Calculated Thoughts - Doug Dyment
Updated: Mar 4, 2021
This is the first review written specifically for this blog! Woohoo!
I have a lot to unload here, so let's jump right into it.
Doug Dyment has been an underground legend for many years. I’ve often heard whispers about his work, and his valuable principles, but I haven’t experienced any of it first hand. When I heard this Magnus Opus was being created, I anticipated its release and purchased immediately once it went on sale.
After the contents list, an opening statement, and a forward by Ken Weber, the book kicks off with a chapter all about magic squares. It opens with an essay (What Is It About Magic Squares, Anyway?) which details the value of a magic square and goes on to explain what a magic square is and the many different ways the numbers can be added to get the correct total. Some of these patterns were new to me. This leads us into Doug’s five magic square routines/principles.
The first is Flash Squared which is great for walk around performs. It’s quick and efficient, but it isn’t the stand out from this chapter. By far the most revolutionary technique is called the Foundation Square. This new technique for creating a magic square allows you to do it for real with very basic math. It’s fantastic. No more memorized squares with disproportionate numbers. This makes the most natural magic squares you’ll see. There are also two great presentations for the magic square included. The first, Square School, involves a lot of spectator interaction and “teaches” them how to make a magic square. It ends with a hit between the eyes when they realize just how far ahead you were thinking the whole time. The Natal Square personalizes the magic square and acts as a catalyst for a reading, and Doug goes over everything you need to know to get you up and running with using a magic square as a tool for giving meaningful readings. This section ends with a final exploration in how to create a real magic square from scratch. Fair & Square takes a bit more math to get you started on the square, and it’s by far the most mathematically advance (although the math isn’t difficult by any means,) but it allows you to do it for real. This is the one I’ll be doing the most. You can do it for your friends or you can do it on stage and all with minimal math. A+
The next chapter is on Full Deck Stacks. It opens with an essay on the various types of full deck stacks and defines what each one is best suited for. This is followed up by a couple of brief essays on the best order for card suits (On the Ordering of Playing Card Suits,) and the best way to hide any patterns in the numbers (Hiding a Sequence in Plain Sight.) Both of these methods are used in Doug’s various stacks of which there are eight.
1) The DAO Stack is a wonderful sequential stack which is simple to use and deceptive to look at. It has a randomized look similar to the Osterlind Breakthrough Card System, but with similar simplicity to Si Stebbins. This very well may be the best sequential stack in existence. It’s rare to find a simple stack that truly looks randomly mixed, but this does that very effectively. There is hardly any mental work, and with just a little time spent with the stack, it quickly becomes second nature.
2) The 4D Stack is an addition to the DAO Stack which prevents there ever being the same run of numbers in the stack. While this does help randomize the stack further, it does add an additional step to the process. Doug himself admits this isn’t really necessary, but he found this solution more for his own peace of mind rather than any practical reason because the DAO doesn’t NEED to be modified. But, if you want to randomize it further, this is the perfect solution.
3) Quick stack 3.0 is an algorithmic stack which allows you to quickly translate a card to a specific position or a specific position to a card. It’s simple and relatively quick to compute. I imagine it will get quicker the more familiar one becomes with the system. It looks quite random, but it has the benefit of being a tetradistic stack which allows for a large number of effects (in other words, any card is exactly 26 cards away from its mate.)
4) SnapStack is a stack in which it is incredibly easy to go from a card to a position and vice versa, but the deck isn’t meant to look random. It’s certainly the quickest and easiest system of all, but is only useful if you don’t intend on spreading through the deck.
5) The Q Stack is, according to Doug, the fastest algorithmic deck out there. It is the SnapStack but with a system for randomizing the cards to look like a shuffled deck. It takes you really wrapping your head around the process to fully understand it, but once you understand the concept, it does indeed become very quick.
6) The Zenith Stack is a sequential stack for ESP symbols which appears random. You actually have to see two adjacent symbols in order to know the next (or previous) symbol, but Doug covers some various ways to get those peeks later on in the book (see ESPerimental.)
7) The Chroma Stack is a sequential stack for colored ESP cards based on the DAO Stack. This allows you to know the shape and the color of any symbol someone choses. Unlike its predecessor, this stack only requires you to peek one card to know the next in sequence.
8) The ChroMem Stack is a stack that can give you the exact position of any colored ESP symbol and vice versa. There’s no real need for it, but this proves it can be done.
The next chapter is all about performance pieces done with playing, tarot, and zener cards.
Menologue is a hands-off version of Bob Cassidy’s Chronologue effect. A calendar with a different card for each day of the month is introduced along with a normal deck of cards. The cards are fairly shuffled by the spectator. A prediction is made and written down. They cut the deck and use two cards to determine a month and day. They turn to that month and day and read out the card that is written there (no cards are duplicated throughout the entire month) it matches the prediction made by the performer.
In Poker Face, three participants select a card. One tells the value of their card, one tells the suit of their card, and one tells nothing of their card. This allows you to slowly warm up reading their poker face tells. You are able to determine the correct suit for the first spectator (1 in 4) the correct value for the second (1 in 13) and the correct card for the last one (1 in 50.) This is very simple to do, but it is a very deceptive routine; there are several wonderful touches from Doug throughout which make it seem like the real deal.
PokerPlay is Doug’s full treatise on the ten card poker deal. John Bannon created something similar after Doug, but Doug’s is the original. Doug’s presentation is less magical and more based on influence: The performer has ten playing cards. The spectator chooses five for them and five for the performer. Despite these odds, the performer’s hand beats the spectator’s.What was perhaps most valuable about Doug’s teaching here is that he explains how to construct your own group of cards on the fly to change the outcome every time you do it. This was valuable insight.
In An Immoderate Deception, three spectators each cut a deck to select a card. In increasingly more difficult ways, you deduce all three cards. The method here would fool anyone who saw it because it is perfectly camouflaged in the plot itself. It’s a worker and it pairs fabulously with one of his stacks from earlier.
Major Arcanum and Couplet are two routines using a pair of dice and stack of cards. The first routine uses tarot cards and the second uses zener cards. The dice are used to select a card and the card is shown to have been predicted. This is simple and effective mentalism.
Bob’s Your Uncle is Doug’s favorite zener card match effect. It is his additional tips and touches on “Bob’s ESP Demonstration.” The biggest thing Doug has added is a system for remembering when you must do a secret move and when you mustn’t. This eases the memory load during performance.
ESPerimental is a simple effect which closely mimics what true ESP experiments were like. It uses his zenith stack and allows you to name off every ESP symbol a spectator is looking at in order.
The next chapter is titled Quarto. It is all about Doug’s incredible center tear. He discusses the Evolution of the tear (previously known as R2-D2,) the vast list of stipulations he was aiming to meet, and the Execution of the tear.
In my humble opinion, this is the best real time billet tear peek there is. It’s all done at the fingertips, the billet is torn in half every time, it appears totally innocent with no suspicious moves, and the peek is delayed to happen until after two or three tears. By the time you get your peek, the audience will be convinced their information is torn to pieces. I will say this is one of the few principles in the book that you can’t just read and understand. It truly takes holding a business card in your hand and working through the moves to fully grasp what is being said. However, once you understand the moves, it is very simple to execute, and it quickly becomes muscle memory. This wins the Worth the Price award.*
This chapter also has some tips (Consummation,) a plethora of ideas submitted by various performers (Contributions,) and six billet layouts to optimize the tear (Codicil: Six Billet Layouts.)
The next section of the book (Zenermancy) is a full thirty five pages all about giving reading with zener cards. Doug covers everything you’d need to know and more giving you plenty of information to give anyone a reading that feels personal and very in depth; this will make you stand out from the crowd.
Wordplay is a chapter with a couple of routines only utilizing words. The first is Sign Language which is the most fleshed out anagram I’ve seen to allow you to know what Star Sign someone is thinking of. It gives precise scripting in order to make it seem like you never miss. Verbiage is a word force which is surprisingly accurate. It is a “psychological force,” but one which is very reliable because it is ingrained in human nature.
Mystery Mélange is a chapter on mystery performances with various objects.
Penney’s From Heaven - You and your spectator secretly guess the outcome of three consecutive coin tosses. A third spectator tosses an imaginary coin and calls out what they see. This is repeated until either the performer or the spectator’s sequence is called out. The performer wins *almost* every time. This is a great twist on a classic card effect. Doug has taken the cards away and left us with something very different than anything else in your set.
Spoiled for Choice - The performer holds 6 envelopes. The spectator chooses three for himself and three for the performer. The performer’s envelopes all contain cash while all of the spectator’s envelopes contain lottery tickets. This is wonderful. It is Doug’s updated method for his “Disjuncture” routine. This new method eliminates any PATEO principle and allows the spectators to make all the decisions. It is very very clever and so very deceptive. There are two methods working in tandem which is what creates such baffling routine that is impossible to backtrack.
FourSight - This is an odd one to describe. Four spectators are approached before the show and asked to write two different random numbers on a shipping tag (one 2 digit number on each side.) During the show, the audience choses which sides should be up on the tags. The numbers shown are added together and are revealed to have been predicted. I think this is one of the weaker routines in the book; I don't see many people actually putting this one into their show.
The Real Thing - This is a versatile method which essentially allows audience members to visibly mix a stack of envelopes, but the performer has complete control over the order of the envelopes. The biggest benefit to this over other similar routines (such as “Eat at Joes”) is that all of the mixing happens 100% in the audience’s hands. The performer never touches the envelopes from beginning to end.
The Vision - A charming story of a yard sale and a young girl turns into a miracle as a randomly selected spectator’s name is scrawled across the very playing card the spectator freely names. The routine is a lovely mesh of classic principles combined with great storytelling to leave the audiences with an experience they won’t soon forget. I can see many performers adding this into their repertoire when they are performing in a venue that lends itself well to this.
For the Toolkit is a chapter with tools for the performer. There is a marking system for a bicycle deck of cards (BikeMarks 2.0,) a new method for quickly clocking cards (Tick Tock Too,) an essay on how to construct a forcing matrix aptly named: How to Construct a Forcing Matrix, a system on how to construct a two way or four way out on the fly (Premise NV,) and even some nifty places to hide cribs (Marker Cribs.) There are ideas here that can be used to enhance many routines.
Musings is a chapter with several essays which the mystery performer will throughly enjoy. On Performance details the eight elements of performance many of which are often overlooked by those who haven’t had acting training. On Overthinking argues that saying, “Don’t run when you’re not being chased,” is simply a lazy way of thinking and suggests there is more work to be done. On the Use of Props in Mentalism covers what types of props should and shouldn’t be used in mentalism if you want to be effective. On Extrasensory Perception offers a new take of the acronym ESP and allows you to genuinely tell people, “Yes, I do have ESP.” On Psychic Guilt is a brief essay on removing the guilt from claiming to be psychic. On Predicting the Future speaks on how to answer the question, “If you can predict the future, why don’t you make a fortune on lotteries?” On Learning Cold Reading tells a beautiful true story from Richard Webster about a young man learning how to give cold readings when he was between jobs. The little lessons in this essay can take you a long way if you have any interest in giving readings professionally. On the Validity of Readings is Doug’s take on whether or not readings are ethical and/or valid. On Being a Perpetual Student teaches how to become the best version of yourself.
The final chapter in the book is called Borrowed Business and it contains several routines and thoughts by other performers who have given Doug permission to release their work—many for the first time.
ABCDEFG by Markus Beldig is a three person divination routine ending with nailing the exact thought someone is thinking of. It’s effective, but there’s a variation which comes later in this chapter that takes this to a new level (see C.C. Seer)
The BBB Peek by Markus Beldig is a bold business card peek with a normal envelope and normal business card. The spectator puts the card into the envelope, and the performer never touches it from then on. It works, but it is certainly on the bolder side.
Design Duplicity by Marc Paul - The spectator makes a drawing on a business card and mixes it amongst some blank cards. The performer determines which card has the drawing and without looking at the card, is able to duplicate their drawing. Manos Kartskis has a similar effect and method to this. I believe Manos’s is an improvement over the handling provided here, but this is certainly a workable method. With that said, if you just want to do a drawing duplication, there are cleaner versions out there.
Psi Coin by Scott Deming - The spectator selects an imaginary coin and tosses the imaginary coin. They decide what the coin is and which side lands up. A prediction is revealed which accurately names both the type of coin and what side up it is. This is one of Scott’s favorite impromptu demonstrations. It is simple in terms of method, but I do imagine it is a very effective routine to perform spur of the moment. This is not one I would add into my set, but it is one to add to the memory bank for those moments when you're asked to do something and you've come unprepared.
C.C. Seer by Christopher Carter - This is Christopher's take on ABCDEFG. I was first introduced to this routine through Christopher’s penguin live act. He performed and explained this routine and I was blown away by how three little business cards can fill an entire theatre. This is an excellent routine. It significantly cleans up ABCDEFG and turns it into a working mans center piece.
Figmental by Raj Madhok - An invisible book test using just three pieces of paper. It is a classic method combined with Verbiage from earlier in the book to make a squeaky clean prediction fo three thoughts. This is simple, clean, and to the point.
Bloodied by Irv Weiner - The performer slices his thumb open with a knife then slowly heals the wound. This is an effect Irv Weiner was known for performing. He was always ready to perform this at a moment’s notice. You must have a small something with you in order to perform it, but it may be worth it if this suits your character. It certainly creates a striking visual, and with the script provided, the audience will swear they watched the cut visibly heal.
The book ends with an Acknowledgements section and an Afterword written by Ken Webster.
Overall, this is a fantastic book of practical and deceptive mentalism routines; I highly recommend picking up this work. However, do know that while the methods are within anyone's grasp, I wouldn't say this is a book for beginners. Much of the material discussed is a starting point for you to be creative and use in your own unique way. If you have any questions or concerns, leave a comment and I'll answer right away.
*The Worth The Price Award, or WTP Award for short, is a new system I will have in place when reviewing products. Look out for the WTP Award(s) to know which routine(s) or principle(s) is my favorite.