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!
Difficult as it is to believe, today journalists from CNN and the AP (Associated Press) were physically shoved out of a public meeting chaired by EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, with only those whose names were on a White House list being allowed to enter and report on this public meeting of the PFAS National Leadership Summit. The information being shared was not classified and it was a public meeting. Journalists being banned from a public meeting or mistreated when attempting to attend is why I no longer cover presidential races in the U.S., but focus on film.
The official excuse used by EPA spokesman Jehan Wilcox was that “there wasn’t sufficient room.” Photographs from journalists who were allowed inside showed plenty of room.
Oliver Darcy, Senior Media Reporter for CNN, was nearly apoplectic as he was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer and Sally Buzbee, AP (Associated Press) ExecutiveEditor also issued a statement denouncing this obvious attempt to stifle the press press.
Wake up, people. This is how dictatorships seize and hang on to power.
WARNING: Explicit Language Contained in the Above Trailer
I decided to go have a hearing test, because my EYE doctor, way back in December in the Quad Cities, before we left town for Texas, clicked something 3 times on each side of my head. I did not hear the final click on the right ear side. He then said I could “go see our audiologist in Rock Island” if I wanted to know if I had any hearing loss.
I was not aware of any hearing loss, but every single teacher friend I have who taught as long as I did talks LOUDLY and, in Silvis, where I taught, the second-hand cheapie heater system they bought when they built the “new” junior high school (in 1969-1970) was horrible. It was LOUD and it threw crap into the air and it leaked gas. So,when I saw that a local business (NewSound Hearing Centers) would give me a complete hearing test with a video microscope and all the trimmings for FREE, I drove myself over there at 2 p.m. and had the whole schmear.
First, they showed me the inside of my ear canals magnified 150 times. (Ugh). One of the comments in the article was that you can have hearing loss simply from waxy build-up. Although the technician pronounced my waxy build-up to NOT be that severe, it looked gross, especially when he was fishing it out with a long instrument. (Double ugh).
Next, we moved to a small room where sounds were played and I was to push the button when I heard the various sounds. My tester was on the other side of the glass of the soundproof booth. I thought I was doing pretty well. Later, I learned I was doing “okay” but everybody has some hearing loss as they age. Mine seemed minimal, as my ear drums were not punctured, but, funny thing, my right ear was doing much better than my left ear, but it was the right ear that I could not hear the top “clicking” sound in December. I was not surprised that my right ear is doing most of the real work. My right eye is, too. My vision when I (finally) had lasik surgery some years ago was 20/70 in my right eye and only 20/200 (legally blind) in my left. After lasik, my vision in my “good” right eye was 20/15 and the vision in my “bad” left eye was 20/20.
At one point, as he set up to read my scores of words which I was to repeat back to him, I found myself waiting for him and began reading the article next to the ad in the local “Austin American Statesman” newspaper, and I have to say, it turned out to be interesting. (*On the “repeat these words” tests, I scored 96% with each ear, missing only the word “dime”—I heard “dine”—-and “lock” when I heard “locked.”) These small miscues did not strike me as something to worry about, but I was glad to have a baseline hearing test for my impending deafness (!) and I left without any hearing aids.
However, while I was waiting for the testing person to set up one test, I read the article NEXT to the free ad in the “Austin Statesman” and it was actually pretty interesting. Here are the salient facts in THAT article:
FOOD, FACTS TRICKLE INTO CUT-OFF NORTH KOREA
Jung Gwan-il Image (from Wikipedia)
That was the heading and I learned that a former North Korean prisoner, Jung Gwang-il, has taken it upon himself to send bottles into North Korea from South Korea. He does this two times a month, when the tides are right. He and his helpers toss hundreds of bottles into the Han River to be carried downstream, hoping that the bottles will end up in the hands of some of the North Koreans, who are hungry for both food AND information.
So, what goes in these bottles? This is where it got interesting, for me.
A flash drive is put in the bottles , and on the USB sticks is a video of “The Wall,” a movie about a North Korean poet by an Irish director and, quite interestingly, the Seth Rogen film “The Interview,” a low-brow comedy in which Rogen and James Franco attempt to assassinate Kim Jong Un. To say that this movie was low humor is putting it mildly. “The Interview” was so hard on Kim Jung Un that it is thought the computer hack of Sony was caused by the dictator’s anger about the movie. (After all, he has cut the heads off relatives for far less, including a half brother’s!)
The Kim Jung Un family has been in power for over 7 decades and, in addition to the 2 films mentioned above, there is video of a North Korean musical group’s performance in Seoul in February. There were also micro-SD cards that can be put into phones.
When escapees from North Korea were interviewed in 2015, 81% reported having watched foreign media on USB drives while still in the country. The group doing all this is known as No Chain and they join others who have flown balloons over the border carrying information and goods and other illegal methods of smuggling information and food into the extremely poor country that spends all of its money on its military.
Korean churches donate 3 pounds of rice per bottle, and the Human Rights Foundation in New York donates USBs as part of its “Flashdrives for Freedom” project.
Three pounds of rice is worth about TWO MONTHS’ SALARY for a state worker in North Korea. It’s no wonder that ships have reported seeing the bottles being fished out of the Han River. Let’s hope this and the soon-coming meetings between North and South Korean leaders gives the downtrodden people of North Korea a better life.
Said Thae Yong Ho, who was North Korea’s deputy ambassador in London until his dramatic escape in 2016: “We should educate the North Korean people so that they can have their own Korean Spring.”
The dirty and sometimes downright offensive game Cards Against Humanity is back with another stunt, and this time they’re taking aim at one of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises.The company announced its holiday promotion on Tuesday, called Cards Against Humanity Saves America. Essentially, the company purchased a plot of vacant land on the border of the United States and Mexico, making it extremely difficult for Trump to build his expensive border wall which the U.S. taxpayers will inevitably pay for.
“Donald Trump is a preposterous golem who is afraid of Mexicans. He is so afraid that he wants to build a $20 billion wall that everyone knows will accomplish nothing,” the website reads. “So we’ve purchased a plot of vacant land on the border and retained a law firm specializing in eminent domain to make it as time-consuming and as expensive as possible for the wall to be built.”
Fork over $15 of your hard-earned cash to Cards, and they’ll send you “six surprises” in the month of December, including an illustrated map of the land, a certificate of promise to fight the wall, and some new cards.
Given the nature of the game, the company has no problem being a bit brash, and because they are self-owned, and don’t rely on big box stores to push their product, the company can get away with a bit more.
On it’s FAQ page for the new expansion, one question asks: I don’t like that you’re getting political. Why don’t you just stick to card games?
Their answer? Why don’t you stick to seeing how many Hot Wheels cars you can fit up your ass?
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.