Knife Fight onto the Apocalypse: Video

Some people have asked me to post video from my final stage combat scene. I’ve been hesitant to do so because all I have is a less than ideal handheld cellphone video, but if you’ve followed me on this journey so far, I guess it’s only fair that I share this with you.

I wrote about this scene in a previous post, but here’s a brief re-cap:

I was assigned to play a part in a three-person scene from the surreal play Marisol.  The scene is New York City. The streets are on fire; the apocalypse is raging outside. On the news, a woman named Marisol Perez has been found murdered in the street.

My character is a delusional man named Lenny who, on recovering from a suicide attempt, experienced angels forcing his soul back down into his body. In his deranged mind, he was spared from death in order to warn the rest of the world of a coming war between God and the angels.

Meanwhile, Lenny’s sister, June, who he lives with in Brooklyn, has brought home a friend from work named Marisol Perez. They both must endure Lenny’s ranting. June spends the scene demeaning Lenny, who in a fit of anger, chases her with a knife.

We were in a new acting space, so our timing was off on some of the stage combat, but we had a great time doing it. You can read more about the class here, here, here, here as well as here. And, finally, you can see the animated, cartoon version of this scene here.

Men and Women Without Conviction, Unite!

Because on a Monday, you can be anything!

There’s a loving in your eyes all the way.
If I listened to your lies would you say
I’m a man (a man) without conviction,
I’m a man (a man) who doesn’t know
How to sell (to sell) a contradiction.
You come and go, you come and go.

Karma karma karma karma karma chameleon,
You come and go, you come and go.
Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams,
Red gold and green, red gold and green.

Didn’t hear your wicked words every day
And you used to be so sweet, I heard you say
That my love (my love) was an addiction.
When we cling (we cling) our love is strong.
When you go (you go) you’re gone forever.
You string along, you string along.

Karma karma karma karma karma chameleon,
You come and go, you come and go.
Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams,
Red gold and green, red gold and green.

Every day is like survival (sur-vi-val),
You’re my lover (you’re my lover), not my rival.
Every day is like survival (sur-vi-val),
You’re my lover (you’re my lover), not my rival.

I’m a man (a man) without conviction,
I’m a man (a man) who doesn’t know
How to sell (to sell) a contradiction.
You come and go, you come and go.

Karma karma karma karma karma chameleon,
You come and go, you come and go.
Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams,
Red gold and green, red gold and green.

Karma karma karma karma karma chameleon,
You come and go, you come and go.
Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams,
Red gold and green, red gold and green.

Karma karma karma karma karma chameleon,
You come and go, you come and go.
Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams,
Red gold and green, red gold and green.

One Last Adult Christmas Song

At the cabaret show I attended last week, the wonderful Liz Callaway sang a beautiful Christmas wish in her emotion-filled, crystal-clear voice. Here’s the audio clip from that song on that memorable afternoon (click the orange button):

Christmas Presents

I’m still playing around with the size of truth on the radio. Yesterday, Christmas Day, radio station WBAI broadcast me reading these two poems. Many thanks to Prairie Miller, the host of Arts Express, who aired them. Click the orange buttons to hear the two short poems.

Adornments

***

Persimmon

Holiday Cheer

Dar Williams’s The Christians and the Pagans is my favorite Christmas song. It’s a little gem of songwriting storytelling: a comedic, touching history of the family dinner table, along with the history of tolerance in America, in a compact three minutes. I wish I could be a next-door neighbor to the delightful family that made this video!

Happy Holidays, be you Christian or Pagan.

Amber called her uncle, said “We’re up here for the holiday
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three
He told his niece, “It’s Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style”
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it’s been awhile”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, “Is it true that you’re a witch?”
His mom jumped up and said, “The pies are burning,” and she hit the kitchen
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, “It’s true, your cousin’s not a Christian”
“But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
And where does magic come from, I think magic’s in the learning
Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, “Really, no, don’t bother”
Amber’s uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father
He thought about his brother, how they hadn’t spoken in a year
He thought he’d call him up and say, “It’s Christmas and your daughter’s here”
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve saying
“Can I be a Pagan?” Dad said, “We’ll discuss it when they leave”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old, and
Making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold

  • Music

Final Combat: The Last Days of Class

So let’s fast forward to the final days of my Stage Combat class. (You can read about the class here, here, here, and here.) Well, having recovered from the slings and arrows, or at least the bumps, of outrageous fortune from the earlier classes, we were ready for scene work. Doing scenes from actual plays in combat class makes a lot of sense, because the form that stage combat takes depends heavily on the context of a scene. Think about it–a slap in an Abbott and Costello scene is entirely different from a slap in a domestic tragedy.

I was assigned to play a part in a three-person scene from the play Marisol. My character was a delusional man named Lenny who, on recovering from a suicide attempt, experiences angels forcing his soul back down into his body. In his deranged mind, he is spared from death only because angels want him to warn the rest of the world of a coming war between God and the angels. Lenny’s sister, who must endure Lenny’s ranting, spends the scene demeaning Lenny, who in a fit of anger chases her with a knife. Complications, as they say, ensue.

Our teacher had given us a repertoire of moves to use to work into the scene and so we choreographed a set of knife lunges and falls, and a cool part where my sister appears to twist my thumb. But really, for me, the most fun was just working seriously on the scene as an actor with the two talented women who were in the scene with me. They were both very good and I just wanted to be able to keep up with them.

We performed the scene twice: the first time was during our class with an invited audience. That was no problem, and we were in our own space. The folks who were in the audience liked the scene and thought that the violence in it was very realistic–they said they felt scared at times.

The next day, however, was more difficult for me. Instead of performing in the comfort of our own space, we were performing as a guest scene for a different class in a separate theater space–the acting technique Scene Study class. Not only were we in a different space, worse, we were with actors who were performing their own final scenes. I have to admit, I felt very intimidated and competitive as I watched those talented actors perform. I was shaking when it was our time to do our scene.

We arranged our set and soon I heard the opening lines of the play as the two actresses began the scene. I took a deep breath backstage and then looked at the words that I had written on my palm as a reminder of my acting objective: I am there to warn the two women about the coming struggle between God and the angels.

Before I knew it, the scene was over and the class was applauding. The fight scene was a little off because we were in a new space and we didn’t have the chance to adjust the movements to the new space. However, I was really happy with our acting. The best times in stage acting are when truthful things happen in the scene that you didn’t plan on, and you end up surprising yourself. We had a moment like that in the scene last night. Unplanned, I grabbed the hand of one of the actresses in a fumbled attempt to seduce her. The other actress playing my sister gave me a dirty glare, and again unplanned, we had a silent showdown where it took several moments before either one of us would back down. When I eventually did, it felt great, because as actors we had laid the foundation for that brother-sister relationship which we were able to fulfill in that moment spontaneously.

So that’s it. Combat operations have come to a halt. I’m frankly glad. Not because of the combat–it was great to learn all the techniques and it gave me a lot of confidence. Our teacher was really excellent and patient. But, for now at least, I see that in some situations, acting is just too nerve wracking and stressful for me. I like writing more. If I screw up in writing, I can just revise it, and no one is the wiser. But with stage acting, my very self is on the line when I screw up. That said, I highly recommend that all actors take a stage combat class. Really what better way to fulfill the word “play” than to go back to those childhood days when you found sticks, and you had sword fights with your friends?

This way you can have your childish fun, but with complete safety.

And that ‘s better than a poke in the eye.

Mission Accomplished.

Unshackled Again

Here’s the new, improved, convenient, embedded audio from the Unshackled: Women Speak Out on Mass Incarceration and Reproductive Justice event I wrote about a few weeks ago. There’s a wonderful closing song by Morley at the end. For more info about the Correctional Association you can click here. I think you’ll find the audio below informative and moving. Just press the orange button.

Embedded Reporter: At Long Last, Sound

Last week, I posted a review of Roger Guenveur Smith’s remarkable play about Rodney King. I interviewed him immediately after his performance, on the night the news broke that Eric Garner’s killer would not be indicted. Although I included a link to the interview in the previous post, I’ve now learned how to embed audio directly, so I thought I would put up the interview separately. The interview was originally broadcast over WBAI 99.5 FM NYC.

Frabjous Day! Calloo, Callay! It’s now easier than ever to listen. Just press the orange button.

Everything Old is New Again: NYC Cabaret

What happens to great American songs of yesteryear? Well, they don’t die, no, they become staples of cabaret society.

For years at radio station WBAI, Dave Kenney has been preserving and propagating, through his weekly radio program Everything Old is New Again, what he calls the “Great American Songbook”: those great songs, that were mainly Broadway bound, from the likes of George and Ira Gershwin, Rogers and Hart, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, Frank Loesser, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, and so on. It’s a tradition that jazz and cabaret singers have elevated to a whole separate art form, distinct from the legitimate theater.

Last week, Kenney produced and hosted a wonderful cabaret benefit for WBAI listeners at the Metropolitan Room, an intimate and comfortable space in which to host such an event. The talent on display was delightful and happy-making. It was a two-hour master class in the Art of Cabaret. The singers were all veterans of the cabaret and Broadway scenes, and it was fun to watch them cheer each other on.

Performers included KT Sullivan and Jeff Harner, Liz Callaway and her sister Anne Hampton Callaway, Karen Oberlin and Steve Ross, Karen Mason and Paul Rolnick, Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano, Gabrielle Stravelli and Pat O’Leary. All of them excellent, and all accompanied on the piano by the talented Alex Rybeck, who also composed some of the performers’  songs.

You can see and hear vocalist Gabrielle Stravelli in the YouTube clip above, singing “Goody Goody” at a previous performance. She performed the song at the benefit as well, and her interpretation at the benefit was even sharper and wilder.  She let loose, scat singing and improvising fearlessly, getting to the vindictive core of the song’s lyric:

“So you met someone who
set you back on your heels,
goody goody!
So you met someone and
now you know how it feels,
goody goody!”

I think anyone who heard that performance will think twice about ever crossing Ms. Stravelli. (Only joking, joking, Stravelli!) Afterwards, she said, “What can I say?–I love singing revenge songs–I’m Sicilian!”

Thanks Dave Kenney and all the terrific performers for providing such a Goody Goody time.

Loafing: Abbott and Costello

My favorite piece of comedy ever is Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First. For me it is a perfect seven minutes. But they had many other great routines whose premise was verbal misunderstanding. This one is another favorite.

Lie There, My Art: Magic, Will, and Ego

christopher+plummer+prospero

The magic happens, but where does it come from?

In traditional stage magic, it comes from one place—the magician. The will of the magician, to be more precise. The beginning student magician is told that if s/he is going to enact the part of conjurer, then there must always be a moment during each effect when the magic is accounted for, when seemingly that will has  been exerted.

The Abracadabra, the hocus-pocus moment—when the magic happens—or so the magician would like you to think–represents the moment when the magician is exerting will. The plot is almost always this: something impossible is about to happen, and the will of the magician is what makes it happen. The magic moment is invoked and the magic occurs. The impossible conclusion is revealed.

Stephen Greenblatt has written a wonderful book about William Shakespeare, his life and his plays, and how each informed the other. The name of the book is Will in the World, and Greenblatt consciously uses the word Will in the same punny way that Will did. Humankind’s need to exert will is a constant theme in Shakespeare’s plays.

Whole worlds are created by will. Prospero, the magician from The Tempest manipulates a magical world, just as Will did, and all writers do. The power of creating a universe from one’s will is a heady potion indeed.

How does the magician get such power? Sometimes the power is not in the magician per se, but contained in the artifacts of the magician—the magic wand, the woofle dust, the incantation. But Shakespeare gives away the secret of the magic: when Prospero decides to be a magician no more, he puts down his magic staff, and utters the words, “Lie there, my art.”

“Lie there, my art.” I love the multiple meanings in that phrase. It is Prospero’s and Shakespeare’s secret: art is a lie. That is, a series of carefully planned and calculated lies. Harold Clurman, the influential stage director and critic, entitled his autobiography, “Lies Like Truth.”  The magic “as if.” Treat that cardboard tree “as if ” it were real. The imagination brought into play with the act of will.

There is a problem, however, with all this exercise of Will. The artist might become obnoxious and swell-headed. Fortunately, in a good play, the author’s personality and ego are subsumed by her or his characters. The audience does not have to deal directly with the willful artist.

In a magic show, however, the creative ego is not as easily hidden. After all, in the traditional magic show, the magician’s ego is often the point, plot, and theme of the show—“Look at what I can do. Look how strong my magical will is!”

This can be entertaining for a while, but it can also be highly irritating. Okay, you showed us once you can do the impossible, now what. Oh again? And again? And Again? Boring. How does the magic performer get out of the trap of constantly displaying, over and over, his or her naked will in the world?

When I first delved into magic more seriously as an adult, I was infatuated with the idea of what I then called “Accidental Magic.” My idea was this: I didn’t exactly do magic, but magic seemed to happen when I was around. Example (I never actually did this, I just thought it would be neat): I would just happen to be having a casual conversation in a restaurant with a friend. I steer the talk to asking him to name his favorite card. He does, and all of a sudden the music playing in the background has a lyric about that card. Or, I am at the beach with a friend and as we walk together along on the shore, he discovers a newspaper with the exact date of his birth. Well, I may have been infatuated with that idea, but it turns out magician Gerry Deutsch was doing this way before I had thought of it. He called it “Perverse Magic.” And he has since come up with literally dozens and dozens of such effects, the defining feature of which is that the magic is not caused by the magician’s will. Like Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the magic is situated elsewhere, outside of the performer. The audience can’t get tired of the magician’s ego, because the magician makes no ego claims at all.

Here are a couple of Gerry Deutsch effects from the Genii Forum. The how-to is not really important. We will leave that as an exercise for the reader (I’ve always wanted to write that).

“I have a card selected and say it will come to the top and it’s not there — another card (say 4C) is there. I bury the 4C and try again but again the 4C is there. I spell the selected card but at the end it’s the 4C. Finally I say I’ll do the trick with the 4C and say it will go to my pocket but when I reach into my pocket it’s the selected card. I’m surprised and frustrated.”

And for outdoors: “You give out a cry of pain and look at your right foot as if that’s the cause of your pain. You pull your shoe off with your left hand and dump out a rock the size of a strawberry. The right hand then reaches into the same shoe and pulls out another rock, this one the length of a playing card . . .  You shake your head as you limp along.”

Little sketches of eccentric happenings.

No one’s Will or ego. Just whimsy and fantasy and lies.

The stuff that dreams are made on.

Poem: Dust Bunnies

Dust Bunnies

Haul the monster up the stairs

Clank, vroom, clank, vroom, clank, clank, clank

Canadian nickel behind the sofa

Chankles up the vacuum hose

Damned if I’ll debride

It or the rubber bands caught in the Vesicles of Detritus,

Which wouldn’t be stuck there in the first place

If a certain someone, I won’t say who, didn’t carelessly leave

Rubber bands on the floor

But actually took the time to bend down and

Pick them up when they fall, your precious royal highness.

***

And Dad–what the heck are you doing

Squashed under the davenport with your glasses half off

When you’re supposed to be dead, not like

Elvis, hiding out with a stash of

Fried peanut-butter-and-banana-on-toast sandwiches.

We already said goodbye when they stopped

The dobutamine and they full-throttled the morphine as you

Wished us well

Take care of each other,

It’s been great, you said

Then closed your tired eyes,

Eking out a final joke: “Don’t expect me home for dinner”

The silence expanded like a circus balloon waiting to explode

An unexpected vaudeville ending.

***

And now I have to put the sofa back

Lousy rubber bands.

Ah, death, it’s like a chicken’s neck

When they snap it

That’s it.

The Path Reveals Itself: The Fourth Draft

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I could have never predicted it. About two weeks ago, I mentioned that I was starting to edit the fourth draft of my novel, however, I was filled with great trepidation. I was expecting at least another two or three months more of work. But to my surprise, I finished this revision very quickly. Despite my initial misgivings when re-reading the previous draft, most of the really hard work must have already been done, though it was hidden. The path was there, marked in purple crayon; what I had to do was chop down the brush along the way so I could see the markings. Afterwards, I cleared out the rocks in the way, filled in the ruts, and paved over the dirt walkway. By hacking away at all the excess in the first few chapters, I had allowed the path to reveal itself.

The next few steps are this: leave it alone for two weeks, and then do a quick edit. One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that some of the passages that I thought I had fixed were actually better in prior edits. But now that I know how this path curves, and where it will end up, I can go back to past versions and pick out the best passages without being afraid of getting lost.

After the quick edit, I’m planning to send the manuscript out to a few people whose judgment I trust. Not close friends or family; it’s too early for that now. I’ll send it to people whose writing expertise I trust, and who have a similar sensibility to my own. I’d like them to provide feedback in a variety of ways, from simple proofing to pointing out structural issues and advice on improving what’s there.

I’ve had such a wonderful time doing this. I’ve really learned so much about writing, and I see how much more there still is to learn. Like all of the arts, it’s a life-long pursuit –no one person can visit every town and city on the map. We get to visit the places we can while we are on this planet, and it’s always wonderful when you can visit someplace new. Paradoxically, knowing that the universe is infinite makes the pursuit of art less, not more, scary. When you accept that the universe is infinite; and that art is long and life is short; then you understand that you–and every other writer and artist on the planet–are only able to master a piece of all there is to know. But the freeing thing is that the piece that you master will be different from anyone else’s piece. In that knowledge there is freedom, and rest. Because of each artist’s inherent uniqueness, if you are honest and diligent, no one else will have explored exactly the same nooks and crannies as yourself. That’s what you bring to the table.  You can give yourself permission to go down the next road.

It’s going to be hard to let go of these characters that I’ve lived with this long. I don’t know how they grew. It was brush stroke by brush stroke, and now they have taken a life of their own. I am a proud parent. Maybe I have a child only a father could love. Perhaps. Should I leave this whole manuscript alone for a year and then go back to it? It probably would benefit. But then it’s like real life. It’s never a good time; you’re never prepared enough; the parents are never ready enough to have a child.

So, for all intents and purposes the book has been born. It has life in it. It may get a new set of clothes, or I may need to give it a haircut and a manicure, maybe some nail polish and a dye job, but basically, fundamentally, the book has arrived. I’m a daddy.

Rodney King: Roger Guenveur Smith’s Startling Performance Piece

The first sound you hear over the loudspeakers is that of water. What? It doesn’t make sense. Is something leaking in the theater? No, as the evening with Roger Guenveur Smith in Rodney King progresses, we discover that Rodney, like Hamlet’s Ophelia, has had too much of water. He meets his end at the bottom of the pool, a pool bought, literally, with his own blood.

Smith’s one-man show is a mesmerizing account of the incident and the man that sparked the LA riots over two decades ago. The evening I saw the play at the BRIC House Ballroom in downtown Brooklyn, the air was thick with the just-announced news that Eric Garner’s killer would not be indicted. The play could scarcely have been more relevant than at that very moment. Smith’s prescient fascination with Rodney King hit us between the eyes that very night.

And what a story. With just a microphone, on an illuminated square platform, Smith tells the story of what happened to King–this ordinary man caught in extraordinary circumstances. Smith moves and swings through the story, playing all the parts like a John Coltrane quartet, showing us the very soul of the man who would have much preferred just to go home and finish his malt liquor. This is Rodney, an uneducated man, who at his moment realized, Hamlet-like, that he had the lead part in History’s play, and must try his best to fulfill his responsibility. This inarticulate man who was forced to be silent during his entire trial delivers some of the most famous words ever said about race in America.

I can’t think of a more important performance playing today in America. Roger Guenveur Smith has grappled with history and responded splendidly, in a truly artistic way. He plays a variety of characters in the story besides King and creates a prism of history with all of its facets. The final image is a haunting one that left me shaken, and asking where do I stand in all this.

You can listen to the interview broadcast on WBAI 99.5 FM that I did with Roger Guenveur Smith  by clicking here. He is a fascinating man and the 15-minute interview is well worth your time. He talks about the genesis of the play and his work as an actor, director, writer, and historian. Smith will be performing the play all around the country. You can go to his website for more information about his performing schedule.

The Professional Amateur

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If you are a New Yorker of a certain age, you remember the fabulous Christmas windows of the now defunct carriage-trade department store B. Altman, on tony Fifth Avenue. The memory of that upscale firm need not concern us any further for our purpose except to notice that at one time, the President of B. Altman was a fellow by the name of Lewis Kaufman. And Lewis Kaufman is on our radar screen only because he was the father of arguably the most important and influential non-professional in the history of contemporary magic, Richard Kaufman.

Kaufman’s name is well-known to magic fans, but I think sometimes the really remarkable, irreplaceable extent of his contributions to magic has been overlooked. In a sense, it was Kaufman more than anyone else who dragged magic kicking and screaming into the latter part of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and made it respectable.  Especially with regard to close-up magic, his writing, illustration, and publishing brought a new professionalism to the publication of magic materials. It set a standard to which all magic books and magazines in the future would have to live up to. The announcement of a new publication from Kaufman was, and is, a guarantee that a quality product was being produced.

Kaufman started off as a magic prodigy, illustrating Harry Lorayne’s Afterthoughts for 75 cents a drawing at the age of sixteen. The two continued to have a love/hate relationship over the years (now reconciled) and it was Kaufman who designed and produced the first year of Apocalypse, the monthly magazine he co-edited with Lorayne. After breaking with Lorayne, he put out his own magazine for three years called Richard’s Almanac, which he later published in a hardbound collection called The Collected Almanac.  He then went on to write and illustrate books of his own, introducing and highlighting the work of such important magicians as David Roth, Jay Sankey, Ron Wilson, Gene Maze, Derek Dingle, Dr. Sawa, David Williamson, Brother John Hamman, Gary Kurtz, Steve Draun, Tom Mullica, Larry Jennings, Rene Levand, Criss Angel, and David Berglas. If we add to the list the books that Kaufman was involved in publishing as well, the roll becomes truly breathtaking: Jon Racherbaumer, Tony Andruzzi, Darwin Ortiz, Eugene Burger, Jeff Sheridan, Eugene Burger, Michael Weber, J.K. Hartman, David Kaye, John Bannon, Chris Kenner, and really, at this point it almost becomes easier to say who he hasn’t published than to keep listing names. The names are impressive in themselves, but in a world where many magic secrets had been self-published in awkwardly photocopied manuscripts bound with plastic spiral comb, and illustrated with murky photographs or illustrations with two left hands, the Kaufman books were always superbly turned out.

But perhaps the greatest achievement of Kaufman’s may be his stewardship of Genii magazine since 1998. Genii was a magic magazine with a long history, run by several generations of the Larsen family. Like so many magic magazines, it didn’t always come out on time, and the quality was erratic. The Genii of my youth—for some reason my local library carried it—seemed very clubby to my young eyes. There were only one or two items of interest to me per issue, with seemingly large sections devoted to the likes of reports of Ring 234 in Plano, Texas. Kaufman upgraded the contents of the magazine substantially, gave it an international flavor, and produced years and years of an excellent on-time and timely magazine.

Kaufman was the first magic publisher to produce, along with the print version of his magazine, a digital one which boldly incorporated video content and access to digital archival material.

But my favorite part of the magazine is Kaufman’s introductory column where he not only introduces the issue, but more amusingly shows us the latest magical toys that have crossed his desk. There you see his true enchantment with magic, and you see the boy who at the age of five received a set of magic tricks from his uncle and has taken boyish delight ever since.

Magic is famously an art where the amateur has contributed as much as the professional has. No professional amateur has contributed more to the art of magic than Richard Kaufman. The clarity of his writing, the relevance of his illustrations, the taste and foresight he has brought to his choice of publications has been a standard that no one in the field can ignore. I am going to have a very happy holiday curling up with his Collected Almanac.

Important Advice for a Monday

“In the words of that immortal bard, Samuel J. Snoddgrass . . .” The best movie musical ever? I dunno. But Singin’ in the Rain is certainly my favorite.