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Visiting Martin Gardner

In early 2004, I was chatting via email with my longtime friend, colleague, and hero, James "The Amazing" Randi. Randi was talking about visiting his old friend, Martin Gardner, the brilliant polymath and prolific author on things mathematical, magical, skeptical, and more. Martin and Randi are probably the two most important, influential, and best-known founders of what is generally termed the "skeptical movement" in the U.S. I mentioned to Randi in passing that although I regularly attend (and perform at) the "Gathering for Gardner," held every other year in Atlanta in tribute to Martin, nevertheless I had never had the privilege of meeting him. Randi was surprised to learn this, and asked if I'd care to join him on a pilgrimage. Needless to say, he didn't have to ask twice.

So, in June, Randi generously arranged for me to join him on a brief visit to Oklahoma to visit the inimitable Martin Gardner. It was a terrific experience and a fabulous day. We arrived and the conversation was off and running. Through going out to lunch — through Randi interviewing Martin for the archives of his foundation (the James Randi Educational Foundation, which annually hosts The Amazing Meeting conference) — through my own interview of Martin for an eventual feature in Genii — through Martin and I sessioning on magic — through dinner with Martin's son, Jim, and several other family members and friends — through all of this, the conversation never stopped, as it ranged through all the many subjects Martin has examined and discussed and researched and written about all his life. He has since turned 90 years old, but other than moving a bit slowly, you would hardly notice his age. His mind is as inquisitive and engaged as that of a roomful of most ordinary men, and I consider myself fortunate indeed to have spent some time with him. We sat between a bookcase filled entirely with various editions of his own books, and the ancient standing writing table at which he hand-wrote most of them. And when I at long last got to break out a deck of cards, his eyes twinkled even a bit more, I daresay, than they had until that point, and he was quick to bring out his own deck and trade ideas and techniques. All in all, it was a marvelous and genuinely unforgettable day. Thanks, Randi.

Taking a Toronto Trip

In December of 2004 I went to Toronto to see the opening of David Ben's show, "Tricks," which I subsequently wrote about in the February, 2005 issue of Genii (with Derren Brown on the cover, a feature and interview I also wrote). I traveled to Toronto along with magician friends Peter Samelson and Dennis Kyriakos, and enjoyed spending several days with my Toronto magic pals, including David, Patrick Watson, Allan Slaight, and Daniel Zuckerbrot, all of whom I've become quite friendly with in the past six or seven years or thereabouts.

While in Toronto I also did a lecture and a workshop, thanks to the help of Browser's Den, Toronto's first-rate magic shop. The owner, Jeff, is a generous guy who has turned the shop into a real cultural center for magic, which is what a magic shop should be but rarely is today (Denny & Lee's being the most notable exception in the U.S.). I had a grand time and thought I'd post some photos from the workshop.

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