9/29/08

Barbie...a simple gal...and good enough to eat...literally




Barbie a simpler girl for a simpler time and one of the tastiest b-day cakes ever! My niece got it for her birthday this weekend and my nephew ordered it for Rosh Hashanah last year. In our multi- faith family, Barbie is fluid and adaptable, a beautiful blank canvas that we dress up in icing and project our holidays on. The youngsters love Barbie's beauty, and I think us older kids just love to see that skinny blond covered in buttercream icing.

I have snuck off to Toronto for a family visit and we are all talking politics, wall street, bail outs and elections! It is a fascinating and precarious time and it has captured us all. It is so interesting being back in Canada and I just love Toronto and all it has to offer, and really Canada is such a remarkable place. My friends and family have terrific health care, see top specialists for health problems, attend great public schools, and take public transportation. Now it's not a Utopia, it isn't free,it costs 25-44 percent in taxes depending on your income...that's a lot of tax to pay. But when you look at all you get, isn't it worth it?

So why am I here in the United States? Because it has so many wonderful opportunities to offer entrepreneurs and artists. In America you not only get to dream big, but it is possible to make those big dreams a reality. Canada is a much smaller country, we don't have the same markets to appeal to or take advantage of. A lot of our arts are subsidized by the government and this creates a strange relationship where in order to receive funding the project must meet certain government requirements and surely that can compromise artistic vision. As an artist there are so many great opportunities here in the U.S. and the market and audience are huge in comparison.

Now only if these two worlds could merge...wonderful capitalist opportunities and a greater social responsibility...now that really would be a Utopia.

9/26/08

Friday night debate...bring it!

Yay! The debate is on! I am very excited...I am going to sit and watch with a glass of wine as Obama and McCain, battle it out! Now this is reality television. I can not yet vote, but that doesn't mean that I am not interested or affected or sitting by idly watching as the circus that is the elections plays on! I can still vote in Canada and I am planning to give a big vote against Stephen-I-hate-the-arts-Harper. This is a man who believes that the ordinary Canadian doesn't care for or support the arts.He is also the leader of the Conservative Party, and the prime minister, and a testament that not only the United States has yahoo's in power.

After all this real politicking...I will catch up with the politicking of one Detective Jane Tennyson, and her obstacle filled world as a hard nosed female detective superintendent in a male dominated police force in London. I am talking about Prime Suspect of course, my antidote to the current sad state of scripted drama's on my telly...that's how they say it across the pond.

Helen Mirren is phenomenal in this old series and anyone who is interested in good writing, directing, and acting, should watch it again and again and again. But get in line, I have ordered the whole series from Blockbuster and each new arrival in the mail, brings me much joy, and signals that yes...the weekend has begun...no debate about it.

9/25/08

Soups on...


This could be a picture of my lobotomized brain, but really it is a photo of a beautiful heirloom tomato.

Writing is an amazingly frustrating maddeningly difficult and when it happens glorious and exhilarating process. Well for me anyways, some people...I've heard they exist...just sit down and typety type type...pull Pulitzer prize winning prose out of their patooties! Wow. Let's round 'em up and grill them on their obviously secret voodoo ways I say!

Alas, yesterday was another one of those days, and I think my ever renovating neighbors are partly to blame...there is nothing like the constant sound of hammering and drilling to get that brain going! I lived in NYC for three years, and I think that this street of late has actually been noisier. However I was determined not to give up and squeezed 3 pages out of my head, and then went for a nice long walk and bought...another cook book.

I love cookbooks, even though I almost always cook without one, they are great inspiration and one of the ways that I relax. I have vegan cookbooks, Dean & Deluca, Moosewood, Donna Hay, Martha Stewart, Fresh...and at night when my husband curls up with a good paperback, I dream about soup.

My latest from Deborah Madison is all about soup, and it has great recipes and beautiful pictures. It has soups for all seasons, soups that are more like stews, and seeing it is officially soup season and the farmers markets are full of amazing produce, I have been on a soup making spree! It helps my brain to unwind after an afternoon of trying to create a world out of thin air, like an architect without blueprints.

And that heirloom tomato was delicious in a big bowl of quinoa vegetable soup.

9/24/08

Getting by with a little help from my friends...


Some days are harder than others... yesterday was one of those days. I managed to carve out four hours of time to sit at my desk and write and found it near impossible to get anything on the page. I had hit a pretty big road block in the world of first person narratives, as I have discovered that there may just be another point of view that I may need to explore...and it too would be in first person. Clearly I must be some kind of masochist to attempt to do this from more than one person's point of view?! I sat for four hours angsting and sighing and finally e-mailed a brilliant writer friend of mine who was generous enough to explore this conundrum with me.

I am lucky to have such friends. Writing can make you feel so alone and often the problems that we face on the page can not be solved by anyone other than ourselves. More often than not, even the problems themselves aren't clear, but you can see them lurking just ahead and you have to keep writing towards them even though once you get there, you know you will probably have to go back re-write and figure out a way around them. It's like driving when you are lost. You are pretty sure you are lost, nothing seems familiar, but you won't know until you get to the next major intersection. Until then it's you driving, or writing your way to...possibly...nowhere...maybe somewhere.

That's why it's great to have someone to take along the journey. This photo is of two of my favorite lucky talismans that watch me work everyday. They are...my Momiji named Luckyness...she has a secret compartment in her bum that hold's a b-day wish for me and bunny. Both were gifts, and don't ask me why, but I love these two together. I have other lucky talisman's including the gorgeous goldfish paper weight that is on my blog, and sometimes the three of them are arranged together. They are my friends, one saying a little prayer for me, the other narrowing it's eyes, as if to say, you can do it...urging me to get lost, and hopefully find my way back.

9/22/08

Make Mine a Double...latte that is...I'm recovering from the Emmy's...

Monday....zzz...no wait, no time for rest, there is too much to do! The time for resting was during that unbelievably bad Emmy broadcast last night. Ugh. I felt like the people who were accepting the awards were cringing as badly as I was at the state of television. I love television. I adore Cable and wish that Network TV had about 95% less reality television...with the exception of any show on cooking. I was happy that 30 Rock and the smart talented beautiful Tina Fey won, happy that Mad Men was acknowledged, disappointed that Ricky Gervais and his season finale that skewers all things about reality tv stars and their rampant narcissism lost. I would have loved to have heard that speech, especially on a night when 5 hosts thought it was okay to do nothing but jeer and sneer their way through an unscripted 12 minute opening. And please, oh please, learn how to read a bloody teleprompter. Honestly. Oh and while I'm at it, stop with the plastic surgery people, it is so depressing to see a skintight face on a 70 year old who shakes and rambles and can't even speak properly. It is actually wrong for your face to look the same as you did 50 years ago, especially when nothing else on your body does. And yes once again for most of the ladies eating is bad, too skinny is good, looking comfortable is optional. Thank goodness for all the funny ladies who got it all going on, brains, talent, looks...otherwise who else to look up to? Truly depressing.

Jeff and I were groaning and even though he wanted to turn it off, I was saying, "No, it'll get better, this is our industry, we should support it." With the exception of Don Rickles who was hilarious, it didn't get better. Sigh.

So now I am tired, but also determined. Determined to write, determined to create, determined to keep making art and opportunities for myself and hopefully even others, determined to save myself from mind numbing drivel like I witnessed last night.

9/19/08

Friday...First Person Floundering...

My new novel is written in the first person...well at least the first fifteen pages are, it's as far as I've gotten.

Gina's new novel was written in the first person, well at least the first fifteen pages were.

The latter is third person.

Writing in the first person seemed like a really great idea in the beginning and I love what my friend, the great writer Caroline Leavitt said about first person narrators, that they can be unreliable. But the further I get into my story the harder I am finding it is to tell history or backstory from this point of view. And how do I tell what other people think? How do I divulge the stories and secrets of other characters? And apparently the publishing world is really divided on first person tales, some loving it, some loathing it...oh great another thing to worry about!

Well, it turns out that my friend Jessica loves them, reads almost exclusively first person novels and has given me a stack of them to research. So, I guess I know what I'll be doing this weekend.

What about you? Is there a particular novel that is written from the main characters's point of view that you just love? If so...please tell me.

9/16/08

Inbox hoarding...

I am pretty good about clutter. Honest. Ask anyone who has seen my apartment. It is not possible to be a hoarder when you are living in under 700 square feet, with a husband and a dog. But one place where I compulsively collect, is my e-mail inbox. I am terrible! It is not uncommon for me to have 300 e-mails that I have read that are just lying there, unorganized, waiting to be filed or deleted. It is not that I do not respond to my e-mails, I do, compulsively. I am almost always on line and when I am not I have a little indicator notice that announces that I am busy and often when I will return. It's safe to say that I am a good communicator, returning messages whether they be voice mail or e-mail in a timely fashion. But what I am not good at...is clearing that inbox and filing. So today I did just that, and it was as boring and tedious as I knew it would be, but at least it is done. And now I have no more distractions from writing my new novel.
It seems my tentatively named protagonist seems to have a similar habit of not opening her mail. Hmmmmmm...wonder where she got that from?!

9/15/08

What goes around comes around...

I am not yet a citizen, so I can not vote. But that doesn't mean that I can't cast my vote in other ways. So here we go...
www.womenagainstsarahpalin.blogspot.com

And for the record. I am not against women. I am not against change. But I am against bigotry, hatred, homophobia, sexism, ignorance, intolerance, lying, cruelty, and stupidity. And I choose to believe that I am in the majority on this.

Vote wisely. Make yourself heard. Smart and silent, will not help this great country come election day.

Peace.

East Coast dreaming...

Lately I have been dreaming of sitting inside a house surrounded by trees and lawn and quiet...the kind of quiet that is the opposite of the non-stop chainsawing outside my window. In this house I am in a tan leather club chair with a big Sante Fe type blanket, facing a fire, Mabel on my lap, Jeff in the other chair opposite me. Where does this picture come from? Is it from all those houses that I have been looking at in the real estate section of the New York Times? Is it because recently the idea of going to write in a quiet place with space and seasons and a roaring fire seems more than just romantic but actually appealing? Is it a sign that there is a trip to NYC in my near future? Maybe that's where my new agent lives... maybe I am going to go and meet her this fall/winter? I don't know. But I do know that when I close my eyes and see this picture, I am writing a lot...so it's time for a little visualization, and maybe some earplugs...to get today's novel writing started.

9/14/08

Sunday...another day of rest?

I normally like to work one day on the weekend. My husband goes golfing (on public courses, of course!) Mabel goes to Doggy Day Care to play with other dogs and I have an entire uninterrupted day to write. We each get a day to ourselves doing something that makes us all happier to see each other later on. It is a small luxury that I count on to actually make progress in my work. There are no last minute auditions to worry about, no work e-mails, no construction madness or noisy gardeners, just an entire day without deadlines that frees me up to create at my own pace, whatever that may be on that particular day.

Unfortunately this shoulder injury has left me exhausted and unproductive. Yesterday was my third massage/acupuncture treatment and it knocked me on my ass. I felt like I had been hit by a freight train. I had plans to meet other writer friends from one of my on line classes for lunch in Pasadena. After my treatment I canceled, and then rescheduled when a friend offered to drive me. I wanted to see everyone and I am glad that I did.

It was great to visit in person with the authors of the amazing personal essays that I have had the privelage of reading over the last few months. Writing is an often lonely process and my interaction with other writers tends to happen in cyber space where we e-mail each other questions and concerns and cheer each other on.

But then it was home again to the couch for more rest and I am hoping that Dr.Kim's promise of my shoulder feeling better by Sunday is true. It is still too early to tell.
Time for the farmers market and hopefully a little less rest and a little more writing today.

9/12/08

Friday...

It's Friday, the sky is gray, and it finally feels like Fall has arrived. Thank Heavens. This morning I got up early and started researching literary agents. I have decided that I am just no good at waiting and must continue to put a list together in order to feel like I am still moving forward with my debut novel. Of course I only really finished this novel 3 months ago and have had a lot of support for it, but I am eager to find it the right home with the right agent.

After breakfast Jeff and I went for a super long walk, relishing in the fact that the seasons actually have changed here in Los Angeles as evidenced by the few leaves that we saw turning brown and the need for long sleeves. I can not tell you how happy I am not to be waking up to blinding sun every morning, and I never thought that I would say that. Maybe I like the cool gray days because it's winter in the world of my new novel and my as yet unnamed protagonist is driving in the snow. Maybe it's because the farmers markets are full of fall produce just in time for the arrival of my new food processor, and maybe it's because these gray days remind me of East Coast living, of first arriving in New York City 16 years ago with my heart full of hope and wonder. And then again, maybe it's just because it's Friday.

9/11/08

Chipping away...

Me and the wood chipper next door that is. It's been almost a year that my neighbors have been renovating their home and though they are the sweetest people and it is not their fault at all...after 5 hours of chainsaws and wood chippers dismantling their yard, I thought I might kill someone. This is of course just one of the set backs of having a home office. Everyone escapes during the day and returns at night when all the work has stopped, while I sit and scowl and wonder how on earth I am going to a.) put an audition on tape without sounding like I live in a construction zone...and b.) hear the words that are slowly turning themselves into sentences, and paragraphs and blessedly...pages, of my next novel.

After a fifteen minute truce with the gardeners, the audition is now done and after lunch I will start chipping away at my novel.

9/10/08

Suffering for my art?




The picture you see here is of my shoulder after a procedure called Cupping. Cupping requires lighting a match inside a little cup and placing it on the injury to draw heat and circulation to the area. It looks awful, but it feels great.

Yesterday after spending the entire day either on my back or propped up on pillows, and passing out from the sheer exhaustion of dealing with the pain that is my shoulder without medication, Jeff drove me to the acupuncturist. She was amazing. First she heated my back, then she massaged/mauled my shoulder, then she did the cupping, then she stuck me full of needles and heated those up, then she massaged some more and finally she turned me over and did reflexology on my feet. Up until this point, I had spent the time deep breathing through the pain, laughing when it got to be too much and trying to make jokes with Dr. Kim, who has a great sense of humor. But when we got to the feet, she looked at me very seriously and said..."Gina, you are going to ask me to stop, and I am going to say no." "Even if I beg Dr. Kim?" "Yes, even if you beg." Fast forward 5 seconds and I am begging Dr. Kim who just keeps pummeling the part of my foot that correlates to my shoulder and back.Wow-ow. But after an hour I felt so much better.

Last night was hard of course as I started to stiffen up again, but I actually got some sleep and today I go back for more punishment. Why? Because as Dr. Kim says while she was molding me a new shoulder and I was groaning away in protest..."Gina you wrote one novel, yes?" "Yes. Dr. Kim." "But now, you write one hundred novel...understand?"

Yes, Dr. Kim, I understand. If I am to write any more novels, I've got to take care of my shoulder. And thanks to the amazing Dr. Kim who is on call 24 hours a day...doing so should be easy.

Check her out at:
www.starhealthclinic.com

9/9/08

Sidelined By A Sore Shoulder...

Ow. This morning I woke up and couldn't move my right shoulder without causing excruciating pain. It felt as if I had broken something. After much pacing around the apartment trying to loosen it up, some gentle stretching, a hot bath and finally Advil it is only just really sore. This is a problem, and one that has been growing. My right arm, or my mouse arm as I like to call it, the one that I do most of my typing with has been seizing up on me, and going numb, more quickly than ever before. I understand that after 8 hours at the computer my arm may start to feel like meat, but it shouldn't be that way 10 minutes into working. I have been very distressed about all of this because I know that I am at the beginning of a very busy writing schedule that I have set out for myself, and I really don't need an injury.

Thankfully my friend Stella, who is a painter and suffers from the same issues of repetitive motion injury and general overuse of her arms, has discovered a great doctor who specializes in all sorts of massage and acupuncture. She brought Stella's seized shoulders back to life this weekend, and I am hoping that she can do the same for mine. I am off to see her this afternoon and I don't care how many needles she sticks in me, so long as I can keep typing without wincing.

9/8/08

The Waiting Game...

I have never been very good at waiting and yet, my entire career as an actor and a writer demands it. As an actor I am waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for auditions, waiting for callbacks, and waiting to hear if I got the part. Before I was represented I waited for someone to take a chance on me. Now that I am represented I wait for the same thing. I wait for people to write scripted projects that I can audition for, wait for networks to schedule their seasons, and wait to get called in.

Being so terrible at waiting, I often wrote my own plays, sketches, and short films. Not wanting to wait, led me to creating, which really saved me as an artist. Creating gives me an outlet and the semblance of control over my career. Over the last few years, I have spent more and more time writing out of a desire to keep creating and producing without having to wait on anyone else.

Now that my debut novel is done and is ready to go out into the world, I have been on the hunt for a great literary agent. I have had terrific feedback and thankfully more than a few nibbles and requests for full manuscripts and now I am waiting, again, to hear if my novel has found herself an agent, or whether or not I will have to send out another round of query's...and wait...some more.

My fingers are crossed that this stage of the waiting game ends soon. And the next stage of waiting...finding a publisher... begins.

9/6/08

Saturday shout out...Stella Lai!!

A neighbor just accused me of having a very cultural LA day...and I must confess, I am guilty as charged.

The morning was spent at an acting workshop followed by lunch in downtown Culver City and then a trip to Chinatown to attend the open studio of my friend, designer and painter extraordinaire, Stella Lai. Stella's work is amazing. It's provocative and challenging and cheeky. Stella says her paintings "investigate the schizophrenic character of contemporary Chinese culture, at once imprinted by the weight of its imperial history and propelled by the hyper-accelerated frenzy of global technology and consumerism." The result is a colorful, multi-layered, highly technical and controlled explosion of images that have meaning upon meaning.
It must also be said that the pieces are just really freaking cool.

I want one. Okay, I want two. And thankfully after Stella is done jetting off to Bejing for her giant exhibition she will start painting smaller pieces that I may be able to afford. And if they are really small, well then... I might just have to get two! Check out her work at www.tree-axis.com/stella/

Time to get ready to go downtown again, we are off to see a House of Blue Leaves at the newly renovated Mark Taper Forum, and then cocktails. Oh, very cultured indeed.

9/4/08

Forward...or rewind...

Often the things that get forwarded in e-mails, are funny pictures and jokes. It is not often that someone forwards or gives permission to have forwarded, a long letter that they have written about someone else. In this case the letter is about Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin, and it was written by a woman named Anne Kilkenny who lives in Alaska and knows her.

The letter is featured on my friend Caroline Leavitt's blog www.carolineleavittville.blogspot.com, and is making it's way around the blogosphere.

Check it out for yourself.

Working 9 to 5...

Well not really. One of the most challenging things I find about being self employed is constantly motivating myself. I've been my own boss for over fifteen years now, with the exception of part time work like catering, and retail, where yes, I had to show up and do what I was told...which I mostly did...when not slacking off. As an actor I found being my own scheduler and cheerleader hard enough, although I could always make a full day out of working out, getting ready, preparing, driving across town to audition, waiting, auditioning, and driving back, which could easily take 5-6 hours. But as an actor that is the job, to be in a constant state of readiness and to audition, get called back and hopefully book the job...because that is the only way to get paid.

However as a writer, there is no external force, no agent saying go to this casting office for this time, no casting director telling me what to do...there is just me and my computer screen and somewhere inside of me, hopefully, a little cheerleader that says, "oh this is so great, creating something from nothing, for hours all day by myself, alone, what a privilege, what a joy, I can do it...again...and again..and again..."

One of the things that I do to keep the cheerleader fired up is to take writing classes at UCLA. I am in the Writers Program, which is one of the best in the country, and has the most amazing teachers. I am in the certificate program for creative writing and am 3/4 of the way through. I love it, it motivates me and challenges me and exposes me to all sorts of fantastic writers and makes writing just a little less lonely. And yet, I have decided to take the next quarter off...to just focus...and write, and let all that knowledge settle in my brain. It was the right thing to do, I know, but as my last class just ended, I find it's just me again, and my computer, and the little cheerleader inside me, who better pick up those pom poms and start ra ra-ing if she knows what's good for her.

9/2/08

September!!!


Break out the new sharpies it's the start of September!

Okay so it is already September 2nd, but yesterday was a holiday...so today really feels like the first official day of September to me...and I love it. September is my favorite month, it's how I mark the start of the year, a habit no doubt left over from school days and trips to Grand & Toy to buy stationary and new pencils. I get especially creative this time a year, which for most of my life I could accurately call Fall, with the leaves changing color and the air getting cooler, long sleeves and sweaters, suede boots....aaahhhh. But now that I am in L.A. September's,"Fall" is simply referred to as the hottest month.
Alas, a trip to the East Coast is in order! But until then, I will revel in the fact that when I woke up this morning, I actually thought...aahhhh...holidays are over and now I get to just sit at my desk and work all day!! Strange but true. And maybe I'll get some new stationary as well.
 
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