Monday, March 15, 2010

Full deck stacks

I'm just back on my feet after being down with a head-bunging, misery-inducing cold for a week. I felt like such a poo-bag that seven days were occupied almost entirely by drinking lemon tea and lying on the sofa wading through a ridiculous number of magic videos.

During the past six months I accumulated (via various friends who were disposing of their unwieldy VHS collections) a total of approximately 80 magic instruction videos. Each one being about 90 minutes meant a total of 7200 minutes of magic tricks to wade through in search of anything that resembled (1) a good trick, (2) a useful sleight, (3) an engaging presentation.

If I worked in 8 hour shifts non-stop, that would mean 15 full days of video watching.

Time to be brutal.

And, frankly, most of the brutality was well-deserved.

I'm only half done and so far I've watched most of them in fast-forward.

Sometimes it's really easy to skim. Anything - and I mean ANYTHING - that involves dealing cards into a series of packets on the table is OUT. My God, is it any wonder we come across people who immediately profess an aversion to card tricks? It's because they've seen magicians deal cards into half a dozen packets on a table top. It brings back horrible memories of their uncles dealing three packets of seven cards each...blah blah blah.

Ok, so those get the fast-forward treatment.

As does any explanation that starts with 'This involves a full deck stack.' Please. I have yet to see a trick involving a full deck stack that is even faintly more entertaining or confounding than something that relies on pure sleight of hand and ballsy misdirection.

So those get fast-forward too.

And any trick whose magical revelation is that (1) the magician has dealt himself a perfect poker hand, (2) the spectator and magician both cut to matching cards in the deck (yawn), (3) the amazing prediction was a 1:4 chance anyway. That's not magic. That's a 1:4 chance, no matter how you manipulated it.

And because the types of shows I do and venues I work dictate a certain amount of what is practical for me (not to mention entertaining), we can also discount anything that involves a stack of ANY kind. Full deck, four card, who cares. It's a stack. Waste of my time.

Usually - though there are a very few exceptions - anything where the action takes place ENTIRELY on a table top. If I'm doing strolling magic, I rarely have table space near to hand. If I'm on stage, no one can see the table top anyway.

Tables are out.

Anything that involves putting the deck behind your back. Anything that involves any single piece of apparatus that looks like it was bought from a magic catalogue. Anything involving black light, appearing walking canes or large silk hankies.

Fast forward.

Yay. We're moving through these things at a rate of knots.

I'd be tempted to say 'anything presented by a man an ill-fitting suit' but magicians are not noted for their sartorial perfection and I'd risk throwing out lots of good stuff on that basis alone.

So I'm over half way done. Just yesterday I took 40 videotapes over to a friend's place and left them with his wife. I'm sure she was delighted. There's nothing can put a smile on the face of a magician's wife like another boxload of crap to clutter up whatever room the magician's crap gets banished to.

Luckily my friend has a basement.


  1. You have my sympathies--been dealing with a cold myself for exactly a week now. The worst of it is past but the congestion still lingers; as a diabetic, I cannot take decongestants because they interfere with my blood sugar levels in a bad way, so it takes me a few more days to get back to normal. It doesn't help that I'm dealing with this cold while on vacation, but at least the sunny Florida weather has been helping me feel somewhat better.

  2. Hello Mr. M,

    Poor fella. I don't mean about the cold; I mean that you've had the decidedly devestating misfortune to have chosen "magic" as your career. Let's face it, old chap, all you'll see on those tapes is a bunch of nerds, plying the same old crap that made them unpopular with the girls back in high school. It's a terrible way to waste a life. Why don't you try something more noble, like being a professional depilationist?

    Hee hee,


  3. which I reply:

    Q: Why is a magician like a pizza?
    A: They're cheesy, greasy and you can have one at your door for $12.99.

    Who says we can't laugh at ourselves. And each other.