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A young fan poses with a cardboard Carbonaro.

Last month's August issue discusses my book signing and magic show at Barnes and Noble and my farewell to Eugene Burger.

September 2017

Now that we are in September, I'd love to think that summer is over and that I could start on fall projects. But not just yet. We plan to extend summer with a few days at the beach en route to the Genii convention. It has been far too long.

September has been super fun, to borrow my four-year-old grandson's expression, thanks to an exciting show by Michael Carbonaro at Indiana University. Additional magic for September included a download bundle featuring John Guastaferro and catching up with friends on television or the internet. See full details below.

SPECIAL EFFECTS -- Can a guy whose hit television show requires him to melt into the background take command of a 3000-seat theater? With a handful of standard magic tricks? You bet, if that guy is Michael Carbonaro.

IU welcomes Michael Carbonaro.

Michael and his team rolled into town September 16 for a show at the Indiana University Auditorium, attracting a full house (and making it really hard for me to park!). Pre-show publicity was excellent, with two articles in the local newspaper, student-painted signs, the full IU Auditorium subscription promotion, and day-of-show tweets from Michael. Not to mention the power of "The Carbonaro Effect," familiar to virtually everyone in the audience judging from the eruption of cheers when Michael asked about it.

Student body attention.

The show is called Michael Carbonaro Live!, and Michael emphasized the "Live" part throughout the show, often comically, keeping video clips from the TV series to a minimum. The evening opened with a guest comic, Doug Thompson, who did 20 minutes. (I tend to cringe at opening acts, but he was funny, a big hit with my ten-year-old grandkid, my adult colleagues, and everyone else in the house.) Michael carried the rest of the show with approximately ten magic tricks and tons of personality, followed by the only complete clip from the TV series as he changed for his closing, signature piece, sculpting his body with shaving cream.

Town square attention.

The magic was parlor-scale material rendered visible to the likes of me via a large flat screen behind the performer. If I were to merely list, by title, the tricks, you might think, "I could do that." Maybe. But you would have to bring a lot more to the table to keep 3000 guests in thrall. Re the magic alone, Michael brought numerous one-degree (to borrow the Guastaferro term) innovations to familiar plots. I've never before seen such a strong audience reaction to Slydini's Paper Balls Over the Head, nor have I seen a version in which, for a trick designed to fool the on-stage volunteer, it ends up fooling the audience. Whereas some magicians might end a trick with the surprise production of a bowl of goldfish, Michael milks considerable more entertainment from the trick by considering the fate of the little fishy friends. Complementing the originality of the magic, there was an admirable in-the-moment rapport with the audience, whether they were out in the seats or on stage with the magician. Every tiny gesture seemed thought out.

I loved this show and was thrilled that magic was so ably represented to my granddaughter, my friends, and my community. Michael Carbonaro is in a position that he could simply rest on his television laurels, hence it is heartening to see him mount this clearly successful magic show.

Personally, it was hard for me to watch and not recall the last time I had seen Michael work, at Genii 2015 when he alternated Dark Stories with Eugene Burger. Some of that act made it into this show, some is now of the ages.

P.S. Coming to the same facility October 29? Bob Dylan and his Band. Nice company!

FEVER PITCH -- Ever since Vanishing, Inc. published John Guastaferro's vaunted hardback, One Degree, John has continued to create fine material that adheres to his one-degree philosophy. That is, he strives to make small, intentional improvements to create powerful outcomes. It's about "making pivotal refinements instead of radical changes." This is especially evident when he publishes new twists on past routines.

The latest Guastaferro offering from Vanishing, Inc. is a download bundle, three ten-dollar items for a total of fifteen dollars. I happily chipped in.

The spectators find the aces.

Grade A Choice is a four of a kind production thanks to choices the spek makes. The one-degree aspect is that these are specific choices: Re a card inserted face up in the deck, do you want the next card to be the card above or the card below your insertion? After two red aces are discovered, do you want the next card to be the club or the spade? A palm leading to the stunning climax is covered, one degree again, by a gag.

Everywhere and No Way, a great title under the circumstances, is an Everywhere and Nowhere routine that maybe doesn't happen at all. At the finish, the entire deck is blank. There are numerous one-degree convincers getting to that point.

All in Your Hands was a popular trick in John's recent book En Route, a hands-off ace production featuring ideas from John, Dani DaOrtiz, and Caleb Wiles. The setup of slip cutting two aces to the center of the deck left a little to be desired, and John solves that problem brilliantly with his one-degree handling in the download. This is an exciting, unexpected, ruse.

Josh and Andi allow you to watch the complete routines before purchasing. Yes, a savvy card handler can probably figure out most of the methods, but it's the little things that go unnoticed, the "one degrees," that make John Guastaferro material special. That's what I purchased. I am most pleased with these routines, and I love the immediate gratification of downloads.

Whether it's broadcast television or the internet, whether it's your big screen or your small iOS device, we are privy to a lot of magic on flat screens these days. Long gone are the weekly waits and hopes that a magician would turn up on "The Ed Sullivan Show." One can become saturated. Nonetheless, here are some notes on some truly special moments from the past few weeks.

EVERYBODY'S SOMEBODY'S FOOL -- I continue to marvel at not only how brilliantly conceived "Penn and Teller: Fool Us" is, but how fine the individual moments of magic are, lovingly showcased. The Bad Boys of Magic have become the Very Best Boys of Magic. Audiences love the "code words" that Penn uses to explain the tricks, almost as much as magicians do. The show and the boys have caught on as household words, via "Teller and Penn" being a recent "Jeopardy" clue, or this featured bit in a local paper's TV guide.

Liberty is scheduled.

A few recent favorites:

Glenn Morphew: A highlight of the 2016 Magi-fest was standing in a corridor with friends and watching Chicago's Glenn Morphew perform his Cards to Pocket routine, which he called E Equals M C Squared. Fortunately, I get to see it again on "Fool Us," and I remain convinced that it is the best I've ever seen. Of course, it doesn't hurt if you do the best Rub-a-dub Vanish around, available from Vanishing, Inc. A personal note: I know Glenn and so am jealous that he got to spend an important moment with Alyson Hannigan. As Willow on "Buffy" she was the scariest witch ever, and I am a huge fan.

Glenn and Alyson await the verdict.

Liberty Larsen: When I saw the photo of Liberty in the paper, I assumed she was going to do Gypsy Thread. That was disappointing, because far too many are doing it. Despite original patter lines, it's the same trick and should just be retired. But ... I was wrong. Liberty was way ahead of me, first with a charming premise about lying in magic and then with an object to impossible location effect. The location was an ice cube inside a locked box. Penn and Teller said they weren't fooled. I was. Badly.

Shades of Max Malini.

Steve Marshall: Michael Perovich alerted me to catch his friend Steve Marshall on the show, and I am so glad I did. Steve performs dice stacking a la Jim Zachary, and it's beautiful work, sheer skill. I attempted this in my youth, thanks to a booklet by Senator Crandall, but, as Lin Searles pointed out once, "Most people stack dice vertically. Your stack is horizontal."

The blue is in a selected position.

GUEST SCOT -- For Magic Castle members, Bill Goodwin's September guest in the library was R. Paul Wilson, discussing and occasionally performing from books by Roy Walton, Steve Hamilton, Dave Campbell, and Andrew Galloway, noted Scottish magicians. Paul performed a particular favorite of mine, Roy Walton's Back into Time. This has long been my go-to trick if someone hands me a deck and we are standing. In his presentation, Paul used a lovely verb that will improve my future performances.

R. Paul Wilson turns back the clock.



Money well spent.




Attend the Genii convention.



McGrave's Hotel or Lucas Mackenzie and The London Midnight Ghost Show? Which will I be reading on the beach?

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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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