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.

The Joy of Sweat!

It’s the dog days of summer and wherever there are men and women, there’s sweat. Canadian science journalist and teacher, author Sarah Everts, has taken a deep dive–ahem–into that pool of sweat, telling us everything we wanted to know about it in her new book, The Joy of Sweat.

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

The Voyage

“Why I came here? Start the machine. I’ll tell you everything…Because the olive trees were bare, because the date trees gave no fruit…”

For the week of Father’s Day, A Fathers Day Fatherly Story. Performed by myself and Linda Shalom, as adapted from my novel, The New World, which begins with a Syrian-Jewish immigrant’s journey to this country at the turn of the 20th century.

Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear our tale, as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI FM NY and Pacifica stations across the nation.

Mike Nichols, A Life: Part Two

Here’s Part Two of our Mark Harris interview about his wonderful new biography called Mike Nichols: A Life. In this part we focused on the director’s eclectic and fabled film career, including Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Graduate and Angels in America.

Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear part one of the interview Mark gave on Arts Express, as broadcast yesterday on WBAI FM NY and Pacifica stations across the nation.

Part One is here:

Mike Nichols, A Life by Mark Harris: Part One

The Graduate, Angels in America, The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, The Gin Game, Hurley Burley, Silkwood, Postcards From The Edge, Heartburn, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Streamers, The Real Thing, Spamalot, Working Girl and more were all directed by the same man–Mike Nichols. In a career that spanned over fifty years simultaneously in both film and theater, Mike Nichols proved that he was one of America’s best directors. Now Mark Harris has written a comprehensive new biography of Nichols, which provides great insight into Nichols’ life and career. I had the pleasure of having a very enjoyable conversation with Mark about Nichols, who Mark knew well.

Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear part one of the interview Mark gave on Arts Express, as broadcast yesterday on WBAI FM NY and Pacifica stations across the nation.

Part Two is here:

Every Body is Everybody: Part One

Everybody has a body and Everybody is the name of a new book by art and social critic Olivia Laing, which takes off from the ideas of Wilhelm Reich. It’s a  book about bodies in peril and bodies as a force for change and what are the limits of pleasure and freedom.

I had a fascinating conversation with Olivia about her book. Click on the grey triangle or mp3 link above to hear Part One of our conversation, as broadcast today on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

Part Two is here: https://jackshalom.net/2021/05/16/everybody-by-olivia-laing-part-two/

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo: The Last Interview And Other Conversations is a new collection of several of Kahlo’s magazine and newspaper interviews. As a bonus, art historian, critic and author Hayden Herrera provides within an excellent introduction to the life and work of the extraordinary Mexican artist and activist. I was happy to interview Hayden for Arts Express.

To listen, click on the triangle or mp3 link above and listen to the interview as broadcast today on WBAI FM radio and Pacifica stations across the country.

The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are: Part Two

Last week we brought you Part One of our interview with journalist Libby Copeland, author of The Lost Family: How DNA Testing has Upended Who We Are. We spoke about how the DNA tests offered by companies such as Ancestry and 23and me can have unintended consequences when people thought to be close biological relatives turn out to be no such thing. This week in Part Two we turn our attention to the larger societal issues including surveillance and privacy of genetic data.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear Part Two 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.

Part One can heard here:

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.

“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.

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.

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 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

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.

Charles Bukowski: “Don’t Try”

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It’s August and that’s the month poet Charles Bukowski was born in 1920. With over 5000 poems and six novels and hundreds of short stories to his name, he’s become a kind of cult figure over the last decades. While his writings have stamped him with the indelible persona of an alcoholic anti-social misanthropic and misogynistic git, yet there’s also a gentler humanness in Bukowski.

He died at the age of 74. On his gravestone the epitaph reads, “Don’t Try.”

Come with us now as we go out to our favorite virtual watering hole, knock down a couple of drinks, and listen to a performance of some of Bukowski’s poems as broadcast today on Arts Express radio on Pacifica stations across the nation.

Click on the grey triangle or mp3 link above to listen.

How To Drag A Body, And Other Safety Tips You Hope To Never Need

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Illustrations by Sharon Levy

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When your job entails strolling through mine fields, dodging snipers, reporting on seven civil wars, rogue militias, vigilantes, and drug cartels, you might become a bit picky about your personal security. Veteran Reuters correspondent and safety consultant Judith Matloff talks about how to keep safe through disasters, both natural and manmade, from tear gas and batons to tornadoes and hurricanes.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above in order to hear my interview with Judith Matloff, as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI NY, WBAI.org and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

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

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This month we celebrate the birthday of Polish poet Wisława Szymborska, the winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature, born July 2, 1923. Her experience of the German occupation of Poland during WWII was the backdrop to some of her most famous poems, but she was also a keen observer of everyday domestic life as well.

I recently had the pleasure of performing a selection of her poems along with Mary Murphy for the Arts Express radio program. All of the poems are from Szymborska’s recently published collection of works called MAP.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above in order to hear the poems as broadcast today on  Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

Many thanks for permission to publicly broadcast the poems granted by the Wisława Symborkska Foundation and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers, the publishers of MAP, excellently translated by Clare Cavanagh and Staislav Baranczak.

 

“Coming To You With A Sad Glass Of Soda And A Vague Sense That The World Was Coming To An End”: Peter Davis

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I first encountered Indiana poet/musician Peter Davis’s work only a few months ago, but his laconic slacker sensibility, quirky playful sense of humor and self-deprecation immediately appealed to me.

His poems start off ordinarily enough, and then often veer into strange territory, defying expectation. Underlying much of it, the poems are about self-justification and what we say to ourselves and others in order to get us out of the existential jam that we have no idea what we’re doing, even as we proceed with bluff assurance.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my reading of some of Peter Davis’s poems as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI NY, WBAI.org, and Pacifica affiliates across the country.

You can catch up with Peter Davis’s work  at artisnecessary.com