Thursday Thailbag

The alliteration in the title of this post made much more sense when I intended to post this on Monday.

Let’s dip into the mailbag and (attempt to) give some quick answers to some questions that have come in recently.


Did you read The Magic Rainbow? [Juan Tamariz’s book, recently released in an English translation.] If so, any thoughts on it? — JA

I haven’t! And I probably won’t. Not because I don’t think it’s valuable. I’ve only heard good things about it, including from many people I really respect. But because, since starting this site, I’ve made an effort to avoid magic theory. I just don’t know how interesting it would be to read someone’s theory based on other people’s theories. This site is an experiment. I want to develop my own magic theory based solely on my own experience and testing. I have the time to do so.

So, yeah, I’m probably hobbling myself in a way by not absorbing the thinking of the magic establishment, but I don’t think people come to this site to hear, “Well, Darwin Ortiz says…,” or “Well, according to Tamariz….”

And I’m still not even sure if Tamariz is really that great when it comes to magic or if people are just entranced by his keen fashion sense and potent sexuality.


[…] I encountered your "Bazillion Dollar Bill Switch", and it's one of my favorites so far. I look forward to trying it. One thing is bugging me.

Slight detour […] I keep a few cards in my wallet and I'm ready to do Card Warp at the drop of a hat. […] A problem with the trick is that, at the end, it's not uncommon for someone to recover from their less-than-paralyzed astonishment and say, "now put the card back together". {…]

Anyway, I'm wondering if "put it back together" is a comment you've had to navigate after "Bazilion".  — CC

No, I don’t get that sort of challenge with that trick, or any other trick for that matter. And here’s why…None of the presentation styles I employ (Romantic Adventure, Engagement Ceremony, Distracted Artist, Peek Backstage, Wonder Room, among others) suggest, “I am a person with general magic abilities. Feel free to challenge me.” If your presentation is—even nominally—that you’re not taking credit for whatever happens, then it completely blunts the spectator’s inclination to say, “Okay… well… now do this..” That doesn’t make sense if I’m not taking credit for the magic (even if they know I’m responsible for it in reality).

Now, with Bazillion, I am taking credit. I’m saying, “I’m going to transport this half of the bill somewhere else.” But still, my attitude isn’t, “I can do anything!” My attitude is, “I’ve been working on this one specific thing. Let’s see what happens….” So even then it’s not super logical to follow that up with a challenge to do something more.

That’s not to say it will never happen. But I don’t ever need to feel “exposed” if it does, because my style is not the all-powerful magician. My style is someone whose relationship to magic is that he’s learning, and trying, and sharing. If someone said, “Can you put my bill back together?” I’d say, “Hmmm… no. I don’t think so. Is there a way to do that? I’ll do some reading and see if I can figure out how.” Then three weeks later I’d come back and say that I think I had it figured out, and I’d do a torn and restored bill where something goes wrong. The bill is mis-made or something like that. Two more weeks later I’d come back and say, “I think I’ve got it now.” And either do a good torn and restored bill or add some other chapter to the story.

In that way, rather than simply doing a bill switch for a restored bill, I’ve extended the story for weeks and pulled them into an ongoing narrative. That’s a much better outcome for what I want to do than just immediately meeting some challenge.

On a side note I don’t recommend carrying playing cards in your wallet to do a trick. I realize real estate in your wallet is available because you’ll never need that space for a condom, but it’s still not a good look. Do it with business cards.

Do you have tips for writing a book? […]

I've been working on a book for a few years now and I really want to get to the end of it this year. How do you do it? I assume the fact that you have a lot of people giving you good money to have it done by the end of the year is good motivation […] but I think it's obvious that besides this motivation, you have good work ethic.  — YR

The deadline and obligation I feel to the people who’ve chosen to support the site is obviously a huge factor. You might say, “Well, I don’t have a deadline or obligations tied to this project.” Okay. But you can create your own deadline and then just choose, going forward, to be someone who sticks to the deadlines you set for yourself.

As far as the logistics of scheduling your writing, your plan needs to be malleable enough that it works with your life, but not so malleable that you can weasel your way out of writing all the time. If you just say, “I’ll write when I fee like it,” then you’re at the mercy of your inspiration. If you say, “I’ll write every day, no question,” then a situation will come up where you’re on vacation, or there’s some kind of emergency, or a holiday, or whatever where you don’t want to write and you’ll find yourself in the position of having broken your word to yourself. Even if you say, “I’ll write a little bit every day when I don’t have something important going on,” that’s still a little nebulous because then you have to debate with yourself if what you’re dealing with is “important” enough to keep you from doing your work.

So, if I you want to write a book, here is the deal I would suggest you make with yourself. First, think of the things you do regularly that are your biggest time-wasters: watching tv, playing video games, perusing online porn, etc. Now, the simple rule you make is that before you allow yourself to do any of those things on a given day, you’ll write at least one page of your book. So you don’t have to write every day if other important things are going on. You only have to write one page a day on those days you want to “unlock” the time-waster activities. When a year passes you’ll probably have 300 pages written.

But I don’t have any time waster activities!” Well, if all your time is occupied with something productive, then you don’t have time to write a book. Sorry.

But that’s just a trick. I can still just choose to watch tv instead of writing if I want.” Yeah, no shit. Outside of a person holding a gun to your head and making you write, everything is a mental trick. You just need to find the tricks that work for you. The ones that work for me are all about leveraging. Here, you’re leveraging your desire to do pleasurable activities to get you to do a little writing each day.

Mailbag Questions

If you have a burning question you’d like to receive a likely unsatisfying answer to, you can email me here and it may appear in a future mailbag.