Jerx Deck Update

Those who have purchased (or will purchase) the full Volume One of the JAMM will be receiving their Jerx Deck of playing cards by the end of this year. (Well, that's what I'm shooting for. But since this isn't something that's 100% in my control, I can only say that that's the estimated date. I'll let you know if that changes.)

It looks like we're going to be working with Expert Playing Card Company on this. They have graciously lowered their minimum order so I'm not stuck with 100s of extra decks.

It's funny to me to look online and see people talking about decks where "only 10,000 decks" were made. That seems like a shit-ton of decks to me. There will only be a tiny fraction of that number of Jerx Decks produced. And while I may do other decks in the future, they will be completely different than this one, so this is likely to be one of the rarest decks in your collection. 

It's not going to be a "funny" deck. It's going to have a simple esthetic that matches this site and JV1. (I do have a "funny" deck in mind for the future. Well, a deck that does something funny. And by funny, I mean stupid. We'll see if that comes to fruition.)

Not in the immediate future, but eventually, this deck won't be available as a bonus, so if it's something you're interested in, make sure you're subscribed to the JAMM.

And here's a sneak peek at next year's bonus deck. 




Gardyloo #34

Saw this on the Magic Cafe:

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Thank you, The Duster, for giving me this chance to address this completely genuine, totally real feud I have with Joshua Jay. The "back story" is too long to get into. Josh and I have been friends since we were children. And, in the magic world, we've always kind of been like the Beatles and the Beach Boys, pushing each other artistically. Actually, it was more like I was the Beatles and Josh was the Dave Clark Five. But let's not get hung up on the analogy.

Again, there are far too many stories to get into in one blog post. Suffice it to say we've had a bit of a rocky relationship and there have been a series of incidents that have caused a lot of tension between Josh and I. 

I remember a few years back, Mark Elsdon came out with a trick called iBalance, where you balance a phone on your fingertips.

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Here is the quote from Josh that was used in the advertising for iBalance.

"iBalance is, I think, one of the all-time best effects with a phone. Unlike magic with apps, it doesn't just look like technology. iBalance looks like REAL MAGIC. Best of all, it will never become obsolete as phones improve. This one is going into my daily repertoire." -Joshua Jay

Now, here's the thing, I'm a smart guy, so after I read that endorsement, I did something smart. I cleared out my bank account and bought $46,000 worth of iBalances. I figured Josh knew what he's talking about. 

Now, I don't want to say too much, but iBalance utilizes the headphone jack in its methodology.

"Best of all, it will never become obsolete as phones improve." - Joshua Jay

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"Best of all, it will never become obsolete as phones improve." - Joshua Jay

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"Best of all, it will never become obsolete as phones improve." - Joshua Jay

Thanks A LOT, NostraDUMBASS.

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A reader directed me to this on the Cafe...

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Sure, stupid, I can explain it for you.

You see, I was talking about ways for Jerx readers to secretly identify themselves to each other at magic conventions. And I had offered them a way to do so by humming a tune. This would be a fairly subtle way to covertly signal to someone that you read this site.

Now, strap in, because here is where it apparently got too complicated for you. Then I said, if you can't do this subtle thing, the alternative is to do this wildly egregious and crass thing where you suggest you've researched the holocaust and believe it never happened. The joke is that the alternative I provide is so wildly disparate from my original suggestion. And that someone would be willing to come out as a holocaust denier to secretly let people know they read a magic blog. And, by extension, that multiple people at a convention would be making this same insane statement. You couldn't figure that out? You needed to crowdsource an interpretation?

Next time, if you don't understand something, it's probably not a great idea to say it's in "bad taste." Passing judgment on things you don't understand is not a great look for you. It would be like saying:

Maybe someone can explain the "math" in this calculus textbook to me, because I don't understand it, and frankly I think it's a bunch of horseshit.

Another gem I found on the Magic Transcribed twitter.

Okay, sure, I know the consensus would say you have to be straight-up braindead to ask that question. But someday, someday, he's going to ask that and the person is going to say "No" and then they're going to follow that up with what I can only imagine will be the most interesting story ever told. And that story would have gone untold if he had never asked that "stupid" question.

In my opinion, we don't dig enough with these sorts of questions. In fact, these days, before I have someone sign a card, I ask, "Are you aware of, uhm... do you know your first name?"

The Mind of Danny


I want to tell you about a new resource I've created, well, for myself, really, but you can use it too. 

You see, for a while now I've been getting into effects by talking about "something I read" or "something I saw online." This is a pretty natural way to get into discussing anything unusual or interesting that might provide the premise for a trick.

But, I thought, it would be so much better if I could actually be reading a site and say, "Oh, this is interesting," or if I could pull up a page online so I could reference the article I read about some breathing technique that increases intuition three-fold, or whatever.

In the past I've used a site called Pen.Io which allows you to create quick one-page websites when I wanted to reference something online that wasn't actually something that was online. But it doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. It looks like something that was just thrown together. 

So I knew I should probably make a website. One that looked just like some random person's blog. One that covered "interesting" stuff, so I could put pretty much anything on there and it wouldn't seem out of place. One that would seem legit if someone were to take a look at my iPad and scroll around, or even if they remembered the site's name and went so far as to check it out later on. 

So I created a blog for this guy named Danny who likes to write about interesting things. You can find it here. I'm not going to have too many links to that site on this one, just to keep the sites fairly separated from anyone doing a search online (not that I expect anyone to start trying to track this stuff down, but there's no need to make the connection too obvious. When I reference the site in the future, it will go to this post and you can follow from this post to the site itself.)

Here's an example of how I'll use the site. One of the tricks I've had a lot of fun performing that's buried in this blog is called Tiki and Ronde. You can read it here. Now, instead of just bringing up the subject out of the blue, I can act like I'm reading about it in real time while hanging out with someone. Or I can say, "I read about this thing the other day... wait... let me see if I can find it again." Then I bring it up on my phone, kind of scan through it real quickly, showing it briefly to my friend, then transitioning into the trick. In this case I'd show them the article about these shortwave radio stations that were broadcasting playing card values in the 60s and 70s. Then I'd say I looked a little bit further into it and there's this thing I want to try. (The post on DMB that goes with Tiki and Ronde is the first post on 9/11/17). 

It may not seem like much of a big deal that, instead of saying, "I heard about this thing I want to try," I can say, "I heard about this thing... give me a sec...let me bring it up... oh yeah, here it is. I want to try it with you." But I've found that when I can reference something that seems to exist outside of me and the person I'm performing for, I can generate a different level of interest, and it just seems more natural. This is how people actually introduce weird ideas and intriguing concepts to people in the real world. They say, "Check out this thing I read." They don't usually just start spouting out, "In 1852 the government of Paraguay was dealing with a thorny issue. How to get rid of a weasel epidemic. One man stepped forward with an interesting solution. He'll be represented by this king of spades...."

I'm not suggesting you make someone read what's posted there (unless that's part of the effect), but even if it's just something you have up on your laptop and you only acknowledge in passing ("hey, I want to see if this thing works," nodding towards the screen), I find it can add a different layer to the interaction. And it makes it super easy to transition into an effect if you have something in the environment (like this site) to build off of, rather than just introducing something out of nowhere.

It might seem like I'm putting too much effort into this. Why not just do the trick? Certainly you don't need to invest the energy to give the trick a context. No. You don't. You also don't have to do a good double lift. You can do a shitty one. What I've found is that giving short shrift to either of these sorts of things weakens the experience. Context gives an effect some roots. 

Now, the nice thing about the blog is that it's not going to be a bunch of posts about made-up shit. Those posts are going to be dispersed amongst a bunch of posts about actual weird or interesting concepts. That part of the blog is being handled by friend of the site, Joe Mckay. He has a natural interest in those sorts of things and I knew he'd be able to pump that stuff out rather easily. So if someone were to give the site a closer look it would seem pretty genuine, because, for the most part, it is. You may find value in those legit posts as well, as far as food for thought presentationally, or just in the general sense of being somewhat interesting. Thanks to Joe for handling the day-to-day running of that site.

I'll let you know when I add something to that site that you might find useful. And if you're a supporter of the Jerx and there's something you'd like to have added to the site, let me know and I'll incorporate it. (But it has to be something that could capture someone's imagination as being potentially possible. I'm not going to add a post like, "Did you know playing cards have personalities?!")

Back in Stock

The Amateur at the Kitchen Table is back in stock. It can be ordered here.

Here is the intro to that book:

Secrets of amateur magic have well been preserved. If we were to list the books that are devoted to the performance of amateur magic—that is, the informal performance of magic in casual, non-professional environments—it would be a short list indeed. In fact, I don’t know of any such book other than this slim volume that you hold in your hands. 

“Ah, but what about The Amateur Magician’s Handbook, by Henry Hay,” you suggest.

You know, one would think that a book called The Amateur Magician’s Handbook would be a good handbook for the study of amateur magic. And yet, it’s not. It’s certainly a great book and has a lot to offer a magician performing in any type of situation, but it does not really tackle the pitfalls and possibilities that are unique to the amateur performer. Quite the opposite, in fact, it talks about working in nightclubs, performing children’s shows, and different ways to get publicity. Did “amateur” used to have a different meaning or something? 

The book is written as if the only reason an amateur would be performing magic is to become a professional magician. And that is, in fact, the differentiation that most magic books seem to make, i.e., the amateur is just a magician who has not yet risen to the level of a professional.

But there are many of us for whom that holds no appeal at all. I would rather disembowel myself with a card sword than perform trade-show magic, for example. That’s nothing against trade-show magic other than to say that the nature of the business does not appeal to me. When it comes to creative endeavors I don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. I don’t even want to do variations on the same thing over and over again. I want to constantly be doing new things, following new paths, and coming up with new ideas. If you want to be a good professional magician, then that can’t be your focus. Your focus needs to be on perfecting a handful of things. Not dicking around with a lot of things. 

What this book presupposes is that the performance of amateur magic is a separate pursuit than performing magic in a professional arena. Amateur magic is not a stepping stone to a professional career. They are two different paths. They are different undertakings with different rules and different end goals. One can pursue both, but they’re not the same. They offer different opportunities and possibilities. And the underlying relationship between the magician and the spectator is different, or at least it should be.

It is also my belief that following the principles of behavior that were established for the professional magician is detrimental to the amateur performer.

How can that be? Certainly holding yourself to a higher standard—a professional standard—could only serve to enhance your performances, right? No. You have to keep in mind that these are different pursuits. You’ve sort of been unintentionally brainwashed into thinking they’re the same thing because every magic book implies they are. 

Imagine every cookbook had been written for someone working in a professional kitchen and not the home cook. And the rules they delineated and the techniques they suggested were all aimed at the professional cook. So you would go to make you and your family macaroni and cheese for dinner and the first ingredient would be “8 gallons of milk.” And you had to stir it with one of those giant metal oars. This would likely not produce the best mac and cheese for your family. Or, at the very least, it would be an uneconomical and inconvenient way to produce such a dish. 

That would, obviously, be a poor way to teach the home-cook. And yet when we talk about magic we tend to only talk about it from a professional’s perspective. Even the creators of magic who are technically amateurs themselves often construct their effects with the professional in mind.

I have only ever been an amateur and have never wanted to perform magic professionally. And that perspective has allowed me to refine my performance of magic and discard the elements of presentation that just don’t apply to the non-pro. This book contains the insights I’ve gathered over the past 20 years performing for co-workers, acquaintances, strangers, friends, family, lovers, and the beautiful waitress who made me the iced chai latte.


On Leading Reactions

If, like me, you enjoy performing effects where you are not claiming to be the prime mover behind making the magic happen, then you need to learn how to properly react to your effects. I see this bungled far too often, and it's something I used to not be very good at myself because it was something I failed to think about.

Then, one night, I was at a bar in NYC and a guy I was there with had one of those pens that tips over after a while. He balanced the pen on the mouth of a beer bottle and said to one of the girls who was with us, "I want you to concentrate and send your energy to that pen." Now, that's fine. It's not some great presentation by any means, and I have my own thoughts on Spectator as Magician/Mentalist that this doesn't really align with, but that's a post for another day. 

So this girl looks at the pen, nothing happens, the guy says "really concentrate," she continues looking and the pen falls. Her mouth drops open and she turns to the guy and he kind of smirks and raises an eyebrow. And her reaction immediately changed. She pointed at him and said in a sing-songy voice, "That's a good one." 

I watched her go from thinking something crazy had just happened to knowing it was a trick, just based on this guy's reaction. Or lack thereof. That's the point: You have to react. 

If you're playing the part of the traditional magician, then feel free to play it cool after the effect. 

But if you're rejecting that role and instead you're showing them some strange object you found, or trying some experiment you read about, or doing something where they are manifesting the power, then you NEED to react, or the whole experience falls apart. Not reacting is just another way of saying, "That was me. I did that. I'm special." If that's your plan, just take credit for it from the beginning. That's a lot less scuzzy than this route which amounts to, "I'm going to put the focus on you [or some external thing] to capture your attention, but then when we're done I'm going to take the credit for it."

Whatever experience you're creating, if you're not taking direct responsibility for it, then it has to move you too. Why would you show someone something if the outcome of that thing had no affect on you?

Yeah, but Andy, why would I have her concentrate on the pen unless I know she would knock it over?

Well, that's the question you have to account for in your presentation. Maybe you have some conceptually intriguing idea behind your presentation. But you don't necessarily need one. It can just be, "Can we try this thing I read about? I've been trying it all day, but it's supposed to work better with someone like you." [Someone younger, older, left-handed, female, male, smarter, dumber, more intuitive, or whatever.]

The thing is, if you just act like you knew she'd be able to knock it over, then you're still playing the role of the magician. Except now your magic power is a stupid one. It's "being able to identify people who can knock over a pen with their mind."

But if the pen falls and you bring the fingers of both hands to your temples and—with your eyes wide—laughingly say, "What. The. Fuuuuuuuu... Are you kidding me?!" you're going to prolong the moment of mystery. Your reaction is a universal rep that you can use for most tricks. 

When your reaction is in harmony with the trick, you extend and amplify the experience of mystery for the spectator. If it's not, you just let them off the hook. 

You may feel uncomfortable because you think I'm suggesting you totally flip out or something. That's not what I'm saying (unless it's the type of trick that causes them to flip out, then I recommend you join in with their reaction). Here is the key regarding how to react. You want to consistently react a little bit stronger than they are. That is what I mean by "leading reactions." You are setting the pace. What I've found, particularly if I'm showing something to someone for the first time, is that people tend to be guarded with their reactions. Even if they see something amazing some people can feel, "Am I stupid for thinking that's amazing." So sometimes it will be your reaction that gives them the permission to lose their shit.

Again, you're meant to be leading. So I imagine it like leading someone on a walk through the woods. If you're behind them they can't follow you at all. If you sprint out way ahead of where they are, you can't guide them. But if you stay a little bit ahead and lead the way, you can show them someplace new and bring them somewhere they may never have gotten to on their own.

Coming in the JAMM #9

October's issue will feature some scary(ish) magic, just in time for halloween. Not like the kind where it's a normal card trick and I place the card in the deck and it comes to the top and OH MY GOD THERE'S A FAKE SPIDER ON YOUR HAND! But more like the creepy or at least headfucky kind. 

Included in this will be an article on The Seance as a performance style, and my favorite way to start a little mini-seance with people (or it could be used as a standalone effect).


You know the drill, if you haven't subscribed yet, you can subscribe to The JAMM here.

The Impromptu Toolkit: Quinta by Phill Smith

My Impromptu Toolkit consists of techniques that I use regularly to create magic on the fly. It differs from my impromptu repertoire, which is made up of specific effects that I can get into in an impromptu fashion. The Toolkit is for the purpose of creating improvised impromptu effects.

Quinta by Phill Smith


Where it's available: You can get the basics of it in his Penguin Live lecture, but I would buy the ebook which is on sale here. There are a lot of great variations and subtleties in the book.

What is it? It's a way of forcing one out of five objects.

What does it look like? In its most basic form you set five objects on a row on the table. You ask for any number between one and a googolplex (theoretically, but I usually stick to 1-100). Then you count back and forth along that the row of items until you get to the named number and it is your force item.

Now, you might say, "Well, that's a needlessly complicated process to choose one item out of five. If you were a real magician (or a real mentalist) you would just have them pick an object, or, at most, name a number 1-5 and immediately count to that number. So this won't look real to your spectator and will seem less impressive."

That sounds right in theory. But I have found the exact opposite is true in practice. 

From my experience performing prediction effects with a small number of items, and talking about those tricks with people after I perform them, I've found that I can't wrestle people away from the notion that they must have just picked the one that was most likely to be picked. "I picked the item on the far right, everyone must go for that." "I chose the stapler, everyone must pick the stapler." "I chose number 2, everyone must choose number 2." 

Now, they don't truly believe everyone makes that choice, but it's enough to believe that whatever they ended up with was significantly more likely to be chosen (for some reason) and that I'm just playing the odds. This is certainly a more rational belief than the idea that I was endowed by god with the ability to predict a one in five choice.

The thing is, even if you mention this to someone, I find that doesn't help that much. What I mean is, if you say, "So you're thinking of one of these objects. Now, maybe everyone tends to think of the same object [or the same number 1-5], so I want you to change your mind a few times if you want and then settle on one the objects, that will be your choice." Even if you give that little speech, it only change their thought process from "I must have picked what everyone picks" to "I must have settled on what everyone settles on." And the only way to show that's not the case is to repeat the trick, but most of these types of tricks aren't designed to be repeated. 

Before Quinta I had pretty much given up on these tricks because I could get such better reactions with other types of effects. But I've gone back to some of these effects with Quinta and have had a lot of success with them. Even though, ultimately, outcome is the same—the outcome is still a matter of 1 in 5—it feels more difficult when you're counting to a randomly chosen number from 1 to 100. And the reason it feels more difficult is because it genuinely would be. If we had 5 items and I asked you to pick one or name a number between 1 and 5, I would have a better than 20% chance of guessing what you picked based on my knowledge of what numbers, positions, or items are more psychologically more likely to be picked. But if you just gave me a number from 1 to 100, it would be much more difficult to predict in advance what object would land at that number.

So, for me, the Quinta process of selecting an item is 100% justified. And I'll even paraphrase what I said above sometimes when presenting it. In other words, I'll say, "If I asked you to choose one of these coins, I might have good chance of knowing which one you'd pick based on where it is in the row or its value. And even by saying that, I might be pushing your towards a less-obvious coin that I want you to pick. To avoid any of that, we're going to do this randomly...."

I often have the number chosen truly randomly, perhaps the first number that pops up on a keno board. Or the last 2 digits of the next license plate that passes by. Or you can say, "I want you to count how many red cars you see on the way to my apartment" and then do it with that number (A great idea used in a different context by Mark Levy).

Or, sometimes I'll give them a free choice of a number. But, as I said, even though the eventual outcome is still 1 in 5, it seems much less likely that I could know what number they would choose, and what object it would lead to, when they have the choice of 1-100. Plus it's just more interesting theatrically, the counting back and forth, rather than just counting from 1 to 5. There's a bit of mystery. Like watching a giant prize wheel spin. Where will it land?

For me, this is a much more straightforward way of getting to a single object than a traditional 5-item equivoque. Just imagine someone coming up to the spectator after a performance and saying, "How was the item chosen?"

"I named a number and we counted to that number to determine the object."

"I pushed two towards him. Then from the three that were left, I picked up two, then I handed him one, and we used that one."

And that's a process some people feel is good equivoque.

Speaking of...the book also contains a technique called Triforce by Seamus Maguire. This is a one in three force that is very good and much better than equivoque when you get down to three items (in my opinion). Go with the advanced handling for it. The basic is too...basic (and transparent, in my mind).

I don't really do "reviews" on this site (I save those for the JAMM) but I definitely recommend picking up Quinta for these reasons:

1. It's one of the most used methods in my impromptu toolkit.
2. I'll be making a pdf available for free to Quinta owners with some small additional ideas. Including a couple deceptions that allow you to be exceedingly fair, to this level of specificity: "You're going to name any number from 10-100, we'll start counting with the first coin on the left-side of the row, '1, 2, 3...' back and forth until we get to your number." It would seem impossible to be more fair than that.
3. A friend of mine has a very tight little triple prediction type effect that I'll be writing up for the JAMM soon. It, in part, relies on Quinta and that won't be explained in the write-up.

I don't know Phill, but I'm a big admirer of his work and I think the book has a lot of great ideas. (I really like the watch idea for choosing a number.) The technique has applications that are much broader than just, "I predicted the one item out of five you would choose." And there are a lot of effects in the book to demonstrate those applications which will get you thinking beyond just the basic usage. 

The good news is, Quinta is really just limited by your own imagination. The bad news is, that's a meaningless statement because so is every other goddamn thing in the entire universe. If you're really dumb you can come up with two ideas for how to use a computer. If you're really creative you can come up with 1000 ways to use a grapefruit spoon. That's the whole relationship between "your imagination" and "things." At some point, at the limit of your imagination, you run out of ideas for everything.