I am under no delusion that I am a writer. (Pretend you are Cary Grant and pronounce those last two words out loud — that’s what I had in mind.)

Oh, make no mistake, I love to write. While I sometimes fret over the way one word preceeds the other in the way Alain Ducasse might question whether the butter comes before the lemon juice in the asparagus parmesan dish, I find I am literarily closer to the sorts of choices Rachel Ray might make. (With the exception that I’m taller than she. And far less cute.)

I am often amused by the goings on in this weird little world of ours, and I sometimes like to share those amusements in hopes that I might bring at least a half-smile to the teeming masses. (Or at least one of you two regular readers.) So, here we are again. That was the wind-up. Time to put on my Andy Rooney hat — or, maybe I should say my Harry Lorayne hat — and let fly. (Insert LLCS joke here.)

There was a time in my life when I was happy to blaze new trails (or I thought they were new trails.) I thought it was a good idea to just go out there and do stuff, make mistakes, learn from them and move on. I’ll admit I often got stuck at the “learn from them” part — and I still have issues with that today.

These days, though, I embrace the saying “a smart man learns from his mistakes, a wise man learns from others’ mistakes. “ While I won’t get in the path of someone out to make all the mistakes he can pack into one lifetime, I figure I’m better off learning from the experiences of others and spend all that extra time fishing, or otherwise enjoying life.

Therefore, I find it wise to read Michael Close’s Workers series and benefit from Close’s experiences rather than spend twenty or thirty years noodling out a workable handling for some trick. Not that it wouldn’t be tons of fun to spend all that time doing it myself. I’m sure it would be a gas to reinvent the wheel, too.

In the same way, I also find it wise to study Richard Osterlind’s work. (See? I’ve already aggitated someone.)

Over the last year especially, mentioning Osterlind on The Magic Cafe has made certain individuals salivate at the opportunity to tear into Richard. Why? Who knows. Not that these people actually need a reason. And not that the criticisms have been founded anyway.

The interesting thing is Osterlind is perfectly happy to discuss his work if you’ll ask him to. Have a question about anything he’s written? Handling, paternity, anything? Ask him. And not just the workings, but how he arrived at the place where he put this stuff in print or on DVD.

Now, I know this might utterly shock and mystify some people, but he’ll actually engage you in conversation and help you understand his thinking. In my experience, he doesn’t demand you agree with him, but at least you’ll know why he thinks what he thinks.

Yet some people who would prefer to create nonsensical Internet handles — like, say, barkmagicman — and lay into Osterlind over some supposed miscredit, or paternity, or whether the chicken came first. Typically this is an example of “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” — another product of the wonderful Internet age, I suppose.

So, instead of being a reasonable, decent human being and sending Richard a note asking, people like that post aggressive, coy, or just plain snotty messages on discussion boards that call into question Osterlind’s integrity. (And, of course, we all know how much incredible bravery it takes to anonymously take pot shots at someone on the Internet.)

Somehow or another, their moral imperative to “question authority” leads them into an amusing logging expedition: while they’re busy trying to hack down a 150 year old redwood with their gumball machine penknife, the rest of the forest is shaking their heads, sniggering up their leaves at them.

I suppose some of these people forget that, while they are puffing out their chests being the Alpha Male teacup poodle, in the end they’re still just a teacup poodle.

So, Richard explains his position, and the accuser is left twisting in the wind, a textbook example of being hoist by one’s own petard. And that generally doesn’t go over too well with the young barkmagicmans of the Internet world.

Rinse, repeat. It never seems to end.

It’s a useful thing to separate factual criticism and opinion. Generally speaking, it’s also a good thing to get your facts right before criticizing someone on the facts. As for opinions, well, everyone has one. Isn’t that why Al Gore invented the Internet — to give everyone a printing press?

Like common sense, the only thing wrong with common decency these days is it isn’t so common.

Back to learning from other people’s experience.

Unlike a lot of magic authors these days, you won’t find pipe dreams in the ebooks or DVDs or tricks you can purchase from Richard Osterlind. These things are — literally — the documentation of routines he’s actually performed before paying audiences over nearly thirty years. That’s a lot of experience to hand over, and all you have to do is read (or watch) and study. And that’s one of the reasons I recommend Osterlind’s work — and Michael Close’s work — to any who ask.

I’m going to recycle something I posted recently because it makes this very point.

One of the common threads you’ll notice in the stuff Richard has released is that it’s based on real world experience. (And experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you expected!) I’ve compared Richard’s stuff to Michael Close’s stuff and I think that’s a fair comparison. Neither fellow releases pipe dreams. All of it has been tempered in the fire of experience. And you can go out and get your own experience, or you can learn from someone who has literally been there and done that.

One of the bazillion discussion groups of which I am a member is Restaurant Magicians on Yahoo! Groups. There recently was a thread on marketing for magicians. One of the members noted, “It is very important to fail because how else will you know it was the wrong way?”

The following was my reply. I’m posting it here because I think it captures the essence of why I love and value the ebooks, tricks and DVDs Richard has released:

Well, that’s one way to go about it. And if that works for you, I won’t argue.

However, I’ll add that simply failing doesn’t teach you anything unless you have the presence of mind to notice something didn’t work, and the further presence of mind to try something different. You may have seen Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It’s amazing to see people do that. Over and over.

To know whether or not something worked you have to know what outcome you expected. And if you can define your outcome, you can find others with similar expectations and learn from their experience.

If someone wishes to go out and blaze new tried-and-true paths, I say God bless ’em all. As for me, I’m happy to study the results others have gotten and save myself some time and trouble.

Back in the late 80s I decided to enter the public speaking industry. I could have slogged it out for years to learn the ins and outs of the business. Instead I attended a long, intensive workshop by Dotty Walters of Glendale, CA. This is a woman who knew the public speaking business inside and out, rubbed shoulders with the greats, and published a magazine for the industry. (She went on to release a book based on the workshop and called it “Speak and Grow Rich.”) The workshop was pricey, but over the years I can safely say it would have been worth a hundred times the price.

There’s another saying I’m fond of. It’s found in various incarnations, but the essence of it is this: a smart man learns from his mistakes, a wise man learns from others’ mistakes.

Also, unlike some magicians, Richard hasn’t held back the real work. Volume 1 of his Mind Mysteries DVD set is a commercially successful set of mentalism that, even if you aped Osterlind’s presentations word for word, would be successful. It’s all there for you to learn.

But for some people — like Osterlind and Close — the interval of time between initial release and now (whenever now is) means more time to think and hone and find clearer ways to communicate the thinking behind some of these creations. In Michael Close’s case, you have the incredible Workers ebook, which updates and annotates one of the best series of books the close-up worker will ever read. In Osterlind’s case, you have a wonderful new project that starts with Mind Mysteries Guide Book – Volume 1: The Act.

From the ad:

In an unprecedented event, Richard Osterlind has revisited his hugely successful Mind Mysteries video series and has written a definitive guide book that exponentially enriches the material presented in it.

In this first volume, Richard takes Mind Mysteries Volume 1, which captured his professional act, and dissects it effect by effect, pointing out all of the subtle yet essential details to making these effects work for you as powerfully as they do for him.

In this guide book, you’ll discover new, unearthed treasures regarding Mind Mysteries as well as important new additions…

So, what is this thing? It’s a companion book that you read along side watching the DVD. Volume 1 extends the Mind Mysteries Volume 1 DVD. Subsequent ebook volumes will extend their matching Mind Mysteries DVD volume.

Since the release of the Mind Mysteries DVD set, Osterlind has had plenty of time to watch and dissect and annotate the videos. Since it’s impractical to go back and edit the video, the guide books allow you to learn from these annotations one video at a time. So far as I am aware, this is a first in the world of magic instructional videos.

At this point it would seem anticlimactic to rhetorically ask, “Is this ebook worth owning?” I had an opportunity to proofread it before release and I had the same sense of amazement after reading it that I had after watching the Mind Mysteries DVD set; so this is why some in the mentalism community had kittens when Richard released the DVDs.

What sorts of things will you find in the guide book? Well, for starters, you’ll learn the history behind each of the pieces on the DVD. You’ll learn why the presentation is structured the way it is, why some lines come before (or after) others. Why you handle a prop a certain way, as opposed to any other way. In short, while the DVDs allowed you to benefit from thousands of actual performance, this guide book “pauses the video” and explains subtle handlings that you probably didn’t know existed — or why they existed to begin with. After thousands of performances of each piece, Richard has learned what works, when and why, and explains it all to you.

In the end, if you own the DVDs, I can’t find any good reason not to invest in the guide book. It extends, explains, makes more clear — and more enjoyable — the material in the DVD. Is it worth $25? Well, let me ask the same sort of question I asked when I reviewed Michael Close’s ebook on the torn and restored card: how much is twenty-five years of your life, performing thousands of performances, and distilling that experience worth to you?

If you own the Mind Mysteries DVD set, you really owe it to yourself to get the full university education experience. Order it now here.

10 thoughts on “Does Pavlov ring a bell?

  1. Yes, well, Aldo Nova called and said he wants his name back. Can’t blame him, really. In the words of another rocker, “Shot down in flames.”

  2. My stupid question, with some unfortunately long preamble:

    I only just started getting interested in mentalism, and I got my hands on a copy of Maven’s Videomind volume 2. I was really tempted to trash certain aspects of the tape, but I wanted to hold out until I knew whether his approach to teaching was standard or not.

    It’s this quote of yours that got me: “Also, unlike some magicians, Richard hasn’t held back the real work.”

    So anyway, I’m watching Videomind, and it’s very much self-working this, pull-out-the-needed-prediction-from-your-left-sock-please-ignore-my-right-sock that, and then he gets to his explanation of The Hawk, which just blew me away. My suspicion had been that mentalism at times had more complicated principles at work than regular magic, but it wasn’t until the explanation for the Hawk that I finally got a taste of that. Unfortunately, Maven glosses over the Gilbreath principle so you don’t really understand it, except how it applies to that particular trick, and you kind of have to take it on faith that it works.

    What I’m wondering is, if I start getting into Osterlind, whether he’s not going to leave you out in the cold with his principles… I get the impression that this is what you’re saying when you talk about Osterlind, but I just wanted to be sure…

  3. First, there are few things in good magic or mentalism that are hard to learn. What has always been the case is that good magic and mentalism requires a level of showmanship — the ability to work an audience — that few people really take the time to learn.

    Second, I enjoyed Max’s VideoMind series. I, too, wish he’d have gone deeper into some of the explanations but there is something to be said for planting an interest that causes you to go research. TA Waters’ “Mind, Myth & Magick” is filled with great stuff, all with proper crediting so you can go off researching until you can’t take it anymore.

    Finally, as to Osterlind’s material, I think you’ll find Richard does a great job explaining the finer points in both the DVDs and the guide book. Naturally, the point of the guide book was to go even deeper than he did on the DVD and I think he does a remarkable job.

    There are generally two camps when it comes to learning “the real work.” One side says if someone really, really wants to learn something, they’ll crawl through broken glass to find the references and study them. The other side says “Hey, it’s the year 2006. Here it is laid out for you and I hope you’re serious enough about this that you’ll use this as a stepping stone to go off and learn everything you can about this subject.”

    I’m not going to say either side is righter than the other, but I do have my preference for the way Richard teaches. I realize I sound like such an Osterlind fanboy, but the fact is I respect the man an enormous amount, and for lots of reasons. One of those is the fact that he respects those who wish to learn his stuff, and he doesn’t hold back a thing. You learn exactly what it is he does in front of a paying audience. Trust me, that’s special.

  4. It’s possible that Lt Blueberry doesn’t realize that mentalism and strong magic require a solid foundation. Richard is much more forgiving to the student who doesn’t want to do the homework, though he frequently reminds us to go to Tarbell. (How often has he said that everything the modern mentalist needs to learn is in Tarbell?)

    You’re correct in that he doesn’t hold back a thing, though. I’m still of the opinion that he’s giving away million-dollar ideas for nickels.


  5. I do understand that some teachers want to make their students work for their knowledge. I get that, and I see the merits of it.

    But it’s not like there’s a whole lot of readily available material on the Gilbreath principle and how it applies to cards. Yeah, there’s something Gardener wrote for scientific american and something else in an old copy of genii magazine, but given my geographic situation neither of those helps much (nobody speaks English where I’m at). I’ve been searching the internet like crazy, but to no avail. I’m rather afraid to take on a new trick — fantastic an effect that it is — without having access to the principles involved. It’s not like Daryl shows you his ACR routine, then goes into explanation mode and says “All you need to do is learn the d*****-l***. Good luck!” and cuts the video off right there.

    Anyways, I was going to invest more time in Maven, but if Osterlind is going to be even a little more open with his readers/viewers/etc., I might try him out first, and come back to Maven later.

    Oh, and Gran’pa Chet, I do get that mentalism requires a solid foundation. Actually, from my vantage point, it looks like mentalism requires a solid foundation, a little rouge, decent lipstick, and a certain je ne sais quoi to bring out the eyes.

  6. Oh, and Gran’pa Chet, I do get that mentalism requires a solid foundation. Actually, from my vantage point, it looks like mentalism requires a solid foundation, a little rouge, decent lipstick, and a certain je ne sais quoi to bring out the eyes.

    Astute observation. You should have been at MAGIC Live! in 2004…

  7. Great Post John what you say could be said about all magic including card work. And card shark magic and poker deal routines.

    To a performer a good tested routine or an idea that they can use in a show to make money is an investment and worth it’s weight in gold.

    But magic is no longer about performers and it is a hobby to most magicians. Hobby magicians have no real need for performance magic. Unless they are putting an act together to get out there and do a show the real work has less value to them. Because there is no need to use it.

  8. John, A well done essay.
    Right now in my progress in this art I am struggling with the tension between following the path of those that have paved the way, and finding my own way. “You were born an original, don’t die a copy.” But of course every student of an art needs to emulate their professor somewhat.

    Chet: “You’re correct in that he doesn’t hold back a thing, though. I’m still of the opinion that he’s giving away million-dollar ideas for nickels.”
    Amen to that, and I would expand that to include all the advice and counsel he offers in various forums.

    It pained me to read that he is hearing reports of performers exposing methods through inept handling. As you say the value in his DVDs outstrips the average exponentially. Ellusionist even wrote that they were amazed at how much material was on one DVD (they would probably have tried to make a 14 DVD set out of the same material for double the price).

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