Show Notes: In & Of Itself by Derek DelGaudio

For many people, the thing that makes In & Of Itself stand out from most other magic shows is its emotional resonance. The show makes people feel something. 

I felt something too after watching it. I felt sorry for Helder Guimaraes. 

He was in Nothing to Hide with Derek DelGaudio and that show was almost universally praised. I think a lot of us assumed they would go on and be this magic duo for years to come. Instead, that was essentially a one-show partnership and they've gone their separate ways. 

So then they both come out with competing one-man shows. And if I was in that situation, I'd probably want to blow people away and show myselff as the creative force behind the partnership. So it's got to be tough when the other guy's show gets praised as one of the best magic shows of all time and the only real buzz your show generates is from the time you yelled at an autistic girl. That's got to be pretty disheartening.

Derek's show truly was one of the best magic shows I've ever seen. It didn't necessarily strike me as "revolutionary," it just felt like a well-written, well-structured, thoughtful, cohesive piece of theater. It's actually kind of sad for magic that those qualities are so rare that a show that possesses them is so notable. And I actually think it's kind of harmful to magic to look at his show as being some outlier that redefines magic stage shows. I agree that it's a genuine artistic achievement, but ultimately his accomplishment was creating something original that captured people's imaginations. And that's great and all, but—to quote Chris Rock's response to his black friends proudly saying things like, "I take care of my kids,"— that's what you're supposed to do, you dumb motherfucker!

Much of the response from magicians to this show felt like, "What a bold, brave move it was to not do an egg-bag routine." 

I guess it's a matter of what your expectations for a magic show are. If you believed the standard magic show, of old tricks done with old lines and no esthetic sensibility was fine, then of course Derek's show seems radical. But my background in entertainment is in fields other than magic. And that type of mediocrity would never be accepted in those fields. So when I saw Derek's show I just felt like it was a great example of the type of show we should see in magic regularly (original presentations, original ideas, original POVs).

I'm not going to get into too much specific detail about the show because, either you've seen it, in which case you don't need me recap it. Or you haven't seen it, in which it would be a disservice of me to recap it for you. If you get the opportunity to see it, go do so.

There were some things in the show that didn't connect with me. There's a long section on false dealing and shuffling that is technically masterful, but not overly interesting to me. But I understand why he put it in the show. If you wasted half your life learning that shit you wouldn't be so quick to ditch it either. You'd think, "Oh, it's very important I put my false dealing demonstration in this show." It's a little lie you'd tell yourself to keep you from putting a gun in your mouth due to spending so much time on something that is ultimately only particularly impressive tubby dullards at the Cape Cod Conclave.

Also—and here's where I come out as a true intellectual lightweight—I didn't necessarily love the subtext of the show. "It's not so much a magic show," people would say, "It's a show about identity." "Oh wow," I'd say, nodding sagely, "yes, yes... truly intriguing." And as I was watching the show, I found all of it very interesting but I didn't necessarily get it. I was reminded of that Moliere quote, "That must be wonderful: I don't understand it at all!"

Now, to be fair, I don't understand most stuff that's "deep." My brain is part robot and part puppy. So it's entirely possible that I didn't connect with that part of Derek's show because I'm kind of one dimensional. The last artistic representation of people that I identified with were the guys in this SNL skit having a cotton candy dance party.

On the other hand there was so much that I loved about the show too. Almost every trick had a strong visual image associated with it, so everything is very memorable. Contrast this with Helder's show which, while it had a lot of competently performed card magic that fooled me, there was nothing sticky about it. Everything fell away. With Derek's show I remember most of what happened throughout the show, and my memories start with a visual image that unfolds itself to remind me of the full effect. 

I really liked the way the show extended beyond this moment and this place. I write about similar things on this site in regards to amateur performances but I'd never really seen it done in a proper stage show. One effect gets extended outside of the theater, past the end of the show. Another effect overlaps from one show to the next so, in a way, all the shows are connected like some theatrical human centipede, mouth to butthole. 

And I especially loved the final moment of the show. I'm a sucker for a twist ending. And In & Of Itself, has a final 2-second effect that occurs at the very end of the show that came as a complete surprise to me and will forever be one of my strongest memories from any theater show. And it made something click in my head about our objectives when we perform magic (more on that to come in a future post).

As of this writing, In & Of Itself has been extended through September 3rd. That's plenty of time for you to plan a trip to NYC and see it. Make it happen. 

White Noise, Categorizing Imps, Tiki and Ronde

Today I want to talk more about Imps, that is, the things we suggest are the impetus for the magic. A lot of theory in this one, but it ends with a pretty dope trick if you stick with it.

This particular post was inspired by an email exchange with Pete McCabe where he wrote, in regards to the Pulp-Fringe Imp:

I’m wondering how much of the effect you can get with just an app that makes sound effects? I give you a deck and do a self-working trick like Gemini Twins. While you are dealing, I play a weird white noise at you that "will program you when to stop." When your friend deals, I switch to a different sound because their brain is on a different wavelength. Whaddaya know, it works.

Not quite as cool as the glowing briefcase. All right — it’s not nearly as cool. But for something I already have with me, that could be very useful.

[Another email]

Try the "White Noise Free” app, go to sounds, and scroll down. The last five are white noise, brown noise, pink noise, blue noise, and violet noise. All different in a way you can clearly hear but not articulate.

While the first spectator is dealing I play white noise. When they stop I turn on brown noise and ask if they want to add one more or take one back. Same with the other person. I would never show the app.

Boy I love the idea that the white noise could somehow control your decision.

Pete's right about a couple things. He's right that making noises on your cell phone isn't nearly as intriguing as a glowing briefcase, but he's also right that white noise can make for an interesting Imp.

As I told Pete, in my email back to him, I used to use white (and other "colored" noise) as a precursor to OOTW. I'd give someone 4 cards. Two red and two black, ask them to mix them up, and then deal them face down into two piles of two. I'd play the white noise. If they separated the reds from the blacks, I'd then continue on to the full OOTW. If they didn't I'd change to brown noise and try again. And I'd change to a different "color" until they got it right. With just four cards, they're going to get it right within a few tries. And once they got it right I'd do the full deck dealing process with that noise playing.

In regards to Gemini Twins, Pete recommends you start by playing each of the “noises” for the spectator while you look at their eyes to see how their pupils respond. When you get what you want (apparently), that’s the color you play for them.

Gemini Twins is one of those tricks that is so straightforward and simple that it makes a great blank canvas for you to paint an "impetus" onto. And I think it's very instructive to play around with these Imps because you begin to realize how much the trick is about that, and not so much about the moment of the cards matching. Yes, that's the point of the trick, but it's not necessarily the thing that stays with people. 

And yet, often, it's all we concentrate on.

It's like thinking of a sexual encounter only in terms of the orgasm. Yes, that's kind of the end goal, but it's usually the lead-up to that that is the hottest and most memorable part of the experience. 

As it goes with fucking, so it goes with magic: we put our focus on the climax, but the enduring part of it is the seduction. And—as my 2% female readership can attest—that's usually the part guys stumble and bumble their way through because all their focus is on...

An Imp is part of the seduction.

Someone asked in an email what the difference is between an Imp and just "presentation." Am I just making up terminology? No, I'm not. Well... I am just making up terminology, but there is a reason behind it. 

If you take an Imp and flesh it out and explain it to the audience, then it can become a presentation. 

But not all presentations are Imps. "Do you know the difference between a magician and a gambler?" isn't an imp. It's a presentation (one that suggest you think your spectator might be a moron).

And not all Imps are presentations. Remember, snapping was the first Imp I discussed here. No one would say snapping, or waving a wand, or casting a shadow is really a presentation. The Five Movements is an Imp that might imply a presentation, but if you don't spell it out for people it remains an Imp.

That brings me to an important point. There are three ways you can introduce an Imp into your effect: explicitly, implicitly, and arbitrarily.

Let's take them in reverse order.

Arbitrarily

Let's go back to the concept of using white noise. Here's what you shouldn't do. "I'm going to play white noise and it's going to influence you to match up the cards." This is a meaningless statement. It's as meaningless as saying, "I'm going to eat a cheese sandwich and it's going to influence you to match up the cards."

Coming out and baldly stating some arbitrary connection between the two things is just going to get rejected as obvious horseshit. People have a natural resistance to arbitrariness. So you don't want the connection between the impetus and the effect to come off that way.

Instead of handling an Imp arbitrarily, you need to handle it implicitly or explicitly.

Implicitly

You play the white noise. You look in their eyes. You switch to another color noise and examine their eyes. Then you switch again. Satisfied, you have them deal out the cards and stop twice burying face-up cards in the deck each time. At the end, the cards they stopped at match the cards they put in the deck.

"What was that noise thing about?" they ask.

"Oh nothing. That's just... it's nothing. Are you hungry? We should get a pizza."

When you say, "This white noise is going to control your decisions." You're just giving them something to reject as totally baseless. But if you just imply the white noise is important (by paying attention to it for a moment), and then perhaps even deny that it is later on, you can get them to strengthen the link in their head between the impetus and the effect.

Remember what I said above: people have a natural resistance to arbitrariness. In this case we are going to harness that for are own purposes. When you don't justify the purpose of (in this case) the white noise, their aversion to the arbitrary will push them the direction you want them to go. "Well, he didn't just play that noise for no reason. So there must be some connection between that and the effect. But what could that be?" You're getting them to force the issue. Now, ultimately they may come to the conclusion that it's all part of the charade. That's fine. But at least you get them to consider it in a way they wouldn't if you were the one pushing the connection.

Explicitly

The final way to handle an Imp is explicitly. That is, you spell out the connection between what you're doing and what happens. An explicit imp is an understandable story of cause and effect.

"I'm going to play white noise and you'll deal to the cards I choose," is not an understandable story. How does one thing cause the other? You need to add some elements and give your spectator some path to follow.

It doesn't necessarily need to be believable. It just needs to be understandable. In fact, I'll break this down even further. You can have Believable Explicit Imps and Fantastical Explicit Imps. 

Fantastical Explicit Imp - "This box contains stuff that belonged to my grandfather. This record was his favorite. Sometimes when I play it weird things happen." You play the record and one of the items you dumped from the box—let's say, a bottle cap—flies across the table. 

The Imp is playing the record. It's an Explicit Imp because you're saying playing the record will cause some phenomenon to happen. It's a Fantastical Explicit Imp because you're dealing with a cause and effect that is profoundly unbelievable. But even though it's still a mysterious/weird cause and effect, it's one that's easy to understand. It's not arbitrary. You play your grandfather's favorite record and his spirit or energy causes something else of his to move. That "story" makes sense.

Believable Explicit Imp - These are things like hypnosis, influence, and reading body language cues. An effect that uses a BEI can still have a climax that feels magical and unreal, it's just that the connection between the impetus and the effect isn't inherently unbelievable. 

I like both these styles. FEIs are like little immersive Twilight Zone moments. BEIs are like a vignette from Mr. Wizard but with an amped up ending.

I'll leave you with this.

The effect is Gemini Twins.

White noise is the Imp.

"Believable Explicit" is the style of Imp.

The effect is...

Tiki and Ronde

You spread a deck of cards face up on the table.

"Have you heard of black noise?" you ask.

"Let me find some on youtube." You open your laptop and start playing something. Your screen is turned away from your spectator. It sounds like static-y fuzz.

"You've heard of white noise, right? And you may have heard of other variations of it, like brown noise or pink noise. They're supposed to have different effects on you in regards to things like relaxation and concentration."

"Well, black noise is this relatively new thing they've discovered. I don't know what it is. Like a new wavelength or something? And it's supposed to affect areas of the brain in regards to perception and suggestibility. Can we try something weird?"

You scoop up the deck and remove the jokers from the bottom. Your spectator deals through the deck, stopping twice whenever she wants to place the jokers face-up into the deck. When she's done you ask her to hold onto the deck.

"That was a free choice? Where you put the jokers, I mean. You just went off instinct?"

"And when I had the deck spread face-up on the table when we started, you didn't, like, consciously memorize the order or anything like that, right?"

She agrees.

"Okay... let's see what happened," you say.

You tell her to turn the laptop towards herself.

She does and she finds that it's not precisely what she thought. It's not a single youtube video. It's actually a site that is playing two videos simultaneously. The one labelled "Black Noise" is playing loudly. The volume on the other one is turned down very low. The title on that video is, "Card Station, Pinedale, Wyoming 5/8/73."

"Have you heard of Card Stations?" you ask. "So, in like the late 60s and early 70s there was this thing where people would find these small radio towers in really remote areas of the U.S. and they were broadcasting these strange messages on a loop. And they were called Card Stations because they were broadcasting what sounded like instructions for card games or something like that. It might say something like, 'Discard the Ace of Spade and keep the Queen of Hearts.' And it would just say that message over and over."

"At first they thought it was some Soviet spy thing. Like the cards were coded messages or something. But no one could ever explain how these things could had popped up all over and then gone on undetected for years. In one case a broadcast was first heard in the mid 60s, but the tower broadcasting it wasn't located for another 25 years. It's really strange stuff. I think eventually the government decided it was some weird, elaborate hoax. Or, at least, that was what they were willing to say on the record. Some people, of course, said it was some kind of government testing or even aliens I have no clue what it was."

"But that black noise we were listening to was actually first identified in the gaps of one of the recordings made of the Card Stations, so people have been playing around with the idea that they're connected and a lot of people have tried experiments like this and have had some weird results."

"Turn down the black noise and turn up the audio on the card station video."

She does and you both hear some garbled audio. You listen a few times and figure out it says, "Place the first joker next to the nine of hearts. Place the second joker next to the two of spades."

"Let's see," you say. You have her spread the cards face down on the table. You slide out the face-up jokers and the cards adjacent to them.

"Place the first joker next to the nine of hearts," the strange voice sputters. You turn over the first card, it's the nine of hearts.

"Place the second joker next to the two of spades," the recording says. You turn over the second card, it's the two of spades.

You can find the site with the two videos playing simultaneously here. You may want to mute your computer until you see that both are playing in case the Card Stations video starts first.

I've obviously made the backstory on this more byzantine than necessary. You could make it just about the black noise and have the other video be some normal testing audio without the weird Card Stations back story. I just like it if the whole thing has a stranger origin than being "just" about the white (black) noise. You want something more "normal" go make it yourself, you lazy bitch.

Let's see... I've offered some theory, threw in some ejaculation-related gifs, wrote up a fun trick, and insulted my readers. It's another classic Jerx post. See you next week.

Two

second-birthday-vintage-wall-art-14_1.jpg

Look who's a big boy! 

Today this site turns two. 

What are the milestones for a two-year-old? I looked them up, here's what it says:

At Two Years Old
All children develop at different speeds, but here’s a guide to the exciting things your child might be doing around now:

  • Riding a scooter or tricycle
  • Saying three word sentences or more
  • Dressing themselves with easy clothes
  • Singing to themselves
  • Being clingy one minute and fiercely independent the next.

This fucking sounds just like me. I say three word sentences "or more" all the time! (I guess that's true of most people.) And yeah, I did have to call 911 after getting tangled up in my pants. But when it comes to dressing myself in "easy" clothes, I feel I pretty much have that mastered.

So I'm glad to hear I'm on track. And I'm happy that it doesn't say anything about not pooping my pants at this stage. I gots to keep poopin' those trousers, baby! It's the only time I feel alive.

So what does the future hold for this site? Well... it's definitely going to continue on through 2017 and then we'll see what happens. I have the content to keep it going for quite a while, and it will likely continue in some way as long as there is an audience willing to support it.

As I wrote in my post after the one-year anniversary of this site:

[M]y plan is just to continue the trajectory we've established here. Continue talking about magic, posting routines and ideas, theory and criticism, jokes and bullshit. And, from time to time, post about larger topics as well, including thoughts on crafting experiences; creating long-lasting memories; the value of surprise; and using magic to cause happenings, capture moments, and bring you and the people you perform for closer together (as opposed to the all-too-common view of magic as an art that engenders a greater divide between performer and audience).

And I want this site to continue to be an example of a way of life that I advocate. It's a benign style of hedonism that values day-to-day happiness and small pleasures above all else -- not just appreciating these things, but investing energy into cultivating them. Here it's demonstrated via my relationship to magic and the people I perform for. But that is just one example of a larger philosophy that I espouse.

And that continues to be the plan.

No ad tomorrow. 

See you Friday.

Make a wish.

 

 

Jerx Deck Update

The last time I mentioned the forthcoming Jerx deck (that goes to JAMM subscribers with a paid annual subscription at the end of this year), I said that due to mandatory printing minimums I may end up having to order many more decks than I need. And if that's the case I'm going to take the excess decks and burn them in a bonfire on the beach.

I received feedback from a few people suggesting I should sell the decks instead. "You can charge a premium for them because they're so limited. That's got to be better financially for you than burning them," M.I. wrote.

Yes, I get that, but there are a couple reasons that option isn't on the table.

1. My goal with the things I sell is never to maximize profits. It's to maximize exclusivity to the people who see this site as worth supporting. I've stated many times the only way to get the deck is with a year's subscription, and I'm pretty adamant about sticking to my word on these sorts of things. 

2. Every extra deck that's out there floating around makes the decks that are subscriber bonuses a little less valuable. Maybe not in any quantifiable way, monetarily. But just... uhm... spiritually. Or something. I'm very satisfied with the idea that each deck out in the world is a 1:1 representation of an individual supporting this site. 

But all that being said, I am going to make the extra decks available for sale. At least some of them.

They will be $125 a piece.

Wait... Andy... that's five dollars more than the cost of purchasing the full first year of The JAMM, which gets you the deck for free.

I know! Look, I didn't say it was a good buy, I just said it would be available. 

Some people have said they'd like to get an additional deck because they like to open one and keep the other sealed. Well... I'm afraid you're going to have the least consequential dilemma of your life in front of you... whether to open the deck or not. Or, I will offer one additional feature free to subscribers...

The Jerx Deck Schrödinger's Deck Option

If you'd like. I will either unwrap or leave sealed your Jerx deck. Then I will seal it in an opaque envelope. As long as you don't open it you will forever have both a sealed and unsealed deck in your possession.

Show Notes: Verso by Helder Guimaraes

In the past six months I've seen three magic shows in New York City. That is, three full length magic shows in an actual theater. That's more than I saw in my previous 15 years in the city combined. This is due to a few factors. The first is that I can't remember a time when there were three large-scale magic shows in NYC in such a short period of time. The second is that since I no longer live in NYC full time, but still like to get back there when I can, the presence of a show gives me a specific time-sensitive reason to go back. And the last reason is because I'm writing this site so it feels like I should be following the magic zeitgeist to a certain extent.

In the coming weeks I'll be writing some thoughts on the shows I saw (and one I'll be seeing soon, David Blaine). These aren't really reviews I just want to talk about the shows and any takeaways that might inform my performances in the future.

Helder Guimaraes

I saw Helder's show, Verso, at New World Stages in November. I have very little positive to say about the show. But, at the same time, I don't have much negative to say about the show either. I genuinely don't remember much about the show at all. 

Here's what I do remember:

1. It was too long. It should have been half the length with no intermission. Very few magic shows warrant a 2 hour running time. 

2. I remember being fooled a few times during the show.

3. I remember something to do with little envelopes on the wall, maybe?

4. I remember a trick where a bunch of people in the audience had picked a card from a deck that was being passed around (I think) and he was able to name the cards. I remember this because the girl in front of me who was there with her dad had her card named and was very excited about it.

5. I remember him, more than once, reiterating one of my least favorite presentational conceits, and that's when people say something like, "I want you to remember when you see magic that anything is possible!" Or words to that effect.

I think magicians vastly overestimate how "inspiring" a magic trick is. You're doing tricks and the audience knows you're doing tricks. It's completely nonsensical and illogical to hold up your dumb tricks as evidence that anything is possible, because your tricks aren't real. It would be like taking a picture of your doughy body, then using photoshop to trim off the pounds and make it look like you're in shape, and then turning to someone standing next to you, showing them the manipulated image and saying, "I hope this physical transformation reminds you to take your health seriously and realize that getting in shape is possible." 

It's such a goofy message that it would be almost comical if that was your intention. If you have someone going through a tough time, you could make them laugh by doing some dumb card trick and saying, "I hope you now realize that anything is possible if you put your mind to it."

I genuinely have no real recollection of the show beyond that. I asked my friend who went with me what he remembered and he said, "He threw a sock monkey into the audience a bunch of times and he yelled a lot." 

That's probably not quite the lasting memory Helder was hoping to impart.

You might say, "Who are you to critique the show? Have you ever had your own off-Broadway magic show?"

No, but I have worked and performed in other types of shows. Just last month someone emailed me to tell me they were thinking about something I wrote 20 years ago. It was a sketch that was based on Summer Nights from the movie/musical Grease. Except, in this version, Danny didn't go to the beach for the summer, he went to work on his uncle's farm. So instead of the song being split up between guys and girls, it's split up between guys on one side of the stage and cows (well, people in cow costumes) on the other. And it becomes clear during the course of the sketch/song that Danny fucked one of these cows while on summer break. And the song had all the energy and choreography of the original, but the cows only ever said "moo." So it would be like:

Boys: "Tell me more! Tell me more! Did you get very far?"

Cows: "Moo moo moooo! Moo moo mooooo! Moo moo moo moo moo moo?"

So yeah, you could say I'm pretty much a genius of theatrical stage-craft.

Ok, it's a fair point. I haven't put on a full length magic show. I'm certainly not suggesting I could perform a better show. I could, however, write a better show. Probably in a weekend. As far as I could tell there was no real effort put into the writing of the show. It was just a bunch of tricks strung together. And that's probably the reason why I can't remember anything about it. I'm sure if I saw it again I'd think, "Oh yeah, I remember that trick." But the lack of a grander structure made the show kind of forgetful. 

That was my takeaway from Helder's show. I think at the most basic level, we might define a successful magic show as a series of tricks that fools the audience. But, if there is no resonance to the effects, I'm not sure we can consider that a success. Long ago I realized I had more than enough tricks that fooled people. But being fooled fades. And this blog has been, in part, an exploration on ways of making that magic feeling last longer than just the initial "surprise" moment. (In the same way that a horror movie with a lot of things jumping out at you might scare you in the moment, but a creepier, more subtle horror movie—one that might not have you jumping as much—might frighten you for years to come as you think about it when you're home alone.) Helder's show reminds me that I don't just want strong magic moments, I want long-lasting ones.

The Pulp Fringe-Imp

Recently, I've been thinking about the causes of magical effects. That is, the impetus behind what actually is producing that effect in the moment. This goes back to my anti-snapping post

I wrote in that post:

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 happen.

For the past few weeks I've been toying with this idea of putting the focus on the impetus (and not the effect) and have had pretty remarkable results from it.

I've been brainstorming and testing out a lot of different impetuses. And because "impetuses" doesn't really roll off the tongue, I'll refer to these as "imps." Which is some Max Maven-level wordplay because imps historically have been a motivating force behind magic.

So an "Imp" is something you do to make the magic happen. 

A snap is an Imp, because it's the impetus behind the magic. "This card will rise to the top when I snap my fingers." It's just a hackneyed an uncreative impetus.

The Five Movements I wrote about in this post would be another Imp. "The magic happens when I do the five movements." That would be another physical impetus (like snapping) but one that has some element of mystery to it. 

Using a magic word is a verbal impetus. Doing a half-mumbled verbal incantation might be a more interesting and mysterious verbal impetus.

If you're stuck on a presentation for an effect, I recommend you think instead about the impetus for the effect. Let's consider an example. 

You have an effect. Let's say it's a ball that changes color and then grows in size. 

The magician-centric presentation is, "Here is a ball. When I snap my fingers it will change color. When I say the magic word it will grow in size." The focus is on you and some half-hearted meaningless imps. 

However, you're a more evolved magician now, so you think I'm going to give this a presentation that truly connects with people. But you're stuck... what's it going to be about? Maybe the ball represents something? Something that changes and grows? Cancer? Aw fuck, that's a terrible subject to build a trick around. Hmmm... maybe something about how we can all change and grow... something inspirational? Would something like that come off as anything other than trite garbage?

Stop.

Thinking directly about the effect and trying to come up with a presentation that maps on top of the effect is probably not the best option. 

Instead think in terms of impetus. The ball changes color and grows when...what? Maybe the ball changes color and grows when your spectator smells the scent of some black tulips you have in a vase on your counter. What might that be like? Your friend comes over, notices the flowers and comments on how strange they are. "Smell them," you say. She does and you give her a half smile. "Notice anything?" you ask. She looks at you quizzically. You look around the room for a bit. "Let me grab something," you say and pick up a ball from your kid's toys. You wave the ball slowly back and forth. "Anything unusual happening?" you ask again. She starts to say no, but then the ball changes color and a moment after that it grows in size.

"Don't worry," you say, "the tulips have a mild-hallucinogenic effect. But it only lasts a few seconds." And you toss the ball back in the toy chest.

Putting your effort into creating an interesting impetus for a trick is a short-cut towards creating unique experiences for your audience.

I think every amateur magician who actually performs frequently for people in their life has noticed the diminishing reactions their effects get over time. And that's because, often, our tricks deliver the same experience time after time. "He read my mind to know what picture I drew." "He read my mind to know what word I was thinking." "He read my mind to know what the code to my phone was." That's all pretty much the same thing to a person. We think it's different because we're fascinated by magic so we notice the subtleties, but to the layperson these are all nearly identical experiences. You can watch someone paint a mountain or a river or a forest, and those are all the same experience for you despite the different subject matter unless you yourself are enamored with painting. 

The best way I've found to prevent the diminishing reactions is to differentiate the experiences. And the best way I've found to differentiate these experiences is to differentiate the impetuses for the effects. 

This is a subject that genuinely fascinates me. I have a document with over 60 Imps on it right now in all sorts of different categories. (Physical Imps, Verbal Imps, Procedural Imps, Sense Imps, Mystery Imps, among others). And I've been performing as much as I can recently to try out some of them and it's been pretty amazing. Tricks that I formerly had no real presentation for—ones that I would just use the Peek Backstage style for—have new life in them when prefaced with an intriguing or mysterious imp.

That being said, I also realize this is probably of limited interest to a lot of you, so I'll try not to get too swept up in writing these things up for the site.

But I want to leave you with one of my favorite imps that I've been using whenever I can.

The Pulp Fringe-Imp

Think of all the self-working or mostly self-working card tricks that have been released in recent years—entire DVD sets devoted to these types of tricks. Pick any one you like. Ideally one with a lot of dealing and counting and other process, but one that still has an impressive outcome. The type of trick that often people think isn't "commercial" enough to perform for real people. 

I've been using this a lot with John Bannon's Collusion. In that trick I would have you and your friend each deal down any number of cards you want in the deck to select any random cards, those random cards are used to create another card, and then the free numbers you chose are used to find the card we just created.

The Pulp Fringe-Imp is a way of taking effects like these, that often come off as procedural puzzles, and turning them into genuine mysteries.

Here's how it works.

I come into the room with a deck of cards and a small suitcase. I open the suitcase and a light from inside illuminates my face.

I have you go through the processes of the trick as I would normally, but as you do I am tapping and clicking on something inside the valise. When you deal down to your freely chosen number I do something in the suitcase (and when your friend does as well). Then when the random card is created I do something else in there. When you both name your numbers for the first time I do one final thing. Then I close up the suitcase, lock it, clap my hands together and say, "Okay, we're all set," and go onto the climax of the trick. 

I never show you what's in the suitcase. I never say what's in it. I don't bring it up again. And I certainly don't suggest anything about how what I could be doing in there could affect the deck of cards and the actions that are going on with us. 

This is a Mystery Imp. There is no straight-line explanation between what you're doing and what happens, but that's what makes it so intriguing.

As the name implies this was inspired by both Pulp Fiction (the glowing briefcase) and the show Fringe (where a typewriter was used to communicate with... aliens (?) I think, I don't really remember the details).

If you look in my suitcase I have two dollar store lights that I turn on before I enter the room and an old dial typewriter from the 1940s. It provide a great mysterious ratcheting and clacking noise, but you could have anything in there that makes some not clearly identifiable sound. I also have a wind-up Peepers Binoculars in there, just for the hell of it. Nobody ever sees what's inside. (My plan is to make a more portable version of this with a small pencil-box-sized box as well.)

The effect of this is very different than just doing the trick itself. In essence you're layering a mystery on top of a mystery. Not only, "How did he do that trick?" but also, "What's in the suitcase?" and, "How did whatever was happening in the suitcase—how could whatever was happening in the suitcaseaffect what we were doing out here?" This is a related concept to The Gloaming and other things I've written about here.

Essentially it's about deepening the mystery. That sounds like a pretty abstract concept: "deepening the mystery." But here I'm suggesting a very practical method to do that by literally adding layers to the presentation. The impetus of the effect is usually a layer that is ignored or just given lip-service by magicians. "I wave my wand and magic happens, or whatever, who gives a shit." But it's the sort of thing that can be very compelling and really elevate the effect for the people you perform for.

With the GLOMM, Magic Always Comes First

A lot of people are crediting the creation of The GLOMM with a precipitous fall in the number of stories of magicians diddling kids recently.

The GLOMM, as you may know, is the world's largest magic organization. Everyone with an interest in magic or mentalism is a member, unless you're a sexual predator or just a general piece of human garbage.

Surprisingly, other magic organizations don't have these requirements. If you're Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, and you want to join the IBM or the SAM, hey no-problemo! Just pay your dues. You want to expose yourself to a group of second graders on a field-trip to the petting zoo? That's fine by them. Just don't expose the glide to a non-magician. That might get you kicked out. That's where their priorities are.

With The GLOMM, there are no membership dues. Just be a dear and don't sodomize the birthday boy with a mop handle when his mom's not around, okay? Thanks. You're a gem.

If you'd like to up your membership level to elite status, you can purchase the elite membership kit here. That comes with the grey elite member shirt, membership card, and enamel pin.

The Secret Hyper-Elite Platinum Membership level shirt (the red one) is now sold out completely and will not be reprinted. (There may be a future SHEP Membership shirt for 2017, but it will be completely different.)