Saturday, January 28, 2012


John Cullum and Emily Frankel delve into the subject -- the importance of knowing what you think, what your instinct is, what you like. And learning to listen to your own voice, even as a director explains his ideas, his concept for the part you're playing.

Em feels finding her voice was essential, a major event for her as a writer. It's something she keeps touting to other artists.

John translates the idea into a practical thing for actors. You need to be you, who you are, and be able to hear what others are thinking and doing, and still, find your way back into being YOU.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Gee, what this guy did fascinates us.

Rob Baedeker needed money so he put ad on Craig's list, offering to rent out his camping trailer for $45 a night. He was doing what does -- it's a website that rents space in people's homes where you can stay -- it's less expensive, often nicer than staying in a hotel in some of the big cities.

Was Rob desperate for money?

No. What I read, and learned about him (from Twitter, Newsweek, and the video below), is that he and his wife are both writers and editors. They have a four-year-old daughter, live in a three room rented bungalow. Their camping trailer is parked next to it. Rob wanted extra money for a vacation, and wanted to start saving money for their daughter's college education.

Rob got two offers -- one wanted the trailer for four nights, the other -- because the trailer wasn't available, decided to sleep on an air mattress in Bob's home office -- four nights at $25 per night. Rob checked out credit and references. He liked both customers. He definitely liked the extra $280. Later, he rented out a weed-whacker, his sander, his car, his dog, his guitar, his daughter's bike, her red wagon, even a stay at his house.

Now he's even renting out himself as a life counselor. (Look out shrinks, this may be a trend that'll cost you guys big money).

Is this a trend -- making money from things you aren't using? Perhaps it is. Other new websites are offering "collaborative consumption"-- ways to connect with folks who will rent out their cars, couches, personal services are on,, even dinosaur costumes or clay-pigeon launchers at $12 per day on

The financial crisis seems to have inspired a new kind of resourcefulness. Aside from our awareness of the environmental consequences of things like plastic bags, throwaway stuff is becoming important. Perhaps our grandparent's "waste not-want not " maxim is coming back into vogue.

A book, "What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption," (by Botsman & Rogers) tells us that people who gain access to things they want without owning them will also "make new friends; and become active citizens once again."

"Gee, what could we rent out?" my husband and I asked each other.'' Sound equipment? Ours is high level professional, not portable, but it thunders, whispers, roars and rocks the house. Hmm. When cars, playing loud music, drive by our house -- dammit-- I hate it, I feel invaded, I cover my ears. Renting out our sound equipment is a dissonant loud NO Way!

Rent out our studio theater with its 65 seats for exercise? For a play reading?

Only if the renter provided assistants -- one on the downstairs door, one in the hall so strangers couldn't wander into our living quarters. But my dance floor -- gee -- shoes leave scratch marks. And there's just one lavatory ... Nope, renting the studio is out.

Okay -- what about my kitchen?

My kitchen is a fun place to cook.
I've got everything a cook needs.
All kinds of gadgets.
New stove.
New huge fridge.
A great dining table.
It's shaped like a mushroom
and seats four to ten.

I've got marvelous dinnerware -- oversize plates, bowls, cups, saucers ... but actually they are not dishwasher safe.

Okay. what about our green living room.

Spectacular skylight.

Summer-green floor and matching summer-green ceiling.

Mirrors, big bird cage for our pigeon ...

Gee, the white porch furniture ...

Oh dear ...

The brown and dark red room where we film our videos? Golly, it would take me an hour to explain where things are and what NOT to use.

Of course I could lend/rent out my books if I knew the reader wouldn't eat while reading, and leave-grease spots.

NO. Grease spots on books are repulsive. We don't need the money. But if we did, well ... I could rent out me as a cook, or Dr. Em as a listener-adviser? Maybe we could barter -- if you, the renter, clean the four hallways and vacuum all the stairs in our building, you can rent JC and me out as guests, scintillating guests could spice up your party.

Hmm. Of course, we'd need to know who's coming to your party. Relatives? Kids? How many guests, how old -- we'd need to know in advance, how long we'd have to stay...

I'm sorry I mentioned barter. Please don't make us an offer. Maybe renting out aspects of your life is an option for you, but NOT for me, or JC.

Hey, here's Rob, maybe you can do what he did.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


"Are you in fact, America's most important living poet?" The interviewer asked John Ashbery.

(I'd never heard his name.)

Ashbery, who's 84, murmured humbly, "I get talked about a lot. I enjoy writing the way I do, which doesn't please a lot of people and pleases others enormously, and I guess that's all one can expect."

Belinda Luscombe, interviewing him for Time, asked Ashbery about fame and groupies. (I thought it was a weird question to ask an 84 year old poet, but Ashbery handled it perfectly.)

Ashbery replied, "I was once recognized by a sort of hippie taxi driver, but that was a long time age."

Belinda's next question, "How do you spend your days?" inspired J.A, to say that he writes maybe once a day, once a month, or sometimes just every three months of so.

(Hmm. So how does this poet pay the bills? Do his poems get bought? How much money can a poet make, these days? If my husband wasn't a successful actor, I'd be teaching dancing as exercise (I did for a year-- it cost me money to keep Dancehouse open, and interfered with my writing.)

B.L declared: "There's a wide discrepancy in critical opinion as to what your work really means. Shouldn't you straighten that out?"

"Not at this stage in my career" said honest, humble poet John A. " It was long time before my poetry was first published and then read and then discussed. Those stages took decades, and it wasn't until I was about 40 that I felt that I had an audience. My first book only sold 800 copies over a period of eight years. Before it came out, I was expecting to be hailed as a poet the next day in the press."

(Ahh --the quick sand -- one's expectations of success -- I had high expectations. At various stages of my writing career, four prestigious agents signed me up.and promoted me but I didn't go up, or down, or anywhere. )

B.L: "Do you ever read what the critics write about you and think, 'This is just ridiculous?'"

J.A.: "No, because maybe they're right. I haven't got that much confidence in my writing. It's more like hope."

(That tuneless tune the artist hums inwardly -- "who am I, am I worth bothering with?" If Em the writer, ex dancer has confidence, it's only for a moment or two.)

I took a coffee break and started looking up Ashbery's poems -- found quotes from his poems
with thumbs up, thumbs down icons along the sides of the pages; found it depressing that thumbs --"dum-de-dum" -- could mean life or death for an artist.)

B.L rang the bell on success and failure, asking, "Do you ever think of death?"

"I've never not thought about it," said Ashbery.

(Yay J.A. -- even when we don't think about it, death is there. I think it's part of living, breathing, doing a day, ending a day, resting up for tomorrow.)

Ashbery told B, "There are not that many things to write poetry about. There's love and there's death, and time passing, and the weather outside, which is horrible today. I'm so glad I'm not writing poetry today. The weather gets to me when I write."

The talk floated around death and religion until B.L. said, "You grew up in an era when it was considered shameful to be gay. How would your work change if you grew up now?"

The truthful, unpretentious poet Ashbery replied, "There is a school of criticism that says that my poetry is so torturous and obscure because I've been trying to cover up the fact of my sexuality all these years, and I think that's an interesting possibility. But I'm not sure whether that's the generating force in my poetry. I think I would have been attracted to the surrealists anyway."

The Q & A session ended with B.L wanting to know if he could be the most important something else, what would it be?

Humbly, unpretentiously, J.A. said, "I guess it would be wonderful to be America's greatest living painter and have acres and acres of one's work to survey and have prizes and museums and wealth, but I think I'd rather stick with poetry."


I Googled. I've lingered over Ashbery verses, phrases that have left me with impressions of this and that -- nothing to hang onto but footprints in the sand of where the poet's mind traveled.

If you are in the mood to wander, click quotations or this link that will take you to some Ashbery poetry. Or visit the interview. Listen and see if your thoughts, as you watch, are like or dislike.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


"John Cullum, you are not a dunce!," Em declares, and she proceeds to praise him for fixing broken watches and things like electrical circuits, even though he struggles with navigating on the Internet.

The Cullums blame Fire Fox, Google, and You Tube for constantly updating themselves. Just as John and Em figure out what to do on the Internet, and create a routine --oops -- there's a new way that has to be learned.

Old ways, old things, suddenly new ways and new things discombobulate both Cullums. Emily Frankel's fighting it. John Cullum is just plain pissed off!