Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Road and back

I'm well known for my roadtrips, both planned and spontaneous. My ex-wife whom I have reconnected with recently reminded me of the roadtrips I took with her,  adventures that she would never have done herself. And these 1970's trips in my 1968 Mustang Fastback were with a folded roadmap, no GPS, no cell phones and no real destinations. 

Our first trip took us east, to Quebec, New Brunswick, Maine and New York. Many others followed including Europe and Great Britain.

This latest roadtrip as I said in the earlier blog, had several ranges of emotion; my aunt's death, my cousin's continuing quest at 71, to learn who her father was, the ties to old school friends, a family broken apart by a horrible crime,  an evening with my ex, a visit with an old friend who had her battles with herself and coming out of it.

This trip which I stared June 16 took me to Detroit and driving a rental to NYC to see an old friend and his family and discovering the villages north of the city where life seemed to be a movie to me. 

I drove to the Jersey shores to see my cousin, then back to Detroit, 4 days and 1500 miles. This time with GPS, iPod, cell phone and a computer. And all the appropriate chargers required.

I took Woodward Avenue north in Detroit, passing my the empty streets and shut-down businesses and burned-out houses, places I used to know as a teen, places I hung out at and created memories. 

Then Northern Michigan with my other cousin, where we met our other cousin (lots of cousins) to see my aunt, who at 98, passed away a day before I got there. I insisted I wanted to see her, she was the original reason for this trip.

But the funeral director (and I'll get to him in a minute) said it was too late, she was to be cremated. But he finally said they would bring her back for us to see. It may sound morbid to some of you, I guess it's an eastern European thing, ethnic, as my friend says. I was just used to seeing dead relatives and touching their hand.

The funeral director was quite the guy, wide-eyed, hand-shaking, he seemed to be drafted from used car salesman school, smiling, ready to go. Actually I loved it, made a note to use that in a future script.

Then off to Windsor where I stayed at two different places, both belonging to long-time French Canadian buddies from high school. This is where it  began to confuse me.

My life in LA is so different from Windsor, a city of 200,000 and depending totally on the auto business, my memories flowed back as we talked and laughed and quietly dealt with the losses of parents and friends.

It is true old friends are the best, but maybe it's only because they've known us longer and we don't have to prove anything to them. Maybe it's a sense of our own mortality and comforting to know someone knew us at 17.

Most of the people I met have lived their lives in one place, much different than the dozen or so places I've lived and worked in. I envy the sense of permanence they have,  yet I enjoyed the different places I've lived and worked in. 


Where would we all be without contradictions.

I think my longing for a new highway I've never been on comes from growing up on the vast openness of the prairies, where one drives a hundred miles to shop in a bigger town. But there's also a sense of  security in it for me, I am alone, or with a friend, the open road doesn't judge me or even care that much about me.

But it allows me peace and comfort and the possibility of something new or amazing around the next curve or the other side of a hill.

But it also isn't helping me finance Ghostkeeper, is it?

Back to work. Hope you guys stick around, the ride is gonna get bumpy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Life, death and Washington Irving

After a few days in the New York area, including the real Sleepy Hollow town of Headless Horseman fame and the haunts of Bruce Springsteen in Asbury Park, New Jersey and to a death in Michigan, I return to Detroit and the Windsor area where I lived from 1959 to 1974.

This trip was intended to visit my aunt in northern Michigan who was 98 years old but she passed away while I was in New Jersey visiting a cousin who lives on the Jersey shore. My cousin lost her mother at birth and never knew who her father was and after 70 years still is searching as his identity has never been revealed.

I returned to Michigan last Monday and then my Detroit cousin and I drove to a tiny town upstate called Interlochen, known for it's internationally famous music camp. It was there that our aunt had lived out her life, the last of my mother's family.

And once again, I met two cousins, her children. I have a lot of cousins, from 16 years old to 72 years old.

Being gone a week now, I have begun to feel guilty that I am not working on Ghostkeeper, it's rather difficult as I can't always access computer time. I will be back next Wednesday in L.A.

And Washington Irving?

For those who don't know, Irving wrote the classic Legend of Sleepy Hollow short story which some of you would remember as a movie with Johnny Depp. He also wrote Rip Van Winkle. Both stories were often remade as movies. Irving was one of America's early writers, he was born in 1783 and died in 1859.

Sleepy Hollow is a real place about 28 miles north of Manhatten along the Hudson and I went to the cemetary that is a few hundred feet from where Ichabod Crane sighted the headless horseman. The church, which is detailed in Irving's story, was build in 1685 and there are many grave markers that go back nearly that far.

I trudged up a steep hill past several magnolia trees and found the Irving family plot and stood over his grave. Not far away, Leona Helmsley of hotel fame bought her piece of land where a huge, ostentatious maousoleum was built for the wealthy "Queen of Mean".

Irving's headstone is simple and slowly deteriorating but remains far more important than Leona's, who left $12 million to her dog.

I looked down at Irving's grave and something came to me;  I said it was good to meet him, a fellow writer and I finished with this:

"Just to let you know, Washington, things are still the same for us writers, they still need us and they still don't want to pay us."

Somewhere, Irving must be smiling.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Free Wallpaper - Birds

We haven't posted in a while (just been busy), so we've got a new desktop wallpaper in our shop to make up for it. It's a photo of the Hong Kong bird market and there are 4 different sizes free to download. Enjoy!

Coming up next on the blog is Thailand!

- Julia

Saturday, June 18, 2011


How did I find myself in Ohio?

I had planned this trip a few months ago, flew to Detroit and drove thru Ohio to my friend's place outside of New York. This is my "get acquainted with old friends and family" trip, which I do from time to time.

It's a full trip, seeing a cousin in New Jersey Sunday and then another cousin back in Detroit. He and I will go visit the last living sister of my deceased mother, Aunt Nellie, who's 98 years old and still wonders why I stay in "Hollywood" as she likes to say.

Then I drive across the river to Windsor, where it all started for me, that little TV station that launched my life in movies and television. It's where I  met and married a wonderful woman who was also at the TV station. We split up a few years after and now, after 26 years, we're reconnected again, one of those Facebook things.

There's also my two high school buddies and a load of memories that I always enjoy.

But, on the movie side... it looks like I have at least 3 producers interested in my new spec, Christmas Carole, and I think a few more might be interested in the coming weeks.  I've been told Hallmark has it's quota for the year, but I also know that anything can happen.

It's very green here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Politics & the movie business

"I'm the money." 
quote from Shakespeare in Love

There was a feature in Sunday's LA Times about someone called Ben Shapiro who wrote a book called Primetime Propaganda - The True Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV.

In his book, he says this:

  • Shows like Friends and The Simpsons are "insidiously brilliant leftist propaganda."
  •  A Gunsmoke episode promoted civil rights.
  •  The Mary Tyler Moore Show embraced the radical feminist movement.
  •  Happy Days creator Gary Marshall is anti-big business liberal with socialist leanings.
 Okay, by now some of you are furious, some agree, and some don't give a damn. And I tend to steer away from politics in terms of internet duels. But I have been asked this question from time to time by my more conservative friends.

All two of them.

The question is: Are conservatives denied the same opportunities as liberals in the film/TV business?

What do you think?

Well, first of all nobody asks you your political leanings when you take a meeting. It is always about the idea, the story and ultimately the screenplay. As they say, the word business is part of the phrase show business.

But there are far more liberal people in this business than conservative ones. The most simple explanation is this; liberals tend to be attracted to show business, to tell their stories. Conservatives tend to go after big business. The Arts vs the business world.

Like I said, that's the simple explanation.

Conservatives tend to be very religious, some overly religious. One of my conservative friends is super Catholic and the other is strongly Jewish. I'm a Catholic who hasn't been to church for 40 years.  I get along fairly well with the Catholic woman but we never discuss politics. Her answer to anything I rant about is "Teddy Kennedy".

The Jewish friend and I actually go at it now and then, but have learned to laugh it off. We can coexist.

But most Republicans I know of are the crews, not so much the storytellers. One grip once asked me why "you writers" always write stuff about life instead of good war movies? A few days later he wanted to show me his trunk full of automatic weapons.

There are a handful of liberals who changed parties, one of the Zucker brothers (the Airplane movies) became conservative after 9/11. His last movie, about beating up Michael Moore died at the box office. For one thing, it wasn't funny.

Shapiro mentions that TV played a major role in helping the civil rights movement like it was a bad thing. He quotes agents who told him his political views would make it impossible to get a job in this town.

Take me, I'm Canadian, have my green card, which gives me all the rights of a U.S. citizen except for voting or serving on juries. My friends usually smile and say I'm lucky! I am liberal in politics, which would be interpreted as leftist here whereas in Canada I'm considered middle of the road. Canada's Conservative party, in power now, is more like middle of the road Democrat here.

Nobody's ever denied me work as a Canadian, in fact they didn't ask if I was Canadian. Well, except when it came to filming a US show in Canada, my status was desirable as I would qualify for content rules.

Are the liberal Americans trying to take over the country with such propaganda like Mary Tyler Moore, Sid Caesar, Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, Dick Van Dyke Show, the Mod Squad which featured a black actor in a series (along with Bill Cosby in I Spy).

Maybe they are, I certainly don't consider politics when I write, I write from my life and how I interpret the rest of the world. Do I make jokes about Conservatives, of course I do but I'm sure they make jokes about Canadians.

When John Ford directed The Grapes of Wrath from Steinbeck's novel, the rage that came from the conservatives was enormous. Republicans actually threatened Ford and Zanuck who ran 20th Century Fox, igniting a controversy over migrant workers conditions in the 1930's. Zanuck was being pushed against releasing the "socialistic and communistic" movie that dare suggest a problem within America.

One image I remember before Obama was elected, was a white woman from the south, crying out on CNN, "Where is my America? I want my America back". I realized then that the America she wanted was 1955 and that America is never coming back.

But the bottom line is this:

Mr. Shapiro also recounts his troubles trying to sell spec scripts. 

Really?  Is there something there I don't get? Are you just mad because you think they passed on your specs because of your politics?

Note to Mr. Shapiro, I am a left-leaning writer who worked for Bobby Kennedy in Indiana in 1968 and I have 34 spec scripts on the shelf I haven't sold. And never once has anyone asked me my party affiliation for the 18 movies I worked on.

Maybe your stories just aren't very good.

Friday, June 10, 2011

72 Hours of Solitude at The Half Moon Resort

In my world, travel is not always as glamorous as it seems. But there are those spare moments in which I do get-a-way and it’s life-changing. Generally, this happens when I can just go some place and relax on a beach. I suppose it’s a Pisces thing.

Recently, I was in Jamaica for a variety of reasons… none of which turned out the way they were planned. But I soon learned that was the way it was intended… the universe had other ideas. I needed to spend some time reflecting on thoughts that were occupying my mind. So I headed to the exclusive Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay to connect with my mind, body and soul.

In just 72 hours, I had time to think about a subject that brought fear, anxiety and excitement to my life. I had no internet and occasional signals on my blackberry that kept me connected to life outside of my cottage. For a minute, I thought that I was being punked! But somehow I stayed semi-connected with a friend who helped me sort out my feelings and devise a plan to move forward in an area of my life I usually avoid. But again, isolation doesn’t allow you to escape what’s on your mind… and neither does the exclusivity of paradise.


My cottage was amazing… every morning I opened the French doors and took in fresh air with an ocean breeze that offered a level of peace that escapes those of us who live in metropolitan cities. The simplicity of it all was priceless and so was the privacy.

Tranquility and solitude became my confidants allowing me the peace of mind to conceptualize a number of stories for my blog. But Ironically, I can’t write a lot when I’m not in the confines of my home. I have to be completely settled. But the creativity that’s sparked when I’m away allows the words and thoughts to pour out when I am in front of my computer. I suppose that’s the method to my madness as a writer, but it works.

So what did my three days at the Half Moon Resort offer… the luxury of time, peace, and a view of the world that captured my thoughts in a way that few places have the ability to do. I had time to purge any thought that made me feel as if I was not in control of my own choices. I changed my thinking… as a result things that seemed out of the realm of possibility became Godwinks. The beauty of a Godwink allows you to receive a sign of affirmation that you’re on the right path and eradicate uncertainty and worry.

Sometimes all that you have to do is search your soul for the answers to life’s most perplexing and provocative questions. Every single time that I do that… I always get the answer that brings everything else into perfect alignment and clarity. The lesson—when facing a challenge, settle your spirit so that you can see through it and rise above it.


While sitting on the beach looking at the Caribbean Sea… I surrendered all the things that brought me uncertainly and traded them for the knowledge that I’m shifting and growing. The vision for my life has never been clearer. The value and worth that I place on myself determines the people and experiences that I attract into my life… and nothing is more powerful or beautiful.

Once I stepped outside the cottage door for the last time… I was confident that I was embracing a heart and mind at ease inspiring me to take a risk and see what happens.

Where do you escape to center your mind, body and soul?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Beautiful Skin is HAUTE!

The next time that you head to Las Vegas you may want to pamper your skin. I checked into the spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas for 80 minutes of pure bliss. I was invited to indulge in the amazing Lightening and Brightening Facial designed to rejuvenate the skin and give it a glow! My therapist began the treatment with a gentle peel, enriched with copper, followed by a facial massage and mask. Nearly two hours later, my skin felt hydrated and refreshed. This treatment, available only at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, utilizes a new, all-natural Hungarian product line called Omorovicza. The product incorporates nutrient-rich minerals found in Hungary’s legendary thermal waters. You can actually witness the healing powers when you look at your skin following the facial. I loved the results and can't wait to go back. Beautiful skin is HAUTE!

To learn more about spa treatments offered at the Four Seasons Las Vegas visit

Do you get professional facials?

Hong Kong Fashion

Clothing in Hong Kong has so much personality. A lot of color and spunk. We saw a lot of crazy shoes-- platforms, oversized, and fuzzy... they get creative. The girls love to hang cute and oversized charms on purses and backpacks. They wear cartoon characters on their accessories-- something we don't see often back home unless you're under 10 years old. One other thing I noticed was that the guys are just as stylish as the girls! When we did fashion posts in other countries, we always found far more stylish girls roaming the streets. But in Hong Kong, the guys were strutting their stuff alongside their gal pals.

On Christmas Eve night, everyone flooded the streets dressed to impress. And if they weren't wearing something stylish, they were decked out in Christmas ornaments or head gear like reindeer antlers and poinsettias. We even saw a lot of puppies and babies dressed up like Santa Claus. Most people were in couples or groups, so this post has a lot of those. 

- Julia

P.S. These photos were all taken late at night with no flash! That's how bright all the signs are in downtown Hong Kong.

Cute how this group of buddies all have the same hairstyle.

And a few snaps around the city during the day.

So many girls have crazy & cute charms on their purses.

The cat might be dropped

Well, so much for Daisy the cat.

Agent loved the cat, two others loved the cat in my latest spec screenplay, Christmas Carole. I thought it was a moment of brilliance. But it seems Daisy was not appreciated by two producers. The first one wasn't a surprise, in fact I knew he wouldn't like the cat, because he didn't like my writing in the first place.

After all these years, my instinct kicks in pretty fast. I had given the agent a synopsis (which I hate doing) for another project, to which Producer A responded by not only not liking the story, he didn't like my writing.

That's not a good thing. And I know that once that happens, there ain't anything he's gonna like about my writing or me. So when he asked for the Christmas script I told the agent that it was a waste of time, but agents being agents, he figured why not.

Producer A didn't like the Christmas script. Especially the cat.

Producer B, who runs a very big company that has been around for 40 years or longer, loved the Christmas script, it was "cute and sweet". Well, I don't think of it as cute and sweet, but Producer B wants to show it to Hallmark.

But he didn't like the cat either.

So what do you do? I think the cat is a great idea, as do others. But those others aren't possibly going to make my script.

So Daisy might go the way of the dinosaur.

But I won't go down without a fight. If this script goes further, meaning that if Hallmark wants it, and the odds are at least even, given that my 2010 script did excellent in the ratings, then I would plead Daisy's case again.

Given that they could use a famous/has-been/well known actress could be used for the voice of Daisy, it would only enhance the story. And there are a ton of those actresses out there who would love the attention.

After all it's all about recent credits and every actor and actress wants credits as recent as yesterday. It means they're working.

But having done one of Hallmark's better movies last year (I say this because the producers  use my movie in their website), it doesn't guarantee anything. The industry has changed so much that there rarely is any allegiance to anyone. You may have written an Emmy winner but that lasts as long as the ceremony.

So here I am, now waiting to hear what Hallmark decides.

But there are four other producers who want to read it too, including one who works with another network. There are 2 other networks who might consider it, Lifetime (a natural considering it's a modern woman story) or ABC Family, and I have producers who made recent movies for both networks.

But I wonder if they'll like Daisy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mr & Mrs Globetrot on Formspring

We get a lot of questions in our email that are travel or photography related. If you ever emailed and it took us forever to respond, our apologies. We used to give the excuse that we were traveling abroad and didn't have internet, but now that we're home, that handy excuse is no longer valid. We want to do our best to answer questions and get to know our readers better. If we didn't care about communicating with you, we wouldn't have a blog.

We created an FAQ post a while back to help answer reader questions, but we still get plenty of specific questions. Soooo, we've decided to give Formspring a shot. 

Formspring is cool because 1.) you can ask questions anonymously (a good way to satisfy your burning curiosity without revealing your identity) and 2.) the answers are all posted publicly so other people can benefit. Chances are, you and someone else around the world have the same question. Fire away.

- Julia & Yuriy

Our various locations online are multiplying like crazy!! Just when I think I have it all, some new social media phenomenon pops up. Other places you can find us:

Photography website: Yuriy Manchik Photographers
Julia's personal inspiration blog: Picture Party Blog
Travel blog: Mr & Mrs Globetrot
Bloglovin': Mr & Mrs Globetrot
Twitter: Julia / Yuriy
Facebook: Julia / Yuriy
Pinterest (Julia)
Instagram on the iPhone (Julia)

HK General II

Hong Kong was a great city to explore. We only had 4 days but we tried to fit in as much as we could. It was nice to be able to see two parts of Hong Kong; the part with the markets and locals was very fun to walk through and the westernized-side with all its skyscrapers was incredible. The buildings are so high and overwhelming. We decided to go to the Victoria Peak (1811 feet) to get a better view of Hong Kong. We caught a ferry across Victoria Harbour and walked to the Peak Tram. When we got to the Peak Tram at the bottom of the hill, we were shocked to see a line that was probably a mile long, not even kidding.  By the way, this was Christmas Eve, I'm sure that had a lot to do with it. The taxi drivers saw a great opportunity and were charging $200 (HK dollars) for a ride up. Luckily we ran into a local couple who was willing to split a taxi with us so she took us a few hundred feet away to a hotel where we caught a taxi and were at the peak 20 minutes later... and it only cost us $20 HKD. Locals know all the ins and outs of their city. The view was incredible. From that point it looked surreal, as if you're in a movie and below are just lit-up toy buildings. It's hard to imagine that people live and work in all these skyscrapers. It was quite windy at the peak so we took some photos and started to head down. The lines were very long for the tram to get down and the taxi drivers were charging ridiculous amounts. But this time around we knew where to find a taxi like the locals. 

From there we did a bit more walking around Hong Kong. It seemed like everyone was out celebrating Christmas. All the roads in downtown were closed to cars and packed with people, dressed up formally or in costume, just wandering around their gigantic city. I don't think this happens often where you can walk around downtown Hong Kong on the streets and not worry about cars and buses. Christmas decorations were everywhere you looked, skyscrapers were plastered with lights, people singing and caroling all around you, Christmas choirs and bands performing outdoors-- it was an amazing atmosphere. From first glance, we thought Hong Kong celebrates Christmas a lot better than the Americans. If you are downtown back home on Christmas, it's extremely deserted and dead. Most businesses are closed and people have made a big effort to travel home to be with families. In Hong Kong, it's the opposite... people flock to the cities and stay out all night long. It was hard to leave all this excitement outside and go back to our little hotel room but eventually sleep sounded really good and we were looking forward to the next day... Christmas in Hong Kong.


Our 5-star room on Nathans Rd... A 10x10 box (the bed touched 3 of the 4 walls). We were really lucky to get this. We didn't realize how booked up everything got for Christmas in Hong Kong.
At the top of Victoria Peak on Christmas Eve (the highest point in the city).
What a Hong Kong mall looks like.
The underground metro tunnels are so nice, clean, and w i d e . 
Victoria Harbor splits the city in two, so ferries go across on a regular basis. The photo was taken from a ferry on our way across.
What the streets looks like in Hong Kong on Christmas Eve at midnight. And it wasn't just one street.... anywhere you turn, the crowds were this big.
How cool is this?! The world's largest toast art mosaic (found it in a mall).