Freedom of the Seize…

The other day my buddy Matt Disero posted on his Facebook about a Stewart James trick that he thought was overlooked by magicians. I’m a huge Stewart James fan, and dug out the book and read the trick. It’s on page 120 of Stewart James In Print: The First Fifty Years

In the introduction to the trick it says that it’s not a good trick for non-magicians, but a fooler for magicians. I think whoever wrote that intro was correct, well for how the trick was written up. It’s a very interesting principle, here’s the effect:

Someone picks a card and puts it face up on top of the deck. The cards are cut to bury the card. You then take the cards behind your back tell them the card above the face up card.

It’s very clever, and I think it has a use in a longer routine. As a stand alone, I’m not sure how I feel about it…

Alexa’s Aces

Awhile ago I wrote about a card trick I was working on that used an Amazon Alexa for the reveal (you can read the blog posts here and here). Here’s some video of it in action:

It’s a good novelty reveal, the weak spot for me is that I have to briefly see the aces at the beginning. I wanted a trick that would work start to finish without me having to see anything. I came up with the solution. It’s a 100% self working, you wouldn’t need to be in the room for the trick to work. I’ll write about it another time.

Working On It…

A couple of weeks ago I got to do my Polaroid Trick for an in person audience. I did it using video projection and it played well. Here’s what it looked like:

Here’s my notes:

  • The lighting needs to be better. It cuts off my face.
  • Some light background music would help it.
  • 0:26 mark: hold for the laugh a little bit longer
  • 1:27 mark: freeze and stop moving during the applause
  • 1:47 mark: pause another beat or two between the vanish and reproduction of the picture
  • 1:52 mark: applause is starting and I step on it by going to my next line

So what I need to work on is mostly timing things, and letting effects and the reactions “marinade” a bit longer with the audience.

Spreading Stuart Gordon…

In yesterday’s blog post I mentioned the Stuart Gordon Double Turnover and that you should learn it, even if you never do it in a show. I think knowing different double lifts is handy so that when you do need one you can vary your technique or choose the right one for the situation. That goes with most sleight of hand, knowing different ways to accomplish the same action makes you a much better artist.

Recently I’ve been playing with the action of the Stuart Gordon Double Turnover, but not as a double turnover, but as a display of two cards. In the action of displaying and fanning the cards I’m able to hide a card. Technically it’s a three as two display in a fan.

The problem I had with it was besides it being very “knacky” it really didn’t provide an advantage over existing moves. I was jamming with Jonathan Friedman and Chris Beason and showed them the move. We really couldn’t come up with much besides using it to switch one or two cards. There are a lot of better ways to switch a card or two.

I kept playing with it and worked out a sequence for the move. Here’s a rough version of it, it’s pretty clunky and I’ve cleaned up the final get ready since I made this video.

Here’s the routine:

I’m not sure that a two card simultaneous ambitious card is better than with a single card, but it gives the move a purpose.

Alexa’s Card Trick…

Recently I started doing a trick over Zoom where I trigger the Amazon Echo / Alexa at the spectator’s house. It’s got a fun feel, because the trick happens at everyone’s house how has an Alexa that can hear it respond.

It started out with me figuring out you could get Alexa to reveal a specific playing card by asking, “Alexa, what’s your favorite playing card?” and it will say “Ace of Spades“. Most magicians know you can get a random playing card by asking it to “pick a card“, but being able to get a consistent card is helpful for a reveal.

That going me thinking about what else might be Alexa’s favorites. I started asking all sorts of questions starting with “Alexa, what’s your favorite…” and have a little bit of a list going. There’s a list on Reddit from about 3 years ago, and some of the answers have changed since then, but it will give you an idea of some of the things to ask. Something to remember it to test your results on other people’s Alexa’s before you roll out the trick. There are somethings that have variables, like when I ask, “Alexa, what’s your favorite season?” I get one answer and other people get a different answer.

OK, now that I had the reveal for the trick, I needed to come up with the trick. I’ll write about that tomorrow…

The 5th Shuffle

A few weeks ago I posted about a Quad-Triumph routine. It’s a triumph style effect that used four shuffles. Then about a week later, I came up with a kicker where the deck starts and ends in red/black order. I liked the idea of this kicker, but didn’t like that to accomplish it I had to do a straight cut. My Goal was to only have shuffles.

After a bit more work, I “cracked the code” by adding a fifth shuffle. The fifth shuffle was the key to making this work without a cut. Here’s a quick practice video of the sequence.

I think I should restate that this isn’t as good as the standard triumph routine with one shuffle, cutting at the natural break and flipping that half over. That standard way is much more direct. This initially was a fun challenge as I was trying to get the deck into a specific order. I wanted the deck to go face down card, rest of deck face up with the selection face down within the face up deck. That was for a reveal that I wanted to do, but then this kinda grew out of that.

It was fun to figure out, but I’ll probably never do it in a performance.

Unseen Kicker…

Lately, I’m trying to be better at directed practicing. This is working on something specific, versus just playing around with palms, or whatever. Last night I was I was practicing the Quad-Triumph that I posted about recently. Basically this is a Triumph type card effect that uses four shuffles instead of the traditional single shuffle.

One thing that hit me was that at the end there could be a subtle kicker. Right now the cards start in a mixed order and they end in a mixed order. If they ended in a known order, that would add a layer to the trick. Ideally that known order would be new deck order.

Last night I was able to figure out how to get the cards into an order that was one half red and the other half black and the end. Unfortunately this little touch will largely go unnoticed as it happens at the same time as the cards all facing the same direction. It’s one of the those things that if a magician see it, it will add to the effect to them. It’s the little things, things that don’t need to be there and won’t be seen by most people are what makes something art.

This is visually pretty good, and definitely takes the trick a step further. It’s a good compromise for now, but I have a feeling I’ll be working more to figure out how to get it into new deck order.

Relearing Zarrow…

the Zarrow Shuffle

Sometimes it feels like I’m perpetually cleaning my office. Yesterday I came across the DVD The Zarrow Shuffle by Herb Zarrow. I watched the very beginning and realized that I learned to do this wrong. What I’m doing looks fine, but they first way the Herb demonstrates looks way better!

When I learned to do the shuffle, it was in the context of the trick Triumph. For the Zarrow Shuffle, I slip cut one card. I used that method for other tricks as a false shuffle. If you slip cut a block, it’s soo much more deceptive than with a single card. Also Herb’s way of jogging the cards is much more deceptive than pushing them out with your index fingers.

I’m glad I came across this, but now I’ve got a challenge ahead of me. I’ve got to undo 25+ years of the way that I’ve been doing it. The changes are fairly minor, so hopefully it won’t be too much of a pain.

Recently I did this unlearning and relearning process with how I get a card injogged. I figured out a way when I was a kid by reading something wrong and it worked for me. However I relearned to do it Jerry Andrus‘s way because it looks better.

Don’t be afraid to unlearn thing if there’s a new (to you) way of doing it that looks or works better than what you were doing before. I know it’s a pain to spend time basically learning to do something you can already do, but I think it’s the little things like that that make someone an artist.

Quad-Triumph…

Here’s a video of the Triumph shuffle sequence that I wrote about yesterday. The view is my view, so you can see an angle of the cards that the audience wouldn’t normally get to see.

I kinda like the four shuffles where you flip half over each time, but I still don’t think it’s better than the standard Triumph routine that most people do.

More Wild Card…

Yesterday I wrote about working on a trick by removing what you don’t like about it. The specific trick I was writing about is Wild Card. I came up with three things I didn’t like, and there were easy fixed for the first two, but he third was more or a challenge.

For the routine, I was thinking you’d take six cards out of a deck. Then a card would be selected and when rubbed on the six cards they change into the selected card. For the finale, you rub the selected card on the rest of the deck and all of the cards change into the selected card.

I’m not sure if that’s been done before, but it’s a decent flow of the routine. It changes it from a packet trick and into a full deck card trick.

The pain will be to build a deck that’s all the same card and to make the needed gaffed cards.