Wednesday, February 27, 2013




According to the online shopping site, Peapod, these are their 13 best-selling hairstyling products. All retail for under $10, with the most expensive being the only one marketed specifically to men. Would any land in your shopping cart?

1)  Tresemme Extra Hold Aerosol Hairspray (I admit I'm typical; this is in my bathroom now)

2)  Suave Max Hold Unscented Non-Aerosol Hairspray (Least expensive at $2.79 for an 11 oz. bottle)

3)  Tresemme Extra Firm Hold Aerosol Hairspray

4)  Tresemme Extra Hold Mousse

5)  Pantene Pro V Touchable Volume Flexible Hold Aerosol Spray

6)  Aussie Scrunch Catch the Wave Strong Hold Pump Hair Spray

7)  Dove Style + Care Flexible Hold Aerosol Hair Spray

8)  Pantene Pro V Anti-Humidity Aerosol Hair Spray

9)  Aussie Mega Hold Aerosol Hair Spray

10)  Pantene Pro V Curly Hair Styling Mousse

11)  AXE Whatever Messy Hair Paste for Men (Most expensive at $7.99 for a 2.64 oz. jar)

12)  Tresemme Keratin Smooth Heat Protection Pump Spray

13)  Suave Professionals Moroccan Infusion Styling Oil
For more about the Thursday 13, 
or to play along yourself, click here.

WWW Wednesday

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions… 

• What are you currently reading? Where We Belong by Emily Giffin. It's only my second Giffin, but I can see why she's crazy popular. She so clearly likes her characters and draws them so compassionately. Very good chick lit.

• What did you recently finish reading? Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan. Fascinating and really quite shocking. Sybil -- both the book and the made-for-TV movie starring Sally Field about the woman with 16 personalities -- was something of a fraud and worse, the real woman behind the story was used as a marketing tool.

• What do you think you’ll read next? So many possibilities! Perhaps Kinsey and Me, by Sue Grafton. Or Anne Frank's Family, a biography of the entire clan that gave us that extraordinary young diarist.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Like working in a snow globe

Today we were treated to a mix of fog, rain and snow. From the sidewalk, the city looked like a slushy gray mess. But from my office on the 40th floor, it looked like we were inside a beautiful swirling snow globe. The fog was so thick and active we could see swirling shapes outside our window.

I love this weather.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sunday Stealing

First Job: Babysitting. I loved it. The kids went to bed pretty early and then I got paid to eat potato chips, drink Pepsi and watch TV.

First Real Job: Administrative assistant -- OK, back in those days it was called "secretary" -- at Sears Corporate HQ in the building that was once known as Sears Tower.

First Volunteer Job: Scrubbing litter boxes, clipping claws and cleaning away ear mites in the cat adoption room at Chicago's Anti-Cruelty Society.

First Car: A 1971 Impala. It was live driving a big green, rusty boat.

First Record: "I've Got Rings on My Fingers and Bells on My Toes." A woman sang it, but I don't recall her name. I couldn't read the label, as I was still in pre-school. My Grandpa gave me the record and I still remember all the lyrics.

First Sport Played: Tag in the backyard

First Concert: Bobby Sherman. Don't judge me! I was in 7th grade and "Julie, Do Ya Love Me" is a classic of the bubblegum genre (she said, super defensively).

First Country Visited: We went to Canada the summer I was 9

First Kiss: David, the boy next door. (OK, three doors down. Details! Details!)

First Speech: Not memorable. Sorry.

First Girlfriend/Boyfriend: See First Kiss.

First Encounter with a Famous Person: I ran into Black Hawk great Stan Mikita while we each shopping in the same department store. He was shorter than I expected and smelled of cigarettes, which disappointed me. But he was very gracious and let me tail after him as he bought dollhouse furniture for his little girl.

First Brush With Death: In 2008. I almost got creamed by a cab. I think about it every time I pass the spot where it nearly happened.

First House/Flat Owned: Owned? I have a mortgage I'm making dents in each month, but I can't honestly say I own this place.

First Film Seen at a Cinema: Mary Poppins

First Media Appearance (Radio, Newspaper, TV): In third grade I won an essay contest about what made my teacher the best in town. I won $50 and got my little paragraph reprinted in the local paper.

First Hospital Stay:In 1994 I had uterine fibroids removed. Want to hear more about it? I didn't think so.

First Book You Remember Reading: Abraham Lincoln by Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire. It's a  children's book with really gorgeous illustrations. My parents bought it for me as a souvenir after we visited the Lincoln sites in Springfield that summer between Kindergarten and first grade. I flipped through it over and over and over again during the long car ride home. It's still in print and, if you have a young child in your life, I highly recommend it.

First Pet: Tommy. He was a truly terrific cat.

First Election You Voted In: 1976 I got to vote for both President and Illinois governor. I truly don't recall if I voted for James R. Thompson, who became our Governor, but I'm going to give him a shout out as he's one of the few governors of my lifetime who didn't/hasn't done jail time. Props to you, Big Jim!

Not the best choice for me today

I am in the grips of Oscar fever again, as I am every year during awards season. So when I saw Amour was playing at my local theater, I couldn't wait to get over there and buy my ticket. As an Oscar aficionado, I'm aware that Emmanuelle Riva, at age 85, is the oldest actress to be nominated in the lead category. She also seems to be the only one who has a chance to upset Jennifer Lawrence tomorrow night. So I was stoked.

I'd heard the film was a love story about two long-marrieds reaching the end of their lives. That's true, as far as it goes. What I was unaware of was what an unsparing portrait of old age and illness it paints. After Anne, the character played by Riva, suffers a stroke, she is on a swift and brutal decline toward death. She loses first the use of her right side, then control of her bladder. The meds she must take to combat the pain leaves her speaking gibberish. She is frightened and angry. Her loving husband is forlorn and exhausted.

It reminded me too much of watching my 77-year-old mother fight for her life last September. Like Anne in the movie, my mother ultimately lost her battle. And it was one very brutal battle indeed.

So while there is much to this movie to recommend it, I'm sorry I let my Oscar mania overrule my sense. This is not the movie I should have seen while battling the blues. There's a Die Hard movie playing on another screen in the very same theater. Why didn't I opt for Bruce Willis in a torn t-shirt? That's always guaranteed to raise my spirits.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Saturday 9

Yeah, I know it's Friday. But I'm killing time until my pizza is done and I begin watching my movie (see post below).

 Saturday 9: Call Me Maybe 

1) Do you owe anyone a phone call? Yes. I was supposed to have lunch with an old friend today and I blew her off. I left her a vm and an email in advance (I mean, I didn't stand her up), but still, I should try to talk to her in real time so I can explain. 

2) Do you still have a landline phone? Yes, indeedy. I'm old school. It's still my favorite mode of communication.

3) When was the last time you looked up a number in the phone book? Last autumn when my modem went out. I was so freaking HELPLESS without internet access.

4) Do you receive more calls or texts? Calls. I don't really like texts. Call me or email me.

5) Carly Rae made the Final 3 on Canadian Idol. Can you name another cultural import from Canada? Michael Buble.

6) Sam grew sick of this song by hearing it too often on the radio. Where do you listen to the radio most often? Car? Work? Somewhere else? I start each morning singing badly along with a shower radio like this one.

7) Mother Winters can work wonders with an iron and a can of spray starch. Every blouse and shirt she presses looks good as new. Is there a domestic chore you excel at? I can pretty well remove any stain from any piece of clothing. Oh yes, I can!

8) Do you consider yourself competitive? I am at canasta. I am a wicked good canasta player.

9) Tell us your superhero name -- as determined by the color of your shirt and an item to your right. For example, Crazy Sam now fights crime as The Light Blue Coffee Mug! Addy set this up beautifully and I'm stealing it:
By day I am the mild-mannered Gal Herself…but by night I take to the streets to spank the criminal element and save small kittens in my crime fighting alter ego The Green Striped Tissue Box!

Wasn't she something?

Forget Angelina Jolie and her silly leg pose. THIS, ladies and gentleman, is a star.

Tonight I'm kicking off Oscar weekend by watching Butterfield 8. It's a fairly run-of-the-mill soapy movie that's elevated by a positively electric performance by Elizabeth Taylor, who (obviously) won the gold statuette that year. When she was good in a movie, when the role fit her unique talents (and Gloria Wandrous was one of those roles), you can't take your eyes off her.

I'm ready! Yes, I am!

I'm ready to make my final Oscar predictions.

BEST PICTURE: ARGO (Saw it, loved it)
BEST ACTOR: ABE (I mean, Daniel Day Lewis)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN (in that movie that has nothing whatsoever to do with Scientology!)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: ANNE HATHAWAY (I believe this is by acclaimation)

We'll see Sunday night how brilliant I am.

I met a girl who sang the blues

And she was me!

Yesterday we lost another coworker to layoffs. Lana. I really liked, respected and depended on her. She and Tom were the two I willingly spent the most time, socially, as well as the two I had the most in common with professionally. They are gone and I am hurting.

One of my officemates is blissfully unconcerned about the human toll of these layoffs and really, I couldn't bear to be around her another moment. Perhaps her attitude is, ultimately, healthier because this is advertising and it happens a lot. But the insensitivity of it really, really rankles.

So, last night, as I was packing up to go home, I decided not to come in today. My work for the week was already done, I was at the end of my tether, and I thought the alone time would rejuvenate me.

I was wrong. I remain slothful and sad today. All I've done is fart around on the computer, wash some clothes and take myself out to brunch. And, of course, fought with my cat Reynaldo, who believes that if I'm going to be home I should be doing his bidding.*

My mail was a bummer. Two (count 'em, two!) letters from the reverse mortgage company regarding my late mother's house -- even though it was never my property and they're on notice to speak directly to my attorney, not me.

My oldest friend is making plans to visit me this summer -- for more than a week (Friday to Sunday). That's a lot of togetherness with no alone time. I'll put a bullet in my brain! We've negotiated it down to Friday to Wednesday. I don't want to hurt her feelings -- I know she loves me and I'm grateful -- but I'm hoping we somehow have to scale it back even further.

I've got to get my mind right.

I miss baseball.
*I'm trying a new behavioral tack with him. Every time he does something to get my attention, I give it to him. I pick him up and kiss his nose, which he hates, and announce into his face, "I am giving you attention!" He really loathes this. It hasn't deterred him yet, though. Maybe it takes a while for cause/effect to penetrate his cranium. Or maybe, once again, resistance is futile and he will get his way.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thursday Thirteen #211


1) A "soap opera" is defined as "an ongoing, episodic work of dramatic fiction."

2) Originally broadcast on radio, these daily dramas became known as "soap operas" because they were frequently sponsored by soap manufacturers like Dial, Palmolive, and Procter and Gamble.

3) As the World Turns (1956-2010) is one of the longest-running, most popular daytime soaps ever. Most Americans who were home and watching TV during the day were tuned to it 50 years ago and received the first word of President Kennedy's assassination when Walter Cronkite interrupted the broadcast.

4) In 1972, the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences began giving out Daytime Emmy Awards. The NBC show The Doctors won the first for Best Daytime Drama.

5) Today, the daytime drama has hit on hard times. Ratings are down and costs are up. Court shows like Judge Judy and talk shows like Dr. Phil are cheaper to produce because fewer sets and less scripting are involved. The longest-running shows -- As the World Turns, All My Children, Secret Storm and One Life to Live -- were all recently cancelled after more 30 years.

6) Peyton Place was the first nighttime "soap opera." It premiered on September 15, 1964 and ran two (sometimes three) nights a week for nearly 5 years. In its last season it was still in the Top 20 in Neilsen Ratings. It was cancelled because of costs -- reruns were never aired and the production values were high.

7) Dallas (1978-1991) was the next prime-time soap blockbuster. CBS learned from ABC's Peyton Place missteps. Dallas aired one hour-long episode, one night/week and there were reruns. The repeats not only reduced costs, they were quite useful in maintaining the public's interest in the series and the resolution of each season's "cliffhanger."

8) Dallas had the biggest "cliffhanger" of all with "Who Killed JR?" In November, 1980, 83 million people tuned in to see that Kristen Shepard pulled the trigger. That means there were more viewers than there were voters in the 1980 Presidential election. At the time, it was the highest rated show in TV history.

9) Dynasty premiered in 1981 and gave Dallas stiff competition. Joan Collins gained fame as Alexis Carrington, the soap's first prime-time vixen.

10)  Divas and vixens and bitches were no stranger to daytime viewers, though. Lisa Miller (Hughes Eldridge Shea Colman McColl Mitchell Grimaldi) of As the World Turns and Erica Kane (Martin Brent Cudahy Chandler Montgomery Marick Montgomery) of All My Children -- shown here -- staked out that territory years earlier.

11) Movie actresses who appeared in soaps include Meg Ryan (As the World Turns), Demi Moore (General Hospital), and Kathleen Turner (The Doctors).

12) Movie actors who appeared in soaps include Christopher Reeve (Love of Life), Kevin Bacon (Search for Tomorrow) and Ray Liotta (Another World).

13) Singers Ricky Martin and Rick Springfield appeared on General Hospital.

For more about the Thursday 13, or to play along yourself, click here.

What's the penalty in this state?

I now share an office with three other coworkers. We are in one another's pocket, day in-day out. And I'm at the end of my tether with one of them. If I were to strangle her, how much time would I get?

A little jailtime might be worth it.

We lost a coworker yesterday. I am sad about this. It hasn't escaped my notice that she can't be bothered to offer him contacts for a new job, or even shoot him a "how are you doing the morning after?" email or text. Instead she's blissfully on the phone, yammering all day with her sisters and friends. She's also been known to strum her ukelele and sing softly, right there at her workstation, in the office we all share.

In a world where lay-offs may still be imminent, I don't appreciate her advertising how NOT busy we are in this office.

I'm not violent by nature, but slamming her cranium with the gavel shown above might be satisfying.

Oh, no she won't

My friend, Tom, was let go Tuesday morning. One of the first things he mentioned was his girlfriend. "This is going to break her heart."

Camille is 35 and eager to get married and have a baby. She and Tom have discussed what kind of engagement ring she would like. He was planning on giving her one for Easter. I'm sure she was expecting one, and she will be disappointed.

But she is also a pediatric nurse whose job regularly presents her with sick, sometimes terminally ill, babies. I suspect that when you handle life and death in your hands each day, the loss of a job at an ad agency probably isn't that big a deal.

Also, I believe she loves him. I bet that when she saw the pain he's in, she wasn't even thinking of herself.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Layoffs at work

I'm safe for now, but my favorite account exec, Tom, is no longer with us. I'm sad. I'm rattled. I'm having a hard time concentrating.

Monday, February 18, 2013

I love their love

Behold Anna and Bates, two of the best fictional people I know. Whenever they show up together on Downton Abbey, I smile. Mary and Matthew were the prettier couple, but to be honest it's his looks that make me mourn Matthew's passing. I just love everything about Anna and Bates, though. Swoon!

Weekend Update with The Gal Herself

Saturday was a good day because I had a lunch date with my nephew. He is so enthusiastic! About his upcoming class trip to Springfield -- on "a luxury bus with two bathrooms!" -- to see the Lincoln sites,* about the upcoming Academy Awards because he has seen two Best Picture nominees (Lincoln and Argo), about Chaos Walking, the new sci-fi trilogy the school librarian turned him onto.

He's also very enthusiastic about eating. Two slices of pizza, an order of fries, and a chocolate shake. I got the feeling that if he wasn't worried about being rude, he would have asked for more, too. What is it about pre-teen boys? 

He visited with me when I got my hair cut/colored. While that was sweet of him, my big takeaway from my salon appointment was my visage in the mirror. GOD, I AM SO FAT! Seeing myself in the mirror in a different setting made it obvious and rattled me. That's it! I'm back to calorie counting on Livestrong/My Plate.

Sunday I dropped a bag of clothes off at Goodwill. And then, reducing the amount of de-cluttering I'd done, left with two blouses for myself and a cheesy romance novel for the troops, all for about $8. My trip into Goodwill began innocently enough -- I wanted to see if I attributed the proper fair market value to the items I donated. But then I spied this whole rack of short sleeved black t-shirts and I need some to wear under my cardigans and, well, why not?

I admit that I was embarrassed carrying the Goodwill-emblazoned bag around my next stop, which was Kohl's. Isn't that silly? I made perfectly sensible purchases that helped someone in my neighborhood get job training. That's all good, right? And then there's the whole, "What do I care what anyone thinks?" aspect of it all, too.

At Kohl's I bought another trio of "under cardigan" pullovers, a shower curtain, and a Barbie doll and a Cars activity book. My niece and nephew are too old for them. They're the seeds for my 2013 Toys for Tots bag. If I buy a little something every now and again, by Christmas it will be full and I will be happy.

*I'm so happy he's an Abe-o-phile.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

But I want it!

Here's an invitation to the wedding of Senator John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier. It was addressed to one of the groomsmen, Dave Powers, JFK's close friend for 15 years -- beginning with Kennedy's first foray into politics until his murder in 1963. Powers was the first curator of The Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. And many of Powers' personal items are available today through John McInnis Auctioneers. As I understand it, a portion of the proceeds will go to the Library.

Fortunately the McInnis website is pretty difficult to navigate. Otherwise I'd be tempted to bid. And I really can't afford these things, much as I might want them.

I find the things that humanize Presidents the most touching. I have been honored to run my hand along the original banister in Abraham Lincoln's Springfield home, and as I did I wondered about the life he led there in the only home he shared with his four sons, how it helped shaped him.

Likewise, it would be a privilege to touch this birthday card, the last one John Kennedy, Jr., would give his daddy and the only one he was able to sign himself. With this card, I'd be holding history in my hands.

But it's not going to happen. And I suppose it shouldn't. There are so many more useful, earthbound things I should be doing with my money. But ... but ... but ...

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: The Basically Obscure Meme-Part 2

38: How did you spend Valentines day? Eating Girl Scout cookies. I feel bad about it. I bought a box from a coworker's niece and then just kept devouring them until they were gone. I have no self control!

39: Do you eat enough vegetables? No. I try to eat two servings/day, but I mix it up between fruit and vegetables.

40: Do you like horror movies? How about thrillers? I like thrillers more than horror. For example, Side Effects with really good, and it was all about the suspense. (And Jude Law looks and talks soooo cute.)

41: Do you like scotch? No.

42: Who is someone you would never swear in front of? Members of the clergy.

43: Coolest thing you've ever seen on Halloween? Nothing comes to mind. I'm sorry.

44: If you could change your natural hair color, would you? To what? I'm done with that. But for decades, I was a redhead, courtesy of Nice 'n Easy.

45: What subject would you take if you were forced to take a free class? Spanish. And you wouldn't even have to force me.

46: Do you use a reusable grocery bags? Yes.

47: City or nature person? City.

48: Have you ever used something other than "makeup" as makeup? (Like paint? Markers?) No.

49: Do heights bother you? Can look look out the window on the top floor of a skyscraper? Not really. I've worked in tall office buildings since I was teenager.

50: Post 5 awesome things about your blog. BRAG AWAY!

• I post often. Come back here every day or two and you'll have something new to read. I'm very blabby.

• I'm frank. I don't pull any punches here.

I try never to leave you hanging. Since I blog mostly for myself, to create a digital diary of my life I can look back on, I sometimes have to remind myself that I have readers and they deserve to know how incidents turned out. That's also why I try to include links.

• My new layout is easy to read.

• My content is pretty eclectic. This is important to me as I grow older. Yesterday, as part of Saturday 9, I used the phrase "hair metal band." One of the responders -- a Baby Boomer like me -- kept complaining that he didn't know what it meant. I'm not kidding. He said it on his own blog and then again and again while commenting on other responders. Did it not occur to him to Google it? That would have taken less time. Was he that incurious? Or did he just enjoy sitting back and complaining like the old Muppets in the balcony? This gentleman didn't mean to, but he gave me a great example of how not to be, and I'm taking it to heart.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Saturday 9

1) Do you have a favorite "hair metal band?" I used to be quite the snob when it came to this genre, and I still can't tell my Poison from my Whitesnake. But then I saw Rock of Ages (both the movie and the play) and I realized how many of the individual songs I have always enjoyed and know all the lyrics to. But I still can't point to a single glam band and say, "I love those guys!"
2) Def Leppard got their start in South Yorkshire, England. Have you ever been to the UK? Nope
3) Who would you rather chat with, one-on-one: Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Prince William or Prince Harry? Prince Charles. Yeah, I know. He seems like such a dweeb. But he's seen so much life. He's met all kinds of people I'm curious to hear about, from Winston Churchill to Jackie Onassis. He was there the day the Beatles got their MBEs. And of course, Diana. I'd love to hear what she was really like. Like Jackie, she continues to fascinate me long after she's gone.

4) Do you use real sugar, or a sugar substitute? I put Truvia on my breakfast cereal and in my tea, and it works just fine.
5)  Valentine's Day is big for candy sales. Did you indulge in any Valentine-themed, sugary treats this week? One of my coworkers gave me milk chocolate heart.
6) Do you regularly balance your checkbook? Well, Quicken does. That count?
7) What was your last impulse purchase? I got the entire series of Peyton Place on DVD. Every soapy episode! I can't tell you how much I'm loving it! My parents watched it when I was a little girl, and  I wasn't allowed to because of the "adult content."* That made me obsessed with it and I always tried to sneak into the room when it was on or watch it at friends' homes. It's amusing to me how much I remember. And I still think Dr. Rossi has kind eyes. When I was a kid, I thought he'd be gentle when he gave me a shot.

8) When Sam was a girl, she had nightmares about snakes under her bed. When did you last have a bad dream? The most recent one that I can recall was after I had surgery in 2011. The pain meds inspired the most awful dreams -- and there was one especially upsetting one that had me struggling to save a black and white dog from the Chicago River, only to have him leap out of my arms, race away and get squished in traffic. The doctor told me the dreams were my body's way of protecting me, that the last dose of pain medication was wearing off and I was waking myself up to take another pill. That makes sense, but I was very glad when I no longer needed the medication!

9) We're ordering pizza. Do you want deep dish or thin crust? Hmmm .... I think I'd like thin crust.

*How quaint it seems by today's standards!

Friday, February 15, 2013


My older sister actually cooperated and signed the agreement required by the bank re: our mother's reverse mortgage. There was no drama. She didn't produce any small, fiery hoops for me to jump through. She just signed the document and returned it.


I didn't see this coming

Last night, when I showed up for my monthly appointment with my shrink, I got quite a shock.

After decades, she's leaving!

Her husband died in September 2011, and since then there hasn't been much holding her in Chicagoland. She put her house up for sale before Christmas and was surprised when it sold as quickly as it has. Next month she is moving to Boston to be near her sister, her daughter and her grandchildren.

She has seen me through a lot: the breakup with my hideous, abusive boyfriend, as well as the heartbreaking breakup with the good man who was my true love. Together we went through my dad's death, as well as my mom's. She helped me decide to walk away from my career as creative director and re-enter the workforce after a year and a half of freelancing. The scary mood swings of menopause. I couldn't have done all of this without her.

But you know what? I don't need her anymore. I had been thinking that over the last several weeks. I've handled the stressful business of my mother's final affairs without requiring much support from her, and I have done it well.

And she agrees. It's time. I'm going to see her one more time, in early March. During that final office session, we're going to talk about how we'll proceed. We may schedule some phone consultations in advance, maybe I'll be comfortable leaving there with her cellphone number in my purse, just in case I need her. She will always be my objective sounding board … if I need her.

It was wonderful to discuss all this with her last night. To learn that we're on the same page, that we both think I'm ready to take off and face life without her. On the way out, we hugged and she stroked my hair -- something she's never done before. Of all her patients, I've been with her the longest. Like my blog readers, she knows me without artifice. It was nice to know that she knows me, sees me as I am, and still cares about me as a person.

Hopefully she and I will both live happily ever after.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013



On the air for more than a decade now, American Idol has become a way of American life. As Season 12 is in full gear, I thought it would be fun to look back.

1) Brian Dunkleman is the forgotten man of American Idol. He cohosted with Ryan Seacrest in Season 1 … but left to pursue his standup career.

2) The winner receives a deal from a major label and the guarantee of up to six albums.

3)  Kelly Clarkson won Season 1. Now 30, she's gone on to a spectacular career. She's had a dozen #1's and has  won American Music Awards, Grammys, VMAs, People's Choice Awards and has been nominated for awards as diverse as Belgium's TMF and Monaco's World Music Awards.

4) Ruben Studdard won Season 2. While not as successful as Kelly, or even the runner up that year, Clay Aiken, he works steadily and has been nominated for a Grammy and an AMA. He's branched out into musical theater, playing Fats Waller in the touring company of Ain't Misbehavin'.

5) Fantasia Barrino won Season 3. Her music has sold modestly well. but her real success has come with her made-for-TV movie (The Fantasia Barrino Story: Life Is Not a Fairytale) and as Celie on Broadway in The Color Purple. Even hardened critics like Clive Barnes applauded her.

6) Carrie Underwood won Season 4. Even more than Kelly Clarkson, she's Idol's greatest success. Her tours alone have made more than $95 million. In terms of CD sales, in 2010, Billboard magazine proclaimed her the best-selling country music artist of the new millennium.

7) Taylor Hicks won Season 5. Let me preface this by saying I LIKE HIM. His first song after Idol, "Do I Make You Proud?", went to #2 on the Billboard charts and was certified gold. But he's been overshadowed by the contestants he beat that year -- Katharine McPhee stars on NBC's Smash, Chris Daughtry leads his own Grammy-nominated rock band, and Kellie Pickler has won numerous CMT awards.

8) Jordin Sparks won Season 6. She's had great success on tour, often opening for other acts like Alicia Keys, The Jonas Bros. and Britney Spears. She has a clothing line, available at Wet Seal stores, and a fragrance, Ambition. In 2012, she made her film debut in the movie Sparkle.

9) David Cook won Season 7. After three top 10 singles, he's parted ways with his record company and relocated to Nashville, and is working on a new sound. (Snarkypants, the photo's for you.)

10) Kris Allen won Season 8. His music has sold modestly well (charting in the top 50) and he's been nominated for People's Choice and Billboard Music Awards.

 11) Chicagoland's own Lee DeWyze won Season 9. His first post Idol work -- the Live It Up CD and world tour -- was successful. He's recently changed labels and is on the road again right now.

12) Scotty McCreery won Season 10. His first song out of the box, "I Love You This Big," reached #11 on the Billboard charts and has been certified gold.

13) Philip Phillips won Season 11. His first CD, The World from the Side of the Moon, has been a top 10 hit, going gold in the US and Canada. It's selling well in Australia.

For more about the Thursday 13, or to play along yourself, click here.

I Want Wednesday

I want to feel better! About my health, about my life!

Nothing is going smoothly. Things have been scary-slow at work since January 1. At first it didn't bother me. I figured the client was just getting act together, figuring out how best to use us this year. But now, as the work only comes in dribs and drabs, I'm starting to freak out. My boss acts as though this isn't happening. My account team tells us that there's a log jam in terms of getting go-aheads for projects but soon we'll be "slammed." I'm not so sure. And it makes me nervous.

Little things are pissing me off. Example: I ordered a set of DVDs in early January and they still haven't arrived. I email the mailorder house and they keep assuring me it's being processed and shipped, but they have no solid ETA. I don't want to call them -- I'm always surrounded by coworkers in this shared office and I don't like making personal calls with an audience. But I may have to. I don't have $90 to waste on crap that never arrives. (One could argue I shouldn't have spent the $90 in the first place.)

Similarly, I wanted to work out today but I overcommitted on personal favors to others. My best friend asked me to help him work on a proposal for a pro-bono project at his daughters' private school. He's been out of work for six months now and is starting to doubt himself, so of course I'll help him. And then there's my friend in the Keys. He wants me to review/proofread/edit the sample chapter of the book he wants to submit to an agent. I'm ambivalent about doing this because the odds are astronomical against him getting this published, and he's so hopeful and so positive that I'm afraid he'll get his heart broken. But I'm his friend so I'm ploughing ahead.

Meanwhile I feel like Fatty McFatterson. Yes, I could go to the gym tonight. But this persistant cough just leaves me tired, tired, tired when I get home.

I feel like Bruce in "Dancing in the Dark."
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face. 
Man, I ain't getting nowhere, living in a dump like this. There's something happening somewhere, Baby, I just know there is. 
I ain't nothing but tired, I'm just tired and bored with myself.

That's it! I'll watch this over and over again. He always looks so hopeful when he reminds me that I can't start a fire without a spark. It's up to me to change things, isn't it, Boss?


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I'm trying not to be ...

… but still, I'm pissed.

My oldest friend hates her job. She's battling with both her troubled daughter and her daughter's school. She somehow came down with MRSA, and that's most emphatically not fun. She hasn't made any friends in her 2 1/2 years in California, so her support system is only a cousin who lives 90 minutes away (and that's in good traffic).

So I do things to try to cheer her up. She is (shudder) an unabashed Fanilow so I sent her a link to an MSNBC story about how good Manilow's Broadway show is. Days went by before she clicked on the fucking thing.

Today was Lincoln's birthday. She's an Abe-o-phile, so I sent her a nice little Punchbowl "birthday" e-card to brighten her day. She still hasn't clicked on the link.

She sent me a two-sentence email about how she's interviewing for a new/different job at Cedars and closed it with, "And how are you doing?"

I didn't answer. Why bother? I mean, how do I know she'd bother looking at my reply?

I understand depression and ruts. I'm in one myself -- getting fatter and fatter and sleeping more and eating more instead of working out and cleaning my pigsty. I am self-aware enough to know what's behind it.* I'm working on it.

So I'm not judging her for landing in a dark place. I am, however, judging her for taking me so completely for granted. You can't, on the one hand, complain about being alone and isolated and then, on the other hand, disregard acts of kindness.

Oh, well. She and I have been doing this dance for half a century. Neither of us is going to change, so I'd better just get my mind around it and accept her as she is. But I'm going to give myself some time to cool off. I deserve that.

*The ongoing agita over my mother's estate and worry about my professional future. Oh yeah, and I have been sick.

31 Days of Oscar Blogathon: 1940 Best Actor

The First Time Mr. Lincoln

was in the House


The 13th annual Academy Awards dinner was held on a Thursday night in late February, 1941 at Los Angeles' Biltmore Hotel. That year, the Best Actor nominees included four men who would become film immortals. The movies they were nominated for were major hits and remain popular today: 

• Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator (his only acting nomination)

• Henry Fonda, The Grapes of Wrath

• Laurence Olivier, Rebecca

• James Stewart, The Philadelphia Story

The fifth member of this auspicious group 
is less well known,
and the movie he was honored for 
isn't a cable staple, 
but his role is unforgettable

Raymond Massey was born in Toronto and yet (like the UK's  Daniel Day Lewis) he was tapped to play our greatest President in Abe Lincoln in Illinois.

After distinguishing himself in World War I -- he was wounded while serving in France as a member the Canadian infantry -- Massey went home to Ontario. There he joined the family business, selling farm equipment. That may sound like a rural, Lincolnesque endeavor that kept him in contact with the land, but it wasn't. Massey-Harris was profitable and well established in both North America and England, and eventually it was purchased by AGCO.

Relocated in England for agribusiness, Massey discovered that had the soul of an artist, not a salesman, and was irresistibly drawn to the stage. His greatest London success came in the WWI drama The Silver Tassie. Massey felt a tremendous affinity for the material and eventually both appeared in and directed the West End production. In the 1930s, he moved to film, starring as Sherlock Holmes in The Speckled Band and playing the evil Chauvelin opposite Leslie Howard in The Scarlett Pimpernel

Then he returned to the stage, starring in the Broadway production of Robert Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize winning play, Abe Lincoln in Illinois. Massey recreated his triumphant performance on screen, as well. Humble and honest, warm and wise, a voracious reader and charming storyteller, Massey creates an indelible portrait. In this homely, unpretentious man we see the all the makings of the legend.

The movie begins with Lincoln on the Sangamon River, en route to New Orleans with a load of livestock. A mishap lands him literally at the feet of Ann Rutledge, the daughter of a New Salem tavern owner. He likes the town and really likes the girl, and decides this tiny Illinois town is where he'll put down roots. 

The tentative Lincoln-Rutledge romance ends tragically, and his final declaration of love is one of Massey's most moving scenes. Whoever would have thought Abe could be this romantic? (I prefer to ignore that today's historians downplay the great man's relationship with Ann because their romance as depicted here is so touching.)

His New Salem neighbors prevail upon Lincoln to run for the State Assembly, which brings him to the capital in Springfield. The sets are very realistic. I have been to Springfield many times and recognize the windowseat in the poster from the law office Lincoln shared with Billy Herndon.

After his term ends, he begins studying law, and courting Mary Todd (Ruth Gordon, in her film debut). The wealthy, socially prominent Todds see this as a mismatch, but headstrong, ambitious Mary  sees unlimited potential in her beau and they wed despite her family's objections. With Mary's hand firmly in the small of his back, propelling him forward, Lincoln's star rises. Massey really sinks his teeth into the actual speeches of the Lincoln-Douglas debate. As the movie ends, President-elect Lincoln poignantly addresses the people of Springfield, saying he does "not know when, or whether ever" he shall return to his beloved Illinois. It's a moving moment, true to Lincoln's actual impromptu address at the depot, delivered beautifully by Massey.

This film leaves off near where Spielberg's begins.
Four years have elapsed, his first term has just ended and the Lincoln now showing in theaters has just won re-election. Daniel Day Lewis' portrayal is wearier, cagier and tougher than Massey's. But that makes sense, for now he is a Commander in Chief who has been severely tested by the issues of slavery and war.

And the 1940 Best Actor Oscar went to ... James Stewart.
I am a massive fan of Stewart's and love The Philadelphia Story, but it is undeniably the lightest of the five performances nominated that year. 

While creatively this was his career high water mark, Raymond Massey went on to appear in more major Hollywood films, including Arsenic and Old Lace. He also rejoined the Canadian Army during World War II. He reprised the role of Lincoln several times -- in stage revivals of the Sherwood play, as well as on the big screen in How the West Was Won (1962) and the small screen in The Day Lincoln Was Shot (1956). Late in his career, he found great success with TV audiences as Dr. Gillespie, mentor to Dr. Kildare (Richard Chamberlain).

And here's a little gossip for you: Remember that Ruth Gordon was Mary to Massey's Abe? That gave her a ringside seat to Massey's rancorous divorce from actress Adrienne Allen, which took place shortly after filming Abe Lincoln in Illinois wrapped. Both Massey and Allen were represented by a lawyer named Whitney -- husband and wife attorneys on opposing sides of the case. After the Massey divorce was final, the Whitneys split, too. Adrienne married her attorney, William Whitney. Raymond wed his attorney, Dorothy Whitney, his wife until her death. This real-life tale so fascinated and amused Gordon that she and her husband, Garson Kanin, used it as the inspiration for their script, Adam's Rib.

About the Blogathon:
"Aurora of Once Upon a Screen, Paula of Paula's Cinema Club and Kellee  of Outspoken and Freckled are hosting a new, mammoth blogathon event that coincides with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar, February 1 to March 3, 2013. It’ll be a month filled with fabulous tales and screen wonders." I encourage you to check out other entries.