Ruses

When it comes to false motivations, a valuable concept is that of the ruse. In Magic by Misdirection, Dariel Fitzkee defines a ruse as, "a plausible, but untrue, reason, or action conveying a reason, for concealing the true purpose for doing something." In other words, the audience sees what you do. They're only misled as to why you do it. This leads them to misconstrue the importance of the action. We'll now analyze three of the most valuable categories of ruses: the incidental, the accidental, and the extraneous.

Incidental Actions

"Actions that appear necessary but unimportant are only half-noticed and soon forgotten. Actions that are unnecessary arouse suspicion."

A1 Baker, Pet Secrets

Perhaps the epitome of actions that appear necessary but unimportant are what Ascanio termed in-transit actions. Suppose that, during a performance, I'm holding a deck of cards in my right hand and transfer it to my left hand. If you were to ask the audience what I had just done, everyone would say that I had shifted the deck from one hand to the other. Suppose again that I'm holding a deck of cards in my right hand, lhis time, however, I scratch my right ear with my right hand. In order to do so. I first transfer the deck to my left hand. If you were to ask the audience what I

184 I Chapter 10: Manipulating Mcmury _\

U just done, everyone would say that I scratched my ear. No one would Zn motion the deck of cards. Transferring the deck from one hand to

¡he other bccamc psychologically invisible.

The reason is simple. People interpret actions in terms of their end goal. Hkv don't bother to note—let alone remember—each trivial step on the way to that goal. The in-transit action is the incidental act that has to be gotten out of the way in order to perform the target act. In our example, shifting the deck to the other hand is just something I have to do in order ro scratch my ear.

Think back to my initial example of the lost pen. You put down the pen to answer the phone. Later you can't remember where you put it. This is an everyday occurrence that has happened to all of us. The reason we don't remember where we put the pen is that putting down the pen was an in-transit action performed solely to achieve the target act of picking up the phone. Even when you 're the one performing the actions, in-transir actions tend to be forgotten. (More precisely, they tend not to be noticed in the first place.) What works on you will work on your audience.

An in-transit action achieves both of A1 Baker's goals. First, it provides motivation. It makes it clear that the action is a necessary step in order to achieve the end goal. Second, it minimizes the actions significance. Ir makes clear that the end goal is the important thing. What happens in-transit to that goal is unimportant. Hie spotlight is on the target act. The in-transit acrion happens in its shadow.

Here is a three-step formula for applying the in-transit action conccpt to make key elements of the method psychologically invisible. First, identify an clcmenr that is important to the method bur unimportant to the effect. Second, find an action that is important to the effect (or can be made to seem so) but unimportant to the method. Third, find a way to perform the first action in transit to the second action.

\ j . „ ,. . r/»ii nr) little vague when stated in general terms.

Admittedly, th.s™ysonnda ^elew Hitchcock Aces (Carpark, A couple of examples The deck is in my left hand at one point I have three aces n m> h ^ threc accs and the fourth ace is ^^f^o unmotivated would ignore on the deck ,n order to are unnecessary arouse suspicon."

A. Baker's^warning^^ chc tabIcd ace face up. (This is a log, Instead I use the three ^ However, when I flip the ace over, .t cal action in the c0"?*' s|kJe it back to its original position. In order to fails too far to the Ictt, so ^ , Jo that b>. placing thc three aces do so, I have to first free my £

Chapter 10: Manipulating Memory I 185

it deceives only because the audience is convinced that reaching ¡nto thc wrong pocket was an honest mistake.

I'd be willing to bet that no layperson describing this effect to a friend would ever mention that 1 briefly reached into my inner tyr jacket pocket before removing the last ace from my inner right jacket pocket. That's the real test. When people recount a magic effect, they mention the relevant details and leave our the irrelevant ones. A passing mistake fells in thc latter category. That's why using a mistake as a motivation can advance our goal of making thc important seem unimportant.

In Maximum Risk from Scams & Fantasies, after the spectator has peeked at a card, I deal the deck into two piles. In order for the trick to work, however, the selecuon must firsc be repositioned. I must transfer a certain number of cards from the top of the deck to the bottom. Yet, any suggestion that I'm attempting to reposition the selection would spoil the effect. Cutting or shuffling, no matter how artfully done, would fail because they are so obviously deliberate actions. Alternatively, using a pass would require executing the move at the worst possible time.

The solution I settled on was to accomplish the displacement under cover of a mistake. I start to deal the cards into two piles. Suddenly I realize that I forgot to take out the money for the wager I had earlier offered to make. I casually drop the deck on the dealt cards and place it aside as I take out my wallet. After the money is on the table, I pick up the deck and start dealing again. My "realization" is timed to occur right after I've dealt the number of cards that I need to displace. Dropping the deck on these cards accomplishes my goal.

From the audience's viewpoint, forgetting to take out the money wasn't part of thc trick. If it's not part of the trick, it can't be part of the method.

Everything about how I handle this says, "That part didn't count. Now we're starting for real." The false start simply isn't worth remembering. It won't be remembered when the spectators later search for a solution to the mystery.

It is best, however, to use mistakes as motivations sparingly. First, if you use this type of ruse coo often it can become obvious. Second, you can come across as the kind of ™ c , lc ODV

This may not be desirable unless fc'k^in w T 'l ^ 3 * °f' project. (juan Tamariz makes frequent PerS°"afif'* "

because of the image he is promX!)" °f "mistakes" P«**

Used strategically, however, the "mi««l, • • tive technique for making action, J!, 18 a" c«raordinarily effec-g actions psychologically invisible. People judge

188 I Chapter 10: ManipulatingMemory actions by their intentions. By definition, a mistake is ««intentional. That makes it ««important and guarantees that it will be ««remembered.

Extraneous Actions

The reason audiences dismiss accidents from consideration is that they're unplanned. Since you must have planned how you would make the trick work, anything that's unplanned can't be related to how thc trick works. If, however, the audience can be made to believe that an action, although planned, has nothing to do with the effect, they won't factor it in when trying to determine how the effect happened.

The prime example of such apparently extraneous actions in magic is the humorous gag. Any action associated with a gag is taken at face value because your morivarion is so obvious: to get a laugh. There is no need for thc audience to search any further for motivation. Additionally, getting a laugh has nothing to do with achieving the effect. Therefore, when thc audience thinks back on the effect, the gag won't be part of the picture.

A while back I published an effect called The Big Bounce using the bounce/no bounce balls. At one point I make a hundred-dollar wager on the outcome. Under cover of the bill, 1 perform the nccessary switch of balls. I'm left, however, with a finger-palmed ball under thc bill that I need to ditch. To do so, I start to place the hundred-dollar bill back in my pocket as I say, "Maybe you'd rather just play for fun." As soon as my fingertips enter the pocket, I allow the finger-palmed ball to roll into the pocket. I immediately appear to register the spectator's disappointment and toss the bill on the table as I say, "I didn't think so." It's a mild enough joke but it gets a smile from the audience. Since the act of going to thc pocket was just part of a joke, the audience forgets it a moment after I did it.

The best example I've ever encountered of going to the pocket under cover of a gag is a brilliant bit from Jim Pace's Miser's Dream routine. As he produces coin after coin, at one point he looks at one and says, "This ones a Krugerrand. I think I'll keep that one." He then pockets the coin and goes on with thc routine. What no one suspects is that, when he goes to his pocket, he comes out with another load of coins palmed. No suspicion attaches to his putting his hand in his pocket because it's just a joke. No one gives it another thought.

Since people tend to relax rheir attention when they laugh, gags provide double-barreled cover. They provide motivation for the necessary action -<—*■ C thm lauek.

and they provide intensity misdirection in the form of the laugh.

Gags can not only solve small problems, but also motivate m " tiling elements. One of the mosr challenging plots in card ma 1 a card face down on the table, have a spectator name any card ^ ''' P'3Ce show rhat the tabled card is the one they named. The big prob] ■ need to look through the deck after the spectator names a card i jT ^ locate it. How do you keep thc audience from realizing why you're ' ing through the deck? Larry Jennings has a version in The Card called First Impressions. In it, he does the searching under cover of inely fijnny gag. No one ever suspects his real reason for looking th ^"t the cards because his apparent reason is so obvious, to get a laugh ' '

Roy Walton's Smiling Mute makes brilliant use of a gag to 1 d audience ro ignore the very handling that produces the magical resuh , know from performing my own version, Vie Lost Laugh from Sea 1 Fantasies, that when people later describe the effect to others rhev d' even bother to mention the gag. For another example, go back to Ch Jl" Four and check the subchapter on The Ttme Dis^^i^ you 1 find a description of a pseudo-estimation effect rhat uses a simple 1' to psychologically erase the key move in the effect 8 6

Finally, notice that cach of these gags is amusing, but none is &|]_out of-your-chair hilarious. Ideally, we don't want the »„ m k„ f be memorable. We're aiming fbr the opposite! something funnyenough to be motivated, unfunny enough to be quickly forgotten, 6

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