i write for inner peace.
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 magician picks up his deck of cards and searches for significance. He signs his name across the face of indifference for recognition, in an effort to be seen and remembered. He travels through the deck searching for himself, lost in the anonymous shuffle of faces and numbers and symbols.
His ambition propels him to the top: he is king of the hill, his act a perfect 10, winner of the jackpot and ace of his trade. He found his queen, and then three more. He found himself the wild card- the fool traversing in circles only to end up where he started. He becomes lost; a number in a paper chase; a puppet in a box. He is discarded and forgotten.
Into the hands of a new shuffles, he submits. His moment arrives- he is brought back to the top, for all to see, and in those fleeting seconds the room fills with praises. His work finished, he is guided back beneath the shuffling currents like a wave into the ocean from which it came. To everyone's surprise, he transcends the top to move beyond himself, changing colors, being in two places at once: a disposable member of something greater that somehow sticks together through every sharp movement the guiding hand subjects them to.
He is an extension of those hands. If he is seen and remembered, glory to those hands. If he is found, thanks and praise to the one who found him. If he gets torn, and put back together, may his worth be validated. If he gets buried in the deck and somehow rises out into the air, praise be to the riser and redeemer and not the magician by himself.
The magician, significant in his insignificance; a word on a page in a book chosen at random; a numbered card that will someday become dust, concealing infinity at the pips as the hands and blood beneath conceals the sacred heart, conceals the holy night.
Child of Light
In the game, you can fly. Performing a good set is akin to flying- to piloting an entire audience to uncharted, unimaginable destinations. You also get to play music on a flute that turns villains (hecklers) into good guys.
Platform: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS Vita
IMO: 4.5/5 stars
Killer is Dead
This is walk-around magic for high-profile corporate clients that throw you into grinders. Prepare to fight/perform surrounded on moving bullet trains, mansions on the moon, narrow hallways, and in imperial palaces. You can pretty much get through the entire game doing the same combo/routine a thousand times. You also get to wear a cool suit.
IMO: 4/5 stars
Life is Strange
You have powers- you control/manipulate time! How is that not what you do in the moments before the magic happens, to an audience’s thoughts and feelings as you see them through a set. Some moments last forever, some are a blur- all depending on you, making for very dramatic video game performance. Your power changes the course of your life, and the entire game’s outcome is decision-based- pick a fate, any fate, and control it!
Platform: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
IMO: 4/5 stars
Soul Calibur (all of them)
One of the moves is called Heaven’s Monument: after being knocked down, you push yourself off the ground with your bow staff toward the sky, and descend onto your opponent’s head/mind in a powerful recovery strike. Improvisation, awareness of opponent, knowledge of repertoire: if performing magic is a martial art, Soul Calibur is the reason. Find your character, fighting/performance style, weapon/prop of choice, and practice unto mastery. The game is a jam session that never ends.
Platform: PS1, Dreamcast, Xbox, PS2, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
IMO: 6/5 stars
What happens to the magician's soul when his face has been burned by the stares of ten thousand judges? Or the soles of his shoes after ten thousand miles of walk-around performance? Does the busker, in his war helmet bowler hat, become as snappy and cold as the streets he calls home? Does the heckled become the heckler of life?
What becomes of the callouses on his hands after lugging all those props up hotel loading docks, through narrow corridors, or across crowded festival streets baked in the sun?
Is it romantic to become and stay pro, in laymen gig land, for 20+ years? What of his eyes- do they see the magic still as it once was handed to him by some storybook shop owner 20 years back, when magic shops still existed on picturesque sidewalk corners? Does he still hear applause?
Does this 20+ year mage pro still wear the same grandfathered suit from the 1980s? Does he shave? Or does he let himself go to become as grizzled as mall Santa, the center of attention but not really- face concealed behind anonymous face to face the hours as they become years and decades in front of these passing crowds that seem to get younger? Does he become the old face you see, but don't really look at, as you drop money into the faded hat of?
Is the pro entertainer the the crying clown, the depressed jester, make-up streaking down wrinkles when the lights go out, eating pancakes at Denny’s at 2am? At a bar at 2am?
Does he tire from putting up an act? From peddling a show? When the real him seeps out, what magic seeps out then? What does the magic look like for the mage soul pro of 20+ years?
The hobbyists grow old and merry. The trick kids can’t sleep, feverish with the bug. The award-winners, inventors, lecturers- the “Names”- cruise down hallways of magic conventions like the populars of a high school. And then that middle-class, middle-age worker population of trench vets- I’m curious where they be at, and what the magic is like there.
Master magician Rocco Silano once reverberantly told me, during the days of my magician adolescence, that magic comes from the Soul. He said the word ‘soul’ with so much emphasis; as if letting the word echo into the great abyss of what we cannot see, into the mysteries of things that stretch onto the distant stars of infinity.
This was his response when I asked him what the most important thing his great teacher, the grandmaster magician Slydini, had taught him. So I aspired to carry that principle or ideal with me ever since. I’ve hung giant scroll banners of it along the walls of my metaphoric dojo. I’ve let the calligraphy ink of it seep into my hands and fingertips.
And then there’s the execution of this. How does one use magic to express the soul, out from the shadows of our being into something that can be seen, felt, and remembered? How does one vanish all the applause static of conventional 'WTF', 'LOL', or 'NFW' reactions to reveal that deep impact painted on the faces of an audience? Bruce Lee mentioned to express oneself honestly without lie was near impossible.
Enter magic: everything is possible. What if our souls were just that: orbs of this magic we chase, incandescent in the color of our auras; reservoirs like surfaces of ponds, rippling with every step and bearing the reflection of those we meet.
I aim for this reaction: for people to see that reflection; that soular light amid the commercial neon of the city skyline. I don’t know how, but magic should guide my practice journey toward this north star ideal, to perhaps see it for myself.
So how can lost cards and vanished coins, and rings that link or ropes that tie themselves, be pathways to the soul, from the soul, and of the soul? To express one’s being through stories is one-sided. With paintings, limited to perspective. Musicians in their solos strike close chords. A dancer's moves tread at the boarders.
How does the magician, with all his comedy and misdirection, stumble into that fray of soular expression? If I vanish a coin, can I incept people to let go of material things? If I find a lost signed card, can I help someone find themselves? Can I unite lovers across miles of ocean with a transposition of two rings? If I do a show on the other side of the world, can I find my soul-mate? (Done and Yes!)
The goal of soul stretches to the heavens. I guess, this is why I can't stop practicing magic. How can that distance be leaped? With magic, there are loop-holes. We are weightless!
Read somewhere that blogs needed to bear useful info. FYI...
1. Give magician a flying chest bump (unless mage is a shorter Asian man/ninja, in which case he/she may vanish to evade you.)
2. Articulate your train of thought derailing, play by play, in vivid, quotable prose.
3. Come up with a new curse word for what you're feeling.
4. Run in a circle, then come back.
6. Play it forward and amaze someone at random the following day.
7. Tell everyone you know what you just saw in one sentence or less, sounding as cray as possible.
8. Laugh at yourself, you fool.
9. Don't ask magician to make your loved ones or your bill disappear. That is called killing and stealing.
10. Bask in the illusion, blissful dreamer.
I've had my dream job: professional magician; wandering wand-man; marketplace street performer as if from ancient times. You woke me up.
The credo I remember inscribing about my pretend wandering mage character was that he was resolved to wander from illusion to illusion, each one more real than the last, until he reached wakefulness. The gig era before your mom was my dream job at full-stride- exactly what I imagined doing when I closed my eyes and wished for magic as a career.
The era of gigs is fog looking back. When I see you, I have no desire to dream- only to stay awake and not miss the moments we've arrived at- waking up slowly to them, and letting the light fill the room as we lay lazy in bed waiting for your mom to cook us bacon and eggs!
The House of Flying Cards is a student-run organization at the University of Florida that seeks to advance magic as an entertainment medium and art form by Samurai-serving three elements:
The Magician: We offer rogue magi everywhere a supportive environment where they can network with other magicians, exchange ideas and learn from one another. Our various gigs offer the magician opportunities to gain experience as a performer and network with clients.
The Art: Through our club's activities, we stimulate increased interest in magic and prevent the few magicians in existence from abandoning their craft. Our apprenticeship program perpetuates the art by training a new generation of magicians, as well as improving the skills of current magicians by offering them the opportunity to teach. As a group of young people, we are in the position to shatter media stereotypes of magic and re-define it as an artistic, modern form of entertainment for the new millennium.
The Community: We extend the entertainment dimensions of our clients' events through our performances. We introduce the public to a 4,000-year-old art, redefine their preconceived notions of modern entertainment, and invite them to realize that they have the power to create realities from their thoughts.
These precepts were the foundation we inscribed exactly ten years ago, when my dojo the House of Flying Cards was built. We were ambitious as signed cards back when, flipping nimbly up and down through the deck in exploration of all possibilities. We sought to essentially conquer the world with our magic. I'm humbled with gratitude at how this club came to be, no matter how underground it stayed or how unseen we were in the end by the masses. I like secrecy, hidden power, moves unseen- this is the essence of magic. The ripple effects of what this club has done for me- and I pray every magician who at some point stepped through its doors- are infinite. I could pretty much say Nali and Agnes would not be here if weren't for the HOFC, re-sparking my devotion to magic and leading me eventually to do that show at the university Agnes was studying in. Thank you to all who have obliged my vision. The House of Flying Cards is invisible, yet there- real as wind, moving my magic to everywhere I've been.
Happy deck-cade HOFC!
The day your father's poetry gets published is the day they find water on Mars; or the day the pope visits the world's leading exporter of capitalism, pop culture and war; or the day you wake up an ounce heavier, babbling new syllables and sound effects through your toothless smile. Magic is the exploration of boundaries, just as you, climbing nearly out of your crib so much that we had to lower it. I am still at odds with deciding if I should teach you magic, or simply teaching you the principle of anything being possible. I am excited at the possibilities you will uncover when your kicking feet turn to curious footsteps, and your train of thought turns the corner into childhood. That said, today is in fact the day of water on Mars, of God's word on Earth, and of my poetry making it out of my self-published chapbooks for once. We are in a rare air era, these first months of your existence as you grow faster than we can transfer pictures from our phones to computers. It, like magic, is happening by surprise, faster than we can expect. Your mom and I are blessed to take it all in with you.
The Move Unseen
A blog for magic.