Darwin's Rules (?)

A place where beginners can participate, ask questions, and post their views. However, beginners typically ask a lot of questions about sources, tricks, books, and so on. In fact, all magicians are interested (or should be) in the provenance of tricks, ideas, and related matters. This department will service these needs.
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Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby TylerErickson » February 21st, 2018, 9:41 pm

I know Darwin Ortiz outlines what he considered a requirement in order to publish an improved version of an existing effect. It was a list including better: presentation, sleight, structure, etc.

For the life of me I can't find it in any of his books, but I know it's there. I'm remembering it in Card Shark, but it seems like the kind of thing that would appear in multiple places. To clarify, this is different than Darwin's Law as outlined in Strong Magic.

Lil' help?

T

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby erdnasephile » February 21st, 2018, 10:06 pm

Cardshark, page 11, paragraph 2

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Richard Kaufman » February 21st, 2018, 11:04 pm

And the so-called requirement is nonsense.
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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Denis Behr » February 22nd, 2018, 2:35 am

I think it is a very good guideline, that should be followed.

Darwin Ortiz wrote:To justify its existence, I feel a new trick should be different from what has come before. And, to the extent that it resembles any previous tricks, it should be superior to them either in plot, method, or presentation (or in more than one of those categories).

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Bill Mullins » February 22nd, 2018, 2:09 pm

If you remember it from multiple places, it may be because Mike Close repeated it several times over the years in his reviews.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Richard Kaufman » February 22nd, 2018, 2:35 pm

Every "requirement" in this rule is subjective, and thus has no substantive meaning.

Each of these items is subjective (that is, based upon an individual's opinion):

1. Different from what has come before.
2. To the extent that it resembles any previous tricks, it should be superior to them either in plot ...
3. ... method
4. ... presentation

How much "different"? Who's to judge? Why is your opinion better than mine? Only a person who thinks they know more than everyone else can write something ridiculous like this and expect it to be taken seriously.

All four of these so-called requirements can and do mean different things to different people.

The original statement is pseudo-intellectual hash and thus nonsense.
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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Joe Mckay » February 22nd, 2018, 2:46 pm

Yeah - Mike used to quote that rule a lot. I have such fond memories of his time at MAGIC magazine. He is my all-time favourite magic reviewer.

I remember Darwin following it up by saying he didn't think making a trick easier was necessarily an improvement. Since how difficult a trick is should not matter to the serious magician. On the surface it is tempting to agree. But I think making something easier has to always be an improvement.

No matter how skilled you are - something will always look a bit better if it is easier to do. It is nearly impossible to hide that element of tension that is not present in a self-working trick. This is important because magicians forget that magic should literally come across as being effortless.

Just fooling somebody is not enough. It should look effortless at the same time. Which is why most magicians often get better reactions from a simple or self-working trick than they do from a regular/difficult trick.

Another interesting point that Darwin made was that sometimes a tiny change can make a big improvement to a trick. And a big change can result in only a small improvement to a trick. As such - it can be quite tricky working out what to publish. Since the biggest contributions sometimes come about from the smallest changes.

I used to find it interesting when Mike (in his review columns) used to list all the card plots (eg ace assemblies, sandwich routines, open prediction, collectors, ace cutting) that we already had enough versions of. That makes for an interesting addition to Darwin's rules. If that was followed as well - very little card magic would ever get published.

One important point is that a lot of magicians mistake personalising a trick with improving it. Simply describing how you varied a trick to fit your requirements is not the same as having something of merit that is worth sharing.

I am a big fan of Darwin's rules. It is a great way to think about magic when deciding what to publish.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Chris Aguilar » February 22nd, 2018, 3:01 pm

Denis Behr wrote:I think it is a very good guideline, that should be followed.

Darwin Ortiz wrote:To justify its existence, I feel a new trick should be different from what has come before. And, to the extent that it resembles any previous tricks, it should be superior to them either in plot, method, or presentation (or in more than one of those categories).

Agreed. What harm is there in basically opining "Hey, why not try to make your published material stand out in some way by either differentiating it or actually improving it?"

Denis has (with both his books) done just that, with much success.

That's what that blurb (taken within the context of the entire book) has always meant to me. It's just friendly (and in my view, excellent) advice that I'm free to take or leave.
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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Denis Behr » February 22nd, 2018, 3:05 pm

Of course it's subjective, but it's still an excellent guideline. By the way, this is what Karl Fulves wrote in Methods with Cards (1975):
Karl Fulves wrote:In putting together the routines and ideas that go into the making of these manuscripts, the intent is to strive for novelty of effect, method or handling.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Richard Kaufman » February 22nd, 2018, 6:21 pm

Denis Behr wrote:Of course it's subjective, but it's still an excellent guideline. By the way, this is what Karl Fulves wrote in Methods with Cards (1975):
Karl Fulves wrote:In putting together the routines and ideas that go into the making of these manuscripts, the intent is to strive for novelty of effect, method or handling.


Yes, another purely subjective statement that can be made to mean anything one wants about any trick, any sleight, or any idea.
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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Chris Aguilar » February 22nd, 2018, 7:13 pm

Denis Behr wrote:Of course it's subjective, but it's still an excellent guideline. By the way, this is what Karl Fulves wrote in Methods with Cards (1975):
Karl Fulves wrote:In putting together the routines and ideas that go into the making of these manuscripts, the intent is to strive for novelty of effect, method or handling.

Very nice quote from Fulves, someone who really published a lot of great material.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Bill Duncan » February 22nd, 2018, 9:06 pm

Joe Mckay wrote:Yeah - Mike used to quote that rule a lot. I have such fond memories of his time at MAGIC magazine. He is my all-time favourite magic reviewer.

No matter how skilled you are - something will always look a bit better if it is easier to do. It is nearly impossible to hide that element of tension that is not present in a self-working trick. This is important because magicians forget that magic should literally come across as being effortless.

While I agree that tension may be bad generally, I would suggest that for someone who is skilled, the tension simply doesn't exist in any significant way. But certainly, the tension (and distraction) of trying to remember a contrived procedure and make sure the audience member follows your instructions to the letter that typically replace the sleight of hand could make your performance suboptimal.

So sure tension, is bad. But did you ever see Martin Nash deal a second?

...an interesting addition to Darwin's rules. If that was followed as well - very little card magic would ever get published.

And that would be bad why? As the guy who spent most of the past decade working with Mike (editing the reviews column for M-U-M), and who has seen way too many card tricks in that time period, I feel safe in saying that if the amount of card tricks were reduced by 60% it would be a good start.

One important point is that a lot of magicians mistake personalising a trick with improving it. Simply describing how you varied a trick to fit your requirements is not the same as having something of merit that is worth sharing.

Amen.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Bill Duncan » February 22nd, 2018, 9:15 pm

Richard Kaufman wrote:Yes, another purely subjective statement that can be made to mean anything one wants about any trick, any sleight, or any idea.


Sure, it's subjective. But not without merit. Aesthetics aren't math after all, even if they do have a mathematical componant.

I've always taken Darwin's suggestion to mean that if you are thinking you should publish something that you should consider if you can justify it by one of more of those criteria, rather than just because you want to put your name on something.

Seems like sound advise.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby performer » February 22nd, 2018, 9:26 pm

Oddly enough I remember Paul Le Paul writing that although it is very important to improve a trick by simplifying it that doesn't necessarily mean that you remove the difficulty. He seemed a bit condescending to self working tricks and although he didn't quite condemn them he certainly sniffed in a somewhat derogatory fashion at them. He thought that if you eschewed sleight of hand you could not become a great artist. I don't necessarily agree with that but if you have some sleight of hand proficiency it is most certainly a decided asset. As old Murray the escapologist used to say, "You are not a magician unless you can do something with your hands". Mind you in all the years I knew him I never saw him do a single trick even once. The only time he did something with his hands was to take your money by selling second hand props to you twice the price as if they were new.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Brad Jeffers » February 23rd, 2018, 1:50 am

Joe Mckay wrote: But I think making something easier has to always be an improvement.

If you are speaking of making something easier by practicing the difficult until it becomes no longer difficult, then that is always an improvement.

If however you are speaking of making something easier by replacing the difficult with something less difficult, then that rarely results in an improvement.

Or as someone once put it ...

In magic simplicity of method is often a virtue, however sometimes in trying to replace the difficult with the easy, something beautiful gets lost in the translation.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Joe Mckay » February 23rd, 2018, 8:23 am

I remember Ed Marlo saying that if you removed a sleight from a trick that was a good thing. But if you keep removing them until no sleights at all are needed - you are usually left with a self-working monstrosity.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Denis Behr » February 23rd, 2018, 9:46 am

That's the quote, from The Cardician:
Ed Marlo wrote:Sometime ago, someone said, somewhere, something to the effect that if you had a trick with three sleights, and then eliminated one of the moves, you would have a better trick. Then, if you worked out a method to accomplish the effect with one move, you had a darned good trick. And, if you could do the trick without that last move, you would have a miracle However, I have found that if you eliminate that last move you usually wind up with a mathematical atrocity.


(Darwin Ortiz has an excellent take on this in Designing Miracles, but this is not the forum to quote it.)

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby erdnasephile » February 23rd, 2018, 9:57 am

Was Marlo paraphrasing a Jacob Daley quote? If so, does anyone know where the original Daley quote appears in print?

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Denis Behr » February 23rd, 2018, 10:10 am

He might be talking about this section from Bill Simon's Controlled Miracles:

Bill Simon wrote:S. Leo Horowitz (Mohammed Bey) once gave us an excellent bit of advice. He said that all tricks should be presented in as direct and simple a manner as possible. The average person desires and enjoys being entertained by magic. Complicate the process and your tricks become problems...the entertainment gets lost.
Mr. Horowitz went a step further when he pointed out that a trick should never be cluttered with technique. Mr. Horowitz said, "If a trick requires five moves to complete it, it is too involved and sleighty to be practical. If you cut it down to four moves it is still a little too top heavy. Eliminate a move by some thought and only have three moves and it enters the realm of the practical. Add misdirection and make it two moves and you’ve got a nice trick. Use subtlety and eliminate another move, now necessitating one move, and your trick has great value. Now, if you can eliminate the last move and complete your effect with no moves, then you have a miracle!"

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby TylerErickson » February 23rd, 2018, 7:41 pm

Thanks everyone.

For the record I'd say Mr. Kaufman is correct in his assessment of subjectivity, but incorrect in believing it offers no value. At the very least it causes the creator to question what has been changed, for what purpose, and for what benefit.

Is there not a form of guidance in creating that line of thought, even if the thinker is not "advanced?" I like to think Darwin is showing faith in his audience, or at the very least, logging in on what he sees as the criteria for his own work.

T

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Michael Close » March 1st, 2018, 3:34 pm

I wrote a short blog post about this. You can find it here:

https://www.michaelclose.com/blogs/news-1/darwins-rules

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Ryan Matney » March 1st, 2018, 3:41 pm

Joe Mckay wrote:But I think making something easier has to always be an improvement.

No matter how skilled you are - something will always look a bit better if it is easier to do. It is nearly impossible to hide that element of tension that is not present in a self-working trick. This is important because magicians forget that magic should literally come across as being effortless.

Just fooling somebody is not enough. It should look effortless at the same time. Which is why most magicians often get better reactions from a simple or self-working trick than they do from a regular/difficult trick.


Joe, have I got a book for you. :D
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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Pete McCabe » March 1st, 2018, 5:50 pm

If you haven't read Mike's blog post, read it.

I think Darwin's suggestion is excellent, and if more people considered his advice before publishing their material, the overall level of magic published would improve dramatically. Partly because some less-deserving tricks tricks might not be published, and partly because it would encourage magicians to research the tricks they are publishing, to see if they do in fact constitute an advancement over what came before. This can only improve the material.

But mostly I think it is of value to every magician who works out their own handling to any trick, even if they have no intention of publishing it. What are you trying to improve? Are you trying to improve the effect, the method, and/or the presentation? Why are you changing the trick? Asking these questions will only help magicians to make their efforts more effective and productive.

When I was younger I would frequently read a trick and almost automatically find myself substituting in moves that I was more familiar with for ones I wasn't. I did this because it let me learn the trick faster. But I rarely considered how this change would affect the plot, or the presentation. And I rarely made the effect better, usually because I was substituting an inferior but easier move. It took a while for me to make my own creative efforts more productive.

The idea that this is useless because it is subjective misses the point entirely. Of course it's subjective. It's supposed to be subjective. When we talk about improving a trick's presentation or plot or method, we are talking about making it better for you, according to your subjective criteria. The point is not to make some arbitrary objective system to control what tricks get published. The point is to help people who create tricks and handlings to do a better job, by helping them keep their goals in mind. It also helps readers evaluate new tricks and handlings in a more useful way.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Pete McCabe » March 1st, 2018, 5:56 pm

Joe Mckay wrote:This is important because magicians forget that magic should literally come across as being effortless.


I agree with most of what you said, Joe, but not this. Sure, you can present your magic as being effortless. But why is that the only option? Why can't your magic powers be difficult to execute? Why can't it take a great effort for you to read someone's mind or vanish a coin?

Things that seem effortless are rarely dramatic in my experience.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Joe Mckay » March 1st, 2018, 6:06 pm

There is a difference between pretending to struggle and actually struggling.

If you pretend to be undertaking a great effort - you will draw attention - but you won't get busted because you are not actually carrying out any secret moves.

Whereas if you really are struggling - as you focus on the method rather than the presentation - you will draw heat to a secret action and run the risk of getting caught.

That is the point I am making. It probably got scrambled when I wrote my original post. I mixed up the idea that the method should be effortless (either because the trick is simple or because you are very skilled) - with the idea that the presentation should make the magic appear effortless. I can fully understand that some magicians may wish to sell the idea that the magic process is not as effortless as simply clicking their fingers.

For most amateur magicians - they will be better off focusing on simpler tricks. This is a point I see Gregg Webb make a lot in his writings as well. In fact he was the one that got me thinking about this issue. Too many magicians are sabotaging themselves by doing tricks that are too difficult.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby erdnasephile » March 1st, 2018, 6:22 pm

Very much appreciate Michael Close's blog post on this topic (referenced above).

I think this is a key quote from that article:

"Here is the challenge to would-be magic producers: First, as a consumer, I need to know what your definition of magic is. I need to know how stringent your criteria are. Second, I then need to know exactly what flaws you believe exist in the original effect (or plot or routine). Third, I need to know why you believe your variation improves the effect, the method, or the presentation. If I am presented with that information, I can make an informed purchasing decision."


Interestingly, a current trend in many medical journals is to have a box at the beginning of every article where authors are required to give brief answers to questions like: "Summarize the state of the existing medical knowledge on this topic" and "How does the present study significantly add to the existing literature?" If a study can't objectively justify it's existence, it doesn't get published in a reputable journal.

In contrast, a lot of magic gets published using the justification from the first page of Erdnase.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Pete McCabe » March 5th, 2018, 6:06 pm

Joe Mckay wrote:…the method should be effortless (either because the trick is simple or because you are very skilled) - with the idea that the presentation should make the magic appear effortless. I can fully understand that some magicians may wish to sell the idea that the magic process is not as effortless as simply clicking their fingers.


This makes a lot of sense. If you practice sleight-of-hand diligently, you can get to the point where it happens without conscious effort. Then you can pretend it's as hard as you like.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Jonathan Townsend » March 5th, 2018, 7:04 pm

Pete McCabe wrote:... If you practice sleight-of-hand diligently, you can get to the point where it happens without conscious effort...


yet appear awkward and suspicious to an audience.

From "erdnase"
A much greater interest is taken in the tricks, and the denouement of each causes infinitely more amazement, when the entire procedure has been conducted in an ordinary manner, and quite free of ostensible cleverness at prestidigitation. If the performer cannot resist the temptation to parade his digital ability, it will mar the effect of his endeavors much less by adjuring the exhibition of such slights as palming and producing, single-hand shifts, changes, etc., until the wind up of the entertainment. But the slights should be employed only as a means to an end.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Q. Kumber » March 5th, 2018, 7:58 pm

In my subjective opinion, I think Darwin's rules have great merit.

Richard, you must, consciously or otherwise, go through such a (subjective) process every time you publish a trick in GENII, for if you don't think something of use has been added to an effect, routine, or sleight, you wouldn't publish it in the first place?

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby erdnasephile » March 5th, 2018, 8:05 pm

Pete McCabe wrote:The point is to help people who create tricks and handlings to do a better job, by helping them keep their goals in mind. It also helps readers evaluate new tricks and handlings in a more useful way.


Yes! Since I've not published anything magic-related, that's precisely how I apply Darwin's Rules.

In that vein, I was thinking about the quote from Michael Close's article (which encompasses Darwin's Rules):

"Here is the challenge to would-be magic producers: First, as a consumer, I need to know what your definition of magic is. I need to know how stringent your criteria are. Second, I then need to know exactly what flaws you believe exist in the original effect (or plot or routine). Third, I need to know why you believe your variation improves the effect, the method, or the presentation. If I am presented with that information, I can make an informed purchasing decision."


If I apply those three steps as I work on published routines, the routine I'm considering automatically becomes more me, which is exactly what I strive for!

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Q. Kumber » March 5th, 2018, 8:17 pm

One of the main reasons (intelligent) magicians change anything in a published trick/routine/sleight is to make it fit with their performing/personality/skill requirements. Whether it is an improvement is subjective, but generally it's fairly obvious to most.

While hobbyists pay good money for 'what's new', working pros will kill for a bit of business.

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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Jonathan Townsend » March 8th, 2018, 2:55 pm

Richard Kaufman wrote:Every "requirement" in this rule is subjective, and thus has no substantive meaning.
...

It's an opinion - stated with "I feel".

Stating context in terms of working and technique looks like a way of enriching our craft and its literature.
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Re: Darwin's Rules (?)

Postby Bob Farmer » March 8th, 2018, 6:13 pm

I've never considered any of these rules when coming up with a version of another's trick. Usually, my version is very different in many ways; I don't waste time (mine and yours) devising some minor variation (e.g., using a red deck rather than a blue one).

Danger Will Robinson! When I see a trick description that starts with some variation of, "This is my version of a standard trick ...," I don't bother reading any further or I skim quickly through the words to see if there is anything good. Life is too short.

I don't follow this approach with any magician whose work I admire because I know it will be good.

And as a strict and inflexible rule I never read any variation of, "Matrix," just on general principles.


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