31 December 2009

2009 International Magic Convention

Hi folks

I know that it was a few weeks ago, but I have not had a lot of time to be able to post this up. So, now that I've got a few minutes, let's get typing. Now, what was I going to type about? Oh yes...

London, London, London. I enjoy my now annual visit to the "big smoke" for a bunch of reasons. The buzz of the Christmas shoppers swarming along the pavements. Meeting up with friends old and new. Oh and the International Magic Convention, or "Ron's Day".

"Ron's Day" is now a weekend full of magic from the best performers in the world. As always, it is a great mix of established names and those that have yet to become established names in the magic world. This year was no different with Rene Lavand, Armando Lucero and Geoff Williams among those on the bill.

One of the real highlights of the convention each year is the International Magic Close Up Competition for the Kevin Raey Trophy. Now in its 26th year, the competition is one of the most prestegious in magic with a list of winners that reads like a Who's Who of Close Up magic in the last quarter of a century. Here's who took part this year, as well as a few notes that I scribbled at the time.

Rob James (UK)
Rob performed some of the material from act that he performed when I saw him at the IBM British Ring Competition in Eastbourne last year. He opened with a great effect with the cards and their case which caught me out and then his very funny routine with his “gag counter”, which, in the end, revealed a selected card. Rob closed with a very funny piece that was done to music but that his “thoughts” being broadcast for all to hear.

Keith Bennet (UK)
Keith came out and performed mentalism with a rubber chicken. This may sound somewhat weird, but there were some very funny moments in this act which ended up with a selected card inside said rubber chicken.

Oliver Meech (UK)
The premise of Oliver’s act was that he had lost his luggage when travelling to the convention so was performing with things he had found in his hotel room – including being dressed in his bathrobe and using its belt as a tie. He performed a clever effect with different spirits being poured out of the same miniature bottle from the mini bar. He also performed a nice Cups and Balls routine with tea cups and tea bags.

Jean Emmanuel Franzis (France)
Some major errors marred the start of this act but he did some really nice coin productions and some excellent coin work, including a clever 3 Fly style routine and ended with a brief tribute to some of Coin Magic’s masters.

Dr Gábor (Hungary)
Gábor presented an act based around card cheating, with Ace productions from a blue-backed deck, only for the aces to change to red backed. Some confusing handling and drawn-out presentations were peppered with moments of genius, especially with his cards out of the box routine. His act came close to the 12 minute time limit and he had to rush the end of his routine.

Alexander Popov (Russia)
Popov came out with the same crazy cuts and off-the-wall attitude that had endeared those of us that saw him at FISM 2006 in Stockholm. Strange whistles and noises as he performed seemingly impossible cuts while constantly finding a selected card caused laughter – mostly because a lot of the magicians watching were being fooled by what they were seeing. Completely unique card handling and he could be the Russian Lennart Green.

Paul Brown (UK)
Sadly, I missed Paul’s act as I was too busy chatting in the Dealers’ Room. Sorry.

Vladislav Kolmykov (Russia)
There seems to be a Russian tradition for making strange noises and whistles when performing magic. Kolmykov performed a Professor’s Nightmare routine which lulled everyone into a false sense of security before they realised they’d been fooled. A very clever version of David Regal’s “Sudden Deck” was followed by an Ambitious Card routine interspersed with the continual re-appearance of the card case around the cards. The Ambitious Card ended up being sealed inside a tin of fruit slices.

Woody Aragon (Spain)
Woody performed a very nice assembly routine with the assembling cards having different backs to the rest of the deck being used. He also performed an excellent colour-changing deck and finished by “painting” with the cards to spell out “38th Ron’s Day”.

Pete Hathaway (UK)
Hathaway came across as having used an unknown compound prior to coming on stage and started with a gag prediction of a mobile telephone number. He continued with some strange card work and an Ambitious Card routine that he seemed to forget part-way through.

Charming Choi (South Korea)
Choi’s performance persona is camper than a row of pink tents with little pink bows on them. He started with an unusual piece where he made a picture of a bicycle out of Bicycle brand playing cards and then caused the wheels to spin before producing a 6-inch high bicycle. He also had a clever twist on the Matrix routine where he made drawings of coins seem to move around the page. Sadly there were a few fumbles during his act that spoiled things a little but his finish – again, to do with drawings – was excellent. I won’t spoil it here – you’ll need to try and see him perform!

Johan Ståhl (Sweden)
Johan invited the rest of the audience to watch in as he performed a cup and ball (sugar cube) routine for one member of the audience, who turned out to be a phenomenal spectator! She reacted to everything wonderfully and really helped “make” the act, during which he produced items such as cup cales and a flask of coffee. Brilliant act.

John Van Der Put (UK)
John started by changing a balloon into an egg (interesting) and followed with a very nice 3-phase card under case routine. He then finished with his well-known card into computer screen act and his “VDP Card” effect.

Later on the Saturday afternoon, the award winners were announced. They were:-
1st - Johan Stahl (Sweden)
2nd - Woody Aragon (Spain)
3rd - Rob James (UK)
Awards of Merit - Alexander Popov (Russia), John van der Put (UK) and Charming Choi (Korea)

This year's convention was being held in a new venue - The Mermaid Theatre in Blackfriars. The venue was fantastic and the staff there were superb, friendly and very helpful. It looks like the Convention has found a new home - and it's a good one!

A performer regarded as the greatest Quick Change artist in the world, Arthuro Brachetti, took time out from his busy performing schedule to come and talk to the attendees of the convention and what a fascinating talk it was, too. If you get the chance to see him perform, or if you get the chance to hear him talk about his thoughts on performance, take it!

Meeting Arthuro Brachetti

As usual, there were lectures and performances galore. Two highlights for me from the lectures were Geoff Williams, whom I had met at the FFFF Convention in America back in April. His lecture was full of clever material as well as being very entertaining and REALLY funny. If you get a chance to see him lecture or perform near you, take it!

Geoff Williams performing in the bar before the Gala Show

Another highlight from the weekend was a stroke of complete luck! On the Saturday afternoon, I was walking back into the Convention Centre after lunch and heard the phrase "let's ask Peter" as I walked by the Registration Desk. I stopped and enquired what was wrong. I was asked "would you like to help Rene during his lecture?" Hmmmm, would I like to sit on stage and watch Rene Lavand up close during his lecture? Let me think about th... OK! And so, an hour or so later, I was on stage with close up legend Rene Lavand as he presented his lecture at the Convention. It was an excellent lecture - not just because I was sitting on stage with him. He told stories, he performed brilliant card magic and he answered questions. Fantastic stuff.

Watching Rene Lavand during his lecture

One final highlight from the weekend was the presentation of the David Berglas International Award for the Promotion of Magic. This is the third year of the award with the first recipients of the award being the MacMillan family, who have organised and run the International Magic Convention since the start of the 1970s. Last year, it was Uri Geller, who was kind enough to participate in a Question and Answer session.

This year's recipient could not make it to London to accept the award as he was in Las Vegas. But, thanks to a conference link, the award was presented to David Copperfield! The magician who got me interested in magic when he vanished a 7 ton LearJet a year or 20 ago. Even though it was early morning in Vegas, Mr Copperfield was kind enough to accept questions for a room full of magicians. An interesting and entertaining hour that I will not forget in a hurry - especially since I got to ask him a question directly!

David Berglass on stage with David Copperfield
on screen live from Las Vegas

And so, another International Magic Convention came to an end. Another great weekend filled with good friends, good laughs and great magic. If you've never been to one, you don't know what you're missing. I look forward to seeing you there next year!

Speak soon

The Cardman :-)

10 December 2009

Andrew Callum MacNee

Hi folks

I'd like you to meet...

Andrew Callum MacNee

Those of you who follow me on Facebook will already know that my Sister gave birth to a baby boy in the very early hours of last Saturday morning, 28 November 2009. Andrew arrived, as most of the family had predicted, while I was in London at the International Magic Convention (a post on which will be appearing here soon) and weighed in at 8lb 14oz (4Kg), making him the lightest of the 3 boys at birth.

Meeting Andrew for the first time

My first port of call upon arriving back in Scotland from London was to go to Mhairi and Callum's to meet my new nephew. He is absolutely beautiful, as I am sure you will agree, and his 2 big brothers adore him.

Cameron showing he's a very proud big brother

You can keep up with Andrew's progress over at Facebook, where I'll be uploading some pictures from time to time.

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

20 November 2009

Geoff Williams lecturing at Paisley Magic Circle

Hi folks

Geoff Williams will be presenting his "The Lecture Your Mother Never Gave You" lecture for Paisley Magic Circle at 7:30pm on Thursday 3rd December at their usual location, St Margaret's Church Hall in Renfrew.

Geoff is the author of the critically acclaimed 2-DVD set "Miracles For Mortals" and his DVD "The 'I Hate David Copperfield' Trick" reached number 2 on the Murphy's Magic Supplies bestsellers list last year. He has presented his lecture around the USA, including at the Magic Castle, the Las Vegas Magic Invitational and the Midwest Magic Jubilee as well as in Italy and, recently, in Adelaide Australia. Prior to lecturing at Paisley, Geoff will be performing and lecturing at this year's International Magic Convention taking place next weekend in London.

On a personal note, I met Geoff at this year's FFFF Convention in New York State and he was one of the stand-out performers of the weekend, performing excellent - and fooling - magic but also entertaining everyone present with his off-beat comedy. I am sure you will enjoy him.

Hopefully see you there.

Speak soon

The Cardman :-)

24 October 2009

French Connexion by James Chadier

Hi folks

As with everthing with this blog of late, this review post has been sitting waiting to be done for a wee while. In fact, this review has been waiting since about March to be posted! Well, better late than never - I hope!

James Chadier is a new name to me. In fact, other than the contents of this DVD, I don't really know much about this French performer. The DVD is, however, contains some really interesting ideas, moves and effects with an emphasis on very visual magic.

Produced, edited and directed by Mathieu Bich, creator of a number of phenominal effects, this DVD shows Chadier performing in cafes and bars in Paris for real people and then explaining the sleights and effects without the use of spoken word - some of the instructions are shown as on screen captions to clarify what is being seen. The explanations are concise and very clear.

Now, I'm not going to talk about every effect or move on this disk but I will mention a few of my highlights.

Palm Toss
Initially, it looked like he had refined the mistake that a lot of us make when first learning to palm a card where it springs out of the hand. He has, in fact, come up with some very visual and startling effects. The stand outs for me were the force and the sandwich effects.

Crossing Hands
A very visual Coins Across/Shadow Coins type routine in the style of Dean Dill.

Rubber Penetration
This could be described as a one band version of the Crazy Man's Handcuffs and fooled me very badly.

Easy Matrix
As it says, an easy matrix to watch and understand using 4 coins, 2 hands a good bit of cheekiness. Even though this uses a move I am not a fan of, I liked it for its simplicity.

Bluff Pang Cheng
This was shown as an extra phase to the routine that uses the Squeeze Toss, a sleight also taught on the DVD, but I loved it due to it being extremely cheeky. It passed my by completely. Very clever.

Fingertip Ascanio Spread
A method of fanning the cards at your fingertips with the same qualities as the Ascanio Spread. An interesting little item that may warrent further investigation.

The Bonus Material on this DVD is both entertaining - in the form of some out-takes and funny moments from the filming of the DVD - and informative - by way of a number of extra ideas for the sleights that are taught in the main feature.

One innovation that deserves a mention is Mathieu Bich's new "X-Ray View" during some of the explanation sequences. This is very helpful, especially while explaining the coin material on the disk.

I have very few real critisms about the DVD. There are a couple of things on the DVD that I was not convinced with in regards to their effectiveness. If I were to try them out, I may change that opinion. Also, with no verbal instruction, you really have to concentrate on what you're watching to be able to take all the information in.

Overall, I enjoyed this DVD. There is a lot of very visual magic and while not everything suited my performance style, there was more than enough to keep me interested.

You can find a trailer for the DVD below and order it from this page of Mathieu Bich's website.

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

14 October 2009

Some visits to the Edinburgh Fringe

Oh boy! Where do I start?

Hi folks and welcome back to the blog which was on a “can’t be bothered updating but when I can be bothered I don’t have the time” break. Apologies for the serious lack of updates eecently. I hope this post (and it’s a big ‘un too!) will help make up for those.

So, when last we spoke, I had just been to see the mighty AC/DC in concert at The National Stadium, Hampden Park in Glasgow. Since then I’ve been a few places but mostly Edinburgh. As regular readers (hi and thanks for being patient) may remember, I love going to Edinburgh during August for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It is a great opportunity to see a lot of shows in a short time – and to catch up with friends too. This year was no exception and I managed to go through 3 weekends in a row.

My first day in Edinburgh was, by far, the busiest. Four shows in a day and that’s not counting any of the street performers I saw. I had booked a ticket to go to one of The Pleasance’s 25th anniversary galas that were taking place on weekend afternoons through most of the Fringe. This particular show was hosted by Arthur Smith and had a line up including John Hegley, Simon Munnery and Hattie Hayridge (Holly from Red Dwarf seasons 3, 4 and 5!). Some really funny stuff and Arthur Smith told one of my all time favourite jokes during the show and recited a wonderful little poem entitled “Sock Lover”...

Sock Lover by Arthur Smith
I've got 47 socks
Including 11 pairs
Lovers come and wear my socks
Move on and leave me theirs

Here’s a red sock for example
Belonging once to Kim
She who now cooks lunch for Gary
This green sock belongs to him!

Every sock can tell a story
They have ambitions of their own
When I go out with two old favourites
Sometimes one does not come home

On my left foot there’s a white sock
On my right foot there’s a blue
Even though they smell somewhat
They make me think of you

People say odd socks is crazy
People say I'm queer
People say I've lost my marbles
Well I haven't I've got them here

I've got 47 marbles
Including 11 pairs
Lovers come and roll my marbles
Move on and roll me theirs

After the Pleasance, it was a short (but swift) walk over to the Gilded Balloon to go and see Jarlath Regan. Jarlath had been the find of last year’s Fringe and so I wanted to try to get to see him this year. I have to admit that I was really lucky to be able to see him perform as I got what turned out to be THE VERY LAST TICKET for that day’s performance of his show “Man Of Very Little Mystery”. I was not disappointed as it was an excellent show. Very, very funny stuff and if he’s performing anywhere near you, do not miss him!

Ian Kendall plugging his show to people in the Box Office queue

Ian giving one spectator a "magician's eye view" of the trick

A visit to the High Street (aka The Royal Mile) gave me a chance to catch up with my good friend Ian Kendall who was performing for people in the Fringe Box Office queue. I was going to see his show later that day, so after a wee while of watching Ian plugging his show, I continued my walk along the High Street and came across a young lady called Jennifer Ewan and a few members of the band “Tuberians” (pictured below) that she sometimes plays with who were in one of the alcoves performing some excellent songs. You should check them out, I think you’d like them.

My next show was part of the Free Fringe and involved a character called “Piff The Magic Dragon”. Actually, I knew what I was in for as I’ve known Piff’s handler, John, for a number of years. The only way I can describe Piff is to have you imagine comedian Jack Dee (for those of you not from the UK, please find him on YouTube) performing some excellent magic. The show was excellent and another hour passed in what felt like a flash.

Finally was my annual visit to Ian Kendall’s show. With this year being Ian’s 18th year performing on the Fringe, he decided to have a birthday party with the show being a look back at some of the pieces he’s performed in the past – as well as a couple of new items – starting all the way back where he started with the Cups And Balls routine that he performed when he started on the High Street. Another enjoyable hour from Mr Kendall which ended with Ian getting everyone up to dance to the theme to “Hawaii Five-0” – well, all except me as I couldn’t dance for laughing!

The following Sunday and I was back through in Edinburgh but this time, I didn’t have tickets to see any shows – I simply went along to meet up with friends and hang out for a wee bit. My first, and pretty much only stop, that day was back on the High Street where the majority of the street performing takes place. The day had started, however, by going to the blessing of my friends’ Kate and Ray’s baby, Amelia Julianna. Amelia was a very well behaved young lady and even I got to hold her for a while during the service, which Amelia seemed to sleep her way through.

Amelia looking amazingly cute

"If you take one more picture, I'm taking the camera!"

That evening, I went to see my good friend Paul Nardini performing a short set at one of the variety/burlesque shows at the Fringe. I may be somewhat biased, but he did an excellent set and the audience appeared to really enjoy what Paul did.

My final trip through was the following Sunday with another friend, Diane. She was visiting family for the weekend so we took the chance to go through to Edinburgh to catch a show or 2 and catch up. We went to the High Street where I watched a couple of lads performing a number of rock covers on ukuleles including System Of A Down’s “Chop Suey” and Lynyrd Skynyrd's “Freebird”. They’re name is Pocket Fox, with “Pockets” being the drummer for Jennifer that I had seen performing a couple of weeks earlier (see earlier in this post). They were brilliant and you should try to check them out.

Diane and Pockets

After that, we went to see what shows we could see that afternoon. We decided to get tickets to see stand up comic Jason Cook performing his show entitled “Fear”. This was another excellent show and another one that I would recommend to everyone. A very funny performer and a real good guy – keep an eye out for him!

Another good time in Edinburgh but I might try to get through for a few days in a row again next year. I’ll see what life brings me in the coming months.

Speak soon - I promise!

The Cardman :-)

14 July 2009

AC/DC at The National Stadium, Hampden Park, Glasgow, 30 June 2009

Hi folks

As I walked into Hampden for the second time in as many weeks, I found myself asking "could it really have been 10 days since I was at Hampden last and could I really have been here for a concert as different as the one I was about to see?" The answer to both those questions was "yes" as I was back at the National Stadium, this time with my brother in law, Callum, and best mate, Peter, to see one of the greatest rock bands of all time - the mighty AC/DC.

Callum, Peter and I before the gig

The support acts - The Answer and The Subways - were not too bad, although I couldn't help but feel that the lead singer of The Subways was trying to play to the Glasgow crowd a little too much. Still, they stopped any boredom from setting in too quickly before the main event of the evening.

Brian Johnson and Angus Young on the
walkway not too far from me

Under an amazing blue sky, AC/DC started off their concert with a cartoon of a runaway train which ended with the train bursting through the screen. The concert started at 100 miles an hour and it did not let up for a moment. Song after song. Classic after classic. The crowd and the band seemed to be feeding off each other's energy.

Brian Johnson

The setlist had a good mix of songs from their current album, "Black Ice", as well as classic songs from their earlier albums, including the classic albums "Back In Black" and "Highway To Hell". Throughout the concert, Brian Johnson sang with that voice that makes you wonder if he really does gargle with glass and paint stripper every morning. Angus Young ran, duck-walked, lay on his back and headbanged without missing a single beat or note. Watching him for a few moments made me realise just how phenominal a guitarist he really is. And in the background, the "engine" of this Rock N' Roll Train - the rythmn section of AC/DC made up of Malcolm Young on Rythmn Guitar, Cliff Williams on Bass and Phil Rudd on Drums.

Angus Young

Angus gets raised up in front of the main stand
during part of his 15-minute guitar solo
during "Let There Be Rock"

A great concert and one that I would love to do all over again. I hope they tour again. If they don't, which is the current rumour, at least I can say "I got to see AC/DC live"

Rock N' Roll Train
Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be
Back In Black
Big Jack
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Shot Down In Flames
Black Ice
The Jack
Hells Bells
Shoot To Thrill
War Machine
Dog Eat Dog
Anything Goes
You Shook Me All Night Long
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock

Bonny (the first verse and chorus of "Loch Lomond")
Highway To Hell
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

Callum, Peter and I after the concert had finished

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

22 June 2009

Take That at The National Stadium, Hampden Park, Glasgow, 23 June 2009

Hi folks

So, 15 years ago, if you had told me that I would have been attending a Take That concert with my sister and enjoyed it, I would have probably looked at you in a funny way – and I don’t mean “funny haha.” Yet, a couple of Saturdays ago, I was with Mhairi, her husband Callum and her best friend Irene at Scotland’s National Stadium at Hampden in Glasgow to see the former Boy Band perform. I knew it would be an entertaining show, I did not realise how much of a spectacle it would be!

The scene as we entered the stadium with some
of the props in view before the show

Mhairi, Callum and Irene in the crowd waiting for the show to start

When we arrived at the stadium, we managed to find my colleague, and good friend, Lisa as well as her sister, Karen, and some of their friends who were all there too. We even managed to bump into an old school friend of Mhairi's who I hadn't seen in some 11 or 12 years! Cheryl's now married with 2 kids and it was great to catch up with her for a short time.

Me with Lisa (left) and Karen

Mhairi and Cheryl catch up

On the whole, the show had a feel of a Cirque De Soleil show with phenominal circus performers appearing at different times during the show. They even had a wire walker, the first one I have seen live since I was on holiday in Spain with my parents when I was 3 years old! However, one of THE most amazing things we all saw that night was an elephant that appeared out of the floor of the small stage across the stadium from us and that walked to the main stage. What was so amazing about it was that it was operated by some of the dancers. People operating the legs, some more operating the ears and a girl hanging upside down as the tail. It looked phenominal!

Irene and Mhairi singing along

The elephant

The show was nothing short of phenominal and I am more than a little glad that I went. Yes, I sang along to the songs that I knew - I'm not too proud to admit that bit - but I did not do any of the choreographed dances that seemed to be going on in the crowd. They were great fun to watch, especially part-way through "Relight My Fire". I might just go next time they're in town.

Greatest Day
Could It Be Magic
Million Love Songs
Back For Good
The Garden
Up All Night
Wooden Boat
How Did It Come To This
The Circus
What Is Love
Do What You Like/It Only Takes a Minute/Take That and Party
Said It All
Never Forget
Relight My Fire

Hold Up A Light
Rule The World

Mark (left) and Jason wave their goodbyes
to the section of the crowd I was in

Speak soon

The Cardman :-)

17 June 2009

Mark Elsdon lecturing in Scotland next week

Hi folks

Just a quick post to let you all know that Mark Elsdon is doing a couple of lectures in Scotland next week. The first is one that he has organised himself and will be held on Wednesday 24th June at the SCA's headquarters - the Scottish Mask and Puppet Theatre, 8-10 Balcarres Avenue, Glasgow, G12 0QF starting at 7:30pm. The entry fee for this lecture will be £10 and includes 2 free sets of lecture notes (in PDF format on a CD-Rom) to each attendee.

His other lecture will be at West Lothian Magic Circle the following evening, Thursday 25th June, at their headquarters at East Calder & District Homing Society Social Club, Oakbank Road, East Calder, Livingston, EH53 0BT, also starting at 7:30pm. Visiting magicians are welcome with the entrance fee also being £10.

Please note that Mark's free lecture note offer is only available at the Glasgow lecture.

You can download a couple of PDF files regarding the lectures - the first is the poster for the Glasgow lecture, the other being a series of Frequently Asked Questions about his lecture. You can also read a review from a lecture that Mark presented last year by clicking here.

Whether you go to the lecture in Glasgow or at West Lothian, I hope you enjoy it.

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

16 June 2009

German Lecture and FFFF 2009

Hi folks

Well, things have been a bit busy of late, but there is a blog that is long overdue. Hope you’re sitting comfortably because it’s a big one!

The events themselves were a long time coming, incredibly fast in passing and now, sitting typing this, almost feel like the distant past. A trip involving a trip to Germany to visit Sonja for a few days and lecture for Magische Nordlichter in Hamburg (click here for the English translation of the site), a visit to New York City and then going to, and performing at, the legendary Fechter’s Finger Flicking Frolic, also known as FFFF or 4F. And all in 2 weeks. Pretty crazy, almost jet-setting, stuff.

The trip to Germany was great. I as staying, as always, with Sonja in her new house in the beautiful little town of Bruchhausen-Vilsen, about 45 minutes south of Bremen. Bruchhausen-Vilsen, also informally called “BruVi”, is a town a little smaller in population than Stewarton with just over 6,000 inhabitants, and is a real mix of old and modern.

The main street in Bruchhausen-Vilsen

My visits to Sonja are always very relaxing and great fun. This visit was more of the same – chilling out with Sonja at the new place, visiting her parents who live a couple of towns away and being shown various towns in the nearby area as well as walking around and getting to know the town of Bruchhausen-Vilsen itself It was a great few days.

There was, however, another reason why I was in Germany. I had been invited to present my card magic lecture to Magische Nordlichter in Hamburg. Now, normally, I don’t get overly nervous before a lecture but this was my first time lecturing for a group who’s first language is not English, therefore it would be my first time presenting my lecture with the assistance of an interpreter meaning that I was really nervous. Luckily for me, I had an interpreter that I know quite well – Sonja. I was also nervous about how many people were likely to turn up. How many people in a different country come to hear a relatively unknown Scottish card man come and teach them card magic? Well, I didn’t have to worry as some 35 people came along that day, making both the organisers happy and me both very pleased and very relieved.

Sonja and I before the start of the lecture
(Photo courtesy of Fred Husmann)

Being introduced at the start of the lecture
(Photo courtesy of Fred Husmann

The lecture itself went really well and very smoothly with everyone seeming interested in what I had to say during it. Sonja did a phenomenal job translating what I was saying so that everyone could understand the information I was putting across. Before I forget, I’d just like to publicly say thank you to a few folk:

  • To Fred Husmann for helping get the lecture organised in the first place and for taking a ton of pictures during the lecture (a few of which you’ll see just below here);
  • To Denis Behr and Henning Köhlert for their hard work translating my lecture notes into German; and
  • To Sonja for helping the all the translations, doing the interpreting on the day and being a constant source of encouragement (not to mention hugs) on the day itself.
Sonja translating the lecture
(Picture courtesy of Fred Husmann)

A light-hearted moment during the lecture

Sonja and I after the lecture - the relief is obvious!
(Picture courtesy of Fred Husmann)

A couple of days after the lecture, I was on a flight home to Scotland. A night at home allowed me to change over clothes in my suitcase and relax for a wee bit before the flight to America the following day and save some £150 in airfares compared to if I had flown to America from Germany! The flight to the States was fairly uneventful and passed pretty quickly. It helped that I watched “Back To The Future” (classic!), an episode of “NCIS” and the first Harry Potter movie.

I arrived in New York City having gone through Immigration, baggage reclaim and Customs at Newark Airport in less than an hour! Very impressed! I was staying with my friend Ali who stays in an apartment on Wall Street. Wall Street!!! How cool is that?! This location means that it is easy to get pretty much anywhere. After dropping my luggage off in Ali’s apartment and meeting Eric Leclerc, who was also staying at Ali’s before the journey up to FFFF, I did a bit of a whirlwind tour of New York City. First the Statue of Liberty seen from the Staten Island Ferry, then lunch at the South Street Seaport. After that, I went and met up with my friend Sara who works in the Chrysler Building.

The Statue of Liberty as seen from the Staten Island Ferry

Our intention was that we were going to go up the Empire State Building but that had to be re-thought as the top of the building was fogged in by low-lying cloud. Ach well. We went walkabout round some parts of the city doing some shopping and a few of the famous sites. I even got to see Times Square in full nighttime effect for the first time. To say the least, it was pretty amazing. Sadly, I made the mistake of sitting down at one point and that’s when the jetlag hit me like a ton weight.

The top of the Empire State Building shrouded in fog

Welcome to New York! And no, neither Sara nor I knew these people!
(Picture courtesy of Sara Crasson)

Sara and I in Times Square

The following morning Ali, Eric and I travelled by bus from New York City to the famed FFFF Convention in Batavia in upstate New York. The journey took the best part of 9 hours but it was good to be able to see parts of America that I would not otherwise have seen if we had flown to the convention.

Fechter’s Finger Flicking Frolic is billed as “The Original Magic Convention” and is limited to 200 invited attendees. It is considered a great honour for a Close Up Magician to be given an invite to FFFF. Not only do you have to get an invite, you also need to have 2 previous attendees willing to say that you are good enough to meet the “FFFF Standard”. For that, my thanks go to Ali Cook and Will Houstoun for their confidence in sponsoring me for my first 4F.

All first time attendees are expected to perform during one of the formal shows that take place during the convention. I did not know when I was due to perform until I picked up my registration pack on the Wednesday. Written onto my registration pass was “Thursday, 3:30pm show”. Great, I perform on the first full day and then I can relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend. Unfortunately, my roommate, Will Gray, was not due to perform until the Friday night.

FFFF is always dedicated to one particular magician. This year it was the 2000 World Champion of Card Magic, Argentina’s Henry Evans. During the convention, Henry presented an excellent lecture which showed exactly how creative and devilish he really can be.

With 2009 FFFF Guest of Honour, Henry Evans

The convention always starts with a lecture and this year’s opening lecture was by my good friend John Archer, a really funny person and a brilliant performer. His lecture was received very well by the mostly American audience and it was great to hear how his humour was as well received by the Americans as it is here in the UK.

Will Gray shows his FFFF badge to John Archer
Keith Fields whilst at dinner

After the lecture, and at the end of each day of the convention, we had access to what was called the “Hospitality Suite”, which was a fairly large room with 5 large banqueting tables with chairs around them and free coffee, soft drinks and Tim Hortons doughnuts. That’s one way of making sure we session late into the night – fill us with caffeine and sugar!

Sessions in The Hospitality Room

To be completely honest, the rest of the weekend is a total blur! Not because of the amount of time that has passed between it all happening and me finally sitting down to type this blog, but because of the amount of stuff that happened over the weekend. So, in no particular order, here’s a wee run-down of some of my personal highlights from the weekend’s activities.

  • Steve Beam’s hysterical finger prediction in the Teach-A-Trick session.
    The final show on the Saturday night – no other convention could put such a strong show together.
  • Stephen Bargatze’s comedy run-down of the week’s activities.
  • A wonderful little film put together by Dick Cook showing pictures from through the history of the FFFF Convention.
  • George Schindler, the “World’s Greatest Magician” performing his hysterical act.
  • Meeting Gary Ward, co-creator of Connoisseur Conjuring, for the first time having corresponded with him online for a good number of years.
  • Meeting the hysterically funny Geoff Williams – or “Go-eff” as he was called after a mis-print on his convention badge!
  • Watching Portugal’s Helder Guimaraes and France’s Boris Wild having session in the Hospitality Suite that seemed to take “Jazz Magic” to a whole different level.
  • 4 words – The Cups And Farts!
Me with Gary Ward - a friend of several years whom
I was only meeting face-to-face for the first time!

Helder and Boris in the midst of their multi-evening epic session

The hotel it was held in – the Holiday Inn, Batavia – was excellent and the staff there could not have been any more helpful or welcoming to all of us. For me, it was the perfect convention hotel – a magic convention in one of the function rooms and a free pool table in the hotel bar! I was in heaven!!!

There was far too much to be able to take in over the course of the weekend. It is an amazing convention that anyone who does Close Up Magic should aspire to get to. Work hard and you’ll get the invite. I loved every minute of it and look forward to hopefully going back next April for the 40th Anniversary Convention.

Me in the middle of performing at FFFF
(Picture courtesy of Robin Dawes)

The obligatory first-timer's picture - in front of the FFFF banner

There is one more wee story that has to be told. After the bus journey up, Ali made the statement that we were going to fly back to New York on Sunday – we weren’t taking the bus back!!! On the Saturday morning, Ali booked the 2 of us standby seats on the 6am flight back to New York, which meant being up all night on the Saturday night. Fine by me, means I can see as many sessions going on as possible. We got to the airport, checked in our luggage, got through security and arrived at the gate in plenty time. It looked good for Ali and I to get on the flight. After the confirmed passengers had got on the plane, Ali and I approached the gate. She was OK to get on, but there was a problem with my booking.

Apparently, there had been a glitch in the computer system meaning that my booking had not gone through properly. Ali tried her best to sort the situation but to no avail. So, while I went to baggage reclaim to get the cases, Ali went to the check in desk to find out what had gone wrong and to see if there were any other flights available that day. As it was, there weren’t any. After a few minutes, there was still no sign of our luggage. Ali went back up to find out what was going on and, sure enough, our luggage was on its way to Newark without us! We managed to get back to the convention hotel and got driven back to New York City by George Schindler. The interesting thing was surviving for a couple of days in New York City without any luggage. Thank goodness for the city that never sleeps as I managed to get the essentials I needed to get through the following day.

Then, before I knew it, it was all over. Time to head home. It was a great time and one that I hope I get to do again sometime very soon.

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

05 May 2009

Upcoming lectures at the Scottish Conjurer's Association

Hi folks

I thought I'd do a quick post to let you know about a couple of lectures that the Scottish Conjurers’ Association are putting on in the next couple of weeks.

First off, on Wednesday 13 May, is Canada’s Shawn Farquhar who will be presenting his “Bread And Butter Lecture” in what will be his only Scottish date on his current lecture tour. I saw Shawn present the one-hour version of this lecture at Blackpool in 2008 and was really impressed by what he did in it. In fact, to save time, here’s what I wrote about it…
“I've seen Farquhar perform at the last 2 World Championships and he has always impressed me. He performs with enough energy to power a small town and is not scared to perform some impressive material - both in terms of technique and effect. His lecture was full of very easy material (he likes easy!) and the same energy that he gives when I've seen him perform in the past.”

You can get more details about Shawn’s lecture at www.magiclecture.com

The other lecture is the following week, Wednesday 20 May, and is being presented by America’s Steve Beam. Steve is the author of the “Semi Automatic Card Tricks” series which has, in its 7 volumes, become the largest and most reliable source for professional calibre non-sleight of hand card magic. Not only is he brilliant with a deck of cards, he is also incredibly funny.

If you cannot make Steve’s Glasgow lecture, he will also be presenting his lecture at both Edinburgh Magic Circle on Thursday 21 May and at Aberdeen Magical Society on Friday 22 May.

You can get more details about Steve and his magic at www.stevebeam.com

Both of these lectures will be taking place at the SCA’s headquarters at the Scottish Mask and Puppet Theatre, 8-10 Balcarres Avenue, Kelvindale, Glasgow, G12 0QF with both starting at 7:30pm. Best of all, entrance to each lecture is only £5! A bargain!

See you there?

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

03 May 2009

Race For Life for Cancer Research

Hi folks

A quick post just now.

Both my Mum and my Sister are going to be taking part in the Race For Life in aid of Cancer Research UK. This charity is very close to me and Mhairi's hearts as both our parents have survived cancer - Dad twice! - so, if you can, please click on one of the links below and give some money to this worthy cause.

Mhairi's donation page (Mhairi will be 13 weeks pregnant when she does this!!!)

Mum's donation page

Thanks everyone!

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

31 March 2009

Upcoming Scottish Magic Events

Hi folks

A quick post to let you know of a few events taking place in Central Scotland in the coming couple of weeks.First off, on Thursday 9th April, Paisley Magic Circle will be hosting a lecture by American Close Up Magician Gregory Wilson as part of his limited UK lecture tour. The lecture will take place at their usual meeting place at St Margaret's Church Hall, Oxford Road, Renfrew, PA4 0SJ starting at 7:30pm. Entrance to non-members will cost £10.

Gregory will be lecturing at Edinburgh Magic Circle the following night, Friday 10th April. Details can be obtained directly from them.

Finally, on Saturday 18th April, the Scottish Conjurers Association will be hosting a Day Of Magic to celebrate their 85th anniversary. There will be a Close Up Show, 3 dealers - Lomond Magic, World Magic Shop and Aidrian Harris (selling books) - and lectures from Craig Petty, Gordon Bruce and Mel Mellors. You can download a PDF flyer about the day by clicking here and you can visit the Convention page on the SCA's website here.

If you manage to make it to any of these events, have a great time. Sadly, due to a prior engagement, I won't be able to make the SCA's Day Of Magic but I'll hopefully see you at the Gregory Wilson lecture.

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

18 March 2009

The Cardman Goes International

Hi folks

A brief post to let you know of a couple of things I've got coming up.

First off, on Saturday 18 April, I will be presenting a lecture for Magischen Nordlichter (click here for the site translated into English) starting at 2pm in their headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. You can get more information about the admission fee from the club directly. German lecture notes will be available and are currently being translated into German by Henning Köhlert. This will be my first lecture where I will be working with a translator. Luckily for me the translator will be a young lady called Sonja Husmann whom regular readers (Hello!) may remember from past blog entries. It should be a lot of fun.

The following weekend sees me flying to America to attend Fechter's Finger Flicking Frolic - aka "FFFF" or simply "4F". FFFF is an invitation-only convention that is only open to 200 people which takes place in Batavia in upstate New York (approx 30 miles from Buffalo) on the last Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday of each April. One thing about FFFF is that all first-time attendees are expected to perform, so I'll need to make sure I'm ready to perform when I'm there!

So, suffice to say, the second half of April is exciting, scary, nerve wracking and I can't wait for it all to start. If you're at either of these events, come up and say "hello".

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

The Blog's New Look

Hi folks

Well, you might just have noticed that the blog is looking a little different. Well, for the last few weeks I have been attending an introductory course about Flash (ah-ahhhh!) at Glasgow Metropolitan College. I've been learning how to do some pretty cool wee animations, as well as creating websites within the package. One of the important things that we learn is about making things as easy to read and as accessible as possible. As it turns out, the white writing on black background that I was using for the blog is not the easiest thing to read for anyone with, for example, Dyslexia. So I have decided to change it. It might change again, I'll see how things look in the coming week or 2 and then take it from there.

Hope you like it.

Speak soon

The Cardman :-)

11 March 2009

Search And Destroy featuring The Nowhere Pass by Aaron Fisher

Price: $25 plus $5 shipping and handling anywhere in the world
Available from: Aaron Fisher's website from 4pm EST (9pm GMT) on 17 March 2009

From reading the information above, you'll probably realise that this is not a review. This is, in fact, a preview. Let me just state here that I have not seen the product in question, but I do perform this effect on a regular basis which is why I am posting this.

I first met Aaron Fisher at the 2001 International Magic Convention in London where he was booked to present a lecture. Aaron's lecture was entertaining, informative, and full of excellent magic - all reasons why I hate this guy! Seriously though, over the weekend I spent some time with Aaron and we showed each other a few bits and pieces. "Search And Destroy" was one of the things that he showed that weekend.

It is a handling of a classic Larry Jennings effect entitled "The Searchers" which, using really serious sleight of hand, had 2 Jokers travel through a deck of cards to find a selected card lost within the deck. Aaron's "Search And Destroy" takes all the heavy sleight of hand work out of the effect and, even better than that, puts the effect into the hands of your spectators. The magic happens in their hands. This is a great piece of magic that you should consider having in your repertoire. As I mentioned earlier on, I perform this effect and it never fails to get great reactions.

But that is not all that is going to be on this DVD. There is also Aaron's "Nowhere Pass", his handling of The Bluff Pass. Aaron has this down to such a level that you would never think anything sneaky was going on!

Below is the trailer for the DVD. If you like what you've seen and read, then go order yourself a copy.

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

06 March 2009

Spotlight On Carey by John Carey

Price: £15 postpaid in the UK ($25 postpaid for the rest of the world)
Available direct from John via PayPal at

John Carey is one of the UK's top "underground" magicians who, after some cajoling from his friends, has popped his head out into the open to share some of his material. This DVD contains a number of effects previously published in his "Carey's Cards" lecture notes and some previously unpublished items.

The DVD is a low-budget, one-camera affair with John performing, essentially, direct to camera with "Paul" being the off-camera spectator. In fact, at one point you can hear someone in the background sneezing during one of the explanations. There is also, at a couple of points during the DVD, a high pitched noise that might bug some people but not this viewer. It is, however, not the budget behind the making of the DVD that is important here but the material taught on it.

The material covers both cards and coins and although the material is not really, really easy, there is nothing on here that will break your knuckles. Everything on this DVD is attainable with a little handling practice.

Personal highlights include "Summer of '76", "Six Card Oil And Water", "Whispering Queen", "Counting On You" and "Slow Motion Collectors". These are all very nice effects that are more than worthy of your attention. He also gives some good advice on the Hofzinser Spread Cull.

I do have a couple of wee criticisms about the DVD, though. The performances of a couple of effects - most notably for me was "Simple Copper-Silver" - were spoiled by a bad camera angle. This should have been picked up during editing as it spoils the performance of a very nice routine. Possibly, it should have been filmed from the angle that the explanation was filmed from. Another wee criticism is that the lighting washes out the identity of the selected cards during performances.

Those criticisms aside, the material on this DVD is excellent and Carey, while not quite at ease in front of the camera (you really should see him performing this material live - you can book him to lecture at your magic club by contacting him at the e-mail address at the top of this post) gives some very good performances. I would easily recommend this disk to anyone interested in top quality card and coin handling.

To see what I've been talking about, you can see a trailer for John's DVD here.

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

04 March 2009

Bill Hicks on Letterman

Regular readers (hi folks!) will probably know that, thanks to my best mate Peter, I am a big fan of Bill Hicks. My sister and I used to stay over at Peter's after a Friday night out at a '70s night in Paisley and Peter would always play some of Hicks's albums as we were drifting off to sleep. From that, I got really interested in his work. Sadly, this was a few years after his untimely death at the age of 32 from Pancreatic Cancer.

One story that has now become legend is that of his 12th and final performance on the David Letterman Show on CBS in America. Hicks performed his set and he, along with the Producers of the show, felt that it had been his best performance on the Letterman show. A couple of hours later, while in his hotel room, Hicks received a phone call from the Producer to say that his spot had been edited from the show due to several "hot points" in his set.

At the end of January, Letterman tried to make amends for this error and played the footage set that Hicks recorded. Not only that, but Letterman invited Hick's mother, Mary, on to talk a little about Bill's life and to publicly apologise to her for having the performance edited out. Below, you'll find the segment, in 3 parts, which has been posted on YouTube and you can watch them below.

Hope you enjoyed them.

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

28 February 2009

2009 Blackpool Magicians Convention

Hi folks

Well, February is now behind us and another Blackpool Convention is part of history. It was a lot of fun and, to be honest, for the first time in a wee while I had more fun with the social side of things than I did at the organised events.

The journey down was easy with me having a seat on the train with an electrical socket, meaning I could plug my laptop in and watch a DVD, making the journey vanish! For the record, I watched Local Hero – a great movie that I would recommend to everyone. Before I knew it, I was changing trains in Preston, heading for Blackpool and then making my way to what has now become my usual digs for the Convention over the last 13 years – Llanryan House.

As is now my usual routine, I spent that evening at Riley’s Blackpool for some practice and to catch up with a pal of mine, Lynette Horsburgh, who happens to be the reigning WEBF Ladies’ World Pool Champion. The last time I saw Lynette was when she had been doing a fund raising exhibition at Braehead Shopping Centre back in October (she’s doing another one in Livingstone in a few of weeks’ time and I’ll post details of that when I have them). It was great to be able to sit and chat with her for what turned into a fair amount of time.

With Lynette Horsburgh

The following morning saw the Registration Desks opening at 10am. There are, however, no events between then and when the Dealers Halls open around 1pm. That meant 3 hours to do whatever I wanted, so I went and played some more pool. This time it was with my pal Lucy, who I hadn’t seen since the previous year’s convention. She said she played a little. She said she hadn’t played in some time. She said she wasn’t used to playing on the American Pool tables that I’m used to playing on. She didn’t say that when she gets in stroke, she is a REALLY good pool player! So much for a quiet practice session and a natter with a friend I had not seen in a year! My in-built vicious competitive streak came to the fore and made me work really hard to try to win as much as possible! Still, we were able to have a laugh, especially at the antics of a few of the local players at the next table!

As for the Convention itself, I never actually went to a single event on the Friday. This was on purpose as I had decided to wander around the Dealers’ Halls and met up with and talked with friends. It was great to be able to catch up with them all.

Of the scheduled events over the Saturday and Sunday, I only went to a few. The 2 "Audience With..." interviews that were scheduled were fascinating. One with James Randi about his career both in magic and debunking Psychics, the other with Eugene Burger and Jeff McBride about their lives in magic - with Jeff doing a really funny and very acurate impression of Eugene. The only lecture of the weekend for me was Rudy Coby's lecture on creativity. Again, fascinating stuff and amazing to hear his thoughts on how he created the pieces that he performs.

With James Randi

With Eugene Burger

I managed to catch a few of the Close Up acts on both days. Rudy Coby performing the "Human Blockhead" routine. Argentina's Latko performed his Cups And Balls routine that gained great praise at last year's joint IBM/SAM Convention in Kentucky which ends with the production of a full chess set - including chess clocks! Rick Merrill performed his, for lack of a better expression, act as known - the one that won him the Grand Prix for Close Up at the 2006 World Championships in Stockholm. All excellent stuff.

Rudy Coby performing "The Human Blockhead"
(in other words, he's got a nail hammered up his nose!)

Saturday and Sunday evenings each had a stage show taking place. Saturday's was in the form of the "$10,000 Intercontinental Stage Magic Championships" with 8 acts was, generally, of a very good standard. The winner, Han Seol-Hee of Korea, was someone I had seen previously on TV with an excellent act based around CDs. He should be one to watch out for.

A mention here should go to the compere of the Saturday night show, Tony Stevens. He is, by far, one of the best compere's that Britian has produced in many years. As he did 2 years ago, he published a mobile telephone number in the Convention programme so that anyone that wanted to could text in jokes and comments about the show. Two of the jokes were 2 of the best (and sickest!) I have heard in a long time - next time you see me, ask me about them and I'll tell you them.

John, Mhairi, Paul and Lawrie sitting in the theatre

Waiting with Julie for the Saturday night show to start

The Sunday night Gala Show was a little lop-sided. The first half was phenominal with the likes of Arthur Trace, Jerome Murat and Jeff McBride. The second half highlight for me was An Ha-Lim of Korea with an excellent card manipulation act that should get far in this year's World Championships in July in Beijing. The compere for this show, Canada's Derek Scott, seemed to split the audience down the middle - half loved him, half hated him. I was in the half that loved him. What that man can do on an empty stage with simply his personality, showmanship and a kazoo was hysterical.

With actor, magician, director, Derren Brown's right-hand man and
all-round good guy
Andy Nyman and his son Preston

As always, the late night activities were at The Ruskin Hotel. It was a hive of activity with magicians in every possible corner of the hotel talking, sharing tricks and generally enjoying themselves. Suffice to say, a great time was had by all.

One last wee bit - there was this guy walking around the Convention who had a huge crowd around him pretty much all the time. Apparently his name is David Blaine. I vaguely remember meeting him some 7 years ago in New York, so I thought I'd get another picture with him as he seems to have done alright for himself in the world.

Meeting David Blaine and Daryl Hannah in New York, July 2002

Meeting David Blaine in Blackpool, February 2009

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)