Saturday, May 21, 2011


What a subject!

Was it talent, or an instinct that came from singing the songs from the Baptist Hymnal, at home with his family?

Here's a conversation that says so much about why John Cullum's voice is what it is.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy, can been seen naked in this painting, dallying with Mara Carfagna, a female minister, whom he once said he would like to marry. (It's his face and hers on the torsos.)

His ex-girl friend, Mara, is currently one the leaders of a huge protest --thousands of angry Italian women. Silvio's not only shaping the way Italy sees women, but also affecting how women -- young and old -- see themselves. An entire generation has grown up in a society where Silvio's wild "bunga-bunga" parties, and soft-core porn -- are part of the daily news.

It’s been 23 years since Berlusconi introduced voluptuous women, known as "veline" -- literally “scraps of paper” -- parading through the news and the commercials. Almost all television in Italy ( 95% of it) is under his control. Showgirls and actresses appointed by Berlusconi have official positions in the government.

Polls show that Italian girls are dreaming of becoming TV veline -- not doctors, lawyers, or business owners.

Will Berlusconi be ousted? He's the Western world's and Europe's richest head of government, and can buy, apparently, whatever support he needs. The opposition party keeps saying he won't win again, but they said that four years ago.

Meanwhile, since the beginning of April, Silvio has been on trial. He's charged with paying for sex with an underage prostitute. Aspiring Italian starlets and actor George Clooney are being called to make appearances. Silvio's facing 15 years, using his influence to win a not guilty verdict.

And while the trial show is going on at a huge cost to taxpayers, ( about 70,000 Euros or $93, 000 dollars), Berlusconi's slashing millions of Euros from the Italy's arts and heritage budget as parts of Pompeii are crumbling into dust.

Silvio loves art. A 6 ft-high statue of Mars, created around AD 175, on loan from a museum, stands next to a similarly proportioned statue of Venus that's displayed in Palazzo Chigi, Mr. Berlusconi's office in central Rome.

The prime minster has had the marble Mars rebuilt, so that its snapped-off penis has been replaced by the new penis that's fitted with a magnet. Since the museum replaced the arms and hands on the statues, the penis can be easily replaced if, in the future, Silvio or the museum decide to undertake further restoration.

History books say that penises were often hacked off ancient Roman statues, either as souvenirs or out of prudishness. The Bunga-bunga guy who dearly loves works of art, is obviously not prudish when it comes to any part of anyone's private parts. Everywhere, on street corners and in the news, for the more than a month, Silvio's latest girl friend's crotch is on display.

Yes we've got our troubles with celebrities and politicians spouting nonsense, but gee -- I wouldn't want to be in Italy, watching TV, with my future tied to the jury's verdict for the bunga-bunga, art-loving Berlusoconi.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


His death is still echoing.

I keep watching the news that I've seen before -- the last photo of Bin Laden alive and speaking -- Obama's speech telling the world that Bin Laden was dead -- the administrative heads watching the 40 minutes event -- HiIlary's hand at her mouth -- the tension in Obama's posture and the look on Obama's face .

No matter how many times I've seen the details, I want to see and hear the details again -- the planning, the mock up of the 'millionaire'-Bin Laden's home, the Navy Seals' stuff -- them practicing what to do over and over.

I've re-read Noam Chomsky's words --"Obama's lying ... It's a political assassination!" and each time I tell the famous MIT Professor/Philosopher, "You are wrong, Chomksy!" I can't even hold the thought that what Obama did was wrong.-- "NO, NO, it was a right thing to do!" is louder, loudest in my mind.

And though I say NO, NO about displaying the photos of Bin Laden's bloodied head and dead body because the photos will inflame his supporters, I want to see them -- I want to see photos of the grim, shocking end of this man.

It's as if I'm caught in this revengeful obsession. Maybe, because I am a New Yorker, the devastation of 9/11, devastated my sense of the good life that's our heritage, and the sorrow that's in me hasn't been cured by time passing.

Right now a "wow" explodes -- he's dead! We got him! We killed him! For a second he knew he was being killed.

Yes, I m enjoying the envisioning of the moment of death, a cruel second as a bullet hit his eye, rejoicing because the man who had Viagra in his medicine cabinet had a wife who was shot in the leg and his son was shot dead.

Stop celebrating I tell myself, but I'm celebrating, glad that Bin Laden is dead disposed of somewhere, nowhere, in an ocean.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


JC is a drill master. In every play or musical in which he performs, he wants every line to be spoken by him, exactly as it was written.

Before learning the lines, quite often he'll reformat the script on his computer so that the lines, minus the stage instructions, make a page. He even arranges the page breaks so that his lines are not broken up.

Memorizing, he tackles a section; reading, re-reading many times before he goes into the "drill" mode. He makes a rehearsal tape on a hand-size, mini-cassette recorder. Drilling himself, he speaks each "line" aloud, then checks it on the tape. Then, he does the section again, with the taped voice at a low volume, but loud enough to hear any mistakes.

JC, the stickler, rehearses in his office. Then he moves into the studio (it's a small theater space), and works through the section again. Often he works upstairs, in our kitchen.

Right now, John's learning lines for two Shakespeare plays that are being rehearsed and staged in a 12 week rehearsal span -- "All's Well That Ends Well," and "Measure for Measure." If I didn't know him, I'd think he was obsessive, overly fussy, a fanatical stickler.

In every other kind of work, he's relaxed, happy-go-lucky, an easy-come, easy-go sort of guy. However, when he's memorizing lines, well ... I have to say John Cullum is "A nut!"