Gardyloo #46

Going forward I will try and put more thought into trick titles. In The JAMM #12 there is a trick called The Immortal which was my variation on a trick by Christian Knudsen called Angel. But, as it turns out, Knudsen's trick was a variation of a Christian Chelman and Gaetan Bloom trick called... The Immortal. 

Methodologically they're not the same. Knudsen's version uses a gimmicked deck. The Chelman/Bloom version uses two gimmicked decks. My version uses a normal deck. 

Thematically they're all similar as mine was based on Knudsen's, but I was like, "Let's dump this goofy angel theme and just go with the subject of immortality." Not realizing he had thought, in regards to Chelman's trick, "Let's dump this immortality theme and go with the subject of angels."

So, I'd like to one-up everybody and take every possible iteration of the immortality naming concept and re-name that trick, Immortal Vampire Angel of Dorian Grey Who Is Also A Robot.

If you have that issue, please make this simple fix. 

  • Buy an HP Laserjet Enterprise 700 Color Printer
  • Print out that issue on high quality magazine paper.
  • Hire a graphic designer to redesign every reference to the trick The Immortal so it now says: Immortal Vampire Angel of Dorian Grey Who is Also A Robot
  • Buy a high quality scanner (if you don't spend at least $2000 you might as well make a copy with silly putt)
  • Scan the hard copies back into your computer
  • Insert the scanned pages back into the original PDF document.

Simple.


Here's a good magic trick of which I was on the receiving end. Well, maybe not a "magic trick" maybe it's just a "trick," but it felt supernatural when it was happening.

I had a friend visiting me recently. He has always struggled with his weight. And so, to be a bit of a dick, I was bragging about how I had recently gone down another belt size. Because that's the type of supportive friend I am. 

The next day we were walking around the mall together and he said THINNER like the gypsy guy in that Stephen King story turned shitty movie.

I didn't really understand what he meant at first. If he had rubbed the back of his hand against my cheek I would have caught on sooner, but I just thought he was commenting on something he saw or saying something under his breath that wasn't really meant for me.

But then, a minute or so later, I felt the need to tighten my belt. And then, a minute after that, I had to tighten it another notch And then again not long after that. What the hell was going on? Had I really lost three inches off my waist in a matter of minutes? Had he put a gypsy curse on me that would cause me to whither away to nothing?

No. No he hadn't.

What he had done was cut a slit in my belt with a razor blade from the hole I was currently using to the hole I had been using. See the red line in the pic below (I would have taken a picture of the actual belt, but I tossed it before I thought to write this up.)

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He didn't remove any of the leather of the belt, he just cut a slit. So what happened was I would tighten the belt like normal and as long as I wasn't moving around too much it would stay in place. But when I was walking, like we were in the mall, the "stick" part of the buckle would slowly travel back from the hole where my pants felt comfortable to the older (looser) hole. So I wasn't tightening my belt inch by inch, I was just moving back an forth between the two holes. I'd tighten my belt, it would eventually shift back, and then I'd tighten it again.

The first time I tightened my belt I did it pretty absentmindedly without any thought (as you might if you've been between belt holes for a while). When he noticed me do that, that's when he said "Thinner" to me. 

I asked him where he got this idea and he said it was just something he thought of that night. He had no clue if it would work, but it actually worked really well. For a couple minutes I had no idea what was going on.

You might think, "Andy, what kind of sociopath friends do you have that would just take a razor blade to your belt. Are you friends that indifferent about damaging your property?" No. That's not the case. It's more an issue that he knows me well enough to know I wouldn't get hung up on him ruining a $10 belt. Certainly not when it led to a good story. 


This is from an old post...

I used to do a trick where I wore a blue t-shirt and across the front it said, "This Shirt is Red." When someone would say, "No it's not." I'd turn my back to them and say, "Not even on the back?" They'd say no, and when I turned back around my shirt would be red and it would say, "Yes It Is" across the front.

This was how I would do Dresscode by Calen Morelli.

Reader, R.E.D wrote in to show me his version of the shirts he made for this trick. Nice.

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Reader, Sean Maciel wrote in to say this about The Red Pinetree Gift Lottery from The JAMM #11. 

"Like everyone else, I performed the red pinetree gift lottery to what might be the best possible reaction I've ever received on either a christmas gift or a magic trick - people still talking about it weeks later, even though it's just a bit of quick and dirty papercraft."

Below is his climax for the trick/game/experience. I love seeing these...

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S.O.W.

Here are some of the other words suggested by people as possible alternatives to "social" magic.

Spontaneous, Casual, Conversational, Communal, Integrated, Sub Rosa, Interactive, Non-Performance, Organic, Interpersonal, Relational, Informal, Congenial, Immersive

These are all good suggestions and for the most part they hit on aspects of the type of performance I'm talking about, but I don't think I'm likely to start using any of them in place of Social. 

I actual like that "social" is sort of generic sounding because there are different ways you can perform social magic. It doesn't have to be one particular thing. 

Ultimately, it doesn't really matter what it's called. I just think we need to give the idea a little more sunlight so it can grow, and to do so, it helps to have something to call it.

Imagine if our concept of "comedy" was people on stage doing stand-up or sketch comedy, and then your "funny" friends were people who would do old vaudeville routines and short-form improv games and we had no concept of people who were just funny in social situations.

Of course we do have that distinction. There are people who perform comedy routines, and then there are the people we know who are just funny. They don't go around reciting "Who's On First." They just have a good sense of humor.

Social magic is about coming off not as someone performing a bunch of pre-planned routines, but just as someone with a good sense of wonder.   


If you're someone who wants to support Season 3 and get the new book, the Jerx Deck #2 and the X-Comm newsletter and you want to do so with monthly payments, then now is probably a good time to sign up. There's no pressure and no rush to do so, I just say now would be good because that would mean your 12 payments would be ending at about the same time everything was ready to ship (rather than having to wait for your payments to finish up past the point things are ready to ship in order to receive everything). You can sign up here.

 

Stray the Daisy

Imagine

"I want to try something with you," you say, pulling a deck of cards and a small envelope from your pocket. "Oh, I have a valentine for you too. Don't let me forget to give it to you."

"When I was in fifth grade there was this little game that swept through the school. Well... not a game, but like a little fortune-telling match-making love-ritual type thing. I hadn't thought of in, like, 30 years and for some reason it popped in my mind out of the blue the other day. And it's one of those things where you wonder if it was just this weird thing that was localized to your school, or your part of the state, or if little kids all over the country were doing it. And if so, how did these things get passed around pre-internet?" 

"I want to play it with you and you tell me if you remember this, of if you're school had a version of it." 

You take the cards out of the box and hand the deck to your friend.

"Here's how it starts. Think of someone from your youth who you had a big crush on. But maybe someone you never told anyone else about. Then spell their name and deal a card for each letter into a pile as quietly as you can." You demonstrate by spelling B-O-B, with three cards into a pile on the table, then you put the cards back on the deck.

"I'm going to turn away, because I'm not supposed to have any clue about who the person you're thinking of might be. When you're done. Take the pile of cards you dealt and put it in your pocket or purse or under your butt or somewhere I can't see them."

You turn away while they do this and turn back when they're done and give them the rest of the instructions. 

"Now pick up the rest of the deck and hold it in your hands. Think of a trait that your ideal mate would have. Like maybe he's kind, or good with kids, or—knowing you and what you value—he's got a colossal swinging dangler between his legs. Just think of an important trait he would possess and then cut off some cards and put them on the table. Not too few, but not too many because we still need some more cards to work with."

"Now do the same thing again. Think of another trait your ideal mate would possess and cut off another group of cards and place it here."

Here's where things stand now. Your spectator has a group of cards that you haven't seen in her pocket. There are two cut off portions of cards on the table, and you genuinely don't know how many cards are in each. And there is a sealed envelope on the table with a valentine inside. You won't go near the envelope for the rest of the effect.

"Here's how the process works," you tell your friend. "We're going to create a card for you. How we do that is we take one of the packets and turn it into a flower. Then we pluck the petals off the 'flower' while saying, 'He loves me Red, He loves me Black,' until we get down to one petal which will tell us the color of your card."

You clarify what you mean here by twirling one of the piles she cut off into a little "flower."

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Then you pick it up and hold it between your thumb and two fingers and have her take cards singly and toss them to the table or the ground. First card/petal, "He loves me red." Second card/petal, "He loves me black." And then back and forth like that. She eventually gets down to the final "petal" which coincides with "He loves me red."  (To be 100% clear, the actual values of the cards don't matter. The cards are just being used as the petals.)

"Okay, so we ended on red. So for this next pile you'll say, "He love me diamonds. He loves me hearts." Twirl the second pile and hold it up and let her pluck out the cards until she gets to the final one. We'll say it ends on "He loves me hearts."

"So we have a red card, and it's a heart card. Now for the final stage you need to pull out the secret packet of cards you made at the beginning based on your crush's first name. For this one we're going to determine a number. So you'll say, 'He loves me one, he loves me two, he loves me three," you say, and mime plucking away cards. 

For this one I let the other person make the flower herself and remove the cards. Let's say she ends on "He loves me six."

"Okay, so you got Red, Hearts, and Six. So the six of hearts is your personal love card. And the way it worked back in school is that all the girls performed this little ceremony, so they all had their own love cards and they would sort of coerce the boys into doing it. And the idea was that people who ended up with the same color would be good friends, if they had the same suit they might make a good relationship, and obviously if they had the same exact card then it was like they were your #1 perfect match, true love, blah blah blah. But that rarely happened. It was like a pre-pubescent matchmaking service based on total bullshit."

"I never had anyone with a matching card," you say. "Well... not until a few moments ago."

You gesture towards the envelope that has been on the table the whole time. Your friend opens it and removes what's inside. It's a playing card (of course). On the back is a little valentine's message. She turns it over and sees it's the six of hearts. Everything can be examined, including your colossal dangler.

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Method

I like this trick a lot. The ideas of secret crushes, valentines, "he loves me... he loves me not," and little matchmaking rituals are all very evocative of a very particular time. My late 30s. No, I'm kidding. I mean like 8-12 years old when young love was still pretty wholesome and not the nasty thoughts and endless boners of my teens.

The basic method is that the color and suit are forced. The value is limited naturally. And then you ring in the correct "valentine" that matches the card they end up on. But you're able to do that almost at the very beginning of the routine. And the ringing in of the correct card is done when there is no heat on the envelope. You'll see.

The set-up is fairly extensive. But this is a once in a while trick. It's a perfect Valentine's Day trick.

Let's start backwards. You need 8 outs, the 3 thru 10 of hearts. You could use less. You could probably use the 3-8 and still be pretty safe. But if I'm going to have 6 outs, I might as well have 8. Each card should be in a small, card-sized envelope. You could create some sort of index for it. I just do the following. I put two envelopes in each of four pockets. (Some combination of my pants pocket, jacket/hoodie pocket, breast pocket, back pocket.) Most often it's the 3/4 in my left pants pocket, the 5/6 in my right pant's pocket, the 6/7 in my left hoodie pocket, the 7/8 in my right hoodie pocket. The larger numbered card is closer to my body.

Originally I was using a Bicycle deck that had the tiny middle circle filled in on the red cards. But that required me to handle the deck at one point in order to peek the value of the top card. So instead I use a marked deck which makes it very hands off at the times in the effect when it makes sense to be hands off. 

So, it's a marked deck. In addition to this, the top 11 cards in the face down deck are the Ace thru Jack (suits don't matter). Well... that's not entirely true. Suits do matter, because the entire deck is stacked so the cards alternate red and black. But after the first 11 cards the values don't matter. So your deck might look something like this.

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Okay. So that's the set-up. 

To perform, I pull out the deck of cards and the envelope with the four of hearts in it (four being the most common number of letters (I think) for a guy's name, at least in its short form, so there's a good chance you won't have to switch it).

I set the deck on the table but keep the envelope in my hands (usually...see the notes at the end for an alternative). I refer to the envelope as a valentine (if it's near valentine's day, if it's not, then I'll say, "I have a card for you.")

The person spells out their childhood crush's name, one card per letter and hides that packet away. They do this with my back turned away. When I turn back I note the top card of the deck (remember, they're marked). And since the top 11 cards were A-J, then I know that whatever number of cards they have is one less than the card I see. Now, already, I know what envelope I need at this early stage in the effect. Before there's seemingly any information I could have. Before, in fact, they're even 100% sure this is a trick.

I now have them think of positive attributes they want in a mate and they cut off two groups of cards. I turn away from the action (as I did before) and during that time I pocket the envelope I have and pull out the right one.

Let's see where we are. Packet #1 is in their pocket. Packet #2 is on the table. Packet #3 is on the table. And the rest of the deck (packet #4) is in their hands. 

Have packet 4 set aside. We'll now use packet two to force the color and packet 3 to force the suit. You apparently can't know how many cards are in each packet, and you don't (other than in packet 1), but you can know if packets 2 and 3 contain an odd or even number of cards.

Look at the markings on the back of 2 and 3. If the top card of each packet is the same color (not suit, just color) then packet 2 has an even number of cards. If they're different, then there are an odd number of cards in packet 2.

If packet 2 has an odd number of cards, you say: "I'm going to make this packet into a little flower and we'll pluck the cards out like petals. And you'll say, 'He loves me red, he loves me black.'"

If packet 2 has an even number of cards, you say: "I'm going to make this packet into a little flower and we'll pluck the cards out like petals. And you'll say, 'He loves me black, he loves me red.'"

This will always make the final card your force color.

You do the same thing to force the suit. Except now you look at the top of packets 3 and 4. Same color even, different color odd. If odd you start the back and forth with the force color/suit. If even you start the back and forth with the opposite color/suit.

It's easier just to understand why this is than to memorize the rules. Let's say they cut off a pile that consisted of one card. One is an odd number, and obviously you'd want them to start with the force color/suit. If they cut off two cards you'd want them to start with the opposite, so they'd end on the force color. And that pattern holds true for any odd or even number.

Important thing: You tell them how the little chant is going to go before you spread the cards into a flower. You don't want to make it seem like you're changing your wording depending on how many cards are there (although you are). You want it to seem like this is just the wording that's used and you have no idea how many cards are there. Whatever chant you establish—"he loves me black, he loves me red" or "he loves me red, he loves me black"—is exactly how the spectator will take over once they start saying it. And it will sound right to them because there is no established precedent for this. It's not like you're asking them to start saying, "He loves me not, he loves me," which would be backwards to how that phrase is usual done.

With the final flower, they count and pluck the numbers themselves, and, of course, the card they've created will match what's been in the envelope on the table from the start. 

Notes:

1. I'm putting this trick up now not just because it's a great Valentine's Day trick, but also because it's a good example of some of the differences between a social magic performance and a theatrical one (don't worry, I won't be harping on this forever). Social magic allows you to use different techniques. If you were presenting the same effect in a magic "show" you'd need a much more clever switch of the envelope. In a formal presentation when you bring out a sealed envelope there's a different expectation and it becomes a bigger object of scrutiny.

You might say, "Oh, Andy. Certainly if you bring out a deck of cards and a little envelope they're going to know there's a prediction in there." But they don't. And the reason they don't is they don't see everything I do as part of a magic trick. This is a luxury you have when doing social magic. Because what you're doing is enmeshed with a real social interaction, the boundaries get blurred. Pulling out a deck of cards and an envelope doesn't immediately suggest what the climax is. I say, "I want to show you something," put my hand in my pocket, pull out the deck and the envelope. "Oh, yeah. I have a valentine for you. Don't let me forget to give it to you." Then I move on from it. If I was doing this table-hopping, that action would be seen as me introducing the props for a trick to come. But ingrained in a genuine conversation, it just becomes me emptying my pockets. Maybe they think the envelope has something to do with what's about to happen, maybe they don't. Either way they're not certain of it and that's what makes it extra satisfying when it comes back around to it at the end.

2. You might think, "If you use a double envelope and double faced cards, then you could have four outs in one envelope and you'd only have to do a switch for the other envelope on the rare occasions when the name wasn't 4, 5, 6, or 7 letters long. True. But again, that's a consideration for a presentational magic piece where the envelope is suspect from the start. In this setting, performing for a friend or loved one, you want them to have the experience of taking the envelope off the table that has been there all along (apparently), opening it themselves, taking out the card and keeping it as a souvenir. That's the "magic." You wouldn't want to sacrifice that just so you don't have to do a switch.

3. Speaking of the switch, here's how I've been doing it most recently. I have all the other envelopes in one jacket or hoodie pocket in numerical order. Once I know the number of letters in the name I (with my hands casually in my pockets) flick through the envelopes and put the correct one at the front of the stack. Then, with them holding the deck, I say "Close your eyes and imagine a trait your ideal mate would have." Then, when they have their eyes closed, I just take the envelope off the table, put it in my pocket, and toss the other one out in it's place. That may seem bold, and yes, you couldn't get away with a switch like that in many circumstance, but in this scenario it works perfectly well (so long as you're not performing for multiple people).

4. For a long time I wanted to do a trick where card "flowers" were plucked petal by petal like real flowers. But all the ones I came across were done with a down/under deal and the Matsuyama Force. I really like the Matsuyama force, but when I tried it in the context of a "she loves me/she loves me not" type of presentation I was consistently busted. I think there were two reasons for this. The first is that the routines I was trying required me to do that force multiple times, which made it slightly more transparent. But more importantly, by trying to map this force procedure onto a concept they are aware of ("he loves me... he loves me not") I ended up emphasizing the discrepancy that makes the force work. The down under deal isn't really like plucking petals at all, because when you pluck petals you don't reattach every other one back to the flower. 

So that's where this version evolved from. It feels the same as actually taking petals from a flower, in a way the down-under deal doesn't. (Nobody deals flower petals.) It's very satisfying to toss the cards one by one and let them flutter to the ground. Pluck, pluck, pluck... down to one option.

5. "He loves me... he loves me not" is a game of French origin, where it's called, "Effeuiller la Marguerite," ("pluck the daisy"). But google translates it as "Stray the Daisy" which is a more appealing name just based on the way it sounds. It would be a good band name.

6. I've put up Valentine's day ideas each year so far. Here's the first. And here's the second.

Anti-Social

[In Season 3, as in Season 2, the main posts will be on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays there may be no posts, shorter posts that are tangential to one of the primary posts, previews of what's to come, or posts that are non magic related. Or whatever, who knows.]

Below is an email I received yesterday from reader TJ about my usage of the phrase "social magic." He is (strangely) passionate about me not using that term. You can read his rationale below (I've only edited out the complimentary stuff in his email).

I don't disagree with what he's saying. The world "social" has been F'd out a little. And if someone has a better word I'd run with that. But I can't really think of a word that captures the idea. That idea being a branch of magic that's done in the course of social interaction and conversation, rather than as a "performance" that stands on its own. 

So, while I'm willing to go with a different phrase, at the same time, I don't really give a shit. I'm not using the term as some sort of branding. I'm just using it as a way to categorize a type of performance. The "social" in the phrase has nothing to do with social networking, social media, or social engineering. It's just about old fashioned social interaction. The type of interaction that a more traditional performance style often prevents because it can put a wall up between the performer and the audience. 

Here's TJ's email:

Andy, Andy, Andy !

please - for the love of God - do NOT switch to using the phrase "SOCIAL" magic!! There has got to be a better phrase!

The word "social*" is changing meaning (*see comment at end of this email) and so its the wrong word to describe your magic philosophy.

I absolutely, completely agree with the thinking behind your post "Social Magic Basics Pt. 1 - February 12, 2018" on thejerx.com today.

"AMATEUR magic" sounds sooooo naff.

But...   But!!...  BUT !!!  "Social*" Magic has sooo many much worse psychological baggage.  At least here in the UK. 

Its not the word "magic" that's the problem.  It's the word "social*".

"Social*" as a word has been corrupted by recent use.

"Social*" , as in "social networking" / "social media"  all has overtones of giving in to the crowd; doing what is expected; conforming; selling out to The Man; of being led by the nose thru some dopamine-optimised corporate experience!  Of being locked in to the "FilterBubble". Of being an AppleDrone/FacebookDrone/GoogleDrone. Or being so far up your own arse that you think a "like" is a life-affirming moment.

That's not your magic philosophy - afaik / tell. I laughed out loud the first time I found thejerx! And I paid up within two days of finding it, so keen to keep hearing your heretical,off-the-wall ideas and jamming. Sharing moments of genuine(ish) WTF in the *real*, here and now; right-now world.  

"Social" here (UK) has undertones of ;

"twitter" - full of twats desperate for attention, or to be part of the crowd. "look at me! look at me!"  ( that's what you don't like in magicians, isn't it?)

"facebook" - a dying/dead platform.  Even more full of gobshites.  The only reason to be here is to see local community announcements. Or to see what your Mum & Dad are up to.

***So why does SOCIAL magic sound so wrong***
*Social*  , I think, is changing meaning right now. Because it is soooooo overused.
If you hook your magic-philosophy to the word "social",  you will be misinterpreted.

Compare "social" to "awfull".

"Awful" used to mean awe inspring, fantastic! Now...   ..it means naff, horrible, shite. 

(https://ideas.ted.com/20-words-that-once-meant-something-very-different/)

(https://linguaphilesalmanac.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/amusing-awful-and-artificial/)

I think that "social" will soon mean shallow/false/irrelevant/petty/sold-out/drone-like

Social Magic Basics Pt. 1

For nearing three years now I've been discussing my thoughts on amateur magic on this site and in my books and the JAMM. I think going forward I'm going to start transitioning the terminology I use to a certain extent. The problem is that it's hard to wrestle the word amateur away from the usage of it being strictly about whether you're getting paid or not. In my opinion, that's not that important a difference in regards to magic.

I think the primary distinction to make isn't paid or unpaid. It's: are your performing theatrical/presentational magic, or are you performing social magic. Is what you're doing a "show" (however big or small) or is it intended to be an experience that's more woven into the general interaction you're having with people?

(Speaking of the distinctions we make in magic... I brought a non-magician friend to a magic convention once and she thought it was funny that the main distinctions between magicians were amateur/professional (in the sense of "unpaid/paid") and close-up/stage. For something that struggles for the label of "art," it struck her as odd that the major distinctions were, "Did you get paid for this? Also... how far away were you standing from the audience?" It would be like meeting a filmmaker and saying, "Oh, you make movies? That's fascinating... are they over 100 minutes?" Of course there are significant logistical differences between performing stage and close-up (and then you have your parlor performers, who are like the bi-sexuals of the magic world) but it still seems like it's not the most important distinction artistically.)

What this website is devoted to (primarily) is social magic—conversational, interactive magic that's done without the context of a "show." 

The difference between theatrical magic and social magic is mainly in how the audience perceives it. That is to say: what is the trick's context? Criss Angel, on stage in vegas; someone doing close-up magic, table-side at a restaurant; a boy-scout doing a trick at the Blue and Gold dinner—they are all doing theatrical/presentational magic. It doesn't matter how loose your performance style is, how unscripted, and how off-the-cuff it may be; if the audience feels they're seeing a show then it will not come off as social magic. 

You see, we're cutting out the notion of paid/unpaid or amateur/professional. The professional magician can't perform social magic in the context of their show. But they can (if they choose to) outside that setting. And, at the same time, a 12-year old girl who enjoys all the trappings of a professional show and puts one on in her living room for her family is doing theatrical magic. It doesn't matter that no one is cutting her a paycheck.

I'm going to beat this point into the ground a little because I want to make this as clear as possible: going out and performing your ambitious card routine for some pals at a coffee shop is not what I mean by social magic. That's just performing theatrical magic in a social setting. 

With social magic you are not "the entertainment," you are part of the group who happens to be doing something entertaining. The dynamic—even during the effect—isn't "performer and audience." It's "two friends" or "two co-workers" or "two people on a train." One of them is showing something interesting to the other, but the other doesn't feel like they're seeing a show. 

You might think it's hard to perform for someone who knows you're into magic and knows you're showing them a trick, but not have them see it as a "show." It's really not that difficult if you can avoid certain pitfalls.

Imagine you knew a seashell expert. They spent all their life learning about seashells. I'm sure you can still imagine having a conversation with them about seashells that didn't feel completely scripted and mapped out like a TED Talk.

Or you can imagine yourself being a male stripper. Sure, you can stop the party and tell everyone to gather round and you show them your new stripping routine. Or you can pull someone aside, bring them to an upstairs bedroom, dance and rub your dong in their face in a way that feels like an interpersonal experience and not a performance. It's the same general actions—dancing and dong rubbing—but it's a different context/experience for the other person.

I'm not arguing for or against social magic as opposed to presentational magic. I do believe that most magicians come off as a little weird when they launch into a capital-P "Performance" when they're hanging out with friends or family. But if that's your style, that's fine. There are definitely people who can pull that off. I can't.

I can give advice on the successful execution of social/interactive magic because I doubt anyone has performed it as much as I have over the course of the past two years. I don't know how anyone could given that I am the world's first and only professional social magician.

So in this first post on social magic basics I want to look at the primary pitfalls I had to overcome and that I see people stumble into when attempting to perform social magic.

Social Magic Pitfalls

Ultimately all of these are variations on the same theme: the magician presents the material in a way that feels too planned out. I'm not suggesting they have to not know you're a magician or not know they're about to experience a magic trick. But in a social interaction, people want a sense of spontaneity. 

Think again to the seashell expert. It's not an issue if they speak fluently about the nature of seashells. That's what you'd expect. But if they start going through something by rote that they've clearly worked on dozens of times, that's going to make for a weird, uncomfortable, or awkward social interaction. (Unless they first said, "Hey, could you listen to this speech I'm working on and see if it makes sense?" This is, essentially, the Peek Backstage style which puts theatrical magic in a more approachable social setting.)

So here are the three pre-planning pitfalls:

1. Overly rehearsed patter. Brilliant patter is great for theatrical magic shows. But it's an impediment for connection in social magic. It's just not how people interact in the real world. Magicians often feel they should have a super compelling opening line to get into an effect. In some circumstances that makes sense. In social magic, I find it's better to stumble into your patter. 

For example, here's the opening line for a trick called A Choice Illusion from Ben Earl's book, This is Not a Box:

"Sometimes there isn't a single objective truth but rather a variety of truths; multiple truths which are all true at the same time. Therefore what you think about something often says more about you and how you look at the world than you might realise."

Now, that's a perfectly fine, intriguing opening sentence in certain situations. But if you pulled that out in a social interaction it would be very strange. It's too polished. 

If I wanted to get to the same subject matter, here's how I would "stumble into" the patter. Now, keep in mind, this is going to read like shit, but that's because that's what genuine human interaction reads like. So, transcribed it would look something like this: 

"Oh... hey, there was something I wanted to try with you. I think you'll be good for this. I was thinking of... like... how do I put this. Okay, so you know how with most things there's not a single objective truth. Like... this table, maybe... or, no, this chair. Okay, this chair. So maybe a woodworker would look at it and say that it uses simple woodworking techniques. And then... maybe an older person would look at it and say that it's sturdy because for them the importance of the chair is being able to use it to sit down and rest their legs. And then... I don't know... maybe a designer would say the chair is of a different era or whatever than the other furniture in this room. All of these things can be "true," but the interesting thing is...well.... it's like whatever a person sees as true about this chair actually tells us more about her than it does about the chair. Does that make sense? Anyway, I was thinking about this idea and I wanted to try [blah, blah, blah]."

Now, that's a lot of foundation to lay before a trick, but that's because the concept Ben uses is a sort of "deep" idea for a trick to be based on. Most tricks won't need that much set-up, but I wanted to use it as an explanation of how I would get into a trick with that subject matter in a social situation. 

You want the other person to feel like they're part of putting this all together. Theatrical magic is like giving someone a cake and asking them to taste it. Social magic is like saying, "Hey, I was thinking maybe we could make a cake or something," and you're pulling out handfuls of flour and sugar from your pockets and a crumpled old recipe. It's "messy" but that messiness is what makes for the more interactive experience for the spectator. 

So beware of being too scripted and especially beware of an overly rehearsed intro to the effect. In social magic we want to obscure the boundaries of the effect and starting with something that sounds like the thesis statement to your doctoral dissertation is not a great way of doing that.

2. Being Funny If You're Not Funny. What an audience wants in a social magic situation is to experience something incredible with you, not with you playing the part of some other person. So if you're not someone who's funny in your normal interactions with people, don't strive to be funny when you perform. I'm telling you this for your sake. It's off-putting to people. I've seen it happen a few times in person, but I don't doubt it happens all the time. Some dude is just a normal, regular dude, then he goes into showing someone a trick and he's got all this hokey schtick and jokes to go along with it. It usually comes across as corny in a professional show. But in a social situation it's much worse. Not only does it reinforce that this is all pre-planned but you're essentially taking yourself out of the equation. Now it feels like a social interaction between themselves and someone whose personality they don't recognize. 

That's why I'm kind of anti-jokes for the social magician. If you're funny, then you don't need jokes in your patter. And if you're not funny, then pretending to be so is an unnecessary layer of phoniness.

The thing about social magic is that it's the most powerful when everything feels kind of normal, except for this one crazy, magical thing. So if you're putting on a persona, you're undercutting that sense of normality.

3. Tricks Where the Same Thing Happens Multiple Times. I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but in general I think it's best not to do tricks in social situations where the same thing happens multiple times (think Ambitious Card, or Coins Across). Again, it's an issue of it feeling too planned out. It's almost like classic joke structure and the rule of threes. If you start telling a story that follows those rules it's going to come across as something you pulled from a joke book, not a natural, spontaneous, funny conversation.

Similarly, if you're doing a trick with three phases, it's going to feel like something planned and not something you're finding together. 


One thing to be aware of is that, at first, this style of performing will go down much better with people you've never performed for before, especially people who have little to no experience watching close-up magic. They're the ones without preconceptions. 

If you've performed a lot of magic for people and it's all been very structured and self-contained and clearly prepared ahead of time, then that's what you've trained them for and that's what they're used to. Switching from a presentational style to a social style is a change for both you and them. It may take them a bit to catch up. What I find helpful—if I'm performing for someone who wasn't around as my style of performing gradually transitioned—is to give them some kind of heads up that I'm not really doing the same sorts of things. Like, if they remember me performing Cannibal Kings six years ago, they may be expecting a little presentation with jokes and stuff like that. So if they bring up magic, I'll say something like, "Yeah, I still have an interest in magic, but I'm not really into the same sorts of tricks  I used to do. I've been looking into some weirder stuff." This gets them prepared for something different and intrigued for what that might be.

MFYL and the James-Lange Universal Presentation

Oh...my...goodness.

Back again with the Jerx, Season 3. I'm so out of practice. It's been a while since I derbled. Is that the word I'm looking for? Shit. I can't even remember how words work. I derble on my crong, right? That doesn't sound right. Alsowhereisthatbuttonyouusetomakespacesbetweenwords?Ifyouknow wait... never mind I found it. I got it guys.

Whoo-boy. 

First, let me thank everyone who signed up to support this season of The Jerx. The relationship between reader support and the existence of this site isn't some abstract thing, it's a direct correlation. So thanks for affording me the time to put into this site to keep it going. 

If you'd like to sign up to support this year of the Jerx and to receive the bonuses, you can still do so here.

As mentioned on that page the primary reward this year is going to be a book which I refer to there as MFYL.

I have most of the new material for that book outlined and I'm really happy with the way it's coming along. It's similar to The Jerx, Volume One, in terms of the type of experiences I shoot for when presenting magic, but I think I've gotten better at creating effects that generate those experiences in a more practical way, with routines that require less planning or that can be done in more varied circumstances. But at the same time there's some totally bonkers stuff in the book too. 

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The title of the book is Magic for Young Lovers. Not because it has anything to do with youth or love really. It's just a nod to some of my favorite album covers/titles from the 50s and 60s which are so evocative of a kind of youthful energy, happiness and romance that I appreciate.

It's the type of thing I think magic can use at least a little of, because so often magic is evocative of absolutely fucking nothing beyond this little unlikelihood that's happening in our hands. 

One thing I've done a lot over the past month that I hadn't done much the previous year is watch other people perform. Now, the thing is, I get so caught up in my own thoughts on magic, and I'm in such a bubble because I tend to interact with people who are on a similar wavelength. So it's weird for me to watch magic that is performed in what I would consider a "traditional" style. And that style is "Look at me, and look at this thing I can do." It shouldn't be weird because 99.9% of all magic is that. And it shouldn't be weird because I did magic like that for most of my life too. 

But what I'm trying to do in recent years is shift the momentum of the amazement at the end of the trick. Instead of making it an implosion, where it's all geared back towards me, I want to turn it back on the world and make go outward. It's not like I won't still get the credit and the accolades, because people know I choreographed the experience, at least to a certain extent. But because the "story" of the trick isn't just about how great I am, it gives people the opportunity to get more invested in it. 

As I mentioned earlier this year, my focus is to create effects that really stick with people because they engage them emotionally in a manner that goes beyond just amazing them. Magic for Young Lovers is going to collect my most recent successes in that area.

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The James-Lange Universal Presentation

This is an idea that I've used a bunch over the past month. It's something I really like. Maybe it's the sort of thing that goes over well for me particularly and the type of people I perform for, but even if you don't perform it with the identical tone that I do, I think you could still fool around with the same concept and use it in a style that suits you better.

This is a "Universal Presentation," meaning it's a presentation that can be used for many different effects. I will describe it below as I've performed it this past month.

This is one of the rare effects I've worked on that I think is probably better for a small group than one-on-one, but the particular performance I'll describe below is one of the ones I did for just one person because that's easier for me to remember and to write up.

My friend Amanda had come over to my place to do some writing on some projects we were working on (separately) and then to order food and watch a movie (together—it would be weird if she came over and we ate and watched movies in separate rooms, I think).

At one point while she was working on a play she's writing and I was working on, well, probably some dumb shit for this site, I said, "Can I show you something?"

I brought out a deck of cards and spread it between my hands and asked her to touch four cards. She did and I out-jogged each card she touched. "Let's see how you did," I said, with a little expectation in my voice. I stripped out the cards and turned them over and they were an 8, a 3, a Jack, and a 2. "Huh," I said. "Well, forget that. Never mind." And we both went back to our laptops.

Two minutes later I said, "Wait, can I try something else with you? This is going to be a little... weird, I guess, but I want to give it a shot. Have you heard this idea that, like... Well, you know how we smile when we're happy, of course. But there's also a theory that if we smile we'll become happy. So, in other words, we tend to think of it as the emotions coming first and then the physical expression of that emotion coming second. But it works the other way around too. If you do the physical manifestation of the emotion then the emotion follows. Is this making sense?"

She said it was, and that she had seen that TED Talk about how taking a power pose can make you feel more confident. "Yeah," I said, "that's the same sort of thing."

"I have this idea that's kind of along the same lines," I said. "This is going to sound dumb, but I have a feeling that if we act surprised, then we can cause something surprising to happen." She gives me a look. "Can we try it?" I ask. She agrees to.

I pick up the deck. "Okay," I say, "Let's act surprised." 

"Oh, wow!!!" she says, excitedly.

"Wooooaaaahhhh. Holy crap!" I say, and throw my hands up. 

"No way!" she says.

"Okay, okay, okay," I say, settling her down. "Now quick, touch four cards." She does, they're outjogged, stripped out and turned over and they're the four aces. Her eyes go big and she starts laughing. I take the aces and place them face-up on the couch cushion between us.

"See?" I say. "I think it's like... I don't know. The universe expects a balance or something. Usually you act surprised when something surprising happens. But if you act surprised without that incident then the universe creates it to keep things in balance. Maybe. Or who knows. Let's try again. Let's be really surprised this time and see what happens." 

We start acting surprised again.

"What. The. Ever-loving. Fuck," she says, holding her hands to her chest.

"Awwww...HELLLL no," I say, "Nuh-uh, nuh-uh. No way." 

"Wowee-Zowee!" she says, with a big smile on her face, and tosses a pencil and notebook up in the air.

"Ok, go!" I say as I spread the deck out for her again. She touches four cards, they're turned over... and they're nothing. Just four random cards.

"Well... F that idea," I say. "It was just a theory anyway."

I turn over the most recent selections and then pick the aces up off the couch to put them back in the deck. "What the hell?" I say. The aces now have four different colored backs, none of which match the deck. "They weren't like this when you touched them originally, right?" 

Mandy grabs the aces from me in order to look at them. Her jaw drops and nose wrinkles.

"Wowee-Zowee!" I say and toss the deck in the air.

That's it. The James-Lange Universal Presentation is the idea that acting surprised is the "Imp" that's used to cause the magic. You could obviously use this with all sorts of effects, but it happens to work nicely with a trick that has a kicker ending so you can do that kind of misdirect at the end. The trick I was using in the example above is the same card trick I mentioned a few weeks ago (I'll reprint it at the end of this post). And while I was getting a nice reaction with it as just a card trick, with this presentation it's something completely different and much stronger. (I have a theory developing that the tricks themselves don't actually matter much. Or, at least, much less than we think.)

Some things to keep in mind:

1. As I mentioned, and as you can probably imagine, with about 3-6 people this becomes an even more manic, ridiculous experience. It's like David Blaine level reactions but if his audience was on bath salts. I recommend having someone record it on their camera. Watching everyone "act" surprised is a ton of fun. If not, you need to find new friends. Set the tone for the surprised acting yourself and keep it a little low key the first time around so it has somewhere to build to on the second go around.

2. In regards to the particular trick I used above, you need to have the aces out of your hands and in a place where everyone can see them after the first phase or else they'll just assume you switched them during all the madness.

3. I don't know this for a fact, but I wouldn't be surprised if—when my friends think back on it— they somehow conflate their fake acting surprised with their genuine reaction to the trick. So they might remember this trick as something that caused them to genuinely flip out a little. Maybe. That's just a theory.

There you go, if you like this sort of thing, I'd be happy to have you support the site and receive Magic for Young Lovers and the other bonuses.

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Here again, are the instructions for the un-named card trick above. I had the feeling it might be something that a million people had already thought up, but no one came to me with a reference for it. The closest thing to it was a trick called Boondoggled in Tom Frame's book Frameworks. It's a similar effect, but a different method. (This version is cleaner, but his has the benefit of not needing a double-backer.)

Here's what you need, going from the top down. A red deck of cards. A double-backed red card. 4 aces with different back colors. Hold a pinky break over the double-backer. Spread the cards in order to have four cards touched and out-jogged for half their length. Do a Vernon strip-out addition type thing to remove the four selected cards as well as everything under your break. Turn everything over on top of the deck to show the spectator has found the four aces. Remove the aces and set them aside face-up, then you can reveal the different colored backs at whatever point it makes sense in your routine.

Doing this trick with the James-Lange Universal Presentation goes like this:

First time: It doesn't work. Nothing happens.

Second time: You do the handling as mentioned above.

Third time: Again, this is just a bluff. You don't do anything.

Between the second and third time you'll need to flip over the top five cards on the deck to reorient them. Other than that, it's pretty straightforward.

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