Rubik’s Cube Magic


Steve Brundage is a very clever magician whom you may have seen fool Penn and Teller on their show Fool Us. Steve’s act is unique to him—at least for the short term. He does astounding things with a Rubik’s cube, performing with a mixture of brains and ballsiness, wrapped up in a very unassuming persona. Actually, P and T’s show was not the best venue for him, even though he was very impressive there. I think Steve’s real talent comes out best in his busking performances, which you can find on YouTube (I posted a link to quite an engaging street performance of his, here, down in the comments section).

The reason I say his act is unique for the short term is this:uh–wait, if you’re not a magician, close your eyes and pretend that the next few paragraphs is a Marxist-Leninist deconstruction of Miley Cyrus’s capitalist guitar chord progressions, which you’re not really that interested in anyway.

Okay. Just us? So Brundage has decided to release his work on the Rubik’s cube to the general magic buying public. Now he actually started work on this quite a bit before his Fool Us outing, but synchronistically for all of us, the release of this happened just now. If Brundage is smart—and who am I kidding, he’s super smart—he’ll stop selling this, or he’ll have to change his act completely and move on to solving 10×10 KenKens in his head. I figured he might change his mind and pull this off the market quickly, so I grabbed it. But maybe it’s not a problem for him anyway—because the secret to Steven’s success is not a secret that everyone is going to be happy with. The secret is: you have a long road of work ahead of you if you want to accomplish what Steve does with a cube.

Amazingly enough, the magic effects that Steve has created do not depend on a gaffed cube. They can all be achieved with a regulation cube, and a lot of muscle memory. What Steven does provide you with is a high quality cube, which turns silently and quickly (both important virtues here) and two DVDs worth of information and explanation. The way I purchased it was through a download, and I’m waiting for the cube itself to arrive by snail mail. Fortunately, I have a few cubes in the house, so I was able to jump in immediately.

The first of the DVDs is devoted to solving the cube. Now strictly speaking, for all of Steven’s effects you don’t necessarily need to know how to solve the cube; but you’ll look like a dork if you can’t solve it if someone challenges you—or even if you mess up and need to start from the solved position. So even though you might be tempted to shortcut it, you need to learn this. Over the years, I’ve managed through YouTube videos and booklets to eke out a way of solving the cube, but I’ve never practiced it intensely, so I didn’t remember much when I started reviewing this material. Let me say that Steve’s DVD is hands down the best way for a beginner to learn to solve the cube. The high quality video is extremely professional, the explanations are very clear, very detailed, the camera point of view is from many angles, and there is a lot of redundancy in terms of the directions and examples given. All in all, if you want to learn how to solve the cube, I pretty much guarantee you will be able to do it by following the directions here.

But it will take work and time. How much time? Well, this kind of thing varies for everyone, but let’s say in a lot less time than it take to learn a good classic pass or even a good palm. The method of solving the cube here is not the fastest, nor is it unique to Steven, but it is quite agreeable for beginners.  In this method, you solve the cube layer by layer until all three layers of the 3x3x3 cube are in the correct orientation. Conservatively, I estimate that within two days, most people will learn to solve the first layer quickly. In the next two days, most will be able to do the second layer. The hard part, admittedly, is the last layer. It’s much more complex and requires much more memorization. Steven provides a couple of pdf cheat sheets to help you along as you’re learning, but of course eventually you’ll have to do without those crutches. Based on what I know about myself, I’d say I could learn that third layer in a week or two if I applied myself each day. Now admittedly, I have a knack for this kind of memorization, but if you don’t, what the hell, give yourself the rest of the month off to get it down.

Now your speed won’t be great, but for these effects, the speed in solving the cube is not really the issue. It’s just important that you’re able to get the cube back into solved position, as that is the default home position for most of the effects that Brundage has created.

So having mastered solving the cube, now you’re ready to move on to DVD #2, which is where Brundage teaches his brand of Rubik magic. The effects are basically variations on the theme Shuffle Cubed to Solved Cube—Instantly. For example, the magician puts a shuffled cube in a paper bag, shows it again to be shuffled, reaches in and pulls out a solved cube. Or this: the cube is shuffled; a quick one-handed toss behind the back and the cube lands solved. There are a few effects where the change is achieved more in slow motion, and one that mimics an Erdnase Color Change. They are all quite stunning. I’m not sure you would want to include all of these effects in the same act, but they are all suitable for walkaround and impromptu, assuming that impromptu means you’re in a house that has a Rubik’s Cube—which is fairly likely, since according to Brundage, the Rubik’s Cube is the best-selling toy of all time.

What will it take to perform these effects? Given that you’re able to solve the cube, surprisingly, the additional skills you’ll need to perform these effects require no more difficulty. And since I think anyone can eventually learn to solve the cube, I think these effects are accessible to any magician, again, who puts in some focused practice and attention.

Steven Brundage has been very generous to release this material, and you can see he has done it in such a way as to do justice to his work. I think this is a great item to add to your bag of tricks, and it certainly packs small and plays very big.

Addendum: I see on the magic boards that while Brundage has been the most visible magician explaining magic effects with the Rubik’s cube, there are a few others too, including Karl Hein, Henry Harrius, and Takemiz Usui. There have been crediting questions among the different parties, which now appear to have been cleared up for the most part.

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