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.