This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Not Your Average Greece Fire

Greece Fires: An Exquisitely Beautiful Country Comes Under Fire
Many grease fires, I've heard, can be dealt with quickly: A healthy dose of baking soda or a strategically placed wet towel can effectively smother the flames.

Unfortunately, there is no towel large enough and no amount of baking soda that can save Greece from the fires that have ravaged the country since Friday, August 24. I had not immediately grasped the enormity of the situation until I saw the NASA photograph taken from space [above]. Seeing that blew my mind; Greece was, and is, clearly under siege.

Often, tragedy brings about both ingenuity and heroism, as demonstrated by George Dimopoulos in Makistos, Greece via The New York Times:

When the water ran out, with pine cones popping and the flames still high around his house, George Dimopoulos switched to wine. He made it himself two years ago, and, nearly alone in his village as it all but burned down on Friday night, he poured liter after liter, 200 in all, into his little copper hand-pumped crop sprayer, and sprayed and sprayed.

"I had nothing else," said Mr. Dimopoulos, 63.

~The New York Times, 8/27/07, In Greece, Wine Saves Lives...Full content article can be viewed here.
The fires in Greece can only be described as a national emergency. Much of the Peloponnese region in Southern Greece as well as other areas have been torched.

"The country is under siege and in mourning," writes Georgia Nikoloudis, a family friend of ours, from her home in Kalamata. She writes quickly, frantically, afraid of losing power and not being able to write anymore. She's been sending us e-mails straight away since the fires began.

"The sky is dark with smoke," she writes us, "Helicopters keep buzzing overhead, the electricity keeps going on and off and the television news coverage is practically non-stop and heartbreaking."

I think back to the not-so-long-ago past and I find myself standing across from the Acropolis as it glows, crimson then gold then sapphire. Music plays as the lights showcase the grandeur of Athen's most prized historical site. Days later, I sit and gaze at the sea on the island of Aegina as I crack open pistachios, as fresh as they come. I befriend orphan cats. My lips pucker at my first taste of ouzo. In Olympia, home of the ancient Greek Olympics, I pose, stupidly, with my right arm raised up as if holding an imaginary torch. I take long walks along a picturesque countryside of olive groves. I scribble down the symbols of the street names I pass along the way-- in case I get lost. This is the Greece I remember.

Now it's the people of Greece that find themselves lost in a land that, once the smoke clears, they will no longer recognize as their own.

*This post has expanded into an full-length article that will be published on another site. Link to follow*

Resources and for more information:

Go Greece
The New York Times: Greek Leaders Criticized Over Fires
The New York Times: In Greece, Wine Saves Life...
The Los Angeles Times: Greek Government Pilloried...
The Daily Green: Environmental Impact Of Fires In Greece
An American In Athens Blog

**Photo Credit: NASA Satellite Imagery, The fires as seen from space.

**Special Thanks To Georgia Nikoloudis for her contributions to this post and associated articles about the fires in Greece.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Stanno Tutti Bene (Everybody's Fine), but always watch your back!

*This appeared in the BBC News yesterday, 8/23/07

Cinema Paradiso director 'mugged'
Oscar-winning Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore is in hospital after being attacked and mugged on a street in Rome, according to local reports.

Tornatore, 51, who won a best foreign film Oscar for Cinema Paradiso in 1990, spoke of the attack in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

It said the filmmaker was asked for directions by two men, One of whom then hit him on the head from behind. The thieves ran off with his wallet, watch and mobile phone.

Tornatore told the newspaper that he did "not remember a thing"after he was struck.

Nostalgic tale

The director was due to undergo further tests on Thursday, according to Italian news agency ANSA. It said he was suffering from head trauma and several other minor injuries. His sister told the agency he had recovered and would be home soon.


Cinema Paradiso tells the nostalgic tale of a young boy who grows up to be a film-maker, having been inspired as a child by a local cinema projectionist.

Tornatore's other films include: Stanno Tutti Bene (Everybody's Fine) with actor, Marcello Mastroianni, Malena, La Leggenda del pianista sull'oceano ( The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean) His latest film, La Sconosciuta (The Unknown) has won several awards in Italy.

Cinema Paradiso...... I like this scene...and music

My thoughts go out to Italian film director, Giuseppe Tornatore. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"I'm ok" --Two eternal minutes of horror

The following is the original text e-mail that my pen friend Leyla sent me last week to let me know that she was ok after an 8.0 earthquake hit, 90 miles from where she lives in Lima, Peru.

Hearing an account from someone who went through it is both powerful and emotionally wrenching...

August 16, 2007

How r u? Im fine (thanks to God) with Lennie (my sister)...I have been all this time very busy in my company working a lot with Lennie and yesterday was a caotic time for all my people cos was 2 eternal minutes of horror. Too many houses, and some church and hotel are destroyed, many people is dead and in this moment all the citizens of Lima and outside the capital are very afraid about a second eartquake. The international help is coming to Peru
incluiding The United States and all the world stay with Peru right now.

I was afraid of my building and the life of the people in the company and we
in order went outside with calm but the move was very wildly, I felt the
floor like a "zig zag" in this moment I thought "we´ll die".

Well, I must to go, thank u so much for your worry about me.
Kisses. I´ll mail soon.


To learn more and to help those devastated by the earthquake in Peru, please visit:

World Vision
The Red Cross
Peru Food Blog: How You Can Help

*Photo Credit of Downtown Lima, Peru: Destino Peru

Travel, Knowledge, And Responsibility...

There was a time when a story like the recent earthquake in Peru would pass through my mind as yet another event happening somewhere else in the world…a tragedy, no doubt, but hurricanes, tsunamis, political unrest, terrorist plots, bank robberies, murders, stock market crashes—there’s always something happening, somewhere in the world, and it’s always happening simultaneously with a multitude of other things. One could easily think that just existing is hard enough without taking on the miseries on the world’s shoulders, too.

However, as the world’s gotten smaller, I’ve gotten older. As the information age has spun into overtime, I’ve become hungrier for knowledge. As I’ve forced myself to think outside the box, I’ve found that I’ve left the box behind. The world is an oyster and it’s in my hands. The stamps in my passport tell the story.

“Look closer,” I tell myself, “Pay attention. Take risks. Travel.”

Long ago, I made travel and gaining knowledge about other cultures a priority worthy of my undertaking. However, with both of those goals comes responsibility. As a traveler, you become an ambassador of your own country, whether you like it or not. When you open yourself up to other cultures, you realize both the comforts (and the shortcomings) of your own.

You learn that the world has been telling you its secrets all along. You just weren’t there to listen. Travel opens up all your senses and allows you to understand the world, its people, and yourself much better than you ever thought possible. As frequent travelers know, you must leave in order to truly arrive.

When I can't physically travel, I allow myself to travel vicariously by learning the ways of people in other lands and conversing with pen pals I’ve gained in other countries. Through both pen pals and my travel experiences, I've learned that despite our differences, we all very much the same.

So when there’s a major earthquake in Peru, I cannot just dismiss it. I know someone in Peru, someone I’ve never met, someone named Leyla.

When the news first broke, I sent her a frantic e-mail, knowing full well that that my message may never go answered. Thankfully and miraculously she wrote back with this subject line:

“I’m ok.”

Technology has allowed us to come together as nations and as people of a common planet. Like paper dolls, we join hands across the land and seas of our world and connect across cultures through the internet and other means.

As people we need to realize that we are only as strong as our weakest link and being human, we are all vulnerable to what the world throws at us as well as the sorrows we inflect upon ourselves as a species.

The borders of our countries are but lines on the palm of a planet whose future clearly depends on us. The most we can do is travel, learn about each other, and understand that a ripple in the world’s landscape expands to affect us all, whether we realize it or not.

*Leyla's original text e-mail appears above in a more recent post put up today*

Monday, August 13, 2007

An Explosive Weekend ( and a need for protective eyewear)

It’s not every day that you exit the freeway to see a sign flashing:


But this is L.A. and the “gunfire and explosions” on an otherwise benign Saturday could be attributed solely to Hancock, a new feature film helmed by Peter Berg and starring Will Smith and Charlize Theron.

Saturday, I worked downtown on another shoot and afterward came by Hancock’s set to witness the huge street stunt they had planned. Amid the high-rises of downtown, Hancock had taken over several streets—a flutter of activity at nearly 1 a.m.

An amazingly, huge crater “iced” with overturned cars had been created in the middle of the street. A water truck continually passed through wetting down the streets as cast, crew, and “looky-loos” waited on the rooftops of adjoining buildings.

With stunts like this, you really only get one shot—so they rehearsed over and over again until BAM! a huge explosion belched cars up into the air and down again as they slammed into each other and skidded every which way. The ensuing black smoke forced me to look away. (Glad I put those sunglasses on as protective eyewear!) When I looked back, a moment later, the street was a mess of debris and thrashed cars. Even to cast and crew and others alike, it was impressive.

Hancock follows a hard-living superhero (Smith) who, somewhat like Mr. Incredible, has fallen out of favor with the public. He looks to a PR rep, played by Jason Bateman, in hopes of repairing his image, but gets otherwise involved with the PR rep’s wife (Theron).

Director: Peter Berg
Expected Release Date: July 2, 2008 (USA)
Stars: Will Smith, Charlize Theron
Genre: Super Action-Drama
Company: Sony/Columbia Pictures

Scribes: Vincent Ngo, Vince Gilligan and Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman.

*Michael Mann is producing the film via his Forward Pass production shingle along with Smith's Overbrook Entertainment.

For updated info about Hancock, check or

Cartoon image from The Incredibles

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

LA Confidential

The Pacific Wild West Continues...
(see prior post from today)

So, in all excitement of the uninvited kind, here some other L.A. crime and punishment, wild west experiences and lessons I’ve compiled in my time here in L.A.

* Yes, there are freeways in our backyards here… One evening, a few years back, I heard a LOUD crash and looked outside to see that a car had flown off the freeway exit and directly into my backyard. As a former Ms. Heartland Good Samaritan, I, of course, went outside to see if the driver was OK before calling 911. Turns out, it was a stolen vehicle. Moments later, by the time the fire department and the police arrived, all the shadowy occupants had fled on foot.
Lesson: Always call 911 first. Many good samaritans have perished while doing their good deeds.

* Close encounters of the high-end SUV kind: After having a close encounter with a black SUV Mercedes while rollerblading along Ventura Blvd, I learned the lesson that:
The WALK signal is not sacred anywhere in L.A. and even when being cautious it’s hard to make eye contact with a driver through Mercedes-tinted windows.

* Shoot-em Ups in broad daylight: When you’re at work in your benign coffee shop job and you hear gunshots coming from a bank robbery next door and customers are locking themselves in the customer bathroom, it’s never a good sign, but makes for interesting conversation starters for the rest of the day.
Lesson: And yet another good reason not to bank with B of A (Bank of America.)

* The Homeless don't always have empty pockets: Shortly after I parked my car, early one morning, I saw a homeless man walk by, cross the street, and pull a knife on someone and start shouting obscenities.
Lesson: It’s never too early to put the LAPD crime hotline on speed-dial.

* And in regards to writing: My car was once broken into in a snatch-and-grab incident. What did they steal? My screenplay notes…I kid you not…oh, and my checkbook ( cute Linus & Lucy checks) and a Ralph Lauren bag I’d inherited from my time as a Dillard’s sales associate. As I endured annoyingly little, bitty cuts from the slivers of shattered window glass underneath my front seats, I mostly cried about the loss of the screenplay notes. I ended dumpster hunting 3 blocks in each direction looking for my writing notebook to no avail.
Lesson: Have your writing notebook with you at all times…never ever lose sight of the notebook. (It’s L.A.--you never know--even the homeless with the knife may very well be in search of the next, great indie film that just so happens to be completed outlined and detailed in your little notebook.

*Photo credit: Donna France*

The Pacific Wild West

Two Sundays ago, I briefly got onto the Hollywood Freeway/101 for my commute to work on Last Comic. I was on the 101 for the grand equivalent of one exit length when I noticed the telltale flashing ACCIDENT sign positioned on the shoulder of the road and traffic suddenly starting to back up BAD…as in L.A. bad.

I immediately breezed off onto the Cahuenga Pass ( my favorite freeway avoidance path) and looked back toward the freeway in horror to see the most grotesque accident pile-up I’d ever seen up close! Highway Patrol cars were everywhere, debris was scattered for miles, and cars were thrown about like toys…One car I saw ( a white Toyota Corolla ) was on the median, facing the wrong way and completely sheered in half! Those are the things you shouldn’t see, but the things that certainly put life into perspective and make you that much more thankful for your next breath.

It also got me thinking about how L.A. is still kind of like the Pacific version of the Wild West in many ways. I’ve seen many instances of this “up-close-and-more-personal” than I’d care to admit with number one SCARY being a car accident of my own on another Sunday about 2 years ago...( more about that at

*Photo credit to Edward B.*

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Put On A Happy Face

I've been MIA the past several days working on Last Comic Standing ( doing locations). Sunday was the mother of all days this all of us worked a 22-hour day.

I was able to do some writing on the set that day, here and there, but sometimes that's difficult because although you could have a good chunk of down time, you must be ready to bolt at any given time. In other words, if something comes up, you've gotta be on it pronto. It's the old case of hurry up and wait, well known in the entertainment business.

On the up side, the creative juices really start to flow after indulging in coffee and tea--and then following it all up with Diet Coke chased down with Red Bull. I really try to avoid bombarding my body with such extremes, but then again, that's how I get through a 20+ hour day. Every production day is like at least three "human days." It's like living your life in dog years. I was evidently determined to be the Last Human Standing.

I finally caught up with my e-mail from the last 2 weeks--just in time to find two additional "passes" from scripts and projects I'm shopping around. I'm excited to add these rejections to my collection. No, seriously, I am--- I'm moving up in the writer's world. I used to be ignored entirely, but now at least people are taking the time to respond. In fact, some have gone so far as to compliment positively ( and in detail) as well as state specifically why they are passing. More often than not, the "pass" has had very little to do with the actual writing. I'm starting to get some of the most encouraging rejections I've had yet!

"Put on a happy face", I tell myself, "it only takes one Yes."

*Photo in the post by Jean Says*