The other day, my eager apprentice, Heinrich the Magic Hare, studied the guarantee cards of various manufacturers and asked me whether I knew of any majishun or card player who, annoyed by rough edges or asymmetrical cuts, had ever send in a card or a deck for a replacement. I couldn’t think of anybody.
Holger Steigerwald has pointed fellow magic historians towards an interesting piece of academic research on 17th century English playing cards. It was written and published as a diploma thesis (in German) by Florian Völkerer at the University of Vienna in 2018. Its title can be translated as “Playing with Memories. On the Exploitation of the Spanish Armada on 17th Century English Playing Cards.” It is available for download in PDF format here.
Here’s the English abstract from the author:
The thesis deals with a set of english playing cards from 1679 depicting the events of the Spanish Armada. After a number of supplementary investigations it attempts to identify the narrative conveyed by the cards, as well as to address the probable reasons why this narrative was constructed in a specific manner. Main results are that the production and distribution of the cards appears to be closely linked to the english exclusion crisis, during which the cards where part of the anglican propaganda-effort against the catholic James II. The narrative therefore serves as an historical argument in the political debate and is consequently constructed in a distinctly anti-catholic manner. While staying close to the facts for most of the time, it differs from our current knowledge about the Spanish Armada mainly in overemphasizing the impact of the actual fighting (and therefore of the english fleet) on the eventual outcome of the events. Furthermore, the role of individual actors is put into focus, to the extent that the whole campaign appears almost as a personal squabble between Elizabeth I. and the pope. Thereby the historical events are used as an allegorical depiction of the struggle of anglican England against a counter reformatory catholicism led and controlled by the pope, while the depiction of Elizabeth I. serves as a stark contrast to James II. The playing cards investigated in this thesis therefore show exemplary how historical narratives can be shaped and used to construct arguments in contemporary political debates.
A very special Kickstarter project has just closed: It pledged to revitalize the already hopelessly overhyped Jerry’s Nugget Casino Playing Cards big style.
According to the project page, this one is run by the Expert Playing Card Company/Bill Kalush. The project also offers a long “special thanks to” list, featuring, among others, Lee Asher, Danny Garcia, the Buck Twins, David Blaine, Garrett Thomas, Harapan Ong, Michael Weber, and the Chief Genii, Richard Kaufman. Wondering what nuggets all theses gentlemen contributed?
And boy, this thing flew: When the hammer fell, this project had collected more than 477,000 Dollars from almost 4,100 supporters and had generated 1,200+ commentaries! Which comes to show again that us majishuns are a nostalgic, money-blowing herd of unimaginative copy cats, aren’t we? (Yet a lovable bunch!)
I’m afraid magic videos and magazine photos will soon be littered with this cheap, inelegant, eye-cancer causing design. Yuk! (Just my opinion. I better hide now before Jerry’s Nuggeteers spread all over me to cut me and palm me off!)
If you are slightly annoyed about this, too, you might want to try the Chicken Nugget Playing Cards instead (see below). Go find them on ebay if you think these are even more irresistable. I could see a great but meaningless mental card food trick coming up with these…
Saw this simple yet interesting rendition of playing card pips on an unassuming box in painter and performer Jim Avignon‘s current exhibition, “A Bigger Brother”, at Museum für Kommunikation (Communications Museum) in Frankfurt. Now I’m trying to come up with a magical use for these.
Meanwhile, go see the exhibition before it closes soon, if you have a chance to! It’s a both critical and funny examination of data, surveillance, control, and privacy in today’s world.
In Berlin, der Welthauptstadt der Spione in der Zeit des Kalten Krieges, gibt es seit einiger Zeit ein Spionagemuseum. Die umfassende, schön aufbereitete und teils interaktive Sammlung informiert von Geheimschriften der Antike bis zur ausgefeilten Spionagetechnik der Stasi in der DDR. Auch ein Exemplar der berühmten deutschen Verschlüsselungsmaschine Enigma ist hier zu bestaunen. Unter den Exponaten zum Zweiten Weltkrieg befinden sich auch Spielkarten für Kriegsgefangene (offenbar keine Originale, sie sahen ziemlich neu aus), zwischen deren Kartonschichten sich Landkarten als Hilfe für eine Flucht verbargen. (Mehr darüber gibt es hier und hier zu lesen, allerdings auf englisch).
Ein Besuch ist absolut empfehlenswert! Zudem bietet der Museumsshop coole Spielsachen (neudeutsch: Gadgets) für kleine und große Spione an.