This is the first post in a week-long series dedicated to my gift taking guide.
Yes, this is a guide for things you might want to ask for this holiday season. Not things you might want to give. If you're legitimately looking at some generic gift guide, like this one from Walmart, to find something to give to someone you love, just end that relationship now. You two clearly haven't maintained it in a way that's good for either of you. You have 5 kids together? I don't care, end it. Ultimately that will be a much better gift to give than a Conair Foot Bath. Let her go find someone who cares about her enough to keep track of what she might want throughout the year.
Here's something I wrote in the last issue of the JAMM:
With most any other hobby, the holidays are a good time to ask for the things you might want related to that hobby. If you’re into bowling, then it’s perfectly normal to put a new bowling ball on your wishlist. And because the people who love you want to get you something you’ll enjoy, they’re happy to get you that bowling ball. Everyone’s happy all around.
But if magic is your primary hobby, it can be a little weird to be like, “Hey, for Christmas can you go to Penguin Magic and buy me this peek wallet?” Especially if you end up performing for these people in the future. “Oh, you want to put the word I wrote down in that special wallet I got you for Christmas? Okay, sure.”
The thing is, people want to get you something related to your interests. And if magic is a big interest—and you don’t let them know something particular—then they may go off on their own and get you some weird magic shirt or a Criss Angel biography or something.
So I think it’s good to have some magic things on your list that a loved one can pick up for you that are magic related but that aren’t specific effects you plan on performing for them. All the better if they can be found on Amazon or Ebay or something.
So this week I will be discussing items that are somewhat magic adjacent that you may want to consider adding to your wishlist this year.
These aren't affiliate links or anything like that. I'm not trying to make 1% off your transaction. I'm genuinely mentioning these sorts of things as items that I have put to good use in my magic practice, and they might serve you well to. And they're all things you can ask for without directing someone straight to Ellusionist or something.
Today's post is dedicated to just one broad category:
I'm not a big believer in wearing all sorts of crazy nonsense. In the mid-2000s there was this concept called "peacocking" in the pick-up artist community. This was the idea that you wear a bunch of outlandish shit in a desperate attempt to get people to pay attention to you. The pioneer in this field was the pick-up artist (and amateur magician) known as Mystery.
Here he is peacocking with a fuzzy hat, goggles, eyeliner, corny earrings, labret piercing, beard-lette, four rings, painted finger nails, big belt buckle, necklace, and outfit from Hot Topic's Gay Pirate collection.
Did this get him laid? Apparently. Good for him. I'm just stuck in that rut of using my charm and personality instead. But when that fails, fuzzy hat here I come.
When I suggest that accessories make a good gift for someone with an interest in magic, I'm not suggesting taking it to this degree. But I do like to have one moderately unusual item on me that may lead into a topic of conversation that may, in turn, lead into a performance.
For me, this is usually in the form of a ring. I know some people are hesitant about wearing something a little unusual. "I don't want to look like I'm starved for attention." I get that. But as long as it's one small thing, you're not going to come off that weird. Picture me, a normal looking guy: jeans, sneakers, hoodie, and then, if you're looking closely, you notice a slightly strange ring on my finger. You're not going to think I'm some ostentatious weirdo. If you're like most people, the biggest reaction you might have is to ask, "What's the story behind that ring?"
Here are some of the rings in my collection that I've used to get into an effect in a "hook" fashion, or as an actual part of an effect.
Secret Decoder Ring - There are a zillion contexts this can be used in. For example, the spectator creates a "random" number with a calculator, or cards. The number seems meaningless, but when "decoded" becomes some word with some connection to the spectator. You can do this with essentially any technique you know of that forces a number.
Dice Rings - These can be found in six "sides" and 20 "sides." There is an outer band that spins and you can use that as a random number generator. They're primarily used by role playing game nerds, but there are a number of magic tricks that use dice that could use these rings as well. Or you can just use it as an entrée into some mathematical (or pseudo mathematical) effect. "Why do you have that ring?" they ask. "Oh, there's this project I've been working on, not a work project but a personal project. It's a little strange. But I have to feed my mind random numbers throughout the day. It's kind of like a memory exercise. Actually, would you mind helping me out with something?" This is quintessential "hook" technique. I can't over express how different the interaction between you and your spectator is when a performance springs from their queries, and seemingly their direction.
I also just use the dice ring personally as a simple decision maker. (Which is also another presentational subject matter you can use with this ring.)
Handcuff Key Rings - I don't know where mine came from. They were a gift, and my friend who gave them to me a few years ago doesn't remember where he got them. They look like simple brass rings from the top of the hand, but from the inside it's clear that they're not. One of them you unbend to use as a handcuff key and the other just has the key part jutting out of the ring itself.
These can, of course, lead into a story which can lead into a trick. Maybe your mentor gave you one after you successfully completed some bit of training or something. "What was the training?" Oh, funny you should ask....
Here's another example with what looks like a much more legit lock pick there. Although the ring itself looks too normal to serve as a Hook. Here's a bracelet that comes apart to form a handcuff key. Look around and you'll see they've built handcuff keys into lots of different things.
Lastly, I'll let you in on a little secret project I'm working on for myself. It uses a ring that is a bit more conspicuous than the ones above. If you search on Etsy for something like snow resin ring, you will find a number of different options. Many contain a little miniaturized landscape like this.
I think this is pretty magical looking thing. And I'm now working with a craftsman to make a custom version of one of these rings to do a trick with. In the trick, my friend and I will do a visualization exercise that will inject us into the ring and then back out again. There will be "proof" of this journey because there will be a change to the ring and a change to the physical location we're in.
More details about this may come out someday.
If you don't wear rings, I would encourage you too. Even just a normal ring opens up a whole branch of magic for you to perform that you can always have on you and practice or perform at a moment's notice.
Or, if not rings, then find something you are into: sunglasses, watches, necklaces. And then work backwards from there, looking for magic you could use incorporating these items. There's not going to be as many of those sorts of things in the literature as you'll find with rings, but you can track stuff down. It can be an enjoyable process to be like, "Hmmm, if I started wearing watches regularly, what 5 tricks could I then add to my repertoire just because I know have this prop on me at all times."
There can also be a nice full-circle type of thing when someone gives you a gift and then, at a later point, you do some sort of effect with that thing. When you—for example—make the hands on the watch they gave you magically move to the time they're thinking of, that's a nice subtle way of interweaving the magic with other aspects of life.