Monthly archives for December, 2011

Only A Few Days Left for Murder and The Top Five of 2011

Hello all,

Well, the holidays caught up to me like so many of us. I’m getting this blog post out much later than intended but I still beat the deadline of 2011.:)

On the recommendation of my good friend Paul Romhany, I snagged the Voodoo Doll by John Kennedy in the Estate section at Hocus Pocus. It came a few days ago and my goodness, what a clever piece of magic! This baby seems to have been taylor made for my Murder By Magic show.

Speaking of which, as I write this, it’s December 27th so you only have a few more days to invest in Murder By Magic: The Ultimate Corporate Magic Show. Customers from all over the world have written to me praising the concept, the show structure itself and the very fact that having this show in your arsenal means you’ve got a unique product that sets you apart from the competition.

as soon as I finish this post, I’ll be emailing Hocus Pocus and reminding them that as of January 1st, Murder By Magic will be HISTORY. Act now, it will be gone soon.

On to my second annual “Top Five” releases of 2011. Just like last year, I have to qualify this list in advance, as in no way did I get my hands on all of the most popular releases of the year, especially since 2011 saw the release of some very cool close-up magic and most of it I didn’t have time to check out.

So, rather than a comprehensive Top 5 list, I should probably just re-name it “My Favorite 5 New Magic Releases of 2011″ but that title is more cumbersome.:) OK, enough chit chat, let’s get to it!

#5 – TIE: Further Education by John Archer and Silk2Egg by Cody Fisher

This was such a battle for me, internally! In the case of John Archer’d DVD set, while there was a lot of great material in it, this recommendation comes primarily from Archer’s incredible take on the classic Bank Nite plot that he calls Blank Nite, in which he uses regular sized envelopes as opposed to the coin / pay envelopes that many handlings of Bank Nite use.

Archer’s revelation of the final envelope containing a stack of bills that are full, unfolded (as opposed to folded up very small as in a thumbtip handling) was good enough to fool Penn & Teller on their UK show as the obvious mystifying facet of the routine was, “How did he get all those bills, unfolded, into the remaining envelope?” (Since it was a free selection, obviously magicians were thinking along those lines as opposed to “How did he manipulate all those people into not picking THAT envelope?”)

It’s an instant classic and a true step forward in the evolution of a classic plot…similar to Cody Fisher’s Silk2Egg.

Silk2Egg represents a leap forward in the classic “silk to egg” plot in that a volunteer is able to replicate the amazing effect of a silk to plastic egg changing to a REAL egg.

Having a spectator replicate any amazing effect is simply put, powerful stuff and a real show stopper. Happily, the physical handling for Cody’s routine is reachable for just about anyone and is designed to work in the real world.

Honestly, the only reason either of these releases did not rank higher is because I have not yet put either into my own shows. I plan to, in the near future, but for right now, this is where I rank them.

#4 – Sugar Rush by Scott Alexander

There have been several salt pour gimmicks released over the years, with many different styles of gimmicks, but Scott’s release, through Bob Kohler Magic, features a gimmick with a lot of advances, including the fact that the bottom unscrews, making cleaning a snap. Scott’s handling is simple yet effective and the routine itself is amusing, with a cute music selection to boot.

Additionally, the method Scott uses to continually produce more and more salt, even after the classic gimmick is long since empty and out of play, is worth your consideration, too.

I’ve used the Sugar Rush gimmick in my shows and adding a classic of magic like this to my shows has been really fun this year.

#3 – Fish In A Bottle

What an effect. Show a filled water bottle to be completely empty with the cap in place. While a spectator holds the bottle, you cause a LIVE fish to magically appear in the bottle.

I’ve used this a couple of times since purchasing it and the reactions are incredible. Honestly, the ONLY reason I did make it number 1 for 2011 is the fact that the fish is OUT of water before the little guy makes his appearance.

This forces you to make this your opener, not a bad thing in and of itself and the fish does survive quite nicely. Great, great effect, easy to do, but I’m still not high on the method.

Nevertheless, with an effect as practical and strong as this, it had to go on my list.

#2 – Shoe Business by Puck & Scott Alexander

Wow, what a great effect! It’s funny, visual, plays for virtually all ages and is a different spin on the classic “magician listens to a tape to learn a trick” plot. It was obviously inspired by the venerable “Vanishing Bandanna,” which I’ll be the first to admit plays great and is funny but the idea of the bananna disappearing without a trace “Except for that weird bulbus growth in the middle of that hanky” struck me as ultimately a very poor overall effect.

The only reason I did not rate this #1 is because there is a section of the audio recording that some people may find offensive…I know, because it happened to me.

I was able to pull the “offensive” part out (maybe 5 or 6 seconds) using Audacity, a free online editing software suite you can download to your computer and the routine plays just fine without it.

Again, an instant classic. I use this all the time (today, in fact, I’ll be doing it in a paid show this afternoon) and it simply kills.

#1 – Performing Mentalism for Young Minds by Paul Romhany & Friends

This is number 1 primarily for the in-depth information the book gives on the developmental phases of children at different ages, strategies and tips for performing any effect for kids and so much more.

That’s not to say there isn’t great routines in here, because there are several! The routines are designed for the real world – no pipe dreams here!

If you ever wanted to perform for kids, I feel this is a foundational book in that the strategies and advice contained can benefit any person looking to perform for kids of all ages.

If you’re not into mentalism, don’t be turned off by the title. The routines here WILL play STRONG.

If you’re one of those people who feel mentalism cannot be done for kids, I challenge you to get this book with an open mind and prepare to have your beliefs shaken up a bit.

It’s an important book, one that is destined to be a reference book classic for many years.

—————
Until Next Year…
—————

Well, it’s been a fun ride through 2011! On January 2nd, my wife & I fly to Orlando, FL for 12 days for a much-needed vacation. My first blog post of 2012 will on or about January 13.

Stay safe and have fun.

Best,

Cris

The Clock is Ticking on Murder and REVIEW: Performing Mentalism for Young Minds – Vol. 1

Hi everybody,

Just a quick reminder…my Murder By Magic program will be gone at the end of the month. I’m pulling it because I never wanted to flood the market. I’ve already performed Murder By Magic several times this month and have several more booked well into 2012, with one performance booked in July. It’s an incredibly unique concept, one you can use to profit from and set yourself apart from the competition…but time is almost up.

Now it’s on to this week’s review: Performing Mentalism for Young Minds by Paul Romhany & friends. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=19535 It’s available for $40.00 from Hocus Pocus.

AD COPY: One of the most anticipated books in magic and mentalism has now arrived!!

Paul Romhany has produced the most comprehensive collection of material for the performer who wants to add mentalism in their show from pre-schoolers to high school students. Everything from walk-about routines to birthday party routines to parlor and even stage routines for the family entertainer.

Over 265 pages which include a collection of essays on how to perform mentalism for children, plus over forty effects from performers around the world including:
Mark Strivings, David Kaye, Tim Mannix, Paul Romhany, Richard Webster, Andrew Gerard, Wayne Rogers, Tony Binarelli, Bev Bergeron, Jim Kleefeild, Keith Field, Danny Archer, Andrew Gerard, Jack Dean, Greg Arce, Anthony Lindan, E. Raymond Carlyle, Professor Spellbinder, Matthew Johnson, Tony Chris, Cris Johnson, Reg Blackwood, Ken Ring, Christopher Taylor, Christopher Berry, TC Tahoe, Ozzy D, Magical Michael, Magic George, Ken Dyne, Jasper Blakeley, Ray Roch.

This book covers performing mentalism for pre-schoolers to teenagers, even adults will be fooled and entertained by the routines in this book.

A treasure trove of effects, essays and advice from real world performers who make their living by entertaining family audiences. This book is destined to become a classic in both the magic and mentalism field.

If you ever wondered if mentalism can be performed for young minds then this book will show you it can, and how to do it.

“The essays in this book are worth the price of the entire book, and more!! The rest of this book is a treasure trove of fascinating mental effects that your young – and not so young – audiences will enjoy. These wonderful effects are so good that I’m tempted to dust off my old Riccardo outfit and start performing again. I know you’ll enjoy this book, and will come back to it again and again in the future. If you have any doubts whatsoever about performing mentalism for children, try one or two of the effects in this book. I know you’ll change your mind. Thank you, Paul, for compiling and publishing this valuable book.” – Richard Webster

“When magicians and mentalists think of ‘kids’ they think of kids 3-4 years old. This is rarely the case, even for regular kids entertainers. People do not give kids enough credit for being smart. They get mentalism and mindreading, even at the age of five and six. It can be done, and I have done it. They certainly understand when Harry Potter gets a psychic image.” – Banachek

CONTENTS
Preface by Richard Webster
Introduction by Paul Romhany
Performing for Children an essay by Paul Romhany
Parade of Children Prediction Trick by Tim Mannix
World Cup Routine by Paul Romhany
Cereal Box Prediction Larry Mahan and Robert D. LaRue, Jr.
Slide Thru Card Switch by Wayne Rogers
Perform For The Children! by Kyle Peron
A TRIP ROUND THE WORLD IN 8 MINUTES! by Tony Binarelli and “Jules Verne”
Phantom Artist Halloween Card Routine by Professor Spellbinder
The Phantom Artist by Ted Annemann and Professor Spellbinder
Clip-Lit Sports by Jim Kleefeld
Psychic Santa by Matthew Johnson
Judge, Jury and Executioner by Reg Blackwood
The Mental Corridor by Cris Johnson
Teaching Someone to Read Minds by Cris Johnson
Mental Monopoly by Danny Archer
Time Warp by Paul Romhany
Mind Reading to Africa by Ken Ring
The News in Total by Ken Ring
ESPompoms by Ken Ring
King Book Test by Christopher Berry
Guessin’ Gumballs by Jack Dean
Child’s Play by Bev Bergeron
Emoti-Con by TC Tahoe
BIRTHDAY PRESENT by Richard Webster
Pointilism by Greg Arce
Cookies Fortune by TC Tahoe and Paul Romhany
Safety Mentalism Routine by Paul Romhany
Younger Persons Version Reverse Q & A by Anthony Lindan
Prized Balloon by Ozzy D
The Fortune Teller by Paul Romhany
Puzzled by Magical Michael
Pin the Tail on the Donkey by Andrew Gerard
Mystery Ball by Paul Romhany & Hal Spear
Spot the Pole by Wayne Rogers
The Mind Reading Hat Routine by Magic George
The Magic Square by Dal Sanders
Gift Wrapped By Kennedy
Magicians Choice By Keith Fields
P.S.I Fari by Tony Chris
Scrabbled by Jasper Blakeley
Balloon Bank Night by Wayne Rogers
Last One Standing by Anonymous
SPOON BEND by Ray Roch
Drawing On The Imagination by Christopher Taylor
RING OR WATCHES? by E. Raymond Carlyle
Mentalism for Preschool Kids by Mark Strivings
Performing Mentalism for Children by David Kaye
The Precognitive Phinger Puppet by Mark Strivings

MY THOUGHTS: I’m skipping right to my thoughts this week because I really cannot impress upon you how great this book is. It’s what I would call a foundational book that should be in the library of every magician who has any desire to perform for kids.

While the main focus of the book is the idea of performing mentalism for kids of all ages, the real strength of the book is how many of the essays lay the groundwork for being a good children’s performer.

Here are just some of my personal favorite entries in this tome: (bear in mind that modesty prevents me from listing my own contributions to this work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased with my contributions, but I’m in awe of a great deal of the work in this book)

- Introduction – right in the beginning, Paul breaks down the approximate ages of kids along with their developmental levels, giving readers an approximate blueprint of what kids can process.

- Essay: Performing for Children – here Paul covers the basics of performing for kids in terms of stage, warmups, control, basics of theatre, performing style and various key elements of performing such as themes, plot, characters, dialog, music and more.

He continues on with thoughts on character, acting techniques, scripting and so much more.

Oh, and we’re only on page 28 of a book that’s nearly 300 pages. Quite frankly I could have stopped right here and felt as though I got my money’s worth.

Mark Strivings (from the wonderful Desert Brainstorm Series of DVDs) chimes in with several routines, essays and professional advice on performing mentalism…for preschool age kids. I thought I was good because I performed mentalism for elementary and middle school age kids, but Strivings’ thoughts on using mentalism for younger tots blew my mind away in a good way and expanded my thoughts.

David Kaye adds his thoughts on the subject, contributing thoughts on kids show performing pertaining to good kids show tips for success and understanding the mindset of kids.

This is all so good! Oh, and there were actual routines in the book too – a ton of great ones. Here are just a few that jumped out at me…

Around The World In 8 Minutes – a wonderful routine involving a three part prediction using three geometric shapes, a blow-up globe of the earth and references to Jules Verne.

Phantom Artist Halloween Card Routine – a paper “cut out” made by the performer in a ‘trance’ matches the selection of a child. Its fun and visual.

Psychic Santa – The premise: “This year, Santa brought me my gift even though I did not decide what I want yet. I think that’s how he knows if you’ve been naughty or nice.” Talk about one heck of a hook for a kids’ trick!

Time Warp – A wonderful watch prediction effect involving a picture, a watch and a very fair handling. I love watch effects (I currently have three such effects in my set lists) and this one will find its way into a show very soon.)

Child’s Play – an amazingly kid friendly twist on a drawing duplication that utilizes the game of tic-tac-toe. This was my favorite effect in the entire book. Simply amazing, clean and easy to do. A full-blown stage effect that requires ZERO preparation – completely impromptu and yet I couldn’t figure out the method to save my life until I read the secret. Mindblowing and yet kid friendly!

I haven’t even scratched the surface in this review of just how much “A” material is in this book. Again, if you have any desire to perform for kids, you NEED this book even if you have zero desire to perform mentalism for youngsters. The essays alone show forward thinking by experienced, real-world pros.

Paul is currently editing Volume 2 now. I can’t wait.

A 10 out of 10 and my TOP PICK for the best release of the year!

Next week: My Top Picks List for the year 2011!

Best,

Cris Johnson

Big Changes, Magic Book Of The Year, and REVIEW: Levent’s Color Changing Half-Dyed Hanky

Hi all!

This week brings many changes. The first of which is my Cause & Effects ezine. I’ve decided to temporarily suspend the ezine for the time being. My reasons are many, the chief one being that the further I get into my hypnosis career, coupled with my ongoing performing career across North America, means that the process of starting a brand new biz while maintaining the current one is overwhelming in terms of what needs to be done. Additionally, I’ve got several new products in the pipeline to release in 2012, so while I enjoyed writing the Cause & Effects ezine, rather than produce a sub-par release, it’s better to put it aside. I may some day make time to continue it.

The other news of the day is this weekly blog! One of my ideals with reviewing new magic effects is to, in an ideal world, road-test those effects from the standpoint of a working pro. With that in mind, one thing I will probably be doing is reviewing slightly fewer effects. Again, it comes down to having less time to road test new effects.

One idea I have to vary up the content of this blog is to, maybe once a month, do a “flashback” blog, where I look back at something I reviewed in the past and revisit it to see if my mind has changed after working with it.

I also have several DVD sets I want to tackle, and rather than burn through the review in one column, what I’m thinking of doing is devoting a week to each disk, so in the case of Doc Hilford’s Monster Mentalism DVDs, four in the set, is to review one disk each week and then give a “total” review. Let’s face it, some DVD sets have four great disks while others have two disks that are sub-par in a four DVD set. (I remember, many years ago, reading reviews of Dan Harlan’s Pack Small, Play Big series. Three of the videos were highly praised by many while the fourth was panned by many.)

Finally, the other thing I may do to vary up the content of this blog by posting, perhaps once a month, content on topics like performing philosophy and routining…in other words, transferring some of the content from my ezine to this blog!

All in all, I really want to hear YOUR feedback. What do you think of the “Flashback” idea? The idea of stretching out the DVD reviews to make them more thorough? Send your comments to: crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Next item: My buddy Paul’s new book, Performing Mentalism for Young Minds is incredible! A more detailed review will be coming in the next couple of weeks (I have to really absorb this book!) but all in all, this is a landmark book, due in great part to the fact that there are essays on the developmental stages of children, routining ideas and advice, psychology of performing for kids and so much more. The main thrust of the book is mentalism for younger viewers, but honestly, I really feel this should be required reading for ANY magician/mentalist who wishes to perform for kids. Simply incredible.

The review will come soon!

This week’s review: Levent’s Color Changing Half-Dyed Silk Trick. It’s available for $65.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=11805

AD COPY: Levent teaches his own handling of this now classic effect using a special single dye tube and no body loads whatsoever. Start and end the routine with your hands clean!

Learn the routine along with Levent’s concise explanation and demonstration of his method. He includes a detailed history of the Color Changing Silk routine and how it was performed by the masters of the past.

Everything is clearly explained on a 50-minute DVD. Complete with everything you need – Silks, DVD and the unique new gimmick designed by Levent.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A well-produced, very detailed DVD and Levent’s own custom dye tube and three silks – one red, one white and one half-dyed white/red silk.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Levent covers a great deal of history of the effect, different handlings and so much more. Many of these handlings are more difficult than Levent’s own handling. It’s clear that with this release (just as his Salt Pour release) that Levent has really done his research. While he could have just taught his handling, I like his approach of teaching the history of the effect because you get to see & appreciate Levent’s own progression of the effect and why he’s gone in certain directions with his own handlings.

When it comes to teaching his own handling, Levent is a very thorough teacher. To use a cliche, no stone is left unturned.

DIFFICULTY: Happily, Levent’s handling retains the mystery and beauty of the effect (you can “preview” Levent’s routine on youtube) while making the handling easier. That’s not to say you won’t have to put some work into it…you will, but Levent’s advances are just that: advances. With other handlings of this effect, I found the changeover moves more difficult to pull off without it being apparent that I was ‘doing something,’ but Levent’s unique custom dye tube makes the handling and certain steals, etc much easier.

ANGLES: With the exception of the final move (when you ditch the gimmick) you can easily do this routine for most normal stage situations – three-quarter surrounded. The final move, the ditch, is very angly, but Levent teaches you an altered handling to leave that move out. Granted, you’re not “clean” at the end, but honestly, for a stage show, I rarely have anyone “examine stuff” anyway, as I feel it just slows the show down.

MY THOUGHTS: One of the things I’ve been doing the last couple of years with my set lists is to explore classics of magic is fun ways. In recent years I’ve added the linking rings (well, coat hangers) to one of my shows, a classic escape, cut-n-restored rope and on and on.

There’s a reason why classics are classics so I really wanted to embrace many of these classics in my own work.

I’ve always liked the Half Dyed Hank routine, made popular by the late great Billy McComb. However, when choosing which commercial version of this to buy, I considered Billy McComb’s but after watching the performance, and after hearing details of his routine’s handling, I decided that while it’s a classic in Billy’s hands, it just did not appeal to me.

Levent’s handling is something you can do with short sleeves, is easy to get into and if your venue’s angles permit, you end clean.

About the only “negative” (and this is not a negative, truly) is Levent’s script. Levent is a wonderfully unique performer and his style works great for him. His script for this trick have a few nice laugh lines, but in my opinion, only Levent himself can use the script he provides without sounding like an alien!

Don’t misunderstand me – Levent’s script is funny and works for him, but it’s so unique to his own style that I feel to use his script would be a disservice to anyone buying this. So, in my opinion, you’ll need to put some work into this as far as scripting goes.

FINAL RATING: I’m giving this a rock-solid 9 out of 10. It’s a great take on a classic effect. Be prepared to put some work into the scripting, but Levent’s handling and in particular his innovative dye tube makes the handling much more accessible to us mere mortals.:)

Until next week…

Best,

Cris

The Year’s Best Coming, Murder By Magic Custom Trick Available and REVIEW: Okito Voodoo Doll

Howdy All!

Some quick notes before I get to this week’s review…

- In a week or two, I will devote this blog to covering my favorite new effects for 2011. Like last year, I will try to restrict myself to effects released in 2011…otherwise Bobby Motta’s Lethal would win hands down as MY favorite new purchase of the year, but considering it was released years ago, I’m taking it off the table for this list.

- The ezine for December’s issue of “Cause & Effects” will go out in a day or two. I’ve (delightfully) been quite busy with hypnosis, so I’m a little behind.

- For those of you who have purchased Murder By Magic, I was recently able to get a custom version of one of the effects I use in the show. It’s a Tim Wisseman effect that I refer to and happily, the custom version is around HALF the price of the regular version. I bought a custom version that does not look “bizarre” like many of the great props puts out. I wanted a simple version of the prop that looked more modern and thus mundane and fits in better with the Murder By Magic show, as it’s a modernistic show for corporate audiences. If you own Murder By Magic, email me the show set list that I personally use and I’ll share details of this custom prop with you. Tim says he enjoyed building it, so I’m guessing he’ll be comfortable making more.

- Just as a reminder, Murder By Magic will be PULLED after this month ends, so time is running out!

This week’s review: The Okita Voodoo Doll. It’s $10.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=59

One reason why I’m tackling this little prop is because I’ve had some readers express a desire for me to review more close-up effects, so here we are!

AD COPY: Performer shows a small straw VooDoo doll, and lays it on the palm of his hand. Upon his command, the doll slowly begins to rise until it is in a full upright position. Magician then gestures and slowly the doll lays back down in his hand. The doll may be handed out. Can be performed in any type situation. No threads, wires, or wax. So simple to do.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive the little doll that is self-contained along with simple written instructions.

QUALITY: If treated with care, the doll will last years. I’ve had mine for 10 years and can’t even imagine how many hundreds of times I’ve been performing this. This is a rock solid investment, and for the price an unbelievable value.

DIFFICULTY: The ad copy is correct – from a technical standpoint this is extremely easy to do. There’s a touch of ‘get ready’ that you’ll need to occupy the audience’s attention as you do this. With any effect, audience management is key.

ANGLES: Since the doll goes in your hand for the effect, it’s easy enough to mask the ‘work’ from virtually any angle, as long as your audience is at least a foot away. Once you understand the method, it’s easy enough to do literally anywhere.

MARKET: Technically this effect would work for just about anyone over the age of five which includes kids, teens and adults. It’s a close-up levitation effect so it appeals to all age groups and plays beautifully. I will admit that since I use it in a voodoo type of storyline, I play this effect for teens and corporate groups…but again, right storyline, you could do this for youngsters as well.

MY THOUGHTS: I’ve been doing this as a close-up corporate routine for over a decade (in conjunction with another effect) and can honestly say that in a corporate close-up performance or a strolling set, this is one of my closers. With the right routine, this is strong as hell. (I tip my own routine in one of my “Cause & Effects” books available here at Hocus Pocus).

The effect is enchanting, easy to do and as a close-up levitation that does not use thread, it’s worth its weight in gold. (Okay, I know since it involves the doll standing up in your hand does not mean it’s truly a levitation, but that’s how I sell it to my audiences!!).

RATING: An easy 10 out of 10. I know this prop is old as dirt compared to the latest greatest whatever that’s released but I really encourage magicians to comb through the good stuff that’s been out a while.

Questions? Email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net

Best,

Cris