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Kenn Ball

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Reply with quote  #1 
Penguin has a new magazine. I've read the first two issues. I want to be fair in reviewing them, but I also want to be honest. So far, I do not feel as though I've received my money's worth. The first issue was $9.95, and it was billed as a "double issue." As a double issue, it was still MUCH thinner than an issue of Genii, Magic, or any of the club periodicals. Furthermore, the writing itself was sub-par to put it mildly. As for the material, most of it consists of what could best be described as "advertorial" content for various Penguin products. The tricks themselves, at least in the January issue, were mediocre at best. The material and writing were both a little better in the February issue, and with John Racherbaumer on the cover, the March issue is looking more promising as well (though I haven't read it yet). On the whole, I think $6.95 per issue is too high a price to pay for this magazine. If you're going to be ordering $50 or more worth of Penguin product anyway during any given month, it might have a bit or two in it you can use. For that reason, it does make a nice bonus to include with such orders. I wouldn't buy it separately. I am, however, interested in the opinions of others. :-)
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Chi Han

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Reply with quote  #2 
I would agree, if this cost me money or had a subscription I would pass.  It's a bit all over the place, and I'm not exactly sure what direction they're going in.  Teaching so far has not been very good, but it might just be because it's early days.  The March issue looks very promising, and I think we're looking at something that's going to get better the longer they do it.
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mediocre_magic

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Reply with quote  #3 
I don't want to sound cruel or harsh, but a quick look at the ad copy of many products reveals a lack of care for presenting products well and honestly. I don't own any of these magazines, but I am curious how they'll respond to this kind of criticism.


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Chi Han

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Reply with quote  #4 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mediocre_magic
I don't want to sound cruel or harsh, but a quick look at the ad copy of many products reveals a lack of care for presenting products well and honestly. I don't own any of these magazines, but I am curious how they'll respond to this kind of criticism.



Well at the moment they don't offer any subscription service so it's individual issues only, and has some pretty big contributors.  My guess is that they want to use it as an incentive for people to buy more than 50 dollars worth of products every month rather than to have it stand as it's own product.  That way they can charge whatever they want, and when you get it free it just feels like added 'value'.  If they can throw in a few ads more power to them.  Ultimately I don't think it's that bad, just not the best one on the market.
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zhrollofan

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Reply with quote  #5 
$9.95 a month?  For a thinly disguised advertising flyer?  A subscription to Genii (print edition + electronic access to every back issue) will run you $4.83 an issue.  Same price for Magic (but no back issues access, booo!).  For the equivalent of a year's worth of that thing you could buy all nine thousand pages of The Gen, one of the greatest magic magazines ever published, in fully searchable electronic format.  Five month's worth would get you a complete electronic file of Pabular or Tops.  So ...
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Chi Han

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Reply with quote  #6 
I just got their March issue.  Really solid stuff, still a little thin for the price, but the teaching is fairly straightforward.  I was particularly impressed by Dan Harlan's article on his new stack.  It's quite an ingenious little solution to a tricky problem involving the 10 card poker deal.  I don't have a lot of time right now, but I'll definitely be exploring that stack a little further to see what other applications it might have.  I don't want to go into much detail, but it's a stack that can be legitimately cut and be in perfect set up to do a ten cut poker deal, a bit of a hidden gem (although to be honest if I can't find more applications I don't see myself using it).  I'm not sure if this issue is worth the price, but it was certainly worth the read (I got it as a bonus for ordering over 50$).

Oh and Zhrollofan, the 9.95 a month was for the January double issue, this one is 6.95.  Still pricey, but not that pricey.
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Kenn Ball

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Reply with quote  #7 
I got a copy as well--also as a bonus with purchase. I agree it is their best effort to date. My favorite piece of content in the issue is Racherbaumer's treatment of "Counting on Lothar."
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Bomber

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Reply with quote  #8 
This is one of those things where "time will tell" if they decide to get serious with it or just use it as hype & incentive to spend over $50. Can't say one way or the other as it is just getting off the ground...
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MikeIkirt

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zhrollofan
$9.95 a month?  For a thinly disguised advertising flyer?  A subscription to Genii (print edition + electronic access to every back issue) will run you $4.83 an issue.  Same price for Magic.  For the equivalent of a year's worth of that thing you could buy all nine thousand pages of The Gen, one of the greatest magic magazines ever published, in fully searchable electronic format.  Five month's worth would get you a complete electronic file of Pabular or Tops.  So ...


This is something I've been striving to do for years.  I have a few volumes of the Gen, and I'm slowly getting Tops.  I have a few issues of the New Tops, and I've never enjoyed a magazine more.  I think one of my next purchases will be the collection of Senator Crandall's material that Abbott's puts out.
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Chi Han

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I appear to be one of Penguin's 'best customers' (not sure if this is true, or just part of the emails they send), but for some reason I've managed to get every issue of their monthly free even when I spend less than 50 dollars (which is pretty nice).  As a result I have their April addition, and will be receiving the May one shortly.

If anyone was still interested, I think April was probably their weakest one yet.  Some solid ideas from Dan Harlan, John Carey and Nathan Kranzo, but nothing I think that I would personally perform, and somehow the tricks were less interesting than in previous issues.  Kranzo in particular suggests a handling for a trick to fix a problem that I'm not sure exists, with what I feel is a weaker version with even more problems.  John Carey's trick submission also feels a little weak considering some of his other material, and nothing in the magazine made me really sit up and recognize anything as particularly strong.  The theory sections feel a little bit phoned in, for example 3 of John Carey's top ten ways to stay creative are actually the same piece of advice wrapped up in three different ways.

Another gripe I had was their 2 page 'interview', which was really more of a poorly designed advertisement for a new line of cards they were selling.  A real shame to me, as I could see some card enthusiasts who would have actually been interested in a proper interview and showcase of the cards.

That said, Kranzo did submit what I feel is a fairly solid gag, and a nice little bit on a mentalism piece, and Jimmy Talksalot gave a beautiful 2 page piece on drawing a crowd for street performances.

Ads are abundant (but not as bad as before), but it really feels like this is just a quick cash in from everyone involved, and not a real 'magazine'.  I'd like to see more than just a collection of tricks, but real articles, real interviews, and real features.  Tell me who John Carey is, don't just print an extract from his book.  Real pieces, and don't skimp on space.  Honestly it feels like I'm just reading a cheap pamphlet.

I'll post a review of May's issue when it arrives.
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Rudy Tinoco

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Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ScreenguardGuy
I appear to be one of Penguin's 'best customers' (not sure if this is true, or just part of the emails they send), but for some reason I've managed to get every issue of their monthly free even when I spend less than 50 dollars (which is pretty nice).  As a result I have their April addition, and will be receiving the May one shortly.

If anyone was still interested, I think April was probably their weakest one yet.  Some solid ideas from Dan Harlan, John Carey and Nathan Kranzo, but nothing I think that I would personally perform, and somehow the tricks were less interesting than in previous issues.  Kranzo in particular suggests a handling for a trick to fix a problem that I'm not sure exists, with what I feel is a weaker version with even more problems.  John Carey's trick submission also feels a little weak considering some of his other material, and nothing in the magazine made me really sit up and recognize anything as particularly strong.  The theory sections feel a little bit phoned in, for example 3 of John Carey's top ten ways to stay creative are actually the same piece of advice wrapped up in three different ways.

Another gripe I had was their 2 page 'interview', which was really more of a poorly designed advertisement for a new line of cards they were selling.  A real shame to me, as I could see some card enthusiasts who would have actually been interested in a proper interview and showcase of the cards.

That said, Kranzo did submit what I feel is a fairly solid gag, and a nice little bit on a mentalism piece, and Jimmy Talksalot gave a beautiful 2 page piece on drawing a crowd for street performances.

Ads are abundant (but not as bad as before), but it really feels like this is just a quick cash in from everyone involved, and not a real 'magazine'.  I'd like to see more than just a collection of tricks, but real articles, real interviews, and real features.  Tell me who John Carey is, don't just print an extract from his book.  Real pieces, and don't skimp on space.  Honestly it feels like I'm just reading a cheap pamphlet.

I'll post a review of May's issue when it arrives.


I hadn't heard about this Penguin magazine until now. Thanks for the fair review, ScreenguardGuy.
Doesn't sound like something that I'll be getting.

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Chi Han

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Reply with quote  #12 
I just received their May issue.  Let me start by saying, this is finally an issue I would have been happy paying for (6.95 and free shipping).  Fortunately though I did receive it for free (actually have 2 copies for some reason, so if anyone is in Melbourne hit me up for a free copy).  Really solid contributions from all the writers this time round, and a real gem from Ning Cai for creating fire out of (seemingly) thin air.  Probably the strangest concept to me was Dan Harlan's contribution, which actually was pretty fascinating to read, and uses a very unique facet of a mathematical concept I'd never even heard of!

While last issue it really felt like they were skimping on space, here they've devoted pages and pages to being able to fully explore details in their articles.  Jimmy Talksalot's advice on stopping audience members from leaving a street show was really well written, and there was a very nice comparison of some of the major mystery boxes out there.  This is the way to do an 'ad', crafting an article that is enough to inform and entertain a reader, and be interesting enough to read even for someone who already owns all the products featured.

The explanation parts for the tricks aren't especially detailed, but I don't find this a flaw.  Rather than talking step by step what control to use, or what line of patter to say, the tricks convey the core elements, and let's you the reader tailor it to your performance.  I can see how this might be off putting to someone starting out though, particularly if you don't have quite a large enough tool box of moves to fill in the blanks.  In that case Penguin do provide a discussion board area, or you're going to have to look elsewhere.  For me though this is quite enough.

Small note, there's a little production taught here featuring the HaLo cut!  They do credit Rim Shots, and teach the move briefly, but I must say Harry's description was a little clearer.  Still, it's not bad for a description of the move, and it's good to have yet another application for the cut.

There really wasn't any 'filler' here (maybe their deck feature, but even that was kind of interesting), everything was solid stuff.

That said, I don't know if I would buy it outright.  That's more of a personal thing.  I typically seek out what I buy, check reviews, weigh up what I'm getting, then make a decision.  This months issue is an excellent freebie, but Penguin have been pretty hit and miss so far.  I definitely wouldn't be subscribing anytime soon, but a couple more issues with this quality, and I can see myself recommending it more.
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prodigy

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Reply with quote  #13 
Thanks for the comments. I've been curious about these issues because I've seen well known magicians on the cover of the magazine, but I wasn't sure about its contents.

Sounds like I'm not missing much by not getting it.
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OathSworn

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Reply with quote  #14 
Any creative project is bound to have growing pains. The material is very hit or miss but if you can get some issues free while placing orders it doesn't seem so bad to me. Kind of a nice throw in. Even if there's only one or two good ideas in the whole issue I'm not going to complain about something I got for free.
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Chi Han

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Reply with quote  #15 
Yes Oathsworn, but these issues can be bought, and those who might want to buy might want to know about them.  Also they're only free when you go over 50 dollars, for some who might be considering getting an extra item to go above that threshold might want to know if their bonus is worth it.  Additionally this months (August), doesn't seem to be free as a bonus.

That said here's a review for July's.

Good issue.  Penguin has finally hit their stride.  Minimal ads, lots of great content.  John Carey does seem to be phoning things in a bit with his top ten list, very little description just names of his favourite performers, which is in a real contrast to some of the great gags given out by Kranzo, and the fantastic variation on the 21 trick by Dan Harlan.  Overall a good issue.  Definitely a lot of value as a bonus, and may actually be worth the cover price this time!


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Dave Berkompas

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Reply with quote  #16 
I just added $50 worth of stuff to my cart, one physical good and one digital download, and the August issue was added as a freebie to my cart.
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Chi Han

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Reply with quote  #17 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Berkompas
I just added $50 worth of stuff to my cart, one physical good and one digital download, and the August issue was added as a freebie to my cart.


That's awesome!  A stealth freebie!  Doesn't seem to be advertised on the site.
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