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.