Monday, December 29, 2014


Emily, as each year ends, asks her husband, John Cullum, about his New Year's resolutions.

John, as usual, hems and haws; Emily, as usual, announces something wifely about cooking more.

Recalling -- oh my -- many other years, and other New Year's Eve resolutions, the Cullums agree -- their best resolutions have been made NOT before the holiday, but during the year when something happens.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


When pressure is on you to do something -- start it, finish it, make a decision, confront an issue -- if you don't start, finish, decide, confront, you are immobilized.

There are two of you -- Grownup-you, and Child-you.

Grownup Em  has learned the rules, has had experiences, coped, handled, negotiated, choreographed, avoided, confronted, and accomplished many things.

Child-Em has needs, fears, impractical dreams, and expectations. She often feels quite small, vulnerable, and not very capable.

Child-Em  panics. Wants to hide, or sleep, or watch a dumb TV show.

Grownup-Em tells Child-Em what to do, or not do, and calms her by pointing her in a direction.

If you remind the child parentally -- patiently, logically, lovingly -- the child feels safer, and can even handle rather scary things. Therefore, the Grownup-you needs to guide the Child-you, into "Tackle one thing at a time."

The Grownup knows how to organize disorder into an orderly sequence of activities.

Like -- "One two, button my shoe,
Three, four, close the door,
Five, six, pick up sticks.
Seven, eight, close the gate.
NINE -- you're fine!
Ten is not the "big fat hen,"
It's just the end.

So LOVE the Child and coddle the Child,
Tell the Child in you "it's okay."
Help the Child push worries away,
Banish, make vanish all the fears --
And strongly advocate "no tears!"
The balm is being calm.
It helps the two of you
Unwind, and re-find
Peace of mind.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Here's me a few years ago, talking about my most favorite gift.

John Cullum is no longer in the show that I mention in the video -- "Scottsboro Boys," which was a cast, music, and a memory that stays with him. Off Broadway, or on Broadway, it's not the success of the show, but the family feeling he had with the actors, director, and stage crew that he cherishes.  

I feel the same way about my favorite gift -- it's  not very expensive, not very rare -- just a gift I was given in a light-brown manila envelope, stuffed with crinkled-up newspaper.

Why the gift is still my favorite, most cherished gift is not because of the way it looks, but what the giver figured out, and why the gift was chosen.

Friday, December 12, 2014


I am reminding you -- nagging, alerting, loudly informing you.  You have got to stand tall.

Yes, you may have seen this blog before. I nagged about this last year and the year before -- I haven't been standing tall, so I figure you probably aren't standing tall either.

Every morning I stand tall.

Around 6:50 A.M. I march into my dance studio-theater, striding with long, bold steps, looking straight ahead and beyond so that my head is high. I cross the 40 foot floor, hearing my sneakers squeak and dismissing my do-this- do-that morning thoughts.

If  "stand up straight" worked like a mantra, I'd be peachy fine -- perky, zesty, quite attractive looking. Alas, commanding myself like the boss, director, choreographer, doesn't work anymore.

(If you are slumped over, or dumpy looking, you can read what I've said about this in blogs I wrote back in 2009  --"SSS"  (Sit, Stand, Straight), or  "Promenade."  But I'm not encouraging you to click the links -- the fact is, I am older and wiser  and yes, a little more slumped now.)

How you look when you enter a room is more important than weight, diction, hair style, makeup, or what you're wearing. Even if no one sees you, it makes a difference. It's an inner thing of pride and confidence. When you like yourself, you think more clearly and accomplish more -- you do whatever you are doing better -- more efficiently, more skillfully, accurately and thoroughly.

How to stand tall:

Be a toothpaste tube. 

Squeeze yourself in the middle -- front, back, sides, all around. While you're squeezing count ten chimpanzees -- "one chimpanzee -- two, three," etc.  (One chimpanzee = one second.)

That's it. If you want to do more, toothpaste tube yourself  three times a day.

Then, three times a day, go to a wall.

Stand against it... heels,

back of legs,

your waist,

your upper back,

your shoulders,

back of your head.

And count ten chimpanzees.

If you want to do more, do this at least twice a day.

Truth -- what gets in the way of standing tall is the fact that most of the day, you are sitting. Therefore, try doing this three times a day.  Or, every time you are thinking of getting a snack, first, go stand against the wall and do this exercise.

Hey, if you are passionately concerned with how you look, or dispassionately realistic and not happy with the way you look, do the wall four to six times a day. It will definitely make a difference.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


I saw her face on the cover of Time. I'd heard the name, but never heard her music. I read the cover story -- and read, and read -- read a lot of other stuff.

Big Fact -- she's a super star at age 26,  breaking records, selling much more than Lady Gaga, Rianna, Miley and Eminem.

As a child she had a BIG DREAM -- she wrote stories, poems, won a nationwide poetry contest, and performed, wherever and whenever she could. At 11, she flew too Nashville to give the demo Cd she's made to various companies. Nothing happened. She did it again at 13 -- got an offer from RCA; turned it down and signed with Sony/ATV.  She was the youngest songwriter the company had ever signed.

A year later, she got her parents into move to Henderson, Tennessee (the outskirts of Nashville), where she wrote music while finishing high school. A Sony executive helped her publish her first album (at 15), that went gold, platinum later on. The many awards she's won, the major venues where she's performed, the sell-out crowds -- her huge success -- is perhaps the result of shrewd awareness and her thorough knowledge of the music business. She knows the right moves -- how to make and sell albums sell like hot cakes -- how to sell tickets -- how to get herself the biggest, best sponsors.

Taylor Swift's music: Well ... She's very pretty, very tall, (5'10"), has great legs, but doesn't sell sex in what she chooses to wear; her dance moves are rather childlike, ordinary (not spectacular); she sells a pretty, friendly "very nice" girl whom you'd invite to your home for dinner. Her voice -- tone, delivery, phrasing -- well ... her songs have a story-telling style that doesn't inspire me to sing along with her, or hold onto the words or the ideas in my mind, but obviously, she inspires the younger generation.

Since her music doesn't thrill me, I asked my son JD, who said -- "She's hot. Hey, a young pretty girl comes along, who's beautiful enough, who's a good performer, who either dresses in a bold way or sings in a bold way, and everyone declares how revolutionary and ambitious and amazing she is, till the next one comes along."


More than anything, I'm intrigued by Taylor's drive, her business brain that analyses, figures out what people want to hear, and creates it. She expresses a private thought or experience passionately. Making her real self anonymous, but digging into herself, this artist shares her experiences as a girl-woman.

(Wait a minute, isn't that what I do? Isn't that what anyone HAS to do in order to find an audience? That's what I did when I choreographed for my dance company. Didn't I do that when I wrote my six novels -- created characters in which I could express aspects of the real me?)

Okay, hiding herself, Taylor creates drama out of her real life -- love, success, enemies, fears, sorrows -- and hides herself while expressing herself.

Here are 3 videos. What do you think? Do you sing her songs in your mind? Are you part of the younger generation who is thrilled? Or part of the older
generation, like me, thinking hm ... hmm ... hmmm?

Taylor Swift in "1989."

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Emily Frankel is stuck; she wants to write a blog about how important it is to exercise during the holiday season but everything she describes seems boring.

John, who doesn't like to exercise, jumps in, and reminds her how she exercised, how exercise saved her life after her back was broken in a car crash -- how exercise got her back to dancing professionally.

His questions and her answers become a discussion on how to make boring exercise less boring.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Sometimes on the highway there's  a warning.

Sometimes you just keep going.

You put on your survival hat and travel down the winding road on foot, on a bike, in an auto, or donning your wings.

Hey, "if you come to a fork in the road, take it." That's what Yogi Berra said.

Why? Probably it's what Berra learned from doing what he did in baseball.

If you don't move down the road, maybe it's because you don't know where the road might be taking you. Even so, take a step, then another, and see whatever is there to see -- the yellow line, cracks in the road, rocks along the side, or maybe the foliage as you look beyond the trees and wonder where you are going.

Here's a remark to remember: "A
person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it," said Jean de la Fontaine, 17th Century French poet whose fables are still quoted nowadays.

Travel lightly -- don't pack all your clothes, your mementos, your special favorite things. The less you carry with you, the easier it is to take strong steps and get from where you are, to another place where you can pause and look around.

Ayn Rand said, "People create their own questions because they are afraid to look straight. All you have to do is look straight and see the road, and when you see it, don't sit looking at it -- walk."

Okay, if you're tired, you can't help recalling other long walks that led to empty spots and dead-end places, dark places -- where time was wasted looking for ways to get out, or ways to back out while traveling slowly backwards.

Hey, even moving backwards you are progressing. Back, sideways, forward, or up or down is progressing -- it's life's exercise.

You could quote Hawking, Einstein, Margaret Thatcher, Buddha -- a  lot of major thinkers talk about the roads we travel on. You could sing that song:

"Life is a winding road,
with many twists and turns.
You must make the right choices,
or you will crash and burn.

There is always a chance,
the wrong choice will be chosen.
But do not fret, and do not fear.
The right choice you will hear.

Life is a winding road,
with many different choices.
Be careful what you choose,
for there are many different voices."

Yes, sing but don't judge, attach praise, or fears, or definitions. Be there. Just be there as you go.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Have you ever pondered, 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 Pavlova on my wall. I devoured the stories about Isadora Duncan, a barefoot dancer who danced to "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony," and 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 and reincarnation; then palmistry, and studied my palm. 
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 and be 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 from paraplegia, was published. I hired a press agent. She arranged a dozen interviews with TV and radio hosts and 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.

Hey, if you want fame, don't be naive, be skeptical. My dictionary says: "famous, (1) known by many people. (2) honored for an achievement. (3) synonyms: renowned, celebrated, noted, notorious, distinguished, eminent, illustrious."

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 scary at a public gathering, and creating a panic. That will get you for 15 minutes of fame, which might include a minute on TV's "Entertainment Tonight," and more than likely a fine, possibly jail time.

Advice, from a un-famous, would-be famous-er: 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.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


John Cullum's "Thanksgiving" Email to Em:

I am from a large Southern family of which my mother was the matriarch, and every Thanksgiving was an big, exciting affair with aunts and uncles and cousins, some of which I only saw once a year. Emotions were high, and along with love and good spirits were moments of family squabbles of epic and frightening proportions that sometimes resulted in enduring resentments. This tradition still continues with my nieces and nephews and though we may not give as much thought as we should to the pilgrims and indians, it’s a time when our different families renew their connections to each other and that’s a lot to give thanks for.

But the most memorable Thanksgiving dinner for me was the one a young redheaded dancer made for me in her Artist In Residence studio in New York City. It wasn’t a turkey, just a large chicken, and it never occurred to me that this gorgeous girl could even cook, but boy, she could – all the trimmings, fresh cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, vegetables and all. I could hardly believe it. There she was, the best dancer I had ever seen, gracefully whirling around a tiny kitchen, whipping up a dinner as good as any I had ever eaten, and all for me. Never had a Thanksgiving meal been made exclusively for me and me alone, and with such love. It was an experience I couldn’t walk away from. And I never did. I guess Emily decided if I was going to keep hanging around, she might as well marry me. Which she did.
John Cullum

Thought this might please you, Em. Your loving hubby.

holy minorka catfish what a loving darling hug thrill tickle delight this gives me. Very truly yours, your wife.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Emily Frankel says she plans each day as if she is the boss, as well as the employee. A good day is when she can get all the jobs done that she planned.

John doesn't find that's what makes a day good for him. He enjoys being able to put his mind on whatever the job is -- fixing something, studying a script, or answering email, but watching his favorite sports teams, or a favorite movie when he's in the mood for relaxation, is what makes a day especially good.

Friday, November 21, 2014


I like the way Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC Director  (Center for Disease Control), answered the first questions we asked. His clear, calm, teacher-like way of taking his time, giving reasons and details about why Ebola would not cause an epidemic in America, were comforting.

The media attacked him, and since then, have blamed Friedan for not warning us that there would be other cases in the United States, also for not insisting that travel to and from Africa be banned.

Meanwhile, parents have been pulling kids out of schools, politicians have grabbed onto our Ebola fears, and are constantly telling-selling us that the Obama administration is indecisive, inefficient, and not protecting us.

Recently, there was a six page spread in Time Magazine -- Dr. Freiden's background and resume, along with 12 answers to the questions many of us are asking since the Ebola scare began -- with answers by highly qualified, scientific medical experts.

1. What went wrong at the CDC?  Ebola was, and still is, a new problem; the CDC explained what it knew about this deadly contagious disease, based on what information it had -- information that now is constantly being updated.

2. Could the virus (that is mutating) become airborne?  No. Ebola can't survive without a fluid (saliva, sweat, blood, feces, vomit).

3. Who quarantines a patient?  What about his legal rights? State and Federal Agencies are required to protect public health and can issue a quarantine; the burden rests with  public health officials to show sufficient justification while being as nonrestrictive  as possible.  Under federal law, a hospital cannot disclose patients' names; if an individual violates a formal quarantine order, it can be treated as a criminal offence.

4. What about experimental drugs and vaccines? None are as yet approved by the FDA; two are being tested and test results will be disclosed in December.

5. Can I get sick if I touch surfaces that were in contact with Ebola?  There is only one confirmed case of person with Ebola, who touched an Ebola patient's blanket. One should avoid touching surfaces that have been in contact with fluids from Ebola victims.

6. Should the U.S. ban travel to and from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea? Homeland Security said that stopping visas will increase the risk of infected travelers circumventing the current restrictions, and finding their way to the U.S. Instead, airline companies are ordered to ticket all travelers from these countries to one of the 5 designated airports with quarantine stations.

7. If you survive Ebola can you get it again? There is no record of survivors getting it again. The article explains that the Ebola virus is similar to Chicken Pox which makes antibodies and produces immune cells that can destroy the virus.

8. How likely is a major outbreak outside of West Africa? Slim, though countries bordering infected areas are at risk, since these countries are not equipped to manage infectious diseases.

9. How do hospitals dispose of Ebola patient's body fluids? Anything that comes in contact with the patient must be sterilized, generally with steam sterilization and/or incinerated. In some states, waste is stored in watertight containers that are carted away by contractors; fecal waste is flushed, treated with chlorine and bleach, and disposed of as hazardous waste. This varies by state; a full article could be devoted to this.

10. What's the next Ebola?  There's still Bird flu (it might be worse than Ebola.) and MERS, (Middle. Respiratory Syndrome). No vaccines have been developed.

11. Why are people freaking out? In the world's history, there have been many cases of people misunderstanding infectious disease, such as the Black Death in Europe in 1300. The Ebola frenzy seems more akin to how we grappled with HIV/AIDs in the 1980s. People generally respond in two ways -- a quick gut feeling, or more reflective thinking based on information. Though we know that flu can contribute to the death of thousands, and heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, we are more likely to worry that we might contract this disease that has affected only a handful of people outside West Africa.

12. Is there anything I can do to help? Organizations in the stricken countries need money; Doctors Without Borders,  (Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF) and the Red cross needs money;  CDC needs donations for protective equipment, ready-to-eat meals, generators, vehicles, and motorcycles. These organization are not recruiting trainees because they would need extensive training; health care workers with experience can volunteer through USAID. Donations of $10 or more can be made to WHO (World Health Organization) by texting EBOLA 27722 which supports relief efforts in West Africa.

Here's a link to Time's "ANSWERS TO EBOLA'S HARD QUESTIONS: I have pared down some of the overlong answers; the article was helpful, but there are still "iffy" elements. Because Ebola is relatively new, CDC experts are currently gathering detailed information, making predictions as well as conjecturing, based on what is happening right now. Their answers suggest that these experts feel that knowledge, plus facts and experience, are the teachers. They are telling-selling us that decisions based on fear, create panic and chaos.

What we can do right now is learn and share what we learn, with friends and acquaintances -- near, as well as far away neighbors.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Emily Frankel remembers her delight as she looked down and saw John Cullum coming up the four flights of stairs that lead to her top floor loft. She's very surprised when John describes a completely different scene.

How and why that first visit, their first date, became him staying there--the two of them living together ever since that first date--it's a story John and Emily haven't told anyone even though it's a sweet romantic story they cherish.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Have you thought, every so often, about writing a book?

The idea of writing a book floats in the air like a magic carpet. Golly, just about everyone I know has thought, at one time or another, I ought to write a book.

Aside from a huge desire to visit the kingdom of fame, before you write your book, you need to figure out what you want to write about.

Is it something important you want to SAY to the world?  Or a life story, an amazing adventure -- a love story, passion, addiction, compulsion -- whatever -- grab a pencil and paper and scrawl some words that remind you of various possibilities.

Hey, this could take weeks! You could use the fortuity of having read this blog, and make the list today.

After you eeny-meeny-mini-moe for awhile, pick an idea, and write the first sentence of your book. Just do it. Don't fuss over the first sentence, write it and keep writing for ten minutes.

You're on the magic carpet. It's scary, the world is rushing by above you and below you, and you could lose your balance, but it's the beginning of a marvelous ride.

Don't re-read what you wrote just now. Don't try to share it with a loved one.

I am strongly -- loudly -- advising you, do not get involved with who'll read it or whom you'll read it to, or things like punctuation, spelling, or getting it published. Just keep going at whatever pace fits in with your life.

Selling it -- the 10, 50, or 1000 pages, or whatever you have created, is opening a whole new can of peas. Trying to get your book published can smother you -- divert you from working on the next page, and the next page of your book.

Wait till you're nearing the end of your story. It's a feeling like you're out of gas, sort of sleepy, not excited, aware of books, books, books languishing on shelves, titles in ads, authors talking about books on TV -- that is the time to Google, and investigate "Help You Get Published" links, that will tell you, step by step, what you have to do to get people to read what you wrote.

Realty: It took me about two years for me to get the manuscripts for my six books into an ebook format and get them published.  I spent $5000 on formatting, and creating a website). Right now, after two years online, I have earned about $300.  (You can format and make a website yourself; I could afford to buy help -- my successful actor-husband supports me in a style to which I am happily accustomed.)

This is how I feel sometimes as I read about other authors and their best-seller books, as I am trying to sell mine.

Even do, it's a uniquely fabulous adventure! I'm proud of me! I'm delighted I did it!

My advice:

Just get on the carpet, get going, do it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Have you ever ridden in a driverless car? The idea has always seemed unreal, but today, the passengers in that car could be me and my husband.

Some partly "quasi" driverless "autonomous" cars date back to the 1920s and the 1930s. At the 1939 World's Fair, a street intersection in the City of the Future had autonomous cars. Since the 80's, significant advances have been made in technology and autonomous vehicles are being developed by Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Volvo, as well as in Germany, Switzerland, and Google's project farm, in Frisco.

Google's Self-Driving Car project created the robotic vehicle "Stanley," winning a $2 million prize from the U. S. Department of Defense. Meanwhile, Nevada, Florida, and California have passed laws permitting the operation of autonomous cars.

Currently, Google is working on a Toyota Prius that will have neither steering wheel nor pedals -- just  $150,000 in equipment including a $70,000 radar system, with a range finder that enables the vehicle to generate 3D maps that can be combined with other high-resolution maps of the world, and produce data that allow it to drive itself (or utilize computation from remote computer farms in the area.)
The Google test group is composed of ten cars, (six Toyota Prius, one Audi, and three Lexus' -- each car operates with a Google engineer in the passenger seat. They are being tested on San Francisco's steep hairpin turns, city traffic, on the Golden Gate Bridge, and around Lake Tahoe. The cars drive at the speed limit stored on its maps; they maintain their distance from other vehicles using sensors; the group has done over 700,000 accident-free miles. Though Google says it has no immediate plans to manufacture cars, it plans to develop a business which would market the system and the data behind it to automobile manufacturers.

"No immediate plans"-- hah -- that  means it's going to happen very soon.

I think I'd be nervous, traveling in a car without a driver, but this video tells  me it's going to be fun, safer than driving, and very convenient.   

Sunday, November 9, 2014


John answers gracefully, describing wife Emily Frankel's talents--dancing, cooking, writing, handling various business things skillfully and efficiently.

Em launches in to a paean of praise for John Cullum as a THERE person--some one who's always able to concentrate on an issue, with physical and mental energy, no matter if it's fixing, painting, oiling, plumbing, or auditioning for the next job.

Yes, Emily really likes what John likes about her, but he loves what she likes about him.

Thursday, November 6, 2014



I stared at this picture.

Wham bam. I  SLAMMED down New York Magazine.

Page after page -- photos -- tiny ones, full-page pictures, thumbnails, -- dresses, hats, shirts, underwear, coats, jewelry and shoes, plus homes, cars, toys, kiddie outfits -- sketches, full color, artistic drawings, wildly unusual, inventive -- vintage, rococo, ultra modern styles juxtaposed -- page after page with everything excessive, overdone, too fancy. It made me ill, sick in my head, it told me how abysmally ignorant I was.

I subscribed to the magazine trying to keep up with trends, planning to subscribe to Sports Illustrated, Esquire, the New Yorker -- not Vogue that's always overloaded with the VERY  latest chic stuff -- I want to write about trends that affect, infect, and inspire us -- blammo -- I'm defeated by the massive potpourri of N O W.

Whose concept created this fat issue of New York Magazine? Someone I should avoid? Or was it a combo of who's-who-ers in London, New York, Paris, and Rome?  The too-muchness of clashing styles, the deliberate outlandishness -- is THAT the TREND?

Oh my God, it is -- yes it is -- everybody wants to feel unique, special, different, and be one of a kind, because it's memorable -- because we're lost in a forest of too many people trying to be unique, because there's too many people!

What about simplicity -- things that are plain, monotone, bland? Is simplicity gone?

What should we wear, when crappy smorgasbord too much-ness is IN?

Aiiii  -- just our birthday suits?

Monday, November 3, 2014


Of course, when you are taking a picture of yourself, wear makeup and a flattering outfit. You can get practical advice about light and camera angles if you click this link:
               How to Look Good in Pictures, 11 steps.

Hey guys, you don't need to bother with the 11 steps, if you read what Em has to say, based on experience.

First of all, you need to have something on your mind, not your camera.

Banish the vanity thoughts like should I have put on more lipstick? should I have worn a simpler outfit?

Ignore the discomfort, like my eye itches, or it's tricky to smile when the sun is in my eyes.

Stop thinking about the fact that you are posing for a picture. On and on goes the train of your thoughts about you, your work, the things you have to do, and what to do if the picture turns out poorly.  Stop all those thoughts.

If you want a smiling picture, remind yourself about something that happened recently that was fun, or something that made you laugh. If you want a serious face, recall a death that touched you -- you can even produce glistening tearful eyes it you dig in to one of your real sorrows. If a sad, serious face is wrong -- you want a thoughtful or hopeful or confident look -- find a specific memory within yourself.  Concentrate on it, and you'll probably have that face in your picture.

For some people this is acting -- finding within yourself a reality -- the reality becomes the play and the play script. The fact is, right now, as I am telling you how to look good in a photo, I am giving you a crash course in acting.

The stage is where you are. You are the stage manager and the director. The script is what you, the playwright, perceive as your "best" face.

Keep the thought hot, fresh, vivid, and you'll have a wonderful SELFIE -- yes -- a photo of the real you -- the handsomest you -- the you that you're proud of being.

Friday, October 31, 2014


Working on his "JACK TALE" show, a musical for which he's writing music and lyrics, John Cullum is inspired by what he learned from playing a transvestite in Harvey Fierstein's "Casa Valentina."

Using wigs, scarves, jewelry, eye makeup, rouge, and lipstick, he's playing the five male roles as well as four females. (Photo of some of the characters)

Because he can video a lady talking, and splice it into a scene with a another male or female. talking, John tells Emily, "Maybe we've got a one-man musical I can publish on our You Tube Airbroadcasting channel."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Do we want "smarter homes?" It's big news. I've read various articles. I've seen some amazing photos.   

Cell phone manufacturers are all lathered up, excitedly selling us, telling us that we can run our lives marvelously, easily, efficiently, and much more safely, with our smartphones.

Google, Apple, Samsung. Microsoft, and dozens of other up-and-comers like them, are bubbling over, swollen fat with fantastic new apps. They're partnering with tech companies who create gadgets that you can connect to your home internet and access on your phone. GE, Verizon, Time Warner, AT&T, and all the other providers, are involving themselves in the smarter home concept.

Already, you can control your lights, door locks, heat, air conditioning, monitor yard, and garage, and now there's more -- you can monitor the pool, fences, gates, the mail in your mail box, and feed pets -- there's even a gadget that automatically generates your grocery shopping list.

Picture life in a smarter home: You rise from your bed, lights flicker on, air temperature is already adjusting to the outdoor temperature; while flushing your toilet you could be reminded, "Brush your teeth." As you move to the kitchen, a voice greets you from your sound system, and gives you today’s forecast. Reaching for your coffee that began brewing automatically, there's a broadcast with today's news on the radio or on your television.

When I read about a limbless veteran's customized smart home, I was very impressed. The  apps were significant; the fact that walls, appliances, small and large objects can be moved, and controlled, enabled him to cook and care for himself.  

Smart home companies list all kinds of gadgets that can be connected to your home's Intermet, via a hub. You can even synchronize what you've got in your home right now with a starter kit from Home Depot that costs around $300.

Of course, with high-tech features -- things like an automated shower, wifi tooth brushes, touch screen toilets, a home theater with bed chairs -- it can cost a lot -- $10,000 to $250,000 -- depending on what you want.

It would be -- wow, terrifically nice if I could finger touch a screen, and my boring, everyday chores were taken care of, but ... well, when I, brew coffee for my husband and serve it in one of his favorite mugs -- he's got mugs with show titles shows he's starred in -- that's special; that's fun. And when I mop the floor, or adjust the thermostat ... well, it's like watering my house plants -- I'm proud of myself -- it's enjoyable in the way that ordinary accomplishments are pleasurable.

No doubt about it, a smarter home with everything automated might be flabbergastingly wonderful, but I like being proud of myself for all sorts of not very important little things that make me ME.

Hey,  the Time Magazine that featured smarter homes said, "The dwellings of the future can make you calmer, safer, richer and healthier." I'm saying don't jump on the smart home bandwagon without thinking very carefully about what makes your home, a home sweet home.   

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Doesn't everyone know what Viagra is?  A kid knows it's a medicine for grownups. An old person thinks it's one of those modern popular things that doesn't concern me. Foreigners know it's a sex pill because it's advertized all over the world.

Em, the Town Crier, says beware of :
constipation-fix foods, energy-boosters, lose weight pills -- along with exercise machines, exercise routines, offers to fix your debts, and vacations in paradises -- along with 2 pills versus 6, anti depressant boosters -- along with helpful health businesses like AARP,  interest free furniture chains, and all those promises and pats on their own back that BP, the guys who caused the Deepwater Oil spill disaster, are giving themselves in impressively expensive television ads.  And don't forget -- advertizements drill into us the thrill of killing, gruesome murder death, and instant go-to bed love.

I gave top billing to Viagra because whenever there's an AD for it, I hit the mute button.

It's a silly gesture; actually ADS are an everywhere, everyday larger, fact-of-life -- with TV,  phones, ipods, ipads -- they're insta communication. No matter what you're doing, no matter how sacred, or major whatever it is that you're doing, the vision, sound, ding-a-ling refrain of some AD can flash.

Beware -- ADS have expanded and are everywhere in our lives, enabling us to do less of the things we might do if we didn't have incredibly instant communication.

Town Crier Em says turn the key, turn the knob, punch, hit, hammer the off-button off -- ADS are affecting basic breathing-eating-sleeping -- also art, culture, ambition, religion, and all, all of life's things -- pleasures and pains.

I gave top billing to pleasures, but pains create pleasures -- pains and pleasures are what life is all about -- not the advertized version of life -- real life.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Emily Frankel, asking John about his mother, gets John describing his parents.

Though John's mother died before Emily and John met, Emily wonders if his mother would have approved of him marrying a "Jewish divorcee?"

John loves to talk about his huge family, and what it was like growing up as part of it, in Knoxville Tennessee.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


That's me!

That's what I often look like as I watch films on our bedroom television set.

I am not sure what the actors are saying.

For instance, if leading characters are arguing -- it sounds climatic and I do hear a few words -- I find myself supplying appropriate dialogue, based on what I have gathered thus far about the story that's unfolding.

Quite often, more often than I like to admit, it bothers me -- sometimes characters whisper, or it's just bad 
pronunciation, or the actors get so deeply into what they're feeling, they don't pay attention to pronouncing words clearly -- they just let words run together.

I can't blame this on our TV set. News and commercials are clear. But it's seriously annoying. Quoting Shakespeare's Hamlet, I tell the television, "Speak the speech I pray you as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines."

The other day, in desperation, I fixed the settings on our television to display captions. The dialogue appeared in a white strip with each word easy to read. It's somewhat distracting from the story that's unfolding, but it helps.

Maybe it's just as well that I am missing dialogue -- the stuff I am not hearing is stuff I don't want to hear.

Hey, maybe, probably, the dialogue I am inventing improves the film!


I turned off captions.  Now, I simply murmur --

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Edison died October 18, 1931. The day he left the world, we lost a great man.

I wrote about Edison in my novel, "Somebody, Woman of the Century." My heroine, Cordelia, who was working as a radio reporter, after a spat with the man she loved, was hoping to hear from him. He socialized with Edison.

From chapter 32:
"Two days became four days, without hearing from Jackson. Was it already a week? Had she missed his phone call at the office? The date -- the day of the week was attached to names in the news, events in the lives of others. The 17th of October, Scarface Capone was sentenced to eleven years in the penitentiary. The next day, eighty-four-year-old Thomas Alva Edison died at Glenmont, his home in West Orange, New Jersey. Realizing it was a personal loss for Jackson, she couldn't help wondering if he'd be at the funeral.  Newspapers and radios announced that all nonessential lights throughout the country were going to be extinguished for one minute during the evening of October 21st, as a tribute to Edison. Was it Jackson's idea? It could have been.

"The date happened to be the 53rd anniversary of Edison's most famous invention -- he was the father of incandescent light, and much more, so much more. The time for the blackout was 9:59 p.m. Cordelia was thinking she might write a tribute to the inventor. Of course you couldn't ask the nation to play an Edison record at 9:59 p.m., on their Edison phonographs. Or arrange a nationwide turn on of all radios. Most people wouldn't realize that their favorite radio announcer was using an Edison microphone, that stock market ticker tapes, flashlight batteries, camera film, the electric locomotive, composition brick, automobile electric starters, all that -- and more than a thousand other inventions which affected people every day of their lives -- were Edison babies. The day before he died, he'd been working on a process that turned goldenrod, the common backyard weed, into synthetic rubber. Would the world be riding on goldenrod tires someday?

"Checking the clock, Cordelia pictured Mina Miller Edison, Thomas Alva's wife for forty-five years. Would Mina mournfully watch her clock? like me, Cordelia thought, with my dream of being a woman who leaves a mark on the world?"

And me, Em the writer-blogger -- I can't bring myself to throw out TIME Magazine, JULY 5 2010, and an article by Bryan Walsh, a deep-digging researcher whom I also admire, from whom I gleaned what follows.

"At Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Washington, children in the third-grade class bend over model cars designed to run on solar power. Working with a team of professional scientists from NASA and other federal agencies, they're putting finishing touches on the cars -- learning the way all trainee scientists  learn -- through the sort of dogged trial and error that has always been the preface to American invention, a method Thomas Edison helped pioneer.

"Edison  patented 1,093 mechanisms and processes, devices that would give birth to three enduring American industries: electrical power, recorded music and motion pictures -- it's as if he  spent his career inventing the biggest things, things that for me define  20th Century."

Reading on, I learned that after three months in school, Edison was taught by his mother at home, where he put together a chemistry lab. As a working teenager earning dimes as a railway newsboy, Edison spend $2 (nearly two days pay) so he could enroll in the Detroit Public Library. At 16, he was an itinerant telegraph operator for Western Union. In his  early 20's he was creating his first inventions -- forms of telegraph equipment. In Boston, he attended public lectures at the new Boston Tech, which later, became the globally influential Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the 1870s, he created his own inventor community in Menlo Park, N.J. The laboratory and workshop -- his "invention factory" -- Edison once boasted, was the place where he and his team could develop "a minor invention every 10 days and a big thing every 6 months or so."

That's a rate that would suit Steve Jobs, and kids today. And it astounds me.

Thomas Alva Edison's birthday is a day to celebrate. The day he left the world is a day to celebrate all his gifts to our world.

Monday, October 13, 2014


The minute Emily Frankel mentions "worst audition," John Cullum sings the chorus of "Luck Be a Lady Tonight," and describes his visit to the neighborhood bar, the drinks he had to brace himself.

John explains how he sang, when he was quite drunk, "There But For You Go I," for Allen Jay Lerner, Moss Hart, and Franz Allers, the conductor, who were casting for the musical "Camelot."

It's one of those stories that husbands and wives tell each other more than once, as they recall major events in their lives.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Goddess Isis
Glued in my mind is Robin Williams' decision to leave the world, Bacall gone, Ferguson protests, brain damaged football guys, footballers imbued with violence who are abusing women, and ISIS.

Isis thousands of years ago was beneficent Egyptian goddess. Now ISIS is talk in the air of a war that isn't a war but is a war -- endless debates, decapitations, and bombing.

I want my life on my mind; it's become difficult to envision the future with me active, excited, looking forward to tomorrow. Here I am, merely cowering, turning off my ears, eyes, and mind about Ebola, avoiding the coming election babble -- yes -- avoiding the predicted takeover of Congress by more do-nothingers.

Fall season means green into red-brown-gold, not hearing the dreadfully dumb talk about our bad-weak-indecisive President, who is our good-energetic-decisive leader trying to lead, though his legs have been chopped off.

Surely this non-thinking, stuck, frozen phase will melt away. Snowbound, I'm trudging, lifting one leg at a time, effortfully dragging myself beyond the bad events as I step, step, step into tomorrow.

Golly, I want to be back in some sunlight, on my way to doing things with flashes of excitement and interest, heartfelt concern with what else is going on in the world.

Saturday, October 4, 2014


John explains that when he first started acting, he held the script, and didn't try to learn lines until the show was blocked.

This pattern changed as he became a professional. He found that it was important to start learning lines right away -- starting with the second day of rehearsal.

Nowadays, usually about a month before the actual rehearsals begin, he starts to memorize the lines. Using a small tape recorder, playing all the parts, he tapes all the dialogue. He works for a few hours everyday, pausing the recorder, reciting his own lines in the appropriate sequence, checking them for accuracy.

Later, every day before each and every performance, in his dressing room, John Cullum goes over the lines of the play.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Welcome back to my mail box Newsweek Magazine -- I missed you since you and the "Daily Beast" stopped the printed issue in October 2012, and became an online magazine.

Happy day -- my new Newsweek, with JFK, Marilyn, Liz, and DiMaggio on the cover, immediately intrigued me. I dove into the cover story, expecting ... well, at least some interesting revelations about these super celebs.

Nope. The cover story by the reporter focused on bestselling author C. David Heymann's latest book, "Joe and Marilyn, Legends in Love." The magazine's reporter stated that in this book, the author invented shocking intimate details as he described Joe beating up Marilyn, Joe wire-tapping her home, Joe stalking her.

On and on went the cover story, proving that each bestseller by Heymann was chock-full of lies, distortion, and non-facts.

Quoting other celebs, the reporter showed how Heymann's book on Barbara Hutton, "Poor Little Rich Girl," his revelations about Jackie, and JFK, his proof that RFK was her lover in "Bobby and Jackie" were mostly the author's inventions.

Also, according to the reporter, the revelations about Liz's love life were not based on her confiding in Heymann as he claimed -- Heymann's revelations were well-researched rumors. Similarly, his book about Caroline Kennedy and JFK Jr., and Heymann's
his second book about RFK, are page-turners, but the reporter tells the reader, "The facts are not facts."

Remember, our admiring these celebrities, wondering about them, learning some right facts and wrong facts about them is fascinating, but like entertainment -- it distracts us from the often boring, ordinariness of our own lives.


Writing a blog requires me to keep in tune with the times, to wonder about things that you and millions of others wonder about. Yes, Newsweek back in print is fun to skim, but I sense, though the title isn't used anymore, the "Daily Beast"  is still behind the scenes -- still specializing in gossip, nasty news, and dirty laundry.

If you want more of this to fill the nooks and crannies of your imaginary love life, you can get the current printed magazine online, or subscribe and get the digital Newsweek on one of your handheld devices. Or buy the books on Amazon. This bestselling author, who died two years ago, made millions on these books, and lives on in these tales he told, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Obviously the "nothing" that was written by the very skilled, very savvy Heymann, is wonderfully absorbing entertainment.