Archive for July, 2007

FLYING CONTINUED

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

If you haven’t read yesterday’s post, you need to start there. This is a continuation of my “flying adventure.”

I did make it on to the 12:15pm flight from Raleigh to Memphis having been on stand by. I was definitely confirmed for a 5pm flight but would arrive in Little Rock until after 8pm. Once I landed in Memphis, I immediately went to the counter (as I was told to do by the Northwest agent in Raleigh) to see if I could get on the earlier Little Rock flight that would leave at 2:43pm. I went to the counter where an Agent was standing and asked if he could help me. He said, “No.” When I asked “why,” he answered, “Other agents don’t like us working their flights.” He said that I would have to wait until the Agent came to the counter for my flight and that could be more than an hour. Well, if I couldn’t get on this flight, I could rent a car and drive to Little Rock in about 2 hours. I looked through the terminal and finally decided to call Northwest direct. The first friendly guy from Northwest Airlines answered the phone. He made the necessary changes and got me on the earlier flight. He said that the only thing I would need to do now is go to the gate and get a boarding pass and seat assignment. I waited until the Gate Agent arrived at the gate and then approached her. She asked me, “Can I help you?” I told her what I needed and she said, “Well, I’m not working this flight for 10 minutes so you’ll just have to come back later.” And she had quite an attitude I might add. I guess I would be slightly frustrated too if more than 2200 flights had been canceled by my Airlines last month and more than half that many had already been canceled this month. BUT, pilots aren’t on strike – they’re just “sick” and customers are paying the price.

I grabbed a bite to each and then came back to the gate to see the Agent working the counter. I got in line and waited my turn. There was a lady in front of me who had had a very similar day to mine – change of flight from American to Northwest – and also didn’t have the paperwork that they would like for her to have. This same Agent was giving her a very hard time, demanding that she provide the paperwork or else “there’s nothing I can do.” After listening to her abuse this poor paying passenger, I stepped up to the counter and simply said, “I was in the same position and you don’t need that paperwork. And you know it. Just put the ticket number into your computer and you’ll have everything you need.” She did and the problem was over. The Agent was really mad at me but the passenger got her boarding pass. When it came my turn, that same Agent tossed me over to another Agent and said, “See if you can help him because I don’t think I can.” Hmmm, Customer Service – it’s a lost art.

Good news is I made it to Little Rock and my luggage was there waiting for me!

FLYING THE FRIENDLY SKIES

Monday, July 30th, 2007

I know I complain about this a lot BUT what ever happened to Customer Service?? I’m sitting in the airport in Raleigh-Durham, NC waiting for my flight…but here’s the way it all went down.

First, Cindy has been battling a bad sinus infection for more than a week. We were taking this trip to see my parents in Arkansas and spend some time away from the office. She just wasn’t feeling well enough to fly so she told me to go on by myself. She said she’s going to be sleeping for the next few days anyway, so I might as well go. So, I drove to Raleigh last night (about 3 hours) and spent the night in an airport hotel. My flight was scheduled to leave at 8:10am for St. Louis, connecting into Little Rock with an 11am arrival. I would have the entire day to spend with my family, in addition to the next few days.

As it turns out, I checked in and sat at the gate for a while when the Gate Agent finally announced, “We’re sorry to announce a delay in the flight. The crew is still in New York at LaGuardia Airport.” Somehow two hundred passengers were able to make it to the airport, get checked in and sit at the gate but 3 people couldn’t seem to get here from NYC on an airplane! With this news, I realized that I was going to miss my connection into Little Rock so I took off for the service counter to see if I can make a change. Well, turns out ALL the flights into Little Rock are booked today on American Airlines and the soonest they can get me in is tomorrow around 5pm. I’m not sure if they really understand how absolutely ridiculous that sounds! Like they expected me (and everyone else) to just say, “Sure. We don’t have anything better to do than to sit around in Raleigh for two days while you guys find an open flight. No problem.” If I had wanted to be in Little Rock on Tuesday, that’s when I would have booked my flight. I thought Monday might be better so I paid American Airlines money to confirm a seat on an airplane that they couldn’t guarantee they would have a crew to fly – how stupid does that sound?

After more than 30 minutes on the phone with American, they finally put me on a Northwest Airlines flight that leaves around 12:15pm for Memphis, connecting into Little Rock with a 4pm arrival. They told me I would have to go to baggage claim and pick up my luggage so I could re-check it on Northwest. I left the gate, went to baggage claim only to be told that my bags were on the plane and they would not take them off. Now, there’s no crew for the plane yet but the bags are ready to go! They refused to remove my bags so, I’m assuming, they are on their way to Little Rock via St. Louis on a flight that I’m not on because they didn’t have room. Hmmm…what about that security thing of all bags must have a passenger with them?

As I sit here at the Northwest Airlines gate, I hear CNN announce that Northwest pilots didn’t show up for 111 flights last night. Are they on strike? Or is this just an “organized sickness” to make a point at the expense of the customers who gave them our money? I guess when you purchase a ticket on an airlines it doesn’t really guarantee you anything. And the best part is (1) you can’t get your money back, and (2) if you change your ticket, they charge you $100. They make the rules without regard to the customers. Customer service – yeah, right.

RESEARCH PROJECTS

Friday, July 27th, 2007

I’ve spent a good part of the last two days compiling all the data from research projects. It’s a time-consuming task that really makes me switch gears. You can’t go through research without keeping your mind focused on the information. It’s technical, diagnostic information that is important to the Healing of Magic program.

I’ve been putting together the updated information and images for the new Healing of Magic website. I’m hoping it will be online by the end of August…but that’s completely up to Greg. He’s the “master designer” and I’m not sure what his schedule is like. He’s currently working on one project for me now that I think is going to be awesome.

Keith is really taking the time to organize a lot of the files and information on the hard drives in the office. This is a long and tedious process but one that will make us more efficient in the future. We’ve got stuff scattered all over thousands of megabytes in this office! Getting it organized, centralized will make it easier to find – and more practical to use!

Cindy and I are preparing for some time away from the office. On Sunday, we’re off to Arkansas to visit with my parents. There’s still lots to get done before we leave…and don’t forget, Derren Brown comes on SciFi tonight!

ONE DOWN AND TWO TO GO

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

I finally finished the files for the new marketing DVD! I fedexed them off to Greg yesterday and he should have them this morning. It feels good to have that project off my desk. And now it’s up to him to make it all look good (thanks Greg). Now I need to finish the Informational DVD for hospitals on the magic therapy program AND get all the information together for the redo of that website. I can finally see the end of my “to do list.”

I talked to Nolan yesterday and he will be heading to Virginia around the first part of August. He should be here and settled into his apartment before Cindy and I get back from our trip to see my parents. Then we get to move everything over to the new warehouse space – fun! I’ll take pictures…

ALWAYS A CHALLENGE

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

This time of year is always a challenge for me – balancing what needs to be done versus what I want to get done in the amount of time that’s available. This is a job, 24/7. I think anytime you’re self-employed, it’s consuming on so many levels. And, during this time of the year, it’s very easy to loose perspective on what (or more appropriately, who) is most important in my life. There are so many projects that must be done in order to keep the business moving forward. At the same time, it’s vital that personal relationships be given the attention they deserve in order to have them grow and flourish. It is a tough balancing act! I’m not always as good as it as I would like to be…

Sometimes it’s exhausting trying to stay one step ahead of the game. We are constantly striving to put our absolute best forward for our clients and, at the same time, demonstrate clearly to them how and why we are different from other performers in the marketplace. Magicians, in general, have a tendency to be “less creative” than some other genres of the arts. It’s easy to look at what a successful magician is doing and just copy it – designs, tricks, staging, concepts, ideas, illusions, methods, etc. I’ve never really understood that way of thinking but it happens all the time. And when it does happens, everyone suffers. We all lose our individuality, our uniqueness, our appeal, and our competitiveness. Perhaps that’s what some of them are looking for – to “level” the playing field because, somehow, they feel like they “deserve” to be here. Funny thing about life – it’s never a level playing field, no matter how hard we try to make it that way.

The famous magician and inventor of the early 1900′s, Guy Jarrett, once said “A bum fiddler in no way hurts music, but ‘drugstore magicians,’ making a bum out of magic, have killed magic.” His definition of a “drugstore magician” perfectly describes a lot of performers these days. Magicians who have not taken the time to develop stage presence, hone their acting skills, or studied the psychology of an audience. They are simply people who have purchased some magic tricks and then hit the stage – without regard for their presentation or their impact on the audience. It’s disturbing in so many ways, and yet, audiences will often watch (or endure) mediocrity in magic…because magicians rarely give them anything more than that.

We have really been working to provide our audience with an amazing, unique, theatrical spectacle for this upcoming tour. It’s been a long process but definitely worth it. The new show is filled with original illusions from some of the most creative minds in magic – and we’ve combined them with some of the most beautiful elements of theatre. I never want to be accused of being “mediocre” in the presentation of our art. I want the show to be “theatre in the truest sense of the word.” And I never want to be accused of being a modern-day “drugstore magician.”

ANOTHER WEEK GONE BY

Friday, July 20th, 2007

I thought this week might go slowly but it didn’t. We were all in the office this week working on projects, trying to get organized before the tour starts again (in just a few weeks). We did get a lot accomplished but I still have a lot to do next week before Cindy and I take off for Arkansas to visit my parents for a few days.

The new marketing dvd is coming together very well. Greg is going to be handling most of that project but I have to get him the final files so he can begin authoring it. I’m almost done but still have a few things to pull together. And the new printed materials are all starting to arrive now – very pleased with the way they turned out!

Once this project is complete, Greg is going to start redesigning the Healing of Magic website for me. It needs an updated look and we’ll be adding some video as well as the results of the recent research projects that have been concluded in Toronto and Hong Kong. The site will be much more informative, providing therapists with the materials they need immediately for their practice. I am very excited about this project! We have several Healing of Magic outreach programs scheduled for next season; always a highlight for me.

While some venues haven’t announced that we will be appearing in their city, those that have are getting a very positive response. The tickets are selling fast in Fort Lauderdale, FL and Austin, TX – both shows aren’t until Spring 2008. I haven’t checked other venues to see how things are going. I wouldn’t know about Ft. Lauderdale and Austin if not for emails we’ve been receiving in the office from people who just bought a ticket. When I know people are excited about us coming to their community, how can I not be excited about being there? We are so thankful for the support and encouragement we receive from town to town.

Okay, I’m going to head out of the office and see if I can’t start my weekend.

CREATING WONDER?

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Magicians call or email the office every week – either to talk, ask a question, seek advice, etc. I think it’s funny that any of them would call me at all. I learn something new everyday about this business – and about those who are involved in it. This particular magician was very nice – courteous and professional. You might wonder why I would write that, but many of the guys who call are not nice or professional. That’s a completely different entry – and something I’m not sure I’ll ever understand. This guy had recently purchased our ASIA dvd and had watched it several times. He was specifically asking questions about some of the illusions he had seen because he is looking for “new material” for his show.

These conversations challenge me to re-evaluate my own thinking and direction. As we talked, it struck me that we (magicians) often put more emphasis on the illusions themselves, and the bells & whistles we surround them with, than we do on striving to make our performance of those illusions the very best it can be. Doug Henning once told me that a magician’s job is to create “wonder.” Certainly the “bells & whistles” are nice to have – our show is filled with them – but they should not define who we are as performers nor should we depend on them to “create wonder” in our audiences. The ability to do that should come from inside of us and I’m not certain that it’s something you can “learn” if the seed is not there in the first place. You can definitely develop and grow that seed into something better with experience and direction.

We are very fortunate to have the advice, direction, and creative abilities of some of the most outstanding people in the magic community working with us on our production. As a result, we have some incredible and original illusions in the show – things that no other magician in the world is performing. And we’re very excited about that. As we develop the presentation for these illusions, we incorporate as many theatrical elements as possible to make them even more appealing and unique to our audiences. But one of the most satisfying things about our performance is the ability to create “wonder” with those illusions even when it’s not possible to include all the theatrical elements designed for them. I think it’s much the same as with a concert pianist. One can play with a symphony and create music that is “bigger than life”; or one can play solo and keep it simple. Both have the potential to touch the soul of the listener and there are artistic merits to each. But the pianist should have the ability to do them both. So should magicians – create illusions that are “bigger than life” as well as touch the soul of the viewer…without all the bells & whistles.

As I wrapped up the conversation with this young man, he thanked me for my time and acknowledged that, perhaps, he doesn’t need any “new material” at all. The magic in his show is very good. What he needs to do is to take that magic and learn how to create wonder for his audiences – and that’s something that has absolutely nothing to do with a box, a light, a gel, a fog machine, or a costume.

A NEW WEEK BEGINS…

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

Computers are finally up and running and I finished the week being kind of productive.  I didn’t get done everything that I needed to do, but it’s the beginning of a new week – an opportunity to catch up.  Keith is working on getting the show microphones shipped off to get repaired.  We’re also getting some of the intelligent lighting instruments out this week for some “overhauling.”  A couple of these lights have been on the road for years!

We finally found some warehouse space as well.  Nolan arrives in the burg on August 1…so we’ll be moving into the new space once he gets settled into his apartment.

I finished designing the new Healing of Magic brochure for therapists.  Now I just need to contact Greg and let him know I’m interested in having him redesign the website.  It’s time for an updated look.

The new show marketing materials are coming along great. We’ve almost completed the edit of the new video and new printed materials will be done this week.  This month, in one of the industry publications, there’s a nice spread called “MAKING MAGIC ON TOUR” – a first-person, behind-the-scenes look at our show.

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We worked weeks collaborating with others to make this happen.  This is the first in a series of three articles.  In the September issue, there’s a great article written by Jim Steinmeyer called “CREATING WONDER IN AN AGE OF TECHNOLOGY.”  And in November, the final article appears on the magic therapy program and it’s benefits.

UP AND RUNNING…

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

After 2 days of lost productivity, we are up and running again.  We’ve fixed the computers – viruses are gone and spyware attacks are over, for now.  Thanks to all of you who emailed with suggestions and advice (including those of you who encouraged me to move from a PC to MAC).

At least now I can try and finish up these projects before tomorrow afternoon!

VIRUS AND SPYWARE ATTACK!

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

In the midst of trying to get the internet and networks operational today, my laptop was attacked by some type of virus and then the spyware attack followed!  It completely wrecked my laptop and I’ve spent most of the day just trying to get it back up again.  It all seems to be fine EXCEPT my email!  My Outlook stopped picking up email completely.  I tried everything I know – updates, resetting passwords, finding solutions online, etc.  Nothing has helped.  So tonight, I went out and spent the money to buy the Microsoft Outlook 2007 edition.  I thought this might remedy the situation.  It hasn’t!  My email still will not connect to the server to send or receive.  I know that the server is working because I can find email through webmail programs.  I just can’t get it to do anything through Outlook!!  I think it’s a Microsoft conspiracy of some sort.  I don’t consider myself “computer stupid” but times like this make me crazy!

I guess tomorrow will be another wasted day of just trying to get my email working…and I have 4 deadlines by the end of the week.  Ugh…