Friday, February 29, 2008

Flashback Friday - Michael Jackson - "Thriller"

Last Flashback we "let the music play" with Shannon.

I cannot believe it's the 25th Anniversary of this album's release. Since I was only two years old at the time I don't really remember much.

Seriously, when this album (I guess my use of the word "album" proves that I'm older than twenty-six) dropped it was a major event. The biggest selling album in the world had 8 singles out of 9 tracks! Now you are lucky to get two decent tracks out of 15 and the record labels wonder why people would rather buy singles off iTunes instead of buying a whole CD.

Produced by the amazing Quincy Jones "Thriller" stayed on the charts for weeks. John Landis directred the video for the single "Thriller" which is one of the best known short films in the world. Sadly for Mr. Jackson, things were never the same. He kept trying to top this album in order to keep his "King of Pop" title. He drastically changed his appearance. We "broke up" when "Thriller" came out. I didn't like his Jheri -curls, nose job and thought his relationship with Webster was suspect.

It was difficult time in my young life. See, I was supposed to marry Michael Jackson. I just knew it from the time I was seven. During his years with the Jackson Five, reaching its peak when "Off the Wall" came out, my love for Michael was strong. After we broke up I moved on to El DeBarge (a little too skinny but still cute) and Sting (I didn't know he was 30. Loved the accent) from The Police.

It was hard to decide which clip to link to. In the end I went with "Billie Jean" which was the first single of this legendary album.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

No , I am not Frances Mayes, Angela Bassett or Diane Lane

It's so funny how 95% of the people who ask me about Italy say, "I bet you meet a man in like a month" or "Will you have time to write in between all your dating?" Folks need to get a grip! "Under the Tuscan Sun" and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" are movies not real life. I love how in the first movie, Frances gets to stay in Italy no visa, money or language issues. Meanwhile I am trying to figure out all this contract stuff for an apartment rental. Regarding "Stella", you see how the non-fiction version of that story turned out.

The freaking dollar dropped to an all time low!!! The Fed is going to cut interest rates again next month, so the dollar is not rebounding any time soon. How can I even think about romance when I might be broke in two months? sigh.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan

This book is fantastic. A little dry at times but a real eye opener. Many of the things we eat cannot be classified as food. The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar business but yet we are the fattest industrialized nation on the planet. Pollan's theory is that the rise of "nutritionism" has lead to us eating worse. Regular vitamins found in nature are being replaced by fake foods loaded with "nutrients". Remember how people were freaking out about eating butter so they switched to "I Can't Believe it's Not Butter" and other manufactured spreads? Turns out those spreads are a heck of a lot worse for you to eat. Plus they taste like crap. I haven't bought margarine in years and I refuse to eat it. If I want butter on my toast I will eat some, not some pretend butter. It's all about moderation.

I was reading a low-fat yogurt label and was shocked to see that it had high fructose corn syrup in it? WTF? It's dairy product. It seems corn syrup is in everything. My whole wheat bread...that is good for you right? The third ingredient? High fructose corn syrup. sigh.

Pollan also talks a little about how big agri-business has changed the way we eat. It's depressing. The typical American diet is responsible for many of the major health issues we have, esp. adult onset diabetes. Instead of addressing the root causes we stick Omega 3 into foods that don't have them naturally.

Some of his solutions are:

Pay more, eat less. We love big portions here. Quantity does not equal quality.
Eat meals. That seems like common sense but 1/5 of American adults eat in the car. We snack more and rarely sit down to eat a meal.
Try to eat foods that your grandparents would recognize. We are eating less variety now than two generations ago.
Shop at farmers markets/try to eat food that is in season

I want to read his other book "The Omnivore's Dilemma". Do you think American food culture will change for the better or the worse?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Essence Magazine's Hollywood Luncheon and the Oscars.

This has been a subdued Oscar week. Post writers strike a bunch of big parties were canceled. It has been rainy and chilly all week adding to the blah mood. One of the highlights of the week for me was the first Essence Magazine Luncheon honoring Black Women in Hollywood. Ruby Dee was one of the honorees and her speech was so moving, as was Jada Pinkett Smith's. Tom Terrific and Katie were there. Their body language was weird. Tom presented Jada with her award. Will came up first and was hilarious and charming.

I saw a bunch of people I have seen in a while. Many of the actresses looked stunning. Kerry Washington and Paula Patton really stood out. Both of them have such great energy. I wish there were more interesting roles for actresses.

A jazz singer signed to Verve/Universal named Ledisi performed. She was amazing! Ledisi sang one original song (she had a pianist with her) and then did a cover of "Yesterday". Okay how many times have we heard that song covered? However, when she starting singing, it was as if I was hearing the lyrics for the first time. I looked around and saw quite a few execs tearing up. I think we sometimes forget how powerful these songs are and the musicianship involved because we hear them so often. Something about her vocal choices just kicked me in the gut. I almost started sobbing but I pulled it together. Phew.

Some random thoughts about the Oscars:

I actually laughed a couple of times during the opening monologue.

Javier Bardem - You sir are too f*cking talented and sexy. Love the suit.

John Travolta - I'm scared!! Lay off the Botox.

Why did they show that Cuba "acting a fool" Gooding clip?

Yeah! Ratatouille won best Animated movie.

I changed the channel when Jessica "I have no talent" Alba walked out on stage. Yes she is pretty but her ass does not belong at the Oscars.

Best Actress award goes to Marion Cotillard! Yes. She was just amazing in La Vie En Rose.

Once - Yeah, they won best song. This was one of my favorite movies last year. Made in Ireland for under 100k in a couple of weeks, this is a really sweet romantic movie. It's out on DVD.

Cameron Diaz presenting - Time to hit the mute button.

Diablo Cody is now an Oscar winning screenwriter.

Daniel Day Lewis - You are a bad ass. No American actors won awards this year.

The Coen Brothers win for best directing - yes. I used to see Ethan when I lived in NYC. He lived near the original Kiehl's store on 3rd Avenue (a place I spent too much money in).

Denzel - You are looking f*cking fine at 53!

Best Picture - No Country for Old Men!!! I am very happy about that.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Meme - three writing tips and an award

I have been tagged by Jen to give three pieces of advice on writing. Here are three things that I find helpful and that writers I respect always talk about.

1. Read - I am shocked by the number of people I meet who tell me they want to write but they never read. That is like wanting to work in film but never watching movies (wait I know a bunch of people who do that). I agree with the other bloggers and writers who have said it's important to read different genres. If you write horror don't limit yourself to only horror books. Read non-fiction, poetry, short stories, anything you can get your hands on. Also make sure to mix in some quality works with you light reads and vice-versa.

2. Write - Hard to be a writer if you are not writing. Stop reading about writing and just do it. The words don't have to be perfect. It's all about rewriting anyway. There are two schools of thought on this. Some say to write every single day including weekends. Other says Monday -Friday, just like any other job. You need a day or two to have a life. Alot depends on your schedule. If you work full time and/or have kids you will have to squeeze out time whenever possible. It is important that you find that time. Which leads me to number three.

3. Have/find a group of creative people - They don't have to be writers-musicians, photographers, chefs, anyone who creates will be helpful. Let's be blunt. In our culture at the moment the arts are taking a beating. Other people who are not artists may not understand your writing, seeing it as a waste of time (because as we know in America if you are not making money every single minute of the day, something is wrong). You might start to question your sanity and wonder what is the point unless you can be the next J.K Rowlings? Remember J.K. wrote that book because she had a story to tell, the rest is gravy. Having creative people in your life will inspire you and you in return will inspire them. One of the things I love about writing is the amazing community of writers in my life who have been so supportive.

Speaking of supportive writers, Jen also nominated me for an award. Saying:

Ragazza talks straight up about her experiences as a writer and producer, making the transition from LA to Rome. No matter what her subject - the movie biz, fashion, racism, music, politics, love of all things Italian, Ragazza fills her posts with humor and clear perspective.

I'm verkelmpt, thanks Jen.

This award has been given to many of the blogs I love. I would like to tag Bleeding Espresso, a fantastic writer for the writer Meme. Michelle, If you have done it or are too busy not to worry. If any other writers want to share their advice please do!

Next Friday I will have another Flashback. Hint: This man proved once and for all Jheri-curls and fireworks do not mix.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I have a lit. manager!

I called a manager at a firm with excellent clients to tell him I was moving to Rome. He asked what I was going to do there. I said "keeping writing".

Manager - "Can I read your book?"

Me - "Why?" (what the hell was wrong with me?). I sent it off not giving it a second thought. After all, a male agent earlier in the week passed. That rep said he liked my writing but didn't respond strongly enough to the material. I get it. I pass on material all the time for my job but it's still hard not to take these thing personally. I have been so focused on querying book agents I didn't think to look at managers.

He read it over the holiday, loved it (I said "really?" again I ask, what the hell is wrong with me?) said he would call me on Tuesday. Tuesday morning he calls, schedules conference call for that afternoon. Super intense conversation lasts an hour. He asks questions they ask all prospective clients. I thought the questions were excellent and thought provoking. Some of the questions were about writing and the writing process, others were about life goals. He says he will talk to the other partners and call me in a few days.

Calls me today. They want to sign me. Already he has put a list together of book agents he wants to go out to.

I do realize that getting representation doesn't mean all of a sudden I will be a working writer. However, for someone like me who is making a big transition from film exec to writer, having someone go out on a limb like this is amazing. Their client list is small. This is good, they work closely with their clients. I don't get the point of having a manager who has a million clients and an agent with a million clients. The whole point of having a manager is they are suppose to help guide your career, thinking about the big picture and work along with the agent. Of course some people hate having both and resent it. It could because 20% of your income is out the window (10% percent for the agent and 10% for the manager. Along with 5% for your attorney and if you have a business manager 5% percent for them as well. Add taxes and there isn't much left).

I told my co-workers and they were excited.

Another exciting thing that happened today was, I put a deposit down for my move. The estimate did not drop by that much because the consolidator had a minimum size requirement. I did save some money on the packing/local end.

I was going to stop by the store to get some wine or cake to celebrate (as one of my good friends suggested. She also told me to stop questioning why my new manager likes my book, just go with it) but then I remembered I ate a bag of chips and had a Coke earlier today. I cannot stop eating this week. I do not like PMS. It's a pain.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Forgive me for I have sinned. I watched "Flavor of Love" last night.

I know I shouldn't but I got sucked in...again. Who are these women? Why are they on the show? Do they really think they will be able to jump start an acting career? What does Chuck D think about all this foolishness?

Okay, gotta get back to work.

Monday, February 18, 2008

An apartment in Rome.

The moving consultant just left. I might have to get a smaller crate. We'll see if the consolidator has a size minimum. If not, my shipping costs might drop by 50%. That would be fantastic!!

Speaking of fantastic, I finally have an apartment in Rome. An Italian film executive here (he grew up in Rome) asked his mom if she knew of anyone renting an apartment. His mom's best friend will be my new landlord. The apartment is half the size of my current place (ouch) but the location is amazing. I will be a 10 minute walk from Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori and Piazza Farnese. Trastevere will be a short walk across the river.

More good news: one of my bosses wants to buy my car for her son who is away at school. Mere words cannot express how happy I am to sell my car. My car is great but after living in L.A for nine years I actually hate driving now. The minute I could take Driver's Ed in high school I did. I used to love the freedom a car represented, especially living out in the suburbs. However, driving here is not fun. The traffic is horrific and people have no idea how to freaking drive. I can't tell you how many near accidents I have had because some idiot was on their non-hands free cellphone.

My days of valet parking will be ovah soon. It cracks me up that there is valet parking at the Gelson's in Century City. Seriously, the mall has a huge parking lot, do people really need to valet the Jag at the darn supermarket?

As I budget out the security depost/first month rent I have to restrain myself from crying over the exchange rate. I keep reminding myself if I were to pay market rates here it would still be more than my Rome rent. Then again I have a job here...god knows what my finances are going to be after my production bonus money runs out. Maybe I should ask my parents to ship out my old flute from jr. high school so I could be a street musician. The only problem with that plan is I can't play a damn thing anymore.

I had a crazy productive weekend. I finished shredding and throwing out old files, director reels and scripts. I downsized from fourteen file boxes to three. This job creates a ton of paperwork. I still have a long to-do-list for my move but it feels more manageable with the movers, an apartment and a buyer for my car.

I know writers should write everyday but I felt so overwhelmed earlier with work , volunteer projects and the move. Now I am so excited about writing the script. It will be a good challenge. I haven't written a script in over five years but this idea is not a novel. Even if I can carve out only fifteen minutes in the morning, it will be great to get back into a groove.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

This Phyllis Hyman song sums up a typical Valentine's Day for this Ragazza.

It's another Valentine's Day. As usual I have no man, no flowers, no candy, no nothing! ha

Like the song says, "I can't stand this living all along."

I used to love this song. It was quite the slow jam back in the day. I don't know why Ms. Hyman took her own life. We lost a very talented singer that day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ciao! Welcome to Italian bureaucracy.

I have a migrane. It started yesterday as I tried to figure out how to move my household goods.

Work was insane. I had to go to a screening of our movie at the last minute, which meant I was out all afternoon. The head of the studio and marketing were there. We had an hour long meeting afterwards with the director and other producers to go over our notes, preview schedule, possible release date, ratings etc. During the meeting I thought my head was going to explode. Then I had to go another meeting (more on that group some other time).

Last week I called several different international moving companies to get estimates. One, the price is a good $1000-$2000 more than what I budgeted, and two, the information required by Italian customs is completely confusing. All the movers said moving goods to Italy and dealing with the port of Naples is drama. One suggested I make my point of EU entry the UK but that would add almost another month to the arrival time. I don't want to wait 3-4 months to get my things. Plus, the more places this crate has to travel, the more opportunity there is for something to go wrong.

I am not moving any furniture so I am getting a crate that is 1/4 the size of a 20ft. container. The movers will pack my stuff, get it to the warehouse, consolidate it in NYC and then it sails across the Atlantic.

I called the Italian consulate to get to the bottom of what I need to do. They told me to call the French consulate (I have a French passport). The lady at the consulate annoyed that French citizen was asking about moving to Italy in English, (zut allors!!) referred me to a website of the French Embassay which was of no help.

I had two moments of "what the hell am I doing?" yesterday. When I was sitting in the meeting I thought, I will really miss working with my colleagues and when I was looking for information on an Italian website regarding Codice Fiscale (similar to our social sercurity number), my eyes glazed over from trying to read the legalese Italian. It's one thing to read an occassional article in Italian Vogue or Vanity Fair, (which takes me forever) but this completely frustrated me. All my expat friends keep saying once I am there I will become fluent. I think about trying to open a bank account, sign up for health insurance, Internet etc. in a foriegn language and I start to panic.

Also, I am finally at a point in my career here in Hollywood when I'm not living check to check. Now I'm moving to where the dollar is so freaking weak and I am going to write for a living?! ha. Everyone and their mother is writing a script or a novel in Los Angeles. Most do not succeed.

Okay I need to freaking relax. The move seems more real now. I am starting to get calls from agents and execs as the word gets out that I'm leaving. Last week I began cancelling all my utilities, insurance, etc. It's a major pain in the butt and this process is in English!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Writers strike could end this week.

I hope the deal is a good one. The strike has caused a loss of 1.9 billion dollars in revenue. I was talking to an actress friend of mine who told me several of her friends had to sell their houses.

SAG's (Screen Actors Guild) contract is up in June. They have many of the same concerns as the writers. The studios were able to coast for a while during the writers strike (they had stockpiled a bunch of scripts) but if the actors go out this town will shut down immediately. We'll see what happens.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Flashback Friday - Shannon "Let The Music Play"

Ah a classic from 1984. It still gets played in clubs today. This song along with Madonna's "Holiday" were the monster dance hits from that year.

Later I would hear this song at parties in college and we would bust out with the dance the Wop. Now when I hear the song I always think of the Delta pledge line. There were always rumors on campus when a line was going to debut. We would be at a frat party at Skytop (a campus venue), the lights would dim and then the line would come out. Even the kids who were not into the Greek system (they called themselves, MPM, Me Phi Me or GDI, G*d Damn Independent) would get into it.

Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

J. Crew's yellow purse in Rome, Terroni and Whitney Houston

I know those things would seem to have nothing in common but they do. Ha.

(I just heard on the news HRC won Cali. I knew she would with her coalition. It's not a winner take all state so we'll see how many delegates Obama gets).

A friend in NYC told me she just got her J.Crew catalogue in the mail. This issue was shot in Rome. Bellissima. I haven't received mine yet so I went to the J. Crew website and found a short film. Okay, I have walked down Via Giulia (one of the most beautiful streets in the world) many times and don't remember seeing any sailors. As I watched the film it occured to me, I am moving there next month! It doesn't feel real.

(I don't know what is going on with Blogger but the code in the short film is the J. site but it pulls up mine instead. Weird. I'd tried to fix it this morning. It did the same thing when I tried to link to Sara's blog earlier). Anyway, I suggest all the Rome lovers check it out.

Speaking of Italy, for lunch I met a film exec at Terroni. It was just as good as the Toronto branch. While I was waiting for her, I bumped into one of the actors from our movie and the director's former assistant. It was so good to see them.

As I was leaving the restaurant, I saw Whitney Houston. She looked great. I was worried about her for a minute around the time of her infamous Diane Sawyer interview. Some of her music was too cheesy for even me, but damn her voice was amazing. I hope her comeback album does well.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday and World Nutella Day!

Phew there is a lot going on today.

If you are stateside and have a primary, please don't forget to vote.

If you love Nutella please take a look at Sara and Michelle's blogs for recipes and info on this world wide event.

Grazie Michelle and Sara for doing this year's round up.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Gooooooo Giants!


Yes, The New York Giants won a major upset against the Patriots. Eli Manning, has been in the shadow of his big brother, called boring (why because he doesn't date a super model or have baby's momma drama like Tom Brady?) and used to fumble like crazy. Eli broke it down yesterday. The last minute of the Super Bowl is probably one of the best games I have ever seen.

The Giants who started the season at 0-2 weren't even supposed to make it this far. The team had lost several key players and had a young QB.

Eli's final 83 yard drive was incredible. His 32 yard pass to David Tyree was a thing of beauty. Eli was close to being sacked. The Patriots defenders were tugging on his shirt and he still connected. Talk about concentration, composure and luck. David Tyree got the first down. There were 59 seconds left in the game.

When Plaxico Burgess caught the touchdown I screamed. I called my parents in the Caribbean and my brother was there on a quick trip. He and my sister are very big Giants fans. I called my sister too. I wish I could be in NYC tomorrow at the ticker tape parade in lower Manhattan.

The Giants were 14 point underdogs. Everyone thought they were going to lose and the Patriots would have their undefeated season. Did people forget the Giants almost beat them during the last game of the regular season? Do not count out New York. Man, this team had heart. With only one minute left they were losing and they pulled it off. The Giants defense was amazing as well. Brady was sacked five times.

I watched part of the post-game wrap up. Is it me or is Bill Belichick a sore loser? His attitude was stank during his interview, not gracious at all. That was a punk-ass move for him to leave the field before the game was over. I shouldn't be surprised. This team ran up their scores which is not cool. No wonder they are one of the most hated teams in the NFL.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Banana and Nutella Dessert Pizza

In honor of the upcoming World Nutella Day (this Tuesday, February 5th) here is my recipe.

I had dessert at a restaurant that used to be on 3rd Street near Orso. It was made with strawberries. When I went to the supermarket I bought bananas instead; the strawberries didn't look that great to me. This is what I came up with.


Preheat oven to 450 degrees (F)

Pizza dough for a medium (I bought mine at Trader Joes. Your local pizzeria might also sell dough)
2 ripe bananas
Powdered sugar
Extra Virgin Olive oil

Split the dough in half and roll out both pieces.
Lightly brush olive oil on top of both. (You could use melted butter as well)
Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes. I have a pizza stone but a cookie sheet will work. You might want to line it with parchment paper so the dough won't stick.

Meanwhile mash the bananas with a fork.

Let the pizza cool for a second. Spread a thin (or thick..ha) layer of Nutella on the pizza. Then the bananas.
Add the two layers and bake for 2-4 minutes until the pizza is light brown.

Let the pizza cool for another second and sprinkle with the powdered sugar.
Cut into wedges and enjoy.

Note: My layers weren't as flat as the restaurant's version. My version wasn't pretty but man, did it taste good.
Next time I go the farmer's market I will try this recipe with strawberries.