Monthly archives for March, 2013

The Final REVIEW: Mental Deceptions Vol. 2

Hi all,

Welcome to the LAST installment of my blog, at least for the immediate future. In the last installment, I outlined my past with Rick Maue and the positive influence he’s had on my career.

With that in mind, I cannot even pretend to be objective in last week’s review or this one. If you ever read this, Rick, thank you. And as you always say (and I remember the origin of the reference) I will indeed keep the change.

My review of volume 2 of Mental Deceptions DVDs starts after the ad copy…

AD COPY: Despite over four decades of magic and mentalism experience, Rick Maue has always managed to remain a bit elusive…until now! On this DVD set, Rick presents a number of his signature pieces, as well as several unreleased items, with many of the effects coming from his working repertoire.

Mental Deceptions is loaded with strong mentalism for stand-up or close-up performances and remarkably, none of the effects require expensive gimmicks or props – just everyday items such as envelopes, poker chips, paper, playing cards, etc. (It’s why Michael Weber dubbed Rick “OfficeMax Maven.”)

What’s more, no sleight of hand is required. Rick calls it VdM Magic – material that’s so technically easy that the Venus De Milo could perform it! In other words, everything is well within the technical reach of every performer.

You’ll also be able to step inside the mind of Rick Maue during informative interview segments conducted by magician Francis Menotti. You’ll see for yourself why Marc DeSouza once asked Rick, “Why is it that when I see you lecture, I feel like I am watching a mad scientist at work?”

THOUGHTS ON Volume Two:

* Beyond The Witching Hour – A bit of Spirit Communication that also teaches a very useful utility move for the everyday worker who wants to move the hands of a watch.

MY THOUGHTS – I remember Rick showing this to me at a lecture in Pittsburgh, PA. Despite doing it super slowly, as my eyes burned him, I could not catch the move. This is so brilliant, and so impossible to catch. One of the best methods of covertly moving the hands of a watch ever created.

* The Final Picture – Whether on stage, doing close-up, performing a séance, or working impromptu, this is the piece that Rick has performed more than all of his other creations combined.

MY THOUGHTS – as with all of Rick’s creations, this is super simple in terms of technical work. The way Rick does a lot of the stuff in this routine will make you feel like a Jedi by the way he uses non-verbal deception and simple hand gestures to influence the volunteer in certain ways.

* Animal Instincts – A close-up prediction effect that relies on human instincts.

MY THOUGHTS – The end of this routine came as a complete surprise, a cool kicker type ending people just don’t see coming. That being said, this is a somewhat lengthy routine so this is NOT something you can do table to table or strolling. It’s a routine in which you’d need a table. Consider it a routine for formal closeup sessions, such as a private party for a small group of people, less than 10, for the best venue for this routine.

* In The Neighborhood – A simplistic version of “Out of This World”…but it doesn’t use playing cards!

MY THOUGHTS – This is a fun “Sorting” type routine, as the title suggests, and is slightly similar to Out of This World. The best part is the fact that this routine uses poker chips rather than playing cards and the way the routine unfolds is a complete surprise. The working is exceedingly simple and the working is similar to Rick’s terrific Fate? Routine. I really like this.

* Abstract Extraction (Francis Menotti) – A strange effect that make brainwaves visible to the human eye.

MY THOUGHTS – I remember reading Penn & Teller’s “How To Play In Traffic” book and reading about a similar effect. This is fun, easy and most assuredly something different which is always nice in a collection of mental effects. Francis Menotti presents this, and though I’d never heard of him before watching this DVD set, he’s definitely someone I intend to keep an eye on for future releases.

* Defining The Difference – A strong bit of mentalism that demonstrates the difference between a magician and a mentalist.

MY THOUGHTS – Shades of Annemann in this routine and wow, what an effect! I was blown away by the mentalism part of the routine. As past readers of my blog know, I’m not big on card effects in either magic or mentalism, so it takes a lot to make me sit up and take notice. It’s not that I’m against cards in mentalism, but merely that many card effects bore me. This routine, however, is one I may add to my set list!

* Focus / Sixth Sense Symbols – A three-phase routine that looks and feels like real mindreading. It appears impossible, because it almost is…unless you know the secret.

MY THOUGHTS – This routine was really the only disappointment on the entire 2-disk set. The routine itself was incredibly powerful and very cool, but the method, while easy like Rick’s other stuff, is not something I am able to use due to the nature of how I do my shows. I have to be intentionally vague due to avoid exposure.

* The Journey –  A stand-up piece that has fooled some of the best minds in mentalism. It’s strong and versatile, and like almost all of Rick’s creations, everything that you need comes from a regular office supply store.

MY THOUGHTS – This routine is one of the best pieces for stage mentalism I’ve ever seen. It was stunning, and was so strong I could only think of stooges as a way for the solution to work…happily, I was wrong and I can’t wait to add this to my set. Trust me, the DVD set is worth the price for this one routine.

Thank you all for the support over the years! As always, if you have any questions about anything, email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Special Announcement & REVIEW: Mental Deceptions DVD 1 by Rick Maue

Hello readers!

This is going to be a memorable blog entry for one particular reason. First, a few updates on what I’ve been doing lately…

First, I had a GREAT stage hypnosis show this past weekend in Nebraska for a repeat client – actually it’s the third time I’ve served this client. It was great fun! Then disaster struck as my flight was canceled going home, but the airline put me up at a Hilton because I was not going to be able to fly out til the next day. Stressful but at least the hotel was nice!

Also, the hypnosis clinic that I opened is doing more and more biz – on average, I’m now seeing 12 clients a week which is pretty good considering I just opened the doors in January. Honestly, it’s incredibly rewarding work because I get to help people overcome unhealthy habits.

While I certainly do not expect to ever STOP performing, as I LOVE performing, I really feel that in the next few years I will be transitioning to a part time performing career and devoting more of my energies to hypnosis.

Partially it’s because the work is so rewarding and partially, after 10 years living out of hotels and suitcases, I’m tired of the travel. While I LOVE performing, I’m tired of the crappy hotels and the endless hours of driving. The loneliness on the road. I want to be home and while there is a good healthy amount of repeat clients I do close to home that do not involve hotel stays or airport travel, the fact is I find hypnosis to be endlessly fascinating…

And that leads me to the special announcement…next week will probably be my LAST review for some time. As I get my hypnosis biz up and running, it’s a juggling act between serving both my performing career as well as my hypnosis. Couple that with the fact that I simply don’t NEED new magic in my life. That’s not to say that I don’t WANT new magic…like many of you, I still get that thrill when the new package arrives in the mail, the flutter of excitement when, after the appropriate amount of practice, that I feel “This is ready for an audience,” and so on.

However, I currently have 6 elementary school shows, 4 high school theme shows, 4 corporate motivational/educational shows, 3 corporate holiday party shows, 2 stage hypnosis shows, a few themed day care shows, a family night show…and probably a few shows I’m forgetting about…what this means it’s hard keeping track of all of that stuff. It’s also hard pulling something out of a given show that works and taking a chance replacing it with something you’re not sure of. This is a subject Doc Dixon wrote about in one of his books and it really rang true for me.

What this means is with all the different shows that I do, I have a massive list of effects I need to ‘stay up’ on – making sure any sleight of hand is sharp, stage blocking, scripting etc is all sharp in mind and muscle memory. In short, because of all the different shows I offer, I don’t relish the idea of learning new material. As a full timer, I have never understood how some part timers and even some full timers can create a new lineup of effects for one specific audience…the transitions between effects and the overall ‘arc’ of the show must be considered, at least to me. I understand even less how some full timers (many of whom I respect)create a brand new library show each year for the summer, as that’s only three month run of anywhere from 50 -150 shows. To me, after I do a show 50-60 times, I feel I’m just starting to get really COMFORTABLE with the show. But that’s just me.:)
I only mention all of this because when I started writing this blog, my goal was to review effects & releases that I had actually used in my show and thus could comment on from a real world perspective. As time has gone on, I have not been able to do that nearly as much as in years past. So I feel like I’ve been giving less than 100% to this blog.

So, at least for now, I’m stepping away.

This week I shall review DVD #1 of Rick Maue’s Mental Deceptions from L&L. I’ll finish up with DVD #2 next week. Before I get into the review, I must also mention that it’s kind of appropriate that my last review is of Rick Mause’s DVDs. I first met Rick Maue when I was living in Jeannette, PA, which is about 30-45 minutes outside of Pittsburgh, PA, where Rick lives.

I went to a local gathering Rick was hosting – a series of lectures by several great performers, such as Alain Nu. But even with some of the “A” listers present, I was captivated most by Rick’s lecture – his explanations revealed that he intended his stuff for the real world and had fine-tuned everything in the real world. It felt authentic.

I got to know Rick a little bit at a few other events, including a great lecture by Paul Gertner that was a lot of fun. I also bought his Haunted Magick book and a few other things over the years.

Eventually, Rick wound up inviting me to his house for a tour of his Haunted Tour built into his house. It was breathtakingly cool for someone who first got into magic because of weird and Bizarre magic. Rick also shared some great business advice with me – stuff I’ve carried with me to this very day, and I feel like he’s part of the reason why I make over $100,000 per year in magic.

I owe Rick a lot, but mostly I’m thankful to him for his kindness and generosity and frankly, he was one of the first magicians who taught me that not all magicians are to considered untrustworthy!! (True I’ve met others, but 15 years ago in Pittsburgh, I hadn’t met any by that point!!)

I know of and understand the reasons why Rick no longer performs. I’m just SO thankful some of his best stuff is preserved on a great 2-disk L&L set. I won’t even try to remain objective with these reviews. Thank you, Rick, for being such a great performer, creator…and mostly for being a great human being. This week I’ll cover DVD #1 and next week, obviously, DVD #2.

AD COPY: Despite over four decades of magic and mentalism experience, Rick Maue has always managed to remain a bit elusive…until now! On this DVD set, Rick presents a number of his signature pieces, as well as several unreleased items, with many of the effects coming from his working repertoire.

Mental Deceptions is loaded with strong mentalism for stand-up or close-up performances and remarkably, none of the effects require expensive gimmicks or props – just everyday items such as envelopes, poker chips, paper, playing cards, etc. (It’s why Michael Weber dubbed Rick “OfficeMax Maven.”)

What’s more, no sleight of hand is required. Rick calls it VdM Magic – material that’s so technically easy that the Venus De Milo could perform it! In other words, everything is well within the technical reach of every performer.

You’ll also be able to step inside the mind of Rick Maue during informative interview segments conducted by magician Francis Menotti. You’ll see for yourself why Marc DeSouza once asked Rick, “Why is it that when I see you lecture, I feel like I am watching a mad scientist at work?”

EFFECT-BY-EFFECT BREAKDOWN…

Heads & Tales – This is Rick’s opener. As the name would suggest, it revolves around the toss of a coin. But besides the 50/50 shot, there is so much going on here. Rick has woven so much great stuff in this routine that it’s breathtaking. Additionally, Rick uses this opener to set up his closer, which is truly poetic. The idea of a 50/50 decision between two possibilities may not sound like much, but what is so impressive is the way Rick has added possibly severe consequences to the idea of getting this simple choice “wrong.” Also, this is really great as it gives me a possible opening to a theme show for colleges I’ve been thinking of putting together for years.

Group Dynamic – This in some ways is a chair routine but the method and structure of the routine goes beyond a chair routine and despite the use of a well-known concept in mentalism, Rick nonetheless camouflaged it and the method flew right past me. The best thing? Once you do just a few minutes of prep work, you can carry the materials for this routine in your pocket for an anytime, anywhere chair routine.

Reverse Roulette – FINALLY, a completely safe “danger” type routine! This routine, despite being so easy from a technical standpoint, is camouflaged so well and fooled me completely. No angle problems, no danger…it’s awesome. I should point put that this routine does not involve knives or spikes but rather household products! Additionally, there is no ‘acid’ used like in some routines so there is no ‘proving’ phase which can slow down so many routines of this type.

The Hole Card – A stand up routine with 5 cards using again a well-known classic of mentalism in terms of methodology. Completely fooled me. Simple and worth a look.

Mixed Emotions – this is strong, mainly because it uses emotions as the hook for the whole routine. Very cool routine.

Body Language – This is THE ultimate chair routine! I categorized Group Dynamic as a chair routine because volunteers sit in chairs, but this routine is a true chair routine in that the positions of ALL the participants is involved for the routine’s climax. This routine is just so good, and once again, this routine is something you can do anywhere, anytime with any chairs. There’s no angle problems, no preparation of the chairs themselves and the ‘work’ is almost automatic.

In short, what happens is several volunteers are given a free choice of several envelopes. Each envelope has a slip of paper in it that says “stand” or “sit.” Despite the envelopes not being marked (and they truly are NOT marked), a second group of volunteers sits down in a second row of chairs. The mentalist touches those volunteers he wishes to stand and others he has remain seated. The volunteers who selected envelopes open their envelopes and those who have the “stand” envelopes stand…and the pattern of volunteers standing and sitting is exactly matched by the second group. It’s extremely visual, different and very cool!

Focused Thoughts / Dichotomy – two very card effects that show viewers some cool techniques. Good stuff.

FATE? – This effect was released as a stand-alone piece years ago, and I’ve been using it to great effect for years. Like Group Dynamic, you can see Fate? Performed in its entirety in video previews on Youtube. It’s a multi-phase prediction routine involving volunteers and what color poker chip each selects and the kicker ending just brings everything up another level. No angle issues and technically very easy. The multi-revelations adds several moments to the routine as opposed to just one payoff as with other routines. Very cool.

There are also interviews on performing philosophy, utility moves and so much more. Honestly, this 2-DVD set could have been easily expanded to a 3 or 4 DVD set. GREAT value and sooooooooooooooooooo underpriced.

15 out of 10!

NEXT WEEK: DVD 2.

REVIEW: Mugged by Rich Marrotta

Hello, all!

Before I get into this week’s review, I wanted to touch base on a few effects that I reviewed in the past and how things are fairing now that they are in my active performing sets.

The first is Peter Loughran’s Splattered which is an updated, more modern looking Square Circle. I had the opportunity to use it for seven performances in New York City this past week. Using it for grades K-4, I had a unique opportunity to perform for different age levels. In other words, I did one show for grade 1, another show for grade 2 and so on, meaning I was really able to pinpoint how certain ages of kids reacted. Fortunately, they all loved it.

While Splattered can enable users to produce a multitude of different things, I went with simplicity – I produced a 6 foot colorful streamer and then produced a 6 foot square dragon silk.
So, after several uses and several months of performing, culminating with this past week, Splattered remains a helluva keeper.

The next relatively new effect that I reviewed a while back that I want to touch upon is another Peter Loughran effect, Creature Shock. This effect is SO fun! At the aforementioned school, I performed at, I was able to perform Creature Shock four times. I did not perform it for anyone younger than grade 2, because I was worried about scaring the little guys.:)

Once again, the effect ROCKED. I was able to perform it several times over the last few months, but performing it multiple times for one client in one day was really cool!
OK, now on to this week’s review: Mugged by Rich Marrotta. It’s available for $89.95 from Hocus Pocus.

AD COPY: Mugged by Rich Marotta is finally back on the market after a lengthy absence. And boy, are we glad. It’s always been a HOT SELLER, because it’s contemporary, it’s surprising and, quite frankly, it’s hilarious!

Straight out of Rich Marotta’s comedy act comes the story of a mugger’s efforts to rob a magician and how the robber’s attempt is foiled due to the magician’s skill.

The performer relates a story of how he was robbed on the way to his performance. He shows the audience the mugger’s ski mask, then proceeds to reenact the crime. He drops his money, watch, and ring into the mask. But of course, the mugger didn’t know that his victim was a magician!

The performer turns the ski mask inside out – and WHAM, it’s completely EMPTY!

Suddenly, the ring is seen to be back on the performer’s finger, the watch is on his wrist, and the money is back in his wallet, thus averting a potential calamity!

This newly updated version of Mugged by Rich Marotta comes complete with everything you’ll need to perform this audience-beloved effect, including detailed instructions and updated accessories, including the hand-made, specially constructed ski mask, watch, ring and instructional DVD!

DIFFICULTY: This effect is really easy, probably one of the easiest versions of this effect out there. I saw Tommy Wonder’s version on the L&L videos and also loved it but the ‘how-to’ of that version is challenging to put together, putting it mildly. This version is VERY simple.

QUALITY OF PROPS: The mask is well-built but my biggest issue  is the fact that Rich no longer makes them in red, but instead makes them black. From a staging standpoint, this means from a distance it may be difficult to see that it is in fact a black mask and not just a black hat.
The supplied watch and ring is perfectly fine for the purpose of the effect. The supplied wallet is better in quality than the old plastic billfold-type one Rich used to sell with the effect, but by supplying a hip wallet with this routine, my opinion is that from a staging standpoint, it may not be as visible from a slight distance.

Knowing the reputation of this effect and in particular the supplied wallet from years ago, I ordered a superior wallet just for this routine…mostly because I like nice props.:)

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: The supplied written instructions and supplied DVD is adequate, but barely. Honestly, the instructions are skimpy to say the least. Fortunately, the effect is very easy to do, so adequate instructions will serve you.

ANGLES: With the exception of one move, the effect can easily be performed surrounded. The one move can also be masked (no pun intended) quite easily so angles are good for most parlor or stage situations.

MY THOUGHTS: This is one of those effects I wanted 15 years or so ago when I first saw it advertised in the magazines. The simple description sounded so impossible, with the money, ring and watch “instantly” reappearing in the magician’s possession. Years later, with several years experience under my belt, I still enjoyed watching Rich’s demo of the effect on the video.
For the asking price of the effect, you get a well-constructed routine that is organic and makes sense. All of the props fit the routine and there is motivation for everything.
The props and the instruction are not of the highest quality, but they will serve you just fine.
9/10. A good value for what you will pay.