Saturday, July 3, 2010


Did you dream of being a super athlete but knew you couldn't be -- you didn't have the height, or the muscles --everyone in your family was chubby and quite short ....

Well, there's something new that's being worked on by scientists, that can make it possible to change some of the things you've inherited from your mother and father, and they inherited from theirs.

Scientists call the new science, "Epigenetics."

Oncologists have already seen some success in using epigenetics against leukemia, bone-marrow cancer and blood disorders. And at the Epigenome Center in the Salk Institute, there's evidence that lifestyle choices like eating too much, can be changed, by changing the molecules in your DNA that cause the genes for obesity to express themselves too strongly.

It's complicated -- I'm not a doctor or a scientist, but I've learned that epigenetics may even help us cure cancer. When tumor-suppressing genes aren't doing their job, and cancer cells are replicating uncontrollably -- by manipulating the epigenetic marks, doctors can get tumor-suppressing genes to work again.

Last week, a team of researchers announced, they'd created a bacterial cell using chemicals and computer data. It's "synthetic DNA."

Here we are, JC and Em the blogger, discussing how it might affect us.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Who are my friends on Facebook? I see thumbnail pictures -- small, usually in color, men and woman, occasionally a child's face that's probably the person's favorite picture of himself.

What are we doing on Facebook? Looking for real friends, possible lovers, someone to meet for coffee? Or promoting what we're doing?

I signed up because I wanted to find more readers for Em's Talkery, my daily blog. And, I'm finding them. I ask my new friends for comments on what I wrote about today, or yesterday, and sometimes mention what I'm working on for tomorrow.

I've been write-talking with one of my new friends -- a woman in mourning -- trying to comfort her like a mother, like a good friend -- she's sharing a little of herself with me.

I've bumped into a very energetic guy, political, passionate, knows what's real. Chatting back and forth, I see he's communicating with many different people. He's a leader. When he affirms something I've said in my blog, I feel as if I've won an award.

I've got people who are talking to me almost every day. It isn't like a phone call -- "Hello, how are you, how's the weather?" It's about me, the real me, or them, the real person responding, reacting to something I've said.

I love that.

I've got a gruff intellectual who barked at me for babbling. I barked back at him, and now we're talking about his Sci Fi stories and my novels. I have three fairly harsh dis-approvers, very real people who live on the other side of the fence. It makes me re-examine the issues and what I've said that infuriates them.

I have quite a few playwright friends. They have plays that I don't have time to read, but I see where they're heading, and comment briefly in a way that might be helpful.

I've got a rambling poetic writer pal, who's high on thoughts or wine or whatever -- it's fun, like looking out my window and watching a bird take off.

I like picking thumbnail faces of people who don't say who they are, or where they're going, or what they're doing, and asking -- often finding out more and more about them.

There's are a lot of thumbnails -- familiar faces -- show biz people I know whom I've "friended." They rarely respond, except to send me what they're promoting -- night club acts, DVds, albums, shows, parties, benefits. I usually click Facebook's RSVP box and reply -- "It sounds interesting, but I don't have time right now." Because they, like me, need an audience, and replies become an audience, and affirm what you're doing.

I answer every message, 15 ... 25 ... sometimes 40 a day.

As I'm falling asleep, I find myself reflecting on this person, that person as if they were relatives.

No doubt about it, I have a lot more readers, and a lot more friends in exactly
the way I need friends right now.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


In 2008, this monochrome painting by Yves Klein -- brace yourself, would-be artists -- sold for #21,000,000.

Is money a good judge of art? Ahh me -- part of me, the realist says YES. And I've noted that the first grabs that a young artist makes, first choices -- the brash, confident self that KNOWS what he or she wants to say, do, create, present -- if you can hang on to that, that's your key to SUCCESS.

Okay, but my other self, very grown-up Em who's worked, revised, re-worked , re-conceived, worked-worked-worked self-critically -- that Em heaves a sigh and thinks, NO -- YOU are the judge, and the uninhibited, first efforts often succeed because they're odd, unusual, unique. They make a noise that no one has heard before -- they make the critic blink and question himself.

Yves Klein, Neo-Daddist artist, died at age 34 in 1962.

Klein wanted to make it -- be famous, be noticed-- and he said so. He did crazy daredevil things. Like Warhol, and also Dali, Yves Klein was a performance artist -- he talked, looked, and behaved as part of his ART.

Early on, when he wasn't sure what his medium was, Yves put his time, thought, and energy into creating "The Monotone-Silence Symphony." It was a single 20-minute sustained chord, followed by a 20-minute silence. He created it before American composer John Cage wrote his first silent piece.

I knew Cage, because I knew Merce Cunningham who lived with Cage, and Merce created bits of un-predictable, arbitrary steps -- choreography which was, to me -- BORING -- boring as Cage's "fixed piano" stuff and Cage's "silent" music. It inspired me to create my first "noise" -- my CONFIDENT, know-it-all stage play, "One Fine Morning in the Middle of the Night" -- and by golly, I was noticed! I did make heads turn! Eyes of major critics were on me! But I didn't grab (or if I did, I grabbed the wrong thing).

(Hey, if you're a would-be artist, pay attention -- read every thought I'm setting forth and everything you've heard about art -- give IT the raspberries and go do what you are thinking!)

Yves went into monochrome painting -- large and small canvases covered entirely with a single color. He was disappointed when people drifted around the gallery and said they were enjoying the room's decorations, implying the colorful canvases were connected, like a mosaic.

Then, Yves committed himself to blue. He declared that it was a "blue revolution that transformed consciousness." (I've noticed that it helps, when an artist is articulate, poetical, and yes, a bit of a B.S. artist.) He called the color "International Klein Blue."

Klein didn't like brushes. so he used ordinary paint-rollers, then sponges -- soaked large sponges in his blue paint mixture and attached them to canvases already sponged in blue (too bad he didn't live to long enough to know one of his blue sponge painting would sell, forty years later, for $4,720,000. )

Yves worked, sweated over these creations and used his soundless symphony for a new exhibit he called --"Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State into Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility, The Void." (Whew -- that's a brain-teaser!) He removed everything in a gallery space, painted every surface white, and staged an elaborate routine for the opening night audience. Painting the exterior gallery window International Klein blue, installing I.K.B. curtains in the lobby, serving blue cocktails -- 3000 people waited and were finally let into the empty white room.

If I had been there, I would have stormed out. Was Yves worried? Did audience response, did critical response throw him? All I know is that Klein kept developing -- his way -- in any direction his instincts about art led him.

Using himself, his wife and friends he began working with body paint, creating paintings by rolling their bodies on the canvas.

These paintings produced this famous painting, "Hiroshima," ghostly remnants of shapes on a canvas.

He invited audiences, and filmed his new creative process. Audiences saw nude female models being sponged with blue paint, and throwing themselves down on a huge white canvas, rolling back and forth -- creating body prints. This type of work he called "Anthropometry."

His other paintings that used this method of production, include capturing the patterns rain made on a canvas strapped to the top of his car, as he drove; also, soot patterns on a canvas made by scorching the canvas with gas burners.

Are you inspired by this? Do you have ideas, impulses to paint, write, dance -- to speak poetry, or maybe stage a Shakespeare play this way? "Neo -Dada." art uses modern materials, popular imagery, and absurdist contrasts, like Jasper Johns did, Rauschenberg, Warhol did, and Yoko Ono does.

Is this what Madonna did on her tours? Is it what Lady Gaga is doing? Yes. Do I applaud it? NO. Do I like it? NO. It doesn't move me. I want to understand, and feel, and be touched and involved with art. I'll say it more simply -- art is life -- I need to understand, feel, be touched and involved with life.

"Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers," a new show that runs through September 12, is at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


What would I do if I were you, Betty White?

I'm thinking that your next career move ought to be --

Lights up on you doing a little dance, loose, relaxed, sort of like what Bill Cosby did ...

Start with you shimmying around, feet doing the Suzy-Q, then shimmy your shoulders -- do a step kick, step kick, and talk-sing, just for few seconds, with ... maybe a great performer like Danny Kaye.

Now, with the camera on you, while you are moving in a hefty-looking chair (the job usually done by a stage-hand), this is what you say:

BETTY: "Here I am -- they say I'm Hollywood's white hot new It girl -- everyone knows my face from 'Golden Girls,' or has seen me as the Aunty., Granny, or Nanny, in one of the many, many -- " (You're interrupted.)

BARBARA WALTERS VOICE: "You've done 94 TV shows, Betty White, 20 films. (Barbara appears, and settles herself on the chair that Betty's positioned.) And right now you're delighting audiences in the sitcom "Hot in Cleveland" -- you're playing 'Elka,' the house-keeper for Valerie Bertinelli and two of her friends."

BETTY: "Barbara Walter is one of my guests today."

(Improvising, a bit clumsily but deliberately avoiding her age -- she's 7 years younger than you -- you ask Barbara how she's doing, mentioning her recent heart surgery.)

(As Barbara W. speaks, you move in another hefty-looking chair.)

GUEST VOICE : "Oh no! Please, Miss Betty, I can do that -- let me do that!"

Mylie Cyrus, about 70 years your junior, sits in the second hefty-chair. As you greet her you move in a 3rd chair for yourself.

The three of you discuss getting ready to do a show -- hair, shampoos, makeup for street-wear, for TV, for strong lights -- the cruel camera, brand names for moisturizers, liquid makeup, pancake, lipsticks, powders, and where you do your makeup -- what kind of mirrors, and lights. You mention problems -- weight, exercises, dieting, relaxing -- and a serious concern for performers -- getting a good night's sleep with or without medication, when you're so busy.

And that's it -- the cue for "Balling the Jack" -- talk-singing, moving with the music, inviting your guests to join you. You announce the guests for your next show -- suggesting you might be talking about clothes and what to wear on various occasions. The lights fade to black.

Your next show guests could be Susan Sarandon, age 63, and Bridget Mendler, 17, an up-and-coming new Disney star.

All of the older or younger show biz "names," more and more of them, have been appearing on the entertainment shows every day, every evening. They need exposure, and audiences love hearing and seeing them, learning more about their personal lives -- especially their trauma-dramas.

Producers, sponsors will grab The Betty White Show -- it's a hey-day for advertisers. Men, women, older and younger -- practically everyone I know -- worries about growing older, and staying in shape.

Betty, you are fascinating because of your age, and all the things you've done, and what you're doing now.

Betty White, this is a show we need!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Kagan's center stage this week -- the Supreme Court nominee faces the Senate Judiciary Committee and it may be a fun week for observers -- a lot of ugly jabs, and quite possibly a filibuster.

I like her.

Okay -- she doesn't have experience on the bench as a Judge. The Republicans are going to go after that. Will it hurt her chances? I don't think so.

Here are the main issues, I think, that are going to debated:

How would she vote about Gun Rights? At the moment, we just learned that the Supreme court overturned the ban on handguns in Chicago. (I'd hoped they wouldn't.) What about the paper Kagan wrote during her years with Clinton, advising that automatic weapons be banned? No doubt about it -- Gun Rights will raise a lot of hackles.

What about her Jewishness? In her master's thesis she wrote that Judges have prejudices and goals, and said that it was "not invalid or wrong" for a judge to promote his personal ethical values and social ideals. Though she's said, "I was just a dumb kid when I wrote that," that is going to be thoroughly dissected, and attacked.

And abortion? Roe v Wade? Pro-lifers are crusading against her, claiming her recommendations to Clinton supported pro-choice. Though the White House says she was just a staffer presenting Clinton with a variety of legal arguments, the National Right to Life Committee has written all the senators asking them to oppose Kagan. This is a big, big issue that can't be solved in this hearing, and there's going to be a lot of fiery talk.

What about Gay Rights? The GOP claims Kagan is anti-military -- she banned military recruiters when she was dean of Harvard. Kagan has openly stated her opposition to "Don't ask, don't tell," but on Gay marriage, she's said she'd defend the "Defense of Marriage Act," under which states don't have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Feathers are going to fly -- this could get very muddy and nasty.

And then there's "Executive Power?" Kagan has stated that she believes federal spying laws are constitutional. She's suggested that only in "the rarest of circumstances" could a president circumvent Congress to conduct warrant-less wiretapping. She's agreed with Attorney General Holder, that terrorist detainees could be held without trial at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. (The issues are complicated. I'm not sure what I think -- it's major, but I don't think it'll drag on and on.)

There are other issues. But Kagan can say she has never promoted her own ideas -- she's just been doing the job she was hired to do.

Will the Republicans filibuster her? Will Elena Kagan be attacked as a Jew and Lesbian? Will those words be muttered, or called out?

It'll be a very interesting week of television.

My fingers are crossed. I think she's the right person, a good person to have on the bench of the Supreme Court.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Dear Mrs. Palin :

Did you smile when you saw this picture on the cover of Newsweek Magazine ...? Were you and your family pleased and proud of the "Saint Sarah" five- page cover-story by Lisa Miller ...?

Miller says: "To white evangelical women, Sarah Palin is a modern-day prophet, preaching God, flag, and family--while remaking the religious right in her own image."

(Mrs. Palin, how do feel about remaking the religious right in your own image?)

Miller says: "The Christian right is now poised to become a woman's movement -- and Sarah Palin is its earthy Jerry Falwell."

(Is it a compliment Mrs. Palin? I remember Jerry Falwell coming on strong about issues that felt wrong to me, but he lost ground and sort of faded in importance, as I recall, because he was promoting himself too much.)

Miller says: "With her new faith-based message, Palin gathers up the Christian women traditional feminism has left behind."

(Hmm ... that statement, to me, Mrs. Palin, seems to suggest that these women, who are your devoted fans, and admirers, are women who are behind the times.)

Miller says: "Palin's lack of expertise on policy questions bothers not just her critics but even some of her most devoted fans."

I am not a fan, Mrs. P., but the women who love you and support you are women I know, and are part of my husband's family, whom he loves and cherishes, though politically, he doesn't agree with them.

Your rise, your ever-enlarging base of supporters worries me because you, spur of the moment, latch onto ideas that i believe are destructive, I think, of what America stands for.

Please, Mrs. Palin, think out and research carefully -- much more carefully -- what you say about Obama, about BP, about the environment, about what America needs to do about its wars.

We elected Barack Obama. You undermine him, and the people who voted for him and elected him, when you suggest that he is doing what Hitler did. Aside from the wrongful attacks on our black President that you have supported -- that he's not an American, that he's a Muslim -- the comparison to Hitler is like the oil, killing animals, ruining lives of people, oil ruining the land.

We can't wash it away.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I planted seeds in pot full of store-bought earth, put the pot on the window sill that got the most sunshine. I watered it and waited. I have a green thumb. My potato plants always grow strong, long vines, but the pot seeds in the pot did nothing for a long time.

Suddenly, a quarter-inch high, teeny shoot appeared. It grew very slowly. I bought soil nutrients. I installed a lavender light on the window sill, and turned it on every night.

All my friends said Mary Jane/Pot/Weed was great. Pot-smoking was IN. Expensive -- my seeds came from the packet my agent gave me at his Christmas party, where I tried his marijuana fudge and loved it.

Some of my arty friends who loved weed, recommended the serious stuff -- hash, heroin, cocaine -- they said "Coke highs are beautiful!" "You lose your inhibitions!" "It's a profoundly exciting, artistic experience!" But I was just starting out as a dancer. I wasn't taking chances on anything that I might get hooked on.

The pictures in my "How to Grow Plants" book showed a bountifully lush plant. When my plant was a scrawny twenty-inches tall, with about twenty leaves, I tried a pinch in a glass pipe I bought at a Head Shop.

The odor of marijuana was there. As for the high ... well, I wasn't a smoker. Inhaling made me cough. And swallowing what I inhaled with a sip of wine didn't work -- it just made me hungry (and dancers do not want to gain weight). But I wanted to learn how to smoke pot because ... because it was fun, it was IN and sort of wicked.

That's what worries me about Medical Marijuana. It's good news for people who need it for chronic pain, and various incurable diseases. It's good for the fourteen states that allow it to be purchased with a prescription at pharmacies.

It's good for unemployed auto industry workers in Michigan. A young man, formerly a car detailer, opened the "Med Grown Cannabis College" on the outskirts of Detroit. In a six-week course, a person can get the skills they need to cultivate marijuana, package it, and talk knowledgeably, as they fill prescriptions in the new dispensaries that are opening up all over the state.

I can't help wondering what would have happened if cocaine hadn't been an illegal drug. Would we have crack, meth addicts, pills, and all the other illegal substances?

I'm very glad more people can get cannabis with a prescription. But I think it will create more users -- more kids will go after it. It's sexy, wicked, challenging, and hey -- it's potentially dangerous -- that's fun with a capitol F.