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April Fool quiz: who is this magician?

April 2012

It is really, really hard to believe that it is April already, perhaps because last winter was so off the charts mild. It is tempting to open with an April Fool joke about a certain magic dealer, but that situation is so sad for all concerned that I can't bring myself to do it. Instead, here's a happier joke I heard on the radio. Q: What do you get when you toss a hand grenade into a French kitchen? (Answer is at bottom of page.)

Getting back to magic, we take a look this month at Bill Goodwin's e-book Evolution, at Charlie Randall's The FFFF Book, at the coffee table book Illusionology, at the DVD Kozak/Inside Comedy, and at the new iPad app from Vanishing Inc. Of all the items discussed, the one I've had the most fun with is the trick Duplex from the Goodwin book. I keep fooling the heck out of myself with different sequences.

DARWINIAN -- When I visited the Magic Circle in London, in February, I couldn't help but note the similarities in background expertise for certain offices at the Circle and the Magic Castle. Will Houstoun, the new editor of The Magic Circular, also happens to be a world class card expert. William Goodwin, the Castle's librarian, holds the same distinction. Surely such oh-by-the-way talent is a source of pride to both organizations' memberships.

Support your local librarian.

Each bloke occasionally publishes, and this month we call attention to a recent e-book from Bill Goodwin, titled Evolution. Among the best of the book's sixteen titled routines, there are four dealing with an easy turn around move, six dealing with a Spectator Cuts to the Aces plot accomplished by math, and, my favorite, three dealing with a plot titled Duplex, which originally appeared in the August 2006 issue of Genii. This is my trick-worth-the-price study and one which is just plain fun to perform (even alone in your room!). Basically, you deal the ace, two, three, and four of clubs in a face-down row on the table. The spectators may call out any value, and you can make that card penetrate the card adjacent to it. In the basic routine, the effect ends with the cards lying face-up on the table. Variations involve a different initial layout and a great ending by Gordon Bean in which the four of clubs penetrates the entire deck. My preference is to perform the basic Duplex first and then repeat with the Gordon Bean finale. The change ups in method and the overall fairness of the penetrations make for delightful magic, all rather easy to perform.

By William Goodwin with inputs from Larry Jennings, Helder Guimaraes, and Gordon Bean. E-book, very well written, illustrated with copious color photos, 68 pages. $19.95 directly from

WAS THAT THE SAME 4F CLUB WE HAD IN HIGH SCHOOL? -- Fechter's Finger Flicking Frolic, also known as the 4F Convention, birthed by Eddie Fechter, Bill Okal, and Obie O'Brien at the Forks Hotel in Buffalo, is one of the premiere and oldest closeup conventions around, an invitation only event held every year since 1971 and going strong. To my regret, I have never attended, and to my particular regret never saw Eddie Fechter in action. From the stories over the years, considering his personality, his venue, his style of magic, I have always thought of him as a sort of East Coast Matt Schulien. Ideally, a little of him lives on at 4F, and 4F lives on through the outstanding efforts of Obie. This year's guest of honor (there has been one every year since 1977, beginning with Jim Ryan), in just a couple of weeks, will be David Stone.

The head lemming.

At some point along the way someone had the idea to compile a book of contributions from 4F attendees. The book was planned for the twentieth anniversary, and 4F is about to celebrate its forty-second, so, perhaps a record gestation? Nevertheless, it now weighs in at 325 pages and is about to be launched by H&R Magic Books. As expected in a book of sixty-two items devoted to closeup magic, there are plenty of card and coin tricks. There are also tricks with business cards, matchbooks, rope, dice, bottle caps, silks, finger rings, flash paper, a jigsaw puzzle, a red bucket, thimbles, and words. A few of the routines, such as Paul Gertner's Unshuffled, have been published elsewhere, to be expected given the long road to publication.

Several items rated special interest, including a couple of outright gags, such as Eddie Fechter's Three Little Devils and Ed Eckl's Red Bucket, a container of sight gags. On the bucket is the number 144 ("That's just gross!"). The most ingenious item is Pit Hartling's Unforgettable which also appeared in Pit's Card Fictions. Alas, it requires a few faros, but it is still amazingly clever. Bill Goldman's Karate Match is perhaps the best of the Karate routines. Mike Skinner's Hay-Dai Stack illustrates the level at which a young Mike Skinner worked. Steve Cohen's Too Puzzling is a nifty trick with a jigsaw puzzle. I also liked Scott Wells' Heartburn (a romantic piece with some flash paper) and Tom Ogden's What I Could Have Had (a routine with cherry tomatoes).

But it's the memories, not the tricks, that I think will make this book special to former attendees or to anyone who wishes he could have attended. The section "A Few FFFF Pranks and Flops" contained some very funny reminiscences (too bad for Obie that he was often the target!) that had me laughing out loud. Even more special, the feature that will make readers treasure this like their high school yearbooks, are the photos strewn throughout. Here are the likes of Eddie Fechter (of course), Del Ray, Larry Jennings, Obie O'Brien, Jay Marshall, Frank Garcia, Simon Lovell, Shigeo Takagi, Lennart Green, Phil Willmarth, Gene Anderson, Juan Tamariz, Daryl, Roger Klause, Steve Beam, Mike Rogers, Tom Craven, Aldo Colombini, Paul Gertner, and many more, all looking way younger than when you last saw them.

The FFFF Book, edited by Charlie Randall, hardback, 325 pages, $50 from H&R Magic Books ($45 prepub).

DISCOVERED -- Illusionology, The Secret Science of Magic, is the latest in the "ology" series from Candlewick Press, Publishers of Rare and Unusual Books, and it's a beauty. This is an oversized book with lots of interactive goodies, including optical illusions, numerous gaffed cards (even a levitating card), two paddles for the paddle trick, flaps, inserts, and many, many secrets. My favorite among the physical features were a popup Pepper's Ghost illusion and a Dematerializer, the latter being a steampunk device for vanishing coins. Purportedly, the book is the work of one Albert D. Schafer, 1915, who seems to have disappeared into his own Dematerializer.

The latest from Candlewick Press.

A popup Pepper's Ghost.

Topics include the history of illusion, the science of seeing, secrets of card magic, the power of misdirection, the art of the showman, the science of levitation, the science of disappearing, magic and new technologies the art of body manipulation, the secrets of Harry Houdini, exposing the spirit mediums, and the science of mindreading. More modern touches (post 1915) include QR bar codes; check them out with your QR Code Reader iPhone app and you'll be transported to videos that either show you or teach you even more tricks. The art direction is brilliant, both classy and clever. This is the finest book of its kind since Mark Setteducati's The Magic Show. Ideal for any youngster with a budding interest in magic, but also a joy for old pros to browse through. $19.99, but Amazon will deal.

LECTURES NOTED -- Beginning in January 2007 and continuing until October 2008, Jeff Hobson and Loren Christopher Michaels produced The Lecture Network, the world's first (I think) online magic lecture series. (The original video ad is still available at The Lecture Network.) You no longer had to travel to some other town or attend a magic club meeting to encounter a lecture; you could attend from your own home. The original lectures were broadcast live, and viewers could beam in questions. It was a great idea with some great names presented. Recently, some of those original lectures have been made available on DVD through Todd Karr and The Miracle Factory.

Kozak on comedy clubs.

Intrigued, and having missed the lectures the first time around, I recently picked up Kozak/Inside Comedy. Paul Kozak is a big, broad-shouldered guy. He looks like the guys who used to line up across from me in high school football. He could smoosh me. But behind that menacing physique is a really funny guy. I'm a longtime fan, and Kozak possesses the strongest asset I know for comedy magic -- an infectious laugh. Even better, an evil infectious laugh. I love to watch him work.

As to this video, Kozak spends over an hour sitting on a stool and talking directly to the camera (the online audience, originally), occasionally responding to the questions being e-mailed in. During that talk, he covers extreme detail on thirty-two topics related to comedy club magic. Next, he spends another hour being interviewed by Jeff Hobson, during which Jeff runs clips of some of Kozak's show, including his flashy fire opener and his brilliant tequila routine.

So, do you need this DVD? It depends on your interest. If you are buying it to learn any new tricks or comedy routines, forget it. It doesn't teach any. On the other hand, if you want to be a comedy club magician, to fill the shoes vacated from that arena by Mac King, Michael Finney, Amazing Johnathan, and Paul Kozak, then this DVD is solid gold. Kozak tells you exactly where to work, exactly how many minutes to do, exactly how much money you should expect to make, exactly how to make even more money from your engagements, and on and on, over two hours of specific inside tips. Priceless. Well, not exactly. But the price is reasonable at ... $30 from The Miracle Factory.

ADVANCED -- From the get go, Vanishing Inc., the online company founded by Joshua Jay and Andi Gladwin, was on the forefront of internet marketing. This month it jumped even farther ahead of its competition with a new web design and a new iPad app. The company is now not only iPad ready but iPad cutting edge, with these features: 1. You can access all Vanishing Inc. downloads straight from the app. 2. You can buy downloads directly from the app or through the website. 3. A new custom e-book reader makes reading the e-books easier than ever.

Stuff available on the Vanishing Inc. iPad app.

I was amazed at how well this all worked. Just by clicking Library, I had access to anything I had ever purchased from Vanishing Inc., including stuff I had forgotten about. It was simple to then re-download and watch trick videos or to read e-books. And wow, the e-books look gorgeous. I've enjoyed Goodreader up til now for reading .pdf files, but this new app may shake up the way we want to read magic books. Highly recommended, and it's free from Vanishing Inc. (P.S. There is also an iPhone app.)

Congratulations, Kentucky.

Answer to French kitchen joke: Linoleum blown apart. (Rhymes with Napoleon Bonaparte.)

Photo at top: Eddie Fechter at a young age.

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 frequently journeys to and performs 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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