Salvage Yard: Twixter

The phrase "this trick is worse than a botched back-alley abortion" gets thrown around a lot these days. But in this case... well... take a look...

It would be easy for me to say that the idea behind the trick is boneheaded. But that would be a lie because it would imply there's some idea behind the trick. The effect is wholly arbitrary. Usually you want a trick to address some kind of idea or concept that is almost primal in humans. Something we all can relate to. What if I could produce money from nowhere? What if I could make things I didn't like disappear? This effect answers the age-old question, "Does anyone have an idea of what we can do with all these fake Twix bars we have?"

It would also be easy for me to criticize his sleight of hand... because it sucks. It looks like he just learned the slip-force during the introduction to the video itself. And his palm and "color change" look like... I can't even describe it. This is the best take they had? And this is the stuff they kept, you can tell some of the sleights were edited out. If I had a scoop of mashed potatoes in my hand and held my hand over your plate and dropped the mashed potatoes on there, you wouldn't be like, "Where did those potatoes come from?" That's kind of what his sleight-of-hand looks like: someone palming mashed potatoes.

But I won't make fun of him for that, because not being good at sleight of hand is actually a good sign in my book. I mean, it's not what I want from the people I buy tricks from, but just in humans generally, if I have to drive cross-country with someone, give me the person who didn't waste most of his youth learning sleight of hand.

It would also be easy for me to draw your attention to those poor spectators. People who are just a few morse-code blinks away from me believing they are being held at gunpoint to watch this trick. It is almost impossible to get reactions that muted when there's a camera on. I've talked about how inaccurate demo videos are in the past. But usually they're used to make a decent trick look like it's mindblowingIn this case, the trick is so weak that even with the camera there, their responses are painfully indifferent. Like a parent who is focusing 98% of their attention on the newspaper they're trying to read, but still reacting to their kid doing some half-assed somersault for the 50th time. "Yeah. Sure sweetie. That's great."

All of that would be easy for me to do. So easy, in fact, that I could do it while telling you how I'm not going to do it. 

But I don't just want to criticize the guy behind this trick. So he had a bad idea and ran with it... that's alright. I'll take that over someone with a good idea who sits on their ass all day, never doing anything.

Instead, I'm going to try and salvage this turd. (To start, the trick might be better if you said, "I carry around two turds up my sleeve.")

When I see something that I think is particularly not good, I try and come up with some sort of context I might perform it in. I don't know if I've succeeded with this, but I gave it a shot. It's a good exercise to challenge your creativity if nothing else. 

The big question with this trick is Why?

Why do you have candy bars up your sleeves?

Why does the card disappear?

Why does the name of the card appear on the candy bar?

Why would you think anyone would want to play a game for a candy bar you had up your fucking sleeve?

Nobody knows. The only answer is, "Well, that's how the trick goes." 

Here is how I would perform this trick. Like, if someone had abducted someone I care about and they said I had to perform this trick if I ever wanted to see them again.

I'd approach the table and with perfect elocution and with that cocky fake-magician personality I'd day, "Good evening, everyone. My name is Andy the Magnificent. And I am here tonight to dazzle the eyes, and tickle the mind."

As everyone is thinking, Oh, this is gonna suck. I'd pull up a chair. 

"How does that sound?" I'd ask. "Do you like magic twicks?"

I'd then suddenly deflate. I'd drop all pretense and start acting like a real human for a moment. I'd let out a long sigh.

"Oh wow. I haven't said that in forever. Wow.... Hey, sorry. I'll get back to all that in a second. Can I tell you guys something? You seem like good people. I feel I can open up to you." 

I wouldn't say what follows as a joke, per se. But there's a way to speak with such sincerity about something stupid, that it's obvious your goofing around. That's how I would deliver the following monologue.

"I used to have a pretty bad speech impediment. I've worked really hard to lose it but it still creeps up from time to time. Saying twicks instead of tricks brings up a painful memory."

"You see, this one time, in fourth grade I was trying to impress this girl I liked, Tracy Connelly, with a magic trick. I had practiced for weeks. I was a shy kid because of my speech impediment, but I was determined to make my move on her."

"So one day I worked up the nerve and asked her if I could show her some magic. I did the the tw—the TRick—for her and she was really impressed. I remember her clapping her little hands together in delight. A bunch of other kids from school had gathered around and they were pretty impressed too. I wanted to say something charming so I leaned in and said, 'Just let me know if you'd like to see something else sometime. I have a lot of twicks up my sleeve.' And with that, the spell was broken, everyone just started laughing and pointing and I had to run home to keep from crying."

"But I had a plan to salvage things."

"The next day I came to school and Brian Couch said, 'Hey Andy, still got those twicks up your sleeve?' And everyone started laughing again. But I played it cool. I was just like. 'Yeah, of course I have them up my sleeve. I always do. That's my thing. You didn't know that?' And with that I pulled up my sleeves and showed them two Twix candy bars up my sleeves.  And then I turned the tables on Brian. I was like, 'Oh, did you think I mispronounced something? Oh my god. You're an idiot. Putting Twix up your sleeves is something my brother in college says everyone is doing. All the cool people at least.'"

"But to keep the ruse up, and to make sure I'd have something to fall back on if I made the mistake again, I had to keep Twix candy bars up my sleeves throughout the rest of my schooling. Up through high school and on through college. Even today I still have them there."

I roll up my sleeves and show the Twix bars. My forearms have gross smears of chocolate on them, and are tinted brown underneath from years of sleeved Twix bars.

"I actually came up with a trick to do with them, to help justify why I had them on me, want to see it?"

I would then force the two of hearts on someone. But a good force. Not like the one in the video. 

I would take the two and place it on the deck. I'd do an Erdnase color change for a blank card with a chocolate-y brown smear mark on it. "Damn," I'd say. "I was trying to make your card and the Twix bar change places. But I don't think I got all of it. Just the 2 and the hearts on your cards switched places with some of the chocolate from the Twix. No... for real." I'd then pick up the Twix, look it over, then notice where the 2 of Hearts was on the bottom. 

Ta-dumb! 

I mean... ta-daa!

"That's actually the trick I performed for that girl Tracy on the night I proposed to her many years later, and we're now happily married. Want to see a picture of her?"

When they say yes, I would reach into my pocket and pull out a picture that is covered in smeared, dried chocolate, to the point where you can't even make out what it's supposed to be. 

"Yes. She's my soulmate," I'd say.

Then I'd turn the photo over and on the back, written in pen, it would say:

Andy
+
Twacy
2014

"I also have a writing impediment."


It's still not a good trick, of course. But with a solid force it could maybe be a fooling one. And my presentation is about making the whole thing much dumber. This is a dumb trick. But he performs it almost as if it's not dumb. He performs it as if making a cad appear on the bottom of a Twix is cool or logical. You can't do that. Your only chance of getting away with performing a stupid trick is to make it much, much stupider. 

Bedrock: Outer Game

What follows is the general progression I take when first meeting someone to get them accustomed to, and then hyped for, more immersive presentations in magic. This is not set in stone, and it's not always the same, but it will give you some idea of how I build up some of the styles and techniques I've written about here.

This is not something that happens in one night. It happens over a number of days, if not over weeks or months. And this is just what I've found works for me and the style I'm trying to gear them towards.  This little algorithm of steps may not work for your style or your goals.

I'm going to provide you the general steps I follow and then give you a specific example from the last time I went through this process a couple months ago. This process is something you will use on people who are likely to be in your life long-term (new friends, co-workers, etc.) You're grooming them. Yes, like a sex predator with his favorite cub scout, you're systematically introducing new ideas and activities to people, a little at a time, until they've bought into your world. But you're a good kind of predator. You're only going to fuck their mind.

Step One

The last thing I want to do is say, "Hey, I do magic... want to see a trick?"  I think that goes along with people's worst instincts about magicians: that they're weird show-offs. Instead I want it to seem like I never would have mentioned it if they hadn't brought it up. I have a bunch of these techniques that I call "hooks" that I'll get into in the future. I would also recommend the essay, "She's Gotta Have It," in the JAMM #1 for some more of these techniques. 

So step one is to set out a hook. Properly done—with a person who has a modicum of interest in talking to you—you can almost always use some sort of hook to have them seemingly guide the conversation to magic.

Most Recent Example

I was at a cafe talking with a girl on one of the couches. I was wearing my GLOMM Elite membership shirt, which is a much-used "hook" for me.

At one point she pointed to my shirt and said, "I like your bunny."

"I like your pussy," I said, pointing at her crotch.

No. I'm kidding. That's not how it went.

She said, "I like your bunny," and I said, "Oh, thanks." 

"What is that shirt? Is that a real thing or...."

"Oh yeah. It's the Global League of Magicians and Mentalists. It's the largest magic organization in the word. I'm a member. Well... everyone who's into magic who isn't a sex offender is a member. So I'm in."

"Is it... like, a joke?" she asked. 

"No. No joke. I'm really not a sex offender. Oh... the shirt. Uhm... no, it's not really a joke."

"So you do magic?"

Boom. And now we're talking about magic. And she brought it up. Yes, the shirt is obviously a big invitation, but it's an unobtrusive one.

Step Two

I don't want the idea of me in a top hat and a cape shoving bunnies into boxes to be an image that hardens in the cement of people's minds once they learn I do magic. So I try to disrupt that thought but still keep expectations somewhat low.

Example

She asks if I do magic. 

I say: "Like tricks? Uhm... yeah. When I was a kid I used to be really into it. I still do some stuff now but it's probably not what you're thinking. Similar concepts but just... different."

This is all just nonsense. I just want their understanding of what I do to be a little nebulous. I found if I just answered the question, "Do you do magic?" with a "yes," sometimes I would get the sense that they were like, "Oh. I know what that is. I don't really like that." So now I try and keep it a little vague.

This almost universally gets them to ask me to show them something. Again, this all feels like their idea.

Step Three

"Can I see something?" the person asks.

"Oh, yeah sure," I say. "Uhm... yeah...actually there's something I've been working on that I could use your help with."

This is classic Peek Backstage technique. By saying it's "something you're working on" you've eliminated any potential weirdness of you as "the Magician." This is just a work in progress that they're helping out with.

Now the first trick you show them should be something simple and direct. My go-to, if there's a deck of cards, is The 10% Peek (which was a GLOMM Elite bonus pdf. Essentially it's just an ultra invisible peek of a card the spectator has looked at.) 

Example

Most recently my opening trick was a two-coin, coins across with quarters. 

Step Four

The next trick I perform for the person (often days later) is done in the Peek Backstage style as well. But this time I say, "Oh, can I try something with you? You'd be perfect for this." 

This is subtle, but when you tell someone "you'd be perfect for this," you're not only telling them something that feels somewhat complimentary, but you're also planting a seed. And that seed is that these things you're showing them are not just things you could do for anyone at anytime. This is something that's going to work well now because, YOU specifically are here with me. It's not just something that happens automatically. (This is the first step in messing with their understanding of how magic tricks work.)

But what do you do if they ask what you mean when you say they'd be "perfect" for it?

I say something like, "I think you have the right energy. And you strike me as perceptive and imaginative, which is, like, the ideal person for this sort of thing." 

This is kind of meaningless, yes. But it's positive. And I have no issue with meaningless positivity. 

Example

My 2nd trick, most recently was the 10% Peek mentioned above.

Steps Five and Six

At this stage I like to do a couple of tricks in the Distracted Artist style. That is, tricks that are seemingly happening without me intending them to. 

This further screws with their concept of how tricks work. Notice I'm not trying to convince them it's not a trick. I'm just trying to play with their notion of the nature of magic methods. Could you have spent so much time practicing vanishing a coin in your youth that now you sometimes accidentally vanish a coin? That doesn't seem likely with most people's understanding of how these sorts of things work. But that's exactly what I'm trying to imply to them: Don't get all hung up on how a trick is being done. You have no idea how this stuff works in even a general sense. So don't get worked up about the particulars.

In fact, the Distracted Artist thing is a kind of outlandish concept, and if it was presented as a trick it would be easy to dismiss. But when you don't make a big deal about it—maybe you're even a little annoyed or embarrassed by it—and you let the moment pass with very little fanfare, the whole thing becomes harder to reject completely.

The thought process I'm trying to instigate in the person is, (with a coin vanish, for example), "Well, I know he didn't 'accidentally' vanish it into the ether. But... it doesn't seem like you could accidentally do sleight of hand either (from what I understand). So maybe there's something else going on here that I can't quite wrap my head around. Maybe he was just pretending it was an accident? But... to what end? If you wanted to perform a trick you'd ask for people's attention, not just let it happen. Right?"

Example

Most recently for this stage I vanished a pen (apparently unintentionally), and balanced coins on top of each other (apparently absentmindedly).

Step Seven

Next I do an Engagement Ceremony style trick (remember, there's a glossary in the sidebar).

This gets people used to two things:

1. Longer tricks. This style will often go on for 10-15 minutes.

2. Me showing them things that I'm not taking credit for. 

Both of these are things a spectator is not used to seeing from someone performing a trick for them, and they're both things that are foundational elements in many of the immersive tricks I perform, so this is a good introduction to them.

Example

Most recently the trick I performed at this step was Good St. Anthony from The JAMM #5.

Step Eight

In step eight I do a short-ish (three minutes or so), Reverse Disclaimer type of trick. "Reverse Disclaimer" is a term I haven't used in a while. It just means this... If I tell you I'm going to read your mind or predict the future, those are abilities people have actually claimed in the real world. So I might give a disclaimer to say, "This is just a magic trick, etc. etc." A Reverse Disclaimer trick is a trick where what you're suggesting is so absurd, the claim itself acts as a disclaimer that it's not to be taken seriously. 

If I say, "I learned how to speak dog. I'm going to tell your dog how to find the card you selected." And then I start barking at the dog and he does apparently go and find the card, I don't have to follow that up with. "Just so you know. I don't really speak dog. That was a combination of magic, showmanship, psychology," blah, blah, blah. The claim itself lets everyone know they can relax because I'm just screwing around.

At the same time, the climax of the trick has to be strong enough that for a moment they almost  buy into whatever insane thing you're telling them. But again, that's only based on the strength of the trick, not the believability of the premise.

This stage is meant to introduce the idea that we can all know something isn't true, but we can still enjoy it and allow ourselves to get swept up in it and that that can be a fun experience.

(By the way, the upcoming JAMM will go into more detail on the dog trick.)

Example

Sunlight Bumblelily from JAMM #4 is the one I most recently used at this stage.

Invisible Palm Aces is one I used to do a lot around this point as well. The premise—that I'm absorbing the aces into my palms—is obviously ludicrous and not intended to be believed. But if you do the trick well, it can feel awfully real.

Step Nine

At this point people are kind of primed for anything. I've started them off with simple, easily digestible tricks. I've acclimated them to: messing around with their understanding of method, shifting the focus off me as the magician, engaging in tricks that require an investment of their time, allowing themselves to go along with a trick regardless of how ridiculous the premise.

Combine that with strong magic done with an audience-centric approach, where they understand this isn't about demonstrating how great I am, but it's about our interaction and generating these moments just for our enjoyment and not expecting something in return. Then, I've found, you can really lead people to go along with pretty much anything.

Example

I approached my friend and said, "Hey... this is going to sound crazy, but did you know there's a psychic ghost dog at America's largest pet cemetery?" And with that we were off on a little afternoon road-trip.

Could I have gotten her to join in on such a thing that first night? No. I would have seemed like a sociopath. Even half-way through this process I don't think the groundwork would have been laid sufficiently. But after the weeks, or even months, it takes to go through the full set of steps, I think you can build up the trust, and get people in the right headspace, for them to be on board with almost any kind of experience.

One final thing. Once I get people to this final stage that doesn't mean that I only show them long-form, immersive tricks. In fact I tend to kind of loop back around and start all over again from the beginning. The structure becomes very loose at that point. I just try to keep up the variation in styles and experiences because I think that's what makes it enjoyable long-term for me and them.

Bedrock: Inner Game

Next week I will be posting a step-by-step process I go through to acclimate people to the more immersive style of magic performance that I sometimes write up here.

But before I talk about getting your audience in the right mindset for that, I want to further explain my mindset regarding why long-form, immersive effects are good to have in the arsenal of the amateur magician.

Some people will write me and say, "I don't think I could get my friends to watch a trick that went on for 15 minutes, much less an hour or something." The sad truth about this is that at least one of the following things are true. 1) Your friends are a bunch of bummers and you should make new friends. 2) What you're doing is not interesting or fun. If it was, they would not want it to be over so quickly.

I should say, I rarely find someone who doesn't enjoy the more elaborate style of presentation. I don't only perform for vivacious young women. I perform for gruff old guys and no-nonsense business types, and they're into it too. It's very rare for me to find someone who isn't willing to join in on the experience as long as it's something legitimately interesting.

One thing to keep in mind about longer, immersive presentations is this: Magic tricks are not jokes. A 15 minute-long joke is 14:55 of dull set-up, and then hopefully a good punchline. A 15 minute trick should be 14:55 of interesting concepts, intrigue, mystery, new experiences, anticipation, unsettling questions, excursions, mini-adventures, absorbing rituals... and then an impossible climax which either amplifies everything that came before or puts some kind of twist on it. 

I'm not suggesting you ever drag out a trick just for the hell of it. In fact, if you can't front-load a trick with something worthwhile, then I suggest getting rid of the presentation altogether and just hitting them with the climax (that's what the Distracted Artist style is all about). 

Traditional, magician-centric, performances are so limiting because even the most needy, ego-centric person has a hard time justifying spending 10 or 20 minutes talking about their special powers. When all you have to offer is the climax of the trick, then it goes without saying that you'll just want to just get on with it, and so does your audience.

Think of a headline prediction. If the story is, "I have the powers of precognition and I predicted the headline," then of course the spectator's reaction is going to be, "Okay, just get to the part where you open the fucking envelope."

But if you shift the power to someone (or something) else and add some mystery to the premise you can give people a much richer and more resonant experience. Rest In Pieces, is essentially that. It's a headline prediction that happens in slow motion. It takes 90 minutes and in the half dozen times I've performed it, there is never a moment where people are trying to rush through it. There's certainly an anticipation that builds for the climax, but never an exasperation with the process to get there. 

And while I truly believe this provides a vastly better experience for the spectators, it's also a pragmatic approach for the amateur performer as well. Immersive presentations allow you to wring multiple different performances and experiences out of similar effects, which is important when your audience pool is small. Remember, everything you perform will be experienced through the filter of your presentation. If your presentation focuses on you and your power, then you start lumping different effects into the same experience for the spectator. Every prediction effect is the same experience. Every effect where cards change is the same experience. Every effect where something floats is the same experience.

When your audience is your social circle, you don't want to make disparate effects feel the same, or you're giving them a limited handful of experiences. It's like if you worked in a butcher shop and whatever meat you brought home to cook for your friends and family, you ground up and made hamburgers with. That's what people are doing with magic. We have 1000s of tricks at our disposal, and the quirks of the different props and methods allow us to create numerous different experiences. Yet, what we end up doing most often is putting zero seconds of thought into and then saying, "I know... I'll pretend to do it with the power of my mind!" That's just more hamburger.

As I mentioned up top, next week I'll talk outer-game and the process I use to ease people into the type of performance where they take a more active role without it feeling weird or awkward.

Coming Attractions

August 6th - JAMM #7 - The Little Issue - Featuring 8 small ideas including a Bank Nite effect that happens with your spectator handling everything and you on the other side of the room. Card on ceiling done outdoors. And six other small ideas that I've seen generate big reactions.

October 6th - JAMM #9 - The Halloween Issue - Not exactly "horror" magic, but three unsettling tricks including my favorite way to begin a mini-seance routine. 

December 6th - JAMM #11 - The Holiday Issue - Magic with gifts. Magic to do around the holiday table.

January 6th - JAMM #12 - The New Year, New You Issue - This may not be a fully themed issue, but it will include an effect that I've used a few times and has served as an impetus for the spectator to dramatically change one area of their life. 

Some of the non-themed issues to come will include the best use I've found for a peek wallet, and a presentation for Dr. Daley's Last Trick which has turned that classic effect into my favorite impromptu card trick.

You can subscribe to The JAMM here

Gardyloo #29

So, people have been trying to secretly film Derek DelGaudio's show In & Of Itself.

Was one of those people me? Yeah, it was. Gotta problem with that?

Well, boo-hoo, keep crying, Derek. 

Look, I already reviewed the show and was very positive about it. Now I'm just trying to share it with others. Geez louise. Jesus tells us not to hide our light under a bushel basket. But I guess someone knows better than Jesus.

Hey, I paid my ticket price, I'm allowed to film. That's Law 101. So yeah, sorry I filmed your precious magic show. I'm such a monster.

Oh wait, I forgot, it's not a magic show. It's, like, a meditation on the meaning of the self or some shit. Oh boy...Sounds like fun! Just what everyone was clamoring for... Rene Descartes' sponge ball routine.

Sorry, pal, I saw you do the Glide nine times during the performance... it's a magic show. I know what you are. You may have Doogie and the coastal beau monde fooled, but not me. You're magic trash, just like the rest of us. If we go back to your childhood home and open the closet in your bedroom we'd be crushed by a stack of Easy to Master Card Miracles VHS tapes.

But I get why you don't want people filming. Let's be honest, it doesn't quite hold up when you view it in the raw light of day, outside of the confines of the theater.

Judge for yourself...


The 20/20 ebook for Jerx Points collectors is being released on November 24th. This has always been a low priority for me, because it's not something anyone is paying for (at least not directly). So by announcing a date it will force me to actually get it done eventually. If you don't know what it is, don't worry. It's just a token of appreciation for this site's biggest fans.


Jeff Haas informed me of this oddly worded email regarding Curtis Kam's upcoming appearance at the Genii Convention.

Hmmm... I'm not quite sure what that means. Although it sounds more like something that would happen at an "intimate workshop" than in an open lecture setting for all attendees.

I mean, I get that it's playing off the title of this video he put out, but it's still kind of questionable.

I guess my biggest concern as a potential attendee is, if he's going to "pound me with his palms of steel" then—for the sake of my anus—does anyone know what he intends to do to me with his Fists of Fury?

For Reference

The Jerx Glossary is now linked in the sidebar. I'll try to keep it updated. Now when you're like, "What the fuck is he talking about?" there's an okay chance the phrase will be explained there. 

Not always, of course. I can't explain every dumb thing I say. Sometimes when I say something like "peak-Chachi," it's a phrase you'll have to unpack for yourself.