Inside Magic Letters to the Editer

Inside Magic Image of Attractive Reader Showing ShockIt is the stated and occasionally followed policy of Inside Magic to publish letters to the editor.  If you have a question for the editor of this esteemed virtual news outlet, please send your comments or questions to editor@insidemagic.com.  While the editor is not always available or conscious, when he is, he is really on his game. 

Dear Sir or Madam:

In your most recent blog post, you commented that Harry Houdini was dead.  I wondered why you would mention this well-known factoid.  Were you just in need of space to be taken up or was this supposed to be real news for the “professional” magician?  What was the point?  Are there people who think Harry Houdini is not dead?  Or were you being metaphorical and saying his legacy is dead? Or, maybe you were saying his spirit lives on but his body is dead and buried?  Again, what was the point?  Who else is dead that you should tell us about?  I subscribe to Inside Magic to get the latest news not the late news.  Did you hear that Lindbergh made it to Paris?  He did, he flew solo across the Atlantic.  That’s all. Pick it up, please.

 

Editor’s Response:

It has been a while since we commented on the living or non-living status of Harry Houdini but your email reminds us that it is about time to again remind readers that Harry Houdini died at 1:26 on October 31, 1926 at Grace Receiving Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.  The cause of his death was ruled an accident resulting from a blow received several days earlier in Montreal whilst reclining in his dressing room.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his widow and surviving family.  There is discussion of having yearly séances in honor of Houdini and to test the theories of spiritualism against which he fought so valiantly.

The Lindbergh news is not really magic related and so that was probably why we didn’t pick up on it – that is our bad and we accept the blame.  Good for him.  We hope his experience will be positive for all interested in flying.

Ironically, “Pick it Up, Please” was the title of our first top 100 hit in 1972.  It was actually the B-side of “Don’t Litter, Bug!” but got much more radio play thanks to our great A&R man, Zanzo O’Hara.  We peaked at 47 with the 45 RPM record and still receive royalties from it.  It was sampled on Eminem’s Marshal Mather’s “The Way I Am” track on his groundbreaking “The Marshal Mathers’ LP.”  Eminem said he loved the “funk and instructive tone to the bridge on our 45.”  That was good enough for us.  It was also used as the background sound for a movie about a carnival funhouse that is haunted by bad people.  We don’t know why they used it.  There was nothing funky or instructive about the scene in which it was used.  A woman and man, each younger than 21, get on the ride and look at each other before the cart in which they are riding goes through the front “gate” of the fun house.  They never return but part of their clothes return, albeit blood stained.

“Pick it Up, Please” was part of the whole Litter Lyrics Craze that lasted from August 1, 1972 through December 13, 1972.  Although it was short-lived and rarely recalled these days, it was an important movement in the industry.  We recorded the 45s (there was no LP) in Detroit at Motown Records “Trash Heap” mobile studios – so named for the campaign Barry Gordy and the studio launched to both take advantage of the Litter Lyrics Craze and to clean the city.  We actually came up with the beat and lyrics whilst picking up tin cans (not the modern aluminum version; which are much lighter and less likely to cut someone if not properly handled) with Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.  We weren’t with them per se but on the same crew.  The funk/bass was based on Stevie’s “You Haven’t Done Nothing” that he was working on and would later incorporate the Jackson Five in the song.  We went up when he went down but the beats are about the same.  We asked Stevie later if he minded if we used that funk procession and he shook his head.

We never spoke with Marvin Gaye but did speak with a guy who did and he said he was a great guy.

 

Dear Editer:

Why do you have so many tpyos in your text?  Don’t you read what you write?

Editor’s Response:

Excellent point.  We really should be more careful.  Most of our text is written whilst we are traveling from gig to gig in a poorly suspended circus wagon on a Sanyo MBC 550 (Double Sided Disc Drive) with 256k of memory running the latest version of WordStar 1.25.  As you likely know, as you seem familiar with limited functionality in some of the older programs, WordStar 1.25 did not have a spelling or grammar editor.  So, what we do, is take the text and translate it through Google into “English” from “Bad English.”   We then publish the converted version.  Sometimes, we get tired and the road, she is bumpy and winding, and we do not act as completely as we should.  We watch the flowers and trees from our path along the freshly hewn mud tracks, practice our back palm and give thanks to the Almighty for all that has been given us.  We beg your pardon for taking this respite in our editing to enjoy nature, sunsets, and the gentle rhythm of the wagon as we head to our next performance.

Still, as Hank Aaron once said, “being lazy isn’t a job.”

He was of course correct.  We should always strive to do our best, swing for the fences, have abnormally large wrists and forearms, and leave enjoying life to moments when our work is complete.

Thank you for the shame.  We needed that.  We were starting to feel better and less regretful for those errors made on purpose or by accident.  Your note brought us right back to reality.  Being lazy isn’t a job, indeed.

Still there is a part of us that enjoys the quiet ride through the meadows and the watching without comment the change of seasons against the setting sun as we head to our next job.

 

Dear Tim:

I love your website.  I wish there was more about when magician’s died.  Could you set up a special page that had the exact time and death (maybe even the cause of death) for every prominent magician?  We can start with one, Chung Ling Soo a/k/a Billy Robinson died while performing the bullet catching trick in England.  There must be others.  We’ll keep reading and looking forward to this feature.

Editor Responds:

Thank you for loving our website.  While the Editor is related to “Tim” he is not “Tim” but the flattery is sufficient to end the discussion right there.  Your idea about a special page for the exact time and cause of death brings the shade of concern into our room.  Why would you want this?  What happened in your life that causes you to want such information or to want this information from this otherwise fun-loving website?  Who has hurt you child?  Have you lost someone in your family, witnessed such a gruesome and unexpected accident, or do you just love numbers?  If the latter, we may reconsider our prohibition and  just publish the date of death for those magicians with a prime number in their last year or full date of death.

When we first started Inside Magic in the late 1940s, the world was just coming back to its pre-war state.  We had a job with one of the largest magic factories in the Midwest and carried our  lunch bucket to the “duck pan” part of the mill where we pressed, turned and finished duck, chick and chicken pan tricks.   We had pride in our work and friends.  Some of the friends returned from the Great War maimed or psychologically damaged.  We vowed we would never celebrate the death of any magician or magician’s assistant.  We might mention that it had happened but our site would not be a graveyard for those wishing to visit, honor, or even take vengeance against the dead.

Years passed and the other modern magic newsletters (this was before the web) had in memorial pages listing the recent passing of every magician in every far region of our vast world.  We felt their work was sufficient and since our heart was not in discussing the passing of former friends and yes, lovers, we kept to our award-winning stories of interest to the Professional Magician.

So, just as we wouldn’t include information about Lindbergh landing in Paris at the end of his solo trip, we won’t discuss the passing of great magicians.  It’s just policy.  May we direct you to other sites established for just that purpose, Dead Magicians.com; Magicians who used to be alive.com; and Magic performers who perform no more because they dead.com.

Inside Magic Letters to the Editor

Topo GigioLetters to the editor are published on an infrequent basis due to the infrequent receipt of correspondence we receive requiring a response.  We think the issues regarding our weight, loss of hair, inability to speak without a noticeable slur after five in the afternoon have been well-debated and do not warrant further exploration in this semi-public forum.  The tens of readers of Inside Magic have spoken and we have listened.  They want letters to the editor that are about substantive issues of the day in the world of magic.  And so, we turn now to those letters received in the very recent past.

Dear Tim:

You were in West Hollywood, before that in Mystic Hollow, Michigan and now you say you are in a town called Mystic Hollow, California.  Is it possible that you are making this all up or are you in some kind of witness protection program for magicians?  Also, is Mac King’s name short for something?

— A concerned reader

Dear Concerned:

Thank you for your close attention to our peripatetic nature and concern for our alleged involvement in bringing down one of the biggest cartels in fanning powder and roughing liquid black market history.  We do not consider ourselves to be heroes; although that title has been bandied about where things are normally bandied.  Despite the offer of witness protection from the federal and state authorities, we elected to remain in the public eye.  Now that those who perpetrated the horrible acts that resulted from poorly constituted fanning powder or inconsistently mixed roughing fluid have been locked up, we can again emerge to accept the accolades normally accorded folks of our ilk.  Of course, that was about ten years ago and we’re still waiting.  In fact, we’re starting to think the accolades are not going to come other than some random bandying in the bandy parlors that still exist (virtual and otherwise).

To be honest, we are beginning to doubt the praise for our heroism will ever arrive at the front door of our double-wide here in Mystic Hollow, California.  We have more information we are willing to share about Magician’s Wax being illegally imported from farms that abuse the poor magicians from whom the cultivated ear wax is extracted.  Tales of generic Q-Tips and over-farming will leave juries in abject horror but will remain in our vaults until we can be assured that the nation’s law enforcement officials will be ready to take on this anathema.

As for Mac King’s name, we think that’s his name.  Maybe Mac is short for something or a nickname.  Like how people call Santa Claus, “Santa” but it was “St. Nicholas.”

 

Dear Timmy:

How much does it cost to get into magic?

—  Earnest Questioner

 

Dear Ernie:

The best thing about Magic is that it costs nothing to start.  You can do magic with cards, coins, toilet paper tubes, paper towel tubes, other peoples’ cards, coins or tubes.  We heard a story of a magician who started with literally nothing and ended up with a full evening show by learning the magic he could do with borrowed items and doing them well.  He was tipped for his work, saved his money and bought props; eventually hired an assistant (and later married her) and found an agent to book him into shows around the Midwest. True, his agent ended up marrying his assistant and left him destitute but he still had his skills.  We heard from him last week.  He worked his way back up and will be doing shows again.

So Magic costs nothing but time and perhaps your livelihood and personal happiness (but that is a worse case scenario) and it is something you will always have with you.  In many ways it is like riding a bike.  You never forget the skills you learned.  The ability to perform sleights of hand or how to engage and entertain an audience remain forever.  And unlike riding a bike, you don’t need a bike.  People will lend you a bike to watch you do tricks with their bike and pay you money for the pleasure of watching you do things with their property.  Harry Houdini once said – in quote we are now making up – “Magic is the one art that rewards the artist’s practice and preparation by making his work invisible.”

 

Dear Tim:

What is your favorite Magic-film to watch?

—  D. Dugger

Dear Addy:

We love the movie Houdini starring Tony Curtis.  It was the film that really got us hooked on the Houdini myth and later Houdini history.  We weren’t disillusioned to learn that the film took liberties with the true story but more intrigued about the man that lived a life so large that films would be made about him.

It is interesting that you qualified your question by asking our favorite film “to watch.”  We have several favorite magic films that we do not like to watch.  We like to look at the posters, read about them on IMDB and dream about what they could have been.  Most of the recent magician-oriented films fit that bill.  The posters and promotion looked so wonderful that we just knew a great movie could be made.  It was a pity in almost every case that the producers, writers and directors did not agree with us and decided to make movies that seemed to stray from the magic theme that made them enticing.

We also like movies based on the life of Topo Gigio; focusing on his time after his success on the Ed Sullivan show.  He went on to open two nightclubs in Miami (one is still standing) and had an infamous running feud with former boxing great Jake LaMotta – although they were very good friends in real life.  Many people still don’t know that he was a great inventor and developed a way of making more predictable kidney dialysis protocols.  He received a patent in 1974 for his work on the modern milling of whole grain.  He was a prolific writer and many credit him for the Harry Potter story idea first penned for a literary quarterly published by the University of Mississippi.

Inside Magic Letters to the Editor

Inside Magic Image of a British CricketWe receive letters and emails from readers.  Often we share our responses with other readers.  Sometimes, we just read them and try to find our “happy place” while rocking back and forth and clutching our hair.  Here are some of the most recently received inquiries and our responses.  If you have a question, send it to question@insidemagic.com.  It may get published.

Dear Magic Man, Jr.: How do they do that trick where the ball floats and then vanishes or lights on fire?

Editor: Thank you for your question.  As you may know, we try to avoid exposing the secrets of magic here on Inside Magic.  So we won’t reveal the method but your question did cause us to look into the history of the trick you described so eloquently.

The effect was first found in a rough draft of Professor Hoffman’s Modern Magic under the title “Ball Flying and then on Fire before Vanishing.”  Hoffman got into a hard-fought battle with his publisher over the trick.  The book exposed many of the classic secrets of magic but the publisher was dead-set against exposing this particular illusion.

“Whilst we have no objection to giving away the secret to many tricks that make up the routines of working performers who depend upon secrecy to make a living, we object to lifting the veil on this vaguely described and likely never performed illusion.  It just does not seem, to us, to be in the cricket spirit.”

“Cricket” can be used as a synonym for “fair” or “appropriate” and that sense of the word is derived from the game of the same name played by unfathomable rules over the course of days and reported on the BBC shortwave broadcasts we hear at night due to a misalignment in our jaw and the resultant proximity of two silver filings.

But according to some scholars of a magical bent, the publisher was referring not to the game but insect.

At the time of Professor Hoffman’s writing, cricket fighting (or “Grasshoppering” as it was called on some of the colonial island nations) was all the rage in the British pubs and smaller arenas.  A “sport” similar to cock or dog fighting, the activity brought the bloody battle to those who could not afford the larger animals.  It was considered a more appropriate activity because anyone could find or breed crickets and thus participate.  Charles Darwin observed, “the elite pastime of raising cocks or terriers holds no sway for this man.  Give me a common tettigoniidae and a wager, and I am a happy sailor.” (See Darwin’s Dairies here.)

The Darwin quote points out an interesting twist on the story.  The British “cricket” is actually what we in the United States call a katydid or grasshopper.

In a typical cricket fight, participants would paint the backs of up to five crickets at a time and drop them into the circular arena with the entries of at least two other teams.  The battle would ensue for a period of time tied directly to the relative humidity of the venue.  On a humid night, the fight could be as long as five hours.  On a very dry night, the winners could be declared in five minutes.
Continue reading Inside Magic Letters to the Editor

Submit Your News and We’re So Sorry

Inside Magic Image of IT StaffOh boy, is our face red.

We have a “Submit to Inside Magic” button at the top of every page.  It has been there since we first started Inside Magic in the late 1940s.  The country was getting back to work, the big wars were over, neighborhoods were building, cars had big fins and transistors were just a pipe dream.

When the button was first installed, we received a couple of submissions – some were even magic related.  But we haven’t heard much since.

We had our crack IT staff check things out and we learned tonight why they are called “crack” – but that is a different issue – and we learned why we haven’t seen any submissions.  The staff had the submissions routed to an old website we no longer use: PocketFishermanKnock-Offs.com.

We hadn’t checked that site since the cease and desist letters from Ron Popeil’s blood-thirsty lawyers.

We are so sorry.

The server was filled with news releases, story suggestions, fully written essays and interview suggestions.  Some of them were quite good but are now out of date.

If you have a story, a suggestion, a press release, essay or interview suggestion, please resubmit it for consideration by our previously under-worked editorial staff.

If you previously submitted your news and thought we ignored you, please accept our most sincere apologies.  As a small but earnest magic news daily, we cannot afford to alienate a single reader and it was never our intention to give that impression.

Here is to new beginnings!  Click the button above or this link.

Letters to the Editor: Church of Inside Magic®

Inside Magic Image of Kind BenefactorIt is the policy of Inside Magic to publish letters to the editor when necessary to fill gaps in our front page or when required by court order. Letters to the editor should be addressed to, ironically, editor@insidemagic.com. Inside Magic reserves the right to modify, shorten, lengthen or completely change the sent correspondence and, if necessary, include funny pictures to take away from the seriousness of same.

My Lordship:

Greetings in the name of our Lord, I am (Mrs) *** ******, a widow to Late ****, I am 34 years old, I am now a new religious convert … My late husband was killed with his business associate and during the period of our marriage we couldn’t produce any child.

My late husband was very wealthy and after his death, I inherited all his business and wealth. I now decided to divide part of this wealth, to contribute to the development of the church in Asia, Africa, America and Europe.

I selected your church after visiting the website and I prayed over it, I am willing to donate the sum of US$5,000 000.00 (Five Million US Dollars) to your Church for the development of your church and also for the less privileged.

Please, do not reply me if you have the intention of using this fund for personal use. Please If I reach you as I am hopeful I will, endeavor to get back to me as soon as possible to enable my LAWYER conclude the legal duty.

Also to be sent to me is the biodata page of your international passport or drivers licence as a proper identification.

You can reach me on my alternative email box easily: mrs.***@yahoo.com

I await your soonest reply as you could.

Inside Magic’s Reply:

Dear Mrs. *****:

Although we did not know your husband all that well – in fact, we barely remember him from our days in your home community but that is no doubt the regrettable effect of our weeks of hard work and tireless efforts to do noble things in that strange land he called home – we are happy to accept your offer of $5,000,000.00 for our yet to be formed Church. (We will start the forming as soon as your funds arrive, don’t you worry your little head about that).

We certainly agree that the funds should not be used for our personal vanities but dedicated exclusively to The Church of Inside Magic® and its dedicated staff of very pious clergy; with a special emphasis on improving the lives of those who would travel so far to worship at our yet to be built gold and ivory altar.

As you know, The Church of Inside Magic® emphasizes the inner-being and eschews those in this sad epoch who worship the outer, false entities. Consequently, you are no doubt aware we do not permit our clergy or the lay ministry to carry any form of identification including a drivers’ license (or licensce) and certainly would never allow our images to be captured for the purpose of recordation through the alleged “passport” system foisted upon the clueless masses as a means of emphasizing the outer, shell of humanness to the detriment of the inner soul of personness.

We suspect your request that we send our drivers’ license (or licence) and international passport was merely a test to see if we were indeed true to our faith. We were and remain so.
Continue reading Letters to the Editor: Church of Inside Magic®