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(1) Have Fun Practicing
See practice and learning as part of the journey and the fun. As Dai Vernon put it: “If you don’t like to practice, you should get another hobby.”
For a random mode, take out an old deck and put the name of one trick, move or maneuver from your repertoire on the face of each card. Now shuffle the deck (no false shuffles here!), turn over the top card and practice what is written there. Depending on the duration and your proficiency, repeat 10, 25 or 50 times. Then proceed with the next card.
If you have far more techniques than 52 in your arsenal, put up to six of them onto each card and number them from 1 to 6. Have a die at hand. Shuffle the deck, turn over the top card and throw the die for a random choice. Proceed as stated above.
In addition, you may want to check these „8 Tips to Perfect Practice“ by cardician Aaron Fisher.
(2) Let’s See the Deck!
I am convinced that the best thing to do when getting into your act is a snappy, visual effect that catches your audience off-guard and immediately fuels their desire to see more magic. Here’s a way: If your close-up mat is thin, flexible and pretty tiny, you may fold it about four times and stuff it into your card box (but remove the deck first). Show the box, announce some card magic, pull out the mat, which will unfold immediately, put it on the table, whisk over it and then quickly produce the spread-out deck on it in Gary Ouellet style (see his Close-Up Illusions).
(3) Creating Impossible Bottles
As a little boy I marveled at any „ship in bottle“ I came across. Today, I am a bit obsessed with other impossible objects because they seem, well, so impossible to do. After a bit of research and reading (always a good starting point) I set myself the goal of putting a full deck of cards into a bottle. My second goal set a severe restriction for the operation: I vowed to use bottles with a neck much leaner than a deck… With some luck I found bottles of perfect size, shape and neck over at IKEA. I only had to buy the corks elsewhere.
Having completed my first three impossible bottles recently, I find it quite fascinating to observe my own learning curve as I have already managed to speed up the process and discovered some sneaky shortcuts on the way. I guess that’s what they call „learning by doing“.
Why don’t you give it a try, too? I know you can do it. Dare the impossible!
(4) Impossible Objects Magic
Michael Ammar and others have pointed out the benefits of handing out a visibly altered, impossible object to a spectator at the end of a trick. Looking at my impossible bottles, I wonder how to use them not just as a fancy display or valuable give-away, but as part of an effect. Two options come to mind at once:
- Penetration: Show boxed deck on your open hand, hit it with the empty bottle – and present the deck caught within the bottle.
- Divination and Rising Card: Present your magical impossible bottle and put it aside. Have a card chosen and miserably fail to find it in the traditional manner. Then turn back for help and let the card rise face-up out of the deck and box within the sealed bottle without touching it.
Sounds good? Then cut loose the little Gyro Gearloose in your brain!
(5) Clear Magic
With many laymen assuming that the bigger part of magic’s secrets lies within suspicious boxes, hidden mechanism, black art and special lighting, I feel it is an interesting concept to present certain magic effects as „clearly“ as possible (pun intended). Think of objects appearing or disappearing in crystal-clear boxes, coins through glass table or „Clearly Impossible“, Jonathan Pendragon’s spectacular sawing of a lady, etc.
On his fine blog (in English and German; login required), Alexander de Cova has recently announced his version of a clear cups & balls routine which he will premier in his lecture tour through Germany and Austria this fall. I am really looking forward to his clever thinking on this. Other clear routines with the cups & balls that come to mind are the ones by Penn & Teller, Jason Latimer and Armando Lucero.
By the way, Alexander recommends using clear tumblers made of polycarbonate now instead of real drinking glasses. These are light-weight, almost unbreakable, easy to carry and easy to drill. (The sound may be a bit flat, though.)
Now clear your mind – what can you come up with?
(6) Coffee Cup & Capsules
Talking about the cups & balls, I wonder why I haven’t come across any routine yet using the fancy Nespresso cups and coffee capsules that have found so much favor in many up-market households over recent years (at least in Germany). They are a pleasure to look at and to handle, the wide-rimmed capsules are perfect for palming (and likely easy to gaff for a chop cup), and the special stirrer may serve as an elegant miniature wand. As a finale, you may produce a bunch of sugar packets or pour loose sugar from the cup.
The many variations in taste and colors of capsules available lend themselves not only to a stylish chop cup routine, but to a number of other close-up effects including some mentalism, e.g. the prediction of a capsule which was freely chosen among eight differently colored ones (MO principle).
Now think – what’s stirring in your cup?
(7) Card to After Eight Box
I have to admit that I am a little bit obsessed with CTIL variations. Here’s a new one I came up with only recently. It’s a „Card to After Eight Box“ effect (or substitute any similar product as long as it gives you mint chocolate thins that come in a sleeve each). As you will notice, a folded card fits well into such a sleeve. Unlike the picture above, they should not peek out.
Preparation: Buy a box, open it carefully and eat about half of the thins immediately. Then load each empty sleeve with a spare folded card. Reseal the box.
Presentation in less than 130 words: Have the box in plain sight on the table. F***e a card from the deck, have it signed and make it seemingly disappear while doing the MF. Present the sealed box and open it. Hold it up pretty high, so no one can peek inside, and riffle along the sleeves with your first finger as you ask a spectator to say stop. Take out a card-filled sleeve, squeeze the opening together and let a spectator hold it, as you distribute some regular thins from the box. Take the sleeve back, pull it a bit open and let the audience see the folded card. Do the Joro Sw***h as you apparently dump it out, reveal the signed and transposed card and share some more chocolate with your happy audience.
(8) 3D Printing Prediction
It would be an interesting exercise to trace the influence of new technologies and media on magic throughout the last 125 years. Overall, I would guess that magicians have been pretty quick in picking up new developments – like electrical power, magnetism, cinema, radio, and television, tape recorders, records, CDs, the internet and mobile phones, to name just a few – and making use of them in their trickery. One of the biggest recent trends in technology is 3D printing. More than a few experts predict that this will revolutionize many industry branches. Be that as it may – why don’t you try to come up with an idea for an early 3D trick?
I mean, now. Just give it five or ten minutes. I won’t go away!
O.K., what have you come up with? Here’s my first take: Present a 3D printer and start it, but cover the product you are creating. Now, with utmost fairness, f***e the white Knight from a full checkerboard on a spectator. For dramatic impact, throw the Knight into a strong shredder you have conveniently at hand and turn it into sawdust. In line with your story on industrial automation and on-demand delivery, let your spectator take the freshly printed figure from the 3D printer: whew, it’s another white Knight! Replace it on the checkerboard and marvel together at the magic of modern machinery and masterful mentalism.
Right, this may need some good scripting and doctoring still, but hey – it’s magic going 3D printing!
(9) Copper/Silver Sugar
Have you experienced this, too? Sometimes the magic seems to happen out of itself and to jump right into your face, just like that (to quote Tommy Cooper here).
I was sitting in an unfamiliar café somewhere down the road, absent-mindedly pouring sugar into my cappuccino, when I realized that all the sugar packets in the basket only seemed different but were in fact identical, each carrying one design on the front and another, distinctly different one on the back.
A minute later, I was able to perform an impromptu miracle on my unsuspecting family by making two different sugar packets transpose in my closed fists, and they were duly impressed (much more than with many of my well-rehearsed marvels, I hate to admit), at least for about five seconds.
Unsolicited advertising: At the time of this writing, you can order these Hellma sugar packets in 1,000s directly from the manufacturer here.
(10) Ambitious Sven
Following a recent thread on the Genii Forum on the versatility of the Svengali Deck and possible combinations with an Ambitious Card routine, I came up with this little piece:
1. Start performing your ACR with the generous help of “the Sven” (forcing the card, having the spectator cut or count to his own card etc.).
2. Finally, turn all cards of the deck into copies of the ambitious card.
3. Transform half of the deck back into regular cards.
4. Put the “all alikes” half aside, but have one signed by a spectator. (Regular size may help. Of that card, not of the spectator.)
5. Continue and close your Ambitious Card routine with the regular half deck. Obviously, your finale should be even better than step 2.!
Just a thought.
(11) Ambitious Card Finale
A lot of ACRs end with “Card to Wallet”. That’s a strong finale, no doubt, but purists may complain that it lacks any link with the initial premise that “the ambitious card rises to the top – always”. One suggestion on the Genii forum was the “Rising Card” (from the deck, but not to the top of it). “Card on Forehead” by Derek Dingle was also mentioned, which is nice because it opens up a much bigger third dimension (the space above the deck) to find the card “way up on top of or above the deck”. Thinking further along these lines, I found the most logical big finale (I think): “Card on Ceiling” – the selected card, finally, on top of the room, above everyone else and looking down from the top-most spot which an aspiring card could reach! The ceiling is the limit! (At least for an ordinary playing card. For us, it’s the sky!)
Just another thought.
(12) A Practical Close-up Box
During a recent hotel stay I came across this coffee&tea tray in my room, and immediately I thought that this could serve as a practical close-up tool: it is light, yet sturdy; the faux leather design gives it a decent look; the drawer can hold several decks of cards and other props; and the recess on top could easily be filled with several layers of felt or billard cloth; the box could easily be carried around and placed on a bar or a dining-table; the performance area is big enough for a Chop Cup or a regular cups&balls set.
Maybe a helpful suggestion?
(13) Empowering your Spectator
Francis Carlyle‘s “Upside-Down Deck” from Scarne on Card Tricks is an easy, quick, and visual trick. In addition, you can make the spectator the star, which is almost always a good idea and usually better than the “Look what I can do!” braggadocio approach. Just hand him a magic wand (a worn pencil stub gets a laugh), let him tap the mixed-up deck three times and then reveal 1) his chosen card, 2) your own chosen card 3) in the “triumphed” deck!
Bonus idea: If you hand out as a wand the rod with the gems on opposite ends (from Ken Allen‘s “Jumping Gems”), you can go with the flow right into this routine…
To be more precise, here’s what you could do: Show the rod as a regular mini wand, with gems on both ends on both sides. Proudly point out that over the years you have ascended through the ranks to the status of a full-fledged four-star magic wand holder. A beginner, however, would start with a blank rod (demonstrate it). But as your spectator friend has just accomplished a freakin’ miracle, you promote him to honorary two-star status immediately (demonstrate). So he only needs two more stars on the back of the wand to catch up with you (show four again). End with the warning to always handle such a wand with great care, otherwise some stars may loosen and drop to the other end of the wand (demonstrate and “repair”). Tap your fist and make a palmed coin or sponge ball appear. Put the wand away and continue with your flow.
Performed like this, I feel there is no need to bring out the second or even third rod from “Jumping Gems.”
Just a thought.
(14) A Svengali Double Fan Force
Here’s an alternative, unsuspecting Svengali Force I came up with many years ago. I guess it’s likely that others have had the same idea before me, but I haven’t seen it in print yet. Here it is:
1. Divide the Svengali deck into two packets by separating the force cards from the regular cards. Put the regular cards on top of the force bank, all face up.
2. In performance, casually spread through the different cards face up. Then turn the deck face down, cut it at the break and riffle shuffle (or, even better, faro) the two halves together, but without squaring them.
3. Instead, spread them into a huge, even double fan and have a spectator take any card. Naturally, he’ll pick one from the outer bank. It will be one of the force cards.
4. Square the deck and have the selected card replaced anywhere. With the two halves now neatly mixed into each other, you are all set to move into your Svengali routine.*
Obviously, this will also work with a half force deck, no Svengali cut required.
Have fun exploring this idea!
*If you don’t have one yet, make sure to check out the work of master Svengali pitchman Mark Lewis and his oldies-but-goldies booklet, The Long and the Short of it.
(To be continued at irregular intervals)