i write for inner peace.
To study the Way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened to the myriad of things.
-Dogen, Zen Priest
I know nothing
of the way, but I'm on it-
a current bound for the coast,
a soul bound for birth,
the blur of a face on a night train bound for Orlando
from a hermitage in what might as well be the mountains
with a hometown name I made up-
The House of Flying Cards,
I used to tell them-
overlooking their communities off the edge of their map,
the glow of their windows and the jam sessions
buzzing within as distant as their stars above.
I train alone not on the shoulders,
but in the shadows, of their giants,
by the window of this train rattling toward their skyline-
no ID tag, unregistered, and therefore
I represent the null and the void, I'll tell them,
and state in the manner of Samurai from long ago
my truth and mission:
I came not to be fooled, or to see moves,
but to be moved;
not to be puzzled, or to see them puzzling each other
to a stumped standstill:
I came to see the big picture
these puzzle pieces complete.
I don't want to buy their tricks, gimmicks, or gadgets,
but to discover their priceless secrets
hidden beneath the leaves
of these pages as notes are jotted upon them
in a frayed composition book of nameless effects,
unpublished poetry, and un-booked show scripts no one will see.
I didn't come for their autographs, their passport-like stamps
of name-validating approval, or the music of their praises sung out loud:
I seek new ears with which to hear their perspectives.
As I'm nameless, I'm also formless,
so I seek impact
with each outlook-breaking act
they can hit me between the eyes with.
In the tradition of travelers, I seek new eyes
with which to stay awake and read
the stories behind the names of their greatest teachers,
the gleam of their souls behind those stories
as they tell it in a bar just before last call.
As I'm no one, I seek for a moment to become one
with this lost magic civilization of which I've exiled myself from,
no ID, cup emptied,
I'll have it filled to the brim with another beer,
the cheers of our reunion
breaking the night and all the silence between.
A popular and much varied plot in coin magic wherein a quantity of coins (usually four) is placed on a table, then penetrates to the underside, falling into the magician's hand or a receptacle such as a glass. One of the first descriptions of this plot was in Nouvelle Magie Blanche Devoilee written by Jean-Nicolas Ponsin in 1853
-Genii Magazine Magipedia
It's a poem
about moving through the darkness
in search of the bright side.
The trick is to keep it together
as rainy days hit the street,
hit rock bottom.
What lies beneath
but our honest reflection,
cast out against the water
like coins down a well,
each wish echoed
As evening shadows close in,
we'll see we're halfway through:
a way out is revealed
as if by moonlight
in the middle of the downpour,
as we move beneath it
with nowhere to go except
through the darkness
where we'll find a bright start.
Magic is bigger than the magician. We don’t create- we discover, and share those luminescent discoveries with fellow onlookers of this hidden art in the sky. We stand in its temple-like theaters with reverence, admiring of its mysteries and partaking in its rituals. We do acts- but by our acts alone are we not to be redeemed, or praised. The bond between our audience brings this magic to life, relationship strength tested over the course of a show which may as well be a lifetime of fleeting moments. We cross paths with messengers and teachers with the zeal of apostles, scribbling our observations down in our dusty notebooks in languages only we would understand. Performing becomes an act of karmic charity- the giving of a deep, holy joy that only magic can resurrect back into this skeptic-tank world that mocks it. Still as silly as it seems, we serve this magic, not the other way around- self-servitude as sin, selflessness as salvation. We save the best for last- the finales, kicker-endings, and encores. All praise we get is deferred to this limitless art in the sky and its thousand-year history; its eternal story of man doing the impossible, of discovering infinity. We are not almighty magicians. We are magic dust and to that we shall return, falling slow-mo as if in a dream, wands in hand and capes tied to our backs, lighting the darkness.
I. Don't do magic for popularity
II. Don't compromise content honor for sales
III. Pass down secrets to few over sell them to many
IV. Value principles over effects and special moves
V. Express Heaven over impress the world
VI. Don't let androids and other robotic devices replace a live audience
VII. Seek feedback over praise, unnerved by either
VIII. Compete only with yourself
IX. Don't hate magic
X. Vanish the ego
XI. Use magic as a Way to polish the soul and reflect God
XII. Put yourself last
XIII. Know you're dreaming
My relationship with magic is that of an ancient oak tree. As the years pass, I visit it less and less, but it continues growing, roots wrapping into the earth, branches spreading overhead and toward heaven for as long as the wind doesn’t take it. I stop by seasonally, not even to water it, but simply to gaze up at the heights to which it goes from its trunk, like how one would visit a temple, eyes fixed on the steeples and stained glass above. I’d climb the tree on slower days, maybe just to let a few feet off the ground and not go as high as I used to, if only to take in the view of what it was like in childhood and gaze back at the wind swept road from which I came. I would spend some time there, in my own bubble among the leaves suspended above the earth. No one would notice strange man in tree, as I would go about this as casually as one would sit at a bus stop bench. That child in me would emerge from treetop meditation, jumping back to the grounded reality, and onward I would go back toward the city where trees like the ones of magic are replaced with buildings and traffic and lost time. But I would turn back for a second, and see the tree waving overhead in the wind that doesn’t take it, but rather keeps it moving, restless, full of life and sound. Magic will be fine, growing on its own even if I don’t do another gig or score another reaction or pick up another deck of cards. It’s like the forest spirit Totoro, ever-present and watchful, seen by few whose eyes haven't aged from squinting at too many tomorrows; something hidden I can take my wife and daughter to in days to come and have childhood-style picnics beside. We could sleep beneath the stars. We could climb it and catch age-vanishing views of dawn.
Why perform? Magic is the art of invisibility- of move's unseen and secrets well kept. Spotlit acts are distant echoes of what was inscribed in hiding, behind walls and over mirrors, with no words said or praises uttered. Magic is largely a behind-the-scenes discipline, a collection of gears turning gears to acheive something as perennial as a clock hand's rhythmic tick forward. Underground activity here is its nature. But out of dormant instinct or as if by gravity, performances fall out of hiding and into broad daylight, into point-blank lines of sight, into recorded video frames or onto the tongues of strangers who take our stories to the far corners of the Earth. We move and mine underneath, and come up for air regardless of if people are watching closely with gems to show for or dust to brush off. Magic is as unglamorous a profession as a miner. You don't pay to watch miners. You pay to see gems, the worthwhiles, reflecting the universe and all its mysteries under the spotlights of stages few and far between. So we perform soley for air- to air out our impossibilities into the spaces between distant strangers, into the blank canvases of eyes closely watching for the inconceivable. Magic is a part of our being. These performances are the breaths.
Hope to see you when we take the next one:
Gizzi's Coffeehouse | 2275 S Federal Hwy, Delray Beach, FL 33483
Doors at 6pm | Show at 6:30pm
$12 pre-order | $15 door | (1) drink min.
Tickets at http://thehouseofflyingcards.com/shows
Magic competitions are a tricky thing. Judging and scoring one is like attempting to assign numbers to the human spirit, or monetary values to a person’s words, actions, and deeds. It’s not as clear-cut as sport, where a field goal is indisputably two points, or a race, where your position at the finish line is self-evident.
Competition itself brings out the best in any discipline, and sharpens it to a sword-like point towards the steady pursuit of victory, whatever the competitor is told constitutes that targeted destination. Competitions of Magic are valid enough in the realm of sword-sharpening, but I disagree with the conventional scoring methods, or what is held as valuable enough to measure the worth of one’s magic.
Tradition holds things like deceptiveness, originality, appearance, entertainment value, and showmanship as elements of a powerful mage. If I were to judge magic, I would vanish these boundaries that I feel limit the growth of the art and may blindfold its practitioners into cutting down false targets. These would be my scoring categories:
These are the criterion upon which I would score a Magic competition, and let the numbers I would attempt to assign them be erased like symbols in the sand on a windy day. I hope mages in high places will use my criterion for a competition one day. That would unlock a hidden level of magicians unseen since ancient times when the magician was in fact a character of transformation and not just a player in an act.
Best wishes to all the competitors out there. May the results of your endeavors polish your soul as much as your swords!
Are these card walls hollow?
Paper thin things don’t last
What significance do these numbers-
jumbled, random or ordered, bear
To me anymore
What patterns are masked
in the trivial pursuits of diamonds lost,
What are magicians really searching for
beneath the layers of cardboard
The dexterity will fade,
mechanics grips will loosen
What then will we grab onto
when our hands are old
Where will all those late night hours go
when our audiences’ eyes finally blink
or turn away- strangers on subways,
with real homes to get to, or new cities to see
When those trains stop running
who will really ride these Bikes
in circles forever
there’s emptiness trapped within the
walls of a hollow card case
I hold the cards, I feel nothing
If I suddenly dropped them
will my hands be homeless, or free
ambitions on paper
for the wind to keep
My first job was magician. Kid Koala concert, 2005. Bending metal and turning flame into flowers like Super Mario’s business. They said we were like, “hip hop magic”. I remember that reaction. So I tried this thing of snap-producing cards on beat, since we couldn’t talk much at this gig. I think my hands shook earlier that night, but I washed them slowly and stared them down in the bathroom. Magic for money, dream job achieved. What did we make that night- $50? Plus dinner, at Subway? They did buy us dinner. And we chose Subway. Anywhere would have been feast, coming off of our first conquest. Our Crowd vs. Yours- that was our brand promise. Me, the Jazz, the Quizyx, the Genie; the rookie quartet, at the corner of the room. I started calling my guy ‘Jazz’, didn’t know he could play like that. He came from shy silence, to beast crowd player. Same trick, 100 times to different patter lines. We were broke champions that night, $50's richer split like 4 ways, subs in hand. No awards or followers or likes back then: just the pure stroke of cutting through a performance, and coming out standing on air, was the reward. The joy of magic was simple: throw down, celebrate. Like in a game after a dunk. I can’t dunk in real life. Magic though- that’s as close to flying as the kid can get.
Magic breaks ankles: you look here, and the ball is over there. Gazes are crossed, thoughts stumble. You fall out of your seat.
And those who do this to you have all these moves at their disposal: dribbles, no look passes, top shots, and the card you need is dealt: game over. Back to back threes, four of a kind, royal flush down the middle, for them to read and weep and loose sleep over the next day.
There are the mistakes: you play through them. You and the audience are a team, passing attention from side to side like a ball manipulated, until the driving lanes open. Effects dunk themselves over defenders of their own skepticism, shots hit stone-faced critics despite their hand in your face, and the people get on their feet and crane their necks to see what’s going on. You are the arena: whatever you do in the game echoed in their cheers and praises, their boos, or their silence.
Magic is a game: a team sport between audience and performer; a real-time duel of skills and strategy where execution mixes with emotion to put on a show. The magician, coach of an entire repertoire, each effect a player with a role to fulfill on the floor. Some will get knocked, fouled, and still find a way to score. Others will get benched for turning over the situation, the method, the secret. The star effects will become entrusted to pull rabbits out of hats in the clutch, earning their minutes, and getting the crowd behind them to fuel a run.
Prediction effects hit like long distance pull-ups. Transpositions move like give and go’s between the fingers, back-door behind the hand when no one was watching. Ball manipulation sequences lull the defense into a trance before the blow-by: before the pass to the open effect, the kicker ending. Dagger from the corner, no help rotation- you practiced this move in the gym when no one was watching, and now it feels the same; the knack is there. The effect connects right between the eyes. The crowd falls out of their seats, rubbing their ankles, scratching their heads, smiling ear to ear as they get back up for more as they watch things like the impossible get done like the Warriors are about to get vanished.
The Move Unseen
A blog for magic.