Ekaterina is a great source of magic reviews, and after a hiatus that appears to have been very inspiring, she’s back with an unusual video. Her latest subject is the book Only Ideas by Rory Adams, which is about the process behind creating magic.
She’s a big fan of the book, appreciating the idea of approaching magic creation first from the theoretical idea rather than the technical side. Her only caveat is that practiced magicians may get more out of the volume than beginners. But she does see value for all skill levels in checking out Only Ideas, even if some of the ideas may not be the best match for everyone’s skill level or performance situation.
Her review is more than lip service. Ekat explained that the reason she hadn’t posted anything for two weeks was that she took some time to do a little magic creation of her own. The end of the video has a brief tutorial of the ring trick that came out of her brainstorming session.
Mr.Puzzle is always a good resource for your toy and gadget needs, and here he’s reviewing one called the Half-H that requires some creative spatial thinking to solve. The puzzle consists of several wooden blocks that should all be combined together to form a capital letter H. At first glance, just about every manner of building the H leaves out one piece.
Mr.Puzzle rates this a 3 out of 5 on his difficulty scale. Even without watching past the spoiler section of his video, the Half-H seems like it’s going to require some serious shenanigans to unravel.
We’ve covered a few other particularly fun videos from his channel, including his assessments of the Ella Propella and the Revomaze. If you enjoy these physical brain teasers, then give his YouTube channel a follow.
Asad Chaudhry of 52Kards has shared a video discussing Sucker Punch, a special set of poker chips for magic tricks designed by Mark Southworth. He offers a thorough assessment of the product, including the difficulty, the quality of instruction, and the cost.
The product includes 16 chips and online instruction for six different effects taught by Eric Jones, the acclaimed coin magician from Murphy’s Magic. Sucker Punch is a versatile option for practitioners of coin magic. Not only are the effects visually impressive, but Chaudhry was particularly impressed by the value. At $39.95, it’s one of the least expensive gimmicks for coin magic and the build quality is excellent. Check out the whole video to also have a chance to win your own Sucker Punch in a 52Kards giveaway. Or to ensure getting your own, head to the 52Kards store.
This deck is beefy, in every possible meaning of the word. Take a look at these Burger Playing Cards and you’ll get why. For starters, all of the artwork is burger-themed, from the embossed sesame seeds on the tuck box to the unique designs for each of the court cards to the pickle joker card.
Magicorthodoxy has a nice video review of the deck, a Kickstarter project designed by Australia-based Flaminko Playing Cards. Most critically for your card-slinging needs, he notes that the cards are printed on very thick stock from Cartamundi. How thick? Ten cards measured 3.08 mm across. He opines that the study material means this deck would hold up well to lots of use and abuse, say from you cardistry pros out there.
If you’ve got an insatiable cow craving, then head on over to rareplayingcards.com to buy a Burger deck.
When we reported on the release of the second volume of Peter McCabe’s Scripting Magic (along with a reprinting of the first volume), it sounded almost too good to be true. $150 is a lot of money, but if Scripting Magic can fundamentally improve the magic you already know, then it’s easily worth the price of admission. YouTube review channel Magic Orthodoxy has the verdict: if you are serious about your magic, you should absolutely find a way to make these two volumes part of your library.
It’s not just the inclusion of dozens of essays and professional patter from some of the best magicians in the business that impressed David the most, but rather the flowcharts and worksheets that the books come with that let you apply this knowledge practically. He calls it “homework”, but it’s the kind of homework that actually lets you feel like you’re improving and understanding your own abilities in a new light. He even claims that the set is just as important for scripted magicians as it is for those who try to make their magic feel more organic or spontaneous.
If you’re intrigued, pick up your boxed set of both volumes at publisher Vanishing, Inc. for $150.
Magicorthodoxy has broken open Kayfabe, the 4-DVD set from Max Maven and Luis DeMatos, and likes what he sees. Three of the discs offer magic: one for stage mentalism and two for card tricks, while the fourth DVD hosts an audio file of Max reading an essay he wrote about why magic is essential to life as well as a documentary called “A Fabulous Monster.” Each DVD also includes an interview with Max on a different topic, such as Max’s career outside of magic or his early life. The overall production value is quite high and lovely – no half-measures here.
So is Kayfabe worth its $153 price tag? Well, that depends largely on what you want to get out of it. If you’re looking for your money’s worth in secrets, you may be disappointed, says Magicorthodoxy. The set may be better for anyone looking for inspiration, for insight into the history of magic, or new ways to think about the craft. And if you’re a Max Maven fan in particular, it’s a must-have for your collection.
Buy Kayfabe from Amazon ($153)
Ekaterina is back with another video review of magical tech and toys. In her latest project, she’s delving into her thread collection. Different thread products can make or break all sorts of tricks with cards or coins, so picking the right tool for the job is critical. If you’ve been curious to get more details about the buying options for magic threads, take a look.
Ekaterina has a pair of reviews for you today. First up is Haunted Revolution, which she mostly enjoyed, though she finds fault with the quality of the product you receive. She’s less enthusiastic about The Twixter, because to her it’s just a reveal and not a complete trick. Her critiques of both products cover aspects like price, the quality of the directions, and whether it’s well-suited for beginners or not. As a bonus at the end, she includes some footage from her recent trip to Vancouver.
Dealt wants you to know just how talented and how disciplined Richard Turner really is. In its opening moments, we see the self-professed “card mechanic” quietly going through a routine of sit-ups and weightlifting, his hand simultaneously thumbing through a deck of cards as naturally as you or I would breathe. We’re then whisked away to the Magic Castle where Turner runs through alliterative voice exercises, walks to a table, and begins cutting and shuffling the deck in at least a dozen different ways. He then spreads the cards out for everyone to see: they are in perfect numerical and sequential order.
The twist, as it were, doesn’t come until seven minutes into the film’s brisk 85-minute runtime: Richard Turner can’t see. Stricken with macular dystrophy at a young age, Turner lost most of his vision overnight and the little he retained degraded over time until all that was left was darkness. Dealt explores the impact his blindness had on his life and the people closest to him, and how he overcame seemingly impossible odds to become one of—if not the—world’s greatest close-up magicians living today.
Where Dealt, directed by Luke Korem (Lord Montagu), is elevated beyond the typical driven-individual-conquers-adversity narrative is in how it’s as much about how Turner comes to terms with his own personal demons as it is about living without sight. As the documentary crew follows Turner around his home and at various appearances around the globe over the course of a few years in the early 2010s, Dealt posits that he doesn’t so much as want to be successful in spite of his blindness; he wants to live as if he isn’t blind at all.
The film delves into to old photographs and Super-8 footage of a young Turner climbing mountains, traipsing carefully on a thin branch held aloft over a waterfall, studying martial arts. His friends recount tales of Turner watching the lines on the side of the road as a guide while he sped down the highway on a motorcycle. He wouldn’t use a cane. He hated the word ‘blind’. He didn’t even tell his then-fiancee that he was likely to lose his sight completely until after they were married. To Turner, these were all details he could deal with like any other person, and he talks about the events of his life with a deceptive charm that belies his intensity and decades of struggle.
Eventually, he channeled his brash impulses into studying cards. While perhaps less reckless, he’s no less obsessed, spending up to sixteen hours a day shuffling and dealing cards like an unconscious tic. He shows off a closet, packed to the ceiling with unopened decks of playing cards. Turner talks about his cards in terms of vices, mentioning the “vintage” of a particular year of card, or referring to his “three-pack-a-day” habit as if he was trying to cut back on smoking. The camera takes time to linger on idle moments on the couch, chats with his son on a fishing trip, an outing in the city with his wife; no matter where he is, he is rarely seen without cards in one of his hands, constantly fiddling with them and turning them over. Turner isn’t just devoted to handling cards; it’s as if he is possessed by them.
But there’s one refrain that echoes throughout the entire film: Turner wants to be recognized on his own merits, not because of his handicap. He talks about going on talk shows and showing off all the ways cheaters can manipulate a deck of cards, while the film plays old clips from interviews and performances, each one with a host who can’t seem to wait to talk about Turner’s disability. And it’s not just cards: when the story of Turner’s triumph during a brutal test for his black belt made it into the LA Times, Turner hardly showed it to anyone because the headline mentioned he was blind.
These moments of reflection and regret are juxtaposed by interviews with Turner’s sister, Lori Dragt. Afflicted with the same disease a year after Turner, Dragt lost her sight far more rapidly, spending the majority of her life completely blind. Rather than try to act like everything was normal, Lori embraced her own disability, accepting the things she can or cannot control, and planning her life around her blindness accordingly. While Dealt is very much about Richard and his magic, both of their stories are elegantly weaved together, offering two journeys down a similar path and exploring the different ways we lean on others, even when we would prefer not to admit it.
Again, a lot of this is well-worn territory for documentaries and human interest stories, but Dealt is smart enough to leave out the after-school special sermonizing or maudlin narration. Turner’s story could have just as easily come across as too schmaltzy or overly melodramatic, but it’s not. Instead, his journey from arrogant defiance to acceptance of his own limitations comes across as unexpected and surprisingly honest because it allows us to make those connections without being spoon-fed or over-sentimentalizing Turner or his family.
Dealt covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time, but it does so with grace, with an often hands-off approach that lets its subjects—and the fliiiiiiit of one of Turner’s many riffle shuffles—speak for themselves. Whatever your magical knowledge or skill level is, Dealt manages to be an entertaining and fascinating character study by never forgetting the real, oftentimes painful cost at the heart of any obsession, and the realization that success, however we define it, is as much shaped by our own abilities as it is by the people who help us achieve it.
Dealt opens in select New York theaters on Friday, October 20, as well as on cable and digital video-on-demand services, including iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, and more. Dealt will expand to additional select theaters across North America on October 27. For a full list of available video-on-demand services and theaters, visit the official website.
Magicians are quite skillful at devising different methods for creating the same effect. Marlo, for example, was well known for figuring out 50 ways to make a Spectator Cut To the Aces. But methodologists tend to focus on the necessary action steps rather than developing different ways to tell a “story” more interesting and human than the illustrative action steps carried out to its end. There are, for example, lots of ways to perform “Wild Card.” But how many stories have been told that add meaning to its manipulative steps? Consider Peter Samelson’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
This is my roundabout way to recommend an unusual and off-beat book—Matt Madden’s 206-page, 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style. First of all, it is essentially a gigantic comic book based on Raymond Queneau’s formalist experiment, Exercises in Style (1947), which retells two humdrum encounters 99 times, using every possible tense and type of voice—ranging from free verse to sonnets to an exclamatory telegram. I thought this approach was radical when I read it in my 20s.
Madden’s book, as offbeat as it initially seems, is different. It shows the expansive range of possibilities available to all storytellers. Writers, artists, and, yes, magicians will find his collection especially useful, if not revelatory. You will see the full scope of opportunities available to storytellers, each applied to a single scenario, varying points of view, visual and verbal parodies, formal re-imaginings, and the shuffling of the basic components of the story. Substitute “Method” for “Story” and vice versa. I think that this odd book will also inspire you to think through and around obstacles that might otherwise prevent you from devising good story-driven presentations. If not, at least it might trigger lively conversations we can have with each other.
This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Genii Magazine.