What's the point?!

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Rev, Mar 20, 2016.

  1. Inspired by something I saw in another thread….

    If you could really do magic, what would you do? Would you use you powers to rid the world of poverty? Would you become a superhero? Perhaps you’d go to the dark side and become a super villain?

    Or would you use it to make the two black jacks sandwich a chosen card?

    OK, that’s an extreme example. But i’ve often seen the question asked on forums, especially aimed towards those who choose to ‘create’ magic, about what exactly the ‘point’ of a new effect is. Why are you doing this effect? Is it what you would do if you could really do magic?

    To be blunt, no. It isn’t what I would be doing. If I could really do magic I certainly wouldn’t want to waste my time making two rubber bands pass through each other.

    But then again, the reality is that I can’t do ‘magic’. And, given they fact it’s 2016, I don’t for a second expect my audience to think I can either.

    In the intro to my ebook Card Ideas, I describe my effects as ‘pointless ideas’. And I honestly believe that is what they are. Good, old-fashioned, inherently pointless cards tricks. And I love ‘em for it!

    However, I don’t necessarily believe that just because something is pointless, that it also has no value. Magic has value in that it is a great ice breaker. It’s also fun, novel entertainment and also great distraction. It is also something that people don’t see every day. Whilst I don’t necessarily buy into the notion that magic can ‘make you believe anything is possible' (no one is going to make any major, life changing decisions just because I know what card they’re thinking of), I do think it can help people forget about their stressful day at work for just a moment and maybe bring a smile to their face. And that to me is where it’s value lies. It is something for me and other people to simply enjoy in the moment. Pointless, but enjoyable.

    I take my magic very seriously and have done for most of my life, but I certainly don’t try to act like it’s life or death. It’s just card tricks.

    Then again, maybe I'm completely wrong. This is 'art' after all. So what do you guys think? Should magic effects always have a point, a narrative or some deeper underlying meaning? Should we try and convince people we can really do magic, or are they just tricks we have spent many years perfecting? Are you a real magician, or is it all just a bit of fun?

    All thoughts welcome, and let's keep it civil!

    Rev (purveyor of pointless card tricks!)

    PS: Forgive the slight 'rambling' tone of the above, this is very much 'train-of-thought' style writing rather than an essay!
  2. I tend to be on the side that doesn't waste time learning anything unless I see it being practical for me. But this comes down to how I perceive a magician and magic. I think it is all about presentation and thus the character you present. I remember reading in a Darren Brown book a few years ago, back when I just did magic for fun and did not really consider what it was I was trying to do, he had a section in which he talked about developing character and to picture yourself walking up to you (I know meta) in the ideal persona you would want to see yourself as as a magician. After thinking about that make than your goal. I mix my character into a Tommy Wonder meets Eisenheim the Illusionist. One real and realistic the other totally fabricated. But it gives my magic purpose and a goal. I may just do a card trick for friends or people who inquire because its a sample of what I do. When I do a show it is "story" based in the sense that I have a reason to move from one effect to another some effects like a coins across is really about nothing more that coins moving from hand to hand. But another effect like a mind reading feels more magical and impossible. When I do a card trick for a show I always try and make the effect not about the card. If I was a card shark or doing a gambling demonstration then I could get away with it. But for my character there would be no point for it.

    I also believe there are plenty of effects out there in the world that are (in my opinion) more useless that a laser disk movie. You have it to have it but really its pointless. But a collector, a tinkerer, or a fan of just card magic may find way more use with the effect. I don't mean to pick on just cards fyi, I love card effects just the example I am using.

    I also think this brings up an area of magic you wish you could do but can't justify doing. I would love one day to use a losander table in a show. But I just cannot yet because I cannot afford one but I also have not found a reason for the effect other than what most use it as, a table that floats. Which Does look wonderfully magical when performed well but why does it accomplish to float a table other than to show you can float a table? One day I will solve that problem.
    Gabriel Z. likes this.
  3. Magic can do all of the things you mention. It also can do more. Sometimes a card trick is just a card trick done for fun. There is nothing wrong with that. Our lives would be pretty drab without any fun or any games. Seeing magicians like Dani DaOrtiz perform, you can't help but get a sense of fun, a sense of play. Adults don't get that sense of play too often (in fact, it usually takes children or pets to "allow" adults to play).

    Sometimes magic is a vehicle for a message - just like a painting, poem, song or movie can be a vehicle for a message. To me, that message is something that makes you think or feel. The magic is the brush strokes, the words, the notes or the photos that convey the message.

    When people use the word "magical" it has a context that is beyond being fooled. A starry night, a first date, the sunrise over a fresh snowfall, a cool autum night around a fire, a proposal, looking into the eyes of your child for the first time. There is an awe at the beauty of things and our relationship to them.

    A couple of weekends ago, I was having fun with some of the other adults on a scout cabin camping trip. I hadn't intended to perform anything, but had a deck of cards and was playing with them doing faro shuffles. Someone asked if I still did magic (I had done magic shows for the scouts several years ago), I down played things saying I still remembered some stuff. I did a quick card selection and location and a key card effect where the spectator handled the cards. The guys talked about trick decks and sleight of hand. I then did a selected card to under glass (clearly not something using a trick deck) and then performed Chad Long's Shuffling Lesson and a Greg Wilson effect where the sepectator cuts to the aces. It was fun and interactive. Nobody thought I was possessed with magical powers but they did realize that I was playing with them.

    In contrast, my show starts off with a story about my "crazy" Uncle Jim and his obsession with magic. It is about his greatest magic trick that didn't work - having a gin bottle vanish and reappear in a deck of cards. The story draws the audience in, makes them laugh. After the card has been selected and the bottle handed out, I tell them that "Uncle Jim never performed his signature effect. There was a good reason for that. He could never get it to work." Then I have the selected card travel to the bottle held by the spectator. It is followed by a whimsical effect where the other halves of two spectators' dollar bills are found in envelopes that represent "fan mail" from Satan and St. Peter. It is pure fun. I then bring up a married couple and ask the rhetorical question -- is it better to be more alike or more different? We then do a compatability test using Eric Ross' Election (yes, a card trick). Following that is another Jim Steinmeyer effect about mixing apples and oranges -- litterally, the spectators mix apples and oranges and then have an orange travel from one spectator's basket to the other's basket. It is interaction and fun, with a large dose of bad jokes and puns. I close with my egg bag routine - a moving story about a young girl named Margarite who lived in occupied France during World War 2 and how she learns to look beyond what we can see. The routine allows me to walk into the audience, having audience members reach into the bag to find it empty. The routine also allows me touch the audience's emotions, making them think and feel.

    I don't claim that my magic is real, but I also don't play it off as "just a trick." I perform my magic as if it just happens. It is not me that is doing it, it just happens because it is necessary for the story. When spectators talk to me about my magic, it becomes inextricably linked to the story.

    Ultimately, I think the difference is the TYPE of performance you are doing. A couple of pointless card tricks are a lot of fun among friends after dinner or at a party. However, if you are doing a paid performance, I think there needs to be something more. There needs to be something that is more entertaining -- a well developed character and a reason why the audience should care. Doing a series of tricks makes a show about the magician. I think that magic shows need to be about the audience.

    With all that being said, there is one big CAVEAT. Many magic tricks do not have the substance to hold up a meaningful presentation. There can't be a strong serious presentation with weak magic. Asking a spectator to think of themselves as the ambitious card always rising above the difficulties in their life is too much to ask.
    Gabriel Z. likes this.
  4. If I could use magic for one thing it would be all of the above. I think that magic in it's most basic structure is an art. Most tricks can be traced back to Reginald Scotts book Discoverie of Witchcraft written way back in 1584. David Blaine is an example of how we are able to still manipulate the minds of our spectators using this art. He is not my favorite magician but he is the most accessible to laymen. This is because you just turn on your television and there he is performing some branch of magic. The card tricks themselves are just a means by which we are able to say subconsciously to the spectator (here is what I did , here is what you think I did or did I?). Yes, they should have a narrative, and also an underlying meaning. Without an underlying meaning it would be akin to saying (hey I just used a 50 cent word , no I don't know the definition :(). Same applies to the most basic card trick , if you know the trick but not the definition you are just making a fool of yourself. However , in card magic at least, I think you should have performed the trick enough times to make it a part of you. You have all heard this before, if a particular trick does not suit your style than you shouldn't include it in your repertoire or something along those lines. Moreover, you should try to convince your audience that you are indeed performing magic, otherwise what would be the point of calling yourself a magician. So, what is the point? The point is to try to bring people together using ideas of magic. Make people laugh, cry, smile , roll their eyes up or evoke any sort of emotion, I think that carries some sort of value in my eyes. I saw this one episode of David Blaine where he has an ultimate fighter punch him in the stomach as hard as he could....... and lo and behold it did not affect his ability to breath let alone whip out a deck and perform another card trick.

    Have you thought of maybe taking it to that level?? From the videos I've seen you seem to be a pretty talented magician. Now if you were to bump up your game and make it a matter of Life and Death imagine how great you could be. ;)
  5. I think that is a perfectly good reason and way to do magic (and wow, would I be stepping out of bounds telling you otherwise, given how long you've been doing it that way, all the writing on it you've done, and so on) but I don't necessarily think it's the one single valid reason or purpose for magic. Magic can be used to tell a fairly exciting story (such as in Gabi Pareras' presentation of Cutting the Aces) without trying to convince anyone that you genuinely have supernatural powers. It can be used to pretend to have powers or strange, arcane artifacts, without people going home believing you had those things, in the same way that people suspend disbelief when they watch a movie, but with the added benefit of something they can't explain right in front of them.

    Some of my favorite magic is magic where there seem to be stakes, either apparently real (such as in dangerous escapes or Houdini's needle trick) or entirely part of a fictional story the audience knows is just a story. The real question then is, what will happen next? The fact that it's centered around magic just assures the viewer that whatever it is, it will be spectacular.
    Gabriel Z. likes this.
  6. I went through a big phase of having the same thoughts, and now my business card says 'slight of hand' instead of 'magic'...retain the skill and title, but shun the other stuff :)
    Rev likes this.
  7. Doesn't that change what you do into a demonstration of skill rather than a demonstration of the impossible by explicitly stating that there is a method?
  8. Magicians are the same as time travelers from the future. We are not allowed to use our powers to do anything that will have a lasting impact on this timeline. We cannot fix wrongs or change events so we are out of necessity relegated to having omnipotence over a pack of cards and maintaining the curious ability of being able to move a coin from one hand to the other without the hands approaching each other. If we used our powers for more 'useful' things it would have unintended consequences that could affect the fabric of reality itself and change our true timeline.

    Coincidence? Or the true explanation for why we all keep doing ACR, Coins Across and ACAAN????

    Or maybe it just looks kinda cool when done well.
  9. Yes, I think so - I think in some cases it's better to do something and they understand that this took practise, it's not simply a click and it's done, simultaneously not being condescending. But this doesn't suit every one
    Rev likes this.

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