Two Macabre Stories by Ambrose Bierce



“Mrs. Dennison’s Head,”and “Oil of Dog” are two delightful macabre short stories by Ambrose Bierce which the the marvelous actor Mary Murphy and I performed on the Arts Express radio program yesterday.

Click on the grey triangles below to listen.


Click here for “Mrs. Dennison’s Head,” read by Mary Murphy:


Click here for “Oil of Dog,” read by Jack Shalom




People Everywhere Just Got To Be Free


What’s that sound? It’s the train of freedom carrying the Young Rascals this Monday morning.

Felix Cavaliere and Dino Danelli on keyboard and drums; Barbara McNair, who had a variety show on television in the early 70’s, joins them on the vocals.

Ever-reliable Wikipedia says, “After this song came out, the Rascals would only perform at concerts that featured an African American act; if those conditions were not met, the Rascals canceled several shows in protest.”

Thanks to YouTuber GoldenGreatsOldies24

Mystic Descendant Arises Once Again



Those who enjoyed the first issue of Ron Chavis’s mentalism publication, Mystic Descendant will be pleased to know that Issue #2 is now hot off the press. You can read a list of the contents here, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Ron interviewed your humble correspondent concerning mentalism and performance, and the results are contained therein. But the real treats are contributions from Mereaux Dantes, Neal Scryer, Todd Landman, Anthony Heads, Connor Jacobs, and Ron himself. You can order here.

Well worth the new lower price of $19.95 per issue, it continues the entertainingly eclectic mix of mentalism-related articles, interviews, essays, effects, and presentations found in the first issue. Kudos to Ron for making it to the second issue, and here’s hoping there are many more.


Dancing Hanky: Bill Cook


At the MAES magic convention last week, magician Bill Cook wowed the crowd with his Dancing Handkerchief performance. For an effect like this, it’s natural, of course, for an audience to have theories as to how the effect has been achieved. But in Cook’s cleverly constructed routine, he demolishes those theories one by one, albeit in a very gentlemanly way, until no possible explanation remains.

Click on the video to see the performance.

Shadowgraphs by Leland Faulkner


One of the delightful extras at the Magicians Alliance of Eastern States convention this past week was a treat of a performance by Leland Faulkner. Leland is not only a fine magician and emcee, but also an expert at shadowgraphs and chapeaugraphy, two talents which he demonstrated for the audience.

Click on the video to view this talented and skilled artist at work.

Book Nook: All Magic Edition



This edition of Book Nook is going to be of interest primarily to magic geeks, so if that’s not your thing you can scroll on to another post. None of these books is particularly new, but they’re what I’ve been reading lately, and some of them may have escaped your attention.

Further Impuzzibilities by Jim Steinmeyer is another in Steinmeyer’s series of little pamphlets that describe mostly new takes on self-working tricks. Most of these tricks I treat as “cute” throwaways, but this time there is one very good three-phase blackjack deal that is easy to learn and very effective. It uses just ten cards, and it would be quite easy afterwards to switch out three cards either covertly or openly, and go into a Ten Card Poker Deal. You may also enjoy “The Great Silverware Scam,” which is the venerable Piano Card Trick as applied to knives and forks.

Naked Mentalism by John Thompson is a bold attempt to make psychological forcing more scientific. Every mentalist has his or her pet psychological force, but what Thompson does here is to back up his choices with statistical data. So there are tables and tables of data listing the responses of thousands of people to “favorite” this or “favorite” that, and combinations thereof. In the latter half of the book, he extends his ideas into the concept of a perfect booktest. It’s not foolproof, and your results may vary, but if you are able to take on all the memorization work involved, you have a pretty good shot at succeeding at a gaffless, sleightless, anytime, anywhere booktest, where a spectator can choose any word.

Caution: Practical Joker Ahead by Bruce Walstad is a compendium of 76 practical jokes that Walstad played on his fellow police officers with suggestions for the reader to follow. These are fairly simple, innocuous pranks. One of my favorites ideas was to put an inch-and-a-half-high stack of pennies under each leg of a colleague’s desk; then when someone accidentally bumps into the desk a bit, the whole desk comes clattering down in a lopsided manner.  You can see one of the pranks outlined here in a video I created and posted a few days ago.

ParaLies by Joshua Quinn is a book filled with a wealth of clever mentalism ideas and techniques. Highlights include a detailed section on equivoking a single card from a full deck, and then a very clever way to reveal it, as well as a section on using ambigrams for magical effect. The bulk of the book, however, covers the same territory as the Thompson book mentioned above, more or less, but with a different approach, one which I prefer. With Quinn’s technique, a performer can not only do a sleightless, gaffless booktest, but using his “chunnelling” technique, the performer can have a spectator choose any word mentally, have the spectator change the word several times in a genuinely free but limited way, and yet still the performer can reveal the resulting word accurately. Highly recommended.

You Beat Me To The Punch


Got to get up early Monday morning to beat Mary Wells to the punch.

It’s hard for me to pick between this song and “My Guy,” but the Smokey Robinson lyric with its surprise ending and catchy refrain make this a Mary Wells favorite for me.

Click on the video to play.

Thanks to YouTuber Will Popko

Hold the Mustard: Joey Chestnut’s Large Life of Competitive Eating




Possibly the Greatest Major League Eater of all time—70 hot dogs and buns downed in 10 minutes just scratches the surface—Joey “Jaws” Chestnut talks to your intrepid reporter on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI 99.5 FM in New York.

Click on the grey triangle to hear the interview.

Floating Number Two


I had my second float last week. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read about my first time, here.  Here’s the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I was late because the subway was slow, so I didn’t get in a full hour, it was more like 45 minutes. But this time I knew the routine, and I was much quicker to get in the water. Based on my experience last time, I was ready for my neck to hurt me again, so as I got in and turned the lights out, I lay down and put my hands behind my neck in order to cradle it. My neck soon relaxed, but soon the tension seemed to be really strong in my shoulders. So I gently massaged my shoulders. I was in a much more relaxed state more quickly than last time, and I felt my tight muscles releasing throughout the session. But the biggest change from last time was that about midway through, I opened up my eyes and realized that there was no difference between having them opened or closed in terms of the light that was getting to them. So I just let my eyes flutter open. I started to have little color visions of the preceding days, though I was quite conscious. After a while, there was some twitching of my muscles throughout. Sooner than later, the music came back on signaling me that the session was over, and  I had to get back to reality. I showered and got dressed and then just sat quietly for a while. What was very different from last time was that for about 45 minutes afterwards my body continued to release muscle tension, even while walking around. I felt very relaxed and flexible.

But . . . a few hours later, I was pretty much back to square one. I got home and I felt pretty much the same I had been before the session. So again, it was all nice for a while, symptomatic relief (not to be sniffed at!) but not a cure. But I did sign up for more floats. The differences between my first and second float were enough to make me think that I could have different experiences if I continue to float. To be continued . . .