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Nicodemus

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Magic and Mystery [Aug. 28th, 2006|12:12 pm]
Nicodemus
Another great subject to search on YouTube is magic. I'm a big fan of close-up manipulation magic. I think that's some of the best stuff out there. I've even tried a bit of the simple stuff, but I've got what they called on Futurama "stupid fingers". I switched to juggling early on because you rarely have to control individual fingers there, you just need speed. (Really, that's true.)

So I have great respect for magicians doing slight of hand work. And there's videos of everything from classic card tricks to slick illusion work and street magic.

But what I think is cool is that there's also videos of trick exposures (in this case, from an over-hyped TV special), how-to shuffling demos, card vanishing, and card production (last one in Korean, but you don't need to understand it to follow his explanations).

Now, some people claim that you shouldn't ever reveal how a trick is accomplished. Myself, I tend to side with the Penn and Teller types that, in the hands of a capable magician, it really doesn't kill the show at all. For me, when I know how the trick is done and what the magician is having to do to pull it off (and make it look natural), I really admire the performance and technical skills involved. But there's a definite split... Some people really don't like to lose the mystery.

What do you think?

Poll #808796 Magical Mystery Poll

Do you like knowing how the trick is done?

Yes, it's even more impressive that way.
31(79.5%)
No, magic is better left as a mystery.
8(20.5%)



P.S. We'll assume, for discussion's sake, that the reveal is carried out in a classy style, not by some drunk yelling it out in the middle of the show. I think we all can agree that's no good.
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Comments:
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2006-08-28 08:22 pm (UTC)
Fair enough; I suspect your (well-stated) opinion may reflect the public majority. And I also think it's good when magic can retain its surprise, if not the total mystery. But I think knowing the mechanics of how magic is accomplished versus what trick the magician is going to pull and how he'll use it still allows for surprise.
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[User Picture]From: twopiearr
2006-08-28 08:20 pm (UTC)
i have to check a third option:
(•) I like knowing how the simple versions of the tricks are done, then watching the magician take it to a new and mind-blowing level.

Penn & Teller especially are good at this, but they're not the only ones.
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[User Picture]From: aceswild
2006-08-28 08:34 pm (UTC)

Magic is real

Wow what a subject.

Seeing I have been doing magic for about 30 years, let me start off by saying I love seeing people who are interested in magic.I love the fact there are people out there that truly want to learn it and maybe accomplish something with it.Now when you get into revealing secrets...well that is a different ballpark.

I have seen hundreds maybe thousands of magicians perform , some good some bad and some just plain AWESOME.But alot of them follow the code about not revealing the secret.Figuring out how a trick is done is one thing, but giving out a secret is another, are you the type that wants to find out how something is done so at the next party or gathering you can say "yeah it was up his sleeve" that is just plain stupid,in my Opinion magic should be left secret.Many will side with me on this ,for the magic and the fantasy is ruined by learning the secret.When the trick is performed well and you are left speechless, that is a moment of wonder and amazement that alot of magicians thrive on , not hearing "that was good , but i know how you did it" or " that was awesome and I can appreciate the skill it takes but I still know what you did".

When you know how the trick is done,if there was a shred of magic and mystery there, well it is gone.When people know what I am doing and can spot it well that means more practice or I am performing the same trick too many times.

I am all for someone learning, but to be around a group of people and to hear someone in the background explaining to his friend "he is palming the coin" well that is a no class situation. If you know how a trick is done keep it to yourself.

BTW Penn and Teller are AWESOME they give away secrets of old tricks that noone uses, and as far as showing how the cups and balls trick is done well I would challenge anyone to watch that and then watch another magician do the cups and balls ...you still wont be able to follow it.


Sorry for the length of the post


To all: Magic is real

Performing magic for a crowd and making at least one person smile and making their day a little brighter is REAL Magic.




DEX

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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2006-08-28 09:44 pm (UTC)

Re: Magic is real

Thanks for the response; length of well-informed responses is never a problem here.

I definitely get what you're saying and, honestly, I suspect you represent the majority opinion out there (both of performers and audience members).

"I am all for someone learning, but to be around a group of people and to hear someone in the background explaining to his friend "he is palming the coin" well that is a no class situation."

Honestly, I'd group this with the example of the drunk guy interrupting the trick. I think that there's a time and a place for discussing the 'how' of a trick and while it's being performed is NOT the right choice.

Also, given the enormous variety of techniques magicians employ (plus the continual invention of new forms), you can still be surprised by tricks. As someone who knows a bit about it but doesn't practice, you can easily be thrown and have to think about something for a while to reconstruct it.

You also mentioned P&T showing the cups and balls trick. I think that's one of my all-time favorite pieces. And it also highlights why I, personally, don't mind knowing how the tricks are done:

You can watch Teller doing cups and balls with clear cups and it's still an effective illusion. You can know exactly what he's doing, you can stare at his hands, and you swear that your eyes are lying to you. I'd call that real magic, too. :)

And kudos to you for adding more magic and smiles to the world!
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[User Picture]From: xodiac
2006-08-28 08:56 pm (UTC)
I voted for yes, but I have to quantify that.

I like being surprised. It doesn't happen often enough in my life. So I do like it when a magician performs a trick and I am left baffled, wondering, "How the %@*&@ did he DO that?"

But after once or twice seeing the trick, I'm going to want a bloody answer. That's just the kind of guy I am. The first time, or maybe the first few times, I'll let it go and just be entertained like I'm supposed to. Eventually, though, I'm going to want to KNOW how that was done. Not so I can reveal it to anyone, but so I can admire it on a different level. And maybe so I can watch other people be baffled while I have that knowing look in my eye. But I'd never speak up, at least not at the show. If I knew and someone asked ME, I'd tell. But not if they didn't ask, and not at the show.
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[User Picture]From: kuddlepup
2006-08-28 09:45 pm (UTC)
I'd agree more with Rigel on this one. The point of "magic" isn't to know how something is done..it's to give the illusion that the impossible has just been done. If you know how to do it, it really isn't magic at that point, since you know how it's possible.

I don't think we need to have an understanding of how visible light refracts to form a rainbow or how vascular contractions in a plant cause a flower to open or close...just to have a better appreciation for the fact that those things happen.
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2006-08-28 10:15 pm (UTC)
If you'll allow me to tweak the wording of one of your sentences:

"The quality of magic isn't affected by knowing how something is done... it's to give the illusion that the impossible has just been done."

That, actually, is pretty much what I was trying to express earlier (in a less eloquent fashion). I, personally, don't find that knowing how a trick is worked diminishes the magic in the hands of a skilled performer. It's still all about the quality of the illusion.

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From: jackrat
2006-08-28 11:33 pm (UTC)
Hey, thanks for the new search idea!
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[User Picture]From: vermillionfox
2006-08-29 12:36 am (UTC)
For me, I usually feel it is best for non-magicians to not know how tricks are done. Not knowing can at least allow all magicians (not just P&T level) to perform and have some illusion and magic to bring happiness to an audience. This is also why I get a little peeved at the pros if they give away secrets to anything other than chump magic you find at a dollar store bargain bin. When Fox aired the magic secret shows, I was very disappointed. Even though I knew everyone would forget as usual, the magician revealing secrets claimed "We need new tricks, I show you all so your magicians will make new things as I'm tired of seeing them do the same old crap!". It was shameful he forgot the audiences show up to see a woman sawn in half for good reason. They are there for the magic, not the trick.

It is human nature to want to know how tricks are done, and it can be fun to figure them out. However, for a majority of the people I've seen knowing the trick kills all the enjoyment out of it. It becomes "Oh, I know how that one is done. Seen it, ho hum, who cares anymore let' go get a burger.".

I do beleive that there are people who it does not hurt for them to know how a trick is done, and most all of them are other magicians. I know a pretty fair amount and how most things are done. For me, I love watching the performer and their style. Kind of like The Aristocrats where it was the same joke, though the enjoyment was the personal touches that made the comedians themselves.
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2006-08-29 07:10 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the FOX shows, like most of their products, were really annoying and over-hyped. But you do make an interesting point about not raising the bar too much for amateur magicians by revealing too many illusions; that's something I'll have to think about.

For me, I think your last paragraph applies. Perhaps, though I'm not a magician, I've got enough performer in me that I see magic in that light. There are some tricks that I've seen dozens of times and know the workings of, but which I can always enjoy seeing again.

Then again, I can also watch jugglers for over three hours straight without losing interest. (I have; it was a blast!) So I suspect that I don't exactly represent the common public demographic. :)
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[User Picture]From: 3catsjackson
2006-08-29 06:46 am (UTC)
Interesting topic. I have to wonder if there's a correlation here with more general non-magic performance. Some of us love to peek backstage (or to be stage ninjas) at complex theatrical productions, deriving as much or more wonder out of seeing the puppets, costumes, set pieces deconstructed and from behind, as from seeing them from a balcony seat. Others don't want to see these things from unintended angles, knowing intellectually that they're seeing an illusion and not wanting to break it by seeing a dead puppet or a decapitated fursuit.

Both understandable positions, though I for one will happily take a backstage pass any day. ;-)
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[User Picture]From: pippinbear
2006-08-30 06:46 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I was going to say one thing up until I read the last couple of comments (from 3catsjackson and SK-1), then my opinion kinda shifted.

In some ways, I really hate magic. Sometimes if I watch a trick being performed really well and I can't figure out how it's been done, it really screws me up. My stomach knots, I feel a little sick, and I just hate it. I can only think it's my fight-or-flight reflex kicking in and then having nothing to do.

On the other hand, I just realised that in fact, I just really enjoy knowing how stuff works. I'm a real geek and get a huge kick out of understanding complex systems. As 3catsjackson reminded me, I always want to look backstage. It's fascinating to see how things are done, how puppet stages are set up and used to pull off the illusion, how deceptive full-body puppets are made to look like something that shouldn't be able to contain a human being, or how carefully choreographed manipulation of an audience's attention can make them believe they've seen a magician doing the impossible.

To me, though, the effect itself is not all that interesting on its own, and if I can't figure out the principles by which it operates it leaves me feeling, oddly, scared and stupid. Scared, I suppose, because I'm afraid of my perception of reality being totally wrong; stupid because I know it's an illusion and I know I ought to be able to figure it out. (I don't much like puzzles either because they too make me feel stupid if I don't manage to solve them, and I don't get the compensating feel-good if I do manage to solve them because I know I'm intelligent and I ought to be able to solve them anyway. Real-world non-staged problems are more satisfying to solve, because there was no guarantee they would be solvable in the first place!)

Now that I think about it, magic, fursuiting and juggling all have a certain common thread of illusion. In magic, the aim is to completely baffle people and give away no clue as to how it was done. In juggling, there's no secret - it's all in the skill and speed of the juggler's hands, but still it's something that you wouldn't have thought possible unless you'd actually seen it. Fursuiting is something between the two, I think - we all know it's an illusion as it's fairly obvious, but it's nice to be able to remove as many of the "it's an illusion" cues as possible, incorporate a few tricks to surprise people with an illusion that goes beyond the normal level, and give the audience an illusion that they want to believe it.

And finally, here's an odd thought: I only enjoy suspending my disbelief of an illusion once I know (in some way) how the illusion is being performed. Gotta get the disbelief down pat before I can suspend it, eh?

Wow. I can talk a lot sometimes.
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