Tag Archives: religion

A Few Words for a Hero.

He wasn’t famous, not really. Most of the magic community knew who he was, and the wise ones fed on his words like manna.EBSB The vast majority of the public never heard of him, though he shaped and influenced the ‘names’ they do know. He was a legend, a giant, an icon … yet unassuming, introverted, quiet, and deeply observational.

He was the author of the very first book I purchased on my craft, “The Performance of Close-Up Magic”, and I still refer to it today, twenty-five years later. We first met in Vancouver, working at a magic convention together. He was warm, gentle, and kind. His method of teaching, of guiding, was unique and powerful. Every time I was in his presence, or opened the pages of one of his books, I learned something new. About magic, about kindness, about myself.

The last time we spoke face to face was in St. Louis, three years ago. He approached me after my act at the North American FISM contest and complimented me. I was thunderstruck. We exchanged information and he called me later to discuss my process for creating … the man I gleaned so much knowledge from was interested in how I created my act, and (in effect) was learning from me. He was uplifting. He was honest. He was a master at making people feel.

He wasn’t famous in the conventional sense, but he left his mark, and the world was made better because he was in it. My heart hurts from this loss, but I’m joyful that he was a part of my life.

Eugene Burger

June 1, 1939 – August 8, 2017

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Renewal, Part Two: Phantom Theatre

I awoke in time for a quick shower and change of clothes before heading down for a very special showing of Michael Whelan‘s artworks. I’ve been a fan Mr. Whelan’s work since his epic painting for “Bat Out of Hell II” graced that album, not to mention the “Dark Tower” series. There were champagne toasts and speeches, but I was wrapped up in the paintings … a nice lady was also inspecting the art and we had a brief chat about heart and art and the journey between. Later I found out this was none other than Olivia De Berardinis, whose amazing pin-up paintings and drawings I’ve admired since I can remember. I was a bit starstruck.

After a decent time spent in the gallery, we made our way down the street to dinner. I manged to overcome my anxiety of new people in small crowds and made a few new friends. The food was excellent and, even after the stress of travel and the long day, i was able to relax and get into a good mindset for my spot later. And then … things started turning, and slowly started getting real.

I’ve mentioned being starstruck and how it doesn’t happen to me often. I’ve tasted a little bit of fame, so celebrities are generally not intimidating to me. Then Paul Reubens (the artist who created and performed Pee Wee Herman) walked into the party. I was floored. Here’s an artist who created work on his own terms and gained the world through a character he invented … lost it all and, through sheer determination, made an inspiring comeback. I’m not stretching to say that he’s been a hero to me. I waited until he had said hello to friends and ate his dinner, then approached him about taking a picture … I didn’t want to interrupt his evening, but I really wanted to talk to him. He was at once shy, reserved and (conversely yet simultaneously) commanding of the entire room. He was a perfect gentleman as he declined taking a picture with me. He explained it just wasn’t a good moment for him, but possibly later in the weekend would be better. No problem, I totally get it. I was happy just to have a few words.

I left a bit earlier in order to get prepared for my performance. Erika had asked me to perform ‘The Naked Truth’ to close the evening show, and I was more than happy, though suddenly nervous. Lots of people I admire and respect and I was going to … yeah. What was I thinking, right?

The closing show for Friday was in the Chapel. All the usual accoutrements of an old Spanish chapel, including a thirty foot gold wall behind the pulpit, which I dubbed the ‘Papel Climbing Wall’. Well, I thought it was funny. Performances were accompanied by Kristian Hoffman (incredible), and began with a moving performance of Act 5, Scene 5 of Macbeth by Lindsay Benner (serious chills – she walked down the aisle of the Chapel in a robe, holding a candle and mesmerizing us all). 12141609_892943894076628_7503997406796079952_n

The act just before me was Prince Poppycock, an operatic harlequin.  The Prince absolutely blew me away with (among other songs) the most powerful rendition of ‘Rock N Roll Suicide’ since Ziggy himself. No exaggeration, the voice, the affectations … this was a broken heart proclaiming victory for all it was worth. I really shouldn’t be brought to tears just before a Naked Truth show.
(If you are unfamiliar with the Naked Truth, I describe the show here: Exposed.)

And then I was on. I stumbled through ‘Kate and Edith’ while staring out into the blackness. With the lights in the Chapel dimmed, all I could see was the spotlight, the stained glass, and a void. I had forgotten how much I rely on eye contact during this piece to flesh out the humor. One cannot mug to a black mirror. It wasn’t badly relieved, but after the high caliber of acts before me, my ‘fraud’ feeling was loud and harsh. About halfway through, I realized I had failed to prep anyone to lead the audience up … I was on my own in the dark. I very nearly fled to the backstage, and it was only the anxiety of how I might be viewed following that escape that kept my feet glued. I set up the audience for what was about to happen, and the silence was just heavy on me. I had no idea of how they were taking any of this (or honestly, if they were still out there at all). So I stripped, and I cued the music … raised my arms and … nothing happened. I could sense no movement, no sound for at least 20 seconds, which (trust me) is an eternity standing in terror in a spotlight. Then, from behind me, Poppycock stepped up, grabbed a pen and began writing, and the audience moved. I was suddenly completely surrounded and pens were moving furtively over my skin. People were frowning in concentration, some were crying and clumsily hugging me. I knew of only three specific things:

Poppycock finished and stood close by in support.
Jeff McBride came up and wrote many words .. completely covering my right shoulder. He wrote in a flourish, sober but whimsical, and honestly only Jeff McBride can accomplish that.
Through a trick of the reflections, I saw Paul Reubens’ face in the second row. He didn’t come up, but I could tell he was moved. I had his silent support.

When they were finished, I turned slowly to show the entire canvas, took my bows and left the stage. The response was loud and prolonged, and I shuddered my way back up toward ‘normal’.

Epilogue. 
I put on pants, leaving  the majority of the writing exposed, and followed Erika to a small room. For the next hour or so the audience came through in small groups and talked with me about the act. Some had questions, some simply wanted to let me know how they felt. They brought me water, and one brought me a bit of ice cream. It was surreal and beautiful. At some point I got fully dressed, because I was catching a chill. The ‘comedown’ from a Naked Truth show can be brutal, but I wasn’t alone. There was love in every direction.
Paul Reubens came in last, and alone. We spoke for over half an hour. He told me his feelings about what he saw. As private an individual as he is, I don’t feel comfortable sharing everything that was said without his approval, but he admired what I did. We spoke of art and fame and obesity. He was kind and open. I gained a friend.
As he was leaving, he paused and said,
“How about we take that photograph now?”

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Failure is Not an Option

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” ~ C.S. Lewis

 

My Friend, I have some news to share: You are going to fail.

That sounds kind of harsh, but I know you want the truth from me.
It’s a part of the journey we are on. Gird yourself and prepare: it will come along.

Failure will happen to you.

In following  your road, you will make some mistakes along the way, in fact you need too. Some really big ones.

This is how you grow. There can be no creation or growth without some pain. It will shape you, mold you. Like refining silver, you have to purge the impurities. It’s going to be hard, but it’s the only way.

To paraphrase the movie ‘Apollo 13’, ”Failure is not an option.” That’s very true, failure is not optional … in fact, it’s a necessity. Don’t fear failure. Since I’m quoting art, how about this one: “Fear is the little death.” (Dune) To fear failure is to lose the battle before beginning it. Fear tells us to keep ourselves bottled up and protected. It tells us to play it safe. It warns of impending failure. Fear lies to us, deceives us into thinking that if we fail, our dreams are over.

Sorry. It’s just not true.

Failure Brings You Closer to Your Goal

Here’s the truth: Failure helps you succeed. It shows you what not to do or when something doesn’t work. It is the fertilizer for experience. In my career I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded, if you want to keep a record. I’ve been fired, mocked and even booed off stage more than once. I’ve had my phone, my lights and my water cut off. I’ve had my car repossessed and evicted from my home. If i hadn’t been to the bottom, I sincerely couldn’t be as grateful as I am. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this to you.

I’ve been robbed, protested, preached against, assaulted. I’ve been cheated, swindled and lied to. I could fill a book with promises that have not been kept. Show biz. Because of my faith, I can say that I’ve forgiven all of these. I believe in the greatness of the human spirit. I’ve failed, and I’ve kept on down the road.

Failure is the potential of success, not yet fully realized.

So Now What?

You need to keep dreaming. Keep moving down your road. What we have is this moment; so treasure what it holds. Keep breathing.

When you stop dreaming, you become afraid. You get paralyzed, and that is where you really fail.

You will mess up. You will fall down. On your face. Hard. It will hurt.

“The righteous man falls seven times but rises again.”

Not once, not twice — but seven times. Getting back up produces character and character produces hope.

With failure comes perseverance. With perseverance comes success.

Keep failing, keep learning. Failing means you’re doing. And if you are doing … you’re growing.

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Interlude. (a respite and a declaration)

This isn’t part of the ongoing saga, but it’s relevant. I suppose. A purging? A confession?

The diary has been interrupted by personal drama I’ll write about at a later time. I’m sorry for that. I’ve discovered that I’m a pretty big disappointment to some very precious people and I’m trying to deal with that, because I am unable to reconcile it.

So yeah. Purging. Confession.

Inspired by various works. Lewis, Hemingway, Fitz, Hogarth.

I love being embarrassingly straightforward. (Not embarrassing to myself, but to those without the experience and freedom of fully exposing their hearts.) I love sending reckless text messages and telling people I love them and telling people they are absolutely brilliant, magical human beings

I love saying; “Kiss me harder,” and “You’re a beautiful person,” and, “You brighten my day.” I live my life as straight-forward and heart-out as I know how to. I do card tricks that sometimes bring tears and sometimes I return to naked.

Because one day, I might get hit by a train.

Maybe it’s weird. Maybe it’s scary. Maybe it seems downright impossible to just BE – to just let people know you want them, need them. To feel like, in this very moment, you will die if you do not see them … hold them … touch them in some way. Whether it’s their head on your chest on the couch or their tongue in your mouth or your heart in their hands.

We are young and we are human and we are beautiful and we are not as in control as we think we are. We never know who needs us back. We never know the magic that can arise between ourselves and other humans. So I tell it. I shout it. I text it and I write it into every post and act I create.

I bleed for it and I hope You never have to question where You stand with me.

We never know when the train is coming.

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Born a Rebel.

historical-jesus

Your temples are full of gold and pride.
Come outside, come out to the sweltering heat and the bitter cold.
To the rain, the mud and the dirty places.
Let us preach to each other in the wilderness.

Befriend the whores and the thieves.
Listen to the liars and the artists. (They are one and the same)
Share your dreams and accept gifts of flowers and gloves.
Give your love to all, at least as much as you are able.

Make wine from water. Be sure to drink from your neighbor’s offered cup, and share yours with the man who has no cup of his own. Love freely.

I’m a heathen and a pagan. I’m a dreamer living in my own dream. I don’t believe in your god. I’m not sorry about that, anymore.
I am solely on the side of Love. And the heart of the message from the Rebel.

Love one another.

And maybe you’ll read this and think I’m just waving my flag.

… or you could Love. Like the Rebel Jesus.

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Exposed

I had this idea. I couldn’t imagine how it might turn out, what the reactions would be. Would there be fallout? How might it affect my ‘career’?

Recently I was approached by another well meaning friend about how I could make more money doing what I do. This happens about once a week. Now … of course I need to provide and support my responsibilities and I am driven to help those in need … money helps with those needs, but it isn’t everything.

I perform because I have to perform. I walk in faith, I live in faith. Yes, I market and brand myself, but I’ve come to find that the act of just working … doing the best possible show I can present … provides rewards, both tangible and personal. Once I recognized that, my life became considerably easier and substantially more difficult. Contradiction? Welcome to showbiz.

I came up with this plan. A show. A show that could become legend. Featuring myself and two people I care about, both in person and in vision, and an idea I got from Amanda F. Palmer. The show must be ‘pay what you want’ and it must be presented in as personal and as intimate as possible. Sunday, September 21st at UpStage it all came together.

Avalon Rose opened with her recital/ unique rendition of “Oh the Places You’ll Go”. Whimsical yet powerful: Dreams and Dragonflies, Ambition and Failure. She says it like she means it … because she does.
Following this, 35 minutes of me … doing humor, soap boxing just a little ..earning my right to be heard. Following this was a 7 minute intermission. (Play Marillion’s “Man of a Thousand Faces”)

Megan Sky opened act two with a heartfelt speech on vision, acceptance and loving. All wrapped up in Art. I hope she develops this further, or even publishes. Believe me, it’s moving, surprising and incredible.
Following this was Hannibal’s “LIAR!” show. 45 minutes of storytelling comedy magic that digs deep into my soul.

And then … I dug deeper. At the end of “LIAR!” I announced there would be a third act following a five minute break. (Play Tom Waits’ “New Coat of Paint”)
When I returned … I spoke of the harsh things our brain like to tell us. How we’ve been negatively conditioned to see ourselves as less than normal … less than loved. I told of my two biggest hangups or fears: My body image and my fear of trust.
I am disgusted by what I see in the mirror. I am shamed by the way people look at me in public and unabashedly say hurtful things … this of course leads me to my lack of trust in others. I get panicky in crowds, just can’t handle it. In front of a large group? No problem. In among them? Anxious. Paralyzingly so.

I said I wanted to deal with my two big hangups at once, and perhaps help someone  with their own. “Think of something about yourself that you are ashamed of. Some burden you carry. Some evil your brain constantly whispers to you, causing you pain.” I said.
Then … I took off all my clothes. All but my skivvies (in order to remain legal in NC). I passed out markers and invited the audience to come up on stage and write on me. Their burdens, their thoughts … whatever. “If it hurts you, write it on me and leave it with me for a little while. I can’t take it away forever, but I give you permission to lay it down for a time.” I cued the song “Neverland” by Marillion, closed my eyes and raised my arms.

The results were moving, loving and empowering. I am still speechless to describe how beautiful the moment was.
The photographs below tell part of the story. The brilliance of Austin Caine caught my vision and brings it to you. Here.

From my vision through the eyes, lens and heart of Austin Caine … This is who I AM.

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Click the link below to view the entire gallery. Feel free to share the images as you see fit.
http://photos.austincaine.com/Nightlife/UpStage/The-Full-Hannibal/

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