Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

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Presley Trivia & Other Random Musings

Viewing “Elvis” and recognizing that very little was said about Elvis’ many girlfriends or what happened to Lisa Marie Presley in the wake of their 1966 divorce made me take a look at some of the history since his death in 1972.

For those too young to have seen Elvis in his prime, this movie is an education. However, the film does veer dramatically from the truth along the way.  Gone is any mention of Elvis’ many loves including his affair with Ann Margret while filming “Viva, Las Vegas.” Wikipedia tells us that Elvis and Priscilla Presley became increasingly distant after the 7 and ½ year courtship, including her relocation to Graceland after Elvis met her in Germany in 1959. She was 14 when they met; he was 24. They married in 1966, although she lived at Graceland with him for nearly 8 years before they tied the knot. They divorced in 1972. Priscilla gave birth to Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis’ only child, in 1968. Priscilla’s parents apparently went along with the idea of the then 14-year-old girl being “raised” in Memphis by Vernon Presley. Weird.

It is noteworthy that both Priscilla and Lisa Marie and granddaughter Riley Keough appeared with Austin Butler in a special about Baz Lurhmann’s film that I watched. Speaking in the Jungle Room in Memphis, Elvis’ wife and daughter were extremely enthusiastic about this film and Austin Butler’s portrayal of Elvis. Lisa Marie said, “I loved this film and I hope you do, too.” Lisa Marie and Priscilla and granddaughter Riley Keough, an actress, participated.

It made me wonder about any other children of Elvis’ only daughter, who was nine when he died. Didn’t Lisa Marie—who also put out three albums—have other children?

Lisa Marie has been married 4 times. She actually has (or had) four children, but Riley’s brother, Benjamin Keough, died on July 12, 2020, at the age of 27 in Calabasas, California, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  On October 7, 2008, Presley gave birth to fraternal twin girls, Harper Vivienne Ann Lockwood and Finley Aaron Love Lockwood, via Caesarian section at Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California.

In February 2017, Presley said that her daughters were taken into protective custody. She opposed her husband Michael Lockwood’s request for spousal support, claiming that she had found hundreds of images and videos of child pornography on his personal computer. The divorce was finalized sometime in 2021. Sources say that Lisa Marie—who married both Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage—remains on good terms with Danny Keough, her first husband, the father of Riley. One source suggested that Keough continues to live on the property, but the couple are not an item. Regardless, Riley, has appeared in 38 films, including 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” as Capable, and she will have a recurring role in the new streaming series “The Terminal” as Lauren Reese in 8 episodes, opposite Chris Pratt. (The series premieres on July 1st),

In 1971 an affair Elvis had with Joyce Bova resulted—[unbeknownst to Elvis]—in her pregnancy and  an abortion. Elvis often raised the possibility of Bova moving into Graceland, saying that he was likely to leave Priscilla. Elvis and Priscilla separated on February 23, 1972, after Priscilla disclosed her relationship with Mike Stone, a karate instructor Presley had recommended to her. (No mention of this in the screenplay). At the time of his death, Elvis was supposedly engaged to Ginger Alden. Prior to Ginger, Presley and Linda Thompson split in November 1976. (Linda Thompson was also once married to Bruce/Caitlin Jenner and, after him, David Foster, who is now married to “American Idol’s” Katharine McPhee. Foster has been married 5 times and was, for a while, step-father to Brandon and Brody Jenner, when married to Linda Thompson.)

“Priscilla related that when she told him, Presley “grabbed … and forcefully made love to” her, declaring, “This is how a real man makes love to his woman.” She later stated in an interview that she regretted her choice of words in describing the incident, and said it had been an overstatement.  Five months later, Presley’s new girlfriend, Linda Thompson, a songwriter and one-time Memphis beauty queen, moved in with him.”

As Wikipedia recounts: “On July 6, 1972, Thompson attended a private movie screening hosted by Elvis Presley at the Memphian Theater in Memphis. Thompson was 22 at the time.] Linda Thompson and Presley hit it off and subsequently dated for four years before breaking up around Christmas 1976. They broke up because, like Priscilla before her, Thompson wanted a “normal” life, which was not possible with Presley’s lifestyle. However, they broke up on good terms and remained good friends until Presley’s death.” Presley met Ms. Thompson, a songwriter, 5 months after Priscilla and he separated. The Presleys were not officially divorced until August of 1972, one month after he met Linda Thompson.

Perhaps the next bio-pic could be a cross between Linda Thompson and David Foster, both of whom seem to have interesting lives? Foster married his fourth wife, Dutch model Yolanda Hadid in Beverly Hills, California, on November 11, 2011. She is the mother of Gigi, Bella and Anwar Hadid, who are constantly in the tabloids. That gave way on 2011 and Foster proposed marriage to Katharine McPhee in 2019. He is 72; she is 38 and just had their child on Feb. 22, 2021. Ms. McPhee/Foster donates to Republican causes.

So, so much for depicting Elvis as a one-woman man who was crushed by his wife’s departure. It does seem logical that Priscilla’s departure would severely wound him, since he was known to be unusually close to his mother, Gladys, and deeply affected by her death at age 46. The movie version shows Elvis feeling increasingly trapped in a career that did not reflect what he most wanted to be doing. Baz Luhrmann, in the special, even talks about the somewhat heavy-handed way in which he shows Elvis, onstage, singing “caught in a trap” while Colonel Tom is signing a deal for him to work at the Las Vegas International Hotel for the next five years, in exchange for expunging the considerable gambling debt he had run up (among other compensation).

Another possible untruth involves Colonel Tom Parker telling Elvis he needed to go to Germany in 1958 and serve in the Army the normal way. Actually, one source said that the Colonel objected to Elvis performing for free for the government, or Elvis could have served far less than the two years he spent in Germany. Another source said that he tried to avoid serving altogether, but finally went along with Parker’s plan to rejuvenate his image. However, supposedly special arrangements were made for Presley to live while serving and the concept of him being a regular “G.I. Joe” is questioned.

 

 

 

“Elvis” Features Austin Bishop as Elvis Presley

Austin Bishop is not a name I was familiar with. From now on, his Elvis will be the best Elvis interpretation ever put onscreen. Bishop has the voice down, the movement down, the look down, and the film was wise in utilizing the real Elvis’ singing—including film of Elvis’ final performance before his untimely death on August 17, 1972 at the age of 42.

I would expect Austin Bishop to be nominated for an Oscar for his capturing the essence of the man often referred to as the King of Rock & Roll. (Of course I thought Chadwick Boseman deserved a nomination for portraying James Brown in “Get On Up,” and that never happened.)I just hope that this talented newcomer does not get stuck playing Elvis for the rest of his life.

Butler and Australian director Baz Luhrmann managed to make a long (2 hrs. 40 min.) tribute to the late great rock & roller that entertains while also glossing over much of the real history behind Elvis’ rise to greatness and his precipitous fall. (See some factual Elvis trivia below).
You know it’s going to be a Baz Luhrmann epic from the moment the overdone credits appear. For Luhrmann, the operative phrase should be changed from “Less is more” to “More is less.” Luhrmann is best known for directing “Moulin Rouge” and “The Great Gatsby.” I go way back to 1992’s “Strictly Ballroom.” This film was the best of all of those and, despite the characteristic overkill, Luhrmann took on a huge story. He tried to tie Elvis’ rise and fall in with the turbulent story of the times, which is a tall order. A lot happened in the fifties and sixties and there are many reminders of those moments in time.

For those too young to have seen Elvis in his prime, this movie is an education. However, the film does veer from the truth along the way.(See some Elvis trivia below) Gone is any mention of Elvis’ many loves. Wikipedia tells us that Elvis and Priscilla Presley became increasingly distant after the 7 and ½ year courtship, including her relocation to Graceland after Elvis met her while serving in the Army in Germany in 1959. She was 14 when they met; he was 24. They married in 1966, although she lived at Graceland with him for nearly 8 years before they tied the knot. They divorced in 1972. Priscilla gave birth to Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis’ only child, in 1968. Lisa Marie was 4 when her parents split up and 9 when her father died.

The film was shot completely in Queensland, Australia.“Shooting the film completely in Queensland, Australia, called for meticulous recreations, especially when building Graceland. The production team did a huge analysis by visiting the real Memphis estate multiple times, accessing original plans through the Graceland archives, and studying photographs for hours on end. The model was built on what was once a horse paddock, near a flower farm. The initial interior features blue walls and red carpeting. “We were lucky enough to be taken around [Graceland] by the head archivist, Angie, and she took us into the hall closet,” Martin says. “There’s actually a bit of that blue paint extant in the closet, so we were able to take paint chips and match the color.”

This attention to Graceland detail allows us to see the entrance and the formal dining room, although the circular bed in the master bedroom, the hopelessly outdated kitchen and the famous “Jungle Room” do not appear in the film, nor do the outer buildings that were constructed after Elvis first bought the 18-room mansion on March 19, 1957 for $102,500.

Presley and Priscilla filed for divorce on August 18, 1972. They had been married since 1966, but she had spent the years from 1959 to 1966 living at Graceland, which means that their union lasted for roughly 16 years. According to Joe Moscheo of the Imperials, the failure of Presley’s marriage “was a blow from which he never recovered”. At a rare press conference that June, a reporter asked Presley whether he was satisfied with his image. Presley replied, “Well, the image is one thing and the human being another … it’s very hard to live up to an image.” The screenplay has Elvis saying, “I’m so tired of playing Elvis Presley” and, at another point, “Ever since then, I’ve been lost.”

For me, the movie took me back to July 1, 1957, when my sister turned 16. She was having a slumber party. All the girls were upstairs, but I—the unwelcome 4-years-younger little sister—was downstairs watching television when Elvis appeared on television for one of the first times in history. I was mesmerized. Nobody on TV had ever moved around while singing like Elvis Presley. I immediately began shouting for my sister and her sleepover friends to come down and watch this new phenomenon. They ignored me, of course, but it was a first appearance that I never forgot.

Tom Hanks provides the co-star name to bring in the movie crowd. Casting Tom Hanks as the villain has never been the best idea. He played a hit man in “The Road to Perdition.” While Hanks always delivers a fine performance, being the bad guy is not his sweet spot. This particular bad guy, Colonel Tom Parker, is particularly odd, as Hanks plays him decked out in fake padding and utilizing the Dutch accent that Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk (Parker’s real name) would naturally have developed. It was well-known for years that Parker’s lack of a passport and citizenship papers kept Elvis from going on international tours.

Did the Colonel Tom Parker of Elvis’ world speak with such a heavy accent? I have no idea, but it does make one wonder why it took so long for the truth about his lack of citizenship to emerge publicly. We are given a scene in Baz Luhrmann’s film where Elvis fires his longtime manager from onstage during a performance. Did that really happen? No idea.

Luhrmann’s touch—never a light one—is seen everywhere in this over-the-top rags-to-riches interpretation of Elvis Aaron Presley’s life. It’s a rags-to-riches story. One facet drawing praise is the credit given to the Black artists who influenced Elvis’ sound.

Whenever Austin Butler’s Elvis is performing, the resemblance is uncanny. You can’t look away. Butler spent two years prepping for the role and his imitation of Elvis far exceeds that of Kurt Russell, Nicolas Cage, Michael Shannon or others who have attempted to emulate Elvis.
The cinematography by Mandy Walker was good and the costuming by Catherine Martin is Oscar-worthy. Other co-stars (Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley; Helen Thomson as Gladys Presley; Richard Rosburgh as Vernon Presley.) are background wallpaper.

Lisa Marie Presley is featured in an endorsement, saying, “I love this film, and I hope you do, too.”

Rides at SouthPark Mall on June 25, 2022

While  driving back from seeing “Elvis” at the Regal Theater in Moline, we passed SouthPark Mall and some sort of fair is going on there.

I asked my husband to drive us past the attractions, because the lights were distinctive and the ferris wheel attracted my attention.

I had seen nothing in the morning newspaper or online about a fair in the area or any sort of rides being set up, but there they were.

It began to rain as we pulled into the OfficeMax parking lot.

I got out of the car and walked to a vantage point where I could get a better shot of the ferris wheel, and took a few others before the rain really began to come down.

Tomorrow, I will have a review of “Elvis” but for today, enjoy these pictures of the ongoing fair.

“The Bear:” Not Riveting Television

We just watched the premiere of the new series “The Bear.”

The series is set in Chicago and seems almost like a spin-off from the lead’s former role as Lipp (Philip) on “Shameless.” Jeremy Allen-White portrays the lead chef in this story, which is described in the synopsis this way: “A young chef from the fine dining world returns to Chicago to run his family’s sandwich shop.”

First, the good things about the series: 1) The acting (2) The Chicago setting, especially the exterior shots often used in “Shameless” (3) the cast.

Second, the bad things about the series: 1) the scripts by Alex O’Keefe and Christopher Storer, (who also directed) (2) the opportunities for conflict in this restaurant setting (3) the basic interest in a show that is heavy on cooking lingo where at least half the scenes take place within a gritty Chicago corner cafe.

Jeremy Allen-White is as impressive as he was in “Shameless.” He’s good, and I’m sure he will continue to be good.  It is  difficult to remember that he is not “Lipp” (Philip) Gallagher any longer, but is now Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto. For one thing, the latter name conjures up images of an Italian family. Jeremy, with his piercing blue mesmerizing eyes, looks about as Italian as I do (which is not very Italian). Let’s just say that he made a better Gallagher than he does a Berzatto. Carmy was Michael’s brother, but Richie was his best friend, if I understood the family dynamic properly (it was not totally clear).

Co-star for the series is Ebon Moss-Bachrach. He is apparently Carmy’s cousin, Richie or perhaps just the dead Michael’s best friend. Unclear, like many other things. Richie is used to doing things “the old way” in the restaurant. Carmy wants to improve things. Change is good for Carmy and Sydney, but bad for Richie. Carmy and Richie spend most of the first episode screaming at one another over changes in the menu, how they prepare food and other topics that were about as riveting  as whether or not Kim Kardashian and Kanye West reconcile. [In other words: not interested in either of those things, and certainly the decision as to whether or not to scrub spaghetti from the menu is not High Drama in my world.]

Mediator in the family friction is a new hire, Ayo Edebiri as Sydney, the sous chef. She seems way too good for this corner eatery. Part of the manufactured conflict is apparently going to center on Liza Colon-Zayas as Tina, who resents Sydney’s new-found influence and attempts to undermine her at many turns. Somehow, watching a bunch of stewed onions fall on the floor does not qualify as high drama. The visit from the Health Inspector, who gives them a grade of “C” is also not our idea of excitement, but the feeling that this entire endeavor is sort of doomed by debt and other every-day ills  made me think about how stressful it is to fill up my gas tank these days. All of the financial shortcomings that Carmy faces do not make for very good escapist fare. In fact, his inability to pay for the foodstuffs necessary to keep the restaurant going was depressingly true to life. Right now, escapism from the realities of inflation and high food prices is on my menu; watching a restaurant go under because of the inflationary pressure we all feel is not.

What is wrong with the scripts?

The language is very “chill” and “trendy.” My husband and I were confused on at least 3 occasions by various terms used, including the use of the word “fire” over and over (to mean good, we think). There were 2 other terms or phrases that we failed to completely understand. We had to figure out the meaning from context (never a good sign.) This did not add to our enjoyment of the plot. It’s as though O’Keefe and Storer want to use the latest slang to show how cool they are. Regular folk like me out here in viewer-land are not as “up” on  junior high/highschool/college slang, so, for us, it just left us feeling lost. We felt like we had not been given the secret password or shown the club handshake, but we ended up not caring.

We also failed to see the point in all the “Yes, Chef” terminology. I actually taught many, many culinary arts students. One of them used to bring me tomato bisque soup in my English class, which I appreciated. Somehow, I don’t see all of this “Yes, Chef” and “We need to organize in battalions” stuff as being Real World. Perhaps I am wrong. [I will ask my favorite student Austin Johns if this rings true  next time I see him]. I still get taken on tours of various restaurant kitchens in this area by my former students, one of whom, taking me through the kitchen at Bass Street Landing, when I expressed surprise that he remembered me at all, said, “I always remember anyone who made a difference in my life.”

Liza Colón-Zayas and Jeremy Allen White in The Bear (2022)
Jeremy Allen-White

There were some murky seeds planted that may yield drama and conflict in the future, but I don’t know if we’ll be watching long enough to find out. What seeds? Why, exactly, did Michael

What seeds: Why, exactly, did Michael, the brother of Carmy and previous chef at the cafe, commit suicide. Was the envelope on the floor Michael’s suicide note? Who is “Nico?” What is going to happen regarding the $300,000 in loans that veteran actor Oliver Platt, who makes a quick stop in the restaurant( but is not even credited on the cast list) is owed.  Are we going to see Oliver Platt again? I would tune in again to see Oliver Platt, but when he isn’t even listed on the cast credits, I’m not sure I’ll be back.

I  appreciate that this was a noble effort. I’m sorry that I’m apparently too backward to become excited about the revelation that Carmy took off mid-day to go to an Al-Anon meeting. I don’t know why Carmy seems to have no life beyond the restaurant. I find the character of “Sugar” under-written and underwhelming.

Moving along, “The Old Man” is getting really exciting. It’s some of the best TV of the year. It makes cooking a hot beef sandwich seem even more mundane, by comparison.

 

 

 

 

“The Offer” Gives Us the History of the Making of “The Godfather”

“The Offer” is the Paramount Plus mini series about the making of “The Godfather.”

The iconic gangster film is over 50 years old, but the stories about the difficulties in making the film have been legendary for years.

Robert Evans became the producer of “The Godfather” movies after the first film hit it big, but Albert Ruddy of Canada was listed as the producer on the first poster and had to solve many problems for the production to go forward. For one thing, Paramount studio chief Robert Evans didn’t want Al Pacino to play Michael Corleone. He wanted Robert Redford.

Also, Frank Sinatra had antagonized the Mafia over the popular book’s film version. He was unhappy thinking that the portrayal of a washed-up  mobbed-up singer in the book was based on him. In the film, Vic Damone ultimately played the part.

Giovanni Ribosi plays the part of Mob boss Tony Columbo; it is Columbo whom Al Ruddy has to get in good with, in order to get the approval of the Italian American community to let the film be made. The drama when Columbo is shot and Crazy Joey Gallo takes over at a key momnt in filming is intense.

Miles Teller plays Al Ruddy. He is the central character in this one, whereas he played second fiddle to Tom Cruise in “Top Gun: Maverick.” (Still, it is a step up from “Spiderhead,” which was a waste of Teller’s talents).

Colin Hanks portrays Barry Lapidus, a studio executive, and Burn Gorman plays a really-over-the-top Charlie Bludhorne, another bean counter for the studio. It is hard to understand how Bludhorne, the Gulf & Western executive, would ever be placed in the position of authority.

Matthew Goode’s interpretation of Robert Evans made him sound as though he had a perpetual head cold. While Goode looked slightly like the thin, elegantly clad Evans (whose family owned Evan-Picone), he could have resembled Evans more had he been tanner. There are even references to Evans perpetual tan in the script, but Matthew Goode looked normal. Evans also constantly uses the phrase “Booby.” This may be historically accurate, but it was a noticeable affectation.

The film portrays Evans as very upset over third wife Ali McGraw’s leaving him for Steve McQueen (they were making “The Getaway”), but, in real life, Evans was married 7 times and lived to be 89. Evans did have a conviction for dealing cocaine in 1980 (he denied he was a dealer). Evans name came up in connection with what came to be known as the Cotton Club murder, but he was not convicted for that crime.

The production values for the 10-part series are good and there is interesting cinematography, as with the scenes in the last episode supposedly shot at the Academy Awards. (Note all the empty seats behind Teller, which would never happen at the Oscars). Aside from Meredith Garretson, who plays Ali McGraw, the most prominent female rule is filled by Juno Temple (“Killer Joe”) who plays Bettye McCartte.

The look-alike actors in the piece, doppelgangers playing everyone from Robert Redford to Marlon Brando, are generally not very convincing, in terms of their resemblance to the originals. For instance, the Jimmy Caan individual is much too tall and substantial to play Jimmy Caan.  Anthony Ippolito is closer to resembling Al Pacino and the Brando actor  gets the voice right.

The intricate plot is improved by the shooting that took place in Sicily and the stories that emanated from the original filming are the stuff of legend.

By the 10th episode, we are told that Al Ruddy does not want to produce the sequels to “The Godfather.” The reason why has to do with his desire to produce “The Longest Yard” with Burt Reynolds. This is saluted as a brave decision, but, in light of the huge success of the first movie, it seems like a very poor lifetime choice, especially since Ruddy’s claim to fame up to that point was only as the producer of “Hogan’s Heroes.”  Ruddy did go on to produce “Million Dollar Baby” for and with Clint Eastwood and it was Al Ruddy whom Eastwood contacted when he decided to play the lead in “Cry Macho,” a story that he remembered had been kicking around in Hollywood for a while.

The filmmakers are very fortunate to have both Al Ruddy (age 92) still alive and Al Pacino (among other original cast members) to share their true life stories about filming this iconic film. The director of four of the episodes is Adam Arkin and, generally, the entire 10 episode series is intriguing and entertaining. One does question the comment made at the very end of the series that “The Godfather” is considered the best movie ever made. I know that the films I have heard referenced in tis way include “Citizen Kane,” “Casablanca,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and “Apocalypse Now.” There is no question that “The Godfather” belongs in the company of those other films, but saying it is THE best film ever made may be a stretch.

Father’s Day and a New Development in Breast Cancer Treatment

Today is Monday, June 20th.

This will not be my last Monday of radiation, but it may be the last full week of same.

There was a very interesting article that I ran across about Clinical trials for a new method of dealing with breast cancers, which involves freezing the tumors, which then implode. It sounds ideal, as there is no incision, no radiation, and all the prospective patient has to do thereafter is take one of the aromatase inhibitors. They have found that the “implosion” of the tumors actually seems to stimulate the patient’s own immune system to deal with whatever residue is left after the deep freezing. Wish I could have been in that M.D. Anderson study, but that would have required me to live near Dallas, Texas. I did want to mention this for the benefit of the 1 in 8 women who might be diagnosed with breast cancer and fall into the category I fell into, which means late-in-life presentation and small and no metastasis.

It sounds like this method could revolutionize the treatment of breast cancer (and, possibly, other cancers. The idea of having NO scar and NO operation is tempting, and the fact that one does not have to undergo radiation afterwards is equally tempting.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. The pictures I will post here are of the restaurant I took my husband to for dinner. I have to admit that I was planning on cooking a pork loin roast with a new recipe for the seasoning but I apparently had a senior moment and froze the sucker. It was as hard as a rock when I realized my faux pas.

The Captain’s Table

We dined, instead at the Captain’s Table just below the hill that we live on and roughly 2 miles away. It was beastly hot, but the outdoor veranda was lovely and my husband enjoyed a shrimp tempura dinner while I had the salmon with a brown sugar/mustard sauce.

He also received a Super Box from the children, which will allow us to get viewing on our Texas set, as we have one here. We are currently watching “The Offer” with Miles Teller, a 10-part mini series, that tells about the drama behind the making of “The Godfather” half a century ago. I will be reviewing it here after we watch episodes 9 and 10, which remain.

After that, we’ll move on to Dark Winds, which is recommended, about an investigator on an Indian reservation.

The father in house also got 3 lovely cards, a gigantic bottle of Seagram’s 7, andan Amazon gift card.

Neighbors, Father’s Day & Musings

Today is Saturday, June 18th. The Big Event for me, today, was getting my hair done. It was difficult getting an appointment and then it was early, for me. I feared I would fall asleep during it. When asked what the rest of my day looked like, I described a busy day of napping. (ha!)

Our neighbors across the street, Mary and Victor Hernandez, pulled out in a cloud of dust and their house is marked “SOLD.” I did not even know that they were leaving! Their daughter was a saxophone player and started our daughter on lessons, and also babysat for us, on occasion. The most notable was on our anniversary (March 30) when we contracted with her to babysit for my 2 nieces, as the parents were in Hawaii. The older of the nieces refused to do anything that was asked of her. For instance, her childish response to the news it was time to brush her teeth caused her to say, “We don’t brush our teeth at my house.” I remember vividly being called to come home early from our anniversary dinner at what was then Charles Michel’s restaurant at the top of the Black Hawk Hotel. I think it was just about time for the bananas flambe when the call came in that, even after our teen-aged babysitter called her father to come across the street and try to restore order, one of her charges refused to do as requested, so could we come home?

We could and we did. No children were harmed in the follow-up to our journey home, but it was an interesting night, full of lots of histrionics, things tossed or thrown and adults restraining themselves. I think my comment was, “We don’t behave this way at my house.”

We did not run into either bedroom every thirty seconds. We gave the child a little bit of time to settle down before going back in to make sure all was well. This method worked like a charm for own two kids; it worked like a charm this night. We barely peeked in, not wanting to cause further screaming outbursts, but one of us did make sure a blanket covered the older child in the chilly bedroom. No children were harmed during the calming of the maelstrom and no corporal punishment was administered.

We were never asked to babysit again.

So, we are getting new neighbors across the street.  I am sorry that I did not get the opportunity to say “good bye” to Mary and Victor. They had two musically gifted children, and I think at least one of them is now a band director.

I wish them well.

I am now slow cooking the boneless pork roast I had said I was making for Father’s Day. That was before I remembered that I had frozen the meat.

We ended up dining at the Captain’s Table, and the pictures here are taken on the veranda there, which was very pleasant. The hubby got a brand new Super Box for our TV, an Amazon gift certificate, a small Super Dad trophy, 3 cards, and a gigantic bottle of Seagram’s 7. What more could you ask for?

Two New Good Hulu Offerings: “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” & “The Old Man”

We watched Emma Thompson’s tour de force performance in the just-released (on Hulu) story of a middle-aged woman who has never experienced an orgasm and hires a sex worker to meet with her and teach her about sex for pleasure, since her own 31-year marriage, while relatively happy, was not particularly satisfying in the bedroom. She has two children: a “boring” son and a bohemian daughter, both grown.

Much of the discussion of Thompson’s performance in “Good Luck To You, Leo Grande” in the “New York Times” was about how she should be able to be nominated for an Oscar, but, because the film went straight to Hulu without a theatrical showing, she is not.

Emma has one scene at film’s end where she is completely starkers and acknowledged that it was the hardest scene she has ever had to play. In fact, the cast (which is mainly Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack as the young gigolo who opens new worlds to the somewhat repressed middle-aged ex-teacher) is great. The part was written especially for Thompson by writer Katy Brand and was directed by Sophie Hyde.

It is a bit slow-moving and looks like it could have been a play (most of the action takes place in a hotel room), but it is well-done.

And, while we’re on the subject of Hulu, be sure to take in Jeff Bridges’ new mini series, “The Old Man.”

Bridges plays a former CIA officer, who’s living off the grid, and finds himself on the run from people who want to kill him. There are two Doberman Pinschers in the cast and Amy Brenneman shows up playing a woman who(m) Bridges rents a home from and to whom he becomes close. There are also some flashback scenes involving the dead wife of the CIA officer and John Lithgow has a relationship with Bridges’ character of Dan Chase.

We’ve only seen two of the episodes, but the dark tone of the mini-series and the non-stop action from “the old man” marks it as one we will return to and enjoy.

Day Two of the January 6th Commission: Pressure on “Pussy” Pence

“Thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege.”

These were the words of  Pence Chief Legal Counsel Greg Jacob to John Eastman on January 6th, 2021. It was Eastman who wrote the 38-page plan to seize control of our government. (It was supposed to be Day Three, although CNN had omitted Day Two, supposedly so that they could prepare more film clips.) There were meetings at the Willard Hotel to refine this plan and attempt to make it a reality on January 6th.

The June 16th (2022) presentation at 1 p.m. (CDT) focused on the pressure that Trump and his cronies had put on Vice President Mike Pence, urging him to do a number of illegal things that Constitutional scholars  agree were not allowed under the powers of the vice presidency. As one mentioned, if the VP could simply declare himself the winner, then Al Gore could have done that in 2000 in Florida. But Al Gore, unlike Donald J. Trump, was a good man who had a conscience. Al Gore’s statement back then was: “In all of human history, the choice between one’s own disappointment and upholding the noble traditions of America’s democracy, it’s a pretty easy choice when it comes down to it.” (What a difference between Al Gore and Donald J. Trump).

I am faithfully watching the hearings, because I care whether my country remains a democracy or not. If you are not watching, because you are not at liberty to do so, tune in here and I will do my best to replay the important things we learned.

J. Michael Litteg, SELF-IDENTIFIED WINDBAG

One of the chief GOP voices this day was a Constitutional scholar and Pence advisor named J. Michael Litteg. By his own admission, J. Michael was a huge windbag, although his closing comments this day were right to the point of the great danger we all face from Trump fanatics, come 2024 (and earlier, in the midterms). Mr. Litteg, when asked a question that only required a “yes” or “no” answer took over 30 seconds to even begin responding and then spoke for 5 minutes (I timed this). Here is some of what he said about the infamous Eastman plan to overthrow the counting process, via Mike Pence, and, therefore, retain power for DJT.:

Litteg:   “There was no basis in the Constitution or the laws of the U.S. at all with the theory espoused by Mr. Eastman. At all. None. With all respect to my co-panelists I believe in partial response to one of the committee’s questions, that a single sentence in the 12th amendment was inartfully written. That single sentence is not inartfully written.  It was pristine clear that the President of the Senate on January 6th (Pence) had little substantive Constitutional authority. Any. At all. The 12th amendment sentence says, in substance, that following the transmission of the certificates to the Congress and the electoral count of 1887 that the presiding officer (Pence) shall open the certificates in the presence of the Congress of the United States in joint session. It then says, unmistakeably, not only that the VP himself shall count the electoral votes, but clearly says that the electoral count votes shall then be counted. It was the electoral count act of 1887 that filled in, if you will, the simple words of the 12th amendment in order to construct for the country a process for the counting of the electoral votes from the states that neither our original Constitituion nor even the 12th amendment had done. The irony, if you will, is that from its founding until 1887 when the electoral count act was passed, the nation had been in considerable turmoil during at least 5 of its presidential elections, beginning as soon thereafter from the founding as 1800, so it wasn’t until almost 100 years later that the Electoral Count Act was passed. In my view, that piece of legislation is not only a work in progress for the country, but, in this moment in history, …”that was long-winded, I understand.” [Mr. Litteg was “a slow talker” and not the most riveting witness we heard on this second day of testimony.]

They asked Old Windbag what he would have said had he been advising Pence….”If I had been advising the VP on 1/6 and even if then VP Jefferson and even then VP John Adams and even then VP Richard Nixon had done exactly what the President of the U.S. wanted his VP to do, I would have laid my body across the road before I would have let the VP overturn the 2020 election on the basis of that historic precedent. What this body needs to know and America needs to know is that that was the centerpiece of the plan to overturn the 2020 election. It was the historical precedent and in the years and with the VP I named the effort by Mr. Eastman and others was to drive that historic precedent up to and under that single pristine sentence in the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, taking advantage of what many have said is the inartful wording of that sentence in the 12th Amendment. Scholars before 2020 would have used that historical precedent could overturn the 2020 election by accepting non-certified state electoral votes, but they would have made arguments as to some substantive (not merely procedural) authority possessed by the VP of the US on the day proscribed for counting the electoral votes. This is Constitutional mischief.”

[Listening to Mr. Litteg required a great deal of patience and it was truly a good idea when one of the questioners simply read a synopsis of the man’s previous writing on the subject. I wrote down “Praise the Lord!”]

TRUMP AS LOSER

Over and over, this day and the first day, we learned that Trump knew, all along, that he had lost the election. He didn’t like losing, and has a fear of being dubbed “a loser” so he denied it then; he denies it now. His usual lies continued to the point that when on the podium for the infamous rally that preceded the riot, he and his cronies lied about their justification for “taking back” the government. Remember the “Fight like hell or you won’t have a country any more” admonitions?—that one from Trump, himself, but others from his buddies, including the John Eastman mentioned above, who was one of the few attorneys willing to “trump up” a plan to overthrow the government. Almost everything they presented to the crowd was a lie.

One of the least windbag-y speakers this day was Eric Herschmann, a former White House counsel, who, after the 62 court cases had been adjudicated and found wanting, took a phone call from John Eastman.

Eric Herschmann’s call from John Eastman:  He started to ask me something about Georgia. And I just said, “Are you out of your fucking mind? I only want to hear 2 words coming out of your mouth from now on: ORDERLY TRANSITION. Repeat those words to me. Good John, and now I’m going to give you the best free legal advice you’re ever going to get in your life. Get yourself a good criminal lawyer.”

Later, we learn that Eastman did, indeed, ask to be put on the list of those seeking presidential pardons from Trump before he left office. His request was phrased this way:

“I’ve decided I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works.” (to Trump, from Eastman)

That didn’t happen and, instead, Eastman took the 5th 146 times when asked about his actions by the January 6th Commission.

EASTMAN’s PLAN

The courts have called Eastman’s plan “a coup in search of a legal theory.”

Simply put, Eastman wanted Mike Pence to step far beyond his true authority, which was purely ceremonial, and announce that the states were going to “look into” some mysterious “alternate slates of electors from 7 states,” slates which did not exist. As the testimony told us, here is the lie that Eastman spread:

“7 states have transmitted dual states of electors to the President of the Senate. “(bogus)” VP Pence could simply declare Trump the winner.” During testimony, the question was asked: Were there really 7 states of alternative electors? A:  “No, there were not.”

“There is very solid legal authority and historical precedent for the view that the President of the Senate (i.e., Mike Pence as VP) does the counting, including the resolution of disputed electoral votes.” (from Eastman). False. That statement was a bold-faced lie.

On Dec. 19, 4 days before the memo, Eastman admitted in an e-mail that the fake electors had no legal weight and that the argument would be“Dead on arrival” in Congress.

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE VP’s POWER ON JANUARY 6th

Critically, no VP in history had ever claimed to have that kind of authority, nor had  claimed authority to return electoral votes to the states. At no time had electoral votes ever been returned to the states to be recounted. Justice Bradley had specifically looked at that question and had said that clearly the VP does not have the authority to decide anything nor to send things back for a public look. The history was absolutely decisive. “If you were right, don’t you think that Al Gore would have simply declared that he could declare himself President.” (from Gregory Jacob, Pence’s Chief Legal Counsel.) Al Gore did not and should not have this authority, agreed John Eastman. There is almost no idea more un-American. The VP did not have such power. (Statement from Litteg and others).

Marc Short, former Pence Chief of Staff:  “So, despite the fact that he may have said other things to the President or others, he understood that the VP did not have such authority.” (A: Yes)

“Yeah, they thought he was crazy.” (about John Eastman, as articulated by Jason Miller, former Trump campaign senior adviser, who was wearing a doofy-looking mask).

TRUMP ISSUES A TWEET SAYING HE & THE VP ARE IN TOTAL AGREEMENT; THEY ARE NOT

“The VP and I are in total agreement that the VP has the power to act.” (That was categorically untrue, said Greg Jacobs).

Marc Short:  The statement did not represent the VP’s viewpoint. “I think the record shows that it was incorrect.” So, essentially, the President is sending out a bald statement that the President and VP were in total agreement, which was untrue.  “He clearly was not pleased.” Jason Miller inquired, “What’s the process for putting out a statement for a meeting where only 2 people were in the room.”

Jason Miller: “The tone was very clearly ..he strongly inferred that the VP did not agree with this statement. Trump dictated most of it. Typically on these, I might have a couple of wording suggestions or maybe I have a sense or a rough framework, but I know with specificity on this one, it was me and him on the phone talking about it and ultimately the way it came out was the way he wanted it to.” (About their “agreement” on how the Pres and the VP were “in agreement on this.) 

Jason Miller wore a face mask throughout his testimony, and it appeared to be one of the truly unattractive ones that the government has distributed, free of charge. Was he hoping people would not recognize him later? No one else was wearing a face mask on the panel(s).

TRUMP 2:24 TWEET PUTS VP PENCE IN DANGER

The most dangerous part of what DJT did he, himself did, in targeting Mike Pence for retribution.  In early drafts of the Ellipse speech, there was no mention of the VP, but the President revised it to add mentions of the VP and he ad libbed more about Trump’s need to act on January 6th at the Ellipse speech. (“Send it back to the states to re-certify”) Example: “And Mike Pence is just gonna’ have to come through for us, and if he doesn’t, that will be a sad day for our country. The only way re-certification can happen is if Mike Pence sends it back to the states.” Once Trump’s tweet went out, at 2:24 p.m., the mob went wild, chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” An FBI informant embedded with the Proud Boys said that, had they gotten their hands on Pence or Pelosi, they would have killed them.

2:24 p.m. tweet about Mike Pence was instrumental in riling up the crowd. Trump never called to see if his VP was in danger, before, during or after the riot. Not only that, but he has apparently said that he agreed with the crowd regarding the violence to be perpetrated against Mike Pence. Of the “Hang Mike Pence” chants, former Trump Press Secretary Sarah Matthews said. “It felt like he (DJT) was pouring gasoline on the fire.” Pence’s Cheif of Staff, Marc Short was alarmed enough about the possibility that Trump would seek vengeance against Pence for not doing his bidding that he warned Pence’s security detail one day in advance.

There is testimony that Pence refused to leave the Capitol because he did not want to give the insurrectionists the satisfaction of seeing the Vice President of the United States fleeing the Capitol in weakness.  Pence refused to get in the car with the Secret Service. Some have said that, although he trusted those he knew in his detail, his suspicion(s) and distrust of DJT were high enough that he did not want to be driven away by agents he did not know. [Think about that one for a moment.]

John Eastman’s constant insistence that Pence had powers he did NOT have, when conveyed to Pence himself, caused Pence to say, “That is rubber room stuff,” meaning that he thought Eastman was certifiably crazy.

 

 

 

How/How Much Is the War in Ukraine Going/Costing?

In December of this past year (2021) the “New York Times” offered a digital subscription for $1 a week, and I subscribed.

Therefore, I’ve been reading the “updates” on the situation in Ukraine. I also subscribe to (and read) the “Quad City Times,” the “Chicago Tribune,” and the “Austin American Statesman,” but the reporting from the NYC on Ukraine seems to be head and shoulders above that of any other paper, which, no doubt, owes a large debt to their commitment to aggressively reporting on matters in Russia and Ukraine.

Here are a few things that came to light in today’s paper (6/15/2022) or on CNN, courtesy of Anderson Cooper.

Volodymyr Zelensky has been impatiently waiting for:

1,000 howitzers

300 missile launch rocket systems

300 tanks

2,000 armored vehicles

1,000 drones

Museum of Science & Industry

Anna Malya, Deputy Defense Minister for Ukraine, recently released this statement about the need for weapons and assistance from other NATO nations:  “No matter how hard Ukraine tries, no matter how professional our army is, without the help of Western partners, we will not be able to win this war.”

So far, we have given Ukraine 108 howitzers, 4 HIMARS truck-mounted multiple-launch rocket systems (with a range of 40 miles) and Ukrainian soldiers are being trained on the use of the HIMARS now, so that they will appear in the battle this or next week.

To date, the U.S. has allocated $5.6 billion to Ukraine to help them defeat Russia.  Canada, Poland and the Netherlands have chipped in something like $4.3 billion. The Ukrainians said thy have received “only 10% of what is needed” to win against Russia.

Now that the war is continuing to drag on, Putin seems to have decided that he can use his energy position in Europe to “outlast” NATO. He is also weaponizing food. Frederick Plertgen, in St. Petersburg, Russia, an international correspondent described how Putin is holding up the delivery of 30 million tons of grain that would normally be shipped to Africa, the Middle East, and other European countries, to the tune of at least $1 billion.

For those questioning whether spending this much to help Ukraine defeat Russia is worth it, I would recommend the book “Winter Is Coming” by chess champion Gary Kasparov, which was written years before Russia made clear its intentions to retake independent democracies that neighbor them (including posing a threat to neighbors Finland and Sweden). Russia is truly a threat to the European nations in Russia’s path, world order.  NATO must persevere in its attempts to stand firm against the threat that Putin and Russia pose to the free world.

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