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The Magic Memories (72)

Today’s subjects are: The advantage of getting older; Good is better than original; The Complete Giobbi; Ascanio on Giobbi via Otero; Gustavo Otero.

Hello everyone!

These are The Magic Memories 72, gone online Sunday, May 15th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

Birthday Thanks

Thank you to all who sent in birthday wishes: Yes, I did have a Happy Birthday, and thought of you!

Now, one year older, and (maybe) wiser: Not sure what the advantages of getting older are, but it seems to me that the best is that I get to look at things in the larger context rather than just at the thing itself as I was doing in my youth.

So, rather than saying, “This was a lousy convention”, I’m reminded when I was artistic director of a magic convention – actually twice (!) – and remember the hundreds of factors that remain invisible to the outsider, but that play an important role into the equation. Everything stands in a larger context… and appearances are deceiving, more than a cliché.

The consequences of this view is that when I look at the performance of a trick, the weak points stick out like a sore thumb, and I can usually immediately say what’s wrong, and have solutions to offer. Obviously, magic not being a measurable entity, any opinion expressed about it remains subjective, but al least I can usually point at the problem, and by offering new possibilities get the ball of re-creation rolling. The result may then be something else than I suggested, but it is better than before… and that’s not so bad.

I’ve done a lot more coaching sessions via Skype in these Corona times, and that’s what my students and I have noticed.

Good is Better Than Original

Paul Arden, in his commendable book It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be, says, “Good is better than original”.

Arden, who was executive creative director for many years of the advertising behemoth Saatchi and Saatchi, wrote these lines in reference to his industry, knowing well that it really applies to other areas of life as well.

After having watched virtually thousands of acts in the (almost) fifty years of practicing magic as a hobbyist, amateur and eventually full-time professional – even as a judge at a FISM world championship convention (2006 Stockholm) – I can only confirm that this is true also for the world of magic, especially for competition acts and acts I’ve witnessed for entry examinations to magic clubs.

I was then often reminded of what George Bernard Shaw had to say when he was once forced to write a review about the book of a colleague writer: “The book is good and original. But the original part is not good, and the good part is not original.”

I mention that because last week I had the idea of offering Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction on a USB stick for all those who don’t want to do lengthy downloads – I mean, 19 GB has got to be the heaviest download I know in our small world of magic – if you know of bigger ones, let me know for my archive, please.

So I contact a company who does that kind of thing, and in the photo below you can see the sample case they sent along with 32 different dummies of the USB sticks they are offering – quite amazing, isn’t it? I didn’t know such things even existed!

I finally decided to order fifty units of the credit card type USB stick with 32 GB memory and all 27 MP4-files on it, stored in a transparent protective case.

I’ll be offering it soon through the Secret Newsletter – I like the oxymoron of it, of course 🙂 Wonder how many will order that – but it might be useful at lectures for those who want to leave with something in their hands.

Although the stick is far too expensive, I’ll absorb the costs and will be offering the card at the same price as the download (plus shipping, of course – but that’s the only added cost).

Which brings me back to Arden’s “Good is better than original”: I gave the box with the samples, for which I have no use, to a magic friend, who doesn’t read this blog, I’m sure, and who will very probably come up with a very “original” trick. But I predict that it will be a bad trick. He actually already mentioned something along the lines of Annemann’s “Seven Keys to Baldpate”. I leave it to you to judge why this will probably not be a good way of interpreting this old plot, although the effect itself is very good. I hope, of course, that I will be wrong…

The Complete Giobbi

I occasionally receive very kind mails by very kind readers of my works, and of course that’s always balm for the soul of any sensitive artist (me!).

Below is a photo displaying the “Giobbi Collection” of Ian Kent that came in with some friendly comments of his. If you have similar photos, please send them to me, and they’ll go into my small private collection of photos.

The (almost) Complete Giobbi by Ian Kent

Ascanio on Giobbi via Otero

My good friend Gustavo Otero, originally from Buenos Aires and now living in Madrid, Spain, recently wrote in making a comment on my performance and discussion of “Gipsy Thread” on my Lecture Video The Close-up Act of Roberto Giobbi (by Penguin Magic), especially mentioning all the details I’ve put into the presentation, pauses, and audience management.

And it reminded him of something Ascanio once said to him on the occasion of one of his regular visits to the Maestro.

Since I had never heard the story, I asked him to tell it to me, and here it is for your entertainment pleasure (and also because, and above all, it contains an important lesson in magic), in Gustavos’ own words:

After I had come to Madrid and during many years I regularly visited Ascanio at his home, together with other young and upcoming magicians from Madrid: Miguel Angel Gea, Rafa and Nacho Picola, Ricardo Rodriguez, Alberto de Figueiredo, Luigi Iglesias , Jaime and others, some attending these meetings more often than others.
On one occasion I asked him about the recent Escorial meeting, a private convention organized by the Escuela Magico de Madrid, of which I was still not a member at that time. But I knew that some of the world’s best cardmen gathered there, and for three days (and nights!) discussed card magic.
So, he started to tell me about the various subjects that had been discussed by the group, and then said, “What surprised me most, was Roberto.”
“Really? Why?”, I asked.
“Because he was phenomenal!”, replied Arturo.
“Yes, he’s good, isn’t he?”
Ascanio continued, “Yes, but until last year he was medio soso” (“soso”, meaning he lacked salt and pepper). “But this year his presentation was phenomenal, entertaining, intelligent, emotionally captivating, a truly great magician. And you know why? “
“I have no idea”, I answered.
“Because he forgot about technique! He has mastered technique, and now he enjoys performing, and makes his audience enjoy magic.”
This was a great lessons for me and all those who were listening: You have to forget about technique.
So, my dear Roberto, for Ascanio you changed from an excellent technician to being a real magician, because you stopped thinking about the technique, and started to enjoy and to present your miracles.
When I watched you do the thread trick I was reminded of this little story that Ascanio told me in his home, because when you presented it I saw you forget about the method, and enjoy the magic. For you, there was no trickery, and what you made your audience experience was pure magic.

And that’s the anecdote as told by Gustavo, without further comments.

Ascanio at MacMillan One-day Convention translated by Young Giobbi (ca. 1980)

Gustavo Otero

Speaking of my talented friend Gustavo Otero, you might remember having read his name in two of my publications. One, Introduction to Card Magic, two, Confidences.

The way we met was after the publication of my Secret Agenda. In one of the entries I mention Picasso’s one-liners, i.e., pencil drawings he did in one trait without taking the pencil off the paper.

Gustavo said this inspired him to do likewise with magical subjects, and he sent me a few samples: I reproduce one of them below with Gustavo’s kind permission.

Cascade – Gustavo Otero

I was so fascinated by this, that I commissioned Gustavo to create another 14 drawings like this one to go as chapter illustrations for my Introduction to Card Magic. So, if you own that, go back and check again – you’ll see them with new eyes. And if you don’t have that work, I would get it for Gustavo’s magical illustrations alone!

And I should also add that possibly the best of the bunch, the Joker, figures opposite my foreword in Confidences, the foreword being, analogous to Gustavo’s art, written in one single sentence! Just in case you have the book and never noticed…

His graphic output is quite huge, and you can get an idea of it if you CLICK HERE. Below, is one of my favorites, again reproduced here with his permission – an interpretation of the “Ascanio Spread”, which in the original spanish is named “el culebreo”, “la culebra” meaning “snake” – now you see the larger context, even as a young person 🙂

Medusa – Gustavo Otero

PS: Gustavo Otero is also quite accomplished in sleight-of-hand matters, but makes the largest part of his living by doing magic for children, in a very original way, e.g., by performing in libraries.

To see how he addresses the market for children’s magic CLICK HERE.

Wish you all an excellent week, and please remember that you won’t receive this The Magic Memories via mail: You have to check-in for yourselves, every Sunday, at 0:07 sharp (or anytime later) 🙂

Roberto Giobbi

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