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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

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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, 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!

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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

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The Magic Memories (69)

Today’s subjects: Remembering Pavel; Why you should have two sets of your most important props; Q&A on Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction

Hello everyone!

These are The Magic Memories 69, gone online Sunday, April 24th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

Thank you…

I was recently reading an article by a manager trainer in Das Magazin, the literary supplement of a Swiss newspaper, that it is better to thank others, rather than apologizing to them. So, when you arrive late at a meeting, instead of saying, “Please excuse my being late”, or some similar set phrase, say, “Thank you for waiting for me.” Hmmmm…

In this sense, to all those who had temporary trouble downloading the files of Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction, because Dropbox shut down my account without previous notice (!), justifying this with “too high traffic on your account”, a problem not even the “experts” I’m working with knew about, I say, “Thank you so much for your kind patience and understanding!”

As of this writing all works well again, and with a bandwidth of now 4TB there should be no more traffic jams. I can assure you that these two days were more stressful to me than the months it took to produce that (22 hours of teaching, in 25 Lessons, resulting in a 19,4GB heavy download).

Remembering Pavel

I started to call this blog The Magic Memories, because I wanted to tell you about real “memories” from my magic life, but I now realize that I keep getting carried away by more topical subjects and more recent events.

So, I have made a resolution: In future posts I will try to include one “Memory” from my (magical) life and that will mostly be about an interesting person I met in the past, mostly magicians, but not only.

Pavel Lubomir Pomezny (1945 – 2011)

Setting order to the hundreds of Lecture Notes I have, one by Pavel caught my eye, and I was reminded of the exceptional person he was.

I will readily admit that when I first read his book The Magic of Pavel (ed. by Peter Walock, Supreme Magic Co., England 1969), I was not so impressed: Too much “color”, silks, and records.  Later, when I got to meet him personally, as he had booked me to lecture and perform at his famous “Pavel’s Magic Day”, a yearly gathering he organized in Geneva, when I was still quite young and known only to a few “insiders”, I was moved by his kindness and knowledge. It was only in the following years that I realized what an inspired and hardworking individual he was: When genius and diligence come together, you get a result like Pavel and his magic.

Two events further cemented this opinion: First, his lecture on the use of magnets in magic I saw him give at MagicValongo, a magic convention we were both booked at by Fernando Castro. I was in awe of all those problems he had identified and to which he had found an original and practical solution using magnets. One of the ideas I remember was his “Card in Balloon”, where a magnet inside the ballon would imperceptibly get the selected card from the deck without apparent extra moves.

His lecture on magnets was exemplary of how an intelligent, knowledgeable and inspired person tackles a subject, and although I would not use one single idea from the lecture, I found it highly inspirational and it was then and there that I realized Pavel’s full genius.

I’ve always felt that this is the true gain one should get from a lecture, much more than individual tricks and techniques, although that’s OK in the first ten years of doing magic. But after that, you don’t want to walk away from a lecture doing the tricks the other one does.

If I go to a museum and get a guided tour that helps me understand the painter and his or her paintings, I don’t expect myself to repaint that same painting, but rather to gain an added understanding of painting that inspires me to do my own paintings. Just a though, nothing more…

Pavel had a knack for creating straightforward and easy to follow tricks, and he had some excellent ideas in the field of card magic, too.

Second, a ten-hour flight we did together from Paris to Bogota, were we had been booked to the prestigious InterMagic convention, organized by Gustavo Lorgia, in 1996. We sure had a blast discussing magic in all its aspects, and when he started to tell me about how he had come up with several of his best ideas, e.g., the “Walking Knot”, which won him the first prize in Invention at the FISM convention in Lausanne in 1991, I simply sat there in awe and listened.

Here is a card trick from his lecture notes Pavel’s 15 Micro Tricks (ca. 1980), and I assume he would have endorsed my initiative to present you with this gift in today’s The Magic Memories. I’ll first give you Pavel’s original description, then my comments suggesting a variation. To read or download the scan of Pavel’s original text CLICK HERE.

And here are my comments:

Start by having the blue-backed QH face up in the red-backed deck, and the red-backed QH on bottom of the blue-backed deck.
As in the original ask the spectator to choose a deck. By Magician’s Choice have him put the red deck in his pocket. Take the blue-backed deck with the QH on its face, and then force it, e.g., by means of Hindu Shuffle Force, or any other Force that doesn’t expose the back of the QH. Eventually place the QH face up in the blue deck.
Case the blue deck, and then ask the spectator to place it next to the red deck in his pocket. “Now we have to wait exactly seven seconds…1, 2, ….7! Quickly, take out both decks!”
Take out blue deck and ribbon-spread to show face-up QH, then take out red deck and spread to show the face up QH (apparently red-backed…). Push the Queens halfway out of the spread for good visibility. This is the first effect: In an act of “magical sympathy” the same card previously freely selected has tuned over in the other deck, in the spectator’s pocket! Not such a bad effect… but there is more to come…
Replace each QH face up in its respective deck, then place each deck in front of a spectator and ask them to put their forefinger on top, so that “nothing and nobody” can tamper with the deck. “What you just saw, is unbelievable, but what you are about to see now, is incredible – a miracle…” Do a transposition gesture. Then have each spectator spread their deck on the table, revealing the face up QH. Ask them to turn over the QH, and show the transposition.
The funny thing is that intelligent magicians will tell you that the coincidence effect is stronger then the following transposition effect, and I would agree, in theory. However, if performed before a lay audience, you will find the overall-impact is quite strong. This is a neat example showing that the difference between theory and practice is even bigger in practice than in theory.

For more photos see the Pavel Homepage – CLICK HERE. And you can find various recordings of his performances on YouTube.

Always Two Sets

You might have noticed that I offer to buy one set and two sets of “The Red Card” on my webshop.

This led Stephan Jochum from Germany to asks, “Why are you offering two sets of your “The Red Card”? The trick doesn’t have consumable materials, does it?”

This question is more interesting than I suspected, and it reminded me of the advice I received as a young man from Max Bühler, aka Cherry Maxim, who at that time was the president of the Zauberring Basel, the magic club of my home town in Switzerland. When he invited me to his home for a “Magic Session” – one of those wonderful real-life reunions before Internet and virtual meetings – I noticed that he had two – sometimes even three – copies of the same prop. When I asked him about it, he explained, “Oh, you always buy at least two copies of the props you use to perform, just in case one gets lost, stolen, or damaged.”

I admit that to me, the nineteen-year-old wise guy who thought he knew it all (what a mistake!), this sounded at best eccentric.

Later, as a full-time professional (since 1988), I was reminded of his words, and can only say that the man was absolutely correct, and I now have copies of most of the props I use professionally.

Max Bühler, aka Cherry Maxim (1935 – 2018)

Q&A on Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction

As soon as the trailer appeared, and the first among you received the files, in came several questions that I thought might be interesting to most, so I’ll answer them below.

Q1: Do the titles and numbers of the Lessons in the video match those in the books?

A1: No, the numeration changed, but the titles stayed. Also, all chapters are in the respective volumes (except “Deck Switches” – see below). So, the chapter “Riffle Shuffle Techniques, Part 2” is chapter 33 in the book, but Lesson 30 in the videos. But this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is not so difficult: You have a Table of Content and even an Index to find the corresponding item in a few seconds 🙂

Q2: Is this also available as physical DVDs?

A2: NO, only as a download. This is 22 hours (!) of teaching, that would make a full-fledged Netflix series🙂 With today’s increased prices for logistics this would almost double the costs, and multiply the investment necessary for the production of the physical items (DVDs, packaging, storage etc.). The only drawback I’ve encountered, is the limited bandwidth, which is only a problem in the first few days, when dozens are trying to download a huge file at the same time. But that seems out of the way now.

Q3: This was not a question asked, but will be something captious critics might bring forth: There is a lot of referencing to Sharing Secrets. Self-referencing always has a taste of ego-tripping and sales-pushing.
A3: Yes, I do reference the Card College books, as well as Sharing Secrets quite a bit. The fact that these books have been written by me is a coincidence, if I may say so. The Card College references make study easier for those who want to consult the books for further details. Because, let’s face it, there is a difference between books and videos, and I do address this in the “Introduction” to the videos: books provide more details and allow to adapt the study to your reading timing, while the video shows pacing and handling, but above all that it can be done. So, although books and videos are self-contained, using both is a smart thing to do.

Ref. Sharing Secrets: Although there are many practical examples in the book in form of tricks and techniques,  it is essentially about theoretical concepts. The best way, in my opinion, to understand and learn these concepts, is to put them into practice in a technique and/or performance. Therefore, the references to Sharing Secrets help identifying the moments and places the theories are applied, and thereby facilitating their instillation. This is arguably the most important benefit of the whole Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction. Period.

Q4: What is the difference between Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction and Card Magic Masterclass?
A4: These are two completely different projects, led by two different visions. The Card Magic Masterclass project came about when Joshua Jay, together with Andy Gladwin, founders of Vanishing Inc., invited me to their “Session” convention in London in January, 2018. Josh asked if I could do a video-Download with five or six of my favorite False Shuffles, as this is a sleight many are interested in. Briefly, since I think holistically and conceptional, Card Magic Masterclass was the result! It concentrates solely on sleights classed in the five big categories that define the operational side of card magic: False Shuffles & Cuts, Controls, Forces, Switches, and Palms. There are no tricks.

Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction, on the other hand, is the reflection of the Card College books volume 3 and 4, with almost all its content: Techniques, Tricks (including the presentations!), and Theories, the sacred Trinity of Artistic Card Magic.

If your budget is tight, I recommend you get Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction (only available directly from me at If you have time and a little more money, get both (Card Magic Masterclass is only available as a download from VI, no longer from me, as they’ve found a clever way to boot me out…).

Q5: Claudio Viotto from Switzerland asks, “Did you forget the chapter on deck switches?”

A5: No, I haven’t, but I have written a complete book on the subject, The Art of Switching Decks, that also contains a DVD with the eighty-minutes lecture I gave at the Genii 75th Anniversary Convention in 2012.

If you have more questions, use the “Contact” field on the webshop to get them to me, and I’ll try to answer them in one of the upcoming posts.

Important Advice

Once you have downloaded the 25 Lessons from Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction in form of MP4-files, don’t just leave them on your computer (that can be damaged), but also put them on a separate backup-harddisk, and also store them in your Backup-cloud. For everyday private use I can recommend Dropbox, or any similar service. The link will remain in your account, but things can change, including the link, whereas if you have the files  on your computer and/or harddisk, you can watch them anytime, anywhere, and even on your TV set via Wifi or by connecting the harddisk with a cable to your TV.

And now have a successful week – I look forward to having you back for next week’s The Magic Memories 70!

Roberto Giobbi

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The Magic Memories (68)

Hello everyone!

These are The Magic Memories 68, gone online Sunday, April 17th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

Happy Easter!

Yes, I know, not everyone is celebrating Easter, but hey, a Holiday is a Holiday, and whether political or religious, a Holiday is just a good idea, or so it seems to me – so good that it needs to be capitalized: get together with family and friends, have a nice meal, talk about the things of life, and at the end be a better person than before, regardless of politics or religion. Now apply the same idea to magic…

Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction (Final!) Update

Today’s blog is going to be a short one as we are still fully immersed into the roadwork required to bring Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction to you, if all goes well next week!

Stay tuned, and make sure to be on the mailing list for The Secret Newsletter (you can subscribe on the home page of to receive the announcement of the launch in a few days.

Here is what I can already tell you:

  • a total of 22  hours of teaching, without bla-bla, just essential information, still in a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere
  • 157 techniques, plus variations thereof
  • 42 laypeople-oriented tricks, magical and entertaining (in this order), done for a small audience, that show how to apply the technical concepts taught in a real performance
  •  5 camera-angles in a no-frills set that focuses on what is important
  • 25 Lessons: 11 lessons for Card College 3 – Personal Instruction, 14 lessons for Card College 4 – Personal Instruction, together 25 lessons for Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction, plus an informative “Introduction” that tells you how to best study the videos, and an “Envoy” at the end
  • You can get each volume separately, or both at a special price to be announced soon. A bit later every lesson can even be purchased individually
  • all of this at a fair price that will not be an expense, but an investment, with many returns…

There will be almost all techniques from the Card College books 3 and 4, PLUS several new ones.

And many of the tricks that are in the books, PLUS over a dozen new ones.

So, if you have the books, you’ll get quite a bit of extra material, if you don’t have the books, well, you also get it 🙂

But even the tricks that are already in the books and are interpreted here, have been completely revised presentationally. The books came out in 1992 and 1994, respectively, and meanwhile I’ve expanded my vision of magic. A lot of what I had been doing intuitively at the time has been brought to process-level, much of it named and described in my latest book, Sharing Secrets (2021). I think you’ll find the presentations I’ve come up with, to be inspirational and of great practical help for your own magic.

As in all my books, I have made every effort to stay away from preaching or being dogmatic: All sleights, tricks and theories have an open architecture that will allow you to capture the essential ideas, use them as-is, if you wish, or adapt them to fit your style and requirements. As a teacher I want you to become better than me 🙂

There has often been one misconception about the volumes 3 and 4 of Card College that I would like to clear up here: Many believe that the material in these two volumes is more difficult than in the first two.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Although the Card College books are not an encyclopedia, but a course, I’ll use it as analogy by saying that in an encyclopedia the volumes M to R and S to Z, are not more difficult than the volumes A to F and G to L. Did I make myself clear?

Yes, a few items will require patience and practice, such as the techniques taught in the chapters about “Advanced Palming” or “Advanced Passes”, but most other chapters, like “Sandwich Techniques”, “Tilt”, “Estimation”, “Turnovers”, “Reverses 2”, and others are as easy as pie. And several of the tricks performed can be done after just a very moderate amount of study.

As a matter of fact, today’s gift to you, is a performance-only clip from “Lesson 30 – Riffle Shuffle 2”, dedicated to the wonderful complexities of the Riffle Shuffle, and it uses the easiest of all False Riffle Shuffles to retain the entire order of the deck that you will ever learn: You can acquire it in just a few minutes, provided you can do a regular Riffle Shuffle already, but that’s all. The piece is called “Reality and Fantasy”. And if you “use your head” you will find you can do this even without any sleights…

To enjoy “Fantasy and Reality” CLICK HERE.

Have an excellent week!

Roberto Giobbi

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The Magic Memories (67)

Hello everyone!

These are The Magic Memories 67, gone online Sunday, April 10th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

I keep receiving lovely feedback and questions, for which I thank you, although I apologize for not being able to answer them all. BUT, today I’d like to answer three of these questions.

Remember & Forget Tricks

JR Russell from Seattle, whom I had the pleasure of meeting several years ago (!) on the occasion of one of the “Card Clinics” I did with Jamy Ian Swiss, and who flew jets off on an US aircraft carrier (nothing less!), asks: “How do you remember all the tricks and routines you do?” This is indeed a question that should interest most, including myself!

Clearly, it is the type of question that doesn’t have an answer that will fit everyone in every situation, but what question does? JR asked the question in the context of me performing tricks in each of the two Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction video productions, a total of almost fifty tricks. Coming soon…

This leads to answer #1: Practice and rehearse a lot.

Even though I have now almost fifty years of performing experience on my shoulders, which certainly helps, due to the Corona situation, I have performed very little in the past two years, something neither I nor my colleague performers have ever experienced in our lives before.

So, I simply made a list of the two times twenty-five tricks, and then spent at least ten days, about three hours a day, practicing and rehearsing them (ten days for each set, I mean!). You can do less tricks, but regularly practicing the tricks is possibly the best method to remember them, as obvious as it sounds.

Answer #2: Make lists.

In order to know what you want to remember and practice, keep a notebook (paper or electronic) where you list the tricks you want to remember. You can make categories, such as “Impromptu”, “for laypeople”, “for magicians”, etc.

I said this before, and I’ll repeat it here: If magic is your hobby, you are tempted to keep buying and learning new tricks. Fight that temptation, but only partially: Reserve 25% of your magic time to practice always the same (favorite) tricks, and 75% of the time you just do “new stuff” or what pleases you (e.g. wasting time in chat groups, watching useless YouTube videos etc.). You’ll find that the 25% make you advance artistically, but the 75% might keep up the joy… (percentages can be changed).

Answer #3: Instead of lists use The Deck (or Bag) of Tricks.

I have written about this in various places, among others in my Genii column “The Genii Session” (March 2003): If you are a subscriber, you can access everything published in Genii electronically and read the article there. Briefly: Take a deck of cards, and then write the name of a trick on the face of each card. Ideally you get 52 tricks. If they are card tricks, you can now shuffle the deck, turn over the top card, and then practice that trick with that very deck. Repeat to taste…

You can also write techniques on the face of the cards, which you want to remember and practice, or any other non-card-trick, but obviously you need to have the relative instruments at hand.

If you take a zip bag, you can put The Deck of Tricks in it, plus other instruments, such as a purse with coins, dice, safety pins, a wallet with a few packet tricks, bills, etc. Now you have The Bag of Tricks!

Instead of the deck you can use file cards, but a deck is so much nicer, and you can use that very deck to practice.

The photo below shows various of my Decks of Tricks: in one some cards have sets of three tricks, in one deck all Heart cards are Ace Openers, Diamond cards Ace effects to do after an opener, Clubs Ace Closers… etc.

Answer #4: Organize Tricks in Sets.

This is what I did in my book Card College Light: There are seven routines, each consisting of three tricks.

Three or five is a good number to fill from 7 to 20 minutes approximately. To arrange three tricks in a little routine is arguably the single best way of remembering them: As you start the first one, the other two will automatically follow.

It helps if you give the routine a theme, e.g., “The Extraordinary Aces” (combination of three Ace-tricks), “The Power of the Mind” (combine three mental card tricks), “The Five Senses” (combine five tricks, each showing how one of the senses is used in a “magical” way), etc.

Answer #5: Videotape the Tricks.

I used to do this in the first ten years of my magic career, and then somehow stopped doing it, and started to write books instead!

But obviously you can create a small D-base with the recording of the tricks you like most. So, even if you haven’t performed them for a longer period of time, you can watch your video of the trick, and then quickly bring it back to performance level.

Answer #6: Use Your Head.

Now that several doors have been opened, you can find your very own way of better remembering your tricks. But they all have one thing in common: You probably need to work more than you’ve worked up to now – as in life, there are no shortcuts to success, but, fortunately, some ways are more comfortable and pleasurable than others, and if you are like me and have a Hedonistic penchant, that’s what you are looking for 🙂

Remember & Forget Books

The question above made me think of yet another, similar question, namely how do you remember the content of the books you’ve read?

Unfortunately, again similar to the above question, there is no “magical” answer, no “deep secret” only a few chosen ones have access to – or maybe there is… but I simply don’t belong to those. The answer is again: Work! Better: Think and work. More precisely: Think, write, and work. Picasso, talking about (the lack of) genius, made an analogy by saying, “The poor have to work!” Now, if a genius like Picasso, or Tamariz in magic, on top of their super-human talent keep working, well, you know what comes out…

However, it is one thing to run around aimlessly, but quite another thing to run in the correct direction so that you reach your destination. So, let me give you some ideas of how you could do this, and as always this is just my opinion (nada más y nada menos).

Some seem to worry about having bought more books than they can read. That’s a false problem, because buying magic books encourages the authors to write more. So, if you like someone’s writing, by all means buy all his or her books, if you can afford it. Consider: You probably own a car that speeds up to 180 km/h (or  more…), but you hardly ever use that, right? So, why not have a library with more books than you will ever read? Occasionally you might find a reference to it, and then you can immediately go to it in your own library. My credo here: Buy as many books as you can afford, and have room for 🙂

The real problem is, of course, that we would like to remember more of the books we really like. The so-called “Ebbinghaus forgetting curve” shows that after one day we remember about a third of what we’ve read, and long-term almost nothing. How to get out of the dilemma?

Here are a few suggested strategies to counteract forgetting what we’ve read:

  1. Be merciless on your books by underlining and highlighting important passages (use different colors!), and making notes at the margin. See photo further down from Expert Card Technique.
  2. After each chapter reread the passages you marked, and then formulate the essence of these passages in your own words – this goes in a notebook, paper or electronic. See photo below of The Vernon Companion.
  3. When you’ve finished reading the book make a resumé of ca. 200 words, writing down what the essence of the book is for you, and make a list of the tricks, techniques, presentations, subtleties, and theoretical concepts you want to remember. Open a new note for every sub-topic you can identify. So, if in Card College I write that to built self-confidence in doing the Classic Force it helps to have an OUT, open a note that says “Outs for the Classic Force”, and make a list off all the strategies you know. And each time you learn a new one from a lecture, video, book etc. put it in that note. And if in the list of “Outs” it says “Perform a Quick Trick”, well, open yet another note titled “Quick Tricks – Quickies – Quick Card Discoveries”, and then make a lits of all quick tricks you know. Keep “feeding” the note, as you would feed your cat or dog, and if you don’t have a cat or a dog, do it anyway!
  4. Put these notes in a paper or electronic notebook, with a table of content and/or with tags, so that later you can find what you are looking for.

As an additional strategy start a BOB (Book of Books): Take one of those Moleskine-type notebooks, or again Evernote (or similar note-taking app), and make a list of all the books you’ve read, with the reading-date and a short comment to go with each book with your opinion about the book. To do so is far more than a mere pragmatic activity, it is a small auto-biographical opus that will remind you of important parts of your life…

Want an example of how I do it? Below see two screen shots of my notes in Evernote.

Brief comment: I have a “Notebook” in Evernote titled “Books/Publications”, and within this a “Sub-Notebook” titled “Books read” into which I can now place an infinite number of individual notes, one of them being the note you see below for Mike Perovich’s book The Vernon Companion.

You’ll note two PDF-symbols in the note: That’s where I took my smartphone and with a scanning app made a one-page scan of the page in the book with the list of the tricks; I use Readdle’s Scanner Pro for iPhone. If you click on the PDF symbol, the PDF opens and can be read (the PDF itself is again highlighted and annotated – this is like the Gozinta Boxes…).

In another part of the notes – the note being about ten pages long because it’s such a fantastic book –  you would find PDFs that I have extracted from the Vernon books, e.g., when the Cups & Ball Routine is mentioned, I’ll add a scan of the trick description from the Ganson book.

I might supplement the notes with text clipped from Internet, using Evernote’s excellent “Web Clipper” function, or there might be voice notes I add using the “4Memo” app, and occasionally a video clip. The video clips can be quick clips I take of myself doing a sleight or other bit (5 seconds or so), using Mac’s “Photo Booth” app. For clips of existing videos I own as MP4-files, I use Quick Time Player, and it’s function “CMD-T” (“T” for “Trim”) to extract the few seconds I need to complement the written note.

I can still recommend Evernote, although as far as I’m concerned the latest versions have been “over-improved” by the zealous development team, and similar to Microsoft’s WORD, they now manage to kill a product that was so good by adding features nobody really needs, and changing the design to make it confusing. This is, by the way, exactly the same thing that happens in magic over and over again… we magicians sure don’t live in a vacuum, as Max Maven used to say.

Here are the screen shots FYI:

And here, for your entertainment pleasure, as my fried Daryl might have said, a sample page from my copy of Hugard’s & Braue’s Expert Card Technique…, mistreated with highlights, underlines, and notes on the margin…

To Clip or Not to Clip

Steve Hirsch, a journalist from Washington who enthusiastically practices magic as a hobby, and who came to see me in Switzerland years ago, asks, “What are your thoughts on the utility of card clips?  I use one and find it adds a little elegance (the René Lavand effect, if you will) and a little psychological reinforcement that I only have one deck if I’m switching. Nevertheless, I’m wondering if this is an unnecessary affectation in your mind.”

My answer is: DON’T!

Wait, I’m joking 🙂

See the photo below with just a small selection of the card cases and clips I have. I am by no means a collector, neither of props nor books (although close to 4’000 books might lead some to think the contrary, but they are wrong…).

The clip on the upper left, the one made of metal with the engraving of my ex libris (Vanni Bossi did the engraving!), is from a series I had made here in Switzerland at a time those made by Jennings and Porper where no longer available (they are again now, I believe). Each of the clips/cases you see has a little story attached to it…

Seriously, I never show off neither the clip nor the box to the audience, except if the box is part of a presentation, which is not often.

However, when I travel, by air or by land, I always put every deck I use in a clip: It simply keeps it fresh and flat.

Minutes before I perform, I take the deck(s) out of the clip and put the decks without the clips in my pocket, or wherever I need them. So, the audience never gets to see the clips.

Taking them out of a clip in front of an audience, I believe, makes the cards look “prepared”.

That’s my opinion, and you’re welcome to yours, as always 🙂

Arghh, sorry for being so long, but it’s all so fascinating, isn’t it?

All the very best for the coming week – and come back for the next The Magic Memories 68 next week with hopefully exciting news on Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction 🙂

Roberto Giobbi

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The Magic Memories (66)

Hello everyone!

These are The Magic Memories 66, gone online Sunday, April 3rd, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

Prologue With Snow

As I got up this morning, this is what I saw by looking out of the window – the photo shows a view from my studio in the loft of our house, that’s what you would expect Switzerland to look, wouldn’t you 🙂 But this is not what we usually get in April, except in the Swiss Alps…

In any case, this is the perfect weather to write today’s blog!

View from Roberto Giobbi’s studio April (!) 2022

Scoop at Neurosciences

In the preceding The Magic Memories (65) I made a bit of a harsh comment on the utility of neurosciences in regard to magic, so thought I should add that it was said in a humorous spirit, which reminded me of Woody Allen’s “magical” movie Scoop (USA 2006).
There, the Maestro himself plays Sid Waterman,  aka “The Great Splendini”, a magician!
And although the movie received generally lukewarm reviews from critics, several of whom considered it one of Allen’s weakest efforts, they are of course completely wrong, as this is one of his best, for us magicians, I mean, simply because finally Woody Allen, who is an amateur magician, plays, well, a “magician”.
Anyway, in his shows and close-up performances in the movie (verrrry amusing!) he uses this line, and variations thereof, when addressing an assisting spectator and his audience: “I love you, really. With all due respect, you’re a beautiful person. You’re a credit to your race. And – I just want to say, from the bottom of my heart, I mean this sincerely, I say this with all due respect, you’re a wonderful group, and a fantastic group of people, I love you.” So, if there is a neuroscientist among my readership, I love you, too 🙂
Needless to say, that I recommend watching Scoop if you are interested in both magic and motion pictures.

Preview to Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction

For those who keep asking about Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction: We’re proceeding quite well, and if we can keep up the editing, correcting, re-editing etc. at the current pacing, I should be able to have the complete course out before May.
In the event of you being new to the The Magic Memories I’ll inform you that this video course, similar to Card College 1&2 – Personal Instruction, reflects the content of Card College Volumes 3 and 4; it comprises 25 Lessons, 11 for CC3 and 14 for CC4, with a total of over 150 techniques and ca. 50 tricks, all demonstrated and explained in great detail and with 5 camera angles. I’ll have more detailed information about the content in the upcoming The Magic Memories 67 and 68.
As a thank you for following my largest video project to date, and as a “teaser”, this week’s contribution will be a clip of me presenting “The Triangle of Mystery”, an excerpt from Lesson 35, dedicate to specific forcing procedures, and along with “Novel Card to Wallet”, the other performance item, it illustrates how certain techniques are used in the context of a live performance.
In case you haven’t already done so, be sure to get notified by subscribing to the Secret Newsletter on
A blank card just turned into a mental selection

Here are a few comments, if I may: I have in various of my publications, interviews and posts repeatedly pointed out the importance of keeping a notebook, actually several (!), at least one of them about what I call “Presentational Problems”. “Problems” here in the sense of having a presentational idea – sometimes just a prologue, sometimes a complete plot – but no performance piece to go with it. My Agendas have dozens of such “Presentational Problems” that await being married to a good trick.

For years I’ve had several optical illusions on the back burner, one of my favorites being the “White Triangle”, see a version of it in the illustration below. The black lines, btw, are not even necessary.

The reason this illusion intrigues me more than most others, is that you can see something that is not even there. I mean, you don’t mis-read something or see something move that doesn’t etc., but you virtually see something that is not, a complete visual paradox, if you will.

I always knew that one day I’ll be able to use it as the presentational hook to some kind of trick, and that’s what’s happened here with “The Triangle of Mystery”, at least its a first satisfactory attempt (let me know if you agree).

The trick plot, to which I have finally managed to attach the white-triangle-illusion to, is a piece in the trick-family of “Everybody’s Card”, a beautiful plot that unfortunately has several technical and presentational problems.

The result you see is something I’ve made up recently, so doesn’t have the years of performance feedback I usually want for my publications, but I think it has several merits as a didactical piece, so that’s why I chose to include it in the course as part of the “Force” lesson.

Lots more to say, of course (as usual!), but let’s leave it at this.

To enjoy the clip CLICK HERE.

Wish you all a most successful week!

Roberto Giobbi

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The Magic Memories (65)

Hello everyone!

These are The Magic Memories 65, gone online Sunday, March 27th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

What is the Most Difficult Thing in Magic?

In last week’s The Magic Memories (64) I asked you: “What do you consider the most difficult thing in magic?”, this being a question I’ve never been asked in all those interviews I’ve given.

Funny (or not…): I got about a dozen comments on the video of me doing “Thief of Thought for Twins” (see below), but not one single reader commented on this question. What a world are we living in 🙂

I ignore the fact that many are possibly more interested in the fun part of magic rather than the philosophical-theoretical-academic aspects of magic, and will give you my answer to the question, whether you want it or not 🙂


Discussing serious stuff… and nobody listening, arghhh! (ca. 1990)

Here is my answer: In the many years of discussing magic in the most diverse situations with kindred spirits, and in giving lectures, and one-to-one coachings, live and via Skype, I come to the conclusion that the most difficult thing is to distinguish our own reality from that of our spectators. Dai Vernon approximated the problem when he said: “The difference between a professional and an amateur is that the former knows what the spectator thinks.” Occasionally he varied this by saying that the difference was that the professional knew what an effect was.

Nowadays, most who have been into magic for a while and have seriously studied it, know that the deception doesn’t take place in the the performer’s hands, but in the mind of the spectators. Yes, that’s the theory, but as so often the difference between theory and practice is even bigger in practice than in theory. 

So, the next question is: How can we know what happens in the spectator’s mind? Certainly, experience helps, remembering that to become good at something takes a long time, and to become very good at it takes a very long time.

But this alone is not enough, because we all know people who have been into magic for decades and still do magic as if they were in their first year. You have to understand before you practice, but once you understand, you have to practice. So, it is a question of both understanding and experience. And it takes about ten years to get to this point (in exceptional cases a bit less…).

Obviously, one would think, that if you understood how the human mind worked, it would help. Well, yes and no. Basic knowledge of psychology – the scene that studies the human mind – is irremissible (see the books recommended in “Chapter 27: Theory” of Card College Volume 2). But there is a point where this is no longer practical.

We can see this with the new interest the neurosciences take in magic: They do a lot of experiments and are quite serious about the matter. However, I cannot get rid of the impression that many of them are about as interested in the art of magic as researchers are interested in the rats they use – magic just seems a convenient vehicle to prove the theories they are making up.

I have now read several of their publications, sat into various talks and even been invited to one of their conventions, and I have yet to find one important piece of information that I did not know and with which I could better understand or improve a magic performance piece.

Of course, they tell me quite a bit of things I did not know: About synapses, transporters, receptors and what have you, but all of this is about as useful to us magicians as ornithology is to birds (to borrow an utterance Richard Feynman made about the philosophy of science).

On the other hand, if I read the books by Ascanio or Tamariz, about In-transit Actions, Positive and Negative Insertions, False Trails, to mention just a few, I can immediately identify a flaw in a trick and make it better. These, plus dozens of other concepts, are identified, succinctly described and illustrated with practical examples in Sharing Secrets.

But all of this is, as always, just my opinion, and those who believe the contrary are right, too.

Thief of Thought for Twins – The Comments

First, you might want to watch the five-minutes video again, to refresh your memory – CLICK HERE.

Here is some background information about this video, in no particular order.

The Twins, Really?

Let’s first clear something: Although there is absolutely no camera trickery in the recording of the performance, what you see is what I did, the “twins” are not twins, of course. It’s Guillaume Cerati twice.

Explanation: We taped this first with Cerati 1 on my left. Then Cerati 2 (still Cerati 1… sorry for the confusion) sat on the opposite side of the table, to my right.

We set up the laptop on the table so Cerati 2 (actually Cerati 1, oh my….) could watch the taped performance again, and we filmed just him on this side of the table. By looking at the video he could react properly, and of course I had occasionally addressed the (invisible) Cerati 2 as I performed for Cerati 1.

Then Cerati (1 & 2 back in one), in his studio in Grenoble (France), edited the two videos according to the necessities of the effect (whatever that means…). If you did not get that, you can get Skype lessons from me at $ 150 for 75 minutes 🙂

OK, this cleared (for there were a few who really believed Cerati & Cerati were twins…), let’s proceed to the trick itself.

Vernon’s Handling

Although I’ve know about this trick since Dingle’s Complete Works (Kaufman, 1982), and then a bit later from The Classic Magic of Larry Jennings (Maxwell, 1986), it was not until I saw Dai Vernon perform his version in a lecture he gave at the Magic Castle on April 1st, 1977. No, I was not there, but had the good chance of watching the video of it in the early 1980ies. BTW: The video is now legally available in a set of 17 DVDs titled Dai Vernon’s Revelations – 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Box Set by L&L Publishing, and it comes with another two fantastic video lectures by Dai Vernon – I transcribed and commented all of them, and maybe I’ll make this available one day.

Anyway, in this lecture he introduces the trick, crediting it to Larry Jennings, by saying, “I put little touches to it, it’s called the Vernon touch. Larry and I are great friends. Larry is a great technician. This is a very effective card trick because every effective card trick has to have a beginning, a middle and a climax. That’s like a good play that has an opening, a middle, but the climax is the most important thing. That’s why the Cups and Balls is a great trick, it has a beginning, a middle and a terrific climax in form of the loads, a lemon, an onion…” And of the trick itself he said, “I don’t know of a purer trick, all is based on the buckle of the bottom card.”

And then he proceeds to perform and explain the trick (without the selection and the presentation you saw me do). His presentation starts with this Prologue, ““Houdini claimed that nobody could fool him three times in a row with the same card trick. Now, I claim that I can fool the smartest guy living twice with the same trick. I can’t fool him three times, but I can fool him twice. I show you what I mean.”

For Jennings’ original handling see Mike Maxwell’s The Classic Magic of Larry Jennings, p. 95, “Ambitious Classic.” Dai Vernon’s version is elegant, to say the least, and reminds me of the Russian painter Bryullow, who corrected a pupil’s painting. “How is it possible? You only changed a detail, yet it is completely different.” “Art starts where this detail begins.”

As a curiosity, here is a photo from one of my notebooks with my write-up of the trick (it received four out of five stars…):


The information about who first came up with this plot, as so often, is not clear. If you are interested in this type of information, a place to start is Denis Behr’s “Conjuring Credits”, CLICK HERE.

Briefly, Bruce Cervon in his version “A Matter of Psychology” from Ultra Cervon states in the introduction to the trick:

Several versions of this effect have reached print over the years. To the best of my knowledge, they were all inspired by the trick about to be explained. While reworking anideaof Ray Grismer’sI evolved the trick I call ‘A Matter of Psychology”: I demonstrated it, with the presentation given below, to many at the Magic Castle. Even Dai started doing it! Derek Dingle was one of the people who saw it there. He developed a handling of his own, which he eventually performed on a national television show; and for a time the trick became associated with him. When Derek eventually published his handling, “Too ManyCards”, in The Complete Works of Derek Dingle, he mentioned having seen me perform the trick at the Castle. My friend Larry Jennings was the first to put methods for this plot into print, when he contributed ‘Ambitious Classic’ to Epilogue Special, No. 3; and consequently many believed the trick to be his invention. Good tricks have a way of getting around. I thought my original version, been published before, might be of interest.

So much for a short look at the “historical part”.

The Presentation I Use

In the Nineties I spent a week (yet another one!) at Juan Tamariz’s summer home near Cadiz and he showed me a three-part routine made up of the effect I call “The Palindrome Cards” (see The Magic Memories 59), “Ambitious Classic” and a third I don’t remember: In all three or just one (?) he used the presentation of “I’ll make you forget your card”.

That was the first time I came across this presentational idea, and I took note, but never used it as I considered it Juan’s.

Years later my Spanish publisher Laura Aviles, of Páginas fame (originally called Editorial Frakson founded by Juan Tamariz), gave me the reprints of the books by Padre Wenceslao Ciuró, a priest who wrote over a dozen influential magic books between 1952 and 1978 – Tamariz keeps recommending them, as they were his first magic books, and indeed they are very interesting to the day.

Padre Ciuró (1895 – 1978)

In one of them, Juegos de manos de bolsillo  – tomo1, «Hacer perder la memoria», p. 80 (1961), he describes a simple trick that uses exactly the presentation of “I’ll make you lose your memory” (see the short PDF of this HERE). Ahhh, that’s were Juan probably got it from. This went into my folder for “Presentational Ideas” (I’ve written about this in several of my The Magic Memories: It is a sub-notebook in my Evernote with hundreds of presentations that await their association with a trick).

That’s how Vernon’s version and the presentation came together and formed what you saw me do in the video. There might be other people who had similar ideas, but I didn’t know about them, and they were of no influence to my work.

The First Few Problems and Their Solutions

They way I study a trick is to go through it chronologically, identify what I believe to be problems, and then try to find the most elegant solution to each of them.

The first and last problems are always the Prologue and the Epilogue (see Sharing Secrets, p. 88), and once those are solved, they almost automatically define the presentational plot of the trick.

This was taken care of with Ciuró’s idea. And according to the old journalist credo “No first sentence without the last”, I had made up the Epilogue-line: “…and don’t forget that you just witnessed a minor miracle!”

The next problem was the repetitive structure of the trick, actually a “double repetition”: Not only do you repeat the same effect with the Ace, Two, Three and Four, you also do each one twice. This was solved by the pacing, and of course by the line, “…but now you have forgotten your card, haven’t you?”, which becomes a Running Gag with an unexpected denouement.

However, the last card bothered me: In the other versions the last card, the Five of Hearts, simply changes into the Five of Spades. As always I ask: Why? What’s the dramatical and magical reason for this transformation?

Yes, a capable performer can make this an effect, and it shows in Dingle’s performance on the Dick Cavett Show (3rd OCT 1974). Similar to Fred Kaps’s 11 £ Trick, which also has no real climax, through proper presentation and force of personality such tricks can be made effective, but for the average performer it will be a problem.

Therefore, the idea of changing the last card into a selection seemed obvious to me, although I have yet to find a version by someone else who does the same thing. (My friend Rafael Benatar does it for birthdays, and has the message “Happy Birthday, (name of person)” appear on a duplicate 5H, and that’s a good solution, too.)

More Problems, More Solutions

Most technical problems are taken care of by Vernon’s brilliant construction using the improvised double-backer. And the need to repeat each phase because of this, has already been taken care of by the presentation.

Remains the small problem of how to load the face-down selection to under the five-card-packet. I find it absolutely unacceptable to take the five cards, put them on top of the face-down deck (which at this point is no longer necessary in the perception of the audience!), to display them, and to then steal the card.

BUT, “If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed will go to the mountain” (this BTW, is not a Bible saying as I thought, but can be found in “Of Boldness”, an essay by Francis Bacon from 1625 – bless Internet, for once…). Thinking about this problem reminded me of the first time I saw Juan Tamariz in 1978 at a convention in Düsseldorf, Germany, where in his lecture he did one of his early versions of “Oil and Water” (my favorite, later published in Pabular magazine). In this he needs an extra black card. He starts by placing four red cards face up on the table, and then four black cards, but apparently by oversight he tables only three.

I clearly remember how I completely went for it, and thought, “Oh, he only has three…” As soon as I had thought that, he says, “Oh, wait, there is a black missing here…” He picks up the deck, takes the black card he apparently left on the face of it, and then adds it to the three-card-packet… thereby adding the extra red card. He got me with this, and all of the audience, too…

So, this was the solution I adopted for my version, and as a Bonus it also solved the problem of how to avoid that one of the Heart cards from the five-card-packet would be selected, and how to control it to the top. That’s what I call a good deal: One question asked, three problems solved!

At the beginning I take out the AH, 2H, 3H and 4H, in any order, and put them aside in a face-down packet, explaining, “I put these aside, because I don’t want you to choose one of these.” This action allows me to naturally bring the 5H to the bottom. Automatically this suggested its use as a Key Card: It makes all the sense in the world, since I need to look through the deck anyway a moment later to find the 5H.

This leads to the next problem: What type of Key Card Placement and subsequent Key Card Location & Control to use. Your knowledge and abilities are the limit.

In my case a quick mental check of the available tools led me to the Hindu Shuffle as a procedure to have the card selected and tagged with the Key Card (5H), my motto in these cases being: As sophisticated as I can, but as simple and safe as possible – the three “S” (Sophistication, Simplicity, Safety).

If the Key Card goes above the selection (using the Hindu Shuffle Bottom Extraction Placement as you can see me use in the video), when you afterwards cut the 5H to the top, the selection ends up directly under it, from where it is stolen by using an Intelligent Double Lift (Sharing Secrets, p. 54).

The belief that the selection is hopelessly lost is further cemented by the very clean replacement of the selection, and by setting the deck aside, as if it was no longer used. It is now that the previously tabled cards are picked up, the “missing” card noted, then located in the deck and added as you can see me do in the video. From here on the things take their course…

Oh, one more thing: One might be tempted to tell about the cards et aside and that the whole story of making the spectator forget a thought, but that would be counterproductive. The information would function as a Negative Insertion (Sharing Secrets, p. 52), and you would risk that the card is forgotten before you even tell them that you intend to do so! However, if you tell them all this at the beginning, as part of the Prologue, not only can you go straight to the effects after the selection, you also make sure that they won’t forget the card.

There might be a few more things to say, but let’s leave it at that – as if that was not enough 🙂

The Moral of the Story

Sorry for having been a bit text-heavy in this blog, but there are things that cannot be simplified, or else they become trivial. If you’ve read up to here, you are with me 🙂

I hope to have been able to describe how to study a trick – at least one way of doing so – using the practical example of the above piece: Go through the trick on its horizontal timeline, stop each time you identify a problem (ask questions!), recognize the open architecture this implies by going into a vertical line, mentally listing the available solutions (or write them down), and then select the proper solution. Try out the resulting piece a few times, then keep it the way it is, if it is good, or change it. Continue like this until you are satisfied. This is the path to perfection: You’ll never reach perfection, but having it as a vision will lead to excellence.

Wish you a healthy and prosperous week,

Roberto Giobbi

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The Magic Memories (64)

Hello everyone!

These are The Magic Memories 64, gone online Sunday, March 20th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

Today’s contribution is a film clip of me performing my interpretation of Dai Vernon’s hitherto unpublished version of “Ambitious Classic”. Read more below.

What I Would Ask Myself

I received quite a few lovely comments on last week’s blog that featured the interview Damian Jennings did for Vanishing Inc.’s The Insider.

With all those interviews I’ve given in the “Pandemic Years”, and the ones before (!), I was wondering what questions have NOT been asked, yet, and that would be interesting to ask. Reminds me of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s (1742 – 1799) Waste Books, a term traditionally used for bookkeeping, actually his scrapbooks or notebooks, with often amusing and always thought-provoking original ideas. Arthur Schopenhauer and Sigmund Freud both greatly admired Lichtenberg for what he had written in these notebooks. Years ago I put it in my bathroom and read it in less than a year – I recommend you do the same as an instructional and entertaining way to kill dead time (how is that for a tautology, or is it an oxymoron). Read what the NY Review Books has to say HERE. And buy a copy…

So, one of his aphorisms I remember said: “With some authors I would rather be interested to read what they choose not to publish, than what they published.”

Coming full-circle, the question I’ve never been asked by any of the interviewers and therefore (if I remember well…) have never answered, although it is implicit in various of my writings, is: “What do you consider the most difficult thing in magic?” I wonder what you would answer. What do you think is the most difficult thing in magic? I’ll give you my own answer in next week’s blog.

Thief of Thoughts for Twins – The Performance

We have just finished taping the last segments of Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction scheduled to be released end April, hopefully before my birthday, May 1st, as a gift to myself, but above to all of you, who will accept that gift… in return of a modest remuneration 🙂

We started taping on January 11, 2022, and after four three-day-marathons, we finished by taping the twenty-five tricks and their detailed explanations that go with Card College Volume 4 on March 15. That’s a total of twelve days, not counting the week-long preparations and the even longer editing, correcting, uploading and publicizing, most of which is still ahead of us.

I say “us”, because my partner in this mega-project is Guillaume Cerati of Ceratifilm,  a professional magician from Grenoble, France, and film-buff. He brought in all his professional equipment and know-how, and we set up a small film studio in my home, now called Castle Mountain Studios – my German-speaking readers will understand the allusion to my street address “Schlossbergstrasse” 🙂

This is the first time I produce a video project myself, and in spite of the additional work, time and finances this entails, in the future I will not do it anyway else, if at all possible.

Sure, the taping of Card College 1&2 – Personal Instruction with Jim Steinmeyer and Frankie Glass was a great experience. But taping all of it in three days was one of the most stressful experiences I ever had… and at that time I was thirteen years younger 🙂

It was one of the hottest months of June, and in the studio the air conditioning had to be switched off during takes because it was too loud… and we taped from 9 to 5, with just short breaks, not counting my travel and set-up times before and after.

The product eventually came off well, but in 2009 the decline of DVDs had already set in, downloads starting to become popular, and of course the ripping of DVDs made it easy to pirate videos. Artistically the project was a great success, but the huge production costs, involving super-professional equipment and personell, swallowed much of the profit. The DVDs made it into a second edition, but ultimately had to be sold off at $ 10 instead of the original $ 125 through Richard Kaufman (who acted as an advisor during taping) to those who renewed their subscription to the magazine.

In spite of all this, Jim and Frankie initially set up a contract that kindly allowed me to regain the copyright of the videos after ten years.  These are now available as downloads from my webshop, as a complete course, as well as in individual lessons, the latter at less than the price of a coffee at Starbucks (which as an Italian I’d rather not drink…). And of course they started the idea that I have now picked up with Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction fourteen years later. For this, and the kindness they extended to me during my stay in Burbank, Los Angeles, I will always be thankful to them.

After this very brief excursion into the past – after all this blog is called The Magic Memories (!) – back to the present: Being my own boss allowed me to do everything the way I wanted and at the pacing that suited me. I really think that we have done everything which is necessary, and left out all that is not needed: maximum attention on content, minimal but still professional in every way on formal elements. I did everything from treatment, scripting to performing, and Guillaume (almost) everything else: Cameras (we have five angles!), light, sound, check, continuity, editing, set and graphic design, and a large etc. In other words, he had to split himself up, not in two, but in multiples of himself!

At the end two of him were left, Cerati & Cerati, and I could convince them to act as spectators to my “Thief of Thoughts for Twins” that we did not include in the Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction (you can imagine what the rest looks like…). To watch the performance CLICK HERE.

Next week I’ll give you some background on the trick and make some comments with information that should allow you to learn the trick, or at least apply some of the ideas exposed to your own work.

All the very best for this week,

Roberto Giobbi

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The Magic Memories (63)

Hello everyone!

These are The Magic Memories 63, gone online Sunday, March 13th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

As you are reading this (provided you read it on SUN 13th MAR 2022…) we are taping the “show”, i.e., the performance of ca. 25 tricks to go with the fourteen lessons of Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction, and their detailed explanation thereafter (three days of full-immersion).

I’ve been preparing everything for the past ten days almost full-time, as it is my ambition to not only demonstrate the tricks, but to perform them – as you will appreciate there is a huge difference, and it takes an awful lot of time 🙂 Obviously, I could do this in such a short time because I have now over forty years of experience on my back…

As a consequence, this week’s Magic Memories (63) will be short, and I look very much forward to a lengthier blog next week, when I hope to answer the question various readers have kindly sent in.

Yet another Interview…

Those who have been following my blogs will probably have had enough of interviews I’ve done for at least a dozen of hosts in the past two years.

But just in case you haven’t, or if you are new to this place, here is a chat of almost 60 minutes Damian Jennings did with me for his “The Insider” by Vanishing Inc. and which aired for the first time on Monday, March 7, 2022.

There are, though, several questions that have never been asked before, so you might find something of interest. As always I try to stay away from trivial things and attempt to make links to useful ideas and concepts, so that at the end you go away with some valuable information you didn’t have before – that’s the ideal, of course. And you should find some amusing bits, too 🙂

The following link will take you to the VI-page, where you can either listen to the Podcast, which is the first thirty minutes of the talk (there will be a sequel soon), or see the complete thing as a video via YouTube. To make your decision CLICK HERE.

Literary Award

I hope you will forgive me for blowing my own horn just a little by telling you that the Magischer Zirkel von Deutschland, Europe’s largest magic society (as far as I know), has awarded me with their “Schriftsteller des Jahres”, i.e., they have bestowed upon me their “Literary Fellowship”. This is already the second time, the first time was in 1987 when I had published almost nothing… If you read German, or want to practice your German, or want to see how good your translator app is, you can read their laudation BY CLICKING HERE.

I have now received almost all important awards there are for my output as an author of magical literature – I only lack the Allan Slaight Award, which unfortunately I will never receive (why is another story); I say “unfortunately” because it is the only one that comes with serious money.

One day I will write about awards in magic – in general, I mean – as it is interesting from different points of view, but today is not the day 🙂

All the very best,

Roberto Giobbi