Archive for August, 2011

Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard (French, pronounced Rocket Rishaaad) was a great Canadian,  he defines hockey.  He stopped playing the game five years before I was born.  He won eight Stanley cups with the Montreal Canadians.  He was the first to make fifty goals in fifty games.  He was the first to make five hundred career goals.  He actually made 544.  We learned all about him in elementary school, we wanted to be him.  You simply could not grow up in the environment I grew up in and not have heard the name ‘Rocket’ Richard.

Alas, this post has nothing to do with hockey.  It has nothing to do with the great Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard.  It has to do with my friend Richard. Sometimes I think of him as ‘Rocket’ Richard and it is not because of his talent with a puck. Rather it is because of an episode with a rocket.

For awhile Richard and I dabbled in model rocketry. A basic model can go anywhere from 300 ft to 1500 ft into the air.  They are easy to make, or you can buy a kit.  The kits can be very basic or incredibly elaborate.  I always went for the cheap simple ones or I made my own because while my successful launch rate was excellent I never had a successful recovery.

Richard decided to buy one of the fancier kits.  This one looked like a flying saucer rather than your standard tube shaped rockets.  If my memory serves me correctly this flying saucer needed a ‘D’ engine which was one of the larger classes of model rocket engines. 

A model rocket engine resembles a roll of quarters they are primarily made of gun powder. Basically you explode the engine and if you have made your rocket correctly the thrust of the explosion goes downward propelling the rocket upward.

When I left Richards house everything was fine.  He was tweaking the saucer and we made plans to launch it in the next day or so.  I wasn’t there for the incident but I was able to piece a few things together, but to this day I don’t honestly know if I ever got the whole truth.

The next day my phone rings:

Richard:  “I launched the rocket” 

Me: “Really?  Did it fly?”

Richard: “Yes”

Me: “But?”

Rich: “I launched it inside.”

Me: “Inside?”

Rich: “Basement!”

I thought about that ‘D’ class engine, I thought about the possibility of this thing launching fifteen hundred feet into the air, possibly more.  I also thought about the low seven foot ceiling of Richard’s basement.

Me: “Damage?”

Rich: “Uhm I think I can get away with it.”

We both know the alternative would not be good.

Me: “Seriously?”

Rich: “Can you come over?”

The basement was poorly lit.  Most of the light came from the tv, the aquarium or the really small street level window. Because of the poor lighting it did take me a moment to find the burnt spot on the ceiling and perhaps a moment longer to find the chipped and scarred molding.  There was a chance his father wouldn’t notice there was also a chance that this was just a bad dream. The funny thing is Richard almost got away with it, almost.  There was one element we didn’t take into enough consideration.  Stephen!  Richard’s younger. The problem with Stephen is that he wears his emotions and his expressions loudly on his face.  He is a horrible liar.  Stephen didn’t purposely throw Richard under the bus but that is exactly where Richard wound up. 

When Richard’s father came into the basement to say hello Stephen could not keep his eyes off the damaged ceiling.  Stephen could not look at us, his father, the TV or the aquarium.  No, he had to stare at that bloody spot.  Of course Richard’s father followed Stephen’s gaze.  So did ours.  There was no choice.  Stephen just couldn’t look away, not even for a second.

Why you may ask did Richard launch a rocket inside the house?  That is what I asked.  He didn’t think it would work.

Read Full Post »

The other day, and when I say the other day what I really mean is, a few years ago my wife and I were watching TV.  Unknown to us there was a drama unfolding right in our own backyard.

 It started simple enough.  A bird or a squirrel was loudly letting its feelings known.  Living in the woods as we do, we often here such noises and usually they fade into the background of whatever it is we are doing.  During the show we were watching this was easy but when the commercial came on whatever was going on outside became increasingly annoying.  By the third commercial we realized the commotion outside was not slowing down, it was getting worse, but still we were able to ignore the noise, mostly. During one commercial my wife finally voiced what we were both thinking, “Jeeezuussss! What the hell is that noise?”  Once the words were out, all the focus was on that sound there was no way to push it back into the background.  I had to go out and look.  As I headed out the door my wife said, “It almost sounds like a bird trying to coax its young out of the nest.”

The problem with locating the source of a sound in the woods is the woods themselves.  Sound bounces off the trees and the animals tend to move around.  But this sound was constant, loud and annoying.  It took seconds to find the source.  Once found it was no longer annoying.  Two baby pileated woodpeckers were in a hole in a tree calling for mom/dad.  I bolted inside to get the video camera and told my wife what was happening.  She followed me out the door.   From the size of the little birds I was thinking my wife was correct.  The parental units were trying to coax the little ones out of the nest.  I was hoping against hope to capture their first flight on camera.  I never did, but what I did capture was amazing.  

 I did not get the story in one take and I can’t figure out how to combine the segments so I’ll just post all five segments separately.  I’d start with the first and work your way through till the end.  The whole thing lasts about five minutes.  Sorry about the bumpy ride but the ending is worth it.






Read Full Post »

Okay I admit it. Now that I found out how to post video’s on Youtube I’m constantly thinking of ways to use this tool in my posts. There is one video we took awhile back that I’m searching for, but in the meantime my camera person, (my wife) is learning to use the camera and I am learning how to add titles and credits to the video.  I know for a 12 year old this is probably standard stuff.  But for folks like me, well lets just say it is darn close to rocket science.

Anywhow, here is our latest attempt.  Hope you enjoy the world famous 3 card trick.

Read Full Post »


For the second time in the history of this blog I have a guest poster.  My friend Penney from Vancouver read my handcuff blog and offered this handcuff story that involves her husband Tony.  The following is actually a response to my handcuff story.  Thanks Penney.

Way back, before 9/11 when air travelers were all considered fairly harmless and Tony’s entire magic collection could fit into a standard briefcase. We were flying to AB, and because he didn’t trust the airline with his precious collection he planned to bring the briefcase as a carry-on. Gotta really hand it to the security lady. She never cracked a smile (though her eyes were laughing hysterically) as she had asked this strange long-haired dude (Tony) to open the case. So he does, explaining to her how the case was filled with odd stuff because he was a magician, and really, she couldn’t possibly understand the workings of what he had in that case of mystery. And when she went straight for the corner of the case and pulled out his handcuffs, he didn’t miss a beat. He said, “That is for my escapism act.” They made him give it to the steward, who I think gave it to the pilot.

For some strange reason, none of the three steward(ess) on that flight could make it through the safety procedures, because they were all doubled over laughing by the time they boarded the plane.

Read Full Post »

Hello, my name is Brian and I’m addicted to Pawn Stars.

So the other day they had an episode where some guy was trying to pawn some antique and very rare handcuffs.  The episode got me thinking about my own handcuff incident in the magic shop.  My mother posted once such incident here.  Mine was slightly different.

One fine day I was sitting behind the counter in the magic shop all alone when some guy I’ve never met walks into the store.

“Howdy, May I help you?”

“No thanks, I’m just looking.”

“Just looking?  I don’t think so, you walked up all those stairs and just looking?  For walking up those stairs you get a reward.  I’m going to show you a card trick just for coming into the shop.”

“Okay” says the stranger, and I showed him something called ‘Mental Photo’

After he told me how wonderful and talented I am he points to the handcuffs in the display cabinet.  “Those real police issue?” he asks.

“Those are real  double lock handcuffs, and at one point they were police issue, but the police now use Smith and Wesson handcuffs.

“So, those are real?  You can’t escape from them?”

“Well that is two very different questions,  yes they are real double lock handcuffs.  They are not gimmicked in any way.  They do however come with instruction on how to escape from them, but it is probably not what you think.”

“Can you escape from them?”

“On a good day, yes I can.”

“Can you show me?”

“No, we do not give away secrets,  you can buy them and read the instructions and learn to do it on your own. “

“Oh I am not asking for the secret I’m asking for a demonstration.  Can you put them on and escape?’

“Uhm no, sorry I’m not comfortable with that.”

“Why, I’m not going to buy something unless I know it works.”

“Well I understand that, and I would be happy to show you the handcuffs themselves that they are real, and they come with instructions that just about guarantees they work. But am I going to handcuff myself with real double lock handcuffs? No.”

“Why not?”

“No offence but I have no idea who you are and I really think I am going to have a hard time explaining to the police, the insurance company, my family and friends that I was robbed because I voluntarily handcuffed myself  because a ‘customer’ asked me too.”

In the end I figured he really was interested in the escapes because he did buy something called a shackle escape because I was able to demonstrate that one without the fear of actually being locked in.

The video that follows is me performing Mental Photo.  First time recording myself, well my wife recorded me doing a magic trick.  We shot it in one take with no editing at all, so beware it is raw footage. Oh that scratching noise you hear in the background?  Thats a cat using the litter box. 

I should add, if you are interested in learning this effect it is available at www.perfectmagic.com.  Tell them you saw it here first and you will still get charged full price.

Read Full Post »

We wandered the dessert for forty years!  We literally, with whips to our backs built the Pyramids.  We sacrificed our lives on Masada rather than being forced to live under a system that went against our covenant with God.  We cannot eat bacon.  Our homeland is surrounded by people who would just as soon drive us into the sea rather than acknowledge our right to exist.  Our male children are circumcised…Whaa, back the truck up!  We cannot eat bacon?  Why? Why can’t we eat bacon?

I’ll tell you why, because we are Jewish, because we follow kashrut the Jewish law that deals with what we can and cannot eat.  Kashrut comes from Kaf-Shin-Reish meaning fit, proper or correct.  Food that meets the criteria is considered Kosher.  Bacon my friends, is not kosher!

So what exactly is Kosher?  According to the Torah (first five books of the bible which in a broad sense covers the entire body of Jewish teachings) land animals that have cloven hooves and chew their cud may be eaten. If the animal does not have these two qualities it is forbidden.  Pigs, badgers, monkeys, camels, rats and rabbits are out.  Cows, deer, goats, bison are in.

If they live in the sea you can eat it if it has fins and scales. Fish and mermaids are in. Catfish and shellfish are out.  Do you know what catfish and shellfish eat?  They eat the kosher fish’s poop!  So you tell me, which would you rather?

If they are birds:  Birds of prey and scavengers are out. Chickens, ducks and Turkey are in.  However some Jews tend to avoid turkey because,( and I don’t understand this at all but) at the time of the giving of the Torah we didn’t know about turkeys.  I would have thought God would have had all this figured out.

Of the winged swarming things (winged insects) there are a few that are allowed, however the Sages are not sure which ones they are so just to be safe we’ve outlawed them all, thank God.  However there was that time on my bicycle…

Rodents, reptiles, amphibians and insects? We don’t eat them.

Just because the animal is part of the ‘in’ crowd does not automatically make it kosher.  That would be far too easy.  The food in question cannot have died of natural causes, or killed by another animal. which means we must murder the animal.  Further, the animal must be free of disease or flaws in the organs at the time of slaughter. I know this may surprise you, but it doesn’t end there either.

The slaughter must be done according to a Jewish ritual of shechitah and the one who performs the ritual is the schochet.  This is not be confused with a schlemiel and a schamozzel  (a schlemiel is the guy who spills the soup, the schamozzel is the guy who the soup is spilled on). According to the Torah the soul lies in the blood.  Therefore all the blood must be drained from the animal at the time of slaughter.

Just because an animal meets all the above criteria does not mean all of the animal is kosher, for example we do not eat the back end of animals, which means I don’t have ever worry about eating a cows ass.  Think about it.  Nor do we mix meat and dairy products.  Heck we don’t even mix the dishes, meat gets one set, dairy gets the other. I couldn’t possibly make this stuff up. Not only that, Really good Jews have seperate dishwashers!

The above is by no means a comprehensive lesson in the laws of Kashrut. If you are truly interested you can always ask Google

The question, when starting this post was why do we keep kosher?  There are many theories, but when push comes to shove there is only one reason why we keep kosher.  The most common theory is health.  There are health benefits, the fact that the animal must be clean and healthy at the time of slaughter or how about the idea that scientists are finding that eating meat and dairy together often interferes with digestion. But health is not the reason.  

There are economic and environmental theories, for example the amount of food a pig consumes is disproportional to its value as a food source.  The camel is/was much more useful as a beast of burden, (it can carry a lot of stuff) than it was as a food source.   Good reasons, but not the reason.

The reason is much simpler.  Jews keep kosher is because the Torah tells us too.  Except for the draining of the blood the reasons of Kashrut are not explained.  We keep kosher because that is our covenant with God and we don’t question God.

I am not a very religious person.  I can’t even tell you I believe in God. But I am Jewish and proud of being Jewish and I am trying to understand my heritage/history because I believe it to be important.  For me the number one reason to keep kosher, or at least to understand kosher is simple because a Jew who observes (or at least understands and recognizes) the laws of kashrut cannot eat a meal without being reminded of the fact that he or she is a Jew.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: