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A classic returns in a new edition.
CHRONICLED -- In typical New Yorker depth -- I was reminded of Marc Singer's piece on Ricky Jay and Calvin Trillin's on Penn and Teller -- Adam Gopnik provides, in the the March 17 issue of the magazine, an in-depth look at the modern magic scene titled "The Real Work," mostly gleaned from conversations with Jamy Ian Swiss plus some input from David Blaine. Although I winced somewhat at the idea that magic could be reduced to a dichotomy between the points of view of Jamy and David, the overall piece gives the uninitiated a nice sweep of a field that includes arcane jargon, reverence for Erdnase and Vernon, "Twisting the Aces," "Color Vision," Penn and Teller, street magic, Tannen's, Copperfield's museum, and the crap we talk about, such as the Too Perfect theory. Whether the reader comes away thinking we are fascinating creatures or hopeless geeks is, I suppose, up to the reader, but Mr. Gopnik does a first-rate job at laying it all out.
REPAIRED -- I've recently made two purchases from THEORY11, and they've both been good ones. The most recent is Mathieu Bich's TnR, an 85-minute download ($24.95) or dvd (or both, if you prefer) that will teach you how to tear up the wrong card, restore it (backs facing the spectators, but each piece clearly shown before adding it to the evolving assembly), and then turning it around to show that it has changed to the right card. What makes this cool is that it is the most magical restoration I've seen since all this torn and restored card frenzy began. Nothing is covered with the fingers as each piece is added back. I considered it worth the money just to see how clever the thing is. Personally I would not use it in an informal situation, as the spectators cannot examine the restored card, but I think it would work out in a formal show where you moved on to the next trick. (Okay, they can examine it after you switch it, but the switch is pretty ballsy and will not fly past everyone, especially in an informal spot.) Still, this is a very cool magic trick, and for some the stunning restoration will make up for any inconveniences. The other item I purchased, reviewed in December, was Aaron Fisher's "Panic" ($24.95), and it is very practical and just as visually stunning. Even magicians are quite taken in by how good this looks. Go to www.theory11.com and check out their wares.
Ah, my favorite time of the year, March Madness. I've been watching too many basketball games to spend the usual amount of free time on magic, and yet I do wish to call your attention to a new edition of a great art book from Chuck Romano, a great article on modern magic in The New Yorker, a fine addition to the "Torn and Restored Card" body of work, and genuine deals on great books from Byron Walker, "serving collectors and performers for over 30 years." A personal note: I had earlier promised to attend the World Magic Seminar, always a great time. I've decided to pass this year, as it unfortunately runs right into the MCA weekend in Schaumburg, which promises time with both Harry Anderson and my Really Cute new granddaughter. Hope to see some of you there.
P.S. Don't overlook the announcement at the top of the page. Brett Daniels opens Wohscigam in Las Vegas April 1. All best wishes for a long run.
ART FARE -- Whenever I need to recharge my magic batteries, I turn to two books: Hyla Clark's The World's Greatest Magic (1976), with all those great photos of Vernon, Slydini, Goshman, etc., and Chuck Romano's The Art of Deception (1997), a whopping 406-page compendium of the stuff of all our dreams, the artwork that inspired all the generations that passed through the 20th century. For me it was those Nelson Hahne drawings in the catalogs that set my sites on becoming that handsome Channing Pollock-like guy in a tux, entrancing huge audiences. I quickly subscribed to Genii, and that 50-year relationship further fueled my dreams thanks to the craft of Ed Mishell, the surreal Eugene Poinc, Mickey O'Malley, Paul Butler (who thrilled me by illustrating my first long Genii piece, "Boo!"), and Earle Oakes. In those pages Tom Palmer and Paul Osborne illustrated their own illusions and made me feel I could be a Blackstone. Which lured me most into card magic, Harry Lorayne's tricks or Steranko's artwork? Ladies brightened our days with sharp humor from Pat Lyons in Ibidem plus charming work from Kelly Lyles and Sandy Kort. The flood of books in the latter half of the century gave us inspiring illustration from Richard Kaufman, Greg Manwaring, Tony Dunn, and the indefatiguable J.K. Schmidt. This book supplies histories, photos, and generous samplings of the artwork of all these talented illustrators and many more, virtually everyone who graced the pages of our magic libraries for a century. The bad news was that this limited edition coffee table version of 500 copies quickly sold out, at $110 pp. The good news is that Chuck Romano plans to publish a new 6-by-9 black-and-white version of 500 copies, with new illustrations and information, at an even more enticing $65 (prepub price: only $55 pp!). The new version will be hardback with dust cover and will feature, along with the new illustrations, a new section at the end of each chapter that gives an update since the first edition. As Chuck puts it, "a lot has happened in 11 years." I am mentioning this ahead of publication so that you won't miss out, as many did on the recent Cervon Notebooks. This is a magic book you will spend many happy afternoons with. Check it out at Chuck Romano Magic.
SPOOKY -- Just as most midnight ghost shows failed to deliver on ghosts during the blackouts, most books on seances and ghost shows fail to deliver on blackout shenanigans. Not so Out of the Spook Cabinet (1947) by Herman L. Weber. Published by my old friend Lloyd Jones with a nice foreword by Francisco (A.F. Bull), Herman Weber presents eight items designed only for a spook show or seance blackout. Here are things a spectator can feel, hear, and see, including a face that rises off a spook's shoulders and gets brighter as it rises. That it is all practical stuff is emphasized by Weber's noting the theater and date at which each item premiered. Intriguing at the end is an ad by Weber offering to teach you how to plan, promote, and present a successful spook show, this info going for $100, a lot of money in 1947. So, why am I reviewing such an ancient tome, however good it might be? Because I just picked it up for the astonishingly reasonable price of $5 plus $2 postage from Byron Walker, who constantly runs book bargains you won't believe on his web site. Give Byron Walker Magic Books a look, frequently. Byron runs separate listings for books on magic, mentalism, gambling, ventriloquism, juggling, and bunco.
Congratulations, Billy Crystal. You're my favorite Yankee.
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. You may view early movies and photo spreads of their charming spawn at Audrey Elizabeth Beverton.
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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