Friday, September 14, 2007

In my "In Box"

Dear Tom:

Thank you for writing me yesterday via ebay regarding the Phoenix cups your company makes and sells. I apologize for not connecting you with the Phoenix product prior to your writing. Personally, I am in the process of rediscovering magic after many, many years. In my youth, I traveled on weekends and assisted a professional magician in California who, over the years, gave me a number of items (including a set of cups and balls). Last month, our home in Chicago flooded and as a result I ended up taking out these old magic effects to clean up and in some unfortunate instances discard. My son was helping out, saw the old items, and we’ve been exploring a new hobby together.

In any event, I have quickly discovered how poorly much if not most of the items currently for sale on the internet and brick and mortar magic shops. There are exceptions, but rare (e.g., Johnson products, some collectors workshop items, James Riser, etc.) I would I would like to purchase is a set of cups and balls. The set I have I know are very old. The balls are missing, but I remember them being fluffy (rather than knitted), blue in color and large (1” in diameter). The cups themselves are made of metal, grey in color, and have the appearance of old, metal drinking tumblers (5 or more inches high and at least 3.75 inches across). I’ve not seen them or anything similar on any website.

I’ve attached a picture. I know you are an avid collector. Have you ever seen something similar? Are these collectible? Or should I toss them and start over? On that note, I’m seriously considering purchasing the cups you sell. Money is not so much the issue. I could purchase a set made by Riser (if he’d sell them to me). Ha! Or I could afford to purchase a set of Johnson cups or the ones made by you. Most websites advise not laying out 200 or 300 prior to really honing one’s skills with a set of beginner cups. I know however that one’s routine can be thrown off by changing cups that feel and weigh different.

I would appreciate your expert opinion greatly.

Yours truly,

Scott D. Miller, Ph.D.


My response:

Dr. Miller,

Call me at 323.683.5844 to discuss your potential purchase. In a nut shell, it is my opinion that the cups you have, were not manufactured for the purpose of the trick. My guess is that these are cups to drink from (made circa 1950's).

You couldn't go wrong with any of the brands you mentioned (Johnson, Riser, Phoenix) All good cups. I think a brief conversation could clarify any specific questions you may have about the differences of those 3 brands. Please feel free to use me as a resource regardless of which set you get.

Bottom line. . . . I love talking about the cups and balls.

Got to run, call me.


Tom Frank
The blank page daunting. Wanting to write, but have nothing to say.

A young girl walking with her mother, holding hands. They cross the street with the light and see a guy sitting on the ground, leaning up against a garbage can. He smells and needs a shower and a shave. His clothes are tattered and his hair matted. As they walk by, the little girl asks the guy, “what are you doing?” He answers, “I don’t know?” The mother looks down disapprovingly. “Where is your mommy?” she asks the stranger. He looks at her as if she was a little alien or something. The little girl reaches into her kiddie handbag and takes out a wet nap, a straw and a napkin and says, “You might need these”. She hands them to the guy and they leave.

Been spending A LOT of time listening to Neil Young and reading his biography. The soundtrack to my life. All those years, all those songs. Blurry memories of someone I used to be. I think I have just about everything he ever put out and some bootlegs on top of that.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Master Magician, originally uploaded by Paula Wirth.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Neil Young Chrome Dreams II

Neil Young Chrome Dreams II, originally uploaded by stuartjudah.



August 22, 2007 (Burbank, CA) — The new album by Neil Young, Chrome Dreams II, will be released by Reprise Records on October 16th. Speaking from a vacation retreat with his family, Young says it's "an album with a form based on some of my original recordings, with a large variety of songs, rather than one specific type of song." It comes at a creative peak for the artist, following the Greendale, Prairie Wind, and Living With War albums, and a summer 2006 tour by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young that concert audiences are still talking about. In many ways, Chrome Dreams II is the ultimate example of what Young does best: most of the songs were written recently and came quickly, and the "live" recording sessions in northern California were over before they were announced. The album includes all kinds of music, and taken together, offers a complete picture of where Neil Young is today.

"Where Living With War and Everybody's Rockin' were albums focused on one subject or style," Young says, "Chrome Dreams II is more like After The Goldrush or Freedom, with different types of songs working together to form a feeling. Now that radio formats are not as influential as they once were, it's easier to release an album that crosses all formats with a message that runs through the whole thing, regardless of the type of song or sound."

On the sessions for the album, Neil Young was joined by Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina, pedal steel guitarist and dobro player Ben Keith (Harvest, Comes A Time, Harvest Moon) and bassist Rick Rosas (Freedom, Living With War, This Note's For You). Most of the recording was done at Feelgood's Garage studio near Redwood City, California, with two vintage gas pumps out front and vintage studio gear inside.

On the music itself, Young says, "Some early listeners have said that this album is positive and spiritual. I like to think it focuses on the human condition. Like many of my recordings, this one draws on earlier material here and there. I used to do that a lot back in the day. Some songs, like 'Ordinary People,' need to wait for the right time. I think now is the right time for that song and it lives well with the new songs I have written in the past few months. I had a blast making this music."

The new album's title refers to an earlier planned release that never came out. In fall of 1976, the album Chrome Dreams was announced for a November release. However, that date came and went and no album ever appeared.



September 10, 2007 (Burbank, CA) — Neil Young will begin a North American tour on October 18th in Boise, Idaho, two days after the release of his new extraordinary album Chrome Dreams II on Reprise Records. Concerts continue until December 13th in New York, including two nights at the historic Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada, the site of early legendary shows by the acclaimed singer-songwriter.

Chrome Dreams II is a stunning collection of eight new and two classic Young songs. Recorded last summer in Northern California, musicians include Ben Keith (pedal steel guitar, dobro and other instruments), Ralph Molina (drums) and Rick Rosas (bass), who will all be performing in concert with Young.

Pegi Young is opening artist on the tour. She released her debut album last summer on Vapor/Warner Bros. Records, followed by a series of sold out shows in Northern California and New York.

On October 27th and 28th Young will host the 21st annual Bridge School Concerts in Mountain View, California, which also features appearances by Metallica, John Mayer, Tom Waits with the Kronos Quartet, the trio of Eddie Vedder, Flea and Jack Irons, and others. Concert schedule is as follows:

October 18 Boise, ID Morrison Center
October 20 Spokane, WA Opera House
October 22 Portland, OR Keller Theater
October 23 Seattle, WA WaMu Center
October 30 Los Angeles, CA Nokia Live
November 5 Denver, CO Wells Fargo Theatre
November 8 Minneapolis, MO Northrop Auditorium
November 10 Detroit, MI Fox Theater
November 12 Chicago, IL Chicago Theater
November 13 Chicago, IL Chicago Theater
November 15 Washington, DC Constitution Hall
November 18 St. Louis, MO Fox Theater
November 26 Toronto, ON Massey Hall
November 27 Toronto, ON Massey Hall
December 2 Boston, MA Orpheum Theatre
December 3 Boston, MA Orpheum Theatre
December 5 Wallingford, CT Oakdale Theater
December 9 Philadelphia, PA Tower Theater
December 12 New York, NY United Palace
December 13 New York, NY United Palace

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In my "In Box"

Hey Tom,

It was really great to see you out there working hard tonight at Citywalk! Morgan and I really enjoyed watching your act. I'm a sucker for the Mental Photography deck; it's one of my favorites. I think it's the first time I've seen a linking ring routine done to poetry like that. Very cool. Watching the crowd light up when they watched the one ring pass through the other ring twice really made us stop and reflect upon what it is like when you get to experience seeing magic from a layperson perspective. It's nice to be on the other side of the counter for a change.

If you ever get down towards Temecula, please pay me a visit at my shop. We'd be delighted to have you stop in!

Take care,

Sam Blankenship

Sunday, September 09, 2007

College du Jour • m is for Magician

m is for magician, originally uploaded by *dandelion*.

Busker du Jour • Lisbon

Lisboa Mágica, originally uploaded by Kyry Kyry Island.