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Ryan Matney's Ultramodern in Review

Posted: April 4th, 2016, 1:03 pm
by Dustin Stinett
Ryan Matney’s Ultramodern is described by the author as an anthology of effects. The kind of thing we used to see when an author—the late Jerry Mentzer comes immediately to mind—publishes a collection of effects from friends versus a group from the writer.

Its 110 pages is an assortment of twelve card effects from an impressive assemblage of donors: Robin Robertson, Martin Lewis, Paul Hallas, Marty Kane, Jozsef Kovacs, Steve Dusheck, John Carey, Al Bach, Peter Duffie, John Bannon, Gordon Bean, and the author. J.K. Hartman also makes an appearance with some work of his own on one of the effects.

Profusely illustrated with black and white photos, the book is virtually self-contained—most of the requisite moves are described—and is not particularly demanding. The intermediate student will find this collection a lot of fun. Even the beginner who is ready to make the jump to intermediate might enjoy, and certainly learn from, this collection.

The book opens with a version of the “Fusion” plot. In his listing of the various creators, Matney makes the now all-too common error of giving Doc Eason credit for the creation of the “Anniversary Waltz” variation. Even Doc Eason is always careful to credit Christopher Carter who originally published the effect in The Linking Ring in 1991. That aside, this is another non-gaffed version from Robin Robertson. It sets the pace for the rest of the book in regard to the thoroughness of the explanations. Even the “lowly” Riffle Force is well covered. This comes after the effect proper—something I wish the author kept to for some other moves, but doesn’t.

Martin Lewis is one of my favorite magicians, so anything he publishes is likely to catch my eye. In fact, I flipped to his effect first. Titled “S8ed” (it took me a moment to figure out), it is a (gaffed) take on the classic “Cannibal Cards” plot. Instead of discovering the eaten “missionaries” back in the jungle (deck), the blow-off here is the “Kannibals” turning into a different four of a kind that includes the only one of devoured cards and their not-seen-before mates; the second missionary vanishing completely. It provides a different angle to the story.

Its explanation also provides a moment of confusion because Matney chooses to describe the Elmsley Count and the Ascanio Spread during the effect proper. In the case of the Elmsley Count it proves confusing because during the description of the classic count, he explains it with four cards in hand, not the five that the reader is holding at that moment in the effect. Once you get past that flaw, you realize that the effect is a streamlined quickie with possibilities. However, this is a one-off card trick. By that I mean that, because of the gaff and minor setup, it’s an opener, and because of the continued presence of the gaffs at the end, you are more likely to move on to your next non-card trick versus attempting any clean up. Though not automatically resetting, the trick is a candidate for a small tableside set in which this is the lone card trick.

Steranko’s “Voodoo Card” seems to be making a comeback. I recently reviewed two DVDs with versions on them, one done with business cards. Ultramodern sports Paul Hallas’s take on the plot. It’s quick and easy. I’m not at all enamored by the opening display. Why magicians insist on displays—in this case a face-down Elmsley Count variant that includes cards being turned face up to show them. After you buy this book, which I suggest you do, just show the cards in a face up fan, turn it face down and use the first two steps of Bro. John Hamman’s Gemini Count to hand the object cards to the volunteers. The proper order will dawn on you when you read the rest of the procedure. You’re welcome.

Marty Kane’s “Car-Jack-King” is a near-self-working card revelation with a goofy story and a lot of spelling and counting. Though the author doesn’t provide this little detail, yes, “of” is part of the spelling procedure.

Another (almost) self-working effect using a blank deck, “Outing Bottom” also has a lot of spelling (all 13 values), requires a full-deck setup (that makes any reset a chore), a short card, and results in the revelation of a (forced) selection with a little something extra. I’d have to see this is action before the laity to be convinced of its effectiveness. My problem is that in the end, the spectators are going to recognize that there was only one regular card from the jump, it’s clear that you needed them to “freely” select it—so it wasn’t really “free” (whatever that means to them)—and they’d be right. Insert polite applause versus actual astonishment.

The only non-playing card effect belongs to magic legend Steve Dusheck. It uses business cards, has a premise that’s easy to work with, and easily resets. I’ll let Mr. Duschek—a seasoned performer—tell you what to expect from a trick with business cards: “Time Travel, Inc. is a very good trick. Just don't expect that initialed card to be kept or get you additional bookings. It's just a good, easy, magic trick your audiences will enjoy.”

I expect so.

Any Card At Any Number is becoming ubiquitous and with “Double Decker ACAAN” we have John Carey’s offering. I like Mr. Carey’s work a lot (see my reviews in Genii of some of his DVDs). This ACAAN uses two decks, is incredibly simple.

Al Bach’s “Shooting Star” has a lot of magic for a small amount of work. The hardest move is the Top Change. Not a difficult move to do; just one that requires the student playing past the fear that come with it. My advice, just do it. You’ll surprise yourself. This effect is a natural for the table worker. It leaves the spectator with a souvenir (or something to throw away according to Mr. Duschek!).

The author’s contribution to the collection is “Double Speak E-Z,” an estimation routine that, regardless of your prowess at the technique, has a guaranteed winning finish.

Peter Duffie offers up a piece using ESP cards. The effect is simple: one card of the five classic symbols is freely selected and mixed into the packet (all while the swami has his eyes turned away). The packet is placed into the performer’s pocket. With great concentration, the mentalist removes four cards from his pocket without showing them. The last card is removed by the volunteer and proves to be the selection, the others on the table being the other four symbol cards.

The procedure for this takes some space to explain, but like the effect, it’s fairly straight forward and technically easy to accomplish. It’s yet another case of a lot of effect for not a lot of work.

I’ll allow Mr. Matney to introduce John Bannon’s contribution: “It always makes me smile when I read a trick that uses very basic sleight of hand to achieve an incredible effect.”

“Mate Accompli” fits that bill nicely. It’s a MAAN (Mate At Any Number) effect. A card is freely named and removed from the deck. A number is freely named and the card at that number proves to be the mate of the named card. It’s simple, direct, and it’s a ADAAT trick: Any Deck At Any Time.

My friend Gordon Bean (miss having you around, Gordon!) closes the book with an effect that—in the spectators’ minds—is clear, but in words, not so much. Once again, it’s easier here to let the author do the heavy lifting:

The magician shows the Ace through Five of Diamonds and states that he will attempt to steal the one chosen by the spectator. After the spectator randomly turns over all but one of the five cards, the magician places the packet into a card box.

The lone card left face down mysteriously penetrates the box and drops into the spectator’s hands. When the packet is removed from the box, however, there is still a face-down card in the position previously occupied by the selection. To bring the effect to its conclusion, the magician turns this over to reveal a blank-faced card bearing the words “The End.”

As I see it—albeit from high atop my “magician’s-thinking” perch—the procedure has only one flaw: placing the packet into the card box only to remove it again. While this is justified via presentation, I suspect that there might be a more expedient, and certainly difficult, way to accomplish what is required at that moment. The rest is gravy regardless of the method used for that, necessary, moment of procedure.

Obviously the message card can be anything—a client, birthday, anniversary, etc.—and it is performed using the hands of the spectators as tables. That makes it a strolling worker’s dream.

Ultramodern is a good book. It’s not great, but good is nothing to shy away from. Why it’s not “great” has to do with little things. Less than perfect writing—more than once I had to reread sections to grasp what the author was attempting to convey. Of course writing descriptions of tricks is not easy. But it’s seems to me that the book—given some of the more obvious typos and misspellings—suffers from a lack of editing by another pair of eyes. Fortunately the material is of such a quality that we can quickly forgive these minor misgivings. If you like solid card magic, Ryan Matney’s book is a book worth your attention.

Ultramodern by Ryan Matney. 110 pages, 12 effects using playing cards, ESP cards, and business cards. Available at

Re: Ryan Matney's Ultramodern in Review

Posted: April 5th, 2016, 2:06 pm
by Ryan Matney
Thanks Dustin for the detailed review. I shall be revising the issues you have brought up to make the book mo' better.

Re: Ryan Matney's Ultramodern in Review

Posted: April 11th, 2016, 2:11 pm
by Ryan Matney
Ultramodern (and my other two releases) are on sale for 3 more days only! At

20% off and Free Shipping in the USA! Don't miss it.

Re: Ryan Matney's Ultramodern in Review

Posted: June 18th, 2016, 11:41 am
by Paul
Dustin, thanks for your ideas on my Voodoo Jokers in "Ultramodern". In the routine description it does say "There are many options for showing four normal jokers and you'll probably adapt and use your own" (last paragraph p.31) so I'm glad you did! Obviously you're a fan of "The Twins" so use part of the Gemini count. It's personal choice. You're still, at that point, doing a 'display' of some jokers from a face down packet. The only important point is that all four joker faces appear to have been fully shown at some point.

I've used the Gemini count but am not a big fan, I gather Marlo wasn't either, from his opening remarks to "The Jimminy Cricket Count" in "Marlo's Magazine Vol. 4", p.290.

I was not aware of other recent approaches to the burnt card idea, but have visited the plot several times in the past. Three approaches are in my 2008 book "Magic From The Overground" (one of those had been marketed prior to that) and I've been interested in the plot for decades.

By the way, I enjoyed your thorough review, of a very good little book. I hope it sells more copies for Ryan.

One last comment on 'Voodoo Jokers', a friend in Spain, Jack Jansen tells me he's just going to do it with two jokers so I doubt he'll be using your suggestions or mine for showing the jokers :D