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Brooklyn, New York
Monday morning wakes up with yearning in the air.
Sung lovingly by the man who wrote it: E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, a dedicated socialist his whole life, and also author of “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?”
Thanks to YouTuber Louis Robinson
A group of friends and I have been recently reading Shakespeare’s delightful comedy, Love’s Labours Lost. My antenna immediately pricked up at the following lines:
Villain, thou shalt fast for thy offenses ere thou be pardoned.
Well, sir, I hope when I do it I shall do it on a full stomach.
Thou shalt be heavily punished.
I am more bound to you than your fellows, for they are but lightly rewarded.
Take away this villain, shut him up.
Come, you transgressing slave, away.
Let me not be pent up, sir; I will fast, being loose.
No, sir, that were fast and loose; thou shalt to prison.
Shakespeare cleverly packs in multiple puns here. First Armando declares that the clown Costard shall have to fast in prison. But Costard replies that, “I will fast, being loose”—that is, he’ll be able to run more quickly, if only he were free. And Moth tops both of them, saying that Costard’s scheme is “fast and loose”: that is, a scam, akin to a contemporaneous con game, commonly called “Fast and Loose.” He’s saying Costard’s proposal is a scam. But with even more complexity, simultaneously, there’s an additional pun on the phrase “fast and loose,” because it also means “in an irresponsible manner,” as in the phrase, “playing fast and loose with the truth.” And indeed, Costard plays fast and loose with the truth.
But what is of interest right now to this blog is the con game. Fast and Loose is a scam that’s been around for a very long time in one form or another. I had the strange pleasure a few weeks ago of seeing one of my immigrant high school students trying to extract money from his classmates using this ruse. I had to intervene and warn the student that I knew exactly what he was up to.
It’s always best to learn from an expert cheat, so you can click on the video above and watch the expert magician and historian of confidence games, Ricky Jay, demonstrate just what the scam looks like to its pigeons.
Thanks to YouTuber trancehi
The Comedian is the new Robert De Niro movie in which he plays a washed-up comedian trying to make a come-back years after his initial fame. It has a great cast including Danny DeVito and Patti LuPone, and a raft of cameos. Is it worth seeing? You can hear my review of the film, which was broadcast yesterday on radio station WBAI, by clicking on the grey triangle above.
Cliff Edwards, the voice of the Disney character Jiminy Cricket, had a familiar voice to those of us who grew up with The Micky Mouse Club television show. Jiminy would show up every once in a while singing about the “Ennnncyclopedia…” or explain, “I’m No Fool, No Siree, I’m Gonna Live To Be a Hundred and Three.” But my favorite was this song which was originally sung by Edwards in the Disney version of Pinocchio, a story which had a profound effect on me, but that’s for another time.
Click on the video above to hear Cliff Edwards’s lilting falsetto hit those awesome high notes in the last phrase.
Not every Python sketch stands the test of time—they were too seat of the pants and careless for that—but even with its non-ending, this sketch featuring John Cleese is still one of my very favorites.
Many magicians do balloon twisting as well, but I never considered it an art. However, after speaking with my balloon twister/magician friend David, I learned I was very much mistaken. In fact, balloon twisters hold conventions every year, and there are some amazingly creative works of art on display at those conventions.
Unlike magic conventions, the gender ratio for both performers and attendees is about 50/50 (for magic conventions, it’s more like 99% male). Click on the video above to view some incredibly stunning balloon costumes displayed at the balloon Costume Competition at the 2015 Twist and Shout Balloon Convention in Dallas, Texas.
When would-be magicians first start out learning sleight of hand as applied to cards, they often worry that their hands are too small to do the dirty work. Magician Mahdi Gilbert puts that concern to rest, as you’ll see in the above video.
He became a sensation on YouTube and then went on to fool Penn &Teller on their show.
Thanks to YouTuber Riffle Shuffle
One morning in the first week of June, in that awful year 1968, my sister walked into my bedroom and told me that Bobby had just been shot. We looked at each other and then, as sometimes inexplicably happens in the face of overwhelming news, we involuntarily laughed in confused terror; for only two months before—almost to the day—Martin Luther King had also been assassinated. We knew then, my sister and I, even as the teenagers we were, that something was horribly, horribly wrong about the country we were growing up in.
Songwriter Dick Holler wrote a song about it, and it was sung, improbably, by the same doo-wop singer who a decade earlier had sung “Why Must I Be A Teen-ager in Love?” Looking back now, the song was perhaps overly sentimental, but when we heard it on the radio and the Smothers Brothers program a few months after the killings, it was a comfort, and it seemed that Dion was talking straight to our hearts.
Monday morning, we looked around and they were still gone.
Thanks to YouTuber Thomas Evans
David Stone is a French magician with an irrepressible sense of mischievous humor and a wonderful command of misdirection. Here he is performing in English for a group of English-speaking magicians. Everything he does seems so carefree and improvisational, but it is all choreographed for maximum comic and magical effect.