Today we hear from Craig Conley (a.k.a. Prof. Oddfellow), whose illustrations you’ve seen in Jeff McBride’s The Show Doctor and Eugene Burger’s “A Magical Vision” documentary. Craig collaborated with Abbi Spinner on the new Young Wizard’s Hexopedia: A Guide to Magical Words & Phrases. In his lexicographical work, he has uncovered a controversy in how magicians refer to audience members.
The Illusion of “Laypeople”
“I am a magician . . . and so are you. We are all magicians—illusionists—who survive, take pleasure, and find meaning in life by means of the illusions we create. I am here to remind you that such magic runs rampant in our lives and that this is a good thing.”
The most controversial word that magicians use might very well be “laypeople.” Its primary definition of course refers to a non-ordained member of a church, but that’s the least of the problem. We might do well to consider whether the very idea of laypeople is an illusion in itself. As a well-diplomaed philosopher, if Larry Hass chatted about the nature of reality with a stranger, that person wouldn’t strictly be a “layperson” but a fellow philosopher (even if to a lower “degree”).
The very concept of a layperson might put up invisible walls that are more of a disservice to the magician than to his or her participants in wonder. That’s because we all have specialized knowledge and experiences that others don’t, and if only we had a way of knowing how to communicate them, we’d all blow each other’s minds quite regularly. Sure, a magician may know the secret of a particular card trick that the participant doesn’t, yet a participant may be well-practiced in some other operation or art equally difficult or requiring flair. The participant may in fact know a card trick of his or her own, too, but not necessarily self-identify as a magician. The word “layperson” literally means a non-expert person, and is that how we’d describe our audiences (at least on our better days)?
A passage in César Aira’s novelette The Literary Conference feels apropos, in that it’s about how unlikely it is for any two people on earth to have read even just two of the same books, and how the unlikelihood increases exponentially for three books and so on.
An intellectual’s uniqueness can be established by examining their combined readings. How many people can there be in the world who have read these two books: The Philosophy of Life Experience by A. Bogdanov, and Faust by Estanislao del Campo? Let us put aside, for the moment, any reflections these books might have provoked, how they resonated or were assimilated, all of which would necessarily be personal and nontransferable. Let us instead turn to the raw fact of the two books themselves. The concurrence of both in one reader is improbable, insofar as they belong to two distinct cultural environments, and neither belongs to the canon of universal classics.
Even so, it is possible that one or two dozen intellectuals across a wide swathe of time and space might have taken in this twin nourishment. As soon as we add a third book, however, let us say La Poussière de Soleil by Raymond Roussel, that number becomes drastically reduced. If it is not ‘one’ (that is, I), it will come very close. Perhaps it is ‘two,’ and I would have good reason to call the other ‘mon semblable, mon frére.’ One more book, a fourth, and I could be absolutely certain of my solitude. But I have not read four books; chance and curiosity have placed thousands in my hands. And besides books, and without departing from the realm of culture, there are records, paintings, movies … All of that as well as the texture of my days and nights since the day I was born, gave me a mental configuration different from all others. (p. 9).
Indeed, every person has a unique mental configuration, meaning that we’re all fellow unlikelihoods, all brethren of wonder. What if no-one of us has ever technically met a “layperson”? What would happen if a performer came on stage, looked at a sea of faces in the audience, and quoted Bob Neale about what an honor is it is to be in the presence of so many genuine magicians? Even at a pro-magicians-only conference, given just how many magics there are (see Burger and Neale’s Magic and Meaning), who is technically ordained when there’s no one holy order, no one definition of kosher?
How does the concept of a “layperson” serve us?
“You should never hesitate to trade your cow for a handful of magic beans.”
— Tom Robbins
I do not consider my life normal…thank heavens for that!
As you may know I’m on tour and traveling half the year, and, as you may not know, CHAOS is a major part of that aspect of my life. I can’t avoid it… so I’ve learned to dance in the chaos, until it becomes my new normal!
The art of magic is often a dance of opposites; appearing and vanishing, something from nothing, life and death. Death and danger seem to be recurring themes in magic shows…in fact many shows feature dark themes and dangerous stunts.
Our good friend Eugene Burger has inspired many to explore darker themes…witness now performance artist Christian Cagigal, as he performs Eugene Burgers famous piece “THE INQUISITION.” (Christian will be headlining WONDERGROUND in September!)
“The TED Talks of Magic…”
That is how people describe our Magic & Meaning Conference. Bob Neale will be joining Eugene Burger and our very special featured guest, Max Maven, at this year’s Magic & Meaning, coming up in October, here in Las Vegas.
Bob Neale has written an inspired Book entitled Life, Death & Other Card Tricks… it is filled with magic routines that dance the razor’s edge. He has the ability to really make us think about our lives…using the medium of card magic.
Speaking of Life, Death & Other Card Tricks…
Our friend, Ferdinando Buscema reminds us of the “game of life.” Life is a game that ends with death. Ferdinando has a very artistic outlook on life and death. I think you would like to read his fascinating essay. It’s on the contemplation of death through the use of playing cards!
“Music is the strongest form of magic.”
— Marilyn Manson
Lou Reed Sings about “Magic & Loss”
The late Lou Reed’s lyrics are echoing in my head these days. I’ve been thinking and feeling deeply about life, death and magic. Listen to Lou sing this haunting song…it is one of my favorites.
Magic & Loss
When you pass through the fire, you pass through humble
You pass through a maze of self-doubt
When you pass through humble, the lights can blind you
Some people never figure that out
You pass through arrogance, you pass through hurt
You pass through an ever present past
And it’s best not to wait for luck to save you
Pass through the fire to the light
Pass through the fire to the light
Pass through the fire to the light
The Symbolism of Magic is Rich, Indeed.
Even the effect BEKOS symbolizes That magic often has a “cost”…a loss that makes room for the magic.
Asia Gives Birth…to Magic Wonder Lands!
The great mystics and sages say “All new life emerges from death, and the cycle continues.” It’s astonishing to see the new life magic is having in the media and in major entertainment venues around the world. Our friend, Franz Harary, is making global headlines with his new House of Magic in Macau.
World’s First Multi-Venue, Interactive Magic Experience
‘The House of Magic’
MACAU, June 10, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) ”The House of Magic’ at Studio City is the first and only permanent magic extravaganza in Macau.
Designed, curated and hosted by world-acclaimed illusionist Franz Harary, ‘The House of Magic’ is the world’s first multi-theater, immersive visitor magic experience, designed for magicians by a master magician, and featuring live magicians, and set in a mystical three-theater showcase complex of amazing, mind-bending magic. It represents just one of the stunning world-class entertainment centerpieces at the US$3.2 billion Studio City…
Read the full story here: http://tinyurl.com/nkhvaxp
WONDERGROUND NEWS… one night only!
Thursday June 18th at 8 pm–You are invited to the “Biggest Magic Party in Vegas”!!
8PM: Tim Wise, Emcee
Jeff McBride – New Magical Creations
Dixie Dooley – King of Escapes
The Shocker – The Ambassador of Kick- your Ass-ador!
Bizzaro – Innovative illusion that always surprises!
9PM: Christian Diamond, Emcee
Murray Hatfield – Canada’s top illusionist!
Jordi Magomero – Sensational Close-up Artistry
10PM: Murray Hatfield
Jeff McBride – The Masks of Mystery
Chris Randall – The Las Vegas Kid
Plus: The New World Rhythmatism Dancers, Bar Magic with Zack Pattee and Scott Steelfyre, Iam Creed, and Randilyn
Psychic Sideshow with Alan Scott, live art with Areeya and many more surprises and special celebrity guests!!
Abbi and I hope to see you in Las Vegas very soon…hey, life is short! What are you waiting for?
From the desk of Bryce Kuhlman:
Some of you may know that I’ve been Lance Burton’s webmaster for the past decade or so. While I don’t spend that much time around magicians, whenever I do show up at a convention people always ask me what he’s been up to.
My answer is always the same: Lance is retired.
While that’s technically true, he hasn’t been resting on his laurels. In case you haven’t heard, he’s been working on a movie. With an official release planned for later this year, Lance and I recently reconnected to start working on a new website for the movie.
So instead of me spouting more of my own philosophies, as I always seem to do when asked to write a Museletter, I figured it would be more interesting to let Lance take the stage and tell you what’s been going on:
Lance, you spent two decades as a real life Las Vegas headliner. Is this film an autobiography?
LANCE: No, absolutely not. Billy Topit is a fictional character, as are all the characters in the movie. The one thing Billy and I share in common is this, we both love magic, and we both love Las Vegas. I guess that is two things actually.
Is this your first time as a feature film Director?
Did you write the screenplay?
Yes, along with my writing partner Michael Goudeau. We also share Executive Producer credits, as well as both appearing on screen.
Can you tell us more about Michael Goudeau?
For 19 years Michael was the “Guest Star” in my live stage show doing a comedy juggling act. For many years he was the Head Writer and Executive Producer on Penn and Teller’s Showtime series. (He won an Emmy in that job.) He is also one of my best friends.
How did this film come to be?
When I was a kid I saw Bill Bixby in a TV series called “The Magician”. I loved that show. Through the years there have been many films and TV shows with magician characters, and some were quite good. I just felt that I could bring something to the table that was genuine. Something based in reality. I didn’t want to do the stereotypical mysterious magician character. That’s why Billy Topit is a struggling magician, even though he is very skilled.
So the character Billy Topit is not successful?
No, not as far as the world is concerned, or at least the world as defined by Las Vegas. He is stuck in that entry-level job of performing at children’s birthday parties. Which by the way, is where every magician starts. I started performing at birthday parties when I was 10 years old.
How do you think other Magicians will react to this film?
I hope they will be excited about it and love it. There are some things in the film that are just for them; inside jokes. Also there are other magicians who appear in the film in cameo roles; Criss Angel, Jeff McBride, Mac King, Fielding West, they all make appearances. Johnny Thompson and Rory Johnston are both well known magic friends of mine who have larger roles, and they are both terrific actors. I even talked my buddy Louie Anderson into making an appearance, and he is hilarious!
Who is your target audience?
In my stage show our audience was very diverse. Every night we had adults, children, grandparents, Americans, Asians, Europeans, etc. We had people from South America, Mexico, and loads of Japanese people. In the past few years I noticed lots of Chinese tourists, which we didn’t have 15 years ago. So what I am saying is, I think the target audience for this film is the same. It is a ‘family film’ that I hope will connect with people from all parts of the world.
What is the status of your live show?
I am retired.
No more live shows in your future?
I did 15,000 shows in my career. That’s enough!
We miss having you on stage for real every night!
Well, that makes one of us!
There you have it… right from the Master Magician, himself!
If you’d like to learn more about the movie, go to the website: http://www.billytopit.com
And be sure to sign up for his mailing list (at the bottom of the home page). People on the list will be among the first to know of new updates, photos, special appearances and movie trailers.
“Awards represent achievement, and to an extent, they show more about who you are as a person than the personal items you picked out and purchased, because they show desire, ambition, goals, and accomplishment.”
The Stevens Magic family recently sent out the following press release:
Jeff McBride-The World Ambassador of Magic–There is no better fitting title for Jeff McBride. A man that proves that success is about finding something you love to do and making it your passion. Sure, it’s hard work, but when it satisfies the soul, it enriches you greatly. In fact that “enrichment” is so powerful that it also radiates outward, propelling its positive energy and synergy benefiting thousands of other people.
Jeff McBride travels the world spreading joy, education, fellowship and entertainment; he is without question, one of the most in-demand artists of our century; yet, he remains humble, with his feet firmly planted on the ground, whether it’s at home in Las Vegas, or at a show or convention in Thailand. Jeff McBride has the gift of creative vision. Jeff embraced early the concept of incorporating other arts, and blending them all together years before the rise of Le Cirque du Soleil.
His supporters and fans are, without question, the most loyal and devoted we have ever seen – as they should be…. Because Jeff is always approachable, his aura is always strong and positive. In simple truth, there is no one in the art that has ever filled the capacity he has – ever. And I don’t think you can find a magician on the planet that would dispute this fact.
In the end, it’s another award for Jeff, a man who deserves every good thing in his life, and much more… But more important than the physicality of the award, is the testimony of others about Jeff. As is so eloquently stated in “IF” by Rudyard Kipling; “If you can walk with Kings and not lose the common touch,”
Hear the full poem here:
Jeff McBride is a man comfortable and humble among all people. A man who, while reading this (after the first paragraph), would already be thinking to himself, it’s not just me, it’s very much the people around me, Abigail, Eugene Burger, Tobias, Larry, and Bryce and many others. No question that is true too – but the fact that Jeff would be the first to state it makes him all the more deserving of this recognition.
Special FISM Award nomination for Theory & Philosophy
This award gives tribute to a person who has approached magic from a viewpoint that is analytical, academic, perhaps even spiritual.
Prior recipients: 2006, Tommy Wonder (Netherlands); 2009, Juan Tamariz (Spain); 2012, Eugene Burger (USA)
Roberto Giobbi (Switzerland)
Federico Ludueña (Argentina)
Jeff McBride (USA)
Gabi Pareras (Spain)
Markus Zink (Germany)
Jeff said, “I am honored to have been nominated for a special FISM AWARD! I’m in great company!” Jeff continued, “I really think that quality that makes one a master of time and space is to take advantage of every moment and live it fully.”
“Procrastination is a persuasive THIEF; It slowly takes from you what ambition would have protected.…Your future.”
WONDERGROUND May 21, 2015 – One Night Only! Never to be Repeated!
You are invited to the biggest magic party in Las Vegas!
7:30PM – Strolling Magic with Will
8:00PM – COMEDY MAGIC STAGE SHOW
Your Host — Tim Wise
Professor Pheylx – A clever
Tommy Ten- Mental act- direct
Jeff McBride- Always a new mystery
9:00PM – DIAMOND PARLOR THEATER
Your host — Christian Diamond
Professor Pheylx- Where
Personality, Style & Mystery Meet
Jeff McBride- The Magic Castle
Lion Fludd- Magic star on the rise!
10:00PM – STAGE EXTRAVAGANZA!
MC & Host — Jeff McBride
Luna Shimada- A Magical Legacy
Ryan Dubya Stock- Master of the
Circe- Direct from TV shows in Paris!
PLUS: Bar Magic with Zack Pattee and Scott Steelfyre, Iam Creed, and Randilyn
The Kumuda Tribal Belly Dance Troupe, Psychic Sideshow with Alan Scott, live art with Areeya and many more surprises and special celebrity guests!!
“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”
— often attributed to Groucho Marx; but the true originator is Anthony G. Oettinger
See you at the show, and again here on June 1!
Jeff McBride and the staff of
The McBride Magic and Mystery School