Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Yay technology! Elton John, partnering with AI, Artificial Intelligence, has been creating a robot Elton John that can go on tour after Elton himself is gone, performing his songs, as well as new hit songs which the Elton "bot" can write based on today news.

It's amazing, a bit scary. I wonder if Billy Joel, or Paul Simon, or Neil Diamond have thought about doing the same thing.

Digging into this, I learned that Spotify hired Artificial Intelligence scientist, Francoise Pachet, to run its new Creator Technology Research Lab, and with a group of other specialists, Pachet got software to write a song with instrumentation that mimics the Beatles. Using humans to create lyrics, they refined the AI arrangement and published, "Daddy's Car"

That no fees or royalties have to be paid has inspired Spotify and other major companies, as well as startups, to work on making hit songs with artificial intelligence. Even though software can't guarantee a hit, by partnering with AI many, many songs can be made. Hey, the Beatles recorded 237 original songs; Michael Jackson 137; in the amount of time it takes for Paul McCartney to press a few keys, AI can come up with a million songs and one of them can catch on, thrill us, knock us out.

IBM'S artificial intelligence "Genius" business machine, Watson, is now creating music. Using various other AI technologies, it's been collaborating with Alex da Kid, a well-known successful composer, performer, producer. They sucked up lyrics of more than 26,000 "Billboard Hot 100 Songs," analyzed the music to find patterns, keys, chord progressions, and come up with what IBM calls "emotional fingerprints," based on hot newspaper headlines, blockbuster film plots, blogs, tweets, even viral videos. Watson and Da Kid have created and published a hit, 'NOT EASY."

Having seen and heard this video, learning that already more than three million music lovers love it and say it brings tears to their eyes -- golly, I can't help thinking what the AI trend will mean to musicians playing Beethoven, Bach, Bartok, Vivaldi -- music I've worked with as dancer that's made me who and what I am today.

What do you think -- do you applaud the trend? Or do you, like me, feel a touch of sadness about what moves pop music audiences today -- things that somehow are mostly isolating you from today's kids as they're waving their arms, mouthing the words.


Friday, April 13, 2018


What kind of activity do you enjoy that makes you sweat? That's what Emily Frankel asks her husband, John Cullum.

Does, or doesn't John Cullum sweat, before it's time to go onstage, on an opening night?

Monday, April 9, 2018


He shows us what we need to see.

We fell in love with his tennis-playing twenty years ago -- his grace, power, wonderful looks, and his gracious friendly manner. Even if you weren't a sports fan, you wanted him win. And he kept winning.

Then, as his age began to be mentioned with his name, we remembered other great tennis players, who disappeared as they got into their thirties.

Even so, he kept on amazing us.  He keeps on amazing us.

We see a winning spirit that we've never seen before in tennis. He works on tennis, improving his tennis game the way great painters, composers do, conquering faults, flaws, inadequacies -- fearlessly, bravely -- with determination, an undistractible, iron concentration.

Even so, he does not back off from furious shouting, or laughing and joking if he's winning or loosing a set or a point.

Or rejoicing, delighting when he wins.

We feel his sense of himself as an ordinary person, who loves tennis, who like us, lives a normal life,  loving and and caring for his family and his home.

This "regular guy" is truly an artist, and has become an inspiring, very real person who encourages us to keep going, keep working on our work, the way he does.

For me, there's no one in any of the theater, film, music, arts, or sports, that inspires me the way Roger Federer does, and encourages me to keep doing what I do, trying to do it better.

Thursday, April 5, 2018


Words-words are a big thing in the Cullum family. Our son JD collected words the way kids collect marbles so we bought him this huge 1934 dictionary, and new dictionaries every few years.

In the latest Oxford Dictionary, the latest new word --"MANSPLAINING" -- expresses how a man explains something to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.

I certainly have had things mansplained to me, like how to charge a tire. It was helpful to have specifics and warnings about how much strength it took to do it. Recently, furnace technicians mansplained how, why, and when our building's furnace needs to be cleaned. Maybe I'll look up how to fix the loose banister between the our 4th floor and 3rd floor, and see out if it's something I could do by myself

Fact: I sometimes mansplain things. Even so, I don't like the condescension that's evidenced by the guys who make the decisions for the latest Oxford English Dictionary. I suspect the inclusion of mansplain has something to do with the ME TOO movement that's now, constantly, telling the world how the men have abused women for years.

Glass ceiling evidence about gender equality keeps piling up. Even so, I feel gender equality distracts from racial equality and we're still miles, years, away from racial equality. And I keep feeling that

we gals, with our enormous focus on looks, weight, size, styles of outer and underclothing, are constantly doing things that make us much less powerful than men.

Hey, maybe there needs to be a word added for female NINNY things.

Let's make the word a teasing put down that fits various typical foolishnesses and call it .......


Hey, it's a galsplaining gender equality word!
Yay for womaninnyings and graceful galsplaining, along with mainsplaining.

Thanks Oxford guys, for inspiring Em's two new words for the next new Oxford.