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Swag from The False Deal convention.

July 2012

During a weekend in which daily reports out of Blackpool were telling us how FISM was stinking up England, I was happily immersed in a much smaller, more affordable, and more enjoyable convention that has so far proved to be the hit of the year. I refer to The False Deal convention, conjured up by Caleb Wiles and just held in Columbus, Ohio. A full report follows.

Other items of note include a reunion with my old idol Senator Crandall, a gorgeous and oh so wise iPad book from Jeff McBride, and a 90-minute lecture by David Williamson that I can watch any time I want. Indeed, all three items reside on my iPad, an ever more valuable portable library and media center. In only two more weeks, it will also become a portal to the first truly monster convention of the year in terms of talent, the third Essential Magic Conference from Portugal. I hope to "see you there."

HAIL, COLUMBUS -- Back in February, I abandoned Magi-fest a day early because there wasn’t enough informal sessioning going on to suit me. Fortunately, I returned to Columbus in July to attend a mini convention that was all sessioning, and it proved to be the most enjoyable convention in many a moon. This delightful event (nee The False Deal convention) grew out of Caleb Wiles’ desire to recreate the good times he had at a Second Deal convention a few years ago, and, with the help of Aaron Delong, Trini Montes, Ben Train, and a superb collection of lecturers and guests, he hit the mark. The pre-announced lecturers included Jack Carpenter, Allan Ackerman, Mike Powers, Ben Train, and Chris Mahew, and the big surprise guest could have been any of the celebs who merely attended, including Tyler Wilson, John Guastaferro, and Jason Alford, but who in fact turned out to be David Williamson, fresh off a Disney cruise.

Jack Carpenter and John Guastaferro.

As to the formal events, Jack Carpenter just killed with not only miraculous riffle stacking and dealing work but also very funny presentations. Mike Powers punctuated his talk with a trivia challenge (with prizes) and won the hearts of this card geek crowd by confessing that he had to look up a ballplayer’s name for a baseball routine. Mayhew and Train tag teamed with the aid of a funny and clever flip chart. David Williamson did an all-card lecture and it just isn’t fair, as it was with Tom Mullica, that anyone so funny can also be so sneaky and talented. And it was fitting that Allan Ackerman was the closer. He is both a gifted teacher and student of magic who develops great new presentations but who also knows where they began and where and why he is headed with them. His new lecture notes sold out instantly.

David Williamson has their attention.

But it was during the informal gatherings that magic happened. I counted around forty magicians, and it didn’t take long to get to know everyone on a first-name basis. Informal was the key word. There were no badges or guards. Everyone contributed. Drop-in guests were welcome. Tony Miller and Rosie brought lots of cookies and gaffed wallets. (The Badger is wonderful, and to see one is to want to caress it.) Jon Allen dropped in after lecturing and recording elsewhere in town. Paper Crane Magic provided pizza. Sal Piacente gave away decks of cards.

Allan Ackerman and Mike Powers.

I was the wuss of the group, stumbling off to bed around 2:15, with reports that the sessioning lasted until 5:00 A.M. each of the three nights. Yes, three, as at least a dozen or so showed up the night before the scheduled opening. That was my favorite of the weekend, because it was my first time to see Jack Carpenter shuffle, to see a brilliant new Allan Ackerman routine exploiting the Hamman cull, to see Tyler Wilson sandwich a selected card with two face-up cards whose total equaled the quantity of cards someone had earlier cut off, and to see Caleb Wiles match cards from a mixed up deck, a new routine reminiscent of his 26! Outside the Magic Castle, I have rarely enjoyed being in a group where the skill level, knowledge level, and passion has been so uniformly high.

A local magic collection.

Although the hotel failed to measure up to Maleficent's standards (there were slick carpets, cigarette odors, a CRT tv), the magi didn't seem to notice, and the location was excellent (next door to a magic shop and only a short ride away to Columbus's upscale Easton mall). Treats included a superb 50-page book of contributions from the lecturers and attendees and an enthusiastic raffle for lots of swag. Personal thanks to Caleb for thinking this up and inviting me and equal thanks to Joe Hanosek for not only reminding me, but for showing me his awesome magic collection. Just a stellar weekend all around.

IT'S A MYSTERY TO ME -- No one else in magic looked like him: there was the mustache, the string tie, the cowboy boots. By the time I first heard of Clarke "the Senator" Crandall, around 1963, he had already enjoyed a full career as a Chicago bar magician and was heavily represented in the Ireland/Magic, Inc. catalogs. I purchased and enjoyed performing such items as his Poker Player's Nightmare, One in a Thousand, and his Dice Stacking routine. From 1963 to 1968, I looked forward to the monthly installment of his column in The New Tops, a Mark Twain-esque ramble called "It's a Mystery to Me." These columns established his reputation as the premiere humorist in magic and, if only he were better known outside this small circle, of American letters. The columns encompassed a period during which he would undergo brain surgery, and even that he mined for comedy gold. What might have been an endgame phase of life for most turned out to be only a prelude, as Senator Crandall then up and moved to California, where he became a popular host and performer at the Magic Castle, doing his "X-rated" show on Saturday nights. (It was a personal thrill for me to have been introduced by him one night when I did a guest spot in the Closeup Gallery.)

Senator Crandall comes to iPad.

These fond memories have been fueled by my stumbling on an offer at the Abbott's web site, where you can find The Best of Senator Crandall, a 110-page digital version of the best of his New Tops pieces, for the incredibly low charge of four dollars. Within minutes it was on my computer and then transferred to my iPad, and subsequent reading has found the material to be as relevant and as entertaining as when it first appeared across sheets of paper in the Senator's typewriter. The book opens with a wonderful introduction by Robert Lund, of which I'll quote a small amount: "For all his thumping around in spiked shoes on the prayer rugs in other men's houses, Crandall can also be a man of gentleness and compassion, although he would prefer the word not get around lest it detract from his image as the curmudgeon of presto street. If you want to know what it's like to have a friend walk with you in the dark of night, look up what he had to say when the curtain came down for Okito and Harry Blackstone."

THE DOCTOR IS IN -- This is cool. You can now buy magic books for your iPad on iTunes. At least one, The Show Doctor by Jeff McBride. Although the book is also available as a physical hardcover, it is so stunning in its iPad incarnation that you will greatly prefer it that way. "The Show Doctor" was Jeff's long running column in MAGIC magazine and one of my favorites, so full of great info that it deserved to be xeroxed and bound as a separate volume. (This is how we did it back in the twentieth century.) It was this column that made me realize how great a teacher Jeff really is and why his Mystery School is so successful. Thanks to some amazing formatting by Stan Allen and extensive new material from Jeff and Larry Hass, the compilation of the articles in now better than ever. The basic look and feel of the book is similar to the gold standard used for the digital edition of MAGIC (also The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, etc.), and the team has added extensive new content (tricks and advice) and enhanced it with slide shows and video. (As the ads say, there are eleven new routines, 45,000 new words, and a half hour of video.) For a sneak peek, log into MAGIC digital books . From there you can jump to the iTunes app store. There is a free app for MAGIC Digital Books, after which you purchase the individual titles. The Show Doctor is $24.99 and is a fitting first instance of an important paradigm shift in digital magic books.

Jeff McBride comes to the app store.

DAVID WILLIAMSON WILL LECTURE IN YOUR HOME -- As this is the third time I've mentioned Vanishing, Inc. in three months, I am starting to feel like a shill for the company. Nevertheless, I was thrilled this month to acquire from them a 90-minute lecture by David Williamson originally presented at the Southport IBM convention in 2007. This is a download of a live lecture, and I can't imagine a more enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. David teaches four tricks during the lecture ( a great spoon bending routine, two card tricks one of which I performed the next day, and a sugar and cup routine), but it is all the advice in between that makes this information so valuable. As mentioned above, David is currently performing for Disney cruises, and what a nice ambassador for magic he is. This is a fabulous deal at fifteen dollars. I watched it twice the day I received it.

David Williamson lectures to the IBM.



Folks at The False Deal convention take cards seriously.

Show someone a card trick.

Little Egypt Magic is the erratically updated web site of Steve Bryant, spawned (the site, not Steve) by a former internet magazine known as The Little Egypt Gazette/for magicians only.

Steve Bryant is an obscure magician and writer who generates this site from an iMac in Bloomington, Indiana. He frequently journeys to and performs magic in Little Egypt, the local name for extreme southern Illinois, where the towns bear such names as Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak.

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