Where Magic and Warfare Meet

EMHC Vienna 2019 Head

Today’s the day! I am humbled and excited to speak at the 8th European Magic History Conference (EMHC) in Vienna, Austria. You can download the full program brochure here.

I’ll be pursuing some of the many roads where magic and warfare intersect, which is quite a fascinating and multi-layered topics. These aspects include

  • the surprisingly military lingo of magicians
  • the constant “wars” some magicians are fighting
  • some magicians who were also involved in military deception (like Robert-Houdin, Jasper Maskelyne, John Mulholland, and Barton Whaley)
  • how, particularly during the Second World War, entire “ghost armies” appeared and disappeared; trucks turned into tanks and vice versa; dummy planes, trains, tanks and explosive sheep (!) helped to mislead or surprise the enemy; and deception plans were used successfully in at least five major operations of the War
  • the fact that the concept of deception has been rooted deeply in strategic and tactical warfare for thousands of years
  • the main similarities and differences between military deception and our friendly art of deception for entertainment purposes
  • some magic victims of warfare and
  • some truly “magical” war anecdotes.

I have read and acquired way too much material to put it all into my 25 minute presentation, so I guess I’ll be sharing quite a few bits and pieces here over time. Stay tuned!

Here’s my favorite picture from the presentation:

TankIllusion


 

 

A Card Aficionado’s Exemplary Labor of Love

Kartenbrücke

Granted, a lot of things are wrong in magic today, among them the ridiculous, breathless magic industry that keeps spitting out overpriced and underworked trash (tricks, moves, one-trick DVDs or downloads) in a daily frenzy.

Thankfully, a lot of other things still feel so right and so great and thus make magic the most amazing and most gratifying hobby I could ever imagine. Here’s one reason: The endless creativity and dedication which some amateurs put into their projects, be it in developing new tricks or routines, performing, or teaching others, without a price tag, simply out of sheer joy and the belief in sharing.

To give you an impressive example: Paco Nagata (that’s his stage name) from Spain is one such amazing fellow who has just “surfaced” in the magic community. A lifelong student and lover of card magic, he has written a book titled The Passion of an Amateur Card Magician. As he states (quoted from the Genii Forum),

It took me 25 years to write it. It’s a kind of autobiography card magic life as amateur, plenty of ideas, anecdotes, pieces of advice according to experiences, etc. Interesting especially for family amateurs like me. (…) I’m very happy to be able (finally) to share this work with every card magic lover.

And, oh, passionate he is: Originally written in his native Spanish tongue, Paco has taken up the enormous task of translating his own 550+ pages into fluent, readable English, which took him several years and which apparently was just completed very recently.

Best of all, he is offering his thoughts and routines completely for free, in a PDF file you can read and download right here! (The Spanish version està disponible aqui.) And he is not even bragging about this or plugging his product. Maravilloso!

If I’ll ever come around to publishing more of my own stuff in a coherent form, I will try to remember and follow your bright example, amigo!

I’m only about 70 pages into the book at this point of writing, and I have neither the inclination nor the cardists’ knowledge to write a review, but I am already enjoying his style and many of his observations, like this catchy quote:

NagataQ

As another example, Paco gives you some interesting thoughts about the difficulty of the amateur performer to be accepted, unlike the pro, as a “true” magician by his family and friends.

I certainly look forward to diving deeper into this tome as time allows and can only applaud the author for his effort, product, and demeanor. Magic could certainly need a couple more guys like him!

Muchas gracias, Paco! Viva la magia e todos los aficionados mágicos!


 

Words of Wisdom (6): Some Darwinisms

How do you turn a good trick into strong magic? There’s is probably no quick answer to that question, but there’s a great book out there with a lot of ideas, rules and even “laws” how to accomplish just that. As such, it is by no means a work on “theory”, but of highly practical value to any aspiring majishun. That book is – you guessed it – Strong Magic by Darwin Ortiz.

I could probably quote at least 30 great lines and insights from that book, but here are just a few to get you started:

Magicians are obsessed by method.

The average ‘magician’ is just a layman with a bunny rabbit on his business card.

In magic, creativity in fashioning presentations has never been as recognized and valued as creativity in devising effects and methods.

Magicians like to pretend that method, effect, and presentation are unrelated subjects.

I do, however, believe that method only matters in regard to how it affects the effect.

The bulk of what is published in magic books and magazines will always reflect what is easiest to invent, not what is most effective to perform.*

Simplicity is an aspect of plot.

The best advice I can give you about working magician audiences is don’t.

Darwin Ortiz (*1948)


*Guilty, your Honor!