Thursday, December 31, 2009


What do we call this century we're in -- "The 21st Century," or "Century Twenty One?"

"That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet," says Juliet to her Romeo in Shakespeare's play. .

Can we get a sweeter, better name?

Australia had a contest, to name the 2010's. The most interesting name was the "Ten-ties," or "Teenies." I had to read it twice and say "teenies" aloud, kept thinking it was a typom till I realized it was the "ten-ees." That seems too complicated. Also, we'd have to look for another name in 2020. gave $2000 to the person who suggested the century be called the "One-ders." They thanked the person for his "bright-eyed optimism.

Other suggestions: The NY Times suggested the "OHS." In Britain a PR firm suggested "The Zeros." Others suggestions were the "The Aughts," "Double Ohhs," or the "2 Ks."


Since 21 is the age of consent, why not call this century the "Age of Consent?" Or the "Grown-up Century?"

What about the "Age of Hope," "Age of Solutions," "The Fix Up Time?"

The dictionary says a century is "a period of one hundred years." That's 365 days x 100. Wow -- 36, 500? Okay! Let's call it the thirty-six five-hundred days of restoration of earth's treasures!

That's where I'm at -- we're into it already!

Thirty-six five-hundred days
To repair the air,
Make fair the land,
Share and care years.

That's my prayer.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Nielsen Ratings tell us what's the biggest, best, most important, "must see, must buy" -- in movies, soap operas, plays, books, videos, podcasts, video games, music, sports -- as it creates the ratings and rankings for its advertisers, and markets.

And ratings influence us -- they teach us that what is popular is liked or admired by many -- and popular means that it's intended for, or suited to the taste of the general public, so we feel that what's popular is important, because it's the attitude held by many, many people, the people as a whole.

Before Nielsen, in 1930, there was Dan Starch, a Harvard Professor, who headed the Association of Advertising Agencies ( started in 1924), to measure advertising readership and radio viewers. Starch's associate, C. E. Hooper, in 1934, advanced how the measuring was done. Rather than general surveys, Hooper ratings were based on selected viewers, who listened to the radio at a given time.

A year later, George H. Gallup was employed by Gardner Cowles (publisher of newspapers and Look Magazine), to begin the Institute of Public Opinion, that became the Gallup Polls.

How do I know? I researched and wrote about rankings and ratings and how they affected my character Cordelia in silent films, talkies, radio and the early days of television -- it's in my virtual library on my Website -- "Somebody Book I, The Ropes in Radio."

Anyhow -- Nielsen ratings tell us that Michael Jackson's funeral had 31.4 million viewers. The more we remember him -- even his sharing his bed with young boys, his trial, his outrageous shopping trips, and him on a hotel balcony dangling his baby -- the more the weirdness of Michael Jackson fades. The tribute Madonna gave him in London, captures an essence of the man that's precious to millions, precious to me, too.

Death at an early age leaves us with an image of Michael Jackson, the artist -- still beautiful, magical, enchanting.

Death for Diana, Princess of Wales, left us and the world with an image of a young woman in her prime, an articulate, poetic, loving mother, an injured wife who tried to survive her husband's involvement with another woman, but couldn't.

Though she died in 1997, today she is still a heroine, an ideal, and a "real" Princess.

(For those who remember the fairy tale --"The Princess and the Pea" -- "real princess is different from an ordinary girl. When the half-dozen mattresses were piled high on top of one green pea, in the center of the bottom mattress, the ordinary girl slept like a lamb, but the real princess felt it, tossed and turned couldn't sleep a wink.)

The image of Princess Diana is her visiting HIV patients and sick children, embracing them regardless of what was wrong with them. And we remember her beauty, her taste in clothes, her fabulous wardrobe, her ups and downs emotionally, her weight problems -- issues with which most girls and young women can identify.

That 33.3 million people watched the funeral and burial, probably wins the prize, for the most watched funeral in history.

Former President Ronald Reagan's mid-day funeral drew 20.8 million people on June 11, 2004. A prime-time program on Reagan that same evening drew an estimated 35.07 million viewers (but it apparently falls into a documentary/tribute category).

Never to be forgotten are the deaths of JFK and RFK, and of course, the recent death of Ted Kennedy -- the death and funeral of Elvis Presley -- Grace Kelly's fabulous wedding and her funeral -- Diana's "Fairy Tale" wedding -- the funeral of Pope John Paul II -- and the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

Millions, probably billions have watched these events over the course of the years.

But the number that means something to me -- January, 2009, Obama's inauguration was watched by 38 million, on many, many multiple networks.

Digging into the numbers, I found more and more numbers and networks showing and proving that President Barack Obama's inauguration likely will have been watched by more people and on more platforms than any other televised event in U.S. history -- including the Super Bowl.

Inauguration day, and election eve, the crowd in Grant Park in Chicago changed history, and profoundly changed the world I'm living in.

And golly, I have to say that those two days will be held onto, hugged and cherished by me, till I'm no longer around.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


The quiet guys, behind the scenes -- in show biz, they're stagehands who work hard, often work longer hours, with no applause, lower salaries, and a lot more sweat, than the star actors on the stage.

(Golly, if I hadn't learned to be a stagehand, and painted flats, sewed costumes, focused follow spots, fresnels, and ellipsoidals -- setup amps, mikes, and loudspeakers -- I wouldn't have been able to earn a living, and tour the college concert circuit with my dance company.)

In the White House, Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Eric Holder, Attorney General, and Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, are the highly skilled, super-helper laborers, behind the scene.

I know their names, see flashes of them on TV, but what these guys are supposed to do -- the job description -- the definition and nature of the work -- I had to gather bit by bit from various Websites, news magazines, and newspapers. (www., N.Y.Times, Newsweek, Time, New Republic,

Bernanke's job is everything that's involved with the country's money supply. He studies and sets short-term interest rates that affect inflation, unemployment, the strength of the dollar, and what's in your wallet. He engineered those massive money rescues for the various failing companies -- hedge funds, foreign banks, investment banks, manufacturers, insurers and other borrowers -- he jump-started credit markets, created cash for clunkers, housing finance, mortgage bonds, and found and spent government money reshaping U.S. policy, in his effort to save the economy. "Bail-out Ben" is what White House insiders call him.

(I don't recall if I've ever seen Mr. Bernanke on TV, or heard him speak; when I saw his picture on the cover of "Time," even with his name under it, I didn't realize what a kingpin he is.)

Eric Holder, our Attorney General, is the government's chief lawyer who serves as a member of the President's Cabinet, but is the only cabinet department head who is not given the title "Secretary." His concerns have been the investigation of banks with ties to Iran -- U.S. based, and international terrorist plots -- the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay -- the investigation of the enhanced interrogation techniques (like water-boarding), and the NSA, the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program that has included spying on private citizens. Also, Holder is handling the arranging of the trials (after eight years of delay), for suspected terrorists in federal courts, including the alleged architect of the USS Cole bombing, before a revived, military commission.

(I've seen Mr. Holder once or twice on TV, and wondered -- is he camera shy, or is he always silent, and taciturn, sort of unfriendly? He is definitely a low-profile, very, "Very Important Person.")

Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House, presides over the sessions and keeps order. As the leader of the majority party, through the House Parliamentarian, she refers all bills to committees and also appoints the chairs of the committees, and is able to limit debate, and amendments. A combination of administrative, legislative, protocol, and political duties makes the Speaker (in the words of Thomas B. Reed, Speaker of the House 1889-91), “the embodiment of the House, its power and dignity.”

Throughout this year, Nancy Pelosi has used that power, and the Democratic majority, to pass every item on Obama's agenda -- health care, energy, regulatory reform, education, pay equity. While most of the media attention has been on the intrigue and machinations of the Senate, where bills get snarled in procedure and the 60-vote hurdle to overcome filibusters, "The amount of things the House has done this year has been mind-boggling," says White House communications director, Dan Pfeiffer.

My impression of Mrs. Pelosi -- (even though she stays in the background, she's constantly being blamed, and criticized) -- is that she is unfazed. I admire her grace and poise, and I love the way she sticks to her guns.

Behind the scene, Bernanke, Holder, and Pelosi have kept the Obama agenda, "his show, on the boards" (as we say in show biz) -- like the "grips," the stagehands who build, maintain, paint, decorate, assemble, and dismantle the set, the flats, the furniture -- like the "flyers" who bring scenery down from the "flies" (the storage area above the stage), -- like the "props" people in the wings, who provide a pair of glasses, dishes, cigarettes (small things that the actors use).

Together, this backstage "crew," along with the Pentagon and the other members of the President's Cabinet, make sure the "show" works the way they, and the boss, want it to work.

Obama's plans are HUGE -- involving changes, fixes, rebuilding, solving many issues that endanger us as a country, as well as individuals.

Hey, maybe he's going to be able to pull a smash "hit" series out of his hat -- that'll run every day, every night, for a long time!

There's no biz like show biz -- there's no world leader on the world stage like Obama. I'm glad he's got Ben, Eric and Nancy to help him.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Seven-fifteen a.m. on Friday, Christmas Eve Day, we poured the coffee. We were sleepy -- we'd been shooting one of my blogs for our A.I.R videocasting project till two a.m. (We're planning to podcast the videos once a week, as of mid January.)

Before retiring, we noticed that the refrigerator wasn't cold enough. Uh-oh! We turned up the dials.

Sipping coffee, that a disaster might be looming over the holiday weekend was still on our minds. We avoided the topic, didn't check the fridge, and exchanged a few words about last night's shoot -- should we, or shouldn't we do another "take?"

As I put the toast on a plate, I said, "John, aren't they're voting this morning?"

He turned on the television set.

There they were -- the smiling-weary Senators congratulating each other, the smiling-weary commentators up-dating us -- sixty Democrats, thirty-nine Republicans. SIXTY WINS!

If you haven't seen it too many times, have a look.

After the house bill and the senate bill are reconciled, we'll be done whether we should we have Health Care reform? We'll have it.

"Yay!" I hooted. We watched for a while, and heard comments from faces and names that have become familiar.

What does it mean?

It will be many days, lots of comments, attacks on Obama and the Democrats, from the Democrats who want more, who want concessions, improvements, who want to be re-elected.
And comments and attacks -- the kind we've been hearing from Republicans who have negated everything that Obama's done, and has tried to do throughout the year.

Is this wrangling, attacking, blaming, dissecting a healthy thing -- a good thing that's part of what Democracy is today -- the news conveying all the opposition messages, ads -- some expressing real issues -- others using Swift-Boating Truth tactics to prove that Health Care is harmful, dangerously wrong?

I don't know. But I don't like it.

I'm closing my eyes , still celebrating, because progress was made on December 24th, but I'm tightening my belt, bracing myself to rah-rah, cheer on the team.

We're not done yet -- hold that line, guys -- fight team fight.

Hey Hey - you get out of our way.
Today is the day --
We put you away!
You might be good at basketball,
You might be good at track
But when it comes to health care --
You might as well step back.
Might as well step back!
Say what?
Thirty-Niners might as well step back!
Can't hear us?
Might as well step back!
Go SIXTY go!

(P.S. We gave the refrigerator 24 hours to adjust and it seems to be holding its own.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Our number one obsession is violence, according to Newsweek's study of bestsellers, block- buster movies, and most watched TV shows. Number two is money. Sex is in third place. Then, youth, vampires, politics and God.

I don't agree.

I think sex is number one, and number two is scandal. Here's my list of the best, worst, annoying, overly publicized, stuff and nonsense that -- whew -- riveted me, bugged me during the year.

I enjoyed Governor Sanford's babble about his affair with the Argentinean lady -- his moral dilemma was amusing because he seemed to be a fool -- though in between the revelations, I wondered, still wonder why in the world did North Carolinians elect this guy? (See my post "Striptease," 11/14.)

Letterman confessing that he slept with some of his employees -- I found myself watching the show for a few nights after that, till the "Top Ten," and his repartee with bandleader, Paul Shaffer, started boring me again. (It's probably why I rarely watch Letterman.)

Octomom -- she makes me sigh, close off all sympathy -- she seems like a selfish, wrong-thinking woman that the media has created.

Balloon boy -- his dad and mom -- like Octomom, I feel their selfish, wrong-thinking has been created by us, as the offspring of the media. (See my post "Balloon Boy," 10/28.)

Yes, I've been moaning and groaning about the media brainwashing us -- with repetition, sometimes for days, I hate the way the media blows up a small story into a big deal crisis!

That mystery about the pilots who didn't land the plane has never been explained. (See my post "Two Guys in the Cockpit," 10/29.) I can't help thinking the two men were busy doing something sexual.

Tiger -- people are still celebrating his disaster, and I still find the celebrants, who are eating-up this scandal -- pitiable , and wrong. (See my post "Tiger" 12/9, and "Stop Crucifying Tiger Woods," 12/17.)

Susan Boyle wowed me. (See my post "Event of the day," 4/14.) But the over-exposure of her talent diminishes her -- makes her more like an older, lumpy woman who needs a lot of fixing up before we can accept her wonderful voice for what it is. Also, the too-too beautiful Miss California -- that she's one of those sprayed, pouffed-up, overly-beautified beauties, makes her political opinions (whether you agree or not), hard-to take.

The White House gate crashers -- I'm looking forward to hearing that they never did get the shows and contracts, they were hoping for. (Though my looking forward to that puts me right smack-dab into being just another media-created dumb-bunny.)

Palin's woes with her daughter's lover, her grandson's dad -- I've got to admit I enjoy it, and hope she's suffering a little. (See my post "Sarah Palin Worries Me," 11/21.)

Serena William's outburst and the unreasonable fine pleased me. I don't trust the Williams sisters when they're nice. I think a lot of what they do is out of a passion to win in every way a woman can -- be in movies, create fashion, be bigger, better, stronger than everyone, including men.

Kate and Jon Gosselin -- a media created pair -- whatever they were -- they never interested me, and I won't miss them. Or the commentator, Lou Dobbs. I stopped watching him during the presidential campaign -- didn't trust him, found him promoting his own personal politics. I'm glad Dobbs stepped down from CNN..

Mel and Robyn Gibson ... well ... What he's been in the movies stays with me, beyond the religious and political and moralistic opinions he's expressed -- the look of him in many movies, his acting -- though I can't erase the "oh dear, what's he saying/doing now" stuff he's been doing, when I re-watched "Air America" the other day, I loved him in it. And I loved him in "The Year of Living Dangerously."

Sexting, texting -- younger generation fads -- they bother me, they seem ridiculous and that makes me older, not wiser, so ... no further comment.

And VAMPIRES ... the whole category of art, history, movies, literature... ugh -- I've felt ugh since the early nineties when the vampire books started getting big money, big contracts from publishers while I was getting turned down.

Okay -- this is the time for privately and publicly summing up the year, so I'm doing both -- feeling again what crossed my mind during some of the headlines of the past three-hundred-and-sixty-one days -- before I take on day one of the next three-hundred-sixty-five.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


It's music.

Not a Teddy Bear, or Barbie, Beanie Baby, Raggedy Ann, Cabbage Patch Doll, or Furby – definitely not a Hula Hoop, Mood Ring, Ouija Board, Pet Rock or a Duncan Butterfly Yo-Yo, though they're fun -- like Play-doh, Silly Putty, and Slinky are fun but they get tiresome, like Smurfs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a Zhu Zhu, hamster.

Classical music -- Bach, Beethoven, Bartok -- and a player that works with or without earphones that a two-year-old can learn to handle -- that's a gift that will grow as the child grows, never get boring, stay with the child year after year, along with other music the child wants to hear again and again.

Can a two year handle a CD player? Sure -- it'll take a little teaching, plus patience, but oh my, it's worth it -- its fun -- it's a gift that lasts longer than any toy.

Crayons are a great gift, but some children just don't have an aptitude, a hand that works naturally with a pencil, or similar tool that has to be gripped. Finger painting? It's fun, but messy, and needs supervision. The same thing is true of chalk and charcoal -- you have to work at it.

You don't have to work at listening to music.

The wonders of FAO Schwartz toys, inexpensive ones as well as expensive ones fade -- you can fall in love with a toy, but a cherished possession that you learn to use, that expands into a hobby -- a part-time or full- time way to be by yourself -- that's a gift supreme.

Once, when I was in my studio rehearsing my choreography to Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings," my son (a toddler), peered in -- he wanted something. I put a "shh" finger to my lips, and tuned the volume up a little --.the music was crescendoing, coming to a climax where ... well, it takes my breath away whenever I hear it. I sat down on the floor next to him, and listened, tears in my eyes.

Here's the recording, by Albioni, the one I was using. It has pictures illustrating nature's wonders. You can enjoy them, but if you squint them away, you'll hear what my son and I were hearing -- Barbar's "Adagio for Strings."

I put my son's hand on my cheek, and when the music ended, I played that climax section again. It thrills me and it thrilled him,.and though we've never discussed it, after that adventure, he often peered into the studio while I was choreographing, and listened to whatever music I happened to be working on.

Later, he started doodling on the piano -- just doodling, he's not a Mozart. Later on, he decided he wanted to play an electronic piano, and got involved (very early on) with jazz, pop. rock. He even built a synthesizer , and wrote music for a while.

Then he fell in love with guitar music -- saved his allowance and bought a guitar, took lessons, and played an electronic guitar, and a classic guitar. He plays them both beautifully. He has a music habit, an addiction that's still growing, expanding.

At the moment my son's installing sound equipment in his home, so his wife can share with him what he loves.

He's a working actor, like his dad, and a talented, interesting writer, but ... well, I can't help feeling that his love of music is something he inherited from me. and shh ... when he talks about music, it delights me.

Whenever we listen to music it delights me. We've had delightful chats about various conductors, and sometimes when I'm writing, I'll ask him who's IN, what's the latest in popular music. He advises me. It delights me.

My best gift to him turned out to be ... wow ... a grand gift for myself.

Friday, December 25, 2009


I didn't put up a stocking, and I'm using last year's Christmas decorations.

All I want for Christmas is a couple of things that aren't major major -- just things that might get swept under the rug because there are more urgent wishes coming up and at you from all over the world.

1. No more ugly statements from important people, like the Senator who compared the President's efforts to overhaul health care, to the battle that dethroned Napoleon Bonaparte -- Republican Jim Demint said, "It will be his Waterloo. It will break him." Santa, drop a blanket over him.

2. No more horrible remarks from Palin about Obama's "death panel," and "junk science" not proving global warming -- no more stupid questioning about Obama's citizenship. Drop a blanket on her, Santa!

3. For Will Phillips, that ten-year-old Arkansas school boy who won't recite the Pledge of Allegiance because his gay friends don't have equal rights -- Santa, give him a reward, a laptop, maybe!

4. Those African American and Latino kids in California who are going to schools that are sub par "drop out factories," (according to UCLA's Civil Rights Project), where students of color make up 90% of the student body -- Santa, please -- get them re-zoned, and enrolled in one of the "mostly 'white"' schools.

5. Those 17 million American households currently struggling to put food on the table – please help them get some sort of subsidy right away, Santa -- please -- something like double food stamps!

And if you have any time -- those 700 Sudanese women in prison for wearing pants, who can't get out without paying a $200 fine -- with a little nudging from you Santa, maybe some jackpot winner might shell out $140,000.

And thanks, for being what you are every year, Santa -- a merry, cheery, Christmas spirit I can talk to in my mind -- mention what I'm wishing for, say "please help" in case God is too busy with ... oh my ... so many things, much more this year than last year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


"Sherlock Holmes"-- it's a big movie and tomorrow, when it opens, is a big day for Downey.

I've been looking at clips, wondering what I can say that will add to what's been said and what you probably know.

Downey-the-actor's career has been on a steady rise upward. Downey-the-man has had much publicized ups and downs.

We were living in Malibu during his "down," when he was required to be at a hearing, held before a judge in the Malibu courthouse.

It's next to the entrance to the library, so picking up books, I saw the crowd waiting to get a glimpse of Downey -- found it interesting -- we'd seen some very famous actors in the parking lot at Hughes Market, at the post office, Malibu Hardware, various restaurants, even occasionally at Starbucks.

Malibu-ites don't stop and stare, or zoom in for autographs. It seems to be an un-spoken, un-written rule. (JC at that time was a recognizable "name"-- on TV every week in "Northern Exposure." The clerks in the grocery, post office, drugstore, without asking, addressed him as Mr. Cullum.)

The crowd waiting for Downey wasn't just tourists -- it was Malibu-ites, (people I knew), as well as fans from Santa Monica, Pasadena, and Hollywood. All the parking lots were jammed.

I bought into Robert Downey Jr., the very first time I saw him. The movie was "Less than Zero," and he made it touching, involving.

The "downs" in this actor's life don't interest me as much as the ups.

I loved him and Mel Gibson in "Air America," was amazed by him as "Charlie Chaplin." I watched the Ally McBeal television series when he joined the cast. I missed the movie, but read the raves for him, in the hit movie, "Iron Man," and thoroughly enjoyed Downey in Ben Stiller's "Tropic Thunder."

Robert Downey has been a working actor since 1970 (when he was 15). He's been in 60 films.

He's not pretty, and he's not handsome. He's short -- five-foot-seven or so, depending upon what lifts he's wearing in his shoes, and weighs -- up and down -- about 155. (I'm guessing, based on my experienced eye -- I can't find any specifics anywhere, about his actual weight.)

So, what is it that makes him such an employable actor?

Well ... he's a character actor, but also a "leading man" type. Five-foot-seven is short for a leading man -- but in quite a few movies, as the leading man -- he was charming, sexy, tender, strong, very masculine, lovable.

Downey has the ability to enter the character he plays, become that person without adding or inventing external characteristics. It's a special talent, different from those actors who change, when they don the character's clothes.

Is it method acting? Sure, but Downey's method isn't the set of emotional exercises that the method actor uses, practices, and does during rehearsal.

There is in Downey an openness, an ability to be someone else. In each film he's different, and yet, he's himself. But the timbre of his voice changes -- the look in and around his eyes, his mouth, the way he carries himself, and his moments of thoughtful repose -- change.

To my eye he's a natural. It's easy for him to become someone else. And he doesn't watch himself in a mirror, or listen to the sound of his voice (like some actors do) -- he's just IT, that other person.

In the trailers, and clips for "Sherlock Holmes," he's older, wiser, and seems like a detective.

In a recent interview, (the link follows this paragraph) he still seems to be studying the interviewer, searching for clues. Though he responds to the interviewer, he's Holmes/Downey.

Take a look. It's not a very good interview, but it's interesting to see Downey awkwardly trying to be himself.

Here's an interview from last year. Again, Downey's trying to be himself, sort of laughing at himself. (I think he understands the characters that he plays more than he understands himself -- only when he's performing, do I feel him relax, and be Robert D.) Have a look.

The "Sherlock Holmes" clips and the trailers I've seen don't draw me to the theater to buy a ticket. The preview scenes and the music fit with the "create suspense" elements of the box office hit films today -- the trailers suggest that the film is chock- full of spooky, scary, possibly shocking, terrifying happenings.

Hmm ... When I see it, I'm sure I'll enjoy Downey's work -- not sure that the story, the case that Sherlock Holmes is solving, will get me involved in the case, beyond just watching an very gifted actor.

Even if Robert Downey Jr. is not nominated for an Oscar for this film, sooner or later he'll be nominated again, (he's already been nominated twice), and very likely he'll win -- there's no one quite like him in Hollywood.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Everyone whose opinion I respect, LOVES "Mad Men."

I watch the show. Not regularly. I don't want to watch anything regularly except, in the late evening, news (usually Olberman and Maddow). Then I browse around, looking for a movie.

And sort of accidentally (while checking AMC), watch an episode of "Mad Men."

In the pilot, and early episodes, I watched because my favorite actor (my husband JC), was playing a strong-willed cigarette manufacturer, an important client of the show's advertising agency.

The leading actor, Jon Hamm, playing Dan Draper, a strong, talented, down-to-earth, ambitious ad agency executive, has a rare charisma. Watching him handle the client, the sexy secretaries, his cut-out-doll, loving wife, his kids -- I'm riveted. His story line is compelling -- current, as well as a look at how we got where we are today.

Draper's wife, actress January Jones, is scripted as a typical, conforming, "wifey" wife of the early sixties -- doing what girls were brought up to do -- serving, seducing, supporting the man of the family, while handling the kids and household routines as her job.

Draper's infidelities, his aggressive, risky moves as an executive, create suspense as his wife becomes aware of her own restlessness, and senses that Draper is distracted, not very interested in her sexually.

The story line of copy-writer Peggy Olsen (skillfully, believably played by actress Elizabeth Moss), is for me, by itself, a reason for watching of the show.

It's fun, and fascinating, to see the virtuous, un-liberated young Peggy, after her first time with a man -- a one-night stand with a co-worker that gets her pregnant -- having the baby, holding onto her job -- learning to maneuver, while politely, tactfully, managing to rise in the male hierarchy.

The bouffant clothing and hairdos, the various female types of the early sixties, the chauvinistic men -- everyone smoking -- chain-smoking, lighting up after sex, after meals, and the first thing in the morning -- the casting, the dialogue, decor, props -- all of it is good. But it's not as super good (in my opinion), as the citations, awards, and the advertisements for the show suggest.

So why am I now watching this show regularly?

Because, in my book "Somebody" (see The, I wrote about women and girls of the fifties sixties, and seventies -- the events that changed makeup, clothing, manners, morality, and what women were striving for and ... well...

Okay, I'll say it.

I'm jealous, irritated, that what I wrote wasn't translated into a show. And that prejudice -- liking what I did better than what the other guy did -- is what a writer feels. While I'm watching "Mad Men," my mind is half-way above the scene, remembering -- facts, details that you store in your brain when you're creating scenes for a novel.

I'm writing about "Mad Men" because it' s one of the highest level, absorbing soap operas on television -- worth watching, if you're the kind of person who likes to participate in a show by watching it regularly.

I can't. I'm too much involved with my work, as a blogging commentator. And now we're turning my blogs, the best ones -- into videocasts, in which my husband and I chat and banter about the blog.

"Mad Men" will be one of them in January.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Have you heard of it? I hadn't, so I looked it up.

"Steampunk is a nostalgia for a time when technology had some relationship to the human scale." Scott Westerfield, author of a new novel in what he calls a steampunk setting, Levithan." [Oct. 09]

" (Steampunk) ...a subculture that is the aesthetic expression of a time- traveling fantasy world, one that embraces music, film, design and now fashion, all inspired by the extravagantly inventive age of dirigibles and steam locomotives, brass diving bells and jar-shaped protosubmarines." New York Times, [May 09]

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia says:
"Steampunk ... works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne ..."

What is it?

It's wood, brass, and leather, hand-made -- you can take it apart and put it back together -- the opposite of the Iphone with its shiny, impenetrable, exterior -- it's impregnable interior with all its microscopic elements permanently encased plastic square-beads that can't be opened.

It increasing popular -- there are steampunk housewares, music, fashion, steampunk apps for Itunes, "Steampunk Magazine," blogs, steampunk conventions in San Diego, and Seattle -- a museum in Oxford with an exhibition devoted to steampunk.

Have a look:

Will it affect you and me?

Golly, my clothes, shoes, hat, coats -- jewelry -- everything in my closets, in my home and offices -- furniture, dishes, appliances, window shades, wall and floor coverings -- phones, clocks, radios – I never thought of it as steampunk, but now that I know the definition ... that's what it is!

Goody, I'd rather think of myself as "steampunked than old-fashioned."

Monday, December 21, 2009


Oh wow -- teenagers, and we TV watchers have a brilliant super bandit --a double, triple cool guy -- with a hundred robberies under his belt in and around Camano Island (near Seattle), where he lives.

Young --just 18-years-old -- he stole cars for awhile, now it's speed-boats, and aircraft. He flies around without a license, crash-lands the plane, and escapes unhurt.

Good-looking, six-foot-five-inches tall, dimpled chin, quick, marvelously sharp eyes, Colton Harris-Moore goes for it -- whatever he sees and wants -- a bath in someone's a sunken tub, food from someone's fridge, jewelry, fun knickknacks from the rich, or from plain, average folks. He's defnitely not a Robin Hood.

Apparently, he just does whatever he's in the mood to do. He doesn't seem to care about what's right, or wrong, or worry about being caught.

You have to admire a guy like that -- no wonder he's got 8000 fans in his fan club on Facebook. No wonder his mother says she's proud of him. "I hope to hell he stole those planes. I'd be so proud. But next time, I want him to wear a parachute."

So where is Colton Harris-Moore?

Police found a stolen Mercedes-Benz on Camano Island, with a camera, and a photo that Harris-Moore had snapped of himself. They have his DNA -- Harris-Moore police a note saying: "Cops wanna play huh? Well its no lil game. It's war! "

Then, he proceeded to steal an assault rifle from a deputy, a neighbor on Camano Island. The deputy said, "Unless he's stopped, chances are he'll end up a career criminal — or dead."

That, of course, has added to his legend. He's already known as "The Barefoot Burglar" because he kicked off his shoes when deputies were chasing him. A young, tattooed waitress says she saw a tall young man sprinting down the street, last month. "He was barefoot, and he was laughing. I wanted it so much to be Colton."

Just last weekend, blankets, shoes and food were found -- stolen stuff from a home near the site where a stolen Cessna crash-landed north of Seattle, near Colton's home. When police were looking for him, a shot was fired at them from the woods -- the shooter got away.

It's a serious problem. The police don't have the manpower to mount an all-out hunt. While residents wonder why they can't find a teenager in the confines of a not large island, a Seattle man's selling T-shirts bearing Colton's picture and the words "Momma Tried."

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown, whose office has dealt with Harris-Moore since he was 11, blew up at a "Today" show producer who mentioned a possible made-for-Hollywood story. "He is an adult felon!" Brown said. "I will not have him made into some kind of folk hero."

Colton's mother hopes her son makes his way to a country that won't extradite him. She said she talks to him on the phone, but she won't let on if she knows where he is. "I figure I'll spend my time with him in a positive way," she said, "because who knows if he'll be shot tomorrow?"

Whew -- this guy is a hero, that kids want to emulate?

Well, who are kids going to admire these days? Grungy, sexy rock stars, pelvis dancing, screaming into their mikes? Sports heroes? They've got Derek Jeter, but he's kind of old. And we keep hearing about baseball, basketball, hockey stars, more and more of them into steroids, weed, wild women, wild behavior.

So what thrills the young, younger generation? Colton breaking the law, that's for sure! Colton doing whatever he wants to do -- with no supervision, no rules.

Is it because kids, like us adults, are constantly seeing and hearing about lying, immorality, no sense of right and wrong, in many of the men and women who are running the country?

What can I do? How can I promote the old adage --do unto others as you would have them do unto you?

Should I point with my forefinger -- that's good -- that's bad -- that's right, that's wrong. Should I try to sneak the adage into a conversation with friends, strangers -- techies, delivery guys?

Well ... if I can't say it, maybe I can think it ten times a day -- strong thoughts can be ESP-contagious.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Obama's back from Copenhagen with less than he hoped for.

How can he turn a not great outcome into something hopeful?

What about the climate-gate emails?

What about Howard Dean's "Kill the Bill" declarations ... and fellow Democrats saying "you won't get my vote unless you do .......?"

What about the troops preparing to go to Afghanistan, and double digit unemployment -- black supporters now saying he isn't doing enough for them, and Guantanamo?

And the polls ...

If you or I had all those issues on our minds, we couldn't sleep.

What can we do? If Obama felt the health care bill, that's now needing an up and down vote in the Senate, was "bad" and should be dropped, Obama would say so and tell us, and he'd drop it.

Hey -- I'm a rebel, if a trusted adviser (like an agent, an editor) tells me what to do, I don't do it -- not without questioning, and examining by myself, for myself what it means. But I'm a doer. Sometimes a decision has to be made. If I don't do what I've been told to do, I'm going to end up with nothing.

Okay? No, it's not okay.

I may lose a year or so of work -- maybe more. I may not be able to go back and start from scratch again. So, despite my reservations, I proceed to do what my adviser suggested.

That applies to writing, and any creative project. Somebody said (I think it was Teddy Roosevelt), "The man who does nothing makes no mistakes."

Am I advocating that you close your eyes, cover your ears, and nod? Yes. We hired him, we picked out the most trustworthy, smartest, best man around to do the job. Let him do it.

Sure, I've got questions -- how is the current Health Care bill going to affect me, and my family? But at this point, opinions questions, alternatives, individual concerns accomplish nothing.

Let the President handle it. He didn't come home with what he'd hoped to come home with, but he won't drop the problem of global warming or stop working on health care.

We know him. We have seen him working, non-stop, tenaciously on the Health Care bill. President Barack Obama will keep working on it, keep trying to fix what's wrong.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


My favorite actor, who moonlights as our plumber, electrician, carpenter, and general handyman (between rehearsals and performances), has slaved over our vintage toilets. We've got three that he's been fixing and re-fixing.

A leak, in my green bathroom, became major. JC turned off the water main, took apart the toilet till he saw that a large washer was cracked and leaking. The guy who owns our neighborhood hardware store looked at it, groaned, and said --"Hey man, where'd you get this toilet? In India?"

We laughed politely. We'd been reading "White Tiger," a darkly comic novel about a boy growing up in rural India, where electricity and indoor toilets don't exist --just holes as depicted in the "Slumdog Millionaire" movie.

It was serious -- any one of our toilets could spring a leak and become unfixable. And our three vintage toilets use about seven gallons per flush. Aside from our sky-high water bills, we were wasting water. Warnings about water shortages in New York City are dire.

Anyhow, with the help of our hardware store and our super, a new, modern, ultra- low flow toilet was installed. Whosh! It was marvelous. We immediately replaced the other two.

Great! Progress! But then I happened upon "Guardian.Co.UK," the Guardian Environment Network, and read about composting human manure -- read an eco-blogger who felt as if a light bulb went off in his head when he learned about "hmanure," and proceeded to replace his porcelain toilet with a bucket.

Here's one of the pictures I found.

I saw a book review on Amazon for the "Humanure Handbook," by Joseph Jenkins. In his book, Jenkins says, proves, and is touting that we stop wasting water, and replace toilets with buckets, and using sawdust to eliminate odor.

Is it something one can do in the heart of New York City?

Practical Em immediately wondered what would we do with the bucket? Use it for our garden, if we had a garden? We don't, though some New York buildings (in the best, high-rent neighborhoods where upper-upper class people live), have wonderful gardens on their roofs.

Meanwhile, I read about other places that have been experimenting.

In Austin, Texas, a nonprofit group, called the Rhizome Collective, succeeded this year in getting the city to approve what may be the first legal composting toilet in the U.S.

An ecologist in Chicago got her neighbors to stop using their toilets and start saving their poop. More than half of them — 22 of the 35 households — accepted her proposal and have been using buckets for the past three months.

In three months the ecologist picked up 1,500 gallons (5,700 pounds) of excrement, which she'll give back to participants this spring to use in their gardens, after she and Mother Nature have transformed it into a rich bag of fertilizer.

In Marin county, a Portable Odorless Outhouse Project, a/k/a MCPOOP, has convinced the county to put humanure toilets in county parks and town squares.

What about toilet paper? Do you drop the toilet paper into the bucket -- does paper with compost affect the viability compost?

Whoa ... One click, and I was reading about re-usable toilet paper, a/k/a "wipes."

Here's the sales pitch: "They're comfy and definitely green, environmentally friendly. You can use them wet, and they won't fall apart. It's a lot more comfortable and soft on your most delicate body parts. It's also more economical, uses less paper and we deliver -- saves you carrying bulky packages home from the store."

Without judging this product, but wondering why it's "more comfortable," I read the instructions on how to use, and re-use "green" wipes?

The manufacturer says:
(1) "Shake, scrape, swish, or squirt off anything you don't want in your laundry, and then toss the wipe into the pail or container."

(2) "Store used wipes in a wet bag or a diaper pail. " (Manufacturer includes a paragraph about hanging, storing in various out of the way places.)

(3) "Wash wipes separately from other laundry, in hot water, with bleach, and any fabric softener you prefer. Dry in the dryer."

Hmm ...

Is this a subject to be discussing on my blog?

Well ... it's in the news, so other people are wondering about it ...

Okay! I'm glad we have the three new toilets, but ... graduating to the bucket, sawdust, and green wipes?

If and when the time comes, I'll vote for it -- I'll join in, but I have to utter a very quiet "ick" and confess -- I'm glad we're not there yet.

Friday, December 18, 2009

AVATAR thinks this film is a sure-fire almost for BEST DIRECTOR, BEST PICTURE.

Director James Cameron has meticulously researched and created the world of "Pandora" (a new planet), for "Avatar," just as he did when he re-created the ship, for his movie "Titanic."

The $300 million that has been spent on thousands of special effects, and a new simulcam tool enabled Cameron to see his actors, as they acted in grey space, while he shot the computer-generated (CG) scenes that comprise about 60% of the finished film.

The cast, in body-suits covered with markers that the 102 cameras on the ceiling recognized, wore skullcaps rigged with tiny cameras that imaged their faces. They appear in the film as their alien counterparts.

Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington play the leads -- Worthington as ex-Marine "Jake" struggles for survival on Pandora, where a tall, blue, humanoid species (the Na'vi), try to destroy anyone who migrates there.

Jake, transformed into an Avatar so he can breathe the noxious air on Pandora, falls in love with a Na'vi woman, and lands in the center of the humans versus Na'vi battle. Click and you'll see the romantic pair.

You can watch the movie as escapist entertainment, but to me it seems to be a dire warning about humanity's current path. In any case, Cameron's vision of the future is a stunning environment -- flying jellyfish, bio-luminescent forests, fan lizards and big-eyed, giant cats.

Will Avatar be a boxoffice hit?

Well ... it's one more of those innovative, blow-your-mind theatrical films that tend to bore me.

In the movies about "Triffids," body-snatcher pods, the un-dead, the man-eating blob -- there are leading actors who get me tensely involved. Others, like "ANTZ" with the Spielberg CG creatures fighting other CG creatures -- even with the voices of Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone, I found myself eating my popcorn and restlessly checking my wrist-watch.)

"I Robot" fascinated me at first -- but 30 minutes into the plot I knew where the Robots were heading. And the final attack scenes -- the amazing trapeze arts of Will Smith with the camera zooming, flying with him were very exciting, but whether Will and the girl survived was sort of ho hum for me.

I think the scare that's on us -- about killer poisons, bombs, terrorists, what's happening to the polar bears, icebergs. dolphins, the staving masses of people, the distortions of the truth about safety in the air, in cars, the prison shows, serial killers, child predators, supremacists, assassination T shirts ... it's hard to be concerned about the fantastical, unreal-looking people in the spectacular environment of "Avatar."

Hurray for the director, for doing all that he did -- frame by frame meticulously pushing his mind and imagination beyond where he (or any other filmakers) have been before.

But I need to care, and I can't identify with what's before my eyes in "Avatar."

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I'm having nightmares, tossing and turning, about what's being done to Tiger Woods. (See my Dec.9th post about him.)

We are now encouraging anyone he went to bed with -- to confess, grab a few second of fame, and be somebody.

This could go on for years. He's young. Girls are what young boys see and learn how to relate to, learn to want, love, and make love to. Do you need to hear about how he did this or that in bed, how many times, with whom, where, when? Then, watch a porno, read a dirty book, phone a sex hot line -- there are hundreds of other ways to get your kicks.

Elliot Spitzer, an exceptionally valuable man with knowledge, government experience on many levels, who can help the city, the state, other states as well as the White House, is finally (after we've kicked him around), creeping back into the world , strongly, bravely speaking his mind on current urgent issues.

We need Spitzer. We've participated, nodded, listened to and enjoyed a lot of ugly, destructive media follow-up on his sex life, his wife, and the girl. I'm hoping we'll let him rise again, while we're listening, tut-tutting over more banal revelations about the ambitious young couple who crashed the White House party.

Hey, we've got better shocking things to focus on -- that pretty American girl in Italy -- did she or didn't she participate in a sexual orgiastic murder? And we're not done with the Casey Anthony trial -- the face of Caylee, the child she murdered a year ago, and how Casey did it still haunts me. Will the death penalty be on, or off the table?

We've got the paralyzed murderer in the hospital at Fort Hood to cringe over, hate, despise. And wow -- heavy serous HATE problems, a deadly contagious infection of anti-everything in Washington D.C.

We need Tiger Woods in the world of sports, for what he is, and what he does -- need him as an example to all of us -- men, woman, kids, any color, all races -- of how work, striving, thinking, studying, practicing can turn a person into a hero.

No more discussion, psychoanalyzing, rehashing, blogs, tweets, celebrity commentator's with their opinions. Or Letterman, Leno jokes.

We need Tiger Woods at the Masters in Augusta in April.

Stop talking about it! Let Tiger Woods do what he wants to do.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


The man is complicated (like the movie that just opened), and a rock -- a star actor in "30 Rock," who's memorable, no matter what part he's playing.

I was sitting in the audience at an awards ceremony, when Alec Baldwin, at the podium, microphone in hand, told the audience that when he was a kid, he decided to be an actor like John Cullum, after he saw Cullum in the musical "Shenandoah."

I loved the compliment. He was talking about my husband.

JC won his first Tony, Best Actor in a Musical, for the starring role he played in "Shenandoah." As Charlie Anderson, a Virginia farmer, he was powerfully strong, and deeply moving, protesting the Civil War and mourning the death of his son.

Baldwin, probably in his late teens when he first saw the show, certainly did go on to make a career for himself as an actor in theater, films, and television. And he's told the press about "Shenandoah" quite a few times, as his career as a strong, macho, commanding, male star has progressed.

He's a major actor in demand, constantly working, but lately, Baldwin has been announcing that his current project is his last. And just a few days ago, while promoting the film "Complicated" -- starring Meryl Streep and Baldwin as her ex-husband, he said -- when his contract with "30 Rock" expires, "that's it."

The Variety review of the world premiere of "Complicated" says: "(Baldwin) he's a hoot -- enthusing about his re-conquest, a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin on his face as he raves about how hot his ex-wife (Streep) is ... has a blast as the paunchy, graying hound-dog and enthusiastically shares his good times with the audience."

If Alec Baldwin reads reviews, I'm sure he, (like JC), doesn't make decisions about his life, his future, based on reviews. But he's saying that in 2012, his screen career is also going to be over -- explaining, in his very matter-of-fact, macho way -- "I consider my screen career to be a complete failure."

Does he mean it? Or is it "actoritis" --the same fever that JC and our actor son get? Both of them come down with it, after every project. Most good actors don't like to watch themselves in films -- they often "hate" the way they look and want to re-direct themselves in every other scene.

(Amateurs usually are amazed, delighted, thrilled to see themselves on the screen. Maybe it's a tell-tale sign -- a way one can tell if the actor's a trained actor, or someone who just lucked into the job.)

My sense about Baldwin, garnered from the many roles he's played -- he's a character actor, not the leading-man, romantic hero type -- he's at his best when he's playing a man with convictions, a guy with political passion, who's ready to fix the world.

The way Alec Baldwin handled the mess about his daughter during his divorce, the way he doesn't beat around the bush, when he's telling a reporter, or the an audience what's wrong with our country -- culturally, legally, morally -- it's as if he belongs in politics.

He wouldn't be a Republican, that's for sure. As a Democrat he'd be outspoken, not on the side of an issue because the party's supporting it -- only supporting an idea he believes in.

What part would he want to play in theater? "King Lear" -- the father who's stunned, shocked, unable to accept the fact that his youngest daughter can no longer simply obey him?

Yes, he'd be interesting as "Lear." There was quite a to-do, headlines in media, over him cursing his real daughter for not returning his phone calls. But that's Baldwin --he's a man who's compelled by inner fires, to speak his mind.

I hope he doesn't quit in 2012. He's worth watching. You never know what he, as the character he's playing, will reveal about himself next.

Yes. I'm giving him the Cullum Award for excellence. With his name on the marquee, and his presence -- you're on a trip -- not sure where it'll take you, or where you'll end up , but you know you won't be bored.

If he goes into politics, no doubt about it -- I'll vote for him.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Here, in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia, is Dubai.

Would you want to live there, or vacation there?

If I were starting out and dreaming of being a dancer, where would I go to make it and build a dance company -- New York, L.A., or London, Paris, Tel Aviv? What about Dubai?

How much money would you need to visit Dubai for a week? I checked -- about $1500 minimum -- the lower price hotels are $150 to $200 a day (the highest price is $20,000). Could you find a room, a tourist home in the area where Dubai's workers live?

Whenever I mention New York City to a techie (an Indian, a Filipino, who's helping me with my computer), they say, "Oh I'd love to visit." I always say, "Don't come unless you have a lot of money -- it'll cost more than $100 a day -- you can't live comfortably in Manhattan, unless you're earning about $100,000 a year."

(Maybe that's too high a figure, but I don't encourage anyone to come NYC for a vacation or to live.)

When I was in my teens, before I came to New York, everyone said, "Don't do it -- it's expensive -- you can't find a decent, inexpensive place to live -- you'll have to get a full time job -- you can't study dancing if you've got a full-time job."

But I found a part-time job in a settlement house that paid me two-dollars-an-hour, and a cold-water "railroad" flat on 15th street, six rooms, no heat, no hot water, five flight walk up --$30 a month. I rented out four rooms (painted the front room blue, and slept on a futon on my robin's egg blue floor).

My roommates each paid $15 a month. The biggest problem was our bath schedule -- the tub was in kitchen (a double-sink covered by the board we used for a dining table). The next biggest problem was getting roommates to pay -- like me, they had part time jobs and were short of money.

Today, the money numbers are different, but the situation in Manhattan is the same. The highly-skilled sound designer/engineer for our podcast (A.I.R. Broadcasting --it's coming soon), lives with four roommates, and pays $500 per month for a room that's smaller than the smallest room in my old cold-water flat. He's currently handling three part-time jobs, so he can pay his bills.

So what about Dubai? With its lavish restaurants, bars, theaters, hotels, and gigantic mall -- all places where music is undoubtedly played -- surely there's high level employment for a young, skilled, sound engineer. It sounds like a heaven for techies.

Dubai, once a pearl-fishing village, has been transformed into a paradise -- a tax free, free-trade oasis, with Internet, media, finance, maritime projects, and state-owned development companies that need beautiful buildings with massive space, and spectacularly fancy decor. The government is already advertizing space in the fabulously unique, sail-shaped Burj al-Arab, claiming it's the most expensive hotel in the world.

There's also an unfinished 160 story Burj Dubai (it'll be our planet's tallest building). It overlooks a coastline of man-made islands that are currently under construction -- each island, shaped like the leaf of the datepalm (it's the center of the archipelago) -- each frond named after an important place on the map of the world.

And Dubailand, the mall that's, scheduled to be completed in 2014, will cover 107 square miles, with 45 "mega projects" and 200 sub projects -- sports, entertainment, fashion, the largest collection of theme parks in the world.

The list of world-famous corporations involved -- well, I have to say it reminds me of the names on Bernie Madoff's list of investors.

Right now each "name" seems like a brick in a foundation put together -- brick by brick -- without cement, just the gel of evocative, cleverly worded enticements, which give you the feeling that you're going to be surrounded with glamor, breathtaking luxuries, endless joys.

So is Dubai a Mecca for the educated, skilled, ambitious, creative new generation of entrepreneurs -- the super-brainy, innovative techies?

Should I tell our sound designer/engineer to head there?

The fact is, Dubai's in a slump right now. According to various, reliable news reports, its business ventures have been hit with the economic troubles that have hit the U.S. -- real estate prices dropping 50%; new construction all but stopped. Though the major backers downplay the rising debt, despite their $15 billion investment bailout, unpaid bills are mounting.

But, I know from my own experience -- you can get a foot-hold, and create a brilliant future for yourself, if you're starting from scratch and things look bleak. Why? Because there's less competition.

Fabulous, grandiose Dubai ... Is it a new world? Or is it the old world, high-gloss painted, polished, silver and gold-plated, set with gems. Is it an Emerald City in Oz?

Gee, if you're feeling feisty, and you can scrounge up the money, why not go and have a look!

Monday, December 14, 2009


McCain looked rested, and quite relaxed, the other night on Meet the Press, responding to David Gregory's questions.

What a relief it was -- McCain's words, his tone of voice -- to see and hear him supporting and respecting Obama's decisions about the war in Afghanistan. Okay -- McCain worries about the date for withdrawal and ending the war being stated, but he didn't denigrate Obama -- he respectfully stated his concern, and explained why.

Ever since election eve last November, when McCain conceded the election, stood on stage at the Arizona Biltmore Resort, with his wife and Sarah Palin, and thanked his loyal supporters in the audience, I've been uneasy about McCain.

That night, he smiled, and seemed relieved that the long campaign was over. He stopped his audience from booing, whenever he mentioned Obama's name. He made no reference to the two women on stage with him -- his wife in her expensive gold suit, standing stiffly on one side, Palin on the other side, looking unsure, a bit bewildered.

During this past year, McCain, the surviving war hero, has been letting us know, again and again, that he knows how the president should deal with war, economy, unemployment, failing banks, and the failing automobile industry. Whenever John McCain has expressed his opinion on Obama's doings, I've usually groaned, turned away, or changed the channel.

Why? His unforgettable, disturbing behavior during the debates -- McCain didn't shake hands or look directly at Obama, To me, it seemed as if McCain couldn't acknowledge Obama as an equal.

The other night, with David Gregory, it was great – to see a fresher-faced, younger-looking McCain -- no stiff, gold wife like a statue watching over him -- just the guy himself.

I can't help it -- tick tick goes my mind -- why did he marry Cindy Lou Hensley? Did he pick Cindy because she has personal wealth, business acumen, and unshakable, consistent behavior? Maybe McCain, the lover, needed to know exactly, precisely what he was committing himself to -- "till death do us part?"

(She seems so "un-juicy" --always nice, nifty, neat -- reliably elegant -- but golly -- she's so ... well, I can't imagine the two of them "cuddling.")

Anyhow, I'm chirping and cheerful, glad to have the support from John McCain, Republican standard bearer (one of the very few Republicans who hasn't sold his soul to the party, and embraced its current policy of rejecting, negating, hating every idea that emerges from our black president's White House. )

Will we ever learn more about Cindy McCain, the school teacher, daughter of a wealthy beer manufacturer?

And get to know their first child Meghan, who's rumored to be "mad at the media." Will we learn how the second and third kids (two years apart), are doing -- John Sidney McCain IV (known as Jack), and son James (Jimmy)? And what about the McCain's adopted Bangladeshi orphan, Bridget (sixteen now, black and, very un-assimilated-looking)?

My curiosity isn't gossip-mongering -- the children tell a lot about the parents real selves.

Okay -- I have a sense that Obama's decisions about the war, his lack of "let's get in it and win it" rah-rah -- his de-emphasizing, downsizing the war on terrorism, is good.

It's a new direction that engenders a small hope -- that religion -- where, who, and what you believe in will become less, and less important.

For me, that's the intolerable terror of our war on terrorism -- that we have to kill people who believe killing us is right -- beautiful -- sublime martyrdom.

Am I naive to hope, wish, pray that the war, this one, and the others that are looming, can be avoided, if we focus on live, let others live?

I need to say it again, another way that fits me -- believe in what you believe in, but respect, and allow others do that too.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


What do I know ... ? I know what I hear and see.

Jimi Hendrix -- crazy, wild, when he played with his left hand he was great --played with his right -- he was great -- played with both hands -- whoa!

It was showmanship, and a clown, playing with his nose, his teeth, squatting, playing lying down, playing with the guitar over his head, and unbelievably, playing with his guitar behind his back. And then, he's the guy who coaxed flames out of his guitar, burned the guitar, smashed it.

Have a quick look at Hendrix in "Wild Thing."

Today we've got Dave Grohl, Foo Fighter's guitar man. (The current Time Magazine has a feature on him, that inspired me to check around, and hear who else is IN nowadays.)

Dave said his real love is drums -- here's Grohl in a solo concert.

Grohl's playing, his thub-thuba-boom -- a somewhat heavy-handed sound -- suggests drums to me. It's okay -- it gets to you, but not like Tommy Emmanuel .

Who is this Emmanuel guy? Ageless but definitely not young. I never saw or heard anything as riveting.

Here he is playing Boogie.

(I have to confess -- I was riveted by Jack Black's "School of Rock" -- saw it four times -- the guitar-playing kids, and Jack -- his committed madness -- Jack's and the kids' intense immersion in the music knocks me out.)

I asked JD (my son), who plays -- he's why and how I learned to play the guitar -- whom he thinks is the best. JD sent me a "sampler."

He wanted me to hear CHET ATKINS, whom he called "the grandfather of finger-style guitar." He included TOMMY EMMANUEL, "with his amazing rhythm and energy."
DANNY GALTON, "a phenomenon who committed suicide -- for no apparent reason."
MARTIN SIMPSON, "British player -- about-three-and-a-half minutes into the solo, Martin shows you his incredible technique."
ANDY MCKEE, someone JD discovered on YouTube.
And MARCEL DADI , "a great finger-style player who died on TWA 800 -- the plane that blew up off Long Island."

If you have time, browse with your eyes and ears. These guys make an interesting Sunday concert. Here's JD's guitar Sampler

My favorite is Tommy Emmanuel.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


She is ...


Successful. Famous. Funny. Uniquely "somebody" -- in every area of life -- private and public.

In politics, the arts, her energy and more than her name are involved in charities (she'd call it "helping people"), in greening our country and other countries, saving children, saving animals, in education ...

I'm thinking in every direction, wondering if there's any area of one's existence -- that she's ignored -- hasn't done something -- hasn't been involved?

My eyes get bigger, my jaw drops, I'm jealous, admiring, amazed, inspired when I read her biography in Wikipedia (and read the book she wrote), and remember various occasions, when what she was doing intersected with what I was doing.

Yes, I met her at an IN restaurant, when she was going steady with Frank Langella, whom we knew, whom our business manager handled.

I was eating a delicious, very special, unusual, spinach salad that the restaurant featured. She was eating the spinach salad. Frank and JC were chatting a-mile-a-minute, with our business manager, who is an exceptionally articulate guy when it comes to show business.

Whoopi, in her growl-ish voice, joined in every once in a while -- mostly with an mmm, or lover-like, affirmed something Frank said.

I'm sophisticated. I've been all sorts IN places -- met all sorts of people (famous, infamous, superstars, politicians, nobility even). And I'm articulate, I express myself well, easily -- I'm not shy and sometimes, even like Whoopi, I open my mouth and butt into a conversation and say very clearly, what needs to be said.

Well ... my mind was going a-mile-a-minute ... I wanted to compliment her on her shawl -- on her marvelous hair -- on her love affair with Frank, whom I don't altogether admire, personally, because I knew from dining with the Langellas before they separated -- that his wife had done a lot of things to please him, obey him, fulfill what he wanted, even when it went against what she wanted .

And Frank (across from me at our table), with Whoopie was expansive, not controlling. He and my husband were having a warm. honest exchange -- not name-dropping, credit-dropping -- whereas in other conversations (at a various of parties when we've bumped into Frank), JC had to respond, and feed into Frank's concept, Frank's train of thought, Frank's accomplishments.

Whoopi's relationship with him had expanded him -- made Frank into a friendly, regular guy.

Oh yay, whoopee for Whoopi, I thought, as I hunched over my spinach -- yes hunched, hunkered down, and I don't eat like that -- I usually sit very straight, and take into my mouth exactly the right sized bites ... etcetera.

So I never told her, what I'm saying right now. And what I have to say now is double what I wanted to say back then (it was quite a few years ago... 10? ) Whatever the number, what Whoopi has been doing since then, reaches wider, has expanded, embraced more, has helped, participated in, achieved, accomplished ... has run me out of words.

I guess that's it. All I can say is Whoopee ... for you Whoopi Goldberg.

Friday, December 11, 2009


The indefatigable, unconquerable Clint Eastwood -- his latest movie, Invictus, opens today, telling the story of Nelson Mandela, a black South African who whispered the poem "Invictus" to himself -- it helped him get through thirty years in prison.

Here's a clip of Morgan Freeman, as Mandela, remembering the poem.

Wow -- hearing just the title of the movie -- I'm overwhelmed, by my own memories of reciting that poem when I was very young. And I'm flooded by memories of when I danced in South Africa -- the shock -- when a black bellboy at my hotel told me not to converse with him -- "I'll be fired," he said.

I learned the four verses of "Invictus," a poem by William Ernest Henley. when I was five. This is the first verse:

"Out of the night that covers me,
Black is the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods there be
For my unconquerable soul."

I remember I was wearing my favorite dress, staring down at the tiny blue flowers on it. I was scared, afraid I'd forget a line or a word. Mama liked me to pronounce all the words perfectly, like "unconquerable."

Invictus. the movie, about the unconquerable Mandela, tells us where Eastwood is at today as an artist -- he's been fearlessly taking on ever larger themes, as he, himself has been growing older.

1971, in Play Misty for Me -- Eastwood played and directed himself as a handsome, leading-man hero, plagued, threatened, almost murdered by a fan. Twenty years later, in the The Unforgiven, Eastwood played, directed, and produced the film about an aging ex-gunfighter hero, long past his prime, who's challenged by an old enemy.

The second verse of the poem suggests that the poet, Henley, was reflecting on what was happening to him in the battlefield.

"In the felt clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed."

In Eastwood's Invictus, I kept hoping that actor, Morgan Freeman, would say the words -- all of them -- louder. But he was internalizing, them, as actor's do -- with his softer intonation, making each word like part of a prayer. And that's what the third verse suggests.

"Beyond this place of wrath and tears,
Looms but the horror of the shade.
And yet the menace of the years,
Finds and shall find me unafraid."

Those are words that I could have recited when I was performing in South Africa. I had trouble -- apparently made trouble, because my sponsors, the government's art committee had told me, (with polite words and metaphorical phrases) -- not to treat backstage helpers (blacks), as friends, and never tip them.

I expressed my dismay and explained why this seemed wrong to me -- backstage helpers were my "buddies" -- but they said the Mayor of Durban would cancel performances if I continued to "make trouble."

In the movie, the hero is the old man, Mandela, who emerges from 27 years as a political prisoner to be voted into South Africa's highest office, ending decades of apartheid "in a lightning flash of popular will" -- yes -- all he had to do was end crime, and create jobs.

( Like Obama, our first black man holding our highest office, who has to create jobs, fix healthcare, and find a way to end what seems to be two endless wars.)

Invictus, the movie, and the poem, tells us to keep going -- be the captain -- no matter what.

"No matter how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
The captain of my soul."

Those words are what I still say to myself sometimes, to keep going.

I hope the movie echos in the minds of the audience, and is one more artistic success, and a big commercial success for Eastwood, who can reach us, touch us with his ideas, and maybe affect where our country is heading.

Bravo Clint Eastwood! And thanks.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Did you ever see "Now Voyager?" Bette Davis getting her cigarette lit by Paul Henreid ... wow!
(If you haven't seen that movie, see it now with a box of tissues handy.

I'll bet smokers who see the film, feel affirmed. It made me want to learn to smoke. But the first time I took a puff, my eyes teared -- I coughed and gagged -- I hated the taste -- first time was the last time.

✪ Fact: (in last week's Time Magazine.)
In the U.S. and other developed countries, big tobacco is on the run. Fewer than 20% of Americans now smoke — the lowest percentage since reliable records started being kept.

No doubt about it -- it's brave to smoke these days -- to be one of those people -- secretary, clerk, receptionist, who sneaks outside, no matter how inclement the weather, no coat, hat, or gloves -- taking a cigarette break, clustering with friends, inhaling, exhaling.

I glance at the women huddled in front of an AT&T store. They all look young.

I feel them thinking "To Hell with passersby, who stare, and avoid us, move around as if we're lepers."

I sense they're proud of being part of a non-conforming, courageously independent, little group.

✪ Fact: This year, Washington boosted federal cigarette taxes from 32 cents a pack to $1 and gave the FDA the power to regulate cigarettes like any other food or drug.

"To Hell with the cost -- it's worth it!" -- that's got to be what those smokers think,

They're aware, as I am -- many stars smoke -- hardly any movies are made without someone handsome and cool, someone adorable, and gorgeous, taking out a cigarette, lighting up in his/her special way.

For instance Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt. Britney Spears, Jennifer Aniston, Johnny Depp, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Scarlett Johansson, and Demi Moore -- Access Hollywood said the fearless, iconoclastic Demi smokes even though her much younger husband, Ashton Kutcher disapproves.

Anyhow, though our country has fewer smokers, smoking is exploding everywhere else in the world.

✪ According to Time, this year, tobacco companies will produce more than 5 trillion cigarettes — or about 830 for every person on the planet.

Scary figure. I know quite a few people who still smoke -- friends, relatives, teachers, doctors, lawyers -- even our President, who gave it up, admits he misses smoking.

✪ Fact: In China, 350 million people are hooked on tobacco, which means the country has more smokers than the U.S. has people. Smoking rates in Indonesia have quintupled since 1970. Africa still enjoys the lowest smoking rates in the world, largely because most people there can't afford cigarettes.

Those women, in front of AT&T -- that thin column of smoke coming out of the brunette's nose -- it's a line -- that non-smokers like me can't cross -- a invisible divide between me and them.

✪ Fact: The tobacco industry is working hard to get more customers -- despite the World Health Organization's treaty, their plan to attack global smoking, with bans and tax hikes. So far, 167 countries have signed the treaty -- determined to stop smoking for good.

Don't those women worry about cancer? Aren't they sick and tired of seeing the ads, like that guy with the voice-box? Do they joke about the statistics, the probabilities -- the life and death aspects?

Or is it like crack, heroin, XTC (ecstasy), all the latest uppers and downers? It's your own business, not anyone else's.

Maybe it's the adolescent thing, a penchant for doing what's forbidden -- testing it, trying it, fearlessly enjoying whatever it is -- rock-climbing, bungee-jumping, jet-skiing? Doing what most people are afraid to do?

They say that danger is terrifically exhilarating -- the aftermath is an overpowering sense of being alive.


I'll take Bette and Paul Henreid smoking, and be moved, touched, thrilled, quite overpowered by their romance. But playing with life and death -- no --nope -- no thanks. I'll play with life things.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


People are saying --

● "He'll lose his endorsements -- it will cost him $300 million if she divorces him -- it'll hurt his popularity with women."

● "His image is shattered, sort of like the back window of his SUV."

● "What's amazing, to some extent, is that it's taken this long for him to slip."

● "He won't be speaking at any more presidential inaugurations."

● "His failure to win a major this year didn't damage his place in our corporate-cultural pantheon. But the past week's events have knocked him off his pedestal."

● "You know what happens next: an appearance on Oprah with his wife Elin. He'll get even bigger ratings at his next tournament. Unless, of course, Mrs. Woods throws the bum out."

EM is singing "Little Bo Peep / she lost her sheep / leave him alone / he'll come home / wagging his tail behind him ..."

I'm groaning. I'm hearing comments, gossip, nasty revelations that Tiger's no hero -- he's just another cheating, lying, womanizing, scoundrel and so on, and so forth.

It's a Tower of Babel crammed, jammed with voices, opinions, giggles, snickers, predictions, sexy scenarios -- images of Tiger and his innocent-looking, blond wife in her bikini modeling days -- and that hostess -- and that other girl who could have, didn't have an affair with him, or maybe she did?

It's the Leaning Tower of Pisa -- over-full of um-yum delicious possibilities for tearing down the image of a disciplined, hard-working, non-stop striving, successful winner, still in his prime, being devoured -- chewed on, swallowed by the hungry hounds, the starving wolves, the indiscriminate American public, who love, love, l-o-v-e to destroy what we admire.

I think Tiger Woods is great -- a supremely great athlete -- amazing -- to have had major knee surgery, and returned to the golf course, ready and capable -- absolutely determined to win.

I admire what he's accomplished -- his poise, grace, and passion on the golf course (am in awe of the way he and his father honed his talents), and I love the fact that he married a very pretty, very blond white girl -- because I love anything that breaks down our racial barriers.

"Win this one Tiger," is what I'm chanting. "Win this one, Elin."

The mountain of words about what's right and wrong in a marriage, words about "Fidelity" and "Infidelity" are deadly, dangerous, confusing.

I'm ESP-telling her -- if he played around, he needed to play around, and now with his personal, private life exposed, he's off-balance.

Telling him -- if she, with the babies and changes that were happening in her life, couldn't feel and see what was happening to them as a couple, and now, suddenly feels and sees it -- she's wounded, shocked, off-balance.

Telling them both -- make no decisions, until separately and together you feel out what you feel -- do nothing, till you figure it out for yourselves.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I'm an Obama "Yes" person.

Tuesday, last week, he spoke to the West Pointers. With clear, strong, thought-out words, President Obama gave them -- gave us -- gave the world his plan for the war in Afghanistan.

I nodded. I have to. He answered my deep concern -- that we are in a war like Vietnam, and there's no winning it.

He told me why -- for the sake of our future -- we must go after the Taliban, fight them, stop them.

Since Obama's speech, I'm almost afraid to listen to the news. I don't want to hear the tirades, the unacceptably rude, crude, inappropriate, twisted comments, lies -- from moderately important, educated men and women, who, in the past weeks, have used anything, everything related to what Obama is doing to fix the economy and health care -- to put him down.

And say all that President Obama's done this past year, has been wrong.

And to present their alternatives -- often, unbelievably distorted, unreal alternatives -- not solid carefully constructed plans. The alternatives often seem to be proposals -- that allow the speaker to express his reasons, his "proof" that we elected the wrong man.

I hate the polls, and I hate the commentaries, because they are a constant repetition -- of what this person, that person -- thinks Obama should do, the country should do -- individual opinions that are reducing the support that Barack Obama needs from the Democrats.

I realize the waffling Democrats are trying to protect their personal positions, and futures -- but it's wrong, hurtful, unnecessary to broadcast and promote what an individual thinks, and why the individual won't support what the President and his cabinet have studied, planned, and decided is best for the country as a whole.

You Stop! Look! Listen! when you're at a railroad crossing. The lights of the train are warning you, it's approaching fast. The red lights are blinking.

The elements that you, as an individual don't agree with, don't accept, don't understand -- can and will be dealt with -- but they can't be handled till an overall policy is in place.

For God's Sake, don't keep going back to "he didn't keep his word... he isn't doing what he promised." What Obama is handling is huge -- larger than what he could plan for, prepare for, last year.

I didn't expect, we didn't expect attacks on him -- hatred being encouraged by the Republicans.

Support the decisions the White House is making. Our president is strong. He doesn't bend under the pressures he's been getting.

I have to say the old, wonderful, patriotic things that have been said before, that made us what we are today. "...A house divided against itself cannot stand." "... United we stand, divided we fall."

Let's be "... One nation under God, indivisible."

Sunday, December 6, 2009


When the plane is landing, and I look down and see palms, highways in a curlicue design, blazing blue and white sky ... tears fill my eyes.

Yes, from the blinding brightness -- yes -- because living in Malibu for awhile was fun.

Yes -- because the balmy air says it's vacation. Nothing else in my life says "you're on a vacation," like Los Angeles, California does. Even if I'm on a no work, rest, relax sojourn, I have a project tucked away -- have papers, books in my shoulder-bag, and a plan in my mind.

Arriving in the Bahamas, or Bermuda, Israel, and Australia, I was buoyed by the warm, perfumed weather -- probably because I'd just left winter in New York. But there wasn't an inner exultation -- the "Vacation" command-- even though I enjoyed the air, as I went to work on what I had in my bag.

I'm boiling down some facts from the Center for Disease Control's research on "Frequent Mental Distress." A large group of highly accredited researchers created this map. They defined frequent mental distress (FMD) as 14 or more bad days out of 30.

Two nationwide surveys asked a total of 2.4 million people about their overall mood -- how many days in the preceding month, had their mental health been NOT good.

The 1993-to-2001 study showed 9% of Americans had FMD. A few years later, another shorter study showed 10.2%.

The gloomiest state was Kentucky, followed by West Virginia, and Mississippi. Hawaii topped the happy list, then Kansas, and Nebraska.

In the other 44 states and the District of Columbia — the number of people with FMD increased, as the economy sagged.

I love what a Time reporter who was surveying all this, said: "Never mind the Dow or the S&P -- the true national indicator may be the FMD."

Here's Em's survey-report:

'It isn't the sunshine. What makes California a "vacation" is the people, their slower-going style for work or play -- the smile on the faces, the smile in the voices of people who serve you food, gas, carry your groceries into your home, call you or answer your phone calls, fix your car, handle your cleaning, rake your yard, deliver your mail, remove your garbage.

California people -- gee, they have fearful predictions pending -- the big one -- that fault line earthquake -- their crazy fluctuating bills for electricity and water, the huge unemployment crisis, and no money to pay for government services as of January 1, 2010, says Governor Arnold.

So why do I feel like vacationing in California, with all that hanging over California folks?

The dizzying dazzle, the make-it, fame and fortune, beautify yourself baloney that emanates from Hollywood -- that relaxes me?

Well, it's part of the rainbow look of L.A. when the plane touches down -- the people I deal with -- the way they need, want, crave those expensive cars, pursue the "look beautiful forever" routines, and decorate their gated mansions -- all that triggers my Zen mode.

In California, like the other Californians -- I'm living the moment at the moment.

Can't I package it and bring it east where I live? I don't think so.

No matter where I look, there are worn-out, aging things to fix, mend, repair, rush-rush -- no languorous afternoons, no golden dawns, and incredible sunsets, just peeps at shafts of sun that disappear in the general haze of what life feels like, what it actually is on my streets.

Anyhow, New Yorkers are great, there for you in a crisis but generally focused on their own "thing."

Like I am.

I guess that's why I sort of flip-flop, float and flit around spinelessly in all that blue white and green and golden --- I don't belong there.

Gee ... well ... after Xmas, maybe I'll visit my friend Holly in Malibu, just for a day ....