Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The projects

The first project I had was to redesign my blog - bring it more up-to-date.  Which I did, but not as much as I would have liked; I want it to be a blogazine, rather than just a blog.  Funkier, cooler look and more interesting to read and view, but my skills are not at that level (yet), so this update will suffice for now.
The idea behind this design was I wanted the look of the blog to be simple and clean and in line with my photography site.  It's very possible I will keep tweaking this site as it isn't what I want.

My main aim for 2010 is to do a 52 week project.  What do I mean by that, well each week I will choose a theme: lines, colours, macro, landscape, abstract etc and shoot what I can that week using only that criteria. This should hopefully push me to hone my skills and creativity much more, whilst also keeping me focused.

I still have a few ideas I would like to pursue in photography, not least of all making a career out of it, which like most things is easier said than done.   For some reason I keep choosing interests which tend to be expensive, I should perhaps think this through more.  Photography equipment is VERY expensive and being a professional magician became expensive - cards will only get you so far (unless your Ricky Jay).

Being a magician I know what it's like to be desperate to learn and other people holding on to secrets refusing to share with beginners.   I found myself in an awkward place, keen to learn but nothing to offer (except desire). It was a catch 22 you couldn't progress without the knowledge but you couldn't get access to the knowledge (unless you were good enough).
It took me a while but I rose to the challenge, I learnt some tricks, bought some tricks and constructed and de-constructed tricks in order to make them mine.  The hard work paid off and I got accepted into the Magic Circle, which after a while lead to me becoming a paid professional magician; but it was harder than it ought to have been.  When in the Circle information and sharing flowed in all directions; which opened up all kinds of ideas and opportunities.

The thing is reciprocity is what we should be aiming for, that way we all grow: win/win situation.
One thing I'm very impressed with and pleased about is the amount of information available and sharing going on in the field of photography.   It used to be quite a complex and secret kind of profession (what with dark rooms and chemicals), but now in the digital age there are so many talented folks teaching and sharing ideas.
No doubt of course social networking has helped this, as it is now a culture that most people are involved in.  Not to mention of course cameras have come a long way and much more accessible to amateurs and pros alike - pros and cons to this of course, but again like Magic only serious folks will pursue it to a level of professionalism, for others it will simply remain a hobby.

So I have asked and am asking that anyone who has information or experience to share in photography to please get in touch, post links to your site, email me, arrange meet ups etc.

Quick side note: this blog has had 18,000 visitors and my photography site 4,000 visitors, which is fantastic - looking at the map I can see people from all over the world logging on, even someone in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!?
Analysing further into the keywords searches for random things such as Vaughan Town, Lose weight and strangest of all, thai sexy girl in town; I dont remember posting that?  I bet they didn't stay for long!
I would like to thank each of you for visiting and please do drop by anytime. 

Lets make everyone's lives richer and make 2010 the year of caring and sharing ;)

Friday, December 25, 2009

So this is Christmas

Today is Christmas day. Early start, preparing all the food and veg; which we never managed to eat it all in the end. Roast potatoes went a little off, fortunately I had prepared enough so it wasn't a total loss. Turkey was good and gravy was OK; I had to make it from scratch as Spain doesn't have the luxury of Bisto Gravy, ahhhh Bisto!

No Christmas crackers to pull at lunch time - they dont know what they're missing :(
Luckily this year I had some stuffing, as last year that was nightmare. All in all the food was good, company was good too. Of course I managed to burn myself, which made taking things constantly in and out of the oven a challenge. If that wasn't bad enough the dam electrics started playing up and only allowed me on hob ring and oven in at any one time - with 6 pans of veg and potatoes to cook, this of course was not a good thing.

Yesterday we spent the evening at Sandra's parents; I hadn't eaten much but knew they would cook a lot as the whole family were going there.
Sadly for me most everything they cooked was seafood!! REALLY!?!?
But hey, I did managed to eat a block of cheese and pate all to myself.
I think the thing I miss most is the bullshit conversations and jokes you have at family meals, whether at Sandra's parents or at home, I feel like a stranger looking in - yes, I know it's my fault I should have learnt Spanish, but it is very apparent at meals.

Some of the differences in the UK at Christmas are; Xmas music in shopping centres, selection boxes (boxes of chocolate bars), Christmas crackers, cult movies on TV - Indiana Jones, Superman, James Bond, Star Wars etc, and of course crap TV - Eastenders (someone dying/being killed) & the Queen's Speech - it would be nice if she was in touch with the real world like Princess Diana was.
And of course Christmas isn't Christmas without a Christmas pudding.

Pitu managed to open her own presents this year, which consisted mainly of bi-lingual toys and a couple of DVD's - one Snow White and the seven dwarves.
Interesting fact, or not: this was actually the first film I ever saw at the cinema when I was a child. These were the days when cinema's had only one screen and ushers who served ice cream in the interval and you could sing along to the film, without being told Sssshhhhh or mobiles going off! After Snow White had finished we got to see Star Trek 2: the wrath of Khan (may give you an idea I'm over 28), we were there with our next door neighbours kids, who were older than us, so we got to watch Star Trek 2, too (although we were too young).

Sandra got a lady shave and a Nespresso Coffee maker, which she seemed happy with ;)
I received a new shirt and some Wii tennis raquets - not 10 grand for my new studio :'(
Of course here in Spain we also have the 'Three Kings Day' so pitu will have some more stuff then, mainly clothes - she's growing a lot.
Sandra still has her Secret Santa (invisible friend gift to come too).
China had her laptop of course, but I got no contact from her... ...perhaps she's having such a good time, she forgot.

Monies kind of tight as I haven't been informed about work for next year, so I can't afford to splash out too much and having only done 1 week that doesn't go far; especially at this time of year. So next year should be interesting, lets see what happens.

It's strange all the effort and fuss and its all over so quick - story of my life, lol.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

F.A.Q's @ Vaughan Town

Whilst at Vaughan Town there are some question which always get asked.
So in an attempt to address these questions (and to save repetition), see below:

Q: What do you do?
A: Good question. I’m basically a self employed entertainer / motivator / coach / teacher
and more besides.
Me: magic is my thing, but I also like telling bad jokes, performing and variety –
a ‘jack of all trades’, so to speak. Musically I’m awful!
Rob: is a musically gifted bloke from ‘up North’ in England, many many talents –
but music is his passion
Greg: theatre is in his blood. An American who will teach you all you need to know to get
you performing on stage. Woody Allen fan and personality

Each Master of Ceremonies (MC) has his own style and approach to the job.
My take on the job is to get the best from the participants.
I choose who will do well in what capacity and I try to build a program specific to the needs of the group and individuals.
I do not feel this is a ‘one size fits all’ kind of program and I have worked very hard putting together and creating scripts, theatre pieces, jokes and all kinds of ice breakers / energizers and activities, which means I have something for everyone, and each program is different; that’s my aim anyway.

Q: How long have you been an MC?
A: Around 3 years now

Q: Do you always work with the same Program Director?
A: No. Like the MC’s the PD’s have their own way of doing things and also have their own personalities: which adds to the mix as well, variety is the spice of life.
Carmen is a sweet genuine person with a heart of gold; who will help you with anything except LOVE and MONEY.
Marisa looks Spanish but do not be fooled she is an Aussie with fabulous eyes and even more (bad) jokes than me, she’s also a great dancer and teacher.

Q: Do you like your job?
A: Of course. I get to meet wonderful, extraordinary people almost weekly.
I get to see the fruits of my labour grow before my eyes as the participants grow and learn together and leave feeling closer to each other and much more confident
(which is really the secret)

Q: Which venue do you prefer and why?
A: San Ziolo: Nice venue, steeped in history, part of the Camino De Santiago, rumoured to be haunted, staff nice, bad desserts!
Montfrague: Great staff, sadly venue not really 4* quality, issues with water,
VERY isolated location, food OK
Zamora: OK, the staff OK, the location OK, the venue OK – just OK
Burgos: In my opinion too big for our needs. I didn’t feel participants were catered for
properly. Not the best venue for parties, food poor. Nice city though.
Salamanca: Very nice venue and staff. City can be distracting; lots of bars etc.
Plenty to see and do. Fantastic desserts.
Good for Master students, or students who have been to Gredos
Gredos: Very nice venue/location, staff OK (few issues, although the manager is working hard to sort this), isolated location, amenities need to be paid for,
perfect for low levels or first timers. Not a lot to see and do especially in winter.

Q: Which is better, the city or an isolated location?
A: For me both have pros and cons.
For participants with low levels then the isolation is what you really need to focus without
For participants with higher levels you need to be able to deal with distractions, as this is
what the real world will present.
For the Anglos the city offers them a chance to see part of Spain’s culture and history, so
it’s nice for them.

Q: Is this the best group ever!?
A: Every week almost without fail someone asks that very question.
Each week is different, a different dynamic, different personalities, different outcomes
and I like that it makes them unique, as your experience should be.

Q: What would you do if someone spoke Spanish?
A: This is THE cardinal sin!!! Whether you are English or Spanish, do NOT speak
Spanish. It defeats the purpose of you being here. If you speak Spanish and we hear you, you will be reminded of the rules, if caught again you will be removed without question.
Please don’t, it’s not worth it ;)

Q: Have you ever had to remove someone from the program?
A: Sadly yes, but only for good reasons.
Speaking Spanish, drunk and disorderly, inappropriate behaviour, not wanting to
participate (I’m on holiday attitude).
Any of the above reasons and others besides will be enough to have you removed from
the program and people have gone for these very reasons.

Q: Does the program really work?
A: Yes, I wouldn't work for something I didn't believe in. Having said that like everything
else in life, you get out of it what you put in. You will not speak fluently in 5 days.
However you will feel more confident in your ability to speak English, have less fear about making mistakes and leave knowing that you CAN actually speak English
(at least on some level).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Waiting to exhale

So that's it another year over... ...for Vaughan programs that is.
I first met Carmen (the P.D.) 3 years ago this very week, when I did the program as an Anglo (I was 'THE MAGICIAN' on that program) and Greg was the MC. So it has been a while since we did a Xmas program together; now of course I'm the MC with some 70 odd programs under my belt. It was a fantastic program and great sharing the Xmas period with you once again.

I was surprised to see such a large group as typically this time of year tends to be smaller groups, but we had 18 Spaniards and 19 Anglos.
The tapas not great again competing with football, poor tapas and 5 missing Anglos at tapas.

Sadly as I think I have mentioned this before, pickpocketing is on the increase and 2 participants had the pockets picked when they arrived in Madrid.
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don't fall victim to this.
The latest con seems to be: someone approaches you from the front, tugs on the bottom of your trousers as if adjusting them, when you lean over to look down at what they are doing their friend dips into your pocket!!!
Keep your eyes open - do NOT leave bags out of sight/reach (or even strapped to your back) - move your wallets out of your back pockets.

The hotel in Gredos has had some improvements made; which was good to see.
The major one being that the hotels logo/name was redesigned. Previously on the windows and doors of the hotel was the companies name IZAN, which was ok, but from inside of the hotel looking out it read NAZI which was not so good. Someone has had the intelligence to now call it IZANHOTELES with their logo built in and its simply read from inside looking out, much better.
We now have some nice LG Flatscreen TVs in all the rooms - which Carmen noticed actually picks up Vaughan Radio!!!
Now if they could just improve the WIFI signal and maybe put in a communal computer; hint hint ;)

It threatened to snow all week, but it didn't fortunately. I did see on the TV however that Salamanca was covered in snow this week.
On Wednesday I awoke to a path covered in black ice - of course not noticing it - I fell, not once but twice then struggling to stand up, I jumped for my life to the grass (ok, slight exaggeration, but only slight). My wrist took the brunt of the fall; which really hurt.
Sadly I was not alone, several of the participants also fell.
As typical the path was only salted after the accidents; really people, proactive is the way!

The entertainment was enjoyable and quite a few of the returning vets got involved with some nice additions to the program. About half the group we had this week were repeat Anglos, as we had so many vets it also meant a lot of changes to scripts and ideas and games.

The meeting room was out of action for most of the week due to being filled with the old TVs and later it was just too cold. We finally managed to use it on Thursday (just in time for the party).
For a novelty I decided that we would have a secret Santa (invisible friend in Spain).
The catch was you couldn't spend any money, so creativity was important, and boy did they rise to the challenge; very impressive folks!

The party was strange, kind of a slow starter, then almost everyone disappeared for about 30 mins, then as usual when I was just about to call it an early night everyone shown up?!
The hotel would be wise to use the upstairs room as a mini bar, easier for them and participants and they would make more money. We had Mulled wine instead of Sangria; more festive.

Tough week for me as I have several issues to resolve privately and I need to know where I'm heading next year, but also this is the anniversary of my brothers passing (anniversary is so not the right word), so that was heavy in my heart.

Still no official news on the venue or dates for next year!?

The photos (and there are many!) can be accessed below
Vaughan Town - Gredos - Program 196

The last thing I want to say is Merry Christmas or Feliz Navidad to you all ;)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Just for laughs

Men vs Women

Procrastination Workflow

A Brands Perfect Day

Friday, December 04, 2009

Public Speaking 101

Some additional information on Public Speaking and tips to help you improve... ...or not!

Fear of speaking



Know your facts

Body Language

Eye Contact

Spell Checking
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