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posted by janrinok on Sunday March 30 2014, @07:41AM   Printer-friendly
from the now-you-see-it dept.

The Burnaby Kid writes:

Figured I'd toss this out there, since SN was asking for interesting story submissions. I'm a professional magician working abroad, and I've been indulging in this incredibly geeky performing art for almost two decades. One problem that happens a lot when it comes to magic is that the nature of secrecy means that we don't get open dialogue with the muggles we perform for, and that leads to us getting into this weird sort of insular and incestuous discussion with other magicians, which ends up warping our minds to the extent that we start doing moronic things like... oh, I don't know... referring to our audience members as "muggles". We get into some pretty weird debates, and I've been trying my best to argue for raising the bar, such as by suggesting that we need to be more sensitive about what you guys like, such as by making sure that if we pull out a deck of cards, we've got something to perform that can compete with Card Through Window. And yet... Maybe I've got it wrong? What DO you guys like? If you like watching magicians perform, what do you like about it? If you don't, why not?

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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by cosurgi on Sunday March 30 2014, @10:18AM

    by cosurgi (272) on Sunday March 30 2014, @10:18AM (#23107) Journal

    about magic shows starts, when first you show a trick, then explain how you did it.

    Then go on to the next trick.

    This way I could learn something new by watching your show, and maybe even entertain my kids later.

    #\ @ ? [] Colonize Mars []
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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by cosurgi on Sunday March 30 2014, @10:28AM

    by cosurgi (272) on Sunday March 30 2014, @10:28AM (#23110) Journal

    In fact this is why I bought these books:

    Martin Gardner "Entertaining science experiments with everyday objects" []

    Jean Potter "Science in seconds for kids" []

    and few more similar ones in polish language.

    #\ @ ? [] Colonize Mars []
  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 30 2014, @12:01PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 30 2014, @12:01PM (#23124)

    The fun ones are those where they show a trick, explain how it's done, then they do another similar trick but the explanation doesn't work for it :p

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by umafuckitt on Sunday March 30 2014, @01:46PM

    by umafuckitt (20) on Sunday March 30 2014, @01:46PM (#23151)

    That wouldn't work. I spent some time as a kid learning card magic. Learning that has taught me a bit about figuring out other illusions. When I watch magic now I don't figure out everything by any means, but I can figure out a good number of the tricks I see. TBH, whilst it's fun to try to work it out, every time I do it it ruins the excitement of the show. When you realise that a lot of the "clever" stuff you see is really just misdirection and simple tricks, then the "magic" is gone. Don't get me wrong, these guys are good and what they do is hard, but you'd still be disappointed if you knew how the effects were achieved.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by umafuckitt on Sunday March 30 2014, @04:01PM

      by umafuckitt (20) on Sunday March 30 2014, @04:01PM (#23177)

      Actually, this stuff is rather interesting so I'll lay out why I think magic tricks work in general without going into specifics of a particular trick.

      The magician has an effect they want to produce. e.g. You choose a card, you return it to the middle of the deck, the magician shuffles the deck, you name a number from 1 to 10, the magician counts that many cards down and your card is revealed at the spot you stated. The audience thinks they want to catch out the magician so they will ask themselves "how did he get my card into the position I stated?" They sit there and try to figure out how that was done. What clever trick did the magician use to get the card there? Is the deck "fake"? Once they're down that path, they're lost: they've been misdirected. The question they should actually be asking is "how did the magician make me think my card was where I said it would be?" In other words: how did the magician create the effect you saw? You have remember that what you thought you saw (the effect) isn't what really happened. So you have to forget about explaining what you thought you saw (because often what you thought you saw isn't possible) and start explaining how you may create something that looks like what you saw.

      That's the trick to magic: people ultimately want to be fooled and play along with the magician without realising it. They ask the wrong questions, because those questions are more fun. If you choose not play along, and accept that you've been hoodwinked, then you can start to figure out what the performer is really doing. But once you go down that path you're no longer a spectator at a performance because you've exposed the performance as a facade for simple trickery.

    • (Score: 1) by hendrikboom on Sunday March 30 2014, @04:04PM

      by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 30 2014, @04:04PM (#23180) Homepage Journal

      Every time I've figured out how it's done or had it revealed to me afterward it has always increased my appreciation for the trick. I can watch it over and over again and have even more to appreciate. Like sunsets. People often say they don't want to know how the light is refracted by water droplets to form the many kinds of rainbow, but I always marvel at that as well as the sheer visual effect while I'm seeing one. Yay reality!

      -- hendrik

      • (Score: 2) by umafuckitt on Sunday March 30 2014, @04:24PM

        by umafuckitt (20) on Sunday March 30 2014, @04:24PM (#23187)

        I see where you're coming from, but I think these are different things. Knowing how refraction works adds an extra dimension to the prettiness of the rainbow. I agree it only serves to enhance what you already see. Knowing how a magic trick works tells you that you didn't see what you thought you saw. In other words: the effect isn't real and something else happened. That changes the essence of what you saw. For some people this will impact negatively. For others, like you, it may revel in the mechanics of it. Either way, however, knowing the mechanics of a magic trick completely changes how you view it because the mystification (which is why the effect has impact) is now gone and is replaced with something else.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by hatta on Sunday March 30 2014, @05:46PM

          by hatta (879) on Sunday March 30 2014, @05:46PM (#23214)

          Knowing how a magic trick works tells you that you didn't see what you thought you saw. In other words: the effect isn't real and something else happened.

          Knowing that it's a magic trick at all tells you the same thing. The enjoyment of a magic trick is not dependent on believing that it's real. We all know it's fake, by the simple fact that it's magic. That doesn't damage the wonder at all.

        • (Score: 2) by sjames on Monday March 31 2014, @12:49AM

          by sjames (2882) on Monday March 31 2014, @12:49AM (#23370) Journal

          The thing is, I already know that the lady didn't actually get cut in half and then put back together. Most of us (apparently not the nut that sued David Copperfield) know the magician doesn't actually have divine powers.

          I can then appreciate the skill of the trick, just how far the magician pushed his luck, the artfullness of the patter, etc.

          The best time I have had watching a show was me and several professional magicians watching a video tape.

    • (Score: 2) by kebes on Monday March 31 2014, @01:24PM

      by kebes (1505) on Monday March 31 2014, @01:24PM (#23547)
      I disagree. Of course I can only speak for myself, but I find magic much more interesting when I learn how it was done. I watch a trick, I'm suitably impressed. But I of course do not think that they actually did something supernatural. So I think about how it might have been done, and come up with some plausible theories. But it would be much more satisfying to then be told how the magician actually did it. If it confirmed my theory, then I would get the satisfaction of having got it right. If instead they did it in a totally different way, that would actually give me a new moment of wonderment, where I'd be impressed with how clever they were.

      The original question was asking the SN community for their opinion. I suspect many in this community would agree with me that learning the details of the trick make it more fun (many of the comments seem to be saying exactly that). Of course, we are geeks: we delight in figuring out how things work, in really understanding. It's quite possible that the public-at-large is, on average, more delighted by remaining ignorant. (Especially those who actually believe in the supernatural; in which case I would actually consider it an important piece of community-service to dispel them of their naive notions.)

      I disagree that things become less impressive when you know how they are done. There is nothing "magical" about an athlete performing, and yet it's very impressive (and actually, when you learn about all the prep they did to get to that point, it becomes more impressive). At a minimum, I think there is room in the world of stage magic for more 'revealing'. I know some performers, like Penn and Teller, have built acts on this basis, but in general magicians are still far too cagey and secretive. I think it would actually be very fun to have a show where a trick is performed, and then some people (audience members or other professional magicians) are asked to give theories about how it's done, and then they reveal how they actually did it. There's lots of room for innovative acts.

      The whole magician secrecy frankly strikes me as a little childish and patronizing. It also seems anachronistic: harkening to a time when magicians were really pretending that they were supernatural, where people oftentimes took the magic seriously, and where one couldn't just go on the Internet and read all about the basics of how magic tricks are done. I think the stage magic community would do well to re-examine whether their whole 'a magician never reveals his secrets' ethos is actually improving their acts, or if it's just standing in the way.
      • (Score: 2) by umafuckitt on Monday March 31 2014, @01:47PM

        by umafuckitt (20) on Monday March 31 2014, @01:47PM (#23558)

        I see what you're saying, I agree that it's a presentation style choice. One reason, perhaps, why magicians want to maintain the secrecy is because it allows them to repackage old tricks and wow people all over again. If the mechanism of more tricks was more widely known then it would be harder to produce a good act. The reason it would be harder is because people would realise that a lot of the time they are seeing the same underlying tricks presented in new ways. The focus would then become more on the mechanism than the presentation.

        • (Score: 2) by kebes on Monday March 31 2014, @02:05PM

          by kebes (1505) on Monday March 31 2014, @02:05PM (#23569)
          You're right, it's a valid concern. Ultimately stage magic relies on a few simple concepts, which are combined and reimagined in creative ways to make new tricks.

          The reason I doubt it would really be a big problem is that people largely self-select in terms of their knowledge. In reality, lots of information about how magic is done is already "out there" (available for perusal on the Internet if you're so inclined), yet most people don't bother. If magicians were less secretive, it wouldn't change much: most people wouldn't bother to study how magic is done, and would be impressed every time they saw a trick. Others would learn the behind-the-scene details; but those are the people who are more likely to be equally impressed by the mechanics as by the showmanship of the trick. So, little would be lost of the secrecy were abandoned. I view it as a net win because people interested in the mechanics then have more resources to learn from.

          Admittedly it's harder to apply my logic to a show itself. If you have a mixed audience, and then do a trick, and then reveal how the trick is done... you will have some audience members enjoying the reveal of the mechanics, and others disappointed that the mystery is gone. I nevertheless maintain that there is room within the genre of stage magic for shows that advertise that they will reveal how the tricks are done (let potential customers decide if they want to attend the show). For this to happen, of course, the community as a whole would have to get over their default-secrecy mandate...