Monthly archives for December, 2009

Branded, The Painless Card Blister

Whew, back again for my final review of the day and then it’s back to the couch as I continue to recover from the flu!

This is one of those gems that has been out for a while, but I wanted to touch upon some close-up stuff in my intial reviews here at Hocus Pocus and I also wanted to review something I have personally used, so Branded was a no-brainer.:)

THE EFFECT: A card is selected and after burning his thumb and forefinger, the performer shows that two blisters have morphed into the value and suit of the selected card!

This is available at Hocus Pocus and the full ad copy can be found here: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=10067.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive very clear, detailed DVD instructions by Greg Wilson. Purchasers of Greg’s other DVDs (such as Hundy 500) know that Greg always does a superb job teaching a routine. You also receive two extremely durable props that enable you to do the “dirty work.” You’ll need to purchase one disposable Bic lighter. The two included gimmicks allow you to choose which size lighter you can use.

VALUE: For $39.95, the fee is FAIR – The gimmicks are TOUGH. You could probably throw these off the roof of your house and they wouldn’t break. Don’t try it, though.:) The DVD instructio is great and it’s always a plus to see live performances of an effect.

What’s neat about one of the gimmicks is the fact that with one gimmick, you can have a regular, round blister appear on your thumb and finger and you can also force (yes, the card selection is forced!) up to three different cards without changing gimmicks.

Greg points out that he feels the smaller lighter gimmick, that only allows you to force one card, is the one “workers” will use as they simply (typically) go from table to table. From personal experience, I find I get more use out of the three-force card-gimmick, as at a corp event, I’ll do the effect, someone will flip out, and then ‘herd’ me over to a co-worker. Obviously, doing the effect with a different card is advisable in these cases! For me, this is where Branded truly shines.

There are among performers about the “believablity” of the idea of a blisters forming into cards or existing blisters THEN forming into cards (hence the inclusions of the regular round blister gimmicks) but the fact is, the choice is yours and Tim Trono was wise enough to design his gimmicks to enable performers to make their own choice.

DIFFICULTY: You’ll need to be able to force a card. Greg covers a good card force here, which in some cases may seem odd, but in the framework of the routine (dealing with blisters on your hands) it makes sense. The force does play, but I’ve elected to use a different handling. The actual work of getting the blisters on your fingers is not difficult – more one of timing and audience management.

Oh, and there’s no pain.:)

OVERALL REVIEW: I’ve received great responses from this effect, but this is not one of my “Top 3″ effects when I do strolling because it is unsettling to some corporae audiences and totally inappropriate for children’s gigs.

I’ll give this a 9.9 out of 10. The only reason I take off a .1 of the score is the use of fire and the somewhat unsavory nature of the effect. It can be quite unsettling to some people. With the recent craze of street magic (or as Eugene Burger calls it, “ambush magic,” I fear there will be a ton of people running around performing this for inappropriate audiences.

It’s a GREAT effect, a great value, but care must be used when deciding when to perform it.

Next week, I’ll be back with a comparison of the Magellan Master leviation vs. Fearson’s Fantastic Flotation and John Archer’s Blindfold Tips.

As always, if you send me review requests, I’ll get on it. Email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

The Mind Reading Goose

Hello all, I’m back with a review of Steve Spill’s Mind Reading Goose.

On a personal note, I have to mention that while Christmas Day was great, the last few days have been rough as the flu bug completely kicked my butt! Ugh, it will be nice to get back on my feet soon.

On to the review…

THE MIND READING GOOSE: There’s no point in me recapping the entire routine as videos of the complete routine are availale online both at Bob Kohler’s site, Hocus Pocus, youtube and more. Essentially, the performer has a mind reading goose who reads minds, and pees. It’s a hilarious routine, one that has taken Steve Spill around the world. One one hand, I think it’s really ballsy of him to put the entire routine online for all to see as there are less than honest “performers” out there but that’s Steve’s choice.

This is available here at Hocus Pocus. Simply follow this link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=11998

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive the Goose itself, which has been custom-made to hold a Sharpie for the “mind reading” part of the rutine and a special zipper compartment to hold the “urination” device. That’s a phrase I never thought I’d type…ever! You also receive two pairs of sunglasses and various other little nic-nacs necessary to the routine. Finally, you receive a near-60minute instructional DVD that also has clips of Steve performing the routine from 1988, 1998 and 2008. What is fascinating about these clips is that the observant performer and student can study these clips and listen to how Steve delivers the exact same lines word-for-word differently, giving the line a different ‘feel.’ I found this to be a neat, unexpected bonus.

VALUE FOR THE PRICE: Let’s face it, $1500 is a LOT of money fpr one prop for many performers. I know, the illusion guys will immediately talk about the high fees for their large props, but for a basic one-man act, $1500 is a lot. Is it worth it? That’s the question I’ve been pondering. It’s really one of personal taste and can’t easily be answered. From a standpoint of pure money vs physical props, I think the $1500 price tag worth is debatable. Don’t get me wrong – the Goose is gorgeous and well put together. It’s the other props I was a little let down by…

The method of making the Goose pee on command certainly works just fine. I’ve performed the Goose about 20 times since I bought it and it’s reliable, but it’s certainly not high tech. The method for doing the actual “mnd reading” is essentially something familiar to mentalists for decades. What’s different about this is the fact that the writing is visible for very large audiences – something not vreally available by the traditional means of doing the ‘work.’

This was what disapointed me most about the package. Steve correctly points out how difficult it is to make a tool where the mind reading is available for large audiences and he states his is the best method for making it happen. I can’t deny that it works well, from personal experience. My biggest concern is due to the method, you essentially must put the secret device together each time you do the Goose routine. It can get a little messy.

This is a minor complaint, but for $1500, I expected something a bit more.

So…back to the price…is it worth it?

It’s obvous the Goose is Steve’s “baby,” probably his Magnum Opus, and as such he wants fair compensation for those wating to perform it. Therefore, much of the $1500 price tage comes from both the script and the right to perform the script.

I can honestly say that using the Goose as an opener is FANTASTIC because without you saying a word, you’re letting your audience know a bit about your character – you’re a bit silly, a bit daft.

At a corporate gig I recently did, due to quirks of the venue, I had to make my entrance through the crowd to my performing area after I was introduced. As I walked past everyone, people were giggling at the sight of the Goose.

The routine plays well, and I stumbled upon a cute running gag I now use throughout the show – after the Goose routine, whenever I get an audience member to come up and assist me, I warn them “not to step in Goose pee.” A bit crass, but it plays well if one doesn’t “push” it.

Another benefit, the Goose is great at establishing yourself and amazing your audience without getting a volunteer up in front of the group – a big plus for guys like me who perform almost solely audience volunteer tricks (mentalism or otherwise – I perform no manipulation or non-volunteer effects for my adult shows).

So…is it worth $1500?

This comes down to who you are. Many performers who can afford $1500 for one effect are very creative types who like to write their own material. Therefore the Goose may not be for them. On the other hand, some performers know how hard it is to write comedy. It’s taken me over 10 years to refine my Arm Chopper routine to where it is, and the funniest parts of the routine are before the prop is even introduced. Ten LONG years. On the other hand, when I sat down to create a comedy routine (an ORIGINAL routine) for the Pro Viper, I was delighted that my “first draft” played great the first time I tried it and continues to do so after 100performances.

Writing comedy is tough. I can say that the Goose does play very well for laughs.

For me, the $1500 has been well worth it, not necessarily for the props, but then again, buying a claw hammer does not make one a carpenter.

Steve tips all of his handling, blocking and pacing. It’s obvious he’s done this routine more than just a few times.:)

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: I firmly believe that Bob Kohler produces the best instructional magical DVDs on the planet…even better than L&L, and that’s not easy, IMO. This DVD is terrific.

OVERALL: I recommend this highly, but with a few warnings. If you’re buying this to be the next Steve Spill, you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you’re a working pro who understands how difficult it can sometimes be to create comedy, this is definitely a great purchase. If you’re buying this because of some new cool technological breakthrough, you’ll be disappointed.

I’m going to give this a 10 out of 10 for working pros and a 5 out of 10 for hobbyists looking for something cool to try on friends.

Be aware that I am NOT knocking on hobbysits – there are effects and tricks I buy “just because they look neat,” and then there are things I buy for my professional work. Case in point: I recently bought Sean Bogunia’s beautiful Lamp because I knew how it worked and simply wanted to ‘play’ with it. It was only after I started working with it that I found a place for it in one of my shows. It’s a very cool prop. The Goose has no techie goodies, you’re paying mostly for Steve’s script and experience. For me, the Goose has been a great investment.

One may ponder why I quibbled a bit about the props yet gave the Goose a 10 out of 10 for a review for working pros? Simple. First, the props themselves are durable. Second, my rating is most influenced by how the effect or routine “plays” for the audiences. In these two regards, the Goose wins hands down – with care, the props will last just fine and the routine plays. As a guy “in the trenches,” the impact on the audience is what matters. Steve promises the routine will kill and he’s right. He makes no promises as to the ease of set up or technie goodies included. He only promises great reactions.

If you’re buying it with the right mindset, it will be a good investment for you as well.

Mona Lisa 2

I know I said my next reviews would be of The Mind Reading Goose and Branded (and I will be posting those reviews shortly) but I wanted to touch upon Mona Lisa 2 briefly as Paul Romhany pointed it out in his blog.

I have been using the original version of this effect since 2003 and it is SUPERB.

Here are some details…

THE ROUTINE: A see-through bag full of different over-sized jig saw puzzle pieces is shown. A volunteer is invited to the stage and is asked to reach into the bag and remove a handful of pieces and to verify that all the pieces are different. Individual pieces can be show to the audience to prove each is entirely different fro each other in terms of color, pattern and ‘cut’ of each piece.

The volunteer then reaches into the bag again, eyes closed, digs around the pieces and removes just one piece. (Note: The volunteer really does feel many different pieces and can choose exactly which piece to remove. No dual reality here.) When the piece is removed and shown to the audience, the performer shows an upright easel that is covered with an elegant black cloth. The cloth is removed, showing a framed jig saw puzzle of the famed Mona Lisa….with just one piece missing.

The volunteer places the piece that he selected into the puzzle, showing that he was able to pick the correct piece from amongst the many different pieces…with his eyes closed.

As I said, I LOVE this. I use this all the time. Available here at Hocus Pocus, the full ad copy and link to purchase is available here: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=8593

Now, the details…

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive the beautiful framed Mona Lisa puzzle that is very large, and can be seen by BIG audiences. You receive a durable plastic carrying case, and the black velvert cloth. Finally, you receive the see-through bag of puzzle pieces. The pieces are huge, necessary for visibility, and thus this makes the idea of replicating this trick yourself unrealistic, as most jig saw puzzles have very tiny pieces. You also receive a CD of classical music. Very nice.

My original version only allowed one possible outcome, while Mona Lisa 2 gives you two outcomes, meaning if you do repeat shows, you’re covered.

DIFFICULTY: This is essentially self working, but I refuse to label any effect as “easy.” The skill and impact comes from presentation. Nevertheless, dexterity requirements are minimal.

ANGLES: Even though the bag is see through, this piece is essentially angle proof, providing your audience is not right on top of you. The construction of the bag is interesting in that it apparently allows viewers to see through the bag but it also camouflages the secret as long as people are seated away from you. Again, this is a stage piece, so that’s not a big deal.

QUALITY OF PROPS: Top-notch. While I would not recommend putting this prop on an airplane (it would be destroyed) it will, because of the carrying case, hold up just fine. Mine has lasted 7 years and I’m pretty rough on props. Everything looks good, too, which for me is necessary…cheap looking props can cause some clients to re-think their decision to hire you.

MARKET: This is not a piece for daycares or very small children, but I use it all the time for adults, high schools, middle schools, and mixed family audiences.

INSTRUCTION: The written instructions are sparse, but adequate. No complaints here.

ONE QUIBBLE: The prop needs an easel, which means you’ll need to purchase one separetely. I bought one at Office Max that folds up to a small 12” compact bundle that fits in nicely with the Mona Lisa’s case.

OVERALL RATING: I would have to rate this as a 10, especially because Mona Lisa 2 gives you the ability to do this for repeat audiences. My gut instinct tells me mentalists will reject this as being too “prop like,” which is a shame because it’s visible and very fair looking. Magicians wanting to add a piece where a volunteer is able to do something magicial (one of my favorite plots) would do well to consider this prop. Magicians looking for something that features the power of the mind would also do themselves a favor to consider this. HIGHLY recommended.

Later today I’ll be posting the Mind Reading Goose and Branded as separate reviews.

The Pain Game VS. Smash & Stab (and SPIKE, Too!)

Ho-Ho-Ho! It’s an early Christmas present: another review, just in time for the holidays!

One of my goals for this blog of trick reviews is to not only cover new effects, but look at some things that have been out for a while. Looking at older (ie not released this week – LOL) means in some cases I will be able to give you insight into how this plays in the real world after a smooth presentation has been developed.

Also, I know that this blog is described as being a weekly update, and that is y goal, but if possible I will review products more often, too, so check back often.

For this entry, I’ve decided to review and compare The Pain Game and Smash & Stab, both of which I own. I bought Smash & Stab aout a year a go and have performed it roughly 50 or so times in paid gigs. I bought the Pain Game about four months ago and have performed it about 10 times. Both have flaws and both have great things about them.

The plot is roughly the same for both. Four bags or cups are shown, with one hiding a large upright nail. one by one, the performer smashes three of the bags or cups, thus avoiding the sharp nail.

I also want to comment that for different reasons and the needs of different shows and presentations, I will be using both of these props. I didn’t buy one with the intention of replacing the other.

Firstly, Smash & Stab. I bought it because I wanted a “danger” type of effect for my show to add texture. I did not want to simply do mind reading, but I liked the idea of a variety of different emotions attached to my show – drama, comedy, etc. I bought it based on Paul Gross’ recomendation. You are supplied with four wooden coasters, one of which has the nail mounted into it. The nail cannot be removed. Once each wooden coaster is covered with a cup, the spectator can mix the coasters and styrofoam cups as much as they wish and you still, with a glance, know which cup has the nail. Although Mr. Dobson supplies a presentation and some number cards for that presentation, I promptly discarded them and created my own presentation. (It wasn’t bad at all – just not for me.)

Let me comment on a concern by magicians that the wooden coasters look like “props.” I’ve never had an issue with it, nor have my audiences. I simply say that I have four wooden coasters, “like you’d use on a coffee table for drinks” and leave it at that. Problem solved.

ANGLES: You can do this surrounded, as there is nothing to hide. The secret is out in the open and I have never been caught.

IMPACT ON AUDIENCE: I find that adults react very strongly for this, so this gets high marks. I also do this for high school students. They enjoy it too, but are more skeptical and some react in disappointment when I DON’T smash the nail! It’s funny and if played right can be a good thing. I never perform this for any audience younger than high school students and if you do this trick for grade school kids, you’re an idiot. (Sorry.)

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTIONS: The supplied written instructions do a good job explaining the principle that keeps you safe. Although I did not delve too deeply into Wayne’s specific presentation with the number cards, again, it seemed as though it was explained adequately.

QUALITY OF PROPS: The coasters and nail are of the highest quality. The coasters are wooden and look great while the metal nail could really hurt you. GREAT quality.

SAFETY: Here’s where this one falters a tad. The method is completely safe if used as directed. However, the issue is whether the performer is prown to “brain farts” during performances. In the real world, things happen during a show. Maybe your mic cuts out. Maybe your volunteer says something funny that cracks the audience up. If anything out of the ordinary throws you off, don’t buy this. Personally, I love bantering and ad-libbing with my audience so this was not a big deal. I LOVE THIS PROP, but there is a question of safety each performer must make for him/herself.

SETUP: Other than having the props (cups and coasters) handy, there is NO set up which really makes this effect superior to The Pain Game. I love how I can just “jump into” this during a show.

GRADE: As far as safety, this gets a 7 out of 10. I only go that low because some magicians like to put things into shows the day after they receive them, so consider yourselves forewarned. Overall, though, I give this prop a strong 10. It’s been fantastic.

Now onto The Pain Game…

The Pain Game’s plot is the same – avoid the sharp pointy nail! The key difference here, though, is that the SPECTATOR chooses which bag the magician will smash eahch time. This is a very nice advantage over other products. When I began performing this, I noticed a nice boost in the drama of the effect. It wasn’t night and day better, but it was better.

SAFETY: This is advertised as being 100% safe. I almost completely agree. If you use it as directed, it is…but if during your performance, you have a brain fart and do not set it, there is a chance of injury, so for safety, I will say it’s a 9.9 out of 10. Hey, I gotta be honest, becase during a recent show during this piece, I almost forgot to “set it” when my vlunteer came up to help.

ANGLES: If done properly, there are no angle concerns at all.

QUALITY OF PROPS: This is a gorgeous set and the craftsmanship is incredible. The wooden blocks supplied look very plain and the nail looks completely…ah, I can’t reveal more.:) Plus, everything comes in a great case for transport – a big plus for workers.

INSTRUCTION: While I thought the actual instruction of the effect was top notch on the DVD, the actual performance I found to be very bland, even boring. Nonetheless, that’s a personal taste.

IMPACT ON AUDIENCE: For me, a 10. Those high schoolers I perform for get more caught up in the drama while adults actually shield their eyes! Great stuff.

SET UP: There is some set up, which if your audience is already in place (as I discovered to my horor at two recent corp gigs) can make this VERY problematic.

OVERALL SCORE: Those minor quibbles aside, I have to also give this a 10 because of the effect on the audience. In the end, that’s what matters.

In the end, I can highly recommend both products, with caution about safety, even for the Pain Game.

SPIKE: I do not actually own this, but had the chance to see a friend perform it. I would rate the quality of the props as very high, meaning that they are durable and built for workers to use a LOT. The impact on the audience is the same as Smash & Stab – meaning, if presented well, the audiences will enjoy it.

The safety aspect is about the same as Smash & Stab – meaning, even though the method of detection is solid and bullet proof, if one has a “brain fart” you could hurt yourself.

I do have one BIG concern with Spike, and that is this: The Spike itself is removeable – meaning a volunteer can place it in whichever of the three wooden “holders” he/she wishes. While this makes the routine more “fair” it does raise the possibility that a smart-ass spectator will take the spike out, hide it in her pocket, and wait for the performer to try and find the spike.

This happened to my friend. To be fair, when he heard the laughter, my friend quickly surmised that “something” had happened, and due to the method of dtection, you would also know right away that the spike was not under any of the cups. However, this hampers the flow of the performance.

While the big issue is one of audience management and compliance of volunteers, I prefer to avoid a problem by not making it a possibility. For that reason, I rate Spike an overall 7 out of 10 – the safety is the same as Smash & Stab and the method allows a volunteer to throw you off your game during a show. For the experienced performer, this shouldn’t be an issue at all, but the fact that it’s a possibility (however remote) forces me to rate this lower.

All three props are worthy considerations, are well-built and are available at Hocus Pocus:

Pain Game: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=11592
SPIKE: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=7825
Smash & Stab: (currently, only the miniature version with metal coasters is available for close-up work)
http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=10749
Next week, I’ll be reviewing The Mindreading Goose and Branded, two popular effects.

Best,

Cris

Alive by Bobby Motta

This is it – my first review here at Hocus Pocus!!

In my post from earlier today, I mentioned that I had ordered Alive by Bobby Motta. I certainly was not expecting to receive it so quickly, but the UPS man gave me an early Christmas present.:)

If you’re not familiar with this effect, it’s available right here at http://www.hocus-pocus.com/. Check out the description and a demo video by following this link:

http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=12140

The basic effect, as Bobby performs it, is that a written prediction is given to a spectator to put into an empty box. A deck of cards is given to the spectator. In the fairest manner possible, a card is selected. The cards all have animals on them, and the spectator winds up with a card that says “rat.” The spectator is asked to go to the box and see if the written prediction matches the card. When she opens the box, the spectator is surprised to discover a live rat! The magician takes the rat out to thunderous applause.

First, the props. With this effect, you receive the custom box itself, which allows the spectator to see the box as empty when she drops the prediction inside and then, she herself opens the box and discovers the rat. This is incredibly cool and very fair. Once the trick starts, you do NOT need to touch the box. It is completely hands-free, and I’m sure this thing was a pain to develop. It is a gorgeous prop and thus far, functions beautifully.

You also receive Bill Abbott’s Smart-Ass deck, with blank cards, allowing you to do the trick with any force object that will fit comfortably in the box – and it doesn’t have to be alive. The Smart Ass deck concept allows you to force a card while he spectator holds the deck and tosses chunks of the deck over her head, allowing cards to spill all over the stage. It is a wonderful visual, and as an avid user of the Smart Ass deck in its original form, I can attest to its power on laypeople in the real world.

You also receive a detailed DVD on the handling. I have to say that in addition to the crystal clear picture and high quality sound, I was REALLY impressed with the look of Bobby’s house, if that is indeed his home. Bobby, I want your house!! The DVD includes a live performance and it goes over very well. Bobby uses a bit of profanity in his presentation which did not bother me, but if anyone of strict moral code, be forewarned. Regardless, the DVD is detailed and the instructions clear.

Price: The investment for this routine is $695. From my perspective as a full-timer, I think this is very fair. The box has corner trim and metal guards, so this thing is made to take a beating. Bobby explains how they tried different designs with the box to insure both the rat’s safety as well as reliability of the props.

After using a Smart Ass deck for at least a year, I can say that the deck will hold up well, too.

Angles: Once the rat (or whatever you use…limited only by your imagination and the size of the box) is loaded, there are NO angle restrictions. You can do this surrounded, although I personally never do stage shows surrounded, because someone is always going to be looking at the back of my head!!

Venue: Personally, I feel this routine will play best for me in the market I bought this for…high schools. This type of “shock” ending is exactly what high school students and colleges are looking for. I wouldn’t personally do this for a corporate event with a rat because some corporate people might be repulsed, but the effect is not limited to using a rat.

There’s one point I want to brng up…if you plan on doing this with any living thing, PLEASE consider the comfort of your little friend. Do NOT, please do NOT NOT NOT get a rat or other animal and treat it as a fuzzy prop. It’s a living creature and worthy of your respect. Do your research and if you don’t feel passionate about accepting the responsibility for caring for animals, then do not do this effect with a live animal. Bobby gives a funny example using an inanimate object on the DVD, and it’s one I will probably use when I’m flying to a gig and cannot bring my rat.

Overall Opinion: In short, your investment should last a long time. If you’re buying this to fool your friends, it will certainly do that, but it’s pretty expensive for hobbyists. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this product.

Overall Rating: If you have not read my previous blog, I will be using a 1 to 10 scale to rate products. I’m proud to say that with my first review, this product gets a solid 10 out of 10. While I have not performed this yet, I have no doubt this will be a winner.

A New Kid In Town!

Hello, new readers!

My name is Cris Johnson and I will be reviewing products available here on Hocus Pocus! With this first post, I’d like to introduce myself to you.

First of all, I am a full-time working professional magician, mentalist and stage hypnotist. I’ve been “full time” since 2003, when I quit my day job right after I got married. I have an EXTREMELY supportive wife who is also one heck of a web designer. You can see a couple of examples off her work at http://www.elementaryschoolassemblies.com/ and http://www.funhighschoolassemblies.com/.

Although I do quite a bit of corporate work, I specialize in schools, grades K-12, offering assembly programs for students on certain educational or “character education” topics as well as motivational programs for teachers.

Since I am usually in front of groups of 350-500 students, my specialty is stage work. I do, however, have a passion for close-up effects, so my reviews will be a mix of stage and close-up.

I enjoy all forms of conjuring, so I’ll cover manipulation, stage, mentalism, mental magic…basically anything except the large stage illusions. I can’t fit big effects (like the size of a Zig Zag) into my SUV and I doubt Paul’s going to ship one to me for review all the way from California to New York, but nearly everything else will be covered in some fashion.

When Paul asked me to review tricks and equipment for Hocus Pocus, I was extremely flattered and delighted to take over reviewing effects, as Mike did a SUPERB job with his Trick Talk podcasts. Since they were so well-received, I was initially of the opinion that I would need to come up with a new name, but Mike graciously encouraged me to keep the “Trick Talk” name.

My goal with these reviews will be to give readers detailed reviews on each product with several factors in mind. Here are the things i will try to address in each review:

* Value for the price

* Angles

* Ad hype vs. the “reality” of the effect

* Durability – Working pros can be tough on props!

* Quality of the prop

* Quality of instruction – is it clear and easily understood?

* Thoughts on who the effects will “play” to (ages? Market? Environment?)

* Effect on the audience

* Overall rating – After much thought, I am going to use a 10 scale – that is, rate the effect from 1 to 10

There may be other factors, but the main bottom line will be simply, will this effect play in the real world? I know there are hobbyists and collectors out there, so I will try to address those concerns depending on whether an effect warrants consideration. For instance, a thumbtip, regardless of manufacturer, will not usually be considered a “collector’s item,” but a really cool prop with quality craftsmanship (like the Alakazam Hats) obviously would.

Some of my reviews will be for newer items while some will be for older items. For instance, I have a list of effects I will be reviewing that includes Max Maven’s Nothing DVDs, Losander’s ExCaliber Table, Jay Leslie’s Cube Libre and many others which have been out for a while.

Reviews on older effects will be beneficial because I’ll be able to give a honest perspective on how it plays after I’ve really grown comfortable with an effect.

On the other hand, I will try to include as many new reviews as possible. For instance, I just ordered Bobby Motta’s “alive” and Jimmy Fingers’ “Master Magellan Leviation,” so you can look forward to those reviews very soon.

Finally, I am receiving no financial compensation for doing these reviews. It was my desire to deliver an honest, outsider’s opinion on the effects. Quite frankly, I’ve been dealing with Paul for years (even before he started carrying my products!) and he has ALWAYS told it “like it is.”

In other words, if it’s crap, Paul would tell me, so when we discussed the idea of me reviewing effects, we both agreed on honesty.

Those of you who remember listening to Paul’s guest spot on Mike’s podcast when Paul discussed an effect and relating it to “Horrible Herman” can attest to Paul’s honesty…as well as how well Paul tells a story.:)

If you’ve got a certain effect you’d like to see reviewed, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. Also, to boost views in this blog, I may hold a contest from time to time and winners will receive one of my products free of charge (Woo-Hoo!), but all of this is in the very early planning stages.

Thanks for reading this “intro” blog and I certainly look forward to hearing your comments. Feel free to contact me via email at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net. Thanks again.

Best,

Cris