Friday, I was at a showing of a 1992 film documentary about the American Indian Movement activist, Leonard Peltier. I generally stay clear of politics on this blog, so I’ll be brief: Peltier has been in prison for about 40 years and is seeking clemency from Obama before the President leaves office. (You can see the documentary, Warrior, in full, here, on YouTube for free: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsYAYf_2WQU .)
Before the film started in the small church, musician Roland Mousaa got up with his guitar and sang his lovely, evocative song, “Too Many Moons.” You can hear the studio version of it by clicking on the grey white triangle above.
What magician Steven Brundage performed for the America’s Got Talent judges may not have been the most difficult thing he’s ever done with a Rubik’s Cube, but it was, in my opinion, his most magical effect with one. Watch the absolutely uncanny Steven Brundage make the AGT judges’ jaws drop with this impossible effect.
After enduring the last two weeks of political insanity here in the United States, we might be forgiven for thinking that Mighty Sparrow’s observations about his own country apply to our own situation more than one might wish.
I hope the title for this post does not refer too much to my posting my 2016 Shakespeare Sonnet Slam video here. My excuses: 1) the producers did an excellent job capturing all the performances on video; 2) it’s edifying to watch a video record of oneself in order to see if the external reality lined up with what the internal experience had been; 3) theater and live performance can be a frustratingly ephemeral experience—it’s nice to have a tangible artifact of the occasion for one’s mental (and virtual) scrapbook.
You can follow along, including my flub in line five:
Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye, And all my soul and all my every part; And for this sin there is no remedy, It is so grounded inward in my heart. Methinks no face so gracious is as mine, No shape so true, no truth of such account; And for myself mine own worth do define, As I all other in all worths surmount. But when my glass shows me myself indeed, Beated and chopp’d with tann’d antiquity, Mine own self-love quite contrary I read; Self so self-loving were iniquity. ‘Tis thee, myself, that for myself I praise, Painting my age with beauty of thy days.
Monday you hear that voice piercing through the daylight like a car alarm gone crazy. It’s Adele, and man, you blew it.
The music video of this song, which Adele co-wrote with Paul Epworth, has almost a billion views on YouTube, but I prefer the excitement and fun of this live performance at the Royal Albert Hall. Click on the video to play, and prepare to get the gold foil out of your hair.
Billie Holiday singing a song about lynching, written in 1936 by Abel Meeropool. Meeropool’s family adopted the two sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Michael and Robert, after their parents were executed. In 1990, Robert Meeropol went on to found the Rosenberg Fund for Children, a public foundation which provides support for children in the U.S. whose parents are targeted, progressive activists.
In this really funny one-minute clip from The Simpsons, more is explained about the American political system than in a decade of Meet The Presses, or the four years of the average college political science curriculum.
I was reminded of this episode a few days ago by that excellent blogger Alec Nevala-Lee, with whom I thoroughly disagree on this issue. You can click here to read his defense of Lesser Evil Voting, and then read my comments below that post for my rebuttal.
If stage actors are judged by how they perform the theatre’s classics like Hamlet, then stage magicians are likewise judged by conjuring’s classics. The great Pop Haydn performs his wonderful interpretation of The Linking Rings at The Magic Castle and makes it seem newly minted. I love the way he always treats his audience helpers with such humor and respect while keeping his character’s winking slyness.
Jim Jefferies is an Australian comedian who has gotten quite a large fan base in the last few years. He’s sharper, quicker, and more political than most comics his age. His casual style belies the careful way his routines are crafted. Watch how he takes this 12-minute bit about vaccinations through its course, perfectly shapes a wandering conversation, and then brings it back home with a great call back.
Monday morning finds you Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, but it’s all good as Bob Dylan is your equally trapped companion.
This audio is from a live 1987 Dylan performance at the Philadelphia JFK Stadium. The Grateful Dead was the backup band. The studio version of this song from Blonde on Blonde is not available on YouTube (copyright issues, I would guess), but I did a little audio enhancement to bring up the vocals on this live audio performance, and it’s a pretty worthy version in and of itself.
I just finished watching a wonderful conversation with actor Jason Alexander being interviewed by magician John Lovick. They talked about Alexander’s magic act at the Magic Castle a few years back. Alexander, of course best known as George from television’s Seinfeld, spoke expertly about how he put together his Castle act, the importance of overall premise, and how he scripted the act. There are some wonderful clips of him performing his act interspersed with the interview. Now you might think it a little pretentious for an actor of Alexander’s stature to be “slumming” with magic, but it turns out that Alexander is no poseur when it comes to conjuring; he has been involved with magic since the age of ten, even before he got interested in theater. In fact, he says in the interview that when he first became interested in theater it was because he understood it through the lens of illusion making.
I greatly enjoyed this interview, and now I’m making kind of an enthusiastic plug here for the Reel Magic website which hosted this interview. I had primarily known Reel Magic as a DVD-based magic periodical which I occasionally picked up in the magic shops. It has reviews, tricks and interviews, and some blatant but relevant plugs. For the $12 or so it costs per issue, I considered it an entertaining watch. But it wasn’t until recently that I understood that Reel Magic also has a website as well as the DVD, and that therein lies an excellent magic bargain. For $5 a month ($60 a year), you get full online access to the site which is just jammed pack with great magical content, for as long as you remain a subscriber.
Let me just run down a couple of the resources available to you as a subscriber. (Full Disclosure: I have no connection with anyone who runs the site. I am just an enthusiastic subscriber.) First off, you get access to every extant issue of Reel Magic magazine. They are up to issue 45 at this writing (Philippe Petit is on the cover) and still going strong, so that alone is a useful archive. The first thing I turn to in each issue are the reviews videoed by David Regal, who always makes me laugh with his witty takes on the latest effects. And then there have been some great interviews, such as the one with Jason Alexander, and I’m looking forward to watching the current issue’s interview with Philippe Petit.
Aside from the magazine, you also have access to all their “live” lectures by some excellent performers. There are about eight of these available presently , and so far I’ve watched some terrific ones by Carl Andrews, Chris Capehart, and Doc Eason. They are all of high quality and I only wished that each one could go on longer than the allotted two hours.
There are also downloadable lecture notes available from the likes of Paul Green, John Guastaferro, and Caleb Wiles (The video content above is not downloadable.) And then there are two Online Courses, each of which is a series of video instructions in some of the basics of close-up work. So far there is one on Coin Work taught by the incredible Kainoa Harbottle, and there is another one on Finger Rings taught by Garrett Thomas. Wow.
But wait, that’s not all says the man with the potato peeler and Svengali Deck in his hand: there are also some special projects unique to Reel Magic. One of these is an extraordinary record of legendary street magician Jim Cellini’s Baltimore and New Orleans Lectures. I’d heard about Cellini for years, but one really sees in these videos what a truly humble and knowledgeable man he was.
There’s more on the site, and each month more content is added. In my opinion this is definitely a Best Buy, and for an extra $3 more a month you can also receive a hard copy of each Reel Magic DVD via snail mail. A new DVD comes out about every other month.
Reel Magic can be found at http://www.reelmagicmagazine.com where you can also find some free content without subscribing. If you like what you see, I highly recommend a subscription for anyone who enjoys performing and learning about magic.