Monday, December 31, 2012


JOHN CULLUM sings the song he wrote for Em's Talkery, Emily Frankel's blog.

The Cullums call the song 'HI FROM US."

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Emily Frankel, as each year ends, has asked John Cullum about his New Year's resolutions.

John as usual, has hemmed and hawed until Emily has announced something wifely -- that she'll has resolved to cook more dinners for him.

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

Yes, here's what we said before, but the fact of the matter is -- every time we refer to our plans for corn bread, dinners, projects or leisure in 2011, change the number. Loud and clear resolve with us, hope with us that we'll hold onto them for 2013.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


What a song -- what a gathering of people who gave us this song to sing.  And today, right this minute, this is a song that expresses what we are feeling.  


Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Excerpt from my e-book "Splintered Heart." Is Marian Melnik me? Yes, AND no. All the characters in my novels are aspects of me. But this is not a story about me.

It was at Christmas time, when Marian Melnik was seven-years-old, that she had learned about praying.

The Melnik family was Jewish. They were not synagogue-goers. They were agnostics. Marian's father had explained it all to her in a cherished moment of real grown-up conversation.

"I'm an agnostic my dear, not an atheist. Atheism is something different." Anatol Melnik explained the difference to Marian carefully -- that there was a God but God wasn't necessarily Jehovah, Jesus, Buddha or the Lord. You could make up your own idea of God if you were agnostic.

Sometimes, when Daddy talked about things like that, Marian could not help but let her mind wander. She would think ahead for big words to say, to show she understood. She knew her Daddy loved her smartness. He would smile, not his small-sized smile, but his big one, when she managed to surprise him with a new big word.

"I absolutely comprehend," Marian said when her father was finished. And she did understand. Christmas was for Christians, not for agnostics.

Most all the children in the private school were Christians. The school was filled with red, blue, green, gold and silver decorations. There was a Christmas tree with colored lights, colored balls, and tinsel in her classroom. There was going to be a Christmas party with candy canes, grab bag gifts, and Christmas carols.

Marian's best friend, Mary Ellen Warner, was a High Episcopalian and she was going with her family to Acapulco for Christmas and New Year's. At Marian's home, the holidays meant that she didn't have to go to school.

Agnostic was O.K., at least it made Marian one of a kind. Not "run of the mill" which was what Mary Ellen said about the Lutheran,  Protestant, and Presbyterian girls in their class.

Marian tried to pray agnostically. She had been reading about Joan of Arc, who had talked to God and heard voices. Marian tried talking to her idea of God in her mind. She wanted Him to talk to her about Mamma.

Mamma stayed in bed most of the time. She was either tired or she had a headaches, or both things.

Daddy said, "Marian, I want you to promise that you will be brave and strong. And very gentle with Mamma. You've got to be a very extra-special child for while."

In the bathroom with the door locked, Marian looked it up in the Medical Book. She couldn't find out about "Tired" and "Headache" but she found out about Polio, Scarlet Fever, Sex, Spinal Meningitis, Syphillis, T.B. and Whooping cough.

She was terribly worried about keeping the promise that she'd made to Daddy. She prayed agnostically, that she wouldn't get one of the horrible diseases or the tired headache like Mamma.

All the girls in Marian's class expected dolls, and the boys were hoping for radios or bicycles. Everyone knew it was parents who gave the presents, but the talk was still of Santa Claus and what Santa Claus might be bringing them.

"I know Santa's bringing me a doll with a wardrobe, a pearl necklace, and a Punch and Judy puppet theater," said Mary Ellen Warner. "What about you, Marian?"

"Probably my parents are going to give me an Encyclopedia Britannica." An encyclopedia had already been ordered, not for Christmas but for the family's general self-improvement.

"An encyclopedia?" Mary Ellen Warner wrinkled her nose the way she did when a boy came over to play with them.

"Actually, I think I'm probably getting a Bulova watch and a string of cultured pearls and also probably a piano!" That impressed Mary Ellen Warner. When Mary Ellen got too snobby or stuck up, Marian had to invent ways of making her shut up.

"Couldn't we celebrate Christmas just this year, Mamma?" Marian asked wistfully. Occasionally, Mamma would say 'yes' to things without a great deal of fuss, but Mamma just said the usual -- "You'd better ask your father."

The thing about Christmas was not just the presents. It was the decorations and the music. All the children's voices lifted in song -- it made Marian feel as if she were part of a huge family holding hands around the equator of the world.

The shiny fragile balls on the trees -- she wished she could have one of each color, just to hold them, look into them and see herself reflected. The icicle tinsel -- she wanted that too -- it looked like silver fringe for a ballerina gown.

Last birthday, Marian's Daddy had taken her to Radio City Music Hall. She never would forget the vision -- the girl dancing with her Prince, her crown of diamond spires, her  dress all glitter-gleam lace and sparkles.

"I am definitely going to be a ballerina." Marian decided.The Prince was part of it. Somewhere in the world, perhaps upside-down in China and growing up like her cousin Sammy was growing up -- there was a boy who would someday marry her. Marian knew, quite definitely, her Prince was not going to be fat like cousin Sammy. Her Prince would definitely be as tall, as handsome as Daddy. She liked to imagine whirling and gliding with her Prince to the rippling music that was in her ears when she was swinging on the swings at the playground.
A few weeks before Christmas, though she realized it was childish, Marian began praying for what she wanted from Santa. She was tentative at first. "Please let me get something for Christmas." But as the time grew closer, her prayers grew longer. She began to do "Now I lay me down to sleep." Then, to that prayer she added "God Bless Mamma, Daddy, Sara our maid, my Aunt and Uncle and my cousins." After she named all her relatives, she added, "And could I have a string of pearls for Christmas. And could you consider a piano and a pair of pink satin toe shoes?

Marian wrote out a list, put it in an envelope addressed to Santa, and placed it on the table in the hall, figuring Sara, who was a good maid, would show it to Mamma, who would show it to Daddy. Probably they'd laugh, but maybe they'd open it, and maybe they'd pay attention to the items on the paper.

The next day the note that was on the table was gone.Nobody mentioned it, but that was hopeful.

A week before Christmas, Marian robbed her piggy bank. Using Mamma's nail file, she found she could scratch up into the slot and get out a few coins. In the locked bathroom, she managed to dig out two quarters, eight dimes, seventeen pennies, and three nickels.

More money came her way unexpectedly. When she helped Sara organize the kitchen drawers, there was seventy-two cents in loose change that Sara said Marian could keep. And on Sunday, when Marian got her Daddy his Times from the corner, he gave her a whole dollar bill tip.

The next day, at the 5 &10, Marian bought a box of assorted balls and a pack of icicle tinsel. She wanted to have her own secret celebration of Christmas, her own private shrine. She knew even a small tree was out of the question, but she priced the miniature  nativity scenes.

With $3.34 to start with, balls and tinsel using up $2.25, only $1.09 was left. It didn't take long to learn that even the least expensive "Little Town of Bethlehem" was out of  the question, but on the other side of the counter there were Eiffel Towers, keys to the city, windmills, back-scratchers and rickshaws.

The rickshaw was IT. Such a tiny-teeny thing, all hand-carved wood -- wooden wheels with spokes like tooth-picks, tiny grips carved in the handles that pulled the carriage -- it even had a teeny wood-carved cushion and the smallest of small little foot-rests for the royal lady who would hire the rickshaw to take her through the busy streets of Japan and China.

The price was just 79 cents. Marian bought it. She put the remaining 30 cents back into the piggy bank when she got home.

After stringing the colored balls on red yarn, Marian hung them in her window in a graceful scallop. She draped eight tinsel icicles between each ball. On the window sill she placed her green hair ribbon and some absorbent cotton. Once the royal rickshaw was carefully placed on the ribbon, it looked like a roadway surrounded by snow drifts.

Marian presented the shrine to her parents the way the guide at the Museum had presented the Egyptian exhibit. She stood up very straight, gestured to the window sill, explaining that decorations were traditional, it was important to conform to traditions since she was going to become a non conformist when she grew up, and celebrating Christmas was a way of orientating herself to the heritage of mankind.

Daddy didn't say anything, but as he was examining the rickshaw, he smiled an extra big smile. Mamma said, "Darling, where did you get the money for all these things?"

"It's just leftover stuff from school. Some lady gave me the rickshaw. She didn't want it because it was made in Japan." Mamma was like Mary Ellen Warner. You sometimes had to invent things for Mamma. Little white lies were O.K. to tell, especially when you told them in order to be polite.

The explanation seemed to satisfy Mamma, and Daddy started talking about the boycott, the surplus inventory because of the War.

The night before before Christmas Eve, Marian looked out up at a star.

"Please, dear God, a pearl necklace, toe shoes and maybe a piano -- I would certainly appreciate that, but I'd especially appreciate it if You would show me that You are there!" She was thinking of Joan of Arc and her voices. "Even if you can't give me those things, just give me a little sign that You can hear me."

Christmas Eve, she hung up a stocking and read a poem. So it would be a ceremony, she sang "Silent Night" and "Away in the Manger," then, blew a kiss to the North, to the South, to the East and to the West. Checking the clock to be sure it was a full thirty-minutes, she thought long, hard, and prayerfully  about her Mamma, did "Now I lay me down to sleep" ten times very slowly. The prayer wasn't to Santa Claus. It wasn't for pearls, toe shoes, or a piano. Marian wanted to know if there was a God and this was God's  chance to prove it.

She left the window open wide even though it was freezing cold, just in case there was a Santa spirit that might want to come in.

Christmas morning Marian sprang out of bed and rushed to the window. The stocking was empty. There was no sign, not even the tiniest indication, that God or Santa had heard her prayers or that either one of them or anything like God or Santa existed.

Her room was cold. She stayed there most of the day.

When Marian brought up the subject at dinner, Daddy explained: "Praying is something that people invented because it gives them comfort. Don't count on praying, dear. You have to do things yourself. What you pray for, you do not necessarily get!"

Marian nodded. The philosophy was very clear.

A week later, when Marian came home from school, Mamma was gone. Sara said, "Your mother is in the hospital."

Marian felt as if she were going down the swooping curve on the Coney Island roller coaster and had left her stomach behind at the top of the hill. She wondered if what had happened had anything to do with being an agnostic, disobeying her Daddy's rules and praying to God and Santa.

Marian put the green ribbon in the wastebasket, and flushed the cotton down the toilet. Then, she broke the Christmas tree balls one by one and put the pieces in the kitchen trash can. She handed the royal rickshaw to Sara the maid.

Sara said, "Maybe you should keep it, and give it to your baby brother. He's coming home with your Mamma day after tomorrow."

"OH!" Marian said.

She retrieved the green ribbon and put the ribbon and the royal rickshaw on a high shelf, so she could use them next Christmas, and teach her new brother about God and Santa watching over you whether you liked it or not.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Time Magazine arrived with this photo, of a cloud inside a room in a house. An inventor has found a way to create it.  It's a complicated process that utilizes a fog machine and various ways to control atmospheric pressure. The cloud doesn't last long, but it's truly amazing.  The photo heralded the magazine's list: 25 Most Significant Inventions of 2012.

Donning my spectacles, I browsed the list.  I marveled at this blue ball which they've named Bounce. Wow! Police, firemen, soldiers on a reconnaissance mission -- people who are endangering their lives toss Bounce  into an area they want to enter. The ball is embedded with tiny cameras that catch and film everything. These heroic people can learn, from the computerized receivers they carry with them, what to expect and how to avoid being killed.  A Bounce costs $500.

Enable Talk Gloves

Wow, Enable Talk Gloves, $75.  Wearing them enables  speech and hearing-impaired people to communicate with those who don't use or understand sign language. The gloves are equipped with sensors that recognize sign language and translate it into text on a smart phone, which then converts the text to spoken words.

An inventor has created Wingsuit for gliding longer distances -- you can descend from a 5000 foot cliff to the grocery store in town. (Price: $600 to $2,000, depending on extra capabilities you want to have.) I'm hoping for the day when I can don a contraption when I visit JD, my son, a working actor in Hollywood -- see JD in a show and NOT have to drive on a California freeway.

Tesla 2
Thinking of speeding along in L.A., I'm impressed by the new Tesla 2,  this $49,000 electric sedan that looks like a Jaguar and goes 265 miles on a charge. Also on the best inventions list is a $200 tire, that repairs, re-inflates and fixes itself as you're driving.

The Motion Activated Screwdriver is $40.00. 
It's interesting, but for me ... well, I have an electric screwdriver I used to install a door-closing device. It was tricky -- the screws kept falling into my face, and I couldn't figure out exactly where it needed to go. Finally my husband uninstalled it and reinstall it, using his ordinary screwdriver.  Maybe he'll like the new one.

Maker Bot Replicaor
This Maker Bot-Replicator was heralded as a major new desk top tool at $2,199. It "prints" -- the design, and the model of it, extruding a plastic material -- for example, the architectural model of a house you designed. Hmm -- sounds las if it's something you've got to have if you're an inventor, which I am not.  

Google glasses
Google Glasses can be purchased for $1,500. It's a computer you wear like spectacles, that can record EVERYTHING you see and hear. Um ... why?

Hey, for $555, per suit, our Armed Forces can now provide body-armor for women who have been wearing improperly fitted, often, over-sized male armor. It doesn't look great or sound like a great invention, but it's good news for female soldiers.

Space suit
Browsing on, learning about new contraptions for household chores, war weapons, taking photos -- all those things we're dying to improve -- I read about NASA's Z-1, a new space suit with important, innovative capabilities.   What sticks in my mind is the fact that it's silver, and looks as if it's a silver prison; I'm not surprised that the price says  "classified."'

Land Rover
For studying what's on the planet Mars, there's the Curiosity  Land Rover -- it costs $2.5 billion.  (That's not a typo; it's b for billion.)

Hmm.  Being a blogger, who grabs what's in the air, I'm sort of compelled to share these new things with you. Maybe I'm stuck in a room with a cloud, or just not in the mood with Xmas shopping looming. The fact is, I'm not excited, or thrilled by any of this stuff, other than Bounce
In your own cloudless room, amble through the list  -- check it out for yourself: Time Magazine Best Inventions of 2012.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Have you yearned, prayed, wished you were famous?

I did, when I was a very little girl.

I poured over a book about Anna Pavlova, a great ballerina. I pasted pictures of a teenager who was studying with Balanchine on my wall. I devoured the stories about Isadora Duncan, a barefoot dancer who danced to "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony," had lots of lovers, and danced all over the world.

It occurred to me that the spirit of Isadora was in me. At the library, I took out books about transmigration of the soul, reincarnation, and palmistry, and studied the lines.
Wowy! My head, heart, success, travel, and relationship lines were great. I kissed my hand. The big, strong, deep crease smack-dab in the center of my palm, my fate line, said, "GO FOR IT" 

I went for it.

Later, after I became a dancer, something of  a name -- I was rising in the dance world;  my picture had been on the dance page of the NY Times, as well as Dance Magazine -- I put my mind on what I could do to become a big name.

I'd been in an automobile accident, broken my back, and recovered from partial paraplegia. What about using that?  

No -- I didn't want people to come to my performances with binoculars. Dance lovers often bring binoculars so they can scrutinize your legs, feet, and height of your arabesque -- details about a dancer that you note in photographs.  I felt the details distracted from what dancing really is, which is d a n c i n g -- movement that conveys joy, sorrow, curiosity, laughter, wonderment, fear -- any, or all of those feelings.

My husband, John Cullum, was already a name on Broadway.  Yes, we said, when Newsweek contacted us, and photographed and featured us in a half-page article. It was progress. We weren't famous but our parents and relatives were very impressed.
"Encore --The Private and Professional Life of Emily Frankel," the book that a sports writer wrote about my recovery, was published. I hired a press agent. She arranged a dozen interviews with T.V and radio hosts, and my appearance with Lauren Bacall on Bacall's opening night. My PR agent told me to gave away a lot of books.  I did, and did a "benefit" for the Lincoln Center Library -- danced --  performed for two nights at Lincoln Center.

It didn't make me famous. It made me feel ... what? Lucky to be alive, lucky to be able to use my husband's earnings to pay for a press agent -- lucky to be a dancer, who'd danced at Lincoln Center.

Okay, just recently, in Newsweek-Beast, I saw this "HOW TO WIN A GRAMMY" page. It was about a new group, "Alabama Shakes," that was suddenly hot, top of the charts.

Telling their tale, the article and it's black-balloons said, "write about kids;"  "wow a reviewer;" "blow up at CMI," (the band's management); "appear on 'Grey's Anatomy"  or 'Gossip girl;'" "rock on 'Saturday Night Live;"  snag a "spin" cover.

If you want fame, don't be naive, be skeptical. It took that band years to get where they are now. Are they famous? My dictionary says: "famous, (1) known by many people. (2) honored for an achievement. (3) informal, magnificent; synonyms: renowned, celebrated, noted, notorious, distinguished, eminent, illustrious."  I never heard of them. Have you? 

If you want to be really famous, put your mind on shocking us -- doing something utterly outrageous in an utterly inappropriate place. Consider being naked in a Lady Gaga half-on-half-off outfit, or screaming something shocking, or horrifyingly scary in a public gathering, and creating a panic. That will get you for 15 minutes of fame, which is probably less than a minute on TV's "Entertainment Tonight," and more than likely a fine, possibly jail time.

Advice, from a un-famous, would-be famouser: Do your work. Do one of your dreams -- build, make, create something --  or be magnificent, amaze yourself -- just jump in and help someone or some project with all your heart and soul and physical energy.

That's all you have to do. The rest is selling, promoting, hoping for good luck -- being at the right place at the right time.  And hoping.

Hey, I'm still hoping.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


John Cullum and Em recall their day in Oklahoma City, when the Federal building was decimated by a bomb.

Discussing the assassinations of JFK and RFK, and some of the latest shocking murders, the Cullums bemoan the huge publicity, the instant fame they'll achieve, that inspires would-be terrorists.


Thursday, December 13, 2012


That's Ang Lee, at the left,  a very successful director-writer.  His face suggests that he's concentrating, hard at work.

Reporter Marlow Stern interviewed Lee for Newsweek's "My Favorite Mistake" page.

Ho hum, I thought, as I skimmed the first sentence: "Many times when you make a movie it feels like your biggest mistake." I glanced at the final sentence: "It's more of a big regret, because I truly honestly wish I could do better as a father and a husband."

It reminded me of what my husband, John Cullum, has said, more than once.

At the bottom of the page I read Ang Lee's career arc.
1982 Directorial debut in Taiwan with his own screenplay "Pushing Hands."
1995 Arrives at the Hollywood scene with "Sense and Sensibility"
2000 Hit -- "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" -- spent time away from family.
2006 Wins Best Director Academy Award for "Brokeback Mountain."
2012 Director, "Life Of Pi."

Whiz -- I was back in time, remembering when John Cullum was trying find a producer for his screenplay, "The Secret Life of Algernon Pendleton" (based on Russell Greenhan's book). It's hard to get acting jobs in theater, or films, but John was a name in theater and he wanted to play Algernon. Even so, it was eek-ouch-ugglesome, as he tried to get a producer to read his movie script.

In the Newsweek interview, Ang Lee, was fussing about his "favorite mistake," though he's an established movie director, screenplay writer.

For John, who was trying to establish himself in movies, what a hell it was was. He studied "How To" books, and made story-boards. cartoon pictures of each shot for the film. (As we say in the biz--that ain't chopped liver.) He phoned people though it embarrassed. And when he was brushed off, he phoned again, and again. He met with various agents and was told the script needed "shoe leather" (action scenes with the hero in fascinating locations). John wrote in shoe leather. He sent scripts, made calls, had meetings with Madeline Kahn, Bette Midler, Sean Young, and umpteen other actresses, who turned him down because the star of the film was Algernon.

After he bought the rights from the author, and two years of rejections, the film was produced by a Canadian woman. She'd made one boring film and won an award for it. She bit deeply into John's rights, his earning potential as Algernon, revised his script, and made the film with John in the leading role and award winning director, Charles Jarrot -- ran out of money, and compromised the final edit. The film could have been, for John, the beginning of a real career in films -- alas, it never developed into John playing major roles in films.

And I'm reading about Ang Lee's mistakes, though he's at a high point in his career -- his latest film, "Life of PI" got raves, and Lee's probably on his way up even higher.

What a labor, making a movie is -- it's like writing a big book --a 1000 page saga. What a shock it is, when you realize that every word, every punctuation mark, every idea, every decision you, the creator make, is life-and death important. A film, like a big book, is tree that you planted. It has roots, a trunk, limbs, branches, twigs, leaves, buds that grow with the sun, and you are the sun. It can die as the season changes, and the leaves fall, and the soil is poorly nourished.

I'm aware of what's involved in movie making, because of John's experience and what our many friends -- screen writers and directors -- have told us about screenplay writing, selling, revising, producing, and promoting.

So listening to Ang Lee speaking of his sons, wife, and home, mourning that he gave such much of his life to his films, because creating a film consumes every moment every thought, I learned that Ang Lee's mistake was that he neglected them.

I find myself thinking of my art, John's art, the art of so many people we know, who strived to achieve, almost achieved the dream -- the dream of painting the ceiling of the cathedral in the mind of every artist -- the need to do it, say it, show it, be applauded, credited, paid in money -- paid in renown for the work.

I know I have been paid with some success. I know John has been paid with quite a lot of success. It's having the dream -- that's your reward.

So what Ang Lee conveyed about his mistakes -- because he's not a household name, and he's struggling already with the dream of his next film -- I want to bow to him, gasp and show him I understand, as I smile at him, and salute.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Girl -- big breasts, teeny waist, long, straight, slender legs.  Boy -- broad shoulders, rippling torso, above bulging package.

"No, no, dear, it doesn't matter,"  we tell her, tell him, tell ourselves and our  friends, but it does matter. Everyone notices, and evaluates what they see, with what they are, themselves -- the idea of what's beautiful, desirable that they've learned as they've grown up.

My son, JD, started worrying about  how tall he was going to be when he was 11-years-old. With JD standing against a wall in my office, I started marked  his height with a small horizontal line -- got a lot of horizontal lines on that wall.

Why was he worrying? Because his daddy was six feet tall; because kids in his school were competing and bragging about who was taller; because famous athletes, movie stars, and heroes in books were usually tall men.  Yes, I wondered if he was already concerned about penis size, but didn't discuss it with him, and it's a subject for my Dr. Em self, not what's on my mind right now.

I'm an expert on what a girl wants to look like.  I grew up with heightened awareness of breast size -- my oldest sister said it was a life and death thing for a girl -- if you didn't have big breasts, you were going to be lonely, a wallflower, and you'd probably have to marry the first boy who proposed.

All my life, (and probably yours), fashion magazines, ads for clothes and makeup, have taught us that skinny, slender, young, (girlish or boyish youngness) -- the look of a 13,14, or 15 year-old is wonderful, beautiful, and what you ought to pursue.

The fashion critic I truly respect, Robyn Givhans, headlined her recent article in Newsweek, YES SIZE CONTINUES TO MATTER. She reported that Vogue Magazine promised that they wouldn't hire anorexic 14-year-old-sylphs, but they broke their promise. Vogue and all the other major style people, including the Spring 2013 runway shows in Paris, have been hiring impossibly skinny, extremely young gazelles.

I think we need to blame ourselves.

Who hasn't thought."I looked better last year," and mourned being older? How can you find joy, pride, in the way you look NOW? By strongly not buying into what's stylish.

Don't blind  your eyes, but when you see the gorgeous face in the ad that proves, that guarantees -- that the latest, new, retinol-something or other cream will make your skin look younger, think of a rose. What's more beautiful, a budding rose or one in full bloom?

Grow up kiddies. The obsession with looking young is making you old.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Answering Emily Frankel's question, John Cullum mentions subjects he studied in college, wishing he'd studied harder and retained more.

Emily wants to be able to speak Spanish.

The Cullums discuss learning something new together.

John realizes the one thing he'd like to study right now -- start studying today -- is music, harmony and theory.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Oh come on, surely you have learned, by now, that you have to look out for yourself.

No doctor can really do that for you. If you have a medical pal, (nurse or doc) you like, and can chat with freely, hang on -- maybe do something pally-nice for them -- give them a memento -- a wood-carved horse, a blown-glass elephant, or a camel -- something which symbolizes that you know that you're riding on that person's back.

Even if the person is your roommate, spouse, or dearest best friend, YOU need to know all the stuff in the list that follows:

Your Blood Pressure and Diet -- learn the words systolic, diastolic and know the numbers -- are you high, low, or in the normal range,  and are you getting the necessary nutrients, vitamins, calories, carbohydrates, and minerals? 

Your Elimination -- urination and bowel habits -- be aware of quantity, color, quality, frequency, discomfort -- all the aspects of your body's output -- the sphincter and peristaltic feelings.  Are you having to work hard to empty bladder or bowel?  Are you losing control?

Your Symptoms -- anything that's weird, odd, different that you're feeling, you need to know when it occurs, how often, and does it keep you from functioning normally.  Include moodiness -- depressive, or suicidal thoughts, and your worries -- the events, the things you do that get you flushed, get your  heart-racing.  Are you ever dizzy, ever feel faint? Do you get enough sleep? Are you often exhausted?
.....Also keep track of sneezing, itching, rashes; also twinges, or dull aches when you bite or chew. Do you sweat a lot, or never sweat? What about your eyes, your ears -- are you seeing and hearing normally?

Your Exercise -- do you know what exercises you ought to do every day, or every other day, or once a week?  You need to be in charge, and realistic.
.....Be aware of your arms, legs, shoulders, back -- do you wake with a backache,  or aches in neck, elbows, hips, knees, or wrists?  Whatever, where ever -- pay attention!  And include feet, toes, hands, fingers, and thumbs, in your exercise.

Your weight and height -- are you gaining, losing?  If you're shorter than you were a couple of years ago, you are shrinking as you age, so pay attention to sitting  and standing taller.

B-bp/diet  E-limination, S-ymptoms E-xercise W-eight/height.  
B E S E W --  that's Dr. Em's,  the camel's acronym

Golly, a body, your body, is a priceless gift that you own. Keep track of it. It's fascinating to know, to be aware of it, to maintain awareness. If it's difficult for you -- aha -- that means you've been ignoring you.

Get a tiny special note book. (Yes, I'm big on notebooks -- I've got too many things I have to be sure I do every single day.)

Carry your notebook with you, and put down any thought that occurs to you, and investigate it further -- by yourself, and then, if it's worrisome -- consult a trusted, highly recommended MD. 

It's a fact -- the biggest most important fact of life -- you-yourself, YOU are the boss of your own life and death.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Watching Ben Affleck, who's now 40-years-old, is fascinating -- he's expanding, embracing more, trusting himself more and more.

Joel Stein, a Time Magazine columnist, in his recent four-page spread, said, "A decade ago Ben Affleck was a tabloid fixture.  Five years ago he was a fledgling filmmaker  Today, he is the force behind one of the the year's best movies."

Joel Stein is 39, a commentator on the younger generation, who's become a writer star to watch.  And 43-year-old Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck's girl friend in 2003 and 2004 -- when they were headlines as "Benifer" --  has become a super star.

Joel is a sexy, good-looking man. I call him "Joel," though I don't know him, but because -- in his writing -- he's told me so much about himself. I feel as if he's a personal pal. Undoubtedly, a lot of Time's readers feel the same way -- he's gotten to be a bigger and bigger name in the magazine. And Jennifer Lopez -- wow -- she keeps expanding, taking over more in every area -- performing,  directing, creating, selling her advice on fashions, diets, cosmetics, and her private life.

The private life of Ben Affleck -- married to actress Jennifer Garner, Daddy to their three kids -- he's carefully handling all this nowadays, in the same way that he is currently handling his career as an actor.

He said that he chooses films to act in, based on the what the film itself is about, and explained that he studies the message, as well as the character, feeling out if it interests him. He does the same thing, applies the same standards, when he's reading scripts, looking for his next directing project.

He says he gets focused, gets energized, by the essentials, by what makes sense to him.

Hmm.  I note, in myself, that my energy goes toward approval -- more readers, more Tweeter followers, more Facebook likes -- as if THAT will prove that what I'm doing is successful, in the way that my parents thought of success. Success meant making money, being a recognizable name. (They were very proud  of me when I began to be listed in books about Modern Dance.) 

Hmm. Isn't that what Jennifer is doing?  And Joel is doing? Their projects are reaching ever larger audiences, vaster markets, and are making them more money -- Jennifer is raking it in, and Joel now has a huge following on

Ben isn't doing that. He's brushing aside success and approval, doing what he calls  the "essentials." 

Gee, what I am doing makes less and less sense to me. What makes sense (to me) is to work harder --  doing has become an essential.

Ben is showing me and maybe you too -- focus on what's fundamental; central. absolutely necessary; important to you.

The question to ask ourselves:  Are we growing?  Or are we surrounding ourselves with insurmountable walls of doing -- doing this or that, and more and more till you bump in a wall, fall back, and get up faster so we can keep doing, doing, doing?

Oops -- I think I've gotten caught in doing an out-of-date, silly, dumb dance -- what was it called -- the "boompsi daisy?"

Monday, December 3, 2012


I am not a sound sleeper. But Mom was there last night. She needed something. I tried to argue with her -- convince her it wasn't necessary.  We were scrapping --yes -- discussing pros and cons and her reasons for feeling the job had to be done. I think it was shopping for something. I stated my reasons for saying NO nicely, but insisted the matter be dropped. We were exchanging ideas but it was not a happy conversation -- we were scrapping.

Golly, it was nice.  It was great, seeing her, feeling her energy even though she and I disagreed.  I miss her. I am sad, when I realize she is gone and not much attention is being paid to that fact.

I have a light on the shelf -- the high shelf above where I sit in my favorite chair at my computer. I note that the bulb is out. Golly, old style bulbs don't last, especially if you keep them on 24/7. The fixture is the one that sat next to Mom's bed after my father died -- it was there for the last decade of her life.    
It's a "Yahrzeit" candle --it's a  Jewish tradition, to light a candle and keep it lit after someone dies.  My family never celebrated Jewish things or attended any church. My father came from a rabbinical family and rejected his Jewishness -- he said we were agnostics.  Mother's family was Jewish, but also, never celebrated any of the traditions.

Ah, but the year that my brother was drowned, and my father died -- that got Mom totally into all the traditions, including lighting two candles on the dining table every Friday night. (The Sabbath tradition -- "shabbat"  it is called.)

Mom didn't give me religion or faith or any belief in life after death -- the  beliefs that are important, and sustain so many friends -- beliefs you pass on to your offspring, which I couldn't didn't do -- I wish I had.

But Mom  gave me a renew-itself  body -- an ability to heal very very quickly, cuts as well as broken bones, and broken spirit too.  She gave me resilience.  I spring back. I persevere. Though I get down and discouraged, Mom somehow taught me -- gave me a precious power --. a keep-going, reinvent, I'll do better next time spirit.

So why did she visit me last night?  Because Mom is me. The woman who visited me was an  aspect of myself. that continues to amaze me.  Depressed, not sure what to do or where to go, I was visited, and told I have to go shopping.  I was scrapping with me, sitting in my flowerpot, not wanting to take on anything new, grow or change or do anything that might make me uncomfortable. 

Mom was annoyed.  Mom told me, "You have plenty of time." 

I didn't want to listen, I covered my ears, turned away, got busy and pretended I was too busy to bother with what she was suggesting.

Mom said, "You can do anything -- that thing, that idea that's in the back part of your mind -- take it out, look at it, get to work."

That's what we were scrapping about. What's is this idea?  Oh, just something I sort of, maybe, possibly, might start working on -- shh -- verbalizing it now might jinx it.       . . 

I found a new bulb.

Her light, my light is lit.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Answering his wife, Emily Frankel's question, John Cullum explains how he reacts to the sound of applause, how it actually affects him when he's performing.

Describing how Marlene Dietrich used applause and Richard Burton's concern with being unique, John admits that getting laughs concerns him more than bravos.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Lost things aren't gone. You find yourself searching for that ribbon,  photo, letter, or memento that you put somewhere, but can't find anymore. You can't pick it up, but gee, it keeps itching in your mind.

Found things  --wow -- a wave of joy comes over you, like  balmy fresh air.

I had a towel -- green -- part of a set I bought for my bathroom about 12 years ago when I came back to NYC, temporarily, and then, decided I'd stay. I bought green things and redecorated my bathroom, my private room in which there are shelves and a cabinet. Things I use, or used to use, or want to use are assembled, and more or less maintained, often deliberately ignored, but that's also a way of maintaining them.

One green towel got a spot on it from iodine that spilled.   I couldn't use the towel.  I cut it in half. The cut edge was unraveled. I folded it, sewed a narrow hem, rolled the hem and made a French seam that I'd learned to do a million-trillion heart beats ago, when I was learning to make tailored shirts for my husband. Don't ask me why -- was it that gorgeous shirt from a show that someone had designed?  I wanted to make a shirt that style for my man.

So the folded half of the green towel became -- one day, when my studio floor needed to be cleaned -- the cloth I attached to the large broom's brush, a two-foot-long brush that's part of our heavy-duty broom, that we use to sweep the 25 X 45 ft. floor of my dance studio.  With it safety-pinned around the broom's brush, the dust, grit and some of last month's rosin (that I use so I won't slip) were easily picked up. 

Marta, who is a sister whom I pay to come in and clean things once-a-month, used it. She wet the towel, rung out the water, re-safety-pinned it, and damp-mopped.  Enough rosin remained!  She did it last month and this month!  It works!

We celebrated. Marta washed the towel. I put it away and ... well, I don't know where I stashed it. I've looked for it, keep re-tracing the thought I had when I took the damp, half-piece of green towl and hung it up some place, but I can find it.

Each time I see Marta, we say, "Where 's the towel?"

So lost things, are lost, but never do they really disappear from the important place in your mind where you put things that aren't solved, things that you privately, personally,  unimportantly, but importantly need to solve.

If I find the green towel, actually -- after a moment of joy,  that blessed balmy breeze -- well, it won't make much difference.  I'll just have room in my personal lost-and-found, for other, important lost things for me to think about, look for, and try and try, keep trying to find. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Sometimes, when you go backstage after a show that you don't like, or after a party that wasn't t fun, nevertheless, you tell the host, or the cast members. that you loved it. My husband says I'm a Pinocchio-tress.

I think WHITE LIES are a social necessity.

What is "black and white" -- the whole truth -- real truth -- nowadays?

Black implies doom, sorrow, mourning, negativity -- strange things that suddenly appear in the darkness -- if you're in a black mood everything seems dark, and bound to fail. White suggests brightness -- sunlight, clean, pure, optimistic, hopeful, truthful things.

But over the past year of political shenanigans, truth has become sort of gray. There are true facts and not true facts -- facts that are not provably accurate, realistic or truthful in accordance with the actual state of affairs -- facts that aren't conformable to an essential reality, (in other words, specifics, rather than what is manifest or assumed.)

And advertising's conditioned us to absorb exaggeration, distortion, and untrue statements about bargains, healing, cleaning, beautifying, and life-long guarantees.

Even so, generally speaking -- white is good, and black is not good --it is bad.

Hey, I wear black clothes -- aside from them making one look skinnier, a black outfit doesn't need washing and ironing as much as white clothes -- no doubt about it -- white things have to be laundered more often -- they show the dirt.

It's kind of a fact of life.

Okay-forget political correctness for the moment, let's get down to old, somewhat out-of-date, brass tacks. Being a White person, I think white looks nicer, is better, white is prettier. Black person's noses, mouths, and hair are different from what I call "pretty." Also, despite all that's been said and done, BLACKS are mostly poorer, less educated, (Maybe they're sexier -- they certainly look better on a dance floor than WHITES do -- especially when they wear white. They look great in white. They wear white a lot.)

Anyhow, white is also snow -- there's nothing quite so wonderful as a field of virgin snow, or the look of sunbeams. I like black coffee, but coffee with cream is what most people prefer. White bread and white rice. are also what's preferred. "White," in history, was counter-revolutionary. It's the visible part of the eyeball, the outer part of the egg that surrounds the yoke. (I can't remember anymore -- are we NOT supposed to eat eggs? or just eat the white?)

It's hard to keep track -- times have changed. Back in the days when we typed on typewriters, we could obliterate errors with white-out tape or the liquid in a tiny jar.

Why did I get onto this subject?. Because NYC'S Guggenheim Museum has announced that in January 2013, it will have the first exhibit of Picasso's black and white paintings, sculptures, and drawings. Yes, other painters have worked in black and white, but Pablo Picasso is one of the kings in art, and art affects every aspect of our culture.

Leonardo da Vinci said:
“A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.”
Pablo Picasso said::
“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.”

So study Picasso's picture.-- that odd, outlined white shape in the lower right corner. I think Picasso left it unfinished, deliberately. It looks like a cartoon of a kid in a dunce-cap. Is it me? Is it you?

Sunday, November 25, 2012


"Do you do floors and windows?" John asks, right off the bat. Teasing and revealing that he wouldn't hire Emily in any capacity, John finally explains why.

The Cullums discuss job hunting -- what an employee needs to do, and how they, as employers would handle hiring someone.