He Likes Bread And Butter


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Monday morning, breakfast is served.

Who knew that lead singer Larry Henley of this 1964 hit was, as one YouTuber commented,  a white Bill Clinton lookalike?

They never had another big hit, but as the Beatles became more and more popular, they adopted Beatles-style haircuts in an effort to hold onto fame.

It didn’t work.

Thanks to YouTuber Carl’s Old Record Club


Last Writes


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So, I was having my weekly freak out about what will happen if I die tomorrow—not that I have any indication that that is going to occur—and I realized that what I was worried about the most, besides my family, was my writing.

Specifically, what about the novel that I’ve been working on for the last five years, the one that’s still sitting on my computer? My nightmare is that it just stays there with no one even knowing that it’s there. Oh, my family knows I’ve been working on it all this time—how could they not with all the agita around it?—but they don’t know what file it is, or what version is the latest, and probably they’ll have other things to think of when I drop dead, so what am I going to do? It’s strange: we finally got around to making a will, so my family is okay; but I worry about my characters. I’m worried that they will not have a chance to live. It’s a crazy feeling, but it’s a real one. I want them to have a home if they don’t find one before I’m gone. I wonder if other writers experience this. Like Pirandello’s characters, my modest creations want to have a chance to play out their stories, too.

I mean, I have been doing due diligence, sending out my manuscript and query letters, but who knows if anyone will bite? A few close calls, but still nothing. But I believe in this book and these characters, and while I know the book is not going to appeal to everyone, I say immodestly that it is good and deserves to be read by those who would enjoy it.

So I finally figured out a way to lessen my anxiety around this whole thing. I decided that I would self-publish one copy, one copy that I could leave behind, so that when I go, at least there will be some tangible evidence of what I’ve been doing these last few years. It’s kind of amazing to me the effort it takes to write a novel, good or bad. At least, the effort it took me. I don’t claim it to be anything great, but I don’t want it just to disappear.

I went onto a popular online self-publishing site, Lulu.com, having no experience at all how this was going to play out. I assumed that I would have to order a hundred or more copies to get this done. It’s not really what I wanted to do, but I figured, okay, if I have a stack of these left in my office when I kick the bucket, they can give them out at my funeral or something. When I actually went to the website, though, I was pleasantly surprised. You don’t have to order a hundred copies. You could order fifty, or fifteen, or for goodness sake, you could just order one. Yes, one’s the ticket: that’s just what I wanted. Just one to document that I was here, that somewhere in my life I did this thing, and here it is.

The whole process was not too difficult to navigate. There’s a bit of a learning curve but if you follow the directions on the website, you can create your book without too much trouble. The first thing you do is choose the format for your published book: hardbound, softbound, paper quality, different sizes, and so on. I chose a 6×9 perfect bound paperback. If you eventually decide that you want to publish the book commercially, they recommend you ask for the premium paper. This option also provides you with an ISBN number should you ever decide to go commercial with the book. Next, you download a Word template from the website and import the Word document of your manuscript into it. You then upload that file back to Lulu, and they return a pdf that shows exactly how the manuscript will look when published.

When you’re happy with what you see, then it’s time to choose a cover. There is a very easy and flexible Cover Wizard which allows you to choose from a number of attractive looking cover themes. If you like, you can add photos to your front cover; also, on the back cover, you can add an author’s photo and any text you wish. In addition, the book automatically prints with the title of the book and the author’s name on the spine. Since I am not interested right now in publishing, I did not opt for any photos or even back cover text, so I just chose an abstract cover design that I thought was attractive.

At this point you can order your masterpiece, any amount from one proof copy to hundreds. There is a discount in the price per book as the quantity goes up, but I was amazed at how inexpensive it was, even for the one proof copy I wished to purchase. For a 250 page softcover, premium paper, with a designed cover, it only cost $6, plus $5 for shipping. In other words, it cost less than a paperback at the local book store, even with shipping.

I sent off my order and the book arrived about 10 days later. It was very exciting ripping open the package, and seeing the book. It looked and felt great—it was not just a cheap knock off. It was commercial grade paper, cover, and binding. I was very pleased with that. And when I read through my book, I was ready to weep, because the story actually worked as a book. It’s one thing to read a manuscript as a file on your computer, or a collection of printed out loose papers, but when you read it as a bound book, it is a whole different experience. I kept turning the pages, and kept feeling like I had done it. Of course, what I also found were typos and pages mis-formatted, even after literally dozens and dozens of revisions. My biggest mistake was something I thought I had accurately accounted for, but I was wrong—not all of the major chapter sections and title pages started on a right hand page. But I wasn’t too worried, because the cost of re-doing a proof was cheap enough that I didn’t mind just correcting the file, re-uploading it, and ordering a new proof. That’s what I did, and ten days later I was greeted by the new corrected copy.

I have to say this whole experience really helped me to put my mind to rest. Even if you’re not as neurotic as I am, preparing to keel over at any moment, I think that if you are shopping around a manuscript you would benefit from ordering a proof copy of your work. You will see mistakes and typos in a way that you may well have missed in electronic or loose manuscript form. If you do get an agent and a publisher, wonderful; but if not, you have the option of either buying copies from Lulu and selling them yourself, or you can have the book advertised on Lulu’s website. They will do print on demand if you wish, so that they only print the number of books that are actually ordered; Lulu, of course, takes a substantial cut of the cover price that way. You also have the option of listing the book on Amazon in a similar print on demand deal, but in that case, Amazon takes such a large cut, that it hardly pays for the author.

So, if my family is reading this, now you know what that book is that’s sitting next to my will…but I sure hope you get to read it before then.

Hang on Sloopy


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Monday morning The McCoys urge Sloopy to hang on.

The woman in the video is Liz Brewer who was once married to the lead singer of the McCoys, Rick Derringer.

Who was Sloopy? So far I’ve tracked down four stories:

  1. One of the credited co-writers claims that he wrote the song while in Cuba, and any attractive women there would be called a Sloopy.
  2. Sloopy was the nickname of jazz singer Dorothy Sloop who was a girlfriend of one of the writers.
  3. Jean Sloop was the name of an Ohio waitress who claims to be the inspiration.
  4. A businessman in St. Louis claimed that when he was just a kid in high school he wrote the song and sold it on the cheap to the credited writers. Rick Derringer seems to most believe this story—but he still doesn’t know why the high school kid used the name Sloopy.

Thanks to YouTuber TransatlanticMoments

Simon and Simon


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In this rare live television performance, Paul Simon and his younger brother, Eddie Simon, play Davey Graham’s catchy guitar instrumental, “Anji.” Eddie, who looks remarkably like Paul, used to run the Guitar Study Center in New York City, and later he helped to manage some of Paul’s tours. He was also executive producer of some of the Simon and Garfunkel compilation albums. It’s fun to watch the two of them workout and exercise their chops on this one.

More at Simon and Garfunkel News

Hard Work


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The alarm clock rings Monday, and you’re ready to tote that barge, lift that bale.  John Handy’s 1976 surprise hit jazz recording in its original longer album version.

  • John Handy – alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, vocals
  • Hotep Cecil Barnard – keyboards
  • Mike Hoffmann – guitar
  • Chuck Rainey – electric bass
  • James Gadson – drums
  • Eddie “Bongo” Brown – congas, percussion

Thanks to YouTuber Marc Leroy

Seven Shuffles


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Yesterday, card magician Derek DelGaudio appeared on NPR radio’s quiz show, Ask Me Another, where his quiz category was…playing cards.

What an incredible stroke of fortuitous luck engineered by the quiz show Gods! (not)

Anyway, Derek answered questions like, “Which suit used to be represented by batons and sticks?” and “One of the four Kings’ faces is different from the other three: which, and why?” Of course Derek answered these questions correctly—he is after all performing card magic nightly in his new one man Off-Broadway show, In & Of Itself—but it was the final question that was the most amusing. Here’s how the conversation went:

Host:  “According to mathematicians at Harvard and Columbia, how many—”

DelGaudio (and magicians across the country):  “Seven!”

Host: (Stunned silence, then laughter) “Yes, correct.”


Spoiler: As the host later told the audience, the question’s finish was, “how many riffle shuffles does it take to fully shuffle a deck into a randomized state?”  It’s a more interesting question than might appear at first glance, with quite a few sticky points.

First of all, is it referring to any kind of shuffle? No; it applies specifically to the riffle shuffle, also known as the dovetail shuffle—the deck is divided into two packets, one packet held from above in each hand, with each thumb at one short end of the cards, and the other fingers at the opposite short end. Then some cards are riffled off the bottom of one packet by the thumb onto the table, and next, some cards are riffled off the bottom of the other packet by the other thumb onto the table. This is repeated, riffling off cards from the bottom of the two packets onto the table, alternately, until both packets are exhausted (or at least a little bit sleepy). Most bridge players are familiar with this kind of shuffle.

Do the cards have to be perfectly alternated, one card from each hand, in perfect syncopation (magicians call this a “faro shuffle”)? Again, the answer is no. There is no requirement that the cards be perfectly interlaced, nor that the deck be cut into two even packets at the beginning. But even with imperfect shuffling, the cards should be fully randomized after seven riffle shuffles.

With some reflection, one might ask, what does it even mean to say that the cards are now in a random order? Isn’t every order a random order? The whole question of randomness is non-trivial, but a quick and dirty explanation as applied to shuffling depends on two notions. First, suppose we number all the cards in a deck consecutively from the top, 1-52.  Now we shuffle the deck. When we look at our new shuffled order, are there any clues in the new order that might lead us to suspect what the original order might have been? For example, if the new order looked like 1-20, 26-40, 21-25, 41-52, we can see that the “chunks” from the original order have left a calling card of sorts of the previous order; we would not say that the shuffle had randomized the order yet. The other thing to realize is, that given our original stack ordered 1-52, it is not true that every other conceivable stack could be obtained by one riffle shuffle—even if we were allowed to decide exactly how the cards should fall. For example, if we wanted a new stack that began 2-1-7-3 on top, there is no way of splitting the original 1-52 stack and doing one riffle shuffle that would put those four cards on top.

So, now we are in a position to talk about what a randomly shuffled deck would mean. It means that if we were to compare the positions before shuffling and after shuffling, there would be no clues left as to what the original order was; and that the new order was just as likely to have resulted from the actual beginning order as from any other beginning order. It turns out that only if you riffle shuffle at least the magic seven times, can you be sure that the preceding two conditions are true.

This result was proved by Persi Diaconis, presently a professor of mathematics at Stanford University, but also one of the most intriguing and elusive figures in modern sleight-of-hand conjuring.  When he was 14, he ran away from home and joined a much older magician, Dai Vernon, on a cross-country scramble to track down the best underground card sharks in America. The idea was to learn new card sleights that other magicians had not yet discovered. Diaconis was so intrigued by gambling questions that he enrolled in college math courses to learn the math that would give him more insight into such problems. Later on, Diaconis got himself a teaching post at Stanford on the recommendation of the Scientific American columnist Martin Gardner. Gardner it turns out, was a first-class amateur magician; Diaconis had shown him a few card tricks that he had invented, and on the strength of those card tricks, Gardner recommended Diaconis to the department head at Stanford who then hired Diaconis.

Diaconis has since published papers on many topics of potential interest to magicians and gamblers, including a proof that when flipping a fair coin, it is slightly more likely to fall on the side it started on. Equally intriguing is Diaconis’s tight-lipped attitude towards questions about the now-deceased Vernon. Vernon had many acolytes, most of whom have shared in print or video what Vernon had taught them. Vernon himself was not averse to revealing some of his confidences. But Diaconis is one of the few who refuses to speak about any of the Master’s teachings, and believes that some mysteries are meant to be taken to the grave.

But Diaconis’s riffle shuffle paper is well known among magicians. So now you know why Derek DelGaudio didn’t need to hear the rest of the question…


That Was The Week That Was



Last week, I posted some current events gags I had written for a local radio personality back in 2014-15. I’d set up the premise with a true news story from the day, and then add a comment punchline. Here are a few more of those from that time:

You- Always-Hurt-the-One-You-Love Dept.

One hundred years ago this week, on Sept.1, 1914, the last Passenger pigeon died in a Cincinnati zoo, ending the reign of a species that numbered in the billions until American settlers wiped the birds out.

Comment: And to think we didn’t even need smallpox blankets to do it! Progress!



Which-Shell-is-the-Pea-Under? Dept:

In what observers are calling a classic example of “bait and switch,” after months of promising to take executive action on immigration reform this summer, President Barack Obama is now further delaying legislation until after midterm elections.

Comment: In other news, Obama revealed that the five-bedroom Park Avenue luxury apartment for $700 a month he had offered was no longer available, but there was still room in a trailer under the wino bridge for rent.


See-This-Is-Why-We-Can’t-Have-Nice-Things Dept.

General Mills Inc. has agreed to acquire Annie’s Inc., one of the largest producers of natural and organic branded food, in a deal worth $820 million.

Comment:  And in related news,  Annie’s Organic Green Kale Salad Dressing will be re-branded as Count Chocula’s Lucky Charm Bits Mayonnaise Syrup.


Our-Modern-Day-Heroes Dept.

Ben Affleck is reportedly in negotiations to star in a new action thriller called The Accountant.

Comment: It’s Affleck’s first in a series of “ordinary people” thrillers including The Barista, The Gas Station Attendant, and The Guy Who Scrapes The Bubble Gum Off the Bottom of Third Graders’ School Desks.


Comedy in the Age of Terrorism Dept.

A comedy club in Barcelona has introduced a computer fitted to the back of each seat, which reads audience members’ facial expressions. It runs up a tab of smirks, chuckles and belly laughs. Each laugh is charged at €0.30 per laugh.

Comment: Does that mean you can watch Bill Maher for free?


Fit-For-A-King Dept.

DNA testing has raised questions about the nobility of some of the royal family. A spokesman said England’s current royal family should not be worried. “We are not in any way indicating that Her Majesty (Elizabeth II) shouldn’t be on the throne.” 

Comment: Yes, because symbolic rule by one family over millions of people should never be challenged. Think of all the PBS television series that would have to be cancelled.

A Very Unusual Day: Laurent Piron


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French magician Laurent Piron daringly conceives and executes a wonderfully surreal and visual magic scenario for the 2015 FISM international magic competition. Lots of clever misdirection; you’ll probably catch some moves if you repeat the video–but a live audience only gets one chance!

More at Laurent Piron