Gardyloo #39

What's Ellusionist up to these days? Well they've come up with a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of $54,000 to make... a fidget toy

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Gee. Great.

At the rate they're going, there is no way this is going to get funded unless Butt Plug Aficionado magazine comes out with a review in the next couple days that calls it "both a tactile delight and a challenging puzzle for your anus."

In the video on the kickstarter page they say it will make you the center of attention at any party, "whether you like it or not." Huh. Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and suggest the type of attention you'll get at a party with one of these is going to be strictly in the "or not" category. "Hey everyone, come look at this nerd with his overly complicated fidget toy. Let's beat him up and drag him behind our pick-up truck." If you have at least two braincells to rub together I guarantee you can come up with something better to do to garner attention at a party than pull out one of these. What reaction would you expect with this? You think everyone is going to be like, "Gather round everyone! Come look! Trent's got something stupid!" 

I'll give Ellusionist this, it looks like they're not dumb enough to invest too much of their own money in this product. If you want to do a product related to fidget spinners, or Pokemon Go, or the Ice Bucket Challenge or any other thing you failed to recognize as a passing fad, Kickstarter is probably the way to go.

Or else you're this guy...


Ellusionist also came out with Abyss yesterday. A variation on Paul Harris' Twilight Angels effect. 

Now, I don't want to be a bummer, but you can't use a lighter in a trick where the secret is based on something appearing or disappearing due to a temperature change. You can't do it because there is no difference between effect and method if you do. It's a non-trick. Something changing color with heat is not a new or obscure concept. Even I, as a young kid watching the Freezy Freakies commercial, wasn't blown away by the idea. They show this over and over in the trailer as if it's mysterious how it works. It's not. Trust me, I'm dumb, I have a layperson's brain. It's obvious.

Also, the original Twilight Angels effect left the spectator with a card that was augmented in a truly unique way. This effect leaves them with a normal card. That's a downgrade.

And finally, the paddle move with a zippo lighter is pretty unconvincing.

That being said, they pretty much make it clear exactly what you're getting here, so it's not like they're trying to mislead you. And if you disagree with the premises I've  stated above, then maybe this trick is for you.

Or perhaps there's a way to incorporate the lighter into the original Twilight Angels effect. For example, maybe you pull out the lighter and show the angel on one side. You explain that you'll show them how it got there. Then you use the lighter to remove the angel from the card (as in Twilight Angels). Now you show an angel on each side of the lighter (sketchy paddle move). Then you place the angel back on the card (on the opposite end, as in the original effect). Spectator is left with a unique, signed object. No obvious use of fire to make the magic happen. And the lighter is examinable. I've almost talked myself into buying this thing just for the lighter.

This is old news and it's not directly magic-related (although it does feature a magic trick and Neil Patrick Harris). It's the opening to the 2013 Tony awards. If you're not familiar with it, it's one of the most entertaining production numbers you'll ever see. It's one of those videos I watch every few months just because it's kind of thrilling to see so many people working together to pull it off. And you can't deny how insanely talented Neil Patrick Harris is in this: singing, dancing, joking around, magic-tricking, sort-of rapping, playing guitar (I think), literally jumping through hoops. It's incredibly impressive. 

I like to imagine traveling back in time to myself as a kid, watching Doogie Howser, and telling myself, "You know, one day in the future you will find him to be one of the greatest all-around talents of his generation."

Then the 13-year old me would say, "Oh yeah? Doogie? Gee, I always thought it would be Balki Bartakamous? Get out of my room, old man." Then I'd kick the shit out of my future self.

I expect Nikki, our JAMM Muse for November, will bring an interesting energy to her Uri Geller inspired cover on the issue coming out next week. 

The reason I say that is because below is a pic of what she looks like when she's "running to the store for a few minutes to get some Pringles." 

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JAMM #10 Arrives Next Monday

The JAMM #10 will be in subscriber's email boxes late Monday night.

In Issue 10:

  • A really strong triple prediction effect, with an interesting combination of methods. 
  • My current favorite routine for a peek wallet
  • A ridiculous (and impossible) trick with cereal
  • And reviews of a couple magic kits you may want to give or receive this holiday season. 

You can purchase a full volume of the JAMM here. As of now, that comes with The Jerx Deck, which is being produced by the Expert Playing Card Company as we speak. The plan is for it to ship out at the end of this year, give or take a couple of weeks. The Jerx Deck bonus offer will disappear at some point, likely with little warning. (Well... consider this your warning.)

The Dumbest Thing I've Ever Seen In Magic

What's the dumbest thing you've seen in magic?

You might think back to one of those rejects who speared himself (or someone else) in the hand during some tired russian roulette type effect.

Or maybe it's that escape artist (or, more accurately, "gets stuck in shit" artist) on the Criss Angel tour who had to be rescued from his escapes twice in the same summer. (Either he not competent, or it was a poorly conceived publicity stunt. "Poorly conceived" because—while it may garner publicity—that's not good publicity for someone who nobody knows about. Failure can be good publicity for someone who's established. It makes it seem like that person is taking on new challenges. But if nobody knows who you are they're not going to be like, "Let's go see this guy who sucks at his job!") 

Or maybe the dumbest thing you've seen in magic was Brian Brushwood rocking this look for a fucking decade!

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How you go about avoiding reflective surfaces for 10 years is beyond me. Honestly, you don't even need a mirror to realize this looks like shit. Your goddamn shadow makes that clear.

But no, that's not the dumbest thing I've ever seen in magic.

The dumbest thing I've ever seen is Jeff McBride's version of Chad Long's trick, The Shuffling Lesson.

Now, Chad Long's trick is a modern classic. You and the spectator each take half of the deck. You give them a lesson in shuffling and cutting the deck. At the end you've each shuffled and cut your cards into four piles. You turn over the top card of each of your piles and they're all kings. "Don't feel bad," you say, "I've been doing this for 20 years." When the spectator turns over the top cards of his piles, he's found the four aces.

It's a great trick because not only is it easy to do, but it builds beautifully. When you show you've found the kings, it's an okay moment, but not that impressive as those cards were in your hands and it's not inconceivable that you could have controlled them in some way. But when the spectator finds that they've located the aces with the cards in their hands, it's damn near a miracle. 

It's kind of similar to a sucker trick, but rather than them thinking you messed up and you showing you haven't, it's a situation where they think what has happened is only mildly impressive but it turns out to be very impressive. Not what you did, what they did.

McBride's performance is a bit of a cluster-F. It's part "shuffling lesson," then he does this weird mirroring stuff...


And then he keeps repeating "YOU cut the cards. YOU control the game." Which is bizarre because there's not supposed to be a "game" at this point. It's supposed to be a lesson. If you asked someone what McBride's version of the trick is supposed to be about, they would have no idea.

But that's just a convoluted presentation. It's not the dumbest thing I've ever seen in magic. The dumbest thing I've ever seen is how he concludes the effect. He has it structured so he beats the spectator at the end.

What is he thinking?

Does McBride not understand the trick? Does he think it's truly about who has the highest cards?

Listen to his justification for why he does it this way. It genuinely bananas. (I particularly like the sweetly condescending way he pauses and say, "That was a choice," when discussing how Chad Long originally structured the routine.)

The hell? There is no defending that structure. He starts with something impressive (the spectator finding four of a kind) goes onto something less impressive (the magician finding four of a kind) and caps it off with something not impressive at all (showing that together they have blackjack hands—the trick has nothing to do with blackjack! If you want that to be a "moment" you have to establish blackjack as being relevant at some point early on in the trick (he doesn't)). He calls this the "punch" and the "second punch." Those aren't punches. They represent a fundamental misunderstanding of what an audience—certainly what the main spectator—would find amazing about the routine. 

You beating the spectator does not make it a win/win. I'm puzzled by how he could even come to that conclusion.

I bet the hardest thing for someone who knows as much about magic as Jeff McBride does, and performs as much magic as Jeff McBride has, is to get back in the layperson's head. But it really needs to be part of the process of creating a presentation. Try to forget everything you know about magic. Imagine yourself at the age before you knew secrets. Someone gives you half a deck which you shuffle and cut and then you discover you've found four of a kind. Imagine how unreal that would feel to you. Really try and put yourself in that feeling. Now, is that feeling intensified or diminished if the magician says, "Hey, I did that too. And I did it better." Does that feel win/win to you?

In magic, as in life, your goal should be to preserve or amplify people's positive feelings about themselves or their situation. Make this your hobby.

I guess you could say, "Well, Jeff is a professional magician. So he has different concerns. And, for him, it may be important to come across as the winner because he is really playing the role of the the archetypal Magician." But if that's your goal, this is a bad trick for you. Just do a regular routine where you cut the aces yourself. Don't set up the audience member only to take away from their moment. No one sees what you did as more impressive anyway. People understand the symbols on the cards are arbitrary when it comes to cutting four of a kind. No one is like, "Yeah, sure, I knew he could cut to four twos. But four aces!? Now I'm impressed!"

Honestly, McBride has such a strong presence that it would be so much more interesting for him to be like, "And despite all that shuffling and cutting, I have managed to find the four kings!" Then do a real cocky magical flourish and raise an eyebrow. "I can't take all the credit. Yes, I have an incredible gift. But a gift is something that is given to you. I am the descendent of Merlin, of Hecate, of 1000 generations of magicians before me whose power now flows through these nimble fingers." Then gesture to the spectator and say casually, as if it's an afterthought, "And how about you? Did you find a pair maybe in your first attempt?" The spectator turns over all four aces. The cocky smile falls off Jeff's face. He furrows his brow and sniffs through his nose. "Uhm...yeah. So that's... I guess... I mean, that's great, that's great...uhm... hmm...." He goes off, scratching his head, mumbles some nonsense analogy about how the other guy may have opened the pickle jar but he was the one who loosened the lid. In my opinion that would be a much funnier and more compelling "storyline" for the effect. 

I remember watching this on the True Astonishments DVD set when it first came out and feeling sick. Not because he screwed it up by needing to be the one who "won." But because McBride is pretty well respected in magic, and Eugene Burger is also in the room when this is being filmed, and it's on Paul Harris' DVD set. And none of them thought to say, "This is retarded." It was like the feeling you get in school when you realize you're smarter than your teachers. That's not a good feeling. "You're supposed to be the smart ones! You're supposed to be teaching me!"

It was at that point I realized it was up to me to come back and save magic. And yes, I sat on my ass for another 5 years before starting to blog again, but eventually it happened. Get off my back.

Three Quick Administrative Notes

1. The update to the Jerx app with the Wisdom of Crowds word reveal should be available today, or very soon. Remember, if you're ever lost in the app, swipe two fingers to the right to get to the menu. From their you can get to the instructions and routines page for the app which has been updated with this new mini-trick. There are now about a dozen different effects using the app described on that page.

2. This is only important if the following things are true of you:

a) You started a month-to-month subscription to the JAMM sometime after January of this year.
b) Getting the Jerx Deck is important to you.

If those things are true then, at some point, you'll want to convert your monthly subscription to a purchase of the full year of The JAMM. 

How do you do that? You go into paypal and find out how much you've spent on The JAMM, you subtract that from $120 (the cost of the full year subscription) you paypal me the difference ( and you cancel your monthly payments. That will get you the issues you missed, the three to come, and the Jerx deck.

There is no hurry to do this, and it's only an issue if getting The Jerx Deck was part of the reason you subscribed.

3. If you ever asked me a question over email and I said that I would write a post with my response and I failed to do so, let me know. I don't just say that to put it off, I say it because I think I might have something to say on the subject that is of interest in general.

You may remember a few months ago I lost my list of upcoming post ideas due to some gmail sketchiness. So some of those things I had planned to write about are lost in the ether.

This is a general message as well. If you're expecting to hear from me about something, or are expecting something in the mail and I don't get back to you, don't hesitate to get in touch. Some things slip through the cracks. And sometimes I think something is being done by one of the people who help out with the site and there's a miscommunication. But regardless of the reason, don't hesitate to remind me of something. I don't like to have unclosed loops.

Happy Halloween, everyone! Eat some candy. Don't be a dumb idiot. Sugar is GOOD for you.


Presentational Density

A lot of magicians say, "I want to create experiences, not just show tricks." But what does that really mean and how do you go about it? In this post I'm going to tell you what I think is the key to making that happen. 

I received an email from reader George Koros which said the following:

I did the Deja Vu Method [From JAMM #8] for my girlfriend. She was genuinely disoriented by the experience, to the point that even now (weeks later) if I look at her and earnestly say "Have you ever heard of the Deja Vu Method?" her eyes widen and she goes "nope nope nope not this shit again" and she walks out of the room. Here's the thing, though: I'd shown her Dr. Daley's Last Trick just a few days prior, using the exact same handling. And yet DVM was unrecognizable to her as being a card trick, much less the same card trick. I've since performed it for two other friends of mine, and they each had the same unsettled, what-the-hell-is-going-on sort of response. Being on the other end of this is apparently trippy as hell. 

That's been my experience with that trick as well. 

If you put it in a series of card tricks, it's going to seem like a card trick. But if you do it as a stand-alone effect it can feel like something different. It can feel like a strange experience.

This is true for a lot of the material I work on. And I think the first step towards accomplishing this is giving the trick some other relevance beyond "just a trick."

I watch magicians consistently fail at achieving that goal (giving a trick relevance) and now I'm going to point out how they screw it up and how you can do it the right way.

Let's just assume we're talking about card tricks for now. 

Now let's say we have a guy named Sam and Sam has a card trick where he and his spectator both deal through the cards and they end up stopping on "matching" cards (like the four of hearts and the four of diamonds). 

For a while, Sam performs this pretty straightforwardly, i.e. "Let's shuffle. Let's deal. Let's stop wherever we want. Look the cards match!"

It gets a good reaction, but he thinks it will get a better reaction if he makes it more relevant. So he starts of the trick by saying, "Do you believe in fate?" And then he does the trick and finishes it with, "It must be fate!"

Is Sam doing a trick about fate? No. Does this feel like an example of fate to the spectator? I can't imagine it would.

This is the point where I find many professional magicians stop when it comes to crafting a presentation. (Not all, but a lot of them.) And because amateurs are often inspired by the professionals, this is what a lot of their presentations look like too.

They'll start of with an interesting question:
"Have you ever been hypnotized?"
"Do you believe in coincidence?"
"Do you think time-travel is possible?"

Then they'll just do their normal trick.

Then, they'll bring it back to the interesting question at the end
"Well now you can say you have been hypnotized."
"I think we'll both believe in coincidence going forward."
"And thus I've shown time-travel is possible."

Their tricks amount to 2% interesting presentational concept and 98% standard card trick. 

In my opinion, this is a tremendously misguided way to present a trick for the amateur. I think you'd be much better off just saying, "Hey, can I show you a card trick I'm working on?" And leave it at that. 

If you're going to bring up some kind of intriguing concept as the backdrop for your effect, you can't just pay lip-service to it. Spectators aren't so dumb that they can't see through this as your attempt to justify showing them a standard card trick. And if you have to justify showing them a card trick, then they will (correctly) assume it's not really worth their time. 

Saying, "Do you believe in fate?" and following that with a regular card trick, is like saying, "You look tense, do you want a shoulder rub?" and then grinding your crotch against the person's hip. Your real motivation comes through quickly and clearly.

I'm not saying you shouldn't try to inject thought-provoking concepts into your presentation. My strongest tricks definitely have that element in them. I'm saying that if you're going to bother with that, you have to present it in a way the feels legitimate to them. You can't do the 2% concept/98% trick process that you see so often. 

What you need to do is flip that percentage. I think of this as creating greater presentational density. It should seem like 98% presentation and 2% trick. Does that mean if you have a 2 minute trick you should make it 100 minutes in order to create a greater presentational density? That's one way of doing things. But that's not what I'm recommending.

What I'm recommending is you take as much of the procedural elements of the trick and absorb them into the presentation. This is, essentially, what the Engagement Ceremony style is designed to do. Take process and make it presentation.

It may not seem like it, but I've found there's a significant difference between these:

1. "Do you believe in coincidence? Here, take this deck. Shuffle it. Now deal thru." Etc., etc.

2. "Do you believe in coincidence? I had a professor in college who was obsessed with the concept of coincidence and he had these little experimental routines he thought could induce them. Like if you did a certain set of pre-determined actions before you left your house you'd arrive at the bus-stop exactly when the bus arrived. Weird things like that. This is one of the tests he conducted that was designed to generate a coincidence. The first step is to take this deck and mix it up in any arrangement you like. This imprints a personal order on them." Etc., etc.

The second way may just feel like more detail, but really what it does is pull the procedure into the presentation. That's not to say they won't recognize what's happening as a trick, but it will have their mind more on presentation than process, which is what you want. (Or you should want that if you're trying to put forth an interesting presentation.)

Another way to increase presentational density is to add elements to the effect that aren't required by the method. For example, in The Deja Vu Method, mentioned above, there is a little ritual the spectator must follow that isn't needed methodologically but makes sense presentationally. An extreme example of this is the Multiple Universe Selection effect which is a bunch of presentation that is attached to just the changing of a playing card. That trick is probably 99.9% presentation and .1% trick and it's one of the strongest things I do.

The hope is, by utilizing these two techniques (adding presentational elements, and consuming methodological elements into the presentation) you will create an encounter where the only part that feels specifically like a "trick" is the climax of the effect. So it's 98% presentation and 2% trick and that 2% is the most exciting part of what magic can provide. 

When the interaction feels more about the presentation than the process of the trick, that's when it feels more like an "experience." Now, it may still be a dumb or dull experience if you don't craft it right, but that's within your control. If you have a an intriguing presentation, and if your procedural elements feel like part of that presentation, and if you end with a strong effect, there is a high probability that will come across as a positive, enjoyable experience to the people you perform for.

Gardyloo #38

I've had a few people ask me if I'm going to kick David Blaine out of the GLOMM due to the allegation made by a woman recently of a 2004 rape.

At this point, the answer is no because there needs to be more than an allegation before I take such a serious and life-changing step like kicking someone out of the magic organization I made up.

I'm not quite sure how such an accusation could be proven so many years later, but if it is, then yes, of course he'd be out. I'm no starfucker and fame means nothing as far as your GLOMM status goes.

On a related note, former president George H.W. Bush has been accused recently of groping at least two women while saying, "Do you know who my favorite magician is? David Cop-a-feel.

In the service of full disclosure, Bush Sr. was never in The GLOMM and his Copperfield pun is not enough of an expression of interest in the art to qualify him for inclusion. While I don't know if his actions would rise to the level of a GLOMM booting had he been a member, I've come to a ruling that if he, at age 93, decides to become a restaurant magician, he cannot use The GLOMM logo on his website and he cannot sign up for Elite status.

I have a great line for someone if they want it. Unfortunately, it relates to an act that isn't quite my cup of tea. But if you're into it, feel free to use this line with a consenting adult.

"Do you know who my favorite magician is? Criss Anal."

In presenting magic to people, I often find myself needing to come up with interesting and understandable ways to illustrate abstruse ideas. Things like: fate, intuition, synchronicity, luck, parallel universes, or even just "magic" itself.

So I always enjoy any type of writing that goes some way towards allowing you to understand (on an emotional level) something you might not be able to wrap your head around otherwise.

In that vein, I appreciated this description of "eternity" from Hendrik Willem van Loon’s, The Story of Mankind, from 1921. 


The next time you worry your trick has too much process, think of the time this guy takes to present this gag.

Too often magic is about rushing to get to the climax of the effect. For example: "After they set down the face-down card in the open prediction, I just have them spread the rest of the cards face up to show the card isn't there." What? You're missing out on the most interesting part of that trick. The part where they're down to just a few cards and the card still hasn't shown up yet. You're sacrificing that escalating tension to save 30 seconds, you dingbat? 

Don't be so concerned people are going to get bored with what you're doing that you rush it and end up losing the build-up that taking it slower would give you. I'm not saying you should pad out your tricks unnecessarily, just that you don't have to rush them unnecessarily either.

If this guy was presenting this like most magicians, he wouldn't stop after every step along the way and have her wave her hands over it. He'd maybe do that once. "Spectators don't like process. They want something quick," is what you hear a lot in magic. But if he had rushed it—if he was just like, "Hey, watch this," and folded it without the interaction—I can almost guarantee she wouldn't be stroking his cock at the end.

Coming Next Tuesday

The Jerx App, the gift that keeps on giving, is scheduled for an update next week. [The Jerx App (iphone only, I'm afraid) was a bonus for people who purchased JV1 and will also be part of the reward package for those who pledge their support in 2018. Don't pay $150 for it in the app store. That price was intended to be a deterrent. The app has one primary functionality that allows for all sorts of different effects. And there are a couple other ideas built in as well, separate from the main function of the app. Such as the one described below.]

Next week we'll be adding a new trick to the app based on the Wisdom of Crowds reveal I talked about yesterday. It's called:

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It's the same idea, but instead of a book, or a phone call, the information is revealed online. 

There's a significant issue with that idea though. You know what happens if you say to people, "Hey, there's this website that you plug some basic information into and it will tell you what random word you're likely thinking of based on a data mining process." Your friend will say, "Oh, cool. Give me the website. I want to try it out with my friends too."

To prevent that sort of thing, this is presented as some hidden section of the "dark web" that you have to have special access to. The Dark Web is the truly unregulated part of the internet that requires specific software and authorizations to access. Because I'm not a connoisseur of child pornography, I don't really know that it looks like or acts like. But that's good. That means your average spectator doesn't either. So when you have to use your phone and visit this weird URL, this actually adds to the intrigue. "This isn't a site that just anyone can access. What they're doing here... the shear volume of data they're collecting and processing... is insane. It's actually kind of disturbing." 

So you bring up this dark web site (in the process, you code in the word the spectator is thinking of) on your phone. 

You have the spectator enter their information in the form.


After they hit submit there is a semi-long wait while the site processes the information against its vast databases.


Then it spits out the results. In this case, the person had thought of the word "Coffee."


One of the really clever things here—and I can say that because it was completely Marc Kerstein's idea—is that the third entry in the list will be a synonym for their thought-of word (assuming there is one). As if to suggest the algorithm knew it was likely you would be drawn to a particular idea, but just wasn't certain which word you would use to express that idea.

That part where it says, "If the thought-of word wasn't in the potential word list," etc., that's just there for verisimilitude. If the word isn't in the list, it's because you screwed up, dummy.

Thanks to Seth Raphael for allowing us to use his input method, and, of course, to Marc Kerstein who built and maintains The Jerx app.

The app update should be available on Tuesday. You'll be able to find instructions for it in the app itself. Swipe two fingers to the right on the L'il Jerxy opening screen to get to that.

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