‘Thanking the Improbable’ ; A guest review by Ron Jacherbaumer
by Wouldn't you like to know?
I got really lazy, and decided to palm off (PUN) a review to an old friend. The man knows his shit, is very well read and enjoys good Ramen.
Without further ado, please welcome Ron Jacherbaumer
It is self evident to most that the forward thinking pedagogy of our brethren often facilitates a constant exchange of concepts from consciousness to consciousness. This dialectical exchange manifests in outward dichotomy through bibliographic data which utilizes symbols and linguistic transactions.
Magicians publish books. Other magicians read them. I am going to review this book better than you because I have a beard and a thesaurus.
‘Thinking the Impossible’ is a book collecting the works of Ramon Rioboo and was recently published by Hermetic Press. Ramon Rioboo is best known to English Speaking humans (Cardini, Hugh Grant) through his contributions to Steve Beam’s ‘Semi Automatic Card Tricks‘ series. Steve Beam is best known for publishing ‘Semi Automatic Card Tricks’. Semi Automatic Card Tricks are best known as Self Working Card Tricks. Self Working Card Tricks are best known as being published in Karl Fulves’ ‘Self Working Card Tricks’. Karl Fulves is best known as the author of a number of magazines and Riffle Shuffle Manuscripts. Riffle Shuffle work is not a Self Working Card Trick. Riffle Shuffles are best known as the Riffle Diffle Shuffle. The Riffle Diffle shuffle is best known for having a stupid name. Where was I?
Ramon Rioboo has also contributed several (excellent) ideas to Juan Tamariz’ book Mnemonica. One of the problems in assessing the material in this book is the inevitable comparison to Woody Aragon’s ‘A Book in English‘. Woody’s book was regarded as one of the better publications of last year. The effects in his book combined sleight of hand with ingenious principles and (mostly) managed to avoid the procedurally heavy “self working” feeling. The effects in Ramon Rioboo’s book have that shitty “self working” feeling, due to the excessive procedure.
A creator’s stylistic choices can impact their published work in both a positive and negative way. People like Tyler Wilson, Simon Aronson, Darwin Ortiz (and many, many others) are all performers with a distinctive style that positively impacts their work. In the case of Ramon Rioboo, his approach to card magic sometimes has a negative impact on the items in the book.
Some Basic Tools:
This section has some good ideas. There is nothing revolutionary in the sleights and ideas presented here but it’s helpful to outline a creator’s approach to standard moves. He has obviously given a lot of thought to his approach to lapping, I’m just not a fan of the technique in general. If you like throwing stuff into your lap, you go girlfriend! Be sure to follow Paul Harris’s guidelines if you do. I don’t have the energy to go through his section move by move. Deal with it.
In the Bluff:
First trick in the book and it’s mediocre. The selling point seems to be the method of revealing of the selection. The selection procedure is as follows: Deck shuffled, spectator removes a group of cards from the deck, secretly counts them and remembers this number, then takes the remainder of the deck and counts down to the number they are thinking of. After all this they are now graciously permitted to remember a card. The deck is now cut and/or shuffled. You ask your assisting spectator to cut the deck. You take a look at the card they cut to. It will correspond in suit to their selection. You may or may not be able to show this card. Get the title now? The deck is cut again and you take a look at another card which corresponds to the value. You may or may not be able to show this card. Let’s do a run down: Procedurally heavy selection procedure and a revelation procedure that is a giant bluff. This effect got a lot of positive buzz on the Magic Café so it’s probably a good idea to avoid it.
One in the Side Pocket:
Things are slightly better here. This is a fairly basic coincidence effect where a series of seemingly random choices lead to the revelation of four of a kind. It’s just OK, the type of thing you might see in a beginner magic book. Sorry to disappoint.
“I really wish there were more unjustified spelling effects in card magic” said no one, ever. This is a direct quote from the book “A participant shuffles the deck and thinks of a number from one to ten. With his back turned and the cards face down and out of your sight he counts to the number he thought of, notes the card at that position, and leaves it there.” I was tempted to leave this effect there, but I continue for your edification.
This could be a decent lead in to the effect IF YOU DON’T LATER ASK THEM WHAT NUMBER THEY ARE THINKING OF. Wait, it gets better! After asking them the thought of number you count down to that position to show the card isn’t there. BEST. IDEA. EVER. Then you spell to cards or something. I was busy punching myself in the throat, so I was distracted.
Three Minds with But a Single Thought:
“While mathematics lies under the surface of this card discovery, I have covered any hint of this by focusing the presentation on the idea of telepathy.” Make of that what you will. Brace yourself for this selection procedure: Three adult humans think of the same number. This is accomplished by one of the humans grabbing a clump of cards which all three count. Once they have all counted the packet of cards the remainder of the deck is handed to a fourth human. He counts cards out loud, showing the faces of each one. The three (initial) humans are to remember the card that falls on the number they are remembering. Seeing a pattern emerging in these selection procedures yet? Let me spell it out: FACEPALM.
After this you divine the selection. Your assisting earth humans are awestruck because you have focused the presentation on telepathy.
Brief aside: The longer and more involved a selection procedure the more likely the spectators will make a mistake. One of the worst book tests I’ve ever seen is in 13 Steps by Corinda. It involves dice and counting. The chances of a spectator making an error while adding numbers on the dice, going to a page and counting across to a word are enormous.
The Return of the Twenty-One:
RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT.
In the Long Run:
OK, this is pretty cool. You have a spectator make ten or so piles from a freely shuffled deck. After selecting a pile and burying the selection by dropping face up/face down piles you can spread through the deck and reveal the selection. If you like this there is a more streamlined (i.e. better) handling in a Karl Fulves book called “Any Deck, Any Time”. Which book? Ask Jeeves.
By Any Other Name:
This is a spelling trick and it’s OK. You have a spectator select a card which is lost (ahem) in the deck. A second (free) selection is made, and the name of this card is spelt. Upon reaching the last letter or whatever the first selection turns up. I like the fact that both selections are free. If you want to feel like a total badass check out an effect from ‘Try the Impossible’ by Simon Aronson called “Spell It Out”. Same effect, better method, more stringent conditions, more commas.
Four Weddings and an Impossibility:
A good buddy of mine showed me this a while ago and I like it. It’s a version of the Royal Marriages plot, combined with a kicker. As per the plot you match up pairs of picture cards. The addition here is that an unknown selection made before the effect. A selection is made at the end of effect and it turns out to be the mate of the initial selection. This is a good example of what Max Maven refers to as Ecological Magic in his book ‘Focus’, where leftovers from a phase or effect are used intelligently.
The Accidental Detective:
A fairly standard locator card effect. Your detective (or dick) card magically finds a spectators selection. In this version the value of your dick card is used to count down in the deck where the spectator’s selection is found. There is a nice version of this plot in ‘Royal Road to Card Magic’. In the RRTCM version the card ends up above their card, so you can accurately tell them that your dick is on their card. Heh.
Weak and confusing. Seriously, enough about my skeletal structure. This effect is also weak and confusing. It’s basically a matching effect using the Gilbreath principle. The issue I have with this effect is that the matching occurs by revealing pairs of red/black cards. Seriously. You show that each pair of cards consists of a red and black card. I don’t get it. I just don’t think the red/black pair would register with most audiences. If you were showing all the red cards in one pile and all the black cards in another, cool. You could have a nice mini OOTW. But you can’t. Derp.
Telepathy, X-rays and Telekinesis:
This looks promising. You have a card selected by having the deck cut into four piles then the top card of any pile. The piles are reassembled. Then you claim you know what their card is. Do you actually tell them? No.Of course not. I wouldn’t be reviewing this book if that was the case. You tell them that you will use X-Ray Vision to determine the location of the card. Then you explain you will use Telekinesis to bring the card to the top. I would just explain that I’m going to control your card to the top, cool bro? Then show the card. THIS TOTALLY COUNTS AS GETTING THIS VERSION IN PRINT. In case you were thinking about stealing it I would use X-Ray vision to find your kidney then use Telekinesis to punch it.
Another version of the stop trick. Maybe someone could deal through versions of the stop trick, then someone could say stop and the version that is stopped on is the one everyone has to use. I would like that someone to be Michael Ammar.
The Mystery of Cabala:
“He next performs a cabalistic ritual with the cards that imbeds the meaning of his choice deeply in his mind.” This doesn’t use the down-under deal which is one positive thing I can say. I can’t really think of much else to say. The cabalistic ritual is a series of obviously procedural deals. A great version of this effect of this is Jon Lovick’s “I Dream of Mindreading”. Despite doing the procedural deals the spectator is still astonished at the end of Jon’s effect. Look it up.
The World’s Smallest Computer:
A weird and procedurally heavy revelation of a selected card. Lots of spelling, counting and dropping cards onto piles of cards. Make it stop.
Laptop:See above. Then feel my pain.
You Make Three Piles and I Won’t Touch:
Whenever I read this title my brain uses the voice of Super Mario. A divination of a selected card. You eat a mushroom then you get bigger. Then you eat a flower and you’re all like “pew pew pew” and you shoot fire. You jump on a flag then you go underground and there are weird things with shells and you then are on a bridge and someone is shooting fire at you and then a dude that is totally like a living magic mushroom is telling you the Princess is in another castle. That is all. YOU ARE THE DEMONS. Doom Fanfic, noobs.
The Magician and the Prophet:
A fairly standard “difference between magic and mentalism” plot. You write something down on a slip of paper. Two spectators think of a one digit number. They add these numbers together. One of them counts down to the combined total and remembers the card. The other one just sits there awkwardly. Then you cut and you cut and you shuffle these onions. MESHE MESHE MESHE. Then the guy sitting the awkwardly also counts down to the number. Then you pull the first spectators card out of your pocket. POW! MAGIC! Then you show you predicted the second card. POW! MENTALISM! It would be better if it didn’t start with the awkward selection procedure. My life would be better if I quit eating Limp Bizkit cassette tapes. Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop.
Law and Order:
Sandwich Trick. Can’t expend effort required to describe effect. Open. Pod. Bay. Doors. Hal.
You use a demon to help you find a selected card. This seems excessive. I mainly use a crimp or possibly a sextuple undercut.
A version of John Hamman’s “The Signed Card” using a switch of John Bannon’s. Pretty good. I still think the best version of this plot I’ve seen is in ‘Card College 5’. Jack Carpenter’s version “Mysterious” from ‘Modus Operandi’ is boss also.
My Favourite Timepiece:
A nice handling of the classic clock trick. The spectator deals of a number of cards corresponding to a thought of hour. The spectator selects a card using their thought of hour. You go through the usual clock trick rigmarole and show you predicted which hour they would choose. Then their card vanishes. Then it appears in your pocket. Cool story, bro.
Two, Three, Four:
An interesting little effect that has a very freeform and jazzy feel. You randomly deal a bunch of cards to the table and one is selected with the identity of the card remaining unknown. Then they deal cards and before you know it you have three of a kind on your hands, folks. BUT WHAT ABOUT THAT CARD FROM THE START? It has transformed into Jay Sankey’s business card. Lol. Jokes. It’s the missing card from the three of a kind. HAD YOU GOING THERE, SANKEY FANS.
A Bad Mind Reader and a Good Premonition:
“Someone thinks of card and whispers its name to two other people. Holding the deck under the table, out of view, she removes a number of cards from the top equal to the value of the card she is thinking of.” RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT. RAGEQUIT.
The Five Senses:
We have arrived at the stack work and this stuff is mostly excellent. This first little item is a great multiple divination with a straightforward selection procedure. Humans cut off smalls packets of cards and note the cards on the face. The packets are then shuffled. You proceed to reveal the names of the cards. Using a stack means YOU DON’T NEED INSANE SELECTION PROCEDURES. Are you going to make it easier on the spectators or easier on yourself? Remember that Darwin’s Laws apply. If you haven’t read ‘Strong Magic’, that’s OK. We are still friends. =)
Control in Chaos:
This is an excellent handling of Simon Aronson’s effect “Shufflebored”. Rioboo’s version gives a sense of chaos, haphazard shuffling and a complete lack of control. This description is reprinted exactly as it appears in ‘Mnemonica’. It contains no updated information. I really, really like this and I learnt it from the writeup in ‘Mnemonica’.
Super Telepathy for Skeptics:
A multiple card divination using a memorised deck. I normally wouldn’t destroy the stack for an effect of this matter but sometimes you just want to do something under test conditions. This is a good choice for those times.
The Well-Placed Card:
I felt like this section of the book and I were soul mates. Then this monstrosity arrives. Basically someone can name any card (except for those pesky suits of Hearts and Clubs). You are then able to count the value (?) then spell the suit to arrive at the card. If someone selected the Eight of Diamonds you would deal off eight cards, then spell Diamonds. Confusing? Yes. This is basically a full deck stack and you are unable to do other effects with the deck. This is great for those times when you want to commit an entire deck to a single unimpressive effect that is confusing. FISM?
Telepathy to Order:
Don’t use Stebbins. Too lazy to set it up. The effect could be great but I will never know.
My Staple Card:
I haven’t actually tried this yet but it looks interesting. I guess it’s a version of the card to impossible location plot. A signed selection ends up stapled to a joker. Cool beans.
Sympathy for the Devil (That’s me!):
This is an interesting variation of the Open Prediction plot. I guarantee you will read this and decide it’s impractical, but it works and it gives you a sneaky feeling of satisfaction when it does.
Cutting it Close:
This may fly for laypeople but I have my doubts. Criss-Cross will make you force, force. My pants were on backwards when I typed that.
The Fateful Month:
An interesting plot where a spectator selects a particular month of the year with negative associations for them. You take twelve cards from the deck, A to Q, and attempt to determine which month (card) is a little heavier due to sorrow. Then you can eliminate the month by causing it’s face to go blank! HOORAY! After doing this effect for myself I no longer cry in the bathtub before going to sleep every night. Magic gives us so much.
Side note: Effects utilising negative emotions, like above, can piss an audience off. I.e. Living and Dead test effects are the epitome of bad magic.
‘Please write down the name of a recently deceased person you knew, the manner in which they died, and the amount of time you’ve spent grieving over the loss of them… Ok, now I guessed it. How special am I?’
Insensitive fucking bullshit.
A variation of the above. Pretty good. That’s all you get.
Spelling Trick. Pass.
For some reason this effect appeals to me. In the presentation in the book James Bond infiltrates a group of secret agents. It’s tough to explain, but there are cards changing both faces and back and it’s surprisingly visual. You also use a scrambled numerical code to locate the hidden James Bond card which is fun.
A variation on the above using a special something. Love?
A version of the Ace Assembly plot using the same special something as above. This has a bit of a “brute force” feeling to it, and it’s very similar to something published (penguined?) by Oz Pearlman. I’m still deciding whether there is a crucial moment in the effect that is a deal breaker. You do get some mysterious vanishes of the aces and can show faces and backs constantly thought the effect.
The Three Bets:
I use this. It’s a great effect with a unique plot, good build to a strong climax and encourages audience interaction due to the structure of the presentation. I feel like the previous sentence was a little too “Magic Cafe”. Mods, could you please delete this thread?
Too sleepy to write about this. Come back next time.
I’m outties, bitches.
So, after all this, is it a book worth getting?
Yes AND No. The slow, procedurally heavy effects outnumber the direct and worthwhile effects in this book. The amount of long-winded procedures before the effect gets anywhere, to create the optimal scenario needed is a good academic approach and may fool magicians unfamiliar with the underlying principles, but will leave any audience with a pulse and good taste to be questioning if magic could ever get this shit and convoluted.
BUT, there are some decent items in this book, and the effect descriptions (minus the bullshit procedures) are interesting and could be reworked to create some good magic. I personally had some great ideas to achieve the effects through different methods, or tweaked existing routines with some aspects from the ones in this book. For some people, that may be enough of a reason. For others, they might consider the time and effort better spent on dragging their bare ass across a carpet.
Should you buy this book?
I am not your mother. Wipe your own ass, read the review and buy the damn book if it sounds like your kind of thing. Or don’t.
Why should I make the decision for you? Don’t turn into a fucking Cafe yuppie.
Boats and hoes,