These are The Magic Memories 67, gone online Sunday, April 10th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.
I keep receiving lovely feedback and questions, for which I thank you, although I apologize for not being able to answer them all. BUT, today I’d like to answer three of these questions.
Remember & Forget Tricks
JR Russell from Seattle, whom I had the pleasure of meeting several years ago (!) on the occasion of one of the “Card Clinics” I did with Jamy Ian Swiss, and who flew jets off on an US aircraft carrier (nothing less!), asks: “How do you remember all the tricks and routines you do?” This is indeed a question that should interest most, including myself!
Clearly, it is the type of question that doesn’t have an answer that will fit everyone in every situation, but what question does? JR asked the question in the context of me performing tricks in each of the two Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction video productions, a total of almost fifty tricks. Coming soon…
This leads to answer #1: Practice and rehearse a lot.
Even though I have now almost fifty years of performing experience on my shoulders, which certainly helps, due to the Corona situation, I have performed very little in the past two years, something neither I nor my colleague performers have ever experienced in our lives before.
So, I simply made a list of the two times twenty-five tricks, and then spent at least ten days, about three hours a day, practicing and rehearsing them (ten days for each set, I mean!). You can do less tricks, but regularly practicing the tricks is possibly the best method to remember them, as obvious as it sounds.
Answer #2: Make lists.
In order to know what you want to remember and practice, keep a notebook (paper or electronic) where you list the tricks you want to remember. You can make categories, such as “Impromptu”, “for laypeople”, “for magicians”, etc.
I said this before, and I’ll repeat it here: If magic is your hobby, you are tempted to keep buying and learning new tricks. Fight that temptation, but only partially: Reserve 25% of your magic time to practice always the same (favorite) tricks, and 75% of the time you just do “new stuff” or what pleases you (e.g. wasting time in chat groups, watching useless YouTube videos etc.). You’ll find that the 25% make you advance artistically, but the 75% might keep up the joy… (percentages can be changed).
Answer #3: Instead of lists use The Deck (or Bag) of Tricks.
I have written about this in various places, among others in my Genii column “The Genii Session” (March 2003): If you are a subscriber, you can access everything published in Genii electronically and read the article there. Briefly: Take a deck of cards, and then write the name of a trick on the face of each card. Ideally you get 52 tricks. If they are card tricks, you can now shuffle the deck, turn over the top card, and then practice that trick with that very deck. Repeat to taste…
You can also write techniques on the face of the cards, which you want to remember and practice, or any other non-card-trick, but obviously you need to have the relative instruments at hand.
If you take a zip bag, you can put The Deck of Tricks in it, plus other instruments, such as a purse with coins, dice, safety pins, a wallet with a few packet tricks, bills, etc. Now you have The Bag of Tricks!
Instead of the deck you can use file cards, but a deck is so much nicer, and you can use that very deck to practice.
The photo below shows various of my Decks of Tricks: in one some cards have sets of three tricks, in one deck all Heart cards are Ace Openers, Diamond cards Ace effects to do after an opener, Clubs Ace Closers… etc.
Answer #4: Organize Tricks in Sets.
This is what I did in my book Card College Light: There are seven routines, each consisting of three tricks.
Three or five is a good number to fill from 7 to 20 minutes approximately. To arrange three tricks in a little routine is arguably the single best way of remembering them: As you start the first one, the other two will automatically follow.
It helps if you give the routine a theme, e.g., “The Extraordinary Aces” (combination of three Ace-tricks), “The Power of the Mind” (combine three mental card tricks), “The Five Senses” (combine five tricks, each showing how one of the senses is used in a “magical” way), etc.
Answer #5: Videotape the Tricks.
I used to do this in the first ten years of my magic career, and then somehow stopped doing it, and started to write books instead!
But obviously you can create a small D-base with the recording of the tricks you like most. So, even if you haven’t performed them for a longer period of time, you can watch your video of the trick, and then quickly bring it back to performance level.
Answer #6: Use Your Head.
Now that several doors have been opened, you can find your very own way of better remembering your tricks. But they all have one thing in common: You probably need to work more than you’ve worked up to now – as in life, there are no shortcuts to success, but, fortunately, some ways are more comfortable and pleasurable than others, and if you are like me and have a Hedonistic penchant, that’s what you are looking for 🙂
Remember & Forget Books
The question above made me think of yet another, similar question, namely how do you remember the content of the books you’ve read?
Unfortunately, again similar to the above question, there is no “magical” answer, no “deep secret” only a few chosen ones have access to – or maybe there is… but I simply don’t belong to those. The answer is again: Work! Better: Think and work. More precisely: Think, write, and work. Picasso, talking about (the lack of) genius, made an analogy by saying, “The poor have to work!” Now, if a genius like Picasso, or Tamariz in magic, on top of their super-human talent keep working, well, you know what comes out…
However, it is one thing to run around aimlessly, but quite another thing to run in the correct direction so that you reach your destination. So, let me give you some ideas of how you could do this, and as always this is just my opinion (nada más y nada menos).
Some seem to worry about having bought more books than they can read. That’s a false problem, because buying magic books encourages the authors to write more. So, if you like someone’s writing, by all means buy all his or her books, if you can afford it. Consider: You probably own a car that speeds up to 180 km/h (or more…), but you hardly ever use that, right? So, why not have a library with more books than you will ever read? Occasionally you might find a reference to it, and then you can immediately go to it in your own library. My credo here: Buy as many books as you can afford, and have room for 🙂
The real problem is, of course, that we would like to remember more of the books we really like. The so-called “Ebbinghaus forgetting curve” shows that after one day we remember about a third of what we’ve read, and long-term almost nothing. How to get out of the dilemma?
Here are a few suggested strategies to counteract forgetting what we’ve read:
- Be merciless on your books by underlining and highlighting important passages (use different colors!), and making notes at the margin. See photo further down from Expert Card Technique.
- After each chapter reread the passages you marked, and then formulate the essence of these passages in your own words – this goes in a notebook, paper or electronic. See photo below of The Vernon Companion.
- When you’ve finished reading the book make a resumé of ca. 200 words, writing down what the essence of the book is for you, and make a list of the tricks, techniques, presentations, subtleties, and theoretical concepts you want to remember. Open a new note for every sub-topic you can identify. So, if in Card College I write that to built self-confidence in doing the Classic Force it helps to have an OUT, open a note that says “Outs for the Classic Force”, and make a list off all the strategies you know. And each time you learn a new one from a lecture, video, book etc. put it in that note. And if in the list of “Outs” it says “Perform a Quick Trick”, well, open yet another note titled “Quick Tricks – Quickies – Quick Card Discoveries”, and then make a lits of all quick tricks you know. Keep “feeding” the note, as you would feed your cat or dog, and if you don’t have a cat or a dog, do it anyway!
- Put these notes in a paper or electronic notebook, with a table of content and/or with tags, so that later you can find what you are looking for.
As an additional strategy start a BOB (Book of Books): Take one of those Moleskine-type notebooks, or again Evernote (or similar note-taking app), and make a list of all the books you’ve read, with the reading-date and a short comment to go with each book with your opinion about the book. To do so is far more than a mere pragmatic activity, it is a small auto-biographical opus that will remind you of important parts of your life…
Want an example of how I do it? Below see two screen shots of my notes in Evernote.
Brief comment: I have a “Notebook” in Evernote titled “Books/Publications”, and within this a “Sub-Notebook” titled “Books read” into which I can now place an infinite number of individual notes, one of them being the note you see below for Mike Perovich’s book The Vernon Companion.
You’ll note two PDF-symbols in the note: That’s where I took my smartphone and with a scanning app made a one-page scan of the page in the book with the list of the tricks; I use Readdle’s Scanner Pro for iPhone. If you click on the PDF symbol, the PDF opens and can be read (the PDF itself is again highlighted and annotated – this is like the Gozinta Boxes…).
In another part of the notes – the note being about ten pages long because it’s such a fantastic book – you would find PDFs that I have extracted from the Vernon books, e.g., when the Cups & Ball Routine is mentioned, I’ll add a scan of the trick description from the Ganson book.
I might supplement the notes with text clipped from Internet, using Evernote’s excellent “Web Clipper” function, or there might be voice notes I add using the “4Memo” app, and occasionally a video clip. The video clips can be quick clips I take of myself doing a sleight or other bit (5 seconds or so), using Mac’s “Photo Booth” app. For clips of existing videos I own as MP4-files, I use Quick Time Player, and it’s function “CMD-T” (“T” for “Trim”) to extract the few seconds I need to complement the written note.
I can still recommend Evernote, although as far as I’m concerned the latest versions have been “over-improved” by the zealous development team, and similar to Microsoft’s WORD, they now manage to kill a product that was so good by adding features nobody really needs, and changing the design to make it confusing. This is, by the way, exactly the same thing that happens in magic over and over again… we magicians sure don’t live in a vacuum, as Max Maven used to say.
Here are the screen shots FYI:
And here, for your entertainment pleasure, as my fried Daryl might have said, a sample page from my copy of Hugard’s & Braue’s Expert Card Technique…, mistreated with highlights, underlines, and notes on the margin…
To Clip or Not to Clip
Steve Hirsch, a journalist from Washington who enthusiastically practices magic as a hobby, and who came to see me in Switzerland years ago, asks, “What are your thoughts on the utility of card clips? I use one and find it adds a little elegance (the René Lavand effect, if you will) and a little psychological reinforcement that I only have one deck if I’m switching. Nevertheless, I’m wondering if this is an unnecessary affectation in your mind.”
My answer is: DON’T!
Wait, I’m joking 🙂
See the photo below with just a small selection of the card cases and clips I have. I am by no means a collector, neither of props nor books (although close to 4’000 books might lead some to think the contrary, but they are wrong…).
The clip on the upper left, the one made of metal with the engraving of my ex libris (Vanni Bossi did the engraving!), is from a series I had made here in Switzerland at a time those made by Jennings and Porper where no longer available (they are again now, I believe). Each of the clips/cases you see has a little story attached to it…
Seriously, I never show off neither the clip nor the box to the audience, except if the box is part of a presentation, which is not often.
However, when I travel, by air or by land, I always put every deck I use in a clip: It simply keeps it fresh and flat.
Minutes before I perform, I take the deck(s) out of the clip and put the decks without the clips in my pocket, or wherever I need them. So, the audience never gets to see the clips.
Taking them out of a clip in front of an audience, I believe, makes the cards look “prepared”.
That’s my opinion, and you’re welcome to yours, as always 🙂
Arghh, sorry for being so long, but it’s all so fascinating, isn’t it?
All the very best for the coming week – and come back for the next The Magic Memories 68 next week with hopefully exciting news on Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction 🙂