Performance, Poker Face, Practice

Been busy lately, hence the slight relapse into no-post land… amongs that have been a couple of the too-rare opportunities I get to perform… One was for a local magic club, as a sort of exchange for HMC, and the other was for living breathing humans The difference was quite interesting, its fair to say I slightly messed up one of my tricks for the magic crowd (it went right every time in rehersal!) so wasn’t on the best of form, but it did give me some insight into what can go wrong and the ability to think on your feet! But also the difference was highlighted between performing for magicians and for the regular joe public. No reaction to any jokes, bits of business or by-play for the magicians, now I’m not getting at or criticising the club in question, I believe from watching lots of magic with other magicians, this is a common occurence, we are all to engrossed in watching the mechanics, rather than just enjoying the whole. When I am watching another magician I do try and react like I think I should at all the right places, but not too over the top so it seems fake. But its never going to be quite the same as a reaction from the lay-person, as witnessed the night after.

I got the chance to perform with a group of good friends, for a small select group above a local pub, what a buzz, I have to get out and do this more often! Screams, Laughter, Gasps, Looks of amazement, it was all there, and reminded me why we all do this magic lark! Anyway my belated new-years resolution is to get out there this year and do some more performance.

I was trying for the first time a new routine I have thrown together, its a kind of pseudo-mind reading/body language/psychology type routine, themed on the expression ‘keeping a poker face’ and being able to read peoples body language. None of it is my own, I have just routined it so I hope it gets more impossible looking as it goes on. Its only really just come together, but I have had the idea in my mind for a while. Basically I will be a bit vague on this so as not to expose too much, but it starts off with Mr Draun’s move to get certain information, which is revealed through some pseudo-body language reading, ie. pressing down on there hands to reveal colour/suit as they concentrate on it, then on the fingers to get the value. Then I use Mr Wimhurst’s similar but even more impossible looking move, and reveal after a spectator shuffle, with Paul Wilson’s Think Stop type reveal, after saying that this time I won’t use body-language I will just show them cards, and they have to try and keep a poker face, and just think stop when they see the card. If I want to continue I generally finish using something similar to the trick that is on Steve Youell’s Scruffy CD using a similar technique, so it looks as though it is all out of my hands when the spectator shuffles their cards, looks at a card in their hands, with my head turned and then I just put the cards back in the box without looking at them or even showing them to the spectator, and then thanks to a recent purchase (no hints here, but its a fairly new card item from a UK mentalist!) I can then go on to seemingly just read their thoughts and tell them the card they looked at when the cards where out of my hands. For those with card experience you can piece it together from that I hope!

I only got chance to road test this a few times the other night, but it did get the required looks of amazement, which I am getting used to, and I will take over laughs and applause any day! But I want to run this in some more, and play with it…

Lastly I’ve decided to take a little leaf out of Scott’s book (check out his blog it’s a good read) and start concentrating on and working on one routine a week (may be longer in my case!) in some hope to somehow steer my practice time that I have available (which isn’t that much atm), I’m starting off with the pile of ever growing stuff that I have, top of that is Bob Farmer’s Bammo Monte Monster, have just purchased his reloaded version as well, so I can work on the Skinner variant, so will let you know how that works out…

Your Chosen Vehicle

Having just recently started to listen to MagicBroadcast, I caught Robert Baxt being interviewed by Gerald Kirchner. Robert said some great things about how to make your magic meaningful to your audience, by taking even the most simple of things and giving it a personal meaning that they could identify with. This would then take it away from being just a simple trick, to an experience that they will remember.

The interview closed with a question posed to Robert about if he found himself in an impromptu setting, what card trick would he do? Robert’s answer was something along the lines of he wouldn’t do a card trick as what meaning does the Seven of Clubs or the Eight of Diamonds have to someone, other than when you do a gambling routine. He would much prefer to do a money trick as he felt people would better relate to this.

For someone who’s first and foremost love in this art is card magic, I must say I disagree! Bear with me while I quickly give you my views on the old argument of ‘Card Tricks are boring’. I do hear this suprisingly quite a lot, but usually from magicians, magicians relatives/partners/friends. Sometimes I do get the reaction of ‘Seen that one’ when I pull out a deck of cards, but usually that happens when I have been working with other magicians who are also doing card tricks. Briefly I believe they only think they are boring because they have seen a lot of bad and boring card magic. Also because there is a lot of card magic out there, and its quite an ‘easy’ option then lots of magicians use this vehicle to show a quick trick and it’s easy to do so without much thought to presentation or the why’s and wherefore’s. That’s why I think they automatically assume that all card magic is boring, its easy to condemn when you see a lot of the same style of bad magic.

I could easily harbour this opinion about manipulation acts, the linking rings or the cups and balls, as a magician you are subject to so many of the same kinds of tricks, with the same routines, but just every so often you get a little ray of sunshine that makes you re-evaluate, Just watch the manipulation type acts of FISM Winners Norbert Ferre and Mirko watch someone like Mark Raffles do the rings, or David Regal’s presentation for the Cups, what these people have in common is that they have thought about standard routines, and how best to change them to suit their style and to make them meaningful to the audience.

I do believe you can make card magic (as in any kind of magic) meaningful to your audience, it just requires a lot of thought, care and attention to do so, which is only what your audience deserves.

So I guess our job should be to try and lift all of our material to the realm where people can care about and relate to it, be it card magic, kids magic, mentalism, manipulation or whatever vehicle you choose to bring your magic to others.

Predict Boredom

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about selection of material, and how what I choose to do reflects my performance character, but more about that in a later post! I’ve wanted to do a version of Simon Aronson’s Shuffle Bored ever since seeing Ali Bongo’s excellent version. The only trouble is that the more I think about it the more it raises my in-securities about predictions in general. I know that Simon has raised this point before about the prediction version of this effect. To paraphrase the problem I believe is that the trick includes such a fair and powerful random looking shuffle sequence, that to then pull out a printed, pre-conceived prediction just blows this out. Which in a way is the problem I have with most predictions, if your audience has any powers of deduction, when they backtrack surely they realise you must have spent time printing your prediction, and that is permanent and non-changeable. Therefore in order to bring the effect to a successful conclusion you must have somehow controlled what went before, no matter how fair it may have looked.

Which is ok if thats what you claim to be doing in some kind of mental/psychic way, influencing people to come to a certain conclusion. Maybe thats what is missing from the presentation of most predictions that I see, but I don’t believe thats how Shuffle Bored should be performed, as the procedure is so fair, the idea, for me anyway, is that it can’t possibly be controlled, therefore how can you possibly have printed out the outcome hours in advance? In Paul Cummins workshop when he teaches a version, he suggests writing the Ali Bongo prediction, even in front of the clients, this is slightly better, and at least it gives the prediction some kind of immediacy, but I’m still unhappy with this way of doing it.

Off on a slight tangent, I did what I usually do when I want to add something to my repetoire and aquired a lot of versions of this trick, when did it become ok to release Simon’s effect (when in the original manuscript he categorically asks that this not happen), with Ali Bongo’s prediction, with the justification that you have a slight change of script to go with it? I have seen this on at least two occasions, with hardly a fleeting mention to either…

Anyway back to the plot! Recently two versions have been released that have caught my attention, Bill Goldman’s Little Bunny is a great addition to the Ali Bongo style prediction, and does in my opinion justify its release, but it still suffers from the problem stated that this is a printed prediction, that is more over-prepared than even the Bongo one, the outcome is a printed book(let) that is not going to change between performances, so we are back to the problems above. Simon recently released his Random Sample version, which I aquired in person, when we met in Chicago, boy was I miffed when it came out in MAGIC! This is fantastic and almost goes far enough to solving the inherent problems with the prediction style of this trick… almost. I believe that using the booklet style of multiple prediction as in Little Bunny, is a significant improvement, and that that Simon’s presentation does take some of the sting out of the full on prediction, by suggesting this is how the common outcome of a shuffle is recorded, still with possible margins of error/freedom, almost into the realm I mentioned of influencing the shuffle, in increasingly impossible ways.

I believe the main issue I have with predictions is the obvious way of backtracking to a solution from the outcome, if you can somehow soften this, or change it in some way then in some instances I think you could lead the spectator away from the only possibly method of you ‘somehow’ controlling the outcome. In other words having someone for example select a card and then immediatley showing your prediction to match, is to me bad magic, how else could you have done it if not influenced them to somehow select that card.

A similar situation can be seen in the trick, where the magician continually forces the same card on someone, and uses that as the effect. WHY!? What are you trying to show? How clever you are at making them select the same card, how you can influence them, how stupid they are for falling for it? Does this not amount to some kind of exposure, especially if you are using such a fair looking procedure such as the classic force or hofsinzer spread. For me you could forget doing any pick-a-card tricks after that, they already know that you can make them pick whatever card you want, so whats the point? Why waste such a fair and free looking procedure, on such a stupid outcome… much like the prediction shuffle bored.

So whats the answer? For me at least it means changing the outcome and premise, there are various different ways to utilise the shuffle bored procedure which are outlined in the original manuscript, or fortunately for me John Bannon has done this in his version Waiting for Dark, or a souped up version of this style of presenting it can be found in Mnemonica. I really like John’s thinking and his way of presenting this, even with the ending which does somewhat violate what I’ve said about the prediction side, but not in such an in-your-face way that hopefully will just twist the knife ever so slightly!