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The Magic Memories (103)

Hello everyone!

Today’s topics are: Theory by Fu-Manchu; Commented Table of Contents; Strotmann’s Magic Lounge; Genii Review of Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction

These are The Magic Memories 103, gone online Sunday, December 18th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

I’m writing this blog as we’re still snowed in… this is how some will imagine Switzerland 🙂

The Snows of Muttenz…

Theory by Fu-Manchu (David Bamberg)

Years ago, Dr. Robert Albo attended a lecture of mine at a convention in Las Vegas. Although I’m neither a collector nor a historian (maybe in a sense I am…), and although at that time I did not possess any of his legendary books (I do now…), I knew who he was.

After the lecture he came up to me and was very complimentary about it, telling me in detail how much he liked the structure and the contents of it.

The lecture had been mostly on cards and theory, and at first  I was surprised and impressed that a “historian and collector” would appreciate all that. But then I realized that of course almost all of “those historians and collectors” are highly educated people, some of them have even performed in their early years, and a few still do, and they do not only have a great knowledge about their field of interest, but many also understand the artistic and conceptual aspects of magic. (Some don’t, and get lost into irrelevant historical details, very much like some amateur cardicians get lost in moves and methods and disregard the effect…)

Anyway, a few weeks back in Switzerland, a big parcel arrived, and imagine my surprise when I unwrapped two volumes of his collection: The Ultima Okito and the Addendum, that included a set of DVDs with Dr. Albo commenting many of the pieces of apparatus depicted and described in his magnificient books.

When I opened the book, I was stunned to read the following dedication:

Inscription by Dr. Robert Albo to Roberto Giobbi

“Greatly exaggerated” (as they write in some illustrations…) you might say, and yes, it is, as no-one can compare to Dai Vernon, BUT it was certainly one of the most flattering compliments I ever received 🙂

You can get a glimpse of the eleven-volume set dedicated to Albo’s classical apparatus HERE.

The reason I’m writing all this is as an introduction to the following contribution, which comes courtesy of Dr. Albo and me: In his books he did not only write about the apparatus in his collection and their history, but occasionally had other texts like the one you are about to read, and which is by nobody less than Fu-Manchu (David Bamberg), Okito’s son. To this day Tamariz maintains that Fu-Manchu’s show was the best of its kind he had ever seen…

The text is a bit lengthy and unedited (it seems to me…), but contains some thought-provoking ideas you might or might not agree with. A good read for the present Holiday Season. To read the PDF CLICK HERE.

Commented Table of Contents

In old books the titles used to be lengthy and describe the effect – what a good idea!

As an example, in Decremps’ Testament de Jérome Sharp a title says that “four spectators each choose a card, that their are then divined by the performer, who subsequently takes one of the four cards and changes it into each of the other three cards”.

You’ll recognize an early version of “Everybody’s Card”, a more sophisticated version of which can be found in Robert-Houdin’s book Comment on Devient Sorcier (Conjuring and Magic) under the title of “Les métamorphoses”, p. 241 (“The Metamorphoses”, p. 245).

From: Decremps, Testament de Jérome Sharp (1989)

I think this is a good idea to be adopted by any modern author. To see an example from my own Card College Light CLICK HERE.

At Strotmann’s Magic Lounge

As announced per last week’s The Magic Memories 102, here is a short report about my visit to Thorsten Strotmann’s Magic Lounge in Stuttgart, together with Barbara and out friends Ikuko and Roland Heuer, who organized the visit as a surprise to Thorsten, in order to avoid that he’d invite us, as he’s been a friend for many years. These are still difficult times for any professional performer, especially for those who run a complex operation as Thorsten and his wife Claudia do, so I want them to get the money they deserve.

As far as I can remember I met Thorsten for the first time about twenty years ago at a Trade Show in my hometown of Basel, one of the few Trade Shows I’ve done in Switzerland, most of them having been abroad (Paris, Vienna, Milan, Frankfurt, Hannover, to mention just a few).

This was a Trade Show on logistics, not as big as Comdex in Las Vegas , or CeBit in Hannover, but still with well over two hundred companies presenting their services and products in several large halls.

Well, talk about coincidence, there were only two companies who had “entertainment” at their stand, and they were one next to the other! Thorsten and I couldn’t believe it… neither did those who had booked us 🙂

Anyway, we hit it off from the first day, found a way to alternate our shows and make occasional jokes about each other’s companies, and the two companies we worked for ended up having not one, but two magicians that attracted a lot of traffic. The CEO of the company who had hired me, even thought about booking the two of us for his next Trade Show.

Well, fortunately for me, shortly after this event, there was a major economic crisis that hit the world market, can’t remember if it was the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy or something else, so that was my last Trade Show, and after that I would defer any inquiries for Trade Shows to professional colleagues.

Certainly, Trade Shows do pay an indecent amount of money, and in a certain sense are very flattering, since major companies trust you with an important part of their target audience marketing strategies, but artistically I always found it nerve-wrecking and soul-eating… I wrote a lengthy essay about the subject for a German magazine years ago, and maybe I can get this translated for you as an offering in one of the upcoming The Magic Memories – talk about this later…

Back to Strotmann’s Magic Lounge 🙂

What is possibly the most amazing thing to most who have never heard of it, is the fact that he has created a theatre that takes 199 (one-nine-nine) spectators, who pay an average of about $ 80 to witness what is essentially a close-up show. Below you can see the theatre from the performer’s view. A close-up table “appears” in the performing area, which has also a hydraulic system by which a platform rises up!

Strotmann’s Close-up Theatre

Before and after the show, as well as in the ca. 25-minute intermission, a beautiful curtain separates the theatre from the bar and lounge area, where customers can have drinks and light snacks.

Intermission at Strotmann’s Magic Lounge

In spite of its size, the theatre offers real-world close-up conditions – below you can see Thorsten getting ready to perform his final piece, Tamariz’s “Coincidencia Total” from Sonata, a favorite of several top pros, among others also of Steve Cohen, who I’ve seen close his show with the same trick. The trick, by the way, certainly deserves this position, as it is a hell of an effect, however, it is very difficult to do well… and Thorsten’s rendition of it would make Tamariz proud of him 🙂

Thorsten Strotmann in Close-up

As for the show I can only say that it was excellent in all aspects.

I especially appreciated Thorsten’s humbleness and humanity, so far away from the typical “Las-Vegas-Show-Hype-Style” and the “hey-how-is-everyone-doing-bragadoccio” style that Europeans dislike.

The show had many spontaneous moments that made it feel fresh, although the connoisseur would recognize that he had done that show hundreds of times to get the technique and timing so perfectly down. What I personally like is when the text doesn’t sound scripted, something which is difficult to attain, especially if you script your show – a big issue that deserves a lengthier discussion we’ll leave for another occasion 🙂

Without going into more details of the tricks performed, I must say that I also truly liked the fact that he did a lot of real good, classic magic, without hurrying through it, but also without too much chatter, still, taking the time to make each trick meaningful by giving it a presentational theme (Prologue & Epilogue!).

This is one of the problems of theatre performers who need to come up with a new program about every two or three years: They run out of material, and have to fill in by telling lengthy stories that most of the time are far-fetched and cumbersome, at least that’s how it feels to me; they then sell it as “poetic” or “theatrical”. This is also why I stay away from those “Mental Magic Shows” (with few exceptions!), where – to paraphrase my friend Helge Thun – there is a lot of talk, and at the end it’s right!

For more information, show schedules, how to get there etc. CLICK HERE.

Close-up at its best!

Genii Review of Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction

The paper version of the October-November double issue of Genii arrived, and with it Joe M. Turner’s review of my Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction video course representing volumes 3 and 4 of my Card College books. If you haven’t already en it, you can read it by CLICKING HERE.

The review is a really positive one, and brought in several orders (necessary for our livelihood in these times with very little shows), still, I think the product deserves a few more… (so, if you can help, and you have it, and like it, tell your friends, please). The final thoughts of the review warrants everyone’s attention, in my opinion. In Mr. Turner’s own words:

In the remaining space I will return to an issue to which I alluded earlier. That issue, frankly, is the perception of value and cost as it relates to large projects like these.

I know it will bother some and sound like hyperbole to others, but I think this collection is infuriatingly underpriced based on the value it contains.

These files contain 22 hours of instruction covering over 150 techniques and nearly 50 tricks, not to mention the theoretical and philosophical discussions. When you consider that a single downloadable trick might cost $10 on average, then even with a discount this collection should be priced on the order of hundreds of dollars, or hundreds of euros. What is going on? I think one problem is that long-term exposure to too much less valuable, less thoughtful, less well produced, but lower-priced product has conditioned many people to stop thinking about anything the minute they see a price point higher than $30. Many of the same people complaining that $80 is too much for 50 tricks and 150 techniques will spend $20 for three tricks and a PDF, then spend $20 more the next day or week, and $20 more the day after that. There is a big difference between “consuming magic content” and “investing in your magical growth and development.” True, magic shops depend in some measure on the former, but anyone reading this column is capable of thinking more about the latter.

Another problem, well known and yet to be solved, is the issue of piracy. It is inevitable that someone will buy this content and it will appear on a pirate website for pennies. The shame of piracy is that creators like Mr. Giobbi and others have to underprice their product not because of honest questions of supply and demand, but to try to price it low enough that piracy represents less of a discount. In blunt terms, creators have to forego money they rightly should have earned for their creativity and productivity by underpricing their output sufficiently to bribe enough of us in the magic community to buy honestly instead of dishonestly. If complaining about high prices because we can’t save up for a while for important purchases isn’t a shameful enough cultural commentary, the idea that we must be bribed not to steal is even worse. It is a moral travesty that this collection is priced under $200, much less under $100.

No comment.

Wish everyone an excellent week!

All the best,

Roberto Giobbi

1 thought on “The Magic Memories (103)

  1. Merry Christmas, Roberto!

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