I’ve received quite a few emails in the past few days asking what my opinion was on the new release, Timeless by João Miranda. A couple people implied it was the worst trick they’d ever seen, a couple people didn’t love the trick but had a strange desire to purchase it, and one guy pre-ordered it but was regretting his decision.
It’s wise to come to me, as I am the great arbiter and voice of reason in magic. Genius, mediator, thought-leader, guru, influencer, sensei… yes, I suppose those are all accurate terms for how you view me. But I guess I just see myself as a simple blogger (and a horse-hung latino stud).
In all seriousness, I do think I have a good feel for these sorts of things due to the amount of time I spend talking to laypeople about magic.
Here’s a video of the effect. If you don’t have time to watch it, or if you’re in the middle of a meeting at work and are pretending to be looking over some spreadsheets when you’re reading this, I’ll summarize the trick quickly below.
So the trick is this. You borrow a ring and it turns into a watch battery. Then you open a small shipping box, remove a gift box from inside, you open the box and inside is a watch. You unscrew the back of the watch and inside is the spectator’s ring. (“Unscrew?” Yes, I know you have questions. We’ll get to them.)
So is this the worst trick I’ve ever seen? No. Not by a long shot.
Is this the worst $400 trick I’ve ever seen? Well…
The primary concern of some people seems to be the non-sequiturial nature of the effect. A ring disappears and reappears in… a watch? Yes, the ring changing to a watch battery provides a sort of internal logic, but internal logic—”magic trick logic”—is easy. If you want something to resonate with people, you need to have a logic that is more universal.
A ring appearing on a necklace makes sense because people do put rings on necklaces. (I have a great presentation for ring to necklace. I wish I had a great method.) A ring appearing in a plastic container in a gumball machine makes sense. Ring to shoelace, ring to keychain, ring to nest of boxes/wallets…these may not have the same immediate universal logic as some effects, but it wouldn’t be hard to craft a meaningful logic to such tricks. I’ve seen people tie things to their shoelace. You can put something on a keychain other than a key. Wallets and boxes were meant to hold things.
In fact, if you think of “ring to ______” and fill in that blank with almost any goddamn thing you can imagine, you will have something that makes more sense than this.
Here’s why, and here’s the trick’s fatal flaw… A WATCH IS NOT A FUCKING CONTAINER!
You don’t unscrew the back of a watch like a fucking jelly jar and find a place to store stuff. That’s not how watches work. So, the moment you do that the spectator says, “Oh, so it’s like a fake watch thing?” They’ll still be fooled, but you’re immediately into “puzzle” territory. “I don’t know how it works. But it’s a fake watch and I’m sure if I got a look at those boxes and the watch… I’d figure it out.” That’s your best case scenario.
Get a load of dat thicc boi watch…
For the people on the fence, consider this…
What if I said to you, “I have a version of this effect I’m selling. It’s an ebook. It’s $15. It costs another $15 in materials to make. There’s a trapdoor built into the box and a little slide going into the watch. It’s constructed in such a way that the audience can handle the boxes and the watch. They can’t give them a thorough examination, but they can casually handle them.”
So it’s the same effect with similar conditions. Do you know how many people would do that trick? Probably close to zero. Because it’s not a good idea for a trick.
What people are responding to here is what is, apparently, a really clever method. Clever methods are great, but if your goal is audience-centric magic, then they’re neither here nor there.
Now, you might say, “Actually, I like that idea for a trick.” Well, okay, then problem solved. I’m happy for you. I like when people find tricks they’re excited about. I’m not trying to talk anyone out of liking this trick. I’m just giving my opinion.
João’s stock-in-trade seems to be clever methods. Clever methods are a part of what a lot of us love about magic. I’m not knocking them. But you can’t let them blind you.
On João’s Penguin Live lecture (which I remember enjoying) I believe he talked about how he has a whole crew he works with on designing his line of magic effects. What he needs to do is hire someone who’s not an engineer. He needs to hire someone who understands story and dramatic structure (I’m available). In the midst of his crew working hard to create a way to get a ring inside a watch, he needed someone who would have raised their hand and said, “Wait… what are we doing?”
I’m not trying to trash João, I don’t own many of his tricks, but a lot of them at least look really great. And his Vision Box is a really good card to clear box.
In this case, I just wish he had applied his obviously clever mind to creating a ring to impossible location worth doing. Even if it was just a wildly clever method to get a ring to appear in a ring box inside of another box, that would have been great. I could come up with 100 presentations around that.
What if there was a gift box and inside was a small old fashioned jewelry box and when you opened it the tinkling music would begin, and the ballerina would spin, and around her neck was the spectator’s ring.
Murphy’s Magic had a big marketing campaign around this effect. They were pimping the ingenious method for days before even saying what the effect was. That was smart. If they had said, “We have the best method you can imagine to perform ring in watch!” the response would have been, “No thanks.”
But by focusing only on the method, they were able to get people in a lather about something most people wouldn’t have given two shits about otherwise.
The Magic Cafe thread on this trick is turning into a real classic. The big defenders of the effect are one guy who is trying to sell it and whose defense of this was—bizarrely—“If you don’t like it, it must mean you don’t have enough money to buy it.” Literally one of the dumbest things ever said on that site. And that’s a high bar to clear.
The other big defender is João himself, under his sock-puppet account, MagicMike34. “Mike’s” post history is very funny. “I just emailed João and he got back to me very quickly.” Of course he did… he’s you, goofball!
I guess it’s technically possible it’s not João. Maybe it’s merely a fanatical young man who writes just like João does and happened to show up at the Cafe soon after João’s account was suspended and only has anything to say about João’s work (not a single post on anyone else’s work) and it’s always a rave review. That’s possible. I guess it’s also possible he just happens to make the same spelling error on the Cafe…
As João makes on his website…
Regardless, I’m just happy someone is servicing and caring for the costumers. Cher had 11 wardrobe changes in her recent show. That will wear a costumer out.
So how would I salvage this trick? Well, remember, my last attempt at salvaging something was that trick with a card reveal on a fake Twix bar, and that didn’t really go all that well. In that case I took a dumb effect and tried to save it by making it even dumber (to suggest that you’re “in” on the joke) with a stupid story.
My initial thought was to do the trick with a signed watch battery. That’s probably the obvious idea. But ultimately it’s probably even dumber to have a watch battery rattling around in the back of a watch than it is a ring. If it reappeared secure in the watch, that would be one thing, but just floating around in the back compartment would be pretty odd. (Someone should work on that trick though. You bring out a non-working watch and lay it on the table. You have a battery signed and it disappears. You look at the watch for a few moments… and then the second hand jumps to life. You remove the back cover and the signed battery has reappeared.)
In this case, there is no getting around the fact that you have a specially made watch just for this trick. And if you have a specially made watch, then it goes without saying that everything else is specially made for the trick as well. You’re kind of stuck.
So, as I tried to save a dumb trick by making it dumber. I think the only way to save an obvious trick is to make it more obvious. You’re not going to like this, but in my opinion, the best use for this is to expose it. If the method is as clever as people say, then it’s more valuable to expose the method than it is to do the trick as is.
I don’t mean just expose the effect, but expose it as part of a larger presentation. For example, you borrow a ring, vanish it, and make it appear in a watch. Then you say, “Yeah, I’m not 100% happy with it, because it doesn’t make sense to have a ring go into a watch like that. Here’s how it works…,” You expose the effect and they are, likely, amazed by the method. Then you say, “I’m going to try and incorporate the inner workings into some other kind of apparatus. We’ll see.”
This is good. Now this person is going to believe that magic is done with an intricate and complicated inner methodology. You’re helping establish their understanding of how magic is accomplished. This is like the idea of “exposing” an overly complicated marked deck.
Now you come back a week later and say, “Okay, I’ve updated that trick I tried with you last week.” And now you do any other kind of ring to impossible location trick. Let’s say it appears in a nest of boxes or wallets. Not only will that trick fool them, but the more they try to figure out the trick (based on the knowledge they gained from your previous performance) the more fooled they will be. They will be thinking about complicated electronics, yet they can see the boxes/wallets are normal, which will end up messing with their minds even more.
But is it worth $400 to use this as part of presentational ploy? Probably not.
My favorite ring to impossible location effect is in the upcoming book. It’s called In Search of the Castaways. The method is dull and dirty. But the effect is awesome.