Impossible Bill Braid by Robert E. Neale
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii September, 2009)
Robert E. Neale is known for many things in the world of magic, including thoughtful books of magic theory, of card magic and interesting presentations, of collaborations with philosophical colleagues like Eugene Burger and for folding dollar bills into little bunnies that pop out of top hats. Which of these habits is more damning or impressive depends on your point of view, and knowing Mr. Neale, he could probably argue either side of the case with facility and verve.
In the folding money department, Mr. Neale created the aforementioned Bunny Bill (originally a single-item manuscript), and has also written Filthy Lucre Folds (1997); Folding Money Fooling (1997, Kaufman and Company); and Frog Tales (2001, H&R Magic Books). Impossi-Bill Braid continues in this vein, being as it is an apparent topological impossibility in which a single dollar bill is braided, utilizing two slits cut into the bill which, while producing three strands of the braid, are not cut all the way to any of the edges hence the strands, or bands, have never actually been separated. That might seem a somewhat arcane description in cold type, but trust me it looks really frakkin' cool. This will not be easy to learn, and requires, according to its creator, "the Path of Patience: Confusion, tear, mangle, uncertainty, perfection, and confidence." He also provides a couple of presentations for how to use this as a performance piece, in which you prepare and hand out an impossible object in about two minutes' time. In a word: Nifty!