“You Shall These Unlucky Deeds Relate”: Paul Robeson


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The final scene of Othello, set in Desdemona’s bed chamber where Othello, standing over Desdemona while she sleeps, decides to kill her.

Performed here on the 1944 audio record by Paul Robeson as Othello, Uta Hagen as his doomed wife Desdemona, Jose Ferrer as the evil Iago, who falsely convinces Othello of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness, and Edith King as Iago’s wife, Emilia, who realizes with horror what her husband has done. I don’t think I’ll ever hear a better rendition.

Thanks to YouTuber Xenu

I’m Gonna Say It Now: Phil Ochs


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The first Phil Ochs song I ever heard. My older brother was home on break from college and he played this new record album he had bought, Phil Ochs In Concert. This was the first track on it. Been listening ever since.

Thanks to YouTuber kotuhell

Poet For Hire


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On my way home yesterday, my attention was caught by a gentleman sitting in the middle of Union Square at a makeshift table. He was contemplating his manual typewriter, or at least the piece of pastel-colored card stock that was rolled into his typewriter’s batten. The sign hanging from his table said POET FOR HIRE, so I asked him if he could write a poem for me. I told him I didn’t have a lot of cash on me, but I could pay him $5, all the cash I had on me. After a brief conversation he agreed to write a poem for the $5, although it was evidently below the going poetry rate. He asked me a couple of questions about myself, and then asked what I would like the poem to be about. I looked down at his typewriter and suddenly at a loss, I asked for a poem about typewriters. He nodded, murmured, “Very good,” and then said I could also have the poem be about another subject as well. I felt like I needed to reach deeper, so I told him about what had been on my mind for the last few weeks: death. “Uh-huh. Typewriters and Death,” he nodded, unfazed. Rolling a new sheet of stiff pink-colored card stock into the typewriter, he told me to come back in ten minutes.

I was feeling guilty that I had had so little cash available, so I went to a nearby food stand in the park and bought an apple, brownie, and croissant for the poet. I wandered back into the area after ten minutes, and he called me over, telling me the poem was ready. I gave him my $5, and the snacks, which he seemed to like. The poet, Benjamin Aleshire, introduced himself, saying that he was originally from Vermont and now based in New Orleans, but he had spent the last five years going around the world making his living by selling his poems for hire. He was stopping off in New York City for a few weeks now before knocking around Europe. He pulled the poem out of the typewriter and handed it to me. I was a little shy about reading the poem in front of him, as if it were a birthday present one didn’t want to open in front of guests, but I felt I kind of owed him a reading there. It turned out to be a very good poem. I blushed at reading it, thanked him, and took my leave.

You can read the poem here:


Inked & spooled

   on a silk ribbon,

a feral creature

   lies waiting

among the hammers

   & keys

while you search

   for a hidden codex

some secret combination

   of hieroglyphics

that will let it out,

   that will set you free

from your own fear

   of your life story

being written

   in disappearing ink.

                          -– for Jack


                             Union Sq, NYC

by benjamin aleshire


In a Coat He Borrowed From James Dean


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Monday morning, re-listening to and wondering at just how great a song this still is.

Don McLean in his prime, singing every word of “American Pie,” knowing that it’s killer.

Thanks to YouTuber BBC Newsnight

Werx of the Jerx


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Andy is now well into year two of The Jerx, and Issue #4 of the JAMM monthly newsletter. While the first year’s blog had quite a number of very strong effects, some of which made it into The Jerx book, the second year saves most of the tricks for the newsletter. Now the blog is for the most part Andy’s attempts to flesh out a theory of amateur performance (interspersed with ads in support of his website). Leaving aside the newsletter for now, I thought I’d link to some of my favorite second-year blog posts.

A few things first, though. Number one: I have no idea what sort of human being Andy is in his other lives, but in his Jerx life, he has been, contrary to the expectations of many skeptical magicians, a model citizen. He has delivered everything that he has promised—two books, a monthly newsletter, other paraphernalia, and most importantly in my opinion, his blog—in a timely manner. While this is the normal expectation in most spheres of commerce, sadly, for some reason in the magic world, it’s too often the exception rather than the rule. So although Andy would probably cringe at the designation, he has been a man of integrity.

Number two: I’m sort of done with telling folks how good some of this stuff is. There’s enough for free on the blog to decide whether it’s your kind of thing or not. Andy takes a kind of cost-analysis approach to his magic that basically asks: what investment of time/money/practice will best improve the experience of magic for the audience? Andy’s real strength is that when he puts forth an idea, he really explores it and puts it into practice, rather than just giving lip service to the concept. But because improved audience impact often has nothing to do with issues of method, and rather results from focusing more on presentational issues, some will bypass The Jerx. All I can do is shrug my shoulders.

So, here are some of the Year Two blog posts I’ve enjoyed:

The Hidden Benefit of the Unbelievable Premise


The False Constraint

The Wonder-Room

Universal Presentations

The Gloaming

The Least You Can Do

Romantic Redux

The Five Movements

The Pulp Fringe-Imp