First Impressions and Timing Issues

Dr. Doyle's Blog

It matters a lot, sometimes, what age you are when you first read a particular book.  Most of the time, though, the bit that matters isn’t whether or not you’re old enough for it.  Those of us who are members of the siblinghood of compulsive readers spend a lot of our early years reading books that are, according to the gatekeepers, “too old” for us, and most of us benefit from the mental stretching exercises involved.

I do think, though, that it’s possible to come to some books too late.  Once you’ve acquired the taste for deconstruction, for examining the underpinnings of a work – teasing out its buried contradictions and unexamined assumptions, and speculating on the untold stories and the differing viewpoints of secondary and minor characters – it’s hard to look at a book with the open and receptive eye of a new reader.  Texts instead become things…

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A Source of Amusement and Some Good Advice

Dr. Doyle's Blog

I first encountered Wolcott Gibbs’s “Theory and Practice of Editing New Yorker Articles” in James Thurber’s The Years With Ross, Thurber’s memoir of the early days of the New Yorker magazine.

In many ways, it’s a relic of its moment in time (1937, to be precise); it was an internal memo, intended to bring new fiction editors up to speed on the magazine’s general style and tone.  Unlike most such documents, though, it’s fun to read.  A few samples:

Our writers are full of clichés, just as old barns are full of bats. There s obviously no rule about this, except that anything that you suspect of being a cliché undoubtedly is one, and had better be removed.


Mr. Weekes said the other night, in a moment of desperation, that he didn’t believe he could stand any more triple adjectives. “A tall, florid and overbearing man called Jaeckel.” Sometimes…

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Royal Road To Card Magic – A (returning) Beginner’s Advice – Part 1: OH Shuffle Introduction

Royal Road To Card Magic – A (returning) Beginner’s Advice – Part 1: OH Shuffle Introduction

Guest post by Jack Viktor.

Originally posted on Reddit r/magic

Disclaimer: I’ve been doing card magic for over a decade (on and off). I’m not “good”. I don’t consider myself even close. I’ve watched enough Vernon material to know what good looks like. This is my humble opinion, and I openly accept opinions that disagree and if anyone has advice they would like to add, I would like to try and make this the new standard for study guides.

So why am I writing this?
The Royal Road to Card Magic

It’s been 2 weeks and reading through Royal Road has been one tough cookie. Having spent the majority of my time in magic learning from videos, I realized I needed to step into the “real” work and pop my book cherry. And as many a magi would recommend, I started with Royal Road. Some may recommend Card College (and while it’s actually really good), there’s something about wanting to jump right into the book that’s somewhat lacking, BUT I do have recommendations for people that have the book, as it can be a great supplementary read to follow along with.

Really, I just wanted to make my own study guide, and I wanted to tell myself why I should follow it. If you guys like it, I would appreciate some feedback. I know that there have been previous study guides (Opie’s Study Guide), but it felt lacking in the depth of “why” you should follow the books this way. So I would like for anyone that’s TRULY a beginner to understand why this may make you a great magician in the long run.

Here goes…

Advice

  • Have a new deck and a poop deck when practicing. I fell into the trap of thinking that if the deck wasn’t new, then any mistakes that happened during any of my practices was the deck’s fault. IT’S NOT. It’s yours. Don’t get used to how slippery a deck is going to be when new, but also don’t get used to handling cards like they’re all poop decks. Learn the balance of what your fingers do to the cards, not what the cards do to your fingers. Dexterity comes with time and practice.
  • If you have Card College, and you’re a total beginner, learn the first chapter’s worth of material. It’s stuff you’ll naturally get, but it was nice to read and realize “oh, this is actually a really interesting way of thinking about the basic motions of how to handle cards.” Now that I think about it, maybe I should do a post on CC
  • Aaron Fisher’s Youtube channel has the BEST ADVICE ON THE OVERHAND SHUFFLE EVER. Not only does he give great tips, He also has a pathways to mastery lecture teaching the shuffle in his own way. He uses a varying finger position (one which i’m trying to adapt) compared to RR, but either one you choose is fine.
  • Vernon has pointers in his Revelation Tapes, but you don’t need to know that just yet =P

STEP 1 – YOUR BOOK

  • Open it up. Turn every page. And look at the titles of the chapters, the bold words, and the names of the tricks that catch your eye. Take a pencil (if its an actual book and not the free ebook you can find online) and star the things that interest you. Yes, I said write in your book. Make it your own. This will help you so much when you’re bored of reading and want to learn something that “interests” you. Do this throughout the book, and when you’re finished, go back to the beginning and read the preface. This advice should go for every magic book you buy, because you will never ever learn everything in a book, including this one. Does that mean you should ignore the other stuff? No. Sometimes, that other stuff is the cream of the crop. But if you’re like me, impatience is a burden on reading, and the interesting stuff is what keeps you going.

STEP 2 – FIRST THING’S FIRST

  • The overhand shuffle will be one of the most useful, if not THE MOST UNIVERSAL TOOL IN YOUR ARSENAL. If ever there were a move that you could learn that would explode your skill level, it would be the overhand shuffle. I mean that. If you really learn this move well, there are literally thousands of moves that will open themselves up to you.
  • YOU HAVE TO PUT IN REAL WORK FOR THIS. You will look like an idiot if you can’t learn how to control an overhand shuffle during a trick. If you have to look down at your cards, hesitate, fumble, you’re killing the value of what the shuffle represents. If you drop cards, or let cards fall, or you can’t manage to maintain a rhythm, you don’t know this shuffle. So here’s what you do.

(1) Read the description of the overhand shuffle in book. Don’t learn any of the controls. Don’t learn anything else from that book. In fact, close the book. There is nothing else but this shuffle.

(2) For 48 hours, do nothing but run the cards.

Yeah, I said it. Nothing but run the cards. Do it with a poop deck. Do it with a new deck.

  • For the first couple hours, grab your phone, download a free metronome app on your phone, set the tempo to 50 and run the entire deck. That should take you at least a full minute. At this point, you can watch your hands while you do this. Go as slow as possible.

[If you’re using the app I use (Pro Metronome), there should be four “taps” that you use to measure yourself with. Each “tap” should be a moment of action. This means that, for example, on the first tap, your hands should separate, and one card should come off. On the second tap, your hand should come together again in preparation to take another card. So basically, for every 4 taps, you should have drawn 2 cards]

  • DO THIS 5 TIMES. If you can run every single card singly 5 times and with control and pace that follows the tempo, move on to the next paragraph.
  • Now, keep the tempo at 50, but this time, run the cards WITHOUT LOOKING. If you’re using a deck with Jokers in it, you should be counting 54 cards for every run through the deck. If you’re below that, you’re pulling more than one card down (happens with poop decks). If you’re counting above that, you probably think you’re pulling cards down and you’re really not (this happened to me with new decks). If this is happening to you, GOOD. These are the mistakes people make when they jump directly into trying out tricks after reading the description of the move for 5 minutes.
  • Keep practicing without looking at the 50 tempo till you count 5 perfect runs of 52 (or 54). Then increase the tempo by 25. Repeat the initial paragraph. Once you can do the exact same thing at a 75 tempo. Bored yet? Good. Now crank that baby up to 200. Try and keep up without looking down at the cards, and also try and keep count of the number of cards you’ve run.

Did you mess up? If you did it perfectly, then you’re officially pretty decent at the overhand shuffle. If you did, that’s good too, cuz you now know you’re not the big shot you thought you were at 75 bpm.

  • Regardless, go back to 50 bpm, run the entire deck singly another 3 times (perfectly of course)…….then put the deck down, and do something else. Yes. Go and do something else. Literally anything else. But you have to leave your deck alone.
  • After 15-20 minutes, you come back. Do one run at 50. Do one run at 75 bpm. Do one run at 100 bpm. Do another run at 150 bpm. Do another run at 175 bpm. Do another run at 200 bpm. Then go backwards in the same pattern. Which bpm did you start getting errors? Which one did you start hesitating at? Make mental notes of this. At every tempo, you should now be regularly looking up at the room, and counting in your head.

If you’re making errors, set the metronome back in 5-10 beat increments until you find where you’re not making mistakes, and practice running at those tempos. Remember, it’s not about going fast at this point, it’s about looking like a pro. If you look like a pro at 75, but once you hit 85, you start messing up, you know where to focus your attention.

  • Still bored? Try this. Start playing a game where you try and run the deck from 1-52 in consecutive runs. First run, you run one card, square, and put the deck back in dealing position. Then run 2 cards. Dealing Position. Run 3. blah blah blah. You get it. The game gets interesting when you crank the tempo up to around 200 and you push yourself to dealing cards that run DEEPER into the pack, and you have to see if you actually got the count right.

Why am I telling you to do all this? In reality, you’ll never NEED to run an entire deck. You’ll never NEED to run 33 cards and then stop. You won’t. What you WILL need is confidence. You WILL need finger dexterity and stamina. You WILL need an ability to adapt to the harshness of a deck (whether it’s brand new or poop). These exercises are less about teaching you card magic, and more about teaching you to control a deck of cards like it was a part of your body. I could name 5 or 6 different exercises I made up for myself to see if I was truly good at the overhand shuffle. I’ll be honest, I sucked at this when I was just rushing through RR. Everything is easy when you just shuffle blocks, but when you run cards, you learn what pressure is necessary, where to pull the card from, and minute details like why your cards don’t look neat when you finish shuffling, or how both your hands should move in relation to each other.

At first glance, this looks like a lot of stuff to do for just ONE sleight, and for all intents and purposes, it should be. BUT, if you’re really trying to not look like a chump when you handle a deck, doing this will build the type of character you need when learning and analyzing the moves to come.

I plan on continuing this writing while I go through the book. Any questions? Comments?

Additional Notes

  • If you’re a beginner, and you can’t pull the cards off properly, even after studying RR’s description, Card College has a good description of how the left hand should hold the deck (for right hand dominant individuals) but it’s not very good with the right hand. I really think Aaron Fisher teaches the best way to hold the deck, and his pathways video is simply phenomenal.
  • From u/amished in the comments With knowing how many shuffles you regularly do when they’re an honest shuffle will help you practice the correct speed for when you want to control a card. If you can’t keep the same tempo for when you’re doing a dishonest shuffle, then a keen observer might realize that something different is happening if all of a sudden you seem to stumble when you’ve been so smooth in all of your other shuffles.
  • The point of this practice is to retrain your hands to work in unison with the shuffle. If you can’t control each card with ease, then you can’t expect any of the controls to come naturally. If you’re at 125-175, then you’ve already passed the stage that this practice was meant to bring you to. You should be practicing more with the mental side of the controls (which is what the another part of this series I was thinking about writing) and learning how to engage during the shuffle.

See also:

 

 

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I Haven’t Vanished From the Internet

Dr. Doyle's Blog

I did, however, sprain my wrist a while back, which put a crimp in my keyboarding for a while there.

By way of apology, have a recipe, with bonus family anecdote:

Jake’s Mother’s Teacakes

1/2 cup shortening (probably lard, originally; latterly, Crisco)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

Cream shortening and sugar.  Add egg.
Beat thoroughly.
Sift flour and baking powder together.
Add dry ingredients alternately with milk.
Add vanilla.
Chill, roll, and cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter.
Bake on greased sheet in a quick oven (350-375 F) about 5 to 8
minutes – the time varies according to the thickness of the cookies.  Until the edges start to brown, anyway.

The “Jake” in question was my great-uncle on my father’s side, making his mother my . . . great-great-aunt?  Something like that.  Anyway, when…

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Abbott’s Magic Virtual Easter Egg Hunt

Add these to the list of Free Magic, if you’re willing to spend the time looking for the Easter Eggs.

Abbott's Magic Virtual Easter Egg Hunt

Abbott’s Magic Virtual Easter Egg Hunt

  1. Holidaze
  2. Bally Prediction
  3. Simplex 4 Ace Trick
  4. TEN
  5. Who Done It
  6. A Box of Matches Trick
  7. 50 Kute Coin Tricks
  8. Zens 15 Card Trick
  9. 50 Tricks with a Paper Cone
  10. Come Good Spirits
  11. Magic Card Systems
  12. How To Be A Ventriloquist
  13. Tops Treasure of Ball Magic
  14. Staggered
  15. Sparky’s Balloon Act
  16. Super Psychic Mental Effects
  17. The Professional Touch
  18. Oracle
  19. Abbott’s First Catalog 1934
  20. Coin and Money Magic
  21. Kid Show Showmanship
  22. Dumbfounders with Cards
  23. Hit the Deck
  24. This is Magic
  25. Eddie Joseph Cups and Balls
  26. MagicSeen Magazine #1
  27. MagicSeen Magazine #10
  28. Einstein Theory
  29. Farmer & The Witch
  30. Magazine Test

By the way, Happy Easter, everyone!

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Tales from the Before Time: Finding Fandom

Dr. Doyle's Blog

The internet, as usual, has changed everything.

These days, any young sf/fantasy reader or watcher with access to a computer can connect with other likeminded souls in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. They may not be able to meet up face-to-face, but that’s not necessary, and wasn’t necessary even in the olden days. It’s enough, most of the time, just to know that there’s somebody else like you out there.

Back before the internet, things were harder. If you lived anywhere other than a major city, your chances of encountering another reader who shared your particular obsession were low. (I was fortunate; my best friend in high school also read sf, and the local news and magazine shop owner must have been a fan as well, because the shop carried all the new paperback releases and all of the major sf magazines, as well as some of the…

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Springtime Seasonal Special

Dr. Doyle's Blog

It’s time again for my traditional springtime special offer:

Sample Spring Gift Certificate2017

Yes.  From today through the 16th of April, my usual rate of $1500 for a line-edit and critique on a typical 80,000-100,00 word novel drops to $1000 (or $1030 for PayPal, to cover the fees for a non-personal transaction; using Google Wallet, if you’re set up for it, avoids this problem and is faster as well.)  You can purchase a springtime gift for a writer friend, or for yourself, and redeem it at any time between right now and whenever.

(If you’ve got a 100,000+ word doorstop of a manuscript, and still want to take advantage of the season, contact me and we can work out an appropriate discounted price for a longer work.)

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What to Bring to a Book-Signing

So you’re doing your first book-signing.

A handy list of things to put in the back of your car from our friends the Romance Writers (add or subtract according to your situation and preferences):

Mexican president signs Obama's guest book.

Probably not the kind of book-signing you’re going to get.

  • Tablecloth
  • Candies* and dish
  • Flowers
  • Props (e.g. if you have a nautical adventure, a model ship)
  • Scissors and tape (blue tape, duct tape, and cellophane tape.)
  • Pens — book-signing and other.  Make sure one is a Sharpie.
  • Mailing list
  • Bibliography
  • Book cover stickers
  • Business cards
  • Water/water bottle with screw-on cap
  • Change for parking meters
  • A brief biography for the person who will be introducing you
  • Emergency personal supplies/first aid kit
  • Book marks
  • Posters/flyers/advertisements
  • Loudspeaker announcements
  • Book stands
  • Blank card stock and marker
  • Presentation materials (projector, easel chart, etc.)
  • Lightweight table
  • Lightweight folding chair
  • Camera
  • Thank-you gift for store employee(s)

One month prior: Send out your own press releases, including cover flats.

Know the answers to the most frequently-asked questions: “Where are the bathrooms?” (“Right over there”) and “How much did you pay to get published?” (“Nothing. I don’t pay publishers; publishers pay me.”)

Arrive early.

Smile. Regardless.

* Candies are individually wrapped; e.g Hershey Kisses, Andes Mints, Starbursts, etc.

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Why Authors Go Mad, Reason Number I’ve-Lost-Track-By-Now

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Author Seanan McGuire (who is also Mira Grant and I think somebody else I’ve forgotten) has just received — on a tight deadline, of course — a beyond-the-copyedit-from-hell copyedit: The copyeditor did a global search and replace of “which” with “that.” Among other gross incompetencies.

And there isn’t time to scrap the copyedit and send the MS back out to somebody better.

People wonder why authors sometimes drink heavily. The amazing thing, actually, is that more of them don’t.

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Climate Change At Walden Pond

Climate change is real, it’s happening, it’s measurable, and humans are causing it.

Here’s some more primary date for anyone interested: a free e-book from the University of Chicago Press:

cover image
Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods
by
Richard B. Primack
In the late 1840s, Henry David Thoreau made copious notes about the natural world of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. He noted the date the ice left the pond, when birds arrived, leaves appeared, and the dates of first-flowering for three hundred plant species. These journals were never published, but when Richard B. Primack found them, he knew they would be useful for documenting changes in climate since Thoreau’s time. The highbush blueberry, for example, now blooms three to six weeks earlier than in the 1840s.
In our free e-book for April, Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods, Primack carefully and compellingly reveals the scientific data in Thoreau’s writings and its implications for our own time. Get the e-book of Walden Warming free in April.
“Primack shares striking tales from the field and elucidates from an unnervingly close-to-home perspective the dynamics and impact of climate change on plants, birds, and myriad other species, including us.”—Donna Seaman, Booklist
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