Thursday, July 31, 2008

Flashback Friday – (on Thursday) Michael Jackson and Madonna

I usually do my Flashbacks on Friday (hence the title) but I won't have time.

Tomorrow is August 1st.

Okay, I’m having a hard time believing Michael and Madonna are both turning 50 in August!!

I have written before about how I was supposed to marry Michael when I was younger. Then I saw his Jheri-curl on cover of the “Thriller” album and the trill was gone (plus his obsession with Webster concerned me).

My parents were sick of hearing me talk about Michael Jackson all the time. One of my earliest memories, maybe I was 5, I was listening to the radio in the living room and yelled into the speaker “play the Jackson Five.” The next song was... the Jackson Five. I jumped up and down and had to tell my parents. I was so excited. I can’t remember basic Italian sentences but why I remember this incident I don’t know.

Anyway, the first album I ever had was the Jackson 5’s “Looking Through the Window” which my parents gave me for my birthday (also in August like Michael's). I don't think they had any idea what they were getting into. I asked my dad to play that album on the stereo pretty much everyday for a while. I still have it.

I couldn’t find the original cover, only re-issues online. Trust me when I tell you the Jackson brothers were looking good, esp. Michael and Jermaine (sorry Tito). Eleven years ago the company I was working for organized a press conference for him. It broke my heart to meet him. My parents thought it was funny. "After all these years you finally got to see him." But he looked crazy. As I looked up at him (he’s tall, over 6 feet) I noticed his nose looked like it was going to fall off due to multiple surgeries. How is it someone who was my complexion is now fairer than John McCain?

I choose to remember the good years before, Bubbles, Webster, Neverland, an awkward kiss with Lisa Marie and pedophile trials, with the clip below. Happy birthday Michael Jackson. You were the love of my live for almost 10 years. ☺

In the first clip of this compilation I think he’s like what 6? Amazing. “The Love You Save” is one of the best pop songs EVER.

I can’t believe the woman who sang “Everybody” will be 50. I wish I had bought that SEX book. A good copy sells for over $200. Remember how controversial it was? It came out in 1992. Steven Meisel shot all the photos. Fabien Baron art directed I think and I remember Big Daddy Kane and Isabella Rossellini were in the book. Random.

I know some people have issues with Madge. However, I love dance music and she’s been jamming since 1983. It's pretty much unheard of to have that kind of relevant longevity in the entertainment business. Like I said before, I didn’t get her whole “passing the torch to Britney thing.” Please. There is no comparison.

Madonna was/is the one driving her own career not a bunch of producers or stage parents. Plus she could be pretty damn funny. When she sang “Like a Virgin” she was in her mid 20s and everyone knew she had slept with half of downtown Manhattan. She was being ironic.

When tying to figure out which clip to post, I had a hard time choosing. Take a Bow, Respect Yourself, Borderline, Like A Virgin, Frozen, something from “Confessions on the Dance Floor”, or Music which featured Ali G “aka Sacha Baron Cohen” years before most people in the States had heard of him.

I was working with a former co-worker during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame awards years ago in NYC when Madonna walked by. My co-worker and I are 5"2. We were floored by how petite Madonna was. I assumed she was taller; she projected height. I doubt she’s over 5"4.

In the end I went with one I haven’t seen in a while. The shot of the towers at the end is sad. Happy Birthday Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The write stuff and John Slattery.

Due to two deadlines, I will probably cut back to three posts a week until my “blogation” starts August 15th.

I have a brainstorming meeting this afternoon with my film executives. In Hollywood we call it “spitballing”. This word is as popular as “wheelhouse” as in, “I was surprised to see HITCH do so well. Rom coms (romantic comedies) are not in Will Smith’s wheelhouse.”

After this meeting I will rewrite my treatment. I have already received their notes. While my friends are off enjoying the Ferragosto holiday, I will be in Rome writing.

(p.s. Thanks again Romerica for the advice about the Partita IVA. The commercialista at the firm spoke to a colleague and I don’t need one for this step. However I will have to get one once I start collaborating with the Italian screenwriter.)

The second deadline is for my spec (meaning it’s an original idea and no one is paying me to write it) script. I’ve been working on it for months. The good news is my manager (in Hollywood) thinks this draft is stronger and heading in the right direction. The bad news is, it has a female lead. I wish I could write a movie that would appeal to teen boys.

Yes it sucks to spend so much time working on something for no money but I like my characters and hope they find a home. The next spec script idea I have also has a female lead but has action in it too so maybe that one will be considered more commercial.

I must remember this business is subjective. I can’t take rejection personally.

Matthew Weiner, who created MAD MEN, used to write for a sitcom on CBS called BECKER. He wrote MM as a spec pilot. His agent sent it to David Chase and he hired him for the SOPRANOS based on the pilot. After a few years, they sent the pilot to HBO. Think about this; it was coming from one of the senior writers of one of the most acclaimed and popular shows on the network. What did HBO do? They passed! Nobody in Hollywood gets that.

AMC who just started to do scripted programming bought it and did a great job with marketing it.

When I see excellent writing like Weiner’s it inspires me to step my game up or when I’m questioning my skills wonder why I even bother, I suck. Ha.

It appears Season 2 of Mad Men did air in Italy this weekend. I went to but it’s not available. I guess I will have to avoid all discussions, message boards etc. about this show until I get a TV or the downloads/DVDs come out.

While I love the writing, I’m also a big John Slattery fan. I think it’s hilarious this stage-trained actor is probably better known for being the kinky politician Carrie Bradshaw went out with on SATC than for his Broadway or feature roles.

When one of my immediate bosses had a birthday party last year he was there. His wife, Talia (yes she used to be married to George Clooney) is one of her good friends. She also plays his wife on the show.

As one of my friends would say, “This man is the hotness!” He also reminds me of a crazy ex but that’s another story.

I love this photo taken by the husband of my other immediate boss.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A restaurant with no name and Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island).

Saturday night I went to a birthday dinner. The birthday boy (let’s call him BB) had a dinner at a place with no sign. He only knew of the place because another expat used to live around the corner from this non-restaurant and told him about it.

BB said if I had walked up to this place with another friend and said “table for two” the owner would have said, “Sorry this is not a restaurant”. The owner doesn’t know me; I could be an inspector or something.

I don’t even know the street’s name. Last year I read a travel article about Naples from either “Condè Nast Traveler” or “Travel and Leisure”. The author mentioned that some of the best food is at these types of places. This is true. The anti-pasti…bruschetta, white beans in a tomato based sauced and some kind of mashed squash dish were yummy. The Cacio & Pepe, Rigatoni Amatriciana and Rigatoni with Sausage were amazing. I had a little of all three first plates. The house red and white were very good (no bottles), and the second plate, rosemary chicken, was very tender and flavorful. Dessert was some fruit, grappa, and limoncello (I didn’t touch the liquor I had enough wine).

Sitting outside on a beautiful night (it cooled down nicely) with good food and good conversation is not a bad way to spend a Saturday evening. Before I moved I used to spend the majority of my Saturday nights in my dumpy apartment reading bad scripts for work. The highlight of my Saturday was watching “Everyday Italian” on the Food Network. Sometimes I would turn the TV on too early and have to hear Rachel yapping about some monstrosity. I need to write a post about her. I truly do not understand why this woman is so popular. Anyway I digress.

After an early dinner, the owner of the non-restaurant has a deal with his neighbors that outdoor seating will wrap up by 11:00; we walked over the island in the Tiber. I will have to post about this island. The history is very interesting.

During the summer the city puts up bars, restaurants, crafts tents and a movie theater on the island and along the river’s banks. If you are in Rome visiting it’s fun place to go for a drink or to catch a movie on a nice night. The crowd gets bigger and younger later in the evening. Close to the theater were all these huge black and white photos from the glory day of Italian and American cinema. There were photos of Audrey Hepburn, Monica Vitti, Sofia Loren, Alain Delon, Fellini, De Sica etc. Further down were photos of the Island from way back. Incredible shots of the island being flooded back in 1870, a bridge that is no longer around and photos of the surrounding areas.

I didn’t stay for drinks. It was late (for me) and I had to get up early and write on Sunday. I will definitely return if only for the Nutella crepes I saw at one booth.

Bar near the tip of the Island.

Along the banks of the Tiber.

A shot of the Island from the Trastevere side. I didn't use any flash but increased my ISO. That's why my night photos look grainy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Flashback Friday – Mary J. Blige and David Gregory are "Just Fine"

When I walked out of the Comune the other day with my Carta d'Identita I felt like busting out with this song.

The card doesn't expire for 10 years. If I move to a new apartment I will have to update my card but it won't be the same drama as getting my residency. I cannot tell you how happy I was to get this process done with!

I know it's shocking to have a Flashback of something from this century, ha, but this is a song that played non-stop on my iPod when I moved here three months ago. I love Mary J. She has come a long way since the days of threatening to beat up Veronica Webb because she didn't like the interview questions Veronica was asking for VIBE.

Her voice can be raw at times but I like that she isn't a studio creation like some other singers out there. When Mary is singing I FEEL what she is talking about. You know she is singing from the heart. I don't watch the GRAMMYS anymore but the last time I watched them she sang NO MORE DRAMA. She brought the house down.

The lyrics to this song are deep.

Check out David Gregory busting a move. Who knew?!

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mad Men is back this Sunday!

I will see if I can download it from Amazon. I had to switch to iTunes Italia so I don't know it they have it. A friend just told me that MAD MEN airs in Italy on SKY. I don't have a TV yet but that is good to know.

This is hands down the best show on American TV right now. The writing is, moving, funny. The show just received 16 Emmy nods.

This season kicks off 2 years later. I cannot wait to see how things unfold for these characters. We know the 60s are about to happen and I wonder how they will deal with their worlds imploding.

Here are the opening credits, I see a Saul Bassinfluence.

A scene that just killed me. It might not make sense out of context but it was from the last episode of Season 1.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rome off the Tourist Track – Testaccio Farmers Market

Testaccio is a funky neighborhood located below the hills of the Aventine and across the river from the southern end of Trastevere. It was the site of an ancient river port. Most of the trading on the Tiber took place here.

The area, like most port towns was a little rough and tumble. Now it's the place for clubs, cool boutiques and of course the market. The market will be moving to a new location soon but the current one is worth checking out. The prices are not that much cheaper than Campo de Fiori, which is the market closes to me, so I won't be going often. I still need to visit the huge market near Termini.

Here is some very interesting information about Monte Tesaccio. This man-made mountain was formed during the height of the Roman Empire by the fragments of the clay containers used to import olive oil and other things.

I have no idea how to cook these but I want to try.

One of my favorite fruits.

Testaccio is hard core Roma (soccer) country. Do not roll up in this hood rocking your Lazio shirt. Ha.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dating update

As usual there isn't one.

Someone left a very wise comment on my blog saying thoughts become things. I hope that is true. So here is my thought…I will go on at least one date within a year. I think this a good goal, not too much pressure. Hell, it will be one date more than the number I went on during the last 3 or 4 years in L.A. It’s been so long I can’t remember.

Since the move to Rome I've been so focused on getting settled I haven’t had time to even think about the whole dating thing. Yes, I have almost broken my neck several times doing double takes of the gorgeous men I see everywhere going about their business (note to self: must write a post about that) but work and Italian red tape has taken up most of my energy.

I had drinks a few weeks ago with an American expat who had some hilarious stories about her dating experiences here via Internet dating. She reminded me of a conversation I had with G. a male Italian friend and C. a female Italian friend about this subject.

Me: So do a lot of people do Internet dating here? It’s very popular in L.A.
G: No.
C: Not unless you have a special kink or something.
G: Are you trying to tell us something? You seem so conservative.
C: I don’t know anyone who finds dates on the Internet. Not Italians.

Later in the evening:
Me: G. what’s with your friend M.?
G: Why are you interested?
Me: Well yeah if he didn’t smoke all the time.
G (as he lights a cigarette): If you want to get laid in Italy you’re really going to have to let that issue go.
C: Be glad you’re not in France. I just got back. The smoking there is worst.

Those of you who have been reading zee blog since my L.A. days know I’m not a big fan of Internet dating but G & C’s comments did crack me up. I’m not surprised. My Italians friends take forever (by American standards) to respond to email. They would rather meet in person, call or send a text.

As a woman of a certain age (ahem) I’m not sure how the dating thing is going to pan out. Most men my age are married and the divorce rate in Italy is very low. Meaning there are not many single men in my age range. With my luck I will be the only American expat who moves to Italy and never goes on a date. So many expats here met their OH,BF, CS etc. the first day or week they were in Italy.

I do think it’s harder to meet someone when you’re older. I no longer have patience for bs. I don’t mind spending a ton of time by myself. As a writer I actually need it. So there is no need for me put up with immature men, bad manners, bad sex (sorry but by this age you better know how to put it down or don’t freaking bother), men who have low self-esteem, men who hate women (I ran into a lot of the latter in L.A.) etc.

Despite my recent dating (or lack there of ) past I’m feeling optimistic. Who knows what will happen?

Monday, July 21, 2008


I am a resident of Rome BUT I still have to return to the *&$#! Comune to get my Carta d' Identita. Today I walked in with all my files and copies of everything you can think of to my 9:30 appointment. The same gentleman who started my residency process in May completed it. He didn't ask to see any of my files, just my passport. It was done very quickly. I have never seen so much paperwork in my life. What's up with all the special stamps I had to buy?

Anyway he told me in rapid-fire Italian that I needed to return with the forms he gave me to get my I.D. Of course I couldn't get the card today because all the numbers were gone.

I was talking to my parents over the weekend and they said my trips to the Comune sounded like dealing with the Marie (not sure of the's pronouced MaREE) the French equivalent. I remembered when they first moved back it seemed like every time I spoke to them they were on their way to or had just returned from that office.

Speaking of contracts and paperwork, I went to see my lawyer/agent on Friday and signed the contract for the film project. I am shocked at how quickly my deal closed. I still need to get a Partita Iva (kind of a freelancers/business Tax ID number). There is a woman at the firm who handles these things. Thank God.

So I have crossed one major hurdle. Next up two things, become fluent in Italian and get my Italian drivers license. The residency process wiped me out (and it's technically still not over). At this point I can't even think about dealing with the Italian version of the DMV. I'm going to worry about my license in the beginning of '09. My International License doesn't expire until May 09. I have never driven a stick before. It will be an interesting experience.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Flashback Friday – The Go-Gos – ”Vacation"

This song from 1982 (!) popped into my head in the middle of the Comune drama the other day. ha

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What’s Playing in Rome now …Norwegian hip-hop + The Four Seasons = monster hit.

This song is everywhere. I heard it three times yesterday. Once on the radio, then when I was passing a café, and last at a gelato shop near my apartment.

The first time I heard it I thought it was Gnarls Barkley. Then I look it up online and found out this group is from Norway! Norway is not the first place I think of when it comes to hip-hop. The song is a cover of a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons song. Great lyrics. I'm over most commercial hip/hop with it's stupid lyrics about bling this and bling that. This song lodged itself in my brain.

The group Madcon is Yosef Wolde-Mariam and Tshawe Baqwa. Yosef’s parents are from Ethiopia and Eritrea and Tshawe’s are from South Africa. Madcon is huge in Norway. They host a popular TV show and have had a few number one singles.

This song is always going to remind me of summer in Rome. Last weekend I went to birthday party at the beach. The host (we went to Ostia with a few weekends back) gave me a ride so I couldn’t leave when I started to hit a hall around midnight. I had been up since 5:30 a.m. and I’m usually in bed by 10:30. I got my second wind around 1:00 a.m..

We danced until 3:30 in the morning. This song was the last fast track the DJ played. I was wiped out (hello, I’m old) but some how found the strength to boogie some more.

I think this performance is on a Swedish show.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A return to the Comune...tears and confusion.

Ciao tutti,

Today I spent over three hours at City Hall. There was DRAMA earlier this morning.

After all the pushing and shoving, I get in, wait my turn, go the counter. Another immigrant translated for me. Basically the woman at the counter was saying as an American citizen I would need a Permesso di Soggiorno. I said I'm here as a French citizen, I have dual.

Lady at the counter: It doesn't matter. They changed the law. You're taking up too much time here. Good-bye.

I was dismissed. I knew this chick was wrong but I could feel the tears coming. I remembered that office I went to yesterday with the bi-lingual staffers. I told them what the lady told me. They said of course as an EU citizen you don't need a Permesso. They went to talk to C., the lady from yesterday who told me to come back today. She came back to the office and I stood there as four people spoke super fast Italian. Finally L. told me the problem was that they may have put me in the system as an American. If so I would have to repeat the whole process again but with my EU passport. I told them I didn't think they did since when I applied for my residency they never saw my American passport.

I had to wait while C. checked on the computer. For ten minutes I was sweating bullets. I really didn't think I had the strength to return to the Comune and go through this again. L. walked out and said "Congrats you're French. " ha. I was so relieved.

We went back to his office. He said he would give me an appointment to come back for my I.D. card so I wouldn't have to wait in line. He wrote down and explained everything I would need for the next step. He and the other lady apologized for the confusion earlier. On my receipt when I applied for the residency, under country of birth of course it says New York City, United States of America. However in the system (they gave me a copy of the print out) it also lists my citizenship as Francese (French). I'm not sure why the lady at the counter couldn't wrap her head around that and why she said EU citizens need a Permesso. Anyway the people in other office couldn't be nicer and more helpful. I had to chuckle when C. (the lady from yesterday) got aggravated with the clueless counter lady. While C. might not have the greatest bedside manner (she's the lady that always seems to be yelling at people) she did not give up until she got to the bottom of my situation.

FYI, for those making the move, one thing that has changed is now EU citizens have to prove that they have enough money to live here if they don't have a Partita Iva or work contract.

If I didn't have a meeting with the execs on my film project this afternoon I would be treating myself to a Mojito. :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Comune (City Hall) in Rome...only the strong survive.

It's a miracle that I am able to post today. I just returned from the Comune to check on my residency.

Last time I went a nice older lady had given us slips of paper with numbers on them. Once we got inside there was a system. All the people who came after us who were pushing and shoving couldn't jump us in line. I thought it was great. I got there at 7:30 a.m. an hour before the office opened. Why should someone who rolls in around 8:30 get ahead of me? I learned my lesson the last time I showed up at opening hours. The Comune runs out of tickets within five minutes.

Unfortunately nobody was that organized on the line this morning. I got there at 7:20 a.m. Everyone who came up after me asked what number was I? The men at the front said the numbers were finished. That was a bold face lie. There were no numbers. People standing on line were afraid of the intense, heavily tattooed Albanian men at the front. This American guy (his parents are Italian) who was next to me said all their friends were jumping the line and no one dare said a world.

Once the doors opened, it was crazy. People were running to the office. Then folks started pushing, hard. I ended up shoved against a closed glass door. As I was standing there unable to breathe, I asked the good Lord to spare my life. It would suck to die so soon after arriving in Italy.

One of the guards yelled at the people who were pushing and took my arm and helped me into the room. Another employee who always seems to be yelling at people, took my forms. I didn't see the Michael Chiklis look alike today. While I was waiting for information, an Italian woman kept arguing with one of the employees. An Italian man who I believe was a priest or at least a theological student by his attire, slammed his papers down on the counter, said BASTA! (enough) and proceeded to let the woman have it. A few of us had to hold back from laughing. Homegirl really pushed him to the edge. The whole scene was absurd. I wish my Italian was stronger so I could've understand what everyone was arguing about. The employee returned to the counter and said my papers will be ready this week. Yeah.

The downside is I have to return to that office. I tried to ask one of the guards in Italian if there was any special form I should have. He walked me over to another office where there was a woman who was bi-lingual. In English we talked about the madness that happens every morning. I really feel for the people that work there. I'm sure they get great benefits as state or city employees but I know I would lose it.

This morning several immigrants cursed out the security guards when the numbers ran out, others didn't have all their paperwork and then there are folks who can't really speak Italian (like myself). I walked out a 9:00 a.m. and felt like I had been there all week. ha.

I have to mentally prepare myself for my next trip.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rome off the Tourist Track – A day trip to a Sperlonga, a medieval beach town.

Last Saturday I took a day trip to this very nice beach. To reach Sperlonga take a train from Termini to the Fondi station (don’t forget to validate your ticket in the yellow box on the platform). Takes about an hour and cost 6.20 euros one way. From the station a local bus goes to the town. It’s about a 10-15 minute ride. Cost is one euro and you pay the driver.

I took the bus to the top of the medieval village then walked down to the beach. The old town is a must see. White houses cling to the rocks with incredible views. There are new homes and condos in the flats of Sperlonga.

Emperor Tiberius built his holiday residence here. There are ruins, grottos and a small museum. I would like to see those on my next trip.

The beach has some of the cleanest and clearest water in the region. I paid 20 euros for a chair and umbrella and had a cheap (but good) sandwich for lunch. Later when waiting for the bus I went to the local gelato shop and had a kick ass cherry granita.

The beach scene here is very family orientated. It's smack in the middle between and Rome and Naples. There were hardly any Americans and many of the few tourists were German. I was talking to an American couple who have been coming to Sperlonga for years. There was a group of American, French, Swiss and Italian students standing near us on the platform. The husband said it’s the most Americans he’s seen at the beach. I don’t know why this beach isn’t better known. It’s easier to get to than Positano and the water is spectacular. Maybe it’s too sleepy? There are a few restaurants but I don’t think there are any clubs.

If you are visiting Rome and want to hit the beach, I think it’s worth the time to check out Sperlonga. Ostia traffic is a nightmare. If you are going to be stuck in car traffic for an hour, why not take the train for an hour and go a beach with much nice water? Of course both beaches will be really packed during August.

Here is more info on Sperlonga

More photos on my Flickr page.

A shot of the village from the beach

The little piazza at the bottom of the hill. There was a cute one at the top as well but it was full with people that morning. I didn’t feel comfortable asking the older gentlemen sitting on the bench chitchatting if I could take their picture.

I walling down some winding steps in the old village and thought this ceiling was striking..

A view from the top.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Flashback Friday – Toronto edition – Sarah McLachlan “Aida”

Earlier this week one of the department heads from the movie I worked on was in town. She is traveling all over Italy with her family and boyfriend for a month. It was great to see her. We both thought it was weird that we saw each other in Rome and that I actually live here.

The same day I was meeting my former colleague; out of the blue I heard from the unit/still photographer who sent me a photo that she thought I would like. It was me and FH (aka, F*cking Hot) man sitting on a barge in Hamilton, Canada during a break in shooting. I’m still salty that some members of the crew thought it was nice to send pics from the France shoot and talk about how good the food was. We didn’t have any nice tablecloths during our crew lunches the week we shot in Hamilton.

Wow it’s been almost a year since I went to Toronto to work on the movie. The experience was great. It also lend to me quitting my job and moving to Rome. It’s one thing to go away on vacation. Of course you will have a good time and think, “oh I could live here.” But in Toronto I was working 6 days a week and very long days at that. Saturday shoots we did try to keep somewhat light.

Being in Toronto made me realize how much I missed being in a walking city. I loved the diversity of the city, the great neighborhoods and of course some amazing food. I remembered being shocked when I turned on the news and a local newscaster actually had braids!!! It was a revelation to be in a culture where having a natural, locks, braids, or twists were the norm and unlike in L.A. nobody thought you were militant because you chose not to have a blond weave down to your ass like Beyonce.

I knew I had to make a change when I would burst into tears driving to set during the last week of shooting. My immediate boss back in L.A. was worried I was going to back depressed. I pulled it together. I've always tried to be professional and didn’t think it would be fair to pull other people into my stank attitude.

I would love to go back and visit Toronto. I made some great friends there.

There are several very famous Canadian singers, the biggest one being Ms. Celine Dion. However, I felt the theme from TITANIC had been played enough. No need to post the video.

I decided to go with Sarah McLachlan because I haven’t heard a thing from her in years and I love this song.

She wrote the song about her best friend. Sarah dated and then married her friend's ex. The relationship with said friend was never the same. Sarah has a great voice and these lyrics are deep. Avril had the nerve to do a cover. Please. Remember when her record label was saying she was a “punk” singer. If she’s punk I’m Halle Berry.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rome off the tourist track...a trip to Tivoli, Part Two - Hadrian's Villa.

Part two of my day trip to Tivoli. To reach Hadrian’s Villa, take an orange (local bus) from Tivoli's Piazza Garibaldi down the hill. It’s about 10 minutes.

For some reason I thought this would be a Villa, it’s more of a village. It’s a huge complex with over 30 buildings. Tickets to enter are 6-10 euros depending on whether or not there is a special exhibition. Once you walk up a long driveway there is a building to your right that has a model of the original grounds. Unbelievable.

This was the retreat of Emperor Hadrian and was built between 118-134 AD. He was quite the amateur architect and designed many of the buildings himself. He also loved to paint and was a fan of Greek literature.

After the fall of the Empire this area was ransacked for all it’s amazing treasures. It’s estimated that over 500 pieces of important artifacts from all over the world came from this one area.

This is a place where a tour guide or a very good guidebook will be helpful. There is so much to see. There were over 4 Km of underground roads connecting all the buildings, huge baths, gardens etc.

Here is more info on the site.

Getting back to Rome was a little tricky. I think the buses to Ponte Mammolo station run only every hour on Saturday. I missed one bus by two minutes and was standing in the hot sun for an hour. Fun! I probably should have checked the schedule before I got on the bus. I didn’t make that mistake again on my next day trip to Sperlonga.

I will post on that trip next week.

Here is the link to my Flickr page for more photos of this incredible place.

Part of the wall that used to surround the grounds. I wish someone was standing by it so you can really get a sense of the scale of it.

Emperor Hadrian's had an outdoor studio where he used to paint and draw. Are there any world leaders who are artistic today?

A pool. There were underground pipes that would heat the water up. I like the view of the columns and the hills in the background.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fellini under the stars at Villa Medici, Chris & Don. A Love Story and the new Bond trailer.

Last week I went to see Fellini’s ROMA with an expat friend at the Villa de Medici in the Borghese Park. This Villa is right at the top of the Spanish Steps. The state took it over after the Medici family became extinct and now it’s the home of the French Academy. I wish I had bought my camera. The grounds are so beautiful. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that someone actually lived in this building.

I have seen most of Fellini’s movies but this was my first time seeing ROMA. Not much of a narrative, visually stunning and I have no idea what it all means. His script supervisor was there. She spoke before the movie and talked about what it was like to work with someone who improvised so much. Her job must have been very difficult. Ha

It was such a great venue to see a movie. Sitting outside in the garden, with a nice breeze blowing (I swear it was at least 10 degrees cooler in the park), the crowd was mostly Italian with some French and American viewers. We met some of my expats friend’s co-workers. They all work in the non-profit world on hunger related issues. It was a very fun evening.
Tonight they are showing NORTH BY NORTHWEST and tomorrow night it’s MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER.
Here is more info.

One of my former Italian teachers, Guido Santi from the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles, co-directed a documentary call CHRIS & DON. A Love Story. This film is about the 30-year relationship between British writer Christopher Isherwood (Cabaret was based on his work) and the American portrait artist Don Bachardy. I was really moved by this movie. For those stateside that live in the top 25 markets you can see it in your local theatre. Here is the review in the NYT. I am so happy for Guido and Tina. The reviews have been outstanding. They worked on the film for years. Guido is a native of Genoa who lived in Rome for a while. He came to the states to get his masters in film at USC. He teaches film and Italian. He was fantastic teacher very patient. I don’t know how he didn’t just cry after every beginner’s Italian class. It’s tough for documentaries especially a small independent one like this. He’s moving back to Rome at some point so I hope the film gets released here so his fellow Italians can see his work.

The Bond trailer is up. I pray this opens in Italy in Original Language. I want to hear Daniel Craig not someone else. I am so excited for this movie. Remember there was all this controversy of the casting of Craig? Please. I feel he is more similar to the Connery Bond and he’s very good actor. Two years at the Independent Spirit awards a friend and I were talking when out of the corner of my eye I saw Craig. This man drips with charisma. Did I say how excited I am to see this movie!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Italian Vogue's all black July issue

The fashion world has been buzzing about this issue for months. The photos are incredible, there are some interesting articles on travel, film, Spike Lee, Michelle Obama and a tribute to Yves Saint Laurent etc. It will take me a while to read said articles as they are in Italian and I get frustrated after the first few paragraphs (I cannot wait until I can just speak/read/write fluently).

I read an article in a British newspaper that said one reason designers are not using black models is because the country with the biggest growth in luxury goods is China. And black models “don’t sell” there.

So let me get this straight, a woman in communist China will decide not to spend the equivalent of $1800 on a Louis Vutton bag because Naomi Campbell is in the ad?

American Vogue also had an article about this issue. One person said the last decade was just bad for models period so it was worse for black models. Celebs are on the covers more (especially in the U.S). Plus designers are looking for “hangers,” 14 yearo-olds from Eastern Europe who do not “distract” from the clothes. Many feel this is actually bad for fashion. It’s booooring. Everyone looks the same. Where are the Asian or Indian models? Remember the early 90s, the 80s? Now poof all the models of color are gone as the world become smaller? Makes no sense.

I think things are changing. Linda Evangelista has been working non-stop so is Naomi “I have a bad temper” Campbell. Back in the 80s the average model was a 6 maybe even OH MY GOD an 8. Now they are 0 or 00. Linda, Naomi and Christy Turlington are grown women are def. bigger than a 2 or a 0. Glad to see they are back,

One fashion blogger asked if American Vogue would ever do an issue like this. No. Italian and French Vogue are way more fashion forward. Their readership is more specific. They can take more risks. Anna Wintour is working in a country that is a lot more conservative.

Regarding the photos themselves. Steven Meisel is one of my favorite photographers. The photos are gorgeous. There are a bunch of back in the day models like Veronica Webb, Pat Cleveland, Karen Alexander, Iman etc. along with the up and coming.

Ms. Campbell has a spread with the title “There’s Only One Naomi”. I know she has issues (my sister used to go to the same NYC based hairdresser) but she has been holding it down for 20 years. I mean even when she had to serve time (after being charged with assault) by working in sanitation, did she not look amazing on her way the station? Naomi, clearly those anger management classes you went to are not working, please get some help. Fashion needs you. ☺

I am not a big Tyra fan but here she’s striking. She doesn’t do a lot of high fashion, she is more commercial (Victoria Secrets, Sports Illustrated) but the way she is shot made me see her differently. Keep an eye out for Arlenis from the Dominican Republic. Stunning. She was discovered walking to classes in the D.R.

Will this issue change anything? Probably not but it does serve as a wake up call. Fashion is a multi-billion global business; therefore the models should reflect women from all over the globe. I hope there will be no need for “a very special issue” in the future because we will be seeing all types of models.

I liked what Franca Sozzani, the editor of Italian Vogue, said when a reporter asked given the recent elections here and the Lega Nord results, was she worried about the reception to this issue? She said she didn’t care. That was their problem not hers. Amen.

Here is the New York Times article about the issue.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Rome off the tourist track...a trip to Tivoli.

This is a great day trip if you live in/near Rome or are spending more than a few days visiting the Eternal City.

Today’s post is about Villa d’Este. Tomorrow I will be posting about the infamous July Italian Vogue (It’s finally out. I will have to read it today) and will try to post about Hadrian’s Villa later in the week.

To get to Tivoli take the B line to Ponte Mammolo Station. Buy a ticket for the COTRAL bus (I paid 4 euros round trip) bus to Tivoli. It’s approximately a 40-minute ride without traffic. Get off at the main piazza, Piazza Garibaldi. The villa is a few blocks away.

If possible get there early and/or go during the week. I was there as the gate opened at 9:00 a.m. and by 10:30 there were several tour groups in the gardens. I went solo but there is plenty of signage in the Villa about each room.
Here is more info on this Unesco World Heritage site. Entry is 6 and a half euros.

The palace built in 1550 (that is crazy old) for cardinal Ippolito d’Este, son of Lucrezia Borgia is bellissima. There are over 51 fountains in the gardens. While the gardens with their fountains are the main draw, the Villa shouldn’t be missed. In one of the rooms you can see where they found flooring from an even earlier villa. The frescos are gorgeous. Each room has a theme.

A view from the Villa. It was nice and cool up there.

One of the fountains.

Looking down from the Owl Fountain

There are pictures of frescos inside the Villa and more fountain pictures on my
Flickr page.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Heat, titles and the 4th of July

It's really hot. I have closed the shutters and turned on the fan. I wish I could lie in a pool somewhere.

My manager (in L.A.) and I have a conference call every Wednesday. I told him I'm sending him my spec script soon. He said I need a new title. Sigh.

All night and this morning ( I woke up at 5:30 as usual) I've been trying to think of some that didn't completely suck. However, I've been distracted because of some of the comments from yesterday along with the upcoming holiday.

Yesterday as I was writing a few responses, certain feelings came flooding back to the surface. I realized that I was getting kinda angry.

Then it occurred to me I haven't felt that way since I boarded an American Airline flight to Rome.

The 4th of July is tomorrow. I've been thinking about why am I an expat? Why did I move here vs Paris? Is it normal not to miss for one second the country of your birth? A place you have lived for over 40 years? What does it meant to be patriotic?

I'm still trying to collect my thoughts so I don't ramble on or write a book. Once or if I do, I'll post more.

I do know the answer to the Paris question. I spoke about it before. This quote from the novel "THE NAMESAKE" sums it up.
"Immersing herself in a third language, a third culture, had been her refuge - she approached French, unlike things American or Indian, without guilt, or misgiving, or expectation of any kind. It was easier to turn her back on the two countries that could claim her in favor of one that had no claim whatsoever."

The character like me, is a first generation American. Her parents are from India. One of my closest friends back in New York is also of Indian decent and we used to talk all the time about of how weird it is to be a person of color in America when your parents are not American born or raised. You feel all this pressure to prove your Americaness but yet that culture is at complete odds with your parent's. Then the culture you are trying to so hard to fit into kinda doesn't want your brown or black butt to begin with. In my situation it was not fun when I was younger and because I spent my formative years in the 'burbs I spoke a certain way. i.e. white. So I had to prove I was "down" or the blackness police would take away my pass. In said suburb I heard the n-word dropped on a regular basis, even from some friends (when they would slip and say the word then look at me and say "you know I don't think you're one" or "oops sorry"). So basically I fit in nowhere.

At some point, you know what, it's fucking exhausting. In Italy I'm a "straniera" a foreigner. That's cool, it's true I am. I don't have a single Italian relative. But what is not cool is feeling like a foreigner in your own freaking country.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

My first paid writing job...file under ironic.

I can’t talk about details, as the script isn’t written. Once there’s a script I could say more about the process, the company etc. A few weeks ago I wrote about a pitch I had with a prominent film company here. I was very nervous since this was the first time I was doing the pitching instead of listening to a pitch.

Well the company liked my idea. I’m getting notes this week, more meetings next week. The executive on the project referred me to one of the top agent/lawyers here and he is going to rep me (I have a manager, an agent and a lawyer in L.A. but they cannot do the deal as it’s in Italian). I asked G about the lawyer before my meeting and he said, “Uhm yeah you’d be lucky to be repped by that firm.” Then he started busting my chops saying I shouldn’t bother to learn Italian since my “English speaking, just got here from Hollywood vibe” is working for me. ha

All jokes aside I can’t really put into words what the last few days have been like. I feel like my crazy career path has been validated. Sometimes people think, “Oh you don’t really work.” Hello, yes I do. A lot. Just because I don’t punch a time clock doesn’t mean I’m not working. I wish I could get a paycheck every week or every two weeks again. I miss those days. Something about pointing to a specific project will help with the “WTF did I do with my life” moments.

It’s very ironic that the first film I will be working on a writer will be in Italy where I have lived for only three months. A place that some people like to say is a mess, nothing works, everyone is broke, etc. and according to a comment left on my blog when I was thinking about moving to Rome,

“anonymous said...
forget working in the film industry in italy, if you're black you're invisible here! they might ask you to clean their house or look after their kids unless you are famous already, then they will wipe your ass for you!!”

I wouldn’t succeed (and no I am not famous). Yes it’s only one treatment. An Italian screenwriter will write the script with my collaboration so there will be no buying of a villa in Cortona. After taxes perhaps I will be able to afford the train tickets to visit Cortona. The amount is similar to what I would get on an American film at this budget.

But money is not the point. The point is I’m glad I didn’t let my negative experiences in Hollywood stop me from pursuing my goals. Simple fact there is not a single black female A-list screenwriter in Hollywood. TV is a little better, there's Shonda Rhimes who created “Grey’s Anatomy.” I see the careers of my female screenwriting friends, black and white and it’s tough. You are quickly put into a box (and god help you if you are over 30). That is why we are so happy that SATC: The Movie kicked butt maybe there will be more movies about women green lit (it’s very hard for women to get hired to write non female driven movies. Complete double standard, guys like Ron Bass or Tyler Perry can write for women but not the other way around).

One successful male black screenwriter I was talking to told me he tells his reps not to put his picture in the trades when he sells a script/gets an assignment.

Here I walked into the room with an idea. They liked it. Story is story. This obsession in Hollywood with age, gender and race is ridiculous. I grew up in NYC then suburbia with parents from another country. Of course I can write about things other than the ‘hood. Writers write. They create. If I don’t know details about a certain world there is something called research. To quote from a “60 Minutes” segment on ageism in Hollywood, did the studio hire ants to write ANTZ? Please.

Another anonymous blogger left a comment on my blog saying Rome is “an unbearable backwards city.” I can only go by my experiences. I just got one of the biggest breaks in my career in this “backwards” city vs. the “forward” city I struggled and lived in for 10 years. Not to get too new agey/Southern Californian on folks but clearly the universe is telling me something.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Randomissimo - Do Italian men not color their hair?

Mr. Berlusconi might but since I’ve moved here I've seen so many men with salt and pepper hair or all salt.

I haven’t seen any commercials for Just For Men type products. American men must be coloring their hair more often.

I also don’t see many comb-overs. Men here who are going bald cut it super short. I think that is a much better look than plugs, toupees, or a comb-over.

Everywhere I look I see sexy men confidently wearing the grey.

Okay this commercial bothers me on several levels.

First of all if the dad got a decent haircut he would look fine. At my age it would never occur to me not to date a man because he has grey hair. On the other hand a man with hair that is clearly not his natural color looks freaking weird. Who are you trying to fool? Second, he sends a photo to his daughters from the date? Creepy. Anyway I don’t think grey hair alone ages men (or women). A nice hair cut and a wardrobe that fits your body will help you look your best. Third, that tagline "Stay in the Game?", sad. So getting older takes you out of the game? What the heck is "the game"? Shouldn't we be playing less games as we get older? This is just trying to men feel insecure. Now if you are 45 and your 23 year old assistant doesn't want to date you because you have some grey, that's a different story. To her your ass is old and you need to get a grip. (plus she is your assistant).

I know America is driven by youth and 40 here is not the same as 40 in the States (esp. not in L.A.). It that why Italian men don’t seem to have hangs up about turning grey? I have met men here in their late 20s/early 30s who are almost gray and don’t care. My male friends in the States were not happy about it. Except for one guy and he was British.

Perhaps George Clooney will help American Men just say no to Just For Men.

Here are some well know Italian men rocking the salt and pepper:
Recent fired coach of the Italian National Team Roberto Donadoni

Singer Eros Ramazzotti

Politician Pier Ferdinando Casini