The Original Close-Up Convention

FFFF Chairman: Obie O'Brien
Obie O'Brien
FFFF Board Member: Glenn Brown
FFFF Board Member: Jimmy Cieslinski
FFFF Board Member: Dan Garrett
FFFF Board Member: Mike Joseph FFFF Board Member: Meir Yedid  
Board Of Directors:
Glenn Brown
Jimmy Cieslinski

Dan Garrett
Mike Joseph
Meir Yedid
Joan Caesar
Executive Assistant:

Joan Caesar
Tony Gerard
Backstage Crew:
Lee Eyler (Manager). Thomas Blacke, Jack Chancellor, Ray Eyler, Scott Miller.
Audiovisual Crew:
Jimmy C. (Manager), Joe Cappon, Larry Kohorst, Gary Ward, Rick Wilcox, Tony Gerard (Lighting).
4F Shop Crew:
Rod Chow (Manager), Shank Kothare, Simon Lane, Rajneesh Madhok, Amanda Nicot, Jay McLaughlin, Ed Ripley, Michael Tallon.

Fechter's Finger Flicking Frolic

Reported by Robin Dawes • Photographed by Dale Farris

=====The XXL-Files=====

To: Director, Federal Bureau of Investigations
From: Special Agent Drane Fully
Security Level: Triple Omega
Verification Key: 20FA16TB04RO26TH29ERS

Madam Director,

The following is my confidential report on the field investigation to which you assigned me on April 20, 2016 (reference Sealed File 2016-7325). As per your orders I am submitting this report directly to you. I know this report is months late. When I have explained the circumstances you will understand why I could not submit it before now.

April 27, 2016:

As instructed, I proceeded to Batavia New York to rendezvous with Agent Randy "The Fox" Muddler. I had received instructions to contact Muddler at the Clarion Suites Hotel. I discovered that the hotel was hosting an event called Obie's FFFF Convention (the Original Close Up Convention – By Invitation Only). The hotel's records revealed that approximately 200 guests had booked in as FFFF attendees, and that a significant percentage were foreign nationals. I guessed that this group was the focus of Agent Muddler's investigation, and I decided to infiltrate and observe. I adopted a disguise as one of the hotel's cleaning and maintenance staff.

The event began when a tall white-haired man walked throughout the hotel blowing a whistle. From his name-tag I knew this was Obie O'Brien, the chief organizer of the convention. As he blew his whistle, scores of men and a few women left whatever they were doing and followed him obediently into a large darkened room. Had some kind of Pavlovian training been applied, or were they all under post-hypnotic suggestion? I knew I had to find out.

Armed with a clipboard, I entered the room and engaged in covert surveillance. O'Brien was delivering a welcoming speech. He was speaking in a strange code or jargon with many words that I did not recognize, but his audience clearly understood and approved. When he announced the hours for "the Dealers' Room" I began to formulate a theory that this mysterious FFFF organization was an international crime cartel. I soon discovered that I was completely wrong.

O'Brien announced the commencement of a Canadian Gala and passed the microphone to Joan Caesar, herself a Canadian national. Madame Director, I was completely unprepared for what happened next. What I am about to report will sound impossible but on my honour as an FBI agent I swear it is true: over the next 84 hours I witnessed no less than 387 verified demonstrations of supernatural abilities and paranormal phenomena. It began without warning when Ms. Caesar introduced Shawn Farquhar, who immediately made a bottle materialize from thin air. He then telekinetically transported thought-of playing cards into randomly chosen locations. He was followed by Chris Pilsworth, who was able to teleport bubbles in and out of a small flat envelope. Then Rod Chow used an unidentified power to perfectly repair a torn $5 bill, and to transform cash into a credit card. Next was Jean-Luc Dupont, who was able to establish direct communication with a potato. Michel Huot and Yannick Lacroix combined their arcane abilities to make coins materialize and dematerialize again. Eric Leclerc showed a box in which he had placed an object, having foreseen that the object would be named: Mike Powers asked for a picture of a parrot, and that is exactly what the box contained. Then Bill Abbott demonstrated the ability to make cards materialize so that no matter how many he dropped, he always had the same number. David Merry used telepathic powers to identify a number held in a volunteer's head. Hayashi was able to move coins under cards without touching them. Closing the exhibition was Mike Robinson, who actually brought to life a wooden figure of a man. The small homunculus engaged in witty conversation with Robinson but seemed to take a strong dislike for Obie O'Brien, repeatedly threatening to "kick Obie's a**". The crowd rewarded Robinson with a standing ovation.

Madame Director, you can appreciate the position I was in. I realized that the powers I had witnessed were possessed by no humans. The beings at FFFF were not aliens in the sense of foreign nationals … they were aliens from beyond our planet. I realized that with respect to their origin, the truth was "Out There". What's more, these aliens (who for the most part were quite human in appearance) were demonstrating powers that if unleashed could overturn our entire society. I knew it was my duty to report immediately, but I also felt that it was vital to remain and gather as much information as possible.

After a brief interval, O'Brien announced that a lecture was about to begin. The lecturers were Michel Huot and Yannick Lacroix – names which now struck me as being unearthly. Michel and Yannick demonstrated their arcane powers over playing cards, coins, billiard balls, thimbles and other mundane articles. Then they gave explanations for their miracles … but the explanations were patently ridiculous! Magnets, self-retracting spools of monofilament, specially engineered coins … these "explanations" were clearly false, and I did not understand their purpose until much later.

After the lecture the crowd dispersed. I attempted to locate Agent Muddler without success. I conducted covert surveillance in several rooms where members of the FFFF association were gleefully engaged in paranormal activities until late in the night, but I was no nearer understanding the purpose of it all. I determined to resume my investigation in the morning.

April 28, 2016:

The day began with another lecture, presented by a being named Lukas. Lukas looked more human than Huot and Lacroix, but his paranormal powers were just as impressive. He materialized, disintegrated and transformed thimbles, playing cards, silk handkerchiefs, coins, and candles. After exercising his supernatural abilities he too offered preposterous explanations based on combinations of manual dexterity, intricate devices, and psychological manipulation. It was clear that these explanations were meant to distract from his actual powers, but to what end?

The crowd was completely delighted with the lecture and rewarded Lukas with a standing ovation.

In the afternoon another show commenced. This was co-ordinated by Gary Morton and featured eleven aliens. First Karl Hein instantaneously solved a Rubik's cube without physical manipulation. Then Lion Fludd transported a small ball between several metal cups. Francis Menotti communicated with an invisible person named Siri, and made a freely named card materialize in his hand. Michael Kirschner used nothing but mental energy to bend silverware. Daniel Collado used paranormal powers to guide a blindfolded volunteer in the separation of a deck of cards into red and black piles. Greg Frewin used precognition to predict which four US states would be chosen by audience members. Juan Carlos Rodarte told a wonderful story as he teleported four signed cards to the top of a deck of cards. Edouard Boulanger reached into an alternate dimension and brought back flaming coins. Joe Rindfleisch compelled rubber bands to violate the laws of physics by linking and unlinking. The crowd rose to its feet in appreciation of Joe's impressive feats. Roy Eidem introduced themes from The Lord of the Rings as he exercised his ability to completely control rings and coins. Finally Miguel Angel Gea showed his mastery over Past, Present and Future with coins and playing cards. The audience showed their appreciation with a standing ovation.

I had developed a theory regarding these shows: perhaps they were an opportunity for the FFFF beings to demonstrate their paranormal powers and thereby gain recognition and status within the group. I had wondered if this ritual was somehow related to the bizarre courtship dances of tropical birds, but the almost total absence of potential mates rendered this unlikely.

With very little pause another show was announced. This was the British Gala, with Darryl Rose as MC. A being named Will Houstoun was able to psychically control 52 objects in motion at the same time, making a deck of cards arrange themselves into a particular order while being shuffled by a volunteer. Kieron Johnson used time travel abilities to go back and freeze a signed card into a block of ice. Mark Leveridge manipulated the atomic structure of three odd-sized pieces of rope, making each one permanently the same length. Geoff Ray repeatedly made coins de-materialize from one hand and re-materialize in the other hand. Neil Stirton was able to gather information by speaking to the four Aces from a deck of cards. Fay Presto earned a standing ovation with her presentation of varied miracles, ending with pushing a glass bottle through a volunteer. Martin Cox made a signed fish materialize in his mouth. I must confess that despite the frightening implications of discovering that beings of such power are walking the Earth, I was laughing out loud during Martin's turn on stage. Marcus Taylor made Aces invisibly transpose one by one with other cards in a jazzy way. Bob Swadling used a power that I will call chromogenesis to transform blank playing cards into fully printed ones. Amanda Nicot used mind-reading to perfectly identify a word chosen at random. Keith Fields induced telepathic abilities in Gene Anderson, permitting him to read the minds of four volunteers.

The momentum of the FFFF gathering was building. I could feel the psychic energy flowing through the group. I realized that the performers in the shows were focussing the attention of the attendees, channelling and co-ordinating their energies like a resonating beam of light in a laser. Was this the real purpose of the shows – to create a huge reservoir of shared paranormal power? But what was the goal?

The evening was given over to another lecture, this time presented by three brothers: Dani daOrtiz, Miguel Angel Gea, and Christian Engblom, collectively known as The Fat Brothers. The family structure on their home world must be very complex since the brothers showed no visible evidence of consanguinity. I learned that the brothers were the Guests of Honour at the FFFF gathering and I guessed that their powers would be very great. I was not wrong. Miguel demonstrated phenomenal paranormal control over coins and cards, seemingly able to transport and transform them at will. Christian repeatedly shuffled cards face up and face down, then used telekinetic powers to turn them all the same way. Dani was able to use a combination of clairvoyance and possibly mind-control to find chosen cards at audience-chosen locations in shuffled borrowed decks of cards.

Once again, the lecturers then denied their powers and provided convoluted instructions for achieving their miracles using purely natural means. As before, I knew these explanations could not be true, because I am a trained observer and would surely have detected these ruses had they been in use.

April 29, 2016:

I still had not made contact with Agent Randy "The Fox" Muddler, and I was concerned. I left a message for him at the hotel desk and continued my surveillance.

The first event the next day was advertised as "The Pat Page Memorial Workshop", hosted by Mike Powers. The alien beings engaged in this workshop focused their demonstrations of otherworldly powers on rings of all sizes. The first up was Joe M. Turner, who showed that by pure mental exertion he could release a ring from a string it was threaded on. Raj Madhok reversed the process and passed a ring onto the middle of a string. Glenn Brown used multiple large rings and defied nature by repeatedly linking and unlinking them. Marc DeSouza made a ring and a rope pass through each other, then teleported the ring into a card box. Eric DeCamps demonstrated his mastery of the elements using a shoelace and a 4-inch ring. Mark Leveridge showed that he could pass a ring through the hinge of a pair of eyeglasses. Finally, Roy Eidem used his telekinetic power over rings to pay tribute to Harry Houdini. I now suspect that Houdini was in fact an alien as well. I should mention that each of the aliens who demonstrated their powers gave some sort of ridiculous explanation of how their results could be simulated with natural means. Mike Powers announced that a PDF of these "methods" would be available to all attendees - the crowd was delighted. Clearly the FFFF group placed value on these bogus explanations of their supernatural abilities, though I could not yet be sure what that value was.

In the afternoon, Christian and Katelina (the Painters) hosted another show. Leading off was Michael Dardant, who showed an unearthly power over playing cards and poetry. Fred Rosenbaum used precognition to predict the outcome of four random choices related to planning a funeral. Thomas Barthes used blank cards to show he could accurately sketch future events. David Finkelstein demonstrated his power to control coincidence by making a freely named playing card appear in the same position in two decks of cards. Katelina and Christian then demonstrated their telepathic powers by transmitting information about a chosen card. Alexander Great used inter-dimensional manipulation to create a permanently twisted playing card. Vincent Hedan demonstrated his supernatural familiarity with the irrational number . Javier Pi๑eiro focussed so much mental energy into a coin that it burned halfway through a deck of cards. Jimmy Ichihana applied his powers to dealing playing cards from a shuffled deck in groups of matching colour, then matching suits, then in order. R้my Robert made huge coins transport invisibly from one hand to another. Michael Kaminskas impressively teleported a signed playing card into a lemon. Howard Hamburg precisely predicted the sum of four randomly selected playing cards. Lodewijk de Widt tore the corners from four different cards and manipulated their molecular structure to meld them into a whole card. The audience responded to this display of superlative skill with a vigorous standing ovation.

Soon after, Alain Ianonne took the stage as host of the Italian Gala. The first performer was Riccardo Negroni, who materialized and transformed coins and flowers with grace and elegance. Manfredi Corradino used his powers to transpose Aces and Kings. Fabio Marchegiano supernaturally controlled the order of two decks of cards simultaneously. Sergio Starman made rings materialize inside his mouth! Michele Trabona made coins materialize, disintegrate and multiply in a bravura demonstration. Alain Ianonne gazed into the future to predict the choices of socks, shirts and underwear made by the Fat Brothers. Tony Polli closed the show by making coins and a wine glass materialize from thin air.

During the dinner break I attempted to ingratiate myself with a small group of these strange beings. I discovered that by agreeing to pick a card, I earned immediate entry into their circle. I found their conversation to be chilling: they spoke openly of how they had used their powers to "blow people away" and "slay them in the aisles". I was beginning to see the darker side of these aliens.

The evening brought another show, this one master-minded by an alien named Meir Yedid. Meir introduced Alec Tsai, who demonstrated his extraordinary ability to control the behaviour of stickers attached to playing cards. Next up was Billy Debu, showing that he could cause specific cards to materialize exactly where he wanted them. Willy Monroe laid a big bet on his otherworldly ability to predict which colour of balloon would be selected. Lawrens Godon pulled coins through space to appear at his fingertips. Michel Huot and Yannick Lacroix showed that these aliens understand the human sense of humour very well. They performed as "The Human Deck of Cards" … ironic since they themselves are clearly not human. After a short break, Angel San Martin showed the astonishing ability to cause balls and other small objects to materialize under metal cups. Rune Carlsen twisted reality by causing everything he touched to go blank – including cards and coins. Miika Pelkonen reached into volunteers' minds to extract the identity of cards they had chosen. An alien named Joe Monti was next – he caused a quantity of beer to increase, again and again. Jacob Schenstr๖m ended the show by using pan-optic vision to locate freely named cards in a shuffled deck. The audience was strongly impressed by this ability and rewarded Jacob with a standing ovation.

April 30, 2016:

I knew I was running out of time: I had only one more day to discover the aliens' plan. Were they the advance scouts of an all-out invasion, or was it something else entirely? One thing I did know: the frequency and intensity of paranormal activity was increasing. Something big, something very big was going to happen.

The day began with another lecture. This time the speaker was Luis Otero, claiming to come from Venezuela but clearly an extraterrestrial. Among many superhuman abilities, Luis controlled the mind of a volunteer to make him place 4 bills in a deck directly beside 4 cards chosen by the volunteer. Luis also caused two decks of cards to materialize from inside one card box. As with the other lecturers, Luis gave "explanations" for his abilities, ranging from ingenious hidden devices to extensive preparation to extreme manual dexterity.

I still had not fathomed the purpose of providing the alien audience with these preposterous explications, but suddenly an explanation occurred to me. I realized that the aliens attending FFFF were planning to spread out across our planet and exercise the same powers that the lecturers had demonstrated. They would run the risk of being observed by humans, and to maintain their cover they would need some sort of mundane explanation for how they could do what they did. The gullible humans would accept the ridiculous stories of "Faro shuffles" and "back palms" – as if those were real things – and the aliens could carry on undetected.

At last I knew their intentions – from Batavia they would disperse throughout the world, using their alien powers to change the course of human history. I knew I had to find some way to stop them.

Even as I made my plans, the next show was starting. This was the Asian Gala, hosted by Andost. The first demonstration of superhuman ability came from Toto, who caused chosen cards to leap out of the deck when the volunteers yelled "Bang!" Then Daly used extremely precise telekinetic power to mentally manipulate the chemicals in a Polaroid photograph. Next, Yumi was able to untie knots with nothing but the power of her mind. Beomseok Jun told a charming story while psychically controlling the cards in a shuffled deck. Shimpei made cards gather and transpose without touching them, and received a standing ovation for this amazing display of power. Ed Kwon used extrasensory perception to find the four Queens in a shuffled deck, then transformed them into Aces, then made the Aces gather in one place. He too received a standing ovation. Hide Kimoto made solid metal rings link and unlink. Takamiz Usui was able to use mental powers to solve Rubik's cubes while they were spinning in the air, and the crowd stood and applauded in appreciation. Billy Cheung made a freely named card materialize in a wine glass, then caused named cards to rise from a deck, and caused the faces of the cards to go blank, all without touching them – earning an enthusiastic standing ovation. Mo Yukimasa was the final performer in the show. He made red and black cards transpose without touching them.

This show was followed immediately by another – this one helmed by Steve Beam. Steve began the show by introducing Eric DeCamps, who repeatedly transformed matches into coins, then made metal beads pass through ropes. Joe Cabral told a tale about a gypsy fortune-teller, while gigantic cards transformed their faces to illustrate the story. Andy Quinn was able to discover volunteers' chosen numbers when they moved metal bars around a ring. Jim Vines caused the materialization from thin air of coins, paper money, and credit cards. Luis Olmedo demonstrated the power to pass solid through solid by pushing playing cards through the table. Clemens Ilgner showed that he can breathe fire at will. Pete Lentini teleported rolled-up balls of paper from his hand into a box on the table. Martin Braessas pulled coins out of flames and fed them back into the flames – amazing control over the elements. The final performer was Christian Engblom. Christian used his alien mind-power to make selected cards fly invisibly to his pockets, including a pocket that he mind-controlled all of us to see, even though the pocket did not exist.

I knew that the Fat Brothers were, as Guests of Honour, somehow central to the FFFF plan for world domination. During dinner I gained their confidence by handing each of them an unopened deck of cards. I nonchalantly asked where they were going after FFFF. There was a moment of uneasy silence, then with one voice they said "Home. We are going home." I made a casual comment about wishing I could see their home, then changed the subject. I did not want to let on that I was aware of their plan to conquer Earth.

The final show of the FFFF gathering began at 8 PM that evening. Obie O'Brien stepped into the spotlight to MC this show. The event commenced with the presentation of many gifts to the Fat Brothers. Then Obie introduced the first performer – Shoot Ogawa. Shoot made a number of items materialize from a piece of artwork, and then compelled all the objects to transform – an astonishing demonstration of the ability to control multiple objects. Alberto Lorenzo brought enormous energy to the stage, focussed into a bowl under which small objects repeatedly materialized. Horret Wu demonstrated a power I had not yet seen – he transformed giant playing cards into regular cards. The audience responded with a standing ovation. The Magic Brothers (not to be confused with the Fat Brothers) engaged in a duel of sorts, using their superhuman powers to contend for control of small balls materializing under cups. They were rewarded with a standing ovation. Satoru Furukawa manipulated the laws of nature to create perfect fans of enormous playing cards, and also received a standing ovation.

After a short break, Obie O'Brien announced that Jimmy C was the winner of the MVP award. Jimmy received a sustained standing ovation. Then Woody Arag๓n recruited Shawn Farquhar's wife Lori (contacted by telephone) to think of any card. Without touching the deck, Woody transported Lori's card to the exact position reached by spelling "Juan Tamariz". Then Lukas, who had lectured earlier, showed his uncanny ability to make balls and playing cards appear as if by magic (though it was clearly hyper-developed mental powers, because magic isn't real). Paul Gertner used his extraterrestrial powers to place five chosen cards at the precise locations where volunteers would find them by spelling their own names.

Before the final performance, Obie expressed his gratitude to Glenn Brown and Joan Caesar, both of whom received warm standing ovations from the crowd.

The last demonstration of more-than-human ability was given by Dani DaOrtiz. In an unmatched display of power, he simultaneously controlled the actions of four volunteers as they randomly mixed and discarded playing cards until each had only one card left – the cards they had selected and signed earlier! The crowd leaped to its feet for one final standing ovation.

The FFFF event was over, and it was time for me to put my desperate plan into action. I ran forward and took the microphone. "Ladies and gentlemen, please remain seated. I am Special Agent Drane Fully of the FBI. Before you attempt to conquer our world, there is something you need to know. It will be more trouble than it's worth. Even with your incredible powers, humans are going to be completely ungovernable – we've proved that over tens of thousands of years. Trust me, you do not want the headaches of trying to run this planet!"

There was silence for a moment. Two hundred pairs of alien eyes gazed at me. O'Brien turned to the Fat Brothers and said "What shall we do with him?" Dani DaOrtiz said "He said he wanted to visit our home", Miguel Angel Gea said "We have room in the ship" and Christian Engblom said "He can pick a lot of cards between here and Arcturus" … and then I lost consciousness. When I awoke, Earth was nothing but a tiny blue point in the vastness of space that I could see through the thick window of my tiny cabin on board their ship.

I was held captive for four months. I must admit it was pleasant captivity – the Fat Brothers were very gracious hosts. It was not until today that they returned me to this world. Madame Director, the reason my report is so late is that I was kidnapped by aliens.

This concludes my report. At no time was I able to communicate with Agent Randy "The Fox" Muddler, and I can only hope that his report confirms my own. Therefore, in conclusion may I ask one crucial question … What does the Fox say?


ฉ Copyright 1971-2017 by Obie O'Brien. All rights reserved.