It seems that my Dr. Nick ripoff has turned into my standard greeting.:) After most of a week off from traveling, I'm feeling a lot better. Right now I'm in Portland, OR writing this which should be the only gigs I have to travel to by plane til August. The rest of my gig up to then are all local - within a few hours' drive, which means I get to sleep in my own bed at night - this is a good thing.:)
Our new salon has been open for a few weeks now and the feedback from my wife's clients has been tremendous. They love the look of the place and many have told her they like it much better than the previous salon she worked in. This is really gratifying, as we spent $10,000 in salon equipment, new flooring, paint and signage to really make the place look great.
On the hypno-front, I've spent the last couple of days in my hotel recording new weight loss and smoking cessation audio CDs as part of my clinical hypnosis business that I will also be running out of the salon. Technology is a wonderful thing, as I'm using my laptop for things I would've had to paid several hundred dollars for in a studio years ago!
Finally, before we get to the reviews, I have updated my 'for sale' list of magic goodies. A few things have sold and I'm adding a few things this week. Email me at email@example.com. Here's the updated list as of June 11 so far:
TRICK: yigal mesika exploding light bulb
DVD: Thread by Wayne Houchin
DVD: Gallerian Bend DVD by Erick Castle
TRICK: A Touch Of Glass by Peter Loughran
BOOK: The Magic Business by Michael Baily
TRICK: Fate? by Rick Maue
BOOK: The Corporate Connection by Phil Kannon & Jon Jenson
DVD: Torn by Daniel Garcia
TRICK: Floating and Growing Microphone Stand - as performed on America's Got Talent(I lost the instructions but will write up some for you....besides, the ones that came with it SUCKED.)
As I said last week, most of this stuff is really good, but just didn't fit into my vision of what I wanted from my shows. In a few days, I'm putting this stuff on Ebay to get it out of my office, so if anything interests you, move fast. No reasonable offer refused.:)
This week's review: It's a two-parter! Keith Field's Triangle of Terror and book If a Wiz There Ever Was. Both are $35.00 each and available from Hocus Pocus.
First, Triangle of Terror. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=17697
EFFECT: In Keith's book 'IF Ever A Wiz There Was' is a routine which requires a wooden pool triangle attached to swivel and a leash.
A cup is placed on the triangle and filled with water, it is then whirled around and around in a vertical circle!
You then change direction and whirl it around your head. The water stays in the cup but the audience will be riveted to their seats!
A fantastic effect which will keep them talking. Great for school science shows as this is an example of centripetal force in action!
WHAT YOU GET: The wooden triangle with a length of nylon strap mounted to it. This is similar material as a thick dog leash. You also receive a few pages of instructions and some other fliers and such pushing some of Fields' other offerings.
DIFFICULTY: The effect is not difficult to do. It really comes down to just 'going for it' as Keith says in the instructions. As it's a demonstration of centrivical force, it's not really a magic trick, but it is a cool stunt.
QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: The instruction is sparse, but barely adequate. In fairness to Keith, this really is something you have to 'do' so extensive instruction is not needed. I do like the fact that he includes a youtube link in the instructions. More on that when I get to the book.
ANGLES: None to worry about as there is nothing to 'hide,' but the biggest consideration is the fact that you do NOT want to do this in someone's home as all that swinging would make anyone nervous. This is a good routine for stage or outdoors.
QUALITY OF PROP: The wooden triangle is very nice as is the strap mounted to it. I could have made one myself after reading his book and after I received his prop I probably should have, even though I do not like building my own props.
The prop is well built in that it looks professional and has the look of quality and should not fall apart anytime. However, when I bagan rehearsals (in my better judgement, in a hotel room when I was on the road recently for gigs) I found that after roughly 10 or so rehearsals (totalling around 10-12 minutes) I developed a MASSIVE blister on my first finger of my right hand, near the middle knuckle. This spot corresponds directly to where the strap was rubbing against my finger as the triangle with cup of water swung around.
After realizing what happened, I immediately stopped what I was doing. Fortunately, I already have a good handle on performing this and other than my script, I'm ready to go.
When reading Keith's book, he mentions using a length of chain to attach to the triangle. I can only imagine that using the nylon dog leash material was cheaper, but that's just a guess.
I also have no idea if a chain would produce the same result. My guess is probably not, but who knows?
FINAL RATING: A good, solid effect that would be a worthy addition to any family performer and I can see this being a no-brainer for a science show, too. It's not a show closer, in my view, and the fact that it gives me blisters is annoying as hell. I'll use it, but am still bothered by the blister aspect. 7 out of 10.
The second review...If Ever A Wiz There Was book by Keith Fields. Here's the ad link:http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=17698
WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A slim book outlining Keith Fields' thoughts on children's entertaining along with his favorite kids' routines.
QUICK INTERJECTION: Before I get further into this review, I do know that Keith Fields has a stellar reputation for putting out both quality kids' stuff as well as mentalism, including one of the most respected book tests created, Insight. So he is an example of someone who can do both mentalism and magic quite well. I myself got bashed on the Cafe because a couple of years ago, I put out a Q & A package and many people googled me, found out that I was primarily a school show guy, and just bashed me and my product without ever having looked at it, feeling that since I was a school guy (younger grades) then I couldn't be any good at mentalism. Unbelievable close-mindedness of people out there.
MY THOUGHTS: Since this is a book without props being sold, I'll skip right to my thoughts, which are extensive. There were many, many things I enjoyed about this book and some things I did not.
First, the good...
I loved Fields' thoughts on character, costuming and creating a show with minimal or no set-up. Although I consciously choose not to go this route of packing small when I perform, part of me is extremely envious of other magicians because when I'm busy, I feel like I've WORKED.:)
Secondly, there were many bits of business I enjoyed from the book, in particular the way he opens many of his shows and a great bit with his hat.
I also really, really enjoyed his Youtube links. While he describes most of the routines in the book adequately, he also went the extra step by providing Youtube links so you could see what the moves or routines was supposed to look like.
To me, this represents a huge step forward in magic books. There are some people who love learning from books and other who learn best visually. Despite what some small-minded people would say, there is no "right" or "wrong" way to learn. It's part of each person's individuality. Well, Fields' innovation with this book gives you the best of both worlds. Kudos to him!
Of the routines included, many stood out as being quality routines worthy of consideration. In particular, he completely explains how to build the props for his Human Xylophone routine, along with tips, strategies and instructions not only on running the routine but also several songs and ideas as well. His Human Xylophone routine, although not magic, is a fantastic routine to interact with the audience. In fact, this section was easily worth the price of the book.
He offers readers a fun way to end a typical "Run, Rabbit Run" which I thought was exceedingly clever and almost made me want to buy one.:)
His Triangle of Terror is also explained and I feel this routine, too, is a true highlight of the book, especially he explains how to make it for those who don't mind building their own props.
He also offer a dove pan routine that he uses to close many of his shows. Here is evidence that Fields knows how to entertain lay people and in particular, kids. Many armchair magicians deride those who use dove pans as rubbish, stating in a very snotty fashion that the dove pan's day has past, why can't there be more originality in magic, etc.
Those of us who work in the real world know that dove pans are still a great production apparatus. Rant over.:)
The other routines are also good - a multiplying balls/sponge ball routine, coin routine, more non-magical but entertaining 'clowning' for lack of a better word and more. In particular, I've been using a variation of his "Getting Dressed" routine in my child care center shows for years, taught to me by Dave Risley. It's a great routine and very entertaining for very young children.
OK, now on to what I did not care for in the book...
There were two instances in the book where he crosses the line (in my view) in terms of humor. In one, he is encouraging kids to repeat what he says says and encourages his audience to say, at one point, "SMACK MY BUM," while pointing to his butt.
In truth, I find it all silly and inoffensive, but unfortunately, we now live in a society where a gag like this can and will severely upset a client. I know this is true because I had to drop one of the funniest bits from Bill Abbott's Chico routine because a couple of teachers at a couple of schools complained.)
The second bit is where he's sticking blown-up balloons at various places on a child - under the arms, under the chin, etc - and then he asks, "Where should I stick the other one?" He explains that he knows that many kids will shout, "Between the legs!" which is once again one of those bits that was OK 10 years ago but not now. Again, I'm OK with it, but seeing as how I'm out in the trenches, so to speak, day in and day out, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that a bit like this one or the previous one will very much upset some clients. It's a fact, at least here in the US.
The other aspect of the book I did not care for was the fact that in the vast majority of the book, Fields' routines consist of him asking questions of the audience as a whole. Some times he asks questions in a way to encourage the correct answer and many times he's asking questions he know will get kids to shout and correct him, things like, "Do my socks go on my head?" Kids shout "NO!" (That wasn't a quote from the book, just an example.)
Fields defends this by saying he wants the show to be as interactive as possible. This, I applaud, but the reality is by taking this approach, asking questions and having kids shout things back to you son often in a show, it can lead to losing control and having kids shouting things without provocation. Remember the old saying about "giving a foot, taking a mile," or however it's worded?
In my opinion, a proper way to routine a show is alternating, as much as possible, an interactive trick with a 'quiet' trick, so the show has an ebb and flow, structured in a way to get the kids settled down before bringing them right back up again.
But that's just me.
All in all, there is a lot of good stuff in this book. Despite the quibbles I had, I do like it and can recommend it. A solid 7.5 out of 10.
NEXT WEEK: Sugar Rush by Scott Alexander
Until next time, send any questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org