Thursday, October 4, 2007

Okito Box Justification

I don’t use the Okito box much these days. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a great little prop which can be used to create some extremely convincing magic, only that it doesn’t mesh well with the kind of stuff I’m doing now. One of the things that always bothered me about magicians who use the Okito is their failure to justify its existence.

What am I talking about? Well, the Okito box has no reason for being in the real world – sort of like those little plastic paddles which magicians wave around. The times I’ve seen someone use an Okito, they either say nothing about it, as if everyone carries a little round brass box in his pocket, or try to pass it off as a coin box.

I don’t think you have to be a numismatist to realize the idea of a coin box is pretty lame. Most people know that coin collectors keep their coins in little plastic sleeves and the like so they don’t get scratched – not in a metal box where they’ll be clacking against each other. There’s no logical reason for carrying coins around in a box other than that it’ll aid you in doing a trick. So saying it’s a coin box is going to ring false.

What does it matter? It can be argued that as you’re showing them a trick they know up front they’re being deceived so they’ll just accept the thing as part of the deception. The problem is they’ll look at this thing with no reason for being and determine – quite rightly – that it’s responsible for the deception. They’ll reason that if they had one of those nifty little brass boxes they could do the deception quite as well as you – and it doesn’t matter that they can examine the thing. The impact of the magic is lost by introducing an object without providing any justification for doing so.

When I was using the Okito fairly regularly I was doing a handling of David Roth’s Out With Four. The justification I used was that the Okito was something pickpockets used to sharpen their skills – the idea being to get the coins from the box one by one without making any noise. I was showing how you could reach a degree of proficiency where you didn’t even appear to come near the box, playing it as a display of preternatural skill.

Now you may be saying that calling an Okito box a pickpocket’s practice device is no better than saying it’s a coin box. The spectators will still discount the thing as being an aid to do the trick. The difference is the majority of people are going to have no idea if pickpockets really use such things for practice. Plus, it made sense in the context of what I was doing – in fact it was an integral component in the proceedings. It wasn’t just a thing I was using to do a trick, it was an arcane little device I was demonstrating the use of. It was accepted because I was providing a justification for it, even if that justification made little sense outside the performance.

I think it’s vital that we always find ways of justifying the props we use and reasons for why we’re using them. Even if the reasoning is implied rather than stated that justification needs to always be there. See you next time.

9 comments:

Raenius said...

Hmmm I think the pickpocket explanation of the Okito box is a very good one. Before the customer starts thinking what the box could do if not a prop, you give him the answer, thus presenting your routine as entertainment and not a puzzle...

Jim Coles said...

Hey, thanks man. I posted that presentational bit at a magic forum once and got no replies, but in real life it always worked pretty well.

Glenn Bishop "Bish The Magish" said...
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Glenn Bishop "Bish The Magish" said...
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Jim Coles said...

Glenn, I'd say cups make sense in an objective way -- people can understand cups and balls as they're objects which make sense, even if not normally seen together.

If an object doesn't make sense in an objective way I think it's going to detract from the magic. The emphasis shifts from the effect to the weird thing used to create the effect. It's much more magical to put a card in an envelope and have it disappear as opposed to putting it in a shiny card box and causing the same effect.

I don't think you have to justify everything. A deck of cards is understandable. Coins are understandable. An Okito box doesn't really make sense -- unless you could pass it off as a pill box, which was Bamberg's original inspiration.

Thanks for your input.

Juan said...

I´m with Jim in this all the way. But I think I t has to do with the approach you take. I mean, if you see yourself just like a entertainer it´s ok to play around with "funny" and "shiny" props.
But if you struggle to create a sens of mystery, magic, bewilderedness, etc. is better to justify the apparatus.

Juan said...

By the way, I´m stealing your justification for the okito, thanks :)

Glenn Bishop "Bish The Magish" said...
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Anonymous said...

Why do I always find these sites years after the last post? Oh well. I simply talk about finding a little box at a flea market. At first I thought it was for liquid but it has a hole in the top and bottom (Yes I have one of those original boxes) I thoght it might be for some salve but the lid does not fit tight, but it was brass so I bought it. I found it fits my coins nicely. I can put coins in the box and the box in this little coin purse and they don't bang around.... from there I'm into an Okito box routine.

Frank Tougas