This blog post might echo some of the points I made in a previous post, “Asking the Right Questions”, but this is what’s currently on my mind so it feels right to write a blog post about it.
When posting new magic performance videos, I get a lot of response. The vast majority of it is positive, and a lot of people are writing lengthy, super kind, nice comments. That really makes me incredibly happy and it’s so good to see people appreciating the work that I put into the videos and the effects.
However, there are some comments (and private messages) inquiring about the method. Asking, speculating, guessing.. “How is it done, can you reveal this to me, can you make a tutorial, I’m guessing you do this and this” and so on. The reason I’m choosing to discuss this in a blog post is because it’s so far removed from how I approach magic and think about magic, that I’m having a hard time relating to why some people obsess so much over methods.
I spent some time thinking about it, and I’ve even discussed it with some friends in the magic community, and I’ve so far come to the conclusion that these are extremely inexperienced, aspiring magicians who haven’t yet reached the stage where they understand what this artform is all about. I think also the fact that I’m employing obscure/lesser known methods to achieve some relatively well known effects can throw people off, and some people in the magic community, especially the less experienced ones, can get insecure and/or even angry when they don’t understand something.
Finally there is this sense of entitlement. They feel entitled to know because they’re magicians too. I’m sorry to say, that’s just not how it works.
Now. I feel that the method doesn’t matter. It matters in the sense that you’d like it to be feasible, relatively practical, reliable and deceptive, but beyond that I don’t think it matters. I also think that it’s the kind of thing you have to study on your own. Barricade yourself and read all the magic books you can get your hands on. Watch all the videos. Go to all the lectures. Take notes at all of the jam sessions. I think that the more knowledgeable you are, the less you care about methods.
And that’s when we can start looking at what truly matters. Entertaining people. Experiencing wonder. Sharing a message. Telling a story. Creating a moment that is as captivating and interesting as it is fooling and wonderful. I long for a world in which all of the comments are about those things. Wonder, message, story, moment. Entertainment. Reactions. People. Memories. The important things.
I think some people just misunderstand too. My videos aren’t there to sell downloads or tricks. They’re not really for the magic community. They’re not there to fool magicians. They’re not there so I can say “Hey, look at how clever I am”. Of course I aim to make them as deceptive and well constructed as possible so that they will withstand scrutiny. That’s with the audience in mind. I want an audience to be able to re-watch them several times and go “there’s no way!!” . Because that’s the only way it can be magic.
Of course I don’t want people to re-watch them in order to try to figure out how they work, but I would be naïve to think that people wouldn’t do that. So instead I have to make sure that the material and execution is so good that there are no giveaways in the videos.
A few days ago a man left some very nasty comments on one of my most recent videos. He commented, in broken English, that there cannot exist a method for the piece that I performed. He went on to saying that he had decades of experience in magic and as far as he knows there is no way to do what I did. He made lots of (very incorrect) assumptions about the workings of the trick. You’d think he had made enough of a fool of himself at this point, but no. He then segued into insulting me, calling me a “noob” and turning the whole thing into some bizarre sales pitch where he tried to sell his own version of said trick, in the comments section of my video. Jealousy is not a good color on him. I feel sorry for people who are so obsessed with method and can’t appreciate a good piece of magic when they see it.
I should be offended, but I honestly just spin the whole thing into a compliment. The fact that he, with his “decades of experience” in magic, claims there is no method for what I’m doing, only means that I’ve done my job really really well. If I’m a magician and I haven’t fooled you, I haven’t done my job.
When I see a good piece of magic that fools me. I mean, a really really good piece of storytelling, wonder and magic that sits well with me and it fools me, whether I see it live or in a video.. I don’t want to know how it works. I’ll run the other way. I do NOT want to know. I want to preserve the magic. Because the method is so unimportant.
Partially because I respect the wonder and the magic, partially because I respect the performer that shared that moment with me, and partially because I don’t want to ruin that moment for myself.
I have tremendous respect for the artform. That much is evident watching my videos or reading my blog or seeing me perform. I also have tremendous respect for the performers that are out there doing good magic. I know what it’s like to work on a piece and through hard work, research, experimentation and tinkering, you stumble across or discover a great way of accomplishing that effect. You’re not going to be inclined to share it. At least I’m not. I feel that everyone else should go on that same journey to discover their own methods for their own pieces. Once someone chooses to share what they have, I’m sure they’ll make it abundantly clear through either lectures, mentoring/tutoring or a publication of some point. And of course, if I experience a feeling of wonder and magic, I don’t want to ruin that for myself at the cost of learning some stupid method. I need to check my ego and selfishness at the door, and learn to enjoy wonder.
I know this blog post is probably not going to do anything, but I hope there will be less fixating on methods in the future. And at the very least, for the last time, please keep it out of public comments. We shouldn’t be discussing methods where everyone can read it. It’s so disrespectful to the artform, and it’s disrespectful to ourselves, and it’s disrespectful to our audience.
If you can’t refrain from asking, at least be discreet and send an email, or better yet, wait until you can meet someone in person and discuss it there. I have a hard time discussing methods with anyone I don’t trust. If you send me an email out of the blue and don’t tell me anything about why you’re looking for the thing you’re looking for, I can’t trust you. How can I trust that you won’t run away with it and use it for something stupid?
If you, as a magician, can just say "I have no idea how this is done and I don't even want to know. I want to enjoy it." - then you're on the right path and you've earned my respect.
I will continue this thought process in my next blog post, which I think will be about attitude and respect.
Thoughts are very encouraged in the comments section below.