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Magic Newsletter, December 12. 2021

Dear Friends in Magic,
Greetings to you as we head into the end-of-year holiday season. Let’s get right to it with…
In 1994, when I first fell in love with magic, I wanted to be a close-up magician. I studied the essential books, developed a nice repertoire with cards and coins, and made hundreds of real-world close-up shows, mostly as a volunteer at local hospitals. But as I became better and started getting paid, I was most often booked for stand-up and platform shows. For material, I did what many close-up workers do: I sorted through my repertoire to find which close-up pieces could be adapted to stand-up venues.
Sounds reasonable, right? But eventually, I woke up to an underlying problem: the stuff of close-up magic—playing cards, coins, packet and pocket tricks—is just plain hard to see
For one thing, these props are small, and they look even smaller next to my standing body. Also, as Jeff McBride has sagely observed, playing cards are designed to be held face down or lay flat on a table surface, which means they often drop out of view in the hands of a standing performer. It isn’t that cards can’t play stand up, but we have to work hard and creatively for that to happen. As Jeff says, our hands-down horizontal handlings must become “heads-up hands-up,” and just try to do that with your Hermann Pass, K-M Move, or false shuffles!
My point is that transitioning from close up to stand up was a much bigger challenge than I realized at the time. Blinded by my love of close-up magic, it really took a few years to absorb the fact that I needed dramatically different props and routines—ones that played bigger and more visibly.
Once the scales fell from my eyes, I became, and remain, intensely focused on making sure my audiences can see everything I'm handling and doing when I perform. Even so, a related problem forced itself on me a few years ago. After realizing my family was frequently having to repeat themselves, I went to an audiologist who diagnosed that I have severe hearing loss.
Whoah! A total shock! I might have thought “a little,” but severe? However, I soon discovered that hearing loss isn’t mostly about the volume, but rather bits and pieces of words dropping out when they fall into certain frequencies. It is like trying to read words where parts of the letters are missing:
Obviously, reading a book like this would be painful and frustrating. Imagine what happens to a hearing-impaired person at the magic show where the intrepid performer insists, “I don’t need a mic!” Or when the performer hasn’t done any vocal work to ensure their voice is full and their consonants clear.
Since my diagnosis, I have come to learn that hearing loss is a substantial problem for many people of all ages, and I had been oblivious to it. Thus, it isn’t primarily for ourselves that we should insist upon a mic and exercise our voice, but for the significant percentage in every audience who face this kind of challenge.
Because here is something that isn’t covered in any close-up book or video: if people have to struggle and strain to see or hear, there isn’t much magic at the show.
Since the Halloween release of Eugene Burger: Final Secrets, I've turned my full attention to two upcoming online courses I’ll be teaching through the McBride Magic & Mystery School:
1. Master and Mentors. Co-taught with Jeff McBride, this will be held January 13, 20, and 27 (5:00-7:00pm PACIFIC). Our plan is for each of us to discuss in detail the primary influences that have shaped our performance work. Jeff has his own impressive list, but I’ll be focusing on Tommy Wonder, Dai Vernon, and Juan Tamariz—along with Eugene. We will watch these masters and share important performance lessons learned from them. Along the way, we will teach some of their most wonderful pieces of magic. Not to be missed!
2. Deep Study of a Modern Master: EUGENE BURGER. I promised I would teach this course once Final Secrets was published, and now is the time! It will be held February 10, 17, and 24 (5:00-7:00pm PACIFIC). Following the approach I used for my previous Deep Studies (on Juan Tamariz and Bob Neale), I will elaborate what I see as the essential core of Eugene’s philosophy of magic and perform, teach, and discuss several of his most outstanding routines. Cannot wait!
Please note: every class will be recorded so registrants can watch them at their convenience. You can register here.
It seems we live in “the age of rage”: in party and pandemic politics, social media posts, click-bait that provokes adrenalin through outrage or victory, hair-trigger tempers, nasty complaints, snarky commentary, and email fire-bombs. A recent survey conducted by Fortune magazine found that obnoxious behavior was reported at a level twice as high as in their same study two years ago.
I observe this all around—in the culture and in the street. I see these temptations and reactions in myself, even though I don’t want to be that kind of person. So recently, I read Gabrielle Bernstein’s book Judgment Detox, which offers a bracing look at how we pass judgment on others (and ourselves) as a way avoid fear, pain, and guilt. And how this coping mechanism has a habitual, even addictive, dimension to it.
I admire Bernstein’s book because she is willing to expose her own vulnerabilities and flaws to help us examine a deep dynamic that seems to underlie our “age of rage.” Although she sometimes uses language and remedies that don’t call to me, her analysis of how the judgment-habit diminishes us is persuasive and inspiring as I try to correct my own course.
Related to this, I was recently given a unique deck of “Kindness Cards” ( Designed for “compassion and empathy,” each card has a wise insight or suggested practice to inspire kindness in our daily lives. For example, just now I removed this card from the deck at random:
“So much of what we value is preserved by, and compatible with, kindness. We can be kind and successful; kind and exciting; kind and wealthy; and kind and potent. Kindness is a virtue awaiting our rediscovery and renewed, unconflicted appreciation.”
If you, like me, are feeling the deep dis-ease of our “uncivil society,” perhaps one or both of these resources will be helpful!
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You might be interested to know that Eugene Burger: Final Secrets has been selling like hotcakes. So too with the four products we released in conjunction with it: the decks for “Influence” and “Thought Sender,” the props for “Observo,” and Eugene’s cards for “Unfazed.” If you are interested in these items, you might want to get them sooner rather than later. We are not about to run out, but some of them are limited with regard to how many we will be able to make.
Department of Corrections: In Chapters 25 and 26 of Eugene Burger: Final Secrets, I discuss how Eugene used Marlo’s “Emergency Transfer” to reposition the force card so it would be third from the top or bottom of a spread or a pile. A few observant readers wrote to ask how Eugene did that when the card to be displaced was on the bottom of a spread or pile. This is a great question that points to a problem in my write-up.
When the card to be displaced was on top, Eugene used the Marlo Transfer: he removed the top card and used it to scoop up the spread or pile. But when the card to be displaced was on the bottom, he used a strategy he developed for “Counting Ten” (Magical Voyages, Volume 1). That is, as he picked up the pile or scooped up the spread, he “accidentally” left the bottom card on the table, then “noticed” it, and quickly set it on top of the pile or deck. I saw Eugene do this many times and, like the “Emergency Transfer,” when done on the offbeat and un-selfconsciously, it is quickly forgotten.
There you go! I might have to open this "department" again from time to time, so stay tuned!
Thank you, so much, for being part of my extended community. Feel free to share this with your friends and let me know what’s on your mind. Above all, I hope that you and your loved ones have a joyful and restful holiday season!
Best Wishes,
Larry Hass
Real-World Magician
Dean of McBride’s Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press