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Socrates

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"I like to do magic once in a while, but I have no interest in doing a formal show with an audience. So there’s no frame around my performances these days, and I don’t need a character or scripted patter. I take time to set up the situation, to really engage someone’s interest and emotions, and then I show them a miracle. It’s usually only one effect, and I’m a big believer these days in the approach Ormond McGill laid out in The Presentation of Miracles. If you were really doing a miracle, you wouldn’t need a clever script, and I suspect it wouldn’t look anything like a performance. You would simply show them something they know is impossible. I know this is heresy, but if an effect is really beautiful, really astonishing, it can speak for itself.”  - Paul Harris Magic Magazine 2007

Since reading these words in 2007 I thought about how much they resonated with the writings of Henning Nelms from his book 'Magic & Showmanship'  I would imagine a number of magicians could benefit from considering this approach to magic, but I'm wondering what your thoughts on the topic are?
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SamtheNotasBadasIWas

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Reply with quote  #2 
I think Mr. Harris would agree that his way of doing magic is inherently limiting and he is obviously not using magic as a profit making enterprise, but rather as a social interaction. I would argue that the concept of miracle working is irrelevant to what he is doing because he is not performing miracles (even fake ones), but rather he is performing magic tricks (puzzles), and probably performing them very well, to the entertainment of his friends. There is nothing wrong with this, but he isn't doing performance magic (miraculous magic) since he is not presenting himself as a worker of miracles and then using the tricks to prove that proclamation. I would also argue that the word miracle is overused. A miracle implies greatness, like parting the Red Sea, or the beginning of a new life as a baby is being born, even if that is an everyday sort of miracle. I honestly cannot see any card trick, rope trick, or sleight of hand no matter how wonderfully it is done, as a miracle. I suppose I am, on the perceived  impossibility scale, subjectively ranking wondrous below miraculous. A trick would have to meet a pretty high bar for me to consider it miraculous. Although, it could be argued that being subjective, if Mr. Harris and Mr. McGill want to classify what they do as miracles, they have that right.
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EVILDAN

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Reply with quote  #3 
I believe truly that the House of Magic has many rooms and that there is room for everybody. There is room for people who just want to be tricksters and do stunts. That's okay for them but not for me. That's not what I want to do. - Eugene Burger
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #4 

Many here may not know much of Paul Harris beyond his recent offerings, particularly the 'Art of Astonishment' releases.  I believe Paul, like a lot of us, has gone through changes in his career and his desire to perform and to perform in a certain manner has evolved.  I saw Paul perform live in the late 70s and the way he was then is not even close to the way he presents himself these days.  This clip is pretty close to the way I remember his performance.

https://www.magicana.com/video/paul-harris-card-magic

He used corny jokes, tried to keep things light and to me was not focused on "creating miracles".  Perhaps he got tired of that way of presenting?  Who knows?  

Sam brings up a great point about magic as income.  I have no clue how Paul Harris makes his money.  I've often wondered about certain magi and how they live when you rarely see them perform.  Does he make good income off of his books and such?  Hard to imagine it is enough profit to be the sole source of income, but I am prepared to be surprised.

I know he used to play poker professionally, so maybe he still is?

There truly is room in the magic house for all sorts.  If what Paul is doing now creates happiness and satisfaction, then so be it.

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Socrates

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Reply with quote  #5 
According to the Magic Magazine article Paul Harris lives a frugal existence with minimal possessions - if this is the case I am sure he could survive from book/DVD/Merchandise royalties... I know for a fact that it's possible to survive on very little money in this world if you choose to avoid the regular lifestyle most folk pursue.
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Socrates
According to the Magic Magazine article Paul Harris lives a frugal existence with minimal possessions - if this is the case I am sure he could survive from book/DVD/Merchandise royalties... I know for a fact that it's possible to survive on very little money in this world if you choose to avoid the regular lifestyle most folk pursue.


I read that too.  I also remember reading that at one point he might have owned an airplane?  Or am I thinking of someone else?
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #7 
Paul makes many of his magic products by recycling. There are sets of notes and other places where material is reassembled and re-imagined. The big recycle was the Art of Astonishment series of books. Then there was the DVD set. Now he seems to buy the rights to other people's tricks and put his name on them as an endorsement. I think his only income comes from magic. I talked to him about this long ago. He had a financial goal in mind i.e. a certain amount of money that would allow him to more or less retire. I think he probably achieved that goal and is at least semi-retired. Semi meaning that he's open to finding new things to buy the rights to and market.

The AOA series of books is a must have. So many outstanding routines. Paul is a creative force to be reckoned with. 

M
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #8 
There is no doubt Paul is a creative guy.  I'd go as far as saying when his original books hit the market he changed close-up magic immediately, and in a good way.
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arthur stead

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Reply with quote  #9 
I agree with Mike about The Art Of Astonishment books.  They are fantastic!  Years prior to their release, I bought his original books and later, his Stars of Magic VHS tapes.  Learnt a tremendous amount from them.  Actually performed many of those routines.  And I still perform three or four effects from them (which are now all included in the AOA books).

I also agree with Mike's theory that after Paul accumulated enough money, he decided to retire, take it easy, and "live the good life."

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #10 
Quote:
Originally Posted by arthur stead
I agree with Mike about The Art Of Astonishment books.  They are fantastic!  Years prior to their release, I bought his original books and later, his Stars of Magic VHS tapes.  Learnt a tremendous amount from them.  Actually performed many of those routines.  And I still perform three or four effects from them (which are now all included in the AOA books).

I also agree with Mike's theory that after Paul accumulated enough money, he decided to retire, take it easy, and "live the good life."


Good for him!  That certainly makes not performing or choosing your spots a lot easier.
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arthur stead

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Reply with quote  #11 
RayJ, you said what I was thinking, but could not express.  It's easy to "dabble" when you're not concerned about paying bills.
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Intensely Magic

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Reply with quote  #12 
You can get a good feel for Paul and his magic on Magicana. There are a half a dozen or so clips.

I honestly think he stayed pretty close to the original sentiment quoted by the OP in the 45 or so yours I have "known" him.

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JenniferG

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Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Socrates
According to the Magic Magazine article Paul Harris lives a frugal existence with minimal possessions - if this is the case I am sure he could survive from book/DVD/Merchandise royalties... I know for a fact that it's possible to survive on very little money in this world if you choose to avoid the regular lifestyle most folk pursue.


I'm normally very frugal as well, but I can't say that for the past two months, spending $1000 on magic books 😉

Hrm, eyeing Art of Astonishment book lol.   But I think I have enough to read for now.  I got the sickness don't I? LOL.
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #14 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JenniferG


I'm normally very frugal as well, but I can't say that for the past two months, spending $1000 on magic books 😉

Hrm, eyeing Art of Astonishment book lol.   But I think I have enough to read for now.  I got the sickness don't I? LOL.


The trouble with collecting anything, whether it is magic books or anything else is that there is always something shiny on the horizon that beckons.  Every time I'm tempted to buy another book or a DVD or whatever, I just look at my bookshelf and remember all of the ones I already have which have been neglected.  Maybe that will help as your antidote?
Look at the ones already purchased and honestly ask whether it was even worth it given the amount of time spent combing the pages.


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JenniferG

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Reply with quote  #15 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ

..I just look at my bookshelf and remember all of the ones I already have which have been neglected.  Maybe that will help as your antidote?
Look at the ones already purchased and honestly ask whether it was even worth it given the amount of time spent combing the pages.

Yeah my thoughts exactly the past couple weeks. I really do have all that I need on that shelf right now.  I have every Memorized Deck book.  I have Card College, RRTCM, Expert Card Technique,  several Harry Lorayne books, Mike Powers books, Tommy Wonder's books.  Yeah I'm pretty set.  Also have Tarbell #1, Original Tarbell set as well as Mark Wilson CCIM, Secrets of Alkazar, JJ BOBO coin magic book, Henry Hay's Amateur Magician book.  Scarne on Cards / Magic Tricks.

Then I have a bunch of PDF's including Arthur Buckley's book. etc..

Good thing is the books could always be sold and get most of money back -- this has sort of been my excuse for buying so many the past two months.  I figure I've only lost $200 on the $1000 in book purchases.  So it's like renting a library of books for several years for $200.  Not too bad.

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RayJ

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Quote:
Originally Posted by JenniferG


Yeah my thoughts exactly the past couple weeks. I really do have all that I need on that shelf right now.  I have every Memorized Deck book.  I have Card College, RRTCM, Expert Card Technique,  several Harry Lorayne books, Mike Powers books, Tommy Wonder's books.  Yeah I'm pretty set.  Also have Tarbell #1, Original Tarbell set as well as Mark Wilson CCIM, Secrets of Alkazar, JJ BOBO coin magic book, Henry Hay's Amateur Magician book.  Scarne on Cards / Magic Tricks.

Then I have a bunch of PDF's including Arthur Buckley's book. etc..

Good thing is the books could always be sold and get most of money back -- this has sort of been my excuse for buying so many the past two months.  I figure I've only lost $200 on the $1000 in book purchases.  So it's like renting a library of books for several years for $200.  Not too bad.



Resale, especially the way you protect the books is certainly a saving grace.
As you know, many books are sold for outrageous prices once they go out of print, so your $1,000 could be worth double that one day.
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Hendu71

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Reply with quote  #17 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ

Many here may not know much of Paul Harris beyond his recent offerings, particularly the 'Art of Astonishment' releases.  I believe Paul, like a lot of us, has gone through changes in his career and his desire to perform and to perform in a certain manner has evolved.  I saw Paul perform live in the late 70s and the way he was then is not even close to the way he presents himself these days.  This clip is pretty close to the way I remember his performance.


Any clips from "recently"? (2000+)
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #18 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hendu71

Any clips from "recently"? (2000+)


None that I can find.
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Paco Nagata

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Reply with quote  #19 
I reckon that the Paul Harris' quote posted by Socrates would fit well the situation of amateurs that don't have much free time to develop different ways of presenting magical effects, as well as arranged shows.
If you want to do magic, just practise and do it.
If you want to do magic and entertain, take more time to create different presentations.

I think there is nothing wrong with both ways as you do a good (magic) performance.

Paul Harris is a very creative card magician. I like his style and many of his effects and presentation.

One of his quote left a very positive and helpful mark on me:

"Practise until your fingers bleed.
Then put bandages on and practise until they fall off.
Then practise a little more."

I quoted it in my amateur book of card magic.

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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #20 
That positive and helpful mark is called a scar.
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Mike Powers

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Reply with quote  #21 
LOL! Good one RayJ.

M
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RayJ

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Reply with quote  #22 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Powers
LOL! Good one RayJ.

M


Was hoping someone got it. Thanks Mike!
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Bill Guinee

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Reply with quote  #23 
"I like to do magic once in a while, but I have no interest in doing a formal show with an audience. So there’s no frame around my performances these days, and I don’t need a character or scripted patter. 


What I find most interesting about this quote is that Harris very carefully explains what his situation is and then develops his method of performing from that situation. He does not seem to be advocating this for everyone. Rather, he has realized that he doesn' want to do a formal show and want to do something else, so that leads to a particular approach. I would assume that if his goals were different, his approach would probably be different too. I love that he is thinking through his philosophy based on his interests rather than adopting a cookie-cutter approach.
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TheAmazingStanley

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Reply with quote  #24 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayJ


I read that too.  I also remember reading that at one point he might have owned an airplane?  Or am I thinking of someone else?


Probably a used airplane

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TheAmazingStanley

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Reply with quote  #25 
I don’t see magic as miracles either. A miracle changes your life, it profoundly affects your relationship to yourself and your world. I never experienced one, but that’s not the point, the point is even if you only *think* a miracle happened it will fundamentally alter you. And I wouldn’t use the word outside the context of really heavy stuff anyway, like “pick up your bed and walk.”

I see magic as more of a puzzle. Some people think you’re really doing magic (seems we have a witch among us in Jennifer), but most don’t. Most people think you “pulled a fast one.” Which is exactly what you did. They try to figure out how, you try to hide how. A game that happens to involve some complex psychology. In other words, a relationship.

But the point of the original quote that struck me is how he emphasized the strength of the material and seemed to downplay “you are the magic.” But both sides of that coin have to be good. If the material is weak, you can entertain for a while with your charisma but people will get bored. And if you have a bland or off putting personality, nobody but other magicians is going to want to give you the time of day even if you have spectacular material. Because you’re not raising the dead.

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Socrates

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Reply with quote  #26 
"A miracle is generally defined, according to the etymology of the word—it comes from the Greek thaumasion and the Latin miraculum—as that which causes wonder and astonishment, being extraordinary in itself and amazing or inexplicable by normal standards" - Britannica.com

It is more likely Paul Harris is using the word miracle in a way that corresponds to the definition above. His words inspired me to explore different options regarding presentational angles/frames, and I have discovered that I enjoy the miracle model he proposes. Of course this approach doesn't work in all settings, and will certainly not appeal to all magicians.

The Amazing Stanley makes an interesting point regarding how we think about our magic. Our thoughts and perceptions of magic will have a massive impact on how it is recieved by our audiences. If you see your magic as a puzzle then I believe those watching will too.

For me the magic is an opportunity to offer people a wonderous and astonishing experience that they will never have again.

We are the magic!
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kevlingo

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Reply with quote  #27 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Socrates
"A miracle is generally defined, according to the etymology of the word—it comes from the Greek thaumasion and the Latin miraculum—as that which causes wonder and astonishment, being extraordinary in itself and amazing or inexplicable by normal standards" - Britannica.com


Even though I am logical thinker and by that nature my tendency is to defend the proper use of a word, in our culture at least, miracles have a divine connotation that make it a slippery slope when attributing that to what we do as magicians.

As a side note, I chuckle every time I see your username, Socrates. Every time I see it, I think of Bill and Ted saying "so-crats"!

Edit: I didn't see the rest of your post before I replied. You hit the nail on the head!

Kevin
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