Tuesday, June 28, 2011

When Worlds Collide: Houdini and Conan Doyle

One of my favorite spots for adventures, the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, has a current exhibit that I just had to attend. Writings that detail the meeting of Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It offered the potential for high drama. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

Despite being the author of the very logical and deductive detective Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle held deep beliefs in spiritualism and periodically attended seances. In fact, his wife often served as the vessel for a spirit guide named Pheneas who presented himself through her automatic writings.

Doyle and Houdini became friends around their desire to expose fake mediums who were quite popular at the turn of the Century. It was a fast friendship despite Doyle's initial unfavorable impression of Houdini.

Doyle always kept detailed notes of various seances he attended and at the very bottom of this note he writes: "As the medium was half out of my control he was observed by a very bumbling, vulgar, American who made a few indifferent jokes." The bumbler was Houdini.

Houdini believed that the creator of Sherlock Holmes would have the deductive powers of his famous character that could be used in exposing fake spiritualists. However, Doyle's tight and highly controlled handwriting belies a personal style that believed in things such as fairies. Not only did Doyle not have the deductive powers of his famous creation, he also had no interest in disproving the existence of spirits; and in fact was quite gullible on the subject.

Evidently Doyle desperately wanted Houdini to believe as he did. So much so that he and his wife arranged a seance where he hoped to speak to Houdini's mother using Mrs. Doyle as the medium. Doyle's wife claimed she had made contact but Houdini believed she was a fraud. It seems Mrs. Doyle had the habit of making a cross at the beginning of her automatic writing and Houdini doubted that his mother who was an orthodox Jew would have allowed such a practice, in addition to his Hungarian mother's inability to write in English. And, he went public with his thinking on the matter. Notice the cross at the top of the page in the picture to the left.

A very public argument erupted that shattered the relationship and ultimately turned into a feud that lasted the remainder of their lives. It was very instructive to view the writings of these two giants of the early 20th century, and yet just as sad to learn what happened when the two very different skeptical and gullible worlds collided.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A New Beginning...

This last weekend was full of activity. Among a lot of things there was a grand reopening of one of the iconic sites in Jacksonville. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

Friendship fountain was completed in 1965 and became a tourist attraction because of it's size and height. The fountain’s basin is 200 feet (61 m) in diameter holding 500,000 gallons of water. And, had three pumps with a combined 750 horsepower (560 kW) that could push 17,000 gallons per minute; some streams as tall as a 10-story building.

A lot happened between 1965 and now and gradually the fountain lost a good bit of it's luster. People actually forgot about it because over the years the pumps began to fail and no one remembered the excitement generated by the original fountain.

There was a great deal of back and forth within the City debating if in tough economic times the fountain should be restored. Ultimately $3.1 million was spent to replace the pumps and Saturday was the Grand Reopening. I skipped the opening ceremony during the day and went at night to get a few shots that I think illustrate the majesty of the restored fountain.

The pictures turned out great but only give one dimension of the fountain. This was an instance where video really captures the essence of the restoration. I hope you enjoy the clip below because it is a wonder to behold.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Tampa Conference: A Dedication to Those Who Provided Knowledge and Understanding

Attending a conference is always a time to let your hair down, but it also provides a golden opportunity to learn about trends in your profession. In addition to doing my own conference presentation, I went with a select group of trainings in mind and wanted to highlight those trainers I thought hit the mark and in the process really impressed me. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

There was a sizable number of attendees who made their way from across the state to attend the conference as you can see from this photo.

One vendor in particular got my attention. He was demonstrating a voice recognition system that promised to take some of the work out of the note taking required following a session.

You simply talk into a mic and your computer types out your notes as you speak, right down to sending an email. You can even program specific phrases relevant to your specialty and the system will insert those phrases as you speak. The term to describe this is "Macros" for the computer literate. It really was fascinating. I've included a short clip so you can see the demonstration.

There were some very interesting workshops that made my selection pretty difficult. But, I resolved to stick to my learning goals and attended those I had pre-selected.

I was more than impressed by PHD Stephen E. Wong of Florida International University. His training on “Single Case Evaluations” centered on research methods to help document the hoped for outcome of interventions. In other words: Research methods to determine if what you are doing has been effective. I have to smile as I think about his presentation. I say that because he would make a great “Method” actor. He performed various client roles to make number crunching interesting.

He even stayed behind to answer questions and make certain everyone understood right down to the last detail.

What most people don’t realize is that based on rules and regulations most therapists have to operate not only as therapist but also part lawyer to practice within the lines of permissible behavior. Two unsung heroes were Linda Kartell and Barbara Brakel. They stepped in to conduct an Ethics workshop for a presenter who could not attend, in addition to their own workshop later during the conference.

They answered questions while also making you think your way through the rules and regulations. And, they did it with grace and good humor.

All in all I enjoyed myself throughout the Conference and learned a great deal in the process. I can only hope that those who attended my workshop came away with the same feeling.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sights Around Tampa

I mentioned in an earlier post that I attended the Social Work State Conference in Tampa and really learned a lot. But, when visiting any place you know my motto: "Be sure to look around, and if possible take a picture." In that spirit, I have created a multimedia video to highlight some of the sights around Tampa.

Next post, my impressions of the Conference.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tampa On My Mind...

Despite the fact Alex and I went to Sarasota back in December of last year, we did not have a chance to visit Tampa. And then, the opportunity presented itself.

My professional organization (National Association of Social Workers - NASW) was having their State Convention and I was selected as a presenter. Tampa here I come!

My presentation "Money Communication For Couples in Conflict", was previously highlighted in part on the main blog where I discussed money Personalities. if you want to learn a little more about your own money behavior follow the link above for a condensed version over several blog posts.

I have just returned from the trip and in the process of downloading my pictures and video. So stay tuned for adventures at the Tampa Double Tree.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Final Days... 2011 Jacksonville Jazz Festival

I really hated that I missed the first day of the 2011 Jacksonville Jazz Festival. But, the final day more than made up it by its shear ability to make you want to shake your head and tap your feet.

What kept going through my head was the slogan of the event: "Can you hear it yet?" because David Sanborn and George Duke gave performances that confirmed why they have remained so popular all these years. They were timely and kept the crowd engaged with their upbeat performance. And, I made a fantastic discovery in Marcus Miller who joined the two on bass guitar. He has won numerous Grammy awards but somehow flew under the radar for me. Not anymore!

Keeping the crowd engaged was no small fete when you consider their performance took place during the middle of the afternoon, in the heat of the day. I mean we are talking Florida here, where just walking out in the sun is enough to fry you. But let the music speak for itself. The video below Is just a small part of the end of an enchanting three days of great Jazz!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

If You Build It... They Will Come: Jacksonville Jazz Festival 2011

In a previous post I mentioned that the slogan for the 2011 Jacksonville Jazz Festival was "Can you hear it yet?" and it really fit the tone for the event. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

Stage venues where set up at various points throughout downtown and music was everywhere. All you had to do was bring a chair to be part of this swinging street festival.

I chose the "Groovin " stage in front of City Hall which had the intimate feel of a Jazz club.

Despite the sizable crowd that filled Hemming Plaza, finding a seat was not a problem. Everyone was in a welcoming mood and allowed you to pitch your portable chair in a spot that provided a good vantage point.

Roy Ayers was the headline act for the evening, and he did not disappoint. His claim to fame as a Jazz musician revolves around his skill in playing the vibraphone or "vibes" in addition to being a prolific Jazz composer. The following video clip demonstrates that he is still going strong.

I hope the video gave you a sense of the mellow mood that filled the night and made it such an enjoyable evening.

Next blog: George Duke and David Sanborn montage! Be patient though, editing videos is hard work.