Jul 1 2020
About Jack Strange
Posts by Jack Strange:
May 27 2020
“Wow! That was good! How do you do that?”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you”
“Is it because you’d get chucked out of the magic circle? Would you anger the elders of magic? Would you be banned from gigging again? Would David Blaine come round and egg your house?”
“Yeah”, *chuckles awkwardly*, “something like that”.
The truth of the matter is, none of those scenarios are true.
The magic circle wouldn’t care (actually, I haven’t paid my subs this year, so chucking me out would be pretty darn tricky).
The elders of magic don’t scare me. Doddery buffoons. Probably blocking the aisles in Aldi in front of the cheese counter as we speak.
Nothing’s stopping me gigging (Oh, except of course a global pandemic leading to all parties being cancelled. Bummer).
As for David Blaine? Bring it on. I’m not scared of you. Or your eggs.
The truth, I’m afraid, is a lot more banal.
If I told you how I did it, you’d actually just be terribly disappointed.
You see, most magic tricks are just tricks* Nothing terribly magical about them.
*With the exception of the third trick of my second set. That actually is real.
Don’t know how it’s done? You’ll find yourself in a child-like state of awe and wonder. Transported back to a time when the impossible was possible, and the limits of your imagination knew no bounds.
Given the secret? Child-like awe vanishes. Instead of feeling joy and magic, you’d be left with a deflating sense of crushing disappointment.
(You will notice that when I’m shamelessly self promoting, I often mention the child-like awe. Offering to leave your wedding guests with a deflating sense of crushing disappointment gets rid of bookings faster than a global pandemic)
Allow me to demonstrate.
Look at this video of the classic linking rings.
Reasonably magical isn’t it.
It is until you find out that one of the rings has a gap in it. Look carefully at this picture and you should spot it.
Properly pisses on your chips, doesn’t it. Child-like awe to crushing disappointment in just 5 seconds.
And look at this. The rubber band trick.
Again, looks magical right up to the point when you find out that one of the bands has a gap in it. See?
As if your chips weren’t pissy enough already.
I’m not being secretive. I’m just protecting you from crushing disappointment.
And if you clicked on this blog expecting wit, charm, insight and depth, you’ll know exactly what that feels like.
May 10 2020
So, you just clicked on this link.
There are so many reasons you could have done that.
Maybe your finger slipped. Maybe you misread it as “Please click on this link”
Or maybe, just maybe, you…
Intentionally ignored the instruction!
So, lets be clear about this. This is a clear instruction.
Apr 8 2020
See this guy here?
He’s called Hugh Everett. A physicist. Back in the day, he came up with something phenomenal: “Parallel Universes”. Schrodinger’s cat wasn’t alive. Wasn’t dead. Certainly wasn’t both at once. It was actually two separate cats in two different universes.
You see, Hugh’s idea was that at every point in the universe where a decision had to be made, that the universe split into two and both eventualities happened. One in each universe.
See this guy here?
This is Hugh Everett’s son. Aka Mark Everett. Aka “E”.
He’s the frontman of American rock band Eels. In the late 90s we saw him and his band play a mint gig at the Octagon in Sheffield. Or at least we did in this particular universe. In a slightly different universe, Hugh may never have bought his son a guitar, and the gig would never have happened. And the soundtrack to Shrek would have been all the poorer for not having “My beloved monster” in it.
See this guy here?
That’s my dad. Neither a physicist nor a rock star.
But he did take me to a toy shop when I was quite young. And In this particular universe, he dragged me away from the scalextric and persuaded me to look at the magic trick stand instead. And then, when I became hooked, took me back to add to my ever expanding collection.
So, a number of thank yous.
To Hugh. Thanks for a genius bit of physics. Science fiction is forever in your debt. And we humans can take solace in this comforting thought: Every time we make an ill thought through decision or drop a bollock, a parallel version of ourselves totally aces it in a different universe.
To Mark. Thanks for “Beautiful Freak”. My record collection would have an eel shaped hole without you.
To Dad. Thanks for everything. But especially the magic. In a slightly different universe there’s a guy who looks just like me, but he has a lot of scalextric. And he can’t do tricks. Oh, and there wouldn’t be this “award winning” blog either.
What’s that? You didn’t enjoy this blog?
Just think. In a different universe, you absolutely loved it.
Feb 29 2020
So, you ever been asked to shave a bit of yourself by the doctors for a little op?
Then, when the little bit is shaved, it leaves a line, so you shave a bit more to tidy things up. Then a bit more. Then, before you know it, you’re smooth as an eel from head to toe. And the bathroom floor looks like there’s a bear asleep on it?
Then you go to the swimming pool to try and and beat your two length PB because you’re more aerodynamic than you used to be?
And you unzip your leopard onesie a little lower than normal as you pad around the house ‘cause you think your new smooth top-half looks a bit Daniel Craig and quite alluring?
And then as it all grows back; the itching! The unbearable itching! You moisturise night and day until you’re slippery as a bar of soup?
You haven’t? No. Me neither. Definitely not. Certainly not the onesie thing. No way. Ridiculous you’d even think that.
Which brings me to the point…
Sometimes, less is more. Sometimes holding back and shaving less is better than going the whole hog (or whole eel). And this advice works in all sorts of situations – not just grooming. Allow me to elaborate.
Ever seen a heavily souped Corsa and thought, “That would have been better without the tinted windows, huge wheels, mahoosive exhaust, spoilers, skirts and moose head bonnet ornament?” You kind of need to know when to stop customising. (or shaving for that matter)
Or how about watching a band where the guitarist goes all Yngwie J Malmsteen on every number. Even the Adele cover. LESS IS MORE MAN! Know when to stop!
It’s kind of the same with magic. No really.
It’s easy to embellish a trick so far that it loses all its charm and magic…
“So, you’re thinking of the four of spades”.
“Wow that’s amazing”
“And now look, that beer mat you’re holding has turned into the four of spades!”
“And look! The rest of the pack has vanished”
“Yeah, that’s good”
“And look! I’m now wearing a four of spades tee shirt”
“And look back in your hand – that card has turned back into a beermat!”
“Yeah, this is going on a bit”
“Now look back up! I’m in a slightly unzipped leopard onesie”
“I liked it best when you just guessed my card you know. This is a little weird”
See what I mean. Less is more. Don’t go too far. Know when to stop.
And with that, I feel it is time to stop this blog.
Feb 2 2020
We magicians love a bit of bragging.
A bit of one-upmanship. A little healthy competition if you like.
“I fooled Penn and Teller”
“I got to the final of BGT”
“That nice family from Blyth, you know with that house behind Asda? They booked me twice! Once for their anniversary, and again for their son’s birthday”
“We’ve had an 18 year residency in Las Vegas”
“I’m recording my third TV series”
“Did I mention I got a repeat booking? Yeah! In Blyth. Near Asda. Managed to combine the gig with a little grocery shop. Not a big shop mind, just a fruit, veg, bread milk and eggs shop”
“I’m embarking on a sell out tour of the UK”
You get the idea.
We’re always keen to get one up on the rivals. Brag a little. I like to think of it as “Magician Top Trumps”
“So Jack”, I imagine you asking right now, “Is there a magician out there you particularly pit yourself against? Do you have a nemesis? Is there some magical artiste you just want to beat in this ridiculous pissing contest?”
Hell yeah – It’s David Blaine!
You see, he was the guy that started this whole “magic is quite cool” thing off. Without David Blaine, we close up guys just wouldn’t have got going. And fair play to him, he’s not too shabby at this magic lark.
So, let’s look at the stats…
DB: 2 JS: 0 (point to David there)
DB: 11 JS: 0 (and again)
Sitting presidents entertained in the oval office
DB: 3 JS: 0 (As of Feb 2020)
Repeat bookings at the Robinson household in Blyth
DB: 0 JS: 2 (Gaining on you David!)
Guinness world records for holding breath underwater
DB: 1 JS: 0 (I’ll give you that)
DB: 1.83m JS: 1.88m (Mwah hah hah. Short arse)
Glowing reviews from world renowned magicians
DB: countless JS: One (Assuming Glenn Ward is world renowned. And “yeah, Jack’s quite good” is glowing)
Facebook Review score
DB: 4.9/5.0 JS: 5.0/5.0 (You can’t argue with online reviews)
So, it would seem my American rival has a slight lead.
there’s one poll in magic that trumps them all. One we all crave to top. That’s right. The blog.feedspot.com “Top 75 Magic Blogs” page. Put simply, break into the top 35 of this, and you know you’ve made it.
So, where do we both fit in here then…
Let’s call it a draw eh?!
Jan 14 2020
“Hi, I’ve got an eye test at 9:30”
“Optician’s next door mate. This is Gregg’s”
Anyway. On with the blog…
I did have an eye test the other day as it happens. And there was a Gregg’s next door. And, seeing as I was a little early, I sneaked a quick pasty in beforehand. And a coffee. And a donut.
“Why the eye test?” I hear you asking. “Other than having eyes that are no particular colour at all, I thought they were pretty OK”
As did I dear readers. As did I. Allow me give you the details…
Now, before I get started, I’d like to tell you my views on marked cards.
I don’t approve. I don’t approve at all. Marked cards are for cheats, charlatans and ne’er do wells.They have no place in a professional card magicians armoury. However, my favourite card manufacturer released a marked deck recently, and gave loyal customers a free one if they spent €100 on supplies. Now, I don’t approve of marked decks, but I couldn’t resist an offer like that.
And, my goodness, they’re good! Take a look at this and see for yourselves. This is a regular red backed phoenix playing card…
And this, my friends, is the marked version. Bet it takes you ages to spot the difference. Once you see it though, you’ll be kicking yourselves.
(That’s right. It’s the 4 of clubs. Bloody amazing isn’t it. Worth every single euro)
Now, it seemed a shame to let such a good gaff go to waste.
So, cunningly a routine was developed to utilise this new prop. And, I’ll be honest, it was devilish. Abso-freaking-lutely devilish.
You see, mind reading with cards is quite hard. Certainly the “three spectators at once ploy”. The mathematically minded amongst you will spot that those are long odds. A 1 in (52x51x50) chance if you will. Pretty tricky if you use conventional mind reading methods. (NLP, muscle reading, suggestion, and off centre fishing), but an absolute freaking doodle if you’re using a marked deck. Mwah hah hah!
Unfortunately, things did not go to plan. In the unusually pink lighting of Hartlepool’s Magenta Lounge, could I bollocks read those markings. And there’s only so long you can stare at the back of a card without drawing attention to yourself. I had to resort to conventional means after all. (One spot on, one right number, wrong suit, and the last one as far out as is possible to be)
It was at that embarrassing moment I realised I needed an eye test.
Anyway, the conclusion of the eye test was good. Turns out the eyes are fine (apart from the odd colour). No issues at all apparently. I celebrated with some baked goods from the conveniently located patisserie next door.
Getting home, I fished the marked deck from my gig waistcoat pocket. Thought it deserved a second chance in regular lighting. And you know what, still couldn’t read the bloody marks. Even did that thing the older generation do when they hold stuff uncomfortably far away. I just couldn’t focus on them at all.
Long story short, it wasn’t the marked deck. Seems I’d given that away to the birthday girl in Hartlepool. There was a good reason I couldn’t read the markings, and it wasn’t pink lighting, unusually chubby corneas or defective cones. It was because like an absolute donkey, I’d forgotten which pocket had the regular deck and which one the dodgy one.
So, what have we learned?
Well firstly, stick with your principles, and don’t get suckered in by offers.
Secondly, remember what pocket you put stuff in.
Thirdly, if you’ve booked me for a gig, check that souvenir deck of cards I gave you. Could be worth more than you thought.
Fourthly, though Gregg’s vegan sausage roll trumps the regular version on ethical and environmental grounds, I think the regular one has the edge on taste. The vegan one is a little salty for my liking.
(Though to be honest, neither can hold a candle to the sausage and bean melt. Oh my goodness)
And fifthly, if you’re going to scrape the barrel with a low quality blog, at least have a decent punchline to pull it all together.
So, as my eyes are OK, and it’s still in the first half of January, it seems appropriate to say…
Dec 29 2019
*Pole dancing society ball photographic blog
What’s got 200 legs and loves a bit of magic?
100 tipsy pole-dancers!
Normally when I mention gigs to friends, they aren’t that interested. But, when I got invited to provide a little magic at the Newcastle University Pole Dancing Society Winter Ball, that all changed…
“Hey Jack – maybe I could come along and help out. You know, pass you your cards that kind of thing”
“I’d love to watch you at work Jack. I’d just sit quietly in the corner – you wouldn’t even know I was there”
For some reason that I just can’t put my finger on, a lot of people* wanted to join me for this booking.
*I say people. I do of course mean “leery blokes”
Any way chaps, I got some photos back, so if you’re keen to see what you missed, scroll on…
Before you ask, no. I can’t recreate this pose myself.
This was my favourite photo of the night.
And, I think these next few pictures just speak for themselves…
And before you ask, no.
I don’t need anyone to pass me my cards at next year’s ball.
Dec 18 2019
You know, sometimes tricks go wrong.
Not wrong wrong. Not properly wrong. Not “need to rethink my job” kind of wrong. Not likely to maim a spectator kind of wrong. Pretend wrong. A build up the suspense kind of wrong that leads to a better denouement.
It’s actually a known thing in magician circles – it’s called the “magician in trouble” plot. Used sparingly, it can be quite effective. (Use it too much and you look like an inept buffoon mind. Be careful)
The premise is that the trick hasn’t worked. You’re in trouble. You’ve lost the card, you can’t read their mind, the rabbit has impaled itself on a large spike and your dove has caught fire. You get the idea. Then, just as you’ve been written off as a bit of an amatuer, you pull it out of the bag. The card appears in the spectator’s wallet. You show you had predicted their thought before they even thought of it. And the animals breathe a sigh of relief. (Note to potential customers, I’m not an animal kind of magician – they were just an example. I favour a slim fitting waistcoat ensemble to perform in and don’t have the roomy pocket space required for livestock)
Done well, a good “magician in trouble” ploy can be disarming.
It’s actually particularly good for the younger generation. If I find myself surrounded by kids at a gig, a bit of “magician in trouble” goes down a storm. Kids, you see, have no qualms in telling you you suck. Seeing the magician make a mistake is actually quite satisfying for them. It’s not uncommon to have pointing, laughing and “loser” symbols at this point. And when you finally deliver the moment of magic, it’s a great “Fuck you” moment. (Note to potential customers, I don’t swear at kids. Or at any spectators for that matter. It’s just that swearing in blogs is terribly fashionably right now)
“Hmm Jack, this is all very fascinating. I love it when you go on about magic theory.” I suspect you’re pondering, “Are there any other places where the ‘in trouble’ ruse works?”
Well, I’m glad you asked…
Films love a bit of “protagonists are in trouble”. Think Ocean’s Eleven. It looks like it’s all gone wrong. And then, it turns out it was all part of the plan. Every time I watch it (and that’s quite regularly – I consider it homework for planning a casino heist of my own) I think, “I bet the script writer was a magician.”
Football managers know this too. A good manager will always instruct their team to fall behind 0-2 by half time so they can heighten the suspense in the fans. Winning 3-2 is all the more satisfying for that “football team in trouble” feeling. 4-0 victory? No thanks! (Note to self, check this before publishing. You know your football knowledge is shady at best)
Anywhere else? Anyone or anything in trouble right now? Hell Yeah!
Donald Trump. Can’t deny it Donny, you’re in a little bit of bother right now. (not that I suspect he’ll read this. He’s still seething over me mocking his teeny tiny hands)
Polar bears. They are properly feeling it right now.
Oh yeah. And a sizeable chunk of the UK population.
All thinking the same thing right now…
“I do hope the script writer’s a magician”
Nov 7 2019
If you could get away with it, would you turn bad?
Would you break the law? Would you lose your morals? If you knew nobody would find out, would you be tempted?
Based on the speed of motorists on the Coast Road once the speed cameras were taken away, I would say, “Yes”. If you knew no-one was looking, you’d push the rules.
Plato went further.
He reckoned that even the most just amongst us would go rogue if we knew we couldn’t be detected. Even worse, a little law breaking wouldn’t cut it. Once we’d “Broken the Seal” of immorality, we wouldn’t be satisfied until we’d killed the king, bedded the queen and become emperor of the world.
Don’t believe me? Look up his work, “The Ring of Gyges”, it’s all in there. Plato (who incidentally is in my top three Greeks*), suggests that we only act in a just and moral fashion because we crave the respect of others. If we know we can get away with it, then stuff respect. We’re off to rule the world.
“Why are you banging on about this?”, I hear you ask. “You listen to one philosophy podcast Jack, and you think you’re Chidi Freaking Anagonye.”
(To be honest, it’s not the first time I’ve dabbled in such thoughts. It wasn’t too long ago that I talked about “Breaking the Seal”. And back in the early days of this sub-viral blog, I concluded that the ultimate goal of every magician is to pull off a casino heist)
“But surely”, you’re thinking, “You haven’t turned bad Jack. You haven’t set foot on the slippery slope of rogue and dipped a toe in the waters of criminality”
Brace yourselves readers. It’s going to get very dark, very quickly.
(If this blog were a film, it would go a little hazy now. Maybe shimmer and wobble. You know – flashback to the past kind of thing…)
It was a Saturday afternoon. I was in town, dressed like a magician, ready to astonish some guests at a 40th lunch. I tapped my pockets to check everything was in place. Check. Made sure I hadn’t got that half collar in, half collar out thing going on that sometimes happens with my tweediest waistcoat. Check. Rubbed my fingertips together to check they were suitably sticky to perform the trickiest of sleights. Oh bollocks.
In my rush to get to the booking, I’d neglected to put on my obligatory squirt of Norwegian Formula. I’m not kidding here. If I don’t get Neutragenad up before I do a gig, then some sleights are just not going to happen. (The one handed top palm is especially fiendish if your right little finger tip is just the tiniest bit dry)
In other words, If I don’t have this…
There’s no way I’m doing this…
Fortunately for me, Superdrug was smiling at me from across Northumberland Street. I dived in, found my product then stared with dismay at the humongous queue. There were at least 10 minutes of customers in front of me. The booking was due to start in 5 minutes time.
This was the moment. The pivotal moment. Sliding doors. Breaking the seal of criminality. Checking around for CCTV and security guards, I sneaked the lid off the hand cream. Squeezed a gram and a half onto each palm. Replaced the lid and popped it back on the shelf. Walked out looking innocent, whilst secretly rubbing the stuff in. I seem to recall whistling. Can’t look guilty whistling.
And there you have it. Seal broken.
If Plato was right, then I’ve set sail on a dangerous path…
Anyway, moral of the story – I owe a couple of apologies. If you bought some Norwegian Formula from Superdrug in Newcastle recently and only got 47 grams instead of 50, then I’m terribly sorry. Get in touch, and I’ll give you a couple of squeezes of my tube.
I also should apologise to the casinos of the North East.
Because, lets face it, it’s only a matter of time now.
(*In case anyone is interested, my top three Greeks are: Pythagoras, Plato, and Andreas from Kebab King on Station Road)
Oct 5 2019
Anyone here read my last blog?
It’s here if you want to check it out.
Anyway, the denouement of the blog was that it was the final one. Ever. No more blogs. Finnito. Over. Ne blogger pas.
(It actually created a bit of stir: Literally 6 people expressed some dismay at the blogging ending)
Which raises the obvious question – what on earth is this about? How come I’m writing (and you’re reading) another blog?
The answer is simple – I’m a big fat liar.
The whole blog was actually a smorgasbord of whoppers: Prison Break season 3 is actually not that bad, the blogging actually peaked around autumn 18 (Venn, Carpe Diem and Blue Stars were definitely my best work so far), and there are not 58 better magic blogs than this one. Seriously, don’t even go there. I’ve leafed through most of the competition, and they’re bloody awful. Samey, self promoting shite. Nothing like this blog at all.
I don’t actually think there was a true word in the entire blog.
And you’ve got to be wondering why?
Is it because being a liar has become terribly fashionable lately? Our noble premier himself has made fibbing the must have accessory for Autumn/Winter 19/20. My particular favourites; “The Heathrow Bulldozers”, “The ditch”, “There’s no domestic disturbance going on here officer”, “Of course I have a plan”, “I know exactly how many children I have” and, “Of course it’s legal your majesty”. Ooh – I forgot the bus. And countless others. (There is a maximum recommended limit to the number of words in a blog, so I’d best stop here.)
No. That’s not the reason.
The thing is, lying is my job…
The clue is in the phrase – a magic trick.
The raison d’etre of magic is to trick. To fool. To bamboozle and astonish. And one doesn’t do that by being honest. Magic tricks are just fibs. And I’m quite good at magic tricks. Therefore, I’m quite good at fibbing too. (I’m also quite good at forgery – I’ve got a certificate to prove it.)
Can you imagine what it would be like if we “professional deceivers” were actually honest. It would be ridiculous.
“Go on. Choose one of these cards. It really doesn’t matter which. I’ve got 52 queen of clubs”
“Behold! A deceptively small cabinet! It looks empty, but there’s a scantily clad tiger hiding in the base”
“Look Liz. This is dodgy even for me. It’s going to cause a constitutional shitstorm the likes of which we’ve never seen. But if you could wave it through, I’ve got a crate of gin with your name on it and a couple of swan baguettes”
See what I mean? Some lines of work just lend themselves to fibbing.
Ah, It’s good to be back – expect another blog within the next month.
Though you might not believe a word I say anymore…
Aug 22 2019
So, this is an actual conversation with my mate Tink a few years ago…
ME: I’m watching “Prison Break” now. It’s great. Have you seen it?
TINK: I have. I agree. It’s good. Whatever you do though. Don’t watch season 3 onwards. Get to the end of season 2. Then stop. It’ll be better that way.
Yeah. Totally ignored that advice.
It was, however, very good advice.
Seasons 1 and 2 were great. Intrigue, drama, suspense, romance, engineering projects, massive tattoos and origami swans. Absolutely mint. Season 3 was shite. Season 4 worse. Should have listened to Tink’s advice.
When it comes to drama series, you’ve got to know when to stop.
It’s the same with the cut-throat world of magic blogging too.
Leafing through some of my recent efforts, I realise I’m now into series 3 territory. Seriously – have you read them? Scraping the barrel.
If I’m honest, I think I peaked around June ‘17. So did blog.feedspot when they awarded me the ludicrous title of “55th Best Magic Blog on the Internet”. I think I should have quit then. That was my season 2 finalé. Everything since has been been a bit disappointing.
In my defence, I go to parties, do some tricks and come home. The fact that I managed to milk that out to 80 blogs is something in itself. Seriously though there’s not much left magical for me to write about.
It shows. I’ve slipped to 59th best magic blog on the internet. I should have known when to stop.
So, a couple of years too late, this is my final blog. Adieu.
If you are a regular blog reader (I hope you’re both well by the way), don’t be disappointed. There are plenty of other, better magic blogs out there.
58 of them in fact.
May 26 2019
Trigger: I’ve had this broom for twenty years, and it’s only needed 17 new heads and 14 new handles.
Sid: How can it be the same bloody broom then?
Trigger: Look at this picture – what more proof do you need?
Ever ridden a bike up a hill quickly and found your mind wandering as you pedal?
Yeah, me too. Tonight’s farst blarst up the local climbs got me onto a totally obscure train of thought. It started by me getting “Round Round” by the Sugarbabes stuck in my head. (That’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. I briefly went to a spinning class in the early 2000s and the instructor had a fondness for this song. It’s actually my second favourite climbing song after “Push it” by Salt and Pepa.)
Sorry about that unnecessary trip into my cycling playlist. The point is, I found myself thinking about the Sugababes. Most specifically, were they the same band when all three members had been replaced (like the parts of a broom) with newbies? Also I found myself pondering what the Scouse one was called – she was my favourite.
Which got me onto Trigger’s broom. Does the spirit of something remain even when it’s constituent parts are totally different.
It was a kind of philosophical ride.
This in turn brought me round to atoms. I once read that your body replaces old atoms with new ones. Give it about three years and every single freaking atom in your body has been replaced. Does that mean I’m an entirely different person to my 2016 self? Probably. It’s all a bit deep isn’t it? I was so absorbed in such thoughts that I almost forgot to give a rude hand gesture to the driver that beeped me.
I know what you’re thinking – ride on the bike path, not the road and you wouldn’t get beeped. You’re probably also thinking how the hell I’m going to bring this blog round to magic…
So, to the magic part.
You see, a little while ago I retired a trick from the set. It was quite good. Just wasn’t as good as the others. It’s gone now, replaced with something better. And then I thought back to my first gig (Angel View Inn Gateshead. June ‘09). Was there anything from that first set that had lasted the distance? Nah. All gone and replaced at least once. Discarded like a broom handle or a Sugababe. Brushed aside like a body’s atom. My current set bears as much of a resemblance to that debut set as the Sugababes v3 did to v1. Or Broom 14 did to broom 8. Or post 2019 me does to pre 2016 me.
Hmmm. Just realised that blogs are supposed to be self promoting tools to try and get more bookings. Not rambling essays on the true meaning of self or avoiding cycle paths. So, here goes…
If you booked me a few years ago, why not book me again. I can guarantee that both the set and the magician will be entirely different!
Down to the very last atom…
Mar 31 2019
The Strange daughters were squabbling the other day.
“It’s not FAIRRRR! She’s got more sweets than me”
“It’s not FAIRRRR! Her sweets are bigger than mine”
“Why don’t you swap”
“NOOOOO! I don’t like her sweets”
“Why don’t I eat the extra one, then it would surely be OK”
“NOOOO! You can’t have any. That wouldn’t be FAIIIIIIIIRRRRR”
Now, close up magic is good for weddings, proms, birthdays, works parties etc. It also has its uses in placating conflict.
It took the extra Haribo (a tangfastic as it happens. My personal favourite) and vanished it. You know, made it disappear. It actually worked. The disparity of confectionery now eased, the squabbling stopped, and they happy filled their faces with wholesome sugary goodness.
(Obviously I didn’t really vanish it. I pretended to put it in my left hand, and during the misdirection of squeezing the “sweet” tightly, I swallowed the sour little scamp. Whole. It was a quite satisfying bit of trickery. And I got a sweet.)
Anyway, this got me thinking. If close up magic can placate warring siblings, can it heal the shitstorm that is the UK in 2019?
What do you mean you hadn’t noticed?
The Leavers hate the Remainers. The older generation hate the younger generation. And vice versa. Gammons hate Snowflakes. Neo Nazis hate anti Nazis. Motorists hate cyclists. Everyone apart from MPs seems to hate MPs. Arguments rage everywhere. It’s hard to get around the thought that come Brexit – and our self imposed poverty – we’ll be living in some post apocalyptic society, thrown into a civil war of extreme factions battling each other. Their only common feature being the intense hatred they feel for each other. Millennials hurling avocados at the leavers who bat them away with their zimmer frames. Gammons taunting the snowflakes. Snowflakes struggling to comprehend the poor grammar, punctuation and diction of the Gammons.
There’ll be fights. There’ll be untold outpourings of unbridled rage. There’ll be barbecuing rats over tea lights and a booming black market in toilet roll.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.
Magic might distract a couple of kids with one too many sweets, but it’s never going to to reunite a nation torn apart. A nation that has shot itself in the groin while the world looks on bewildered.
You’re right. We’re way past that. I’m not bad at tricks, but this is going to take freaking Dumbledore to fix.
However, magic is a good distraction.
And while I’m distracting people, they can briefly, just for a moment, forget the crazy omnishambles going on around them and enjoy a brief child-like moment of awe and wonder.
And while they’re distracted, my daughters can sneak around behind them and steal their rats.
Feb 10 2019
This week, I have mostly been thinking about listening to music.
And, I hate to seem a luddite here, but it was better in the past. The listening that is, not the music. Allow me to explain…
You see, for me anyway, albums were a big thing. I loved nothing more than putting on a new album, pouring a glass of something fitting for the genre, and losing myself for between 45 and 60 minutes. Maybe a little leafing through the CD booklet at the artwork. Possibly a soupcon of lyrical appreciation. Maybe even identifying the songs that were “growers” (i.e. “quite poor the first time round”) You get the picture – Properly getting every nuance of the album. Just as the artiste meant it.
That’s not me now. Streaming has put every single song in the world at my disposal. Do I seek out new albums? Enjoy them like I used to? Lose myself? Use the word “nuance”? Give “growers” a second, third and fourth chance?
Nah. None of the above.
I listen impatiently to the first few seconds of a new song. Not feeling it? It’s getting skipped. Next. Come on new song. Grip me. You’ve got 15 seconds tops to make win me round, or you’re getting skipped too. I think that’s what “Thank u, next” is about. Though I can’t be sure – I didn’t listen to all of it.
If I’m honest, I’m not terribly proud of my new lack of patience with music. Though I don’t think I’m alone. I don’t think the Spotify Generation have much time for growers.
Does this have a bearing on close up magic?
I reckon. If audiences watch magic in the same way that I suspect they listen to music, then they need gripping pretty instantly.
“I’m sorry Jack, astonishing trickery that may be, but it hasn’t captivated me enough to keep me from flirting with that tipsy bridesmaid / photocopying my arse / sticking my face in the chocolate fountain / posting my photo booth picture to social media / minesweeping the buffet / inhaling the contents of that helium balloon etc etc*”
(* delete as applicable. There can be lots of distractions during magic gigs)
So, what to do?
Well, there can be no room for growers in this lark. No album tracks. Nothing to skip. The magic has to be gripping from the off. Stage magicians have it easier here. Stroll on stage with a cage on fire or a trolley of swords and you’ve got a gripped audience. Approaching a crowd with a sharp waistcoat and a deck of cards is going to take something intriguing to keep them hooked.
“Choose a card. Go on. Any card. It doesn’t matter which”
“IT DOESN’T MATTER?! Then what’s the point of choosing one? I’m afraid you’ve lost me already. Hold my trousers and pass me that copier pass”
See. In a world full of distractions, magic has got to be gripping. And It’s got to matter.
“You know, in the NYPD, there’s an urban myth that if you stare into the eyes of a homicide victim, you see a reflection of the killer. Go on, choose one of these cards and really stare at it…”
“Ooh. That’s intriguing. I had an appointment with a chocolate fountain and a bridesmaid, but I think that can wait a little…”
No one wants to be skipped past. Those first few seconds matter.
Also, albums matter. Listen to them properly. Every Nuance.
Jan 2 2019
This is not a blog!
You should probably just stop reading right now.
(Certainly if you’re used to the usual award winning mix of wit, self promotion and theory of astonishment, then you’re going to be very disappointed. Seriously, you’re not missing out by clicking away. I won’t be offended)
You’re still reading? Expecting it to pick up after that disappointing start? It’s not going to. But at least allow me to explain myself…
It’s all about the SEO
Yep. It’s that shallow.
I had a quick Google of “North East Magician” and I was second page. No one ever reads the second page. This is gutting. Poor SEO, means fewer clicks, fewer bookings, less lobster thermidor. You get the picture.
How to fix it? Well, word is that Google loves a freshly updated site. “If your SEO is seriously tanking, then a well timed blog will improve your ranking”. Or so goes the rhyme anyway.
The problem is, that witty blogs don’t just write themselves you know. And the few half baked ideas I had could never be panned out to fill a whole blog.
(Idea 1: How much I dislike the use of the phrase ‘slaw. It’s bloody coleslaw idiots. You can’t just ditch the start of a word for the fun of it. “Hey, I’m a ‘gician. Want to see some ‘gic”? Ridiculous.
Idea 2: The latest Arctic Monkey’s album is really disappointing. Stick with what you know lads. Don’t expect you fans to go wild over a 70s tinged piano album about the moon when they’re expecting guitar driven angst like your last masterpiece. In the same vein, I’m not going to ditch card tricks to become an escapologist. You gotta play to your strengths)
Yep, barrel scrapingly poor ideas.
So, desperate times call for desperate measures. Hence this pathetic excuse to keep the site updated and hopefully push me back onto the first page.
In the unlikely event that you have read through to the bottom, I applaud your resolve. I told you it wasn’t going to get any better. Little wit. Nothing at all to do with magic. No hidden depths. Sorry. This was purely for the Google Crawlbots. Who I’m hoping aren’t too fussy when it comes to content.
Normal service will resume soon. Once I have a half decent ‘dea.
Dec 2 2018
Did you know that the hottest, brightest stars burn blue?
And they burn through their fuel so quickly they have the shortest lifetime of any star – a mere million or so years? They burn bright, and end spectacularly. Leaving pretty much nothing behind. Stephen Hawking reckons that information can never be lost. So, using a little poetic license, I reckon that the black holes the blue stars leave behind are nothing but the condensed memories of a short life, lived fast and bright.
At the other end of the spectrum (or Harvard Spectral Classification if you’re an astrophysics purest) are red stars. They are far from hot. They are not bright. And they go on and on and on. Apparently, no red star has ever stopped shining. Their long, boring lifetimes far exceeding the age of the universe many times over.
[It’s a little know fact that Astrophysicists’ arch enemies are bathroom tap designers. They can’t stand the fact that they label the hot tap red and the cold tap blue. Hawking confused so many guests by switching the taps on all his sinks. Not only that, he would regularly send his undergraduate students out to egg Cambridge Kitchens and Bathrooms showroom between lectures to show his contempt for them. Sorry, I seem to be waffling]
I found my mind wandering to stars the other evening while performing a little card magic. [It was a lush gig at my new favourite venue; The Spanish City in Whitley Bay. I love, it because I can walk there from home. And it’s pretty classy. And the lobster thermidor is to die for. I found myself astonishing a small table of baby sleeping bag designers who were attending a baby sleeping bag designers posh meal out. Sorry. Seem to be waffling again]
Back to the story. I had just performed one of my favourite tricks. A baby sleeping bag designer was thinking of a card, and then with an over dramatic slapping of palm against deck, fifty one fifty tooths of the pack were gone. Leaving only her thought of card remaining between my hands. It’s a quite satisfying moment and a few profanities issued forth from the assembled designers. [Leading me to hope that their sleeping bag designs were more child friendly. No one wants swear words all over their infant’s bedding. Sorry. This blog seems to be sponsored by totally unnecessary waffling and going off the point]
It was at this moment that it dawned on me that this fine piece of magic was like a blue star. It didn’t last for long, but it shone bright when it did. And it really did leave nothing behind but memories.
The tricks I like least are like red stars. They just go on and on. There’s no satisfying bang at the end. No intense heat. No memories lasting forever more. Just a never ending luke warm hum.
Should everything in life be like a blue star?
No. A commute to work that ends suddenly in a massive explosion would be far from ideal. [My god, that turned dark suddenly. Sorry – didn’t mean that to happen]. Some things just lend themselves more to a slow burn, red star style.
Becoming a music icon suits the live fast, blue star approach. (Hendrix, Cobain, Winehouse, Moon. You get the idea) And magic tricks. They deserve to be short lived, explosive, and intense.
(If I ever find myself performing a red star trick, I promise it’s getting nudged out of the set. And should you ever find yourself watching one, make your excuses and leave before it reaches its disappointing ending.)
Which brings me to the disappointing end of a long and rambling blog. Note to self, put blogs on that list along with music icons and magic tricks of things which are better for being short lived, punchy and blue star like.
Sorry for blogging like a red star.
Nov 15 2018
Deceiving people is wrong. Mostly.
You see there are times when it’s OK. Allow me to explain…
So, the littlest Strange has been losing teeth. And she has a penchant for writing notes to the ever generous fairies. See…
So, it seems only right to give her a reply…
All well and good. But ultimately, deceptive. Not true. A big fib if you will. In this case though, I reckon deception is better than honesty. My first draft was honest. I stand by decision to replace it with the one above before sneaking it under her pillow. See what I mean…
Sometimes it’s better to be deceptive.
It’s the same with magic. Obviously.
The raison d’être of magic is to deceive. Convincing people they’ve seen something magical and beyond rational explanation is akin to convincing a 5 year old that fairies are real and her former tooth is now landscaping in fairyland. And I reckon that that’s acceptable. If they knew how it was really done, they’d be disappointed. As disappointed as a toothless infant with shattered dreams and a pound.
So yeah. I reckon sometimes it’s acceptable to deceive.
Nov 2 2018
Ever found yourself drifting off and imagining Venn Diagrams in your head?
No? Just me then.
Well, it happened to me recently at a gig. Allow me to elaborate…
So, that thing happens when a guest insists on showing you a trick. They borrow your deck, painstakingly count out 21 cards and deal them into 3 piles. Usually, at these times, my mind wanders off into one of two tangents…
“Your hands had better be clean. That’s a brand new deck. And I’m very fussy about deck hygiene.”
“Do you realise that I charge an arm an a leg per hour? In the time that it takes you to show me this trick, I’ll have earned at least 4 fingers. Maybe even a palm. And that bride and groom over there are paying for it. I hope you can live with that.”
But this time, my mind was wandered as follows…
“This trick just isn’t very good. I wonder why that is. I reckon it’s because it’s not surprising. You know that they’ll find your card, and it’s just a little puzzling. A puzzle does not a good trick make. You need a surprise.”
Then I thought about when I was teaching the littler Strange how to perform magic.
“Make it surprising”, I told her, “Good magic is always surprising!”
Taking this on board, she placed a coin in her hand. She waved her other hand over it….Then performed a raised leg fart.
[By this point, I was now 1/4 of the way into the wedding guest’s trick, and I ‘d come to the conclusion that surprise alone was’t the key to a good trick. Entertaining that a raised leg fart is, it’s not magic. A bit of puzzlement is required too. While outwardly feigning interest in the trick, I’d constructed a Venn diagram to illustrate this in my head]
But, I continued to ponder further. There’s got to be more to good magic than this. For one; swearing. I love it when a trick elicits a profanity from a guest. A good hearty swear like, “**** off, **** you, no ****ing way!” etc. Not a bad swear like, “****ing get on with it”.
Which brought me to the point of pace. This trick was dragging. Good magic should be snappy, pacey, to the point. No unnecessary patter. No long dealing and counting. Just magic.
By the time the trick was over, I’d mentally sketched the Venn diagram of perfect trickery in my head. Upgrading “surprising” to “astounding”, and “puzzling” to “baffling” and adding a couple of extra circles to boot. It was all finished in time to feign shock at having my card revealed and joke about how my job was at risk.
And, here it is, the secret of astonishment. In Venn.
If it’s not in the central bit, it doesn’t make it into the set.
I now realise that this is a niche blog. A very niche blog. I don’t think there are many people out there who will be interested in this at all. In fact, I’ve summarised who will enjoy this blog in Venn format.
Just me then.
Oct 10 2018
So, the other day at a wedding, I approached this table. An elderly table. No, not an old table. The table was the same age as the other tables. The guests on the table were all of the “older generation”. As though the bride and groom had intentionally put them together like that.
“Good afternoon”, I chirped. Magically. “I’m Jack. I do magic. May I interest you in a little trickery?”
“Eeeh no pet”, Came a reply. “We’re fine without magic thank you”
And so, ever so slightly put out, I left to astonish a younger, more attractive table. (Again, I’m referring to the guests here, not the furniture). I left the older guests to continue talking about whatever they were talking about. (I’m guessing it was probably about rationing, beige clothing, how the youth of today don’t know they’re born, Werthers Original and how all this used to be fields.)
Only a couple of days later, I found myself showing someone else some tricks.
“YES! – keep them coming! I bloody love magic!”
Now this was more like it. Enthusiasm! Astonishment! Wide eyed awe! Really committing to the magic. I liked it. Now, I’m not usually the most observant, but I couldn’t help but notice that my new eager spectator was sporting a “Carpe Diem” tattoo. On her foot.
“I’ll look out for such tattoos more often”, I mentally noted. Jumping to an spectacularly unscientific generalisation that all those who sport Carpe Diem tattoos must therefore be especially good magic participants.
Anyway, long story short, I Googled what Carpe Diem meant. And I kind of approve.
Turns out it’s Latin for “YOLO”. As far as I can tell the Romans would have used it where we would say, “live a little”, “go for it”, or “what’s the worst that can happen?”.
(“Hey Caesar, the lions are looking peckish. Shall I throw them a Christian?”. “Throw them two, Brutus. Carpe Diem”. I imagine.)
So to conclude, Carpe Diem is…
Seize the day…Live for the moment…Have an ice cream…with sprinkles…and a flake…sod it, get two ice creams… buy a motorbike…overtake recklessly…have a row with your boss…tell your boss he’s got mental problems… quit your job to make a living from card tricks… get a tattoo… in Latin…plan to be more spontaneous… hold on that’s ridiculous…just be more spontaneous…write and post blogs without proof-reading tham…egg your mental ex-bosses house…buy a third ice-cream…drink heavily…
In other words, just live a little.
And, if you’re at a wedding, sitting on an elderly table when a tall, well dressed magician offers to show you some magic, just see the bloody magic.
Sep 30 2018
Everyone loves a bargain.
And, even though I like to think that close up magic is a bit of a luxury purchase, I feel I need to appeal to the bargain hunters out there who would like some quality astonishment but balk at my “arm and a leg” prices.
So, for the thrifty amongst you, allow me to present my three new special discount offers.
The “fishing for likes” discount
I went right off social media recently. But then again, it has it’s uses. Facebook is pretty good for getting reviews and bookings. Even for promoting “piss poor” blogs like this. It’s just I’m not very good at it. My posts are disappointing. And my page doesn’t have many likes. If you’re Facebook savvy, have plenty of gullible friends and questionable morals, then this discount code is for you. I’ll give you 1% off my extortionate prices for every like you can muster for my page. Yep! Seriously. Get 50 mates to like “Jack Strange Magician” and I’ll do a gig for a leg. (You can keep the arm). Enter the voucher code, “NEEDYGIT” when you make a booking to claim the discount.
The “Burrito” discount
I do love a bit of Mexican street-food. (I like to pronounce it “Mehican”. I watched Speedy Gonzales as a kid. I think I know how to sound authentic). Anyway instead of paying an arm and leg for magic, I will do an hour of close up magic for as many burritos/tacos/enchiladas/fajitas that me and my mate Gary can fit into our fat faces in one hour. Feel lucky? Go on – voucher code “PAYWITHCHILLI” Note to prospective customers – please leave at least one hour between payment and performance. May need a nap. Note to Gary – I’m banking on you here mate. We could be quids in.
The pre-BGT discount
So, on more than one occasion, a pished bridesmaid has said, “You’re dead good at magic you are. You should go on Britain’s got talent”. And, instead of sensibly thinking that it was just the Prosecco talking, I only went and did a bloody audition. Now, I know the chances of getting through are slim. The chances of Simon being off his tits on Prosecco in the live show are even slimmer. However, I’m feeling cocky enough to assume I’ll fly through to the live finals. And, if I get a little bit of national publicity and the bookings come flying in, I’m planning to double my already extortionate prices (To two arms and two legs!). So, if you’re planning a party for next year, why not book me now and effectively get a “half-price” bargain.
(Yes, the thought has dawned on me that I might get through as one of the entertainingly poor contestants. And then get ridiculed on national telly. And have to halve my prices. Thus making a total mockery of this book early idea. Yes. In hindsight, this offer is a bad idea all round)
So, to conclude. You can have a cheaper gig if you pander to my neediness. And that advice I read to blog every couple of weeks if even you’re low on material has certainly sunk in.
Sep 23 2018
Really? It’s your birthday today? That’s lucky. A 1 in 365 miracle. Sometimes in this magic lark you get something right by lucky coincidence. It’s good when that happens.
“So Jack”, you’re thinking, “Why today? Why post a happy birthday blog on today of all days?”
Good question imaginary reader. And one I’m happy to address.
You see, today is one of the four “premium birthdays” of the year. Anyone with a fondness for astronomy knows the four most significant dates (skywise anyway) are the two equinoxes and the two solstices. And today is one of them. See…
(And in case you’re interested, my birthday is also one of them. The wintery one. Just in case you fancied getting me a gift)
“Brilliant Jack. So today has exactly even daylight and darkness, and you were born on the shortest day / pagan highlight of the year. I thought you were a card magician? What the flip has this got to do with magic? Or cards? You’re really pushing the magic blog boundaries this time”
Again, imaginary reader, you make an excellent point. Allow me to put your mind at rest…
You see cards and the skies are linked more closely than you could ever have suspected. 52 cards represent the 52 weeks in the year. 4 suits represent the four seasons (or four premium birthdays if you prefer). 12 court cards are for the twelve months. 13 cards in each suit? 13 lunar months in the year of course! Black and red? Darkness and light. An equal number of both – just like an equinox (coincidentally today). Need more proof? Count up all the pips on every card in the deck. Spoiler alert – it’s 365 – number of days in a year. Spooky eh?
If by especially lucky coincidence you have a fondness for playing cards, a penchant for astronomy and it’s your birthday today, then you should be feeling pretty special right now.
Happy birthday. Hope it’s a good one.
For the 364/365 of you that this doesn’t apply to, I apologise. I’ll try and make my next blog a bit more relevant to you.
Footnote, if you have a “non premium” birthday, don’t despair. Ordinary birthdays can be made special too; simply by booking a magician to make your party a little more magical! Tempted? Might I recommend me? I’m quite good at birthday magic. I’ll even bring you a hand printed birthday card. With the card you’re thinking of sealed inside the envelope. Spooky.
Sep 3 2018
“Do you believe in coincidence?
You do! So do I! My, that’s a coincidence!”
“How about intuition? Do you believe in intuition? You do! I knew you were going to say that!”
Ah, you can’t beat a good magician’s gag. Those particular gems are from my favourite magic book, “Smoke and Mirrors”. I can assure you now, the tricks in it are far better than the gags.
Anyway, to the point. There’s something magical about a good coincidence. An awful lot of really good tricks depend on it. My typical birthday trick for example…
“Go on. Think of a card. Change your mind a little if you fancy. Got one? Good. Now, do you remember that envelope I gave you at the start of the night? The one you put in your pocket / bra?* Yep that’s the one. Go on, open it up. Do you like the handmade greetings card? Printed it myself! Oh, and look, there’s a single playing card in there too. What was the one you were thinking of again? Go on. Turn that one over… My! That’s a coincidence! Happy birthday!”
See. There’s something magical about a coincidence hitting.
It’s that “What if I’d changed my mind” feeling you get. It plays on your mind. It’s good magic.
You’re skeptical I can tell. Go on. Have a look at these cards. Choose one. Any one you like…
Are you sure now? No more scrolling until you’ve made your mind up.
Now, wouldn’t it be an amazing coincidence if I chose the same one?
Well. I chose the four of hearts. You did too? My! That’s a coincidence!
And that readers is the beauty of the coincidence trick. Get it right, and it looks like a miracle. Get it wrong, and you can mostly get away with it. I mean, seriously, you didn’t really think that would work did you? But for one fifth of the blog readers (about 4 of you), it looks quite magical.
What’s that? You’re not impressed. You thought that “trick” was disappointing and you really think this blog is a dip from my usual medium standards? You think I’ve scraped the blogging barrel this time. Probably just trying to keep the site updated to improve my SEO.
I think that too! What a coincidence!
* Seriously, you wouldn’t believe the number who choose bra as the safe place to put something. Look after this card please. OK, I’ll put it in my bra. It’s clearly a thing. Not that I can comment. I rarely wear a bra, and I nearly always have pockets.
Aug 21 2018
Small weddings are big!
Sorry. That makes no sense at all. Allow me to clarify.
What I meant is small weddings are become increasingly popular. I’ve been invited to perform magic at a few small weddings recently, and they’re great!
Small weddings are very different to big weddings. And performing magic at them is very different too. Big weddings are big. There are loads of tables. Loads of characters (including the tipsy bridesmaid, the phenomenally keen youth – “show ME a trick”, the weird uncle, the slightly unnerving older couple, the “too cool for magic” type… the list goes on. I do enjoy a big wedding. I enjoy tailoring the magic the groups. It’s satisfying to get it just right.
But, small wedding magic is a different kind of affair.
Typically I might find myself invited to join the party around their single table. Maybe between courses – that kind of thing. There may be around ten or so guests. Handpicked. No weird uncles. I’ll do twenty minutes of magic. With just a few guests, you learn everyone’s names. You get them all involved. It’s nice. When I do small wedding magic, there’s a close, intimate feel to the trickery that you don’t get at the bigger dos.
Then, I’ll head off for half an hour or so. Let the guests enjoy their puddings. Or the speeches. (I’ll retire to the bar for a cappuccino. Or maybe two cappuccini*)
Once done, I’ll join them for a second 20 minutes of even better magic. Culminating in my romantic trick for the bride and groom, and then the treat of the best magic trick in the entire world.
Then, I’ll head off – leaving the party to cake cutting, dancing, boozing, general wedding things (I don’t actually know what happens after I’ve left – kind of guessing here) and maybe sneak in a third frothy coffee for the journey home.
And that’s small wedding magic. Magical!
If you’re planning a small wedding, why not get in touch and I’ll add a little magic to it for you. If you’ve got a friend who’s planning a small wedding, why not send them a link to this blog. Or book them a magician as a wedding present (ideally me – this self promoting advertising blog would totally backfire if it got someone else the gig). If you’re planning a big wedding but like the sound of what I’ve described, why not ditch 50 guests and go small instead. And book a magician. (again, ideally me – see above).
Remember – small weddings are big!
* I’m not making that up. The plural of cappuccino is cappuccini. Seriously. This gives me a dilemma when ordering two. I can’t bring myself to say, “two cappuccinos please”, because I don’t like getting plurals incorrect. Similarly, I don’t like to say, “two cappuccini please”, because then I sound like a dick. Instead I say, “I’d like a cappuccino please. Oh. Actually could you make that two”. Problem solved.
Jul 31 2018
Don’t think about it!
I’m kind of embarrassed to mention it, but when I first got a motorbike, I had real issues turning right. I know. Ridiculous isn’t it.
I was OVERTHINKING.
That’s actually a thing. Thinking too much about it. It was like a conversation in my head…
Right turn coming up. Are you in the right gear?
Let me check. Erm no. Unwind with the right hand. Squeeze with the left hand, kick down with the left foot. And again. Oh bollocks, that’s neutral. Kick back up again. Wind back on with the right hand. Sorted. Right gear. Oh my, that turn is getting closer.
Have you indicated?
I’m on it. Oops, that’s the horn. Why do they put indicators and horn so close? Anyway, done. Indicating.
Right. Time to turn. Remember, steer left to go right unless you’re going below a certain speed. In which case, steer right. Got it?
Yes, ‘cause that makes loads of sense! How do I know if I’m going slow enough to turn the right way. Sod it, I’ll try steering right. Oops. Best steer left. Oh and lean. Ooh, maybe not that far.
You seem uneasy. You’re a bit unsteady. You’re probably going too slow. Or too fast. Try more revs. Or try braking. Remember, if you’re going too straight, brake with your right foot, too tight brake with your right hand.
Aaargh. I can’t cope. Can I just go straight on instead?
No. That’s a bus queue.
You get the picture. Too much thinking.
Anyway, to the tenuous magic connection (There always has to be one. This is a magic blog afterall)
You see, I’ve got a great fondness for guessing what card someone is thinking of. It’s a great trick. But in my early days of trying it, it was a similar minefield to the right turn issue.
You know, when people think of a card, they usually go for a high one or a red one. Or sometimes, they try and catch me out. Go on. Think of a card.
Have they nodded straight away? Did they go for my bluff and choose a low black to catch me out? Oh. They paused. Must be high and red. Or maybe it’s a double bluff. Oh my. Or perhaps a treble bluff. Fish some more..
So, can you picture it in your head?
They paused! It’s not a picture card! Or maybe it is and they’re just a bit slow. Or pished. They are sitting next to 8 empty Magners bottles. Oh. This is hard. Keep fishing.
Think of the colour.
Yay! Definitely spotted a hesitation there. It must be black. I think. Yep. Fairly certain it’s black. Now, did I reckon it was a picture after all that…
See. Kind of like turning right. The more you think about it, the harder it gets.
So, what to do about it…
Well, option 1 is to give up. There are always ways around. 3 left turns equals a right for example. And I do know lots of other tricks. It is a bit defeatist though.
Option 2 is to just practice loads. Practice so much you can do it without thinking about it. Motivational quote alert…
So I did. Apologies if you live on Sunlea or Seacroft Avenue. That was me doing about 100 clockwise laps. So many that I stopped even thinking about turning right. I’d just turn right. Not quite sure how – I’d just do it.
Same with the card trick. I just tried it over and over again until I could do it without even thinking about it. Again, not quite sure how. It just became kind of instinctive.
So there you have it. The moral of the tale is “practice until you can’t get it wrong”
Footnote. Overthinking returns occasionally. Apologies to the wedding guest last weekend. I should have known it was the three of hearts not the three of diamonds. Still kicking myself for that. Overthinking. Also apologies to that bus queue in North Shields the other day. Probably deserve at least three points for that. Sorry.
(also, prize if you can work out the significance of the picture. Comment below if you’ve got it…)
Jul 24 2018
So, July was a good month for phlogs*
(*photographic blogs – that word hasn’t caught on as well as I’d hoped).
What’s that? Why have I called this “Daft as a phlog?” Good question. The gig was for a charity called “Daft as a Brush”. They do great work for cancer patients. And they throw splendid fundraising dinners too.
I also like the name – likening oneself to a domestic utensil is pretty cool. <Insert attribute> as a <insert utensil>. It’s catchy.
I know what you’re thinking. “If you had to liken yourself to a domestic utensil Jack, what would it be?” Another good question. And one I’ve been giving a lot of thought too. A little too much thought.
Initially I thought, “Versatile as a spoon rest”. I then toyed with, “Useful as a sponge”. Then I settled on, “Astonishing as a whisk”. Then I realised how ridiculous the whole premise was and quickly ditched the whole utensil thing.
Anyway. I’m waffling. Sorry. On with the phlog. Enjoy the pictures. Thanks again Billy!
Ooh. Forgot to mention. The gig was at the Gulshan in Tynemouth. The food looked (and smelled) lush. And the staff were very well dressed. If you fancy being served delicious Indian food by the stylish, it’s worth a visit.
Jul 17 2018
*Gibraltar Rock Photographic Blog
“Hey Jack, are you free next Friday for some magic at a party at the Gibraltar Rock?”
“Really, the Gibraltar Rock?! Also known as the Rock of Gibraltar? Also known as the Pillars of Hercules, a monolithic limestone promontory located in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, near the southwestern tip of Europe on the Iberian Peninsula and 426 m high!? Hell yeah! That would be cool! Consider me booked. Can you pay for my flight?”
“No, no. The Gibraltar Rock pub in Tynemouth”
“Oh. Yeah of course. I knew that. I was just messing. Honest. Tynemouth. Yep. I’m up for that.”
So, what’s better than a party on a rocky outcrop at the tip of the Mediterranean? A party at a pub with a lush view over North Sea of course! (And a twenty minute stroll up the coast is a much better bet than a 1 hr 15 min flight to Heathrow, followed by a 1 hr 10 min coach to Gatwick then a 2 hr 55 min flight out to Gibraltar.)
The icing on the cake comes when one of the guests sends you a few pictures over and you can make a phlog (aka “photographic blog”) out of them. Thanks for the pictures Jay. And thanks Sophie for pulling some great “that’s an impressive trick” faces.
So, without further ado, here’s my latest phlog. Gib-o-phlog.
Jul 10 2018
Good evening. My name’s Jack. And you are?
Delighted to meet you <insert name here>. I’m here doing magic today. Oh! I see you’re drinking! Well that makes my job a little easier. Now, can I interest you in a little trickery?
And there you have it. At that point in the night. The “seal is broken”. From then on, everything gets a lot easier. Allow me to explain…
Have you ever drunk four pints of cider, without once getting up for a wee? Then you finally give in, and the “seal is broken”. From then on, the night is pretty much sponsored by getting up to empty yourself very regularly. That first wee. That’s “breaking the seal”.
OK, maybe that’s just me. Have you ever spent ages lowering yourself into a swimming pool. Tentatively letting the water get past your waist. Then slowly covering your shoulders. Then finally being able to enjoy your time in the water. Once the “seal is broken”, everything gets easier.
Anyway, commencing a magic gig is very similar.
You have your deck ready. You apply a dab of Norwegian Formula to your fingertips. You perform your lucky shuffle (for card aficionados, my lucky shuffle is a false Hindu, followed by a quick swing cut, injogged overhand, a rifle and a waterfall) and you’re ready to go. But first, the seal has to be broken.
You scan the room for the perfect table. No. Not them. Too drunk. I’ll warm up first. No, not the table by the window. Not drunk enough. That couple look too chatty. Don’t want to interrupt them. That couple aren’t talking to each other. Don’t want to pile in half way through a domestic. That table are about to start eating. That table have finished eating, but it looks like they’ve got sticky hands. I don’t care how delicious camembert and onion marmalade are, you’re not touching my cards until you’ve got all remnants of your cheese course off your sticky digits.
It’s a minefield. That few minutes of choosing your opening table drags in your head. It’s like lowering yourself into a swimming pool. Or stockpiling cider.
But then, you spot them. The perfect opening table. Neither too drunk, too sober, too talkative or too sticky. You grab your deck, click your heels and go for it.
Good evening. My name’s Jack. And you are?
The seal is broken!
On a slightly different note, I bought some Cadbury’s Animal Biscuits the other day. On the back it said, “Do not eat if the seal is broken”. Of all the biscuits inside, I was gutted to find the seal was snapped in two. Absolutely gutted.
Jun 26 2018
So, there are these two guys in a tent. And they hear a lion outside. So one of them starts putting on his running shoes. “You’ll never outrun a lion”, says his mate. “True. But I’ll outrun you”.
Now this begs so many questions…
- Why would you go camping in lion country?
- If you were, wouldn’t you choose a better traveling companion than some twat who’ll leave you for lion food?
- What kind of PTSD will the runner suffer from when he returns for his stuff from the tent and has to step over the chewed remains of his former buddy to get his flask back?
- And what the hell has this got to do with magic? It’s a magic blog Jack. A MAGIC BLOG! Pull it round sharpish or you’ll be losing a reader.
Allow me to explain. Not long ago I was asked…
“Could you fool Penn and Teller?”.
The simple answer is no. They’re freaking geniuses. Giants of the magic world. There isn’t a sleight, peak, ruse, move, gag, misdirect, suggestion or blatant cheat in my repertoire that they haven’t studied, used or even invented. I like to think I’d entertain them. Impress them even. But fool? Nah. Can’t see that happening I’m afraid.
Fortunately for me, I don’t need to fool P&T.
I can fool a bride, a groom, a flock of bridesmaids. Top tables can be astonished. Kids can be baffled (even the cocky ones who watch like hawks and are convinced they know what you are doing). I can fool the drunk. I can fool the sober. I can fool that weird uncle who insists on showing me a trick in return. Surly teens, grumpy pensioners, screaming youths and the slightly aloof? No problem. I can them all!
So, when I was asked,
“Can you fool Penn and Teller?”
My initial response was,
“No. But I can fool you.”
Which reminded me of that joke. (See. It was there for a reason)
And made me think that I’m probably not a particularly good traveling companion if you’re toying with camping near carnivores.
In hindsight, I think I may have got the collective noun for bridesmaids wrong. Prize if anyone knows what if really is.
Jun 23 2018
I WANT A BLOON. I WANT A NEW BLOON NOW! NOW! NOW! BLOON!
Not my words. The words of the littlest Strange when her first balloon has been burst by her sister. And then her second has been let go of in the garden by her sister and is now just a dot in the sky getting smaller and smaller.
(I should point out that she had two balloons to start with, and no, that isn’t a typo. The littlest strange pronounces balloon as “bloon”. Just one syllable. Her diction is terrible.)
Anyway, the point is this. That bloon (or rather lack of it) was the most important thing in the world to that little girl at that point. Out of the whole infinite universe, everything else had disappeared in that moment. All that mattered was that bloon. It was everything. It was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD.
Compare and contrast to me driving along listening to some quiz on the radio the other day.
“Who originally had a hit with ‘I think we’re alone now’?”, chirped the DJ. The contestant on the end of the phone pondered. I thought, “I don’t care. I am not in the least bit interested. I might even channel hop or cough loudly over the answer because I am not in the least bit bothered about it.”
The point of this is that there is a spectrum of caring. At one end, there is “That is the most important thing in the world. Nothing else exists in the universe at this moment. That is all I care about”. At the other end there is, “I don’t give a <insert favourite swear here> about that. Seriously. That does not interest me one bit”
Now, this is supposed to be a magic blog. Allow me to bring it back around…
I got shown a card trick the other day. My god it was tedious. There was lots of pre arranging the cards. There was lots of deliberation. There was an awful lot of dealing, re dealing and counting. Finally, a card was passed to me to confirm that it was mine. By this time, I was at the bad end of the spectrum. I didn’t actually care anymore. Whether it was my card or not wouldn’t have made any difference. My mind was elsewhere (I’d actually half written this blog in my head). I acted impressed though. I’m not a total twat.
This is not how magic should be. I got taught a trick once by a proper magician. He got me to draw something. He looked at me in a puzzled fashion and drew something too. There was a pause and then we turned our drawings over at the same time. This time, I was at the good end of the spectrum. “There’s no way he’s also drawn an elephant with a pineapple on its head” I was thinking. As the cards were slowly turned over, that was all I could think of. It was, for that brief moment, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD. The fact that he’d drawn an elephant standing on a pineapple didn’t detract from the moment. For that short time, nothing else mattered. That’s good magic.
So what have I learned? Well for one, I learned the drawing trick. It’s very good. I use it quite a lot. Secondly I learned that magic has to be at the good end of the spectrum. If I’m performing magic I want my spectators to be looking on with eyes wide. I want it to be the most important thing in the world for them.
Finally, I learned that if the magic isn’t eliciting that reaction, then I need to give a balloon to a young child. And then burst it. And then run away very fast.
Jun 3 2018
I feel as though I know “The Greatest Showman” very well.
It’s getting watched an awful lot in the Strange household. And it’s hard to drive anywhere without the soundtrack on. “Put it on repeat Daddy”. Anyway, I can’t help but spot some similarities between PT Barnum’s life in the film and mine. No, seriously! Allow me to explain in a click-bait friendly listicle…
The waistcoat, sleeves rolled up look is de rigueur for close up magicians. And Circus entrepreneurs too. Good look Hugh. Coincidence? I don’t think so!
Hold on, are the numbers in these list articles supposed to go down or up? Sod it, I’ll just go random
Barnum loses his day job. Has to earn his bean through entertaining / deceiving people. Yup sympathise with you there PT.
3. Ballet and Circus
What do the Strange daughters love most? Yup you got it. Coincidence? I don’t think so!
5. Beard = vocal talent
The bearded lady in the film has a belting voice. No one in the Strange household is any good at growing a beard. And we all sound like cats dying when we try and sing. Coincidence? I don’t think so!
8. Veiny Forearms
I’ve blogged about this before, but me and Hugh both have veiny forearm issues. Coincidence? What do you think?
(That said, they looked pretty vein free in the film. What’s your secret Hugh? Prosthetic forearms? Implants? An arm double? In the unlikely event you’re reading this, please get in touch with arm smoothing tips.)
2. I once rescued Zac Efron from a burning building
I don’t like to talk about it though.
4. Making stuff up
Barnum had a habit of fibbing a little. Me too. Coincidence?
3. Hold on, Have I done 3 already?
I should have stuck with up or down. Random is freaking ridiculous.
7. Barnum Quotes
He’s come up with loads that really resonate.
“Leaving them wanting more”
“The noblest art is that of making others happy”
“A light-hearted blog is an excellent façade to hide the angst, stress and desperation inside”
9. Fancy Dress
And, finally, my fancy dress costume of choice is to dress as a Yak.
Well, a Yak-Man if you will. And not just a regular sized one. A huge one. Yep, I like to dress as Huge Yak-Man.
Coincidence? I don’t think so!
May 20 2018
You know, I’m going to hazard a guess that you didn’t just Google “North East Weeding Magician”.
Well, at least I hope you didn’t. I was rather hoping that you’re planning a wedding and were looking for a magician to astonish your guests and add a little magic to your big day. And that perhaps spelling isn’t your specialty.
You see, astonishing guests at weddings is my thing. It’s what I do. And, unlike many magicians, I don’t discriminate against poor spellers. So, now you’re here, have a click here to read more about wedding magic, click here to find out about my open and honest pricing, and you could even click here if you’re tempted to book me and would like to read some testimonials first.
If, however, you are here because you are looking for a weeding magician, then I’m afraid I can’t help you. I don’t actually think that weeding magic is a thing. You probably just need to pull them out yourself.
Sorry about that.
Apr 29 2018
What I’ve got you’ve got to give it to your mama
What I’ve got you’ve got to give it to your pappa
What I’ve got you’ve got to give it to your daughter
You do a little dance and then you drink a little waterGive it away give it away give it away now
Give it away give it away give it away now
Give it away give it away give it away now
I could continue, but the next verses are a bit rude. Or total gibberish. Or both.
Even so, I have quite a fondness for a bit of Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Especially this song. I get it in my head every gig. Near the end. Actually, at the very end. At the moment when I show a final trick to the “guest of honour” and then give away my deck of cards to them as a souvenir. See below…
And as I do, I’ve always have this song running around in my head. (Often the rude verse. Or the guitar bit that goes “ee-oo, ee-oo, ee-oo, ee-oo, ee-oo”). And sometimes I even daydream about dancing topless in the desert while sprayed silver. (If you aren’t familiar with the Chilli Pepper’s recorded output, you’ll totally think I’ve lost it now. Or been having too much codeine based cough medicine. Google it – I’m not making it up!)
Anyway, this begs the question – “Why give away your deck, Jack?”
The reasons are many-fold.
I’m a bit fussy about cards. I love that “new deck feeling”. Gigging with slightly used cards just isn’t as satisfying. There’s a luxury feel of a freshly opened deck. They smell good too.
And I think they make a good souvenir. It all adds to that making magical memories thing. And it shows I don’t use dodgy cards.
And, I’ve got custom printed Ace of Spades with my phone number on, so it’s a good way of advertising.
OK. Three-fold. The reasons are three-fold. Four if you include giving me a good reason to get a good tune in my head for the next hour.
This blog is dedicated to Phil. I bumped in to Phil a little while ago, and it turns out he is one of my regular blog readers! (and there aren’t many of them) Anyway, Phil is a mad keen RHCP fan and a pretty useful guitarist. Like John Frusciante but with better teeth. So, this is a thank you for reading the blog.
If you are a regular reader, get in touch with a hobby or interest and you too can have a blog dedicated to you.
Nothing weird mind.
Apr 22 2018
So, I was chatting to this cat the other day.
You know how it is with cats. I was coming out of Bill’s fish and chip shop on the seafront, he was sitting outside begging. I gave him a bit of cod. We got chatting. Cats are like that.
Anyway, he was a fascinating cat. Turns out he was very old. And Austrian. And once he got a bit of cod, it was hard to stop him talking. The conversation went like this…
CAT: I used to be pretty famous you know. Back in the 30s I was all over the papers.
ME: What for? You weren’t a magician were you? Or a magician’s cat? More cod?
CAT: Mmmm please. No, I was a physicists cat. Though to be honest, he didn’t treat me terribly well. He actually got famous by locking me in a box one time and trying to poison me.
ME: The bastard! Did you survive?
CAT: It was touch and go. At one point I was alive. One point I was dead. Most of the time I was a bizarre mixture of both waiting for an observer to look at me and decide my fate. Went from 9 lives to 6 in that box, I’m telling you. More cod please.
ME: You know what, I know just what you mean. I got invited to a Golden Wedding the other week, and asked to do some magic too. I was a guest, a magician, and often both at the same time. Look – I’ve got some photos on my phone – look at the confusion in my face – can’t decide who am I!
CAT: They’re nice. Is that you doing magic for your own daughter there and being a bizarre mixture of daddy and magician at the same time?
ME: Sure is.
CAT: You know you ought to publish those. Make a phlog of them.
ME: Thank you. I will. And in honour of your old scientist mate, I’ll name it after him. What was he called?
CAT: Erwin. Call it Erwin’s phlog. Hold on. Use his surname. It’s got an accent in it. It’ll make your phlog seem exotic.
ME: Cheers. Here finish this cod, you inspirational little feline.
CAT: Thanks Jack. You do realise that you’re hallucinating this whole thing. Cats don’t live to 90. Austrian cats don’t speak English. If you ask me, that bizarre mixture of codeine based cough medicine, Lemsip and spiced rum you’ve taken seems to have let your mind run away from you. Cheers for the cod though. Have a safe journey home. Good luck explaining the empty fish and chip boxes to your family.
ME: Hmmm. Good points furry boy. Still going to phlog those photos though.
After I’ve bought some replacement cod.
Apr 11 2018
You know, I’m not very keen on darts.
I’m also not that keen on coin magic.
And the reasons are pretty similar. Allow me to elaborate…
Darts first. There are so many games out there that are truly skillful. My particular favourites are backgammon, poker, chess and, of course, ker-plunk. You pit yourself against another player. A battle of wills ensues. Your next move depends on theirs. As James Bond himself said in Casino Royale, “You play your opponent, not the cards”. (In the lesser known book, “Ker-plunk Royale”, he uses the phrase, “you play your opponent, not the straws”. But, I digress.) The point is, the opponent isn’t just part of the game, they are the game.
Darts though is a bit shit in comparison. You really don’t give flying fig what your opponent does. They might as well not even be there. No darts player would ever think, “Ooh, they just missed the board entirely. I’ll see if I can spell out my phone number with the next few arrows. Just for a laugh.”, or “Ooh, that was a cunning throw you worthy adversary, I’d best pull my Sicilian Defence out of the bag”. Of course not. They just think, “Lets try and score as much as possible. Again. Treble twenty is probably a good bet”. It really doesn’t matter if your opponent is any good or not. You just keep doing what you do.
Now, I hate to seem so negative. There are good points about darts. It’s great for teaching youths their 3 times table. And take aways. And it’s good for promoting a competitive streak amongst the less svelte who typically aren’t terribly sporty. It’s just never going to be an intellectually stimulating, interaction between two people.
Which brings me to coin magic.
There’s not much to be done with coins. They disappear. They reappear. They leap from one hand to another. That’s it. No one gets surprised by coin magic. Impressed maybe. But not surprised. Not ASTONISHED. No one has sleepless nights wondering how that coin got behind that child’s ear. Spectators are just that – spectators. They don’t play a part. There is no interaction between the astonisher and astonishee. The poor spectator just watches coins doing their thing. Disappearing, reappearing, leaping from one hand to another. Good magic should involve people. Make them feel a part of it. Coins don’t cut it for me. In the same way that darts can never hold a candle to ker-plunk.
Coin magic is skillful. Don’t get me wrong. It’s very hard to get good at. But then again so is darts. It just seems an awful lot of effort for something that is a bit, well, unsatisfying and uninvolving.
However, people love darts. And, it would seem, people love coin magic too. I did some at a gig, and, annoyingly, it went down a storm. Some people it would seem have no taste.
But, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to try and do it properly. The classic of coin trickery is to make THREE coins appear from nowhere, then disappear again. So, that is what I’m currently trying to perfect. As these pictures show, I’ve already mastered the second half of it.*
The good news – it may uninvolving, but it’s 3 times more uninvolving than the standard version.
The bad news – it costs me 30p every time I do it.
* How dare you suggest these are staged photos! Of course I can do it! Click here for proof!
Apr 1 2018
See that picture?
Snapped that at Whitley Bay Easter Fair. A ride with a license to thrill. Seriously. It’s actually been properly licensed to thrill.
And that’s what I was thinking about as I watched it spin around and bounce up and down in a “hello breakfast” fashion. (It took my mind off the fact that I felt a bit foolish while holding spouse’s glittery handbag while she and daughter coaxed up their breakfasts on said ride. I tried to hold it with confidence. You know, a “this is my bag, I can totally pull off this look” kind of way. I didn’t hold it at arm’s length or anything. Draped it over my shoulder. Felt quite good actually. Was a little reluctant to give it back. Sorry, totally gone off on a tangent there.)
Back to the point. I was totally taken with the idea of being licensed to thrill. Imagine it. If a fairground ride can gain that license, surely a close up magician can. (I admit, I’d prefer “license to astonish” over thrill, astonishing being my USP, but even so).
Having a license to thrill would look great on advertising. Currently I’m licensed to drive A, B, B1, C, C1, BE, C1E and D1E. And conduct pagan weddings. Oh, and own a TV. But I’d love a licence to thrill. It would make queuing up at the sorting office all the more exciting if my ID was a bonafide thrilling licence. Imagine the looks of awe as they handed over the parcel. Priceless.
Anyway, long story short, don’t think it’s actually a thing. Googled it and found a documentary featuring Paul Hollywood driving sportscars.
So, instead of “Jack Strange: licensed to thrill”, I’m going for “Jack Strange: enjoys thrilling as a hobby, but not affiliated to any official regulatory bodies authorised to issue a license”.
Probably going to need to choose a small font to get that on the business card.
Mar 25 2018
I’ve got in a bit of a grump with social media.
And it’s not the whole Facebook/data/Cambridge thing. I just don’t like what it can do to people. Like me. Allow me to elaborate…
I bought a homeless guy a pasty and a cup of tea the other week. I was getting myself baked goods from an Artisan Patisserie (Grégoires), he was outside looking hungry so I got two. Now that is not the issue, the problem is that I instantly thought this would make a great tweet. 140 characters to tell the world (or actually about 20 people in fairness) just how generous and charitable I am. Then I realised that would make me a dick. A kind act is a kind act whether or not you tell anyone about it. Einstein once said “I like to think the moon is still there even if I don’t look at it”. He was talking about his issues with quantum mechanics, but the point still holds; I like to think that kind acts exist regardless of whether they are observed or not.
The opposite is true. Shortly after my pasty experience, I did something decidedly unbragworthy. Did I compose a tweet, “Just blocked a toilet in Fenwick’s with a poo like a crocodile’s tail. Four flushes and nothing. Covered it in a loo roll shroud and ran off”? Of course not. Never even crossed my mind.
This whole editing of one’s life bothers me. I feel uneasy reporting the good if I don’t mention in equal measure the bad. For every pasty, a blockage. For every “helped an old lady across the road”, a “drove without due care and attention and mounted the pavement”. For every “Amazed the bride and groom with magic today”, a “knocked over the wedding cake at today’s gig. Blamed the page boy”. For every “gig went really well tonight”, an “avoided tax today by just putting loads of cash in my drawer”.
And there’s more. A little while ago, the littler Strange spent her holiday money on a magic trick. Then I put a video of her performing it on my Facebook page. It was adorable! However, This also made me uneasy. She spent the next few days badgering me… “How many likes has my video got, has it got any more comments, can I make another one, can I have my own page?”
Social media can make us needy. I’m guilty of it too. And a bit ashamed. Not that I’ll be posting that of course.
On the other hand though, I’ll be releasing some new magic videos on Facebook soon. I’d really appreciate if you could like them, comment on them and share them please. Oh, and if you could promote my page too, I’d be ever so grateful.
In return, I might buy you a pasty. And promise not to block your toilet.
Mar 15 2018
When one of your heroes dies, it gets you thinking,“What made them a hero”
With Stephen Hawking, there were so many things. Loads.
Did I admire him because he lived 55 years after the doctors gave him 2 at most?
Did I admire that he revolutionised cosmology?
How about the fact that he performed the most complex calculations and abstract deductions in his head? (Einstein it is said used the back of an envelope to formulate relativity. Hawking didn’t have that luxury)
Maybe it’s because he wrote a book so tricky I never understood it, yet so compelling I tried several times?
Was it his morals? Hawking refused a knighthood and was a fierce critic of Health Service reforms. I liked that.
Truth is, I admired Hawking for all these reasons.
But mostly, I admired the fact that he devoted his life to something totally and utterly pointless.
No, seriously. Cosmology is irrelevant. Knowing whether a black hole will lose mass has no bearing whatsoever in everyday life. Postulating if time will run backwards in the event of a big crunch will impact no one. Not a single person. Pondering the start of the universe and time itself will never create jobs or wealth. No problems on Earth are even closely addressed by considering the universe as an 11-dimensional entity. Physics can be useful or interesting. Cosmology is interesting. But never useful.
And that is why I love everything that Hawking stood for. He sought answers just to know answers. Not to be useful. That his cosmology made us a little wiser was reason enough for doing it. The fact that it also made eyes open a little wider, hearts beat a little faster and passions about space, time and physics become encouraged was a bonus. The fact that he inspired a generation through something totally useless is exhilarating.
I show people card tricks for a living. Which is also kind of pointless. Not in the same league of course, but still no benefit to society whatsoever. But, thanks to to Stephen Hawking, I’m OK with that.
RIP Stephen Hawking. You inspired loads of people to follow their dreams. Even useless ones. Thank you.
Feb 28 2018
Me: Give me a blog topic
Me: (about a month later) Ta Dah!
I like to think I’m the direct opposite of Twitter’s Donald Trump.
An “Anti Trump” if you will.
(An anti-trump sounds like it might be a thing. Sucking back a fart before it escapes. I’ll stop now)
No, what I mean is we are as opposite as it’s possible to be. For example, I love everything Scandinavian. The liberal, socialist, eco-friendly, high taxing, low gun crime utopia of Scandinavia sounds idyllic to me. I especially like IKEA. Trump on the other hand, not terribly keen on such values. Quite against all of them in fact. I bet he doesn’t even like Norwegian crime fiction. Or flat pack.
Our tolerances differ too. I’m tolerant of peaceful protest, and INtolerant of Nazis, domestic abuse and school shootings. See, total opposites again.
I could keep going; climate change, science, racism, use of social media, abuse of power, nepotism, sexism. I like to think that there is NOTHING we agree on. As for arming teachers. I know teachers. They would never pass a background check. Most of them are far from mentally stable. Once again, me and Donald disagree.
Now, this probably begs a few questions…
“You’re both compulsive liars though. Explain that Strange”. Yeah. OK. But, that’s my job. I get paid to deceive. And that involves a little fibbing. Just little ones though. Things like, “…and the deck’s vanished”. (Fib. I just put it in my pocket when you weren’t looking). Or, “I can tell from that glint in your eye that you’re thinking of the four of clubs.” (Total fib. I know what you’re thinking because I planted the seed earlier! Seriously. As if I could get that from a glint!) I don’t however come out with malicious whoppers. “The last magician had crowds much smaller than these” or “No Russian magicians helped me learn these tricks” for example.
“You’re both rubbish at growing hair though. Maybe you two are similar after all. You big loser”. OK, I’ll give you that. But we do approach it in different ways. I like to think that my sleek, shaved look exudes style, possibly even sophistication, whereas his elaborate, 40 minute each morning, coiffing makes him look like a dick.
“But Jack, you self indulgent but well groomed buffoon”, I hear you cry, “What the flip has this to do with magic? This is supposed to be a magic blog…blah, blah blah… you’ll not be 56th best on the internet anymore, and you can’t even do political satire, it’s neither funny, nor hard hitting, and has stuff all to do with magic”
Now, that I grant you is a fair point. Allow me to address it. There is one final difference. One magical difference. One that will make sense of this whole rather disjointed blog.
You see, I love palming cards. (For any aficionados, my preferred version is the Roberto Giobbi one handed top palm. Though other palms are available. See video. Of course, the flicking of a card into the palm of the hand is normally done with a face down deck. This vid kind of gives it away a little)
Palming involves hiding a card in your palm without anyone noticing. When I was first learning, I used to just keep a card palmed for as long as I could just to make sure no one would notice. My record was just under a week.
And, that is the difference. The big, big difference. Trump doesn’t just hate palming cards. He just can’t. As these pictures demonstrate.
If you’re reading this Donald, you should realise now this wasn’t political satire. Just a magic blog. A rather lazy blog about magic. A blog about the art of the card palm. That’s all. Just a guy with regular sized hands blogging about palming.
You tiny handed freak.
Feb 3 2018
Ah, writer’s block.
You’ve got something to say, you just don’t know how to say it.
That’s writer’s block.
You know what it’s like; you make a resolution (a new year one obviously, no one makes February resolutions) to keep the website updated with fortnightly updates. A month goes by and nada. Zilch. Nothing.
Inspiration deserts you. The words just can’t be found.
Social media was no use either. Cheers for the rubbish suggestions you shower of bastards. HS2? Left vs right? Game of bloody Thrones? Seriously, you’re not helping.
There was a time when the blogs just rolled out of my thoughts. Wit and insight mingled with hidden depths. (Very hidden usually). They practically wrote themselves. Magic self promotion oozed from the screen like honey oozing from a broken jar, clumsily knocked off the shelf by a cack handed four year old. Now however, words desert me like a cack handed four year old running off because she’s been asked to clean up her sticky mess.
Do you know the recommended minimum word count for a blog? Three hundred words. Yes, you read that right, three hundred words. And do you know what I’m up to so far? Two hundred and three. (Actually two hundred and seven now)
What’s happened? My inspiration has run dry. I’m a shadow of my former self. A husk. I’ve lost my mojo.
(235. Keep going Jack)
Fortunately, I’m a better magician than I am a blogger. I wouldn’t be getting many bookings if a husk turned up to entertain the guests.
Nearly there. Good God, it’s been a slog. This is definitely an album track blog. Not a single. Certainly not a “when gigs go bad”.
- Fourteen left.
Phew. Sorry about that.
Proper blog next time.
Jack the Husk.
Dec 31 2017
2017 was a reasonably eventful year, so here is a rather self indulgent round up.
Firstly, the word “Phlog” aka “PHotographic bLOG”. Originally coined back in January ’17 it has grown in popularity. In fact, it was only narrowly pipped to “Colin’s dictionary’s word of the year” by “covfefe”. (Note, that is Colin’s dictionary. Not the world famous Collin’s dictionary. Colin is just some bloke who wanders around Shields in his slippers sipping cider from a bottle in a brown paper bag whilst jotting his favourite words in crayon on the inside of a cornflake packet. I very much doubt the folks at Collin’s have even heard of the word “phlog”, let alone considered it for their word of the year.)
Anyway, to business. Phlog wasn’t just a catchy new word. It was also a genius way to update blogs section of the website with minimum effort. Why spend ages thinking up witty comment, when you can throw together a page full of photos in a matter of minutes. so, without further ado, photo highlights of 2017…
Spring – black and white after hours astonishment
It’s not often I find myself in a dinner jacket after a formal dinner sipping martinis in a bar so stylish it is permanently black and white. But if I do, the best thing to do is randomly entertain the glamorous strangers while getting my boozing buddy to take snaps on my phone! Ta Da! these phlogs just write themselves sometimes.
The best part? These weren’t just typical boozers, but actors fresh from a show at the Theatre Royal! And vaguely famous! One of them even known for her part in Emmerdale! (Should Bafta’s beckon, if any of you are reading this, then what better way to celebrate than a lavish party with a close up magician….)
Easter – Lots of change aka “rings part 1”
When everything suddenly changes in your life you can be taken aback. So, the old phrase, “Lot’s of change? fit some gymnastics rings in your garage and do some exercise” seemed terribly apt. That’s daughter number two – showing me how it’s done. Getting from step 2 to 3 on that diagram is still eluding me.
Because, you know, practising gymnastics rings exercises is kind of like practising magic. And it’s satisfyingly tricky. And also, no one in their right mind wants to book a flabby magician now do they.
Summer – Rings part 2
It’s good to try new things. And rings part 1 was so satisfying, I dabbled with rings part 2. Linking rings to be precise. The good news? Mastered the first 8 seconds of the routine. Bad news? Kind of got waylaid and never mastered the rest. Oh well. It’s on the list of resolutions for next year…
Late Summer – Another season, another short lived fad
I was quite pleased with my 8 second ring video, so I made more! And even put a videos page on the website. Here it is! I pledged to make a video a week. As before, kind of got waylaid. I did, however, promise to put out a video pandering to the whims of Facebook. “Choose a prop” I urged. When I get to 500 likes, the video will appear!
Bad news – overwhelmingly everyone went for knives and blowtorch. Ouchy.
Good news – months later, still languishing in the low 400s! Phew!
Autumn – Teeside magician
SEO is a tricky beast to master. Despite my best efforts, I’m not at the top of the searches for a Newcastle Magician. However, Teeside and Mewcastle I do very well in. In the Autumn, I seemed to spend most of my time astonishing in Teeside. I even found myself getting used to that accent! And, it led to some one of the best phlogs yet. “Smogophlog”. Belting gig that one.
Winter approaches – mid life crisis
Yeah I bought a motorbike. Nothing to do with magic. But it’s lots of fun. And like rings part 1 and rings part 2, it’s fun to learn new things (did you know that to go right, you steer left? Every day’s a school day!). I had great plans to illustrate this with a photo of the daughters perched upon the bike. Instead, found this photo of daughter one showing a fondness for biking some years ago. Helmet, leathers and riding lessons for her birthday I reckon…
Coastal living and repetitive social media
I like living by the sea. And I’m rubbish at social media. The result: Every time I see a nice view over the sea, I tweet it. Consequently, Twitter has been treated to near identical photos over the North Sea in 2017. I can’t help it. Tynemouth pier is lush.
Stunning. Sorry they’re a bit samey.
2017 – year of the phlog!
30 minutes! Seriously, phlogging is so quick! Photos, mindless description, job’s a good one. You can’t beat a good phlog. Next year’s resolutions: master rings (twice). Eventually reach 500 Facebook likes and film dangerous magic (not really in a great hurry for that though). Tweet less repetitively – no more than one sunrise over Tynemouth pier per month.
And phlog every now and again too.
Nov 26 2017
So, I’ve just bought a motorbike.
It’s bloody amazing! I love it!
I’ve decided to call it Cilla (not after my second favourite Scouser, but for the same reason my last two cars have been called “Barry” and “Ron”. Prize if you can work that one out…)
I can hear you saying, “Whoop de freaking do Jack. I’m very happy for you and your mid life crisis, but what the flip has this got to do with magic? This is supposed to be a magic blog. If I’m not mistaken, the 56th best on the internet*. You’d best turn this around sharpish or you’ll be losing one of blog readers. And it’s not like you’ve got many.”
Harsh but fair. I’ll see what I can do…
I could dress it up as an exercise in suggestion and mind control. How I persuaded Mrs Strange this was a good idea. How I used psychological subtleties in the same way I do when persuade people to think of exactly the right playing card in Houdini’s Favourite Trick (details here!).
Except that wasn’t the case. She was actually quite keen. Maybe it was because I said I’d take her out on the back of it. Or maybe because I told her I’d got plenty of life insurance.
Nope, can’t pretend this was about suggestion.
How about a money saving thing? I do loads of gigs south of the river at £3.06 a tunnel toll every time. Motorbikes go free! This new fad will pay for itself in just 555 gigs time!
No, it wasn’t about economising either.
Truth is, the bike isn’t about magic. But it is connected to a couple of recent blogs.
A while ago, I blogged about doing something everyday to scare you. Blasting along really quite fast, flies pinging off your visor, the tarmac a hard grey blur inches away is a little scary. But good scary. Really good scary. Make you grin scary.
I also blogged about things making you go “woah”. That is the whole point of magic. Or astrophysics for that matter. Or biking. If you find something that makes you go “woah”, you should keep doing it.
And Cilla gives me woahs.
A lorra, lorra woahs.
*Daren’t even look at the rankings now. Probably slipped a bit after this one.
Nov 3 2017
“I’d love it if you could send me some photos for my website please”
And you know what, quite often photographers, brides, party organisers etc oblige by sending me some class pictures of me doing my thing for well dressed and sometimes lightly inebriated party guests.
Anyway, to the point! One of my favourite gigs of 2017 was a wedding in Middlesbrough. The trickery went down well, the guests were thoroughly good company, and at the end of the gig, the bride asked for a photo with me! I felt like a celebrity for a moment.
Note to self, practice the “Someone wants a photo with me” smile. I look a bit awkward in this one.
Still well chuffed with the rest of the photos though!
* “Phlog” is an abbreviation for “photo blog”. I was hoping it would be word of the year, but it hasn’t caught on. Not one bit. “Smoggy” is an affectionate term for Middlesbroughians. Smog-o-blog is meant to mean Middlesbrough wedding photo blog. Mark my words, it’ll be in a dictionary near you soon.
Oct 11 2017
You know, performing magic is about as good as a job gets.
You get invited to parties. Lots of parties. You get to do your thing. Create astonishment. Promote gasps, screams and childlike awe. It’s great! I bloody love it. However, there are some moments that are awkward. Every now and again, gigs go bad.
So, for your sick and twisted pleasure, I’d like to give a quick countdown of some of the more memorable (but not in a good way) gigs. Place names have been changed subtly to avoid any embarrassment.
7. “ Excuse me Mr Strange,The Bridesmaids have asked if you could go to room 216 please. They would like a private performance.” Shmangley Castle.
Who am I kidding! That wasn’t a bad moment. Just couldn’t resist putting it in here.
6. Best man’s speech Morph Shields
Oh boy. Sometimes best man’s speeches are “a bit racy”. Sometimes, they slightly cross the line. I think I get to see a lot more than most people given my line of work. None come close to this one. Offensive? Oh yes. Slanderous? Certainly. Made me feel very uneasy about being in the presence of the groom? You betcha. Enough to make the whole bride’s family leave, giving me an hour to fill with only eight guests left. Eight guests, a really awkward atmosphere and a groom I was shit scared of. Yep. Exactly that. In hindsight, maybe deserves to be slightly higher up the list than number 6.
5. Freezing and seasick on the Shmields Ferry
It doesn’t bode well when 5 minutes into the 3 hour gig, as the party boat leaves Tynmeouth to briefly explore the North Sea, and you feel seasick. (Oops forgot, changing the names! Shymnemouth. The boat left Shymnemouth. Sailed briefly into the Morph sea.)
Worse still, the cold Morph sea air freezes your fingertips making sleight of hand all but impossible. The gig was interspersed with visits to the toilet to warm fingers under hot water. And visits to the deck to to gulp in air in a bid to feel better. It was a long three hours.
4. Groom’s Speech Morphumberland
So, I found myself astonishing in the far corner of the room as the groom stood up to make his speech. My gig was now over, but I couldn’t get out. Not without walking right in front of the groom himself. It was a very moving speech. There were tears. Lots of tears. After standing trapped in the corner for 45 minutes, I was seriously looking at windows to climb out of. Could I crawl behind the top table unnoticed? Would such behaviour be frowned upon? After an hour, I climbed onto the lower platform of the sweet trolley and used my hands to wheel myself (mostly) unnoticed out of the room.
3. Bitey encounter in Splennymoor
Normally I don’t mind a little drunkenness when I’m doing magic. It often makes the job easier. The restrained Brits can get David Blaine audience style levels of excitement when they’ve been slightly lubricated with booze. However, 100 rat arsed teenagers squeezed into a club in County Durham (Oops, sorry County Shmurham) was not one of my best magical memories. I remember saying, “You’re thinking of the Queen of Hearts”, and hearing the astonished spectator loudly issue a profanity. The next thing I knew, I was issuing the exact same profanity at the exact same volume. My reason? Her friend had just bitten me. On the arm. Quite firmly. Whether my new suit made me look like an item from the buffet, whether the bite was a County Shmurham way of saying, “We don’t like your witchcraft round here. Start running before we burn you”, or whether it was meant of a sign of approval for a trick well performed, I’ll never know. I just know it bloody hurt. And it scared the bejesus out of me.
2. “Could I get paid now”, fighty, drunk groom Shmunderland
I prefer to get paid in advance. It avoids any embarrassing or awkward moments when you have to ask for payment as your gig ends. So, when the guy looking after your envelope of cash is very drunk and has just had a very public scrap with his best man it makes you feel even more uneasy. The fact that he started chewing on your playing cards and spitting out the pieces at you confirms your unease. It must be an awkward moment when you consider leaving unpaid.
1. The Gocter and Pramble incident
It was quite a coup to get a three hour booking from a leading Morph East company. And it was mostly very good. Notable for the woman who kept exclaiming “OMG!” at every trick. (Why one would use an acronym that takes as long to say as the actual phrase was beyond me, but I didn’t mind. It’s always nice to be appreciated.) A year after the booking though, I still can’t bring myself to talk about “the incident”. Bloody hell G&P! Your employees are animals. I still boycott Shmariel, Fabreans, and would never ever have anything to do with Shmerbal Essences again. I’m shuddering just thinking about it.
Thankfully such incidents are pretty rare.
And at least if gigs ever go bad again, it’s like the blogs are practically writing themselves.
Sep 30 2017
- Sometimes, it’s good to feel “THE FEAR”.
You know that feeling when you pull off a risky overtake in a not terribly speedy hatchback and pull back in just before a whopping great big logging wagon flies past in the other direction? Your heart’s pounding. You forget to breathe. You feel alive! No? Just me then?
Or how about that feeling when you weave through the traffic on a fixed wheel bike? Knowing you’re only a quickly opened door or a swerving Transit away from lying spread eagled on a warm car bonnet. Once again. It’s quite a buzz. No? Just me again then?
Or how about that feeling as casino security waves through to the vault? As you wear your navy blue suit, holding a clipboard, hoping to god that they don’t look too closely at your freshly laminated security pass, or ask you to open your briefcase containing cutting tools? No? Seriously? Just me again then?
Or even that feeling when you quit your reasonably lucrative day job (twice!) in order to earn a crust by getting invited to parties to show magic tricks despite the protestations of your hungry family. “Not bean on toast again daddy.” I get it. Just me. OK. This is getting ridiculous.
Even so, there’s a lot to be said for feeling “THE FEAR”.
Magicians maybe don’t get it, but the (slightly weirder) entertainers known as escapologists certainly do. “Can I escape these shackles before… I get impaled by spikes / plummet to my doom / get run over by a roller coaster / drown / get licked by these really rough tongued cats?” You get the drift. Real fear. Real excitement. Really feeling alive.
Escapologist thrive on a bit of fear. And, audiences lap it up. As do the cats.
So, is there a way I can inject THE FEAR into close up magic? Heart stopping, stomach in the mouth fear?
Well no. Not impaled by spikes / licked by rough tongued cats fear anyway. But I do manage to inject a little (Houdini inspired) fear every gig. You see, Houdini himself once said the finest trick possible was a card trick. A trick where the magician places a card face down on the table. Commits himself if you will. Then he asks a spectator to think of a card and name it out loud. Then he asks them to slowly turn over the tabled card…
As you can imagine, if you can pull off “Houdini’s favourite trick”, you have a seriously magical moment on your hands. Breathtakingly magical. Gaspingly magical. Can’t get to sleep that night wondering how on earth it was done magical. Get it wrong, and you look like a big buffoon. A dipshit. A chancer. Not magical at all.
So, that’s how I get “THE FEAR” doing close up magic. Place down that card and commit myself. The next minute is pure fear. Like being on the wrong side of the road as the logging wagon draws closer. Will I pull it off and create astonishment, or fall into the buffoon / dipshit / chancer category? (I’m pleased to say it’s usually the former. I am quite good at this kind of thing you know).
What’s that? You don’t believe card magic can ever be scary? How about you come along to my next gig and feel “THE FEAR” for yourself?
I’ll even give you a lift there.
Through logging country…
Sep 17 2017
At the risk of offending fellow magicians, I bloody hate card flourishes.
(Sorry to all you flourishers of cards out there; please allow me to explain.)
For the non cardy folks who are bewildered as to what the hell I’m on about, flourishes are the fancy cuts, dribbles, fans, digital gymnastics and skillful moves with playing cards. aka “just showing off”. This kind of thing…
You’re probably wondering what my grudge is? Jealousy that I can’t do it myself (I can’t). Bitterness about being assaulted by a card flourisher? (No. I got over that). Bad memories of a really painful paper cut following a badly orchestrated flourish? (Again no. Mental and physical scars have now healed)
I don’t like them because for me they take away the beauty of what card magic is all about. It’s all about magic. It’s all about astonishment. It’s about being transported to a childlike state of awe and disbelief. It’s not meant to be be about being impressed by a skillful display. (Quick aside – skillful displays are all well and good. Jugglers perform skillful displays. As do trapeze artists. For that matter, so do plasterers and landscape gardeners. I’ve got nothing against displays of skill. It’s just they are not as good as magic.)
A good piece of magic makes you disbelieve your eyes and gasp audibly. A skillful flourish just makes you realise that the card magician in front of you doesn’t get out much. Worse, it can make one believe that instead of witnessing something miraculous, they have just been watching something very skillful and clever. Skillful and clever, but ultimately not magical.
“Its not ROIDE Sally ROIDE, it’s ROIDE Sally ROIDE“
The Commitments is a great film. I particularly like the line above. But there’s a scene in it that goes along the lines I’m whinging about here. When the sax player gets into Jazz, he gets berated by the trumpet player for distracting from the songs.
“Jazz spirals”, he is told. “Soul has corners. What you’re doing is musical masturbation. Stop it”. (Or something like that anyway. It was probably a bit swearier in the film. “Stop it you big bollix”, or “Feckin’ stop it you big gobshite” for example.)
That’s how I feel about flourishes. They spiral. They take away the point. They take away the soul. Magical masturbation if you will. Consequently, my magic will be high on magic, low on flourishes.
And also, I’m not very good at them.
Sep 5 2017
There are some questions that I get asked more than others…
“Can you make my wife disappear?”*
“Have you been on Britain’s got Talent?”**
“Can I order half pizza and half pasta?”***
“What time do you finish?”****
And of course, “Do you rotate your tricks, in a similar fashion to how medieval farmers would rotate their crops in the 14th Century?”*****
The answer to the rotation question is
I’m afraid to say, “No”.
You see, I’ve developed a four part set that I’m very proud of. A set that rotating just wouldn’t work on. I commence a first lap with of sleight of hand trickery. A starter if you will of appetising tricks, dusted with a soupcon of misdirection. My second lap, the palette cleansing sorbet, takes this a step further – twisting minds with seemingly impossible results. Lap three (main course) delves into the darker side of trickery. Psychology. Mental shit. Suggestion. The kind of stuff that keeps you awake at night. I bloody love lap three! Finally, if the crowd is just right, I do lap 4. The best magic trick in the world. Seriously. The whole freaking world. It’s got sleight of hand. It’s got psychology. It’s got misdirection. It gets more gasps, faints, swears, and astonished faces than any other part of my set. I bloody love lap 3. Lap 4 is even better. Seriously, I can barely contain myself during lap 4.
So, in answer to the question, “Do I rotate?”, the answer is “Hell no.”
That would be akin to having your trifle before your roast beef. Your calzone before your minestrone. Your thermidor before your amuse bouche. Your… well you get the idea. No rotating!
*See dedicated blog on this topic.
** No. Though I did once get invited to an audition. I declined. I’m quite camera shy. And it would make a mockery of the witness protection program.
*** Typically this only happens at Italian Restaurant gigs.
**** Yeah, kind of made that one up a bit.
***** Never. Never been asked this. Just made the mistake of putting “Give me a blog topic” on social media. Thanks a bunch Gary T via Twitter. you big gobshite. I hope you’re satisfied.
Aug 1 2017
I apologise if you’re finding the phlogs a little tedious.
However, when I find good photos of magic in action, it seems a shame not to post them. These are a few of my favourite reaction shots that have arisen whilst being a magician in the North East.
Sometimes people swear when they see good magic, sometimes their jaws drop in astonishment. Sometimes they make a face like the ones below. Very occasionally, they may soil themselves, but thankfully that is very rare.
If you fancy having your guests make faces like these at your next event, get in touch, and I’ll add a little magic for you!
Jul 22 2017
You know, I find my veiny forearms quite embarrassing. (Note, that’s fore arms, not four arms. I don’t have four veiny arms. Euugh!)
I find shaking my arms above my head does the trick – but that’s not the kind of thing that goes down well during a walk around magic gig. (“Darling, why is that man waving like he’s drowning over by the top table”). There’s also another cure I’ve found that involves persuading blood to flow elsewhere. But that is even more inappropriate than the drowning wave.
So, I googled “veiny forearms” hoping to find a cure. You know what? The top searches were, “how do I get veiny forearms?”. Apparently it’s a thing! Hugh Jackman’s are regarded as a very fine example. Apparently, it shows you’re lean. I’m still not keen though. Unveined would be my preferred look.
I know what you’re thinking. “Wear sleeves you vain freak!”(unintentional pun there!) Good advice, but if I may refer you back to an earlier blog, sleeveless magic is much stronger.
Happily I’ve found a solution! And it’s all down to one of my heroes, Penn Jillette. You see, Penn always performs magic with his little finger nail painted red. Ever noticed? Of course not. It’s the ultimate misdirection. His magic is so strong, no one notices.
And so that is my (much less embarrassing than my other methods) technique of hiding them. Look at this picture; arms out, everyone looking elsewhere! Misdirected by astonishment!
So now, I’m happy to perform, sleeves rolled up knowing my grotesque veininess will go totally unnoticed! Unless of course I’m performing for some weird Hugh Jackman fans. They’re welcome to have a good look.
Jul 14 2017
I like making “Phlogs”.
Whereas writing a blog takes a little forethought and planning and something interesting to write about, making a photo blog (aka phlog) just relies on putting together some photos of magic.
So, here is the latest phlog in the series. “Kebabophlog”…
Picture the scene, the magic circle dinner has finished, as we hang around looking well dressed outside Munchies on the Haymarket waiting for a cab, it seems a shame not to pass the time with a little trickery. And photos of the magic make a handy phlog post some time later!
In case your’e interested, the trick I’m showing is the one I learnt from Oleg “the Bandit” Halvorsen as featured in the blog of the same name. It’s still one of my favourites.
And it’s particularly suited to performing late at night. Outside a kebab shop.
Jul 3 2017
Thanks go to Geoff and Hollie for inviting me to their lush wedding, and Alan Mason photography for letting me reproduce his classy pictures here.
Oh, and of course to the Vermont Hotel for being a pretty darn stylish venue!
May 21 2017
…and you know they’ll call you back. According to Bobby Womack anyway. (depending on the online quote reference you use, according to PT Barnum, or Quentin Tarantino)
Anyway, regardless of who said it, I maintain it’s good advice. Certainly if you’re in the close up magic business. When I find myself at a table with a crowd to entertain, I find the best amount of magic to show them is slightly less than they’d really like. Only slightly less mind; you don’t want to make them cross. I find a finely crafted 10 minute set that whets the appetite to be an ideal aperitif. And then, once astonishment has been shown to them, they’re eager to call you back for more (a main course if you like, if we’re keeping the food servings analogy going)
I like to make the next serving even better. So the crowd are wanting more still (a pudding if you will) The next course better still (Cheese? Coffee? Nightcap?)
I’m with Bobby on this. It’s far better to leave them wanting more – “come back!”, than to give them too much and leave them wanting less – “go away!”.
I think it’s valuable advice.
Unless of course you run an all you can eat buffet. Or sell fabric by the metre. Or clean things. Or build houses. Or drive a taxi. Or cut hair.
Actually in hindsight, it’s rubbish advice to all but the entertainment industry.
But I’ll stick with it for now.
Apr 15 2017
There’s a top phrase in the North East about those who are more confident getting more than those who are shy.
It’s got the word “Bairns” in it too. (Which is Geordie for “youths”)
Anyway, I was reminded of this phrase when last week I thought I ought to go and seek some more gigs. I usually laze around waiting for them to come to me, but with the Geordie phrase echoing around my head, I went in search of some magical employment. I actually forget the phrase, but it’s something like…
“Bairns who are shy tend to find they get a lot less than the more confident bairn”. Or something like that. I’m sure it’s shorter and more to the point though.
I was pleased with the results. Very pleased. One local restaurant was eager to book me for all their events, and another liked my idea of putting on magic nights for their diners.
I was about to say that I will definitely get hundreds of booking from this, but then I was reminded of another pertinent phrase.
“If you have several eggs, it is not wise to assume that each single egg will contain a chicken. If you make such an assumption, then you are likely to be disappointed if you find that you have less chickens that you were expecting”
Again, I’m sure it’s shorter and more to the point than that.
You get the gist though.
Apr 2 2017
So, a little while ago, I came up with the phrase “Phlog” (aka photo – blog) Read all about it here!
It still has filtered through into everyday speak. But it will.
Anyway, here’s something similar -the “Botaphlog”! So, I found myself in The Botanist in Newcastle the other night, sharply dressed in a dinner jacket with a pack of cards in my pocket. It seemed a shame not to astonish some of the drinkers with a little impromptu trickery.
(Note – The Botanist isn’t actually black and white – I did that later. Partly to make the photos look more stylish, partly to try and get rid of red-eye from the camera flash)
Jan 30 2017
Is this a blog?
Or a blatant attempt to rise up the Google rankings?
Actually, it’s a little of both. You see, I’d love to appear as number one on the listings when people type “Newcastle Magician” into Google, but sadly I don’t. Curse you Graeme Shaw!
So, I got to thinking. Maybe I need to appeal to a different demographic. A different search. A different type of consumer altogether. And here it is. I’m appealing to the fat fingered magic fan. If your chubby digits can’t hit the keys correctly, I want to be your first port of call. I want to be Mewcastle’s premier Nagician.
I’d also like to be the first choice for Vlose Up Nagic in Dunderland, Weeding Nagic in Yeeside, and Pastry Nagic in Morth Torkshire.
The fat fingered deserve quality close up magic too. They deserve astonishment. They deserve childlike awe.
“Go on sir. Take a card. Any one you want. No, just one please”
Jan 11 2017
The worst thing that could happen on your wedding day is for your guests to get bored and restless during the celebrations.
Actually, that’s not the case at all.
The worst thing would be to get jilted at the alter. Or get diarrhea. Or have a small fire break out during the speeches. Even worse would be a combination of two or more of these happening.
But certainly in the top ten is restless guests. “Oh, the bride looked lovely. The vows were so touching. The beef wellington was to die for. Shame I got a bit restless in that lull between the day and night do”. That’s not what you want to eavesdrop on your wedding day. It would be far worse if you were popping imodium in a toilet cubicle when you overheard it, or battling a blaze on the top table. Even so, it would still put a dampener on your big day.
(If you stumbled across this blog expecting useful wedding day advice, you’re probably a little disappointed. It’s probably just dawning on you that what looks like wedding day advice is actually a thinly veiled piece of self-publicity.)
Still, let’s get to business!
Close up magic is the answer to your worries (not all your worries of course, just the restless guests worry. I can’t help at all with the jilting or diarrhea. I did once put out a fire that had started on a table centrepiece though. However, it was also me that started it. But, I digress). Whenever there could be restlessness, close up magic creates a buzz of excitement that keeps restlessness at bay. Ideal times to do this are during the photographs (you’ll be having a whale of a time, but what are your guests going to do?). As guests take their seats for the meal. As the evening do commences, and sober evening guests join the less sober day guests. Maybe there will be a gap between daytime and evening dos. This is a perfect time to add a little magic to your day.
Magic makes memories. And anything that makes your wedding day extra memorable is a good thing.
With the obvious exceptions of jilting, diarrhea and table blazes. They’re memorable too, but not in a good way.
Jan 5 2017
There was a great photographer at my recent Fugro Christmas Party gig (Georgia Beth Laddie – look her up if you need a photographer!) who was kind enough to let me have these shots.
As this is not a proper blog or even a Vlog (Video blog), I thought it should be called a Phlog (Photographic blog). As the spell checker didn’t like phlog, I think I may have invented a new word.
Remember, you saw it here first.
Dec 15 2016
… After the magic is over.
Sometimes people choose unusual things to make their party stand out. Chocolate fountains are one. Pick ‘n’ mix sweet trolleys are another. I’ve even seen stilt walkers.
Now, I’m clearly biased, but I think having magic at your party is far superior. Not just for the moment, but for what it leaves behind.
While those other examples leave possible toothache, the need for the next hole on your belt or a possible crick in your neck, magic gives you something special. Something magical. Memories.
Long after the taste of the chocolate has faded, or the awe of the really really tall person has subsided, the memories of good magic will stay with you.
Maybe they’ll keep you awake at night. “How did that well dressed man know exactly what I was thinking?”. Maybe sometime in the future, you’ll look back to something particularly astonishing. Something uniquely special, and it’ll make you smile.
Sometimes, I like to give a memento out as I do my thing. If I see a couple who look very much in love, I like to get them to take a card each from the pack and write their name on it. I put the cards back to back, and the pair squeeze them between their hands. When their hands part, the two cards are stuck together. Forever inseparable.
It makes me smile to think that months later, someone will take this unique memento out of their purse. Memories of being astonished will flood back. (I like to think it will give them butterflies, but that may be wishful thinking). And they’ll get a warm glow knowing that the cards, and the two of them are inseparable.
Memories like that are deep. They’re powerful.
I don’t mean have a downer on chocolate fountains, but seriously, you can’t compete with that.
Dec 12 2016
There’s not much you can do with 10p.
Typically, I find the most fun you can have with a 10 pence piece is to perform some sleight of hand moves, culminating in the classic, “It’s behind your ear”.
I’ll tell you what you can’t do with 10p. Buy a Freddo. Seriously! I remember when Freddo’s were 10p. I realise I sound old. I know that discussing the price of confectionery in the past is one step away from, “I remember when all this were fields”, and a penchant for Wethers. But, recently I found a spare 10p. After I’d exhausted the “It’s behind your ear” hilarity, I thought I’d treat myself to a frog shaped piece of deliciousness.
Not happening. Freddo’s have rocketed to 25p. I was so shocked, I nearly dropped my Werthers.
And, it gets worse! Space raiders are now 20p! And, those fields have got houses on them now.
I don’t know what upsets me most. The skyrocketing cost of 10p snacks, or my realisation that I am clearly showing signs of aging.
Now, all this has made me rethink my pricing. I’ve always thought that a premium magician should charge a premium price. I am quite open about my “arm and a leg pricing”. But now, seeing that Space Raiders have doubled in price, I’m wondering about charging two arms and two legs. And, if I followed Freddo’s lead, my prices would be five limbs. It boggles my mind to contemplate that. And how would anyone even afford that? Except maybe starfish or octopuses? And they are both famously bad audiences.
So, to conclude. I’m sticking with my pricing. I’m avoiding Freddos and Space Raiders because they make me feel old. Werthers aren’t as bad as you may think, molluscs are rubbish audiences for close up magic and I do remember when all that was fields.
And, I need to stop drinking so much before I write blogs.
Nov 14 2016
Magic on TV is getting more popular.
But is it a good thing for us magicians? Opinion is divided…
One the one hand, anything which gives our noble art a bit more publicity has to be good news. If someone somewhere watches Dynamo then books a magician to astonish at their party (ideally me) then I think that is certainly a good thing.
However, on the other hand it can sometimes make things a little tricky for us. You see, sometimes TV magicians have somewhat larger budgets, bigger audiences, and props that would most certainly not fit in my waistcoat pocket.
I remember once getting a little worried after seeing a magician on BGT appear a helicopter. I had a wedding gig the next day. Would the bride and groom be expecting a helicopter? Would kids at the wedding be disappointed at disappearing coins and wands appearing from behind their ears? Would they demand some form of commercial aviation? I wasn’t even able to stretch to a microlight, let alone make a chopper appear from nowhere. (Tee-hee, my childish self has just thought of an “Appearing chopper trick”. It’s very funny, but I may never work again if I performed it)
I needn’t have worried as it happened. People are generally quite wiley. They have a healthy scepticism to stuff they see on TV. They suspect it may have been an inflatable helicopter. They have an inkling that not was all as it seemed. Close up magic removes such doubts though. You can see so clearly that nothing untoward is going on. There can be only one solution – “it really is magic” (Or, I deceive so cunningly that you didn’t notice).
So, I learned that the small can be as powerful as the enormous. Low key, low budget magic can astonish as much as its flashy TV brother.
I learned that size doesn’t matter. And you can still impress without a large chopper.
Oct 8 2016
In my last blog, I teasingly promised to teach a devastatingly good, yet easy card trick. Then, I didn’t. Sorry. If you missed it, you can have a read here.
Anyhoo, it’s time to reveal the secret!
To recap, cards are placed in pocket, cards turn invisible, spectator turns over one card, cards are returned, cards turn visible, spectator’s card is reversed in the deck.
It’s such a good trick!
Now, brace yourself for the secret! A secret so devilish! A secret that will make quake with excitement and have you rushing for your deck of cards to try it out yourself!
So, to perform this miracle follow the steps in the previous blog. (Click here for another read) Have someone think of a card, and then (and this is VERY important) insist that they change their mind. Make sure they remember this card. (The second one that is, not the first). Place the deck in your pocket, and then (You’ll love this bit) Don’t really remove it! You just pretend! Reach into your pocket and pretend to take the cards out! Isn’t that genius? You don’t really give you the spectator an invisible deck at all! (I have to suppress my laughter at this point of the performance, I really do). Anyway. Ask them to shuffle (tee hee) and turn over their selected card (chortle) and pass you the deck back. Then, pretend to place it in your pocket, and remove the real deck! Seriously, it’s that simple. The deck is never invisible at all. (I bet at this point some of you are kicking yourself for not thinking of that)
This may leave a niggling thought in your mind. How does their card end up upside down? Well, prepare to kick yourself again – YOU TURN IT OVER BEFORE YOU DO THE TRICK! Seriously, it’s that simple. Choose a spectator, work out what card they’ll pick before they do (the second one of course, that’s really important) and turn it over beforehand! It’s that simple. And of course, if you’d worked out what their first choice would have been you can tell them that as well.
I love this trick. Now you too know the devilish secret.
I hope you have lots of fun with it.
Don’t go pinching any gigs off me though please.
Sep 24 2016
Often people ask me if I can teach them a card trick.
“Jack, can you teach me a card trick”, they say.
This makes me very happy. I love card tricks, and I have an admiration and respect for the noble art of education. I sit down with my protege and begin…
“Obviously, no study of card magic would begin without discussing Wonder’s seminal work on the the three pillars of magic; misdirection, psychology and sleight of hand. And then, we shall explore the mechanics of my favourite sleights along with a study of the moment of astonishment as defined by Harris in his groundbreaking study. Fasten your seatbelt. This is going to be a rollercoaster of self discovery. You are in for an amazing three months”.
To which they invariably say,
“No, an easy card trick. One I can learn in 5 minutes. And show my mates down the pub”
Obviously, when people don’t share my enthusiasm for the study of my art, it bothers me. But not to worry. One of my favourite card tricks is actually one of the easiest. A very easy card trick indeed Allow me to describe to you to the world famous “invisible card trick”.
I start this trick by getting my spectator to think of a card. Any they want. BUT (and this is very important) you must insist that they change their mind once. Once they have a card fixed in their mind (the second one, not the first one), then the fun begins. I take the cards and place them in my “pocket of invisibility”. A little sprinkle of powder and the pack becomes invisible. I offer it out to be shuffled. When the deck has been spread face up on a table, I ask that the thought of card (the second one, not the first – that is very important) is removed and shown around. Then, it must be replaced FACE DOWN. The pack gets shuffled, and replaced in the “pocket of invisibility”. A sprinkle, and the now visible pack is removed for all to see.
(Side note, this is not the end of the trick. I did a wedding gig a little while ago, and the table of guests clapped at this point! I was flattered, but there is a little more to it than that)
The real end of the trick is far better. The spectator reveals out loud to all the card they “turned over” (the second one, not the first, that is really important) and the pack is spread face up. Sure enough, one card is face down. Tentatively, they reach in to take it. Turn it over. It’s theirs! (The second one. Not the first. That’s important!). Astonishment ensues! Sometimes, for an added twist, I like to tell them what their first card was too.
“Yes”, my friends say. “That’s the one. Teach me how to do that please!”
“Certainly. I say. Get me a pint, and I’ll teach you how to do it.”
And you, faithful blog readers, can also learn the secret of this deceptively easy trick. All you need to do is…
Oops! Got to the end of my weekly blog word limit! Gutting. I shall post the method to this wonderful, yet deceptively easy, card trick in a week’s time! Oh my, you’re in for a treat. I love this trick! See you in a week.
Sep 5 2016
I’m not telling you.
Because then it wouldn’t be a secret anymore now would it.
Do you people have no idea how secrets work?
You want it given to you on a plate. You want the moon on a stick. You make me sick.
Sep 1 2016
I’m quite proud of my pricing policy. I don’t adjust it for different customers. I keep it the same for all. I charge an arm and a leg.
You’re having a wedding – budget is tight – it’s an arm and a leg.
You’re a premiership footballer – money to burn – it’s an arm and a leg.
Small intimate gathering around dinner – it’s an arm and a leg.
I think this is fair. You enquire for magic with me, you know it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg. No surprises. No knocking up the price because you can afford more. Just honest arm and a leg pricing.
This is not to say I’m not good value. I heard a little while ago of a magician who charged double my rates (two arms and two legs). Rumour was that he was no better. Certainly not twice as good. Can you imagine paying two arms and two legs for magic? Then when the magician asks you to pick a card, what would you do? Hold it in your teeth? Grip it with a stump?
Of course, there are exceptions. I did a charity do a little while ago. I don’t work for free, but I knocked a quarter off for them. (an arm and a shin). There was another time that I was feeling very generous, and I performed for an arm.
But on the whole, if you want magic from me it’s one arm, and one leg.
Disclaimer – I don’t actually accept limbs in payment for magic, it’s just a turn of phrase
Whatever you do, don’t send me a hand through the post as a deposit. That would just be downright disturbing.
Jul 11 2016
A recent quote from Michael Gove claimed…
“People in this country have had enough of experts”
And I rather fear that I disagree with him. (I realise that puts me in a bit of a minority. Though teachers, lawyers, Boris Johnson and David Cameron may know where I’m coming from.)
You see, I think experts are great.
I had call to have a new gas boiler recently, and I thought an expert gas fitter was the obvious choice. I had an offer of one from some bloke down the pub with no eyebrows who told me he’d sort me out for a bargain price. But, I thought under the circumstances, an expert what was I needed.
Maybe you are in the market for bypass surgery? Again, I’d urge you to go to an expert. That bloke down the pub is not the ideal choice. (Some readers will now be complaining that there are several cardiologists drink in their local boozer. I would still encourage you to seek out one from a hospital. I definitely would prefer my surgery carried out by someone who doesn’t knock back blue WKD every night and holds their pool cue the wrong way round)
Maybe you need a new secretary of state for education. Again, I’d go for the candidate who is an expert. Don’t do something ridiculous like employ some bloke from down the pub. Or a journalist.
And you know what, I’d go so far as to say it’s the same with magic. You may have an uncle who can do the 21 card trick. Maybe he even has a finger chopper from the joke shop. Perhaps he does the best “I’ve got your nose” you’ve ever seen.
Even so, I’d recommend against him. Your party would be better if you employed the services of an expert magician*. Someone who has tirelessly practiced sleight of hand in front of the mirror instead of having a social life. Someone who has perfected mind reading techniques over years and years until they can unnervingly get it right (nearly every time!). Someone with shelves of magic literature that has been endlessly leafed through. Someone who has done hundreds of close up gigs and knows just how to whisk the guests into an astonished frenzy.
*Basically, I’d just recommend me. When it comes to close up magic, I am a bit of an expert**.
** I realise this blog turned into a bit of trumpet-blowing self appreciation. I hope you don’t mind so much. It started off as political satire and just took a bit of a turn towards blatant self promotion. Oops.
May 29 2016
Magic is all about distractions.
On one level, I use distractions during close up magic. We magician’s sometimes refer to it as “misdirection”, but we just mean distraction. If you ever see me remove your chosen playing card from the sole of my shoe, I can assure you it didn’t actually get there by magic (sorry!). I actually put it there in a moment when you weren’t looking. Making sure you weren’t looking calls for a distraction. I’m not going to tell you how I do it. My distractions are one of my most closely guarded secrets!
On a deeper level, magic is about another type of distraction. It takes people away from the everyday. The mundane disappears when you are being astonished. Close up magic is so popular at parties because of just this. Parties are about escaping. About forgetting the ordinary and having fun in the moment. Magic is so far from the normal that any thought of day to day life vanishes and you are in the moment experiencing child like awe.
However, as always, there is a time and a place.There are some times that I would not wish to distract people at all. If they’re driving for example. Or pouring boiling water. Or maybe using a sharp knife. I love making people lose themselves in a moment. But it’s not worth increased insurance premiums. Or a trip to A&E for stitches.
May 11 2016
I lead a double life.
It’s nothing sinister. It’s just I’m not always a magician. Sometimes I do non-magiciany things. When I’m buying a creme egg, I don’t reach behind the shop keepers ear to produce a coin for my purchase. If I’m out wardrobe shopping, I don’t rotate the wardrobe around for all in the shop to see then climb in it and disappear. And were I to find myself on the wrong side of a river, I’d look for a bridge. I wouldn’t just walk across it.
It’s not that I don’t like being a magician, I love it, it’s just there’s a time and a place.
Loads of people lead double lives and it’s fine. Sometimes you might meet a mild mannered school teacher who writes erotic fiction in their spare time. Or maybe a barmaid who’s secretly plotting an elaborate casino heist. Sometimes it’s cool to have another side to you that isn’t always apparent.
It reminds me of when I was a spy. On the surface, I was just an ordinary bloke. Doing ordinary bloke things – driving fast cars, bedding lots of beautiful women and drinking lots of Martinis. While secretly, I was infiltrating volcano lairs and bringing down super villains intent on world domination. (As I side note, popular films make spying look totally different to the reality. When I was at spy school, we were expected to drink our Martinis stirred not shaken, and with two olives.)
So, to conclude, if you are currently living a single life; be bold – get yourself another one. And also, try your Martinis stirred. You’ll love it. It’s not the 50’s any more. Get with the times.
Apr 29 2016
I’m not very good at football. When I used to play five-a-side I took great solace in the fact that there was an overweight guy that was a worse player than me. Being the 9th best player on the pitch was something I could live with. However, when Fray Bentos left the group (not his real name) I realised I couldn’t carry on much longer. It all came to a head when one time I missed the ball entirely and kicked my other foot. The shame, and the broken toe, and Fray’s departure, led me to quit this short lived pastime.
“If at first you don’t succeed try, try, try again”, some would say. And I would respond with “Bollocks. If you don’t succeed, find something you’re good at instead”. Football got added to the list of things never to try again along with archery, keyhole surgery, hostage negotiating, and fashioning marzipan animals.
On the other hand, I’ve sometimes stumbled across something I’m quite good at. I think a better phrase would be “If at first you do succeed, then practice loads until you absolutely kick ass at it”.
For example, when I found I had an uncanny ability to make really good eggy bread, I honed my technique more. My “oueffy pain” (I prefer the French) is to die for.
Magic is similar for me. It’s worth putting in the effort to really kick ass at.
I don’t have too many talents (close up magic, quality eggy bread, topping up windscreen washers and devastatingly good sexual technique) but I try to make sure I’m always as good as I can be at them.
And I don’t give a stuff about the stuff I suck at.
Mar 25 2016
This blog takes a detour from my usual light hearted self promotion to issue a cautionary tale to other close up magicians.
Maybe you (like me) like to distance yourself from the children’s magician that springs into people’s mind when they think of a magician. Maybe you, like me, think yourself a little cooler, a little edgier, a little more sophisticated and significantly better dressed than the balloon twisters with their rabbits, bow ties and giant wands.
I wanted to be sure that people knew that booking me would result in classy, witty, and above all astonishing magic that would make mature audiences experience child-like wonder and awe.
I wanted customers to understand that Jack Strange would be sharply dressed, sharp of mind, and provide a thoroughly grown up experience.
In short, I wanted to put as much distance between myself and “Children’s Magicians” as possible.
It is with hindsight that I realise that advertising myself as “Jack Strange – Adult Entertainer” was not a wise move. I admit, the enquiries blossomed, and for a while it looked as though I had cornered the market for grown up astonishment.
I’m sure you can imagine my shock when I realised that “Adult entertainment” means so much more than grown up and mature entertainment. If you don’t believe me, Google it. I did. (I’d open up an in private window though)
My faux pas taught me a lot – an innocent phrase can have a double meaning, an in private window can be really quite useful, and finally, some people in North Tyneside have extreme tastes in party entertainment.
I also learnt that many washing machine engineers are actually very poor at reparing washing machines.
Mar 16 2016
A little while ago, I wrote a blog called “Oleg ‘the Bandit’ Halvorsen” about my favourite one armed, Norwegian card magician. It was quite good. Give it a read if you like!
Any how, sometime later I thought I’d look up Oleg on Google to see if he was in the news, or was planning a tour of the UK. I was amazed to see that my blog about him was the number one result on the Google search!* If you Google “Oleg the bandit Halvorsen”, my website comes up as the first hit. This made me very happy. (Feel free to try this – it really is true)
So in the interest of shameless self promotion, I have decided to name this blog, “The Best North East Magician”. My hope is that anyone searching for that particular phrase will be directed straight to my site. Cunning eh!?
Am I the best North East Magician?
No. Probably not. I’m not terribly diverse. I don’t do stage magic, small children’s shows, cruise ships, rabbits, sawing in half or balloons.
However, when it comes to close up astonishment, I’m not too shabby. In fact, though I hate to blow my own trumpet, I’m quite good.
Maybe you’re reading this blog because you’re one of my regular blog readers (I hope you’re both well by the way). Maybe you’re reading because you Googled “The Best North East Magician” and got directed here. If that’s the case, welcome. Please have a look around, and get in touch if you’d like me to add some astonishment to your event.
*To be honest, it wasn’t that amazing, seeing as Oleg is imaginary
Feb 23 2016
A while ago I ordered a Baker Boy Hat.
I’d seen Brad Pitt wearing one in Inglorious Basterds and he looked rather good in it.
Anyway, when it arrived, I realised why he looked in that particular hat. It was because he was Brad Pitt. Just a few centimetres below the hat was Brad Pitt’s face, and that was why he looked good. When I wore the same I hat I looked considerably less good. Probably because I didn’t have Brad Pitt’s face.
Believe it or not, performing close up magic raises similar issues.
When I first got into this art, I was inspired by David Blaine. He was cool. He was a little surly. He didn’t say much. The crowds went wild for his tricks. There was some crossover in our repertoires, and I have to admit that I often performed them in a “Blaine Style”. The result was akin to me in a Brad Pitt hat – it just didn’t match.
I’ve seen many magicians now. And in my early days I often tried to copy them. A Derren Brown line here, a Paul Daniel’s gag there, and a Woody Aragon facial expression thrown into the mix too (They were great when they did them!).
What I learned is that I’m no good at doing “cover versions” of other people’s material, style, mannerisms, phrases or gags. I learned that magic is best when it’s got your own personality stamped over it isn’t a tribute act to someone else.
I also learned that I don’t suit hats.
Nov 28 2015
Back in my youth, I used to watch a guitarist regularly play at a pub in Sheffield. (He was called Frank White, and the pub was the Pheasant at Sheffield Lane Top – I’m not making it up!) What impressed me when I look back is that Frank (who was one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen) used to wow the crowds using a really rather cheap guitar. (A Squier Stratocaster). Back in the day, me and all my other guitar playing pals were all really keen to own wonderfully expensive deluxe vintage guitars. Frank was a revelation – instead of spending time dreaming of owning a priceless instrument, he squeezed every ounce of value out of his Squier. In hindsight, if I’d spent more time practicing guitar instead of working to earn enough to buy a lovely but expensive Fender guitar, I might have been as good a player as Frank!*
Also in my “pre-magic” days, I developed a fondness for cycling, and spent nearly all of my hard earned cash on fancy bike bits and go faster components. It was quite demoralising to then get beaten up every climb by a guy in the cycling club named Wez. Wez rode an old, heavy and far less flash bike than me. He’d picked up on the same vibe as Frank – it doesn’t matter how expensive your gear is, it’s what you do with it that matters.
I’ve finally learned my lesson from these guys. When it comes to magic, I’ve come to the realisation that spending more on kit does not a better magician make. I was watching a stage magician recently and my pal was not impressed. He came to the (not entirely incorrect) conclusion that the fellow had just bought some rather expensive boxes that did the work for him. In fact, when it comes to magic, the more you spend, the less magical you can seem. The “boxes do it “ mentality can make expensive kit actually work against you. Think back – what’s more astonishing; David Blaine’s early work on the streets of New York, armed only with a pack of cards and some small everyday items, or his lavish stunts with pricey (and sometimes slightly suspicious) props.
I’m pleased that now, instead of spending cash on props, I devote time to practicing routines that utilise nothing special. I even give everything away at the end of a performance to show there’s nothing suspicious. Instead I spend my cash on maintaining my magic library and gleaning advice from the masters about creating astonishment using sleight of hand, psychology and misdirection alone.
I bet Frank and Wez would be proud.
* As a footnote, I also know a chap called Alex who did both – bought a beautiful guitar AND learned to play it really well. Now he is WELL worth seeing!
Oct 28 2015
Nice to have a catchphrase; to have a catchphrase, nice.
A little while ago (about an hour), one of my regular blog readers asked if I had a catchphrase. The other regular blog reader didn’t comment. I hope they’re OK.
Still, it got me thinking. Maybe a catchphrase is in order.
Here were my initial thoughts….
Don’t worry, it’s not real magic. Just a devilish combination of sleight of hand, misdirection and psychology. (dismissed for not being catchy enough)
Actually, it is real magic! (dismissed, because it isn’t really. See above)
It’s not real magic – please don’t burn me! (kept in reserve for certain gigs)
Of course I can make your wife disappear (see earlier blog)
The name’s Strange. Jack Strange. (dismissed, because I think I nicked it from somewhere. Also it’s not really my name. See earlier blog)
Finally, I decided to go for this phrase that I often use.
You’ll like this BLANK*. It got 4 stars in “what BLANK* magazine”
I concluded that this could easily be adapted to lots of situations. The BLANK could for example be “card trick”, “dazzling display of mind reading”, “casino heist” or even “magazine”.
I sent the catchphrase off to “What Catchphrase” magazine.
Annoyingly, they haven’t reviewed it yet.
(I’d be grateful if either of you regular readers could share this using the buttons below. Not because it’s really worth sharing, it’s just that I’ve only just added the buttons and I want to check they work!)
Oct 14 2015
There’s something great about meeting up with like minded people every now and again. Enjoy fox hunting? Then meet up with some fellow fox hunters and go chase that little orange freak.
Dislike fox hunting? Then meet up with some hunt sabs, and knock those red jacketed freaks of their horses.
(Take great care not to join the wrong group here or all sort of trouble could ensue)
For me the only club worth joining (other than of course the “Kitten a-go-go private members lounge”) was Newcastle Magic Circle. Mingling with the mysterious members therein is a monthly treat. They are a diverse crowd, ranging from the balloon twisting antics of the children’s magicians to the dark realms of the “mentalists” who prey on the innocent and read minds for entertainment. (though to be honest, I’m not convinced they’re all genuine. Last time I was at the ‘Circle a mentalist asked if I’d like a drink. Surely if he was any good, he’d have known the answer already. The staff at the Kitten a-go-go are better mind readers if you ask me)
You’re desperate to know what it’s like aren’t you? Well after passing the interview and audition, paying subs and joining fee, you’re free to call yourself a member and you can enjoy all the tasteful, scantily clad, erotic dancing the Kitten a-go-go club can offer.
As for the Magic Circle, well I’m afraid I’m sworn to secrecy on that. I’m certainly not allowed to tell the “secret knock” required to get in (this month it’s “Tap, Tap, Tappety Tappety Tap, Rap Rap, Tappety , Tappety, Tappety Tappety, KNOCK”), I certainly can’t tell you the location (Conveniently two doors down from the Kitten a-go-go), and I most certainly can’t tell you the program (a mixture of guest lecturers, magic competitions, members nights and the occasional spinning class)
And so that’s where I’m off to later.
(as soon as my shift at the Kitten a-go-go is over of course)
Aug 24 2015
I’ve got a lot of time for David Blaine.
Admittedly, I wasn’t keen on his standing in a glass box trick. It lacked the twistiness of a good “denouement” for my liking. It also went on a bit long.
But his close up work and “street magic” were phenomenal, and were responsible for getting me really interested in learning strong involving magic. Magic that produced amazing reactions from those who saw it. Initially, I thought the reactions on his TV special were a combination of Americans being a little too enthusiastic and some careful editing. Then when I started performing, I realised that even us reserved Brits could go wild over a finely crafted piece of astonishment.
I couldn’t get away with David’s persona though. It suits him well, but when I tried his laid back, cool approach, I came across as a bit surly. A more light hearted, friendly approach suited me better.
So, when I got a booking a little while ago to perform in a Newcastle street outside a newly opened shop, I was seriously excited! This was the time for my inner Blaine to push it’s way to the surface!
I’ve since gone off Street Magic a little. David’s TV Specials looked a little warmer than Tyneside in November, and after a four hour stint outside O2, I was freezing. Street magic in the summer could tempt me, but in the darker months, walls and a roof are top priorities.
So long as they aren’t made of glass and dangled above the Thames.
Aug 2 2015
If I were pressed to name my favourite one armed Norwegian card magician, I would probably go for Oleg “The Bandit” Halvorsen.
“The Bandit” is a pretty cool nickname, and it is especially fitting on account of him having one arm (think about it). Before the accident, he had the less cool nickname of Oleg “perfectly symmetrical” Halvorsen.
Anyway, I had the great pleasure of meeting “The Bandit” a little while ago, and I learned two great things from him.
On the one hand, he showed me a great trick. I perform with it my right hand in my pocket out of respect, and do the whole trick in my left hand. If you see me, ask me to show you “Oleg’s Trick”. It’s an absolute belter.
And on the same hand, he recommended Neutrogena “Norwegian Formula” hand cream. Well maintained hands are important to any card magician, and Oleg’s national product helps me perform the trickiest sleights. I bought a tube and was delighted that it lasted me six months.
Annoyingly, Oleg says his last him a year.
Jul 30 2015
In a previous blog, I defined “brevity” as being the key to success. Click here if you’d like to read it again – it’s very good. However, I neglected to explain just what brevity meant. Well, allow me to expand. According to an online dictionary, brevity is described as, “brevity is a noun that means the attribute of being brief or fleeting. The noun brevity means shortness or conciseness. If you give a report on agriculture in the northern hemisphere in 3 minutes, you have done it with incredible brevity. Brevity comes from brevis, which means “brief” in Latin.”. The definition itself is not terribly brief at all, making a mockery of the word itself. A rival online dictionary (I forget the name, but will look it up later) gives this definition, “the use of few words to say something: the quality or fact of lasting only for a short period of time.” The brevity of this definition of brevity is extra pleasing. (I’ve looked it up – it was webster.com and the first one was vocabulary.com).
Now, I remember the first time I ever encountered the premise of brevity. It was a cloudy Tuesday afternoon, and I was embarking on a ferry ride across the Tyne with a couple of pals. Or was it a Wednesday? No, it was definitely a Tuesday. I remember well, as I was toying with using an Orange Wednesday voucher, and I said to one of my associates (or was it the other one? – actually, I recall I said it to both at once, “lets not go to the cinema today, lets go tomorrow, as I’ve got an Orange Wednesday voucher and it will be cheaper”), thus definitely making it a Tuesday on account of Wednesday being the following day.
As I was saying, the friend with the onion attached to his belt (I neglected to mention that one of my friends had an onion attached to his belt – I’ll come back to that later) introduced me to the concept of “brevity”. “Don’t waffle Jack.” he said in his deep booming Bristolian accent. (I forgot to mention that he was Bristolian, hence the onion!).”Stick to the point”, he said “avoid going off on tangents, and try to never put unnecessary details in brackets” (Advice that I’m proud to say that I took on board on that cloudy Tuesday afternoon).
My interest was piqued, and I pressed my acquaintance for more details. (I realise that I have referred to him (for he was a “he”) as a friend, a pal, and now an acquaintance. Don’t be confused dear reader, this is merely a bloggers trick for keeping variety in their writing – friend, pal and acquaintance are “synonyms” meaning that they mean the same thing! I was not discussing “brevity” with three different people. That would be ridiculous.) As we approached approximately a third of the way across the mighty river, he put down his falafel, reattached his prosthetic, sat down, and told me some of the most poignant and memorable tips about “brevity” I had ever heard. (Interestingly, he used to refer to the delicious middle eastern snack falafel using only two syllables – “flafel”, where I always (and correctly , might I point out) use three – fa la fel – the third man on our outing, who hasn’t featured much in this tale yet pronounced it with four syllables, but that is not terribly relevant to the story of brevity). Also, if you’re interested to know what my deep voiced, onion wearing, syllable missing friend’s prosthetic was, then I’m afraid you’re missing the point of brevity – unnecessary details will not be gone into in this piece.
Anyway, as I was saying, Limpy Pete regaled me with the joy of brevity. “People don’t need to know every detail Jack. Leave a little out. Let them fill in the gaps”. He said, picking up a falafel (aka flafel aka falafafel) and dipping into a picante sauce before eating it in two approximately equal bites. “Blogging and close up magic are two areas where, more often than not, less is more”. By this he meant, well to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what he meant, because from then on he just stared vacantly into the distance, casually stroking his onion and using his prosthetic to scratch the small of his back.
In order to make sense of his words, I turned to my other companion on the journey, Stuttery Dave. He was reasonably quick to pad out the details of Pete’s philosophies, though also keen on foreign snacking, he did so in between mouthfuls of Monster Munch (admittedly, Monster Munch aren’t usually considered an exotic delicacy, but Dave had got a large box of these from the pound shop on Nile Street, and the labels were in Polish). “Stick to the point Jack. Avoid going off on tangents”. Although this was wise, I realised he had just repeated Pete’s line from earlier. “Expand”, I demanded. “Mmmmnnnnnmmmm”, explained Dave, having just squeezed two “potwór chrupać” (one pickled onion, and one flaming hot) into his mouth at once.
By now, we had reached the South Side of the river, and even though our plan was to ride the Ferry back and forth for a whole day we were legally required to disembark before boarding again (politacal correctness gone mad). We planned to sit in different seats for each leg of our adventure, only stopping (hopefully after an even number of crossings (otherwise we would be stranded on the wrong side of the river)) when we had run out of seats, or had succumbed to violent seasickness. As we climbed back up the ramp, Pete (now unpacking his return leg snacking of Nasi Goreng), grabbed my laptop to read back my blog so far. (I may have neglected to mention that I was documenting the outing as it actually happened)
“This is shocking!”, he exclaimed, spitting out some of his wholesome Indonesian fried rice. “You have totally missed the point of brevity. What on earth has the number of syllables in flafel got to do with anything, and also, the pound shop is on Saville Street not Nile Street you cretin”.
I was gobsmacked. I was sure I knew my streets of North Shields really accurately. I was also deeply upset that I had not understood the concept of brevity. “Please could you rewrite this with brevity in mind” I pleaded, wiping rice, garlic, sesame paste and sambal oelek from my cheek.
“Certainly. A wise friend once told me to stop waffling, and get to the point”
And that is how, one cloudy Tuesday afternoon, crossing alternately between North and South Tyneside with a pair of weirdos, I learned an important lesson about ditching the rubbish, and sticking to the point. Or was it a Wednesday. No. It was definitely Tuesday.
May 20 2015
You know what? I’m not even called “Jack Strange”.
I made it up just to have a magical “Alter Ego”. Partly because I didn’t think my real name was terribly magical sounding. Partly because I liked the idea of have a mysterious second identity. (Third identity if you include the other one I created for my Casino Heist). And partly because I spent a whole evening thinking it up, and it seemed a shame to waste it.
You wouldn’t believe the thought that went into it.
Jack: Is a playing card (apt).
It implies someone with a broad range of talents (“Jack of all trades” – I pride myself on doing belting card tricks, tricks with cards, and also close up magic. Occasionally I stretch to a little mind reading. Pretty broad).
It also has fairytale connotations (“and the beanstalk”), and is linked to some fairly cool famous characters (“Nicholson”, “Sparrow”, “Inabox”, “Black” and “White” to name but a few).
Also it’s known to be a shortened form of my real name, and it implies I can lift a car*
Strange: Well firstly, it’s dangerously close to my real surname.
Secondly, it seemed appropriate. Good magic should be a little strange. One of my favourite magic books “The Art of Astonishment” by Paul Harris is subtitled “Pieces of Strange to Unleash the Moment”. Mr Harris doesn’t use the term “trick”. He likes to think of magic as a finely crafted “piece of strange” to unleash uncontrollable astonishment in spectators.
So there you have it. Hopefully, when you hear the name “Jack Strange”, you think of a broadly talented cool character with a fondness for cards. Someone who can release astonishment. Someone whose surname rhymes with Strange. And someone who can lift a car*
Or may be you just think “Oh, he’s that magician guy”. That’s OK too.
* I can’t lift a car.
Apr 26 2015
Of all the questions I get asked when performing magic, “Can you make my wife disappear”, is by far the most common.
It’s rare for a magic gig to pass without it being asked at least once. It’s especially common at weddings (though rarely from the groom). Now vanishing ladies is all well and good, but it’s really not my thing. For a start, it requires a large box and ideally a stage. I pride myself on being able to fit my entire close up act in my pockets, so this is not going be terribly practical.
In my early days of magicianing (note to self “look up magicianing and see if its a real word”), I would find myself apologising for my lack of props and trying to distract them from their disappointment with some pocket sized astonishment. This worked to a point.
Then, I stumbled on an amusing comedy patter.
“Yeah, I can do that. But it’s messy. And it’s costly. Meet me by the bins in 30 minutes, and bring a photo.”
Oh, how we all giggled! That patter served me well until….
Some guy came back! “Where were you? I was waiting ages. I’ve made some phone calls, I can get the money, this is the most recent picture I’ve got”.
Well, that threw me I can tell you. What went from a throw away line of comedy gangsterness (note to self, while you’ve got the dictionary out, look this up too), to a genuine hit offer. Well as you know, I’m a very moral man. I earn a crust performing magic, and to bump spice off (note to self, “spice” seems a good plural of “spouse”, but I’m not convinced – check it before publishing this blog), while I should be astonishing crosses the line of professionalism.
So, I’m delighted to announce www.StrangeWifeDisposal.com. A totally discreet and above board sister company which can take care of your problems. It was clear to me there was a gap in the market, and my entrepreneurial streak just couldn’t resist the challenge.
Apr 10 2015
So you decided to get a wedding magician! Excellent idea. Having a magician mingle around your guests can add a sense of wonder to the proceedings. Some carefully placed close up miracles can get folk talking, break the ice, make the day more memorable, and even fill the time while you are off being photographed. You’ve made a wise choice in opting for magical entertainment.
But now the tricky decisions commence. What kind of magician do you go for?
Firstly, might I recommend against booking a “stage magician”. These fellows are more suited to theatres than weddings, and tend to specialise in mutilating females on stage in a variety of contraptions. It’s all well and good, but not the kind of thing you want your guests eating their dinner too.
I would also recommend against booking a TV magician. Much as I love them, having David Blaine sit in a glass box all the way through your big day, or Dynamo walk up and down the walls of your venue are hardly going to create the sense of wonder you are probably hoping for. Also famous guys have a sky high fee.
The kind of magic that works best in such circumstances is a “close up magician” (rather like myself). We Close Up Guys like to go from group to group and astonish with a few minutes of perfected astonishment that is all the more baffling for being seen so close. Close up magic also gets people involved and creates a real buzz.
But what kind of close up magician do you go for? I would recommend against the very handsome magician. It’s your big day, and you deserve all eyes on you. A handsome magician is going to direct too much attention from where it matters, and often they can end up too busy beating away bridesmaids to properly entertain your guests. I would also recommend against ugly or smelly magicians. You don’t want guests running away scared from the entertainment.
I’m pleased to say that as well as having excellent personal hygiene, that I’m of fairly mediocre appearance. On the one hand, I’m no Brad Pitt, on the other, I’m not totally repulsive. Be wary of magicians that have too many photos of themselves on their website. Be more wary of those who have none!
How funny should they be? It’s a tough call – Too funny and they’ll upset your best man. (This is his time to shine in the comedy stakes). Not funny enough, and it can lead to some rather dry performances. Again, I pride myself on hitting the “middle ground” here. Have a read of my blogs if need be. Not going to have Michael McIntyre quaking in his boots, but also likely to raise a slight smirk (I hope).
So, to summarise. The kind of magician you need for your wedding is someone not famous, with no fondness for mutilating females. They should be of mediocre looks, mediocre comedy, and dazzling magic. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Jack Strange!
Nov 20 2014
I reckon that there are three stages of magic.
The first stage is the kind of thing I do. It’s the kind of thing Dynamo does. And Penn. And Teller. And David Blaine (well back in the day anyway, before he started living in boxes and standing still on top of towers). It involves honest to goodness astonishment. Done well, stage 1 magic can make people go “ooh!”, it can make them disbelieve their eyes, and at it’s finest, can make people feel childlike awe. However, deep down, most people realise it’s all a trick. A very good trick nonetheless, but a trick all the same. They may not be able to get to sleep at night wondering how it was done, but they still know they have been tricked. I’ve no problem with this, and I suspect that Penn, Teller, Blaine and Namo don’t either. Stage 1 magic can be very satisfying.
Stage 2, However, is a different kettle with different fish in it. People are still astonished, people feel childlike awe, and most certainly may not be able to sleep at night. The big difference here is they don’t think it’s a trick. Stage 2 magic makes people believe they have seen something real. Derren Brown does this better than most people in the world. Derren has mastered suggestion, psychology and people reading that allows him to perform real miracles (not mere tricks!). I’ve dabbled with stage 2 magic. Looking for the tiny clues that give away what people are thinking can be very rewarding (but my goodness, it takes some practice!). However, I do still love trickery, and I can’t quite bring myself to abandon stage 1 for good.
So stage 1 – astonished, but know it’s a trick. Stage 2 – astonished, with something real. What the flip is stage 3!?
Stage 3 is a step further. Fooled. Didn’t even realise it was a trick. Didn’t even know anything had happened. Stage three is delving into Hustle territory. Danny Ocean would have been a belting magician. Pulling off a Casino Heist would be the ultimate example of stage 3 magic. Fooling people into handing over whopping amounts of cash without even noticing. Stage 3 magic, however, doesn’t make great wedding or party entertainment. “Did you see the magician tonight?”, “No but my bank account looks to have been emptied and I seem to be one kidney down” is never going to get any repeat bookings.
So, I’m going to stick to stage 1 for parties and weddings for now. I’ll keep the stage 3 plans of a Casino Heist as a sideline project.
If any one out there would care to join me in my Casino Heist plans, please get in touch.
With your bank account details.
And mother’s maiden name please.
Nov 3 2014
“Let me stay, Lord Sugar, I’ll give 110% to the task”
Very few things get my goat as much as “I’ll give it 110%.” *
No you won’t. And saying so also goes to show you don’t understand maths either. To be honest, I’d sack anyone who came out with such nonsense regardless of whether they were any good at this week’s task or not.
I am proud to say that when doing close up magic, “I give it 80%”.
80% is enough I reckon. I can do some pretty impressive magic on 80%. I use the remaining 20% for walking around, talking, breathing, that kind of thing. It’s also nice to have a little in reserve. If someone is really loving the magic, I like to give them an extra 10%. Also if someone is not a great fan of magic (it happens sometimes) like to give them an extra 10% too. Once they are reeled in to the moment, I wind back to my usual 80.
“What if I really, really love the magic Jack. Can I have an extra 20%?”, you may ask. Well I’m afraid the answer is “no”. That would push me right to the limit. I wouldn’t be able to walk, and I’d keel over short of breath. I’m afraid that 90% is as far as I’m ever prepared to go.
“But there’s another magician, promising to give it 200%. I think I’ll go with him”.
I wouldn’t. If his magic is a good as his maths, you’ll be disappointed. And anyway, 80% of astonishing is still better than 200% of mediocre.
I doubt that this kind of talk would keep me in the Apprentice though.
* “At the end of the day” also gets my goat. “At the end of the day, you can’t beat a good breakfast”, “At the end of the day, you’ve got to go to work”, “At the end of the day, Lord Sugar, I’ll give it 110%”. Aargh! Get a grip!
Oct 30 2014
I’ve just bought a waistcoat.
‘Hold on’, I hear you saying, ‘I don’t read Jack’s blog for fashion advice, I come here for witty tales of magic and occasional shameless self promotion.’
Well dear readers, don’t fret. I can assure both of you that this is not a fashion blog, but everything you’ve come to expect.
I had a great fondness for my suit. It cut a dash. In fact one night it cut several. It had pockets for everything a magician could need and sleeves to keep my arms warm while astonishing. And that, unfortunately, was it’s downfall.
You see, people assumed I kept things up my sleeves. But I never did. I didn’t realise this until I made a pack of cards change colour whilst in casual attire of jeans and tee shirt for someone and they said to their pals,
‘and it couldn’t have gone up his sleeves because he wasn’t wearing any’.
I realised then that the jacket’s days were numbered. The best way to dismiss suspicion of sleeves is to dismiss sleeves.
So from now on, the tweedy sophistication of a well tailored waistcoat (shirt sleeves rolled up) will be my new magical attire. (I still need a couple of pockets and I still like to cut dashes)
So, anyone want to book a magician that definitely doesn’t hide stuff up his sleeves?
Or anyone want to buy a jacket?
Aug 27 2014
“Listicles” are a portmanteau of “list” and “article”. They’re bloody everywhere at the minute. So, here’s my attempt to jump on that bandwagon….
15 things that magicians always hear….
1. I ordered the pudding with custard not ice cream (Sorry to hear that, but I’m actually not a waiter, I’m a close up magician)
2. Do you know Dynamo (I’m afraid not, though he seems a lovely chap. I’ve got the edge on him though!)
3. Can you stick a card to the ceiling (yes, but I’m not going to now! Ruins the surprise if you know what’s coming!)
4. Where are the toilets (I don’t work here! I’m not a waiter, I’m doing close up magic. However, they’re over there)
5. Let me look up your sleeves (There’s nothing dodgy up there! I’d roll them up, but I’d look too “Miami Vice”)
6. Does the steak come with chips or jacket potato? (I’m not a waiter!)
7. Can I show you a trick? (You may, but I have very high standards. It is possible that I may be less impressed than you’d like me to be!)
8. That’s not my card! (You little scamp! We both know that it is)
9. OK, what am I thinking now? (Probably that I can’t really read minds. Which to be honest is totally true!)
10. Do you saw women in half? (Yes. Lengthways)
11. Can I be your Debbie McGee? (I’m flattered sir, but I don’t think that’s a good idea. For either of us)
12. Can I have the sticky toffee pudding please? (For the last time, I’m not.. Oh stuff it. Would you like ice cream or custard with that?)
13. No Way! That’s freaking amazing! (Well you must have expected a bit of trumpet blowing in the list!)
14. and finally…….
15. Can you make my wife disappear? (This raises so many issues, I may make it a blog to itself!)
Jul 9 2014
A while ago, I was listening to a couple of friends having a conversation in a slightly too loud pub. To avoid embarrassment, I’ll call them Pete and Geoff*.
Pete: “I think I’ll invite the lads round this weekend to play cards. I’ll get some port in”
Geoff: “I’ve got some you can have if you like. I’ve got secretary or lesbian”
Pete: “I was planning to get Cock Burns**”
Geoff: “Sorry, that’s a little niche for my tastes”
A little background noise (and a slightly dodgy pronunciation) and suddenly, the whole meaning of the conversation goes down a totally different path.
“Hey Jack”, I imagine you are screaming at your computer/phone/handheld tablet device, “Your blog is supposed to be a thinly veiled advert for your magic services, and not some whimsical series of anecdotes about misunderstandings”.
Good point, and well made too. Allow me to continue (to the thinly veiled self publicity!)
Recently, I’ve found myself performing at parties where the presence of a band or DJ has made it a tad awkward to fully comprehend the subtleties of conversation.
“And here sir, stuck to the bottom of my shoe is your card – the eight of spades. I thank you!”
“No you misheard, I said the ACE of spades”
And more embarrassing, hearing
“yes, please join us. We’d love to be astonished by your unique brand of close up magic, have a seat”, when what was actually said was
“Sod off, I’m trying to pull this bridesmaid, and you turning up with your unique brand of close up magic isn’t helping”.
You can see the problem.
Solution 1 is a little diva-ish. Insisting the band/DJ pipes down for an hour so I can do my thing undisturbed.
Solution 2 is what I opted for instead. I’ve been working on VISUAL magic. The kind of thing that works even if few words are spoken (or shouted!). Can you imagine how cool it looks to see a playing card ripped up into four separate pieces, then magically restored? It’s very cool indeed! It’s on my latest repertoire and it still astonishes if you can’t hear the patter. I’ve put together a number of equally astonishing tricks that will all work wonders when a party gets loud. I’m afraid I can’t go into more details here as it would ruin the surprise (or denouement) should you end up seeing them.
*Those aren’t their real names. They are really called Dave and Gary.
** Apparently, it should be pronounced Co-burns
Apr 1 2014
I’ve never killed anyone with magic. Well not yet anyway. Not even caused anyone any harm, or damaged any property beyond repair.
However, were I to do so, I’d be fully covered! (maybe not legally and morally, but certainly from an insurance point of view). You see, some time ago a venue insisted I had Public Liability insurance before I astonished their guests. I assured them there was little risk in my brand of close up magic (with the possible exception of someone soiling themselves after seeing a truly astonishing trick. This can happen – see my astonishment blog). None the less, they were adamant.
“You might knock someone’s coffee all over them or give them a paper cut with a playing card”, they offered.
I toyed with replying “I spend hours practicing sleight of hand and misdirection, not incompetent buffoonery”, but realised such smart remarks can make one appear a bit of a nob. Instead I fired up the laptop and headed straight for confused dot com.
To cut a long, and not terribly interesting, story short, finding PL insurance for close up magic is a right chore. I was close to giving up when I discovered “Equity”. Yearly membership not only provides a membership card, and an informative quarterly magazine (The Alan Davies interview in the Spring edition was a DELIGHT), but also a million pounds worth of PL cover! A MILLION POUNDS! It’s not just for “luvvies” you know. I now have one more card in my wallet, a far better knowledge of Alan Davies, and A MILLION POUNDS worth of insurance cover.
If your mind works like mine, you’re probably thinking of pulling of some elaborate “Ocean’s Eleven” style hustle to claim that big six figure settlement. I toyed with it for a while but decided against it. Fraudulent magicians tend not to get repeat bookings, and I don’t want a reputation for spilling lots of coffee.
However, if I ever show you a trick so good you soil yourself, then you’ll be reassured to know that I’ll happily cover the laundry costs.
Mar 18 2014
Here are some of my favourite quotes.
Oleg Halvorsen; “It’s not the letters you colour, it’s the ones you leave behind”
Homer Simpson: “Mmmmm Slanty”
Iorek Byrnisen: “Polar bears are hard to spot, because they are white bears on a white background”
Feb 24 2014
I have a great fondness for the term “dénouement”. It’s French, as the little accenty thing probably gives away. It refers to the final act of a play or film in which all the strands are brought together, and a satisfying conclusion is reached.
In the realm of magic, a dénouement is the the final reveal – aka “the prestige”. A startling dénouement makes a good trick astonishing.
I think the best films are the ones with a good twist – At the end of “Die Hard”, you realise Bruce Willis is a ghost; at the end of “American Beauty” you realise Kevin Spacey doesn’t really have a limp, and at the end of Justin Bieber’s film, “Believe” you realise you are a pre-pubescent girl. Or you’ve gone to the wrong screen.
Good magic is also twisty. The best tricks twist like a worm in pain. I think “Strangers Gallery” is a good twisty trick – you’ll find it on my videos page. (I have since ditched this from my repertoire – you can’t perform a twisty trick that people have already seen! Don’t worry, it’s been replaced with something even better!)
Sometimes I get asked if I saw women in half. The answer is “no” for three reason. Firstly, I don’t know how to. Secondly, it hardly fits in with my close up, at tables, magical style. Finally, it doesn’t have a good dénouement. She gets sawn in half, you put her back together. No one is harmed, surprised or astonished.
Unless, you’re Penn and/or Teller. These guys are my heroes. Have a look at this video of them in action. A classic trick with a dénouement you won’t expect.
It’s still a bit bulky for me to drag from table to table though.
Jan 15 2014
Paul Harris is one of my favourite magical authors. He was the guy who first coined the term “astonishment” to describe what we magicians are constantly trying to provoke in our spectators.
He likens astonishment to being a child. Children are constantly astonished by the world around them. Adults, however, get cynical.
“It’s up your sleeve”
“Those aren’t her real legs”
“That’s an inflatable elephant”
You get the idea – as soon as you start guessing how it’s done, it stops being magical.
Paul has the solution – perfectly crafted magic to release the moment of astonishment. Trickery so convincing that no one can resist being astonished! Timed to perfection, this gives a release of astonishment that will make even the most cynical observer feel like a child for a moment. Sometimes it can also cause profanities to be released. Very rarely, bodily fluids.
Paul called his book “Pieces of Strange to Release the Moment”. I’m very fond of that title.
Paul’s recent work has been as David Blaine’s creative director. I watched David’s new show at New Year and I was truly, truly astonished.
You’ll be pleased to hear that I didn’t swear or wet myself though.
Jan 8 2014
“Hey Jack”, they all said. “You should have a blog.”
“Really?”, I replied. “Who’d be interested in my inane ramblings?”
“Loads of people”, they replied. “And what’s more, a site with a blog is regularly updated”
“An updated site gets pushed nearer the top of Google’s listings”
“You’ll get more hits, and therefore more magic gigs”
So, consequently, welcome to my debut blog. A blatent attempt to get more magic bookings.
Why? Well I simply love doing magic gigs! I love ironing a gig shirt, putting on a gig suit, and carefully arranging the gig pocket square in a stylish peak. I love unwrapping a fresh deck of cards, and feeling them in their brand new, extra slipery condition. However, what I love more is showing my perfectly honed and rehearsed tricks to a fresh audience. The icing on the cake is releasing the moment of astonishment in an unsuspecting spectator. I love that moment! It’s when grown adults believe in magic, and enter a state of child like wonder. Sometimes it lasts for seconds, sometimes it can linger all evening. For me it’s what magic is all about.
In fact I love the moment of astonishment so much, I may even make it the subject of my next blog….