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.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Random Thoughts Can't Be Broken...

I just read a startling statistic in the October issue of SELF magazine. As reported in SELF's "happiness update":

Your mind wanders 30% of the time you're awake. Researchers say that zoning out may promote creativity, so daydream away...

My reaction? Is it really that LOW? For me, personally, I think I'm existing on a 60/40 split. ( i.e. 60% daydreaming, 40% focused on what I should be doing.) And that's probably a conservative figure--there are days in which, I'm sure, I zone out even more. However, I am pretty creative, and apparently, so are my cats.

As I write this, Athena & Cleopatra (my cats) are playing "keep away" with a grasshopper out on the patio. It's funny to watch. In fact, I'm "zoning out" right now, watching them... It's also Sunday, which makes it a perfect day to zone out anyway.

Occasionally, I keep track of the odd thoughts that creep through my mind. Sometimes seeing these thoughts in print, scarily proves that I'm more eccentric and odd than I initially thought.

For instance:

~How long can I stand on my head?
( Thanks to yoga, my current record is 4 minutes--I think I can get that to 5)

~How many hours does chewing gum last?
(I did have that stick of gum last close to 8 hours a few years ago--before it completely dissolved in my mouth into a disgusting glob of white tar. I think it was a stick of Extra. The green apple flavor...that's good stuff. I should pick some more up.)

~What time is it in New Zealand?
This prompts me to do math in my head and count on fingers, which is good to keep my elementary math skills up.

~Do bees get allergies? I mean, that would be awful if they did, being around all that pollen all the time.

~Why don't cows get colon cancer? They say that regular consumption of red meat could increase your risk, but what if you ARE red meat? I guess that makes you either completely immune or totally screwed.

~Hmm...I'm kind of a good singer ( when no one's listening.)

~Do I just not "get" movie musicals? Why are they coming back? What can I do to stop them? Am I the only one that doesn't know the lyrics to Grease by heart? (But I did like Moulin Rouge...hmm... many people thought it was weird, so it makes sense I'd like it. And I guess I have to make an exception for Evita which I really liked... Am I just a musical snob? Because, come to think of it, The King & I was really cool, and as a kid I was obsessed with Annie... Okay maybe they're not so bad...certain ones, but I still don't really like them, for the most part, with a few exceptions.

Even the random thoughts sometimes mushroom in my head and occupy space much longer than they should have -- as evidenced by the circular tangent my brain took on movie musicals (above.) I guess we're all a little neurotic, especially if we start paying attention to our daydreams.

Random Thoughts Can't Be Broken...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Diversity Adds Texture To TV & Film

Also see published article here

The minority report of entertainment today is starting to look up. With success from shows such as Ugly Betty and Grey’s Anatomy, it finally appears that diversity’s gone, well, almost mainstream.

This year, UCLA did a study titled, “Hollywood’s Race/Ethnicity and Gender-Based Casting: Prospects For A Title VII Lawsuit” that studied casting breakdowns posted on Breakdown Services, the entertainment industry’s primary source for casting, for a period of three months last year.

According to the study, as reported in back in January, most (94%) of breakdowns specified gender. Nearly 50% of roles did not specify race, but the role was understood to be for a Caucasian. The study, according to, claimed that the “total percentage of roles reserved for white actors” was nearly 69%, forcing minority actors to collectively compete for the roughly 8.5% of roles open to all ethnicities.

Those statistics make life as a minority actor look horrendously dire, as if life as an actor isn’t already dire enough. However, casting directors have found the study, done by Russell Robinson, professor of law at UCLA, to be frustrating. With stacks and stacks of headshots piling up within days of a breakdown posting and hundreds of photos to scroll through on electronic submissions, a casting director’s job is never easy.

Gender, age, race/ethnicity, and a host of other attributes are the many ways that casting directors attempt to narrow down their choices. Most of the time, casting directors only have so much power over the ethnicity of a certain role. Specifics of a role’s ethnicity can be outlined by the screenwriter of the project, the producer, the director, or anyone else in between. If you’re talking commercials, it gets even more complicated because you also have the added bureaucracy of an advertising agency and their clients, who also have a say in, not only who gets cast, but what their ethnicity is, if that indeed is even a factor. (For advertising, a lot of times it depends on the demographic they are trying to reach.)

When people in control make ethnic diversity a priority, minority actors have a greater opportunities. ABC hosts a minority showcase every year with the goal of padding their casting files full of ethnically diverse actors for consideration for roles in the upcoming year. Other networks have followed suit.

It also doesn’t hurt to have people in charge like Shonda Rhimes, creator and executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy. Even the Grey’s promotional tagline implies racial and ethnic diversity as well as plotlines: "Medicine nor relationships can be defined in black and white. Real life only comes in shades of grey"

Salma Hayek has used her clout as a well-known Latina actress to get things done in the past, such as her pet project, Frida. Lately, however, it’s been all about her success with helping to bring a widely successful Columbian telenovela, Yo Soy Betty, La Fea, to American audiences in the form of the now widely successful, Ugly Betty.

Diversity also extends to feature films. Even producers such as Ken Atchity of Atchity Entertainment International (AEI), most known for producing such films as and Joe SomebodyLife Or Something Like It is teaming up with Spanish Harlem Entertainment (SHE)/ Magic Dragon/Spark Digital Media to produce a series of multicultural, urban American films featuring a cast of characters that represent African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Caucasians.

We’re not talking one feature film; we’re talking a series of feature films. Collectively, they aim to crossover into the Hispanic market as well as the mainstream. The team’s first venture will be the feature, Hitting The Bricks, featuring Rapper Reem Raw as well as Actor-DJ Doctor Dre. The gritty, urban film follows a young, Hispanic man, Fuego, who has dreams of becoming a rap music sensation. (Chi-Li Wong and Mark K. Sullivan are also producers with Atchity on the project.)

As more producers in both film and television discover the benefits of appealing to mass minority markets (in other words, the dollars that can be made) more and more roles will be extended to actors of minority descent. America’s been changing for awhile, and entertainment’s always a step or so behind, but they’re starting to catch up.

And the era of prominently Caucasian leading roles and principal roles is going the way of Wonder Bread. However, just like with bread, complexity, texture, and diversity is good for us-- and for the entertainment we watch. Of course, it’s all good for minority actors. And that’s certainly not a bad thing.

*Photo credit: The cast of Ugly Betty
~ Copyright ABC/Ugly Betty

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Excerpt from Mishaps & Nebraska Mementos

Mishaps and Nebraska Mementos
(An excerpt, full article available here)

By Kendra Liedle

Sometimes you have to leave a place to really appreciated the things that make it special. Most of the time, the things you discover, and ultimately miss, are some of the simplest things in life.

I miss the autumn leaves, the first snow of the year, thunderstorms, the big sky, the clean air, the cornfields and the open spaces. I like the fact that there is only one freeway and that it isn’t even a freeway at all. To Nebraskans, it’s just I-80. I miss the electricity in the air during tornado warnings. I miss basements. For me, only by leaving and coming back to Nebraska could I experience all of these things and more with a child’s sense of wonderment.

I now realize that Nebraska – that sense of place and experience cannot be captured, packaged up, and tied with a bow. Maybe that’s what keeps bringing me back.

KL, Copyright 2007, Nebraska Life Magazine

They Kidnapped my APPLE BUTTER, Part II

Meet Delores (aka "Grama")
Be careful what you write, you don’t know who is reading. Luckily, the readers of the apple butter article have been remarkably responsive. A week ago, I got a letter from a
Nebraska Life
subscriber named Delores who had enjoyed the article to such a degree that she sent me a jar of Arbor Day Farm apple butter.

The ironic twist was that this extraordinarily generous (and well-read!) woman, Delores, started Grama’s, Inc. the company that makes and packages the very apple butter I bought in Nebraska City.

Delores started Grama’s, Inc., a company based in Lincoln, Nebraska, 25 years ago so that she could commercially make and market the jams, jellies, and fruit butters she remembers her own grandmother making. To purchase her exquisitely, sweet, and yummy apple butter visit Arbor Day Farm. Grama's, Inc. products are also available through Amazon (under Grama's, Inc gourmet foods.) However, I’d advise you put it in your checked luggage.

P.S. Thank You, Delores (aka "Grama"!)

They Kidnapped My APPLE BUTTER!

About this time last year, I was sloshing around in the rain with my grandmother and my mom at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City. We could’ve done it another day, but that’s the thing about short visits ~ before you’ve even arrived, you realize that time you haven’t even lived yet has already been eaten away.

The other part of it was my stubbornness. Blame it on my heavy German-Russian blood and my inherent pioneer spirit, but I was determined to go to Arbor Day Farm and I was going to do it that day.

What’s a little rain?

I just happened to drag both my mom and my grandmother into this little “Apple” daydream of mine.

For some reason in all of this, I’d become fixated on apple butter.

“Must buy apple butter in Nebraska City,” my mind kept telling me.

I think part of it was just my oddly growing nostalgia for all things Nebraskan, particularly the trees and the apples and the whole experience of autumn in the Midwest.

So, I was not happy when TSA Security at Eppley Airfield confiscated my apple butter, claiming that it fell into “gel or liquid” territory.

(Yeah, it also happens to be really, really good!)

However, I approach every setback as an opportunity to tell a great story later.

The kidnapping of my apple butter that cold, rainy Nebraska day has been recounted in a piece I wrote: Mishaps and Nebraska Mementos, published in this month’s Nebraska Life Magazine.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mismatched Shoes And Memories of September 11th

We all have them: Memories of September 11th. Where were we? What were we doing? We remember the exact moment that we stood transfixed, eyes wide open as the comforts of home, of our nation ~ our United States of America, exploded before our very eyes.

We remember the television images we couldn't quite believe in our shell-shock, the words we couldn't quite comprehend, and the instinct of knowing that things would never again be as they once were.

Six years ago today, I woke up in Seattle, Washington ~ where I was staying with my good friend, Kristen , a month before taking my chances in L.A. That day, I dreaded a one-day temp job working inventory at the Bon Marche department store.

When much more important events began to unfold, my eyes glued to the TV screen, I wondered about a lot of things...least of all inventory. But I reported to work. For about an hour, I sat in the shoe department of the Bon Marche, counting and collecting mismatched shoes and lining them up, in hopes of eventually finding their mates ~ as the world as we knew it, as Americans, collapsed around us.

The mall closed shortly thereafter. No one knew what was happening, but we knew that nothing was safe. The real world proved to be far scarier than we ever imagined it could be. Planes were grounded nationwide and for days I stared up into the silent sky, so eery in its calmness.

As the years of 9/11's go by, increasingly swifter in the coming years, I will always think of those mismatched shoes and how, on that day in 2001, many lost souls wandered the streets of Manhattan ( and Washington D.C.) searching in vain for their "mates", their loved ones, and the heroes ~ that would not be coming home.

In honor of those who lost loved ones in the tragic events of 9/11/2001.

Mismatched Shoes ~ I will remember.

*Photo credit: Hannah Howze

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Big Love For Big Love!

When reality shows hijacked the networks a few years ago, I thought intelligent television was over. What was bad became awful and when things got as low as they could go, they somehow got lower. Oddly enough, reality shows brought ratings up; someone was watching them.

Not me though. I cancelled my cable. I started watching the evening news and shutting the TV off, spending the rest of my evening curled up watching a big screen movie on my home-sized “little screen.”

Then something odd happened, movies got bad—really bad, and suddenly TV writing got really good. Some of the industry’s best film actors started relocating to the small screen in droves, instead of the other way around. I scratched my head and thought I was in some parallel universe where film was suddenly TV’s kid sister and entertainment’s patriarch was Tony Soprano and not Don Corleone (aka The Godfather).

Sure, the reality shows are still among us, but now there are a few television shows that even I, “jaded non-TV viewer” would deem worthy of my Netflix queue. Chiefly among them is the HBO series, “Big Love.”

“Big Love” chronicles the tale of Bill Henrickson, a hard-working Utah man that just so happens to have a family of three wives and seven children. Even for Mormon territory, Bill and the so-called “sister-wives” (Barb, Nicki, and Margene ) have to keep their polygamist lifestyle secret and their family sacred.

Sounds peachy, eh? I casually watched the first couple episodes until suddenly, I realized I’d finished all of Season One, courtesy of Netflix. Sadly, I came to learn that Season Two was still months away for me, the non-cable/non-HBO/non-premium TV subscriber.

It was like being cut-off from a serial, soap opera addiction.

“Wait,” I thought for a moment, “I’ve always hated soap operas…”

And that’s when I knew that I was totally hooked on “Love”, my so-called “soap opera of choice.”

The Henrickson’s lifestyle is what makes their situation (and the show itself) unique, but the relationships between the characters and the conflicts between the sister-wives, the community, and the fundamentalist Juniper Hill compound keep me coming back for more. Now, every time I hear the first few bars of “God Only Knows” and see the first few frames of the opening sequence, I’m primed for my delicious fill of intrigue in the increasingly complex world of “Big Love.”

Additionally, cinematographer, Jim Glennon, whom I worked with on the feature,“About Schmidt,” beautifully shot 5 episodes of the series' first season. Sadly, he passed away last October. “Big Love” was probably one of the last things he worked on, after a lifetime of contributions to the industry. As a finale, he chose well - and “Big Love” endures. I'll be back for more...

BIG LOVE airs on HBO.
Bill Paxton/Jeanne Tripplehorn/Chloƫ Sevigny/Ginnifer Goodwin

Big Love Opening Sequence

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Greek Article Published

Please view the full-length article ( the expanded version of the post I wrote last week in regard to the fires in Greece.)

Greece Fires: A Country Under Siege

Published in Associated Content here

As well as
: The Traveler's Pen here
and Broowaha L.A. here.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Psychologically Artistic

(With a classic femme fatale thrown in for good measure)

When I read the newspaper, I often taken note of interesting events, museum exhibits, or cinema revivals in the area. I carefully circle, highlight, and/or clip the event listing which seems odd, considering that, more often than not, I never seem to ever actually go.
Lately, I’ve decided that I’ve become somewhat “culturally lazy” because of this phenomenon. Being in L.A., there are all sorts of events and activities, especially involving the film industry, that I’m not fully taking advantage of.

A few months ago, I highlighted an exhibit called “MOVIES ON THE MIND” being showcased at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. I kept intending to go, but something always came up.

“MOVIES ON THE MIND” highlights the connection between psychology and the movies. It’s a traveling exhibit, with several international stops - yet Los Angeles is its only American stop. With that in mind, and with the Los Angeles exhibit officially closing on September 16, I finally got my butt into gear and drove to Beverly Hills yesterday to see it.

Rare film posters, artifacts, memos, and film clips delved into such topics as psychoanalysis, mental illness, dream interpretation, and drug-induced “altered states of mind.” Flat-screens showcased clips from both known classics such as Persona, Annie Hall, and Psycho as well as lesser-known films. All of this was showcased in various staged environments that included a psychologist’s couch, a mental ward hospital bed, and really comfy leather chairs (that made me never want to leave.)

I watched clips of Psycho while viewing original script pages from the film along with a letter addressed to Alfred Hitchcock from the Production Code Censorship Office ~ with “suggested revisions.” Apparently, they didn’t appreciate the rather “pointed” implication of Norman’s incestuous relationship with his mother and took exception to the mention of such words as “damn”, “hell”, and “transvestite.”

There was also a handwritten letter (on Beverly Hills Hotel stationary) from Marilyn Monroe, writing to John Huston in 1960 to thank him for offering her a part in his film, then titled Freud and explaining why she would have to decline ~ noting that the Freud family would not approve.

When I finally extracted myself from the really comfy chair and the film of the moment, Marnie, I got a surprise. In the main lobby of the Academy was an exhibit of original Barbara Stanwyck film posters. That exhibit, which I hadn’t even heard about, included nearly 70 one-sheets, lobby cards ( and a couple three-sheets) that spanned Stanwyck’s 40-year career.

I also discovered that Mike Kaplan, who loaned the posters out for the exhibit, has a HUGE collection of film poster art that is on permanent display at the Gallery of Film Poster Art at Cal State Northridge. All in all, I was clearly rewarded for my museum-hopping Friday. I ended up moving Stanwyck’s movie, The Lady Eve, up on my Netflix list and I have a renewed desire to watch Psycho again (even though I’ve seen it several times already…) It also looks I’ll be trooping on over to Cal State Northridge to check out some more film posters.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Last Chance! ~Exhibit Closes: September 16


Exhibit in the main lobby of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences