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One Degree Review

Official Review

July 4th, 2016 11:06am
Reviewed by Dr. J. M. Ayala de Cedoz
This will be the shortest review ever: Buy this.

Okay, okay: I will tell you more and why you really should have this book on your shelf.

First off, this book was just officially added to the library at the Magic Castle, which says a lot. This is the first book by Magic John G., John Guastaferro. You may be initially familiar with him through his videos produced by L&L Publishing, Brainstorm Vols. 1 & 2 and Second Storm Vols. 1 & 2. John has also become quite well-known for his 'One Degree' philosophy which is the very title of this book, One Degree. This book is six years old already and it was published by Vanishing Inc. Magic and the hardcover recently sold out worldwide. They just released a softcover version which is a bit more inexpensive than the $50 hardcover. All of that being the case, it is hard to believe that there are no reviews of it except for blurbs and a very short (though very accurate) video review by Caleb Wiles.

So what is this book about? More than just magic effects. The whole premise behind it is to help you create your own personal brand of magic and teaching you how to create an experience for your audience. The term 'experience' where your audience is concerned gets tossed around a lot these days but few people really focus on that portion of performing.

The all-encompassing main idea in this book is to take the effects and routines that you do, take a good look at them and find out where you can make "one degree tweaks" in order to improve the effect, streamline it, get better reactions, make it easier to do or follow, etc. These changes do not have to be big or noticeable; they can be as simple as changing just a couple of words in your script, adding or removing a prop, substituting or even eliminating altogether one sleight used in the effect and much, much more. Two examples from the book would include his signature opener, Truth in Advertising which was first published as 'Optical Opener' in his Second Storm DVDs. The one degree change in this version is using an odd-backed card. Another example would be an effect for which he became quite renown and which created some big buzz among both laymen and magicians alike called Lost & Found. With that effect, simply adding a strap to one central prop cemented its connection to the plot and script and made the effect all that much stronger.

This book is full of hints and tips that will help you think about the different ways you can analyze your own magic to see where you can make these small but important and impactful changes. Furthermore it illustrates those pointers with various effects so that you can see how they are put to use. The way this book is laid out makes it very easy to read and it has a nice flow to it. After the introduction you will learn three different effects in one block, followed by an essay, then three more effects, another essay, three effects, an essay and so on. All in all there are 20 effects and 5 essays. The only time there is no essay between chapters is between chapters 6 and 7. All that is to say that each chapter except the last two consists of three effects and an essay.

The ways the effects are given are not only by plot but also by show order, to a degree. Each of the effects in each chapter can be performed stand alone or as a group because they all fit the plot. For example, the first chapter is titled Get Connected, in which the aim is to perform effects that help you and your audience get connected/acquainted with each other and get the dialogue going. The essay in the end focuses on how to structure your show/script/magic/etc. to create strong connections with the audience members, connections that go beyond just wowing them.

The second chapter is called Hands On Experience in which the focus is performing effects that involve the audience in different ways, often utilizing more than one person as well. This gets them to open up more, talk to each other and gets them involved in making the magic happen. It can also cause the magic to happen to them. This is achieved through having people select cards, hold cards or props or even use their hands as an impromptu table. The essay is called the Napkin Approach, a term with which some people may be familiar. It is well-known that some of the most recognizable business logos and philosophies were born on a napkin in a bar or restaurant, and even in the world of physics there is a saying revolving around "back of the envelope calculations", where things are mapped out on the back of the nearest envelope. Well this essay talks about creating your brand - more than just a logo. It discusses how to narrow down all the points of your show to determine what you want it to be and more. It is a great exercise that may trigger even more thoughts or ideas that will help you along the way.

The third chapter is Fourscore wherein the effects have four cards playing the part of their main protagonist. These four cards might be shown as one four-of-a-kind and transform into a different four-of-a-kind, they might change color or they might change places with another four cards. The essay for this chapter deals with something that a lot of magicians have had happen to them: mental block. This is something that you will experience at some point or another, especially when you are trying to write a script for a specific effect, creating your own effects, combining the strong points of multiple effects, etc. With all of that information stored in your head, how do you recall what you need to do to perform a certain effect? Someone asks you on the fly to " me a trick!" and you flub because you cannot seem to remember anything. John gives you various techniques for remembering and filing the information away for easier recall.

The fourth chapter is called Pocket Power in which the focus are effects that use your pockets in an effect or where the effect is compact enough to fit in your pocket. This chapter is about some bit of streamlining your magic and getting the maximum impact out of it. True to that line of thought, the essay is called Magic T.I.P.S., the T.I.P.S. standing for 'Tested Ideas and Practical Solutions', which comes from a short manuscript that he had previously published. It is mainly concerned with challenging yourself to ask questions about everything you do in your performances - asking "Why?" and "What if..." and what you say, what you do, how to better learn things about yourself through teaching others, etc. This is a great little essay which can very easily inspire you, and it should inspire you!

The fifth chapter is Worker's Toolbox in which the effects are fairly classic in plot and use some very common sleights with a different handling, so they accomplish the same thing but appear to be different. Two great examples are the two Overturned Counts. John teaches you how to do the Elmsley Count and the Ellis Stanyon Count (a 3-as-4 count) in a way that is different than the "usual" way of doing them. The essay is entitled Serendipity and is the shortest of them all; it focuses on intentionally creating those serendipitous moments in your magic and in your show which heighten the experience for your audience and participants. One thing to me that really resonated (and it is not the first time I have asked myself this question either, nor is John G. the first to pose it) is as to whether every effect in your show must have a magical moment. Indeed, do they even have to be magic? Something to ponder!

Chapter six is Tri-Umph with an emphasis on the 'UMPH'. Can you guess what the main effect here is? No? Shame on you! It is indeed a Triumph and this one is done almost entirely in the hands of the spectator, yet it still works out to a very powerful ending, which is backed up by a kicker color change. The color change is something else that magicians will likely know John for, and that is his Ballet Cut. While there is no essay this time, you could almost consider the part at the end, which further discusses the uses for the Ballet Cut, an essay in and of itself. It basically explores the various uses for the cut, which is a false cut of sorts that looks pretty and is not hard to do.

Chapter seven is called the Perfect Storm. The three effects in this chapter represent the effects that John considers among his best, and they are in fact among his most well-received effects and all of them would make stunning closers. These effects are great for reminding your audience of the experience that they shared with you and hopefully inspire them to take that experience and share it with others. They are also a great way to bring the connections that you discuss/discover/create in the first chapter full-circle.

The quality of this book is very good. The hardback cover is full color; the contents are very well laid out and abundantly illustrated with clear, easy to see black and white photographs. The text is laid out with the photos very nicely so that you do not have to constantly flip from one page to another to read text and look at a photo. There is one effect where you do have to do that, but it is not that bad. Something else that I really appreciated was that the page numbers are on the forward long edge of the pages, which makes finding a specific page very easy.

None of the effects in here are particularly knuckle-busting but everything is very well and thoroughly explained. Some of them will take some practice. The crediting and referencing in this book is absolutely fantastic - just incredible! Throughout the explanation of each effect, where applicable, John tells you where (and sometimes even when) he first published a version of an effect, or where/when he first saw it, he gives you the name of all the sleights and moves and at the end of the effect is a list of notes and credits that tell you where you can find all of those referenced effects, sleights and moves. Sometimes he even summarizes the key points of the effects in the notes as well. Also, where applicable John even gives you a script to work with. You can use his but it is obviously best to create your own script, and it is included more as a way to convey the timing of certain actions, or to put a certain emphasis on them.

I will not describe each of the effects here but I will mention that all of them are very commercial and very doable in the real world. Most if not all of the effects will play to both close-up crowds and to parlor crowds, and a few will even play on stage. I would even say that all of them could play on stage with the necessary adjustments, with perhaps one exception. Most of the material in the book has been presented elsewhere before but everything that appears in here, whether it is his own creation or his variation on an effect from someone else, have all had that 'one degree' tweak applied to them in one way or another. In that way, they are slightly different from any previous versions. Some of them even take effects that are traditionally heads down/table top effects to heads up/in the hands effects. One perfect example is his Ballet Stunner. I might also add that if you are familiar with any of the previous versions of the included effects, you may have the tendency to gloss over or skip the explanations in here - that would be a disservice to both you and the effects themselves.

If you are a fan of John Guastaferro you will no doubt see some familiar effects in the table of contents. Just a few of the stand-out effects in the book are his 'Truth in Advertising', 'Homage to Homing' (a VERY nice take on the Francis Carlyle 'Homing Card'), 'Behind-the-Back Triumph, 'Lost & Found' and his very popular 'Vino Aces'. These are all very strong effects and you could easily make them signature effects for yourself. Does that mean the other effects are not as strong? Not at all. As a testament to how strong, impactful and streamlined the magic of John Guastaferro is, I have heard a number of professionals (including Caleb Wiles in his video review, which can be found on YouTube) say that they perform more magic by John G. in their own professional repertoires than from any other magician. That says a lot! This is one of those books where there is something for everyone in its relatively short 135 pages (137 if you count the Epilogue and the Thanks).

I VERY, VERY highly recommend this book! 5 stars!

Available at your favorite Murphy’s Magic dealer

Product info for One Degree

Author: Guastaferro, John
Publisher: Vanishing Inc.
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $50.00
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Manufacturer's Description:

"I am excited about this book... This collection oozes style and substance from a true auteur."
- John Bannon (from the foreword)

John Guastaferro embodies everything one admires in a magician: he is smooth but not flashy, soft-spoken yet in control. And he is an expert at crafting intelligent magic tricks. With over 130 pages and 240 photos, this elegant, refined collection is comprised of 20 professional card routines and five essays. One Degree features some of the most artistic, refined close-up material to come around in ages.

One Degree explores the small, intentional improvements you can make to elevate the impact of your magic and help you connect more intensely with your audience. Too often we are led to believe that great results require massive changes. John Guastaferro believes that the extraordinary is closer than we think... just one degree away.

"John is unquestionably one of the best minds in magic today... a master of the art."
- Jack Carpenter

"It has been a long time since I read a book where with every routine and every utility move, I said to myself, 'That is going into my repertoire!' One Degree is such a book and belongs in every cardician's library."
- Allan Ackerman

"One Degree satisfies and illuminates to the nth degree!"
- Jon Racherbaumer

"Few creators in our field are so gifted that they leave the patina of their ingenuity on everything they touch-John Guastaferro belongs to this select lot. To see his work brought together in a book, one as beautiful as this, is a joy."
- David Regal

"Many authors try to articulate their inherent enthusiasm for their own creations, often with considerable vividness and opulence. The risk is that the ideas being conveyed fall short of the build-up. John Guastaferro has taken that risk in One Degree-and has come up a winner! Even if he had presented his creations unvarnished and ungarnished, they would have provided their own hype and excitement. Readers will quickly recognize that John, perhaps uniquely, has constructed his tricks, first and foremost, with his spectators in mind."
- J. K. Hartman

What’s Inside

Chapter 1: Get Connected

1. TRUTH IN ADVERTISING: A masterfully constructed “blank” deck opener.

2. EITHER OR: A fun Q&A session brings smiles to the room -and a devious setup.

3. PALM READER PLUS: Four cards amazingly change in your helper’s palm.

ESSAY: Strong Connections

Chapter 2: Hands On Experience

4. INTRO-VERTED: This impromptu Ace production was among 2009′s top ten effects from MAGIC magazine. Includes an must-see variations: Extra-verted and Technicolor Intro-verted.

5. MR. E. TAKES A STROLL: A strolling version of Jack Carpenter’s Mysterious.

6. RELAY: A fun and seemingly impossible revelation of three cards.

ESSAY: The Napkin Approach

Chapter 3: Fourscore

7. QUANTUM KINGS: A devious card to box opener.

8. IMPOSTOR: A dazzling four-card change sequence.

9. SOLO: In this approach to Open Travelers, the cards never come near the deck.

ESSAY: Mental Block

Chapter 4: Pocket Power

10. HOMAGE TO HOMING: A powerful, three-phase card to pocket routine.

11. POCKET CHANGE: A four-card pocket transposition with a surprising twist.

12. KEY CLUB: A quick mental effect you carry with you on your keychain.

ESSAY: Magic T.I.P.S.

Chapter 5: Worker’s Toolbox

13. OVERTURNED COUNTS: New approaches to the Elmsley and Stanyon Counts.

14. BIDDLELESS: A smart, lean and razor-sharp take on The Biddle Trick.

15. DUPLEX CHANGE: John’s deceptive two-card change. Includes many applications.

ESSAY: Serendipity

Chapter 6: Tri-Umph!

16. BEHIND THE BACK TRIUMPH: Your participant un-mixes the cards…behind their back!

17. BALLET STUNNER: John’s take on Paul Harris’ Color Stunner with a visual change and unexpected kicker.

EXTRA: More on the Ballet Cut

Chapter 7: Perfect Storm

18. LOST & FOUND: A signed card vanishes AND reappears inside a clear plastic luggage tag.

19. INTUITION and OUT OF THE BLUE: Many magicians call this two-phase packet effect the best trick of its kind…ever!

20. VINO ACES: A true presentation piece using four wine glasses for a classic Ace Assembly.

EPILOGUE: What’s the Effect?

Pages: 139 - Hardbound

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