Archive for April, 2007

SELFISH HOLINESS

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

When we’re making those long cross-country drives, it gives me plenty of time to think. Mile after mile goes by and my mind can sink deeper into thought. I realize that not everyone who reads my blog has the same beliefs that I do. That’s okay – what I’m getting ready to write about is, I think, a fairly universal concept, regardless of your religious beliefs.

I read something a couple of days ago that has caused me to really think about the motivations of being a Christ-follower.

How many of us believe that IF we live the right way, treat people with respect, use the right words that God has an obligation to give us things – “blessings” they often call them in the church world. Is that WHY many of us go to church or say that we are Christians?

I think it’s wrong for us to believe that success is always God’s purpose for our lives. We often view “success” as the ultimate goal but, in fact, it really isn’t. The question of whether or not we ever reach our “goal” is of very little importance – the journey along the way, THAT IS the goal.

God’s purpose, I believe, is to teach us to depend on Him, to trust Him, to be faithful to Him even in the middle of confusion and turmoil and questioning. THAT is the goal – to stay faithful. God is not working in my life toward a particular “finish.” It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.

Sometimes in the middle of trouble, we try to make bargains with God. “God, IF You do this, then I’ll do this.” Does that sound familiar? God’s purpose, I believe, is to allow me to see that He can take care of me during the hard times in my life RIGHT NOW. It is moment by moment obedience and trust that God really wants from me.

Read these words and really think about them:

Beware of surrender that is motivated by personal benefits that may result. For example, “I’m going to give myself to God because I want to be delivered from sin, because I want to be made holy.” Being delivered from sin and being made holy are the result of being right with God, but surrender resulting from this kind of thinking is certainly not the true nature of Christianity. Our motive for surrender should not be for any personal gain at all. We have become so self-centered that we go to God only for something from Him, and not for God Himself.

WOW – powerful words, at least in my life. It’s easy to become self-centered, self-focused always asking God to help me, bless me, give me things. But the real purpose of being a Christ-follower is to get to know God – to have a personal friendship with the Creator of the Universe. Nothing is more important to Him, if you believe what the Bible teaches.

Powerful words….

HOUMA-TERREBONNE CIVIC CENTER

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

We pulled into the Civic Center around 11am and the entire crew was there building the stage! This was an amazing process to watch them turn this arena into a theatre with a proscenium stage. We did realize that we were doing an arena show tonight but they did an incredible job of making it look fantastic. They had our electrics in place with the light plot hung. They even had a full fly system in place for our backdrops. It was very cool.

Everyone worked very hard throughout the day and we finished up around 5:30pm with everything. Doors to the venue opened at 6pm; doors to the arena opened at 6:30pm. Everyone on our crew scattered to get dressed and in final preparations and then the doors were opened. Kylie double-dutied tonight by working our merchandise table as well as operating the intelligent lighting. And she did a fantastic job on that merchandise too with record-breaking sales for us tonight.

The audience rolled into the arena, found their seats and it was show time! The show ran without a hitch – even in this very different setting for us. And the audience was really awesome. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate it when an audience is verbal and responsive – and this audience tonight gave us great feedback and energy. We had several expressive volunteers on stage tonight – thanks Richard and Jade – and the total audience participation illusion got a great response. During WINDSHEAR, there was a little boy on the front row who dropped his jaw as I crawled through the fan blades and never blinked until I was completely through and safe. The Brick Wall also got a very audible response tonight…and the evening ended with a standing ovation. They were a phenomenal audience.

The audience was a nice mix of families and young adults. And meeting them after the show in the lobby was a big treat. It is such a privilege to hear the comments from those who have just watched the show and listen to their favorite moment of the evening. I say it in the show but it is a magician’s job to reconnect people to wonder – and there is nothing more satisfying than when I see the evidence of that connection in the eyes and emotions of the people with whom I get to speak.

We had a few magicians make the drive down from New Orleans – always a treat to meet them. They were very encouraging and supportive. One even brought along his old copies of the LINKING RING, the issues that featured Cindy and I on the cover. WOW – we don’t look like that anymore! I need to talk to Phil about a new cover I think!! (Just kidding Phil).

We did walk away tonight with a few treats. Cliff, our technical director/coordinator for the day, brought us a Mardi Gras bag FULL of beads – all kinds of beads! And then, after we were loaded out, he brought over a 10 pound bad of crawfish that he fixed just for us – and they were delicious! It’s a Southern Louisiana/Cajun thing.

Tomorrow morning, we’re off to Parsons, KS. We’ve got 800 miles to cover so it will be an early day. Good night!

MAGICIANS, YOU GOTTA LOVE THEM, RIGHT?

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

We are into our 7th week of this leg of the tour, coast to coast and back again. I confess that I’m a little tired and not as patient as I was 2 months ago. So, forgive me if this blog entry seems a bit like a rant.

As we travel, we have the opportunity to meet lots of aspiring, hobbyist, and professional magicians. Many of them – most of them – are kind, polite, professional and courteous. Occasionally you meet someone who is not. But I think the thing that drives me nuts is the lack of originality that seems to drive many of these guys.

We have worked very hard over the years to develop original presentations for our magical effects. I believe it is the responsibility of every artist to provide their audience with a unique presentation of their art – whether that’s one’s interpretation of a great sonata, the movements of an exquisite ballet, or the wonder created by the execution of a magical mystery.

We are very fortunate that, in our production, we have the privilege of working with some amazing creative consultants who provide us with some exclusive illusions for our audiences. But we also include some commercially available magical effects that we strive to present in an original way. So we also work with a talented director/choreographer who helps us develop these illusions into presentations that represent who we are as performers, expressing our personalities and experiences. This is, in my opinion, the responsibility of every artist – to give their audiences a glimpse of who they are through the expression of their work.

We work very hard to find and develop illusions for our production that meet specific criteria. We want to expose our audiences to a wide range of magical wonders and we spend a great deal of time (countless hours) and money in the process!

With that in mind, why would a magician “borrow” the routine, the presentation, of another magician and include it in their own show? I realize that many young, aspiring magicians have not yet learned the ins and outs of creating wonder by incorporating their own personality and life experiences. But older, more experienced magicians should really know better. We all should be striving to provide the ticket-buying public with something “different” in the presentation of our art.

I won’t go into the details but in the last few days, we’ve received several emails from magicians who (1) are working on perfecting the illusions in our show and would like to know our methods or (2) have seen us perform and are seeking the builder for a specific illusion that they liked.

Now I understand that many magicians work with the same builders and designers of illusions BUT we should still try to be as original as possible in what we select and the presentation of those selections. We work very hard to take a good effect and try to make it a great effect – one that fits well in our show. Why would any magician want to choose an illusion and then design/present it just like someone else? Where is the originality and creativity in that?

Okay, I’m done ranting for now. We are finally in Houma, LA – show is tomorrow night!

UNEVENTFUL DAY….BUT THAT MIGHT CHANGE!

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

We had a relatively uneventful day today.  We left mid morning from Beebe, AR to head toward Houma, LA.  Our show is there at the Civic Center on Friday night so we have two days to make the drive.  When we got up, it was still raining and had turned a little cooler.  We arrived in West Memphis, AR only a couple of hours later and the rain had stopped, temperatures were getting warmer.

We’ve been on the road now for 7 weeks and traveled a little more than 12,000 miles.  We’ve been through some rough weather – snow, rain, hail, sleet, blowing winds, dust storms, tumbleweed attacks and more.  It’s been 7 weeks since the truck has had a good “bath” so I stopped off at the Truck Wash in West Memphis and took some time to have the guys scrub it down.  The works! – wash, aluminum polish, engine wash, underbody wash, and wax.  It looks great!

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Because we have two days to make this trip (and we are barely staying ahead of the storms), we decided to pull over just north of Jackson, MS for the night.  It’s been a fairly uneventful day but all of that could change dramatically tonight.  There are severe thunderstorms watches and tornado warnings in our area for the next few hours.  The skies are turning dark but they say this area could really use the rain…and they are expecting as much as 2″ tonight.

After a few weeks of the high desert…

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…we’ve gone from the beauty of New Mexico to the lush green of the South.

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Tomorrow, we continue the drive south to Houma, LA.  If you don’t know where that is, find New Orleans on the map…and keep going south!

OWEN THEATRE – BEEBE, AR

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Today was a good day.  We woke up to sunshine, warm temperatures.  When we arrived at Owen Theatre on the campus of Arkansas State University – Beebe, we were pleased to see that they were ready for us.  Don Ellers, the TD, and his crew had been preparing for us for several days.  It was obvious – and we were off to a good start.  We had to move a few soft goods around to make room for some of our scenery but nothing major.

Equipment and cases moved off the truck very easily.  With everyone’s help and cooperation, drops were in the air, lights were hung, focus was complete, cues were tweaked, music was set, tech was finished and it was time for dinner!

My parents were at the show tonight.  My sister and her family were all there too.  We don’t nearly get to see them as often as I would like – everyone looked great.  My nephew, Spencer, didn’t make it due to previous plans BUT my nieces Ashleigh and Reaghan were there with some of their friends.  I think everyone had a good time and enjoyed the new illusions in the show.  My mom and dad specifically mentioned that they noticed a lot of changes since the last time they saw us perform.

We had a large audience tonight with a strong concentration on 18-35 year olds.  We had a nice mix – some older adults as well as families but a very nice turn out of college age people as well.  Afterwards, in the lobby, it was very cool to talk to so many of them and hear their reactions to the show.
David, Kylie and Keith worked hard with the crew to get the show down while Cindy and I had a chance to visit with my family. Then Cindy had to run and do some work…so it was just me visiting for a while.  I finally had to say good-bye and relieve Kylie of her stage responsibilities so she could take care of merchandise.

Once back at the hotel, we all gathered at the local Waffle House for a late night snack!  I love the Waffle House.  You may remember that we’ve eaten here before a made a little movie – check it out!  We always say that the Waffle House is “dinner theatre at it’s best.”  It’s one of the best bargains around for dinner and a show!

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TWO DAYS OF TRAVEL

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

First, I’m feeling much better.  We were able to pull over the other night kind of early and I got some much needed rest.  I know everyone is tired – this has been an unusually long stretch for us on the road.  We normally don’t stay out for two months at a time without a quick trip back home.  This leg of the tour has been very steady from coast to coast.  Cindy has been a real trooper though, hanging in there without complaints.

We spent the last two days finishing up the drive from Farmington, NM to Beebe, AR.  We were so excited to pull into Oklahoma and see green grass!  Farmington was the most lush place we had been in New Mexico but there still wasn’t a lot of green.  The final two days of our drive wasn’t too bad – only about 6 hours each day.  In the evenings, we would get checked into our hotel so we could try and finish up some office work.  We’ve had bad internet connections and, when most of what we do relies heavily on the internet, that means we get further and further behind. I spent last night finishing up a project that I’ve been working on for about 5 days.  Literally, it should have taken only about 5 hours!  But now it’s done and that’s great.

I’ll be posting next season’s tour schedule very soon on the website.  It is still being finalized but the basic structure is there.  We’re also working on another really exciting project with Jim Steinmeyer.  I’ll keep you posted on that one as well.  He is such an amazing man – brilliant I think is a good word to describe him…and genius!  But he’s also just a great guy.  We always enjoy the time we have with him and Frankie.

Tonight we’re performing in a small Arkansas town called Beebe.  We’ve been here before and had a good show so it should be fun tonight.  My family lives close by so my parents will be here and my sister, Tammy, and her family.  I’m really excited for them to see some of the new illusions in the show; especially the segment on “childhood magic” and how important my parents were in my early motivations.

I have some things to do before we head over to the theatre so I’m signing off for now.  I’ll write more after the show.

ROUGH DAY TODAY

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

I was hoping to get out of Farmington this morning around 9:30am but I had to try and get this room thing settled with the Manager.  After about 30 minutes, they agreed to make a financial adjustment to all the rooms – both for me and for the Presenter who was paying for two nights of our lodging.  That’s the good news.

We were finally on the road around 10am, heading toward Amarillo, TX.  The weather turned really bad with all kinds of severe thunderstorms, damaging hail, tornados, etc.  We decided to stop in Tucumcari, NM for the night, about 100 miles west of Amarillo.

This hasn’t been a great day for me.  I’m feeling really poor today.  I’m sure that we’ll all tired but this morning I also woke up really sick.  There’s nothing worse than being far from home and feeling really bad.  I really didn’t feel like driving at all today but the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has made some major changes to the way we have to do things…and that means I’m the only one who can drive at the moment (some of you may remember reading about those challenges in my blog last March 2006).  I’ve still got so much work to try and do tonight and I really don’t feel like doing it.  But, it’s one of those things – has to be done and no one else can do it.  Hopefully, I’ll have a strong internet connection and things will go quickly.

The television has nothing but weathermen talking about the “major concerns” and “rotation” that is surrounding us here in Tucumcari – BAD weather all around us!  It’s a good thing we pulled over early!

BROOKS/ISHAM PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, NM

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

After a great day working at the San Juan Regional Rehabilitation Hospital with the therapists yesterday, today is the day we bring the show to the Brooks/Isham Performing Arts Center in Kirtland, NM. It’s only a few miles from Farmington and they draw an audience from Farmington, Aztec and Durango, CO.

We arrived at the venue to find a welcoming, friendly crew ready to go to work – Chris, Cody, Greg, David, Kaitlyn and Charles. We moved a few soft goods around before our equipment was unloaded from the trailer. The stage was completely clear and the light plot was hung – preparation!! Equipment came in easily and the day moved along at a nice pace. Pamela Weese, the director of the venue, had set up some wonderful hospitality tables for us with all sorts of good things to eat and drink.

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We were up with soft good, intelligent lights, focus was complete, cues were written, sound was patched and EQ’d, and we finished up a full tech rehearsal all by 5:15pm. Everyone had a nice break before the doors opened at 6:30pm for the 7pm show.

The audience was talkative, reacting to each of the magical moments in the show. Volunteers were playful and enthusiastic, lending their own personalities to the illusions in which they participated. And the laughs, gasps, and applause culminated in a standing ovation at the end of the show. What an amazing evening of fun for all of us.

This was also a first for us – we moved the sound console from behind the curtain to the house tonight. We are trying to “simplify” the role that Cindy and I play in the actual “running” of the production. With Keith on board as the production manager, he’s taking many of those responsibilities…and that means removing them from backstage. So tonight, Keith operated sound (he’s been running the lightboard) and called the lighting cues to another board op. Kylie was still working with the intelligent lighting and a few on-stage responsibilities. But, as we prepare for David and Kylie to leave us at the end of this tour, we need to experiment with the other possibilities.

After the show, we grabbed a quick bit at the local Village Inn restaurant and then made our way back to the hotel. We’ve been bragging all day to Pamela about how wonderful this hotel has been to us these last couple of days. Tonight, when we arrived back at our rooms around 12midnight, housekeeping had decided NOT to clean our rooms…not just our room, but David and Keith’s either! When I went to the front desk to see if I could get some towels, she handed me a couple of bath matts and said that’s all they had. Soon, David and Keith joined me at the front desk to see if they could get some clean towels too. Seems housekeeping didn’t do the wash either – no clean towels! When I asked if we could get some clean towels from another unoccupied room, I was told that the “key machine” wasn’t working so she couldn’t make a key to get into another room. So, what would happen if someone wanted to check in??? I guess they could pay for a room but not actually occupy it. When I asked to see the Night Manager, I was told that there was no manager on duty AND that no one would be around for the rest of the weekend!!! So, they leave someone at the desk who has no authority to do ANYTHING to help out a guest? Does that make sense to anyone else reading this?? She did offer us a “comment card!”
I finally gave up and told the lady at the desk that I realize that none of this is her fault. But I did ask that she leave a note for the morning person informing them that I was “extremely upset” and wanted to speak with a Manager in the morning before I check out. Let’s see if that happens….customer service, it’s becoming an extinct quality these days.

HOTEL NEWS & MAGIC WORKSHOP

Friday, April 20th, 2007

I’ve always been under the assumption that companies which serve the public would be concerned about Customer Service.  I guess I was wrong because, just as I expected, the Historic Plaza Hotel didn’t think it necessary to contact me regarding the errors contained on my hotel bill.  I tried to speak with the Manager before we checked out and was told “she was eating breakfast” and couldn’t be bothered…and then I emailed the hotel last night asking them to respond.  That was 24 hours ago and I’ve yet to hear anything from them regarding this matter.  I can only assume that Customer Service and Relations isn’t all that important to them.  I am extremely disappointed with this level of service.  So my advice to those of you who read this blog is this:  should you ever find yourself traveling through Las Vegas, NM and in need of a place to sleep, make a reservation with the well-known chain hotels that are located in the city and stay away from the Historic Plaza Hotel.

Today, I conducted a Healing of Magic workshop for about 10 therapists from the San Juan Regional Rehabilitation Hospital in Farmington, NM.  We had a great time and everyone in the group learned the tricks with enthusiasm.

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I’m always excited to watch therapists learn the tricks but I’m thrilled to see them start to figure out how to use them in the practice with specific patients or diagnoses.  I believe anytime you can use something like “magic tricks” to help improve the quality of someone’s life, that’s an amazing thing.

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The administrator of the facility approached me after the workshop and gave me some great encouragement.

There was a really nice article in today’s local Farmington newspaper about the show tomorrow night.  I think it’s going to be a lot of fun!

CUSTOMER SERVICE AND THE DRIVE TO FARMINGTON, NM

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

I was up early this morning for that interview to promote the Friday night show in Kirtland at the Brooks Isham Performing Arts Center. The interview went well and we hope it helps put ticket sales over the top.

After the interview, it was time for all of us to hit the road and head to Farmington.  I have a Healing of Magic workshop there at the San Juan Regional Medical Center on Thursday.  I went to check us out of the Historic Plaza Hotel.  There was a mix up here from the beginning and, since Monday, we’ve been trying to get it fixed.  But Customer Service doesn’t seem to be high on their priority list.  I approached the young man behind the desk to settle out the account but they had charged us for 2 nights lodging instead of one night as they stated.  When I asked about it, he said I would need to talk with the Account Manager and she wouldn’t be in until 9am.  I stopped back by the desk prior to us loading out, a bit after 9am, and asked to speak to Janet, the Account Manager.  I was informed that she was eating breakfast and he didn’t think this was important enough to bother her.  He asked if I could wait until she was done.  What?  Does that even make sense?  Ask the CUSTOMER to wait around until the MANAGEMENT has finished eating breakfast?  We had to leave so I asked him to please keep me informed of the situation. He assured me that he would BUT he never asked for any contact information of any kind – a sure sign that he was just “playing” me.

When I got into the hotel here in Farmington last night, I emailed the Historic Plaza Hotel addressing it to Janet.  I’ve still yet to hear anything from this place.  I hope to hear something today…though I’m not impressed with the customer service here at all.  Next time we come to Las Vegas, NM, there’s a very nice award-winning Comfort Suites in town that I’m sure would like to have our business.

The drive to Farmington was faster than we thought it might be.  We decided to take a different route, get off the interstate onto Highway 550.  It saved us almost 2.5 hours of time and the scenery was very unusual.  The only problem – the wind was really intense!  But we made it – got all checked in and got some much needed rest for the night.