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John Carney Presents Al Baker's Lightning Pull by John Carney

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii August, 1997)

John Carney is quite simply one of the finest sleight-of-hand magicians and thinkers of his generation. An accomplished artist who retains the love of an amateur and the wide- eyed curiosity of the perpetual student, his work is always a joy and an inspiration, whether it be in his writings, his lectures, and never more of a revelation than in his exquisitely detailed performances. If you haven't yet purchased and carefully studied his book, Carneycopia, then go away and don't come back until you've done so.

In the Genii , April 1996, I reviewed a fascinating manuscript that Mr. Carney had assembled entitled Torn and Restored [page 208], a sort of works-in-progress collection of brainstorm fodder for the thinking, creative magician who finds it more interesting to use another's incomplete but imaginative thinking as a jumping-off point, rather than someone's completed, end-of-the-line thinking as a dead-end point. While the manuscript at hand—created for a special lecture the author was invited to present recently at FISM—is not quite so experimental in nature, it bears a resemblance in that it is full of inspirational ideas that will reap benefits to those willing to seriously invest time and energy and thought in pursuing and bringing them to fruition.

The manuscript briefly describes a utility pull created by the brilliant innovator, Al Baker. While this Baker conception was described in his wonderful book, Pet Secrets, Mr. Carney traces the evolution of the handkerchief pull (famously used for the visible vanish of a silk from a glass cylinder) back to Bautier de Kolta and then forward through a number of other names and contributors until the path brings us to Baker. After describing the design of the basic device—the work of an evening, if that, with some nylon strapping material, Velcro, ribbon, elastic and monofilament—Mr. Carney then describes the results of his extensive research with this prop. The major issue he addresses is the challenge of how to get the handkerchief threaded through the loop of monofilament (that typically begins looped over the performer's thumb) in full view of the audience without arousing suspicion. As Mr. Carney points out, this critical problem is virtually never addressed in any meaningful detail throughout the literature; the practitioner is generally left to his or her own devices. Mr. Carney describes his finessed handling for achieving the desired end, and also applies this—very cleverly, I might add—to the classic effect of the visible vanish from the glass, whereby the silk almost threads itself through the loop.

"I like visual magic. There is no question that something impossible has happened. The effect is immediate, flashing by before the brain can kick into analytical or critical thinking. There is no time to contemplate with logic what is already occurring. The affect of the effect has already been felt. Unencumbered by ego, you effortlessly experience magic."—John Carney_John Carney Presents Al Baker's Lightning Pull_

The author also describes several other effects achievable with this device, beyond that of the aforementioned visible envanishment. A deep thinker when it comes to misdirection, Mr. Carney points out that indirect applications of secret devices and methods are generally superior to direct ones, via the use of time misdirection and other principles of subtle misdirection. Hence an effective delayed approach to a silk vanish from the hands is described, along with a slow motion handling. The booklet concludes with a method for an instantaneous color change.

Several years back Mr. Carney performed an exquisite close-up silk routine at the FFFF convention, which probably fooled most observers badly (this writer included). One element of that more elaborate routine was based on this device. This is the best kind of mechanical device, one that is intricately intertwined with and dependent upon sleight of hand and mis-directive skills, and only a complete synthesis—and much practice and personalized experimentation—will yield the desired results. Those possessed of such talents and commitment will be returned with a means of achieving deeply beautiful and deceptive magic not readily duplicated by other means.

8 - 1/2" X 11" stapled; 15 pages; 11 illustrations; 1997; Publisher: Catman Press