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Secrets of Invisibility Review

Official Review

March 4th, 2003 2:59pm
Reviewed by Brad Henderson
This review will be in two parts, the first will detail what I feel is a glaring misrepresentation in Cody's work and an attempt to mislead the historical record of magical creation. The second will be a review of the material itself. If credits, and historical accuracy are not important to you, then skip the first part.

Cody Fisher either has no understanding of what it means to copyright an effect, or he is the rare possessor of a magic time machine. In Secrets of Invisibility Cody S. Fisher claims to have used the "completely 'new work'" he is about to reveal for over 10 years in his professional career. Is this true, or is this some outlandish claim intended to give his work credit it doesn't deserve?

[I was a little suspect of this given his crediting record on his Unforgettable Coin Magic tape (2000). Two of those routines were learned by Cody circa 1997-8, yet on the video he claims that they have been a staple of his professional working repertoire for over 10 or 12 years. You do the math.

(For the record, Theft Proof Purse was shared with him by Marcus Eddy, one of Curtis Kam's students in or around 1996. Marcus was disappointed to see Cody taking one of his signature pieces and co-opting it for his own.

Cody approached Gordan Prince regarding Gordan's work on the Copper silver brass routine, confessing he has never done anything with it. Gordan gave Cody his routine for publication which never made it into MUM, but a handling of which ended up on Cody's tape. This was 1998.)]

Well, let's look at the facts. The material is copywritten 1996, though released in 2001/2002. Since 1996 is the only date anywhere in the book we are left to our own recollections as to when this "long anticipated" tome (if a tome can only be 7 pages in length) was made available for sale.

Here, Cody's time machine comes in handy. Though the work is backdated to 1996 he credits a book which was published in 1997. He himself gives the date of 1997. Now, you tell me, how can a work allegedly written in 1996 credit something that was not in print until a year later? Further, the back page offers a glimpse into Cody's MUM column, a column not begun until the year 2000.

Cody credits Peter Hinrichs as the inspiration for "Totally Invisible." Assuming the 1996 date is accurate, Cody and Peter would have had to work together in 1986. This is not true. (It would have put Cody at the ripe, ole age of 13. Interestingly, a newspaper article reprinted on Cody's site - dated 2001- states Cody has been performing magic for 9 years, making his entree into the world of magic merely 1992.) Cody did not move to Austin, Texas and make contact with Peter until around 1995 (again referencing a second article reprinted on Cody's website). If 2001 is the REAL date of publication then their work would have occurred circa 1991, again a discrepancy. (see note at bottom of page)

The answer? Cody has backdated his works either intentionally to mislead the historical record, or simply needs to do a little more research as to the nature of copyrights before he begins slapping dates on his magical offerings.

Now many of you may think this is nit picking. So be it. I however am skeptical of any claim offering something "totally new." I find it disingenuous for the claimant to make such an offer and then backdate his work to create the illusion that the idea was in existence long before it ever was.

But lets get to the material itself.

$15. Eight pages of actual text. One of which is purely introductory and is basically an ad for the material you have already paid for. Three of which are reprinted from his previous booklet Required Reading.

Cody's claim:

"When you ask any magician to name one of the five most incredible card tricks, it is almost certain that the Invisible Deck will be included. Ironically enough, the same holds true for laymen, as far as card tricks they most remember. I think the reason for this is the incredible simplicity of the plot. A named card is the only one that is facing the opposite direction in the entire deck. just doesn't get any better than this."

And Cody goes on to prove that it won't.

First let's look at his claim and then how his theory turns into practice.

While it is true that most magicians will name the invisible deck as one of the most incredible card tricks, I do not believe that this is a good thing. You see in my mind, magic by its nature should be unique and special. The fact that so many people are doing the same trick only makes what we do mundane. If you are performing in a venue that would have a magician, chances are you are catering to a clientele that would go to such venues (by definition). If they are seeing you, chances are they have seen someone else like you. Why would you want to invite comparison by performing a trick, however strong, which more than likely they have ALREADY SEEN?

Now, if you could honestly say that you did it better than anyone else in the world, I would agree if and only if the things which you did differently clearly conveyed to your audiences that you are somehow different and better than the rest. Subtleties that may appeal to other magicians are often lost on laypeople, and you are just another guy doing that invisible deck thing. For example, Bill Malone garners a standing ovation with the Invisible Deck with his corporate work. however, Bill is doing something different.

Next, Cody claims that it is ironic that most laypeople feel the same. By irony I assume he means an "incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result." See, I would think the tricks a professional magician would deign as most incredible would be the very ones they felt had the greatest impact on an audience. But that's just me. Or maybe he just listens to too much Alanis Morisette.

Cody then lauds the simplicity of the Invisible Deck plot, while going on to describe the effect of the Ultra Mental Pack. The Invisible Deck plot as attributed to Don Alan embodies the byplay and handling of making the deck invisible (in a faux magical manner) only to amaze the spectator by revealing that their pantomime actions actually caused a physical effect.

How can you be sure you are bringing completely "new work" to the table when you don't know the history behind the old work?

But, Cody is right. It is the simplicity of both effects which make them memorable. One deck. Freedom of choice. No outside properties which cannot be examined before and after.

So, why does Cody muck everything up in his first trick by adding a bag into play (unexaminable at the end), and a total of FOUR decks into the 2nd and 3rd effects? So much for simplicity, eh?

Invisibility: Two volunteers, one paper bag and a deck of cards. Spec places hands inside a bag, opens card case, shuffles cards, turns one card over, reseals box, gives bag to second volunteer, volunteer returns to stage.

Ok, if you hate your audience, make them do this in front of their peers. Talk about pressure. It's enough to have an audience member shuffle cards on the spot let alone these physical gymnastics. Anyone who has ever done one of those tricks where the spectator has to cut cards behind their back or under the table, sight unseen, knows what pressure it is on these poor people. To make them undergo this kind of challenge is, in my opinion, just cruelty. But, again, this is only my opinion.

Bag and second spectator return to stage. Card is selected by audience in piece meal fashion (red or black/high low, etc.) MAGICIAN reaches into bag, removes deck. Cards spread, one card reversed the named card. Everyone forgets about the bag.

What Cody has basically done is taken a beautiful Bill Goldman effect based on subtlety and psychology and a Bob Fitch ruse for a non gimmicked Ultra Mental deck plot, and combined them into a Frankensteinian dealer's item. In the original Goldman effect, one audience member takes a deck, shuffles it, and removes one card placing it in their pocket. This occurs before the show.

During the show a second spectator is allowed to name a card they have thought of. It turns out that that was the card removed by the first spectator. It is a thing of beauty to watch performed.

The Fitch handling uses a topit and clever choreography to effect the switch of packs. Cody relies on a bag and a sleeve instead. That's "new work?"

Of course there are some subtle touches. Cody has his signature on the box of cards and tells his audience its his "signature trick." Then when he pulls out the deck at the end, he refers back to the signature. When a subtlety is slapped in your face, it ceases to become subtle.

There is one other touch which occurs at the beginning which I think somehow is supposed to cement the effect at the end. I honestly do not believe anyone but the most observant of magicians would even remember this ever occurring, and those would probably see through the ruse as just that.

The beauty of the Ultra Mental plot is that the prediction (i.e box of cards) is in full view the entire time. Knowledgable reader's will also note that Eddie Fields used to remove the deck from the box, show the one card reversed, and then rebox the cards to keep everything free from guile. Again, one box, full view, hands off. This touch improves the effect, it makes things more fair and puts more props out in the OPEN.

Cluttering things up with shuffles and a bag and all this covert play only detracts from the gorgeous simplicity. If they can't see it, then you're cheating.

(In the interest of historical accuracy, it should be noted that Don Alan used a small paper bag in his performances of the Invisible Pack. However, he was able to preserve the simplicity of the effect by insuring it was never seen as anything of importance. In fact, it was mainly a gag device to effect the vanish and reappearance of the deck, while always allowing the spectators to know full well that the deck was right there in front of them. It was handled before AND AFTER by the spectators and the spectator could remove the deck from them bag themselves.)

Totally Invisible:

Spectator names any card. You remove deck from your packet. One card is seen to be reversed. Its their card.

Standard Ultra Mental right? Well, no. Cody has figured out a way so you can show both sides of the pack! (Just think, now all those times laypeople asked to see the other side can be finally put to rest. You have had laypeople ask to see the other side haven't you? Really? Huh, me neither.)

The price? You need to carry 4, yes FOUR, decks of cards on you. PLUS, you can't have the deck in play when the card is named.

See, this makes it a loser to me. If you pull the deck out of your pocket AFTER the card is named, whose not to say you don't have 52 decks secreted all over your body. Plus, when you spread the cards only 2 suits will ever be visible. This to me is much more damning to the observant viewer than not seeing the back of the spread. You see, we have the principle behind the Gestalt learning theory working for us. The audience will assume the backs are on the other side based on experience. Plus when you show the one card with the back reversed, it only fills in the perceptual gap further.

John Carney has written on this, and he's right. Magic is only deceptive when we allow the audience to participate in the deceptive process themselves. It's the gaps which they fill in on their own volition that create the difference between belief and conviction. Designing those well placed gaps is just as reliable and usually much more effective a means to deception, than showing them every little detail and making them a passive accept-or (or deny-or) of the state of affairs.

But what about the deck itself? Well, I just jerry-rigged one together and I have to say it looks clunky. You see, without tipping the gaff, you are no longer dealing with roughed pairs of cards but something thicker. In my eyes, it shows.

Now, my mother taught me never to offer criticism unless you offer something constructive in its place. In 1994 I shared my revolutionary Brainwave/ Ultra Mental deck concept with Max Maven at the Mystery School we both attended. I was humbled to find out that my revolutionary idea had a predecessor in the work of Peter Warlock, nevertheless I thought I would share it with you.

Brainwave deck. Double face cards roughed to double BACK cards. Two decks required or a minor equivoque choice at the beginning. Spread through the cards face up showing the reversed card. Now lift the hands and reveal all backs and the one named card showing . This is the same discrepancy as used for the Mental Photography deck. Manufacturing rights reserved. But if you have a use for it, please make one for yourself. Of course, you'll have to figure out some code for finding the selection based on the shown face, or have the double facers custom made.

As I said in the beginning. Why do a trick you know everyone else does unless it would be clear to your paying audience that what you are doing is different and better? Well, the only way for laypeople to know that showing both sides of the deck is "revolutionary" would be if you tipped the method everyone else uses. Now, who would do that?

Ok, back to Secrets of Invisibility.

Total Invisibility: You will notice that this trick is never described in any of the ads for this booklet. Why? Well, it's the obvious combination of the first two effects. Instead of switching in an Ultra Mental Pack (via the bag), you switch in one of Cody's redundant four.

Hmmm. $15. 8 pages. 1 introductory ad. 3 reprint. 2 describing the combination of the first two effects (could have been done in one paragraph, as it was, but then expanded on), 3/4 page describing how to make the other 3 gaffed decks which are the same as the first, just with different suits. (In fact, it is cut and pasted each repetition with only the names of the suits changed to protect the innocent.)

We close where we began, the introduction: "[Invisibility] was the most talked-about effect in the notes and is always a real crowd-pleaser at magic club, lectures, and conventions." (emphasis added)

"This booklet also introduces "Totally Invisible" and Total Invisibility". These routines present very special handlings for the Invisible Deck that I usually reserve for magic conventions." (emphasis added).

Real world material. Nope.

Layperson appeal. Doubt it.

Worth it. Don't think so.

1/2 star - In the event of a terrorist attack you could burn the paper for fuel. But it's only 8 pages, so don't expect it to last long.

(For the record, lest anyone think I have a personal vendetta against Cody Fisher I will disclose that he and I do live and work in the same market. I have never felt he was my competition, however, since we are completely different in magical philosophy and the clientele we pursue. Also, as I have little to no interest in marketing to the magic community I feel I can be completely unbiased in regard to his offerings. If anyone should think that I have been overly critical or unfair I am happy to either provide more information as to my evaluations or invite you to provide your own review.)

Product info for Secrets of Invisibility

Author: Fisher, Cody
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $15.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

This is Cody's long awaited work on the Invisible Deck. These routine have fooled top names in magic and have never been in print until now. You will learn the most deceptive, most diabolical routines for the INVISIBLE DECK ever created. These notes contain:

"Invisibility"-A killer stand up version of Invisible Deck that was first published in Cody's lecture notes "Required Reading". Knowing how the Invisible Deck works only makes this routine more amazing! This is one of the most popular items on Cody's lecture tours.

"Totally Invisible"-This is the one you have been waiting for! Ten years in the making...Cody has invented a New Invisible deck! This really has to be seen to be believed. You will fool yourself with this version...because the deck can be shown on BOTH sides! (Note: Deck is NOT Included...These Are Merely Instructions On How To Make The Deck. It's Not That Hard)

"Total Invisibility"-This is Cody's most deceptive version of the Invisible Deck. This is the one that Cody uses at magic conventions to fool some of the Top Names in the business. This is truly a reputation making effect!

"Your presentation & handling for the Invisible Deck is the most clever and commercial I have ever seen." --Johnny Thompson

"Your version of the Invisible Deck is absolutely PHENOMENAL!" --Marc DeSouza

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