering the same thing so, with his permission, I've re-printed my response below:
     
    "Interesting question. I don't usually aim to create a specific type of magic, I just come up with loads of random ideas and then dig through them afterwards to see what's of value! So I have come up with some stage and kids show stuff along the way.
     
    I've mainly shared my close up creations so far for two reasons. One, I mainly perform close-up so I have more of a chance to test my close-up creations. And two, more magicians tend to be interested in close up rather than stage/kids stuff.

    Having said that, in future I'd like to perform more caberet stuff and collect my non-close-up stuff together into a book/dvd. I'm currently focussing on getting my second magic book out (hopefully by summer) but after that I'll have a dig through my list of creations and see what I find.
     
    In the meantime, you may be interested to know that along with all the close up stuff, The Plot Thickens has some material that could be performed in stand up/caberet e.g. Invisible Man, Swig Load, Speechless, I Spy, and Every Flavour Jelly Beans. No worries if you want to wait for a more specific book though."

    Circling The Circle

    I'm applying to re-join the Magic Circle after an 8 year absence, due to uni and working long hours. In the UK, spectators always ask if you're a member, so I'm really looking forward to answering 'Yes'! In order to join, you have to show a reasonable level of magical aptitude. To do this, I've chosen to submit a thesis. It's called 'Six Card Repeat As A Medical Sedative'. Not really, I'll be submitting The Plot Thickens (natch).
     
    I wonder how the Circle has changed in the intervening years - drop me an email if you can enlighten me! Oh, and if you see me looking like a lost newbie in the Circle bar, please come up and say 'Hi'. I always enjoy meeting fellow magi.

    Yet Another Great Review - this time on magicbunny.

    Gary Jones, seasoned pro and cunning creator (check out his site here), just gave The Plot Thickens a rather spiffing review on magicbunny -

    The Plot Thickens by Oliver Meech.

    Oliver Meech was a name new to me, I only found out about his magic through the excellent Magic Bunny forum. Oliver was offering his newsletter free of charge and I took the bait, but I have to say it was one of the best moves I've made in magic for a long while. Oliver is young and his ideas/effects are 'fresh' and some are really 'off the wall'.

    The book is a soft cover book with 81 pages, it contains a total of 22 effects raging from cards, coins, mental stuff and with most other things you may have lying around.

    I found the Introduction to the book very interesting, it really gives the reader a good insight to Oliver the person and his philosophy on magic. To give you some idea of what I mean, in the Introduction he says "the book contains no Ace Assembly, no Coins Across, no Matrix, no Cups and Balls, no Sponge Balls, no Professor's Nightmare, and definitely no Bra Trick!" So what does it contain? Plots that are simple, interactive and most importantly, fresh.
    To give you some idea about Oliver's off the wall thinking the first effect is called.........

    Invisible Man......OK it's a card trick, but not an ordinary card trick though, in this effect the magician makes a spectator invisible so another spectator can look through their body to see which card was selected. I love this effect and method, this is fun to do and it goes down a storm at parties. Great thinking and very easy to do.

    Cardboard Birthday Cake....How many times have you been at a gig and it's been some one's birthday, well with this effect you will never be at a loss to show the birthday spectator something really special. In this effect the magician has a card selected by the person who's birthday it is, they sign the card and the magician draws a birthday cake complete with candle on the back of the selection. The magician now leads everyone into singing "Happy Birthday", the spectator now "blows" out the candle, well you get the idea. Can you see why I just love this book, as an entertainer and full time professional very rarely does a book which contains such high quality 'working' material come along, this book is just full of this type of clever thinking.

    Correctional Facility......How would you like to change the date by magic which you incorrectly wrote down on a playing card/business card, this effect achieves this in a very practical way, easy and clever.

    Not Seeing The Wood For The Trees...........This is a clever perdition type effect but they won't see the ending until you guide them to it, and it's been staring them in the face all along!!!

    Telling Your Face From Your Elbow..........Here we have a tattoo which is on your arm change into the chosen card (no real tattoo needed). Clever and extremely easy to do.

    Fish Bowl Coin Illusion........How about borrowing a coin and drawing a fish bowl on one side and a fish on the other side, then spin the coin on the table only to find the fish is now inside the fishbowl.

    Touching Transposition.........One of my many favourite routines in this excellent book. This is where a sugar lump and coin change places, the method is just plain devious and extremely clever, this principle can be applied to many other effects. I have to say, I've been in magic for over thirty years and this is a new method to me.

    X-ray Coin.......is a cracker and very clever, if a spectator were to swallow a coin and you were to take an X-ray of the spectator you would see the coin, right, this you do. You then show the spectator an X-ray of their stomach and they see their initialed coin in the X-ray. Talk about being off the wall again, this is practical and very easy to do.

    Swig Load.....this is an excellent way to get a marked coin into a sealed can of coke, THIS IS A KILLER. I would imagine this is the Street Magician's dream effect. I used this the other day while out and about and the method is not only very workable, it's also very easy to do.

    Free Money in Every Pack.........How would you like to mark a coin, place the coin into a vending machine to buy a chocolate bar, open the chocolate bar and inside is the marked coin, this method is just about as direct as you could possibly get, again very simple and very devious. This could build your reputation as a magician who can just about do anything.

    Bubble Image........Again we have a really off the wall presentation to present and use a tool all mentalist's have and many have sitting in their magic cupboards, you will use this.

    Speechless........ A predicted name appears on you teeth, yes you read that right, this is a great effect but you will need to pop down to your local joke shop, I did and it cost much less than a cup of coffee next door, you'll use this and it's baffling and funny.

    Random Poetry........This effect uses a tried and tested method used mainly by mentalists, this is a mental effect which appears impromptu and in the right hands would be startling. As with all of Oliver's methods, this is very easy to do.

    Spin the Bottle.......Another great mental effect which I can see would play well just about nearly everywhere, especially at parties, again it uses tried and tested principles but it's Oliver's crazy presentations which make this book a must have.

    Psychic Strumming..........How about this, you give the spectator a plectrum and ask them to initial it on either side, they choose a song and play air guitar (yes we've all done this!) you not only name their song but it appears on the other side to their initials. Clever and a great plot once again.

    I Spy.........You ask a spectator to play the game I Spy, and just by their eye movements you discover their thoughts. This is a very clever presentation, I like this due to its simplicity of plot and method, great thinking.

    Unwritten..........A spectator believes that they have a signed contract only to discover that it would be impossible, since the contract is blank and the pen cap cannot be removed. I was very intrigued to see how this was achieved as the plot is something different and could be worked in the corporate world. Again simple to do and very practical, this is a great effect to do for those business meetings or at trade shows.

    Every Flavour Jelly Beans...........The title says it all. This a prediction effect where a spectator "freely" chooses the flavours of two jelly beans, you now offer the spectator a couple of beans to eat, and guess what, yes you're spot on. OK this isn't something you can do at your gigs but at the right time and place this could be talked about long after your four ace cutting sequence. It's different and we need this type of stuff to show we can do magic with just about anything at hand.

    Flaming Voodoo...........This is strange both in effect and method, I had to try this out to see if it really worked, it does and it's very different. A spectator stares at a piece of paper and it bursts into flames. Crazy method which works.

    Off With His Head...........This is such a clever plot, how many times have you taken a photo and accidentally cut some-one's head off, well, if you were a magician you could with just a little tap of the photo move the whole picture back into frame. Isn't that an excellent plot, once again the magic is used to correct a previous mistake you made. Great thinking and an effect you can always carry with you.

    Final Signature........When ever I'm asked for a business card I always ask for the spectator's details, this is an effect you can do while the spectator jots down their details. This is the stuff I like, they won't see this coming and again you will get credit for always being able to magic at any point.

    Secret Service Load.........A spectator removes a bank note from their pocket and you predict the serial number, no switches or glimpses. This is a well used principle of a con man, used here for magic purposes only!!!

    This is just an astounding collection of different yet magical effects with plenty of off the wall plots to get your own creative juices flowing. The writing is straight to the point without all the frills, Oliver gets straight to the point, both in his writing and effects.

    At the end of each effect there is a section on credits and a section called 'notes' in this section Oliver offers variations of the effect and tips etc to help you both in methods and presentations.

    If you don't buy this book you could well be fooled badly by someone showing you some of the stuff from this outstanding book.

    I think we shall be hearing much more from the crazy mind of Oliver Meech, a very clever young man indeed.

    The Plot Thickens costs £12.49p and is available from www.olivermeech.co.uk

    Reviewed by Gary Jones AIMC.

    Wikreativity

    I first posted this idea on my newsletter, then Andi Gladwin re-posted it on his Clog, then Ellusionist reprinted it on their blog (January 12 post), then other magicians posted about it on their forum. I've unleashed a monster!

    In case you've missed it, I've re-printed it below. Btw, as Joe Hadsall discovered, if you get a seemingly unpromising article, it's worth sticking with it. It should eventually lead to an original magic idea:

    OK, drumroll please. So, I can finally reveal the powerful creativity tool I promised you last fortnight. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you.......Wikipedia. No wait, come back, I'll explain.
     
    A classic technique of creativity is Random Word stimulation. In other words, you look up a random word in the dictionary and try and apply it to whatever you're thinking about. It sounds weird but it works because it breaks you out of logical thinking and forces you to make new associations, which leads to original thinking. The trouble is, some words like 'the' are less useful than nouns like 'strike'. Here's where 3 useful features of Wikipedia come in. Firstly, it's packed more words than any physical dictionary. Secondly, most of the entries are nouns. And last but not least, it has link in the top left corner called 'Random article'. Voila - an endless supply of random words (and often images) to stimulate your thinking.
     
    Here's a quick example. Say I want to come up with a close-up trick. I've just gone on to Wikkipedia now and clicked the 'Random article' button. It's given me a city in Brazil called Cassilândia. Apparrently it's famous for its rodeo party. Rodeo makes me think of the board game Buckaroo, where you gently hang objects on a horse's saddle whilst trying to prevent the horse from springing up. So how about you show off your sleight-of-hand by switching an object that's balanced on the horse's saddle without it springing up. What object? Well, how about a coin that you 'switch' using a shell and a Raven, or a card which you switch using a double lift. There, one click and we've already got two new routines.

    Now it's your turn. Click here for your random article.

    So, what did you get and what did it lead to? Post a comment by clicking on the envelope icon below.

    Another Great Review - Hurrah!

    Just received another review of The Plot Thickens, this time from Shane at Online Visions:

    The Plot Thickens book by Oliver Meech
    Suggested Retail USD$21.53/BPS£12.49
    Available direct from Oliver Meech 

    In a Blink: 10 Out of 10

    "The Plot Thickens", a book by Oliver Meech, is an assembly of new themes, using old techniques, that are refreshing in their uniqueness and easy in their execution, a combination that will rock spectators on their heels.

    But I've thought that kind of thing about Meech's work for years, since he started appearing on this site. Meech is, without a doubt, one of my favorite thinkers, bar none. Check out some of his stuff around the place and you'll see what I mean.

    Meech, you see, is a rare breed. He seems to care less about method than effect. If he can come up with a brand new appearance -- from a spectator's standpoint -- of a basic coin switch, he'll do it rather than expend the energy to try to develop a working that is, in today's marketplace, more "new" than "improved".

    I think that's why I love his stuff so much: he sticks to the tried-and-true methods and changes the effect to... whatever warped thing his mind can summon up.

    "The Plot Thickens" is loaded with that kind of thinking and, naturally, I love it dearly.

    There are twenty-two plots total, so I'll save you suffering through an exhaustive look at each one. Instead, I'll just point out the stuff that will be going into my own personal arsenal of deception.

    "Fish Bowl Coin Illusion" takes an old optical illusion and makes it a reality. A bowl is drawn on one side of a coin, a small fish on the other. The coin is spun and, thanks to an optical illusion, it looks as if the fish is in the bowl. The magic? When the coin is stopped, the drawing of the fish has jumped to the other side of the coin, in the bowl where it belongs. Packs small, plays big, and is great as an ice-breaker.

    "Touching Transposition" really does fool the spectator's sense of touch. A sugar cube is held in one hand, a coin in the other. The spectator can feel the difference, obviously. That quickly, though, the two objects change places. This is a solid keeper and one of my all-time favorites from the book.

    "Not Seeing the Wood For the Trees" is one silly piece of business, but oh-so-good. A card trick where the performer can't seem to find the chosen card, ends up revealing that all the "misses" in fact reveal the card just fine. I'm being cagey here because this one is so simple, but the effect is a good one and gets great reactions.

    "Invisible Man" is just plain weird. Essentially a spectator turns invisible allowing another spectator to see through them to reveal a chosen card. Naturally, none of that really happens, but the illogic of it -- reminding me of Paul Harris' "El Warpo", when an entire audience ends up inside a card case -- is just plain funny. Maybe it's not to everyone's liking, but I love this one.

    "On With His Head" is my all-time favorite Meech effect. In this one, a stack of photos are shown, including one where the picture was taken too low, cutting off the poor subject's head. Not to worry, though; the photos are tapped on the table and the picture visually moves down, allowing the head to now be seen. This is pure gold.

    "Secret Service Load" may just be the ultimate bar trick. In this one, the performer reveals the serial number on a bill that is in the spectator's wallet... without ever touching it, coming near it, seeing it, you name it. Now as much as I love this one, it's extremely limited on when and where you can perform it. But when you can... boy, does this knock them for a loop. "Reputation-maker" just begins to describe it.

    And there's more, lots more. I've left off magically finding money inside a candy bar fresh from a vending machine, using your magical abilities to correct your mistakes (hey, it's something we'd do if we really did magic!), making a piece of paper ignite in a spectator's hand, and so much more besides. But the above "choice pieces" will at least give you an idea of what you'll find here: fresh, new stuff the experienced performer won't break a sweat learning.

    See, that's the real thing here. None of this is difficult. Oh, sure, some of it would be to an absolute beginner, but to someone who's been around the block a time or two, the workings are very simple. What does this allow you to do, Gentle Reader? That's right: work on the presentations, which will make these as miraculous as they are offbeat.

    Now comes the caveat: don't expect to do all of this all the time. Most pieces are limited in terms of real-world practicality. Repeating them can be a no-no, angles can cut you, and some pieces work best one-on-one. Don't be put off by this; relish it. The pieces that are most restrictive are the ones best used for those special times or special spectators and, in that venue, they fry the brain into a congealed mass. The other, more workable pieces? Don't be surprised to find more than a couple in your working repertoire; they're that good and pack that much of a wallop.

    I can't say enough about "The Plot Thickens". It's Meech at his weirdest best and that's saying something. If you're looking for new plots, new ideas, that work and leave a mark on the realities of those watching, buy this and buy this now. You won't regret it.

    In a Blink: 10 Out of 10

    Material: 10
    Looking for new methods? Keep looking. Looking for some downright insane themes, which equals new effects in the eyes of the audience? Stop right here because this is the book you're looking for. Filled with everything ranging quick card and coins pieces to more involved weird happenings, this book is not only filled with quality effects but also will jar more brain cells than an uppercut to the chin.

    Quality: 10
    Meech's writing style is at once direct and entertaining, with an easy style to read and from which to learn. Meech does an excellent job here.

    Illustrations: 10
    The book is loaded with black-and-white photos, excellently placed, and make learning the material a breeze.

    Presentation: 10
    This is what it's all about, and Meech's work shines here. Even the most jaded of audiences will be struck and sunk by the presentations Meech has cooked up.

    Get your copy here.

    Ho Ho, and indeed, Ho

    Just a quick note to say Merry Christmas!

    I hope you have an amazing (in both senses of the word) time over the festive season.

    You'll see lots more magic from me in the new year.

    Until then...

    Oliver

    Christmas Mailing Deadlines

    If you want to receive The Plot Thickens in time for Christmas then you need to order very soon. You can find the last order dates for your country here. Of course, you could also 'accidentally' forward this newsletter to your friends and family in an unsubtle hint of what to get you. Just think: after you've feasted on turkey, you can feased on plots!




    Order The Plot Thickens now.

    ...and another good review.

    This appears on Magicweek in the Reviews section:

    The Plot Thickens
    Oliver Meech
    87 large format pages. 86 photos. Perfect bound with a glossy cover.
    Reviewed by Rob James.
     
    In the introduction to "The Plot Thickens" the author quotes Michael Close as saying that it would be useful for us all if we had a temporary ban on releasing new methods for overexposed plots. It is a sad truth that the magic market is flooded on an almost daily basis with new tricks and DVDs, many of which are just recycling the same ideas. Worse still is the recent phenomenon of the overhyped one trick DVD presented by a trendy looking 20something and devoid of anything remotely creative or particularly useful, sold for £10-20. All these new products arrive with a huge fanfare and fireworks display only to be crushed and land filled a couple of months later when they are no longer flavour of the month.

    While all this has been going on, Oliver Meech has been quietly working away on this, his first book (yes, I said book) of tricks and ideas. I don't know a lot about Oliver. A web search doesn't reveal much at all and the biography contained in the book tells me even less. The main piece of info I was able to glean is that he is young. However, not that this matters as through reading the book I was pleased to learn through his writing and ideas that he is clearly a student of magic with a very creative mind. He is also a stickler for detail as the book is excellently written in a playful style and very well produced and laid out.

    "The Plot Thickens" has more than twenty different items. There are card and coin tricks as well as a mentalism section and a collection of tricks with a variety of random objects including jellybeans and photographs. It's a bit clichéd to say there is something for everyone but that describes the book almost perfectly.

    A couple of my favorite things include "correctional facility" which allows you to fix an apparent mistake and in the process permanently change an object which someone is able to keep. Oh, and that object just happens to be your business card! Also I like the "Fish bowl coin illusion" which seems so simple it should have been done before. Actually, I have flicked through the book a few times and each time I find something, which becomes my new favourite item and I make a note that I must try it out soon. For £12.49 (less than the price of a one trick DVD) this really is an excellent purchase. Highly recommended!

    If those reviews have tempted you to get a copy for yourself, you can order The Plot Thickens here.

    The Good Reviews Thicken

    I've just received another great review of my book, The Plot Thickens.

    Mark Leveridge, editor of Magicseen (Europe's number 1 magic magazine) had this to say about it:

    The Plot Thickens by Oliver Meech

    At a British Ring Convention in the 1980s I was particularly struck by the material in a lecture by close upper Bob Ostin. His plots were simple, his methods equally so, and all of his magic used everyday objects or things that you could easily make yourself. For me, at the time, it was the perfect lecture as it provided all manner of great magic that I could immediately make up and do. As I read this first of two projected books by Oliver Meech, I was reminded of those Bob Ostin creations.

    Oliver has deliberately concentrated on coming up with fresh plots (hence the title of the book) and the 22 that he provides between the covers of this A4 size 80 odd page book are at times quirky, but on all occasions fresh and interesting. His methods are incredibly practical. Just about the most difficult thing you will comes across is a double lift or a flustration count, and I have to say that this is a welcome change from the current trend for over-blown, sleight ridden close up magic which seems to be prevalent with many of the younger generation today.

    It's almost impossible not to like this book and its contents. As a first shot at releasing a body of work it is hugely impressive, and if this is the standard of what we can expect from Oliver in his second book (and any subsequent books), then it won't be long before his reputation is made. He provides you with plots that almost defy description - making a spectator invisible, using a tattoo to reveal a playing card, predicting a Beatles song title written on a plectrum, revealing a spectator's name written on your teeth - plus so many more, and like a breath of untainted fresh air, there's not a matrix, coins across or Triumph variation to be seen. Hoorah!!

    Simple to collect or make props, unusual plots, simple methods, great ideas - why aren't you ordering this book right now?

    WHAT'S HOT: the novelty of plot and simplicity of method

    WHAT'S NOT: not a book for those who want finger breaking sleights

    STAR RATING: ****

    To get your very own copy of The Plot Thickens, click here.

    Logically Impossible (another essay from back in the day)

    “Dracula’s surviving sunlight – that’s so unbelievable!”

     

    This is a typical indignant comment from a movie-goer, who at the same time is quite willing to accept the existence of an immortal, shape-shifting Prince of Darkness who sucks blood through hollow fangs until he is killed by a stake through the heart.  What makes the difference between indignation and acceptance? Internal logic.

     

    As all science fiction writers know, people are quite willing to accept any alternative reality as long as two conditions are satisfied:

    1. The rules that govern the reality are stated, including exceptions to the rule.
    2. The rules are consistently followed.

    That’s all there is too it.

     

    Let’s take Superman as an example.  The rules state that he has x-ray vision and icy-cold breath.  He can fly like a bird and displays super-human strength, except when he is in the presence of kryptonite, which interferes with his powers.  As long as these rules and their exceptions are followed then everyone accepts the alternative reality.

     

    Why am I talking about internal logic in a magic essay?  It’s because the lack of internal logic in many tricks detracts from the magical alternative reality that we are striving to create.  I will use three tricks to illustrate my point.  Please note that I am not slating the performers who created them but merely suggesting that the tricks themselves do not follow the rules of internal logic.

     

    There was a routine in Magic magazine a while back (I am afraid I cannot recall the originator) that uses a deck in which the cards have been padlocked together, supposedly because the order of the cards forms a secret code that forms vital police evidence.  As the trick develops the magician unlocks the padlock and deals through the cards, thereby destroying their precious order.

     

    A routine in “Darwin Ortiz at the Card Table” called the “The Grandfather Deck” uses a pack of cards that supposedly belonged to the magician's grandfather.  The cards have blank faces which are then printed by the magician.  He then concludes by giving the pack away to a spectator.  Maybe it’s just me, but would you really give away a family heirloom to someone you have known for only a few minutes?

     

    Any trick that uses a magical gesture to “make the magic happen” can also fail to follow the rules of internal logic.  We've all seen Ambitious Card routines in which the magician states that he must click his fingers to cause the card to rise to the top of the pack, only for him to forget about the clicking a couple of phases later, without any detriment to the card’s ability to rise. I have to admit that I've even caught myself doing it on occasion!

     

    Luckily, there are simple solutions to all these problems.  In the first trick, leave the cards padlocked together and count down to the selected number without unlocking them and changing their order.  In the second trick, either don’t call the pack a family heirloom, or don’t give the pack away at the end.  In the third group of tricks, if you are using a magical gesture then use it throughout the trick, or better still, forget to use it once and then show that the magic has not occurred.  Most other tricks can also be remedied with a moment’s thought.

     

    Applying internal logic to your magic is an easy way to make your tricks more satisfying to watch, whether you are turning yourself into a bat or just finding a selected card.

    Really Swish System

    Actually, I have no idea what the initials RSS stand for, but I do know what they mean:

    If you click on the little red and green icon at the bottom of this page that says 'RSS 2.0' then you can set up an RSS feed, which means you'll never miss another knowledge-nugget from this blog.

    After all, it's a Rich Secret Source, a Readable Sorcery Scribble, a Rarely Seen Selection, a R- ok, I'll stop there.

    First Feedback

    As you may have noticed from t'other pages of my site, I've just published my first book of original magic tricks, called The Plot Thickens. I've sent copies to the main magic mags so reviews should be coming out soon.

    In the meantime, Tim Trono, creator of the excellent, forehead-slapping, why-didn't-I-think-of-that effect Branded, had a look at my book and posted this on the the magic cafe forum:

    "If you have not seen Oliver's book The Plot Thickens then buy it. He's got some great ideas. I have been crazy busy lately but am going through it and playing with some of the many excellent ideas."

    Get your very own copy of The Plot Thickens.

    The full thread in which his comment appeared can be found here.

    Batmantastic

    My colleague Karrie just found a website which I just have to share. If you like Batman and gadgets (and let's face it, what magician doesn't?) you'll love it. Check out www.hiddenpassageway.com

    Bookcases concealing doors, lifting staircases, tables that spilt to reveal inner sections. You name it, they do it!

    Now if only they made a Batmobile to go in the garage...

    Or Something Like That

    Ian Rowland concludes in The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading, a stunningly comprehensive book, that the "human mind is...next to hopeless at accurately describing past experience".

     

    He further notes the following:

    “Accurate recall is prone to at least four kinds of contamination.  Generally speaking:

    -         people are not very good at observing things very accurately

    -         what little they observe well, they are not very good at remembering very accurately

    -         what little they remember well, they are not very good at describing very accurately to others

    -         and what little they describe well, they tend to simplify greatly”

     

    Given this damning assessment of our memory capabilities, it follows that keeping tricks slogan simple (as popularised by Michael Ammar) is hugely important.

     

    It has often been noted that spectators remember the end of tricks and that if you have fifty tricks with the same ending you have one trick, whilst if you have one trick with fifty endings you have fifty tricks.  However, there is another aspect of tricks that spectators seem to remember – the objects used in the trick.  Anyone who has performed for any length of time will have heard the request to “show my friend that trick with the bits of sponge” or something similar.  The emphasis in memory on the objects used could also be the reason behind the “I know this one” comment which sometimes occurs when you bring out a pack of cards, even before you have started the trick, since in the spectators mind you are about to do “the one with the cards”.

     

    Having accepted that spectators remember the objects used when other details have been forgotten, it makes sense to perform magic with many different objects.  Not only will this make for greater variety in your performance but will also make it more memorable.  Question the need to use cards in every trick – if you are doing cards across, could you use dollar bills instead? If you are performing a torn and restored card, could you use a photograph instead?  In this way spectators will hopefully remember “a trick using a photograph, another using a dollar bill, and a card trick” rather than just the more generic “card tricks”.

     

    In the same way, you want tricks that are easy to describe and sound good when spectators relate their magical experience to their friends.  An example of an excellent trick which doesn’t sound that impressive when described would be a card location under impossible conditions, since whilst it may be stunning to watch, it is likely to be described as “that trick where the magician finds my card”.  An example of a reasonable trick which sounds more impressive when described would be the trick where you remove and replace your eyeball (as originated by the Amazing Jonathan).  Whilst the trick is little more than some simple vanishes performed with a fake eyeball, it gets described as “the trick where the magician pops his eyeball out”, which sounds a much more impressive.

     

    Finally, I would like to touch on the idea, first popularised by Michael Ammar, that memory is malleable.  This suggestion has led to a deluge of instructions in magic books such as “have the spectator cut the pack a couple of times, then recap the effect and say that the spectator shuffled the pack – later the spectator will swear that he shuffled the pack, making the trick even more impossible”.  I have yet to hear of a single magician who followed up on one of these claims to see if this actually occurred.  I doubt that the spectator will wrongly remember that they shuffled the pack – it’s more likely that they will have difficulty remembering the trick at all!  This is not to say that memory cannot be influenced, just that you should check that the false memory you believe you are implanting is actually being implanted.  One way in which the inaccuracy can be used to your advantage is in the natural simplifying of routines that occurs in memory.  Mind-reading feats which require information to be written down before it can be revealed will often be recalled as “the magician read my mind”.  In this way at least, the inaccuracy of our spectator’s memory can be used to our advantage.

     

    Hopefully I shall hear a vivid description of one of your tricks from a spectator soon.

    More memory stuff

    Total Recall

     

     

    “Why do I need to think about memory?  As long as I’m magical and entertaining then the spectators will remember me and my magic.”  This belief is often held by magicians but it is not entirely true.  They may well remember their uncle pulling a coin out of their ear as a child long after they have forgotten about a major illusionist, even though the latter may have been objectively more magical and more entertaining.

     

    Before we get into what makes a performance memorable, let’s look at why the study of memory is so important for magicians.  I would go so far as to make the following claim:

     

    The memory of a performance is the most important part of any magical experience, and is more important than the performance itself.  A memorable trick performed badly is better than an unmemorable trick performed well.

     

    Why do I say this? Well, it is a matter of getting maximum impact from your magic.  Would you rather amaze one person or fifty people?  Judging by how envious most magicians are of David Blaine and others who reach a wide audience, I would say most magicians would prefer the latter.  Similarly, would you rather that amazement lasted for twenty seconds or twenty years.  Most magicians would love to have Houdini’s lasting air of mystery.  Finally, when spectators are thinking of rehiring you or recommending you to their friend, are you still with them or are they relying on their memories?  Again, the latter option wins out.

     

    An example might help.  Let’s compare two tricks - a badly performed version of the Card on the Ceiling trick (as championed by Michael Ammar) and a well performed multi-phase card routine (you know the sort - the selection is found reversed in the deck, then it vanishes to appear in your wallet, then the four aces are produced and the backs of the cards change colour to finish).  The first trick is not very entertaining or magical during the performance, although the climax might be impressive.  The second trick is a highly entertaining and magical routine.  If we were to ignore the role of memory, we would probably choose the second routine as the better of the two.  However, as any magician who has ever performed it knows, the Card on the Ceiling trick is much more effective, precisely because it is so memorable.  Whilst it may take the same amount of time and effort to perform as the second trick, it will be remembered better and longer, which means more people get to here about your amazing abilities, the original spectator is amazed for years instead of minutes, and this memory will be relied upon when you are being recommended or rebooked.

     

    This does not mean that your performances can become dull or mundane.  On the contrary, it is imperative that you keep people interested in the trick so that they have a better chance of encoding the event in their memories.  After all, how can you remember something that you never paid attention to in the first place?

     

    It does mean, however, that each performance should include at least one effect which is highly memorable, and that too many multi-phase routines should be avoided.  This leads to another claim –

    If you do not summarise your routines, the spectator will do it for you.

     

    This is why you should use Michael Ammar’s KISS principle and Keep It Slogan Simple.  Psychologists often say that forgetting is as important as remembering, and we receive so much information every day that we tend to reduce things to their ‘gist’.  This may account for the showbiz saying that “you’ve gotta have a gimmick”, which could be paraphrased to “you’ve gotta be easily summarised”.  It is no surprise that David Blaine’s repertoire contains few multi-phase routines but many slogan-simple tricks (e.g. card through window, cigarette through coin, man frozen in ice).  As soon as a routine becomes too complex to be summarised in a few words, the trick will become remembered more generically as “a card trick” or “a cool trick” or even “magic”.

     

    What is the problem with this?  Provided you are the only magician on the planet then nothing.  If, however, you are competing for peoples’ memory and money with other magicians, then there is no way to distinguish your “magic”, which has taken twenty years of constant performing to hone, from their friend’s son’s “magic”, which has taken a trip to the magic shop and five minutes practice.  This is not a good thing.

     

    If you need further convincing then just recall a typical conversation normal people (i.e. non-magicians) have when discussing magic -

    “I saw a great magician the other day”

    “Oh really, what did he do?”

    “Just some card tricks, but they were pretty cool”

    “My nephew does some pretty cool card tricks too – he does this one with twenty-one cards…”

     

    Compare this with a typical conversation about David Blaine -

    “I saw a great magician the other day”

    “Oh really, what did he do?”

    “He did this thing where he threw a pack of cards against a shop window and the selected card appeared on the other side of the glass”

    “My nephew does some pretty cool card tricks too, but he could never do that…”

     

    I’m sure you will appreciate the difference, and so will your audiences.

    More memory stuff from back in the day (my tone was a bit more preachy then!)

    Memories Are Made Of This

     

     

    Let’s start with something you can try out on yourself or on your friends.  Below is a list of thirty things.  Please read them once (or better yet get someone else to read them to you) and try and commit as many of them as you can to memory.  Do not write anything down and try to avoid using any memory tricks that you may have learnt.  You should take no more then about a minute to read the list.  Have a break for a minute or two and then on a separate sheet of paper write down as many of the objects as you can from memory, without looking back at the list.  I’ll still be here when you get back from doing that.  

     

    Memory List

    1. Knife
    2. Carpet
    3. Window
    4. Door
    5. Chair
    6. Shoe
    7. Michael Jackson
    8. Fork
    9. Socks
    10. Shirt
    11. Thumb-tip
    12. Book
    13. Pants
    14. Plate
    15. Chair
    16. Pen
    17. Spoon
    18. Pencil
    19. Table
    20. Cup
    21. Death
    22. Glass
    23. Chair
    24. Bed
    25. Carpet
    26. Scissors
    27. Chair
    28. Watch
    29. Keys
    30. Bottle

     

    Welcome back.  What was the point of all that?  Well, presuming that we want to have our magical performances remembered it makes sense to find out what makes something memorable (or forgettable).

     

    How did you do in the memory test?  Provided that you did not get thirty (and if you did then go back and read the bit about not cheating!), look at the objects you did remember.  The chances are good that they will include most if not all of the following:

    1. Michael Jackson
    2. Thumb-tip
    3. Chair
    4. Knife
    5. Bottle
    6. Death

    Each one is an example of one of the six major factors have been found by researchers to make an event memorable.

     

    The six factors affecting memory are outlined below:

    1. Unusualness
    2. Relevance
    3. Repetition
    4. Primacy
    5. Recency
    6. Emotion

     

    Michael Jackson should thus be remembered because he is only person in a list of objects and is therefore unusual (in more ways than one!).  The thumb-tip should be remembered because it is relevant to most magicians.  ‘Chair’ should be remembered through repetition as it appears four times in the list.  The concept of primacy means that ‘knife’ should be remembered because it comes first in the list.  Similarly, the concept of recency means that ‘bottle’ should be remembered because it comes last in the list.  Finally, ‘death’ should be remembered since it is a word that is usually triggers some form of emotion. 

     

    Thanks to some eager researchers we now have six ways in which we can make our magic more memorable.  It makes sense that many of Michael Ammar’s “Eight Principles for Making Magic Memorable” from “The Magic of Michael Ammar” work by increasing one of the six factors listed above.  Theory only becomes really useful when put into practice, so let’s look at how to each of the six factors can be applied to your magic to make it more memorable.

     

    Unusualness

    Thankfully, the impossible is by its very nature unusual, so as magicians we already have a head start in this area!  If the unusual is more memorable than the usual, it follows that that we should make our performances as unusual or as incongruous with everyday life as possible.  However, care must be taken so that your trick is not so unusual that it becomes irrelevant – for example, a bill which increases in value when folded is unusual but still relevant to spectators’ lives, whereas a bill which turns into an orange when folded is more unusual but less relevant.  Just because our magical effects should be as unusual as possible, this does not mean that we should use the most unusual props or costumes, as this can draw attention towards them and away from the magic, which should remain the central focus of our performances.

     

    This also leads to the conclusion that any effect which involves a transformation should involve an object becoming more unusual rather than less.  It is more memorable, for example, to take a normal coin and magically bend it than to take a bent coin and magically straighten it. 

     

    The most unusual event is that which is unique, which explains why seemingly unanticipated and unexpected magic events which could only occur once (even if they are designed to occur that every night) are often the best remembered, and should be nurtured.

     

    Relevance

    The role of relevance in making tricks memorable helps to explain why magic which occurs in the spectator’s hands, or on their person, often has the most impact.  It explains why doing magic with their belongings, their thoughts, or any other way which involves them is so powerful and so well remembered.

     

    Relevance is still under-used in magic, especially when it can be so easily exploited when performing close-up magic.  Why make a card disappear and reappear in your pocket when you can have it appear in theirs?  Why make an ‘X’ jump around and multiply on the backs of playing cards when you can have their name jump around and multiply?  Why read their mind and tell them which word they chose from a dictionary when you can read their mind and tell them the name of the first person they kissed?   

     

    Closely related to the idea of relevance is the idea of relevant implications.  Whilst gambling routines generally leave me cold, they can be memorable because of their real-world implications, as someone who can always win at cards could make a lot of money at casinos.  Similarly, demonstrations of mind-reading which are tedious to watch can still be memorable because of their relevant implications, as everyone has wished at some time or another that they could read minds.  The appeal of the Hundred Dollar Bill Switch also stems from this factor.  This links in with Dai Vernon’s question “What would you do if you could really do magic?” which should be a major starting point in developing new magic tricks.  There is more discussion about implications in Darwin Ortiz’s classic book “Strong Magic”.

     

    As well as associating your magic with the real world, you should also associate the real world with your magic.  Magic remains a relatively esoteric subject and so unless people are discussing the paranormal or other magicians, then you may not be discussed.  Memory works by making associations between related things, in a similar way to word-association games or the links between websites.  Consequently, if you want you and your magic to be thought about and talked about more then you need to connect the outside world to your magic in as many different ways as possible.  Darwin Ortiz says in “Strong Magic” that he wants to “make such a strong impression on each spectator that whenever the subject of card tricks or card cheating comes up in the future – indeed, virtually any time he sees a deck of cards – he’ll think of me”.  This is a great goal, but it could be extended.  In my experience people who are not magicians or gamblers do not think or talk about card tricks or card cheating all that frequently.  Ian Rowland, author of “The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading”, suggests that people are far more concerned with issues concerning love, money, their career and their health, with travel, education and ambitions also praying on peoples’ minds.  There is an easy way to tell what normal people tend to talk and think about most frequently – spend time with them.  Talk to them, listen to them, question them, eavesdrop on their conversations and peer over their shoulders at what they choose to read.  Listen carefully when people start recalling magic or anything else and see what aspects they remember and what they don’t, and then try to link your magic to these issues.

     

    As well giving away magical souvenirs, two other ways to jog the memories of your audience are magical solutions to common problems and the use of music in magic.  Following a well-crafted performance of a magical solution, people should be reminded of you whenever they experience the common problem (“if only I could magically fix this like <insert magician’s name>”).  The use of music, even though it is harder (but not impossible) to inject into close-up performances, is also a relatively easy way to form strong associations between the outside world and your magic.  Any one who needs convincing of this need only listen to people requesting songs on the radio – they will often say “please could you play <insert song> because it reminds me of when…”.  Why not harness this associative power to have radios around the world promote your magic for free?!

     

    Repetition

    Why is the Ambitious Card such a popular trick?  It can hardly be that the idea of a card rising to the middle of the pack to the top is inherently fascinating for spectators.  Repeat this a few times, however, and you have a classic magical effect.  I propose that it is the repetition which makes the trick memorable.  Repetition is especially strong for magicians as most spectators have heard that magicians will never repeat a trick.  This means that when a magician does repeat a trick, he takes advantage of the unusualness as well as repetition.

     

    As with anything, if repetition is overused then a trick can become monotonous – we have all sat through performances of the six-card-repeat that seemed to go on forever.  It is here that an analogy to the use of campaigns in advertising may be useful.  Since advertisers want to use repetition to their advantage but don’t want people getting bored they produce numerous adverts which present the same message in different ways.  A good example is the campaign for Altoids, which shows lots of different things which are “curiously strong”.  Applying this idea to magic gives us a way to use repetition without tricks becoming boring.  Daryl’s ambitious card is a good example of a ‘campaign trick’.  Although the card rises to the top something like fourteen times, each time is slightly different in terms of the number of cards used, who’s hands the cards are in, and how strict the conditions are under which the card rises to the top.  Another example could be the multiple selection routines favoured by bar magicians like Doc Eason.  In his routine, almost every card is found in a different way, so the repetition does not become monotonous.

     

    You might wonder how I can say that repetition can be a good thing and at the same time be against most multi-phase routines.  I should clarify my position by saying that I am only against multi-phase routines when the phases are too different from each other to be able to quickly summarise the trick, as in many tricks with multiple climaxes.  In the case of routines using repetition, they remain easy to summarise (e.g. a card rises to the top of the pack) it just happens multiple times.  The distinction is small but important one.

     

    Repetition is not appropriate in every routine but as long as each phase is different enough to avoid monotony whilst remaining similar enough to be easily summarised it turn an average trick into a highly memorable one.

     

    Primacy & Recency

    I will deal with these two factors at the same time as they are two sides of the same coin.  Simply put, people will remember what they experience first and last, so place your best material first and last.  This is by now standard advice on routining.  It also questions the need for tricks with a lengthy midsection as this is less likely to be remembered, though if it is very entertaining and magical then you may want to keep it in.  I would add that it is a good idea to emulate stand-up comedians by mentioning your name at the very beginning and the very end of your set to help cement it in their memory.

     

    Emotion

    The experience of amazement can be an emotional experience in itself, as can mind-reading, especially when it concerns an emotive memory.  Other than in those instances, most magic performers, with the possible exception of Rene Lavand, do not spend a lot of time making their magic an emotional experience.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, as you still have the other five principles to play with, but emotional experiences can be very memorable.  Just think of losing your virginity or losing a loved one and you will probably experience quite a vivid memory of the occasion.

     

    If you do want to make your magic an emotional experience, then I would suggest that it is a lot easier to tap into readily developed emotion then to try and create your own from scratch.  We have all heard painfully trite performances by magicians trying to make watching card tricks a heart-rending experience (“the jack of spades will represent a young rogue and the queen of hearts will represent a shy damsel…”).  It is better to use adapt existing stories and symbolic imagery which already strike an emotional cord, or better still to use peoples’ own stored emotions to your advantage.  To re-use the mind-reading example from the section on relevance, why not (via a centre tear, impression device or by cold reading) tell people about their first kiss, their marriage day, the birth of their children, or any other event which is likely to be packed full of positive emotions waiting to be unleashed, as well as being highly relevant to the spectator?

     

    That concludes our discussion of the six factors which can help to make your magic more memorable.  The factors can and should be applied to every magic trick you perform.

     

    As an intriguing footnote, Tony Buzan in his book “Use Your Memory” sets out twelve factors that can improve memory, which are listed below.  Although they were developed to make memory pegs more memorable, you could just as easily use them to make your magic tricks more memorable, in a similar way to the six factors discussed above.

    1. senses
    2. movement
    3. association
    4. sexuality
    5. humour
    6. imagination
    7. number
    8. symbolism
    9. colour
    10. order and/or sequence
    11. positive images
    12. exaggeration

    Resurrected 'Ritings

    I recently discovered some essays that I wrote a few years back. I don't thing they were widely circulated at the time, so rather than let them gather digital dust, I thought I'd share some of them, starting with this one:

    LOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE 

    “Dracula’s surviving sunlight – that’s so unbelievable!”

    This is a typical indignant comment from a movie-goer, who at the same time is quite willing to accept the existence of an immortal, shape-shifting Prince of Darkness who sucks blood through hollow fangs until he is killed by a stake through the heart.  What makes the difference between indignation and acceptance?  Internal logic.

     

    As all science fiction writers know, people are quite willing to accept any alternative reality as long as two conditions are satisfied:

    1. The rules that govern the reality are stated, including exceptions to the rule.
    2. The rules are consistently followed.

    That’s all there is too it.

     

    Let’s take Superman as an example.  The rules state that he has x-ray vision and icy-cold breath.  He can fly like a bird and displays super-human strength, except when he is in the presence of kryptonite, which interferes with his powers.  As long as these rules and their exceptions are followed then everyone accepts the alternative reality.

     

    Why am I talking about internal logic in a magic essay?  It’s because the lack of internal logic in many tricks detracts from the magical alternative reality that we are striving to create.  I will use three tricks to illustrate my point.  Please note that I am not slating the performers who created them but merely suggesting that the tricks themselves do not follow the rules of internal logic.

     

    There was a routine in Magic magazine a few months back (I am afraid I cannot recall the originator) that uses a deck in which the cards have been padlocked together, supposedly because the order of the cards forms a secret code that forms vital police evidence.  As the trick develops the magician unlocks the padlock and deals thru the cards, thereby destroying their precious order.

     

    Darwin Ortiz has a routine in “Darwin Ortiz at the Card Table” called the “The Grandfather Deck” which uses a pack of cards that supposedly belonged to his grandfather.  The cards have blank faces which are then printed by the magician.  He then concludes by giving the pack away to a spectator.  Maybe it’s just me, but would you really give away a family heirloom to someone you have known for only a few minutes?

     

    Any trick that uses a magical gesture to “make the magic happen” can also fail to follow the rules of internal logic.  I have lost count of the number of ambitious card routines I have seen in which the magician states that he must click his fingers to cause the card to rise to the top of the pack, only for him to forget about the clicking a couple of phases later, without any detriment to the card’s ability to rise.

     

    These problems are all easily remedied.  In the first trick, leave the cards padlocked together and count down to the selected number without unlocking them and changing their order.  In the second trick, either don’t call the pack a family heirloom, or don’t give the pack away at the end.  In the third group of tricks, if you are using a magical gesture, then use it throughout the trick, or better still, forget to use it once and then show that the magic has not occurred.  Most other tricks can also be remedied with just a moment’s thought.

     

    Applying internal logic to your magic is an easy way to make your tricks more satisfying to watch, whether you are turning yourself into a bat or just finding a selected card.

    The Brain Factory Tour starts here

    Welcome to my brain.

    During the tour, please try not to touch anything, especially if it's pulsating, and make sure your snood is firmly attached (it's a protective hair-net, since your wondering).

    Over the coming weeks you'll see the output of the creative production line inside my head. It creates tricks pretty regularly.

    Unfortunately, my Quality Control department is sorely under-staffed. It consists of me and the occasional spectator I trap after work.

    So, kind Sir (or Madam) I need your help.

    Be my quality control. Take my thought-products out into the world. Try them out. Tell me if you and your spectator's like them. Or hate them. Or couldn't give a monkeys.

    Let me know which giant's shoulders I'm standing on.

    Point out the tricks' best features or critical flaws.

    Tinker with them, make them shinier then tell me how.

    There are enough bad tricks published in books and videos. With your help, I'll only be adding good ones.

    Sugar Cubed

    Here's a simple and fun restaurant trick to get us going.

    EFFECT: A spectator squeezes a sugar packet and forms the sugar inside it into a cube.

    REQUIRED: A sugar cube and a spare sugar packet.

    PREPARATION: Using a knife or just your fingers, tear a slot in one of the thin ends of the sugar packet. It should only go through one side of the paper and shouldn't extend right to the edges.

    Pour out and discard the sugar inside.

    Carefully insert the sugar cube into the sugar packet, without extending the tear.

    Crumple the packet so that the tear ends up hidden inside then finger palm it in your left hand.

    PERFORMANCE: Introduce yourself a group of spectators. Shake each person's hand then state who has the strongest grip and ask them to pass you a sugar packet from the bowl.

    Display the packet on your right palm then crumple it slightly. Request that they squeeze it tight. You illustrate your request by supposedly taking the sugar packet with your left hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. In reality, you only pretend to take it. Your left hand gives it's palmed packet a squeeze as your right hand finger palms the un-gaffed packet and drops to your side.

    Hand them the gaffed packet and help them close their hands around it. Have them squeeze tight.

    Ask them to open their hand and when they do, take the packet and tear off the pre-torn top, which diffuses the gaff. Take care not to flash the palmed packet as you tear.

    Look inside, smile, then hand it over so they can discover what their strength has achieved.

    NOTES: You can dispose of the palmed packet as they examine the sugar cube or ditch it as you go to your pockets for your next trick.

    There's a chance that the tear will be visible when they open their hand after squeezing. Should this happen, just remark that their strength was too much for the flimsy paper...and the sugar.

    CREDITS: One of the tricks in 101 Thumb Tip Tricks by Gary Darwin also involves turning loose sugar into a sugar cube. However, he uses a thumb tip and the cube doesn't form inside a packet, nor whilst it is in the spectator's hand.

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