Gleaming the Cube

"Child pornographer," "mass shooter," "Winner of Power-Bottom USA's 'World's Most Gaping A-hole' Award".... Of all the labels I could have been given that would have ripped out the heart of my late father, perhaps the most shameful is what someone referred to me as in a recent email: "the best Rubik's cube trick creator." If that ends up being on my tombstone, I swear I will haunt every last fucking one of you. 

I thought the writer of that email was kidding when he said it, but then later in the week I got an email with a similar sentiment from friend of the site, W.B, who said he was a big Rubik's magic fan and I had "created [his] favorite tricks with the cube." How this happened, I'll never know. I'm not really a big fan of Rubik's magic. As an object to do magic with, it's a little arbitrary, in my opinion. Last year I wrote:

"Rubik's Cube magic has become very popular. But just a quick heads-up: Rubik's Cubes themselves aren't very popular. You may want to mention why you're busting out this dated object (as many people view it). Yes, people recognize what it is, but it's not exactly an "everyday" object. So a little justification wouldn't hurt. Or just an acknowledgement that this isn't something you see much these days. Again, we think it's sort of common because it's become common in magic, but to the general public you might as well be doing a trick with an Etch-A-Sketch, a Teddy Ruxpin, or Gay Related Immune Deficiency."

Hmmm... I've also come up with a Teddy Ruxpin trick since that time. I guess GRIDs is next on the table. ("I have as many T-cells as you, plus 1000, and enough left over etc., etc.")

But while I'm not a huge fan of this type of magic, I have put out a number of effects using the cube, and I thought I'd do a round-up of some of those effects (and mention some other ideas) for anyone who is into cube magic.

The Rubik's Cube Trick: This was before I thought I'd be doing other cube tricks, so I didn't come up with a clever name to differentiate it. I often think this is the trick I would do if I was on Penn and Teller's Fool Us (and I wanted to fool them, not necessarily do the most entertaining thing I could do). 

Imagine Penn joins me on stage and there's a table with a dozen different objects Penn can use to blindfold me in any way he chooses (to prove it's not a phony blindfold—and it's not, it's legit). Meanwhile Teller is at his seat in the audience and given a cube to sign and mix up as much as he wants. He passes off the cube to an audience member on either side of him who mixes up the cube some more, it's passed on, mixed up, passed on and mixed up until it reaches the last person in the row. There the cube is tossed up on stage and I solve it using my psychic powers, behind my back, genuinely blindfolded. (Why behind my back and blindfolded? Theater, my dear boy!)

That's how I would do it in that context. You'd need two secret assistants (one at each end of the row that Teller is closest to) with special skills. And also you could put a grain of sand under one sticker on the cube so you could figure out the cube's orientation by feel (rather than the way I had it done in the original which involved someone placing it in my hands in a specific way). Using something tactile would allow anyone to place the cube in your hands.


And yes, as I say in the write-up linked above, it leaves people with the best souvenir in the history of magic.

SOLOtion: This was my one-on-one version of Michael Murray's Solution effect. I wanted to do something similar to his effect but for just one person (and since his effect relies in part on dual reality, that was off the table).

The interesting thing is this, since I released this, I've heard from a handful of people that this is the version they use now whether they're performing one-on-one or not. 

The original Solution is interesting in that it's an effect that uses dual reality, but unlike most DR effects, the effect for the audience and for the target spectator are both very strong. 

The problem is, in any situation that I'm likely to perform, the spectator and the rest of the audience are likely to talk after the performance and there would be a difference between what they thought was going on. And while the trick doesn't completely unravel, it definitely becomes something less than what they thought it was. 

But what if you could keep all the same mystery without the DR? I think you can.

(In what follows I'm speaking to Solution owners only here, so it's not going to make sense to anyone else.) Normally, when you perform the Solution, you want the spectator do X, but you don't want them to do Y, but you want the audience to think the spectator is doing Y. That's where Michael's clever dual reality comes in. But imagine instead you say this:

"Okay, Laci, in a moment I'm going to hand you the cube and I'd like you to Do X behind your back. [Here you demonstrate X, and you demonstrate it for everyone, not just the spectator.] Whatever you do, don't Do Y, okay?"

You give them the cube and they take it behind their back to Do X. 

"And you just keep on Doing X behind your back while I talk here, but don't let anything I say get you to Do Y. No matter how much you might be tempted to Do Y, just keep doing X."

Here you say some cryptic things that might make sense if the person was Doing Y and not Doing X like you told them to. 

You peek behind their back. "Okay stop," you say.

Now you say. "Laci, you can't solve a Rubik's cube normally, correct?" She confirms. "And you certainly can't solve one behind your back without looking, yes?" She confirms. "And I haven't touched you or the cube since you put it behind your back, right?" She confirms. "And the whole time you had it there, you just Did X, yes?" She confirms. "And as far as you're concerned you didn't Do Y... not even a little bit, correct?" She confirms. 

"Okay then, well can you please show us the cube and explain how that happened."

And, of course, they come out with a solved cube.

Now, everyone in the audience gets at least the same effect as the target spectator in the original Solution. But everyone (including the target spectator) also kind of gets the other effect too. Because the implication is that by telling the person to "make sure you don't Do Y" and "there's no way I could make you Do Y," that perhaps you influenced them to actually Do Y in some manner to bring the trick to a successful conclusion. 

The effect for the audience is a little less straightforward than in Michael's original. But as M.B. wrote in his email to me (and as I've heard from others), "The effect on the audience seems to get reactions that are at least as strong. And I love not having to worry about the DR being exposed."

If this is wildly confusing, read the pdf for the SOLOtion which is in the post linked above. Take out the switch that's used in that trick (it's not necessarily needed), and picture the person doing it behind their back rather than under the table. It should make sense.

(In Recognition of) The Best Rubik's Card Trick: I love this trick. Here's a variation on it I did just this weekend for my friend Karen.

So, the trick ends, the two cubes match, and she sees the trophy says: "In Recognition of the World's Greatest Coincidence."

"Let's try one more thing," I say. I take the mixed up cube, put it in a bag, and give it to her and ask her to shake the bag for a few seconds. "That probably moved some things around a little bit," I say. Then I reach and remove the completely solved cube from the bag. (As I learned in Takamiz Usui's Penguin Live.)

"Holy shit!" I say. "That's the most impressive Rubik's cube solve I've ever seen!" The implication being that she somehow solved it in the course of shaking the bag.

"You deserve this," I say and hand her the trophy. 

Now the inscription on the trophy says,

Karen O.
First Place
Most Impressive
Rubik's Cube Solve

The method is you get the trophy place to make you the personalized trophy, then you get them to make an additional inscription plate that say "In Recognition of the World's Greatest Coincidence." Then you stick that plate over the one on the trophy with a repositionable glue or something with a bond that's not too permanent.

Once you reveal the first inscription you set the trophy aside and steal off the covering inscription plate as you do. (Easy to do, because they think the trick is over.) Then do the bag solve and give them the trophy to keep. (Trophies are pretty cheap $15-$20.)


I have another little Rubik's effect I've been having a lot of fun with recently that I will write up next week, probably. It's a very simple idea but it's related to a performance style concept I want to write about on Wednesday. See you then.