Saturday, September 25, 2010


A gorgeous looking thirteen-year-old girl has been writing to me. She has all the physical gifts, and the energy -- all the do it, get it, grab it thoughts.

"Be brave," is all I can write back to her.

Actresses and actors with credits, talent, and ideas write me, and often reveal their fears about their age and the ever increasing competition -- that younger versions of themselves are everywhere. They have made it, but having made it does not bring much relief. They can't say, "I don't have to worry about making it anymore."

"Stay confident," that's all I suggest to them when I reply, though part of me wants to add, "keep your fingers crossed."

Whenever writers of plays, novels, short stories, musicals operas, or poems talk to me, whether they sound confident, or not, I know behind what they're saying to me is their deep concern with earning a living, getting an audience, getting respect or some semblance of respect from their families, and the critics.

"Yes," I echo when I write them, "I know what you mean!"

How do I advise someone who'd hasn't asked for advice, but reveals that he or she needs it?

I have said it before, and I'll say it again -- if you commit yourself to being an "Artist" -- take on a job, a vision, and call yourself an ARTIST -- going on with the project, whatever it is, continuing, not getting discouraged is the work of your work. Click and read " Ladder" -- climbing a ladder without rungs.

Friday, September 24, 2010


A former dancer who was in my Dance Drama Company until the pain from his bad knees got unbearable, sent me this. (He teaches dance to kids nowadays.)

Attitude is everything.
You say you can't do
Have you ever seen a more beautiful smile than this one?

The next time you're in a bad mood...
maybe you need to remember this
Your attitude toward life defines not only who you are,
but the quality of life you will have.

Anything bugging you today? Doesn't seem so bad anymore, does it?

Thursday, September 23, 2010


If I had a darling dog or a sweet cat, by now I'd have mentioned it.

I have a man in my life whom I mention because he's a "name" that many of my blog readers probably recognize. And I have a pattern on Em's Talkery -- Sundays I post a vlog of the two of us chatting about this and that.

About ten minutes ago, John Cullum, my husband, handed me two photos -- he's been in Knoxville, Tennessee, receiving an award from the University of Tennessee, as one of their a distinguished Alumni. His family lives in Knoxville, and someone gave him a picture of him at age 16.

Whoops -- it brought tears to my eyes.

One of his brothers-in-law took a picture of JC as he received the award. And made the tears roll.

Before Knoxville, he'd been in Los Angeles playing the Granddaddy on the television show, "The Middle." Altogether he was out of town for ten days.

I missed him; when I am working on a post for my blog, I read it aloud to him. His actor ear hears every word, gets every nuance, and when he doesn't get my intention, back to the computer I go (irritated, his criticisms are accurate and annoying), and of course I rewrite.

There's the boy,
there's the man,
and it's September
and the weather is lovely,

and Em's Talkery is a place
for talking about
important and unimportant things.

So here's the boy -- he looks like our son, JD. And there's my guy with the award.
I showed this to JC just now and oh my goodness, me oh my -- the picture of the boy is JD at 16, a photo that the "set dresser" for The Middle" used in the show. And I couldn't tell the difference.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


"Curing Cancer" is a headline that cheers me up, though it doesn't say "stop worrying" or "cross it off your list."

The list of bad news-killer ailments includes, of course, heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer's, and the other stuff -- cholesterol, osteoporosis, plus the oft-repeated kid stuff about cavities, eye strain, and you must-wash-your-hands.

If you aren't smoking, boozing, eating cheeseburgers, or thirty pounds overweight, what sticks in your mind are the constant, brain-washing ads, names, symptoms.

The pharmaceutical companies are not altogether to blame.

At first, as babies, we're cared for -- blissfully coddled, and then ... well, there's no age for when you begin to learn that hugs, baths, food, toys, and daily routines of eating, sleeping, playing are changing. Things just change. There are new things -- kisses when you say Mommy/Daddy and A-B-C-D-E, crayons, coloring books, how to draw a line or a number. Aside from good/bad, or right/wrong, or yes/no -- there are troublesome in-between areas that get messy-brownish, then darker and it's scary -- penmanship, numbers and DEATH.

The word enters your life. The imponderable thing of summer ending, birthdays, and dying. Flowers wither, leaves turn brown, toys get broken, but then, someone you know "died."

And the cared-for, watched-over, protected place you live in isn't safe anymore. Robbers, bad dreams, ghosts, skeletons, and diseases are lurking behind words that are spoken in whispers.

The first time someone you know dies you realize you are going to die. It's unacceptable -- all the things you have to learn -- a giant indigestible fat thick sandwich of dangers.

Mumps, Chicken Pox, Spinal Meningitis ... murders, police sirens, ambulances ... crashes, hurricanes, lightening striked, the house can burn and "Cancer."

A year or so goes by, and there's more -- war, bombs, nuclear deadly dangers, another war, terrifying terrorist deadly deeds, and Cancer.

And now -- hey, I saw it, read it, didn't try too hard to understand it -- I just got the gist! Doctors are now using what they've learned from curing the curable cancers -- early diagnosis, bombarding where it starts, and new medications -- applying-using what they've learned to improve the odds in the so-called incurable cancers.

Yay, hurray! The result: Scientists are stating that there are new hopes. new ways, new medicines, new numbers that show they're curing cancer.

Wow ... golly, if we could just do something about war, nuclear and terrorist stuff ... gee, life would be -- well, not beautiful -- but definitely more livable.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


What would you do if you were a 16-year-old boy, and saw eight of your friends murdered?

I read about this Afghan-Al Qaeda boy in Newsweek. and I can't get him out of my mind.

He was standing just outside the door of the compound, where supplies for his group were waiting to be picked up. He saw the car he'd arrived in explode, then the car that accompanied his car also exploded. Seven pals, Al Qaeda Arabs, were killed. The boy's eighth friend, horribly injured, died as the boy tried to comfort him.

Harif, (he hides his real name), 18 months ago, at age 14, ran away from home and joined the jihad in Pakistan across the border, but near his parent's home in Afghanistan. The training group in Pakistan was known as the best, the most prestigious, elite jihad in the area.

I can't really understand, or in any way identify with an adolescent boy's passionate desire to be a suicide bomber. Telling myself it's his religion, doesn't help.

Harif has said that ever since he was a small child, he dreamed of joining the jihad. It's similar, I think, to the dream of an American boy, the many boys who want to be sports stars.

He explained, "I was seven when Americans invaded our country." Hearing stories about the holy war, and the infidels who insult Muslims and occupied Palestine, Iraq and his country, the seven-year-old child decided: "There is nothing more to strive for in life than to join the jihad and become a shahid (martyr)!"

At the training camp, it was three months of intense exercise -- marching, running, learning to drive motorcycles and trucks, using weapons, handling explosives. And clean-up work -- after each of America's drone attacks, he and his pals, sometimes kids younger than he, picked up body parts, dug graves and buried the dead civilians and soldiers.

The size of his group fluctuated between 100 and 300 -- new recruits constantly arrived, and famous jhadis visited. Like a star-struck teenager, Harif can rattle off the names of those who've gone underground or are "disappeared" or "dead."

He makes death sound as if it's a discussion about Derek Jeter not able to play in tomorrow's baseball game, and brags about money for supplies, ammunition that keeps flowing into jihad coffers -- cash -- enough to trade in their old vehicles for shiny new Toyotas, Fords.

Since July, Harif has been staying with his parents, waiting for an assignment. His family has been pressuring him to find a pretty girl, saying "You'll be a better martyr if you're married!" So having a spouse mourn you makes martyrdom even more significant.

Complaining about the evils, distractions -- the luxuries that his family and their friends indulge in, Harif says no to meeting girls. "I get engaged, as my parents want, I know the life I love is over."

In his room. he keeps up with the news on his laptop, and is studying the making of a suicide vest. Relaxing the way our 16-year-olds do, he surfs Taliban, Qaeda, and Iraqi Websites, interacting with other young males like himself, (not females). He told a friend in a chat room, "I miss the mountains and my fellow mujahedin. My heart is not happy here."

I wonder if Harif is still alive. Like all Qaeda suicide bombers, his Last Will and Testament is on his computer with a letter addressed to all of his male kinsmen. He urges them to join jihad and seek martyrdom, "So I will see you, my beloved brothers, in the company of virgins with me."

It keeps echoing,

His words at age seven -- "There is nothing more to strive for in life than to join the jihad and become a shahid" keep echoing.

I keep thinking of the smiling nice-looking guy who was hoping to bomb Times Square, and the bewildered underwear-bomber, two young men who threw away their lives for what? And the other boy-men hiding in our cities, who are dreaming-up the most wonderfully destructive ways they too, can become a shahid.

What can we do, or say about dying for your religion, when religion teaches you how to live?

Monday, September 20, 2010


"HAPPY ON $75,000!"
" ...People's emotional well-being, their happiness — increases along with their income up to about $75,000," researchers say.

That's the big news today, yesterday, and probably tomorrow -- the very latest news fad, news trend, hottest hot news!

Huh? Your happiness depends on money?

It does and the figure is $75,000 says the Associated Press report on research by the National Academy of Sciences.
ALSO an economist at Princeton's Center for Health and Wellbeing; ALSO surveys of 450,000 Americans conducted in 2008 and 2009 for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Gallup's survey included questions on people's day-to-day happiness and their overall life satisfaction.

Ergo: We are being told a $75,000 income means happy times.

"Pooh," I say. In New York City, you can maybe get by as a single person on 75 K, but if you're a two-person household and wish to live moderately well -- moderately relaxed, moderately indulgently -- 100,000 K is probably your happiness number.

My figure is based on my being a practical, clever, not indulgent, not penny-pinching, world-traveler-observer of many different types, races, employers, employees, retirees, rich, and poor people.

But, actually it doesn't matter if I am right or wrong.

Isn't happiness a feeling of contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy? The dictionary says a variety of biological, psychological, religious, and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources.

I say happiness is based on what you are doing, be it work, play, rest, or vacation. If it's physical -- painting a picture, planting a garden, writing a story, shopping, clerking/typing/bookkeeping (as an employee or a self-employed person), -- all work has a progression. And whatever it is -- starting, developing, expanding, refining , doing it -- is happiness.

ALSO I am saying , unequivocally, I don't trust the latest hot news. I don't trust the researchers with their questionnaires. I am agin surveys, opinion statistics, and polls. It's temperature-taking when your temperature is 98.6 normal. IF you happen to be ONE point lower, or ONE point higher than normal, this fact affects how you feel.

Are you thinking pooh, Em is wrong?

Well, you're wrong! I am very happy doing my work, being able to write this and spread the word, I am not making a penny from my writing.

Forget 75,000 K -- and DO things

Sunday, September 19, 2010


John Cullum and Emily discuss critics -- how rave reviews inhibit you, how bad reviews stay in your head.

John describes how a panning (a long time ago), seriously bothered him but a rave continued to haunt him for years.

They recall an embarrassing but amusing social occasion with Clive Barnes. When Frank Rich was the drama critic for the "NY Times," John remembers the opening night terror in the hearts of cast and producer, because Rich often "killed" plays.

It's not surprising that Emily, J.C. and their actor son, JD, have developed "The Cullum Family way" of handling all reviews.