Today is the 1st of August, 2021, and these thirty-first The Magic Memories are going online at exactly 0:07, as usual.
Again, I should take off and leave my ramblings out for a week, for today is Switzerland’s National Day: The date is inspired by the date of the Federal Charter of 1291, Pacte du Rütli, placed in “early August”, when “three Alpine cantons swore the oath of confederation” (Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden), an action which later came to be regarded as the founding of Switzerland. Today, Switzerland has 26 cantons and a population of about 8 million. In a recent statistic Switzerland was listed as number 2 of the world’s richest nations, based on the GDP per capita, and number 3 in the list of the World Happiness Report. Unfortunately, the Corona virus doesn’t care about this, as the situation here is similar to most other countries. And whenever I think of statistics my dear friend Lennart Green comes to mind, who has some hilarious examples to make fun of statistics. A short one is this: if you put your head in the hot oven and your feet in the deep-freezer, in the statistical average you feel very good! Ah, Lennart, he deserves a book, a huge book…
Green teaches Giobbi a natural card move
The other day I watched, for the n-th time, the movie Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe, a comedy inspired by the screwball comedies of the Forties, with Jacqueline Bisset, George Segal and Robert Morley. In Secret Agenda, entry for SEP 2, I briefly describe my five favorite films, and there I wrote about the plot: “Europe’s most famous chefs are killed in ways that parallel how they prepare their own specialties. Crime fiction and black humor work here in a delicious combination. The main theme of this film, gastronomy, is the basis of all art. Why? Gastronomy is about eating. If you don’t eat you die. And if you’re dead you can’t be an artist. Therefore, gastronomy is the basis of all art. Any questions?”
The DVD I have, contains among the extras a superb interview with director Ted Kotcheff (*1931), made 30 years after the film’s release (1979)! In this candid conversation it becomes clear how many things filming and magic, but also gastronomy, have in common. Briefly: You are sharing a passion in real-time with other people you like. Kotcheff, who directed and produced hundreds of films/series for film/TV, when asked what he thought is the most difficult genre in movies, responded, “Action movies are easiest,” – he directed Rambo First Blood – “comedy is the most difficult.” I believe this is very similar to magic, where comedy magic acts are indeed very difficult. I remember I noticed this already in 1979, when I went to my very first FISM convention mIn Brussels and watched the World Championship Competition: the acts in the “Comedy” section were the worst, and only very few managed to walk the fine line between comedy and magic, without destroying one, the other or both. BTW: Swiss comedy magician “Erino” came second in “Comedy”, a very funny act… and man.
To come back to the movie: Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe masterfully manages to balance the crime fiction plot with the comedy, so that they complement each other, and the result is truly more than the sum of its parts. When asked how to do a good movie, Kotcheff pragmatically answers, “Oh, that’s easy. All you need is an excellent story, excellent script, excellent crew and excellent cast!” This reminds me of star chef Thomas Keller, who in the preface of his book Bouchon writes about the secret of great cuisine: “Excellent products, plus excellent preparation, equals excellent meals!” And in magic? Well, excellent trick, plus excellent execution, equals excellent performance! As you can see, the world’s a Chaos, and like fractals one discipline reflects the other, with small differences in content.
Speaking of interdisciplinarity, and how to apply the insights gained from one to another, Dai Vernon was a great model. He keenly studied other fields of interest, chief among them the techniques and strategies of the cheats, and applied what he saw and heard to magic. If I was a Professor at a University of Magic, I would conduct a study on the subject of which operational concepts in magic, specifically card magic, have been influenced and in which way by gambling and cheating at gambling. I’m convinced this would lead to a better understanding and interpretation of many sleights we are using nowadays, and to the invention of new and better ones.
To come back to Vernon: He also very intelligently cross-bred concepts within magic. As an example he was very fond of Jack McMillan’s finding of the “Plunger Principle”. The fact that cards, which were interlaced and jogged one towards the other, could produce unseen movements, fascinate him. At least two major inventions were the result of it. One, his “Triumph Shuffle”, which was the operational basis of what to me is without doubt one of the Top Ten card tricks, “Triumph”, as described in Stars of Magic. You find a detailed description in Card College Volume 3, pp. 642, “The Triumph Shuffle”, and if you’re a visual person, you should go to my Card Magic Masterclass video series, and there on Disc Three – False Shuffles and Cuts you’ll find a very detailed discussion of the technique at 1:22:40, which will enable you to learn it in a few minutes, provided you can already do a proper normal Riffle Shuffle. (Card Magic Masterclass is no longer available as a DVD set, but you can download the five lessons individually or as a package deal from vanishingincmagic.com.)
The second thing that the Plunger Move inspired in Vernon was his Multiple Shift – one of the first descriptions, if not the first, can be found in The Tarbell Course of Magic, but I also discuss it on Disc One – Controls of the above-mentioned Card Magic Masterclass, with ideas that have never been published before (you’ll find it at 1:18:55).
So, my friends, that’s it for today. As always I hope that something has caught your fancy and triggered your imagination.
Have an excellent week!