Houdini at Muzeo Anaheim

Today, The Husband and I spent a few hours at Muzeo in Anaheim, California, one of our favorite museums.  It’s a small exhibition space with the flexibility to be set up individually for each show.   Previous shows have included selections of Cheech Marin’s Latino artwork, Napoleon’s hat, Russian religious icons and costumes from Downton Abbey, just to name a few.  The current exhibition, continuing until January 22, is Houdini Unchained: The Legacy of Harry Houdini.

Here are some highlights:

One of the more lurid posters.

Born in Budapest as Erhich Weisz, his early life taught him creativity and hard work when his father could not earn enough to keep the family together in America. Harry left the family to lighten the burden on his father and went from job to job, city to city, until he was able to reunite the family in NYC. He discovered a love for magic and started touring with other magic and vaudeville acts, learning from generous older magicians as he went.

He also worked in Dime Museums, which I’d never heard of. According to Wikipedia, they were “designed as centers for entertainment and moral education for the working class”. If you’ve ever seen The Greatest Showman, the venue that Barnum opened in New York was a dime museum, filled with freak shows, circus acts and other “lowbrow” entertainment, including magicians.


He met his wife, Bess, when she and her sister had an act of their own. Because she was so small, she was an excellent partner for his early magic acts. They were devoted to each other for the rest of their lives (and beyond!).

I thought this was pretty cool and neither The Husband nor I had ever heard that he contributed in this way.

Here are some of his actual handcuffs and other stage props:

Custom made lock picks

Shackles and handcuffs used by Houdini.

Full table, detail of the foot pedal and explanation of the Flower Automation Illusion.

I think the first two above are replica’s but the milk can I’m standing beside is the real deal! It’s one of several that still exist.

He was also an inventor but refused to patent most of his inventions for fear of people ripping him off. Here’s one thing he did get a patent for:

The requisite Silly Husband photos.

At the end of his life, after his mother died, he briefly became obsessed with reaching her in the afterlife. However, he quickly glommed onto the tricks the spiritualists were using because he’d used them in his act in various ways himself. He devoted several years before his own death to exposing the charlatans, going so far as appearing before congress to beg for laws forbidding fortune telling and seances. He lost the friendship of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a follower of the Spiritualist movement.

The last exhibit was set up as a seance. The Houdini’s had made a pact that the first to pass away would try to get a message to the survivor. Every year for the next ten years after Houdini’s untimely and suspicious death, Bess would have a seance with the hope that Harry would finally get through to her with a prearranged code. A recording from the last seance, in 1936, plays on a loop as you wander through the room. Can you say, “Spooky”??!!

At the time of his death, Houdini was serving as the president of the Society of American Magicians.

At one point, Houdini formed a moving picture company but after two films ran over budget and were not received well, he moved on to other things.

Dr. Randall Bell is the collector who made this exhibit possible. Thanks, it was fascinating!

There are several screens showing many of his outdoor strait jacket and shackle escapes, both dangling from wires and thrown into rivers across the country, as advertisements for his stage shows.  I didn’t think to try to photograph them – Duh!

He would also go into police stations and, with journalists in tow, have the officers handcuff him with their own cuffs, which would take him a minute or less to escape from.  Eventually, he brought the cops to his shows and made them part of the act.

Words to live by, in his own hand.

If you’re in the area (right down the street from the Happiest Place on Earth), you’ve got another couple of weeks to partake of this magical exhibit. If you’re not near, I hope this post gave you a few minutes of fun and wonder.

My Word of the Year 2023 – Compose

Happy New Year, Everybody!!

Can you believe it’s 2023?!  Whether you’re a young whippersnapper or a young-at-heart boomer, time flies. Whether we’re having fun or not.  So I hope you’re making the most of it!

Do you pick a word of the year to focus your intentions?  It’s a January thing and usually falls by the wayside by February but here goes anyway! 

My word for 2023 is:

COMPOSE

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Holiday Movies in Disguise

So, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) went well.  I added over 10,000 words to the 11,611 I started with on my cozy mystery, so I’m happy.  Lots more to write, then edit, so still slogging merrily away 😊

But it’s also the holidays!  We don’t do a lot of decorating but we do have a lot of favorite holiday movies we watch.

Here are a couple of movies I watch during the holidays that you might not necessarily associate with Christmas.

I’m starting with the movie I’m most conflicted about.  I shouldn’t like You’ve Got Mail.  It’s about a big box book store moving into a New York City neighborhood that wants to close all the competition, including The Little Shop Around the Corner.  Tom Hanks plays Joe Fox, the charming figurehead of the big bad bookstore, Fox Books and Meg Ryan plays Kathleen Kelly, who is desperately trying to keep alive her late mother’s childrens bookstore.  Hanks and Ryan are at their peak, playing people who are sworn enemies in real life, not realizing that they’re falling in love via anonymous email (the sound of AOL connecting to the internet!  LOL!).  Part of the story takes place during December, so there are Christmas trees and gift buying, which makes this a holiday movie to me.

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Gray Mare’s Oatmeal Survey

It’s been a while since the last blog post!  October was National Novel Writing Month prep and this month I’ve been working on the cozy mystery I was prepping for.  It’s going slower than I’d hoped but I’m a slow writer and just getting the words down is a win!  I do tend to go down research rabbit holes—this week, I learned a lot about electronic fingerprinting…  So, if I can get halfway through during NaNoWriMo, I’ll be very happy.

As it’s gotten chilly here in SoCal, the urge for some comforting oatmeal has been strong.  I thought it might be interesting to compare the different offerings I’ve ordered recently.

Corner Bakery

The only overnight oats in the bunch, I’d ordered this at the Santa Ana restaurant and loved it.  The oatmeal is refreshingly cold, thick and flavored with vanilla yogurt.  Add the dried cranberries, raisins, apple and banana slices for even more texture and goodness.  Plus, it comes with a raisin pecan sweet crisp!  It’s pretty yummy and there’s also a version that adds almonds, strawberries and blueberries.

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Gray Mare Gets Movin’

So, preparing to take a walk this morning, I went to the front door to see how cool it was.  Didn’t expect to see a light drizzle dripping from the eves and the street all shiny.  Bummer!  The pleasantly overcast mornings lately have made for really good walking weather.  Oh well, Plan B!

I have a couple of Leslie Sansone’s DVD’s but this is my favorite.  Lots of walking, knee lifts, side to sides, etc.  Like any exercise program, you can be as lazy or as energetic as you feel on any given day.  Today was medium energy and I used the hand weights.  And, like many exercise programs, there’s lots of encouraging patter that you can easily tune out and let your mind wander as you try not to bang into the furniture.  It’s a fun alternative when I need it.

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A Ghost Story for October

It’s been a minute since I last posted.  I’ve been doing some writing and editing.  Also, planning for NaNoWriMo next month (that’s National Novel Writing Month), hoping to write the first draft of my cozy mystery during November.   

And I binge watched Younger, a show about a 40-year-old posing as 26 when she can’t find a job in publishing at “her age”.   Starring Sutton Foster, Hillary Duff and Debi Mazar, I was alternately charmed, frustrated and amused.  Highly recommended-it’s a great show but you’ve been warned, there will be times when you’ll want to take characters and shake some sense into them, which really is the sign of any good soap opera!

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Lessons in Grief – Part 5

I woke up this morning to a notification on my phone.  The royal family had been summoned to Balmoral Castle as Queen Elizabeth was under “medical supervision”. 

It brought me straight back to the morning last March when I got a similar summons.  Off and on all morning, memories of the panic to book flights and the dread of the next few days surfaced.  Signing into the hospital for the End of Life ward.  Feeding The Mom orange sherbet.  Too much emotion to process.

When the announcement came later in the morning that the Queen had died, though her death wasn’t totally unexpected, it was a shock because she’d been on her feet, greeting Liz Truss, the new Prime Minister, on Tuesday. 

Continue reading “Lessons in Grief – Part 5”

Books of a Lifetime ~ The Cracker Factory

The third book in my Books of a Lifetime series is The Cracker Factory, by Joyce Rebeta-Burditt, one of my top three favorite books ever.  Written in 1977, I probably picked it up in the early 80’s.  It tells the story of Cassie Barrett, an alcoholic wife and mother.  Her life is the definition of chaos as she tries to get her problems under control; dealing with her husband and mother, who she thinks are conniving against her (they are!), her three children, her lover and her shrink.  Plus all the patients and medical folks she meets in her stays at a psychiatric hospital.

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An Evening with Emergency!

The Husband and I indulged in a bit of nostalgia recently.  The TV show, Emergency!, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.  Honestly, I didn’t know it started that early in the 70’s…  I would have sworn it was the late 70’s…  Anyway, being a process/procedural kind of girl, I always enjoyed that show, seeing the elaborate rescues, mostly, but also the medical techniques of both the paramedics and the doctors in the hospital.

A few months ago, I saw the 50th anniversary show listed in a schedule for the Cerritos Performing Arts Center and I thought that would be fun, so we grabbed tickets.  I noticed that earlier in the day, there would also be festivities at the LA County Fire Museum nearby.  I had no idea what a big deal this really was, though, until we heard the whole story of Jack Webb’s call for a new show.

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Lessons in Grief – Part 4

I took the pictures of the photos in this post a few weeks ago.  I was fine, even kind of methodical, going through the box of pics, looking for the happiest smiles.

However, when I sat down to start this post, I was looking through the pictures in my phone’s gallery and started sobbing.

Just a bonus lesson in grief, I guess…

Here’s how it started:  The Mom didn’t particularly like having her picture taken.  She’d tolerate it but you could tell she wasn’t comfortable with cameras.  So, when I was looking through the photographs I brought home from my mother’s apartment, I noticed that her biggest smiles and uninhibited camera engagement were when she was traveling.

Usually she booked tours, where everything was done for her, from the meals to the itinerary to the transportation.  All she had to do was get to the airport, meet up with the group and enjoy herself.  My introverted mother made friends all over the world as she got to see all the sights on her bucket list.

Here are the happiest samples:

Olympic Stadium, Athens

Continue reading “Lessons in Grief – Part 4”