Thursday, February 25, 2010

Updates: Ammar Lecture - New Member of the Family- Cynthia's Bday

First off...for those of you who didn't know this Sunday we pick up Belle, the wonder dog! She is a 9 month old poodle who belonged to a military couple who already had 2 dogs and the base said two is the limit so out she went to a friend of ours who owns the pottery shop at Calico Ghost Town. A couple months back while admiring her poodle, Big Boy, at her shop I mentioned that we wanted to add a dog to our show and a poodle would be great due to one of the kids' allergies a poodle would be best.
Next thing I know I got an email and wham bam boom we have adopted her. Cynthia will take charge of her training. After watching many episodes of Dog Whisperer and past dog experience of our own I think all systems are good!
Here is a pix sent us by her current care-giver.
We will update her wardrobe and take new pix when she gets here this Sunday.
Last Night we drove down to Sacramento (actually Carmichael) to Grand Illusions magic shop to attend the Michael Ammar lecture. Mr. Ammar has written many books and produced many videos and DVDs for the magician to learn his innovative magic techniques. He has an incredible mind. He is also very funny but is very serious about his magic.
I attended the lecture with my good freinds JC Dunn and Bill Jackson, both from Butte County. it was interesting to run into a few other "locals". A gentleman from Chico, CA whom JC performed for years ago got into magic because of JC and was there to learn more. Likewise a teenager from Chico who likewise was influenced by JC and had come to our Fair Show in Chico was in attendance. Magician's Magician and nice guy Wayne Houchin and his beautiful wife were there as well. Wayne has produced several videos of his own magic creations and has even had his effects performed by Criss Angel. SF magician, salt of the earth, Jay Alexander, was there too. It is always so nice to see Jay. He always has a great story to tell about things that have happened in his travels. Jay, likewise, is published and has put out video of fun magic tricks. In fact, one teen magician enthusiast came up to Jay while we were chatting and, with awe in his eye, thanked Jay for "getting him into magic" because of a Magic CD he had made years earlier. It was fun to watch the young man meet his idol.
My only regret about last night is I didn't get pictures with Jay and Wayne and others including Grand Illusions owner Steve and his mother Lenora. When is Sac get you magic at grand Illusions on Fair Oaks Blvd.
JC and Mr. Ammar
Alf was there.

Mr. Ammar and me.

Bill and Mr. Ammar
Below is just a fun picture of Victor Kent Jr's latest art piece. The photo doesn't do it justice. The three creatures are bound by the long tongue that penetrates each one.

Cynthia turned 18 at the start of this month and we celebrated three times. Once was a quiet home affair with a Rice-krispees tiered cake. The next was an all day trip around SF playing tourist, climbing Telegraph Hill, eating Chinese food in China Town and Japanese food in Japan Town, and shopping downtown, of course. The third was last weeks "Kid Party".
Mami made Cc a Doughboy sugar cookie.
At the Party everyone decorated their own cupcakes...Here is Miles'.

The gang. It smelt like teenager.

They played a pictionary like game.

Marschmellow stuffing contest...very dangerous...Six kids died during the game...Thank fully one of the boys was happy to give the girls CPR....(Just kidding that didn't happen.)

Cup cakes again.

Pin the tail on the Democrat.
I almost forgot...the quote of the day:
Whatever youdo, slow and prodding. What you want to disperse will eventually happen."
-Jc Dunn
(We have no idea what he meant...but he said it.)

There is still more big news coming down the pike. I mean really big news.
On the TV front I should like to say we are still not doing any shows. But we are in their files and on their minds. I hope that is true as the TV publicity is always helpful for the growth of the show.
A quick peek at 2010 summer schedule:
End of May......WI Chocolate Festival
In June: Several Grad Nights and other school related shows.
Gold Sox Circus Night
Swift Current SK Canada Fair (on into July)
In July: Laurel Co Fair, London , KY
Beechbend Amusement Park
In August: Quassy Amusement Park
Delaware Co Fair in NY
In Sept: Nat'l Cattle Congress in Iowa
Others in negotiation.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tough Crowd

I have to confess we are almost always blessed with good crowds. It's rare to find a tough crowd for us. But tonight we had a tough crowd. Me, Miles and Princess Amelia performed for a Rotary Group that had nice things to say after the show but was a very weak responding crowd through-out the performance.
It's hard to perform for those kind of crowds. Most Rotary groups have greeted us most enthusiastically but tonight wasn't one of them.
Everything went pretty flawlessly and the pace of the show was good. After the show we had quite a number of compliments but wow did we have to work to get to the end of the show.
These types of crowds are hard on a performer because we feel like we are messing up some how. In fact, tonight it wasn't until I messed up on something that I got the endearment of the crowd. I was going to close with a math-mentalism trick and I screwed up. I'm blaming it on my cold medicine. ;-)........since I blew it I took out a rope and "as punishment" I had a member of the audience tie my wrists up hard! I made sure he made my fingers turn purple. I then Had the audience check the knots and the tightness as well as the purple fingers. I explained I was raised Catholic and since I blew it on the last trick I needed to suffer for it. It won over the crowd and got a great response. I guess proving I was human by messing up endeared them to us.
Oh well. Life goes on. By the way...I scaped from the ropes in less than a second!
You can't say I only report the good stuff on this blog...if anything I am blatantly rough on myself as well as complimentary.

She's 18 She's beautiful and She's Mine!

A person only turns 18 once. But you can be 29 for as long as you can get away with it.
Princess Cynthia has been making the most of her "coming of age". On her actual birthday last week the little ones decorated the house and made birthday cards for her. Sorry Hallmark our family is into crafts and do-it-yourself. Her friends at school gave her flowers and various trinkets and gifts and her mom made her a rice-krispies three tier "cake" with a gallon of vanilla bean and a gallon of cookies and cream ice creams.

She also wanted to do a repeat of her 16th birthday and take a couple of friends to SF to tour about and eat. I, her dad, was invited as tour guide, money bags, and as her friend. Imagine that, a teen, uh, um adult daughter who wants to hang ouot with her dad.
Since I am recovering from that chest cold tat's been running rabid across the country I have to admit that waking at 7 am to drive into the City was not appealing. The energy having a cold zaps was another concern. The was a 30% cahnce of rain too.
We hit pockets of drizzle from time to time during the 3 hour drive. But any thought the possibility of a bad day was completely washed away after we passed through he toll plaza for the bay Bridge. We noticed the line we were in as we sat in the toll plaza traffic was a little slower than the other lanes but if you know the SF Bay Bridge toll plaza traffic changing lanes can be difficult as the other drivers are demons and filled with road rage for anyone trying to "cut" in front of them so I just road out the longer wait. The reason for the wait, we noticed, was because the toll agent seemed to have animated conversations with each car the pulled up to pay. His hands and body movement suggested he was passionate about whatever he was saying.
When it was our turn we discovered a very happy, full of life, middle-aged man from some Caribbean Island (by his accent). He greeted us with great vigor and asked where we were headed (not like a border agent might ask but like a friend asking) so I said we were headed for a day in the City. He asked if the girls in the back were my daughters. Instead of trying to explain they were my daughter and her friends, I just said, "yes."
He turned his attention to them and said, "Now , girls. Obey your dad. The bible says to obey your parents. And remember, no boyfriends." He said then turned his attention to me, "I have a 22 year old daughter a UC Berkley and she has no boyfriend. If I found out she had a boyfriend she would be in big trouble." We gave each other a fist bound and he wished us a good day. The girls laughed and all agreed today was going to be special.
The plan was to pull into Pier 35 parking lot and leave the car for the day. The rest of our travels would be by foot or by local transit to avoid the outrageous parking prices. (SF is only hurting their tourist trade with the crazy prices they are charging for parking, occupancy tax at hotels etc. )
Just to get it out of the way allow me to mention that it would drizzle or sprinkle all day with moments of sunshine. It was either really cold where jackets were required or really hot when the sun popped out. So through out the day it was a symphony of peeling layers off or piling them back on.
First stop was Pier 39. The girls and I split ways so they could hit all the shops and get T-shirts, and other trinkets. It was too early for entertainment on the stage there so to my chagrin we missed out on that treat. But by the time we finished with the pier various street performers were materializing along the wharf.
One other thing anyone coming to Pier 39 can't miss out on is the great view of Alcatraz and the sea lions that make their home on the boat docks.

The sea lions were sparse today but there were a few to sound out the familiar bark that makes up the sounds of Pier 39.

Along Fisherman's wharf there are a ton of gift shops and novelties to visit including the wooden pirates near the end of the wharf.
I took advantage of the great seafood along the fisherman's grotto area and had a calamari vinaigrette dish. It was scrumptious. The girls passed instead going for a thrible chocolate-caramel apple.
And of course we enjoyed the free sample of chocolate at Ghiradelli Square.

While walking about the wharf we saw a new concept in travel. The Segue tours. Instead of bikes or scooter or even a tour bus you go an a Segue and are shown the sights. The lead man (tour guide) has a wirless mic and each rider's helmet has a speaker so you can get the whole tour bus effect. So like ducklings following their mother they meander the streets of SF.

We caught the Cable car down at the wharf and we fortunate to get a standing spot. It really is the only way to truly experience the cable car. If you don't know how it works the best way to describe it is....there are a series of cables that are constantly running under the streets of SF. The cable car has a device that grabs the cable and takes the car for a ride. The brakemen have clutches and breaks to control the speed and or stop the car. At various points the car is released from one cable and grabs the next continuing on it's journey. Timing and skill is involved in being a brakeman or operator of the cable car. I was able to hop off here and take a picture of the girls because our car ended up stopping at a cable change spot and missed the cable partially because the rains brought a pile of sand down a hill and it was interfering somehow. The road we are blocking was slowly filling up with cars and the steepness of the hill and narrowness were making it impossible for people to back out. The funniest part of the whole thing was this all happened in front of the cablehouse/cable car museum (the brick building behind the car). A few of the impatient drivers volunteered to help push the cable car the 3 or so feet forward that allowed the operator the grab the cable again. I am glad it happened because had it not we would have had less a story to tell.
When we pulled into the Powell street terminal area the girls immediately noticed a big shoe store. Need I say more. The next thirty minutes was spent there. They found a few other stores but were drawn to the Ross store. We spent another hour and a few dollars there. Though I do admit they found some cute outfits. Ross was running a promotion getting patrons to donate a dollar to the American heart Assoc. and every time someone did the clerk would get on the loud speaker and say, "Julie just donated a dollar to the American Heart Assoc....WooHoo!" That went on the entire time we were in there. Before long we were joining in the woohoos.

In Union Square.

I had to have a Stanley Steamer while in Union Square. It's my wife's favorite. We used to have these often when we were dating 22 years ago. This picture is for her.

China Town..Oh my China Town.

Lots of shops and every shop owner ready to offer you a deal. "Only $30.00" you'll like it." "Do you want to have the soup too? It's only $3.95 more. That's cheap." Every store was the same. The shop keepers were ready to make that deal.
We had a great lunch though and rolled out of the shop as we worked our way across own back to the piers.
At the end of China town you step onto Columbus Street the "Little Italy" of SF. Cafes line the streets and the smell of Italian spices fill the air. We noticed that for the light drizzle that was coming down there sure was a lot of water in the street. Apparently one of the storm drains up the hill was clogged and was spilling out....

We noticed as we were zig-zagging the streets heading back to the piers that we were passing awfully close to Telegraph Hill home of Coit Tower. So we decided to visit the tower. Telegraph hill was crazy steep. We climbed and climbed and with two of us recovering from colds he wheezed and wheezed and coughed and hacked our way up the hill. At the top we discovered a sign with and arrow, "Stairs to Coit Tower". They too were steep and there were hundreds of them. At the top of those steps there was the driveway for the tower and across that road was more steps....the girls posed for a pix here.

Coit tower in the background.

After Coit Tower (which we did not climb up..they want $5.00 to climb a few hundred more steps..............) we painfully walked down Telegraph hill and found our van. My legs were shaking as we climbed down the hills that were as steep going down as they were going up.
Once in the van we worked our way across town to the ocean. The Sutro baths are ruins of an old resort from 100 years ago. It too had stairs so I stayed in the van as the girls climbed down.
The frolicked about for a while and saw a couple sitting enjoying the ocean view so they decided to create the moment for themselves and made the photo of Jess and Julie mimicking the couple.

Afterwards it was Ocean Beach and the foam of the ocean.

The foam looked like clouds and the wind caused the foam to float across the ground. Sometimes a strong breeze would cause a piece of the foam to break away and roll like a tumble weed. It was nice.
The girls ran bare-footed and their toes turned red. It was cold.

Cynthia loves herself.

From there it was dinner in Japan town. That almost didn't happen because there was no parking spot anywhere. My can is too tall for the underground garages and the street spots were filling up fast. Just as we were about to give-up Cynthia spotted a spot and the evening was saved. Noodles and sushi were the order for the night.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Case of the Missing Snake

Homebase, CA
Mami had just returned home from shopping. Princess Olivia and Princess Amelia gleefully brought the brown paper bag which was stable shut and resembled a large paper bag lunch into my office and reported to me that they had the mice. That's right mice. Live mice. That's what snakes eat. Think of it as vermin control.
I took the bag opened it and delivered one fat and juicy to Mr Squeezers cage. Mr. Squeezer is our boa. He's still a baby, only 18" long. Mr. Squeezers was in his hiding spot, a hallowed little log. But his senses are keen and he was aware of the arrival of his lunch much the same way you would be aware of a hot pot of fresh coffee being brewed.
I then took the bag to Buttercup's cage. I chose a big one for him and took it by the tail. After sliding the screen-door of Buttercup's cage back I dropped his food in. I busied myself transferring the other mice to a temporary plastic holding cage, that would be a refrigerator for us. That took a few seconds. I was surprised after a while to see that Buttercup had not come out of his hiding place, a large hallow plastic rock, to eat. I shrugged and walked off to watch my hands.
I came back and still no sign of Buttercup. By now his nose would be sticking out the hole in the rock. The mouse had made himself at home and was running in and out of the rock, up and down the tree like thing, and around the water dish. I opened the cage and lifted the rock. Every bit of me was expecting to see the fat 3' long ball python as I lifted the rock. And much the way a parent would panic when they turn and find their child not where they were supposed to be my blood ran cold.
I wasn't frightened because the absences of Buttercup in his cage meant we had a snake on the loose. I was afraid that Buttercup could be hurt or held up in a place where he won't get the warmth and nutrition (mice) he needs. he could die.
The call went out and eveyone's priorities from that moment on went into looking for Buttercup.
Miles' room is where the snake is kept so it was his room that was first torn apart. Every piece of furniture moved. We discovered that Miles didn't always put his dirty socks and other clothing in the hamper but behind furniture and boxes. (They may have started in the middle of the floor and through constant negclect slowly migrated to these places.)
His room was virtually gutted. We ingnored places that it was impossible for the snake to get into like an old powered amp with it's totally sealed cabnet and closed totes.
As James continued the careful search in Miles room the rest of us spread out and searched the rest of the house. The sewing nook , the little kids' room, behind the TV in the living room. No room was left out and no piece of furniture was not checked under and around. No snake.
Everyone who saw him was sure Miles had replaced Buttercup after the SoCal Trip the night before. They remembered him trading snakes out of the travel cage and into their home cages. Still to be on the safe side I sent Cynthia out to check the van in case he made his break while in travel.
After quite some time we all exhausted our guess and places to search. The excitement had tired me in my weakened state from my chest cold so I retreated to my bed. We decided to wait the few minutes until Miles got home to see if he had any ideas.
Being a Christian family we have many times found that a quick simple prayer asking for direction helps. Well that's what I did while on the bed. Immediately I hopped up and went into Miles' room and went directly to a closed tote on a high shelf. I pulled it down. As I pulled off the top and I noticed the lid was loose, not snuck and locked in place. I pulled it completely off and there looking up at me was a confused ball python. He was cold and very happy to be in warm hands.
Buttercup is Olivia's snake and they are bosom buddies. There could be no closer friends in reptile-human relations. She loves Buttercup like your little girl might love a bunny or a kitten. When I handed Buttercup to her she was so happy and so relieved we had found him. She held him for an hour.
Finally Buttercup was returned to his cage. A new pin catch was installed and he had a wonderful filling dinner of mice.

Monday, February 8, 2010

SoCal Shows (2) Updates.

We are back from SoCal. I didn't make a blog entry on Sat. night because I was exhausted. It has been a long time since I had a bad cold, especially while performing...I had forgotten how debilitating it is. All my energy was focused on doing a great show that when it was done there was nothing left....I slept. I wanted to do the blog on Sunday when we arrived home but the cold took it's toll again. We also would've preferred to got to church while in SoCal on Sunday but the kids felt sorry for their old sick dad and let him (me) sleep in very late so we got a late start to our drive home. Enough about that blasted virus.

Poof Too! was the name of Saturday Night's show. It was a fundraiser for the local Odd Fellows and it was their twentieth annual. Unlike Friday night there were six acts on Saturday.
Below is a photo-journal of the weekend.
(Not int he photos are Dennis Forel, the producer/MC and Phil Van Tee....Phil (Who was battling his own bug) showed up too late for me to get shots of him and I am not sure how I missed getting any shots of Dennis....shame on me.)
Scott Land Marionette master...his show was perfection. His characters, that he makes all himself, were adorable. Well put together and professional show.

The Bornstein Experiment (Kimberly and Jeff) very funny, very impressive mentalist routine. Nice people.

David Zerbel (Shown here in the green room preparing his show) a very polished performer...tonight he was the manipulation act...very well done. But his magical talents are all over the art all the way up to illusions.
The Kent Kids goofing off in teh green room.
Jim and the Tech Crew....every tech crew I take a picture of in any state has the same pose.
Me with Maseo and his lovely assistant Stephanie
Brenden the Stage Director..very kind man.

It never rains in eye!

Talking about Eyes...Olivia goofing around with faces...Cynthia loved this one so much she took a picture of it.

Micky D's toy fun!
Cynthia and Mami showing off a 2010 costume. (Mami was yanked out of the kitchen to do the pose...CC was fresh from a show so one with makeup and one without. )

Friday, February 5, 2010

SOCal Show Night 1 Magical Nights

We left home base at 4:30AM and drove a little over 9 hours to Hermosa Beach, CA in the rain. Fighting a chest cold we arrived around 2pm at the theater and set up. The first night is a fundraiser for a local school and tomorrow will be a fundraiser for a service group.
We are sharing the stage with five other acts...a manipulation magic act, a marionette act, a mentalist act, and a comedy magic act. We are the illusion part of the show.

I have to admit I was pretty exhausted all day but we were able to pull off a pretty good show. It wasn't our best show ever but it was good.

Out of all the acts the newspapers choose our family act's photo for the calendars and advertisements for the show. I will scan them and post them here when we return.

One of the performer's wife didn't like the idea of our family, or any family, homeschooling kids. She was happy we sent them to public high school but when I told her it was because they had interest in band, athletics, and ROTC she became belligerent about anyone wanting to attend jROTC. "All war (visa vi all military)is evil and is a sin against God and man". It really wasn't a discussion. She just asked about our education process then preached her opinion not allowing an exchange of ideas. The she marched off leaving me and another performing just standing there staring at each other wondering what just happened.

That was it for excitement.
More to come.....

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Magic Castle Pictures

Cameras are not allowed in the Magic Castle. They have a house photographer so private cameras are a no-no. So pictures with Tony Curtis, Hugh O'Brien, Tippy Hedren, Mark Wilson, and the number of other wonderful stars of screen and magic didn't happen. However, I did get a few shots outside and when Founders Irene Larsen and her brother in law Milt Larsen, the architect of the Castle agreed to my request for a picture my camera was allowed in for a snap shot of us together. Though I have more pictures to add I will do that after our next trip to Socal for shows this coming weekend.

I regret I forgot to get a phot with my friend Gentry and with JC in front of the castle.

I think hanging out with my dear friend JC (who was battling the dregs of a cold this weekend) may have caused me to catch his bug. I have begun my regiment of cold/flu fighting procedures that I hope will (as it has done so many times in the past) beat this bug. Most of my kids have had or have the cold so the odds are hard against me. Lack of sleep and the long drive home didn't help thinks!

Creative young Magician David Minkin. very Clever.