Mistakes Were Made

There is a classic trope in mentalism, a type of story that is passed around constantly: that having one or two high-profile misses can actually enhance the rest of the performance, because it seemingly proves their authenticity. Why would they miss if it was just a trick they could do on command? I have read versions of this story in pamphlets from famous mentalists and mediums, in books on methods, and in descriptions of performances, but it never really got through to me…until it happened to me.

I was performing a mentalism/spirit theater show and, through my own carelessness, one of my newer effects simply failed to hit. Learning how to recover from a mistake or failed effect is important and a skill all performers should think about and practice (and a good scripting lesson is to always build your risky or untested effects into a place where it will be easy to recover, or where the flow of effects naturally leads the audience back in line with you), but the recovery is not precisely the question here. The question is, after recovering, how does it affect the rest of the performance, the credibility, and the energy of the audience? I could tell that they were dubious (it was essentially the first effect in my set, so it did not inspire confidence), but I knew the second effect was extremely strong, and built well into the rest of the show, giving me something of an “escape ramp”. Plowing forward, then, I got back on track, and the show proceeded comfortably.  By the end of the second effect there was an audible “Oh my god” and I knew everything was fine, but the more interesting reactions were at the end when I had more than one person tell me something along the lines of “I wasn’t sure about you at the beginning, but wow!” and I think that process of change, of bringing them around, is worth thinking about.

These anecdotes traditionally end with something along the lines of “I don’t know if I would intentionally add such a large mistake to my shows, but it definitely makes you reconsider how you use misses to prove authenticity.” While I agree with that, I think my advice is different, and is this: take the long shots. The effect that failed for me was nothing wild, and was the result of my own inattention, but now that I truly know how far I can miss by and still bring the audience back, it makes me think about what much larger and more interesting, risky effects I can attempt knowing that failure truly is an option.

(Obviously this doesn’t apply quite as well to non-mentalism/séance style performance, but I think it’s worth considering.)

— Z.Y.

Four Suits
This Month in Magic - March

It’s a good time to be apart of the Four Suits world…

Those near and dear to us are doing things out in LA this March:

March 9 - Zac Young, “The Fool’s Journey”, 8pm at Diehl Marcus, 4707 Fountain Ave, Los Angeles CA 90029, TICKETS

March 12 - Ariel Shrum, “Notes on Magic”, 8pm at Black Rabbit Rose, 1719 N. Hudson Ave.
Hollywood, CA 90028, NO COVER.

February held the exciting release (and a move that is actually coming across much easier than it would seem) of The One Armed Bandit by Blaise Serra

April will hold the most kick-ass, wild experience of Magic you’ve ever experienced. INFO HERE. Reader of the site and want to attend? Email us for a discount.

Cheers, we hope to see you around,

J.R.

The Fool's Journey

We are proud to announce a performance of The Fool’s Journey, a parlor seance, featuring Four Suits member Zac Young, taking place March, Saturday 9, at 8 p.m.

You can find tickets and details here.

Fools Journey
Four Suits
Journal of Performance Magic -- The End of Mind Reading, Eddie Dean

Dear Reader,

Today I thought I’d give a shoutout to another publication with some pretty enlightening thoughts on modern magic performance, lots of idea gold here…

There’s a publication called the Journal of Performance Magic, which Z.Y. hipped me up to. It’s all free as part of University publications.

Z.Y. hit me up with this particular article: The End of Mind Reading which is pretty informative and, while I don’t necessarily agree with everything in it, Eddie makes some pretty unique discoveries and shares a unique perspective. Nice work, man.

Best,

J.R.

Steward of Magic + Collusion

I must admit, I’ve been colluding with a group of individuals over the past year, with the intention of making better magic, and by that virtue, better magicians. Couple days ago, I met up with a founder of the organization, B.M., who emphasizes the importance of being able to teach and direct the movement of the art (of magic) when engaging other individuals outside of the organization, essentially activating every single one of us as a steward of good magic.

This is honestly a new frame of mind for me. You’d have to ask my therapist (when I get one) why I’ve had such a laissez-faire attitude towards those who don’t lead the art forward. There’s a part of me that agrees with Jerry Seinfeld and believes that the magic ecosystem, just like the comedy ecosystem, cleanses itself. If you’re not a good magician, you don’t get as much work as the better ones.

However, can’t you already imagine this? Think about the way a random person you know thinks about magic. Chances are, there’s almost a 100% chance they think of one of the following: a hacky kids show, a gaudily-dressed man, their elderly relative, or wannabe-edgy TV magic. Now, if the system cleanses itself in a market like that, it’d probably cleanse itself all the way down to one of these cliches where only that succeeds and legitimate performances aren’t part of the culture. These more interesting forms of magic of course would still exist, but might go more underground in terms of performance. Which, honestly, the really good stuff has always been underground like that. It’s always been out there, but you’re not always looking at it front and center.

In lieu of the above-mentioned magical paradigm-shift, and in some sort of hope to improve the culture of magic we’ve all grown to know and love, not to mention my own personal growth in this process, I’m learning to be more of a steward of good magic. While the strongest thing I can do is to be like a “...lighthouse in the foggy, conventional, and outdated world of magic.” as Jay Sankey says about Paul Harris (Art of Astonishment Vol. 3) by showing and sharing my own direction through self-action, I can also afford to speak up when I see something right, as well as something wrong, when someone else shares their action. This is a community I care about, and if I truly care about it, I have to show people what they don’t see.

“A guide for those who have lost their way” (Shantideva) This has always been one of the hardest parts of the Shantideva Prayer for me, because I always thought, who am I to say where someone else is going? Who is to say that I’m going to the “right” place? And I know a lot of this is both embracing and battling my own personal history and thought processes, but I think there’s certainly a way, while still respecting the path of others, to share my own way, at least so others may see it.

So, on this Valentine’s day, be thoughtful, be kind, and show your love to your own community.

— J.R.

May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector of those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need
For as long as space endures,
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I, too, abide
To dispel the misery of the world.

— Shantideva

“Yes, Paul has been and still is, at least for me, a kind of lighthouse in the foggy, conventional, and out-dates world of magic. Sometimes a huge amount of responsibility and pressure is heaped upon the light houses to guide others home, and that’s just fine; it’s the task Paul has taken, but we mustn’t forget that Paul, like a lighthouse, only guides or points the way toward the shore, he is not the shore himself. Thank you for the priceless guidance, Paul.”

— Jay Sankey

Classic Magic Movie

Last week I watched a classic magic movie that perfectly encapsulates an element of magic theory. No, I’m not talking about The Prestige or The Illusionist, not The Great Buck Howard nor The Sting. No, I was watching that Dreamworks masterpiece The Prince of Egypt.

Setting aside the religious aspect of the movie, there is one scene in particular that gets me. It is when Moses first confronts the pharaoh and asks him to let the Hebrews go. To prove he was sent by God he performs a miracle, and the pharaoh has his priests respond in kind. (Apologies for it being in two pieces, I couldn’t find a single video of the whole segment.)

Now there are a lot of questions about magic’s role in religion and it’s relationship with faith and belief, but I want to look at something a lot simpler: two magicians (Moses and the Priests) perform basically the same effect (turning staffs into a snakes) in two very different ways (Moses’ is a literal miracle, while the movie implies the Priests use sleight of hand) but with two very different presentations (Moses simply does it, while the Priests dress theirs up with theatrics).

I won’t try and beat this over the head, but I think it’s at once a lesson in how a stronger method does not always lead to a more entertaining effect, but also the importance of clarity in creating effects (I almost missed the Priests even changing the staffs the first time I saw it). Just some food for thought.

(Also seriously some of the music in this movie is great, so go listen to it.)

 

—Z.Y.

Four Suits
Get Outside / Magic for Young Lovers, The Jerx, Andy

Magic for Young Lovers by Andy “The Jerx” just arrived at my house last week.

I’ve been sick for the past few days, so I read it completely through in just two days.

Absolute work of art. The way they think about creating experiences for people, the amount of detailed attention Andy puts into his presentations. It’s mindblowing. All of those cliche “Uncles” who showed you magic at family gatherings should’ve been doing this style of performance all along because so much of the performance is meant for the casual social realm. I digress, get the book, or get on that site if you haven’t already.

Related:

There’s been a lot disturbing my life lately. I’ve been working with an external team on a very ambitious theatrical production of magic, been working w/ Four Suits members on creating a live experience/tour show, and always trying to continue the momentum forward amongst the other standard magic noise. I’ve gotten myself stressed out about it. That is the lifestyle that I chose, I thought. However, even doing the same things in my lifestyle, I realize I don’t have to stress myself out so much.

You ever know that feeling when you’re disgustingly sick, and then you just start to get better? That happened to me today. I took a walk outside. Just put on some shoes and walked outside. No phone. No connection to anything. Just walked outside about an hour before sunset. It made me feel like a kid again.

It had just rained here in LA. Everything was gorgeous, and everything was so much bigger than me. I grabbed a tangerine off a tree. I picked one of those little, damn, I don’t even know the name... One of those little thin stalks of plant, with tiny yellow tube shaped flowers, ones that I used to chew for their tart taste when I was a kid, I did that again probably for the first time since I’ve been a kid.

There was something magical about today. And it was incredibly freeing, and definitely widened my perspective, relaxed me. This is magic. Not in the way that Magic with a capital “M” frames it, but something truly magical, and I think that’s a bit where Andy comes from. And where I hope to come from too.

— J.R.

Magic Trick EXPOSED!

I know a lot has already been written about people who reveal magic methods online (and I mean with the purpose of exposing them to non-magicians, not sharing for other magicians to use), but I feel compelled to offer my two cents. Besides the obvious issues of revealing methods that are not theirs to begin with, I think they have a very shortsighted relationship with magic.

One beauty of magic is that, with just one or two good methods you have the core of dozens, if not hundreds, of great effects that just needs a few tweaks and as many different presentations as you can imagine. That means the magical mileage you can get out of a single move or method is incredible. Revealing a move, though, obviously happens only once.

Even if you are looking at this issue through the lens of a rabid, content-creating, buzz word-using, #hashtag wielding social media influencer, it makes no sense. From a very small number of methods you can create dozens of mystifying and entertaining videos that people will come back and watch over and over again, show to their friends, and possibly think about for days sparking conversations that get your name out. But when you reveal a method that’s it. That’s all you get. One use. One video that people will watch one time. No one needs to watch a video that explains a method more than once because the value they get isn’t entertainment, like in a magic trick, but information. Once they watch it they know, and they never need to come back.

I don’t really have a point to this besides the obvious: revealing magic tricks online is not only rude to those who worked hard to create or master that method, but also short-sighted when viewed from a entertainment and ‘content creator’ stand point. Basically, the only reason I can see it do it is if you are actually just too lazy to use that method to make an entertaining piece of magic. And if you can’t make an entertaining piece of magic, well then, are you really a magician?

 —Z.Y.

 

 

(The only exception to this is to go in a direction like Penn and Teller did with their revelations, where they turned them into pieces of entertainment and drama in and of themselves, regardless of the revealed ‘methods,’ which were essentially always outdated and rarely used anyway.)

Four Suits
Magic that Touches the Real

There are so, so many different kinds of magic. Card magic, coin magic, magic with weird gimmicks and devices that look like no normal object, stage illusions, mind reading, and on and on. More magic than any one normal person could possibly perform (or at least, perform well). People always talk about finding your own style, and finding the material that fits you. Clearly that’s good advice, but I always found it hard to follow. Instead, I always ended up asking myself “what magic compels me?” Not just magic I like, but effects that stick in my head and nudge some little part of my psyche. Effects not just that I wish I could see performed well, but effects that, if I saw them performed well, would change me somehow, and would speak to something deeper. And beyond the effects themselves, thinking about the kinds of dramatic settings these effects would inhabit, or the feelings of the places this magic would be performed. Now go perform that magic. Obviously that’s a tall order, but you have to start at the top, with the ideal, because along the way life will inject more than enough reality to temper your dreams.

So that’s what I strive for.

impossible.png

A lot of people, when going down that road, get tied up in the idea of just performing the most impossible magic they can think of. This is certainly not a bad thing. I will never be against more utterly impossible magic. But for me, I found that impossibility was not my highest goal. Instead, I wanted magic that was meaningful. Meaningful? What does that even mean? It means there must be no veneer of trickery or ‘fooling,’ but instead an authentic willingness to have an experience. It’s not that the participants need to think the magic is real, but experiencing it must really change how they experience or understand something, or even better someone, else in their life. The magic doesn’t have to be real, it has to touch the real. So that when they go on with their lives afterwards and experience that bit of real again it carries with it a faint hint of magic, a little reminder of the impossibility of the word we live in. So maybe I do care about performing impossible magic after all…

—Z.Y.

Four Suits
The Deception Artist at Work, Spyscape Museum, New York City

The Deception Artist at Work, Spyscape Museum, New York City

This coming Monday, January 14, 2019, J.R. will perform a unique installation at Spyscape NYC. Coinciding with a special event, J.R. will demonstrate skills utilized across occupations, from the world of espionage, to the magician, to the street hustler.

If you’re in NYC and tickets are still available for this one of a kind experience, we look forward to seeing you there...

Excerpt from the experience:

… [The Deception Artist] begins to explore some of the psychology and language behind this game, breaking down some of the tells that we humans innately display when we’re trying to hide a secret. The interaction is equal parts deception and secrecy, which are both revealed and concealed sequentially all in front of your very eyes and in your very hands. The interaction concludes with a simple “trick/cheat” that you can learn and perform as well when you leave, activating yourself as a deception artist…

-- J.R.



We Aren’t the Only Ones

We spend a lot of time on this site trying to think about magic differently. Trying to find new ways of presenting it, new ways of giving it meaning, new ways of using it to give other experiences reality. Every once and a while we discover other people on similar journeys, and it can be invigorating to see and hear and experience the things they have learned along the way.

Although these people aren’t magicians per se, their journeys in an allied art are similar, and the lessons they have learned are enlightening, so here’s to the incredible world of avant garde juggling:

Playing with visual and auditory rhythms in time and space. "My attempt is to make visual instruments ."

"Well that’s what juggling is about, right? It's being able to do something that other people can't do or can't understand." - Michael Moschen

Lasting physical representations of momentary sensations. "An object that would leave a concrete path of where it's been as you manipulate it."

And sometimes the just plain strange.

— Z.Y. 

Four Suits
Take a Break!

Happy holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, as long as you’re using this sacred time of vacation-taking and general festivities to take a well deserved break and have some bangin’ parties (and, like, connect with your loved ones, or whatever).

There will be a year-in-review post coming after the new year, but first we just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who we have worked with this year. (There are too many excellent names to call out individually but you know who you are. Especially you in the back. You didn’t think we’d remember you but we did, and we are thanking you specially.)

As J.R. already mentioned in another post, the past month or so have been quite a wild ride for a lot of us here (so expect the blog irregularity to continue at least for the short term). Luckily that wildness (read “stress”) has carried with it a lot of new and exciting ideas and projects we are excited to pursue in 2019 (a year in which, according to Wikipedia, only one person thinks the Apocalypse will occur due to the second coming of Christ, but even he has “expressed some doubts” about it, so we are feeling goood baby!).

So to all of you out there doing good work: keep it up! We are grateful for every single person who is willing to treat magic with the care and thought it deserves. For all of you out there doing bad work: just, like, cut that shit out man… Do good magic. We believe in you.

—Z.Y.

Four Suits
"It's not about how you start, it's about how you keep going."

Dear Reader --

Epiphany time: “It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you keep going.” -- J.R.

I’m happy that with all my nonsense quotes from last week’s post, I’ve made one up for myself. I Duck Duck Go’d it, and the first thing that came up was something about couples therapy, with a loose usage of the quoted words above, and then I Google’d it, and some shit about climbing mountains came up, so I’m pretty happy to say I’ve produced some minorly unique thought here.

Anyways, I get asked the question a lot: “How did you get started in magic?” and I’d always give people what I THOUGHT they wanted to hear, some vague explanation of when I started and what circumstances I started with. However, they don’t really GAF about how I got started, because it’s ALWAYS some variant of: “I saw someone do magic, then I wanted to do it.” like I contracted it like a bad STI (if you have a story any different, please write in, and then I’ll tell you why you’re lying).

Point is, they don’t really care about that. Almost everyone does a magic trick once in their life, just like almost everyone tries homosexuality at some point in their life (or should). Or how everyone slips into their mother’s undergarments and dances to Blondie in their attic (or definitely should). ANYWAYS, they don’t care about that first experimental time, everyone has that time. What they CARE about (and what actually matters here) is how/why you stuck with magic. After you got past that initial surge of instant rapport with strangers and impressing people with a couple days worth of practice on something, why did you stick with this weird art when most people just give up after that immediate gratification of knowing a secret or performing it at a party?

Think about that. I don’t know if I found out entirely why myself yet, but I’m getting close to it.

Happy Holidays,

-- J.R.

Blondie
Wrapping up Shit in a Bowtie

Dear Reader --

The holidays are upon us, which means a lot of gift giving is to be had, and keep in mind your greatest gift of all: that of a dirty diaper. Just kidding, not a dirty diaper: magic. The greatest gift of all is magic. Well, WONDER is the greatest gift of all. “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” -- Einstein (I’d quote Einstein more but then I’d be quoting more Einstein)

So keeping in mind that your greatest gift is magic, keeping in mind that as the goal, why the ass do I see people giving dirty diapers dressed up in a nice suit acting like it’s magic? Meaning: WHY DO I SEE SO MANY SHIT MAGICIANS?

I was just watching a performer, who strangely is lauded by their peers, and their superiors, perform some diaper magic. That is to say: when someone actually calls out your stack work during a show (didn’t actually think this was conceivable or possible, but I’ve never abused stack like what I saw), don’t you think that it’s time to stop using so much stack work and be literally using 4 decks of cards with literally no other reason than to “change up the color” for one close-up performance? BUT, to them (and to others close to them) none of this matters at all, they’re getting paid, they have a good look, and they’re a sufficient vessel for technical skill.

Now, I understand. I’ve been that shit magician. I wanted money and I was too young to gaf about anything else that wasn’t cash-effective. I had a “nice” suit and “cool” props and had “fun” delivery. But you know what that describes? That describes a nicely dressed prop comic (not knocking prop comics). “However, where TF is the mystery, I ask?” -- Einstein

So you see, this holiday season, with all your holiday gigs and all your money. Keep in mind this: if all you’re doing is covering up your diaper magic in a nicer package, you need to get all your shit together and throw it out. Decide if you’re a prop comic or a magician. “Give me mystery or give me death.” -- Henry. “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for mystery.” -- Hale

-- J.R.

Expand / Contract

It’s been a wild ride for me, and for Four Suits in general, this year. More on that (officially) in the End of Year Report for 2018. But right now I myself preemptively reflect on the year as a whole and, while it’s been great as a whole, I can’t help but lament at some occurrences in the past few months. I can’t stress how much great things have happened this year, and these things are still happening, yet I also can’t help but feel some sort of loss for the relationships, not even necessarily with myself, (but more so in my working groups) that haven’t worked out so much this year.

It’s a funny thing, when you first jump into a group of friends, which is how I end up treating many of my co-workers and collaborators (magic being a very loose profession where social and professional boundaries are often blurred), you’re extremely hopeful for all the things you can potentially do together. Often, here is where our reach exceeds our grasp and we end up falling short of those expectations with some, and going beyond those expectations with others. We grow our influence in some areas, and shrink it in others.

I suppose I’m just coming to peace with this expand/contract cycle in professional entertainment. We’re always so wrapped up in our dreams and amazing visions that sometimes, when we get dropped back into reality, we find it lamentable, when in actuality we should’ve felt blessed to dream such big dreams together in the first place. I think about changing reality and living in a fantasy so often that, sometimes, reality is a very necessary thing to remind me how everything can’t always be fantastic. Not everyone will get along, not every dream will come true.

Yet... still I dream. And I’m grateful for every person in my life, professional, friend, or somewhere in between, that allows me the faculties to realize these dreams. ...And for those of you who I haven’t been in touch with in a while: I look forward to the next time we dream big dreams together.

— J.R.


Thankful: 2018

This year I/we’ve been truly blessed to recognize a wide variety of influential people, magical or otherwise.

This year, I’m thankful for these peoples in the world for what they’re doing in magic:

http://www.thejerx.com
https://www.magicalthinkingpodcast.com
https://lacollusion.com
https://www.pureimaginationprojects.com
http://houstonhospitalityla.com
http://www.magiccastle.com
https://davidblaine.com

I’m thankful for all of you out there giving it everything you’ve got, and working on raising the standard of your passions one level higher. Thankful for those seeking to better their community.

This year is almost coming to a close, and you can look forward to a year-end wrap-up just like last years, we had tons of fun this year, and took on some daring adventures.

Thank you for being here with us through it all.

— J.R.

Selected Notes and Ideas from a Class on Sorcery and Magic

Potlach: the giving of gifts where, by overwhelming the other participant (rival) with gifts, you gain prestige.

 

Paradox of belief AND knowledge of “fraud”/trickery. “At once dupe and cheat”

 

The body as the basic, fundamental canvas for magic.

 

Giordano Bruno – three gates through which to bind someone: the eyes, the ears, and the imagination

“this is very threatening to their sense of reality”

 

“The uncanny is the revelation of that which should not have been revealed.” Sigmund Freud

 

What is a story?

 

“My body, your body, and the body of the world”

—Z.Y.

Four Suits