29 November 2007

2007 International Magic Convention, London

Last weekend, I was in London for this year’s International Magic Convention run by the MacMillan Family. As ever, on paper, it looked like a cracking weekend and, as ever, it lived up to the hope and hype.

My weekend started when I arrived in London on the Friday lunchtime and after leaving (aka dumping) my luggage in my hotel room, I made my way towards the London Science Museum. I only wanted to visit one part of the building, the Space Travel exhibit, as I have been interested in manned space flight for pretty much all of my life. Two words – utterly amazing! They had mock-ups and replicas of the likes of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, and the Lunar Module as well as models of all the launch vehicles used by both the Americans and Soviets/Russians from the very first up to the Space Shuttle. These were all built by a guy called Matt Irvine, who I remember appearing on “Newsround” and “Blue Peter” during major space-related events when I was much younger – in fact, he still makes the models for “The Sky At Night” which shows you just how young he must have been when he started!

Bill Anders' Spacesuit from the Apollo 8 mission - the first to send men around the moon in December 1968

Models of 2 Space Shuttles - American (left) and Russian

A little further on, in the “Making The Modern World” section, was THE most amazing artefact I have ever seen – the Command Module of the Apollo 10 mission that was the dress rehearsal for the Apollo 11 moon landing. The Command Module, codenamed “Charlie Brown” during the mission, was the only part of the spacecraft where the crew lived during the mission and was the only part of the massive Saturn V launch vehicle that came back to Earth. It looked amazing from the front but have a look at the bottom of it, the heat shield is still scorched from protecting the astronauts from the intense heat of re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Apollo 10 Command Module

The heatshield of Apollo 10 - you can still see the white scorch marks from the re-entry!

A brief glimpse inside the Command Module of Apollo 10 (aka "Charlie Brown")

That evening saw the start of the Convention itself which was taking place once again in The Shaw Theatre, located between Euston and King’s Cross Stations. The Theatre has become home to the Convention over the last few years and everything is performed on the stage. The Close Up is viewed via a large screen that sits on stage above the performer’s head.The first event on the cards, so to speak, was Guy Hollingworth’s one-man show “The Expert At The Card Table” which was loosely based on the classic book of the same name. I had seen an earlier version of this show roughly 9 or 10 years ago at my first Opus Convention in London so I thought I knew what was coming up. How wrong I was! It was totally different and completely re-worked! And it was brilliant! I won’t spoilt anything for you, but Guy did tell me that he intends to perform this at the Edinburgh Fringe next year. If he does, make sure you get a ticket for it. It’s fantastic!

Guy’s show was the only event that I went to see as I wanted to spend some time catching up with friends I haven’t seen in ages as well as get an early night before performing in the Close Up Competition the following morning.The following morning, and I was in my suit ready to perform in the Close Up Competition. I had never performed for 400 people all at once before and the thought was more than a little daunting. However, the actual experience of it was fantastic! My opening line got a big laugh, making me think “I like this!” and wanting to do more. I'll keep working on the act some more - I want it to be better!

As for the rest of the acts, well I didn't see them. I was too busy getting ready to perform to watch the ones before me and wanted to get away from it all after I had performed, so I didn't see any that had come after me. If you'd like to know who did what, I can refer you to both JJ's Opus Blog and Naquada's Blog for their thoughts on the different acts.

Saturday afternoon was mostly spent in Hamley's - bit of a mistake going there 4 weeks before Christmas. It was the closest to a rugby scrum that I've ever been involved with in a shop, only full of kids!!! When I got back to the Shaw Theatre, it was time to do some Close Up before that night's Gala Show performance. Since I was going to see it on the Sunday night, I was going back to the Palace Theatre to go and see Spamalot, this time with my good friend Julie. This year, my seat was up in the Balcony and when I got up there I nearly freaked out it was so steep! Almost vertical. As ever, the show was excellent, this time with Peter Davidson taking on the role of King Arthur. That's right, the 5th incarnation of Dr Who taking on The Knights Who Say "Ni!". He was a completely different King Arthur to the one that Tim Curry portrayed last year (of course he would be!) and it was interesting to see how the 2 compared. Slightly unfair, I know, but it can't be helped.

Sunday was a bit of a busy one with the Close Up Show, lectures and the Gala Show all taking place. There was also the chance to spend our hard-earned cash in the Dealers' Hall, which we did! I saw the Darwin Ortiz and Francis Menotti lectures - both excellent and very educational - and the Close Up and Gala Shows were excellent. In the Gala Show, MC Noel Britten had some brilliant lines and gags worked out showing just how hard he is willing to work when doing this sort of show. He even had some cracking topical gags which I've been telling anyone that will listen! My personal highlight of the show was Veronin's wonderful comedy act which has everyone laughing at the antics of the performer and his props.

From left - Voronin, Georgina McMillan (seated), Noel Britten, Svetlana and Fay Presto

Monday and, thanks to my good friend Julie, I at that night's Magic Circle meeting, which happened to be another lecture by Darwin Ortiz. Luckily for me - and the others that had been at the convention - it was a different lecture. This time, instead of everything coming from his notes, he lectured on material from his book "CardShark", a book of his that I had bought when it was first released in the '90s but that I hadn't read in quite some time. This lead to me and my good friend Ali Cook, who I hadn't seen in ages then ended up sitting next to him at the Circle, muttering "nope, forgot that" and "don't remember that one" through the lecture. The lecture was excellent and I'll be re-reading Cardshark in the very near future!

Meeting Darwin Ortiz

Me with Ali Cook

And so, on Tuesday, it was time to travel home. Another Convention over. What a bummer. I really enjoyed myself at this one and now it's time to try and get my head back to real life - not exactly something I enjoy doing, to be honest! Still at least its only 3 months to Blackpool!

Oh, before I go, I must mention the motley crew in this picture. From the left, Marc, Rodney, Rob and Alan - aka "The Blogettes". The walked up to me and started quoting things from this here Blog, which freaked me out no end! Well lads, I promised I'd give you a mention and here it is! See you in Blackpool!

Speak soon

The Cardman :-)

15 November 2007

2007 Philippines World Pool Championships

Last week saw this year's edition of the World Pool Championships taking place in Manilla in The Philippines. What a lot of you may not know is that Pool is HUGE over there. Apparrently it is a close second to Basketball in popularity! As ever Sky Sports were giving live coverage of the event, taking the broadcast feed from ESPN in Asia.

This year, Scotland had 3 players in it - Swiss-based Scot Johnny Fulcher, Glasgow's Stevie Capaldi and Larkhall's Pat Holtz. Sadly, none of our players managed to qualify from their groups into the last 64 knockout phase but that didn't stop the event from being one of the most amazing tournaments I've watched in many years. Although Pat qualify from his group, he did manage to make another good impact in the commentary box working with Texan Jerry Forsyth, Englishman Nick Halling and Filipino Bob Guerrero. As ever, Pat proved that you can take the boy out of Larkhall, but you can't take the Larkhall out of the boy! Last year, while talking very clear English, he slipped up my talking about the "wan-baw" (the one-ball). This year, I could only imagine Forsyth's face when he described an up-coming match as a "hum-dinger".

At the end of the week, the final came down to a Filipino, Roberto "Superman" Gomez, and a British player, Blackpool's Daryl Peach. I've met Daryl on many occasions, mostly when I was in Blackpool for the Convention that takes place there at the end of each February, and he's always been one of life's good guys. It was great to see him progressing so far through such a major tournament.

Let me just interject that there was a second British player involved in the late stages of the World Championships. Karl Boyes, who also lives in Blackpool, managed to reach the Semi Finals of this year's event before being on the wrong side of an 11-4 scoreline to Gomez (Karl was 4-0 up at one point before "Superman" took off). I had met Karl at the Scottish Championships at the end of October when he came up with his partner Lynette Horsburgh. Lynette, like Daryl, is someone I had met on numerous occasions when I was in Blackpool for the Convention. Had Karl won that match and made it an all-British final, I honestly don't know who I would have favoured!!!

As it was, it was easy for me to favour one player over the other and so, at 6:30 on Sunday morning (yes, 6:30AM on a Sunday!!!), I switched on Sky Sports to watch live coverage of the final (it's at times like these that I hate time differences!). The match started around 7am and, with the match being a race to 17 racks, I knew it would be a long one. I never thought it would take nearly 5 hours! But it did and, in the end, and to my joy and total disbelief, there was Daryl pocketing the final 9-ball to become 2007 World Pool Champion. It was, and is, an amazing achievement and one that finally starts to pay off all his hard work and dedication that Daryl has put into the game.

Daryl, a million and one congratulations to you! Yes, I cried as that final 9-ball was pocketed to give you the World Title you so deserve. Do I care? Not a jot!!! I could not have been happier for you. I hope you have a great year.

Speak soon

The Cardman :-)

Foo Fighters, SECC, 9 November 2007

I was back at the SECC last Friday to see Foo Fighters in concert for the second time this year. If you are a regular reader of my Blog (and I thank you if you are), you’ll remember that I went to see them at Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh during the summer. Now, that was a good gig, but not a great gig. My main bugbear was that the music was too quiet – I could hear myself singing, which isn’t a good thing!

This concert, however, was an exact polar opposite – this was so good it goes straight onto my imaginary “Top 5” list of all-time great gigs that I’ve been to! Heck, it was so good, it may even be fighting for the top spot with the REM gig at T In The Park back in 2003!!!

The concert was all standing and I was initially wondering why this was. That was until I walked into the arena itself and found that there was a 40-foot runway leading from the main stage to a smaller stage in the middle of the crowd. So, I positioned myself at the side of this smaller stage and waited for the support acts to come on. The first was a band called Brady Cole who, it turns out, come from Fife. Very, very impressive. I really enjoyed their set and would have like to have seen more of them. As it was, they had to get off stage to make way for Serj Tankian – formerly of the band “System Of A Down” – to come on and perform his set. He was a little on the wacky side of nuts but it was a good performance, although I much preferred Brady Cole.

A short time later the lights went out, the crowd went crazy and the band that we’d all come to see walked on stage ready to play their hearts out. And play they did! They played a ton of stuff – including their most recent single “The Pretender” and their next one “Long Road To Ruin”, my favourite song off the current album – then moved onto the smaller stage, the main part of which was lowered down from the ceiling of the hall, to play a small acoustic set. Of course, they finished that part with “Everlong”, followed by “Monkey Wrench” and “All My Life” (I love how they finish “Everlong” (which starts with Dave solo with his accoustic guitar and finishes with a full band rocking finish) to go straight into “Monkey Wrency.”

Set List
Let It Die
The Pretender
Times Like These
Long Road To Ruin
Learn To Fly
Cheer Up Boys (Your Make Up Is Running)
No Way Back
Stacked Actors
Skin And Bones (acoustic)
Marigold (acoustic)
My Hero (acoustic)
Cold Day In The Sun (acoustic)
But Honestly (acoustic)
Monkey Wrench
All My Life

In Your Honour
This Is A Call
New Way Home
Best Of You

It was a great concert and a great night out. I'm looking forward to the next time they come to Glasgow.

Speak soon

The Cardman :-)

07 November 2007

Lecture at Edinburgh Magic Circle: 12 November 2007

Hi folks

Yes, I know I haven’t posted for a wee bit, but things have been a little busy of late. I’ve got a few things I need to do posts about and hope to do so before too long.

However, I thought I’d quickly mention that I am presenting my “A Force Much Greater Than Luck” lecture at Edinburgh Magic Circle this Monday night – 12 November 2007 – at their new headquarters within The RAF Club, 11 Hillside Crescent, Edinburgh, which is just round the corner from their old meeting place at Edinburgh City Football Club. The room they will be using is on the top floor and the door is straight in front of you as you reach the top of the stairs. There is also a lift for those who wish to use it.

I'll be talking about my card material from my Notes entitled "A Force Much Greater Than Luck". Visiting magicians are welcome and entry to non-members of Edinburgh Magic Circle is £10.

Maybe see you there?

Speak soon

The Cardman :-)