I’m Not Going to Tell You a Secret

I adore magic and related disciplines. In recent years I’ve been lucky enough to see some great variations, ranging from Penn & Teller’s playful look behind part of the curtain to Joshua Jay’s intimate masterpiece  Six Impossible Things.

Somewhere in between and off to the side in content and presentation is another excellent experience I had the good fortune to attend, Derren Brown’s Secret. 

I’ve heard a lot about Derren Brown and his particular type of magic, but this was my first time seeing him perform outside of a couple random clips over the years.

In fact brown doesn’t primarily call himself a magician at all, acknowledging his art is a combination of that and related and intertwined disciplines like illusion, misdirection, and showmanship. The term “mentalist” has been used at times. Brown’s act is largely psychological in nature, giving the appearance of things like mind reading, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, cold reading, etc.

He uses a variety of approaches and skills  to generate and maintain interest, engagement, and amazement. One of the many things that sets his performances apart is the subtle and interesting use of a particularly technique that elevates the audience’s investment in the proceedings. I won’t specify to avoid spoilers (beyond that being a general policy for me when it comes to magic Brown reasonably asked details of the show no be shared), but it’s a masterstroke of showmanship and mastery of his craft.

Secret fully involves the audience in every aspect of the show and feels extremely interactive. Brown’s also chosen wonderful themes to explore, and the show is expertly built use them to enhance the impact of the magic and illusions at the same time. Secret is extremely engaging from start all the way through to a wondrous, satisfying finale.

Secret is on Broadway through Jan 4, 2020, and I highly recommend checking it out if at all possible.

Board Games Reviews

Walking in Burano, Chronicles of Crime, and Planet Game Reviews (Quick Thoughts)

A brief look at some games I got to try out (somewhat) recently.


Walking in Burano


Walking in Burano is a spacial card game in which players choose building sections to add to their area under ascetic and other point related restrictions. There’s an interesting balance created by the different sections needed for building, elements on cards that lead to scoring, placement restrictions, and the cost of taking actions. It all gives a nice layer of depth here. Subtle aspects of needed strategy might not be immediately obvious, but the gameplay itself is easy enough to jump into.

I’ve only played this 2 player thus far, and there’s a mechanic specific to that version that really makes long term strategy difficult in how quickly cards disappear. I imagine it will be a VERY different game with more players because of this. Still enjoyed it quite a bit though and look forward to playing again. 


Chronicles of Crime


Here’s another game to join things like Watson & Holmes and Detective  right in my sweet spot of providing decent mystery complexity in a way that’s still accessible and fun. This is incredibly application heavy, needing use of a phone to analyze clues, check answers, and even look around crime scenes. But it’s extremely well done and integrated. Excited to continue to progress with this one.




Planet provides an interesting variation on tile placement games as players fill in the twelve sides of their planet trying to maximize sections of their secret land type collected while satisfying certain conditions to claim animal cards (both of which provide victory points at game end).

The gimmick is a fine one, although the all important magnets that secure tiles in place should be stronger. It’s much too easy to knock off a piece accidentally when turning the planets around or otherwise handling them, which is pretty much what the whole game is based on doing. 

The variation of goals and rules surrounding them is reasonable, as is the drafting aspect that governs who gets what tile. It feels like there could have been a little more to this, although I’ll admit I’m not sure in what respect. Decent, quick playing, reasonably unique game none-the-less.   

Board Games Reviews

Montague Island Mysteries and Other Logic Puzzles Review

Montague Island Mysteries is a collection of logic puzzles thematically presented as a series of visits to a remote island. Your hosts, as well as the fellow guests, are fellow puzzle enthusiasts who gather at the island for twelve weekend visits, during each of which a mystery puzzle is presented along with several ancillary ones. The theme is used nicely as the reader will be determining things like the guests’ backgrounds, what room everyone’s in, further details about the island, etc.

Of course with a book like this the quality of the puzzles is paramount, and in this respect MIM is spot on. Classic grid based logic puzzles are mixed in with a nice variety of spacial reasoning, unique visualizations, etc. The mystery puzzles feature a mechanic I particularly adore that involves the “culprit” secretly being among the guests and giving statements that might or might not be true. It provides a nice twist and was used with just about the right frequency (although a few more in this style would have been great).

There are a couple of minor missteps. A few puzzles are based on every attendee, including the player, being given two cards or something similar with the instructions “don’t show them to anyone else” and the solution based on determining who has what. But the reader’s own cards are not revealed, their persona just presents statements that may or may not be true like everyone else. This does not affect solving the puzzle, but is thematically awkward given the presentation and a bit of a missed opportunity as well.

Some of the puzzles were too long and/or required too much brute force for me, although given the scope and variation of what’s presented a few puzzles not being to my particular tastes is no big deal. One pushed mathematical logic versus linguistic logic a bit far for my liking, but again that’s personal preference.

Overall Montague Island Mysteries is a wonderful collection of puzzles with a solid connecting theme. I enjoyed this book quite a bit and look forward to checking out the sequel.

Japan Reviews Wrestling

Sendai Girls 5/18/19 Live Thoughts

May 18, 2019 in Sendai, Japan

DASH Chisako opened with an apology that she would miss her first Sendai show in her career due to injury. She had a mild concussion, and has thankfully since recovered and returned.

1) Mikoto Shindo vs Manami 

Mikoto is from Marvelous and one of a trio of rookies there that have been making a strong impression as they wrestle for a variety of different companies gaining experience. Manami’s been honing her own skills here in Sendai Girls, and the two proved nicely complimentary foils for each other. Solid match between two rookies that should both have bright futures ahead.

2) Hiroyo Matsumoto vs Hikaru Shida vs KAORU

This was a fun triple threat, with good action and underlying issues playing up having Dash’s two regular partners against each other (she teams with Karou in Marvelous as Riot Crown and Hiroyo elsewhere as Reiwa Utima Powers). Dash was ringside and involved in some of the antics as much as she was able, which was nice to see.

The match ended with a really cool double pin on Karou (Hiroyo in sunset flip position on Karou while Shida small packaged her). The ref awarded match to Shida, over Hiroyo’s protests.

3)  Sakura Hirota vs Alex Lee

Hirota, in honor of Dash, tried to be hardcore here. That worked about as well as one might expect. Alex picked up the eventual win in a fine for what it was encounter.

4) MeikoMei (Meiko Satormua & Mei Suruga) vs Sareee & Yuu 

I was excited about just about every aspect of this encounter: my first time seeing MeikoMei team, wrestling’s biggest rising star against one of its greatest established veterans AND one of its brightest rookies, another chance to see how Yuu is evolving her craft since going freelance, etc. This is exactly the type of unusual mix of wrestlers and styles I hope to see with all the cross promotion that has been happening lately.

And for a full twenty minutes they delivered. Everyone was one point, every matchup was different and interesting, and this was a thoroughly enjoyable, hard hitting affair right up until the time limit expired and the match was declared a draw. Would love to get to see any pairing of these four as a singles contest sometime.

5) Beauty Bear (Chihiro Hashimoto & Mika Iwata) vs Medusa Complex (Millie McKenzie & Charli Evans) 

I was previously familiar with and a fan of both Millie (from Sendai’s 1/6/19 show) and Charli (from Shimmer), but this was my first time seeing them as a team. Side note: I adore their team name.

Big match for them in the main event against Sendai mainstays and reigning tag team champions Mika & Chihiro (who was also Sendai’s reiging world champion). Solid tag team wrestling all around and a good main event. Medusa Complex’s (upset) victory in this non-title encounter and a resulting challenge set up Beauty Bear’s first title defense at a future date (despite holding the belts for over a year).

I always enjoy Sendai Girls, and this was certainly no exception. While I did miss seeing Dash in the ring I’m glad she took the time she needed to recover and am happy it wasn’t serious in the end. Really good show overall.

Manga Reviews

Girl’s Last Tour Manga Review

” Even if it’s meaningless… sometimes, nice things happen.”

Tales of two girls and a small tank climbing what’s left of civilization, and there isn’t much…

I’ll be sharing thoughts on the entire series (volumes 1-6) as a whole here, but it will be kept as spoiler free as possible.


Girls’ Last Tour is a dystopian slice of life story, following a gradual journey through the remains of a futuristic world gone to ruin. I found it atmospheric and engaging, being drawn in bit by bit as our protagonists make their way.

It could have been something very different, and while I enjoyed this for what it was I certainly understand if some readers wanted something different. This is rather light for a post-apocalyptic tale in many respects, and more about Chito and Yuuri’s wandering and the occasional philosophical question than their survival in a harsh landscape or other natural directions the story easily could have veered into.

There are a lot of questions left unanswered, particularly about the world before it collapsed and the particulars of the collapse itself. To be honest not much of anything is explained, and I’m not sure the sparse tantalizing clues presented add up to much of a whole. But while they would have been nice to have those details are in some sense beyond the point of the story, and I found the slowly unfolding themes, ruminations, and details that were present interesting enough.

Girl’s Last Tour admittedly had more potential lurking beneath it than what was realized, but for me it was a compelling, great little read overall regardless.