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Original magic is like a fruit salad.

While in most part the magic community in the Philippines is composed of likable folks, it also has some members who have excellent talents in being annoying.

My pet peeve is Filipino magicians who demand originality even from the greenest beginning performers. Aspiring artists in other fields don’t seem to go through the “you ought to be original” crucible when they were just starting out.  No seasoned singing artists would tell a neophyte singer, “Here are seven notes.  Go ahead write your own song.”

In the magic field, the condition is harsher. By hints or by blunt words, beginners get all sorts of exhortations to be original.

The trouble with waving around the originality stick is that it requires the person carrying it to be what he says others should be. Alas, this is not always the case. Thus we see a lot of pontificating. We hear a lot of copycats calling fellow copycats “unoriginal”. We watch the sorry spectacle of magicians spitting in the wind and catching saliva in their faces.

If memory serves me right, it was American short story writer O. Henry who once claimed (humorously, of course) that all Christmas stories were already written, therefore, one can’t write a Christmas story anymore without repeating other authors.

I suspect the same thing is true with magic. There is only a limited number of magical plots. Any effect “invented” today can only end up as a rehash or an improvement of older effects or inspired by older versions. Thus magic tricks today look mostly like fruit salads —- “a little Vernon here, a little Marlo there, mix, write an e-book or video tape it, release it online, and, Viola!, an original creation.”

Or is it really?

In my book fruit salad is not original, no matter how you mix the ingredients or which latest, state-of-the-art, microchip-powered salad mixer you invented and use to mix. The hodgepodge you come up with is still not original. Chances are, somebody, somewhere, eons ago had mixed his salad that way already.

I have an underdeveloped sense of humor, but I find this line extremely funny: This is an effect with my original presentation. The magician then struts around, thinking he is original, just because he gave a copied effect an original presentation.

The truth is, no matter how one embellishes a copied material with original presentation (he can use his own music, add choreography, change the patter, redesign the props, etc.), the original presentation doesn’t absolve his copying the material. He may be a stylish, innovative or creative copycat, but not original.

To make this point clear, let me use a song instead as an example. A singer may want to sing My Way in an innovative way. He may change the tempo of the song. He may want to jazz it. Or rap it. Or recite it as a poem. Or sing it while standing on his head. Or sing it with his foot in his mouth. He can sing it a hundred other ways, in his unique style—but since the material is not his, he is still not original.

In the same manner, a magician can do Vernon’s “Twisting the Aces” with his tongue, Harbin’s Zig Zag under water, and “Cut and Restored Rope’ in dozens of innovative ways, but if the material is not his originally, his attempt at innovative presentation does not absolve his copying the material. It doesn’t also make the material original.  His creativity may just make his presentation different, but the material is still not his own original creation.

Now don’t quote me on that.  These thoughts are not original with me. I picked it  from somewhere and parroted it.

Stay magical,