Friday, April 12, 2013


Why do you love your cell phone?

Is it the way it looks? Or how it behaves -- that it's friendly, astoundingly easily to handle, as it gives you access to -- wow -- practically everything in the world?

Facts from The Week magazine:
"Mobile use has tripled; most people spend 1 hour &.27 minutes per day on the phone. Most people check their phones at least once, every hour." 

I checked other online sources that said, most folks check their phones 150 times per day, once every six-and-a-half minutes, or nine to 10 times per hour.

I found similar facts in Pew Research Center's summary, The Best (And Worst) of Mobile Phone Connectivity." Click the link to The Best (And Worst) of Mobile Phone Connectivity, and read how people sleep with phones next to the bed, and how often different age groups check their phones.

It freaks me out -- millions of people spending hours, every day, with their heads bent, crouched, hunched over this shiny thing they've bought -- bought into -- because billionaire businesses have spent billions on making them think it's wonderful.

My son, JD Cullum, phoned the other day -- thrilled, excited about his new phone. Gushing about all the business and personal and recreational things he can do just by fingering the phone's face, he sounded as if he were climbing the ladder of life just by caressing it.

I'm shuddering. A booklet arrived from Dell computers (I use one) promoting "fingering." New computers are imitating phones that are obsolescing the computer.

I don't finger. I type-talk fast -- uninhibitedly, free as a bird -- with fingers on a keyboard, as I create my blog, plus stories, essays, poems, plays, novels on my computer, even though the market for my writing is changing -- yep -- it's fading away.

Sci-fying my concerns about this, I'm picturing the future -- maybe someday we'll stick a suction cup on our foreheads that inputs words and pictures, or perhaps reading will become brain food you swallow on a tablespoon.

Cell phones is a subject I've blogged about four times. My main moan -- do phones harm you, do they cause cancer? Though reports from many reliable sources have said YES, the truth is obfuscated by all the tests, the reassuring statistics that cell phone manufacturers keep providing.

Okay, answer this question: How many times a day do you check your phone -- play with it, test it, admire it, or seek information from it? Now, take a moment -- ponder, plan, picture what your life would be like, without a smart phone.

Be brave. Take a week off. Try living for seven days without touching your cell phone. And see how much fun it can be when you're free as a bird.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


What a DREAM -- to be one of those perfect looking girls in the line, doing that step-kick-step -- doing it perfectly -- exactly as high as the other girls do.

If that dream hits you when you're little ... beware -- it's a snowball rolling down a hill that gets bigger and bigger. But sometimes, Mother Nature, with her sunshine, melts away what you think you want.

Before you can try to be a Rockette, you will study tap, ballet, acrobatics, jazz,  and hip-hop -- that can take five, more likely ten years. It's like ... well, nothing else ... It's a huge commitment, like being a nun -- full time, night and day, you are devoted to improving your dance skills.

How do you feel while you're learning footwork, kicks, pirouettes, jumps and leaps, and stretching to make your body more limber -- you feel great.

Simple things become profound. You learn to be an imitator -- how to glance at a combination  of steps in any style, and be able to perform it immediately, with your feet, legs, arms, hands, and head, exactly the way it's demonstrated.

You become an expert -- you learn how to fix your hair, so that no matter how much you bend or shake your head, it won't get straggly -- you study what to wear for a dance class that makes you appear slender with long legs -- you test and find out what color, size and type of dance-slippers make your feet look pointy, articulate.

You endure discomforts -- the right slippers can hurt your feet; French cut leotards (body suits or panties), need constant tending so that your buttocks aren't exposed. You spy on what older dancers do, and experiment with brassieres, and leg tights -- it's fret, fuss, finagle every day. The mirror-mirror-on-the-wall is your friend and enemy.

Of course you watch your weight, and memorize the calorie and carbohydrates numbers of your favorite foods. You don't indulge in candy, ice cream, cake, cookies, MacDonald's burgers, or any of the usual take-out foods.

Of course, you work on your personality. You're friendly with other girls because they can help you; you learn to handle competition -- even if you're shy or modest, you're able to change clothes with other girls  ogling you out of the corner of their eyes. It's not easy, but you learn to look happy, or confident (even when you're not), whenever you're dancing. Dancers, like models, actresses and singers, deal with envy, and jealousy on a daily basis.

To audition for a job as a Rockette, Radio City's Personnel Department says you must be 18, a high school graduate, and between 5'6" and 5'10½ tall. Radio city has 80 Rockettes, eight shows a day, two teams of 40 dancers. Alternating, each team does four shows. If you get the job, you rehearse every day with union regulated hours and breaks for food and bathroom. Yes, you're like a nun -- it's a full time job, with little or no time for anything else, like dating or having a love life.

Of course, while you're transforming yourself into a dancer, you find out about other jobs. Being a corps de ballet dancer, or a chorus girl in a show, are other goals to pursue, but Rockette -- well, it's got status -- people have seen those photos of girls in a line -- they are world famous.

Yes, it's a lot of years to invest, a lot of grim, hard work that isn't fun, but gee, if you actually get to be a Rockette, you grin and bear it.

Truth: I never dreamed of being a Rockette. I didn't want to dance in a line of girls, wear the same costume they were wearing, and look or be like them. I wanted to be me, dancing what I felt. I wanted to be a soloist alone on the stage, or be a prima ballerina dancing in front of the group, maybe occasionally, with a male partner.

And studying  and handling all the things that you have to handle if you're going to be a dancer, I found various ways to be me. Mostly, again and again, I practiced expressing what I felt as I moved through space, doing with my body -- arms, legs, head, torso -- just what I felt. 

That's me. Even if it's awkward, embarrassing, unpopular, those dancer habits persist as I'm dancing with words, turning, step-kick-stepping as a writer.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Will Joshua Bell become a household name -- a Bernstein or a rock-star like Dudamel, the famed Venezuelan conductor and violinist?

On this man's face, I see a sense of humor, strength of mind, an I am what I am confidence.

He's 45, an established violinist on tour right now, also director of London's famous Academy of St Martin's Chamber Orchestra.

Belinda Luscombe, Time Magazine reporter, asks her usual clear questions in her usual, un-clear way. ( Golly, I wish she'd take lessons in diction)

Right off the bat, she asks Josh why he doesn't wear a tux, and he explains that the necktie you wear with a tux, sits exactly where his violin has to sit. Belinda asks why he can't wear a turtle-neck. Josh says that a turtle neck implies a wrong generation.

Yes, Belinda's easing into the chat, but I'm ho-humming. He doesn't seem like the kind of interviewee that needs careful coddling. 

On Belinda goes -- to his Gibson Stradivarius that's worth $4 million.  She wonders how he protects it when he's traveling.  Joshua Bell explains that security for it is a secret he doesn't want to disclose -- "A Strad is like traveling with a baby. You watch over it, all the time."

And his fingers -- does he protect them? Yes -- though he does most domestic activities, he avoids using a knife -- slicing vegetables is OUT.

Finally, Belinda comes up with a question that relates to his art,  Ten years ago, Bell played Bach in a Washington, D.C. subway. How did that affect him? Did it start his real career? It was certainly picked up, photographed, written about in many newspapers.  

Joshua let her know it was a PR gimmick. And it worked. It got him on his way to bigger and better engagements.

Since Joshua Bell was a child prodigy, he has had many ideas about how to teach a child to play a violin. Belinda asks how he manages to take care of the three sons he lives with, sons he had with an ex-girlfriend. Joshua said that he sees them five times a day and shares things "wonderfully well" with their mother.

(Five times a day? That got me wondering if he was exaggerating a little.)

The most important subjects -- how he fell in love with music, and would he encourage a child to try and be a professional performer -- they weren't discussed.

Here's most of the Time Magazine interview:
What wakes me, shows me the artist -- it's Joshua saying when you've poured your heart and soul into a big piece, and fans come back and tell you how touched they were by the little flashy piece you played. Yes, "poured your heart and soul into it" -- when you love your craft, you become IT -- the music -- you soar and go above and beyond YOU -- it's a transcendental, astounding, glorious concentration, a concentration I know from dancing. Here's Bell pouring his heart and soul into it with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic.
And here's this wonderful artist telling us what in his heart and soul, as he's playing. .