Stocking Stuffers


A Sponge-Ball Routine

This is the only sponge ball routine that I enjoy performing. It’s pretty funny. Like, real person funny, not magician funny (i.e. not funny). I have a few friends who perform it too and I considered having someone record a video of it so you’d understand the delivery, but I decided against it. I think it’s the kind of thing where if you are the sort of person who would be good at delivering this, then you’ll understand the humor from the text alone; if you’re not, then seeing a video won’t help you anyway.

For those who are funny, no explanation is necessary. For those who are not, none will suffice.

Sponge balls always gets a good reaction, but it falls into that category with other tricks like cups and balls, linking rings, egg bag, chop-cup, etc. What category is that, Andy? Classics of magic? No. Tricks that blow. Tricks where it’s just a sequence of meaningless impossibility. I get no joy out of performing that sort of stuff. Or watching it. If it’s your scene, great, knock yourself out. I’m just not into it.

This trick has something of a “story” to it, although it’s structured more as a three-beat joke. You get the best moments of sponge magic without the boring, repetitive stuff.

Here’s how it starts. I ask, “Have you ever heard of Memory Foam?” They usually say yes and tell me about how they have a memory foam mattress or pillow or how they slept on one at their cousin’s place. Or whatever. As they say this, I let my face scrunch up, like I’m confused. “Huh? What on earth are you talking about? A bed?” I give my head a little shake like I’m thinking, “What a lunatic.”

“No,” I say, “memory foam. Those pieces of foam that absorb your thoughts and become the shape of your favorite memory.”

I pull out two red sponge balls. “You haven’t heard of this? These are two balls of memory foam. It’s okay. You don’t need to be familiar with everything in the world, but don’t make up something about a bed or pillow or whatever, just because you’re feeling self conscious about not knowing something.”

“I’ll show you how it works.” I take one of the red balls and push it into my fist. “You just concentrate for a moment and it absorbs your favorite memory. You don’t even have to know what it is. The foam knows.” After a beat I open my hand and the sponge ball is now a cube.


I look confused for a moment and then say, “Oh! Hahah. The time I saw that box! That was a great time. That box was awesome.”

I put the cube away in my pocket. “Here, you try,” I say, and pick up the remaining ball and give it to my friend to hold. I tell her to squeeze it and let the memory foam do its work. When she opens her hand there are now two balls. “Oh, I say. You were remembering the time I showed you those two balls of memory foam. That was like 45 seconds ago. That’s one of your favorite memories? I mean… okay… that’s great. I’m glad you’re enjoying this. It’s a little sad,” I say, as my voice trails off.

“Anyway, let’s try it with you,” I say to another friend. I pick up the two balls and give them to him to hold. After a moment I have him open his hands and, as you probably imagined, a big red sponge dong shoots up.


“Oh…,” I say. “Uhm…. uh… well… that seems like maybe it’s a private memory. Yes? Why don’t we… uhm…. let’s just….” I take the ding-dong and put it aside or put it in my pocket and uncomfortably transition to something else.

There you have it.

You need a sponge ball to cube gimmick. Two sponge balls. And a sponge ding-dong.

I think the choreography is pretty obvious. Briefly: You bring out one sponge ball and the ball to cube gimmick. After you change the ball to the cube you put the cube away and steal the other sponge ball which you load in the second person’s hand. When all attention is on the second person, then you steal the dong. You’ll figure the rest out.

I’ve added other phases where the balls go from hand to hand or change color. They worked fine, but I like this three beat structure the best.

A Tip for Those of You With Office Jobs

Maybe this isn’t a universal tip, but it certainly held true when I worked an office job. What I learned on that job is that you should never take the week between Christmas and New Years off. So many other people take it off that it become a de facto week off even if you are coming into the office. You can take three hour lunches, watch movies on your computer, write a magic blog… whatever you want. And you’re not burning any vacation days and people actually feel a little sorry for you. You seem like a good worker. “I’ll come in and hold down the fort,” is your attitude. Meanwhile you’re taking naps and leaving at 3:30.

Again, this may have just been my particular situation, and obviously if there’s something you want to be doing on those days, it’s a bad idea. But if you just sort of automatically take those days off because everyone else does, I recommend sticking around and saving those vacation days for another time of the year.

Cardigram: A Trick from JM Beckers

You shuffle a deck of cards. You invite three friends to cut the cards as much as they want. The deck can be placed under the table so you can’t see it. The cards are cut some more and then three cards are removed, one for each spectator. The rest of the deck is placed in the card case and never looked at again. The spectators put the cards in their pockets or sit on them or whatever. All this can happen while your back is turned or you’re out of the room. You never see the cards or the deck. In fact, you can pour acid in your eyes and blind yourself before the selections are made and you could still successfully complete the effect.

The three cards are hidden. The deck is hidden. Yet you are able to name the cards or, as in the trick described by JM, you’re able to pick up on some details of the cards and your mentor is able to nail them exactly via email.

I haven’t performed the trick in the following pdf myself as it’s similar to some other stuff I do, but I think people who like this site will appreciate it. Presentationally it draws a bit on ideas I’ve offered here. But methodologically it’s the sort of thing that I never could have come up with myself. If you’re like me, it will take you a little while to wrap your head around it, but once you “get it,” it’s fairly simple. There is a section at the end of the pdf with some thoughts by me. Cardigram is based on tricks by Alex Elmsley and Denis Behr.

Here’s the pdf.

Thanks, JM.

A Mnemonic Trick for Remembering Names

I’m not naturally great with remembering names. I used to feel like my mind was actively fighting with me to ignore people’s names when I first heard them. Like they’d say, “Hi, I’m Sarah,” and I would just immediately zone out on the name.

I tried a number of the standard memory techniques that you read, e.g.,:

Make a rhyme, associating the name with your impression of the person. Or link the person’s name to a song lyric, e.g., Dave needs a shave.

Those sorts of things would sometimes work for me, but not always. My brain wouldn’t always make the reverse connection, “Ah, here’s this guy… what’s his name? It has something to do with his beard. Harry? Vandyke? What the hell was his name…? ‘Tim needs a trim’? No. that wan’t it.”

Also, I didn’t like that I was taking that moment right when I was meeting them, the moment I should be attuned to their face and what they’re saying, and instead I’m trying to come up with some stupid rhyme or association.

So here’s what I do now. It has the advantage of requiring no cleverness on my part and it’s memorable in a way that they tell you these sorts of mnemonics should be.

When I meet someone and they tell me their name, I immediately imagine them 69’ing someone I know with the same name. It can be someone I know personally or someone famous or a fictional character. So if Sarah introduces herself to me, then I just imagine her engaged in simultaneous oral with singer Sarah McLachlan, as that’s someone I can picture in my mind. If I want to be extra sure, I’ll add another detail to the background that I associate with the person I know. So, for Sarah McLachlan it might be some abused/homeless dogs who are also 69’ing. That image won’t leave your mind.

Of course this only works so long as you know of someone else with the same, but if you don’t, then you can say, “I’ve never heard that name before. Where does it come from?” Or whatever, and undoubtedly you can find some sort of mnemonic hook in that conversation.

Try it when you’re out for New Years. It works for me. Plus there’s something enjoyable about seeming like a nice attentive person and remembering people’s names when really I’m imagining them choking on the genitals of Ian Ziering.

An Anniversary Waltz Tweaking

I’m going to briefly describe some changes my friend Andrew has made to a traditional Anniversary Waltz handling that I believe elicits even stronger reactions from this already strong trick. I’m not going to get into the details of the handling, you should be able to work it into whatever version of AW that you do.

The first change is a bit of a misdirect in the presentation. Let’s say he’s performing for a newly married couple. He has one card chosen from a red deck and another from a blue deck (forced, of course) without anyone looking at them. He holds one of the cards face down in each hand. He then says something like, “Even though you could have chosen any card in the deck, you happened to be drawn to these two cards specifically. And just like you, John and Julie, these cards are… a perfect match.” He smiles broadly as he reveals the cards with some gusto. They don’t match at all, not even close. Only now does he realize this. “Oh… huh.” This gets a nice laugh.

The cards are placed face up on one of the decks which is secretly turned over to switch in the double facer. The “two” cards are signed.

The second change is to use a double-backer in the lead up to the final display. There are many routines where this is done so you can show the “front and back” of both cards, separated from the deck. But instead of using a normal double-backer, in this case you use a red/blue double-backer. It’s a small change, but it really does emphasize these are two separate and distinct cards. You are clearly seeing two different faces and two different backs which, I believe, amps up the impossibility when the cards become one single object.

You can, of course, bring the patter back around, e.g., “The important thing is not that these cards match. What matters is how well they come together… [etc., etc.]”

You’ll read my version of Anniversary Waltz, which veers off from the traditional one, in Magic for Young Lovers. If I was going to do a more traditional version it would be this one. It’s always nice when you can misdirect the audience (“Oh, I know what’s going to happen. The cards will match. I wonder how he rigged it so they’d match?”) and then follow it up with something significantly more impossible. This is a concept I’ve talked about in the past called “The Trajectory of Expectations.

Merry Christmas everyone! As I mentioned on Friday, this is the end of Season 3. I’ll be checking in here occasionally until regular posting resumes (most likely) with Season 4 in a month or so. Look for a post in a week about the direction of Season 4 (first discussed in this post). Until then, enjoy the holidays, eat, drink, be merry, and do some magic for people.

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