Discover more from Marty's Magic Ruseletter
Monthly Update #6 (June 2023)
Two packet trick reviews, three recommended magic podcasts, a behind-the-scenes look at the dealers hall at the Blackpool Magic Convention, and a magnetic performance from Norman Gilbreath.
Greetings! I hope this update finds you well. This is the June Monthly Update for Marty's Magic Ruseletter, albeit two months late. Yeah, I know. This is becoming a bad habit!
Things Didn’t Go According to Plan!
As you may have noticed, I didn't manage to publish any regular columns in June as planned (see my foolish promise in my previous monthly update). I apologise for any disappointment this may have caused. Fear not, though; all of the articles will get published eventually!
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Unfortunately, life got in the way. I had a lot on at work and a ton of “Dad stuff” to do. As a result, I didn't have the time or energy to write as much as I would have liked.
I have completed the first drafts for the majority of the articles. However, because I include a lot of detail, they take an extraordinary amount of time to research and write. I also suffer from perfectionism, which doesn’t help! Rather than publish poor-quality content to meet self-imposed deadlines, I’ve decided to ditch the monthly publishing schedule, at least for the remainder of the calendar year. I still plan to publish regular monthly articles, but I need to find a way of making this activity sustainable, given my busy schedule and the fact that I have three adorable but unruly children!
I'm exploring a few different options, such as batching my writing or publishing shorter articles more frequently. I'll keep you updated on my progress.
In the meantime, thank you for your continued support. I appreciate your patience as I work to find a way to balance my writing with the rest of my life.
I've also been experimenting with the "Notes" feature on Substack, and I really like it. I plan to use it to share more frequent "micro-content" with readers of the Ruseletter.
The Notes feature provides a Twitter-style feed of posts displayed chronologically within the Substack website and app. It has many of the popular features you'd expect from a micro-blogging platform, but without the algorithmic issues that plague most modern social media platforms like Twitter—or should I be calling it “X” now?!
I've had a Twitter account for years but never really got into micro-blogging. And now that Elon Musk seems to be doing his best to destroy everything people value about the service, I doubt I'll start using it anytime soon.
So, instead, I'll be using Substack Notes to share smaller, more digestible posts about the deceptive arts. You can find the Notes feature in the left-hand navigation on the Substack website and the Ruseletter homepage under the “Notes” tab.
I'm excited to see how this new feature can help me connect with my readers and share more of my thoughts and ideas, both fully formed and incomplete.
Two New Magic Product Reviews
In June, I did manage to write two new product reviews for my blog. I’m still undecided whether I will continue to write reviews on a regular basis. The magic review space is a crowded one. However, when I write a review, it will be because I believe it provides valuable information to potential buyers or contributes practical ideas to the discussion of a particular magic product.
My reviews are based on my own experiences with the products, as well as my research into similar comparable products. I strive to be objective and honest in my assessments, and I always provide a balanced view of the pros and cons of each product. I often find that a lot of magic reviews are overly positive or way too negative about the product. I try to find a more helpful middle ground.
So far, I’ve written a detailed review of “Tidal Wave” by Spidey and “Royal-T” by Gordon Bean. If you’re short on time and don’t want to read the full articles, I recommend you buy “Royal-T”, especially if you collect monte routines as I do; it is a well-constructed three-card monte routine utilising a gaff card that you’re probably not familiar with. “Tidal Wave”, on the other hand, isn’t worth buying if you already perform Vernon’s “Twisting the Aces” or Max Maven’s “B’Wave”. Of course, this is all my opinion, and you should make your own mind up. I hope the reviews help you, especially if you suffer from magic-induced CUPS (Compulsive Uncontrollable Purchasing Syndrome)1.
Both of these packet tricks are produced and sold by Penguin Magic. I’ve been a customer of this particular magic dealer for about twenty years, so I thought it was about time I wrote a review of one of their products! I dread to think about how much I’ve spent with them over the years.
My review of “Tidal Wave” was, on balance, reasonably critical of the product. Spidey’s response to my review was very kind and gracious. He left a polite comment on my blog and also replied to a thread I contributed to on The Magic Cafe. Even though I didn’t like this particular release, I’ll definitely be buying more products from Spidey in the future.
One of the things Spidey said did give me pause for concern. He said:
“It’s really refreshing to see someone keep their criticism to the trick and not demolish every aspect of my existence because they didn’t like one particular creation. I also find your critiques to be well argued and defended.”
It appears that as a well-known magician, Spidey faces a great deal of unjust criticism regarding his magic creations. It's disheartening to think my review might be one of the few exceptions. If you decide to write a negative review for a product, I think it's important to provide constructive feedback to the creator rather than making it a personal attack on the performer.
I believe that product reviews can be a valuable resource for potential buyers, and I am committed to providing high-quality reviews that are both informative and helpful. If you are interested in reading my reviews, you can find them all on a single page on my blog:
Incidentally, I recently discovered Spidey's fantastic YouTube channel, where he generously shares a variety of free tutorials. While I haven't bought his trick “A.B.See” yet, it looks promising. As someone with a background in education2, the use of flashcards in a demonstration of mentalism is particularly intriguing and appealing to me.
My Favourite Magic Podcasts
As you wait for more original content from me, I thought I’d share three of my favourite magic-related podcasts with you. The first is the Penguin Magic Podcast, hosted by Erik Tait, an award-winning American magician and comedian (he recently placed 3rd at FISM Quebec 2022 in the Category of Card Magic). Update: For some reason, I mistakenly said Erik was a Canadian magician. He’s actually from Columbus, Ohio. I think it’s that epic beard of his. It definitely gives off Canadian hipster/lumberjack vibes! Thanks to Ryan Pilling, an actual Canadian, for supplying the correction.
This podcast is based on a standard interview format and features top magical performers discussing various interesting and unusual topics with Erik. While it does promote Penguin Magic products, it also offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the P3 Magic Studios (the production arm of Penguin Magic). Listening to the show is an excellent way to become acquainted with both well-established and lesser-known individuals in the magic industry.
The next recommended podcast is written, produced and hosted by Ryan Pilling, author of the Tips & Tricks for Magicians Newsletter. Ryan is a professional magician as well as a magic creator, author and lecturer. He’s also one of the nicest guys in magic! Unlike the Penguin Magic Podcast, which focuses more on performers and their tricks, Ryan discusses the equally important theoretical aspects of magic on his podcast, Theory & Thoughts for Magicians. He shares information on creativity, audience engagement and how to improve and grow as a performer.
Ryan releases a fully scripted show semi-regularly, though he is often swamped with other interesting magic-related projects, so expect to wait longer for new episodes. Helpfully he provides a full transcript of each episode which can be incredibly useful, especially for those who are hard of hearing (something that many other podcasts don’t do). The transcript is also helpful if you’d rather read than listen or when you need to find a specific piece of information after you’ve listened to an episode.
And finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention The Magic Guys Podcast, featuring professional magicians Josh Norbido, Doug Conn, Nick Kay, and Jason Maher (sometimes when he’s not stuck on a cruise ship).
I'm really enjoying their more casual chats about their lives as professional magicians, the many ups and downs that come with it, and their insights into the art of magic.
The Magic Guys Podcast is published every Monday on YouTube, so you can see the hosts as well as hear them. (Alternatively, you can listen to it via your preferred podcast provider).
Do You Remember the Go Magic Go Podcast?
Writing about podcasts reminded me of the first magic-related podcast I ever listened to. Back in 2005, podcasting was still a relatively new and trendy medium, and a magic-themed podcast was a rare beast, unlike today. My favourite was a show called "Go Magic Go: Your Magic Podcast", hosted by Andrew Payne and Keith Barber. It was initially called “The Trapdoor", but the hosts changed the name after the first two episodes.
Go Magic Go was one of the first podcasts for magicians. It ran from 2005 to 2009 and featured a segment called "Hype of the Week," which poked fun at the ridiculous way magic tricks are advertised and promoted. Although it went on a hiatus in 2009 that proved to be permanent, the podcast made a lasting impression on me.
Unfortunately, but perhaps appropriately for a podcast about magic, all but one of the ninety-seven recordings have disappeared from the Internet. However, to get a feel for how fun and irreverent the show was, you can still listen to Episode 47 from June 2006 (thanks to the Internet Archive):
Behind the Scenes at Blackpool 2023
It's been over a decade since I last attended the Blackpool Magic Convention. I went three years in a row from 2009 to 2011, and I think I returned in 2013—I can't quite remember.
I was awestruck the first time I walked around the enormous dealer’s hall. This prominent feature of the convention highlights the best and worst parts of magic as a hobby. Every year, usually during February, the Empress Ballroom at the Winter Gardens is jam-packed with numerous vendors selling incredible magic tricks, props, books and gadgets. It's an irresistible magical wonderland for most amateur magicians, but it's also filled with grown men pushing and shoving to get the best deals. It can also do serious damage to the health of your bank balance! The desire for the latest and greatest products also serves as a major distraction, discouraging us from practising and performing the tricks that we already own. As you can probably tell, I have mixed feelings about this aspect of the convention.
I stopped attending the Blackpool Magic Convention a few years ago because I felt the event had become too commercial. The educational element, which I had always enjoyed, seemed to be suffering as a result. In my opinion, the quality of some of the acts booked for the Gala Show was also questionable.
However, I have heard that things have improved in recent years. The organisers have apparently made a concerted effort to balance the commercial and educational elements of the convention. The lectures are now said to be of a high standard, and the Gala Show once again features some of the world's best magic acts.
I am considering returning to Blackpool next year to see if things have improved. I am hopeful that I will be able to enjoy the event once again.
Anyway, as a poor substitute for attending, I usually try and watch some of the vlogs filmed at the event each February. The best one this year was a video made by Nick Lacopo that offered a behind-the-scenes look at the immense effort required to run the Penguin Magic dealer's booth at the Blackpool Magic Convention. I now have a greater appreciation of how much work goes into creating the biggest pop-up magic shop in the world.
In the video, dealers set up their booths, stock them with products, and prepare for the crowds of magicians attending the convention. We also see them interacting with customers, answering questions, and selling magic tricks. Nick Lacopo and Erik Tait are clearly working very hard, fueled by copious amounts of coffee. Roddy McGhie, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying himself a bit too much!
I was struck by the amount of work that Penguin Magic put into their booth. They had to carefully curate the products they would be selling, ensure their booth was welcoming and inviting, and be prepared to answer all kinds of customer questions while constantly demonstrating the company's best-selling magic tricks.
I now have a greater appreciation for the work that goes into creating the dealer’s hall at the Blackpool Magic Convention. The convention is a massive event, and it takes a lot of hard work from many different people to make it happen. I am grateful to the dealers who put so much effort into making the convention successful. Now, if only there were a way to stop all that pushing and shoving!
A Magnetic Miracle
And finally, here is a video I discovered, thanks to Gordon Bean, of legendary magician Norman Gilbreath performing a very clever trick called "Coloured Magnets" (not his more famous trick “Magnetic Colours", which relies on the mathematical principle named after Norman):
The trick is notable because it represents a new plot in magic. The method is very clever, to put it mildly. It is hidden in a Lewis Ganson book published in 1958, but Norman uses an updated handling in the video. "Coloured Magnets" is a beautiful piece of apparatus magic. It is a real shame that this style of magic has fallen out of favour. I might even try to build the props to perform this myself, but I fear I might lack the skills to manufacture the precision gimmicks required.
If you want to watch the full interview between Norman Gilbreath and Gordon Bean, you can do so using the links below.
Incidentally, Norman’s trick reminded me of a 2010 song by the Detroit-based hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse called Miracles. In it, the rapping clowns describe the wonders of the universe and their appreciation for nature’s beauty while expressing deep scepticism towards the dogmatic nature of modern science. At one point in the song, Shaggy 2 Dope laments, “F*****g magnets, how do they work?” The video quickly went viral, and this line, in particular, became a popular Internet meme. I’d love to see his reaction to Norman’s baffling trick. I’m sure it would blow his mind!
Warning: As you might have guessed, the video for Miracles contains some bad language. If you’re easily offended, or there are small children in earshot, you might not want to play it. However, the song is unintentionally hilarious and, as a magician, it always makes me smile.
That’s all for this monthly update!
P.S. To reward those who read to the very end of the newsletter, here is a secret link to an easy variation of the classic card trick “The Tantalizer” from The Royal Road to Card Magic. It is the fourth trick in my Piquet Pack Series.
I can’t claim credit for this very appropriate acronym. Compulsive Uncontrollable Purchasing Syndrome, or CUPS, appears to have originated on the Talk Magic forums as a joke (circa 2004). However, I’m not attempting to trivialise the more severe condition of oniomania, also known as Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD). CBD is a behavioural disorder characterised by an obsession with spending money and an insatiable urge to buy things, typically resulting in adverse consequences. I don’t consider CUPS, as most people use the term, to be a serious mental health condition. On the other hand, CBD can be as damaging to an individual as problem gambling. While most magicians suffer from CUPS, I’d guess that very few experience it as a true compulsion.
I work at a University, my two siblings work in the education sector, and both of my parents were teachers!