As I grew up doing magic (eventually becoming semi-pro in my teens), I know many secrets – even if I cannot perform them personally. 😛
And, sadly, knowledge kinda ruins watching other magicians! I’m looking for the gimmick, misdirection, the gaffe, the secret – other than just enjoying the performance for entertainment sake.
It takes an unusual talent to keep me interested in the actual performance.
I am also an AZDPS certified/NRA trained instructor. And have trained people professionally in safe gun-handling and proper techniques. I also shot in IPSC competition for a short time.
The point being, while I’m no big-time trainer/shooter, I have been around.
And, this has spoiled many TV shows and movies for me.
It’s hard for me to suspend my disbelief when I see a magician perform poorly (and not on purpose for comedy, ala Carl Balantine!)
The same thing applies to gun handling from Hollywood.
In recent memory, the TV show 24, with the counter-terrorist expert Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland) holding his pistol as a cup-and-saucer. Obviously, the set firearms trainer didn’t bother, or the actor didn’t care!
To be fair, Hollywood has generally improved in this area – Michael Mann with Miami Vice and Heat brought in weapons experts. We don’t see the ‘grabbing the wrist’ thing as much as we once did.
I’ve been binge watching Bosch on Amazon. Based on Michael Connolly’s book character, the plots are generally riveting and well acted. And Titus Welliver as the lead is pretty good, as a driven, ‘colors-outside-the-lines’ LAPD detective.
But, they had a big parking lot gun fight last night (Season 2), and many of the ‘professionals’ (both mobsters and cops) confused concealment with cover, and kept doing the jack-in-the-box thing (jumping up from behind something to return fire).
Smile for the camera!
It kinda took the wind out of my sails…
I plan on continuing to watch it, and hope the acting and the plot hide the poor action sequences.
Also, the lead character wears two extra 1911 magazines – placed backwards in the mag pouch (about half the time), making tactical reloads problematic!
I know – picky, picky, picky
And, pre-Internet, there were mail-order catalogs with all manner of tricks and novelties available from across the nation. Even the world. And I would spend my meager allowance on as much as I could afford.
One magic and novelty company (Elbee Magic Co.) had a huge catalog, and included among the trick card decks and whoopee cushions were things like vinyl record albums, and promotional posters. Showing folks like The Beatles, live at the London Palladium featuring YOUR NAME HERE!
How cool was that? I could get a wall poster or even a vinyl record printed as though I were co-starring with The Beatles! Featuring Guffaw!
I never did, though. I was more interested in getting the playing cards.
And, time passed, and the magic company eventually went out-of-business. And I thought, so much for THAT idea…
Here it is 2016. The Internet is in full force, and I can (and do) send emails to politicians I hope listen to me and vote accordingly.
Sometimes, I receive a response. Like those from Senator McCain’s office a month or two after the fact!
My congressperson is Kyrsten Sinema (D). Aside from sometimes supporting the troops (she reportedly comes from a military family), she mostly is a big government liberal. A (D) after her name. Quelle surprise.
But being significantly younger than McCain, I had expectations she would be more tech-savvy. At least it generally only takes her a few days to a week to respond to emails I send. Even though in matters of individual liberty we rarely agree. Gun control, anyone?
Here is the last (form) letter I received from her (in part). In fact, I received TWO copies. So much for tech-savvy…
July 29, 2016
Wrong Street Address
Flotsam’s Mistake, AZ XXXXX-XXXX
Dear Mr. Guffaw,
Thank you for contacting me about TOPIC. I always appreciate hearing from Arizonans about issues facing our state and country. It is important that we have conversations about topics that are important to you and your family, and I hope you will continue to reach out to me to share your perspectives and suggestions.
Thank you for contacting me about TOPIC?! Seriously?
Considering this was all electronic, one would think at least the address would be correct?
Maybe I’ll send the next one from YOUR NAME HERE.
It would be fun getting a letter addressed to YOUR NAME HERE, regarding TOPIC!
I was in high school, active in the (award-winning) choir, and in The Mystic Crystal (the magic club). And one of the kids in the neighborhood pointed me in the direction of an amateur troop of kids who performed free. For people who needed entertainment.
And I thought what the heck.
They were called The Cavalier Players. Founded by a quintessential stage mother to get her daughter’s (marginal) dance talents exposed further, they performed free for anyone who would have them.
And I signed up.
I remember many elder care facilities, some like Phoenix’s The Beatitudes – the top of the spectrum. Others where the only thing in memory was the smell of urine.
And one Thanksgiving at the St. Vincent De Paul dining hall, packed to the brim with the unfortunate.
Other members included dancers, singers, gymnasts, and piano players. On one occasion, the tape deck with needed music broke, so (Geez! What the hell was her name?) the stage mom stepped out on stage, announced “I-AM-THE-ORCHESTRA!” and began humming so the dancer could continue with her performance!
Another time, Debbie J. (a gymnast) performed the splits, but had not stretched sufficiently. She reached the bottom of her split, but was unable to come back up. And began screaming and crying. The EMTs were called. She had torn some ligaments. YIKES!
Being a magician, my only faux pas were dropping my concealed handcuff key (loudly, on a wooden stage), and having one of my juggling balls bounce off the stage toward the audience.
At least I was able to exit the stage, pick up the ball in mid-bounce and continue juggling! I was much more mobile and faster, then.
I performed with them a couple years in high school. It did teach me a little about the less fortunate, and about the show going on.
We even made the local paper, with a photo! Sadly, in the pre-digital age, my likeness was over-done with ink, making me appear as a minstrel show player! Not very cavalier…
The stage mom and her daughter moved a couple years later. I never saw them again – guess the daughter never ‘made it’?
(See – I told you!)
My Life’s friendships are made up of many folks. But an inordinate number (for whatever reason) are named either Bob (Robert) or David (Dave)!
Who knows why?
I was walking to McClintock High School to attend a Summer School session (having missed my first Freshman semester because of the onset of my leg disability) and wanting to complete high school in 3 1/2 years to stay with my class.
Turned out, a number of other Tempe High students were also attending McClintock’s Summer Session. And walking more-or-less the same way to school.
Conversations ensued. It was about a mile-and-a-half from my house, and an 0700 start time, so it was early, ‘cooler’ (AZ summertime) and we were bored kids.
And friendships developed. One was with David M., who had to walk an additional 1/2 mile to get to where I was. Not to be confused with Dave the
genius mechanic, or David the artist college-roommate.
And we walked together to Summer School, and back on the return trip. And became fast friends.
David was smart, funny, musically-talented (playing piano by sound!). He was a school A/V guy and a photographer. And we both liked the same stuff. Magic tricks, philosophy and girls.
Not necessarily in that order.
And it was David who introduced me to the Firesign Theatre and Cheech & Chong!
And I introduced him to the magic club. And other the neighborhood guys became his friends, as well.
We palled around together all through high school, and into college.
His parents were divorced, and his mother was religiously conservative. She seemed to like me, but objected to the magic club, as there were things just not right there (in her mind.) She called playing cards The Devil’s pasteboards!
I remember both of us liking to listen to Jethro Tull. His dad was putting an addition on his house, and we used to sit in the unfinished rooms (for the acoustics) to play flute. I, self-taught with a rented one – he bought his and could play rings around me. Accompanying Jethro Tull’s Aqualung, again, with David playing by ear! He even held it wrong (not knowing any better) – both hands facing backward (fife-like) – and could STILL sound better! And actually play!
He was going to marry once. They canceled it at the last minute – I never did find out why.
And, as with many other friends, we drifted apart.
He has a common last name, and I’ve been unable to re-connect with him via social media for this reason.
Wherever he is, I wish him well!
I’ve posted before about my childhood foray in legerdemain. Magic. Sleight-of-hand. Conjuring.
While I enjoyed a certain status in my childhood neighborhood – performing at kid’s birthday parties, and all – it was a lonely proposition. There were no other kids nearby who loved magic as I did. Of course, this was pre-Internet. And I was too young to drive and go into Phoenix to the Rabbits In Our Hats Club.
The Summer between junior high and high school my leg disability developed. Crutches and a leg brace for a year. And I missed my first semester of high school as a result. I was hanging around the neighborhood a lot, including my friends – most of whom were younger than I.
And something magical happened. We formed a magic club!
Looking back, it might have been because I was the oldest and that was my thing, but who knows?
We named it THE MYSTIC CRYSTAL. The name gleaned from the song Aquarius lyrics ♫Mystic Crystal revelations…♫.
Jim, his younger brother John, John’s best friend Steve, and, later, David M and Ken.
There was a constitution, officers, dues, meetings, a newsletter and food!
Our officer’s titles all were prefaced with the beginning The Great Almighty (in an effort to resemble a men’s lodge or secret society). I.E. the treasurer was The Great Almighty Keeper of the Dough! 🙂
We met monthly, rotating through the respective member’s homes.
Practicing magic, hanging-out, BS-ing, eating food, talking about girls. Sometimes (if a piano was present) David M. would play for our amusement. We made a club sign, silk-screened t-shirts (which we erroneously called bowling shirts) and spent much time goofing-off.
And we attended the annual International Brotherhood of Magicians chapter banquet.
And we would discuss and plan our first magic show, at length.
But we never performed, as a club!
Some of us did some charity shows; some made a few bucks semi-pro.
But we just never got around to performing as a group. Certainly family and school activities took precedent.
Upon reflection, I, for one, continue to be astounded that all of our parents allowed us to get together, monthly, often on a school-night, to eat snacks and goof around as only boys in junior high and high school can!
I guess they saw it as harmless fun, versus popping our collars, wearing leather jackets and smoking cigarettes on the corner until all hours of the morning.
The club lasted from 1966 to 1971. And we all eventually went our separate ways. College, marriage, children, divorce. Life.
Afterward, Ken did perform for a few years professionally as a clown! At least one of us made the cut…
(apologies to Monty Python fans who thought this post was about them!)
Long time readers (all 6 of you) probably remember I was once an amateur/semi-professional magician, and that magic is a memory of my youth that warms my heart. With that in mind, please enjoy the following:
(BTW, Harrison Ford uses language NSFW!)
h/t Doc in Yuma
Growing up, doing magic tricks, and such, I always liked things akin, like parapsychology and ESP. Sadly, I never had the ability to actually ‘see’ in my mind’s eye anything, or to predict the future.
H.(erbert) L.(Lewis) Mencken, a certifiable curmudgeon and seer ahead of his time, was obviously different. He said this in The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920…
“As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and
the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete narcissistic moron.”
As the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue wasn’t even born until August 4, 1961, and Mencken died January 29, 1956, HOW COULD HE HAVE KNOWN?
Cue the Twilight Zone theme….
h/t Boyd and Donna
Long time Guffaw in AZ readers know that, in my youth, I was a magician. Legerdemain, illusion, sleight-of-hand. Card tricks.
But one of my childhood heroes was Harry Houdini. Not only was he a master magician, but he was an escapologist. Famous for escaping anything. Especially handcuffs.
I thought it would be so cool to learn how to do this. And the straightjacket. Sadly, when my disability developed at age 12, my thoughts of more physical pursuits went away.
But later, when I got involved with law-enforcement related vocations (P.I. work, process serving, private security) I did acquire some handcuffs. Not even the industry standards (Peerless or S&W) but a cheap Japanese copy. Of course, my first take was to learn how to get out of them!
In the real world, escaping from handcuffs is difficult. Not because they are so difficult to master, but because they are intended for monitored temporary detention of suspects or criminals. The cops are supposed to be watching the miscreants in transit. Cuffs are NOT a portable cell, wherein the suspect is to be left alone!
This is how escapologists get away with slipping the cuffs. No one is allowed to watch what they do.
Mental Floss gives us a method of escaping from handcuffs, at this link. Of course, bobbie pins aren’t as prevalent as they once were.
But, it just might be a survival skill worth knowing in a police state.
You didn’t hear this from me.
Out of the blue, in 1984, the absurdist comedy television show Night Court premiered. I was an immediate fan. It ran from 1984 to 1992.
As a semi-professional magician (in my youth), I really appreciated the casting of comic magician Harry Anderson as Judge Harold T. Stone. I met him at a friend’s funeral. He is a true gentleman – and very tall. And I grew to love John Larroquette as that horn-dog D. A. Dan Fielding. He, too is tall. And won FOUR Emmys in the role!
It’s coincidental I was preparing a post about Night Court when I found out the show’s creator and chief writer, Reinhold Weege, passed away December 1 at age 62.
You should go to the link below and read more about he and the show. The 80s were not that long ago, were they?
Firehand directs us to a CNN opinion article authored by Penn Jillette.
Mr. Jillette is a magician, a comedian, an actor, firearms owner, and a(n) (in)famous atheist. He is also quite astute and is a libertarian.
From the piece:
It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.
People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.
Can I get an AMEN? I assume this wouldn’t offend Mr. Jillette’s atheistic sensibilities.
h/t Irons in the Fire, CNN