My Father


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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


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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


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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


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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.