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Holy COW Review

Official Review

June 17th, 2014 12:07pm
Reviewed by Dr. J. M. Ayala de Cedoz
Wow...I almost do not know where to even begin with this DVD.

For those of you unfamiliar with Chef Tsao and his work, there is a DVD that he put out a little while back that could be considered the introductory DVD to the technique used in some of the routines on this disc. It was called "The Arming System". While he does explain how it works on this DVD as a recap, the technique is covered much more thoroughly on his first DVD.

If you have read any of my other reviews in the past, chances are you know that I am a coin magic specialist and a huge fan of the genre. Having said that, the material on this DVD is NOT for beginners or immediate coin workers - even the advanced class will find this challenging. Chef Tsao is a great technical performer, but in this case the definition of 'technical' changes a bit.

First, if I were to rate this DVD on the nice visuals that some of the routines have, I would give it five stars hands down however, there is more to it than that.

Also, if I were to rate this disc solely upon the clarity of the explanations, it would also get five stars. In the explanations, multiple camera angles and shots are used, as well as repeated duplication of certain moves just to show you that they can be done and done reliably. They also have a system showing two hands and how many of each coin should be in each hand throughout a particular effect - this is handy because some of the moves at first might be confusing to some people, so this is a great way to do a position check. Also if you choose to use them, there are captions available during the explanations and certain performance segments that help aid the explanations. None of the explanations are spoken - they are all visual and if you are using them, textual via captions. Everything is very clearly explained and easy to understand.

With the exception of one or two effects, all of the material is performed by Chef one-on-one with a camera rather than a live audience. That speaks to the nature of the effects on here - they are not at all practical for most real-world performance venues except where you have one or perhaps up to three people directly in front of you and that is it. Most of them are very angle-sensitive but, like I said if you are performing head on for one to three people, you will fry them!

One of my other biggest issues with some of the moves on this DVD is that they are ridiculously telegraphic - that is they almost scream out that you are doing 'something' - though an audience will not necessarily be able to tell just what that 'something' is.

As I alluded to earlier, the material on this disc is HARD, but doable. Nothing on here uses gimmicks of any kind. I am an advanced coin practitioner and I had some challenges to overcome in doing some of the moves as described. They are all possible, but one in particular will be a challenge because it depends on the physicality of your own body, and with that, some people out there may find it nigh-on impossible to do. Once you watch the DVD you will know which move/technique I am referring to.

There are some excellent moves on this DVD and some very nice moments of magic that do not have any suspicious moves attached to them - these include a great and visual color change of a coin in a three-coin fan/spread, a transposition idea, a couple of very clean Spellbound changes and some nice ideas that would add even more strength to the already powerful CoinONE routine by Homer Liwag.

The Holy Cow Change, the Holy Cow Blur and the Holy Cow Illusion all use the main technique which is taught first thing on the DVD. The Holy Cow Blur can be done without the technique and is a very nice, open vanish and reproduction of a coin. This one happens with a bit of speed.

Holy Cow Illusion is a slow-motion, open-handed production and vanish of a coin. Very nice, very clean and in this case, it uses the Holy Cow Blur for a complete vanish at the very end, but in my opinion it is anti-climactic. HC Illusion is simply beautiful.

Chef's Coin 2.0 is a very visual vanish and transposition of one coin, a sort of coin flurry. If coin flurries are your thing you will like this one, but to me there is too much back-and-forth action with the hands and arms. It is just too contrived. If you pulled a few of the sequences that Chef teaches in this one, you can put them into your own coin flurry and it will look very magical, but not all of them are suitable without cleaning them up.

Invisible Move and Invisible Move 2.0 are interpretations on the Homer Liwag CoinONE effect - an open and visual handling of coins across. Invisible Move is okay and there is a particularly nice cleanup for those of you using Deep Back Clip. Invisible Move 2.0 is better. Both versions need to be performed slowly so the audience can appreciate what happens from phase to phase. In my opinion, there are better and cleaner sleights to use in both of these versions than some of the ones that are taught. Overall, they are both very visual.

Invisible Hole is one of the best things on this DVD. This is a very nice and clean Coins Through Glass (read: drinking glass). This one did not have any discrepant moves and was very visual; it almost reminds me of the visual penetrations you get with the Charlie Justice Prohibition 2.0 if you are familiar with that. I will say for some there is one move that you may want to change, depending on your comfort and skill level and it will not change the appearance if you choose to do so.

Silver Centipede was performed for a group of three or four spectators. He moved so fast through the effect that the magic was practically lost on the group - they almost looked like they were watching a tennis match with the back-and-forth action. At a couple of points, one of them had to shout out, "Look, they changed!" Despite that, I think the idea here is very valuable and would be better suited to a transposition than a back-and-forth color change, which is how it is presented. This does have one very visual and magical color change of the last coin in a coin fan. There are some other coin effects where this method would work very well.

COW Spellbound is exactly that and while there are some very nice and clean changes, the whole thing was very rapid. This handling would also benefit from slowing it down and that would make it look less like jugglery and more like magic.

There is a hidden Easter Egg on the DVD that will lead you to one extra bonus effect. It is not really that hard to find. The bonus effect is called Burst Bomb and in my opinion it is probably the most versatile idea on here. It is presented as an effect and it is pretty much a tabled version of a rather quicker version Miser's Dream except you start with two coins instead of nothing. I immediately thought of three or four other coin effects/routines that could use this idea. One example is the "Free & Unlimited Coinage of Silver" by David Roth and even some parts of the Goshman Salt Shaker routine - you could use this to get way, WAY ahead.

Having said that, for me personally the repetitive music used throughout the DVD was annoying, so I finished watching the disc without the sound on.

The two last negatives for me was that the material on this disc falls into that unfortunate category of looking more like juggling than it does magic. That is not to say that some of the moves and sequences are not very magical looking, just that what surrounds them and looks like juggling actually takes away that feeling.

The other thing that annoyed me was the crediting: Each routine was credited to magicians W, X, Y, Z, etc. but he did not say which magician sleights/moves A, B, C, D, etc. came from. While the given credits were better than nothing, I would have like to have seen more specific credits given to those performers.

I just have to get something else off of my chest: Some of the clean-ups and the execution of certain sleights/moves were done at the incorrect moments from a technical point of view. If you have really studied the psychology of misdirection and redirection of attention, you will see what I am talking about and where it applies here. Though this is the case, Chef Tsao makes it work - it would just bother the crap out of me if I did it that way because of the way I work.

For all of its downsides in the technical aspects, this DVD has excellent production quality. The sound was a bit loud, but in the few performances where he actually speaks the music was not overpowering at all. The video and audio were both clear and crisp and the ad copy is accurate - as well it should be, considering that it is not very descriptive at all.

If you have seen and practiced moves from CoinONE by Homer Liwag, SICK by Ponta the Smith and Monster by Mott Sun, you will be familiar with or will recognize many of the moves used on here. Also, if you are a fan of Dr. Sawa or Michael Vincent, you will recognize some of their work here as well.

If you watch the trailer for this DVD, you will see what is presented here. If you think you are up for the challenge and have the ability to swap certain sleights and moves for others to help clean up some of the ones given, I think you will get something out of this DVD. Even if you do not like all of the routines as a whole, many of them have some very clean and very useful moves/sleights that can be used with other effects and routines.

3.5 stars.

Available at your favorite Murphy’s Magic dealer

Product info for Holy COW

Author: Tsao, Chef
Publisher: Magic Soul
Average Rating:  (2)
Retail Price: $35.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

"It's a very exciting DVD. I got a lot of inspiration from it."
Ponta The Smith
"HOLY COW!! Freaking' Crazy Man!"
"Visually dazzling yet practical. Loyal fans and players of coin tricks, DO NOT MISS OUT ON THIS MASTERPIECE!"

About Arming

3 Tricks
Holy Cow Change
Holy Cow Blur
Holy Cow Illustration

6 Routines
Chef's Coin 2.0
Invisible Move
Invisible Move 2.0
Invisible Hole
Silver Centipede
C.O.W Spellbound

Burst Bomb (Easter Egg)

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