A Gweek listener recommended The Magician and the Cardsharp to me (I can't remember who - sorry!) and I'm thankful he did. It's a well-told story about two men with intersecting lifelong goals. The first man was Allen Kennedy (1865–1961) a professional card cheat who spent many years perfecting his technique to deal cards from the center of the deck undetected. The second man was Dai Vernon (1894–1992), one of the most highly-respected sleight-of-hand magicians in history.
Vernon, who worked as a silhouette cutter in department stores, had been interested in card tricks (especially ones involving sleight-of-hand) since childhood. By the time he was an adult, he'd gained a reputation for being one of the best card handlers in the world. From time-to-time, Vernon would heard rumors that there was a professional cardsharp somewhere in Missouri who'd mastered the mythical Center Deal, a move that almost every magician dismissed as an impossible fantasy.
Vernon had his doubts too, but the rumors continued to spread, and his curiosity got the better of him. He embarked on a years-long quest, involving much travel and encounters with scary characters, to find out if there really was someone who had invented an undetectable center deal and, if he existed, to convince the man to teach him how it was done. This book is not only the story of Vernon's search for, and eventual meeting with, the man behind the rumor, it is also a history of the American midwest's rough-and-tumble past, replete with illegal gambling dens, speakeasies, con-men, whorehouses, and mobsters. Author Karl Johnson does a fine job of bringing the dusty, dangerous, boisterous, exciting atmosphere of small city vice to life.
The Magician and the Cardsharp
Video below shows a sample of the genius of Dai Vernon:
In 2012, Kim Stanley Robinson published 2312, imagining how the world and its neighbors might look in 300 years, loosely coupled with the seminal Red Mars books, a futuristically pastoral novel about the way that technology can celebrate the glories of nature; in 2015, Robinson followed it up with Aurora, the best book I read that year, which used 2312’s futures to demolish the idea that we can treat space colonization (and other muscular technological projects) as Plan B for climate change — a belief that is very comforting to those who don’t or can’t imagine transforming capitalism into a political system that doesn’t demolish the planet. Now, with New York 2140, Robinson starts to connect the dots between these different futures with a bold, exhilarating story of life in a permanent climate crisis, where most people come together in adversity, but where a small rump of greedy, powerful people get in their way.
Last December, I published my review of Andrew “bunnie” Huang’s astoundingly great book The Hardware Hacker: Adventures in Making and Breaking Hardware — without realizing that the book’s release had been delayed because the published decided to do some very fancy and cool stuff with the printing process.
It’s been fifteen years since the first edition of educator Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes was published; now in its third edition — updated with current, timely material about social media and other fast-moving subjects, as well as reflections from girls who were raised on the techniques in the previous editions — the book is a compassionate, aware, and intensely practical guide to navigating the toxic, gendered lives of young girls in a diverse, politicized world.
What could be more fun than a slingshot that shoots tiny airplanes? A slingshot that shoots tiny glowing airplanes of course! These toy planes are outfitted with ultra-bright LEDs, so you can fly all night without losing them in the trees.Whether you are a regular-sized child, or an overgrown adult one, these light-up flyers offer […]
You know the drill. You go to the dentist and they ask you how often you floss. You lie through your teeth and say, “every day!” (Bonus points if you have some cilantro or chives stuck in your gums from lunch). You don’t want to keep up the charade any longer, but rubbing that tiny strand […]
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has done outstanding work packing a fully capable desktop computer into a package the size of a deck cards—especially one that only costs $35. But if you already have a working laptop, why should you care? Oh, how much you have to learn. Besides operating well as a compact digital media hub, […]