Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Magic Island Slated to Re-Open

The iconic “Magic Island” restaurant and live theater venue which first opened in the 1980s has been shuttered since 2008. However, all my magic buddies in Houston, and around the world really, are excited to hear that plans are underway (though slightly behind schedule now) to reopen the 10,000 square foot entertainment venue.

It would be difficult to count the number of times I've been to Magic Island. I used to go at least once every other week, usually every week. New acts were brought in twice a month and I made sure to go see every act that came through. Sometimes acts could only stay for a 1-week run and I'd go more often. Sometimes acts were so good that it was worth seeing them more than once.

I remember the food being good, but not great. However, the entertainment was well worth it all. Not only do you get the stage show that features world-class acts that you might otherwise never get to see outside of Las Vegas (where the tickets would cost 3X what dinner at Magic Island will run you).

On top of that, you get to see some amazing close-up magic. We magicians categorize the type of magic we do and “close-up” means exactly what it sounds like. It's magic that happens not on a stage, or in a large box, but rather, right in front of your eyes, and some times LITERALLY in your own hands. Cards, coins, tiny colored balls just larger than a marble, scraps of paper, and pieces of rope or string are transformed into the makings of miracles.

Keep your eyes and ears open for more information about the imminent re-opening date and then make plans to visit. You won't be disappointed.

Here's a link to a news article about Magic Island Houston Reopening.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Resolution Traditions in Our Family

I'm not overly fond of the usual “New Years Resolutions” process. The whole thing has become sort of a caricature of itself. The idea has spawned far more jokes than it has success stories, in part because it is based on poorly constructed ideas about goal setting that are implemented in poorly constructed ways by people who are not always particularly motivated to actually pursue or accomplish the goals/resolutions.

But, aside from the faults of making a half-hearted promise on January 1st to stick to a year-long commitment, I am still a big believer in goal-setting, and I think that New Year's is a great time to sit down and get serious about it; so much so that in our house, it has become something of a family tradition.

Usually it doesn't happen EXACTLY on January 1st, but it almost always happens within the first week of the new year. We discuss basic goals, and help each other refine them a bit, all in preparation of the “ritual” we have. You see, by that time the Christmas tree has gotten to the point that it's time for us to get rid of it. But rather than have the waste management company throw it into the landfill, we chop it up and burn it in a little camp fire in our back yard.

This “Burning of the Yule Log,” as we call it, is when we sit around and tell each other about our finalized goals for the new year. We can share as many or as few as we want, but everyone at the campfire (friends, neighbors, and distant cousins included) is strongly encouraged to share at least one, so that we develop some accountability. Usually there are financial goals, fitness goals, organizational goals, relationship goals, travel goals, and all sorts of goals that are more difficult to categorize.

One of mine, for example is to be more consistent with creating social media content including blog entries like this one, videos for my YouTube channel, and actually spending LESS time on my personal Facebook page and MORE time on my professional FB page.

Side note: The last book I wrote was finished the year before I got on FB. I don't think it's coincidence that I haven't finished a book since I started posting on FB! I've told my wife many times: If I'm ever going to write another book, I'm going to either have to get more disciplined about FB or shut it down.

Friday, December 28, 2018

More Kind Words about My Winter Festivals Show

I know, I know. I started blogging in 2006 (12 years ago!). But then stopped for almost 2 full years. Now, suddenly, I'm back at it, and I'm posting like every other day. But when you are self-employed life is like a roller coaster when it comes to time and money. Some months I'm so busy I can't think, and other months I don't have enough work to buy a cup of coffee.

So, I've decided to use my free time to get back into writing more. More blogging, I'm also going to do more video, since that seems to be a popular medium. And this blog post will be using both. Here's a short clip of a teacher who saw the very last Texas school assembly show I did this year. It was a show I do called "Arctic Express" and it's about all the holidays people celebrate during the winter time.

For more videos, testimonials, funny clips of my shows, etc. be sure to visit my YouTube channel.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Kind Words about "Arctic Express" (my show about winter festivals)

Because of the way the holidays fell this year, the last day of school assembly shows for me was just 2 days before Christmas Eve. So our family was feeling a little rushed to get everything settled, bought, wrapped, etc. before our scheduled trips to see all the family.

Now, here I am, AFTER Christmas and things have settled down a little bit, so I had time to edit and post a few videos of some things clients this year had to say about my show, The Arctic Express. The show is a multicultural exploration of all the winter holidays people celebrate around the world.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Kids Say the Funniest Things!

Texas author Julian Franklin performing as a train engineer.
One of the educational school assemblies I do is a show about all the winter festivals the people celebrate around the world: Diwali, Thanksgiving, Ramadan (not always in the winter but I include it), Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, New Year and, of course, Christmas.

At one point in the show I talk about Chris VanAllsburg's book, The Polar Express. I say, "The boy knows he can have any gift he wants. But all he wants...is a bell."

A girl on the second row yelps out "I know Isabel!"

I've been doing this show for 14 seasons now and I have to admit, this one caught me off guard. It took me until that moment in the NEXT show before I even realized what she was talking about. I totally heard it as it came out of my mouth, and now I can't NOT hear it. But I've been doing this show for so long, it is hard for me to change the script in my head.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

What's all the rage about video?

Okay, listen: I'm NOT a Luddite! I'm no technophile, but I'm not a technophobe either. I'm rarely "cutting edge" or "new introducer," but I'm usually in front of the 50% curve...usually.

Or not.

Anyway, the point is that I haven't written a blog entry is almost TWO YEARS! Do you know what 2 years is? It's 14 dog years! My dog could almost be driving a car by now! My head hurts.

So people always call the office phone (next blog entry about how we're about to cut the land line once and for all) to ask questions about which of my fifteen educational school assembly shows would be best for their Texas author visit. While I love talking to my clients, I'm usually out performing assembly programs and can't answer the phone. Even when my wife is at home answering the phone and booking summer library shows or school author visits she doesn't always have the time to engage in a lengthy discussion about every single show I do.

We have a teenage daughter living at home! And your school districts are requiring ever more paperwork from us, so, please, cut us some slack, okay? I'm sorry. Did I say that out loud?

Anyway, I finally joined the 21st century and actually recorded and uploaded some YouTube videos describing my various shows. I'll be blogging (I hope) more frequently and will include links to descriptions of all the shows I do. So you can hear it straight from this horse's mouth (most folks accuse me of talking out of my...never mind, but it IS related to a horse).

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cross Selling in the Library

A couple of years ago in our family we instituted a rule where we were not allowed to see a movie based on a book unless we had read the book. The idea was spawned several years ago when I first started doing a presentation on author craft and style and how to elaborate. In the show I use a lot of award winning books as examples of great writing and I noticed something interesting.

Virtually all the children were familiar with both the movie and the book version of Chris VanAllsburg's "The Polar Express," as well as both the book and movie versions of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. But almost no one knew that Shreck is a book by Caldecott winning author William Steig. Similarly not many children were familiar with the fact that Jumanji, Zathura, Bridge to Terabithia, and a host of other very popular movie titles began as great books.

So in my show "Set Sail" I talk about how to become a great writer by reading the works of other great writers. We discuss using interesting words, dialog, implying so that readers can make inferences, the use of similes and metaphors, and the use of adjectives and adverbs to bring writing to life.

But, by design, all the books I chose are award winning books and many (but not all) of them have been made into movies. My goal was not only to improve the writing of children, but also to inspire them to find out about the books that gave rise to some of their favorite movies.

The books always reveal a bit more of the story than a movie ever can. My hope is that I can turn on a few borderline readers and inspire them to grab a book in which they already know how the story ends and read it from cover to cover anyway.

So the next time someone checks out the video of "Bridge to Terabithia," be sure to mention that it is also available as a Newbery winning chapter book.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Wearing Pajamas to Work

Performer wearing pajamas
One of the best things about doing my Chris VanAllsburg tribute show is that I get to wear pajamas to work.

This picture shows how comfortable I get to dress, how much fun I have doing my version of "work," and it might hint at how much fun the students are having while we learn about author craft and style through the works of a great American artist.

Unfortunately, it also captures how much I enjoyed eating over the holidays and has inspired me to double down on my upcoming New Year's Resolutions.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Kids are Funny

A book titled "Cat Speak"
Saw this book in another school and had to add it to this post!
A boy and a girl were in the library while I was setting up this AM.

Me: Do you speak any languages other than English?

Girl: English, Japanese, and a little bit of Spanish.

Boy: English...and I make cat noises.

Me: So...like 'Cat Language'?

Boy (with total sincerity): Yes.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Can I Borrow a Pencil?

Okay, this is not my joke, but it's so funny I had to share it. It starts with a funny meme that was circulating and then someone added a few extra bits.

Student: Can I borrow a pencil?

Teacher: I don't know. Can you?

Student: Yes. I might add that colloquial irregularities occur frequently in any language. Since you and the rest of our present company understood perfectly my intended meaning, being particular about the distinctions between “can” and “may” is purely pedantic and arguably pretenttious.

Teacher: True, colloquialism and the judicious interpretation of context help us communicate with nuance, range, and efficiency. And yet, as your teacher, my job is to teach you to think about language with care and rigor. Understanding the shades of difference between one word and another, and to think carefully about what you want to say will give you greater power and versatility in your speech and writing.

Student: Point taken. May I have a pencil?

Teacher: No, you may not. We do not have pencils since the state cut funding for education again this year.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Marketing with Posters

I love when libraries use the FREE promotional materials we provide!
We always send out several full-sized posters to every school and library that books one of our assemblies. Not everyone uses them, but the ones that do seem to have great attendance.

Sometimes selling "free" services can be harder than selling things for a fee. Non-profits can learn from the private sector how to let your patrons know what's happening in your LMC.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ride Your Bike to Work Week

Load in for "The Know Show" game show assembly
Next week is national Ride Your Bike To Work Week. I love cycling but today I traveled 112.8 miles round trip and THIS was my load in for my shows. I'm not sure I could handle this on my mountain bike.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Half-Day School Assemblies near S. Padre Island

I only had two shows today so I was done in time for lunch on South Padre Island. Now for a little swim...or do I have to wait 20 minutes?

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Happy Birthday to Jan Brett

Happy Birthday, Jan Brett. Thanks for bringing so much fun to story time for my daughter when she was younger.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Prophet in Your Hometown

For the past several years I've been booked WAY far out of town on the Friday before our week long Thanksgiving break AND the Friday before our week long Spring break. Today I got to perform at the elementary school where my daughter attended. We walked to school every day she went here. Round trip was less than one mile! I thought about just rolling my props down the street.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Excitement in the Library

Every now and then a photographer is able to really capture me in all my beautiful glory. This picture, taken at Lumberton Public Library is one of those times.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kids are Funny

Today a kid looked admiringly at my bald head and asked me "What color is your hair?"

"Not sure. Based on my beard, I'd say grayish-brown"
"I want a grayish-brown hair cut!"

Friday, March 06, 2015

Book Face Friday

I saw on Instagram this idea about "Book Face Friday." I had never heard of it before, but I thought I'd try it out today with one of my own books.