Review by George Guerra for Hopping Half by Johnson Precision Magic

Review by George Guerra for Hopping Half by Johnson Precision Magic
Review by George Guerra for Hopping Half by Johnson Precision Magic
4 out of 5

The most versatile gaffed coin set

The Hopping Half is the most versatile coin set one can buy, especially for someone coming aboard coin magic for the first time. The gaffs can be used individually for other effects as the most important gaffs make up this set.

Johnson Products is still the leader when it comes to commercially produced coin gimmicks. There are others in this business but their quality is questionable. Once you have reached a certain level, you can turn to custom coins by the likes of Todd Lassen using more "exotic" coins for that ultimate presentation..

I have a set I bought over 15 years ago and the qualtity is very good. Johnson also makes this same set using a 1964 Silver Kennedy Half and the Walking Liberty.. the latter set I recently purchased and was very disappointed with the expanded Walker shell. However, I have heard that Johnson Products has exceptional customer service, but I decided to turn to Todd for a replacement.

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Review by Andy Martin for Fred Kaps by Dick Koornwinder, et al.

Review by Andy Martin for Fred Kaps  by Dick Koornwinder, et al.
Review by Andy Martin for Fred Kaps by Dick Koornwinder, et al.
5 out of 5

Fred Kaps was The BEST!

If you ever doubted that Fred Kaps was the best all around magician ever, then this video clearly demonstrates it.

When you watch Fred Kaps perform you really do believe in Magic. He was the best of that there is no doubt! This DVD contains great footage of Fred performing on stage, close-up, and interviews.

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Review by Andy Martin for Plastique by Larry Becker, Lee Earle

Review by Andy Martin for Plastique by Larry Becker, Lee Earle
Review by Andy Martin for Plastique by Larry Becker, Lee Earle
5 out of 5

An Explosion of Entertainment Possibilities!

The sub-title for Plastique could not be more accurate: An Explosion of Entertainment Possibilities!. Embodied within these cards are many subtle codes and systems that the mind boggles how Larry Becker and Lee Earle could have come up with so many ideas. Well if you are familiar with their previous output it won’t surprise you at all. These guys are geniuses, and this little collection shows that very clearly.

The package comes with 11 "gimmicked" credit cards, but you would never know. They are amazingly subtle until you know how. The instruction details 5 routines that are wonderful. Some can be combined to bring your audience to a fever pitch. Wherever possible they have incorporated the memory work into the cards themselves, so you have to learn very little to perform any of the effects.

There are no switches or sleights (well one routine has a tiny move, but sleight is too big a name for it!). The other great thing about these cards is because they have so many features built into them creating new routines from them becomes something that is very possible and exciting. These cards are simply frothing with potential!

They are very high quality cards, and easily pass for real cards. You’ve just got to love these guys’ minds!

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Review by Andy Martin for Combi-Loc Prediction by Collectors' Workshop

Review by Andy Martin for Combi-Loc Prediction by Collectors' Workshop
Review by Andy Martin for Combi-Loc Prediction by Collectors' Workshop
5 out of 5

Perfect.

This is a wonderfully useful utility device for the mentalist. It comes with 5 ideas but really can be used for many more with a little imagination.

It looks like and feels like a combination lock. Period. But it is very easy to set it such that the combination can be changed to any number you want. You can dress up almost any routine now that involves 4 numbers or a year.

A wonderful item that you will be sure to use.

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Review by Andy Martin for Ball Thru Hand by Viking Mfg.

Review by Andy Martin for Ball Thru Hand by Viking Mfg.
Review by Andy Martin for Ball Thru Hand by Viking Mfg.
5 out of 5

Self Working and Amazing!

One of the great Viking Classics. This effect is built with precision brass props and works like a charm. It appears totally impossible! If you combine this with $link(2161,Field Sobriety) you have a totally clean and amazing routine, bigger than both of them and with everything 100% clean!

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Review by Andy Martin for Sphinx, The – Vols: 1-52, eBook by Lybrary.com

Review by Andy Martin for Sphinx, The - Vols: 1-52, eBook by Lybrary.com
Review by Andy Martin for Sphinx, The – Vols: 1-52, eBook by Lybrary.com
4 out of 5

Never mind the Quality, feel the width!

Ok, so I’m the first to admit that I am totally not a lover of eBooks. I’m sure they will continue to grow in popularity each year since they have four primary advantages over our beloved hardbound originals: they are cheap, they are easy to search, they take up little room, and they last forever. However for me, I want the real thing. Having all my books in some sort of electronic form would be cool too, but for the most part I just want the books.

In the case of The Sphinx, the eBook advantages are huge. These two DVD’s contain almost 17,000 pages or 50 volumes of some of the most important writings in magic history.To buy a full set of The Sphinx, if you can find one, will cost upwards of $5,000 – and then you run the risk of pages falling apart in your hands. Once you do manage to track down a copy that doesn’t fall apart on you, then you have the task of housing them somewhere – a 3 foot shelf is needed!

So this is one eBook that is really worth owning. Chris Wasshuber and his Lybrary.com takes a lot of heat from the book buying magic community, but he is providing a wonderful service to magicians. Particularly for the large or difficult to find volumes. In many cases he is providing access to books that to all intents and purposes cannot be viewed in any other way. When put in that context you can’t argue with the need for eBooks.

Chris is very helpful and dedicated to his task of preserving magic one book at a time. His books primarily ship in an HTML format and I prefer the Adobe PDF format, and he spent quite a lot of time helping me convert my copy into PDF. This was a long and time consuming process, and I thank Chris for helping me do it. However, I do wish he produced these things in PDF up front. I believe that the PDF format and Acrobat is a much better technology and portable platform for eBooks than HTML. Chris has is reasons for using HTML and I’m sure they are fine. But for me PDF is much better, and will continue to get better over time since ADOBE will continue to invest huge resources in it.

This then is my one criticism of the eBook phenomena – it is still early days and the media, software and hardware to view them is still changing. It is not a high-tech, high-gloss world, and particularly in the case of these facsimile versions, where the text itself is not converted, being able to sit down and read them on your computer is not as easy as it could be. You’ll find yourself resizing pages and trying to find the optimum reading set-up.

The Sphinx eBook does come with an impressive index and table of contents which is searchable. If you want to find articles about John Northern Hilliard type it in and 12 articles come back. Of course if you type in John Hilliard nothing comes back which shows up one of the issues with the technology.

I would like to give this 5 stars for time and effort that Chris has put into this. Unfortunately, I believe that as an eBook it could be better and I urge Chris to reconsider using PDF as a medium for his books, and let ADOBE do the development whilst he focuses on finding and converting the books.

Regardless of the technology limitations, this is still a very impressive effort and as a research aid it is invaluable. Just be prepared for the road to be a bit rockier than you might expect. As they say on the old maps: Here there be Dragons …

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Review by Timothy Arends for Learned Pig Project, The Magic CD No. 1 and 2 by The Learned Pig Project

Review by Timothy Arends for Learned Pig Project, The  Magic CD No. 1 and 2 by The Learned Pig Project
Review by Timothy Arends for Learned Pig Project, The Magic CD No. 1 and 2 by The Learned Pig Project
5 out of 5

Years of pleasure from this treasure trove of magic!

Have you ever had one of those dreams were you suddenly come into possession of a huge cache of magic books or apparatus? Nice dream, isn’t it? Unfortunately, when you wake up, the goodies are no longer there. Well, purchasing the Learned Pig CD-ROM book collection is like living this dream–only when you wake up, you still have the stuff!

In short, the Learned Pig collection is a tremendous value for the money. Where else can you get 50 or 60 books for the price of two or three printed volumes?

CD #1 has a marvelous variety of books. Si Stebbins explains his famous card setup in his own words and Stillwell of Stillwell handkerchief ball fame explains his handkerchief manipulation act. There is a very unusual manuscript on the frozen alive stunt, similar to what David Blaine did on live television, and Marco even offers his own very commercial sightless vision act. Plus there are books by Houdini, Robert-Houdin, J B Bobo and many others.

CD # 2 is a card worker’s dream! It has not one but three multivolume encyclopedias of card magic. Card Manipulations by Jean Hugard is in five volumes while More Card Manipulations runs into four volumes. Plus Ellis Stanyon has written four volumes of card effects.

I like CD #1 better than #2 (even though I already had the print edition of eight of the books) because of the greater variety of books, but many magicians will no doubt prefer disk #2. Some of the most outstanding books on CD #1 are the Encyclopedia of Card Tricks by Jean Hugard, Modern Coin Magic by J. B. Bobo and the Expert At The Card Table by Erdnase. Disk #2 includes Expert Card Technique and Royal Road To Card Magic by Hugard and Braue and Annemann’s Practical Mental Effects. These books alone are worth the price of the CDs.

When I got the CDs, I was surprised to find that all the books were saved as a single PDF file on each disk. This makes it impossible for the user to organize or sort the books, for example by author or subject, but it probably makes searching for a specific name or phrase in the entire collection much easier, as well as jumping from one book to another. All of the text in the books was scanned in and transformed via optical character recognition (OCR), into real computer type–text that you can select, copy, and paste into other programs. This means that you can print out just a snippet of a book if you wish, or send an excerpt to a fellow magician in e-mail to get his opinion on something. You can even have the computer, via speech synthesis, read from a book to you while you follow along with coins or a deck of cards in hand. Best of all, converting the books into text format allows searching of the full text of any book, so if you want to find out how to do a particular trick or sleight, you can quickly do a search of the entire collection to find an explanation.

The quality of the conversion to PDF is overall very good. The tables of contents of each book is hyperlinked to take the reader directly to the corresponding section. Some books are even hyperlinked to each other. For example, if you click a mention of an effect in one of the Stanyon books, it will take you directly to that effect, even if the effect is on a different page or in a different book entirely. On rare occasions I have found that a hyperlink does not work–it points to a location on the creator’s computer which, of course, we can’t access. Generally, though, I have found few errors in the books. One quibble is that I would prefer if the illustrations had been saved at a bit higher resolution, but for the most part they are all perfectly legible. I like it when a scan of the front cover of the book is included, as this gives more of a feeling of actually owning the book.

You could get something pretty close to a complete magical education out of the two Learned Pig CDs. There are books on sleight-of-hand magic, non-sleight-of-hand magic, card magic, novel magic, escapes, history, biography, mentalism, illusions and even patter and presentation (including one of the best books on the subject, Our Magic by Neville Maskelyne). There is even a book on self promotion, Making Magic Pay. Although this book is just a tad out of date (having been written while vaudeville was still alive) I suspect that magicians could pick up a few tips from this book even today. Some of the sample promotional letters could even be used with a little updating of the language. True, some of the books, such as the ones on chemical magic and handcuff escapes, are outdated today, but almost all have at least something to offer (and the book on handcuff escapes, written in Houdini’s time, is fascinating for its historical information). All in all, magic changes over the years quite a bit more slowly than, say, the field of computers.

Although this is a review, it is appropriate to add a few words on how to get the most out of this collection. One of the drawbacks of e-books is the inability to make notes in the margins or to mark one’s favorite effects in the table-of-contents. What I have done is to copy and paste the table of contents of each book into a word processing document and save it in an easily accessible place on my computer. That way, I can make all the notes for the book I want in the corresponding section of the word-processing document. Since I need to have my computer running when viewing an e-book anyway, it is no trouble to open this document at the same time I open an e-book.

All of the books in the collection have a colored or patterned frame around each page. These frames are not gaudy or distracting, and they help to differentiate each book from one another. Strictly speaking, you should not need to print any of the books as some of them are very large and you will lose some of the benefits of the electronic format, such as space saving and searchability. However, should you want to print one or two books in the collection, the colored frames around the pages can use up more ink or toner than necessary. One way to get around this is to go to the page setup dialog box in Adobe Acrobat and choose an enlargement percentage of something like 130%. This will increase the size of the page area on each sheet that comes out of the printer and decrease the size of the colored frame, saving ink. Also, needless to say, you should pay very close attention to which pages you want to print, as shown in the page status bar at the bottom of the Acrobat window and, in the print dialogue, enter that range of pages. You do not want to send to the printer all 5000+ pages of books on the CD!

Although it is a nice feeling to get totally free books on the Learned Pig website, it is definitely worth shelling out the money to buy these CDs. One gets so many books for the price, it is almost like getting them for free. The prices for comparable books at another magic e-book seller are much higher. In short, getting these Learned Pig CDs was like finding out a long-lost magician uncle had just died and left me two trunks full of magic books!

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