November 2, 2017

Remembering Toller Cranston the Mexican Way!

Dia de los Muertos ends today, so I'm reposting my shout out to Toller Cranston on Nov 2, 2015. I still miss him very much.





That's Toller in Mexico in front of some of his artwork (I believe they hung in various restaurants throughout San Miguel.)





Miss Ice Charades only lived in Mexico for two years, but that's enough to feel like I can celebrate Dia de los Muertos with the rest of them.

For those not so familiar with the Mexican holiday, which was me before going to Mexico, some describe it as "a loving tribute to a family member or friend who has died" but others seem to choose to honor a famous person who has died in the year.

It's only fitting then that my Dia de los Muertos ofrenda, or altar, is for Toller Cranston.


You have to look close to see the two photos of him, one as a skater and one as an artist.  There's lots of red in there because I know he liked that color.  There are also a few snacks and some red wine in addition to the water, since you are supposed to include these to "refresh the spirit after his journey" and candles.

What is missing is the Pan de muerto and the calaveras (sugar skulls) because there are hard to find in Princeton, New Jersey.



When we lived in Mexico City, we had an ofreda for Michael Jackson with a few more appropriate components on the table.


I wish I could have seen the bigger celebration at the Gala for the Ice Theatre of New York, but I'm honoring the most artistic figure skater ever, in my own small way.


RIP Toller Cranston


October 25, 2017

In honor of Wakaba Higushi's Free Skate and the fabulous choreography by Shae Lynn Bourne

This is reposted from 11/16/2012 ... I can't believe I choreographed an entire show in my head. (Hey Jeb, call me.)



Bond, Skate Bond

About a month ago I was talking with a fellow show skater who said that Holiday On Ice wasn't doing well. I had to wonder because they don't have a new show coming out this year. That's not a good sign.

So, I've got an idea for HOI ... oh and you're welcome.

Much like when Feld production (the folks of Disney on Ice) produced a pretty successful ice show called "High School Musical On Ice". It sold well in the first and second years.



I think a skating show about James Bond has great potential. So many of the theme songs from the movies are fantastic and would be great to see with skating.

Bond, Skate Bond - what do you think?

Who didn't love Yu-na Kim's short program in Vancouver? Could it work in an entire show like High School Musical did?

I'm putting aside all of the licensing issues - I know it costs a lot to use the music, but I'm hoping the profits would take care of that.

Doing Bond is trickier in some respects. High School Musical On Ice followed the plots of two shows, so there was a natural progression that you wouldn't have with Bond. We're doing theme songs here, so there has to be a variety to keep people interested.

On the plus side, the theme of James Bond is instantly recognized. So let's make it into a show shall we?

Here's how I'd do it:

Opening - to me it would have to be the main "007 Theme" that starts out most of the movies (not to be confused with the "James Bond Theme" - who knew?). Your principal male skater would be this Bond and the chorus could be between robbers (villians) and other spys (gals in trench coats could be very stylish).

The Second number would tie in the newest movie "Skyfall" by Adele with your principal female skater.

The one problem I could see with a James Bond show is that most of the songs are the big ballad types and one after another in the line-up would get boring. So you've got to mix it up.

The third number could be Madonna's "Die Another Day" which has a modern, funky beat that will break up the slow tunes. I'm not crazy about this song though ... personally I don't think it's her best work. But you need this number for the variety. Full chorus for this number, put in a good ol' pinwheel and kickline for good measure.

You could blend this song with the second half of "The World Is Not Enough" by Garbage which has a rich orchestration that we're used to with most of the Bond songs.

Next, as great as all of the Shirley Bassey tunes are, they are the oldest and the audience may not recognize them. My suggestion: put "Goldfinger", "Diamonds Are Forever" and "Moonraker" in a montage with three different skaters in very different outfits. Gold, silver and blue, perhaps, and in that order.

Now we have four to sixish numbers so far, which doesn't make enough to get you through to intermission. The first half needs to be about 40 - 45 minutes at least. So I would add a couple non-Bond songs, like a Scottish-bag pipe song that reminds one of Great Britian, home of the spy. Another location song could be a beachy theme with Bond girls in bathing suits set to a Greek-style folk song. Or Italian accordian? Think the Riveria.

But in terms of this blog post, if you haven't stopped reading already you will soon if I don't speed up my show.

So, for the second half, you would want to include Sheryl Crow's "Tomorrow Never Dies" then Duran Duran's "View to a Kill" and a-ha's "The Living Daylights" to bring in a faster beat. I would have my last two ballads be the more well-known "For Your Eyes Only" by Sheena Easton and Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" - a personal favorite - that could be the last solo number before the big finale.

The finale should restart the "007 Theme" blending with the "James Bond Theme" and blending into my personal favorite Bond theme (it's my show, so I get to pick the closer, ok?) "Live and Let Die."

So that's the show, plus or minus a few tunes. Like I said earlier, if you're still reading this, let me know what you think?

October 11, 2017

Crystal! by Cirque du Soleil




Finally there's a Cirque du Soleil show on ice!  And it may be coming to a city near you ... check out the itinerary here.  And here's the promo on You Tube.



Stay with the video and you'll hear Kurt Browning, because you'll see some of the skating.

I would love to see this show, because I have seen of it its performers in Phantasialand (amusement park show in Germany) and he is phenomenal.  Worth the five hour drive it may take me, if I decide to go. I'll keep you posted on this one.


September 28, 2017

5 Writing Tips (I Wish I Had Known)

... before walking into a writers' critique group.



Since I'm so close to rolling out a sequel (yes, Mom, I promise soon) I thought I would write something not about skating for once.  Excuse me, Ice Charades, you often don't write about skating.

I know, I know, thanks for pointing that out.  But if any of you are thinking of writing fiction yourself, this may be the post for you.


I'm not claiming I'll make you a great writer, not even a good writer, I'm only claiming I'll keep you from sucking more at writing.  Not a high bar, to be sure, but one you still may be grateful for.  The good news is you're not alone.  Just google 'first drafts suck' and watch the magic appear. So with that, take a look at these five tips and see if you can't get out the red pen one more time and work your own magic.

Ice Charade's 5 Writing Tips for Beginners

5. Keep the past in the past: by this I mean try to avoid mixing verb tenses.  This seems obvious, but it's harder to keep track than you realize.  My novel took place in the past, so past tense, but when I was writing the action it came out in the present tense many times.  This example from Now Novel shows how easy it can be to mix up verb tenses.

Sarah runs her usual route to the store. As she turned the corner, she came upon a disturbing scene.
This is wrong because the verbs do not consistently use the same tense, even though it is clear (from context) that Sarah’s run is a continuous action in a single scene.

Now Novel also has a nice rundown of verb tenses.  Go there to reaquaint yourself with present perfect, past perfect, simple past, etc etc.  And no, I don't mean a 6.0 on your free skate.


4. You really, probably, likely just need only (?) one word: As Stephen King famously (?) said, "The road to hell is paved with adverbs."  Anything that ends in 'ly' is a good place to start.  A rookie mistake in any critique group I'm sure, is to come in with a bunch of lazy adverbs clogging up the action. I still remember a feisty literary-wannabe going off on me for the sentence, "I eagerly peered out the window." But she was right. Instead of writing 'eagerly' in front of peered, write out an action that shows eagerness.  For example, "I sat up in my seat after we rounded the corner and the Alps came into view. Now I was awake."

Besides adverbs there is a whole list of words that can clog up your draft.  'Just' is just the beginning.  It works fine in dialogue because people say it all the time, but the phrase around the word will still work when take 'just' out.  There are a slew of other words (I illustrated four of them in the preceding paragraph) and a good place to catch more is from Diana Urban's post on 43 Words You Should Cut From Your Writing Immediately.

3. Rhythm: Like any good melody, your writing should have beats (in your sentences).  Some sentences should be short, quick, and lean.  Hit a nerve.  Pack a punch. Shout.  But if you have too many short, dynamic sentences together the reader gets tired.  You need a variety of longer sentences mixed in.  That's where you can add a descriptive phrase or two to set the scene. My own rule of thumb is long sentences should be filled with easier vocabulary and fewer crucial plot points or details.  Example:
 Basically, in light of the fact that an au-courant judging system, whether determined by the ISU or directly from the international judges panel, will be implemented, if deemed acceptable upon the receipt of skating bodies looking to transition from the current situation.

 Confusing, no? How about - We could use a new judging system, regardless of what the ISU thinks.  Pronto.



2. He said, she said:  It's a lot easier to keep track of he said, she said, than he whispered, she shouted, he discussed, she countered, he thought, she pointed out, he demanded, she bellowed, "Stop."  Many authors feel you should never have dialogue tags (that's a fancy, schmancy writing term for the tag accompanying the dialogue) other than 'said' - and I mostly agree with this.  The idea is that the dialogue itself will denote what the author wants the reader to understand.  I still think you can throw in a few others sparingly.  She 'whispered' is good, because you often can't convey that in the discussion.  She 'lied' is also good, because it means the exact opposite of what is said out loud and that can have a big impact in the plot.  Here are some examples of overuse of dialogue tags (with some bad dialogue thrown in):

"I can't wait to get on the ice.  I need to work on my senior long program ," she declared with a perky giggle.
"You have to wait until the zamboni's done.  Have you signed up for this freestyle session?" he asked matter of factly.
"Yes, I take two freestyle sessions everyday," she reiterated as she pointed to her name on the clipboard.
"Well then, you will have sixty minutes to rehearse your program in ten minutes when the ice is resurfaced," he stated uniterested.
That would sound a lot better and more realistic if it went something like this:

"Can't wait to hop on the ice.  Got to do three full run-throws of my long," she said.
"Zamboni's still going.  You signed up for this freestyle?" he asked without looking up from his iphone.
Her long red fingernail pointed to her name on the sheet.
He had to look up to get his answer. "Well, no goofing around for you then."
You can see that all you need is he said or she asked or vice versa.  Somethings you don't need dialogue, only an action to keep the scene going.

1. Show, don't tell: This is a classic line that a writer should know.  I liked Jerry Jenkin's blog describing the difference between showing and telling.  So I'll link it here.  Here are some examples to see if you get the gist.

Telling: When they kissed he could smell cigarette smoke and she was scared. 
Showing:  When he leaned in, he smelled tobacco on her breath and felt her hand shivering.

Telling: The temperature rose and the plants needed water.
Showing: The plants wilted in the heat.

Telling:  She completed three run-throughs of her long program and was very tired by the end of the freestyle session.
Showing: She had to be helped off the ice after the third run-through.  Twelve minutes of max output skating was too much.

 Showing helps the reader feel the action rather than the passive "telling" them someone is cold.  There are times when "telling" is acceptable, when you need to cover ground and bring in backstory.  But be careful not to load it up in dialogue to the point where it doesn't sound natural.





I hope these tips will help make you a better writer.  There are plenty of writing blogs with helpful tips and examples that are much better than what I've got here.  This is meant as a jumping-off point (hopefully you'll get a 5 for your GOE!) to get you sound advice.  Good luck!

September 17, 2017

Imagine if he had figure skates on!



Wait for the amazing "back sit spin" at the 25 second mark!  Pretty amazing stuff.

September 11, 2017

Holiday On Ice Reunion Prague!

It's going on as we speak and I hope you can see this link to some photos on Facebook.

Hopefully you can see these links.

Here's another link.

And these too.

When I skated in Prague in 1983, it was December and cold and miserable.  This looks like a much better time to see the city!

August 22, 2017

TURN IT UP!

My daughter and I are currently in Florida and we took a side trip up to Tampa Bay to visit Busch Gardens and see the ice show.


You should too, if you're anywhere in the neighborhood.  Throw Busch Gardens some love, skip the crowds at Universal and Disney, and spend a day with animals and ice shows.  You'll save a bunch of money too!

It's a really great show. (and I know my park shows ... been in a half dozen, seen a dozen more over the years...)

Every skater is poised and polished.  Every number is solid. It even had a kick line (albeit from a new angle) to make this old show girl happy. The show moves at such a fast pace, you're surprised when it's over and the best part is the songs are fresh and contemporary.  There's no corny plot to slow the show down.

That's why I wish I could have skated in this show - they all seem to be having so much fun!  Even three shows into a four-show day.  Not an easy task.

But if you can't make it to Tampa, you can watch a decent quality performance here:



You're welcome!