The Art of not giving a Fuck; Sprezzatura by Alex Hansford

Evening ladies and gents,

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaave you met Alex Hansford? I have. He’s goddamn wonderful.

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Aside from having one of the most wonderful heads of hair in the history of mankind (I may or may have not put my dick in and around that majestic quaff at one point), he is also an extremely humble and talented guy with very expressive eyebrows.

I only got a chance to session with him on one magical and romantic night a few years back, but in the brief time we got to hang out, I saw some of the most refreshing ideas and methods I’d seen in a while. That which he has released (Hessian, Gödel and Hashtag) looks like how it would be to have actual magic powers. And the truth is, his work and handlings look just as flawless and perfect in person.

So when Alex posted up about his lecture notes in the land of perpetual grim weather, cups of tea and warm pints of beer, I sent him a loving message, along the lines of ‘Send me a copy of them before I fornicate with your hair again plz’. And here we are.

The notes consist of 7 items, wonderfully explained and laid out with some of the best photographs and explanations I’ve seen in recent years; you can tell he gives a shit about his work and sharing it with people. He writes with the intent, purpose and passion that you would hope to see when reading a new magic book or set of notes. The title is very fitting; an Italian word for nonchalance and almost thoughtlessness in your abilities. Alex and his work is exactly that; a studied carelessness.

I thoroughly enjoyed these notes because it was not only some new effects/presentations, but also some extremely enjoyable tangents on methods and thoughts on methods and how to modify or replace the fundamental things we do in each performance to make them that bit better, for the audience but also for that self-gratifying feeling of doing something perverse.

Shall we?

Card to Pocket
A refreshing take on the method for card to pocket. I really enjoyed this. The approach mixes an idea that Alex and Will Houston discussed with something that we all know but barely every use anymore. The thing I loved most about this write-up is that it touches on something that many people fear when learning a new method or effect; how the fuck can I get away with this? Alex’s advice here is miles ahead of the usual “just do it until you get comfortable”. The progression of learning magic means the methods and ideas we first learn get put aside and considered as ‘trivial’; they’ll never be as useful, harder is better etc. This proves otherwise. The method also has some awesome little nuances throughout to make standard moves that little bit better. A concept not often considered or discussed, aside from Aaron Fisher’s ‘The Paper Engine’ and other works, is whether a particular sleight or sequence produces tension in a muscular or movement sense. This sequence in particular is well thought out, the choreography is well explained. Thoroughly enjoyed this.

Also, kudos for the use of the word ‘doddle’; what the fuck does that even mean?

Micro Breaks
A discourse on breaks, and methods around getting and maintaining breaks. I didn’t know I could enjoy reading about breaks as much as I did. Alex does an exceptional job of looking at something as fundamental as a pinky break and looking at how to make them smaller, but also being able to salvage the smallest of breaks with much more certainty.

What I loved most about this section was the reference to a Bill Simon control (with a slight, but beautiful change in how to do the move by Will Houston) a twist on a LePaul control and further discussion around all-around break transfers. I didn’t realise the issue I had with the Bill Simon control until I read Will Houston’s improvement; the original started and ended with the hand in a weird position, this one just feels extremely open but also leaves the hand in the perfect position to casually take the deck. This discourse alone is just absolute gold. The photos at first glance will show you just how careless and free the controls can be, looking absolutely fair while being completely controlled. The micro break feels like a relaxed technique that doesn’t seem to be sure fire but actually is. There’s also a sneaky tangent about a glimpse and a key-card. Good shit. For those who want to see the wrong way to  ‘show’ that you ‘aren’t’ holding a ‘break’ check out the ‘work’ by Marlo in ‘Revolutionary’ Card Technique, particularly the advanced fingertip control chapter. 

Mystery Card
An interesting take on the ‘mystery card’ plot. A card is selected and signed and lost in the pack. The magician comments about how familiar the whole situation feels and pulls out a card from his pocket with a different back design, from a trick he did a few days before. It turns out to be the signed selection, but with a different back design to the deck it was chosen from. I’ve omitted most of the presentation because it’s a very quirky and enjoyable premise/presentation mix that Alex likens to something Harapan Ong would do (Hi Harapan!). The method is great, using a Tony Chang variation of a control and part of the card to pocket idea discussed earlier (which turns out to be a variation on an old Fred Robinson idea), but approached in a slightly different manner. The appearance to a spectator is refreshingly direct which is often unusual in variations on this plot. Part of the presentation also mentions an additional phase/change of the card in the pocket transforming from the same card’s identity to the same card with the signature. How this is achieved is kind of glazed over unfortunately, but Alex gives a basic way to achieve this. Would’ve loved a bit more of a discussion/focus on this phase or other possibilities within the effect structure

Instant Assembly
In a Dear-Mr-Fantasy-esque (ala John Bannon) recounting of events (albeit, an extremely British version), Alex politely talks shit about a dinner out with friends while narrating his performance; the whole damn restaurant then joins in on the method as he goes through it. What the fuck am I reading? This is one of the effects which really needed the photos to follow along with the moves which are inherently covered by gestures and timing which don’t come across too clearly in the write-up unfortunately without re-reading the same parts over and over to sift through the story for the method (Sorry Alex). I really enjoyed the combination of ideas, but felt like the style of explanation and omission of photos makes this one of the weaker items in the notes. You may think otherwise. I enjoyed reading this, but learning it was less enjoyable as the odd one out for the description and photographs. Still a decent effect.

Diamond Cut Diamond
Alex’s take on one of my favourite plots by the great Alex Elmsley. Some cards are put aside, a card is selected and left outjogged in the deck. The cards put aside at the start are the Ace through Ten of Diamonds. A number is named. The card in the position named turns into the selection. The card that’s been outjogged and in view the whole time is the missing Diamond card. I really love the little changes Alex has brought to the plot to make it a little bit more open and paced differently. Also, the beauty of Alex’s method means the selection can also have an odd-coloured back and it won’t be seen until the very end. He also has an alternative method thrown in at the end of the effect which gives the same appearance but has some different, more free conditions for performance.

Cull Effect
The Four Queens are removed from the pack. Another four of a kind is named by the spectator and shown still spread throughout the deck which is then put aside. With just a shake, the four Queens in your hand turn into the named four of a kind. The handling is very organic and feels pretty fun to perform. The handling has some tips on the Ascanio spread which are well worth noting. The effect is fairly basic, no presentation discussed or explained, but just the little nuances of the handling are worth learning; they open up a whole range of getting into effects and positions that everyone will use at some point, so why not try something different?

A Childish Spelling Trick
An interesting take on spelling to two selections, which can be handed to your spectators to spell to themselves. While the method and presentation description is fairly straightforward, it’s a really nice approach from a shuffled deck. I would’ve liked a bit more of a discussion on the method or variations, and also a bit more of the quirky presentations and tangents seen earlier in the notes.

So, what’s the verdict?

Suprise bitches, here’s a video from Alex, performing something from the notes

I really fucking enjoyed these. Unfortunately, without attending Alex’s lecture, I can only go by the write-up, but it was the kind of work I love to read and learn.

New shit, but not trying to claim it as ‘revolutionary’ or ‘the next big thing’. It’s actual usable material with a fresh take on fundamental effects and methods that everyone knows and has learned at some point in their time doing card magic. Throughout the notes, it took me back to when we sessioned and how much enjoyment I got from the ideas and changes Alex showed me.

The quality of the work and layout is exceptionally done, but there are a couple of items without photographs/tangents and discussions that is seen in other items; The momentum and discussion/depth in the first few items is amazing, but it feels like it’s not as fleshed out in the last few items. Regardless, I would still buy these notes all over again, based solely on the card to pocket ideas, controls and variations Alex gives. It honestly has nothing to do with that amazing head of hair….

…OK. Maybe I lied. It kind of does. But the notes are still awesome.

Currently, they are only available directly from Alex’s store for £25 plus shipping. Best to message Alex directly regarding availability and pricing.

PEACE BITCHES
I’m out,
LH