Too Perfect theory

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Postby Guest » 09/17/07 02:56 PM

Does any one know the issue or issues of Genii where the too perfect theory issues is discussed?I think it was in two issues? Thanks Mike
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Postby Leonard Hevia » 09/17/07 04:01 PM

Hi MH. I believe the Earl Nelson issue contains one article on the Too Perfect Theory. That is an August issue--but I don't recall the year. It might be 2001.

The cover photo is a close-up of the smiling, bespectacled Mr. Nelson. The interview was fantastic...
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Postby Guest » 09/17/07 05:18 PM

Rick Johnsson wrote about it quite a bit in The Linking Ring, as well.
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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 09/17/07 06:41 PM

Originally posted by Leonard Hevia:
I believe the Earl Nelson issue contains one article on the Too Perfect Theory. That is an August issue--but I don't recall the year. It might be 2001.
You are correct -- August 2001 contained a number of articles by various people on the Too Perfect Theory. (Jon Racherbaumer, Jamy Ian Swiss, John Carney, Mike Close, Darwin Ortiz, Martin Lewis, Patrick Watson, Harry Lorayne, and Simon Aronson). I believe the original article by Rick Johnsson was also reprinted there.

In addition, the October 2001 issue (David Copperfield cover) contained an article from Tom Stone on the subject.

-Jim
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Postby Guest » 09/18/07 09:59 AM

Jamy Ian Swiss's essay on the 'Too Perfect' theory that appeared in the August 2001 Genii was reprinted in his excellent book 'Shattering Illusions' (2002) along with some additional thoughts.

Richard
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Postby Guest » 09/19/07 01:08 AM

Rick Johnsson also published thoughts in the Hierophant.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/19/07 07:17 AM

buchty, Rick's article is the starting point for all discussion on the Too Perfect Theory and I believe we reprinted it in Genii as part of our much longer article.
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Postby Guest » 09/19/07 07:41 AM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
buchty, Rick's article is the starting point for all discussion on the Too Perfect Theory and I believe we reprinted it in Genii as part of our much longer article.
Where specifically is this much longer article?
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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 09/19/07 07:42 AM

Jon,
It's in the August 2001 issue as mentioned above.

-Jim
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Postby Steve Bryant » 06/30/10 11:32 AM

To revive an old thread, the August 2001 issue of Genii devoted 23 pages to the Too-Perfect Theory generally attributed to Rick Johnsson, based on his article that appeared in The Hierophant in 1971. Rick based his ruminations on a comment attributed to Dai Vernon. Although the Rick Johnsson article may be the first time the theory had been formally stated as a theory, it appears that it is not the first time the magic world had discussed the notion (of adding some imperfections to a trick to make it more perfect) in print. Yesterday, while reading a telephone telepathy trick in an old issue (January 1946) of Lloyd Jones' The Bat, I came across this passage:

A man and his wife in a nearby town do the trick a dozen times a day. It has been great publicity for them. To confuse the spectator she asks, "How many years have you been married?" "Twelve?" "Well, then your selected card is the three of spades!" And do the poor spectators go around mumbling in their collective beards! This little off-shoot bears out what Monk Watson has to say in his new book about a trick being too perfect. If the spectator is left without any loop-hole to use for a solution he is not then nearly as impressed as when he has one. In other words, a non-explainable trick is not nearly as effective as one in which the spectator is permitted to think he has a clue to its solution.


The Monk Watson book is surely The Professional Touch, which came out in 1945. (Not to be confused with The Professional Touch by Billy McComb, which came out in 1987.) In its ad -- still available -- on the Abbott's web site, Abbott's says, "You will feel more sure of yourself after reading this. Can A Trick Be Too Perfect?"

I don't own the Monk Watson book, so can't comment further, but I find it interesting the he and Lloyd Jones were discussing all this 25 years before "we" were.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/30/10 11:41 AM

From The Art of War a note in chapter 7 roughly translates to: "To a surrounded enemy, you must leave a way of escape." In our literature we have a well known exponent of turning that way of escape into a garden path. ;)
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Postby Joe Pecore » 06/30/10 11:59 AM

Steve Bryant wrote:Although the Rick Johnsson article may be the first time the theory had been formally stated as a theory, it appears that it is not the first time the magic world had discussed the notion (of adding some imperfections to a trick to make it more perfect) in print.


Here is another mention of that theory from the column "Bob's This 'N That" by Bob Weill in the Linking Ring, April 1940:

"As for the magician opening the first or outer doll, that is a bit of logic, too. In fact, this was the point that threw off Joe Berg and some of the other smart men. If you didn't open the dollor do somethingthe mystery would be too perfect. It would be such an impossibility that people would realize that the effect just couldn't be done. Hence further reasoning might lead to the natural explanation: two bills. But by giving them something to think about you throw off the minds of the spectators, making making them believe you are doing the dirty work when actually you are doing nothing at all."
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Postby Alex Smith » 08/20/10 03:10 AM

I am not a magician and know very little about the subject, however I am interested in this particular discussion. Monk Watson was my Great Grandfather and I have been spending the evening seeing what I could find about him online. That is what brought me to this site, and I thought I would create this account to share an excerpt from his book "The Professional Touch"

B. The Origin of the Too Perfect Theory

In 1945, a magician named "Monk" Watson published a small pamphlet on magic entitled The Professional Touch. (24) One chapter in the pamphlet was entitled, "Can a Trick Be Too Perfect?" (25) In this chapter, Watson described a magic show in which he performed a trick commonly known as the "Bill in the Lemon." (26) Generally, in this trick, the performer borrows a dollar bill from a spectator. A corner is torn off the dollar bill and given to the spectator. The performer also shows a lemon, which is given to a second spectator. The performer places the dollar bill in an envelope and then lights the envelope on fire. The second spectator holding the lemon is then given a knife to cut open the lemon and inside is the rolled-up dollar bill. The missing corner of the dollar bill in the lemon matches the torn-off corner of the dollar bill that is being held by the first spectator. The performer does not come within ten feet of the lemon from the time the second spectator is given the lemon.

Watson noted that the trick was "too perfect." (27) The audience would quickly realize that there were two dollar bills and that the one in the lemon was not the same bill that the performer borrowed from the first spectator. The performer must have previously torn off a corner of a dollar bill before inserting the bill in the lemon and then switched this torn corner for the torn corner from the dollar bill borrowed from the first spectator. Therefore, Watson changed the performance of the trick by first burning the envelope containing the borrowed dollar bill and then picking up the lemon, inserting the knife in the lemon, and giving the lemon to the second spectator. (28) The second spectator would then finish cutting open the lemon to reveal the dollar bill. Watson noted that performing the trick in this manner "would give the impression that in some way I [Watson] had put the bill in the lemon," thus giving him credit for great magical skills. (29) Watson is generally credited with coining the term "Too Perfect," but his theory did not make much of an impact in the magic world at the time. (30) However, that would change in about twenty-five years.

This excerpt can be found hosted at this address: http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199 ... n-the.html

A copy of Monk's book can be purchased online for 5 dollars!
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 08/20/10 07:51 AM

Hi Alex,

Thanks. Where might we be able to purchase a copy of Monk's book?

A "clever devil"... seems a sidestep from Robert-Houdin's idea. If a performer challenges an audience to be sure that he is not using the dark arts, thus getting them involved in active/conscious perception and logical deduction - all under that primal concern (that's our deal with them - simulated sorcery only...), it's a losing proposition. Vanish a coin - out come the metal detectors. Once you ask them to be sceptical - to find sufficient evidence to support any claims it's a fast downhill slide.

For those without the gift of language: If you insist on asking an audience to review what you did and, even indirectly, lead them to how you did it, it's not their fault they deduced how you did it. ;)

Congrats to Monk for recognizing the inherent problem of going out of frame with one's tricks and thanks for making his book available.

Jon
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Postby Steve Bryant » 08/20/10 08:28 AM

Abbott's has it for $5. Nice little book. Note that Monk was 25 years ahead of Rick Johnsson.
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Postby Leonard Hevia » 08/20/10 03:26 PM

That August 2001 issue of Genii did not include Tommy Wonder's thoughts on the Too Perfect Theory. Tommy rejected the theory because the idea of "weakening" an effect to render it deceptive appeared to be a step back. His ideal was an effect that completely baffles with no hint of a solution. If that meant you had to spend a great deal of time to create the best method, so be it.
He also had to come to grips with the reality of the situation and the theory. When he performed "Card in Ringbox", he never allowed the spectators to hold the box until the revelation of the selected card. The box was left on the table until the revelation. If the spectators had held onto the box throughout the effect, they might have realized the impossiblity of the transposition of the selected card from the deck to the box and would correctly guess the method.
If you want to perform magic, you can't ignore the TPT.
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Postby Alex Smith » 08/21/10 11:00 PM

After recounting my first post to my grandmother this weekend (she is Monk Watson's daughter) she was pleased to learn that her father's legacy was still well intact. She also had a bit of analogous knowledge to add, from her own history sewing. It is/was common practice that, when you were stitching some design or pattern, to leave some error or discrepancy in it. This was done so that anyone who saw it would know that it was done by hand and that it was not machine stitched--without errors it could be assumed that it was done by machine, due to it being "too perfect". Not necessarily helpful to the discussion of magic, but nonetheless...:)
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Postby Ramon Maronier » 09/02/10 07:20 AM

It's the old circus law.
We drop 3 times, and then for the final we wring it.
Thunderous applause.
It works. Even for the people who are into the 'scam'.

The failing/ struggling magician.
A pity that this is often taken to the direction that the magician is at the end again 'right'. Or, smarter then the audience.
I think that there are a lot of magicians who don't care for the Too Perfect Theory.
Because their persona is not the 'catch me if you can' magician.
But a magician who does 'real shamanistic magic'.
Too many 'cards in boxes in hands of spectators' situations of course will create fast a situation of unbalance.
'All these props this magician caries with him which are just used for 'show'.'
They loose their magic. But sometimes, when the audience is lead on the path, is willing to believe, this beautiful characteristic box can live a life of it's own.

Yes, in the story, in the context, one can feel actually entertained, 'nurtured', with the thought that the box is magical.
Then it works, people are willing to believe, not looking for answers, prove, coins in sleeves, palmed cards, hidden weapons, or anything like that..
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 09/02/10 09:10 AM

Ramon, you mentioned character, context and "the audience is lead on the path" <- rapport then leading.

The language "too perfect" is a distraction for "you lead them to how you did it".

One workaound is to violate a larger value, say making a cut down coin and shell from real money (back when money was real) and so cut-off that avenue of exploration by the self evident absurdity of damaging real and valuable money/coins to permit a clever trick. Pretty much brings us back to that fine line about it being worth having an entire audience of stooges just so you can amaze one person. That almost worked in "Murder on the Orient Express" if you're familiar with the story.
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Postby Dave V » 09/02/10 10:26 AM

Wasn't that the strength of one of Vernon's classic stories? Throwing a deck overboard only to find the only face up card floating in the water was the chosen card?

The technology of the time made gaffed cards very expensive and virtually unheard of. Even if someone suspected <gaffs>, the general consensus would be that nobody in their right mind would ruin such a costly gaff just for one trick.

I'd gladly dispose of one expensive item if it secured my fame in the magic history books.
"I still play with a full deck, I just shuffle slower"
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Postby Ramon Maronier » 09/02/10 02:09 PM

Jonathan,

nice; Agatha Christie.
maybe I misunderstood you ( or my use of the English language is so bad ) but, I meant; lead on the path of believing.

It's a fine line between art and craft.
For me part of the 'art' in conjuring or being a magician is that you create a context in which people WANT to believe.
Persona, technique, timing, body language, story, situation, material, talent, method and more can work together to create a context in which the spectator is willing to 'believe' the magic.
Not ( only ) that you search for ways to cover every corner of the method.
Applying of the too perfect theory can for me sometimes lead to isolation of method.

Too perfect means; real magic.
'Less perfect' is; done by a conjurer, not a mage.
Real magic is not possible so; we need to create an element of craftsmanship.
I do understand that one can apply the too perfect theory and still be very magical. It is just a tool to consider, while creating a magical experience.

About the 'violation of a larger value' and throwing the costly gaff away with the bath water.
It's a very interesting idea how far people want to go, to deliver ' believable' magic. ( psychologically I mean- we don't make anything 'real', we just work on a perceptional level- is it worth the money/ time/ effort/ thought? )
Also how much they want to limit themselves in creating believable magic..
And do you need to explain to the audience the amount of money that a successful illusionist/ tv magician can make, or how famous he can become to justify the effort?

I just had a funny picture in my mind of a classic black and white pen drawing of a magician doing the cups and balls in a little art nouveau theater in France with a huge intricate steam machine 'hidden' behind the curtains taking 3/4 of the space of Paris so that the soft red ball could appear under the middle copper cup on the antique wooden table.
Without any hint of a visible hand move..

Is it worth it? Is it French?
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Postby Ramon Maronier » 09/03/10 03:11 AM

I just reread my post, because I found a way to almost contradict myself.
And I also noticed that one sentence could be seen as a comment on the interesting post above of mister Dave V. It was not meant to be, my excuses if it comes over like that.

The last May Genii, Mister Steinmeyer's Khardova deck.
The Open prediction plot.
I know there was some discussion about the treatment of the cards, but I don't get into that.

First and foremost I have to say that the trick with the nice patter/ context/rhythm of showing the cards and mister Steinmeyer's disarming smile would certainly fool/ entertain me!

But when we would just look at ( isolate ) the method.
Putting the prediction 'open' on the table could put in my opinion too much emphasis on the method for the reveal of the matching card.
The last moment.
The spread of the deck.
It's inherent to the plot but it could be 'too perfect' for me.

A prediction in envelope variation would in a way create more mystery or a broader possibility for the magic to happen or 'the magic to be'.

But again, that would of course be another plot.
And like I said before, the trick as written down would fool me.
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