Brilliance

This issue marks the end of Volume Ten of MAGIC magazine. In preparation for the big get-together later this month (and a brief retrospective that will lead off September's Marketplace column) I have re-read ten years' worth of review columns. (Those wishing to offer comments concerning my desperate need to get a life may stand in line.) Amid this universe of magic merchandise are a handful of items (mostly books) that shine brilliantly in the firmament. The reason for this luster is intelligence. I'm a sucker for any product that offers proof of an intelligent mind at work. Nothing pleases me more than reading something and then muttering to myself, "Damn, I would never have thought of that."

This month's column features two brilliant books. They were a pleasure to read and it was a pleasure to write about them.

The Complete Jarrett

By Guy E. Jarrett and Jim Steinmeyer. 8.5 x 11 horizontal format. Hardbound with silver stamped cover. 288 pages. $65 postpaid in US. (Overseas orders add $10 for postage.) No credit card orders. From Hahne, 514 South Parish Place, Burbank, CA 91506

In a craft that sports more than its share of eccentrics, Guy Jarrett was a five-star character. Jarrett was born in 1881to a long established Virginia family. (Guy's grandfather fought and died in the Civil War.) As a boy, Guy was attracted to magic, an interest that was probably sparked by seeing Harry Kellar's show. Guy was also a good student, and he studied exercise and acrobatics. The family moved west. Guy graduated from high school in Holton, Kansas, and the family eventually settled in Ashland, Oregon. In Oregon, Guy joined the Order of Telegraphers and worked as a railroad telegraph operator. The family again relocated, this time to San Francisco (just six months after the San Francisco earthquake). Guy continued his job as a telegrapher, working for several different railroads.

It was during this time in San Francisco that Guy Jarrett began his work in magic as a pitchman in a tent illusion show. Guy apparently had magnificent abilities on the bally platform, and during this time he created the prototypes of several of his famous illusions (such as the Bangkok Bungalow). Vaudeville was in its heyday, and many popular magicians played the West Coast theaters. Jarrett met Manuel "The Master of the Mighty Dollar" and Alfred Benzon. He also began an association with T. Nelson Downs, designing several illusions for the well-known coin manipulator. Jarrett served as Downs' assistant, since several of the illusions were designed to complement Jarrett's athletic abilities.

Through his connection with Downs, Jarrett was introduced to East Coast magicians, in particular Howard Thurston, who at that time was America's most respected magician. In the summer of 1912, Jarrett worked at Thurston's summer home in Cos Cob, Connecticut, building illusions for the upcoming season. Among the illusions suggested by Jarrett were a nine-person production cabinet, titled The Siamese Cabinet, and a sequence of vanishes and productions titled The Bangkok Bungalow. Jarrett only worked one 40-week season with Thurston, and the experience left Jarrett with little respect for "The Greatest Magician the World Has Ever Known."

Jarrett moved to New York, where his work at Clyde Powers' magic shop allowed him contact with such famous magicians as Dr. Samuel Hooker, Ching Ling Foo, David Devant, and Harry Kellar. Jarrett married Margaretha Gertz Van Dorn, an escape artist who had a successful career as "Minerva, American Queen of Mystery." The Jarretts moved to California, subsidizing the trip by testing automobile tires. For a few years he made a living by driving a milk truck through the hills of San Leandro. Unfortunately, his relationship with Margaretha disintegrated. They divorced, and Guy returned to New York City.

Jarrett's work in New York City during the early 1920s constituted what he called his "prosperity period." Jarrett was called upon to produce magical special effects for Broadway stage productions. Guy created the spectacular vanish of Dracula (played by Bela Lugosi) for the production of the same name. This vanish was hailed as one of the great theatrical surprises of the decade. Jarrett also continued producing illusions for magicians, including a version of Sawing Through a Woman for Joseph Dunninger and a Vanishing Automobile for sleight-of-hand magician Manuel. Unfortunately, the popularity of New York theater declined at the end of the 1920s. The Depression and the increased appeal of radio and talking pictures conspired against the legitimate stage and Vaudeville. It was time for Jarrett to move again.

This time Jarrett turned up in Chicago. He set up his workshop in a gray stone building at 431 Clark Street, a building that also housed the Ireland Magic Company and Ed Miller's metalcraft workshop. Jarrett weathered the Depression in his room on Clark Street, making paper mache props and painstakingly handcrafted brass nameplates. He also published his first book, Puttin Tacks on Your Chair, which reflected Jarrett's ongoing concerns about the Depression. The 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition, celebrating 100 years of Chicago history, also engaged Jarrett's talents. Jarrett build a peep show for one exhibitor, a mirror effect titled Streets of Paris. In late 1933 Jarrett returned to New York City, once again working as a special effects expert for Broadway shows.

There is evidence to suggest that as early as 1928 Guy Jarrett had considered writing a magic book. At that time the book was to be geared toward the general public. Jarrett did not actually start on his book until 1936 and by that time Jarrett had become cynical, with a very negative opinion of magicians. The actual title of Jarrett's book is a little nebulous. The spine of the book bears the title Jarrett Magic. The title page places the name Jarrett in large bold letters with the title Magic and Stage Craft beneath. Many magicians simply refer to it as The Jarrett Book. Regardless of the actual title, Jarrett (the titled adopted by annotator Jim Steinmeyer) is one of the most unusual books ever published.

Jarrett had purchased a 5 by 8 inch Kelsey cast iron desktop printing press. This type of press was generally designated as a "toy" or "hobbyist" press. As Jim Steinmeyer writes, "[T]he Kelsey press was not far removed from Gutenberg's original invention. By pulling a handle at one end of the press, two rubber rollers crossed the plate, inking it. The plate then swung against a piece of paper, making the impression." Kelsey presses were used to print business cards or announcements; Jarrett intended to print his book on this tiny press. This meant printing one page at a time. Because he had a limited amount of lead type, Jarrett planned to write the book as he typeset it. Unbelievably, this is exactly what he did. Steinmeyer describes the process: "First he would fold a number of sixteen page signatures and stack them in his shop. He would then sit down and compose the first page of the book, deciding what he wanted to say, assembling the letters on a stick and then locking them into the press. Stripping away the first sheet from each signature, he would place the folded sheet in place, and print page one 400 times. Then he would break apart the type, clean the ink off it, sort it back into the type case, and begin work on composing page two." What a mind-bogglingly tedious process!

Jarrett worked on his book for the better part of a year. By his own reckoning he handled 582,489 pieces of type to produce 106 pages of text. He added some pages of illustrations and bound the books himself. Copies were ready for sale by the end of 1936.

It is not known exactly how many copies of The Jarrett Book were completed and distributed. It is probable that the number did not exceed 200. The book was priced at five dollars, a very high price for the time. Reviews were mixed, and even those reviews that were laudatory left Jarrett unsatisfied. The highest praise came from David Bamberg (Fu Manchu), son of Theo Bamberg (Okito). He wrote, "I realized what a lot of horse sense that man has. His book may be badly written and vulgar; but it is one of the greatest books on illusions ever to be published."

Guy continued to propose illusions for shows and to write political tracts. He moved around the country, eventually moving to Oakland, where, for a while, he lived with his mother and sister. Because of his propensity for dropping out of sight, many thought Jarrett had died. By 1955 Jarrett was living in Hollywood, where he frequented Joe Berg's shop and spent time with Charlie Miller. He was 74 years old, but still possessed a keen interest in fitness and exercise. A tradition was a photograph taken each year on his birthday showing Jarrett standing on his head among the top branches of a tree. In September of 1969 Jarrett moved to the Brookside Sanitarium in Santa Monica. He died there on May 20, 1972.

In 1979, Jim Steinmeyer and Jay Marshall discussed The Jarrett Book in the back of Magic Inc. Jay had expressed a desire to republish the book, and Steinmeyer offered to work on the new edition. Jay's plan was to completely copy-edit the book, eliminating Jarrett's misspellings and abbreviations and making the text easily understandable.

Additional material based on Steinmeyer's research was added. After two years of work, Magic Inc published Jarrett.

Which brings us up to the present. The Magic Inc. edition of Jarrett has been out of print for several years. Reflecting on this 1981 edition Steinmeyer writes, ".I felt a bit of guilt; it was as if, for a generation, we had kidnapped Guy Jarrett. We'd dressed him in a rented suit, scrubbed him clean and done our best to make him presentable and accessible for his readers." For the 2001 edition of the book Steinmeyer felt that a different perspective was needed. Again, in Steinmeyer's words, "My hope is that there is no longer any doubt about the value of Jarrett's ideas or the importance of his book.. .For this reason I have reproduced his book in facsimile (maddening mistakes and all), confining my notes and corrections to the margins. With this edition Guy Jarrett stands before you in his work clothes - the comfortable, individualistic dressing that he originally chose - and The Complete Jarrett is once again, now and forever Guy's book."

So much for the history lesson, let's talk about The Complete Jarrett. It is, in a word, magnificent. Since the 1981 edition of Jarrett's book, a great deal of new information has surfaced, which has allowed Steinmeyer to correct some mistakes, check on some rumors, and attempt to solve a few mysteries. Of particular importance is the fact that some years ago Steinmeyer was contacted by Marilee Anderson, the grandniece of Guy Jarrett. Ms. Anderson graciously shared family archives, allowing Steinmeyer to flesh out the private life of Guy Jarrett. Comparing The Complete Jarrett with the 1981 edition, the amount of supplementary material has doubled.

The Complete Jarrett begins with Ten Lessons From Jarrett, ten pearls of wisdom gleaned from the text of Guy's book. They set the tone for what is to come. Following this are seven biographical chapters that take us from Guy's birth to 1936 when he composed his book. Next is the Jarrett book itself. The original pages of the book are reproduced (one per page) on either side of the spine of the book. (Remember that The Complete Jarrett is laid out in a horizontal format.) In the margins on either side of these pages are the annotations, and they are extensive and informative. I am completely at a loss when it comes to descriptions of things mechanical. Guy's text is terse and his original illustrations are almost incomprehensible. Steinmeyer illuminates this information with crystal-clear illustrations and succinct explanations. This supplemental information does not just expand upon Guy's illusions. For example, a mention of Amac's Three Card Monte Illusion generates two full pages of historical information, including an illustration of the method and a photograph of Carter the Great performing the illusion. This in-depth annotation continues throughout the book.

So, what did Guy Jarrett discuss in his book? You'll find explanations of such famous illusions as the Twenty-one People Cabinet Production, Sawing a Woman in Two, Sawing an Egg, The Bangkok Bungalow, the Easel - Pedestal, Creo, Walking Out of a Rope Tie, The Water Barrel Escape, The Whirling Tire, The Dracula Vanish, the Vanishing Automobile, The Vanishing Elephant, The Levitation, and the Fishbowl Table. (This latter item is really clever, since the bowl produced is larger than the table it sits on.) Guy's knowledge of the human body and his desire to produce ordinary looking props that seemed too small to allow any secret contortions make these illusions marvels of ingenuity.

In addition to the illusions Guy also discusses life on the midway and his experience with various "freak show" attractions. He offers his reasons for the decline of Vaudeville, poses some brainteaser puzzles, and even explains some close-up tricks. Of particular interest to me were the stratagems he used for card magic. These could easily befuddle contemporary audiences.

When The Jarrett Book originally appeared it generated quite a bit of controversy, mainly because of Guy's caustic appraisal of magicians, whether famous or non-famous. His criticism of Howard Thurston was particularly harsh. A psychologist would have a field day analyzing the Jarrett/Thurston relationship; Guy seemed to be constantly seeking approval from Thurston, and then complaining bitterly when this approval was not forthcoming. In any case, Jarrett's opinion of Thurston has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Following the text of The Jarrett Book are eight more biographical chapters. (There is actually a small error here. In the body of the book the chapters skip from Chapter Nine to Chapter Eleven, giving the appearance of 16 chapters. There are actually 15 chapters, which are correctly listed in the Table of Contents.) Following this are two very valuable Appendices. The first details Jarrett's possible sources of inspiration. The second Appendix gives extremely thorough Notes and a useful Bibliography.

Every magician should study The Complete Jarrett. As you read through the book, two important messages come through - guiding thoughts that Jarrett applied to all his creations. 1) Magicians should never underestimate the intelligence of their audiences. 2) This intelligence should not be insulted. Failure to heed these guidelines has produced the perception that magic is a performance art suitable only for children. Audiences that encounter a magic show that actually contains intelligence, genuine wit, and a meaningful context are often shocked by the experience. As Jarrett said, "Smart people know it's hokum: they appreciate good hokum."

The Complete Jarrett is a delight on every level. Not only does Jarrett's original book offer us marvels of ingenuity, Jim Steinmeyer's masterful and scholarly annotations flesh out the world of early 20th Century illusions. The Complete Jarrett is a book that I will return to again and again. I give it my highest recommendation.

(Two more notes: For more information about Guy Jarrett and his book, read Jim Steinmeyer's article in the December 2000 issue of MAGIC. Jim would be happy to autograph this book for you. Please so indicate when you order from him at the address above.)

Try the Impossible

By Simon Aronson. 8.5 x 11 hardcover with dustjacket. 290 pages. $40 postpaid in US. From Simon Aronson, 2500 North Lakeview, Chicago, IL 60614. Email: [email protected]. Web site: www.simonaronson.com

The Postscript to Simon Aronson's book The Aronson Approach (1990) contains an insightful analysis of the conditions required to produce in our spectators the sensation of having seen real magic. Here are a couple of important points: "The essence of magic is 'doing the impossible.' The 'doing' is accomplished by the performer, but the 'impossible' must ultimately be supplied by the audience.. .That one has witnessed the impossible is a conclusion, a judgment, a determination that must be reached by each spectator - and this requires the active participation of a spectator's senses and his mind.. .A spectator must first be convinced that he is aware of all that has happened.. .If the spectator feels he's missed something, or that you're 'quicker than his eye,' or that something was confusing, then he will not reach the certainty, the absolute conviction, that he knows what happened.. .There is a world of difference between a spectator's not knowing how something's done versus his knowing that it can't be done."

Simon Aronson is a man after my own heart - he wants to fool people to their bones. He is willing to go to whatever lengths are necessary to accomplish that goal. The methods Simon uses include cleverly concealed mathematical principles, offbeat gaffed cards, sleight-of-hand, intricate stacks, memorized decks, and nimbleness of mind combined with the ability to think on your feet. His routines are designed to bamboozle the most discriminating and intelligent of spectators.

It has been six years since we've been treated to a large collection of Simon's material. That's a long wait, but it was worth it, because his new book Try the Impossible is at hand and it is superb. If you are a fan of Simon's work you will need no further endorsement from me, in all probability you've already purchased the book. For everyone else, I'll give a detailed rundown of what to expect.

Try the Impossible is actually three books in one. There are three large sections, each devoted to a different subject. The focus is card magic, but there is one very fine non-card item in the Postscript of the book. The three main sections are titled UnDo Influence, Eccen-tricks, and Unpacking the Aronson Stack. Let's take a look at each.

UnDo Influence is a procedure that allows the magician to "undo" a series of freely performed spectator actions and then control the spectators' selected cards to predetermined positions. Simon has explored this type of "cancellation" before in his effect Shuffle-bored, but the UnDo Influence is much more flexible and allows for tricks that require a minimal amount of set-up. In addition, the mathematical underpinnings are well hidden. More importantly, the effects produced do not look like mathematical tricks.

Here's one of the effects possible with the UnDo Influence. Two spectators each cut off a packet of cards and remember the cards on the face of the packets. They replace the packets. During this process the magician never touches the deck. The magician makes a magical gesture and then spreads the deck across the table. The two Jokers are seen to be face-up in the spread. The magician explains that the Jokers will tell him where the selections are located. He holds both Jokers to his ear and announces that one Joker has whispered the number 18 to him while the other has whispered the number 43. The magician counts down in the deck, removing the 18th and the 43rd cards. They are the two selections. As a kicker, the magician turns over the Jokers. Written on the back of one is a large number 18 and written on the back of the other is a large number 43.

The trick just described, titled Prior Commitment, is a simple example of the UnDo Influence concept. The trick is almost completely self-working. At one point the magician handles the cards, but the actions required do not fall under the category of sleight-of-hand. In fact, when you try this trick you'll probably fool yourself. It does not seem possible that the simple actions involved could control two freely selected cards. Simon discusses seven different effects using Undo Influence, including a remarkable coincidence effect (Divide and Conquer) and Twice as Hard, an effect that requires both a memorized deck and a nimble mind. This latter trick is the kind of thing that most magicians run screaming from, but when I saw Simon perform it I was completely at a loss to explain how it could be accomplished (and I assumed that he was using a memorized deck). Those with the fortitude to tackle this effect will be rewarded with a trick that cannot be reconstructed by either laymen or magicians. Simon devotes a substantial number of pages explaining why the Undo Influence Principle works. Creative people will use this information to devise their own miracles.

A smorgasbord of card routines is offered in the Eccen-tricks section. Head Over Heels is a sleight that allows you to bring a card from the middle of the deck to a face-up position second from the top. The move is not difficult and has a variety of applications. O'Aronson Aces (a variation of the O'Henry Aces) and Nosnora Aces (a Reverse Ace Assembly) utilize gaffed cards. I realize that the world probably doesn't need any more ace assemblies, but Simon's routines are very sneaky and the gaffs allow for a clean, almost sleight-free handling. In addition, Simon provides patter suggestions that would certainly make these entertaining routines for laymen. (Important note: If you purchase Try the Impossible directly from Simon and mention the "Ace Special Deal," you will receive a set of the gaffed cards free of charge.)

The spelling of the names of playing cards comes under scrutiny in three effects. Simon's Flash Speller is a simple mnemonic device that enables you to quickly calculate the number of letters in a playing card's name. This is a great tool for those of us who like to improvise with a deck of cards. Spell It Out combines Simon's Flash Speller with a simple sleight to produce an effect in which a spectator finds her own card. Breathing Spell is a more elaborate spelling effect, one that would certainly stump your magic pals.

Simon offers several two-deck mysteries. My favorite is Two Deck Canasta, a routine that Simon used for many years in his mental act. It elaborates on the Chan Canasta notion of identifying cards that a spectator has placed in his pants pockets. The Aronson version generates a reaction way out of proportion to the work involved. Also in this chapter are two memorized deck routines, Two Beginnings and The Invisible Card. These routines are stack independent, that is, you can use any memorized stack you are familiar with. Both routines are excellent and both leave the order of the stack intact. (These routines appeared in Simon's 1999 lecture notes Memories are Made of This.)

The Eccen-tricks chapter concludes with two unusual items. The first, Oddly Enough, is a betting game with a completely counter-intuitive method. The second item, Rap-Ace-ious, offers a reason why so few middle-aged, white, Jewish, attorneys make it big as Rap Artists.

Unpacking the Aronson Stack was my favorite section of Try the Impossible, but then again, I have a special interest in this type of material. I have been using the Aronson Stack in my professional work since 1990. I have a great admiration for the memorized deck routines that Simon has published in his previous books, but since most of them destroy all or part of the stack I rarely perform them in the course of an evening's work. If I have the choice between a routine that keeps the stack intact (or disarranges a minimum number of cards) and a routine that will require restacking the entire deck, I'm going to do the trick with the shortest reset time. Fortunately for all of us, Simon has taken a deeper interest in this "keep the stack intact" branch of memorized deck magic. In addition, he has discovered some amazing properties that were buried in the Aronson Stack itself. While these discoveries will delight those who already use the Aronson Stack, the really good news is that none of the tricks in this section require that you memorize the stack. All that is required is that the deck be arranged in Aronson order. For those of you who have been reluctant to memorize a stack, playing with these tricks may just be the incentive you need.

The information in Unpacking the Aronson Stack falls into three categories: Four-of-a-Kind Productions, Lie Speller Effects, and Odds and Ends. With the cards in Aronson order you can produce the Aces, the Fours, the Jacks, the Sixes, the Nines, the Sevens, the Twos, the Kings, or the Threes. Each production leaves the stack intact. Of course, you would not want to do more than two of these productions during a set. But to me this is the type of information that allows for impressive "jazzing" with a memorized deck. Rather than using these routines as set pieces, I would file them in my memory banks, to be used when a favorable condition arises. This is also the type of information that leads to further exploration and discovery. In Truth-Sayer, Simon has discovered that certain cards of the stack lie in positions that allow you to perform a Lie Speller effect. In other words, a card is selected and returned. The spectator is asked questions about the identity of her card. She may lie or tell the truth in response to these questions, and the magician deals cards off the top of the deck, spelling her answers. In every case the card that falls at the end of the spelling proves whether the spectator was honest or not. At the end of the spelling procedure the selection itself is produced.

Two items that fall under the Odd and Ends category are of particular interest. Simon has discovered a method of easily restoring stack order after performing his five-hand poker deal. (If you are unaware of the properties of the Aronson Stack, you should know that there are three sequential poker deals built into the stack. One of these is a five-handed draw poker demonstration in which each player gets a successively stronger hand with the magician winning with a Royal Flush.) I have never used the draw poker deal built into Simon's stack for the simple reason that I didn't want to have to restack 25 cards. With Simon's method (worked out with Bill Malone) the cards are restacked as you display the hands. By the time the deck goes back in the card case it is in memorized order. The other item that I found of great value is Triple Trick Tip, a method for openly mixing the cards and yet retaining stack order.

Try the Impossible concludes with Ringleader, Simon's excellent handling of Bill Kalush's Rubber Ringer, and an interview with John Bannon. Unfortunately, Simon is left-handed, and has written up Ringleader as he performs it, making this a bit of challenge for right-handed readers.

Try the Impossible is a wonderful book. There are routines that professionals will use (I have already added several of Simon's tricks to my Houdini Lounge show), there are routines that will fool your buddies at the magic club, and there are routines that will inspire further investigation. Simon Aronson is an excellent writer who has the ability to present complex ideas in a clear, readable way. Simon treats both his subject and his readers with intelligence and respect, and I appreciate that.

I should mention a couple of other points before I conclude. Simon has greatly upgraded his production values for Try the Impossible. He has used heavy, glossy paper that reproduces the photographs beautifully. The end papers feature photos of Simon through the years. As Simon wrote to me, "They're a lighter, more personal touch, certainly amusing, and a reminder not to take myself too seriously." I also want to mention three people who were very important to the creation of this book: Simon's friends John Bannon and Dave Solomon, and Simon's wife Ginny Aronson. These three are not just creative partners, they are honest (and sometimes brutal) critics, and because of their input only the A-material made it into Try the Impossible, which made my job very easy.

Time and again I find myself returning to Simon Aronson's books, and each time I find something clever that I had overlooked (or forgotten about). Try the Impossible is a delight, and I highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys intelligent, diabolically constructed card magic.

(Simon accepts checks and money orders, and can also accept PayPal payments through his web site.)

Cupid's Arrow Liberty Vanish Ashes to Ashes

From Amberg Entertainment. See below for individual prices. From Amberg Entertainment, P.O. Box 4663, Springfield, MO 65808. Orders: 417-886-2442. Web site: www.ambergentertainment.com.

On hand are three new tricks from Amberg Entertainment. Cupid's Arrow ($19.95 plus $4 p&h) is a trick designed to perform for a couple. The female spectator picks a card and signs the face. The card is replaced in the deck. The top card of the deck is shown to be an indifferent card. The card is turned face down and the male spectator signs the back of it. This card is lost in the deck. Now the magician brings out a small (7 inches long) wooden arrow. One of the spectators inserts the arrow into the front end of the deck. (The action here is similar to finding a card by sliding a butter knife into the deck.) The deck is separated at that point. The cards above and below the arrow are shown. Neither is one of the signed cards. The magician removes the arrow from the deck. Impaled on the end is the card that the woman signed. Turning the card over reveals that the man's signature is now on the other side. The card is given away as a souvenir.

There are other tricks in the literature that involve two signatures coming together. (The best of these is Anniversary Waltz.) Cupid's Arrow can be performed with ordinary cards, but there are some drawbacks. The handling Mr. Amberg offers is rather cozy, but if you experiment you could probably work out more casual-looking alternatives. However, there is no way to disguise the fact that the arrow is going through a playing card. Every time I tried it I heard a very loud "ripping" noise as the arrow penetrated the card. Finally, when the pierced card is revealed it is obvious that it has been bent in half. The instructions suggest that the card be straightened out before it is displayed to the spectators, but there is no way to completely straighten out a card that has been bent in half. If you are looking for a romantically themed trick, I think there are better alternatives than Cupid's Arrow.

Liberty Vanish ($19.95 plus $4 p&h) is a close-up version of David Copperfield's vanish of the Statue of Liberty. A 3-inch tall model of the statue is placed between two playing cards. The top of the statue pokes out from above the two cards. The magician brings out a small flashlight and shines it on the statue. The cards are removed; the statue is gone. You will need to perform this on a close-up pad, and I have some concerns about angle problems. This trick will require practice. My main objection to Liberty Vanish is that you start dirty and you end dirty. The spectators cannot examine the two cards used to cover the statue, and the handling used to display the cards is furtive and unconvincing. My fear is that if you purchase this trick, the Statue of Liberty will end up vanishing into the bottom of your magic drawer.

I got off to a bad start with Ted Amberg's Ashes to Ashes ($27.95 plus $4 p&h). One of props is an Altoids-style metal box that has been painted black. As I examined the box and tried to open it I realized that my hands were turning black. The paint was rubbing off. The effect of Ashes to Ashes is this. A spectator selects a card (forced). She writes the name of the card on a piece of paper. The paper is folded up, placed in an ashtray, and burned. The spectator holds her hands over the smoke that rises from the burning paper. An image of the card appears on the back of one of her hands.

There are so many things wrong with Ashes to Ashes that I'm unsure where to begin. The idea of producing an image of a playing card on the back of the spectator's hand is not Mr. Amberg's. Michael Weber performed this effect (which I believe was the creation of a Japanese magician) for me in 1984. In that version ashes were rubbed on the spectator's hand to produce the image. The black box (the one that soiled my hands) contains the rubber stamp and other necessary gimmicks. It is supposed to be some type of matchbox. Not only does it not look like a matchbox, it doesn't look like the type of box anyone would ever carry matches in. The rubber stamp provided was made by shoving a pushpin into a rubber stamp. The instructions tell you to grip this in fingerpalm position. Unless you do this near the base of the fingers, the pushpin is going to show between your fingers. You are supposed to get everything ready while your back is turned and the spectator is writing the name of the card on the paper. In the instructional videotape the camera kindly looks away from the magician while this is going on. (Incidentally, the instructional video is another of those "shot it in my basement with my camcorder" productions that are becoming more prevalent these days.)

Considering the fact that you're going to have to throw away the metal box and remake the rubber stamp so it can be clipped near the tips of the fingers, you'd be better off just tossing Ashes to Ashes in the fireplace without opening it. Or, better still, just spend your money somewhere else.

It's Not Magic, But.

I recently picked up a Verve compact disc re-release of an Oscar Peterson album titled On the Town. In the liner notes to the CD, Neil Tesser mentions "a thirty-something, conservatory-trained, Las Vegas-based pianist with the decidedly non-monomial handle of Mike Jones .[who] has quietly established himself as the logical successor to the stultifying virtuosity of Oscar Peterson." "Wait a minute," I thought. "I live in Las Vegas, Mike Jones lives in Las Vegas.. .I should track this guy down."

I did just that. Mike Jones is a superb piano player with a jaw-dropping facility on the instrument. His newest release is titled Mike Jones in Las Vegas. I had the pleasure of attending one of the recording sessions for this disc, and the music was an absolute delight. Also in attendance at that session was Penn Jillette, who wrote the liner notes for the new CD. (Incidentally, the "jazz friend" mentioned in those notes is me.) Mike Jones has three other CDs on the Chiaroscuro label. You can find all of them online at www.chiaroscurojazz.com/catalog.php3. The discs are titled Oh! Look at Me Now, Runnin' Wild, and Live atSteinway Hall. All are terrific. Mike's style combines elements of Oscar Peterson and Dave McKenna, and he swings hard. At the present time Mike plays at the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower in the Paris Hotel. Unfortunately, the piano is not placed for optimal listening pleasure, but it's worth a visit if you come to Vegas.

(By the way, also in the Chiaroscuro catalog are four CDs by John Costa, who was the piano player on the Mr. Roger's Neighborhood program. Costa was one of the best jazz piano players who has ever lived, and his discs are marvelous.)

Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.

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