Friday, December 31, 2010


Emily Frankel asks John Cullum about his New Year's resolutions.

John isn't sure, until Emily announces that she has resolved to cook more dinners for him.

Recalling some of their old resolutions, the Cullums toast each other, and agree -- their best resolutions have been made, not on New Year's, but during the year, when something happens that requires a strong resolve to fix.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


I don't like the look of him.

I don't like his down-to-earth, highly contagious bad manners and crudeness.

And whenever I see ads for those nasal sprays and cold medicines -- oh dear -- there's a repulsive congregation of cold germs ho-ho-ing, cavorting, proudly beating their chests -- greenish fat MUCINEX monsters who look like Shrek.

They're not cute. Shrek is not cute. To me they're repulsive.

How did we get this green, mocking, repulsive jock, this mutation in our lives?

A guy named Jeffrey Katzenburg, lover of Disney creatures, cartoons, and Rolling Stones/Beatles raucousness, birthed an animation format that outstrips the live-action film in imagination, skill and box-office appeal -- a creation, that is now DreamWork's famous, prize-winning, super popular "SHREK."

Yep, he's a cartoon generated image, (a CGI), with some actor's voice belching out of his mouth.

Katzenberg loves an occasional 3D-surprise, and Saturday Night Live takeoffs on "Cinderella," "Pinocchio," "Robin Hood," "Three Little Pigs," or "Snow White," and plenty of off-color asides for the older folks, and below-the-belt punches at real names in the news.

What bothers me the most?

I don't like the anti-culture that Katzenberg brings into our homes. Yes, it's spoofing, but it's creating a humor, a delight in the next and the next generation, a predilection to snicker, spit on, be bored by, avoid, turn away from, and yawn -- wake up for farts, toilet humor, crude "up yours," and painful down-playing of tenderness, love, respect kindness, innocence ... and, and, and ...

Well ... this animated feature is bright, brisk vaudeville that makes fun of everything, including itself and the multi-billion-dollar animation industry, and that is something that makes Katzensburg, DreamWorks, Pixar, other would-be animators, and the hundreds of accountants, theater owners, and investors fan-fantastically thrilled!

"SHREK" has had 3 sequels -- a Christmas special (Shrek the Halls), a Halloween special (Scared Shrekless) -- it's the 8th of the 10 Top 10 Films in the animated genre of Classic American Films poll by the American Film Institute -- it's number 2 in a Channel 4 poll of 100 Greatest Family Films (number 1 was ET).

And Shrek the Musical has had 441 performances on Broadway, Tony nominations and awards, and is currently on a North American tour, with a London West End production scheduled for June 2011.

Gee, that's jobs for a lot of our show biz friends.

Soo-o-o ...

I'm awarding "SHREK" and its creators an Em Award for brilliant, remarkable, amazingly successful, Artistic No-Goodery, even though I wish it wasn't creating a generation of laughers at stuff I don't find funny at all.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


She looked so movie starlet perfect -- neat-featured, blue-eyed, natural blonde -- the child of an affluent Mormon family -- gentle, gentile was the look of this 14-year-old girl playing a harp.

The drama is over. The curtain is closed. As the stage manager in show biz says, "House lights back on!"

What a drama it was in June, 2002, when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from the bedroom she shared with her 9-year-old sister, Mary Katherine, who said a man with a knife appeared in their bedroom and threatened to kill everyone in the family if Elizabeth didn't come with him.

Daily alerts, interviews with the terrified, worried, but always poised parents, were interspersed with photos of a virginal Elizabeth playing the harp. Thousands of volunteers searched for her. There were prayers and candlelight vigils.

Educated by television crime shows, I figured the young girl was already a murder victim.

A handyman who'd worked for her family was accused. DNA and lie detector tests proved him innocent. When the man unexpectedly died, I couldn't help feeling the Smart family was somehow to blame.

Months were passing. There were flare-ups of news. Someone tried to abduct Elizabeth's cousin. Elizabeth's younger sister suddenly remembered another man -- a weirdo, a religious nut, who called himself Immanuel. The police immediately started looking for him.

Then, in March 2003, Elizabeth, disguised in a cheap grey wig, sun glasses and a head-covering, just happened to be spotted by a policeman, who began asking her questions.

It was a miracle, commentators said. I kept hoping for pictures of her and interviews with her, but all we got was Dad thanking God, and Mom, who told reporters that Elizabeth adjusted very quickly to being back home. "It's as if she'd never been away," Mom said.

Has it really been 8 years ago that all this happened?

Last month, during the trial of her abductor, we heard, finally, details of her sexual ordeal. The kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell, claims he has written his own gospel which he calls the "Book of Immanuel David Isaiah."

The 23-year-old Elizabeth testified that he "married" her, and raped her nightly, hoping to get her pregnant so he could have a child. In September, 2002, he'd moved her, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, to San Diego, continuing to rape Elizabeth nightly while seeking another younger, more malleable wife. Forcing Elizabeth to drink, smoke, and look at porn, he claimed that debasing her elevated her to higher spiritual level.

After his attempt to kidnap a young California girl failed, he was arrested for breaking a church window, and briefly jailed. Elizabeth, who'd learned to manipulate him, telling Mitchell that God had told her what to do, convinced him they should hitchhike back to Salt Lake City.

Asked why she didn't try to escape, Elizabeth said, "Mitchell said he would kill everyone in my family, if I tried to."

Guilty! Guilty -- is what I thought whenever I saw flashes of the latest hot news during the trial.

The angelic looking child, who played the harp, is still immaculate looking, poised, not prudish. Elizabeth was in control until a defense psychiatrist suggested that the mentally ill Mitchell belonged in a psychiatric hospital.

Finally there was drama! Elizabeth Smart "stalked" out. (There were no photographs of her rushing out, but I would have loved to see it.)

Mitchell, who playacted nuttiness throughout the trial, was found guilty. He'll be sentenced in May. His wife has already been tried, found guilty and sentenced to 15 years.

What are Elizabeth's plans? After the verdict, her father told reporters that his daughter planned to return to France and finish a mission for the Mormon Church that she was doing there, then return to Utah's Brigham Young University to finish working on her music degree.

In 2003, at age 15, during an interview about her ordeal, a reporter asked her if she had a boyfriend. Elizabeth said,"yes." We knew more about her then, than we do now. Her face is still a face on a cameo, perfect, classic, unreal.

How can she be 23 and not have a single scar on her that we can see, or hear? Is it her upbringing? Daddy is a motivational speaker. Mom is a nodding, paper-doll of a mother. Is it their religion that keeps them so quiet, silent, graceful, poised?

I wonder if there's a knot of anger in Elizabeth Smart. Somehow, I wish there were. I wonder if she still plays the harp?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Humans aren't alone. Romance appears to roam among animals too.

Here are illustrations by Dugaid Stermer, for Time Magazine.

For me, it's not just the pictures of these creatures that I enjoy -- it's their relationship to one another.

Known for their elaborate displays of public affection, these parrot pairs are often spotted engaging in open-beak kissing. The Mexican and Central American natives form a lifelong bond with their mates and share the responsibility of caring for younglings. Like bereft widowed humans, some parrots will die shortly after their partner does.

Commitment doesn't scare them. Unlike most of their fellow primates, nearly 99% of these South American natives establish lifelong bonds with their partners. In a show of their unyielding affection, the tiny monkeys may sleep together on a tree branch with their long tails intertwined.

Their love may last only one season, but it endures all manner of things. Separated for months at a time, the birds can pick out their mates among thousands of others.

Money can't buy love, but among bowerbirds, real estate sure can. To attract a partner, a male creates an ornate structure, known as a bower, out of sticks, moss and other objects, as a home for his potentially lifelong companion. Some males even use chewed-up berries to paint a bower's walls.

Love knows no intelligence. Burying beetles, so named because they bury the remains of small animals to use as food, may mate for life. They cooperate to raise their young, looking out for them even after they've hatched. They may not have glamorous lives, but they build a nice family.

These primates would much rather find love in short-term bonds than take the plunge. Lovers groom each other, kiss, make up after fights and can even take mini-vacations together. What's more, bonobos, close cousins of chimps, mate face-to-face.

Males can become so lovesick during courtship that they simply stop eating. Females are more levelheaded, at least when it comes to sex. They choose lovers wisely, typically waiting four years to mate.

Seemingly monogamous for at least part of the year, they often display affection by nipping, nuzzling and chasing their mate. Males and females care for their young together.

You won't find these rodents out on the prowl after a breakup. As one of the few mammals to display what scientists call social monogamy, they typically refuse to find another companion after a partner dies or otherwise goes missing.


Monday, December 27, 2010


Madame Secretary of State, you said something recently that got me wondering about where you stand on what's going on?

The Republicans don't call it a campaign, but they are pouring money into what's happening now, as if we're already into the presidential campaign of 2012.

Hillary, you recently said, "I think I'll serve as Secretary of State as my last public position." You explained that you would like to return to your roots as an advocate for women and children.

To me, that statement means that you have thought about running for president in 2012, and you wanted your supporters to know how you felt.

But if you were drafted, Hillary, somehow drafted into running, would you say NO? Or YES, because the Republican say-no-tactics are working. They're stopping the President.-- keeping him from creating jobs, and other urgent issues. Or NO, because Democrat liberals and conservatives, friends, good people you know and trust are vacillating -- it's a wrong time.

Hillary, you have changed -- your demeanor, hairdo, clothing style -- you've become a strong, sternly focused Secretary of State. Your charm, poise, and knowledge is used by you in a different and more aggressive way. But the new Hillary is as powerful, maybe more powerful than the old Hillary, whom we cheered, hoped for, and supported as a possible president, even though we chose Obama.

And a woman for president -- the educated, knowledgeable, experienced wife, mother, politician that Hillary Rodham Clinton is -- Hillary, you know there's no one like you, who can inspire other women's love, their trust and support.

Hey, if I'm thinking this, so are millions of other Americans.

Speaking of millions -- the money -- the $21 million you and Bill poured into your campaign -- has it been paid off? The talk about this almost completely disappeared. But last week, an email was sent out by your husband to get donations for the $2 million or so, that's still outstanding.

I don't think money is an issue for the Clintons. I think the Clinton's clear up the old bills, before they start a new campaign.

Hillary, if there was a ground swell of pressure, Hillary, would you say NO?

NO, you lost. you could lose again?
YES. Republicans have built a wall around Obama that's higher and stronger every day, and he's stuck!

NO -- it's a wrong time to put your hat in the ring! It's the end of Obama's 2nd year. It was a tough time for President Clinton, a tough time for FDR. Obama is doing what has to be done right now and doing it strongly and ... well ... maybe, possibly ... YES.

Click the link -- here's what Bill emailed to people who donated money previously. I think the Clintons are again, mulling over Hillary for President.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


JC and Emily recall when they lived in California and the balmy Christmas weather seemed strange.

Each year, they bought a three-foot tree. They decorated it, and greeted it on Christmas morning. After New Year's they planted the tree outside their log cabin home.

When they left California and moved back to New York City, there were eight "little" BIG trees on edge of their backyard at the top of Las Flores Canyon, on the outskirts of Malibu.

Emily recalls Christmas carols, singing carols in the car. But John's most favorite Christmas was the first one they celebrated together.