Hello, loyal readers!
Right before I typed this, I was working with my new pet rat for the "Alive" effect that I bought right before Christmas. With this effect, the real work comes from training and taming your rat.
From time to time, I'll try to update you with how new effects that I've reviewed are coming along.
This week's review is something I am VERY excited about. It's called "Gum" by Jeff Prace.
It's a DVD, retailing for $24.95. It's available from Hocus Pocus and can be found here: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=12192
I'm not going to bother recapping all four of the effects, as the ad copy does a good job of explaining everything on the DVD.
There are four effects and I really enjoyed all four. In fact, three out of the four fried me very badly.
When Jeff and I spoke (email) about his release, he admitted to me that he had already had a less than favorable review of this DVD from another reviewer. I'm not sure who this other reviewer is, nor did I ask, but my guess - and this is ONLY a guess - is that the reviewer had a problem with Jeff's effects because they deal with chewing gum and in some of the effects, dealing with gum that appears to be chewed, stretched, etc.
Whenever I review a product, one thing I always try to do is look at the product through the eyes of the creator. In other words, what is this person's intent with this release?
Is the product intended for stage? As a collector's piece, if it's a prop? Closeup? "Street magic?"
All of this is important because I believe a lot of products get a bad rap because they may not do what the average part-timer intends it to do, as opposed to doing precisely what the creator intends it to do.
For instance, I sometimes post in the Magic Cafe, and I'll be talking about a stage effect, or at least something for a formal (as in there's a seated audience) group and some Cafe members will ask if a given effect or prop can be examined. If the answer is no, some Cafe members will dismiss the effect as "not very good," because it does not satisfy what they want it to do in an informal situation.
That's fine for them, but it may not be what the creator intended.
Before I received Jeff's DVD, he explained to me that his intent for his effects were for casual performances amongst friends. That's great, and I'm glad he told me this, as it gets me into the frame of mind of what he intends.
If the idea of doing magic with chewing gum strikes you as unsavory, I would only ask that you consider all of the other "shock" tricks out there, such as the recent wave of "blister" type tricks.
Personally, I found the effects on this disk to me amazing and for the right audience. Obviously, I would not be stretching chewed gum (or what appears to be chewed gum) at a corporate event, but if you're doing a strolling gig for family audiences, I can see young kids and/or teens really enjoying this.
Are you setting a bad example for little kids by playing with gum? Maybe, though in this day and age, I don't think it's a big deal. The Disney Channel, supposedly the high mark of decency, has "fart" jokes on their shows all the time.
To make a long review longer, I enjoyed these effects tremendously. One, in particular, called Back in Time, I thought worked really well in a strolling situation and was not unsavory.
The most suitable for strolling is probably Orbits, the effect where a box of Orbitz gum containing one piece of gum magically fills to the brim with many pieces of gum in an instant. It's marvelous and is based on an old concept that I used for years in my kids shows. Jeff essentially reversed the basic effect and applied it to gum and like I said, fried me badly. GREAT stuff.
Now let's talk about the presentations themselves, from a scripting standpoint. Most of the scripts are very simple, involving a simple question - "Would you like a piece of gum?" It's quick, to the point, and gets people 'into' the effect FAST, always a hallmark of good magic.
Since I'm looking at this from the perspective of someone who does strolling magic a fair amount of time, I like effects where the script gets to the effect fast - many of my strolling gigs involves noise, groups of people and a lot of constantly shifting groups of people. In the real world, I simply don't have time to have a detailed, poetic script, at least not as an opener. After speaking with many other professionals, I know I'm not alone.
Therefore, offering someone a gift - a piece of gum - will engage them immediately. To ignore you would be rude, so regardless of whether you accept or not, you've been engaged. Nice.
The Back in Time effect, presented as a time travel experiment, was the one effect with a slightly longer, more involved script. It's not earth-shattering, but I found it to be charming. Jeff used his own life experiences to flesh out a presentation that makes sense for the effect he's created.
PRODUCTION VALUES: The production is first rate. You can see and hear everything and the menus and graphics was quite cool. The studio in which Jeff explains everything is well-lit and there are closeups precisely when and where you need them to understand everything.
The explanations were shot against a black background, which really isn't my cup of tea, but that's a personal preference, and more importantly, Jeff explains how to construct the gimmicks in amazing detail. There is no way you will come out of this DVD confused or at a loss as to how to do something.
DIFFICULTY: I believe everything on this DVD is within the grasp of any normal biped with opposable thumbs - no problems there.:)
ANGLES: You do have to be careful with angles on a couple of the effects. It's nothing drastic - if you use a thumbtip and do the old Bill Switch, that's about the level of angle you need to consider. (And no, none of the effects uses a thumb tip, but I simply wanted to offer a concrete example of angles.)
Orbits (the appearing gum) has the best angles of the bunch.
OVERALL RATING: I am pleased to give this a 10 out of 10. When looking at this from the creator's point of view, he wanted to create magic with everyday objects. The magic is visual, easy to do from a technical standpoint and is refreshingly different from the glut of card effects out there. I have nothing against cards, but this is fresh and original.
I should also point out that Jeff is pretty young. If this is his start in releasing effects to the magic community, I'd say he has a heck of a future ahead of him.
JEFF & I ARE HAVING A CONTEST!
When Jeff submitted this for me to review, he submitted one copy specifically for a contest giveaway. I was admittedly at a loss as to how to run the contest, so I decided to keep it simple.
Here's the contest: Simply submit your name to me in an email to email@example.com. I'll run the contest until the end of this month - last day for entry is January 31st. After the cutoff date, I will throw all the names into a box and draw one at random, for the winner.
The winner will receive a FREE copy of Gum, which I will ship to the winner.
The contest starts NOW! :)
Next week's review will be The Wonderful World of Bill Abbott! I will tackle a ton of Bill's great effects as I use and cherish the following" Octopus Deck, Smart Ass, Customize Your Smart Ass Deck, Chico, The Thing, Five Card Opener. It's going to be a LONG column, one you won't want to miss. I love Bill's stuff, and will leave no stone unturned as I examine who these effects play to, limitations (if any) and much more. Don't miss it!!
PS - Don't forget - shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and get a chance to win "Gum" free!