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Magic & Tech

Technology, within the realm of magic, generally serves to generate experiences, subserviently living in the background until you call upon it to enact your physical feats. Think: Pepper’s Ghost, Legerdemain, Invisible Wires. However, throughout magic history, one field has successfully merged the two fields of technology and magic to both be presented within the spotlight: Automaton. Here is where technology occupies the stage, and it is the magician who works backstage. The automaton fulfills our fascination that the mechanical turk may somehow have a soul, and that is where the magic is created. We ask questions: Do we really have this power? Can we generate a machine that can act as a human? In the explorations we’ll have within illuminating the technical elements of magic, it is important to understand how it has functioned within the past so that we may understand how we may introduce it again now.

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Magic is inherently a cognitive, and therefore, mostly intellectual human pursuit. Without the perceptive flaws of a cognitive mind, magic would cease to function. To an omnipresent eye, magic is the exact series of both public and secret actions that comprise an effect. To the human eye, however, magic is a series of public action made possible by secrets. Just as a card trick has a human side to it as well as a technical side, it is interesting then, how in the automaton, the technical and human are one and the same. The mechanical face is made to resemble a human, and it’s actions are made to represent a magician or other performer. This experience in itself, while someone magical, can’t be strictly described as magic. However, what happens when this machine does something only a human can do? Such as improvise, or react to stimuli. How can a series of metal gears react to your every chess move? How can metal fingers locate your card within the deck? How can machine be transmuted into flesh?

— J.R.

Writing a Magic Script

Been doing a bit more proscenium style stage work recently, which has led me to draft a few scripts of my performances so that I can nail down the story line. I find that beginning the official scripting process is best once I’ve already established a basic routine and am able to work with a given structure of the effect. Working on some material for a couple upcoming Halloween engagements has me thinking about extremely farfetched magical effects coupled with some compelling storylines. With this great storyline supported by effects I have no clue how to accomplish, what’s the possibility that I will actually be able to construct and create the effects, even with double the time and budget? Next to 0%.

Which made me consider “What is the optimal methodology to creating a magic script?” Because magicians are almost always working with a prop of some nature, I think immediately creating an emotional/dramatic plotline which one must create 100% unique and new props for the plotline… yeah, that’s possible I suppose, once you got MGM showroom money. I suppose almost anything is possible then. But DC isn’t reading this site, so this advice isn’t for them.

What if you took a routine you’ve played with in a physical/effect manner and layered onto it whatever magic script could work with it? Then it would have all the freedom of a creative exploration, with the grounding of actually having workable effects/tricks within the story. Too often have I found myself in the creation zone and without a viable end product too close to a show. “Working from what you know” is a philosophy that will always leave your audience satisfied with magical moments, and while we may always want to create a lovely storyline, it must be supported by those moments of magic. Flex that creativity on the story, not the effects. Your magic-show-going audience will appreciate it.

-- J.R.

Mentalism = Superpower

Mentalism as the Ability to Have a Relate-able Super Power

I’ve been playing with some mentalism lately (eg thought-reading) and experimenting with various structures/methods for presenting the work. One thing I’ve been thinking about lately (besides how greatly different it is from any sort of sleight of hand work I’ve done in the past) is how to create moments of a relate-able super power. 

I think with mentalism, more so than many other types of magic (save for certain illusions) make room for the audience/participants to insert themselves into the performer’s shoes and imagine what it would be like to have the ability to read minds. It’s a naturally common idea, the idea to read someone else’s thoughts, versus the bizarrely unique skill of the classic sleight of hand trope of finding someone’s selected card in a shuffled deck.

It’s why People Stopped Looking (<— that’s a previous blog post on speaking with a mentalist) and it’s also why people want to see that process of the thought-reading. One thing I’ve been seeing more and more is how much my audiences love seeing that moment where I finally get the thought they’re thinking of, and, equally importantly, how I arrived at this conclusion. 

Mentalism is inherently more about verbal storytelling than many other forms of magic and art. How do we let the audience take a ride along with us and feel like they, too, can read minds -- even if just for that very moment? It’s a special gift to give. 

— J.R.

Street ad takeover manual (now go have fun)
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In the interest of creative, poetic, and artistic hacking, (the essence of our relationship with DEFCON this August), we present to you a guide to hacking/replacing bus stop billboards and public ad spaces, spotted by Z.Y.: http://brandalism.ch/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Brandalism-Guide2.pdf

Now, go on and have some fun. But the first person to use this as a card reveal will be sent to Magician jail.

— J.R.

On Subtlety
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For a while there, while I was in University, I’d do a lot of writing. As it stands currently, I’m writing probably about 25% as much as I was back then. Which is kind of a bummer when we have a self-imposed weekly deadline for blog posts. I searched back in my archive for relevant material and found this entry from 2016. I still distinctly remember the moment this happened, it was on Broadway and 125th in West Harlem.

— J.R.

On Subtlety subtlety is life’s big changing agent [a/n: I have no clue what that means]. the only consistent thing that will remain true until you die, is subtlety. i once saw a man attempt to casually lift (steal) someone’s duffel bag. just, casually snatch it. put his hand on it with a loose grip. tugged a little while maintaining his walking speed. didn’t work, but the bag owner was confused after the seemingly would-be thief strolled away at a leisurely pace: did that man just try to steal my bag? he said. even though the thief-to-be wasn’t exactly hiding his actions, he wasn’t exactly making them conform to the standards of thievery. and that’s what made it subtle, to me. it was steeped in this strange netherworld where thieves sauntered into a store, perhaps with a monocle and a hoody, just faintly lifted up a tv, and kind of meandered to the exit, setting it down gently along the way. did that man just try to steal a tv? people stand around in confusion. the man walks slowly away and life goes on.

Importance of Teaching Magic?

Many of these thoughts can find their genesis in my previous post, being a steward for good magic.

Recently I was coaxed into the snafu of teaching a magic class for a couple weeks this summer. Or at least, that was the opinion of a previous magic teacher from the class. This teacher chose not to continue with the class this summer, as there were too many roadblocks and pitfalls along the way, mostly dealing with classroom management or dealing with children with disruptive behaviors. On the flip side, they also told me about how they ended up inspiring and guiding a number of students throughout their years teaching the class by having some really caring students. Seems like an easy equation to me.

Teaching a classic palm like.

Teaching a classic palm like.

If it were you, and you spent a significant time practicing/performing magic yourself, knowing the potential downfalls and upticks in teaching a class in magic to some young teens/kids, would you teach it?

Regardless of any sort of payment or monetary compensation, I find that sharing the way that I approach magic is just one of the ways to have direct impact upon the future of something that I really care about. If there was a way to formalize the class process (to establish regular sessions) with zero compensation to myself, I’d do it. Teaching is the purest way of directly democratizing magic culture that I can see. Honestly, I think that benefit is worth any sort of minor inconvenience to my day, or series of days throughout a single season. Check back in with me after a kid pees in their seat or cuts themselves on an expanding cane. JK, I won’t be teaching an expanding cane.

— J.R.

This is a Puzzle Fit for a R****

Ok, so a few days ago we here at Four Suits were hit with great news about an upcoming event this summer.

We’ll be hosting a series of workshops and presentations alongside a very well-known magician/performance artist team, at a world-renowned (seriously) event. Can you figure out who we’re working with and where we’ll be this summer?

— J.R.

dear readerJax Ridddc27
Magic and Search for Meaning

I’ll be honest, folks. I’ve been staying pretty occupied setting up for Spectokular amongst all the weekly/daily magic shenanigans that by the time Thursday rolled around, I was unprepared with a blog post… However, J.R. of years gone by had no shortage of meta-magic-blog-posts, so today I present you with a meditation (and challenge) on Magic, written from a Magic Convention, years ago. It’s left with a big blank at the end, all up for you to decide how to resolve it.

— J.R.

August 2014

E N T E R T A I N M E

E N T E R T A I N M E

As I sat in the audience at a magic convention, I heard the lecturer state that magic should come second, and the entertainment is always first. I looked at my tag, and it did indeed say I was at a magic convention, not an entertainment convention.

I've become so internally conflicted lately, in regards to magic. What should it be? What do people expect? Do I care what people expect? Is the best always going to follow what preceded in a nice line of one thing leading to another? What is "success"?

Is magic supposed to be a display of sleight of hand? Is it supposed to be heavy handed? Light hearted? Is it supposed to leave with something more than just a good time? What is the most important part of magic, the show or the show after the show? Is a successful performer one who is decorated amongst their peers, or their audience, or their critics, or their pocketbooks? What is success in magic? How is success determined in entertainment in general? Where does magic fall in the scope of entertainment?

Here's a new act for you then. Here's an act that pleases everyone. It is entertaining for those who think of magic lightly. It is easy to understand for those who prefer simplicity. It is complex enough to wow the knucklebusters in the audience. And it leaves you with that magical moment, something special and different…

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.

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

"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.