An Alternative History of Sponge Ball Magic

In our ongoing quest to enlighten you about the deep foundations and past masters of our beloved art, I am sharing an interesting piece of recent research from Dr. S. Q. Weezey, a distinguished lecturer and magic aficionado at the Applied University of Shwumbol, which is located in the magical Ben-Son Bool valley in Namibia, Africa. So here are some exciting excerpts!

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According to these findings, the hitherto history of sponge ball magic surely needs some heavy editing now. New documents squeezed out of old photoshops (or vice versa?) suggest we have to switch some credits quickly for others.

For example, it seems very likely now that the legendary Larry Hooray was not actively involved in the sponge ball craze, even though he had single-handedly invented card magic, book-writing, memory systems, and this darn internet thing. Neither was the often-quoted Whal Eatley, who ran a Chinese Takeaway in New York City and in fact inadvertently (and painfully) invented the armchopper illusion while chop-chopping vegetable day in, day out.

To set the historical record straight, Kred Faps was likely the first professional magician in Europe to apply standard manipulation techniques to sponge balls, as this early press shot below should amply prove. (Although the photo was later reshot by his new manager, a reformed (?) gambler, who pressed Faps to have the sponges replaced with dice.)

SB_Kaps

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In America, Vai Dernon started his career cutting sponge cubes into balls for a nickel at county fairs and inner city street corners. Then he created his famous “Harlequin Act” around the idea of wearing a sponge ball as a red nose (an idea picked up later by clowns all over the world) that repeatedly vanishes and reappears. He was also fond of doing coin tricks (see below) and card effects with sponges (remember “Twisting the Sponges”), and he never tired of preaching “Use your sponge” and “Squeezing is not magic.”

SB_Vernon

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Master illusionist Hug Denning took the sponge ball hype one soft step further when he wrote and directed an entire musical, Spongebound, in the Seventies. Later in his life, he tried to explore the inner peace and healing power of sponge balls (see below) and applied them to transcendental meditation and levitation. He also used them to brush his teeth and occasionally ate them for a low-carb breakfast.

SB_Henning

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Next in line was young urban hotshot Breff McJide who shook the world of magic with his wild and mythical stage act that combined sponge balls with fire, joss sticks, African drums, and a plastic Samurai sword. He also applied the old art of chapeaugraphy to extra large sponge balls, thus impersonating famous people throughout history and retelling the Old Testament with his fingers (see below) while repeatedly hitting a cymbal with his nose on a dimly lit stage. Later he founded his very own Sponge Mystery School which continues to squeeze money out of students from all over the world.

SB_McBride

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Artist and scholar Jicky Ray wrestled with his conceptual vision for years before bringing his sensational one man show, “Jicky Ray and His 52 Sponge Assistants” to off-Broadway, which brought him great acclaim. Sadly, his ambitiously started research project on sponge ball magic hustlers at Victorian fairs (see below), in the early oeuvre of Nohann Jepomuk Zofhinser and in the world of gambling was given up for a movie career.

SB_Jay

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Today’s undisputed master of the trade is Tuan Jamaríz of Spain. Particularly his work on memorized sponge ball magic (see below) still leaves experts and fans baffled and fooled all over the world. For 25 years now he has been working on his two-volume opus magnum, The Spongy Way and The Expert at the Kitchen Sink, the latter one focusing on natural sponge ball tricks performed in the privacy of your home, usually with wet hands. But he also knows some pretty good card tricks.

SB_Tamariz

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Unlike other studies, the research paper we are quoting from concludes that Gal Oshman was among the few top magicians in his time who refused to join the globally growing sponge ball craze. Instead, he rather conservatively stuck to performing with coins and cards until his retirement (see below). On a sidenote, he made a fortune by producing and selling rubber saltshakers to magicians (for reasons which still hide in some dark cave of magic history, warranting further research and awaiting discovery).

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So there! Next time you perform some sponge ball magic, please squeeze out a little thank you as a tribute to those real giants on whose spongy shoulders we stand, shaking!


Photoshop credit: Zig Zagger Junior


 

A Surprising Comeback by Ricky Jay

Just a couple of days ago Ricky Jay’s early masterpiece, Cards as Weapons, made a surprising encore on Amazon with a new paperback edition of this long sold-out, highly sought after classic. Prices on the second market for older editions are likely to drop significantly now, I guess.

RickyJayCardsWeapons


Addendum: Some guys over on the Genii Forum think that this is an illegal product and not endorsed by the estate of Ricky Jay. Too bad!

O tempora, o mores!


 

Der kleine großartige Buchinger

Bereits länger angekündigt, scheint nun die Veröffentlichung unmittelbar bevorzustehen: The Greatest German Living nennt Ricky Jay sein Werk über Matthias Buchinger (1674-1739), den “kleinen großartigen Mann aus Nürnberg”, der u.a. als ein Meister des Becherspiels galt, obwohl er keine richtigen Hände besaß.

Das Taschenbuch soll laut Amazon am 9. September 2015 erscheinen und bei einem Umfang von 160 Seiten knapp 34 Euro kosten. Ricky Jay hat Buchinger bereits in seinem Buch Sauschlau und Feuerfest von 1988 ein Kapitel gewidmet.


Addendum: Fans von Ricky Jay finden hier ein dreidimensionales Portrait von ihm, das der Künstler Glenn Kaino aus Spielkarten gestaltet hat.