Classic Cafe: Decibel

The Magic Cafe was so much more fun back in the day when I was writing my old blog. There was really nowhere else to go so everyone mingled there: amateurs to professionals, young to old, standard brain-dead morons to the functionally retarded. 

These days it's more like that mall by your house. You know, the mall people used to go to before they built the good mall? Yeah, that one.

But you still get some classic dumbfuckery at the Cafe and every now and again readers of this site will direct me to something at the Cafe. This weekend a couple of people wrote to tell me about the thread for the new Ellusionist effect, Decibel, because it includes one of my favorite things on the Cafe. And that is when someone is questioned about something and their response is "audience management." 

Q: "How do I get the audience to not want to look at the deck of cards after it changes color?"

A: "Audience management."

That is the equivalent of this:

Q: "We're down by 6 points. The ball is on the 40-yard-line. There are three seconds left. How do we score a touchdown on this defense that has stopped our run and pass game all day?"

A: "Strategy."

It's an identical answer. You're offering a generic term for a group of techniques because you can't suggest one of the actual techniques that would help. It suggests you have no clue what you're talking about. I hesitate to point this out because I love when dumb people use it on the Cafe and I don't want them to get wind of the fact that it identifies them as being dumb. 

Decibel is an effect where you take the the spectator's unplugged headphones in your fingers and cause them to hear audio coming from the headphones. If you have an accomplice you can cause them to hear pretty much any song they can name, without one you are limited to causing them to hear a forced selection.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about the effect. As presented in the abhorrent 7-minute demo (get an editor, Ellusionist), the effect is that a spectator freely names a song and that song comes out of their headphones. I'm not sure if the effect is supposed to be that the magician is causing the spectator to think they're hearing the song or if the magician is causing the headphones to play that song while apparently not plugged into anything. In other words, is the effect "I'm messing with your mind" or "I'm messing with electronics"? I suppose it could be either one, but I'm not sure this particular effect is ideal for exhibiting either phenomenon. 

If you say, "I can make these headphones play even though they're unplugged," any reasonable spectator will say, "Ok, just let me see that they're unplugged.." 

If you say, "I can cause you to hear any song as clear as if music was actually coming from these headphones." I think you will find people think, "I think music really is coming from the headphones. I bet they're plugged into something."

That's not to say you can't adjust to their thinking, I'm sure you can. BUT...

You need to be realistic enough and smart enough to anticipate the average spectator's train of thought or you will NEVER be able to present convincing magic. 

There is one guy in that Cafe thread by the name of kissdadookie, who is clearly a master of Grand Illusion. Sorry... my voice recognition software messed up. There is one guy in that Cafe thread by the name of kissdadookie, who is clearly a master of Grand Delusion.

When someone mentioned that spectators might question why they can only see the plug before and after the effect and not during the effect, he wrote:

"How is it that it matters most to be clean when the music is playing?"

Yeah, why would that matter? Why would it matter to be clean when the effect is happening? Also, why do we put a hoop around the lady while she's floating? Why not before she lays down and then at some point later that evening?

Kissdadookie then gives us more wisdom into the workings of a spectator's mind.

 When the music/audio is playing... your spectator will be in shock because this is truly an impossible thing which is happening....There's no heat on you. 

The MOMENT when they hear audio coming out of their seemingly unplugged headphones, they will react and start thinking about what is happening perhaps how it's happening. HOWEVER, they are busy doing that during that moment but none of that actually leads for them to go "hey let me see that plug!"

The assertion that an audience will be too amazed by the impossibility of a trick to notice if what's happening is actually impossible, is one of the dumber things posted on the Cafe in its history. And that's saying something. I'm surprised he can't follow that logic to its obvious conclusion.

Kissdadookie: The audience will be so amazed they won't think to look if the headphones are plugged in.

The world: What are they so amazed at?

Kissdadookie: That there is music coming from the headphones.

The world: And why is that amazing?

Kissdadookie: Because they're not plugged into anything.

The world: So wouldn't they have to see the naked plug to know that?

Kissdadookie: Uhhh... no... they're too amazed to want to look at the plug.

Okay. That makes perfect sense. Usually the audience would have to understand something impossible is happening before being amazed by it. But kissdadookie's audience comes in pre-amazed. That must makes things a lot easier. 

When he's called out on this logic he falls back on the prototypical dipshit's argument: Only someone who "lacks performing skills" and "audience management" would be worried about an audience suspecting the earphones are plugged into something. 

Sure. You just need to manage your audience into not suspecting the headphones are producing sound by the way all headphones produce sound... being plugged into something. My style of "audience management" is to beat them in the head with a brick until they can't make this connection.

No. What you need to do is recognize a trick's flaws and compensate for them. You can tell people like kissdadookie never actually perform. It's much easier to be forgiving of the weaknesses of an effect when you never put it in front of anyone.

There some other stupidity floating around in that thread.

This guy works for Ellusionist. I don't believe for a second he actually performed it like this, but imagine if he did. You're in the audience and a spectator is brought up on stage (in a previous post he mentions there was a stage, here he says it was busking). You're told what song to project to the volunteer. The volunteer is, inexplicably, given headphones to wear. And then they claim to hear the song. Well... who is this effect for? The audience will rightfully assume she heard something through the headphones. They're too far away to tell if the headphones are plugged into anything with the plug hidden in your hand. So for them the effect is, "Someone put on headphones and was able to sign the song we were thinking of." 

It's only maybe an effect to the spectator. And then only if he un-blindfolds her. But no performer would blindfold someone, write a song on a white board, then un-blindfold her. You'd just have her turn around. Not waste a bunch of time with a blindfold. AAHHH!! Why am I looking for logic in this bogus story that never happened. 

Although he claims:

"It rocked the crowd, everything from applause to stunned, opened mouthed silence."

Here's how I imagine that stunned, open mouthed silence. 

Listen, everyone, it's so rare that you have something that is potentially this organic. A trick where you just borrow the spectator's headphones and apparently have nothing else on you. I do not understand the compulsion to add in a deck of cards or a fucking pad with force locations on it. 

And most people will have headphones on them so they can listen to music. So why take this out of the realm of music into a card trick or some other magic-y junk? (It's especially a bad idea now that Marc Kerstein has created an app that allows for a solo presentation of any song named coming from the headphones.) It is such a magician's way of thinking to remove the music aspect and turn it into some shit card trick. "Music is too personal and vital to people. Let's remove that element completely." Smart.

You guys know how earbuds work, right? First you make a little incision in your inner ear, then you jam the earbuds deep into the gooey, bloody, damaged flesh.

I may still get Decibel, I don't know. I feel like my need for a music related impromptu effect is satisfied with Marc Kerstein's Earworm. With that effect I can have my spectator think of any song and I pick up on it. Or I can send them a song I sing in my head. Those are both very powerful effects for me. 

I don't know that the "headphones are playing but they're not plugged into anything (as far as you know)" is super strong, unless the cord is dangling without you holding it. I heard about a friend of a friend in NYC who has been showing this around and every layperson has asked to see the plug when the music was playing. But maybe he's clumsy with the gimmick, I don't know.

There is one killer presentation for this that avoid all of the pitfalls. Now, this presumes the gimmick can be turned on and off with pressure. And that you could generate that pressure with your sphincter. 

Setup: Put the decibel gimmick up your butthole.


"So I was out running the other day when it started to rain. Then it started to downpour. There was thunder and lightning."

"I don't really know what happened but one second I was running and the next I found myself waking up on the sidewalk. I could smell ozone and burnt hair. I think I was struck by lightning. Or it struck my iPhone or something. Look."

You take off your shirt and there is a dark burn mark in the shape of an iPhone, above your heart, where a breast pocket would be.

"And ever since this happened, I can do the craziest thing. Can I borrow your headphones?"

You undress completely, take her headphones and plug them into your butthole (and into the decibel gimmick).

"Here," you say, handing her a marker. "Write the name of any song on my chest."

She does.

"What does that say... Porcupine Pie by Neil Diamond? Hmmm... have you been listening to my sex mix? That's the first song on it."

You have her put her headphones in.

"Now press my left nipple," you say.

When she does you throw your head back and scream. That dies down after a moment but you continue to writhe and groan. After a few seconds she hears her song coming from the headphones plugged into your butt. 

After some time has passed you ask her to press your right nipple. She does and the music stops. 

You unplug her headphones and hand them back to her. 

"You can keep those," she says.