Bending The Real by Jay Sankey: Full Review

Michael Kras

{dg} poet laureate / theory11
Sep 12, 2007

Bending The Real is the brand new project released by Jay Sankey that has created a ton of buzz over the past couple of months. The concept of a “bend” is not necessarily a magic trick... just a moment of astonishment, curiosity, wonder, concern, or rage (more on that later) that inspires an altered sense of reality. These can come in the form of stunts, practical jokes, bar bets, scams, magic effects, and more. On this DVD project, Jay covers 25 bends, briefly demonstrating them, teaching the methods, and explaining the psychology behind each one. The DVD also comes with a neat looking, nicely produced booklet with short entries and essays explaining theories, concepts, and psychology behind bending. This booklet is short, but a nice addition and has some very good entries to further your understanding of “bending”. If you received a pre-order copy, like I did, you would have gotten a second bonus booklet that looks identical and includes even more in the way of concepts, theories, and ideas.

I popped open the DVD case and next to the DVD found a small plastic baggie of gimmicks. These gimmicks are for Steve Morrison’s effect Hijacked and Sankey’s own Vanishink, Zero Gravity, and Descendent. I will cover more about these gimmicks as I review all 25 bends below.

Pirouette: This is an effect in which a plastic spoon from a school cafeteria, fast food restaurant, or coffee shop mysteriously twists itself at the stem a full 180 degrees. This is essentially a spoon bend with a plastic spoon, which I feel is somewhat weakened by the fact that the spoon is plastic and pliable. However, the condition the spoon is left in cannot be achieved by simply twisting the spoon, which is what gives the bend a strong level of deception. My school cafeteria always has these lying around and I’m eager to try it out! 7/10

Reconnection: After breaking the tab off of a coke or energy drink can, the tab is impossibly restored back on to the can! Depending on your situation, this is almost completely impromptu, deceptive, and has a method so simple your Grandmother could do it! I also feel, structurally, the bend has a nice, natural flow to it, something I feel Sankey has a knack for in his work. I can see this playing very strongly at a party. Plus, you end clean! Always nice. 8/10

Vanishink: This is also marketed separately by Jay, and it is a way in which to vanish a Sharpie under extremely fair, impossible conditions. It reminds me of a Norm Neilsen Bottle Vanish and it is very strong. It requires a gimmick which is included with the DVD, but with each performance you will have to destroy a gimmick. They can be easily made over and over again provided you have the required material to keep producing them (I can’t say much more without hinting to the method). This is a great, surprising method for vanishing a Sharpie, albeit somewhat limited. 8/10

Private Property: This is a bend that helps you obtain a phone number from anyone you want. That’s really all it does. It isn’t magical, mysterious, or astonishing. But, if you want a cheeky way of getting a girl’s number in the form of a bet that raises some strong intrigue at the outset, this will be right up your alley. This is the kind of bend you’ll use to get a date, but I see no other purpose for it. 6/10

Airborne: A bar bet type of bend in which you bet that you can lift a heavy glass bottle with a thin sheet of paper or a piece of paper currency... and, of course, you do just that. As a bar bet or a puzzle, this is very effective and I can see myself using it at the right time. Nice little bend to whip out if you’re drinking with your buddies! 7/10

Skin Deep: In a coffee shop, you give a spectator a wrapped straw to hold onto as you retrieve a wooden stir stick. After breaking off a healthy chunk of the stir stick, the broken off bit melts away and vanishes completely from your hand, only to appear inside the wrapped straw the spectator has been holding the entire time! The set up for this takes no time at all and all of the materials to do it can be found inside literally any Starbucks. This is a great, organic, almost impromptu bend that I can see being extremely powerful for your spectators. I can’t wait to try this out! 9/10

Digital: A low-tech, easy as pie way to divine the serial number on a borrowed bill. Given this bend’s casual structure, the method will fly quite easily and deceptively. If you can attest to the strength of a serial number divination, you’ll love this casual, organic, impromptu method for a strong piece of mentalism. 8/10

The Offering: A unique way to offer someone a piece of gum from one of the blistered gum packages. This bend is unique, surprising, and unexpected... it’s a casual, laid back, perfectly natural bend that is not at all out of place until the interesting moment upon which the gum is popped into their hand. The method is dead simple but, given that this bend has no real lead-in and just “happens”, it will totally fly and surprise your target completely. Fun stuff that can be done anywhere! 7/10

Reality Break: This is a simply sweet way of breaking and restoring a wooden stir stick the next time you’re in a coffee shop. This bend is completely impromptu and uses a nice auditory convincer to really sell the illusion. Reality Break is visible and audibly deceptive, dead easy like most everything else on this project, and completely surprising. 8/10

Hijacked: The only card effect on the DVD is one that has been previously released as a single trick... this is Steve Morrison’s Hijacked, a gimmicked packet effect in which four jacks impossibly and cleanly transform into the four aces. There’s a multitude of possibilities here and the change is clean and simply incredible for a spectator. My only gripe is that this is, of course, a prior release. While it’s nice the gimmicks have been included, I’m always a bit bothered by re-releases like this. Also, I don’t like the idea of card effects at all being used as bends, as it just doesn’t feel organic enough to me. So, while the effect itself gets a 9/10, its inclusion on this project gets it a final 6/10

Tasting is Believing: This is just plain cruel. This is one of the few bends on the DVD that falls under the strict category of a practical joke, and I feel it to be kind of mean spirited. Imagine your friend going to take a sip of his Coke at a fast food restaurant and getting a mouthful of mustard or ketchup instead. Yeah, that’s basically what this bend does. Not only do I feel this is downright cruel, for a friend or even an enemy, but you will also have to do your friend the courtesy of replacing his drink for him as the set up will likely leave the drink ruined. I would never ever use this... maybe you will, but I’m just not that kind of bender. 2/10
Sweet Surprise: A sugar packet is emptied into your hand, and the grains impossibly pass themselves straight through a solid china plate! This takes less than 10 seconds to prep and can be done with great ease if you’re at a breakfast restaurant and your friend excuses himself to the bathroom. The construction of this makes it a nice little “event” with a strong payoff. Nice, seemingly spur-of-the-moment, magical bend that I definitely will be trying. 8/10

Michael Kras

{dg} poet laureate / theory11
Sep 12, 2007
Cornered: A mentalism bend in which you divine a word or phrase on a corner torn from the page of a magazine by a spectator that has been balled up and placed securely in a glass. This is ingenious, minimalistic, and oh-so-strong. You need to be seated at a table to do this but other than that, all you need is a single magazine and a clear drinking glass and you’re all set to go! This is another one of the bends I’m extremely eager to try. Very strong stuff. 9/10

Whew!: This bend occurs without you being anywhere near your target. For them, what they think is a parking ticket under their car windshield turns out to be not at all what it seems. This sort of fits under the category of a practical joke, but instead of being mean spirited, this has a pay off that will absolutely make someone’s day. At first, they will be upset and perhaps angry, but once they understand what’s really going on, there will be a nice sense of wonder and curiosity. I love this... it’s not magic but it has a unique magical quality to it. If the mood strikes me, I’ll definitely try this out. 8/10

Echo: This effect features a strange synchronicity between a straw and its wrapper. Although I cannot see this bend playing all that strongly, it has a nice mysterious quality I like. I tried this bend out in a coffee shop about a week ago (the bend is featured for free on Jay’s Youtube page) and my spectator was quite intrigued.... not awe-struck, mind you, but intrigued. I honestly do not see myself using this much in the future but I have no doubt many others will. 7/10

Sound Effect: There’s not much about this I particularly like. It’s essentially the age-old method to make it sound as though you’re violently cracking your knuckles. It’s a nice little jokey stunt, but many people do already know it. Although it’s the only bend on the project that requires nothing but your own two hands, I will never use this overdone little finger trick... it’s certainly not my style, not to say it may not be yours. 4/10

Storm Cloud: Here’s another practical joke. Let me put it this way... this is meaner than Tasting Is Believing. Basically, it’s a prank that makes a huge cloud of dust appear in a room or an office. This leaves your target with a room covered in dust and a lot of stuff to clean off. This is the most mean spirited practical joke on this DVD, another thing that I would never use and I hope you also will never use. 1/10

Descendent: This has been one of my favourite Sankey effects ever since it appeared on a Kaleidoscope. Basically, you drag the sharpened bit on a pencil down the length of it and freeze it in position in the middle of the pencil’s body. It looks super weird and super cool! I’ve always felt this to be one of Jay’s most creative ideas in recent memory, but a few things disappoint me. First of all, this marks the third time in just over a year that this effect has been marketed in a DVD and single trick format. Secondly, while the ad copy states you get the gimmicks for this effect, that’s not true... Sankey only includes ONE part of the gimmick and it is far and away the easiest part of the gimmick to make. I don’t even understand why he included this part and not the other, as the other part can be a real pain to put together. The effect itself gets an easy 9/10, but for all the reasons stated above I am going to have to lower the mark to a 4/10.

Toolong Tea: One of my absolute favourite bends on this DVD! Created by Mike Skutt, this is a very surprising and astonishing bend to do at a coffee shop if you order a tea. As you go to remove your tea bag by the string, the string just keeps growing and growing until it is over four feet long, leaving you standing on your chair holding a very long tea bag! Sankey is right when he states that this is more of an event than a trick. Do this in Starbucks, and you are guaranteed to get all eyes on you. Brilliant, surreal stuff. Love it. 9/10

Inside Job: Created by Eric Leclerc, this is a wonderfully minimalist, situational version of the classic Cap In Bottle Effect. Anytime, anywhere, impromptu, and done seemingly spur of the moment. Not really my thing, but will definitely find its way into many people’s hearts! I can see this being a great go-to Cap in Bottle effect for an impromptu situation. 7/10

Zero Gravity: Suspend a borrowed cellphone, wallet, or other somewhat heavy small object impossibly on a borrowed bill or piece of paper! This is a marketed effect of Sankey’s and the complete gimmick has been graciously included. I think this is very clever, although to perform the effect you must already have the gimmick in your hands set up and ready to go. Therefore, it must be set up just before you show it. Fortunately, the set up takes a very short time and I feel this effect is totally worth it to carry with you. It creates a great, impossible image and ends nice and cleanly. There’s a lot to like about this. 8/10

In Red Ink: A silly bar scam involving word play. There’s a lot of build up for this one that results in a payoff to undoubtedly produce nothing but groans and chuckles. There are lots of little scams and bets out there just like this one and, if that’s your thing, you’ll love this. I may try it out a few times for a laugh but there’s really not much to it and it’s really not my thing. 5/10

Buried Treasure: Now THIS is an awesome bend. You walk into a store to purchase a package of candy, but then reveal you don’t even have close to enough money to pay for it. Before you leave, you tear open the un-purchased candy and inside find a $5 bill. You gladly pay for the candy and walk out of the store with a smile. Simply put, I love this. There’s a fair bit of set up, but this seemingly spur-of-the-moment bend of coolness can be whipped out in a convenience store and provide a rush of different emotions in whoever is working behind the counter. There’s the awkwardness and frustration of you not being able to pay for the candy, the anger of you opening the un-purchased goods without having the money to do so, and the sheer moment of shock and surprise when you reach into that package and remove real honest-to-god money. Sweet. The only drawback is that you end up paying for the same candy twice as the candy has been specially prepared by you prior, but on the DVD Jay states he feels it’s worth it. I happen to agree. 10/10

Remote Control: This little mentalism ditty with a borrowed bill closes the DVD. With this tool, you accurately predict a digit of a bill’s serial number selected by the spectator in a very fair manner. This requires you to make a simple, organic gimmick, and while this isn’t anything I’d ever do, there will be mentalists out there who will absolutely eat this up. The problems arise in borrowing the bill. Obviously, the effect will be stronger if the bill you use is borrowed, but the method creates a strong discrepancy that may not necessarily go unnoticed after the fact. Jay has a way of recovering this, but the way of recovering in my opinion completely cancels out the main effect. Either way, I do like this, although I personally will not use it. 7/10

So, is Bending The Real worth it? That depends on you. If you’re a magician and performer who loves spur-of-the-moment bits of cool that will astonish, confuse, surprise, puzzle, and even inspire those around you and slightly alter reality, even for just a moment, this is definitely the DVD for you. With the booklet, DVD, and bag of gimmicks included, this really is the complete package... and at $35, extremely fairly priced for what you get. While there are a few duds in the mix, the amount of pure bending gold cancels them out. You’re not so much paying for a DVD of tricks here as you are paying for a concept. This is just the beginning of your journey into the world of Bending. Jay has given you the tools... now it’s up to you.
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