Dear Friends in Magic,
Welcome to the February 2020 issue of my magic newsletter. As regular readers know, I always start with…
A BIG IDEA
Recently, Jeff McBride sent me a magic video, asking me to let him know what I thought. It was an ad by a famous magician for his latest Card to Impossible Location product. The concept was rather clever, but his card palm flashed… in the ad, you know? I mentioned that to Jeff, and he said, “Exactly! Larry, promise you’ll never let that happen to me!”
Since then, I have been thinking a lot about the late, great Dai Vernon—the Professor. One of Vernon’s most important lessons for sleight-of-hand magicians was the need for refinement. In all of his books, through his words and example, Vernon educated two generations of close-up magicians that astonishing magic was never about slamming sleights around fast, hoping you wouldn’t get caught. Vernon taught us that the eyes are always faster than the hands, so a different approach is required.
For Vernon it was about slowing everything down. It was about analyzing each moment of, and around, a sleight—looking for tells, false actions, or flashes, and then figuring out a way to fix them. Vernon created truly astonishing effects and routines through this patient, disciplined approach—material that became the bread and butter of close-up magic for over two generations.
Yet, I am haunted by that video… and many others I see. Have magicians today lost a feel for this? Perhaps it is time to go back to Vernon’s classic texts, including The Dai Vernon Book of Magic and The Inner Card Trilogy. After just a few pages, I promise you’ll feel inspired to work on and refine your own sleight-of-hand.
In any event, instead of buying the latest, over-hyped, under-delivered product, perhaps you can spend some thoughtful time with your performing material. Which of your performing pieces have the best, most refined handlings? (Enjoy them! Vernon would be proud!) And which one or two are calling for you to patiently improve them so they are slower and better?
Good luck as you pursue this path of growth for your magic!
IN THE STUDIO
As February begins, I am in the thick of two major endeavors. First, I am back to work on Eugene Burger: Final Secrets—Book Two of this ten-year project to write and share all of Eugene’s unpublished materials. It is moving forward nicely, although I have quite a way to go.
I am also working closely with Jeff McBride as we create our new lectures, classes, and shows for our 20/20 Vision Tour in the United Kingdom and Italy that runs from March 18-April 6. Further, rehearsals have begun, which is always great fun!
As of today, there are two seats left for our Master Class in Deal, Kent, that will be held on March 21-22. 2020. To register and for more information, please go here.
And there are fewer than a handful of seats left for our first-time ever Shaman and Showman Conference in Blackpool on March 28-29. Sponsored by MagicSeen Magazine, the first day is focused on “The Healing Power of Magic” and explores the fascinating relationship between magic and medicine. The second day is about “The Meaning of Magic,” during which participants will learn how to elevate their magic beyond mere tricks and trickery—“honk, made you look.” To register and for more information, please go here.
I know I’ll be seeing several of you out on tour!
IT’S NOT MAGIC, BUT…
On January 7, Neil Peart passed away. Peart was the drummer and lyricist for the legendary “prog rock” band, Rush. Whether you listened to Rush or not (I certainly did), whether you care about music or not (I certainly do), I think it is worthwhile to honor Neil Peart because he was a transcendent artist.
I am a singer/guitar player and not a drummer, but I know enough to understand Peart was one of rock’s greatest drummers. As Brian Hiatt’s obituary in Rolling Stone put it, Peart’s drumming was both flamboyant and yet utterly precise, just like the drum-work of his hero, the Who’s Keith Moon. With regard to his drumming, Peart was—to use his own lyrics—a “Clockwork Angel.”
For one little taste of this—Rush fans could multiply this by a hundred—listen to the band’s perhaps finest anthem, “Tom Sawyer.” You want to someday hear this in high fidelity (it will rock your world), but the music video at youtube.com is excellent because you can see Peart playing. Pay close attention at 2.35 into the song: you will hear/see Peart perform four drum fills of virtuoso genius. Peart said those fills were among the most difficult things he ever created and that it took him weeks before an upcoming tour to get up to the level where he could even hope to play them.
Transcendent artists are profoundly rare and inspiring—one of the great, good things in human life. In whatever art form they excel, they make our living world a better place to be.
Here is to Neil Peart! Here is to great artists, wherever they might be!
MYSTERY SCHOOL MINUTE
From time to time, the School posts a short video from me with an idea designed to feed your head and inspire your hands. Here is a one that touches on a topic I will be developing at great length in Blackpool next month. Enjoy!
HAPPENING AT THE PRESS
January is a time when the world catches its breath after two-months of holiday frenzy. But as February rolls in, magicians start breathing again, looking for new books and ideas to fuel their creative fire. When that happens for you, I hope you’ll stop in at Theory and Art of Magic Press to see what’s cooking.
As you may know, alongside major works like Eugene Burger: From Beyond and Jeff McBride’s The Show Doctor, we have books and performing material that I have carefully curated for high quality.
When you land at Theory and Art of Magic Press, I encourage you to search each of the different “Author” pages, because some of them have exclusive items unavailable anywhere else. And check out the new “Real-World Close-Up Magic” author page to discover some first-rate worker routines for walk-around and restaurants. Thanks for stopping in!
I really appreciate you for being part of my network! Feel free to share this newsletter with your friends and always let me know what you think.
Dean of the McBride Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press