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Born in Stockholm (Sweden), now live in Sapporo (Japan). Hold a Ph.D. in computer science and work with computers during the days, perform magic in a bar during the nights (and weekends, for kids). Also used to teach historical fencing back in Sweden.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Robert Ace magic show


It turns out that the tiny library near my parents' place has a lecture series in the vein of "Interesting people from this tiny place". My mother told me that the lecture that was scheduled for the time I was in Sweden was to be held by the "Magician from this tiny place". I had no idea there was any magician that grew up in this small neighborhood. So I went to see the lecture with my mother.


It turns out that I had met this magician before. Twice before, actually. The first time I saw him, he was doing street magic outside a cinema in central Stockholm and I happened to walk past while shopping. The second time I met him I was visiting Magic Bar Stockholm with my brother and his wife.

When I first met him, he asked me if I do magic (since I was not surprised when "normal" people are surprised, perhaps? normally you can tell if someone watching you do magic knows magic) and I said yes. He asked me if I was a member of the magic circle of Sweden. I said that since I live in Japan, I was not. He then said something like: "I can speak a little bit of Japanese, but am not very good at it" in broken Japanese to me, and mentioned that he would go to Japan soon to train some martial arts.


The next time we met, someone at Magic Bar Stockholm probably tipped him off that I live in Japan, because he came up to our table and looked at the three of us a little and then decided to address my sister-in-law and again said something like "Are you from Japan? I can speak a little bit of Japanese, but not very well" in Japanese. I speak Japanese fairly well. My brother speaks Japanese better than I do (or so I am told by all my Japanese friends who have met us both). My sister-in-law speaks Japanese better than both of us combined (having lived her first 25 years, or how long it may have been, in Japan, before moving to Sweden).

I was a bit disappointed that he did not remember me. I mean, how many people who live in Japan, where he went to train martial arts, and do magic but also speak Swedish does he know? I would guess that he knows at most two, including me, haha.

When I spoke to him after the lecture in our old neighborhood library, the topic of me living in Japan came up again, and again he told me that he speaks a little bit of Japanese, in Japanese. I know! I have heard this three times and I have a good memory, haha. So I guess he still did not remember me.


Anyway, the lecture was very entertaining. He did a magic show for 30 minutes or so first, and then people could ask questions about anything (why did he start doing magic, does he have any favorite magicians, how did it go when he went busking as a magician all over Europe without bringing any money, etc.).

The audience was great. I would have loved to perform for these people, haha. They were very kind and very funny. As I expect is true for many of the lectures at this library, the people there were mostly retired people and children who had managed to drag a parent with them.

The magic show was very entertaining, but I guess very many of the tricks did not go as he had planned. He still managed to pull them off and create entertainment, and everyone had a great time. Most of the "happenings" that were most likely not planned ended up being very entertaining.


One of the first tricks he did was a rope trick. He asked for someone in the audience to help him, and a kid of about 10 years in the front very enthusiastically volunteered. We were told that he normally uses grownups for this trick, but the kid still got to help out. This was funny in many ways. When asked to cut the rope, it turned out the scissors were not sharp enough for the kid to cut the rope with, so he struggled to cut it the first time, and it took about 5 or 7 tries before the rope was cut in two. The trick later required the kid to cut the rope over and over again, which went about as well as you might expect. He was also asked to "do as I do" and tie a knot on one rope the same way that the magician tied another rope. The explanations were a bit unclear and the kid ended up saying: "I can't!" and the magician ended up tying that rope himself too, trying to convince us that he was indeed not making any false knots, haha.


When he had another volunteer help him with vanishing a handkerchief, another thing happened. They both stuffed handkerchiefs into their hands and just about the time the last piece of the magician's handkerchief went into his hand, there was a crack as from an egg breaking. This was followed by a raw egg falling out of the magician's hand and onto the floor. He recovered by saying: "And it may now surprise you to see that my handkerchief has turned into an egg!" and showed his hands not containing any handkerchiefs but some cracked egg shell and parts of a raw egg. Everyone agreed that this was indeed surprising. The volunteer managed to turn his handkerchief into an egg too, but his egg was not broken. The magician then cracked that egg on a glass that he had brought with him, and showed that it was a real raw egg. The rest of the show had him saying things like "Please stand a bit more to the right; there is some raw egg making the floor slippery here" to other volunteers, since the raw egg ended up in the spot that you would most naturally stand in when facing the audience, haha.

At another time, he went around looking for a volunteer and chose a fairly old looking man. When asked if he wanted to help out on stage, the man said he would be glad to. It, however, turned out that he had some leg problems and could hardly walk. When trying to reach the stage area, he fell and everyone went silent thinking "Did he die?!", but luckily the magician had caught him in mid-air and made the fall controlled. Of course, this volunteer could not really stand for the duration of the trick, so the library staff came running with a chair to the stage.

They were going to do "the world's most dangerous card trick" together. This involved the man signing his name on a card which was then lost in a deck of cards and put into a paper bag. He was to hold this bag against his heart, and the magician said he was going to stab the bag with a huge sharp knife, hopefully spearing only the signed card and not killing the volunteer. Since no one seemed inclined to stop him, everyone looked on with peaked interest, the magician himself said that since this is very dangerous, perhaps we wanted him to stop. The kid in the first row said: "No! I want to know how this goes. So exciting!", haha. The volunteer faced someone he knew in the audience and said: "Goodbye, it was nice knowing you", which got huge laughs. The magician jumped on this and asked the lady in the audience if she was perhaps the man's wife. She said; "No, no, no, absolutely not!" In the end, since no one else seemed inclined to stop him, the magician himself decided that the trick was too dangerous to do this way, and he wanted the volunteer to hold the bag out to his side instead. Since he was too old, he did not have the strength to do that, though. So the magician ended up holding the bag himself and then stabbing it with the knife.


He said that if he ripped away the paper bag and only one card was stuck on the knife, that would be great. If that card was the signed card, it would be fantastic. So he ripped the bag away, and it seemed that one card was stuck on the knife for a moment, but it got caught up in some part of the bag, so it also fell to the floor with all the other cards pouring out from the broken bag. So he spent some time looking around for the signed card on the floor, and when he found it he pointed out that it had a hole in it from the knife, and no other card had a hole. So everyone was impressed, but presumably that was not exactly the ending he was going for. Also, it looked to me like he tried to steal the watch from the volunteer at one part of the trick, but failed. Since no one else in the audience was wearing a wristwatch, my guess is that that is why he picked this not exactly ideal gentleman for this trick, haha. Indeed, the business card I got afterwards says "magician and comedy pickpocket".

Later he had an older lady help him with a trick involving a book. She chose a page and he asked her to read the first few words up until the first sentence break. She said OK and proceeded to read for quite some time on that page. He again mentioned that he wanted her to read "only until the first sentence break; it's OK if it is just two or three words". She said "sure" and continued reading. Later, he had her hold the book and mentioned that he had a prediction with him in an envelope. If that said the same thing that she had seen on the page she had chosen, that would be fantastic, right? So he took out a paper and asked her what the page had said. She said she no longer remembered. He said, maybe just a word or two that you do remember? Something about a dream, she said. He looked a bit sad and said that his prediction read: "in some ways." or some phrase like that. The woman then said: "Ah, yes it said that too!". He said; "It really did, right? You are not just saying that just to be nice, right?", and she agreed. This was funny to the audience, but perhaps not what he had planned. Everyone was impressed, though. You would think she could have just looked up the page again and see what it said, but the trick continued with that page having disappeared from the book and it reappeared in an envelope that someone had been holding onto since before the show started. That part went perfectly fine.


For his final trick, he wanted to borrow some money from someone. The bigger the bill the better, he said. Knowing that people are sometimes reluctant to hand over money for magic tricks, I volunteered to lend him some money. Since he said the bigger the better, I gave him a 500 SEK bill, which was the biggest bill in common use at that time. He looked very surprised, despite this being a very common bill. By the look of his face, I guessed it would have been better to give him a smaller bill, since the 500 SEK bill is not only large in denomination, it is also physically larger than other bills. But since he explicitly asked for large bills, I don't feel responsible for putting him in trouble, haha.

He made the bill disappear, which is why it is funnier with bigger denominations. Then he said he had brought two things in a small cloth bag. One of them is a knife, he said and took out a knife. What do you think the other is? The kid in the first row shouted out "A fork!", which everyone laughed at. That is indeed a natural thing to guess as a paired item for a knife, but from the round shape bulging out in the cloth bag, I (and most of the audience) would have guessed a kiwi or something like that. The magician said that it was not a fork, it was a lemon. Then he said: "Now I will take out the lemon too", and proceeded to run his hand around inside the bag for a suspiciously long time. Like 30 seconds or more. If you have a small bag that contains a lemon and nothing else, I would expect it would be fairly simple to find that lemon... So I guess he had problems with my bill being too large.

Finally he managed to find the lemon inside the small and otherwise empty bag, and took it out. When he cut it open, there was a bill inside it, and it was my signed bill. He gave it back to me, which was nice. It was completely soaked in lemon juice, which was less nice, though. I had to find one of the librarians and ask if they had something I could wipe my bill with, and she came back with some toilet paper, haha. Which they also used to clean up raw egg from the floor, later.

During the question and answer time, he was asked to do one more trick for some of the children, and that trick went flawlessly! But I am not sure other people noticed that things probably did not go as planned that much, and in the end everyone was impressed, and most important of all it was an extremely entertaining show.

Afterwards you could get autographs or take a photo with the magician, and I decided to wait until last (everyone else being either below 10 years old or over 70 meant that they were probably more in a hurry to get home in the evening than I was). I took some photos of the egg on the floor and of the cards from the "dangerous card trick" that were also on the floor. An old man also waiting like me thought that this was a great idea, and tried to take a photo with a smartphone he had borrowed from some younger relative. I showed him how to use the camera when he had problems. He told me that "I don't think this was supposed to happen" when we were looking at the egg on the floor. Indeed, neither do I, haha.

While waiting around, my mother noticed that one of her former colleagues was also in the audience, so they talked for a while. The librarian in charge of the lecture series overheard something about me living in Japan, so she asked me if I would be willing to give a lecture on life in Japan as "they guy from this tiny place that went to Japan to work". I said that I would be happy to but that I am rarely in Sweden. But I promised to e-mail her when I know the details of my next visit to Sweden.

When he was introduced, it was mentioned that he had survived several months and traveled many countries in Europe just by busking in the streets as a magician. He did have many jokes that I thought were funny, and that I expect lots of people in such situations would also laugh at but in the library I was the only one laughing many times. The kids were too young to get these jokes and the old people were too old to get the pop references he used. Which should have been obvious to anyone, I thought, but I guess maybe he told the jokes anyway just because he likes them. I was also a bit surprised that he had been doing that much magic, since one thing I would expect that you learn fairly quickly is what people may or may not make good volunteers. Everyone has some happenings from time to time when you get a volunteer that does not behave as you might have expected, but I think he only had one volunteer that everything went smooth with. The rest were difficult in a predictable way (like the kid being too young to handle the scissors) too, not doing anything that would be considered surprising for them to do. They were still great volunteers in the sense that the show was very entertaining, often because of the volunteers. Also, if he knows he has problems with 500 SEK bills because they are too large, I would expect him to have run into this problem often enough that he would have a better phrasing when borrowing the money that makes people not give him the big bills, haha. Anyway, great show.

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