Saturday, February 26, 2011


<-----------Cover of a recent Newsweek Magazine, promoting the cover story -- "WANTED A GRAND STRATEGY FOR AMERICA." It's by their new columnist, Niall Ferguson, published author, media personality, Professor of History and International Affairs at Harvard and the London School of Economics, currently teaching "Western Ascendancy" in both places.

In my play, "Shattering Panes" the Cat character complains to the Dog -- "Always getting name-blamed, name-raimed" I mention it because it's a good play -- because our current, every-day-more-popular pastime seems to be the Blame-Name Obama Game.

So what did Professor Ferguson say?

He presented his opinion, step by step, of what Obama did during the three weeks of Tahrir gatherings, and concluded --"Obama jumped up to grasp a historic opportunity and missed it completely."
And elaborated:
"Obama could have caught the wave, supported the youthful revolutionaries, or do nothing. Obama did both — some days exhorting Mubarak to go, other days recommended an 'orderly transition.'”
And concluded:
"The result -- a foreign-policy debacle. Obama alienated everybody: not only Mubarak’s cronies in the military, but also the youthful crowds in the streets of Cairo. Whoever ultimately wins, Obama loses."
And explained:
"The alienation doesn’t end there. America’s two closest friends in the region -- Israel and Saudi Arabia -- are both disgusted. The Saudis are appalled at Washington’s failure to resolutely prop up Mubarak. The Israelis are dismayed by the administration’s apparent cluelessness.
And concluded:
"Tragically, no one knows where Barack Obama’s map of the Middle East is ... worst, he has no map at all."

I think the article is insulting, incorrect, and promotes the Professor's politics. Yes, I've deliberately expurgated the Professor's educated, well-constructed reasoning which proves to the magazine's readers that Obama is a flop as our President.

Other highly credited columnists disliked Niall Feguson's cover story.

Jeffrey Goldberg said Ferguson was "Hyperventilating -- his condescension here is more than somewhat annoying." (Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. published author, reporter, columnist. formerly for the New Yorker, Washington Post, and NY Times Magazine.)

Paragraph by paragraph, Goldberg dissected Newsweek's cover story for "Inaccurate reporting," for "strange and sloppy interpretation of recent events."

Other highly respected columnists pointed out that Liberals, naturally, saw much to praise in Obama's actions, and that conservatives found Obama's performance more than adequate, especially as the crisis reached its climax. Bill Kristol, speaking on Fox News last weekend, said that Obama ended up in the right place, and John Boehner told David Gregory, "I think they've handled what is a very difficult situation, about as well as it could be handled."

Yes, I'm very angry about the cover of Newsweek. So, revengefully, I'm tossing in a bit of juicy current gossip about the Professor.

New York Magazine recently headlined, "Ferguson leaves wife of 16 years with whom he has three kids, for Somali Intellectual Historian." The article suggested, not subtly, that his decision was typical of Ferguson's personal pursuit of hotness, and fame. The lady is a spectacular, Somali-born, Dutch-educated lawyer and former MP, author of a best seller memoir, "Infidel," and has a giant tattoo of passages from the Koran on her back. The article reminded the reader that Ferguson is, himself, "Hot." He's good-looking 46, and guests on Glenn Beck's show, often fueling Beck's anti-Obama attacks.

Another tidbit I found explains that back in 2008, Niall Ferguson was a John McCain supporter.

So I am blame-raiming-naming Professor Niall Ferguson. He won't shut up. And like the Cat in my play, I'm meowing, allowing myself a catty loud complaint.

Friday, February 25, 2011


What's Lady Gaga done to us -- to you, to me, to our families, to the unaffected, as well as those who are affected?

Is Gaga beautiful? No.

Is she startling, interesting, unexpected, daring. innovative, revolutionary, inspiring?

Oh boy -- yes! No! Okay, yes but ... No!

Hmm. Alright. YES!

I looked at the wild stuff Designer Giorgio Armani created for her. Immediately cringed. Immediately, UN-cringed myself, reminding myself -- never pass judgment on GAGA based on your instinctive reaction, which is generationally behind the times.

Wearing a costume more marvelously atrocious than anything even Gaga's most ardent fans, the little monsters, could fathom, or bedecked in something pretty -- her sensibility is consciously madcap stagecraft. It has an eloquence that exemplifies French couture.

Armani, the veteran Italian designer, after saying he felt stifled by his "typical Armani style," expressed his pleasure in the way his outfit for Gaga, last year at the Grammys, bedazzled the fans as she glided down the red carpet in the hoop-skirted, crystal-studded outfit he designed for her.

Armani said: “True creativity knows no bounds. Life has an extra dimension made up of dreams, pleasure, and irony.” I'm not sure what he meant, but clearly he was happy and inspired by the Gaga doctrine -- DO SOMETHING NEW, which is what she says, and does, and hypnotizes others into doing with her and for her.

A Sociology Professor at the University of South Carolina, who teaches “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of the Fame,” has told his students -- "If Gaga won’t remain static long enough to be dissected, then we will dissect ourselves dissecting her."

So ... I got a compliment today from my friend Kevin, who tweets daily, reviews drama, is a younger generation critic, blogger, teacher of writing, drama, journalism, acting, and God-knows-what else -- Kevin is teaching me how to tweet on

I wrote him, in desperation --"I can't handle tweeting -- I just don't have a P.O.V. -- I am not sure I have one, but I'll try whatever you suggest."

17 hours ago Kevin replied:
"You certainly do have a P.O.V..and it's evident in every one of your blogs and on your Facebook page. I love that you get people talking it up. Twitter, I think, takes a little more getting used to because it's even more instant and in a way more vulnerable. You are more open with your opinions about world events/politics than I tend to be ... Em, I don't know many in your generation who are as interested in learning about social media and blogs as you are. My own parents give me looks like I'm talking about neurosurgery when I mention it. I think that instantly gives you points and puts you in the "cool" column."

Wow! I'm in! I'm current! I am generationally involved now with NOW. I feel like I've been given a GAGA G-R-A-N-N- Y Award.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


This subject is too large for me.

Brace yourself. I'm tossing the word at you to catch it and run with it if you can. The word "singularity" in astrophysics: refers to a point in space-time — for example, inside a black hole — where the rules of ordinary physics do not apply.

Singularitarians (people who accept the concepts of Singularity) believe the rate at which computers are developing indicates that by 2045, artificial intelligence will, by far, out-do human intelligence.

They believe that "Artificial Intelligence" will determine how to cure the "disease of aging" and the "disease of death," and much, much more -- so much more that it will be a world that you and I no longer fit into.

Raymond Kurzweil, who's been writing books about Singularity, warning us, telling us, teaching us about it, has impressive, credentials -- 39 patents, 19 honorary degrees, and awards. Bill Gates said "Kurzweil is the best person I know at predicting the future of Artificial Intelligence."

Kurzweil's thinking boils down to Moore's Law in physics, which proves that the number of transistors you can put on a microchip doubles about every two years. It's a surprisingly reliable rule of thumb. No matter how Kurzweil and others work the numbers, the speed at which computers are gaining power and intelligence clearly tell us that Artificial Intelligence will be able to handle advanced mathematics and science, appreciate art, compose music, drive cars, write books, as well as make ethical decisions. What we are today -- our "species" will not fit in with what the world will be in 2045.

Throw up your hands and stop reading this if this seems preposterous. This is currently being studied at the three-year-old Singularity University in Silicon Valley, currently sponsored and run by NASA. Google was one its founding sponsors. Why are Google and NASA involved? Because once we create an ultra intelligent machine, it will design better machines -- therefore the first ultra intelligent machine is the last invention man needs ever to make.

Another major name in Singularity is Aubrey de Grey, British biologist with a doctorate from Cambridge, one of the world's best-known life-extension researchers. He's working on regenerative medicine, and runs SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence.)

Dr. de Grey views aging as a process of accumulating damage, and says the idea that death is an immutable fact of life "is childish, ridiculous," -- the human body is a machine that has many functions, and it accumulates various types of damage as a side effect of the normal function of the machine. Damage can be repaired periodically. Dr. de Grey says that medicine consists of working on what looks inevitable until you figure out how to make it not inevitable.

Both de Grey and Kurzweil tell us that many people who are alive today will wind up being "functionally immortal."

Of course, there are people who think Singularity is science fiction, fantasy, wishful thinking. Serious critics focus on the question of whether a computer can truly become intelligent. The kind of Artificial Intelligence that Kurzweil is talking about doesn't exist yet and it's possible that it won't.

Singularitarians are waiting on that exponentially growing computer power to get here. But it's possible that there are things in our brains that are too complicated -- human consciousness may be too "complex and analog" to replicate.

Even though you might agree that Singularity is plausible, there are unanswerable questions -- the biggest one -- by beating death will we have lost our essential humanity?

Are we heading there? Five years ago, we didn't have 600 million humans carrying out their social lives over a single electronic network -- Facebook. Five years ago, you didn't see people double-checking what they were saying and doing by using handheld network-enabled digital smart phones.

Is it an unimaginable step to take the smart phones out of our hands and put them into our skulls? Already 30,000 patients with Parkinson's disease have neural implants. Google is experimenting with computers that can drive cars. There are more than 2,000 robots fighting in Afghanistan alongside the human troops. Jeopardy, the game show, is getting an IBM super-computer nicknamed Watson which, in a practice session, got every question it answered right, and did not need help understanding the questions which were in plain English.

Kurzweil points out that your average cell phone is about a millionth the size of, a millionth the price of and a thousand times more powerful than the computer he had at MIT 40 years ago. Flip that forward 40 years and what does the world look like? Are humans obsolete?

What do I think? I'm summarizing what I read in a 5 page article in a recent Time Magazine, I wouldn't be summarizing it if I didn't think this was an important, urgent, something with which all of us need to be concerned. Here's a link to "Singularity," the cover story in Time, 2/21/2011.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Are you still interested in smoking?
When you see a group outside smoking,
do you cross the street, or walk by them slowly, enjoying the odor, the camaraderie?

Here's a link to e-cigarettes, but don't bother clicking it unless you're curious about what it costs -- the start up kit costs $70.

'The Website for these e-cigarettes says: "Using 100% American-made ingredients at an FDA-registered facility, 'Blu' applies strict quality control standards. It does not burn or use tobacco, or the smoke, ash, and smell associated with traditional tobacco cigarettes. It provides the user with a small dose of nicotine and flavoring while allowing the user to satisfy their smoking needs."

The Website includes testimonials from happy customers, and explains: "It can be purchased by anyone who is 18 years of age or older. The e-cigarette works with a small rechargeable battery and a replaceable cartridge. When you inhale (drag on the cigarette), it activates the cartridge, which vaporizes the solution into vapor that looks like smoke but disappears in seconds. The tip of our e-cigarette is blue so that if you are smoking in a 'no smoking' area, it lets people know you are smoking an electronic cigarette."

Friends and readers, please don't get seduced by any of this! If you've given up smoking don't try an electronic cigarette -- you'll get hooked again!

All brands of e-cigarettes contain nicotine in a liquid form, and despite the "we're protecting you" wording about how safe it is, e-cigarettes are addictive and cancer causing.

The FDA says cancer risk in humans is REDUCED by e-cigarettes where nicotine inhaled per puff is much less than [about one tenth] in a cigarette puff, but one tenth is still dangerous. SMOKING CAN KILL YOU.

Here's David Letterman, trying e-cigarettes with Katherine Heigel.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Oh no! Oh YES! There's a new social network!

So, what's that famous painting by Michelangelo doing here?

Want to buy 10, 20, maybe 50 exquisitely rendered prints at a bargain price? Don't you love bargains? Don't you want new friends, successful fat-cat, moneyed pals?

Groupon. com, is now two-years-old, and probably hitting $1 billion in sales. Groupon promotes low price, local deals such as restaurant coupons, as well as higher priced deals -- like buying art work prints, or getting a Mercedes-Benz dealer to sell cars, with a big discount. A Groupon member dealer in China took 20% off the price of cars that retailed for $23,000 -- in 4 hours 205 customers bought cars.

In the U.S., Groupon got a deal going on Lasik, corrective-vision surgery -- got a group of members buying Lasik surgery for $3,250. (The usual prices for the surgery is $5000.)

That's it, folks -- the newest new thing. You join Groupon because it can get you discounts on goods and services, if a group of Groupon members agrees to buy the deal. Groupon deals are emailed to you each day. No matter what you want -- just about anything is available in the 500 cities and 35 countries where Groupon is now operating.

Yep, you get a bargain. Yes, the seller gets income from its new customers. And ohh yes, Groupon takes a cut.

Groupon's founder and CEO, Andrew Mason, has the look -- the flat, blank stare -- of a slightly bored kid. Nothing about Mason seems extra alert, except maybe his fingers, which, to my eye, look ... well, there's tension in them, his fingers look alert.

The company is booming. It's hiring 100 employees each month. Mason declares, nonchalantly, that he has better ideas than Groupon. "To me, as somebody who likes to come up with ideas, it's kind of stupid," he explains. "Like, I've had way better ideas, way cooler ideas."

"Cooler!" Damn word still doesn't mean to me what it means to everyone else nowadays. Most escapees from the older generation, who never before used "cool" to denote excellence, have joined the "cool" club. Not I. The only time I use "cool" is in regard to the weather.

Anyhow, Andrew Mason is being watched, admired by Forbes, by investment experts, Silicon Valley shrewdsters, and big God-o Google tried to buy Groupon for $6 billion. Yep, "bill,: not "mill," but Mason said no -- he's seeing more cool, cooler money coming his way.

Are you interested? I am not. Again and again I realize what most people want -- more than anything in life -- is money. Money is success. Money is freedom. Money is IT!

Um hmm, but money can't buy you, get you, win you the inner whoopee of "I DONE DID IT!"

Musicians know what I'm talking about -- the DO RE ME FA SO LA TI DO.

Okay, painters, writers, choreographers make something. But it gets involved with selling, so the DONE art sits, and isn't seen, or used unless it's art in the Sistine Chapel.
It's your life. What do you want? Is it money or art? And don't ask me "what is art?" You'll know it when you do it.


Monday, February 21, 2011


Here's part of the discussion that David Ansen had with the film stars who've been nominated for Oscars. Ansen is Newsweek's senior writer, best known for his film reviews.

He asked Annette Bening how she felt about having a relationship with actress Julianne Moore’s character in The Kids Are All Right.

ANNETTE BENING: "Oh, that was easy. It was completely intuitive, and she’s just a joy. Colin knows. It is funny, being in love with people, or in our case pretending to be in love with people. Sometimes it’s quite challenging and that’s your job."

The King's Speech star, COLIN FIRTH: "The worst obstacle to acting in love is really being in love with the other person. Because it’s not controllable. There is no way to harness that and turn it into something that’s useful to you."

BENING: "I remember being in acting class, and someone was talking about that, and he was very practical about it — especially if you have an aversion to that person, which can happen. He said, you’ve got to get over it. One of the words was “substitution. ' You take the head of the person that’s actually there, and …' "

FIRTH: "You 'photoshop' it."

BENING: You 'photoshop' another head! [Laughter] Seriously. And then you fake it.

Newsweek's ANSEN: "Care to give any examples?"

Rabbit Hole star, NICOLE KIDMAN: "Last Tango.'"

Newsweek's ANSEN: "Nicole, do you have any thoughts?"

KIDMAN: "What’s the question?"

BENING: "Sex."

KIDMAN: "For me, it’s different every time. If the film is worthy, I’m willing to explore. I don’t have any set rules. I try to stay open and that’s it. As long as I have a director that I don’t feel is exploiting me or is going to abuse me."

Newsweek's ANSEN: "Is there a secret to landing a good kiss?"

KIDMAN: "So much of that is how you capture it. Baz Luhrmann [director] has a particular way of setting up a kiss. On 'Moulin Rouge,' he was extremely precise, because he revered old movies and those big screen kisses. I remember when Ewan McGregor and I were first rehearsing. I was like, 'That felt really good.' And Baz was like, 'No, no.'"

The discussion in Newsweek reminded me of how I felt when I was choreographing an actress in a play written by a personal friend, a director-playwright.

The play was about Isadora Duncan at the end of her life, when she was drinking, bringing home a different man every night. Louise L, the actress playing "Isadora" hadn't made it yet as an actress [she did later on], but she was a lovely thirty-something blond, and was always ready, willing and able to rehearse.

Though Louise L . had no dance training, I got her to walk in a circle -- "Start as a child reaching for something -- like fireflies. And as you progress, become a teenager, patting and primping. Then, a young woman meeting important people and gradually an older woman, tired, wanting to stop and rest."

Louise did it well.

What stunned me were the love scenes. Over and over, they rehearsed caresses and kisses. It was middle of the summer. The rehearsal room wasn't air conditioned. One actor [always with his back to the audience], was playing all the lovers. My playwright-director friend created a series of men by stylizing the actor's posture and varying the degree of passion and positions for kisses, caresses, and lovemaking.

Hours -- punishing, demanding, hours and hours -- were spent. Every so often, Louise took a quick break, gulped water, and went back to the mouth-open, greedy kisses and steamy lovemaking.

I can practice strenuous choreography -- high kicks and leaps again and again, but kissing? My playwright-director friend guided them -- "Make it real, my dears. Try the embrace again. More lustfully. Try it again."

What I watched forever turned me off to the idea of ever becoming a stage actress.

The three Oscar nominated actors and the others -- Blue Valentine's star, Michelle Williams, James Franco of 127 Hours, and Black Swan's Natalie Portman -- all seemed to understand that "photoshopping," faking, making a love scene perfect, doing it and re-doing it until the director was satisfied, was just part of the job.

Yes, these six actors are lucky to have achieved what they've achieved, but to be at the moment on the moment, do the work of their work, make it effortless, make it real -- that's tough, not fun, quite often hellishly unpleasant, hard work!

Think about that when you are wishing that you had the fame and fortune and luck of the star on the screen, or on the stage.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


What does John Cullum look for when he's looking at a script?

Emily explains how John Cullum summons "Aristotle" and looks for the elements that Aristotle recommends in the "Poetics."

Other things he checks out as an actor -- who and what is the character, and is the character someone with whom he can identify.