Today’s topics are: Are you working on a new book – should I do a new Agenda?; The Jornadas cartomagicas (Escorial) 2023 – detailed report; Subjects for Escorial 2024.
These are The Magic Memories 149, gone online Sunday, November 5th, 2023, at 0:07h sharp.
All The Magic Memories from 2021, 2022, including the Magic Advent Calendar from 2020, can be found HERE.
Are You Working On a New Book?
Whenever I am at a gathering with other practitioners of the art, someone asks the inevitable question, “Are you working on a new book?”
My inevitable answer is, “Yes, I’m always working on something that could turn out to be a book…” Of course, I do. I have over a dozen candidates…
However, the more books I write and publish, the more I ask myself, “Does the magic world really need this?” I’ve pondered the question in a short essay published in Genii years ago, and if you care to read the one-page text, CLICK HERE.
However, the reason I’m mentioning this here is that after the Escorial Card Conference (see my report below), I went to see my Spanish publisher Laura Avilés in Madrid. Her shop combines magic and teas and is called “Parentesis de olvido” (an Ascanian concept I translated in Card College and Sharing Secrets with “Positive Insertion”…).
Years ago, Laura took over what was then the “Editorial Frakson” from Juan Tamariz and Ramon Mayrata, and then single-handedly went on to publish some of the most important books in magic.
With ten titles of mine, Laura tells me I’m her best-selling author… in a tiny niche-market, that is, which still forces me to fly with EasyJet (a cheap British airline) to Madrid, instead of using a private jet 🙂
Laura tells me that the two Agendas – Secret Agenda and Hidden Agenda – are very successful in Spain.
Gaby Pareras used to recommend it to everyone and even did a complete week-end seminar just on Secret Agenda and some of its content! And he wrote a lengthy foreword to the Spanish edition of Hidden Agenda 🙂
Anyway, I would like to ask you a questions, if I may:
Are you interested and would you buy a new Agenda, tentatively title The Unexpected Agenda?
If you have an opinion and a moment, please send me an email via the “Contact” item of my webshop HERE.
A simple “Yes” or “No” would do, thank you.
Oh, and if you like, please specify if you would rather have a book like the first two, or a PDF, or, why not, both (book price ca. $ 65, but consider that printing and shipping costs are going up, the PDF ca. $ 29.50, for all the work of writing, illustrating, layouting, proof-reading etc. is the same as if I do a book – only the printing costs and the shipping disappear).
If I get enough “Yes”, The Unexpected Agenda could be out before Xmas 2024… and make a nice gift 🙂
PS: You can also make suggestions for other book topics, but please understand that I cannot correspond.
Las jornadas cartomágicas (Escorial) 2023
This year’s topics were four:
- Cards and Dice
- Card Magic Before Robert-Houdin (1886)
- The Card Magic of Nick Trost
- Unusual Trick Cards
1. Cards & Dice
The first talk on the subject was a lengthy one, too long, as most felt, but it exposed an original and interesting idea where the (paper) dice were Origamis that when unfolded revealed to be playing cards.
Next, Gianfranco Preverino started with a most interesting and original performance of about twenty minutes, all using cards & dice, of course, really an “act”.
He then commented on the various tricks and principles used, some of which went back centuries (1584!), and also gave a historical overview on the subject.
Gianfranco is quite an expert when it comes to dice, in magic as well as in gambling. He has a large book coming out on the subject of dice & cards, the “Card College” of dice, as he himself said to me.
It will be in Italian, but due to the interesting subject and the scarcity of literature on the subject, it may very well be translate into English soon.
This was followed by a presentation by Juan Luis Rubiales, who surprised us all with lots of novel ideas on the subject, truly exceptional.
This session lasted from 6:30 pm, when the event started, until almost 10 pm, when everyone got up, and swarmed out in groups to support the local gastronomy…
2. Card Magic Before Robert-Houdin (1886)
The talks on the second topic started after dinner, well after midnight, and lasted until about 3 am, without a pause (see below my comment on he lack of pauses).
Decremps: The Testament of Jérome Sharp
I did a very short talk on Henri Decremp’s Testament de Jérome Sharph (first edition was 1785).
Decremps was a lawyer who had an interest in the arts, particularly music and magic.
It is assumed that he was in some sort an amateur magician, and in his landmark books (five!), which were published in France from 1784 to 1789, he disclosed the tricks and secrets of the Italian Giuseppe Pinetti, who at that time was the “Copperfield” of Europe. So, Decremps was the “Masked Magician” of his time… fortunately without TV.
In the photo below I’m sitting next to Juan Tamariz, who took charge of this session.
I made a few comments regarding the importance and influence of the Testament, and I also performed two tricks from the book.
Look at the photo and try to identify a few heavy-weights of international card magic – there are quite a few, literally 🙂
The Testament is arguably the very first didactical work on card magic, as it brought together the knowledge about card magic of the period, and in over sixty pages and two dozen illustrations (woodcuts!) explained the techniques, tricks, presentations and even some abstract concepts in an orderly fashion and an intelligible language, briefly, it was the Card College of its time 🙂
In an upcoming The Magic Memories I’ll make some more comments on it, and will also put the 32-page study I did on the subject on my webshop for a nominal fee.
Juan himself gave a historical overview of the books before Robert-Houdin (1886), with various participants intervening by making more detailed comments on the individual books, and some performing a few tricks, or commenting on some techniques and other concepts.
I’d love to tell you more about this enormously important subject, but am afraid it is not possible…
For those who care, I have been working on a chronological bibliography of card magic, taking into account all languages I know (plus a few more). Usually bibliographies consider only books in one language, so, this might be one of the very few that crosses the language barriers.
It is, of course, incomplete, but you might agree that it is better than nothing.
CLICK HERE to see/download the PDF (please do not circulate on Internet without my permission, thank you).
We stopped at about 3 am, but the talks on this subject were continued on the next day at 6:30 pm, when the “day” starts at “Tamariz Time” 🙂
3. The Card Magic of Nick Trost
This was obviously a huge subject as Trost has contributed hundreds of items to the infinite universe of card magic.
Therefore, the presentations took almost the whole “day” (6:30 pm to 10 pm, dinner break, then again 12:30 to 3 am, considering we got an extra hour because of the shift of time from summer to winter time).
Woody Aragon took charge of the subject, gave a brief introduction about Trost, the man, and also gave a brief overview of his most important works (there are a lot!).
Many of the attendees had been recruited by Woody to perform one or more of Trost’s tricks, and so we had about a dozen presenters who gave their best to perform for us tricks that are usually not in their repertoire…
In any case, this turned out to be a highly entertaining session, as it was mostly tricks, their explanations and occasional comments on the underlying principles.
I apologize that I am not able to credit the presenters by name, but there were so many, several of whom I did not even know, and at some point I stopped taking notes…
However, I would like to mention Aitor Marcilla, who gave a splendid talk on some lesser known Trost-contributions, namely those published in two “Hocus Pocus Parades” in The Linking Ring of 1955 and 1957.
Trost, himself a lifetime amateur, has certainly brought a lot of pleasurable performance pieces for those who like mostly quick, visual and easy-to-do tricks, several using special cards and reduced to packet tricks.
On a professional level, though, and as an influence on the history of card magic, his impact was little. His “Eight -Card-Brainwave” and a handling of the “Ten Card Poker Deal” using two sets of nine cards are an exception.
If someone among you thinks there are more important and influential ideas by Trost, please let me know; I shall be happy to mention them in an upcoming issue of The Magic Memories.
(This said, you will find two items by Nick Trost, which I have only slightly varied, in Volume 1 of Card College, so, like many, I am thankful for his contributions!)
4. Unusual Trick Cards
This topic had been already started last year, and because time was short then, it was decided to pick it up again this year.
Well, this year the “unusual trick cards” suffered a similar fate: Due to the lengthy treatment of the other subjects, most presentations were postponed to Sunday noon, where only a restricted group attended, some sleeping, some going for lunch, and some already leaving.
There were, however, a few quick contributions, among others Consuelo Lorgia, who presented an original “painting” of hers; to the amusement of the group, she choose me as her assistant, this being a sort of “running gag”, since Tamariz once declared that I’m the worst spectator 🙂 This is due to me inevitably changing whenever the performer asks me if I wanted to change… of course I do this on purpose, in order to teach the younger performers that they only have to ask the spectator if he wants to change when they know how to do it (most don’t, they just imitate Juan, and more often than not fail).
This years’ gathering, as almost all of the others preceding it, had many positive moments making it worth attending.
Before getting into this, I simply have to mention the hotel room I had, with a bathroom the size of a room in Venise or Paris…
Look at the shower in the photo below. If you zoom into the control panel, you will notice it has 35 (!) menu items, with several having more sub-menus.
In front of the cabin is the opened user manual, which has 16 (sixteen!) pages explaining all the functions (in Spanish). After ten minutes I was able to activate the shower function, which was all I needed. The shower had everything, except shampoo and shower gel – these were attached to the nearby jacuzzi and washing basin and could not be removed from the wall…
This shower reminded me of several magic tricks and acts I have lately seen done by young performers: They are incredibly complex, but ignore the essence, namely the effect and how to get it across to the audience in a fascinating (better term than “entertaining”) manner.
Back to “Escorial”: No question, the atmosphere is unique, with mostly world-class, top-notch cardicians attending from over a dozen countries!
One of the amazing things is that they are all coming at their own expenses and give presentations without renumeration. A question you may want to answer yourself: What makes them do that?
Plus: There are great exchanges of wild ideas well into the wee hours, old friendships are renewed, new friendships made. Many of the talks are well-prepared, well-delivered and interesting, a few a little less… with uplifting sessions before, after and in-between…
… and of course, for those who care, some unforgettable meals! Below a frugal meal with only one Carabinero per person…
On the downside are presenters who, understandably, get carried away by their enthusiasm for the subject, but who then lose control of the time allotted to them, thus taking time from other, more relevant presentations.
By no means do I say that I think to know it all, far from it, but I have certainly learned from my own mistakes.
A few years ago I gave a short talk on “How to Give a Lecture”, where I tried to summarize my experience of over forty years doing lectures, talks, presentations, workshops etc. I don’t think that many are interested to hear that again…
This goes hand in hand with the “new schedule” introduced a few years before the pandemic.
In former times the talks started on Friday around 6 pm and went until ca. 10 pm, dinner break, then usually a “gala” until 2 am, plus sessions until, who knows…
Saturday started again towards noon, until 2 pm, lunch break, then from ca. 4 pm to 10 pm with two or three coffee breaks. More talks after midnight.
Then Sunday again talks from noon to ca. 2 pm (for many years Ascanio did a lecture here), lunch break, then last talks and preparation for the next meeting from ca 4 to 6 pm. Back to Madrid for a relaxed dinner.
The “new schedule” has about the same time for Friday, but by starting only at 6:30 pm on Saturday, and dropping almost all of Sunday, the result is an almost 50% time loss for formal talks. Although some of it is compensated by “early risers” in informal sessions (and too copious meals…), a lot of the talent, which came together from so far, is wasted, in my opinion.
Also, when I started to come to Escorial, we were a group of about fifteen people, which not only gave much more intimacy to the affair, but also allowed more and better interaction during the talks.
Nowadays there are simply too many attendants, many of which do not contribute, the latter being a conditio sine qua non. Still, being an invitation-only event, the level of the event is kept at a high level.
This year the schedule was very tight, the subjects hefty, and the session on Sunday cancelled for most, also there was no gala show, were usually those perform who do not contribute to the talks.
This resulted in sessions being longer than usual, three hours and more, without pause, which in turn caused participants to go in and out to go to the bathroom or have a drink. We need to bring those pauses back, after maybe 90, max 120, minutes.
Not only are the pauses beneficial to the concentration, they also allow for welcome interaction with other participants.
The photo (ca. 1980) below with Ascanio and Young Giobbi was taken at the bar just outside the room of the Hotel Victoria Palace, where for at least twenty years the “Jornadas” took place, until a refurbishing of the hotel forced us to move to the Hotel Lanceros nearby.
All this said, attending the “Jornadas” has several additional benefits, such as staying another day or two in Madrid and meeting lots of other magicians (again!), visiting a plethora of cultural institutions (Madrid boasts some of the most important museums in the world), shops, parks, and last but by no means least, some great restaurants (I knew you were waiting for that 🙂
One of the places to eat you can place in your Evernote Notebook (“Travels – Madrid – Restaurants”) is “Barril de las Letras” specialized in seafood and fish: Take “Tartar de atun”, Chipirones”, Pulpo”, “Boquerones fritos”, sharing all with your diners, but stay away from the Arroz (what tourists call (“Paella”).
I went there with Mahdi Gilbert, Christian Engblom, Paul Wilson, José Angel Suarez and Juanjo Alvarez. The latter then invited us to a private club, of which he is a member. The house has seven (magical!) floors, and from the terrace on the 7th floor we had a dashing view over the roofs of Madrid, and you could see the hills in the background with El Escorial, too!
The photo below shows us all indulging in Spanish Brandy and Cuban cigars, late afternoon, in the beautiful library of the club, where the dapper tradition of smoking is still allowed.
And this was not even the end of the day, which would have been indeed a beautiful end, no, in the evening José Angel and I, who were staying at the same hotel, met up with Juan Tamariz and other magic friends for a late dinner at “El Pimiento Verde” (take “alcachofas”, small artichokes – two per person, as well as “rape”, monk fish, and you’ll be a happier person 🙂
I won’t torture you with more details…
Next year’s topics will be (in the photo below in Alfredo Marchese’s handwriting):
Translation & Comments
- “Cartas gigantes” means “Jumbo Cards”; tricks, techniques, special cards & decks, etc. Overview, with special attention to original ideas, as usual.
- “Hugard” means Jean Hugard; the author, his work, personal contributions and influence. This will be a combination of biography, bibliography, as well as tricks and techniques.
- “Trilleros” means “Three Card Monte”; history, authentic techniques and strategies, application to magic, original ideas
- “Estuches” means “Card Boxes”; how to use a normal cad box in magic (cards and others…), unusual gimmicked boxes, etc.
Wish you all an excellent week!