Tuesday, December 30, 2008

(stage whisper):don't tell anyone this, but I haven't been to sleep since my last post. Maybe the snow is giving me insomnia.Little known fact: Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature not only for his writing, but also for his weather reporting. His next book is going to be called 'Now For The Seven Day Forecast in Upstate New York'. Oh Jesus, sidebar: a man in the street shouted 'Shalom, Brooklyn!' at me yesterday. It's amazing to me that not only am I identifiably Jewish but he pinpointed where the American side of my family resides. Good feeling, to stand out as a Jew in a Muslim country (even if it is secular) as Gaza continues to explode.

Anyway, it is PELTING down, to the point where I'm wondering quite how I'm going to get home. I'm also stressing about how to help as many stray cats as possible (more on why you see neither homeless Istanbul dogs nor humans,later). At 6am, when I finished reading another book ('Birds Without Wings' by Louis de Bernieres,also set here) and it became obvious that my friend, who'd taken a sleeping pill, was not rising any time soon...I racked my brain for where I could go at 6am to read the paper and fill my rumbling belly. I'm not proud of this, but all I could find was The Four Seasons. The fact that we did this trip on the down low and pretty cheap, makes me feel slightly less anxious about eating Four Seasons during a recession.

And it was something really special. I'm talking Turkish pastry and clotted cream with actual slabs of honey comb. If you're British(or just a TV comedy afficionado)you'll know the episode of 'I'm Alan Partridge' where he reveals he carries an extra large plate in his briefcase just for use at hotel buffets. I covertly stuffed my bag with all manner of Turkish sausage and now, crazed from lack of sleep, I'm off to feed the cats. Even though they all seem pretty self sufficient. I wonder if it's going to be like when I tried to give a homeless woman in New York my winter coat and she said 'No thank you, I don't wear pink'.

Monday, December 29, 2008


On Accents

It's late night in Istanbul, and I'm juxtaposing my view of the snow dusted Bosphorus sea with listening to Paul Simon sing about the "Blood of Christ Mountains of New Mexico". It's one of my favourite songs, 'Hearts and Bones', and emphasises for me that my favourite thing about Simon, apart from his lyrical gift, is that he sings entirely in his own accent. It's rarer than you'd imagine. It's something I love, not just in singers - from Bob Dylan to Billy Bragg to Sinead O'Connor - but also in actors (there's a wonderful Aussie film starring Cate Blanchett called 'Little Fish'. As brilliant as she always is, she reaches a whole other level of transcendence in her own voice.) Hearing 'Hearts and Bones' again, I think the most affecting verse in a very affecting song is:

"One and one half wandering Jews
Return to their natural coasts
To resume old aquaintances
Step out occasionally
Speculate who has been damaged the most


You take two bodies and you twirl them into one
Hearts and bones
And they don't come undone..."

The word 'Jew' could be 'Catholic', 'Muslim, 'Hindu'. It just happens to be his personal story - it's about his divorce from Carrie Fisher, right? - and I believe it. I always listen to my favourite songwriters when I'm trying to finish a book, which I am here doing. I also just finished the 19th century travelogue/love memoir 'Azeyede' by Pierre Loti (set here in 'Stamboul'). It was lovely and inspiring. But it's Simon who inspires me most, reminding me: always write in your own "accent". Live in your own accent. So if you're sad, or frightened or even, conversely, waylaid, crazily, by the joy of new love, you'll always be authentic.

As I've mentioned before, my favourite writer-director is Fatih Akin ('Head-On' and 'The Edge of Heaven'). I happen to know that the Hamburg born Turk has been pursued fairly relentlessly by Hollywood to make an English language film. But I guess he wants to stay working in his own "accent"...though I'd love to see what he'd do with a Hollywood enigma like Rachel Weisz or Benicio Del Toro, I can't help admiring Akin more for his stance.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Chanukah thoughts...

There's something I'd like to make clear: right now Israel is run by such a corrupt government, the only comparison is the Bush administration. This government has damaged Israel's image around the world just as Bush has damaged America's. What Israel desperately needs is an Obama to emerge, to remind the world and the country itself the things that are good about it. I will remind you, for example, that it is the ONLY country in the Middle East that actively supports gay rights and women's rights. I used to have a framed photo of a bus of Palestinian transvestites, waving their arms with joy, who had been expelled by the Palestinian authority, being welcomed over by Israel.

It is a tragedy that Rabin was murdered at the same time that King Hussein of Jordan died. They were dear friends and true and brave peace activists. It is a tragedy that Arafat so impeded the peace process, letting his people starve as his family lived in palacial wealth in Paris. He was so busy siphoning off money, he never tried to build the economic infrastructure his people so deserved. Things could have been so different. But this is how they are. And tonight, on the last night of Chanukah, I will pray that BOTH sides get their own Obama.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Greetings From Istanbul

...where the I-Phone is being enthusiastically promoted as the "Turkcell". This is the Hagia Sophia, built in 527 AD by Justinian who, on completion, shouted "Solomon! You have been outdone!" He had to have Wolfgang Petersen balls up the final line for his incandescent project.

The inside of the Hagia Sophia is striped like a tabby cat:

The outside of this tabby cat is striped like the inside of the Hagia Sofia:

As you can see from the note attached to her collar, Cara was wishing me a Happy Birthday. She came right up to the pistachio baklava to inform me of her joy at my having been born. I was most surprised.

The "card" and cake were arranged by my newest and (obviously) bestest friend Dani, who (when I went to the bathroom) told the waiters "Emma likes cats and chocolate". A broad if fair summation that turned out well for me, and certainly better than if she'd said "Emma likes stabbings and vomit".

A brilliant discovery is the Hamam open from 6am to 2am. So if you have jet lag or insomnia (check and check) you can at least go and get pummeled. Not really helping matters is the Turkish coffee/Gypsy music combo. Rose tea here is beautiful but it's the coffee - which is basically espresso times ten - that is the perfect drug to go dance to local bands. The men here are not at all like Roman men. They all try and talk to you but they never harass or intimidate. Getting followed up the street seems to come from a real place of female worship rather than aggression and misogyny. They seem to have a longing, a loneliness that they wear on their sleeves.

But my favourite thing is the Muslim call to prayer that echoes across the city five times a day. It carries with it a palpable yearning that feels both despairing and erotic.

Sunday, December 21, 2008



I'm about to hop the pond for the holidays, so if anyone cares, here are some of my favourites this year:

Books -
Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo
The Night of the Gun by David Carr
Love Junkie by Rachel Resnick
Performance by Richard Avedon
and (thanks to the movie) the beautifully reissued Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. This is one of the greatest novels ever written. It is also one so psychologically unflinching, you may have to throw it across the room after you're done reading.
The Sacred Book of The Werewolf by Victor Pelevin

The Visitor
The Fall
The Edge of Heaven
Let The Right One In
In Bruges
Man On Wire
Synechdoche, New York

Years and years ago I went on a date with Tom McCarthy, who wrote and directed The Visitor (and The Station Agent). He was smart and funny and attractive, but I thought "I'm fucked if I'm dating someone whose a better writer than I am".

'Boarding Gate' was not a great film, but Asia Argento's performance in it is one of my favourites. There's no actress like her...maybe Angelina back in 'Gia'. Asia's this ravishing beauty with a very male energy. Very Brando.

My fave art show was a toss up for between Marlene Dumas at MOCA (it's in NY now if you're there) and Kara Walker at The Hammer.

Um, um, um, the best new beauty product was Neutrogena anti-wrinkle/anti-blemish cleanser (what can I tell you, I'm thirty-one). When I think about the films and books that moved me, I suppose they are also anti-wrinkle/anti-blemish. Which is to say, they explore how childishness can co-exist with being an old soul.

You may or may not know that Hanukkah starts today. You may or may not know that the reason we put the menorah in the front window of our homes is because the light we create is not just for ourselves, but for everyone passing. And that's art too. That's what all those films I've listed, all those books gave me. The sense that I was less alone in the world.

Happy Holidays.

ps: Dad says ALWAYS STAY THROUGH THE ENTIRE END CREDITS OF A FILM in 2009! All those people put their hearts into it, not just the movie stars.



pps: I'm all packed...

Friday, December 19, 2008


when I was a very small boy, very small boys talked to me

I recently did a brief road trip to San Francisco with my dear friend "S.B". In the last hour we battled HARD about the music (though given that, as you know, I don't drive, what say have I a right to really?) We settled, eventually on 'True Faith' by New Order. Over and over. Thus revealing our age, but also causing us to wonder: is 'True Faith' the best pop song ever? (We'd have said Blue Monday but we both go running to that song, and our knees are collectively mad at us for it).

I tell a lie, there was one other song we jubilantly agreed upon:

He needs to know.

But WAIT! There was one more....

Richey Manic, guitar unplugged in the background, bless his heart. G-d protect the man with the lyrics of Charles Bukowski and the face of Natalie Wood. I'm fairly sure I was at that show. See, there I am: fifteen, distressingly busty and probably weeping.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


$1.25 a ride

As I've mentioned before, I ride the bus instead of driving, which is unusual here in L.A. Well, not unusual at all if you're part of the city's underclass. That sad translation is that I'm one of the very few non-Mexicans (nannies, cleaning ladies, construction workers) on my route. Some African-Americans. A couple of incredibly elderly Holocaust survivors. And me. I love taking the bus because the thing I really miss about New York is walking everywhere, which is to say coming into physical contact with strangers just to get from A to B. I'm up on a hill, and when there's no-one else at my stop, I sing and dance to Purple Rain. It sounds best at the crack of dawn on my way to dance class. If other people are there I usually chat (sidebar - the really great actors and writers I know never stop asking strangers their stories, no matter how successful they've become. The ones with less to offer use the opportunity of meeting new people to talk about themselves).

Anyway, I'd become friendly with Mike, who is homeless, and rides the bus down to sunset to beg near the fancy hotels. A smart guy in his fifties, we talk politics and life, and he once gave me a dollar when I had left my purse at home. I really like him - I wrote him a cameo in my newest screenplay in fact. But Mike has two problems. 1. Diabetes. The medicine is hard to come by and a long bus trip away to get. 2. Crack cocaine. Which is easy to come by and a short trip away. He'll be clean for a while (I know because he'll have shoes on). Then he'll fall off (then he only wears socks).

My sweet dad used to have a homeless man called 'Hughie The Hat' living in his doorway at work. Hughie had a thick Glaswegian accent and no right leg. He collected packages for Dad, who'd send him postcards from trips abroad. The first time I ever voted Dad had me walk Hughie to the polling station to make sure he'd vote too. Hughie was falling over drunk and I was in my school uniform.

Yesterday I was on the bus when Mike got on at sunset, super fucked up. He had the crackhead's telltale white ring around his mouth, and was aggressive to the driver, to the point of deciding he didn't want to ride this bus, he'd wait for the next. I tried to wave at him but his eyes were unfocused. As he got off, he noticed me.
"I KNOW YOU!" he barked. Then, "I LOVE YOU!" He fumbled in his pocket. "Happy Christmas baby!" It's such an old fashioned expression, no-one has called me "baby" in a long time, and it jolted me. Then he threw a $5 bill into my lap. "Mike," I said, "I can't accept this from you" and tried to hand it back.
He went mental. "YOU DON'T EVER REFUSE MONEY FROM ME!" Then he reached into his pocket, grabbed another $5 and threw it at me again. "I GOT MONEY! YOU DON'T SAY NO WHEN I GIVE YOU A GIFT!" "Okay, okay, I'll take it".

As the bus pulled away with the bills on my lap and Mike still yelling from the curb, I thought "Drugs are bad, life is sad." I gave the money to the next homeless person I saw. But my heart still felt the water rising in it. Life has so many portals through which we can fall - to drug addiction, to madness, to homelessness. Who was this man before? When he has his shoes back on, I'm going to ask him.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I Live Here


Mia Kirschner - whom you may watch on 'The L Word' - has just published a wonderful book, in collaboration with Amnesty International, called 'I Live Here', in which, through art, prose and poetry, she chronicles human rights abuses across the globe. Her travel journals were the primary source, along with interviews and art works by the abused. The above link should take you to her appearance on PBS this evening. A tender woman but fearsome activist, this is not just an actress wearing a frock to a charity benefit - I promise you, the work in this book is Mia's life. An inch shorter than me and always in flats, she is the tiniest Amazon I know.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Addiction Part 2

Here's a secret. Way back when I was bulimic, I weaned myself off by chewing candy bars and then spitting them into the trash. This year, I weaned myself off buying clothes by only shopping online, where I cancel the order before the transaction is ever completed. My favourite site is www.poshgirlvintage.com

It's very satisfying because there are so many links to click before you cancel (once you've selected the kind of dress eg: wedding gown or little black dress, you can then select the decade. I always start with the 50's. Sometimes I use the search system to type in 'Marilyn' because they usually have something they're saying is best described as a "Marilyn Wiggle Dress". Bastards).

Here are the two dresses I'm most lusting after. I go back to visit them every day, as if taking tea with an elderly relative. I'm also hoping that if I look at them enough, they will become mine by osmosis.



I showed this last dress to my friend Bianca who says it's not going to work on me ("You're way too short and your knockers are much too big"). But I said "If f-ing Salma Hayek can make it work, so can I". This is my answer to everything, including the mortgage crisis, the square root of twelve, and whether I will ever finish reading my Don DeLillo book.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


More Powerful than TWO Cleopatras!

There is nobody and no situation ever has the power to change who you authentically are. But you knew that already. Just reminding you.
Happy wednesday....

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Love Junkie

My friend, Rachel Resnick, published a book this week called 'Love Junkie'. It is an absolutely fearless memoir about how addiction to love and sex almost destroyed her life. Surviving a traumatic childhood, she lost herself each time in love affairs, abandoning her beliefs, neglecting her health, sublimating her dreams - like a heroin addict. In fact, as she explains, there is now a 12 Step program, akin to Alcoholics Anonymous, but for love/sex addicts. I think all of us can relate to the idea of obsessing over a lover so that you don't have to confront your own pain. Rachel and I have known each other for a long time (we met at a Martin Amis reading) and being - ahem - forceful personalities, we've battled over the years, she'd be the first to say (and did, in the Blackbook story about Tahiti that we wrote together). But we always come back to each other and that's because, apart from the love, we believe so strongly in each other's talent. It makes it surprisingly easy to let go of an argument when you think your friend has a rare gift. Her memoir is getting some great reviews, and her book signing was packed this weekend. It took forever to get to her because she photographed every single one of us in line, and wrote three paragraphs in everybody's book. The praise for Rachel is way overdue, but very gratifying for everyone who loves her and loves good writing. Only now, in her fourties, getting the respect she truly deserves, you could call her the Josh Brolin of authors.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


shades of grey

One of my favourite writers, Truman Capote, once said "The world IS black and white. The only people who see a grey area are the ones who have allowed the black to rub off on them". I always thought it was a fantastic line, but, try as I might, could never believe it. So interesting then to read, today, this story from John Patrick Shanley, who wrote the play 'Doubt', which he's also adapted as a film starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman:

"When I was a kid, I had a guy who championed me and got me through in school and gave me a good education. He was a predator but he did not prey on me."

A few years ago he received a letter from the man.

"He was dying and wanted me to come see him and I didn't go."


"Because I had found out for certain that he had preyed on children since that time. I could still value what he did for me, but I could not honor him. It was one of those things where I never regretted, but it was bittersweet".

Addendum: Have you ever seen a film that didn't have Philip Seymour Hoffman in it? I haven't.

Further addendum: John Patrick Shanley also wrote 'Moonstruck', which contains a line I enjoy shouting (I'd be Nicolas Cage and make my best friend be Cher.)


(What can become of a girl who wanted to play the Nicolas Cage role?)

Friday, December 05, 2008



Jane Bradley, from the genius website 'Bitchbuzz', just put up this overly generous article.




...this is a word I just learned. It describes a rare condition where the white of the eye is visible below the iris. Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon and JFK had sanpaku eyes, which are considered by some cultures to be indicative of a spiritual malady, and by others the sign a superior being (in all three cases both apply, don't they?) I heard the word applied to Robert Pattinson, the lead in 'Twilight' and the man who, no matter how many times I expect his surname to be 'Patterson', it's still always 'Pattinson'. The movie is daft because the author created a world where vampires are chaste, which is like re-imagining werewolf mythology so the werewolves have no legs. It doesn't make sense. But the whole cinema (and it seems, culture), from eight year old girls to middle aged gay men, was transfixed by Robert and his sanpaku. During the middle of dinner my gay friend said dreamily "What do you think Robert Pattinson is doing right now?" The answer seemed obvious to me. "I'd say he's fucking." "Yes" my friend agreed with a sigh. Anyway, I mention sanpaku because it's my favourite new thing and I've decided that, random as they may be, I'll just be blogging about things I like. The reason being, the world is in chaos, Pakistan and India are nuclear powers on the brink of war, and yet when people gather in groups on the internet they still tend to talk about what they hate rather than what they love. So. Sanpaku. Love them.

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