Next week I have three posts scheduled which are all going to be shorter (I think) theory posts. These three ideas go together and are the things that I’ve been thinking about recently when it comes to creating tricks that really hit people hard. I don’t think the ideas are all that ingenious, in fact they’re almost basic, but I think they’re things we maybe forget to focus on when we’ve been in magic for a while.
When performing magic, I will generally prioritize the overall experience, beyond just “fooling” them. But obviously if you can start with a trick that is inherently astounding and then create a really captivating presentation around it, you’ll have the best of both worlds.
Next week the focus is on the astounding aspect.
So check back then for: A Unified Theory of Blowing People’s Fucking Brains Out Their Buttholes.
Monday: Contrecoup Astonishment
Wednesday: Broken Tricks
Friday: No Easy Answers
A few months ago, Penguin switched from their live lecture format to a live “act” format. Not everyone loves the change, but I feel it’s not really that different.
With the “act” structure, instead of: trick, explanation, trick, explanation—they show a full act in front of a real audience and then they explain the act separately with just the magician and Dan Harlan. The nice thing about this is you can have a non-magician join you in watching the act and get their opinion on it. I’ve done this with four of the “acts” so far and it’s been very interesting to see what they comment on and what they enjoy and don’t enjoy. I’ll likely share some of these comments in the X-Comm newsletter if I review one of the acts there. But I encourage you to try it on your own. It’s eye opening.
In the previous post I mentioned the “Full Strawberry Moon,” and I received a couple emails asking where I find information on the symbolism of the full moons. To clarify, I don’t usually find that information out. I usually just make it up.
Here are the Algonquin Indian names for the full moons
January - Wolf Moon
February - Snow Moon
March - Worm Moon
April - Pink Moon
May - Flower Moon
June - Strawberry Moon
July - Buck Moon
August - Sturgeon Moon
September or October - Harvest Moon
September - Full Corn Moon (Harvest)
October - Hunter's Moon (Harvest)
November - Beaver Moon
December - Cold Moon
But this isn’t quite a science, as you can imagine, so each full moon actually has multiple names. March isn’t just the “Worm Moon.” It’s also the Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Sap Moon, Sugar Moon, and Chaste Moon, among others. You can find more info about that at this site, and in a ton of other places online.
There is some symbology to the moon and its names throughout the year, but as I mentioned, I make it up more often than not. “It’s called the Wolf Moon because—like a wolf—they believed your senses became keener and more attuned during the January full moon,” or whatever. I just find some way to connect the supposed symbolism to the effect I want to show them. No one is fact checking this shit. And if they do, you just say, “Hmmm… I can’t remember where I read it. I’ll see if I can find it and I’ll email it to you.” Then just forget about it.
I realize this is not everyone’s thing, but I’ve always received a good response to it. I like taking people out under the night sky as part of a presentation and telling them something about what’s going on celestially and saying/implying “Oh, and on this one night of the year we can try this special thing….”
Reader, KM, writes:
The Self-Working Hook post reminded me of Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry doing a magic trick on a talk show. I remember when I saw this years ago it opened me up to how much you can get away with by being a) actually charismatic and b) casual and non-professional. The switch and the lemon force are so straightforward and casual, really like a precursor to The Jerx way of doing things. Even the introduction of them learning/practicing magic on set is very Peek Backstag
I like it. It’s not quite the same thing as I talk about. They’re using it more as a presentation than a context (not sure if that’s a completely clear distinction, I may clarify it in another post someday). But it certainly plays well. They would have made an enjoyable magic duo. They could have been the next Helder Guimarães and Derek Delgaudio! (Meaning they could have done one show together then grown to hate each other’s fucking guts.)
A few weeks ago I mentioned one of the guys who helps out with this site was going on an extended vacation and would be selling some of his magic collection to raise funds. I mentioned specifically that he would be selling some of the book tests that have been released in recent years that are made to look like old books. I also said that I would promote his ebay listings when they were available. Then I never mentioned it again.
That’s because I got to thinking, “Hmmm… maybe I should buy those book tests.” It’s kind of a dumb idea because it’s a huge investment (The books sell for $200-$400 a piece.) And I’m not even sure they fit with my style of performance. But I was just taken with the idea of having a little shelf of seemingly normal, old books that are pretty much completely examinable. Someone could look through them, pick one or two that caught their eye, and I could show them something hopefully amazing with them.
And so… I bought the whole lot of them.
It’s an expenditure I’m having a hard time justifying. But I figure I’ll take some time to learn the workings of these, then run them into the ground for a few months with my friends and family, and then sell them to someone who might have a more long-term use for them. (If you’re interested in buying the lot if/when that time comes, let me know.)
They’re pretty sweet.
I like this one a lot. The backstory is that this book about a haunted house in England (the most haunted one, apparently)—which is a real book you can find used copies of online—belonged to a ghost-hunter who would carry it with him on his travels. And he would keep notes of his investigations in the book. So it’s filled with 100s, if not 1000s of hand-written notes, markings, hand-drawn illustrations, highlights, etc. These aren’t printed as part of the book. They were written/drawn into the book by someone over the course of many hours of work. Making it a genuinely handcrafted book test with an inherently creepy backstory.
I figure I can come up with a few different stories regarding where the books came from. Weird bookstore. Weird garage sale. Weird great-uncle. Weird something-or-other. Perhaps they all came from the same source or maybe I’ve been tracking them down here and there.
Some of the books can be used together. But even if that weren’t the case, I think they benefit from being displayed as a group. I think together there is more credibility to them. Now it looks like I have a small collection of old/interesting books, rather than a bookshelf filled solely with stuff I got from Barnes and Noble in the past 15 years and one random old book. Plus I like the idea of saying, “Grab one or two and bring them over,” and not knowing for sure what will happen next.
Of course, this means I’ll have to have a working knowledge of ten or so book-tests at a time, which may be beyond me. We’ll see.
The funny part will be when I get hit by a bus and die a week from now and my family comes in to clean out my apartment and they donate these to the library and the library says, “These aren’t nice enough for the library, but we’ll sell them in our book sale,” and someone buys them for 50 cents a piece.