Elastrix: The Encyclopedia Of Rubber-Band Magic Volume II by Stephen Minch
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii April, 1996)
There seems to have been an explosion of interest in recent years in rubber band magic.
Although Harry Lorayne's broken and restored rubber band trick, Snap!, first saw print
in 1969, I don't think I was alone in not taking much notice at the time; subsequently,
this trick has now become a popular standard among the fantastic elastic set. A flurry of
interest in the subject of rubber bands also occurred about the time Charlie Miller,
writing in the Magicana section of this magazine in roughly the late 1970s, referred to a
stunt of snapping a rubber band off the hand so that it would spin across the floor, slow
down, then reverse direction and return to the source. Later it came to light that Michael
Weber was the popularizer of the feat, and instructions came to the surface as well.
Subsequently, albeit in yet another completely unrelated development, several
inventors, including Sixten Beme (who would later produce a diabolical version of the
linking cards) released a version of the genuinely linking rubber bands, in which the
linked bands were given to the audience as a souvenir, objects permanently fixed in a
"magical state." I always thought that was a fabulous trick.
And I haven't given much of a hoot for rubber band magic since. Okay, okay, pipe down,
keep reading, hold your e-mail, hang on to your Number 19s.
I confess I don't quite understand the current fascination with rubber band magic. Yes,
the objects are ordinary, common, recognized. This is perhaps an advantage. They are
also undramatic and decidedly untheatrical by nature; this would be, in my book, a
disadvantage. As recognizably common objects, rubber bands also possess certain
recognizably common abilities that the entire audience is abundantly aware of—like the
fact that they stretch. Such audiences might suspect some connection between the
effects and this fact—and quite rightly so. A popular dodge, invented by contemporary
bandmaster Dan Harlan, is to wear a group of bands on one's wrist. While there are
many diabolical uses for this concept, I don't know many professional magicians who
wish to arrive at a gig looking like they work in a mail room. Finally, while there are
countless fine routines with rubber bands available, how much can one really subject an
audience to—unless it is an audience of fellow band fanciers?
I just don't get it. But that doesn't mean that I have anything against the practice, and in
fact, I've had the pleasure of seeing Joe Rindfleisch, a clever and enthusiastic young New
York magician, perform some of the effects contained in this new book, and I thought
they were pretty neat looking, honest to goodness, no kidding, I did, so help me. (Joe
also did some great card work for me. Okay, I admit it, I liked that stuff even better.)
There are 13 items in this neat little book, including linking effects, broken and restored,
a ring and rubber band penetration routine, bizarre penetrations (including through the
magician's neck and/or leg), a bit where a Senor Wences-type hand puppet eats a rubber
band like a string of spaghetti, and the production of an astounding quantity of small
rubber bands at the climax of a routine. Clearly there are some distinctive effects here;
Mr. Rindfleisch is not merely twanging the same old tunes.
There's not much more to say. If you're interested in the subject, then you will delight in
this book. The effects are offbeat, rely on cutting edge technique (much of which is
original) and the text is superbly written by the always lucid Stephen Minch. The text is
accompanied by 150 notably detailed and accurate illustrations by Greg Webb. For the
price asked, this is an incredible bargain, if you can tear yourself away from the newly
released Dan Harlan videotapes. (Mr. Harlan endorses Mr. Rindfleisch as perhaps his
own "favorite son" in a flattering if somewhat bizarre introduction to this book, one that
would read better if the parties involved were a half a century older, and possessed of a
modicum of restraint.) And if you're new to the subject, the original Elastrix, written
and illustrated by Abe Hurwitz and the inimitable Ed Mishell, is still available for a mere
$7.50. Therein you will discover a wealth of material, including the aforementioned
Snap! and even the penetrating rubber bands, recently performed by Luis de Matos on
the World's Greatest Magic II. Hey: What do I know?