Friday, April 24, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- U is for Songs That Start With 'Under' / 5 on Friday -- Set 269

This is my fifth year participating in the A to Z Challenge. It's the first year that I wasn't able to complete the challenge by April 30th.

However, like those marathon runners whose main goal is to finish what they started, knowing they'll cross the finish line hours behind the top three, I'm going to carry on and complete the challenge.

Because there are so many participants, many bloggers spend the next few months visiting all of the other participants now that the posting schedule has slowed down. To see how the challenge wrap-up works, click HERE.

I'm going to backdate my entries so that they make chronological sense, but I'll also include the true posting date. I'm all out of sequence and I'm just going to finish the posts as I get to them.

So what happened? I had several things going on at once, the deal-breaker being my main computer going in the shop. I had to make some pacing choices, as I have learned to do as part of my treatment for chronic pain and fatigue issues. Believe it or not, setting the A to Z Challenge aside was actually me making progress.

And now, dear readers -- on with the show.

For today's blog challenge, let me introduce you to my regular Friday feature: 

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

This week's set is made up of songs that start with the word 'under'. They remind us that experiencing something that feels like bearing weight can be a turning point in our lives, while being beneath a structure can offer a sense of shelter. 

1 - Over, Under, Sideways, Down - The Yardbirds 

2 - Under My Thumb - The Rolling Stones 

3 - Under Pressure - Queen featuring David Bowie 


4 - Down Under - Men at Work 

5 - Under the Boardwalk - The Drifters  


True posting date: May 11, 2015

Friday, April 17, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- O is for Songs That Start With 'On' / 5 on Friday -- Set 268

Here we are at Day 15, where O is for On.

Just a note for anyone dropping in for the A to Z Challenge:

I'm behind by four posts this week, as I was actively working online on behalf of the film and television industry here in my province of Nova Scotia. To check out what's going on, you can read up here:

For today's blog challenge, let me introduce you to my regular Friday feature: 

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

This week's set is made up of songs that start with the word 'on'. They call us to take our places, to dig deep within ourselves, and to make the move from dreams to action. 

1 - On Broadway - George Benson 

2 - On the Good Ship Lollipop - Shirley Temple 

3 - On the Street Where You Live - Harry Connick Jr. 


4 - On My Own - Samantha Barks 

5 - On a Clear Day - Frank Sinatra  


Saturday, April 11, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- J is for John Knowles

Some days it's good to have a plan, and other days it's good to remain open to whatever shows up unannounced.

To wrap up Week 2 of the A to Z Challenge, I couldn't ask for a better windfall than my friend arriving in town from Australia.

On Day 10, J is for John Knowles.

That's John, second from left, top row. I'm second from right, front row.

We met in high school when we both sang in the Prince Andrew Chorus. We were fortunate to have a thriving arts community within our working-class high school. To me, it felt like we were in a Fame-style school, where our choir basically arranged our own end-of-the-year variety shows as well as performed in the Kiwanis Music Festival under the direction of our choir director, Jim Farmer.

We also took part in one large-scale musical production every year, which were separate from the plays produced by the drama department. Somewhere in there we also managed to squeeze in some schoolwork.

So, getting back to John.

If you look up the phrase "stole the show", well, that's John Knowles in a nutshell.

He and I were cast several times as the secondary comedy-relief couple. That started after our first foray into musical theatre, when John's tiny part in the sprawling Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat -- starring Not John -- quickly became whispered warnings to "Watch Knowles!" and "Here comes Knowles!" 

By our second year and our second musical, The Pajama Game, John was stealing the audience's attention away from center stage during Hernando's Hideaway just by making his 'extra business' the funniest material we'd ever seen.

By our graduating year, when I was sharing choreographer duties with Heather shown at right (that's me at left) John and I were the B-story couple of cowboy Will Parker and Ado Annie in Oklahoma!

John and I were good friends and we had great chemistry onstage. However, there was one aspect where John's performance style and mine did not line up.

I preferred to learn all of my lines, rehearse our scenes and know what to expect once we stepped out of the wings.

John knew the lines. He knew the scenes. He remembered what we rehearsed. He simply preferred to improvise, because that's where his light shines brightest. It's what made those "Here comes Knowles" whispers ripple through the audience.

As much as it personally freaked me out back in the day to be onstage dealing with improv when I'm not an improv person, when John moved from eastern Canada to his mom's original home country of Australia I wasn't too surprised when he proceeded to forge out a career doing theatre sports and improv theatre.

Fast forward to his latest trip to Canada.

Another friend from high school is involved with a live-performance theatre in the Annapolis Valley. He says to John, "Well, you have to do your show while you're here. I'll set it all up." 

My husband and I hop in the car and make a two-hour drive to the Evergreen Theatre in Margaretsville, close to Kingston and Canadian Forces Base Greenwood.

John proceeds to do his one-man show, pulling a rabbit out of a hat for a full house.

John settles in and begins regaling us with stories running the gamut from laugh-till-I-cry to tears of emotion. Some of the stories I know because of my friendship with John, but most of them I don't know and experience like any audience member.

He touches on childhood stories, on how he managed to survive some rather wild teenaged exploits and moves into rather touching manhood stories. He jumps through time back and forth with the story thread driving the evening, making it all seem like he's not in front of an audience at all but just sharing moments of his life with us over a coffee or a beer. Yet that's classic Knowles. His talent for drawing us in seems so natural that we forget he's actually constructing a verbal autobiography with the clarity of mature perspective.

I especially enjoyed the montage sequence at the end, quickly recapping the highly-charged bits like a movie trailer.

For those of you in the Sydney, Australia area on Apr. 28th and 30th / May 2nd all at 7:00 pm, and May 3rd at 6:00 pm -- John 's Storytiller one-man show is part of the Sydney Comedy Festival at The Factory Theatre

Friday, April 10, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- I is for Songs That Start With 'In' / 5 on Friday -- Set 267

Here we are at Day 9 already, where I is for In.

For today's blog challenge, let me introduce you to my regular Friday feature: 

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

This week's set is made up of songs that start with the word 'in'. They call us to enter, to surround ourselves and to experience. 

1 - In the Still of the Night - Ella Fitzgerald 

2 - In My Life - The Beatles 

3 - In Dreams - Roy Orbison 


4 - In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning - Frank Sinatra 

5 - In the Mood - Glenn Miller Orchestra  


Thursday, April 9, 2015

I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas today -- Join me for the A to Z Blog Challenge

Join me at The Popculturedivas for A to Z Blog Challenge -- H is for Hitting Milestones.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- G is for Gate (Film Camera Access to Light Exposure)

If you're a fan of watching the Making Of extras on DVDs, you may have encountered the phrase "Check the gate"  as the crew finishes a take on set.

What does that mean, exactly?

A film gate is the access to light exposure necessary for an image to be captured on film. Covered by glass, it's located in the body of the camera between the film as it rolls by, and the camera lens which controls how much light passes through the gate to the film stock.

Because of the static created by the rolling film stock, there is a continual tendency for the gate to attract dust particles or the dreaded hair.

Due to the nature of film, where a take is the culmination of an entire crew of artists and technicians, all of whom must be paid, not to mention the cost of the entire production divided by each take, each shot carries a monetary value generally of thousands of dollars.

A director must be willing to shoot multiple takes in order to get what he or she needs. There is no value in doing all of the pre-production work, then giving all the effort for the scene only to leave before everything gels.

There is always a fine balancing act between knowing how much money each take is costing, and knowing that the film must be served.

One thing no one wants to do -- shoot another take because there was a hair in the gate.

Who gets the job of checking the gate following each take?

The 1st Assistant Camera person or focus puller has this critical job.

Here's a brief glimpse at ruined footage with a rather massive hair-in-the-gate problem.

Here's a quick how-to in avoiding this manageable problem. The camera used is a super-8 camera, but every type of camera used in professional film shoots will follow a similar procedure.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- F is for Film

It's Day 6 of the A to Z Challenge.

Here at A Piece of My Mind, F is definitely for Film. I graduated from Ryerson Polytechnic University's film program, so it's next to impossible for me to make up Top Ten lists like this one.

Yet, what's a challenge without an obstacle that truly tests my skills and resolve?

Here are my Top Ten Films From 2000 Onwards

I've grouped them by genre, so the numbering is merely to keep track of them and not to rank them against each other. They're basically my favorites in their genres, anyway.

1 - Night Watch (Nochnoy dozor) - (2004) / Day Watch (Dnevnoy dozor) - (2006)

2 - Watchmen (2009)

3 - Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003)

5 - Gladiator (2000)

6 - Kate and Leopold (2001)

8 - Moulin Rouge! (2001)

9 - Hot Fuzz (2007)

Monday, April 6, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- E Equals the Five 'E's for Creative People

Week 2 of the A to Z Blog Challenge opens with five elements that should be in every creative person's toolbox.

EQUIP Yourself

For a tradesperson such as a construction worker, what is one of the first things you think about when you picture this person? For me, the tool belt worn on the body, ready with the tools he needs at arms' length when walking onto the job site comes to mind.

For some reason, many people with creative dreams are hesitant to take that first step and begin to equip themselves with the tools they need in order to transform from the dreaming-about-it stage into the actually-doing-it stage.

Perhaps finances are a problem. Start somewhere -- save a bit here and there, but with purpose. You'll eventually have enough to purchase that first piece of equipment that starts you on the road to turning your creative concept into something tangible.

EMPLOY Assistance

As much as a creative person needs the world to stop while she gets down to working on her project, the world keeps right on spinning.

How do you carve out the time you need in order to write, paint, sculpt, take photos, sew?

The same way you would show up for a day job: make an appointment with your creative project and keep it.

If you need to find someone to look after your children for several hours so you can work on your book, head out with your camera or sit down uninterrupted at your sewing machine, book that time with a sitter. Ever hear the phrase 'put your money where your mouth is'? Take your creative work time seriously, as seriously as you would a pay cheque day job.

EFFECTIVE Use of Time 

So you've got your tools and you've carved out your time to work. Don't be surprised at a strange phenomenon -- you haven't chosen the right time for you.

This is something only you can discover.

It all comes down to whether you're a daytime person or a night owl. One of those two segments of the day will be your 'on' time, where the ideas are flowing easily and you feel like you're on fire.

If you're a daytime person and you try to be creative following your day job and once the kids are in bed, you will spend lots of time yawning and gazing at your computer screen while getting nothing accomplished. Try setting the alarm clock a few hours early and claiming those hours for yourself, before the rest of the world gets up.


This is a very difficult thing to manage, especially if you're not working full time in your creative life. Juggling family life, a day job, a social life and the day-to-day errands can use up all the energy you've got before you even attempt to work on your project.

This is where pacing comes in.

You may feel like a thoroughbred in the starting gates, bursting with ideas and energy. It's quite like the start of a love affair, finally working on your dreams. If we think of those thoroughbred horses, however, there are a few things to keep in mind about those high-octane athletes. They are trained carefully for stamina and speed, and then retired after only a few years of racing -- because they are already burnt out at three years old. They shine brilliantly but briefly at an elite level of athleticism. A creative person generally wants to run more of a marathon than perform at sprint levels.

If you burn the candle at both ends for too long, your creative work will suffer. Learn to conserve your own energy and to build up your stamina over time.

ENGAGE Your Muse

In order to have a creative well that you can dip into, you need to replenish that well regularly.

This may require blocking off time to yourself so you can simply be.

Sometimes this means a date with yourself, where you employ assistance so that you can head out shopping with a friend instead of working on your project. Perhaps you and your husband need a night out at the movies. Maybe there's an exhibit at the museum and you really, really want to see it.

Instead of thinking of these things as time wasters and frivolous indulgences, as a creative person you require inspiration in order to be in close contact with your muse. Give these renewal periods the same importance as you would your writing time or your sketching time. You'll find that you spend less time staring at a blank page when you and your muse have a healthy relationship.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- D is for Dragonsfyre series

As I mentioned during my intro on Day 1, I'm an indie author with two books released.

Day 2 was B for my Brotherhood of Blood series, a dark ages vampire tale set in Wales.

Today on Day 4, D is for my Dragonsfyre dark fantasy series.

What is dragonsfyre, you may ask?

In the Eighth Dominion, where magic is outlawed and where nobles fear their power-hungry family as much as any enemy, dragonsfyre has two meanings, each equally apt to put a chill in the heart.

The first is fairly straightforward.

The population of the Eighth Dominion lives in fear of dragon sightings. In this realm, a solitary dragon may make its lair in their kingdom, and will emerge from its den to feed from time to time. However, though many have tried to predict the timelines of the dragon, no one has been able to accurately do so since magic was outlawed many generations ago.

Because of this, the nobles and servants alike live in dread of the scorched lands left behind by actual dragon's fire.

Dragonsfyre, however, is a powdered substance made from the crushed orange-colored fungus that grows in the mountainous regions inhabited by the shadowy Sibiu people. Hard to obtain, it is used exclusively by an order of monks during an ordeal ceremony.

In this ceremony, a monk inhales the dragonfyre powder, which causes the initiate to experience two things: first, his psyche will suddenly be confronted with those times in his life which carry the most guilt. Second, he will experience excruciating, burning nerve pain throughout his physical body.

If the initiate has achieved his full training, he will no longer be disturbed by guilt, and his body will not burn with dragonsfyre.

Because the Eighth Dominion is a cruel land, this powder -- which is never supposed to be in the hands of anyone except for monks at the completion of their training -- has become an interrogation tool amongst the nobility. Men commonly spill their secrets even without inhaling the dreaded powder, even if it is merely whispered that they might be subjected to it.

I'm currently at work on this series, with book 1 released as Bound by Dragonsfyre.

Here is an excerpt of what I'm currently working on.

Elysienne, daughter of Lord Visigard, House of Pruzhnino – age 3

Her tummy burned for something to eat. She turned to locate Nurse, hoping it was time to leave the garden to go back inside for tea.
Nurse already stood from the bench, her stitching dropped from her lap onto the gravel path, her neck craned to look up.
Elysienne followed her gaze. A dark bird loomed in the distance, flapping such big, big wings.
            The guards watching over them bolted towards the manor house, scooping up the children as they ran. Nurse gasped in terror, frozen for a moment on the gravel path.
            Elysienne reached up and took Nurse’s hand, tugging as she headed in the same direction as the guards. Thankfully, that action seemed to snap Nurse from her reverie.
            An eerie sensation raised the hairs on the back of Elysienne’s neck. In the distance, a horrid sound of swooshing wings made her wish she’d never heard anything so large and terrifying. Her little legs ran as fast as they could, but the flap-flap of the enormous being dwarfed the efforts of all of them.
            Nurse and the guards had only managed to herd the children as far as the little roofed garden house with no walls that Elysienne liked to pretend was a palace. There were still the lawns and the flower gardens to pass through before they got to the safety of the double doors that led to the breakfast room.
            The massive flying thing hung in the air overhead, casting them all into shadow. Nurse and Elysienne stopped running, since it made no difference now. They could never hope to get away from it.
            Instead, they stood and stared up at the scaly body, the frightening stretch of the leathery wings and the clawed feet gliding above them. Elysienne heard other children screaming and some of the guards shouting orders, but she and Nurse were silent as they stood hand in hand, looking up.
            The giant mouth opened and the massive eye stared.
            Another flap-flap, and the thing had flown past their manor house, on its way over the forest lands. As it headed over the treetops, that open mouth screeched out a sound that Elysienne could never have imagined existed in the world.

© 2015 Julia Phillips Smith

Friday, April 3, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- C is for Cadence / 5 on Friday -- Set 266

Week 1 of 2015's A to Z Blog Challenge is rolling along smoothly. Here we are at Day 3 already, where C is for Cadence.

Cadence can also be said to be the tempo or rhythm of a thing. In musical terms, a cadence produces a sense of resolution at the end of a phrase.

For today's blog challenge, let me introduce you to my regular Friday feature: 

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

This year I'll be taking a once-a-month look at specific instruments and showcasing five songs or tunes which place that instrument front and center.

This year's feature is called Spotlight On...

...and for our fourth installment, I'm venturing out from the primal body instruments to explore percussion. Here are five songs which shine a spotlight on drums, which turn the discord of cacophony into the resolution of cadence.

1 - Ticket to Ride - The Beatles - drummer Ringo Star - 1965

Ringo was an integral piece of the phenomenon known as The Beatles. He takes his place in the Top 500 drummers according to Drummerworld. Never a flashy soloist, Ringo was instead an equal fourth of a unit that changed the face of popular music.

2 - Babylon Sisters - Steely Dan - drummer Bernard Purdie - 1980

A trailblazing rhythm and blues/funk drummer, Purdie is most famous for his signature 'Purdie Shuffle' which is front and center in this Steely Dan tune. Also known as a Half-Time shuffle, it's "created with six bass, high-hat and snare tones, the Purdie Shuffle is a groove that seems to spin in concentric circles as it lopes forward...a Tilt-a-Whirl of sound," wrote David Segal for the New York Times (March 2009).  

3 - Walking on the Moon - The Police - drummer Stewart Copeland - 1979

Another drummer who is an integral third part of a musical trio, Copeland says: "I was trying to figure out how to drag out my three chops to last long enough to be called a drum solo, as opposed to a drum break." Voted high on the greatest-drummers-of-all-time lists by Rolling Stone and Music Radar, Copeland -- like Ringo Starr -- shines by knowing when not to play.   

4 - Rock and Roll - Led Zeppelin - drummer John Bonham - 1972

Powerful drummer John Bonham is known as the godfather of hard rock drumming, which takes rhythm and blues percussion to a different level. He often rivals the # 5 drummer on this list as World's Top Drummer in fan voting lists, critics choices and influence on the drummers who followed him. Technique alone doesn't place a drummer on those lists. Innovation + heart and soul + technique + intensity = the staying power of this exceptional player.

5 - Tom Sawyer - Rush - drummer Neil Peart - 1981

Currently in the midst of an Ultimate Classic Rock smackdown, Peart battled by reader votes against Keith Moon where he demolished the legendary Who drummer 83% - 17%. Recently holding his own against Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham 67% - 33%, the voting is now closed in the final round of this star-powered showdown. Because Peart has already been named as the top drummer in the world by Rolling Stone magazine, numerous radio station countdowns and fan compilations, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that he'll emerge triumphant from this final round.