Note ye ed's email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Return to our November issue for a look at Larry Hass's Eugene Burger: From Beyond, an appreciation of Carisa Hendrix, and a second look at a Bill Malone Penguin Live download.
I suppose, if there is to be a theme to this year's Christmas issue, it is reflection. You can enjoy watching your favorite magician -- you! -- in the three-way mirror reviewed below, from Sean Yang. Then, alas. Despite the joy of his memory, there is no joy in the occasion of reflecting on Simon Aronson, whose passing surprised and saddened us all. Our compact with life, death, and the universe occasionally plays its nasty tricks. My fondest wishes to Ginny, the best partner in life and magic a boy could hope for.
But we go on, and family makes life special. In the spirit of the old December issues of Bill Larsen Geniis, I'll close again with photos of the grandkids, who are growing up. From our still new home, Maleficent and I wish you a very Merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate, and a Happy New Year to all. Peace on earth, good will to men.
I SEE YOU -- Although a video camera may be the best observer of your practice or live performing sessions, there is still considerable merit in practicing in front of a mirror, or even better a three-way mirror. I hadn't done so for ever so long, so turned to my favorite go-to general dealer, Vanishing, Inc., to see if they carried one. They did!
Hey, you flashed!
Sean Yang's 3-Way Mirror is made of light weight flexible glass, covered with a deep black velvet so that it folds to an 8.5 by 12-inch closeup mat (usable on both sides). It fits easily into your briefcase and travels well. What a delight. $39.95 and in stock as of this writing.
I got mine from Vanishing, Inc.
I've been trying to fool myself with the Invisible Palm Aces. So far, so good. Back to practicing ...
ALOHA, SIMON ARONSON -- I knew Simon Aronson only casually, to say hello to each other at conventions, but my admiration for him as an inventor, performer, and fabulous human being goes far deeper. I first took serious note of Simon in 1978, with the publication of The Card Ideas of Simon Aronson. It opens with a generous foreword by Ed Marlo (with whom Simon sessioned) and contained such promising gems as The Aronson Artifice (Al Koran meets Norman Gilbreath), Red See Passover, and Histed Heisted. The bar had been set high.
But I first heard of Simon much earlier, when he published his first trick, in the Chop Chop issue of Genii, September 1959. It was my third issue as a new subscriber, and I doted on every word. I was 14, Simon was 16. The trick was called Maximus, and it foreshadowed the brilliant card mentalism that would cement Simon's reputation.
In the beginning ...
Much more followed. The big books appeared: The Aronson Approach, Simply Simon, Bound to Please, Try the Impossible, and Art Decko. Many would adopt and perform Shuffle-bored, Simon-eyes would set a record as one of the mot elaborate mental routines ever, and memorized deck material would become a movement. My personal favorite, his routine that I performed most often, was Prior Commitment, which exploits the devious UnDo Influence control. I also get a thrill from using Simon's Bluff Oracle to conclude John Bannon's trick Chronic. So sneaky!
Speaking of Mr. Bannon, Simon would eventually follow his Marlo session period with Saturday sessions in his own 29th-floor apartment, teaming at first with John Bannon and David Solomon. From that aerie would emerge some of the stellar examples of late 20th and early 21st-century Chicago card magic.
And for many of us, following Simon and his wife Ginny around conventions, in hopes that they woud launch into an impromptu demonstration of their two-person mind reading act, was great sport. The routine is one of the most baffling ever, and Simon's mentalism disclaimer is one of the funniest lines in magic, as the truth often is.
Over the next few weeks, the usual channels of magic will fill with tributes to Simon. More immediately available sources have done so already. On the Genii forum, Simon's friend Bill Malone posted a heartfelt piece. Ace contributor Bill Mullins discovered and posted a fascinating report about Simon having a front-row seat for the 1963 March on Washington (Simon's father was an organizer). And frequent contributor Jack Shalom, whom I finally met at the Genii convention, posted a lovely tribute on his own blog that contains an embedded Simon and Ginny performance. ("It's The Thought That Counts: Simon Aronson, An Appreciation.")
There is plenty to discover about Simon on his own web site, at simonaronson.com. There you will find the complete texts of his cover stories in The Linking Ring, MUM, MAGIC, Genii, and Chicago Magazine. These are all great reads, but I most enjoyed Joshua Jay's extensive piece in Genii. Check it out for that disclaimer I mentioned.
A contributor makes the cover, 54 years later!
Over the years Simon's publishing record eventually coincided with the run of Little Egypt Magic. I was therefore pleased to publish reviews of a couple of his books. I'll close with a repeat of those, and will use them to guide myself back to the books, to rediscover the special magic that entertained me years ago. Thank you, Simon, for so much.
IMPOSSIBILITIES (June 2001) -- I had recently been bemoaning the fact that I hadn't encountered a new drop dead miracle card trick in over a year. That quest came to a happy end with the publication of Simon Aronson's new hardcover, Try the Impossible. The trick is "Prior Commitment," and it's one of several that exploit Simon's incredible UnDo Influence, to which he devotes 92 pages. The other two portions of the book include Eccen-tricks (a potpourri of items including two exceptional gaffed ace assemblies) and Unpacking the Aronson Stack (new uses for everyone's favorite memorized stack, but which don't require memorizing anything). All this plus a ring on rubber band effect. You can check out Simon's offerings (including a deal on the gaffed aces) at his new web site, at simonaronson.com. The book contains 290 pages and is only $40.
CAMRADERIE (November 2014) -- Remember when Chicago was a hotbed of magical creativity? It still is! It's been thirteen years since Simon Aronson favored us with a large card book, and he's been busy, thanks to weekly sessions with Chicago buddies John Bannon, David Solomon, and David Finkelstein (who contributes an Introduction), with some of his brainchildren occasionally appearing in the magazines. Art Decko, Simon's latest book, is also his largest, his most eclectic, and by any standard one of his best.
More Chicago card magic.
As with the Steinmeyer book, it's easy to highlight favorites. I first encountered Bluff Oracle in John Bannon's trick Chronic, and it's one of my favorites of Simon's ruses. How cool to make something look like a math trick, but it isn't. Simon greatly extends the utility of the bluff in his analysis, and this is a hallmark of the book. Virtually every trick or gambit is complemented by variations, additions, alternates, right or left-handed considerations, developmental histories, and so on, not merely for the sake of getting every possible contingency on paper, but because the additional explorations are those which just might become the reader's favorite application. Back to the treasures ... Aronson Stripout 2.0 is a full deck false shuffle that is Simon's go-to shuffle and just may become yours. It's not too hard and looks good. Double Vision, in the impromptu chapter, is a two-card from a shuffled deck written prediction with methods dating to Al Leech, Bill Simon, Marlo, and Joshua Jay. About Face, in the gaffed card chapter, is the most visually exciting trick in the book (a combination of the Hofzinser ace problem and Hamman's Signed Card); it gave me chills to watch it play out. (It requires a special two-faced card that you need to get from Simon, but, for many of us, Simon has already sent us the gaff. So I took the elevator down to the vault, walked along the stacks of MAGIC magazines until I came to 2007, and extracted the September issue. Oh, two of them, as this was an issue Stan also passed out at a MAGIC Live! And there was the gaff, tucked among the goodies of Josh's trick section.) The most groundbreaking and intriguing chapter is "Totals." Basically, the spek cuts off a bunch of cards, and you shuffle the rest into three piles, the spek directing the shuffling. Add up the values of the three top cards, and you get the count of how many the spek originally cut off. Variations include finding selected cards. Fun methods! The Birthday Datebook theme is explored, with a Speed Dating technique that calculates a card associated with any date, and the trick Fate Accompli allows the spek to select a card before she tells you her birthday. Square Deal is a comedy fortune telling routine in which the spek cuts off a pile of cards, you deal some of the remainder into a four by four square, tell her fortune, mention that her lucky number is, say, 23, and she counts to see that she has cut off 23 cards. And ... the matrix is a magic square in which every row, column, etc. adds to 23. This is worth it for the comedy fortune telling alone. Medium, Well Done explores one of my favorite themes, in which a medium in another room divines a card. It's a trick that would have helped Annemann's Jinx make its reputation.
The book contains all this and much more, including further explorations of Shuffle-bored and the Undo Principle. Handsomely produced in art deco format to match its title, hardback with special dust wrapper, 326 pages, available directly from Simon (simonaronson.com) postpaid for $50 including four gaffed cards. (If you buy the book elsewhere, the gaffs are $10, and a special deck that uses the Undo Principle is $25.)
Charlie, Audrey, and Max.
As winter wraps us up in white
And fairy reindeer rise in flight
Let this Linking Ring of rhyme
Draw us close at Christmas-time.
-- Season's Greetings 1995
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Little Egypt Magic is the erratically updated web site of Steve Bryant, spawned (the site, not Steve) by a former internet magazine known as The Little Egypt Gazette/for magicians only.
Steve Bryant is an obscure magician and writer who generates this site from an iMac in Bloomington, Indiana. He used to frequently journey to and perform magic in Little Egypt, the local name for extreme southern Illinois, where the towns bear such names as Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak.
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