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...
Flibberty-Gibberty 6 by Jon Racherbaumer

Flibberty-Gibberty 6 by Jon Racherbaumer

VANNI BOSSI: CLASSY SCHOLAR Jon Racherbaumer   Vanni Bossi was a classy scholar who diligently pursued excellence and he was a model of such artistic intent. This is why it’s challenging and perhaps futile to find an apt and summarizing word or two to pin like shiny medals on Vanni’s yet-to-be-passed mantle. “Class act” comes to mind. So does “quiet elegance.” The last two words suggest other considerations because he was indeed an aristocrat of scholarship. He researched, read and studied the roots of our art form; and deeply cared about everything he investigated. This had a humbling effect on him because when he spoke and performed, he did so without any swagger or ostentation. A different kind of assurance was at work. His modesty gave rise to a subtle and winning kind of gravitas. Slowly and surely he made the most of available time. Gradually and unfailing he cast spells and while doing so he managed to radiate an old-world, sweetly seasoned, charm. But most of all, he eschewed anything that might trivialize or discredit the art form he loved, which is why his level of creativity was cutting-edge. It always seemed as though he was distilling four centuries of mystery and manners—all served up with grace and civility. Vanni’s research drilled down deeply. Details mattered. Patterns had to connect. If a subject such as the mnemonic use of playing cards interested him, he would start digging and would eventually find and reprint works dating back to 1593 such as Horatio Galasso’s Giochi di carte bellissimi di regola, e di memoria. He might also take time out to...
Flibberty-Gibberty 5 by Jon Racherbaumer

Flibberty-Gibberty 5 by Jon Racherbaumer

MATT-INGLY YOURS Jon Racherbaumer   The taverns in Chicago, circa 1935-1960, were a fertile breeding ground for a special kind of close-up entertainment to gain traction. Prohibition led to speakeasies and after Prohibition was repealed, customers needed places to drink booze, and in the Windy City taverns (as they were often called) proliferated. There was one or two in almost every neighborhood. Also, where booze was served at a bar, you would likely find a dice cup, some dice, a cribbage board, and decks of cards. If these things were nearby, you would inevitably find players, gamblers, jokesters, drinkers, and tricksters and the City of Big Shoulders bred some of the best magicians: Bert Allerton, Johnny Paul, Matt Schulien, Jim Ryan, Don Alan, Heba Haba Al, Clarke “Senator” Crandall, Johnny Platt, Frank Everhardt, Johnny Thompson, and (for a brief time) even Ed Marlo. Don Alan was exposed to these magicians and the—shall we say—ecology of the Chicago Bar Venue. The word “ecology” is used here because it includes the relations and interactions of the people with the environment rather than just the physical environment or setting. Don learned a lot working at Schulien’s restaurant-tavern. He carefully watched Matt Schulien work the crowd. Matt stopped short of being officious, but he was cheerfully engaging. He was exuberant and fun loving. Don realized the power of this approach, and he made many mental notes. He also paid close attention to the personal performing styles of Bert Allerton and Johnny Paul, picking up many great bits of business and audience-pleasing tactics. More important, he assimilated enduring psychological principles and soon the true...
Flibberty-Gibberty 4 by Jon Racherbaumer

Flibberty-Gibberty 4 by Jon Racherbaumer

TWO SIDES OF THE SAME CIRCLE   Almost forty years ago I wrote a short piece on a shop-worn term magicians regularly use: effect. This was a word that crept into our informal lexicon, supposedly because it’s preferable to “experiment” or “trick.” The old-fashioned “experiment” suggested some sort of scientific test that might have a dubious outcome. It also sounded too tentative and uncertain, lacking the confident certitude associated with all-knowing (?) magicians. “Trick” was worse. It sounded trivial, cheap, and prankish—something underhanded and meant to make people look foolish. Therefore, magicians began calling what they did “magical presentations” or “effects.” This made sense, even though “effect” sounds slightly vague and spooky. When routinely used in magic books, an “effect” is the description (usually brief) of what happens during a given presentation. It is supposed to entail everything that apparently takes place as interpreted by the spectator. In my short article I pointed out that the Random House Dictionary provided thirteen definitions of “effect.” Three are applicable to magic: Something that is produced by an agency or cause; result; consequence. A mental impression produced, as by a painting or speech. An illusory phenomenon. The magician is the agent and perhaps the primary causative factor producing what happens. He causes the effect or result. The audience, each in their subjective way, experiences a number of “mental impressions,” creating an individual “seeming” of what supposedly happened.1  Any magic “effect,” regardless of its agency, cause, or kind of interpretation by the spectator is undeniably illusory. Using these definitions I decided to compare and contrast “effect” and “affect”. Word specialist, Theodore M. Bernstein,...
Flibberty-Gibberty 3 by Jon Racherbaumer

Flibberty-Gibberty 3 by Jon Racherbaumer

OF DIVERSE PETIE JUGGLING KNACKS: Mulling Over Moves   “Push on—keep moving.” -Thomas Morton  What is a move’s role in the performance of magic? Shouldn’t “moves” be defined in ways more meaningful than previously defined? What would David Devant have thought about this? We are told that he famously and perhaps ironically confessed that he knew only eight tricks. If he were alive today, what would he say about the plethora of sleights that now exist? Did he know a lot of moves? Probably not. I once opined that card moves began proliferating at the turn (swerve?) of the 19th century.1 The Expert at the Card Table and The Art of Magic ushered in a fresh appreciation of advanced technique. They were highly technical and paid close attention to meticulous detail. And, by the time Greater Magic auspiciously appeared, many magicians started to exclusively focus on card magic. A new type of practitioner was born—the card specialist.2 Led and inspired by card stars of that early period, these emerging specialists studied books such as Card Manipulations, Royal Road to Card Magic, Card Control, and the landmark follow-up to Erdnase— Hugard and Braue’s Expert Card Technique. If Erdnase was the first sacred book, Expert Card Technique was its fastidious concordance and granular addendum. Robustly replete with discriminating details, wonderful minutia, and technical trifles, Expert Card Technique was the second major book of “finessed card work” published in the 20th century. Soon thereafter, two hugely influential titans took card specialists to dizzying heights: Dai Vernon and Edward Marlo. Vernon gave them Form. Marlo gave them Formulae. Vernon inspired card specialists to respect details,...
FLIBBERTY-GIBBERTY 2 by Jon Racherbaumer

FLIBBERTY-GIBBERTY 2 by Jon Racherbaumer

PERSONS, PLOTTING AND A WISHFUL WELL   Plot – A sequence of events in a play, novel, movie, or similar work. Magicians palaver a lot about plots and plotting. Then they usually ask questions regarding “presentational plots” and the effects/affects these plots are supposedly meant to achieve. This exercise has had mixed results. Most magician-creators are method-driven. Consequently, an excessive amount of time is spent learning moves and devising methods they hope will be devastatingly deceptive. Levels of conviction must be high. Essential, underlying mysteries should be deep. Alas, in this regard I’m as guilty as others celebrating and indulging this addiction. Yet when I watch films and read novels, the effects/affects these mediums achieve are much different and more satisfying than those I obtain from watching magic tricks. Question. Why are many filmmakers routinely referred to as “magicians”? Granted, they successfully and dramatically enchant, mesmerize, edify, inspire and arouse every human emotion ever categorized and analyzed. Yet the subject of deception (as an ultimate goal) is seldom the point or in play. Yes, a film is an illusory medium, but its “message” is not to turn spectators into victims of “visual tricks. The illusory effects presented in films serve transcendent purposes and goals. They are subtle means to even more subtle ends. In a similar article about “presentational plotting” and possible ways to change the interpretation of magic phenomena, I brought up an old dealer item—a three-second, shocking puzzle—that was once a bestseller. Here is the back-story: When I performed close-up magic in the 70s (mainly to test the strength and weakness of various tricks in the eyes...

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