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The Magic Memories (182)

Hello everyone!

Today’s topics are: Skinner Tapes Photo Credit; Monte Scam; The Prague Experience; Hidden Agenda as E-book

These are The Magic Memories 182, gone online Sunday, June 23rd, 2024, at 0:07h sharp.

All The Magic Memories from 2021, 2022, and 2023, including the Magic Advent Calendar from 2020, can be found HERE.

Last week’s The Magic Memories 181 brought in several comments that you might find interesting.

Skinner Tapes Photo Credit

Leo Hevia from Silver Spring MD wrote in to share a photo of Mike Skinner, Dai Vernon, and himself that appears on the cover of the accompanying brochure of the Skinner Tapes DVD/CD set.

For reasons no-one can explain, Mr. Hevia was not credited for the photo, so here it is, with the proper credit and thanks from the magic community.

Vernon, Hevia, Skinner (photo Leonard Hevia)

Monte Scam

The article on the Svengali Deck Switch and Jim Swain’s description of the “Cold Deck Scam” reminded Josef Held of Moosburg, Germany, to share a link of a most amusing and, yes, historical video, for which we thank him.

Although the video quality is poor, you should be able to recognize Paul Wilson, Gazzo, Pop Haydn, Chef Anton, and at the end Billy McComb stars as a “benevolent” pick-pocket 🙂

The Prague Experience

I have often mentioned that I believe magic to be like a facetted diamond, as every facet connects to something in life. Once you have developped an “antenna” for it, it cannot be ignored, very much like not reading a text once you can read…

This is quite apropos in the case of my visit to Prague, because although I did not do any magic – no shows, no lectures, just “visiting” – and did no meet any magicians (!), there was “magic” all around us (the “us” being my wife Barbara and me).

Beautiful Prague (and Barbara)

This was my first visit to Prague, the capital of the Czeck Republic, so, before anything else, let me say that it is an amazing city and for me now ranks among my personal top five cities; I say this although I had only three days to explore it (without magic). “Picturesque” is too weak a term to describe how beautiful this city is.

Isle in the Moldova

Due to its popularity there is a price to pay: Lots of tourists, but, hey, we were tourists, too, so…

Prague by night

To know more about the largest city of the Czeck Republic and the historical capital of Bohemia, CLICK HERE.

What follows are a few of my personal impressions related to magic, of course.

Ondrej Psenicka

Ondrej, creator of the famous Butterfly Playing Cards, is arguable today’s internationally best known creator and performer of the Czeck Republic.

Unfortunately for me he was out of town, fortunately for him and the magicians in Chicago he was working at the Chicago Magic Lounge during the time of my visit.

Escorial 2017 – Psenicka, Engblom, Wilson, Hamburg, Carbonnier, Consuelo, Tamariz, RG, Suarez

(BTW: Just in case you are wondering what the red beast is on the plates, it is a “Carabinero”, and I prefer it over lobster or any other seafood… goes very well with an Albariño.)

Ondrej has one of the most didactical lectures I have ever seen; I really loved the way he brings across his ideas and creations. Do not miss the chance to see him perform and lecture.

To know more about him CLICK HERE.

In the video below you can see him for P&T:

Museums

Although there are lots of museums to visit in Prague, we did only two, and both were a highlight.

Illusion Art Museum Prague

This was twice as good: First, well, because it was good, second, because it far exceeded my expectations. The museum has only recently opened its doors to the public and is already experiencing great success with the locals and the tourists.

In their brochure it says: “The museum bridges the history of illusory art techniques and current artistic trends.”

Not such a bad description, and considering its manageable size – you can enjoy the exhibits in less than one hour, which is perfect for me – you get to see and interactively experience quite a few two- and three-dimensional illusions you have probably never seen before.

I think that the greatest challenge for a museum, any museum of any type, is to make the objects shown larger than life, to make the visitor not only look at the exhibit, but to create some kind of real-life connection between the visitor and the art object. This is hard to do.

Do not feed the wild animals…

The psychology and technique behind solutioning this problem is closely related to our work as magical performers, as we also need to think up ways and means of connecting to our audience and making them experience the “effect”.

What you see is not what you get…

I do have quite a collection of books depicting optical illusions of the most diverse type, but in spite of this, here they had some illusions, two- and three-dimensional, I had never seen before… and very well done, some by very talented and little-known artists.

Briefly, this is worth visiting!

To know more and see a lot of great photos, CLICK HERE.

THE MUSEUM OF DECORATIVE ARTS

Now, one could think that there is little more boring and less connected to magic than decorative arts.

However, for the n-th time, I had to tell myself that I am completely wrong. This is what I thought before visiting the Museo Balenciaga, in Getaria, Spain, which is about fashion(!), or the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart. But nothing could be further from the truth. Both museums are truly splendid.

Quite generally my experience has been that a well-curated museum, or any exhibition for that matter, has an interest far beyond its own discipline. Provided the visitor has an open mind… which occasionally is a problem with me, as I can be quite stubborn about some things… if I hadn’t this defect, I would be perfect, wouldn’t I 🙂

This museum was just round the corner of our hotel, and again could be visited in less than one hour.

The objects shown – furniture, paintings, household accessories – were all created by artists from the Czeck school of cubism, inspired by the French cubism of its time.

Now, this concept of having schools of thought, how they come about, and how they influence each other, is a most interesting topic.

To my knowledge the only person who has tried to transpose this idea to magic, to try to identify and define schools of thought in magic, their content and leaders, is Juan Tamariz.

He wrote a lengthy essay on the subject in an issue of La Circular, the journal of the Escuela Magica de Madrid (I thought it was reproduced in The Magic Rainbow, but I cannot find it… maybe someone can help).

Another thing that is interesting in museums is what art critics write about an artist’s work.

I have very ambivalent feelings about this: One one side, I find it a pain in the neck when the art critic intellectualizes each and everything in the work, coming up with what I occasionally find to be absurd explanations of what something is supposed to mean. They come up with ideas that the artist very probably has never had (although it is hard to prove, especially if the artist is dead…).

On the other side, it is precisely this language that we are lacking in magic, we do not even have the vocabulary to talk and write about it, at least not in the measure art critics and historians of other disciplines have.

But it is what we need for magic to be recognized as an art, and magicians as artists, at least to a certain extent.

A huge subject to be thought about and discussed… I wish that at magic conventions, but also in the big and important magic clubs (AMA, Magic Circle, etc.) they would at least reserve some time and space for the intellectuals among us to debate this and other problems, organizing fora to meet, and taking care of the finances to do so. We have still a long way to go…

Anyway, to know more about the museum itself, which I recommend you visit if in Prague, CKLICK HERE.

To sum up the “museum experience”: Each time I go to a museum – and I should do this more often – I find so many similarities to what I do, to what we all do who are into magic.

Invariably I come out with some kind of uplifting feeling, plus occasionally with some very practical ideas.

Also, I truly think that such moments are a vital part of our intra-personal architecture, and they make us who we are, each one unique, and that is what cannot be copied by anyone else, and it is that which makes our performances “artistic”.

Black Light Theatre

This was advertised as Black Light Theatre Comedy Show in Prague, and I knew that it was not the “real thing”…

As a matter of fact, there must be about a dozen such shows in Prague, made up for tourists (us!), and at least this one was not what we were looking forward to see.

The theatre itself was located in an old vault in the heart of the city, really a great setting. But the whole room, including the stage, had the size of a large living room with a capacity of ca. forty spectators; there were about thirty when we attended.

That space would certainly have been wonderful for a close-up show, but not so for a black light theater performance.

Although there were only four rows, the stage being on the same level as the the entire seating (!), it was hard to see what was going on in the lower half of the stage.

I was sitting in the third row and missed everything that was not higher than a meter.

One of the five performers was a person of short stature (Wikipedia tells me that  this is medically referred to as “dwarfism”), and I missed everything this person did.

At least they should have built a small stage…

But even with a stage, the closeness revealed more often than not the “method”, which is of course like seeing the thread when you are doing a flooring bill: the illusion is dead.

I was simply surprised that nobody ever seemed to have told them… (I didn’t either).

I had the good luck to have been able to see the “real” Prague theatre company decades ago, here in Basel in a big theater, when they were touring the world. That was quite something!

If you do not know, to see what this is about, to see what is possible, watch the clip below (an search more for yourself, please):

In 2004, when Martin MacMillan booked me for his magic convention in London, next to the British Library (that’s were I got the first idea for the Agendas!), I had the great pleasure and honor of appearing in the evening gala together with Omar Pasha (actually a French family)!

Since all the artists working the gala shared a huge dressing room, I got into a conversation with “Omar Pasha” (not his real name, of course), who carried on the tradition founded by his father and grandfather; the act is now in its fourth generation, and you can read more about it HERE.

Below you can see the “Omar Pasha” I worked with in London of 2004 – if you have never seen this, let it be said that there is absolutely no film editing involved: All you see is exactly as you would see it if you were sitting in a theater!

Gastronomy & Tours

Like any city as popular, an endless amount of tours are offered.

We missed a “food tour”, which usually is a three-hour tour you take on foot, visiting various places that offer local gastronomical specialties.

We have done this in Berlin, Copenhagen, etc., and I have yet to be disappointed by any of these.

Alas, for an organizational misunderstanding, we were not able to take it…

The Bohemian cuisine is quite heavy, traditional, but succulent, what our American friends would call “comfort food”.

I was particularly pleased with coffee, which I found d to be as excellent as in Italy and Vienna.

As for ice cream I recommend to stay away from names that you can find all over the world, but go for a local manufacturer, Angelato, divine, as close to Italian ice cream as it can get, for more info CLICK HERE.

Not always, but from time to time, we like to take the Tourist Bus, a hop-on-and-off tour that allows you to get a first impression of a city we have never been to.

I am reminded of Barcelona, which must be the best of all bus tours.

Well, on this occasion we did not, as the weather was so fantastic, that we decided to explore the historical center of the city purely on foot. This is all the more beneficial, as I truly think the city itself, its streets, houses, squares, shops, and people ARE a museum and need the attention you can only give if you walk.

However, on the third day, we decided to take advantage of a unique offer I have not seen before in other cities, i.e., a ninety-minute tour in an old-timer car with a chauffeur.

You can relax and see the most important spots of the city, and the price is less than a gondola in Venice. The difference is that the gondola is a real one, while the “oldtimer” car is a replica of a model that no longer exists.

Anyway, we enjoyed this very much, and I recommend it to anyone.

Prague tour with old-timer car

Humor

Several instances proved that in Prague they have a sense for both art and  humor.

Below one of several “street art” pieces.

Pan Tau…

I sent the following to Denis BEHR, as they had not only misspelled his name…

Ignorance is bliss…

Hidden Agenda as E-book

Secret Agenda & Hidden Agenda

Last but not least I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Hidden Agenda, which had been out of print for several years, is now back, albeit only as an “e-book”.

It is actually a simple PDF that is easily searchable, certainly a great advantage if you are looking for a particular subject.

Normally I am not a fan of e-books, but the Agendas are ideal to be read on tablets, even mini-tablets, as almost every entry is just one single page.

I am not allowed to offer it to you directly through my webshop, but you can download it from the publisher HERE.

Secret Agenda is still available as a book (order from Penguin Magic or from me directly if you want a personal dedication to your name, plus an autographed photo, also inscribed to your name).

Wish you all a successful and happy week,

Roberto Giobbi

2 thoughts on “The Magic Memories (182)

  1. “Mr. Poppins” ist die bekannte Märchenfigur Pan Tau (TV-Kinderserie in den 70ern)

    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_Tau

    1. Schon korrigiert 🙂 Vielen Dank.

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