Scheduling Note

Tomorrow's post will be my final full post for this week, then I will be taking my Autumn break from the site and will return on October 6th. 

The JAMM #9 also comes out on the 6th. And then I'll work on that Quinta pdf I mentioned last week which will go up soon after that. As well as the results of the force testing we're doing this weekend. And there's going to be a new little effect added to the Jerx app soon. So that's some of the stuff coming up.

And, apropos of nothing other than the fact that I'm listening to this at the moment and blissing out on it, here's a track from my favorite album of last year, In Excelsis Stereo by Gloria. They're a french band (that sings in English) fronted by three female lead singers, heavily influenced by late 60s garage and psychedelia. This song is called Beam Me Up. The live version is below, here's the studio version.'s a stone groove! (Be grateful I'm just a music fanatic and don't have the knowledge or vocabulary to critique it beyond saying things like, "It's a stone groove," or this site would have morphed into a music blog a long time ago.)

Gardyloo #35

This coming weekend, in New York City, I will be helping conduct some focus-group style testing on card forces. This is something I've wanted to do for a long time but didn't know quite the best way to do it. But after speaking with a couple of friends I think we've come up with something that will work. We'll have time to test maybe 8 forces. A couple of them will be ones I'm working on. Then we intend to test the classic force, a touch/cull force, the cross cut force, riffle force, and maybe a couple more. If you have a suggestion on something you'd like us to test, let me know.

These will all be mechanical forces, not psychological forces. We actually tested psychological forces many years ago with someone who was a big proponent of them. They don't work. The only ones that did work (that is, the person named the card we wanted them to name) were ones that were transparent to the spectator. If anyone believes they have a psychological card force that works reliably and is invisible to the spectator (in other words, they're not able to unpack what happened immediately after the force), then let me know. 

Recently I came up with what I think is a really powerful new force. Actually it's a new technique you can add to existing forces which almost "proves" the card couldn't have been forced. Depending on how the testing goes on that, you'll likely hear about it next year (if this site is still around.)

Scott Douglas from Dark Foundry put together this great set of faux-instructions for Panther Across The Sky from The JAMM #6.


There are a couple ways you can go with this. You could print them off on some specialty craft paper, age it up some, and then claim it's something that was torn from an actual book. (The church demanded that page be removed from all copies of the book and burned. This is one of the ones that was smuggled out.)

Or you can print it up on normal paper, tape that into a book of the same size, then go photocopy the book. So you'll end up with something that looks like it was photocopied from some actual book somewhere.

The file for this document is here. It contains both sets of instructions (both hands). The password is the first word on page 18 of JAMM #6.

Sadly, the technology used in this effect is being phased out, but I think you can use the ISS for the final version of Panther Across the Sky in JAMM #6. And that's the strongest version I've performed.

Found this old footage of a young Gregory Wilson picking pockets.

Apparently it was the humiliation of being put in this headlock which inspired him to commence his dojo training

I miss the days when the Magic Cafe was the only place to go to talk magic. Back then it made sense to have a passionate distaste for the site because you had very few other options. Certainly nothing that was anywhere near as popular. These days, if you don't like the Cafe and you still stick around and use it, that's on you. Now there are a number of other outlets to talk about magic. Go hang out there. 

I was thinking about the Cafe because I stumbled on an old thread there that was clearly an entry in a contest I had for who could create the most boring/least interesting thread at the Cafe. That all went down 12 years ago!

If you ever have nothing to do, go search around for posts that were made in mid-September of 2005. You'll find a lot of overwhelmingly dull posts which were then replied to with enthusiasm by other people who were playing the game. (Responding to a post was a way to sabotage other players in the game. Making their thread (theoretically) more interesting.)

Here's the thread I found. It's a short example of what was going on at the time. Here Steve V let's us know some completely inessential information, that the 9/15 episode of Mindfreak is a re-run.

The Clips and The Cast

This post goes on a couple diversions before introducing a concept I plan to talk about in future posts. If the initial details of the trick I'm about to describe seem confusing, just power through, it will make sense enough in the end.

It all began with a kind of a half-baked idea for a trick that evolved over email in a brainstorming session with JM Beckers and Tomas Blomberg. You may decide there's something interesting here that you want to fully bake. Feel free.

It started when JM brought nitinol paperclips to our attention. These are made of a metal that "remembers" its previous shape. So you can deform the paperclip, then heat it up, and it will go back to its original condition.

Here's a video where a guy demonstrates this. (He also claims that magicians use nitinol spoons when they do spoon bending. I know such things exist, but if that's how you're doing your spoon bending I have a feeling it's not the most convincing thing in the world. "Hold on, everybody! I'm going to go get my special spoon to bend!")

JM wrote about the paperclips:

"Nice little tool for the distracted artist approach while working on papers and drinking tea from a glass.

You can deform the paperclip as one does when working on something else and once you realize what you did with it, instead of throwing it away, you put it into your hot water and it comes back into form."

I liked that idea. It's nice and simple. I think the problem is you would need particularly hot water, so you'd have to do it right when you got your tea. And when doing a super casual effect, I don't love being tied to something so fleeting as the heat of my beverage.

Then Tomas came up with an interesting idea using a few of these clips. And it's based on the notion that you can re-set the set-point for this metal. So instead of having them revert to the paperclip form, you can have them revert to whatever form you've "baked" into the metal.

Here was how Tomas explained his idea, briefly.

"Ok, now I know what would be cool: three paperclips needed. One works in reverse so it gets deformed by heat. One is ordinary. Show them all in the shape of clips and deform one that will turn back when heated to "provide the energy needed" and drop in an empty cup. Cleanly drop the real clip inside so it hooks a leg of the first one. Let someone drop the last clip inside. When heated, two will link and one turns into looking like the first one you dropped inside."

So what he's suggesting is you take one of these paper-clips and change it's set-point so it looks like this when heated.


Then you bend it back into the normal clip shape.

So in performance you'd see three paperclips on the table. In reality you have two of the clips that will return to the normal clip shape when heated (we'll call those the A-clips), and one that will go to the deformed shape when heated (we'll call that the B-clip).

In presentation, you take one of the A-clips and openly bend it into the shape the B-clip forms after heating. You drop that in a bowl, then you put a normal clip in the bowl in such a way that it hooks onto a leg of the deformed clip already in the bowl. (You don't let your spectator look directly into the bowl to see this.)


Then you have your spectator drop the B-clip in the bowl. Now you heat them in some way and dump the clips out of the bowl. It looks like the 2nd and 3rd paperclip that were dropped in the bowl have linked. But really the 1st re-formed into the normal clip shape and linked with #2, and then #3 de-formed itself and now seems to be the first clip that was dropped in. So from the spectator's perspective, two normal clips and a deformed clip are dropped into a bowl, and then the two normal clips come out linked, along with the deformed clip.

Does that make sense? That's kind of the problem, it's clever but it doesn't really mean anything. And the bent clip isn't really too justified. 

Then I noticed the bent clip kind of looks like a heart. If you squint enough. Hell, just go ahead and close your eyes altogether. See? It kind of looks like a heart. So that gave me this idea which I wrote to Tomas and JM.

Maybe call it an office supply love ritual (because paper clips are designed to hold things together). One paperclip is bent into the rough shape of a heart and tossed in the bowl. The other represents your spectator, that goes in the bowl. They hold the third clip and imagine someone they'd like to be with and toss that in the bowl. Then "if it works" the paperclips will be brought together. (And it would, of course, with the two paperclips coming out linked.)

Then Tomas made it even simpler. No need for a bowl or any weird heating elements. If this is an office love ritual you just use a coffee cup. The heart gets formed and dropped in the cup, then the paperclip that represents the spectator. Coffee is poured over them, and then the spectator gets to toss the final paperclip in. 

And that's perfect, of course, because coffee plays right into a ritual with things you would find in an office. 

I fleshed out the backstory. I would tell people I used to work in an office with this guy who considered himself a "male witch." For much of his life he had a little shop in Salem, Massachusetts where he would read palms and help people cast spells for good fortune. When he was in his late 40s, he met a woman and fell in love with her, but she would only consent to marry him if he got a "real" job. So he closed up his shop and ended up working in accounting at the company I worked at (which was what his parents had made him go to school for when he was younger). He tried to stay on the straight and narrow, but over time he slipped back into his rituals using stuff that was around the office. And this love ritual is one of the ones he taught me. Back in Salem he did it with a little cauldron and some voodoo doll type things. But once he was in the office he was just using a cup of coffee and some paperclips. He claimed it still worked.

So the "heart" clip, and the first normal clip are dropped in the cup. Coffee is poured on top (representing the murky darkness their heart currently reside in, or whatever the hell you want to say). The spectator then drops her clip in the cup (the one that represents the person she's interested in). A plastic lid is placed on top and the coffee is poured out. I tell the spectator to remove the lid and dump the paperclips on the table. "It's like tea leaves," I tell them. "Depending on how close the two clips are to each other and the heart, that tells us how good a match you are with the person." They dump them out and somehow the clips are now linked. "Oh wow," I say. "I hope you weren't just hoping for a quick booty call with this person. This suggest you two are soulmates."

I thought that would be a fun presentation. And it's a pretty good trick too. The spectator drops the final clip into coffee while it's in their hands. Moments later, without you coming near it, the clip is now linked on to another clip.

Okay... Here's a little aside for a variation on another idea JM Beckers thought up using these clips. You give your friend a paperclip and ask him to bend it into any one of 8 "power shapes" that you've drawn on a card. You take out a clip for yourself and bend it into another one of the shapes. You both stir your coffees, creating a vortex, and you each drop your paperclip in your cup of coffee while standing a few feet apart. When the coffee settles you spoon your clip out and find you are now holding the other person's clip. You've created a worm-hole and the paperclips somehow passed through the vortex from cup to cup. Cool, yeah? 

The method: You give him a clip that will turn into, say, a square, once dumped in the coffee. You ask him to bend it into any of the "power shapes" you've drawn on a card. Once he starts you remove an index card with other paperclips on it (each one that will form one of the power shapes when heated) and you remove the correct one that will form the shape he chose for his paperclip. (An index drawn on the back of the card will point you to which one to choose. Or you could do this all more covertly and have a hidden index which you use to pull the proper clip and switch for one already in view.) And you form that clip into a square. The rest happens by itself. Once dropped into the coffee, his clip in his chosen shape transforms into a square, and your square clip transforms into his chosen shape.

Now, both these ideas are—as I mentioned up top—somewhat half baked. And that's because I was never able to get my hands on these nitinol paperclips to play around with them. I ordered them from a couple places but they flaked out and they never showed up. Tomas had some and experimented with them, but I think he found them to be a bit finicky. Sometimes not going back fully to the shape they're supposed to, or losing their memory altogether after being manipulated. So if someone wants to try one of these ideas, you're going to have to put in some work on your end to make sure it works consistently. I think it would be worth it because I like both effects.

Now, there is an idea in here that I ended up using a bunch of times since this exchange with JM and Tomas. And that's the idea of a former male witch who now works in the accounting department of my company (or former company, as I no longer have a regular day job). I find this idea pretty delightful. And I find other people like it too. You can almost picture him, can't you? This guy who has taken this dull day job to appease his overbearing wife, but he keeps finding himself backsliding into his old role and conducting some little rituals or fortune telling ceremonies for the fat secretaries during coffee breaks, using office supplies or things you might find in the break room in place of his old tools.

That's such a well-defined character that I found myself searching out tricks with office supplies (paper clips, Post-Its, pens) or coffee accoutrements that I could claim he taught me or demonstrated for me. 

And then I realized that ever since adopting a style that was less focused on me, I had been creating a cast of characters—some real people, some imaginary—that I was using as inroads into performing. People like Glenn (the male witch), Mr. Yento, or my magician friend in Any Man Behind Any Curtain from The JAMM #5.

The Cast is another tool, like Imps and Reps, that is available to the amateur performer and not so much to the professional. It can be used as both a way to get into effects, and also a way to make the magic bigger than the current moment by attaching it to some outside person who may or may not exist in the real world. When I show you something Glenn the male witch showed me once at work and then two months later I show you something new he demonstrated for me, it doesn't matter if you believe the person really exists or not, you still get that sense of continuity which is much more interesting than an isolated effect, completely detached from the world around it.

This concept has served me very well in performance. I find it very natural to go from talking about this interesting person I know into this weird thing they showed me or taught me.

In a future post I'll talk more about creating your Cast and different ways to utilize it. 

My Get Rich Slow Scheme

I mentioned a few weeks ago that there were a handful of copies of the Jerx Volume One available due to people reserving a copy and then never following through. Those are now gone. 

So now it's sold out. Kind of.

As I've mentioned before, I had a get rich slow scheme planned for this book.

Step One: Write the best magic book ever. Status: Done

Step Two: Sell a relatively small amount of them. Status: Done

Step Three: Hang onto some copies. Status: Done

Step Four: Wait forty years for the magic world to recognize my genius. Status: Pending

And then, when I'm an old man, I will just sell a book every year from the ones I held onto and that's my retirement plan to support myself in my dotage. 

So, yes, there are some more copies of the book, but they're in the vault (also known as a box in a closet in my friend's house) and my intention is to hang onto them as long as I can. At the same time, I'm empathetic to the feeling of finding something you really like but being late to the game and missing out on some aspect of it. So I would consider cracking the vault for someone in that situation. It was never my intention to be a book publisher or a magic distributor. I'm really only interested in sharing ideas with others who are on a similar wavelength. So, at this point you can't just click a paypal button and purchase a book anymore. However, if you find the site speaks to you, and you really want a copy of the book, your best bet is to email me and let me know.

Righting Writing

"Why do I have to write the word down? Why can't you just read my mind?"

I'm going to tell you how I handle questions like these. Or, more accurately, how I used to handle questions like these. Since I rarely use a presentation as straightforward as "I'm going to read your mind," these types of challenges come at me less frequently. If, for example, a Ouija board is going to reveal the word they're thinking of, then writing down the word and burning it is just part of the process. They can't really question the writing down of the word too much because it's not like I'm claiming this is my process, it's just the process that I learned. 

The majority of what I do falls into that category these days. I'm demonstrating something other than pure mind-reading so the writing down of information becomes more justified. For example, The Donny Ackerman trick. I'm not reading their mind, I'm stopping time and opening up this piece of paper they hold in their hand. The trick doesn't make sense if they don't write it down.

But, I still do the occasional mind-reading bit, and here are my thoughts on these sort of questions/challenges. 

The easiest way I've found to avoid this issue is to not mention mind-reading or anything like that until after the word is written down. Don't say, "I'm going to read your mind. Here, write down any word you can think of. Now give it to me. I'll put it in my wallet." You're giving them too many opportunities to think, "What does this have to do with mind-reading?"

Instead, get the logistics out of the way first. "I want you to write down any word you like on this card.... Ok, I don't want to see it. Let's put it away for now." Once the word is put away, or the picture is drawn and sealed in the envelope, or whatever other process needs to be done, then you go into the "I'm going to read your mind" business. I think this is better because nothing is ever actively incongruous. When they write the word, they don't know what's going to happen next so there's nothing to question there. And later when you say, "Now, you have a word in your mind, and you've committed to that word [small gesture to the wallet], and I'm going to try and read your mind," they may at that time feel like the writing of the word wasn't completely justified, but it's not something happening in the moment that they need to question. If they think it's incongruous, it's only retroactively incongruous, so it's much less likely to be questioned.

So that's my first recommendation. Don't bring up mentalism or mind-reading until after the logistics are complete. 

My second recommendation is this: Don't directly justify why you had them write the word down. Unless they specifically ask you why, only indirectly suggest why you did it. For example, above I said, "You have your word in mind and you're committed to that word," as I gesture towards the wallet. That's an indirect justification. It's better than saying, "I'm going to have you write the word down. The reason I have you write the word down is so we all have proof that I really did read your mind. I don't want you to say I didn't when I did, or say I did when I didn't, just to be nice. And I'm going to put it in my wallet so I can't see it. And also so it's safe." I don't think justification with that level of detail sounds great. It would be like if you caught me looking in your medicine cabinet and I said, "Hey, do you have any floss?" That interaction would probably slide by. But if I instead said, "Hey, the reason I opened your medicine cabinet is because I wanted to see if you had floss. I have a popcorn kernel in my teeth and it's driving me crazy. That's why I wanted the floss. To get out that bit of popcorn kernel. The one I mentioned before. The one in my teeth. I know people keep their prescriptions in their medicine cabinet, but I wasn't paying attention to them. I was just looking for floss," you'd wonder what the hell I was up to.

This is a life tip as much as a magic one: The more effort you put into your justification before being questioned about it, the less likely your justification is to be believed.

But let's say you get to the end of the effect and they do question why they had to write down the word. At this point you're free to justify the action in the most direct and convincing way possible. 

Here are two ways to handle it.

This first way has been my preferred method in the past.

They ask, "Can you read my mind without me writing something down?"

I first give them an analogy. "Hmm... not really. It's like asking, 'Can you hear one particular song playing if your radio is broadcasting all the frequencies at once?' I mean, yes, the song is in there, but it would be almost impossible to decipher until you tuned into a particular frequency. Your brain needs to be tuned into a frequency that I can pick up on too. So if I say, 'Think of the word you wrote down,' that's something definitive I can try and pick up on. But if I just say, 'Think of a random word,' there's almost no way of deciphering that because there is no substance to it. At any moment your mind is filled with random words to some extent. So writing the word down provides some focus."

I then do a bit of verbal jiu jitsu to take the question and flip the entire premise. "I know there are some people who claim to be able to read someone's thoughts without having them write it down or see the word in a book or something... but I think those people are faking it."

See? I've taken this act that they thought was questionable (writing the word down) and suggested it's an indication that what they're seeing is genuine. 

Here's another alternative for justifying the writing.

They ask, "Can you read my mind without me writing something down?"

You answer, "It depends. Sometimes, maybe, for simple stuff. It's like... actually, I was just reading about this the other day. Let me see if I can find it. I saved the blog post because it definitely echoes my experience with this sort of thing."

You then pop out your phone or laptop and bring up the article you were reading that talks about a study showing how writing something down affects focus. You read one line from the article, "The act of writing not only 'boosts the signal' for the information that is written down, it also suppresses extraneous 'noise' from sensory input and memory."

The blog post about this bogus study is on the new DMB site that I mentioned last Friday. Look for the post called Writing and Memory on 9/20/17. It even has a line that helps justify ripping the paper in a center tear or putting a business card back in your wallet.

That post features this illustration by Iain Dunford which I think will help them visualize the (supposed) effect writing has on their focus. 

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The truth is, if you don't perform much, and this is a concern of yours, you can relax about it. Most people will never question you about these sorts of things. But even though that's the case, I think your presentation will be stronger and more assured if you know what you'll say should the subject come up. So have a plan, but there's no need to worry about it too much.

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?"