The Green Grass Test

This video was promoted everywhere today. It's for a trick called Offworld by JP Vallarino.

It's a variation on Out of this World where the spectator guesses the colors of the cards one by one as they're revealed by the performer. It looks very clean and I was really taken with it when I first saw it and I planned to pre-order it. But then I applied the Green Grass Test to it.

I think, as magicians, it's easy to get caught up in the new thing. At least it is for me. And when I see the "new" thing it's very easy to fall into the trap that this new thing is better than whatever dumb old thing it's replacing.

One day I realized that was a very magician-centric style of thought. I was purchasing variations on effects just because they tickled my fancy (as opposed to my spectator's collective fancies). 

So then I came up with the Green Grass Test to prevent myself from falling into the "newness" trap. The test is simply this: When a new trick is released that is a variation on an older trick—or that creates a similar effect as an old trick—I imagine that the new trick is the old trick, and the old trick is the new trick. And then I determine which one I would be drawn to. Don't worry, I'll explain that. The purpose of this is to try and figure out if I'm drawn to this new version because it's new, or because it's genuinely better.

So, for example, let's pretend Offworld was the effect we had all been doing for the past 75 years. Then, one day, a young upstart named Paul Curry fired up his webcam and began to tell us about this variation on Offworld he'd created called Out of this World. 

"The effect is kind of like Offworld. But it doesn't use rough and smooth. In fact, it uses a normal deck of cards. The deck can actually be borrowed and shuffled by the spectator. And get this, they do all the dealing themselves. It's fully examinable."

Our minds would be blown and our jeans would be creamed and we would gladly be tossing away this gimmicked deck we had used for 75 years in favor of what would certainly be seen as a huge evolution in the trick. Wouldn't we?

Well, there is no "we" answer. I can only answer for myself. For myself and my performing considerations, the Green Grass Test helped me come to the conclusion that this is a significant step backwards from a traditional OOTW. 

With a traditional OOTW I can borrow a deck, have them shuffle it, spread through the cards rapidly to have them subliminally "absorb" the order (and for me to cull the cards), give them the deck to deal, and have them reveal (at least some) of the cards at the end. And I can do all of this at any time without having to run off to get my special deck.

Again, I'm not suggesting Offworld is a bad trick. I just realized that what attracted me to it was that it looked easy and new and not that it would ultimately be a better trick for my audience. Your performance considerations might be different. Maybe you only perform at restaurants and you'd never be in a position to do a full OOTW and you still want to do a trick where the audience guesses the colors. Well, then this would likely be a good option for you.

Here's one final thing to consider... I was out tonight with my friends Mark and Andrew working on the details for some upcoming focus-group testing we're doing in early 2018. 

The subject of this trick came up and Mark said that he got an early preview version of the effect and that it was pretty good. He went out to his car and came back with the deck a few minutes later. We waved the bartender over and Mark performed the trick for him. He asked him to guess what color the next card would be and he got it right like 10 times in a row. He did it face up like Greg does in the demo. It looked really good.

When he was done I took the deck to examine the construction and I was really impressed. It felt like it was legitimately just single cards and I couldn't tell where the rough/smooth element had been applied. 

As I was about to ask if it used thin cards or something like that, Mark called me a dipshit and said it was just a regular deck. He didn't get any "early preview" version of the effect. He was just messing around. When he went to his car he stacked the deck he already had in his pocket so it alternated Red-Black throughout. When he returned he held the deck face-up and asked the bartended to guess what color the next card was. If he guessed the opposite color of what was on the face, Mark would just push off the top card and put it to the rear of the deck. If the bartender guessed the same color as was on the face, Mark would do a double push off and put it to the rear of the pack. The R/B configuration never changes. He could have done it all night.

The little prick was screwing with me! And it worked. In fact, I remember thinking that it looked much better to just push off the top card normally rather than drag it off the back of the pack as Greg did in the demo. 

It's definitely more difficult to do it with normal cards, and you almost certainly can't do the full Offworld routine, but if a double push-off is in your arsenal, it might be worth considering. 

[The Green Grass Test can be used in other contexts. It originated when I was at a film festival for a week with a friend of mine and he was contemplating a dalliance with a woman there even though he was married. I wasn't really trying to talk him out of it, per se, just give him some perspective. I told him to imagine he had been married to this new woman for the past 5 years and not his actual wife. Would she still hold the same allure? If he imagined his wife as the new woman, wouldn't he probably be more drawn to her? Then I famously said, "When you think about it, this new woman is more of a dumpy broad than your wife!" I really have a way with words. Well, it worked out and he didn't cheat. I don't think I saved their marriage by making him fall back in love with his wife or anything like that. It was more a matter of me poisoning this picture he had in his mind of this new woman by recasting her as some old nag that he was sick of.]