Halloween Tale: Revolt Of The Worms!

For Halloween, something special, an homage to the old-time 1940s suspense radio series Lights Out. I wrote and produced a modern update of the Lights Out episode called “Revolt of The Worms” for the Arts Express radio program, broadcast today over WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

“We caution you. This story is definitely not for the timid soul. So we tell you, calmly and very sincerely, if you frighten easily, turn off your radio now. And now if you haven’t already done so, turn off your… lights now… and listen to… Revolt of the Worms.”

Starring Mary Murphy, Josh Miccio and Reggie Johnson.

To listen, click on the triangle or image to play.

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 Sixth Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest

It’s time once again for this blog’s annual magic contest!

So here is the challenge this year:

What are the two (three is optional) most memorable magical effects you’ve ever seen? Tell us the circumstances, and why you were so impressed by those effects. That’s it. In your entry, see if you can put the reader in your place, and see if you can transmit some of that feeling that you experienced.

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, 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 Monday,  November 1, 11:59 PM. In case of a tie, earlier entries get preference.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

October Arts Express Newsletter

Another blockbuster issue!

Highlights include:

Fast and Furious actress Michelle Rodriguez on her new project, Stuntwoman, about the women challenging a male-dominated industry

Artist Cynthia Parsons McDaniel displays her collages, dioramas, and photos

Legendary poet Sonia Sanchez with some classic poems

Dennis Broe on the Two Faces of Netflix—Left and Right—in competing Colombian tv series.

And much more!

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

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:

The Secret Revealed, Avocadally

There’s an old magicians’ dictum that if you want to hide the secret to a magic trick, print it in a book. That probably goes double for blogs. So after much thought, I’ve decided to reveal in this blog the secret of one of the world’s most perplexing problems. Probably no one else will ever bother to read this, so the secret’s safe just between the two of us.

As far as I know, I’m the first and only one to crack this particular code. It wasn’t as if it hadn’t been tackled before, Lord knows. There have been dozens of hare-brained schemes, some of which may have even sounded logical and promising at first. But none of them stood the acid test of successful experiment. All other solutions faded, like a mirage that shimmers on the desert’s dust. Only my solution remained.

I would like to claim that the answer came to me in a flash of blinding light, or in a dream, or perhaps was whispered to me by some Holy Man at the end of a long and perilous mountain climb. But I would be indulging in romantic fantasy were I to maintain such. No, the truth, as it so often is, was more mundane, grittier, sweatier. As Thomas Edison so aptly said, genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. How true that was. So Herculean were my efforts, I could have used a whole barrelful of deodorant.

It would be, perhaps, foolish to proclaim myself a genius. The word is bandied about so freely and carelessly in this present slipshod generation, so much so, as to almost lose all sense and meaning of the word. And yet in this one instance, in this one happenstance, it would be, perhaps, false modesty and a dereliction of the historical record to downplay my achievement. Through constant toil, testing, tedious trial and error, sleepless nights, days when my bones cried out for rest, still I continued on, persevering against the greatest of odds, first trying this, then trying that. Over and over and over again.

All for the trivial avocado, you say? Nay, a thousand times nay. And no. For humankind I say, for our children, and our children’s children, and for their descendants everlasting. And perhaps, too, for the ancestors, who now smiling down upon us, may rest more easily, knowing that that which had tormented them in their all-too-brief sojourn on this mortal coil, could now, at long last, be put to bed. Rest, rest, perturbed spirits!

One cautiously cuts the avocado in half. Rather than greedily devouring the entire avocado, like the judicious ant and not the profligate grasshopper, one places but one half of Nature’s gift carefully on the plate to enjoy what Mother Earth hath given unto us: one hemisphere of verdant green to eat but then, one hemisphere, equally verdant, to carefully store in some manner.

And here is the crux of the matter: no matter in what way one stores that half globe of delight for a later meal, when one returns to it, it has turned into an unrecognizable foul thing, scarcely of this earth, marred with all manner of mold and rottenness, like a Cabinet member in office for more than two weeks. With the pit or without the pit; in a baggie or exposed to the winds; in the refrigerator or by the hearth; immersed in unnamed secret liquid potions or dried under the heat of diverse planetary suns, the sickening result is still the same: base, blight, decomposition, decay, and heart-rending waste. The Gods mock our pitiable efforts to stop the hands of withering time.

That is, until now. Listen up, guys. Here’s what you do.

Cut the avocado in half, vertically. The pit will be in one side of the avocado. That’s the half you’re going to store. Get yourself some Seventh Generation unbleached recycled paper towels. No, believe me, it’s not going to work with just white paper towels. Forget that Bounty crap. With one sheet, wrap up the half avocado with the pit. Put it in your refrigerator. Eat the other half. Now come back a day later, and if the avocado wasn’t too ripe to begin with, when you go back to your refrigerator and unwrap the half with the pit, you will have a very respectable looking half avocado. Yes, as Mama used to say, God never sends us a problem more than we can handle.

Now go, and godspeed. And wipe that green junk off your lips.

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

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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

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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.

“Stop Saying If”: Sarah Cooper

Comedian Sarah Cooper’s been getting a lot of attention recently for her mesmerizing lip-synchs of Donald Trump. But she’s also a gifted stand-up comedian, as witness this recent smart and hilarious five minute set.

Warning: language Not Suitable For Work

More at Sarah Cooper

August Newsletter Now Here!

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It’s here! The August issue of the  Arts Express Newsletter. Eighteen full color pages!

Highlights include:

* Prairie Miller interviews legendary journalist Peter Arnett who talks about meeting Osama Bin Laden and trying to report the truth about the Vietnam War.

*A portfolio of the haunting photographs of Antony Zacharias

*Dennis Broe reviews Spike Lee’s new film about Vietnam veterans, Da Bloods

*Our staff and listeners weigh in with their Summer Reading Picks.

*Plus The Guest List, News and Gossip, and more!

To get your free pdf copy every month to your email address, just send an email to ArtsExpressList@gmail.com and put Subscribe in the subject line. We’ll do the rest!

 

Under A Spell: Any Card Named Spelled To

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Yet one more for the magic nerds, and to make matters worse, it’s for a subset of a subset of us. Namely for those of us who have taken Simon Aronson’s most famous creation to heart…and mind.

For a long time, I’ve pondered how to spell to any card named in a deck of cards. Any card. And  in almost all cases, to do it completely hands off, with only the spectator handling the cards and doing the spelling.

Well, the pandemic has given me a lot of time to think about it, and I finally wrote up the complete way to do it. I was thinking of asking a couple of dollars for it, but then I thought what the heck, I’ll give it away for free. All I ask is that you send me some feedback on it after you read through it. The method of course assumes you are already a committed Aronsonite.

You can get a copy of the pdf for reading or download by clicking here

At The Air Conditioner Factory: Bob and Ray

Crack reporter Wally Ballou with a hard-hitting interview with the president of the Uncomfortable Air Conditioning Company.

Thanks to YouTuber Paul Bellefeuille

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.

Carl Reiner: The Bare Facts

Carl Reiner, that classic comedy writer, creator of the Dick Van Dyke television show—and movie director, playwright, performer, impeccable straight man—died last week at age 98.

Here’s one of our favorite scenes from the Dick Van Dyke Show that featured Reiner and Mary Tyler Moore. The set up is that Laura, played by MTM, has blabbed on a television talk show to millions of viewers that Reiner’s vain character—who happens to be her husband’s boss—is bald, so MTM goes to apologize to him, with hilarious results.

RIP. As the man said, Comedy is hard.

Thanks to YouTuber GetKempt

“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.

 

Pulling Into The Station…

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It’s here! The July issue of the  Arts Express Newsletter. Eighteen full color pages!

Highlights include:

* An interview with actor John Savage, talking about PTSD and domestic violence in his films

*A Photographic Report on Occupy City Hall NYC from WBAI News

*Two Poems from Poet Peter Davis

*Dennis Broe on Black Lives Matter Statue Protests in Europe

*Prairie Miller on the New Film, The Tobacconist

*Plus The Guest List, News and Gossip, and more!

To get your free pdf copy every month to your email address, just send an email to ArtsExpressList@gmail.com and put Subscribe in the subject line. We’ll do the rest!

 

“So Then I Sez…”

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This is another installment from the file I keep on my computer labeled “Quotations,” which consists of various clippings I’ve picked up along the way. Every once in a while I like to re-read them and share some of them with you.

In the dark times,
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing,
About the dark times.
―Bertolt Brecht

“Perfectionist — a person who takes great pains, and gives even greater pains to others.” — Changing Times, Vol. 12, January 1958

“A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator, the smaller the fraction.” — Leo Tolstoy

“The fortunes of the entire world may well ride on the ability of young Americans to face the responsibilities of an old America gone mad. . . Even though you can’t expect to defeat the absurdity of the world, you must make the attempt. That’s morality, that’s religion, that’s art, that’s life” –Phil Ochs

“On the way to being a man, you have to stop for a while at the station Leonard Cohen”–an anonymous YouTube comment

If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
–Albert Einstein

“When you wish upon a falling star, your dreams can come true. Unless it’s really a meteorite hurtling to the Earth which will destroy all life. Then you’re pretty much hosed no matter what you wish for. Unless it’s death by meteor.”–Demotivational Poster

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken!”–Oscar Wilde

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.” – Frank Zappa

You don’t get to spawn if you don’t swim against the current…
–Pop Haydn

“To begin, begin.”  — William Wordsworth

“One of these days in your travels, a guy is going to show you a brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken. Then this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the Jack of Spades jump out of this brand-new deck of cards and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not accept this bet, because as sure as you stand there, you’re going to wind up with an ear full of cider.” –Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls