Dustings of Woofle #14

A few people have written to ask what I think about the TimeLine app from Patrick Kun and Marc Kerstein.

The app is pretty simple in concept. The spectator names a number between 1 and 10. You show the time on your phone. Then you make the time “rewind” by the number of minutes they named.

I’ve played around with the app a bit. I doubt I’ll have any particularly unique insights into how you might use it. It’s pretty straight-forward. You’re going to use it in the context of a trick where you apparently manipulate time in some way. On its own, I don’t think it’s terribly convincing. Like if you said, “Look, the time on my phone is going backwarrds!” They’re probably going to think it’s an app or some other sort of manipulation of your phone’s clock and not that you’re Donnie Darko or some shit. But as an adjunct moment in a larger trick, I think it’s actually stronger than I anticipated it would be.

Here are some quick thoughts:

1. Here’s my general presentation for it. I offer to show someone a trick. I tear up a card (or straw wrapper, napkin, etc.) “Attempt” to restore it. Nothing happens. “Hmm… There’s supposed to be a way to manipulate the energy and weave the pieces back together. I thought I had it figured out.” I go on with the conversation. I pick up the pieces and sort of absentmindedly fiddle with them. Set them down, pick them up again. The moment of the trick has passed but I act just mildly distracted by the card. As if 5% of my brain is thinking, “Why didn’t that work?” At some point I say, “Oh, there’s another way to restore the card, but it’s kind of cheating. About how many minutes ago did I tear this card? Six? Okay. So it’s 9:56 now. So if I make time go back to 9:50… then the card will be complete again.” I make time go back. I unfold the “pieces” to find the card restored. Of course I just switched the pieces for the restored card at some point while I was messing around with them. Because of the ultra-casualness of the presentation, there’s no heat on a potential switch because it occurs well past the time the trick was apparently happening.

“About how many minutes ago,” is how I get them to name a number of minutes. Not, “Name a number between 1 and 10.” It’s a little thing, but the first way sounds like, “I’m going to make time go back to a specific moment… when was that moment?” The second way sounds like, “I’m going to make the number on my phone change by the number you said.” I want the sense to be that I’m changing the moment, not that I’m changing digits on a phone.

Then I finish by saying something like, “But that’s not really restoring the card. That’s just manipulating time. So it’s kind of fake.” Kind of fake? What does that mean? Who knows. It’s just fun to “confess” to not actually doing something impossible by claiming you did some other impossible thing.

2. You may want to not draw attention to the changing time. I’ve only done it this way once but it got a really strong reaction. “Okay, so it’s 8:18 now. We’re going to back in time 7 minutes.” I closed my eyes and put my hands to my temples. After a few moments I heard her say, “What the fuck,” and I knew she had noticed the time ticking backwards. If she hadn’t that’s fine. I just would have pointed out the time myself when I opened my eyes. It’s cooler if they see the time click back, but taking the chance to let them “discover” that on their own, rather than you pointing it out, is a small risk worth taking.

3. You can also make time jump forward. So you could use the app with the In Search of Lost Time presentation mentioned in the previous post. With that presentation it would be used in more of a “convincer” capacity. They wouldn’t see the time move. You’d just tap your phone to see the time, “Okay, it’s 4:10 now. We’re going to do about a 5 minute hypnotic induction if that’s okay.” 15 seconds later they are “awoken” from the “trance.”

“How was that? Okay?” You check the time. It’s 4:17. “Okay, we went for seven minutes which was a little longer than I’d intended. You were in pretty deep and it was harder to bring you out than I anticipated. But if you’re feeling fine, we can proceed.”

4. If you want to use the app to almost convincingly manipulate time, without tying it to any other effect, here’s is how you do it. (You’re not going to like this, but it will work.) Have your wingman install the app on his/her phone. You’re having a conversation amongst a small group. You mention your time traveling abilities. “I can’t go back to the dinosaurs or visit the distant future or anything. But I can go back a few minutes.” You ask someone how many minutes back they want to go back. They name a number. You ask your secret wingman, “What time is it now?” He taps his phone to see the time. “5:42.” Now without touching anything you manipulate the time on his phone backwards the exact number of minutes named. In casual situations, that will mess with people’s minds.

If you’re at a bar or a cafe and you really want to F with people, have a second wingman who is not part of your group spill a drink or shout a distinctive phrase a couple minutes before you go back in time. Then have him do it again a little while after you’ve supposedly time travelled.

I’ve called Genii magazine the best deal in magic. Sadly, I am now forced to call for a boycott of Genii Magazine.

Tom Gagnon is clearly suffering from the late stages of dementia and has forgotten how to play pool or cards (likely both).


And how does Genii honor this man who has been in magic for decades? By advertising his secret shame on the cover of their most recent issue. “Gee, isn’t it funny to capture the deterioration of a man’s mind and use it to sell magazines?” No. Sorry. That’s not “funny,” you sick, twisted monsters.

If you’re looking for a new magic periodical to replace your Genii subscription, I can heartily recommend Charles Hagen’s, The Boy Magician: The Boys Own Journal On Magic.


Sorry, ladies. Pack up your vaginas and hit the bricks. Boys only.

Vanishing Inc. sent me a press release in regards to a new initiative they’ve launched, and it’s a chance for you cheap slobs to get some free magic and do a little good in the world.

Joshua Jay has previously released a trick with a presentation suggesting that it was something he came up with to perform for a blind person.

Now the company he co-founded is working on a service for deaf magicians.

This is part of Josh’s commitment to assist people with impairments. According to Josh, “I find the fewer senses a person has, the more palatable they find me. In fact, if you’re completely comatose, there’s a good chance I’m your favorite magician.”

Fair enough.

Vanishing Inc. has started a program to caption their magic video offerings for the benefit of deaf magicians.

This is a good thing. I’ve often thought, “Gee… if only there was some way for deaf people to learn magic.”


Sure, books might have all the necessary information needed to learn magic, but how is a deaf magician supposed to experience the self-conscious stammering, needless tangents, and dull charmlessness of a magician speaking extemporaneously on an instant download? Well, Vanishing Inc is solving this problem, but they need your help to do so.

In all seriousness, this seems like a worthwhile enterprise. For anyone who wants to help out, here’s how you can get involved and get some free magic in the process…

[From the press release:]

Find any video in the Vanishing Inc. Exclusives collection that is not labeled with a “subtitled” banner

  • Send your choice(s) to the Vanishing Inc. team through their contact page

  • Once approved, the DVD or download will be sent to you along with instructions on how to create subtitles

  • After the captioning is complete, the magic effect is yours to keep forever

Each project is conducted on an ad hoc basis with no commitment required. Those interested can complete as many as they’d like but are limited to one open project at a time. Longer videos can be split among a team, with every participant gaining permanent access to the effect. However, all team members must be identified in the initial submission.