Here are The Magic Memories #52, gone online SUN, 26th December, at 0:07h.
The Last One – Or Maybe Not…
This is the last post… of this year 🙂
Yes, OK, maybe, I mean it is the last one for 2021, definitely, BUT…
I am writing this in the night of December 25th, Christmas day, after a lovely relaxing day. I’m just back from a short walk in the rainy night of our neighborhood, and I realize I’ve never written one these posts so late, just 80 minutes before it is supposed to go online. At first, I thought I’d deserve to take off for a week, and you too, from reading it. But then, you know me by now, how could I?
During my peripatetic walk it occurred to me that today’s contribution could simply be to encourage you the reread some of your favorite posts of this year: There are fifty-two, including this one, as many as there are cards in a deck of cards. This, of course, is just one of the ways cards connect to our calendar, but you should know that…
Here is how you could do it: Take a deck, shuffle it, cut it – real or false doesn’t matter – and then turn over the top card. What is it? Maybe the Five of Hearts? OK, that’s number eight in the Tamariz stack, or another number in another stack you are using. Therefore, look up The Magic Memories (08) (if you CKICK HERE you get the complete list of all The Magic Memories posts, and you can choose the one you like). If you don’t have a stacked deck, just go to the number cut to, i.e., if you cut to a Ten, go to The Magic Memories (10). Do this for a total of five cards, and you’ll be spoilt for choice.
My Favorite Book List
The above reflection automatically lead me to think that even if I had only 50 magic books in my library, that would suffice for the rest of my life (maybe I’m saying this because I’ve read so many more and have now almost 4’000 books?). This links to a question I’ve often been asked, namely what books I would recommend. As I’ve said in the Penguin Magic Podcast (Desert Island Book), ably conducted by Erik Tait, the list of books will depend for whom and for what purpose it is: The recommendation for a “Beginner’s Library” will be a lot different from an “Essential Library” or a “Favorite Library”. The interview, should you be interested in listening to it again, is lost somewhere in these year’s posts, but to save you the search, CLICK HERE; it runs ca. 7 minutes, and I think it came out quite well, if I may say so. If I decide to continue these Magic Memories in 2022 (there you are!), I will give you my list of the 50 books I would want to keep in my library, for reasons I will explain with each title. I’ve never come across a list with this criterion, so maybe you’ll find it interesting – I know I do, because Ive never done it before either!
PDF of The Magic Memories 2021
Trying to remember all I have contributed this year was a complete failure – I had to look up my own list. And this lead to the obvious thought that you, too, might like to have a Table of Content with the date, number, and a brief description of the content, in one single searchable PDF. I meant to give it to you here, but after three hours of working on the list, I was still stuck in February! The reason: I started reading into the content of each, and was fascinated myself by what I had written (talk about a bad memory!). Therefore, I’ll have to write another Magic Memory (53), which makes sense, since a deck of cards has at least one Joker, hasn’t it? That means that there will be another The Magic Memories (53) next Sunday, and if all goes as I planned it, I’ll then give you the PDF with the content, with my compliments.
In conclusion, below please find the Season’s Greetings Card Barbara has created for me and all those who share our passion for magic, and I’ll pass it on to you at the close of this year. wishing you all a few gemütliche days, and please check back on SUN, 2nd January, 2022, from 0:07 hours (CET) onward! I’ll have a few hopefully good news for you 🙂
Here are The Magic Memories #51, gone online SUN, 19th December, at 0:07h.
How about a little card trick for today’s post?
Stabbed – Twice! (Dai Vernon)
On SUN, 14th FEB 2016 I had the pleasure and honor of performing at Werner Nussbaumer’s 90th birthday. In a conversation following the show he told me he had seen Dai Vernon do the following effect:
The performer takes a card from the deck and places it face up on the table, saying he will later use it as a “magic card”. The deck is shuffled, and then ribbon spread face down on the table. Two spectators each take a card, look at them, and replace them in the deck, which is then shuffled once more. The deck is ribbon-spread face down on the table, the initially discarded card is taken and thrown face up into the spread, or the spectator may take the card and insert it anywhere in the spread: the cards next to the inserted “magic card” prove to be the two previously chosen cards.
That’s the effect.
One of the very first magic books I read when I had discovered magic in a public library at age fourteen was Die Kunst, mit Karten zu zaubern (1969) – The Art of Performing Magic with Cards – what a lovely title. In this marvelous book the author Hanns Friedrich would describe the effect in colorful words, and then, instead of immediately giving the explanation, inserted a large sub-title:
DENKPAUSE (PAUSE TO THINK)
What a great idea! At that time, with almost no previous knowledge nor skill, my imagination went wild, and most of the time I imagined solutions that were either impossible or more complicated than spherical trigonometry, which I did not know either. In any case, Nussbaumer told me that Vernon was using two sets of 26 duplicates, separated at the beginning. He would ribbon-spread the cards and have a spectator on each side of the spread take a card, and then replaced it in the same half. He followed with a Perfect Faro to alternate the cards. Cutting the deck exactly in half, which really is the greatest difficulty to overcome when you do a Perfect Faro, isn’t difficult at all in this case, because when you hold the deck in readiness for the Faro Shuffle (see fig. 1 on p. 687 of Card College Volume 3), you can comfortably see the indexes you riffle off your right thumb (provided you’re right-handed). Then you simply stop at the first card of the second set, done. The Faro Shuffle itself is as easy as pie, and with the correct instruction (Card College 3! you’ll be able to acquire the knack within a few minutes, and then you can instill the skill after a very short time of regular practice.
Back to the trick: The deck can now be false shuffled with any false shuffle that keeps the cyclical arrangement of the cards. Eventually have the spectators give the deck several complete cuts. When you then recall what has been done, you can say, “The deck was shuffled and cut several times”, thereby gesturing toward the spectators who did the cut. This will reframe the situation, alter their memory and convince them that THEY shuffled AND cut. For those who are interested in the theory of this: We are applying here the “Principle of Recap” (Sharing Secrets, p. 86), “Memory Editing” (SS, p. 74), “Reframing” (SS, p. 92), “Initial & Final Situation” (SS, p. 50), and as almost always in such cases “The Midwife Theory” (SS, p. 76). It keeps fascinating me how such apparently simple procedures harbor such incredible complexity. I really recommend you dive into these aspects of magic, as the understanding of them will be intellectually and emotionally immensely rewarding, and will have a decisive impact on the quality of your performance (but even if you don’t perform, and maybe even more so, you will access another level in your magical affinity).
Ok, back again: When the spectator inserts the Joker face up into the deck, or even more spectacular if you throw your “magic card” into the spread, the cards to the left and to the right of it must be the two selections.
I had heard (or maybe read?) of this before Nussbaumer told me, but can’t remember where.
In many years of performance experience I can tell you that nobody (except a “magician”) will want to see the deck, provided you’ve performed this correctly. However, I’m told there is a guy out there who wrote a book solely on deck switches (if my memory serves me right it is called The Art of Switching Decks), so you can switch the special deck in and out. And yes, you can do it by using the same deck switch twice, once to get the cold deck in, once to get it out. The deck switch I’m talking about is called “The Joker Deck Switch” (p. 87), to wit: When you start with a straight deck (with a set-up, please), take out the Jokers and place them aside. Once you’ve done a few tricks put the deck back into the case and start to pocket it (switch), take it out and insert the Jokers into the “cold deck”. Place deck on table, converse a bit, or do a piece with another instrument. Then do “Stabbed – Twice!” as described above, initially placing the Jokers aside as you had already done at the beginning; this confirms that it is the same deck, of course. When you’re done, nonchalantly case the deck and start to put it in your pocket (switch), remember once again that you “forgot” the Jokers (see how bad a memory gets with age…). At least that’s what I do, and it has fooled more than just one person in the know, let alone those not in the know (“real” audiences) 🙂
An Impromptu Handling of This Effect (Roberto Giobbi)
Now, what about those of you who do not do deck switches because they refuse to buy the above-mentioned book… Well, because it is Xmas time, here is my gift to those of you who want to achieve (almost) the same effect with an ordinary deck (may using Card College Playing Cards?). Impromptu version to follow:
Give the deck to a spectator for shuffling. When he’s satisfied, ask him to take out the Joker and leave it face up on the table. If your deck doesn’t have a Joker, do as Vernon did and designate your favorite card as a “magic card”; it would make sense here to use maybe a Jack or a Queen as “detective or secret agent cards”, or what have you.
Two cards are selected by two spectators and apparently lost in the deck, in reality controlled to the top and the bottom of the deck. A nice way of doing so uses “A Peek Control for Two Cards” (Card College Volume 1, p. 75). Or simply enter “control of two cards” in Denis Behr’s archives website, and be surprised what you get. You could also search “two-card controls” etc. (This clue alone is worth today’s blog, isn’t it?).
Give the deck a final cut, retaining a break. Convert the break to a step as you ribbon spread the cards face down on the table. The spot in the deck where the two selections meet, can now be recognized from your perspective, but will be invisible to your audience, who (hopefully) is not aware of the concept at use. See “The Master Grip” in Card College Volume 3 (p. 544), an truly excellent and practical (you can delay a set-up…) trick.
Hand the Joker to the first spectator and ask him to whisper the name of his card into the Joker’s ear. Take the Joker back, and “ride” it over the spread, saying that now that the Joker knows the card, he will try to find it. If Bicycle cards are used, this is a nice moment to use this as a sight gag.
Repeat for the second spectator.
Now for the magic: Snap the Joker, explaining that this calls the two selections. Snap it once again and explain that this gathers the two selections. “Drive” the Joker over the spread, explaining that this locates the two selections.
Insert the Joker face up at the step, but leave it outjogged for half of its length. Move all the cards to the left and to the right of the three-card-set aside. Have each spectator name his card, and then reveal the cards next to the Joker to be precisely these cards, one after the other, hesitating on the second for dramatization.
Yes, this is a short description, at least compared to those in my books and videos (!), BUT it is nonetheless full of details: Please give them your full attention if you intend to perform this effect, regardless of which version.
Here are The Magic Memories #50, gone online SUN, 12th December, at 0:07h – only two more to go…
The Prophecy, Wallets & More
“The Prophecy”, produced and distributed by my publisher Penguin Magic with my consent and to my specifications, came in on Thursday 9th and was shipped on Friday 10th to all who ordered from me, so should be with most in the course of next week. Although this post will take “The Prophecy” as the main subject, I promise that there are plenty of thoughts and ideas that you can use, or that will make you think, even thought you don’t have this particular “trick”. This has been my closing effect or encore for over 20 years.
First the effect to remind all what this is about: A spectator thinks of and names any card, which is found to have been predicted by the performer in a small envelope, which is inside a wallet, which a spectator was holding in his own pocket all the time: the spectator himself opens the wallet, and takes out the envelope. At the end the envelope and the card are given away as a souvenir.
Now, this is the effect we hope will stick in the audience’s “communicative memory”. Actually, it is more than a mere hope, as I have designed this trick’s technical, dramatic and psychological construction to this effect, and I have refined it over the time-span of about two decades of professional use. So, in difference to most “tricks” you find on the magic market, this has not been created to sell just another trick. We really don’t need a lot of new tricks, but we need better magic. “The Prophecy” and the tutorial that goes with it – an almost one-hour long mini-lecture – are intended as a contribution to this idea.
Ref. “communicative memory”: I’ve never seen this term applied to magic, and I used it for the first time in my book Sharing Secrets, in the chapter “Memory Editing” (p. 74). I’ve taken the expression from a scientific paper on the subject, and it comes from the idea that an event is not what happened, but what we tell others that happened. As magicians we know that this is not the same thing: A spectator can say, “He made a coin vanish”, and this is his subjective reality that caused him to experience the emotion of astonishment, but the objective reality is that the coin went to the sleeve, or topit, or was kicked under a napkin resting innocently on the table. Every piece of magic we do should be constructed with the fact in mind that our spectators will tell what they remember, and that this is the only reality that counts. Therefore, studying how the memory operates is as important as studying how to manage and handle a sleight. In the last post I mentioned that in Torino I had given a full-day Masterclass on the subject, and I hope to be able to repeat this many more times, as there is only little material around on this subject. In my books and video lectures I keep coming back on the subject with practical examples, but nobody has made such a detailed study of it as Juan Tamariz in his book The Magic Rainbow, where he devotes a complete chapter to the theme (pp. 113).
Back to “The Prophecy”, which among a mix of deceptive strategies also uses the “off by one” idea popularized by Kenton Knepper in his “Kolossal Killer”. Although Knepper might have been the first to apply the idea to playing cards, the concept of making a “corrective prediction” is older than that and has been preceded by Spain’s Mago Antón (in the tutorial I give a more detailed account of this). The concept has been discussed a lot, and I’ve heard and read competent people criticizing it, but wonder how many of them have really performed this before real people. Because it is one of those counter-intuitive things, where the theory might say that it is not so good, but the practice proves that it works, and it works very well (or to say it in the words of Benjamin Brewster, whom I quote in the introduction to Sharing Secrets, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, however, there is”). I can tell you from 20 years plus of experience in hundreds of performances on four continents and before the most diverse types of audiences, that the “off by one” prediction is actually better than hitting the card directly, whereas when performing for “magicians” the direct hit is better and the “off by one” weaker. I leave this to you to ponder.
“The Prophecy” also employs a Himber Wallet as one of several technical principles. I have not yet received any feedback on it, but would like to offer a few thoughts on the subject of wallets in general. Whenever a wallet is discussed I hear or read comments like, “it looks like a magic prop”, “it doesn’t look like my ordinary wallet” etc.
I should tell you that I have quite a bit of a love affair with wallets, and I know I’m not the only one 🙂 Therefore, years ago, I made an in-depth study of the subject by acquiring dozens of those “magic wallets” (Himber, Kaps, Bombshell etc.). I found they all looked “phony”, in a certain sense… So I started to make my own wallets. The initial idea was to find a “universal” design, i.e., a format and design using exactly the same type of leather that looked practically the same from outside, and as close as possible inside, too. The idea was to have a Himber Wallet and a Card-to- Wallet and other wallets that looked similar to each other so I could put one away and take another one out and they would appear to be the same wallet. Good in theory, not so good in practice, although some lateral findings came out of this study, but we’ll have to leave this to some other time.
At the time George Proust from the “Academie de la magie” in Paris, the one who has the “Musé de la curiosité et de la magie” and who published the Fechner books about Robert-Houdin, well, he had come up and sold a “Universal Wallet” that had virtually all functions in it. Again, great in theory, but in practice it looked more like a safe than a wallet. But what a great idea, like the idea of a “Universal Theory of Everything” that not even Einstein found.
Anyway, back to those who say that a wallet looks “strange”: I had my epiphany many years ago in Madrid, after one of those legendary card conventions in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, when I went to the “Corte Ingles”, arguably Spain’s largest general store. As so often in my travels around the world I went to the “Leather Wares” section, but this one was gigantic!
There were virtually hundreds of different bags and wallets, in all sizes, colors, materials and forms. These were wallets sold to the public, not to magicians, to normal people (I’m not talking about you and me, of course)… But never before had I seen so many so “strange”-looking wallets. Then and there it dawned on me that there are no “strange” or “unnatural looking” wallets! Because this is what those who have been too long in magic think, or those who have not been performing long enough. If you don’t believe me, next time you are with a large group of people, ask everyone to show his or her wallet, and you might be surprised to see that there will be no two wallets alike.
So, which one is an “unnatural” wallet? You’ll have the same experience as the card experts in New York City who went out to the street to ask innocent passers-by to turn the top card of the deck face up, because they wanted to find out what the most “natural” way of turning over a card is. Guess what: everyone seemed to turn the card over in a different way, so they agreed that there is no “natural” way of doing a Double Lift, but there is a right way and wrong way of handling it, and that’s another conversation…
Rather than looking at the wallet, look at the effect we do with it. And then you will realize that in most cases, yes, I’ll dare saying it, “The wallet is not important!” There are only few exceptions, e.g., if you take a piece of paper, put it inside the wallet, close it, and then reopen it to show that the piece of paper has changed into a one hundred Dollar bill, well, then the wallet will be suspected. You have to make a clever routine out of this effect, and repeat it several times, in order to ally suspicion from the wallet.
However, if you take an envelope from the (gimmicked) wallet, place the wallet aside, then open the envelope to show the signed card in it (see below), or a prediction, like in “The Prophecy”, then the wallet is not important. The wallet simply becomes a “safe-keeping-device”, and the only thing that matters is that there is nothing that calls explicit attention to it. Consequently, as long as the wallet is unassuming and is handled without fumbling and free of fear by the performer (important!), nobody except an inexperienced member of a magic club (just joking!), will say that the wallet looks “strange”.
On “Card to Wallet”
Talking about wallets, about which I have a complete lecture, but won’t give it here 🙂 I’ve used several routines during my professional life. The choice of routine obviously depends from the context, i.e., where I perform, under what conditions and for what kind of audience. This subject alone warrants a lengthy easy, of course. In formal situations my favorite “Card to Wallet” is the routine you can see me perform at Mark Leveridge’s 7th British Close-up Magic Symposium. It was the very first video done of my magic, titled “Taped Live!”, and I ventured into it with zero experience in this genre.
For this, I must say, it came out quite well 🙂 The piece is described and discussed in my Card College Volume 5 under the title “Waller Bound” (p. 1375), and the complete lecture, which lasts 115 minutes, is still available as a download and only from me from my webshop. As a gift from Xmas I’ve discounted it from 30 to 19.95, and if you don’t have it already (I know many do) then you can GET IT HERE.
BUT, since the purpose of The Magic Memories is not to sell you something, rather to share the many things in magic I find interesting, here is the performance-only of “Card to Wallet – Wallet Bound”.
Even if you have the DVD/Download, I’m willing to bet that it has been a long time you’ve watched it. Note the Prologue and the Epilogue, how the card is selected and controlled, the misdirection for the palm, and above all the management of the wallet and the envelopes. I remember how this routine came about: On a visit to Vienna my friend Kurt Freitag told me about a way Trevor Lewis had to deal cards hiding one beneath the spread, and this was the trigger, curious memory 🙂 To watch CLICK HERE.
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 Prestigiazione.it 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!
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).
Here are The Magic Memories #48, gone online SUN, 28th November, at 0:07h.
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 (www.robertogiobbi.com), 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.
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).
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).
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.
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