Johnsson Too Perfect Theory Genii

Discuss general aspects of Genii.

Postby mike henkel » 07/23/05 07:37 PM

Does anyone know the Genii issue devoted to Rick Johnsson's Too Perfect Theory? thanks Mike
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 07/23/05 08:35 PM

The August 2001 issue (Earl Nelson cover). Back issues of Genii are available by clicking here .

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Postby Pete Biro » 07/24/05 11:16 PM

I hate the too perfect thoery :whack:
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 07/25/05 10:00 AM

Tsk, tsk, Pete...That curt comment lacks explanatory force. Why do YOU hate it, sir. A reason or ten would be nice...please...

Thanks...

Then explain why you like the linking rings. <g>

Onward...
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/25/05 12:21 PM

I don't like the too perfect theory because I, personally, think when one goes into theory and worries about it, one usually forgets what, TO ME, matters... and that is the effect and pleasure the audience gets.

If you do magic in a way that your audience starts to think or wonder how the TRICK was done... you, IMHO, have failed.

Rather than worry about the theory behind any magic, all I worry, or care, about is how it goes over. If the trick is PERFECT and the audience enjoyed it... great. If it was a dopey trick, or bit, like Mike Caldwell putting a piece of paper under a table let... and it plays, and gets you where you want to... GREAT.

The Linking Rings? Why I like (LOVE) the trick. It is fun to do, for me easy--having done the same routine for 40=plus years--and the audiences are entertained and amazed by it.
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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 07/25/05 12:38 PM

What if it doesn't go over, Pete? What tools should we use to figure out why it didn't go over, and what can be done to fix it?

-Jim
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/25/05 01:48 PM

If a trick or routine "doesn't go over," I either throw it out or think about what I may have done that caused that.

Was I sloppy with the move? Was the wording or story line weak? Was I tired? Was the audience tired (or drunk)?

For over forty years I have done the cups and balls. Basically the Vernon-type routine. It went over OK, trick and load-wise it fooled... but ME wasn't there.

I still do that kind of routine and it plays a lot better now... but what really plays is when I do the INDIAN-STYLE CUPS... and I do a presentation as an IMPRESSION of the actual young peformer that inspired me, Shankar Jr.

However... what is use is FAKE HINDU talk (double talk actually) in a high, squeaky voice... it is 100 times more fun for me and the spectators. I don't want to give away any more of the premise, but believe me it has made a world of difference.

There is nothing worse than saying, "I have one ball here, and put this one there."

I so the same moves but, in high, squeaky voice say something like: "EE powakatoona sonuba ninoka sangeefey raphook..." and so on...
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Postby Ryan Matney » 07/25/05 01:52 PM

Originally posted by Jim Maloney:
What if it doesn't go over, Pete? What tools should we use to figure out why it didn't go over, and what can be done to fix it?

-Jim
You should probably just drop it if it doesn't go over and do something else that does.

I agree with Pete-up to a point. Obviously, we all have little peeves and preferences when we do magic. Like, I really don't like the backslip in card magic although others use it often. I don't really like forcing a card on a spectator over and over as an effect, although I've seen laymen entertained with it.

So I agree with Pete as far as, for me, it's a gut feeling type thing and too much thoery can really kill a good trick.
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Postby Randy DiMarco » 07/25/05 02:05 PM

The "Too Perfect" theory is incorrectly named and that is the reason for the big debate. If a trick were truly perfect all explainations, including the correct one, would be impossible in the audiences mind. Rick Johnsson's theory should be called the "Not Quite Perfect" theory.
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Postby George Olson » 07/25/05 04:07 PM

The TPT is the catch-word of the day. Next week we'll extol or blast some other thought provoking work; if it's for edification and enlightenment then fine, but if all it's for is people spouting off their personal biases it's a waste. Pete's point is well taken.

To the point, if you haven't seen Pete as Shanker, Jr., take medicine and wear rib protectors, because if you don't you'll hurt yourself with laughter. (especially if there are laymen present...)

GO
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/25/05 06:36 PM

Thanks George, nice to hear from you.
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Postby BlueEyed Videot » 07/25/05 09:07 PM

Interestingly enough (at least for me) I had occasion to test out the TPT this past weekend. But perhaps I should give a little background first.

I'd been coveting Kennedy's Mystery Box II for awhile now, and so magically(?) one appeared for my birthday. Before I ordered it, I had shown my darling wife, Gina, the Quicktime demo of the box on Kennedy's web site. She, being the ever-suffering magic wife, figured it out immediately. First, she said, she knew the card couldn't have gotten into the box because Kennedy hadn't been anywhere near it. And, she certainly didn't like all the fooling around behind his back. That, I surmise, lead her to the true solution (which, as Christian Chelman says, deontology prevents me from revealing here.) Then she tells me she couldn't understand why I was going to pay good money for such an obviously transparent effect. Mrs. Hart, I love her dearly.

Was this an example of the TPT at work? It certainly looked like it to me. But what was the actual trigger? Gina's suspicions were first aroused by the "behind the back" machinations. Obviously, the Not Perfect Enough Theory was involved, too.

So I was faced with two problems. Eliminate the behind the back monkey business which induced the NPET, and counter the TPT. Hmmm.

Here's what I did to solve the problems (with a huge nod to Michael Close's "The Big Surprise"):
I started my close-up set by placing the Mystery box off to my right, in front of a seated spectator, asking them to keep an eye on it. Next I did my standard opening card set; Neighbors' Easy Over Aces, Bannon's Mirage Assembly, and Vernon & Cervon's The Devil's Elevator.

Easy Over Aces is the best opener I've ever found--thank you Dave--it begins with a rapid, visible change of red deuces and treys to 4 aces, and then proceeds much the same as the Roll Over Aces. Something magical happens in the first 30 seconds, and then has a nice triple climax. The Mirage Assembly helps set the stage for what is about to transpire. The assembly of the queens and the almost visual vanish from each pile accustom the audience to the idea of cards flying invisibly from hither to yon--and hopefully not yawn!

The Devil's Elevator further strengthens the appearance of my "technical" expertise (hah!)

Ok, now for the payoff, and the set-up trick that makes the Mystery Box really kill.

...I do the Mullica Wallet! And somehow, ahem, during the signing of the selected card, the top to my Sharpie is lost (a hat-tip in Close's direction.) I have the spectator place the signed card back into the deck, and I then produce it from the wallet.

Now the Mullica Wallet is about as perfect as you can get for a signed card to impossible location. I've never had anyone bust it, and believe me, I've done plenty of checking. It's always, "somehow you snuck the card into the wallet--I have absolutely no idea how..." Snuck works for me! Teleported, magished, poofed, and disappeared-it; same as snuck. But because the wallet was ON me to begin with, it's not so hard to figure that I was able to accomplish the effect through craft and guile. I _may_ have been able to "snuck it in" when they weren't watching, but still the overall effect of signed card to impossible location is intimated.

One--two--three. We have the Mirage Assembly's queens first, the Mullica Wallet second, and to complete the triad, The Mystery Box. I've prepped the audience enough. Time to finish the job.

As I produce the signed card from the wallet, I give it a slight convex bow (Tommy Wonder) and hand it to the spectator to check out. There's a huge release of tension at this point. Enough so I can retrieve the card from the spectator on the off beat, and top-change it for an indifferent card. I throw the card face down on the table, and have the spectator place their hands on it. As they do, I perform the Mercury Card Fold and finger palm the results in my left hand, as my right hand tables the deck. I have the spectator turn over their card(?). I then use my right hand to flip the pack face up and perform a right-to-left spread on the table so the spectator
can see that their card has vanished from the pack as well.

Next, I have the spectator uncover the Mystery Box and peek inside to tell me what they see. Of course they see the cap to my pen (a duplicate, pre-placed), and a folded card. Feigning surprise at the appearance of the cap, I dump the content(s) of the box into my left hand; set the box down with interior of the box facing the spectators, and extract the pen cap with my
right, handing the folded card to its owner with my left.

The appearance of the pen cap adds just the right amount of the surreal, no other word for it. The effect on the audience was all I'd hoped it would be: 5 seconds of absolute silence... Pen
cap--card? Card--pen cap? What the?

Ahh.

So I'm not so sure the TPT always operates.

Gina came up to me after the show and told me she was glad I bought the box. That's my wife, my biggest fan.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 07/25/05 11:43 PM

The Too Perfect Theory is based on two assumptions, both of which are wrong:

"To understand and subsequently accept this heretical statement, we must first examine and agree upon two basic premises: (1) Twentieth Century man no longer attributes the magician with supernatural powers. (2) To rational man, the unknown is unacceptable."

For 1, watch TV. 20th century man eagerly attributes people with all sorts of supernatural powers.

For 2, let me ask you this: how does your microwave work? And if you don't know, is this acceptable to you?

It is not surprising, then, that all of the conclusions that are derived from these false premises are false as well.
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Postby Q. Kumber » 07/26/05 01:09 AM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
I don't like the too perfect theory because I, personally, think when one goes into theory and worries about it, one usually forgets what, TO ME, matters... and that is the effect and pleasure the audience gets.
Quote of the Magic Circle Centenary. Billy McComb talking after the interviews of five living legends, "The trouble is that they go on extolling the art of magic, completely forgetting that we have to go out and make a living."
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/26/05 03:20 PM

So how was the Centenary?
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 07/26/05 03:58 PM

Rick Johnsson, if he could see and hear us now (and he may be), he'd be giggling. When he sent the initial essay to me, he said that it was meant to create discussion, perhaps debate, and the inevitable airing of opinions. The focus should be on the noun "theory." Hey, guys, it is a THEORY, meaning that it is a reasonably coherent collection of propositions that may or may not explain a phenomenon. That's it!

What we do on this forum (among other diverse things) is to theorize. This is stimulating and useful. If you agree, I will then submit my THEORY OF DAUB AS A ZEN SOLUTION.

Onward...
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Postby Bill Duncan » 07/26/05 04:45 PM

Originally posted by Pete McCabe:
For 2, let me ask you this: how does your microwave work? And if you don't know, is this acceptable to you?
Pete,
I think Rick got #2 right.

Speaking as a computer professional for almost twenty years I can tell you that people do know how their microwave oven works. It works the same way their computer works: technology. And they are OK with that.

People don't need to know how something works, if they (think) they know why it works. That's what makes it acceptable.

This is what led to the formation of Duncan's first law:
Insufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.
(with apologies to Arthur C. Clarke)
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Postby Brian Marks » 07/26/05 08:03 PM

I certainly believe the too perfect theory can be defeated with presentation but it appears to be more or less true in my opinion.
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Postby Bob Coyne » 07/26/05 09:37 PM

I think of the TPT as a logical extension to Vernon's statement (probably quoting someone else) that every trick or move has a discrepency. During a shuttle pass, for example, the spectator never sees both hands and the (supposedly single) object all at once. This discrepency is passed over unnoticed (we hope), but it's still there.

The overall strength of an effect is a balance between its pureness (i.e., its perfection) and its deceptiveness. In order to make a trick deceptive, it must employ a hidden method -- without the method there is no effect. And yet, by introducing any method a discrepency will be added, making the effect less pure (less perfect) than its Platonic ideal.

The TPT is simply a recognition of the fact that in finding a balance between pureness of effect and deceptiveness, we necessarily must add and remove discrepencies.
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Postby Brad Jeffers » 07/27/05 04:30 AM

This brings to mind HULKO\'S LAW -- A theory is better than it's explanation.
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Postby Jim Morton » 07/27/05 08:49 AM

I guess I'm in a minority here because I think there is some validity in the Too Perfect Theory. The way I understand it is that if you have eliminated all possible solutions to a trick, you might be leaving the audience with enough information to reach the correct solution. I think that all Mr. Johnsson was trying to do was point out that constructing a trick is not just about eliminating the possible alternative solutions, but making sure that you don't leave any tracks back to the correct solution as well.

While I think Pete McCabe is right when it comes to the still extant human trait of believing in the supernatural, I don't think many people walk out of a magician's show thiking that he has done something supernatural (mentalism not withstanding). I do believe that if you do something really well the audience becomes less interested in solutions than in the feeling of wonder they experience. On several occasions people have said to me, "How did you--no, don't tell me. I don't want to know"

So I'm not sure that "Too Perfect Theory" is such a good description. A more accurate name for it would be the "That's the Only Way it Could be Done" theory, but that's a little unwieldy.

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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 07/27/05 08:53 AM

Originally posted by Jim Morton:
So I'm not sure that "Too Perfect Theory" is such a good description. A more accurate name for it would be the "That's the Only Way it Could be Done" theory, but that's a little unwieldy.
I believe one of the articles in the Genii issue on the TPT suggested Ballantine's "How else?" as a more accurate title for the theory.

-Jim
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 07/27/05 09:20 AM

Originally posted by Jim Maloney:
..."How else?" ...
Can we agree that a routine whose design and performance leads the audience TO the actual method used is not likely to reward the smug performer?

If you get the horse thirsty as you lead it to water, you can hardly be surprised if it drinks.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time
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Postby Guest » 08/02/05 11:13 AM

I'm loving this thread. I have found something in every post so far that I agree with...and disagree with.

Therefore, Jon is correct. Rick IS giggling.

Personally, I go with the premise that the TPT is a fluid aspect of every performance. Everything depends on what you want the audience thinking as the curtains close.

Sometimes, you want them shaking their head and saying, "There's no way."

Sometimes, you want them wondering, "Could it be real?"

And then sometimes you just want to leave them charmed and laughing.

Either way, I win.

And that's just perfect.

Cheers,
Mick Ayres
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Postby John Lovick » 08/02/05 11:47 AM

Magic tricks simulate a violation of the laws of the universe to create an illusion of an impossible act. The simulation will always fall short of the ideal, the illusion will only be so good. Once you realize this, then it should be clear that by definition a magic trick can never be "too perfect". Covering up the weaknesses is one of the jobs of the magician. If you think there are too many tricks or acts or magicians that are too perfect, well, you must be going to different conventions than I am. Some tricks naturally point toward their own method, so the problem is not that the trick is too perfect, but that the method is too obvious.

Technically, the theory is not even a theory. It has a faulty title, faulty premises, and contradictory solutions and examples. By my count, in Johnsson's original essay, he discusses four problematic tricks and suggests eight changes to make the tricks "less perfect". Only two of the eight changes actually make the tricks "less perfect"; three make them "more perfect" and the other three merely alter the effect.

Of the many examples in the other essays on this topic in the August 1001 Genii, almost none of the "fixes" actually make the tricks "less perfect". They merely help disguise the method. Almost all of the examples were of some sort of red herring or MacGuffin that help throw spectators off the trail, but in very few of the examples were the tricks made "less perfect"usually the effects were slightly altered or a tangential element was added. Often, the tricks were made more perfect. Jon Racherbaumer, in experimenting with Paul Gertners "Photocopy" takes great pains to insure that the card force and the card vanish are both extremely deceptive. He does the opposite of what the "theory" implies you should do!

It has been argued that I dont disagree with the theory, merely the name of the theorythat if Johnsson had called it the Too Obvious Theory, I wouldnt be writing this. Thats not true. "Too perfect" is not merely part of the title, its actually one of the premises, and often magicians, in applying the "theory" strive to add imperfections to their tricks. I agree with Tommy Wonder, Darwin Ortiz, Martin Lewis, and Mike Close that adding imperfections is not the best approach to "improving" your magic.

If a trick is too obvious, the solution is not to make it less perfect. The real problem is almost always that the evidence is too weak. If it is not possible to strengthen the evidence, then another solution is to cover up the weaknesses/discrepancies by adding red herrings, smoke screens, physical and mental misdirection, MacGuffins, false leads, etc. But first, try and strengthen the evidence, increase conviction, improve the illusionstrive to make your magic "more perfect"!
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Postby Jeff Haas » 08/03/05 12:21 AM

Ballantine has it right..."How else?"

Or, in the words of many in the audience, "That's an easy one."
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