Growing Reserve Army of Labour

Tags

, , , , ,

IMG_0995

(Click to enlarge)

Letter to The Piccolo Midgets on the occasion of their possible employment at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.

Shandaken Historical Museum

Pine Hill, New York

Thanks to museum director Kathleen Myers

Torn and Restored Hearts: Kayla Drescher

Tags

, , , , , ,

***

A really lovely re-imagining of a classic by magician Kayla Drescher on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us.

More Kayla Drescher  at Kayla Drescher

And don’t forget to enter The Contest. Prizes galore!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Tags

, , , , , , ,

***

Here’s a song that’s been performed by many duos, but It’s hard to get better than Ray Charles and Dionne Warwick. The song was written by Broadway composer Frank Loesser as a party novelty song, but it went on to become a standard despite its never appearing in any of Loesser’s Broadway shows.

Thanks to YouTuber Lennart Ljung

The Death of Chung Ling Soo

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

chung ling soo

***

In order to whet your appetite about participating in this year’s contest, here’s a story that magic historian, collector, and magician Mike Caveney told at the Genii Convention this past weekend.

It concerns Chung Ling Soo, a magician who performed in the late 19th and early 20th  centuries in England and the United States to great acclaim. He performed in traditional Chinese garb and made a sensation with his version of the bullet-catching effect, a notoriously dangerous illusion. In Chung Ling Soo’s version, a marksman would load a marked bullet into a rifle. Chung Ling Soo would place a plate in front of his traditional robes, right in front of his heart, where the marksman would aim. Ordinarily, when a rifle is shot in this manner, the bullet should break the plate and go through the heart. But, of course, instead what happened at each performance is that the bullet would magically not pierce the plate, but instead was stopped and caught in the plate—and it was the same bullet, for the mark on it verified it as the original bullet.  A real showstopper. Until…

One night the trick went wrong. The trick that had claimed several other magician’s lives, now claimed another. The bullet pierced the plate, hitting the magician in the heart. Chung Ling Soo went down in front of the entire audience. He was rushed to the hospital and despite the best efforts of the doctors, died. An inquest was subsequently held to determine what had happened and the examiners came to the conclusion that it had been an accident. The gun had been loaded incorrectly.

Or had it?

Back to historian Mike Caveney. He showed his Genii convention audience a fascinating letter in his possession which a gentleman named Robert Smithson had written to a well-known journalist of the time. In his letter, Smithson explained to the journalist that he had been a great fan of magic when he was a child. In fact, he had been so taken by magic as a youngster, he had attended every one of the fourteen performances that Chung Ling Soo had given when the magician was in Smithson’s town. He had memorized the act, never forgetting the deep impression that Chung Ling Soo’s magic had made on him—especially the bullet catching trick.

Fast forward a number of years later, and Smithson is in the army, on leave for a few hours with his friends in the center of town. Lo and behold, he passes a theater and who is performing that night but Chung Ling Soo. Smithson turns to his companions excitedly and tells them about how obsessed as a youth he was, watching this great magician, and he eventually persuades his friends to come with him to the theater to see Chung Ling Soo perform.

Well, as it turned out, that night was the night. Smithson and his companions eye-witnessed the death of Chung Ling Soo. But the reason Smithson wrote to the journalist was that he was sure it was no accident.

You see, Smithson told the journalist, he had memorized the whole routine from top to bottom during this fourteen previous viewings. And on the fatal night, Chung Ling Soo did two things that Smithson was sure the magician had never done before: First, before the bullet-catching trick, he went center stage before the audience to tell them just how dangerous this trick was, and imparted the fact that several other magicians had died performing this effect. This was something, Smithson wrote, that Chung Ling Soo had never done before. But, second, the clincher for Smithson was this: instead of an assistant loading the rifle, as Smithson said had always been done before, this evening Chung Ling Soo had loaded the rifle himself.

Got it?

Yes, suicide.

Was it possible? Well, Will Goldston, a magician and magic dealer who Chung Ling Soo had been friendly with, thought it could be so. Goldston said that Chung Ling Soo had been in his shop earlier that week, depressed about his life—he was hard up for money and he was supporting the families of both his wife and his girlfriend on opposite sides of town.

But another twist of the story occurred at the hospital, when the doctors tried to save Chung Ling Soo. Because it was only as the doctors took off Chung Ling Soo’s robes, make-up, and wig that they learned the truth, which only a few in Chung Ling Soo’s inner magic circle already knew: Chung Ling Soo was in reality William Robinson, a New York-born Irishman who had made his way to England and had become the chief invaluable assistant to the biggest magical star of the time, The Great Hermann. Robinson had taken on his Chinese persona by basing his act on that of an actual Chinese magician who had toured Europe, Ching Ling Foo. Robinson had gone so far in his deception, that in public appearances he would go out with a “translator” who would “translate” Robinson’s nonsense gibberish into English. Robinson in his Chung Ling Soo character even had had the audacity to publicly call Ching Ling Foo—the genuine article—a phony.

Talk about fake news.

But it took Robert Smithson, Chung Ling Soo fan extraordinaire, to uncover Billy Robinson’s final deception: The accident that was no accident.

You can read more about Robinson in Jim Steinmeyer’s wonderful book, The Glorious Deception

People Are Boring: George Carlin

Tags

, , , , ,

***

One thing that you can say about George Carlin: he didn’t mellow with age. In fact, he got more angry, cynical, cranky, nasty, bitter, crude—and possibly funnier—as he got older.

Exhibit A above: definitely  not suitable for work.

Thanks to YouTuber andyp1986

The Third Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest

Tags

, , , , ,

trophy-oprah

***

Yes, it’s time once again for this blog’s annual magic contest.

So here is the challenge this year:

Tell your favorite true story about performing magic. It can be about you or someone else. That’s it. If it’s about someone else, it should not be a well-known story, but inside gossip is always welcome.  It can be profound, funny, embarrassing, but it must be entertaining and well told. You don’t need to be a professional or anything like that, hobbyists are welcome to participate as well. And you’re on your honor to tell only true stories.

First prize is first choice from the terrific grab bag of magic books and DVDs I’ve put together; second prize is second choice from the grab bag; and third prize, in a parallel, numerically pleasing manner, is third choice from the grab bag. The items in the grab bag are all commercial books or DVDs, at least one of which, I guarantee, you will be very happy to have.

And in the spirit of everyone being a winner, I’ll ask all entrants to allow me to make up a pdf file which includes their entry. This pdf will NOT BE SOLD, but will be offered only as a free download to all those who entered.

Send your entries please to jshalom@worldshare.net

Make sure to put the word CONTEST in the subject line

Deadline Monday,  Oct 31, 11:59 PM.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!