Erase Una Vez en el Oeste

Today is the anniversary of a couple of iconic events from the Wild West:  One of the first, if not the first, actual middle-of-the-street quick-draw gunfighter duels,  and the first train robbery by the Younger-James gang (not the first train robbery of the Old West, though — the Reno brothers beat Cole and Frank to the draw, as it were).

The duel was between Wild Bill Hickok and Davis Tutt on 21 July 1865 in Springfield, Missouri.   The quarrel between the men was over (possibly) unpaid gambling debts and (perhaps) over the affections of one or more young ladies.   The most proximate cause, however, seems to have been Tutt parading around town wearing Wild Bill’s gold watch (which Tutt had either stolen, or was holding as collateral for one of the aforesaid gambling debts).

They really did square off in the middle of the street, and at a range of 75 paces turned and fired.  Tutt missed; Hickok shot Tutt through the heart.  Given that Hickok was using a cap-and-ball black-powder revolver, and the range was in excess of fifty meters, that was pretty good shooting.

Wild Bill was arrested and charged with murder.  The charge was eventually reduced to manslaughter.  Bill pleaded self-defense.  The judge didn’t buy that, as Bill hadn’t taken every reasonable opportunity to avoid the conflict  But the jury found Bill innocent on the grounds that it was a fair fight.

The story grew in the telling, particularly because Wild Bill himself never let the truth stand in the way of a good yarn.

As for the Younger-James train robbery: On 21 July 1873 the gang took up a rail on the Rock Island Line (reportedly a mighty good road) tracks on a blind curve outside Adair, Iowa. The train derailed, killing the engineer. The gang, dressed as Ku Klux Klansmen, forced the expressman to open the safe, where they discovered that the payroll they’d been hoping to rob had been delayed and was on another train. The Younger-James gang then robbed the passengers and made their getaway.  They made off with $3,000–just short of sixty grand in today’s money.

So ends our excursion into the Famous Crimes of Yesteryear.

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The Magic Contest

The results of the first annual Granite State Magicians’ New England Magic Contest, held last Sunday in Peabody, MA:

  • In first place, Jude Giordano of Agawam, MA.
  • In second place, Tristan James of Kingston, RI.
  • In third place, Brad Beady of Hartford, CT.

Congratulations to all our contestants!

No one died, no one stabbed themselves in the hand, and no one is in jail. Therefore, success!


In Other News:

A couple of photos of handsome young me busking at Farmers’ Markets:

My schedule

  • Saturday: Lancaster, NH.  9:00 am – 12:00 noon
  • Sunday: Littleton, NH. 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
  • Tuesday: Berlin, NH. 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • Thursday: Gorham, NH. 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
  • Friday: North Stratford, NH. 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Illusionist Jim Macdonald busking at the Lancaster Farmers' Market.

At the Lancaster Farmers’ Market

Photo from the North Woods Weekly (Friday July 14, 2017, page ten.)

Jim Macdonald, Illusionist, busking at the Littleton, NH, Farmers' Market

At the Littleton NH Farmers’ Market

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Peeve Plus

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At the G-20

I want to talk to you about the Russian hacking of the US election.  Yes?  You promised me that no one would ever find out!

At the G-20….

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In-Door Amusements

My friends, I invite your attention to Modern pastime, or, In-door amusements
including ventriloquism–parlour magic–elementary gymnastics–billiards–fun, and flirtation, forfeits, etc., etc. published by Frederick Warne in 1871.

If you turn to page 30, the opening of the section on Parlour Magic, the first two items that will meet your eye are “Making the Pass” (In many of the tricks with cards, it is necessary to “make the pass,” as it is termed, which is a very neat and simple movement….) and “Forcing a Card” (In card tricks also it is frequently necessary to “force a card,” by which you compel a person to take such a card as you think fit, while he imagines he is taking one at hap-hazard. The following is perhaps the best method of performing this trick….)

If one were to pay close attention, and scrupulously follow the directions as written, they will not, cannot, work.

The author seems to be of the opinion that the hand genuinely is quicker than the eye, so that with sufficient practice one can perform the pass so fast that your spectators cannot detect it.  That is, supposing that the instructions given would allow one to do the pass at all.  As to the force, the sound you hear is Hofzinser backing slowly away making gestures like Van Helsing facing Count Dracula.

While some tricks later in the section are good ones that are still done, you have to already know how to do them in order to do them. There is much that is needlessly complicated: if you’re going to control a card to the top anyway, why in the name of the Double Chocolate Fudge Sundae of Doom do you need to force the card first?

Though I will admit to being fond of the effect called “To Produce a Mouse From a Pack of Cards.” That’s one that definitely is not in Erdnase. Or anywhere else.

It is only later in the book, though, that the true horror emerges.  It’s when you get to fun, flirtations, and forfeits that the mountains of madness loom before you.  Seven Minutes in Heaven?  Nope.  Post Office?  You should be so lucky.  Instead, you get things like THE MAN WHO IS TOO HAPPY. This festive game requires one Gentleman and six Ladies. To play:

The gentleman sitting in the middle of the room must be complimented and paid attention by each lady in turn. Without rising, he is to respond by every species of grateful manner; first murmuring, in a whisper, “I’m too happy,” — increasing in the tone of his voice each time, till reaching the highest note, he rushes out of the room.

If that is too giddy for you, instead try MAGIC MUSIC.  This requires four Gentlemen.

They must be seated in a row, and throwing themselves back in their chairs, must all snore in different keys; the Dead March from Saul being played over three times as an accompaniment.

I will not even mention the Marmoset Quadrilles.

(To be perfectly fair, they also have versions of Musical Chairs and Charades–but even those don’t make up for POOR PUSS.)

If you want your next Steampunk Party to be entirely authentic, this book should be your first resource.

So gaze in wonder, and contemplate what it is that television has saved us from.

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Summer 2017 Recovery Coach Academy Training

The North Country Health Consortium is pleased to announce the second and last of two 5-day intensive Recovery Coach Academy trainings to provide students with the skills to guide, mentor and support anyone who would like to enter into or sustain long-term recovery from an addiction to alcohol or other drugs. I hope you will be able to take advantage of this FREE training — and share this opportunity with any interested parties in your network.
Register Now!
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions regarding the training or program. For inquiries or issues with registration, please reach out to Karen Hoyt:,
Amy Jeroy
Public Health Director
North Country Health Consortium

Class dates:

Saturdays, August 5, 12, 19, 26; September 9.


8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.


North Haverhill UMC

Christian Education Building

2900 Dartmouth College Highway, Route 10

North Havershill, NH 03744

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Royal Road To Card Magic – A (Returning) Beginner’s Advice – Part 2: OH Shuffle Progression And An Introduction To Theory (sorta)

Guest post by Jack Viktor.

Originally posted on Reddit r/magic

Ok, so you did everything in Part 1!? Good. You’ve now over-practiced a move that you will now use for the rest of your life,  especially in walk-around performances. Be happy, cuz this next part is long but easy.At this point, your overhand shuffle should be second nature. If you can walk around your house, and run an entire deck while keeping count, you’re now efficient at this move, and you should be able to pull this off in front of laymen no problem.


Now for the easier step. All you have to do is change your finger position.

Instead of your thumb directly on the back of the card, you’re pulling off at the long edge. Simple.

*Again, I would really recommend getting Aaron Fisher’s Pathways Vol. 1 video. He recommends placing your thumb at the back of the card close to the long edge to run cards off. In my opinion, it helps with the discrepancy that can occur in later controls when you switch between running blocks and running singles.

Now for Katas.

What’s a Kata? –>

  • Kata – (型 or 形 literally: “form”), a Japanese word, are detailed choreographed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs. The term form is used for the corresponding concept in non-Japanese martial arts in general.*

So a Kata for running blocks is as follows.

  • Do multiple shuffles with each subsequent shuffle adding 1 more movement – Essentially, start off by shuffling the deck in two blocks. That means you thumb off half the deck, and throw. Pat down, square up, and do the shuffle again, only this time, thumb off a third of the deck, then another third, and throw the last third on top. Pat down, square up, and repeat, increasing the number.

Another Kata for merging blocks and running cards will come when you start learning controls, so I’ll save it for then.

A good point to note is that when you practice this, be aware of what looks natural. No one shuffles a deck in 20 blocks. At the same time, shuffling in two blocks doesn’t do what its supposed to do – shuffle cards (or at least LOOK like you’re shuffling cards)

What you should look for is simple – At what point am I comfortable pulling off cards, and allows me to the smallest discrepancy when switching between running singly versus pulling blocks

That should be the point that you look for, and, personally, I think this is found through practice.


This…will probably suck. If you stop reading from here, it’s fine. You’ve already learned the lesson you need to practice. It’ll be quick, and you’ll get good real fast and you can move on to Part 3 (when it’s finally written)

Before we move on to the controls and tricks, I would like to ask an important question.

Why Do We Shuffle

This is an important question because it pertains to a lot of the bad habits that are formed early on with most magic, and as a “returning” beginner, it’s one that I would like to nip in the bud (or at least bring to light so you can’t say you weren’t told about it).

Every action you do in a trick, whether its picking up the cards, how you’re shuffling them, or even how you hold them has to have MOTIVE. That means (in an overtly pretentious phrase) “Every Action Has A Reaction”.

  • When you shuffle a deck, what are you doing?

You’re randomizing the order in an arrangement that no one could possibly know

  • When you control a card or a packet during an overhand shuffle, what are you doing?

You’re randomizing the order in an arrangement that no one could possibly know

Yes…they’re the exact same. You’re doing two “different” things, but to a spectator, they are the same thing, and they elicit the same reaction.

Some of you might disagree (which is a good thing). You would argue that it should be You’re making the audience think you’re randomizing the order in arrangement only YOU know, but here’s the problem with that thought process.

  • Magicians have a huge problem: We’re magicians. We’ve delved behind the curtain of secrecy. We have crossed a line that we seemingly cannot cross back over. We can never NOT know that there’s always a method. And once you cross that line, it’s tough to recognize what a spectator sees versus what you may “think” you see. For you, you see a sneaky moment when you’re doing dirty work, and that’s true. But try this. Film yourself shuffling a deck of cards. Then put them down. Can you honestly tell yourself you know where any specific card is in the pack? No. Now film yourself, only this time memorize the bottom card and control it to the top. Can YOU tell the difference between the two clips? Yeah, cuz you’re looking for what you’re doing. But ask a spectator what they see, and if you’re good, they won’t see anything. They’ll just see you shuffling cards.
  • So what does any of this have to do with why we shuffle cards? Simple. We always try and keep what the spectator sees and thinks in mind when we do a trick. When you shuffle a deck of cards, you have to believe that you are losing this card, and that you couldn’t possibly know where it is. Thus, we shuffle cards, because neither you nor the spectator WANTS to know where the card could possibly be. That’s the point of shuffling. No one shuffles so they know where a card is. You want the card to be lost so that whenever you do reveal it, there is a moment of “but wait, he shuffled the deck, how did he….”

Still doesn’t make sense? Figures. I’m not that smart. But you know who is smart? Darwin Ortiz. His books Designing Miracles and Strong Magic discuss this topic in immense detail. Ken Weber’s Maximum Entertainment is also a good in learning the practicality of delivering an entertaining magical performance. Eugene Burger…nvm, you’re a beginner.

These books are not important…yet. You’ll need to look these names up sooner or later, but when you do, I hope you keep in mind the lesson that I was trying to bring across. This last lesson was meant to be more of an introduction to a question that “hopefully” you will ask yourself as you go through the controls and tricks that you learn through this wonderful book.

Also, I would like to apologize for the lack of posting these on time. College laziness mixed with summer time sleep is not good for productivity. Part 3 should be up sometime this week.

See also:

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A Bit of Amusement

Dr. Doyle's Blog

(God knows, we need it.)

If you were raised in (or have ever lived for an extended time in) the South, this is hilarious:

“Tennessee Williams with Air Conditioning”

(I read an article somewhere once† that attributed the rise of the modern South to the invention of air conditioning, which made it possible for people in that region to actually work from 9 to 5 in the summertime without turning into puddles of economically unproductive sweat. The writer of the article, as I recall, seemed to vaguely resent this.)

generic all purpose citation, bookworms, for the use of

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Vermont RenFaire

So … I spent the weekend doing magic at the Vermont RenFaire in Stowe.

There’s video.

I had a good time, despite rain, sun, wind, and … rain.  I met some wonderful people, some great performers, and had some good munchies.

I’m definitely planning to find out if the Vermont Steampunk Expo needs a magician.

For me, the absolute high point was meeting a young man named Ben who had recently (recently, as of June 2nd of this year) created a tea company.  Not just any tea, pHtea, iced tea in a variety of flavors that is pH balanced between 7.35 and 7.45 to match the pH of a human body so it doesn’t knock your acid/base balance out of whack.  It’s sweetened with Vermont honey (rather than refined sugar or high-fructose corn syrup), and is totally great.  Ben was pouring samples for everyone who walked by, and everyone was loving it.

In my opinion, his Yerba Mate was the best — it compared favorably with the mate I had in Peru all those years ago.

Right now the stuff is only available at farmers’ markets in Vermont.  I bought five bottles to take home with me. Seriously, it’s worth a trip to Vermont.


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Peeve of a Summer’s Day

Dr. Doyle's Blog

The air is thick with humidity and allergens, and I am peevish.

Listen to me, O People, when I say unto you, the phrase is not “mother load”, it is “mother lode.”

The term comes from mining, specifically gold and silver mining, where it refers to a principle vein or group of veins of ore. The Mother Lode, in the United States, is an area of hard-rock gold deposits in California’s Sierra Nevada, running through a zone 120 miles long and in some places almost 4 miles wide. (It was, unsurprisingly, discovered during the California Gold Rush.)

A mother lode of something, then, is an abundant source or principle supply of that thing. The “mother” part comes from the use of “mother” to refer to a source or origin: “Mother of pearl” refers to the substance known as nacre, with which a mollusk encases the bit of irritant which…

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