If It Were Done When ‘Tis Done…



… said Shakespeare’s Thane of Cawdor about his bloody deeds. Well my deeds are not bloody, but after more than three years of battle with my novel, The New World, and 15 drafts, I have finally said, “enough.” This is it: best I can tell, it’s done. Yes, I could keep tinkering, but I no longer know whether the tinkering is doing any good. It’s time to get on to the next phase.

The manuscript is sitting there in a pile next to me.

Now, to get this published.  I think it’s very good. I still enjoy reading it, even after reading it through for the 100th time. So that’s one person who likes it. I still love my characters, and I still want to keep my promises to them.

I could self-publish, and maybe that’s how this will end up, but I suspect that would seem like a disappointment to me. So the next step—and God knows I’ve only been approaching this one step at a time, but at least that’s got me this far, to a point I would never have thought myself capable of—the next step is to get myself an agent. And in order to do that, I have to put together a query letter and synopsis to send out to prospective agents.

After writing a 90,000 word novel,  you’d think it would be a breeze to write a one page query letter and a two page novel synopsis, but it seems intimidating to me, and here I find myself without much of a compass. I’ve read a bunch of books on the subject, and the query letter is supposed to tell all the reasons that you think this particular book would be the right book for this particular agent, the subtext always being, “Here’s the reason why my novel is going to make you money.” To that end, you lay out what genre your novel is, and how it is just like popular books X, Y, and Z, and here’s the plot, where a, b, and c happen,” and maybe you’re subtly highlighting why this would make terrific movie material, and so on.

I’m not sure that my novel necessarily falls into any of these categories. It’s not particularly plot-driven, and I’m not sure it can fit into any well-defined category. I suppose one could say it’s what the agents call Literary Fiction, but even that designation doesn’t tell you too much. Is it a Domestic Drama? Maybe, but I’d like to think there’s too much humor in it to be considered strictly a drama. Maybe the kind of thing Anne Tyler writes. I recently read her A Spool of Blue Thread which I greatly admired, and thought, “Damn, that’s the novel that I’ve been trying to write!” Well, I’ve got to accept my limitations and understand that I’m no Anne Tyler, but at least I feel some kind of kinship with her book, so maybe the people who like Anne Tyler’s books will like mine.

Anyway, best I can tell, my work is now just beginning, and I’m about to plunge into a whole new world of learning about publishing. I never expected to get anywhere close to where I am now in terms of my writing, so anything else is gravy. I’ll just take the next step and tell myself: screw your courage to the sticking point and we’ll not fail. (Hmmm, note to self: maybe I want to rethink quoting Lady M as my inspirational source.)

Pee-Wee’s Playhouse


One day, someone will write his or her Ph.D dissertation on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, the most imaginative, mind-bending children’s show ever.

Here’s the intro and outro of the weekly television show that ran from 1986-1990.

And that’s Cyndy Lauper singing the theme song!

Thanks to YouTuber thatsclassicofficial

Notes From The Field: Anna Deveare Smith Explores the School-to-Prison Pipeline




Anna Deveare Smith portrays 17 different people—students, teachers, parents, judges, Congessmen, social justice workers—in her new, almost one-woman play, Notes from the Field. Your intrepid reporter reviewed it for WBAI radio yesterday.

Click on the gray triangle to listen.

Like A Bird On The Wire


It’s rare that I think a cover is better than the original, but this performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On The Wire” is stunning. It is sung by Esther Ofarim, an Israeli singer, new to me, who has long followed Cohen’s music. For me, this is even better than Judy Collins’s version.

Lance Burton Talks Magic and More




Magician Lance Burton retired five years ago, after an astounding 15,000 performances, but he’s still a busy man. Last Thursday, WBAI radio broadcast my interview with him. Due to time constraints, they played an edited version of the interview, but the audience of this blog is more magic-oriented, so I thought you might like to hear the uncut version.

In the interview Lance talks about Johnny Carson, growing up with magician Mac King, life in Las Vegas, working with doves, and what he considers the most important thing he knows about magic. Click on the grey triangle to catch up  with magician Lance Burton.

Quirx of the Jerx

I don’t usually do guest posts here (okay, I’ve never done guest posts here), because it’s not that kind of a blog, but I thought I’d make an exception. Last year’s magic contest winner, Joe Mckay of England, asked me if he could present his case here for financially supporting the magic site The Jerx. I’ve written about the site before, of which I’m a great admirer, and right now the site is at a crossroads: after a year of entertaining posts including some very good, original effects and method descriptions, the site is asking for donations to continue.

I think it’s a fair request, and as Michael Close wrote recently in a completely different context, the site is “that kind of thing that those who like that kind of thing will like.”

And yes, this request is totally selfish on my part, as I have pledged towards the site’s money target—but there will be no continuation of the site until it’s completely funded. As of this writing, the site has reached 88% of its goal. So I’m hoping that Joe’s post might entice you to donate (invest?), so that we can all enjoy another year of the site.

Here’s Joe’s post (make sure to follow the links for some great magic):

“Go check out www.thejerx.com— it is a magic blog written by an anonymous figure called Andy who lives in New York.

He is my favourite thinker in magic today and his blog is something all magicians should check out. He has been posting about 3-5 times a week for the past 18 months. There is a ton of great stuff there. Offbeat magic unlike anything else around. Very funny commentary and a ton of useful theory that overturns a lot of the conventional wisdom we see in most books on magic. A lot of the biggest names in magic are hip to the blog and you should be to.

Andy has a remarkable brain. Imagine if Paul Harris, Derren Brown and Penn & Teller were genetically spliced together and then dropped into an episode of the Twilight Zone. That is how Andy thinks about magic.

Here are some of my favourite tricks from the blog:

1) A lovely trick that was inspired by the effect that climaxed Derren Brown’s first TV special here in the UK. I have never seen an ending to a trick as sweet as this one. That sounds twee but Andy has introduced something new here. It has a lovely nostalgic touch I have never seen before in a trick.


2) Andy applies takes one of my favourite principles in magic (UF Grant’s Million Dollar Mystery) and extends it into an instant transposition that takes place over thousands of miles.


3) Andy reworks The Invisible Deck to create a totally different effect. In this case – you convince the spectator you have hypnotized him. The thinking here is equal parts strange and sneaky. I cannot imagine the odd effect this would create in the spectator’s brain.


4) You introduce yourself to a spectator and blow his mind by convincing him he is your long lost twin. The presentation and method here play off each other in a way that builds and builds. This is both hilarious and deceptive. This would definitely have fooled me if I have experienced it live.


Another favourite is the trick where you transport a spectator to parallel universe (I am not kidding). But I will leave that one for you to try and track down as you work through the blog.

I could mention a ton of other great things about the blog. But brevity is useful with any recommendation. So I don’t want to make this one too long. It will take a couple of weeks of intensive reading for people to catch up with all the posts. But it is definitely worth doing.




The Greatest Popular Song Ever




At the live broadcast of Everything Old is New Again Live at the Metropolitan Room last Sunday, my heart leapt when I heard music historian David Hadju, author of the new history of popular music, Love For Sale, say that the most highly regarded popular song of all time was “All The Things You Are.” Well, of course, a statement like that is necessarily somewhat arbitrary, but it made me happy because I thought my obsession with that song (see here, here, and here) was strictly an idiosyncratic preference of mine. So it was nice to hear someone else say it.

And if you click on the grey triangle above, you can hear Mr. Hadju’s wife, singer Karen Oberlin, sing her lovely version of the song, complete with introductory verse.

Ms. Oberlin was just one of many fine performers in this second season of David Kenney’s and Frank Dain’s Everything Old Is New Again—Live aired on WBAI 99.5 FM NY. The other strong performers included  Alfio, Danny Bacher, Alex Leonard, Luba Mason, Tanya Moberly, T. Oliver Reid, Jacob Storms, and The Starlite Sisters. Definitely worth a visit, it’s the first Sunday of every month.