Posted on Leave a comment

The Magic Memories (79)

Hello everyone!

Today’s topics are: Dissertations with a magic subject; Fred Kaps on theory; More Complete Giobbi; Part 2 of the List of Tricks & Bits From Sharing Secrets; Jesus Etcheverry RIP.

These are The Magic Memories 79, gone online Sunday, July 3rd, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

Magic Dissertations

Ignatios Vakalis, who is a Professor of Math/Comp. Sc. , at California Polytechnic State University, wrote in to ask about a statement I made in the trick called “Stickler” in my book Stand-up Card Magic (p. 242).

There I write, right at the beginning: “In 2002, a 220-page dissertation was written about my version of the Card Stab. It received the academic honor of summa cum laude. This is no guarantee the trick is good, but it may be unique in its academic credentials.”

The photo below shows its cover, and to see the table of content of Beccaro, Manuela – Tesi di laurea (2002), CLICK HERE.

This is now twenty years ago, hard to believe 🙂 The way this came about is that I got invited by the Circolo Amici Della Magia (CADM) in Torino, Piedmont, Italy, to perform and lecture at one of their yearly conventions.

This club is an amazing one, as they have over 300 members, and that’s more than the whole Magic Circle of Switzerland! They like me so much, that they made me a Lifetime Member, and since then I visit at least once a year, usually in October or November at truffle time (what a coincidence…), do a chat on Friday evening on any subject, and a full-day Masterclass on the Saturday (I have reported about this and my extended visit to Piedmont in The Magic Memories 49).

Manuela Beccaro, the girl friend of a club member, was going into her last year at the University of Vercelli, where she studied literature and linguistics at their Department of Humanities. Briefly: When she saw me do my Card Stab it occurred to her that she could do her Master paper on the linguistic structures in the art of deception as used by a performing magician. Fortunately, the performance was taped, and from there she went.

The book depicted above also contains a DVD with my show (in Italian), but please don’t ask me where to find it, as I have lost touch with the lady, but I think she’s on Facebook…

Rumination – On Theory

Recently I paid a visit to my friend Werner Nussbaumer. He’s now 94 years old, absolutely clear in his head, and is determined to get to Vernon’s age (98), or more 🙂

In the photo below you can see Werner and me after a lovely lunch, and Werner performing a complex coin routine, a combination of Slydini, Vernon and some of his own vintage – all classics, all great.

 

Werner is a past president of the Magischer Ring Schweiz (MRS), the Swiss magic circle, and knew (almost) every magician of his generation.

Each time we meet, that’s twice a year, he gives me material he no longer wants to keep. In the past he was so kind as to gift me with a large part of his magic library, and on our most recent get-together he gave me three boxes with various kinds of publications, one of which with old Lecture Notes.

Now, Lecture Notes are a literary sub-genre within the ample panorama of the magic literature, and a most interesting one. Although I’m no collector, as I’ve mentioned several times, having been the organizer of almost all the lectures for my magic club here in Basel, I have assembled hundreds such writings, some mere “notes” in the true sense of the term, others actual “books” (the UNESCO defines a book as being any non-periodical publication with more then 50 pages, excluding the covers…). All of them, though, make for a great resource of great minds (well, most…), and always great memories.

Among the Lecture Notes Werner presented me was the original edition Ken Brooke published of Fred Kaps’ lecture he gave in London in 1973. For your reading pleasure I extracted the very first page, which deals with some of the insights gained by this World Champion of Magic. To read the one-page article CLICK HERE.

If you are interested, there is quite a bit of material out there about Fred Kaps, and which is not on the Seeing is Believing DVD set, e.g., the audio interview produced by Martin Breese in 1986, It’s So Simple – Fred Kaps, or the interviews done by Pat Page and Cy Endfield (!) and which can be found in the Pat Page Audio Archive

More Complete Giobbis

What started out as nothing more than a humorous remark is becoming a “running gag”: Ian Kent was the first to send in a photo with his collection of my publications. Meanwhile I have assembled a folder of lovely photos.

Below is the one Roland Heuer from Stuttgart sent in, now a retired professional violinist who, together with his wife Ikuko, herself an accomplished violinist, worked in the orchestra of the Staatsoper Stuttgart, nothing less 🙂

“Musician” and “Magician” not only make a “minimal pair”, a term from linguistics, they also have a very special mutual understanding, as they both express themselves through an instrument.

And in the photo below you can see Michele Isenburg’s “Complete Giobbi”. Michele is an engineer who lives in Milan, Italy, and on his display you can see three spiral-bound publications, all PDFs which he had printed and bound, and that’s what I do, too, with my favorite PDFs, otherwise I hardly read them… The leather wares are all made in Florence and go with the trick published in Card College and in Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction; can you guess which tricks?

List of Tricks & Bits From Sharing Secrets – Part 2 (11-20)

Part 1 of this list brought in a few positive reactions, so, encouraged by it here is Part 2, which catalogues the “practical” (as opposed to “theoretical”) items from Sharing Secrets:

11 – p. 45: “The Goldin Pass”. Notice footnote 22 which leads to my lengthy article on the genesis of the move in Ask Roberto. This is possibly the Card Control I’ve seen Juan Tamariz use most of the time, and that says it all.

12 – p. 49: “Handling in practice”. This really is a “check-list”. To use it print it out, briefly discuss it with a friend, and then ask him to watch you perform a trick with special focus on one or several of the points listed. As an alternative, record yourself performing a trick in front of an audience, or just in front of the camera, and upon reviewing it use the points in the list to check how you are doing. This all is very subjective, of course, but will still sharpen your eye towards this important subject.

13 – p. 51: “Oil and Water… and More Water”. This extension of the “Oil & Water” plot was quite a craze in the Seventies and Eighties, one of the peaks in the packet-trick-wave (similar to  fashion, or Corona, trick-genres come and go in “waves”). I remember that the first time I heard about it was that Fred Kaps would perform it, at that time “the reference”, of course. Aldo Colombini came up with the first version I started doing, then Richard Vollmer showed me his etc. It probably all started with Roy Walton’s “Oil & Queens”, then went the way of (un-)natural selection via Fulves, Marlo, Solomon etc.

The version I publish here is my favorite. In spite of its tight description, it is constructed with clock-work precision and works like a charm. It also makes an excellent exercise for practicing False Counts & Displays, as well as handling of double cards in a group. To do this trick really well is quite a challenge…

14 – p. 53: “Positive Insertion – Delayed Elmsley Count”. This entry contains a concept that warrants opening a new note in your notebook under the heading of “Elmsley Count – Details of Handling”, namely how to deal with the problem of a face-up Elmsley Count that displays the face card twice.

Can you come up with at least three additional technical procedures (strategies) to solve the problem? My note on the subject has 23 entries… if you ask, I might tip a few 🙂 in an upcoming The Magic Memories.

15 – p. 55: “The Intelligent Injog Shuffle and Cut”. This is arguably the best method of retaining the position and order of a top stock for magical purposes: You really shuffle, then you really cut, and you end up having performed a false shuffle. If you think about it, it drives you nuts – a paradox of life,  if there ever was one. Not using this is like throwing away a winning lottery ticket.

16 – p. 61: “Matching the Cards”. Dai Vernon considered this the best trick for laymen. Indeed, he used to open his card act with it when he worked the Close-up Gallery of the famous Magic Castle (he shaped it with his presence from its beginning in 1963 virtually to his death in 1992). The description is terse, but complete. For a detailed discussion go to the “Free Downloads” of the webshop, or simply CLICK HERE. It is a lovely opening trick to lead into any four-of-a-kind routine; in this case you start out with the set-up deck, no need to go through the set-up-procedure.

Consider doing this in a parlor station using stemmed glasses… (see “A Comedy of Errors” in Stand-up Card Magic, p. 144).

17 – p. 63: Both “Cut and Leave” and “Off-handed Ambitious Card” are two ploys to be remembered and used – both are so good!

18 – p. 73: “Managing Mangement”. In itself this entry is an excellent scheme to add one or several extra cards to a deck that has been shuffled by the spectators.

As so often, this contains a super-ordinate technical concept that warrants the creation of a separate note in your notebook “Adding Card(s) Secretly to a Deck”. How many methods can you come up with? I won’t torture you this time by telling you how many entries my note on the subject has 🙂

19 – p. 77: “The Midwife Theory in Practice”. This is one of the most practical, easiest and safest packet switches. No more comment… maybe one: See “Lesson 37 – Packet Switches” in Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction, and there “The Bluff Switch” (the first in the series). Know what: I had completely forgotten about this one I came up when I was in my Twenties until I set out to write the scenario for the videos… this is so good, I have to mention it myself (with apologies to Ricky Jay).

20 – p. 81: “To Remove a Deck From a Box”. Basic, Watson, basic…

That’s it for another series of ten, and I’m afraid I will have to bring yet another list in the next The Magic Memories, even if nobody is asking… (I’m enjoying this too much myself).

My Friend Jesus Etcheverry

Yesterday I received the infinitely sad news that my dear friend of many years Jesus Etcheverry has eventually lost his battle with cancer and passed away. Jesus and I were very close and have shared many a memorable moment since our first meeting well over 40 years ago. Right now I’m too emotional about the situation, but will tell you more about this exceptional man with anecdotes, photos and some private video clips in upcoming The Magic Memories. My thoughts are with his family, especially with his wife Carmen. Below you can see Jesus and me, here in Bilbao, his native city, after a dinner in one of our favorite restaurants (subjects discussed: magic, gastronomy, more magic, wines, further magic, life, still more magic).

All the very best – and I look forward to more magic chat in the upcoming The Magic Memories 80,

Roberto Giobbi

Posted on Leave a comment

The Magic Memories (78)

Hello everyone!

Today’s topics are: Got Corona; Trick selection from Sharing Secrets; List of tricks & bits from Sharing Secrets; Some favorite quotes from my books.

These are The Magic Memories 76, gone online Sunday, June 26th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

Eureka – I (Found) And Got It

Like any good mentalist, which I’m not, I knew that at some point I would have to write this: I’ve caught Corona, yeah!

I confirm, though, that this is nothing to be proud of, so don’t seek it.

And it was foreseeable: I got invited to see the show of a magician friend (excellent!), and went into a small theater with ca. 120 people attending the 2-hours-plus show at a temperature of 35 degrees Celsius (95 F), although I’m told that the virus doesn’t care for the temperature, as it feels comfortable in an over-heated Swiss theater as it does in an air-conditioned magic convention in Las Vegas 🙁

These little guys really haven’t got any criteria… and are now on their way to FISM…

But, after five days now, besides having lost my sense of smelling and tasting (of relative importance to me!), I’m again 88,5% myself, so decided to get these The Magic Memories out for your information and entertainment pleasure (as my friend Daryl might have said).

I just want to add that what pisses me off with this situation is not so much the symptoms, which are relatively mild and bearable, thanks to triple vaccination I took, or so says my son Miro who studied Medical Sciences and Technologies at the ETH in Zurich and just got his Masters degree (forgive the father’s pride shining through, but ETH that’s where Einstein taught theoretical physics from 1912-14, and I have two “Einstein” tricks in my books – remember which ?).

So, what is aggravating, is the butterfly effect this caused (see Sharing Secrets, p. 28): I had five appointments this week, fortunately none of vital importance, but still enjoyable meetings with friends, that I had to cancel, and even though in Switzerland all restrictions have been suspended, I still felt I should not go out and see people, plus a few other things you don’t even want to know…

And if you imagine I had been abroad, instead of at home, I would have to stay in a hotel there probably for a week or so, at my now expenses, as it would be irresponsible too board a plane…

And I missed Karl Hein’s lecture at my club: As its Vice President – yes, I’m even a politician! – I have been organizing about six lectures a year since the early Eighties, that’s A LOT of world-class talent that I have been hosting, and taking care of, and who have come to my home, and who’s lectures I’ve then translated into German, mostly from English, but also from Italian, French and Spanish, with lots of amusing and memorable happenings, believe me – that alone would yield another Magical Book of Memories

Trick Selection from Sharing Secrets

My book Sharing Secrets is what some would call a “book on the theory and philosophy of magic” (really?).

However, this is far from meaning that it doesn’t ALSO have practical applications, quite on the contrary it contains countless and very down-to-earth techniques, tricks, bits of business, funny and serious lines, quotes, and presentational ideas.

I was inspired to write the present piece after receiving an email from James Liu. James, whom I met on my Chinese Tour in September 2019 and who attended my lecture, workshop and Masterclass in Shen Zhen, has meanwhile become a dear friend by correspondence. See the talented James Liu in action in the photo below performing “Card Call” from Stand-up Card Magic:

In one of his recent letters, he made an interesting remark on Sharing Secrets:

“When I finished rereading Sharing Secrets I could finally tell why your Card College books are such very great books. Because over 90% of the theory you are writing about in Sharing Secrets is present in almost every part of Card College, sometimes within a trick, sometimes behind a technique, sometimes you discuss it in deeper detail in one of the great essay in Chapter 27 of Card College Volume 2.

So, Sharing Secrets for me is much like a tool book, it offers me a check list to monitor my material and see if I can apply the theories in the book to improve my work.

I love it very much. Just feel a little sorry that due to the format restrictions of putting each theory on one page only, you did not write more about it – you have so much to say!”

Yes, I was aware of this, but thanks to the way James eloquently put it in his lovely letter, I returned to Sharing Secrets and wondered if readers, impressed by the discussion of the theoretical concepts, missed the “practical” stuff.

This happens to me often at lectures, where there is inevitably someone who compliments me on the lecture, saying that the “tricks where obviously not important”, but “all that thinking behind them”.

As flattering as such an utterance is, I couldn’t  disagree more with it. You see, in my opinion, the important thing is not the thinking, but the practical result that comes from it! (However, the result wouldn’t exist, if the thinking had not gone before, at least not in that form.)

Therefore, I’ve set out to compose a commented list of the “practical items” from Sharing Secrets, for you to go back to, if you like. This doesn’t mean that you have to completely disregard the theoretical concepts attached to them, but I invite you to change the focus for a moment. Here we go:

List of Tricks & Bits From Sharing Secrets – Part 1 (1-10)

1 – p. 11: Arguably the most important page in the book is the one depicted in the photo below, which tells the reader how to practice and instill a theory, that’s what it is all about. You my want to reread it…

From Roberto Giobbi’s Sharing Secrets

2 – p. 15: “Click Pass with Four Coins”. The one little change to the usual handling suggested here makes this a lot better, reminding us of Sherlock Holmes, who said to his friend, “Watson, details are by far the most important thing.”

3 – p. 17. “Ectoplasmic Aces”. This is in my opinion the most sophisticated and artistic version of the “Elevator Cards”. In Lesson 25 of Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction you can find “Ectoplasmic Kings”, an updated version explained in all detail. A beautiful trick.

4 – p. 21: “Card to Wallet, Pardon, to Wallet…”. I can see this being performed at a magic convention and knocking the socks off everyone.

5 – p. 23: Look again at “Apparent-Continuity Coin Vanish”, an idea by Dai Vernon. Reminds me of yet another Sherlock Holmes quote: “To a great mind, nothing is little,’ remarked Holmes, sententiously.” (Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet).

6 – p. 25: In “Authentic Props” is imbedded the brief explanation of an excellent quick, visual and “commercial” version of “Card in Cigarette”. But the beauty of it is, that you don’t have to be a cigarette smoker, and still do a hammer trick! Also, it implies the great lesson that you can take a piece you might otherwise reject for it being anachronistic, and with a simple dramatic twist make it topical again. And you get all that in a “paragraph”. Finding such pearls is what we should call “Magical Archaeology”. There must be thousands in the magical literature…

7 – p. 31: “Just Imagine”. Possibly the best trick to learn the Art of Palming. A handsome after-dinner trick to do for your invited guests before enjoying cigars and and a Cognac (Vernon’s favorite  brands were Macanudo and Courvoisier). You can find a performance with subsequent discussion of it in Lesson 32 of Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction

8 – p. 33: “T & R Thread”. This is my text, inspired by Al Koran, for what in my opinion is one of the Top Ten Close-up Tricks of all times. Ah, this brings up the suggestion for another list 🙂 (Remember that you can see my list for “The Top Ten Card Tricks of All Times” BY CLICKING HERE.)

9 – p. 35: “Instructions on Construction by Juan Tamariz”: Make a scan or photocopy of this, and whenever you put together a small or big “act”, or just “routine” a series of effects, take this as a guideline.

10 – p. “Visible and Invisible World”. You can watch this on my YouTube channel for free, and also in Lesson 30 of Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction, there renamed “Fantasy and Reality”, because it has been given yet another presentational frame than the one described in Sharing Secrets.

That’s it for the first part, folks, and I admit that after being myself initially skeptical how this little exercise would turn out, as it always bears the danger of smelling of conceitedness when self-referencing oneself, I now enjoy it quite a bit, and I truly think that for those who choose to follow along it will be greatly beneficial (you tell me).

Part 2 coming in The Magic Memories 79.

Extracted Quotes

In The Magic Memories 73 I pondered the question of additional benefits of a book, and made a few points for several of my own publications and what additional benefits I think they have.

Some of you asked for more, so I thought I might quickly sift through a few of my books and see if I could catch a few worthwhile things I wrote – here are then ten quotes, some mine, some from others, for your edification:

«I wrote the work now in your hands before tackling Card College because of my abiding fascination with structurally simple tricks that, if properly performed, have great impact.» (Card College Light, p. xvii)

“If you take a card trick with three sleights, and replace the first sleight with a subtlety, you get a better card trick. If you replace the second sleight with another refinement, you get a small miracle. But when you replace the third sleight, then you usually get a mathematical atrocity.” (Dr. Jacob Daley in Card College Light, p. xix)

«I do not believe in dogma, certainly not when it comes to art.» (Card College Light, p. xxii)

«Everything should be done as simply as possible, but not more simply.» (Albert Einstein in Card College Light, p. 145)

«If you don’t have a name for it, you did not understand it.» (Ask Roberto)

“Creating and understanding a trick is a science. Performing it is an art.” (Ask Roberto)

“A good teacher needs to think about what he wants to say and how he wants to say it, in a way the student not only correctly understands, but also is able to absorb and transform into a skill. And the teacher must take care that all this happens with the least effort and the greatest pleasure.” (Secret Agenda, p. 380)

«This is a serious subject, but don’t take yourself too seriously.» (Hidden Agenda, p. 195)

«Magic is an interdisciplinary form of art combining elements of fiction, performing arts, psychology and a large set of specific motoric skills.» (Roberto Giobbi)

«In order to advance in magic, we have to be broad and we have to be deep. Broad, in the sense of innovating, looking back in our history and going further in the future, deep, in the sense of looking at a specific topic, and then explore it, looking at it from all sides, discovering its beauty and complexity.» (Roberto Giobbi)

«The creative thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.» (Roberto Giobbi)

«If we look at our sleights from the audience’s perspective, we will create more deceptive techniques and better magic.» (Secret Agenda, p. 92)

“In narrative literature there is the rule Rem tene, verba sequentur – “once you have the thing, the words will follow”. In magic you could say, “Once you have the trick, the presentation will follow.” (adapted from Umberto Eco)

OK, that went better than I thought. Not bad, I hope you will say, for a Corona-positive 🙁 I’ll be back next week, fully recovered (that’s the theory), and plan another “Remembering” section, as there are so many people and events I don’t want to forget…

All the very best,

Roberto Giobbi

Posted on Leave a comment

The Magic Memories (77)

Hello everyone!

Today’s topics are: Roy Benson in the movies;  Clint Eastwood interviewed by Michael Parkinson; EndersGame’s review of “The Prophecy”; Remembering Vanni Bossi.

These are The Magic Memories 77, gone online Sunday, June 19th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

Roy Benson Performing Magic in The Lady Objects (1938)

Although I’m neither an expert in the matter nor a collector, I enjoy findig and watching old movies that have a magician perform or just act in it. If you find this interesting, too, I will from time to time point out such a movie with the appropriate link to where you can watch it legally, as they have become public domaine, and also make a few comments – how else 🙂

The movie I would like to direct your attention to today is from 1938, The Lady Objects, and features magic legend Roy Benson (see the huge tome Roy Benson – By Starlight, by Levent, and published by The Miracle Factory). In the course of the movie Benson performs three pieces in two scenes. Although performing in a movie certainly doesn’t evoke the same feeling as witnessing the same tricks in the context of a magic performance, Benson’s originality in method and presentation shines through well enough – in any case worth watching!

To enjoy the full movie (ca. 65 minutes), or to selectively view Roy Benson at 00:09:10 (Billiard Ball Production & short Flourish Routine, T & R Newspaper) and 00:31:34 (Chinese Sticks), CLICK HERE.

If you are my generation you might enjoy watching the complete movie, because, first, it is not as today’s productions, which last at least two hours, second, when they speak there is no distracting background noise that is supposed to make the scene more realistic but really prevents people over 50 to hear what they are saying (and that’s the important thing, isn’t it?), third, there are no scenes where someone vomits without which no modern film can do, an fourth and best of all, you can watch it only once and completely understand the plot.

Clint Eastwood Interviewed on Parkinson

Since we’re discussing magicians and movies, this might interest you: Recently I watched Clint Eastwood being interviewed on the Michael Parkinson Show (UK 2003).

Among other noteworthy things Eastwood had this to say: “Special effects are so wonderful nowadays,  they are done so well, that they become the motor factor for doing a movie. The effects drive it, so the story becomes secondary. Whereas in the old days the story was primary, and everything else sort of fit on top. But if there is no story, there is no reason to being out there.”

And a little later he opined: “Technology is so advanced that special effects, action scenes, have become very realistic; these have become the main feature, and the story is pushed into the background. In the older films it was the other way round: The story was the most important thing, and was accentuated with a few special effects.”

And in magic? To be thought about…

For those who have time to watch the interview (ca. 20 minutes) you ca DO SO HERE.

Reminds me of the series Prison Break, of which I watched the first two seasons just recently. I found the first season formidable as far as suspense is concerned, and quite captivating, solid entertainment.

Certainly motivated by the huge success the series had, they created a second season, and then a third, fourth etc.

I stopped watching after the second season.

It made me think of what Dai Vernon says in one of the Chronicles (can’t remember which one) when talking about someone doing the Egg Bag, or the Ambitious Card, or the Linking Rings, or any of those great classics based on the repetition of essentially the same effect: “You have to know when to stop.”

I cannot but agree with this statement, as it is very much like a painter who is overpainting his canvas, because he cannot extend it in size. Nonetheless, it is interesting to remark that virtually all “Classics” repeat the same effect… but you still have to “use your head”.

EndersGame’s Review of “The Prophecy”

If you haven’t yet ordered “The Prophecy” because you had some doubts, you might want to read an independent review that’s neither from Penguin Magic (the publisher) nor myself (the author), but from EndersGame, an Honored Member of “The Magician’s Forum”, one of the top magic fora (plural of forum…).

To read EndersGame’s review of “The Prophecy” CLICK HERE.

Remembering Vanni Bossi

There is no doubt that Vanni Bossi would justify a book, I don’t mean a book of tricks (there is one!), but one of his life… and then several of his tricks, historical essays etc. Here was a Renaissance man if ever there was one.

Vanni lived in Castellanza, Italy, and had his shop, where he sold trophy cups and medals, some of which were of his own design, in Legnano, a village nearby.

Since my own relatives come from Tortona, in Piedmont, on my visits to them,  it was just a fifteen minutes detour to go and see Vanni, which I did at least twice a year on my way back to Switzerland (he lived about 20 minutes from the Swiss border).

I always tried to be at his shop “Il Medaglione” (the big medal) around 10 o’clock in the morning, we would take a first espresso at his favorite bar round the corner – he would drink at least five or six espressi a day…

Then we’d retire to the backroom of the shop where he’d show me the many things he had created since my last visit.

He was very generous and almost always gave me a sample of the gimmick, prop or what it was. At home I have a box with everything he gave me over the years and I keep them as a treasured souvenir of our very special friendship.

Inevitably, at noon we went to a restaurant – always a very good one – and had a great meal. The antipasti buffet with great seafood and then a griliata mista of fish was our standard, with a bottle of wine, another espresso and of course the Grappa, usually on the house, as Vanni was sort of a VIP in his village. And of course the magic talks got better with every minute. After that we would often go to his home, where he proudly showed me his latest literary acquisitions, which were often very rare magic publications, mostly in Italian.

After that, and a bottle or two of water, to bring me back to “normal”, I would head back home, a comfortable three-hour car drive, with now plenty of things to think about. I will never forget these wonderful meetings and times.

So, you see, not only was Vanni a likable and experienced performer, he was an outstanding creator and and even more remarkable collector of old magic books and historian.

In the photo below you can see Vanni and myself sitting in my downstairs small library and trying to link smoke rings!

Like myself Vanni liked fine dining, wines, cigars and liquors (as you can see from the glass, always in very responsible quantities…). One evening we were smoking a cigar, and in-between I went to the kitchen to get some chocolates – hey, it’s Switzerland 🙂 – when I came back I did a double-take, “Vanni, you are smoking a cigarette, but we’re smoking cigars here!” He laconically replied, “Yes, il continue smoking it in just a minute, but in-between I had to take a few deep drags!” (Explanation for those who don’t smoke cigars: You don’t inhale the smoke of a cigar as you would a cigarette.)

I should also mention that Vanni was very generous and shared a lot (but not all!) of his knowledge and creations with the magical fraternity through many lectures (and quite a bit of lecture notes). He once remarked to me, “Roberto, you know, many of my lectures, I gave for the first time for you and your club.”

As a matter of fact, I had been organizing about six lectures a year for my magic club in Basel, the “Zauberring Basel”, since ca. 1980 (that’s a lot of talent I’ve hosted at my home in all these years…). And each time I visited with Vanni I asked him, “Have you got a new lecture?” And if he had, I would invite him to come and see me for a few days, and then give his lecture, which he did most of the time!

However, being quite of a dynamic person, he would inevitably arrive in the late afternoon of the day preceding the lecture, we would spend the evening at my home where Barbara and I would prepare a sophisticated meal for us, and then we’d talk and magish far into the wee hours. The next day we’d sleep in, enjoy a relaxed day (of magic!), and in the evening he’d give his latest lecture that was always enthusiastically received. And he did all this for a very modest fee that barely covered his expenses – a truly generous gentleman. Next morning, though, he would head back home, and never stayed more than two nights 🙂

I could really go on forever writing about Vanni, his findings, the travels, lectures and shows we shared, in Italy and abroad, but have instead taken the liberty of extracting my own foreword to Vanni’s book The Aeretology of Vanni Bossi, originally published by Stephen Minch’s Hermetic Press, now distributed by Penguin Magic, who bought the rights to it.

It will tell you a few more things about a dear friend missed sorely.

To read and/or download the PDF CLICK HERE.

You can buy Vanni’s book from most magic dealers, or directly from the publisher Penguin Magic HERE.

All the very best,

Roberto Giobbi

Posted on Leave a comment

The Magic Memories (76)

Hello everyone!

Today’s topics are: “History of Card Magicians” – PP of my talk at the Museo del Naipe in Vitoria (Spain); Remembering the Masterclass in Las Vegas 2007 with Lennart Green.

These are The Magic Memories 76, gone online Sunday, June 12th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

History of Card Magicians

In last week’s blog The Magic Memories 75 I mentioned my talk I gave to a lay audience on the history of card magicians at the playing card museum in Vitoria as part of the Magialdia Magic Festival on WED, 14th SEP,  2016, length ca. 90 minutes, including final Q & A.

José Manuel Guimaraes, the father of Helder Guimaraes, and himself an accomplished amateur magician (he once won a competition where I sat in the jury, what a lovely memory!), asked if I could share the PP presentation I used on the occasion, and as always your wish is my command, so here it is.

Although the written texts are in Spanish (actually Castilian), and you’ll obviously not get the presentation that went with it, you can still click through the slides and film clips, pretending you were there, and maybe get inspired by one or the other image. If you look at it as an entry in Secret Agenda, it might very well trigger some interesting thoughts of your own, or even inspire someone to do something similar.

(BTW: Just saw that my talented friend Luis Otero from Venezuela is now offering a 3-hour Masterclass on the life and work of Dai Vernon, and it might very well be that he got inspired by my own Lecture-Seminar-Workshop-Masterclass I have been giving on the subject in many places in the New and Old World during the past 20 years. My 3-hour Seminar on Dai Vernon is still available HERE at a promotional price!)

Back to the talk: The full name of the place, which is worth visiting, is Museo Fournier de Naipes de Álava. On their homepage you’ll find a lovely documentary that in a short ten minutes details how Heraclio Fournier founded his playing card company and how the museum came about. Although the text is either in Castilian (standard Spanish language) or Euskara (Basque language), you can still enjoy it (or maybe there is an app that can translated it – I don’t know, but wouldn’t be surprised…). To watch it directly on Vimeo, CLICK HERE.

To download and then watch the PP of my talk “Historia de cartomagos” at the Fournier playing card museum in Vitoria CLICK HERE. (The file is ca. 350 MB, so you can’t stream it, you must download it.)

On the anecdotal side I should add that the talk was quite well received by the audience of about one hundred attendants, but when I did my final trick, “The Card Stab”, which I had been doing for over twenty years, I managed to miss the selection, something that has never happened before nor after.

It has, however, happened before – twice (!) – that I nailed the correct card, but its back was red, while the rest of the cards were blue-backed! In a desperate act of improvisation I said, without missing a beat, “Look, not only is it your card, it is also bleeding from the stab!” The reaction was so good that for a moment I even thought about making this part of the trick… but fortunately didn’t 🙂 The trick, incidentally, is on p. 242 of my book Stand-up Card Magic, under the title of “Stickler”, thus renamed by my then editor and publisher Stephen Minch . I never asked him why… (The book is also available in German, French and Italian.)

Stabbing a card, but with a red back…

Remembering the Las Vegas Seminar with Lennart Green

Recently, my good friend Joe Gallant from Boston sent in a photo taken on the occasion of a Masterclass Lennart Green and I gave in Las Vegas the day before The World Magic Seminar, as it was then called. I realize I’ve posted this photo before in The Magic Memories 16, but without further comments, so let me catch up on this and tell you a few amusing facts.

Unfortunately at present Lennart Green’s health condition doesn’t allow him to travel as much as before, but I certainly have the best of memories of our many meetings. Today I’d like to remember the Masterclass Lennart and I gave in Las Vegas in 2007.

Seminar in Las Vegas with Lennart Green

This event came into existence after I had already given my “Dai Vernon Seminar” on a previous edition of the convention, and the organizers where asked by several participants if such a thing could be repeated.

Wanting to offer something different that I had never done before, I phoned my good friend Lennart Green asking him if he’d be interested to do a three-day Masterclass together with me for a small group of fifteen people in Las Vegas before their big convention. As usual Lennart was immediately very enthusiastic about it and pronounced his favorite mantra, “Of course!”

Now, Lennart, who is among the most generous, brilliant, enthusiastic and easy-going people on this planet, a truly unique human being and artist, is also a hopeless optimist. I, in turn, well, I’m rather a pessimist.

You see, as an optimist, obviously, you will be disappointed about 50% of the time. As a pessimist, however, you’ll be happy 100% of the time, because if things do not turn out as expected, well, you knew before and won’t be disappointed. And if they do turn out well, against all expectations, you will be pleased and not disappointed, so, all in all, a 100% happy person 🙂

Anyway, I sensed that my cautious and organized way of doing things contrasted to Lennart’s exuberance and spontaneity, and could therefore be a potential source for problems…

Consequently, I called Lennart again and suggested he’d visit me in Switzerland a few months before the event, so we could spend a few days to brainstorm, and then arrange our ideas into some kind of “plan”.

 

Green meditating after brainstorm

If you know Lennart, you also know that the concept of a “plan” is not in his active vocabulary, at least not in the sense we “normal” people understand it, simply because Lennart is not “normal”, but a Genius, with a capital “G”.

They say that it takes a man of talent to recognize a genius, so at least I did understand this, especially because in my life I have had the great privilege of getting close to some of the other geniuses in the magic world, such as Juan Tamariz and Gaetan Bloom, to mention just two – there are not many anyway, and I shall be pleased to tell you a few things that occurred to me in the company of such people in the past (Ricky Jay and René Lavand, for instance).

When we finally sat down to work out a “plan” (ha, ha): Lennart and I had managed to write down the title and content of potential sessions that should last from 30 to 90 minutes each, on individual file cards. I then arranged the file cards on the table and let Lennart pick the subjects he’d like to present, and I then picked what was left, so all sessions with a subject where distributed among the two of us.

I then suggested we put them into an order that didn’t even have to be “logical”, sensing that this wouldn’t appeal to Lennart anyway.

Eventually we managed to reach a mutually agreeable sequence, starting on Friday evening, continuing Saturday for the whole day, and finishing Sunday morning, when the actual convention would start.

I obviously made a copy of all file cards, as well as of the order of the sessions, and gave them to Lennart, after having asked him several times if that would completely satisfy his needs and wishes. The answer was the well-known, “Of course!”

BUT, just to get to the punchline of this little story: Imagine my surprise, when at the start of the event in Las Vegas I introduced Lennart with the topic of his first session, he sat down and started to do a show, which was no at all part of the “plan”, at least not at this point!

Lennart had completely forgotten about the file cards, and just did what came to his mind! And that was only the beginning of a very “creative” three days…

Green putting meditation in action

Now you can imagine Giobbi (that’s me!), who is kind of an organized guy (see Card College and other publications…), going nuts (in silence, of course, and as a consummate professional pretending it all had been arranged like this from the very beginning).

And then there was a session “How to be creative” that Lennart should do at some point. He somehow must have thought that this wasn’t as good as we had originally assumed, so kept postponing it, while I kept insisting that he should give this 30-minute talk. On the last day I threatened him with some kind of punishment (jokingly), and he finally gave the talk. And guess what. It was a huge success that entailed a most interesting discussion among Lennart , name and the participants, and was judged one of the best sessions of the vent!

Now I’ll cut this short, and say that the event was a huge success, everyone, and I really mean everyone, was more than happy with the affair, and so were Lennart and I, and that’s the most important thing.

Me, too, I was very happy at the result, and the convention organizers received many compliments, but somehow I never again managed to get Lennart to do a similar affair with me 🙂

The complex personality of Green (Ken Knowlton)

In Conclusion

As always, I remind newcomers to The Magic Memories that you won’t receive any notice of it going online, but that you have to become proactive by going to http//www.robertogiobbi.com and clicking on “News”.

Look forward to “seeing” (?) you next Sunday. Have an excellent week!

All the very best,

Roberto Giobbi

Posted on Leave a comment

The Magic Memories (75)

Today’s topics are: Playing cards by Fournier; What’s the use of card clips; More Giobbi Collection photos; Remembering Paolo Morelli (video).

Hello everyone!

These are The Magic Memories 75, gone online Sunday, June 5th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

I keep receiving questions from all parts of the world, and as long as I believe that they could be of general interest, I shall be happy to answer them.

Steve Hirsch, in his real life a freelance journalist in Washington, asked: “I use Fournier cards which, as you know, are sturdier and seem better made than standard USPC cards, and even with frequent practice they last longer.  I’m wondering if you use a clip or would advise me to skip it.” These are two questions, and I’ll comment on both, one after the other.

Playing Cards by Fournier

Naipes Heraclio Fournier is since the 1940s the largest card manufacturer in Spain, already established in 1870 in Vitoria, the capital of the Alava district in the Basque country, a small hour’s drive from Bilbao. You can read a bit more about it HERE. As always a little search on Internet will provide more details for those who seek it.

After Heraclio’s death in 1916 his grandson Félix Alfaro took over the company, and as an avid collector of playing cards in 1970 established a playing card museum, today owned by the city of Vitoria (MORE HERE).

I have a particular emotional attachment to this place: Not only have I visited it several times in the past thirty years of my regular visits to the city and its Magialdia convention (see The Magic Memories 41 of 2021), I have performed there (see The Magic Memories 44 of 2021 for a discussion of what I did there), and I also gave a 90 minute talk & show – guess you’d call this “infotainment” – on the history and the repertoire of card magicians.

Although in Spanish, I wish I had recorded the event, as I will probably never give this talk again, and it was an interesting one, by my own standards… I do, though, have a very attractive PP presentation, with lots of images and a few video clips, that you might enjoy, even thought the texts are in Spanish and of course there is no talk (I might publish this for you to download for free in an upcoming The Magic Memories if you are interested – let me know).

In 1986 USPCC bought Fournier, and that’s when the quality started to change. After some back and forth Fournier is today (2022) owned by Belgium’s Carta Mundi.

When I first followed Juan Tamariz’s invitation to see him in Spain in 1980, as told in earlier edition of The Magic Memories, staying at his home for a week (!), a “tradition” I have maintained to this day (except the Pandemic Years), he was virtually the only magician using them, while for instance Ascanio and the other Spansh card experts would swear by the then traditional Standard Bicycle Rider Back deck.

When I asked Juan about it, he gave me a little lecture on it, as he so often does when I ask him a question… Briefly, I adopted them and was responsible for bringing them to the German speaking part of Europe through the Cardworkshop.

I started to make up my own special cards and decks when there were none other than normal cards on the market. Later Fournier started to manufacture various kinds of special cards and decks, and nowadays they offer a fine selection for (almost) all needs. This is the reason why I have been using Fournier cards all my life for my performances in front of lay audiences. My professional repertoire consists of only about a dozen card tricks, and  I only operate at a maximum of 60% of my technical capacities, whereas my real repertoire for magicians is a hundred times bigger and technically more demanding, so nowadays I use my own Card College Playing Cards (premium stock by USPCC).

Steve, in his question, means the Peacock 505 (see photo above), and like every playing card it has its pros and cons.

What certainly speaks in favor of these cards, is the beautiful back design, in my opinion one of the prettiest, but also its printing quality: If you compare a card by USPCC (left) to one by Fournier (right), you can see the far better resolution and the additional colors, resulting in a much finer appearance (see photo below).

The 505 are also plastic coated, which means that the friction factor is lower than cards with linen finish or similar. This makes them ideal for techniques like Push-through Shuffles, Second Deals or spreads like the Ascanio Spread. Also, they are absolutely flat, so that you can load a face down card between two face up cards, and then place the squared triple on the table as two cards without its real state being noticed – this is virtually impossible with cards by USPCC which mostly have a pronounced bend.

On the other hand, it is precisely the “disadvantages” mentioned above that make cards by USPCC the better choice, such as when making fans. Plus, they are “softer” than the 505, which again facilitates palms, passes and certain false deals.

Then, Fournier’s card box with the large flap is much better for magical use, because you can tear off the side tabs, and the flap will still remain stuck in the box. Whoever invented the shorter flap with the slitted side tabs at USPCC should be given the “cactus award” discerned to the worst design idea of the year (in this case of the century…).

You understand now that I could give a lengthy talk about this subject alone, but it cannot be here. It is moments like these were I wish magic was an academic discipline, and I was employed and paid as a professor by an institution to do this type of work. Instead I do this in my “free” time and because I somehow like doing it (by all means avoid doing things you don’t like doing) and as a courtesy to you. As a consequence there is hardly any editing nor proof-reading – in spite of all this I hope you find this compromise acceptable 🙂

Back to the subject and bottom line: If you ask me for a recommendation of what playing cards to use, after decades of professional experience, I can truthfully state that there is no perfect card, at least I have not found it, and I doubt three will ever be one. (This reminds me of what Bertrand Russell once said: “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people are so full of doubts.”)

Depending from what techniques you specialize in and tricks you perform, some brands work better than others. However, cards being the artist’s instrument, and the instrument the extension of the hand, which in turn is the extension of the mind, the Cardician’s Artistic Trinity, the cards must feel agreeable, comfortable and enjoyable in your hands, you should sense that there is a symbiosis between you and the cards, and that through these cards you can express yourself and what you want to tell your audience by means of your performance. Therefore, give yourself a good budget, buy several brands of cards, and then practice with them over a few years. Given this, you should then be able to decide which type of card suits you best.

And after another ten years you might change opinion. As you can see, this is a reflection of life, as magic reflects in its small world the larger world it is a part of. If all this sounds philosophical to you, it’s because it is. Amen.

Card Clips

A so-called “card press” used to be a common thing in rural or neighborhood restaurants where patrons would gather to play cards, mostly in the afternoon. This is still fairly common in Europe, especially in Switzerland, where people enjoy playing the national game of “Jass”, similar to German “Skat”. The cards are usually provided by the restaurant owner, and to extend durability, after the game they are placed into a “card press”. Below you can see such a card press: A deck is inserted between the separators, so the press can take six or so decks (the photo shows a card from a Swiss deck with 36 cards).

As for almost anything, there is a big collector market for card presses that come in the most beautiful variations, made with precious woods and inlays. My friends in magic Kurt Freitag and Magic Christian, both from Vienna, for instance, have dozens (!) beautiful specimens, and they wouldn’t part with even one for their lives 🙂 Below you can see such a doozy:

This not only goes to show that we have here yet another small world within a big world, as the Japanese like to say, but also that a card press is believed to be useful for card players, and so the cardicians among us should listen. (BTW: The term “cardician” was coined by Edward Marlo and is the title of one of his most important and influential books, The Cardician from 1957.)

Although card presses for a single deck, rather than for several as shown above, are not a new idea, as far as I know the first to adapt it to magic in a “portable” form was Joe Porper (1937 – 2021), possibly following a suggestion by Larry Jennings.

I remember that in the Eighties and early Nineties the “card clips”, as they were then renamed, were no longer available, so I decided to make my own here in Switzerland. Thanks to the know-how of my friend Roger Blättler, a very capable cardician living in my area who had some knowledge of precision engineering, I was able to find a small metal manufacturer who then made me a first batch of 50 units.

Magic friends started to ask me for them, and so, over the years, I had several hundred made, which are now distributed among mostly European cardicians who still use them. Later they started to make good card clips in South America, ans still later in China, so I stopped my production, as I could not compete with their prices (in Switzerland a Cappuccino now costs around $ 7 – I call this “The Cappuccino Index” as opposed to the well-known “big mac index”, because I would eat a big mac only in an emergency).

In the photo below, that shows a few of the dozens of different card clips and card boxes I have accumulated over the years (I’m not a collector, though), on the upper left you can see a chromed card clip from “my” production – the specimen you see was engraved later by my dear friend and mentor Vanni Bossi (more on this extraordinary inventor, performer and historian in a future The Magic Memories) when I gave him four as a gift, he later gave me back two with the engraving of my Ex Libris.

Years later, at a convention in Granada, Spain, one of the two was stolen after a lecture. Maybe the thief now reads these Magic Memories: Well, keep the clip with my blessings, but now you know a bit of the story and hopefully value it even more 🙂

A small selection of card clips I use

So, this brings us back to Steve’s question of whether we should use card clips in magic or not, and as you can infer from the above, I’m greatly in favor of using card clips.

When I travel, especially by air, but also by any other means, I put every single deck (in its card box, of course) in a card clip – this keeps the cards flat and fresh. Clearly, climatic properties like dryness, due to air conditioning (i.e. in almost the entire New Word…) or humidity, in summer and in areas near the sea, are prone to influence the quality of our cards. Placing them in a card clip nullifies most of these influences and keeps the cards in the best possible condition.

I do not, however, subscribe to the showing off of the card clips in front of an audience, as it makes them look like “magician’s cards” (as always there is the odd exception where it can be made to look good – but you need to “use your head”). This is also true for those elegant and expensive card clips, of which I have a few: I only use them because I like beautiful objects, but a minute before going on, I take the deck in its box out of the clip and put it in my pocket, from which I take it out when I go in front of the audience.

All in all, card clips help keeping the magician’s mot versatile instrument in the best state possible for performance. Even in the worst of atmospheric conditions the deck will be in optimal shape, at least for ten minutes or so, before it will “warp”.

And one more things: Cards that “warped” or are otherwise out of shape, can be placed in a card clip and will usually regain their original optimal state (obviously this will only be the case if you have treated them gently to begin with…).

Now, how was that for an answer if you should use a card clip or not 🙂

More Giobbi Collection Photos

In The Magic Memories (72) I published Ian Kent’s collection of my publications and suggested that anyone who would like could send in his or her photo (BTW: In the past forty years or so I have received virtually thousands of letters and mails by male magicians, but only three or four by women – now you may draw your own conclusions 🙂

Anyway, here are three of the nicest photos I received, much appreciated, and if I was esoterically inclined, by the way the books are presented, I could give a reading of each person…

Between Vernon and Ascanio – note signed Card College Playing Cards (Gérard Caubergs)
The Giobbi Spread – note Card College Playing Cards Collector Edition (Stephan Jochum)
Definitely a working library – note printed Secret Twitter (Murray Cooper)

Remembering Giampaolo Morelli

Giampaolo Morelli was an original and extraordinary Italian professional magician whom I had the pleasure of meeting several times during my visits in Italy. You’ll find very little information about him on the Internet, actually almost none, but if you read Italian, there is a short bio in Vinicio Raimondi’s Spettacolo magico (La Porta Magica, Rome 2000).

He was born in the beautiful city of Florence, Italy, on February 1st, 1940 and died in Siena, another iconic city in Tuscany, on April 24th 1999 at the relatively young age of 59.

Still in his twenties he became a professional performer working some of the better night clubs and various of Italy’s top cruise line companies. This gave him a lot of free time which he used to concoct lots of original magic, not only for stage, as you will see in the video below, but also in close-up, card magic taking a special place in his heart.

I felt very flattered when in the early nineties he attended a lecture of mine I gave in Milan, where he lived the latter part of his life.

I remember how we went to a Pizzeria that was opened until late at night, and after an interesting conversation during dinner, he started to show me several of his creations. At the end he gave me one of the very few items he had shared with the fraternity. Collector’s Workshop sold this under the title of “Morelli Ring”, and to this day it remains one of the most practical versions of “Ring to Keychain”.

Other than that there is very little material by this over talented artist around, and I’m currently researching written and video material through his close friend and student Alessandro Daloisio. I had the good fortune of getting together with him a few years later, again on the occasion of a lecture of mine in Florence, but regret that I didn’t take notes as I usually did, so I forgot much of what he did for me. But I certainly remember his charismatic personality, and his card handling and arcane knowledge made me think that he might have also been a very good card player…

Luckily the CLAM (Club Arte Magica) in Milan, of which he was a member, has a little information on him, and with Google translator you can learn a bit more about Morelli (CLICK HERE).

Thanks to Giancarlo Zurzolo, who put up a video on YouTube of Morelli’s stage performance, we can get a glimpse of this man’s talent. For those who take exception to his using doves, please remember that this is from the Seventies and Eighties.

Rather, I’d like you to observe the many original touches in technique, handling and combinations, such as the production of bills. And the double production of doves is the best I’ve ever seen, superior to the classic one using the mouth and done by Pollock, Tomsoni and others.

To enjoy Paolo Morelli’s stage act CLICK HERE.

In Conclusion

All the very best for the next week – and I look forward to our next meeting SUN, 12th June at 0:07h (or later…).

Roberto Giobbi

PS: Please remember that the The Magic Memories are not sent to you automatically, to avoid spam, but you must become proactive by going to www.robertogiobbi.com and click the “News” menu item; or find the list of all posts HERE.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Magic Memories (74)

Hello everyone!

Todays’s topics are: Beyond Belief; Remembering Salvano; Cat & Mouse, PDF-content for Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction

These are The Magic Memories 74, gone online Sunday, May 29th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

Last week’s blog brought in quite a few reactions by happy readers who asked for more self-insights into my own books and anecdotes about magicians I have met.

I shall be happy to fulfill my reader’s wishes in upcoming posts, and will today tell you of my meeting with another of the Greats in the history of magic, Poland’s inimitable Salvano. Plus a few more bits and pieces…

Beyond Belief

I just spent an enjoyable long afternoon with my dear friend Claudio Viotto (one of the spectators you can see on the Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction), and among other things we briefly discussed Pavel’s trick “Traveling Queen”, which I had described with some annotations of mine in The Magic Memories 69. This is the type of trick that in an impromptu performance for a small group of spectators will remain much longer in their memory than one of those involved “modern miracles”.

Look at the snippet below I found in my notebook (from: Pentagram Vol 7 No 11, Aug 1953). As a variation in handling I would suggest the following: Instead of handing the deck to the spectators behind their backs, give them the deck under the table. With very little practice you can hold a deck in each hand, in Dealing Position, and hand the cards to them at the same time, thereby reversing the respective top cards.

Remembering Salvano

The first time I met Salvano – by his real name Tomasz Chelminski – was in Paris around 1980. I spent six weeks at the “Alliance Française” to perfect my French as part of my studies of literature and linguistics at the University of Basel, Switzerland.

Salvano (1929 – 2006)

In Paris I obviously spent every free minute chasing down magic shops, magic clubs and magicians, and I also had an American girl friend then, whom I had met at the school, and who like me was more interested in life matters than in French grammar. So, as far as I remember, I did improve a lot on my magic, a little on the understanding of feminine nature, and not so much in French, which to this day remains the language of the six I speak that gives me most trouble (but I can still do my performances and lectures in it, fortunately).

One evening, at a club meeting, Salvano attended, and in my usual juvenile enthusiasm and innocence, I had the courage to speak to him and even perform a few card tricks for him. He must somehow have liked them, because at some point in our conversation he invited me to attend his performance, which was then at one of Paris’s most prominent nights clubs, “Le Milliardaire”. It was much smaller than the world-renowned “Lido”, but similar to the equally prominent “Crazy Horse” (where years later I would meet Gaetan Bloom, Otto Wessely and  Vic & Fabrini).

Of course I had never been to a “real” night club before in my life, let alone in such an exclusive etablissement in Paris. I don’t know what has become of this location nowadays, but at that time it certainly was considered one of the top clubs in Europe. Obviously, as a student, I couldn’t have afforded the entry fee, not even a drink, but through Salvano’s kindness I got in for free, and sat at the bar, from where I had an excellent view onto the tiny stage.

I certainly did not disregard the attractive ladies who performed their bits to a carefully composed choreography, and even though this was a premiere to me as far as Strip Tease goes, I recognized that this was, well, classy. However, my attention was definitely for Salvano, whom I had never seen before. Actually, when I met him a few days before, I didn’t even know that he was such a star. But now, within the first ten seconds, I knew that this gentleman had to be among the top magicians in the world.

What a class! What a skill, and what a degree of originality in effects, techniques and handling. I had never seen a “manipulation act” of this caliber that close. His technique was impeccable, and each effect astonished me, as I didn’t see it coming. He certainly exemplified Vernonesque naturalness, interpreted with a unique way of moving. Similar to Shimada or Fred Kaps, his body language was unique and recognizable, very much like the visual style of a painter or that of a musical composer. As a running gag he produced cocktail glasses, reminiscent to doves. The economy of movement was staggering, no visible gripping or pulling could be seen, the cocktail glasses just appeared: It was visual, surreal poetry in an aesthetically pleasing and distinctive way.

As you can see from the photograph above and the video, he was super-slender, but not the tiniest of bulge could be perceived, even if you knew what to look for. He later told me that his dress – he worked in classic tails – had been custom-tailored for him personally by Pierre Cardin (1922 – 2020), one of the top Parisian fashion designers. Nothing less!

From the very first seconds of his coming on stage, to his amazing finale, where a white shawl first stretches, and then transforms into a full-size cape, the act was flawless. He was, without the shadow of a doubt, the star of the evening.

There is no point of me describing his act, as below I’ve set a link for you to see four yourselves, just in case you haven’t seen this artist’s exceptional act before. Suffice it to say, that here was a symphony of magical effects presented by a virtuoso.

Afterwards we sat at the bar and had a long chat the details of which I cannot remember. But Tom and I became friends on this very special evening of my life, and he visited with me in Switzerland several times, where I also booked him to lecture for our club, the Zauberring Basel in 1988. Below is a dedication he left in the guest book of my dear friends Agi and Dieter Haldimann, who for years kindly provided their theatre for the lectures of our magic club – most unfortunately, on this occasion, their camera didn’t work, and we have no souvenir photo – no smartphones at that time 🙂

Fortunately, for all of us, Salvano has left us quite a bit of his work through his various lecture notes and videos, which I encourage you to find – you will thank me. His teachings on the handling of the thumb tip and effects with it are just the tip of an enormous iceberg built on pure genius.

As always, on the Internet you’ll find more biographical information as well as various film clips of his act – you can see a lovely one by CLICKING HERE. In the comment field Salvano’s son, Salvano Jr., who now capably performs his father’s act, leaves a short comment.

Trivia: Cat & Mouse

I have a novel configuration for the input tools of my computer: Whereas most people just use a keyboard and an iMouse, I have the newly released iCat 1.0 and can vouch for its effectiveness. Soon to be downloaded from your App Store…

New iCat to supplement iMouse and keyboard

PDF-Content for Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction

Some people have expressed concern about finding specific subjects within the 25 Lessons of the Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction videos.

No worry, as at the beginning of each lesson there is a “Table of Content” giving you an overview (press the spacebar to pause and have a good look at it). Sliding your cursor on the time-bar to the right along the timeline will then find the section you’re looking for quickly, as each item is preceded by a sub-chapter heading.

I have added the PDF named “CCPI34 – Complete Content.pdf” with the combined content of volumes 3 and 4 to your link in your account, from where you can download it anytime, or simply CLICK HERE. The PDFs are also in the webshop as part of the description of the relative products.

And now I’ll release you into a hopefully successful and happy week,

Roberto Giobbi

PS: Remember that this blog is not automatically sent to you, in order to minimize spam, but that you have to proactively go to this webshop and click “News”, or click on the The Magic Memories icon displayed on the left of the webshop’s Home Screen.

“The Magic Memories” icon on Home Screen
Posted on 1 Comment

The Magic Memories (73)

Today’s subjects are: Additional benefits of a magic book; How a cow would profit from Card College; Card session with Channing Pollock; Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction on USB.

Hello everyone!

These are The Magic Memories 73, gone online Sunday, May 22nd, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

Additional Benefits of a Magic Book

In the foreword to Stand-up Card Magic I wrote about what I think makes a good magic book, or any book for that matter: After you’ve read it you should know more than before, and it should convey ideas between the lines – you should feel enriched by its reading, not just “entertained”.

Gustavo Otero, whom I introduced to you in The Magic Memories (72), causing quite a few positive comments, also had this to say in reference to a recent upload of mine on YouTube “Reality and Fantasy”:  “What a lovely trick, my dear Roberto, both the presentation and the trick are brilliant – you’re a great. When can we expect an anniversary tome of Card College, with all those tricks you’ve come up with since its publication? It would be a great gift for all your fans.”

Gustavo’s comment, as flattering and tempting as it is, also made me stop and think.

I never wrote a book “just for tricks”, as I believe that we have more than enough good tricks. If I look at the tricks published, most of them are just personal variations on exiting plots, how else…

Some of them are indeed very good, some good, some not so good, but almost all of them have something in common: They are not really necessary. You might agree, or not. I, for my part, always wanted my publications to provide a larger benefit than merely add a “new” trick to my reader’s repertoire. And to contribute something to the “advancement” of magic, in the broad sense of the term.

In retrospect, I find I had this as a guiding vision for all my books and videos of the past thirty years, although I was not always aware of this, certainly not for my first publications.

Therefore, I took a day off other projects, and looking through my own oeuvre asked myself what those additional benefits are, what the necessary contribution is. Here is what I came up with, and I hope that you find these spontaneous afterthoughts interesting. Maybe you want to look at these books again and gain new insights beyond the tricks and techniques themselves:

Card College

From all my books the five volumes of Card College take up a special position, as they constitute a course (not an encyclopedia!). So, the content is not just a listing of techniques, tricks and theories, but organized in such a way that you learn the structure and foundation of a craft and how to use its instruments. This makes the total more than the sum of its parts. We should have such a work for all of the instruments in magic: Ropes, rings, coins, actually most of the things we refer to as “props” (with that I obviously don’t mean the scissors to cut a rope or the pen to sign a card… there is a difference between instrument and prop). At least Card College should inspire students to explore and study other instruments in a similar systematic way.

The Card College Light Trilogy

The purpose of the Light books was at first to provide a companion to the technical Card College books, so that a student could learn a card trick in a relatively short time, perform it, and then , hopefully motivated by the success, intuitively understand the wealth contained within the universe of card magic. It should serve as a motivation to surmount the effort necessary to learn the more difficult sleight-of-hand taught in Card College.

As I started to write, the inspiration overcame me to add still something more, namely more abstract concepts that would have polyvalent character and could thus be applied in other tricks, usually not more than one or two per trick.

So, the reader would not only learn a trick or a mathematical or psychological principle, which had to be good anyway, but on top of that, concepts such as how to make boring procedures meaningful, such as dealing cards in piles, how to use a Prologue and an Epilogue to give a trick dramatic continuity, how to arrange various tricks to form a short “act”, how to manage spectators, how to carefully choose words as carriers of meaning, how to dare making pauses and change the rhythm rather than rushing through a trick, and a lot more. Mayn years later all these concepts – plus lots more – found their way into Sharing Secrets.

Stand-up Card Magic

I had originally planned this to be Card College Volume 6 (not sure if this was a good marketing decision).

This book again teaches how to methodically approach an area of knowledge, and that everything stands in a larger context. The first two chapters that deal with the performing conditions and audience management show how these factors influence the choice and interpretation of techniques and tricks. Possibly, the book would have been commercially more successful if it contained just a lot of stand-up tricks and nothing more. But then, in my opinion, it would have been one of those “unnecessary” books.

I had hoped that more people would appreciate this holistic approach to stand-up card magic with its artistic aspiration, but underestimated the fact that our magic community is constituted for a large part of people who seek novelty and something to play around, rather than seriously study a craft with an artistic claim. Yes, I’m a bit disappointed that this book did not receive the recognition I though it should have received.

Maybe I’m overestimating the book and myself, an eternal problem of life: You either over- or underestimate yourself, it’s hard to get it right.

The Art of Switching Decks

In retrospect, this might have been inspired by Marlo’s Revolutionary Card Technique series, where each book focused on one single subject (Palming, False Dealing, Estimation, etc.).

Marlo was a pioneer and an inventor, who as a technician centered his attention on original methods. This is a worthy and necessary endeavor, of course.

In The Art of Switching Decks I wanted to show how I approach the study of a single-themed subject. I had done this for myself in the past decades for many operational principles of card magic, Card College being the major project that forced me to create taxonomies, terminologies and definitions. However, the actual procedure was not so obvious to the reader, just the results (not so bad either, you might say).

But writing The Art of Switching Decks required me to expound the steps so that someone else could reproduce the process with any subject and instrument. I truly believe that an analytical approach like this does not kill the intuitive, emotional approach necessary to produce good magic. On the contrary, it is through a combined commitment of analytical and emotional intelligence that artistic results are produced. (I do certainly admit, though, that there is also “something more” to it that cannot be put into words, and which makes the difference between a good and an inspired artist.)

Confidences

This book takes a special position in my literary works, as it comes closest to what Gustavo Otero means in his comment.

The idea of writing it came about during a conversation with Juan Tamariz when we talked about his publications. I asked him which one he liked most, this being a question I’m often asked, and to which there is no answer, really…

As always, in his genius and wisdom, he gave an exemplary answer by referring to Jean Garance, a Swiss magician and mutual friend, who had told him that his favorite books were Magia Potagia. Juan had used this title for a TV series of his, his theatre shows, but before that for a series of books, each ca. 60 pages, that were a wonderful mix of tricks, techniques, theories, opinions, memories, etc. They are in Spanish and hard to get…

Anyway, Juan said to me, “Why don’t you do something like this?”

And Confidences was the result. I think that the chapter on Controls alone is worth the proverbial price of the book. Besides, Stephen Minch, then my publisher, agreed to make this a “beautiful” book in an octavo format.

The Agendas

Secret Agenda, Hidden Agenda , and Secret Twitter, all three had the same purpose, albeit presented in various forms: Initially I simply wanted to find a repository for the thousands of ideas I had collected over a time span of more than thirty years, and that somehow did not fit in any other book project. It was a selfish idea, really, as it would allow me to put what I considered the best pick of my notebooks in an appealing form. And it also harbored the vanity that if I find something interesting, others would, too, and that if I didn’t know something, most probably didn’t either. Again, a balancing act, you might say, between conceitedness and modesty. BUT, a driving force to do things…

Then, as I started writing the first book, Secret Agenda, over a period of several years, I realized that the ideas could be categorized, although I did not explicitly report them in the book, but most of all that they could function as triggers to stimulate the reader’s own ideas.

Unfortunately not everyone understood this basic idea, and instead of reading one idea per day, many would read through the book just in search of some “useful” idea. But the “usefulness” of the Agendas is not only the ideas themselves exposed on a specific day, but the associations they produce as you are reading them, a sort of Freudian Dream Book, if you will… This can only happen if you give yourself some time, and almost certainly won’t happen if you rush from one item to the other like you would do with another “trick book” with a purely utilitarian purpose.

In any case, the Agendas got more reactions than any other book, I feel. I couldn’t stifle some pride when Gabi Pareras told me that he had devoted a full week-end to the discussion of Secret Agenda with his students.

I remember how at a convention a young man approached me and immediately said, “Mr. Giobbi, I have to apologize!” Of course I had no idea what he was talking about.

So he explained that he had bought my Secret Agenda and could not resist leaping over my advice in the foreword of the book to read only one entry a day. But, he added, although he read about 30 minutes of the book a day, he would then come back to the present day and concentrate on that. I thought that was a perfectly acceptable interpretation of my sermon, and gave him a general absolution. He went in peace to love and serve the world…

I’ve written seventeen books, and produced almost as many video publications, so this could go on and become too long – so I’ll stop here 🙂 If you want more, you have to explicitly ask for it…

How a Cow Would Profit From Card College

Looking through my collection of optical illusions I hit on one of the classics, which I have reproduced below (as far as I could find there is no copyright on it, or else please advise). Can you see the cow?

I have always taken a liking to this particular illusion without knowing why. As I was observing it, I was reminded that Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) had a particular affinity for cows (yes, I take notes of such things…).

Can you see the cow?

In his Thus Spoke Zarathustra (which I never finished reading…) somewhere he says, to give the gist of it, that if we don’t stop and become as the cows, we won’t find entry into heaven. For we should learn something from them: To ruminate. And in some other context he comes back to the cows, saying that they not only invented rumination, but did so lying in the sun, thus keeping away heavy thoughts that swell the heart.

Granted, cows are not considered the most intelligent of animals, but they certainly are relaxed and cool.

I don’t know what association this produces in your mind, but it made me think that rather than keep buying new stuff, we should go back to the basics and classics and think about them once again, in an act of meditation, well, rumination.

And then I thought that this is precisely what Card College can do for the advanced practitioner (not the beginner): It leads the knowledgeable person once again through (almost) all the subjects that define card magic technically and artistically, encouraging to rethink what you already know – and on the way you pick up one or two things you did not know, or forgot.

The new video series of Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction allows this to be done not only in a visual way (as opposed to the abstract way of a book), but also in a much shorter time. How long would it take you to read through volumes 3 and 4 of the books? Well, you see, you can watch the videos in “only” twenty-two hours. Ok, plus the time to take a few notes 🙂

Meeting Channing Pollock

Recently received John Fisher’s book Heroes of Magic, which I still enjoy reading, and noticed that I’ve had the good fortune of personally meeting 15 out of the 25 characters featured. I’m not much of a photo person, but now certainly wish I had a photo documenting those events.

One of them occurred on the occasion of Manfred Thumm’s then famous Magic Hands Conventions in Sindelfingen, Germany, in January 1989. I was thirty then and had turned full-time professional just a few months before. The history of these conventions, of its organizer Manfred Thumm, as well as of his guests and what they did at those exactly twenty conventions, starting in 1978, would justify a book, and an interesting one it would be…

We’ll stick to this single story, though.

The star of the convention was obviously Channing Pollock, although he did not perform – he had long retired from it – but gave a sort of lecture-chat on Sunday morning. Manfred Thumm had the brilliant idea, since then picked up by only few convention organizers, to simply invite VIPs without having them do anything, just be there and look good. So It could happen that you had Bill and Irene Larsen in the company of Dai Vernon, to mention just a few, not doing anything but shaking hands (in pre-Corona times), taking photos, and signing autographs.

On that occasion David Berglas was there, too, and it was around 2 or 3 in the morning at the convention hotel, where we had come from the Stadthalle, the convention site. As we entered the hall we saw Channing Pollock sitting near the bar, which at that time unfortunately was closed, and David, who knows everyone and everything, said to me, “Roberto, shall I introduce you to Channing Pollock?”

It was actually not a question, because before I could recover from my bafflement, he schlepped me to Channing Pollock, and before I could say pip, I was sitting with these two giants of magic.

I can’t remember how David, who somehow had taken a liking to me during the convention, introduced me to Channing, as I had then not yet published anything worthwhile, least of all in English. Remember that my Card College books 1 and 2 came out in 1992 in German, and only in 1996 (!) did the English translation of Volume 1 appear… it took Richard Hatch over 2 years to translate just volume 1 – had we known about its future success, I’m sure he would have been able to do it in six months… but I’m digressing.

I wouldn’t say that “Mr. Pollock” was hostile, but he certainly was the big star and I a complete unknown onto whom David Berglas’ good-will had been bestowed upon. Anyway, Pollock didn’t miss a beat after we sat down, and he said to me, “Ok, fascinate me with a trick. Show me something that fascinates me.”

Wow, the man certainly knew what magic is about, and he probably had to endure hundreds of mediocre magicians who did boring tricks to him. Can’t remember if this was what I thought at this moment, but he certainly made his point. And  you know what – he was absolutely right, wasn’t he? Vernon always quoted Fu-Manchu, Okito’s son, saying, “Every good trick must have an emotional hook.” And Juan Tamariz has a whole lecture on how to put emotions into a trick. Whenever I showed Juan what I thought was a good trick, he would say, “Ok, now let’s put some emotions into that trick.”

Therefore, me, as a diligent student of Vernon’s (via his books) and Tamariz’s (via his personal teachings), took out a deck from my pocket and started to not only fascinate Mr. Pollock and Mr. Berglas, but also baffle them! Talk about Fooling Penn & Teller, nowadays it seems anyone can do that, but Pollock & Berglas in 1989, how is that?

Lecture Notes – Magic Hands Convention 1989

And do you want to know the trick I did? Ha, it was an early version of “The Deck of Missed Opportunities”, p. 1 in Confidences (out of print). But I remind you, that you can watch a (later!) performance of it on my YouTube Channel.

I remember that at the end of the performance, the man whom I had been addressing as Mr. Pollock (what else?) all of the time, said to me, “Call me Channing.”

I assumed that was his way of saying that he liked what he saw. But frankly, I cannot remember much more of the conversation that ensued in the following two hours or so. But it certainly was quite something for Young Giobbi, and what a “Memory”.

I only remember that afterwards David and I went to the breakfast buffet at the hotel, which opened at 6 am, and after this I went to sleep for 4 hours, for at 11 the first lecture was on. Apparently I had been influenced by David Berglas, who in an earlier conversation told me that all his life ne never slept more than 4 hours…

I will tell you a few anecdotes with that genius David Berglas in some other installment of The Magic Memories, as I had the privilege of spending quite a bit of time in his company, and he and his wife Ruth even visited my home in Switzerland.

Stop Press

A few hours ago received 50 units of a lovely USB-stick integrated into a credit card format (8,3 x 5,3 x 0,2 cm), in a sturdy protective plastic case, with all the 27 MP4 files of Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction. If you bought the download, you obviously don’t need that. But I made them just in case someone wants an alternative. You can access each file directly on the stick, or you can download a selection or all of them. There is a 10-year warranty on them, and best of all, it is the same price, although the stick is expensive (you have to pay for shipping, though, but not much, as it is light and small). If you want one, or know someone who wants one, or want to make a gift to someone (good idea!), send me an email through the “Infos / Contact” form on the webshop HERE. I’ll then send you a PayPal link for payment.

Now wish you all a happy week, and talk again on The Magic Memories 74,

Roberto Giobbi

Posted on 1 Comment

The Magic Memories (72)

Today’s subjects are: The advantage of getting older; Good is better than original; The Complete Giobbi; Ascanio on Giobbi via Otero; Gustavo Otero.

Hello everyone!

These are The Magic Memories 72, gone online Sunday, May 15th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

Birthday Thanks

Thank you to all who sent in birthday wishes: Yes, I did have a Happy Birthday, and thought of you!

Now, one year older, and (maybe) wiser: Not sure what the advantages of getting older are, but it seems to me that the best is that I get to look at things in the larger context rather than just at the thing itself as I was doing in my youth.

So, rather than saying, “This was a lousy convention”, I’m reminded when I was artistic director of a magic convention – actually twice (!) – and remember the hundreds of factors that remain invisible to the outsider, but that play an important role into the equation. Everything stands in a larger context… and appearances are deceiving, more than a cliché.

The consequences of this view is that when I look at the performance of a trick, the weak points stick out like a sore thumb, and I can usually immediately say what’s wrong, and have solutions to offer. Obviously, magic not being a measurable entity, any opinion expressed about it remains subjective, but al least I can usually point at the problem, and by offering new possibilities get the ball of re-creation rolling. The result may then be something else than I suggested, but it is better than before… and that’s not so bad.

I’ve done a lot more coaching sessions via Skype in these Corona times, and that’s what my students and I have noticed.

Good is Better Than Original

Paul Arden, in his commendable book It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be, says, “Good is better than original”.

Arden, who was executive creative director for many years of the advertising behemoth Saatchi and Saatchi, wrote these lines in reference to his industry, knowing well that it really applies to other areas of life as well.

After having watched virtually thousands of acts in the (almost) fifty years of practicing magic as a hobbyist, amateur and eventually full-time professional – even as a judge at a FISM world championship convention (2006 Stockholm) – I can only confirm that this is true also for the world of magic, especially for competition acts and acts I’ve witnessed for entry examinations to magic clubs.

I was then often reminded of what George Bernard Shaw had to say when he was once forced to write a review about the book of a colleague writer: “The book is good and original. But the original part is not good, and the good part is not original.”

I mention that because last week I had the idea of offering Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction on a USB stick for all those who don’t want to do lengthy downloads – I mean, 19 GB has got to be the heaviest download I know in our small world of magic – if you know of bigger ones, let me know for my archive, please.

So I contact a company who does that kind of thing, and in the photo below you can see the sample case they sent along with 32 different dummies of the USB sticks they are offering – quite amazing, isn’t it? I didn’t know such things even existed!

I finally decided to order fifty units of the credit card type USB stick with 32 GB memory and all 27 MP4-files on it, stored in a transparent protective case.

I’ll be offering it soon through the Secret Newsletter – I like the oxymoron of it, of course 🙂 Wonder how many will order that – but it might be useful at lectures for those who want to leave with something in their hands.

Although the stick is far too expensive, I’ll absorb the costs and will be offering the card at the same price as the download (plus shipping, of course – but that’s the only added cost).

Which brings me back to Arden’s “Good is better than original”: I gave the box with the samples, for which I have no use, to a magic friend, who doesn’t read this blog, I’m sure, and who will very probably come up with a very “original” trick. But I predict that it will be a bad trick. He actually already mentioned something along the lines of Annemann’s “Seven Keys to Baldpate”. I leave it to you to judge why this will probably not be a good way of interpreting this old plot, although the effect itself is very good. I hope, of course, that I will be wrong…

The Complete Giobbi

I occasionally receive very kind mails by very kind readers of my works, and of course that’s always balm for the soul of any sensitive artist (me!).

Below is a photo displaying the “Giobbi Collection” of Ian Kent that came in with some friendly comments of his. If you have similar photos, please send them to me, and they’ll go into my small private collection of photos.

The (almost) Complete Giobbi by Ian Kent

Ascanio on Giobbi via Otero

My good friend Gustavo Otero, originally from Buenos Aires and now living in Madrid, Spain, recently wrote in making a comment on my performance and discussion of “Gipsy Thread” on my Lecture Video The Close-up Act of Roberto Giobbi (by Penguin Magic), especially mentioning all the details I’ve put into the presentation, pauses, and audience management.

And it reminded him of something Ascanio once said to him on the occasion of one of his regular visits to the Maestro.

Since I had never heard the story, I asked him to tell it to me, and here it is for your entertainment pleasure (and also because, and above all, it contains an important lesson in magic), in Gustavos’ own words:

After I had come to Madrid and during many years I regularly visited Ascanio at his home, together with other young and upcoming magicians from Madrid: Miguel Angel Gea, Rafa and Nacho Picola, Ricardo Rodriguez, Alberto de Figueiredo, Luigi Iglesias , Jaime and others, some attending these meetings more often than others.
On one occasion I asked him about the recent Escorial meeting, a private convention organized by the Escuela Magico de Madrid, of which I was still not a member at that time. But I knew that some of the world’s best cardmen gathered there, and for three days (and nights!) discussed card magic.
So, he started to tell me about the various subjects that had been discussed by the group, and then said, “What surprised me most, was Roberto.”
“Really? Why?”, I asked.
“Because he was phenomenal!”, replied Arturo.
“Yes, he’s good, isn’t he?”
Ascanio continued, “Yes, but until last year he was medio soso” (“soso”, meaning he lacked salt and pepper). “But this year his presentation was phenomenal, entertaining, intelligent, emotionally captivating, a truly great magician. And you know why? “
“I have no idea”, I answered.
“Because he forgot about technique! He has mastered technique, and now he enjoys performing, and makes his audience enjoy magic.”
This was a great lessons for me and all those who were listening: You have to forget about technique.
So, my dear Roberto, for Ascanio you changed from an excellent technician to being a real magician, because you stopped thinking about the technique, and started to enjoy and to present your miracles.
When I watched you do the thread trick I was reminded of this little story that Ascanio told me in his home, because when you presented it I saw you forget about the method, and enjoy the magic. For you, there was no trickery, and what you made your audience experience was pure magic.

And that’s the anecdote as told by Gustavo, without further comments.

Ascanio at MacMillan One-day Convention translated by Young Giobbi (ca. 1980)

Gustavo Otero

Speaking of my talented friend Gustavo Otero, you might remember having read his name in two of my publications. One, Introduction to Card Magic, two, Confidences.

The way we met was after the publication of my Secret Agenda. In one of the entries I mention Picasso’s one-liners, i.e., pencil drawings he did in one trait without taking the pencil off the paper.

Gustavo said this inspired him to do likewise with magical subjects, and he sent me a few samples: I reproduce one of them below with Gustavo’s kind permission.

Cascade – Gustavo Otero

I was so fascinated by this, that I commissioned Gustavo to create another 14 drawings like this one to go as chapter illustrations for my Introduction to Card Magic. So, if you own that, go back and check again – you’ll see them with new eyes. And if you don’t have that work, I would get it for Gustavo’s magical illustrations alone!

And I should also add that possibly the best of the bunch, the Joker, figures opposite my foreword in Confidences, the foreword being, analogous to Gustavo’s art, written in one single sentence! Just in case you have the book and never noticed…

His graphic output is quite huge, and you can get an idea of it if you CLICK HERE. Below, is one of my favorites, again reproduced here with his permission – an interpretation of the “Ascanio Spread”, which in the original spanish is named “el culebreo”, “la culebra” meaning “snake” – now you see the larger context, even as a young person 🙂

Medusa – Gustavo Otero

PS: Gustavo Otero is also quite accomplished in sleight-of-hand matters, but makes the largest part of his living by doing magic for children, in a very original way, e.g., by performing in libraries.

To see how he addresses the market for children’s magic CLICK HERE.

Wish you all an excellent week, and please remember that you won’t receive this The Magic Memories via mail: You have to check-in for yourselves, every Sunday, at 0:07 sharp (or anytime later) 🙂

Roberto Giobbi

Posted on 2 Comments

The Magic Memories (71)

Today’s subjects are:  José de la Torre’s Color Changing Routine; How to Study From Videos; Comments on the Horowitz Poker Deal.

Hello everyone!

These are The Magic Memories 71, gone online Sunday, May 8th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

In today’s edition of The Magic Memories and in the upcoming blogs I will make occasional references to different types of contents from Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction, my latest video project.

However, in order to enjoy and learn from it, you do not need to have or purchase the product, all items being “self-contained”. I repeat and insist that it is not the purpose of these blogs to sell you anything, BUT since I’ve been quite prolific in treating the most diverse subjects related to magic (and life) in the past forty years plus (!), it is inevitable that I reference some of these works that elaborate on a subject I might only touch upon briefly in these blogs to keep them at a reasonable length, unlike this sentence, which is very long… not to be compared, though, with the one-sentence foreword I wrote for my book Confidences, now out of print, and accompanied by a one-line drawing by Gustavo Otero (more on him in The Magic Memories 72).

Color Change

In Lesson 34 of Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction, that discusses “Color Changes” – or “Transformations”, a better term created by Erdnase in 1902 that somehow didn’t catch on –  I mention José de la Torre’s Color Changing Routine.

For those who don’t have access to the lesson I will just mention that a Color Change, as pretty as it may be, is essentially meaningless if it doesn’t fulfill a higher order. It was Juan Tamariz, in one of our night-long sessions, who brought up the issue of why we should use a Color Change at all, and who argued that possibly the best use for a Color Change is to correct an apparent mistake, i.e., you find the wrong card, and then use your magical powers, in other words a Color Change, to amend the fault. I can only agree with that.

There are other examples of how to dramatize a Color Change and thus upgrade it from a mere puzzlement for the eye to an intelligent miracle. An example that comes to mind is Dai Vernon’s “The Peregrinating Pip”. To read the original article from Hugard’s & Braue’s Expert Card Technique CLICK HERE (the copyright of the 3rd edition from 1950 having now expired, the text is public domaine). It’s all there, no comment is necessary for those who understand, no comment will help for those who don’t.

However, occasionally I have seen a sequence of Color Changes so beautiful that they don’t seem too need a specific dramatic dressing to make sense and be appreciated, beauty being self-sufficient. One such example is José de la Torre’s Color Change Routine, which you can find in his book Real Magic (1978) and based on his very own Color Change, which has to be seen to be believed. The only drawback for normal mortals like you and me is that you need hands as big as a Brobdingnagian giant…

José de la Torre (1932 – 2012)

I had the good fortune of meeting and spending time with José when he came to one of the Jornadas Cartomagicas in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, the yearly gathering dedicated to the study of card magic, organized by the Escuela Magica de Madrid.

The subject of that year was, among others, “Color Changes”, of course. And he regaled us with the performance of his baffling Color Change, which he had choreographed into a lovely routine, a small act in itself. The proof that it was good is that I remember it to this day, whereas I have forgotten, well, a lot…

You can see José de la Torre at an informal gathering demonstrating it by CLICKING HERE.

BTW: In 1975 de la Torre translated and published for the first time in English Ascanio’s book on color changing knives, titled Ascanio’s World of Knives, but he heavily edited the text. If you are interested in the subject, may I suggest you pick up Jesus Etcheverry’s fourth volume of his Magic-of-Ascanio series, faithful to the original,  titled Knives and Color Blindness. This was Ascanio’s very first book publication that in Spanish appeared in 1958, one year before I was born!

Addendum to How to Study From Videos

I’ve mentioned in several of my The Magic Memories how I would study from books and also from a video.

Briefly: The most important key on your remote control, if you are watching the vid on a TV-set, is the “Pause” key: Hit it whenever there is an interesting technique, trick, presentation, anecdote, subtlety, literary reference, quote, or theoretical concept, and then make a note in a paper or electronic notebook with the relative time code – it’s as easy and simple as that, it only requires time and dedication…

As an added help for those who do not already know: If you watch a video on your computer, instead of hitting the “Pause” key you can hit the space bar to freeze the image. Now use the left or right “Arrow or Cursor Key” to watch in slow-motion backward or forward. This is a fantastic function and the reason we have not put any slow-motion inserts into the Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction videos: It is not necessary, as you can convert any sequence instantly into a slow-motion sequence with the space bar and the arrow keys!

Errata – The Horowitz Poker Deal

As an author of books I know about everything that can happen when you write, print and ship books.

As some of you might know, I have been self-publishing my original German books since 1987, when my first book CardPerfect appeared (this is only in German and had a run of 500 copies – in a recent search I saw it went for over $ 500, wow, I should have kept a few copies for myself).

For the foreign-language editions, though, I’ve always relied on partners who had the book translated, layouted, published and sold in their respective markets. Sharing Secrets is actually the first book I self-edited in English, and I will do this for any publication to come, if any…

But I was not ready for all the things that could happen with a major virtual product such as Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction, with 22 hours and almost 20 GB admittedly a gigantic project, bigger than any of the video projects I had previously done with Leveridge/L&L, Hahne, Penguin, K52, or Vanishing Inc.

So, I know about typos in books – and there is no book on this planet that hasn’t some kind of typo or other mistake – but didn’t think this would be possible in a video. But of course we’ve already found one that must have crept in as one of the videos was encrypted for upload (who’s heard of such a thing before… not me).

So far only one customer has reported the error, which leads me to think that either nobody watches those videos, or that they are blind to errors (see the “Halo Effect” in Sharing Secrets), or that everyone is so polite as not to dare reporting it to me 🙂

Briefly: In “Lesson 40 – Stacking”, in the sequence where I perform the “Horowitz Poker Deal”, there are almost a dozen “clips” that last one to three seconds, and that should not be there. Mind you, everything is still absolutely intelligible, and the rest of the lesson is impeccable, but still, such small things bother me…

We have corrected this a few days after release, so if you bought Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction after April 25th, you’re not concerned. If you were among the first to buy and download the files, the defective Lesson 40 has been replaced in your account and is now called “Lesson 40 – Stacking NEW”. So, if you go to your account on my webshop www.robertogiobbi.com, hit the link, you’ll see all the 27 MP4-files in one folder: Download the new Lesson 40, and delete your old one – done.

If you can’t do that or don’t want to do it, write me an email, and I’ll send you the download-link to that lesson.

For the benefit of everyone I’ve uploaded the performance of “The Horowitz Poker Deal” to my YouTube channel. It shows my interpretation of note #611 found in Dr. Jacob Daley’s Notebooks (Frank Csuri). To watch CLICK HERE.

Additional Comments to the “Horowitz Poker Deal”

As you will know by now I’m fond of Prologues and Epilogues (see Sharing Secrets, p. 88), and I truly think that every trick should have one.

I don’t stop repeating that such a Prologue does not need to be a story, it can be a short serious or witty remark (“What you are about to see is the fastest card trick in the world – shall I do it again?”), a short question (“Have you ever heard of triskaidekaphobia?”), a short quote (“Magicians and philosophers have one thing in common: They shake apparent securities”). Not only does a Prologue trigger the audience’s imagination, it automatically imbibes the trick with a dramatic plot.

In the case of the “Horowitz Poker Deal” the Prologue is admittedly lengthy. I’ve done this on purpose to make this a subject of discussion for two questions.

First, it addresses the question of what a good and a bad trick is. For one of the foremost problems for any performer is not only to be able to distinguish between the two, which is hard enough, but also to know on which occasion to perform a good trick, once it has been recognized as such. Many years of professional experience have proven to me that there is virtually no good trick that is good in every situation, in front of every type of audience.

This makes it already three questions. What is a good trick, on what occasion should it be performed, and before what type of audience? This alone shows how complex magic is, and why it is so difficult.

With the “Horowitz Poker Deal” it clearly is a formal performance piece that not only requires a sufficiently large area on the table, but also an attentive and interested audience. Once you have that, you have a phenomenal trick that a lay audience will comment on for years to come as I’m sure 98% of a lay public has never seen a “Cheating Demonstration” with a magical punchline like this one before.

Second, this extended introduction not only makes up the dramatic construction of the piece, it also introduces pieces of information about gambling that your audience has very probably not been aware of, and it also sets magic in a cultural context, showing that magic is indeed an expression of its time and of a social sub-culture.

If you watch the intro again, you’ll notice that this is by no means “academic” but done in a light-hearted way, with the catalogues and the quotes providing authenticity.

I’ve said it before, and will repeat it here: I believe that it enhances the magical experience of an audience if they are not only led to astonishment, but also if we feed them with information about magic and how it stands in a larger context. People will go home not only “entertained” by the surprises, the wonderments and the laughs, but also with something they did not know.

In the foreword to Stand-up Card Magic I maintain that a good book is one that leaves the reader with more insight and more knowledge than before. Analogously, a good performer is one that bestowes upon his or her audience a larger and richer view about magic that it did not have before.

Now, you may like or dislike my way of doing it in the “Horowitz Poker Deal”, that’s irrelevant, but I believe you should ask the question and come up with an answer. I’m convinced that for most this will elevate their magic to the next level.

Wish you a prosperous week, and look forward to meeting you again next Sunday, always at 0:07 sharp!

Roberto Giobbi

PS: If you like this blog and my work, please tell your friends, and send them to my website. Also, if you like Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction, mention it on the forums: I’m not much of a self-promoter, so really appreciate all the help I can get from your word-of-mouth recommendation. Thank you!

Posted on 6 Comments

The Magic Memories (70)

The subjects today are: Break for Birthday!

Hello everyone!

These are The Magic Memories 67, gone online Sunday, May 1st, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

Break for Birthday

This is my 63rd anniversary, and you know what, I’m going to take the day off – and this blog, too 🙂

I’ll be back on The Magic Memories 71, on Sunday, May 8th, with several items that you’ll hopefully find fascinating – have a good week!

Roberto Giobbi