ON: WORD 1 – What’s Your Story? by Jon Racherbaumer

ON: WORD 1 – What’s Your Story? by Jon Racherbaumer

WHAT’S YOUR STORY?   ________   Jon Racherbaumer   “Every story I create creates me. I write to create myself.” -Octavia E. Butler   “A story to me means a plot where there is some surprise. Because that is how life is – full of surprises.” -Isaac Bashevis Singer   “Narration is as much a part of human nature as breath and the circulation of the blood.” -A. S. Byatt   “There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” -J. K. Rowling   Stories. Story-Telling. Narratives. Narrativity.   The first time it happened I was 11. And when it happened I was psychically transported to another place (via magic). The staging area was in a high-school auditorium in Elmhurst, Illinois and the “transporter” onstage at first was not impressive. He shuffled onstage looking like a Zen priest wearing a tuxedo. What he said and how he spoke, however, made me piggyback every moment as it passed. For the most part he told stories—lots of them—using interesting props. At one point I remember he uttered a homespun declaration: “In the beginning,” he said, “the Lord created the world!” This was nothing new. I heard this kind of remark many times in church, but when this slightly stooped man said it, a red ball suddenly appeared out of thin air! Whoa! This guy was simultaneous telling and showing. Then he related an entirely different “take” on the story of Adam and Eve, using colored balls, which, as he spoke, magically appeared, disappeared, and multiplied. He pretended that a ball could be an apple, which he apparently...
Flibberty-Gibberty 7 by Jon Racherbaumer

Flibberty-Gibberty 7 by Jon Racherbaumer

FLIBBERTY-GIBBERTY #7 Jon Racherbaumer REGARDING A FEW OF THE QUOTATIONS PUBLISHED IN THE GREATER ARTFUL DODGES OF EDDIE FIELDS     Most quotable pundits belittle the practice of quoting other pundits. That being said, consider these two sentences by Ralph Waldo Emerson:          “I hate quotation. Tell me what you know.” Well, I know lots of little things. I know, for example, that I started to conscientiously collect quotations in 1955. Whenever I ran across a phrase or quotation that seemed supple, thoughtful, incisive, poetic, or witty, it was savored and saved. The quotations chosen for the Artful Dodges book were not capriciously picked. Each was germane regarding how Eddie Fields approached and presented his magic. Their allusiveness was meant to supplement my youthful, slap-dash prose. I needed to intermittently pump some gravitas into my wobbly exposition. Looking back, the quotations are not as suggestive and opaque as early critics claimed. I repeat: none of them were arbitrarily chosen. On the contrary, they are proven, pertinent points that Fields wanted to emphasize. I hope the following annotations will sharpen your understanding of any possible allusiveness or intent?   THE QUOTATIONS   “Imitation is criticism.” -William Blake Fields repeatedly stressed the importance of working from the inside and then outward. “Start within and work your way out. Learn the mechanics of the trick and then figure out the psychological parts.” He recommended internalizing these aspects. “Figure out how you would express any trick. If you do this, your presentations will be inimitable. Nobody can copy these things in an ongoing, spontaneous basis. If somebody can imitate you (not your tricks), then...
Fun at Home with Adam Rubin

Fun at Home with Adam Rubin

Stretching the Truth by Adam Rubin   The other day I was walking through New York City when I noticed these skinny letters in the street. Turns out nearly all the words painted on public roadways in America are skewed in a similar fashion. That’s because the type is designed to be read at an extreme angle by motorists whizzing by at 30 mph or more. To a pedestrian, the words look stretched out like rubber bands but to anyone driving by in a car, they seem perfectly legible. This is an example of “anamorphic typography”. Anamorphic comes from Latin and means “reshape”. In the case of the writing on the road, the letterforms are reshaped to make them easier for motorists to read. Maybe it’s just me, but this is pretty neat. It’s not every day you come across a government-funded optical illusion. My favorite use of this technique was created by Axel Peemoeller back in 2006. He designed an anamorphic wayfinding system for the Eureka Tower Carpark in Melbourne Australia. Unlike the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) diamonds painted on a highway, parking garage directions need to work in three dimensions.   The words painted throughout the garage are only legible to drivers approaching from locations relevant to the information. Just like the “School” example, the letters look totally distorted to anyone walking by because they are designed as perspective-specific communications.     The inspiration and technique for this particular design came from celebrated French artist Felice Varini. Varini is famous for utilizing projectors to paint 2-dimensional images across 3-dimensional spaces. There are loads of great examples of...
Mahdi Gilbert

Mahdi Gilbert

As part of what will be an ongoing series of articles concerning significant people in the world of magic, we will kick off the series with a profile of a truly remarkable individual. We stayed close to home for this inaugural piece, for the subject is someone who occasionally takes up residence and works right here in the offices of the Conjuring Arts Research Center.   In July of last year, the following scenario played out four times a night, for a full week at the famed Magic Castle in Hollywood, California. A group of thirty smartly dressed people are sitting in the Close-up Gallery. The tuxedoed host greets them and says, “Our next performer has traveled the four corners of the Earth. He has been forced to reinvent magic for himself. Literally redefining how a deck of cards can be handled. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome a man who shuffles without fingers, palms without palms, and is living proof that nothing is impossible. Please welcome Mahdi Gilbert.” When the performer steps out from behind the curtain, the first thing they notice about him is that he is very short, about four-feet-six inches, and yet very imposing. He has dark, curly, hair, a beard, strong features, and an elegant bespoke tailored suit. And as they assessed the diminutive performer, a realization explodes in their brains, when they notice that he has no hands; then they remember the host’s comments, and the introduction start to make sense. Their minds start to race and they can’t help but wonder what Mahdi is going to share with them. This is the Magic Castle,...
Images from Egyptian Hall

Images from Egyptian Hall

Egyptian Hall Museum is the oldest private magic museum in America, started in 1895 by W.W. Durbin and later nurtured for nearly fifty years by David Price of Brentwood, Tennessee. Mike Caveney and George Daily acquired the museum in 2000 and today Mike curates the collection in Pasadena, California. Mike Caveney is a well known magician, historian, writer and publisher of books on the history and practice of magic. His historical works include biographies on The Great Leon, Servais Le Roy, Harry Kellar and Charles Carter. For Taschen Books he co-wrote a massive tome called MAGIC 1400s–1950 which has been translated into six languages. In a regular feature on the Conjuring Arts website, Caveney will be sharing some of the treasures from Egyptian Hall Museum.   Houdini and Kellar by Mike Caveney When asked to name the greatest magician of all time, most non-magicians would name the only one they could recall: Harry Houdini. While it’s true that Houdini always included magic in his show, he was most famous for being an escape artist, and later for his efforts in exposing fraudulent spirit mediums. If you were to ask Houdini who he considered to be the greatest magician, his answer would likely have been Harry Kellar. Born in Pennsylvania in 1849, Kellar spent the first part of his career touring the world. In 1884 he returned to the United States and until his retirement in 1908 he performed solely for North American audiences. When Alexander Herrmann—Kellar’s main rival as America’s foremost magician—died suddenly in 1896, Kellar spent the final twelve years of his career as the uncontested King of...

On Magic Words; or, A Trick by Any Other Name

by Brad Henderson The word “magician” can mean many things, and one can be some, all, or any combination of those things. Some magicians make their living performing, some do it just for fun. Some magicians collect the equipment, ephemera, and even the secrets of bygone magicians. While they may not perform, they provide a valuable service by keeping our history alive. Some magicians are interested in the theory of magic—as an art, a craft, a science. They provoke others interested in magic to re-view and reevaluate their beliefs, values, and choices. Some magicians craft and manufacture the props and equipment used by the performers and coveted by the collectors. Some magicians write for other magicians, both technically and creatively. There are magician publishers, and magician consultants, and magician photographers, and the list goes on. As magician-philosopher Eugene Burger put it, “Magic is a house with many rooms.” As a magician, I have spent a lot of time in many of these spaces. I make my living performing and producing events throughout the world; I have been collecting magic-related items since I was a teenager; I spend almost every waking moment thinking about magic, what it means, and how we can better create emotional responses for our audience; and I love talking to real people (i.e., non-magicians) about magic and what it means to them (and me!). To that end I’d like to kick off my Conjuring Arts Research Center tenure with a question that allows me to introduce you to several of my favorite rooms. Q: What word do magicians hate the most? I love asking this question...

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