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!

Category: Education (Page 1 of 3)

“The World Before Your Feet” Is Award-winning Documentary at SXSW Featuring Walking New York City

https://images.sxsw.com/lQ6mbhSgdyE4Brn6EdcIATEZHS4=/100x8:3563x2481/x/images.sxsw.com/45/b25c086a-66eb-4e91-8a31-8f6494c40aa7/the-world-before-your-feet-114749

The World Before Your Feet from Jeremy Workmen, follows an unemployed civil engineer, Matt Green, 37, around New York City as he walks over 8,000 miles in 6 years, traveling every street, park, and space in the five boroughs. Matt is a civil engineer who up and quit his job to walk in 2009.

It’s an interesting, if odd, way to spend time. But for Matt Green, who did the walking, he is the modern-day equivalent of Forrest Gump. Matt started his nearly OCD walking mania with a cross-country jaunt of a mere 3,500 miles, walking from Rockaway, New Jersey to Rockaway, Oregon in 2010. It took him five months.

Turns out it takes a lot longer to walk every street, alley, park, cemetery and green space in the Big Apple.  Calling it “a cool way to be in a place and still moving,” Green says that he enjoys “the simple things in the middle of the country.” One other man mentioned in the documentary, Bill Helmreich, a Professor of Sociology at City College in New York City, walked all the streets of NYC, which was 6,000 miles, but Matt bested him by including all of the parks and cemeteries and green spaces, clocking in at over 8,000 miles of walking. His walk was rich with history and adventure and he was primarily greeted with friendly faces and was never mugged.

THE GOOD

If you are going to visit New York City any time soon or any time, period, this look at every possible part of the Big Apple is interesting. It will give you the added benefit of learning a lot about the history of the city.

Matt is a self-taught historian who enjoys finding out about the world before his feet that he visits. We learn, for instance, about the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, probably the first highway for motor cars, and about the Audabon Theater, where Malcolm X was shot and killed. There is even a small street memorial to the Eric Garner death—the “I can’t breathe” victim who died while being arrested. And, in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, we see the grave of the first soldier from Brooklyn killed in the Civil War, a 12-year old drummer boy who was killed during a training exercise.

We also get to hear some wisdom from Matt Green that we might take to heart. He quit his job as a civil engineer in 2009 and hasn’t had a job, other than cat-sitting since. (“I don’t really miss it,” he says, of not having a permanent place of his own.) He doesn’t own an apartment and gets by on about $15 a day by couch-surfing and cat-sitting.

Matt says, “There are some people out there who do things for reasons that other people just can’t understand.” He adds, slyly, “I don’t know anyone like that.” His goal, he says, is to do the thing, not to finish. “It’s a mission. A personal quest…It’s helped me find satisfaction in the basic things of life that are free.”

When we search for motives that may have propelled him into this nomadic life style, we need look no further than the near-fatal brain bleed his younger  brother in Chicago (Jonathan) endured, and the accident he suffered when hit by a car while bike-riding. When asked if he is “independently wealthy,” he replies, “No, I’m independently homeless.” Says Matt: “Either you love it or you put it off till the future, and you don’t know if the future is gonna’ be there.”

THE BAD

Although we meet both of Matt’s parents during the film, and they seem very normal, as does his Midwestern home, we meet two women he was serious about whom he ultimately did not marry. In one case, Carolyn Brooklyn-Small said the wedding invitations were all ready to go on October 7, 2007, and then they just did not go through with it. Another pretty girl describes Matt’s aversion to the movies as a turn-off that broke them up as a couple. Matt is 37 and he has no family of his own and seems too dedicated to walking to think about forming one.

The film was a bit too long. About 75 minutes in, I was ready to stop, but the film continued to 92 minute. I think the failing was me, not the film’s; I was watching it on a computer screen.

THE SCORE

The old time-y piano music (an original score from Tom Rosenthal) with contributions from Carly Comando fits the documentary perfectly.

It’s a lovely piece about a 37-year-old man-child whose journey was even chronicled by the New York Times. He also has websites: www.Imjustwalkin.com and www.TheWorldBeforeYourFeet.com.

What does Black Panther bring to the table?

It’s Black History Month and time for Black Panther, the film.

February is  the month with the fewest days, but  African-Americans rise to the occasion by celebrating the achievements of their ancestors.

This film is more fit for the occasion because it is the only film in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) to feature a predominately African American cast, an African American director, and great role models for African American children. T’Challa of Wakanda, aka The Black Panther ,made his debut back in 2016 in the heavily  hero populated film Captain America: Civil War.

Now his awesomeness has his own film. It’s not just a blockbuster film.  It’s a movie that’ll feed the culture, the culture being everything that African Americans stand for. Most films either feature African Americans as slaves, maids, or as silly creatures. This is a film where they  got the culture right tying the roots of the film s back to African origins. This film goes beyond the comic book movie cliches of fantasy, explosions, science experiments gone wrong, love triangles, or training montages.

Creed’s director Ryan Coogler who was snubbed at many awards ceremonies. He set the film in the fictional country of Wakanda, a hidden kingdom in Africa, one of the most secretive and technologically advanced countries in the MCU mainly because of its reserves of the world’s most useful but rare metal, vibranium.

Aside from setting the film in Africa, Coogler and Chadwick Boseman considered what they could do to make Wakanda and its people more authentic.

Via Youtube /©Marvel Studios 2018

Black Panther Is Not Just A Hero

One thing about Marvel is that their stable of characters is diverse. The revolutionary Stan Lee, creator of Black Panther, said, “He’s an interesting character that is going to be such a different a things for the audience to see on screen.”

T’Challa was last seen in Captain America: Civil War  giving the business to everyone that stood in his way but also coming to grips with his father’s death and the knowledge that he has to assume leadership of his country. That is what makes him such a complex character . That is why Black Panther is on a whole other level. He’s not just a hero. He’s a leader of many.

Boseman who has portrayed many African American heroes on screen in the past, will not be alone in this step forward for African Americans in cinema. Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker are among many others who are helping carry the weight of this film.

Important Messages

It is not just the names that make the movie stand out. It is the message the film is sending. One message is that women of color are fully capable. The women of Wakanda explained what makes the country so special. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly Angela Bassett explained that “It’s a nation that respects and reveres women. They think of us not just as Queens but as the Queen Mother. Mother is the nurturer and the first teacher. That position is embraced. She’s not someone who is off to the side.”

Photo Credit: Entertainment Weekly/ Kwaku Alston/©Marvel Studios 2018

Via Youtube/ ©Marvel Studios 2018

See Black Panther For Yourself

The film is already sold out in pre-order tickets. Advance reviews are positive.  The cultural appreciation is on point. This is the movie that Marvel fans have been waiting for like dinner on Thanksgiving Day.

Black Panther definitely has a lot to bring to the table. I hope everyone is ready for the release February 16th.

Signs from the Resistance in Chicago on Jan. 21st, 2017

My good friend Mary Gerace took part in the Chicago Women’s March yesterday and has prepared this report on the signs that TV didn’t show us.

“After marching from Columbus and Congress to Michigan Avenue, I stepped up on the sidewalk to do some serious sign reading; I then did the same on Jackson Blvd. These were memorable:

  • I’ve seen better cabinets at Ikea
  • 2018 We shall overcomb!
  • And you thought we were mad last year
  • So, Trump who?
  • Prevent Truth Decay
  • Super Callous Fragile Sexist Racist Nazi Potus
    (Must be of a certain age to get it, I’d say; Mary Poppins would approve.)
  • Witchhunt: I’m a witch and I’m hunting you
  • Respect Existence or Expect Resistance
  • The power of the people is stronger than the people in power! We Decide
  • Does this ass (drawing of Trump) make my country look smaller?
  • (Under photos of Trump, Pence, Ryan and McConnell) Do these asses make my sign look fat?
  • (Drawing of the White House) Sex offenders CANNOT live in government housing!
  • If HILLARY were PRESIDENT we’d all be at BRUNCH
  • EMERGENCY ALERT: Threat to democracy – Inbound to Mar-a-Lago – Seek immediate impeachment -This is not a drill
  • Without Hermione, Harry would have died in Book One
  • Remove the Malicious Mango
  • Out with the Dope, In with the Hope
  • Snowflakes turn into avalanches
  • It takes a snowflake to start an avalanche
  • I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change; I am changing the things I cannot accept.
  • Vote with heart because they don’t have one
  • White people renovating houses, Congressional edition
  • My mom is pissed!!!
  • If you’re not terrified, you’re not paying attention
  • If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention
  • Too depressed to be funny!
  • The reasons why I march will not fit on just one sign
  • Global warming is not a liberal conspiracy
  • Make America Hate Again! Oh, you thought he meant GREAT?
    Well, you know how he tends to say one thing and do the exact opposite.
    He’s very presidential like that.
  • Norway, please help us!
  • Keep your tweets off my rights
  • Girls just want to have FUNdamental human rights
  • Grab them by the Ballot Box
  • Grab ’em by the Mid-Terms
  • Grab him by the Putin
  • New Public Trust Poll: Trump 24% Gas Station Sushi 26%
  • So sex offenders can’t live within 1000 feet of a park or school but Trump lives in the White House?
  • (Drawing of Trump) I don’t always use mouthwash but when I do it’s Fleet
  • I will not go quietly back to the 1950s
  • REsisters
  • So bad, even introverts are here
  • (Photo of Robert Mueller) Make America Great Again
  • Vaginas brought you into the world; Vaginas will vote you out
  • We aren’t going anywhere except to the polls
  • RIP GOP
  • Trump Shutdown: Nice deal, Donny
  • (Photos of Trump and Kim Jong-un) The Moron Terror
  • I didn’t see my favorite sign from last year this time, but here it is:
  • Give him hell until he goes back there

And that’s your report from the field.”

https://www.gamevillage.com/

 

Dan Rather Appears at Texas Book Festival in Support of “What Unites Us:” Says “Civil Dissent Is As American As Apple Pie.”

Veteran CBS newsman Dan Rather, a Houston native, came to the First Baptist Church in Austin at noon on Saturday (November 4, 2017) to talk about his new book “What Unites Us.”  His appearance was part of the Texas Book Festival, which is one of the largest and one of the most prestigious literary festivals in the country, featuring 250+ nationally and critically recognized adult and children’s authors, 20+ venues (including the State Capital), 80+ exhibitors and live music.

Later in the day (4:00 p.m.), Rather’s spot would be taken by Tom Hanks, talking about his new book of short stories, a compilation united by his love for collecting old typewriters.

But at noon on Saturday, November 4th, Rather sat down with an interviewer and answered questions:

The First Baptist Church in Austin hosted Dan Rather. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Q:  When did nationalism become essentially white nationalism?

A:  I think the sixties spawned this. It was a very difficult period.  I do think that, coming out of the sixties, as an “experienced skeptic,” the tragedy of President Nixon and his appealing to Southern state white racists was not a good thing. Remember: Nixon was successful. He was re-elected two times with overwhelming majorities.  He proved that you can win if you appeal to white supremacists.  We’re now paying the price of what started in the sixties.

We need to pause and take a deep breath.  Our national motto is “E Pluribus Unum”:  “Out of many, one.” We can make it work.

Q:  The slogan “make America great again.” It seems to be asking us to go back to the fifties. Is that true?

A:  There’s no going back to the 1950s and, by the way, the 1950s were not that great (laughter from crowd).  We can’t do it.  Those who try will not succeed.

Texas Book Festival.

Moderator:  “You’re literally whistling Dixie, Dan.” (laughter from audience).  There’s a perception that all this started on January 20th with President Trump’s Inauguration. Is that right?

A:  It started at least as far back as the 1970s or 1980s.  We’re realists. We recognize when we’re wrong. After 9/11 we pulled ourselves together.  Now we are at a decision point:  re-dedicate ourselves to belief in the institutions, values, drive and forward movement of the American Dream.

Q:  You have written your book in terms of 6 essays on such things as Freedom, Character, Responsibility, Science, Empathy and Exploration.  I’d like to ask you about science, in particular.

A:  We can’t move the country forward with post-truth.  There are no “alternative facts.”  I don’t care if you have a degree from Harvard or Stanford, it is ridiculous:  2 + 2 = 4. We know the difference between bullshit and brass tacks.  Water does not run uphill:  Gravity is a fact.

Q:  What makes this unique? All Presidents have sometimes dissembled?

A:  What makes this unique and not moral is these daily statements are not true. No President has ever told so many lies so brazenly and so perpetually. Also, his constant attacks on the free press are unprecedented.  It’s a post-truth where facts don’t matter, and it’s dangerous.

Moderator:  “In your empathy essay you say that we seem to have lost the power to be empathetic.

From the First Baptist Church in downtown Austin, Texas. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

A:  I don’t necessarily feel that way.  We see empathy in the American people all the time:  People are civil, wanting to help.  These are very strong values that Americans prize, and we saw it following the recent natural catastrophes.

What is unworthy of us, as Americans, is a week-long debate about the President of the United States’ words to a grieving widow. Any decent person would have called her back or sent her a note of apology. That is the real spirit of the American heart.

Q:  Let me ask you about your “Dissent” essay.

A:  Yes. Dissent is being discouraged. Civil dissent in America is as American as apple pie.

Q:  What makes our situation right now so perilous, in your view?

A:  I want to be careful about drawing a line between Watergate and the place our country finds itself in now.  Watergate was bad, but it was internal. Now, we have a foreign power intervening and interfering in our democratic process. That is an enormous difference.  Also, the media landscape is different.  It used to be that newspapers were important.  Iphones and social media did not exist.

Q:  Do you think it was better then, or better now?

Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

A:  Overall, I think it is better now to have the Internet. The Internet, when used properly, is a tremendous resource.  Today, the greatest opportunity of the Internet is to educate, but a greater burden is placed on the user.

Rather ended his remarks to a standing ovation from a  crowd of roughly 700 people and left the Church so that Tom Hanks could take his place at 4:00 p.m.

Vanessa Redgrave’s Directorial Debut, “Sea Sorrow,” Documents the Refugee Crisis in Europe

In her directorial debut after a lengthy career as a much-lauded actress, Academy Award winner Vanessa Redgrave takes on a cause near and dear to her heart in “Sea Sorrow.” That cause is trying to alleviate the refugee crisis affecting Europe right now, with displaced persons—many of them unaccompanied children—streaming in, 70 new people a day at a camp called Jungle Camp in Calais.

Of those numbers, 800 are children with 387 of them eligible to join relatives in the country to which they fled, but bureaucratic indifference or actual opposition dooming progress.
Only Greece seems to be trying to set an example for the rest of the world, although Germany’s Angela Merkle also has done much to help and Canada’s Justin Trudeau was also singled out for praise. Donald J. Trump, of course, has proposed numerous travel bans and seems to have no core moral philosophy guiding his “executive decrees,” [other than to build a wall against Mexico and ban travelers from other lands.] Trump was not mentioned by name in the documentary, which, instead, interviewed the refugees, themselves, and those working hard against overwhelming odds to try to help them. The entire message of the 74-minute documentary could be summed up this way, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Early estimates of the numbers of unaccompanied children entering the country in countries like Greece, Italy, Calais (France), and Dunkirk were 26,000, but more accurate surveying revealed that the number was really closer to 95,000.
Redgrave urges, “Bring back the idea that we’re all humanity.” Jemma Redgrave (actress) is shown saying, “I find it unbearable that there are children living in camps who are denied any assistance. We have to stand up as parents and human beings and not accept the appalling status quo.”

Redgrave hopes the film will educate a generation and a half to the existing mandates, written and adopted after World War II, to stand up for human rights.
There is a film clip of Eleanor Roosevelt addressing the United Nations during the 1945 Declaration of Human Rights, issued after the defeat of Fascism. The film comments on the European Convention on Human Rights (UNHCR, 1951) and the 1989 Rights of the Child legislation, all of which, she said, are being ignored.

It is Redgrave’s feeling that the battle must be won through the courts, using these existing pieces of legislation to force nations that have become insular and unwilling to accept these displaced populations, to do the right thing and help unaccompanied orphans and children streaming into Europe, as well as the entire families who are fleeing for their lives. Precautions against the entry of terrorists are, of course, implicit and already in place in most countries, but the lives of innocent men, women and children are also on the line.

Not only Redgrave, but House of Lords member Lord Dubs, whose own history goes back to World War II when his parents escaped the Nazis, gave the shocked audience actual data on the crisis. It was originally thought there were 26,000 unaccompanied minor children, but the real number turned out to be closer to 96,000 and 10,000 of these poor souls have completely disappeared.

When you hear stories like that of 22-year-old Hamidi, who fled Afghanistan after witnessing the murder of both his mother and his father right in front of him (he was also shot as he fled), who walked 3 months on foot with $8,000 Euros gathered from friends and relatives to finance the trip and then was loaded onto a boat meant for 40 with 80 souls (Twelve fell overboard or died on the boat).

Another young boy spent 11 hours on a boat to Bari; it took him 2 months to flee from Tripoli. These people are desperate and are treated very poorly and inaccurately by mainstream media, according to Carlo Nero. Of the 86% of refugees who entered the UK, the United Kingdom provides support for less than 1%. The words on the base of the Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.”) have gone out the window in the U.S., along with common human decency to our own citizens in many places under the Trump administration. Be careful in screening immigrants, yes, but push for the equality and dignity of defenseless refugees fleeing death and destruction in their native lands.

The opportunities for human trafficking and other such misdeeds at camp’s like Calais, France’s The Jungle are high
. “Bring back the idea that we’re all humanity,” pleads Redgrave, and one short clip gives a little bit of her own childhood remembrance of the burning of the Coventry Cathedral during the blitz. (November 14, 1940, when she was just 3). She still has nightmares about approaching fire.

The biggest injustice, it seemed, was that, of the 378 children in the Calais camp known as “The Jungle” (which was torn down in October of this year), 178 had relatives who would have taken them in, under the terms of the Dublin Treaty. Said Redgrave, “It is simply a matter of political will.”

Rallies were shown with touching scenes of young refugees thanking their rescuers while wearing shirts with the message “Choose Love.” Seventy new people a day join their ranks. Said Redgrave, “They are brave young people with real courage.” No one denies the need for security precautions, but common human decency is also necessary.

We learn some of the history of why Redgrave feels so passionately about this cause and why Lord Dubs has thrown in his efforts to assist her. An old copy of the newspaper the Manchester Guardian dated 1938 is read by film star Emma Thompson, in which average citizens write in saying they are ready, willing and able to help. Why won’t our government let us help? (Most notably E. Sylvia Pankhurst of Essex wrote, who willingly would have taken some of the refugees that were spirited out of Germany during the Holocaust in an operation known as Kindertransport.) Redgrave mused on “The Diary of Anne Frank.” The young Jewish teenaged girl who lived in hiding from the Nazis for two years in Amsterdam, wrote, “In spite of everything, I still believe people are basically good.”

Redgrave’s feeling: “You’ve got to litigate. The courts are ruling every single time that the government is wrong, but the government appeals. And that’s where we are…We people can change things, but we’ve got some very hard work to do. None of us should feel hopeless. You have to get groups of them and say, ‘This is wrong and we’re going to do everything we can to change it.’”
No stranger to controversy following her Oscar acceptance speech in 1978, her attempt(s) to do good here will, no doubt, incite further controversy, but her message, with 10 people dying a day, was, “The Greek people are showing the world how to help fellow human beings. Now, we have to tell our governments they have to step in.” She urged a common European policy be adopted.

There are some sad stories with happy endings, like that of 14-year-old David from Eritrea, whose parents both drowned on their way to Italy. He spent 9 months in Rome until the group Safe Passage found his Aunt in England and he was allowed to go live with her. “These are inspirational people and a lot of them are young people,” said Redgrave, of the volunteers. She, at 80, said she is willing to go with the film to colleges and elsewhere to help spread the word about the refugee crisis and to let a whole generation know about human rights law that is currently being ignored and violated.

The film’s title comes not only from the harrowing scenes of boatloads of refugees (and even the famous photo of a young two-year-old boy, drowned, dead on the beach in Greece that stunned the world) arriving and being helped ashore by the Greek officials, but from Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest.”

At the end of the film, Ralph Fiennes reads the scene from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” where Prospero is speaking to Miranda about how they were “Hurried them upon a boat—a rotten carcass of a boat.”

“How came we ashore?” asks Miranda.

“By Providence Divine. Sit still and hear the rest of our sea sorrow.”

“Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press” @ SXSW

Genre: Documentary Feature
Length: 95 minutes
Writer/Director: Brian Knappenberger
Principal Cast: Nick Denton, A.J. Daulario, John Cook, David Folkenflick, Floyd Abrams, Peter Sterne, David Houston, Margaret Sullivan, Jay Rosen, John L. Smith

The trial between wrestler Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media pitted privacy rights against freedom of the press, but ended up as a case study in how big money can silence media using legal means. This examination of the free press in an age of inequality echoes the “Vanity Fair” issue with an article by David Margolick entitled “V.C. for Vendetta.”

From that article, we learn that, outed as gay (“Peter Thiels Is Totally Gay”) by one of Gawker’s web sites in 2007, Silicon billionaire Peter Thiel ($2.7 billion as a co-founder of PayPal, and an early investor in Facebook) laid low until 2016, when he seized the opportunity to financially back Hulk Hogan’s invasion of privacy suit over a sex tape to bankrupt the entire organization.

In this documentary that interviews all the principals except Thiel (who is seen speaking at other venues), we learn that “what he’s done is to legitimize the idea that an uninvolved party can fund an effort by someone else in order to destroy a news organization. If billionaires and multi-millionaires can be behind the scenes doing this, that is conspiratorial and underhanded completely.” As Gawker founder Nick Denton, who was personally bankrupted, said, “We were outgunned here.”

Knappenberger dubs it, “abusing the justice system to go after journalists.” All these efforts have taken back a lot of 1st Amendment rights. Many others are mentioned in the piece: the Chandler family, the Salzburger family of New York, Jeff Bezos’ purchase of the “Washington Post” and, in greater detail, Sheldon Adelson’s purchase of Nevada’s largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

John L. Smith, the editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote a book about early investors in Las Vegas’ history entitled “Sharks in the Desert: The Founding Fathers and the Current Sharks.” There was one line mentioning Sheldon Adelson. Adelson sued Smith for the one line in the book, and lodged the $15 million dollar suit at a time when Smith was bedside in a local hospital with his young daughter Amelia, who was suffering from a brain tumor.

Smith was offered all sorts of financial inducements not to publish articles about Adelson, but resisted. He was blackmailed regarding the one line in his book, and, as he said: “Bullies always act the same.”

Then, unexpectedly, the entire staff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal was brought in to a meeting cold and told the newspaper had been sold. They were not allowed to know who had bought them.
Rather than take this without investigating, the entire staff, including one employee who had been with the paper for 39 and ½ years, dug in to find out if Adelson was behind the purchase in the face of overwhelming obfuscation.

Smith said, “”Everybody came in and everybody stayed. For us, it was preserving whatever integrity we had. We knew it was a career-ending move. Some stories are worth losing your job over.” As Smith asserted, “Journalism is a calling for a lot of us.”

As a Journalism Major (Ferner/Hearst Journalism Scholarship recipient at the University of Iowa), this documentary spoke to me. I characterize myself as “”Old School” because my stint with 5 “real” newspapers began at the age of 10 and continues today, 6 decades later. I am of the generation that grew up with only 3 television channels trusting the voice of Walter Cronkite to tell us the truth. There was no Internet. There was no cable television, and we believed in presenting both sides of the story so that readers could draw fair conclusions with all the facts at their disposal.

The idea of “hacking” Internet accounts (there was no Internet) and Wiki Leaks style dissemination of documents from the e-mail of others was decades away. I find it personally offensive that anyone in a position of authority can level wholesale charges of bias and dishonesty against the hardworking men and women of the press. One of the least honest politicians (or human beings) of all time has underscored just how important a free and independent press is from his podium in the White House. No less an authority than Thomas Jefferson talked about the importance of a free press to keep the checks and balances of this country working properly.

This documentary was depressing in that it showed the extent to which being rich means being able to destroy the very institutions we all thought were inviolate. As we watch money corrupting the very fabric of society, we are simultaneously experiencing the intentional undermining of the free press and I, for one, view it as one of the biggest tragedies our Republic has experienced since its inception.

A very informative, relevant and concerning documentary
. Reading the “Vanity Fair” article by David Margolick explained much of the Peter Thiel/Nick Denton Gawker sex tape dispute in far greater detail, which added to my understanding of the film’s rehash of the trial, (which was surreal in so many ways). The revelations about the Las Vegas Review-Journal were new to me, but explained a lot.

Worth watching, if you care about remaining free and being part of an informed populace in a working democracy.

New “Christmas Cats Book Care for the Bear” Is Available

As my previous post indicated, I’m booked for some appearances around the Quad Cities, but they are different from other appearance years.

1) Today (Saturday, Nov. 26th) I’ll be setting up within the former Country Manor store in downtown East Moline during the kick-off parade for the holidays. I’ll be there from 4 to 8 p.m. and will have not only the 5 Christmas Cats books, but a sampling of my 35 adult titles. So, come on down! There’s no charge and shop local!

2) On Saturday, November 30th, I’ll be within Building One at Black Hawk Junior College, as indicated in the previous post. This is a fund-raiser for international students and I’ll have both children and adult books at my 2 tables.

3) Saturday, December 3rd, in the morning, I will be at the entrance to the Breakfast with Santa event at Happy Joe’s in LeClaire, Iowa from 8 to ?

4) Saturday, December 3rd in the evening, I’ll be at the Herb Cellar in the Village of East Davenport. No details as to time, but that is the night of the fireworks. [Other years, I was at Freddy Frittters Dog Bakery, but their fire has caused space to be a premium, so come enjoy some herbs and carolers in the middle of the block, across from the Edward Jones office and down from Logomarcino’s.]

5) I am supposed to be at the Gallery Hop the following weekend, but, somehow, was left off the map. Still awaiting details of what store or business they may find for me.

And, last but not least, the book is up on Amazon for purchase, but the hardcover is not currently listed, but I will have them with me. Cost of the hardcover is $12.95 while the softcover is $6, with signatures if you come see m at any of the above locations.

Happy Post Thanksgiving and I hope to see you soon. Who knows? The Cat in the Hata might even be with me at one or more of these events.

25 Things You Might Not Know About Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

On the eve of the Iowa caucuses (4 days away), here are 20 little-known facts about Bernie Sanders, courtesy of Bloomberg Businessweek, which ran Bernie’s picture on its latest cover with the logo: “Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Want Your Vote” (going on to explain that many of its readers are hedge-fund managers).

  1. Sanders  became a national political figure by giving a speech on Dec. 20, 2010 that lasted 8 and 1/2 hours. The speech railed against extending Bush tax cuts and seemed like a filibuster, but it wasn’t. It was so popular that it was later made into a book.

2) Sanders does not enjoy selfies.”If I had my options, I’d prefer to shake hands,” says Bernie.

3)  Bernie grew up with an immigrant father in a tenement with 3 and 1/2 rooms.

4)  Bernie has attracted crowds larger than Trump’s: 28,000 in Portland, Oregon; 27,500 in Los Angeles; 20,000 in Boston; 15,000 in Seattle.

5)  Sanders has a son named Levi, who is a paralegal at Greater Boston Legal Services.

6)  When asked to describe the U.S. to a Martian he used the phrase “wealth and income inequality.”

7)  Sanders’ former Chief of Staff says he had 2 interests when Mayor of Burlington: basketball and wealth inequality.

8)  Sanders has the highest constituent approval rating and lowest disapproval rating among U.S. Senators.

9)  Sanders is a graduate of the University of Chicago and once was arrested during a civil rights demonstration (he was a member of SNCC, the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee, among others.)

10)  Sanders spent most of 1972-1976 running in Vermont as a third-party candidate for governor (2x), for senator (2x) and once got 4% of the vote.

11) Sanders won a weird race for Mayor of Burlington, Vermont (four-way race) by 10 votes, becoming their mayor for 8 years, a period during which the city boomed.

12)  Bernie ran for Congress twice becoming the first Independent elected to the House in 40 years.

13)  Bernie spent 16 years in the House before running for the Senate in 2006, with the backing of the Democratic Party, which he officially would not join.

14)  Bernie has 3 labor unions backing him, representing about a million workers. (*Clinton has about 18 unions representing 11 million workers supporting her.)

15)  In the 1960’s, he lived on a kibbutz in Israel for a few years before moving to Vermont. When he arrived in Vermont, he first lived in a maple sugar shack and cooked food over a coffee can filled with a roll of toilet paper soaked in lighter fluid, a poor man’s Sterno which his friends called a “Berno.”

16)  His brother, Larry, who first got him interested in liberal issues, is a Green Party politician in England. (*Donald Trump’s father-in-law and mother-in-law are both members of the Communist Party in their native land.)

17)  Until 2015, Bernie had 5 digits’ worth of credit card debt.

18)  When he ran for President of James Madison High School in Brooklyn in a 3-way race, he came in last. (*His elementary school basketball team won a city-wide championship, however.)

19)  There is a Bernie Sanders Drinking Game where, every time he mentions a free government program, you take a drink of someone else’s beer.

20)  Invited to speak to a United Way fundraiser once, he attacked the group in a short speech, telling them that they shouldn’t exist; that taking workers’ pay to do the government’s job was shameful.

21)  At Bernie’s rallies, Steve Earle’s “The Revolution Starts Now” and Bob Marley’s “Revolution” play, but not the Beatles’ famous song because it ends with the line: “Don’t you know it’s going to be all right.”

22)  Bernie ascribes to this FDR quote:  “We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.  Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today.  They are unanimous in their hatred of me—and I welcome their hatred.”

23)  Robert Reich (economist and Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton) says, “Essentially, America faces a choice between authoritarian populism, represented by Donald Trump, and reform populism, represented by Bernie Sanders.”

24)  In college, Bernie also belonged to the Young People’s Socialist League, CORE (the Congress for Racial Equality), SNCC and the Student Peace Union.

25)  Bernie’s message is that of Martin Luther King, which King termed “the urgency of now”: “If you see stuff that’s bad and you don’t respond with the urgency of the moment, you’re not alive.”

Here’s My Fall Schedule of Book Events, Past, Present & Future

Connie’s Appearances This Fall:

August 30, 2015: Participated in the Indie Authors Book Fair in Chicago held at 1448 57th St. in Chicago, from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, doing a reading from her Christmas Cats children’s book series and a table.DSCN0752

September 3-5, 2015: Writers for New Orleans. Connie appeared on panels at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, Louisiana, in conjunction with Heather Graham’s annual conference that benefits the schools and libraries damaged during Hurricane Katrina. This was her third appearance as a panelist at the event, held over Labor Day this year.DSCN0736

October 3-5, 2015: Participated in the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature Book Fair (theme: politics), reading on Sunday, October 4th, at the Café on Market Street and tended to a table with 2 other authors on the pedestrian mall from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, was the featured keynote speaker for the event.

Chatting with a passer-by.

Chatting with a passer-by.

October 13, 2015: Connie was one of three authors with a table at 2723 North Halsted from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. with her books at a joint meeting of Illinois Women’s Press Association and the Independent Writers of Chicago.

October 21, 2015: Connie will be participating in the third event in the Highland Park, Illinois’ “Let’s Get Published” series, titled “The World of Children’s books.” The event will be held at 494 Laurel Avenue in Highland Park at the Highland Park Library and will feature a 5:30 p.m. dinner with hosts and panelists at 1908 Sheridan Road, a 6:30 p.m. event set-up at the Highland Park Library, a 7 p.m. panel discussion, an 8 p.m. Q&A and wrap-up followed by refreshments, concluding with a one-on-one chat and the opportunity for book sales.

October 30, 2015: Book signing in Las Vegas at Barnes & Noble for the anthology “Never Fear Phobias.” Connie’s story (fear of dreaming and dreams) is one of 19 stories from authors such as Heather Graham, F. Paul Wilson and Thomas Monteleone. The e-book has been consistently in the Top Ten Selling e-books in its category since its release on October 1st, 2015.

November 21, 2015: Connie will be selling books from 1 to 3 at Columbia College in Chicago at their author event.

Stay tuned for the details of the line-up for promotional stops for the Christmas Cats series, ramping up in November, including 4 stops in the Quad Cities and, potentially, the People Reads Bookstore in Austin, TX.

Iowa City Book Fair on Oct. 3 & 4 Attracts Robert Reich

On Saturday and Sunday, October 3rd and 4th, three of us journeyed to one of only eight Cities of Literature in the world (and the only one in the United States) to take part in the annual book fair.

David Dorris and I in Iowa City on Saturday, October 3rd at the Iowa City Book Fair.

David Dorris and I in Iowa City on Saturday, October 3rd at the Iowa City Book Fair.

David Dorris and I actually had participated in the Iowa City Book Fair when it was held the year I was named Midwest Writing Center Writer of the Year (2010). David had the idea for a Midwest Writing Center Book Fair that year, and we both worked hard on pulling that together and pulling that off (over some nearly insurmountable obstacles) on May 8, 2010. Since then, we’ve attended some bazaars and book fairs together and, this year, we were joined by Lesleigh Nahay of Chicago.

Chatting with a passer-by.

Chatting with a passer-by.

The weather was cold and windy. Had it been sunny and warm, as it was during our first Iowa City Book Fair, I’m sure it would have a bit more enjoyable and less c-c-c-c-old. As it was, the impression that most of us had was that the passers-by were not there for the book fair. They were students on their way somewhere else. If the weather had been more favorable, I’m sure it would have brought out more enthusiastic book buyers, because there were quite a few at that long-ago event, which has since been moved from behind the main library to the pedestrian mall outside of the Sheraton.DSCN0904

On Saturday night, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, now a professor at Berkeley (and formerly on faculty at Harvard) spoke at the downtown Englert Theater for free. An enthusiastic crowd listened as he promoted his newest book “Saving Capitalism,” which posits the fact that the middle class is losing ground while the rich get richer. One surprising thing, for me, was that Reich is such a short man, probably under 5′ tall. His speech was thoughtful and enjoyable, but a woman in the back kept interrupting with inappropriate laughter and seemed to be extremely needy, desiring attention for her remarks. That was annoying and unnecessarily disruptive.

Book fairs are a lot of work to put on (I know; I did it) and this one was quite extensive, with readings all over town over the space of 2 days and tents set up and dismantled for those of us participating.

Gene Murphy and I at my reading from "Obama's Odyssey," Volume I.

Gene Murphy and I at my reading from “Obama’s Odyssey,” Volume I.

I hope it is warmer next year and that the powers-that-be let me know sooner about participating. My two new political books (politics was the theme of the book conference), Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House and Obama’s Odyssey: Volume 2 (Convention to Inauguration) were launched in style, at least.

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