Diary, Cha Cha Cha

When your tummy’s feeling funny
And your pants are hot n’ runny

Here's me as a smart, but dumb, 13-year-old, not knowing how to be a magic spectator when a guy was showing me a trick at one of the only magic conventions I've ever gone to.

Him: Do you know how a deck of cards is like a calendar?

Me: Uhm... they're both made of paper?

Him: A deck of cards—

Me: They have numbers?

Him: A deck of cards has two colors—

Me: My grandma has an old one that she should replace?

Him: Huh? No. Listen. This is the patter.

Me: Oh! I thought it was a riddle or something.

Him: A deck of cards has two colors. Red and black, representing day and night.

Me: A calendar doesn't track day and night.

Him: And it has four suits, like the four seasons.

Me: Okay.

Him: And it has 52 cards, like the 52 weeks of the year. 

Me: Huh... interesting.

Him: And it has 13 values per suit, like the 13 lunar cycles.

Me: Lunar cycles!

Him: And—

Me: That's a stretch.

Him: But the most—

Me: Like... sure... what's a more common way to think of the way a calendar is broken up than lunar cycles. C'mon man.

Him: Stop. Hold on. But the most interesting thing is if you add up all the values, you get 364. And if you add the joker you get 365, the number of days in a year.

Me: Aren't there two jokers?

Him: Well, yeah. But we add one to get 365.

Me: Oh...It seems like it didn't work out there at the end really. And if we add a joker, aren't we now talking 53 cards which spoils the number of weeks in a year thing?

This was my introduction to the Diary Effect and also my introduction to the fact that magicians don't actually like to be talked to when they're performing. I mean, they didn't get into magic because they were great at interacting with people.

When your stomach starts a rollin' 
and you're cleaning out your colon

The Diary Effect is this: A spectator names a date and then they look that date up in a datebook that has a card next to every date. I just used the word date four times in that sentence. Sorry. Anyway, they look up their date and next to it is a card, and you show that you've predicted the card in some way. 

I find this trick gross. I realize that's weird to say. And don't think I don't understand that my views on magic are somewhat idiosyncratic. I sometimes wonder how this site has any regular readers at all. 

One time I was in Virginia, with a buddy of mine who also does magic. We were on a snowboarding trip and staying at a friend's house. My magician friend was performing a diary effect for the owner of the house and, as he performed it, I was rolling my eyes and making faces. Really trump'ing it up.

And my friend was laughing because he knows I hate the effect and I was being a baby about having to sit through it. Later he asked me why I disliked it so much and I said, "Ah, it's such phony, fake bullshit."

"Phony, fake bullshit!" he said. "You just spent 20 minutes communicating with her dog like Son of Sam!"

[Son of Sam the Bellhop

Effect: I used to do a drawing dupe effect where the spectator would draw an image and show it to her dog while I was out of the room, then I'd "talk to the dog" and reproduce the drawing. Then we'd put the dog out of the room, she'd freely name any card in the deck. We'd spread the cards all over the floor (face up... the dog's not a mindreader). I would go out of the room and "talk to the dog" and he would come bouncing in and pick up the card in his teeth.

Method: Any drawing dupe you want. And then smearing a little wet dog food on the back of a playing card.]

But, to me, those two effects are completely different. "This dog is talking to me and telling me to kill people. And now I will prove that we're talking to each other," is obviously fiction. But it's an entertaining fiction. And it's logical fiction.

On the other hand, "A deck of cards is kind of like a calendar. So now I have this date book with a card next to each date." What is that about? We often talk about how we should really do tricks with "normal objects." And we interpret that to mean, "Don't use Tenyo tricks." Or, "Don't use a Wow gimmick." But a datebook with a card on every date is just as sketchy. More-so, even. A Wow gimmick I can pass off as some bizarre piece of new technology my uncle snuck out his government job. I can make up something for it because it isn't anything. But a datebook with cards in it is just you putting together some dumb prop for the sake of a trick. 

And just the premise of the trick is goofy too. If you're trying to show you can predict what date they would name, then predict what date they would name. If you're trying to show you can predict what card they would select, ask them to name a card. Why the extra step?

Honestly, as a spectator, if someone took out their datebook, you might get pretty interested. "Oooh... what is this about? A trick about time and dates? Am I going to see this guy's schedule and the thing's he's done this year? That's pretty personal and interesting— Oh. Never mind. It's a card trick."

It's stinky, brown and smelly 
As it chugs out of your belly

I will admit that I do like some of the methodology used in diary effects, and I've performed various tricks based on those methods. Below are three you might want to consider. The methods aren't mine to give away but as long as you know a method, you should be able to come up with a way to map these effects onto the standard presentation. There are those methods which allow for a freely chosen date and those where the date is generated in some way. The freer the selection of a date is, the more predictions you usually need to have on hand to ring in in some way.

Version 1 - Birthdate

Instead of a playing card in an envelope it's a birthday card. The spectator names a date. They look through my datebook and find which friend has a birthday on that date (or the closest to it). When they open the envelope it's a belated birthday card to that friend. 

Things to consider: You don't need a birthday on every date. You can have your spectator look for the closest birthday from that date. That can help a lot.

Version 2 -  Dinner Date

Taken from The Jerx, Volume One

So I thought of coming up with other versions of the effect. And while it wasn’t what I ended up doing with the trick, one of my interim ideas was to have all the food holidays listed in the datebook. If you google “food holidays” you’ll find that every day of the year has a food associated with it. So my idea was to have someone name any date, let’s imagine they say March 18th. We turn to that page in the diary and find that’s Oatmeal Cookie Day. On the table from the start is a cloche that you lift up to reveal a plate of oatmeal cookies underneath. 

Version 3 - Memento

This is the version I currently use. It was borne out of the, perhaps obvious, thought that it would be nice to do this style of effect with a datebook that was actually full of the types of things you might find in a datebook.


I'm hanging out at my apartment with my friend Chelsea. At some point she sees me pull out a datebook, open it to today's date, and write, "Watched a movie with Chelsea," in it, and then I circle that entry. She asks what I'm doing and I tell her about this form of journaling I learned from my great aunt.

"Every day I write down the things I do and then I circle the activity that I enjoyed the most. Then, at the end of the year, I go through my datebook and look at all the circled items and think about what was the the highlight of the year and I take some memento of that activity and I carry it with me in the bill section of my wallet for the following year. It's a little superstitious ritual. The idea being that the 'good energy' of the souvenir you carry with you will bring you a whole year of positive, fun experiences. I'd usually pass it off as just nonsense, but there's something to it. I'll show you. Picture a calendar in your mind and flip through the pages. Now stop on one month. Now scan your eyes around the days and stop on one day. What's the date you're on?"

"March 21st," she says.

I smile and tell her to open the drawer in my coffee table and pull out my datebook from 2015. "Take a look. Every entry is different, right? Now what does it say on March 21st,"  She looks and finds the circled entry on that date says, Celebration Dinner with Charley at Artisanal. "That was the day my book proposal got accepted. Charley and I got fondue to celebrate. it was one of the best meals of my life. Check this out. Hand me my wallet."

She does. I open up the bill section and pull out a small envelope. I show her there's nothing else in the wallet. On the outside of the envelope it says, "Highlight of 2015." I tell her to pull out what's inside and it's a receipt for dinner for two at Artisanal with a congratulatory message written on the back by my friend Charley.

I rip a piece of paper out of a notebook and ask my friend to draw a little something on it. She asks why and I say, "Well, so I have something to remember this night by and carry with me next year." 


The initial method is Bob Cassidy's diary effect, Chronologue. But I just don't use cards. I use tickets and receipts and stubs from shows and business cards and notes  and little photos and anything else small and flat that you might save. You just have to make sure they don't have a date on them. 

Then I use an Heirloom Deluxe wallet. This allows you to hold 20 outs and you can show your wallet empty after you remove the envelope.

I don't want to get into the workings of Chronologue but I will just say that once you're set up, a spectator can look through the date book and they are unlikely to notice anything. Especially with my version and series of predictions. With the 20 outs in the Heirloom Deluxe wallet the spectator can look over 5 weeks in either direction before anything similar comes up. And because you're not using playing cards, you can use different words to describe the event. "Went to the Knicks game" it could say in one spot. "Basketball game with Timmy," in another. "Hung out with Timmy all day. Caught a game at MSG," in another. And for each of these you would explain that you took your nephew, Timmy, to see the Knicks play. But in a casual look through of the book, even if your spectator specifically noticed both those entries, they wouldn't necessarily see them as the same. And they'll never really notice any two specific entries weeks apart. Not when they're written in different words, and when they're listed amongst many other events on that day.

 I use a cheatsheet in the back of my current year's datebook to let me know which envelope to pull from the wallet. 

I think I've given enough details here to make it fairly clear if you know Chronologue. It's a fun effect. The only not fun thing is making up the datebooks.

It's painful as it issues
From those hot and burning tissues
Diarrhea, cha, cha, cha
Diarrhea, cha, cha, cha