“Practical Mental Magic” 8 week online class with Luke Jermayhttp://www.penguinmagic.com/product.php?ID=2087Price:
$59.95Special note about this review: I decided to start this review not necessarily to help you decide whether or not to get this class. Indeed, the class is 1/2 over and while you would likely get access to the previous class downloads the live aspect of the class and the ability to ask questions is what really makes it a worthwhile experience. The real intent of this review is two fold. 1. There is always a possibility that Luke and Penguin may chose to host this class again at a later date. 2. More importantly Luke and Penguin will be putting on a 13 week long class dedicated Corinda’s 13 Steps coming up in June. While that class will be focusing on a different book the format should be quite similar.
Another note: Like my card reviews I will update this review as the weeks go on. So far there have been 4 classes so I’ll give some details on those and overall all thoughts about the online class experience.Effect:
This is a new concept in magic instruction, new to me at least. The concept is that every week you cover a new aspect the book “Practical Mental Magic” by Theodore Annemann in an online class that is taught by Luke Jermay and hosted by Alvo Stockman. Here is the official spam.
An incredible experience and opportunity. Starting March 21st, 2010, Luke Jermay will be teaching an 8-week live online course on mentalism. The text will be the classic Practical Mental Magic.
If you've ever felt like the classic material in magic books feels a bit dated, or not relevant, then this is the class for you.
If you've ever felt like you want to understand how PMM is as relevant as ever, then this is the class for you.
Luke Jermay is currently headlining in Las Vegas at the O'Sheas casino right at the center of the city. He has been a professional mentalist since before he could drive, and is the single best point of connection between old and new in mentalism. He's been a pioneer in modern stage mentalism, and is better read in the magic literature than almost anyone on the planet.
I should note that since the class was announced it was decided to actually expand the class to 10 weeks not including a 1/2 hour long video podcast in which Luke Jermay introduced the course, the book, gave a short history on Anneman, and set the tone and goals for the course.Teaching:
This is the real selling point to this course. I have always liked and enjoyed Juke Jermay’s teaching style and, though I don’t have many Alvo Stockman releases I have liked him as well. Having the two together is an excellent combo. Luke is definitely in the forefront of modern mentalism and unquestionably an expert in this field. Having Alvo there is only a bonus…he’s no slouch either when it comes to this stuff. Format:
Each week we go to an upload site and plug in the password. From there we have the option of making a personal user account so that we may log in and ask questions during the class. On the left of the screen is the video uplink that Luke and Alvo will share and on the right is kind of a chat screen where you can ask questions. Alvo is primarily the facilitator. He does all the computer mumbo jumbo to insure that we can see and hear Luke. He also passes our questions on to Luke. Luke does not actually see our questions so essentially questions flood in on the chat screen, Alvo reads them and passes on to Luke. There are a few awkward moments with this format. For one there is a pause between when Luke will ask for any questions and when they get passed on by Alvo. That is why it is beneficial that Alvo is so strong in mentalism as well. He can usually start Luke off with a good question while he waits for others to poor in. Sometimes there is a flood of questions. Times like these it can be easy for your question to get missed but the other members in the class can quite often answer some of the simpler questions without a need for Alvo to pass it on. This Class/chat room camaraderie could also be considered a third instructor. Some of the guys in the current class are fantastic contributors to the overall format. I won’t comment to much more on this aspect of the class since there is no telling what the makeup of the class will be like in the upcoming 13 Steps class or if they decide to host this class again. Quality of materials(book):
This is what this class is all about, exposing modern readers to the real value of Annemann’s original book. Now that I am taking this class I am realizing that it is an excellent book with many modern applications. Had I read this without the class I may have overlooked some of the better tricks in the book. Quality of materials(Course):
Well essentially is is a live video feed and a chat room. Therefore, as you can imagine, the video feed is a bit grainy. That has nothing to do efforts on the part of Alvo and Luke. They are dealing with the technology available to them, and, right now live video feeds are a bit grainy. Occasionally we lose either the audio or the video feed on Luke. It seems as if part of this is a factor of Alvo’s learning curve. Technical problems seem to get less and less as the weeks go on and Alvo gets more familiar with the equipment. Week 1 (Billet Switches):
For the first lesson we jumped right into one of the most practical sleight of hand moves in mentalism. In this lesson Luke covered the classic switch, the folding switch, the refold switch, a switch based on a Barry Richardson switch, and he even throws in a shuttle pass switch. Capping his discussions on the techniques behind these switches he teaches a little exercise he created in order to practice billet switching. He also goes into theories behind billet switching and techniques and attitudes you can adopt that, if done properly, will convince many spectators you never even touched the billet. This was a fantastic opener to the class. I have read 13 steps, am in the process of reading PMM, and have purchased Luke Jermay’s download on billet switches and I still learned quite a bit about billet switches from this lesson. Just goes to show you that all the DVDs and Books you read will not replace a live teacher. The only thing that could have been better is being in the same room with him at the time.Difficulty:
For anyone with basic sleight of hand skills this class was not difficult at all. Some switches were easier than others and some more deceptive than others but placed in the right place and time each of these switches has their use.Practicality:
I think a lot of people are afraid of billet switch techniques. After this lesson I would have to say that it can be one of the strongest tools a mentalist can have. We have yet to get into the center tear(Corrinda’s favorite) but as it stands now I would definitely prefer the billet switch over the center tear.Week 2 (A Day in Your Life):
This lesson was entirely devoted the “A day In Your Life” routine found in PMM on page 16. Luke really transformed this effect for me. When I had first read through it I had skimmed over it thinking the overall presentation of the routine was to ridiculous for a modern day audience. Luke kind of took this routine, turned it on it’s head, rewrote the patter, made a few minor handling alterations, and turned this into one of the most powerful, impromptu, one on one, mentalism routines you can do. The effect is essentially a reveal of three pieces of information from one volunteer. It sets it apart from most billet routines that operate with the use of several different volunteer each offering a tidbit of information. By using just one volunteer you can actually experiment with some of the cold reading opportunities that you can explore with E.I. Overall another fantastic lesson.Difficulty:
There is a lot of billet switching and organizing that goes on with this routine. As such it is a technically demanding trick. You need to have your technique well honed before performing this.Practicality:
This can be done any time any where and in front of any sized audience. Therefore I’d say it is pretty practical!Week 3(Living and Dead test):
This was a challenging lesson and I believe it was intended to be. Since spiritualist magic has dropped out of favor both within magic and the public at large it takes a certain deft touch to even broach the topic of “dead relatives” with your audience. Luke went over a few basic living and dead tests but this lesson was less about the techniques and more about the presentation. He offered up advice on how he presents this material and challenged the class to come up with some appropriate and modern approaches to how and when we could perform a living and dead test. Hard to fully explain this class as most of it was a discussion of psychology and motivations but what an interesting discussion it was.Difficulty:
Most Living and Dead tests are not terribly difficult on the technical side.Practicality:
This depends on your presentation and comfort with the effect. Luke admitted that even with his own personal style of presentation he has only performed a living and dead test maybe 50 times in his life. If you came up with a decent, non invasive, presentation and the effect suites you as a performer you may find more opportunities to perform it. Personally I will limit it to séance type shows.Week 4(Devil Box and Sneak Peek at some yet to be published ideas):
This class started with a general discussion of Devil Boxes. Devil Boxes were an old tool used in the days of “office Mediums” that allowed the medium to gain access to information that had been written down and placed inside a closed box. If you know “magic boxes” it will be similar to other apparatus used for productions or vanishes. By it’s nature it is an “angly” device but it still has it’s uses for smaller groups of spectators. Luke has modernized this box and has a few uses for it, though you won’t see it on his stage performance. I was quite intrigued by this old idea and I even think a similar design could be used for a ring production box in lieu of a Lippincott.Difficulty:
No sweat. Design a good enough box and the gimmick does all the work.Practicality:
Limited. There is an angle issue so it cannot be done surrounded…indeed it won’t even play 180! Depending on your specific design you should have between a 45 to 120 degree viewing angle.
The sneak peek discussion was just some general presentational ideas on how to present information that you already know. These are ideas that will be coming out soon in a release called “Making Mind Reading Look Real.” One of the perks of the class is getting some of these ideas for free well ahead of the release date. Essentially the ideas discussed are ways to make it seem as if you are reading a volunteers mind the moment they are thinking the thought. It is some subtle stuff but if you present it right people will forget they wrote anything down at all and have the sensation that the moment they are thinking about a letter, word, or phrase the mentalist is saying it out loud. I have played with a few techniques with modest results. I have yet to read the full manuscript nor do I have much experience with the techniques but it certainly has wetted my appetite to the potential of Jermay’s upcoming release. It will definitely be on my wish list!Difficulty:
I’ll hold off on this as the class has only gotten a teaser of what “Making Mind Reading Look Real” is all about.Practicality:
see aboveWeek 5: (Trick Name Unknown?)
Well unfortunately this class was wrought with technical difficulties but the good news is that Luke taught us a trick directly out of his current working repertoire(most of his releases are from his former repertoire apparently.) The effect is as follows. The mentalist takes off his watch and grabs some cups(any cups will do and these can be borrowed.) He places the watch under one of two cups and asks the spectator to mix up the cups when his back is turned. When finished he turns around and finds the right cup by "reading" the reaction of the spectator. He turns his back and has the cups mixed again. He reveals the right cup. He then just has the spectator think of a cup and reveals that. Finally he adds three more cups, a total of 5 cups, and still determines which cup the watch is under.
The effect and the lesson were both pretty cool. First of all he mentions how just one line from the book inspired the effect. It is really neat to see how many untapped effects are just hidden in this book waiting for someone to develope into something. Helps inspire you to keep reading PMM! We also got a chance to see some promo footage from "The Mentalist" TV series (a television program Jermay consults for) that has yet to be released. It is footage of Jermay performing this effect on Amanda Righetti. I mention it only to point out some of the perks you may receive in taking a Luke Jermay online class. Occasionally he throws in an effect in his current repertoire and occasionally you get to see some footage that won't be released to the general public for some time yet.Difficulty:
There are two parts of this trick that will take a little work. One is some setup work that will need to be done once. After this set up work the effect will be able to be performed impromptu. Another possible difficulty is simply being aware of a few audience management issues but it really isn’t a big concern. Overall a diabolically clever method that will make you look like you can read minds, muscle movement, body language or whatever power you chose to present it as. Practicality:
Very practical effect. As I said, after some initial set up it will be ready to go any time any place with borrowed cups. This is one of those effects you’ll keep on you at all times.
.Week 6Week 7Week 8Week 9Week 10Overall Rating:
Despite the few class postponements and the various technical difficulties this has, so far, been an outstanding course. I am quickly realizing that simply updating a little patter can breathe new life into methods that have been around for a long time. Well I guess that is nothing new to any of us but it is nice to see example after example as Luke goes through this book. I’m quickly learning how to read the book by focusing on the intent of the effect and quality of the methodology. I’m getting to the point where I have begun to “update” effects that Luke has not discussed. In the end that is the goal of any class. Get you pointed in the right direction and let you take it from there.
As I mentioned before in the teaching section, taking this class gives you direct access to two fantastic teachers; Alvo Stockman, who is pretty top notch when it comes to mentalism, and Luke Jermay, who is word class. The fact that they are there to answer any specific questions you may have puts this experience over the top in terms learning magic. This beats the pants off any book or DVD. I know penguin also does live seminars with various members of its talent and I would assume that the face to face nature of those seminars would top this experience but most of those seminars sell for over $1,000 bucks…and you need to get yourself to Vegas. The fact the you can attend this class from anywhere in the world for $60.00 (PMM) and $100.00 (13 steps) makes this IMO one of the best values in all of magic. I’m looking forward to the completion of this class and I will most definitely be signing up for the upcoming class on 13 Steps to Mentalism.