Ricky Jay – magician, sleight-of-hand artist extraordinaire, actor, author, scholar of weirdness and oddities, Guinness award winner for throwing playing cards – passed away on November 24th at age 72.
Ricky Jay's life and legacy have been dutifully celebrated in the feature documentary Deceptive Practice, an enduring 1993 profile in The New Yorker, and lately by David Mamet's eulogy. The man indeed left a dent in the magic community.
A personal note should say enough for my love of this man's work. I have only one object hanging on my studio walls: an original print of Ricky Jay’s book cover “Cards as Weapons.”
I was a teenage kid when I stumbled upon the card-magic bible "The Expert At The Card Table" by S.W.Erdnase. This book became an obsession of mine for a few years; eventually I translated and published the work in my native Italian. One day I got my paws on a VHS tape of a man who took Erdnase’s century-old presentation “The Exclusive Coterie” and brought it back to life – with humor, a charming style, and a never-before-seen flair. I was completely enraptured. That performance set the bar for artistry and excellence for years to come.
Ricky Jay’s long time friend, collaborator and co-conspirator Michael Weber said, “The real mark of an artist is not becoming known as the finest exponent of their art. It’s when the only way to describe what they do is to name them.”
Well, Ricky Jay’s name is set in stone: an artist in a league by himself. Read the rest
The deeply missed Robin Williams will have some of his best work commemorated in a massive 22-disc box set called Robin Williams: Comic Genius. Produced by Time-Life, the set includes all five of Williams' HBO specials, his best talk and late-night show appearances, 11 episodes of Mork & Mindy, the 2018 HBO Documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind and so much more. Seriously, there is a TON of material in this set. Complete details and ordering information are available on Time-Life's website. Here's the preview: Read the rest
Former US Marine and well-known actor Al Matthews has passed away at the age of 75. His portrayal of Sgt. Apone in Aliens remains one of my favorite all-time military characters. Read the rest
Punk, Algerian chaabi music, Rai, rock and techno: Rachid Taha had it all going on. He drew inspiration from the music of North Africa, New Orleans jazz, delta blues, The Clash and Elvis Presley. He cut his teeth spinning albums as a DJ and playing in a number of bands as he came of age in France. He worked with famed producers like Don Was and Steve Hillage and traveled in the same circles as David Bowie. In his later years, he was slowed down by muscular dystrophy, but he continued to rock, nonetheless. You've very likely enjoyed his music used in films and video games without ever knowing it. It's beautiful, fire-filled stuff.
On September 12th, Rachid Taha passed away at the age of 59. Read the rest
Senator John McCain, who died on Saturday at age 81 from an aggressive form of brain cancer, wrote a farewell letter to America. The letter was read by family spokesman Rick Davis this afternoon.
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My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for sixty years, and especially my fellow Arizonans,
Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.
I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s.
I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America’s causes — liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people — brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.
After announcing yesterday that the Arizona Senator and American war hero was discontinuing his treatment for glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, John Sidney McCain III has died. Senator McCain's office released this statement just moments ago.
McCain served in Congress for 36 years and spent five years in the Hanoi Hilton as a POW in Vietnam. He was 81 years old.
[Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0] Read the rest
If you love New Orleans-style piano or simply subscribe to joy, the music of Henry Butler would be welcome in your home. Gospel, old school rhythm and blues, Caribbean-tinged jazz and, of course, that signature syncopated New Orleans sound made renowned by musical luminaries like Jellyroll Morton and Professor Longhair--Butler could play it all.
And he did.
His playing challenges the ears, turning well-known standards up on their ends to show listeners what's inside of them. Sadly, we're all given our time to go. There'll be no more Henry Butler for us to enjoy, save what has already been recorded. Butler died in a hospice facility this week, in Brooklyn. He was 69 years old.
From the New York Times:
Mr. Butler commanded the syncopated power and splashy filigree of boogie-woogie and gospel and the rolling polyrhythms of Afro-Caribbean music. He could also summon the elegant delicacy of classical piano or hurtle toward the dissonances and atonal clusters of modern jazz. He could play in convincing vintage styles and sustain multileveled counterpoint, then demolish it all in a whirlwind of genre-smashing virtuosity.
As The New York Times' obituary of Butler points out, Dr. John once called Butler “the pride of New Orleans and a visionistical down-home cat and a hellified piano plunker to boot.”
Knowing that his playing will inspire generations of musicians in the decades to come feels like cold comfort in the wake of the loss of such a talent.
The older I get, the stranger it feels to watch as the musicians who inspire me fall to the ravages of time. Read the rest
In 2001 I wrote an article for The Industry Standard about the Harlan Ellison's one man war against people uploading his short stories to Usenet. I interviewed him on the phone for the piece and the first thing he told me was, "I can't talk to you. I'm very busy. I've got a deadline." He then launched into a 30-minute rant about everything wrong with the world (example: "You just look around and say, 'Mother of God, the gene pool is just polluted and we really ought to turn it over to the cockroaches if we can't do any better than this!'") Here's the article.
Clowns. Morons. Thieves. Thugs. Little pirates. Self-indulgent adolescents. That's what Harlan Ellison calls people who post his fiction on the Net without his permission.
Such talk has made Ellison as legendary for his acts of vengeance as for his literary work. Sure, he's written 74 books and classic episodes of Star Trek and Outer Limits. But an angry Ellison also once mailed a dead gopher to a book editor. On another occasion, he flew from Los Angeles to New York to tear apart an editor's office. Then there's the time he brought a gun to a meeting. (He swears it wasn't loaded.)
But Stephen Robertson probably didn't know any of that, or surely he would've been more careful. Last April, Robertson, a 40-year-old motel manager in Red Bluff, Calif., was caught uploading several of Ellison's short stories to a newsgroup where hundreds of free - and unauthorized - digitized books and stories are posted for the taking. Read the rest
Joseph Jackson, father of late pop superstar Michael Jackson, is reported to have died early Wednesday. He was 89. Read the rest
Anthony Bourdain died today. He was 61.
You may have seen his CNN program, or read a book, but you don't know all the world lost until you first read the New Yorker essay that set his career as a journalist, educator, and broadcast star into motion. Read the rest
Gardner Dozois started his career in science fiction as a (very good) writer, but quickly transitioned to the role that defined his life in the field, as an editor, taking over Asimov's from 1984 to 2004, winning 40 Hugos, 40 Nebulas, 30 Locus Awards, and the best Professional Editor Hugo Award 15 times.
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Actor Harry Anderson, best known for presiding over NBC's 'Night Court,' has died. He was 65. Read the rest
A few years back, I was in Sun Valley, Idaho for a conference. I learned Adam West lived in the area and I wondered if he was listed in the local phone book. So, I pulled it out of the nightstand in my hotel room and checked.
Flipping to the the "W" page, I spotted his name. His listing prompted, “See Wayne Bruce (Millionaire)." Ha, game on!
Naturally I flipped to “Wayne Bruce (Millionaire)," which brought me to "Please consult Crime Fighters in the Yellow Pages."
Ok, that brought me to "See BATMAN - WHITE PAGES"..
Which then circles back to "See West Adam"!
Nicely played, Mr. West, nicely played. RIP.
(image link) Read the rest
John Severson, the iconic figure of surfing media, has died at age 83. His 1961 film Big Wednesday is arguably the greatest of the early surf films, part of a lifetime of innovations in surf media. Read the rest
"The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling." -- Robert M. Pirsig
I was saddened to learn that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance author Robert M. Pirsig died today at the age of 88.
I read the pop philosophy treatise Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in college and thought it was the greatest book ever. I read it again 15 years later and didn't get as much out of it the second time around. It's been another 15 years since I re-read it and I no longer remember why I had those opinions (I have a lousy memory when it comes to books and movies). I think I should give it another try and see what my current nervous system thinks of his exploration into the nature of quality.
One thing is for certain, the title of the book is one of the best ever (and has been imitated ever since the book came out in 1974), and the paperback cover design is absolutely iconic. [UPDATE: reader Simenzo corrected me. Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel, was published in 1948]
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Zen was published in 1974, after being rejected by 121 publishing houses. "The book is brilliant beyond belief," wrote Morrow editor James Landis before publication. "It is probably a work of genius and will, I'll wager, attain classic status."
Indeed, the book quickly became a best-seller, and has proved enduring as a work of popular philosophy.
The great Chuck Berry, “who with his indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs about cars, girls and wild dance parties did as much as anyone to define rock ’n’ roll’s potential and attitude in its early years,” died on Saturday, the New York Times and others reported Saturday. He was 90.
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Eighty years after its founding as one of the first prosumer publications for the then-expensive hobby of photography, Popular Photography is ceasing both print and online operations following the next issue. Read the rest