Waiting By the Telephone (and Book Report 2/9)

In recent years I have been getting more and more into effects that use a cell phone. And the reason for that is this: If I invite a friend over to my apartment, or meet up with someone at a coffee shop, I don't know if they'll have a bill on them, or a quarter, or a pen, or a watch, or a ring. They sure as shit don't have a half dollar or a handkerchief. But I can know with almost 100% certainty that they will have a phone with them.

If you're not doing magic with cell phones, you're not doing magic with one of the most ubiquitous, normal, everyday objects that exists. Forget the fact that it's "electronic" and just remember that one of the best things you can do as an amateur magician is a trick with an object that is in your environment and cell phones almost always are. 

"But everyone will just think it's an app."

A few years ago I would agree with you. The first wave of magic apps were piping hot turds. In a classic example of magician creativity, they put out app-based versions of card tricks. It would be, like, an animated picture of a deck of cards, and when you shook it a card would rise out or other tricks that seemed like a step backwards from things you can do with an actual deck of cards.

But in recent years the apps have gotten so much better and so much more clever. They are, often times, invisible and the magician's phone might not be used in the effect at all (or seemingly so).

Two of the best iPhone magic apps are Earworm and MagicWebFX. What they have in common is that both of these effects happen on the spectator's cell phone.

The way I perform Earworm is this. I say, "I'm going to walk over there and dance to a song as I hear it in my mind, and just by the sheer power of my dancing, and the poetry of my movement, you'll be able to tell what the song is." I then walk a few feet away, take a deep breath, and start my dance routine. It's kind of a combination of Elaine from Seinfeld meets the Carlton meets Sparkle Motion meets Zumba meets the Bartman meets Lambada: The forbidden dance (I ooze sexuality) meets the guys from the rap song in Teen Witch.

Essentially I spazz out for 20 seconds then come back breathing heavy, look in her eyes and give an upward nod of my head as if to say, "Top that." I then ask her to guess what song I was dancing to but before she can give an answer I borrow her cellphone so I can bring up the song as proof. She gives me her phone, I go into youtube and start up a song (with the volume down, for the moment) and hand her the phone back to hold between her hands. 

I have her guess what song I was dancing to. She has no idea. I press her until she finally names something.

"We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off by Jermaine Stewart," she finally guesses.

I smile big. "You got it," I say. Then I do a mini-replay of my dance, and emphasize a couple moves I may or may not have done and how they go with the song. 

"I'm just glad you were receptive enough to my dancing that you were able to pick up on that. Some women are intimidated by it," I tell her. "My talent is a gift from god," I say. "What I do with it is my gift back to him." I nod sagely.

"Go ahead and turn up the volume," I say.

She does and the song she named comes spilling out.

We don't have to take our clothes off
To have a good time, oh no

"That song is right, you know," I say, pulling her in close. "We can just dryhump or something."

Another thing Earworm and MagicWebFX have in common is that they were both created by Marc Kerstein. And I'm pretty excited to announce that he is also creating an app for me to coincide with the book release.

The app is very different from anything I've seen in magic apps. As of now, I don't even think Marc knows exactly how it will be used, and he's building the thing. I don't want to give away too many details yet, but it does one very simple thing, and that simple thing is going to allow you to alter memories and change history for your spectator. The app is used in a particular trick in the book but it has a bunch of other potential uses as well; not only for the amateur, but for the professional too, I even have stage ideas for it. And my favorite thing about the app is that it won't seem like a trick with a phone or a trick on a phone. The app is invisible to the audience, and the phone is just used in a way that helps establish a reality for the spectator that you will go on to dismantle at the end of the effect. Because of the structure of the effects that you can do with this app -- specifically the one in the book -- the spectator won't perceive it as an effect with a phone, but one with their mind. Don't believe me? It's true, you'll see. I've done a version of this effect for years and it's one of the most mind-fucky things I do.

The app is going to be super-unreasonably expensive. But there's a reason for that. As I wrote in an email to Marc:

"The thing about the book is, the smaller the percentage is of people who read my site who shelled out money to support it, the more I want to reward the people who did by giving them a great book with a few extras."

And one of the extras is going to be this app. Everyone who buys the book will get it for free. And by putting a super-high price on it for everyone else, it means it will essentially be exclusive for you.

(Sorry, but it will only be an iPhone app. And yes, I know Android is a bigger part of the market, and they allow you to do things Apple doesn't, and all that. But, unfortunately, for whatever reason, the iPhone is the default phone for magic apps. You're in a situation where you're trying to get gimmicked cards for a bridge-sized deck. You still have a few months at least. Call it a business expense. I'll speak to your wife if you need to justify it.)

So today's book report is that it was mostly a non-writing day. I communicated some with Marc on the app and worked on some ideas with it. Then I took reference photos for the trick, From the Shadow of the Shallow End, and worked on setting up a system with Stasia, our illustrator, where we can easily exchange and track photos and illustrations. 

And now I'm up until 4am writing this junk.  

(Today's post title was inspired by Bleached. They put out one of my favorite albums of 2013 and their new one comes out April 1st. I know I can't talk you out of your love of whatever awful thing you listen to --Hoobastank or whatever-- but I feel compelled to spread the word on things I like.)