Sleight of hand vs Sleight of mind

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Bliff, Jun 11, 2018.

  1. Some time ago, I posted a thread about magicians and boring mentalism but I didn't make my idea clear and I didn't have time to come back and clarify so rather than going back to that thread, I will try to explain about what I posted. There is no boring performance than a magician trying to perform mentalism without understanding presentation, scripting, delivery of scripting and principles that make mentalism what it is. Magicians are obsessed with methods and tricks and this is a big problem because the method isn't the most important part of performance. So if you are a magician, don't think you can perform mentalism by reading one "trick of mentalism".
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  2. I don't think the problem is limited to mentalism. Most magicians don't put the required effort into developing and performing their magic. Often there is nothing but the trick. In either magic or mentalism, our methods are not what entertains. Rather it is the effort we put into our presentations. Larry Haas puts it well when he talks about turning "tricks" (methods) into presentation pieces in his book Transformations. Also, anything by Eugene Burger demonstrates what you are talking about related to magic.
  3. I know a number of magicians who would be a lot better if they didn't spend so much time performing for other magicians. Doing magic for magicians is like performing for a crowd of people with Asperger's Syndrome who don't respond to stimuli like "normal" human beings. A knucklebuster--that would thrill a crowd of magicians--with bad presentation will leave laypersons unimpressed while a simple "mind reading" trick--that would bore that same magical crowd to tears--with a peak wallet will absolutely kill laypersons with a good presentation.
  4. I feel performing mentalism is like singing a classical song. Sing it only if you can sing it really well, otherwise it sounds like trash. There's usually no 'in-between'.

    Also, some magician's personas just don't allow mentalism. In that case, there's no need to do it...altho well performed mentalism looks a lot more magical than a well performed mental trick.

    The reason I'd vote for sleight of hand (in the sense that sleight of mind means mentalism. I am hoping it does not mean psychological misdirection and stuff, or else the point of the thread kinda evaporates on spot.) because mentalism invariably requires you to lie about your powers and then if you say what you did was sleight of hand, the entire thing you did amounts to zero.

    On the other hand for magic, if someone asks me whether I did real magic or not, I first tell them yes, but that real magic happened in their minds, not my hands. Then when they ask if what I did was magic or not, I reply no easily and can say it was sleight of hand (I say add some more stuff, but that's not my point). This does not take much from my magic because I never said I was really absorbing the coin with my skin.

    However I feel a mentalist strips their audience of intelligence if they claim what they did was real...and if they claim what they did involved any sort of sleight of hand, they strip their performance of all its power.
  5. I have just re-written this response for the sixth time, wanting to make sure that you won't take this the wrong way.

    I know you think you are improving your situation but you aren't. It sounds like your spectators are coming up to you with a sense of wonder and you think that you are enhancing that experience with your "explanations" and reassurances but your aren't. You are taking that wonder from them and stomping on it till it is something mundane and trite.

    "This does not take much from my magic because I never said I was really absorbing the coin with my skin." You are taking everything away from your performance. Everything that matters that is. Magic is unique among the performance arts because we leave them with an experience that seems impossible. If I want to watch someone do something amazingly skillful with their fingers then I will go watch Tommy Emmanuel play guitar.

    Again I am not trying to dump on you as a performer. If your audience members are saying these things to you then you are obviously doing something right. You may be doing fine as a magician but you have a lot to learn about theater.

    As to your second point about mentalists.....should movies all start with disclaimers about the falsity of what is about to occur? Should the lead in MacBeth come out before the curtain goes up and reassure the audience that no one is about to be murdered? What you are saying is that the mentalist should come out and say, "Instead of amazing you I am just going to fool you." If you leave the audience questioning fundamental laws of the universe then you have achieved amazement. You aren't going to get that if you s&^t on your own performance at the very outset.

    If any of that comes of as harsh then I apologize.
  6. Sorry, this is incorrect.

    There are a lot of skills in mentalism that are not deceptive whatsoever - you're doing exactly what you say you're doing. These are not often seen these days, because they take a lot of time and effort to master these skills and they may not always work 100%. Contemporary performers tend to get scared if something isn't going to work every time, and they are allergic to practice.
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  7. Letting the audience draw their own conclusions is not lying.

    If someone asks me if my magic is real, my response is "Seeing magic with your eyes and believing it in your mind is all that is required to make it real."
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  8. I have been more intrigued with mentalism in recent times after many years performing magic and probably what could be called mental magic, but not pure mentalism. What I have learned is that there is an important common denominator between magic and mentalism and that is presentation/showmanship. After all, whether performing for one or a thousand, this is Show Biz.

    There are many ways to entertain an audience and to give them an unforgettable experience, but that is what they are looking for, whether they watch a movie, go to a concert, or a play or watch a magician or mentalist. The key is to find the way to do that that naturally suits you and who you are. That is why in dialogues with my friends, I often like to discuss the idea that magic or mentalism is a road to self-discovery.
    Mr_ARPY and Lord Magic like this.
  9. You're correct. It's just that I see some of the more celebrated mentalists use electronic pens and gaffed cards, which ends up making the mentalism look like a mere mind-reading trick to me (not that I hate them). To the audience, well, they may not know the difference. So they won't be able to appreciate when they see a mentalist who works MOSTLY with psychological suggestion and such methods.
  10. That's what I kinda meant, I do not reply to spectators point-blank, "Hey! That was just sleight-of-hand, no magic is not real, sorry!"...but you worded it in an infinitely better way. :)

    And about letting the audience draw their own conclusions...point taken and understood (probably)!
  11. I wasn't going to either way but...thank you for taking the time and trouble :) :) :)

    But I feel you took what I meant in the wrong way :)
    Well, let me clarify...I usually, like most magicians, don't like to sit down and explain to my audience the beautiful intricacies of sleight of hand magic and how the method does not matter (If I have ever done that, it's prolly with close friends). I like to tip-toe around the question, you know, not telling the truth but neither am I lying. One may say that the most fundamental things a magician does is lying but I look at it in this way:- Lying about how their pulse told me which card is theirs is cool...but pretending to be a real psychic is a no-no. That's the more serious kind of lying which is the real BAD in this case.
    I am not saying all mentalists lie. Some do. Unfortunately these liars are comparatively more famous and become cult-leaders which frustrates me. If using the centre tear makes someone God then when I use Barnum statements, I am Father of God.
    If someone comes and seriously asks me if what I did was real, like, seriously (happens kinda rarely because people are not dumb...correction, most people are not dumb :D), I try to STILL get out of it while tip-toeing around. But if there's no choice, I am not going to claim that instead of vanishing the coin I absorbed it with my skin. If such an unescapable situation were to form itself, I'd rather say I was using sleight of hand and use that to segue into some effect which uses sleight of hand as its theme (when obviously that second effect requires gaffs, yay for me :D).

    There you put your finger on what I'm trying to say. The experience needs to be impossible, not what I do.
    The difference? Well, I may be as incorrect as Baba Yaga who said there will be a World War 3 on March 25, 2018...but still, I'll try...
    The difference is in how the audience look at it. Yes I admit, there are people out there to whom magic is real if it is real, and if it needs sleight of hand, it is NOT REAL. However, there more people out there, and this group of people are increasing as the time goes. This second group of people think like this:-
    "The coin has vanished! [note...this is where the first group STOPS thinking. For them, magic is all about the first line] Is there anything in the other hand? NO! Is there any sleeves involve--NO! WHAT! HOW DID HE/SHE DO IT!!!"

    They know it is possible to seemingly vanish a coin. Why, if I had a coin in my hand, asked you to close your eyes and then, put the coin away and asked you to open your eyes again, the coin seems to have vanished! The effect seems impossible! But the experience does not. Why? Because their brains can dream up possible methods to the trick. However if I do the most amazing false transfer ever and pocket the coin when they weren't seeing, the coin has vanished and now, even if they check my hand they won't find it. Now, the EXPERIENCE becomes truly impossible. Now, even if I TELL them I used sleight of hand, their brains cannot accept that as a solution because, after all, MY HANDS WERE BOTH EMPTY! So the experience remains impossible. Even the sleight of hand the magician claims to use seems impossible! What can be a better achievement for a magician? I am not claiming I have achieved that yet but, yeah...I'd like to achieve it. Just my performance-style and persona. Others may disagree and it's fine!
    It's all fine as long as there's no blatant harmful lying. Harmful as in, if you are a mentalist, nobody should say you are God...and even if they do, say if your performance WAS that amazing (which is good, congrats :) ) mustn't keep quiet and continue to let them think you are God. Because now you haven't just let them form their own not telling them you are not God EVEN AFTER THEY CLAIMED THAT YOU are going the wrong way about strengthening their ideas and wrongly popularising yourself. (Generic you being used...not pointing at you mate :) )

    I know...and I'm trying my best! :)

    They do, don't they?
  12. I dont do mentalism that much, and there are quite a few reasons for that:
    Mentalism is more delicate compared to magic. You need to put much more work in the presentation than the method. A lot of great mentalism pieces have almost no method but need great performance. Whereas in something like Raiserise by Ray Cosby the trick is the method. Magic is more related to the technical aspect and the workings behind the tools and props.
    On the other hand, mentalism in its purest form is completely propless and more realistic. If you do magic for someone, at best they would think he was good and he tricked me with his sleight of hand.
    If someone does a great piece of mentalism, if it is on tv, layman think it used stooges, if it was in person they might think you have super powers.
    A lot of performers I see these days would do some magic, and afterwards they would be like: "now let me try to read your mind". A layman considers mentalism another"magic trick" if it is mixed with magic. It is the reason why people like Derren Brown or Pete Turner only do mentalism. On the other hand, I am not looking forward to do mentalism professionally, but exactly because of what I mentioned above, I try not to perform magic and mentalism for the same person. At least not at a short period of time.
    Another reason why mentalism is so delicate is that you can never find one "mentalism trick" to learn. It is like learning a new language. You need to speak the language fluently if you wanna use it for communicating. Not like learning to say Hello and How are you and talking to others using that language.
    Mentalism needs time and dedication and more importantly, most of the sources dont exactly work the way they should in this age. For example, Annemann was a legend at his time. If you wanna use any of his material right now you would need to change it up quite a bit and adapt it to your time and your style.
    Also, there isnt that much good material on mentalism compared to magic, which makes the good ones rare and expensive.
    This price is another reason people avoid mentalism. You can buy most of the card college series in paperback for less than 200$ while peter turner's masterclass is 300$ pdf. If you wanna spend the time and money and learn to perform properly, it is sure worth the time and effort. If not, you should not try doing it as a side thing alongside your magic.
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  13. Your understanding of mentalism is perhaps a bit shaky.

    I'm willing to bet the ratio of good, affordable mentalism is pretty similar to the ratio of good, affordable magic. It's just a matter of which circles one travels in.

    There's two big reasons for the price:
    1) If one invests significant amounts of money into a resource, they are unlikely to pop onto YouTube and expose it for free.

    2) If one invests significant amounts of money into a resource, they are more likely to practice properly before using it, so as not to make their investment worthless.

    So yes, people avoid mentalism because of the price, but mentalism is also priced so people avoid it. Which is somewhat ironic, if you know the history of the mentalism market.
  14. Maybe...heh heh...:)
    It's because I never delved into its beauty completely since it's not really what I am into...
    Which is why I said I may be as wrong as Baba Yaga...did I not?

    All Hail Baba Yaga!
  15. I believe you are taking about muscle reading, memory demonstrations, cold reading and suggestion. These are real and if someone wants to be a mentalist, these are must skills but most people want shortcuts and "magic pill". Just to go out and perform without much effort.
    Mr_ARPY likes this.
  16. Lord of Magic,

    Rather than try to warm it over I would point you directly to Strong Magic by Darwin Ortiz, The Magic Way by Maestro Tamariz and The Collected Works of Ascanio vol 1.

    Specifically what Ortiz writes about the difference between intellectual belief (which we cannot achieve) and emotional belief (which we must achieve if magic is to be taken seriously as an art). The people asking if it was really magic don't intellectually believe it might be magic. They are looking for reassurance against an emotional belief that they find subconsciously disturbing. If you provide that reasurance--by telling them it was "just sleight of hand" you undermine your own performance as an artist.

    If you are confused about the difference here the best analogy is horror movies. Why do people get scared? It isn't because they intellectually believe the content of the film. They "know" it is just acting and special effects, but if the film-maker has done his or her job properly then they end up with an "emotional belief" that manifests itself as fear.

    It is your job, as an artist, to "discomfort" your audience.
  17. You talked about youtube. Let me just say that I dont think there is good magic on youtube either, let alone mentalism.

    About resources, maybe I dont have enough knowledge but for example for something like card magic and card sleights there are a lot of resources that give you a solid foundation. Say for example card college or expert card technique or rrtcm. In mentalism, for such a course from beginning to a decent level, the only things that I can think of are pete turner books and corinda's 13 steps. Obviously there is annemann but his material isnt a course that guides people from start to end. While there are a lot of good books and dvds for magic.
    Again as I said, I am not really into mentalism that much and my ideas may just come from my lack of knowledge. If that is the case, i apologize in advance.
  18. I think the issue is that mentalism isn't based on methods. Physically, I'm having trouble coming up with anything other than billet handling that is a physical skill that needs to be learned.

    Mentalism is more accurately described as employing systems, rather than executing methods.
    Mr_ARPY likes this.
  19. Exactly, which is what mentalism should be...but many ''mentalists'', as @Bliff said, take shortcuts and actually use mental magic tricks as substitutes which are 100% fool proof with COMPARATIVELY less practice and then, such self-acclaimed mentalists end up being the face of mentalism for the lay public and messing up their (public's) view of mentalism.
  20. Thank you. May I now know more about what troubles thee, my humble subject? :D

    That depends on one's style, doesn't it?

    We must agree to disagree because clearly, your vision of magic as an art and my vision of magic as an art do not intersect anywhere.
    But that's okay, both the views are correct in their own place...I believe no vision can be 'wrong'...they are all right in certain fixed contexts.
    So as I said, let's just agree to disagree :) :)

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