i write for inner peace.
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 question I used to ask myself and my mage comrades at cyphers was “what is magic?”, as if its definition were some elusive secret, and stumbling upon it would unlock some hidden power to enable us to advance the art form.
I’ve heard the Dan Sperry magic sucks rant. I’ve heard Armando speak out on the mass distribution of secrets. I’ve seen Eric Mead post gem statuses. If I see you, I see you. But in between all that, I hear the endless humming chatter of the magi masses, infatuated with something that I’m not so sure is real magic.
What isn’t magic? At one point laymen thought it was a hoaky novelty: wands and top hats. In the spirit of magic being a Way, and with as much compassion as I can have for the community of which I am a part, I’m compelled to define where not to go to keep moving:
Mages: What is magic not to you?
They were as uncharted and off-the-grid strong as the forces in the Bermuda triangle, swallowing entire crews that dared to cross them. They have etched untold legends into the pages of my memories through our many gig adventures together. Our paths may have diverged since then into new eras of adulthood, but I cannot forget that House where my magic came from. This is kind of how I'd like to remember it all as I drift further into the gigless, swordless afterlife of working a 9-5 grown up job, far removed from those distant shores were crowds went wild and cards flew careless. Pirates, ninjas, supervillains, mystics- these mages were straight out of an RPG game to me. We didn't have the most fancy, suit-and-tie operation, but we had bad-beer fun running it. I can accurately say that my job back then was getting paid to play magic; to be in a real-life videogame. I am grateful to this odd group of unknowns in the magician world- legends in my book- for giving my brainchild of magic a childhood as fantastical as the wonders we peddled.
For A Pocket Discovery from Royal Road
when I pick up the cards,
I let too many moments shuffle by
Ask spectator to overhand shuffle deck
without stopping to take in what’s in front of me
spectator removes a thought-of card
it’s all borrowed, fleeting
Spectator returns card
irretrievable in the fast-forward movement
of numbered dates as they pile on top of each other
Card is overhand shuffled back into deck
these memories will someday be lost
indifferent cards shown on top
indifferent cards shown on bottom
what I once held in the palm of my hands
is now out of reach
Spectator puts shuffled deck in their pocket
our days are numbered
Ask spectator to give you a number between 1-12
let the countdown begin
Begin removing that # of indifferent cards from spectator’s pocket
that first night, I couldn’t sleep
by the second night, I was still figuring out how to hold her
on the third night, my swaddling skills improved
Continue recounting first days with Nali as you remove cards from their pocket
our memories come back
Before the last card is removed, name the color and suit of the chosen card correctly.
time stands still
Remove one last card and hold it face down. Ask spectator what their card was.
these are the moments I can’t let pass by
Turn over card to reveal selection
In the opinion of many powerful magi, you’d hear things like connection quality with the audience, the frequency of the reaction beats, the sight of a standing O, or the after-show quotables of spectators recounting what they saw/felt as all being signs of a show's greatness.
Will my show be talked about years to come? What ripple effect will result? Will I get re-booked? Will this win a magic competition or smoke rival magi? Will the footage of it get me many Likes, preferably from the populars of the magic community? I respect these valid, human questions as I’ve subjected myself to entertaining them.
Upon alternate reflection, here are seven Hagakure- or Hidden Beneath the Leaves- signs I would look for to distinguish a good show from a great show, or rather a show of value vs. a show of success:
Mages: what for you separates good from great shows?
The Move Unseen
A blog for magic.