Monthly archives for November, 2010

Superior Hydrostatic Glass

Hi Everyone!

To my readers who live in the US, I hope your Turkey Day was fun, restful and enjoyable. To my friends in other parts of the world who do not celebrate Thanksgiving, I STILL hope your day was fun, restful and enjoyable.:)

Obviously I am a few days late with this blog. In short, being sick for nearly two months straight and traveling all over the east coast of the US all that time really knocked me on my butt, so I hot the couch and gave myself some R&R. (I spent it watching my new DVDs of “The Greatest American Hero,” a 3 season TV series from the early 80′s. REALLY fun re-visiting my childhood!)

The new issue of “Cause & Effects” my free monthly ezine, should go out on schedule, on or about December 1st. Those of you who recently signed up have been added. You can sign up by emailing me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net. This month I tackle the “too-perfect theory” in mentalism and why, for the most part, I think it’s rubbish. It’s an opinion piece, sure to spark debate.:)

On to this week’s review…The Superior Hydrostatic Glass. It’s available for $52.50 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link to the ad: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=4633

EFFECT: You pour water (or any liquid) into a glass. You then cover the glass with a piece of paper and turn the glass upside down. The paper stays in place, so the liquid doesn’t fall. Then you slide the paper off and it STILL stays in place! At your command, or an audience member’s command, the liquid falls out.

WHAT YOU GET: You get the glass itself (packed in a sturdy cardboard box), the gimmick (packed into an envelope to prevent scratching)and details instructions, as in 4 pages’ worth.

QUALITY OF EQUIPMENT: When I bought this, I told the folks at Hocus Pocus I wanted something good, not a ‘toy’ out of a children’s magic set. This is the one they recommended. On the Hocus Pocus site, there are several versions – one for around $12 and even one for several hundred dollars. I feel for the money I spent this is extremely well built. The glass is sturdy and looks like a natural, normal solid glass you’d pick up in any department store. It’s also a GOOD glass, not cheap looking. The gimmick is well made and fits the glass very well and is easy to ‘load.’ Rock-solid.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: As I said, there are several pages of instructions, detailing care for the props, how the effect works, performance tips, trouble-shooting tips, alternate performance tips and more. There really is not any advice as far as scripting or presentation, so you’re on your own. I however had a script already in place when I bought it.:) Good, basic info that more than covers the handling.

DIFFICULTY: Technically, this is an easy effect – a 1 out of 10. The real key to remember is prop management: where are you going to hide the gimmick until it comes into play? For that matter, where are you going to keep the glass and liquid until it’s time for this effect? Most critically, where are you going to ‘catch’ the liquid? (If you do it at your main performance table, some splashing may dampen or even soak your other props.) What I’m getting at is while the effect may be easy, because it involves liquid, blocking and prop management becomes extremely important as well as your script.

MARKETS: Thus far, I’ve only performed this in schools, for kids in grades K-5. That being said, not only do the kids like it, but when the liquid is finally ‘released,’ it always generates spontaneous applause from the adults. My feeling is this will play well to adults as well.

ONE SORE SPOT: Because of the method, there is a small bit of ‘talking’ as you put the gimmick in place with the glass. For me on stage, this is no big deal because I’m talking the entire time (except when I remove the paper – gotta play that part for drama!) If you are a silent performer, you’ll need some music to cover this ‘talking’ especially if you perform this in close quarters. I always use it on stage, so for me, no big deal.

ANGLES: You really can’t do this surrounded because of the nature of the gimmick, but I will say that once the gimmick is in place, all angles are covered, so the enterprising performer may be able to pull off a surrounded performance. The angles are VERY forgiving, and besides, as I’ve often said, if I’m doing a stage show surrounded, I must be in hell.:)

EFFECT ON AUDIENCE: As mentioned earlier, I know this effect (and this version) has been around forever. In fact, I had a cheesy version in an old magic set that was horrible looking. I never really thought it was much of an effect until I had a critical need for a good water effect in one of my shows in schools. Well, after performing it 8 or so times for crowds of people from 200-400 strong, I can say it KILLS. I now understand why so many pros use a version of this effect in their shows!

MY OVERALL RANKING: Based on the solid workmanship and the great reaction it generates, I have to give this a 10 out of 10. If you work out the issues I mentioned above, this is a winner and a heck of a value.

Until next time…

Cris

Multiplicity DVD and Yet Another TASTE Update

Hey Everybody,

Cris Johnson here with more magic review goodness! I’m going to be quick because I’ve only got a short amount of time between shows today. Busy, busy, busy!

First of all, I’m doing something today that I don’t think I’ve ever done – I am revising my score for a product! As the title of this week’s blog suggests, it’s for Bobby Motta’s TASTE.

When I first reviewed it, I believe I gave it a 9 out of 10. I felt that the product was put together extremely well and from a technical standpoint it was sensational. I also wrote that while my response to the effect was quite good, I anticipated the response getting even better over time.

Well, after tweaking my script slightly, the response went through the ROOF! I can now safely say TASTE is a perfect 10 out of 10. You see, it’s so easy to just judge a product by the package you receive, but I decided when I started this blog nearly a year ago I decided that the audience reaction for the effect would factor into the score.

Why?

Simple – Certain effects that look great or have cool props have (for me) sometimes fallen flat. Now I know that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, which is why reviews are tricky. Nevertheless, I feel very comfortable bumping up TASTE’s score to a 10 out of 10. One of the BEST releases of the year, bar none.

Now, onto this week’s new review…Multiplicity by Max maven. It’s available for $71.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the ad copy:http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=14285

EFFECT: The main thrust of this DVD is exploring the concept of Equivoque, although other mentalism tools are explored, such as the concept of multiple outs.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You get one DVD that they manged to cram over 3 hours onto – quite a feat! Interestly, there is a small ‘effect’ right on the back of the DVD package. Simply turn the package over, read it, and you’re instantly introduced to Max’s thinking. It’s not earth-shattering, but it’s nice that someone used the DVD case in a unique way.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: It’s Max Maven so you know the instruction is top-notch. There are something like 24 effects on this DVD and almost all are practical and many can be adapted for stage or used for close up.

DIFFICULTY: There are few technical moves on this DVD. (A few, and they’re easy) The real work is going to come from your scripting and making sure you have rehearsed enough so that when using equivoque you don’t hesitate between choices. This is a concept Max spends a lot of time on.

MY THOUGHTS: Overall, this is a marvelous release. An added bonus is the presence of special guest Eugene Burger, whom I adore. I had the privilege of meeting Eugene years ago in Chicago and in my opinion, there’s no one classier than Eugene.
The effects themselves use objects and concepts like coins, famous paintings, clocks, and many more. My particular favorite was the routine in which the spectator is asked to name off several children’s songs. The person then picks one of the songs and Max plays the song on one of those little portable recorders that hold 30 seconds or so of sound.
This is a sensational idea and I immediately began thinking of ways to adapt it to stage. I should note that in this particular piece, Max does not explain one important component that makes this effect work. However, my experience in mentalism immediately gave me the solution to fill in the rest of the secret. I admit, I felt pretty proud of myself when this hit me.

Of the majority of effects using just equivoque for the solution, Max teaches some fascinating, advanced concepts regarding equivoque and then plays several routines, including the aforementioned song effect. Max himself states he deliberately did not teach each individual effect by itself, instead asking that viewers study each effect and apply what Max has given us.

Fair enough – it makes for great viewing and many of the routines show off Max’s quirky sense of humor, something that I feel was missing in some of his earlier (yet still marvelous) L&L releases). I found myself laughing out loud as Max used handcuffs in an equivoque presentation in which he handcuffs the participant! GREAT stuff, and if I was going to use any routine “straight out of the box,” that would be it.

Another high point is an effect in which Max places four cards in a spectator’s pocket and the spectator says the number 1, 2, 3 or 4 and that many cards has LEFT his pocket. A similar effect is demoed on the ad. This one fooled me badly the first 3 times I watched it.

Max really takes the concept of the audience only knowing what they see and nudging their thoughts in certain directions bit by bit using fascinating psychology.

The only gripe I have is the fact that Max does NOT explain the sensational Handout effect, viewable on the demo in which Eugene chooses a bad that does not have a brick in it. I don’t need to go further than that, as I know from reading on line that many people were most excited by this presentation. After watching it, I can be sure of at least one thing – Max is not using equivoque, as his language suggests no discernable ‘out’ before Eugene makes his choice.

This aspect of the DVD has caused some debate. Some have felt that Max has given us enough tools in the DVD to piece together a method for the Handout effect while others, such as myself, felt disappointment that this effect was used to market the DVD for sale without a “Performance Only” notation.

Regardless, this is a fantastic release that forces viewers to really think about their craft and Max, Eugene and Jeff McBride and others of their ilk are the best at doing just that.

MY REVIEW: It’s Max maven…along with a laughing, giggling Eugene Burger! How could I not give this a 10 out of 10? I didn’t describe every effect because there’s just so much, but trust me, buy this DVD and you’ll find something to add to your act. And you’ll get some great food for thought.

Until next time…

Cris Johnson

UPDATE on Taste & The End

OK, this is not something I normally do, but I wanted to give you an update regarding Taste & The End. I received a message from Bobby in which he assured me that the loose screws problem I mentioned in my review of The End would never happen again, as after reading my review, he would make sure that locktite(sp?) would be used with each screw.

Regarding Taste, he also mentioned that to prevent scratches, the cups would be shipped wrapped for protection.

Honestly, the screws were no big deal to me – I chalk it up to vibrations in travel. The cups I expect to look a little used – adds to them not looking suspicious.

I really respect Bobby for responding to me review and addressing these items.

Honestly, I really dig Bobby’s stuff and can’t wait for the next release. And quite frankly, customer service like this is hard to find in magic.

Thank you to Bobby Motta for being such a fantastic believer in great customer service!

And now, because it’s 1:00AM, I’m off to bed…I just got back from performing a late night college stage hypnosis show and I am BEAT.

G’Night!

- Cris

The End by Bobby Motta

Hey Everyone,

Well, after 3 weeks I FINALLY feel better! It’s been rough being sick so much, but I’ve been home all week, bonding with our new little puppy, Sophie. She is SO cute! A little white puff ball, essentially.:)

Don’t forget – my next issue of “Cause & Effects,” the FREE ezine, comes out in December where I tackle the ‘too-perfect theory’ in mentalism. Sign up for free by sending an email to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

On to this week’s review…

It’s The End by Bobby Motta. It’s $695 and available from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link to the ad copy: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=13070

EFFECT: An attractive metal frame with 6 metal ‘cards’ is displayed. The cards are in an order that does not spell anything recognizable. The cards are removed and then the board is spun around on the stand. After it’s spun around, the audience sees numbers 1 through 6, and the audience is asked to choose which card goes into which number…with the cards’ letters turned around, facing away from the audience, of course.

Despite the fact that the audience simply guessed which letter went into which number, when the board is soun around, it spells THE END, signifying the end of your show.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: The main aluminum board, the six metal letter cards, the stand, a carrying bag for the stand, and DVD instructions.

QUALITY OF PROPS: This is a GREAT looking piece! Lightweight yet durable, this thing looks like a million bucks. My only beef? As I took it on the road for a few days of shows, 4 screws came loose and fell out. (I found and replaced all but one.) This irritated me, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s forgiveable. The big thing is this prop looks great on stage and while props do not make the show, a good looking show can certainly help.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Bobby always gives good instruction and he gives some good tips and presentation ideas to help the performer. The thing that I didn’t care for was his idea of spreading the effect throughout the show and revealing the climax at the end. That’s just me, and fortunately, there are several ways to present such an effect. As always, while Bobby’s DVD production value does not match Bob Kohler or L&L, it’s still really good.

DIFFICULTY: This is another effect where the technical needs are an easy 1 out of 10 in terms of difficulty, but the fact that the ‘move’ does ‘talk,’ which Bobby acknowledges, makes this effect a bit more difficult in that you must time the ‘move’ with another innocent ‘move.’ No big deal and for me, a few days of practice and I was set.

MY THOUGHTS: OK, first of all, when I first saw the effect hit the market, I thought, ‘great, just what the magic community needs – a $700 version of the Spelling Bee effect.’ If you’re familiar with the old Spelling Bee effect, you know that you must turn the board away from the audience before you remove the board. Then I watched the THE END demo and I noticed that you can take away the cards FACING the audience and THEN spin the board around. It’s a tremendous improvement over the classic effect and it’s what convinced me to buy it.

As my readers know, I do a lot of middle & high school shows. For the past year, I’ve been using Bobby Motta’s ALIVE (the rat effect) to end those teen shows. From an impact standpoint, it was and is AMAZING, but to end the show with the rat scurrying up my arm and the kids “wowing” over the animal seemed too abrupt. I want to bring the energy level down a bit to let the audience “breathe.” Enter…THE END.

I’ve performed it 5 times and it serves nicely as an end to the show because it is a definite end to the show, but thus far, it does not blow the audience away. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s another effect that really requires a good presentation…in other words, you can’t rest on the prop itself. It’s a tool and if used properly, will work nicely.

MY FINAL VERDICT: I’ll give this a 8 out of 10. A nicely built effect, but the screws falling out brings the score down and the (so far) muted reaction means I have more work to do and that’s okay with me.

Tune in next week when I review the new Max Maven DVD “Multiplicity.”

Best,

Cris

TASTE by Bobby Motta

Hey Everybody,

Cris Johnson here with a brand new review! Before I get to it, I just received this email regarding my Clear-View Airborne:


Hi Cris.

I just received the Clear View Airborne in the mail last night. I have nothing but praise for what you and your wife Libby have accomplished here. I’ve been performing this effect off and on for quite some time. I’ve used the Coke can, 7-Up can and the Ultimate Airborne (with any bottle.) I experienced all of the frustrations that you described with the preceding gimmicks and I’m delighted to have such a well made prop.

I speak to business audiences 30 – 40 times a year. Wine bottles don’t fit my presentation. The Ultimate Airborne gimmick is so large and visible it practically gives away the secret. The Coke and 7 Up cans are not only difficult to hook up and frustrating to fill, they don’t last very long. (Yours is a bit pricey, but I’m betting it will outlast the cans by 2 or 3 times.)

I love the Airborne effect and now that I have yours, It’s going back in to the line-up on a regular basis.

Thought you’d like to know.

That was from John Tongick, a CPA out of California. thanks John!

the Clear-View Airborne magazine ad is in this month’s Magic magazine and I think Hocus Pocus did a GREAT job!!

On to this week’s review:

TASTE by Bobby Motta – available for $1495.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=13942

EFFECT: Five ordinary cups are filled with different drinks. The performer can either be blindfolded or in a different room and will always know which drink has been TASTEd. Stop reading and think about that for a second. Yes it’s that amazing. You are reading senses so convincingly clean that it no longer is a puzzle, but a question of uncertainty to any skeptic. This effect will take you there! More than just a great mind reading tool but a totally unique approach to mentalism.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE:

5 customized black steins/cups (much nicer design than the ones used in the video performance).
ProMystic Modular Receiver
Industrial finger suction cup to access the secured gimmick
5 professionally cut circular dry erase labels with Velcro
Dry Erase Marker
Full Instructional DVD with performance rights
Modern Carrying Case

QUALITY OF PROPS: The electronics are top-notch and are small and easily hidden. The cup units are removeable so you can wash the cups, but once in place, I don’t think anyone will ever find them. They are designed to be invisible. The receiver (that lets you know which cup is being drank from) is tiny. You could easily palm it if you want. Bobby gives you several ways to conceal it, but it’s so little, that a myriad of possibilities are there.

The receiver works like a dream – again, REALLY well-made. The cups themselves are nothing special…just 5 plastic ‘mug’ type cups with a little velcro to hold the white, round signs to identify the drinks. Mine came a little scuffed up, but being black, it’s not a big deal. Although initially disappointed, I realized that fancy cups would detract from the effect.

the carrying case is top notch. I’m always impressed when a product comes with a case. It’s a great way to transport everything and protect the investment.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: there are actually two sets of instructions – one by Bobby and one by the creator of the electronics. Both are required viewing, as Bobby’s way of ‘installing’ the electronics to the cups each use was much easier than what the electronics guy talked about, yet the electronics guy covered critical info on batteries, maintenance and details on how the electronics work.

Plus, Bobby gives you several ideas as far as routining, so you’re not just saying, “Drink something and I’ll tell you what it is.” Of course, the fact that the dryerase signs are removeable serves as a great way to end the routine as well as throw off the illogic of having the drinks poured out of the original containers.

Details like this convince me that Bobby’s been doing this routine for quite a while.

DIFFICULTY: This is easily a 1 out of 10. The hardest part is the set up and the memory of which signal signifies which drink. Although Bobby talks about using mnemonics to remember the drinks that an audience freely chooses and puts in the cups, I’ve (for now) opted to go with the same 5 drinks (provided by me) at every show (as Bobby himself usually does it.)

Again, the true “work” will be your scripting and routine.

MY THOUGHTS: I do have to say I was initially disappointed that there is NO performance video. Bobby included one such video on the ALIVE DVD (his stellar rat trick). I’m not sure why he did not include such a video, as it would have been very helpful in terms of pacing and routine structure. Of course, it’s his right to protect his own routine, but it would have been helpful.

Nevertheless, the routine for me does play quite strong. After quite a bit of rehearsal with the props, I put together a simple 3-phase routine and have performed it 5 times thus far and I’m pleased to report it plays very strongly. I’m a firm believer that performance #5 of a new effect will not NEARLY be as good as performance #100, so I’m sure the reactions will get better.

I only mention this as a warning…the props do 98% of the physical work, so solid scripting is crucial here.

As a comparison, the Mind Reading Goose, at the same fee, gives you a rock-solid, scripted routine, a good goose prop and a not-so-hot method (messy set up), while this investment gives you INCREDIBLE props and some decent ideas of routining, but no scripting at all. Both are worthy investments, but are in many ways exact opposites in terms of what their respective strengths are.

Again, both are great, but different. Just something I noticed.

PLAYS TO AGES: As further endorsement of this purchase, I bought it primarily for my middle school shows…grades 6-8. These kids do not respond to most traditional magic (they like animals, but if you pull out a silk routine, you’ll more than likely get booed off the stage. Conversey, many times this age group does not have the patience for a lot of traditional mentalism. Case in point: Bob Cassidy’s 4th Dimentional Telepathy. SENSATIONAL routine, but all that envelope stuffing would die in front of middle schoolers.

I bought TASTE with the idea that it was so direct and so impossible that it would work for this difficult age group. Thus far, I’m right.:)

What does all this mean for you? I think ages 12 and up (college, teens, adults) will love this. I think a family audience with lots of little kids might not be appropriate because a 6 year old will not understand “mind reading.”

MY RATING: I give this a rock-solid 9 out of 10. I think in time for me it will be a 10, but I’ve got to fine-tune my routine. The props are incredibly well-made and in my opinion, it’s a great investment.

Next week, I tackle Bobby Motta’s THE END.

Until next time…

Cris