Not the Joni Mitchell song, but a nice example of an ambigram.
Monday Morning, Brother Paul still La-La-Li-ing, even after fifty years since first writing and recording “The Boxer.”
I really enjoyed this live version documented in the clip above, filmed just two months ago, where Simon stops the song for a minute to tell a wonderful anecdote about an unlikely fan.
Thanks to YouTuber Rosie Tobin
On my way home yesterday, my attention was caught by a gentleman sitting in the middle of Union Square at a makeshift table. He was contemplating his manual typewriter, or at least the piece of pastel-colored card stock that was rolled into his typewriter’s batten. The sign hanging from his table said POET FOR HIRE, so I asked him if he could write a poem for me. I told him I didn’t have a lot of cash on me, but I could pay him $5, all the cash I had on me. After a brief conversation he agreed to write a poem for the $5, although it was evidently below the going poetry rate. He asked me a couple of questions about myself, and then asked what I would like the poem to be about. I looked down at his typewriter and suddenly at a loss, I asked for a poem about typewriters. He nodded, murmured, “Very good,” and then said I could also have the poem be about another subject as well. I felt like I needed to reach deeper, so I told him about what had been on my mind for the last few weeks: death. “Uh-huh. Typewriters and Death,” he nodded, unfazed. Rolling a new sheet of stiff pink-colored card stock into the typewriter, he told me to come back in ten minutes.
I was feeling guilty that I had had so little cash available, so I went to a nearby food stand in the park and bought an apple, brownie, and croissant for the poet. I wandered back into the area after ten minutes, and he called me over, telling me the poem was ready. I gave him my $5, and the snacks, which he seemed to like. The poet, Benjamin Aleshire, introduced himself, saying that he was originally from Vermont and now based in New Orleans, but he had spent the last five years going around the world making his living by selling his poems for hire. He was stopping off in New York City for a few weeks now before knocking around Europe. He pulled the poem out of the typewriter and handed it to me. I was a little shy about reading the poem in front of him, as if it were a birthday present one didn’t want to open in front of guests, but I felt I kind of owed him a reading there. It turned out to be a very good poem. I blushed at reading it, thanked him, and took my leave.
You can read the poem here:
TYPEWRITERS // DEATH
Inked & spooled
on a silk ribbon,
a feral creature
among the hammers
while you search
for a hidden codex
some secret combination
that will let it out,
that will set you free
from your own fear
of your life story
in disappearing ink.
-– for Jack
Union Sq, NYC
by benjamin aleshire
Andy is now well into year two of The Jerx, and Issue #4 of the JAMM monthly newsletter. While the first year’s blog had quite a number of very strong effects, some of which made it into The Jerx book, the second year saves most of the tricks for the newsletter. Now the blog is for the most part Andy’s attempts to flesh out a theory of amateur performance (interspersed with ads in support of his website). Leaving aside the newsletter for now, I thought I’d link to some of my favorite second-year blog posts.
A few things first, though. Number one: I have no idea what sort of human being Andy is in his other lives, but in his Jerx life, he has been, contrary to the expectations of many skeptical magicians, a model citizen. He has delivered everything that he has promised—two books, a monthly newsletter, other paraphernalia, and most importantly in my opinion, his blog—in a timely manner. While this is the normal expectation in most spheres of commerce, sadly, for some reason in the magic world, it’s too often the exception rather than the rule. So although Andy would probably cringe at the designation, he has been a man of integrity.
Number two: I’m sort of done with telling folks how good some of this stuff is. There’s enough for free on the blog to decide whether it’s your kind of thing or not. Andy takes a kind of cost-analysis approach to his magic that basically asks: what investment of time/money/practice will best improve the experience of magic for the audience? Andy’s real strength is that when he puts forth an idea, he really explores it and puts it into practice, rather than just giving lip service to the concept. But because improved audience impact often has nothing to do with issues of method, and rather results from focusing more on presentational issues, some will bypass The Jerx. All I can do is shrug my shoulders.
So, here are some of the Year Two blog posts I’ve enjoyed:
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.
And if you buy one, please mark down that you’re donating for the Arts Express program.
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:
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.