Performing High

Sorry for the lateness on this one, but you'll understand why when you get through it...

Some of you may have clicked on this title thinking about the lovely interplay of energy and circumstance during a performance which provides both the performer and the audience a “rush” of sorts which could be considered a “high”, but no, this is about the other kind.

THE FOLLOWING POST IS FOR 21+ XXX RATED MATURE HUMANS ONLY.

You might ask, J.R., why would you perform in such a manner? Didn’t you, J.R., perform drunk one time during your hour-long one-man-show and completely bomb that shit? Yes, I would say, I did in fact I did bomb that shit, and why would I perform in an altered state again? Because it’s LEGAL for everybody in Cali now, baby. And “California knows how to party” as Roger Troutman may say. (I knew the lyric, but had to look him up, admittedly.)

I organized some buddies of mine to perform with me, B.A. and A.D., and this post is written hereby as a mini-guide partially for regular people, and partially for magicians, on how to perform high, what works and doesn’t work, and some short snippets of what happened.

Regular Things First:

Y'all, it was lit. Here are some things people said about the show: 

*Clapping* - Everybody

*Coughing* - Most People

The format was exactly what it sounded like. You get high, we get high, we do magic, you see magic. It's amazing. I would show you a clip on here, but then that would ruin the mystique. If you're in the LA area, you should just come to the next one. 

Favourite Moments:

  • Discovering the reality, hilarity, and problem of different tolerances in the same room.

  • Forgetting to start the timer for a set.

  • T.R. sharing a home-made item that was beyond normal.

  • The venue turning into a giant closed-system where water could almost evaporate and turn into rain in a never-ending cycle.

MAGICIAN STUFF

Step 1:

Don’t attempt hypnosis or any “mind” effects. It may seem tempting to you, but unless you find a way to completely work around the fact that people will be forgetting shit they did just five seconds ago just normally, (including you), then you don’t have shit to work with.

Step 2:

Make everything visual as possible. Dumb your set down as much as possible. This is probably the only place where magic with sponges makes any sort of sense (imo). You don’t have to test it out by being high while performing it first (but it probably helps if you have, see Rule #3), just make it real dumb and visual. You know that thing where the fidget spinner sticks to your finger? Yeah, that one would kill (note to self).

Step 3:

Stick to what you know. Stick to routines you can do in your sleep, because you’ll be pretty close to sleeping up there. And it’s only funny for the audience if you can pick yourself up where you left off. One of my favorite moments from my set was when I was in the middle of a very well known routine, forgot my place, and because there were a couple magicians in the crowd, they just yelled out whatever I should be doing next. I paused a moment, and then just did what they said, and it worked. A great moment of magical deconstruction. And being lit AF.

I think that’s pretty much it, but it reminds me of some rules we’ve been establishing within the Four Suits Magic Collective, and I think I might base a future blog post on those, because it’s entertaining, informative, and because I do what I want.

Thank you for coming -- 

More of these events coming in the future.

-- J.R.

P.S. -- House-keeping note, we’re implementing a RSS feed / blog reader system soon with the site revamp coming up for our ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY. Did you get us a present? Thanks to those of you who wrote in telling us about this and waiting patiently for us to almost-never do it.

What it’s Like to Work in Magic

What it’s Like to Work in Magic

It’s been a good 7 years or so since I first started working with Magicians.  When I tell people, I almost always get asked the generally bewildered, “wow…what’s that like?”

It's pretty damn special, I'd say but it's a much harder than any artistic medium I've ever worked with.

That's a sweeping generalization, I agree. I can’t help but point out Magic as an outlier in the performing arts, I realize I am heavily biased because I’m spending a disproportionate amount of time with Magicians with aside from designers and filmmakers. In my observations over the years and being the quiet spectator at many heated “definition of Magic” debates, the similarities and differences are starting to surface more distinctly about why working in the field of Magic is so different from other performing arts.

Here’s my small attempt articulating what's a stake when working in Magic by observing the motivations of a Magician and their metaphoric cousin, a Comedian in effort to illuminate the obstacles at hand and what is gained when performing in a spectacular, yet equally unforgiving discipline.

The Intention to Perform

The Comedian

I heard a comic once say that a good Comedian exposes the truth in clever ways. This is a great reinforcement of a general evolutionary psychology theory that laughing is how Bonobos ⎯ one of our closest animal relatives ⎯ respond to the stimulus of learning something. Sure, those are monkeys and we’re the evolutionary marvel of the Earth’s history ⎯ how dare you claim we still act our primitive ancestors! Well, it’s because we kind of do. It’s the reason Seinfeld is the most successful and longest running comedy shows ever. The premise is 4 friends just going through their everyday life in New York City and the punchlines are these self-aware moments of insanity about the nuances of everyday interaction. It’s a show about nothing, yet it exposes the truth that underlies our day-to-day that we overlook. When we recognize this truth, we laugh; the more the truth resonates, the harder we laugh – the more we learn about ourselves.

Ever see a bad comic? A kind of innate rejection occurs that often manifests as a biological response, like gut twist of empathetic anxiety or an eye roll, maybe a squirm of visceral shame. When Comedy sucks, it’s painful, much like when you’re sitting through a disingenuous moment but when Comedy is good, the high from a good laugh is delightful and addictive.

The Magician

A Magician practices exposing the truth and then bends that truth right in front of you. When experiencing magic the Magician leaves the audience with a choice: do you accept the limitations of your reality or will you, for a moment, believe mine?

To fool people in a way that they’ll enjoy it is a bold way to live. To not be the ‘Asshole Magician’, as Derren Brown says, you have to fool them in a way that doesn’t feel deceitful or malicious but wonderful, which makes it even harder. To make matters worse, not only are you bending reality for the audience, you have to be confident enough to believe that what you’ll show them is presumably better. Basically, you’ve got to be quite the cheeky, charming son-of-a-bitch that people won’t hate.

This is why when you see bad magic it momentarily destroys your soul of joy and wonder and it leaves you empty, betrayed and annoyed. It takes a lot out of people to be open enough to trust a Magician to deceive them in a way that will be worth it. A bad effect will not only extinguish the audiences’ trust, they will carry the impression that anyone who shows them a variation of that same effect will also be terrible. A Comedian may have a bad night and ruin a delivery of a joke but jokes can be reshaped, recycled and recontexualized. A Magician shows a terrible trick, that trick is now a symbolic experience for the audience because the significance is placed in the subjects they manipulate, whether it be objects or even people. The next time that same audience encounters that same trick in a different presentation, there’s a good chance the bad taste of that memory will rear itself. This memory flavors the experience, the skepticism brews in their mind and it’s the responsibility of the Magician to make sure that this effect will turn the ever-present skeptics into believers, even for a second. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

That moment is what we do it for. It’s what all of those hours of obsessing over details, practice and mania over ‘perception’ in all its forms amount to. And when it really works, the practitioner will even surprise themselves.  

Let’s not forget that Magicians, sadly, are not super humans with extraterrestrial abilities; if they were, this whole thing would be a lot easier to do. It’s the fact that these skills even appear to be otherworldly in quality and at the end of all of it you realize, they’re just a person like anyone else but with very, very niche interests. As humans, we have very serious flaws in perception and cognition and we all are naturally prone to them, this is why things like misdirection and optical illusions are so powerful when done right. To create a moment of “magic” is to use these cognitive processing limitations to our advantage to create something seemingly impossible. A Magician, in spite of these cognitive limitations, must successfully manipulate the perception of their audience to see something different, knowing they won’t be able to perceive their method ⎯ this a little more than an act of confidence. It takes a very specific kind of person to be sure enough about their ability to defy the crowd’s perception and impress a new reality upon them when they themselves have the same limitations.

Underlying all the theory, technique, charm and the inevitable pretentiousness, we’re all a bunch of monkeys gathered around each other watching another monkey show us how to open a coconut with a rock. We laugh, scream and run away and back again as we realize that we’ve all played with rocks before but not like this. This is new and astonishing and now we’ll never look a rock the same way again. Maybe, we learned something about ourselves or how the world isn’t always as it seems.

-- H.A.
 

Magic & Security

“Magicians guard an empty safe.” - Jim Steinmeyer

Dear Reader -- 

Why do many magicians enjoy the idea of picking locks?

There’s a strong connection between the practices of security and magic. Z.Y. has made some comparisons between a mentalism effect where a mentalist gains private information to use during the course of an effect, and a criminal gains similar private information to use during the course of a con. I mean, I’ve definitely put/taken things from pockets only to give it back/reveal it later. With these sort of use-cases in mind, a person might argue that magicians are just about the most pacifist white-hat community out there, using wildly deceptive practices all for the purpose of a “magic trick”. To that, I say, well, yes, we probably are.

"Maybe we guard an empty safe just because we like to look inside it every once in a while?"

Then the question I’m still asking myself is why the hell we’re still so interested in hardcore thievery practices like picking

Realistically, so few of us are going to work on an escape act that uses these actual principles, but yet somehow there’s enough demand for their to be an upcoming picking event at a well-known magic society in LA (the inspiration for this post). Dude, none of us are ever going to use these skills realistically, except maybe, maybe, to get back into our own houses or boxes if we lose our keys. But hey...maybe that’s enough? 

Or maybe it’s enough for us to be using our hands for the simple practice of unlocking something, just like practicing something with sleight-of-hand gives us the satisfaction of being able to unlock an idea or presentation previously unattainable without said mechanical practice? 

Maybe we guard an empty safe just because we like to look inside it every once in a while?

Or, we could just be strange.

-- J.R.

P.S. -- Probably just strange.

Vinny DePonto w/ some Visual Poetry

Dear Reader, 

Why do people like Mind Readers?

This is a question I’ve asked myself many times -- it speaks to a human condition to hear and be heard for who we truly are, unbeknownst to others... a  desire and danger to share our earnest secrets with someone else -- a showtime confessional. 

Vinny DePonto explores his response to this question in his latest promotional video. He’s a stand-up guy doing some good work:

The video is extremely poetic and visually beautiful. For some reason, it also reminds me of the closing of a poem, Desiderata by Max Ehrmann: “...With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

Cheers,

-- J.R.

David Copperfield (Magician) Dad-Dicks Government Employee

You liked that title, didn't you?

In this "This American Life" podcast, Ira Glass and David Kestenbaum discuss some of the methodology behind effect creation, with a discussion of Penn & Teller's Red Ball effect, and David Copperfield's Statue of Liberty effect, during which a tale is told about David pulling off some dope ass silver-tongued social-engineering -- it's amazing. 

If you have an hour to spare, listen to this episode. If you don't have time to spare, you'll just have to imagine what happened.

-- J.R.

Osmosis + Reverse Osmosis

For those who didn’t see: last week we released Down Memory Lane, a PDF of mentalism focused on finding presentations that strengthen (or better conceal) the methods while “explaining” the effect in more entertaining ways. In keeping with that idea, here is a fun, quick mentalism routine (if you can call it that) perfect for those who want to start dabbling in mentalism for casual settings.

Osmosis + Reverse Osmosis

Presentation

When you were in school did you have any friends who studied by osmosis? You know, where you sleep with the book under your pillow and hope the knowledge just sort of seeps into your brain? Well I did, and it always struck me as absolutely bonkers. I mean, how did they think it was gonna work without water?!

Everyone knows that in chemistry osmosis refers to water passing across a barrier, so how did they think that information was gonna get across if they didn’t dissolve it in some water?* Here, let me show you what I mean. Write a word down on this piece of paper, then fold it in half each way so I can’t see it. If I just hold it against my head like this obviously the information won’t transfer across. Like I said, you have to dissolve it in water! Help me tear it up into little pieces so it will dissolve faster. [Performer begins tearing up the paper and handing scraps to the participant to tear into even smaller pieces.] Tear all this up into tiny pieces while I go get a glass of water.

[Performer leaves and returns a moment later with a glass of water.]

Put all the bits of paper in and stir them up so they really start to break up. Perfect. Now the word has bonded to the water, so when I drink the water my brain will absorb the word just like my body absorbs the water. [Takes a sip.] Oh yeah, it started with a [first letter of word]. Let’s see. [Takes another, slightly longer sip.] Ok, looks like we are dealing with [number] letters. [Takes one final sip then starts to try and sound the word out, finally getting it after a moment.] See? How did you think I got through college?!

The best part is that, since it’s a fundamental physical property, it works for everyone. Sure, it takes practice to get really good, but anyone can do it. Here, why don’t you try? [Get them a fresh glass of water.]

I’ll write a short word, just three letters, on this paper. Now help me tear it up and dissolve it in the water again. And so you know I don’t lying to make you look good I’ll write it again on this paper, as proof.

Now take a sip. Let your mind open and see what letter pops in. Did you get one? What was it? [They say a letter.] Exactly! Take another sip and see if you can get the second letter. Like I said, it’s a pretty simple word. [They take a second sip.] What about now? Did you get another one? [They say yes and say the letter.] Dead on! Ok, see if you can get the whole word. One more sip, maybe a little bigger one this time. [They take a final sip, then say a last letter and/or the whole word.] Bingo! Isn’t that wild? I can’t believe people don’t use this more often. They should really teach it in schools; it would have saved me sooooo much time as a kid trying to learn spelling.

[If they insist on see the proof paper then show them, otherwise casually leave it on the table where they can find and check it later if they want to.]

Method

The methods here are pretty straight forward: Center tear for the first word and thumb writer for the second. What makes these fun though is that the story is about something we’ve all encountered (studying by osmosis) and is based on something real (the physical phenomenon of osmosis). This means it walks much closer to believable territory then most “mind reading”, while still creating two moments of impossibility.

If you want to move further away from the “magician shows cool skills” presentation (which this still sort of falls under), I would recommend getting a few miracle berries that change how you taste things. Say that your friend told you they have a weird side effect that allowes you to taste letters and you want to see if it’s true. This allows you to a) be just as incredulous as the participant, b) explains why it can’t be done all the time, c) let's you just have fun with the miracle berries, which are a blast.

I hope you enjoy this idea and check out Down Memory Lane for more entertainingly-presented mentalism!

-- Z.Y.

*For the record: I am not a chemist and have no idea what the official definition of osmosis is. No one has ever called me out when I say this, so I’m assuming I’m pretty close, but you might want to look it up before performing for your Chemistry PHD friends.

Down Memory Lane - Release

     Four Suits Magic is very pleased to announce the release of our first PDF download: Down Memory Lane.

     Here's the description: 
     "A new release from Zac Young, Down Memory Lane presents three different approaches to how mentalism could work, providing effects based on memory manipulation as well as classic mind reading. Capable of playing to anything from a casual gathering with friends all the way to a formal parlor performance, each of these effects is designed to amaze. Almost totally propless, these effects assume some existing mentalism experience and skills, but put them to use in new and clever ways."

memory_reefer.jpg

     ...So, if you too would like to demonstrate the wild mental abilities you learned as a top-secret government lab rat, or experiment with your friends with memory erasure (all the COOL kids are doing it these days, don't you wanna be COOL?) -- "It's MEMORY ERASING MADNESS!" -- you should definitely make a visit to our shop and take your audiences on a trip down memory lane with you.

-- J.R.

How Good is Your Shuffle

          Here is a fun tidbit for all the degenerates out there like us that spend every day just sitting there shuffling cards, and occasionally hanging out with other people who shuffle cards.

          How good do you think your shuffles are? How much do they really mix the deck? I know we have all heard some version of Persi Diaconis’ admonition that we have to shuffle seven to twelve times to achieve real randomness, but what does that actually mean for us in the day-to-day?

          Well, thanks to a handy chart in Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong, now I can give you a rough idea. Here is a challenge: take an ordinary deck of cards and look at any two adjacent cards. Now do a casino style riffle-riffle-strip cut (6 - 10 packet running cut)-riffle sequence. Spread the deck again and find those two cards. About half of you are now finding that after all that shuffling and cutting, those two cards have no more than 5 cards between them. About a third of you are finding that there are in fact only three or fewer cards separating them!

          While I’m still not sure this has a magical application, it does open up an interesting bet possibility. Betting someone that if they pick two adjacent cards, give the deck a fair shuffle, and the cards will still be near (if not next to) each other seems good. So as long as you have the payouts at least 2-1 in your favor (think “If you win I’ll give you a dollar, if I win, you know what, why don’t you buy my next drink since this is so impossible?”) you have a pretty reliable bar bet. You won’t win every time, but on the whole you’ll come out ahead.

          (For those interested the exact odds are 46% of the time those cards will end up with 5 or fewer cards between them and 32% for three or fewer cards. I can’t find the book right now to give you a page number in Professional Blackjack but I’ll try and update this when I find it.)

-- Z.Y.

method, effectFour Suits
What is Magic, cont’d — H.B.’s later thoughts on a text conversation

       Previously published on this blog was a text conversation between me and J.R. Concerning what exactly magic is. His answer, “ARTFUL DECEPTION,” has stuck with me. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it at the time, but I think now I’d have to disagree. That’s not to say he’s entirely wrong; on the face of it, magic seems like clever lying.

          Yet even as J.R. and I had that conversation, I doubted the definition he gave — I had just read Paul Harris’ essay on astonishment, and there seemed to be something more to this whole magic thing. I’m not very old in magic, of course — indeed, this is my first contribution — but what’s kept me in it is an abiding sense of magic’s profundity. If magic is just artful deception, then the objective is merely to fool people. This mentality encourages magicians to think of magic as a game, where the objective is to outsmart the spectator.

          However, merely fooling people is not enough to keep me practicing magic, nor should it be enough for anyone else. Paul Harris gave me a utopian vision of magic serving a vital role: astonishment, to him, is a tool to discover who we really are. Magic has the power, by giving us something inexplicable, to force us out of the delusions society requires of us to experience something real. But what the real thing Paul Harris wants audiences to experience remains elusive.

          The final pieces of this puzzle, for me, come from John Wilson’s episode of Magical Thinking, and an essay on the definition of magic by Charles Reynolds (it comes to me in Vanishing inc’s free ebook, “Magic in Mind”). I’ll not quote them here, but I highly recommend them both — the gist of the matter is that magic need not be about deception, but about manipulation (Wilson talks about symbols and Reynolds talks about perception as the objects of manipulation). The aim doesn’t need to be to fool, but to create a moment — for Wilson, the moment can be as simple as picking up a tarot card and turning it over, no deception required.

          Magic is about creating moments that are real — moments other people experience consciously. Fooling people is a path to this, but there are others. Wilson’s Tarot card is a wonderful example of a deceptionless real moment.

          As to why creating such moments is necessary, that may be the subject of another blog post entirely. In the meantime, I refer you to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Wherever You Go, There You Are.” It’s about, as the publisher puts it, “reclaiming the richness” of moments in life. That’s the power Magic has; use it.

-- H.B.

method, performancesFour Suits
Calen Morelli and Cinematic Magic

     Calen Morelli released another one of his cinematic magic pieces the other day. Personally, I love it. I think it's heading in a proper direction for magic. It's a little outside of staged performance, a little outside of context, but very visually compelling.

     Morelli has always thought & created in an incredibly hyper-visual manner, and a lot of his concepts revolve around the concept of a fixed-frame spectator, because he loves to toy with that frame we view through. While I definitely enjoy the ever-changing frame of the close-up participant, I've been slowly growing to love the frame of the camera, the remote screen viewer, as an anonymous person to perform for.

     Cinematic Magic is something that doesn't necessarily impose the non-fiction boundaries of the Street Magic wave of the 90's, nor is it so deeply rooted in the cinematic pretense of the earlier magic specials of the 80's where there is very a clear performative stage, but combines the complimentary elements of those two styles. It's my proposition that there will be a time for Cinematic Magic in the young adult age of the 2000's (approx. 2015-2025) that will become very popular. (Sort of a knee-jerk societal response to the hyper-real hyper-fake sense of social media and the self, and the media itself we all consume these days.) I know we're doing some work in this area. I know Morelli is doing and has accomplished a lot of work in this area. I wouldn't be surprised if we ran across eachother's paths again sooner than later. 

Cheers, Morelli, love this work,

-- J.R.

A Discussion Piece: Javi Benitez, Jeff McBride, Shin Lim

We were having a discussion regarding ______ ______ and its presence within the following acts of these three performers: Javi Benitez, Jeff McBride, and Shin Lim.

So we ask you, dear reader, magician or not, some of the questions we were asking each other (which will be discussed in a later post) -- What are some of the similarities you find within these three acts (whether it be in theme, presentation, etc.)? Is one type of framing/presentation more effective or engaging than the other? Do the specificity of the props change the end result (effect/story) of the performance for you? Could you imagine the magicians interchangeably performing the other’s magic equally, or do the performers themselves fit/belong to one type of prop, or magic, more than the other?

-- J.R. 

This is for You

    This is for you. Yes, you. I’ve been watching the traffic on our site, and I know that you'll visit the Blog section at about this time, well, not exactly when I publish this of course, but I know that you’ll be here, reading this right now, and believe it or not, I’ve come up with a very clever server-side script to execute and only show you this copy I’ve written, especially for you. It’s going to come across a bit rambly, but bear with me here.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about mind reading lately, why do we, as a society, enjoy mind readers? I feel like the idea is preposterous. Now, maybe all I feel is the incredulity of it’s impossibility, the same incredulity that people must feel when I say I’m a magician, but I think this is something you empathize with. This kind of crazy self-realization, that maybe you, too, are, well, not a fake, but maybe a little bit less than genuine all the time, sometimes (scarily) even to people you care about deeply. Maybe, just like me, you want to make people happy, but at the same time, value your own principles over what someone else asks of you. But it’s the little harmless moments like these that makes the world go ‘round.

    It’s amazing what one can come up with when one simply looks at patterns. I know, for a fact, you have a, is that a scar, on your left knee? It’s hard to see all the way from over here, through your device. You’ve come across this post now after you’ve already finished the majority of your work today, and were looking forward to some strange ideas, and instead, you’re being given, what is this, a sort of psychic mind reading from afar? I’ve never heard of anything like this exact thing before. But it calls to me.

    Numbers are coming to me now, I’m getting something regarding the last receipt you had crumpled up in your pocket. Do you remember when that was? Can you fetch it and take it out? I’m not getting much information, except, no, no odd numbers, even numbers. Can you look at the tax figure from your receipt? It ends with an even number, doesn’t it? But now, more numbers, numbers from your location are coming through, it’s all still kind of fuzzy, but I’m seeing, a 2? But it’s so close to 1 and 3. Your population of… Do me a favor, look up the population of your location? The population digits of where you live starts with those numbers, it’s hard to put them in order, but one of those is definitely the first.

    Sorry, that’s all I have for now. Next time, we’ll actually look more into mind readers. Until then, enjoy this reading.

-- J.R.

Rediscovering Cagigal

    In my (all of our) never ending search to decide how best to present magic, I recently stumbled back across a video I saw quite some time ago. It was of Christian Cagigal performing at the Magic Caste. When I first saw this video I was relatively new to magic, but I knew there was something there that I liked, something that hooked me and wouldn’t let go. At the time I didn’t know what it was, but now I think I have an inkling.

    What this video is to me, is an incredible example of Old Fashioned Storytelling. This is how tales, fables, and myths were told, in little rooms in the dead of winter when the days were short and there was nothing to do but tell stories. They are simple and easy to understand, but also universal and involve larger themes. (This is not to say they are profound, exactly, just that they deal with existing, powerful symbols.) He cleaves fast to the Rule of Three and his strict structure (always closing the music box on the same refrain), literally takes most of his props out of a book and titles them like chapters, and everything he touches looks old, tattered, and dear. Because of this I love it. I grew up listening to Old Stories, and being told about their power and how important they were, and I still firmly believe this.

    But none of this really addresses his magic, which is, after all, why we are here. Since his style of storytelling pulls you into that fairytale mindset and leads you through each beat so clearly, the magic hits you in a different way. In a world where fine nobles ride into your town in carriages and mysterious strangers offer you unimaginable wagers, of course wishes come true and cards transform. Now let me be clear: this is not a bad thing. This magic highlights the stories in enjoyable and fun ways and adds a depth of field to an otherwise two-dimensional fantasy. This is highlighted in perhaps the only awkward moment of the show, during the Gambler and the Stranger where he asks an audience member where to put the coin. This is the only overtly ‘magician-y’ thing he does, and it shows. The audience is suddenly left without the flow of the story to guide them, and is torn between trusting the storyteller and distrusting the magician.

    So in that sense I think I love his storytelling, and inasmuch as his magic serves that end I love it too. That said, I don’t think that show contains any “magical moments”. It certainly has moments of surprise, but they are all in service to, or acting as a satisfying conclusion to, the story, which is great, just different. Because of this, I’d say his Search for Truth (warp card) is the weakest segment. Despite containing what might classically be the “strongest” magic (it is straightforward, visual, and quick), it has the weakest story, and the story seems more like a prop to justify the magic, as opposed to vice versa (magic used to illustrate the story). (Also, incidentally, this is the only portion done with normal playing cards, yes because he destroys them, but the fact remains. This is also why some of Christian’s other work, with a less intense storyline, falls a little flatter for me.)

    In sum, I’d say Christian reminds us all that sometimes magic can simply be the beautiful accents that deepen an enjoyable story, and can still be fun and surprising without being the center of attention.

    (To see how an approach like this can re-center the magic without losing the story aspect, look at the Jerx’s Romantic Adventure style or the seance style of magic. Both tend to be about taking a story we all - to some extent - already know, and then poking around that story until something from the story pokes back, usually in an impossible and surprising way.)

-- Z.Y.

2017: End of Year Story

Dear Reader -- 

    The Spring of 2017 saw our founding as the Four Suits Magic Collective. At our very inception, our core team consisted of magical thinkers/practitioners who all approach magic from a similar perspective. We collaborated remotely at first, staging some performances at Uptown Bourbon in New York City and creating a traveling seance show (currently under its second iteration), with some of us collected at different cities across the United States, spanning from New York City to Los Angeles. In the Summer, deciding to continue work together in person, our East Coast team members travelled across the country by car, visiting various magic establishments along the way.

    One notable visit during this trip would be with some of the folks at the Chicago Magic Lounge (one of the most forward-looking and promising magic venues in the country, in our opinion) where we look forward to performing at as soon as we get our act together (get it? “act”? Ha.  ha.) (….. ) Another notable stop would be at the residence of a promising young sleight-of-hand mechanic, D.R., one of the best we’ve ever seen, who we look forward to further collaboration with in the future. It was great to see old friends and make new ones during this mini epic of a road trip.
    Arriving in Los Angeles, our core member group would find more time to meet in person, as well as meet other groups and individuals in magic. We regularly attended the Monday and Wednesday “Night Jams” where many magicians would meet to share ideas and otherwise collaborate (shout out to Jeremy and Byron, respectively, for heading those up), in addition to the never-ending sessions at the Magic Castle Club (shout out to the whole Larsen family and membership). Some of the ideas we’ve generated this year have ended up in front of some people in magic we very much respect, such as in JAMM #11 of Andy’s “The Jerx” (world-class magic creator and 2016 Tarbell Award Winner) and with our very first product, the MO Wallet, listing on Penguin Magic online (one of the largest magic distributors worldwide), not to mention the friendships we’ve made with other magic creators in Los Angeles and places along the way.
    We would’t stay in LA for long, traveling to Magic Live and other magic-related conferences throughout the Summer season (also Art of Play's warehouse party in the Fall). In the Fall, some of us travelled to NYC to stage The Woman Illusion, a play that Four Suits Magic produced and provided magic consultation/performance for. The full-length gender-based theatre and magic performance was greeted to sold out audiences at Theater for the New City on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. 

    Returning to LA, in addition to performing our magic at Black Rabbit Rose, the new magic bar & lounge in LA by The Houston Bros., we begun to shift some of our energy to magic on the screen, and have begun production on a series of magic vignettes for distribution later in 2018. In the spirit of putting more of our magic on television/online, at the very close of the year, our team received an invite to audition for Penn & Teller: Fool Us’ 5th season.
    As we take this moment to reflect on 2017 and look forward into 2018, we aim to audition for said show, to generate more meaningful on-screen magic, to continue our performance & creation of new material & products, to visit and/or compete at the following conferences: Magic Live (Nevada), PCAM (California), and Cardistry Con (Hong Kong), to continue creating and performing momentous magic at an expanding list of venues in greater Los Angeles, and, most importantly, to keep making friends, collaborators, and magical experiences along the way. 

    We hope to see you soon.

    We are Four Suits Magic,

    J.R. Z.Y. T.N. H.A.

Those Little Circles

Dear (Magical?) Reader -- 

     Hey, you know those little circles that are tied up? (This is a post explicitly for a specific subset of magicians, btw) It blows my mind how little actual literature/instructional video there is on the usage of them. I was in The Library the other night, and found literally three instances of instruction. One was a DVD that included a lot of direct variation/riffing of Mesika’s work, another was the classic Mesika work with Finn, and another was a simple, but cool, idea on a card-change by Justin Miller.  Counting another instance I found of a Morelli lecture, and that Guerilla’s DVD that came out way back, there’s been surprisingly little innovation on the usage of these items since the time they first dropped.
     What’s the answer to this lull, you say? Well, we’re releasing an instructional .PDF on the matter, at the same time probably restructuring our “commerce” section of the site to be specifically for magicians/those invested in the art, so that we can better serve the interests of those who come here specifically for how-to magic material, and those who come here for entertainment or our other services. 

Happy New Year!

-- J.R. + The 4SM Team

dear readerJax Ridd
Sometimes "Cheating" is OK

     A few days back I was watching Nate Staniforth on Scam School. (For those that don’t know Scam School, it was one of my first real exposures to magic, and, despite its certain flaws, will always be one of my favorites. Fight me.) Now Nate has a reputation as a talented creator and performer, with some devastatingly clever methods to his name. So when I watched the coin effect he did in the episode, I was a little surprised. Basically, he taped a coin to his hand, allowing him to do the slowest, cleanest false transfer ever.

 Brian’s admirable response to anyone who thinks this method is “cheating”.

Brian’s admirable response to anyone who thinks this method is “cheating”.

     Now there are a couple things about this that I like, and that I want to talk about. The first is that, method aside, he does a really good job of making the vanish magical. He talks about how he uses the spectators hands to frame the space, and how to choreograph them in subtle ways to increase their conviction that the coin is in fact in that hand. The second is that a lot of magicians would call this “cheating.” Nate addresses this in an interesting way. He says “It is cheating. But it’s better; it’s cleaner.” And that makes you step back and think about what’s actually happening. What does it mean he’s “cheating”? Magical is all about cheating the spectors senses. Sure, we don’t (and shouldn’t) present it that way, but as some point we “cheat” and steal the coin, peak the word, etc. So why would using this simple, simple gimmick be any worse?

     The last point is that, as magicians we do often get caught up in the beauty of the method over the power of the effect. Now this is not always a bad thing. Those beautiful methods often have advantages (say, when you want to perform but didn’t remember to bring your poster tape), and are often important steps on the path to better, simpler methods. But they don’t always translate into better magic, and at the ends of the day that’s what matters most. This hit home today when J.R. and I were playing around with a new book test method we had been developing. We had it to a workable point, but something about it just didn’t seem right. Finally we realized we were too caught up in the beautiful method, and needed to accept that if that methodological road was the one we wanted to take, we should go all out to make it as good and clean as possible for the spectator, even if that meant “cheating” on our end.

-- Z.Y.

 

 

In Defense of the 21 Card Trick

     As a disclaimer, I should note that not only did I never learn the 21 Card Trick, I can’t actually even remember ever seeing it performed.

     A couple of weeks ago I was jamming with a few magician friends (almost all card and coin guys), and one of them had brought a friend who had just started practising magic. As I chatted with him I asked him what he was working on and he told me about some moves. I asked what kind of magic he wanted to perform and he said he wasn’t sure. I asked him if he had any effects he was working on that he wanted to show me, and he said he didn’t actually know any tricks, just the moves he had mentioned earlier. Now, let me be clear, for someone who had been practicing for only a few months, he had made incredible progress. He was working on advanced sleights, and he was performing them well. The friend who had brought him and another very talented magician had been mentoring him (and these are some of the most technically gifted guys I’ve ever met, both with published material). Yet somehow in his search to learn he had skipped all the magic, and moved right on to the technical behind the scenes stuff.

     Now this happened for a couple of different reasons: his mentors were also serious cardists, both performed predominantly for instagram, that group was pretty filled with move-monkeys, etc. I know that each of those could use a whole post on their relation to magic and performance (and maybe one of these days I’ll write them…), but the thing that jumped out at me most was that, since he had stepped straight into learning moves (even useful ones like controls, changes, additions, etc) he had missed something that I think we undervalue, and that is the performative experience one gets from doing self-working effects.

     I think just about every magician I know learned some self-working card trick very early on. The 21 Card Trick is the classic punching bag, but there are many. I think mine was naming the top cards from three cut piles using the one-ahead principle. While these effects are rarely the greatest (though I have been getting back into self-workers and man are there some good ones), since they are essentially move-less they allow you to focus entirely on presentation, which is as important a lesson as 100 pointers about where your second finger goes for a certain palm. While we look back on those performances as cringe-worthy, painful, and embarrassing (and I’m sure they were), we forget that they forced us to immediately begin learning how to make people care about the effect (since it would not have flashy visuals to pull them in), and how to invest each part with some meaning (since there was often a lot of procedure), and how to dress up a simple effect with perhaps the least practised but most useful magic sleight there is: acting.

-- Z.Y.