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Magic Newsletter, October 8, 2023

Dear Friends in Magic,
We are heading into my favorite time of year, with the leaves changing color and Halloween not far away. This year, October 31 is a special day for us at Theory and Art of Magic Press, but first, here is…
Last issue I mentioned my upcoming presentation in Las Vegas on some of Max Maven’s big ideas. As part of my research, I have been studying Parallax—the recent collection of Max’s pathbreaking, hilarious, and sometimes provocative essays that ran in MAGIC Magazine for its first five years.
Reading the installments in a book makes it easier to discern some of Max’s persistent themes. Here I want to focus on one I won’t have time to discuss in my keynote: Max’s deep concern about two ongoing ethical mistakes magicians often make.
The first of these is plagiarism, which simply means presenting someone else’s ideas or work as one’s own. I was still an academic when I came to magic thirty years ago, so you might imagine my shock at the time to discover how common and blatant this was in our field. I don’t need to name names because every magician reading this will be able to form a list of magic authors who habitually appropriated the work of others without giving proper or any credit.
Just as with college student papers, there are different degrees of plagiarism in our field, ranging from fully conscious, intentional acts to largely unconscious ones. And no one—I stress no one—is immune to it. When we are in the excited throes of writing or creating something, it is relatively easy to channel someone else’s ideas or words from some hidden recess in our brains.
The good news is that plagiarism is quite simple to address. Here is the mantra I remind myself of and share with magicians who ask me about these issues: “Do the necessary research and give proper credit.” We can’t typically give credit when we are performing, but nothing should go on a video or in a book, magazine, or lecture without research and crediting.
Now, magicians have learned to do better at this over the past thirty years—likely because of Max’s frequent reminders. But let’s not get cocky: plagiarism is a subtle, sneaky thing; it can happen to anyone.
Max’s other concern is the tendency he sees for magicians to see or hear something they like in someone else’s show—a trick, line, or bit—and simply take it for their own. Of course, the theft of intellectual property in magic is a very old story, but that doesn’t make it right. And it, too, can happen along a spectrum of intentionality and awareness.
Again, we have a simple mantra to guide us: “When in doubt, ask for permission.” That’s it! It is very, very simple. One of the excellent things about the magic subculture is that magicians of every stature are relatively easy to contact for permission, through email, social media, or telephone.
In my experience, I have found most magicians to be very generous in granting permission, if they are asked in advance and asked respectfully. Even so, we need to be prepared to hear and heed the words, “No, but thanks for asking.” Alternately, as we teach at the Mystery School, we might be asked to make a trade or be given a price, which is a great outcome. But again, we often will hear the delightful word, “Yes.”
I realize the subject of fraud and theft in our field is a “feel bad.” And I have no interest in being a scold; after all, no one is immune. So, let me put it this way: it’s about doing our best to honor our colleagues and to create magic with integrity. Who doesn’t want to do those things? Let’s constructively help each other aim for them!
Credit: David Belenzon Management
After finishing my Chicago run, I turned to preparations for my fall teaching and performing in Las Vegas. We recently completed our Weekend of Wisdom, where I delivered a keynote talk on insights from my thirty years as a magician. It was great fun to reflect on my journey and articulate those breakthrough lessons. I am now fully dialed in on my presentations about Max Maven at our two upcoming Master Classes for Mentalism.
I also have been busy preparing for our big Halloween release (see below), and everything is on target!
About a week ago, I had the extraordinary pleasure of seeing Peter Gabriel’s new show here in Washington, D.C. Although I have long loved and admired Gabriel’s music, I had no idea what to expect. After all, his breakthrough fame was in the 1980s, and his last full album of original music was released in 2002. How would this concert go?
In a word, spectacular. As a show, as a work of musical art, it was astonishing. It began with Gabriel coming out to schmooze the audience, chuckling about how he wasn’t an avatar (like at the new Abba show in London) and how he was twenty pounds heavier than he used to be. Then he “lit” a simulated campfire and invited out the legendary bass player Tony Levin out so they could play a slow, soulful song.
In other words, it was a “soft opening.” But from there, the show built, song after song, to two explosive encores with everyone on their feet, cheering and shouting. Even after that, the crowd wouldn’t leave!
How did Peter Gabriel achieve this? One part of it was exquisite musicianship: the band was comprised of old mates alongside rising young stars. Some of it, too, was the multi-media stage design that continually screened the work of little-known fine artists and filmmakers from around the world. Also, the song selection was masterfully textured--a mix of brilliant new songs with old standouts. Above all, perhaps, there was the magnificent quality of Peter’s voice at the age of seventy-three: full, rich, and strong as it moved through at least three octaves.
A few takeaways are still buzzing around my brain. First, we are never too old as long as we take loving care of our “instruments.” Also, as we age it’s essential to “lean into it,” rather than flee it, hide it, or fear it. And I feel inspired to remain creative and courageous in my choices. Lastly:
Peter Gabriel is a great artist. Go see this show if you can.

Although I “teased” our Halloween release above, it won’t come as a surprise to most of you. The wait is almost over, because on October 31, we will release the third and absolutely final Eugene Burger book: The Workshop Transcripts. You can read all about it here.
This is a limited-edition book, and it will not be reprinted. Many of you have already pre-ordered your copy. (Thank you!) But if you haven’t, or if you have a magician friend who really needs a copy, please place your pre-order right away. Ads will be coming out in all the magic magazines in a few weeks, and the remaining copies will go quickly.

Another note: we have just re-stocked Eugene's Santa Style Hat Tears for the upcoming holiday party season. We sell out on these every year, so please place your order before they are gone.  
I am so thankful for you, my dedicated readers. Thanks for being a part of my extended community! As always, stay in touch and feel free to share my newsletter with friends and family who might enjoy it.
Best Wishes,
Larry Hass
Real-World Magician
Dean of McBride’s Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press