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The Magic Memories (147)

Hello everyone!

Today’s topics are: International Close-up Symposium 2023 – Impressions from Vienna – Close-up Symposium, the location and program; French National Magic Convention 2023 in La Grande-Motte; Tom Stone on the Merlin Award; The missing link (apple carvings).

These are The Magic Memories 147, gone online Sunday, October 22nd, 2023, at 0:07h sharp.

All The Magic Memories from 2021, 2022, including the Magic Advent Calendar from 2020, can be found HERE.

In last week’s The Magic Memories I promised to report on my attendance at the International Close-up Symposium in Austria, as well as the French national convention of the FFAP (Fédération Française des Artistes Prestidigitateurs).

So, here we go:

International Close-up Symposium 2023

This gathering with a little over 100 participants and by invitation only, took place in Bill Cheung’s Magic Theatre in Wiener Neustadt.

Some attendants brought their partners along, who were disappointed to see that the event took place in an industrial zone ca. 50 km outside of Vienna, and a small hour by train or car from the Austrian capital. Obviously, a quick look at Google Maps and a little thought would have told them… reminding me of Bertrand Russell, who said: “If he would have thought about it for a moment, he would have known. But a moment is so short, and thinking so painful.”

Impressions From Vienna

Having anticipated the situation 🙂 I came into Vienna already on Monday, spend two great days in the city that is listed as the best city to live in globally, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). So, if you have never been to Vienna, put it towards the top of your “life list” or “things to do before you die list”.

Although Vienna has a large number of museums and historical sites to visit, the city itself is a museum!

So, just walking around the historical center as well as in the surrounding “Bezirke” – that’s how the in Vienna the city districts are called – makes for a memorable experience, and it’s free. And there is a lot of magic, too.

I do not know of any other city in the world I have been to, where the people in general have such a high-standard nightlife culture: People go to the theatre, to the opera, to music performances etc., and of course to magic shows, too.  At one time Vienna boasted seven different magic clubs, each with a very active program for their members and the public.

I will always remember how in one instance I was in Vienna on the occasion of the German Cardworkshop, The German equivalent of the Spanish “Escorial Card Conference”, and on the street happened to meet Gary Kurtz!

I asked him how long he was staying and what he was doing. He said, “Five days – I’m doing five lectures, every day for a different club.”

In the past forty years I have myself given maybe a dozen lectures, workshops and masterclasses to as many different magic groups in and around Vienna.

Anyway, this fact, and having written over a dozen books in German language, plus having been into magic for such a long time, has bestowed upon me the privilege that I can go to virtually any city in this world, and I have a few friends – this is arguably the greatest benefit magic has had for me, and is still having. (As the German writer Jean Paul once said: “Books are only thick letters to friends.”)

Consequently, the very first lunch was spent in the company of the gentlemen which you can admire in the photo below, from left to right: Dr. Peter Wurnig, Wolfgang Moser, Harry Lucas, unknown, Kurt Freytag. They are all members of the prestigious Magischer Cercle Wien worth visiting if you are ever in Vienna – get  a preview of their fabulous club room by CLICKING HERE.

Magic lunch with members of Magic Circle Vienna

Ref. visiting Vienna (or any other worthwhile location): Aldous Huxley (1884 – 1963) said, “For every traveller who has any taste of his own, the only useful guidebook will be the one which he himself has written.”

Here is how I implement this idea in my own notebooks (meanwhile electronic via Evernote, before using the city notebooks by Moleskine): I create a Main Notebook (folder) “Travels” in Evernote. In this Main Notebook I then create a Sub-Notebook (sub-folder) “Vienna” (actually for any city or place I travel to), within that folder I open as many Individual Notes as necessary, such as “Restaurants”, “Travel Info”, “Hotel Reservation” (I send the reservation email from the hotel directly to the notebook “Vienna”), “Flight/Train Ticket & Reservation”, “Museums”, “Favorite Places”, “Magic Friends”, “Coffee Houses”, “Favorite Shops” etc.

BTW: I quote Huxley at the beginning of most of my lectures, saying that the best Lecture Notes are those written by the attendants of the lecture themselves, and I then sometimes give a 3-minute talk on how to take notes according to Cornell University (I wrote about this years ago when The Magic Memories were called Secret Newsletter).

But I digress…

The restaurant we went to is called “Zum schwarzen Kameel”; Kameel with two “ee” as it doesn’t refer to the desert animal, but to the restaurant’s founder…

So, put that in your note for the restaurants in Vienna. And while you are at it, put “Steirereck”, arguably Austria’s best restaurant: Go for lunch and take the lunch menu (generally speaking, most top restaurants in the world for lunch offer affordable menus, while if you go for dinner you might have to sell your first-edition Discoverie of Witchcraft...). And if you are a meat person, Plachutta in the Wollzeile is your best choice (in my opinion…). If you want a real Wiener Schnitzel go to “Café Engländer” in the Postgasse, and for desert take Milchrahmstrudel at the Café Central. Sorry, I got carried away… and I didn’t even mention that Vienna boasts the best coffee outside of Italy… ok, enough!

In the afternoon I visited Michael Swatosch, the co-owner of the Wiener Zirkus- und Clownmuseum, at Ilgplatz 7, a gem of a museum dedicated to Circus and Clowns, but also to magic.

In the photo below you can also get a glimpse of the performing area that adorns this beautiful little place. Call ahead, say hello from my part, and you will probably get a privat guided tour through the exhibits, all originals.

Swatosch and Giobbi at the Circus and Clown Museum Vienna


To get a virtual visit CLICK HERE.

Close-up Symposium – Location and Program

Once you enter Bill Cheung’s Magic Theater, you forget that it is too far away from Vienna and located in an industrial zone, as it is simply put a jewel. CLICK HERE and see for yourself.

Also, all the hotels, were the 100-plus participants stayed, were within 5 minutes walking distance, one of the most important things of any convention.

If you want to get an impression of the program as well know who participated at the competition, read or download the Program-PDF HERE.

There are just three things that can be improved for the next year, just in case the event is repeated.

1. Get a way of controlling the temperature within the theatre – do to the summerly temperatures outside (good!), the temperature in the theater was unbearable.

2. Start the events on time. They did for the first few on the first day, after that almost every event was delayed by up to 30 minutes – I had to start my lecture 30 minutes late on the last day when people had to leave. The problem of delays is that once people get used to it, they simply do not show up on time and you have to push, beg and threaten them to get from the bar into the theater. All of this can easily be avoided by starting all activities on time; people get used to it immediately and all flows. Alternatively, a gong or a simple bell, that signals the start in 5 minutes would do the job.

3. The bar, a potentially great one, was not staffed as it should have been. We asked for a Gin Tonic or a Cuba Libre, and were looked at as if we had asked for the moon. On the second day they did serve a very basic Gin Tonic, but ran out of ice before midnight. I feel sorry for Bill, who could have made at least twice as much turnover just with proper drinks.

All three things are easily solved, you only need to anticipate the problem… (so easy: Go to ANY magic convention, write down what they do wrong, and then do it better!)

The Competition

My tasks at the meeting were to be a judge at the competition, host private sessions at around midnight, and do a lecture on Sunday morning (see below). I was successful with the first and third task…

The “Private Sessions” were a bit of a pipe-dream and need to be re-evaluated. Originally individuals could book 20-minute one-to-one sessions with about a dozen “teachers”. This had worked out quite well in previous editions of the Symposium in Milan, but here didn’t seem to work.

It all ended up with some unorganized sessions, which of course were also great fun, considering the high-density of top talent present at the meeting – simply have a look at the list of participants in the PDF above (p. 13), virtually a “Who’s Who” of international close-up magic. I was so glad to meet friends I hadn’t seen for years (bloody pandemic!), Flip, Kurt Freytag, Robert Stacher, Joachim Solberg, Hanno Rhomberg, Francis Tabary, Jean Xueref, Jon Tgetgel, Tony Cachadiña, Camilo Vazquez, Armando Lucero and so many others – superb.

Let me tell you a bit about the competition, from the viewpoint of a judge.

The competition was called “Fred Kaps Award”, although I suspect that a good part of the attendants didn0t even know who Fred Kaps was, and even less had ever met him personally. I short intro in this respect would have given the event more dignity (we hope that Flip next year can do a short lecture on him).

The competition and judging were to be held according to FISM-criteria. You can get an insight into the FISM Contest Rules HERE (including a 10-page PDF, no less). Or simply have a quick look at the table below:

FISM Grading Scale

There were 36 contestants from over a dozen countries to judge, not an easy task for various reasons:

  1. Magic is not a sport and cannot be measured in figures – a lot remains a question of what the judge likes or not.
  2. Although the heading was “Close-up Magic”, there were at least four categories that are different from each other: 1. card magic; 2. parlor (stand-up) magic; 3. close.up magic; 4. theatrical close.up with no interaction with the audience. It is virtually impossible to compare the beautiful card act of Miguel Ajo, for instance, with the theatrical act of Sergio Starman.
  3. If you look at the grading scale in the diagram above, you will realize that the first three prizes will result from the three contestants that have the highest points, i.e., this that are close to the top. There is no point even considering second and third prizes, as those will not even get close to a third prize.
  4. Many of the competitors after thewards came up to me and asked for feedback. I had to tell everyone the same: It is impossible to remember in detail what each did, and how, and what he should do differently and better. As a judge you have to concentrate on the one act, judge it to the best of your knowledge and criteria, and then do the same for the next act. In order to satisfy this need, the acts would have to be taped, and later a feedback session provided. Although I am not clear about how this could work in detail, it would certainly be an adorable idea.

Anyway, all these are problems of the FISM, too, but I doubt that they will be doing something about it.

The winners are: First prize Sergio Starman, 2nd prize Rune Carlsen, 3rd Prize Robin Deville. For more info check the Symposium’s Facebook page HERE.

Below is a snapshot of the winners and the jury:

Winners (and jury) at Close-up Symposium 2023

The Lecture – Sleight of Mind

On Sunday morning I gave a 60-minute lecture titled “Sleight of Mind – The Psychological Construction of Magic”, based on the content of my latest book Sharing Secrets.

Although asking me to do a 60-minute lecture is like asking a Michelin chef to serve finger food and sandwiches for a party, I was pleased with the result, and I admit flattered to have some heavy-weights in the audience. In the photo below try to find Magic Christian, Flip, Francis Tabary, Camil Vazquez, Boris Wild, Giancarlo Scaglia…

RG lecturing at the Close-up Symposium on “Sleight-of-mind”

I presented the lecture similar to the book, i.e., I performed a piece, and then focussed on one conceptual thought. Due to the restricted time frame I was given, I decided to completely ignore the explanation of the tricks. I was glad to note that most appreciated this approach, as the short report below proves:

Together with short seminars, the range of seminars was so large that you left the symposium with what felt like a million new ideas.

From classic seminars with Boris Wild, to an explanation of a beautiful rope routine without any gimmicks from Francis Tabary, to incredibly practical ideas from Flip and much more.

For me, though, the highlight here was clearly Roberto Giobbi. Not so much because of the tricks shown and explained, which were all superb, but even more so because of the many theoretical considerations about magic in general, which we otherwise hear and talk about so little!

Gregor Schubert

Gregor’s complete report is in German, but with Google Translate or Deepl you can easily get it into your native language – CLICK HERE.

I would have liked zo give you a synopsis of my lecture “Sleight-of-mind” I gave on Sunday, but time and space force me (Classic Force) to postpone this to another The Magic Memories

French National Magic Convention 2023

Since the report of the Close-up Symposium turned out to be much longer than planned… I’ll keep my memories of the convention in La Grande-Motte, in the South of France, brief: All in all, it was an excellent convention, with some great, international talent: Alain Choquette, Juliana Chen, Michael Ammar, David Stone, Ondrej Psenicka, John Bannon, Giancarlo Scaglia, Alexandra Duvivier, Michel Huot, plus many more, and guest of honor Jean Régil, who is a legend in his native France.

Almost everything necessary was excellent: the convention center ideally fitted the six-hundred plus conventioneers without being too big, the larger theatrerwas located within 3-minutes walking distance just behind the convention center; the hotels were almost all at 5 minutes walk away; the temperature in the rooms was acceptable although it was summer weather outside; the dealers room had some innovative dealers and several book publishers (Ludo Mignon’s Marchand de Trucs, Frantz Réjasse’s CCEditions; Daniel Rhod, and George Naudet with a superb array of collectibles). Briefly, a gathering which was worth attending.

By the many photos I had to pose for with participants, and the books I was asked to sign, plus the many people that came up to say hallo and thank me for my contributions to magic, I got the impression that I have a lot more readers in France than books of mine are sold in that country – I hate to think why this is so…

My own raison d’être at the convention was that the organizer Serge Arial had booked me to give a talk in form of an interview conducted by talented Bertrand Mora of Bordeaux.

The topic was “The Book in Magic Learning”, and which turned around the subject of the book in magic, its importance as a learning tool, its history etc. I was quite pleased that during the 75-minute interview only about half a dozen people left… Wish they had recorded the event, as several interesting questions wer discussed and brought up in the final Q&A with the audience.

Announcement of Roberto Giobbi Talk

Tom Stone on The Merlin Award

Sweden’s Tom Stone has published a lengthy report about Tony Hassini’s IMS (International Magicians Society) and “The Merlin Award” Hassini bestowed upon well-known and lesser-known individuals in magic.

Tom tells me he took six weeks (!) to research the matter, investigative journalism at its best, and you can read all about it if you CLICK HERE.

The Missing Link

Make the ordinary look extraordinary – that’s what we magicians do when we take an everyday object, such as a deck of cards, a coin, a length or rope – convert the object into an insrument, and then do something extraordinary with it. Watching this short fruit sculpture video made me think of that – CLICK HERE.

Can you come up with as many Ace Tricks as apple carvings in this video? Why? Because an Ace Trick a day keeps the audience away 🙂

Coming week-end I will be in Spain, attending the prestigious Jornadas Cartomagicas in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, the “Escorial Card Conference”, organized by the EMM (Escuela Magica de Madrid). Therefore, The Magic Memories 148 will be short & sweet, but I will report on the meeting in edition 149 🙂

Wish you all an excellent week!

Roberto Giobbi

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