Saturday, February 11, 2012


John Cullum and Em have fun wondering how an alien would react to things we take for granted. Em figures an alien would be bewildered by people with cell phones -- a crowded street full of people talking out loud to themselves.

John contemplates how an alien would react if he saw hundreds of people seated in a large area, looking up at platform --watching a play being performed.

Out of the blue, John Cullum recalls a spooky, nerve-wracking, scary incident -- how long it took he doesn't remember, but what happened to him felt like an hour. He was onstage, starring in "Deathtrap" on Broadway one night, when a guy, seemingly an ordinary member of the audience, acted like an alien. The man got up from where he was sitting, walked down the center aisle of the theater, climbed the stage steps, and joined John and the cast on the stage in the middle of scene.

How John and the other cast members reacted, how tricky it was to get this very strange guy off the stage, is a very special, unusual stage-story experience.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


That's a photograph of a "God Particle." If you have any room in your brain for a new concept, it may be a way to find out if God exists

Next to John Cullum, my husband's side of the bed, there's a book by Stephen Hawking, a bible, and this magazine picture. He's fascinated by religion, "black holes" and this latest new theory.

Einstein's relativity, the Fourth Dimension, speed of light, black holes, and gravity are not my cup of tea.

I remember Newton and the apple, but what is "matter," why do things have "mass," why does "matter" have gravity -- when JC's talking about "particles," I find myself blinking -- not bored, but not sure what we're talking about.

I can chat about who's winning in sports, but except for the Green Bay Packers, and Roger Federer, it doesn't excite me. I don't know why "matter" is such an important issue, so I went on a Googling adventure.

It was THE Issue at a get-together in the packed auditorium at the Cern laboratory outside Geneva. The Lab houses the large Hadron Collider.

At the center bottom of this picture, you can see a tiny figure (it's in a dark jacket, brown pants), and get a sense of the size of the machine that is the world's most powerful particle accelerator.

It's mammoth. The Hadron Collider sends subatomic protons (smaller ones) racing in opposite directions through a 17-mile tunnel, getting them to move faster and faster until, at nearly the speed of light, they collide head on -- bang-crash-boom -- smash together.

The impact vaporizes the particles into tiny fireballs of pure energy. The scientists in charge of this say they have, with this process, re-created the conditions of the first moments after the Big Bang. Each collision is a mini Big Bang" creating so many particles that decay into many-many other particles. But one particle -- the one that Peter Higgs, top scientist at the University of Edinburgh, saw, noted, measured, and photographed occurs at the same place with each test.

It's called the "Higgs Boson." In particle physics "boson" is a rarely used term that, means particle. (My husband pronounced it "bow son" -- is that southern politeness? Maybe it's booson --sort of like a woman's chest?)

Anyway, It's a huge discovery. It's been seen by a second team that referred to the Higgs boson as "The God particle."

It needs to be proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this "boson always appears in the same space, same time. To me, reading through a mountain of technical descriptions, it sounded like much ado over nothing, but a particle, according to Hawking, is probably what created the world.

The woman who heads a third team, Fabiola Gianotti, said, "We cannot conclude anything at this stage. We need four times as much data."

Getting sufficient data requires many thousands of fireballs, and the giant accelerator will need another year or more to crank all of them out and allow Gianotti and her colleagues to announce whether or not they've proved the Higgs Boson.

Gee, if it's proved, does it prove God created the world? Did God create all the the other fantastical things that scientists can't really explain?

I'm not ready to debate any of this with bible-Hawking-book-reader-husband JC. But I'm not blinking, wondering what the fuss is about.

Now that you've read what irreligious Em has gleaned, here's a educated scientist summarizing what I've explained.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012


All those people on the street, talking, chatting out loud to themselves ...

It seems like a world of crazies, until I see the wire crown on the talker's head, or the plug in his ear.

It reminds me of life before people stopped smoking. Most everyone smoked. There were whispers and rumors -- smoking stunts your growth -- it's bad for you -- you might get cancer from smoking. Then came headlines, lawsuits, statistics on lung cancer. And no smoking areas -- more, and then more.

Now, smokers are frowned upon, pitied, ostracized. There are rebels -- young, non-conformist females cluster outside their offices at lunchtime, puffing away. So I edge around them or cross the street.

Okay, there are whispers and rumors about mobile phones -- about 329 million people in the U.S. have them. And fancier, more amazing do-everything phones are selling like hot cakes in the marketplace. Okay, you love your cell phone. It isn't loud and clear that they're shortening you life, or maybe killing you.

So, let's skip the life and death consequences, and just look at WHY we're using them?

Is it for communication? For buying stuff? Is it also, perhaps, because as population increases, we're losing our identities as individuals? And what makes us unique is the people and things with which we're connecting. -- no doubt about it -- the cell connects with whomever we need to communicate, faster, much easier, almost magically.

Uh oh? Is it because a cell can take photos?

In a carton I have thousands of pictures of me dancing. I don't look at often -- it's like fiddling with clothes I've outgrown. Revisiting the day, the hour, the moment in a photo, for me, somehow diminishes the pleasure of now.

But maybe for you, the phone's the book you don't really have time to write -- your memoirs.

I'm thinking that chatting on your cell phone has become a sort of a universal comforting, energizing adjunct-- a NOW-tool -- like credit cards and ATM cards have been. It's something you can do that minimizes noise, the hustle and bustle, the sense that you're just another face in the crowd -- a DO that keeps you functioning in our every-day-more-complicated world.

It's wonderful -- communicating and sharing without touching. With a cell phone's invisible connections you can visit any place, be wherever you want be in the world.

Yes. We need them. Even if our call phones are the cigarette story, they're pleasuring us and helping us survive.


Sunday, February 5, 2012


Em asks her husband, John Cullum, what time in his life would he want to revisit.

It's a question that many of us ask ourselves -- would you want a chance to start your career again? What would you do differently if you were a kid again?

John Cullum's answer surprises Em. His favorite time, the time he'd want to revisit, was his Junior High School days.

John explains that he was already playing tennis and winning matches, that he'd gotten his first part in a school play. He surprises Em as he delightedly mentions "Ethel Capps."

No, she wasn't a pretty young girlfriend.

What Ethel Capps taught him, how it led him to May Gadd, and a whole world that John fell in love with -- still loves -- that's what John Cullum would love to revisit if he could turn back the clock.