What’s in a Name?

“A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”

Dale Carnegie


For close-up performers, the simple act of asking for, listening to, and remembering our spectators’ names can have a huge impact on the success of a show. In particular, three main benefits stand out:

Firstly, calling our spectators by name allows us a shortcut to building rapport. Every show starts out with a room full of strangers. If it ends the same way, that’s a sure sign that something hasn’t gone as planned (or at least it should be). In other areas of life, if we want to move past being mere strangers, the first thing we do is find out someone’s name. And this is just as true in the context of a show. As a general rule, people will tend to take an interest in us only to the extent that we seem interested in them. Even though the spotlight is pointed in our direction, If we can’t even muster the effort to learn a helper’s name, they can easily become nothing more than an unpaid assistant who is only there to shuffle, cut or select cards when we need them to. Rather than closing the gap, this type of audience interaction only serves to create distance between you and the spectators. Avoid this problem by always asking for people’s names whenever you interact with them during a show.

Secondly, strange as it may seem, the simple act of remembering names can function as a mini effect in itself. Doc Eason added one small change to the classic multiple selection routine and built his reputation off it: upon having a card selected and returned, he also asks for the spectator’s name. This is repeated with nine, ten or even more spectators until everyone has a card. After losing the cards back in the deck, Eason recalls each spectator’s name a moment before producing their card. Not only are the reactions for this extremely strong, but crucially, the audience start to react before the card is even found, suggesting that the mere recall of the audience’s names registers as an effect on its own.

Finally, a spectator’s name can be used against them as perhaps the most powerful weapon of misdirection. Often in a performing environment, while most of the audience are at the perfect viewing angle, there is one person whose line of sight makes performing a certain technique or sleight risky. We can either contort ourselves to shield things from their view, or instead misdirection the lone problem spectator at the critical moment. And here is where knowing their name can pay dividends. The psychological mechanism at play is something called the “cocktail party effect”, whereby the brain is able to laser in on salient information while filtering out background noise, just as a partygoer can focus on a single conversation in a noisy room. And when it comes to the cocktail party effect, by far the strongest example of the cocktail party effect is hearing one’s own name. A 2006 study showed that even people in a persistent vegetative state show brain activity upon hearing their name. It’s therefore not an exaggeration to say that as long as your spectator has a pulse, their attention is bound to be tugged at if you refer to them by name. The beauty of this is that your misdirection can be turned from an indiscriminate scattergun into a far more targeted sniper rifle, eliminating only those who pose a threat.

Of course, in between asking for and using the spectators’ names, you have the rather important business of remembering them. Rather than writing what would only be a brief, watered-down version of others’ work on the subject, it would be more helpful to point you in the direction of some books dedicated to memory technique. The Art of Memory by Frances Yates is probably the best place to start, while Moonwalking with Einstein by Josha Foer and The Seven Sins of Memory by Daniel L. Schachter are also highly recommended if you’re looking to go into more depth.

Does the magic world need to grow? – Ponta’s Blog

I would love to see magic find its way closer to the mainstream of entertainment. There have always, however, been those who advocate for keeping magic small and out of the public gaze. The arguments in favor of a smaller, more insular magic world are not without merit, however for me these are outweighed by the arguments in favor of expanding the magical landscape.

One argument for keeping magic small is that it makes our job a lot easier. The less familiar your audience is with magic, the easier it is to fool them. There are still many people who have never seen any form of magic live, much less the specific effect you may wish to perform. Getting great reactions from magic neophytes is of course far easier than from people who have seen and experienced magic many times before.

As well as this, since magic is rooted in the principle that the magician has  information unavailable to his audience, the more our audience knows, the harder it is to fool them. To me, however, the power of magic shouldn’t have to rely on our audience’s ignorance. Of course, much magic is ruined once we know how it is done, yet there are still plenty of effects which look and feel extremely magical even if you know the secret. There are still more examples of a well-known principle or move being used so artfully that it goes completely undetected even among those who frequently use it themselves.

It is often said that if the number of magicians were to rise, it would mean a drop in the number of regular spectators. To me this is simply untrue. Magicians are the first to watch magic-related shows on TV, search for videos online, visit magic bars (at least here in Japan), and no magician who has ever visited Las Vegas can ever go home without first seeing David Copperfield in person. All the evidence seems to show that far from shrinking crowds, an increase in magicians would only result in a larger magical audience.

Great magic is well received by other magicians. Conventions are made up of nothing but magicians, yet brilliant performances are rewarded with reactions that easily rival those of lay audiences. Of course, the magic has to be good. The more mainstream magic becomes, the more discerning our audience and therefore the harder it is to clear this hurdle. However, the same can be said of every other discipline. An average meal isn’t going to impress a food critic. Yet if your restaurant is built with the hope that nobody with a sense of taste will ever visit, then you should probably think about changing careers.

The bar when it comes to performing magic has arguably been set too low for too long. Bringing it up to the level of other performing arts would certainly not be a bad thing. It may well result in many people opting not to perform. However, if you’re a true magic lover then you will still enjoy watching it even if you choose not to take your act to the stage. And if you’d like to see better magic, then bringing it to a wider audience can only be a good thing. With the magic pie being so small, it is not financially viable for many great magicians to travel to Japan, nor is there a market big enough to make translation of magic books into Japanese a reality. Aside from the financial benefits, a larger talent pool of magicians would surely result in the likelihood of the next Copperfield, Vernon or Tamariz appearing, enriching the entire magic world with their ideas.

The good news is that the magic world has a lot of room to grow. It is said that the magic community in Japan consists of around 30,000 people. Even a tenfold increase would still mean that 99% of the population were complete laymen. This would still leave magic as a niche art, but making that niche larger would bring with it all the benefits with virtually none of the drawbacks.

In summary, for the commercial, practical and artistic reasons above, it is time for us as magicians to bring magic out of the shadows and do what we can to widen its appeal.

By Ponta the Smith

“Be Natural” (Ponta’s blog)

Vernon’s exhortation” Be Natural” has become almost a holy commandment among magicians. However, in magic, what we aim to produce is supernatural results. Which begs the question: why the need for naturalness? The answer becomes obvious when we realize that we are creating a kind of fiction. And an unnatural process will destroy this delicate fiction we are aiming to create. If we vanish a coin in an unnatural way, the likely suspect will be our unnatural movement as opposed to true magic.

We can only understand the concept of “natural” by contrasting it with that which is unnatural. In fact, perhaps the best way of defining it would be a lack of unnaturalness. Looked at in this light, we can easily rephrase Vernon’s advice as “don’t be unnatural!”.

But what is unnatural? Nature, just like humans, abhors waste. An excess of matter, distance, force, effort or time can all lead to a feeling of unnaturalness. Travelling from France to Spain via India isn’t natural, neither is spending 30 minutes to cook a meal consisting of nothing but instant noodles. However, we see something similar all the time in magic. And this is where the spectator feels that while they don’t know exactly what you did, they know you did something. And even when the effect goes largely as planned, that sense of mystery is destroyed. As magicians, this cannot be our baseline of acceptability. If the spectator knows we did something fishy (even if they couldn’t say what that was exactly) we should be chalking it up as a failure.

Of course, for the trick to work, we do have to do something. And while we need to do this naturally, what we mean here by “natural” is the external reality which the audience sees. The internal reality (i.e what we are doing behind the scenes) doesn’t have to be devoid of excess effort, movement or time, in fact it can be as ‘uneconomical’ as needed so long as the outward reality appears waste-free and natural. This divergence is what can sometimes give rise to the confusion over Vernon’s famous words. Magic exists on two planes at the same time (the internal and external realities) and it is the separation of these two worlds which allows us to create impossibilities. It can be very difficult stop the inner workings from interfering with the outward appearance, both technically and psychologically.

“Be natural” is often grouped together with another famous line, “be yourself”. To my mind, we have to be very careful when it comes to this advice. For example, there is one magician who I teaching, whose gestures when performing struck me as particularly clumsy and unnatural. On one occasion over coffee, I asked him to hand me something from the table. Just as in his performances, his actions were far from natural. It’s then that I realized, that this sense of unnaturalness was part of him. This is where “be yourself” can show its limitations. There are people who, if you’ll forgive the apparent contradiction, are naturally unnatural.

In the case of Slydini, I was told by Gene Matsuura that his off-stage mannerisms were the polar opposite of those seen in performance. It almost goes without saying, but there’s no rule stating that our performing style need mirror our everyday mannerisms. Of course, to those who know you outside of performing, this change in style may register as unnatural. But since as magicians we are, at the end of the day, actors of a sort, it is perfectly natural for this difference to exist. And while Slydini’s performance mannerisms were less natural than his everyday actions, they fitted his stage persona perfectly.

Context is also a big factor when it comes to naturalness. Objects floating on earth would be as far from natural as you could imagine, yet the same thing happening on the ISS would be entirely expected.

As I mentioned earlier, in general keeping wasted movement to a minimum is important for naturalness. However, for someone who naturally moves a lot, it would look out of place for them to cease this wasted movement only when performing a secret sleight. My father would often fall asleep while watching the baseball on TV, however the silence that followed whenever I switched it off would often be enough to wake him up. This is a small example of the fact that consistency is an important element of naturalness.

Dafidas B, a magician who specializes in “Kata” (an elaborate, highly-choreographed form of sleight-of-hand) once described his work to me as follows: “If everything you do is unnatural, there will be no unnatural moments”. Of course, that isn’t to say that everything should be unnatural. But there is a grain of truth to be found here. As humans, we will always have some degree of unnaturalness. If one were able to eliminate any hint of wasted movement, the result would surely come across as rather artificial. Just like body fat, while less is generally more, there is a natural sweet spot. However, when it comes to magic, most problems tend towards the heavier end of the scales, and a diet is sorely needed. While some magicians actively embrace the fat, this has to be a conscious decision and not the result of laziness.

In any case, it’s something well worth analyzing in your own magic. Whether adjusting your mannerisms to fit the method or vice-versa, naturalness is something that has to be viewed through a wide lens to truly understand and get the most out of.

Ponta the Smith

Not OK

O and K are probably the two most abused letters in the English language. In many magic performances, virtually every sentence is littered with “okay”. At best, it adds nothing to our performance, and at worst it undermines the impression we are trying to leave.

OK is a classic example of a space-filler; that is, a word which has no inherent meaning in a sentence other than to buy us time while we think of what to say next. In almost every case, the removal of “okay” would change nothing about the sentence other than making it less bloated. Just as we aim to get rid of extraneous moves and procedures in our magic, we owe it to our audiences to do the same with our words.

However, in the case of a magic performance, “OK” can have an even more pernicious effect. The meaning it is intended to convey is that everything is above board – indeed, the roots of the word go back “all correct” (originally written “orl korrect” back before spellings were formalized and before spellcheck had been invented). In the context of a magic show, everything we says falls under scrutiny. By saying “OK”, we are inviting the audience to challenge the truth of what came immediately before. This is made worse by the fact that it is often said with a slightly less-than-confident rising tone which gives it the quality of a question.

For example, if I say “your card is in the middle, OK?” the response that springs to mind for most spectators (even if they don’t say it out loud) would be “probably not”.  By trimming the fat, we are not only making our words more effective, but also eliminating any room for doubt.

These are not the only space-fillers you will find in the performances of many magicians. In fact, there is a good chance that you yourself are guilty of a great number of them. Unfortunately, since space-fillers are largely unconscious, they can often fly under the radar. It is impossible to fix a problem we don’t know we have, so the first step is to become aware of them, ideally through recording our own performances. Once you have shone a light on the problem, you are more than half way to solving it.

Let’s all work together to keep our magic space-filler free, okay?

Levels of Fooling

Logically speaking, being fooled by a trick should be binary. It either fools us or it doesn’t. Talking of one thing being more fooling than another is like saying that Mozart is more dead than John F. Kennedy. However, looking at it closely there are far more levels than at first sight.

To my mind, there are five levels of being fooled:

1) Not fooled. You watch a trick, and can see immediately how it is done.

2) Fooled in the moment, but thinking it through afterwards leads us to the secret.

3) After repeated views you can eventually piece together how it works.

4) Even after repeated views no idea without seeing the explanation.

5) Even after seeing the explanation you are still fooled


It takes a rare piece of magic to enter level 5. However, one clear example is “Matrix Express” by Luis Olmedo. Here it is:

What the what? That was my first reaction. And my second, third and fourth.  Some time later I was asked by Luis to translate his whole Pigmallion project from Spanish into English. It was only after painstakingly translating the entire thing that I finally learned how it worked. I then watched it some time later and was fooled all over again. The layering of different principles makes the routine so deceptive that even when you know what’s happening behind the scenes, your brain simply can’t keep up.

This is not a standard we can (or indeed should) strive for in all of our magic, and in fact most of the time, level two or three should suffice, particularly for lay audiences. However, when we are able to move it up a few more notches, the results can be quite special.

Artificial Walls

In 1992, Max Maven wrote an essay entitled “Divisive and Illusive”, essentially complaining that magicians were one of the few unlucky groups of artists who were expected to mingle with mere amateurs, a fate which prominent performers in other fields had the luxury of avoiding. If Maven were to visit some of the conventions I have attended, I think he would be happy to find that his wish has largely come true. In a convention I visited in London, for example, the boundary between high profile acts and the people who had paid to see them was very clear. In Japan, too, I have noticed something of a divide too, though perhaps to a lesser extent. At the other end of the spectrum is Spain, where in my (admittedly brief) experience, the social barrier between top professional and rank amateur is all but invisible. I really believe this is one of the reasons why the level of Spanish magic is so consistently high. The chance to surround yourself with amazing magicians can only help to elevate your understanding and dedication to the art, as I have found out first-hand. I’m lucky that as a Japanese-speaking foreigner I’m something of a novelty, but if I were a young Japanese magician in the same situation I doubt I would have seen either the same opportunities or improvements in my magic. In other words, I don’t get to hang out with great magicians because of my magic. Rather, my magic is what it is (for better or worse) because of the magicians I hang out with.

My time in Spain gave me many wonderful examples of how magicians at every level mix, and the effect it has on their magic. For example, on my visit to the great magic shop Magia Estudio in Madrid, I was invited to the back room to session with some other magicians. Along with a few Spanish greats, there were a number of young amateurs as well. And in fact, when talking through a coin routine I was working on, it was one of these unknown teenagers who gave me the ending to my routine. In another magic scene, it’s doubtful whether he would have even been allowed into the “inner circle” (in fact, come to think of it, neither would I).

Of course mixing with top pro magicians is great for the development of aspiring amateurs. But it is not necessarily one way traffic. Great ideas can come from unexpected places, but only if there are no artificial walls in the way.


Petals and Thorns

Will Tsai’s Rose Act recently hit the shelves, and to say it has divided opinion would be an understatement. On the one hand we have the effusive praise of Joshua Jay, which you can read here. On the other hand (a hand with many more fingers, it seems), there are complaints about both the practicality of the routine and the quality of the table itself. For evidence of the former, this is a great video highlighting the video editing employed to make the trick play for TV, while this scathing review seems to compare the table’s quality unfavorably with a pile of urine-stained firewood. And this is from a shop that’s trying to shift the thing.

However, my beef with the Rose Act goes beyond either of these complaints. Let’s imagine it wasn’t wildly impractical. We’ll jump to a universe where perfect lighting conditions weren’t an issue. Where spectators didn’t have to stand all the way in the wings in order for the illusion to work. Where video editing to clean up discrepancies or flashes wasn’t a necessity. Let’s also image that quality wasn’t an issue. For the sake of argument, the tables were hand crafted one-by-one by Thomas Chippendale himself, and worked exactly as advertised straight out of the box.

Even then, in my humble opinion, the Rose Act would still fail magically, for two reasons. First is a huge structural problem. I remember the first time watching the routine, and throughout the first matrix part (the bit with the card cover) thinking “shit, this is amazing!”. However, towards the end of the routine after cards had been clumsily ditched, and the final coverless transposition took place I can just as vividly remember thinking “I wonder how they made that trick table”. This is a major design flaw. And I don’t mean the design of the gimmick, but the design of the routine itself. Here we can take a lesson from the great Juan Tamariz. In The Magic Way he outlines his “false solutions” principle, whereby the use of various techniques in different phases of a routine allows you to hide the weaknesses of each phase. Since spectators are likely to attribute one effect to the same technique, as their theories are systematically proven false, they are left with nowhere to go. Contrast that with the Rose Act. Everything in the routine is achieved with the same method. The moment you pull a “look mum, no hands!”, you have in one stroke eliminated every solution except the correct one. And since a gimmicked table can (and does) account for all the magic up till that point, the entire illusion comes crashing down.

The second problem I have with the routine is that what it boasts in visual appeal, it loses in magical atmosphere. The oft-cited observation that “magic happens in the mind of the spectator” is particularly applicable here. Simply put, in a routine as visual as this, there is no space for the imagination of the audience. It is so in-your-face that while it may be visually shocking, it doesn’t (at least in my case) reach the emotions. There is an interesting parallel to world of erotica. Compare a burlesque dancer to a full-blown (blowing?) pornstar. In a burlesque act, much of the appeal comes from what’s not shown, as the audience is invited to imagine those things that lay tantalizingly out of sight. In comparison, a woman walking out stark naked and performing a solo game of crotch ping-pong may have more visceral shock value, but it is unlikely to evoke the same depth of emotions. I’m not claiming that the Rose Act doesn’t hold appeal to people; the fact that it got over 40 million hits in two days clearly proves it. But if we were to measure magical quality by hits, then statistically speaking the Masked Magicians decapitation routine is roughly 97 times better than Ricky Jay’s 52 assistants.

I’ve got nothing against visual magic. It is clearly a great tool for creating powerful magic. But the idea that the move to more and more visual magic is somehow an “evolution” of our art is misguided. The fact is that even visual magic happens in our brains. We first have to accept that what we’re seeing is impossible for it to register as magic. And swooning over the Rose Act’s visuals while conveniently forgetting about its practical, structural and dramatic problems is praising the rose petals while ignoring the thorns.


Pick a word, any word!

As well as regular blog posts, Ponta and I will be releasing an occasional series of video blogs too. They will range from presentational ideas and theory, to interviews and discussions, with maybe even a couple of techniques and tricks thrown in as well.

In this first video I will be looking at the words we use when getting a card selected, and what impact that has on our magic. This should be especially useful for non-native English speakers who nonetheless have to perform in English, but even for native speakers there may be some things you haven’t thought about as well. It is also something that I suspect you may be able to adapt to languages other than English.

I haven’t worked out a neat way of embedding the video, so it may look a bit clunky for now but will try to beautify it for the next one. If you have any requests for future videos, or suggestions or comments then then please let me know!



Which coins to use?

I often hear the question “which are the best coins to use for magic?” and my answer is always “it depends”. Obviously, there is the simple practical consideration of what routine you are doing. If certain gimmicks are needed and you only have one option, then that makes the decision an easy one. But assuming all things are equal, and you have the choice of any dollar-sized coins, for example, how do you decide whether to go for English double florins, Eisenhower nickel coins, Chinese coins or poker chips?

To me, there are four factors which are worth considering. The weight you place on each should be something you think about yourself, and will be determined by your tricks, your character and your performing style.


1. Visibility

Young (but very wise) Moritz Mueller has stated that he will always use the largest coin possible when performing, which means  Walking Libery dollars, since they are a couple of millimeters larger than most of the other candidates. This makes perfect sense given the material he uses it for. Mueller’s hyper-visual style, in which coins are used less as money and more as recognizable objects to manipulate, means that his audience care far more about seeing the coins than what currency they may be.


2. Relatability

On a recent trip to London I got the chance to see many strolling magicians, and the coin of choice for them was the £2.00. Judging by the dimensions and the look of it, David Roth and Miguel Angel Gea weren’t consulted before it went to mint. It’s barely larger than a half dollar, it’s thicker than most dollars, and its gold-silver shading make it quite difficult to see clearly. Yet it was the perfect tool for that particular job. Strolling magic in London is famous for being no-nonsense, natural and seemingly impromptu. The moment you bring out a silver Morgan dollar, that feeling is shattered. One exception was a wonderful performer called Brendan Rodrigues, whose flashy, theatrical, visual performance lends itself perfectly to large American coins.


3. Plot

Matching coins to effect is a great way to give your magic more meaning. This works both ways. Of course, if you have a particular presentation in mind, look for the perfect coins which fit your theme. For example, a gambling-related effect can be made much more meaningful simply by switching to poker chips. The reverse is also true. Sometimes a unique coin can suggest a presentation to you. Whether it’s the sound, the color or the appearance of a coin, it may help you to create something new.


4. Character

Finally, it’s worth thinking about the fact that every prop you use (including coins) tells the audience something about you as a performer. In an ideal world what would your character use? For example, my “English Gentleman” persona means that I almost exclusively use English coins. Note that they are not everyday coins in circulation; My weapons of choice are either double florins (which haven’t been used for 130 years) or Charles and Diana commemorative coins from the eighties (which have never been in circulation). But these fit the mood of my show far better than any more recognizable coins.


One last point I think should guide your decisions is consistency. I think ideally we should look to use one type of coin for one performance. I realize that practically this can be very difficult, and that different sleights or gimmicks require different coins. But that is looking at things from the magician’s point of view. If we could really do magic, then what reason would there be to switch from dollars to half dollars? We are essentially educating our audience that “these coins are for this trick and those are for that”. This may seem a radical complaint, but think of it in the context of card magic. Magicians go to great lengths to switch decks secretly during a performance. Of course, they could simply bring out a deck of another color, but nobody would regard that as an adequate excuse. I think we should hold ourselves to the same standards with coin magic as well. Where presentation justifies a change of coins, then of course there is no problem. But if there is no other good reason for switching than necessity of method then I think it’s better to keep to one type (though of course you may well be secretly adding, removing or switching in shells or other gimmicks throughout). For example, in my show coins are changed to Chinese coins and back, fly up my invisible sleeves and even half-eaten, yet they are (from the audience’s point of view) the same coins that I have been using throughout.

Whichever coins you end up using, be sure that you have thought through exactly what they say to your audience about your character, your presentations and your magic.

Credit where credit is due

As magicians we are often told to give proper credit, but both practically and philosophically it’s far from an easy task, as we shall see.

The impetus for writing about this particular subject is a man named Micky Wong (no relation to Mr. Super Triple Coin). Word came to us at the Impossible Co. that Micky was unhappy with something featured in 3 Fly from the Sick 2 trailer. What was it that Micky felt was included without credit, I hear you ask. The plot? No, that belongs to Chris Kenner (in fact the germ of the modern 3 Fly can be traced further back than that, to Jonathan Townsend). A phase from the routine? Again, no. A technique? Warmer, but still no. What, then?

Micky’s complaint stems from the fact that when Ponta did the back thumb pinch, he used not the middle finger (as popularized by Lawrens Godon) but the index finger. By the way, I didn’t accidentally delete the rest of the sentence. That’s it. Doing someone else’s move using a different finger. In fact, if one were to get technical, Micky Wong can’t even lay claim to that ingenious invention. From what Lawrens has told me, it was an idea that he thought of and subsequently discarded. But that misses the point. There are two big problems with such a tenuous demand for credit. First is one of practicality. Ponta would have had to know that a largely anonymous Hong Kong coin magician had come up with the idea, despite not having published the move either in print or on film. Short of visiting every magic club in Asia (in fact, why stop there?), there is simply no way to guarantee an idea of yours has never been independently created. That’s not to say we shouldn’t do our homework. But if the burden of proof were to extend to such minutiae then nobody would have either the time or the confidence to publish anything at all.

The second problem is one of principle. In magic in general, and coin magic in particular, the idea of changing fingers is something that anyone who experiments with a technique for five minutes is bound to come up, and therefore arguably falls outside the realms of ownership. Crediting is not black and white. At one extreme, we can have a brand new routine from scratch. That’s clearly something that requires crediting. At the other extreme, I decide to do a published card effect but with red cards instead of blue. Unless you’ve had multiple botched lobotomies, you’re never going to claim that this is a creditable idea. But most magic lies somewhere along this continuum, and the question is not whether we give credit or not, but rather where we draw the line.

In this particular case, it’s highly debatable whether it crosses the threshold of creditworthiness. Nevertheless, having heard Micky’s complaint, Ponta still generously added him to the credits. But unfortunately that’s far from the end of the story. After the release of the Japanese version (the English version came out some days later), we again heard that Micky was unhappy with Ponta’s crediting. Owing to the his lack of Japanese, Micky misunderstood the credits and felt unappreciated. But once the English version came out with a clear nod to Micky, that wrapped things up. At least it should have. I then saw a social media post (not from Micky himself it must be noted) which again claimed that Ponta had been publishing Micky’s ideas without permission.

Theft of ideas and failure to acknowledge the work of others is clearly a serious problem in magic. But we must make sure that when we’re calling others out publicly, we’re doing it for the right reasons and in the right way. And pointing the (index) finger (©Micky Wong) without evidence and without having spoken to the person involved directly, doesn’t help with issue of crediting.

The Problem with Pirates

Just 5 days after release, I woke up to discover that the Drop Shuffle is being sold illegally for two dollars on a pirate site. The feeling I have now is no doubt something that every magic creator has unfortunately had to deal with, but since it’s the first time for me I thought I’d share my feelings. Of the many shitty thoughts I have about the situation, three stand out:

First, there is the simple feeling of having been cheated. All the hard work, the filming, the reshooting, the editing, the audio correction, the fact that all of this effort goes straight into the dodgy bank account of someone who did nothing but post a link and a paypal address on their starter kit website does leave a slightly sickening feeling in my stomach. Since we have complete list of every order up till now (and since we’re a small-scale, fledgling website that number is not exactly sky high), knowing that one of the names on that list bought it with the sole intention of stealing it for personal profit is not a nice feeling.

There is also the feeling of disappointment that every future project we do will likely suffer the same fate. It is a little disheartening to know that much of the effort, time, care and love which our artists put into their videos will not be rewarded. Of course if this becomes the norm then there will be no magic creative industry at all. The fact that this isn’t the case means that either many consumers are unaware that they can buy cheap illegal versions, or (as I’d like to believe) there is still a loyal base of customers who choose to support the artists in their creation.

Finally, anyone buying a rip-off version is also cheating themselves. I like to think that the initial investment we put into something affects our attitude towards it. The reason why knock-off Louis Vuitton handbags seem to only last 5 minutes while people keep the real thing for years is not only that they are inferior in quality, but also because they are treated as disposable by their owners. The same applies to magic. You will treat a video which you bought legitimately from a reputable magic site, complete with chapters, downloads and a direct line to the creator very differently to the same thing bought via illegal download for a dollar on a website that makes MySpace look relevant.

As magicians we all have a choice to make. For the sake of the creator, for the sake of the industry and for the sake of your own magic, please make the right one.

Yosuke Ikeda

I just came back from in Tokyo, where I managed to pack about 3 months’ worth of magic into 5 days. There were two highlights which stood above the rest, though. First was Miguel Puga’s Tokyo workshop, where he went through some of his best close-up, parlor and even stage routines. Standouts of the workshop were his version of OOTW, which fried me as badly as anything has in quite some time, and also his card/handkerchief routine, where he snuck in a great bonus effect into the explanation itself.

The second magical highlight was Yosuke Ikeda’s performance at Osmand Magic in Roppongi. Osmand has a very unique layout – It manages to pack in a decent-sized stage (complete with full lighting, curtains etc) into a space for maximum 30 people. It was pretty surreal to see a full stage show and somehow single-handedly make up nearly 10% of the audience. But it was a show which I won’t forget in a hurry.

If you don’t know Yosuke Ikeda, then it’s probably time you should. The word “genius” gets thrown about far too often, particularly in our world of magic hyperbole, but this is one case where you’d struggle to find a dissenting voice. Ikeda’s mix of dance, mime, maths and magic is really like no act you’re likely to see. To give you a taste of some of his work, I’ve left a link to his piece “Hello Goodbye”, performed in TMA Taiwan last year:

At Osmand I was also treated to a couple of routines I’d never seen, both of which I’d love to describe, but it would be impossible to do them justice without seeing them first.

Thankfully Yosuke Ikeda is starting to get known outside of Japan, and if he’s ever performing near you then beg, borrow or steal your way to a ticket.


Javi Benitez – Impressions

“I’m more comfortable performing for two thousand people than twenty” Javi tells me over dinner. “I feed off the audience, and that adds to the energy of the show.”

Having been one of an audience of just ten people at his intimate show in Osaka the night before, and feeling the energy created with a mere handful of people, I can’t even imagine what the atmosphere must be like in his preferred setting.

The secret show, a small part of Javi’s whirlwind tour across the Far East, was held in a dark, moody basement theater in the center of Osaka. But as soon as Javi started to perform, we were immediately transported to sunny Seville, as he danced, sang and hugged his way through the show.

The effects were varied, including cards, cups and balls, a short-change bill routine, his famous gypsy thread and even cigarette manipulation.

Javi’s take on the cups and balls was particularly interesting. In the 5-minute routine, there weren’t the usual thousand phases and repetition ad nausium which have come to typify the cups and balls, but instead he rationed the magical moments sparingly, fitting them between some great visual gags and byplay with the audience. His final load (a ridiculously large Japanese cabbage in case you were wondering) was done in the context of a joke, and flew by me completely.

Javi finished the show with his reputation-making Requiem routine (you may have seen it on Fool Us). Having learned just beforehand that it was a homage to the great Arturo de Ascanio, the routine hit that much harder.

I wish that there had been two thousand people at Saturday’s show. Not for lack of energy, but because more of Osaka deserved to see Javi in action.




The future of our blog

Here is a quick rundown of things to expect from the Impossible Blog:

-Interviews with your favorite magicians and up-and-comers from Japan and overseas

-Thoughts from Ponta, Ben and Takeshi on magic theory, presentation and technique

-News of upcoming projects, content and events

-Reviews of shows we’ve seen, hidden gems we’ve discovered, interesting videos we’ve found and more

There will be fresh content every week so stay tuned!




Welcome to The Impossible Company!
This is the start of a new magical collaboration between East and West (with a sprinkling of North and South too!)

For several months, Ponta, Takeshi and I have poured countless hours into building the foundations of The Impossible Company. From creating the studio from scratch, to the filming, editing and translation of Sick 2, there has scarcely been a day off. While the English version of our site will be sparse at the beginning, we are hoping this magical bridge between Japan and the rest of the world will expand into something much, much bigger.

Our upcoming projects and downloads will feature a veritable who’s who of modern magic. We are still pinching ourselves as we write this, but we will soon be sharing NEW and EXCLUSIVE content from Guy Hollingworth, Woody Aragon, Dani DaOrtiz, FISM Grand Prix winner Pierric, Horret Wu, and Pipo Villanueva. This is on top of exciting projects from rising stars of Japan such as Ral, Tam Tam, Jonio, and more. We hope you will help us build this magical bridge together.


Ben Daggers