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Magnum opus.

January 2012

Happy New Year.

Happily, I can begin this installment with the same sentence with which I began last year: "It was a most enjoyable Christmas season, with family all in one place, and with more books under the tree than I've had time to read." And so it was.

The only catch was that this month's magic loot was indeed overwhelming. Consider Patrick Page's Magic Page by Page, Tom Stone's Maelstrom, David Acer's More Power to You, and Dani DaOrtiz's Utopia, and you have enough new material to keep you busy for a year, much less trying to absorb it during two weeks in December surrounded by family. Whew. New Year's resolution: read less, play more.

The very best of 2012 to you all. I hope to see some of you at Magi-fest in January and others in London in February. Pip pip.

In case no one has noticed, Stephen Minch of Hermetic Press has begun publishing not one but two great books at the same time, a fiendish plot to part us from our disposable income. But wait, there's more: just in case you were on the fence over whether to buy two books, he offered a discount and free postage if you had ordered the most recent pair by November 30. And more still: in case you had grown up in a cave and not realized that Tom Stone and David Acer should be automatics, he uses some techo-magic to allow you to page through the books on line. Click on the titles More Power to You and Maelstrom at Hermetic Press and be amazed. So submit. Just wrap up your money and send it to Seattle. I did, and I am happy to have done so:

Weather alert.

STORM WARNINGS -- It's hard to imagine that any reader here is not already familiar with the works of Tom Stone, either through his limited availability e-books or through his first Hermetic Press hardback compilation, Vortex. This time, in Tom's new book Maelstrom, I count 84 titled items in 277 pages, a surfeit of fine magic and ideas. As with Vortex, there is a refreshing percentage of noncard items and of stand-up items. Extended pieces include 20 pages on Multiplying Bottles, 21 pages on a quiz show act (shades of Ace Gorham!), 26 pages on the Multiplying Billiard Balls, and a whopping 42 pages on Brother John Hamman's The Signed Card. Given my interest in spooky magic, I particularly enjoyed "Of Dice and Men," in which the spectator barely escapes a command to Kill, and "Brutus's Gift," in which the magician is murdered by a spectator with a freely selected knife. Add "DacheBox," a spooky take on Sefalaljia, to make this a trio. ("The Ultimate Sub Trunk," performed in a graveyard, is too spooky even for me.) I am a sucker for clever book tests and accordingly admired "Siamese Book-Test" (a previous favorite) and "Paperback Writer." What else? Goodness, there is magic with eggs (a complete act), the floating cane, silks, coins, and bananas to spread the magic around. Tom Stone always includes seeds of ideas to stimulate one's creative juices, and it's hard to not want to take "SloMoSub" (the world's slowest sub trunk) and "The Hat Trick" to the next level. The card material is excellent, including "The Ultimate Palm" (an Invisible Palm Aces version that employs black art) and "Well-Timed Miracle" (a clever use of a Svengali deck) along with all those Signed Card gems. A surprise omission was Tom's "Cognitive Color Change," my favorite card trick of 2011, but you Genii subscribers can look it up in the March 2011 issue. Just another great book, filled with stuff so cool that it will inspire you to perform it. Hardback, in landscape orientation a la Vortex, written and illustrated by Tom Stone. From Hermetic Press, $55.

GHOST IN THE MACHINE AND OTHER ALLUSIONS -- One of my five all-time favorite card tricks is David Acer's Ghost in the Machine. I used to close my bar material with it, partly to exit the table by dragging a few patrons over to "where the light was better." I would perform it, they would scream, and I would thank them and send them back to their table alone. But mostly I performed it for its incredibly high effect to effort ratio. It engaged the spectators' imaginations so profoundly as to make me feel guilty over its simple method. All of which is to say that any book of David Acer material containing said trick was going to be okay by me, as More Power to You has proven to be.

David Acer at your fingertips.

Among other notables in this "Very Best of David Acer" collection (the quotation marks indicate that I am quoting, not irony), Dry Spell is a similar effect should I ever wind up doing card tricks in my laundry room. Wormhole is the second best trick I know to do at Starbucks, in which you slide a hole off a playing card and onto a coffee cup, through which you then pour the coffee. (The first best is John Kennedy's Mojoe, but it isn't inexpensive.) For material to use anywhere, readers are certain to enjoy Rink, David's "ring flight to eyeglass frame"; Cellular Production, the surprise appearance of your cell phone, ringing; and Overtime, a super easy yet baffling take on Inversion. There are even two effects utilizing human bodies, my favorite being Body Swap, in which you and a partner mysteriously change places. I am simply jumping around and citing tricks, as the book is full of such practical, entertaining material. With a little searching, you can find YouTube installments of David performing this stuff. Hardback, 182 pages, illustrated by Tony Dunn, handsomely produced by Stephen Minch. From Hermetic Press, $40.

MAGIC BY THE POUND -- Prior to this month, only two Patrick Page books graced my bookshelves, albeit two favorites: 150 Comedy Props, a fertile source of stand-up routines; and Magic by Gosh, a detailed description of magic's most commercial close-up act. Occasionally Patrick's Big Book of Magic would turn up in the public library of some town I was inhabiting, and it was always a thrill to discover a copy there. Missing from my education were the numerous booklets that Patrick wrote, the magazine contributions, and the Trick-a-Tape contributions. Fortunately, these have been assembled along with unpublished material into a volume that could be called the Mammoth Book of Magic, for it is, but is more modestly and tastefully titled Magic Page by Page. I expected the contents to be very, very good, and they are. Rightly or wrongly, I have always lumped Patrick Page in a niche with Karrell Fox, as a prolific inventor and performer of practical, magical, and frequently comedic material. Patrick describes his input to the book this way: "I know that magicians want to know exactly what other magicians ... performed in their act, and that is what you are getting in this book -- the actual tricks I made a living from."

A quick list of the ten chapter headings defines the scope of the book: Cards, The Stacked Deck, Coins, The Miser's Dream, Miscellaneous, Dealers' Delights, The Topit, Patrick Page's Comedy Magic, Misdirection, and Now They See It. That last title refers to tricks in which all the spectators but one are in the know, such as Slydini's Paper Balls Over the Head and Card on Forehead. My favorites were the card chapters and the comedy magic chapter (there is a really funny bit with a cell phone in there), but there is gold throughout, including Patrick's 10-Second Paper Tear and Easy Money. As expected, it is all solid, practical, commercial material, the real deal.

Ad from Magic, Inc. catalog.

The delightful surprise to me in this book was discovering Patrick's voice. First, it is conversational, as though he is speaking to you directly, a la Harry Lorayne. Second, he is highly opinionated. In a wonderful piece on the Top Change, he argues against jazz magic as most perform it, simultaneously realizing the futility of his argument: "... I'm thinking, 'Why am I writing this?' It is a complete waste of time, because the people who indulge in this peculiar pastime will never understand what I am talking about." Likewise, he denigrates those who show off in a Miser's Dream routine: "Now this is strictly a personal opinion, but a display of digital dexterity in the middle of a Miser's Dream routine is wrong, wrong, wrong." No beating about the bush. He is also not shy about taking to task colleagues who have misappropriated his material (ex.: Larry Jennings, Al Koran).

Base of chapter one graphic.

All this refreshing prose is wrapped up in a very pretty package. Michael Albright makes everything he touches look like a million dollars, and that is the case here. It is an oversized book with striking, oversized fonts in the trick titles. The chapter headings are even more dramatic, with the silhouette of a magician or two cast against a gigantic numeral indicating the chapter number. Dozens of photos and line drawings ably illustrate the mechanics, and vintage photos of Patrick Page illustrate a life, all the way back to when the subject was performing as Ricky Page. The task of tying this all together fell to Matt Field, editor of 70 books for Richard Kaufman and recently the longtime editor of The Magic Circular. Matt did a fine job, and the book reads as though every word was written afresh for this volume.

A sumptuous book, hardback with dust cover, 330 pages, 45 pounds in the U.K., 60 pounds delivered to the United States, directly from The Patrick Page Magic Company.

THE FUTURE OF THE SPANISH SCHOOL -- For the past two years, I have enjoyed "attending" the Essential Magic Conference from Portugal. In both instances, my overwhelming favorite performer/teacher, and new to me until this conference, was Dani DaOrtiz. In addition to being one of the deepest thinkers I have encountered, Dani is a brilliant comic. If you search a bit on YouTube, you can find segments in which he impersonates Lennart Green, often with Lennart in attendance. This is sheer raw talent, and it is good news and bad news for you and me. Most of Dani's magic is easy to do, in regards to sleight-of-hand requirements, but is quite hard to do in terms of acting. (Have you ever tried to imitate Lennart Green for example, for he has published most of his work on DVDs? If so, you have discovered that is is hard to feign sloppiness!)

Modern day Ascanio.

Dani's trick Mathmagic, which he performed on EMC 2 with the help of Max Maven and others, is a hilarious study in chaos (similar to Woody Aragon's How to Find Your Other Half, but with whole cards) and is the trick for which I bought the four-DVD collection Utopia, the subject of this review. It is utterly baffling and utterly self-working, yet will take considerable acting chops to pull it off.

I can cite others, again self-working, and again with the same stipulation. I especially enjoyed Three Opportunities, Business Card Collector, Chaotic 21-Card Trick, and Abracadabra, which uses a delightful key card placement. (If you own The Little Egypt Book of Numbers, you can easily adapt it to what is probably your favorite trick from that book.) I also really liked Flash Restoration in the Torn and Restored section.

Spain has been very, very good to me this year. The year began with a Juan Tamariz performance and seminar in Las Vegas, then Dani's performance at EMC, followed by the Woody Aragon book, and now this cherry on top. All in all, here are four fantastic DVDs of highly entertaining material, under the general titles 100% DaOrtiz, Fascinations, Psychology, and Semi-Automatic, plus four interviews conducted by Luis de Matos. Shot in high def, mostly in English, occasionally in Spanish with English (or language of your choice) subtitles. $150 from your favorite dealer. I got mine from H&R Magic Books.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak' a right gud-wellie waught,
For auld lang syne.

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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