Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Card Tricks

This is a weird one and aimed at a splinter group of my friends who happen to be magicians. If you're not a magician, that's cool, because you'll be very important in the comment section if you decide to respond.

Certain people will kill me for exposing this, but a popular theory concerning card tricks is that certain ones work owing to psychological principles. The card trick inventor invariably says, when publishing his or her card trick,
that the spectator will think this, this and this and that is why said card trick is the greatest thing since sliced monkey meat.

I happen to think this is horseshit.

All we know is this: you do a card trick and the spectator does not point out the exact methodology. It's not necessarily a win.

A favorable response does not at all mean the person watching was fooled in the slightest. Given the best case scenario, the spectator exclaims "Oh good lord allmighthy, how in the living fuck did you do that?" Magicians leap to the most favorable mise en scene imaginable: taking these words to be gospel, literal, and an absolute representation of what went down.

But consider other social obligations. Your friend shows up with a gawdawful haircut. "How do you like my hair?" they ask. "Oh it's nice," you say, meanwhile thinking it looks like the back of a skunk's ass. If you're going to say this to people you know, concerning what you know to be an integral part of their self-identity, do you not think folks are going to politely lie involving something as trivial as a card trick?

Professional performers cum all over themselves thinking they've fooled the mythological "paying public" just because no one bothered to cal them out on how they did their shit. These magicians go home smelling of fried clams and think they've reached the pinnacle of magical success, just like my neighbor's sixteen-year-old kid who also works in a restaurant.

But really, who is more likely to step up and push you to the wall: random strangers at family hamburger night or your friends and family who have spent their whole lives trying to make you look stupid? I just don't buy that people who don't know you and all your flaws are the tougher audience.

So you do a card trick. Here are the possible reactions:

1) You present it as a 'Hey, look what I can do that you can't do' thing with flourishy Sybil cuts, one-hand shuffles and stuff where the subtext is nothing more than 'Dig me, I am awesome.' To which the spectator will most likely think, "Yeah, nice juggling. But I went on actual dates in High School."

2) You present it as an experiment in either ESP or psychological manipulation. To which the spectator will most likely think, "Card trick."

3) You present it as a card trick. To which the spectator will also think, 'Card trick' but instantly be bored out of their skull

4) The cards are fake-aged to appear ancient and you spin a twenty minute yarn about turn-of-the-century gamblers and a witch they met. "Still a frigging card trick." No wait, it's Tarot cards. "Same fucking thing."

So essentially the spectator responses are these:

"It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen, oh, and by the way, I am borderline retarded."

"It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen and I am politlely lying just to keep from seeming an asswipe.'

" I know exactly how you did that but hope my silence will be taken as total mystification."

"I am fooled, but seriously, couldn't give a shit. It's a goddamn card trick."
"I'm sorry, I was so bored when you brought out the cards I wasn't paying much attention so now that I'm fooled it's no big surprise."

So those of you who are magiciains, reply and agree or disagree, and those of you who aren't who have had to suffer through card tricks (including mine) respond as well. Oh wait, I forgot. Card tricks are not a topic of conversation for those
who don't do them. Unlike what the dealer's ads say.


  1. Card tricks are to me like a western movie from the 70's, where a karate dude does his flourishy thing with his nunchucks for about 1 minute. It's a spectacle. He stops and stares into the eyes of the cowboy hoping to instill fear and awe,suddenly bang, the cowboy shoots karate dude with no spectacle at all. He strides over the dead dudes body without another thought. Egregor

  2. ChaCha PuddlewinksJuly 5, 2010 at 1:36 AM

    I get you, E, because most magicians use the "dig me" subtext. A local restaurant guy once told me "Yeah I'm gonna show off. I'm the magician and I'm SUPPOSED to do things they can't" I found this ignorant and the antithesis of what MAGIC is supposed to be. Magic is not dig my mad skills but rather, what the hell just happened? Can you do this with cards? For some people yes and some people no. Just trying to explore what makes the difference. But you, sir, know this shit already.

  3. The guy who has to challenege the magician or call out the gag is the same guy who has to piss on everyone else's good time in every other social situation. He corrects you on a story you are telling, points out every inconsistency or loose thread no matter how insignificant. he has a tiny ego and a tinier dick and a relentless need to compensate.

    I'm in the Kevin Spacey camp from Midnight in the Garden, "I rather enjoy not knowing."