The Pea And Shell Game Vs Three-Card Monte

Which to choose when you want to fleece the rubes – it can be a vital business decision.

The simple pea and shell game ( variation for industrial towns – pea and thimble ) is fast, cheap, and always effective for an operator who can palm effectively. It is the sort of thing that can be easily mounted on a bar table and doesn’t need a portable stand. The betting can be as simple as needed for the intelligence of the crowd, and like many bilks, it is perfectly suited to a con and shill team as well as a single operator.

It does fall down a little in states where they regularly carry sidearms. A pistol can make operation awkward – the wise worker carefully gauges the time to pocket the shells and fade  – five minutes more has been a fatal temptation for many a Texas grifter.

The Three Card Monte table seems more suited to the city alley than to the county fair. Urban rubes always fancy they know cards better than their country cousins – and perhaps the taint of sin doesn’t enter into it as much for the towns. You need a folding table that will come up to waist height for a good monte and wise operators know that occasionally you’ll have to abandon a setup – so don’t buy an expensive table.

On the other hand, buy the best cards you can find and monitor them for wear. Replace them at regular intervals or when any form of scuffing starts to show. There is nothing worse than a palm shift being stopped by a card that sticks – people have been detected and knifed because of it. Moral: buy good cards.

Of course neither of these two cons should ever be attempted by someone who is not perfect in the art. There is nothing at all, save a jail term or a slug, to be gained by trying to train on the job. If you wish to enter the pea or monte industry, set aside enough time and money to train yourself properly and practise in every spare moment. After all Heifetz or Paderewski did not play scales to their audiences on the stage of Carnegie Hall.

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” I don’t know what it is about the people in this town, Maurice. We open a world-class art gallery and poetry slam café at the edge of an outer suburb on a main trucking road and they just refuse to come. I mean, we have artefacts and avocados, for Christ’s sake. What more do they want? Philistines, the lot of ’em…”

 

What Exactly IS Fashion?

I ask myself this a couple of hours before attending a fashion parade – this one organised as part of the publicity and foo faw associated with a commercial trade expo. The basic event is promulgated by the local camera shop I used to work for, and I am going along to get material for the weblog column I write for them.

I think it will be a theatrical event designed to give the wannabees the thrill of seeing themselves as pro photographers. In the real thing there are pro photographers looking to give themselves the trill of getting paid. I have no idea from whence the thrill is meant to come for the models who stride the catwalk.

I have been mean to these model ladies and gentlemen before by referring to them as the slim, grim, and dim…but maybe I should be prepared to turn round and look at the audience as well. Why are they there? I can’t believe that they have any intention of buying the clothes on parade – either for themselves or for other people. They are forbidden by law from buying the girls and boys who walk the catwalk…though they may be rented occasionally. The only people there who have some hope of getting a benefit are the photographers and the owner of the venue.

Well, wish me luck. I’ll be the chap in the back with the reporter camera and the notebook hoping that there will be a fight or animal attack. And snacks. At least I know what I want…

Addendum: It was great. There was beer and snacks and rescue greyhounds in pyjamas. Also a crowd of camera people snapping away like mad. When I left early to write for my deadline they were still going great guns. But the business of snapping fashion sounds like a hard grind for a meal ticket.

The Animatronic Version Of Jesus…

Delivering a simplified version of the Sermon On The Mount. In Florida – or Tennessee – or Queensland…

What a wonderful thing. Why, it would make people stop, stare, and marvel. They would be in awe of the mechanism and the lifelike realism that was created in silicon, plastic, metal and cloth. It would be as if a fairy tale had come alive – right there in the theme park.

Would they be quite as enthralled with a mechanical version of Buddha sitting there and not moving? Or an electronic Tom Paine asking them to damn all religion and just be moral themselves? Would they react with as much favour if it were a Houdin sculpture of Voltaire just sitting there minding it’s own business…?

I am increasingly amused, disgusted, and intrigued by the entertainment industry that feels it needs to draw its power from religion and/or philosophy. And I don’t mean just the rubber figure dolls of Disney’s amusement park – think of the popular culture motion pictures that have grasped some thin concept of morality, art, or intellect and puffed it out with mysticism and petrol explosions. And done very well at the box office, thank you for asking.

If you think this is sneering at Hollywood alone…you’re wrong. It is sneering at Hollywood’s customers as well. Been to the movies lately?

Hint: By all means be moral and historical and intellectual-for-ninety minutes. But do it with the original material – the books of the masters – and not with the videos of the mistresses.

Do You High Five The Computer?

No. I point at it and yell ” Bumpah ! ” when I finish writing a knockout column.

Then I put it in the draft section and let it sit for at least a couple of days before I re-read it. If it is still ” Bumpah! ” I can post it. The two days lets me see the typos, and introduces a certain degree of calm into the thing. It also means that sometimes the exclamation is changed to”

” Trasho! ”

Thanks to Mr. W. Rogers, I am taking more of the opportunities to shut up that are presented to me. I hope silence will smooth relations with people in the future and serve as an elegant setting to the occasional flash of diamond-like wit.

Would that world leaders who resort to the mobile phone keypad whenever stressed to send out tweets were as cautious. It might prevent a great deal of angst in the rest of us.

Marcel Was ‘Ere

In a previous post I declared that I was a friend of Art. And that I was a kindly and  nonjudgemental soul. That I would celebrate all I saw.

I lied.

You have only to place before me some of the most celebrated works of European artists to call forth from me the Canadian version of the Bronx cheer. It has bellowed forth through the art gallery of New South Wales and the NGV many times. This year Marcel Duchamp’s works evoked it. And it was not even because it was a paid exhibition – I’d have laughed it to scorn for free.

There’s Marcel’s pisser, of course…

And the edifying sight of a bus-load of earnest French  high school students worshipping it.

I was taken with the red wooden box in which Marcel established a portable gallery of his works, and with the revolving discs that made optical illusions when placed on a gramophone…and by the portable chess set he carried.

But I cannot bring the same sense of admiration – other than the sort of regard in which I hold P.T. Barnum – for the bicycle wheel, the ball of twine, or the urinal. He said that they were art and got people to agree with him – but people can agree on folly as readily as they can on wisdom.

Skulking Through the Gallery

As I shiftily made my way through the Art Gallery of New South Wales, disguised as a mild-mannered reporter from a great daily weblog column, I employed the arts of deception to steal valuable paintings.

Well, not steal, as such, but appropriate their essence. In other words, I took pictures with my digital camera of the stuff on the walls.

I like to think of it as an innocent act, but there are those who would accuse me of theft – of images, of intellectual copyright, of visual blood, sweat, and tears. Or turpentine, as the case might have been. Both views of the thing are correct in some sense. I am left ot defend myself as best I might.

Firstly, I don’t seek any recompense for taking the pictures, writing about them, or showing them to you. If you wish to slip money or pizza under my door that is another thing, but it doesn’t depend on my art gallery images. Indeed, whatever money was to be made or traded has already happened between the AGNSW and whoever supplied the canvases. Sometimes I suspect that there is swizzling going on but then I am suspicious about a tram ticket…

Secondly, I don’t treat the artworks with disrespect. I don’t touch, interfere, or deface them in the gallery. I don’t decry them here in the column – save when they are patent rubbish that anyone might see. For the most part I take pictures of things I admire, not hate. Here’s a picture that looks well, of a person who looks wonderful.

I’m not above sentiment. Here’s another delightful and peaceful image. Those who would decry the status of the woman and children pictured may do so – they are long gone and cannot be injured by current bad manners.

And I don’t even sniff with disdain at what seem to be flights of fantasy or self-indulgence – as long as there is a particle of entertainment or beauty in the image.

So don’t condemn me too harshly, nor be too protective of what you consider someone’s intellectual right to some arrangement of shapes and colours. If you wish to keep your artwork as a safe as dragon keeps its’ gold hoard, do not sell it to a public gallery and do not let me in the door.