The Third Floor

The longtime head of the Portuguese Communist Party, Álvaro Cunhal, spent many years of his life in Portuguese fascist prisons. Later in exile, from the 1950s onward, he wrote novels, novellas and short stories about Portuguese life under the fascists who ruled from 1927 to the early 1970s. In particular, he wrote of the leading role of the Portuguese Communist Party in the anti-fascist struggle for almost 50 years. To create a literary identity apart from his political renown, he employed the pen name Manuel Tiago.

Author and translator Eric Gordon set himself the task of translating Cunhal’s work into English, and so far, the books Five Days, Five Nights and The Six-Pointed Star have appeared from International Publishers. The 3rd Floor has just been issued, with five more books on their way.

The title story is a prison break tale. In the excerpt I’ll be reading, the Communist prisoners have worked out a messaging system with the Party by writing on little bits of cigarette papers and smuggling them in and out under the buttons of shirts in the dirty prison laundry. A trio of prisoners who are secretly working on a prison break have just received back a message from the Party.

Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the story, as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI FM NYC, and Pacifica stations across the country.

Sweet Dreams

Monday morning, Toni takes the lead with a guitar and bass version of Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams are Made of This.

Covering Annie Lennox is a heavy lift, and I was skeptical, but when the harmonies of Josh and Reina at 2:30 started to kick in, I had a big grin on my face.

More at Toni Lindgren

Perception Deception

Magician Ben Seidman with a great effect and one of the most consistently entertaining and funny acts on Fool Us. It doesn’t seem to fool Penn & Teller, but I had no idea what Penn’s clues were there. Seidman claims on his YouTube channel that there were no camera effects involved, and that it could be reproduced live, in which case I’m totally stumped.

More at Ben Seidman

The Quiet Zone

Green Bank, West Virginia is a remote community with a claim to being the quietest town in America. Cell phone, WiFi and other electronic noise are tightly monitored. But when journalist Stephen Kurczy took a deep dive into the apparently sleepy town, he found a Twin Peaks-style stew of surveillance, Nazis, forbidding caves, murder and suicide. I was happy to talk with Steve about his new book detailing all this and more, The Quiet Zone.

Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the interview, as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI FM NYC, and Pacifica stations across the country.

Acting Up: A Deeper Dive

There have been many enjoyable memoirs about an actor’s life in theater and film– the autobiographies of Laurence Olivier and Marlon Brando come to mind–but one of my favorites is David Hare’s Acting Up. The British-born David Hare is not a professional actor, but rather an acclaimed playwright and director who talked himself into taking the main–and only–role in his play Via Dolorosa. He kept a diary of his rehearsals and performances, and published it. Here’s a radio piece I did recently, expanding on a brief essay I had written previously.

Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the piece, as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI FM NYC, and Pacifica stations across the country.

The Seventh Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest

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It’s time once again for this blog’s annual magic contest!

Most of us have been cooped up for more than a year, and circumstances have often been trying. But it’s given us a lot of time to play around and maybe learn some skills or tricks that we wouldn’t have otherwise. So at the risk of sounding uncreative, I’m going to repeat for yet a third time a contest question that I think is valuable and worth repeating, especially at a time like this:

What were two (three is optional) actions or ideas that you think were the most helpful in the improvement of your magic or mentalism in the last few years? What is it you did, thought, learned or realized that has changed how you approach your magic in matters large and/or small? Your explanations don’t have to be profound, although profound is fine, too. But if you just want to talk about how your little pinky sticking out this way instead of that way made everything a lot better, that’s okay, too.

You don’t need to be a professional or anything like that, hobbyists are welcome to participate as well. And feel free to participate again, even if you were a past winner, as long as you were not a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place winner last year. If you contributed before, you’re still welcome to participate, but please don’t submit the same entry, let’s see how you’ve changed over the years.

No criteria for winning here other than what strikes me as interesting and useful.  Details and specifics are key. Extra points for humor and entertainment value. It would be especially helpful if you could analyze why the actions or ideas were important to you.

And wonderful prizes, as always, will be awarded:

First prize is first choice from the terrific grab bag of magic books I’ve put together; second prize is second choice from the grab bag; and third prize, in a parallel, numerically pleasing manner, is third choice from the grab bag. The items in the grab bag are all commercial books or tricks, at least one of which, I guarantee, you will be very happy to have.

All are welcome to participate. And even if you were a past winner before, feel free to participate again as long as you were not a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place winner last year.

And in the spirit of everyone being a winner, I’ll ask all entrants to allow me to make up a pdf file which includes their entry. This pdf will NOT BE SOLD, but will be offered only as a free download to all those who entered.

Send your entries please to jshalom@worldshare.net

Make sure to put the word CONTEST in the subject line

Deadline Tuesday,  November 2, 11:59 PM. In case of a tie, earlier entries get preference.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!