A Critical Examination of a Flattering Critique
Earlier this week over email, someone accused me of writing the following critique of this site on the Magic Cafe.
If you're reading this on your phone and that's too small, it says (the spelling and grammar errors are his, not mine):
The Jerx is great, but many of his ideas are not original as some people here seems to think.
His ideas for example with Ring Flight and doing an effect like an experiement has been written by T.A.Waters in his big book.
Stopping time has been done by David Berglas long time ago.
Knowing things by taste has been done by a guy on Jay Leno in the 90's. Even Lee Earle mentioned it in his magazine.
And when the Jerx writes about the mixing of methods, as if this is a new notion, I wonder if has never heard of an effects like The Linking Rings or The Ambitious Card.
I get why they thought it was suspicious. It's phrased as a criticism, but it's actually incredibly complimentary. At least that's how I took it.
Look, I've written like 600+ essays, articles, and effects over the past 2.5 years. And in all that content these are the examples of "many" of my idea being "not original."
1. I wrote a one-paragraph description once of how I do ring-flight without any presentation at all. The whole purpose of which was to disconnect it from being part of a magic trick. In TA waters book he writes about doing ring flight as a kicker at the end of a psychometry routine. The only similarity I see is that we both register confusion rather than "ta-dah!" at the moment the effect occurs. But in a broader sense, the ideas are at the complete opposite ends of the presentational spectrum.
2. This is correct. I did not invent the idea of stopping time. (I don't think David Berglas did either.)
3. I've never written a trick about "knowing things by taste." I have written a trick about being able to read what someone wrote with your tongue by eliminating all your other senses. I'm going to guess this is probably not what was done on the Jay Leno show in the 90s. Although it's possible.
4. I haven't written about "mixing methods as if this is a new notion." I have written about combining methods, but didn't suggest it was new. I said it was "undervalued." And I was writing about how two weak methods could create a strong method. This, again, is the opposite of what he's suggesting. With the ambitious card or linking rings, you're talking about doing multiple methods to do the same effect over and over. But you can't use multiple weak methods in a sequence or you're just upping the possibility of getting busted. What I was writing about was blending methods to create one effect.
So, as I said, I found the post on the Cafe wildly flattering. He was trying to make the point that many of my ideas are "not original" and the best example he had of that, amongst hundreds of posts, was that I didn't create the concept of stopping time. (Full disclosure, I didn't create the concept of ESP, hallucinations, spectral visions, synchronicity, or any of the other presentational ideas I've explored in my work.)
Speaking of "not original," I have a notebook full of card tricks that I've come up with, and while some of them are pretty good, I don't really ever publish them anywhere because I just assume every good card trick idea has been thought of before. And doing the research required to figure out if a card trick is original or not feels like a lot of work for not much reward, that's why you don't see much of that sort of thing here.
However I'm making an exception to that with the trick below because I've been doing it a bit recently and it gets a lot of bang for the buck in the sense that you get two pretty hard hitting magical moments for one relatively simple move.
It's something I came up with myself but I would not be at all surprised if it's something that's in, like, Stars of Magic or something. Or maybe it's the first thing everyone thinks of when they learn this move. That's why I'm burying it here in this post. If it's not at least somewhat original, I can just delete it.
Here's what you need, going from the top down. A red deck of cards. A double-backed red card. 4 blue backed aces. Hold a pinky break over the double-backer. Spread the cards in order to have four cards touched and out-jogged for half their length. Do a Vernon strip-out addition type thing to remove the four selected cards as well as everything under your break. Turn everything over on top of the deck to show the spectator has found the four aces. From there you can go into changing the back color (or revealing something written on the back of the aces, or changing the aces into other cards (if you use double-facers instead of blue-backed aces) or whatever.)
Again, I don't post many traditional card tricks here, but I wanted to offer this one up in case it's not something everyone already knows. It gets a much bigger response than I would have anticipated. I think because of how straightforward it is. It's a kind of unusual trick in the sense that everything the audience perceives is actually happening. They do freely select any four cards. Those exact cards are out-jogged from the deck. And then those cards are turned over on top of the deck. Yes, something additional happens that they don't perceive, but everything they do perceive does actually happen, which I think is somewhat rare with a visual card trick like this.
I've decided I'm going to give the 450 Minutes treatment (15 minutes of practice, every day for a month) to dice stacking. What I like about dice stacking is mainly how stupid and pointless it is. I like that fact that it serves no practical purpose. Even if a guy came into your house and said "Stack these dice or I kill your whole family," it still would be quicker just to stack them with your hand than shaking a cup back and forth.
I'm not sure when I'm going to start, but it will probably be some time next week.
First, let's establish a baseline for my skill at dice stacking at this point in time.
Ellusionist recently re-released a trick by James Brown (not that one) called Pot of Jam. It's an effect where you have two coins and one goes in your pocket and then it comes back to your hand a couple times and then it ends with the production of a "pot of jam" (like, a little jelly jar, I guess).
A friend of mine asked me if I had a better idea for the final load. The pot of jam thing doesn't really resonate with either of us. Maybe because we're not British. But even then, it doesn't seem so much like a willful arbitrary choice so much as it seems like something he may have settled on for lack of any other idea.
So, if like my friend you like the routine, and would prefer to use an ending that had some thematic cohesiveness, I have an idea. Do a google search for tiny piggy bank. Or search "piggy bank keychain." There are a bunch of those out there that you can have your business details printed on, if you perform professionally. You can give them away for about 50 cents, or less than a dollar if you crammed them full of pennies, which would be the way I'd go.
The original routine isn't really my style, so I haven't put much thought into this potential variation. I just think there are probably better presentational options with coins and a piggy bank than with coins and a pot of jam.
That is, again, unless you want something arbitrary, in which case I think there are better options than a pot of jam. Say, fart putty or a squirrel's head wrapped in a sheet from your old school newspaper, for example.
(My first idea, because the trick would use a dime and penny in the US (I think) is that you would keep referring to it as the Eleven Cents trick. And you'd have the audience repeat that a few times like, "And of course the dime comes back to my hand because it's the...?" Eleven Cents Trick, they reply. Then at the end you'd ask them what you had in your hand and they'd say a dime or penny or both. And you'd be like, "A dime and a penny? Did you forget what this trick is called?" And they'd say, "The Eleven Cents Trick" and you'd be like, "Clean your ears out, dumb-dumb. It's the Lemon Scent trick." And you'd open your hand to show a small lemon. Eh... I give that one a C-.)
We'll be doing another series of focus group tests next month in Manhattan. One thing I want to test is how often people notice discrepancies like an Elmsley count that displays the ace of hearts twice instead of an ace of hearts and an ace of diamonds. Or one of those tricks where you supposedly show the four jacks singly, but really you just show the same two jacks twice. I have this theory that people notice this stuff more often than they say. But I don't know if that's true or not.
Then the question becomes, at what rate of failure do you not use tricks with such a discrepancy? If 1/3rd of people notice it, do you not use such a trick? Probably. But what if it's 10%? I guess I'll wait to see what type of results we get before I concern myself with that question.
The final JAMM comes out tomorrow.
Here's an email I received from a "friend" of mine a couple months ago.
Attached is an ebook I bought for $22. It's 12 pages long and there is no formatting or any effort put into the presentation of the material. It has one trick in it which is not very good. I repeat, this guy made $22 off of me. And he doesn't write a magic blog for free on top of that.
This has been a kind of running joke with some of my friends who laugh at my business acumen when it comes to this site. The main theme of these emails is that I end up wasting time and money by doing the JAMM like I did, in the format of a magazine paying for models and photography and so on. Their theory is most people just care about the tricks so I could have easily just written them up and copied and pasted them into a word document and sent it out unadorned once a month. Or charged more. Or not included a deck. Or something.
This is probably all true, but as I've said before, I'm not good at the business part of this. That's okay, though, because my goal has never been to minimize costs and maximize profits. It's only been to produce content I find cool or interesting or fun and that has some value for people.
And when I look at the covers for this year of The JAMM, I'm pretty psyched with how that all turned out and I'm glad I didn't half-ass it and just copy and paste a couple routines into an email every month.
Is it the greatest magic magazine of all time? Well, I'm biased of course, but I think I agree with all future magic historians when I say, "Undoubtedly, yes."
In the last issue I'll be mentioning the names of the people who assisted in the production of the magazine, but I want to give a general thanks to them here as well. Thanks!