Author Archives: Eric Leventhal

Magic the Gathering – Pile Shuffling 1

My informant plays Magic the Gathering.  One of the things you do in a game of Magic, before the start of the game, is you shuffle up your deck.  There are no strict rules to how a player may go about shuffling his or her deck, but there are a few preferred methods out there.  My informant prefers the method known as the 7-pile shuffle.  He learned this method by reading posts online from a Magic blogger by the name of Mike Flores.  According to Flores, who is regarded by my informant as an “activist of sorts with regards to the way people shuffle,” the 7-pile shuffle method is the best way to shuffle ones deck.  The 7-pile shuffle method involves taking your deck in one hand (or half your deck if it is too big to hold in your hand all at once) and dealing it out into seven piles in the way one would deal hands in poker.  After dealing out the entire deck into these piles, the player then recombines these piles.  After performing this shuffling ritual, my informant will then riffle shuffle about 5 or 6 times before deeming the deck adequately shuffled.  If he thinks the deck is particularly bad before starting out (usually right after a build session, where cards are often next to copies of each other and thus very non-random), he will perform the 7-pile shuffle twice before riffle shuffling.

I am also a Magic the Gathering player and I also employ the 7-pile shuffle method.  After each pile has been dealt, I will stack the 7 piles into two piles, then riffle shuffle those together before starting more riffle shuffle.  I learned the 7-pile shuffle method from a friend who simply said it was a good way to shuffle.  It’s also a good way to make sure you have the right number of cards in the deck, since you know which pile the last card should end up in if you did it right.  I also like the 7-pile shuffle method because when you start a game of Magic, each player draws 7 cards, so 7 piles for 7 cards lines up nicely.

That Scottish Play

According to my informant, there is a long-running superstition in theatre surrounding the name “MacBeth.”  If you are in a theatre or involved in a theatrical production, you are not supposed to say the name “MacBeth” or quote lines from the play.  Instead of saying “MacBeth” you are supposed to say “That Scottish Show” or something along those lines.  It is akin to stepping on a crack or spilling salt; it is bad luck all around.  She says that if you say “MacBeth” around a theatre or while you are working on a play, then the theatre will burn down or someone will die on stage.  It’s just something you are not supposed to do.  My informant learned this from her high school theatre teacher.  Someone in rehearsal had said “MacBeth” and the teacher went pale and screamed at this offending student to leave the room and wash out her tongue or something.

After researching on Wikipedia and other websites, I have discovered that the taboo against saying “MacBeth” has many supposed origins.  Some believe it is because the original globe theatre burned down after a production of MacBeth, others believe it is because a real sword was accidentally used instead of a prop sword, and someone was killed during a performance.  Others still think it comes from the fact that the witchcraft lines used in the play are real magic, thus cursing each and every performance.  Some believe that Shakespeare stole these lines from an actual witching coven, and these witches cursed the play.  Some say that Shakespeare himself cursed the play so that no one but he would be able to put on a performance of the play.  Others still say that King James, for whom Shakespeare had written the play to impress, did not like the play very much.  Ashamed, Shakespeare would not talk about MacBeth openly, instead calling it “That Scottish Play.”  Speaking the name of the play, the names of the characters, and in some places directly quoting lines from the play, are all considered bad luck.

According to the site, productions of MacBeth are often accompanied by accidents and death.  Other theatres that put on the production will sometimes go out of business soon after.  MacBeth is, however, a more expensive production than most, and has more stage combat and special effects (old timey theatrical effects) than most plays, leading to the business failures and accidents, respectively.

If someone does speak the name “MacBeth” or quotes lines from the play, they are to exit the theatre immediately.  The offender must then spin around three times and then knock on the door.  The offender may not re-enter the theatre until someone lets them in.

Good Show Candle

My informant told me of a ritual that she used to do at her high school theatre.  Before a performance, everyone involved in the production would stand around a candle, a “good show candle” as she called it.  They would light the candle and all stand around it with their hands crossed right over left, and they would hold the hands of the people next to them.  Each person would take a turn to tell stories or say good things about their fellow actors and techies.  This would go on for about 10 or 15 minutes before the show starts.  At the end of this, one person would squeeze the hand of the person on your left, and then that person would squeeze the hand of the person on their left, and so on.  And once it had gotten back to the person who started it, everyone would throw their hands into the air and as they did they would all say “Goooooooooooooooooood showwwwwwwwwwwww!” and then twirl around and face the outside of the circle, and then everyone would be ready to go.

 According to my informant, this ritual is performed at other theatres as well.

Wallball variant – Butts Up

My informant used to play a variant of Wallball at his Bay Area elementary school called “Butts Up.”  Like with regular Wallball, the game was played against the wall of a building or room, with one ball and many participants.  Players had to throw the ball against the wall without the ball first bouncing off the ground.  If the ball touches a player and then touches the floor, that player must run to the wall before the next time someone performs a successful wall bounce (player -> wall without touching floor).  If a player makes it to the wall in time, he or she is safe and may resume play.  If the ball makes it there first, that player receives a point.  Additionally, a player may attempt to perform a fast catch, whereby the player catchs the ball immediately after it has bounced off the wall, before it touches the floor again.  If the player successfully performs a fast catch, then the player who threw the ball gets a point.

My informant’s version of the game uses letters instead of points.  Each point spells out the word B-U-T-T-S and when a player has gotten all 5 letters, they must stand against the wall with their butt in the air while every other player gets a chance to peg them in the ass with balls.  Additionally, instead of a rubber playground ball, Butts Up was played exclusively with a tennis ball, and players were allowed to catch the ball in between throws, instead of just fast catches.  Also after a player has been ass-pegged for spelling BUTTS, instead of being out, the player simply returns to the game with a clean slate, albeit a sore ass.  Another one of my informants also said that some kids from his elementary school, back in New York, played this version of Wallball, and even called it by the same name of “Butts Up.”  According to him, this version of the game was reserved for the hardest of hardcore children.


One of the games my informant used to play back in elementary school was a game called Wallball.  According to him, Wallball is played against the wall of a building or structure with a playground ball or tennis ball.  The object of the game was to hit the ball with your hand and have it hit the wall without first touching the ground.  If the ball hits the ground first instead, you must run to the wall before someone else is able to successfully hit the ball at the wall, or else you are “out.”  However, my informant says that usually a player could receive 3 or 5 outs before actually being forced out of the game.  Games were played with a large number of students.  There were a few additional rules in his version of Wallball.  Players were not allowed to bobble the ball, any player bobbling the ball was forced to drop it and run for the wall just as if they had failed to make a proper hit.  If a player was able to catch another player’s ball after it had hit the wall but before touching the ground, the player who hit the ball received an out.  A player was also allowed to peg another player with the ball, thus forcing both players to run for the wall.  This was only to be performed if teachers were not watching because teachers would usually stop the game if they saw this.  Players were also forbidden from having “Tea parties” which is where a player hits the ball back to his or herself 3 or more times in a row.  Also at any time, one player could challenge another player by throwing over his or her shoulder.  Both players then had to run to the wall before someone else hit it there.  Perhaps this challenge rule was instigated to replace pegging in the presence of teachers, but never left the game even when teachers weren’t present.  This version of Wallball is very similar to the version of Wallball that I played in elementary school, except without the challenge rule.