When Most I Wink, Then Do Mine Eyes Best See

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shakespeare sonnet slam

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It’s the last half of April which means it’s Shakespeare’s Birthday Sonnet Slam time once again. I’ve been participating in the slam for the last four years, and  I’ve written about how to analyze a sonnet for performance several times before  (see here and here as well). Each year participants are assigned a sonnet, and within the space of about three hours all 154 sonnets are performed at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, New York City.

This year I was randomly assigned Sonnet #43. As I’ve written before, I enjoy being told which sonnet to do, because it exposes me to sonnets which I would not necessarily have been drawn to by myself. Here’s the Sonnet:

Sonnet 43

When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright are bright in dark directed;
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay?
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

Unlike some of the previous sonnets I have been assigned, at first glance this one seems fairly straightforward, if somewhat repetitious. As usual, the first step is to divide the sonnet into three quatrains and an ending couplet:

When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright are bright in dark directed;

Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?

How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay?

All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

The first quatrain sets the conceit that runs through the poem: I see more clearly  at night, when you are present in my dreams, than the dull day when you are absent.

The second quatrain seems to say nearly the same, but it’s always useful to see what is new in each quatrain. After a few read-throughs I realized that here there is a request underlying this sonnet, and here the poet is expressing his desire to see his beloved, physically, in the daytime.

The third quatrain seems to be marshaling the same argument for your presence. How to distinguish it from the previous quatrain and make it more interesting? Oh, there it is. In the second quatrain, I say your presence would make me happy—but in the third quatrain I say your presence would make me feel blessed. That’s something to hang my hat onto. Two distinctly different appeals.

The final couplet is usually either a summation of the first three quatrains or a distinctly contrary upending of the previous lines. Here, it seems to be the former, but the last phrase of the last line seems peculiar to me. It reads “when dreams do show thee me.” But that seems backwards to the sense of the rest of the poem. Throughout the poem, I have been doing the dreaming, so I was expecting “when dreams do show me thee.” It scans exactly the same so that can’t be the reason the pronouns were switched. I don’t know the reason for that yet, but I do know I can’t ignore it. I’ve found through past experience that the one difficult word or line is often the key to unlocking everything else.

Here’s an early Happy Shakespeare’s Birthday to all.

“Even My Old Man Looks…Good”

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Monday, I had Friday on my mind.

The Australian Easybeats’, with their hit 1966 pop song that had something extra-Kinksish about it.

Got to love the energetic joyous performances.

Thanks to YouTuber рлин Вълчев

Al Pacino On Acting For The Stage and Screen

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AARP's 2nd Annual Movies For Grownups Film Showcase - "The Humbling"

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Al Pacino is one of only a handful of Hollywood actors who has regularly gone back to his roots in the theater.  At a recent press screening of his re-released films, Salome and Wilde Salome, he held forth on, among other things, the differences between acting in film and acting in the theater. Even at age 77, Pacino is a funny, enlightening, and honest speaker.

You can listen to his talk, as broadcast yesterday on the radio segment I prepared for the WBAI Arts Express radio program, by clicking on the grey triangle above.

 

I Never Cared For You

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Willie Nelson, with his beloved guitar, Trigger; Emmylou Harris assisting on vocals; and Willie’s sister, Bobbi, on keyboard. The poignant lyrics are by Mr. Nelson.

More Willie Nelson at WillieNelsonVEVO

That Reminds Me…

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Magicians know Harry Lorayne as the author of some very popular books of card magic, but Harry, who is now in his 90s and still writing card magic books, really made his bread and butter from a related but different form of show business. He was recognized as one of the foremost “memory experts,” and in the 1960s and 70s, he made scores of television and night club appearances, amazing audiences with his memory stunts.

In this clip he memorizes the names of the people in Johnny Carson’s audience, having met them briefly just once before the show.  It’s fun to see how Harry uses his entertainment skills and enthusiastic personality to turn what could be a dry demonstration into a showstopper.

Thanks to YouTuber Rudy Tinoco

There Once Was A Magical Duck…

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Here’s another installment of my limerick game contributions. As I stated in the first installment, on one of the online magic forums, there’s a game where one person suggests a first line for a limerick, and the next person has to complete the other four lines of the limerick. Many of the limericks have a magic-oriented theme, but that’s not a requirement. Here are a few of my better efforts. (Remember, all first lines were given by others):

There once was a magical duck
Enamored with some poor dumb cluck
He climbed on her bones
She started to moan
Hey!!–It’s a family website you schm*ck!

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On a cold dismal night in mid Feb
I Googled ’bout every celeb
I perused every writer
Yes, much like the spider
I waste too much time on the web.

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On the top of the mountain stood Harry
Houdini, that is, and then Larry
Jennings, of course
A powerful force
My favorite is Richardson, Barrie.

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A man once married his dog
“I’m happy,” he wrote on his blog
The bathroom is free
From ten until three
While the wife is out using a log.

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Derren Brown was reading my mind,
Attempting to do it while blind.
But the dude didn’t know
Of my years of Cointreau–
So there was nothing there he could find!

Book Nook, Magic Edition (3)

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Every once in a while I like to catch up and share the titles of conjuring books I’ve been reading, so here’s what I’ve been enjoying the last couple of months—and a little product review at the end as well:

1. Scripting Magic, Volume 2: Pete McCabe’s first volume, Scripting Magic, was one of my all-time favorite magic books. It contained scripts for dozens of excellent magic tricks, and what’s more, it told you why they were good scripts and compared them to the not-so-good examples. Anyone reading them could improve the effects they already did by following the advice in the book. Now, in Volume 2, McCabe continues with more wonderful tricks and scripts—including examples from America’s Got Talent winner Derek Hughes, and the script of Houdini’s performance of the Water Torture Cell. McCabe tells you not only what makes a good script, but also helps you to understand how to come up with a premise, and how to flesh it out. It’s terrific advice, but even if you choose to ignore it, there are some very good tricks here including “Pleasure To Burn” ( a fifty-two to one card equivoque) and the holiday-themed “Catching a Leprechaun.”  While it’s always great to learn new sleights (and McCabe teaches a few here in the context of a given effect) probably no investment of time will improve one’s magic so much as focusing on script and presentation.

2. Malini and His Magic: Dai Vernon was always humble about the debt he owed to the magicians whose work he studied, including Emil Jarrow and Nate Leipzig, but none impressed him more than Max Malini. I’ve written about Malini before, but it is hard to overestimate what an important influence he was on Vernon’s generation of magicians. In an age where magicians mainly entertained with large illusions on stage, Malini changed the paradigm. Whether he was entertaining on the stage of a large theater, a hotel ballroom, or an intimate dinner party of the rich and famous, he needed only a couple of decks of cards and some silverware to make his presence unforgettable. In Malini and His Magic, editor Lewis Ganson collated Vernon and others’ thoughts and memories of Malini in order to produce a slim but valuable volume. It starts off with some basic biographical information, and then describes the presentation and methods of Malini’s full evening show, the highlight of which was his card stabbing routine. Later chapters deal with Malini’s more informal shows, and it’s wonderful to read about how audacious his effects and methods were. Malini was also quite a self-promoter, and not a small amount of his success was his ability to “schmooze” and make friends with wealthy patrons. The one secret that remains is the famous dinner table production of a block of ice from a lady’s hat. While Vernon describes the production and one aspect of the method, he admits that he does not know how Malini loaded up. That will have to be a mystery to all but Ricky Jay, who you can see perform the astonishing trick for a skeptical journalist in the documentary film Deceptive Practice. (Hmm, I just got an idea of what may have happened.)

3. Our friend Ron Chavis is now well along with the publication of his “Official Magazine for Mentalists,” Mystic Descendant, having released a solid four quarterly issues to round out the first year. The magazine continues with its friendly, good-natured, bar-room mate outlook, and as I have mentioned before, it focuses mainly on the casual performance of mentalism, with a focus on storytelling. I’ve finally caught up with the fourth issue, and in it you’ll find a lovely true story about a seance that unexpectedly turns into a tribute to a recently deceased mentalist; a presentation of an effect that leaves warm feelings of a spectator’s meaningful relationship; and an interview with South American mentalist Mauricio Jaramillo who talks about preparing for the time when things go wrong in performance. It’s light, pleasant reading, that may well stimulate mentalism thoughts of your own; if you haven’t picked up a copy yet, you can go to http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/mysticdescendant to order any issue.

4. On some of the internet magicians’ forums, you’ll find endless discussion of what are the best cards to use, and it may seem amusing to run into spirited online discussions that go into scores of pages on whether blue-backed or red-backed cards are best to use. A lot of magicians take such things quite seriously. Anyway, much virtual ink has also been spilled about what brand of cards is most suitable for card magic. For the past few years, the product of a relative newcomer in the field, the Phoenix deck by Card-Shark, has found favor with many magicians. I like Phoenix cards a lot, but I recently became aware of the new release by the US Playing Card Company of a special edition of their Maiden Back cards. I’ve been using them for a few months now, and I really like them, maybe more than the Phoenix cards. Here’s what I think the advantages of them are:

  1. They faro out of the box very nicely. They are traditionally cut, so if you’re a top down faro person like me, you can just turn the cards face up. The cards are so amenable that I don’t mind the difference for me at all.
  2. The cards are slightly thinner than regular Bicycle stock, and seem more flexible. It makes shuffling and general handling easier.
  3. The cards fan well and keep their fanning ability even after a period of time.
  4. Each deck comes with two identical jokers, a blank card, and a DB. Good times!
  5. The cards will make fans of Boris Wild and Ted Lesley very happy, if you get my meaning, wink wink, nudge, nudge; quick, and from a distance too.
  6. The factory sealed decks are in Tamariz order. Even if you don’t know that system, what it means is that with a copy of Mnemonica to inform you (see chapter five, especially) you’ll be able to do poker routines, including any poker hand called for; bridge demos; story deck effects; and finally you can convert to stay stack and New Deck Order with some (admittedly fancy) finger flinging. All this straight out of the box. And if you do know the Tamariz system, well…
  7. The card box is subtly differentiated so that you won’t mix it up with your other decks.
  8. Penguin is selling them now for $60 a dozen, which is a totally ridiculous price for cards with the last three features. They can be your everyday decks.

So if this sounds like something you might be interested in, I’d advise you to try a brick soon, as I don’t really see how they can keep selling them at this price. Happy magishing.