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