Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays greeting with Totti & Gattuso

Today was my last day in the office. I will use this down time to get super organized. I've already started going through my closets. I am having a hard time with my books. I will put one in the donate pile then take it out. There is only so much I can take when I move so I better get it together.

I haven't written a thing for book #2 since I sent out my ms. I will follow up with the few agents it went to in the New Year. I am going to cut myself some slack next year. I will be moving, I have a few volunteer events to organize and a movie in post production. I may not be able to write for as many hours in the a.m. as I would like.

While there is much to blog about these days, the Presidential race, the war, Momma Spear's bad parenting skills (two words...birth control), this Ragazza will be back next year.

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and see you in '08.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly directed by Julian Schnabel

Stunning movie. Visually, emotionally, was in tears through out. Still processing it.

This movie is based on the internationally best selling book by Jean-Dominique Bauby. Bauby was the editor of French Elle and very much a man about town. At only 42 he suffered a massive stroke. His mind functioned but he was "locked-in". He was completely paralyzed. Bauby could only communicate by blinking one eye. That is how he "wrote" his book.

This movie will stick with me for a long, long time. It's in French w/English subtitles. The director and producers are American. I was a big fan of Schnabel's movie BEFORE NIGHT FALLS, which was the first movie I saw Javier Bardem in.

Here is a review from the NYTs.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Caribbean Week: Books...The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao

I just bought a copy of Junot Dìaz's novel and I cannot wait to read it. I still have to finish LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA, SHARP OJECTS and TO THE LIGHTHOUSE.

There is a great deal of interesting literary fiction and non-fiction books about the Caribbean. I have read books by Caribbean writers or writers of Caribbean descent like, Zadie Smith, Julia Alvarez, Edwige Danticat, Jamaica Kincaid and Andrea Levy. I don't know of many commerical fiction writers. If you have some suggestions, please share them. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Caribbean Week: Food... Pastelles

Thanks to Seville for the following recipe. I am in a really bad mood today. Any talk of my mom's amazing cooking will probably send me over the edge so I'll have to write it another time. I should send this recipe to my parents, they have fig/banana trees in their yard.



Let me be forward and offer a recipe I lifted from a Trinidadian newspaper, to start your Caribbean collection. This one is for pastelles. Don't know if your mother made these, but maybe you'll try them. (If you cannot get fig (banana) leaves in LA, I think you can steam these in parchment paper).

Get your fig leaves before, clean and soften them and keep them in the refrigerator until you need them. Buy your filling ingredients and make your filling a day ahead and refrigerate it. On the big day all you need to do is prepare your cornmeal, fill and wrap.

To prepare fig leaves, steam them in a large pot of boiling water for ten minutes until they become pliable and soft. They may also be softened by waving them over an open flame.

Cornmeal dough and pastelle assembly

Ingredients

2 cups yellow cornmeal
3 cups warm water
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 tsp salt

- In a food processor or by hand, combine cornmeal with butter and salt.
- Add water and process to make a soft, pliable dough.
- Divide the dough into 12 balls. Cover with a damp cloth to prevent drying.
- Place one piece of dough on a greased fig leaf and press into an eight-inch square. Spoon two tablespoons of filling onto the middle of the dough and fold and seal pastelles.
- Wrap in fig leaf and tie into a neat package.
- Steam pastelles for 45 minutes until cooked.
- Makes 12-15 pastelles.

Chicken and beef pastelles

Filling

1 lb chopped beef and chicken, chicken only, or beef only
2 onions, finely chopped
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme
2 pimento peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbs chopped celery
1/2 Congo pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup tomato sauce
4 tbs capers
3 tbs stuffed olives, sliced
1/4 cup raisins
2 tbs fresh thyme

- Combine beef with chicken. Add salt and black pepper.
- Add a quarter-cup chopped chives and one tablespoon thyme.
- In a large sauté pan heat olive oil.
- Add onion and garlic. Sauté until fragrant. Add pimento peppers, remaining chive, pepper and thyme. Add meat and cook until brown.
- Add tomato sauce, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Add raisins, capers and olives and stir to combine.
- Cook for about five minutes more. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Add two tablespoons fresh thyme and stir to combine.
- Remove from heat and cool.
- Prepare dough as in recipe above and fill and fold pastelles as indicated.
- Makes 12-15 pastelles.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A break in Caribbean Week for a great cause: Menu for Hope.

I will post early next week about two of my favorite things, books and food. Since my mom does not write down her traditional Caribbean recipes and I will have to come up with something else.


Speaking of food, it's the season for the 4th annual MENU FOR HOPE. During this time of year it's easy to get caught up in shopping and stressing out about the holidays. Here is something that is fun, quick and will have a positive impact. This year the funds are going to the UN World Food Programme. Through the UN the funds are ear marked for a school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa. Please click on to Sara's blog for more information and links on this amazing event. There some fantastic items and many food bloggers have gone all out (including Sara).

Every little bit helps. Tomorrow morning I will be wrapping presents for a non-profit that works with foster children. I do realize getting a Christmas gift is not going to change the fact that they are in the system. However, for at least one day these children get to have fun and just be kids.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Caribbean Week: Music, Bob Marley

I was eight the first time I saw Bob Marley. One of my mom's friends and co-worker lived out in the suburbs. Her friend went through a ten year phase where every single one of her boyfriends was black (the friend was not). I remember one boyfriend was a doctor from Nigeria. We went to visit her friend and her boyfriend stopped by. He put on PBS and there was a Bob Marley concert on. My brother was four and he stopped playing with his toys to watch as well.

I used to think Jersey was like another country. So quiet compared to the city and very green. If we had not been over that day sitting in the guest room, who knows when I would have found Mr. Marley. My parents' generation is more about calypso and soca not reggae. The name "The Mighty Sparrow" was a big deal in our house.

Robert "bob" Nesta Marley was the son of a white Jamaican of British descent and a black Jamaican woman. He was constantly picked on because of his bi-racial background. Once his mom became a widow, they moved to Kingtson's Trenchtown slum. He learned how to fight and that is how he got the nick name "Tuff Gong".

I'm not a Rasta but Marley's music means a lot to me. He was so talented, the lyrics were deep and I'm not going to lie...I thought he was fine. He was such a charismatic performer, you knew he meant every word he sang.

My three year old nephew is already a fan thanks to my brother playing Marley during baths.

"life is worth more than gold" 'nuff said.



Thursday, December 13, 2007

Caribbean Week: The I Love My Ram contest

Many islands celebrate Carnival. Trinidad is known for having one of the largest and liveliest in the Caribbean.

There are always interesting local festivals and fairs going on. I never heard of the I LOVE MY RAM contest until my sister saw something about it on Anthony Bourdain's show. Anthony has been going to the island for over 20 years. Jess was so kind to let me post some photos from her blog. She is an American who has been living in St. Maarten for years.

The contest is held in a valley very close to where my family grew up. Many people used to raise animals in St. Martin. This contest is reminder of the island's agricultural roots.

St. Maarten (esp. the Dutch side) is one of the most visited islands in the Caribbean. Some say she has lost her soul. It's nice to see that there are still some village traditions that continue despite all the development. People bring their rams and enter them in a competition. There are different age ranges and the rams must have a pleasant disposition. (ha) Of course there is music and plenty of food.

My brother and his family were visiting our parents during the festival. My sister and I asked him to buy us an I HEART MY RAM t-shirt. He thought we were joking. I am still salty he did not get us any shirts. The winners of the contest won medals, cases of Presidente beer and bags of goats feed. I assume the beer is for the owners of the winning rams.

Thanks Jess for the photos!

The valley. So green and full of mango and coconut trees.


Looking fly.


Ready for their close-up.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Caribbean Week: Film, The Harder They Come


There are many movies that have shot in the Caribbean, for example, several Bond movies. I don't know of many movies about the Caribbean. The number of foreign films that make it to the United States gets smaller and smaller every year.

The movie THE HARDER THEY COME was a tiny movie release in the States in the early '70s. The soundtrack, constantly rated as one of the top albums ever, is credited for introducing reggae music to the world. The album isn't strictly reggae, it's also rocksteady, rudeboy and ska.

I saw this movie for the first time in my 20s. Although it is in English the film had subtitles because the Jamaican accents were so strong. This gritty little movie became a cult classic. Of course Hollywood wants to remake it. It is set up at New Line. sigh.

The story is based on a real life gangster. Jimmy Cliff plays a man who gets involved with the wrong folks as he tries to make it in the music business. The soundtrack is a must have for anyone who loves music. The following clip of "Many Rivers to Cross" is from SNL. Jimmy was the first reggae artist to appear on the show. I know I am going to sound hella old but notice he is singing LIVE. No tracks, backing vocals or lip synching. How many "singers' do that today? UB40 did a cover in the late '80s that was pretty popular.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Caribbean Week: A beach in Anguilla.

This will be only the second Christmas I have not spent with my family. I don't get upset about Thanksgiving. It wasn't as a big a deal in our house. We still had an amazing dinner but my parents are West Indian and did not celebrate that holiday growing up. Christmas on the other hand was pretty special and my siblings and I always went home.

Christmas is two weeks from tomorrow and I am trying to get into the spirit. I do realize that my siblings are married and have their own traditions. This is when being single and far from your famliy f*in sucks. I never knew I would miss hearing really bad soloists during Christmas service. My brother, sister and I would try not to laugh. My dad would glare at us from the choir section. Once we got in the car he would tell us our behavior was not appropiate. I'm sorry, if you bring a boom box and sing some weird uptempo carol no one has heard of at 11:30 p.m. when everyone is already restless you might get some reactions.

I miss the crazy ornaments my sister bought from her elementary school's Secret Santa shop. My parents still have them (she is now in her 30s) and treat them like they were purchased at Cartier. I am shocked I miss my mom's brother who always argued at the Christmas dinner table with my dad about politics. He felt Nixon was misunderstood. My mom would try to bring peace to the table but my dad was not having it. Dad supported JFK.

No matter was going on during the year, I always looked forward to Christmas. I would see my family, eat well and get one or two nice presents. Once my parents moved back to the Caribbean we started a new tradition of going to the beach after church.

Anguilla has some of the nicest beaches in the Caribbean. I'm not saying that because both grandmothers were born there. "Conde Nast Traveler" and "Travel and Leisure" editoral and their readers have said it as well. Anguilla, named by Christopher Columbus, is Italian for eel. I suggest going to the long skinny island before it becomes over-developed. There isn't much to do except relax. If you are looking for nightlife her neighbors St. Maarten or St. Barths are a better choice. St. Barths is a more in your face scene. Think the Hamptons in the Caribbean. Many celebs and fancy types go to Anguilla but they keep it low key. Anguilla can be very expensive but if you check out some of the laid back places to eat you won't kill your budget.

When I was a kid we used go to my aunt's for a couple days during August Monday. The holiday is on the first Monday of the month and there are boat races, parties and lots of good food. She made us herd the goats. Those are some freaky looking animals. Only after chores (hello, we were supposed to be on vacation) we could go to the beach with our cousins. There are more hotels/villas now but the island has retained most of it's charm.

Last year when we went to see family, it was the middle of the day, high season and the beach looked like this. The hotel in the background will be the Viceroy (the same owners of the Viceroy here). I hear the prices are outrageously expensive. I didn't have my digital camera yet. I wish I could post photos of the Villas at the St. Regis. The prices there are quite high as well.



This is the view of the other end of the bay. The hotel at the very tip is Malliouhana. It was one of the first hotels on the island and sits on some of my maternal grandmother's property. Too bad I can't go back in time and look at that lease. The hotel is very nice. Here is their photo gallery. Anguilla used to be so off the beaten track that when the owner started building the hotel his friends in England asked him why he was building in Angola which was in the middle of a civil war.

Anguilla is part of the British West Indies, so be careful when renting a car, they drive on the left. You will have to stop for goats, cows and locals who like to talk to each other and tie up traffic. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A brunch with some amazing women, the Christmas spirit and Caribbean Week.

Yesterday my friend Sfashionista (she used to comment quite a bit on the blog but she has a newborn and a growing design business) held a brunch for me. Why? We share a birthday but that was months ago back in August. I was in Toronto for two months producing a movie and when I returned said she wanted to throw a brunch. I was so touched. I am in such a weird place right now, post-Toronto/Italy funk, worried about my future, stressed about finding an agent, my stupid car has some kind of electrical problem and I'm a little homesick.

For a few hours I didn't have to think about any of that stuff. I had great time. Sfashionista sent out written invites. She asked, "What would Jackie do?" I agree. Even if Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis were alive today, she would not send out an Evite (unless she lived in a place notorious for poor mail delivery) for a small gathering. I can't tell you the last time I received a paper invite.

The host's baby was too cute and another guest brought her baby girl. Sfashionista's husband broke out quickly, after helping us solve a stero/iPod situation. One of the women is leaving L.A. to move back to Atlanta. She is the second friend this week who told me they are leaving. Now that the talks between the writers and the studios have broken off again, the number of people leaving is only going to grow. Another friend told me she might move to Berlin.

Despite all the bad news on the work front (several women at the party are screenwriters) we all had fun catching up. Ms. Tramble summed the day on her blog here. I am verklempt.

Until yesterday I wasn't feel much of the Christmas spirit. Since I will not be in the Caribbean this Christmas, I am going to bring some of the Caribbean to my blog starting tomorrow.

Sfashionista knows how to set a table.


Who knew Fred Segal (the one in Santa Monica) had a florist? These flowers are stunning!! If I were rich or had a garden, I would have fresh flowers in my apartment at all times. I have some gorgeous roses on my dining table. One of my friends surprised me yesterday. Lucky me.


View from the patio. It rained the other day. This is the clearest I have seen L.A. in a while.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The mall shootings and a classic from Marvin Gaye

I had a much longer post about the shootings but deleted it. I just can't understand this senseless shooting at the Westroads Mall in Nebraska.

I volunteer with foster and at risk children. Some of the things these young people have been through would break most adults. The shooter said he wanted to be famous. Now he infamous which is different. I know he had a lot of pain in his life but he did have people close to him who tried to help him. That he could shoot an innocent person in the back shows a complete lack of empathy. Not everyone who grows up in a tough situation goes out and mows down people so they can be on the evening news.

I don't know there are more of these type of shootings or if we are just more aware of them. The United States has always had a problem with a high level of violent crimes compared to other industrialized nations. The only country that is even close is South Africa (hmmm interesting).

Anyway I really try not get too down and feel like all hell is breaking loose. While people make fun of Jennifer Love Hewitt, a size two woman, for being "fat" the war continues, the mortgage industry is in free fall and we still have too many freaking guns in this country.

This song is from the early 70s and unfortunately the lyrics could have been written today. The version I found on YouTube is from an out of print movie from 1973. It's a great live (and long) version of Gaye's "What's Going On". Preach on brother Marvin, you died way too soon but your music lives on.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

"La Vie en Rose" and "Idiocracy"

The awards season has started which means Oscar screeners. I watched "La Vie en Rose" the bio-pic about Edith Piaf. Amazing. I was talking about it with my bosses yesterday and I got choked up thinking about it. Marion Cotillard who looks nothing like the 4'8 Piaf, rocked it. I can't believe this is the same actress from "A Good Year." Marion transformed herself. She better get an Oscar nomination. The movie was released in the U.S. over the summer and is now out on DVD.

I knew a little about Piaf but had no idea her story was so intense. There is something that is explained late in the third act that upset me so much I yelled at the TV. The movie is non-linear which might annoy some people. Given all the things that happened to her during her short life and her influence, a traditional bio-pic would not have worked. The movie looks gorgeous and of course the music is beautiful. Even if you know nothing about Piaf the movie stands alone...you do not have to be a fan to appreciate it. The movie is sad. If you are depressed you might want to follow up the movie with something light.

Here is the trailer:
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I finally saw "Idiocracy". For some reason the blogsphere and several people I know have been talking about this movie recently. Fox dumped this movie, no ads, it played in only a couple of theaters and there was hardly any press about it. The movie is from Mike Judge who created "King of the Hill" and directed "Office Space." Satire is tough to pull off but there are several laugh loud out moments in "Idiocracy".

The premise is Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph play two of the dumbest people on earth circa 2007. They are in an Army experiment that goes wrong and instead of jumping one year into the future they jump 500 years. Society has become so dumbed down by then, they are now the two smartest people in America. The production value is horrible. The movie does look like it was made for two cents. However, some of the digs about the state of our culture are so dead on it's a little scary. Actually, very scary.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I hope "I Love New York" is scripted.

I saw a commercial for "Nip/Tuck" which announced Tiffany Patterson aka Miss New York was going to be on the show. Wow.

I remember when "The Real World" premiered on MTV. I don't think any of those housemates knew what they were getting into. Now people go on most of these shows to become famous for being famous. At least with "Project Runway" and "Top Chef" you have to have some kind of talent and create something.

I watched "I Love New York" last night. I can't believe the mom, Sister Patterson could be that crazy. This has to be scripted for better ratings. I also have a hard time believing Sister Patterson paid $1,500 for her weave. She might need to fire her hairdresser, stat.

Who are these men on the show? Why are they on the show? I love how the parents wonder "what is my son doing?" Why did Miss New York butcher her body? What does she hope to gain from all this "exposure?" Over the weekend VH1 was showing repeats of "Flavor of Love" season one and it was clear then that Miss New York stood out. I asked my sister what happened to her dad?

With the writers' strike entering it fifth week, the networks have announced more reality shows for prime time. They are importing shows from overseas and moving up the schedule of shows that were supposed to air during the slow summer season. I don't think advertisers will be happy. They signed up for shows like "Ugly Betty" not "The New American Gladiator."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Forget having a Plan B.

I am driving myself crazy. I have just started to query a few agents. I analyze every email, every phone call looking for signs, do they like the ms? How long should it take before they respond?

Once you have an agent (a big step) they shop it to publishers. More waiting and freaking out.

I was reading an article in TIME magazine about Will Smith. He said he never had a Plan B because that implied your Plan A was going to fail. Interesting.

Someone the other day asked me what type of work I was going to do in Rome. I started to give my "in a perfect world I will write full time", speech then stopped. To be honest I don't know. On one hand that worries me, on the other it's freeing. My job is such a huge part of my identity it's hard for me not to stress about being in Rome without having a film or some kind of "great" job.

Maybe it's time for a new approach. Of course I will plan the logistics of my move the best I can but how can I predict what I will be doing for work? I don't live there. There is no such thing as a perfect world. Plenty of writers do other things until they can support themselves by writing. Some writers never give up their day jobs. They cannot afford to. Maybe I will get a part-time film related job with a festival, maybe I'll work for my sister-in-law friend's company. Maybe the writers' stike will end sooner rather than later. Who knows?

I was talking to my parents the other day. My dad said I was just existing here and that was not good. They are both supportive of my move. Although I know my mom is nervous about me living so far away from my family.

My move is not rational to begin with so I might as well go the distance. Next time someone asks me what I'm going to do in Rome, I'll say live.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Advanced Italian...ready or not here I come.

I haven't taken classes since Spring. My Italian feels very rusty to me. I was going to repeat Intermediate Level 2. While I was not looking forward to dealing with Passato Remoto or the dreaded Congiuntivo, my professor and friends from class strongly recommended I take the next level.

Now that Advance is broken up into Levels 1 or 2 I will try. When I read out loud at home I feel fine but in front of people I clam up. I know the only way to learn is to get in there and keep talking. It's okay if I make mistakes.

I was reading a great article in Vogue (seriously) about how our brain ages and learning a new language or playing an instrument is one of the best ways to keep your mind sharp, esp. after 40.

Speaking of over 40, I went to the eye doctor the other day and he said in couple of years I will start to have problems reading materials that are close up. Yes! Another thing along with peri-menopause to look forward to. Now I only need my glasses to read things far away/driving and my prescription is still pretty low. I went to the eyeglasses store and broke down and got a pair of very nice frames. I wear glasses part of every day, I might as well make an investment.

My boss was with me. Later she said she doesn't know why I complain about money. I went to Italy twice this year and just bought the glasses. First, I used miles for my first trip and I went to Venice during off season so my hotel was very reasonable. I was under budget on both trips.

True this year for the first time in my professional life I have some extra money because of the bonus from the movie. BUT I am moving overseas and that money with the exchange rate will not go very far. I worry about money because I am not 22. At this age I should own property, have savings/retirement funds. etc. I work in an unstable, creative field. Two years ago I decided since I have no job security what so ever I would rather use my money to travel than on eating out here all the time or clothes, etc. My apartment's rent at just over $1000 is low. My landlord can't wait for me to leave so she can jack it up to $1600 (which I think is crazy for a place with no character). My car is a used (oh my God! that is a mortal sin in Hollywood) Saab so I don't have a $500 lease payment on a Mercedes or Jag.

While the exchange rate is bad, there will be certain costs that will be lower in Rome. I won't have a car so no more car insurance, gas, repairs and valets. That will save me close to $250 a month. My gym is $120 a month, of course I will cancel that once I leave. That is almost $400 savings from those two items alone.

I am really watching my spending on non-essential items. Yesterday I went to get Chrismas/birthday presents. I didn't go off and buy things not on my list despite the tempations. ha.