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The Grey Area

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Tuesday 31 January, 2017)

The Grey AreaWe are through the first month of 2017, and here is an out-of-the-gate candidate for mentalism book of the year, Matt Mello's The Grey Area. Anyone who knows me, knows that I think Mello is terrific--and terrifically underrated. He comes up with insanely creative stuff, and this ebook of three essays and eight routines is possibly his best material yet. His spin on the liar-truthteller/which hand routines is brilliant because it relies on no gimmicks or logic tables, just a modicum of performance skills. If you are familiar with Patrick Redford's Prevaricator, then you'll know what I am implying. And the best news is that it's easier to apply and has a much better chance of success. He references Devin Knight in passing in the credits, and let me tell you, Mello's principle will make Knight's Four Told effect, which I really like, even better and almost reverse-engineering-proof. I'm adapting and using this material immediately.

The other routines are excellent too and deal with psychological forces and pseudo-hypnosis. I especially like Profit 2.0 where a spectator freely counts seven $1 bills but upon passing them to another, learns that the stack really contains nine $1 bills and one $100 bill. It's bold but extremely baffling.

Now this ebook is not for rank beginners or those who don't like propless or nearly propless mentalism. But if you have halfway decent language and people skills and want to walk on the wild side, this is for you. Some of this stuff looks exactly like real mind reading--and very nearly is. Let's just call it spectator engineering. Highest recommendation for Matt Mello's The Grey Area.


Emoticon: An Emotional Design Duplication

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Wednesday 14 December, 2016)

Emoticon: An Emotional Design DuplicationFirst, let's get this out of the way: Emoticon uses an old, old method. TC says that it is from Annemann, and without pulling out my copies of Practical Mental Magic or The Jinx to check, I don't doubt that. The method also forms the basis of Richard Osterlind's ODD, Osterlind's Design Duplication System. And essentially this same method is used in Feel by Peter Nardi and Marc Spelmann on their Unpexpected DVD set. Not to mention, you could do a design dupe like this using Anton James's Mentalism Symbol Pack. So if you are familiar with any one of these, you'll know immediately how Emoticon works. Now here's what's different: TC has adapted the routine for two spectator duplications. He also shows you how to use a clever crib in plain sight. (There's no doubt that you can get away with this. If you don't like the idea, you can always use memorization or a more discrete crib like the one Mark Elsdon demonstrated in his first Penguin Live lecture, where you fiddle with the greyscale settings of the font in Microsoft Word.) But most significantly--and definitely pretty darned cool--is that TC uses emoticons for the design items, and the pdf gives them to you in two different sizes for ease of duplication in manufacturing your own cards. This is a great idea since just about everyone today who has a cell phone is familiar with them. And since they represent facial emotions, what better way to lead into a cold reading.

So while the method is nothing new, for your ten spot, you get reproducible cards; a crib idea; and a neat, new routine. I'd say that Emoticon is well worth the download even if you are already doing a similar routine.


The Guide

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Monday 05 December, 2016)

The GuideThe Guide contains an extremely intriguing principle to determine which of a binary choice a spectator has made. (It doesn't use MOs or a force either, which is what I had originally suspected.) Apparently, this is something that Zitta came up with years ago that he originally named "Janus," after the two-faced Roman god. I like that this short ebook gives a lot potential uses of the principle under different scenarios using a variety of objects such as business cards, pens, cigarettes, coins, straws, etc. and even includes color photos illustrating the method. While some of the possible routines seem contrived and artificial, there is one with the spectator's picking up a lighter to imagine lighting his way in the dark and turning left or right that I am definitely going to try. It seems well motivated and organic.

There is a lot of food for thought here so if you like this almost-propless concept, you should give this a go.


Thought Control

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Saturday 03 December, 2016)

Thought ControlFirst off, I use and love a lot of Matt's stuff. While he may not be as well known as some of the big boys, I really like him because he consistently gives you stuff that's not only outside the box but down the road to the bar on the next block. He's very creative. And if you use or see his stuff like Invisible Ball, Imaginary Object, or Energy Coins, you'll know what I mean. He also loves DR. Here he combines that with one of the oldest mentalism concepts around to have one spectator transmit two thoughts to another spectator. It's completely propless, and it's basically an old routine but with nothing written down. When I first read it, I went, "Huh? That's weird. Will that actually work?" Then I read it again, and I thought that if you were careful with your script and used a time disconnect well, there's no doubt that you could pull this off. And people won't go, "Huh?" They will say "That was amazing." Mentalists will ask, "How did you do that? Does it use electronics, pre-show, or stooges?" Actually, it doesn't use anything except a good performance. If there's one small negative to Thought Control, Matt gives you a force to use that I didn't particularly like it. This might be that rare context for this type of routine where a simple card force would be perfect. (Where's my Psychomatic Deck?)


The Elimination Principle

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Saturday 03 December, 2016)

The Elimination PrincipleAh, TC Tahoe, the working magician's magician. He has some of the best, most practical, and usable stuff around, and once again, he hits a homer for the low price of a ten spot. The Elimination Principle is TC's way of doing a completely ungimmicked version of Bank Night. Now contrary to some, I like Bank Night and can execute it nicely about a half-dozen different ways. TC's version uses a simplification of a ruse developed by Max Maven. When I saw how he used it, I thought, "Absolutely. It will work in a half-dozen different settings. Why didn't I think of it?" Anyway, the ungimmicked version of Bank Night is 100% examinable. One move--and it's easy and not dodgy at all--and you end absolutely clean. If that weren't enough, TC gives you a bunch of those different settings. They are all wonderful ideas.

Alakazam has been selling out of late on Steve Cook's brand new Volition, a commercial version of an ungimmicked Bank Night. Folks are going nuts over it, and I have to admit, it's either the slickest or stupidest thing that I've ever seen. Maybe both simultaneously. But now that I've seen TC's Elimination Principle, I'm not sure you need to buy the much more expensive Volition, which, while clever, uses a knacky procedure. Summary: TC keeps his batting average high. Highly recommended.


Chair'z

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Saturday 03 December, 2016)

Chair'zThis is a nice and easy three-person chair test, based on an idea by Max Maven. I really like it and am going to expand on the concept to add another climax similar to what folks like Marc Spelmann do--put another correct prediction under/on the back of each chair. Gerry's ideas are always straightforward and excellent, and this is no exception. And this effect lends itself both to stage and more intimate settings. You could do it with folks sitting on bar stools.

But there's more. Even if you choose not to use the chair test, there are a few wonderful ideas on MOs here, including one using paper folded into the shape of an H that I had never seen before. For a little more than the price of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese combo meal at McDonald's, you get a terrific routine and some great mentalism utility ideas. Get this. Highly recommended.


First Date Revelation

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★ (Date Added: Monday 28 November, 2016)

First Date RevelationHere's another clever routine from Devin Knight. He gives you two different methods. The first is Al Mann's Kolophon Principle, so if you have that ebook, you'll know exactly how it works. The second similar method is better, I think, and one that I'd never seen before. It's pretty ingenious when you get right down to it. The full revelation, which involves folding the six slips with the names on them, is, in my opinion, too much hands on activity for the mentalist. There are much better ways to accomplish the same thing with the spectator's doing the work of folding the billets and mixing them before you find the "first date" billet. In any event, this is well worth the $10.


Worlds Within Words

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Monday 28 November, 2016)

Worlds Within WordsThe UM is back with another progressive anagram utility. This one can best be described as a simplification or limiting procedure. It can save a lot of steps when doing a complicated anagram, such as one with names of super heroes. As usual, he's come up with a smart piece to use in presentation. He should collect his writings on anagrams in a book.


Understanding and Using Gilbreath Principle

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Friday 18 November, 2016)

Understanding and Using Gilbreath PrincipleSo you don't know what the Gilbreath Principle (or Gilbreath Permutation) is, and Perci Diakonis and Ron Graham's incredibly detailed book Mathematical Magic scares the hell out of you because you weren't good at math in school. Never fear. For the price of a coffee (or cheap domestic beer) and I would say about half an hour of your time, you will be blown away. It boils down to this: There are mathematical oddities in the world that seem completely impossible (Benford's Law concerning the relative frequencies of the first digit in data sets comes to mind. It applies to election votes, lengths of rivers, street addresses, and all kinds of crazy things.) Anyway, the Gilbreath Principle basically says that randomly mixing (in a certain way) two ordered data sets will give you a different data set, but that data set will also be ordered. In other words, mix two halves of a deck that alternates red and black suits, and you'll get a deck that has groups that... Well, you are just going have to read this ebook. Author Daniel does a super job of making you understand this without any math notation. Follow along, and you will be convinced. And then he gives you two killer routines. Did I mention that this is $4? Cardicians and mentalists will find a lot to love here if you've never used this principle before. This is one of these principles that apart from mathematicians and magicians, very few people know because it's counterintuitive: Randomly mixing a nicely ordered deck will give you a randomly ordered deck, right? Nope. Laypeople will have no idea how you predict/know things about a fairly riffle shuffled deck. It seems impossible. But it isn't. It's easy to work miracles once you know this, one of the greatest weird math principles of all time. And there are no formulas, difficult counting, or memory work involved. Highly recommended.


The Center Tear Papers

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Tuesday 15 November, 2016)

The Center Tear PapersThis is a wonderful ebook that answers the age-old mentalism question, "Why the heck would you have someone write something down on a slip of paper only to have you tear it up a minute later?" I know that a lot of great mentalists such as Richard Osterlind can pull off a center-tear routine without any motivation for what is happening. I'm not Richard Osterlind. Plus, I feel like any time you tear something up or do anything remotely fishy, there should be a reason; for example, Bob Cassidy's Name and Place routine justifies destroying the one billet brilliantly. I feel comfortable doing it because of the motivation. Everything that I've read from TC Tahoe, a true journeyman in the art, has been extremely practical. This is no different. Sure, it's a small ebook with that "mentalism MSRP standard" of $30, but the approach TC takes and the jewels that he gives you, well, impressed the heck out of me. And I'm almost to the point in my study of mentalism where I've seen it all, done most. You can tell that TC has had years of experience doing this stuff successfully because he's scripted the material beautifully, and he gives you some cool graphics too. Summary: If you do any kind of center-tear routine, then this is required reading. In fact, if I were teaching the center tear in a course on the fundamentals of mentalism, this would be one of the texts that I would use. Highest recommendation.


Mental Epic Compendium

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Tuesday 15 November, 2016)

Mental Epic CompendiumMental Epic Compendium contains almost 400 pages of routines, variations, and subtleties on the classic routine Mental Epic. If you do Mental Epic or any one-ahead routine and don't have this compendium, shame on you. While I know that the term "masterpiece" is overused, this ebook really is one. Just look at the list of contributors: Banachek, Cassidy, Knepper, Dyne, Cushman, Shaxon, Tahoe... the best of the best. Need I say more? And while it may not be the completely definitive encyclopedia on Mental Epic--Richard Osterlind has a killer close-up routine with two small pads of paper that he has demonstrated on a couple of his DVDs, and Neil Tobin shows you on his Xpert DVD how to do one using his Xpert utility, for example--this is about as much material as you are ever likely to see. Paul Ramhany, a New Zealander who never disappoints in his creations, gets my highest respect for the brilliant job of compiling this material--and his routines are great too. (Cue the enthusiastic standing-on-my-chair applause.) I can guarantee that you will (1) learn some new things; (2) use at least one of these routines; and (3) have food for thought in devising your own effects. Brilliant. I can't get enough of this stuff. (And don't be a cheapskate and say, "But it's $45." It's hundreds of pages of stuff. A couple of the concepts alone would be worth that price.) Highest recommendation.


Psychic Money Sense

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★ (Date Added: Monday 07 November, 2016)

Psychic Money SenseThis is a quickie trick that's kind of a throwaway, so much so that even Knight suggests it as a prelude to one of his Blind Sight effects. It's about as self-working as they come, and you really only need to remember one thing. It reminds me of something that would be one of eight or nine tricks in a Conversation as Mentalism volume by Mark Elsdon. In other words, you might do this in a bar or as "B" filler material for close-up. There are only two ways this trick can end: Two out of three times, you'll get a certain outcome and the third time a different one. (It will be strikingly obvious how this plays out once you read the instructions.) The principle involved is actually better than the trick, I think. So if you want to spend your Starbuck's money today on a little mentalism, you could do worse.


Foam Kangaroo Abs

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Friday 21 October, 2016)

Foam Kangaroo AbsThe weirdly titled Foam Kangaroo Abs is an ebook mostly devoted to progressive and branching anagrams. It has tons of material from discerning one of the 12 apostles, a pop song, a food from a grocery list, and part of a stick man to the classic spectator's sign of the Zodiac. If you like PAs/BAs, then this book will be incredibly useful. If you don't have any experience with them, I'd suggest The Prodigal by Atlas Brookings first to get attuned to performance details. The way Brookings performs PAs/BAs is outstanding; he makes it look like real mind reading. The trouble is, of all the areas of mentalism, this is one of the most difficult routines to pull off. Badly done, a PA/BA looks like a half-baked guessing game or a poor man's Wheel of Fortune. This stuff takes a lot of memory work and practice to do smoothly and effectively.

In addition to the PA/BA routines, there are some bonus effects, as listed in the ebook description, such as a multi-stage Rock-Paper-Scissors routine and yet another nearly half-dozen approaches to Max Maven's classic Positive/Negative. For me, these things were like finding extra presents under the Christmas tree. Nice indeed.

Pricey ebook? Yes. Worth it? Very much so. While I don't think this is for everyone, and you certainly won't perform everything here (that would be sheer memory madness), my mind was boggled just skimming through it. There is some really creative food for thought in Foam Kangaroo Abs, and I recommend it. I know that I am going to spend a lot of time studying it in the near future.


Modern Mentalism

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Sunday 16 October, 2016)

Modern MentalismI was just recently asking myself the question, why isn't there a book of fundamental mentalism concepts, a la an updated version of Corinda, to take into account modern topics such as which hand, propless mentalism, electronics, dual reality, cell phone effects, etc.? Sure, there are some wonderful fundamental DVDs, such as Richard Osterlind's own 13 Steps or Dan Harlan's stuff out of Tarbell, but for those of us who like to read in addition to watch, a new book would be great. And then this import, purporting to be just that, arrived. Modern Mentalism, a translation of an original Italian edition, promises itself as a primer on all things mentalism--multiple outs, Svengali Deck, Invisible Deck, hypnosis, psi touches, nail writer, predictions, the Berglas Effect..a veritable encyclopedia of technique. But does it succeed? No. While these and other topics are discussed, they are glossed over and treated in almost cursory fashion. If you have absolutely no knowledge of any mentalism effects, then this book may have some value to you, just to get an overview of the subject matter. But if you have any experience at all, this way overpriced work will leave you cold. It's just so disappointing, from the trivialization of important topics (no real discussion of peeks, center tears, or billets that I could see) to the meager explanations (You need to force a card. Here, this is exactly one card force method. There you go.). And the translation has lots of mistakes. (It's "treatise," guys, not "treaty." Oh wait, you actually did get that correct once at the end of the book.)

In the end, you have a poor value for your money with this ebook. For half the price, Corinda still reigns supreme as the timeless fundamentals book. Maybe someday someone will update it. Heck, someone could just annotate it in the margins with some modern methods and notations of things that are archaic. Heck, maybe I'll do that myself one day after I retire. But until then, read Corinda and treasure it. It's the one primer that you need, not Modern Mentalism.


The Amazing Memory Test

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Monday 19 September, 2016)

The Amazing Memory TestThis is Luke Jermay's take on Corinda's Step 3 Amazing Memory Test. While anything Luke Jermay says is worth reading, I'm not sure this is worth $25. First, Jermay has some ideas on adapting Corinda's objects to make them more personal and vivid. This is the kind of memory stuff that you can find elsewhere and was not of much use to me since long ago I'd committed Corinda's system to memory without change. Jermay's discussion of how to do a memory routine was useful, however, as was his idea to link it with a backward alphabet recitation. (Though I disagree with him on how to do that parlor trick. Get Devin Knight's fantastic, inexpensive book with great mnemonics from Lybrary, and you'll be able to recite the alphabet backward in under an hour of study. No kidding.)

I liked the material here, especially for someone who hasn't studied the Corinda step. (But why haven't you?) But it's just not worth the price.


The Best Short Change Scam Ever

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Monday 19 September, 2016)

The Best Short Change Scam EverIf you've ever seen the movie The Grifters, you will see John Cusack do a version of the short change scam. As Devin reminds us, this ebook is for educational purposes only because if you pull this routine on a shopkeeper, you are stealing, plain and simple. I've seen it used exactly one time in my life, many years ago, so I'm sure that there still are some practitioners of this out there. This ebook should probably be required reading for anyone who works in retail or at charity events. The short change is an insidious flim-flam.


How Psychics Locate Missing People

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★ (Date Added: Monday 19 September, 2016)

How Psychics Locate Missing PeopleFor $10 and 12 pages, I was intrigued, so I bit. And five minutes later, after finishing this ebook, all I could do was shake my head at a scam so ingenious, yet so diabolical, that I'd never have come up with it on my own in 10 lifetimes. Of course, I'm not a con artist. Anyway, you are getting a really obscure--and dangerous--phony psychic scam, one that if you do it, you will be committing a serious federal crime. It's an interesting read, but you have been warned. (Devin warns you too.)


Phenomental!

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Monday 19 September, 2016)

Phenomental!It's almost de rigueur in the mentalism field to put out a book, usually with nine effects, and slap a price tag of $30 on it. And the old adage goes that if you find at least one thing that you'll use, it was a good purchase. I have mixed feelings about Phenomental. First, you get eight effects, but it's more like five effects and three forces/subtleties, not full routines. I'm going to have to try out Vaporize even though I'm not a fan of dual reality. The Up Force is intriguing, like something that should be in Banachek's next volume of Psychological Subtleties. I think Influenza is the strongest routine here, though truth be told, it's a variation on an old Annemann idea, one that Looch and now Alexander Marsh have also gussied up. (And the video performance of it, in front of what appears to be a women's lavatory at a park, is completely underwhelming, especially since it edits out the move that you need to do.) The other stuff, like yet another handling of Out of this World and the WatchStop Principle, which is hardly original, really didn't do anything for me. I will say though that I was impressed that a few things actually used sleights, something that you don't see much of in mentalism, and that's good.

Overall, is it worth the 30 clams? Probably not quite for me. I had kind of the same tepid feeling with the author's Hand Which, where I liked a couple of his ideas, didn't like one in particular at all, and wasn't blown away. Influenza by itself might be worth about $15, Vaporize $9.95, and the Up Force belongs in a larger collection of psi-forces. I think the tipping point for purchase might be if you want another handling of OOTW. If not, Phenomental is probably a pass.


Underground Bottom Tear (UBT)

reviewed by Christian Fisanick
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Sunday 18 September, 2016)

Underground Bottom Tear (UBT)I've posted a review of UBT on another site, but I like it so much that I am going to tell you here that if you are new to mentalism and don't have a good billet peek, or you are not comfortable with the one that you are using, then you must give this a try. Once you work on it--and it's not that hard to do--you'll use it forever. As I said in my other review, it is a tear of the "instant/real-time peek" variety, unlike a traditional center tear. Bob Cassidy would question why one would use a technique where you take the peek when the audience is burning your hands as you rip up the billet instead of being more traditional and taking the peek on an offbeat or after a logical disconnect. That you have to answer for yourself. Whatever accomplishes the result deceptively is what you should use.

If you use another peek such as a classic center tear, Osterlind's Perfected Center Tear, etc., and it serves you well, you might not need this. Then again, for me, this is a real thing of beauty. It's quick, clean, and straightforward. Highest recommendation.


Ekcentrick Force

reviewed by Christian Fisanick (confirmed purchase)
Rating: ★★★★★ (Date Added: Tuesday 13 September, 2016)

Ekcentrick ForceThis is a short and direct way to force any one of six coins or other objects by a selection/elimination process. It takes a little bit of thought and practice, but it's good and certainly much better than the artificial looking "hot rod" force which involves counting or spelling. Add it to your arsenal of forces such as equivoque, PATEO, Quinta, and psi forces. It's a worker.

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