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A little background here, I'd been playing around with magic for quite awhile, and mainly do close-up. Recently, I did some magic during a mission trip to Sri Lanka for a group of about 50-60 kids which went quite well, so I thought this round would be better. It turned out quite differently though. 

My friend asked me if I was available to do some simple tricks for the daughter's birthday party, I'd have about 10-12 children aged 3-7 years old. And I was doing the performance in the living room. I know most of the children personally (mostly friends' children) and we're pretty familiar with each other. There were a number of children who were guests and were people I'm meeting for the first time. 

So before the party started, we were playing with the children, and making some balloon sculptures while waiting for the rest to turn up. When everyone was here, we started with same games (pass the parcel and stuff), before it was my turn. I prepared a number of stuff, but I ended up doing the following. 

1. How to tie a rope without letting go of the ends (by crossing the arms first). This was a warmup piece that didn't play very well. I intended it to be a puzzle which they could learn and show their friends, so I issued a challenge, got some of the older kids up, but promptly lost their attention. So I got on the next one. 

2. Do as I do with the rope, where only the magician get's the knot. I had the two older kids from the first trick attempt this, but it also promptly fell flat on it's face too as the children had difficulty following the movements. So I cut it short, and proceeded to do the next trick which I thought would be better. 

3. Professors Nightmare. After the "nightmare" I had, I sent the children back to sit down, and promptly did professor's nightmare. I handed the ropes of 3 lengths to the children to take a look, and then did the routine. The first routine where there was a moment of amazement and some applause. I was relieved this went quite well after the outcome of the first two items. 

4. Cups and Balls with Breakaway Wand. I pulled out the table, and the cups and realised it was instantly recognisable! And the children knew what was going to happen. I got them to stand up incase I flashed the extra ball, but that might have been a mistake because they got REALLY close to the table! At this point, another family came into the house (the door was behind me), so I turned around just to say "WELCOME!", I turned back and saw my stack of cups in the hands of one kid who opened the cups and dropped the 3 balls on the floor, another kid grabbed my breakaway wand and somehow the key piece dropped out, so he was staring at the broken wand. All that in the time I took for me to just turn my head and say "WELCOME". With my breakaway wand already "broken", I played along and acted shocked, then proceeded to get another normal wand out for the trick. The trick then went alright, because they knew what to expect, but it really did feel quite chaotic at that time. In between, I'd tried to ask them to sit down, and realised they can't see the cups, and asked them to stand again. At this stage, I thought I pretty much lost the audience and made a full out of myself. So I moved on to the next one. 

5. Misers' Dream (Baxt, a boy and a bucket). Boy, I tell you... I thank God (And Robert Baxt!) for this! The children were still standing, and at the start of the trick, kept wanting to look into the bucket to see the number of coins. That really wasn't a problem, and got them really close up and engaged. The children were roaring with laughter when the coins started falling out of the kid's ears, armpits, and bottom. When I went into the "Grab a coin from the air, make a fist and drop the coin in the bucket". The boy got so amused he just kept doing it repeatedly without my instruction until I almost ran out of coins (I played along of course)! So fortunately, the show ended with a high. Those who have not tried Baxt's routine, I highly recommend it.
Alex Wong Feb 19 '13 · Comments: 10 · Tags: insight, performing, children, party
The Art of the Lie (oddities):

Oh the guilt! The magician’s GUILT! The horrible blinking of the eyes when telling a fabrication….. the treacherous need to look away when performing a slight. Oh, how the art of the lie has suffered its true potential: an aid for truthful expression. And so the little or big lie gets lost to confusion, so sad in its pitiful malformation of existence.

It’s not that the lie is a bad thing; it’s just that it’s been perverted and overused. We shouldn’t be filled with guilt when offering a semi untruth to create a miracle. But many times we cringe at the very notion of offering up a half truth.

Ironic isn’t it? We do this daily without hesitation, but during the honest performance of deceit we feel guilt for our presentation. And so it goes, in our sad little expression of self assuredness in our presentation of deceit. But the spectator knows best, and all of the smart banter in the world can’t successfully argue the layman’s point of view.

It has taken me years upon years to become comfortable in the art of deceit. Even still I find myself having to consciously combat my instinct of honesty. Many times I have felt lost, not sure of my performance because I couldn’t stand to look at the deceit I was offering. I did not realize that the thing I was offering to the spectator was the wonderment of “not knowing”. “Not knowing” and the unknown is an awesome thing to produce in a spectator’s mind. Wonderment is amazing, that is where creativity can manifest the impossible into the probable.

One of the ways I was able to combat my selfish need to be honest, was to force myself to focus on the moment at hand. For example, I have a horrible time not blinking or turning away (in an extreme exaggerated way) when executing a slight. I have a tendency to be completely unnatural which only ruins the effect. So part of my repertoire of practice is to force myself to look at my hands when performing a slight, so that I don’t cringe, or give away that something deceitful has happened. The way I could convince myself to do this, was to create an internal monologue telling myself that I am witnessing a miracle, not that I am creating one through trickery. However, I do not do this during performance. I get to the point where I don’t even think about my hands, and allow the naturalness through preparedness shine through.

I now practice this method daily, and it has greatly improved my performances. It has also improved my confidence in performing because I get myself into the mindset that I’m actually creating these miracles. As the great Antony Gerard would say, we do not perform tricks, tricks are something a dog does. What we do is perform magic, which is an art, and takes countless hours of practice and dedication in order to present this wonderful art. Just as one would study a musical instrument, we must practice, learn our scales, understand the theory of composition, different methods of presentation, tempo, pacing, ect… However, that is a different topic all together. And so it goes……..

Here is a little something I had published at the secret arts journal, and a medical magazine:

The case load is mounting, and I’m told I’m getting one of those “difficult cases.” It turns out to be a young 15 year old male who is currently on probation for attempted murder.  I remember he was number 37 in my case load list.  I was only a feeble minded bachelor’s level social worker then, working for a non-profit whilst the state’s economy was in such disarray that they had suspended our budget.  As a result they thought it best to not pay the employees of the aforementioned non-profit agency. Regardless, it was determined that we would continue to work with these at risk youths because they had been dropped too many times before, and one more adult failing them might be enough to crack the already fragile shell of what was left of some of these children.

However, you wouldn’t have guessed a fragile shell on this latest addition to my case load (we will call him Jordan).  Jordan, although at the very beginning of his 15th year of life, was taller than most adults, had biceps bigger than most people’s heads, and a look of solid stone.  I always know these interactions are going to go well, especially when I’m introduced to someone by a principal or parole officer for the first time, and the response is “what the F*** does this Cracker want?”  This is not unlike the response that Jordan gave me.  When it was explained that working with me was part of his probation, I learned of Jordan’s ability to not utter a single word.  Cue the awkwardness of mandated therapy via probation.

It would be easy to think, “What am I doing, I’m not even getting paid anymore, and I’m surviving on ramen freakin’ noodles.”  In fact, it was so easy to think that, that I did in fact allow those thoughts to filtrate through my own noodle.  At this time, I was living in Michigan, and I was literally picking up cans and plastic bottles to recycle, because in Michigan those items are ten cents a piece upon return, and ramen noodles were a mere 15 cents per bag.  So if you do the math, and I’m sure you have……n’t, three cans and or bottles equates to a feast for the ages (or two bags of ramen, if you don’t think about tax).  But this was all a fleeting thought, because I loved working with these kids.  I have a knack for working with these exceptionally challenging individuals.

It has become clear to me that this young man is not going to engage in “traditional” tactics.  Imagine the shock of Jordan, as I pulled out of a deck of playing cards, and began shuffling them.  It’s then I start saying, “You know, most people think that this is just a simple deck of cards, but it’s much more complex than that.  I find cards are much like people.  So many hidden secrets that no one could possibly fully understand, which only makes them that much more interesting.”

I then ask Jordan if he knows how many cards are in a deck of cards.  True to form, Jordan remains silent.  I then ask Jordan if he knows how many weeks are in a year.  Here’s something to know about Jordan:  is he scary?  You’re darn right he is.  Is he intimidating?  Without a shadow of any doubt.  Is he stupid?  Not in the least, and Jordan didn’t want to be perceived as so.  In fact he almost killed someone in a fight for essentially calling him stupid.  I knew all of this before we began.  I also knew that Jordan wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to answer “52”.  I get goose bumps even thinking about it, the individual refusing to engage or talk has just done both inadvertently.

I continue, not willing to relinquish momentum.  “How many suits are there in a deck of cards?”  Again, Jordan attempts to hold steadfast and says nothing.  I ask, “How many seasons are there in a year?”  Now, Jordan didn’t exactly answer, but what he did was much better, he genuinely smiled.  With a smile back, I continue on my rampage “You know there are two colors in a deck of cards, red for day and black for night.  Check this out, if you add up all of the cards together, the ace for 1, jack for 11, queen for 12, and king for 13 you get 364…………..if we add one for the joker that’s 365, the same number of days there are in a year.”  Jordan’s response, “Why are there two jokers then?”

I now know that I have reeled him in.  He’s engaging with me, and I now have him asking ME questions.  We are exactly where I want to be.  I don’t give him the answer, very much mirroring therapy, but simply state, “One more joker would all add up to 366, what’s that make you think of?”  The lights in his eyes turned on, a twinge of excitement in his voice, and the proud stature of this child in a man’s body proudly expressed “A leap year.”  From there, our relationship was fantastic.

We continued to utilize playing cards, especially different magic effects, in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy to work on different issues.  The amazing power of displacing such personal issues, into these pasteboards, into an artful expression of magic was not truly known to me until three months after working with each other, when he came to our session and had been beaten up.

I asked Jordan what had happened, and he stated a fight broke out at his school.  I asked how he got beat up, he stated that he didn’t fight back, and just focused on getting away from the conflict.  When I asked why he didn’t defend himself, he told me “If I hurt my hands, I couldn’t create magic.” This child who was once on probation for attempted murder, now learned that those same hands that almost killed another human being, were now meant to create magic.

John Jan 24 '13 · Rate: 4 · Comments: 3 · Tags: blogs, john midgley, magibook, the glass violin, siaz, perceive reality, philosophy, therapy
Names like John Scarne and Ed Marlo mean nothing to most people, but to an 18 year old kid in a coffee shop, these names mean more than most you will see on E News or BBC simply because of what they call their day job: magic, cardistry, illusions, call it what you will it puts a smile on this kids face faster than 'unlimited refills' does, this kid in the coffee shop was once just an onlooker, a layman, yet with dedication and time he now entertains an admirable crowd with nothing but a pack of cards and quick hands.
Lord "Bret" Illusion Mar 5 '13 · Rate: 4 · Comments: 2 · Tags: magic, creative writing, portfolio work