Art and Culture · beet street · Reviews · writing

He’s a Magic Man

I can already tell you, I have no idea.
Reposted with permission of beet street, Fort Collins

When you describe someone as manipulative, it’s not usually a glowing compliment, however Dan Jaspersen’s ability to manipulate what you see and believe is not only a source of pride, it’s his livelihood. This month’s Art Cafe – Mentalist, Manipulator, Magician – is presented by the man, who also answers to Dan J.

Jaspersen taught himself to juggle – with one broken arm, no less – at an early age, then picked up a deck of cards in college, ultimately paying rent with his sleight of hand skills. After acquiring his degree in business communications, he was soon employed in Japan working in the field of international relations. But in his heart, he’s always been a performance artist, and less than two years ago his magic act became his regular gig.

“I design experiences for people,” he said, explaining his unique art form.

Unlike the glittery illusionists on television or children’s entertainers who pull rabbits out of hats, Dan has worked hard to create a new style from old school.

“What I love to do is go back into the really old books, tricks and ideas,” he said, adding that even science magazines from the 1950s provide inspiration.

Although Dan’s act is family friendly, he stresses that his primary audience is adult, setting him farther apart from the stereotype magician. His performance is classy, elegant and more thought-provoking, making him a popular draw for private parties, corporate events and education venues. His clientele includes everyone from Colorado State University, to the Rotary club, to Nonesuch Theater. The type of audience often determines what tricks he’ll pull out of his bag.

The Minnesota native now lives in Cheyenne with his family, but with wife Andi’s roots in Loveland, Dan is well-connected and sought out through the Wyoming and Northern Colorado region.

Dan Jaspersen’s program at Avo’s this Wednesday, Feb. 23, begins at 5:30 and he promises to combine some magic with a little behind-the-scenes look at the mentalist’s mindset.

Dan Jaspersen knows your card.

“I believe in magic, but I know better,” he said enigmatically. As a magician, he strives to reconcile the contradiction of magic and the laws of science. “It’s a tricky thing.”

He paraphrased his favorite magician, Banachek, saying, “I like to take five senses and make it appear there’s a sixth.” In fact, Dan admits to mixing psychology and sleight of hand, mining the secrets of mediums and charlatans from a bygone era.

Fortunately for us – his delighted marks – he uses his powers for good, not evil. Bring all of your available senses this week and enjoy Dan J., Magician@Play.

Literature · writing

Death and Daffodils

© Susan Richards
Reprinted with permission by the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor

Carol knew without a doubt that she couldn’t leave the body lying in the mudroom all day. The kids would be home from school in a few hours and questions were bound to come up.

“Mom, why is our neighbor’s face all blue and do we have any of those mini Oreos left?”

It would be awkward, to say the least, so she knew she had to get the old guy out of the way sooner, rather than later. There were still three loads of laundry to finish, vegetables to chop for tonight’s stew, not to mention that stupid daffodil costume to finish for Willow’s kindergarten program.

If there was to be any finger pointing for the 180 lb. dead guy in the next room, it was five-year-old Willow’s fault. If only she was home to own up to her complicity, Carol could send her to a time out and put the responsibility of body disposal squarely on the girl’s petite shoulders.

Unfortunately for Carol, Willow was busy learning her ABCs, undoubtedly while wiping the contents of her nose on Paris Romero’s sweater. Her daughter was blithely unaware of the catastrophic course of events, all because she required a costume in the shape of a spring bloom.

Carol sighed loudly, trying to muster up some righteous self-pity for the situation. If she couldn’t blame her precocious youngster for the foul play, then she knew where the blame really settled.

On the old guy himself, of course.

His spectacularly poor timing did him in. Not Carol Royce, who was head of the neighborhood watch, co-chair of the local chapter of MADD, and author of three yet-to-be-published gluten-free cookbooks. It was all on him.

Him and the last untenable 48 hours.

Two days earlier, Carol woke to the delighted squeals of three ecstatic children. School had been canceled due to heavy snow, high winds, and an apparent unwillingness to educate during predictable, regional weather conditions.

Within two days the unholy trio had eaten everything in the house, traumatized the cat until it refused to come out from under the bed, and built a blanket fort that filled most of the house. With her husband Phil stuck in Saginaw until the storm cleared out, Carol was on her own with the snowbound brood. She also belatedly discovered that the liquor cabinet had not been replenished before the weather came in. The forecast was dire, and not just outdoors.

When the district announced school would be back in session today, Carol almost wept with joy. After more than an hour of shoveling and scraping, she got the car out and the monsters delivered 14 minutes early. It all went downhill from there.

Upon arriving home, Carol discovered that the overzealous city workers had plowed a four-foot wall in front of the same driveway she had just broke her back to clear. After re-digging an entry, she came inside to find the family dog had done his business on her bedroom rug as he was too cold or lazy to venture outside like other dogs.

Then as she brought an arm full of firewood to the den for the wood stove, she dropped a log on her foot, thus releasing such a torrent of expletives that the dog wisely retreated and tried to wipe up his own mess. Carol was 96% sure she would lose a toenail in spite of the recent coat of Maui Nights polish.

When she realized the wood stove wasn’t making a dent on the cold, Carol learned that the pilot light in the ancient furnace had gone out. Again. She completely split out the butt in her favorite yoga pants when bending over to light it. The noise of the seam popping was so loud the dog piddled again.

Once the furnace was working, the dog mess cleaned up and all 328 blankets and chairs were returned to their rightful place, Carol sat down with a cup of coffee spiked with cherry flavored cough syrup. It didn’t taste great but she imagined the pioneers would be proud of her resourcefulness and drank it anyway. She had just about found her long-lost sense of calm when the doorbell rang.

Carol was surprised to see their neighbor, Wally, bundled up on the stoop. The octogenarian was wearing a puffy blue coat that was last in fashion when Reagan was president and only his rheumy eyes peered out between the matching knit scarf and hat.

“Wally, what are you doing out in this weather? Come on in here,” she admonished, leading him into the mudroom. In a couple of hours it would be full of discarded coats, scarves and wet boots, no doubt left for her to pick up. She sighed dramatically, already dreading the onslaught of loud, messy beings that were still young enough to love this weather.

The weather that was reaching its bitter cold fingers through the door as Wally waddled in. She shut it behind him and watched him shake snow and slush onto the clean floor.

“What can I do for you?” she asked, feigning warmth she hadn’t felt since last September. His eyes twinkled as he pulled down the scarf.

“Well, I hate to bother you, but Maude and I are heading to Florida this weekend and I was wondering if you have any sunscreen I could borrow. My nose burns something awful at the beach.” He grinned his 84-year-old denture smile at her and waited expectantly.

“The beach. You’re going to the beach this weekend?”

He nodded enthusiastically.

Carol saw the bright yellow fabric still in her hand that would eventually be a colorful daffodil, then looked out at the blanket of white in the yard, the steel-gray slushy mess in the streets where the crews had plowed. She looked at her beach-bound neighbor and snapped.

Distantly, she heard herself screaming about blanket forts, dog pee and spring flowers as she grabbed the ends of his green woolen scarf and shook the old man. She was still going on about wasted toenail polish and pilot lights when his face turned several different shades of blue and his tongue peeked out between his perfect false teeth.


Later that afternoon Carol sat with another cup of coffee – this one spiked with something a little more appropriate than cough syrup – and stared out the window. The kids were watching TV, the costume was sewn and ready as her husband pulled his car easily into the driveway she had shoveled out three times.

Phil Royce waved at Wally’s wife who was walking their well-trained pooch as he unloaded his bags from the car. He and Maude exchanged a few words before he stomped into the now-empty mudroom.

After hugs, greetings and a warm kiss on Carol’s cheek, he asked if she was feeling all right.

“Yes, why?” Carol asked, trying to look away from the monochromatic yard.

“Mrs. Winter said her husband came over earlier to borrow a cup of sugar and you reacted oddly. He was worried you might not be feeling well.” Phil took a sip of his wife’s coffee and smiled appreciatively.

Carol finally pulled her eyes from the snowy blanket covering the hard, frozen earth, still weeks away from being soft enough to till and dig. Her daughter might be a bright yellow harbinger of spring, but there wouldn’t be any blossoms in the yard for a while. March was the snowiest month of the year and Carol doubted her sanity would survive it.

Three kids cooped up inside for two days, a couple of neurotic pets, a visit from old man Winter and an overactive imagination all came together in one afternoon.

She looked at her husband with a lazy smile and reclaimed her coffee.

“Oh, just a little case of spring fever, honey. I’ll be fine.”


The ugly truth about bridesmaid dresses

Reprinted with permission from the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor
If you could see the entire dress (wedding #2) you'd understand why I was drinking. Photo courtesy of the Susan Richards Historical Society.

The history of the bridal party is a colorful one, with origins in the Anglo-Saxon era when a groom would abduct his bride from a nearby village. He’d enlist help, and this little army of kidnappers evolved into today’s groomsmen. The bride would have her own cadre of friends as well, but if the marriage was completed, they obviously weren’t of much help.

As punishment for the girlfriends’ ineffectiveness, the bride would insist they wear garments so hideous the groomsmen would have to look away, thus ensuring none of them were ever chosen for marriage.

All right, I might have embellished this historical fact just a little, but as a five-time also-ran, er… I mean bridesmaid, I consider myself a bit of an expert on the subject. There are all kinds of anecdotes on the origin of wedding gowns, rings, cake and more, but little has been written about the beleaguered women who assist the bride on her journey to the altar. Maids and matrons of honor and bridesmaids up the wazoo have stoically planned showers, soothed nerves and sup-ported brides throughout the years, only to be rewarded with frocks so bad there are websites dedicated to the phenomenon.

This is why it’s always a good idea for a bride-to-be to choose her closest friends and family to stand attendance at her wedding. Mere acquaintances will have a much harder time keeping a straight face when told that she can wear the dress again, it’s so pretty and practical. When my oldest friend (wedding #5) told me that my tea-length Jessica McClintock dress would definitely be worn again, I smiled and dreamed about all of the garden parties in Birmingham I’d no doubt be invited to.

The corner into which brides back themselves is often the number of bridesmaids chosen. Six or eight women are bound to possess six or eight body types and the most successful fashion designer in the world would be hard-pressed to find the perfect gown for each one. Such was the case with wedding #2 back in the early 1980s. The dress was so bad I didn’t even hide my reaction, but my friend waved me off and explained it was the only one that fit everyone, including her plus-size sisters.

I actually did wear that dress again. And again. The pink dotted-Swiss monstrosity with puffy sleeves and a crinoline-enhanced skirt made an excellent costume as Little Bo Peep, as well as a saloon girl when I volunteered at a mining camp festival for several summers. The first Halloween party was actually hosted by the newly wed couple so the look on her face was worth the cost of the dress.
According to my informal survey, mine wasn’t the only gown ripped out of a scene in “Gone with the Wind.”

“I wore one that was red satin — spectacular in every sense of the word. It had a deep cut back with a big bow at the butt and a princess neckline. I wore it the following Halloween as Scarlett O’Hara,” said a similarly punished bridesmaid.

The cocktail dress with separate floor-length skirt I wore in wedding #1 was the only one of all that I actually did wear again to social events. Sadly, the dress stayed in style longer than that particular marriage.

When considering the legend of the ugly bridesmaid dress, I have to question the bride’s motives. Is it so important to ensure being the center of attention that you’ll cover your best friends with fabric more suited for upholstery or colors not found in nature? One honest soul in my in-formal poll admitted she didn’t make the dress choice too bad, but definitely made sure they didn’t outshine hers.

Maybe it’s time for the soon-to-be-wed women of America to take another look at history. For many years, the attendants’ dresses were much like the bride’s own gown. This tradition was in-tended to confuse evil spirits or jealous suitors that might attempt to harm the newlyweds. Reviving this practice from days of yore would keep the happy couple safe and the bridesmaids happy. Win-win.

As long as I’m taking on tradition, I may as well pick a bone with the wedding industry itself. Is there a plausible reason – besides profit – why the guys can rent their tuxes and the women-in-waiting are required to drop a lot of cash on a dress, shoes and accessories to keep forever? The memories of the inevitable drama that arise when you throw several women and garish floral pat-terns together is enough. Must we also open our closet every day and be reminded of the fittings, the alterations, the expletives? I’m quite positive that we women can take better care of a rental dress than a half dozen overgrown frat boys can. Give us a try and you’ll see a happy, well-dressed bridal party.

This is what happens when hookers get hold of a cotton candy machine. Photo from

In the interest of full disclosure, I am, as of today, always a bridesmaid – never a bride. However, I swear on a stack of Modern Bride magazines never to ask my dearest friend – just one, not six – to wear something I wouldn’t be caught dead in. I also promise not to utter the words “And you can wear it again!” unless I’m hosting a follow-up masquerade reception. Really, I do