Well, this is pretty delightful...
On Wednesday, I wrote up the Harmony Ritual, a trick I performed last weekend for a woman named Elena who I met at a resort in the Catskills.
A couple days ago she called and left me a message. She wanted to tell me that her first day at her new job had gone well. And then she said something I found very interesting. Here is an excerpt from the voicemail. (The audio quality isn't great, it's out of context, and she speaks with an accent, so I'll transcribe it after.)
If you didn't catch that, she says, "I actually did the ritual last night and it was balanced again."
That's right. A few days after we were together, she went and performed Miraskill on herself. This is classic smear technique type of stuff, where the boundaries of the effect become blurred past the performance itself. It's the type of magic that's really only possible when you shift the focus off yourself. Do I think she really believes that this is some magic ritual? No. But you establish the effect in such a way that you allow for harmless fantastical beliefs. It's like wishing on your birthday candles or throwing a coin in a fountain. In our heads we know it's nonsense, but in our hearts we play along.
There's a trick I do regularly that requires me to know what ESP symbol a spectator is thinking of. A set of marked ESP cards definitely seems like the easy way to get the information, and it is. But this is something I want to do in casual situations and carrying around ESP cards is decidedly not casual. And while drawing out the symbols on business cards or something else at hand is an okay option, it would require a more "hands on" technique to know which symbol they chose.
So I thought about maybe creating a drawing app where you could have them draw one of the symbols and the app would "decode" what they drew and signal it to you in some way. But after thinking about that idea it felt too complicated both programmatically and logistically. (Most people don't know the ESP shapes, so I'd have to write them down first, and if I'm writing them down then clearly there's something to write with, so why am I having them draw on an app?)
Better yet, I thought, if I could just have them look at the symbols on a website and somehow know which one they were looking at, that would seem ultra-fair.
And I realized I had essentially worked my way around to another use for my pal Marc Kerstein's app Xeno.
So I emailed him and said, "Make this for me!" And he was like, "Y-y-y-y-yes sir. Anything for you, sir." (Dude's a total puss.) And now it's available in the app.
Xeno is an app that allows you to know what a spectator is looking at on a series of different websites. (The sites include lists of movies, songs, names, astrological signs and now the ESP symbols.) The nice thing about it is you don't have to touch their phone and they don't have to make any type of selection on their screen. They just look at something on the page.
I told Marc I'd write the copy for the ESP symbol site. With only five symbols, it might not make sense for you to send someone to a special website. Why not just rattle them off and have them think of one? And why does this site exist in the first place? Why would someone start a site to just list five ESP symbols? Well, they wouldn't, of course.
So I wanted to have a site that justified its own existence and justified why you had people go to this particular site (and not Wikipedia or something). With that goal in mind, I wrote up a site that is, supposedly, designed to help people increase their ability to transmit and receive ESP symbols. The author of the site has found that by concentrating on the unique physical and symbolic attributes of the shapes, your success at transmitting them will increase significantly. So next to each shape there is a little write-up in regards to how to think about that shape to increase the success of transmission.
This justifies why you needed them to go to that specific site, and why you need them to scroll and look at their particular shape (so they can read the entry that goes along with it).
The nice thing is, because the site tells them how to think about the symbol, you can act as if you're picking up on more than just the shape. You can pick up on the features they're thinking of or the symbolic meanings.
As I said, I wanted to have this site so I could perform a trick that normally involved carrying ESP cards with me. But honestly, I'll probably use this site even when I'm doing an effect that requires me to have ESP cards. If you do any of the effects out there where a spectator "reads your mind" with ESP cards, this would be a good lead in because you can quickly and unequivocally read their mind and then wave it off as if it's no big deal, "Oh, I do that all the time. What I really want to try is to get you to do it." Then you can have them scan through the rest of this site and the site becomes something of an "imp" or a "buy-in." This site—which suggests the manner in which you think about the shapes is important—adds an interesting layer to what might be seen as "obviously just a trick." Why did he have me read that page if this is just a trick? Is there maybe more to it?
And finally, here's the choreography for this. You bring out your phone and say, "I want you to look at something before we start." Then you change your mind. "Actually, can you go to this site on your phone?" You tell them the site, and drop your hand with the phone to your side where it's forgotten. They go to the site and you sidle up next to them to look at the screen with them. While in this position you do the first part of your dirty work. Don't read the whole introductory text with them. Just summarize it for them. "Ok. So this guy thinks he's come up with a way to increase the success of transmitting ESP symbols. I've tried it and actually does seem to work better. Think of one of those shapes." You step away. They tell you they have one in mind. You turn your back and tell them to scroll down to where it describes how to project that shape. They do that. You do what you need to and put your phone away and you're good to go.
In the last post I compared what my mind sees as the "obviousness" of the method of Miraskill to using a microwave to vanish an ice cube. Well, as it turns out, that analogy was perhaps more apropos than I thought because what I see as "obvious" in both cases seems to not be the case. Miraskill fools people and ice doesn't melt in the microwave. (Well, it will eventually, but not like you'd expect.)
I think I would have fallen for this if it was presented as a trick. You put a glass of water and a glass of ice in your microwave. You microwave it on high for a minute. While it's going, you tell me about this primo ice you've been buying. "I have it shipped in from Holland. It's super high quality." When the timer dings, the water is now hot (proving the microwave works) but the ice hasn't melted at all.
If you find some really dumb person who's super into health food, you can tell them that it's the purest ice in the world ("because, as you can see, it's impervious to outside radiation"). Then sell them a tray of cubes for $62.
I'm psyched for my friend and frequent Jerx collaborator, Stasia Burrington's forthcoming deck of playing/oracle cards, The Magic Neko deck which is available for pre-order now.
Now I've got a message for some of my younger male readers. About 15 or so years ago, Ellusionist put out something called the Black Tiger Deck. It was a black deck of playing cards and on the box there was a tiger who was...like... flexing or some shit? Like he was in a pose that no tiger has ever been in.
It was the epitome of Ellusionist's corniness. And I have no doubt they made a mint off these decks because Ellusionist knows their audience. A bunch of virgins definitely bought the deck thinking they'd take it to school and girls would be breathlessly fanning themselves, "Who is this sexy bad-boy with this black deck of cards with the super-ripped tiger on the case? I can't wait to get to know this virile rebel!"
Here's the deal, you want a girl to pay attention to you? Don't get the deck of cards that says, "I'm compensating for my low testosterone." Get Stasia's deck. Women (and men) of all ages are taken with her esthetic. You keep that out on the lunch table. A girl picks it up and oohs and ahhs over its cuteness. She asks why you have the deck. You say a friend of a friend designed it. (I'm your friend. Stasia's my friend. It's true enough.) And you grabbed it today because there's something you're working on with it. Then you point out that the case says it can be used as an oracle deck and there's this little fortune-telling ritual you'd like to try. Cute drawings, kittens, fortune-telling rituals: you'll be a girl magnet.
Then do a trick in the guise of a fortune-telling routine. Make it positive. Don't be like, "Uhhhh... I think you're going to get cancer." There should be some sort of magic surprise/coincidence at the end. Don't take credit for it. Blame the deck or the universe or her "energy." Don't make it something about you or your "compatibility" with her. Too soon. When you're done, don't do any more tricks. Tell her you have to get going and excuse yourself. Be a little mysterious.Before you go, imply you might have something else you're working on that you'd like to show her in the future. "You have a very unique energy," you say. Then go on your way. Just plant the seed, baby. Trust me. I'll Cyrano your ass into going to prom with the head cheerleader if you just have a little faith.