January 25

Books in the Attic

This short story was originally published in the Fall 2013 Central Ontario Edition of The Curious Consignment Shopper.


I feel the chill of autumn in the air on this late summer’s day. My father’s demise came too soon, before we could repair our relationship, so here I am, in his house, in his attic, packing it up and clearing it out. My three sisters are all downstairs trying to help, but they are mostly overcome with sadness. Being the only man, I feel the need to throw my feelings aside and just haul boxes.

My six-year-old daughter, Ava, has also come along to “help.”

“Daddy, why are there so many books?” she asks.

“Grandpa didn’t use a tablet for stories. He never got into it, and instead of going to the library, he just bought a book every time he wanted something to read.”

“Oh, will you read me a story?” Ava asks.

I rifle through the old man’s collection of hundreds of books to finally find a short illustrated story about a little lost dragon.

There is something familiar about the smell, the texture, and the words. The attic smells a bit like a library, and it reminds me that this was once home. I feel an overwhelming sense of happiness and warmth as I read the final words of the story: “…and the little dragon would always find his way home again.”

Ava smiles at me and asks: “can I keep the dragon book?”

“You have lots to read on your tablet, sweetie,” I reply.

“It’s not the same,” she says in a bit of a whiny voice.

A huge smile comes across my face. I remember the simple time when my father read me this exact same book. This tangible object, which has lasted longer than any tablet ever could, represents my greatest memories, and now my child wants that too.

“Yes, of course, my sweet Ava. You can keep the book. It is different! It’s better.”

January 12

PrairieSeen

Below is a promotional review that I wrote for the PrairieSeen website.

PrairieSeen provides a unique look into the Edmonton arts community. Local artists, Chelsey and Tori, through the use of articles, reviews, and interviews, have created an open and engaging conversation about the Edmonton arts scene. Event listings, job postings, and gallery profiles are just part of the PrairieSeen offering to help get you started, connected, and engaged in Edmonton’s rich and diverse arts community. Whether you are a local artist or aficionado, PrairieSeen’s submissions allow you to join the dialogue and have your voice heard by Edmonton’s community of artists and art lovers. If you’re a fan of art in Edmonton, stop by http://prairieseen.tumblr.com/ and check out the work of PrairieSeen’s featured artists and writers.

June 12

Experience Tea

This piece was originally a writing test that I did to show my ability to write a positive review. This was not written for Teavana. Teavana is more than bulk loose leaves; it’s where tea lovers go to experience a cup of comfort, brewed to perfection. Teavana’s sommeliers of the tea world have a welcoming and open nature to the first time buyer and the seasoned expert. Brewing time, filters, types of tea, and even what to pair with your drink all factor into the taste. At Teavana they know this, live this, and train for this. If you’re new to the tea world, you can:

  • go into the store;
  • ask to smell a few different blends;
  • get a single cup;
  • and when you’re ready, buy the oolong, green, black, or herbal that’s right for you.

This summer, cool off with an Exotic Iced Tea at any one of the Teavana locations across North America. See http://www.teavana.com/retail for more information.

March 18

A Tablet to Bridge the Gap

Below is a portfolio piece that I wrote for Computer’s for Communities. You can find the article at http://computersforcommunities.ca/c4c/sites/default/files/C4C-Newsletter-March%202013.pdf

Tux, the Linux penguin
Tux, the Linux penguin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The new PengPod touch tablet ships in January 2013 with Linaro, an Ubuntu based Linux kernel.

What are the benefits for an average user?

  1. Affordable – the product will be selling for around $100 for a 7 inch display.

  2. Access – the user gets access to a desktop version of Linux and all the apps that come with that, including a standard browser (Firefox), email software (Thunderbird), office suite (Libre Office), and anything else that runs on Linux.

  3. Upgrade – Linux is often easy on resources, and since it’s free and open source, upgrading your tablet makes it possible to keep your software up-to-date for years after your purchase.

  4. Easy to Use – for those who aren’t used to Linux, you might think this is beyond your capabilities, but this is a true desktop version of Linux, so you can simply touch an app to get what you need.

  5. Power – many tablets have reduced capability. It’s often stressed that they are not computers; they are tablets, more like toys than anything else. This tablet is powered with Linux, which makes it as capable as many computers out there with all the functionality of a tablet.

What are the features?

  1. 1GB Ram

  2. 32GB Storage

  3. 7” or 10” display

  4. 1 USB (7”) or 2 USBs (10”)

  5. Camera

  6. Speakers

  7. Wifi

  8. Ethernet

  9. 3G

  10. Bluetooth

  11. HDMI

  12. Head Phone Jack

This tablet is more than just affordable and powerful; it’s a device that can help the world to bridge the gap in the digital divide. The PengPod is portable, easy and free to upgrade software on, and it has the intuitive use of a tablet with the power of a computer. It’s true that not every household can afford $100, but at such a low price, it makes a great investment for something that can access the internet, get a student through his homework, get an adult through his office work, and play high definition video.

December 19

Interview with Tiffani Thiessen

Below is an interview I did with Tiffani Thiessen, originally written for Events Quarterly.

Ryan: I understand that you have started a production company, working closely with Dean Johnson. What can you tell us about him and the production company?

Tiffani: Dean and I have worked together for almost ten years. But it was in 2003 that we re-connected professionally and partnered to form Tit 4 Tat Productions — a full scale production company that would allow us to identify, develop, and produce a range of projects across diverse mediums, whether it be a televison series, a film or even a collaborative effort on a children’s book.

At the time we formed the production company, Dean had just released his first book, “Life. Be There at 10 ‘Til.” And with that momentum, we jumped in and decided to not only start the company but produce our first project, the film “Just Pray,” which Dean also wrote and I directed. Interestingly enough, now on the verge of our children’s book series and the release of the film, Dean’s book is being re-released this month.

Ryan: Does your production company work on “Indie” type films or is your aim straight for Hollywood?

Tiffani: Independent films are Hollywood as much as studio or mainstream films. They (independent) very much define the path that Hollywood has taken over the past few years. Look at the OSCAR winners over the past decade.

Independent films, many times, celebrate the true essence of film making. The labor of love behind these projects represents the same pioneering spirit that started Hollywood. Naturally, every director or writer would love to have their project set up at a major studio. Being able to say that you have a project at Paramount or Dreamworks is significant and powerful. But, the ability to tell a story despite limited budgets, zero marketing dollars, scale wages and very little pomp and circumstance can also be equally empowering. Movies such as Monster, Good Will Hunting, and Sideways are all Hollywood . They’re also very much of the independent geneaology.

Ryan: What made you decide you wanted to start a production company?

Tiffani: It’s not uncommon for actors to get involved in the development and production side of the camera.

Look at Drew Barrymore and her Flower Films or Sandra Bullock and Fortis Films. The list goes on. Having spent so many years on sets, working with different levels of material and building so many relationships with people, I felt capable and prepared to create a business entity that would allow me to direct and produce while complimenting my acting career. To remain stagnate and only focus on acting would be short sighted. And since I love the business and it’s all I’ve ever known, it was a natural progression to start such a company.

The pursuit of good material, making beautiful films while growing and evolving as a well-rounded talent can never be the wrong thing to do.

Ryan: I had heard that you were working on children’s books. Is this a side project or something you intend to get more involved with?

Tiffani: It is our plan to develop and write an entire series of children’s books. The series, titled, Fins & Tales, is designed to offer life lessons for the young at heart. Our stories are told through the voices of my pets which include two dogs, two cats, and a fish — hence, the title of the book. I don’t consider it a side project at all. It is a significant collaboration between Dean and me. Writing for children is a responsibility.

There is great care taken to fashion words, messages, and instructional values so that there is learning in addition to entertaining.

Ryan: Do you write for your films as well?

Tiffani: At this time in my career, I have not added screenwriter to my professional resume. Working on the children’s book with Dean is my first writing initiative. While I enjoy reading a really good script, directing has held a far greater interest for me than writing a screenplay. With my first directing project under my belt (The film, “Just Pray”), I am eager to direct again. The process of transferring words on paper to live action cinema is a wonderful opportunity to contribute and share my storytelling abilities.

Ryan: So, now you are a director and producer; have you made a transition away from acting, a sort of career evolution, or will you continue to act?

Tiffani: I think my entire career has been a deliberate process of reinvention the past two years — especially with the incorporation of Tit 4 Tat Productions. The entertainment profession, most notably acting, is not so generous to women as they grow older. The roles are fewer and consequently, competition increases over the dwindling number of roles. It would only be in my best interest to diversify just like any company or organization who desires several profitable lines of business. Pursuing other interests doesn’t mean I’m transitioning away from acting. Acting is my first love. But to better craft my own path and create opportunities for myself, I want to use what I’ve learned over the past twenty plus years in this business — it’s a very valuable education I’ve received, and it’s only appropriate that I put this education to use.

Ryan: There were two shows that I remember you most for, “Saved by the Bell” and ” Beverly Hills 90210.” Were these shows like families to you or just jobs?

Tiffani: Both shows ran for a number of years. Each respective cast spent a great deal of time together and shared so many memories. For that period of time you spend together, there is definitely a familial sense of belonging.

Ryan: Do you still speak with any of the cast of the old shows, maintain friendships?

Tiffani: Yes I do.

And the best surprises are when I run into someone who I haven’t seen or spoken to in so long. I was thrilled to have Jason Priestley, Tori Spelling and Lindsay Price at my wedding as I stay in touch with them rather closely.

Ryan: I understand you have a film, entitled “Just Pray,” that is finished production. Are there any exclusives you can give us about this film?

Tiffani: The film is currently exhibiting on the 2005 film festival circuit. We are very proud of its success and the audience response. The film was accepted into the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival and Seattle International Film Festival. Most recently we were accepted into the Academy qualifying festivals, Rhode Island International (the film won Best Score), Palm Springs, and Los Angeles International Short Film Festival.

These films are recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as qualifying festivals for the Oscar nomination consideration, should you win the Jury Award of “Best Short.” The film itself is a coming of age story about a young boy in the rural South who is asking some pretty tough questions of God. He wants answers to these very grown up questions. You can log on to www.justpraythemovie.com and you’ll see pictures of the cast, the sets and the behind the scenes action. There’s also a press link that gives you an idea of the film’s activity this past year.