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Archive for August, 2010

Every Friday in August, Wiscoy, a local pet supply store hosts an ice cream social for dogs.  Free ice cream for dogs and people, and it all raises money for the SPCA.  Sequoia loves sitting around growling at all the other dogs. This year however she seemed to have found a friend, Ziggy.  Here are a few pics.

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A few years back my wife and I were crossing the border from Canada to the US, there was a line but it wasn’t too bad.  As we waited we made sure our papers were in order, green card? Check, approved picture ID for my wife? Check, vet records for the dog? Check, receipts for the Canadian beer from the duty free shop? Check.

On a previous trip when Sequoia stuck her head out the window all the customs guard asked was what country she was from.  She is a Siberian Husky so I was tempted to say Siberia, but every once in a while I think before I speak and I answered, ‘United States’ The customs agent told us how beautiful Sequoia is and sent us on our way.

This time was different we finally got to the little booth and were asked the appropriate questions, the whole time however the border guard was eyeing Sequoia, “Is that a husky?” he finally asked.

“Yes , she is a Siberian husky, here are her papers and rabies cer…”

(ignoring the papers we offered) “We had Dobermans growing up, I always wanted a husky, I was told they are a handful”

“Yes, they can be, they are prey driven dogs, they love to run, outside they always need to be on a leash or in a ken…”

“Is it a male or female?”

“Female, her name is Sequoia”

(opening the window further as the customs officer tried to crawl into our back seat)

“Oh Sequoia you are sooo soft!  Are all huskies this soft?”

(looking out the rearview mirror watching the line behind getting longer)

“They are all pretty soft, but Sequoia has a woolly coat while others have….”

“Right now I live in an apartment so I really can’t have one, but once I move into a house I am getting a husky! Welcome back to the States and enjoy the rest of the day”

I keep thinking to myself that I really need to get my expired passport sorted out so I don’t have to worry about it the next time we go back to Canada.  On the other hand it would be easier just to roll down the window and let Sequoia stick her head out as our trackrecord shows that as long as the customes agent gets to see Sequoia our paperwork is not really an issue.

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My grandmother liked tell the story of the first time she saw an automobile.  She was young and living in England  and somebody came down her street in a horseless carriage.  Everyone got to go for a ride, when her turn came it scared her, how could it possibly be moving on its own? So she jumped off.  To my knowledge she never did learn to drive.  I always envied that particular generation.  Imagine having lived before the advent of the automobile.  Then seeing the first ones, and living well into the next century.  I thought never again will the world see such an amazing transformation. 

So the other night my wife and I were lying in bed reading electronic books on our ipods…

The other day I was telling a story to one of my co-workers and had to stop in the middle and explain that at the time there were no cell phones.  A few minutes later I had to explain that there were no computers either. 

Sometimes I feel old. Is this how my grandmother felt , what of her grandmother? 

And what will my grand nephews and nieces see?

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Doug Henning believed that it was his job to create a sense of wonder for his audience.   

I remember the first time I saw an effect that created that sense of wonder.  I don’t remember how old I was, I don’t even remember a lot of detail. I just remember an overwhelming sense of ‘holy shit’ for lack of better words.

The magician in question went by the name of Israel.  If you asked him he would tell you his mother is the earth, and his father is the moon.  He was just that kind of guy.  He came into the magic shop, (our basement at the time) took off his sandals, sat cross legged on a bamboo mat he had set up and proceeded to perform ‘coins across’ where magically, four coins travel one at a time invisibly from one hand to the other.  This is a standard effect that most magicians perform, and to this day it is one of my favorites. Perhaps it was my age, where I was in my life, his presentation or a combination of many things at once.  But for me that performance created a sense of wonder.  I think (possibly blame) that moment for my inability to escape magic.  

Another such moment happened years later, only this time I saw it from the other side.

Once again I was in the magic shop in Montreal.  A good friend and brilliant magician Romain was helping us out behind the counter as he often did.

For you magi out there who don’t know who Romain is, well suffice it to say he was a student of Slydini, He was a demonstrator at Tannen’s magic shop, one (if not, the) oldest magic shops in the USA, He has an effect written up in ‘Million Dollar Secrets’ by non-other than Frank Garcia. Romain is the Monarch of Manipulation.  He is known around the world and he is a magic icon in Canada…And, for those in the know, he is one of Canada’s top ballroom dancers.

A young girl wanders into the magic shop.  She actually belonged to the owner of another retail shop a few doors down.  Romain is sitting behind the counter and decides to show her a magic trick.  The response from the little girl is indescribable But it was easy to see what was going through her mind.  She was just old enough to know that magicians show tricks, that things just don’t vanish or appear intellectually she knew it could not happen, yet it just did!  And she was young enough that she only recently left that wonderful childhood place where everything is possible and most things are magical.  Romain let that girl know that despite what she had learned, there is still magic in the world. I will never forget the look of wonder on that girls face.  After she left Romain turned to me and said, “Brian that is what this is all about” It was one of many valuable lessons Romain has taught me over the years. 

Romain, if you are reading, thanks for the lessons you probably don’t even realize you taught me.  I’ve been watching So You Think You Can Dance, it is nice to see your influence has gone beyond magic.

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This is inspired by my mothers comment after I posted about things that annoy me.  Sadly, it is difficult to think of things to add to the list.  What does that tell you?  Aside from the obvious, (family, friends, animals) and other things I have mentioned before.  Keep in mind it is student rush here in the Happy Valley and I’ve been working 14 days between 9 and 10 hrs a day without a break,  and I am looking at about five more, so thinking is a little bit of an issue tonight. 

I like:

  1. The moments just before or after a rain storm.
  2. Halloween
  3. The Fall
  4. Taking off my heavy steel toed boots after a long day of work.
  5. Mexican food…real mexican food.
  6. A good book
  7. A plain Milk Chocolate bar, nothing fancy.  Toblarone is however, most acceptable.
  8. Cookies, my wife, on occaision has called me cookie monster.  And I can eat them by the bag.  It is not my fault, they call my name.
  9. Computer games, playing Dragon Age at the moment.
  10. A really well placed, properly delivered one-liner.
  11. Sarcasm.

For the record, I still maintain that negative is funnier than positive.

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When I ran the magic shop in Vancouver, BC I used to think to myself, ‘self, you should write a book about the people who come into the magic shop” I even had a title, “Why Do All The Weirdo’s End Up On My Front Door”  I know what you are thinking. ”Why are you asking such a stupid question?  They ended up on your front door because you are in a magic store.  Just what did you expect?”

The point is, there were/are so many stories but I struggle to write them down.  Most I have forgotten, and the best ones I can’t tell because it would entail giving away some magic secrets, and that is just wrong.  However I do remember one from quite some time ago that does not require the exposure of a magic method.

For this to make sense you need a little background in the way a magic shop works:

When you walk into a magic shop we are not going to show you how an effect works.  We may demonstrate the effect so you can see what it does, but we don’t ever tell you how it is done.  Once the money is in the cash drawer and you have your receipt in hand we will tell you to go home, read the instructions and practice.  I have been in the rare magic shop where, if you buy the effect they will teach you how it is done on the spot.  This is a huge mistake for many reasons I can write a book on the subject, but to break it down to a very basic level…

  • If we tell you how it’s done, the magic is gone for you and you will not buy the effect.
  • You will see just how simplistic it is and refuse to believe that people will be fooled by it.  Despite the fact that it just fooled the heck out of you! 
  • Just because you know how the effect works, doesn’t mean you will be able to perform it, magic takes practice.
  • If you have to work for it, you will appreciate it more and be better at it.

That is not too say that if you really have a problem we won’t help you, but most of us have to see that you did put some work into it.  And we make it abundantly clear, once you have purchased the effect it is yours.  We do not give money back.  Magic is knowledge.  I don’t use most of the crap I learned in school, can I get my money back?  No because like your education, magic is a process, it is an accumulation of information, each item you buy, each book, each dvd is a lesson, how do you give the lesson back?  Obviously if the material is faulty we will replace it, and a good magic dealer will try their best to ensure what you are buying is within your ability to perform, and is practical for your situation. 

In the end, you are the addict, the magic is the drug, the magic shop is the dealer. You are the john, we are the prostitute and magic is the sex.  I know, scary right?  Well I’ll tell you something a little scarier, many magicians start performing to get the girls and in the end prefer the magic over the girls.  There is an old joke. 

Magician: “boy I wish my wife was still around.”

Magic dealer: ‘I’m sorry for your loss”

Magician: “Oh, it is okay, I traded her for a rabbit production box, but I should have held out for that colour changing handkerchief trick”

Or the magicians anonymous joke.

Magician: (standing in front of a group of recovering magicians) Hello my name is the great Randini I am a magic addict.

Group: Hocus Pocus Randini!

Randini: The other day I actually put down my deck of cards and went outside

Group: Yay, Randini, good for you! We are so proud of you.

Randini: I even met a girl, well okay she was a hooker.

Group: Yes, Yes Randini what remarkable progress so happy and proud of you.  Was the sex good?

Randini:  Well I got her up to the hotel room…

Group: (on the edge of their seats clearly happy for Randini)

Randini: and….I showed her a card trick.

Group: Awww, Randini!

You know, somewhere along the line this post took a really odd turn, but stick with me, I’m about to get back on track.  Thinking about it, this is a pretty long build up for a very little story, but what the heck.

So I was standing behind the counter in the shop in Montreal.  My father was in the office sitting at his desk working on the computer and by computer I mean a Mac IIe.  A customer walked in with a bag of magic stuff he purchased from us earlier in the week.  According to him everything he purchased was crap and did not work.  I remember what he bought.  Svengali Deck, Dynamic Coins, and a beginner set (plastic 4 dollar version) of Cups and Balls.   These are all really good effects and any magician would agree. 

I helped him out and explained things to him but he is not happy, I believed what he wanted was real magic and not a magic trick. I explained the sorry facts of life to him and offered to go over the effects once again.  He was not happy, he leaned over the counter and looked in the office:

Customer: “I want to speak to that man over there, the one sitting behind the computer!”

Me: “sure thing”

I went into the office and quietly explained the deal to my father and let him know that the customer wanted to see him. My father gets up and goes to the front, I head to our stock room and hear the following conversation:

Customer: “Are you the owner?”

Dad: (Who is the owner) “No, but if you hold on a second I’ll get him for you!”

Next thing I know my father is looking at me with a shit eating grin, “There is a customer out front to see you!”

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Here in the Happy Valley student rush is upon us.  For me this means for the next 14 days…in a row…I pretty much show up to work and leave when I’m told I can.  So today, Saturday the 14th of August I found myself awake at 6:30am.  We always get up at 5:30, take the dog out feed the cats and get ready for work.  But today is Saturday! I can handle getting up at 5:30am and going through the morning ritual, but Saturday means I get to go back to sleep. That is the definition of Saturday.  But this Saturday I have to work. I can rest for a bit because my work is kind enough to supply us with lousy Pizza for lunch during this time so all I have to do is take a shower, jump in the car and go.  I took my shower and I am lying back in bed watching the clock, 6:30, I really don’t have to leave until 7:15 but I just can’t seem to get back to sleep, which for me is unusual, sleep is one of my favourite things.  But I can’t, so I turn on the television.  Do you know what is on the television at 6:30am?  Remember I work for a very large cable company, I get almost every channel,  I don’t know how many that is, but it starts at 3 and goes to about 900, some are repeated in regular, some in HD and there is a lot of sport channels I ignore, and the music channels, but even taking those out we still get a huge amount of television.  But at 6:3o on a Saturday morning the majority of the channels is paid programming.  I can’t watch paid programming.  I don’t want to see a bunch of clothes, shoes, shamwow’s, the latest garden tool that doesn’t work, the cheap jewelery, computers that are crap, a better lightbulb and a silverware cleaner, and of course steam cleaners.  I just don’t care.  The other option is cartoons, and I don’t like cartoons.  I’ve just finished a good book and not yet ready to start another.  Basically I am reduced to watching the channel listings,  page after page of ‘paid programming, sports, paid programming’  and then I see it!  up around channel 270, I can’t believe it but there it is, “I Love Lucy’ and it is on right now!

I found myself laughing so hard I was impressed I didn’t wake my wife.  Floyd, (one of the cats) was lying across my chest just under my chin and he was getting quite annoyed with my laughter, but I couldn’t stop.  There was Lucy, and Ricky, Ethel and the crew doing what they did best.  I remember watching the show as a child and laughing my ass off,  I remember watching as a teenager, and still laughing my ass off. I watched ‘I love Lucy’ and right after that I watched ‘The Honeymooners” Audrey Meadows was beautiful. I went to a Halloween party as Art Carney, ‘…hey there Ralphy boy!” and lets not forget, “Too the moon Alice, too the moon…” And I found myself, now in my mid forties, and still laughing my ass off watching ‘I Love Lucy’

This time I found myself not only laughing at the obvious, but the brilliant subtleties, the exasperated look Ricky gets, the look in Lucy’s eye as another whacked out idea runs through her head.  The look between Fred and Ricky when Lucy starts to scheme.  And at the same time it is all so wrong!  It is so politically un/in-correct for our time.  When Ricky gets mad, Lucy stops saying ‘yes dear’ and reverts to, ‘yes Sir’ Although I am extremely un-political, some of the phrasing and the tones even make me cringe but it is fleeting as the hilarity ensues. 

What is it that makes these shows timeless?  It can’t just be me because quite literally everyone I ask seems to be of the same opinion.   I sometimes run across stuff I used to watch, Eight is Enough, The Partridge Family, Charles In Charge, Different Strokes, I dream of Geni and the list goes on.  Sure some of those can be considered classics, But they will never touch I love Lucy, My Three Sons, The Honeymooners, The Dick Van Dyke Show.  Why, what is it?  It is not like we don’t have brilliant tv actors.  John Goodman is fantatastic in everything I’ve seen him in, but does he stand up against Jackie Gleason?  We have brilliant directors, Rob Reiner comes to mind, we have modern technology, I like to think we are more aware of the world around us now, the material is certainly out there in abundance.  So what is it? Is it the audience?  Did we change? is it the times?  Is it because these were ground breaking shows dealing with subject matter that was never talked about in public never mind viewed on TV?  Have we left that ‘age of innocence’?

I am sure everyone is going to have thier opinion, and I really would like to hear them, and while I’m eagerly waiting for your responses I think I’ll go find another episode of ‘I Love Lucy’

Archie Bunker: I know all about your woman’s troubles there, Edith, but when I had the hernia that time, I didn’t make you wear the truss. If you’re gonna have the change of life, you gotta do it right now. I’m gonna give you just 30 seconds. Now c’mon and change.
Edith Bunker: Can I finish my soup first?

P.S. ‘Lucy….you gots some eslplainin’ to do’

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