The Book Nook, Magic Edition (4)

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Here’s an update on three magic books I’ve received recently, each of which I can recommend to aficionados.

First, The Top Change by Magic Christian. Christian, a seasoned performer and recognized expert on 19th century card magic history (he wrote the massive two volume work on his Viennese forerunner, J. N. Hofzinser: Non Plus Ultra) has written a monograph on the top change and its variants, illustrated with over 200 sharp black & white photographs, and includes an extensive bibliography from Denis Behr. It begins with a chapter on the history of the sleights, then gets down to basics teaching them.

The section describing the basic top change that Christian prefers is actually fairly brief—four pages of Christian’s general philosophy about the top change, and then about ten pages of photos and text  breaking down the move, step by step. Those familiar with the description of the move in Expert Card Technique or Giobbi’s Card College may be surprised by some of Christian’s recommendations. He prefers a subtle, subdued approach: he does not try to cover the move with wide sweeping arm movements, and he prefers not to move both hands.

The top change is one of those sleights which is extremely useful in card magic—Christian calls it “the most useful, the most regal sleight” in all of card magic. I have to admit that while technically it’s a much easier move than palming or doing a classic pass, I feel much more comfortable with the latter sleights than doing a top change. Like many, I am afraid of being caught out because of the boldness of the move. But I can say that with some study of the book and practice, I have been gaining in confidence, and my current efforts, as recorded on video, are not too awful. So thank you, Magic Christian.

Next up is David Regal’s new book, Interpreting Magic. It’s a big book, with the usual kind of Regal attention to close-up card and coin magic. Regal is a guy whose roots are in improv and scripting (no, not mutually exclusive at all!) and his focus is always on presenting an entertaining story and premise for his audience.  If you’ve seen any of Regal’s other books, you know he’s got literally scores of such workable effects. But curiously, my favorite part of the book was not the close-up magic, but rather the platform magic section. His imagination really lets loose with the larger effects.  He’s got very original, ingenious premises and presentations with props that are more unexpected and amusing than the usual card or coin routines. Also, scattered throughout the book, he has some great interviews and essays. There’s not a whole lot of organization to this huge book, so at 500+ pages it’s a bit of a hodge-podge, but I really like dipping into it at random. Definitely recommended.

And finally, there’s Thinking Of You, the latest annual offering from Andy of the magic website, The Jerx.  The previous book from The Jerx, Magic for Young Lovers, was one of my all-time favorite magic books. The current book is also quite good, though unsurprisingly, not in the same league as its predecessor.  MFYL set a high bar to reach and Andy seems to be aware of that. While the earlier book was conceived as a whole philosophy and approach to amateur magic—and largely succeeded—this one is much more modest in its aims. Thinking Of You is mainly concerned with the performance of mentalism in an amateur social context, and as such it’s more of a toolkit—okay, a bag of tricks—rather than some overarching vision, despite some valuable advice on how to approach social mentalism. That said, many of the individual ideas and effects are quite strong and without the comparison to the other book, it’s quite a respectable piece of work. The book is physically similar to the last two Jerx books, though there are no illustrated endpages as the previous books had. However, for those complaining about the high price of subscribing to the site and receiving the book, here’s a hot tip: some of the best ideas and effects in the book are already on the Jerx site for free, if you comb through the site. Either way, Andy has a ton of great advice for those performing in an amateur social context.

And upcoming: the gambling subset of magic fans has been eagerly awaiting Steve Forte’s new double volume opus on gambling sleights i.e. false deals, shuffles, switches, and so on. It’s Forte’s name that’s the draw here, as his status as a card worker is legendary, and his knowledge and invention of gambling sleights is second to none. In any reasoned list of the best living card workers, Forte’s name is probably going to be right at the top. Forte printed up a first run of 1000 copies, and by the time you read this, it probably will be all sold out, despite the fact that it won’t even be published for another few weeks. A special section on Erdnase’s Expert At The Card Table in the book promises to be a paradigm-breaking re-imagining of the old master. It will be interesting to see if Forte’s book, called Gambling Sleight of Hand, lives up to its high expectations.

All of the books are very good. Depending on your taste in magic, at least one of these books will make a worthwhile read for you.

“New Jersey Is Famous For Glue…”: Blossom Dearie

“Pencils come from Pennsylvania…”

Blossom Dearie states some State facts that won’t get you on Jeopardy.  From the song, “Rhode Island Is Famous For You.”

The clever lyrics are by Howard Dietz who also wrote “That’s Entertainment.”

Thanks to YouTuber 65yb74

 

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A title is a frame,
An instruction,
A message from above,
A set of clothes.

Untitled: too lazy to do it myself? Too coy?
Like: you do the work. Like: go ahead,
I’ll hide my eyes.
Whatever you say.

Unserious. Nice Guy. Idiot Savant. Poet.
To be or not to be?
It’s enough to make me think
How entitled to be untitled.

Do You Know The Way To San Jose?

Monday morning, Dionne Warwick contemplates chucking it all and heading home.

It’s hard to choose from all the great Burt Bacharach/Hal David/Dionne Warwick collaborations, but I always appreciated Hal David’s storyline in this one—I can’t think of any other pop song with a similar theme.

Thanks to YouTuber Petersmusic

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

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When Steve Stills sung this paean to his about-to-be-ex, Judy Collins, it was one of the most audacious and brilliant love songs from a 60s folk rock band. This cover, by Josh Turner on six string guitar, Tanner Walter on 12 string guitar and Myles Pinder on the high parts, is frighteningly good.

More at Josh Turner Guitar

The Math Lesson: Abbott & Costello

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With Joe Kirk as Mr. Bacciagalupe. Here’s are some fun facts: According to ever-reliable Wikipedia, Kirk’s original name was Ignazio “Nat” Curcuruto,  his family was from Sicily, and… he was married to Lou Costello’s sister Marie.

Thanks to YouTuber Kovacs Corner

Get Your Arts Fix Here!

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Woo-hoo! It’s the new monthly Arts Express Newsletter, edited by yours truly and it’s free, free, free!

Think of it as a print extension of the conversation started on our global radio arts magazine, Arts Express, heard on WBAI 99.5 FM in NYC, WBAI.org, and Pacifica affiliates across the country, in Paris, Beijing, and Berlin.

Every month, it’s eight pages of Arts Express goodness, filled with fascinating interviews, top ten film lists, reviews, gossip, film, theatre, book recommendations and more.

Here’s a preview of what’s in our inaugural February issue:

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* An extraordinary interview with Bill Wyman, the legendary guitarist for The Rolling Stones.

* Broadcast Film Critics and Women Film Critics Circle reviewer and host Prairie Miller’s Top Ten Films of 2019–and the year’s worst!

* An Arts Express Extra: Jack London’s Preface to The War of the Classes–a supplement to our recent radio performance of London’s powerful essay, “How I Became A Socialist.”

*Plus: The Guest List–our favorite recent guests; The Back Room–news and gossip about WBAI and the Arts Express crew;

*And information about exclusive giveaways and how to win an opportunity to broadcast your own work on the air.

It’s all in the new free Arts Express Newsletter.

To get your free pdf copy every month to your email address, just send an email to ArtsExpressList@gmail.com and put Subscribe in the subject line. We’ll do the rest!

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Jack  London

 

 

 

 

St. Thomas: Sonny Rollins

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Monday morning, as winter starts to creep up, “St. Thomas” with Sonny Rollins as the place to be is okay with me .

Tenor Sax : Sonny Rollins

Piano : Kenny Drew

Bass : Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen

Drums : Albert “Tootie” Heath

Thanks to YouTuber BluesBeBopper2000

Chomsky vs Buckley

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This one is longish, but fun. William Buckley was a conservative who hosted a PBS show called Firing Line. He was fairly erudite, and on his show he was usually able to intellectually intimidate his debate opponents. But when he had on Noam Chomsky, Buckley was definitely outclassed, and it ‘s fun to watch the two of them parrying, with Buckley clearly in over his head. To Buckley’s credit, he allowed Chomsky onto mainstream television, something that broadcasters then and now were and are loath to do.

Thanks to YouTuber Patrick Steinkuhl

 

The Tennessee Waltz

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Okay, so “The Tennessee Waltz” is a song I’ve hated all my life. When I would hear it on the radio or when somebody on a TV variety show would sing it, I would immediately turn it off. It seemed to me like an endless, very boring song. But…wow. This version by Reina del Cid and Toni Lindgren on guitar is just great. First time I really heard the lyrics, and Toni’s guitar playing is wonderful.

More at Reina del Cid

What’s Important

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Photo by Joonas kääriäinen on Pexels.com

 

What’s Important? Their parties and their affairs. Their politics and their children and their schools.  Their colleges and their internships.

Their museums and their theatres and their writers and their vacations and their marriages and their infidelities; their pets and their drunkenness and their doctors.

Their beaches and their summer homes and their nameplates and their cars and their morals and their bankers and their finances and their magazines and their dresses and their jewelry and their connections. Anything else is in agreement or opposition to them.

Their music and their institutions and their candidates and their newspapers and their stocks and their bonds and their penthouses and their department stores and their linens and their towels and their privilege, their vast vast privilege.

Their intellectuals and their painters and their dealers and their playwrights and their novelists and their poetry and their foundations and their PBS and their NPR and their film festivals and their Pulitzers,  all of a piece, one big connected piece: their businesses, their Green New Deals, their social register,  their churches, their synagogues, their causes, their donations, their fashion, their unmentionables, their stories, their bodies, their color, their hair, their tuxedos.

Their television shows, their late night hosts, their pundits, their news columnists. Their op-eds and their editorials and everywhere everywhere their offices, their architecture, their downtowns, their urban renewal, their zoning boards, their free-fire zones, their armies, their wars, their front pages. Their water, their vitamins, their foot massages, their masseuses, their exercise machines, their angst, their problems, their shrinks, their gurus, their meditations. Their guns and their guards and their ocean cruises and their executive class and their private helicopters and their gold plated bathrooms and their penthouses and their literary supplements and their trust funds and their restaurants and their chefs and their poodles and their desserts and their musicals,  their sculpture, their police force, their mayor, their bribes, their musclemen, their crime and their punishment.

Their shock jocks and their PR people and their advance men and their drug dealers and their psychiatric hospitals and their doormen. Their elevator operators and their operas. Their Christmases and their bonuses. Their playgrounds and their baby carriages. Their smoothies and their lattes. Their Siri and their Echo. Their maids and their housekeepers, their butlers and their caterers,  their golf courses and their tennis courts. Their charities, their bequests, their billionaires, their philanthropies, their checks and their balances. Their lawyers and their judges, their pastors and their rabbis, their endowed chair professors and their university presidents. Their fall guys and their stooges. Their saints and their sinners. Their cocktail hours and their cigarettes. Their appetizers and their entrees, their champagne and their caviar, their perks and their lighting. Their make-up and their make-up artists, their voices and their songs.

Their money money money all over the place in every conversation, in every action, in every thought, in every deed, from getting up in the morning to puking up at night, to the sheets and the covers and the beds. Their deaths and their inheritances.

Their lives, their world.

That’s what’s important.

“How I Became A Socialist”: Jack London

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This month we celebrate the birthday of author Jack London, born January 12, 1876. London wrote the great nature novels Call of the Wild and White Fang, but he was also a committed socialist who wrote two volumes of essays about socialism called The War of the Classes and Revolution and other essays.

I performed a reading of London’s “How I Became A Socialist” for the Arts Express radio program. Click on the triangle above to hear it as broadcast today on WBAI 99.5 FM radio and Pacifica affiliates cross the country.