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Impossible is Nothing
Think of your dream effect. Not something you think you could
do, but your absolute perfect magic effect. If you were truly magical, a real life actual honest to goodness magic man (or woman of course), what would be the one thing you loved to do more than any other?
I, as is typical of me, cannot narrow this down to one thing. However, of all the things in the world I'd utterly love to be able to do, one would be the ablilty to control the weather. Imagine being able to make the wind whip round you, doors and windows banging open as you reach the finale of a gothic bizarre magick act. Imagine being able to bring the sun out from behind the grey clouds as you breath new life into a dead fly. Imagine being able to move clouds across the sky, make night into day and day into night, and cause anything you so wished to happen with the weather to happen. Just imagine.
Pretty far fetched though wouldn't you say? Maybe even impossible? Well, yes, completely impossible, but when you apply thinking of that nature to it doesn't this render even the simple abitious card impossible? But that's just taking a card, putting it in the centre of a deck of cards and having it reappear on top, how can that be in the same league as controlling the weather?
Simple; it's magic!
Let's look at our description of the ambitious card shall we? It's a bit dull wouldn't you say? Let's spice it up a little! Imagine being able to take any one of the 52 cards in a deck. Imagine being able to have a spectator not just sign his name on it but draw a little picture in one corner as well. Imagine being able to let the spectator put his own selected card back into the centre of the deck, push it flush and just imagine with the deck held at arm's length being able to simply click your fingers and have the spectator find his card on top of the deck. Now imagine being able to do this time and time again, with the card appearing in more and more unlikely places until finally it completely vanishes from this world, nowhere to be found. That is until the spectator looks under his watch...
With a little English know-how we can turn the mudane in the miraculous, the ambitious card routine becomes completely impossible. No longer a mere matter of losing and finding the card, we have approached the effect from an entirely new direction; we have stopped looking at the trick and instead focused on the magic. The magic in the ambitious card routine is the increasingly more impossible places the spectator's card appears in. It appears on the top, on the bottom, face up in the centre, in the magician's mouth, in his glasses, in his pocket, under his shoe, in
his shoe, in his mouth, under his watch, under the spectator's watch, on the other side of a window, in a sealed bottle of drink, the list is endless. With a little magical nouse and some inspired thinking we can turn the standard ambitious card routine into a combination effect with a surprise finale of almost anything we choose. With a little work and a new approach we can turn the trick into real magic.
You see, the trick with magic is no matter how impossible the effect is, it is very rarely what we are actually
doing. Sticking with the ambitious card for the time being, let's look at the most often performed first phase, where a card is selected replaced and revealed on top. The impossibilty here is (to a layman's thinking, stop thinking like magicians for a moment) that the card was placed fair and square into the centre of the deck, and yet with a click of the fingers it's on the top. Cards cannot pass through each other like say, water can pass through soil. Cards are solid material artifacts, they exist as separate things that can touch, but never pass through, one another. So, when you as the magician cause this passing through to happen, you are performing the impossible. Forget that this is the first phase of what may a 3, 4, 5, 10, 15 of 20 phase routine, and ignore the fact that no spectator on the planet is ever going to react along the lines of "but that's impossible, cards can't pass through one another..." especially at this early stage of the game. Remember that where this reaction is going to take place is in the sub-concious mind of the spectator. Somewhere in the back of his mind, as he processes this rather magical event, a little voice will murmer to itself "that's impossible". It's this voice that makes what he has seen magic. I remember reading somewhere, although for the life of me I cannot recall where so the source will be sadly be left uncited, that when a spectator reacts to an effect he is processing the information he has just had presented; the images, the words, the whole emtional content, everything. This process takes milliseconds, but if done well the brain will bypass most of the "how?" and "why?" boxes where logic and reason are master and commander, and will end up in the "no idea, clearly magic" box where bewilderment and wonder are the boho kings, revelling in their joy and merrement with not a care as to how or why things work, only that they are fun and bring happiness. The time delay between the dramatic revelation and the lasting reaction of the spectator is this catagorising of what just happened. The more a spectator reacts verbally or physically the quicker the jump from logic and reason to wonder and joy. Note that this is not to say if your spectators are stood jaws to the floor saying nothing they are experiencing nothing of the wonder and joy, far from it, it is more likely that they are unable to verbally express themselves as they run over and over the magic they saw in their minds.
So our spectator has processed the information from his sub-concious that what is happening here is impossible. Take it a step further. Cards can't fly from one place in the deck to another any more than they can vanish from the deck and appear in the magician's mouth. Or in his pocket. Or in his shoe. You get the idea. The more impossible the effect the more reaction you'll get. Compare the first phase of the standard ambitious card to say a finale in which the signed card vanishes and appears tucked behind the face of the spectator's own watch on his wrist.
The first phase is quite impossible, as has been discussed cards can't pass through each other, so how did it get to the top? Magic, that's how. I find a smile, a laugh, occasionally an open mouth followed by either the smile or laugh tends to be the reaction here. Some [edited] their heads to one side like a pigeon and look at me as if to say "but how?" before looking back at the deck as if to say "who cares, do it again". Some look at me as if to say "that it?". But all react, and all will allow themselves to believe to a certain extent that this is magical. Now, the finale. The spectator will react to the fact the card is gone. He will then react to the fact that there is even a folded up card under his watch he hadn't noticed until you said so. He will then go on to react even more when he unfolds it finding none other than his own signed selection in his hands. This final phase is really really
impossible. The first impossible thing is the card vanishes. The second impossible thing is that a card appears under the spectator's watch. And, the third and final impossible thing is that this card is his, with his signature and picture on the face. This multiplying effect of the different impossible parts that make one huge impossible whole is staggering. I have found that when you do one impossible thing you get one reaction. When you do more than one you get more than one reaction, but each reaction dominoes its own energy into the next. Soon enough you have dominoes falling all around you as spectators who were merely watching join in the astonishment, their energy pouring into the reactions of their friends, and so on all around the group. It's ping pong balls and mouse traps.
If we can approach all of our magic, from the simple basic self workers to the giant stage illusions, in this manner we will reap huge rewards. If we perform something for our audience and think to ourselves as we do so "this is a brilliant trick" no matter what the patter or performance we put to it our own diminishment of the effect will show through and adversely affect our spectators' reactions. If we perform something believing what we are doing is magical and treat as such our spectators will see this and react accordingly. Take a good look at what you consider to be the weakest effect you perform. Run through it dress rehearsal and then come back here.
Did you perform it thinking
it was weak? Or that it wasn't your best trick? Did you go through the motions, patter included, and come out the other end without messing up? Was your performance a bit wooden, or robotic? What was your emotional input
to the effect? Did you have one? Would you like to have seen that trick performed like that if you were a layman?
Don't be too harsh on yourself when you answer these questions, but try to be truthful. Emotional input can be anything, say just putting your enthusiasm for magic and your happiness for being able to perform into the effect; don't think you have to weep uncontrollably when you make that 'mistake' or literally jump for joy when you find the selected card. Emotional input can be subtle, sometimes less is more. There are many books available on acting and most of what they tell you can be applied to magic, I'd suggest looking one or two up. This is a whole other essay in itself and one I feel wholly unqualified to write at this moment in time.
As far as your effect goes, for me it's down to one thing; selling the impossibilities. And by that I don't mean taking all the suspense out of a routine. What I do mean is approach the effect in your mind as something downright magical. In your own mind
, and that's important so note it down, regard what you are doing as real magic, as impossible, as a layman would regard it. Who cares what the other magicians think, darn their eyes for thinking so mechanically! So what if you're performing an effect that uses nothing more than a DL, or a classic force, or anything else for that matter. If the final outcome of your effect is one or more impossible feats then that's magic. Real magic.
Impossible is nothing, and yet it is everything. If we as magicians are percieved to do something impossible, and we sell it as having done said impossible thing, we have done it. This is the beauty, the real trick to the trick. We don't need to be able to control the weather, we need only to be able to appear to control the weather. How about the ability to control sunlight? Hole in the Head by Ben Harris. There are effects out there that give us magi the ability to cause a spectator's chosen cloud in the sky to dissapate and vanish. Want to control the wind? Perform a self-levitation and talk about being able to control the wind to pick yourself up and put yourself back down again. Heck, just check the local forecast, walk out the house with an umbrella and predict rain - get it right and sell it as magic (this is something many many psychics do; make numerous predictions about things and ignore the ones that miss). Magical nouse and inspired thinking, and knowing that impossible is nothing, and we're already three quarters of the way there. Sell the impossible nature of your magic, though blatant patter and scripting, through subtle suggestion and wording, through theatre and acting. Sell the impossible nature of your magic with words, actions, reactions, looks, non-verbal communication. Sell the impossible nature of your magic in the way that suits you and the effect best. Make sure that your spectator understands just how impossible it is for cards to vanish, or coins to fly from one hand to the other, or people to be able to predict events minutes, hours, even days in advance. And make sure that you yourself appreciate and believe in this impossibility of your material. Make sure that you approach all of your magic, big and small, strong and weak, favoured and unfavoured, from the point of view of it being real magic. Make the magic real in your
head and your spectators will believe even more.
Impossible is nothing. So go do it.
p.s. the censorship thing got me here (!). Two perfectly acceptable words used in context (the word co ck as in to learn to one side, and the word da mn as in a curse or punish) have been edited here making it look as if I have sworn where I can assure you I have not.