Archive for May, 2006

MEMORIAL DAY AT HOME

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

Cindy and I had a very nice Memorial Day. The weather was beautiful and temperatures were definitely saying “summer” – high was 92 degrees! We’re expecting another day in the 90′s today but I love it.

We went to see another movie, this time THE DAVINCI CODE. Now before you think that all I do is go to movies, I haven’t been to one in months due to our tour schedule. And, you have to admit, there are some really great movies coming out. I’m just playing catch up!

THE DAVINCI CODE was very interesting. The movie was well done; actors were great; cinematography were beautiful; and the music score was excellent. The plot? Well, it was a bit far fetched BUT this is fiction work and, in that sense, it was very intriguing. I can imagine that Opes Dei and the Catholic Church are not very happy with it. In my opinion, there was a lost of bashing of those religious groups in the movie, making them out to be power-grabbing organizations who have no regard for people (kind of like Congress right now – more concerned with keeping power than making real decisions).

As a Christian, I realize that my faith rests on my beliefs. My beliefs are resting on historical facts. Nothing in THE DAVINCI CODE is factual, especially their portrayal of Christ’s life. Nothing in the movie would cause me to reconsider my beliefs and doubt my faith.

I’m always amazed at how people who don’t have a belief and faith in God are so willing to believe anything other than the Bible. Sometimes they exercise more faith by believing in something that has no historical basis at all or by believing in a theory. Even an atheist as faith in something – that there is no God. Being an atheist requires belief and faith.

It was an interesting movie….we came home and grilled out on the deck.

AT THE MOVIES

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

I have to confess, as much as I wanted to see X3 – THE LAST STAND, I ended up going to see MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3 instead. With it being opening day of X3, I didn’t want to have to deal with the crowds and the kids. Since MI3 had been out for a while, we thought this would be a better choice…and we was not disappointed! Wow – this is a non-stop action thriller filled with lots of twists that keep you interested and on the edge of your seat. Definitely worth it!

Today, Cindy and I might head out and see THE DAVINCI CODE. I wish everyone who sees this movie would remember it’s fiction. But, because there will be many who will actually believe this movie to be filled with facts, we want to see it so we know what the position of these nay-sayers to Christianity are. I’ll report later….

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND

Friday, May 26th, 2006

As I look back over this week, I accomplished more than I thought I would! The holiday weekend is about to begin for many of us and I think it’s very important that we remember what this weekend commemorates. Our military has been there, throughout the years, to protect us and keep us free. Each of us owes a big “thank you” to the men and women of the armed forces for their service to all of us. It’s not just a time to get together with our friends and families to celebrate the beginning of summer and cook up a few burgers. We do that – and it’s important. But I hope, sometime over the next few days, each of us will take a minute to be grateful for where we live – the greatest country in the world. There’s no doubt that America is having some problems, experiencing some difficulties, dealing with major issues…but the very cool thing about that is we CAN have all those situations in a place where are freedoms are recognized.

Enjoy the long weekend…I’m heading out to see X-MEN: THE LAST STAND.

REST AND RELAXATION

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

I’ve been taking it easy since we got home. The big FMCSA review was the “final” thing that officially ended my spring schedule. I’ve got some time down now to rest and relax, spend some quality “non-magic” time with Cindy and enjoy the benefits of our hard work.

Of course, we’re also working on planning summer projects…and watch – very soon we’ll be debuting the new Video Blog!

RECOVERY

Friday, May 19th, 2006

We are enjoying our time at home and trying to recovery from the last few weeks on the road. David and Kylie are spending some time with her parents who flew over from Australia. Cindy and I are at home, resting and relaxing. Summer is going to be busy so we thought we would at least enjoy the last couple of weeks of May before it all comes rushing at us.

THE FMCSA REVIEW

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

Today was the day for the big “compliance review” with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The Special Agent in charge arrived for our meeting right on time, 10am. We went to the Board Room and got all set up. Just as we started into the meeting, representatives of my Congressman and Senator arrived to join us. Needless to say, that mixed things up a bit and the meeting took on an entirely different tone.

After almost five hours (time I’ll never get back in my life), the meeting was over and I was handed my “Pass” papers for the review. There are a couple of things that I need to do in order to be in complete compliance, i.e. (1) I have to have an employment application on file in my office. Yes, this is correct. I must have an employment application filled out by me so that I can hire myself for my current position as “owner” of the company, capable of driving my vehicle. And (2) I have to enroll in a random drug testing program. Yes, this is correct. I have to enroll myself, at my employer’s discretion (that would be me), to randomly and without announcement, schedule myself for drug testing.

With these two items out of the way, I’ll be compliant and “legal” in every state – hooray!

BACK IN THE BURG

Monday, May 15th, 2006

I apologize that I haven’t written in a couple of days. We arrived home on Sunday afternoon to beautiful weather and a lot has happened in the last 24 hours. I’ll have to save some of it for tomorrow. THAT is the day of my big meeting with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Specialist. I came home to find a fax waiting for me detailing all the items I would be required to bring to the Tuesday morning meeting. I spent a good part of today trying to pull as many of those things together as possible but, generally speaking, most of them don’t apply to me or my situation.

I dropped in on my Senator this morning to bring him up to date on the “awaiting fax.” I also contacted my Congressman’s office. Both are sending representatives with me in the morning to attend the meeting. We’re hoping to get through the bureaucratic red tape and actually find a resolution to all of this. My Senator and Congressman contacted the Virginia office of the FMCSA and expressed their concern over how this situation is being handled. This afternoon, I received a phone call from the Special Agent in charge of my compliance review informing me that his supervisor had contacted him to let him know that the purpose of our meeting had been changed. The meeting in the morning is now going to be an “educational session” to find out exactly what I am, how I fit into the FMCSA regulations and what I need to do to be compliant. This is a major breakthrough so I’m hoping (praying) that it all goes well. I’ll keep you posted!

We ended the tour with TWO great shows in North Carolina. The first one was in Mount Airy, the town on which Mayberry USA is based (The Andy Griffith Show and all the characters). As a matter of fact, we performed in the Andy Griffith Playhouse to a great audience who bestowed upon us a standing ovation.

The next day, we were off to Morganton to do a benefit show for The Children’s School at the Community of Morganton Municipal Auditorium – WONDERFUL and BEAUTIFUL theatre! We had an exceptional day working with the crew here under the direction of Tony Bova. We set up in record time. The show was very well received by an enthusiastic audience who also honored us with a standing ovation. It was a great way to come off the road!

Just because we’re home doesn’t mean things slow down at all. This is going to be a big summer – lots of projects and illusions that we’ll be working on. And make sure you check out the BLOG here. In the coming days, we’ll be adding a new feature – a VLOG! I’m going to attempt to do a weekly video blog summarizing the experiences and events of the previous days. Since we’ll be off the road this summer, I’ll be keying in on some of the more exciting moments of the spring tour and keeping you updated on the progress of the new illusions and USA DVD.

Gotta run!

LAST TRIP OF THE TOUR

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

I finished up the videotaping yesterday afternoon. It was a really great experience for me and working with Stacey Kole was lots of fun. Ken and Helmut also made the entire effort enjoyable. We are planning to head back into the studio to tape another four programs in the series in November.

Today, we head out fo the last trip of this tour. We’re off to Mount Airy, NC – the town in which The Andy Griffith Show was set. As a matter of fact, our show on Friday night is in the Andy Griffith Theatre – should be fun!

Kylie’s parents also arrive this weekend from Australia. The end of the tour for us and the beginning of her visit with her parents. And they’ll get to see the show on Saturday night at the Community Auditorium of Morganton, NC.

No word on the pending FMCSA “compliance review.” I’m waiting to hear back from the Special Agent to confirm that he has the information and that we are set for Tuesday morning. It’s amazing to me that I can fax and leave messages and it takes days for them to respond. They can give me a call and expect me to return the call within minutes – and get frustrated if I don’t! “Mr. Spencer, I have yet to hear from you regarding our meeting. I left you a message 20 minutes ago, blah, blah, blah.” In an effort to be responsible, I contacted the Agent as quickly as I could and left a message on his voice mail at 7:30am yesterday (he left me a message in the afternoon, the day before). I received another voice mail message from him at 8am saying that he has yet to hear from me. At this point, I’ve faxed him numerous times (at the number he gave me), sent information through the mail and I’ve left voice mail messages. I’m not sure what else I’m expected to do?

I just want to get this over with and move on with my life.

IN THE STUDIO

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Yesterday was a great day in the studio. The airline located Stacey’s luggage but it didn’t arrive until almost 4pm…which means she didn’t get to go shopping after all. We spent the day in the studio becoming familiar with the script, blocking for the cameras and working on the first illustration. Once Stacey’s clothes arrived, taping went very smoothly. We really had a fun time and I hope the final project captures the relaxed and conversational way that the information was delivered.

After we wrapped up, we took a break and the director (Ken) and producer (Helmut) showed us some different set designs that they can incorporate into the final DVD. We also checked out the website they are designing for the upcoming DaVinci Code film release (www.JesusMystery.com). And, before calling it a night, we read through the script we’ll be taping today. Soon, we’ll be heading back over to the studio to finish up.

Another FMCSA update – I spoke with my Congressman’s office yesterday and they have faxed a letter to the Director of the Virginia Division of the FMCSA. I received a phone call from my state Senator telling me that he spoke with the Special Agent in charge of my review and we are well on the way to determining exactly WHAT I am and HOW I’m supposed to be regulated (because the government loves to regulate things). I also received confirmation that the Director and Federal Specialist in Richmond have received all the information I mailed to them by Registered Mail. I hope they take the time to actually review it prior to this meeting. It would be nice if they would also share it with the Special Agent. They’re not so good at that. Remember that fax I sent to them on Tuesday, April 25? The Agent was finally informed of it’s content on Friday, May 5. How hard can it be to pass along some important information?

They have agreed to conduct the review in Lynchburg, we just have to find a place to do it – my “principle place of business.” My Congressman has agreed to have a representative of his office sit in on that meeting with me, which makes me feel much more at ease that I’m not going to get bullied by a bureaucrat. It should be interesting…

DAY OF TAPING

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

Everyone arrived at the hotel last night kind of late. I got in earlier and started working on my portions of the script, just trying to make it my own words. I also went through some of the illustrations that I’ll be performing over the next couple of days.

When Stacey arrived at the airport, her luggage didn’t make it with here…lost somewhere in Detroit. We’re hoping it’s going to be here this morning so she has something to wear for the taping! If not, I guess she’ll have to go shopping. What a bummer for her.

I’m still engaged in my battle with the FMCSA. I got another phone call yesterday from the Special Agent in charge of my review. He said we can conduct the review in Lynchburg but it has to be at my “principle place of business.” He wants to do this at my “terminal” I suppose and, since I’m the major trucking company that I am, I should be able to open up my office for this meeting (major sarcasm in that statement).

I spoke with my Congressman’s representative yesterday. She faxed a letter to this guy’s boss in Richmond to see if we can get any further clarification on this “compliance” thing. I put together a small booklet of all the FMCSA emails and faxes I have received, along with letters I have written, to show them how much discrepancy exists within their organization and its ability to understand the regulations. I mailed them certified/registered to the Director in Richmond and to each of the men I’ve been working with (the Federal Specialist and the Special Agent).

The question all of us have right now is simple, but no one at the FMCSA seems to be able to answer it: What classification do I fall in? Without knowing WHAT I am, how can they expect me to be compliant with any regulations? I love working with the Feds….