Thursday, December 27, 2012

Playing card present

Yesterday I stopped by our magic bar on my way home from work. I ran into a friend of mine who I have not seen in months, and he gave me a birthday present. This was somewhat surprising, since my birthday is in October.


I received two decks of cards. Both are Bicycle playing cards, which is a brand of cards very popular with magicians. I do not normally use Bicycle cards (I use super cheap playing cards made for kids, since they have very cute pictures on them), but they are very high quality.


The two decks I got yesterday were special designs that were extra cute. I liked them. One even came with an extra card that can be used for certain card tricks.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Headless and stolen rabbits

A beheaded rabbit

On Friday night we had lots of nice customers in our magic bar. We also had some customers that I would not describe as nice. After performing for a group of around 20 or so, no less than three sponge rabbits that I had used ended up missing. Sometimes they get dropped on the floor and I find them after the guests have left, sometimes people hide them but most people return them when I say "Some rabbits seem to have gone missing... please return them to me before you leave if you see them." On Friday, three rabbits never came back. One more rabbit also lost its head.


People being fascinated enough by some magic trick that they take some of your stuff with them when they leave is quite rare (unless stuff that you explicitly give away of course) but it sometimes happens. Losing three rabbits in one performance (four if you count the one that lost its head) is a new record for me.


Luckily enough, on Saturday one guy gave me a 1000 yen tip (we have a magic charge in our bar, so people are not expected to tip, though sometimes people who are especially impressed or who want to impress the people they came with by showing that they spend lots of money do) which is almost exactly what it will cost to replace the four lost rabbits. So it all evens out in the end.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Magic bar review: Hearts

In Yokohama there are two magic bars (that I know of). Since I spent two days in Yokohama for work (my computer job), I managed to visit both. When I first arrived at the magic bar Hearts, they said that they were in the middle of a show just then, and asked if I could come back later. I went and had dinner nearby and came back at the time they had suggested. They were in the middle of the next show then, so I was placed at a table and told that I would be moved to the counter (where the magic happens) when the show was finished (so I could see the next show). I waited for 15 minutes or so, and then I was moved to the counter.


At the counter, I spoke to the bartender for awhile, and some of the other customers also asked me where I was from and how come I can speak Japanese etc. After some waiting, the next show started. By then it was just me and three other customers left. They had seen the previous show too, so the magician did a completely different show using only material that they had not seen.


In Sapporo, many bars and restaurants write "ram base" on the menu when they mean "rum base". This is apparently popular in Yokohama too.
The show was divided into two halves, with a short break to order drinks or go to the toilet. The magician Nakamura had the bartender control the music, sounds, and the lighting for him, and had picked different types of music to go with different magic effects. He seemed to have put a lot of thought into the presentation of the effects, and he got very good reactions from common tricks like the ash in spectators hand.


Magic at the counter
He did a quite a lot of magic, about 40 minutes in total. He did magic with many different types of objects. We saw some card tricks (card under glass, card into PET-bottle), some coin tricks, the gypsy thread trick, a floating rose that when set on fire turned into a real flower, an empty and crushed coca cola can came back to shape and cola came out of it again, a copper silver transposition in the spectators hand using keys instead of coins, a signed packet of sugar was torn up and the sugar poured out and then the sugar and packet magically became an unopened (signed) packet again, some mental effects, and a thing were a cacao bean and sugar was put in a tube and then lots of chocolate came out of the tube, and more.


A lot of the effects were quite original, and I liked his way of showing them. I like it when the magic "makes sense" in the sense that if you mix cacao beans and sugar, that makes chocolate. He also did some nice story setups with a photo frame with a picture of a snow covered tree onto which he kept dropping colorful light that he plucked from the air, and then the photo turned into a photo of a tree with colorful Christmas decorations. Finally, a small plastic tree (Christmas decoration) turned up out of a handkerchief. He also had a very nice presentation for the new Tenyo magic prop where a coin pops into existence inside a glass. Well thought out presentations over all.


Location: Close to the Yokohama Kannai JR station.
Type of magic: close up.
Quality of magic: Good.
Cost: 4000 yen for magic and nomihoudai (unlimited drinking).
Interior: nice.
Staff: nice
Overall impression: Well worth a visit if you are in Yokohama.


There was an alien in a jar in the toilet.

The toilet also had photos that were a bit spooky.

Magic bar review: Kanperce

I was in Yokohama for two days for (computer) work and decided to check out the local magic bars when I had a chance. One of the magic bars I went to was Kanperce, which is close to the Yokohama Kannai station which coincidentally was were our work meeting the next morning was to start.


I got there quite late, so there were no other customers when I arrived. There were two magicians, though, and one more showed up later. First, "the new guy" Yuuki did some magic for me. He did an "any card at any number" trick, a trick where his thumb and index finger are taped together but still that finger link linked with my cell phone strap, and he did a card trick with kings and fours changing places or turning upside down for strange reasons. Later during the evening he also did a short Chinese ring routine and some other tricks. He seemed a bit nervous, and sometimes you could see things that you were not supposed to see (like a thumbtip), but he was very nice.


The magicians
Next, the magician Makoto did a fairly long show. He said he is friends with and received training from the magician Nihei, who runs the magic bar "Hey Pola" here in Sapporo. I have met Nihei a few times.


Anyway, Makoto did all kinds of magic, and used a foot pedal for a sound system to get good use out of sound effects and music. He did magic with rubber bands, sponge balls, various penis shaped objects, a chop cup, coins, cards (ambitious, triumph, card into PET-bottle), some ESP card tricks, and a lot of other things. There were also many joke props, like a marker pen that could not write because if you opened it you could see that the battery had run out (why it was battery powered in the first place was unclear, haha).


Me and the magicians of Kanperce
After Makoto's show was over, we talked about various things for awhile, and another magician, Mocchi, arrived. I have seen him twice before, once at Toto's Bar, and once in the restaurant Usagi-ya. He did a mental type card trick with a pretty impressive force, showed some fork bending,  did a Lennart Green style key card trick, and used a pretty cool tossed out deck. This time, he also remembered that we had met before, haha.

Makotoさんのマジックの後、色々な話をしていた。その後、もっちーというマジシャンも来た。前に2回も会っている。都々's Barで一回見たし、ウサギやというマジックレストランでも見たし。面白いフォースを使ったメンタルのカードマジック・フォーク曲げ・Lennart Green風なキーカードのカード当て・Tossed out deckのマジック、色々見せてくれた。今回、前に会ったことがあるのを覚えてくれたし、笑。

All in all, it was a lot of fun. The staff were very nice and spoke to me about all kinds of things. The magic they did was interesting, and they used techniques I have not seen other people use (like sleeving a coin to make it disappear after being put into a handkerchief, from which my class of tea appeared instead).



Location: Close to the Yokohama Kannai JR station, and even closer to the Kannai subway station. Lots of bars and similar things nearby.
Type of magic: Parlor type magic if there are more than one spectator, and close up.
Quality of magic: Good.
Cost: 4400 yen for magic and nomihoudai (unlimited drinking).
Interior: nice, though somewhat messy when I showed up.
Staff: nice and funny
Overall impression: Well worth a visit if you are in Yokohama.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Needle swallowing and thread from my eye

I was a bit bored tonight and ended up shooting two practice movies of me trying out some new magic tricks. I want to learn needle swallowing, because it just seems fun. I still have not figured out a good presentation idea for it, though. I also tried pulling a string out of my eye. I have several ideas for presentations for that, but it turned out to hurt quite a lot. This is a bit worrisome when it is my eye that hurts... If it was just pain on some body part I do not care so much about, I would do it anyway, haha.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Tenyo 2013 new lineup ・ テンヨー2013年の新作品

Today I stopped by our local magic shop and the owner showed me the new Tenyo items for 2013. They were all pretty cool. I bought three out of the four new items, so I will write more when I have had time to play with them a bit.


The one I was most interested in was the memo pad thing where you write an image of a cup on a paper and then make coins disappear by putting them in the cup. The gimmick was not at all what I though it would be, and it is quite clever. There are some angle problems from the sides (and back, of course), and you cannot hand out the memo pad. You can tear off the paper with the drawing and hand that out if you like, though.


The cut up card that becomes whole was impressive. The weird glass jar thing that comes with it looks very suspicious, but you can do it on a close up mat too, at least if the light is not too bright. Ends very clean (at least the card) so most of the things that people might want to check later can be checked. Again, the gimmick was not what I expected.


The coin through glass looks very nice. You can use any glass (that has an appropriate size). There are similar products that do the same thing (probably using the same principle) but this one looks very nice and you can hand the spectator everything and they might still not see the tricky parts (though they could if they hold one of the items in a specific way).


The envelope that money comes out of was also not exactly what I expected. I expected it to just be a slit, but it was a little bit more than that. The other part of the trick was quite clever actually, and not something I had ever thought of. You cannot hand out anything except the money that comes out but you can show everything very cleanly before and after. I did not buy the envelope trick since I cannot see myself performing this trick.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Zombie magic in Ropossa

Zombie Jonas starting a card trick.
Last year I dressed up as a zombie for the Sapporo Zombie Walk. I also visited our local magic shop on my way home, still dressed as a zombie. The mama of a "snack bar" who does magic was upset with me for visiting our common friend but not coming to her place looking like a zombie.


Zombie Jonas showing a nail to be used as an ESP antenna to find a chosen card.
On Tuesday I was dressed up as a zombie for a Halloween party, so I also visited her place this time. They had me pose in different situations, and also requested that I do a magic trick where I hammer a nail into my nose. Hopefully I can get my hands on a video of that magic trick, since there was quite a lot of screaming, which is always nice.


Zombie Jonas with a nail stuck in his nose.

Zombie Jonas and a nail in the nose again.
Zombie Jonas and the nail, again.
Zombie Jonas pulling the nail out of the nose again.
Zombie Jonas the zombie bartender.
Zombie Jonas entertaining customers.
Zombie Jonas eating mochi.
Zombie Jonas drinking juice.

Zombie Jonas killing innocent customers.
Zombie Jonas killing more customers.
Zombie Jonas killing the owner.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Constructing a sponge dove and doing magic dressed up as a zombie

After 9 hours of work, the face paint has degraded but still looks pretty OK.
This year there were a lot of Halloween parties on the 27th here in Sapporo. The 27th was a Saturday so I was scheduled to work in our magic bar and did not have time to go any parties. I figured that if we were not busy, I might sneak out early and go to the last part of some party, though. So I dressed up as a zombie magician and went to work like that.


I also built a sponge dove to use as a zombie magician's sponge dove. I have a sponge dove but did not want to ruin it so I made a home made one instead. It turns out that if you smear a sponge dove in fake blood (I make my fake blood from syrup and food coloring) it does not get back into dove shape after being hidden in your hand... the fake blood is too sticky. Also, your hands get really sticky... So I am rethinking that part and think maybe using red paint could work instead.


Zombie transformation:

Paint white, draw lines.

Cover lines in blood.
Drool blood on shirt, add jacket and dove.
After a few hours of working, the paint starts to degrade but some parts look better (the blood on the shirt, for instance).
Making a sponge dove:

Me and my dove, having dinner in an Italian restaurant

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weird experiments

I saw a clip of a guy showing a card that changed its text or picture just by moving it. My guess is that he was using lenticular film on the card, and that is a great idea. Possibly. It might also be completely obvious to everyone else watching, at least in good lighting... So I want to make my own prop like that with something funny written in Japanese. I went around to a bunch of stores that might sell this kind of stuff, but none sell lenticular film... But I did find post cards with such film, so I bought one and started peeling off the back. Not the smoothest way to make props, but it should be enough to make a first prototype at least.


My apprentice

I used to be a member of the magic club at our university. You can only be an active member for three years, though, so I have been retired now. This year, I have an apprentice though. My first ever apprentice! He is going to do a performance in the vein of my magical sketchbook routine:


We  have met a few times and talked about how to do different things and what I think makes for a good performance. This week he wanted me to come and see his first full runthrough of his routine. It was pretty nice. There is still a lot of practice to be done, but the general idea of what to produce and so on was good. I am sure he will do fine at the Christmas stage show.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Magic bar review: Toto's Bar

Toto doing some rope escape magic with two spectators (my friend on the right)
I have been to Toto's bar three times. The first time, Toto himself was not there (he was in America, performing at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, which he does regularly twice per year). There were other magicians there instead, of course, so it was still nice. Toto is extremely good at entertaining people, though, so missing him means missing a lot.

都々's Barに3回も行ったことがある。最初の時、都々さんがいなかった。アメリカのマジックキャッセルでマジックをやっていた。毎年行っているそうだ。代わりに他のマジシャンが勿論いたから楽しかった。都々さんが凄い盛り上げ上手だから、都々さんがいないとちょっと損するけどね。

Me and Toto
Toto's bar is located in the Ginza district in Tokyo. There are many magic bars in that area. The bar is fairly small, but looks very nice. There is a small stage area, a few sofa and table sets, and a counter. Toto does magic shows in front of everyone on the small stage, and he also does close up magic shows at the counter and in the sofas. If you book in advance, you can have a dinner and magic set with food that looks good (we never tried the food), or you can go there just for magic and drinks.

都々's Barが銀座にある。周りにマジックバーがいっぱいある。店がまあまあ狭いがきれいだ。小さなステージがあって、ボックス席もあって、カウンターがある。ステージで皆の前で都々さんがマジックショーをやる。カウンターやボックスでもクローズアップも見せて貰える。早い時間に行けば、ディナーコースも出来る。ご飯が普通に美味しそうだったがうちらはご飯試していない。

Toto's brother who makes food and handles sound, and the very nice bartender
Apart from Toto himself, there is a very nice bartender working there, making any drink you can imagine. Toto's brother works in the kitchen, and also does sound/music stuff for Toto during his shows. There are also other magicians working there, and they show you magic too.


On our first visit we saw Raito (apprentice to Toto, I think; all his apprentices have names ending with "to" by the way) and a guest magician called Mocchi. The second time I went there, Raito was there and Toto himself was back. The third time we showed up late and only Toto did magic. There was also a woman working there, but I do not know her name (or what her job actually was).


The very skilled magician Raito
Raito was very technically skilled, and performed very slowly in a gentleman style. His version of the professor's nightmare (3 ropes that change length) trick is the most technically beautiful version I have seen so far. Very slow but with care taken on angles to stop precisely where you have to stop etc. He also did a very nice version of a trick with a playing card turning inside out while folded inside another card. He was very good.


Toto is also very good, but more than his technical skills you become impressed with his entertainment skills. He is very good at getting the crowd going. He does some very advanced magic, but the main focus is on entertaining presentation ideas. He makes very good use of music and other sound effects during his show. In a similar vein, when he does spoon bending or similar effects, suddenly his necktie is bent out of shape and when you look around, so is his brother's necktie as well as the bartender's necktie. Funny details like that help a lot.


Toto does a parlor magic show on the small stage, including things like a floating table routine that is very good, rope escapes, producing bowling balls from a sketch pad, flying handkerchiefs, and things like that. Very high tempo, very entertaining.


He also does close up magic at the counter, including some very interesting coin magic, his signature effect where five spectators point their fingers at a deck of cards and go "bang" and for each bang that spectators selected card shoots out of the deck (he once mentioned that he sells this trick for 1 million yen but too many people kept buying it at that price so he upped the price to 1.5 million so he would not have to spend too much time teaching people that trick...), strange electric toy tricks, other fascinating card tricks, and more. Toto is one of the most entertaining magicians I have seen perform. Highly recommended.


The entrance to Toto's bar is a mirror
Since Toto performs one or two weeks in L.A. every year, presumable he also performs in English. He said he just spouts random words that sound like English and hope people understand him through body language, but I think he may have exaggerated, haha. He probably speaks English fairly well, but we only spoke Japanese. The owner of the magic bar where I perform is also friends with Toto, so we talked about common acquaintances and things like that too.


Location: Good location very close to the Ginza subway station, in a district full of magic bars.
Type of magic: Parlor and close up.
Quality of magic: Very very high
Cost: 5000 yen for me, depends on what you order.
Interior: nice
Staff: very nice and funny people
Of special note: Very good use of sound/music. Shows pictures of spectators taken during the magic show on monitors afterwards. Serves food during the early hours.
Overall impression: One of the best magic bars I have been to. Toto is VERY good at performing entertainingly. Highly recommended.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Magic Bar Review: Magic Bar Stockholm

The main hall, with the small stage in the background
In Stockholm, there is no magic bar culture like in Japan where I live. In December 2009, Sweden's first (Northern Europe's first) magic bar was opened, however. It is called "Magic Bar Stockholm", but it is perhaps more like a restaurant than a bar.


Salmon and stewed potatoes
They serve very nice food, and have lots of tables. There are several rooms, and in the summer there are also lots of tables outside. During weekends, there is a stage magic show on a small stage in the largest room, though I have never managed to get there on a weekend when there was still stage magic going on (the stage magic takes summer vacation in July, which is when I usually visit Sweden). There is also table magic, with a magician coming to your table and doing a 10 to 15 minute magic show. A lot of magicians perform at Magic Bar Stockholm, and there is usually a new magician every week.


Garlic butter, wine sauce, and steak.

The interior of Magic Bar Stockholm is very beautiful. Each room has a different color scheme, and they have many strange decorations on the walls. Even the toilet is fun to visit. The food is good, and the prices are not high if you compare to normal restaurants in Sweden (though Sweden is expensive compared to Japan when it comes to food).


A chocolate cake dessert.

The magicians I have seen there were all very nice. The waiting staff are also nice when you get hold of them, but sometimes it is very hard to find anyone to take your order, or to tell you if you can sit at some table etc. In Japan, if no one acknowledges your presence within a few seconds of you entering a restaurant or bar, they are probably closed, so it was a bit unnerving for me when I got in there and no one seemed to notice me for several minutes. I no longer know what to do in Sweden, haha. Is it OK to just sit down at some empty looking table? And how do you get a menu if no one notices you? So the service is a bit slow (showing up with the food after you ordered can be slow too), but that is my only complaint so far I think.


Tom Stone doing a rubber band trick for my father
I have been to magic bar Stockholm 4 times. The first time I visited with my parents, my brother and his girlfriend. We all ordered food, and got very nice food (there were some mix-ups with the orders, but everything turned out fine in the end). At that time, Tom Stone was doing table magic. I have seen him once before when he gave a lecture on magic and psychology at my old university in Stockholm (when I was still a student). Tom Stone is quite famous in Japan too, at least among magicians. Seeing him live again now that I have started doing magic myself was nice. He is one of the magicians I admire a lot. He did some rubber band magic, some coin magic, and some card magic for us. Very nice.


The magician John-Henry introduced me to a bunch of other magicians too!

Charlie Caper imitating a Japanese comedian
One year later, I went to the magic bar alone. A young magician called John-Henry was doing table magic, and he fairly quickly guessed that I was a magician too. You can usually tell, because people who know magic are surprised at the "wrong" timing, haha. He did some funny magic with ropes/strings full of bad Swedish puns, a lot of magic based on misdirection and stealing things off the table (like his own cards, my glass) or his own shoes. He later introduced me to group of famous Swedish magicians who were also drinking in the magic bar the same evening too. These magicians were also very nice! I was especially impressed by Charlie Caper being able to do bad jokes in Japanese (he toured as a street performer for a few months in Japan and learned a lot of Japanese then) and by Anders Moden producing a beer bottle out of his mouth.


Peter Grönlund doing some mentalism
I went back the next week and then Peter Grönlund, a mentalist, was showing magic. Since I saw all the famous magicians drinking at the magic bar again and ended up sitting at their table, I did not get to see Peter Grönlund do magic for me, but I did sneak a look when he did magic for the table next to ours. It was interesting to see a mentalist do walk around magic, and he did some fairly standard magic tricks like the "Triumph" card trick, but with a mentalist presentation. He also did more pure mentalism effects, like having a user grab a bunch of cards and then walk with small steps towards the magician (outdoors, where they were quite a bit apart) and count the number of steps separating them. Which turned out to be the same as the number of cards she had grabbed.


Mr Dannyman, gentleman magician.
Half a year later, I was in Stockholm in the winter (for a business trip) and figured I had a chance of finally seeing the stage magic show too. It was not to be, however, since the place was booked for a private party the only day with a stage show that I was in Stockholm. I went there on my last evening in Stockholm, though, and got to see Mr Dannyman do magic at the table. He did rope magic, the Chinese rings, card tricks, etc. Very much a gentleman.


The main hall again.
Location: Located in an area where there is not much else to do. With some effort you can walk from Djurgården, which has some other tourist attractions. Nice area, though.
Type of magic: Close up, but has stage magic on weekends too (except when I am in Sweden)
Quality of magic: Many different magicians perform, but everyone I have seen was very good.
Cost: Cheap (by Swedish standards). No cover charge, you pay standard prices for the food and drinks you order. I paid around 200 SEK (slightly more than 2000 yen) for a dinner and a dessert.
Interior: Very nice
Staff: nice, but the service is slow. The magicians were all very nice and funny.
Of special note: Serves food too (good food).
Overall impression: Very nice place, good food, good magic. Only complaint is that the service can be (very) slow.


The counter again.
Home made "impossible objects".
There are lots of strange items placed in the different rooms. 
Someone brought a fairly suspicious card with them.
The entrance in the winter.
There is a bar counter, though I have never seen anyone there.
The interior decorations are pretty.