Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Ever heard of guitarist Steve Howe? In Newsweek, I read, "Getting to Yes: An Ode to Guitar Wizard Steve Howe," and saw a photo.

I'd never heard of him, but the guitar is more than a hobby for our son, actor JD. When he's not rehearsing or auditioning, he practices scales and guitar riffs -- sometimes does this twice a day for a few hours.

Steve Howe, 68 is the lead guitarist for "Yes," a progressive rock band that's been around since the late sixties. He's not a famous guitar wizard like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, Keith Richards, Eddie Van Halen, The Edge, Slash or Jack White. Even so, Howe is known and revered by just about everyone in the field.

The top Editor of Guitar Magazine said, " Howe's won the annual readers’ poll for ‘best overall guitarist,’ five years in a row -- for guitarists, that's like winning the Oscar five years in a row. Steve was the first guitarist we put into our Hall of Fame.”

Actor JD, twenty years younger than Howe, has been in hundreds of plays and garnered raves from critics. Even so, the fame and fortune he dreamed of, ever since his first acting job at age 11, has not happened. Lately, he's talking about quitting acting.

His dad, Broadway Star John Cullum, and ex-dancer Mom understand the feeling -- it's a state of mind that happens to artists.

The Newsweek article describes how a fan stopped Steve Howe in the lobby of the Hampton Inn, where he was staying during the midst of 27 gigs in 37 nights, on his band's North American tour. Holding out an autograph book, the fan said, “Can I get your autograph. Are you somebody famous?”

Steve Howe jokes about the fact that he isn't a celebrity. While stars flit across the country on private jets, Howe travels from gig to gig in a rented Mercedes and stays at the less expensive hotels/motels in a town. He and his wife (the same woman he wed when they were very young), own a small ranch house, not a castle -- they don't have the usual trappings of the rich and famous. His only indulgence is guitars -- especially his beloved 1964 ES-175 Gibson that he bought with his earnings from his first job. It never leaves his home nowadays, but in the seventies and eighties, when he took it with him on Rock Band Yes tours, he booked separate seats for it. He's owned as many as 155 guitars at once. Why? Howe says very simply, “I want to have all the colors of the palette.”

No -- this man's not famous -- but if you read his Wikipedia resume, (click the link), or see his performances in videos, you know he's a real-true artist like a dancer, painter, sculptor, writer.

Hey JD -- he isn't successful -- he's like me -- the way I pooh-pooh what I've accomplished as a dancer and novelist/blogger because I'm not famous. Like you, because you are not a name in the theater world.  WE, JD, who have pursued an art all our lives -- how lucky, gifted, blessed we are. To have a dream -- to have something we strive for -- that we're almost reaching -- almost succeeding, but failing, going for it again, and again, and again.

It's a fire in your mind -- that fire is worth more millions than can be counted -- it's the sky full of stars like diamonds.

Somebody said (was it Confucius?), "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

That glory -- it makes you a teacher and a preacher. You have it. That's what artist Steve Howe has. So does your Dad -- so do I.  That's why I wrote this, and embedded this film.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


The storm is fierce. A tiny Piper Seneca is circling 7000 feet high, at the border of Montana and North Dakota,

On the ground, Wayne Mrnak, a sixth-generation North Dakota farmer, studies the sky. The color of the clouds tells him there's ice in the storm's core. It could mean a death sentence for his 6,000 acres of wheat, barley, corn, and sunflowers. Wayne says, "We've had hailstorms here where in mere minutes, millions of dollars of plant material can be smashed to bits. It's a crop's version of death by stoning."
'North Dakota is hail country. Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico streams north, and creates massive thunderstorms. About 90 percent of of the state's land is covered by crops or used for cattle ranching.  In this region, hail can tear shingles off roofs, pock cars as if they're being sprayed with a machine gun, create drifts 6 feet high. Ice chunks bludgeon to death birds, cows, and people. Hail causes about $1 billion in crop and property damage annually.

The Piper Seneca's pilot is preparing to fly into the storm to discharge chemicals. It's "cloud seeding" that can suppress the storm's ability to produce hail.

The pilot in the plane radios her bosses -- "It is so turbulent that my seat belt wouldn't even stay fastened."

The 22-year-old pilot, Steffany Royal, turns her plane away from the storm. Her employer is Weather Modification Inc. (WMI), one the world's largest weather modification companies. WMI planes are equipped with silver iodide flares that sit in racks under the wings. When silver iodide is dropped into clouds, water vapor clings to it, jump-starting the formation of raindrops and would be ice particles that become hail.

Mankind has tried to harness and control rainfall since the lst century. Greek historian Plutarch hypothesized that rain followed military battles. Napoleon believed volleys of gunfire could bring rain. In the late 1800s, our Congress bankrolled a project to initiate rain using an elaborate system of kites and homemade mortar (an explosive device). After World War II, many North Dakota–bred fighter pilots returned to the farm to try what the Soviets were doing -- using rockets to seed clouds. The Dakota pilots called it Project Skywater. They sprayed clouds with silver iodide, and since then, though scientists have said there's no evidence their work enhanced rain or reduced hail, WMI pilots have flown in America, Argentina, Alberta. and built snowpacks in California and Wyoming, enhanced rain in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Mexico, India, Morocco, and Mali, West Africa.

The Piper Senaca didn't flee. Steffany Royal again turned her plane. She raced toward the Cessna 340 that was piloted by a WMI co-worker, who had approached the storm from another, less turbulent path. As he turned on his burners, Steffany followed him, and began unloading her silver iodide.

It's not possible to assess if the dosage has an effect, but the storm weakened and within minutes it vanished altogether. "It was amazing," said Steffany.

Cloud seeding has been hotly debated. Some environmentalists are against it. It's expensive. "It's difficult to design, and carry on experiments to test it," said a senior research scientist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla. Steffany's pals at WMI say, "Not doing it is so disastrous that our clients are happy we do it."

On his ranch, farmer Wayne Mrnak, who feared he'd lose his entire crop, with his eyes on the sky said, "A thunderstorm can appear on any day. If I can only make it through the harvest, then I am golden."

Reading about Steffany in The Week Magazine  (excerpts about all this from an articles originally published in other prestigious publications), I went browsing in  'Scientific American,, and Golly, I'm fascinated as well as impressed. With all the doomful predictions about Global Warming, it seems to me that anything and everything that helps us fix, control, or modify weather may give us time -- gee, an extra decade or two would be 'golden.'

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


John Cullum and Emily Frankel find themselves recalling past artistic accomplishments.

There are things they'd like to have a chance to redo -- projects they loved, that would be fascinating to revamp and do again.

Exchanging ideas has always been their way, continues to be their way of making career decisions.  So what's next for John and Em?   

Friday, May 13, 2016


This dance... Oh my, we have seen -- golly -- so many wonderful scenes with Fred and Ginger dancing -- always performing steps and fantastically creative routines ...

But this scene from the film, "Swing Time" ... Well -- I'm an expert -- as a choreographer I had a special gift for dances that told a story, also -- for creating lifts and intertwining body relationships for twosomes, couples -- especially romantic duets.  

Okay --  this scene In "Swing Time" -- it's near the end of the movie when things that were keeping this couple apart have escalated -- they're in love, but each is committed to someone else, someone worthy who will move him, move her, far away.  They pace, think, and walk -- moment by moment each step connects them more, then more, till they are married in dance.

Married?  Yes, watching it we know they have to stay, will stay, must stay together happily ever after.