ERDNASE

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Richard Hatch
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Richard Hatch » August 22nd, 2008, 12:31 am

Here's how I understand Geno's argument:
"S. W. Erdnase" is an imperfect anagram of "M. F. Andrews" (the ES of the first being replaced with the MF of the second). This has been considered a relative weak point (one of several!) of the MFA case. Geno has noticed that MFA's girlfriend "Nulda Petrie" used a similarly imperfect anagram, "Edna Little" as a pseudonym (the P and U of the first are replaced with the L and T of the second). That such a close associate of MFA would use such a pseudonym strengthens the claim that MFA himself might have done so earlier. I have no problem with that logic, but it is hardly "smoking gun" proof. And it does require us to reject the testimony of our only credible eyewitness to the creation of the book, Marshall Smith, who remembered a very different man than MFA.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Jonathan Townsend » August 22nd, 2008, 8:05 am

One bystanders name was W.S. Maunder. An anagram of this, although not perfect, is S.W. Erdnase. Interesting, but perhaps coincidental.

But then in the Nov. 7, 1905 story, MFAs lady friend gave her name as Miss Edna Little. Compare that to the real name, Nulda Petrie, and another anagram. The (u) and (r)are not used and a (t) and (L) are added to make the name look correct.

The answer to the puzzle was right in front of our eyes. A simple anagram


Names as "imperfect anagrams" leads to some odd places when one gets swept away by much imagination and a small data set - especially when one has a desired outcome.

Didn't Lewis Carroll/Martin Gardner comment on this as regards the word game where you change one letter at a time to get from a given start word to a given end word? History students will recall efforts to find certain words in the output of a process applied to names - and to find heresy/treason through a reading of text (Richelieu).

Remember there's not so great a textual distinction between insipid and inspired, or santa and satan for that matter ;).
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David Alexander
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby David Alexander » August 22nd, 2008, 10:23 pm

First of all, an anagram is defined as a word or phrase formed by reordering the letters of another word or phrase, such as satin to stain.

Now we have the imperfect anagram, a device without a specific definition. Is an imperfect anagram defined as a rearrangement of letters in a word with one letter unused? Two? Three? Can one add two or three letters, dropping others to arrive at the desired result and still call it an imperfect anagram?

On his website in a Press Release Geno takes this nonsense to new heights where he claims:

Scramble the letters around and we derive:

W S MAUNDER
S W ERDNASE
M F ANDREWS

W.S. Maunder is not an anagram for S W Erdnase any more than you can get M F. Andrews out of S W Erdnase. When Geno was adding and subtracting letters to make the evidence fit his theory he forgot to remove the 5 inch difference between Milt Andrews and the memory of the one person we know met Erdnase: Marshall Smith.

And Nulda Petrie - no need to add or subtract letters to get an interesting anagram from her name. One of the 7,300 words and phrases that her name makes up is Painted Lure. How appropriate.

Anyway, this entire approach to evidence reminds me of a great quote from the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Matthew Field » August 24th, 2008, 6:43 am

While the debate the over the definition of an anagram goes on in the background, I'd like to make a comment about the Prologue to Geno Mulari's production of the Erdnase DVDs with Allan Ackerman.

Geno was kind enough to allow me to take a peek at the prologue to the series, the life of M.F. Andrews. It is one of the best produced short films devoted to magic ever produced. Ernest Borgnine's narration is magnificent -- he sounds like an old-timer reminiscing. And Christie Wessling's direction is feature-film quality. The production values, the set, the music -- stupendous!

Why does this mean so much to me? Because one of the most important things in our art is the concept of respect.

What Geno achieves in the prologue is to present the life of Andrews, the presumptive identity of SWE, as a living history. By giving this a production that looks better than many Hollywood big-budget movies, he is saying to one and all that this man, Erdnase, is someone deserving of our attention and respect for his grand accomplishment.

I can't wait to see the final product, which will probably take me the rest of my life to absorb.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby David Alexander » August 24th, 2008, 11:16 am

There is no debate about the definition of what an anagram is unless one is Humpty Dumpty.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

I'm sorry Matt, you're a nice guy, but using the word "presumptive" about M.F. Andrews as Erdnase requires massive chutzpah. The evidence suggests otherwise, which you clearly havent read. Neither has Geno, apparently.

Dick Hatch's work has removed Andrews from consideration. If that weren't enough there's Marshall Smiths description of Erdnase. Smith remained steadfast in his description of Erdnase in spite of Martin Gardners repeated hectoring to change his mind about Erdnases height. As Dick so ably demonstrated with two people in the audience at the 1999 Conference on Magic History, the five inch difference is striking and not something dismissed out of hand.

A film is not historical research as anyone who has seen Oliver Stone or Michael Moores work will understand. You can wrap an empty box with pretty paper and ribbons, but its still an empty box, even if Ernie Borgnine hands it to you.

And "respect" for a murderer and thief just because you think hes the author of a book on cheating? Please, this thread is now wandering further through the looking glass than ever. Whats next, the Attila the Hun Appreciation Society?

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Carlo Morpurgo » August 24th, 2008, 11:23 am

David Alexander wrote:First of all, an anagram is defined as a word or phrase formed by reordering the letters of another word or phrase, such as satin to stain.

Now we have the imperfect anagram, a device without a specific definition. Is an imperfect anagram defined as a rearrangement of letters in a word with one letter unused? Two? Three? Can one add two or three letters, dropping others to arrive at the desired result and still call it an imperfect anagram?



It seems that it was not such an uncommon practice for authors to create a pseudonym by using imperfect anagrams. A 10 minute research on google (imperfect anagram pseudonym) revealed an abundance of material to look at. Starting from:
---
The pseudonyms adopted by authors are sometimes transposed forms, more or less exact, of their names; thus "Calvinus" becomes "Alcuinus" (V = U); "Francois Rabelais" = "Alcofribas Nasier"; "Arrigo Boito" = "Tobia Gorrio"; "Edward Gorey" = "Ogdred Weary", = "Regera Dowdy" or = "E. G. Deadworry" (and others); "Vladimir Nabokov" = "Vivian Darkbloom", = "Vivian Bloodmark" or = "Dorian Vivalcomb"; "Bryan Waller Proctor" = "Barry Cornwall, poet"; "Henry Rogers" = "R. E. H. Greyson"; "(Sanche) de Gramont" = "Ted Morgan", and so on. It is to be noted that several of these are "imperfect anagrams", letters having been left out in some cases for the sake of easy pronunciation. (Answers.com)
----

Not to forget the author Margaret Yourcenar (real name Crayencour, an imperfect anagram). There a few academic articles that might be interesting. I could peek at this one:

"Parisian Nobles, a Scottish Princess, and the Woman's Voice in Late Medieval Song"
Author(s): Paula Higgins
Source: Early Music History, Vol. 10 (1991), pp. 145-200. I am just quoting this passage:
--
One obvious candidate for a potential anagram is the text of the song Bel Acueil le sergant d'amours, the first piece in the Mellon Chansonnier, a manuscript made for Beatrice of Aragon and which bears formal dedications to her elsewhere in the manuscript. Not surprisingly, the song's incipit conceals her name (Example 8). The name itself uses only fifteen of the twenty-five letters in the incipit, but it is possible that the remaining letters form some kind of descriptive phrase (106). According to contemporary practice, a certain amount of liberty was accorded in the creation and resolution of anagrams (107). An anagram was 'imperfect' if many of the letters remained unused, or if letters had to be used more than once. It was considered 'perfect' if all of the letters of the phrase could be used without repetition (108). There were also several degrees of sophistication in anagrams. Imperfect anagrams, like those attributed to Villon, conceal only the name of one person or several people, while others concealed an entire verse or phrase (109).

107 Canel, 'Histoire de l'anagramme', p. 169.
108 Lebegue, 'Les anagrammes', pp. 243-4.
109 See the examples given in Canel, 'Histoire de l'anagramme', pp. 168-71.
---

I guess according to this definition Andrews is an imperfect anagram of both WS Maunders and SW Erdnase....

There's another fairly recent article (2007) by Alastair Fowler (Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh) that could contain information about imperfect anagrams used in the past. Just the one phrase showing up in google tells it: "Besides, imperfect anagrams have always passed muster in authorial pseudonyms, which are by definition intentional". I will take a look at this paper later, when I get hold of it.

Carlo

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Roger M. » August 24th, 2008, 1:09 pm

S.W. Erdnase:
"...the jars to our pocketbook caused far less anguish than the heartrending jolts to our insufferable conceit".

"Boldness and nerve are also absolutely essential. Ability in card handling does not necessarily insure success. Proficiency in target practice is not the sole qualification of the trap shooter. Many experts with the gun who can nonchalantly ring up the bull's eye in a shooting gallery could not hit the side of a barn in a duel. The greater the emergency, or the greater the stakes, the greater the nerve required".

"We have not been impelled to our task by the qualms of a guilty conscience, nor through the hope of reforming the world. Man cannot change his temperament, and few care to control it".

M.F. Andrews:
"I caught her playing sneak on me and going to the Alhambra Hotel district, in which she became a well known character. We split up several times on the strength of it, but each time I took the bag of diamonds".

"As I realize my life is at stake, and as I am a crack shot, being an old-time bear hunter in the Maine woods, whoever tries to get me, make your will".

"In Holyoke, Mass., I have a wife living. I wish I had a divorce".

"I have consumption, heart failure, lots of crushed ribs and catarrh of the intestines. One month in jail and I would be dead as a herring".


........Anybody who think the same person wrote these samples might consider seeking remedial english lessons.
It's obvious they were written by different people, and when this information is taken in consort with M.D. Smiths memory of what S.W. Erdnase actually looked like, M.F. Andrews as a candidate becomes what he's always been, an obvious distraction in the search for the identity of our friend S.W. Erdnase.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby David Alexander » August 24th, 2008, 1:25 pm

"Imperfect anagrams" and "potential anagrams." All words can be made into anagrams if one wishes them so, depending on how many letters are to be added or left out.

Roger's observation on the disparity in the skill of writing and the experienced writing "voice" one reads in Erdnase forms part of the evidence that Milt Andrews was not Erdnase.

Then there's that five inch discrepency in height that no one has yet overcome.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Richard Kaufman » August 24th, 2008, 2:15 pm

I am now at the point, having reached 50, where being asked to recall the details of things that happened at 10 years of age (the 40 year gap between when Gardner questioned Smith and when Smith drew the illustrations for Erdnase) is something I can relate to. It's easy to misremember things. Some things are pinpoint sharp, others are fuzzy. Still other memories seem exact and clear but in fact are faulty.

It's also easy to underestimate the idea that Smith might not have wanted to disappoint Gardner, Vernon, et al., with a lack of details. And so he made them up.

It's also easy to underestimate the idea that Smith might have purposefully given false information for other reasons.
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Carlo Morpurgo » August 24th, 2008, 2:20 pm

David Alexander wrote:"Imperfect anagrams" and "potential anagrams." All words can be made into anagrams if one wishes them so, depending on how many letters are to be added or left out.


True, even Alexander or Gardner or Dai Vernon all have "Erdna" inside them, so they can be made into Erdnase by changing a few letters and anagramming the rest. But the point is that it was a practice to create pseudonyms by modifying a few letters of the real name. This alone isn't proof of anything but if other evidence comes into place you can't ignore it. Likewise, you can't use your argument alone to disprove the documented cases of such anagrams being used by past authors.

David Alexander wrote:Roger's observation on the disparity in the skill of writing and the experienced writing "voice" one reads in Erdnase forms part of the evidence that Milt Andrews was not Erdnase.

Then there's that five inch discrepency in height that no one has yet overcome.


I am not in particular for one or the other theory, since I only read this topic sporadically, so I might miss several bits of info. For example, about the writing style, is it disproved that there was a ghostwriter? Is MFA's 9,000-word letter published somewhere?

Also, I am wondering if we could trust Smith's memory: the guy was an illustrator and yet could not recognize his own drawings...

Carlo

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Richard Hatch » August 24th, 2008, 2:20 pm

Roger M. wrote:....Anybody who think the same person wrote these samples might consider seeking remedial english lessons.
It's obvious they were written by different people, and when this information is taken in consort with M.D. Smiths memory of what S.W. Erdnase actually looked like, M.F. Andrews as a candidate becomes what he's always been, an obvious distraction in the search for the identity of our friend S.W. Erdnase.

This disparity between the writing styles is what virtually requires MFA advocates to ring in an "editor" to polish his prose. Bart Whaley in TMWWE has a chapter giving the results of a computer analysis of the prose styles of Erdnase, MFA and their proposed editor, William Hilliar. The result of that admittedly rudimentary analysis was a match between Erdnase and MFA and Erdnase and Hilliar. Logic should then allow us to argue that Hilliar ghostwrote MFA's confesssion/alibi letters!

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Roger M. » August 24th, 2008, 3:14 pm

The liberties that Whaley/Busby/Gardner took to arrive at the conclusion they arrived at in the book remain difficult to accept as legitimate research.
That those same liberties are being taken today, and even expanded upon is disappointing at least, and outrageous at best.

Richard K., it's OK to observe ones potential inability to remember details with the passage of time, although for many people recalling vivid and accurate details from events of 40 years previous presents little or no difficulty.
Recall that M.D. Smith brought forward a number of things from his meeting with Erdnase, during which he relayed to Gardner a wide variety of details. (recorded in the Gardner/Smith Letters).
The height and general appearance of Erdnase was mixed with comments about the room they were in, how he got paid, Erdnase's general attitude, Erdnase's card table (which we see throughout the book), and other details that would not only be difficult to "make up", but ones there would be no reason to even put on the record if they weren't legitimately being recalled by M.D. Smith.

As for Smith having reason to misstate details (or outright lie) about what happened during his meeting with Erdnase, we have just as much reason to presume that he had absolutely no reason to misstate or lie about anything as we do to presume he might have.
That the two balance each other out is reason to render them neutral in the absence of information required to place importance on either one of them.

I don't go through life presuming folks to be liars in efforts to render conclusions to match my expectations.
In general, the conclusion that a subject might be lying or telling the truth is assisted by quality research.
There are far more potential lying characters within the "M.F. Andrews is Erdnase" research camp than there are amongst those who continue to examine other candidates. Some of the characters that Whaley/Busby/Gardner used to support their conclusions were of highly questionable character. Many would call them a cadre of lifes losers.

M.D. Smith had no reason to lie or misstate any of his recollections. If anybody has evidence otherwise, they've not presented it here.

To conclude that Erdnase was M.F. Andrews, and then to continue that there is more to support the story which hasn't been released yet is pointless and unhelpful.
If you've got something important for the Erdnase researcher to read, post it (or publish it).
If you're going to tell us all that you've got a secret, but you're not going to share it until you're ready, that's fine.......but spare us all the M.F. Andrews [censored] in the meantime.

If your evidence is nothing more than the basic argument from the Busby/Gardner/Whaley book, then you're presenting nothing new (or helpful) in the search for the real Erdnase.

As for the improper anagrams, they're interesting.
But lets be honest with each other, they're really nothing more than an interesting observation.
They're not at all conclusive of anything.

If Geno had posted suggesting that folks take a look at Nulda's and the other characters names in light of potentially being examples of imperfect anagrams, and then went on to suggest that people were welcome to comment on those observations, I believe that would have contributed some interesting information to the record.

But to present all of this as being definitive proof of M.F. Andrews as Erdnase, and to then go on and disparage all the other dedicated Erdnase researchers by stating that "nobody else even comes close" seems a bit over the top to say the least.

I'd really like to see this thread continue as the source of high quality information on the search for Erdnase that it currently is.
To attempt to end the thread with the claim that M.F. Andrews is Erdnase helps nobody, and makes the entire thread appear to be a waste of time.

You'll note that not a single Erdnase researcher has dared to make the definitive statements that were made in Geno's post.
I hope that this overall caution displayed by most posters to date regarding over-the top statements would remain a cornerstone of this thread.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Carlo Morpurgo » August 24th, 2008, 3:15 pm

Richard Hatch wrote:
This disparity between the writing styles is what virtually requires MFA advocates to ring in an "editor" to polish his prose. Bart Whaley in TMWWE has a chapter giving the results of a computer analysis of the prose styles of Erdnase, MFA and their proposed editor, William Hilliar. The result of that admittedly rudimentary analysis was a match between Erdnase and MFA and Erdnase and Hilliar. Logic should then allow us to argue that Hilliar ghostwrote MFA's confesssion/alibi letters!


I am curious as to what parameters were used for the analysis. I guess I will need to read the book.

I would run the same analysis with "The Art fo Magic", written by John Northern Hilliard. In the introduction by Reynolds I read that "Hilliard joined the Chicago Press when he was 17" (so in 1889) and that "later he worked on the Chicago Herald as a drama critic and editorial writer". Could he have anything to do with Erdnase?

Carlo

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Roger M. » August 24th, 2008, 3:26 pm

It seems to me that the quality of writing in "Expert at the Card Table" goes far beyond editing, or the ability of an editor to "buff" up an inferior writers material to make it read as "Expert" reads.

Erdnase gives us original thinking, most of it seen for the very first time in writing anywhere and presented in what could be described as glorious prose.

To say that this "original thought" is that of M.F. Andrews, and that it reads as it does due to the skills of an editor is difficult, if not impossible to accept.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Richard Kaufman » August 24th, 2008, 3:45 pm

There is nothing in Hilliard's prose (who, indeed, ghost wrote Downs' Art of Magic) that would line up with the style of Erdnase.
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby David Alexander » August 24th, 2008, 5:37 pm

Much of this is rehashing discussions that have been gone through before in this thread and elsewhere.

Smith didn't recognize his drawings because they were tracings of photographs because photographs would have been more costly to reproduce and muddy in the execution in any event given the cheap paper he decided to use.

The logistics of having to do 101 drawings individually "from life" has been examined before. The project would have taken several weeks and would have required Smith to take unusual positions with respect to what Erdnase wanted in his illustrations. (See the various Points of View in the illustrations.) Smith didn't remember a multi-day or multi-week project or anything at all out of the ordinary associated with this little job. He remembered one meeting on a particularly cold day in a cold hotel room in downtown Chicago.

When Smith was annointed by Garder as the "Dean of Magic Illustrators" I'm certain the old man did not want to disappoint his new admirers. I'm not suggesting he made things up, but he originally thought he'd only done 30 or so illustrations and only recognized the work as his by the style of the lettering and numbering. As an expereinced artist I suspect he recognized what he'd actually done using a light box and just didn't say anything for fear of disappointing Gardner.

I should also point out that Martin Gardner and those who talked to Smith were not experienced interviewers and not trained historians by any stretch of the imagination. It is unknown how much Smith was lead in the questioning. That, and the fact that Gardner pressed Smith to "re-remember" Erdnase's height to be in keeping with Gardner's candidate, which is hardly the sign of a disinterested investigator who is simply following the evidence.

Also, during one of my conversations with Martin Gardner I discovered that he did not understand that the book had been self-published by the author, thinking McKinney had been the publisher as opposed to being just the printer. I do not know if this was a product of Gardner's aging memory or if he mis-understood that from the beginning. It changes a number of conditions on the creation of the book if one fails to understand that the original edition was self-published.

Comparing the ability of a ten-year-old's memory with that of an adult doesn't apply here. Smith was an adult with his own business when he interacted with Erdnase and it was early in his career when every job was important.

Editor? This has been trotted out before without success. This presumes that the author needed help in expressing himself which is belied by the clear voice present in his writing. And who is this greatest of magic editors/ghost writers...someone so skilled at being able to write the detailed and ineffible into clear and unambigious prose and then never talking about this job or showing up on the magic scene ever again? Sorry, but the idea of an editor just doesn't hold together.

What was clear to me from the beginning was that Erdnase was intelligent, educated, AND an experienced writer able to express himself in personal terms. Every experienced writer knows it takes lots of time and lots of writing to have a "voice." Erdnase has a voice... and it isn't Milt Andrews'.

While it has been some years since I read the Whaley book with its circular argument, my memory of their "computer analysis" was that it was put through a program that produced something from the Flesch Scale, a technique for determining "readability" and nothing else. The Flesch Scale is useless in determining authorship. (Happy to be corrected if I remember this incorrectly.)

What was done by Whaley is nothing like the textual analysis done to "Primary Colors" which determined the author was likely to be Joe Klein, who admitted the same after prodding by others in interviews after denying it repeatedly. The academic who did the analysis does not claim to have a computer that can determine authorship because no such program exists. That should be understood by all.

An editor would almost certainly have removed "conge" and other words to make the prose more readable. I am convinced that we are reading the un-edited words directly from Erdnase himself, not filtered through a ghost writer or editor.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Richard Kaufman » August 24th, 2008, 7:25 pm

Okay, I wrote it.
It's time I confessed.
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Bob Farmer » August 24th, 2008, 7:29 pm

No, I am Spartacus.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » August 24th, 2008, 8:46 pm

You gotta love it!
Conchis (conscious?) in Fowles' THE MAGUS posited that "mystery is energy." And everybody (as the old radio show suggested) loves a mystery. Where's Jimmy Hoffa? Amelia Earhart? Charlier?

Reading the serious research and the circumspect and wild speculations is truly entertaining and...well...energizing. (Someone not long said to me, "How do we know that the guy who met with Smith was not a 'ringer,' sent there by Erdnase?") Hmmmm...

Not since the initial Kennedy assassination have I read so much "fun stuff."

Keep it going...

And, by the way, I agree with Matt Field re the fine film Geno Munari produced and coaxed into being. I hope it encourages others to raise the bar when it comes to production values. Geno bothered to script something, hire actors and crews and editors to create a first-rate film. Sure, it is likely that some will bum-rap it, but the professionalism and caring that went into it will be obvious.

Say what you will, but Geno's entire Erdnase Project is an unmistakable labor of love and for the price--especially if you have not bought anything regarding Erdnase--is an incredible bargain.

Onward...

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Carlo Morpurgo » August 24th, 2008, 10:31 pm

David Alexander wrote:Much of this is rehashing discussions that have been gone through before in this thread and elsewhere.


Sorry...as I said I did not read this thread regularly, nor have I read anything else other than the recent Genii article. In any case, it's not a bad thing to rehash discussions once in a while -- some new thoughts may develop.

David Alexander wrote:Editor? This has been trotted out before without success. This presumes that the author needed help in expressing himself which is belied by the clear voice present in his writing. And who is this greatest of magic editors/ghost writers...someone so skilled at being able to write the detailed and ineffible into clear and unambigious prose and then never talking about this job or showing up on the magic scene ever again? Sorry, but the idea of an editor just doesn't hold together.


Why would anyone so skilled as a writer do this job and never talk about it? Obviously there is such person, that we know for sure. Could it simply be because it's a book about cheating at cards?

Carlo

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Carlo Morpurgo » August 24th, 2008, 10:34 pm

Roger M. wrote:It seems to me that the quality of writing in "Expert at the Card Table" goes far beyond editing, or the ability of an editor to "buff" up an inferior writers material to make it read as "Expert" reads.

Erdnase gives us original thinking, most of it seen for the very first time in writing anywhere and presented in what could be described as glorious prose.

To say that this "original thought" is that of M.F. Andrews, and that it reads as it does due to the skills of an editor is difficult, if not impossible to accept.


Suppose that Modern Coin Manipulation and The Art of Magic were authored by S.N. Woldenson, whose real identity is a mistery. Would you argue, by the same token, that the writer was indeed Woldenson himself?

Carlo

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby bagelsandlox » August 25th, 2008, 12:03 am

Welease, Woger!!!!!!!!!!

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby David Alexander » August 25th, 2008, 12:17 am

Carlo wrote:
Why would anyone so skilled as a writer do this job and never talk about it? Obviously there is such person, that we know for sure. Could it simply be because it's a book about cheating at cards?
__________________________________

There is a big difference between someone who writes something as personal as Expert and being a person hired to re-write or edit someone else's work.

As I've explained in my article about my candidate (Genii January 2000), there were perfectly good reasons for him not to discuss it with anyone.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Richard Hatch » August 25th, 2008, 1:20 am

Jon Racherbaumer wrote:(Someone not long said to me, "How do we know that the guy who met with Smith was not a 'ringer,' sent there by Erdnase?") Hmmmm...


Jon, Marshall Smith himself raised this possibility in correspondence with Martin Gardner, when the wanted poster description of MFA that Gardner sent him did not agree with his clear recollection of the person he met. Knowing (from Gardner's forwarded information) that MFA was wanted by the law, Smith wondered if perhaps he had sent someone else to meet with him. But Smith almost immediately rejects this possibility, based on the fact that the person he met performed all the sleights in the book (and who but the author could do that?) and seemed to him not to be hiding anything. In fact, MFA was not wanted by the police in the winter of 1901 when the illustrations are presumed to have been prepared, so MFA would have had no reason to send someone else, assuming such a person could have been found. It is virtually certain that Smith did at least some of the illustrations and met the author as part of that task. The real question is to what degree his recollection of those meetings can be trusted. As the only credible eyewitness to the author, I take his testimony at face value. While he is eager to assist Gardner in his research, Smith makes clear distinctions about what he recalls and what he isn't sure of. He is very certain that the man he met and whose hands he sketched was no taller than 5' 7", possibly as short as 5'5", and between 40 and 45 years old, i.e., about a dozen years older than Smith himself (MFA was 6'1" and just two weeks older than Smith). The only linkage of MFA to Erdnase came from Edgar Pratt, whose claim to have known MFA is dubious and whose information on him can be entirely traced to an article on MFA that he read in the Sunday Supplement to the Philadelphia Enquirer ("The Malted Milk Murderer," in American Weekly for May 20, 1945). Several of the statements he makes to Gardner are provably false. Gardner himself doubted Pratt's claims until he was able to obtain weak corroboration for one of them, the claim that Harto had contact with Erdnase, a claim Harto had made to others, which Gardner first heard from Pratt. The Harto claim (which I take seriously) does not link Erdnase to MFA, except through Pratt.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Roger M. » August 28th, 2008, 12:02 pm

Dick, would you mind expanding your take on the Harto connection to Erdnase?

All of the Harto papers and library contents were put up for auction. I wonder if reference was made by Harto to Erdnase in any of his papers?

Harto does seem to be one of the more stable sources to have claimed that he knew Erdnase.
I actually hesitate to use the word "claimed", as Harto seems only to have mentioned in passing his association with Erdnase. He doesn't appear to be seeking anything out of the connection.

(I should also point out after re-reading my last few posts that although I disagree completely with Bart Whaley's conclusions in TMWWE, I do think he's a gifted researcher and a skilled historian. I'm likely not alone in preferring that he take his talon's out of MFA as the only candidate and put his talents to work on continuing the search with a wider eye).

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Richard Hatch » August 29th, 2008, 12:52 am

Hi Roger, thanks for the request. I thought that perhaps I had expounded on Harto earlier in this thread, but couldn't find the posting if I did (as an aside, is it possible to have the earlier contributions by myself, David Alexander, and others to this thread properly attributed again, rather than remaining anonymous? I notice that some early attributions have been restored, such as Lance Pierce and Richard Kaufman, but not the majority...).
I'll be at the TAOM all this weekend and at Magic in the Rockies next week, so I can't put up much at the moment (still packing) or for a few weeks, so here's an abbreviated answer:
Clearly Harto told several people of an association he claimed to have with Erdnase. Only Pratt claimed that Harto had contributed the Legerdemain section of the book, and Pratt's testimony is questionable as noted in earlier postings. Charles Maly, one of the Harto associates who confirmed for Gardner that Harto spoke of an association with Erdnase, claimed to have seen a notebook of material that Harto was working on as a proposed sequel to Erdnase. If this notebook survived the destruction of many Harto documents by Audley Dunham, it has not yet surfaced, nor have any Erdnase references in Harto documents that have survived. But I take his claimed association with Erdnase as a serious possibility, and one that may lead to further information on the identity question.
I do not think that Harto had much, if anything, to do with the writing of THE EXPERT. If one assumes (as I do, though I recognize it is an assumption and not a proven fact) that the book was assembled shortly prior to publication, Harto's schedule makes his collaboration with the author unlikely. Harto was touring with the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show as a ventriloquist and magician in the sideshow during several seasons prior to the book's publication. They would set up in a new city nearly every day, arriving by train, parading through town, setting up the show, doing the shows, striking the show, loading on the train, and traveling overnight to the next stop on the tour. I traveled to Pawnee, Oklahoma to check the tour route books in the Pawnee Bill Museum for those seasons and the schedule does not much leave much free time to work on a book, unless the primary author was also working the same tour. There was a magician name Andrews from Philadelphia (Pratt's later home) who did later join the Buffalo Bill Wild West show for their tour of Europe, and Harto was also at one time associated with the Buffalo Bill show, but this would have been after the book's publication and I have been unable to develop much information on this particular "person of interest." Another possibility I considered was Charles Andress (whose name reverses to S. S. Erdnase if you drop the rest of the first name reversal), a traveling magician with strong circus and Chicago connections, but I think him an extremely long shot for any number of reasons. I did track down Andress' son and spoke with him by phone a few years back (his father sired him when he was 80 or so!), but he knew nothing about the book and I haven't followed up on that line of inquiry.
Although Harto did get billing as a card magician early in his career (as a teenager) and was respected by his peers for his general knowledge of magic, mentalism and escapes, he does not seem to have been noted for originality in his card work. And the reference to the originality of his patter that is quoted in TMWWE is, in the original context, actually a reference to the originality of his ventriloqual dialogues, which I don't think can be extrapolated to assign him credit for the patter in Erdnase's LEGERDEMAIN section.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Jim Maloney » August 29th, 2008, 7:40 am

Richard Hatch wrote:(as an aside, is it possible to have the earlier contributions by myself, David Alexander, and others to this thread properly attributed again, rather than remaining anonymous? I notice that some early attributions have been restored, such as Lance Pierce and Richard Kaufman, but not the majority...).


I'm fairly certain that's being worked on, it's just that Brad has been busy with other projects.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Jason England » August 29th, 2008, 8:27 am

This is directed at David Alexander, although others can feel free to chime in.

What, if any, evidence is there to support the supposition that the illustrations were drawn from photographs?

As an admittedly completely unscientific experiment, I just tried to duplicate Fig. 26 from Erdnase. Mind you, I've never drawn anything in my life. I did what I consider to be a fairly good FINISHED drawing in exactly 2:21 (just under 2 and a half minutes).

Let's make the reasonable assumption that Erdnase had a proper outline of what he needed illustrated. Let's also assume that only the briefest of sketches would actually be needed (and could be properly inked in later). Finally, operating on the assumption that a decent artist like Smith would undoubtedly sketch much faster than a complete novice like me, how is it that you consider it impossible to have all the drawings done in a single, long day?

Let's say that each sketch took 4 entire minutes. 4 x 101 = 404 minutes. Well, 60 x 8 = 480. In an eight hour workday I find it hard to believe that all of the sketches couldn't be done and still leave time for breaks and a brief lunch. Bump this up to a 10 hour day and drop the time a bit (Fig. 26 is perhaps one of the more complicated ones, easier Figs would've taken much less time to sketch) and you are not only well within the possible, you're well within the PROBABLE.

The aforementioned non-scientific elements acknowledged, where exactly am I going wrong here?

Jason

PS: Although I don't remember if Smith mentioned it, a second meeting of some type is a reasonable assumption, if only to drop off the drawings. It's not unthinkable that another few hours could have been spent correcting a few of the Figures that weren't to Erdnase's liking. A brief second meeting like that might not have made enough of an impact on Smith to recall it 45 years later, but could've contributed significantly to the possibility of all the drawings being done without photographs.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby David Alexander » August 29th, 2008, 8:39 am

Jason,

I believe I covered this in my Genii article and elsewhere in this thread.

There is a HUGE difference between "duplicating" a drawing that's already done and creating one from life. They are entirely difference processes.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby David Britland » August 29th, 2008, 11:15 am

Hi Jason

If Smith's account is accurate then he made detailed sketches of all the positions from life during a single meeting with Erdnase.

I've found that the most time consuming aspect of illustrating magic books is getting the preliminary sketch right. Taking a good photo can also be time consuming. Unless Erdnase had planned every view I'd imagine there would be some discussion about the best angle for each illustration. All time consuming.

But somehow Smith made detailed sketches required for every illustration, sketches that first had to be approved by 'Erdnase', in a single meeting.

I don't find it implausible that he could ink those sketches in the same amount of time. In fact I'd say he could probably ink those sketches more quickly than it took to make them. After all, he could add nothing of his own. There is no further discussion. He couldn't change them in case they wouldn't meet the approval of his employer.

If we want to be sceptical about the time taken to make the illustrations maybe we should wonder whether Smith could indeed have made detailed sketches of all the illustrations in just one meeting. But that calls into question Smith's recall of his encounter with Erdnase.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Richard Kaufman » August 29th, 2008, 11:32 am

Considering the care with which Erdnase wrote the text, I would say it's certainly possible that he had, in his head, plotted out the exact view from which each sketch needed to be made.
If he had photos made in advance and then given them Smith, the drawings could have been made in as little as 10 to 20 minutes each.
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Geno Munari » August 29th, 2008, 11:53 am

Very true Richard.

In those days if he would have had photos taken he would have to get a photographer and the process was not so simple as it is today. Also very expensive, however he could afford it. If indeed he did have a photographer where and when were the photos taken. In Chicago? Or some other city? More than likely in a larger city that would have commercial photographers. Could have been a referral from the Chicago printer. Maybe we should look into photographers that were in the approximate area of the printer. I don't recall any investigation into that area of concern.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Jason England » August 29th, 2008, 2:27 pm

David Alexander wrote:Jason,

I believe I covered this in my Genii article and elsewhere in this thread.

There is a HUGE difference between "duplicating" a drawing that's already done and creating one from life. They are entirely difference processes.



No doubt about it. But if I shop around at the local art college and can find a guy that can make a nice pencil drawing of me holding a deck of cards in some weird (to him) position in under 4 minutes then your theory is in a world of hurt.

Are you saying that I can't find that guy no matter where I look?

Because you're essentially saying that it can't be done (or more specifically, that it couldn't have been done in Chicago in the winter of 1901).

And remember, all you have to do is average 4 minutes per sketch to make this a one-day job. Some individual sketches would certainly take a bit longer, others a bit less.

As for Erdnase coming prepared for a meeting like that, remember, this is the guy that rewrote what it means to be specific and detail-oriented with regards to gambling and magic books.

I have no problems believing he showed up knowing exactly what he wanted drawn and from what angles. Look at how many of the figures depict exactly what one would see if you were "seated in the usual manner with a looking glass opposite" for hours on end. I can admit that I'm speculating, but I believe Erdnase knew what he wanted drawn.

I'd even go so far as to posit that he might've shown up with crude sketches of some of the more mundane figures already in hand, and only had Smith sketch 50 or 60 of the more difficult ones. Then Smith retired for a week (or whatever) and redrew and inked all 101 before returning to Erdnase for delivery. This might even account for Smith's recollection that he'd done much fewer drawings than the book seemed to indicate to him.

Anyway, you seem married to the idea that there were photographs at this meeting. I'm asking if you have any real evidence, or is this just conjecture on your part.

All we really know is that somehow, Smith and Erdnase managed to get these drawings done in a shorter amount of time than modern experts believe possible given only one (recalled) meeting. But there are at least a few other scenarios that are plausible that don't require photographs:

If they really met more than once and Smith just didn't remember this 45 years later then photos aren't necessary.

If Erdnase showed up with a decent number of crude or (heaven forbid) decent but not professional sketches already done then photos aren't necessary.

If Smith had help in some other fashion then photos aren't necessary.

If there is something else we're all overlooking then photos aren't necessary.

So I'm back to, do you have anything other than conjecture that photos were used? Because you sure talk like you do.

Jason

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Richard Kaufman » August 29th, 2008, 2:41 pm

If photographs were used, then the following could be true.
At my peak, I could do a drawing from a photo in 10 minutes. At the other end of the spectrum is Earle Oakes, who (working from my photos) spends about an hour on each drawing.

Either way, it could be done in a week with no problem. As to finding someone who could do an accurate anatomical sketch in four minutes--it's unlikely. Not impossible. But unlikely. The anatomy in those drawings is extremely accurate, and all the drawings look like they've been done from the hands of the same person.
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Jonathan Townsend » August 29th, 2008, 2:51 pm

If photos were used... who's got em? Same for sketches and the reams of paper one is wont to go through getting text into shape for publication.
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby David Britland » August 29th, 2008, 3:05 pm

The title page of Erdnase says the illustrations were 'drawn from life.' And Smith didn't mention seeing any photographs.

If Erdnase made photographs he would have taken them to the meeting with Smith otherwise they wouldn't have served any purpose either as reminders to Erdnase about what the drawing should be or to Smith as guides for his illustrations.

The more I think about it the more difficult the task seems to make all the preliminary sketches in the space of one meeting. But maybe Smith was an exceptionally fast worker and Erdnase knew exactly what he wanted. Or there is some other explanation.

David

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Richard Kaufman » August 29th, 2008, 3:24 pm

"Drawn from life" sounds better than "traced from photos." Taking photos in 1902 was not an easy business: I believed poses had to be held for a long time due to the length of the exposure required. So, there are arguments to be made on either side of that issue.

It's also possible that Smith may have not wanted to admit he traced the drawings from photos. Many derogatory comments about my own drawings used language that included things like "he just traces them." Of course that's foolish, but that's what some people think.

From my point of view, as the artist, I couldn't care less what anyone thinks, or thought. My only goal was to get a lot of drawings done as quickly as possible at the best quality I was capable of. One of the benefits of using photos is that when you look at the drawings in, say Derek Dingle's book, or David Roth's book, you can recognize them as their hands, and there is always information in the drawings, because they were done from photos, that would not otherwise be there. As much as I admired Joe Schmidt's work, there was simply a level of detail missing from it because it was done freehand.
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Joe Pecore » August 29th, 2008, 4:24 pm

A bit of information about the state of photography in 1902 from
http://www.boxcameras.com/brown1900.html:

When Kodak introduced the $1.00 Brownie Camera in February of 1900, it was an immediate success, but with one problematic flaw - the shoebox-style, cardboard back wore out quite quickly, leaving the rollfilm inside more susceptible to light leaks. To fix the problem, Kodak engineers created a metal latch to hold a new rear cover in place, and all was well again. The original Brownie Camera was only in production for about two months, and is quite rare today. Eastman Kodak company records indicate that many of these first Brownie Cameras (about 15,000) were shipped to England.

The Brownie Camera with its new back door design would go on to be known as the No. 1 Brownie Camera in 1901.


More info http://history1900s.about.com/od/1900s/p/brownie.htm
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Eoin O'hare » August 29th, 2008, 4:47 pm

Any artist I know that draws from life will sketch simple, abstracted shapes initially, in order to represent the object being drawn. -When you draw a head you will probably start by drawing an oval.

These shapes are an aid to obtaining the objects correct proportions and construction. Often the shape will require correcting and repositioning, resulting in rough sketches. For illustration purposes these 'roughs' are then inked to produce informative line drawings. The sketch is then cleaned to leave only the line art.

If I'm drawing hands, I'll often quickly block in triangles to represent the palms or backs of the hands to give me the initial sketch to work on.
It looks to me as if Smith used a similar strategy but instead of triangles he used hearts.
Take a look at Fig.69 in The Open Shift. This drawing seems to have partially escaped cleaning, you can clearly see a heart shape on the back of the left hand.
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Larry Horowitz » August 29th, 2008, 5:15 pm

Jason,

I find some weakness in your suggestions.

To think that 101 drawings could be made in one day would imply no changes. That each and avery drawing was exactly what the author invisioned defies logic. To think that there were only 101 drawings and no ideas that just didn't work or weren't needed defies logic. I can well imagine the artist stating that he could demonstrate a move better from a different drawing view then the author might have envisioned. This might only be found by some degree of trial and error.

I think that a 8-10 hour drawing day would cause enough fatigue that there would be a notible (by experts, at least) change in drawing quality.

On a different note regarding memory:
My father is 94. During the 60's-70's, following some heart problems and a doctor's suggestion, my father had a shot of scotch every night when he got home. Last week in discussions with him, he had no recollection of this. So a meeting to do art work, 40+ years removed, could well be mis-remembered.


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