The Scorpion And The Tortoise


(Click to enlarge)

81st Street Subway station

New York, New York

Everyone’s favorite conman, Whit “Pop” Haydn, is fond of the tale of “The Scorpion and  The Tortoise.” As time goes on, I have become more and more appreciative of this little instructive fable. It goes like this…

A scorpion asks a tortoise if he could take a ride on the tortoise’s back in order to cross the deep waters of the local river. The tortoise replies that he’s no fool—the scorpion will just sting him as they go across the river. But the scorpion answers, “No, no worries, you’re protected; for if I went and stung you, you’d die, and then I’d drown in the middle of the river. It’s simple logic, you’ve got a fail-safe situation here.”

The tortoise thinks it over for a few minutes and then agrees. The scorpion hops on the tortoise’s back and off they go. In the exact center of the river, however, at its deepest part, sure enough, the scorpion stings the tortoise. The tortoise, in agonized death throes, sputters out, “What in God’s name have you done? We’re both going to die now! How could you?”

And the scorpion, now about to be enveloped in the deadly deep water, just manages to eke out, “I’m a scorpion. It’s my nature.”



“We Think You’re Just Sensational”



Angela Lansbury in one of her signature roles at the 1975 Tony Awards.

About two-thirds of the way through the clip, Lansbury gets surprised by a guest dancer. Don’t miss it. The look on her face is wonderful. (If you don’t recognize who it is, I’ll post his identity in the comments.)

Thanks to YouTuber kotlicek



Musical Seasons


Monday morning, I’m following my Josh Turner jones. A terrific Frankie Valli medley in one take by Josh Turner and a pair of very talented friends.

Left to right: Ron Remke, Jim Hogan, and Josh Turner on guitar.

More at Josh Turner Guitar

“They All Want To Play Hamlet”




At one time, Carl Sandburg was everywhere: as a working-class people’s poet, a folk music populist, and an award-winning historian. He’s not as widely listened to anymore, but recently Linda Shalom and I performed some of his poems, broadcast over WBAI radio, on the Arts Express program.

We had great fun becoming familiar with, and voicing, these poems. You can listen by clicking on the grey triangle above.

“So Hoist Up The John B. Sails”


Monday morning, taking the worst trip you’ve ever been on. An A-1 cover of the Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B.” Josh Turner on guitar and falsetto really nails it here.

Alec Hamilton (keys), Ben Cooley (Tenor, tambourine) Josh Turner (Electric Guitar), Taylor Bloom (Acoustic Guitar), Marc Encabo (Bass) and Bob Sale (Drums).

Thanks to YouTuber Josh Turner Guitar

Gerald Deutsch’s Perverse Magic: The First Sixteen Years

deutsch_cover 1-2-19

I’ve written here about Gerald Deutsch before, and I’ve even posted video here of me performing some of his magic, so I’m happy to report the publication this week of a beautiful hardcover 470+ page book chock full of Jerry Deutsch’s unique brand of magic called Gerald Deutsch’s Perverse Magic: The First Sixteen Years. Later in this post I’ll talk about the genesis of the book and my role in producing it, but first I’d like to explain a little more about what “Perverse Magic” is.

Magic is a wonderful entertainment and sometimes art, but there is an aspect of it that can potentially turn audiences off. A performer says to an audience, in effect, “See how wonderful I am,” but a performer claiming such magical power risks getting into a power struggle with a certain kind of spectator.

But Jerry’s style of magic, “Perverse Magic,” (the term is taken from an early magician, Charles Waller, who first mentioned this style of magic) eliminates this potential friction point between performer and audience. The magic happening is attributed not to the performer’s will, but to causes outside it. In other words, the magician appears to be just as baffled (Acting!) as the audience member is; in that way, the performer is on the same side of the spectator, rather than an antagonist.

Jerry has described six possible entertaining categories of Perverse Magic:

1. Something just happens without the performer’s knowledge, and without the performer wanting it to happen. You can see this in the magic of Cardini, where cards and cigarettes appear in his hands out of his control.

2. The performer expects one kind of outcome, but something else happens instead. For example, the magician says he will make a selected card penetrate a handkerchief; instead, when the hankie is opened, the card face is blank and the hankie has a large size copy of the chosen card printed on the handkerchief.

3. The magician says he’s going to do something; but instead, that something happens by itself. For example, a rope suddenly unties itself.

4. The magician does something and is caught; but when he confesses, it’s not what the audience thought–nor what the magician thought either. For example, in an egg bag routine, the magician admits that he has been hiding a spare egg in his armpit. But when he lifts his arm to retrieve the egg, to the surprise of both the performer and audience, the egg has vanished.

5. The magician and the audience are on different planes as to what each sees. This is a whimsical approach: for example, a magician pays for some candy with a half-dollar that s/he offhandedly pulls from a pen cap.

6. The performer doesn’t understand why what happens, happens. For example,  the performer fails to find the spectator’s card, even after several tries. In disgust, s/he throws the cards upwards–and to the performer’s, and the rest of the audience’s amazement, the spectator’s card sticks to the ceiling.

It’s a great way to solve the ego problem in magic.

Let me explain a bit on how this book came to be. For the past sixteen years, every single month Jerry Deutsch has been posting Perverse Magic effects to the Genii magic forum. Finally, a few months ago, Jerry brought an end to the wonderful series.

Jerry’s posts instantly resonated with me–I had tinkered around with something I called “Accidental Magic” for a while, when I discovered that Jerry had been doing this for decades before. When I discovered Jerry’s Genii thread, I was enchanted. I looked forward every month to Jerry’s latest perverse entry on the Genii forum.

I thought it would be nice to gather up all of Jerry’s posts and put them into book form so that I could study Perverse Magic more closely for my own personal use. I’m a book guy, that’s how I learn. So I began putting the book together, and as I progressed I thought, wouldn’t it be a great tribute to Jerry to release this to the general magic public?

I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, so I asked Richard Kaufman, editor of Genii, what he thought, and he gave the project his approval. I asked Jerry, and he was happy to be getting a copy, but he preferred not to release it to the general magic public.

I prevailed upon Jerry, telling him that there were three good reasons for having the book released:
1) He deserves financial remuneration for his efforts.
2) For many people, book form is more convenient to learn from than a website.
3) Most importantly, Jerry’s landmark contributions to the art of magic in developing this unique form of magic should be documented, appreciated, and preserved in a more permanent way than the internet cloud.

Jerry still demurred, even after I assured him that I wanted no remuneration for myself. I was disappointed, but I continued working on the book. When it was finally finished, having designed the book layout and cover, and copy-edited it, I sent Jerry a copy.

A few days later I got a call from Jerry, who I had never spoken to on the phone before. He was really happy about the book, and wanted to release it to the general magic public with one important condition: that all proceeds would go to charity.

I was so happy when he said this. It was the perfect solution! Jerry mentioned that he had done work volunteering in hospitals, doing magic for young patients, and that he would like to find a charity that would support that kind of work.

We did some research and we came up with a perfect fit: Open Heart Magic. They are a non-profit charity whose main mission specifically is to train volunteers to do magic in hospitals for young patients. We spoke to the folks at OHM, and they were happy to help set things up so that all the proceeds of Jerry’s book would go to their foundation. You can take a look at the great work these people do at

So if you’d like to treat yourself to the book, I think you’re making a great decision: Jerry’s effects are terrific and well-explained, the price is right, and the cause is a great cause to support. It also makes a great gift. You can order it here:……173.html

“We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges”




In a world gone crazy, we might need to put the entire planet on the couch. Bruce Levine, a practicing clinical psychologist often at odds with the mainstream of his profession, argues in his newest book, Resisting Illegitimate Authority: A Thinking Person’s Guide to Being an Anti-Authoritarian, for the essential value of anti-authoritarians in a democracy, and questions their treatment by the medical establishment. He also dishes a few pro-tips on how resisters can survive the slings and arrows of an authoritarian society.

You can listen to my interview with Bruce Levine as broadcast this week on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI 99.5 FM NYC, by clicking on the grey triangle above.