Thoughts on Follow-Thru

Do you know what I take the most pride in? It's not having the greatest blog ever written. It's not my award-winning magic book. It's not how I'm redefining the performance of magic for the 21st century. Yes, all this is so obviously true that it goes without saying and isn't really open for debate, but these aren't the things I'm most proud of.

I'm proud that I said, "I'm going to write a book," and then I wrote one. Then I said, "I'm going to put out a magazine," and the 6th of the month it always shows up in subscriber's mailboxes. And I'm proud that, for a couple of years now, I've written this site on the exact schedule I've said I would. 

One of my favorite stories in magic is the story of the Braue Notebooks. Basically, this dope, Jeff Busby, took a bunch of money to release a series of publications from the notebooks of Fred Braue (old-time magic guy). He took 10s of thousands of dollars from people and said he would release 15 issues over the course of a year and a half. This was in 1985. He ended up releasing 5 volumes that year. ("Volumes" makes it sound like a hardcover encyclopedia. I'm pretty sure it was spiral bound, 1980s Kinko's quality.) Then he stopped! And then—almost as a goof—he releases another volume in 1992, then one in 96 and one in 97. Then he stops again! And this time we can assume it's for good, given that he died in 2014. Presumably, buried with the last 7 volumes he promised.

I get it. Follow-thru can be tough. That's why I'm proud of keeping on schedule here. I try to put myself in Busby's situation, with that huge obligation hanging over my head; owing people products for money they gave me ten years ago that is now long gone. That must have been a rough way to go through life. Or, maybe he was a genuine shithead and didn't really care. I don't know. 

As I said, follow-thru is a bitch. On his facebook page, Craig Petty launched something called Project 365 where he was going to post a new magic video every day for a year. He didn't last 3 weeks. He claimed he stopped because it was making people look at him more as a magician than a public speaker. Like, yeah, no shit. That's what posting a magic video every day will do. Who could have guessed? The truth is, he didn't stop because the videos were just so good and so popular that it was overshadowing his speaking career. He stopped because people weren't watching and commenting on the videos. When you're staring down the barrel of 49 more weeks of no one acknowledging what you're doing, follow-thru is a real M.F.'er, even for a guy who calls himself The U.K.'s #1 Motivational Magician. 

While I enjoy watching people crash and burn when it comes to the commitments they've made, I enjoy it more when they see it through.

One project that's been going on for a few years now that has definitely earned my respect is Dan Harlan's video series of his reinterpretations of every trick in the Tarbell Course

Dan is now 80-something videos into this project. He releases a new video every couple weeks. In each video he teaches everything from one of the chapters of Tarbell. He not only teaches the items, but he updates them, offers new handlings, modernizes the context, and performs them in front of a live audience. This is a crazy amount of work to commit to.

You can say, "Well, of course he's committed to the project, he's getting paid." But that doesn't make it somehow less of an achievement. He's getting paid because people are finding value in it.

"Well I can find the original Tarbell course for free online. I'm not going to pay for a video version of it." That's fair, but it is 100 years old. Magic methods have evolved, as has society. It's perhaps an unfortunate part of the history of our craft that we don't want to address, but it's worth noting that lesson 96 in the Tarbell course is entitled, Magic with Negroes, and features a trick called, That Ol' Picaninny Hoodoo.


Okay. I made that up. But to be fair, you almost believed me. You were like, "Hmmm... yeah that seems possible." So the point kind of stands that it may serve us to re-examine these routines from a modern perspective.

The truth is, I've only seen a couple of these, so this isn't a review. (I'm a completist, and since I didn't subscribe early on, to catch up now isn't financially feasible.) From what I've read, it's been pretty well received. But I'm not even talking about quality. I'm just talking about effort and follow-thru. Honestly, it would take a lot of effort to do this project poorly. So the fact that it's had favorable reviews only makes it more impressive. And I just want to recognize what he's doing because I think the commitment to the project deserves recognition.

One of my favorite examples of follow-thru in magic is still Casshan Wallace's goal of creating a new magic trick every day for a month. Then going on to create a new magic trick (and shoot a video of it) every hour for a full day. I originally wrote about this two years ago, and thankfully it's all still up on his youtube channel.

I love Casshan's style. Half cool, half stupid.