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Revolution II–by Sasha Chavchavadze

Phrases from Walt Whitman’s “The Centenarian’s Story,” Leaves of Grass

Bergen Street and Smith Street

Brooklyn, New York

More info about the project here.

The Boxer–Interrupted By A Story


Monday Morning, Brother Paul still La-La-Li-ing, even after fifty years since first writing and recording “The Boxer.”

I really enjoyed this live version documented in the clip above, filmed just two months ago, where Simon stops the song for a minute to tell a wonderful anecdote about an unlikely fan.

Thanks to YouTuber Rosie Tobin

“You Shall These Unlucky Deeds Relate”: Paul Robeson


The final scene of Othello, set in Desdemona’s bed chamber where Othello, standing over Desdemona while she sleeps, decides to kill her.

Performed here on the 1944 audio record by Paul Robeson as Othello, Uta Hagen as his doomed wife Desdemona, Jose Ferrer as the evil Iago, who falsely convinces Othello of Desdemona’s unfaithfulness, and Edith King as Iago’s wife, Emilia, who realizes with horror what her husband has done. I don’t think I’ll ever hear a better rendition.

Thanks to YouTuber Xenu

I’m Gonna Say It Now: Phil Ochs


The first Phil Ochs song I ever heard. My older brother was home on break from college and he played this new record album he had bought, Phil Ochs In Concert. This was the first track on it. Been listening ever since.

Thanks to YouTuber kotuhell

Poet For Hire



On my way home yesterday, my attention was caught by a gentleman sitting in the middle of Union Square at a makeshift table. He was contemplating his manual typewriter, or at least the piece of pastel-colored card stock that was rolled into his typewriter’s batten. The sign hanging from his table said POET FOR HIRE, so I asked him if he could write a poem for me. I told him I didn’t have a lot of cash on me, but I could pay him $5, all the cash I had on me. After a brief conversation he agreed to write a poem for the $5, although it was evidently below the going poetry rate. He asked me a couple of questions about myself, and then asked what I would like the poem to be about. I looked down at his typewriter and suddenly at a loss, I asked for a poem about typewriters. He nodded, murmured, “Very good,” and then said I could also have the poem be about another subject as well. I felt like I needed to reach deeper, so I told him about what had been on my mind for the last few weeks: death. “Uh-huh. Typewriters and Death,” he nodded, unfazed. Rolling a new sheet of stiff pink-colored card stock into the typewriter, he told me to come back in ten minutes.

I was feeling guilty that I had had so little cash available, so I went to a nearby food stand in the park and bought an apple, brownie, and croissant for the poet. I wandered back into the area after ten minutes, and he called me over, telling me the poem was ready. I gave him my $5, and the snacks, which he seemed to like. The poet, Benjamin Aleshire, introduced himself, saying that he was originally from Vermont and now based in New Orleans, but he had spent the last five years going around the world making his living by selling his poems for hire. He was stopping off in New York City for a few weeks now before knocking around Europe. He pulled the poem out of the typewriter and handed it to me. I was a little shy about reading the poem in front of him, as if it were a birthday present one didn’t want to open in front of guests, but I felt I kind of owed him a reading there. It turned out to be a very good poem. I blushed at reading it, thanked him, and took my leave.

You can read the poem here:


Inked & spooled

   on a silk ribbon,

a feral creature

   lies waiting

among the hammers

   & keys

while you search

   for a hidden codex

some secret combination

   of hieroglyphics

that will let it out,

   that will set you free

from your own fear

   of your life story

being written

   in disappearing ink.

                          -– for Jack


                             Union Sq, NYC

by benjamin aleshire

In a Coat He Borrowed From James Dean


Monday morning, re-listening to and wondering at just how great a song this still is.

Don McLean in his prime, singing every word of “American Pie,” knowing that it’s killer.

Thanks to YouTuber BBC Newsnight

Werx of the Jerx


Andy is now well into year two of The Jerx, and Issue #4 of the JAMM monthly newsletter. While the first year’s blog had quite a number of very strong effects, some of which made it into The Jerx book, the second year saves most of the tricks for the newsletter. Now the blog is for the most part Andy’s attempts to flesh out a theory of amateur performance (interspersed with ads in support of his website). Leaving aside the newsletter for now, I thought I’d link to some of my favorite second-year blog posts.

A few things first, though. Number one: I have no idea what sort of human being Andy is in his other lives, but in his Jerx life, he has been, contrary to the expectations of many skeptical magicians, a model citizen. He has delivered everything that he has promised—two books, a monthly newsletter, other paraphernalia, and most importantly in my opinion, his blog—in a timely manner. While this is the normal expectation in most spheres of commerce, sadly, for some reason in the magic world, it’s too often the exception rather than the rule. So although Andy would probably cringe at the designation, he has been a man of integrity.

Number two: I’m sort of done with telling folks how good some of this stuff is. There’s enough for free on the blog to decide whether it’s your kind of thing or not. Andy takes a kind of cost-analysis approach to his magic that basically asks: what investment of time/money/practice will best improve the experience of magic for the audience? Andy’s real strength is that when he puts forth an idea, he really explores it and puts it into practice, rather than just giving lip service to the concept. But because improved audience impact often has nothing to do with issues of method, and rather results from focusing more on presentational issues, some will bypass The Jerx. All I can do is shrug my shoulders.

So, here are some of the Year Two blog posts I’ve enjoyed:

The Hidden Benefit of the Unbelievable Premise


The False Constraint

The Wonder-Room

Universal Presentations

The Gloaming

The Least You Can Do

Romantic Redux

The Five Movements

The Pulp Fringe-Imp

My Father


I wore out the Judy Collinss In My Life album when I was in college, the album with “Suzanne” and “Marat/Sade” on it. All the songs on that and previous recordings were written by people other than herself, but Judy Collins, an amazing interpreter, always made those songs her own. Later on, she started to write her own songs, songs that no one else could have written. Here is one of those self-penned songs, “My Father,” so exquisitely performed that you don’t believe her when she says it isn’t autobiographical.

Thanks to YouTuber bensisko16

By Indirections Find Directions Out


Here’s a wonderful example of a magician who uses misdirection expertly and repeatedly. Magician James Brown won London’s Magic Circle Close-up Magician of the Year in 2006 for this routine.

More James Brown at James Brown

How I Became A Poet: Langston Hughes




I had long known of Langston Hughes’s poems, but I didn’t know until very recently what a delightful speaker and storyteller he was. In this audio clip he is talking to a group of graduate students in Berkeley about his upbringing. What a lovely man. Click on the grey triangle above to hear.

The audio clip is just the beginning of a one-hour Hughes talk from an astounding collection of over 1300 hours of audio from the archives of Pacifica Radio. The collection is called Voices That Change The World. It’s not cheap, but on the 64GB flash drive (you get two for the price of one) there is an extraordinary range of audio from the most remarkable people of the last fifty years—singers, poets, writers, politicians, artists, scientists, religious figures, audio books. It’s an amazing resource.

More here:

And if you buy one, please mark down that you’re donating for the Arts Express program.

The Ocular Proof


Othello demands from Iago the ocular proof, and I’ve spent the last month or so providing such, in a manner of speaking. I’ve been proofreading  and copy editing an excellent new magic book, Details of Deception, by Greg Chapman, and I’m quite enjoying the process. That must seem a strange thing to say for such a potentially tedious assignment, but the book is so intriguing, and the author such a gentleman (not always the case in the niche world of conjuring), that I was glad to take on the assignment.

I’ve written before about some of the challenges of copy editing and writing a book of magic. Stephen Minch, one of the great writers and publishers of magic literature, has given magic writers a unique style guide. Because of magic’s technical nature, the text of a book about card magic in some ways more closely resembles that of a car repair manual than that of, say, a novel; so by all means if you are about to embark on writing a magic book, your first stop should be Minch’s guide. You can download it for free here.

I’d like to just briefly mention a few other practical things that I’ve learned to watch out for in an endeavor like this. Much of this can be applied to non-magic literature as well:

  1. Obviously the text must be free of typos and grammatical mistakes, that’s a given.  But care must also be given to the font size and font type as well. It’s easy to import a section from one computer to another, or even a section typed on a cellphone, and not notice that the fonts or font sizes are not matching. Along with this, in this age of being able to italicize words with the stroke of a key, make sure that you’ve selected the entire word. It’s easy to miss an initial capital letter in a title.
  2. Illustrations need to end up in the proper order and in the proper place. After moving around paragraphs of text, the illustrations can get out of synch, both with the text and with their captions.
  3. Illustrations need to be accurate and consistent. Is the deck being held in left-hand dealing position or the right hand? Is it a mirror view or a real-life view?
  4. Are headings and subheadings in a consistent style? Is there a consistent style of section breaks following the headings?
  5. Check to see that the page numbers in the Table of Contents are accurate. Just because they were accurate in Draft 3, doesn’t mean that they are still going to be accurate in Draft 14.
  6. Check to make sure that the title pages and major chapters begin on odd-numbered pages. This is another area where the pagination could have been correct in an early draft, but got messed up afterwards, due to edits.
  7. Every magic effect must be worked out with a deck of cards in your hands. You need to make sure that you can actually follow the directions step-by-step, and you need to see that by following the directions you can bring the trick to a successful conclusion. There’s no way around this. If the author writes a passage which describes a card 17th from the top of the deck when it should be 18th from the top in order for the trick to work, there’s no way a mere scan of the text will find the mistake. Likewise, if a description reads, “the top card is now the Ace of Hearts,” you need to check that that will actually be the case. You don’t have to be able to do all the moves up to speed, but you should be able to get through them all, even if only in a novice’s manner.

I hope these few pointers will be helpful. But more, I think if you’re a card person you’re really going to like this book. I hope you find it a good read.