The Lost Family: Part One

With TV shows like Henry Louis Gates’ Finding Your Roots, and aggressive advertising of DNA testing by companies like Ancestry.Com, millions have spit into a tube to find the names of their particular ancestors and relatives, and more generally to confirm their ethnic heritage. But these appealing tests have some far-reaching consequences that most of us have not even considered. Award-winning Washington Post reporter Libby Copeland has written about the unforeseen consequences of these genetic tests in a beautifully structured and comprehensive book called The Lost Family: How DNA is Upending Who You Are.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear Part One of my interview with Libby Copeland as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

April Showers

 In this issue:

** Comedian/actress Margaret Cho talks with Prairie Miller about Anti-Asian racism and more

** Paul Robeson re-imagined in an excerpt from actor/playwright Tayo Aluko ‘s Paul Robeson’s Love Song

** Poet Paul Hostovsky with his humorous and trenchant poems.

** Photos from the larger-than-life Garden of Sculpture

And much more!

Click here to view online:

April 2021 Newsletter

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“How To Make A Million Dollars”

Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock was sometimes called “The Canadian Mark Twain.” Unlike Twain, he was a staunch conservative, but that didn’t stop him from launching humorous attacks on the parasitical millionaires with whom he came into contact. Here’s a short story of his I performed called “How to Make a Million Dollars.”

To listen to the story as broadcast today on Arts Express radio on WBAI-FM and Pacifica stations across the nation, click on the triangle or mp3 link above.

AMORALMAN: A True Story And Other Lies

Derek DelGaudio, whose theater piece, In & Of Itself was an unlikely hit, has turned that audience-centric play into a film with the help of director Frank Oz. DelGaudio has just published a memoir of his life as a card mechanic, called AMORALMAN: A True Story and Other Lies and it continues with DelGaudio’s obsession with identity and reality.

Click the triangle or MP3 link above to hear my commentary on both the film In & Of Itself and AMORALMAN, as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI-FM NY and Pacifica affiliates across the country.

February’s Feast

Celebrating our second year of publication!
Another great free issue of the Arts Express Newsletter

*Why was this Arts Express interview censored from YouTube with no explanation?…… An Arts Express Special featuring an extraordinary interview with Mike Africa Jr., member of the radical MOVE organization. He is also the subject of a new documentary about his parents, 40 Years A Prisoner.

*Art At A Time Like This presents a multi-borough billboard exhibition, “Ministry of Truth 1984/2020,” exploring issues of propaganda, censorship, and racial injustice in our present time.

*Dennis Broe on depictions of working-class families in recent television series.

*and much more!

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Faro Fundamentals by Greg Chapman

When I hear from Greg Chapman that he’s working on a new book, my ears perk up like a rabbit hearing about a new cabbage patch. His first two books, Details of Deception and The Devil’s Staircase were advanced explorations of gambling style card material with methods that leave the audience in the dust. When I heard what Greg was up to this time, I was filled with joy in a completely different way. What he had in mind was a small book, 52 pages to be exact—a monograph, for the more precise among us—on the faro shuffle. And I’m happy to say that book has now come to fruition, Faro Fundamentals. (Full disclosure: I gladly did some proofreading on this as well as the earlier books.)

It was a brilliant idea. First, because Greg was the man to do it, and second, because it was such an obvious gap in the literature that it was startling that no one had thought about it before. Those starting the journey of learning the faro shuffle have always had to be like mosaic quilters taking patches from here and patches from there, piecing together the knowledge. Some of the sources were easily available and some of the sources were not. You didn’t know where it was going to turn up. The knowledge consisted of three categories: a) the mechanical information necessary to actually accomplish the shuffle, b) the properties of the shuffle that make it useful, and c) how to put those properties to work in magic effects. Although there are some wonderful chapters about the faro in Marlo, Elmsley, and Expert Card Technique, to my knowledge there was no one exclusive resource that covered all three aspects. Greg’s book can help in all three areas.

Let’s start off with just learning how to do the damn thing. I have to admit I am skeptical of those who claim to have learned the shuffle from the few sentences in a certain famous book about close-up card magic. If you did, my hat’s off to you, and you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din. Let’s face it, for most,  there will be cursing and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in the beginning without proper instruction. Fortunately, Greg’s book addresses several issues that beginners to the shuffle come up against. If listened to, Greg’s helpful advice can significantly cut down on the wrong approaches that only serve to frustrate. Greg has the knowledge and the chops to describe and to illustrate excellently what an approach to the faro could be. He isn’t dogmatic about how to approach it—he openly admits that if you’ve already got an approach that works for you, fine, then go with it; he isn’t trying to proselytize for one particular method. What he does do, though, is to lay out a path to achieve the faro. I especially enjoyed the line drawings made from photos to emphasize the key placements of the fingers of each hand. I also learned some very surprising properties of straddle faros.

As Jeremy Griffin says spot on in his foreword to the book, when it comes to the faro shuffle, people tend to overestimate its difficulty or underestimate its usefulness. In ancient Greece, at a certain point, students of Euclidean geometry advanced to a theorem known as the “Bridge of Asses.” The student had learned all the proofs of previous theorems, but now it was time to join the big boys: the crossing of that bridge signaled something special. It meant that if you could now prove that theorem you had enough tools under your belt to tackle the larger problems. So it is with the faro. I can’t say that I use the faro everyday, but the learning of the faro is what convinced me that I could actually progress further with card sleights. Once you have the faro under your belt, nothing seems too difficult to accomplish. I mean it’s absurd on the face of it: to perfectly split the cards in half and then to perfectly interlace them while no one suspects that that is what you are doing? And moreover, even if they do understand what you are doing, they don’t understand the implications of such an action? That’s powerful.

And that’s something that Greg has expressed to me as a prime motivation for writing the book: “If only I could get folks to climb this mountain with me, because from up here you can see what’s on the other side. Sometimes you can’t know what’s possible until you actually experience something.” Jeremy Griffin in the introduction puts it perfectly: there is the balance of learning something along with all its difficulty, but also balancing the knowledge of its potential on the other side.

And so Greg’s teaching of the faro has a not-so-hidden agenda: he wants to teach you the fundamentals because he wants to grab you and take you up the mountain so that you can see what he sees. And what’s up there? Well, of course, some wonderful effects like Paul Gertner’s Unshuffled (which he doesn’t teach here) and the two bonus routines Greg does teach from his two previous books. But also more than tricks; once you know the faro shuffle you have a very effective way of controlling cards to any position while doing a very fair shuffle, and when combined with a memdeck, it’s an especially powerful tool.

There are those who are skeptical of the audience acceptance of the faro shuffle, and feel like that’s why they wouldn’t want to spend time to learn it. But Greg definitely holds another view. He gives persuasive arguments and advice on how to condition the spectator to accept the shuffle’s fairness and naturalness. Yes, another magician will often recognize an in-the-hands faro—but even then, Greg suggests ways that can throw the wise guys off course. Of course, if one can master the table faro, then that objection disappears completely; and while not claiming to be the last word on the table faro, and acknowledging its difficulty, Greg also gives some tips for achieving it. I don’t pretend that I am willing to put in the time, or that reading Greg’s book will make me a master of the table faro, no book can do that, but I know that if ever one day I wanted to start that journey, this would be the first place I would look to begin my instruction.

The two effects that Greg includes from his previous two books are “Searchers Undone” which is an almost self–working (aside from the faro) version of Larry Jennings “Searchers” effect, where two black kings trap two known cards; and a real magician fooler, “One Card Missing”: a card is chosen, the deck shuffled, cut by the spec, and then shuffled, cut again by the spec, spread for an instant and the performer names the card. (Think about those spectator cuts, even if you’re familiar with the faro!) Greg also streamlines a Marlo location: a card is taken by a spec from the center of the deck, replaced, shuffled, one cut, and the card is on top. The strong parts here are that no breaks are held after the card is replaced, and the shuffle happens immediately afterwards. There’s nothing to see.

As I mentioned before, Greg’s hope is to open up a can of worms. He tantalizing gives you a glimpse of what in practice the ability to faro nonchalantly can mean for stack work. The positioning of cards as they are shuffled means that one can work not with just one kind of stack but different stacks throughout a set for different purposes. Imagine various effects depending on the deck being stacked first by color, then by suit, then by four of a kind. The faro becomes a powerful tool to cycle from one stack to another with relatively little effort.

Is there everything here about the faro? No; in this 52-page book there’s not going to be everything, nor is it meant to be encyclopedic, though there is a short bibliography of major works concerning the faro. Greg’s last two books were eagerly snatched up by aficionados, but they were clearly for a limited audience. But I predict that Faro Fundamentals will be one of those relatively rare perennial sellers in the magic literature. Because there can be no question now: if someone asks, “Where should I go to learn about the faro shuffle?” Greg’s book is it.

If you’ve been putting off learning the faro, or you’ve tried but just couldn’t get it, or if you can faro, but want to understand more about what the faro can achieve, I urge you to pick up a copy of Faro Fundamentals. It fills a huge gap in the magical literature and you will be glad to have this as your faro companion.

David And The Recruiter

I thought it would be fun to read an excerpt from my novel, The New World. It’s a tale set in New York City that follows the struggles and triumphs of four generations of strivers, lovers, and grabbers- of-life.

This excerpt focuses on 20 year-old David Walker who has just been discharged from the army in Iraq for trying to shoot up his sergeant. Fortunately for David, he was able to cash in some chips to get out from the brig and escape with only a dishonorable discharge. Now returned home to live with his mother, he wonders how he’ll survive, with his major skill being cheating at cards. And despite many attempts to track down the old love of his life, Jennifer, he cannot find her.

Click on the triangle or link above to hear the excerpt as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.

Dancing Through Tap History: Rusty Frank

Our friend of the blog, Dennis Mayne, wrote me and said that since I like tap dancers so much I just had to read Rusty Frank’s book, TAP!: The Greatest Tap Dance Stars & Their Stories, where she interviewed all the tap dancing legends! Well, I got the book, and for the last month every morning with my coffee I have been delightedly reading these wonderful primary source interviews with Bunny Briggs, Jimmy Slyde, Hermes Pan, Shirley Temple, Ann Miller and so many more. Fortunately I was able to contact Rusty and we had a delightful interview about her book and she even gave me a little on-air tap dancing lesson!

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my interview with Rusty Frank as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

Words, Words, Words

I keep a file on my computer labeled “Quotations,” which consists of various clippings I’ve picked up along the way. Every once in a long while I like to re-read them, so here’s the latest installment.

As you get older the positive association of receiving socks as a gift steadily increases. It goes from cruel insult to thoughtful token to thing you are genuinely excited about—Murtaza M. Hussain

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”—Andy Warhol

“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.”–Martin Luther King

Marine Biologist: “Save the whales!”
No one: “All marine life matters!” —Random Twitter Feed

When you can’t create, you can work.—Henry Miller

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”―Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

“While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”—Eugene Debs

‘It’s not about hope. You don’t do what you do because you hope things will get better. It’s about getting up every morning and asking yourself what’s the right thing to do and doing it.”—Allen Ginsberg

“The problem is not that the world is too full of fools; it’s that lightning is improperly distributed.”—Mark Twain

“It’s difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” — Upton Sinclair

“The definition of a gentleman is someone who knows how to play the bagpipes but doesn’t.”—Anonymous

Hofstadter’s Law: “The time and effort required to complete a project are always more than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”

December Dossier

*Director Lydia Pilcher of the Hard Hitting True Story of The Radium Girlsthe 1920s women who worked in the radium factories.

*Monumental Mistakes: Sherry Milner and Ernest Larsen’s Hilarious Satirical Serial Postcard Novel

*Dennis Broe on Today’s Noir Novel in Europe: Popular Novelists From France and Iceland

*Return of The Laugh Lounge!

Get your free copy and free subscription by emailing us at Artsexpresslist@gmail.com and put the word “subscribe” in the subject line

And Much More!

November Niceties

(Click the image above to go to our Arts Express Newsletter Facebook archive or see FREE subscription information below)

Another great issue of the Arts Express Newsletter!

*Prairie Miller talks with the multi-talented John Leguizamo about his new film Critical Thinking

*Connie Norgren shares some of her new poetry

*Jack Shalom gives his take on the late David Graeber’s book, Bullshit Jobs

*The Laugh Lounge: for all of us who need to have something to laugh about this year

And more!

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Letter From Brooklyn

With all the election week brouhaha, I got to thinking about the mail, and then recalling an essay I wrote here a few years ago about letter writing. Here’s a revised version of that essay that I aired for the Arts Express radio program. Click on the triangle or link to hear it as broadcast today on WBAI.org and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

Our Sixth Anniversary! Some Posts To Remember

I like to do a Favorites of the Year post on our blog’s birthday, so here are some of the interviews or written pieces which we enjoyed most over the past year that you may have missed, or may like to view again:

It’s The Thought That Counts: Simon Aronson, An Appreciation

“I Would Want To Drink Their Blood”: Welcome To Hell World, Luke O’Neil

Holiday Greetings, Magic Friends 2019

“How I Became A Socialist”: Jack London

What’s Important

“I Am Spartacus”: Kirk Douglas

The Great Debate

Shakespeare In A Divided America

The Fire This Time

The Deep End: Radical Writers of The 30s

Nora Brown, Old-time Banjo: “You Need To Connect”

“I Owe So Much To Those I Don’t Love”: Wisława Szymborska

“Being Adventurous Means Going To Places You Don’t Know Exist! “

The Bird Way

The Social Media Trap: The Social Dilemma

Halloween Tale: Revolt Of The Worms!

Connie Norgren: Poems In A Time Of Crisis

I was happy to voice these poems of poet Connie Norgren on the Arts Express program. Click on the triangle to hear the poems as broadcast today on WBAI NY and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

David Graeber: Bullshit Jobs

David Graeber died last month and it was a real loss. The radical anthropologist was probably best known as the author of Debt: The First 5000 Years, but my favorite book of his is the quirky Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. Here’s my commentary on this important book as broadcast today on the Arts Express program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.

Click on the triangle or the image above to listen.

Cosmos | Possible Worlds |: Ann Druyan

In 1980, Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan created the wildly successful television series and book, Cosmos. Now, forty years later, Ann Druyan has come out with a third series of Cosmos and a companion book called Cosmos: Possible Worlds. I was happy to interview Ann Druyan about the new series.

To hear the interview as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM and Pacifica affiliates across the nation, click on the image or the triangle above.

The Five Foot Shelf of Magic: Foot Three

Here are my suggestions for foot three of the five foot shelf of magic books. You can find my suggestions for the first foot here, and the second foot here.

In this installment, we’ll be getting into more specialized and advanced books, yet I think the information in each of them is valuable no matter what area of magic most intrigues you.

The Dai Vernon Book of Magic by Lewis Ganson: Some of the classic close-up routines of magic, including The Chinese Coins, that should be in every magician’s repertoire.

Restaurant and Bar Magic by Jonathan Kamm: Kamm is a bar magician, and in this slim book of effects he explains some wonderful mainstays of the bar magician. If you’re not a drinker, don’t let the appellation of bar magic worry you. Bar magic is close-up magic that requires little in the way of props, but it has a very clear plot, is visual, often modular, and has high impact. There’s a great repeat card under deck routine here as well as seven other routines which, as they say, are workers.

Marked for Life by Kirk Charles: This is a slim paperback on how to create your own deck of marked cards and tricks to do with same. There’s a hilarious trick done with a rubber stamp imprint of a cat’s paw that I used to have a lot of fun with. But the real winner here is the system for marking cards that Bob Farmer came up with that requires only a red Sharpie on a red Bicycle deck which produces marks that can be seen from a good distance.

Expert Card Technique by Jean Hugard and Frederick Braue: This one may sit on the shelf until you’re ready for it, but once you are, you will be amazed at the gems of advanced card magic sleights and effects it contains: passes, glimpses, transpositions. Though written before Royal Road to Magic and Card College, this is the post-graduate course.

Taschen Magic Posters: I’ve written about this book before, and I continue to feel that it’s one of my favorite magic books of all time. This multi-lingual large-size edition pictured above is out of print and hard to find now, but there’s a smaller sized abridged version available at very reasonable cost, which is still quite wonderful. It’s beautifully put together with glorious reproductions of hundreds of years of magic posters interspersed with essays from the likes of Jim Steinmeyer. It’s big, heavy, and an absolute pleasure to pull out on a rainy day.

An Actor Prepares by Konstantin Stanislavski: while this volume was meant for theater actors performing in a scripted play, there is much here to be learned here about communicating with an audience. The Spanish magician Juan Tamariz summarized some of this information in The Five Ways of Magic, but An Actor Prepares goes more deeply into some important aspects of performing and getting ready to perform. Pay special attention to the sections on Relaxation, Concentration, Units and Objectives, Faith and a Sense of Truth, The Super-Objective, and Communion.

Act Two by Barrie Richardson: There’s more great mental magic in this sequel to Theater of the Mind. If you’ve always wanted to learn a memdeck, but don’t think you’re quite up to it now, there’s an easy to memorize half memdeck here that’s very useful. In particular, it’s used in a easy-to-do stage ACAAN that plays big. There are many other mental effects and techniques here that are worth exploring as well.

Card College, Volumes 2, 3, and 4: by Roberto Giobbi: Card College is a massive achievement but I think Royal Road substitutes well for Volume 1 and has better tricks, and Volume 5 is largely a book of pleasant but unessential card tricks. For me, the real stars of the CC series are Volumes 2, 3 and 4, which form an excellent detailed reference for learning and executing the most common card sleights one might come across in other sources.

Magic is My Weed and How to Make Love the Steve Spill Way both by Steve Spill. I put these two books together because frankly it is hard to decide between them. Simply, read them both. They are not cheap, but if you are planning to set foot onstage before a large audience in a regular professional capacity, these books would be a very wise investment. I did detailed reviews of the two books here (Weed) and here (Love). If you want to be a performer and not just a guy or gal doing tricks, these books are a goldmine of information. Wonderful effects, jokes, scripts, but even more wonderful advice about how to construct an act and entertain an audience.

The Young Lords, Part 2: Johanna Fernández

Baruch College History Professor Johanna Fernandez appearing on Book Beat.

Welcome to part two of my interview with Johanna Fernández author of The Young Lords, a deep but very readable book about the history and significance of that revolutionary 1960s political group. Last week in Part 1 we talked about the origins of The Young Lords and their successful church and hospital occupations in East Harlem. This week, we continue their story, as I ask Johanna to talk about the women who had become members of The Young Lords.

Click on the small triangle or the image above to hear the interview as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI.org and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

You can hear Part 1 of the interview here:

The Young Lords: A Radical History, Part 1

In her fascinating new book, The Young Lords, Professor Johanna Fernández makes a compelling case that the Young Lords were one of the most important revolutionary groups of the late 60s and early 70s. They won lasting victories by coupling street smarts, sophisticated organizing techniques, and intense political analyses. There’s much to be learned from their story, both successes and failures, which is cogently and lovingly told by the author.

Click on the triangle or image above to hear my interview with Johanna Fernández, as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program, heard on WBAI NYC and Pacifica stations across the nation.

You can find Part 2 here:

Diana Rigg, 1938-2020

Diana Rigg died this week. A fine actress, the clip above shows her in a few of her famous roles.

But my favorite thing that Diana Rigg ever did as an artist was to write a book called No Turn Unstoned: The Worst Ever Theatrical Reviews. Stung by unkind reviews that she had received over the years, to cheer herself up, Rigg compiled a book of horrendous reviews that other celebrated actors had received over the years. If you can get a hold of a copy, it’s a fun read.

Thank you, Mrs. Peel.

Thanks to YouTuber Guardian News

Poetry by Pablo Neruda

https://jackshalom.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/neruda.mp3

For Arts Express, I helped produce this reading of a short poem by Pablo Neruda, performed by the incomparable Mary Murphy.

To listen click on the triangle or link above.

September Arts Express Newsletter is Here!

Another great issue! Highlights include:

*Prairie Miller talks with Mark Amin, director of the new film, Emperor, about Shields Green, John Brown’s African comrade at Harpers Ferry;

*Artist Tom Keough’s stunning paintings of trees at night and in day, along with his political drawings;

*Fall Binging: Listeners reveal what television series they’ve been watching and recommend;

*Culture critic Dennis Broe on a former industrial town in the process of transforming from manufacturing coal to manufacturing culture;

And much more!

To receive your free full-color email issue, send an email now to artsexpresslist@gmail.com and put the word “Subscribe” in the subject line.

Bully For You

https://jackshalom.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/elizabeth-englander-final-mix.mp3

As children are getting ready to go back to school this month,–either online or in person–one thing has not changed: some students are still subject to bullying, both online and off. What can be done to prevent bullying and how should parents and teachers handle it? I recently spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Englander, Professor of Psychology, whose research focuses on bullying. Her most recent book is titled 25 Myths of Bullying and Cyberbullying.

Click on the triangle or link above to hear my interview with Dr. Englander as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio show on WBAI NY, WBAI.org and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

The Bird Way

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Who has not looked up in the sky at birds and wished they could fly? Jennifer Ackerman has spent a good part of her adult life thinking about and writing about birds and the natural world.  She is the author of eight books including a favorite of mine, The Genius of Birds.  Her latest book is called The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think. I was pleased to talk with her on Arts Express and learn some startling stories about birds .

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my interview with Ms. Ackerman, as broadcast today on radio station WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.