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 Post subject: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 5:06 pm 
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http://www.trcky.com/notebook/2012/08/14/organic
Those are my thoughts - please join the discussion by commenting on the article!


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 Post subject: Re: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:21 pm 
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Fantastic article. I agree completely in the idea that we redefine "organic magic".

I'll post more on this when I have a bit more time, but it's a great article!


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 Post subject: Re: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:40 pm 
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"Organic" is one of those words that sounds like it means a lot more than it really does. In food, as well as magic, the benefits of being "organic" are probably over-emphasized.

In the context of magic, "organic" items are useful because they connote "ordinary." In your essay, you noted how you replaced "Rattling Wands" with mechanical pencils, the implication being that a wand is not an ordinary object, which is probably gaffed, while mechanical pencils are common, ordinary objects that anybody can find, making the magic more impressive.

It's like Chris Smith's "Ignition" being more organic than "B-2 Bomber" because everybody carries keys in their pocket, but not everybody carries pens in their pocket.

Where you lost me in the essay was your argument that common objects used in uncommon groupings was less organic. I just received Bill Abbott's "Stabbed and Shot," which uses a deck of cards, a Sharpie pen, a paper bag, a knife and a shot glass. All of these are "normal" and can be examined individually. But I'm not sure that the fact they are not normally grouped together makes them any less organic, or makes the effect any less impressive.

Very interesting essay, BTW. I wish that I could have expressed myself that clearly and persuasively when I was applying to colleges. I'm sure that your application essays would be an interesting read.


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 Post subject: Re: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:10 pm 
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I feel like the magic community's obsession (if I may call if that) with "organic" magic is misplaced in general. I'm not suggesting that we should all be carrying a square circle in our backpacks or anything, but the belief that some routine is superior because it uses an ordinary object is fundamentally flawed. ANY object can be gimmicked and in the back of their minds, all spectators know and suspect this. There are nearly no spectators who you are likely to encounter who have an intellectual belief in magic. The job of the magician is to create an emotional experience or "emotional belief." This can be accomplished through anything from cards and coins to cups and balls and not one bit of its impact is determined by whether or not the objects can be found readily by lay people. The ability to present your effect in an entertaining way will take you much further than your choice in effect.

As for the point about objects not logically fitting together, I disagree here as well. Your entire job as the magician is to show them something that logic says is not possible.

The one thing I will say for "organic" magic is that I do like things that are done with objects that are borrowed, either actually or ostensibly, and that makes the effect more powerful. Not because it's a common object (as it may not be a normal object that is borrowed), but because when it's borrowed, the spectator knows it cannot be gimmicked. There are gimmicked sharpies, pens, keys, cards, coins, boxes, rings, and other things too numerous to count available on the market. If one is concerned that the effect is weakened by the type of prop being used, I feel like the place to start is by looking at your presentation.

All of that said, I love all of your material, Jeff, and it's great to see other magicians my age (or very nearly) who are out there creating and performing. I've only ever performed and haven't created any original effects, only my own handlings on already well known plots. I hope you don't take my disagreement personally as you clearly know what you are doing from what I've seen of your performance.


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 Post subject: Re: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 11:38 pm 
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In his TT DVD collection, Darwin talks about how people view the way that he holds spongeballs (which he holds them between the fingers like billiard balls) was unnatural. But he said something like "I'm a magician; I can hold these any way I want to". I think that this philosophy can also be applied to this scenario: We're magicians so of course we're going to be carrying weird objects. If people know that you're a magician, carrying odd props seems almost natural for you.

However, this philosophy contradicts what Nelms' has said. He thinks that you are demonstrating (or experimenting with) a phenomenon which can be applied to many different situations but you "happen" to just have two pencils to demonstrate it right now. He thinks that the audience would infer that your power of the phenomenon would stretch past the simple demonstration that you just presented.

In Nelms' ideology, using "organic" props would make the magic more natural and free of suspicion (which it would). But as Darwin has exemplified, it really depends on your philosophy and your approach to magic on what type of props you use.

I think that it doesn't really matter which approach you take as long as you make it your own. You're still doing something amazing no matter if you're doing it with "organic" props or stuff that only magicians would have. Like everything, it's all in how you present it, not necessarily what you present (even though that is important, too).

I hope this all makes sense,
Drew


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 Post subject: Re: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:15 pm 
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Wow, this is some really great discussion!

Jeff, I definitely see the appeal of using items that make sense together. I wouldn't like to see a routine that uses a puppy, several knives and a cellphone (actually, that sounds interesting...)

But I also see the points above where an object being "borrowed" is way more impressive than "organic".

Do you think there is a significant change in reactions when you use... say, some headphones instead of pulling out a fancy ribbon in a routine? Does this change during formal shows?


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 Post subject: Re: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 5:29 pm 
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Very interesting discussion. It seems we all have a "love/hate" relationship with "organic" magic but we all have slightly different interpretations about what is good about it and what is bad. I have personally taken a step back from it and just focused on good plots. If I want to truly go organic I have drifted more towards mentalism. When I am performing "Magic" I have actually gotten better reactions lately with objects that are borderline "Prop" magic. Things like Industrial Revelation and the Morlas Car can hardly be called "Organic" but in many ways the complete oddity of these items creates some wonderment with the spectator. Now certainly someone could make a "Matchbox" car that did the same thing as a Morlas. This might make it more organic (though who really carries around a matchbox car?) but it would loose the mystique of a toy car made of glass. Probably one of my favorite organic effects is Flash but even that isn't truly organic. True, flash drives are a common item these days but bringing it out for an effect is a little contrived unless you happen to do it at a workplace or academic computer room.

I agree that to be an organic purest requires not only an ordinary object, it also requires preferably an object that someone is likely to carry with them at the time. The problem with this restriction is how variable people can be in what constitutes an everyday item for them. Pen effects like Mute are nice, but in an era where more and more people have i-Phones and Smart Phones many people have exchanged pens for a stylus. Wallets are nice but in the hipster generation money clips are more likely to fit in the skinny jeans. So I guess my point is, find what you like. Worry less about being "organic" and more about being a good performer.


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 Post subject: Re: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 11:19 pm 
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joshuaweidner you clearly don't get it. All magic whether it be 'organic' or not, is experienced subjectively, and it isn't safe for you or anyone else to assume what image will create a more 'magical' belief.

According to you, the objects being manipulated by the magician are of no consequence, only the process by which the magic is presented. This is a tiny, single-sided viewpoint, that's totally off, and easily disputed. If a magician asks a spectator to borrow a coin/ring/pen/dollar/etc, then he immediately creates false credibility. The object can't be gimmicked ahead of time, because it belongs to the spectator. HOWEVER if instead of borrowing the item to be manipulated the magician pulls out a 'magic box' with all sorts of bells and whistles, and its a box like no one has ever seen before, then the spectators are most likely going to think "Hmm this box is probably rigged in some way." That's a MUCH different mindset than "This ring CANT be rigged, because it belongs to me!"

Another easy example is if some guy just walked up to a crowd on the street and started levitating a borrowed coin, well that would seem quite sensational, like real magic! On the other hand if a magician is dressed in a tuxedo and performs cards tricks, or produces a bunch of 'magic silks' then its simply seems like hes performing tricks. He is a performer, clearly using some sort of sleight of hand, skill, or gimmick. However the street performer can leave spectators unsure if it was a trick or real magic. The image is totally different. There's powerful mystery behind an ordinary person manipulating common 'unassuming objects.' It's a far weaker image for someone who is obviously a performer to demonstrate what everyone already knows is 'just a trick' with some 'magical object' most likely armed to the teeth with trap doors.

You have to keep in mind there are plenty of people out there who want, and do believe in real magic, especially women. Depending on the image you present (which includes the objects you perform with) you can leave people either believing your performed a trick for them, or leave them believing actual magic took place. If you perform with a glass that's on the table that we are all already sitting at, its going to seem like magic in some way. However if you decide to pull out your old classic linking rings, something everybody knows is a trick done by "magic performers," then are you really instilling any spectator with any sense that "magic" took place? The difference between knowing a trick was performed and uncertain whether real magic took place is gargantuan.

I used really blatant examples here, but generally that's the mindframe of any competent, modern spectator. Like, everyone knows that playing cards are synonymous with 'magic tricks'. Using playing cards to try to convince someone that magic is taking place is poor tact, no matter how awesome or sensational the trick may seem. Too many people are aware that technique and sleights of hand already exist to create these illusions. But something as simple as "floating" a tortilla chip with a loop, leaves people guessing whether a trick or magic took place. They can't be sure whether you really defied physics or not because there is no "common knowledge" about making chips levitate. Floating a chip on a loop takes literally 0 practices, 0 showmanship, and yet you can leave peoples minds blown. Without even saying a word, with little or no presentation they're fooled into thinking the laws of gravity were defied. The trick and the object do all the work for you, no need for some pro performance. However, if you're going to try to convince someone you're doing magic with playing cards... well the cards aren't going to do any of the work for you, it in fact relies heavily on how well you perform. Why? Because all magic is based on an image being presented. And EVERYTHING from the way you dress, they way you speak, and the objects you choose to perform with are ALL part of that image.


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 Post subject: Re: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:30 pm 
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Do you really think that people believe that there is real magic? I am not meaning to sound condescending so please forgive me if I do; it is difficult to fully convey meaning using text alone. I just do not see it as likely that the people I am likely to perform for at corporate events are going to be the types who believe that real magic happens.

I didn't mean to imply that taking out a big magic box was not going to arouse suspicion, merely that doing so is not that big a deal because the way you present your routine is more important that if it actually fools everyone. If your properly present your ambitious card (or any other card routine) there is no reason for anyone to suspect that you are using gimmicked cards.

Additionally, we are entertainers. If trying to figure out the method is what entertains the audience, let them try. Keep them guessing. I would never expose the method, but if someone thinks it's that important to know the method, they will come up with whatever they think you did and will not be convinced otherwise. Trying to convince someone that what you are doing is REAL magic is not only futile but it is unethical. We ARE performers; no one should be using their skills to try to convince anyone otherwise.


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 Post subject: Re: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 1:45 pm 
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joshuaweidner wrote:
Do you really think that people believe that there is real magic? I am not meaning to sound condescending so please forgive me if I do; it is difficult to fully convey meaning using text alone. I just do not see it as likely that the people I am likely to perform for at corporate events are going to be the types who believe that real magic happens.


You don't seem condescending. =D Of course as magicians we're fully aware of how intricate, subtle, hidden, how clever tricks, gimmicks, setups can be. Now, obviously from the position I've taken in this thread I do mostly 'organic magic,' in fact its all I do. And I can tell you from experience, Do people believe in real magic? Yes. Of course not everyone, plenty of people while they don't understand the methods for achieving the illusion, keep a rational mind and know there must be some trick to it. But there are others who are so blown away that they truly believe actual magic has taken place. And again this is especially true with women. Also how you perform is, of course, a huge deal. For example, when performing if I pretend as if I'm afraid to let too many people see my "power," and refuse repeating tricks by saying things like "my energy levels are depleted, I need time to recover" it suggests this idea that something real is happening.

Also I'm not saying that you can go fool doctors and professors into believing in magic, or at some corporate event you can trick the most clever businessmen they have. But you don't ever know what other people are thinking or believing, or how susceptible they are to your suggestions that this is REAL. Additionally, I live in Los Angeles, where entertainers of all sorts have collected. And it has created this sort of effect of "over exposure" to the people in the area. Meaning all these people are constantly exposed to comedians, actors, musicians, magicians, all kinds of unique performers and more. And due to this exposure, there's a lesser degree of "awe" expressed by people out here, as opposed to people from say 'nowheresville, Nebraska.' One time I was in a real remote town in hawaii called Hana, Hawaii. Hana is located way out in the jungle, and the people who live there are about 95% local natives. One night after performing a ring levitation for the locals, I swear to god I had a grown man, he must have been somewhere from 40-50 years old, ask me "At what age did you realize you had these powers?" Then I just had to answer accordingly to cultivate his idea that I had power. So people with less "world experience" are more likely to think real magic exists and has happened.

Nearly any woman you talk to in LA believes in 'energy' and power within the body. How much of that is real or true and how much is just belief, I don't know personally. But I do know that using those beliefs plus some 'organic illusion' leads women to believe you have mastered, and can harness your personal energy to affect the world around you. It is in this respect that card tricks just aren't going to cut it, you don't need to master energy to perform the trick. To "levitate matter" of course you still don't need to have mastered energy, but you can certainly make them believe that's whats allowing you to defy physics.

Anyway based on MY own experience I know there are lots and lots of people who do believe in real magic or want to believe in real magic. And all they need is to see not a magician performing a trick, but a person harnessing energy to manipulate matter and physics, giving them the evidence to confirm their own beliefs. Its all about the overall image presented to them.


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 Post subject: Re: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 11:12 am 
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I can see that. I guess if you present it in a way that lends a bit of realism to it, some people could perceive it as actually real. I think the biggest reason I don't like organic MORE than inorganic magic is probably because of my performing style (more comedy centered than focused on the magic) so getting someone to believe isn't really my goal.

Obviously if your style is more focused on the "magic" bit of the performance, organic would be the way to go.

Either way, good discussion we've got going on here.


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 Post subject: Re: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2012 2:31 pm 
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joshuaweidner wrote:
Do you really think that people believe that there is real magic? I am not meaning to sound condescending so please forgive me if I do; it is difficult to fully convey meaning using text alone. I just do not see it as likely that the people I am likely to perform for at corporate events are going to be the types who believe that real magic happens.

I didn't mean to imply that taking out a big magic box was not going to arouse suspicion, merely that doing so is not that big a deal because the way you present your routine is more important that if it actually fools everyone. If your properly present your ambitious card (or any other card routine) there is no reason for anyone to suspect that you are using gimmicked cards.

Additionally, we are entertainers. If trying to figure out the method is what entertains the audience, let them try. Keep them guessing. I would never expose the method, but if someone thinks it's that important to know the method, they will come up with whatever they think you did and will not be convinced otherwise. Trying to convince someone that what you are doing is REAL magic is not only futile but it is unethical. We ARE performers; no one should be using their skills to try to convince anyone otherwise.



I understand your point of view. However, there is one thing that allows us to re-evaluate each of the bolded statements above: Religion.

The fact is, most business men and medical professionals (in the United States) are some form of Christian, which means they must believe that magic can or at least did at one time occur as a real phenomenon. Put simply, Christianity is the most popular of religious persuasions, and one cannot ascribe to Christianity and at the same time hold a disbelief in real magic; to do so would present a double standard that cannot logically be fulfilled.

Considering that all accounts of Biblical miracles are 2000 or so years old, given the state of knowledge in society at that time, and given that the laws of physics which govern all universal activity are unchanging, it would be illogical to conclude that the events described as miracles were in any way legitimate. Most were, in actual fact, old stunts known to a handful of the Jewish culture of the time (such as turning water into wine).

If any of these things were to be witnessed today (such as a man walking on water), it would immediately be labelled unauthentic by most. Few would take it to be proof of true power, but those few people still represent a portion of the population that does believe in real magic. And even if few believe in a modern demonstration, an overwhelming majority in today's society do believe an eye-witness account from ancient culture, meaning that they must believe that real magic exists.

This demonstrates the truth in the observation made by malfy about indigenous native cultures that have no exposure to other means of explanation for the illusions that we create: such cultures mirror society as it was roughly 2000 years ago - at least in terms of exposure to alternative forms of explanation where magic is concerned. If malfy had used his powers to gain an audience, spoken to them about prophecies, all the while using his powers as proof of his supernatural credibility, and if the natives of Hana, Hawaii wrote an account of malfy's demonstrations, passed it down through ages, and honored it as the word of a supernatural seer of all the universe, we would see the birth of a new religion. We would witness a society that would grow with a lasting belief in real magic despite our knowledge that such a thing does not exist, and that the natives simply didn't examine the magic closely enough to disprove its authenticity.

The bottom line is this: the vast majority of people must believe in magic, considering their religious persuasion, but they will deny this belief in the context of modern times, given that modern magic has been evaluated, examined, and explained in some way. At the very least, most people are confused as to whether or not they accept magic as legitimate; they assume that old miracles and modern explanations are mutually exclusive, and thus will not apply the latter to the former. Due to this, there is a much wider belief in real magic than is at first clear.

"Trying to convince someone that what you are doing is REAL magic is not only futile, but it is unethical."
Unethical? I agree completely.
Futile? I must disagree, as history has overwhelmingly proven otherwise.


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 Post subject: Re: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 2:38 pm 
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Just catching up on this thread and I had to respond to these two comments...
malfy wrote:

I used really blatant examples here, but generally that's the mindframe of any competent, modern spectator. Like, everyone knows that playing cards are synonymous with 'magic tricks'. Using playing cards to try to convince someone that magic is taking place is poor tact, no matter how awesome or sensational the trick may seem. Too many people are aware that technique and sleights of hand already exist to create these illusions.

Some kernels of truth here but if you think that means you shouldn't be doing card tricks you are shooting yourself in the foot....unless of course you are all thumbs with a pack of cards and would only make a mockery of yourself anyways. In that case avoid cards! But all it takes is watching a performance by Bill Malone, or even Lennart Greene, to realize that card magic has plenty of entertainment value!

See, you are looking at it all wrong. In some ways the knowledge that you are doing an effect with sleight of hand IS a magical experience for people. Knowing that you are doing something seemingly impossible using your own skills can truly mystify some people. It is like watching a contortionist or an acrobat. Even if they could convince people that they contort their bodies and defy gravity using mystical powers...well that becomes less "magical" than than the thought that their performance comes from years of training and dedication.

So the same holds with card magic and, to some extent coin magic. I walk on the stage and try to convince people I have mystical skills and abilities. Then I make a card come to the top of the deck or I make a coin vanish. The audience thinks...."Wow what a waste of mystical abilities?" But you admit that you do it with pure skill that was taught to you by some old gambler or street con artist and now they are thinking, "God that must have taken years to master....I wonder if I could ever dedicate myself to mastering something like that?"

Incidentally, Derren Brown and Andy Nyman have been both very vocal of adopting that same attitude towards the performance of mentalism. Tell a person you are a mystic who talks with the dead to read the future and people start thinking, "Geeze....that is amazing but he is kind of wasting his talent isn't he?" Then tell them that you use your own knowledge of human nature and psychology and they start thinking, "Wow! I wonder if I could tap the potential of my own mind to do something like that? That is Amazing!"

Quote:
But something as simple as "floating" a tortilla chip with a loop, leaves people guessing whether a trick or magic took place.


This comment just cracked me up because it is the exact example Danny Garcia uses to describe how some people go too far with loops. How they "Over do it" if you will.


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 Post subject: Re: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2012 10:28 am 
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I always laugh over the obsession with "organic" magic. Because most young guys do card magic. And yet pulling a deck of cards out of your pocket is one of the most un-organic things you can do. Who the heck carries cards around with them?

However, these same guys shun sponge balls because they're not organic enough. Weird.

By the way, I have nothing against carrying decks of cards around. Nor sponge balls. Nor half dollars. I am a magician. A performer. As such, I can carry whatever I want with me because it's my job to entertain using these objects.

Here's the thing, though, it all comes down to performance environment and your character. If you are thirteen years old and only perform for friends in school, then, yes, you probably don't want to be pulling silks out of your sleeves.

However, if you are a professional who has been hired to perform at an event, then the props you use are solely dependent on who you are as a performer. If you are a "magician" with a capital M, then maybe sponge balls and coin and cylinder are perfect for you. If you are more of a modern guy who uses "found" objects, then that's a whole different ball of wax.

It all comes down to you. Gimmicks, no gimmicks, real magic or "psychological influence", none of that stuff maters. It's all how you present the material. I do use sponge balls. Why? Because they kill. And I mean KILL. Maybe not for you. But for me. How do I justify them? I don't. I pull out a sponge ball, make another one appear and just do it. People don't care. They just want to be entertained.

I don't know. You need to decide what works for YOU. There are NO ABSOLUTES IN MAGIC.


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 Post subject: Re: Has "organic" magic gone too far?
PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2012 6:49 pm 
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cfrancis wrote:
There are NO ABSOLUTES IN MAGIC.


It is absolutely fake, illusory?


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