Monday, January 12, 2009

Things I learned from Charles Jordan

Every once in a while you come across an old book that is absolutely brilliant. Charles Jordan, and all of his books are brilliant! I love the material, the thinking of the time was revolutionary and even today the effects are very solid. I've started using the material almost exclusively so as to not rely on my time tested stuff just to see the reactions and my god the tricks are just brilliant. So, here is a few things learned from Thirty Card Mysteries by Charles Jordan. I don't usually make posts like this but for those with the cajones to delve into Mr. Jordan's world I'd love to share a few favorites of mine. Enjoy.

"9 times out of 10, a trick is just as effective if the performer does all the shuffling himself. As a rule, it is only when conjuring for conjurers that a shuffle by a spectator adds to the impressiveness of a feat." -Charles Jordan

For those interested in some Charles Jordan material, pick up Thirty Card Mysteries and take a peek at the following:

The Premo, pg 7
With The Mind's Eye, pg 19
The Bare-Faced Detection pg 26
Leave it to the Aces pg 36

"It may interest the reader to know that a piquet of 32 cards, prearranged, may be brought back to perfect order by shuffling it with absolute precision five times; but it requires considerably more skill to handle that many cards without a mishap." -Charles Jordan

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Post-Graduate Degree in Card Handling

Recently while perusing one of the magic forums I came across a rather sad post. In brief the poster mentioned that they didn't understand the huff about Erdnase and why it is such a great book. He then referred to Richard Kaufman and that at one point Mr. Kaufman said similar things in print.

Well, for those who don't appreciate the beauty of Erdnase, I can only assume and hope it is due to a lack of foundation. Magic really is an academic pursuit and we can choose to study so many aspects of it. Majoring in Cards, coins, stage, mentalism, etc. For those of us that don't know much about Social Psychology, the findings might seem trivial and rather impractical or unusable.

I would say Erdnase is the exact same way. To the uneducated it is just another book. Many pages graced with illustrations, and inked with the most succinct descriptions of sleight of hand I have ever come across! Too much emphasis has been put on the historical value of the book and it's revolutionary position played in the writing of magic texts.

Erdnase is an intellectual pursuit. A system or flowchart of logic and technical refinement that require deep analysis, practice, careful consideration, evaluation of context and situation. The little book at a whopping $9.95, contains moves that many consider impossible, outdated, and irrelevant. But, to those scant few who choose to take the book seriously and to heart, they are rewarded many times over. Some techniques seem daunting (I still haven't come to grips with the culling and securing cards section) but one thing remains for sure, those who do take the book seriously are consistently finer card handlers. I have yet to see someone who takes the book seriously, not progress beyond his peers who disregard the book for whatever reason.

So to those that don't have the intellectual vigor to tackle a work like Erdnase, I am deeply sorry. You don't know what you are missing out on and unfortunately nobody else can explain it to you. It is a strictly personal and intimate affair one has with Erdnase that all other magic books are jealous of.

Read the book, love the material and grow with it. If you can't do that, give your copy to someone who can.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wesley on Erdnase A Look Back

I have since obtained a copy of this DVD set and my comments based on viewing the dvds at a friends house are 100% accurate with respect to the entire DVD set. A personal favorite would be the 10 person audience and if you've managed not to slit your wrists yet, hang in there for the card stab. I think the only way this might have been worse is if Wes stabbed his own hand. Now since viewing them I have received some insider information regarding the reason Wesley did the set and it seems to be largely personal problems and financial need. This is ironic considering the reason Erdnase claims to have written the book.

I'm sorry for your situation Wes and I do hope that everything looks up. To those who paid real hard cash for the Erdnase DVDs I am sorry to you too. Unfortunately they weren't as good as anyone would have liked them to be. But let me assure you that the moves in the book are all possible, event the open shift.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

A comment on Wesley James' Seminal work on a flawed text, Erdnase

It should come as no surprise that the Magic Makers DVDs, The Man Who Knows Erdnase, are the final word on the subject. Wesley James comes complete with drunken parrot, Simon! This action packed duo then embarks on the a journey that took the greatest magician of the 20th century (Dai Vernon) a lifetime of study (and still remained incomplete) only 7 DVDs! I do not own the DVDs, I will not own them and I highly recommend you do not as well.

With this lack of ownership I don't feel I am quite entitled to an opinion without first watching this 7 DVD monstrosity. I do believe attempting to watch the 7 DVDs would fill me with rage and anger thus causing me to do something irrational and irresponsible, possibly (god save us) even learn something from the ACTUAL text, The Expert at the Card Table.

For commentary on this DVD set please jump your bums to:
Phantom Notebooks


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Blind Cuts I and II

Both of these cuts present interesting problems for the card worker. The issue I see most is that those attempting to learn the move disregard the text and instead imitate what they beleive is happening in the photograph. The photo representing the action is not the case with regards to the bold and bare faced blind cut as well as the slip cut people do today.

The error, the BBB cut description has one short passage that is the key to both of these cuts. It reads,

"It is the movement towards the dealer that makes the blind possible"

How do we interpret the above text? Is one packet moving? Both packets moving? Then there is this swinging action.

The action is accomplished as the left hand lifts and moves with the whole deck. The cut happening in mid movement towards the dealer. Although Erdnase mentions the movement of the left hand packet first followed by the right hand packet he does not mention the moments simultaneously or not. Here is where the last setence comes into play.

The action is done with the intent of moving towards the dealer. A note magician's fail to appreciate. You can not quite do this move away from yourself (this applies to both blinds). Rather you must do it towards the side of the left hand (or whichever have you choose to lead the cut with).

These two cuts must be read and appreciated together as they are both attempting to accomplish a similar thing, a cut in which deception is lining the cards. Read Blind Cut II then return to Blind Cut I. Let me know how you make out with it.

I hope this post will help rid the world of those blasted atrocious slip cuts away from the body in a straight line with no possibility for deception.

Back to Erdnase...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

In between Erdnase

Although Erdnase is regarded as the first text to provide meticulous detail, I am seeing more and more people unable to comprehend or appreciate the fine detail. I will use for example The Systems of Palming.

First, Erdnase specifically references them as systems, not moves, implying the necessity of transitions in and out. These transitions and contexts he provides, Method One, it is clearly noted that the cards are over hand shuffled to retain top stock. Then obtain a break during square up and the palm would remove a block of cards, a somewhat random albeit estimable number.
If you attempt this palm after an overhand shuffle, say Shuffle I to retain top stock or Shuffle II to retain top stock then immediately go into the palm. You will note the ease in which the palm is accomplished and the necessity of the deck to be turned in the hands before squaring (obtain break) then palming instantly before placing the cards down.
Erdnase provides perfect solutions for specific situations and after very particular sets of card play procedures have taken place. Nothing to scoff at and certainly anyone saying it is dated, is indirectly implying the rules of cards have changed or the procedures varied. I haven't found that to be true, but then again, who am I?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Light as a Feather

Vernon mentions playing cards being that of butterflies ready to take flight and as such should be handled accordingly. Erdnase is a book where that applies strongly! If a move needs a hard grip perhaps you should reconsider the move and the neccessity for the application. Personally I am finding the less pressure I put on the cards in any Erdnase situation the better they reward me, yes even the shifts, espeically the shifts!! If one is so inclined try this, go to somewhere in Erdnase and attempt the moves with the deck turned 90 degrees to where it should be. This won't matter so much for the longitudinal shift but try it for the second deal, the bottom deal, the palms, etc. It's quite interesting to see the results and you might be surprised at yourself!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Illusions- Not the big gawdy box types

I alluded to the idea of some moves or sleights in magic, rather, sequences lets say, of moves in magic that are so impossible you disregard them. This was with reference to dropping the deck a tiny bit after the top palm. In any case, there are many examples of technique where the 2 or 3 actions produce not only a perfect illusion but the illusion of comfort to the audience. I recall being burned badly by an exemplary executed Tenkai palm. The hands of this performer were so natural and slow as well as fingers spread that I was floored! This doesn't only apply to palming, anyone who has developed a fairly deceptive second deal, strike, push off, or one-handed will certainly be able to attest to this. If you have ever shown someone the top card, dealt down a bunch of cards then revealed the top card to be the same, you know the impact it has on someone. Leaving the card face up and then dealing once more, in which they usually reply they understand when they really have no idea. You turn the card down one more and begin dealing again before revealing the same top card, and surprise! The audience member is baffled but knows what happened, as odd as that sounds. That is an example of a technique being so good, it has the illusion of being what it is meant to simulate while still maintaining it's inherent impossibility as a maneuver in and of itself! False shuffles come to mind as well, a very well executed strip out, Shank or Zarrow shuffle can fool those 'in the know' especially when top cards start changing and following Erdnase's sequence of shuffle, shuffle, cuts, most are left baffled once you start doing a sequence of cuts. Vernon has wonderful work in Inner Card Trilogy on the 2 shuffle Zarrow sequence, aside from superior technique, by undercutting to your left and shuffling under the top card of the bottom packet (left) the top card changes, upon maintaining a break and shuffling once more as mentioned above, one will find the deck is as it was to begin with but it has been cut, all the while you are holding a break at this point, you may simply cut to the break or a sequence of run cuts can right the cards to how they begun, a wonderful sequence to keep people thinking you are playing fair.
On a side note, I don't know who or how much people are getting from these postings. So seeing as comments are available please post your thoughts, part of writing this is not only for my personal documentation but also for me to receive thought from others either for or against my statements and in the hopes that I may grow as a magician, which certainly helps when attempting to document individual thoughts on such seminal work!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"Dropping the Deck"

I believe on more than one occasion the idea of dropping the deck is mentioned in Erdnase. Now this statement seems unusual. Try one of the moves in Erdnase where a drop is mentioned (Systems of Palming is a good section to consider). Have you been able to drop the deck in what appears to be a natural way? I have, but not without difficulty in acquiring the knack, and of course I don't claim it is perfect. But one must consider the thoughts on placing a deck down with authority as is customary by so many card workers to date. Although the loud thud which accompanies what appears to be a brutal attack on the deck and the table is reassuring it certainly seems to go against Erdnase's thoughts on grace with the deck. That lovely pounding given to a pack of playing cards is an action suited to a bungler. So here we are with this dilemma of sorts. The way in which one places a deck of cards down gives you a great deal of information about an individual. The cards must move the same way the finished card expert does. If graceful then with grace, if bungling then with a thud or other equal odd action. What we do learn however in come capacity is how Erdnase likely handled cards, lightly with a hands off feel and a remarkable touch. Also the drop has tremendous advantages to it. The deception inherent in concealing a card or cards after one has lightly dropped a deck of cards to a surface is astounding. The hand appears to open and let all within fall, yet you may be holding out. Following the thought that anyone with any minute assumption of foul play at the table immediately means discontinuing any risky maneuvers this dropping action helps to reinforce legitimacy. Much like when one has acquired the ability to deal the second card of the deck. If you were to show someone the deal face down, it looks perfect, then you show the unmoved card, it's startling, now leaving it face up you continue to deal. The impact is even greater. Once more turned down and dealt in slow motion perhaps solidifies the notion that even the keenest observer can not detect the technique. I believe this inability to fathom that the second from top card is possible to take simulating the first parallels with Erdnase's dropping of the deck. Thus bringing the technique to a level of refinement prior to and after the initial means has been made. Truly an idea and concept that 'borders on the wonderful', we are forever in the debt of this man we will never truly know.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Improving Erdnase

In case you fair readers haven't noticed, I have a small obsession with Erdnase. Recently I have been approached or rather reprimanded for encouraging the use of "dated" techniques. The problem is those "improved" techniques are not improvements at all. They are garbage, disgusting excuses for technique. I quickly jumped to the realization that the techniques being shown or recommended to me are not improvements but rather they are easier to acquire proficiency in than those brilliant methods presented by Erdnase.
Those techniques associated with the bottom deal come to mind. There is little doubt in my mind that Erdnase was a bottom dealer. His praise for techniques related to the bottom deal, these include but are not limited to, the bottom palm, the replacement, the bottom deal itself, etc. coupled with his mention of flaw in other techniques or restrictions, such as the requirement of marked cards in utilizing the second deal all lead one to believe Erdnase enjoyed his dealing from the bottom of the deck. The bottom deal is for another post. The point being, the bottom deal has to be one of the most "improved" techniques or Erdnase's.
How and why would anyone dream of attempting to improve such a seminal text on a topic and technique which the author is clearly an expert, an innovator and a polished professional. Before people try to improve Erdnase, why not learn the techniques correctly, become as good as you can at them, then once you have reached a level of mastery that "borders on the wonderful" you can attempt (and that is all it will be, an attempt) to improve the masters work.
I don't think any artist in his right mind would improve Van Gogh's self-portrait, or Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, perhaps a touch of realism in Monet's impressionist work? Or someone might want to correct Mona Lisa's smile. That is of course because you are an expert of such unmatched skill and care that you are greater than those who came before you, even if you can't do what they did, with lower quality tools.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Playing Cards

So, it seems there are trends in my local magic community with regards to playing cards and what type of cards one chooses to use. So what's best? It's hard to say what is or isn't best because some people are more comfortable with borders, etc. Bees generally have the highest quality stock, no borders of course and leave magicians feeling they are unusable due to the apparent inability to use reversed cards. Well there is a technique, yes an actual technique that will hide the face up cards in a real triumph style shuffle. The advantages, of course, allow all your sleights to be more deceptive. It seems that the border is a security blanket to most magicians. Bikes are the economical cards, they are okay all around. Tally Hos are the classy bikes so to speak. The paper stock is top notch although not as good as Bees. Borders are a terrible security blanket. If your cards have borders your technique is off. Short and sweet of it, if you aren't a great fine detail technician then perhaps bordered cards are for you but stay away from difficult moves like second deals, top palms, etc. Where there is movement on the top the deck that could be better hidden by continuous patterns on the cards.
Steamboats are an interesting borderless back cards but I am not sure the quality. I am going to try to locate a handful of decks to use over the next month or two and I will come back with a verdict. As of right now, I am putting my money in Bees and occasionally Tally Hos. What is everyone else using? Other suggestions for cards?
Oh, one more thought, colour doesn't matter. Some will say pros use red because black Sharpie appears on them better. But that implies signing the back of the card. I keep 2 sharpies on my person when performing, one black, one silver, they can go on the front or back of and card of any colour. That is all.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ins and Out With... ERDNASE!

One of the most important lessons in Erdnase is transitioning between moves. Knowing a palm, shuffle, deal, etc. is wonderful, but, without the proper way to get in and out of the move you are left high and dry. Enter Erdnase! I recall during the "Systems of Palming" Top Palm, method one, Erdnase mentions that upon completion of the shuffle the cards are squared up. But the break above the cards by the pink is held and maintained during the square up, then immediately as they pass from hand to hand *blink* the palm is done. If you have tried this move, you understand how remarkable it is! Try practicing the move, the move alone, drilling it, palm, replace, palm replace. When you are done doing it about 20-30 times try this, give the cards an overhand shuffle as per Erdnase to maintain top stock Method One (Two can be just as easily substituted). Upon completion of maintaining top stock immediately square and execute Top Palm Method One. This includes catching the break with 4th finger during the square, the kick of the first finger momentarily before "dropping" (another post on dropping the deck soon) and finally the placement on the table before retreating to a rest position. As a sequence of moves it is actually easier to accomplish and MORE DECEPTIVE! If you record yourself or watch diligently through a looking glass (Gotta love Erdnase!) you will see how disarming the whole sequence and the transitions really are!
Comments on your progress and conclusions are appreciated and if anyone is so inclined to 'YouTube' it that would be great to see.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

What Makes Erdnase So Great?

I often hear people whine and moan about the difficulty of reading Erdnase or the inferiority of the techniques. Of course this is quite simply bull shit but nonetheless I will address it. I will attempt to not repeat the words of Mr. Diaconis in his wonderful Introduction to Revelations. In defining what makes Erdnase so great one needs to consider 2 key things. They context in which the book was written, and who wrote the book. Today our magic texts are authored by a handful of people for the most part, Kaufman et al. The problem lies in the inability of the authors to perform EVERYTHING (I use that term with careful specificity) they write. Erdnase on the other hand wrote the book and practiced the techniques, claiming originality for some of the work. With that in mind, could you imagine a text written by the master with attention to detail so careful that every slight pressure and friction is recorded? Look at older books and even books today and the descriptions leave much to be desired, but Erdnase, not so much. Being the writer it should come as no surprise to think that Erdnase already explored our feeble attempts at improvement. He likely stumbled across the same thoughts. So many improvements seem so obvious, modified Erdnase Grip for example, that is making the assumption that Erdnase wasn't intelligent enough to try it with those two fingers together? Let be realistic.
The context in which the book was written is apparently financial desperation coupled with the attention to detail required of a card cheat. The combination is dangerous, every detail is handled with care and it is written by a man who can't afford for it not to be a success, at least that is the impression I get. Therefore every slight moment is meticulously recorded and analyzed to ensure the reader understands and can learn the technique.
With regards to the context, consider that Erdnase was the innovator of many of the techniques in the book. This would mean he experimented until he ended at those conclusions. But also that he wrote the book, analyzing the movements so diligently that new information, evolution or understanding would be acquired. Now we have to assume Erdnase was capable of performing all these techniques nearly flawlessly, perhaps to perfection. With that in mind certainly his understanding of the move and personal evolution must have been long and impressive. So with that in mind; consider all the apparent improvements people are making, they are misinformed changes and one must consider that such simply improvements were considered by the author. Which is why he arrived at such specific techniques with such careful timing and thought. Especially with regards to the use of the left and right hand. I recall off hand the bottom deal description in which he mentions the left hand doing nine tenths of the work. A very important consideration. Yet today we see that people rely heavily on the strike technique. Likely something Erdnase had experience with in some form. The book is clearly written with emphasis on the Bottom Deal, but that is for another day.
That is a very condensed version of why Erdnase is so great! Those who don't think so, haven't read and clearly don't understand the book. Sorry to say...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Groomed... not that kind

This is getting a little off topic but I feel it is something I need to put somewhere. When I was very young my parents planted this seed of financial wealth and success beyond all belief. I can recall it from as young as 6 years old. I was being groomed, little did I know this would become a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.
When I was old enough (roughly 11 years old) my parents made sure I was aware of the family finances and where they were, how much etc. Bare in mind I have an older sibling by a few years so this pressure to be successful, or rich, rather, was quite intense. As I matured and made my awkward way through puberty and I found myself confronting many difficult tasks; including but not limited to, women, school work, money, business ventures, etc.
By age 17 I had 2 businesses. One legal, one not. I started a small black jack ring in my school and tutored in mathematics. I had no overhead other than playing cards. In choosing my schedule I made sure I had both lunch periods free to run the mini-casino of sorts. I made money, often large amounts. Sometimes 10-20 dollars per hand as the house. At 17 making this kind of money during lunch hour was quite significant.
I was encouraged to keep up with school as well. my marks dropped before peaking my last year, when they mattered most. I managed to talk the school into allowing me to start a club, The Magic Club. Obviously jokes came from other students, I was required to post sign up sheets, inevitably they were marked with the hatred I had come to live with, "The Magic School Bus Club" was common.
Total members? Roughly 6 people in a school of nearly 1500. Two people were teachers, 1 was my girlfriend, 1 myself, 1 my girlfriend's sister and the other my good friend. We needed 5 to run the club. So why the club? It allowed me to put President of Student run club on my resume and it had a budget, the important part, of 400 dollars per semester. This covered the cost of playing cards for my casino operation. At age 18 I was making between 200-500 dollars per week dealing cards at one table during lunch hours. I tutored as well adding about 120 dollars per week. A whooping total of between 320 and 620 dollars per week. Not bad for an 18 year old kid working under and at the card table.
Where am I going with this? My parents embedded this drive to make money. They created a small monster that has empowered me to do anything. The school ,outside of regular curriculum, invested about 8000 dollars in me as an individual, without scholarships.
So why does this matter? This matters because I just recently spoke to a high school freshman class that had no drive. no desire and no idea what was going on. Although this blog is meant for magic reasons primarily I feel the need to express my thoughts regarding a personal drive and motivation especially with regards to success.
How does this fit back with the grooming I mentioned earlier? You might hear newspapers or business channels talk about a son or daughter of a company being groomed for a position. Well my parents did just that with me. But there is no position, I had to make it. They actually made me groom myself. I now have such a strong drive to produce that I have business plans for about 8 businesses prepared and tucked away, marketing plans for all of them. Minimal start up and minimal overhead. Great potential for high ROI. This all came about because I started reading and educating myself with books. I still read everything I can get my hands on with regards to marketing, advertising, public relations, direct marketing, publicity, success, etc.
Why does this matter? This matters because it is everything they didn't teach me in school. This is all the information that has empowered me to go on and do ANYTHING I want. I am confident in my abilities, I know I can accomplish anything. I can make money at anything.
That's what I do, I make money. Lot's of it and quickly. Money is there when I need it and when anyone else does. It's all legit and by the books, but nobody taught me this, I had to teach my self.
So why the post? I want to encourage anyone who reads this blog with any sincerity to apply that drive for Erdnase and buy 2 books, Guerilla Marketing and How to Win Friends, and Influence People. Yeah, I know you have heard of them, but you haven't read them. In the rare case that you have read them; I encourage you to buy Marketing Your Services for People Who Hate To Sell.
I am telling you this because I don't want to hear people complain about money to me, much like so many friends do. Not asking me for it but stating they don't have it, can't make it, etc. Yes they can, they just don't know how. They don't teach success in school.

Proper Magician's Attire

Robert Houdin wrote, "It will be hardly necessary, I imagine, to dilate upon the absurdity of wearing the long robe of a magician. Let us leave tinsel and high-crowned hairs hats to mountebanks; the ordinary dress of a gentleman is the only costume appropriate to a high-class conjuror. The most probable result of assuming the conventional garb of a wizard will be to make the wearer an object of derision.
Extremely intelligent words from a brilliant man and top notch co juror. Yet, Magicians rarely follow the advice of this past master. I am constantly and rather consistently shocked at the low quality of garb magicians choose to wear. I don't know about you, but personally I wear nothing but the best, my shirts are made in Italy my suits as well, my socks cost more than some people's suits. How can someone consider wearing a suit that comes to 33 dollars approximately. There are promotions at discount suit clothiers that advertise 3 suits for 99 dollars. Absolutely disgusting! What's worse is people believe this is a deal! That's like being sold a burlap sack and saying its a nice style of shirt, uncut for her pleasure. You make the neck hole, completely custom! When investing in one's self especially as a magician wouldn't you want to be wearing your fee at least. I don't know about others but when I perform you can be damn sure it is not cheap. I am not cheap, my outfit is not cheap and my clients understand, respect and pay me with that in mind.
Another wonderful display is that magician whose tie is enveloped in playing cards, bunnies or something else equally ridiculous. I recall a time when I was filling in for a friend who was meant to fill in for someone else but mis-scheduled slightly. In any case, upon completing this walk around engagement which was at a local eating establishment I recall some wonderful comments, "You're a real magician!" This person was commenting on the comparison between myself and the other magician. "The other guy does bad tricks, you do real magic!" Another wonderful comment and I am glad to hear them but sad to at the same time. Why are other magicians performing cheesy terrible magic that even children find offensive. People are not stupid, your audience doesn't believe a word you say, stop treating them like that and for Christ sake spend the 100 dollars on a nice silk tie!
Once we get past our on 'bunglers' at the tie table, we are of course greeted with the shoes... polished? No no no! Why polish your shoes? "I am going for a casual look" Yes, so are the homeless who are wearing similar shoes that have been thrown out and are not polished as well. At least the homeless fellow is taken seriously for his vocation you simply are imitating the poor person. If you dress like rubbish, you will look like rubbish, and if you look like rubbish you will be treated accordinsly. Get soine decent clothes people, please!