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In case you missed it, check our annual Christmas issue. Among other news, we enjoyed Michael Perovich's A Vernon Companion, The Skinner Tapes, a Paul Fox bio from David Ben, Eugene Burger as the Grinch (who else?), and video with Lisa Cousins.
Happy Valentine's Day to all. Last month ended and this one began on a three-day high note, with a great Magi-fest in Columbus. Congratulations to Josh, Andi, and Tim for a grand time, especially the closing gala show. Hard to imagine a better congregation of talent. The hot item in the Magi-fest dealer room was the new John Bannon book, also reviewed below. (I was likewise thrilled to get my hands on a new edition of Erdnase.) More and more video clips of magicians keep turning up on the internet, this month including Frank Garcia, Mac King, and Amazing Johnathan. Details below.
For those of you who love midnight ghost shows, my middle grade novel on that topic, Lucas Mackenzie and The London Midnight Ghost Show, remains on schedule for a February 24th distribution. Amazon has been taking pre-orders (and even filling them on occasion). Only for the brave at heart!
And we close with an ad for a favorite childhood treasure. Did you ever have one?
CHAMPIONSHIP LEVEL -- Later this year, FISM, MAGIC Live!, and Genii the Conjurors Convention will vie to be the "best" magic convention of the year. They had all best work hard at it, as the bar has already been set dangerously high by Magi-fest in snowy Columbus, Ohio, home of NCAA football's crushing undisputed champs. Thanks to the efforts of Joshua Jay, Andi Gladwin, and Tim Moore, this venerable local convention has positioned itself as the first major international convention of any year and as the gathering to beat for magical bragging rights.
It's the individual moments, some planned and some serendipitous, that make a convention a happening for the ages. A few that stand out for me:
Howard Hamburg and Tom Gagnon holding court in the lobby all three days and nights. Tom and his Spread work are a Magi-fest staple, but this was my first time to marvel at Howard. Great tips on a cards and paper clip routine, a killer false cut, work on Marlo Aces, work on estimation, and Charlie Miller's tabled faro shuffle, among others. Howard likewise astonished me by tossing a couple of cards onto the table, which separated. "Sometimes they split," he said, "and sometimes they don't." He then touched each of the cards, and each of those split into two cards, revealing four in all.
Andy Greget sets up shop.
Andy Greget's creepy story trick with a five-dollar bill.
Barrie Richardson's beautiful dissolving knot (while reciting the alphabet backwards).
A Young Frankenstein mat.
Pattrick's Magical Surfaces with new photo-image closeup mats. Tailored to your order.
Tannen's! First time I've seen them at a magic convention and a welcome addition.
Gene Anderson's history of the torn and restored newspaper. I would have added Ron Wilson's improvement.
Kostya Kimlat's Who Killed the King? He markets this!
Matthew Wright's slow-motion Three-Fly, with the coin visibly and slowly traversing the space between hands. I loved Matthew's personality, sort of like Piff the Magic Dragon without the dragon costume.
Glenn Morphew's six signed cards to pocket. Just lovely, as is his Rub-a-dub Vanish.
Rings and Things outshines the other booths.
Catching up with Mike Powers. Nice discussions of math, bar bets, and ACAAN. Loved John Carey's idea.
Chatting with Andrew Martin-Portala about the year he rented out a theater for a midnight ghost show. I'm so jealous.
Hearing that four of you purchased the new Nick Trost book from H&R Magic Books thanks to reading its review here. Nick used to be a fixture at Magi-fest, and you owe it to yourself to keep abreast of his inventiveness.
Silly Billy destroying a room full of kids ferried in by parents. This is always the most enjoyable show of any convention. The kids just loved it.
Tom Stone's lecture, especially his out-of-the-box vanish of three sponge balls.
In the real world, Josh's book shows up at Barnes and Noble.
Josh Jay's lecture, seen earlier this year, but now includes his Card at Any Page routine. (I also remain intrigued by Josh's earlier card and book routine, Book Test Bonanza from Magic Atlas.)
Paul Daniels as Malini, block of ice and all.
An obscene version of Paul Harris's Flap Jacks performed in the lobby. (I didn't catch the name of the magician.) Wish I still had my bar gig.
Andi Gladwin's five moves in five minutes.
Charlie Frye's one-word suggestion to improve the snake routine from Book of Ghosts: leeches! Charlie had just returned from the 1903 edition of The Illusionists in Australia, 15 shows a week!
Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee scoring well by simply being charming. Paul's biggest hit, bigger than his excellent magic: a self-returning rubber band.
John Bannon teaching from his new book, Destination Zero. I believe it was Leverage, but hey, they are all good (see review below).
Charlie Frye's lecture. Charlie has a magic factory in his head and comes up with amazing bits, most of them visual. I loved his Pencil Through Tongue, the Billy Bob Teeth gag, and, in a class by itself, his Cardwarp routine (it appeared as Warped and Fryed in Jeff Pierce's The Cardwarp Tour and as Ripped and Fryed in the Paul Harris boxed DVD set). This routine drew gasps from the audience.
Some left a day early to dodge a threatened snow storm, thereby missing what may be the best gala show of the year (every act a standing O) followed by two exceptional star encounters. To the gala: Paul Daniels emceed and killed with a mental selection of a beer bottle, a funny 50 Shades of Gray poem, and nut in egg in lemon routine. The standing Os: Arden James quietly won the crowd with mime that looks like magic. Tessa and Jeff Evason performed what looks like real ESP with Tessa naming audience members, revealing the hidden contents of borrowed cough drop tins and cigarette packs, naming subjects in photographs, identifying cell phone numbers, credit card numbers, currency serial numbers, whatever. This act fools me more than any other act in magic. Tom Stone filled the stage with enough sponge balls to put Goshman heirs through college. Dani DaOrtiz performed closeup for four onstage spectators (one of them Caleb Wiles) with his usual killer chaotic card magic. And Charlie Frye and Co., defying gravity and sanity, closed because no one in magic can follow Charlie Frye and Co. I love this act; Charlie and Sherry are as repeatedly watchable as Ballantine.
Tessa Evason knows all about you.
"A Conversation with the Evasons," conducted by Ken Weber, proved amazingly forthcoming. Ken insisted that the Evasons use no secret microphones and no preshow work, which makes what they do even more impossible. This very nice couple recounted their history (Jeff was originally into straight magic), the development of the act, and their work for corporate and college audiences. It surprised me that they use music so effectively in their longer show, the first I've heard of in a mental act.
Dani keeps us up late.
And finally an hour with Dani DaOrtiz, far too brief for this creative and entertaining Spaniard. Everything he does is great. Dani's Open Triumph in particular thrilled those who had not seen it before.
The best part of any convention, and that proved to be the case at this one, is simply chatting with fellow magicians. It doesn't even have to be about magic. It can be about literature, movies, math, Disney World, or whatever. Magicians are not only the nicest people in the world, they are also the smartest.
Apologies to anyone not mentioned. I didn't attend every event, and I occasionally dozed off in events I very much wanted to witness. It's a problem that goes back to college Astronomy, nearly 50 years ago. Not to worry: if you were part of this convention, you are a star.
NO SKILL REQUIRED -- As age and arthritis diminish my never-vaunted sleight-of-hand skills, it might be seen as natural that I should gravitate to self-working card tricks. I prefer to view the situation from an opposite perspective. Rather than embracing self-working magic as a means of accommodating declining ability, I embrace it as a youthful interest in brilliant thought, evidencing my admiration for the creativity of some of magic's top minds. Happily, there is plenty of material around. Both Jim Steinmeyer's Impuzzibilities series and Nick Trost's Subtle Card Creations series are up to five volumes, and I've lost count of the Steve Beam oeuvre. Another long-time favorite for combining sleights with subtlety is John Bannon. The new Aronson book reminded me of how much I enjoyed Bannon's trick Chronic, and I was playing around with it nightly when the latest Bannon tome debuted at Magi-fest, an entire volume of self-working card magic (plus one fine bank night routine). Welcome, Destination Zero.
Magic tricks even I can do.
I miss my Magic Monday get togethers with my engineering colleagues and their children, as these new Bannon mysteries are ideal for that audience. A few that I'd love to spring on them:
The Thirty-Second Sense -- A mentally selected card appears at a location indicated by some loose pocket change. There is a lovely DFV (what Lou Derman called Defeat into Victory) moment.
Mousetrap -- You gotta love a self-working sandwich trick. Two red queens sandwich a selected card. This one appeared recently in MAGIC.
Leverage -- This too was in MAGIC, a prediction with a miss involved, with the magi being "off by six."
Perfect -- This is my favorite in the book, a takeoff on the Koran Lazy Man trick with the spek counting down, completely fairly, to the predicted card. There are simple outs involved at the climax, and the Perfect take on that is in David Regal's Lucky Seven from Constant Fooling 2.
Cross Purposes -- One spek's mentally selected card arrives at a second spek's secret number. The patter makes this one play.
Box of Doom -- A spooky takeoff on the "Trick that Fooled Einstein" gambit.
Free Willy -- A written prediction from the gypsy fortuneteller Esmeralda predicts three cards. This trick as well as several others is improved by some thinking from Raj Madhok.
Nationwide -- Four quarters select four playing cards from a four-by-four matrix. The statehood of the quarters matches state names printed on the cards. The final card name is a surprise.
AK-47 -- This could really stun people. A card is placed on the table and (most of the time) it matches a card freely thought of. (The "AK" is for Allan Kronzek, on whose trick this version is based.)
Geez, five would have been enough. You get the idea. This is strong stuff, lots of it, and easy to do. Destination Zero is a 210-page hardback from Squash Publishing, illustrated with photos by Gabe Fajuri and David Linsell. $50.
MUCH SKILL REQUIRED -- The opposite of a book of self-working tricks would be ... Erdnase! To my surprise I have never owned a stand-alone copy of Erdnase's The Expert at the Card Table. I have it only embedded in other books, namely The Annotated Erdnase by Darwin Ortiz (one of the best unsung card books in my library), Revelations (notes by Dai Vernon and a grand Introduction by Persi Diaconis), and Revelation (amazing original text by Vernon and some great photos).
This omission has been rectified by a new stand-alone hardback edition of Erdnase from Chuck Romano. It's a handsome product. Chuck has re-typeset the text and cleaned and enhanced the art. My copy is in the familiar green cloth (to re-phrase a review of Christmas gifts, it looks suspiciously like A Vernon Companion). Chuck has also printed a limited-edition (50) version in black titled The Cardman's BIBLE.
The classic is back.
I must say that I am impressed to finally behold Erdnase in its original context. Despite the evolution of technique and presentations over the 113 years since its publication, it remains a fundamental resource for anyone interested in card artifice. I can only imagine what a young David Verner must have felt as he began his studies, no doubt mesmerized at once by the eloquence of the Preface. As the author says of his work, "To all lovers of card games it should prove interesting, and as a basis of card entertainment it is practically inexhaustible."
Order directly from the publisher at Houdini's Attic. The 206-page green edition is $50, the black edition is $110.
AIRTIME -- I hesitate to post links that have been discovered and championed elsewhere, but must at least acknowledge several that have been superb on the Genii forum lately. First, the popular correspondent known as MaxNY has cleaned up and posted nearly an hour of footage of Frank Garcia performing on David Suskind's show.
The man with the million dollar hands.
This is grand entertainment by an old pro. Go to the Genii forum and search for the topic Frank Garcia on David Suskind. You will be so glad you did.
You can similarly find a great pair of links on the same forum by searching for the topic Wonderful talk by the great Mac King, originally posted by Richard Hatch. Mac speaks as part of a program called EntSpeaks/Entertainers you think you know.
Mac mentions his early textbooks.
The program began in Las Vegas and plans to appear in additional cities. As you might guess, Mac's speech is hilarious. Under the same forum topic, Bill Mullins posted a link to an EntSpeaks talk by Amazing Johnathan. This too has hilarious moments, but also sad ones, given Johnathan's coping with his medical condition. Bring a hanky. (In addition to Mac's and AJ's solo talks, there are two segments in which they each are part of a panel.)
Mac joins the panel.
My favorite childhood toy. Ever.
Pre-order Lucas Mackenzie and The London Midnight Ghost Show today.
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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