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 Prohibition led to speakeasies and after Prohibition was repealed, customers needed places to drink booze, and in the Windy City taverns (as they were often called) proliferated.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...
Hocus Pocus It’s Alan Kronzek

Hocus Pocus It’s Alan Kronzek

  Magic, Magic, Magic, and Its History “the hook for my show is the history of magic. I’m an academic at heart.” By Mark Segal | June 11, 2015 – 1:47pm Allan Zola Kronzek is not your stereotypical magician. During a recent conversation at his house in Sag Harbor, he neither pulled a rabbit out of a hat nor sawed his wife, Ruby Jackson, in half. It became clear very quickly that he is a scholar who has written four books, with a fifth on the way, and whose “act” is steeped in the history and psychology of magic. But he does tricks, too. He recently brought a relatively new program, “Magical Jews: The Life and Times of Great Jewish Magicians,” to Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor and the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. “I’ve been doing it for about a year. There were a lot of Jewish magicians in the early=20th century. Houdini is the best known today, but at the time Alexander Herrmann was just as well known. And he was a better magician. Houdini was really more famous as an escape artist.” Because his preferred venues for his magic act are museums, libraries, and schools, “the hook for my show is the history of magic. I’m an academic at heart.” He works on Long Island and in the city, teaches magic at the Ross School summer camp, and sometimes does strolling magic at parties. “If I’m doing a history-of-magic show, I start by explaining that magic is not supernatural; it’s special effects. I then do an example by making salt disappear and then reappear elsewhere....
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...
FLIBBERTY-GIBBERTY 1 by Jon Racherbaumer

FLIBBERTY-GIBBERTY 1 by Jon Racherbaumer

Conjuring Arts is very proud to have Jon Racherbaumer writing an exclusive periodical for us. FLIBBERTY-GIBBERTY will appear from time to time and at Jon’s whim. F IS FOR “FAKE” AND “FUTILE” Magicians are in a unique position to be cavalier about fakers and frauds who are not transparent about what they do. Unlike magicians who are unambiguous liars and deceivers, fakers are hidden deceivers; they are unethical and deserve to be exposed. This is also why magicians tend to admire debunkers who expose fakers and show the consequences of irrational behavior and bogus belief systems. Speaking of forthright practitioners of deception (as entertainment), I always admired David Hoy, who usually began his night-club act by saying, “My name his Dave Hoy and I’m a fake!” (Hoy, as many old-timers will remember, was a showman who managed to exploit the public’s willingness to believe (anything) in various venues, guises, and personalities. And, yes, it’s true. Most human beings tend to interpret what they personally experience regardless of what you might confess (as a disclaimer) or through purposeful omission fail to disclose. When I was a university student I played what turned out to be a cruel joke on my roommate, who often saw me perform magic tricks at different times. One night he asked the stereotypical question every magician hears: “How do you do that stuff?” Rather than giving him a stock response, I made a preposterous claim. With a straight face and a serious tone of voice I said, “To tell you the truth, Fred, I’m not from here!” His initial response was to scoff. Nevertheless, I persisted. I remained gravely...

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