02 December 2006

2006 International Magic Convention, London

Last weekend saw the 2006 edition of the International Magic Convention - aka "Ron's". The Convention, started by Ron MacMillan some 30-odd years ago (hence the nickname) and continued now by his son Martin and daughter Georgina, brings some of the best magicians from around the world to perform and lecture for us, with a heavy emphasis on Close Up. The people brought over are generally names that have been mentioned in the magic "underground" and therefore are generally seen at Ron's a year or 2 before the other big UK Conventions book them.

This year, I stayed at the Generator Hostel in Central London, not far from where the Convention was taking place. A great atmosphere in the place which seemed to be full of Australians when, in fact, it was packed with people from most countries around the world.

The Convention was excellent with my personal highlight being the one person I was wanting to see lecture and perform - David Regal. David was set to lecture, perform in the Close Up Show and the Gala Show (they were getting their monies-worth from him!) but he was also very approachable late at night in the bar where people could walk up, say hello and ask him whatever about anything he had performed over the weekend. I ended up sitting talking with David for at least 2 hours on the Saturday night with the 2 of us showing each other tricks and sleights all over the place.

My other highlight can be summed up in 3 words - MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT. Lovingly ripped off from Monty Python and the Hold Grail, this was THE FUNNIEST SHOW I HAVE EVER SEEN! The songs were brilliant and getting to quote along with the French Taunter and the Knights of Ni was great fun. The only thing that would have made the night better would have been if all the remaining Pythons walked onstage to take a bow. There were nods to the likes of the Parrot Sketch and The Lumberjack Song, and there was even an appearance from one of the most popular comedy songs of all time (I won't spoil it for you!). Suffice to say I LOVED the show (bet you're surprised to read that!) and will happily go back and see it again. And again. And again once it starts touring!

The outside of the Palace Theatre in London, home of Monty Python's Spamalot

I even got to meet Tim Curry - King Arthur himself!!!

One of the main parts of this Convention is the Close Up Competition that can make reputations for performers - as well as a cool £1,000 for the winner. This year's competition featured 12 performers and in the end it was Marc Oberon who took the top honours and the prize money over James Brown who took £500 for second and Dynamo who took £100 for third.

And just to annoy my pal Kate, here's Derren Brown prior to
handing out the prizes for the 2006 International Close Up Competition

This year has been a good year for excellent Gala Shows and the show that finished off Ron's was no exception. Noel Britten was his usual funny, brilliant self as MC and with acts such as Tina Lennart, Mike Caveney and David Sousa (who won second place in Manipulation at this year's FISM World Championships) on the bill, it was sure to be great. However, it was Australian Raymond Crowe who, in my opinion, stole the show with his brilliant mime, manipulation and hand shadows act. He also had one of the best floating object routines that I have ever seen! If he is appearing near you, I urge you to go see him! Brilliant stuff.

To round off the weekend I went to stay with my friend Julie and her family overnight and, for the first time ever, I went to The Magic Circle at their headquarters in Central London. What an amazing building it is! There are amazing artifacts all over the place from props and equipment owned and used by Harry Houdini to posters of pretty much every major performer of the last 100 years. I hope to get back there once again before too long. Fascinating stuff.

The Cardman :-)

01 December 2006

SAPPA Tour Event 6 - The 8-Ball Sports Bar, Leith, Edinburgh, 12 November 2006

I turned up in Edinburgh for the latest tour event of the year having not picked up a pool cue since the Scottish Championships some 3 weeks previously! I walked in with only expecting one thing - that I would lose my first 2 matches and be knocked out of the tournament in double quick time.

The club looked excellent - built in a room made up of different little "caverns" that each held 3 tables and with the bar area off to the side in another couple of "caverns". We were only using 9 of the club's 12 tables, so the matches would be races to 6 on the Winners' side and 5 on the Losers' side.

The draw paired me against Gavin Wiseman from Glasgow. Gavin's a handy player and I enjoy playing him as he will give me a good run for my money. As it was, when we started, I managed to jump out to leads of 3-0 and 4-1 fairly quickly only to be pegged back to 4-4 before I knew it. Gavin then won the 9th rack to put him "on the hill" - needing only one rack to win the match. Luckily, things started going my way and I managed to win the last 2 racks to steal the match 6-5.

It was during this match that all play stopped to welcome back Pat Holtz from this year's World Pool Championships in Manila in The Philippines where he had managed to reach the last 16 of the tournament, earning himself an automatic spot in next year's event and Scotland a second spot in the tournament. He was also drafted in by ESPN to do some commentary with American Jerry Forsythe and they made a great duo. Well done, Pat. We're all really chuffed for you and proud of your achievement in putting Scottish Pool on the world-wide map. I, personally, hope to hear Pat back in the commentary box at the major events again before too long.

Next up was another good friend, Pete King, another handy also from Glasgow (never leave this guy even a sniff at a bank or kick shot!). Another quick start from me, another fight back from Pete and another case of me staggering over the finish line to progress to the last round of the Double Elimination phase, again by 6 racks to 5.

Now, time to face Tam "The" Talent - the SAPPA Tournament Director and ranked in the top 8 in Scotland. This time, it was Tam who had the quick start, being 4-0 and 5-1 up before I started getting my brain in gear, stopped making so many silly errors and started playing. I managed to get back to 5-4 before making one last mistake that allowed Tam in to finish off the match and send me to the Losers' Bracket with a 6-4 scoreline.

I had to wait a wee while for my next opponent but finally local player Jim Purse emerged to be the opponent to stand between me and my first-ever last 16 spot. As it was, I was on a roll and never allowed Jim a clear shot for the first 2 or 3 racks. In the end, I had a comfortable 5-0 victory, giving me my first spot in the last 16 - and my first payday in a SAPPA event, guaranteeing me at least £20.

As it was, I was only to play one more match as Davy Jack from Arbroath was having the tournament of the year, blitzing his way through the field with unnerving accuracy. Simply put, he blitzed me 7-0! I had a couple of complaints as I was making some decent shots, but just not following them up with finishes. Ach well, I made the last 16 – next target is for me to get to the last 8 of a tournament.

Maybe next time?

Before I go - a few wee pictures for you all. This is how over-excited some people can get at SAPPA events.

Dave Tait finding things a little too exciting!

Pat Holtz catches up on a little shut-eye. We can let him
away with this one, he was just off a 27-hour flight from Manilla!

Martin Hughes just prior to being his face
being attacked with chalk

Best wishes

The Cardman :-)

30 November 2006

Cameron's 1st Birthday Party - 28 October 2006

Yes, he's a year old already! Where does the time go? Cameron James MacNee celebrated his first birthday on 27 October with a party the following day. Since it was Halloween weekend, a lot of the kids came dressed up in their Halloween costumes. Cameron and Lewis were arriving from the Sunday School Halloween Party dressed as Spiderman and Superman respectively.

There were a ton of folk there that day - Aunties, Uncles, cousins, Granny, Gran and Grandpa - and Cameron seemed to enjoy all the attention. Lewis was also in his element running around having fun with all his cousins.

At the end of the day, we went home and collapsed after an exhausting day running after a bunch of kids! Thank goodness things like these are only once a year!

Here are a few pictures of the kids to let you see them in their costumes. Enjoy!

Me thinks this boy wishes he could fly!

Lewis' tough guy look!

Cameron with his girlfriend, Kaitlin
(a year old and he's pulled already!!!)

Cameron with his Daddy

Thought those would make you smile!

The Cardman :-)

2006 Scottish 9-Ball Championships, Kirkcaldy

Hi folks

Sorry I haven't posted for so long. Things have been a little on the crazy-busy side once again, but let's see if I can catch up with the next few posts.

First off, the 2006 Scottish 9-Ball Championships held, once again, at Styx in Kirkcaldy. This is always a fun weekend and now that the visiting of the Irish players has become an annual event, it has become even crazier!

This year, 95 players turned up!!! They included the likes of Wales' 2-time World 8-Ball Champion Rob McKenna and Andy Croasdale – former European 8-Ball Champion as well as the usual Scottish Tour suspects. It was sure to be an enjoyable, if somewhat tough, weekend.

When the draw was made, I ended up with a bye in the first round. Always nice – means I can sit back and relax for a wee while. As it was, I ended up babysitting Ross McInnes’s 6-month old son Preston as his Mummy, Snooker and Pool Referee Michaela Tabb, was in Aberdeen working at the Grand Prix Snooker. I am far from complaining! Preston and I had a great time to ourselves over the 2 days of the tournament walking about the pool hall watching the different things going on. It’s amazing how easily babies can lower themselves to my intellectual level! He was a very content young man over the weekend, only getting a little (very little!) grumpy when he was getting hungry or tired.

As for my playing over the weekend, I had a bit of a nightmare playing-wise, but still did not bad in the tournament. Let me explain. I had a bye in the first round. I had to wait for a while for my next match but not long before it was going to get called, my opponent – one of the Irish players – staggered up to the control table and said that he was forfeiting his match and going to bed as he was drunk. So, without hitting a ball, I get into the third round in the winners bracket! This is where it went kinda pear-shaped. My next opponent was one Pat Holtz – winner of Scotland’s World 9-Ball Championship qualifier and one of Scotland’s top all-round pool players. Pat was 4-0 up before I knew what was going on! All of a sudden I found a gear and got back to 4-2 down and could have made it 4-3 if I hadn’t missed a tough 9-ball. Pat took control of the match from here and won 7-2.

That put me over to the Losers’ Bracket of the chart where I had to wait for other matches to be played before I knew who I was set to play. As it was, I ended up having to play Graham Tough – aka Tookster – one of my closest friends on the tour. I played a few good shots in the match, but nothing that would make it any sort of a match for him and Tookster won 7 racks to 2.

You can find out about how the rest of the tournament went – along with a bunch of pictures that I took when I was there – by going to www.scottish9ball.com.

More very shortly!

The Cardman :-)

01 November 2006

Funniest Thing I've Seen In Ages!

Last night, I sat and watched the 2006 Secret Policeman's Ball for Amnesty International on Channel 4. It was pretty good, but the real highlight for me was David Armand's performance of Natalie Imbruglia's song "Torn" - all done in mime. I won't spoil what happened on that show for you - you'll have to go out and get the DVD when it comes out at the start of December! Instead, here's a clip of him performing it at another show. Hope you enjoy it. I did!


Best wishes

The Cardman :-)

15 October 2006

2006 IBM British Ring Convention, Eastbourne

Now that I’ve finally got a wee while to sit down and update the blog, I shall! Things have been really busy of late meaning that I haven’t been able to tell you my thoughts on this year’s IBM convention in Eastbourne, something I intend to change with this entry.

Eastbourne (or "God’s Waiting Room!") is the usual “even year” location for the British Ring Convention and this was my 6th visit to the town. The week started slightly differently this year, however, as I travelled down to Ashford in Kent to visit my cousin Janice and her partner, Kate, for a couple of days. Until the start of this year, I had not seen Janice in some 10 years. Now, due to one thing or another, I’ve seen her at least 4 times in the last 8 months! Funny how things go like that. We spent part of Monday going around the local factory retail outlet place so I could try to buy a pair of shorts as it was very, very warm. Instead, I ended up with a new pair of jeans – couldn’t find shorts anywhere!

Kate and Janice

On Tuesday, Janice and I went to Canterbury for a few hours. A really nice city with one of the most amazing Cathedrals I’ve seen. We also went to see the “Canterbury Tales” exhibit, but I have to warn you that we both felt that it was not worth the £7.20 charged to go round it.

Canterbury Cathedral

Wednesday morning and I had to get the 9:30am train direct to Eastbourne as I was wanting to register for the Convention and get in to see the John Carney lecture that was due to start at 12noon. I enjoy listening to Carney lecture and, even though I had seen most of this lecture before, I was not disappointed. Great magic, great theory and great advice. If he is lecturing in a town near you at any time, go see him!

After that, it was time for the first wander (the first of many such wanders!) through the Dealers' Hall, where I managed to catch up with a few friends that I don't get to see that often. The Dealers' Hall is where we can buy all the latest tricks, books and DVDs, but there was very little this year that could be called a "trick of the convention". Pity, really.

From left to right - Paul and Mhairi Nardini, Tanya Fallon,
Karl Beseus and Paul Wilson

Michael and Lisa Close were the first I saw and spent a great wee while catching up with them. As ever, Michael fooled me really badly with some great magic. I also got one of the best bargains of the week when I bought his Palming e-books from him. I cannot recommend these highly enough to you, in fact I urge you to go to Michael's website and order yours now! Oh, and on a personal note, Mike and Lisa if you ever get to read this, good luck with the new addition to the Close family!

The rest of the Convention was, for me, a series of highlights. Socially, it was an amazing week hanging out with friends and showing each other tricks. The Fringe (brilliantly organised by Fay Presto and Richard Pinner) was great fun with a few real "stand out" acts during the week. Personal favourites included Tim Shoesmith's word-for-word performance of Terry Seabrooke's Burn Note In Wallet routine, all done in Tim's own inimitable style and John Lenahan (also known to some as "Talkie Toaster" from series one of Red Dwarf) who turned up, got up on stage and told a few stories, all of which were hysterical! I would also add Julie Carpenter to that list, but anyone that knows me would just think I'm being biased since she is a really close pal. Just to go off topic for a moment, Julie helped me through the rough patch right after my Dad passed away back in July and for that, I will be forever graetful. Thanks, Julie!

Tim Shoesmith (R) being ably assisted by Paul Nardini

Right, back to the Convention. The Stage Competition was the usual mix of brilliant acts, as well as downright awful ones. The real highlight for me was Graham Lee, best known as a Balloon Modeller, the group of us that were sitting together were wondering what he would do. What he did was fool the hell out of us with some brilliant magic - all done with balloons! The Linking Rings where 2 balloons made into loops were linked together visibly! No cover, no funny moves - nothing! And it fooled the hell out of us all!!! Brilliant stuff.

Me with legendary magician John Calvert
and his wife Tammy

Thursday night saw a show organised with a heavy accent on comedy. I loved this show, I thought it was a great evening of entertainment and I got to see John Carney perform on stage as both himself and his brilliantly funny, bumbling character Mr Mysto. How in hell he baked that wee cup cake in the guy's shoe, I'll never know! Yes, you read that right - he baked a cake in the guys shoe and he was able to wear the shoe immediately afterwards!!! Brilliant stuff. Another highlight in this show was Charlie Frye, a PHENOMINAL juggler from America. Whereas most jugglers start off with 3 balls and work their way up to 5 or 6, Frye starts at 5 and goes from there!!! Brilliant. The unusual thing about after the show was that, although we - the audience - had all enjoyed ourselves, the performers were not happy with the reactions they had received from the audience. At times, it is a pity that British audiences are sooo reserved, but it did not help with matters when half of the audience are over 55 years old! Still, I enjoyed it and made it clear to the performers afterwards.

Julie with John Lenahan

A name to watch out for - Reuben - click to visit his website. An Irish mime who does brilliant little sketches! It is said all too often, but this guy deserves to be on television! Hysterical stuff.

The Close Up Show was, on paper, the strongest line up I had ever seen. Ever. In reality, it was, however it is a real pity that the performance conditions were SO BAD! Three WORLD CLASS performers at a time, all trying to compete over the noise level of their neighbours and their neighbours' audiences, while trying to present brilliant magic. I was really lucky to be near the front of one of the tables and got to see and hear pretty much all the magic being performed. Of those I had never seen before, Vanni Bossi had a few really nice effects, Tim Conover did a wonderful handling of John Ramsay's Coins And Cylinder while Seth Kramer performed a wonderful 10 Card Poker Deal using MASSIVE playing cards.

Seth Kramer, John Carney and Paul Wilson

Saturrday night's International Gala Show was amazing. Possibly the best Gala Show I've ever seen. From Jeff Hobson MC-ing the show to James Dimmare's immaculate professionalism getting him through a really tough performance with doves he was not used to working with to Pilou's Stage Magic World Championship winning act to Mac King's brilliant act to finish (thank you for showing us your "hiccough cure"!) it was top-notch acts all the way. How could you top something like that? You couldn't - it was simply time to go back to the headquarters hotel and party the night away.

Before the Gala Show, a small tribe of 16 of us descended upon one of the Italian restaurants in Eastbourne. The meal was very good and the company excellent. It's just a pity I can't remember the name of the place to give them a plug!

Me and Julie

All in all, it was a great week. Actually, one of the best British Ring Conventions I've been to in a long, long time. I just wish it could have lasted longer. I'll type up a post about the Close Up Competition as soon as I can.

Take care.

The Cardman :-)

28 August 2006

2006 Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Over the weekend, I went through to Edinburgh to see some of the goings on at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe (aka The Fringe). Now in its 60th year, The Fringe has now become more popular than the actual Edinburgh International Festival itself with hundreds of shows on over the 3-week period that it runs, and a couple of dozen shows all going on at the same time at venues all over Edinburgh. It is, to put it mildly, amazing!

Saturday
I had booked a ticket to go and see
Dwight Slade talk about his best friend, and former comedy partner, Bill Hicks on the Saturday tea-time, so when I arrived in Edinburgh, I made the Pleasance Dome my first port of call. Slade was also doing his regular Stand Up show that evening – he had been performing throughout The Fringe – so, when I was picking up my tickets, I decided to get a ticket for that too. The only problem with it was that I was only left with 20 minutes to get from the Pleasance Dome to Edinburgh's Waverly Station to get the 10pm train back to Glasgow, but I'll get to that in a bit. I got the impression that the Pleasance Dome is a Student Union for one of the Edinburgh Universities as there was a shop selling everything from sweets to juice to stationary to groceries to loo roll! There were also a number of bars located around the building - all with a very student vide about them - I liked it!

After I got my tickets, I wanted to find somewhere to eat and situated to my right of the Box Office was a "Soul Food Shack". They were still doing breakfast at that time and with them serving American-style food, pancakes it was! They were excellent and I would recommend it to anyone. Brunch (too American?) over, it was time to go walkabout round Edinburgh - mostly The Royal Mile (aka The Mile or the High Street) where countless street performers were working hard at entertaining the massive crowds and trying to make a few quid while doing so. No sooner had I arrived than I found my good friend Karl Berseus of Sweden presenting his well-honed magic act. It was great to watch people's faces as the little balls repeatedly jumped from his hand to the 3 large cups sitting on the table. If you ever see him performing, take 15 minutes out from your life and enjoy what he does.

By pure luck - and without the aid of the mobile phones - I managed to find Mhairi Nardini, who's husband, Paul, was performing his 50-minute magic show at the Cafe Royal for the final week of the Fringe. For a couple of hours, I turned from being a visitor to being one of the masses who hand out flyers and try to get you to come to see their show over anyone else's. Never an easy task, but it is great fun nevertheless. After a wee while, Paul and Mhairi had to leave to go to the gig while I finished off handing out the leaflets that I had and then meeting up with another friend - Georgina MacMillan (who's Brother runs International Magic in London) - before heading back to the Pleasance Dome for the first of my 2 shows.

"Dwight Slade - My Life With Bill" promised to be a 45-minute "seminar" about Bill Hicks by his best friend and former comedy partner. What it promised was delivered and then some with Dwight sharing stories, home movies, photographs and private video footage of Hicks. He also answered a whole bunch of questions from the audience who had turned up to listen and watch. Also, the session did not last 45 minutes, it lasted 70! An hour and 10 minutes about my favourite Stand Up Comedian by one of the people that knew him as well as anyone around. Amazing stuff! I was now really looking forward to the second show that day - Dwight doing his regular stand up routine.

After more food from the Soul Food Cafe - not as good as breakfast, it must be said - it was time for the second show. This time, Dwight Slade presenting his own stand up show. This was FUNNY with a capital FUNNY!!! If you get the chance to see this guy live in a town near you - take it! From apologising for America - and he's really sorry! - to ridding the world of people that annoy him with his trusty pool cue - and there was a lot that annoyed him, from loud annoying people on airplanes to people who verbally punctuate their sentences - to making sure he listens to his "Dark Monkey", this was the fastest hour I have experienced in a long time. His delivery was brilliant and his set fantastic.

Sadly, I had to rush off before I could buy his CDs as I had to try to catch the 10pm train from Edinburgh Waverly to Glasgow Queen Street (I just ordered them from his website earlier on today - www.dwightslade.com). Not an easy thing to do, but when I got outside the venue, I saw a taxi arriving. Forgetting - for a moment - where I was, what time of night it was and what time of year it was, I hailed the taxi ("hail, taxi!") and asked the driver to take me to the station. His immediate response was "good luck, mate!" As we drove off - or tried to! - he told me that the second of 3 Edinburgh Miliatry Tattoo shows was just coming out and that the streets were crazy. Well, we made it - and with 4 minutes to spare before the 10pm departure time. As it was, the train left some 10 minutes late, but I couldn't take the risk. The train journey with the Nardinis was fun and we had a lot of fun talking to the tourists in the part of the carridge we were in.

Sunday
Time to go back through for the second day in a row. This time no trains were necessary as Chris and Christina Blair were going to drive us to and from Edinburgh. The schedule was to go and see Paul Nardini's show at the Cafe Royal then go to The Pleasance and see about getting tickets to join Paul, Mhairi, Chris and Christina in going to see Scottish Comedian Frankie Boyle's show.

We arrived in Edinburgh and made our way straight to The Mile to do more leafleting - well, after a wee visit to Starbucks, that is!!! Things were a lot quieter today than yesterday but I still managed to get rid of pretty much every leaflet I had on me! One trick that I used to great effect was to wait on Karl finishing a show and as people walked up to put money in his hat, I'd hand them a leaflet about Paul's show. The easy way of getting rid of tons of them very quickly!

Before too long, it was time to head to the Cafe Royal for Paul's show. Now, this could be thought of as a biased opinion, but Paul did a great show - all the magic got excellent reactions from the "real people" and the audience seemed more than happy with what they had seen. Great fun. My personal highlight from the show was the audience's reaction to Paul's own "Looking Glass" effect. The gasp was very, very clear.

After Paul and Mhairi had cleared up and spent some time talking with family and friends that were at the show, we made our way down North Bridge Street towards the Pleasance for the evening show. Paul was now officially "off duty" and was now able to relax, have a couple of beers and enjoy himself. We stopped off in a little Italian restaurant called "Ciao Roma" which turned out to be really good - although Nardini (being hyper-critical of food, especially Italian) found a few faults, but nothing too major. After dinner, we completed our walk to The Pleasance where I bought my ticket and the others collected their tickets to go and see Frankie Boyle.

This guy was funny. He came out dressed in a pink suit with trainers and spent the first few minutes having some fun with (OK, making fun of) the people in the front row. Some really funny jokes - everything from biting satire to some decent knob jokes - and some seriously sick ones that had the audience gasping in amazement that he had come out with such stuff. Sadly, I had Dwight Slade to compare him with from the night before and, while Boyle was very funny, I have to admit that I enjoyed Slade more.

The great thing about The Pleasance complex is the courtyard where spectators and performers mix and mingle while drinking and partying the night away. We even managed to bump into Frankie Boyle in the Courtyard and told him how much we had enjoyed the show. He was very courteous and thanked us for taking the time to go and see his show - always the sign of a good guy when they do that. At the end of the night, we made our way home. Most of the folk in the car fell asleep - I know I didn't and I can only hope that Chris (who was driving) didn't! Considering we made it home in one piece, it is safe to say he didn't.

I must remember, however, that going to bed at 1am when I've got work the following day is not a good move! By it was well worth it!

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

25 August 2006

Funny stuff

Hi folks

This is just a random post with a video clip (again from youtube.com) of one of the funniest acceptance speeches ever. It is from the MTV Movie Awards and Gollum from The Lord Of The Rings Movies is accepting the "Best Virtual Character" award.

Enjoy!

Speak soon!

The Cardman :-)

More FISM 2006-related stuff

Right now, I'm in the process of trying to sort out my pictures from my trip to the 2006 FISM World Championships of Magic before I post any more stuff up about my trip. For now, however, I'd like to share a couple of videoclips that have been posted on youtube.com of acts that were performed at this year's FISM.

First off, from France, comes the 2003 World Champion of Stage Magic - Norbert Ferre. This clip is only part of one of the most wonderful manipulation acts in magic.


This other one is of Gaston from Germany performing the act that won him first prize in the Parlour Magic category. I only saw this act once, but was very impressed with it - very, very funny and a brilliant character piece.

I hope you enjoy these just now. If I find any more, I'll post them up for you.

Best wishes

The Cardman :-)

09 August 2006

FISM 2006 Close Up Competiton

On Monday afternoon, the first day of FISM 2006, I managed to get a seat in the main room for this year’s Close Up Competition. It was the only time in the entire week that I would even attempt to get into the main room. With only 260 seats, space was at a premium. Next door, there was another room with another 508 seats where people could watch on a large screen. This was to be my base for the remaining 3 sessions, but for the first one I got to sample the performance room itself.

I should also say that for the majority of the competition, the camera work was horrendous. I was told by a couple of performers that when they went to rehearse the night before, they were unable to meet the camera crew to be able to tell them what they did and did not want – and it showed!

There were 5 categories being performed. Micro Magic and Card Magic were solely in the Close Up Category. Mental Magic, Parlour Magic and Invention were being performed in both Stage and Close Up Competitions.

One last thing before I get into this. This is not meant to be a "who did what" review for every act. You'll find that for most of the acts, but I have also put my personal thoughts about those that I had strong enough opinions about. If you want full "who did what" reviews, may I suggest you visit both Richard Morrell's magician.org.uk blog and Tim Ellis and Sue Anne Webster's Magic Unlimited Blog.

Session 1 – Monday
Juan Carlos (Mexico) – Parlour

Came on doing a Cups and Balls routine with patter about pirates. He had a couple of good ‘bits’ in his act – including where a ball rolled from one cup to another apparently on its own – and some great misdirection. Sadly, he did a sloppy Vernon Wand Spin Vanish. He finished his act by producing a miniature Pirate Ship. Sadly, that bit was a little clumsy, but it was a nice wee act to get thing rolling along.

Kristian Nivala (Finland) – Card Magic
Silent to music, this guy was the best of today's performers. Very slow production of 4 aces from an invisible deck, where he mimed pulling out cards and spinning them through the air and they appeared at his fingertips. They were then signed and lost in the deck, he produced a second deck of cards, jumbo aces and found the signed aces one-at-a-time inside the now empty card case and finished off producing a giant ace, jumbo coins and lots of dollar bills.

Mr Dannyman (Sweden) – Micro Magic
This Peter Kay lookalike (UK readers will know who I am on about) came out doing a 4 ace production with rhyming patter. As his act continued, the patter went from being mildly amusing to really annoying!

Morgan Strebler (USA) – Mental Magic
Borrowed a bunch of coins and bent one that was chosen out of them by a spectator. He then bends all the coins in the glass at one time. He then moved onto forks – bending, twisting and breaking them both at the neck of the fork and at each individual prong.

Rafael Tubino (Brazil) – Card Magic
Spectator selects 4 cards, which turn out to be the 4 aces. He then loses them (fumbling the controls) but proceeds to fool a good number of us with a great complete Colour Changing Deck to finish. Pity about the fumbles.

Satoru (Japan) – Micro Magic
A hyper-happy performer that appears to be wired to the moon! A card is selected, which is predicted on a 20SEK note. A gag with a chosen toothpick turns into a fooler when all the other toothpicks turn into coloured ones, leaving the selected on the only plain one left in the packet. He then gets spectators to stamp on cards to select them. When the cards are shown, he lifts his feet and shows that they are all predicted – the first on the soles of his shoes, the next on the soles of his socks and the last on the soles of his feet. He finally produced an umbrella from his socks with the final card printed on it.

Seth – The Sleight Of Hand Expert (Sweden) – Card Magic
Performs silent to music. Lots of flourishing cuts and card controls. Sadly, there is very little eye contact with the audience as he is too engrossed in his own moves. He does some excellent changes during the course of his act but fumbles a few shuffles during the act. Ends with the deck sorted into suits in order. Good act, but the lack of eye contact was VERY off-putting.

Pierric (Switzerland) – Micro Magic/Invention
Visibly changes apples to pears – VERY good! He then visibly creates money from a picture. A Cup and Ball routine in which the final load is one of sand. He then crushes the cup to dust to finish the act. Production of a ‘rabbit’ – actually a Guinea Pig with false ears stuck on! Very funny!

Session 2 – Tuesday
Lodewijk De Widt (Holland) – Card Magic
Performs silent to music. Draws on a pad and the drawing becomes a real deck of blank playing cards. Four are taken and they become the 4 Queens – faces and backs. Takes the blank case and prints the case and deck – very nice. Four spectators then select cards, all of which are torn into quarters. He takes a quarter of each card and restores it to make one mutilated card ala a Torn and Restored Card. The final quarter is put on back-to-front so that ¾ of the card faces one way, with the final ¼ facing the other way. Very original and very clever!

Stuart Lightbody (South Africa) – Micro Magic
Offers his spectator a small cup of tea, which changes to 4 coins – very nice. Removes lid from tea pot, which changes into his cup of tea. He removes his bowler hat and removes the tea pot lid. He then performs a marked coin to sugar packet effect, followed by a card in hat routine. A short Ambitious Card sequence follows, followed by a Colour Changing Deck, Card Under Glass, Card To Mouth and finishing with a repeat with the card folded up in his mouth. A good act with some strong misdirection in it.

Martin Keppel (Germany) – Mental Magic
Introduces his act and creates the atmosphere of it while holding his hand directly above the flame of a candle. He then proceeds to perform a very atmospheric yet, at times, funny “Smashed And Stabbed” routine in which the Spectator makes the final choice of which cup to smash her hand down onto.

Kif (China) – Card Magic
This guy spoke a thousand words a minute – or at least it seemed like it! Starts off with a bill switch, then goes onto a lot of card changes to produce the 4 Kings. The Kings turn into Aces, then uses Jack Carpenter’s “Star Production” to produce an 8-Queen Straight Flush. Proceeds to produce any poker hand called for, followed by all 13 Hearts. An OK act, but very, very confusing.

Mathieu Bich (France) – Invention
Mathieu presented a wonderful effect called “SpreadWave". He removed a blank deck from its case had a card named by a spectator. He then cut and spread his way through the deck to show that all the cards were blank. He then states that there are 3 cards in the deck. He spreads the cards to show 3 backs showing. Upon removing these cards, they are found to have words on them – one says “YOUR”, the next “CARD” and the last says “IS THE”. He arranges them then re-spreads the deck and printed in big, black, bold lettering across the spread is “NINE OF DIAMONDS.” The reaction in the video room, where I was watching the competition from, was amazing and had people discussing it for quite a while afterwards.

Gianfranco Preverino (Italy) – Card Magic
A blank deck is shown. A couple of them are changed into Jokers, then the whole deck is printed. He then does a Colour Changing Deck and Card Case, Roll Over Aces, Call To The Colours (nice touch with coloured stickers on the backs of his hands) and cuts to a named card. He then writes the named card on the back of the top card of the deck, only for it to then appear on the back of every other card in the deck.

Hoperman (Japan) – Micro Magic
Silent to music, but it’s Cliff smegging Richard’s “Summer Holiday”!!! Starts off as if he is at his desk at work. Some nice bits with a pen changing to a magic wand and a sign that says “In A Meeting” changing to “On Vacation”. Performs a 2-cup Cups and Balls routine which he fumbles a couple of times. Produces sand and mini palm trees for his final loads. Then starts to create a desktop beach scene with mini deck chairs, some water and some sand. He then takes out a map to look at it and when the map is put down, he has changed from his office clothes to his holiday clothes.

IƱaki (Spain) – Card Magic
Shuffles a deck of cards THEN removes them from the card case (I have since learned that this is Mark Lefler’s “Cards To Case” effect). Spectator selects 4 cards, which turn out to be the Aces, then does the Erdnase run-up using the mechanics of what he is doing as his patter. He then goes on to do a False Middle Deal and finally manages to deal himself a named poker hand.

Tobias Heinemann (Switzerland) – Parlour
Performs the Malini Card Stab, but performs it with many references to different classic horror/thriller movies, primarily “Psycho”. Nice touch in which he stabs the final card while the table is covered with a sheet of newspaper.

Ivan Amodei (USA) – Micro Magic
There had been a lot of talk about this act before hand as it has been winning numerous awards in America. I was also interested in it as it was based mostly around pool. Produces a “pool cue” (barely legal length for a jump cue) from a “Crackerjack” box, an 8-Ball, then uses manipulates tips ala thimbles. Using a small cue as a magic wand, he makes smaller balls disappear and re-appear in a purse, finishing with a cue ball inside the purse. This changes to a yellow 1-Ball. A second cue ball appears, which changes to a red 3-Ball (both from the Aramith Pro set (am I sad in spotting that or what?) and finally produces one final cue ball and a massive (bowling ball size) brown 7-Ball. Act was OK, but sadly not up to my expectations.

Woody Aragon (Spain) – Card Magic
Woody did what I thought was a very clever performance of Bill Simon’s “Call To The Colors” but instead of using a regular deck of cards, he used a batch of Jokers with red and blue backs, dealing them alternating red and blue, in pairs or in sets of 3. At the end of his act, the back of each joker was found to have a different coloured back. I like it!

Chase Curtis (USA) – Micro Magic/Invention
An act based around batteries. Taking batteries out of a torch, he makes them vanish only for them to reappear back inside the torch. The method was telegraphed somewhat. A short 2 In The Hand/One In The Pocket routine followed then multiplying batteries, Chink-A-Chink with bulbs and even a Cups and Balls routine. The stand out effect from his set was the vanish of a large battery from a big torch with it reappearing in another torch that had previously been shown empty. Sadly, the act was a little disappointing.

Helder Guimaraes (Portugal) – Card Magic
This was a great act – plenty of fooling magic and a lot of funny lines thrown in. Has a member of the jury imagine a card in an invisible deck being reversed. When the deck is made real, it turns out that it is the only card printed with a face and back in a blank faced deck. I was enjoying this one too much, but one thing I will say is that he has a “mystery card” under an upturned glass on the table the whole way through the act. He causes this card to first become a blank face card signed by the spectator, then a printed card with the spectator’s signature on it. Any switches he made, I missed – TOTALLY! There has been some talk in some of the magic forums about whether pre-show work was involved. Personally, I don’t think so but then I don’t care! I DON’T WANT TO KNOW HOW HE DID IT!!!

Radini (Norway) – Invention
Came out with a “Mini Photo Developer” – basically a bit or red acetate. More than a little crap!

Stonkel (Germany) – Card Magic
Another really funny act, this time involving a stooge planted in the audience that heckles the main performer throughout the first part of the act telling him what he should do (having certain cards at specific locations in the deck, producing certain glasses of beer, etc.), then secretly assists the performer in the second part. A very clever and well constructed routine that I wish I had taken more notes about!

Timothy Trust and Julie (Germany) – Mental Magic
A 2 Person Mental Act with some very funny lines and some fooling material – including divulging the birthdates of 4 members of the audience. A very clever and fast-paced act.

Session 3 – Wednesday
David Stone (France) – Micro Magic
Walks on as a waiter-type character. Uses a huge napkin (about the size of a bed sheet!) to produce a coin! Very very funny. Then produces 3 more coins. Each of the coins then turns into a piece of cutlery, finishing off the dinner table scene. The coins then re-appear and what follows are lots of running gags involving measuring tapes, vanishing decks of cards and wine bottles! A brilliant act with some amazing misdirection that I enjoyed too much to take notes of, but that finished with him producing both of his shoes!

Tricky Niki (Austria) – Card Magic
Produces a named card then makes a couple of predictions, which are found to be the only cards in a blank-faced deck. Not that good an act, until, that is, he manages to find a signed card inside a can of Red Bull. Very clever effect – shame about the rest of the act.

Kevin Gallagher (UK) – Micro Magic
Kevin came out and performed the act that has won him awards around the UK. Starting off with a regular Matrix, he then explains that the coins may be too small, so he takes out jumbo coins – too big for the cards to cover. So, he covers the cards with the coins and performs Matrix like that, with the cards jumping. Then he does it one last time with jumbo cards and jumbo coins. He then takes out 3 shells and a pea and does a short routine with that. Mentioning that maybe the pea is too small, he takes out a large pea, too big for the shells. He then uses 3 jumbo peas to hide the shell. Finally, using 3 jumbo shells, he performs a short Shell and Pea set. All very well presented, but he had an unfortunate fumble near the end. A fun act, nevertheless. I always enjoy it.

Alexander Popov (Russia) – Card Magic
This guy made some of the most complex in-the-hands cuts look like a walk in the park and could even give the Buck Twins a run for their money! This act seemed like 1001 ways to find a selected card – “maybe yours?” being one of the few phrases he could say clearly in English! Amazing stuff to watch!

Brad Bradley (USA) – Micro Magic
Another act with rhyming patter, but this one was different. It was REALLY, REALLY bad!!! This was so bad that people will be talking about it for years to come. Talking to us like we were 3-year-olds, he did a very basic paddle and cup and ball routine obviously unaware that it was barely up to local club level, let alone FISM level. Either that or he’s a comedy genius who knew what he was doing all along but that he played it too straight for any of us to realise it. This was, to use the Glasgow phrase, “quality shite”.

Harry Lucas (Austria) – Mental Magic
This guy comes out looking like Derren Brown – even down to the style of suit! After handing a prediction and stopwatch to a spectator to hold on to, he asked 2 volunteers – Mandy Farrel and Keith Bennett – to assist him first with a picture duplication, which worked, then with a gesture duplication effect, which did not work. At the end of his act, he stopped the stopwatch at 7minutes 5 seconds and showed that the prediction matched the time on the stopwatch exactly.

Mario Bove (Italy) – Card Magic
Mario gave the same competent “Gambling Demonstration” type of performance that he did at the International Magic Close Up Competition last November. Starting with the cutting of the 4 Kings, he then performed an “Invisible Palm” routine ending with the Kings turning into the 4 Aces whilst they were in the case. A Middle Deal demonstration followed with the other 3 hands each getting the Jacks, Queens and Kings. He then proceeded to find all 13 spades, one-at-a-time, in order and ended with the deck in full deck order. An enjoyable performance once again.

Will Houston (UK) – Micro Magic
Will did the same act that got him third place at last November’s International Magic Convention Close Up Competition in London. At that time, he seemed to have come from nowhere This time, we were expecting a good act and he delivered. He once again performed his excellent coin and card magic with seems to have influences of Apollo Robbins, Chris Kenner and Homer Liwag (does Homer really exist or is he a figment of Kenner’s imagination? Go get the current edition of “Magic” Magazine for an excellent interview with Kenner). His wonderful 4 ace routine (where the cards appear to move from hand-to-hand) that only used 4 aces – no extra cards were apparently used – caught me out again. Sadly, he fumbled the production of the first of 2 jumbo lighters, but it was still excellent stuff. He makes it look all too easy. I hate talented folk like him!

Guilhem Julia (France) – Parlour
Performing silently to music, this was an act all to do with fish. He produced a deck of cards which only had pictures of fish on them, then poured out some water and a goldfish from the apparently empty card case. He then proceeded to produce more fish from the likes of one of the cards and a lemon. He also had a production of a small aquarium and finished by producing a final fish from his shoe, with some more water, from his shoe.

Rocco (USA) – Micro Magic
This was an act that I would not describe as “Micro Magic” – Parlour, yes, but certainly not “Micro Magic”. This was, essentially, a manipulation act done silently to music. However, it was well done. He produced lots of food – grapes, milk, ice creams, limes, etc, etc. It seems to me that he was also getting his lunch break at this time as he was always taking bites out of most of the items that he produced. The act was well received, but it annoyed me that it was in the “Micro Magic” category.

Felix (Germany) – Cards
Started off with a Shrinking Card Case and a nice production of the 4 Queens. Unfortunately, he fumbled and dropped his cards onto the floor. Fortunately, he had a back up deck and a great line (“time for a deck switch”) and concluded his act. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with this act and therefore found it fairly boring.

Ray Ben (Argentina) – Invention
Ray showed a method for producing cigarettes, first one-at-a-time, then producing a packet. He followed this for a method for producing a silk inside a bottle and finally a clever method for getting a selected card into and out of a bottle. All very clever and very commercial stuff.

Charming Choi (Korea) – Card Magic
This guy couldn’t have been any camper if you put him in the middle of a field and called him a tent! He tried to have a King and Queen from a deck of cards make sounds, but he had technical malfunctions that apparently stopped him from doing most of the act that he wanted to. To the audience’s left of the table was a large object, covered up with a cloth, and we all wondered what was under it. Well, we were soon to find out. He changed a bunch of playing cards into plain black and white cards and then dealt them out in a couple of rows in the style of a piano – which played. All of a sudden, the audience are singing along to “Do Re Mi” from “The Sound of Music” – THE single most bizarre thing I have ever seen in any convention EVER!

Galambos (Hungary) – Micro Magic
Galambos came out and performed the same act that won him International Magic’s Close Up Competition at the end of 2004. From his Aces routine and MacDonald’s Aces to his Cups and Balls, everything seemed to be going OK. He had a couple of minor fumbles through the routine until a massive foul up when starting his performance of Dean Dill’s “Matrix Explosion” caused him to finish his routine abruptly and walk off the stage.

Gregory Wilson (USA) – Card Magic
Wilson got a great response when he walked to the table, both in the live room and the video room where I was watching, and performed the act that had got him 2nd place at the last FISM in The Hague, with the table being his office. He poured a cup of coffee out of his card case, had a card isolated on a spike named correctly by a spectator and made a signed selection vanish from his hand and reappear sealed inside a deck of cards. However, the gremlins were back at work during his act, as they were in the previous one, and Gregory failed to stab the 10 through King of Spades that would have made up the finish of his act. A real pity as the act was excellent.

Mark Oberon (UK) – Micro Magic
Mark has had a lot of success in the UK with this act in different competitions and it was good to see it again. My personal highlight of the act was a named card appearing inside a crystal ball – absolutely brilliant! But those gremlins were back again has he had problems while performing the “Zimmerman Ring” – he did, however, prove that he was prepared for any eventuality when he brought a new rope out after he suffered difficulties. An excellent routine. Just a pity about those damned gremlins. They cost the last 3 acts – all considered “pre competition favourites” – to have major problems of one type or another.

Session 4 – Thursday
On paper, this was the strongest session of any Close Up Competition I had ever seen. We were not to be disappointed but with one added extra. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Shawn Farquhar (Canada) – Micro Magic
Purple suited Shawn performed the act that gave him joint second place at the last FISM. He managed to cause a deck of cards to go backwards in time, re-sealing itself and having a signed selection in the correct position in the deck. He then did a great Cups and Balls act that ended with a load of smaller cups coming from under one of the cups only for all 3 cups to turn out being solid blocks of steel. A brilliantly funny act.

Alex Stone (USA) – Micro Magic
Alex started with a lot of science-based patter. Unfortunately, the act was – how can I put it – crap! He dropped a coin at one point early in the act, to which his only response was “Oh sh*t!” This got a big laugh in the video room, but things were to get worse as he tried a very, very basic Matrix with jumbo coins and cards. After continually shuffling his cards under the table (why?!?!?!?!), the judges decided that they had seen enough and asked him to stop.

Kiko (Spain) – Card Magic
He spread the cards across the table and started to blow cards out of the spread. As he did so, he managed to produce the 4 Aces – a very, very nice production. He asked for a suit to be named (Hearts) and proceeded to produce all 13 Spaces in order – then changed them into the 13 Hearts. He did a great assembly-style effect where the aces were placed under a sheer cloth and made to vanish visually and reappear on top with the other aces. It was a great effect, sadly the method of the vanishes seemed a bit obvious but a great effect nevertheless.

Simo Aalto (Finland) – Micro Magic
Aalto won the Micro Magic category in 2000 with his “Bell Act”. This time, he came out with cards and coins. He produced a deck of cards and a purse with some coins in it. He continued by manipulating a jumbo coin. A 4 card/2 coin Matrix was followed by the same with jumbo coins, then he produced more coins – each one being bigger than the last.

Joker Magic (Hungary) – Micro Magic/Invention
Performing silent to music, this performer produced a finger ring which he then moved from one finger to another without taking it off. He later vanished the ring, only for it to reappear inside a matchbox that had just been produced from a card case. He also made it reappear inside the card case.

VIP Magic (Netherlands) – Card Magic
VIP Magic (Emiel Lensen and Rob Mollien) presented an act based around a duel between a sharp-suited businessman (Emiel) and a tough street guy (Rob). Some great flourishes to produce the 4 aces time after time with each one trying to out-do one another, although there were a few fumbles but they were very well prepared – when they dropped an ace, one was immediately pulled from a pocket. An enjoyable act.

Martin Eisele (Germany) – Micro Magic
Martin performed the same act that had won him last year’s International Magic Close Up Competition in London involving his guest appearance on a fictitious kid’s TV show starring “the little orange mouse and the blue elephant”. He played the part of the nervous magician brilliantly attempting to do his “four coin trick” only with five coins constantly appearing. He performed a series of matrix effects, including one done in “fast forward” mode – all accompanied by a very funny voice over. He even did a Matrix involving cartoon sound effects of the mouse and the elephant as each coin moved. He also did a wonderful routine with cards and dice with the cards leaning against the dice so we couldn’t see them, but when he lifted them, the dice had vanished. With the cards flat on the table each dice reappeared under each card – we saw the each one of the cards tilt up onto their edges by themselves and when he lifted to cards the dice were back. As he left, he took his close up mat to produce “the little orange mouse and the blue elephant” that were the stars of the TV show. A great act and another great response.

Rick Merril (USA) – Micro Magic
Another act that had been seen at last year’s International Magic Close Up Competition in London. Rick was awarded second place in that competition. He starts off by producing 3 silver dollar coins, then changes them, one-at-a-time, into Chinese coins with holes in them. He turns them back into the silver coins then changes them into jumbo coins, only for these to change into jumbo Chinese coins! Brilliantly done and I have no idea. Then, off came the jacket and he started his act with a Sharpie marker pen and a coin. Productions, vanishes and transpositions were all included in this routine which is very, very visual. He ended with what he called his “Sharpie Impressions” – Lennart Green, Penn and Teller, Uri Geller and Doug Henning were amongst those that made a Sharpie-style appearance. Great fun and a great response in the video room.

Jon Armstrong (USA) – Card Magic
There had been a lot of talk that Jon was someone to watch out for in the Card Magic category. He had 2 spectators each peek the same card – clever. He then stuck a card to his forehead but it was neither of the 2 selections that the spectators had made – instead had them go into his wallet in what seemed to be a very quick-thinking out. As he tried to deal out the spectator’s telephone number with the playing cards, he ran out of time and was, sadly, disqualified on time.

Hayashi (Germany) – Micro Magic
The final act of the whole competition was Hayaski who came out and performed 9 versions of Matrix (what was it with that damned effect this year?!?!?!), including one that was performed one-handed! This was very well received. As he performed, groups of 4 coins would appear under the cards, even 4 jumbo coins. Technically, a very very good act.

Phew! Finished it all at last! I'll post more thoughts on the whole of FISM and a bunch of pictures in the coming days.

Best wishes

The Cardman :-)

04 August 2006

FISM 2006, Stockholm, Sweden

I wanted to be able to post up more often, but things have been a bit crazier than I thought they would be this year. Mind you, it's been a lot of fun.

The standard of the Close Up Competition varied from brilliant to downright awful, with only one act being disqualified by the judges for not "being up to FISM standards" (there should have been a few more!). I'll post up full details of who did what and who won what once I get home.

As I mentioned before, I was supporting the Granada bid for the next FISM, but it was announced earlier today that FISM 2009 will be taking place in Beijing, China. I think I'll register - and start the Mandarin lessons as soon as possible.

More soon.

The Cardman :-)

26 July 2006

Billy Joel, Glasgow SECC, 24 July 2006

Last Monday saw Billy Joel's first solo concert in Glasgow for about 12 years. I had seen him when he last performed in Glasgow when the Face To Face tour he did with Elton John came to Ibrox Stadium in 1998. That was great, but this one was even better!

I had a great seat in the middle of the auditorium and as I waited for the concert to start saw one of the best things I've seen at a concert in a long time. A few members of BJ's staff appeared in the arena with small strings of tickets. They then went to some of the not-so-good seats in the arena and asked the people if they would like to move seats. When the people said yes, they were handed the new tickets and pointed in the direction of the nearest security person. The security person then escorted the people to their new seats - one of the front 3 rows right in front of the stage!

The looks on their faces were ones of amazement and bewilderment, but it was great to see and great to think that someone would do something like that as a little surprise for people who take the time to go to one of their concerts.

Personal highlights from the concert itself included the opening, "Miami 2017" immediately being followed by "New York State of Mind", the band covering AC/DC's "Highway To Hell" and the last half dozen or so tracks (including the whole Encore). Here's the setlist.

Prelude/Angry Young Man
My Life
Everybody Loves You Now
The Entertainer
Just the Way You Are
Zanzibar
Miami 2017
New York State of Mind
Downeaster Alexa
She's Always a Woman
Allentown
Don't Ask Me Why
Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)
Keepin' The Faith
Innocent Man
Uptown Girl
River of Dreams
Highway To Hell
We Didn't Start The Fire
It's Still Rock and Roll To Me
You May Be Right

Encores
Only The Good Die Young
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
Piano Man

It's been a long time since he toured and, sadly, it'll probably be another long time until he tours again. One thing's for certain, though, I'll be there!

The Cardman :-)

P.S. Which concert did I prefer - Guns 'N Roses or Billy Joel? As good as GNR were, Billy Joel wins it!

22 July 2006

Guns N' Roses Concert, Glasgow SECC, 21 July 2006

Last night was a night for nostalgia. A night for letting whatever hair I've got left down and enjoying a great night out listening to songs that got me into rock music in the first place. Guns N' Roses came to Glasgow last night for what I understand was their first ever gig on Scottish soil. My best mate, Peter, and I went along to see if Axl and the new band that he had created under the GNR banner would be able to even remotely match the band that we grew up listening to - and that Peter had seen live in Gateshead however many years ago.

They blew the place apart!

The 2 support acts - Towers Of London and Bullet For My Valentine were, ahem, competent. Towers did a great metal cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's classic "Freebird" (the only track we were in the arena to hear them play) while BFMV basically sounded like it was just one long session of screaming into microphones.

I had read the reports on the internet about Axl apparently not going on stage before 10pm on this tour. BFMV left the stage at 8:30pm and the stage crew set to work getting the stage ready for GNR. They were done by 9 and the crowd stood there waiting. And waiting. And waiting. After about half-an-hour of waiting, the booing and jeering started between the songs that were being played over the PA system. Another 15 minutes and the paper cups that people's drinks were in were starting to get thrown. At 10:04pm, the house lights went off and the place went mental and cheered the opening notes to "Welcome To The Jungle" as each member of the band walked on stage. With everyone on stage and Axl at his microphone, he shouted "you know where the f*** you are?" and we were off on a trip down rock memory lane as the first 2 tracks on "Appetite For Destruction" - GNR's first album - "Welcome To The Jungle" and "It's So Easy" were played - brilliantly. Peter and I felt like we were 15 again!

Personal highlight tracks during the concert were "Live And Let Die" (during which I realised the drummer sitting in with them was Abe Laboriel Jr. who I last saw drumming with Paul McCartney - coincidence? Actually, it was as he was sitting in for the regular drummer), "You Could Be Mine", "Nightrain" and "Paradise City". Here's the setlist:-

Welcome To The Jungle
It's So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Live And Let Die
Better
Robin Finck Guitar Solo
Sweet Child O' Mine
You Could Be Mine
Knockin' On Heaven's Door
Jam Session
Dizzy Reed Piano Solo
The Blues
Richard Fortus And Robin Finck Guitar Duet (Christina Agulera's Beautiful)
Out Ta Get Me
Jam Session (with Axl on piano)
November Rain
Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal Guitar Solo (instrumental version of Don't Cry)
Think About You (with Izzy Stradlin)
Patience (with Izzy Stradlin)
Used to Love her (With Izzy Stradlin)
Nightrain (with Izzy Stradlin)

Encore
Madagascar
Robin Finck Solo (Over The Rainbow)
Paradise City (With Izzy Stradlin)

Right, I'm off to try to recover! I hurt in places I forgot that I would hurt in after a rock concert like that!!!

The Cardman :-)

21 July 2006

FISM 2009 Candidates

Next weekend, I'll be flying to Stockholm in Sweden for the 2006 FISM World Championships of Magic. During the week, 3 cities will be vying to become the host city for the 2009 FISM World Championships - Beijing in China, Vienna in Austria and Granda in Spain. Sadly, the Chinese do not have a website set up for their bid but both the Vienna and Granada bids have got good websites allowing you to see what they have in store, should they win.
I am going to boldly put my hat in the ring and say that with the information that I have found online and that I've been given from people "in the know", I'm going to back the Spanish bid in their quest to host FISM World Championships of Magic 2009. And not just because they have downloadable pictures on their sites, but because of the whole package - the production staff, the performers that they have "promised", the venue, etc.

Granada 2009 Candidate City for the 24th FISM World Championships of Magic

Whatever happens, we'll find out who is hosting FISM 2009 in a couple of weeks' time. I'll keep you posted.

The Cardman :-)

19 July 2006

Crazy Mixed Emotions

Well, after THE worst couple of weeks of my life so far, I’ve now got a couple of weeks that I have been looking forward to for what seems like ages!

It all starts this Friday night when my best mate, Peter, and I go to the SECC in Glasgow to see a nice quiet beat-combo from America – Guns N’ Roses! That’s right, Axl and his band will be in town to blow us all away with some classics, as well as (maybe) a few from the forever-upcoming album “The Chinese Democracy”. Should be a blast! I’m sure Peter saw them live during the early ‘90s, so it will be interesting to see how they compare to the original line-up. I have another concert at the same venue the following Monday night. A little bit of a contrast compared to the GNR gig – Billy Joel. Told you it was a little contrast! I saw him live in 1998 at Ibrox where he and Elton John appeared in their “Face To Face” tour. He wasn’t well that day but still managed to give a great performance of a whole bunch of classic hits. Now, it’s just him on his own doing what looks like being a great gig! To be honest, I don't know which concert I am more excited about as I can't wait for either of them!

I’ve also been invited to a couple of birthday parties – one at Peter and Janice’s to celebrate the first birthday of their son, Andrew (a year? already??) and one for a workmate’s 30th which is being set up as a fancy dress party.

And at last, we come to the one thing that I’ve been looking forward to more than anything over the last wee while – the 2006 FISM World Championships of Magic. FISM – a French acronym for the International Federation of Magical Societies – is a convention that is held every 3 years in a different city around the world. The main part of it is a huge competition in which different performers compete to decide the World Champion magicians in both Close Up and Stage Magic for the next 3 years. I could go on about this for hours, but instead I’ll point you in the direction of both the FISM Organisation website as well as the website for this year’s FISM Convention itself.

I fully intend watching the whole Close Up Competition and will post up what I thought of the different acts once I get a chance to do so, as well as general thoughts of the Convention itself.

Have a good few days.

The Cardman :-)

12 July 2006

My Dad

Last Wednesday - 5 July 2006 - at 4:30pm my Dad, Alexander Campbell McLanachan, known to the world as Campbell, died after spending several days in Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock. He was 65 years, 4 months and 19 days old.

Dad became unwell on Sunday when he was at the local Co-op store to pick up the papers. He suffered a Cardiac Arrest in the back of the ambulance, but the Ambulance crew managed to get him re-started. Upon arriving at Crosshouse, Dad suffered a second Cardiac Arrest. This one, however, lasted 30 minutes. After we had been told about that, we basically knew that things were very grim. As it was, the Intensive Care staff tried to ventilate him, cooling his body down so that it was only using the minimum amount of energy to run his major organs in an attempt to see if they could stop any brain damage from setting in. As it was, when all the drugs were withdrawn and he didn't waken up, we knew that it was only a matter of time.

That was the Tuesday morning. As it was, he survived until the Wednesday afternoon. I always knew he was a fighter! When he did finally pass away, it was just Mum and Dad together in the room. When Mhairi, my Sister, and I thought about it for a moment we realised that that was how we, as their children, would have wanted it.

Yesterday - 11 July 2006 - saw Dad's funeral. It was a happy affair - if happy can be used to describe a funeral. On Dad's request, there were very few black ties - I wore my kilt!!! Never thought I'd be doing that! The minister kept the service fairly light. And when Dad's 2 tunes started up - "The Great Pretender" by The Platters and "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis - there were chuckles throughout the Crematorium.

On behalf of the family, I'd like to thank everyone who turned up and packed the Crematorium out yesterday. We were all really touched. Also, our thanks to the staff at the Stewarton Co-Op for looking after Dad when he became unwell and to the staff at A&E, Intensive Care and Ward 3B at Crosshouse Hospital for their care of both Dad and the rest of us. They did not "sugar coat" anything and told us what we needed to know without trying to get our hopes up too much.



Dad with his youngest Grandson, Cameron.
October 2005

Folks, can you all do me a wee favour? The next time you're talking with your loved ones, remember to tell them that you care about them and make sure you do before it is too late.

Take care.

The Cardman :-(

10 May 2006

2006 Irish Magicians Convention, Limerick

At the end of April, I was in Limerick for the Annual Convention of Irish Ring 85 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Each year, the Convention moves from Dublin (organised by the Society of Irish Magicians) to Limerick (Munster Society of Magicians) to Belfast (Ulster Society of Magicians). I had been to last year's convention in Dublin and, due to seeing the initial line-up on the website (especially after seeing David and Dania's name down for performing), I had booked my flights when I was asked if I would travel over and lecture at the Convention. I had lectured before to Magic Societies, but never to a Convention. Mind you, with one hour at a Convention against a couple of hours at a Magic Society things would be fairly easy (well, I thought! See later).

My flight on the Friday morning was fine - typical Ryanair affair - and I was met at the airport by my good friend John Bowden who took me to my hotel (what a room!) where the whole Convention was taking place. After a wee while to get a shower and get changed, I made my way down to the car park where a bus was waiting to take us to Bunrattay Folk Village for their "Traditional Irish Night" and what a load of fun it all was. From the jokes (fairly clean) on the way there, to the entertainment during dinner (which included Irish Songs, Dances and jokes as well as a guest spot from magician Michael Finney who was performing and lecturing at the Convention) to the songs and jokes on the way back ("near the knuckle" - well, it was late and many folk had been drinking!) it was a great night and one that really set the weekend up nicely.

Saturday morning saw the first of the lectures (Mark Shortland) and my first chance to see where I would be "working" (I use that term loosely!) on the Sunday afternoon. It was upstairs in one of the hotel's bars and could fit a fair number of people in. I have to admit that I found it difficult to relax during the Saturday - probably because I knew I was lecturing on the Sunday - so I didn't really sit back and watch any one thing for any length of time for the first part of Saturday. I saw a bit of Mark's lecture and I'm not really into watching Children's Magic, although I did hang out back stage for a while talking with friends as the Children's Matinee was going on. The first thing I really watched was the Michael Finney lecture. A really interesting lecture, mostly concerned about the business side of being a performer.

Saturday night saw the Convention Banquet and Stage Competition. The 5-course meal was, as always, excellent and is always a hghlight for me. The Stage Competition was entertaining, but for all the wrong reasons. There were a few bad acts on that bill, including one young man who seemed to be doing an act that consisted of all the toys that he had got over the last wee while! Not being a stage performer, I'll leave my comments there.

Sunday arrived and it was time to do the final preparations for my lecture. As the Children's Lecture was going on, I was locked away in my room doing a full run-through of my one-hour lecture. All seemed to go pretty well. Before I knew it, it was 12:30pm and time to start getting changed and getting ready for presenting the lecture at 2pm. I arrived at the room where the lectures were being presented to find it deserted! Not a soul there! Have I got the time wrong? Wrong room? No, all was fine as people started arriving a few minutes later. As they arrived, I was wired for sound and helped set the camera up so that people could get a closer view of what was going on. At around 2:15, there were enough people to merit me starting the lecture, which I did and before I knew it, it was nearly 3pm! Time to start doing my last effect, then try to sell my lecture notes (they're available by clicking the link - hey, if I can't sell them via here, where can I sell them?).

With my lecture done, I had a little time to go and get changed out of my suit before going back to be a judge in the Close Up Competition, which I had won in Dublin last year. The technical standard of the competition was OK, and for me there were 2 stand out acts. When I consulted the other judges, we had a fairly easy time realising that we had pretty much chosen the same performer. What gets me is the almost total lack of preparation that some of the performers give to what is, in essence, the Irish National Close Up Competition. Some of the entrants decided to enter an hour or 2 before the competition itself and performed in jeans and t-shirt. That would have been fine if they had an act - espeically one that suited the way they were dressed - but most of them stood at the table emm-ing and ahh-ing between tricks as they tried to think of what to do next. They were totally ill-prepared! If someone had done that at virtually any other competition I have ever seen, they would have been laughed out of the room. If you are taking part in a Competition, you need to have an act - don't just stand there and do a bunch of tricks that you decide upon there and then! An act that flows. One that has a beginning, middle and end! OK? OK, rant over.

That brings us to the Gala Show. Hosted once again by Aonghus McAnally - UK-based conventions should get him over to MC over here, he's fantastic! - The show was filled from end-to-end with magic and music. I was even awarded my SIM Gold Medal for winning the Close Up Competition last year in Dublin. Personal highlights of the show included Aonghus telling joke after joke (so many that I couldn't write them down!), Michael Finney and, of course, David and Dania. The show brought the official convention stuff to a wonderful close, but it was not the end of the convention itself - there was still the hotel bar to go to for the night! The bar was packed with people sitting, talking, drinking and showing the occasional trick to one another. It is almost tradition with weekend conventions that we take hours to say "goodbye" to one another - even though we know we'll see each other down the road fairly soon.

I had a great weekend, and it was great to see so many friends, both old and new. Also, I would really like to thank the organisers for taking a chance and asking me, a fairly unknown performer, to give the Close Up lecture at their convention this year.

The Cardman :-)