John Lovick wrote:
To me, the issue was never "too perfect" - it was always "too obvious".
I've always said the same thing. Rick Johnsson's original essay is a muddled contradictory bunch of ideas. In every one of his examples, the trick is never "too perfect" it is always not perfect enough.
The only real idea in the essay is that some tricks are not deceptive -- and there are things we can do to make them more deceptive. It has nothing to offer about WHY tricks aren't decpetive or HOW we can make them more deceptive. It gives examples, but those examples are all over the map, and of no use the next time you find yourself with a trick that doesn't fool anyone.
I refer to it as the "Too Obvious" Theory (using the term "theory" very loosely, as there are no remedial or diagnostic components to it).
With the exception of a few grammatical errors, I don't see "a muddled contradictory bunch of ideas" in Johnsson's essay. On the contrary, he expresses his thoughts very clearly by beginning with two premises:
1. Twentieth Century man no longer attributes the "magician" with supernatural powers.
2. To rational man, the unknown is unacceptable.
Johnson goes on to develop three hypotheses based on his second premise:
1. Man will find or invent an answer for what baffles him.
2. That answer does not need to be completely rational or consistent with available data.
3. Man is flexible in changing his answers in the light of more complete or acceptable data.
As Johnsson goes on to describe, combining the first premise with the first two hypotheses helps to explain why spectators can walk away from a magical performance with ridiculous explanations for the mysteries that were just witnessed. In some cases, the spectator is just guessing, but in others, it can lead them right to the method of the effect. The magician is now left with the dilemma of dealing with the latter situation. Instead of leaving this to chance, Johnsson suggests utilizing the third hypothesis to coaxe the spectators' solutions down the path of the magician's choosing and simultaneously stay within the parameters of:
1. Leading the spectators away from the correct solution.
2. Be acceptable to the spectators.
3. Would not detract from the tricks effect.
4. Would give the magician full credit for the magic.
This is what I learned by reading Johnsson's essay. There is nothing "muddling" nor "contradictory" about any of this. Johnsson's first example to illustrate his thoughts is a card effect. The magician hands the spectator a deck of cards, the spectator goes into the next room, selects a card, inserts the card back and pockets the deck. Upon returning to back to the other room, the magician divines the card. What could be a more perfect card effect than that (David Berglas nothwithstanding)? How is that card effect not perfect enough?