This may be the most important Blog Post I have ever shared.
Why are we doing this?
Take a moment and think about this.
Don’t read any further until you are satisfied with your answer.
Why stand up in front of any audience and present magic?
What is that all about?
Who truly benefits from this?
I am going to be honest with you.
When I was in Primary School, I got into a lot of fights, physical conflict and aggressive negotiations.
This carried on well into my teens at Secondary School.
I was subjugated and victimised, not by the white boys in school, no, I suffered at the hands of boys from the Black Community.
Yes, violence from my own kind.
To this day, I cannot answer this question.
I was called Coconut, Grey Man, Honky Lover.
I am 11 years old and having this experience.
I recall a vivid conversation with another Black Boy at school. He said to me, “you don’t like black people do you?”.
I told him him to go fuck himself.
He took offence to my eloquently expressed usage of profane language – he attacked me, we got into a fight, I got into trouble with the school authorities.
I got fed up with school, it made no sense to me.
I made up my mind; School was NOT the place for me.
The best thing I ever did was tell my Teacher, Mr Bruce Hamilton.
“I am not coming to School any more”, I told him. “School is a place to learn, not to be in fear every day, I don’t like it here, I am not coming back”.
God bless you Mr Hamilton, wherever you are.🙏🏾😥
Mr Hamilton told me; “not coming School is not an option Michael, you ARE coming to School, we will put a stop to this Bullying once and for all. You can do something none of us can understand, I know you are interested in Magic, I will set it up for you to do a few of your magic tricks for the School Assembly. Once the bullies see what you can do, they will leave you alone”.
He was dead right.
I did the School Assembly, performed Sponge Balls and some other trick. That was my first experience off… APPROVAL.
In this moment, I TRANSFORMED.
No longer was I a VICTIM.
I became a CELEBRITY.
In my mind, I figured, if I could be a good magician…I COULD SURVIVE.
Mr Hamilton saved my life, he pointed me in a new direction. He took a stand for me where no one else would.
I now understand my Psychic Trauma of not being good enough, not fitting in, being an outcast.
I understand now why the behaviour of others was about their Trauma, not mine. I did not know this as a boy, I felt their was something wrong with me, why else would this be happening?
Standing up in front of an audience gives me POWER.
My ego went into over drive as a boy, I became fascinated with psychology and how I could get inside people’s heads and mess with their minds, just like Hannibal Lecter.
I decided, studying magic was for me, this is my SUPER POWER and will support me in life.
In the last ten years, I have addressed my trauma and brought peace to it and forgiveness to others.
I give thanks to The Landmark Forum for opening my eyes to the genius and madness of the human condition.
I began to create a new context – magic isn’t about me any more, it’s about others.
My magic is a heartfelt gift to others.
It is my duty to give the gift of magic, laughter and astonishment away – whether I am paid or not.
Its not about fame or fortune.
Its about: self expression, courage, passion, dedication, fulfilling my purpose, self actualisation, humanity & love.
I have come to appreciate the honesty of my audience, they have not lied to me. Their response to my work inspired me to work harder. This hard work is paying rich dividends.
Now, I stand up in front of an audience not expecting anything from them.
I am there to contribute and serve.
Every performance is an opportunity to shed my ego and be vulnerable, so that my audience will experience my authentic nature and self expression.
I do not consider myself better or worse than anyone else, I am a human being who has something interesting to share.
Now, back to my original question, why are YOU doing this?
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Thanks for reading
Mike x[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]
Prestige, Respect & Venue.
Would you believe, in my opinion, subjective as it may be, I truly believe all three relate to one another.
The Prestige of the Magican, the Respect he or she will get can take years to cultivate. It’s a trial and error process.
No matter the Venue, Prestige and Respect come first.
Let’s deal with each matter separately and see how they all fit together perfectly.
I must confess, Prestige did not occur to me until I read about it in Strong Magic.
In fact, Darwin Ortiz goes into great detail to impress upon us the important, significance and value of projecting an attitude of Prestige in our work, presence and marketing.
Prestige is the Foundation for everything that follows.
It sets the context and expectation for our audience.
Without it, we will be fumbling in the dark wondering what on Earth do we have to do to make our magic powerful with with dignity and respect.
As beginners in magic, we are not thinking beyond performing for family and friends. Once we step out into the arena of professional presentation, Prestige becomes a big conversation and one which will become critical to our success.
When I first started performing, I worked in venues that were counterproductive when it came to a power play of Prestige – and rightly so. Experience is required, regular performance, learning our craft, dealing with tough audiences, winning the crowed, really LEARNING how to entertain an audience.
This is what Prestige is all about.
It takes years of practice in front of different types of audiences to really learn what it means to entertain and win the crowed.
It is my firmly held belief that I can perform in a Pub, a Hotel, Buckingham Palace, The Magic Castle and my personal power, my Prestige comes with me…NOW.
My Prestige is the inner sense of knowing, confidence, power, presence and purpose that creates the possibility that my show will win the crowed, no matter what the venue.
If I had to choose, I would always choose a classy joint over a dive of a venue and trust me, I have performed in some real shit holes.
Excuse my language, I couldn’t think of a better description.
Let’s think about Respect for a moment.
I can only speak for myself.
Lay people will Respect our craft the minute they feel they are in the presence of someone who brings purpose, power and passion to them. The performer brings respect to the venue, the performer brings his respect for his craft, you can smell it on him or her.
This is a serious individual, you can feel it in their being.
Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing my friend and mentor Darwin Ortiz present his Lecture. He was fantastic. He still continues to present himself with class, power and a presence of personal dignity.
Darwin was presenting his Lecture at The Holiday Inn in Alexandria, he may as well have been at The White House, such was his command of the situation.
I recently enjoyed two back to back performances at The Smoke & Mirrors Theatre of Magic. This is a wonderful Venue for any Magician.
Which brings me to my final point, VENUE.
The Venue where we work is the final piece of the puzzle. Right now, in this time, it is the big piece of the puzzle we are all trying to solve.
Where can we perform and show off our finest work?
For some of us, the Trade Show Hall is your stage, for others, it could be a restaurant, a pub or a swanky Hotel.
All of these environments are just a space to work nothing more nothing less.
The question is;
What are you bringing to this context?
What is your message?
What will you leave behind?
Prestige and Resepct should come with time, you cannot force the process. Just do your work with purpose and intention.
As for venue, guess what, where ever you find yourself. Play BIG.
Use your power, energy and passion to shift the energy of the place. This can transform a dive into a palace of mystery. When the time comes and you find yourself in an environment conducive for artistic self expression, you will feel right at home.
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When I first read this routine, it made no sense to me. It’s the first routine in the last chapter of The Royal Road to Card Magic.
Jean Hugard described it well. I followed the instructions and still, the experience of it was lost on me.
It would be many years before I saw the light. Now, I see his routine as a true masterpiece.
The routine bares the name of its creator Conus, a French Magician. He was probably a generation or two before Robert Houdin.
What is astonishing about this routine is the simple fact that it plays big, it has built in humor and the magical effect of cards transforming into Ace plus the Aces appearing in the spectator’s pocket is genius thinking.
It is not an easy routine to do well. It requires advanced sleight of hand techniques, showmanship, delivery, great acting ability and a deep understanding of psychology.
Master Conus had all of this skill set at his disposal. This routine is a complete act and it inspired Robert Houdin to publish it in his book, The Secrets of Conjuring and Magic 1868.
It is a very sophisticated routine, the sucker phases shows a very keen intellect on the part of Conus. He must have known this is a routine that features drama, suspense, humor in order for the magic to register powerfully.
I love this routine; it fits my whimsical style perfectly. All of the techniques are well covered under the radar leaving no clues.
When the Aces Vanish and appear in the spectator’s pocket, the routine comes full circle.
Check Out Classic Sampler by Michael Skinner for very streamlined handling.
A video will be added very soon.
This topic represents my current thought process.
I became fascinated with this once Darwin Ortiz released his book Designing Miracles.
This is the Play Book on routine Construction, Design and Deception.
Here is my attempt to document my thoughts and understandings of my studies so far.
I will use my routines as an example to support this conversation along with a video just to keep things interesting.
Ok, to begin, let’s distinguish a few things.
We have a few strategies at our disposal to create, design strong and beautiful magic.
Sleight of Hand
Additional Paraphernalia (cryptic description to avoid exposure)
Psychology & Audience Attention Control
Script & Premise
Personality and Self Expression
Tommy Wonder gave us a beautiful distinction – The Three Pillars, which represents the first three items on this list.
Study The Books of Wonder to learn more about this, it will support your understanding along with this conversation.
Darwin Ortiz presented a stunning evaluation with his book Strong Magic.
This is an academic and rigorous analysis on tools for Showmanship and Creative Presentation.
The first book I read on this subject was Professional Presentations by John Mendoza. This was a good book for the early 1980s. Strong Magic went further and beyond.
Creative Showmanship is one thing, what about the Design and Construction of our Routines?
Look at those two words:
We could also add,
These terms come from Engineering so it stands to reason, we magicians must think like Engineers when crafting our routines.
Now, it has just occurred to me, taking a routine and replacing the Construction and Design with an inferior Blueprint is the mark of a hack.
“An individual who doesn’t understand how to mix concrete correctly, or how to let it set so the foundation is rock solid.
This individual will build on a sandy foundation because he isn’t aware that there are better approaches to mixing and laying a foundation that will support the infrastructure”.
I Love Metaphors
Let’s go deeper.
It’s one thing to be limited by technical ability – an individual can still present strong magic with BASIC TOOLS.
“Some of my very best routines are almost free of technical sleights”.
It is important to distinguish that the sleights used will affect the strength of your magic.
“Watering down a beautiful routine that creates beautiful magic with tools that are easier to execute and inferior is to kill and destroy a great work of art”.
It is important to understand that the craft of Magic, like music, like Painting or the Martial Arts is a highly skilled disciplined. There are no short cuts to Technical Mastery. I don’t care how a trick is done, all I care about is the effect.
If the effect inspires me and requires of me a set of skills I do not yet possess, I will practice like there is no tomorrow, I will find a way to have a breakthrough in my self expression and technqiue. Under no circumstances will I mess with the original Blueprint and Data.
Did you know that Michelangelo created his David and many of his other famous pieces out of Clay first ?
He did this so he could get a sense of his vision before he carved the beautiful Carrara Marble.
This parallels with creative magic.
The trial and error process of testing different approaches before deciding on the right handling and presentation is very important. This certainly gives me a wide range of options to create from.
It took me twenty-five years of study Research and Development to come up with my routine The Ultimate Travelers. I should also mention I was not technically ready as a 14 year old when I first learnt this routine.
Let’s take a break and enjoy some magic.
The video below is from a show I recently gave.
The Intuition Speller
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Card at a Number
The Coins & Cylinder
Enjoy the video and then I will follow up with some observations about the construction of this act.
Let’s break it down.
This sequence of effects are normally presented in a social setting. The video is only the second time I have performed this Act in a Formal setting – it works well.
As an opening effect, The Intuition Speller is very strong. It communicates very quickly that strange things are going to happen with this deck of cards.
Out of Sight Out of Mind is the perfect follow-up for me. Here we have a demonstration of what feels like your genuine mind reading. A psychological experiment that is so powerful, it can really disturb an audience. This routine communicates very powerfully that I appear to be much more than someone just doing cards tricks.
My routine Synergy is beautiful, it has gone through many variations in handling and yet, the premise remains. It’s all about connecting with the audience. At this stage in the act, I like to feel the audience is on my side. This particular routine allows me to bond and connect with the audience in a very powerful way. The fact the magic happens in their hands is also a very powerful point.
The Sting is one of the most powerful Gambling Routines I have ever presented, period. This is where I send out a very powerful message; I am a master of my craft. After this routine, the audience must know and feel the cards are my passion and what they have seen transcended all logic and reasoning.
The next routine was 52 Factorial – ACAAN to you and me. My handling and presentation puts a lot of emphasis on the deck being shuffled by the spectator. This is a critical factor for me in this plot; I will address this in another post. For now, consider the impact it generated, a card and number recorded on my business card before any dealing – the deck was shuffled by the spectator. A perfect outcome and an extraordinary moment.
Although it was not seen in the video, I follow this with Lucky Charms. I did not feature this routine in the footage because I am not ready to share it. Trust me, it’s beautiful beyond measure.
The final routine in this particular set is John Ramsay’s Coins & Cylinder – this brings my performance back to me, the audience get to experience pure magical artistry and this brings the performance home in a nice way.
Did you notice all of the routines started with the spectator shuffling the deck – this is a powerful context to come from. Everything happens in an open and fair way. They think of a card, they touch one, strange things happen without any intervention from me.
This is how I design my magic.
Even the Gambling Routines; did you notice there was no exposure or education of certain techniques?
I don’t believe in educating an audience about my tools, I use my tools to create extraordinary moments.
Did you notice, with the exception of The Sting and Coins & Cylinder, the routines were technically easy to do. I have taught those routines to my students and they are enjoying great reactions with them.
Remember, the effect comes first, if you feel inspired then its time to go to work.
It’s important to clearly define your style and create a delivery that matches congruently.
As an example, my friend Jason Ladayne is very clear about his character, style and delivery. I admire the fact that he is authentic in his declaration and backs up every single claim with astonishing demonstrations of Card Control, Gambling Demonstrations and straight Card Magic all from the context of the Gambling Expert. It fits him well, he carries it with conviction and delivers it with technical virtuosity.
The routines I perform now fit my style better now than ever. I have eliminated a lot of junk from my repertoire and focused exclusively on routines that fit my self-expression.
Please study Darwin’s book Designing Miracles, it will teach you how lay people really think about magic. The Act in this video was designed based on what I learnt from this book.
I have a lot more to say on this subject, consider this Blog Post a Prologue, there is more to come.
Thank you for reading.
This next Blog Post is very dear to my heart.
Again, let’s thank my friend Raj Jethwa for suggesting this fascinating conversation.
I became intrigued with this subject during my first trip to New York in 1982.
The seed was planted after seeing Slydini on television – Christmas Day 1978. I was 14 then and knew that Slydini magic was different.
My mentor Alan Alan encouraged me to study The Magic of Slydini by Lewis Ganson.
I learnt EVERY routine in the book. I don’t smoke, however, I learnt Slydini’s Cigarette Routines along with everything else.
“This was a beautiful period for me. Although I didn’t really know what I was doing, it just felt lovely. The study, the exploration and just being engaged with a subject I loved”.
During my week in New York, I met Slydini at The Tannens Jubilee. I was overwhelmed and in awe of his presence.
After the Convention, Slydini invited Alan and I back to his Studio of Magic and the real work began.
This was a big thrill – I was taught by the Master.
Slydini was very strict.
He insisted on students learning his magic with exacting precision so they would fully internalise his system of Attention Control.
This came with a big problem, most of Slydini’s students picked up a lot of his mannerisms.
I only spent four days in his company.
This was a blessing in disguise. I internalised his system without inheriting any of his mannerisms.
Let’s talk about mannerism for a moment.
In Slydini’s world, mannerism was his take on natural gestures.
Dai Vernon’s said;
Vernon never told us how to be natural. He at least intimated to think about being natural.
Slydini made a point of stressing and pin pointing to me my own natural mannerism.
This was a critical part of my understanding and showed me how I could apply his principles of deception.
In the first Chapter of his book, he goes into explicit detail about how to sit correctly, how the body moves backwards and forwards. His entire system is based in The Ebb and Flow of Tension and Relaxation.
All of this is directed through the body and our physiology.
It is critical that each student understands this and applies it to their own natural mannerisms.
I was lucky and privileged to spend such a short time with him – not long enough to absorb his mannerisms and become a Caribbean Clone with a fake Italian accent. Just long enough for him to give me everything I would ever need.
I never saw him again😢
It took me many years to fully understand his system post our meeting.
By 1990, it all made sense.
I began my own deeper enquiry into Misdirection, Psychology, Human Nature, Rapport, Influencing and Persuasion.
I no longer think in terms of Misdirection.
This terminology is a short cut phrase used by magicians because it is convenient and based on our conditioning.
I often feel when I hear magicians use the phrase, “the misdirection is very strong ” they don’t really know what they are talking about. The routine may be deceptive, on some level, however, I very often see gaps that need filling in.
I propose that we start thinking in terms of Audience Attention Control. This is my baby, my passion and deep interest.
Audience Attention Control is a very deep subject and has applications beyond the tiny world of magicians.
Attention Control is very powerful. I saw it at work in my addictive daily trawling through Facebook. Once I saw it, I deactivated my Facebook Account.
This is the most important thing I have chosen to write about.
If we as magicians do not take control of what controls our attention, how can we expect to perform deceptive magic?
We must understand the principles at work and learn how to use it for our best advantage.
I wrote a book on this subject it is called The Tapestry of Deception.
I am very proud of this book.
I found a way to describe Slydini’s System in a very simple and accessible language.
Here are a few things to consider :
Magic can happen in only one place, that is in the mind of the audience.
Misdirection is no longer an acceptable terminology.
We are dealing with;
Audience Attention Control.
The audience FOOLS themselves.
All we are doing is facilitating that process.
The Eyes Sees
The Brain Registers
The Mind Evaluates
All three work in tandem.
The Eye may see but the Brain may not have registered what the Eye saw.
The Mind makes up a story about what it thinks the Brain saw.
The emotions of astonishment are real.
There is no substitute for sloppy magic or sloppy technique.
Audience Attention Control is the glue that binds the whole deception together.
The construction and design of a routine takes into consideration any shortcomings of Technology, Sleight of Hand, Gimmicks etc
The Power of Assumptions is a very critical element in the design of our magic.
Assumptions made by the audience must be allowed to function naturally.
Why show the Hand empty?
Allow them to assume and see for themselves.
If you would like to learn more about this subject, I provide very powerful
Coaching over Skype and face to face.
To start this process, take a Routine you have had success with and break it down, start again. Study every aspect of it and look for any gaps in the Method. Look and see if you can implement some of the suggestions I just made.
Take a look at the routine below, this is an example of me applying what Slydini taught me.
It is my version of Slydini’s Coin routine.
It features everything he taught me.
Thanks for reading.