Chapter One by Asi Wind
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii May, 2010)
Chapter One is a nicely produced lecture booklet accompanied by a performance-only DVD. The performances are well shot and produced, and reveal some of Mr. Wind's low-key charm when performing in an intimate setting, with just two female spectators. But this recording does little to suggest the high energy powerhouse that Mr. Wind transforms himself into when faced with larger audiences. It is a very useful instructional tool, however, as Mr. Wind offers an audio commentary track that provides additional insights beyond the written descriptions in the manuscript.
The booklet includes five tricks and three brief but thoughtful essays. Every one of these tricks, properly performed, will leave your audiences utterly, absolutely, thoroughly fooled. The level of technical difficulty required varies, and the level of performance difficulty, it must be noted, is generally pretty demanding.
"Somebody Stop Me" might be the ultimate Stop Trick. A card is fairly selected and lost by the spectator. With the magician turned away, the spectator deals cards to the table until the magician suddenly calls "stop." The stopped-at card is the selection.
This is of course not a "spectator stop" but a magician stop but the conditions are so extraordinary and pure, this could become a signature mystery that people will talk about long after many other tricks they've seen. This is a trick that is not technically difficult at all, but, as already alluded to, is not easy to perform well.
"Red & Black" is a clean and baffling version of the "color sense" plot. "Out of the Blue" is an incredibly clean version of the Brainwave plot, using a memorized deck and a single prepared card. I believe the author's work is a variation and a good one of a Tamariz item described in Mnemonics. (The credits in Chapter One, while not incorrect, could stand to be a bit more detailed.)
Skipping over the penultimate item for the moment, the final entry is "Transportation in Three Phases," a routine built around what has come to be known as the "Biddle Trick." Mr. Wind has provided a logical and theatrically strong routine with three climaxes that build on one another. And he has introduced a Chan Canasta technique that enables the trick to be done with a selection that is quite fairly thought of by the spectator, rather than removed from the pack or merely peeked. While I personally prefer other applications of this diabolical Canasta technique applications to plots of a more strictly mental nature, rather than linking it with a physical effect like a card transposition nevertheless, the use of this thought-of-card principle significantly alters the sense of mystery attached to the rest of the routine, especially its final climax. Method affects effect: A Double Lift is not the same as a Top Change, even if they both accomplish a transformation. Hence in the case of Mr. Wind's routine, telling a spectator he's "thinking" of a peeked card, while sometimes an effective strategy (Roberto Giobbi has published excellent work on this technique) remains a qualitatively different experience than convincing him that he has been allowed to actually think of a card.
Charlie Miller used to talk about "intrigue" tricks—tricks that were fascinating to magicians, be it for reason of plot or method, but not invariably so interesting to laymen. The plot under discussion sometimes casually referred to as "The "Berglas Effect" is often considered such a trick. Magicians are endlessly intrigued by the possibilities and methods, much as with plots like Hooker's (named) Rising Cards, or Stewart James's "52 Faces North," aka, Curry's "Open Prediction." There is one important difference, however. In most hands, many of these plots remain intellectual puzzles. But in the right hands, "Any Card at Any Number" especially if the deck is boxed can be a miracle. After all: How else would it have come to be called "The Berglas Effect"?
It remains unarguable that in most hands the trick is left dead on the vine as little more than a puzzle because the effect is purely intellectual, not visual, and as a bonus, requires counting and dealing. (These are, by the way, the same factors that render most of the material in Chapter One challenging to perform.)
However, there's that Berglas thing to contend with. And not just that. There is a small coterie of professional performers who do this puzzly little plot for real people all the time. Who have developed interesting theatrical presentations. Who do it on stage. And who get standing ovations with it. (Mr. Wind is one of them.)
Clearly, not every magician out there is aware of these facts. That doesn't stop them from having opinions. Opinions about which you should care not a whit.
As Mr. Wind points out in his pamphlet, his method builds on the work of others. The plot has, after all, been around for more than a century. More recently it has taken up the status of fad, if not popular obsession. Much of the work that has been published is nonsense. If you're sticking Post-it Notes on the backs of playing cards, or writing numbers on cards, or just writing anything down at all well, you're not really doing this plot anymore. You're doing something ... sorta like it, but not really.
Ken Krenzel's "Open and Shut Case," from Close-up Impact! (1990) by Stephen Minch influenced many. Serious students will recognize that Mr. Wind's approach is significantly different and substantially improved. Poor students will think the differences minor or nonexistent. Mark those students with a failing grade.
Eric Mead has influenced the underground with unpublished work on this plot. He's one of the unnamed few mentioned above who not only know how to really perform this plot, but has been doing it for quite some time and his handling, in use by others often without credit, is a close predecessor to that of Mr. Wind's. Mr. Mead hasn't published in order to seek credit for his influence, so many self-promoters have denied it to him. Why do I mention this?
Because he says that Asi Wind has the best work on the plot to date.
Perhaps I should mention that I watched Asi Wind fool Johnny Thompson with this. That doesn't happen every day. Mr. Thompson was delighted.
And now I think I'm done talking about it. You've had your chance.