Help with Slydini Quote, please

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Zig Zagger
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Help with Slydini Quote, please

Postby Zig Zagger » July 17th, 2019, 5:29 pm

Hi folks,

I am currently working on a presentation on Magic & Warfare.

Here and there on the internet Slydini is quoted as having said „A good general chooses his battlefield“, but I have yet to find an exact printed source for that.

Any help is appreciated. Thank you!
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Jonathan Townsend
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Re: Help with Slydini Quote, please

Postby Jonathan Townsend » July 17th, 2019, 6:28 pm

Not surprising that Tony Slydini would reference Sun Tzu. Such good advice gets around.
Max Malini was big on choosing his moments to do sleights as mentioned in the Ganson book. In our literature the notions of design and focus of attention were also present in the Robert-Houdin Secrets of ... book, in the chapters on the Eye and The Moment.

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Re: Help with Slydini Quote, please

Postby Bill Mullins » July 18th, 2019, 1:38 pm

Robert Giobbi quotes him saying this in Card College 2, p 432. He might be able to lead you to a more direct citation.

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Re: Help with Slydini Quote, please

Postby Zig Zagger » July 18th, 2019, 3:45 pm

Excellent, Bill, thank you!

I will check with Roberto.
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Richard Hatch
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Re: Help with Slydini Quote, please

Postby Richard Hatch » July 19th, 2019, 12:29 am

It appears the quotation is by Vernon, talking about Slydini in an audiotape to Lewis Ganson, as quoted in The Dai Vernon Book of Magic (1957), p. 31:
"Did you notice how Tony performed under his own conditions? Quietly and naturally he arranged for everyone to be seated where he wanted them to be. Like a good General, he chose his own battleground. If you ask Tony to do a trick when the conditions are not to his own choosing, then he will not risk spoiling his effects. He'll murmur "Later", then, when he has found his own spot, he'll call you over and perform near miracles. That's the result of intelligent thinking--a good lesson for the magical student--be a good General; choose your own conditions."

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Zig Zagger
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Re: Help with Slydini Quote, please

Postby Zig Zagger » July 19th, 2019, 3:01 pm

Thanks a lot, Dick! That's likely the "mother" of this quote then, I would guess. (I hope to meet you again soon at EMHC!)

In addition, Roberto has suggested to me to check with Slydini expert Gene Matsuura.
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Re: Help with Slydini Quote, please

Postby Bill Mullins » July 19th, 2019, 4:16 pm

The earliest I find it is in reference to the Duke of Wellington, since he had forced Napoleon's hand into combat at Waterloo. The earliest I see the quote is in an essay in 1870:
"It was said of the Duke of Wellington that months before the Battle of Waterloo he had picked out the field of Mont St. Jean and its neighbourhood as the place where the battle would be fought. . . . An immense issue hung upon the forecast and the tactics of the duke; but, as he himself said, a good general chooses his own battle field."
From "Tact and Tactics", in Family Herald, Mar 19,1870, p. 749. The article is unsigned, but it is reprinted in a book from 1875 by James Hain Friswell, entitled The Better Self: Essays for Home-Life, so I'd ascribe the quote to Hain. (I searched to see if I could find these exact words being said or written by the Duke of Wellington, but was not able to.)

I see in newspapers, magazines and books that others used the quote, and I assume they just picked it up and resaid it. No doubt Slydini did this as well.

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Re: Help with Slydini Quote, please

Postby Zig Zagger » July 19th, 2019, 4:27 pm

Yes, Bill, I agree. The quote certainly is military lore, be it from good old Sun Tzu, as JT has pointed out ("The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought."), or later strategists. It certainly did not originate in magic or with Slydini. But in magic context, I found it linked to him most often. Now I am wondering whether this quote actually goes back to Vernon's assessment of Slydini quoted above by Dick!
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Re:Choosing his battlefield...Help with Slydini Quote, please

Postby webbmaster » October 7th, 2019, 1:33 pm

Sol Stone told me this great story. Sol used to carry a special tablecloth for Slydini in the trunk of his car. If Slydini met someone new or from out of town who he thught he could convince to either hire him for a show or take lessons from him at his Studio, he would signal to Sol wh would go out and get the tablecloth and then take it to a table in the back of the magicians's meeting room at the time and set up the tablecloth in the best location for angles etc. Then Slydini would say to his newfound friend, "Let's go for a stroll."
They would go to the table with the tablecloth just like Slydini liked it, at the back of the place, and Slydini would perform some of his best pieces without anyone being able to look under the table. I always like this story and how it all seemed merely impromptu to the guy who was being fooled but was actually orchestrated by Sol.


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