I didn’t really start doing Cardistry until 3 years after seeing it for the first time.
I was in Primary 6 when my friend Timothy showed me the Ribbon Spread during one of our exam breaks. I remember being enchanted at how cards could behave like that, especially during the turnover when the deck moved like a fluid stack of paper dominoes. Later on that day, I went home and dug up a deck of cards to practice the move back and forth on our family carpet. It was fun, but within a week I’d kind of forgotten about it and moved onto the next thing.
It took meeting Bone Ho during my short stint working behind the counter of a magic shop to really light a fire under my ass and inspire me to pick up Cardistry as a serious endeavor. Watching his beautiful handling of Tudor’s What the Hell Happened to Sybil made me realize that that was something I wanted to see happen all the time, without having to watch a video of it or ask someone to perform it for me.
This same rekindling of interest in previously-dismissed encounters has happened to me over and over again throughout my life.
I used to believe that Origami nothing more than just making balloon animals out of paper, but then I saw Robert Lang give a talk about it at Magic-Con, and the complexity and variety of his examples blew me away with what was possible with the medium, especially the one-cut theorem*.
In the following years, I would find myself investing in Origami books and studying them seriously, which in turn gave me the foundation to create the kind of material that I used to win Shivraj’s first Cardestroy contest.
*That’s technically Kirigami, I know
In 2003, there was a lot of buzz about a Korean movie called Oldboy, especially since Tarantino, of all people, was singing its praises. Since I wasn’t old enough to see it in theaters (it was rated R21 in Singapore), I ended up loaning a pirated copy of it from a friend to watch.
To say that I felt traumatized after viewing the movie would be an understatement. It felt gratuitously graphic, perverted, and especially cruel in all sorts of stomach-churning ways. It’s not like I hadn’t seen violent movies before, but Oldboy was on another level – it was so much more visceral than anything I’d seen at that point. To be honest, it made me feel kind of sick, and I couldn’t in honesty recommend it to anybody.
Flash forward to my latter high school years. Oldboy comes up in a conversation somewhere, and by that point I had been desensitized by so many other crazy movies I’d seen that I felt like maybe I should give the movie another go. I didn’t have the DVD copy anymore, but there were other ways to find it, so I found myself propped up in bed on my laptop, bracing myself for this movie that had scarred me upon first contact, hoping that I would have a different experience this time.
I was gobsmacked. Instead of the torture-porn that I originally saw, here was a movie with masterful direction, a hauntingly beautiful score, incredible acting, and so many daring storytelling choices in a way that only Park Chan-Wook could pull off. It was a masterpiece that my younger self just didn’t have the full cognitive and emotional capacity to appreciate at the time, and the themes of vengeance, regret, and consequences just resonated with me so much more now that I was at the right age to view it.
Oldboy has since shot up into my Top 3 list along with The Matrix and Fight Club, and every now and then I revisit it with nothing but fondness and appreciation in my heart.
When I first tried wasabi, I hated it. My nostrils were flaring and water was of no help, and I couldn’t believe that people actually enjoyed putting that shit onto their food. One time I went to a restaurant that made all their sushi with wasabi, and it practically ruined the meal for me.
As I got older, though, I opened up to experimenting with the right proportions with which to mix the green goo with my soy sauce, and now I can’t imagine having my sushi without the unique kick that wasabi provides. Sometimes I’ll even take little bites of wasabi on its own, just to experience that sobering, nostril-flaring sensation that my teenage self used to despise.
After reading and loving House of Leaves, I noticed that Amazon and other places were all recommending Infinite Jest as another footnote-riddled piece of postmodern fiction that I might also enjoy. I excitedly put in a request for the book through my college’s Inter-Library Loan program, and within a week the book was ready for pickup.
3 pages in, I deemed the book indecipherable, pretentious, and unenjoyable, and promptly marched back to the library to return it. It was nothing at all like what I had enjoyed about House of Leaves, and the 1,079-page count seemed like too much work for something that just didn’t do it for me.
A few months later, I was perusing the shelves at my school library and saw that they were carrying another book by Wallace called Consider the Lobster. It was considerably slimmer and thus less daunting, so I picked it up on a whim and flipped through it. I was surprised to find that Wallace was actually a really funny, insightful, and engaging writer in this non-fiction setting, and but so then I decided that maybe I should give Infinite Jest another try. I went to the local bookstore, bought a copy of it so I was committed to my decision, and dedicated my winter break to climbing this literary mountain.
In the foreword for the novel, Dave Eggers mentioned that it took him a whole month to read the book. I devoured it in 3 weeks.
It’s now my favorite novel of all time.
We all know the saying “love at first sight”, but I think the things that we rediscover upon repeat encounters often play a bigger role in expanding and maturing our worldviews.
Imagine that someone’s first encounter with a Cardist is of them doing a mediocre spring and a choppy, sloppy packet cut – we know that it doesn’t mean that Cardistry is bad, it just means that that person saw some weak-ass Cardistry. But from their perspective, that’s all Cardistry is to them – someone fiddling around with a deck in unimpressive ways. And that will remain their viewpoint until they see a better Cardist in person or on video, although for many this sadly will not be the case.
Just as it’s important for us to create good impressions with our Cardistry out in the wild, I think it’s equally important for us to re-examine our own first impressions and revisit subcultures, media, and experiences that we, too, have initially dismissed as not catering to our pre-set tastes and interests. Approach them with a fresh pair of eyes. Doing so will prevent you from robbing yourself out of a variety of things that could potentially influence and inspire you as an artist.
May you, too, fall in love on second sight.