Remembrance of Things Past

If you want, you guys can print this post out and I'll sign it sometime for you. Or you can just frame it and put it on your mantle or something. 


When I watch a magician perform, I never identify with the magician. I always identify with the spectator. This is, perhaps, the one uncommon thing I can bring in my analysis of and reflections on magic. I never think, "Oh, how embarrassing for the magician. He screwed up the trick." I think, "Oh, how embarrassing for that spectator. He has to be up there while the magician screws up the trick and then is sent back to his seat having participated in, essentially, a waste of everyone's time." I am, by nature, audience-centric.

Because of this, one of the awkward moments I truly dislike in magic is when the performer gives the spectator some junky "souvenir" of the effect.

This weekend I'm releasing an effect called Pixelated/Pixilated to GLOMM Elites. It's an effect that I'm convinced leaves the spectator(s) with one of the best souvenirs in magic history.

With that in mind, I want to talk today about the rules I use for myself in regards to souvenirs. You may get something from them even if you're not an amateur performer like me. I think these rules are good for anyone who performs in situations where people have not specifically come and paid money to see them perform. If you're David Copperfield you can give someone a signed card, or give a groupie a spent rubber, and say, "Here's something to remember me by," and that's fine. 

But if they don't know you and didn't know they were going to be seeing magic, it's a little presumptive to say, "Here, keep this card you signed as a souvenir." Especially given the fact that a lot of magicians aren't doing anything most people care to remember. 


I almost never say to someone, "Here, you can keep this as a souvenir." As an amateur magician it violates the rules I lay out in AATKT. It too strongly suggests that what occurred was a performance (one that can be repeated whenever I like). 

I will often give people something at the end of an effect, but it has to fall into one of these three categories (usually a combination of them). 

Valuable: If I produce a gift for someone, obviously I'll give it to them to keep. I don't really think of these as souvenirs, of course. They're just the product of some magical procedure.

Personal: By this I mean something uniquely personal that was not done by them. In other words, a card that they signed and drew a picture on wouldn't qualify. Do people keep their signed ambitious card forever? Yes, some people do. And they'll have that opportunity. But that's not the type of thing I would tell someone to keep as a souvenir. By personal, I mean something that was created for them and is unique to them. I can't really think of examples in traditional magic tricks, but I have a number of tricks I do that you'll read about here that fall into this category. With these types of "souvenirs" you don't have to suggest people take them. They want them. Pixelated/Pixiliated, for example, leaves the spectator with a personal souvenir that I couldn't pry out of their hands if I tried (especially with some of the more sentimental variations).

Unusual: This includes "magical" souvenirs like Paul Harris' Twilight Angels. It could also just be something that you don't see everyday, like a funkily shaped rubber band, or a complicated bit of origami. "Yes," you say, "but a signed card is also unusual." True, but apply these rules to decide if what you have is unusual enough to be souvenir worthy. 1: Could you go and recreate it with a couple bucks and 15 minutes in a Walmart? If so, it's not a good souvenir.  2. Is it something that would be interesting if it hadn't been part of a magic trick? A bent coin, a ripped card, a post-it with a drawing of a tree on it are all things you don't see every day, but not "unusual" in a sense that makes them inherently souvenir worthy.

Of course, people do keep signed cards and bent coins and post-it notes after I perform. But it means something because I let them decide it's something important to them. I just leave those things in their vicinity after the trick and they snatch them for themselves.


It's like this... Imagine you went out for a great meal at an amazing restaurant. At the end the waiter says, "And you can keep one of those cocktail napkins as a souvenir of your time here." Some people would enjoy that, but those are the people who would already take a cocktail napkin as a souvenir in the first place. For others it's just an awkward exchange where they're like, "Oh, uh, no thanks." Or they take a napkin knowing they'll be throwing it out later.

For some people, the trick is all that matters. And you trying to hawk the detritus from the trick as something to hang onto is just weird. It would be like seeing a ballet and saying, "I need a piece of the dance floor."


Sometimes people don't know they can keep something. In that case, after the effect is over I'll push the item towards them. If they don't pocket it I may say something later like, "Where is your trash?" At that point they'll often stop me. "You're going to throw that out? Wait...Can I keep it?" And sometimes they're like, "Oh, the trash is over there." That doesn't mean they saw the trick or the experience as disposable, it just means they don't care to keep something that may technically just be garbage. If it's not "valuable," "personal," or "unusual," it almost certainly is garbage. A lot of people wouldn't think to hold onto something like that. A bent coin isn't amazing. Having a coin bend in front of your eyes, or in your hand is amazing. That's how some people feel. I'm like that myself. The memory is the valuable thing.


One language thing I'll recommend. Don't use the word souvenir. This may just be an English thing, even just an American English thing—it may even be just a "me" thing—but "souvenir" suggests something you get at the ballpark or at a show. A big foam finger. Or a souvenir t-shirt. Something you pay for. Instead, if I'm going to label the thing, I'd say it's a memento.


I don't work professional situaions, but if I did—tablehopping or walkaround—I would leave the object at the table or in the person's hand, but I wouldn't make any mention of it. If it's meaningful to them, they keep it. If not it gets tossed out. This has to be better than the alternative of using some kind of social pressure for them to keep something that feels like garbage to them. 

Ultimately, my rule is to let THEM decide what's a keepsake and what's trash. This is kind of a life philosophy for me. It's certainly my philosophy with magic, in general. If I have something to give, I don't want to push it on people. Let them want it and come for it.

A Critical Examination of Cafe Avatars: Volume 1

Subject #1
TommEE Pickles

What he was trying to say: I got my picture on the cover of MAGIC magazine! 

What it actually says: I got my DWI mugshot on the cover of MAGIC magazine. :(

 

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Subject #2
Marc O

What he was trying to say: I am a powerful magician who commands your obedience.

What it actually says: I'm the Netherlands' #1 transexual dominatrix. 

 

Subject #3
Xiqual

What he was trying to say: Behold ye, the masquerade that is LIFE! Perchance our true visages be revealed in the disguises we don.

What it actually says: Speaking of wearing people's faces as masks, you better pray you don't bump into me in a dark alley, or that will be your fate. And then I'll go to your home and fuck your wife while wearing your face.

Subject #4
George1953

What he was trying to say: My brain... what can I say about it? My mind is like... a finely crafted machine. The gears, ever spinning. The machine of my mind... processing the world around me and manufacturing moments of genius.

What it actually says: Uhhh... does anyone know where in the skull the brain is located? It's...uhm...that thing that hangs down in the back of your throat is part of the brain, right? Aw, crud, I don't even know. And hey! Wait a minute! These gears aren't even interlocked in any way! It's just loose gears rattling around in my skull. They might as well be fucking bottle caps. 

Subject #5
Eddie Garland

What he was trying to say: My avatar expresses my interest in the magical and ventriloquial arts. (And it's simple, clever animation makes it the best avatar on the Cafe.)

What it actually says: I cannot tell you how many times I've masturbated to that scene in the Anthony Hopkins movie, Magic. No... not the scene where he makes love to Ann-Margret. The one where he beats Burgess Meredith to death with the dummy. 

The Jerx Deck and Deck Jerks

I spent much of the weekend in the initial stages of working on the Jerx Deck for 2017. 

Do you collect decks? And then people find this out about you and they go to Nebraska and they bring you back a deck with scenes of Nebraska on it and you're like, "Ah, no. I don't collect these types of decks." Or did like 8 people get you those clear plastic playing cards when they came out 10 years ago? Look, they don't know any better. They just think, "Oh, he likes decks of cards. These are decks of cards." They don't know if something has the right feel or finish. They buy you the magic-related stuff they can find at Barnes & Noble. Maybe they get you the Joshua Jay book there for Christmas. What are you going to do? Throw it in their face and explain to them that in the magic community that is considered the utmost trash? No. You accept it and say, "Thank you, grandma. Yes... yes... he is a very handsome young man."

Do me a favor. The next time your aunt brings you back a deck from her trip through Wyoming, don't be a little snot. Say, "Oh, this is fantastic. I'm going to work on a trick to show you with these." Then show her something cool a week later. She'll feel she was part of it. Make people happy.

And you can make me happy by supporting this site. Just $2.25/week—the price of a cup of coffee, or the price of hardly any cocaine—to feed this hungry orphan boy. And if you collect decks, this is the only way you will receive one of the more limited decks in magic with your paid year subscription. You see, most of these decks are printed in the 1000s, which is way, way more than I need. I can't even seem to find a place that will do runs as low as 500. And I don't even need anywhere near that many. So I'm just going to order as few as possible, and if I end up needing to order 100s more than I require to meet their minimum order, my plan is to take the decks that don't have homes and set them all on fire. I'll make a video of it for you. Your deck will be a true collector's item.

The Least You Can Do

Imagine you're in a relationship with the love of your life. Every morning, before she wakes up and before you leave for work, you write her a love letter that you then hide in some location so that she'll stumble upon it later in the day; in the fridge, in her purse, on top of the coffee pot. This is just one of the many ways you remind her of how much she means to you. You also plan special trips, surprise her with elaborate birthday celebrations, write her love songs, chop firewood for her elderly parents, make her favorite dinner when she's had a rough week, and so on. Over time, these romantic gestures become less frequent. But those daily love letters always remain. Kind of. They get shorter and less thoughtful as the years go on. What was once a full letter-sized sheet every morning, becomes half of that, then it becomes a post-it. As time passes the messages on the post-it become even more generic until you're just writing "♥U" on a post-it every morning. Then one day you realize it would be easier just to take yesterday's note out of the trash and put it back on the kitchen table. So now you just re-use the same note every day for a couple of months until it gets too ratty and you replace it.

Someone says to you, "Does your relationship still have that spark?" 

And you reply, "Yes, in fact, I leave her a love note every morning."

You applaud yourself for leaving that post-it on the table every morning, when really it's the least possible effort you could put in.

Magicians have a similar issue with taking pride in putting in the least possible effort. And that comes in the form of their passionate love-affair with...

Snapping.

"When I snap my fingers, your card will rise to the top."

"When I snap my fingers, this card will change to your card."

"When I snap my fingers, the ball will disappear."

Nearly every well-known teacher of close-up magic praises snapping. "You need to snap your fingers so people know the moment the magic happens," they say.

Hmmm...

Okay, I'm going to give you one simple tip to invigorate your close-up performances: Don't ever snap to make magic happen. 

If you ever do anything with a "snap" of the fingers, you've literally put the least possible effort into coming up with one of the more interesting aspects of a trick: the stimulus that makes the magic happens. 

This may seem like a small point, but I've found removing snapping as my default magical action has had a fairly significant benefit in terms of audience engagement and interest.

Last Wednesday I talked about the idea of performing magic that feels real in the moment. When you snap your fingers to make magic happen you're essentially saying, "Look at me! I'm a magic genie!" That's going to pull the rug out from under any sense that what they're seeing has any real relevance. "Well... he's treating this like hokey bullshit, so why should I invest anything more in it as the viewer?" And that's completely fine if you want your tricks just to be a momentary diversion. I think that's perfectly acceptable. But then let's not hear this shit about magician's complaining how people don't take the art seriously and people think it's just for kids, etc. If your performance is on the level of, say, a knock-knock joke as far as depth goes, then the fact that people dismiss it and move on is exactly what you're asking them to do. 

Why don't you respect my knock-knock jokes! I'm an artist! Perhaps you will respect my Knock-knock Tragedies!

Knock-knock
Who's There?
Officer Williams
Officer Williams who?
Officer Williams from the county sheriff's department. I'm afraid your husband has been in an accident. It's not good ma'am.

So what do I do if I'm not snapping?

What does the guy in the hypothetical at the top do if he can't leave his wife the old post-it note? It doesn't matter. Any other gesture is going to be better. Same with not snapping. Do any other goddamn thing you want. You're doing ambitious card? Rub your hands together and hold them around the deck like Mr. Miyagi. Say a prayer. Stare at the deck and sharply inhale after a few seconds. Cast a shadow over the deck a la Michael Ammar (I like to do very elaborate variations on this). Teach your spectator to create an energy ball then pluck it from their hands and smash it into the deck. Set the deck on the table and wait for 2:33 AM (the Devil's hour). Slowly breathe over the deck. Put the deck in the refrigerator for a minute. Extract the "essence" of the deck from the deck on the table, spread through this invisible deck in your hand, and place their invisible selection on top of the invisible deck and then push that essence back into the actual deck.

Or go deeper. Multiple Universe Selection is a change from one card to another. I could have changed the card with a snap of my fingers. Instead I change it with a visualization exercise that sends us to a different dimension. Guess which one stays with an audience longer.

Most of my presentations are just elaborate ways to get rid of snapping.

If I brought you over to my house and said I had this incredible thing to show you, no matter what it was—a liquid solution that turned $1s to $20s, a levitating rock, a picture of my mother that jumped from room to room—and I said, "Check this out, watch what happens." And after a moment it just happened, you'd be like, "Whoa, what the hell was that?" But if I showed you the same thing and said, "Watch what happens with the snap of my finger!" You'd say, "Oh, that's a neat trick."

Snapping is a holdover of the need to be seen as The Magician. "That was me, everyone. I'm the one who did this. I did it with my snap. My powerful snap. Don't forget." That's right. You snapped. You've got the power. (It's gettin' kinda hectic.)

You're an adult. You don't need that validation anymore. 

At the very least it's a bland, cliched action. It's something every single close-up magician is doing just out of force of habit. And certainly, with a little thought, you can come up with a more compelling way to initiate the magic than the thing that requires no thought that everyone is doing on auto-pilot, right? Right?

Blessed Be! Blessed Be!

Oh, thank you Jayyyyysus!

Brother Madison is SAFE!

I received the blessed news in the email from Ellusionist on Wenesday.

So the "authorities" concluded that no one was likely to kill someone over talking a little smack about Erdnase. Oh, thank god. Thank god Law and Order: EATCT was on the case. 

You may remember I first touched on this "controversy" back on March 6th.

And then, on March 7th, Ellusionist sent us all a very sobering email telling us the product would have to be pulled... for Daniel's safety. You see, apparently gangs of magic nerds were threatening to KILL Daniel Madison!!!!

The email, if you haven't read it, is a god-damn classic. Now, what they should have done is sent out a quick email that said:

Due to recent threats against Daniel Madison and an ongoing investigation into those threats we are removing Erdnase x Madison indefinitely from our product line-up and removing all references to it from our social media. If you have any information about the threats made please contact [some level of  law enforcement that deals with cyber threats]. Thank you.

Instead, they sent out an email that was just pretty much another ad for the set (including a screen shot of the positive reviews it had received), and then shrouded it with hammy, melodramatic nonsense like this:

What started as a campaign with an outspoken member of our community has turned ugly.

As a first in Ellusionist history, one of our team has received death threats.

More than one.

More than one? Yeah, that's what the S at the end of threats would indicate. "I ate apples. More than one." You can just stop at, "I ate apples." 

We’ve been asked by local law-enforcement to cease campaign activity in the event that it provokes an attack.

Plans were made for YouTube LIVE game-shows, more videos and contests, but we’ve pulled all of these.

We loved our campaign, but we don’t want to risk Daniel’s safety over a few sales.

On creative calls last week, we joked about #MadisonGate.

Nobody is joking now.

I am, bitch!

It may just seem that I'm just goofing on this corny marketing scheme, but I do think this has broader implications to performers. You see, what Ellusionist attempted to do was the "magician in trouble" plot. But they attempted to do it in real life. And, predictably, they made the exact same dumb mistake magicians make when they try to pull off the magician in trouble in performance. They continued to speak in a presentational tone, but upped the drama.

"Pay attention as I crush each bag, except the one that holds your watch. We'll see how I do in a matter of... time

Oh, what folly! Oh dear nooooooooo. It appears I have crushed the bag with your watch in it. 1000 pardons, kind sir. This brings great shame to me and my family."

That's a bit of a stretch, but you get the point. People think, "I need to amplify the impact of this dramatic moment by acting dramatically."

No. If you want it to feel real then what you need to do is drop all pretense and break the pattern of your established communication style.

"Pay attention as I crush each bag, except the one that holds your watch. We'll see how I do in a matter of... time

[To himself] Oh shit, shit. [Says something to someone off stage.] Just a.... [starts examining the other bags] [To himself] Oh come on, Karl, what the hell. [To the audience.] Just a moment here. Obviously we've had a bit of a mishap. A mistake. A...uh... mishap. I think we're going to take a momentary break. Are we? [Looks offstage] No? We're going to go to the next piece? We're going to go to the next piece. Sir, please meet me and my crew after the show. I apologize. We'll take care of this.

Uhm... okay... so... right.

I was recently traveling through the dark and mysterious forests of Vietnam."

Then, at the end of that bit, when you pull the watch from your butthole (It's a Pulp Fiction inspired magic show) you might actually surprise people.

The short email I mentioned above could have come off as real. The highly dramatic marketing email they sent instead just came off like a total goof.

It didn't help that they tried to include some "evidence" of the awful abuse Daniel was receiving with these screenshots.

These "unknown numbers" as the email describes them, were given to the police.

Notice any problem with these images? Besides the dopey writing, I mean.

If these are unknown numbers, why would Daniel have an image of the person associated with the number that needed to be blacked out?

Oopsy-daisy!

The March 7th email ended with them asking you to forward any information to them so they could relay it to the police. Because... you know... that's how investigations work. 

"I found these cum-soaked panties in the woods."

"Well... go give them to the rape victim so she can give them to the police."


But now Ellusionist has made the brave choice to re-release the project! Finally! Just what we needed! A magic project devoted to Erdnase!

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, this is their statement from the email:

"To address the controversy, authorities concluded the threats weren't likely to be actioned upon, and we feel 'keyboard warriors' took the release to new heights that this industry won't bow down to."

Those were the results of the six-week investigation? "These threats aren't likely to be actioned upon." That seems like something you would determine before you investigate for six weeks.

And they're especially unlikely to be acted upon because they never existed. They were made up. People may have thought saying "I'm better than Erdnase" was dumb, and I guess maybe someone could have been mad. But no one was like, "I'm going to murder that person!" Other than someone on Ellusionist's payroll. 

I routinely talk about how much Erdnase sucks. (20 Jerx Points to the first person who takes a shit on that book.) Nobody really cares because no one takes this stuff that seriously. I routinely correspond with, and this site is supported by, numerous Erdnase-philes. 

And what a bummer that that's the big denouement for this story. "These threats aren't likely to be actioned upon." I need a disappointed slide-whistle sound.


I wish I could have been in the room when this idea came up.

Brad Christian: We need to come up with a campaign for the Erdnase x Madison set. No 13-year-old in his right mind gives a shit about Erdnase. How do we change that?

Employee 1: How about some YouTube LIVE Game Shows?

Brad Christian: Fuck that noise. You're fired.

Employee 2: How about we try and set a world record for the largest balloon launch and all the balloons say "Erdnase x Madison" on them?

Brad Christian: Oh christ.

Dumbest Employee: How about we say someone is threatening to kill Daniel Madison because they're so furious at him?

Brad Christian: Hmmm... I like it. It's a storyline that would appeal to your average 13-year-old, or a full-grown moron (our target demo). Yes...yes...I like it. Penn and Teller have admitted that, at first, they fabricated the hatred towards themselves for publicity and then dumb magicians decided they genuinely were upset. Maybe we can fabricate some hate towards Daniel and some idiots will actually decide to be bothered by it. And it gives a chance to pull it from the market and re-release it a month later. Essentially giving us two releases for one product. Let's roll with it!

If it sounds like I'm bashing them, I'm not. I love that they're doing stupid shit like this. I think it's fun. It's just my job to point out the nonsense of it all. At least it's my job until Ellusionist hires me for their marketing team. I'm here for you Ellusionist. You need me, E. Isn't Chris Ramsey gone? According to the Kickstarter page for your How to be a Magician set, Chris was the funny one.

That's a pretty sad state of affairs when Chris Ramsey is the funny person in your group. That would be like if Mungo was the "hot" one in the Catillac Cats.

No! Cleo was the one you wanted to bang.

No offense, to Chris. He seems good natured enough, but not the person I'd look to to bring the "funny." He's not exactly Eddie Murphy. Hell, he's barely as funny as Audie Murphy.

But either way, if he's not around anymore, why not bring your pal Andy on to fill the void? I've worked on marketing projects much bigger and more successful than this one. And I can connect with the kids with my hip references to the Catillac Cats and Audie Murphy.

We'll roll this blog right onto your site and I'll just make fun of Rick Lax all day. Whatever you want.

Think about it. We'll come up with some good audience-centric ideas about redefining magic for the 21st century rather then indoctrinating another generation into worshipping some bore-fest of a book by some phony gambler and fetishizing the lamest aspects of this craft.


And finally, here's a classic from when I was asking folks to destroy an Erdnase for a chance to win a free JV1. PLEASE DON'T MURDER CHRIS SLATER!

 

 

Taking a Dump

Sometimes I'll think I have some great idea for something, and I'll write down a phrase or save a picture to a folder for "ideas" and then I'll go back later and be like, "What the fudge were you thinking about?" At some point I had big plans for these ideas but they just couldn't hack it. I just consider this survival of the fittest in regards to ideas. If I can't remember what it was, how great could it have been?

In today's ad post I'm going to dump some of these words and images here. Perhaps you'll consider supporting this site so more ideas don't turn into hungry orphans? In return you'll get a 20+ page ebook every month in the style of a magazine called The JAMM. Plus you'll receive the Jerx deck of cards later this year. And a couple other little bonuses to come. Plus I'll think you're a cool guy (or a super cool chick).


"Card-Toon but in Reverse"

Ooo-kay.



"Flipping Business Card" 

(Sadly, I remember that was a pretty good idea. Just not what the idea was.)


tumblr_ni1o3gKnbK1rsxqqio1_400.gif

I think I wanted to use this for a trick. Or maybe it was just for my "personal" shopping list. I don't recall now


That's the foot of the girl behind him. I'm not sure what I thought this had to do with magic.


"A Bank Nite type effect where you drop the letters, addressed to your grandma, in a USPS mailbox. Four of the envelopes contain sweet letters. The fifth contains a picture of you fucking a dog."

Actually, that's a pretty well fleshed out effect.