ACROSS A CROWDED ROOM -- I cannot fathom a magic convention with 4000 attendees, but that is the number claimed by this year's Blackpool convention, held in February. Thanks to Paul Gordon and others on the Genii forum, we stay-at-home internet surfers enjoyed learning of the highlights and lowlights that the rest of the magic world (4000 is a lot of magicians!) experienced live. Although I can easily live without the lowlights, I am most pleased that one of the highlights rests here before me, namely Ian Rowland's Lecture Notes Blackpool 2007. These "notes" are in fact a 40-page 8.25 by 11.75-inch book with laminated covers and 100 photographs. The material falls into two main sections, a card section with three color changes, a couple of routines that exploit those switches, and a sleightless and convincing Any Card at Any Number effect; and a mentalism section. Although the card material is most inventive and will reward those willing to put in the work, it's the mentalism section that, for me, lifts these notes above the fray, and indeed comprises the ingredients of a most commercial act. "Can You Read Minds?" is an anywhere, anytime game in which you dead-on predict the outcome, "The Pentagram Oracle" is a spirit writing effect with an extremely satisfying method, "The Bolder Book Test" is an impromptu book test that starts with Hoy yet can get eerily real, and "Pseudo Anything" is a versatile Psychometry routine (as Ian suggested that we come up with our own variation, I suggest divining who comes up with which four-letter word "that means something to you"). It isn't the fiendishly clever methods (and they are) that make these routines special, but the B.S. (build-up strategies?) with which Ian surrounds them. The game (involving three pieces of fruit, a pet, and George Clooney!) very convincingly proves that you can read minds; the spirit writing reveals a very personal "message." The details are what make these routines wonderful. In addition to all this, the notes also include one of the most commercial routines I've encountered for the situation in which someone asks for your business card. This is a complete book, with everything fully explained and well-illustrated, aided and abetted by Ian's considerable wit. Fortunately, you needn't negotiate a wormhole to get back to England four months ago, but may purchase these notes (no doubt for a limited time) off Ian's web site at www.ianrowland.com. Go to the magician-only section, where you'll find them for 20 pounds plus postage, which is Mother tongue for something like $39.
THE SHADOW KNOWS -- "You think life can't be like the pulps?" Walter Gibson asked the other man. "Let me tell you a story. You tell me where real ends and pulp begins." The cigarette in his left hand suddenly disappeared.
The young man, whose most distinguishing characteristic, in spite of his stocky build and shock of red hair, was his powerfully forward-thrusted jaw, blinked in mild surprise at the magic trick, then nodded agreeably. "All right," Ron Hubbard said.
The cigarette, a filterless Chesterfield, reappeared in Gibson's right hand. He took a long sip from his whiskey and washed it down with a sip of beer and an involuntary shudder. He was getting drunk and it was too early. He knew it.
So begins The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, a novel by Paul Malmont that follows Shadow creator and magician Walter Gibson and Doc Savage writer Lester Dent on intersecting adventures that involve, according to the hype, "blood, cruelty, fear, mystery, vengeance, courageous heroes, evil villains, dames in distress, secret identities and disguises, global schemes, hideous deaths, beautiful psychics, deadly superweapons, cliff-hanging escapes, and other outrageous pulp lies that are all completely true." Blackstone, Litzka Raymond (Gibson), and Orson Welles put in appearances. As Glen David Gold praises it, "Pulp fiction at its best." Gibson and pulp fans should enjoy this one. Paperback, 371 pp, from your favorite bookstore.
Here comes summer! But first, my apologies if any of you hit ads for my magic show(s) while attempting to access this sheet. If you'll bookmark this page (the one whose url ends in magic.html), you can avoid that in the future. (The ads themselves I'll discuss below in the section "Will Do Magic for Food.") Other than my modest foray back into performing, this June installment takes an overdue look at some amazing lecture notes by Ian Rowland, possibly the ultimate (at least the most fun) book on poker shuffles, by the late Joseph K. Schmidt, a pulp fiction adventure starring Shadow creator/magician Walter Gibson, suggested summer reading, and a sad farewell to Bruce Cervon. Me, I'm off to the beach in a few weeks. If you see me later this summer at MAGIC Live, I'll be the one with the great tan ...
WILL DO MAGIC FOR FOOD (OR CELEBRITY GIRLFRIENDS) -- From time to time, lay friends ask if I've been doing any magic lately. I tell them that I am either writing for this web site or contributing articles to Genii, and I see a certain disappointment in their eyes when I thus respond. To them, as it should be to all of us, a magician is someone who sooner or later has to do a magic trick or two. Hence, I'm trying to shake off the dust that has settled since my venue closed down in Little Egypt and to get back into doing magic for live people. A certain self-assessment has been involved with this decision. I realized that I am, at heart, just a guy who likes to do card tricks, either the impromptu variety that I did for decades in bars or the more structured and elaborate variety that I've done for Halloween parties. I no longer need attempt to be the next David Copperfield or David Blaine or Criss Angel (though I'd be happy to field calls from Claudia, Daryl, or Cameron), but to just be me, which, on levels that don't involve bank balances or famous girlfriends, is, I dare say, better. Hence the new ads on the home page. If you run into me live, ask me to show you a card trick. I'll be happy to.
BEACH READING -- As mentioned above, I'll be hitting the beach in July for the first time in several years. The two magic books I intend lugging with me are Harry Lorayne's Classic Collection and Joseph K. Schmidt's New Card Control Systems (reviewed this month), just because the stuff in those books is fun to do. For your summer beach reading list, may I immodestly suggest taking a look at my own Little Egypt Book of Numbers, whose review excerpts I am running here for the first time this month. I received this note from a reader this month: "I just purchased your book "Book of Numbers" last week and I had to write to say how much I'm enjoying it. It's been a long time since I've read a book with so many useful, fully thought out routines in it. Motel 666, Catch-22, Chandu the Mindreader, etc. All great stuff! I wish I had picked this up when it first came out." (Thanks, Jeff!) In case you haven't considered it, check out the reviews in our Book Store. H&R still has copies. As to other reading, this has nothing to do with magic, but I found the novel I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle laugh-out loud hysterical. I wish I had save it for the beach! It would have been perfect.
COMPLETE CONTROL -- Way back in Year One of The Little Egypt Gazette, when I was working out a trick called "Satan's Monte," I borrowed heavily from the patter of Joseph K. Schmidt's "A Hell of a Poker Game," which he published in a set of notes on overhand and riffle shuffle poker run-ups. (The notes contain excellent patter presentations as well as technical information.) Mr. Schmidt eventually consolidated those notes from the eighties, with expansions, in his 1995 hardback New Card Control Systems, from Richard Kaufman. I recently acquired a copy of the hardback and renewed my fascination with these shuffles. These are exceedingly easy methods for setting a few valuable discards to be dealt to yourself or your partner regardless of the number of hands called for. Indeed, I've discovered that you can tell the spectators exactly what you are doing, including the arcane fractions that dictate your actions, and they will still be just as amazed when you deal a round of five or six hands (whatever is requested!) and the four aces fall to you. It appears to be tremendous skill, but is just math and counting. (That is, the overhand shuffles; the riffle shuffles take some skill, but not so much as to be daunting.) I've rarely had more fun "working through" a book of card material as I have with this little classic, and it has currently earned a spot at my bedside. If you have overlooked it, or are seeking some material with which to capitalize on the current poker craze, this is the perfect book for you. 103 pages, gorgeously illustrated by the author, still available from Richard Kaufman for a measly $30. Um, for entertainment purposes only.
THE BOY FROM OHIO -- Readers of this sheet are no doubt aware that Bruce Cervon passed away late last month. This loss seemed harsher than that of other Castle greats in that I felt Bruce was the youngest at heart. Jon Racherbaumer wrote a wonderful tribute to Bruce that appeared in the July issue of Genii, and I urge you to read it as well as David Regal's October 2004 special Genii issue on Bruce. In its formative days, the Magic Castle was Olympus, and the gods of close-up magic walked there. Bruce was one of those gods, part of the mythos that defines 20th-century close-up magic, part of that teacher-student triumvirate with the Professor and Larry Jennings, part of the Unholy Three with Martin Lewis and Mike Perovich, part creative genius and part celebrity entertainer. Some of us perform for our friends and family; Bruce performed for Elvis. Perhaps, in that idyllic view of the afterlife that exists at least in the movies, he is again. Aloha, Bruce. It was fun watching your magic shows.
Have a great summer.
Sarah and Simon (Vixen and Spike to old Gazette readers) were married on April 1, 2006. You may access their wedding photos at wedding photos.
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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