Sunday, May 21, 2017


Emily Frankel, as usual, picks the topic, telling John Cullum, "It's time to examine the things we do that are selfish and hurtful -- that affect others in a harmful  way." 

Husband John and wife Emily, wend their way through and around this somewhat tricky issue. If you (watching this video) had to talk about your "sinful doings," what would you mention?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Hey, I'm not bragging -- its safe and sensible, for me to say my husband is a very successful actor.  He's worked almost continually for more than fifty years, very likely has been better paid than most actors. Even so, an aspect of his dream -- what he wanted to do when he was a boy was "movies." The fact is, most of  his work has been on stage and in television, not in films.

Turn back the clock: In the seventies, actor John Cullum started working on a movie script, "The Secret Life of Algernon" based on a book by the highly praised author, Russell Greenan. John wrote/ re-wrote the screenplay -- oh my -- more than ten times, based on what agents and producers said, when they turned it down. Finally, in 1995, a producer offered to produce it. She'd made only one film, but it won an award from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television. Of course, we said yes.

Small problem -- that it had to be "Canadian" became an ever larger issue. A Canadian writer had to be hired and credited as a co-writer; the director and cast had to be Canadian.

Synopsis: Algernon lives alone, making things out of bones. Wen we meet him he's boiling a neighbor's dead dog for it's bones, and chatting with a porcelain  cat. A ailing Korean War buddy visits him, commits suicide, and leaves Algernon a million dollars in a  suitcase. A woman, claiming to be interested in Algernon's Egyptologist  great-grandfather, pretends to be in love with Algernon, who finds himself falling in love with her.

Award-winning Canadian director of  "Anne of a Thousand Days," directed Algernon. Cast includes Charles Durning and Carrie-Ann Moss. Here's a quick look.  
Alas, as the plot unfolds, Algernon discusses (out loud to himself) his longings and dreams with Eulalia, the porcelain cat. Unfortunately, the porcelain prop is awkward-looking and the cat's voice isn't spooky or very believable. Also, after a suspenseful buildup about the fantastic fortune that is buried under Al's house, the final scene has the leading lady trapped forever in the basement, where the "fortune" looks like junk that's been painted gold. Ultimately the film doesn't quite work. The proof, (as John himself says) is in the pudding -- the "Secret Life of Algernon" it is never shown on TV anymore.

Okay -- win some, lose some, there's no biz like show biz -- it was for John Cullum, a project that could have expanded him, his art and the direction of his career.  I regret that there are so few films that show what John Cullum can do as an actor.  (Photos L to R: "Day After, 1776, N. Exposure, The Historian, Damages.")  He get offers and still appears in quite a few films, but nowadays the roles that are offered to him are mostly for grandfather's dying from Altzheimer's. 

I wish we'd done a indie film in our  backyard. We had an idea, but it seemed like too much hard work at the  time.

Guys, if  you are a performer,  take a look-think into the thought that you might have a film idea. Dig into it deeply. A film keeps what you do alive, real, important, even after your days on the world are over.  Anyhow, here's "Algernon" -- bet you'll enjoy seeing it.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


That driverless cars will choose who lives and who dies, perturbs me.

Example: A self-driving car carrying a family of four on a rural two-lane highway notices a bouncing ball ahead. As it approaches, a child runs out to retrieve the ball. Should the car risk its passengers’ lives by swerving to the side, where the edge of the road meets a steep cliff? Or should the car continue on its path, doing what is best for its passengers’ safety, at the child’s expense?

People who've answered this question for Science Advances Magazine, chose "spare the pedestrians." The magazine is one of the five journals put out by AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) that keeps the public, scientists, and investors in car manufacturing companies informed, on what self-driving car most people will choose.

The major guys are Google, Tesla,  Mercedes, and Apple. They, and 29 other companies (click, see the names), are working night and day to become the autonomous car that's thought of as "the best."

Researchers polled 1,928 internet users. A pattern emerged: The higher the number of pedestrians that would be spared, the more participants felt it was ethical for the car to sacrifice a passenger, even when they imagined that person was a family member. Then, participants were whether the government should require driverless cars to minimize pedestrian deaths at the expense of passengers, and asked, "Would you  buy a car programmed to do so?"

People said YES to autonomous cars that would kill one pedestrian to "save ten others." But when they were asked if they want to own such a car themselves, or support the government enforcing this kind of  sacrifice, they said, NO -- they were not going to buy a car designed to let the occupants die to spare pedestrians.

I'm betting that all the manufacturers  absorbed that fact.
Mercedes has committed to their car choosing the passenger in the car to survive, not the person who's been hit. 
Google doesn't say who will survive -- they're just expanding, opening more factories, and buying the best talent in the world.

Guys, I think Artificial Intelligence in machines is wonderful, but robots driving our cars is scary -- there are moral decisions to be made -- human instinct is involved. Five years ago, crashes killed nearly 33,000 people in the United States, 1,250,000 million people worldwide, and human error caused almost all of the crashes. If the technology for driverless cars turns out to be as wonderfully safe as advertised, the risk of dying behind the wheel will almost certainly drop from where it is today... but collisions will happen, and some people will still die.

The fact is, no matter what we feel, we can't stop this booming business. All we can do is buy a driverless car, or don't buy a driverless car.

I would not buy a driverless car.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


It's a ritual -- every night John Cullum plays super housekeeper "Agnes," cleaning, tidying, polishing up their kitchen.

Every morning, Emily always draws a cartoon that reflects how they're feeling, and sets up a ha-ha mood for the day.