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The Magic Memories (49)

Hi everyone!

Here are The Magic Memories #49, gone online SUN, 5th December, at 0:07h.

The Italian Tour

Several among you have complained that I did not tell you more about my little “Italian Adventure” as stated in an earlier post, so here are some impressions, with hopefully some additional information you’ll be able to use.

Villa Porro Pirelli – Private Show

To travel by car from Basel, which borders to France and Germany in the north of Switzerland, to Como, which is the border on the south, takes about 3 hours car drive, the same as driving through Los Angeles with heavy traffic – in Switzerland we cross that whole country in the same time, small is not only beautiful, it is also practical 🙂

I was lucky to get booked for a private show on THU, 12th NOV, at “Villa Porro Pirelli”, a superb country chateau outside of the city of Varese (have a look for yourselves, and make a note for your upcoming visit – the gorgeous room rate was ca. $ 90!, including breakfast, a real one…). You should know that Italy had a King and a monarchy until the end of WW2 that was then abolished in 1945. This left numerous luxury residences, a plethora of chateaus, some of which stayed empty for decades, but most of which have now been taken over either by companies or subsidized by the Ministry of Culture of the European Union (Billions went into such projects!). I tell you all this, because if you come to Northern Italy, especially Piedmont, these chateaus have been converted into hotels and restaurants, and some are so large that they could host a (magic!) convention of over one hundred people. The restaurants are often Michelin-quality, and all at reasonable prices. They are perfect places to stay and explore the surroundings.

As for the show, which was possibly the last in this year as most events have been cancelled due to the new Corona situation that seems to get worse every day, there were 32 guests, seated at four round tables, all in an elegant “salon” of the castle. In such a situation I usually do a 20 to 40 minutes stand-up show, normally after the main course, and then join the guests at each table after dessert and as they are having coffee and chat. At the tables I then adapt to the situation and do up to 15 minutes each, doing the table where the host sits usually last, with my best pieces, among them the “Sponge and Bowl Routine” and “Ring to Envelope and Wallet” (both are on my DVD-Download “The Act”). This “formula” makes the host feel as if I had been present for the duration of almost the complete event, and it is much easier to ask for a handsome fee. I’ve never “sold” myself for the duration of one or two hours, as I know some of my colleagues do: I’ve always explained to my customers that artists are not paid by the hour, as a craftsman is, such as a plumber or electrician, but by his market value. How else do you explain that Picasso’s dove, a painting he must have done in less than one minute, sells for hundreds of millions? You don’t pay a painting by the time it took the artist to paint it, but by the value the artist and his art have in the market. You might agree or not, but this is something to be thought about. And, yes, it is a big subject, and we’ll leave at this for the moment 🙂 Anyway, on this occasion I could draw on my linguistic talents, and use all of the six languages I speak, as the audience was a mix from the four corners of the world. This, to many, is more impressive than a large show with lots of tam-tam.

Magic Lecture in Varese

I had the good chance that my close friend Toni Cachadiña from Barcelona, a FISM-winner in Paris 1973 and Vienna 1976, joined me, and we spent three days in this beautiful location. Next day we met up with Gianfranco Preverino, a friend of many years, who lives in Varese, and who is not only an excellent close-up worker, but also an expert of gambling and cheating, and one of Italy’s foremost historians, with several books to his credit: see his act at the Magic Castle by CLICKING HERE. Gianfranco had organized a lecture for the magic clubs of Varese and Lugano, so Toni and I did a combined lecture that lasted over 3 hours to an enthusiastic crowd of about 25 people. I can only recommend this type of split-lecture, where two performers take turns doing a lecture, as the result for the attendees will be a varied and entertaining learning experience. Granted, there is not much money for the artists in this, as you have to split the meager income, but it is very rewarding in many senses. This reminds me of Schopenhauer, who said, “My philosophy has never made me any money, but it has saved me a lot.” And since the lecture was on a Saturday afternoon, in the evening a nice group gathered in the best local Pizzeria for a great meal in excellent company with lots of interesting talk, and that’s what it is all about.

Tre Re in Castellamonte

On Sunday Toni, Gianfranco and me met up at the “Tre Re”, a restaurant in Castellamonte near Torino, with our friends Marco Aimone, the president of Italy’s largest magic club, the Circolo Amici Della Magia of Torino, Andrea Pancotti, who manages Italy’s most important magic forum and who is also my webmaster, and Fabio Cucé, a magic enthusiast and fan of my books, who is related to the chef of the “Tre Re” (“The Three Kings”), Roberto Marchello. This is our sixth or seventh gathering at this legendary place (we left out 2020 for Corona), once a year always in late autumn, to enjoy a white truffle lunch that lasts at least four hours! Normally, such a meal is unaffordable, but most of us had done a show for Roberto and his guests in the preceding years, and through Fabio he’s a fan of magic, so we get the full treat for less of what a steak and a bottle of wine would cost in New York City! Besides the truffle dishes, one of the deserts is a highlight, the Zabaglione (see photos below), prepared by the chef Roberto personally at our table.

The remarkable thing about this Zabaglione is that it is made only of three ingredients: egg yolks, sugar and Marsala wine, so simple, but divine (and not so easy to do). I remember when some forty years ago I had sherbets at Frédy Girardet’s restaurant, rated with 3 Michelin stars, the highest you can get, and it was all so incredibly simple and unassuming, but the very best I ever had. At age 23, not even a professional then, then and there I vowed that my magic should be like that: No frills, no smoke, no laser, no assistants, no boxes, but just the artist, his instrument and his words, absolute minimalistic in form, but extraordinary in content. I have certainly reached that goal, as my magic has no frills, no smoke etc. 🙂

Museo della Magia & Magic Library in Cherasco

The plan was for Toni and me to drive to Cherasco, about a one-hour drive south of Torino, but unfortunately Toni had to fly back home for an emergency in the family, so I ventured there on my own. I stayed for three days at Don Silvio Mantelli’s (Mago Sales), a Salesian priest and international magician for children. This man warrants a book, and if you read Italian you can read his biography Il rischio di essere felici (The Risk of Being Happy), an astounding account of his life performing all over the world for thousands of children to collect money for his foundation helping poor children in the world.

Well, this man has also created the “Museo della Magia”, a museum of magic which is worth to travel to, as the Guide Michelin would say of his best restaurants. Not only will you be amazed to see this special place, financed with private and cultural funds, but as a magician you will also be able to visit his magic library, the largest in Italy, and one of the largest in the world, with over 22’000 magic books plus tons of magic magazines. Below you can see me studying in the library – a year would not suffice, but the few days I had were better than nothing. BTW: In the background you can see an original stage costume of Fu Manchu (David Bamberg), Okito’s son.

Don Silvio also has a beautiful small theatre with about 70 seats, and as every year we put up an event. This year, due to Corona, a public show was hard to do, so Marco Aimone and I did a two-hour plus lecture for about 40 local magicians who were very appreciative. As always, we donated our fee to Don Silvio’s foundation, so as to bring a bit of brightness to the children of the world. Below you can see, from left to right, Marco Aimone, Don Silvio, and an unknown 🙂 Lots more to tell, but we’ll leave that for another time, maybe.

Circolo Amici Della Magia Torino

On Friday, 19th NOV, I then drove to Torino, where in the evening I gave a talk on “How to Study Magic”. It was the second in a cycle of three, but due to Corona my first talk dealing with how to study and practice a magic trick was back in 2019 (see photo below)! Anyway, I had a nice crowd attending, and listening to “How to Make Notes and Manage Them in Evernote”. Don’t ask me if there is a recording of it, because even if there was, it would be in Italian. Although the talk needs polishing, like everything well done, I really think that it would be very interesting to several at a magic convention. I really find it hard to understand why magic conventions do not do more of this type of talks. The reason might be that especially the large magic conventions care more to “entertain” their customers than to “educate” them, but who says you can’t have both?

On the next day, Saturday 20th November, I then did a full-day Masterclass, really the main reason for doing this “Italian Tour”, the rest being “decoration”. I usually have 20 people, but still due to Corona (always Corona!), only seven were able to attend. Nonetheless, I did the “full program”: This year’s topic – I’ve been doing this now for at least ten years every year – was “The Psychological Construction of a Trick”, with particular attention to how to manage the spectator’s memory. Essentially I chose a dozen chapters from my latest book Sharing Secrets that are directly related on how the audience perceives information, stores it in their memory, and then using various strategies of thinking makes up the false subjective reality that ultimately leads them to Wonderland. A complex topic, of course, which I tried to dissect, explain in simple words, and then illustrate, step by step, with individual techniques and performance pieces. I was really happy with the result, as it proved my claim, that any theoretical concept is as practical as a sleight or other tangible principle of magic. Below you can see a small but happy group.

Ah, this has been a long one, for me and you, but I could relive this remarkable experience, even more special because in the past one-and-a-half  years I was like most confined at home. I hope you found something of interest.

Wish you all a successful week!

Roberto Giobbi

PS: I did this last minute, so apologize for more typos than usual, but hope you appreciate the effort.

PPS: For all who have ordered “The Prophecy”, please have a little more patience, as Penguin Magic, my publisher and the distributor of the trick, announced a delay in supplies (damn Corona again…), but I should be able to ship mid-December (let’s hope).

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The Magic Memories (48)

Hi everyone!

Here are The Magic Memories #48, gone online SUN, 28th November, at 0:07h.

Last Minute…

The publication of this post was seriously in danger due to the arrival of a new family member: The Cat!

As you can see in the photo below, he not only obstructed the writing but took it over completely (now I have an excuse for all typos…).

“The Cat”, ca. 2 years old, has been brought in by Barbara from an animal house and after a few days took over the new house, ours. Finding a name was a lengthy process, but after all magician’s names (Vernon, Marlo, Malini, Professor etc.) as well as card sleights (Curry Turnover, Double Lift etc.) were categorically refused by the family, “Jimmy” was adopted. Below you can see Jimmy at work 🙂

Follow the Leader

I’m back from my trip to Italy and wanted to give you a report, but when I asked my good friend Claudio Viotto what I should post today, he felt it should be a video, as the last posts were a bit text-heavy. He’s absolutely right, of course. Therefore I’ve opted to extract a video clip from my own DVD Simply Amazing, produced and published by Penguin Magic.

This is a performance-only clip of one of my “self-working” versions of the famous “Follow the Leader” plot. Yes, I have several, and the theme has inspired some of the hottest names in the world of magic. The ball started rolling when Dai Vernon’s version saw light in 1938 in Greater Magic, although the plot is older and comes from Europe. There is written evidence that a German amateur magician and author of various interesting publications, Dr. Reinhard Rohnstein, mentioned the plot in a letter to Vienna’s Ottokar Fischer (a book by Magic Christian can be expected soon). Faucett Ross saw this and told Dai Vernon, who then released his very first method in Five Close-up Problems in 1933. But it was only after it was published in Greater Magic that it really caught on. The title itself, of course, originates in an old children’s game.

Forgive this little excursion into the genesis of this classic, and there is a lot more to it, which you might want to research on your own if you wish. I simply keep coming back on these historical contexts because it shows the wonderful complexity of what we’re doing. I truly believe that knowing about such things, even though often only superficially, helps us perform our magic with more dignity: The resulting competence is felt by any intelligent audience – I’m firmly convinced of this.

Back to today’s offering: I originally concocted this sequence when in 1995 I wrote Roberto Super-Light (Card College Lightest), immediately following the release of Grosse Kartenschule 3&4 (Card College) from 1994. Anecdotically, let me tell you that writing the Card College books 3 and 4 was such a Herculean task that took me almost 2 years of intensive work. When the files went off to the printer’s I felt like after a Marathon: It is impossible to stop right away, you have to run a bit more before coming to a halt. So, in the wake of Card College 3&4 I wrote this third book in the Light-series.

If you’re interested, the detailed explanation of the piece you’re about to watch can be found on my DVD Simply Amazing, produced by Penguin Magic, obtainable from my webshop (, from Penguin Magic, or from your favorite dealer (192 minutes with six professional-caliber routines performed and taught in detail). You can also get it as a download, but only from the Penguin Magic webshop.

But even if you don’t have the DVD-Download, or don’t want to invest the little money to get it, there is quite a bit to be learned simply from watching the 4-minute performance. Notice how contact is made with the audience after Dan Harlan’s announcement, how the eye contact is constantly renewed, how the deck “appears” in the hands without fumbling, how the theme is introduced. Here I should explain that the lengthy prologue is meant to frame all six tricks that are performed in a ca. 35-minute show one after the other. So, I tried to link them thematically – you’ll understand this better if you watch the whole performance.

There is something I do differently today than when I recorded the video: See “The Space-Information Continuum” in Sharing Secrets (p. 102). In the video I do what everyone is doing: I pick up the face down card from the packet and move forward to the leader card as I turn it over. In the new handling I will pause with the newly face-up card, holding it still in the space above its face-down packet for a few seconds. You’ll notice the difference: Now the color of the face-up card will rub off on the face-down packet, and in their imagination the audience will “see” that the cards in the face-down packet have the same color as the card displayed. Only now do I drop the card on the face-up leader packet. (This is an idea Barcelona’s Gabi Pareras told me in a session, and I’ve been using it ever since, and so should you. I consider Gabi one of the few geniuses of magic who has left us far too early. My prediction is that he will get the award for “Theory and Philosophy” posthum at the upcoming FISM convention.)

You might like the beginning phase, or you might not, but you will be forced to think about it. Remember that this video was shot with the intent of presenting self-working methods to classic tricks. If, however, you have the knowledge and skill, you should by all means use them to change modules of the trick.

The most difficult part of the trick is to obtain absolute clarity of the Initial Situation (see Sharing Secrets, p. 50), without being neither too slow nor too fast, but just right. Another challenge is how to manage the repetitive nature of the effects: This is done by changes in procedure as well as by pauses and changes in pacing.

This piece really looks externally simple, but harbors great complexity, as Miguel de Unamuno would have said.

To watch me perform “Follow the Leader” as described in Card College Lightest (p. 26), CLICK HERE.

Wish you all a successful week!

Roberto Giobbi

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The Magic Memories (47)

Hi everyone!

Here are The Magic Memories #47, gone online SUN, 21st November, at 0:07h.

As this post goes online I’m on my way back from Torino to Muttenz, my home base in Switzerland. This is a trip of about 450 km (almost 300 miles) that takes at least five hours, but will take me eight because I’ll make a small detour to visit the natal city of my parents, Tortona, were my father was born, and the village of Viguzzolo, where my mother originated from. My parents immigrated from Italy to Switzerland in the 1950s, and I was then born in 1959, May 1st, in Basel, Switzerland. But that’s the beginning of another story I might relate on another occasion. However, now you know when to send your birthday greetings and gifts 🙂

In the last The Magic Memories (46) I titled:

Ideas for presentations are EVERYWHERE? Yes, here are a few recent examples.

Someone complained saying there was only one example. Correct. So, here are three more, which in the statistical average makes two each.

The Internet is full of “presentational ideas”, and Wikipedia alone would keep anyone busy until the end of the days. A while ago I was mulling over the old “Soldier’s Praying Book” plot – most know this from a much more recent version named “Sam the Bellhop” attributed to Bill Malone, who got it from Frank Everhart, but the story and theme is MUCH older, going back to the 18th century (at least!).
Here is a simple way of starting a routine with that story. Briefly (!) tell the story of Richard Middleton, then ask a spectator to shuffle and cut the cards as you hand a file card to another spectator. On the file card you’ve printed Middleton’s text. Simply google “Richard Middleton Prayer Book” and you’ll find what you need.
Spread the shuffled deck face up on table, and as you ask the spectator with the file card to read out the meaning of the cards you’ve written down. As he names the cards from Ace to King, take out one card after the other, resulting in A-K; the suit doesn’t matter, but let’s assume they are all Hearts. Anyway, if done with a good pacing and an occasional comment, the process should prove quite intriguing.
Once you’ve got the thirteen cards of a suit out and in order, perform any good trick using this. I recommend you do Paul Curry’s «A Swindle of Sorts». The original description is in Paul Curry Presents (1974), but of course I recommend you follow the routine I describe in  Card College Lightest (p. 77).
Once that’s done, and as the audience reacts, nonchalantly put the set on top of the deck, still in order and with the Ace on top, false Overhand Shuffle, and then give the deck two Faros, which will bring the thirteen cards to every fourth position, and in numerical order.
Now go into «Moe’s Move-a-Card», or variation thereof. Briefly: Spread the deck face up, pretend to memorize the order of the deck, which was just shuffled in a very obvious way (when doing the Faros make sure to let the cards waterfall visibly and make a lot of noise…), and then ask a spectator to move any card from one position to another, announcing that you can guess which one it is due to having memorized the order. Of course, you have to look away as this is done. When she’s done, turn back and pretend to scrutinize the cards. All you do is look for the Hearts. If you are lucky, she moved one of them, so you can immediately tell her which card was moved. If she took another card you’ll see that there are only two instead of three cards between two Hearts, so you can then say that a card was moved from here to… Find where there are now four instead of three cards between two Hearts and finish by fishing. Either way, this is a feat in the “improbable” category, as opposed to the “impossible” category, so hesitation is acceptable.
Again, as the audience reacts, use the natural break (pause, I mean…) to make any readjustments, if necessary, to bring the Heart sequence in order (separated by three cards), and then cut the Ace to third from the top. You are now set for a strong finish, namely the «History of the Playing Cards» from Card College 5, a beautiful effect, and one of the few original creations of mine. I bet you’ve read over that trick, so go back and reread it. Now, that you have a sequence to do it from a shuffled deck you might give it a try.


Presentational idea #2

As I mentioned before, you only need to look around to find ideas. The other day I received the card deck pouch by TCC, my publisher in China, they call it “ACCORDION-STYLE MULTIFUNCTION BAG“, but you can use any similar device that holds flat objects the size of a playing/credit card, you find these in the wallet section of any general store. The first thought that occurred to me was to put a deck into it, and in the back section with the 12 compartments all types of trick cards that go with that particular deck. This is certainly very practical, and I bought half a dozen for various decks. A little later I was working on another idea I call “The Wishbook”, where the spectators can wish for any trick. Almost automatically, by simply looking at the pouch, I “saw” that every compartment could contain “props/instruments” with which at least one trick could be performed, on its own, or in conjunction with the deck. So, I started to place rubber bands, stamps, business cards… oops… I realize I’m taking the pleasure from you to make this up yourself 🙂 I think it’s a great idea… (oh, and you could even put one of those small Japanese purses with a few coins into it).

Wish you all a successful week!

Roberto Giobbi

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The Magic Memories (46)

Hi everyone!

Here are The Magic Memories #46, gone online SUN, 14th November, at 0:07h.

As you are reading this I’m on a small tour through the northern part of Italy: Varese – Castellamonte – Cherasco – Torino, and back to Switzerland. After my lengthy car ride through France, to Spain’s Magialdia convention I reported on in The Magic Memories #41 of OCT 10th, this is my second “travel” during this “Pandemic Biennial”. I plan to give you a report of the “adventures” during that trip on my return in The Magic Memories (48), as this one and the next are pre-written, both about a subject that is close to my heart, and about which I have written in the past from different angles. Actually, it is a topic with an infinite amount of angles, and an important one it is…

More Thoughts on How to Find a Presentation
The most important thing to find presentations is a small portable notebook, or a note-taking app on your smartphone, because ideas for presentations are EVERYWHERE and they come up AT ALL TIMES, therefore the only thing you need is to be ready to record them, so you don’t forget them, and so you can elaborate on them later, since in most instances you won’t have the time to do the detailed work necessary at the moment the presentational idea hits you.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, as a paper notebook I use the smallest size of the Moleskin Notebooks, or similar product, ca. the size of a playing card, that fits even in a shirt pocket. I take a quick note, and then try to transfer the note to a larger notebook or to a note app (Evernote, OneNote etc.) as soon as possible, and as explicitly as possible. If you don’t do this soon and explicitly, you will not be able to make heads or tails out of the note when you later read it. And that’s of course the point: To be able to come back to the note later, sometimes years later, and use it to solve a problem you’re working on. Below you can see an example of such a small notebook, and the items stricken through as soon as they’ve been transferred to the larger notebook or app.
When I go for a walk or when I simply cannot write, I use “4Memo” on my Smartphone (search Google for info), an app that records voice messages and lets them send you to one of four predetermined addresses, e.g., directly to Evernote or similar. The advantage of this app over others is that it has a HUGE button in the center, so you can hit that even in a dark room or in a car.
Ideas for presentations are EVERYWHERE? Yes, here are a few recent examples.
I have a mechanical watch that needs to be winded up every day. Yesterday I forgot to do so, and the watch stood still. Winding it up reminded me of the saying that even a watch that stands still shows the correct time twice a day, which again I linked to the concept of serendipity (quick definition: an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident).
Serendipity has great fascination, as it is surprising and mystifying at times, similar to magic, but happening in everyday life. Thinking about an examples to explain serendipity, I thought of how the other day I had found a booklet I displaced a year ago while I was looking for something completely different. Immediately it occurred to me that this is what we do in most card tricks: find something, specifically a selected card that is seemingly completely lost.
The next step was a natural: how about looking for something else, and through serendipity find the selection? The next thought was a specific trick I had done hundreds of times as a youngster, but without every giving it a presentational meaning. Of course it still worked, because every good trick has an intrinsic meaning. but if you can give it a fitting extrinsic meaning through a presentational plot, it will be, well, more artistic. However, excessive presentation can kill a trick, so much common sense and experience is required, as always and in everything.
The trick I’m talking about is “Peekaboo Revelation” from Frank Garcia’s Million Dollar Card Secrets, p. 71, and based on an idea by Bill Simon (Simon and Garcia are two names to reckon with, and I recommend to study anything that carries their name). The effect is that a selected card gets caught between the four Aces, which turn face up in the face-down deck. The serendipity presentation fits nicely. Here is a preliminary version of how to use this: “Has it ever happened to you that you were looking for your car keys, but instead found something you had misplaced long before? That’s called serendipity, similar to Columbus, who when looking for a shorter sea route from Europe to India discovered the Americas. The other day I wanted to look up the definition of serendipity on the Internet, and I ended up ordering a book on vegan cooking from Amazon. Anyway, this happens all the time in magic, let me demonstrate.” Something like that… Now you go into “Peekaboo Revelation” (see short description below). After the card has been selected and secretly placed between the face–up Aces, put the deck on the table and announce that you will cause their card to turn face up without even touching the deck. Do some hocus pocus, then ribbon spread the deck on the table to reveal four Aces face up in the deck. Oops, you were looking for the selection, but out come the Aces, and with a mistake at that: A card is between them. Fortunately, this turns out to be their selection. So, two mistakes that lead to the correct result, talk about serendipity…


Short description of “Peekaboo Revelation” (Simon/Garcia)

Set-up: The four Aces are reversed below the top card. Have a card peeked at, retaining a break above it. The right thumb obtains a second break somewhere among the face-up Aces and holds it, as the left hand undercuts all the cards below the lower break to the top. Immediately follow with a second cut, which is a Slip Cut, to wit: The left thumb is lightly pressed on the top card and keeps it in place as the right hand cuts all the cards above the break to the right and drops it back on top. The slipped card being the selection is thus maneuvered to between the face-up Aces. Care must be taken not to flash any of the reversed cards. The rest is presentation (see above).

Wish you all a successful week!

Roberto Giobbi

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Torino 20/11/2021 Sharing Secrets Workshop con Roberto Giobbi

I will be on Turin (Italy), for a workshop based on my book Sharing Secrets.

Sharing Secrets Workshop di Roberto Giobbi al Circolo Amici della Magia di Torino, Sabato 20 novembre 2021. La giornata seguirà l’impostazione del libro Sharing Secrets: verrà spiegata una tecnica e/o un principio ed un effetto dove viene messo in pratica. Per maggiori informazioni Telefono +39 329 2329312.


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The Magic Memories (45)

Hi everyone!

Here are The Magic Memories #45, gone online SUN, 7th November, at 0:07h… and we have only ten more “sessions” to go until the end of 2021. Right now I don’t think I will be continuing this in 2022, so hope you’ll enjoy the ramblings during this final sprint.

Caricature by Juan Luis Rubiales (Spain 2015) – all rights reserved

There is so Much to Do

One of the most interesting questions you can ask in conversation almost anyone, but in particular a creative artist, is what he or she still has up the sleeve, meaning wants to do in life. I’m asked this often as the semi-last or last question in interviews, of which I’ve given plenty in 2020 and 2021, and have always been a bit reluctant to answer. If I tell you the reason, you might find this funny, in the double sense of strange and amusing, but at some point in my life I had read a piece of “wisdom” – can’t remember when and by whom – that goes like this: “Do what you said you would do” (it is in one of the Agendas among the list of “Favorite Quotes”). I then thought, and frankly still do think, that this is a very good and practical piece of advice, and I try to live by it. This is why I’d rather only talk about things I’ve already finished or that I’m so far into, that I know I’m going to finish them.

Recently I’ve been asked again what projects I carry within myself but haven’t yet realized for various reasons. I thought some of you might be interested in that, and perhaps even be motivated to ask yourself that question (and give answers, of course).
So, without further ado, here is my list of the ten things I might do one day:
1. Write a book about 18 magicians I admire. Each of the 18 chapters starts with a portrait I would write about that particular performer, followed by a lengthy interview, followed by one trick, and finished off by one recipe. Then I would organize a convention, where all 18 magicians are present, each do some kind of short talk, a performance together, and of course cook the 18-course-menu for a limited number of attendants. BTW: 18 courses are the standard for a classic menu in Piedmont, Italy (home of the white truffles, Agnolotti, Vitello Tonnato, Barolo etc.).
2. For one year, to invite once a month 4 interesting magicians to my house, for 3 days, and share magic, bread and wine. A “Symposium” in its original meaning. To save you looking up “Symposium”, here it is, from Wiki: ” In ancient Greece, the symposium was a part of a banquet that took place after the meal, when drinking for pleasure was accompanied by music, dancing, recitals, or conversation. Literary works that describe or take place at a symposium include two Socratic dialogues, Plato’s Symposium and Xenophon’s Symposium, as well as a number of Greek poems. In modern usage, it has come to mean an academic conference or meeting such as a scientific conference. The equivalent of a Greek symposium in Roman society is the Latin convivium.” Adapt to magic.
3. Play a Surrealist Magic Game at a convention. The surrealists had come up with a game where one started a drawing, and then the next had to continue it, and so on. A similar procedure could be taken with a trick, or a routine, or an act…
4. Found a Magic City: A city or a village on a hill, with all inhabitants doing magic in some way: collectors, performers, inventors, researchers, with several small theaters, and a large one, a TV and sound studio,  all essentially with an artistic vision rather than a commercial one – people who come just to make money would not be admitted.
5. Write a second volume of Sharing Secrets, with the new concepts and “theories” I found since the publication of volume 1.
6.  Create a “Magic Wish Book”, similar to those catalogues big department stores used to send out to their customers before Xmas so they could choose and order their gifts. This would be a leporello-style book, with 52 pages (what else?),  each page with the idea of a trick that can immediately be performed, as the spectator wishes.
7. Create a video course out of the Card College volumes 3, 4 and 5, similar to those I did for Card College 1&2 (those were produced by Jim Steinmeyer and Frankie Glass titled Card College 1&2 – Personal Instruction). This might be done by the end of 2022…
8. Create and publish a book in a numbered and signed edition of 100 copies, with 50 (or so…) forewords to my favorite 50 magic books and/or fictitious magic books.
9. Write a book titled “A Better World”. I’m very critical, most of all with myself (!), but also with the world around me. Wherever I go and stand, I see things that could be improved. This is a curse and a gift. A curse, because although I consider myself a happy individual, I am so often unsatisfied; a gift, because without this “sense for excellence” I could not have written my books the way they are.
10.  Inspired by Jamie Olivers cookbook Five Ingredients that describes easy and quick to do recipies with only five ingredients each, create a book with card tricks that only use five “moves” (The Five Moves Card Book):  Dealing, Overhand Shuffle, Riffle Shuffle, Hold a Break, Transfer Cut. Maybe add to that the spreading of cards between the hands and on the table, and it would be The Seven Moves… The actual trigger for this idea, though, did not come from Oliver’s book, which I discovered later, but from an ice cream which claims to contain only five ingredients 🙂
How does your list read?

Wish you all a successful week!

Roberto Giobbi

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The Magic Memories (44)

Hi everyone!

Here are The Magic Memories #44, gone online SUN, 31st October 2021, at 0:07h.

About to stab the selected (hopefully!) card…

Comments on the “Magialdia Show”

This week’s magical roundabout is my answer to a question asked by reader Pedro Bryce, a young man from the new school of card magic in Spain and an accomplished practitioner of the art . He sent in an email asking, “What were the “pieces” (routines) that you chose for your three shows in Magialdia?”
Brief flashback: In my The Magic Memories #41 of OCT 10th, I gave a report of the Spanish magic convention Magialdia, and mentioned that I performed six shows of ca. 25 minutes each at the Fournier Playing Card Museum, over a period of two days and before an audience of ca. 30 persons. Following is an attempt at discussing not only the program I did, as this has only limited significance, but the considerations that influenced my decisions.
If you have studied my book Stand-up Card Magic you will remember that I devote the entire first chapter to examine the criteria that influence a performance in a stand-up situation, the “premise”, if you will. Far more than in a close-up situation, in a parlor type of show the setting and the conditions can make or break the act and are as important as the tricks and the presentation. Due to Corona restrictions, everyone in the audience had to wear a mask, and a distance of about one meter (ca. one yard) was set between a chair and another. Fortunately, I was still allowed to hand things out to the audience, and even bring up audience members (talk about the logic of some restrictions…). Nonetheless, this was far from a typical situation I was used to in over thirty (!) years of professional experience performing in six languages around the world.
First, I knew I’d had only half as many spectators as would normally fit in that room; second, my contact with the audience was restricted (I don’t see their faces, just the eyes); third, the over-all atmosphere in general, and among the members of the audience in particular, was severely altered. Add to this that although I’m fluent in Spanish, it is not my native language, and I don’t live in Spain, a factor that for instance greatly affects humorous remarks, gags, lines etc. Also, in this type of shows, which are sponsored by the city in the context of this great magic festival and which are therefore free, you get a very heterogenous audience: adults and children (although the organizers mention in the program that the shows are not children’s dhows, there are always a few of them), men and women from different walks of life, yuppies and retired people, well, you get the idea. This is different than if I get booked at a scientific convention where I know that everyone is for instance a medical doctor, and all speak English etc. Finally, the performing area, although set in the culturally-charged context of a historical building as a museum, these premises are not made for visual performances, so extra care has to be taken to be seen and heard.
These and other considerations taken, I decided on a three-part program I have already commented upon in the above-mentioned post: I stuck to the age-old formula of three routines: A visual beginning (a rope routine with audience interaction), another visual but intriguing middle (Vernon’s “Symphony of the Rings”), and a rather conceptual finale with a strong finish (my “Stickler”, the card stabbing routine from my book Stand-up Card Magic). Following a few extra comments on each piece:
Rope routine: I’ve been doin this routine for over 30 years now, and for me it is the ideal opener for various reasons. First, each of the dozen effects that takes place in a time-frame of six to eight minutes is visual and happens on a vertical plane, so I can use it for a small birthday party with a dozen people in a private living room, but also in a large theater – I have in fact performed this routine for audiences as large as eight hundred people, and with proper background and lighting everyone could see the effects. Second, each effect is of a universal symbolism, e.g., regardless of the spectator’s ethnical, cultural or demoscopic background, the effects will be understood. I’m sometimes asked if I don’t get bored performing the same routine over such a long period. I wondered myself for a while, but then was fortunate to hit on a quote by Heraclitus, a pre-socratic philosopher, who said, “You never step into the same river twice.” I must say that this caused a major paradigm shift in me, as I realized that I never perform the same trick twice (I’ll leave this for you to ponder).
The rope routine I do is essentially the one Shigeo Tagaki personally taught me when I visited Japan on an incredible tour organized by Max Maven and his manager David Belenzon ca. 1989, but this is another story 🙂 It is really a finely crafted assemblage of ideas by George Sands, Jean Merlin and Shigeo Tagaki, along with  bits and pieces that are lost in the annals of conjuring, as we like to say when we don’t know who to credit… but obviously I’ve deleted and added dozens of details over the years. Anyway, one of the good things of this routine is that the first six effects are very visual: two short pieces of about ten inches each grow to about three times their size, and then again the double of that, only to eventually fuse into one long rope about 3 meters in length (ca. 3 yards). Then the ends are removed, the rope cut, and the ends jump across à la George Sands. This has become quite “classic” in the past two decades, but it doesn’t take away anything from their efficiency. Not only are the effects superb and easily understood (see above), above all they allow men to monitor the audience’s reaction, and in particular that of individual spectators, whom I can then identify as potential assistants to bring up in the next sequences.
This I do, and it is preferably a lady, as the interaction I get is, if I may say so myself, charming and intriguing. Well, the routine continues with some known and some less-known effects, some of which have fooled well-posted colleagues 🙂 The finale is also untypical and really great: Two pieces of cut rope get restored, but one of them by the spectator herself, so she gets part of the final applause, as I applaud myself (!) and take her back to her seat. This has been as good an opener as I’ve ever come across.
Linking Rings: The second, middle, routine I chose for the given circumstances was “The Linking Rings”. Granted, it is an “oldie”, but given the conditions it proved to be a good choice. Furthermore, being situated in a museum that is a place treasuring a part of civilization’s heritage, it was easy to connect to the Linking Rings, also a piece from the magician’s classic repertoire. I would advise anyone who performs magic, whether occasionally or regularly, to learn an interactive, spoken routine of ca. 5 minutes. “Linking Rings” is one of the very few tricks that you can perform under virtually all conditions and in front of practically any type of audience, as everyone will understand the effects. Also, it is one among the half dozen tricks where the audience can come in at any moment of the routine, and still understand what’s going on and appreciate the climax. With most other tricks, especially card and mental tricks, if you miss the beginning you will be hard pressed to understand the rest, let alone the finale. This is why the Linking Rings are ideal openers if you perform in a Shopping Mall, on the street, at a Trade Show or other similar venue. It is perfect when nothing else goes, when you arrive at the place of the event, and it turns out conditions are not as agreed, when the audience doesn’t speak your language, when there are a lot of children etc.. Linking Rings you can always perform, surrounded and even walking around between tables. It is virtually a trouble-shooter for all situations. My routine takes Dai Vernon’s as a template, interwoven with a few sequences Richard Ross taught me when we met at the CeBit fair in Hannover, Germany, in 1988, but this is again another story 🙂 The routine could also be done to music, but I’m partial to text, so did my usual presentation, which jumps from language to language, but here I used mostly Spanish. In these rare cases I do script the trick, something which I do not always do.
Card Stab: So, after two rather visual routines, ropes and Linking Rings, I found the audience was ready for a more conceptional piece, a card trick. My card stabbing routine lasts ten to twelve minutes, and if you are interested you’ll find all details in “Stickler” in Stand-up Card Magic (The first Penguin Live Lecture also has the performance and detailed explanation of the trick). Although a lot less visual, this trick has something that is even more important than that, it appeals greatly to the emotions and allows the spectators to create images in their minds that are larger than any monitor could project. In this piece, as in all others of this type, it is very important to keep up a good pacing, without haste bit without unnecessary pauses (although there are several “dramatic” pauses – see “Pauses” in Sharing Secrets). In my opinion and professional experience I have found such pieces to be more memorable than purely visual effects. The latter are fascinating at the moment they occur, but the others last longer over time. This has a lot to do with how our perception and memory works… now you do the thinking.
Finally, I noticed that about 25% of the lines and comedic situations did not play as they usually do, maybe because I had not performed live for almost 12 months (never happened before!), but also because of the particular Corona conditions and cultural setting. With less performance experience such a situation can have fatal consequences, but with decades of shows in my backpack, I knew that it was neither me nor the tricks, but simply the conditions. This resulted in me not losing my self-confidence nor pacing as I simply pretended I got the reactions I usually get, with the same pauses and body language, and it did work. I recommend you remember this concept and use it.
Additional Comment
Before we part until next week, I would like to remind you that thinking about acts performed by any experienced performer can yield a profit in many senses. If yo search around a bit, you’ll discover some interesting publications. For a start try Programs of Famous Magicians by Max Holden, or Ian Keable’s 30 Years of Programmes from Daniels to Derren.
So, thank you, Pedro, for an interesting question – as you can see I’m never at loss for an answer, even a lengthy one for lack of time…
Hope the meanderings above have triggered some kind of thought and/or action with you, so you can say that now you know more than before, that you are a better magician than before and an altogether better person, olé! That would be neat – should call these the “Sunday Sermons” (or sermonette)… maybe 🙂
Have an excellent week!
Roberto Giobbi
PS: If you would like to see Pedro perform one of his pieces CLICK HERE.
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The Magic Memories (43)

Hi everyone!

Here are The Magic Memories #43, gone online SUN, 24th October, at 0:07h.


I think I’ve never mentioned this, but will do here since a few have asked: The cards in the title logo are of course in Tamariz Mnemonica Order, what else?

Trip Notes

I promised to tell you a bit about my long car ride from Muttenz, Switzerland to the Magialdia Convention in Spain, the latter reported in The Magic Memories #42. On the way there I made a stop to visit with my friend Olivier Cave, who lives near St. Etienne in France, and whom I had met a few times at the Escorial Card Conference years before. I finally had a change to spend the afternoon and evening with this remarkable man. The photo below shows us perusing a few of his books. In the background are just a few of his hundreds of books on the subject of gambling and cheating. Olivier has one of the most exquisite collections I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing, and he’s to be congratulated for all the time and expertise he’s putting into it.

Olivier is not just a passionate collector, but also a blessed scholar in the matter, and as if that wasn’t good enough, he also excels in the knowledge and execution of almost everything that is written up in those books, including some of the most difficult sleights. Maybe an organizer of magic conventions will one day have the foresight to book him for one of his rare lectures and demonstrations on the subject. In the photo below you can see Olivier smiling after having successfully dealt himself a winning hand, and myself with a puzzled look 🙂

A wonderful dinner in the company of his beautiful family rounded up a unique day with a truly extraordinary person. We promised to see each other soon again to continue our discussions on the infinite topic of gambling and cheating, as well as magic, naturellement.

Notes on Gambling & Cheating in Magic

The above triggered a few more thoughts on the matter. Without considering myself an “expert” in the field of gambling and cheating, I still have taken an early interest in the subject and accumulated and studied hundreds of books, videos and documents. For years my major source was the “Gambler’s Book Club” in Las Vegas: They used to send out their catalogue at least twice a year, and whenever I received one, I sent for a big order.

Among other things I found biographies of gamblers, more often than not from so-called “reformed” scoundrels, to be of great interest. If you are curious about this, I will recommend just two books (so as not to scare you off): One, Carlton Stowers The Unsinkable Titanic Thompson, two,  George H. Devol’s Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippi, both truly engaging and marvelous stories about two “characters”. Not only will you spend some entertaining and instructional reading hours, you will also be spoiled for ideas to use as presentations for your gambling-themed tricks: Several of the anecdotes told there make for ideal Prologues, or you can just tell them in-between tricks, especially in longer pieces.

For the note-takers among you: Open a note titled “Gambling-themed Tricks in Card College” (and other books…). Looking through the five volumes you’ll find quite a few, as well as items that with a change in presentation can be adapted to the theme. And if you’re looking for a ready-made routine go to Card College Volume 5 and work through “Fantasist at the Card Table”. Although the routine requires a set-up deck, two comments are in order:

  1. Since you start by showing how to control Aces during a shuffle and deal them to your own hand in a game of Draw Poker, this would allow for a production of the Aces that doesn’t change the order and position of the other 48 cards (make a list of tricks that do that – start with “Sign of Four” from Card College Volume 5, p. 1199, another one is “Thompson’s Aces” from the same book, or do a completely different trick, such as “The Master Grip” from Card College Volume 3, p. 544, which dislodges just one card – oh, my, and that’s just in the Card College books… there are so many others… you need to make that list 🙂
  2. I’m told that someone out there has written an entire book on deck switches, The Art of Switching Decks if I remember well… so that’s not a problem, is it?

I created this routine after reading a much simpler version in Ted Annemann’s JINX many years ago. My first solution was my second publication in my “writer’s career” and published under the title of A Gambler’s Dream by Martin Breese in London (1986). At that time I was spending a semester in London and Cambridge for my language studies, and became quite friendly with Martin, who at the time was an important dealer in the magic market, besides being a very charming and encouraging gentleman. Anecdotally, I should mention that I submitted a book project of mine to him a year or so later, and he refused to publish it. He had given it to David Britland, who was his unofficial technical advisor and who found the manuscript not up to par – and he was right 🙂 as I will readily admit today, but then I was certainly a bit disappointed. The consequence of it was, of course, that when I had published the original version of Card College in German (Grosse Kartenschule), and was looking for a publisher, I did not ask Martin but Stephen Minch of Hermetic Press fame. Had Martin accepted my first (inadequate!) book, I would obviously have asked him first, and he would then (maybe) have been the publisher of what seems to have become one of the most successful book series in magic history. Talk about the Butterfly Effect… Oh, and the JINX I mentioned above: If you are looking for something to take to your two-week vacation, get the three bound volumes of this amazing magazine and you might just spend your magically most memorable vacations…

Since I mentioned my “second” publication above, some may wonder which one was my first. Well, it also happened during my stay in London: Every Monday I (obviously!) went down to the Magic Circle. Although not a member, having attended Ron MacMillan’s One Day Conventions before, as a visitor and then as one of their youngest ever booked “acts”, I had become friendly with various of the MC members, such as Ian Keable, Chris Power and Johnny Johnston aka “JJ”, and was thus granted access to the premises of the famous Magic Circle. BTW: This was and still is certainly the most well-known club in the UK, and maybe in the world among lay people. I vividly remember that when I first did a trick for the landlady I was staying with during my study stay, she immediately asked, “Are you a member of the Magic Circle?” I never got that type of question in any other country I’ve been to, and I’ve been to many…

Anyway, on those Mondays the “real magic” did not happen at headquarters, then at 84 Chenies Mews and now in Stephenson Way, but at the pub round the corner, the Marlborough Arms, more specifically at the bar at the back, the Blenheim Bar (where the 12-year-old Glenfiddich cost £1!). That’s were the really interesting people gathered. I remember my regular sessions with Eric Mason, Fred Robinson, Ali Bongo and of course the chaps my age, Ian, Chris, JJ, Richard (MacDougal) and a host of others I forget. One of them was Walt Lees, an incredibly skilled card and close-up magician, who professionally made a living from children’s magic (yes, that did surprise me, too). Walt was at that time the editor of the legendary British publication Pabular (you are well advised to get a paper or electronic copy of this truly great magic magazine).

He was very kind and encouraging to me, something I’ll always remember thankfully, and he asked me for a few contributions to the magazine. So I did (some of it several years later made it into my Card College books). He liked four items particularly well and suggested to make them into a separate booklet, which then became The Cardmanship of Roberto Giobbi, in 1984 my very first “real” publication (I had previously contributed items to some Swiss, German and Austrian magazines). The publisher of it was “Magico Magazine” owned by one Samuel Gringras of New York City, to this day referred to by all I spoke to as “The Rabbi”. As far as I can remember, we never met, but he managed to put a printer’s error on the title page: “The Cardmandship of Roberto Giobbi” – the “d” is wrong, of course. The “funny” thing was that the first edition apparently sold out quickly (he must have printed just a few…), so he did a second edition, but even though Walt and I had told him about the misprint on the title page, he kept it and republished the booklet tel quel. I’m told famous stamps and coins get higher values if they have some kind of blemish, so I fool myself into believing that some 100 years after my death this will be a rare and sought-after item.

Ah, so many memories, so little time to tell, and only a few care 🙂 I wanted to tell you a bit about my participation at the Swiss Youth Convention, and maybe about the Swiss national Magic Convention I’m going to with my friend Claudio Viotto tomorrow. Let’s see if it works out…

Have a great week!

Roberto Giobbi

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The Magic Memories (42)

Hi everyone!

This is #42 of The Magic Memories, gone online SUN, 17th October 2021, at 0:07.

Boring (Card) Tricks

Today I would like to answer a question that came up when I did a lecture for TCC, my publisher in China, in Sheng-Zen in September 2019: “How can you avoid making self-working card tricks look boring?” An excellent question with more implications than the asking person probably thought.
An entertained audience experiencing a self-working card trick
First, we are tapping into the cliché that card tricks are boring. This is, in my opinion, nonsense. Cards are an instrument, like in music a violin or a piano are instruments. It would be simply foolish to say that violin or piano music is boring. Obviously, you might not like it, as you might not like an old Bordeaux or Impressionist painting, but this is quite another level of reasoning, Cards are just an instrument, and as such neither boring nor interesting, but what you do with it, of course, is. Because it will depend on how well you master the instrument (not vice-versa), what piece you choose to perform, and last but not least how inspired and talented your performance with it is. This “Artistic Trinity” made up of “Trick, Technique and Talent – call them the “Three Tees” – is what makes or breaks the experience of a performance, any performance, regardless of the instrument.
This takes us to the second point, that the “trick”, the content of a presentation, could be a weak one. Although it has been said that “there are no bad tricks, only bad performers”, readers of my texts know that I do not believe in that: I believe that there are quite a bit of bad tricks out there, and less good ones than one would think. So, the question is: How do you tell a good from a bad trick? I’ve answered this question in several of my writings, within different contexts, e.g., in Ask Roberto, in question 24, where James Hendrix asked: “What, in your opinion, is the best “self-working” card trick?”, or question 33, where John Meads asks: “Do you have a favorite effect with ESP cards?” Look it up there, please.
Let’s therefore assume that you do have a good trick at hand, and now face the challenge of making it fascinating to your audience, i.e., involve them intellectually and emotionally to ultimately create the sense of wonderment, which is the purpose of a magic performance. The stumbling block you will typically encounter, even when you’ve found a “good self-working” trick, is how to make the not-so-interesting parts of the trick interesting. Because, let’s face it, almost every self-working card trick has one or more procedural sequences, such as having to deal cards, make calculations etc. (Because that’s the price we pay for replacing sleight-of-hand with “easy” methods – there’s always a price to pay…)
One approach is to eliminate all such tricks altogether. This is possible, but there are not many self-working card tricks that can boast about being visual. Here are a few examples, though: “Follow the Leader” (Card College Lightest, p. 26), “Voilà, Four Aces” (Card College Lighter, p. 3), or “Fully Automatic Aces” (Card College Lighter, p. 13), to mention just a few from my own Light-Series. BTW: For notetaker among you this is the moment to open another note in your paper or electronic notebook and make a list of all the tricks you can think of under the heading of “Visual Self-working Card Tricks”. This is also an excellent discussion topic for a group of people live or over Internet.
Back to the subject. Let’s now assume that your trick is not so visual, but still a very good one, however, it requires procedures that could look suspicious and feel boring, if they are not correctly staged. The first thing to do, in my opinion and professional experience of many years, is to use an intriguing Prologue. I’ve written about this before several times. You can find dozens of ideas for a prologue in my Agendas (Secret Agenda, Hidden Agenda, Secret Twitter), and in Sharing Secrets I have devoted a chapter with several examples to the subject.
A good Prologue will automatically trigger the presentational plot of the trick, and will lead to a satisfying Epilogue. Just one example is “Further Than Ever” from my Card College Lightest (p. 97), which commences with these words: “Just as with other arts and sciences, magic keeps developing and reflecting the current times. In past decades, for example, a magician would say, ‘Please take a card.’ ” This Prologue, by the way, is not just quick and to the point, it also opens a window for the audience to the fact that magic has a cultural history, and that ideas come from somewhere, change through the current of time, and are a reflection of what people believe and do in every time period. That’s A LOT of additional concepts that will make any performance more substantial. As I’ve written in other places, we should try to not only entertain an audience, but also educate them by giving them occasional insights in the art of magic.
Anyway, once you’ve thought about the dramatic construction of the trick, it will be necessary to go through the trick chronologically, identify all potential “boring” moments, and make them “interesting”. So, if your trick requires you to deal cards, make that meaningful. For instance, as you start dealing the cards in two packets on the table,  you could say, “In life we have to make choices all of the time. Essentially, it boils down to have to choose from two options: shall I take that job or not, shall I marry my partner or not, shall I have a Coke or a glass of Bollinger Grande Année 2012?” Obviously, this can be serious or in fun, or anything in-between. The point is to engage the audience in the process and make it somehow appealing. Yes, you’ve got to “use your head” because magic is difficult, and entails a lot of work. Or follow the instruction of authors who know more than you 🙂 Alternatively, you can think of creating an interesting context for the dealing. If, e.g., you need to deal 25 cards in five packets of five cards each, make it a “Poker Demonstration” and deal five hands to five imaginary (or real) players. This will be much more intriguing than simply dealing cards in five packets in a row.
Another thing, when dealing is required, is to practice dealing fast, and to make pauses during the dealing process, looking up, making an informative or amusing comment, always addressing a spectator in particular for better communication, and then continue with the deal.
OK, that’s almost a lecture, isn’t it? It is actually one of the over 50 lectures I’ve done in the past, simply because it is a great subject, and as I mentioned at the beginning, with numerous implications. And we only scratched the surface. But now you have a full week to think for yourselves about the matter, and will get from one subject into the other, re-discovering what you already knew, namely that magic is wonderfully complex and the subjects are interwoven in endless ways, like the galaxies in the known (and unknown) universe. Oh my, it’s time for dinner!
Have a great week!
Roberto Giobbi


PS: If you want to say “Thank you” in a tangible way, buy something from the webshop. We’re still in Corona times with very little work, if at all, and I’m sure there must be an item that you don’t have. Now is the moment to get it 🙂

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The Magic Memories (41)

Hi everyone!

Here we are at #41 of The Magic Memories, gone online SUN, 10th October 2021, as always at 0:07.

Magialdia 2021

As promised in the last two posts I will tell you a bit about the latest magic convention I went to, Magialdia, in Vitoria, the capital of Alava, a small hour from Bilbao, the capital of the Basque Country in the north of Spain. Magialdia is not just a convention, but a true magic festival lasting 3 weeks, the last three days being a magic convention that usually attracts ca. 400 magic enthusiasts from all over the world, the majority from Spain, of course. This year, due to Corona, the capacity was limited, but it did sell out and played to ca. 250 happy conventioneers.

This year Magialdia was in its 33rd edition, making it possibly the oldest such event in Europe, and certainly one of the longest-running in the world. What many will find surprising is that the event is mainly sponsored by the city of Vitoria, plus a few others, such as Fournier, the playing card company founded and located in precisely this city (and that’s another story). This is of course sensational, not just because it allows for a superb program with the best international artists, but also because it officially recognizes magic as a worthy artistic and cultural event, similar to festivals for Jazz, ballet or theatre. This is owed to a large part to its organizer from the first day, José Angel Suarez, and his exceptional team. That, naturally, is the secret for any successful convention: have a well-attuned team, i.e., always the same people who get along splendidly with each other, and where each one knows what to do.

Many things are absolutely remarkable about this festival, and if you are a booked act, you’ve never been treated as royally as at this convention. I won’t mention all the benefits you enjoy as a performer, as it would put all other convention organizers to shame, and this is certainly not my intention. However, may I say that if had to organize a convention I would go to Magialdia, make careful notes on how they handle things, and then imitate everything they do, including inviting all performers on the day after the convention to a full-day tour to the Rioja wine region, with visit to one or two wineries, some historical sites, and invite them (“inviting” meaning that people don’t have to pay) to a sensational lunch, including some of the great wines from Rioja. The photo below is taken on one of these legendary excursions. You will be able to recognize various well-posted magicians, such as Max Maven and the late Ramon Rioboo.

And here is yet another photo, overseeing the gorgeous Rioja valley, where some of the best wines in the world come from, with more stars of magic you might recognize, among others Toni Cachadiña, Yves Carbonnier and Gabi Pareras, one of the rare geniuses in magic.

I’ve had the privilege of being an invited guest to this conventions for the past fourteen years, and I haven’t missed one, occasionally turning down lucrative engagements, just to be with my friends at Magialdia. On some occasions I have performed and lectured, often together with a few of my friends, on Sunday morning, with talks that were off the beaten path. In the photo below you can see, from left to right, Jesus Etcheverry (the author of the Ascanio books), Toni Cachadina (FISM award winner in Close-up and Card Magic), Joaquin Matas (famous professional in Spain, here in a medieval costume, as he had just recreated a Cups & Balls routine from the oldest Spanish magic book), Manolo Tena (one of the greatest collectors of old magic books), and an unknown…

This was taken at the end of a 90-minute talk on the history of card magic literature in Spain. The following year I gave a 60-minute lecture all by myself in the Playing Card Museum to a very appreciative lay audience. I wish I could give this talk in other places, too, but most convention organizers just lack the vision to include such events in their conferences, which mostly are just magic gatherings directed at amateurs who want to have fun. I should hasten to add that I believe this is a gross misunderstanding, for especially nowadays we do have a large number of people who are not professional performers, but who are very well-informed and educated, and who would enjoy conventions to be less trivial than they often are. I do not write this to bash anyone, mind you, as this is not what I do, but because I have attended hundreds of conventions since the age of 17, and that’s now almost 45years, so I know what I’m talking about.

Back to facts: During Magialdia, and before the magic convention part starts on the last week-end, there are dozens of activities. Magic in pubs and cafés, magic-related movies with introductory talks by university professors, workshops for children, special “magic menus” in various restaurants, expositions in the public library and a large etcetera. Since I mentioned restaurants: The Basque cuisine is one of the best in the world, period. Below is a little film-photo clip by my friend Toni Cachadiña that shows only happy faces, and that’s what it is all about.


Back to the program: Another thing they do is that they put some really good performers in historical places within the old town center, each venue having a unique atmosphere. This year they had Ricardo Rodríguez (Chile), Joaquín Matas (Spain), Pipo Villanueva (Spain), (Argentina) and Roberto Giobbi (Switzerland & Italy). I had the privilege of acting in the beautiful Fournier Playing Card Museum, next to the one in Issy-les-Moulineaux (Paris) the most remarkable museum of its kind. I did three shows of 25 minutes each on two consecutive days, total six shows, for an audience of 30 spectators each time (as everywhere the number of spectators in the audience had to be reduced due to Corona, with everyone wearing masks and keeping a distance of about one meter to each other). In spite of these sub-optimal conditions, the event went over well. As you might imagine it is much harder to get the normal reactions from a “masked” audience, that is aware at all times of their distance to each other and the artist. An additional difficulty for me was that I had last performed in November of 2020, almost one year away! This has never happened before in my life as a performer (and I’ve been a professional since 1988). Plus I had to cope with the Castilian language, the one I speak least well of the six I master. I admit that in such instances I turn back to scripting, which I usually only use rarely, to make sure I get all the lines and special vocabulary, which is part of my performing style in several languages. I would say that I lost about 25% of the reactions, but thanks to the program I had selected, and to the decades of experience, it went over much better than I had expected. I stuck to the age-old formula of three routines: A visual beginning (a rope routine in nine phases with audience interaction after about 3 minutes), another visual but intriguing middle that considered the fact of a heterogeneous audience including children (Vernon’s “Symphony of the Rings” with bits Richard Ross personally taught me), and a rather conceptual finale with a strong finish (my “Stickler”, the card stabbing routine from my book Stand-up Card Magic).

During the festival there are other unique events, one of the most unusual being what they call “Magia en los escaparates” (“Magic in the window displays”): Seven or eight shops in the heart of the city empty their main window and let a magician or magicienne set up their little stage and perform. The audience sits and stands outside on the sidewalk and enjoys the show, which is mostly visual to music with loudspeakers outside of the window. Occasionally some have experimented with interactive acts with patter and were quite successful with it. The acts are often top acts from all around the world. In the past they had Otto Wessely, Sylvester the Jester, Miguel Muñoz, and so many others. One year a sponsor even offered a prize of 10’000 EURO (ca. $ 11’500) for the best act, so the event turned into a competition (with eight competitors). The first prize went to Armando Lucero, who had come all the way from Las Vegas. In the photo below you can see the audience in front of a window, plus the jury of three seated in the middle, from left to right: Joanie Spina, Roberto Giobbi, José Angel Suarez.

Three other events for the public stand-out: First, a two-hour close-up gala in an amphitheater-like setting, were all convention activities take place, with an international cast, this year with Tom Stone, Ricardo Rodriguez and Roberto Mansilla, among others, presented in a hilarious way by one of Spain’s TV comedy and magic stars, Jandro. Two: a 90-minute magic variety show in Vitoria’s oldest and most beautiful classic theater, again with an international display of performers, and finally, on Sunday night, the closing night, they set up a huge stage such as the ones you see for large music concerts, and they put up a ca. 75-minute show in the large Plaza amidst the historical center of the city, with over a thousand spectators in attendance. Due to Corona last year and this year they had to move to yet another more modern theater with less capacity, but I’m confident that they’ll return next year.

And I haven’t even told you about the convention program for magicians! Fortunately I could attend the various galas, and also saw Roberto Mansilla’s excellent lecture. Unfortunately I missed several other activities due to Paul Wilson asking me to give lengthy interviews for his upcoming documentary on the life and magic of Juan Tamariz. However, if that turns out well I’ll forgive him 🙂

As you can see, next year you should leave everything you’re doing and come to Magialdia in September – and don’t forget to take a few extra days to visit one of the most interesting countries of the Old World, Spain, where some of the most innovative magic is created and performed.

Until next Sunday I wish all of you a successful and happy week!

Roberto Giobbi