Sunday, December 30, 2018

SONG TO SING TODAY



What a song -- what a gathering of people who gave us this song to sing. And today, again, like last year, and the year before and now -- right this minute -- this is a song that expresses what many of us  feel.



Tuesday, December 25, 2018

IS OR ISN'T THERE A SANTA?


Excerpt from my novel "Splintered Heart." Is Marian Melnik me? Yes, AND no. All the characters in my novels are aspects of me. But this is not a story about me.

It was at Christmas time, when Marian Melnik was seven-years-old, that she had learned about praying.

The Melnik family was Jewish. They were not synagogue-goers. They were agnostics. Marian's father had explained it all to her in a cherished moment of real grown-up conversation.

"I'm an agnostic my dear, not an atheist. Atheism is something different." Anatol Melnik explained the difference to Marian telling her that there was a God but God wasn't necessarily Jehovah, Jesus, Buddha or the Lord. You could make up your own idea of God if you were agnostic.

Sometimes, when Daddy talked about things like that, Marian would think ahead for big words to say, to show she understood. She knew her Daddy loved her smartness. He would smile, not his small-sized smile, but his big one, when she managed to surprise him with a new big word.

"I absolutely comprehend," Marian said when her father was finished --  she did understand that Christmas was for Christians, not for agnostics.

Most all the children in the private school were Christians. The school was filled with red, blue, green, gold and silver decorations. There was a Christmas tree with colored lights, colored balls, and tinsel in her classroom. There was going to be a Christmas party with candy canes, grab-bag gifts, and Christmas Carols.

Marian's best friend, Mary Ellen Warner, was a High Episcopalian and she was going with her family to Acapulco for Christmas and New Year's.

At Marian's home, the holidays meant that she didn't have to go to school. Agnostic was O.K., at least it made Marian one of a kind, not "run of the mill" which was what Mary Ellen said about the Lutheran,  Protestant, and Presbyterian girls in their class.

Marian tried to pray agnostically. She had been reading about Joan of Arc, who had talked to God and heard voices. Marian tried talking to her idea of God in her mind. She wanted Him to talk to her about Mamma.

Mamma stayed in bed most of the time. She was either tired or she had a headaches, or both things.

Daddy said, "Marian, I want you to promise that you will be brave and strong. And very gentle with Mamma. You've got to be a very extra-special child for while."

In the bathroom with the door locked, Marian looked it up in the Medical Book. She couldn't find out about "Tired" and "Headache" but she found out about Polio, Scarlet Fever, Sex, Spinal Meningitis, Syphilis, T.B. and Whooping Cough.

She was terribly worried about keeping the promise that she'd made to Daddy. She prayed agnostically, that she wouldn't get one of the horrible diseases or the tired headache like Mamma.

All the girls in Marian's class expected dolls, and the boys were hoping for radios or bicycles. Everyone knew it was parents who gave the presents, but the talk was still of Santa Claus and what Santa Claus might be bringing them. "I know Santa's bringing me a doll with a wardrobe, a pearl necklace, and a Punch and Judy puppet theater," said Mary Ellen Warner. "What about you, Marian?"

"Probably my parents are going to give me an Encyclopedia Britannica." An encyclopedia had already been ordered, not for Christmas but for the family's general self-improvement.
       "An encyclopedia?" Mary Ellen Warner wrinkled her nose the way she did when a boy came over to play with them.
        "Actually, I think I'm probably getting a Bulova watch and a string of cultured pearls and also probably a piano!" That impressed Mary Ellen Warner. When Mary Ellen got too snobby or stuck up, Marian had to invent ways of making her shut up.

Marian asked Mamma, "Couldn't we celebrate Christmas just this year?" Occasionally, Mamma would say yes to things without a great deal of fuss, but Mamma just said the usual "You'd better ask your father."

The thing about Christmas was not just the presents. It was the decorations and the music. All the children's voices lifted in song -- it made Marian feel as if she were part of a huge family holding hands around the equator of the world.

The shiny fragile balls on the trees -- she wished she could have one of each color, just to hold them, look into them and see herself reflected. The icicle tinsel -- she wanted that too. It looked like silver fringe for a ballerina gown.

Last birthday, Marian's Daddy had taken her to Radio City Music Hall. Never would Marian  forget the girl dancing with her Prince, her crown of diamond spires, her dress all glitter-gleam lace and sparkles. "I am definitely going to be a ballerina." Marian decided. The Prince was part of it. Somewhere in the world, perhaps in the upside-down part of the world called China, there was a boy who would someday marry her. Marian knew, quite definitely, her Prince would definitely be as tall, as handsome as Daddy. She liked to imagine whirling and gliding with her Prince to the rippling music that was in her ears when she was swinging on the swings at the playground.

A few weeks before Christmas, though she realized it was childish, Marian began praying for what she wanted from Santa. She was tentative at first. "Please let me get something for Christmas." But as the time grew closer, her prayers grew longer. She began to do "Now I lay me down to sleep." Then, to that prayer she added "God Bless Mamma, Daddy, Sara our maid, my Aunt and Uncle and my cousins." After she named all her relatives, she added, "And could I have a string of pearls for Christmas. And could you consider a piano and a pair of pink satin toe shoes?

Marian wrote out a list, put it in an envelope addressed to Santa, and placed it on the table in the hall, figuring Sara, who was a good maid, would show it to Mamma, who would show it to Daddy. Probably they'd laugh, but maybe they'd open it, and maybe they'd pay attention to the items on the paper.

The next day the note that was on the table was gone. Nobody mentioned it, but that was hopeful.

A week before Christmas, Marian robbed her piggy bank. Using Mamma's nail file, she found she could scratch up into the slot and get out a few coins. In the locked bathroom, she managed to dig out two quarters, eight dimes, seventeen pennies, and three nickels.

More money came her way unexpectedly. When she helped Sara organize the kitchen drawers, there was seventy-two cents in loose change that Sara said Marian could keep. And on Sunday, when Marian got Daddy his Times from the corner, he gave her a whole dollar bill for a tip.

The next day, at the 5 &10, Marian bought a box of assorted balls and a pack of icicle tinsel. She wanted to have her own secret celebration of Christmas, her own private shrine. A small tree was out of the question, but she priced the miniature nativity scenes.

With $3.34 to start with, balls and tinsel using up $2.25, only $1.09 was left. It didn't take long to learn that even the least expensive "Little Town of Bethlehem" was out of the question, but on the other side of the counter there were Eiffel Towers, keys to the city, windmills, back-scratchers and rickshaws.

The rickshaw was IT. Such a tiny-teeny thing, all hand-carved wood -- wooden wheels with spokes like tooth-picks, tiny grips carved in the handles that pulled the carriage -- it even had a teeny wood-carved cushion and the smallest of small little foot-rests for the royal lady who would hire the rickshaw to take her through the busy streets of Japan and China.

The price was just 79 cents. Marian bought it. She put the remaining 30 cents back into the piggy bank when she got home.

After stringing the colored balls on red yarn, Marian hung them in her window in a graceful scallop. She draped eight tinsel icicles between each ball. On the window sill she placed her green hair ribbon and some absorbent cotton. Once the royal rickshaw was carefully placed on the ribbon, it looked like a roadway surrounded by snow drifts.

Marian presented the shrine to her parents the way the guide at the museum had presented the Egyptian exhibit. She stood up very straight, gestured to the window sill, explaining that decorations were traditional, it was important to conform to traditions since she was going to become a non conformist when she grew up, and celebrating Christmas was a way of orientating herself to the heritage of mankind.

Daddy didn't say anything, but as he was examining the rickshaw, he smiled an extra big smile. Mamma said, "Darling, where did you get the money for all these things?"

"It's just leftover stuff from school. Some lady gave me the rickshaw. She didn't want it because it was made in Japan." Mamma was like Mary Ellen Warner. You sometimes had to invent things for Mamma. Little white lies were O.K. to tell, especially when you told them in order to be polite.

The explanation seemed to satisfy Mamma, and Daddy started talking about the boycott, the surplus inventory because of the War.

The night before before Christmas Eve, Marian looked out up at a star.

"Please, dear God, a pearl necklace, toe shoes and maybe a piano -- I would certainly appreciate that, but I'd especially appreciate it if You would show me that You are there!" She was thinking of Joan of Arc and her voices. "Even if you can't give me those things, just give me a little sign that You can hear me."

Christmas Eve, she hung up a stocking and read a poem. So it would be a ceremony, she sang "Silent Night" and "Away in the Manger," then blew a kiss to the North, to the South, to the East and to the West. Checking the clock to be sure it was a full thirty-minutes, she thought long, hard, and prayerfully about Mamma's headaches and tiredness. Then, she did "Now I lay me down to sleep" ten times very slowly. The prayer wasn't to Santa Claus. It wasn't for pearls, toe shoes, or a piano. Marian wanted to know if there was a God and this was God's  chance to prove it.

She left the window open wide even though it was freezing cold, just in case there was a Santa spirit that might want to come in.

Christmas morning Marian sprang out of bed and rushed to the window. The stocking was empty. There was no sign, not even the tiniest indication, that God or Santa had heard her prayers or that either one of them or anything like God or Santa existed.

Her room was cold. She stayed there most of the day.

When Marian brought up the subject at dinner, Daddy explained: "Praying is something that people invented because it gives them comfort. Don't count on praying, dear. You have to do things yourself. What you pray for, you do not necessarily get!"

Marian nodded. The philosophy was very clear.

A week later, when Marian came home from school, Mamma was gone. Sara said, "Your mother is in the hospital."

Marian felt as if she were going down the swooping curve on the Coney Island roller coaster and had left her stomach behind at the top of the hill. She wondered if what had happened had anything to do with being an agnostic, disobeying her Daddy's rules and praying to God and Santa.

Marian put the green ribbon in the wastebasket, and flushed the cotton down the toilet. Then, she broke the Christmas tree balls one by one and put the pieces in the kitchen trash can. She handed the royal rickshaw to Sara the maid.

Sara said, "Maybe you should keep it, and give it to your new baby brother. He's coming home with your Mamma day after tomorrow."

"OH!" Marian said.

She retrieved the green ribbon and put the ribbon and the royal rickshaw on a high shelf, so she could use them next Christmas, and teach her new brother about God and Santa watching over you whether you liked it or not.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, 2018

John Cullum reads the famous poem.



We made this video sometime ago. Each year we enjoy watching and hearing it again, and again, like children, delighting in the way John Cullum tells the famous words.




Tuesday, December 18, 2018

MY BEST, MOST FAVORITE GIFT

This is the very first video I made by myself. I was nervous. I missed having my husband John Cullum seated next to me, helping me turn the subject into a back and forth chat.


Even so, I managed to explain why this gift is still my best, most favorite. most cherished gift, something I love to brag about, and mention every year.  Also, John is busy with other things now, no longer in the show I mention.

Friday, December 14, 2018

ROBERT REDFORD



Do I know him face to face, person to person?  No. 

I've gotten to know Robert Redford through my husband, John Cullum's experiences with him.

John played Judge Riley in Redford's film, "The Conspirators." Producer-director, Redford and John had long conversations. The film, shot in 2010, wasn't a big hit, but for John it was a hit experience.

Director Redford talked at length, quite passionately, about how and why he got involved with the subject of the film--the assassination of President Lincoln. Then. he explained why he needed strong energy from the Judge and dug into John's background. Though the Judge was not a major leading role, Redford patiently, persistently, searched with John for ways for John to achieve what Redford wanted.

Quite often, a director gets what he wants by encouraging the actor to do more or less what the actor does at the first group-reading of the script; sometimes, with just a few words, a director expresses his own thoughts; sometimes, what a director says is confusing, and even annoying. John says Redford's searching with him was fascinating, and very unusual.

Anyhow, though I don't know Redford, my husband's comments fit and expanded my impression. The look of Robert Redford speaks to me, and the choices he's made about what roles, which scripts, what subjects were important to him.

Many film titles come to mind--"The Candidate," and of course "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," but there are many other favorite films and images. What I've rustled up from my years of seeing this actor, is a sense of a quiet, inner man, who feels what he feels, uses his feelings and is always himself, but never himself.

Always himself but never himself? Yes. And in each project (not because of makeup, hair, or the outfit), the man is different.

Can you say who his wife, or wives were? Does he have children? Do you know where his home is.  Does he have homes in Hollywood, New York City, as well as near where his project, the Sundance Institute and Festival, takes place.

Sundance showcases new work from American and international independent filmmakers--feature-length films, short films, and miscellaneous other films, and uniquely affects the art. Redford created it, maintains it, and built it, so that it sustains itself.

He's a busy, active movie-going movie-maker, and actor who talks about retiring, announced his retirement, and hasn't retired, who has given me (and maybe you) experiences--visions of relationships, stories, and quite often a sense of family loyalties--perhaps beyond what we have personally experienced.

When my husband John was on Broadway in the musical, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"--one night as we were leaving the theater's stage entrance, we noticed a huge limo parked across the street. Even though he was more than a hundred away, Redford was instantly recognizable, as he was pacing near the limo, waiting for his daughter-in-law, who was also in the show.

She emerged from the stage door, said goodnight to us, and crossed to him. That's all. Redford called to us, "Good show," and waved to us.

What a guy! After all that he's done and been to the world-- the whole world--he waved.

He said once, during an interview, "All my life I've been dogged by guilt because I feel there is this difference between the way I look and the way I feel inside." He also said on more than one occasion, "I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security."

Golly, if you were to pick a career, mention a man who's hugely successful, who is still giving, sharing, teaching, offering what he is and what he knows to us--that's Robert Redford.

Here he's is, talking abut the fun he had, filming the last film he made that's gotten raves.

Monday, December 10, 2018

BIGIFY YOUR BRAIN

 Can you increase your IQ?  Yes.

After the last few days of horrendous political revelations, hey, gee, this is certainly the time to get smarter, wiser, brighter.




Newsweek cover story, nine fact filled pages, that was published six years ago proves that you can.

Studies and tests showed how "gray matter"(neurons) increase with use, and decrease when they're not used. Stimulants, pills, and aerobic exercise for the brain can improve your short term and long term memory, enhance your ability to retain information, and increase your attention span.

The piece de resistance of the article was 31 WAYS TO GET SMARTER--an illustrated list with comments by users. Websites, bloggers, and radio stations shared the Newsweek article with their readers. Googling around, I saw 89 versions of the 31 WAYS, with their own users comments.

Back then, 31 ways to better your brain became a hot topic. I boiled it down to the 14 things that sort of made sense to me:
(1) Play Word Games with Friends.
(2) Eat Turmeric [Indian spice that can reduce dementia].
(3) Take up Taekwondo [Martial arts].
(4) Toss Your Smartphone.
(5) Get a lot of Sleep [Harvard researchers proved it helps].
(6) Build a ‘Memory Palace [associate things with vivid images].
(7) Learn a Language.
(8) Eat Dark Chocolate.
(9) Play Violent Video Games [it quicken reactions].
(10) Eat Yogurt.
(11) See a Shakespeare Play.
(12) Play a Musical Instrument.
(13) Write By Hand.
(14) Drink Coffee.

If you'd like to see exactly what Newsweek said, here's the link.

Guys, "Newsweek" was telling us if you want to be smarter you gotta use your brain more, get busier, do 14 or 31, or more--51-101 MORE things than what you're doing now.

We are living in the age of doing stuff faster, not necessarily better--go with the flow--keep going with the  flowing ways of todays chittery, jittery, chirpering top guys.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

BEST INVENTIONS 2018

Best Inventions 2018 (click, see 'em all)....
Here's what interested me.     

ON DEMAND EYES FOR THE BLIND
AiraSubscription service, $99 per month, enables users to stream video of their surroundings to on-demand agent, using smartphone or Alexa’s proprietary glasses. The agents, available 24/7, will  answer questions, describe objects, guide users through a location.

 JACKET THAT GLOWS IN THE DARK
Solar Charged Jacket ($350) from Vollebak, U.K. sports-gear startup. The jacket’s phosphorescent membrane absorbs light during the day and releases what Vollebak founder calls “kryptonite green energy” after sunset.
 vollebak-solar-charged-jacket



SUITCASE YOU DON'T NEED TO UNPACK
Carry-on Closet from Solgaard Design, ($199). Outside looks normal. Inside is flexible set of shelves to keep clothes organized and compressed during travel, at destination, can be taken out to hang. (The system can also be removed entirely.)
carry on closet

WI FI ROUTER
Netgear’s Orbi beams an Internet signal to one or several devices which users place around their home; gadgets latch onto the strongest signal. Orbi’s Voice ($430, with router) also doubles as an Alexa-enabled smart-speaker, enables users to control other smart-home devices by voice command.

UNBREAKABLE PANTY HOSE
Sheerly Genius offers soft, comfortable pantyhose made of fiber typically used in bulletproof vests, at $99 per pair. (That high price makes the hose interesting, but not something I'd buy.)
Unbreakable Sheer Pantyhose

SPEAKER REPLACES YOUR REMOTE
Sonos Beam soundbar ($399) will change the channel, volume, and turn off TV--users simply tell their Beam to make it happen. Works with many platforms like Alexa and Siri, and delivers superior sound quality.
sonos beam

WHEELCHAIR
A superior wheelchair, Model Ci ($3,999 electric) has front “omni-wheels,” enabling it to ride as much as 10 miles, climb obstacles two inches in height and navigate in cramped quarters.
whill-model-ci

HELMET WITH HEADLIGHTS
 Lumos Kickstart Helmet ($180)--LED lights increase cyclist’s visibility, blink to indicate turn left or turn right. Riders can trigger signal by clicking a wireless remote mounted to their handlebars.
lumos-kickstart-helmet

TV SET THAT BLENDS INTO THE WALL
Samsung’s 4K QLED model ($1,099) features “Ambient Mode” which displays works of art, weather reports, personal photos, or can mimic the wall and blend in to your room when not in use.


LynQ COMPASS ($209 for two), uses GPS technology to find other LynQ as much as three miles away. Onscreen pointer sends user in the right direction. Pet owners, parents can set up  “safe zones” for wandering child or pet.
LynQ

SELF-CLEANING vACUUM
iRobot Roomba i7iRobot’s  Roomba i7, ($950) powers up a separate vacuum, inside its base charger, that sucks up dirt and dust from the Roomba’s innards into disposable bag, each bag holds month’s worth of gunk.

CHEATERS MONOPOLY
Hasbro Cheaters Edition ($20), has “cheat cards” to encourage players to steal from the bank, dupe others for cash or property. If you're caught it's as if you're handcuffed to the board.
monopoly-cheaters-edition


Gotta say this year's inventions don't thrill me, but I'd love to play this version of monopoly and try to win.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

(VIDEO) HANDLING YOUR OWN NEGATIVITY

The Cullums share their thoughts, immediately after they finish shooting this video.


Emily is more or less scolding and criticizing herself, as John, who likes the way they handled things, is trying to comforting her.









Wednesday, November 28, 2018

PINK PILL FOR GALS

November 1, online mail-order pharmacy "Hims" launched "Hers." Entrepreneur Cindy Eckert, founder of "The Pink Ceiling.com" which invests in products for women, is hugely marketing the pink pill which the New York Times calls "The drug of a generation."
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Addyi is engineered to rev up the sex drive of premenopausal women.

Unlike Viagra, which has physiological effects on men’s genitals, Addyi works on the brain. It was originally researched to treat depression. Flibansering, (generic name for it), increases production of dopamine, the neurotrans-mitter that governs motivation and anticipation, and regulates serotonin, which governs self-consciousness and mood.

Critics opposing FDA approval of Flibansering have said, “There’s no way to measure dopamine-serotonin," but the website refers to brain scans which prove that many women have a hypoactive sexual desire disorder, (HSDD)--the loss libido, which is what Addyi treats.
Visitors to the mail order website are asked, "Would you like to increase your sexual desire? Why do you want to increase your sexual desire?" Then, they are directed to another website where they connect with a doctor. After a telemedicine conversation, (a phone consultation or video chat), the doctor can prescribe Addyi to be delivered to the customer’s door. The manufacturer's price of $800 per month has been reduced to $400 per month; $99 if users don’t have insurance.

Addyi should be taken every night. Users should not drink Alcohol. It comes with a black-box warning, the strictest of the FDA’s caution labels, which advises users to abstain from “things that require clear thinking” for six hours.

The voice on the website suggests the #MeToo movement, as it uninhibitedly refers to intimate experiences and reminds the user that when things deteriorate in the bedroom, the marriage may deteriorate.

User Michelle Wilson, 47, of Florida, who has been on Addyi for 20 months, is quoted, saying that since starting on Addyi, which she takes every other day,  her sexual frequency has increased from once a month, to at least once a week.

There are 20,000 certified Addyi prescribers in the U.S. The drug is about to launch in Canada.  Cindy Eckert is working on launching it in Europe.

Note:
My facts about the actual pill are gleaned from the scathing, shocking diatribe in "Time Magazine," by Belinda Luscombe, senior editor, who goes on and on (it gets boring) about entrepreneur Eckert as a money-hungry huckster whose heart, soul and shrewd handling of facts, is promoting a pill that according to many should never have been approved, but blogger Em bets it'll continue selling like hotcakes.
Here's the link https://bit.ly/2TDJCGq.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

(VIDEO) THE WEIRD AMAZING CULLUM

Emily wonders why her husband, John Cullum invariably reads every single word, never skims whatever he's reading, even when he finds it "endless, boringly detailed."


 John explains how reading plays has affected everything he reads.






Tuesday, November 20, 2018

JOHN CULLUM'S MESSAGE TO EM


"Dear Emily, I am from a large Southern family of which my mother was the matriarch, and every Thanksgiving was an big, exciting affair with aunts and uncles and cousins, some of which I only saw once a year. Emotions were high, and along with love and good spirits were moments of family squabbles of epic and frightening proportions that sometimes resulted in enduring resentments. This tradition still continues with my nieces and nephews and though we may not give as much thought as we should to the pilgrims and Indians, it’s a time when our different families renew their connections to each other and that’s a lot to give thanks for.

"But the most memorable Thanksgiving dinner for me was the one a young redheaded dancer made for me in her Artist In Residence studio in New York City. It wasn’t a turkey, just a large chicken, and it never occurred to me that this gorgeous girl could even cook, but boy, she could – all the trimmings, fresh cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, vegetables and all. I could hardly believe it. There she was, the best dancer I had ever seen, gracefully whirling around a tiny kitchen, whipping up a dinner as good as any I had ever eaten, and all for me. Never had a Thanksgiving meal been made exclusively for me and me alone, and with such love. It was an experience I couldn’t walk away from. And I never did. I guess Emily decided if I was going to keep hanging around, she might as well marry me. Which she did.

"Thought this might please you, Em. Your loving husband -- John Cullum."

Friday, November 16, 2018

OBIT FOR SEARS

Yii, our Sears Kenmore dishwasher, washing machine, vacuum--the fix-it booklets, where to phone for help and new parts, are now out of date.  

As of Aug. 4, the company still had 506 Sears locations including 482 full-line department stores and 360 Kmart stores. Sears is closing 78 right now, but soon all will be closed.

Farewell Sears/Kmart.


I didn't know Kmart purchased Sears--the two chains had a total of 3,500 US stores between them when they merged in 2005. We just happily continue to use stuff we bought from Sears in 1966, after my actor husband, John Cullum, finished playing a part in "Hawaii"--washcloths, towels, sheets, and a blue electric blanket that works better than the new blanket we bought at Bed & Bath.

Golly, I used "Sears" in my plays--in one, the antagonist referred to the heroine's fella as "A Sears Roebuck Buck of a lover." In my play that John directed in Seattle, the hero, heroine, and their cat and dog lived in a building like the Sears Tower in Chicago, that contained everything--they never left the building.

Of course I looked up the how and when of Sears. Young Richard Sears started a small mail-order catalog in 1888 with Alvah Roebuck, and sold watches and Jewelry. Six years later the catalog was 322 pages including sewing machines, bicycles, sporting goods; then autos, dolls, stoves, and groceries were added. New owners joined the corporation, with clothing, drugs, hardware, furniture;  a house you could build yourself was featured in Sears famous Christmas catalog that I used in the mid nineties to furnish our Malibu log cabin home for about $900.

Sears Chapter 11 bankruptcy hit me like the death of a favorite film stars. That brief article on Time's obit page is yelling, telling me...

"Pat that blue electric blanket! Use/enjoy/ your Sears appliances."
Googling around just now,
Wow!
I found Kenmore Repair Stores galore!
Why cry? 
It's Bye Bye To A Store--Nothing More! 


Monday, November 12, 2018

(VIDEO) IS CULLUM BECOMING LIKE HIS DAD

Wife Emily Frankel wonders about John's tone of voice when he's judging things. Is he trying to sound like his dad?


John reveals why he is compelled to be more truthful nowadays.



Thursday, November 8, 2018

"STAR BRIGHT, STAR LIGHT..."

When is the last time you looked up at the stars in the sky?

Checking the stars, finding the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper used to be a huge part of my nightly ritual.
Sending prayerful wishes to the stars--wow, that was important when I was much, much younger. Each and every night I'd ask the stars to help me achieve what I wanted, which was to be a famous, marvelously memorable dancer.

Well, I more or less got what I prayed for--a very first tour, then a transcontinental tour...hey, I toured Israel, and Asia and England, danced with Symphony Orchestras as soloist, and performed with a dance company that I created and directed and supervised.

Sending more prayers to the stars was no longer necessary--golly, I was too busy choreographing, directing, and booking performances. And then, well....Having fallen in love, making a home, being a wife, a mother, and maybe becoming a marvelous, maybe bestseller writer was on my mind night and day.

And nowadays, well, there are so many other things to pray for that have to do with the people I love, and things that are happening in the world. And since we live in New York City, even when I'm on the roof, I don't see stars--just the fantastic glow of lights from thousands of places near our home. Gee, what would I'd say--"Twinkle twinkle little star--how I wonder where you are?"

I've stopped hoping and dreaming and wishing for things, though I hope I'll find a store where I can pick out a pair of shoes to wear other than my sneakers that I pinch my little toes.

Actually, I'm back to praying, trying to communicate with as many other people I can find, who will read what writer Em, a not famous, but quite marvelously varied, occasionally passionately articulate, pleasantly busy blogger has to say, about big and little things in today's world.


Sunday, November 4, 2018

(VIDEO) CULLUM'S DAILY REWARD

It's a ritual--every night after dinner, John Cullum beautifully cleans, tidies, and polishes up the kitchen.

And Emily Frankel, always, every morning, before breakfast, draws a picture that and sets up a loving mood for the day.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

HEY JAMIE LEE CURTIS

Jamie Lee Curtis inspires me. There's lots of talk about her in the new version of "Halloween." I dug into various magazines, media, and film websites so I could talk about her today.     
Though she grew up in Hollywood as the daughter of legendary actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, the original "Halloween," made her a star back in 1978. I certainly remember the Oscar-nominated comedy "A Fish Called Wanda," and the unforgettable strip tease she did in "True Lies," and the way she body-swapped with Lindsay Lohan in Disney's "Freaky Friday." But what I fell in love with was her dancing--the sensual aerobics she did as she taught exercise classes in "Perfect," the film she did with Travolta in his dancing days, back in 1985.

Along the way to today's "Halloween," she wrote 13 children’s books and many articles, became an accomplished photographer, stopped drinking, talked and wrote about it, and started a family with her husband, writer-director Christopher Guest, ("Waiting for Guffman") with whom she has two children.

In a recent interview, explaining she's not a fan of horror movies, Jamie Lee declared, “The new "Halloween" tells a story about trauma, especially the many kinds that women endure. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are the result of generational, systematic abuse of women, and the trauma that abuse generates in a person. Working on this film again kicked me into a creative space." Apparently shooting the film energized her so much that she wrote a screenplay for an eco-horror movie that she plans to direct.

Her recovery from an addiction to painkillers became an article she published as “The single greatest thing I’ll ever did in my life.” Her last children’s book, "Me, Myself & I" is about a mom who is  documenting her family’s life on social media. Jamie Lee told a reporter, “I cop to it too! How quickly you can hit the a little booster button that brightens you up."

She doesn't need to be brightened up. "Halloween" got rave reviews, and a monster take at the box office, earning over $77.5 million. It marks several milestones, including the biggest horror-movie opening with a female lead and the highest-grossing film opening with a female lead over 55.

When Curtis posted a tweet about these record-breaking stats, her tweet went viral: "Here I am kissing 60. It's beyond my wildest dreams. I’m the luckiest girl in the world.”

I really mean it when I say yay Jamie Lee Curtis today.






Saturday, October 27, 2018

OUR 3RD FLOOR THEATER

It's just below our living quarters on the 4th floor. The photos show you where my husband, John Cullum, is working on his one man show, reviewing the script he's written about his career and singing songs from shows he's starred in. Before he starts working, I'm at the barre, warming up before I start dancing.

Here's how the room looks when the black curtains that are on both walls are closed, the theater lights are on, and the 65 seats are arranged.

We use the space for staging shows, play readings, and raising funds to produce our theater projects. Over the years, a lot of very well-known people have been here for previews.

The floor space is 40 x 25. The sound equipment, designed by Bela Bartok's son, Peter, is powerful professional equipment which we've used in Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters. Our lighting equipment is homemade--we scrounged large tomato cans from neighborhood restaurants, converted them, and made tinfoil frames to hold the gels for each light. Our homemade dimmer board sits in the dressing rooms that are next to our two offices. Above my office is storage space for the costumes and props I used when I performed as soloist with symphony orchestras, and toured the world with my dance company.

In the center of the floor are the chairs and barre I use when I dance to "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis," by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Every day, I perform a four-minute section of this music.

When I'm dancing to this music, you don't see typical dance steps such as leaps, pirouettes, and intricate footwork. Instead, dancer Em visits the room and discovers each prop--relating to each, with curiosity and tenderness, recalling how it was used. As the music crescendos before the end of  "Fantasia," standing tall on the double set of chairs, dancer Em surveys the room. Then, swiftly, recapitulating the memories, triumphantly, I leave the room.

Dancing has been the major part of my life since I was ten-years-old. I dance like people who go to church--I just go into my studio, warm up at the barre, turn on the sound equipment, and the Vaughan Williams music begins.

The great Eugene Ormandy is conducting the music. As you listen, perhaps you'll understand how the music inspires me, gets me remembering, reliving, and dancing. 


It's marvelous to hear John. As I'm typing this I've been hearing songs from "Clear Day" and "Camelot," chuckling as John describes the day a stage manger called out, "You're next Mr. Cooolum," when he was auditioning for a show he didn't get.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

NEED A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP?

As a poor sleeper, having gone off caffeine, tried over-the-counter remedies and doctors' prescriptions, melatonin, homeopathic remedies, warm milk, liquor, and counted sheep, l still have a hard time falling asleep. 

I mostly "fall" awake.  If you do, here's what I do!

My current routine: Tuck pillows under neck and knees, mutter Shakespeare words--"Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care," and repeat the words, concentrating on the left leg, sensing the flow of blood in 10 toes, ankle, calf, knee, thigh, hip joint before concentrating on the right leg. I repeat this 15 to 30 times till my mind rebels, and a loud awareness that I am wide awake drives me out of bed.

If you try this, and are still wide awake, get a snack. Watch TV, and try again later.

Other possibilities: There's Modafinil, a stimulant that Wall street-investors use. There's a relatively new process called transcranial direct stimulation (tDCS) that zaps the brain with electricity, and keeps people up for as much as 30 hours, but tDCS currently lasts six.

Dammit, I don't want to spend my work time, trying new things that might or not work. 

Doctors say the Internet, email, and social networking are giving us shots of dopamine, a chemical the brain releases to simulate pleasure. We get this from caffeine, and nowadays we're sold caffeine in toothbrushes, stockings, soap, bath bubbles, beer, marshmallows, lollipops, coke, red bull, and bottled water. So, don't drink coffee? Do drink it? Drink it less?

Golly, we're flashed a lot of facts--about coffee, saccharin, eggs, cholesterol, omega 3, belly fat, dental hygiene, bacteria, calories, carbs, exercise--most of this is in my BB pile (bullshit baloney), where many of the latest life and death important facts fade like smoke rings.

FACT: After a not-enough-sleep night, I do my work--how well I do it depends, not on sleep, but on whether or not the topic excites me.

Therefore, I do my "raveled sleeve" routine, and sing this to myself. If you sing this a few times and are still wide awake, get a snack. Then, if you sing it again, and again, and again, you'll pleasantly tire yourself/bore yourself to sleep.