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Author Archives: chris ballinger

  • Another Strange Video

    Posted on January 22, 2009 by chris ballinger

    Here is a video we made for our other website It is a sing-along about the Cosmic Diabolo which can be found here on Magic Geek as well as on

    Nothing like outer space and fake moustaches. Anyway, if you're interested in checking out the Cosmic Diabolos click the link below for more details.


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  • Dealing with Stage Fright

    Posted on January 20, 2009 by chris ballinger

    Ty wrote to us on the Magic Combo's post asking about how to deal with stage fright. I've heard lots of advice on this subject and most of it is not very good. Never imagine your audience without their clothes on! It can be very distracting. But here are a few tips that helped me. And just to prove that I needed/used each of them, I've included some photos.

    I am a strong proponent of getting as much experience as possible. It's like learning a new sleight: at first it's really hard and awkward, but after doing it ten katrillion times your muscle-memory kicks in and you don't even need to think about it anymore. Performance is just another skill that you learn and the better at it you become the less stage fright you will feel.

    nullMe and my muse writing hilarious patter.

    Get Your Patter Down
    Having a plan is really important. Know your patter and know your tricks. If you spend time on stage stammering or trying to remember what comes next, you're going to start doubting yourself and that's the exact opposite of what you want. Knowing your stuff will help you control your nerves.

    nullMe in a production of As You Like It.

    Take a Theater Class
    This is going to work your performance muscle like nothing else. It's going to get you in front of people and teach you to play a character, which can also be used to battle stage fright. It will also teach you to memorize lines which will help with patter.

    nullBrian and I fanning cards and being confidentBe Over-Confident
    This isn't a trait that you want to have all the time (it's kind of annoying) but when you're performing, it can be a helpful tool. Playing the role of someone that is "all that and then some" puts you in charge. Nothing can go wrong, and if it does, who cares? You're awesome, right?

    nullMe performing with my improv team, The ObustersTake A Class in Improv
    You might be thinking: what's the difference between this and taking a theater class? A theater class will help with patter; improvisation will help with audience control. You'll learn how to read and react to your audience. I don't think anything has helped me with stage fright more than joining an improv troupe.

    All of these things have helped me, but I'm always interested in hearing what has helped others. If you've mustered up the courage to feel the heat of the limelight: what helped you? What tips would you give those who have yet to face an audience? Who knows, your advice might just help someone!

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  • First-Time Street Magician

    Posted on January 14, 2009 by chris ballinger

    We get asked for advice on performing street magic all the time; so here are a few tips for those of you future buskers...

    Location! Location! Location
    Finding a good spot is important. Try to set up somewhere that has a lot of foot traffic. Make sure that you aren't in a narrow walkway or near any intersections; if you block traffic, you might have a run-in with the law. A touristy environment is best. You want to find a place where people aren't in a hurry and are looking for a good time. (It also doesn't hurt if they are carrying around some cash.)

    Step Right Up! Step Right Up!
    Get their attention. Very few people will see you with a pack of cards and say, "Hey! Can you do a trick for me?" More often than not, you're going to have to ask them to see a magic trick. Once you get a couple of people interested, more will stop to see what everybody's looking at. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.


    Looks are Important
    If you can set yourself apart from the crowd with your clothes or with a stand or sign, it's going to help attract an audience. By somehow setting yourself apart, you establish a performer/audience relationship right away.

    Be Brave
    Confidence is important in magic and it is especially important when you're performing on the street. It's not like doing a show on your web cam and deleting bad comments. On the street people can say whatever they want and everyone can hear it. Your job is to not let that get to you. Thinking about these comments during your show will not help you. That's not to say that criticism should not be heard, just don't think about it until you are done performing for the day.


    Know Your Stuff
    The better you know your material, the easier audience control is going to be. It's also important to plan out your tricks so that your set produces the maximum level of audience, entertainment, and tips. Here are a few examples of tricks that I have used in the past:

    Starters: These are tricks that grab people's attention. They are interactive and to the point and work great for building a little crowd:

    Reputation Builders: This section of your show should keep the interest of the crowd you've already got, while attracting a larger crowd and making people feel like your show is worth a buck or two:

    Closers: These are routines that play big, pack small and build to a climactic finish. Hopefully you'll have a big crowd at this point and you'll want them all to see what's going on; and you want there to be a clear, defined end to your set:

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  • Hip Hop Geeks

    Posted on January 12, 2009 by chris ballinger

    Daniel made this video on the website It features himself, Aidan and I dancing to a boogie-woogie-hip-hop beat.

    Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

    I can't believe that Daniel found a way to dance with us even though he moved up north. That's what it was like every day when he worked with us in the southern warehouse.

    I suggest that as soon as you are done buying your magic here on Magic Geek, you go over to the Jib-Jab website and make you're friends dance. It's a lot of fun.

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  • Yoyos

    Posted on January 8, 2009 by chris ballinger

    We made a video for one of our other sites, It's a quick lesson in the different shapes and axle designs available in yoyos. Since we carry all of the same yoyos here on Magic Geek, I thought I'd post it here so you can check it out. I don't want to give anything away, but you should watch it to the end. I promise it will be worth it.

    Here is a list of all the yoyos featured in the video:

    Wooden Super

    Butterfly Big Ben ProFire

    Flying Camel

    Fireball AXL Brain

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  • Top 8 for '08

    Posted on December 30, 2008 by chris ballinger

    I've been getting asked my opinion on tricks a lot this year so I decided to sit down and write about my favorite tricks of '08. These aren't just tricks that came out this year, but tricks that--over the course of the year--I decided that I liked a whole heaping lot. It might be a new trick that I liked, it might be that I remembered how much I liked a trick, or it could be that I did a 180 on a trick and decided that it's the best trick ever. At any rate, this post is essentially all about what I think.

    #8: Miser's Dream Granted by Mikame
    The clever gimmicks included in this set take the classic Miser's Dream Effect to a whole new level. Here are a few of the things that set this routine apart from the rest: You can show both hands empty before and after the routine; The specially designed coins make it possible to hide more coins in a smaller space; the awesome shower of coins at the end of the routine. But I think some of my favorite material included is in the bonus handling section of the DVD. The versatile gimmicks make revolutionary coin vanishes and appearances possible.


    #7: Duplicity by John Bannon
    This is a reworking of Bannon's top selling trick Twisted Sisters. The difference is that in Duplicity all of the cards can be examined at the end of the routine. The very thorough instructional DVD teaches the moves and psychology behind the effect beautifully and I am proud to have added this trick to my street performances.


    #6: Zone Zero by Jerry Andrus
    This is a trick that I hadn't played with in some time, but in picking it up for our video demo, I fell in love with it all over again. There's a lot of practice involved in this routine, but once you master it, Zone Zero is a lot of fun to perform. The props are included, but, if you master the moves you'll be able to perform miracles with just a paper lunch sack and an orange.


    #5: Multiplying Rabbits by Goshman
    I know I've mentioned it already this year, but I recently rediscovered these little critters and have been amazed at the reactions they get. I picked them up after attending a lecture by Greg Darci, forgot about them, then one day used them on the street and everyone flipped out. It instantly fixed two problems, my answer to the annoying question "Can you pull a rabbit out of my hat?" and finding a good finale for a sponge ball routine.


    #4: TeleThought Wallet by Chris Kenworthey
    This was recommended to us by Mark Mason of JB Magic and I have to say that I was very impressed with the technology utilized. It's like the Thought Transmitter Wallet but there are no batteries to replace, no buttons to fuddle with, and no thick mechanisms. I don't want to give anything away, but it's like having x-ray vision, you can see what is hidden, but nobody else can. A useful tool in the hand of a mentalist.


    #3: Club Sandwich by Andrew Normansell
    What I like about this routine is the simplicity behind it. The gimmick can be added to your regular deck and with a little bit of practice, you'll have a beautiful card transposition on your hands.


    #2: Flow by Dan Hauss
    This is a fantastic effect. The method totally blew me away and I love the subtleties and techniques explained in the very well shot DVD.


    #1: Just Think by Adrian Sullivan
    And my favorite trick of 2008 is a simple little card trick. This is a clever, well thought out routine with a basic but seemingly impossible effect. Aside from the Invisible Deck, this is my favorite "Think of a Card" routine and I highly recommend it.


    Now, I purposefully did not include any of the Instant Downloads that we offer. I didn't want to promote anything that I had invented in order to remain objective. I will say, however, that Permanent, 'Fraid Knot and Multiplying Foil Balls were amongst our top sellers for last year so if I was not me they'd probably make the list.

    Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my New Year’s Resolution is to have better posture in the video demos. Yikes!

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  • Geek Appreciation

    Posted on December 3, 2008 by chris ballinger

    A little while ago youtube user jp1794 contacted us asking if they could make a dedication video about Magic Geek. Always wanting to hear what customers think of our site, we said yes. This last weekend jp1794 posted the video below:

    Thanks for the video, jp1794! If anyone is looking for the effects featured in the video, please click on one of the links below!



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  • Magic Combos!

    Posted on November 26, 2008 by chris ballinger

    You may have noticed the strange infomercials that have been popping up around the site. When Brian asked me to make commercials for the sets I'm not sure that's exactly what he had in mind. Even though the commercials are super cheesy and kind of ugly, the sets themselves are awesome.

    We wanted to offer something a little different from the standard magic set; and so we set out to create something that we would actually use. Each combo includes effects from our professional shows. We also wanted to be sure that you knew how to use your new stuff so we went out and made our own instructional DVDs.

    First we'll take a look at the Close-Up Combo:
    This set includes a professional set of Professor's Nightmare Ropes which can be used for the standard routine as well as 'Fraid Knot and Fiber Optics routines. Also included is a set of Super Soft Sponge Balls and a Stripper Deck. But the real jewel of the set is the Aluminum Cups and Balls. It comes with cork balls with a knitted covering, three dashing cups and a magic wand. And let's not forget the Instructional DVD that covers everything including two Stripper Deck routines, two Sponge Ball routines and bonus Cups and Balls routines.

    Next up is the Street Magic Combo:
    Everything in this set has been featured on various street magic television specials. It includes the famous Bite Out Quarter trick. It also includes the Perfect PENetration trick, which allows you to push a pen through just about anything. Some of the tricks are pulled from my personal street shows; such as the Magic Sugar Packet, Vanishing Napkin, and Torn & Restored Napkin. Also included in the set is the classic Coin in Bottle effect. And the Invisible Deck, which is one of the best card tricks ever devised: a freely named card is impossibly turned over in a deck of cards. This set also includes a DVD which teaches several effects with the supplied gimmicks.

    And finally, the Stage Magic Combo:
    This set is ideal for those interested in performing for a larger audience. Whether it's for a talent show or to perform at parties and special event; this set is very commercial. The Magic Blooming Flower and Ultra Egg Bag are so versatile that they can fit into any routine. The 6 Card Repeat is a classic effect that never fails to please. The set also includes The Jumbo Moving Pips which is a variation on the Hoppin Spots effect that has been a best seller for us. The Stage set also features my personal Chinese Linking Rings routine with the exact seamless metal rings that I use in my professional shows! And of course you get the Instructional DVD which explains all of the routines plus tips on misdirection and performing.

    All three sets will propel your magic into the next level and they make fantastic gifts. These kits really are something special and I hope you all enjoy them. Please click one of the images below to see more about these awesome sets:

    Close-Up Magic Combo:null
    Street Magic Combo:null
    Stage magic Combo:null

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  • What's the Difference - Part 7

    Posted on November 19, 2008 by chris ballinger

    Reading Hidden Writing Thingies

    Mentalists have always been after a way of seeing what they are not supposed to . Here I outline a few of our most popular devices for secretly reading a hidden message.

    Mental Board by I-Magic:
    The spectator writes something down on a little slip of paper. This is folded up and placed somewhere that the performer cannot see. Then the performer somehow manages to recreate the drawing or word written by the spectator. This is my least favorite of the gimmicks that we'll be taking a look at today. You may like it, if you really work at it, but I have not been able to get it to work 100% of the time.


    Strengths: When it works, it's an amazing effect and it is very inexpensive.
    Weaknesses: The instructions are lacking and the method doesn't always work. I've also been caught once by someone who saw how the trick works.

    I don't want to say "don't buy this." It has its place in mentalism and can be a killer effect. It's just going to take a little practice and nerve from the performer to achieve the reaction it deserves.

    Thought Transmitter by John Cornelius:
    A thought of word, number, or symbol is written on a post-it note and hidden inside of the opaque wallet. You can then draw, or state whatever was hidden from you.


    Strengths: This is mentalism at it's best. The gimmick is awesome and the possibilities are endless.
    Weaknesses: I don't want to give anything away, but there are batteries involved and they aren't the easiest kind to find or replace. Also, if the spectator puts the post-it in the wrong place, it will be hard to get a clear reading.

    TeleThought Wallet by Chris Kenworthey:
    This basically has the same effect as the Thought Transmitter, but it's a little more user-friendly.


    Strengths: You don't have to hide the actual peek from your audience. Again, not wanting to give anything away, In the video demo, the wallet is just lying on the table in front of the spectator. I can see everything that they wrote on the card; while they can see nothing. It's like having x-ray vision!
    Weaknesses: The wallet kind of looks funny. The edges are trimmed with gold and there are plastic slips on either side.

    Well, there you have it. My review of mentalism thingies that let you see things that are supposed to be hidden from you. Have fun getting into people's heads.

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  • It's Magic

    Posted on November 10, 2008 by chris ballinger

    This weekend a few of us went to the It's Magic show presented by Milt Larson and Terry Hill. Now in its 52nd year, It's Magic is a traveling show which features a variety of different magic acts every year. And whenever I get to see it, I am reminded of how much I love magic.

    nullMe with Milt Larson, founder of the Magic Castle in Hollywood.

    This year featured an amazing line up of magicians including Tom Ogden, Dan Birch, Danny Cole, Jason Latimer, Eric Buss, and Chuck Jones & Company. If you ever get a chance to see any of these acts I recommend you jump on it.

    The show was hosted by Ogden who kept the crowd laughing with his classic one-liners. The audience let out audible gasps as Birch wowed them with his dove act. Cole beautifully wove magic and music in his CD manipulation act. Latimer ended his set with his new laser act which, if you haven't seen, you should look up on youtube. The always zany Buss shot a bajillion snakes out of cans in his Snake Symphony routine. And amid flashy large-scale illusions, Chuck Jones did a very touching Floating Table routine with a little girl from the audience.

    nullFrom left to right: Danny Cole, Dan Birch, me, Tom Ogden, Eric Buss, Jason Latimer and Chuck Jones.

    My wife and I stumbled upon a variety show on our honeymoon in Hanover where we saw Danny Cole perform almost five years ago and Jason Latimer used to stop by our old retail shop when he was studying at UCSB. It was great to watch their acts again and see some things that were new to us. Live performance is a very important part of magic and so it's really great when we get to participate in it and support it.

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