If you've found this site already it's probably because you're familiar with my former site, The Magic Circle Jerk which I stopped writing 10 years ago. This post will serve to get us up to speed so we can move forward.
Why I Stopped Writing MCJ
I left for two reasons.
1. It was a very busy time in my life and I only had time to half-ass the site and working on the site didn't interest me unless I could give it 110% ass.
2. A couple of people who were assisting me with the site were being pegged as the author of the site and being harassed and it just seemed like a hassle that I didn't want to put my friends through.
A Few of the Many Things I Missed Getting A Chance to Write About
What I liked:
-- Calen Morelli's 365 Days of Magic was one of my favorite things to happen while I was gone. This was a project Calen started where he was going to create an original magic trick every day for a year. Sadly it didn't last a full year (I believe because he was poached by Copperfield), and even more sadly I don't think there's any record of it online. I thought the effects ranged from interesting to great and I was fooled by a lot of them. I'm very jealous of his ability to conceive of and execute these tricks in such a short period of time. It's so far away from how my mind works. But it was heartening in a way as well because here was a guy -- a kid really, who probably spent more time with this book as he sorted out his pube situation than he did with Erdnase-- and he was churning out a bunch of tricks that felt fun and new. As someone who likes to work through a ton of material to find the few things I really like, I'm always happy when there are prolific, new voices in magic.
-- The Penguin Live Lecture Series. Some are great. Some aren't. But if you get a monthly subscription it's like $10-$13 per 2-4 hour lecture. So you can afford some duds. Dan Harlan is a good host and the camera work is generally solid, but the secret MVP for me is, I believe, a guy named Jakob who is in the audience most weeks and does a lot of enthusiastic Woooooo-ing. A lively audience just makes for a better product. Penguin's audience is certainly no match for L & L's audience of harlots and morons, but it adds life to the proceedings which these live lectures desperately need.
What I didn't like
-- The mentalism community on the Magic Cafe has gotten a little better recently, but there were like 5 years where it was this big echo chamber of bozos selling $800 ebooks to other bozos. I have no idea what was going on there. Steve Brooks should have renamed the Penny for your Thoughts section the Louisiana Twitching Epidemic of 1939 section, because it was just some weird mass hysteria. If you had a shitty effect that people would complain about if you sold it for $5, then sell it for $600 and you'd receive nothing but praise from everyone else with a potential ebook to sell. You'd get a lot of people saying things like, "I don't use a center tear because that feels too fake." And then saying, "You know, this effect you have where you have the spectator add up all the numbers in their date of birth, divide by 6, then go on an imaginary journey where they tell your their secret number and then you say, 'You weren't born near the end of the month, were you?' Which they see as a question or a statement, depending. And then with just 6 more subtle questions you can tell them with 70% accuracy the month they were born in... I love this effect...It feels like the real thing!"
-- The Wizard Product Review is something that really stood out as being the definition of everything that is unlikeable about magic. If what your life needed was two charisma-free dimwits to fumble through magic product "reviews" then you must have been delighted by this. There was so much about it to enjoy, from the faux outrage and embarrassing lectures about ethics to the rave reviews on anything they clearly had a backlog of in the stockroom. But my favorite moment would have to be Craig's reaction -- which he claims was genuine and NOT a ham-handed attempt to push a product -- to the effect, Starlight (14 minutes in).
It's easily the greatest thing ever uploaded to Youtube. And it's completely indefensible. Either he's a shitty actor who was in no way fooled by that trick but just thought they could sell more if he appeared to be bamboozled. Or he's oblivious to classic magic methodology (and common sense) and at the same time he's six ping-pong balls glued to his shirt away from apparently doing motion capture on Planet of the Apes: Little Retarded Monkey Island.
The saddest thing about the Wizard Product Review is not that it had a significant following despite being a grade-A shit-show. It's that the response to it was a dozen other retailers saying, "Hey, we have two morons we could put in front of a camera to review products too, right?"
What I loved
Pretty much just this youtube thumbnail for the product demo for the trick Devious on Penguin.
Am I Still Going To Make Fun of Steve Brooks?
No, no, no... Well, I mean, yes, of course, I am. (I have to be honest knowing what my next post is going to be.) But I have no real issue with Steve. Contrary to my reputation, I don't like to be cruel. I do like to shit-talk, tease, and make fun of people in this industry because I think it's something that's needed in any healthy system of any type. I'll still fuck with him and screw with his site, but I think he's had his share of tragedy and unfortunate circumstances in his life. I'm not interested in berating the guy for sport. To a certain extent he seems to have withdrawn from the Cafe some. Maybe I'm just not paying close enough attention but I don't hear as many stories of him banning people for no reason. Most of the areas of the Cafe devoted to his opinions have been dormant for years. It seems like he views the site mainly as a commercial venture now. Not a week goes by where he doesn't send out a PM alerting us to some hideous looking deck of cards. But I don't begrudge him that.
A word of advice to anyone I piss off. My old site wasn't popular because I went after people who didn't deserve it. So if you feel "attacked" for being hackish, corny, a child-molester, casually racist, or whatever, your first step should be to say to yourself, "Hmmm, what have I done that caused me to be perceived in this light, and how do I address it?" The alternative, is to come at me and tell me what a piece of shit I am. That's fine. And I think if you polled the audience of my previous blog they would tell you, "Yes, please do that!" because it was usually pretty entertaining. But it didn't work out well for those people.
So I will end this section by quoting United States Marine Corps General, James Mattis:
I come in peace. I didn't bring artillery. But I'm pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I'll kill you all.
Why Did I Come Back?
A couple people have expressed to me in the past that starting up a new blog would be a mistake; that it's cooler to just vanish and be forever anonymous like Erdnase. That theory presupposes that Erdnase had anything else worthwhile left to say. Maybe that's why he didn't write again. Or maybe he intended to write more but just died from black lung, or the dropsy, or milk leg, or whatever people were dying of back then. So I didn't really care too much about that argument.
I came back because I've been fortunate enough to structure my life so I have the time to put into the site that I'd like. Also technological advancements have made it easier to do bigger things with the site than I could have done in the past. And I like thinking about magic, writing about magic, and talking shit about magic. And I've learned a lot about performing magic these past 10 years that, as Descartes said, it would be shameful of me to withhold.