Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Do you believe in...

This year's Magic Collectors Weekend was exceptionally intriguing, a word here that means, "the wife did not flee to go shopping, walking, reading, TV watching, or whatnot." The convention got under way with a precautionary note, when one of the first presenters got up and announced that unfortunately, there would be no Sunday auction this year. What? He then held up a full page add in the local newspaper that proclaimed Saturday night the end of everything. (Ha! He had me going. About the auction, I mean.)

Among the most interesting subjects was the ongoing mystery of who wrote The Expert at the Card Table, by S. W. Erdnase. There is no such person as S.W. Erdnase, but if you read the name backwards, it does spell E. S. Andrews, a frustratingly common name. At the time of its printing, most books were published in New York City, but this one came out of Chicago. It turns out that there's a good reason for that. It's all about New York's Comstock Laws, a topic that speaker Hurt McDermott made tragically interesting. Anything to do with gambling was included under these obscenity and vice laws, but the Comstock Laws were not enforced in Chicago. Still, the author thought it best to remain anonymous. Speaker Richard Hatch gave a convincing argument that the author is none other than Edwin Sumner Andrews, though he did present other candidates, as well.

Why all this talk about a little card book? Well, it's never ever been out of print, not in 110 years, and it's still regarded as the best authority on card manipulation. It's been translated into Japanese, Spanish, German, Italian, and French. The basic book has remained unchanged, but has been published many times in many different forms, so there are lots of different-looking copies out there. Maybe someone needs to call The History Detectives.

There were also interviews of a couple of very old magicians, and it was fun to hear what their lives were like, back in the day. Celeste Evans, for example, is almost eighty, but has kept her sharpness and sense of humor. As a woman, she caught people's attention by being a novelty, but her differentness was a double-edged sword; her male counterparts were threatened, and she had to endure quite a lot of horrible rumors and various other indignities. She has some interesting stories to tell and one of these days I will read her book. Celeste maintains that it's not an autobiograhy--she won't write that book 'til the kids are dead (she has two middle-aged kids.)

There was also a tribute to the late Doug Henning, which included some great films and interviews.

On Sunday, it was off to the auction, which was held right down in Chicago in a little hot room in a very big warehouse building where we could hear people kung fu fighting upstairs. That's what I'm guessing, anyway. Ekim and I watched a few people part with thousands of dollars while three cameramen danced around the room. I noticed afterwards that there was a notice on the door warning us that they were filming a documentary, so anyone sitting in the room is at risk of being filmed. We weren't. Ekim did bid on three different bibliographies (his specialty), but nameless, faceless people on the internet outbid him.
Oh, well, the auction was over, so we walked around Chicago some more until it was time to catch the blue line for Rosemont again, collect our luggage, and fly away.

No, we did not get to see Aretha. Wow, I wonder how long those tickets had been sold out! We did start the weekend seeing The Hot l Baltimore, which was an interesting slice of life in a run-down, past-its-prime hotel building in 1973. It was a short walk to the Steppenwolf theatre, where there was an interesting exhibit in the lobby about what was happening that year, such as the top songs, new inventions, etc. It surprised me that airbags for cars were new all the way back then, since I'm pretty sure no one in my family could even find the seatbelts in our old cars. And bar codes? My hometown didn't have them for quite some time after 1973, if my memory hasn't become too truncated.

Anyway, it was all good! And that's the magic stuff for another couple of years.


actonbell said...

p.s. I just updated to ie9 and lo, my publish post button doesn't work. I had to switch over to firefox to publish. I hope this gets ironed out.

Doug said...

Did you just go to Chicago again? Nice.

TLP said...

I just love your posts! So interesting, and your writing is so very good.