Friday, June 11, 2010

Another Project 365 Smorgasbord (176-178)

.:178/365: Cellphone Through Bottle:.

Just because this is the best version I’ve seen online, I’m giving you Criss Angel’s version of the Cellphone Through Bottle routine.

Penetration routines tend to normally involve secret holes and the like, but Mr. Angel has taken a lot of subtleties to indicate this was not the case with this particular bottle, first of all by using a glass bottle in lieu of a plastic one, then by pouring out its contents before starting with it to indicate there are no leaks in the bottle in question. The fact that he then gets to borrow another person’s phone and just slam it right into the bottle definitely seals the deal and really stunned everyone who was watching him perform, and I’d really like to assume these weren’t paid actors this time.

Well, there’s not much else I could say about this routine, right? Just watch it, enjoy it, and all in all, one of Criss Angel’s better efforts on his TV show.

.:177/365: Panic:.

I love a street magic routine that plays off so well it can actually have a place in a cabaret or even stage setting.

Aaron Fisher’s gem of a routine called “Panic” is essentially a card transpo routine that stuns people because whereas most transpos involve one card switching places with another, this involves four cards switching places with an entire deck.

The method is deceptively simple and undeniably effective. Unless you’re surrounded by grabbers, this routine just really floors people in less than two minutes, and is generally one of the best closer routines I’ve ever seen.

I think I’ve seen multiple versions of this routine in the past, but really now, how many of them can be done this close up and without having to use really unwieldy gimmicks? Even if the average magician could probably figure out the method just by watching the video a couple of times, they have to admit that it was a pretty brilliant touch from Mr. Fisher to do it the way he did. I’m still actually impressed with how clever it was, and how many people really react pretty vividly to a deck practically disappearing right before their eyes.

.:176/365: Theory 11:.

We’ve heard the apocryphal stories that attempt to explain why Theory 11 has come to be: that it was a response to the failings of Ellusionist, that many disgruntled performers wanted to show that they can one-up the E, and so on and so forth.

Theory 11 is a fairly recent magic company that does pretty much the same things Ellusionist does, although with even more emphasis on one-trick DVD’s than the E, who at least had several compilations. For better or worse, this is healthy competition on the online magic front, and Theory 11 has been doing very well in getting top experts to share their insights and even contributions for their videos which have been priced competitively, to say the least.

I’m a bit biased for T11 mainly because they seem to have a better roster of performers on their side, including renowned card manipulators Dan and Dave Buck, the rad bromance of Daniel Garcia and Wayne Houchin, the legendary Lee Asher, and a host of other thinkers and conceptualizers who saw what made Ellusionist tick and decided to go into the business for themselves.

Despite that, I guess that like Ellusionist, I’m fairly wary of how Theory 11 has been marketing itself, and if it will also fall into the “all sizzle, no steak” criticism that is often levied against the E. Personally, I don’t really hate the Ellusionist that much, but I feel that they have inspired a generation of kids who are into magic for all the wrong reasons, although that’s not really directly their fault, and it’s not like they actively encourage the culture.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I have no notions of altruism when it comes to magic. Magic is indeed a profit-driven industry. When people have resorted to stealing each other’s secrets in the Vaudevillian era, among other shady practices, it’s hard to talk about “the integrity of magic”. Despite that, I feel that even as a business model, something has to give when it comes to the saturation of magic to the point that it becomes way too mainstream for magicians to actually establish themselves in a niche, but a profitable one. As the villain in “The Incredibles” put it, if everyone becomes super, then nobody will be.

Ultimately, Theory 11’s motivations for coming out and producing (so far) quality material has been laudable and pushes Ellusionist to compete by stepping up their quality all the same. For as long as this upward trend of making magic better and better continues, I suppose I’m willing to concede to the unfortunate existence of a few fly-by-night magicians, given how it has become easier than ever to learn, which to me, is an important thing. Yes, magicians keep secrets, but divulging secrets shouldn’t require someone to have a degree in rocket science to understand what goes on. At some point, all professional magicians had to learn from somewhere, and so long as the quality of instruction is kept intact, I suppose I have to take the good with the bad when it comes to Ellusionist and even Theory 11.

If you’d ask me what it is about Theory 11 that sets them apart, I would have to flat-out say that it’s Lee Asher. I am a big fan of the man, and between him and Brad Christian, with all due respect, Mr. Christian, it’s not even close.

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