Monthly archives for May, 2010

Dead Ringer by Tim Wisseman

Howdy, folks!

WOW, I cannot believe how crazy-busy I’ve been! I slow down quite a bit in July and August, so until then, I’m just going to enjoy the ride!

On the product front, I’m happy to report that my newsest release, The Mother of All Predictions, continues to move briskly. It’s an audio CD prediction, mailed in advance, that allows you to predict ANYTHING. Best part? There’s NO electronic gimmckry involved!! Check it out: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=13021

Also, it’s nearing the end of the month and my newest issue of “Cause & Effects,” my ezine for magicians, will be releasedc very soon. It’s going to be David Copperfield inspired and will also incude a story I told to Penn (of Penn & Teller fame) that made Penn bust out laughing.

Join by shooting me an email to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net. Best part? The ezine is FREE!

On to this week’s review…

I’m tackling Dead Ringer by Tim Wisseman. It’s available for $299.95 and is available at Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=10658

EFFECT: A crystal clear bell is hung from a metal hook. Without anyone being anywhere near it, it rings! Your audience can see the clapper inside suddenly start swinging back and forth, ringing the bell. It’s under your control at all times.

WHAT YOU GET: An antique-looking aged wooden box, the wooden base that holds the bell, the metal hook that sits upright in the base, the bell itself, written instructions, remote control and more.

INSTRUCTIONS: The instructions as written are sparse, but serviceable. Interestingly, they reveal the fact that when the metal hook from which the bell stands must be placed at a certain angle and it’s up to the user to determine what that is and then always remember to insert the hook at that angle. If you’re looking down at the base from a bird’s eye view, think of the agle of the upright hook as the hand on a clock and you must remember that the BEST bell movement occurs at 1:00, for example, Truthfully, the “sweet spot” of the bell in my case was almost perfectly head-on, as pictured o the website, and I’m sure yours will too. It takes a little experimenting to find this “sweet spot” but once you do, you’re golden.

QUALITY OF PROPS: I want to state up front that I’m not a collector of magic – everything I buy is bought with the intent of putting it into a show of some kind in a way that will earn me money. (Paul Gross, for example, has this thing for Ball & Vases. I don’t get it.)

So, I don’t collect things to put them on a shelf. That being said, Dead Ringer is a work of art. It looks gorgeous. I cut my teeth on Bizarre (Tony Andruzzi, anyone?) Magic and appreciate the look of strage old boxes, weird, arcane symbols and more. This bell fits the bill perfectly. The box really looks like it was buried in a tomb for a hundred years. The bell itself looks very old. The wooden base from which the bell hangs looks authentic.

Looks-wise, this is beautiful…something collectors would love to put on a shelf.

ANGLES: Keep the remote hidden and you can do this anywhere, from any angle.

QUALITY / DURABILITY OF OPERATION: I’ve flown to gigs with this thing and with careful packing it will come out just fine…as long as you pack on your carry-on. Don’t let TSA near this thing – LOL! All joking aside, this prop is very hardy, with proper care. The bell is crystal, so don’t drop it. However, the quality is good and the electronics are rock-solid – treat it right and it will treat you right.

AUDIENCE SIZE: This is intended for intimate settings, and in fact when I bought it, Ken at Hocus Pocus told me the bell’s sound was delicate, not intended for stage work. That being said, I’ve used this little bugger for as many as 100 people (so far) and when the mood is right, it can clearly be heard. Focus your audience’s attention and bigger audiences can hear it just fine.

The way the clapper moves and causes the bell to move is uncanny. When I first started working with this, I called Paul and exclaimed it was the most amazing thng I’d ever seen. It was so cool to just activate it and do its thing.

THE REMOTE: I can’t stand toe switches. This uses a remote with a toe switch for hands-free use. I tried all kinds of things to keep the toe switch in the correct place yet still allow me to walk around. I couldn’t get it to consistently work, so my feeling is this toe switch is best for a seated performance, such as a seance. Farir enough. I simply stuff the remote in my pocket and use it that way. My point is, if you’re a standup performer, know that you do not HAVE to use the remote as a toe switch.

BATTERIES: This uses four AAA sized batteries, which is a standard size, meaning you can buy rechargeables, if you desire. I went to all rechargeables about a year ago and it’s saved me so much money. In this case of the Dead Ringer electronics, the unit is “on” and drawing battery power as soon as the batteries are installed. Because this is intended as a closeup prop, there’s no way to hide an on/off switch, so I get that. That’s why I went the rechargable route – knowing this prop was going to burn through batteries (If you’re doing an hour long show, the unit is “on” the entire time) using rechargables saves me a ton of cash each year.

By the way, I don’t consider the lack of on/off switch to be a flaw – Tim wanted to create an authentic looking prop and so sacrificed the on/off switch to acheive that goal. If I had built this thing, I would have done the same thing.

OVERALL THOUGHTS: I love this thing. It works reliably and beautifully. About the only thing I don’t love is that little matter of finding the “sweet spot.” For me, this means I had to put the metal hook into the wooden base rather than let the spectator do it. It’s a minor point, but a noticeable one. You can, however, let a spectator hang the bell itself, as there’s no “sweet spot.”

Again, it only takes a few tries to find the sweet spot and then it’s consistently wonderful.

I’ll give this a rock-solid 9.5. I ove it and I’m sure you will, too.

Questions? Comments? Send all thoughts to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Best,

Cris Johnson

Crush DVD

Hello, all!

Cris Johnson here, back with a new review for this week. Before I get to it, a few housekeeping notes…

1. My NEW book of routines, “Cause & Effects,” continues to fly out the door. This is very gratifying to me because these are routines I use to make a living. They can do the same for you. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=12964

2. My newest product is the best thing I’ve created. It’s called “The Mother of All Predictions” and it’s a heck of a routine! It’s an audio CD type prediction that allows you to predict ANYTHING and uses NO gimmicked CD players, so budget wise, this is within everyone’s reach. The link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=13021

3. The upcoming June issue of my FREE ezine will feature aspects of David Copperfield’s stage show that I feel any performer can and should incorporate into their professional work. I’m NOT talking about ripping off tricks or scripts, but aspects of performance and professionalism. It’s going to be a good read! Sign up by sending me at email to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net. It’s FREE!:)

Today’s review is Crush, a DVD and gimmick available for $29.95 from Hocus Pocus. The link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=12903

EFFECT: Cause a water bottle to crush! Slowly, as you hold the bottle, the bottle begins to crumple in a most eerie fashion. A non-gimmicked version allows you to do this with a spectator holding the bottle or the bottle sitting untouched on a table.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: a DVD with both live and studio performances. You also receive a gimmick, which is not made clear in the ad copy. I was surprised when my review copy came with a gimmick.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: The street demonstrations look as though it was filmed by Martin Scorsesee – visually, nicely done. It looks like a feature film.

The creator explains the handling well enough. Personally I found the creator to be thorough enough, although I was personally put off by the whole ‘street magic’ thing. This movement of street magic just is not my cup of tea.

Many proponents of this style of magic seem to believe that the effect is enough. There’s no presentation and the entire success of the effect relies on the trick itself. In my opinion, this reduces any effect of magic into an oddity, a puzzle.

While the physical movements are taught well enough and the effect’s choreography is effective enough, there is no motivation for this as presented on this DVD. Magic has enough of an uphill battle appearing to be relevant without disembodied effects being presented on a whim. There are other problems, but I’ll address them later.

The point is, despite the absence of any sense of presentation whatsoever, the mechanics are taught very well. When I first looked at the supplied gimmick, I thought, “No way is that going to fly.” I’m happy to report that the set-up is quite “do-able” for the real world…with some caveats which I’ll cover.

ANGLES: The DVD would have you believe this is a close-up effect. Personally, I feel this is best suited for formal standup presentations because of the reset factor, but the fact is, the angles are good on this. There is some “dirty work” which needs to be done at the exact moment the bottle collapses, but with proper audience management, this should blow past spectators..as long as you are aware of your audience and manage them effectively.

RESTRICTIONS: Here’s where this effect gets “sticky.” The way the demo is shot and the overall ‘feel’ is that it’s implied that you can walk up to a group of strangers and bang this effect out. The fact is, you must have a specific preparation based on the bottle you use.

Without giving anything away, let’s just say that different bottles have different characteristics and you’re really only ready to make this work with one specific bottle at a time. Don’t get me wrong – you can do this with virtually any bottle…but it’s not impromptu.

Another consideration is the fact that in order to provide “motivation” for the physical movements for this to work, it’s best and most natural to start this effect each time with the bottle full of water. The act of emptying the bottle acts as cover for much of the ‘get ready.’

You can technically do the effect without water in the bottle at the start, but again, you lack that acting/theatrical term – “motivation.” The end result is this really isn’t good for repeat performances in a restaurant situation. If you want to do a “one off,” you’re fine. And the fact is, i think this works better in a standup situation.

When I say standup, it doesn’t have to be a corporate banquet or even a kids’ birthday…it could be a busking (sp?) event where the performer on the street performs a ‘set’ and passes the hat. In this setting, I can envision an eagle-eyed performer keeping an eye out for the type of bottle he/she is prepared for and ask to borrow it from a spectator – bam! Instant miracle.

The other, non-gimmicked version is impressive and relies on science – there’s no sleight of hand or gimmicks, as advertised. However, there is a certain preparation…and that preparation only has a shelf life of a few minutes at most. Without revealing anything, let’s just say for reasons I can’t get into that you can’t prepare this before your show and do it more than 5 minutes (tops) into your show unless you have an assistant do the preparation for you right before you’re scheduled to do this. Again, in a ‘street setting,’ I could see an assistant innocently handing a prepared (though completely innocent looking) bottle to you seconds before you launch into this.

MY OVERALL THOUGHTS: This has a lot going for it, as it’s unique and well thought out in terms of physical actions. i can’t stand the street type of performances with no context as magicians seem (according to various effects’ demos) to just ambush spectators and ‘show them something.’

However, the silver lining here is the buyer is forced to work a presentation out for themselves as this DVD gives no presentational framework or insight into scripting. That being said, physically this works as advertised.

I’ll give this a split rating: For close-up repeat users such as restaurant guys, I give this a 1 out of 10. It’s NOT suited for strolling – either version.

For a thing to freak out your friends, I give it an 6 out of 10…with the severe warning that at least in my experience with friends, people I’m friends with are more apt to poke and prod at me to find out “what I’m hiding.” Politeness often goes out the door in informal situations, so while this will likely kill in an informal setting, be mindful of friends’ busy hands! You’re gimmicked up the wazoo when you perform the gimmicked version. With the ungimmicked version, again, you’ve got severe timing limitations.

For formal stand-up performers (street, banquet, etc) using this in a “one off” way, I think this has a lot of promise and despite the lack of presentational hook, I’ll give it a 7 out of 10.

Again, I only give a split rating because of the fact that the way the demo was shot and the style of performing would seem to endear itself to guys who want to walk up to a group and do this over and over. It’s great for a one-off, but it’s not repeatable as taught. You’d need to do some serious work to eliminate the emptying of the water from the bottle as justification for the physical movements in this effect.

Until next week, send all questions and comments to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Best,

Cris Johnson

Extended Thoughts on Gremlins, A New Product and More!

Hi everyone!

First of all, today’s BEST news was the fact that Paul is back at Hocus Pocus. He’s improving more and more from his recent ordeal. That’s awesome.

Secondly, if you read my last post about Gremlins in a Box, be sure to check it out again. I just edited it, actually added several more paragraphs of thoughts. I was going on 2 hours of sleep when I wrote the review and now that I’ve recovered, I wanted to add some thoughts. It’s an awesome prop and I really recommend it.

Finally, I have launched my NEW product, called The Mother of All Predictions. This is an audio-CD style prediction that uses NO gimmicked electronic equipment, NO sleight of hand and NO stooges or assistants. You can use it to predict ANYTHING, even headlines. I personally use it for a delightful “Mad Libs” style of prediction. I think it’s my BEST creation ever and it plays wonderfully for me.

Check out the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=13021

I’ll be back in a day or two with a new review, but I really wanted to expand my thoughts on the Gremlins.

Be back soon…

Cris

Meeting David Copperfield & Magic Gremlins in a Box!

Sorry this blog is late – been a CRAZY week! I only work in the U.S. and Canada. People who work all over the world, well, I can’t imagine how they keep their sanity!!

A few housekeeping notes…

First of all, to those of you who have helped make my new book, “Cause & Effects; Volume 1″ a huge success, THANK YOU! I just sent the second order out to Paul & Ken today, so if any of you are waiting on it, it will be in your hands shortly. Secondly, I’ll be on the road for the next two weeks straight, so if you’re considering ordering this, I recommend doing it now as they are going fast and if you delay, you may be faced with a backorder situation til I get back into the office at the end of this month.

If you want to check it out, here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=12964

Thirdly, my ezine, “Cause & Effects,” (A FREE ezine of magic philosophy & road stories) is getting more signups each week. To that I say thank you! Signing up is free – just shoot me an email to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Finally, June’s edition of the ezine will focus on what I learned while watching David Copperfield live last night. I was heavily influenced by Copperfield…to my teen and twentysomething readers, Copperfield was my generation’s Criss Angel…only better.:)

David still performs 500 sellout shows a year all over the world. I saw the show two months ago and wound up seeing it again last night. Long story short, at one of my recent shows, I met a guy who is friends with Copperfield. He loved my show and offered to arrange a quick backstage meeting with Copperfield. I got my picture taken with him and as soon as I can figure out how to upload photos to this blog, I’ll post it.

Unfortunately, it was only a brief 60second meeting, but hey, when you’re internationally famous on a level of most A-level movie stars, you’ve got people pulling at you from all directions.:)

I introduced myself, we shook hands and David asked me, “So, where are you from?”

“Niagara Falls,” was my answer.

Copperfield wryly said, “Oh, I went there once.”

To those of you who have followed Copperfield’s career, THAT was FUNNY, because he understated it.

The next ezine is going to full of observations of Copperfield’s operations and the things ANY magician can adapt to his own business. I am NOT, repeat, NOT talking about tricks or even specific scripts, but things that can be used to influence all of us. I had another topic planned, but I just can’t let this go. Plus, you’ll get to read about the VERY funny story I told to Penn Jillet (Penn & Teller fame) that caused him to bust out laughing when I had the opportunity to meet him after a show. Good stuff!

On to this week’s review…

This week, I tackle Magic Gremlins in a Box, by Peter Loughran. It retails for $499.95 and is available from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=9410

THE EFFECT: The performer begins by inviting a spectator on stage to share something very unique with them. The performer introduces a small brown cardboard box to the spectator with a label on it that says Magic GREMLINS in a Box. The label resembles that of the old vintage comic book ads for such things as X-Ray Specs or Sea Monkeys to name a couple.

The performer begins to tell his audience that he acquired his Magic GREMLINS by ordering them from an old comic book he had lying around in the attic… and low and behold this is what he received and for only $2.98 plus shipping and handling of course.

He tells the spectator that the box is indeed full of Magic GREMLINS, however they are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye but they are so powerful that they can lift and move objects 1 million times their own body weight.

Now the magic begins! The performer asks the spectator to stand back and hands them a pair of sunglasses to wear, the performer also wears his own pair, and carefully opens the lid to the box and a green radioactive glow emits from within, gaining hilarious reactions. The performer now places the box on a near by table and steps away as he says the Magic GREMLINS can be very unpredictable if handled incorrectly. He calls over to the GREMLINS to see if they are awake and ready to play.

The box then begins to shake and rock from side to side and moves all by itself on the table top proving that the box is indeed full of real live Magic Glowing GREMLINS. The performer states that unlike Sea Monkeys, these small and adorable creatures can actually be taught how to perform real tricks. They are so intelligent that the performer tells his spectator that he has actually taught the GREMLINS how to perform not just a trick but an amazing MAGIC trick. A deck of cards is introduced and a card is selected.

The chosen card is replaced, lost inside the deck and shuffled by the spectator. The entire deck is now placed inside the glowing box full of Magic GREMLINS. After some comical by-play, the performer now asks the GREMLINS to also shuffle the deck, and the box begins to shake and rock sided to side etc, as if the cards are actually being shuffled. He then asks the GREMLINS to search for the spectator’s chosen card.

The box begins to move once again and then amazingly the box leans forward slightly toward the audience by itself and a card pops up out of the top of the glowing box. The performer takes the card and shows it to the spectator and the audience, and incredibly it is indeed the chosen card! AMAZING! But the routine isn’t over just yet.

The magician puts the card back into the box and brings out a Sharpie and says “The amazing Magic GREMLINS will now sign the card for you as a souvenir”. The Sharpie is placed inside the box, and after some more comical by-play the Sharpie begins to move. The end of the Sharpie is seen sticking out of the top of the box as it wiggles around inside the box apparently as if the GREMLINS are really signing the chosen card! The Sharpie then stops, and the performer asks the GREMLINS if the card is signed, and then tries to take the Sharpie out of the box but each time the GREMLINS move it just out of the reach of the magician, creating a hilarious interaction. “It’s so hard to find good GREMLINS these days,” the performer says.

He asks the GREMLINS to play nice, and they abide by letting the performer finally remove the Sharpie. The Sharpie is removed and the box tilts slightly forward as the card pops back out, but this time it has a signature across the face that says: THE MAGIC GREMLINS

The card is then given to the spectator to keep as a souvenir. The performer now asks for a big round of applause and the GREMLINS tilt the box forward once again for a final bow!

WHAT YOU GET: The specially constructed box with all of the electronic goodness you can expect from Loughran and especially Sean Bogunia (Sean built the electronics). You also receive a CD-ROM that plays a nearly 60-minute instructional video in which Peter walks you through the routine, the workings, programming, and much more.

You also receive a remote control, meaning you can activate the Gremlins while standing waaayyyyy far away. Great!

Additionally, you receive a Sharpie, some duplicate cards (Bicycles) and a couple of other goodies.

INSTRUCTION: The video is not the best when it comes to lighting. It’s dim and the sound quality is somewhat on the low side. That being said,Peter takes a very thorough approach to the instruction and the sound/lighting issues do not hurt your learning of the effect. Peter’s a good teacher and comes off as very friendly.

Oh, and his last name is pronounced “Lock-ran.” I’d been saying it wrong for years.:)

The most intersting part of the instructional video was the way Peter helps viewers get used to coordinated programming along with scripting. This is very cool, and much appreciated from my end.

DURABILITY: The electronics are housed separately in a sort of brick-shaped unit that can if necesary be removed. This is extremely durable and adds to the protection. The box itself is extremely well built for a cardboard box. You won’t want to spill coffee on it or throw it in the tub, but with care it will last years.

Peter explains that each box is specially built due to the gimmicked nature of the box and especially the required measurements to house the electronics, allow the movements of the box, allow room for the card work and more. Frankly, the box looks great and looks like a pain in the ass to build.:) Great stuff. Despite being cardboard in construction, it’s SOLID cardboard and not shoebox stuff. This is built to last.

Side note: I immediately ran out and bought a thick, foam-lined case for storing microphones just the right size for this effect. It has pockets for cards, batteries, etc. Protect your investment!
The electronics themselves are almost identical to another effect by Peter, one I’ve owned for years. With that in mind, it should last a LOOONNNGGG time.

ANGLES: You could do this surrounded and it would play fine. The only issue to keep in mind is being careful to have this prop on a table higher than your audience’s eye level, as when the box bows, someone may be able to see inside. This really is only an issue, by the way, for parlor-type performances, like a birthday party, for example. For stage, you should be OK.

VISIBILITY: It’s true that the box is small, but I know guys who do spongeballs on stage. hundreds of people can see the box moving and when the marker starts moving or the selected card is held up by the gremlins, it’s easy to see. Additionally, one might consider using a red or blue sharpie, because the brightly colored cap may be more visible from a distance. Just a thought.:)

MY OVERALL THOUGHTS: This is a delight. It’s got a grat backstory, it’s charming, it’s nearly angle proof, and you can program the movements for your own personality. What more could you want?

Another monster benefit is that this gives users the ability to have conflict onstage – someone or something with whom you can have interaction with. Additionally, for guys like me who use little to no live animals in my show, a routine like this helps tremendously.

Finally, adults would appreciate the backstory of such a prop and the kids enjoy the silliness, so this plays on two levels. This is a great creation.

I quibbled a bit about the quality of the sound & lighting on the CD, but in the end, is this a good product and most importantly, does it play?

Both answers are a huge “YES.” When I performed this for the first time, it was in front of 200 kids in a school. The moment the box started to move, the kids went crazy. The unit performs perfectly and is a totaly original way to do a card trick.

What’s nice about an effect like this is I can fly anywhere and I can do an “animal trick” without the hassle of animal.

FINAL WORD: A perfect 10 for me. I love it.

Questions? Comments: send an email to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Until next week…

Best,

Cris

My NEW Book Released and…Cody Fisher’s Comedy Confabulation!

Hello, loyal readers!

As promised, I’m back with another review this week! My performing schedule has been hectic enough that I’ve generally only done one review per week, but I’ve got some extra tme today (don’t know how that happened) so I can squeeze this in.

My newest book is now up on Hocus Pocus’ website! It’s called “Cause & Effects Volume 1″ and it’s a collection of magic routines I use in my own professional work. Check it out: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=12964

Its namesake is a reference to my ezine “Cause & effects” which features magic philosophy and performing tips. It’s a free ezine and you can sign-up by shooting me an email: crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

The new book is $24.95 and features full fleshed out routines & presentations. Other books are on the way, so check back here often.:)

On to today’s review. It’s Comedy Confabulation by Cody Fisher. It’s available for $40.00 at Hocus Pocus. Here’s a link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=12963

THE EFFECT: The magician tries to read the minds of the audience several times and does in fact succeed BUT in the most absurd manner possible! In the end however, the magician removes a sealed prediction that proves he did in fact know exactly what the audience would say!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A 14 page booklet with color photographs, the full routine, a history of the effect, variations, tips from other pros such as Greg Arce and more.

INSTRUCTION: Cody’s thinking is steller. So much so that he sickens me. OK, I’m kidding about the ‘sickening’ part, but Cody is fantastic in the way he teaches this. He has a way with words and his instruction allows you to get this up and running very quickly.

ANGLES: This is a prediction effect done in real time (no assistants, like the Malloy chest) where a folded notecard with the prediction winds up in an envelope or card-to-wallet envelope. As such, you can NOT have anyone directly behind you. Also, you have to be careful with your extreme right and left sides. I’ve performed a version of the Shaxon-style prediction on which this is based and after a few times of performing, you’ll know just how to shade your sides while doing this. Not bad at all.

DIFFICULTY: There’s a bit of palming involved but really, no super-techie moves. That being said, any effect requires practice to do it smoothly, especially in terms of choreography. I hate rating something as “easy” as nothing in magic is truly “easy.” However, once you rehearse this enough to get it into your muscle memory and thereby get comfortable with it, the technical part of this routine is “easy.”:)

MARKET: As I said, I’ve done this style of prediction for over 10 years and in fact it’s my standard closer for corporate events. However, my version has never played all that well to high school groups. Interestingly, Cody’s version is so freakin’ hilarious (one of the predictions literally had me laughing out loud…when’s the last time that’s ever happened to you while reading a magic routine?) that I believe this will play great for high school kids. It will definitely play for colleges, too.

MY THOUGHTS: As I said earlier, I’ve been using this style of one-man, no-assistants-needed prediction presentation for a decade and it always kills. I feel it’s so strong because it’s so open-ended. I feel mentalism is at its best when you can tell someone “think of anything in the universe,” and you read their mind or reveal it’s been predicted. It’s like drawing duplications – “draw anything in the world,” and the the performer duplicates it. What I DON’T like is when the performer does a drawing dupe with a deck of cards with little drawings on them.

That’s just my preference, but if one were truly a mind reader, he/she should be able to read minds with NO restrictions. Cody’s prediction totally satisfies this desire as there are NO forces for the final prediction. It’s wide open.

Another quibble I have is when mentalism drags. I recently saw a mentalist perform a 60-minute show…and in that show, he performed a 40-minute blindfold/Q&A act. It dragged SO bad bad bad because he did not have any funny stories, dramatic asides or simply even an engaging personality to make all of these procedures entertaining. It was horrible.

Cody’s prediction makes the journey interesting. In short, it’s not JUST the big “wow” at the end that makes this play but rather the entire process is a joy. Cody understands that as an entertainer, you’re being paid to entertain…the whole time you’re on stage…not just at the end of the ‘trick!’ Cody’s script and framework shows that one does not need to be ‘pretentious’ or stuffy when performing mentalism as so many are prone to do. Ugh.

Finally, Cody has meticulously addressed several weaknesses (as he perceives them) of the traditional ‘real-time’ or confabulation-style prediction. All of his touches are fantastic improvements, but one in particular had me literally springing out of my chair when I read this (I bought an advance copy before Hocus Pocus put it up).

FINAL THOUGHTS: In the end, this will play and play STRONG. If you’ve ever wanted to add this style of prediction into your act, this about the funniest way to do it I’ve ever read. 10 out of 10 – highly recommended.

Questions? Comments? Review requests? Send them to: crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Until next time,

Best,

Cris Johnson

Sandz by Jay Mattioli

Howdy, folks!

Cris Johnson here, with a new blog review this week…a little early compared to other weeks, but there’s a reason: In a couple of days, I expect to launch my NEW book, “Cause & Effects Volume 1.”

Named after my new ezine, this is a collection of original routines for close-up and stage. The ezine focuses on performing philosophy and such, but the book includes original, complete routines, scripts and all of the psychological touches that have made them rock-solid for the last 15 years.

Everything is straight out of my working act and each has taken me years to fine tune. Most working pros realize how long it takes to really fine tune a presentation. If you want to save yourself years of perfecting some presentations for VERY commercial magic, you’ll want to check this out. Be sure to check this blog in another day or two as I expect the book to be on the Hocus Pocus website very soon.

Speaking of my ezine, “Cause & Effects,” don’t forget – signing up is FREE. Simply shoot me an email to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net. The next issue will feature an almost unknown way to save big money on EVERY hotel you book. I stumbled upon this by accident and quite frankly it’s something the hotels don’t want you to know about. I reveal it in the June issue of the ezine.

Also, there’s a contest – win my new book FREE if you’re the one who refers the MOST new subscribers to my ezine. Again, email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

On to this week’s review…

This time, I’ll be reviewing Sandz by Jay Mattioli. It’s available for $324.95 and is available from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=10789

THE EFFECT: The performer’s hands are fairly shown to be empty to the audience and then plunged into a clear bowl of water. After a few moments of swirling, the clear water changes to a murky black!

Three different colors of sand are then poured into the black water and swirled about, mixing the sand. Then, one by one, the magician shows his hand empty and reaches into the water and removes one color of sand. It’s completely dry and more importantly, completely unmixed with the other two colors!

Once the sand is removed, the magician shows his hands empty again and plunges his hands into the black water. In a few moments, the water slowly changes back to clear!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive the Eureka table base, the table top, the pedestal for the bowl of water to rest on, the bowl itself, the hand towel, chemicals, three bags of colored sand, three plastic glasses for the sand, additional gimmicks and an instructional DVD.

VALUE: Everything is well made and built to last. Often, when we buy someting, we get a cheaply made prop and are told we are paying for the secret and the routine. With this package, you’re getting a great routine, a wonderfuly practical secret and some great props that are built to last. Fantastic value.

ANGLES: This is a stage piece, so as long as no one is right on top of you, your angles are quite good. Although I’m not fond of the situations where people are at my extreme sides, the working of the routine is fairly easy to hide. You could have someone directly behind you and it would not be too hard to use your body to hide the two critical moves, but that’s only if there’s some distance. In short, the angles are fantastic for a stage effect. Once you understand the workings, hiding ‘the work’ isn’t too hard. Don’t do it for birthday parties or small groups of people right on top of you and you’ll be fine.

INSTRUCTION: The DVD is basically Jay in his house in front of a backdrop. (I can tell it’s his house because I could hear his doves cooing in the background – LOL.) Fortunately, the picture quality is excellent and while Jay does use a backdrop, he does use a white one, so the picture doesn’t look dreary as so many instructional DVDs use when the magician uses a black backdrop.

Jay covers the explanation very thoroughly, including switching to closeups when needed. Unfortunately, he does use a head-on camera shot for the most critical move in the routine so you don’t get a really good view, but fortunately, the move is barely a move and therefore extremely easy (from the technical end) to replicate. That minor quibble aside, the DVD does a great job demonstrating it. Additionally, the live demo of Jay doing this in front of an audience plays realy well – the audience goes crazy.

MY THOUGHTS: I freakin’ love this. I’ve always wanted to perform the Sands of Egypt but I never liked the sparse instructions or crazy handling methods out there, some of which Jay talks about.

As many of you may know, the biggest challenge with the effect is adding the chemicals to get the water to change, from clear to black and then back again at the end of the routine. I’ve heard some magicians say this is not a crtical part of the routine and that other magicians simply openly pour the chemicals into the water because “the real magic involves the sand.”

I’m sorry, but in my opinion, those views are dead wrong. After practicing Jay’s handling, I’ve done this routine 60-70 times in the last year and the entire routine plays unbelievably well, but the color changes are the strongest parts. I have adults asking me all the time how I did it.

That brings me back to Jay’s method. It’s genius and far superior to any of the published methods out there.

Additionally, all of the supplied props are well made and built for travel. Jay’s thought of everything, and including the table base and table make this so easy to plan and set up. The set up time isn’t bad, either. Other than filling the bowl full of water, I can get it set up in about three minutes.

The only thing Jay has not included is the water! It’s that complete. His idea of elevating the bowl of water for visibility is brilliant, too. You can also get replacement chemicals and sand from Jay and Hocus Pocus.

Sand refills available here: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=10791

Chemical refills here: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=10790

BITS OF ADVICE: To transport the sand, I use some small one cup round Glad tupperware containers, making it easier to pour the sand into the glasses and back again. After struggling with ziplock bags for two shows, I came up with this and since then, life has been easier.

Another bit of advice – to transport all of the props, I bought a box from OfficeMax. It has a lid and enough ‘floor space’ to hold all of the props except the table top (whch is flat anyway) and the Eureka table base. This makes going to and from shows REALLY easy.

Final bit of advice – keep the chemicals sealed in a ziplock bag AND a tupperware container to keep them from drying out. That happened to me once …one of the chemicals had hardened into a rock. Fortunately, since I started sealing them in the tuperware and bag, I’ve never had any problems.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The reactions I’ve gotten from this have been unreal. I’ve bought a lot of new magic over the last few years and this is by far one of the best things I’ve picked up in a LONG time. It’s oustanding. People love it, it plays huge and is very unique.

A perfect 10 out of 10.

As I said, check back in a day or two to check out the details on my new book. Next week, another review, probably another announcement and more. Send any questions or comments to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.