Tuesday, December 27, 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.



Thursday, December 15, 2011

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

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!


Cris Johnson

Thursday, December 8, 2011

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...



Thursday, December 1, 2011

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



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Day & REVIEW: Mental Miracles DVD

Happy Turkey Day!!

Yes, those of us in the US celebrate Thanksgiving, and many of us merely call it "Turkey Day," in honor of the (typically) most often served dish. Rather than take this week off, I decided to get right to it this week with in my opinion, a true classic in terms of mentalism releases on DVD.

Of course I'm talking about...."Mental Miracles," by Bob Cassidy! It's available on DVD from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=2292 It's available for $34.95.

AD COPY: Bob Cassidy, one of America's foremost mentalists, has been a professional entertainer for more than 25 years. Author of The Art of Mentalism, a modern day classic, he has the unique ability to convince any audience that he can read their innermost thoughts, while also amazing and entertaining them in the process.

On this DVD Cassidy performs his professional show in front of an amazed audience of mentalists and then explains everything. If you ever wanted to make people believe you can read their minds, you must see this tape. Cassidy teaches many of his original routines and discusses how to structure, present and create a mind reading show.

Routines Taught:

Chronologue: A predicted card matches what is written in a diary on a freely selected date. New work and psychology including stage and close-up versions.

Name/Place Routine: A couple of spectators think of a person and a place and you divine their thoughts.

Psychomatic Deck: A spectator looks at a card in the deck and you read their mind, telling them what card they are thinking of.

Fourth Dimensional Telepathy: You reveal the name of a childhood friend, the name of a pet, and reproduce a previously drawn illustration.

Card Memory: A rapid memorization of a shuffled deck of cards.

Techniques Taught:

Includes dozens of technical and psychological tips, theories and advice about prop management, pocket management, staging, checkpoints, prop construction, mnemonics, establishing actions, taking advantage of coincidence, prop selections, miscalls, billet preparation, covering of errors, precautionary measures, giving clear instructions, deck stacks, making mentalism credible, and much more.
Also includes discussions on how and why the show is structured, getting the whole audience involved, presentational ideas, patter and more. All items are easy to execute and are within anyone's reach. After watching this program you will want to be a Psychic Entertainer.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: An incredibly fun 90-minute DVD in which Bob performs a 30 minute show and then spends the next 60ish minutes explaining it all.

MY THOUGHTS: Okay, the first effect, Chronologue, is a classic in mentalism. It's a tried & true effect that is ultra-easy in terms of difficulty. You can do this surrounded, it plays great for stage and I've even used it for strolling. You have multiple outcomes, so you really can do it strolling. The only 'knock' against using it for strolling is the fact that the verbal 'set-up' takes a bit of time. The verbal 'set up' involves some interesting coincidences between a deck of cards and our modern-day calendar and whenever I do this, audiences are always very interested, but then again, I primarily use it for stage. Nonetheless, this is an almost perfect mental effect and once you understand the principals involved, you can use names, locations, all kinds of things instead of a deck of cards.

The second routine, Name/Place, is just about as pure as you can get. It's my favorite kind of mentalism - telling a volunteer to think about something then you reveal it. To me, this is what mentalism is most about...thinking of virtually anything and revealing it. Though I do use cards and other objects in my mentalism, this kind of minimalist mentalism amazes me the most. For this routine, there's a bit of dexterity work involved. I would not call it 'sleight of hand' by any means...more simply a matter of choreography. It's nothing too technical but will require rehearsal so you do it without 'fumbling.'

Perhaps the biggest benefit of this rutine is the seamless switch Cassidy demonstrates, allowing users to simply ring in a dummy billet for the one that has information written on it. The move looks so casual and innocent PLUS it's dead-ass easy. The biggest challenge? Making sure you don't turn it into a 'move.'

The third routine involves Bob performing the Psychomatic Deck. He does not explain how to do it as it's an inexpensive dealer item but it is interesting seeing a professional mentalist use this. For my liking, this was the weakest part of the show, only because I feel Bob's other material was so mind blowing that this card effect was simply overshadowed.

The fourth effect is my favorite: Bob's take on the classic Fourth Dimensional Telepathy routine, popularized by Anneman, among others. To any armchair mentalists out there who don't feel that a simple three envelope test based in part on the one-ahead principle can fool modern audiences, I can firmly say you're dead wrong. I performed Fourth Dimensional Telepathy using Cassidy's handling for about 6 years as the cornerstone of my mentalism act. In many ways, it's almost the perfect routine: the choices are so wide open. There is NO forcing, no 'range' force, nothing restrictive. Really, the only reason a performer gives a person an idea of choice is to add texture and stability to the routine. (I believe if you told a person, "Think of anything in the world!" the person would stare blankly at you!)

The routine is a classic due to the freedoms you have as a performer. The biggest problem with so many similar routines is the fact that one item is forced - youve seen the amateurs do it: "Spectator one, think of any word in the English language...Spectator two, think of any person in the world...Spectator three, pick a card." None of that here. As Bob does it, the first spectator thinks of a childhood friend, the second thinks of a childhood pet and the third spectator thinks of a drawing of anything. It's bloody brilliant.

About the ONLY drawback to this routine is its length - as I performed it, the routine ran 12-14 minutes long and there is by necessity the writing down of the information along with the stuffing of the envelopes. Keeping the audience's attention during all of this prepatory work until the actual mindreading happens is the real challenge of the routine.

Nevertheless, it's powerful. I point to several instances when I was using this a lot when spectators would come up to me after a show asking about my 'gift.' I'm not kidding! Pretty awesome stuff for some bits of cardstock, pens and copin envelopes!!

The final routine is Cassidy's card memory demonstration. For this routine, you'll need nothing more than a deck of cards. When I watched this routine, I felt it was fairly impressive but had no real desire to put it in my act until I started doing memory workshops for school & corporate groups. Mnemonics (memorization through visualization) is certainly a valuable skill for anyone to learn (especially mentalists!) but using it in this kind of a performance can certainly be challenging - utilize memory techniques all the while maintaining performance - but the good thing is this demonstration uses NO mnemonics! It only took me a short while to memorize the deck stack Bob uses and it's not one of the usual suspects, as far as deck stacks.

Once I started using this routine, I was delighted at the response it generated!

MY RATING: This is an obvious 10 out of 10. This is one of the few DVD releases where, if one wanted, you could put EVERYTHING into your show and be pleased with the results. Too many DVD releases have 'filler' effects to pad out a 3-DVD release, but this baby is perhaps the single greatest value in mentalism DVD history.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Since this week was about mentalism, I want to echo my buddy Paul's enthusiasm for his new book, Performing Mentalism for Kids. Without tooting my own horn, the two routines that I contributed to the book are great routines for real-world workers. Judging by the list of contributers, this book is going to be a benchmark for the field! I can't wait to tear into it!!

Enjoy your holiday weekend!



Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Bittersweet Standing Ovation and REVIEW: The Impossible Box

Hi all,

Whew, a rough week of performing...three days in Canada, one in Gettysburg, PA (one of the most picturesque towns I've ever visited) and parts near home in addition to my slowly growing clinical hypnosis client base.

A standing ovation is something I normally cherish, but last night's was bittersweet. I called up the WRONG volunteer during a corporate event but did not realize it til I was well into my handcuff escape....I was doing Anthony Lindan's routine with the red curtain and one of the volunteers kept lowering the curtain, saying inappropriate things and just being an ASS. I somehow got through it without blowing my stack.

The rest of the show went fantastic and at the end of the show, I received a standing ovation. The FIRST person in line (there were many) to shake my hand was the ASS I mentioned. "You were f---ing fantastic!" was his comment. I wanted to punch the guy, but simply accepted the compliment.

The show was my Murder By Magic show, available here at Hocus Pocus. Just to remind everyone, the product will be pulled after December 31st. The way the show is designed, it has a built-in emotional hook that will get the audience on your side and keep them there!

A quick shout-out to my buddy Paul Romhany as he's relocating the family back home. Safe travels, my friend.

Keep your eyes out for new Cris Johnson products after the first of the year! I've got several projects in the works. The first will be the long-awaited "Cause & Effects: Volume 3" a third book of real-world routines...coming soon!!

This week's review is The Impossible Box by Ray Roch. It's available for $25.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=19358

AD COPY: The PERFECT walk-about and close-up effect.

Never throw away your old playing cards again. Use them for this amazing routine by Ray Roch.

Effect: The performer brings out six cards and quickly makes a box. The box can then animate in the spectators hand or on a table, the lid then taken off and an object, such as a lemon produced.

This 60 minute DVD goes in to detail with step by step instructions of how to do different loads including large die, a lemon, signed card to box, a small bottle of whiskey, and golf balls. He also shares two methods he uses to make the box animate and float, then produce a ball from the box that floats up in to his hand. This DVD is filled with gems from years of performing and perfecting Ray's signature routine.

The perfect routine for the magician who wants to leave his audience with a gift. Not only can they keep the contents but they also get to keep the box itself.

Ideal for trade shows, walk about, restaurant magicians and promotions.

Now you don't have to throw away your old playing cards - use them to perform The IMPOSSIBLE Box.

You will learn:
How to construct a box and how to put one together quickly
Various loading techniques that happen right under the spectator's nose
Signed Card to Box - a card is signed lost in the deck and later found sealed inside the card box.
Various loads from the box - learn how to produce as many as three different items from the box including golf balls, dice, a lemon, a bottle and more.
Two different methods on floating the box - Ray shares two methods, both of which are easy and can be set up at all times ready to go.
Tips and stories - Secrets that make this effect easy to perform and a few stories from Ray that have happened while performing this over the year.
Ray also shares his complete award winning five minute box routine. This includes all four routines taught on the DVD and put together to form a single five minute close-up show. One box with A LOT of magic. This is perfect for

those who perform in restaurants or are looking for something special and very different to present.

WHAT YOU GET: A very well produced DVD. This is released by Paul Romhany and like everything he puts out, it's TOP notch.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: I found Ray's verbal instruction to be a tad too quickly paced for me. He kinda breezes through some of the explanations. I was a little concerned about this, but Paul provides viewers with slo-mo clips from the magician's viewpoint of various things, particularly the construction of the box and some of the loading procedures. Happily, this makes the learning experience very easy.

DIFFICULTY: Since the crux of the effect is putting together the box in front of your spectators and then doing cool things with the box, you'll need to practice putting it together quickly and smoothly. It's not a difficult procedure, but fumbling and struggling with the box construction certainly won't be fun for the audience to watch so put in the practice to get it into your muscle memory.

The loads and animation are all relatively easy, too. On a scale from one to ten I don't think anything would be harder than a 3.

ANGLES: Some of the loads are easier than others and since this is intended for a walk around performance, all of the angles are something you should be able to work with. The animation/floating part of the routine can be done surrounded, providing your lighting is right, if you get my meaning.:)

VARIETY: Ray teaches viewers how to do several different handlings in terms of producing items from the box and in particular several different themes. In particular he has a routine themed with golf, a routine themed with gambling with different sized dice, etc.

There's also a handling involving making the box animate, floating, and then causing a ball to levitate out of the box. All of the handlings involve building the box in front of the audience and eventually producing things from the box.

It should also be noted that in each handling, you are clean at the end and can really give the box away at the end of the routine...though if you're doing a strolling gig where you visit 20 tables or groups of people in one night (as many restaurant/corporate magicians do) you obviously would be hard pressed to give the box away at every table.

THOUGHTS: There's a LOT I LOVE about this release and only a couple of things I did not care for. First, the positives.

There are a couple of productions that are truly magical - that slo-mo shot in the promo video of the lemon coming out of the box is soooo cool looking and with mutiple handling options, within reach of anyone. There's simply something satisfying about putting the box together and then pulling something out of it.

The box itself, being made of bright white cards with splashes of black and red, is very attractive to the eye. Additionally, I'm certain this would play just wonderfully in a parlor situation. I myself plan on using it in school shows. I wear dark colors, so the white box against the background of my dark clothes will look great. Plus, the animation of the box will look great and very visible, too.

I also love the animation of the box itself, as it looks very magical turning up on it's edges. The idea of the ball floating out of the box is also wonderful.

Ray also provides a signed card to box effect which is nice, too. His handling is attainable and the effect looks great too, but as the signed card to impossible location plot doesn't particularly excite me with any handling, I wasn't too taken for this, but if you like card work, this is another great idea.

Finally, the entire idea of the impossible box is open to so many different presentational possibilities that it's staggering. For instance, just to shoot an idea out there - instead of playing cards, I may use alphabet cards and build the box as I talk to school children about the possibilities opened up by reading skills and producing something thematically relevant out of the box.

The BIGGEST thing I love about this entire release is that it's PRACTICAL. This isn't a pipe dream with severe angle problems like some of the torn & restored card releases I've seen over the years. The Impossible Box is intended for the real world.

Now, just a couple of things I did not care for...

1. I did not care for some of the productions. Like I said, MANY of the handlings look wonderful and the spectators can see the production come out of the box. With some of the other productions, I thought, "Hey, it looks like the item is coming from _____." Turns out I was right.

I don;t consider this a huge problem, though, as the psychology of magic and spectator attention is wayyy different to playing for the camera. Nevertheless, I like the earlier referenced productions better.

2. I did not care for the actual floating of the box. The animation/movement of the box looks great and I'll use it, but as far as actually making the box float, I will quote Eugene Burger - "Less is more."

FINAL RATING: I'm going to give this a 9 out of 10. I did not care for a couple of things, but this release is so incredibly open-ended with possibilities and so practical that this release is going on my "best of" list at the end of the year.

This is advertised as a close-up product (and it rocks) but if you work parlor gigs, I really think this will shine for you, too.



Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Car, Murder By Magic Countdown, and REVIEW: Five Minutes With a Pocket Handerchief


Whew, after having over 220,000 miles on my car over the last 6 years, I finally buckled and bought a new car this week. My wife & I were both nervous about the car stranding me on the road with so many miles...especially they were all MY miles!! (I bought it new in 2006).

So this week, I rolled out in my nice new 2012 Hyundai Tucson, the steroid-injected version of my old car!! The sucker is incredible...I can talk to it and tell it who to call, tell it verbally where I want to go, etc. Unreal.

Plus, it's sleek and black, but looks bad-ass, kinda like the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman movies Tumbler vehicle. (OK, I'm a nerd!!)

I wanted to also mention that time is running out to buy my Murder By Magic: The Ultimate Corporate Magic Show program. At the end of the year, I will have the team at Hocus Pocus pull the product. I don't want a zillion people doing it. I've sold a dozen or so to multiple countries around the world, which means you're not going to have a ton of competition. In fact, in years past, I booked a ton of corporate Stage Hypnosis gigs, but despite hypnosis being a "bigger deal" than magic to most HR directors, I actually book Murder By Magic more easily because it's so unique and that's what HR directors and corporate booking agents are looking for: something unique!

So, the clock is ticking!!!

On to this week's review....I decided to review an older product: 5 Minutes With a Pocket Handerchief by Quentin Reynolds. It's available for $29.95 from Hocus Pocus.

Here's the link...http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=4867

AD COPY: An entire act that fits in your pocket. Featuring the hilarious Magic Mouse.

Quentin Reynolds is a professional magician whose specialty is children's shows. The routine taught on this DVD/Video is the highlight of his show -- a polished five-minute act which is accomplished with nothing more than an ordinary pocket-handkerchief.

You are treated to a live performance in front of a classroom of children where Quentin brings the kids to a frenzy using this handkerchief routine and the many gags and touches which make it a masterpiece. Following the performance you are taught everything you need to know to perform the act.

The routine is a brisk and upbeat sequence of effects that begins with a stretching handkerchief, a series of knots and culminates with the animation of the Magic Mouse. It is adaptable for most performing situations such as stage, parlor, close-up, walk-around, kids, adults, yet it still fits in your pocket and is very easy to do.

Effects and sequences taught:
The Stretching Hank: A handkerchief is stretched to twice its original size.
The Jumping Hank: A handkerchief repeatedly jumps out of your hands and into the audience.
Karrell Fox's Knifty-Knot: No matter how hard you try to tie a knot in the handkerchief it keeps disintegrating.
Karrell Fox's No Not: You finally make a knot but it magically unties when a spectator blows on it.
Stand-Up Hank: The handkerchief is made to stand on end and fall on command.
The Magic Mouse: The handkerchief is folded into a hat, an iron, an earring, a moustache, and finally into a mouse. The mouse is wound up and begins to wiggle its tail. The mouse seems to come to life as it runs up and down your arm, around your neck, and then leaps into the audience -- making them scream with fright. The mouse's tail is pulled and it turns back into a handkerchief. The handkerchief is folded and put back in your pocket. The act is now completely reset for your next show.
In addition to the above you are also taught: Frank Garcia's Iron Gag, Stewart Judah's Watchwinder Gag, tips from George Sands, Harry Blackstone, Sr., Dan Garrett, Martin Gardner, and tons of jokes, gags, by-play, tidbits, and advice which can only be learned from years of continuous performance. Includes a discussion on making the routine even stronger and much more.

Special DVD Features:
An additional 17 minutes of footage discussing presentational ideas, routine development, how to create your own act, a production finale and more.
Instant access to performances and explanations
DVD trailers
Dolby Digital sound
Encoded for worldwide viewing

WHAT YOU GET: A nicely produced video. My copy was a VHS tape because I bought it years ago. I'm considering upgrading to the DVD for the added material. You'll need to provide your own hanky and watch-winding gimmick.

QUALITY OF DVD: The DVD includes a live performance of Quentin performing the act in a school in front of around 40 children. Their reactions are amazing! The rest pf the DVD is Quentin explaining the routine in painstaking detail. The lighting is good, the explanations crystal clear.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: As I mentioned, Quentin leaves no stone unturned. He really goes into incredible detail for such a simple routine from a technical standpoint. The detail he gives without a doubt shows that he has performed this thousands upon thousands of times. He has this routine ingrained into his DNA and has mastered it.

Quick sidebar...I love the fact that he has mastered this routine in the real world. I hate it when I buy a book or DVD and the creator reveals that a particular routine or effect was developed specifically for their lecture tour! I couldn't care less what magicians think of a routine, only paying audiences.

DIFFICULTY: There are some simple folding procedures you'll have to master as well as some simple vanishing knots. You'll also need to rehearse the movement of the mouse. None of this is particularly difficult, but to master these simple demands while maintaining a performing pace will take time. It's not hard, but put some work into a killer 5 minute act and you'll be rewarded in spades!

ANGLES: No problems at all - do it surrounded!!

AGE LEVELS: Quentin says, in addition to parlor/stage kid shows that he sometimes uses this in strolling performances for families. Personally, I feel it shines best in front of kids in a parlor setting. I have used it for audiences up to 100 kids, providing they are close to me and it just kills. In terms of ages, I find it works best for younger children, ages 4-7, so for me I use it most often in child care/daycare shows where it's been the backbone of my act for 8 years.

MY THOUGHTS: This routine is absolutely priceless. If Quentin ever puts out an extensive kids' show course, I'd buy it in an instant. This man KNOWS kids. The routine is funny, with plenty of kid humor and visual gags and when the "mouse comes to life," it generates huge belly laughs and screams that it's an amazing thing to see and experience as a performer.

Quentin understands that kids like to laugh and that 'amazing' magic is really secondary for younger children. The lessons to be learned in this video are legon for the budding kids show performer.

This is an amazing value and receives my highest recommendation. I should also mention that I chose to review this particular product as a way to remind all magicians to explore older products...not just the new stuff.

I still can't believe the reactions this gets...all from a simple hanky.

I should also mention that while I LOVE the watch winding gag and gimmick Quentin uses, when I originally bought the tape I could not find such a gimmick anywhere so I changed the routine and use a squeaker gimmick (usually I just steal one from one of my dog's well-worn doggie toys) and use a squeaker sound instead of the watch winder. If you can find the watch winder gimmick, by all means, use it - the gasps of amazement from the kids is priceless.

OVERALL RATING: This is or should be considered a kids show classic and I can't praise it enough. A perfect 10 out of 10. It simply does not get any better than this.

NEXT WEEK: The latest review of the stellar Paul Romhany booklet series!


Cris Johnson

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Little Dogs, The Impossible Box and REVIEW: Mes(s)merize

Hi All,

Crazy busy this week. Isn't that how I start all my blog entries??

I do have to say, however, that most of November involves me working fairly close to home, which is great for my relationship with my family: namely my wife and our two little dogs, Frodo & Sophie. Frodo is a 17-lb "cock-a-poo" and Sophie is an 8=lb Bichon, but my friend Rodney said she looks like a cross between a hamster and a poodle, so my wife & I call Sophie our "hoodle!" They've missed me and it's great to spend time with them - the hoodle is stepping on my keyboard.:)

My buddy Paul Romhany sent me a couple of video clips of his new Impossible Box release that his associate has been performing for a looooooong time. This baby looks like one of the best new releases of 2011 in my eyes. Check out Paul's blog to check out the video. (And this looks like a real-world worker as I'm guessing those arm chair magicians from "that forum" will whine and cry, but I think the presentational possibilities are endless!)

On to the review....Mes(s)merize!

Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=18288

It's available for $30 from Hocus Pocus.

AD COPY: An impossible prediction effect

A clear wine glass is seen on a table center stage, containing a black envelope with a prediction. The spectators are asked to concentrate on a single thought, write it down on a card and seal it in an opaque envelope. At your command, they all throw their envelopes onto the stage. A random spectator selects any one of the envelopes (again: NO force!). Let's assume the thought inside reads "ICECREAM". She removes the prediction from the glass and opens it. She reads the prediction out loud: it matches the freely selected thought!

Now for the FINAL kicker: The lady is asked to open up the crumpled paper ball that was used to randomly selected her as a volunteer. It reads: "Tonight, a beautiful lady called Annie will thing of ICECREAM!"

*The spectator is randomly selected
*No switch of the paper ball
*No stooges
*No secret Assistants
*No pre-show
*No fumbling
*No sleeving
*No electronics
*They can really write down any thought
*The other envelopes all contain different words
*Spectator opens and reads the prediction herself
*Prediction and envelope, both are completely unprepared

"Brilliant and clever indeed... this gentleman has forged a total masterpiece."
- Larry Becker

"I think it's terrific prediction, and I love the final punch-finish. Clever and very practical."
- Peter Duffie

"It's perfect. The method is wonderfully simple and direct and I image it plays extremely well. I give it my highest recommendation."
- Sean Waters

"Brilliant, yet, simple, the only way to do it."
- Marc Salem

Pages: 42 - Saddle Stitched

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: a 42-page, saddle stitched booklet.

QUALITY: Very good, here. There are plenty of photos to assist the learner and the instructions are clearly written. You'll have no problem understanding the mechanics of the effect.

ANGLES: Quite good. You can do this in living rooms, on stage or parlor situations.

DIFFICULTY: This effect primarily relies on a very simple move that is properly motivated by good blocking. Stefan has thought this through.

MY THOUGHTS: I like this but I don't love this. When thinking about the impossibility of the ad copy, the fact that the spectators really do write down any thought, the fact that there's no pre-show. etc, and most of that is true, the fact is that the "prediction" envelope being claimed as not being prepared is not entirely true. To be sure, the preparation is not hard and only takes a few moments, and therefore can almost be done at a moment's notice.

All of this is juicy for a good effect and the visual of the audience flinging their envelopes at the performer is very appealing to me in terms of theatricality.

This is all good stuff for the main prediction effect, now let's move for a moment to the kicker part of the effect, the bit where the ball of paper describes the revelation as well as the name of the randomly selected volunteer.

The kicker's method actually has TWO methods. The first is a gutsy, ballsy classic "method" of mentalism that many pros will recognize and embrace. It's also a method that magicians looking to add a mental flavor to their acts will likely reject as being, in Eugene Burger's words, "Not very interesting." It's a reliable method that requires intestinal fortitude.

The second method is something that Stefan refers you to another source, which I always find a little annoying.

He also includes several bonus ideas and routine frames to get your creative juices flowing and this is nice.

FINAL THOUGHTS: There's not a lot I can talk about in this review about the product without tipping the work. The method for the "main" revelation is rock-solid while the method for the kicker is something I'm guessing many will reject. the idea of referring the reader to another source may turn off some readers. Still, the routine has that great visual of all the envelopes being thrown on stage and the elegant simplicity of the glass with the prediction envelope will look great in terms of staging.

I think this is a good effect, worth consideration. I'll give this a 7.5 out of 10.

Until next time...



Monday, October 24, 2011

I Have Seen The Light and REVIEW: Look Sharp DVD

Hi Everyone,

Short blog this week as I'm swamped with shows and preparations for several clinical hypnosis sessions I will be conducting next month. I'm VERY excited about this chapter in my career. I also (just today) received word that I have passed another certification in hypnosis, this time of 5-PATH, which is very advanced and extremely beneficial for clients. Good times!

Before I get to this week's review, I want to mention something that I just recently started performing....the Chair Suspension. For years, anybody who asked me my opinion about the Chair Suspension got a reply something like this: "Oh, that's crap. Since one of the chairs does not move, no one will like it."

I used a MAK Flying Carpet for years as a birthday guy, but the angles were horendous and kids would dive to the floor to try and look up the bottom of the carpet to see the secret. After that, I bought an X-type Suspension, which looked fantastic from stage but was a pain in the butt to transport and the angles were a little tender.

I recently bought a chair suspension mostly because of my brutal travel schedule. It's an easier and lighter illusion to break down and transport and it takes less space. Still, I was worried...

Until TODAY - performed it four times to incredible reaction! I was never so glad to be so WRONG about this illusion. I'm just sorry I didn't buy one years ago! As I understand it, there are several models to choose from. Hocus Pocus offers the Elite Chair Suspension, which, as I understand, is VERY well made and can handle more weight.

Since I was a "newbie" at Chairs Suspensions, I also bought an e-book devoted to this Chair Suspension from Paul Romhany's friend Kyle Peron. His email is magic4u02@aol.com. The e-book walked me through the basics, safety, and presentation tips. It's a good value.

Now, onto this week's review: Look Sharp DVD (and gimmicks) by Wayne Goodman. It's available for $29.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=18968

AD COPY: "Wayne Goodman has come up with an idea I can guarantee will be used by magicians world-wide. You would be mad not to carry this!"
- Peter Nardi

Wayne's "Look Sharp" concept is simple but extremely ingenious. Imagine being able to turn a sharpie marker (something we all use) in to a chosen playing card, even in your spectators own hands. NOW THAT'S A REVELATION!

Wayne's "Look Sharp" gimmick contains two revelations. One is the full card revelation and the other a very sneaky revelation built in to the design.

Can be performed as a standalone piece or part of a longer routine.
Makes a perfect ending for a multiple card selection routine.
Can even be performed with a signed card!
Ideal for any performing situation

Wayne Goodman's Look Sharp comes complete with two custom printed Look Sharp cards, a PDF file to make your own Look Sharp Cards and an instructional DVD covering complete routines, bonus tips and handlings. *Supply your own Sharpie Marker**

Look Sharp is something you will really want in your arsenal.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A well-produced DVD and two gimmicks, (which I can openly talk about) and a PDF file which allows you to make your own gimmicks

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Wayne Goodman and Peter Nardi take an effect that could be explained on one sheet of paper anbd expand it, offer different presentations and expert 'pro' tips. It's nice to see an effect get such detail from its creator. After watching this DVD, I have no doubt in my mind that Goodman really fine-tuned this effect for years working in the real world. It's polished and it shows.

I'd also like to point out that often, magicians gripe about 'one trick DVDs," but personally, I enjoy a really good one trick DVD as often, the creator can go into more depth and really give you the professional touches that elevate a mere trick into an effect of magic. (Yes, I'm quoting Eugene Burger.)

QUALITY OF GIMMICKS: Although the PDF enclosure on the disk allows you to make your own gimmicks, I personally won't be bothering. The supplied gimmicks are printed on Bicycle stock, so they hold up well and more importantly, from sa tactile sense, they feel good. Subconsciously (or consciously, depending on the person), people judge us on the quality of our props and while good props don't "make the magician," a crappy prop can sure de-value a performer in a hurry.

Nardi assures viewers that you can also order replacement gimmicks through Alakazam Magic, and while he admits they are kind of pricey, it's good to know the option is there.

DIFFICULTY: Goodman & Nardi walk you through the basic sleights necessary to pull this off and offer plenty of different handling options. There is even a "sleight-less" option for those dexitery-challenged folks out there. I'm not much of a finger-flinger as I usually work from stage, so happily I was delighted to have this option.

Even the most challenging handlings are within reach of most magicians, as one handling involves tacking the Look Sharp effect onto the end of your favorite Ambitious Card routine. Admittedly, this was my least favorite handling as I find the Ambitious Card plot tedious and boring.

The handling for the Look Sharp effect is not really technical at all - as you might imagine, you're simply switching a real sharpie for the gimmicked Look Sharp one and it comes down to confidence, timing, psychology and blocking - all of that none-sleight of hand stuff that really enhances a performance.

(SIDE NOTE: On the issue of timing, I discovered today that by adding a 3-second pause before an effect in my stage show, I was able to garner a much bigger reaction than the previous 6 years I did the effect.)

ANGLES: Since the effect of Look Sharp is that of a sharpie marker turning into the selected card, and the effect is built on timing of a switch, angles are not a consideration. That makes me very happy!

MY THOUGHTS: I have to admit, when Paul Gross told me he was sending me this effect, I was less than thrilled to review it. Close-up card work is just not my thing. I was much more interested in the other Alakazam recent release, Confab-SHOE-Lation. As it turns out, I actually like Look Sharp a great deal more...and after watching both DVDs, I think Peter Bardi does, too!

I haven't much to my strolling set in many years but I think Look Sharp is going in this year, which is about the highest praise I can give it. I'll give this a high grade of 9 out of 10. Highly recommended for close-up workers.

NEXT WEEK: Mes(s)merize



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Marches On and REVIEW: Confab-SHOE-Lation

Hi everyone,

Finally, a day off! If you're reading this and you're in the school market, you know that October is typically one of the busiest months of the year for the full-time school magician. I'm sooooooooooooo grateful to be so busy, but also sooooooooo whooped!

Last week's schedule was insane - last Sunday drove 8 hrs to Maryland. Performed there for two days. Drove 3 hrs to Virginia. Performed there one day. Drove 10 hrs back home. Next morning, flew out to Missouri for a one hour corporate gig. Flew back home the same day. Next day, drove 3 hrs for two corporate gigs. Saturday - a night corp gig 30 min from home. Sunday - back on the road to New Jersey....Whew!

But I'm thankful for the work!!! Next week, I begin work on the November issue of Cause & Effects, the free ezine. To sign up, email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net. On to this week's review...

Confab-SHOE-Lation by Richard Bellars. It's available for $39.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=19048

AD COPY: Richard has taken the confabulation plot to new heights of impossibility with their shoe reveal!

Richard has been performing Confab-Shoe-Lation in his stand-up act for well over a year and then decided it would be the ideal effect to fool Penn & Teller on national TV.

Richard is a real creative thinker and a full time worker so you know his stuff is going to be practical to use in the real world!


Imagine your spectators can name any 3 items (no force) and you have predicted them correctly in a note that you have kept safe in your shoe from the beginning of the show.

On this DVD Richard Bellars and Tom Swift (who is the co-creator of the effect) take you step by step through every aspect of the effect, including how to create the gimmick with your own shoe.

*Please note construction is required and you will need to gimmick your shoe to perform Confab-Shoe-Lation

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive a well-produced (for the most part) DVD that offers different presentations and ways to accomplish the effect. Tom Swift (co-creator) and Peter Nardi also join Bellars to discuss different aspects of the effect.

DIFFICULTY: Like many versions of Confabulation, there is usually a minimum of sleight of hand involved so therefore, the technical work is minimal. Pulling off a good Confab- style routine is more about presentation, buildup and (in some handlings) audience management. Like so many other effects in mentalism, this is not technically difficult.

ANGLES: Well, it's going to be tough to talk about angles on this without mentioning that there are different versions of the effect, some of which are two-man versions and a one-man version. The two-man version's angles are good and flexible. Once you understand what's going on here, you can adapt this two man method to many different venues and situations.

The one-man version was something I was a little less than thrilled with. To me, the angles are such that if you use this exactly as Bellars does, your audience can ONLY be in front of you, not on the sides at all. Also, if the front row of your audience stretches out to the right or left too far, you will be busted, unless you are really far back from the audience. You can 'cheat' this method off to one side, angling out, I suppose, but I feel it's too angle sensitive to use as-is.

TWO-MAN / ONE-MAN VERSION? HUH? To just give a bit of background, in any Confab-type prediction (where three or more random things are called out or generated by spectators are shown to match precisely a prediction of some kind) there are two ways of achieving the effect...in a two-man version, your assistant helps you to help you look completely clean. In a one-man version, you must do all the work yourself. I'm not going to say anything more than that for obvious reasons.

In the version Bellars performed for Penn & Teller, it was indeed a two-man version. Like other viewers, I thought it looked fabulous and it fooled me completely.

The one man version involves one simple, quick movement to get things into play, that is, get that prediction into your shoe. The movement is quick, simple and easy. It's not even a sleight at all. It's also completely motivated by the gambling presentation Bellars uses.

It's also the angle-sensitive thing I mentioned earlier and feel it should be reworked to be more angle-friendly for real-world performers. I only mention this because many of my corporate events are small events, 70-100 people, and the round tables are set up in front of me and off to the side, so Bellars' method would not work for me in those situations. However, if I'm in an actual stage performance, like a high school auditorium, this would work just fine. Happily, this is where I may use this because I believe high school kids would like the off-beat nature of a prediction in a shoe.

TOO-PERFECT THEORY THOUGHTS: Some folks online have blasted Bellars for making his prediction with Penn & Teller as "too perfect," because his prediction matched Penn's written "housey" word. Personally, I don't have a problem with something being too perfect. I bill myself as an entertainer, nothing more. If I really want to impress people with "real" things, they can come into my office for hypnosis.

I decided years ago, when confronted at a few early corp gigs, people asked me about 'my powers,' that I did not want that responsibility. So, I don't try to convince people I'm a real psychic, so the Too Perfect Theory is something I tossed out the window. If that's not your preference, you can certainly alter the prediction to be 'off a bit' to seem 'more real.'

THE GIMMICKED SHOE: As the ad copy states, you have to gimmick a shoe. Bellars shows his original prototype and comments on what a pain in the ass it is. You can do it yourself, but as Bellars points out, you'll probably be much better off taking it to a shoe cobbler.

The way the shoe works is very simple and is something most people (ie magicians) would not suspect, so I like it in that realm.

So, gimmicking the shoe, while elegant in its simplicity in terms of working a gig, is a pain to do. You've been warned.

WHY A SHOE? Others have complained about the lack of logic in having a prediction in your shoe. Peter Nardi, on the DVD, tries mightily to justify it with some scripting and tying everything into the gambling theme. It's a god try but I don't feel it's completely successful. They also try gamely to 'sell' the viewer that the one-man version is even stronger than the two-man. I don't feel it's a failure, but I really feel the two-man version is the stronger of the two because of how clean it is.

As far as the idea of the prediction being in a shoe, like I said, I like the offbeat nature of it. I think some audiences would be amused by it. I think too often we as magicians dismiss an idea because we have strong traditional ideas of what "should" be done.

OVERALL THOUGHTS AND RATING: I like this, but I don't love this. I think it's got potential. I definitely will NOT be replacing my own Confabulation handling with this (detailed in my book, "Cause & Effects: Volume 2" available at Hocus Pocus) but if I'm doing a show for a repeat client, I can see Confab-SHOE-Lation being a nice followup for those repeat clients.

I'll give this a 7 - it's a nice, off-beat idea. If you're new to Confabulation, I recommend my friend Paul Romhany's "Dream Prediction Lite" over this as being more practical or even my own work in the afore-mentioned book. But if you're familiar with Confabulation and looking for a unique twist on an effect for repeat audiences, this may suit you.

NEXT WEEK: I review Alakazam's new "Look Sharp," a surprisingly delightful strolling effect.



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

SPECIAL REPORT: Warning to Users of Shoe Business by Scott Alexander & Puck

Hi all,

Doing a midweek report like this is unusual to say the least, but I had to get this out there. I've gone on record saying that Shoe Business by Puck & Scott Alexander is probably my fav new effect for 2011 thus far. However, today I was notified of a potential problem.

First, a quick review - the effect is the magician calls a practical joke hotline and pours a drink into a borrowed shoe, as per the "hotline's" directions. Of course, the volunteer's shoe is unharmed. Along the way there are some great comedy lines.

I don't want to get into exposure, so I won't discuss the workings of the trick, but one of the comedy lines on the recording involves the "Press 1 for English" prompt that drives many of us CRAZY when we're calling a business and trying to get a human on the phone. Well, after a couple of lines, we hear a man's voice say "Rizzle, Shiffle My Nizzle," or something to that effect. Obviously this part of the recording is poking fun at those annoying voice prompts and maybe poking fun at the "izzle" slang that confuses people not of that generation...namely me.

Anyway, I loved the routine and put it in my night time family show. In the 6 times I've used it, it generates huge laughs and a gasp of amazement when the cup of liquid comes out of the shoe.

I performed it last night for a family show in Maryland, audience comprised of around 300 people, different backgrounds, mix of different ethnic groups, etc.

Well, today I received a phone call from the school principal saying that a mother of one of the kids called saying that "izzle my shizzle" part of the recording was offensive. Turns out it was in reference to Snoop Dog's slang and the "For Shizzle my Nizzle" can be (and is intended to be) translated by Snoop Dog to "For sure my N-----," with the "n" word for a racial slur. And to boot, the principal explaining all of this to me was a very kind, apologetic African American man.

I had no idea that this "izzle" stuff even translated. I knew vaguely of its orginis in rap (I think) and I've seen clips of Snoop Dog "izzling" this slang that I freely admit I don't "get." I figured it was nonsensical silly stuff. I don't care for Snoop Dog so therefore I never investigated it further.

I explained to this principal (who loved my shows) that I had no idea what all that "izzle" stuff meant and apologized profusely. He took it in stride and waved it off.

Needless to say, I will be running the Shoe Business through my audio editor and removing the "izzle" stuff. I LOVE the routine, but my viewpoint as a professional performer is this: if one person speaks up to complain about something, how many more were unhappy yet didn't say anything?

Now, do I believe Puck & Scott Alexander intended on putting out a product some audiences would find offensive? Hell no. Both are accomplished performers who regularly perform in front of international crowds on cruise ships - one of the toughest markets in the world.

The reality is that some people will be offended at things that other people will not find objectionable. I believed Puck & Alexander were simply, with this routine, poking fun at those annoying voice prompts as well as the confusing-to-an-older-generation "izzle" urban slang.

My knee-jerk reaction is to just lump the complaint of this woman in with the other silly complaints I've heard over the years regarding a number of performers. I had one lady complain, 6 years ago, that Rocky Raccoon was "scary" to special needs kids....there were 5 special needs kids wayyyy in the back of the auditorium. The audience was 500 strong. That irritated me. Another complained years ago about my coloring book - despite the fact that the kids LOVED the trick, She hated it simply because she had seen other magicians do it. The point is, people do complain and much of it is warranted.

The difference, in this case, is that the person offended was referencing some slang that translates from a very charged word, emotionally. Being a white male in the U.S., I obviously have no idea what power that word negatively has on people. I can only, for the sake of business, take cautious steps in this case.

It pains me to write this, but again, if one person in my audience complains, there may be others who don't. I just wanted to warn others of my experience. Take what you will from this. Maybe Puck can record the CD again without that passage? We'll see.

Know that I LOVE the routine, but simply wanted people to be aware of the negative possibilities.


Monday, October 10, 2011

The Lion King and REVIEW: Signed Bill To Can Manuscript by Paul Romhany

Hi everybody,

October is here and I'm in full swing in school shows. Before I jump to the review of the week, I want to mention a couple of tidbits....first, just to remind everyone, my "Murder By Magic" product will be GONE at the end of the year. I'm pulling it off the market. I've accomplished my goal of laying claim to the original idea of using a one-man magic show as a murder mystery. My goal was never to flood the market (hence the high price tag) as I wanted to keep it fresh for myself, as I use this all year. I've only sold a handful of the courses in multiple countries, so if you want a truly unique presentation that's been specially developed for corporate audiences, your time is running out!!

Next on list is to mention The Lion King...no, not the movie, but the theatrical stage production! It's been out for several years and my wife and I had the chance to see it a few days. It was phenomenal to say the least! The music, costumes, etc was off the charts awesome! I highly recommend it.

On to this week's review: In honor of his new baby, I'm going to review Paul Romhany's Signed Bill To Can manuscript. It's available from Hocus Pocus for $29.95.

Here's the info...

AD COPY: Ten years ago Paul Romhany caused a stir in the magic fraternity when he performed his original Impossible Bill To Can routine on national television. He was accused of using stooges because the routine was that impossible. However what magicians did not know was that Paul had worked out a routine that did not use stooges.

In 2007, Paul released the exact routine and version he used on the TV show on a DVD and is still available from magic dealers.

This new version is an alternative to the original Bill To Can routine, in many ways this is more practical for most working conditions. The routine is perfect for magicians who work in private homes, corporate functions or even on cruise ships. Paul has given his complete routine including the exact script he uses word for word. You are not only buying the method but also the complete eight minute routine as performed exactly by Paul Romhany at private homes and corporate functions around the world.

Anybody wanting a strong, commercial and hilarious routine, this is it!

Everything is taught in this in-depth manuscript complete with photos and a completely different method than th on everything you need to get you performing this very quickly. It includes a detailed description of the $100 Bill Switch with numerous photos.

The Effect: At the start of the show the magician hands out a can of baked beans, this can be held by a spectator. Later on in the show a bill is borrowed and signed, it is burnt and after a lot of hilarious bits of business the spectator brings the can on stage. It is then opened and the money inside is unfolded and found to be the signed bill!

This is a real stunner and remember, method and routine is different than the original Impossible Bill to Can.

WHAT YOU GET: A detailed booklet filled with photos, instructions, the script and more.

QUALITY OF BOOKLET: I really like the fact that this is filled with photos, not only detailing the kind of can opener needed to make the working easier but also the photos for the Bill Switch. Paul's explanations make sense and I had zero questions after I read the book - always a good sign!

ANGLES: If you read the ad copy, you know the handling relies on a Bill Switch in part. The angles for most bill switch handlings are quite good and as this is intended to be a stage or parlor piece, rest assured you are in good hands in terms of angles.

DIFFICULTY: To my eyes, the two most difficult things about the routine are getting the comedy lines/timing down and the bill switch itself. If you already do a bill switch, you can get this routine up and running very quickly. If you don't already do a bill switch, I can give my own experience as a comparison - when I learned my bill switch method (I use Kevin King's "Money Morph") it took me a couple of weeks to really nail down the physical handling. Again, nit difficult, but if you're new to it, be prepared to put in a reasonable amount of work.

THE ROUTINE ITSELF: If you're looking for some new mindblowing method, turn elsewhere. The fact that Paul mentions his extensive detailed photos and instructions for the Bill Switch handling rather tips the basic secret, but to me, this is not a bad thing. With this tidbit, the purchaser knows what she/he is getting in terms of the secret.

The real value of this is the detailed routine itself. There were a few times while reading this that I burst out laughing. To get that from reading a script is rare. Another nice thing about some of the comedy in the routine is the fact that one bit in particular will require acting to pull off. It's not Academy Award acting that's needed, but it's different from simply stating a line and waiting for the laugh. i LIKE this, as it gives the comedy a naturalness that's missing so often from a magic routine.

I know some people will complain about the price - right now there are a lot of people complaining online about "one trick/routine DVDs" and how for 30 bucks you should get more value for your money.

I can certainly see their point of view when I consider some of the one trick DVDs I have picked up in years past, but honestly, for a real-world working pro, having a polished routine with the comedy and routines worked out for you is worth its weight in gold. To give you an example, I purchased a rather expensive prop a few months ago and while the prop itself is fantastic (It's from Peter Loughran) I am annoyed with myself because the routine I had outlined for it is taking longer to fine tune. In fact, just yesterday I overhauled almost the whole thing. This is not a crticism of the prop - it's great - but merely my own frustration with myself at not creating a stellar routine for it faster!

This is a routine you can drop into your act with a minimum of effort and this is always welcome.

RATING: I sound like a broken record, but I love Paul's stuff. I'm giving this a 10 - it does what it advertises, is very funny, is very well taught and part of the method is even tipped in the ad copy. You can go into this purchase well prepared, knowing that you're getting something for real-world workers and not a pipe dream.

NEXT WEEK: I review "5 Minutes With a Pocket Handerchief," a kids' routine I've been using for 7 years. Good stuff!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

REVIEW: Parasols From Anywhere

Hi everyone,

Time is short, so this week I'm going to get right to it. This week's review is something I've been using for a little over two years now, so I can really speak with authority on this, having performed it in the neighborhood of about 400 times. It's Parasols From Anywhere by Joker Lam. Here's the links for the parsols themselves, the DVD teaching it all, and the 'scabbard' set, waistband, etc to hide the parasols as they are loaded on your body: DVD- $44.95 -http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=7239 Parasols: - $69.95 - http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=7238 and the 'scabbard' set - $54.95 - http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=8782

All are available from Hocus Pocus and if you're new to this kind of work, you'll need all three. There are different colors and 'prints' available for the parasols and even different 'grades' of scabbard sets. I haven't noticed much different in terms of quality in the scabbard set other than the 'elegant' set has some material made of velvert, but this does not impact the workings in my view.

EFFECT: Bright colorful parasols (umbrellas) are produced in various ways!

DVD QUALITY: The picture is clear and Joker does an acceptable job teaching the techniques. He teaches it in his native tongue and there is English dubbed over, which results in a few semantic bits of confusion as some of the translations don't make complete sense, but overall, I had no trouble understanding his intent.

The DVD also provides closeups and changes to the camera angle where needed to make learning much easier. I will say this - in a few cases, as I was first learning these techniques, there are a few 'real world' things I had to figure out on my own, such as not having the handle of the parasol get caught under the waistband. Little things like this shorten the learning curve and I wish some of it was covered in more detail.

Also, one of the 'holders' is designed to go in your pant leg and pinned in place. No mention is made of how to hide the glint of silver through your pant leg, making this technique a little less able to be worked in the real world.

QUALITY OF PARASOLS: The parasols hold up reasonably well for day to day use. In 2 years and after 400 performances, I've had two parasols wear out and tear. Bear in mind that the production of the parasols is, from the point of view of wear and tear on the parasols, pretty violent, so the quality is reasonable, but certainly not meant to last a lifetime.

MY THOUGHTS: I first began exploring the idea of a parasol act as its a form of manipulation and production that plays HUGE and is very bright and colorful. I had been doing a dove act for a long time and wanted to replace it as traveling with doves is just too difficult for the amount of travel that I do. After trying a few other routines, I tried parasols.

The first thing I noted when I bought the material and began working on it is the amount of material that is unuseable due to severe angle problems. That being said, I was still able to develop a solid routine that plays great in almost all the schools I visit. In my routine, I produce a total of 11 parasols and the routine plays wonderfully for me. It's a shame that some of the really NEAT productions are so angle-sensitive, as there's some great looking stuff here.

I can completely recommend this material with the caveat that you really need to watch your angles and keep in mind the venues you work in when putting together your routine. NONE of this material can be done surrounded, so that's another consideration.

Also, since parasols 'snap' open, doing this in someone's living room is not advisable either. I feel this material is strictly for stage. The more you can control your performing conditions, the more of this stuff you'll be able to use.

MY RATING: I love so much of this, but can't use it. However, the stuff I CAN use plays great. I'll give it a solid 8 out of 10.

'TIL NEXT TIME: Email any questions, thoughts, etc to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Great Peter Loughran Prop and REVIEW: The Magic Square by Luis de Matos DVD


Cris Johnson here. Before I get to this week's a review, a few notes.

First, the next issue of "Cause & Effects" will be going out in a day or so. I'm trying to get it written early as next week's schedule is CRAZY busy. It's going to be about an "insurance policy" that no professional magician should be without. If you've not signed up yet, shoot me an email: crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Secondly, I've been rehearsing my Salt Pour routine all summer in preparation for the fall. Like Paul Romhany, I feel that the salt gimmick provided with Scott Alexander's Sugar Rush is the BEST on the market.

As much as I like the gimmick and routine, I wanted to add some punch to the routine, so I invested in Peter Loughran's Superior Salt Pour Platform. In a nutshell, it ROCKS! The entire audience LOVED it. If you haven't read up on it and you want your salt pour routine to end with a kick, check it out. I LOVE it.

On to this week's review...The Magic Square by Luis de Matos DVD. It's available for $35.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=18603

AD COPY: A professional Magic Square routine from the repertoire of Luis de Matos. Members of the audience call out numbers at random. Unbelievably, from these the performer is able to construct a perfect magic square. All the columns, rows, diagonals and corners add up to the same number. Not only that but this number was chosen by a spectator just a few moments earlier. No formulas. No memory work. An incredible mind boggling routine for the professional worker.

Instructional DVD includes performance footage. Bonus Feature: Luis de Matos' handling of the Instant Magic Square for impromptu work.

WHAT YOU GET: You receive the DVD as well as pdf files for the artwork necessary for the routine. You also receive a couple of little gimmicks for the impromptu version.

REVIEW OF THE AD COPY: The wording of the ad copy is very precise in that de Matos walks the line carefully without revealing too much and without (too much) building up the hopes of the performer. The claim of the number being the same as the number chosen by the spectator is accurate. The spectator is allowed to choose a number from a very large field, so while they can't name ANY number, it's also not a choice of two numbers, equivoque or anything like that.

Also, the line about "constructing the square from numbers called out by the audience" is accurate to a point...it is POSSIBLE to do that, but if certain numbers are not called out, well, it then turns into a bit of a bluff.

DVD QUALITY: This is outstanding in terms of production quality. de Matos did not shortcut the production as this looks very Hollywood-y.:)

My only quibble is that after each segment it goes back to the main menu. I couldn't find a 'play all' feature. Not a big deal, but a preference of mine.

As far as the DVD quality of teaching, de Matos does a superior job of teaching. My only experience of watching him was his performance on "The World's Greatest Magic" specials many years ago. (He did a linking rubber bands effect and two mirror effects.) I take that back - I also spotted a youtube video of his rendition of "Sands of Egypt," which was very nice.

After watching the DVD, I had zero questions and had no doubt I could put this into my show - a good sign of a good teacher.

DIFFICULTY: Here's where this routine really shines. It's dead-ass easy. If you can see, speak and hold a pen, you can do this routine. There are ZERO calculations. If you're truly looking for an easy version to use, this is it. There's a teeny bit of spectator management, but nothing major whatsoever. In terms of ease of presentation, I believe this is the new gold standard.

MY THOUGHTS: I experimented with a couple of different methods for doing a magic square 5 or so years ago. I used John Archer's basic presentation (which focused on speed) but found his actual method a bit lacking as there were a couple of calculations (more accurately comparisons!) one had to do in order to determine which square to use. This was John's way of handling the "Why are four of the numbers so frickin' BIG" problem that so many easy magic square methods have.

The actual method I used was Chuck Hickook's, out of his first "Mentalism, Inc." book. The calculations were extremely easy, but you had "Big F'in Four Number" syndrome.

I eventually put away the magic square, as it did not fit into my preferred corporate show, "Murder By Magic."

With de Matos' method and presentational possibilities, I am considering putting this into a high school or middle school show as the entire process is very interactive. I like how the spectator chooses a number which will ultimately be THE number. de Matos' "Lucky Number" presentation is pretty good, although in my mind it 'springboarded' an idea of my own!

Finally, the business of having spectators call out numbers, while not entirely true, still does a grand job of keeping the magic square interactive, and at a quicker pace, as many square presentations were just too slow for my tastes. (Keep in mind that I like the overall effect and have used it several times.)

The true beauty of de Matos' method is the fact that (to emphasize once again) there are ZERO calculations and that he's solved the "Big F'in Four Numbers" problem.

As a sidebar, the method of hiding the square formula for the impromptu handling is very cute, too.:)

Overall, I feel this is very strong. About the only quibbles I have is the fact that the aspect of having the spectators call out the numbers is not as pure as I'd like and you do have to bring some additional materials with you. In other words, this is not a "Bring the board and you're ready to go" presentation - there are a few more props to consider. It's not a huge drawback to me - I'm a prop hound - but I'm betting that many 'minimalist' mentalists will be slightly turned off. I hope I'm wrong, because de Matos has made a very manageable Magic Square method, allowing you to concentrate on presentation.

I'm further willing to bet there will be mentalists out there who scoff at the notion that not doing ANY mental calculations means you're not a mentalist. Kind of like those guys who feel that without 'risk,' the possibility that something could go wrong, you're not really a mentalist.

To them I say, hogwash - I'm paid to succeed!

RATING: Very strong - 9 out of 10.

Until next time...email questions, concerns, etc to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Congradulations to Paul & Natalie & REVIEW: Freefal DVD by Andrew Mayne

Wow! Those are some CUTE pics! If you haven't done so already, check out the new pictures of Paul & Natalie Romhany's new baby on Paul's blog.

I can't express how happy I am for Paul & Natalie, as having a child is certainly something they've wanted for some time. I'm so happy for them!

Of course, me being the sadistic bugger that I am, I gleefully told Paul to expect a lot of sleepless nights.:)

Important Note: Next month's "Cause & Effects" newsletter will feature an important article on how I avoid disaster TWICE at a recent show! It's going to be an important read! If you've not signed up, send me an email to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

One feature I plan on doing from time to time is updating readers on how new effects that I've reviewed are faring in my actual shows. As much as possible I try to review items backed by real world experience, so if I have not really performed the item yet when I review it, I will touch upon my success/lack of success with the item once it finally sees the light of day in terms of performance. I mention all of this because as many of you know, I am not a magic collector. I have nothing against those who are, but I make my living with this stuff, so that's my perspective when I do a review - will it 'fly' in the real world?

With that in mind, here are a few updates....

I've had the opportunity to perform "Shoe Business" and the reactions have been great. This is still the front runner to be my pick for the best release of 2011 (bearing in mind my review column is hardly all-inclusive of new effects)

I also recently performed "Slingshot" and I'm pleased to say the reactions were also good.
In October, at a public show, I'll be debuting Bobby Motta's "Lethal," and Bobby & his wife Alana are coming to the show!! Can you say PRESSURE, LOL?

On to this week's review....it's "Freefall," by Andrew Mayne. It's available for $14.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=12830

EFFECT: Make bricks, bowling balls, fish bowls even a hot cup of coffee appear from nowhere!

Here's the AD COPY: Make bricks, bowling balls, fish bowls even a hot cup of coffee appear from nowhere!

Andrew Mayne presents his innovative technique for making impossible and unwieldy objects appear from impossible places.

Bowling Ball - An updated handling on Andrew's Bowling Ball from Shopping Bag effect that makes a great show opener or closer. Includes Andrew's new handling and technique that makes this a portable, practical illusion you'll want to make a part of your show.

Brick - Make a heavy brick appear from an empty lunch bag and drop it literally at your audience's feet. This never-seen-before effect allows you to create a huge impact up close or onstage when you produce a real brick under the most challenging conditions.

Fish Bowl - Make a fish bowl appear complete with real fish! Use it as part of an Aerial Fishing routine or use the bowl to produce giveaway items or anything else you want.

Home Brew - This is Andrew's almost impromptu method for making a hot cup of coffee appear. It makes a great ice break or fun effect to do at the coffee house.

Freefall is an easy to perform effect that's almost impromptu in its simplicity. You can use it onstage with a bowling ball or up close with a brick you can leave as a souvenir. It's got multiple applications including one that's right for your show.

WHAT YOU GET: A nicely produced 20 minute DVD.

QUALITY OF DVD: The DVD is well produced, as are most of Andrew's DVDs. It's not a hollywood production, but then it doesn't need to be. The picture and angles are just fine for what Andrew explains.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Andrew is a good teacher and despite my misgivings about many of his effects, I'll be the first to say he teaches his material well. I had zero questions after watching this.

ANGLES: The angles for this are pretty good. If you've got audience members are your sides, you'll need to 'pull back' in terms of where you perform this. I think of the angles are very similar to Kevin James' bowl-A-Rama or a classic Zombie routine with many of the fancier moves.

DIFFICULTY: Freefall is not difficult to perform, but the biggest challenge is your acting ability, acting as though the bag you are picking up is light as a feather. Some of it is in the physical handling while a lot of it is also in your attitude.

MY THOUGHTS: I bought this DVD primarily for my teen shows. For years, my standard opener to most of my teen shows has been the afore-mentioned Bowl-A-Rama and I've been looking for a suitable effect to use for repeat audiences, without much success. (Performers experienced with teen audiences know how discerning this age group can be.)

I prefer to open with a bang, something fast with little or no talking, to quickly establish I am worth paying attention to.

Bowl-A-Rama works great, so I reasoned that Freefall could be the answer I was looking for. With that in mind, I like this DVD but I don't love it. The main reason is because you cannot show the bag empty before the appearance. To me, this is a problem, but I will freely admit I have not yet had the opportunity to actually perform this yet. There's a good chance that it could simply be a matter of my "magician's guilt" or something ike that.

This effect is practical and in particular I really like the fishbowl production and I feel that if any of the effects on the DVD can overcome the one flaw I pointed out, it's that effect, because manipulating water is so magical.

I'll give this a solid 7.5 out of 10. I've been pretty harsh in my distain for a lot of the stuff Mayne has put out, but I feel this has real possibilities. I'll keep you updated.

Until next week, send all questions to: crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net