Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries." (Julius Caesar; Act 4, Scene 3).

Category: Editorial (Page 1 of 10)

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire: Donald Trump Jr.’s Russian Meetings

You’ll seldom find me agreeing with arch Republican columnist Charles Krauthammer, but his editorial entitled “Bungled Collusion Is Still Collusion” of Sunday, July 16th (Quad City Times) contains some sentiments that I want to share with you. And then I’ll include some remarks from “the other side.”

Quoting Krauthammer re the burgeoning Donald Trump, Jr. Russian meeting and Russian collusion, in general: “My view was, Collusion? I just don’t see it. But I’m open to empirical evidence. Show me. The evidence is now shown. This is not hearsay, not fake news, not unsourced leaks. This is an e-mail chain released by Donald Trump Jr. himself.” Krauthammer continues: “Once you’ve said, ‘I’m in,’ it makes no difference that the meeting was a bust, that the intermediary brought no such goods. What matters is what Donald Jr. thought going into the meeting, as well as Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, who were copied on the correspondence, invited to the meeting, and attended.” (8 people, in all, were present).


Krauthammer goes on to say: “It’s rather pathetic to hear Trump apologists protesting that it’s no big deal because we American are always intervening in other people’s elections and they in ours.” He goes on to say this is RUSSIA, our sworn adversary, and says, “This defense is pathetic for two reasons. First, have the Trumpites not been telling us for 6 months that no collusion ever happened? And now they say, ‘Sure it happened. So what? Everyone does it.’ He concluded that, no, not everyone does it (Gergen offered oral testimony that both the JFK campaigns and the Al Gore campaign said no to such foreign assistance offered to their campaigns) and said, “But it is not merely stupid. It is also deeply wrong, a fundamental violation of any code of civic honor.”

Just before typing this excerpt from a columnist with whom I seldom agree, I listened to David Gergen explain on television that the presidency requires someone in that office who sets a moral tone for the entire administration and the entire country. This seems self-evident and easy to understand, but that standard is not being met by the White House’s current occupant, whose ethics officer, Walter Schoud, just resigned, saying that the White House, unlike the 2 previous administrations, is doing nothing to cooperate with them on ethics violations and continues to violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which forbids a president or his family from profiting from the office while holding it. The fact that Donald Trump is constantly promoting his businesses is a given. Schaud said he told Donald Sr. numerous times that he must withdraw from his private holdings and shouldn’t be seen at his numerous golf courses (all but 4 weekends in office he has been playing golf at one of them or at Mar A Lago), thereby promoting that business. It was widely reported that the dues at Mar A Lago, Trump’s private Florida club, doubled from $100,000 to $200,000 after his election.

The Donald

Leonard Pitts Jr. won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004.
His editorial is entitled “What Is Wrong with Trump?” Pitt does not mince words. In his Monday, July 17th essay, African-American writer Pitt said: “This has been said a million times: Donald Trump is a lying, narcissistic, manifestly incompetent child man who is as dumb as a sack of mackerel. But he is the president of the United States because 63 million people preferred that to facing inevitable cultural change. So I am done asking—or caring—what’s wrong with him. Six months in, it’s time we grappled with a far more important question. What in the world is wrong with us?” (Quad City Times, p. A4)

In conclusion, I would refer you to my own Letter to the Editor, which appeared in the Sunday paper (Moline “Dispatch”). (It was on one of those annoying fold-over ad portions that you want to immediately rip off and throw away, so I doubt if many saw it on p. A11, which I almost could not find.)

I put my original letter on my blog in its entirety (scroll back) because generally my letters to the editor are round-filed without comment. I’ve sent 3 letters to the “Dispatch” editor and never once have they used one or contacted me to say it needed to be changed in some fashion. One letter was sent by snail mail on letterhead.

While I am glad that one (of 3) letters I took the time to write finally did see the light of day, I wrote today to ask why the credentials of all other writers are generally placed after their names. My credentials for writing a letter about our current political situation were placed at the end of my letter when I submitted it, but there was no mention of my having been named Content Producer of the Year (’08) for Politics by Yahoo (in 2009) or my 2 wins from the Illinois Women’s Press Association as the Best Writer of the Year in a contest judged by experts from the Chicago area, not by its members. (I won the Silver Feather Award, as it is known, in both 2012 and 2014.)


And I didn’t even mention the 2 books that came from my coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign, or the fact that I (also) covered 2004 and 2012. As per usual, no response to my e-mail asking why my credentials were completely absent. Read my entire letter on here, but know that it concluded this way: “Trump’s arrogance at home and abroad has isolated us on the world stage and his inability to know how to behave as our representative is a national embarrassment.”

Driskell Hotel, Austin, Texas

The Magnitsky Act Explained

On Sunday morning’s talk shows, including Fahreed Zakaria’s, there was talk about the magnitsky Act (although it was mispronounced by several speakers.)

It becomes clear from this explanation by the Washington Post that the meeting that Donald Trump, Jr., took part in was probably an attempt to influence the Trump adminisration to revoke this act, which has particularly irked Vladimir Putin. It became law under Obama and it keeps the world’s richest man (Putin is worth something like $26 billion) from using ill-gotten gains not only in this country, but in countries in Europe, etc. In other words, it would be tantamount to bank robbers having no way to launder their take.

The Ruissian oligarchs have been very adamant about getting this act reversed, so that they can spend their money abroad. (“Follow the money,” as the old saying goes).

Here is wht the act did:

The law

The Magnitsky Act was signed by President Barack Obama in December 2012 as a retaliation against the human rights abuses suffered by Magnitsky. The law at first blocked 18 Russian government officials and businessmen from entering the United States, froze any assets held by U.S. banks and banned their future use of U.S. banking systems. The act was expanded in 2016, and now sanctions apply to 44 suspected human rights abusers worldwide.

Its official title is a mouthful — the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. In most news stories and accounts, the shorthand is simply — the Magnitsky Act.

Bill Browder, an American hedge fund manager who hired Magnitsky for the corruption investigation that eventually led to his death, was a central figure in the bill’s passage.
*******
Bill Browder was a guest on Fahreed Zakaria’s Sunday morning 350 program and spoke eloquently about the act and the fact that his life is currently in danger from the Russians who have openly expressed the wish that he be dead.

This meeting of the Trump team was, in all likelihood, a tit-for-tat promise: you help us get rid of the Maginsky Act and we’ll help your candidate get elected.

And they did.

Totally Preventable Disease that Killed “The Cincinnati Kid”

There are diseases that become forever associated with a famous victim. Michael J. Fox is active with research for Parkinson’s Disease. Mary Tyler Moore was a lifelong diabetic. Jerry Lewis, although not a victim of the disease, will always be associated with the marathon television fundraisers he organized and helmed for Muscular Dystrophy.

One particularly insidious disease had, as its most famous victim, Mr. Cool, himself – a man who once said, “You only go around once in life, and I’m going to grab a handful of it.”
And, boy, did he ever!

This famous actor once was at the top of Charles Manson’s “hit list.” It was by sheer luck that this A-lister was not present the night Manson’s minions struck and killed Roman Polanski’s pregnant actress wife, Sharon Tate, and her entourage at her Los Angeles home. (After learning his name was on a Manson “hit list,” the star began carrying a gun.) His last words were said to be, “I did it,” although other reports say he died in his sleep under an assumed name (Sam Shepherd) at a Juarez, Mexico clinic. This mega-star died of mesothelioma – a cancer affecting the lining of the organs, such as the lungs, heart and/or abdomen.

Who was he? More about that in a moment.

Mesothelioma is a disease that kills between 2,000 and 3,000 people annually, and an estimated 43,000 people around the world die from the disease each year. You can be exposed to the asbestos, which is a known cause of the illness, and not show any symptoms for decades due to the disease’s long latency period. It is particularly difficult to catch early, because the symptoms mimic so many others. To wit:
1) Shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness
2) A persistent cough that worsens
3) Blood coughed up from the lungs
4) Pain or tightness in the chest
5) Difficulty swallowing
6) Swelling of the neck or face
7) Loss of appetite
8) Weight loss
9) Fatigue or anemia

Those symptoms mimic many other diseases, and victims often do not seek help until their illness is too far advanced for effective treatment. Even cases that are caught early have a grim prognosis.

One other famous face of mesothelioma was musician Warren Zevon, who wrote “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.” In a “Tonight Show” program devoted solely to Zevon and his music, talk show host David Letterman paid tribute to the “Werewolves of London” tunesmith. Zevon advised, known to be terminal with mesothelioma at the time of the taping, advised others “enjoy every sandwich.” (These taped appearances can still be found on YouTube and are deeply moving; Zevon worked right up until his death, compiling a memorable final album which featured many guest artists.)

The famous face of mesothelioma mentioned in paragraph two has been named one of the Top Thirty Movie Stars of All Time on various polls. His work has been cited as an influence on actors working today, like Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell. He once said, “I live for myself, and I answer to nobody.” That maverick anti-establishment attitude informed his work and his life—and made it more difficult to get him to consult a doctor when he first noticed a persistent cough in 1978. Although he gave up his cigarette habit and underwent antibiotic treatments, he did not improve.

Finally, after filming one of his final films, “The Hunter,” Steve McQueen had a chest X-ray and a biopsy. The biopsy revealed pleural mesothelioma, an aggressive and rare cancer directly caused by exposure to asbestos. The most likely explanation for why McQueen contracted the disease is also in keeping with his rogue image: he was a Marine at one point early in life and was sent to the brig for not reporting for duty, but being absent without leave (AWOL) to spend time with a woman. Part of McQueen’s punishment was to remove asbestos from pipes aboard a troop ship.

McQueen also speculated that Hollywood’s love affair with asbestos, which was used on movie sets to create fake snow from 1930 to 1950, might have exposed him to the deadly carcinogen. The use of asbestos occurred in movies as famous as the Bond film “Goldfinger” and “It’s A Wonderful Life” (although not used in that Jimmy Stewart picture as snow, because a substance known as foamite had been invented for that purpose in 1946). Asbestos was used to decorate other parts of the “It’s A Wonderful Life” set and it was used in the CBS Network facilities building for years, where another veteran character actor, Ed Lauter (“The Longest Yard,” “The Family Plot”), worked for many years. He died of the disease in 2013 at the age of 75, only five months after his diagnosis.

In 1942, when Bing Crosby sang “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” in the film “Holiday Inn,” the snow falling was actually asbestos, and 1939’s “Wizard of Oz” relied on asbestos for the poppy field scene
. Stunt men who wore flame retardant suits in films were exposed to asbestos (McQueen did many of his stunts himself and “Towering Inferno” was one of his biggest films) The suits that race car drivers often wore contained asbestos in the early days; McQueen was a well-known racing enthusiast of both fast cars and motorcycles.

Steve McQueen’s efforts to find treatment led him to Mexico to undergo questionable treatments by a man (William Donald Kelley) who promoted a version of the Gerson therapy. It used coffee enemas, daily injections of fluid containing live cells from cattle and sheep, massages, frequent washing with shampoos, and laetrile, which is derived from apricot pits. Nothing worked. McQueen paid upwards of $40,000 a month ($116,000 in today’s dollars) for the treatments over three months in Mexico. (Kelley’s medical license was revoked in 1976).

Against his U.S. doctor’s advice (U.S. doctors said his heart was too weak), Steve McQueen underwent surgery to remove huge tumors that had, by that time, spread to his liver, neck and abdomen. [The liver tumor, alone, allegedly weighed five pounds] McQueen died of cardiac arrest at 3:45 a.m., twelve hours after surgery on November 7, 1980, at age 50. The El Paso Times said he died in his sleep. He was cremated and his ashes were spread over the Pacific Ocean.

Meanwhile, the asbestos that took Steve McQueen’s life at age 50, almost 40 years ago, is still legal in the United States. First responders to the 9/11 attack in New York City on September 11, 2001, survivors present in the city and those involved in cleanup at the site were exposed to asbestos, as it was used in the construction of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Hundreds of tons of asbestos was released into the atmosphere as a result of the airplane attacks. My own nephew, an architect, was in charge of plans by an architecture firm to remove asbestos from schools in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that took place within the last five years.

Organizations like the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance work year-round to educate people about the dangers of asbestos. Steve McQueen’s death was only one of thousands that year, but people are still being exposed to the mineral today and thousands will be diagnosed this year.

Maybe it’s time to step up and make asbestos illegal in the United States?

“Letter to the Editor” that May (or May Not) Ever See Daylight

[* Below is the complete text of a letter sent to the “Dispatch” newspaper recently, which they refused to run in its entirety. I was told to shorten it to 250 words. The last letter I sent, they never responded and it never ran, so I’m not sure if this is a step forward or a step backward. At any rate, I thought I would offer the complete letter to my frequent readers, as one never knows if the letter will run at all.]

A letter in July 12th’s “Dispatch” from writer Betty Murphy of Orion requests that you stop publishing disinformation from the unreliable sources relied upon by columnist Stephen Moore. I would second Ms. Murphy’s objections to the dissemination of useless information and add to that list the publication on Tuesday, July 11th (page B8) of an ill-informed Dallas-based radio talk show host, Mark Davis.

On the very day it was revealed by Donald Trump, Jr., himself, that he had met with a Russian attorney connected to the Kremlin (in the hope of obtaining information to be used in the 2016 presidential race against candidate Hillary Clinton), Davis wrote that CNN has “wasted countless hours on Russia collusion fantasies.” [When Paul Mananfort, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Donald Trump, Jr., meet with a highly-placed Russian attorney with Kremlin ties, the Russian collusion claim goes well beyond “fantasy.”]

Davis went on to make the comment “…we have reversed the pandering to Cuba and the junk science of man-made global warming.”

Global warming is not junk science. The reality of global warming is accepted by literally every other civilized society, most of whom have joined the Paris Accord to confront the threat it represents to the world. Meanwhile, the U.S. under Trump has abdicated its leadership role on this important issue. Ignoring climate change may doom our planet. Disseminating this crack-pot viewpoint in your newspaper does a disservice not just to local readers but to the world.

Another Mark Davis remark: “Genuine conservatives remain thrilled at the results (of the Trump administration) so far.

Genuine conservatives…and, more importantly, genuine patriots of all political persuasions…are very, very concerned about the Trump administration—not “thrilled.”
Collusion with Russia to undermine the integrity of our elections; creating Muslim registries and travel bans; enriching the Trump family in direct conflict with the emolument clause of our Constitution; accepting aid, either monetary or other, from our enemies; undermining our intelligence agencies and our free press is cause for grave concern for everyone who values living in a free and fairly-elected democracy.

Davis’ entire editorial was blatantly mis-titled: “As haters whine about tweets, Trump succeeds.”

Donald Trump is NOT succeeding. His approval ratings are lower than any president in recorded history. His signature “accomplishments” are largely staged signings of presidential decrees, most of which he has not read, apparently, since he seems singularly ill-informed. (During his speech in France, he did not seem to remember the name of the man he had just nominated to be FBI Director). His health plan is “mean” (Trump’s own words) and a disaster. (Fix Obamacare, instead.)

The entire administration is in chaotic disarray (which must please the Soviet state, as that was their goal, all along.) Trump’s arrogance at home and abroad has managed to isolate us on the world stage and his inability to know how to behave as our representative is a national—now international— embarrassment. All of the warnings about what would happen if this dishonest, corrupt, narcissistic man were to be elected are coming true.

God help us all.

Sincerely,

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson
www.ConnieCWilson.com
CEO, Quad Cities’ Learning, Inc.
www.quadcitieslearning.com
Author of “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vols. I and II
Yahoo Content Producer of the Year for Politics

Lawsuit Filed 9 Hours Ago by Maryland AGs Against Trump


I hope this works.

I am hopeful that, just as Al Capone was finally imprisoned for tax evasion, this legality that he has flouted will bring him down when the Republican members of Congress seem intent on supporting his disregard for the Constitution.

Nobody should use the Presidency as a money grab.

From the “Rasmussen Reports” on the Eve of Jefferson Sessions’ Senate Testimony

Trump & Consequences

Donald Trump’s Other Lies: His Campaign Promises
A Commentary by Ted Rall
in Political Commentary
Saturday, June 10, 2017

This week’s political coverage — probably next week’s, too — will likely be dominated by deposed FBI director James Comey’s incendiary testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. However, Trump’s “lies, pure and simple” are limited neither to the president’s claim that Comey’s FBI was “in disarray, that it was poorly led” nor his litany of falsehoods — most recently, that the mayor of London doesn’t care about terrorism and that Trump’s First 100 Days were the most productive of any president in history.

Comey’s lucid, Hemingway-tight testimony feels like the beginning of the end for this administration. Anything could happen, of course. But it feels overly optimistic to imagine this circus lasting another year.

If and when the obituary for Trump’s political career is written, his admirers will record his historic, meteoric rise. Indeed, Donald Trump was the most effective presidential campaigner of my lifetime: repeated what lines worked, ditched the ones that didn’t, mastered social media, ignored outdated dogma, tapped into voters’ long-ignored resentments, nailed the electoral college map, and did it all for pennies on the Hillary Clinton donor dollar.

True, the brilliant campaigner can’t govern. But that’s a story for another time.

His critics’ postmortems will emphasize that Trump’s brightly burning campaign rallies were fueled by lies: Obama was Muslim, Obama wasn’t born here, global warming is a Chinese hoax, illegal immigrants are streaming across the border (years ago they were, no longer), police officers are the real victims (as opposed to the numerous black men they shoot).

These lies are scandalous. They ought to be remembered. But we shouldn’t let them overshadow Trump’s biggest lie of all: that he would be different, outside the ideological box of the two parties.

“Trump meets the textbook definition of an ideological moderate,” Doug Ahler and David Broockman wrote in the Washington Post last December. “Trump has the exact ‘moderate’ qualities that many pundits and political reformers yearn for in politicians: Many of Trump’s positions spurn party orthodoxy, yet are popular among voters. And like most voters — but unlike most party politicians — his positions don’t consistently hew to a familiar left-right philosophy.”

Whiff!

Trump promised a hodgepodge ideology, a “pick one from column D, pick one from column R” Chinese menu that appealed to many voters whose own values don’t neatly adhere to either major party platform. Who cares about doctrine? Let’s do what works.

As president, however, that turned out to be a lie.

Trump has governed to the far right. In fact, on just about every issue you can think of, Donald Trump has governed as the most extreme far-right politician of our lifetimes, and possibly in the history of the Republican Party.

Candidate Trump criticized North Carolina’s “bathroom law” and said Caitlyn Jenner could use whichever bathroom she wanted in Trump Tower. President Trump rescinded the right of transgender students to use the school restroom of their choice.

Flip, flop, from somewhat to right-wing conservative, over and over and over again.

Candidate Trump lit up the GOP (and relieved not a few Democrats) by criticizing the stupid Iraq War and promising to put America First. President Trump’s cabinet of generals is bombing the crap out of Syria and asking Congress for a 10 percent increase in Pentagon spending.

Candidate Trump was all over the place on abortion rights. President Trump is trying to defund Planned Parenthood and appointed Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch, a right-wing extremist who will likely cast the decisive vote against Roe v. Wade.

Candidate Trump promised bigger, better and cheaper healthcare for all Americans. Trumpcare will leave tens of millions of patients with no insurance whatsoever.

He even welched on his most controversial promise: to improve relations with Russia. Within a few months, he allowed that U.S.-Russian relations “may be at an all-time low.”

“Trumpism was never a coherent worldview, much less a moral code that anchors the president,” Graham Vyse wrote in The New Republic.

#Wrong!

Trumpism is extremely coherent and consistently extremist. Donald Trump turns out to be Ronald Reagan times ten, minus charm.

Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.

Stephen Colbert Interviews Obama Back in “The Good Old Days”

In the wake of James Comey’s testimony, which I watched “live” most of the day (and in clips most of the night), I long for a simpler time and a better occupant of the White House, and I point out that Millennials, don’t blame all we oldsters. He TOLD you to get out and vote, but methinks some of you did not.

I will say, “WHAT is WRONG with Ohio?”

I watched a focus group that had watched testimony all day and was then asked to come back and give their opinions after the long day was over and they were waving Trump signs around like nit-wits. How can ANYONE take Donald J. Trump’s word over James Comey’s? (And, bear in mind, as the FBI chief who released that statement on Oct. 27 that probably cost HRC the election, I’m no Big Comey Supporter, but he is a Boy Scout and Donald J. Trump is the most egotistical, arrogant, obnoxious, untruthful con man I’ve seen in the White House in my lifetime, and it isn’t getting any better any time soon.

It took something like 2 or 3 years for Watergate to wind down and Nixon to resign. Keep that in mind and go out and vote in the mid-terms. PLEASE!

“Obit:” A Documentary Look at New York Times Obituary Writers


Obit: The Obituary Writers at the New York Times Discuss Their Craft

Genre: Documentary
Director: Vanessa Gould
Length: 95 minutes
Actors: Bruce Weber, William McDonald, Margalit Fox, Paul Vilella, Douglas Martin, Jeff Roth
Cinematographer: Ben Wolf
Original score: Joel Goodman
Reviewer: Connie Wilson

Once, 30 people helped maintain the basement archives of 10,000 drawers in the basement of the New York Times offices, drawers stuffed with obituary clippings that documented the lives of the rich and famous. Now that staff is down to one. Say the few obituary writers at the New York Times who are left, “You can count on one hand the number of obituary writers left on staff.”

Why have old newspaper clippings in the day of the Internet? “We like to keep the paper copy because we don’t know if the online sources are going to work.”

This surprisingly light-hearted, entertaining and engrossing documentary doesn’t just interview writers. There are many film clips of the famous, such as the September 26, 1960 JFK/Nixon debate held in Chicago. The first of four televised debates, it was estimated that 70 million people tuned in; it is still considered the turning point in making the photogenic John Fitzgerald Kennedy a media darling who would go on to win the Presidency, beating Eisenhower’s Vice President, Richard M. Nixon, who showed up looking haggard, sweaty and unshaven.

The obituary this day was that of the first television media consultant (William P. Wilson, 86) who insisted on the single support podium and ran 2 blocks to purchase powder puffs and make-up for JFK, while Nixon eschewed any cosmetics and his image suffered afterwards as a result. Naturally, I perked up my ears at the news that his surname was “Wilson” and I found his savvy recognition of the fact that the far trimmer and fitter-looking Kennedy would photograph well on television with his perfectly-fitted suit, while Nixon (who had been ill) looked pallid, sweaty and nervous, was the beginning of that entire field of television on-air consultants.

There were also stories of last-of-their-kind individuals like Manson Whitlock, who repaired typewriters until his death
. When asked about “prepared ahead” obituaries, the writers said that, generally, if a person was in their prime and relatively young, no advance obituary existed. That’s what made writing up the deaths of individuals like Prince, Michael Jackson, Carrie Fisher, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams so daunting. Who does the NY Times have on file now? “Stephen Sondheim, Meadowbrook Lemmon of the Harlem Globetrotters, Mort Sahl and Jane Fonda—although we hope we don’t have to use them any time soon.”

Say the few mostly male and mature obituary writer, “You’re always wrestling with a way to fold the facts in, if we can. We don’t want to stop the narration. We’re trying to weave a historical story and entice the reader. It’s a one-time chance and you can’t do it again.”

Bruce Weber, featured prominently in the documentary, gave some of the essentials of a good obituary. First, following the unfortunate announcement that a Russian ballerina had died (when she is still alive and well today), the death must be confirmed by a reputable source—possibly a family member, the police or the hospital. Says Weber, “I had to call all the Wallaces in Champaign-Urbana when (writer) David Foster Wallace died.”

Second: avoid flowery sentimental language.
“No Hallmark card language to give the obituary an emotional cast.” Douglas Martin, originally from Clear Lake, Iowa, read aloud from his great grandmother’s obituary that appeared in the Clear Lake Mirror and violated that rule to the max. No euphemisms for dying are to be used, like “shuffled off this mortal coil” or “passed away.”

Third: always provide the cause of death.
It has long puzzled me why obituaries tip-toe around the cause of death, often not mentioning it at all. Weber confirms that readers want to know what killed the person, especially if the individual was young.

Fourth: get it right! Weber tells the camera that he regrets a small error in an obituary (of William P. Wilson, 86) that ran that day. He had identified William Wilson’s grandfather as a Democratic Congressman from Illinois; the family has reported that Granddad was Republican. “That was such a small thing. I could have simply left out his political affiliation and it would still have been good. I regret that.”

The length? Depends on the fame of the subject. Obituaries can run 500, 800 or 900 words, but it is the more important celebrity types that garner the greatest space. Also mentioned was the pressure of getting the obituary into print on time if the celebrity—-as with Michael Jackson—dies unexpectedly, has a large body of work, and dies in the afternoon. MJ was declared dead late in the day, around 3 p.m., and that made it difficult to get it written well by 8 p.m. when the paper went to press at 9 p.m. (“We had to really scramble.”) Philip Seymour Hoffman, by contrast, was found dead early on a Sunday morning, which helped the work pace of the writers. However, in this Internet age, “the competitive pressures of journalism have increased exponentially.”

This film is an amazing piece of documentary work. The pacing was great and the quick flashes of celebrities as varied as David Bowie, Amy Winehouse, Carrie Fisher and Prince—flickering by in quick, well-edited cuts—was a good way to spice up an otherwise potentially dry, boring topic.

What sorts of unusual stories have been written by these obituary writers?
There was the obit of Svetlana Stalin (daughter of the U.S.S.R.’s Josef Stalin), who defected to the U.S. and died in Topeka, Kansas. The inventors of the Slinky and the television remote were profiled. There was the sole survivor of the landmark court case Brown Vs. the Board of Education decision, an African American woman educator. Jack Albert Kenzler who averted the scrubbing of a space mission with his inventive tinkering and died at age 74, was newsworthy. The pilot of the Enola Gay who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Manson Whitlock, who repaired typewriters all his life and died in 2014, among the last of that dying breed.

Margalit Fox noted, “Obituaries are inherently retrospective things. It used to be that the only people allowed to be players on the world stage were overwhelmingly white men, but that is changing.” The obituaries point out the changing technology (from typewriters to computers), the advances of women and minorities, and the creation of brand new jobs in this sophisticated age, such as the television media consultant William P. Wilson, shown in a film clip onstage at the Kennedy/Nixon debate scene. Each person mentioned earned a film clip or photo of them during life, many of them very amusing and all of them interesting.

Doesn’t writing about death every day become dreary and depressing?

“No,” says Bruce Weber. “We want to know, ‘How did people get to be the way they are? How did the world get to be the way it is?….We’re trying to write an entertaining piece about history for those who may not know that history. Art also makes you a permanent piece of people’s history. A lot of people my age (Weber is 57) begin to think of their mortality. Seeing the full circle, the full arc. Am I accomplishing anything? Did I leave a mark? The appreciation of the universality of dying intrudes. There’s nothing you can do about dying.”

“The Wall”: Character Study That Gets Old Fast

This will be a stream-of-consciousness review of “The Wall,” starring John Cena and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, in the hopes that it will save some locals who (still) read my movie reviews a few dollars. I just returned from viewing it at what used to be called the Showcase Cinemas in Davenport (IA) [now called “Rave” by Cinemark] and I really wish I hadn’t wasted the time. The money wasn’t bad, since I chose to go at 2:10 p.m. on a Monday afternoon, but, of course, there is always the snack bar ready to drive the price up. (The Jr. popcorn @ $5 and some Junior Mints: $8.99, with no drink).

One thing I want locals to know is that I’m pretty sure that the 2 O’Dells mentioned at the end in the credits are Spike O’Dell’s nephews. If you don’t know who Spike O’Dell is, you won’t care (the teen-aged girl sweeping up obviously did not know who Spike was when I shared this information), but for those of us who grew up with “Spike at the Mike,” [or interviewed him, like I did for the Dispatch when he made his first move away from KSTT (to North Carolina, as I recall, before Chicago)], you might find it interesting that Spike’s brother’s kids (Spike’s nephews) actually work at making movies.

I learned this while sitting at the Chicago Film Festival about 2 years ago from my seat-mate, who identified himself as Spike’s relative and told me about his sons and their career when I told him I was a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics’ Circle in Chicago, reviewing for www.TheMovieBlog.com and www.QuadCities.com. He shared that he was originally from the Quad Cities, too.

I was happy to see the name Brandon O’Dell (and another, who, I think, is his brother….Michael?) drift past in the credits. I made a mental note to share this with local readers who are movie buffs.

What I also want to share with local readers who are movie buffs is that this film is not that great. If you’ve seen the trailer (above), you’ve seen all the interesting parts. There is almost no action and the dialogue is largely a string of “f**s” in various formats.

Hearing the “F” word does not offend my delicate sensibilities, but it got old fast. So did the lack of any music. I realize that Amazon put up the money to make this film, and with just 2 “real” characters onscreen (the third is simply the voice of Laith Nakli playing the role of the Islamic sniper Jubah, the ghost, the Angel of Death and responsible for 35 U.S. casualties) it must have been a pretty inexpensive film to shoot.

There is no set except for a rock wall in a desert, with some debris and some dead bodies around it. Eight pipeline workers have been shot and killed and John Cena and Aaron Taylor-Johnson have been sent out to see if they can find the sniper responsible for the mayhem. As you can see from the trailer, they do find the sniper, but he quickly gets the upper hand, and the rest of the film is simply Aaron Taylor-Johnson stuck behind a wall talking.

Don’t get me wrong: Aaron Taylor-Johnson is an up-and-coming talent whose star turn in “Nocturnal Animals” as the crazed rapist murderer earned him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor this year, so he does a good job of playing a guy pinned down for hours with a leg wound, no water, and no idea how he’s going to get out of the situation he finds himself in. But that wasn’t really what I thought I was going to get in this “war movie.”

When Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) attempts to call for help, he quickly figures out that the voice at the other end of his radio is not someone from “his” side. The sniper has managed to hack into the radio (he actually tells our main character that he purposely hit his water bottle and his radio antenna) and wants to talk about war as seen from the other side.

He tells Isaac, for instance, that “You’re hiding in the shadow of Islam” because the wall Isaac is crouched behind used to be the wall of a school, and the sniper used to be a teacher in such a school. Isaac responds, “No, I’m hiding in the shadow of death.” The two have a loooong conversation about the meaning and purpose of war, with the bottom line being that who is the terrorist “depends on the angle you look at it from.”

This insight is not particularly new or fresh. Any of us would agree that American incursion on the soil of another country makes us the invading colonial power (no matter what reason/excuse is given for the invasion) and, naturally, those who live in the land invaded are probably not going to be pleased at the death and destruction that U.S. forces—whether mercenaries or enlisted—have wreaked on so many Middle East locations.

This country, just to be clear, is supposed to be Iraq in 2007, soon after “W” declared victory in Iraq while wearing that ridiculous flight suit(with the cod piece), with “Mission Accomplished” on a banner behind him. It could have been Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Syria, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq or any number of other countries where U.S. citizens have fought and died in the past 50 years. Even Korea if you want to go back to the fifties. It is hardly a CNN BREAKING NEWS news flash that we have managed to make ourselves pretty much “persona non grata” as a country everywhere in the world and it’s certainly getting a lot worse with Donald J. Trump running the show….for however long that may be.

As we all now know, the mission in Iraq in 2007 was hardly “accomplished” and at the rate we are going as a country, it seems as though we will never be free of war.
One thing that Dwight Eisenhower said he was most proud of as his presidential legacy was that he “kept us out of war” (a direct quote) as President. Obama also kept us out of war.

The others in between and now? Not so much. Some speculate that JFK was shot in Dallas in November of 1963 because he was going to withdraw from the black hole that Vietnam proved to be, and LBJ certainly did not keep us out of war, nor did George W. Bush or George Herbert Bush—although the smarter of the two knew enough to make it short and sweet with lots of allies assisting. (If anything, he plunged us even deeper into the hell that war represents.) Even Reagan had that invasion of Grenada, which was an interesting small war.

So, while I’m in complete agreement with the sentiments that screenwriter Dwain Worrell has articulated here, I didn’t find much dialogue that screamed “Big Insightful Moment” and I do not agree that “Screenwriter Dwain Worrell has a knack for believable, expository dialogue.” There was almost NO dialogue, really, beyond grunting and groaning, the “F” word, (liberally sprinkled with the use of the word “shit”) and some implausible action involving Cena, who seems to come back to life for a while. I don’t disagree that “this is how soldiers really talk” but the exposition was really, really slow and did not break any new cinematic ground in any meaningful or striking way.

Our local critic wrote: “It’s simple, yet it brims with complex issues.” Uh….not really, no.

Another POV I don’t ascribe to: “‘The Wall’ is one incredible war movie that utilizes a handful of characters to make a statement about what motivates soldiers to fight and what motivates countries to go to war.”

Well, there was really nothing about “what motivates countries to go to war.” Right now, what might motivate us to go to war is our current President needing a diversion from the independent investigation into Russian involvement in our last presidential election and the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russians. The REAL reasons countries go to war are always somewhat hidden, like the underbelly of an iceberg. We learn in school that the assassination of the ArchDuke Franz Ferdinand and his wife touched off WWI and that Hitler’s savage genocide and his invasion of Poland were the reasons behind WWII, but if you are a real scholar, you’ll learn that, just like the Civil War, there are many, many reasons why we get into these unwinnable situations, slavery being just one of the many causes that sparked the Civil War in 1861. (Surprisingly, our current occupant of the White House, Agent Orange, didn’t seem to know that the South’s dependence on free labor in the form of slaves was a Big Sticking Point in the 1861-1865 conflagration that pitted brother against brother on our native soil, but he doesn’t seem to know much about a lot of things, so what’s new?)

I would like to give you some “credentials” of the cast and crew at this point, mentioning that this seemingly low-budget foray by Amazon (and Big Indie/Hypnotic/Roadside Alliance with The Molecule responsible for visual effects and Fuse FX working on it, as well) was directed by Doug Liman, who directed “Edge of Tomorrow” and “The Bourne Identity.”

I do not agree that: “You’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat within the first 15 minutes.” There were 3 people present when I saw it today (Monday afternoon, May 22, at 2:10 p.m.). One was a middle-aged woman and one was a middle-aged man and me. The middle-aged man got up and LEFT the theater a full FIVE TIMES! (He was really way more than “on the edge of his seat; he was OUT of his seat and in the lobby more than he was in the theater, I think.) I haven’t seen that many trips in and out of a movie since I was the one exiting “Les Miserables” during its interminable run. The small theater that “Rave” was showing the picture in was so far from the lobby that we were almost in the parking lot. Not auspicious placement for this low-budget film.

So, again: my advice is to save your money. It’s NOT edge-of-your-seat thrilling. The only action is in the trailer above, and, after that, it’s all talking. Yes, we learn a few interesting things about how Isaac really doesn’t want to go back home because he screwed up on a previous tour of duty and feels great guilt for the death of his friend and fellow soldier Dean, and, yes, there is (sort of) a finale that might make you think after you leave the theater.

What it made me think is that I wasted my time and money and I should wait until Aaron Taylor-Johnson is in a movie that is truly action-worthy. This movie looks like all it cost was for the 2 name actors who appear onscreen and, after that, the producers didn’t even spring for a score. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Go see “Alien: Covenant” or rent “Life” for more action and, in the case of the 8th “Alien” film there is some spouting off about the meaning of life, so you will get the pan flute solo with David/Walter (Michael Fassbender) to satisfy your need to be bored silly.

Wilson Out!

Trump Bombs Syria; I Leave for Mexico

The Lagoon in Cancun, Mexico, at sunset.

Tomorrow is Friday, April 7th, and I will soon be departing for Cancun, Mexico.

Quite frankly, with the news that Donald J. Trump has just gone and done yet another dumb thing (i.e., bombed Syria), I’m seriously thinking of claiming to be Canadian while in the sunny land down under.

It sounds like our departure from Austin (TX) will come just before the rain moves in, and the weather in Cancun is projected to be sunny and beautiful, with highs in the eighties. I spent an hour or so packing tonight, and tomorrow I will pack the cosmetic(s) bag, which carries our shampoo, toiletries, et. al.

I’m debating about whether or not to post a review of “Wilson,” the movie that starred Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern, which I recently saw. We went because, after all, when your name IS “Wilson”…..(finish that thought)
If I have time, I may post about it tomorrow. It’s a slight film and unlikely to get wide distribution.

Meanwhile, an interesting anecdote. Because we will need cash while in our neighbor to the South, and they always enjoy the use of U.S. dollars, as opposed to credit cards—and, also, because my credit card numbers were stolen in Mexico one year, which caused someone to run up a $25,000 bill on my card, we went to the Bank of America on Slaughter Lane. I had written my spouse a check for $200 to pay him back for cash he had loaned me when I was in Chicago for a week and forgot to take any cash. (My bad).

He presented the check, written on the Triumph Bank of East Moline, and, of course, they wouldn’t cash it at all.

I was present, doing battle with a machine that was going to give me cash, I hoped, using my debit card from BOA, but I couldn’t figure out how to get more than $80. My husband suggested that I write my check for $400 (rather than the $200 I owed him) and he’d give me half of it for my cash. I would write this check on my Bank of America checkbook.

That seemed a good idea, so, in full view of the 2 cashiers, I wrote this check and he stepped up to cash it.
The cashier demanded that he be fingerprinted before she would cash the relatively small check. They had just watched me (the account holder) write the check in the first place, and we explained why we were writing it (need cash for vacation). Still, some flunky raced out with an inky thing and he had to put his fingerprint on the bottom of this Bank of America check before they would cash it.

Now, what occurs to me is this: what good is my husband’s fingerprint on this check? It isn’t like he has done major time in a correctional institute or anything! He isn’t in any “data banks” of fingerprints. And that is all assuming that the Powers-that-Be thought this 72-year-old man looked like a really guilty character.

Has this ever happened to anyone else, because it seemed very dumb to me.

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