Posts tagged magic
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.

"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
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.

Let Go

A soft echo of “Let go.” is all I heard as I performed a “floating table” effect for a bunch of kids the other day. It was extremely disturbing, because it’s not like they were all trying to “expose” how the table was “floating”, these were super young kids, but I think they sincerely wanted to see what would happen if I let the tablecloth go. It was genuine desire to see something that went up next level insane. Like, this table is already floating with me holding it, but what will happen when I let it go? Does it fly over everyone’s heads? Does it fall to the ground?

This is something to consider when adults ask to “shuffle the deck” or seemingly attempt to goof up your “tricks” (if you’re a magician reading this), because this response proves that most times, in my humble opinion, you shouldn’t consider performing magic as a series of oppositions between you and the participants/audience members (as some magicians I know do). You should view it as being a tour guide of the impossible. And just like people in a brand new place of impossibility, they just want to see how far this strange new land goes back, they’re just doing their jobs as curious people.

They don’t really want you to fail when you let go. They don’t want you to mess everything up when the deck gets shuffled or they put something where they shouldn’t. They want it to succeed. Because if it succeeds, then the curtain just gets pushed back farther and farther until there’s nothing to “find” anymore, because then there’s no “trick”, then the feeling of magic is really being realized for them.

Honestly, I wondered if it would’ve been better for me to let go of the table and just let it drop to the ground. We would have witnessed a boundary, and we would’ve witnessed something fantastic, a table floating above everyone’s heads, and then we would’ve witnessed something real, something crashing to the ground.

I think about some of the ways I can give the audience even more from my magic performances. I think about letting the magic exist beyond myself. I think about letting go.

-- J.R.

Beauty in Magic & Theatre

Dear Reader —

We’re back after ALTÆR, a public thank you for joining us on that journey… With reflection on performances in general, I give to you this meditation on beauty within art…

We like to view beautiful things.

Because beauty so rarely exists.

Everyday life is ugly, there are struggles we all face. When we watch theatre, when we watch magic, we want to partake in a hyper-curated beautiful reality, we want to see a world in which we do not live. This is why the archetype of the magician has persisted throughout the ages. They are the harbinger of the fantastic. While there may be elements within our falsely constructed fantasy that connect us to daily life, we in no way want to see something that is everyday life.

There may be “ugly” art, but there is no doubt some way in which this art is has the qualities of beauty. Perhaps these ugly beauties exemplify something within us that is painful, visceral and vile, something heartbreaking or moving, however make no mistake that these too are beautiful moments, even though they may superficially harbor pain for us.

Therefore, only put things before an audience in which you have defined the beauty you will share. What are you showing them that gives them a new perspective, what are you giving them that shares some of the beauty from your life? For it is only when we do this, that, in return, you will receive the greatest response of all from them: you will receive their beauty back to you.

-- J.R.

Wardrobe in Magic

Shame on my colleagues for shitposting the last blog post (I’M CALLING YOU ALL OUT).

So this whole magicians in suits thing has been really getting to me lately, occupying a lot of my mindshare as the kids may say. I’ve just been extra cognizant of how I dress when I perform now. Funny too because Elliot Terrel just did a whole insta story post on this, basically advocating for sharply dressed magicians, and overall thinking about this issue a lot as well. While I don’t necessarily agree for magicians wearing suits per default, I agree to finding out what your magic is about and dressing that part.

I was watching a documentary with Sean Connery talking about some of his character development in movies, and there was a moment when he mentioned that most of it comes after he meets with wardrobe department and they assign him his clothes for the movie. Saying something along the lines of “I’ll know my character after I put on their clothes. (I’m paraphrasing here because I can’t find the actual quote).” But I think that says something very important that not a lot of us performers think about -- we don’t think about our “character” coming through our clothes very much, or at least I don't think so.

I’ve got a friend of mine who loves ripped jeans and floral shirts and t-shirts, so unfortunately he has some issues getting into some nightclubs, but then again, maybe when he dresses like this maybe he doesn’t belong there. Maybe there’s something about his performance (while dressed that way) that belongs wherever his clothes put him. Additionally, maybe there’s some element of his everyday fashion that he can take with him when he puts on a suit (because sometimes formal occasions are socially inherent in performing situations), so he doesn’t just come across like every other magician in a suit. In other words, what can you bring from your daily style into your suit/formal style to make yourself come across more so you don’t seem like the car salesman we spoke about in the previous post on this subject?

One person who I think successfully gets this across is a dude that goes by DMC, although he does trend towards formalwear, but that’s also sort of his character, plus he also has that head tattoo that stands out in a suit. Who else do you think successfully brings across their personality and character within their performance-wear?

-- J.R.

The State of Magic -- Pushing the Vision

 

Weirdest thing when you think you’ve written a blog post called “Pushing the Vision” and are searching for it to link to it but you actually haven’t written it yet.

Here’s the thing: in 2018 FISM, there are 31 performance awards. 8 magicians from Spain placed top 3 for these awards. South Korea fielded 7 magicians who placed. USA fielded 0. Zero.

2015 FISM sees similar numbers: 7 from Spain, 7 from South Korea, USA 0.

2012 FISM -- 8 South Korea, 1 Spain, USA 1.

What the actual fuck is going on here? What are we doing so very wrong here that they’re doing so very right in Spain and South Korea?

I don’t have an answer, but I do know how these contests are judged, and they’re judged based around the progression and pushing of a certain vision. Now, this vision can be how an item is produced or conjured, or it can be about an application of an idea. But one thing is for sure, based on the people who I’ve talked with who attended FISM 2018, USA is behind, far behind. Yes, we’re amazing at branding and taking things into a commercial level, but as far as actual content goes, we’re horrible. I mean, take a look around, this exists in the US in more places than just magic. Granted, this exists in many places, but I’m not here to say excuses for ourselves, we’re a great place, and I’m blessed to be here. And I fucking love my country, but god damn are we horrible innovators in any remotely creative realm in magic right now.

I just got off the phone with H.A., who quoted a business owner saying “We don’t hire magicians, they kind of just come here and do it for free.”

First of all: if you’re that magician (or just that performer in general), please just stop. Not because you’re ruining it for the rest of us, but because you’re ruining it for yourself. If you want practice, join a mutual interest group, do it for your friends. If you’re doing it out in the world, at someone else’s place of business (enhancing their environment), you should be getting paid, it’s that simple.

But, this brings us to mutual interest groups now, magic clubs, etc. Honestly, some magic clubs absolutely kill magic. I sometimes go to these gatherings and end up hating magic more coming away from it than I did going into it. It’s a marvel how creativity can die in a place where it’s supposed to be generated.

I asked magicians a while ago if they’d pay to be critiqued. Some of them said they get it for free whenever they perform. I’ve got news for you who think this: no one is critiquing you like you deserve to be critiqued. Other magicians critique you in a way that benefits them, and most audiences aren’t critiquing you unless you only perform for sociopaths. Here’s an example that might make it a bit more understandable: You ever hear a comedian make a shitty joke at a comedy mic? Yes, you definitely have. Have you gone up to every bad joke telling comedian and critiqued them on their jokes? No, you definitely haven’t.

I’m starting a focus group dinner session in LA. If you’re around, and give any shits about magic, you’re invited. Let’s Push the Vision together.

-- J.R.

Joel McHale on Magic | "Teller-izing"

So the other day I performed for this guy. If you don’t know him, Joel McHale is a comedian and actor, and somehow labelled with the “Observational Comedy” genre tag within the Comedy taxonomy on wikipedia.

True to the genre, he was very funny, very charming, and commented A LOT on what was happening around him. Now, you take that man and show him magic, and some funny things are bound to happen, such as what follows...

One moment that hit me right in the middle of the interaction is when I asked if he had a favorite number, to which his response was, “No, I’m not an idiot.” which was actually pretty damn accurate. And honestly, I’d been performing this particular routine (shoutout Robert Ramirez) for about a week at this point in time out in the world, and had this not been brought to my attention by Joel, I probably would’ve continued saying the same nonsensical phrase that I ran across while learning it.

No one has a favorite number.

Shit, while even some people may have a “lucky” number, it’s still all very silly to ask for either of those by name when in fact all you’re trying to show (as the magician) during this point of the magic effect is that different stuff can happen with different numbers, and it doesn’t have to be of the magician’s choosing. “What’s your favorite/lucky number?” is a completely arbitrary phrase that’s inserted in there, and by it’s nonsensical nature, it only has the chance to take people out of the effect, and disengage them from the situation.

To be a little more direct, I arrived at my currently used phrase -- probably to be updated in the future -- : “Go ahead and say any number besides Seven or Zero.” I’m coining this reduction/simplification of a piece of magic dialogue to be “Teller-izing” the effect, named after Teller’s own reasons of not including any verbal scripting within his effects. After hearing Teller talk about this idea a few times (yes, he talks outside of performance), I find his main argument to be like spreading out a deck of cards in front of someone while saying “Pick a card” is just redundant, because both the physical action and the verbal action are showing the exact same thing. Better to just spread the cards out and gesture, without saying a word. Or, leave the cards on the table, hand them to the participant, and ask them to pick a card themselves. But in both of those situations, there’s no redundancy, and there’s no silliness.

-- J.R.

 

BlogCast Ep. 1: People Love what We Hate

We're kicking off a brand-new series called the BlogCast on Our Youtube Channel

Here's Episode One: People Love what We Hate (inspired from a meeting in Vegas). We later dive into some ideas on unifying art and commerce. Check it out here or on the channel.

Cheers,  

-- J.R.

Why are we here? Where do the rabbits that get pulled out of hats come from? How much mayonnaise can you actually fit in a Gucci handbag? Some of these questions are answered in this, the first installment of the Four Suits Magic Blogcast!
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.

The Magic Community

Dear Reader,

     Do you know how, in movies, whenever the entire human race is threatened by some cataclysmic world-ending event, everyone puts aside their own ego, politic, and self, in order for the greater good?

     At the risk of appearing overly sappy or optimistic, this is exactly how I feel about the magic community as a whole. Here we are, all strangers, that met one day in the pursuit of creating something that, ostensibly, exists only in our heads. We create weird plots and effects, craft gimmicks that could pass as some otherworldly artifact, play dress up to unending degrees of strange, spend hours staring at our hands in a mirror, all for the purpose of creating a fleeting magical moment in an as-yet-undetermined person’s thoughts. Sometimes our ideas don’t even leave our living rooms: we’re in love with the process as well.

     I think we, those who take a vested interest in magic, belong to an increasingly special, supportive community. Rarely do practitioners of such great disparity in experience or skill share their literal secrets, their life’s work, careful tradecraft, all for the simple goal of sharing what they know to benefit others. This is why I find the magic community to be such a special place, and why I wax poetic about it today. We’ve been around for thousands of years, all for us to arrive at this very moment, and continue to create new, fun, and mesmerizing experiences for those around us. Thank you for being here.

-- J.R.

"What is Magic?": A Conversation (via text) Between H.B. and J.R.

Fingers feeling stiff, but much better now this week. Thankfully. Enjoy a text conversation from earlier this year between two magicians.

H.B.
    Q: what is magic?
J.R.
    ARTFUL DECEPTION
H.B.
    What do you mean by that? What is artful in the context of deception? Why is deception artful? What makes certain deceptions magic and other ones lying?
    (Also there's antifaro stuff on the new ellusionist thing)
J.R.
    Deception isn’t inherently artful. Deception is artful when it is done without direct personal/emotional/material subversion or gain by the practitioner, and done, instead, for “art”. It’s all about the framing of the experience. This is what makes certain gambling demonstrations “magic” in my opinion, and actual gambling deception “not magic”.
H.B.
    What is an example of a gambling demo that is not magic? And what is an example of one that is?
    Sorry to grill you... The Tony Chang thing got me thinking, which is nice... You've a bit more experience so I'm picking your brain
J.R.
    Actual cheating at the card table isn’t magic. However, telling someone you’re going to cheat is, and which classifies it as demonstration of skill, Fitzkee talks a bit upon in Trick Brain
H.B.
    Ok... I accept that and am filing away the reading rec... What does magic intend?
J.R.
    Intends to disrupt
H.B.
    What do you mean by that? I'm also extremely impressed with how quickly these answers are coming
J.R.
    Well, the topic comes up fairly often actually. But it exists in order to create a disruption in people’s perception. It exists to find these natural gaps in the mind and make them just a little bit bigger. Sometimes you can fit a finger in, sometimes your foot, and sometimes you can stand in it. A wave of astonishment, to paraphrase Paul Harris [found in opening essay of Art of Astonishment, V1]. And sometimes the magician themselves can even splash around for a moment or two.

-- J.R. + H.B.

 

Movement vs. Amazement
"If people have even a little understanding, it is better to move them than to amaze them." - Andres Segovia

Special moments aren’t made in the what, they’re made in the how. When it comes to magic, I frequently hear fellow practitioners claiming that people see a deck of cards come out, and a person will say “Oh, I’ve seen that one before.” A clamoring of agreement comes from the room. “Yeah, hate it when that happens.” etc. Card-workers also dislike that spectators don’t remember the specific effects that are occurring, and instead link the effects to the general category of “card tricks”.

Here’s my opinion: it’s because, while these various tricks may be wildly different for those of us who have an extraordinary amount of understanding, to those who only have a little understanding, all these card tricks are indeed the same. There’s an ounce of truth when the spectators announce “Oh, I’ve seen that before.” because they essentially have seen the same exact plot before. Whether their card is found in your wallet, between two others, or from a face-up/face-down shuffle, it’s all generally the same effect.

I was reading JAMM #08, by The Jerx, today, and was again reminded of this notion when he spoke about a modern dance metaphor of watching a magic effect. For those who understand modern dance or perhaps perform it themselves, they will be able to watch two seemingly similar performances and find a wide range of differences, all the different dance moves, etc. For an outsider to that circle of knowledge, it’s all modern dance.

To take another idea away from Magic Live 2017, Josh Jay shared the results of a study which examined various magic plots, and generally, card effects were the least memorable to the average audience. However, once the card effect distinctly morphed into a completely new plot (such as card through window, or Cyril’s fantastic Card Into Aquarium), then recall of that event shot through the roof. This is because the plot is now so far removed from whatever card effect your audience has previously seen.

To some degree, we’re on a constant race of innovation, to make magic more exciting and unique for our audiences. We’re in a wild time, especially with the leaps of technological methodology for magic expanding at an alarming rate. So, let’s show more than card tricks to our audience -- Let’s move them.

-- J.R.