Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sometimes people surprise you

One of my coworkers can be difficult -- distracted and lazy. And yet today she did something so very kind and responsible! She's picking up the slack on the project that's due eod Monday so that I can stay home in bed tomorrow.

It's an important phase of our big project. I should be well by Monday and there to supervise the final steps before release. But it's such a relief to know I can stay home again tomorrow and nurse this cold without worrying.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


To play along, just answer the following three questions ...

• What are you currently reading?  Bruce, by Peter Ames Carlin. It's not an authorized biography, though the Springsteen camp has certainly participated. I love how The Boss recalls discovering The King. Springsteen was in first grade, watching The Ed Sullivan Show hoping to see the puppets and jugglers, but instead he was transfixed by Elvis: "A child wants nothing but to upset the world … sort of like tearing your house apart and reconfiguring it according to your dreams and your imagination. This man was doing that."

• What did you recently finish reading? Killing the Blues by Michael Brandman. It was an engaging little thriller. Not high art, but it held my attention. I just wish the tension didn't involve a community terrorized by dog killings. I hate pets in peril.

• What do you think you’ll read next? Ya got me! We'll see how I feel after Bruce.

To see how others responded, click here.
P.S. I changed the photo because 1) I like the idea of a 60-year-old Jackie, barefoot and turban-toweled, lounging on the hood of a car, and still looking glam and 2) I have a bad cold and it helps to think of warmer days.

All I do is sniff. Pass that handerkerchief.

I'm too bleary to think. I'm too congested to sleep. I have a bad cold. I know that's all it is because I don't have a fever.

The bad thing about working in a clown car (or "open floorplan") is that I'm sitting on top of three other people all day long, with three more within a matter of yards. I hate that with every cough and sneeze I'm spreading germs, unfettered by walls.

I feel like the responsible thing to do would be to stay home, but I have a 3:45 Wednesday conference call. Rescheduled from 3:45 Tuesday. I'm going in late tomorrow -- I'll be in by noon, just in case something else comes up regarding the project -- and I'll leave as soon as it's over.

I wonder if the money businesses save on rent with open floor plans is lost in reduced productivity during cold and flu season.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

31 Days of Oscar Blogathon -- Oscar Snubs

Richard Burton's Bad Luck with
 Drunk Cowboys 

Tuesday, April 7, 1970, is a milestone in Hollywood history. For it marked the beginning of the end of one of show business' most fabled unions: Taylor and Burton, Liz and Dick. It was the night that Richard Burton lost the Best Actor Oscar to John Wayne.

Burton was sure his sixth nomination for Anne of the Thousand Days would be his last. Hollywood was changing. Instead of glossy, big budget films like the ones he and Taylor headlined, the public was now flocking to smaller, modern movies like The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde and Midnight Cowboy. He realized that he and Elizabeth were becoming passe. This was his chance to finally win an Oscar, and he wanted it badly.

According to columnist Liz Smith, J. Randy Taraborelli's biography Elizabeth and the wonderful Furious Love by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger, it bothered Richard Burton enormously that his wife had two Oscars and he had none.

It wasn't that Burton felt he was more talented than his wife. Quite the contrary. He always said Elizabeth was "the greatest cinematic technician ever" and that she taught him how to act for the camera. 

It was that, for all his natural gifts and hard-won success, he was tormented by the choices he'd made. He turned his back on his father -- Richard Jenkins -- and took the name of his guardian and mentor, Philip Burton, because Philip could help him escape Pontrhydyfen, the poor mining community of his youth. Then he left his loyal wife, Sybil, and two daughters because he wanted to possess the most famous woman in the world. 

He felt guilty about what he called "le scandal," the chaos his relationship with Taylor caused. The jewels and furs, the private planes and yachts, the boozing and brawling. The excesses of "The Liz and Dick Show" kept him from Shakespeare and the stage work that once seemed his destiny. He had been touted as the heir to Olivier, Gielgud and Richardson. He had greater fame and riches than Larry, John or Ralph, but he hadn't been knighted. 

Burton believed that an Oscar would be tangible evidence that it all had been worth it. By 1970, he was sick and tired. Literally. At 45, he was suffering from liver damage and arthritis. He was deeply disappointed in the scripts he was being offered. He dreamed of retiring after he won the gold statuette. He had recently received an informal offer to lecture at Oxford, and believed that once he won an Oscar he could walk away from acting and try for a more discreet and sober life. 

He and Taylor were having marital difficulties. Since their world-famous love affair had begun in Rome eight years before, "Liz and Dick" had received unprecedented scrutiny from the world press. Now they were experiencing pressure within the film industry, too. Except for Anne of the Thousand Days, their recent movies had been flops. And as they moved into middle age, they had to cope with the universal and inescapable heartbreak of aging loved ones. In the spring of 1970 they were still reeling from the sudden death of Taylor's father, Francis, and the paralysis of Burton's idolized older brother, Ifor Jenkins, who suffered a broken neck at their home in Celigny. In the isolation and stress, they turned on one another.

So Elizabeth, too, hoped that if he had the Oscar he wanted so desperately their lives would improve. She gamely launched a campaign to win him the award. She'd been working since childhood and had a lot of friends in the movie industry. She believed that if she and Burton could present a united front and cooperate with the Hollywood establishment, he could win an Oscar of his own to accompany her two.

She began by trying (not altogether successfully) to curtail her own prodigious drinking in support of her husband, who was on the wagon for the first time since he starred in Camelot on Broadway back in 1961. Then she came home, moving her family from Europe back to Bel Air for awards season. She made herself available for interviews, including one with Burton that aired on 60 Minutes. She reached out to the Academy, letting them know she would be happy to participate in the Oscar telecast (she presented the award for Best Picture). She had her famous 70-carat Taylor-Burton diamond made into a pendant so she could showcase it on Oscar night. She asked Edith Head to design this lilac chiffon gown especially for her. The sentimental and superstitious Burton donned red tuxedo socks, honoring the red dragon on the Welsh flag for luck.

And yet Burton still went home a six-time Oscar loser, married to a two-time Oscar winner, and their relationship continued to unravel at an accelerated rate. Their fights became even more frequent and more bitter. Fueled by her alcohol/drug/medical problems, his renewed drinking and self loathing and their mutual crappy career choices, the stress fractures gave way to an earthquake. Though they would each marry two other partners, there is no doubt that this relationship represented the love of their lives. I wish they had been able to admit they were alcoholics in 1963 instead of 1975 for Richard and 1983 for Elizabeth, who was also battling addiction to prescription medication. Perhaps, with counseling but without booze, they could have lived happily ever after together.

Though he was disappointed by his Oscar losing streak, Burton turned it into an amusing anecdote, explaining that he was the only actor to lose to TWO drunk cowboys. In 1966 his embittered Spy Who Came in from the Cold lost the Oscar to Lee Marvin's Kid Shelleen in Cat Ballou. Then his Henry VIII lost to John Wayne's Rooster Cogburn.

He would earn a 7th nomination for the movie Equus. That night he went to the Oscars with a new wife, Susie Hunt, and lost to Richard Dreyfus in The Goodbye Girl. With those 7 losses he ranks second on the all-time losingest actor list. Only Peter O'Toole has him beat with 8 losses. But then, O'Toole lived to get an honorary Oscar, while Burton died while still in his 50s, and didn't live to enjoy those end-of-career accolades that elder statesmen receive.

A review of Burton's Oscar-nominated turns is so impressive that it's a shame today he's remembered more as a paparazzi target and tabloid staple than as a unique and wonderful screen presence:
•   My Cousin Rachel (1952)
•  The Robe

•  Beckett (1964)
•  The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

•  Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
•  Anne of the Thousand Days

•  Equus (1977)

For what it's worth, my favorite Burton performance wasn't even nominated for an Oscar. Back in 1959, he starred in Look Back in Anger. He's charming, intense, poetic and furious. For his searing portrayal in this intimate, low budget British film, he was nominated for both a Golden Globe and BAFTA. Alas, he didn't win those, either. But he did capture a corner of my heart.

Want more Oscar? From Feb 1 to March 1 you can discover a month's worth of posts by visiting Paula's Cinema Club, Once Upon a Screen and Outspoken and Freckled.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

That went well

I had brunch today with my friend Kathy to celebrate her birthday. Before the meal, we went to church together, where she was surprised to see her name in the bulletin. The flowers at the chalice table (the pink ones) were provided by me in on honor of her birthday. This made her very happy.

Kathy and I have had a rough couple years. But she has worked very hard to get back on my good side and I can't help but be moved by that. And I respect the decades and decades that we have invested in one another. But I've learned that a couple hours together every few months is the way for us to go.

I'm also happy to report that my new hair cut looked okay this morning. I woke up this morning, felt how short my hair was on the left side, and thought, "Oh, shit, I really did do that, didn't I?" But I like it. I'm glad I mixed it up a little.

Sunday Stealing

To play along, click here.

1:What was the last argument you had about? I think Jack Nicholson has become pathetic. Tony thinks he's still cool because he's Jack.

2:How long is your longest relationship? I "Beatle-bonded" with my oldest friend when I was 6 and she was 7. We're still in contact almost every day and I'm meeting her in Vegas for my birthday this year.

3:What is something not many people know about you? I have always had incredibly flat feet. (Hey! You didn't specify, "something interesting!"

4:Two truths and a lie. Go. An old boyfriend switched to guys after we broke up; I have only fired a gun once, when I was a very young girl and we were visiting relatives on a farm; I used to love red wine but now I can't stand the sight of it. (Answers below)

5:Do you believe in fate/destiny? Kinda/sorta

6:Where is somewhere you’ve always wanted to live? I love Chicago and would never move. But I have felt very comfortable and happy in Boston and Philadelphia.

7:Has there ever been a song that made you cry? 

8:Do you jump/scare easily? Very

9:Which birthday has been your favorite? All of them!

10:Have you ever been pulled over? Arrested? Nope. I don't drive.

11:Have you ever been to a fortune teller? Yes

12:What’s your favorite series of books? I read several series. Right now I'm looking forward to Dust, the latest in the Kay Scarpetta mystery series.

13:Who is someone that you think knows the most about you outside of family? My best friend knows me better than many of my relatives.

14:What is the weirdest thing you’ve eaten? Shark.

15:List one of your quirks. I have an unintentionally good memory for pop culture trivia. I don't mean to remember this stuff, I just do.

16:State 1 bad habit of yours. I can be quite a slob.

17:Has a scary movie ever given you nightmares? The recent Gravity scared the shit out of me

18:When was the last time you got your hair done in a salon? Yesterday. See post below.

19:What was the last thing you did with your friends? I just got back from brunch with my friend Kathy.

20:What’s something that you like to do that others might see as weird? I really enjoy alone time. I can very happily go an entire weekend without talking to anyone.

21:What was the last trip you took? I spent Christmas in Key West.

LIE/TRUE/TRUE I just said that because I watched a Will and Grace marathon last night.

Because it's been a long, cold, lonely winter

Saturday I changed my hair. Just the cut, not the color. I hope that Sunday morning I can recreate the look. That's always the concern when you change your style, isn't it? And how will it look when it starts to grow out?

Oh, Gal, calm down. It's just hair.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: I Will Always Love You 

1) The Bodyguard is the best-selling movie soundtrack ever and this is the song most often associated with Whitney Houston. Is it on your iPod/mp3 player?  I don't like this recording. It's so over the top and was so overplayed. In fact, I've always thought it would make a good car alarm.

I do, however, love Whitney's voice and "So Emotional" is one of my favorites.

2) In the movie, Rachel (Whitney) sings "I Will Always Love You" after she realizes she can never see Frank (Kevin Costner) again. What song reminds you of a past love? "Have I Told You Lately" by Rod Stewart.

3) Despite the movie's and the song's overwhelming popularity, Whitney Houston was awarded a Razzie Award as the worst actress of 1992. What's the most recent criticism you received? That I'm not detail oriented enough at work. I know! I keep telling management that I want to take advantage of the agency's proofreader. I admit I need help.

4) On the bright side, share the last compliment you received. That I never lose sight of the big picture when I'm working. This pleased me, because I try to remember that my contribution is only a part of the process.
5) In the 1980s, when Whitney first burst onto the scene, a trendy woman wore big hair, big bows and big shoulder pads. Can you think of anything you wore that was fashionable at the time, but looking back, makes you cringe? Neon. I may have been wearing it when I was dancing to Whitney's "So Emotional" in the clubs back in the day.

6) When this song was popular, cell phones were uncommon and Facebook was unheard of. Which has had a bigger impact on your life -- smart phones or social networking? I still have a cell phone, not a smart phone, that rings unanswered in my purse. So I have to go with social.

7) Whitney's marriage to Bobby Brown left many people shaking their heads. Whitney and Bobby's daughter recently married the young man who was raised as her brother. Have you ever been in a relationship your friends/family didn't approve of? Yes. And it pains me to admit how right they were, and how much time I wasted.

8) Whitney Houston's grave marker reads, "I Will Always Love You," so obviously her family is very proud of the success of this recording. How would you like to be remembered? I love the way Wilbur the Pig eulogized Charlotte the Spider, as a good writer and a true friend. That's what I aspire to.

9) Whitney was born in Newark, the largest city in New Jersey. It's a major air, rail and shipping hub, and it's in the Eastern Time zone. Have you ever been to Newark ... or any town in New Jersey? I was in a long distance relationship with a guy in Philly (he of the song in Q2) and we used to take long car rides. I vaguely remember a visit to New Jersey.

There's something in the air ... again

These days, everyone in my professional life is looking for ways to tighten their belts. It's been my experience that no good ever comes of this.

My client has been reviewing their 2013 expenses and is not happy with how much they spent on/with us. I don't know that they are looking at the work we produce, per se. What I have heard about is travel expenses. Now when I visit them, I take Amtrak -- which is way cheaper than gas and mileage reimbursed to those who drive -- and I haven't stayed overnight down there in years. But we did have a team onsite down there, 4 days/week, for more than a year and I know the bills they ran up were astronomical. Never mind that the client requested the team work from their offices. Now that the bills are due, they're suffering from buyer's remorse.

Our head of account services came by and asked how long everyone on our little team has been working on this account, and in financial services in general. He explained that he thought now would be a good time to remind our client who much value they get for their buck when they work with us.

Then, on our side of the equation … We used to have beer and wine and popcorn every Friday. This year will have beer, wine, pretzels and vodka once a month. Management tells us it's better to have good booze less often.

There are metal bowls on each of the long tables in our lounge area. Before Christmas they were filled with chips and candy. In 2014, they're empty. (I wish someone would put them away.)

It was in mid-February last year that we had a round of layoffs.

I am scared. Again.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


To play along, just answer the following three questions ...

• What are you currently reading?  Bruce, the Springsteen biography by Peter Ames Carlin. More than 500 pages, I bet this tome will answer just about any question I may have about The Boss. I checked the index and was surprised to see I'm not listed. Hard to believe, when you consider how much meeting me must have meant to Springsteen.
• What did you recently finish reading? Killing the Blues by Michael Brandman, a continuation of Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone series, but without Mr. Parker, who died in 2010. It was fine. It was OK. It fits in well with Mr. Parker's later efforts, which were not his best. I enjoyed Ace Atkins' efforts, taking up the mantle for Parker's more famous character, Spenser, than I did this one.

• What do you think you’ll read next? Ya got me! We'll see how I feel after Bruce.

To see how others responded, click here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Teaser Tuesday

Here's how to play this meme.

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From Killing the Blues by Michael Brandman. One of the characters in this thriller is crazy, and he does a decent job of concealing it:

There would be consequences if she said he had leave. He looked inward, listening for the voices, waiting for possible instructions.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Boy, is she pissed!

My cat, Charlotte, is home -- after suffering the indignity of having two teeth pulled at about 9:00 this morning. She's still a little loopy, with dilated pupils, a sway to her walk and a wee bit of drool on her chin, but that's to be expected after anesthesia.

While she isn't as furious as she was this morning when she found herself in the dreaded cat carrier, she's still pretty pissed. How dare I do that to her? She is, after all, descended from Egyptian gods. My behavior was not at all serf-like.

But my diva is home. I am relieved and grateful.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Stealing

The Last Night Meme

From By The Way Sunday, a now defunct meme blog.  

Did anyone call you last night?  No. First my cousin Ryan, then my friend Tom IM'd me during SNL, but neither gentleman was lucky enough to actually hear my dulcet tones.

How late were you on the computer last night?  I never logged off. Every so often I come over and check it.

What did you have to eat last night?  I had a massively large brunch -- steak, eggs and hash browns -- so I had a very light, very late dinner of Rice Krispies and a granola bar.

Did you watch any good TV shows or movies last night? I watched The Departed again. DiCaprio, Damon, Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg are all so good in it.

Did any news items stand out to you last night? There's an app to let Chicago drivers know about the worst potholes, a student on the South Side was murdered even after he handed the thugs his cellphone, and Matthew McConaughey's acceptance speech at the SAGs was exponentially weirder than the one at the Globes. (At this rate, by the time he wins his Oscar he will be speaking in tongues.

Did you go out last night?  No. I spent a lot of money Wednesday night when we went to dinner and then saw the touring company in Ghost (music by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics) at the Oriental theater. It's still January and too early for me to abandon my resolution to be more fiscally responsible.

What was the weather like last night?  Cold. Though not polar vortex/Chiberia cold.

What was the last thing you said last night? "You made my weekend." I unexpectedly ran into my across-the-hall neighbor for the first time since he was raced to the hospital last October. He had bypass surgery weeks later and has been slow to mend. But he's up and (literally) walking the halls as part of his physical therapy. He's 30 lbs. thinner, which was striking, but very happy. And I was very happy to see him.

What time did you go to bed last night? I went to bed a little after midnight, woke up at 3:30, came out and did this meme. I'm gonna go back to bed for a while when I'm done.

Trying not to worry too much

My cat Charlotte has been losing weight for about six months now. At first it didn't bother me because she was rather plump. I attributed the change in her feline figure to the improved diet she was enjoying -- when my wildman Reynaldo was put on a premium diet, all three of my cats benefited. But her weight loss continued and she's gone from svelte to scrawny.

The vet suspects it's hypothyroidism, a not uncommon affliction among older cats, and Charlotte is probably 17 years old. While her appetite and enthusiasm for food is unabated, he did notice some redness on her gums and plaque on her teeth. Problems with her mouth could be a gateway to infection, so he recommends a thorough examination and teeth cleaning.

On Monday, at 7:00 AM, Charlotte is going to vet for diagnostic bloodwork. I'm worried. She's an old cat and anesthetic is dangerous. I realize that the procedure is in her best interest -- she's frail and an infection could kill her, and it's important that we discover the reason behind her weight loss. But I don't want it to be happening.

It doesn't help that Annie Wilkes, the cantankerous old cat who lived with my friends in the Keys, died on Wednesday of an age-related illness.

I hate this. It contributed to my inability to do much of anything today.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday 9

Unfamiliar with this week's song? Hear it here. (This is their official video and it begins with a skit; music starts at 2:25.)

1) Dancing all night to the best song ever would be good for the cardiovascular system. When is the last time you exercised? Did 25 mins. on the treadmill and a few reps on some Nautilus machines just yesterday. So far I've managed to maintain that resolution of working out 3x/week.

2) The girl in this song is the daughter of a dentist. "Dentophobia" is fear of dentists. How do you feel about going to the dentist? It doesn't upset me.

3) One Direction performed this on Good Morning, America. Do you watch morning TV? If so, which show? Morning Joe on MSNBC. I like hearing both sides in an atmosphere that's friendly and respectful. Learning something is a good way to start the day.

4) Listening to upbeat pop songs like this one makes Sam feel young. When is the last time you participated in an activity commonly connected to childen (like swinging on a swing, drinking chocolate milk, playing a board game, etc.)? I just had a pudding cup yesterday.
5) One of the boys, Louis Tomlinson, was an actor before joining the band. How many different professions have you tried? What were they?
I have been a receptionist, an admin, a telemarketer, a copywriter, a creative director and (now) an associate creative director.
6) The fans that have made One Direction millionaires are also the target audience for series like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Wimpy Kid. Do you read Young Adult literature?
Nope. They seem to be in the sci fi/fantasy genre and that just doesn't float my boat.

7) If this is the "best song ever," what song do you consider the worst? Tell us which song just sets your teeth on edge. Just about everything by Barry Manilow. "Mandy," "Can't Smile Without You," "Copacabana" … shudder.

8) One Direction performed at the Royal Variety Show for Queen Elizabeth. If you found yourself presented to Her Majesty, what would you say? I'd probably be all tongue tied and overwhelmed by protocol. But if I could screw up the nerve, I'd ask her about the Helen Mirren movie.

9) Right now, is your life moving in the right direction or are you feeling a bit aimless? I do feel like I'm in a holding pattern now, waiting for something to happen.

The Fourth Estate Is Worth Preserving

Rachel Maddow wrote this terrific editorial, which I read -- actual newsprint on paper -- en route to work this morning. It's about the importance of local news coverage, and the timing could not be more appropriate.

Not just because it was local reporters who broke the current Chris Christie scandal. But because I'm looking at a bill right now from The Chicago Tribune.

It costs me nearly $400/year to get the Trib delivered Monday-Friday. I try to read it every morning when riding the el. But it's hard. The edition that's home delivered is still a big old broadsheet, which is difficult to maneuver on a crowded train -- especially when I'm surrounded by selfish space hogs who take more than one seat for their tote bags or backpacks.

But that's a superficial reason to give up an opportunity to be better informed about neighborhood and my world, and to support the institution that keeps the power brokers honest. As Ms Maddow writes:

It’s annoying to pay for information — I know. But if you don’t subscribe to your local paper or pony up to get behind its online paywall, who’s going to pay reporters to cover the news where you live? A free press isn’t that kind of “free.” An accountable democracy doesn’t work without real information, gathered from the ground up, about people in power, everywhere. Be inspired by the beleaguered but unintimidated reporters of Chris Christie’s New Jersey: Whatever your partisan affiliation, or lack thereof, subscribe to your local paper today. It’s an act of civic virtue.

Friday, January 17, 2014

I'm just a product of my environment

The newspapers are filled with stories about Gov. Chris Christie and Bridgegate. It looks as though the Gov. may have closed the George Washington Bridge to mess with a local mayor who had messed with him. Apparently this is shocking.

To some people. Not to me.

For I live in Illinois. Of our four most recent governors, two are convicted felons. (One Republican,
one Democrat. We're very even handed here.) While Rod Blagojevich garnered the most national news because ... well ... he went batshit crazy, I have always found George Ryan more complex, interesting, and sinister.

When Ryan was Secretary of State, he found an interesting way to fund his upcoming gubernatorial run. He sold truck driving licenses to those who would prefer not to take the test. Naturally the result was unqualified drivers behind the wheel of big rigs all over the country. This was in the 1990s, before the dark consequences of an Al-Queda operative driving hazardous materials on an expressway could even be imagined. But what actually did happen was more than horrible …

In 1994, the Willis family -- Mom, Dad and six children -- were driving through Milwaukee in their mini-van. They were on I94 when a large piece of metal came flying off a flatbed truck. It hit their rear gas tank and the minivan exploded. All six children burned to death.

The driver had purchased his license with a bribe. He did not know that the law required him to conduct a pre-trip inspection of his truck. He did not understand the frenzied hand signals of other drivers as the piece of metal began to slide off. It came out in court that he could not speak or read English well enough to converse with the general public,  a requirement for earning one of those licenses. He never should have been allowed behind the wheel of that truck.

George Ryan won't accept responsibility for the License for Bribes scandal that gave him his start toward the Governor's Mansion and ended his career. But as governor, he did empty Illinois' death row and work with Nelson Mandela toward ending the state's barbaric death penalty. This is only my opinion -- the former Governor does not have me on speed dial -- but I think those were the actions of an old man trying to get right with God.

Then there's Mayor Daley -- or King Richard II as many call him. Now I adore the man. But he was always the kind of bare knuckle brawler that Gov. Christie seems to aspire to be. For example, Meigs Field. In 2003, Mayor Daley wanted to close the airport and make it into a park. The aforementioned Gov. George Ryan put some pesky ordinance in place that would keep the airport open until 2025.

That pissed Mayor Daley off. So he did what seemed completely logical around here. During the middle of the night he sent bulldozers into the airport to carve gigantic X's on the runway. He said it was to protect us from rogue terrorist planes in the wake of 9/11. No one believed it. The Mayor paid a fine and built his park.

Then there's Mayor Daley's nephew, involved in a one-punch homicide. And of course, Blago. And Mel Reynolds. And Dan Walker and Otto Kerner and .... The list is endless and it exhausts me.
So you'll have to excuse me if Chris Christie and GWB scandal invoke little more in me than a yawn.

Trying not to be annoyed

Saw the touring company of the musical Ghost with my friend Barb. Before the curtain we met for dinner at an upscale restaurant. She was 15 minutes late, as usual, and spent even more time than usual staring at her phone. She was constantly checking her email and even set up a meeting, while I was sitting there.

I kept trying to start a conversation but she'd give me short answers or lose her train of thought as she went back to her smartphone. Finally, I gave up and stared out the window.

I know she'd had a bad day, trying to meet a client deadline while saddled with a mutinous art director. I know she'd had a bad week, with the plumbing at their office so unreliable that she and her employees had to run across the street to a hotel whenever they had to pee. I know she's had a bad month, battling the flu.

But still, it pissed me off.

We see each other about once/month. It would be nice if she could feign interest in me when I'm sitting in front of her.

But I know that's not fair. There has never been a time when I've needed Barb that she hasn't come through for me. Not once in 20 years.

So I just have to accept the good with the bad with my theater buddy. Just as I have to learn to be more accepting of everyone. It's OK to be annoyed with people when they're annoying, and she was, but I must keep it in perspective.

Image courtesy of Castillo/

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


To play along, just answer the following three questions ...

• What are you currently reading? Killing the Blues by Michael Brandman. I just tossed this book into my case this morning and have yet to crack it open, but I'm looking forward to it. Jesse Stone is one of the late Robert B. Parker's beloved protagonists, and I'm happy to see that his estate has found a way to continue the series. I hope that Mr. Brandman does a good a job with Jesse as Ace Adkins did, picking up the mantle for the Spenser novels.

• What did you recently finish reading? The Last Word by Lisa Lutz, rumored to be the final "document" in the Spellman mystery series. Maybe it's time. Because while most of the members of this eccentric family have really grown on me, especially sisters Rae and Izzy, the mystery itself was disappointing. I truly have enjoyed all these books, and if you're interested in a continuing series filled with original and amusing characters, I'd definitely steer you to these six books. I just hope you start at the beginning with the earlier efforts because they're more satisfying.

• What do you think you’ll read next? After Killing the Blues it will be time to take a break of mysteries. so I'll probably pick up Bruce, the Springsteen biography by Peter Ames Carlin.

To see how others responded, click here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I enjoyed the gun show

No, not that kind of gun show. I haven't lost my mind and gone all RWNJ on you.

I'm talking about my trip to health club. I found myself gazing upon the most beautiful arms as a man gripped the handles while doing seated leg presses. I really wished I could reach over and touch them.

Sometimes I really miss sex.

Thank you. That is all.

Teaser Tuesday

Here's how to play this meme.

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960s America, page 118:
Betts endured a nightmare at the hands of a Rachedesque obstetrics nurse while Don had his feet up in the cozy solarium. It wasn't until the late 1970s that men were regularly allowed in the delivery room. Until then, men's role in pregnancy ended with conception.

Sui generis

Tonight I watched First Ladies: Influence & Image on C-Span. I've been DVR-ing this series religiously*, have learned a lot and am enjoying it a great deal.

Tonight's subject was Nancy Reagan. When she was First Lady, she kinda gave me the willies. She seemed insensitive and irrelevant. HOWEVER, as one who admires a good love story, I am immensely moved by the tender, loyal care she gave her husband as he slipped further and further away during his post-Presidency. So to me, it's like the public Nancy Reagan is two different women.

Watching the show tonight, I was surprised yet again by how many callers referenced JBKO. It happens week after week in this series. Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon and now Nancy Reagan† ... "Did she have a relationship with Jackie?" "Was she influenced by Jackie?" "Did the press treat her differently than they did Jackie?"

Finally panelist Carl Cannon, a writer and son of noted Reagan biographer Lou Cannon, stated the obvious: "Jackie was sui generis." Yes! That's perfect. My girl was indeed in a class by herself.

*Except Bess Truman; I keep missing Bess!
†I don't recall her being mentioned in the Betty Ford or Rosalyn Carter episodes.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Look at the belt

This is Greg Maddux, pitching for the Cubs at age 40. He was in good shape for a 40 year old man: able to strike out major league batters, hit the occasional homerun himself, and be paid millions of dollars a year. He was strong enough to be known for making every start, not for time on the DL.

But the belt is riding lower than it did when he was 20. It's an accommodation to the passage of time.

Alex Rodriguez is 38 and the league believes he's dealing with age with performance enhancing drugs. He will spending the 2014 baseball season in street clothes.

Greg Maddux was just inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with more than 97% of the votes.

I hope young people look at the belt and learn something.

P.S. I love Greg Maddux. I have enjoyed this week so. Can't wait for the ceremony this summer!

"I didn't beat her. I hit her."

So says Billy Bigelow to his Heavenly adviser, describing his fights with Julie, in Carousel. Audiences in the mid-1950s knew his explanation was bullshit, that it's wrong to raise one's hand in anger.

Yet it goes on all over today. Still.

"I don't beat my children. I spank them."

"I don't beat my dog. I discipline him."

All any living thing learns from being hit is to be afraid and angry. And to hit when they get big enough. That's why you hear so many people say, "I spank my children and my grandchildren. Just like I was spanked. And I turned out OK."

Except that you think it's OK to raise your hand -- to someone you love! -- in anger. Just like those audiences in the 1956, I ain't buying it.

Sunday Stealing

The Fast Dozen Meme

1. What is the last book that you passed on to someone else to read? Then We Came to the End. It's a very good novel set in an agency where I once worked. I lent it to a friend/former coworker of mine, who also toiled in those saltmines.

2. The one song you secretly or not so secretly want to sing at karaoke? "New York, New York"

3. If you had to pick a new name for yourself, what would it be? Julie. I'm watching Carousel on TCM as I answer these and Shirley Jones' character was called "Julie."

4. What do you wish your administrator or boss would notice? How hard I work at making my art director/partner feel like a part of the process.

5. What is your biggest pet peeve? Space hogs. People who take up an extra seat on the train for their backpacks or totes, and space on the bench at the health club for their water bottles and mp3 players.

6.  What holds you back in pursuing your biggest dream? Self discipline.

7.  Why do you think you are a lovable person? Because I am imaginative and kind.

8.  If every day had an extra hour in it, what would you do with it? Probably waste it playing Farmville.

9. The last song you turned up in your car or house was? "You Wear It Well" by Rod Stewart.

10. What is a secret talent you may have? I can wiggle my ears.

11. Your favorite thing to do outside when it's not too cold out in the winter? Walk. The streets are emptier and I notice things about my neighborhood that I don't see when the streets are full of people.

12. How do you respond if someone asks you an inappropriate or nosy question? Depends on the question.