Monthly Archives: August 2013

Selfish Magic?

Magic can be somewhat selfish. I admit it. Even when you do pro-bono work there is an element of personal gain/selfishness. You do an effect and someone smiled or laughed – “I made them do that, go me!”

Today, we said goodbye to a student, a friend, and a classmate. She is going back to London with her family. The girls were in tears. Red, puffy eyes with snotty noses and I had to teach those faces geography??? Not gonna happen I’m afraid! So what did I do to cheer them up: Magic (Whoever said “You read a poem to them Greg” really needs a “warm klap” (loosely translated from Afrikaans as “a huge hiding”). And low and behold, the tears magically disappeared and out came the smiling faces and giggling girls that I know. Yes I felt good, yes maybe there was an element of selfishness but I believe that when something else, for example in this case making sad girls happy, is more important and overrides any personal gain from an effect(s), then it is perfectly okay to feel a little good about yourself.

If I were you, I would smile. I wouldn't want to answer to THAT face!

If I were you, I would smile. I wouldn’t want to answer to THAT face!

Doing magic has to make the performer feel good, no, fantastic. Otherwise what’s the point in performing? But if that is the ONLY reason you perform or if that is the ONLY outcome from your performances, then I might say that you need to rethink why you do magic. However if the goal is to share your passion with others and help them benefit from your skill, because ultimately you are doing the magic and give the illusion that the spectator is doing it, then you are doing a good thing in my books. Then you can take that personal gain and say “I deserve it because I’m sharing my happiness with others.”

Those girls for those twenty minutes were not thinking about a best friend leaving them, and that means I succeeded.

When you perform for others, do not underestimate how important your magic is because you NEVER know what baggage your spectators are carrying, all you know is that however long you perform for – you are giving them an ‘out’, an opportunity to leave their personal issues at the door.

 

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I am Greg, and I am a left-handed magician!

Sometimes challenges hit us so hard the wind shoots right out of us, and sometimes challenges are like tripwires – you don’t see them coming but all of a sudden your face is making out with the floor.

In magic, I believe living in South Africa is a challenge. The magic community here in Cape Town is so small, yet so familial and warm. Unfortunately Cape Town is not big enough for every magician to make a living, but that’s okay because some magicians are hobbyists. I would love to take my magic further than a hobby. I have been told a number of times, scratch that, I have been begged by people and bombarded with the question of “Why aren’t you doing this professionally?” Fellow magicians and laymen have said that to me. But in Cape Town I fear that it would be detrimental to me now, without any back-up in the bank or without some experience in the working world to take that leap. I want to live comfortably and I think I deserve that. We all do. But it is much harder for someone in the entertainment business to do that living in such a small city as Cape Town when there are already big names out there.

Believe it or not guys, this was not meant to be the topic of my post. The above highlights one challenge in my life. However the next one is being left-handed. In magic, most magicians are right-handed. This means when I read or watch magic I have to change all the movements and finger positions. That sounds silly: “Oh Greg, you just have to mirror it, silly Banana-head!” Oh really? You try performing a “Sybil” cut or “Reset” which are complicated in and of itself, but to now mirror the moves? Left-handed magicians should be awarded.

I am left-handed, as you can tell. I have become so accustomed to watching righties doing amazing pressure fans because their right hand is more toned than their left. I’ve seen righties do card forces because the card pips are positioned in a way that when a righty holds the pack of cards, specs see the pips (It sounds confusing but it is true). And I can’t do those. So sometimes being left-handed sucks.

However, there are a few moments when the sun shines down and out pops little magical angels. I’m talking about two in particular. Bill Malone and Eric Jones. These legends are left-handed. Yes, professional, celebrity magicians can also be left-handed! It is phenomenal to watch their dvds and you hear them say: “Now I am left-handed (Greg does victory dance) so you are going to have to mirror the moves I am doing.” Yes, suck on that righties! In your face!

Bill Malone

Bill Malone is one of my favourite magicians to watch. He is so funny and so charismatic, I really relate to him. I am new to the magic of Eric Jones and he too is simply so amazing and elegant. His coin magic is on the same level as David Roth who is probably the best coin magician to date in my opinion. Eric Jones is also coming to Cape Town in October…. I know what you are all thinking… “But Greg, exams are in October…” Yes I know and as my luck would have it, the conference with Jones falls smack-bam in the middle of my exams. But I have devised a plan so I can still go on the Sunday (It also is on Saturday but with shabbos and all I will have my bud Graeme taking notes and video for me). So in between studying and being a teacher and husband I am familiarising myself with Eric’s work to the best of my abilities. I am so excited!

Eric Jones

Eric Jones

So that is what I have to say. Sometimes being left-handed sucks, but other times it rocks. Check this infographic I found on lefties. Let me know what your challenges are as a lefty. I’d love to hear from you all!

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#2 on my Wish List: The Books of Wonder

The second piece of magic on my wish list are the Books of Wonder by Tommy Wonder. Before I get into the books let me tell you about the genius that is… well was Tommy Wonder. He was born as Jacobus Maria Bemelman in 1953 in Holand. At age ten he was performing and by eighteen he turned professional and took on the aliases Julian as well as Jos Bema before settling with Tommy Wonder. He studied acting and dance and magic wise he specialized in close-up and was awarded second prize at the FISM Championships in 1979. During his career, Wonder performed in over 26 countries including South Africa (yay). A lot of magicians use other magician’s material and tweak it to suit their personality. You might hear someone say “Oh I performed Daryl’s Ambitious Card Routine”, “I perform Dai Vernon’s cups and balls routine” or even “I perform David Copperfield’s Sawing a Woman In Half.” However Tommy Wonder developed all of his routines. Every effect he performed came from the WONDERful mind of Tommy. Because of that he was highly respected in the magic world. In my opinion he was in the same league as The Professor Dai Vernon.

Tommy Wonder

Tommy Wonder wrote many books and published many DVDs. One of his most esteemed writings are the Books Of Wonder. Tommy not only devised his own effects, he also wrote psychological, theoretical and philosophical articles on magic and sleight of hand. I have had the privilege to read some of the pages in the Books of Wonder and his writing is so warm and friendly that he makes reading something so academic incredibly easy. I love reading his articles and I would love to get my paws on a set of his books. Vanishing Inc. are selling the book as a pair for $90. Christmas/Channuka are only a few months away… ahem ahem 😉

The Books Of Wonder

Sadly Tommy Wonder passed away in 2006 from a brief battle of lung cancer. He is missed dearly by every member of the magic world but his magic is practiced on a daily basis. Below is a video clip from one of his DVDs. Watch his elegance, his rhythm and of course the magic. He is incredible!

This is called Deja Reverse. Brilliant effect

Pictures

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A tribute magic effect: Four Ace Assembly

People ask me on a constant basis if I went to the Cape Town College of Magic when I was younger. The plain answer is: No. I did not. “So how did you learn all your tricks?” (editor’s note: I hate it when people call my magic “tricks”). I learned from books and DVDs. BUT I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the help of three people and I’m going to focus on one person in particular: Jared Lipsitz, Alan Cohen, and Darren Srot zt”l.

These three gentlemen took me under their wings when I was the mere age of fourteen to help me plan my first kids show, my first balloon modelling class and some magic effects that I still perform to this very day.

The effect below is called McDonald’s Aces/ McDonald’s $100 Routine, named after the song Ol McDonald… I’m kidding. It really is not. It is a four ace assembly where you place four aces in a diamond shape (North, East, South, West) and three indifferent cards are placed over each ace. Magically the aces disappear and reappear in an impossible location with the fourth ace. I have been doing this effect ever since I was sixteen years old. I usually do it to close a set of effects (much better word than “tricks” don’t you think?) or to close a show, because it is just THAT powerful. I hope you enjoy

 

This effect was first shown to me by a dear friend of mine, Darren Srot, in my room on my carpet floor. I remember like it was yesterday. Watching each ace disappear under seemingly impossible conditions led to a burning desire to learn this effect. I went to the college a few days later to the shop and bought the secret. R100. Best buy ever.

I showed the effect to Darren and I remember him saying that I did it better than him and I must keep practising. Imagine a mentor saying that to you – your face beams. My face beamed. Darren was a brilliant magician. He won the close up Junior championships at the College of Magic and could have won many more. But as they say: Man makes plans and God laughs – God had another plan for Darren and decided his mission in life was fulfilled and on 14 September 2008 he passed away suddenly leaving this world to join the Almighty in Heaven. I remember when I would go to shul, Darren and I would jam and we would teach each other sleight of hand and magic. We went to the same camp and often we would chill in the dining room and show magic to the girls, and then we would teach each other how the effects were done. He was a dear friend who shared with me so much. To this day there is a triumph routine that I do that he taught me and I always share with my spectators what a wonderful human being he was.

Magic is not just about the secret. It is the connection that you make with the person as they are trusting you to guard their secret and to do the effect justice. Darren trusted me with a lot of effects and I will forever treat them as sacred. ————————————–

Whoever you are, whatever you are doing, as you read this, stop for one minute, just ONE minute and think about a person who gave you so much and who is no longer with us.

Thank you Darren for everything and I wish you were here to jam again.

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