The "finger-perfect" question

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

The "finger-perfect" question

Postby Guest » October 10th, 2001, 2:25 pm

Futzing around with some cards recently, I was reminded of an observation I first made some 20 years ago: namely, that a move need not be "finger-perfect" to be deceptive and that occasionally, a "finger-imperfect" move is superior to finger-perfect alternatives.

I originally observed this while studying Slydini's version of the Equal/Unequal Ropes (which I REFUSE to call Professor's Nightmare). Slydini devised a brilliant false count, in which the ropes are pulled horizontally, one-by-one from the left hand into the right. What makes it especially deceptive is how the already-counted "first" rope hangs vertically and lifeless as the second rope is pulled out of the left hand. What fascinates me is that the relationship between objects and fingers during the count is in fact completely illogical. On the count of two, the "first" rope is seen to be held by different fingers than were holding it on the count of one. Yet the visual narrative of the count, and the smoothness with which it can (should!) be executed, trumps the illogical fingering, even to rapt close-up observers.

I was reminded of this several months ago, while devising a stand-up version of "Le Temps Four Aces" from Hugard/Braue. After much experimentation, I came up with (though wouldn't dare claim to have originated) a top-change in which three spider-gripped aces are substituted for three indifferents. In fact, the spatial relation of cards to fingers is markedly different after the switch than before. Yet the smoothness of the move, and the especially "gingerly" way the cards are held after the switch, make the move more convincing than the more "finger-perfect" variants I toyed with.

I'm sure I'm not the first to make this finger-perfect/finger-imperfect observation. Given the limited nature of my magic library, maybe others have written about it at length. I just think it's a cool, subtle point of magic theory and wonder if others have thoughts on the matter.


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Richard Kaufman
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Re: The "finger-perfect" question

Postby Richard Kaufman » October 12th, 2001, 9:28 am

It's difficult to understand the grip thing you're talking about without any pictures.
However, the point of your message is well taken. The most obvious example of this is an old one, the Top Change. The original handling of the Top Change involves the card switching positions from between the thumb and first finger to between the first and second fingers. Even though it is an inferior method because of this (Robert-Houdin improved it in the mid 1800s), many still do the Top Change this way because they feel it is more secure. Paul Gertner, for one, still uses the older handling. Of course, no one notices.
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Re: The "finger-perfect" question

Postby Guest » October 12th, 2001, 9:54 am

Richard --
Interesting. I recall at least one author writing disparagingly about the old, finger-imperfect top change. But if that's the technique that allows a performer to relax and concentrate on presentation, who's gonna notice where the fingers actually land? (Well, besides other magicians and gamblers.)


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Re: The "finger-perfect" question

Postby Gordolini » October 12th, 2001, 11:49 am

I think the points made above illustrate just how much a magician can get away with whilst performing to a lay audience. Indeed, there has been many a time where I have struggled to maintain a pinky break and virtually been forced to insert my pinky into the break. How obvious? But the strange thing is I have never been called on it once.

I heard that Jerry Sadowitz once performed what, technically, was a tremendous trick which involved half a dozen intricate sleights. To the magicians in the audience his handling was astounding, but to the laymen it was lost as it was just a "pick card, find card" trick.

It beggars the question - should we, as magicians, constantly strive for perfection?

[ October 12, 2001: Message edited by: Gordon ]


Re: The "finger-perfect" question

Postby Guest » October 12th, 2001, 1:15 pm

And I think the answer is that artistic perfection is sometimes (though not usually) best served by sleights that are imperfect simulations of the actions they fake.


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