Discover more from Marty's Magic Ruseletter
Monthly Update #1 (Jan 2023)
Learn a dicey deception, join the Exploring Erdnase Book Club, and read some articles on scriptwriting for magicians.
Welcome to Marty’s Magic Ruseletter. Do you see what I did there? I do like a good pun!1 In this first issue of what will become a monthly update, I thought I’d talk about the purpose of the newsletter and explain the many perks of being a subscriber. You’ll also find links to a tutorial for a fun dice trick called “Sum the Spots”, the first post connected to the Exploring Erdnase Book Club and a trio of articles on scriptwriting for magicians.
About Marty’s Magic Ruseletter
This newsletter highlights and supplements the content I share on my magic blog, Marty’s Bag of Tricks (you can learn more about my blog by reading the site’s about page). Briefly, my articles are aimed at fellow amateur magicians who want to improve their sleight-of-hand and performance skills and also expand their theoretical understanding of magic.
In each issue, you’ll find links to thought-provoking articles, magic trick tutorials, and exclusive hidden content that you can only discover by reading the Ruseletter. This year, I aim to publish several regular columns on topics that I think are important, along with a few feature articles that will explore a specific topic in greater depth. I also plan to add illustrations and video content to my posts at some point in the future. Although I usually prefer to describe tricks in text, I appreciate that some moves and techniques are much easier to learn with the aid of clear illustrations and, in some situations, an instructional video2.
Becoming a subscriber of my Ruseletter is also the best way to keep up-to-date with the new content added to my blog. On the first Sunday of each month, this update will provide you with a helpful list of new posts that have been added to the Ruseletter and blog during the previous month, in case you haven’t read them yet.
Thanks for reading Marty's Magic Ruseletter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
In addition to this, you’ll gain exclusive access to early drafts of my unpublished magic books. These will eventually be released as ebooks or maybe even physical books (depending on demand). However, you’ll retain access to these web versions forever as a thank-you for your ongoing support.
I’ve decided to host my longer articles on a separate blog rather than directly on Substack because this gives me more control over the visual appearance of things. I’m also more familiar with blogging platforms. However, as I experiment with Substack over the next year, I might migrate some of my longer-form content to the platform if I think it will result in a better user experience. Update: I’ve decided to host all of the regular columns on Substack to improve the user experience. While I will still link to the odd article on my blog, you’ll be able to read much of the content without leaving your email inbox, the Ruseletter website, or the Substack app.
Talking of user experience, I will try my best to keep my ramblings concise so that you can read each Ruseletter in about ten or fifteen minutes (obviously, if you decide to read some of the linked content, it will take you longer). I have a habit of writing lengthy articles, but I don’t want to waste your time. By picking and choosing which articles interest you in the monthly Ruseletter, you can decide which of the longer articles you want to read (rather than me making that decision for you).
For the next year, I’ve decided to publish the Ruseletter monthly. However, I plan to review this situation after the twelfth issue has been written and released. Maybe you’d prefer a weekly Ruseletter? I’m keen to hear from readers and update my approach accordingly. This newsletter is a work in progress, so please share your thoughts in the comments section on Substack (or contact me via my blog).
As this is the first issue, I thought it would be helpful to provide you with a summary of the regular columns that will feature in the Ruseletter (clicking on the titles below will take you to the relevant section, most are currently empty):
Corrupting the Classics - I’ll re-interpret a classic magic trick for a modern-day audience in each edition of Corrupting the Classics. The first article will focus on the much-maligned Twenty-One Card Trick. I’ll also share several ways to present the trick so that it will fool people familiar with the standard handling.
Deeper Magic - This column will discuss the “deeper”, lesser-known secrets of magic hidden in books like Our Magic by Maskelyne & Devant. I’ve borrowed the title for this column from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. In the classic children’s tale, Jadis, the White Witch, uses her “Deep Magic” to cast Narnia into an endless winter with no Christmas. But Aslan, the talking lion King of Narnia, is aware of a “Deeper Magic” that can subvert the accepted magical reality of Narnia. 🦁
Hidden Gems - As the name suggests, this column will unearth forgotten tricks from old magic books, manuscripts and periodicals.
Hocus Focus - In this column, I plan to write about the often-ignored topic of practising magic and how we can be more deliberate and focused in our daily actions and behaviours when attempting to improve our sleight-of-hand skills.
Legends of Legerdemain - These posts will shine a light on some of the many colourful characters from magic’s rich history. The first article will be on the flamboyant Italian magician Professor Pinetti, who was active in the late eighteenth century.
Obscure Origins - This column aims to uncover the secret history of popular magic tricks and sleight-of-hand moves. The first article investigates the famous card trick known as "Chicago Opener" or "Red Hot Mama".
Packet Trick Paradise - I love packet tricks. As a result, I invent more than I could ever possibly perform. I plan to share a wide range of tricks in this column. Most of them do not use gaffed playing cards, and some end completely clean.
Tricks, Tricks and More Tricks - Let’s face facts, most magicians want to learn new tricks, even if they don’t really need any more! Even so, this monthly column will feature three related tricks (by plot, method or presentation). I’ve already written the first column, which focuses on Jim Steinmeyer’s “The Nine Card Problem” (I share several variations of his fantastic, self-working packet trick in this post).
Understanding the Impossible - This column will look at the underlying science, psychology and theory of magic as a performance art.
As well as these regular columns, there will be a few feature articles each month on various aspects of the art of magic. There is a good chance I’m biting off more than I can chew. However, I have a lot of worthwhile ideas to share, and I need to get them out of my head for my own sanity!
A Dicey Deception 🎲🎲🎲🎲
The latest trick tutorial I’ve added to my blog is “Sum the Spots”, an updated handling of a fun trick of mine that uses four regular dice. You demonstrate your "speed counting" skills by quickly counting the visible spots on a stack of dice. You can even sum up the spots when the stack is covered with a dice cup!
I first developed this trick more than ten years ago. It was first published in Mind Blasters II by Peter Duffie, an excellent compilation of mental magic by various English performers, myself included (I also created the cover artwork for the book). Peter is an amazingly creative magician and has greatly influenced me as a magician over the years. Many of his ebooks, including Mind Blasters II, are available on Lybrary.com.
I’ve also written a short article sharing some of my thoughts on dice magic called Dem Bones!, which you might also enjoy reading.
Exploring Erdnase Book Club
From time to time, I’ll also use this newsletter to promote my other magic projects. For example, I’m running a year-long book club, which starts today, to encourage magicians, especially younger ones, to read The Expert at the Card Table by the mysterious author S.W. Erdnase.
This month, we’ll read the Preface, Introduction, and the sections discussing card table artifice theory (basically, everything up to the end of the chapter titled “Technical Terms”). You don’t need to own a copy of the book to join the club; I’ve prepared an electronic version of The Expert at the Card Table that you can use (click on the image of the book or the button below to access it).
I’ll be publishing a new blog post on the book at 11 am every Sunday for the whole of 2023. In my first post on the book, I take a closer look at the cover of the first edition of Erdnase and the famous title page.
To fully participate in the 2023 Book Club, you’ll need to enrol in the Exploring Erdnase Google Classroom. Update: I’ve decided to support the book club by providing weekly updates via Substack (go to exploringerdnase.substack.com to subscribe). Naturally, you'll need a Google Account to do this (you can create an account for free in a few minutes). Alternatively, if you'd rather not subscribe to another newsletter, you can follow along by reading the weekly blog posts.
Scriptwriting for Magicians
Recently, I published three articles on scriptwriting for magicians on my blog. I have strong views about this topic, and these posts have generated a fascinating discussion on the Genii forum that is worth reading. If you haven’t read the original articles, you can access them all from the scriptwriting page of my blog.
Along with these articles, I also ran a poll asking magicians how often they wrote scripts for the magic tricks they perform. More than half of the people who replied (58% of respondents) said they always write a script. Just over a third (35%) indicated that they sometimes write one. And finally, only 7% admitted that they never wrote a script. These results are fascinating, but the sample size was small (about forty people replied to the poll). For this reason, I’ve added a survey below to see if we get similar results (I also want to try out this feature of Substack).
Please complete the poll (it is available for a week, and then it will close). The results are anonymous.
All the Tricks on the Blog!
If you visit the trick tutorial section of my blog, you’ll notice that a simple password protects each page. I've done this to stop the idly curious from discovering secrets, either accidentally or on purpose. Password-protecting this content seemed like the most reasonable way to prevent unnecessary exposure while, at the same time, encouraging beginner magicians to learn, progress and grow. I’m a firm believer that secrets should be protected. If we give them away too freely, people will not value them.
As a result, my blog has a growing number of hidden pages. Google does not index this content. However, as a subscriber to the Ruseletter, you have direct access to all the tutorials (without entering any passwords). Clicking on the button below will take you to a hidden page on my blog that lists all of the tutorials in alphabetical order:
Google does not index this page either—I’ve purposely hidden it via obscurity, even though this will affect the amount of organic traffic my site receives (remember, secrets need protecting). Please keep the link to yourself and avoid the temptation to post it on social media or any of the usual public forums for magicians. This page is a perk for people like yourself who support my writing through this newsletter.
Magical New Year’s Resolutions
I don’t usually make New Year’s Resolutions. However, this year I thought it would be a good idea to share some magic resolutions for the year ahead. The one big thing I want to do this year is to share my magic with more people. This is one of the reasons why I decided to revive my magic blog and start the Ruseletter.
I also want to seek out more opportunities to perform magic. As an amateur magician with a day job and three young daughters, finding the time to perform magic is a constant challenge. I have several ideas about how I might do this: sharing some video performances on social media3, performing street magic in my local city, and developing a parlour show are all potential projects for 2023. If I decide to do any (or all) of these things, I'll share my progress in future issues of the Ruseletter.
Phew, so that’s the first issue of the Ruseletter finished. Onto the next one!
Happy New Year! 🎉
P.S. Here’s a special secret link to reward the people who scroll to the very bottom of the newsletter.
Take the title of this newsletter as a fair warning that I’m a big fan of puns and so-called “dad jokes”. If you don’t enjoy this kind of humour, then I’m sorry (not sorry).
Learning using words and pictures in combination is known as the “multimedia principle”, as stated by Richard E. Mayer in his 2001 book Multimedia Learning. The principle is based on the common assumption that adding images, illustrations, photos, or even video to words, rather than presenting text alone, makes it much easier for people to understand and learn. Or, more specifically, that people learn more (or more deeply) when appropriate visual elements are added to a text. The old proverb “a picture is worth a thousand words” attests to this assumption's popularity and general acceptance. Moreover, a wealth of empirical evidence supports the multimedia principle. I’ll write about how it applies to learning magic in a future blog post.
I’m not a big fan of social media in general. However, I think sites like TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook provide magicians with a new and creative way to reach a larger audience.