The Jerx Successfully Applies Lipstick To Pig’s Snout
Look, I’m not going to fault anybody for trying to deal with audience suspicions, but sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.
A while back, Andy decided that the book-style turnover of the DL was worth consideration, or reconsideration, as the case may be. This led to a video compilation of him asking folks to turn over the top card of the deck. You’ll notice two things. First, he’s still not over his debonair-ladies’-man-of-the-world phase. Second, everybody in that video is doing very interesting turnovers of the top card, where in almost all cases the card leaves the deck before being flipped and deposited on top. In other words, rather than the sideways-slide-and-flip thing that magicians do, these people are essentially putting the “lift” back into the double-lift-and-turnover.
I’m going to give Andy the benefit of the doubt on two fronts. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that he didn’t cherrypick his video samples and leave out contrary actions, and let’s also assume he didn’t prompt them to turn over cards in a specific way. As always, research is worthwhile, and I’m willing to concede that the action a lot of magicians do isn’t what a lot of regular folks would do.
However, research of this sort of is like asking your average American whether they’re going to vote Democrat or Republican in the next election and using the results to extrapolate how Americans feel politically. Yes, your average person might actually like the person they’re voting for, but chances aren’t half-bad that their reasons for voting the way they do are more complex. I mean, when 14% of the LGBT community went towards the ticket with Mike Pence on it, you have to assume something a wee bit more nuanced than Trump-bad-Hillary-good is going on.
But enough useless politics blabber, let’s get back to things that matter (ie: card moves). Andy’s suggested approach to dealing with the incongruency between regular magicians’ DLs and regular people’s duplication of the action was to divine a move for magicians that looked like what regular people have done for him. Now, far be it for me to disparage this motivation, as the heart of it goes back to Erdnase’s Uniformity of Action and in all likelihood even further back to the concept of deception via mimicry itself. The issue is this… what exactly are we mimicking?
Let’s break it down further. First, the Neolift involves drawing the card backwards with the fingers in order to get proper purchase of it in order to flip it over. Andy says this way makes a lot of sense because the rear edge of the card is the most easily accessible, since the dealing hand’s fingers aren’t in the way. The problem here is that this isn’t the universal way to get ahold of that card — if it was, dealing a round of cards in a card game would be super tedious. Even Andy’s own video research doesn’t always show people employing this specific action.
Second, when people are trying to evaluate for naturalness (or unnaturalness) of a move, then a deviation from how they themselves would normally do it isn’t the only factor. People don’t necessarily compare what they see the magician do to what they would do, they compare what they see to what they would do if they knew how to handle cards. This is an important distinction. Most people suck at handling cards. Now, some magicians take this fact and use it as a justification for doing all sorts of ridiculous manipulations (flourishes that treat the deck the way Tony Hawk treats a skateboard and so on), but we’re not talking about that level of stopped-thinking-too-soon. Let’s instead look at shuffles. When people think of a proper shuffle, they don’t necessarily think about how they would shuffle the cards themselves (because a lot of them can’t do it well), but rather they imagine about somebody competent shuffling in the context of a card game, where the motivation is to mix the cards. If anything, this is one major reason why Faro shuffles are dangerous territory — in a world where casino dealers wash shuffle on the table, why would somebody do anything that precise?
Getting back to the topic, the question isn’t whether or not a sideways-slide-and-flip is something they would do if they had the cards, but rather if it’s something that they think a competent person would do for the task at hand. And while I don’t think it would occur to them most of the time, I think it’s something that would immediately make sense to them after the fact, for the following third reason… when you’re trying to come up with an innocent-looking sleight, most of the time, the less energy you use, the better. Granted, we were just talking about shuffles, and a lot of those benefit from looking chaotic rather than effortless, so let’s add some focus there. When the move’s external reality should have no effort, then the move itself should have no effort. Most people would not think of the action of taking a card and flipping it face-up as being something that requires a lot of effort, because it shouldn’t. However, if you look at the Neolift and compare it to the sideways-slide-and-flip, which one looks like it requires more effort? Which one feels like more of an event? Which one would you rather do more than once in an effect if the effect called for it? Which one is going to be something people remember after the trick is done when they’re rewinding it in their minds and trying to figure it out? (And, keep in mind, we can’t argue that people don’t do exactly that in the same breath that we argue on behalf of moves that pass muster against their suspicions.)
The fourth problem is the issue of cover, for a couple of reasons. First, all other things being equal, the way magicians usually DL is more open than what Andy’s championing here. Second, if we’re willing to allow for moves that mirror what people would perceive as innocent, then we also need to be willing to allow for moves that mirror what people would perceive as guilty. It’s like giving people a deck of cards and asking them to sneak a card from the middle to the top — most of them are going to do something like a side-steal, and that means if you’re going to do a side-steal you have to be damned careful about it. As you can imagine, exposure of magic worsens the problem, especially when it comes to the DL. What this all means is that if Andy gave these people a deck of cards and asked them to secretly flip over two cards instead of one, they would likely do something similar to this action. Why? It helps cover the deception in a way that alternatives don’t. Andy admits as much when listing the Neolift’s merits. And it doesn’t even have to be about exposure, because the trick itself might lead to the suspicion that more than one card is being handled.
The fifth and final problem is really with the nature of the research itself. The question shouldn’t be “Hey, do me favour and flip over the top card and put it on the deck.” Instead, the question should be “Hey, do me a favour and show me the top card.” This is vital, because that minor shift in context opens up a ton of variables to consider. To begin with, now people are going to be open to taking that top card in a bunch of ways, some of which will mirror the way that cards are often dealt, including drawing the card off with their right thumb or pushing it offer with their left thumb, which naturally leads into the sideways-slide-and-flip that a lot of magicians do for their DLs. Second, while they may also want to draw it back with their fingers, suddenly this action will be awkward because they’ll end up being stuck performing a weird contortion of the wrist and forearm when it comes time to display it. To be fair, they might still do this anyway, but a magician doing a regular sideways DL action might suddenly appear to be better rather than suspicious. Third, the regular DL allows for the depositing of the card face-up on the deck to be motivated — for example, you lift the card in your preferred way for the purposes of display, and then set it down to free up the right hand to move the card box or adjust their hand or whatever. In other words, you break the move up in a way that the Neolift by design doesn’t allow for. Fourth, the Neolift has much worse synergy with other moves that are also helpful for the displaying of cards, such as the top change, as well as moves that require more than one card to be taken at a time, such as double-deals.
And there you have it. Why this silly weirdo with his silly weirdo habits of using coarse language and objectifying women gets any credence as a theorist in magic is beyond me. The guy knows how to turn a phrase, sure, but that doesn’t mean he knows how to flip a card.