Borrowed Time: a magic show and portal to another world

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On Sunday evening, I attended Helder Guimarães spellbinding card magic performance, Borrowed Time in Los Angeles. I was excited because Helder was the 2006 winner of the close up card magic awards at the World Magic Championships and is regarded as one of the finest close up magicians in the world. I expected the magic to be good, but what I didn't expect was for the entire experience to be as wonderful and mysterious as it turned out to be.

When I reserved my ticket, I received an email telling me that I wouldn't be given the address of the venue until the day of the performance. When I got there, I wasn't sure I in was in the right place. And it just got weirder from there.

If you live in the LA area, I highly recommend that you go. The show ends May 29, and most performances are already sold out. I interviewed Helder about Borrowed Time and, trying not to give away too much, asked him about the origins of the show. I think you should see the show before you read what follows, but if you definitely can't make it, go ahead.

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Ricky Jay's fancy way of finding playing cards buried in a deck

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Ricky Jay demonstrates his admirable faculty with playing cards. To learn more about this remarkable person watch the documentary, Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay, which is often available on Netflix.

[via] Read the rest

Baboon surprised by magic trick

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It's hard to tell if this baboon is astonished or angry about the behavior of the tailless primate on the other side of the glass. Read the rest

Chimpanzees enjoy magic tricks

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Simon Pierro's iPad Magic delights an mystifies chimpanzees, especially because the magic tricks involve peanuts, which the chimps like to eat. Read the rest

Get my card trick book for 99 cents - today only

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Trick Decks, my e-book about making your own trick magic decks is just 99 cents today. Tomorrow the price goes back to the regular price of $2.99. Learn more about the book on the Trick Decks website. Read the rest

Magic trick gives you X-ray vision

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I had a magic meet-up at my house yesterday afternoon with six other people. We had a great time showing each other tricks and giving each other tips on presentation, resources, sleights, and more. I learned a couple of rubber band tricks and how to do a convincing false shuffle. I think we are going to make it a monthly thing.

My friend Jeff gave me a wonderful magic trick from the Japanese manufacturer Tenyo, called Magical MRI, which gives you the ability to "see" through a solid metal plate. It's a very clever trick that's easy to learn. I love it.

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That ain’t baloney, it’s magic!

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Yasuo Amano, a Tenyo collector, author of the Japanese blog Hey Presto, and all around creative guy recently bought a package of what is known in Japan as “Fan Shaped Sausage.” It appears to be a cross between salami, baloney, or perhaps a luncheon meat as yet undefined.

He took out a few slices, put them on a plate, and saw something that no one else in Japan noticed, which is pretty impressive considering its population of almost 200 million people. Said slabs of meat can be used to do a well-known magic trick (or, more rightly, the optical illusion shown above). But it all looks so innocent on the plate.

Discovered by Joseph Jastrow in 1889, magicians have been performing this for years and calling them “Magic Boomerangs.” Two pieces of identical size and shape, when placed one below the other, produce the uncanny illusion that one is larger and the other smaller. Take another look up at the lead photo: that ain’t no baloney! Both pieces are exactly the same size.

The question of why it looks so amazing can be answered by the first magic set produced in Germany after World War II, in which I discovered said boomerang trick with props that were short and very squat. This produces a much stronger illusion that what magicians have been futzing around with for years.

If you want to do magic tricks with your canapés, then you may attempt to order the “Fan-Shaped Sausage” from its manufacturer.

As an added bonus, since we’re still on Yamano’s fascination with making magic tricks out of edibles, take a look at this video, in which he manages something miraculous with a French fry and the Tenyo trick “Zig Zag Cig” invented by Hiroshi Kondo decades ago. Read the rest

Incredible magic trick with Star Wars theme

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Yasuo Amano, webmaster of the Hey Presto blog often creates specialized versions of magic tricks devised by the Tenyo company of Japan based on the seasons or holidays. I guess he must be a Star Wars fan because, in honor of the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he has combined a number of Tenyo's magical effects into Star Wars themed fun. Read the rest

A magician drove a 6-inch nail through his hand in a trick gone horribly wrong

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Here's how the spike trick is supposed to work: a magician shows the spectator a large nail mounted on a block of wood. He sets it on the table so the nail is pointed up. Then he covers the nail with a paper bag. He places three identical paper bags next to the bag covering the nail. He turns his back and asks the spectator to shuffle the four bags around on the table so that the magician has no idea which one has the nail. The magician turns around to face the bags, then slams his hand down one a bag. It was empty. He repeats the process until only one bag is left. He lifts the bag to reveal the nail. It's a nerve-wracking trick.

Recently a magician performed the trick and made a bad mistake, driving the nail through his hand. You can see the photos here. Fortunately, he's going to recover.

And here's a video from 2007 that captures another magician stabbing himself. It's not too graphic, but it is hard to watch anyway because you know what's coming.

I have no interest in performing this trick. Read the rest

Get my card trick book for 99 cents - today only

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Trick Decks, my e-book about making your own trick magic decks is just 99 cents today. Tomorrow the price goes to $1.99, and the day after that it goes to its regular price of $2.99. Learn more about the book on the Trick Decks website. Read the rest

Halloween Magic at Tokyo Disneyland

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My friend Yasuo Amano, who lives in the town of Shizuoka about an hour outside Tokyo, runs a Japanese blog called Hey Presto. It is mostly concerned with the unique magic tricks produced a Japanese toy company named Tenyo, about which I’ve just written an enormous set of books that will be released in early November.

The Tenyo Company has been in business since 1931, and sells its magic tricks to regular folks at its “Magic Corners” in department stores across Japan. Even though the tricks they devise are easy to do, they also appeal to magicians because of their creativity.

And then there is Tokyo Disneyland, which is turned into a most mysterious and magical place at Halloween. Amano’s latest blog video combines a recent visit to Tokyo Disneyland’s seasonal Halloween event with a performance of some of Tenyo’s newest tricks.

I know … Halloween is still weeks away, but for purposes of commerce Halloween now commences in early September at Disney parks around the world, and even at your local supermarket and drugstore where the candy and greeting cards now appear before summer has officially ended.

In the latest and most annoying development, yesterday at Rite-Aid I saw Christmas cookies already out in the Halloween aisle. Don’t make me punch you in the face, Santa. Read the rest

Foreword to Trick Decks: How to Hack Playing Cards for Astounding Magic

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Jason wrote a terrific foreword to my $3 card magic e-book, Trick Decks: How to Hack Playing Cards for Extraordinary Magic, and has kindly given me permission to reprint it here. Jason was instrumental in rekindling my interested in magic, so I was thrilled to have him write it. Thank you, Jason!

What Mark teaches you, in this fantastic book, is magic. Magic you can appreciate immediately, and marvel at its workings without ever performing for more than yourself.

Herein lie activities that are fun for the whole family!

Activities that create illusions you’ll never forget – or forget how they work!

The entire STEM course load that is so popular today is here in Spades! Clubs! Hearts! Diamonds!

It is truly magic on so many levels.

So much about magic is intentionally damn confusing. I have a large library of books on card magic. Few of them are comprehensible to folks who don’t spend hours trying to figure out how to use them! It is like law school! Fancy names for card sleights that are harder to remember than the moves themselves, illustrations from Lascaux, and dialect from the renaissance-faire are frequently used to keep the barrier to entry high.

Mark has worked hard to share easy, achievable methods to get immediate, amazing results. You can delight in magic in a way that took me over a decade, working with only a single deck of Bicycle 808 playing cards and a candle, in a damp, dark room, trying to perfect a double lift.

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S.S. Adams invented over 700 practical jokes. Here's a great book about them

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

For over 100 years, the S.S. Adams Company of Neptune, New Jersey has been selling joy buzzers, sneezing powder, exploding cigars, fake vomit, extra salty salt water taffy, toy smoking monkeys, magic tricks, and hundreds of other inexpensive novelties loved by children and adults who act like children.

The S.S. Adams company gave Life of the Party author Kirk Demarais unprecedented access to its archives of tricks, gags, and ephemera dating back to the company’s humble beginnings as a manufacturer of Cachoo sneezing powder. Samuel Sorenson Adams sold 150,000 bottles of the stuff at ten cents each. The FDA eventually banned the powder, which contained a toxic ingredient called dianisidine. Undaunted, Adams went on to invent over 700 other practical jokes (many of which were awarded patents).

The photos of the many different magic tricks in Demarais’s book are the most appealing to me. Many of them are made from metal or wood and are beautiful and mysterious. I’m not a collector of anything, but I could become a collector of old magic tricks like this if I didn’t check myself. For now, I will content myself with this lavishly illustrated homage to a company that could only have thrived in an earlier century, when pleasures were simpler, and humor was broader.

The foreword is written by Acme Novelty Library cartoonist Chris Ware.

Life of the Party: A Visual History of the S.S. Adams Company, Makers of Pranks and Magic for 100 Years

By Kirk Demarais S.S. Read the rest

TV Magic Cards with Marshall Brodien - the best commercial ever

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I wonder how many thousands of kids were introduced to the joy of magic from buying TV Magic Cards after watching this commercial that ran on TV ad nauseum in the early 1970s. Read the rest

My new e-book: how to make cool magic trick card decks

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Trick Decks: How to Hack Cards for Extraordinary Magic is my $2.99 Kindle e-book that will show you how to easily make different kinds of magic trick card decks. You can make the decks from ordinary playing cards and easy-to-find tools and materials.

It contains full-color photos and illustrations and clear instructions, as well as links to helpful videos. No special skills are required and these cards are fun to make for beginners and experienced magicians.

My 12-year-old daughter and I have been using these hand-made decks to delight friends and strangers with amazing tricks. Best of all, no one has ever guessed the secret to these tricks!

For more information, watch the above video or visit my website, trickdecks.org. Read the rest

Watch: How to make ten cool optical illusions

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Psychology professor Richard Wiseman of Quirkology shows how to make ten optical illusions. The one with the straw is a good magic trick! Download the floating dice template here. Read the rest

Rick Lax: How I fooled Penn and Teller

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Rick Lax is a magic trick inventor, author , and (non-practicing) lawyer from Las Vegas. I was introduced to him because we have the same book editor, Dave Moldawer. On his Facebook page, Rick posts videos of the tricks he's created. The thing I love about his videos is that he shoots them in a coffee shop with his mobile phone. The tricks are great and he has an appealing personality so the Starbucks production values are fine. I prefer his videos to the edgy, atmospheric videos that so many other magic trick sellers use.

Rick does not perform in front of live audiences, but on Monday he appeared on Penn & Teller: Fool Us with a memory trick. He wowed Penn & Teller and the audience by glancing at a packet of 21 cards, mixing them up, then separating the reds and the blacks without looking at the cards. Teller grabbed some of Rick's cards to see if they'd been marked or stripped or otherwise doctored but he came to the conclusion that they are ordinary cards. Penn & Teller were fooled and Rick won the challenge.

I asked Rick to tell me about his experience on the show and how he came up with the trick.

Tell me about your thought process when you were coming up with a trick to fool Penn & Teller

I picked my most deceptive trick. The whole point of the show is to fool Penn & Teller, and I knew I had to bring my A Game. Read the rest

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