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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.