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 Post subject: The Mascot Moth impression pad by John Riggs
PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 3:05 pm 
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born to perform.

Joined: 28 Dec 2002
Posts: 4064
Location: London, England
The Mascot Moth is a gimmicked notepad to be used in mind reading effects. It is only available through John Riggs' website. It goes for $60 ($75 if shipped overseas).

A spectator is asked to think of a piece of information, be it a word, number, picture, symbol or whatever. The magician requests that she (privately) jot it down as "something to show the audience, if we need to". The spectator tears off the page and hands the pad and pen back to the magician as she folds up the paper and puts it in her pocket. In putting the pad away in his case, the magician secretly discovers what was written, and can use this information to read the spectator's mind in whatever way he'd like.

I bought this trick to replace Scott Creasey's First Impressions Pad. The aim of the FIP was to allow you to glimpse the information in full sight of the audience, but the unfortunate trade-off for this was that very rarely did the information actually come through at all. I never used it because I simply didn't trust it.

The objectives I wanted my new pad to fulfil were as follows, ranked from most important to least:
  • Under $100
  • Reliable
  • No restrictions on what and where on the pad the spectator can draw
  • Versatile
  • Normal-looking (ideally a duplicate of a well-known pad)
  • Natural to handle and peek at the information
So let's discuss these, and a couple of other important areas:

Essentially, notepads used to do mind reading can be placed into two categories: the ones that cost under $100 and the ones that cost over $1000. The ones that cost over $1000 are used by professionals who want to be able to do multiple mind readings at once without resetting, and who never want to touch the pad. And need it to be 100% failsafe, even if the spectator is difficult. They're also only really for stage work, and I perform casual close-up. Plus they cost over $1000.

The Mascot Moth, as previously stated, costs $60. This makes it one of the more expensive cheap pads, but still falls very safely within my boundary.

The first thing I did when I got this thing was to try it out with a bunch of different pens and pencils, using them as a spectator would. Unless the spectator presses abnormally light, you will always get a unambiguous, correctly orientated, but maybe a little faint, image of what they put. Any sort of writing pen or pencil gives a good result. I tried it with felt-tip pens but the results weren't as good.

The bigger the spectator writes, the clearer it is, but even if they decide to write something on one line of the pad (a quarter of an inch) it's still visible – when you write small you tend to push harder anyway.

In low lighting it is difficult to see what was written: you'll need to have some source of light shining on the pad in order to read it clearly. But I guess this is the case for almost all pads that cost less than $100.

The pad you get takes the form of a Mead 5 Star Notepad. For those of you in the US, I take it that you get these things in every stationers for a dime a dozen. That makes them absolutely perfect, as it removes all suspicion from it; and if you need a refill, you just buy a new pad and transfer the gimmick across.

Unfortunately, from this perspective, I like in England, where Mead has yet to make such an impact. Instead, we have WHSmith notepads. But we also have more obscure brands, and if you're performing this casually, it'll fly by everyone. Refills are an issue, though: in this country, to import a Mead notepad it costs about $40 in total. For just one. F*** that. I did email John about this, and he mentioned that in the past, people have shipped him their own pad for him to gimmick, although this was uncommon. But he was kind enough to send an extra ungimmicked pad at no extra cost. Thank you, John.

In terms of craftsmanship, it's very well made. For the most part, the notepad is unaltered: it's just the back cover that's been modified. If you look very closely you can tell that it has been hand-made; so if you've been used to perfect machine-crafted gimmicks your whole life, you might feel disappointed; but it's entirely your fault if you feel that way. I'm not entirely sure how well it would stand up to examination, because, as to date, no one has examined it. I found the gimmick straight away but that's only because I knew exactly what to expect. I'd guess that the most someone would want to do if riffle the pages a little, and for that they'll find nothing.

Often, devices that allow you to peek at information come with certain restrictions that you have to impose on the spectator, like writing "inside this circle I've drawn", or only allowing simple shapes or letters; or only pictures. I wanted to use it for anything, and I didn't want to put any unnecessary emphasis on the writing down part, because ideally I'd want the audience/spectator to forget about it.

The spectator can write anywhere on the page, up to a quarter of an inch away from the edges; and because the pad is 5" by 7", that's a lot of room to work with.

I perform magic for friends, mainly – I'm not a professional – so I didn't want something that you can only do on the stage; and because my only objective effect-wise was "to do something where I read someone's mind", I didn't want this thing to work, say, just for numbers, or just geometric shapes.

This prop works anywhere where you'd naturally have a notebook to hand. This would include the stage, where you naturally bring one own, but also works for schools, offices, the home... Being slightly too large to just "have on you", I don't think it would be appropriate for restaurant or street magic, though.

Handling and Peeking
The handling and obtaining the peek are good, but not great; but I think I wanted to have my cake and eat it too: this was the inevitable trade-off for a reliable, natural-looking gimmick.

Firstly, the spectator does not write on the first page of the pad: instead it is the last page (or a few pages in from there). Not entirely natural, but considering that you as the magician open the book and set it up for them, if you're nonchalant they will either not notice or not care. After all, you'll be giving the instructions straight away, so they don't have time to care.

Secondly, the peek: while with something like the First Impression Pad you can stare at the information to your heart's content while the audience stare at you, and they'll have no idea that shenanigans are afoot, with the Moth you don't have that luxury. What you do here is get the peek while you're turned away from the audience, putting the pad back in your case (or schoolbag). This is probably the only thing that requires some sort of effort.

If you don't want to put the pad away (for example if you're going to use it to duplicate the spectator's drawing), you still have a legitimate reason to have your back turned as the spectator folds up the paper and checks to see that you can't see through it. Either way, it is best to perform this trick when there is a bit of distance between you and the audience, and spectator. You could in theory perform this trick surrounded, but only if you're going to be putting the pad away, to give you the cover, and the audience is not at too close a proximity.

You do have to reset the trick between performances, but it's not that easy to do surreptitiously. Considering its size, this thing isn't for table-hopping anyway. Resetting is very easy, but you just don't want people to see (or hear) you do it.

The instructions you get are the exact instructions you'd expect from an independent seller: a couple of loose-leaf sheets of 8½" by 11". You're told what the gimmick is, how you set it up for the spectator to write on, and how to peek at the information.

As far as I'm concerned that's all you need to know. If you're expecting a 90-minute DVD with John showing you how it works from multiple angles, and a vast array of presentation ideas, you shouldn't be in this field.

In addition to the handling, the instructions also happen to mention some general audience management tips, which I thought were quite insightful. Essentially they were on how to stop people grabbing at your props, and how to deal with people calling out the secret. I don't think that it was meant to be an indication that people will constantly want to examine the notepad and heckle you, but it's certainly much more useful than him giving you performance ideas, because that's your job, not his.

In addition to the Mascot Moth, John also sells the Beautiful Butterfly, which is like the Moth but takes the form of a pocket notebook. I haven't purchased it, but I assume that it will have the same sort of applications, except there's not as much space to write; but this means you could use it in a restaurant or on the street, if that's where you work.

I've heard people review the Janus Pad and the Tommy pad, the other two big contenders in this field, which I haven't yet mentioned in this thread. In the review for the Tommy pad, the reviewer opined that it wasn't as good as the Butterfly. The Janus Pad appears to be very good as well, but I can't comment. As I said previously, I didn't favour the First Impressions pad, but then again I recall someone saying that they vary. Maybe I just got a duff. I liked the handling very much but it was all for nothing.

I'm very pleased with this, and I'd happily recommend it to others. There should be enough information up there to help you decide if it fits with your style. Probably the worst part is the peek, and that really isn't that big of an issue at all. Like anything you'll just need to practise with it and come up with a handling that suits you.

Last edited by Lawboy on Tue Nov 30, 2010 5:46 pm, edited 3 times in total.

 Post subject: Re: The Mascot Moth impression pad by John Riggs
PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 7:05 pm 
User avatar
born to perform.

Joined: 21 Sep 2009
Posts: 2479
Location: Jackson, Michigan
Awesome review. I'll be looking into this!

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