This is weird.
So a few years ago there was a product put out called The Divers Lung Tester. It's a steampunk looking thing that's used for a prank.
The idea was that you would introduce the prop as an old "Divers Lung Tester" and you would blow into it and the air would flow through it and move the little paddle-wheel thingy. And you would say that the longer you could blow and move the wheel the better your lung capacity was for diving purposes. Or something.
But, when the other person goes to try it, they end up blowing a bunch of powder into their face.
The Diver's Lung Tester is a version of a prank known as a "blow back pipe."
Is this funny? Maybe. It's just not really my scene. When I want to cover someone's face with a milky whiteness, I have them wrap their lips around something else. That's more my style.
But here's the weird thing. The guy behind The Divers Lung Tester has come out with this.
It's a whistle that blows powder in people's faces.
The ad copy says:
"Completely self-contained, The Whistle Blower does everything the Divers Lung Tester® does, but with the added advantage of being able to fit into a pocket."
Uhm.... okay... Here's the thing... if your only goal is to get powder on someone's face, then yes, I guess this does everything the Divers Lung Tester does. But, by that standard, Mr. Fuji does the same thing as well.
The thing about the Divers Lung Tester is you could have it on a shelf or a table in your home and someone's going to look at it and wonder what it is. And when you describe what it does and demonstrate it, most people will have at least some inclination to want to try it themselves. So there's very much a garden path here that you're leading people down.
But where is the motivation with a whistle? There is none. "Here, come blow this whistle I've been carrying in my pocket!" Uhm, yeah, no thanks. I'm good.
I guess you could come up with some convoluted rationale in regards to why you need someone to blow into a whistle for no reason, but it hardly seems worth it. Coming up with some lame thing like, "Blow the whistle when you see your card," or some shit is literally no different than just whipping some talcum powder in their face. There's no sport in just telling someone to do something arbitrary that has an unpleasant outcome.
Jokes and pranks are like little cons. And like cons, you want to have the "mark" acting on their own free-will. I offer you a piece of gum and you take it and it snaps down on your finger. You see a dollar bill on the street, go to pick it up, and I pull it away on a string. Classic pranks. But if I command you to take a piece of gum or pick up a piece of paper on the sidewalk, you kind of lose the prank aspect. (Coercing someone to do something that has a negative consequence isn't really a prank.)
One of the quotes used in the advertising gets things exactly backwards. "This is a beauty, it brings the classic Lung Tester with all its fun into a perfectly natural prop, just love it." The strength of the Lung Tester is that it's not a natural prop. That's what provides the motivation to get them to blow into it: the novelty of it. If you wanted to make a close-up plastic version, they should have built it into one of these.
You could brag about how good you are at it and how it "actually takes quite a bit of skill to keep the ball floating" and pretty soon someone would be grabbing it out of your hands just to try it and shut you up by showing you it's not really that hard.
Honestly, what they should have done is made something that said "Pocket Breathalyzer" with some kind of spinning wheel that supposedly tells you your blood alcohol level. You could bring it out at a party or a bar which would be a perfect location for this kind of prank. When they blow into it you could turn your back for a moment and when you turn back around you're like, "Well, you're not too drunk, but your cocaine problem is out of hand."
Or make it a "Breath Freshness Analyzer," people would be falling all over each other to blow into it.
But no one wants to just randomly blow on a whistle you had in your pocket.
Could I come up with a motivation for this? Well...I guess you could gift it to your friend as a rape whistle, then break into his house later that night and start raping him to get him to blow the whistle. And sure, there would be lots of laughs later on as you two cleaned the powder from his face and the blood from his underwear, but is it really worth becoming a registered sex offender for this prank?
More from the ad copy: "You will certainly be a talking point with The Whistle Blower in your everyday carry!"
Oh, you'll be a "talking point" alright. People will be saying, "Did you know this fucking nerd carries around a trick whistle in his pocket every day?"
Also, if you want this, Penguin is running a great sale on it...
And finally, every time I say something mildly critical about anything, I get at least one email lecturing me about why I'm wrong. Not to pull back the curtain too much but I don't really care about this type of stuff. It's just fun to write about and joke about. I mean, I believe the general gist of what I'm saying, but I don't care if anyone else does. You want to buy the whistle that shoots powder on people? Knock yourself out. Have fun.
In fact, here's a mildly funny use for it.
"Check this out," you say, pulling the whistle from your pocket. "Seventy-eight dollars. No kidding. I know it looks just like a cheap plastic whistle, but it's actually a dog whistle. The cool thing is the company that manufactures them can make them so the sound is at a frequency that's unique to your specific dog. So it just calls him and not other dogs in the area. And it works up to three miles. Try it out. Give it a blow." They do and they get covered in powder. "There's ol' Rusty," you say. Then, very solemnly, "He got hit by a car three years ago. We had him cremated."
One of the more embarrassing things I've seen in a few different Penguin Live lectures is when someone shares a mediocre trick and then says, "This trick just gets stunned silence from spectators." No. It just gets regular silence.
This is a little self-preservation thing a lot of magicians do. They'll do a trick and it doesn't get much of a response and they'll think. "Ah! They were just so blown away they couldn't respond."
Understanding reactions is critical to getting better with magic. Here is how to differentiate between stunned silence and regular silence.
Stunned silence is the start of a reaction. It's a period of processing what happened. At some point, stunned silence is replaced by some sort of outburst—a physical or audible reaction.
If you get only silence—even if it's accompanied by a smile and a dropped jaw—that's just normal silence. If it's not followed by another reaction, the smile and the dropped jaw are there for your benefit because it's awkward for them to not say or do anything. So they'll do the least they can and move on.
The key is to not interrupt the silence. If it's genuine stunned silence then the reaction will only build from there. Don't step on it. If it's regular silence, and they move on to something else, you'll know the trick is perhaps not as strong as you imagined.
You: "And here is the coin!"
Them: [Silence... Mouth open... Silence... Silence] "W-w-wait... no way... the coin was— wait. What the fuck? Are you kidding me?"
You: "And here is the coin!"
Them: [Silence... jaw dropped... smile.] "Okay... so what time is the movie?"
Okay, I'm not too proud to admit I'm dumb.
Someone please explain this James Thurber cartoon from a 1930s New Yorker for me.
Is there a joke here? Is it funny? Or is it the type of thing that we're supposed to look at, chuckle, and say, "Oh, how wonderfully droll," as if we have some idea what it means?
A goldmine of decks came for me in the mail this week.
First, from Chris Chelko, I received every version of the Whispering Imps decks that have been created.
The original Whispering Imps deck is one of my favorite premium decks from the past five years, and many of these variations are quite rare. I can't wait to practice my mercury card fold with them.
I also received my first batch of Magic Neko decks from my friend, and frequent Jerx collaborator, Stasia Burrington.
The artwork is amazing and the little "oracle guide" that comes with it is rife with presentational possibilities for magicians and readers.
Right after I got them in the mail, I went to a cafe near me to grab a coffee and go through the deck. Literally within 18 seconds of sitting down, the girl sitting next to me turned and said, "Oooh, what are those?" And with that, a trick ensued.
Any prop that gets the other person to initiate the interaction is wildly valuable to the social magician.