Posted by: judyweightman | November 8, 2016

Election Day, 2016

I’m thinking about my mom a lot today.

Some of my very earliest memories of her involve her passion for politics. Before I was old enough to go to school, I was old enough to accompany her as she canvassed our Dearborn neighborhood, representing the League of Women Voters. I remember her and her friends debating the changes in Michigan’s constitution back in the late ‘50s; this was a few years before the current constitution was ratified in 1963.

I went with her to the polls as she cast her vote for JFK – a man exactly two days older than her, and the first president born in the 20th century. I remember watching JFK’s inauguration on TV with her, delighting her with the picture I drew of the handsome young president in his top hat. (Far from being hatless that day, he was the last president to wear one to his inauguration.)


An ardent feminist, she used to say that my older sister would be the first woman president, though I think she made her peace with the fact that Pat showed no interest in getting involved with the electoral process.

Mom died in 1987, so she never even heard of Bill or Hillary Clinton, who were living in the governor’s mansion in Little Rock then. No great shakes as a cookie-baker herself, she’d’ve been fine with Hillary’s feistiness, and happy to support her husband, “the first black president,” in 1992.

Pat and I have debated whom Mom would have supported in ’08, Barack or Hillary, but regardless of whom she voted for in the primary, I suspected she might have cried, as I did, when Barack Obama accepted the nomination. And again when he was elected. And yet again when he was sworn in.

Today, almost 30 years after my mother’s death, I voted in an election that I wish she were alive to see – an election that will, God willing, put the first woman in the White House. I thought of her as I stood in the voting booth. I voted a straight Democratic ticket, of course – my mom raised me right – but rather than punching the party button at the top of the ballot, I went down the list and thought about each vote as I cast it – this for the first woman president, that for the first woman senator from Pennsylvania.

I’m with her, Mom – and know you would have been, too.


Posted by: judyweightman | May 10, 2015

Which women sell movie tickets?

I’m currently working on a piece about Shirley Temple, who is famous for her box-office dominance in the 1930s: she was the top-earning star in Hollywood for four years running, 1935 through 1938. This, naturally, got me wondering about top-earning stars. The full list, with the top ten earners for each year 1932 through 2013, can be found here. Instead of scrolling up and down that list, I pulled out just the #1s:

box office

2013: Jennifer Lawrence

2012: Denzel Washington

Jennifer Lawrence in

Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (Photo by Murray Close – © 2013 – Lionsgate)

2011: Brad Pitt

2010: Johnny Depp

2009: Sandra Bullock

2008: Will Smith

2007: Johnny Depp

2006: Johnny Depp

2005: Tom Cruise

2004: Tom Hanks

2003: Jim Carrey

2002: Tom Hanks

2001: Tom Cruise

Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron in

Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron in “The Blind Side.”

2000: Tom Cruise

1999: Julia Roberts

1998: Tom Hanks

1997: Harrison Ford

1996: Tom Cruise/Mel Gibson (tie)

1995: Tom Hanks

1994: Tom Hanks

1993: Clint Eastwood

1992: Tom Cruise

1991: Kevin Costner

1990: Arnold Schwarzenegger

1989: Jack Nicholson

1988: Tom Cruise

1987: Eddie Murphy

Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in

Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in “Runaway Bride.” (© 1999 Touchstone Pictures)

1986: Tom Cruise

1985: Sylvester Stallone

1984: Clint Eastwood

1983: Clint Eastwood

1982: Burt Reynolds

1981: Burt Reynolds

1980: Burt Reynolds

1979: Burt Reynolds

1978: Burt Reynolds

1977: Sylvester Stallone

1976: Robert Redford

1975: Robert Redford

1974: Robert Redford

1973: Clint Eastwood

1972: Clint Eastwood

1971: John Wayne

1970: Paul Newman

1969: Paul Newman

1968: Sidney Poitier

1967: Julie Andrews

1966: Julie Andrews

1965: Sean Connery


Doris Day in a 1960 publicity shot.

1964: Doris Day

1963: Doris Day

1962: Doris Day

1961: Elizabeth Taylor

1960: Doris Day

1959: Rock Hudson

1958: Glenn Ford

1957: Rock Hudson

1956: William Holden

1955: James Stewart

1954: John Wayne

1953: Gary Cooper

1952: Martin and Lewis

1951: John Wayne

1950: John Wayne

1949: Bob Hope

1948: Bing Crosby

1947: Bing Crosby

1946: Bing Crosby

1945: Bing Crosby

Shirley Temple in

Shirley Temple in “Glad Rags to Riches.”

1944: Bing Crosby

1943: Betty Grable

1942: Abbott and Costello

1941: Mickey Rooney

1940: Mickey Rooney

1939: Mickey Rooney

1938: Shirley Temple

1937: Shirley Temple

1936: Shirley Temple

1935: Shirley Temple

1934: Will Rogers

1933: Marie Dressler

1932: Marie Dressler

As a lifelong movie-lover of the boomer persuasion, I was intrigued by how evocative the list is, imparting a sense of traveling backward through pop cultural time. Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise — Jack Nicholson? Oh right, Batman — and yup, Burt Reynolds owned the late ’70s and early ’80s.

One surprise: William Holden, an actor I like but don’t think of as a money-making star. His spot in 1956 is apparently due to Picnic, which grossed $6.3 million, though it doesn’t appear on top-grossing film lists for either 1955 (its official release year) or 1956 (when it went into general release).

Specifically, though, I was looking for context and comparisons for Shirley’s late ’30s run. She dropped to #5 in 1939, and was off the list in 1940. She was succeeded by another kid, Mickey Rooney, for a three-year reign from 1939 to 1941. (His costar, my namesake Judy Garland, was #10 on the list in 1940 and 1941 — taking Shirley’s place?) No minor has taken the top spot since.

Women are not exactly over-represented either. Let’s look at the women on the list:

2013: Jennifer Lawrence

2009: Sandra Bullock

1999: Julia Roberts

1967: Julie Andrews

1966: Julie Andrews

1964: Doris Day

Marie Dressler in 1909.

Marie Dressler in 1909.

1963: Doris Day

1962: Doris Day

1961: Elizabeth Taylor

1960: Doris Day

1943: Betty Grable

1938: Shirley Temple

1937: Shirley Temple

1936: Shirley Temple

1935: Shirley Temple

1933: Marie Dressler

1932: Marie Dressler

Doris Day is the only woman to match Shirley’s four-year record, but hers weren’t consecutive, since Elizabeth Taylor broke in in 1961. The two of them, plus Julie Andrews, ruled the early ’60s, taking every year but one (1965, when Thunderball gave Sean Connery the top spot) between 1960 and 1967.

Of course, that did it for women for more than 30 years — the next to top the list was Julia Roberts in 1999.

And of course the women who topped the list were, with the exception of Taylor, wholesome as hell. From oldest to most recent:

Marie Dressler played comic dowagers (most famously as counterpoint to Jean Harlow in 1933’s Dinner at Eight): Wikipedia describes her as a “robust, full-bodied woman of very plain features.” Shirley Temple was underage, so let’s just accept her as asexual, as she was perceived in those days. (To the postmodern eye, of course, her penchant for showing off her undies and smooching grown men is a little more troubling.)

Betty Grable in her trademark pose.

Betty Grable, with her million-dollar legs, was the most famous pinup of World War II, but her film roles emphasized her girl-next-door persona — she was the woman GIs hoped might be waiting for them at home, not some floozy.

Doris Day, of course, made a career of playing virginal women, dominating the last few years before the sexual revolution by teasing wolfish roués, most famously those played by Rock Hudson. (Given that he turned out to be gay, it’s clear that her virtue was never in any danger.) Times and movies changed, but Day didn’t: she turned down the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate as “vulgar and offensive.”

Julie Andrews goes risque in “Darling Lili.”

Julie Andrews, by contrast, struggled to ditch her wholesome persona. The first effort came in 1970’s Darling Lili, in which she played a German spy; that unsuccessful effort was satirized in 1981’s S.O.B.. Both movies were directed by Andrews’s then-husband, Blake Edwards. Neither film was particularly successful.

Julia Roberts played a hooker, albeit a very wholesome hooker, in Pretty Woman, but her box office clout was due to her rom coms. Notting Hill, which paired her with Hugh Grant, and Runaway Bride, which paired her with Richard Gere, both came out in 1999, sending her to the top of the box office list that year.

Sandra Bullock took the top spot in 2009, when she played the ultimate Good Mother in The Blind Side, and Jennifer Lawrence in 2013 for her role as the kick-ass Katniss in the second Hunger Games film — two different warrior women characters.

Which leaves us with butterfield 8Elizabeth Taylor, who played the highly sexual Gloria in BUtterfield 8 to take the top spot in 1961. She wasn’t actually a call girl (despite the phone number of the film’s title), but a woman whose ex-lovers are numerous enough to meet in Yankee Stadium, as one of them says. (Needless to say, given that the Hays Code was still in effect when the movie was made, Gloria got her just desserts, dying at the end of the movie.)

Women, even in Hollywood, are paid less than men, and the American public doesn’t want to see women owning their sexuality on the big screen? Imagine my astonishment.

Note: My review of John F. Kasson’s Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America, which is the book that sparked my preoccupation with Temple, can be found here.

Posted by: judyweightman | April 11, 2013

Twitter How-To Part VIII: Creating and using lists

Once the number of people you follow hits the triple digits — let alone quadruple digits or more — it becomes impossible to read every single tweet in your feed. There are a couple of strategies for making sure you see the ones you really want to read.

One of these is to create lists, which is a way of organizing your followees. Typical categories include:

  • topics (politics, local news, funny feeds, shared hobby — anything of interest to you)
  • profession
  • geographic location (people who live in your city or region)
  • relationship to you (friends, family, coworkers)

but you can divvy people up in any way that helps (or amuses) you.

To create a list, go to your “Me” page, which has the tab to get to your lists.

01 me lists

and click on “Create a new list.”

02 create list

You’ll get a pop-up in which you can name, describe, and set the privacy settings for your list. (You may want to keep your lists of personal friends private, but most of mine are public.)

After you’ve created your lists, go to the profile of the account you want to add a list or lists.

Click on the icon next to the “follow/following” button and on the dropdown, click on “add or remove from lists,”

03 add to list

then click on the list or lists you want to add the person to.

04 which list

(“Real-life tweeps” are, oddly enough, people I know in real life.) Once you’ve clicked however many lists you want to add the person to, all you have to do is close the pop-up — there’s no “save” on it. Note that most people tweet on multiple topics, so you may want to put them on more than one of your lists — for instance, a fellow editor I know in real life who lives in Philly would be on three.

Obviously, this is kind of a pain in the butt — the earlier in your Twitter career you start creating and maintaining lists, the better off you are.

If you click on the name of one of the lists, the recent tweets by members of that list appear.

05 list tweets

To see all the members of that list, click on “List members.”

06 list members

The other tab in the Lists list is labeled “Member of.” These are lists that other people have placed you on.

07 list membership

If you find one of these intriguing, you can subscribe to it yourself — just click on the list and then click on “subscribe.”

Why go through this rigamarole? Once you’ve got the lists, you can use them to see portions of your Twitter feed, enabling you to check on just the topics or tweeters you’re most interested in when you don’t have time to read through your entire feed.

Posted by: judyweightman | March 19, 2013

Twitter How-To Part VII: Favorites

Note: Despite my self-proclaimed status as an expert in all things Twitter, there are certain functions I don’t use much, making me ill qualified to tell you what they’re good for. One of those is the “favorite” button.

The “favorite” button lets you keep track of tweets that will otherwise disappear into the ether — despite new archiving functions, Twitter is an ephemeral medium. I personally use it to bookmark a story idea or other link I want to find later, or scrapbook an exchange with a celeb I admire, or (frankly) to keep track of a particularly nice compliment.

My Twitter pal @Mededitor, though, uses it all the time — and was kind enough to write a guest post about the “favorite” button. His thoughts are below.

All about Twitter: The “favorite” button

By Mededitor

Twitter is a highly social forum for interacting with other people. Those whom you choose to follow become part of your “following” list, and those following you are your “followers.”

You have many ways to interact with your followers. The simplest form of interaction is to post a Tweet. All of your followers will see it.

You use the “@” symbol to direct a Tweet at someone. When you do that, only that person and people following both you and that person will see the Tweet. Another option is to add a period and a space before the “@” symbol so that the person and all your followers see the tweet.

You use the “retweet” button to duplicate another person’s Tweet to all your followers. This is considered the highest form of compliment on Twitter — a virtual “high-five.” The problem is that, while you’ve indicated your approval of the person’s Tweet, you’ve also broadcasted it to all your followers. Only do this when you think the Tweet would be of exceptional interest to everyone who follows you.

standard RT

Note the green arrow at top right in this retweet, and the green “retweeted” button. That’s your confirmation that all those who follow you saw it. Too-frequent use of the RT (retweet) function will likely cost you followers because you’re adding content to other people’s Twitter streams, and they may decide that you’re spamming them.

The “favorite” button offers you a way around this problem. When you “favorite” a Tweet, a gold star appears on it in your window, and the person whose Tweet you’ve favorite is notified that you’ve favorite their Tweet. This is also a virtual “high-five,” but it is only visible to you and the other person.


Note the gold star at top right and the gold “favorited” button. That’s your confirmation that the person you favorited saw it. If you’re exceptionally fond of someone and enamored of his or her work, you can click on the person’s name, then view their Tweets, and “favorite” their last 10 or so posts.

Also, in your personal profile page, you can select your own “favorites” button and see all the Tweets you’ve favorited. There is normally no reason to do this, but when you favorite a Tweet you are creating a kind of bread-crumb trail that makes it easy to find a favorite item again should you wish to do so.

There is no “correct” way to Twitter. It’s what you make of it. Personally, I am very sparing with retweets. I may use the command only once or twice a day. But with favorites, I’m extremely liberal and hand them out like candy at a carnival.

Many people on Twitter use the Favstar tool ( to manage their Tweets. When a Tweet gets five or more “favorites” or retweets, the person is notified of this in a special message. Favoriting a Tweet increases the likelihood of this happening.


Favstar here shows me that this Tweet garnered 19 favorites and 14 retweets — an indication that it was appreciated.

Be careful with the “retweet” button as it can cause people to stop following you. Only use it when you think 100 percent of your followers will appreciate the content. Use the “favorite” button as much as you like to thank those you follow for adding value to your Twitter life.

Mededitor is a medical editor with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. Follow him on Twitter for thoughts on language, editing, publishing, culture, technology, and futurism: @mededitor.

Posted by: judyweightman | March 9, 2013

Refrain from the refrain

Usually I start wondering about a word’s etymology after encountering the word somewhere — today, though, it was not seeing the word that got me cogitating.

A poster on a message board was grousing about people who can’t restrain themselves from doing [whatever]. My always-active editor mind automatically wanted to change that to refrain from doing [whatever] — one fewer word, and it avoids the clunky reflexive pronoun. Restrain, refrain, weird that those two words are so close — and hey, what’s the connection between the verb refrain and its apparently identical noun twin?

As we found with sconce/ensconce, despite the surface similarity, the two words have different etymological roots.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the verb refrain, meaning to hold oneself back from doing something, dates back to the early 14th century. It comes (via Old French) from the Latin refrenare “bridle, hold in with a bit,” from re– “back” + frenare “restrain, furnish with a bridle,” from frenum “a bridle.”

The "frenulum" tag is at center right. (From "Gray's Anatomy")

The “frenulum” tag is at center right. (From “Gray’s Anatomy”)

Frenum, by the way, hasn’t disappeared without a trace — the strip of tissue between your tongue and the floor of your mouth is the lingual frenulum, with frenulum being the diminutive of frenum. (And, to further digress, the original meaning of “tongue-tied” is to have an abnormally short lingual frenulum.)

The noun refrain, meaning a recurring part of a song or poem, especially one that appears between verses, dates to the late 14th century — though, per the Online Etymology Dictionary, it’s uncommon until the 19th century. Like the verb, it comes from the Latin via the French, but both the route and the root are different. It comes from the Provençal refranhar “singing of birds, refrain,” which comes from the Vulgar Latin refrangere “break off.” As OED says, “The notion is of something that causes a song to ‘break off’ then resume.” This sense of “refrain” may be the source of “riff,” a recurring phrase in jazz.

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