Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Back in the U.S.S…A.

Yeah, that's lame… but… ah… whatever.

I'm back from my trip to Russia and Finland. Wow. Just Wow.

Experiences and overall impressions are created by a series of the smallest things. A small issue at an airport, perhaps a rude person on a street curb, or maybe a less than stellar meal – and you can HATE the place to which you went. It's not that the overall experience was bad, but it just sits funny in your throat when people ask you about it. Conversely, a good meal, a friendly or helpful person guiding you somewhere… a few positive small things, and you remember a place fondly.

When every single instance of a journey is perfect, it's rare. In fact, it's a bit unnerving. Well, I just got back from one of those perfect journeys; from St. Petersburg, Russia and Helsinki, Finland.

Wow, just wow.

Rather than immediately go into the details of the places I visited and things I saw, I will only write now that – if possible, the way to see a country is to stay with a family. If you are given the choice between a five star hotel or a small bedroom in a family's house, don't hesitate – stay with the family. You get a chance to experience the country in a way that simply isn't possible in any other way. Tours are great, but they are an insular world and not necessarily the real country one is visiting. And if one gets to stay with a really great family, then the experience is one that will be remembered and cherished forever. Such was my recent experience in Russia and Finland. Besides seeing all the incredible sights of the cultural wonderland currently called St. Petersburg, I also got to experience the people somewhat. I had a chance to go into the supermarkets, the stores, ride in the cars and walk some streets not on the obvious maps. I had a chance to talk politics with normal people. By the way – They LOVE Putin. That's not propaganda.

I will, most likely, create several web pages devoted to this trip – but for now this blog entry is strictly to say Thank you to the Ruchkin family – Sasha, Helena, Alexander and Dasha – who may or may not read this. Families like this are what reminds you what a great place the world is.

Once the dedicated pages are created (dutifully added to the list of things to do), I will direct you to them. Look forward to the hearing about the harrowing traffic, the nerve wrecking drive to the opera, impressions of St. Petersburg life and the art and the palaces – oh, the art and palaces.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Get out of Dodge

I've written a couple blog essays that I haven't published. It's just as easy to hit the 'draft' or 'delete' button as the publish button. It's something more people should do more often. I include myself in that bunch. This entry may deserve one of those buttons, but I'm putting something up to let people know I'm actually still getting in front of the computer.

Plenty has been happening in the last month, which may be one of the reasons I haven't been blogging so much. We're in the midst of AFM (The American Film Market) which has seemed quiet this year. A friend, in town with his movie, has been making some decent sales -- so I guess things are going alright in spite of the seeming lack of energy.

Elsewhere in town the Red flags are waving again, which is frightening. They indicate high winds – hot winds – dangerous winds. The danger of fire is still present even though more humidity is in the air and the temps have dropped. For the most part, the signs of the devastating fires of the past weeks are over where I live. The plainest sign of them was the air – skies that would turn Orange and Gray, and a haze over everything. Though There was only one day that was really bad, I have had a small cough for days and my throat feels similar to the 'day after a party'. Since there hasn't been a party most evenings before, I attribute it to the smoke that was once forests and homes.

The biggie now for many people in this town is the impending Writer's strike. It's going to come to pass and the feeling is that it's going to last a long time, that it will wipe a lot of people out – and ultimately, that writers will lose. It's a shame and the deregulation of the 80's, which has continued to run rampant to this day, is one of the big reasons it will be so difficult for writers to win. Huge multi-faceted corporations are hard to beat. Sony, et all, don't need to make movies to survive. It's a hell of a beast that's being fought, made worse by the fact that all the unions haven't banded together to fight at the same time. Over and over, people in the film business prove themselves as being their own worst enemies.

If one believes in residuals for artists, (which is a well established part of the pay equation) the fight is justified. It would be nice if the AMPTP weren't so greedy. But they are. And so – the strike will happen.

Seems a good time to get out of town for a bit, and coincidentally, that's just what I'm doing. In two days, I will be in Helsinki, Finland and then off to St. Petersburg, Russia. No computers, no internet, no cell phone, no nothing. It will be the first time since I had my first 2400 baud modem that I will be away from it all so completely. Wish me luck on that, and expect to see full postings of the journey when I return.

Best of luck to all that live and work in Los Angeles.