Meeting Jack Parker
By Andi Gladwin - Sunday, July 24, 2022
In 2002, my life was very different. I had just left school and got a job as a (very) junior web developer for a small IT company. It was one year after The Office (UK version) had been released and it seems that my workplace had styled itself after Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s imaginary office setting.
My boss was a fun-loving, extremely opinionated, yet very smart person who would go on to be one of the more unlikely inspirations in my life. He loved magic and would enjoy nothing more than seeing me sitting at my desk with a deck of cards between meetings and company-wide multiplayer RPG games. He did everything with passion and encouraged everyone else to do so too. During work breaks, he’d encourage me to work on my magic in between teaching me the correct way to bubble sort an array or enumerate an enum. I think he got a kick out of having someone so young around at networking events, and other company meetings so he always encouraged me to be great at what I did — whether that was magic or coding.
And while scratching up on my coding was important to me, so was magic. I spent my days reading and collaborating on a relatively secret message board called The Second Deal (or TSD to its members). Members would talk about the finer details of magic, often with a sway in the direction of Ed Marlo as many of Marlo’s past students were active members.
I had been an active member of that community for many years when a name I hadn’t heard of before popped up: Jack Parker. He began submitting tricks that really took my attention. First came “Flipper,” a multi-phased routine that packed so much magic into just a few sleights. Then “Critical Mass,” which was a rare two-deck trick that I actually liked. Then a few days later, he deviated from that style of magic and shared an incredibly smart stacked-deck effect called “Gut Feeling.”
This guy was rapid-fire posting interesting, original magic and I was hooked. But I also annoyed with myself. Jack Parker, it turned out, lived just a couple of hours away from me and I had never heard of him. And he was posting some of the smartest magic on the forum … and somehow he had gone completely under my radar. I thought I was pretty connected in the British magic scene, but clearly, I had missed this particular world-class creator.
So, I reached out to Jack. It turned out that he was an architect from the Portsmouth area, and while he had always been interested in magic, he was only just beginning to take it seriously. We became fast friends. Now instead of spending my days on TSD, I spent it secretly tabbing between Visual Studio and AOL Instant Messenger so that nobody would see my constant communication with Jack when I was supposed to be coding.
Jack and I would share our latest tricks, moves, ideas, and comment on new books and tricks that were released. There was never any expectation other than to provide feedback and ideas for improvements on each other’s work. We started explaining the ideas over chat, then started to write them up more fully, and eventually as webcams became more commonplace, we’d film them for each other. Our little group grew and eventually, Jamie Badman, Tomas Blomberg, Luke Dancy, Tyler Wilson, and others started trading tricks on a daily basis. Spurred on by these people, I probably created more magic in that period than I ever have since. I suspect the others would say the same too.
I think the reason for that was because of Jack’s momentum. He was always working on little projects. For a while, he became obsessed with Ace Assemblies and developed way more than any human ever needed to perform. Then it was the Touch Force, then the Erdnase Change, and on and on. He never stopped developing magic and as he always shared what he created, we were constantly treated to ideas that sparked off our own thoughts.
I regularly reminisce about those days and think about what magic would be like if Jack was still with us. The quality of his magic got better throughout the years (just look at some of his last creations such as “Final Palm” and “Insomnia” from 52 Explorations to see that) and I don’t think his creative output would have ever slowed down.
Jack passed away fifteen years ago, but I still miss him every time I pick up a deck of cards to work on a problem. And on more than one occasion, once I’ve found a solution, I’ve stopped myself opening up an email to tell him about the solution. But despite our untimely loss, I’ll treasure everything he gave me, and more importantly what he gave to the magic community.
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