r , maeic provides several examples of a potential draww Card mafc P ber 0f props-namely, the danger of redJ„ of
113 and hence! the impact of the effect. One of the SCt> trends of recent years has been the proliferation oft^ 5£ Such classic plots as "All Backs," "Tnumph," "0ut ffe 25"and the "Color-Changing Deck are often performed ¿2
days with a saiall packet of cards rather than a full deck. the*
Sometimes the result is a stronger effect due to greater clanty Sometimes the result is a weaker effect due to diminished ^ Changing the backs of four cards is not as great an achievement aa changing the backs of fifty-two cards.
Reducing the number of props is a case of achieving clarity through a simplification of effect. The other clarifying techniques we will look at work without altering the effect itself.
(2) Use a memory hook. Sometimes all you need is to provide the audience with some simple visual or verbal mnemonic aid to help them conceptualize a particular effect clearly. In John Mendoza's book Close-Up Presentation he discusses Pressley Guitar's "Copper, Brass, and Silver" effect. In this trick a half-dollar in one of the performer's hands transposes with a Chinese coin and a Mexican coin in the other. The original version of this effect was "Two Copper and One Silver" in which the half-dollar changed places with an English penny and a Mexican centavo.
Mendoza says he prefers the original version because it's less confusing. This is because of the similarity between the English coin and the Mexican coin; both are copper. This enables the audience to mentally group those two coins together and see the transposition as occurring between two entities, the coppers in one hand and the silver in the other. With the use of three totally dissimilar coins, the audience has too many different concepts to juggle.
However, Mendoza then goes on to suggest an excellent way of achieving the same clarity in the "Copper, Brass, and Silver" effect Instead of talking about the English coin and the Chinese coin, Mendoza refers to them merely as "the foreign coins." Now the spectator can again view the transposition as occurring between two entities, the foreign coins vs. the American coin. Just compare the tollowing two lines of patter and consider which is easier to grasp. (D Kemember, the copper English penny and the brass Chinese com go ,uWrUe the sUver hal«°Uar goes in this hand." (2)
SEZ'Sir»coim g0 in this hand while the Amencan coin propsUrar;ue^7ChlvVe the Same result reducing the number of props as suggested earlier. JU8t perform the transposition with only 38
«0 coins as in the standard "Copper-Silver" effect. This will « i The effect, however by diminishing its scope. The MeX' l ^ hook of classifying the coins into two categories, foreign and h« ^ 7ers the best of both worlds. The spectators ea^ly g^sping'th^effect! ^ ^^ ^ *»£ S
(3) Visually clarify the props What raake8 the ^ Silver" effect amazing and also potentially confusing » that it i asymmetrical transposition. One coin changes places with two ra.H? than one with one or two with two. This same issue ar,se8 m «Shei Aces," an effect from Darwin Ortiz at the Card Table in which the ace of spades changes places with the other three aces. If the effect were performed with four selected cards, it would be the same effect in theory but it would be at least slightly harder for an audience to conceptualize. The use of the aces provides an easier picture to grasp The three aces with small pips change places with the one ace that has a large pip. The three small-pip aces form a convenient group to contrast against the one large-pip ace.
Vernon's "Twisting the Aces" is an acknowledged classic. One at a time, each of the four aces turns over in the packet. However, in order for the spectator to appreciate that every ace turns over he must remember at every point which aces have already turned over and which have not. Brother Hamman introduced the idea of doing the trick with the ace, two, three, and four of one suit. The cards turn over in numerical order, making it almost automatic for the audience to realize at each point which cards are yet to go. (Remember one of our goals: make it easier for them to remember what you want them to remember than it would be to forget it.)
I once read a card effect in which a group of four blue-backed kings transposed one at a time with four red-backed queens. The added condition of using cards with two different back colors made the trick seem more impossible but also more difficult for the spectators to follow. They now had to remember which cards had which color backs.
The problem could easily be solved by using four red spot cards with red backs and four black spot cards with blue backs. Now each card is practically the same color on both sides and remembering which is which becomes virtually automatic. The different backs now actually makes it easier for the audience to follow the effect since they can easily see which cards are where whether they're face down or face up.
The performer can go even further by referring to the red-backed red sPot cards as simply the "red cards," and referring to the blue-backed,
The performers cards were in front of the spectators; the cards « ere in front of the performer
— on outstanding one. Nevertheless, it struck n t ■
The effect was aoutst* ^ subtly wrong with pl^^
8t roTLison the spectators' side of the table»» PelTo" ca^s are placed on the performer's side of ^ " Sere is no such thing as real magic, aU magTc ^ ££ comprising the ideal. Each performer reading S have to decide whether this compromise is worth making. ^ (5) Make the hidden visible. It's easier to remember where son*-fif its in plain sight. The "McDonald Aces offers greater than most ace assemblies because each ace remains face up 0n £ table until .t transposes. In general, a version of an effect where tl* props are visible throughout most of the effect will be clearer thanone in which the props spend much of their time hidden (face down, in the performer's closed hand, or covered by other props). This is one reason why the "Ambitious Card" is a clearer effect than the "Elevator Cards." The ambitious card is constantly being turned face up; it's only face down at intervals. By contrast, each of the elevator cards must remain face down on the table until after it travels.
(6) Eliminate time lags. The longer the spectators have to wait for something to happen, either because of the performer's use of time-consuming procedures or because of excessive patter, the more likely they are to become unclear about what is supposed to be happening Later we'll be talking about the problem of fading emotional memory. Time lags can also cause intellectual memory to fade, concentration to flag, attention to wander, and one's ability to grasp the overall picture to weaken.
Remember, the spectators are not as familiar with the trick doing as you are. Don't make it harder for them to put the individual pieces together in their minds by having long stretches of dead time between those pieces.
(7) Eliminate interruptions. Imagine you're performing an effect and. right at the most critical moment of the trick, another entertainer interrupts you to do a bit from his act. Perhaps a comedian comes over and tells one of his best jokes. Or perhaps a juggler elbows you aside and does a little juggling bit. It might even be another magician mr trii m of you and does 8 quickyeffect in the middle fonheU8audtilTYT™ may make difficult or even impossible thatL"t"BHtKl0Wlhe/hread effect. It doesn't matter joke might be quite funny, the juggling bit quite impress.ve.
, quicky effect quite startling. In fact, it might be all the more % hr to sabotage your trick because of how effective it is. The bit's ffctiveness makes the interruption that much more of a distraction from the effect you're trying to present.
Fortunately, what I've just described isn't likely to ever happen to If it did, I'm sure you'd be furious with the jerk who interrupted y!°u But, amazingly, many performers will interrupt themselves at a y°tical moment in an effect to tell a joke, do a flourish, or throw in another quicky effect.
. juan Tamariz' The Magic Way, he mentions a term coined by Arturo de Ascanio in his writings on magic theory. The term is "anti-contrasting parenthesis." This strange phrase makes me think something must have been lost in translation. But I like the fact that it's a curious phrase because it makes it easier to remember. And the concept it represents is very much worth remembering. Tamariz defines it as "an action or phrase that distracts from the trick, makes the spectators forget the situation that the magician wants them to remember ([for example,] the colour of a handkerchief that is about to change), or keeps them from focusing on a fact or action that the magician wants them to see clearly."
I'm not for a moment arguing against using humor, flourishes, or quick magical bits in your performances. But the positioning of such digressions is critical. Any such bit at the wrong moment can distract the audience precisely when you most want them to focus on some key element of the effect you're performing.
Throwing in a gag as you're having a card selected won't do any harm and may do some good, both for the laugh it gets and by filling in a moment of dead time. Throwing in a gag as you're revealing the selected card may kill the whole impact of the trick if, for example, it distracts the audience from appreciating that the card was, not just in your wallet, but in the zippered compartment of the wallet. Recently, I saw a magician perform a beautiful version of the Cards to Pocket. Just as the last card was about to travel to his pocket he threw in a very funny visual gag. Unfortunately, the gag was so funny that it completely distracted the audience from the vanish of the last card and its production from the pocket—what should have been the high point of the effect. If the gag had been used earlier, on one of the previous cards, it would have been just as funny and it wouldn't have killed the climax of the trick. (As John Carney has written, "Humor should never be at the expense of the effect and the mystery.")
This can be a tough pitfall to resist because the audience is rewarding your mistake. They laugh at the joke or smile in admiration of the nourish However, as Jesse Jackson would say, youVe
Lreyes on the pri» In this case tie pnse you're afij*' * S
rf astonishment at the climax of the effect Anything that ^ 'U»t that goal just isn't worth the momentary gratification. W6aletn
Sometimes the antMOntrasting parenthesis is actualIy into the structure of the effect. Fred Braue is credited will"Bl" following variation of "Triumph." As in the original, a selected Ca J E lost in the deck, and the deck is shuffled, face-up cards and down cards being mixed together. After a magical gesture, the . are spread on the lable and every card is now face down extent 7' one face-up card in the middle. However, unlike the originaj face-up card is not the selected card. Instead, it is a ten-spot' Tk performer then counts over ten cards from the ten-spot; the card * that point is turned over and proves to be the selected card. at
This is an example of the kind of bad magic that often results wheil magicians embellish tricks to make them more appealing to audience of other magicians. In this case, the ten-spot creates an anti contrasting parenthesis. Normally, when you spread out the cards at the climax of Triumph, the spectator thinks, "My God, they're all face down except for my card!" In the Braue version, the spectator thinks "My God, they're all—wait a minute! What's the story with that ten of
The face-up ten-spot, which doesn't make any sense to the spectator when it appears, distracts him from appreciating the utter impossibility of the other cards all being face down. Just as the spectator a mmd is about to explode, you let all the air out. It's like having the phone ring just as you're having an orgasm Even if it's good news, it a just not good timing.
TKs is a good place to introduce another of Darwin's Laws; Audiences r -but they are easily confused. If you add Vernon's to a Zd ™ °n 18 n0t mag'c y™ sh°uld why it's important to avoid magicus interruptus.
itrultin1i2TteSJNothinB Ml8 <**>* in magic more surely the card^and S ""'I"63 ™e8si«> If >'<™ =Presd between ten and h. T^' y0U ask a spectator to name a number
^^ISff^ »«" dibits of counted-off oari,„, j oH that ™a"y cards from the previously should not be 8u™ri!»H t/member «*= card at that number, you what has "happened" ,r,l, .SOme pe0ple have trouble realizing that
^ methods in card » ^ "" b°6n Ch08ii■,■ «« shuffle, deal deal d™ that the performer continuedlj m" and «"far. count cards, recount the same
£flrds, and reshow cards that were just shown a moraMt _ .. Methods in close-up magic require that the performer ^ ®,t to place them down again m order to piek them L .Z P™PS Iter to no »PParGnt PurPos<i Many methods in all kinda „T
lat . , , .,„„ „n ohnnt ilnl«™ ..^^Lj . Kin<l9 Of HlBirin require that you .^^ ^«oyttm«' in "just' Jfeut th, a
^¿"seeing the big picture. That big picture is oft^Tnown al roundabout way humanly possible. Because' «^TwTdm^T' the landscape that the spectators arc viewing, they gBt in the the effect-
Magicians like to pretend that method, effect, and presentation are unrelated subjects. There is no better example of the relevance of fh method to the effect that is perceived by the audience, and consel 4uently to presentation, than the way in which indirect procedures and overhandling can clutter an effect to the point where the audience doesn't know what is supposed to have happened. Remember the example I gave earlier of gathering the cards at the beginning of the "McDonald Aces," mixing them face up and face down, then dealing them out again. This pointless procedure is used to switch the regular aces for the double-faced aces. There are far more direct methods of doing the switch, but they demand more skill so they will be ignored by those lazy magicians who tell themselves that the audience doesn't care about the method. They may not care about the method, but they do care about whether or not they can follow what is supposed to be happening, and that is often affected by what method you use.
To make clear what I mean by directness, I'll delineate the difference between directness and simplicity. One so often hears an effect described as "simple and direct" that there is a tendency to assume the two things are the same. (To add to the confusion, there are those magicians who say "simple" when they actually mean "easy." This is typical of the muddled thinking that predominates in magic.) A trick may be simple without being direct or direct without being simple. "The Twenty-One Card Trick" is simple but not direct. The plot of having someone think of a card and then divining it is as simple as one could hope for. However, the procedure of continually dealing the cards in rows and cross-examining the spectator about the whereabouts of his card is the height of indirection. By contrast, David Roth's "Portable Hole" is very direct, but the plot of coins emerging from a bagless purse, disappearing into a two-dimensional hole, and materializing under the hole is hardly simple. ™ally, the Ambitious Card is an example of an effect which, in the test versions, is both simple and direct. Simplicity is an aspect of plot.
Directness is an aspect of procedure which in turn i8 a method. (Whew!) -»H*
O- n«tv in magic is strictly a matter of persona] , SS howe^r, is an absolute essential. Earlier don't have to try to incorporate all the various clarifying techn y°u into every effect. It's something you have to determine on a rick basis However, directness in procedure and handling is you must strive for in every effect. It's not only essential to clariw^ necessary if your magic is to really look like magic. y' «»
In sleight-of-hand effects, indirect procedures are often referred to, overhandling. But it's important to realize that this problem doefn just arise in sleight-of-hand magic. Consider two versions of ft same general effect that I recently read. Both are essentially Seif working. One is "Britlandeck" by David Britland.
In this version, the performer shows a joker on top of the deck. He writes a prediction on the back of the joker and hides the writing from view by turning the deck face up. He then asks the spectator to name any card he wishes. The spectator may, for example, name the four of hearts. The performer then spreads through the deck, finds the four of hearts, and drops it on the table in front of the spectator. Finally, he turns the deck face down to show that what he previously wrote on the back of the joker is "the four of hearts."
Compare that to the following trick I ran across in a book on mentalism. The performer brings out two decks of cards, one red-backed, the other blue-backed. The spectator is asked to select one. The performer then picks up the other deck and removes a card from it. This card is not shown but is slipped inside an envelope which is placed aside. The remainder of this deck is handed to the spectator with the instruction that he place it in his pocket.
The performer then spreads the other deck, faces toward the spectator, and asks him to name any card he sees. (Let's again assume that the four of hearts is named.) The performer then removes this card from the deck and places it inside the envelope won the other card. The spectator is then asked to remove the other SreviniT P0C5et' (This is the ¿«ok from which the performer previously removed a card • -
Previously removed a LT 18 deck from which the performer thought of a card. With me o ^ o t deck from which the spectator the face-up deck and stoo Jh u 13 in9tructed to count through Jhe spectator finds th„ 8668 the card that he thought of.
Jh two cards from ^ ^ is then ^tructed to remove both prove to be fours of hearts °PG and turn them over. They trictly intellectual sense, the effect is identical in both cases. 8 8 rformer proves that he predicted what card the spectator The.j think of. However, any good performer should be able to 11 the first version clearly; only a very accomplished showman prCy "succeed in clearly conveying the effect of the second version to dience. Even then, the impact would not be the same. The trick 311 ^mply not clear enough because the procedure is so absurdly 18 ,s t <phe first version is nearly self-working; the second version is ntetely self-working. So you see, the problem of indirect C°mcedures is not limited to sleight of hand.
There are four reasons why magicians so often fall into the trap of vttprinK their magic with overhandling or other indirect procedures. First they fall so in love with the ingenuity of a particular method that they use that method even when it doesn't fit and may actually harm the effect. A small example of this can be found in the second version of the prediction effect I described a moment ago, the one that uses two decks. In that trick, the performer begins by giving the spectator a choice of the two decks. He really uses a magician's choice to ensure that the prediction card is taken from the deck that is gaffed for that purpose and that the "thought-of' card comes from the deck that is gaffed for that purpose.
The performer could simply have handed the spectator the deck he wanted him to use. In so doing he would have removed one small distraction from the effect. I can only assume that he likes doing the magician's choice so much that it prevented him from realizing that it doesn't add anything to this particular effect.
By now you realize that I don't subscribe to the method-doesn't-niatter school of thought. I do, however, believe that method matters only in regard to how it affects the effect. The fact that you do a particular move very well is no reason to do it at every opportunity. The fact that a particular strategem intrigues you is no reason to use it in an effect where it contributes nothing.
The second reason for indirect procedures is that many magicians are concerned only with performing for other magicians. This leads them to load up their effects with complicated procedures in the hope that other magicians will get lost in the maze and be unable to reconstruct the effect.
A variation of this is the magician who has spent so much time around other magicians that he has lost all touch with how laypeople think. Even when he is routining his magic for laymen, he attributes to them the thinking habits of magicians. He continually throws in P%s designed to convince the laymen that he isn't doing things that never would have occurred to them in the first place. (In this con-
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