Welcome to the 11th episode of The Magic Memories, gone online on SUN, 14th MAR at 0:07 CET.
Twenty years ago, almost to the day, Stan Allen of MAGIC magazine (and convention!) fame called me up and asked me if I would be willing to take over for one month their then trick-column “Inside Out” of May (2001). I agreed, and the result was a 12-page “magazine inside the magazine”, similar to Charlie Miller’s “Magicana” in Genii, but a bit longer…
This will be my offering to you for this month, and I hope you’ll like it, at least some of it. Those who are familiar with my published work will notice that a few of the items, those pertaining to cards, went into some of my later publications, Card College 5 and Card College Lightest. The two coin routines, however, were never released in any other format, and since I’ve received some lovely feedback for my take on Shigeo Tagaki’s “Coin Assembly”/”Coinvergence” (see “The Magic Memories 08”) I thought I’d let you into a little more of my “coin work” 🙂
Teaser: I’ve finished writing my latest book, and Barbara did some beautiful work on the layout. The tentative title is 52 Secrets, sub-titled The Most Important and Influential Concepts in Magic. It’s now going to the proof-readers, and if all goes well we go to print in a few weeks to make it available before the summer holidays. I’ll have more information next week 🙂
BTW: These blog-post-texts do not go to my proof-readers, they’re published as I write them, just in case you native speakers of English out there have been wondering about this or that strange way of putting something…and the odd typo…
Welcome to the 10th installment of The Magic Memories on SUN, FEB 7th, 0:07 sharp (or as Juan Tamariz likes to say at the Escorial Card Conferences, “…o’clock!”)
This week I had a Skype Session, one of several, with my good friend Jesús Etcheverry of Ascanio-books fame. He performed his lovely “Bilbo’s Off-color Ace Assembly” for me. It reminded me of a routine which used to be Lennart Green’s favorite Giobbi-routine. Each time we met he asked me, “Roberto, do that trick with the Aces for me!” This brings back lots of memories of the times spent with Lennart, doubtless one of the few living geniuses of our beloved art, and of course many an anecdote which I might relate on some other occasion. We do occasionally converse over the phone, but I’m infinitively sad that we have not been able to meet personally for years now.
Anyway, on a happier note, this week’s item is my interpretation of Max Maven’s “Picasso Aces” from his book Focus (Hermetic Press 1990) which he published under his real name Phil Goldstein. I renamed the trick “Miro Aces” as it differs in several Details of Handling, and because of my son Miro Alessandro. It is from a private recording I made for Lennart in 1993 on the occasion of his visit to my ancient home in Reinach, Switzerland. This is performance only; the explanation is on a 65-minute DVD which was part of the Collector’s Edition of Card Magic Masterclass published by Vanishing Inc. in 2018, and of course you’ll find the Maven-Goldstein original handling in his book.
As most recordings of this type the quality is so-so but good enough to see and understand all the necessary. You’ll appreciate the great complexity of techniques and subtleties, I hope. I think this trick alone, if discussed in detail, would fill a lecture. Doing a lecture on one trick only has always been a dream of mine, and actually I did it, once, but that’s again another (amusing) story 🙂
PS-Trivia: Speaking of “Picasso Aces”, did you know that Picasso’s full name is Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso? Note the “Nepomuk”…
This is number nine in the series of The Magic Memories, and I’d like to share an interview I did years ago with my dear friend Dave Solomon of Chicago.
I met David for the first time in the summer of 1996 at Ginny and Simon Aronson’s home, where I stayed in the guest room of their amazing apartment (actually three!) on the n-th floor of a magnificent building overseeing Lake Michigan. Hank Moorehouse had booked me for the SAM convention in Las Vegas, where I performed and lectured on the stage of Bally’s Casino – so I’m one of the few who can justly say to have performed in Las Vegas with a contract and a fee 🙂
Simon Aronson, whom I only knew by reputation, had heard that I’m at the convention. Imagine my surprise when I came back to my hotel room and had a message on the answering machine of the room phone (that was before mobile phones and Internet) by Simon inviting me to stay with Ginny and him when in Chicago. That’s true magic! Dave and I hadn’t met before, so it was another surprise when on a Sunday morning he came to see me at Aronson’s, with a baguette under his arm, and a bag with delicious cheese and a bottle of Opus One in his hands! You can imagine the magic session that followed…
After that we met several times in Europe, at the Escorial Card Conference, and he and his lovely wife Madeleine visited with us in Switzerland, and I went to see them several times in Chicago, staying at their home. The sessions we had with Jimmy Nuzzo, Simon Aronson, John Bannon and the Chicago boys, the visit at Schulien’s, and my lectures and talks I gave at Marshall’s magic shop shall always stay in my memory. The meeting with Jay Marshall and Eddie Fields , well, that’s another story.
Years later I sent Dave several questions in various categories, and he answered in written form. The text was then translated into German and published in MAGIE, the organ of the MZvD (Magischer Zirkel von Deutschland – the German Magic Circle), with about 3’000 members this is Europe’s largest magic club.
The English version of this interview has never seen print, and I hope you enjoy it – CLICK HERE to read and/or download the PDF.
Welcome to the 8th installment of The Magic Memories. Today I would like to share a beautiful little coin routine with you that I used to do quite a bit as part of my formal close-up program, and still perform occasionally. Although some of you might think that I only do cards, my interests in magic are quite broad. My professional stand-up act for parlor and stage actually has only one card trick, and my close-up act is about fifty-fifty cards and other instruments. When I was young, starting magic at age fourteen, I did almost every trick from the standard magic books, including magic with small apparatus, which I built myself (how else?). At some point I even had a manipulation act with Billiard Ball Routine, Dancing Cane etc. and with it passed my entry exam in the Magic Circle of Switzerland in 1977 in St. Gallen.
This clip I have for you today was recorded at Giacomo Bertini’s “European Close-up Symposium” in Milan, Italy, in 2012, as part of an instructional video project which had only very limited circulation. I’m publishing it here to save it from being forgotten, as I believe you will find it contains a few interesting bits and pieces. It’s a short routine built around Shigeo Tagaki’s piece “Coin Assembly”. This is performance only. If you are interested to learn Tagaki’s original routine, you will find it in Richard Kaufman’s The Miracles of Shigeo Tagaki, an excellent book. You can download my teach-in of the assembly trick from Chris Wasshuber’s library.com. Too be redirected to his webshop CLICK HERE. The assisting spectator, by the way, is Alain Iannone, one of Italy’s top close-up professionals.
To watch the performance of “Coinvergence” CLICK HERE.
PS Trivia: For all fans of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, the scheduled uploading function of WordPress, the software used for these posts, finally works. Therefore, the new posts will go online every Sunday precisely at 0:07! Big thank you to my friend and webmaster Andrea Pancotti and his Prestigiazione.it.
We are at the 7th episode of The Magic Memories, and for a change let’s do a card trick, a simple one at that, but as Confucius should have said, “Simplicity is the privilege of the masters”. Unfortunately he failed to say it, so he left it to me to pronounce 🙂
If you are reading this you very likely own or have heard of my Light Trilogy, which was the result of years of studying tricks that do not need any sleight-of-hand, but still had one or various elements, which made them interesting for the student who wanted to broaden his understanding of magic and at the same time add a few good pieces to his active repertoire. If you’d like to know more about this subject, please reread my forewords, especial the one in Card College Light, but also the one in Card College Lightest (the one with the Bocuse fried eggs, which in the New World they call “Eggs Sunny Side Up”).
When I wrote and published the first volume in German in 1988, 33 years ago as of this writing, there called Roberto Light, it didn’t occur to me in my wildest dreams that one day it would become a bestseller and be translated into eight languages, which is not so bad for a magic book, but of course would make Dan Brown laugh out loud.
The first piece in the third book , Card College Lightest, is called “Einstein’s Card Trick,” even though Professor Einstein had nothing to do with it, but my dear friend Richard Vollmer of Strasburg had. In corresponding with him—Richard, not Albert—about this trick, the issue of how to handle the initial phase was brought up. As is usually the case, after a few days I received a nice letter from Richard, as Richard and I must be among the last letter-writers on this planet, in which he detailed a procedure that would make the beginning of the piece smoother and safer. Some might still prefer the version as it is described in Card College Lightest, and that’s perfectly fine, but I would like to use this blog to bring you what Richard and I think is an interesting variation. For those who don’t have the book, don’t fear, as the following description is completely self-contained.
Einstein – Zweistein
Richard’s trick relies on two principles. The first is a wonderful mathematical control commonly called the “automatic placement.” Scotland’s Peter Duffie has pointed out what is so far its earliest identified application: “Number Trick” by Van Osdol, in W. F. (Rufus) Steele’s 50 Tricks You Can Do, Chicago, 1946, p. 56. Steele introduces the piece by writing, “This trick is an old timer … ,” which tends to confirm some experts’ opinion that the principle, while not readily documented, goes back many more years. The second principle is an idea based on work by the brilliant British magician, Alex Elmsley. (See Elmsley’s “7-16”, first published in his September 1957 lecture notes Low Cunning, then in fuller form in Ibidem, No 13, March 1958, and also in Minch’s The Collected Works of Alex Elmsley, Volume I, 1999. After the first time you’ve performed this trick and find that you simply do not understand how it works, given all the variables determined by an audience member, you may come to understand the title.
Effect:Using a procedure the performer ascribes to the Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein, a member of the audience finds a card noted by him earlier in a most unusual and astonishing way.
Method:The first nice feature about this piece is that it doesn’t require any preparation whatsoever and can be done at any time with any deck. In fact, you can do this trick with the worst cards available and the deck needn’t even be complete. It is a good thing for any performer to have at least three such card tricks in his or her repertoire—so this could be one of them. [Note for notetakers: Open a note now in your note taking app or start a new section in your paper notebook, and there make a list of all the tricks you know, which can be performed with a sub-optimal deck; as a sub-category make a list of tricks that can be performed with a incomplete sub-optimal deck.]
Start by delivering what is my favorite line in this trick, “Do you know the Einstein card trick? I can assure you it is relatively good.” Yes, I know, verrrry funny… As soon as the audience has recuperated from this hilarity (or maybe not), continue, “Most people know Einstein as a gifted physicist. However, only a few people are aware he had a special interest in magic—and he invented an extraordinary and entertaining experiment, which I would like to perform for you now.” We call this “artistic license”…
Hand the deck to someone to shuffle thoroughly and then cut.
In the original version you now had to give your helper ten cards, but in this variation you can simply instruct the spectator to cut off about a quarter of the deck. In order for this variation of the trick to work, the packet cut off must contain at least eight and not more than 16 cards. To ensure this, you can ask your spectator to shuffle the deck and then cut it into two equal halves. Then ask him to cut each packet in half once more. The spectator is then asked to choose any one of the four packets.
Let’s break for a moment here and have a closer look at this situation. A challenge in this type of trick is to find some kind of justification—humorous, serious, or pseudo-scientific—for doing the things that are necessary in order for the principle to work. This is the penalty so-called “self-working tricks” exact: they require actions that are unusual or lengthy. All of these procedures require motivation. It doesn’t so much matter what this motivation is as long as it makes sense, even though this sense can be nonsensical, like in a fairy tale or in a sci-fi story, both of which can be fantastic, but respect consistency in theme and continuity.
To justify the above-mentioned selection procedure you could, for example, state, “An ordinary magician would now simply ask you to think of a card. But Einstein, of course, being a world-famous scientist, would do it differently. And I will do it exactly as he did.” You can easily recognize that, strictly speaking, this does not explain why it has to be done this way, but the words and the actions lead elegantly into each other and prevent the spectators from feeling that something is not the way it should be. The spectator has neither time nor reason to protest and is automatically led from one step to the next. Maybe some school of thought would call this a hypnotic structure? A most interesting and useful concept of elegance in deception hides behind this example and we might elaborate on it in some other time. For now, let’s leave it at this. As I said, this is just an idea, and you are cordially invited to find something of your own.
Back to the trick: the spectator has chosen a packet. Ask him to thoroughly shuffle and cut it and eventually look at the card on the face of his chosen packet. Let’s assume this card to be the Eight of Hearts. Make it crystal clear by explicitly mentioning it, that nobody can know how many cards he is holding (1), what cards they are (2) and in what order they are (3). These are three statements, all of which are true—although the number of cards is limited due to the cutting procedure used, so we have a half-truth—the last two statements are unconditionally true and will therefore override the limitation of the first statement. This is another concept of linguistic and logic deception that would require a more detailed inspection, but we’ll leave it as another open door to a room into which you may step at your own leisure. [Note-takers will open another note, describe the concept briefly, name it the “Principle of Partial Truth”, and then find several other examples in order to install it as a skill for future application in one’s own work, as this is of course the aim of the whole exercice. Or wait for my upcoming book 52 Theories…]
With his card still on the bottom of the packet, proceed with your instructions, “And because this trick was created by Einstein, in homage we will spell the name of this great scientist.” Following your instructions, your helper looses his selection in the packet by spelling “Einstein” and transferring two cards for each letter from the top to the bottom of the packet (not one card as in the original version). The two cards can be taken together, which doesn’t change their order, or one on top of the other, which reverses their order, then put on the bottom. The fact that two cards are taken for each letter is explained by saying that the two corresponds to the “2” in the formula E=MC2, of course. Everybody who understands the Theory of Relativity will agree with this; for all the rest (that’s all of us except Einstein and a very few others) it will suffice to believe what we say here.
Recap (briefly!), “Because I have no idea how many cards you have, I also cannot know where your card is located. If you had cut more cards or fewer, your card would be at a completely different position.” Allow this to sink in, as it is true. “And there is absolutely no way I could know which card is yours.”
Continue, “Before Einstein became famous, he invented the Australian deal, which later led him to his theory of relativity. It goes like this.” Ask your helper to deal the top card of his packet face down onto the table. Have him then move the next card to the bottom of his packet. Once again have him deal the top card onto the table, then transfer the next one beneath the packet. He continues in this way until he holds only one card. Again, in this procedure, with one card out of two being eliminated, explain that this is so because the two refers to the “2” in the formula: “Obvious, Watson, obvious!” You can choose to do the dealing yourself, actually I recommend you do, to avoid mistakes and keep up the rhythm.
All that is left for you to do is to underscore the impossibility of the remaining card being his. But when your helper turns his card up, it is exactly the one he noted earlier. Einstein the genius has won again (and should be renamed Zweistein).
As Richard wrote at the end of his letter to me: “Easy, neat and cute, isn’t it?”
Lest I Forget …Carefully study the words I have chosen in the suggested text above. Then use the ideas you find in them to write your own presentation. This spoken staging ensures that your helper does and thinks what you wish him to. It will appear to many that you have somehow manipulated a freely thought-of card. In truth, you don’t know the identity of the selection; you merely rely on its position in the packet. Isn’t the psychology of magic subtle? I would like to point out to anyone who likes to experiment that this trick works not only with the name “Einstein,” but with any word that contains eight letters. Armed with this knowledge, you can now develop your own unique presentation for this effect.
This is the sixth installment of The Magic Memories, and it is dedicated to the memory of Dany Ray (1921-1989).
From 1976 to 1983 Dutch entertainer Lou van Burg moderated a TV show titled “Varieté, Varieté” for German TV (ZDF) with numerous artists, among others some of the top magicians of the time. This show has French prestidigitator Dany Ray as guest, and you can see him perform his international cabaret act, with which he toured the best places around the world.
He starts with Miser’s Dream, a routine which is perfectly constructed and paced for the nightclub situation: he begins to music, in 20 seconds establishes himself, the instruments and the effect. Then goes into the audience with just the right amount of interaction and amusing and astonishing coin productions, only to finish back on stage. Just by this routine alone you can recognize that here is a consummate professional at work.
He then does “The Jumping Flower” from Bert Allerton’s The Close-up Magician (USA 1958) as an in-between. If you are a performer, especially of close-up, I can warmly recommend this book which has some outstanding material and advice for any professional. The effect is short and visual. I’ve tried several methods to emulate it, but never got to make it work the way it looks with Dany Ray. I think it is one of the best pieces of its genre and could still be successful today.
The next trick is the infamous “Bra Trick” which today cannot be performed anymore. However, in its time, and in a nightclub, it worked very well. You can see the lady’s spontaneous positive reaction, of course, very much due to Dany Ray’s adorable personality and the fact that the bra has three cups; I’ve never seen this before or after, and it is a brilliant idea that in my opinion takes the sting out of the situation and made it a perfect trick for the time and the place (remember we’re in the Seventies, 50 years ago). Notice the way he brings the lady up on stage and dismisses her elegantly. The vanish of the silk is very efficient and once again shows how Dany Ray superbly married sleight-of-hand to apparatus magic. You can find the vanish in Harold Rice’s Encyclopedia of Silk Magic Volume 1 (p. 290), an extraordinary compendium, not only for material, which is fantastic to say the least, but also for the illustrations and lettering (!) of Francis B. Martineau.
The table for the “Passe Passe Bottles” is the one by Ken Brooke, and I find it hilarious. I bet that sales of that table must have soared to the sky after having seen Dany Ray do it, but probably only very few have used it more than once or twice, if at all, since its performance is very difficult from a presentational point of view. And Dany Ray’s presentation is just masterful: study the management, the before, during and after, with the recall, just brilliant for my taste, that’s situational comedy par excellence. Even if you don’t understand German you should be able to appreciate the routining, timing and presentation of this great classic.
Dany Ray performed his act in several languages, always with his charming French accent. Here he speaks fairly good German, with some very amusing French interjections, and with a split-second timing and outstanding comedic talent. At the same time you can see his great technical skill – this man had chops!
I had the great pleasure of seeing him perform in a nightclub in my hometown of Basel, the “Clara Varieté”, I believe it was a Sunday afternoon show. Later we went for dinner and drinks, along with a few other members of the magic club of Basel, but he spent the whole time with me. I must have been 19 or 20 at that time, a complete unknown, but already very enthusiastically practicing the hard stuff from the Hugard and Ganson books. I remember that he performed Marlo’s “Miracle Aces” for me and of course completely fooled me. He was kind enough to show and explain several more advanced pieces, and I was very impressed by his knowledge and great technical skill. He definitely was an amateur at heart, but an extraordinary professional on stage. I greatly regret that he passed away so early and that I never met him again. I will always remember him.
In this fifth installment of The Magic Memories let’s discuss the Classic Force. Just one aspect of it: what to do if it fails? In other words, we’ll talk outs. As you’ll see this implicitly means making it (almost) unfailing.
For the benefit of those who would like to review the sleight, here are a few sources where I have previously discussed the Classic Force:
Book: Card College Volume 1 – Chapter 15, pp. 217 (in the updated German version its Grosse Kartenschule Band 2, pp. 313)
Book: Stand-up Card Magic, “Classic Force Light”, pp. 65
DVD-Download: Card College 1&2 – Personal Instruction – Lesson 16, The Force 2 (you can buy this lesson individually for a mere € 4.95 HERE)
Book: Hidden Agenda , entries of July 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th
Once you’ve understood and mastered the mechanics of the force, also its timing, and absorbed its underlying psychological principles (that’s a lot already!), you’ll find that more than most other sleights the Classic Force depends on experience, i.e. you cannot just practice it at home and in front of a mirror and camera as you could a Zarrow Shuffle or an Elmsley Count, but you’ve got to do it for real people. In Corona times this is a problem. A remedy: take a thick book, Hilliard’s Greater Magic preferred, place it near the edge of a table with the pages towards you, approach the book as if it was a spectator, and then force it/him/her the card by shoving it into its pages – you can do this sitting or standing (better!). The experience is much better than it reads.
So, once you can do that smoothly, you’ll find that the only hurdle to overcome is…fear! Yes, the fear of failing. The first and foremost way of overcoming the fear is as always: understand and practice, or as the Zen Master said:
“Before you practice, understand. Once you’ve understood, practice.”
Also, apply Ascanio’s strategy to reach mastery (see “Studying a Card Trick”, pp. 477 in Card College 2), i.e. use the technique in the context of a trick for a while, then reread and rethink the original instruction, and other instructions of the same I might add, and then retrain and apply with the new insights. Repeat until “internalization and full command” is reached (this is the step before “perfection”).
A positive aspect of the Classic Force is that its “In-flagranti Degree” is very low. In flagranti, from Latin, means being caught red-handed, in the act of doing something. To wit: the In-flagranti Degree of the Palm is very hight (degree 3 of 3), because if you’re caught with a card in your hand you have no out (well, maybe you say, “Oh, look at that, my sweaty hands, everything sticks to it…” – works in summer…). With the Classic Force, though, no problem. If it works and they say you made them take that card, they can’t prove it, and you can always say, “Oh, I wish I could do that”, or, “Nonsense, anyway, I have a 3-days-back-guarantee, you can return the card and take another one.” And now you perform another trick.
Which takes us to the core of this week’s topic, the Outs for the Classic Force (or any force that can fail).
First, if I may, and even if I may not, I’ll do it anyhow, since it’s my post and it’s free 🙂 realize that this is a big subject, a concept within a concept (reminds us of fractals, doesn’t it). Whenever I identify an idea as a concept, I open a new note in my electronic notebook, in my case that’s Evernote. This simplest way is to then make a list of all the outs you know and those you find by research (check your books, ask friends, ask the Internet, go to Behr’s Archives etc.): give it a title, and underneath describe the out in enough detail that you could send the note to someone and it would be understood. That’s a basic principle of note-taking.
Electronic notes have the advantage that you can also add a photo, a short video clip, a screen shot, a clip from the Internet, a voice message. A technique I use a lot is to add a PDF to the note. In this case I’d go to Card College 1, use a scan app (I use Readdle’s “Scanner Pro” for iOs) and take 3 photos of p. 222, 223 and 224, one after the other resulting in one PDF, not three jpgs. I can then annotate that extraction, even highlight, underline it etc. I will treat the subject of taking notes in a future post or in my Secret Newsletter, but below is a screenshot of a note for a taste. You can see it consist of text, links, and two PDF extractions, one from an old French book and one from a German magazine – the advantage of knowing six languages 🙂 My note about “Outs for the Classic Force” has close to one hundred entries 🙂 – yes, I know, I could write a book about the subject, but I won’t…
I don’t want to bore you with all those entries, so will just briefly discuss one category of outs, because, oh yes, the OUTS themselves have a taxonomy of their own – it’s really “outward simplicity hiding great complexity”, as Unamuno used to say (ya, ya, I’m repeating myself).
The category of outs I’m thinking of is “Out by Doing Another Trick”. I’m sure everyone knows that out, but here is my question to you: can you write down ten tricks you would and could do in such a situation? I mean right now, without going back to any note? In order to be able to react immediately and without apparent thinking when the force fails, have three tricks up your sleeve which you can do right away. And in order to have that, make a list of ten quick tricks, sometimes called “Quickies” in the specialized literature (magical, I mean).
Again, this is a big subject, so it deserves a note, or even a whole notebook. My current list has 92 items, however, some single items, as you can see in the screenshot below, refers to a complete publication with dozens of “quickies” e.g. Ed Marlo’s Discoveries from 1946, so the total number of tricks I’ve collected under this heading exceeds one hundred by far.
The “greenish” text is an internal link to another note, where the trick is described in detail. The “grayish” fields denote a PDF of the text or even the complete publication which contains the item.
To get you going here is a pick of ten items from my big list, for your convenience. However, I encourage you to make up your own list, based on your own repertoire and your own books, magazines and videos.
1. “Applause!”(by Marconick: the selection on top of tabled deck is bent upwards at its inner side. Both hands held on the tabletop join for a clapping, the air flipping the selection over à la “Acrobatic Card”).
3. “The Question is?” (by Karrell Fox, see Card College 1, p. 81)
4. “Gymnastic Card” (production of selection à la LePaul’s “Gymnastic Aces” from his The Card Magic of Paul LePaul).
5. “Card in the Glass” (by Vanni Bossi, see Card College 3, p. 731)
6. “A Card in Hand” (by Annemann, see Card College 1, p. 133)
7. “Revelation with Benzai Slip Cut” (by John Benzais, see Card College 1, 116)
8. “Rub-a-dub-dub” (in Hugard’s & Braue’s Expert Card Technique)
9. “Gun Trick” (Peter Kane’s “Shooting Joker Production”, see Card College 3, p. 695)
10. “Spooky Revelation” (by Steve Draun, in Secrets Draun From Underground, p. 53)
Last Word (for today…)
So, without intention, this has also become a short lesson in how to take notes (to be added to what I already wrote on the subject in my Secret Newsletters #6 and Secret Newsletters #9 – access all Secret Newsletters BY CLICKING HERE. This is enough work for the next week, provided you can resist the temptations of Internet and all that new stuff publicized on a daily basis…don’t trade true progress with novelty.
This is the 4th installment of The Magic Memories, and I thank all those who wrote in to say that they like it.
Let’s talk “Cups & Balls”. In the video clip below you will see me performing my own “Cups & Balls Opener”, which is published in my book Confidences (Hermetic Press 2012), there titled “Overture for Cups and Balls”. The video is by Giacomo Bertini, of coin magic fame, who recorded it at his “European Close-up Magic Symposium” in Milan (Italy) on NOV 10 & 11, 2012. This was a gathering that took place from 2010 to 2018 and was inspired by my own “Magic Symposium” in Torino (also Italy), which in turn was inspirited by the “31Faces North” private gathering organized by David Ben and Julie Eng, sponsored by Allan Slaight; as you can see all things connect somehow 🙂
This opener in its slender, minimalistic structure has its merits precisely in its outward simplicity that harbors great complexity, to paraphrase one of Ascanio’s favorite quotes by Miguel de Unamuno (1864 – 1936). You can simply enjoy it, or dwell a bit deeper into its internal structure by studying my thoughts exposed in Confidences. The book is out of print, but you can get one of the last copies HERE, autographed on request. However, as promised in the “Mission Statement” to The Magic Memories, this project has no commercial purpose, but I will mention the sources for the convenience of those who want a bit more. To prove that this is true, you can find the explanation of this C&B opening inside the lecture-PDF I gave you in the Magic Advent Calendar of December 7 absolutely free 🙂
To me, the epitome of a C&B routine is still Dai Vernon’s version described by Lewis Ganson in The Dai Vernon Book of Magic, and which I have thoroughly discussed in my DVD project The Dai Vernon Seminar. It is still the template on which almost all modern versions build on. Anyway, my little opening sequence leads elegantly into it, if I may say so myself, and as a bonus it pre-loads the first cup with the fourth ball, so you can go into the first vanish as clean as a whistle. This has a nice intra-personal benefit, as by “starting clean” you build self-confidence; add to this that the opening sequence itself is almost self-working and you have a truly practical way of starting a successful performance.
If you want still more on the subject, see Sam Horowitz’s fine C&B routine in the Magic Advent Calendar of December 9. I came up with my handling totally independently, so you can imagine my surprise when I read that Horowitz had an almost identical handling decades before I was even born!
One of my books, the success of which surprised me most, is The Art of Switching Decks – A Guide for the Beginner and the Expert – it is now in its third printing, and has appeared in English, Spanish, Italian and French, with other languages in preparation. Neither me nor my publisher, at the time Hermetic Press now Penguin Magic, had expected this. Meanwhile, I have received lots of feedback from readers and found myself plenty more, so I could write another volume, or fill the next 50 installments of these The Magic Memories with deck switches. But fear not, I won’t 🙂 , well, I might give away one of two more, if some of you insist…
A personal comment, if I may: Besides the content, I believe that the structure of the book is of great use to the discriminating reader, as it exemplifies how a single subject can be approached by first creating a taxonomy, and then trying to identify the problems specific to each category. This allows for a systematic and at the same time free-flowing creative process, which results in practical solutions, in this case feasible deck switches.
One of the categories I was most pleased with was what I dubbed the “No-switch-deck-switches” (pp. 127), i.e. procedures which would naturally motivate putting a deck in use aside, and then taking another (cold) deck. The simplicity of the concept is inverse proportional to its use in real-life performing. How this came to be is a typical example of a “Butterfly Effect”: a small event yields a far more important consequence. It started with a question someone asked Dai Vernon in his column, which made me aware that this is a category, which then started a first list, mentioned in one of my Genii columns, later expanded in Secret Agenda and Hidden Agenda (SEP 28), and eventually grew into a full-fledged chapter in The Art of Switching Decks.
Anyway, here are two more ideas.
The Out-of-necessity Deck Switch: After any trick that leaves the deck unusable, there is a good reason – out of necessity – to use a new one. Such tricks can be Card Stabbing, where all the cards are spilled on the floor, or a trick where all cards turn blank, or after the Razor Deck Trick, where all the cards end up cut-up. Try this for a stand-up situation: Control a selection and palm it. As a spectator shuffles the balance, you have plenty of time and cover to get the card in back-palm. Take the deck back and holding it with the hand concealing the selection in End Grip, spring the cards in the air. As the cards are falling, reach into the card shower with the obviously empty hand and produce the back-palmed card. Do a non-card trick, or tell an anecdote, then offer to perform another card miracle. Obviously, the cards being spilled all over, you produce a “new” deck..
Miniature Deck Switch … and Jumbo Deck: This was triggered by reading an idea by Fred Braue in his column «Roundabout” in Hugard’s Magic Monthly (1946), where he wrote: “Why not make up the Brainwave Deck in the small half-size cards. Explain that they were given you by Dr. Rhine of Duke University for ESP testing. For close-upping, eliminates a pack switch . . .” As you can see, this short comment already contains the concept of the “No-switch-deck-switch”, long before Vernon’s column! As a general idea, introduce a miniature deck, which is an intriguing thing to a lay audience anyway, and then perform any type of adequate trick with it. Meanwhile you put the deck in use in its case and in your pocket, from where you later extract apparently the same deck, but of course… As an analogous idea use a Jumbo Deck, maybe explaining this has been invented to make sure there is no sleight of hand involved in the proceedings. Different, but exactly the same 🙂
PS: If you don’t have the book and would like to order a copy before it goes out of print again, get it directly from Penguin Magic (free shipping worldwide), or if you want to support the author (me!) order it from my webshop (CLICK HERE). In the English edition the book comes with a free DVD that has my two-hour lecture on the subject recorded at the Genii 75th Anniversary Convention, Orlando, Florida, October 4–6, 2012.
It is SUN 10th January 2021 and time for the Magic Memories Number 2.
In my life I’ve given quite a few interviews, and if you find this one interesting I might upload another one or two in the course of this year’s 52 Magic Memories. Those in English, of course. I say “English” because I have text, audio and video interviews in six languages, a feat so remarkable, that I’m forced to mention it myself – with apologies to Ricky Jay 🙂
Personally, I prefer written interviews, especially those where they send me the questions, and I then have time to reflect, formulate, reread and eventually release the definite version. However, there are at least two major drawbacks to this type of interview: first, it takes a hell of a lot of time on my side, second, it lacks spontaneity. The reward to the reader, though, is that you get concise and to-the-point answers (provided the interviewer and the interviewee are any good…).
A live-interview, on the other hand, might have more “babble”, the interviewee will perhaps say things he later regrets etc., BUT it is arguably more fun to listen to, and you can do so while driving a car, practicing Tabled Faros or while stuffing a capon for your next dinner invitation (if you don’t know what a capon is, do the Graved Lax taught on the Magic Advent Calendar of DEC 21 &23). And this brings us to my interview I gave for Benji and Richard and their sensational Of Sleights and Men Podcast. Frankly, I have not had the courage to listen to the lengthy chat, for similar to videos I do not like to see or listen to myself….and I’m told I’m not the only one 🙂 But I certainly had a good time chatting with these two well-prepared and competent gentlemen, and if my memory serves me well, we’ve touched upon some fascinating subjects and I gave a few not-so-stupid answers. Possibly I also gave some not-so-clever answers, for which I apologize, but at least I can claim to be always sincere, which is why I never went into politics…
The podcast is 1 hour 22 minutes long, and you can find it here:
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