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).

“Mother:” Darren Aronofsky & Jennifer Lawrence (It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature!)

Darron Aronofsky’s new film “Mother!” looks to be a re-imagining, perhaps, of “Rosemary’s Baby” from its trailers. After Aronofsky films like “Black Swan,” “The Wrestler” and “Noah,” you come out of this one feeling slightly bilious—partially from Matthew Libatique’s hand-held close-up camera work—and partially because the film, (allegorical though it may be), just leaves you saying, “What the hell just happened here?

For the first one-half to two-thirds of the film we have a normal story of a couple living in a remote house in the woods (Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence). He is a poet who has writers’ block and she is his loving, much younger and very supportive wife. [They don’t have names in the film, so I’ll simply refer to them by the actor’s names.]

As a would-be writer myself (30 books, to date),the depiction of how the publishing industry works was ludicrous, but it gives us a chance to see how Lawrence feels that she is not the Most Important Person in Bardem’s life, as he shows her his (finally, belatedly) completed manuscript, she cries and calls it beautiful. Immediately the phone rings and we learn that Bardem’s agent in New York (weirdly enough, played by SNL’s Kristen Wiiig) has already seen the manuscript. [Uh—-okay, folks. Not the way REAL publishing works, but let’s move on. And good luck on living on a poet’s income; better he should write horror novels or screenplays, like this film appeared to be from the trailers.]

I want to warn anyone reading this that there will be potential spoilers in my remarks, so look elsewhere if you don’t want to know some specific details about the film. However, to quote the critic in “Time” magazine, “It tries so desperately to be crazy and disturbing that all we can see is the effort made and the money spent.” That observation is not mine and seems a bit harsh, but my remark to a fellow critic as I left the theater was, “This one will not do well at the box office once word gets out.” So, a few details are here, but, no, I won’t give you the entire plot, blow-by-blow, (one of my biggest beefs about those who review my short story collections.)

So, what “word” am I suggesting will get out?

The word that the film makes minimal sense while trying to comment on a host of current topics as varied as the chaos in the world where refugees from any of a myriad list of countries are fleeing for their lives (Syria, almost anywhere in Africa, Afghanistan, et. al.), how we are destroying the Earth (Mother Earth—get it?), how artists both need fans, but also resent the rabid ones who won’t leave them alone, and egoism as demonstrated by those artists, etc.

True film buffs will see “Mother!” and be glad to have seen Aronofsky’s latest film. Word out of TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) was that people came out of the viewing either loving it or hating it, but definitely talking about it. I heard that, at one film festival screening (Cannes, I think) it was both booed and received a 5-minute standing ovation, so opinions come down on both sides of the issue.

IMHO, I don’t think the average couple who want a night out on the town without the kids will like it. They’d prefer a story that made sense. This one does not. It reminded me of Terrance Malick’s “Tree of Life” in that there was a story present that could have been told on a “normal” plane, but things quickly spiraled out of control on that front. “Tree of Life” went wild with great cinematic images, but the story suffered a quick death.

Don’t look for too much of that Malick touch here. The hand-held, close-up camerawork is all zoom-y and jerky. I found it really annoying on the big screen. I feel I have seen every pore on Jennifer Lawrence’s face. I think that is probably the movie’s strength: Jennifer Lawrence in her prime.

The sound is also quite good, and some of the early spooky shots in the old basement made me think of the film “They Come At Night” earlier this year in 2 respects: the shadowy spooky lighting and the fact that nobody ever really came at night and patrons were quite upset at being suckered in by the title and the trailer that seemed to portray a standard horror story. [I hope this isn’t the second instance of misleading advertising in film trailers this season, in the fans’ opinion(s).]

As for the secret room in the basement that is never properly explained or the bloody hole in the floor that I was sure was going to give way when someone walked over it, or the constant influx of strangers whom husband Bardem will not get rid of: not as enchanting or as well-explained.

Bardem ultimately becomes a religious figure (Satan? The Devil?) and Worst Husband & Father Ever.

The story makes sense for a while, but ultimately: “things fall apart, the center cannot hold.”

At first, we have the couple in the woods ( I was reminded of the house used one season on “American Horror Story”) with the wife trying to (literally) re-build the house to please her husband, because, (we learn in an aside), it was his childhood home. We are also told that a fire destroyed it and killed his mother. All Javier has left from the wreckage is a precious piece of glass that he keeps on display on a pedestal. It gets broken, of course, but nevermind about that right now.

After we woozily (those close-up shots and hand-held photography) watch Jennifer run to the bathroom to periodically bolt glasses of a yellow liquid that she mixes on multiple occasions, I wanted to know what it was she was drinking. The film never said. I read (elsewhere) that it was some kind of migraine medication. It would have been nice to have known that, somehow, from the dialogue. I don’t have migraines, have never heard of a yellow powder that people take for it, and was trying to figure out if Lawrence was a closet drug addict or trying to abort an unwanted pregnancy, since there is a conversation in the film where random guest Michelle Pfeiffer tells Jennifer that she (Michelle) can tell that Jennifer doesn’t want kids.

First guest to disrupt the couple’s solitude is Ed Harris, who tells Javier that he is an orthopedic surgeon at the hospital in town and suggests that he was told this was a bed and breakfast where he could stay. Once he finds out that Bardem is the famous poet Harris admires, Harris is invited to stay at their house by Javier as long as he likes. This disturbs Jennifer as she was not consulted.

Then, Ed’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up. Later, his two warring sons (real-life brothers Brian Gleeson and Donheel Gleeson) arrive and a violent fight breaks out about their father’s imminent demise and the money he will leave. [We have learned that old Ed is coughing up a lung because he is terminally ill.]

MOTHER NATURE

Let’s examine some of the themes/allegories that Aronofsky has laid out for us, or why I feel they are there. What is my support for my interpretation, in other words? When it comes to the Mother Nature reading, in addition to the film’s title, we need only pay attention when Jennifer says she wants to make the house “a Paradise” for her husband. And there is this line: “I gave you everything. You gave it all away.” Then, of course, there are the lines of the song that plays over the credits: “It’s The End of the World As We Know It, it ended when your love left me.”

RELIGIOUS SYMBOLISM

Believe me, you won’t miss this. Gifts brought to the child born under chaotic circumstances. Preacher-like figures and small votive candles. Adoring worshippers. Small photos of the object of their adoration everywhere. And we all know what happened to the first son of God in The Good Book, so don’t look for a happy ending here.

EGOISM

“Vanity Fair”cited “the fevered insecurity of an artist who fears the attention of his public as much as he does their abandonment.” It is undeniably true that a writer or artist of any sort is dependent on an adoring public for both ego gratification and sales. Still, it’s taken to the limit here. Jennifer’s constant desire to have her husband make the unwanted guests go away made me think of a story she told tonight on Seth Meyer’s Late Show. She described being asked to pose for a selfie in a bar after a hard day on a shoot (and a few too many beers) and turning the young man down, whereupon he used the “f” word and went away mad. Not as mad as Jennifer, however, who describes dousing him and his luggage with beer because he wouldn’t leave her alone.

You get the feeling that the character Jennifer Lawrence portrays in “Mother!” would dearly love to give every character in the film except Bardem the old heave-ho, but nobody listens to her polite requests that they not sit on the still unmoored kitchen sink counter or simply get the hell out of her house. She is telling them what to do both politely and, ultimately, ragefully, just as Mother Nature has been warning us about weather crises to come for decades, but we just don’t listen. And, just like the 2 recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida within 4 days of one another while vast parts of the west are going up in flames, things are getting wildly out of hand now, because milder warnings given early on were completely ignored.

The film is crazy and disturbing and, in Lawrence’s words on television tonight, “horrifying” but it’s not your normal horror film with an ending that wraps things up for you, with or without a twist ending, so if you hated “They Come At Night” because you thought there was actually going to be something coming at night, you will probably think this film has done a bit of false advertising with its trailers, too.

Doesn’t mean you can’t watch it to try to decode the layers of meaning and enjoy Aronofsky’s skill as a writer/director, but I liked “The Wrestler.” It made sense from beginning to end.

“It” Breaks Records for Horror Movie Openings

When I showed up at our local Cineplex at 5:10 p.m. last Saturday to see “It,” I didn’t expect to find that particular showing sold out—but it was. So was the 6:20 p.m. showing, after I bought the last ticket.

“It”—based on a novel by Stephen King written over 30 years ago—is breaking records for a horror movie opening and easily became the largest September oepning of all time. It more than doubled the earnings of the previous record holders, which were “Paranormal Activity 3” with $52.6 million in 2011 and September’s “Hotel Transylvania 2” with $48.5 million back in 2015.

One might ask why now? Why “It”?

As one critic (Chris Nashawaty in “Entertainment Weekly”) said: “It” doesn’t shy away from nastiness and definitely earns its R rating. There’s implied incest, bullying in the extreme, and children are violently attacked. But that raises the question: Who exactly is it for? Its heroes, like its audience, are kids. What responsible parent will buy their tickets?”

Chris just doesn’t get “It.” The people I saw in the theater on Saturday were not predominantly teen-agers, although there were plenty of them, too. The man sitting next to me was probably a forty-something father who had read the book (which he told me). I definitely read the book, all those years ago, and, to refresh my memory, I strolled down memory lane with the television version of the book that ran in 1990, four years after the book came out.

The original film-for-television version had John Boy of the Waltons attired in a ponytail, to show that he was a creative sort, as Bill. I never did quite get used to that ponytail and Richard Masur as one of the boys turns up a suicide when the team gets the call to return to Derry. In the interests of not ruining the new film, I won’t tell you which of the team Masur was, but killing him off in what will be Chapter Two for this particular treatment may or may not happen.

What I did was primarily take a close look at the differences between the 1990 film and the current 2017 version, and I’ll add some theories about why “It” burst out of the doldrums of September with blockbuster numbers at the box office.

1) The original film covers both the young people and the 40-somethings who are called to return to Derry when the evil clown, Pennywise (originally played by Tim Curry of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”) returns in 27 years. This film stops when the protagonists are young and have just rescued their only female member, Beverly Marsh (well played by Sophia Lillis). We also have, as the lead (Bill), Jaeden Lieberher of “Midnight Special” and the young lead actor of “Stranger Things, Finn Wolfhard. Also present in the remake are Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and a cast of reprehensible parent figures.

2) David Morrell has suggested that our current national situation: being led by a clown who seems bent on making bad things happen may be partially to blame for the film’s September popularity, but if you look at the anemic offerings out there, it is easy to see why “It” would carry the day. It is true that the adults in the film seem either indifferent, incompetent, or just plain evil, from Beverly’s father right on down to Eddie’s mother and the local pharmacist.

3) Pennywise was played by Tim Curry in the original film and is played by Bill Skarsgard in this one. I am not as quick to laud Curry and put Skarsgard down. I thought they were both fine in their roles.

4) The original film used a lot of blood scenes where it bubbles up from the green sink in Beverly’s bathroom. In this newer version, it isn’t just blood that bubbles p. There are also menacing black cobweb like tentacles that threaten to drag Beverly down to the sewer(s).

5) I noticed that the language was very “R”-rated in this movie. That seems natural, since the original in 1990 played on network TV. Every other line has either the “F” word in it or that four-letter word that means excrement.

6) When Beverly’s sink goes haywire with the bubbling blood, only she is able to see it and she enlists the help of the Losers gang, who are also able to see it, but her father is not.

7) When chubby Ben is menaced, he is actually cut with a knife by the bully Bowers, who, himself, has been mistreated by his policeman father. In the original, he was bullied but not quite so extremely.

8) The rock-throwing scene (Losers against local bullies) remains in the film.

9) The weapon of choice for use against Pennywise in the sewers has changed from a slingshot that only Beverly seemed able to aim well to the sort of gun that is used to kill animals at a slaughter house.

10) There is a long sequence in a haunted house that reminded me of Miss Faversham’s digs in “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens.

11) Every trope in the horror movie book is thrown at the audience over and over again: the quick jump forward, the “don’t go in there” places, the “cover-your-face-terrifying” moments. The two teen-aged girls sitting to my left actually applauded after the film ended, so it obviously works and works quite well if you have not seen it done one million times before in many other films.

12) The lighting was appropriately spooky. Not as spooky as “It Comes At Night” earlier this summer, but very dark and moody. Sewers are also plenty scary and this time, instead of just a look at the scary house, the leads are taken inside it more than once.

13) Director Andy Muschieti (“Mama”) has delivered the script by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukomaga and Gary Dauberman, based on King’s novel, in a straightforward murder mystery manner, coupled with horror movie tropes that cause one to scream and jump out of their seat(s). (Think “Psycho”).

14) Critic Rick Bentley (Tribune News Service), who gave the film only 2 and 1/2 stars (putting him at odds with most of the theater-going public) made the very accurate statement that “Pennywise is terrifying, but he’s not the biggest monster

Bob Seger: Still Rocking (in Moline, IL) at 72

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIocthkeiBM&feature=youtu.be

Rock musician Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band took the stage at the Civic Center in Moline, Illinois on Saturday night, August 26th, 2017, for the second show on his just-launched tour (Tulsa was first).

The clip above shows off more of the band, in general, but the entire show was jam-packed with hits, from “Against the Wind,” “Rock & Roll Music,” “Like A Rock,” “Why Don’t You Stay?” to the “Hollywood Nights” link I’ve given (above).

It was a predominantly middle-aged crowd that turned out to see and hear the rocker from Detroit and the place was as crowded as I’ve ever seen it. The downtown parking ramps were all full and we had to walk about a mile to even find a place to park.

It was a great show and very poignant when Seger sang the lyrics, “I’m older now, but still running against the wind.”

Jeremy Renner Stars in Taylor Sheridan’s “Wind River”

“Wind River” opens with a young Indian girl running barefoot across snow with a mountainous landscape in the background. We soon learn that the mountains are (supposedly) in Wyoming on the Wind River Indian Reservation, a reservation established for the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes in western Wyoming. The entrance to the Wind River Reservation is the small town of Lander. We do see a town sign for Lander early on, but all the mountains used in the beautiful cinematography are really in Utah.

Ultimately, the young Indian girl running for her life dies of pulmonary hemorrhage from the sub-zero cold. Her body is discovered by Corey Lambert, a Fish and Wildlife employee whose job, as he tells FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) called in to consult is, “I hunt predators.” Corey was stalking mountain lions when he came upon the young victim’s body, Natalie Hanson (Kelsey Asbille).

The pretty blonde FBI agent (Elizabeth Olson) responds, “So why don’t you come and hunt one for me, then.” The Florida-born, Las Vegas-based agent is out of her league and she knows it. She doesn’t even seem to own boots or mittens, so the locals have to help her out

Corey not only knows the territory well, he also has a backstory (doesn’t the hero always have a backstory?) about losing his own teen-aged daughter three years prior. His young teen-aged daughter Emily also happened to be the best friend of the just-discovered dead girl, Natalie Hanson.

The best male actor comparison for Jeremy Renner’s portrayal of the anguished bounty hunter is that his role is a throwback to the roles played by strong silent types, like Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda and young Clint Eastwood. Renner has been justifiably praised for his performance here with critics saying it’s his best work since “The Hurt Locker.”

The cinematography is gorgeous, if brutal, and one of the leads seems well cast. The barren wintery landscape is the biggest cast member. Sheridan also gets in some digs about injustices done Native Americans, including the factoid at film’s end that no statistics are compiled for missing Indian women. Here’s an example of the sentiments Sheridan has scripted, spoken by the Indian girl’s brother to the cops, who say they only want to help: “Why is it that it starts with you white people trying to help.” He implies that it always goes bad after that and, judging from history, he’s not wrong.

Sheridan initially had his heart set on Renner for the part, but Renner’s role in “Awakening” caused him to be unavailable at first, so Chris Pine was set to play the role, but “Wonder Woman” duties forced him out. Then, Renner’s schedule opened up and allowed Sheridan to continue with this frontier film, after scripting—but not directing— both “Hell and High Water” and “Sicario”—casting his first choice as the main character. The credits throw in the fact that it is “from the producer of “Lone Survivor.”

This, however, is Sheridan’s first time directing one of his own scripts. He and his cast perform competently, although the current trend of leaving numerous unanswered questions means we are still wondering what-the-hell happened to Renner’s own daughter 3 years back. We are equally mystified by the question of relationships by film’s end (Is Renner still in love with his divorced Indian wife, Julia Jones as Wilma? Is Renner attracted to Olsen’s FBI agent? What? Open-ended themes are all the rage these days, so those are a couple of unresolved issues you’ll have to mull on your own after the film ends.)

Ben Richardson’s beautiful cinematography is enhanced by the score composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
. Filmgoers at Cannes gave the film an 8 minute standing ovation, while the Sun Dance people also liked it a lot. (Sheridan didn’t tell the studio he was entering the film at Sun Dance, but it turned out well.)

The denouement where we find out how the beautiful Indian girl (Natalie is played by Kelsey Asbille) ended up dead features Jon Bernthal (“The Walking Dead”) as her boyfriend. He is only in the film for about twenty minutes. The “let’s have everybody shoot everybody else” finale has been done-to-death in this year’s “Free Fire” and various Tarantino films. I had hoped for more—maybe even a well-scripted plot twist.

Elizabeth Olson, playing the FBI agent, seems way too pretty and fragile—which supports her insecurities in her job but makes you long for a Frances McDormand of “Fargo,” the movie, or an Allison Tolman of “Fargo,” the TV show (Season #1) to really make the part believable. Renner, for me, fit the bill, especially when surrounded by excellent Native American actors, like Graham Greene’s Ben (*NOT the long-dead British novelist, but the actor who appeared in “The Green Mile” and “Dances with Wolves.”)

The movie plays like “Jeremiah Johnson” meets Melissa Leo’s 2008 drug-smuggling-in-Canada film “Frozen River” amidst the modernized-to-the-present-day landscape of DeCaprio’s “The Revenant.” The acting by Renner and the plot, itself, are throwbacks to the seventies, something I couldn’t be happier about. I’ll enjoy watching for Taylor Sheridan’s next film. This one opens wide on August 4th.

Genre: Western murder mystery thriller

Length: 111 minutes

Director: Taylor Sheridan

Stars: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olson, Graham Greene, Jon Bernthal

Reviewer: Connie Wilson (www.ConnieCWilson.com)

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

“Hurry Up, Lady! I’ve Got Places to Go!”

It is entirely possible that I was the lady walking “really, really slow.” if this darling child had gone through my legs, I probably would have fallen and broken a hip, but she had “places to go and things to do.” (I probably did not).

I like it when she says, “I don’t want to.” Our friends, Bob and Judy DeJonghe, have documented that their daughters (now both grown) used to say, “I can’t want to” when it came to be bed-time, so it is nice to see that “la plus ca change, la plus ca meme,” which, roughly translated, means: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

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.

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