Friday, February 21, 2014


What is special about this woman?
She's 54, a name, a face that I recognize, and a star. Whenever I see Emma Thompson in a film, the role she's playing always seems very real: I find myself thinking, "That's really her!"

Actually, what stays with me after I've seen one of her films isn't Emma T. the actress -- it's a sense of the story, the film itself.

Maybe that's why Emma Thompson has gotten to play so many interesting, important roles in award-winning films.

She has won all the major, prestigious awards for roles she's played and for her screenplays. Emma Thompson is the only person who has ever gotten Oscars for writing and acting. Everything this woman tackles seem to work. I'd fill this page if I listed all her credits here, but I remember her in "Howards End" on television, and the film, "Remains of the Day," and I enjoyed "Sense and Sensibility." She wrote the screenplay for it, and worked as a writer on the Harry Potter film series, "Much Ado About Nothing," "Angels in America," "Men in Black 3," and was the star and writer for the hit film, "Nanny McPhee." Also, while married to actor- director Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson garnered more top awards as a stage actress.

What's interesting to me is that I can't rave about any scene in any of her films that thrilled me, or stays in my mind -- or describe her special anything -- like her glow, concentration, exceptional intensity, or her beauty.

In "Saving Mr. Banks," that opened this past December, in which she co-stars with Tom Hanks (as Walt Disney), Thompson plays the somewhat prissy, sixty-something woman who authored "Mary Poppins."

Emma Thompson told a reviewer for Britain's Sunday Times, "I never gave much thought to my appearance." She went on to say that she's refused cosmetic surgery, and Botox -- "I have many vile qualities, but vanity isn't one of them," and explained that after spending a few years at home with her two kids, she decided to re-focus her career and told her agent, "see what's out there." All that came in were parts for older women. "My friends said, do a couple of photo shoots, and have them retouched. I was shocked by how old I looked in the movie."

Time Magazine's interviewer quizzed her about her lovers, (Emma T. said she had quite a few), and how it felt being nanny, or an older woman, and Emma replied, "You have to be able to look at yourself, and say the harsh things, talk straight to your image -- be what you really are."

Wow -- to be, or not to be, a famous, well-known actress, and be what you are!

That's a question for each of us, no matter how old or good-looking or viable, we are.

Be what you are.

I think this is one of the reasons Emma Thompson is such an extraordinary, uniquely interesting artist.

Click --lsten to Emma  being what she is, as she's answering very personal questions Time Magazine Reporter Belinda Luscombe asks.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


This plant had four lovely leaves at first.

I keep it on the top of my HP printer.

Two months ago, one of its leaves got yellowish and drooped. I amputated the entire stalk very carefully. About a month later, this happened to another leaf.

Even so, the plant looks lovely. It seems quite happy with just two leaves. Maybe it was getting too much light from my office lamp which I keep on night and day.

I say hi to this plant every morning; chat with it, say hi whenever I use the printer. When I finish my work at 7 p.m, I lift the pot off the printer and place it on my desk on the pile of finished blog posts. It is getting much less light at night. Of course, I move it back onto the printer every morning.  

The manager of the 12-story building next door gave me this plant the day the work on re-pointing his building was finished.

The work that was done on the building next to ours got my husband, John Cullum, and I arguing. How many times did I say, "You didn't give them permission to use our roof. You could tel lhem to stop."  Over and over, John said thoughtfully, and very concernedly, "Em, they are neighbors. They can't do the job without using our roof."

As they pointed their thousands upon thousands of bricks, they accidentally cut our telephone landlines and internet wires. We lost two phones and internet access for a week. They broke two of our windows. Brick dust from their machines covered our roof like a ugly grey rug. They tramped back and forth on our roof, went up and down our fire escape making noise and mess for us for a hundred and five days. I ate lunch in my office -- never upstairs in the kitchen -- I couldn't tolerate the noise overhead and the daily arguments we had whenever I was in the kitchen. 

Our squabbling was much ado about the noise and damage they were doing by using our fire escape and roof.  I nagged. John finally got our lawyer to contact Charles, the 12 story building's manager. Charles made notes and promised that everything that was damaged would be fixed.

Though I did it less often, I continued to murmur "You never gave them permission," and John kept saying, "If I stop them they can't finish the job."
When the re-pointing job was finished, Charles made sure they fixed every single thing that was on the list and gave me gave my plant.

A few years ago I decorated my office with sweet potato plants. After three weeks in the dark, potatoes get sprouts -- in the light, the sprouts grow into long, bright green, wonderful vines. Alas, nowadays, sweet potatoes often get banged up in transit; and in the dark, they develop rotten spots, not sprouts.

Charles' plant belongs to the "Elephant ears " genus; and wow -- it has a small, skinny  sprout with a tiny green head -- oh my goodness golly -- I think it could be a new leaf.
Our building looks better now that it's been repainted. John and I are back to enjoying our usual mellow-mooded, daily, loving exchanges.

I know plants die. I will delight in Charles' plant for as long as it lives.

If it dies, the outdoor Farmer's Market in Union Square (near us), sells all kinds of plants, including Elephant Ears, but maybe I'll get a cactus that has a tiny flower. 

Monday, February 17, 2014


Why do I love this recent photo of Oprah?

Is it the calm wise eyes, almost no makeup, the quiet, listening look of her?

It was published with a statement she made recently, to the Hollywood Reporter.

She said, "I never wanted to have kids."

Whoa, that's quite a statement from a woman who is a heroine, a leader -- a woman we women pay attention to.

She told the reporter that growing up in poverty in Mississippi, she always believed in putting her career first, and knew -- "If I had kids, I'd never have had enough time -- they'd hate me -- they'd have ended up on the equivalent of the Oprah talk show talking about me because something would have had to suffer and it would have probably been them."

Hmm. When I was coming up in the world of dance, I also thought, for similar reasons, "I never want to have kids."

Oprah has found a different outlet for her maternal instincts, by opening and maintaining a girls' school in South Africa. She has mentioned her daily chats with the girls, about everything -- from boy troubles to handling success -- most of them will become the first members of their families to go to college.

I have never been an Oprah fan -- her know-it-all confidence. her power, and her huge success bother me, though I admire her very practical, down-to-earth way of connecting with people one by one as well as a huge crowds.

People who have chatted with her have said they feel she truly perceives them -- many have said, "She spoke with me as if we were equals."

Yes, Oprah makes herself seem accessible.  But she isn't really accessible -- she is extremely busy maintaining and expanding her empire. (Empire? Yes it is an empire.)
Aside from her international fame, and all that she has already achieved, (she's reportedly  a billionaire), Oprah Winfrey has to maintain an enormous staff  to stay in tune with the times -- events, new faces, the latest trends in culture and politics. With her sharp eye and instinct for picking positive, talented people, she's produced helpful, fascinating shows and created stars such as Dr. Phil. Suze Oman, Dr. Oz. and Rachel Ray.

Golly, when a famous woman declares she never wanted to have children, I'm sure she will be criticized, and disapproved of by many women and men. Maybe this is just an idea I have based on the world I grew up in -- what my mother, grandmother, aunts, sisters, neighbors, teachers, and many many friends expressed.

I have a career and yes, I have a son with a husband who shared with me all the things of parenting, and enabled both of us to have full, busy, wonderful careers. It was tricky. Like Oprah said -- some things that are considered part of a normal life may have suffered.-- but the three of us  -- Mom, Dad, and son have flourished. 

The beautiful calm, wise-eyed woman in that picture speaks her mind truthfully, and fearlessly, and shares with us something men and woman need to know and understand. She isn't quoting numbers, or proving her ideas with research. She speaks what she truly feels, and shows us, teaches us. dares to tell us to listen to your own inner voice.  

I said I wasn't an Oprah fan. I am now.