School and Such

Hello everyone!
As you may have noticed, my blog was a bit stagnant last week. This was due to a combination of school, work, and a few other things. But my last exam is tomorrow so after that I should be right back on track.
I ended the poll as well. I’ve got quite a bit of a workload planned out for the near future, and I just posted the second part to the Sentinels review yesterday. Starting tomorrow I’ll be putting up the reviews for Foundations by Jason England. I’m going to do them one 1-on-1 at a time and there are 8 in total. After that I’ll have my review for the Conjuring Arts Bee Smith Back No. 2 ready to go. So stay tuned, good things are in store.

Posted: May 1st, 2011
at 9:54am by Robin Carey

Categories: General Artifice

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Theory11 Sentinels :: Review Part 2

This is the second piece to my review for Sentinels by Theory11. The point of the second part of my reviews is to talk about how the deck is once it’s broken in and used in live performances. I’ve been working, using, and performing with these playing cards since Theory 11 released them, so if you have any other questions don’t hesitate to ask.

The Sentinels break in quickly and then have a nice, soft feel to them. Springs and shuffles are great after the deck has been worked with. But, at the same time, the cards still have a little pop to them. They’re not too flimsy, but just soft enough. Being durable, soft and great for all kinds of spreads and cascades are what make this deck a great investment. However, if handled for extended periods of time they tend to clump up. This issue increases the more often they are used. If you let them sit & breathe over night they feel much better. This clumping issue isn’t any better or worse than any other used deck though.

Sentinels have a great back and face design, but in performances I’ve noticed that these interesting shapes can distract the spectator. Some laymen have accused them of being “trick cards” while others have focused more on the cards then the actual performance. This may not be a problem for you guys, depending on how you present your magic. Incorporating the shapes and symbols of the design creatively in a performance could greatly enhance the effect, so it’s up to you how to use them.

Overall: The Sentinels held up great. Both the box and the cards are in surprisingly good condition after months of frequent use and handling. If you still haven’t tried them yourself or don’t buy custom cards often, they’re a good investment. After performing with them I’ve found they don’t really suit my style but I can definitely see the potential to make use of the symbolism in the deck. It’d be interesting to see a performance with this. So, Sentinels are a high-quality deck with staying power.

Posted: April 30th, 2011
at 11:07am by Robin Carey

Categories: Cards - Reviews

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MC2 :: Day Four

Morning Session
Michael Weber was our host for the final day of Magic-Con 2011. After everyone was settled in he brought David Regal on stage. David’s talk was all about intent. He said that you should always intend to do something with each effect or performance. Whether it be to mystify the audience, make them laugh, or just do a trick without getting caught, the effect always improves when you have a goal to focus on. This reminded me a lot of Chris Kenner’s advice from the first Magic-Con. Kenner said to picture each trick you do as a scene in a play and decide what you’re trying to communicate with it. Pick one word, and that effect should convey that word or emotion. When you set a distinct goal like that it really helps when you’re deciding how to present the trick.

Al Seckel came after David and Al did a whole presentation on optical illusions. He showed many different ones from digital to physical. It was really interesting to learn why the brain gets fooled by these. Al’s talk coincided with Susana Martinez-Conde and Steve Macknik from the first day. To end our morning session Richard Kaufman came up to talk about Genii magazine. For those of you who haven’t heard of Genii before it’s a magician’s magazine with a wealth of great information, articles, and reviews. They’re now also releasing a digital copy of each issue when it comes out, as well as putting them on their iPod and iPad app.

Afternoon Lectures
Bob Sheets took the stage next. He went over a few tricks, the first being a three card monte he does with jumbo sized cards. It was a good effect but unless you have giant gaffed playing cards it’s not exactly practical. Then he spent most of his time going over his version of the shell game. He used walnut shells and a little plastic pea. Bob’s is one of the cleanest versions I’ve seen and if you buy the DVD and contact him he’ll coach you at no extra cost. After Bob, Roberto Giobbie was up once again. First Roberto went into his take on the card in lemon plot. It was very entertaining and you could see how thought out each action was. Roberto walked us through the effect and gave some really good tips on the effect. Then he showed us a great thought-of-card effect that baffled most of the audience. There’s a lot to learn just from watching someone with as much experience as Roberto.

The last presentation of Magic-Con 2011 was an interview with Mac King. Michael Weber sat down and asked him a few questions about his past, his practice habits, and his current show. It was interesting to hear that a large portion of the material Mac performs today is from when he was a kid. A lot of effects he learned back then he’s carried through the years, performed thousands of times, and tweaked them until they’ve evolved into what he does today.

That’s it for Magic-Con! The conference last year was incredible, and I’m not sure how Dan and Dave managed to host yet another great one. There were so many ideas shared, so much creativity, and so much knowledge. Not just in the presentations either but in the sessioning before, in between, and after. For those of you who went I apologize for any discrepancies in my posts as it’s difficult to remember each presentation in detail. All in all this was a one-of-a-kind learning experience and I can’t wait for next year. If any of you have any questions about the conference feel free to comment and ask!

Posted: April 22nd, 2011
at 11:19am by Robin Carey

Categories: Magic Con 2011

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MC2 :: Day Three

Morning session
This was the second day of presentations and it started out with John Lovic introducing the first speaker, Roberto Giobbi. Roberto gave a lecture on the levels of a magic trick and compared it to an iceberg, as in how the spectator only sees the tip of the effect. Below that are the things we spend so much time on like method, psychology, etc. It was sort of like the “mental path” Helder had talked about, with some other insights. It really helped to put things in to perspective for me, about how I should focus more on what the spectators see and take in rather than the method I use to get there.

Next was Chris Dzoan, Tyson Mao, and John George. They talked about something everyone has heard of, the Rubik’s Cube. John George spoke about the applications it has in magic. This idea works because laymen think if you can solve a cube you’re extremely intelligent. In his show he solves a cube by normal means, but does so quickly. Then after the layman knows he has the ability to solve one normally, he brings in a magic effect. He pulls out a tiny cube (unsolved), places it in his mouth, and it comes out solved. If a spectator were to see this on its own they would suspect it was a gimmicked cube but because he displayed real skill beforehand, they believe it was done legitimately. Then Chris Dzoan did some amazing solves: solving a cube one-handed one behind his back, and one in each hand that are mirrored while only looking at one hand. This was a great example of integrating a well-known prop into a magic act.

Next up was Derek Hughes again. This time he gave a talk rather than just a performance. He spoke about the questions you should ask yourself when routining and scripting effects. He referenced a well known acting text and explained how he takes the lessons learned from theater and applies them to his magic. Lastly, he talked about how important the presentation and script are, and how they can really elevate your performance. After Derek was Shane Cobalt. His talk was pretty interesting, he brought along two card cutters and showed everyone how they work. Shane’s whole presentation was about stripper decks. Most magicians (including me before his talk) only think there’s a single type of stripper deck. There are actually three, the difference being where the card is cut. The card cutters looked like useful tools but were pretty pricey. The last person this morning was David Williamson and he was on stage for about a minute. He hurried up and said a few quick things because we were already running over and everyone was starving, waiting to go to lunch.

Afternoon Session
Robert Lang is “recognized as one of the world’s leading masters of origami”, and he showed it at Magic-Con. If you have some spare time do a Google image search for “Robert Lang Origami” and see what he’s capable of. Lang displayed different pieces of Origami he designed, as well as how origami can be used in other fields. Space was the biggest one with designing shapes that fold up small but expand at the destination. It makes you wonder if this could be applied to magic in any way, and what we could do with it.

Jim Steinmeyer came afterwards. His talk was all about magic history and Houdini. Steinmeyer talked about his book mostly, and how he believed Houdini had good reason for “killing his father”, Robert Houdin. I had trouble following his presentation because I didn’t know about Houdini writing ill of his mentor in the first place but it was still an interesting excerpt of magic history.

Afternoon Lectures
This may have been my favorite part of the conference. Lennart Green was the first afternoon lecturer and it’s always inspiring to see him work. He performed a few effects and then went through the method and ideas behind them. You can tell he learned outside of the magic community, as his ideas are completely out of the box but still practical. His talk was informative, inspiring, and humorous.

Before dinner David Regal gave his lecture. He would show an effect and then explain the method. Regal’s experience and practically are something a lot of magicians should aspire to have. His effects also have some meaning to the spectator. The ones he showed us are the kind that a layman would actually be interested in as they dealt with a common topic or something everyone has experienced. This was a big improvement from his presentation the previous day.

Evening Show
Mike Caveny started out the evening with an energetic and etertaining performance. He had a cup of coffee, added cream and sugar, took a drink, and placed it on the inside of a large white plastic ring. Caveny then proceeded to spin the ring around his arm without the coffee spilling or moving. Just to reinforced the point He threw the ring up into the air, it spun twice, and he caught it. Each time he drank the coffee in between each stunt as well. Helder was up again after Caveny finished. Helder talked more about the structure of an effect and use Cards Across as an example. He showed the various plots cards across can take and how inserting different elements can change the whole look of the effect. Then he showed and taught us his version using two wine glasses which had an ingenious method. Helder’s magic is always simple, direct, and to the point. Plus you know it’s good if it fooled all of us.

David Williamson gave a hilarious performance next. He had the whole room laughing uncontrollably. He did a few effects, including a needle swallowing that had a “twist” at the end. Williamson also called up Dan & Dave’s other brother Justin on stage to help him out which made things even more comical. Roberto Giobbi then did an astonishing card stab effect. The spectator mixed the cards and then Roberto still managed to stab the signed selection. Last up for the evening show was Mac King. This was the first time I’ve seen Mac perform and it was a blast; I now understand why he got the “Funniest Magician in America” award. He did his usual show and everyone enjoyed it. After Mac’s performance there was a short break, then David Williamson’s lecture. He didn’t go over any of the bits he used in his performance earlier but instead showed some fun card tricks. And, of course, he showed some wonderful tips on the top change.

That was all for Day 3. It was a ton of information and entertainment all at once, and even better than the first day of presentations. Check back soon to see the write-up for the very last day of Magic-Con 2011.

Posted: April 20th, 2011
at 12:27pm by Robin Carey

Categories: Magic Con 2011

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Bicycle Gargoyles by Lance T. Miller :: Review

This is my review for the new Bicycle Artist’s Edition deck of cards, the Bicycle Gargoyles. These were designed by Lance T. Miller in conjunction with Diavoli.

NOTE: When you purchase these from Lance’s site you can have him sign the deck free of charge. Also Lance has an independent project in the works that will see life after enough of the Gargoyles have been sold so be sure to pick some up! He’s a very talented artist and I’m excited to see what he has next for us. One other thing I want to mention is that this is not Diavoli’s art work. Diavoli had a lot to do with bringing the deck to market but the artwork itself is hand drawn by Lance, not Steve Rooks (who designed the Bicycle Tattoo, Alchemist, and Phoenix decks).

Feel: The Gargoyles are a breath of fresh air. They handle great, at the level of Smoke and Mirrors. There’s no clumpy feeling after an hour or two of extensive use like most decks. The Gargoyles are nice and smooth but still have enough of a grip to perform sleights with ease.

The reason they feel like this is their new finish. A lot of people out there just assume it’s regular ol’ air cushion finish; this is not the case. This deck sports whats the USPCC is calling the “Magic Finish.” This finish was designed specifically for magicians and cardists. It’s meant to help the deck fan smoother and last longer. The higher quality level has been noticeable in the short time I’ve handled them. The Gargoyles are also printed on a Q1 sheet fed press. Q1 is the highest possible quality when printing playing cards and the only way to (currently) utilize the “Magic Finish” is on a sheet fed press.

Design: The Gargoyles have a look that you would only see in an Artist’s deck. The back design is laden with Gothic themed artwork and two large, impressive gargoyles. The entire back is colored in a gray scale except for the piercing red eyes of said gargoyles. This was a great addition as they’re eye-catching sitting in the midst of blacks and grays. There’s also a skull in each corner with smoke drifting out of the mouth blending into the rest of the design.

These cards definitely have a unique appearance; you can tell Lance put a lot of time and effort into this deck. Furthermore, there’s a sort of story behind the deck’s theme that’s explained on one of the cards included with the deck. I’ve already got some cool presentation ideas with these. This back design, the Jokers, and the Ace of Spades are all hand drawn works.

Court Cards: The court cards are my favorite part of this deck. They only use three colors: white, black, and metallic silver. When I say metallic I mean metallic, these cards shine. You don’t have to try and get the right lighting for these, they’re extremely reflective. The bright silver ink and solid black ink contrast beautifully. When I first read about the design I was curious to see if the red cards were noticeably different. The small pip on the index of each card is the standard Bicycle Red, making them easy to tell apart from the black cards. I do wonder how a deep red would look added in the court card design though.

Spot Cards: All of the cards use the same silver metallic ink, making them very eye-catching. Like I said, this metallic is extremely reflective and bright. I’ve actually had multiple family members say “Oh I like that metallic better than the other ones, it’s a lot easier to see.” in reference to the Bicycle Titaniums. You can look at this from either perspective though, as some people would say the showy faces are too distracting. That’s up to you guys to decide, but I love the look.

Ace of Spades: The Spade in the middle of the Ace is Lance’s logo (which you can see at the top of his site). Instead of the Spade itself being the focus of the artwork it is a part of the artwork. The fine details are surrounding the spade making it a small piece of the whole. This is a fairly unseen idea and I like how it came out.

Jokers: The Jokers follow the theme of the Gargoyles with shiny metallic ink and sharp red eyes. Again these are hand drawn artwork by Lance. I like the small touch of putting the word Joker at the long side of the J. I’m not so sure about the “style” of these Jokers though… compared to the back design these Gargoyles look like a more child-friendly version, or almost cartoonish.

Box: The Box has the Gargoyle back design on the back like usual, but there’s a new feature that looks amazing. The front has a wrap-around design that flows over on to the sides, top, and bottom of the card box. This is the first deck I’ve seen extend the artwork onto different sides, and I hope we see it more often. It gives the box style and definition. There’s also silver metallic accents in various places adding to the overall look. One other new thing they did with this deck is the QR code. There’s one on the bottom of the box that, when you read it with a barcode scanner app, takes you directly to a page on Lance’s website explaining the story behind the deck.

So here are the ratings:
Feel- 9.5/10
Design- 9/10
Overall- 9.25/10

Lance made a great debut into the world of custom playing cards. The Bicycle Gargoyle deck has all of the things a great pack of cards needs. They handle better than most other custom cards out there, they have a truly one-of-a-kind design, and a host of performance possibilities. But don’t just take my word for it, get your hands on a few. I can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us.

Posted: April 17th, 2011
at 1:11am by Robin Carey

Categories: Cards - Reviews

Comments: 2 comments


2 Responses to 'Bicycle Gargoyles by Lance T. Miller :: Review'

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  1. Great review of a great deck. I bought two! Both are autographed, and one is to remain unopened. They are everything you described, and any art lover, gamer, magician, or collector would be proud to have this deck. I would, however, add that my opinion of the jovial joker is more accepting. I appreciate the fact that the joker’s persona takes on a more light-hearted contrast to an otherwise dark (yet shiny, as you mentioned, lol) and intense theme, such as one who might be considered a “joker” would have. Perhaps it was included as a reminder as to the importance of looking on the bright side especially when surrounded by darkness. Who knows? The story could certainly take on a life of its own and grow into something very cool. Personally, I’d like to see this turn into a series.

    Bryan Lewis

    17 Apr 11 at 1:17 pm


  2. Hey there Bryan,
    I never thought of it like that. The Joker would have a sort of playful, light-hearted feel to it. That’s definitely a neat way of looking at things. It just caught me off guard when I saw the foreboding gargoyles on the backs and then comical jokers. It does give nice contrast though…

    Robin Carey

    Robin Carey

    18 Apr 11 at 6:44 am



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