Sunday, December 31, 2017


What a song -- what a gathering of people who gave us this song to sing. And today, again, like last year, and the year before and now -- right this minute -- this is a song that expresses what many of us  feel.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


Where are we heading? Are we, John and me, with it?
In tune with the times, or behind the trend?
Tis not a place where we want to end...
We're sort of dated, antiquated,
Stuck in the muck of former years.
Shedding virtual tears over un-definable fears.
Old habits that we love, we shove under the rugs.
Like bugs do we retain, remain --
Not in pain, but doing what we do,
Not 'with it,' like you.

We lose contemporaniety because of what we choose--
Our cell phones are flip-open oldies we rarely, barely use.
We wear jogging pants, sneakers, shirts--eek, we're not chic.
JC's acting in a hit show but he's not the star.
Em writes a blog that's not very popular.

Realistically, factually, we no longer fit with whatever is IT,
But we're glad to be just a him and a me -- Em/JC-husband-and-wife for the rest of our life.

Yes, we confess...
We're heading into the New Year mostly happenstancing, dancing, humming YAY
as we take on the next,
and the next,
and the next new day.


Saturday, December 23, 2017


Emily Frankel loves the poem that Clement Clarke Moore wrote and published in 1823.

John Cullum reads aloud, "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


Excerpt from my novel "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 telling her 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 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 --  she did understand that 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.

Marian asked Mamma, "Couldn't we celebrate Christmas just this year?" 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. Never would Marian  forget 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 in the upside-down part of the world called China, there was a boy who would someday marry her. Marian knew, quite definitely, 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 Daddy his Times from the corner, he gave her a whole dollar bill for a 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. 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 Mamma's headaches and tiredness. Then, she 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.

Friday, December 15, 2017


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. 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.

Monday, December 11, 2017


Could the President get mad one morning while watching the news and just push it?

Would anything or anyone be able to stop him?

The Los Angeles Times asking and answering that question concluded, "probably not."

Last month, Congress, after forty-one years of not dealing with this, held hearings to reexamine the chain of command that's involved with starting a nuclear war and learned that the President, to order an attack, has to call in the Military officer who carries "the football" (the brief case containing the nuclear codes), and transmit the orders to the U.S. Strategic command. A minute or two later, a barrage of nuclear missiles would be launched.

According to the Associated Press, General John Hyten, current head of the Strategic Command, said he would refuse the launch order, and stated that the order would be illegal. General John Hyten said it was not clear what would happen next. says the President could circumvent General Hyten's objections, and referred to the book compiled by military lawyers that contains legal justification for "almost any sort of nuclear attack that a president might want to order."

The Chicago Tribune, responding to the President's tweets about destroying North Korea, said that leaving this authority in the hands of one person has always been a risk. Referring to the fact that precedents were set up back in Cold War days when the Soviet Union could wipe out our entire arsenal with a surprise attack, the Chicago Tribune reminded us that North Korea cannot wipe out our arsenal; the Chicago Tribune told us that the Democrats have introduced legislation requiring the President get a declaration of war from Congress before ordering a first strike. Even though the Democrat's bill isn't likely to pass, the Chicago Tribune said, "For now, we'll have to hope that  Trump won't succumb to the temptation to press the button."

Oh boy!!!

Remember this child's game:

One kid is it; other kids gather around in a circle holding hands. The IT-kid passes through the group touching their hands as if he's passing the button, but no one knows who now has the button.

North Korea and nukes is one more life and death situation on the plate, while we are dealing with the shocking behavior of celebrity producers, politicians, reporters, (and our president), who have been given approval by us doing nothing about what's been going on for years.

What can we do other than hope -- HOPE the tweeter in the White House doesn't spur of the moment press the button.

All I can do right now is say that sentence louder, clearer!!!


Thursday, December 7, 2017


Here's my list -- a boil down of Time Magazine's list of "Best Inventions of 2017."


Low-sugar--360 calories per pint; currently beating out Häagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s as best-selling pint in America. One pint $5.00

Glasses that give sight to the blind, record high level definition video, magnification, contrast, and algorithms to enhance imagery. Clinically validated at Johns Hopkins Hospital by more than 1000 patients. Present cost: $9,995.

Wrist band for babies, temperature monitoring bracelet sounds alarm, flashes orange if babies are to cold.  $28.00

Available in January,
in a light breathable fabric
that wicks moisture.  $35.00

He giggles, dances, faces you when you say "hello," his  body swivels; he can summarize news stories; he takes photos, $899.

Smarter smart phone;
edge-to-edge screen,
can be unlocked
by your face.
Stronger safer helmet; $1500 -- works like a car bumper, reduces impact to the brain; now used by players on 19 NFL teams

Facebook's Headset 
It needs no phone,
no computer, to
 give wearer VR
Nintendo Gaming Console, 6.2 Screen Smaller than the Ipad Mini, one style for one player, another form is for multiple users. $300

Keeps coffee/tea at
120 F to 145 F
for an hour. $80.


Michelin airless tires,
tread snap in, accommodate
road conditions.

Shoe engineered boosts
performance: Adidas

Drones controlled
by wave of hand; $499.

Molekule 1. Innovative
air cleaner destroys
mold, bacteria, $800 + per year.

Coming soon:
FORWARD: Wellness Clinic; users have unlimited access to genetic screenings, blood testing, weight-loss planning, routine doctor visits; $149 per month.

THYSSENKRUPP MULTI ELEVATOR; Moves sideways, or multi-directional; following successful test in 2017, Multi is set to debut in Berlin by 2021.

TESLA MODEL 3: Electric car. $35,000 +;200 miles on single charge; factory struggling to produce them, getting 1,800 orders a day.

MARS AIRCRAFT, probe beyond  surface of Mars. (ready by 2020 when first flight is ready to go.)

SIMPLER HOME SECURITY, disarmed by wave of hand or key fob; $499.

(What thrills you?  My personal preference: sight for the blind; sideways elevators, innovative air cleaner, Model 3 electric car.)

Sunday, December 3, 2017


"What are your favorite cussing words," Emily asks her husband, John Cullum.

The Cullums have fun with the topic, as they reveal why & when they use curse words, and which words they find themselves using.

Friday, December 1, 2017


Yay Technology!!!  Elton JoHN  is at work nowadays creating a  post biological self.  Accodiing to NEWEEK,  with the help of top A.I. techologicy guys, Elton is creating a robot Elton John that could go on tour after the he's is gone, performing his songs, --also  new ones  the Elton bot can write based on todyas news.

The fact is, many musicians, reeling from the shift to streaming music which pays artissts a fraction of what they used to make on CD sales -- are learning everything they can about about  bots thatd help them earn big money again.

Spotify, Google and some  startups, like Juke Deck, are working on AI songs. Hey,, in a decade the Grammy might go to a piece of software. Spotify recently hired Francoise Pachet, Ai Scientist, who led a company science lab for Sony, to run its new " Creator Technolgoy Research Lab." Sp;otify is looking into the possiblity that virutal artists playing on Spotify, can earn the company a ton  of money  without paying royalties.

Pachet is careful not to sound greedy  He a recent interview he speaks of AI reveerentlyh, as songwriting partner tha tay " lennong needed a a McCartney.  Pachet, and a a group of other AI  scientific specialists, instrtucted Ai software to write a gong and instrumentation that mimics the Beatles. Using, Humans  to create lyrics, they they refined the AI  arrangement. The result' a song posted online "daddy's Car" sounds as if the Beattles cranked out a chipper jingle.

Meanwhilie, IBM iis worikintg on AI with Watson which uses using other techonolgies as a hlpers, and produced--with AI and  a real artist, Alex da Kid to create a hit sont"
Not Easy." .  The various soft ware e machines sucked up lyrics of more than 26,000 bill board Hot 100 songs; analyzed the music to find patterns  the keys, chord progressions and comeup withwhat IBM now calls " emotional fingerprints"  -- rFiguring out what makes a hit, inlcuded Analyzing New--well-- Newsweek  York Times, front pages, blogs, tweets,  plots of big hit r movies. Thee resulting son "not Easy' (Newsweek says: "Itshows that AI can't yet guarantee a hit."

Hey, AI hasn't written a hit yet doens't mean it won't. the sheer number of songs it can write guarantees that it can. Beattles recorded 237 original song;.,s Jackson 137,  Ai can too, iin the time is takes Mccartney to press a pinao key.-- AI canme tens of milioins of songs, and one of them might thrill us, knowck us out.

JHey elton john may help.   ou'd be able to watch a fresh" live" Elton John Concert through virtual realty glassedz.

Hey, I like music, I'm not sure I like where this is heading, but I'm sharing with you what I;ve learned, so you can be in tune with the times.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


 We love our phones.

The managing editor of The WEEK, Theunis Bates, said Americans feel their relationships are being phubbed by a seductive third party -- not another person, but a smartphone. I looked up phubb; it's phone & snub spliced together.

Researchers at Baylor University surveyed 140 people and found that  almost half had been “phubbed” by their partner, that is, snubbed by the partner checking social media, news, or texts on a phone, According to 70 people, phone overuse is causing conflict with their loved one. 

"Phubbering" was also mentioned a few weeks ago in The Washington Post in an article by Stanford University psychologist, Emma Seppala who described how many couples are struggling to balance their  love for each other with their love for their iPhones and Androids.

Managing editor Theunis Bates said: "I’ve been both a phubber and phubbee‚ so I get why this habit is so infuriating and yet so difficult to stop doing. We’re social beings who crave connection, but facetoface communication can feel passé when there’s a whole world to observe and interact with on our gadgets. Tap a screen and you’re rewarded with an always updating stream of photos from family and friends, tweets from the president, breaking news, and videos of skateboarding cats. Dipping into that stream lights up the pleasure centers in our brains—the same ones activated by recreational drugs—so we keep going back for more."

Wow! What a warning! When I'm shopping, I see it happening -- everyone's talking on the phone while I'm trying not to bump into anyone, or checking pot holes in the sidewalk and the street.

Hey, heed Theunis Bates and Em! Command yourself -- sing that ugly awful word P H U B B E R E E inside your brain, and plunk down your device.

Saturday, November 25, 2017


"Dear Emily, 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.

"Thought this might please you, Em. Your loving husband -- John Cullum."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


How does  Broadway Star John feel about doing small roles, nowadays -- no longer playing the leading man.

"It would make me nuts!" Emily says, referring to the old men with Alzheimer's, the cranky grandfather parts he's been playing.

John admits that it can make him feel a bit nutty, but reveals why those smaller roles are "wonderful work."  Since he's currently playing a "small role" on Broadway, in the musical "Waitress," what he says is especially fascinating.

Friday, November 17, 2017


What do I want to say...?

I'm not sure.

I doodled this spur of the moment.

Occasionally, when I'm not sure what's on my mind, doodling helps me, reminds me of this-and-that, a bunch of things... yes, there seems to be a mish-mash of things, growing things in a sort of bouquet.

 Our son JD's in a play in LA; he's got a new project, a lovely girl friend -- that he's okay, doing well, better than ever is definitely one of my blessings.

My husband's in a show on a schedule that gets him home late while I'm working on things that get me up early, but that's a blessing -- that we're busy, committed to work, able to do things that we enjoy doing.

Our home-sweet-home -- every morning when I wake up and cross the bright green floor and see garden furniture, plants, and light pouring in from the skylight -- that's a blessing.

Okay, there are other things -- it's lucky, wonderful, a lifetime blessing that my husband's talent made us enough money to live safely and well.

Big biggest blessing -- we have each other and cherish each other.

Hey, spur of the moment, click -- enjoy my video.  

Monday, November 13, 2017


Have you heard of Sir Harold Evans?  He is one of the greatest editors alive, according to the New York Times, and The New Yorker.

What he knows is in his new book:
Illustrated. 408 pp. Little, Brown & Company.
From 1967 to 1981, Evans was the helmsman in London, of The Sunday Times till he clashed its purchaser, Rupert Murdoch, and moved to America. By the nineties, he was head of Random House, editing books by distinguished authors such as Norman Mailer and Henry Kissinger. He married Tina Brown, former famous editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. As a distinguished author himself of a few books on American History, he is uniquely qualified to instruct us on how to write well.

Harold Evans tells us: "What really matters is making your meaning clear beyond a doubt. And the key to clarity, is concision."

In his book, he offers edifying and entertaining “Ten Shortcuts to Making Yourself Clear,” for instance, No. 7 is “Don’t Be a Bore.” Influenced by 19th-century American reformers who wanted written sentences to be shorter and easier to understand, Evans invites us into what he calls his “sentence clinic.” There we see him in editorial action, applying his surgical tools to specimens of "bloated, dull, euphemistic, incomprehensible prose"-- specific newspaper articles, academic writing, and finally, brilliantly -- the entire 2010 White House report on the underwear bomber.

Evans analysis/reworking of the bomber occupies nearly 50 pages. He even operates on a passage from “Pride and Prejudice,” asking, “What is Jane Austen saying?”

You may have to force your eyeballs to get through this as you are learning to do what Evans does.  Writing is hard work. Often, starting a project, you're relaxing and enjoying rambling around until you find the idea, and dig into it. Later, you'll need to diligently revise clumsy, turgid, bits and cut what's excessive.

Reading and studying Harold Evans will give you ways to cultivate your own inner editor who can skillfully, even efficiently, help you shape a "good" book -- one that will successfully find an audience.