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.