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.
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 🙂
Here are The Magic Memories #44, gone online SUN, 31st October 2021, at 0:07h.
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 Lecturealso 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.
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!
PS: If you would like to see Pedro perform one of his pieces CLICK HERE.
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?
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:
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 🙂
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…
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.
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!
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 🙂
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), Roberto Mansilla (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!
Here we are with another edition of The Magic Memories, namely number 40, gone online on SUN, 3rd October 2021, at 00:07 o’clock – and as I’m writing this it is the premiere of the latest James Bond movie “No Time to Die”, what a coincidence…
The Program is Wild – Discussion
Thank you for all the nice comments I received on last weeks contribution, “The Program is Wild”. This encourages me to publish the sequel to it, i.e. the discussion and explanation of the performance you saw. There are really a lot of ideas in this clip, which is the beginning section of my Magic Apple Zoom Lecture (June 2021). The idea with the double-deck case has quite a bit of potential, especially the one with the “invisible/imaginary” deck next to the real performance deck.
To make things easier, I’ll report my drawings below, which you may use, or take as a point of departure for your own creations:
And here is how the box looks that I’m using for the program, with the “instruments” in the “false bottom” (maybe another presentational idea?):
Idea for a Short Act
As for the “Wild Program”, using just four apparently double blank cards, drawing a magic wand on one, and then making three “instruments” appear on each of the other three cards, makes for a lovely overture to a short (or long) little act. This obviously has a very open architecture, leaving space for all kinds of interpretations. But if you ask me for an opinion, I would go with “coins” (representing money), “rope” and “cards”. I would then open with “Paper to Money” and follow with “Gipsy Thread”, both are explained with all the details of handling and performance I gathered after 30 years (at least) of professional experience almost all over the world in my third Penguin video “The Act”. Close this little act with a third trick using playing cards. This will give you a nice compact “impromptu” close-up show of ca. 15 minutes (depending on the card trick). If you have more time, the first two trick, being visual in nature, will allow you to now continue with a solid card act. Card tricks, being mostly conceptual in nature, are best performed after the attention has been caught with shorter and more visual pieces – this is rule that has its exceptions… My choice for a lengthier card section would be “The Color-changing Deck” (Card College 5, p. 1333), followed by Williamson’s “Torn and Restored Transposition”, p. 72 in his Williamson’s Wonders (you can place the duplicate cards necessary immediately under the double-back thick card needed in the “Cold-changing Deck”), finally closing with “The Joker Folds up” (Card College 5, p. 1349. This would make quite an act 🙂
This is #39 of Roberto Giobbi’s The Magic Memories, gone online SUN, 26th September 2021, at 0:07 o’clock.
Elmsley Gag Photo
I had a few inquiries about last post’s photo, which was obviously an allusion at Elmsley’s “Four-as-four Count” aka “Elmsley Count”, where you don’t see the third person, but you see the first twice. Sort of a visualization of the joke that was making the rounds as the four Elmsley videos by L&L Publishing saw the light of day. The joke went like this: A magician asks another, “Did you already see the four Elmsley videos?” “Yes, however, I did not see the third one, but I saw the first twice.” Verrrrry funny.
Anyway, below is the real photo, showing the “hidden” subjects, Italy’s Aurelio Paviato and Swiss-American Ron A. Wohl. This was taken on the occasion of the Jornadas Cartomagicas of the Escuela Magica de Madrid, the legendary yearly card convention held in San Lorenzo de El Escorial (near Madrid), this one being dedicated to the work of Alex Elmsley, who honored all of us with his presence. The photo was taken with the camera of my friend Aurelio, if my memory serves me right, and we were dining at “La Cueva”, a favorite restaurant we often went to with Ascanio, Tamariz and many other luminaries of the card universe.
Opener for a Close-up Performance
I’m finally back from a lengthy travel to the Magialdia Magic Convention in Vitoria, which due to Corona restrictions was a bit different than usual, but as wonderful as ever – I will tell you about it and the trip in an upcoming post. Today, however, I will leave you with a “teaser”, in the sense that it will be a performance only video clip from my Magic Apple Lecture. It is an idea of how to open a little or even bigger close-up performance or act. I already described the original idea of it in my Secret Agenda, and for the convenience of those among you who are still resisting buying it 🙂 , here is the link to the entry in form of a PDF, CLICK HERE, please, to see how this all started (it is a very quick one-page read).
In the video you’ll see the opening sequence and the first performance piece from my Magic Apple Zoom Lecture. It is a personal interpretation of a Wild Card idea used by both Japan’s Shigeo Takagi and Holland’s Fred Kaps. A first version can be found in my book Secret Agenda, entry of AUG 29 (see above). The discussion and explanation of it will be found in my upcoming The Magic Memories (40), in the non-public section of my YouTube channel.
To watch the video clip of “The Program is Wild” CLICK HERE.
I’m off to the Youth Convention sponsored by the Magischer Ring der Schweiz, this time only at one hour card drive away, where I’ll be the keynote speaker, and look very much forward to meeting people aged 13 to 20 who are relatively new to magic, and to enjoy their talent (some of them already do amazing things).
It is SUN, 19th September 2021, as the 38th edition of The Magic Memories goes online at 0:07…
Like the previous post (37), you are receiving this one thanks to the automation function of WordPress. Because, yes, I am right now on the road back from the Magialdia Magic Festival in Vitoria, another 1’200 kilometers, about 750 miles, in two days. On the way back I plan on visiting my good friend Marc Serin, an ophthalmologist by profession, but also an inspired amateur magician, living in Carcassone, in the midst of beautiful South of France.
The plan is for me to tell you a few things about the convention, which is possibly Europe’s (the world’s ?) oldest magic festival, and my travels and the people I met, in the next post, ie., The Magic Memories (39). Nowadays they do this real-time with all those fantastic (?) “social media”, and they do it at the same time they are watching a magic lecture or performance, or while they are eating or even talking to someone. Since I’m still “old school” I do all the aforementioned individually , enjoying them fully, and later I’ll let you know about it. Hope that’s OK 🙂
As for this week’s little gift to you, I just decided to take it “light”, as in the Card College Lightseries, and make it “just” a photo. Obviously, being a person who loves sophistication, like yourself, my dear reader, it won’t be just any photo, but a “special” one. For those who know, no explanation is necessary, for those who don’t, no explanation will suffice.
Hope to meet you back here next Sunday – and meanwhile have a great week!
Recently someone on the Internet posted this quote of mine, which I had completely forgotten about, but thought it would make a nice intro to today’s The Magic Memories #37, gone online on SUN, 12th September 2021, as always at exactly 0:07 o’clock. And here’s the quote:
“An artist is an inspired individual who has found his vocation. Through his work he not only gives a meaning to his own life, growing as he practices his art, but he also contributes to the world and the life of others. Art is passion communicated with inspired talent.” (Roberto Giobbi)
Magic Apple Zoom Lecture (4)
This week’s gift to you is the fourth episode of the Zoom Lecture I gave for the friends of Brent Geris’ Magic Apple in Hollywood on the 18th July 2021, and it deals with the second “special card” included in the Card College Playing Cards deck, namely the double-backer; there are actually two, one with the same back color on both sides, one red-blue. Both offer, of course, endless possibilities, but you should like the ideas I touch upon in this 12-minute part of the lecture. With the means of research offered nowadays (Denis Behr’s Magic Archives, Bill Kalush’s CARC etc.) you can really spend a lot of time to chase after some excellent ideas, which are hidden in the magazines and books by simply searching for “double-backer” and variations of the term. Mentioning sources: Remember to check “Hofzinser’s Triple Prediction” (p. 178) from Stand-up Card Magic which is a truly ingenious use of the double-backer, how else, coming from Hofzinser, the genius! Anyway, you may consider today’s clip simply an open door to a land that can still be explored…
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