Pregnant pause.

This just in:

Illusionist DAVID COPPERFIELD is planning to go one better than rival DAVID BLAINE by impregnating a woman live onstage.

The magician will carry out the stunt in Germany, without – he insists – even touching the volunteer.

Copperfield tells, “There is a great deal of new territory to conquer. I’m going to make a girl pregnant. Naturally there will be no sex.

“Everybody will be happy about it, but I’m not telling you any more.”

Everything old is new again?

(I’ll let others comment on the line, “Naturally there will be no sex.” This is a family blog.)

David Blaine goes ape.

For some people, failing drives them to drink. For David Blaine, however…there’s this:

David Blaine, who failed to break the world record for holding his breath underwater last week, has announced his next stunt will be living among wild animals in the jungle. The 33-year-old was released from a New York City hospital last week after spending seven days in a spherical aquarium.

Blaine needed medical treatment after suffering convulsions and passing out while attempting to hold his breath for nine minutes. But the magician has already moved on to planning his next stunt, claiming the challenge is more unbelievable than anything he has attempted before.

He tells the New York Post, “I’m planning to live harmoniously among wild beasts. And I’d like to do it alone in the jungle.”

And there’s this:

Illusionist David Blaine is to live “harmoniously’ in the jungle for his next stunt.

The magician plans to be left “alone” in the Tanzanian jungle where 150 people are attacked by wild lions a year with just a TV crew present to film his actions.

Blaine narrowly escaped death during his last stunt where he was suspended in a giant fishbowl for a week. The illusionist hoped to end this extravagant display by beating the world record for holding your breath underwater, currently held by Tom Zitas.

However, he fell short of the world record, which stands at 8 minutes 58 seconds, after passing out after around 7 minutes.

Blaine is currently recuperating after suffering from liver failure and severe caused by the aquatic stunt.

About this I will not joke.

Free is good.

Some of you will be familiar with this quote:

“Note also that you must have none of your trinkets wanting, least you be put to a nonplus: besides it behoveth you to be mindful whereabout you go in every trick lest you mistake and so discredit the Art.”
–The Art of Jvgling or Legerdemaine’ 1614

Like many who’d had a copy and parted with it, there were many times I lamented the fact I no longer had a copy of The Shiels Effect. It was one of the bonuses available to subscribers of New Invocation back in 1976. I’d acquired my copy and subsequently sold it when someone waved a sheaf of cash in my face.

After a long, long stretch of unavailability, last year Quentin Reynolds reformated and republished the book. It came with a DVD, “An Evening With Doc Shiels,” which reproduces a lecture Shiels gave at the request of Irish magician Pat Sullivan. The DVD was included as a free bonus, and “priceless” isn’t off the mark to describe the thing.

Quentin recently noted the availability of a new book by Tony Shiels: The Expert Escamoteur’s Equipment. The ebook is a collection of articles originally appearing in The Linking Ring. If The Shiels Effect was a college course in becoming a psychic superstar (and it is, by the way) The Expert Escamoteur’s EquipmentAn Exploration in Three Parts of Various Aspects of Cups and Balls Conjuring — is the Cliff Notes version for magicians doing the cups and balls. It’s not a step-by-step manual; it’s filled with things to think about.

Sheils, while known for his bizarre and psychic feats, was quite a magician. He was as comfortable and talented with a set of Linking Rings or Cups & Balls as he was bending spoons. This collection is fun to read, filled with valuable information and advice, and is free.

While I understand why Reynolds is offering this book in electronic form for at no charge — it will cerainly drive people to the web site, The Sheils Effect — this ebook could very easily have been sold. The information is that valuable.

Get your free copy of The Expert Escamoteur’s Equipment here.

David Blaine, then and now.

First, a quote:

Plus ça change
Plus c’est la même chose
The more that things change
The more they stay the same

— Rush, lyrics to Circumstances from the album Hemispheres

(I could have just used the quote alone, since it’s a popular phrase in French — a language with which I am somewhat intimately familiar — but I’ve been looking for an excuse for mentioning Rush — one of my favorite bands — in Escamoteurettes.)

David Blaine Drowned Alive has aired and discussions about the special are already getting hot and heavy.

Since David Blaine’s first television special, “David Blaine: Street Magic,” was focused on close-up magic, you would reasonably expect any magic publication back in 1997 to pick up the story and discuss it.

One publication dedicated to close-up magic and people who do this sort of stuff for a living was The Magic Menu, the wonderful publication conceived, birthed, nurtured and reared to full adulthood (and, sadly, subsequently euthanized) by my friend Jim Sisti. It was (and still is) the periodical that establishes the standard for close-up workers.

During a telephone chat this morning, Jim reminded me of his “My Turn” column from the May/June 1997 issue of The Magic Menu. This was a column written shortly after Blaine’s first television special. Jim kindly gave me permission to reprint that column for you, kind readers, to read, enjoy, and marvel at how much has not changed in almost ten years:

My Turn
Jim Sisti

The number of magic specials on TV seems to increase with each passing year but never have I seen so many magicians wailing and gnashing their teeth as much as I have since the airing of David Blaine: Street Magic. The hew and cry on the Internet, at conventions, and at local magic club meetings has been continuing now for two weeks as of this writing and shows no signs of stopping.

I must admit that I was initially somewhat underwhelmed by Mr. Blaine’s performances on Late Night with Conan O ‘Brian and The Rosie O’Donnell Show. He seemed oblivious to the camera on the O’Brian show, which was, unfortunately, at the perfect angle to catch his pass. He appeared to be out of his element. However, the Street Magic special was a completely different story. He seemed to be more at ease with his material as he performed in his regular venue, for passers-by on the street.

While an argument can be made that Mr. Blaine is not the most exciting performer (in fact, he gives a whole new meaning to the term “low key”), there is no denying the effect his magic had on the spectators in this special. Simple card transpositions had people’s jaws dropping while still others ran away, genuinely frightened, as he apparently bit a chunk out of a borrowed quarter. Though I had some ethical problems with the obvious (to magicians) camera trickery in the levitation sequence, I believe that Street Magic succeeded to a degree not yet achieved by any other TV magician, including David Copperfield.

In most TV magic specials, close-up magic is relegated to a second-string position, a filler while they ready yet another box illusion. David Blaine, however, single-handedly exposed the power of close-up magic to more people in one hour than most of us will in a lifetime. So, then, what the hell is everybody’s problem?

In a word, it’s jealousy. On the Internet, I’ve seen scathing attacks on David Blaine’s technique, his choice of material, even his hairstyle. Ladies and gentlemen . .. get over it, already. I hate to be the one to break it to you but, you didn’t get the gig. Though much of the grousing seemed to come from the amateurs (now there’s a surprise!), there was one fairly well-known magician (in magic circles) who couldn’t resist attacking even before the show aired. He was quoted in the May 11, 1997 edition of The New York Times (the show aired, as you will recall, on May 19) as saying that David Blaine’s “only skill is removing money from a wallet and handing it to a person behind the counter.” These are hollow, envious words from someone who’s fifteen minutes have been up for quite some time.

While some are moaning and complaining, still others are actually trying to sell David Blaine’s act. Immediately after the special, one prominent West Coast magic dealer began advertising the props that David Blaine used on the special, such as folding quarters, Cigarette Thru Quarter, the Paul Harris video that features the Balducci levitation (popularly believed to be what Blaine really performed on the street prior to the editing work), etc. I’m quite sure that the tap dancing that would ensue should this dealer ever be asked to justify this perverse lapse of ethics would make Fred Astaire jealous.

The bottom line? Well, if you’re a professional close-up worker, you’ve already heard the reactions to the special from the people you perform for and my guess is, (if they’re anything like my audiences), they loved it. Say what you will about David Blaine’s double lift or his hip-hop haircut, we all owe him a debt of gratitude. Thanks to him, my phone will be ringing more frequently in the near future . .. and so will yours.

The more I study the life and times of both individuals, the more I feel confident in stating that David Blaine is the new Houdini.

Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin continue.

Stupid retard David.

Sometimes it’s a real joy to listen to professional entertainers talk about other entertainers.

I’m not a big fan of podcasts. I think they’re a very good idea on paper, but they don’t really fit my lifestyle. To enjoy a podcast, you have to listen to a podcast — and pay attention. It’s not like listening to a music CD. I don’t have the time to spare to listen very much.

But I do find time to listen to Penn Jillette’s show as a podcast. I’ve never felt like I wanted a “refund” on any minutes I spent listening to them; it just hasn’t happened yet.

So. If I had the choice right now between buying the world a Coke or making the world listen to this particular segment (.MP3 file) from Penn Jillette’s radio show from Monday May 8, 2006, well, let’s just say lots of people would just have to go thirsty.

In this segment — almost 45 minutes long — titled, “Criss Angel Stops By To Discuss The Genius Of David Blaine,” much of the discussion is on the David Blaine Drowned Alive special. You might learn a few surprising things about the world of professional entertainment and entertainers. This isn’t the sort of thing you’re likely to read on most of the magic-related discussion boards, where navel-gazing often gets in the way of paying attention to the way the world of entertainment really works.

Here are few quotes to get you started:

“David Blaine is, I won’t say a friend because a friend is someone you really know well. But David Blaine is an acquaintance. You know, I’ve certainly broken bread with him, I’ve hung out with him. And he’s a good guy.”

“First of all, making fun of your friends is always a-okay. But second of all, and more important, David Blaine, what he wants, is for people to talk about his stunts, right? There’s no other purpose for them whatsoever. So as long as we’re talking about David Blaine it seems we can say anything we want.

(shouting) Stupid retard, David!

“I think David Blaine is very good looking, I think he’s a superstar, and I think his TV shows are wonderful.”
— Penn

“David Blaine is known for who he dates. I want to be known for what I do.”
— Criss Angel

“I respect David. He is a creation of television and did a fantastic job doing what he does. I’m willing — and I’ve said this before I think his biggest fear is me because I’m the real deal. What you see is what you get.”
— Criss Angel

“In his first TV special — the first David Blaine special, the street magic special — is, I believe, the finest magic special that’s ever been done on TV, not even present company excluded. I think it was a beautiful thing, it opened up a whole different way, and the genius behind that special was taking the attention off the magic and putting it on the people. And that’s an idea that no one else had had. And, Houdini didn’t have that idea, Copperfield didn’t have that idea, we didn’t have that idea, and it’s a really great thing to say, you know it might be more interesting to see people being amazed and people being blown away than to see what was amazing that was blowing them away.” — Penn

And those are just a few quotes I typed out at random. As you can tell from the quotes, points are made in typical Penn manner, which is to say provocatively but funny (at least to me.) Criss’s comments are part of “working the system” — Angel’s “David” to Blaine’s “Goliath” — but you really should listen to the entire segment to hear the compliments Criss had for Blaine.

I’ve seen written things on a couple of Internet discussion boards (and one comment in this blog) regarding what Criss Angel stated regarding David Blaine. Neither Penn nor Criss spoke disrespectfully about Blaine, and that’s one of the main reasons for me bringing this thing up at all.

Now, if that doesn’t get your interest up enough to willingly trade 45 minutes of your own life to listen to the show, well, I don’t think you’d be reading this blog to begin with.

I can’t wait for Tuesday’s show, though.

Blaine it on the reign.

When in doubt, start with a quote:

I’m so bloody rich
I own apartment buildings and shopping centers
And I only know three chords!

— Alice Bowie, “Earache My Eye

This post was a long time coming. In fact, bits and pieces go back almost a year when, at various times, I was struck by the fact that Blaine hatred was alive and well on planet earth. But, with David Blaine’s new television special — David Blaine: Drowned Alive — just a day away, and the frenzied — if not well worn — comments swirling like the dust that floats high in June when movin’ through Kashmir, I thought it time to blow the dust off the old stuff and add some new stuff to the mix.

I’m going to start by saying I like David Blaine — although, since I don’t know him personally, it would be more accurate to state I like what David Blaine has done for magic. My first and only brush with him was more of a shove and didn’t involve many comprehensible words. (Insert your favorite David Blaine joke here.)

Here’s a question for you: what if David Blaine really is an actor playing the part of a magician? (We’ll get back to that in a moment.)

Mentioning the words “David” and “Blaine” in the same sentence in front of many magicians is a lot like shouting “Uri Geller” in a crowded theater filled with James Randi fans. It’s just…well, I think you get the idea.

One could write a college thesis on what it is about Blaine that provokes so many in our weird little world to blow a gasket and/or suffer from immediate fits of purple apoplexy when his name is invoked. But, this isn’t college and this isn’t a thesis (although I am always looking for newer heights to ascend on my Joycean pilgrimage,) still, let’s look at a few of oft-repeated reasons people play the Blaine Game, shall we?

David Blaine: Street Magic aired on the ABC television network on Monday May 19, 1997 at 7:00 PM Central Time. It was an hour of a type of magic most people watching had never in their lives ever experienced. It was, as some have reported later, a type of magic David Blaine had not experienced before video taping the raw footage that later became part of the network pitch. But that’s a story for another day.

I loved the first special for any number of different reasons. It was different; it introduced the concept of street magic to the masses — something for which Brad Christian should hit his knees in fervent thanks every night.

The show starts off with a magnificent version of the Balducci levitation. Added to that was the virtually unheard of “Almost-Puke Move” — a nice touch and a harbinger of things to come over the next hour.

Immediately after the show aired, the Internet discussion boards were awash in Blaine commentary. But it wasn’t until the next day that, with a sense of reality coming over them, the teaming hoards really came alive. And it wasn’t a Sound of Music moment, I can assure you of that.

Was this particular version of the Balducci discussed? No. What was discussed — and what remains the center of the Blaine Controversy Universe — is the version of that levitation towards the end of the show which, arguably, was not the same as that seen at the beginning.

FOUL! they cried in one voice.

Why? Well, phrases such as “camera trick” and “clever editing” were tossed around. (To my mind they are one and the same.) My response to all of that was and still is, “And?”

David Blaine: Street Magic was a one hour television production; each segment built up the next. It was not meant to be a commercial for a live show you could later purchase tickets to and attend. The crescendo to the special was the levitation at the end. This followed the tenets of a magician’s world as he builds an act to its climax. That the levitation was not the same form of the first version is perfectly in keeping with the way we do things when building an act. It is also in keeping with the format of the entertainment at hand: a television special.

Still, the arguments were and are that Blaine could not do that levitation in person the way it was shown on television.

And my response was and is, “And?”

Gary Ouellet felt strongly about hammering home the idea that viewers at home would see magic without camera tricks. For years the phrase “the camera will not cut away…” was peppered throughout TVLand magic specials. Not so with for David Blaine’s.

Does it matter? I suppose it does depending upon your viewpoint of what the specials are supposed to be. From my pont of view, they are — first and foremost — television entertainment.

I think part of the underlying complaint — a good deal of the real reason for a good deal of the animosity — comes down to this:

As a result of many, many years and many, many television specials, The Magic of David Copperfield set the standards of expectations when it came to magic specials on television. It was that set of established expectations that opened the door for David Blaine to get in front of executives at ABC Television raw footage of a form of magic not seen on television before. (Whether or not Blaine ever actually performed this way prior to him taping himself in Time Square is another issue.)

But there was another type of expectation having been set. After a Copperfield special, magicians could, for the most part, walk into their favorite magic shop (or search the mail order catalogs) and purchase props and instructions that would allow them to mimic much of what was seen on television.

To put it simply and bluntly, for many magicians across the fruited plain, David Copperfield was The Great Magic Demonstrator to the masses; his performances were not only the standard by which the average magic guy in the street would be judged if called upon to do something, but also the magic menu from which magicians all over ordered tricks in a frenzy of buying that would make Santa blush in shame.

So, when David Copperfield did the linking rubber bands, magicians all over the place searched for this nugget, found it in Tarbell 7, and then proceeded to drive themselves absolutely crazy trying to duplicate it by following to a “t” the instructions therein. (Eventually the workable version was found.)

Timothy Wenk was doing okay business with a remarkable little trick of his whereby a pencil penetrated a dollar bill in the most convincing way I know I had ever seen (or heard, for that matter.) But it wasn’t until David Copperfield performed it on national television that floodgates opened when the trick, called Misled, returned to the market. How many were sold? I don’t have the exact number, but the phrases “a boatload” and “a hellacious amount” are not inappropriate descriptions. (It remains one of those very special tricks in my kit bag done rarely, not so much because I don’t like doing it, but because I am deathly afraid that the next time I use the gimmick might be the last. Those of you with the original version know why.)

And so it went for years and years. Copperfield performed tricks, magicians went out and mimicked them. It was a pretty good system for magic retailers. Despite the obvious problem in all of this — a problem about which TA Waters wrote on numerous occasions — almost everyone was happy.

Enter David Blaine and the levitation at the end of the show. On May 20, 1997 — the day after the television special — if called upon to duplicate it live as it was presented on television, magicians simply could not do it. They couldn’t do it then, they can’t do it now. (To be fair, David Blaine couldn’t either.) It was — and still is — a bitter pill to swallow.

In more than way, David Blaine was not David Copperfield. And, in more than one way, that was just not in keeping with expectations.

Then there were the other tricks — tricks many would eventually lump together using the phrase “slum magic.” They were magic tricks that were already safely tucked in drawers, or hidden away in the pages of books we all call classics. And, as Mark Twain noted, “A classic is something that everybody praises and nobody has read.”

To wit:

I enjoyed watching Blaine take a prop nearly every magician on the planet has in a drawer somewhere and perform his riff on a Gene Gordon trick described in great detail in Bobo’s Modern Coin Magic. (And, for those keeping track, that was published in 1952.) David Blaine even heeded the suggestion:

“A little acting (or mugging, as it is known in the profession) will add greatly to the effect.”

If there ever was a performer who so clearly demonstrated the differences between the words “effect,” “trick,” and “method” I think it would be David Blaine.

The day after Blaine’s first television special I ran into one of my clients who also knew I did magic. His first words after “hello”?

“Did you see that David Blaine guy on TV last night? What did you think?”

I answered, “Yes. What did you think?”

He staired at me for a moment and said — almost in a hushed tone — “He’s the real deal.”

I asked, “Real deal?”

“Yes,” he said, “What he did was real.”

And that’s from a very successful, very intelligent person. That’s the effect David Blaine’s performance had on normal people.

Things didn’t change substantially for the succeeding Blaine specials on television. Cries of slum magic tricks or clever editing or David Bland etc. At the same time, those tricks that could be identified — slum or not — were advertised and purchased with wild abandon. All the while the normal people loved him and talked about him.

Jim Sisti and I discussed this very subject today. We agree with the notion that David Blaine is becoming (if he hasn’t already become) the new Houdini. That is high — and justified — praise.

His stunts are denigrated by many magicians for their lack of magical value. This is an amusing complaint to me; the stunts are designed to do precisely what they are accomplishing: generate interest and discussion.

Can you think of anyone else in the history of magic who may have used publicity stunts to make a name for himself?

In the end — for me — David Blaine is about the effect more than the tricks or the methods. I am far more interested in the effect he has on normal people because that will impact the lives of most anyone who publicly proclaims himself a magician. The tricks — literal, verbal, cinematic — are of less interest to me, as are their methods. It’s the effect on audiences that matter.

Back to the fellow who approached me the day after Blaine’s first magic special. Want to take a wild guess which trick “concerned” him the most? “Hey, do you know how he did that thing where he bit off a piece of a quarter and spit it back on?”



Tap. Tap. Tap.

As I fiddled with one of our quarters I always used to keep with me (along with Scotch & Soda) a strange sense of propriety/insanity overcame me and instead of saying, “What, you mean this?” — I said, “No, I can’t say.”

Those were some of the hardest words I ever said. (And that includes the phrase, “I was wrong.” And I’m genetically disposed to avoiding that phrase like the plague.)

Could I have done it? Oh yes, right then and there, without any fumbling. Did I want to do it? Lord, yes. But in the end, what would I have accomplished, aside from gaining a bit of personal satisfaction? In the end, nothing productive. I had an anti-Grinch moment. Sue me.

And if I had it to do all over again, I’d say the same words again. And, I suspect, tomorrow night David Blaine will give me several more reasons to reinforce the notion that I made the right choice.

David Blaine elevates the world of magic to the level of magic. And given the number of “magicians” running around doing who knows how many magic tricks for who knows how many people, I’m ashamed to say that’s an awfully rare thing these days. But that’s our (the royal “our”) fault, isn’t it?

You’d think someone who makes magic special, someone who raises the world of magic in the collective conciousness of an otherwise cynical, uninterested world, would be…oh, I don’t know…roundly thanked and applauded maybe?

Who knows, maybe the day after the David Blaine: Drowned Alive special things will change. But I’m not holding my breath.

A hole in my head.

The shortest passage in the Bible is found in the Gospel of John, Chapter 11:35: Jesus wept.

This may not be the Gospel of John, and this may not be the shortest post ever on Escamoteurettes, but I thought I’d post my thoughts on my initial experience with Ben Harris’s new trick, Hole in the Head. Here it is:

It worked for me.

It worked the first time I tried. It worked the second time I tried. Same for the third and fourth times. By the fifth time, I was ready to show it to a friend. Stripping away the expletives, we’re left with the implication that its effect was favorably received.

Maybe it’s just me. (Insert “hole in the head” joke here.)

David Blaine Drowned Alive

Thanks to a post at (and not ABC for some bizarre reason) we learn a few more things about David Blaine’s next television special, and his next stunt:

David Blaine Returns to ABC In DROWNED ALIVE – Seven Days Under Water At Lincoln Center

Hold Your Breath… David Blaine Is Coming!

David Blaine Will Stun The World With Another Death-Defying Feat On DAVID BLAINE: DROWNED ALIVE, Live From New York´s Lincoln Center, Monday, May 8 On ABC

Blaine Will Attempt to Hold His Breath Underwater Longer Than Any Other Human Being, After Spending Seven Days Living in a Spectacular Human Aquarium in Full Public View

David Blaine, known for his headline-making feats of physical, emotional and mental endurance, will once again put his life on the line in a death-defying attempt to hold his breath underwater longer than any human being, which is currently a stunning eight minutes, 58 seconds. He will undertake this latest challenge after living with a life support system in a specially built human aquarium — an eight-foot acrylic sphere — for seven days and nights, in full public view in front of New York´s Lincoln Center. Viewers will hold their collective breath during the heart-stopping finale of the broadcast when Blaine will put himself to the ultimate test – live – on a new, two-hour ABC primetime special, DAVID BLAINE: DROWNED ALIVE, Monday, May 8 (8:00-10:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network.

Let the moanings begin.

On the Radar Deck.

Richard Osterlind’s project to produce a guide book to accompany each of the seven DVDs in the Mind Mysteries series has, so far, been a remarkable success. Purchasers have been virtually unanimous in their praise.

As a natural result of the interest in the guide books — and the reviewing of the DVDs — certain tricks are experiencing another round of interest. The Radar Deck is one of those.

Osterlind notes in his blog this morning a terrific deal for anyone who hasn’t yet purchased their own Radar Deck:

For the rest of April we will be offering these decks for the low price of just $12! The cards are top quality U.S. Playing Card Company brand, Bicycle Rider Back cards available in red or blue back. (Please specify when ordering.) Take advantage of this deal while you can! To order, go to the main product page and click on the Radar Deck special on the right edge of your screen.

As you probably have already heard, the Radar Deck is a terrific tool from which a number of great presentations can be performed. $12 is a giveaway.

Visit the store here and pick up a deck while they’re still on sale.

Does Pavlov ring a bell?

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.