Mailbag #2


When you use the Peek Backstage, do you add another presentation on top of it? —JC

Very rarely. Here’s why. I save the “Peek Backstage” style for when I don’t have a particularly good presentation for something. Instead, my presentation is, “Hey, I have something I’m working on. Can I get your feedback on it?”

So, if I did have a good presentation, then I’d just use that instead.

To layer on a mediocre presentation on top of that is going to have them thinking about the dull presentation because I’ve asked them for feedback. But I don’t really want them concerning themselves with that. So I’ll generally perform it in a very straightforward way.

Sometimes I’ll layer in another presentation under a pretense like this:

“Hey, I’m going to show a trick at my nephew’s birthday party this weekend. Can I try it out on you first?” This is kind of a meta-meta-presentation. So it may, in fact, be a really strong trick, but I’ve dressed it up in a way that makes it seem like it’s something for children. Then I perform as I would if I was performing for a kid with, like, rhyming patter or lots of audience participation. And the person I’m performing it for will play along as the kid, but end up with their mind totally messed with because it actually wasn’t a trick intended for kids. (Sometimes they pick up on this, sometimes they don’t. It’s fun either way.)

If someone who got kicked out of the GLOMM had created a really good trick, would you still perform it? I ask because I just watched the documentary on the Michael Jackson accusers and a lot of people say they can’t listen to his music anymore since seeing that. —GM

I would still do the trick, but that’s because I have no problem disassociating the two things.

If you look at the world as a battle between good and evil—is you listening to Michael Jackson’s music a win for good or for evil? I say it’s a win for good because you’re celebrating the good he put into the world.

But only do it if you want to. If listening to MJ’s music makes you sick, then don’t. But if you want to listen to it and you’re making yourself not do so because you feel you shouldn’t because you’re supporting a bad person, then I think you are needlessly punishing yourself.

Hell, if Hitler had recorded a banging dance-hall track, or had created a really mind-blowing card trick, I’d have no problem listening to that track or doing that trick. In fact, I’d probably lean in real close to the person I was performing and say, “I have a trick I want to show you. And do you know who created it?… Hitler!’

Re: A Small Equivoque Revelation

So when I'm not annoying friends and family with magic I'm a bartender and when I first had the job of menu creation I did a lot of reading in that area. And one of the concepts that came up repeatedly was not giving guest too many options. Guest are less satisfied with their choice if you give them to many things to choose from. The magic number touted was seven items. This seems in line with your conclusion that anymore and it's harder for people see them as individual items and not as a group above seven items —PDB

Yeah, I researched similar things. There were two concepts I was looking at specifically.

The first is called “working memory” and that’s the number of distinct objects the mind can pay attention to and manipulate cognitively. That’s about four items at a time.

Then I looked at the subject of “overchoice,” which suggests that more options can lead to a sense of being overwhelmed. The actual number of options that this kicks in varies. But much of what I read suggested that it kicks in after 6-8 items.

With equivoque, we initially want to overwhelm their choice and working memory. This is what justifies the process. With just a few objects, a direct selection would make the most sense. The idea is to use equivoque in a context where it feels justified or else it sticks out too much.

It feels natural with two objects, because it’s just a single choice. It feels natural with many objects, because it makes sense to narrow down a large group. In the 3-6 range, I feel it stands out as particularly convoluted.

Re: Monday’s Post - The Three Highlights

Thank you for the non-magic posts. They’ve also influenced the way I look at life. "Slowing Time" and the post today really resonate with me.

You’ve got an amazing system and don’t need another one, but I thought you might like to hear about mine which is similar in how it highlights the little things but also takes almost no time. Because I don’t carry a notebook everywhere I use Day One app to record one sentence about every notable activity I do during the day. Important life moments/gigs/adventures get special tags and the app automatically records GPS and time/date info to search whenever. I’ve been collecting data for the last 6 years and the app will remind me of anniversaries of experiences over that time.— JF


What you wrote reminded me of something I read very recently, a book called “Storyworthy” by Matthew Dicks (actual name). The whole book is about crafting stories from your day to day life, and in it he features something called “Homework for Life”. I’ll probably bastardise the recounting of it, so here’s a YouTube clip of him talking about it: — DI

Thanks guys. I like hearing about this sort of stuff.

Some related thoughts on this…

Regarding the digital/physical tracking, I do both. For the “highlights” of media I consume (as described in that post), I record that digitally. For the highlights of experiences, I record that in a little notebook at the end of the day. I’ve flirted with doing it digitally, and even using that same app JF mentioned. There are a lot of benefits to that, but in the end I decided I enjoyed the aspect of having the actual pages to flip through and being able to see the expression in the handwriting and all of that.

As for the Homework for Life video, that guy’s premise is that every day you should write down one incident that would make for the best story from that day. I can understand why that works for him, but for my purposes it’s putting the emphasis in the wrong location. I don’t really care about how other people would react to my “highlights.” They’re just for my own benefit. That way they can be stupid or prurient or inconsequential and it doesn’t matter.

The idea of the Three Highlights is that you’re not capturing everything, good and bad, about whatever experience or time period you’re looking at. It’s that you’re just capturing the three things you enjoyed most about it.

You could say that it’s easy for me to look at things that way because that’s my natural mindset, and that’s fairly accurate. I’m very fortunate to not have any issues with anxiety or depression. I pretty much strolled out of my mom’s vagina like…


But I still think it’s a something that could be useful for a lot of people. It’s a technique I also use in bad or unpleasant situations to break the cycle of just stewing in the negative emotions. (“What are the three highlights of this shitty hotel room?” “What are the three highlights of this boring meeting?” “What are the three highlights of my friend’s funeral?”) So maybe it could have a small curative effect for people if they’re constantly focused on the negative because this trains you to do just the opposite.