Fear not, for I have blessed the internet with my presence once more. My ass yearns hourly for the needless praise and gratitude it receives. Even when I badmouth you all and call you fucking wastes of space, you still kiss my wrinkly old man ass.
But enough about me for now. Let’s focus on this little gem now available; ‘Discoveries & Deceptions’ by John Guastaferro, a self-published, 58 page booklet with some of John’s latest material, tweaks and ideas. If you’re up to speed with my self-indulgent rants, you’ll know that I’m a fan of John’s work. When he performs, he seems very quirky and has an almost child-like sense of awe about everything he does. What I love so much about his work is that he knows exactly HOW and WHERE he wants to be as a magician, and it shows. He isn’t trying to make and sell the next big thing, or seem edgy and cool. He thinks about and creates the kind of magic that has meaning and impact without being pompous and overtly ‘deep’. Not only that, but he takes part in enjoying the magic with his audience.
We’re just lucky that he’s a nice guy and he likes to share his ideas with us. So I’ll try keep the cuss words to an all time low.
The book shares a similar vein with his book ‘One Degree’ (2010) in the appropriation of existing ideas to create new contexts and the connecting of two previously unrelated ideas to create something special. Even something as simple as a tweak can turn average into amazing. If you want to understand how this process feels for me, read the introduction for Warren Ellis’ ‘Shivering Sands‘ (FYI, that’s not a magic book). That’s another thing John mentions. Use everything and anything you interact with to develop yourself as a person and as a magician. Take inspiration from everything and run with it.
So, onto the content.
This effect’s predecessor is Ed Marlo’s ‘Buffalo’d’ (Marlo’s ‘Classical Foursome’, 1956, also in ‘Ibidem’ vol. 15, December 1958, p.288). John has taken the effect and given the transposition so much clarity that the impact is much greater. The situation is ingrained into the spectator’s mind with a simple choice of wording, allowing the transposition to not only be experienced visually but mentally as well. John also goes on to give you an effect to perform before and after this, giving you a full routine. While it may read overly simplistic in the method side of it, I recommend thoroughly reading through the method and key patter and ideas points given and try it out.
For another take on this kind of effect, see ‘Low Maintenance Transposition’ in Richard Bartram Jr’s book ‘Trephine’.
An off balance transposition of a selected card and four of a kind; The performer attempts to find a selected card but instead finds the four aces. The aces are then placed under the spectator’s hand where they change into the single selection. The four aces are then found reversed in the middle of the deck. John references Ortiz’ ‘Psychotronic Card’ (‘Cardshark’, 1995, p.14), but I feel that a tip of the hat should also go to Bill Goodwin’s ‘Off Balance Transposition’ (‘The Ancient Empty Street’, 1997, p.12. Also see, Bill Goodwin’s ‘Reflections’ DVD) for the transposition of the four aces with the single selection. Although the effect is not a visual transposition, it still has some very close roots to it. I like the effect, and the mechanics he uses to get in position and do the change. The ending production of the Aces could be tweaked a bit, such as revealing the four Aces in the middle first as a ‘last ditch effort’ to find the selection, and then having the revelation of the selection under the spectator’s hand. This way, the stronger revelation is final, instead of a strong ending, then a kicker of the Aces in the deck. Just sayin’
BOOK OF CLUES
I really love this. A spectator takes a card and places it aside, unseen. Three other spectator’s cut the deck and the cards they cut to are used as clue cards to determine the first spectator’s selection. Each of the ‘clue’ cards is correct. Not only that, but the clue cards and selection are mates. I’m not giving away the ideas John puts together in this routine for the presentation. There’s also an alternate ending included by Andrew Brown which is excellent. This effect is not just a method, but a perfect example of tweaking an existing method, presentation or concept to achieve an entirely better goal. You have to read this entire effect to see what I mean. Some good shit.
HERE, THERE & IN MY POCKET
This is a variation on John’s ‘Here, There & Everywhere’ from his ‘Second Storm’ lecture notes (2005, p.16) and DVD (2007). It’s taking parts of Hofzinser’s ‘Everywhere & Nowhere’ plot and mixing it with bits of Marlo’s ‘Future Classic’ to make a great effect. A selected card appears in multiple locations simultaneously, transforms into the four aces and then transposes with a pocketed mystery card. I’ve liked the idea of this effect since I first saw it because it was not only easy to follow for an audience and very visual, but also practical. His updated handling improves on the effect by taking away a move that requires a table and making it more in the hands. Also, there’s an alternate handling given where you can perform the same effect but have a blank deck ending.
John takes a fairly standard move and makes it into a damn good effect. The performer is able to look into a deck of cards, in the card box, and not only name the selection but also other cards around it. I really like this effect too just for how simple it is, but also the changes involved. You can take the idea of naming cards around a selection in an ace cutting sequence or memory effect and it can add an extra layer of credibility to what you’re claiming to do. I love you John.
Two cards are selected and lost in the deck which is then mixed face up and face down between two separated piles by the spectators. Not only are the two selections now the top cards of each packet, but all of the cards in both packets are now face down and the reds are in one packet, while the blacks in the other. John has taken a ruse that you already know and shows some of the inherent and unused properties that can be used to achieve new things. This is something that looks incredibly fair, but is very simple.
Utilizing a new idea from John and a Peter Duffie idea (which reminds me of an effect from Phil Goldstein’s ‘Redivider’ booklet), the performer and a spectator have half the deck each and cut to the four aces. The first two are directly found, while the last two are found with a very sneaky ending. This is not a long routine or write up, but the method is decent and the ending is structured really well.
As the title implies, if you perform ‘Dr Daley’s Last Trick’, this is something to build up that effect into a mini-routine. I have a few favorite versions of ‘Daley’s Last Trick’ (some in print, some not), but I’d prefer to keep them to myself and brain-fuck every magician I meet. John has tweaked the effect to be a transposition strengthened by the same mental anchor points just by how the effect is scripted and how the cards are handled to affirm the situation prior to the transposition.
I’ve never been a huge fan of multiple selection routines because most of the performances I’ve seen tend to peak early and then plateau or steadily go downhill. The inherent issue seems to be that you don’t want to use your best revelations at the start, but you don’t want to leave them til the end. To counterbalance the plateau/downhill/shitty feeling I get when I think of this plot, John raises an interesting point about what makes this effect good; it’s not about the physical revelation of the selections alone, but being able to name the selections and then reveal each one in a differing manner that is either equal or greater than the previous revelation in how it is framed. The routine is reminiscent of a Joel Given’s effect/Phil Goldstein paradigm in how the structure and bi-products of the method support and create opportunities for later effects or phases. I’ve substituted some parts of John’s method with other things, but it comes down to personal preference. Overall, the effect is a good lesson in structuring, but also in understanding the broader implications of a plot and effectively using them.
When it comes to effects with smart phones, there’s a large gap between good uses and blatantly shit uses. I feel that this is an excellent use of technology to make a new take on an old plot. The spectator swipes through their contacts or music list on their phone, stops on one and then swipes through again to mix up the results. The performer is able to determine the spectator’s choice. There is also a variation by the awesome Raj Madhok which allows you the principle to be used as a revelation of a name, number, card etc. LOVE YOU RAJ!
This is a weird one. John shows how an ingenious impromptu principle allows you to make a straw bend at your fingertips, and it can be scrutinized afterwards. I tried this out a few times and it is super easy and looks amazing. This is one of those things perfectly suited to perform if you do table-hopping at a restaurant. Good shit.
MORE DISCOVERIES & BON VOYAGE
John gives some bits and pieces that could be tacked on to existing effects. Each idea is only a few lines long, but the inherent lesson in each of them should make you think more about everything you already do. It could be a simple way to segue between two routines, or ways to strengthen existing revelations or turning that throw-away line into a mini-revelation. Consider everything.
The last two pages are John’s final words. There are some very big lessons to learn in these words and I highly recommend taking the questions he asks and questioning everything you do until you find an answer you feel is good for you. Then keep going.
So, is this worth getting?
The reason why I like this booklet so much is that it shows how much can be gained from the appropriation of existing ideas to new contexts, and being open and curious to change anything and everything at the drop of a hat. Some of the ideas from this book can be integrated into a lot of the other magic I already do. It’s not a simple cut/paste of the ideas from John’s booklet to my own work, but it gives you ideas and concepts which can then be translated onto other things, or even give you ideas for something totally unrelated. John’s material alone is very practical for the worker, but he also gives the reader a lesson to learn from, and encourages you to scrutinize why and how you perform certain things.
The booklet is available from John’s website for $20 plus shipping. John’s a real sweetheart so if you want a signed copy, make sure you email him before placing your order. Also, if you haven’t got any of his DVDs or books, pick up his Brainstorm DVD set to see the man in action.
I’m outties, bitches.