These are The Magic Memories 61, gone online Sunday, February 27th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.
Thoughts on Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction
I’m writing this on Saturday morning, and Guillaume and I just finished yesterday taping the technical chapters of Card College 4. Wow, what a deed 🙂 In two weeks time we are scheduled to tape the show part with about 24 performance pieces and their explanation. The cumulative duration of volume 4 will be short under that of volume 3, and between eight and ten hours – I will be able to tell you more once all is edited and assembled.
After several weeks of preparing, it took us two full days to get just this technical part into the box, a total of fourteen chapters, with over one hundred techniques, plus innumerable references and additional mentions of concepts, thoughts, psychological and, yes, even some philosophical considerations.
In spite of the wealth of material, comments and opinions, I truly hope to have been able to remain truthful to my own credo, that of never be trivial and not to waste neither my time nor the time of my future students. Yes, I know, it is somewhat of a fine line I walk whenever I’m writing, lecturing or taping anything related to magic, as I’m putting myself into the role of a teacher, who is supposed to know more than those who are reading or watching me. It has, though, never been my intention to appear aloof or to talk down to someone who knows less, and I truly hope that my sincere enthusiasm for the art and science of magic, card magic in particular, shines through all of my “teachings”. All these things I do are really borne out of my own necessity and passion to try to understand a universe that becomes bigger each time I myself learn more about it. Although I truly enjoy doing all this, I’m also humbled each time I approach a new subject, and I start to get an idea what Socrates meant when he said, “I know that I know nothing”, possibly the wisest utterance in the history of civilization.
Back on track: It took me weeks of preparation, just to get all the material from volumes 3 and 4 back “at my fingertips”, and then to script the content and how to best present it, to what degree of detail, and what examples to use to make it understandable in context.
Obviously, when you’ll be watching this, and hopefully getting some new information from it, so as to expand your own magical horizon and learn new thoughts, tools and performance material, all of this hard work should be as invisible as the proverbial 90% of an iceberg, and everything you hear and see should look as easy as pie 🙂
Anyway, in all those preparatory weeks, I went through the material I had essentially written before 1994, that was the date when Card College 3 & 4 first appeared in the original German language. I was then possibly at the peak of my technical evolution. In the past weeks I had to relearn quite a few sleights I’ve rarely been using since those times.
I hope this doesn’t sound like blowing into my own horn, as it is not meant to be, but coincidentally, when putting order to my things in between heavier work, to relax, so to speak, I came upon my very first “official” publication The Cardmanship of Roberto Giobbi, edited by Walt Lees, published by Magico of NYC in 1984. And here is what Walt Lees wrote in the foreword (I had completely gotten about these kind words).
I ﬁrst encountered Roberto in December 1980, when he was brought over for the “International Day of Magic” by Ron MacMillan. Within a few hours of his arrival, several people came up to me and asked, “Have you seen that Swiss lad? He’s terriﬁc!” In fact, I never got to see him work then, althoughI did sit in on an informal session that he had with Juan Tamariz.
It was not until 1983, that our paths were to cross once more. Roberto was in this country for six months, studying the language and was able to meet him many times for sessions and discussions. I found that, unlike so many people, who gain a reputation for digital dexterity, he was, in fact, a deep thinker. Far from being a mere ﬁnger ﬂinger, Roberto spends most of his time thinking about and studying the ﬁner points of misdirection, acting and psychology. Sit talking to him for a little while and you will very quickly ﬁnd yourself in a discussion about audience control, spectator handling and the manipulation of people’s perceptions. These are of far more importance to him than twenty new double lifts or the latest ﬂourish.
This attention to the ﬁner points of presentation clearly manifests itself in Roberto’s performances and, we hope, to some extent in the material in these pages. It shows up most clearly in his handling of the rifﬂe force, described herein, but is there, in all of the other items, just below the surface.
We would like to make it clear that this booklet is not intended for the beginner. The magic explained, although not complicated or difﬁcult, does require a good, basic grounding in card work and a fair degree of performing experience. Given these two requirements, the reader will ﬁnd some very practical, useable material.
Walt Lees July 1984
End of quote.
The Riffle Force Walt mentions is, by the way, the one discussed in Card College 1&2 – Personal Instruction Lesson 16 – The Force 2, the same as in Chapter 15 in Volume 1 of Card College; in my original it is in Volume 2, but this is another story I might tell another day…
The Choice of Hercules
As I was saying, this prep work forced me to look at my own work from yet another viewpoint. I realized that in the coming decades, after 1994, I rarely or even never used some of the techniques and concepts I had described in the books. 1988 was when I left my secure job at Autodesk in Switzerland and turned to be a full-time professional. I consider myself very fortunate that I stayed an “amateur” at heart, pursuing all those things that were of no direct relevance to the success as a performing professional.
Nonetheless, I had to make a few decision, e.g., should I spend time to learn and perfect a Middle Deal, a Bottom Deal, a Classic Pass, a five-hand-run-up Riffle Shuffle and a Table Faro Shuffle, or should I invest the thousands (I’m NOT exaggerating) of hours to study psychology, communication, staging and other matters that are – in my opinion – far more important for a successful, communicative, artistic and memorable performance (some would call this complex construct merely “entertainment”).
This is considering the fact that after decades of study and experience of (card) magic I can truthfully say that there are virtually no card problems using the aforementioned sleights that cannot be solved equally well (!!!) with other sleights and strategies. Mind you, not that these “surrogates” were easier, no, not at all, EVERYTHING well done requires understanding AND practice, but they don’t take up so many hours. Above all, studying strategies rather than mere sleights has far wider application potential.
The Utility of the Useless
This leads to several questions, one of which is why I should have included them in my Card College books in the first place.
One, because at that time I was using practically all of the items from the books at some point or another in one or several tricks and presentations, so the content is a reflection of what I was doing. This practical experience and the sincerity coming from it make up a great part of the authenticity of these books. At the time I was simply passionate about the subject and trying to present it in the most didactical and meticulous way possible. Nowadays I realize that this is one of the major reasons why the books have been so successful to this very day.
Two, because Card College – a title Stephen Minch and I came up with in an attempt to translate the German Grosse Kartenschule (literally “Big School of Cards”) – is Kindergarten, Primary School, High School and College/University, in chronological order, volumes 1 and 2 being from Kindergarten to High School, volumes 3, 4, and 5 being University. To follow along with this analogy, we know that what we learn in Primary School are the basic skills we need almost 100% for the rest of our lives, those from High School we can forget up to 80%, and those of University, well , depending on the discipline, you can forget about 40%. It is only afterwards, when you enter “real life” that you recognize how to deal with and solve the daily problems.
So, if you agree with this simplified math more or less, you will also understand that with Card College I wanted to precisely define, accurately describe and pleasurable teach not only what is absolutely necessary – the Basics from volumes 1 and 2 – but also the subjects that are part of the infinite universe of card magic.
This is why I have dealt with advanced Palms and the Side Steal (volume 3), or with Culling and Stacking Systems (volume 4), when 95% of most people performing card magic would be well served with just the Spread Cull (volume 1 of the American Edition) or the Top Palm, and would probably never use one of the sophisticated culling or stacking techniques. But, similar to University, it is a good thing if you’ve heard of these things, and practiced them to a certain degree, without then using them in real life. You might agree if I say that in magic, as in life, these things become part of our personality and competence. And this is something our audiences feel, as they are experts in reading these subliminal signals, even though most do not know that they have this skill…
Now, I have tried to the best of my knowledge and abilities to discuss all those topics (including the “Classic Pass”!), so that you get a good grounding in those subjects (e.g., Estimation!). And similar to University, if you want to specialize in the subject, the door to this infinite universe within the universe has been opened to you. As such I believe that the books, and now the videos, are helpful to find your own way in an informed manner, rather than just navigating through the infinite galaxies of Internet (YouTube…) and getting lost… not always, but more often than not.
When I started writing this week’s blog I intended to simply briefly mention the Card College video project I’m currently working on, not at all for commercial reasons, but just because this is what occupies my mind and time at the moment. But it turned out to be a much longer rambling, one subject leading to the next. Ah, what a beautifully complex thing the Art of Magic is! If you’ve been reading up to here, it means I could catch and keep your attention, and there’s a little lesson there, too 🙂
All the very best for the coming week!