Dezrah The Strange needs your help!

This is Tardis Jr. He has been an invaluable companion and had become an integral part of the creative and communications reboot that I’ve been working on. Sadly, TJ passed away this weekend due to poor care from his previous owner and some unknown power fault. In the short time he’s been on the Dezrah Magic team, he has become an invaluable asset. He will be sorely missed.

Since I’m a stay-at-home dad, waiter and college student, I don’t have the liquid capital to purchase a replacement and TJ is beyond repair. So far, this is the typical 1st world non-problem that you’ve probably heard 1,000 times.

Here’s the difference. I’m a magican, escape artist, sideshow performer and not a half bad one at that. I’m also a believer in creative solutions. So here’s the deal: If you have a decent (Win7 capable or Leopard+) laptop that you don’t use or are thinking of replacing, I will come to your home, office, Halloween Party, Bar Mitzvah, block party, wedding, lecture, PowerPoint presentation and/or parole hearing and perform for you.

I’ll do close-up for you, my stage show, or if you have something else in mind, I’m open. I’ll travel pretty much anywhere in New England, but long-distances (50+ miles from Worcester) will need some extra planning.

So if you’re interested in having your own personal geek magician on call and have some spare tech lying around, contact me at dezrah@gmail.com or leave a comment on this post. Thank you for your support and please spread the word!

-Dezrah

 

Tardis Jr, RIP…(or get donated to TESLA, whatevs…)

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Help me get better!

Here’s the deal. I think I have the content of my show nailed down finally. I like the routines I’m doing and they have some decent audience impact. I’m afraid that I’m not quite getting across what I want to though.

So, here’s the challenge:

I’m going to post the entire show I did for the Boston Skeptics in April, and I’d like your help. Watch the show (as much as you can bear) and let me know what you think. Tell me what you like, what you didn’t like, what works for you and what doesn’t.

I really want to make a go of this, and I know I’m not there yet. Help me make a better show and help rid the world of yet another hack magician. ;)

Here’s the show, enjoy!

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Dezrah The Strange vs. Brian Brushwood

Hey everyone, just a quick update. Friend and magic mentor Brian Brushwood just posted a new episode of his show “Scam School” on Revision3. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a fantastic series that shows you bar bets, short cons and tricks that you can use to scam and/or impress your friends. It’s also a ninja-sneaky way to rope people into magic.

Anyways, in the latest episode, he teaches the classic Rope Handcuffs trick and gives yours truly a plug at the end. So do me (and yourselves) a favor. Go watch the episode here or on YouTube and leave a comment saying how much you love the show. Even better, leave an iTunes review for “Scam School” if you’re a subscriber!

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Last year in 39 Questions

(Thanks to Stephanie Roy for the idea)

1. what did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
I welcomed my son into the world. I was put under for surgery. I had 4 wisdom teeth removed. I was onstage with a burlesque troop, and other performers I’d never met. I travelled overnight for a gig. I camped with the non-credulous, hung out with humanists and ate with atheists.
2. did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I kept some, missed others, and decided that goals with deadlins are better than resolutions.
3. did anyone close to you give birth?
My wife, (see #1)
4. did anyone close to you die?
A sparrow that I was never had the privilage of meeting, but whose passing rocked me to my core.
5. what countries did you visit?
The only one I ever have. Sigh.
6. what would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
Ambition, and enough money to not be stressed.
7. what date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Jan 29th. (See #1)
8. what was your biggest achievement of the year?
Playing the Jerkus Circus with The Steamy Bohemians, and raising Orion. (again, see #1)
9. what was your biggest failure?
Had to drop a class, didn’t follow through on a huge opportunity w/CFI and had to bail on Keith for TAM.
10. did you suffer illness or injury?
Disphagia caused by an irritated esophagus caused by a growth in my stomach lining (Most likely benign. Maybe.)
11. what was the best thing you bought?
A new website http://www.dezrah.com and magic goodies.
12. whose behavior merited celebration?
Amanda’s as always. She gave me my son, put up with my wafflilng and ineptitude, and her patience and openess with me has helped bring us to a wonderful place together.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The state of California. (Prop 8, really?), those who think that freedom of speech/religion only applies to the things they agree with, the nameless ones who should freaking know better, and as always, my biggest dissapointment is myself.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage and food.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The aforementioned missed opportunity with D.J. and CFI. Working with The Steamy Bohemians (TWICE), Karin Webb saying “I like what you did!”
16. what song will always remind you of 2009?
“Single Ladies” by Beyonce, “Just for now” by Imogen Heap and “White Wine in the Sun” by Tim Minchin
17. compared to this time last year, are you:
happier?
Yes, and 2010 promises to be even better.
thinner or fatter?
Fatter, by quite a bit. Sigh.
richer or poorer?
Poorer.
18. what do you wish you’d done more of?
Rehearsal, writing and reflecting. (and sleeping)
19. what do you wish you’d done less of?
Procrastinating, regretting, wasting time with empty pursuits.
20. how will you be spending christmas?
At home.
21. did you fall in love in 2009?
all over again, for the 10th year in a row.
22. what new foods did you eat?
BRISKET!!!
23. what was your favorite tv program?
Community and No Reservations
24. do you dislike anyone now that you didn’t dislike this time last year?
Yes.
25. what was the best book you read?
Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
26. what was your greatest musical discovery?
Tim Minchin, Kate Bush, Daft Punk. (Yes, I’m out of the loop)
27. what did you want and get?
A straitjacket and 100′ of rope.
28. what did you want and not get?
A trip to TAM, firewalking lessons.
29. what was your favorite film of this year?
Star Trek.
30. what did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I don’t even remember, I probably worked. 33 (I think)
31. what one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More focus and attention to what matters.
32. how would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Whatever wasn’t actually falling apart and was comfortable under my gown/jumpsuit in the fab.
33. what kept you sane?
Amanda
34. which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Depending on your definition of “fancy” that could get me in trouble. ;)
35. what political issue stirred you the most?
Gay marriage, vaccination panic and blasphemy laws.
36. who did you miss?
Old friends, long distant.
37. who was the best new person you met?
Way too many to name, Lainey and Niki, Karin, WWZ guy Mystopher, Stephanie, Angie, hell, everyone at Camp Inquiry.
38. tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009
GET OFF YOUR ASS AND MAKE THINGS HAPPEN! No one’s checking in on you, if you want opportunties, make them. When ever inspiration strikes, create! Don’t wait until later!
39. quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
“There’s no such thing as spare time, there’s no such thing as free time, there’s no such thing as down time, all you’ve got is life time! GO!” -Rollins

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Dezrah The Strange vs. Amanda Fucking Palmer

It’s true, it’s true! After weeks of frantic e-mails, wishing, hoping, planning and stressing, I was accepted as pre-show entertainment for Amanda Palmer‘s “Cabaret” produced by Harvard’s ART!

I first heard about it on Amanda Palmer’s Twitter feed where she put out a call for street performers and other ne’er do-wells to help build ambiance before the show. On a “why the hell not?” sort of urge, I responded to her and miraculously she gave me the e-mail of the Asst. director.

After a little back-and-forth determining what would be appropriate for the space (glass walking out, street-magic in!) I was invited to join other potential performers at an audition last night. I was up against some serious (and seriously talented) character actors and artists including a drunken ex-pat opera singer, a conscripted Polish WWI veteran/Cubist caricaturist, a two-person, one puppet dirty old man, a beautiful bronze living statue and Meff and JoJo’s Tiny Instrument Revue!

I performed a little forkbending, my bastardized 2-cup version of the cups and balls, Sankey’s Paperclipped and closed with my “match trick” that now incorporated the animated matchbook. I got gasps and applause in all the right places and my “mistakes” were bought hook, line and sinker. I’ve never actually auditioned for anything, certainly not for something as amazing and edgy as AFP and ART’s “Cabaret”. I was terrified the entire time and my nerves showed, but I have to say that the past few months at the Piccadilly have really tightened my routines and burned the moves into my brain. I was able to just be there in the moment and forget about the mechanics.

Nerves aside, I think my set went well, but considering the character and type of performances we all saw that night, I was concerned that I wouldn’t really fit in with what they wanted. I knew for sure that I wouldn’t be hearing from them and was just grateful for the opportunity to audition. It turns out that I was wrong, HOORAY!!! Apparently my strategy of meta-weirdness, (being the most normal person in a room full of weirdos in turn makes one the weirdest person in the room), is paying off.

So now I’m just waiting for the details of my schedule and rehearsals, but the hard part is done. I’ve been paying my dues at the restaurant, getting my chops up, took a chance and somehow fell ass-backwards into awesomeness!

So, if you, or anyone you know is in Cambridge in the next 6 weeks, stop on by (and bring money)! I’ll be outside the theater, so you don’t even have to have tickets to some see me! Of course, you should really, really, REALLY see “Cabaret” but act fast, shows are selling out left and right.

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My Thoughts on the Tea Party.

Okay, I know I have friends that support the Tea Party platform, and I’ve been mouthing off online lately, so I think I need to clarify some things.

Yes, I disagree with some items on the Tea Party platform, but that’s the best part of democracy. The disagreement and the conversation are how we find consensus and move forward. I think it’s great that people are being mobilized and taking advantage of their rights as American citizens to protest the government and speak freely. The fact that I disagree with it doesn’t mean that I think I’m smarter, better or more righteous. I JUST DISAGREE. Try to convince me with facts and good logical argument, don’t yell at me and call me the enemy because I’m questioning your beliefs.

My biggest issue with the Tea Party leadership and the Glenn Beck-style demagogues is the use of fear-mongering and stereotypes to gain popular support. Anyone (Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian, etc) who uses simplistic caricatures and bumper-sticker jargon to mask the complexity of the actual issues is either being deliberately dishonest or willfully ignorant.  These talking heads are more interested in scoring political points by demonizing the opposition rather than working with the greater community in order to come to functional solutions.

Politics is complicated. Money is complicated. LIFE is complicated. We’re dealing with social, economic and cultural issues that are so intensely and complexly interwoven that making the slightest change in one area can have vast, far-reaching and totally unintended consequences in another. Those who say that all of your problems can be blamed on some “other” group or pinned on one issue are trying to distract you from the real causes of the real problems. It’s hard enough to get together and solve our problems without self-centered glory hounds throwing F.U.D. (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) around to get their names in the paper.

Anyone who’s telling you that there’s a simple answer is selling something.

So, do I disagree with the Tea Party folks? Sure. But I also disagree with the Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Libertarians, Free-Marketeers and Anarcho-Communists. What gets me worried is the substitution of blame, rhetoric and posturing for discussion, debate, consesus, compromise and action.

So look around, chances are that even your supposed enemies have a lot more in common with you than the media would like you to think. We all want to be free to live our lives, find love and happiness, to raise a family (or not), be free to say what we want, worship how we choose (or don’t), and be treated fairly as possible. We’ve all been disappointed by the world around us and we all want to find a better way to do things.

Instead of blame and anger, let’s try forgiveness and dialog.

Of course, this is coming from a godless, queer-loving, communist, libertarian, liar so what do I know?

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Speech! Speech!

In the grand tradition of homework as blog post, I offer you this. It’s the 1st draft of a speech I’m planning on giving to my “Effective Public Speaking” Class. Enjoy! (or not)

Every year it seems that some pundit is making headlines by coming out against the “War on Christmas” that’s being waged by the liberals in the government, the ACLU and the most hated of groups, the atheists. We hear them tell stories of the Ten Commandments being forcibly removed from public spaces by god hating liberals and anti-religious zealots. We hear that Christians are under assault from the mainstream liberal agenda and that the “separation of church and state” was never intended to be used this way by our God-fearing founding fathers. The “separation of church and state” was never included in the Constitution, Bill of Rights, declaration of independence or any of the founding documents of our nation. In fact, Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase in a personal letter to the Baptists of Danbury CT, it was never written into any law.

We’re in a crisis, a battle for the very soul of our nation, and the anti-Christian forces are winning the war. If the cable news anchors are to be believed, the horrors of hearing “Happy Holidays” are only the first step down the slippery slope of secularism.

The vast majority of Americans are religious, that can’t be denied. We’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu. There aren’t many agreements between those groups to be sure, indeed, there are radical differences that cannot be reconciled, so we clearly can’t create a set of laws that will address all religions, and we don’t have to; since we’re a democracy, shouldn’t it be fair that the majority of voters get to set the standard of belief in the country? The vast majority of us are Christian, so we should be a Christian nation, letting our Christian beliefs inform our policies and practices!

Before I finish that thought, there is one small detail we need to go over. What kind of Christian legislation should we push? We’re Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Lutheran, Adventist, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Presbyterian, Christian Scientist, Mennonite and Nazarene. All of these denominations have differences in doctrine and practice that at best caused their adherents to sever ties with their parent churches, and at worst have led to death, torture and atrocities on a scale almost unimaginable today.

Religious differences are unlike any other type of belief. There is no arguing with a faith-based position. If you don’t think I can juggle, there’s and easy way for me to prove it. If you think that a single-payer health care system is the best use of our resources, we can use logic, economic studies and small-scale experiments to test the validity and wisdom of that course of action. If I think gravity is the result of a curvature of space-time, there are experiments we can run to test that theory.

On the other hand, If you think that homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry because your holy texts say so, there is no argument I can make to persuade you out of it, no experiment result that you’ll accept. For many, the old adage of “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” still rings true. For all of its benefits, religion is a conversation ender, a consensus killer.

So where does that leave our Christian nation? Cursed by our rock-solid faith to divisive discourse? No, the founding fathers discovered a new way, a noble experiment, tried for the first time in history. In our constitution, they created a list of rights that were granted to all citizens of this country, rights that are inviolate, sacrosanct and central to the core of our civilization. Recognizing both the importance of religion, and its potential to undermine and open society, the very first sentence of the very first Amendment of the Constitution, the first right mentioned in the bill of rights, reads as follows: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

They understood something we have forgotten. The bloody revolutions and usurpations of Catholic Kings vs. Protestant Princes were fresh in their memories. They came from a culture that was shaped by the violence, enmity and oppression born of religious zealotry tied to political power. At worst, if I came out to you right now and said I was an Atheist, I could expect some of you to distrust me, and according the University of Minnesota’s recent research, I could give up any hope of a political career. As unfair as this is, it is a testament to the success of our grand experiment. In the days before our secular society, and even today in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, I would be put to death simply for being an Apostate and leaving the faith of my fathers for another faith, being an Atheist would simply be unthinkable.

So they created a system where the government would have no powers to make any religious law, and more importantly, would not prohibit anyone from practicing any religion. This is the part of the 1st amendment that so many people gloss over. The “establishment clause” is the ultimate live and let live statement. It is not an indictment of religion, or a ban. It is a protection, a guarantee that no matter who is in charge, no matter what religious group has the majority, NO ONE has the right to prevent you from believing what you want and worshipping how you will. For those few of us with no religious beliefs, or whose beliefs are in the minority, it gives us safe harbor and refuge from the potential storms of religious intolerance. For the rest, it gives the right to practice as they see fit, with no fear of other religious groups crying “heretic” or worse, bringing up charges of blasphemy.

The protection offered by the first amendment goes both ways. You do not have to submit to the religious beliefs of others, but in turn, you have no right to impose your doctrines on them. The fairest way to insure this is the establishment of a “Wall of separation between church and state”. At this point you’re saying, wait, Scott, didn’t you just say that Jefferson wrote that in a letter? That it was never made into law? Wasn’t the country founded by Christians anyways? Don’t we have a history and a culture of being Christian regardless of the specific language of the Constitution? All of that is true, but before I end let me share three more thoughts with you:

One: Jefferson was never able to get the “separation” language into law, but he fully intended the Danbury letter to be public and more importantly, what we would now call a “position paper”. Here’s the full text of the “separation” paragraph: “Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State

Two: To those who are still insistent that our founders intended this to be a Christian nation, I’ll offer this piece of evidence: One of the first acts of congress was a trade treaty, the “Treaty of Tripoli”. We don’t have time for details, but Article 11 is germane to the discussion: “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

Three: Search the entire constitution, as long as you want and you will not find the words Christian, God, and/or Jesus. They are simply not part of our most important document.

Taking all of that into account, I think one of the greatest tragedies of our modern political world is that those who should be the most arduous defenders of the protections offered by the 1st amendment are those who argue most vociferously against it.

The first amendment and the secular society that it spawned are not the enemy of religion, they are the strongest protection and defense we have for our right to practice our faith or to live without it.

Separation is not negation.

Thank you.

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