Border Crossings

A while ago we brought you an excerpt from Manuel Tiago’s The 3rd Floor, stories of the Portuguese Communist resistance under fascism. Now Eric Gordon has translated into English another book of Tiago’s called Border Crossings, a collection of short stories about the everyday lives of those who worked for the party resistance and had to flee from town to town and country to country as they carried out their assignments.

Tiago, whose real name was Álvaro Cunhal, based these stories on his longtime experiences in the Portuguese Communist Party. As Eric Gordon writes in his introduction, “One theme that pops up in story after story here is that of communication, cooperation and collaboration. No one makes these journeys alone. They are aided by a global support system that recognized the critical importance of these crossings.”

I would add that these stories taken as a whole add up to a three dimensional portrait of ordinary people doing heroic things in extraordinary times.

Here’s one story from Border Crossings called “Women over the Soajo.”

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

“We Are Plain People”: Sidney Poitier

The great Sidney Poitier died this month.

Here he is in one of his most masterful performances as Walter Lee Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.

The play was originally directed on Broadway by Lloyd Richards, the first Black director on the Broadway stage. In their lean days as struggling actors, Richards and Poitier would pool their money to buy and split a hot dog. They promised each other that if one got an opportunity, they’d bring the other along. When Poitier got Hansberry’s script, he insisted that Lloyd direct the play. Lloyd worked intensely with Hansberry to shape the play and then cast and directed the play perfectly. The stage cast, many of whom were also in the film– and who you can see in this clip from the film–included Ruby Dee, Diana Sands, Claudia McNeil, and John Fiedler.

Thanks to YouTuber The aesthetic of the Image: [world] cinema clips

How We Gonna Pay…?

Monday Morning, waking up hyperactive, the power is out and last year’s rent is due.

The frenetic choreography is over the top for me, but the music and lyrics as sung by the 2008 Broadway cast of Jonathan Larsen’s Rent are still zippy.

Thanks to YouTuber BroadwayInHD

The Pundemic

On location in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, your intrepid correspondent brings you this live report from the 94th annual World Pun Competition.

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

The Railway Carriage: Marty Feldman and John Cleese

John Cleese, Marty Feldman from pre-Monty Python days on a tv program called At Last The 1948 Show. Feldman was hired as a writer as he was not yet a performer, but Cleese thought that Feldman would be great in sketches. And he was.

Thanks to YouTuber inedibledormouse

The Real Chaplin

It’s the 100th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s first full-length feature, The Kid, and that’s as good  an excuse as any to celebrate all of his films. But who was Chaplin off-screen? A new Showtime documentary, The Real Chaplin directed by Peter Middleton and James Spinney purports to get to the bottom of the real Charlie Chaplin…does it?

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

2121: A Tale Of The Near Future

For Halloween, an original update of an old-time radio show, we call 2121: A Tale of the Near Future.

In a world where efficiency must be maximized, are poets and artists non-essential workers to be imprisoned and exterminated?

Featuring Mary Murphy as Caroline, Rick Tuman as the Guard, Julius Hollingsworth as the General Manager, and myself as James T. Randall. With music from Kojiro Miura.

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.

I Digress

“This is about digression. This started six years ago as a written piece and somehow I’m circling back to it now. We’re coming up on Halloween, which is a day where we hide ourselves, change our identities, have secret identities; in other words, we refuse to be what others see us as, we try to make things a little bit harder for those who want to capture us in a word, a phrase, a box, a category, an image. Like Harry Houdini, I want to be an escape artist from the expectations of others…”

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.

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.

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!

A Hunger Artist: Franz Kafka

More and more today’s world is looking Kafkaesque, so I thought this week we’d go back to the original. The Franz Kafka’s short story, “A Hunger Artist,” was published in final form in 1924. In it, Kafka tells a tale that almost any artist today can identify with. Kafka edited the story on his death bed as he lay dying from tuberculosis at the age of 40.

Click on the grey triangle or mp3 link above to hear the story, which I adapted and performed, broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates 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.

Magic, Mysteries, and Movies: John Gaspard

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? John Gaspard is the author of not just one mystery series but at least two, and I have been devouring all of them in a bet-you-can’t-eat-just-one style. One series involves the world of stage magicians, and the other, the world of small town amateur theatre companies. And as if that weren’t enough, John is also the author of a well-regarded series of books about Fast Cheap low budget filmmaking.

Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my interview with John, as broadcast this week on Arts Express Pacifica stations across the nation, and later in the week on WBAI FM NY.

The Poems of Denise Levertov

Today we’ll be celebrating the work of much-loved poet Denise Levertov, who published her poems over a span of 40 years and influenced generations of British and American poets.

Levertov has said that “I knew before I was ten that I was an artist-person and I had a destiny.”

Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the segment I produced, with the poems read by Mary Murphy, broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

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.