Thursday, October 11, 2007

Exclusive Magic Secrets

I don’t understand the mentality, which is especially prevalent online, that all magic secrets should be made available to anyone who’s interested in magic. Are today’s magicians not allowed to have anything that’s uniquely their own, that distinguishes them from their fellow performers?

I’ve made it pretty clear that to my way of thinking the real secrets of magic aren’t secrets at all. That is to say factors like charisma and the ability to connect with the audience are more important than how to control a card or vanish a coin. Then again, the methods we use, however mundane and simple when viewed apart from their presentations, are what separate us from other performers and allow us to create our illusions. We’re instructed early on not to reveal our secrets. I don’t recall any annotations that said it’s okay to give up secrets if the other guy is a magician who really really wants the scoop.

I’ve seen this a number of times. Someone posts a video of something they’ve come up with that looks really impossible. People speculate, sometimes openly, about how it’s done, but keep missing the mark. Finally they profess astonishment and want to know the secret. The creator doesn’t wish to divulge the secret. The people who want it advise they’ll pay to learn how. The creator says he has no desire to sell his creation and prefers to keep it for his own use.

What happens next? People get mad. They want to know why the hell he made a video if he wasn’t going to put it out. They accuse him of employing camera tricks. They condemn him for coming up with something good simply because he wants to keep it for himself.

Richard Osterlind has a bent coin effect, and I remember a time when folks were going crazy because he wouldn’t tip it. I don’t know if he ever did, but why should he have to? Isn’t it okay to hold back a pet routine just for your own use? Is it selfish to want something in your repertoire that an audience won’t be able to see anywhere else?

There are some magicians who aren’t going to let a creator keeping a trick to himself stop them. If there’s a video, they’ll watch it a thousand times until they can reason out the method, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. It’s so bad that Armando Lucero was (I don’t know if he still is) allowing people to view his videos only by invitation. Why? Because he doesn’t want his work stolen and poor reproductions of it posted all over the Internet, I would imagine. Or marketed by one of the less scrupulous magic dealers.

Mickey Silver has a beautiful retention of vision vanish. He was kind enough to send me, and many others, a DVD of it just for the asking. He doesn’t tip the work, but he thoroughly outlines the theory of manipulating the retention of vision, and it’s utterly fascinating. I remember reading a thread where one fellow who’d gotten the DVD was openly saying that he’d worked out the method and was practicing it. Even though Mickey didn’t want to tip the work, even though he was kind enough to send out a DVD for free, this guy apparently thought nothing of working out the technique and appropriating it for his own use. Unreal.

I also remember Mickey being on a coin magic DVD and not tipping the retention vanish and people complaining that he didn’t. Of course.

We need to respect a creator’s right to keep whatever secrets he wants to himself. There are actually professionals out there who won’t perform certain pieces if they think magicians might be in attendance. The magic community is better than that. We need to all stop turning a blind eye to this kind of thing and speak up when someone attempts to lift another’s hard won material that he wishes to keep exclusive.

I hope we’re better than that. See you next time.


Steve Pellegrino said...

Jim - great post (and excellent blog by the way).

There was a time when you had to prove yourself and prove that you were serious about magic. You couldn't just ask about card to wallet and be given 20 resources for it. You had to show you were serious and then maybe you would be pointed to a book that had the information. Of course you needed to buy the book - nothing was yours just for the asking.

Regarding Osterlind's coin bend, no he has never tipped it. I've spoken to Richard about it a couple of times and mentioned that it's one of those secrets I hope he never reveals.

I still like to be amazed!

Jim Coles said...

Thanks for the feedback, Steve. Many of us miss the excellent blog you used to do and wish you'd come back.

I still haven't seen the Osterlind bend. I understand it was included on one of his DVDs, but when those came out I got VHS instead and there were no extras. I look forward to being amazed by it myself.