Friday, December 29, 2006

A weighty issue

Once upon a time there was an online magic group. This group was supposedly composed of Magic Utopians who were convinced they could rise above the pettiness, sameness and bitterness that infuses so much of magic.

I wish.

In a recent post to said group, one James Hamilton ("Compars"), in responding to a thread on straitjacket escapes, threw in this paragraph:
The other problem I have is so many of the people doing straight jacket escapes are middle age guys who are a tad bit overweight. Nothing more disgusting or should I say pathetic watching a fat man rolling around on a stage. In my lifetime, I have probably seen only 2-3 entertaining S/J escapes.

To which I responded:
So if one is middle aged and/or overweight one should refrain from doing escapes? Or should one just make sure you aren't in the audience?

No one else in the group seemed offended by his statement. Perhaps I'm the only ugly one in the group.

I'd be curious to hear Mr. Hamilton's cutoff age and body mass index for doing escapes. In fact, I asked these very questions, but the moderator vetoed my post. Odd that he OKed Mr. Hamilton's original post, but not mine. Apparently it's perfectly fine to be prejudiced against older fat people but not fine to question said prejudices.

I'd also like to know if other standards of attractiveness come into play, and if they just exclude one from escapes. I have scars, I'm balding, and I walk with a limp that is fairly pronounced at times. Hell, maybe I shouldn't even get on stage at all.

Given that I'm the only one who complained about Mr. Hamilton's statement (the moderator complimented him on his post) I question just how Utopian this group really is.


Addendum: Magic Utopia blog has removed this blog from its blogrolls. I will keep the Magic Utopia blog in mine.

A question: if the adjective in the offending post had been "black," or "gay," or "female," would the moderators have let Mr. Hamilton's post stand without comment? I think not. Why, then, was "fat" allowed to stand? I postulate that it is a shared prejudice. I wait to be proved wrong.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

It's my birthday

Happy birthday to me

Sunday, December 17, 2006

New blog in my blogroll

I added a new blog to my Sites of Interest: John Hill's Out Of My Hat. John is a Christian and a magician (I thinks it's fairly safe to put them in that order...) and he has a wicked sense of humor. His ideas on magic, if not on religion, seem fairly close to mine.

In keeping with my perverse sense of order, I put the link for his site right next to one for Kazim's Korner, Russell Glasser's site devoted to atheism.

May the two links always rest side by side in heavenly peace.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Done deal

Signed the papers, handed over the check, took possession of the keys.

I am now a homeowner.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Le Tourniquet

A MySpace magician wannabe posted a message in a magic group dissing the French Drop. I kinda liked my reply. So without further ado (and who needs more ado?) here is his unedited post and my unedited reply:
seems lame to me. if you just cup it behind your fingers like that people will
instantly think you just left it in ur hand, how do i go about switchin hands to
make it look like the coins totally vanished? should i use a quarter or half
dollar to practice with? vansihing is way fun.


Like most sleights, getting away with the French Drop is as much a matter of attitude and audience management as it is technique. It isn't just a matter of, "hold the coin in the left hand, take it with the right hand, make a magical gesture, show it gone." You have to manage the moments before, during and after the sleight.

There are several things you can do, depending on what you're going to do following the vanish. One of the things I do if I'm using it as a one-off trick (a rarity - there are stronger single tricks) is to extend the hand that supposedly contains the coin and ask the spectator to tap it. I stand fairly close to them as I ask them to do this. They are forced to look at my hand as they tap it.

In the meantime, my other hand has already naturally dropped to my side,coin in fingertip rest position, arm and shoulder relaxed. (Tension in the hand/arm that really holds the coin is a dead giveaway.) As they reach to tap my hand that supposedly holds the coin, I ditch the coin in my pocket with as little motion as possible.

I then reveal the vanish.


I then followed up with another post:

Oh, and the management continues...I forgot to mention that before revealing the
vanish, the hand that just ditched the coin moves away from the pocket - I make
a gesture or pick something up - depends on the choreography. If you stay near
your pocket it puts heat on the pocket.

I don't think our would-be conjurer had seen such examples of management before. He thanked me profusely and, in an email, asked for more advice.

There may yet be hope.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Happy Birthday

Today is my lovely wife's birthday, and we are soon to celebrate our 25th anniversary.
I sometimes wonder how she has spent so much time with a schmuck like me.

I'm just glad she has.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Closing time

December 14.
December 14.
December 14.
December 14.
December 14.

Inspections are done, the seller has agreed to repair everything the inspector found, we found an insurer (much cheaper than the estimate, thankyouverymuch), the lender's inspection is complete.

All that's left for us to be able to move into our new house is closing.

Any guesses on the date?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Stressed?! ME?!

We had the inspection done on the new house yesterday. There were several little things wrong, and one or two medium-sized things, but no deal-breakers, provided they get fixed.

Our new car came in today. It should be ready for pick-up this afternoon.

We're driving to see my wife's parents tomorrow (Saturday), driving back on Sunday, then driving back again on Wednesday, and driving back Thursday (Thanksgiving).


Sunday, November 12, 2006

With two cats in the yard...

Today was supposed to be a day of relaxation. We were going to see an exhibit of Egyptian artifacts. Due to circumstances beyond our control, the dead Egyptians would have to wait.

We received an email from our realtor asking if we could come up with a list of five houses to go see this coming Sunday (today). We slogged through the list of homes he sent and, after hours of head-scratching, discussion, viewing, re-viewing, tears and recriminations we narrowed the list to five.

We met Mr. Realtor at his office where he promptly told us our top choice had been taken off the market. Promising start.

The first home we saw was fair. It was nothing special. The second was a bit better, but not by much. The third was awful - cracks in the driveway and foundation, awful paint job, bad fixtures - just a mess. We were getting discouraged.

We were down to the last house on our list. It was...nearly perfect. Newly installed heat and air, new paint job, new tiling, new carpet, large living area and master bedroom, nice, small fenced yard. Two tiny flaws: the closets aren't quite as big as I'd want, and the driveway has some cracks. I can deal.

In about 90 minutes we're going over to the realtors to sign some paperwork and hand off some earnest money. It looks like I'm going to be a middle-aged first-time homeowner. o_O

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Due to a recent change in circumstances, I am:

  • paying off my credit card debt
  • buying my wife a new car (she currently has a 1982[!] Toyota Tercel, rust colored, but not by choice)
  • buying a home

This is all very liberating and oddly stressful.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Why magic?

Face it, magic's an odd preoccupation. Our goal as magicians is to work so hard on our technique that it becomes invisible, in order to show people things that clearly can't happen. And people wonder why magicians are so odd.

The dichotomy really is crucial to what draws many (and I include myself) to magic. We tend to have odd views of the world, and are often not mainstream in other areas of our lives. Magic tends to mirror (if not correct) many of the oddities we find in our own personalities.

I got fed up with magic club politics once and was bitching to a friend about it, threatening to quit magic. He told me I couldn't do that, because I didn't choose magic, it chose me. Once I thought about that I decided he was right. Magic really does have an insidious hold on me.

Why magic? I want to remind people, myself included, that there is still wonder in the world and it's worth seeking.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I don't care...

Heard at a magic club meeting: "I don't care if I fool them, as long as I entertain them." Really? I submit that if you're not fooling them you're not doing magic. You may be juggling, or doing comedy, or doing drama, or some other performance art, but you're not doing magic. Nothing wrong with this unless you're billing yourself as a magician. If you want to be a magician you'd better care if you fool them, sparky. That's not all you need to do by any means, and in fact it's just a starting point. But if you want to be a magician it's an essential starting point. I can only imagine my mechanic saying, "I didn't fix the car, but I got it clean!"

The problem is easy to spot. In fact, it was defined in the first three words of the offending statement: "I don't care..."

Sunday, September 24, 2006


In memory of my grandmother, who died a little more than a year ago, I'm reposting this. It appeared on a previous blog of mine, posted on March 4, 2005. I've been thinking about family quite a bit lately, so I figured this deserved a re-airing.


I recently completed a trip. I drove over 1400 miles and traveled more than thirty years back in time.

I was born in Scottsbluff, a small town in far western Nebraska. I don't remember when I was last there, but I know I wasn't driving yet so it's been more than thirty years.

My grandmother is moving into an assisted living facility so she contacted a number of us to go through her belongings and see if we wanted anything. She already lives at the facility but she's moving from the 'independent' section to the 'assisted' section. She's 88 ("snowmen" if you play poker) and due to the vagaries of insurance it's hard to get immediate care if you need it in the independent apartments. In the assisted living section assistance is a button push away. So she sends out the call and I finagle some time off of work and off we go a la Herbert George Wells.

Teresa and I board the cats on Saturday in anticipation of getting an early start on Sunday. Oops. I was hoping to get out no earlier than 8:00, but we weren't on the road until 10:00. Mapquest said it would take us about 12 hours but, knowing how I drive, I mentally add a couple of hours to that estimate.

The weather, at least, was cooperative. We had a little drizzle in Kansas but otherwise Mother Nature was at her best. I remember building snow forts when I was a kid that would last for weeks, and seeing frequent drifts that were taller than I was, so an extended forecast of mid-50s to low-60s kind of astounded me. I later found out it astounded the locals as well.

We made it to Sidney, NE that first day, 9:00 Central time, but somewhere along the way we had meandered into Mountain time so everyone else thought it was 8:00. Sidney is only about two hours from Scottsbluff but my eyes were starting to play tricks on me so it was time to stop. (I love to drive and Teresa hates to drive, so I did all the driving all the way there and all the way back. But hey, that's nuthin'. We traveled about 4000 miles on our honeymoon and I drove all but 200 miles of it.)

I wasn't sure what to expect when we got there. We have a small apartment, already crammed full - me with my magic, Teresa with quilting, and both of us with books - so I knew we couldn't take much, and certainly nothing big. But hey, it may be my last chance to see grandma.

It's really strange watching someone go through the accumulations of their life, deciding what is important and what is expendable as they figure things will end soon. Some of the choices were obvious and others were less so. Grandma has buried a husband and two children, one of them my mother, and she saved memories from each.

I remember when my uncle died when I was very young. We lived in Omaha then. Uncle Joel's number had come up in the draft. The way I heard the story, my grandparents were upstairs and they heard a pop. Apparently it didn't sound like a gun. They went to investigate and found him on the basement floor, one of my grandfather's rifles still in his hands. We drove to the funeral, but my brothers and I didn't attend. I remember lots of strangers offering condolences, but I was really too young to understand. He was my favorite uncle. Grandma saved some clippings from the memorial service, but not much else.

My mom, her daughter, died just before Thanksgiving in 2003. (I hate November/December. I've had more friends and family die in those two months than in all the others combined. I'm certain that when I go it will be in November.) Again, there were some items from a memorial service but not much else. She decided to pitch a bunch of old photos.

She kept a number of things from her husband, who died several years ago. He painted, so she kept some of his paintings. She also kept a number of photographs. She reminisced a lot about him. I had to bite my tongue - he severely abused my mother, a cycle she perpetuated with her children. I understand how these cycles get carried on, and it's the reason I don't have any children despite Teresa and I having just celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary.

88 years old and everything she owns now fits in half of a very small room. She seemed remarkable unsentimental in getting rid of the rest. She would speak lovingly of a copper tea set she and her husband picked up on a cruise to Acapulco, then beg us to take it off her hands. Wedding pictures (hers, her childrens', her grandchildrens') - pitched. Most of her clothes - gone. Ditto with furniture, jewelry, knick-knacks, kitchen utensils and a whole lot of other stuff you really don't realize you accumulate until you need to get rid of it.

I ended up with a microwave, a few photos (including a picture of me in my hippie days - young, hair past my shoulders, and [sigh] thin), and some new thoughts to process.

I look around as I type this and I'm surrounded by stuff. Way more stuff than I need. Certainly more stuff than our 850 square foot apartment can comfortably accommodate. And to what end? When I'm 88 (assuming I haven't expired some November prior to that), I'll just have to call someone - and I won't even have grandkids... not having children does that - and unsentimentally have them cart most of it away.

I think I'll start early. I've already quit buying new magic. I think I'll be giving some of the old stuff away. Not all of it, mind you, but right now I have way more than I need to keep me busy to the end of my days, even if I make it way past 88.

The trip also reaffirmed my love for magic. Teresa and I ate in the care center's communal dining room Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and I performed those final two days. On Tuesday people were at first hesitant, but after they saw what I could do they warmed up. On Wednesday I hadn't planned on performing at all but several tables requested me so hey, what can you do when your public beckons? One lady kept following me around, acting as my announcer/ PR person/#1 fan.

I mentioned a Zen saying in a post several months ago - the one that says you can't step in the same river twice. I think my river just radically changed course.

...and grandma? As little as Teresa and I did, grandma just kept thanking us for how much we helped. We showed up, we met her friends, we shared memories, we made sure she was ok. I'm pretty sure these meant more to her than any of the stuff she has ever accumulated.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Slightly distracting

I got an email regarding my father-in-law regarding his leukemia. I didn't know much about leukemia, so I didn't know the seriousness of his condition, since grades and treatability can vary widely. One phrase from the email jumped out:

"Dr. Xxxxxx re-emphasized the fact that there is currently no cure for acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and that the average life span from point of diagnosis is 6 to 12 months. It has already been over a month since diagnosis occurred."

I'm not going to be worth shit at work today.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The things magicians forget

I've seen magicians become inbred. They get caught up in their own jargon, thought processes and rationales. They forget how to relate to the real world. Some examples:
1. More phases does not necessarily make for a better routine.
2. Tuxedos
3. That thing in your hand is not a "silk". It's a handkerchief, a scarf, a scrap of fabric, a shawl for a midget... but in the real world, it's not a "silk". Especially when it's rayon.
4. I have yet to meet a spectator who thinks sleights are cool. Don't show them off to non-magicians.
5. To paraphrase Maskelyne & Devant, don't get on stage unless you have something to say. And, "I'm cooler than you because I can do this and you can't," isn't very interesting to most people. Not to mention it's not true.
6. An act where lots of cards are selected but revealed in different ways does not constitute variety.
7. Don't say, "I have an ordinary..." deck of cards, coin, whatever, unless you're parodying bad magicians.
8. Dove pans

Now, the above list is not cast in stone. Max Maven was quoted as saying, "The only rule of theater that can't be broken is - there are no rules of theater that can't be broken." Break a rule for the right reasons and you can be a genius. But break one just to break one and you're not a genius or a rebel, you're a moron.

Today's Fun Link: Visions Online.
This site sometimes educates me, sometimes makes me laugh, sometimes pisses me off, but never bores me.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A poem (not by me)

Name the poet, get a gold star for the day (whee). Guess why I might have posted this particular poem, get two gold stars (double whee):

Eye and Tooth

My whole eye was sunset red,
the old cut cornea throbbed,
I saw things darkly,
as through an unwashed goldfish globe.

I lay all day on my bed.
I chain-smoked through the night,
learning to flinch
at the flash of the matchlight.

Outside, the summer rain,
a simmer of rot and renewal,
fell in pinpricks.
Even new life is fuel.

My eyes throb.
Nothing can dislodge
the house with my first tooth
noosed in a knot to the doorknob.

Nothing can dislodge
the triangular blotch
of rot on the red roof,
a cedar hedge, or the shade of a hedge.

No ease from the eye
of the sharp-shinned hawk in the birdbook there,
with reddish-brown buffalo hair
on its shanks, one asectic talon

clasping the abstract imperial sky.
It says:
an eye for an eye,
a tooth for a tooth.

No ease for the boy at the keyhole,
his telescope,
when the women's white bodies flashed
in the bathroom. Young, my eyes began to fail.

Nothing! No oil
for the eye, nothing to pour
on those waters or flames.
I am tired. Everyone's tired of my turmoil.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water

I haven't posted here in a while, and it's a shame that it takes a "life event" (don't you love those psychiatric euphemisms?) to bring me back.

My father-in-law was just diagnosed with Acute Myeloma Leukemia. That's right, boys and girls; cancer. The big C. Initially they thought he was just anemic because that's what this particular brand of nastiness does at first - it crowds everything out of your bone marrow so there is no room for red & white cell production.

He's on chemotherapy: something called hydroxia. He can look forward to hair loss, reduced energy, loss of appetite and other happy side effects.

A prediction: People who haven't contacted me in ages, even people whom I've tried to contact and gotten no response, will suddenly crawl out of the woodwork offering sympathy. Will they mean it?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Two Zevon posts in a row, I know, but just another reason I liked the guy - he put things in perspective.

Here is a letter from the "Correspondence, Love Letters & Advice" column of the November 3, 1977, issue of ROLLING STONE:

You're to be commended for your in-depth but unsensationalist issue about Elvis Presley (RS 248). The King -- and he surely was -- is dead. It's a grief we all share.

I'm hoping that your readers are aware of the fact that another great American artist just died, too: Robert Lowell, our finest poet. Now the rest of us must go on, and mourn with dignity, consoled by their unkillable voices.

--Warren Zevon
Los Angeles, California

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Time marches on

Here is one of my favorite articles about my favorite musician. It is also why I always say, "four of hearts" if anyone asks me to name a card.

Both the author of the article and the musician are now deceased (the musician died a few years ago; the author passed last week).

Play some of your favorite music in their honor.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

But do they really?

Twice recently I was put in an uncomfortable position: once by a co-worker and once on MySpace.

The co-worker had written some children's stories and wanted my "honest opinion." The person on MySpace had published some material in a magic magazine and also asked for an honest assessment, "no holding back, good or bad."

Some people at work had already told my co-worker that she should try to get her stuff published because it was excellent. It was obvious to me that what she wanted was another affirmation, not an honest critique. If I would have given her an honest critique it would have pissed her off. I would have loved to, though, because it also would have made her a better writer, had she been willing to listen. The books were rhyming and it was clear that things like meter had never been explained to her. She's a bright lady; a quick lesson would have done worlds of good. But she didn't want an honest opinion. She wanted to be told she was already good.

It was a similar situation with our published magician. He had gotten heaps of praise on some MySpace magic groups for stilted prose, highly derivative magic effects and a lead-off bit that was incomprehensible and would have been much clearer had he given some (any) examples. Did he want my honest opinion? I don't think so. What gives me that idea? He accepted the praise on the MySpace groups as if it were his due without question, and without asking what, to me, would be the obvious follow-up: "Wasn't there anything I could have done better?"

This seeming unwillingness to critique even in the name of improving one's craft does no one any favors. (And yes, I'm guilty too. In case 1 I told the lady what she wanted to hear. In case 2 I avoided leaving any feedback and the gentleman hasn't inquired further.) It leaves some with an undeserved sense of accomplishment and others with few avenues of improvement. I've given performances and asked, nay begged, for a crumb, for something to improve, and have only gotten what the above people got: hollow assurances that I was wonderful.

So I ask this: If you ask me for honest feedback, from this point onward please expect it, and accept it in the spirit in which it is offered. If I think I can help you improve I will try to do so. If (and only if) I think you were wonderful, that's what you'll hear. And if I ask for your opinion, please let me know what you think. If I ask, I value your opinion.

So...what is your opinion of this blog entry?

Monday, June 26, 2006

RIP Tommy Wonder

In a lecture I attended about 20 years ago I was fooled really badly several times by one of the classiest gentlemen I had ever met - Tommy Wonder (born Jos Bemelman).

He was a giant in magic. Today we lost him to an illness he kept from all but his closest friends.

He will be missed.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

That's the way...

Billy Preston died yesterday. I don't have too many living musical heroes left.

I wish I believed in a better place. I wish I could picture Billy and George Harrison back together, jamming and grinning. George always loved the way Billy played, and Billy was one of the highlights of George's otherwise pretty much universally panned 1974 tour, dubbed the "Dark Hoarse" tour by some wags because George's voice was so badly strained. (He played my home state on that tour but, regrettably, I didn't get to see him.)

At least I still have the music and the memories - that exuberant keyboard playing, the grin he always had when he was making music, the way he made those around him happy.

As I always say when one of my favorite musicians dies, please play some of your favorite music in his honor.


Saturday, June 03, 2006

A murder of crows

Groups of things often have unusual names. A group of crows, as the title of this post indicates, is called a "murder" (really). There are other curious collective nouns: an exaltation of larks (birds seem to get some good ones), a farrow of pigs, a mob of emus...

I haven't run across a collective noun for a group of magicians, and I'm hesitant to invent one because as yet this has been a fairly family-friendly blog.

A while ago I was invited to meet with a group of magicians (whatever that group may be called) at a restaurant where, supposedly, we could discuss magic and improve ourselves as magicians. I was hesitant given my history with groups of magicians, but this was organized by a person I trusted. Also, I hadn't been around the local magic scene much, and perhaps things had changed.

The first few meetings were...OK. I performed more than anyone, by far, at least for non-magicians. I have a theory that if you perform solely for magicians your stuff becomes too inbred and you forget what works for real people. One guy sat and basically stared at a deck of cards the whole time and wouldn't share anything. He just sat fiddling with those cards, then if I performed something he asked me to teach it to him as if it was his right to know.

I also never got honest feedback from any of those meetings. If I asked, the only thing I heard was, "yeah, that was good." Come on! If I was that good I'd be out making a living at it! Surely there was some flaw I could correct, some presentational point I could improve...But no - nothing like helpful criticism ever came from one of those meetings. And silly me, that's what I thought they were for.

The final straw that drove me from the meetings? I had performed a routine for one of our waitresses that had brought tears to her eyes. You know, elicited emotion, like good theater is supposed to do? Later I commented on that, hoping to drive a discussion on what worked in that routine so we could maybe reproduce it later. What did I get? An insult. Who insulted me? The guy who put together the meetings in the first place.

I think I know why that happened. Magicians are scared of real emotion. They want their tricks to be about finding the right card, or making the coin disappear, and making someone cry (tears of joy, by the way) is just too much for them. And the only way to defuse that situation is to make fun of it.

The waitress, however, told me that it was a seriously wonderful moment and sincerely thanked me for it.

Rhetorical question: which type of person am I more likely to want to hang around - the type who appreciates the emotions a well-done magic presentation elicits, or the person(s) who make fun of said presentation?


Oh, and of you come up with a good collective noun for a group of magicians, please leave it as a comment.

Monday, May 15, 2006

What do I think of the claim that Blaine is "the greatest magician ever. Period."?

I think it's meaningless. First, the claim is made with no criteria. Greatest in what sense? Technically? Most popular? Most well-known? Highest paid? We don't know. Our claimant never says.

What if criteria is stated, then the claim is made? Well, then I say that is the wrong criteria and I use different criteria and say my uncle Frank is the greatest magician ever, period. Am I wrong? Who can say?

So the claim that Blaine is "the greatest magician ever. Period.," has no meaning except to the person or persons who make the claim.

Oh, and the same applies to the claim that Blaine is a no-talent hack.

That's the nice thing about opinions. They're always right...For the person who thinks they're right.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

It's plain that Blaine polarizes (on the main)

Magicians seem to either think David Blaine is the best thing since sliced cards (one blogger has gone so far as to call him "the best magician ever. Period.") or a no-talent hack who only has good connections.

It's not surprising that the latter believe Mr. Blaine should disappear and never grace our televisions again. Those in the former camp baffle me though, because they also seem to think that there is no room for personal taste regarding the man. If you don't like him you're just wrong - end of discussion.

Here is a little something I wrote (edited a little to make sense on this blog) that got me kicked off of a MySpace magic group. My sin? I suggested it's ok to have your own personal tastes.


One of the things I've never understood is the "we shouldn't criticize Blaine" attitude. If we find out what people don't like about him we can learn something about ourselves and perhaps improve our own magic.

It also seems unique to the world of magic. My wife is a painter. If someone says, for example, "I don't like Dali's paintings," other painters don't automatically assume that it's jealousy or some such. They understand that yes, even those within the community are entitled to their personal tastes. If it were jealousy, would they not express dislike for all popular painters (or, in our case, magicians)? Similarly with my musician friends, if one says, "I don't like The Beatles, " they for the most part understand that taste is truly an individual thing.

This aversion to the whims of personal taste seems confined to magicians. Why is it not ok to dislike him if you don't like all musical styles, or all painters, or all television programs? The person who said that it was gross the way his hands looked said nothing about what Blaine has contributed to the art. Some people just don't like looking at corpselike features.

Some people say we shouldn't criticize a magician on TV unless we've had our own magic special on TV. That also seems a little extreme. It would also imply:
  • you should never return your meal in a restaurant unless you've been a chef in a restaurant
  • you should never criticize an elected official unless you've held that specific elected office
  • you should never diss a movie unless you've been in a movie
  • you should never criticize bad police work unless you've been a cop

The above opinion is the horrid post that got me banned from the MySpace group Magic Magic Magic. How dare I suggest we all have the right to our own opinions!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

That's Ammar, hey

I went to a lecture by well-known (and sometimes reviled) magician/author/lecturer Michael Ammar last night. Michael and I have met before. I turned him on to Warren Zevon (not everyone would consider that a good thing). Michael, however, is now a fan, and even sang a bit of one of my favorite songs.

I gave Mr. Ammar the last CD Mr. Zevon recorded before he died. He seemed pleased. (Mr. Ammar, that is, not Mr. Zevon. I'm not sure of Mr. Zevon's feelings about the whole transaction.) Mr. Ammar gave me an evening of wonderful magic and pleasant company. Oh, and one of his instructional DVDs.

He also gave me the notion that not all magicians are twits when they are in the company of other magicians. Present company excluded.

My only regret? Hannah was unable to accompany Michael this trip.

Hey, it's just that we're friends. The fact that she's drop-dead gorgeous is completely irrelevant, and I didn't notice anyway. Neener.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Music is incredibly important to me. It's as close as I come to a religion. I use music to lift me when I'm sad, or to help me experience grief, or to connect to people, even if they're no longer here.

Up until about four years ago I'd never really experienced the death of anyone close to me, which is fairly amazing considering I'm old enough to have seen the Monkees t.v. show in it's original run. (Just wait...I really am going to connect these thoughts.) Starting in 2002 I experienced a string of deaths, starting with my best friend from high school. There has been at least one a year since then, and sometimes more. It's as if karma is paying me back for all those years of not having to deal with grief.

That first one, my friend from my high school years, hit me really hard. Scott came along at an interesting time in my life, and had I been the betting type I'd have bet we would have never hit it off. He was from a rich, close-knit family; I'm from the definition of dysfunctional, and would frequently wear borrowed clothes and go without eating. But for whatever reason we clicked immediately.

Our two favorite pastimes were pinball and driving while listening to music. We expanded each other's musical horizons; he was more the John Denver/easy pop type, and I was into rock and jazz. On our drives we would meander, listen to whatever, and solve all the world's problems as only teenagers can do. My home life was a mess. I truly believe Scott saved my life.

For a while we we were inseparable. I was with him on a double date when he first met the woman who would become his wife. I was the best man at his wedding. Then life, as it has a way of doing, intervened. We kept in sporadic touch, but never really got back together. I did go to his 30th birthday party, a huge bash every bit as embarrassing as a 30th should be. Oddly enough I never lost the feeling that he was my best friend.

Five years later he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. By that time he had two kids and a third on the way. He battled long and hard, getting a bone marrow transplant from his older sister.

I heard on New Years Eve, 2002 that he had died a few days earlier. I attended a memorial service that day, and the funeral New Years Day 2003. I got up and spoke at the memorial service, recounting our drives, talking, singing, and how he had pulled me through the toughest time of my life. I barely got through that speech, choking up badly at the end, then I went over and hugged his widow (a word that still pains me).

I remember very little of the service, but the few things I do remember I remember quite vividly. I remember they opened the service with a great song, and closed with another. They opened with the Byrds singing Turn! Turn! Turn! and closed the service with George Harrison's classic Here Comes The Sun.

I used music to help me get through the grief of his death. One of my favorite artists, Warren Zevon, had just released a CD called My Ride's Here. For a couple of weeks I would play two tracks off of that CD every day on the way to work - the title track, and I Have To Leave. Both are beautiful songs, and both helped me feel my grief rather than bottle it up. (In a twist of fate that would make me really pissed at my personal deity if I believed in such a critter, Warren Zevon notified us of his impending demise from cancer - mesothelioma - shortly after that.)

I haven't visited Scott at his grave for a while, life doing its intervening thing and all. But I've heard Turn! Turn! Turn! twice in the last three days, and I've been missing him. So today I paid a visit.

I didn't just want to say hi and leave, so I scrounged around, found a playing card (I'm a magician, sue me), wrote him a note, and left it in the planter with his latest spray of fresh flowers:

Hello old friend. Whenever I listen to music I hear your voice.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

When is a magician not a magician

Sound like a riddle or a Zen koan, huh? But the answer is: me. I call myself magician but I haven't been performing and I haven't been practicing and I haven't been developing new material.

Today changes that. I pulled out a book by one of my influences in magic, Paul Harris, and found something that really suits my performing style. I'm going to work it up, hone it to performance readiness, then perform it enough to really polish it. In short, I'm going to become a magician again.

When I developed severe osteoarthritis I had to give up competitive table tennis. Heck, I had to give up recreational table tennis. That had been a part of my life for more than 30 years and it was strange and a little painful to have to reinvent myself and remove "table tennis player" from my definition of who I was. I don't want to remove "magician" too.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Welcome to the 21st century - please watch your step

I now have a MySpace space. It has some of the same ups and downs as the rest of the world (cyber and otherwise):
  • I have run across some great music there. Three bands that invited me to be their MySpace friends - MAKAR, EyeKnife, and LiSA & KMP - ended up being incredibly good, and some others that I found just wandering - Libbie Schrader, sunshine apparatus, LEO - are equally interesting.
  • Magicians on MySpace are idiots too. I was asked to give away the secret to a commercial effect (Daniel Garcia's brilliant Torn) and when I politely declined I was called names. (Could I use passive voice any more in that previous sentence?)
  • I (sort of) reconnected with my table tennis past. Some MySpace table tennis players, nationally ranked, requested to be my MySpace friends. This started me reminiscing. I had actually played a couple of them in tournaments. That whole thing is kind of bittersweet since I can no longer play, even recreationally.

Anyway, stop by, leave a comment, maybe catch some interesting new music.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sticks and stones

I just got through a bout of kidney stones and their associated removal. Not anything I'd wish on my worst enemy.

I'm still feeling a little out of sorts but I'm a whole lot better than I was when the stone was still there.

Getting older sucks

but I guess it beats the alternative

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Monty Python notwithstanding...

...I hate spam. Let me say it again:
I. Hate. Spam.
So when I received an unsolicited advertisement from James George I was a little miffed.

(For the uninitiated, James George is the inventor of the ITR, mini ITR, micro ITR, ITR in pen, ITR in briefcase, ITR in ham sandwich, ITR in small mammal, ITR in rectal cavity, ITR in...Well, you get the picture. He's a veritable font of creativity - if it involves an ITR.)

I emailed him expressing my displeasure that I had received an unsolicited ad (because, remember, I. Hate. Spam.). I also noted that, because he spammed me I would not buy anything from his company or anything produced by him.

He responded thusly:

Well I didn't sign you up!

But suit yourself, we will note your name and never allow you to buy products from our site.

We are the company that invented the Invisible Thread Reel. Just so you know, many of our new inventions are exclusive to us and not available anywhere else.
Consider yourself black balled from our site.


James George
CEO Sorcery

P.s. Add yourself to our Newsletter at MyITR.Com right now, and receive a FREE E-book on Invisible Thread and the ITR. This includes ten fantastic effects that are professional quality, these are routines that you will use, no pipe dreams. One of them, you make a borrowed ring float through the air and into a spectator's hand and you walk away clean.

Consider myself black balled? First of all it's one word - "blackballed", second, hardly a threat since I had already "black balled" myself from his site and his products. Thirdly, and he knows this as well as I do, nobody signed me up. He harvested my email address from some magic web site and doesn't want to 'fess up to it.

Oh, and the first email wasn't enough so he sent a "P.S.:"

Oh and

Get a Life!

Had he not added that little bon mot I would have let the whole thing go. But hey, "Get a life?" I'm betting his magic performances are as original as his insults. In any event I emailed him congratulating him on his continued good PR and explained that I would be sharing it with my magical friends. His response (and yes, he continues to respond, Lord knows why):

Like I said,
Bug off and get a life.

I am sure someone who was pissed off at you signed you up. I can see why they would do this, you are both petty and boring.
Notice that (A) He repeats the dubious claim that someone signed me up for his site, and (B) He actually understands that being signed up for his site is a punishment.

I continue my relatively polite responses (I've signed off every one with "Have a nice day"), this time only thanking him for his continued responses and urging him to continue to do so.

His response:

I tried to respond with this:

You haven't figured it out yet, so I'll spell it out, using small words so you'll understand: I have only responded to emails you send. If you don't send one, I don't respond. Hasn't happened yet, won't happen. You're the spammer here, I'm just responding. If this is boring you, then quit, spammer.

Have a nice day.

But it was rejected because

User unknown

He's blocked my address. Finally. First sensible thing he's done in this whole exchange.

Damn spammers.