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: Local (Page 1 of 16)

Teaching in America Today From the Prism of 37 Years in the Field

It is Tuesday and I have not posted since last Tuesday, May 22nd. In keeping with the title of this blog (WEEKLY Wilson), I will now share some of Fareed Zakaria’s Sunday morning show statistics, leavened with a few personal observations on teachers and teaching in America today.

Fahreed began his Sunday morning GPS show on May 27th with this quote from John Steinbeck’s (1902-1968) “East of Eden:”

“In the country, the teacher was not only an intellectual paragon and a social leader, but also the matrimonial catch of the countryside.  A family could, indeed, walk proudly if a son married the schoolteacher.” Fareed went on to say that Steinbeck’s quote, written in the early part of the 20th century, was “now unrecognizable” as far as the status of teachers in America today.

Nobody knows that better than I do, someone whose mother began teaching school in 1927 and who encouraged her two daughters (my sister Kay and me) to follow in her footsteps.

I went to Iowa on a Ferner/Hearst Journalism Scholarship and a Freshman Merit Scholarship awarded to the entering 5% of the freshman class, and I intended to be where the action was—reporting the news, living in the moment. Then I saw what beginning journalists were paid, and my mother began her refrain of “Get your teaching credential so you have something to fall back on.” (As Richard Dreyfuss said in “The Competition,” “The problem with having a career to ‘fall back on’ is that you tend to fall back.” (He played an aspiring pianist in that one, believe it or not.)

So, I continued as a Journalism major for 3 years and then was forced with the Sophie’s choice of either working all day at the Daily Iowan, helping turn out that student newspaper, or student teaching, which usually meant getting on a bus and being trucked 53 miles down the road to Davenport, Iowa. (*In my case, I lucked out and was given an assignment at the University Lab School which university professors children attended, now defunct, but only because I was a member of Old Gold Singers and needed to be present for practice at noon each day at the Union.)

After marriage and the birth of my first child, I first tried to go to work for our local newspaper, but the pay was  pathetic. Teaching wasn’t much better back in 1969, but it was actually better than being a reporter, and I began teaching for $5,280 a year. If this sounds incredibly low, you’re right.

Silvis (Illinois) was always the worst paid district in the Quad Cities and in those days, we still had the Rock Island Lines Railroad paying taxes AND the John Deere Foundary in Silvis, neither of which still pays taxes to the city and neither of which has really been replaced in the tax base of the Silvis Public Schools.

My pay rose if I went back to school and got additional hours, so I finished my Master’s degree in record time (under 2 years) and my pay eventually rose to the less-than-impressive amount of $25,000 my final year on the job (1984-1985). It was 1985 and I quit to write a book for a New Jersey firm (Performance Learning Systems, Inc.)  which promised they could match my pay level, which wasn’t difficult. The condition was that I had to quit my tenured full-time job as Department Chairperson. (I had asked if I could write it during my summers off.) I was supposed to travel for them, as well, and do interviews for their newsletter. In fact, I was scheduled to interview the “Teacher in Space”—until they blew Christa McAuliffe up.

When I asked what would happen to me AFTER the book came out, no one (including me) seemed to know, but, after 4 terms as Co Chair of the Silvis Education Association, during which I worked tirelessly to earn recognition for our teachers’ union (and succeeded, after 3 contentious years), I was ready to move on.

I had taught 5 years of 7th grade Language Arts, 5 years of 8th grade Language Arts (by request), taken a one-year leave of absence to try to find gainful employment at a higher level, and, unsuccessful, returned to teach a mixture of 7th AND 8th graders. Most of my friends from the struggle to achieve recognition, [which ended when the League of Women Voters was brought in and the district’s 50 or so employees voted to have them recognized as their bargaining agent] had left. Some left teaching all together. Some went to the high school level or to another district, where the pay was better.

It should be noted that our school board first had to be changed to allow us to even HAVE such a revolutionary vote. And it shouldn’t have BEEN a revolutionary vote, since the Silvis Education Association had been formed in 1962,  when I was still in high school! This was 1979-1980, so why wasn’t it “recognized” and why weren’t the teachers being asked for input on their teaching conditions, class size, materials, and pay? (Every other district had been meeting with their teachers’ bargaining representatives for years, but we got to read ours in the paper and it sometimes went down.) 

In order to be allowed to bring in the League of Women Voters we had to first elect 3 members of a 7 member board that would agree it was a good idea; that was the difficult part. The old board would not have allowed it.

We backed some concerned citizens in the community who agreed that Silvis was a bit behind the times ( about 20 years behind) in terms of  agreeing to bargain with its employees in a hopefully constructive manner, and we did not tumble to the IEA (Illinois Education Association’s) advice that we do “bullet voting” and try to elect one member at a time over a longer period. We took on getting 3 board members on at once and we succeeded, which the Powers-That-Be in Springfield said was one of the few times in Illinois history this had occurred. I was even asked to lead workshops around the state to explain exactly how we had pulled off this small miracle.

So, I left Silvis, Illinois as Chairman of the English Department making $25,000 a year, went to work for PLS (Perfomance Learning Systems, Inc.) making the same amount, wrote their book (“Training the Teacher As A Champion”) and handling their news letter, and, at the end of my time writing the book (which was published in 1989), no one had any idea what to do with me.

Thus, I became the founder of a Sylvan Learning Center (2nd in the state of Iowa) and an adjunct faculty member at 6 colleges in my spare time, and performed my duties as CEO, chief marketing director, H&R, community representative, and sometime substitute teacher uninterruptedly until I sold that business and the Prometric Testing Center that I had also founded within our walls in 1995, in April of 2003.

I had noticed that the students coming to me from the elementary grades over the years were coming in with less and less basic knowledge and less and less parental support. The parents usually sided with the student and the teacher was at fault if little Johnny failed. Respect for the profession was sliding even then. As an example of how the students were losing ground I often cite a short story writing contest I ran at Halloween time to write a “scary” story.

When I started teaching, the students wrote fairly good stories of more than one paragraph. By the middle of my 15 years in Silvis, the students had difficulty knowing enough about good grammar and punctuation to even write 3 paragraphs. By the end of my time in Silvis, I was teaching them how to write 5-line paragraphs and we had scrapped the entire idea of writing fiction.

And United Township’s High School Creative Writing Class, which had blind judged the stories and picked the winners, had also been scrapped, so we no longer had judges for my junior high school students’ work. I persisted in teaching Literature, Grammar (yes, we diagrammed sentences), Spelling (a separate grade), and Writing/Composition.

I made sure that my students always were entering any writing competition that was being offered in the Quad City area. (They often won.) I was always correcting papers while waiting in a dentist’s office or a doctor’s office and once left a stack of them there and had to go back to retrieve them. ALL of my students wrote, but, because of the excessive amount of time it takes to truly critique and proof a paper, I had to schedule one class at a time to do their writing assignment, and I did.

I worked at Sylvan for 3 years taking no pay, since we were a new business, and I had an acrimonious break-up with the woman I had invited to join me over ‘creative differences’ in our vision for the business. Since I was the President, founder and CEO, I bought her out and started over again from the bottom of the ladder, right after the birth of my second child in 1987. (She opened one in Cedar Rapids, but it no longer exists, either.)

Here are some facts about teaching today, some of which I researched for the book for PLS entitled “Training the Teacher As A Champion” and some of which Fareed Zakaria highlighted on May 27, 2018:

  1.  The average pay for teachers has declined over the last 15 years, while health care costs have risen substantially.
  2. In 2003, the median household income was $63,777, but teachers made only $59,141.
  3. In 2009, the median household income was $64,803, but teachers made only $58,257.
  4. In 2016, the median household income was $61,768, but teachers made only $61,675.
  5. Teachers are 5 times as likely as the average full-time workers to have a second job; adjunct faculty even approach the poverty level and qualify for food stamps (especially in Chicago, it seems). Colleges are fond of what I term “the sponge mentality,” where they  hire teachers with advanced degrees, but only allow them to have just under the maximum number of hours that would make them full-time, squeeze out all the good, and then cast them aside; hence, no benefits need be paid, like health insurance or retirement pension moneys.
  6. Teachers make 60% less than a professional in another career with a comparable education (I had a Master’s + 30 hours,  the equivalent of a PhD)
  7. Because of low wages and teacher stress, teachers burn out at two  times the rate of other workers. (Linda Hammond of the Lang Policy Institute). the Boston Women’s Study I remember reading for the PLS book pegged the “burn out” time as ten years.
  8. Enrollment in teacher preparation courses is down 35%.
  9. We are facing a massive teacher shortage at at time when teachers are being asked to put their lives on the line for their students and a debate rages nationwide about arming teachers.
  10. The shortage of teachers from the U.S. is so bad that 100,000 teachers are being recruited from countries like the Philippines.
  11. There is a significant link between teacher pay and student achievement.
  12. Singapore/Finland and South Korea can recruit the top graduates because they pay well and there is respect for the profession in those countries, unlike in this country.
  13. “Over the last 30 years, being a teacher in America has become a thankless job. And that is the one profession that makes all the other professions possible.” (Fareed Zakaria)
  14. My own observation(s), from a family that has logged about 200 teacher years (Mother, sister, sister-in-law, brother-in-law): When I graduated from high school (1963), I was offered 3 possible job options: nurse, teacher or office worker.
  15. I graduated second in my class, but no one said I could become an engineer, a doctor, or a lawyer. In fact, when I took the LSAT (Law School Aptitude Test) 3 times as I was graduating from the University of Iowa in 1967, scoring in the top 1/2 of 1% on the English portions, I was told, by my old-fashioned parents that they would help finance a post graduate career in English, but that I shouldn’t aspire to go to law school. Several law students (all male, of course) seconded that assessment, noting how much the professors disliked having females in their classes. [up the spaceLest you think I am making this up, just look for Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s remarks about how her law professors told her that she and her 8 female classmate were “taking  for 9 male students.”] I took the LSAT in the chemistry auditorium, which holds roughly  500 students, and only one other woman was there taking the examination, and she was Forrest Evaschevski’s daughter-in-law.[ *If you don’t know who Forrest Evaschevski was, he would be the equivalent in that day and age of Hayden Fry or Iowa’s current long-time coach, Kirk Ferentz.]

Fareed went on to say, “Have you thanked a teacher for his or her service, like you thank the military?”

There have been 17 shootings in 2018 alone in classrooms, the highest number during any year since at least 1999 according to a Washington Post data base. The debate is raging here in Texas and across the nation about arming teachers in the schools. If I had been approached to carry a gun and be prepared to use it, I would have changed majors so fast it would make your head spin.

An Indiana Middle School teacher (my teaching level), Jason Seaman, was just released from the hospital after being shot 4 times defending his class from a young student who entered with a hand gun and opened fire. Jason Seaman played for Southern Illinois University’s Salukis’ football team from 2007 to 2010 and is 29 years old. He was a defensive end, tallying 88 tackles and 8 sacks with 2 forced fumbles in 47 games. He was a three-sport athlete in Mahomet, Illinois. He ran at the shooter and pinned him to the wall and immobilized him, despite being shot in the abdomen, hip and forearm.

As a student witness, Ethan Stonebraker, described it:  “Immediately, Mr. Seaman was yelling and running right at him and tackled him to the ground. I was trying to stay crouched behind the back table, but also see what’s going on and that’s when Mr. Seaman was running right at him with his arms in front of him, and then he just tackled him against the wall. Then they were on the ground after Mr. Seamans swatted the gun from him an Mr. Seamans just laid on the shooter so he couldn’t do anything else.”

During my teaching years, I was aged 24 to 40. I had played intramural basketball as a point guard who was small and quick, and I had been a cheerleader for 2 years. I once ran out of my own non-air-conditioned classroom when a horde of ground bees invaded through our windows [which had no screens], in the heat of August, followed by most of my class. I was also told I was “too small” to be a lifeguard when in high school, despite having passed all of the coursework. I am 5′ 2″ and weighed about 130 pounds when I was a junior high school teacher. I know nothing about tackling young males who might assault me or my class, either with or without a weapon, and soon learned that, if I had contentious students who were going to throw punches at each other (which happened), I should quickly summon Mr. Pyevich or Mr. White, whose classrooms were on my left and on my right.

How effective do you think I would have been in a shoot-out? Why should my good friend Karen Schootman’s daughter now have to run drills for her classes to decide where they will hide and how they will barricade themselves against shooters when they come in armed to the teeth and start shooting innocent students and teachers? GET IT TOGETHER, PEOPLE. WE NEED GUN CONTROL LAWS LIKE EVERY OTHER CIVILIZED NATION!

And, yes, the cream of the crop does NOT seem to go into teaching any more. (Do you wonder why?) I even quit an Honorary Educators’ group (Delta Kappa Gamma) that was encouraging youngsters to go into teaching, because how could I, in good conscience, tell them this is a “good” job today?

Mr. Seamans, after his shooting, released this statement:  “I want to let everyone know that I was injured but I am doing great. To all students, you are all wonderful and I thank you for your support. You are the reason I teach.”

Ella Whistler, the 13-year-old girl shot in the head by the attacker, is still in critical but stable condition in the hospital.

A small footnote to the screed above: at least 10 states have laws allowing teachers to carry guns on K-12 campuses and 17 states have considered bills to arm school staff since the Parkland shooting. Mississippi, for one, has been interested in this “solution.” But here’s where it gets interesting:insurance firms balk at selling policies to schools if educators are armed. The Pro-Gun NRA (which has been infiltrated by Russians) says this is because the insurance providers are notorious liberals, trying to turn this into a political decision.

The Associate Executive Director for the Kansas Association of School Boards, Mark Tallman, said:  “I don’t think insurance companies are notorious anti-gun liberals. We think they’ve got good reasons for not doing it.” The 2007 Virginia Tech shooting where a student gunman killed 32 people and wounded 17 more cost at least $50 million in security upgrades and lawsuit settlement costs. And all this at a time when federal money is being directed away from education and into militaristic pursuits and Betsy DeVos—the most incompetent and unqualified Secretary of Education in history—is running the show.

In 2014, a sixth grade teacher in Utah mistakenly shot a school toilet. As I said in a previous post, I have known teachers who should not be allowed to operate a pencil sharpener in their classrooms, let alone come in packing a gun!

And so it goes. Comments welcome.

AP, CNN Reporters Barred from Scott Pruitt Public Meeting

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) Executive Editor 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.

Teachers in Austin Can’t Afford to Live in District, Says Study

(Book above by Connie Corcoran Wilson & Joseph K. Hasenstab)

Yesterday, while sharing wisdom acquired at the nail shop, I mentioned  short articles to come (about soy beans and teachers.)

I could write a really LONG diatribe about teachers and how it’s about time that teachers, nationwide, rise up and demand to be treated like professionals, but that isn’t this article.   (Indications are that  the movement is already escalating nationwide.)

As the author of “Training the Teacher As A Champion” (Performance Learning Systems, Inc. of Emerson, NJ) and a veteran teacher with approximately 200 teacher years in the immediate family (mother, sister, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, niece) it is a field about which I know a fair amount. I generally say I had a 37-year teaching career, since the Sylvan Learning Center I founded also involved teaching, and I also taught as adjunct faculty at all Quad City area colleges or universities at various times.

This is a short piece, basically lifted from page A7 of the Austin American Statesman, that notes:  “National Council on Teacher Quality data on teacher salary, qualifications, and home affordability reveals that even with 5 years of experience and a master’s degree, Austin ISD teachers cannot afford the median mortgage payments in the city.

Even more shocking, if a local teacher with those qualifications saved 10 % of his  or her income annually, it would take more than 10 years for the individual to generate enough for a 20% down payment on a home.” 

And, notes the Statesman, that is with today’s median home price, which is bound to go up, as it has steadily in Austin in recent years. The report was put together by Ku, Sikes and Edwards, all doctoral students in the College of Education at the University of Texas.

They also noted:  “For 2017-1028, Austin ISD lost 1,600 students in enrollment compared with the prior year—the 5th consecutive year of enrollment decline.  About half of the students are leaving the city to move to neighboring suburban districts because housing is more affordable. However, teachers get left out of the conversation with such gentrification taking over the affordable options.”

At a time when the President of the United States is seriously suggesting that teachers be issued guns to protect themselves and their charges, possibly even laying down their lives to protect the students in their charge, and wanna-be presidential candidates like Scott Walker (of Wisconsin) are destroying unions, in general, (especially those for public employees, including teachers) and Illinois is grappling with keeping promises made through the years, contractually, to retired teachers whose pensions are now coming due (when Illinois did not put in its fair share of that money in years past and is now trying to figure out where to come up with it), it is worth noting that teachers cannot even afford to live in the districts in which they teach, if those districts are popular destination cities like Austin, Nashville, etc.

I had a Master’s + 30 and never made more than $25,000 my best year  teaching in Illinois, with 17 and 1/2 years of experience in the field. I did try to help my SEA (Silvis Education Association) teachers’ organization unionize and gain recognition, in the hopes that our salaries and our working conditions could, at the very least, be negotiated, but whether that 3-year endeavor, which was ultimately successful,  has helped future generations of educators in that district is a question I cannot answer.

It is hard to tell your sons and daughters, your best and brightest, to go into teaching, if they are going to be a primary support of a family unit with sobering facts like those above. Lord knows that the students of today are not getting more respectful and better-behaved and some will argue that the teachers of today “don’t deserve as much respect,” but those are the very individuals I’d like to see do the job for just one semester in the trenches.

It gets even worse for college faculty, who, in Illinois, anyway, sometimes qualify for food stamps because they are squeezed like a sponge and given just enough hours to bring them up to full-time status where they would qualify for benefits like health care, but not enough to pass that threshold. I know this from teaching at 6 IA/IL colleges or universities.

And, since marriage as an institution seems to be on the ropes, too, many girls must face the fact that they may be supporting themselves without a second paycheck for their entire lives. Therefore,those individuals of either sex need to think long and hard about how much they need to live comfortably, and whether the field(s) they have chosen, no matter how rewarding personally, are going to meet their financial needs. It’s not a new question: it’s been one that is relevant to musicians, artists, filmmakers and any number of other occupations. It is now becoming a fact of life for teachers at a time when they are being asked to do much more with much less.

Things I Learned at the Nail Shop: Annette Bening as Super Hero

When you go to the nail shop in Austin, you are surrounded by technicians who mainly speak to one another in Vietnamese (at least, I think it’s Vietnamese). Otherwise, you have only the large flat-screen television to occupy you. I learned that Annette Bening is going to be a Super Hero in the Marvel franchise—or, at least, that’s what the talking heads said, and it set off a fair amount of discussion amongst the three women and two men onscreen at the time.

 Annette Bening is being touted as a Super Hero for a Marvel movie. This caused a phenomenal amount of interest on the program I was watching (don’t know the name of it; think it’s local). The African-American young man, who had been talking about tickets to go backstage at a Justin Timberlake concert by signing up somewhere, posed the rhetorical question, “Which would you rather see? Annette Bening in a Marvel movie or Justin Timberlake?” (Please… May I phone a friend?)

It could be a very funny “riff” for “SNL” to take on this rumor, as all the icons of yesteryear seem to be fading into oblivion, since “Vanity Fair’s” Editor for decades,Graydon Carter, recently retired and the rumors are also rampant that Anna Wintour (memorialized, fictionally, in the film featuring Emily Blunt,  “The Devil Wears Prada”) may have just attended her final Met Gala. (Oh, the humanity!)

When you couple the above news with Elton John announcing that he is not going to tour any more after his final tour and the many headline names (Tom Petty, to name one) who shuffled off this mortal coil, often very unexpectedly, you begin to see the future. It is filled with Kanye (West) moments. And Justin Timberlake, who gave up bringing sexy back to going all woodsy on us and giving us a perfectly forgettable Super Bowl Halftime Show. [If my choices are watching Annette Bening in anything and Justin’s Super Bowl show, I’m going for Bening. (Sorry, Justin.)]

I was recently offered a deal where I could stream old classic movies for a monthly fee. It was suggested to me, in particular, because I review film, and, of course, how could I be “up” on ALL the movies of the past. (How could ANYONE be “up” on all the movies of the past, is more like it; I think I’m pretty solid on anything from 1955 on, but I’ve been outsourcing the Marvel epics.)

I need to make you aware of the soy bean crisis and the teacher crisis, so pardon me while I leave you with these images of the potential Super Hero at Sixty (birth year: 1958) and the interesting fact that her parents, staunch Episcopalians, were from Iowa. I wonder what they thought when they heard she was marrying Warren Beatty, then known as the World’s Biggest Womanizer?

Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty” Sets Off Controversy

OK…So, I went to see Amy Schumer’s new movie “I Feel Pretty” (and received a button that says “I Feel Pretty Awesome,” which I wore all day).I liked it—the button AND the movie.

There, I’ve said it. I liked it.

I thought it was insightful and funny and I liked lines like, “I met this baby the other day that was wack as hell.” [You can see the meeting with said baby in the clip I just posted of the movie trailer]. The trailer contains the best parts of the film, and, no, it isn’t a laugh-out-loud funny movie, because Amy is trying to make the point that (to quote a line from the movie):  “This line/movie is for every girl who is ready to believe in herself.” Or, “I think a lot of people are all confused about themselves…You doubt yourself over and over. What if we didn’t care about how we looked?” 

The premise is that, when Amy hits her head, she suddenly sees herself as perfect. She no longer has the crippling insecurities that beset her prior to being hit in the head. It takes another blow to her skull to turn her back into insecure Amy. One of the lines spoken to her boyfriend in the film (Ethan, well played by Rory Scovel) is: “She is awesome. She is the complete package. Your girl can handle herself in a knife fight!” Or, as Ethan says to Renee, “You know who you are and you don’t care how the world sees you.”

The movie  makes a plea for “The strength and wisdom to say ‘I’m better than all that. We are real women.”

Why is she being pilloried on social media for making such undeniably positive statements? The answer seems to be that some think she is too pretty to be saying these things? Is that it?  Amy is too pretty to make a statement that benefits all women everywhere? (Sheesh) Get over your bad selves, nit-pickers. And, to the newly-wed Amy: YOU GO, GIRL!

I couldn’t help but empathize with what she must be thinking and feeling as people hurl brick-bats at her for articulating the undeniable truth that most of us are insecure in some way and that it can often become almost a debilitating disease, if it inhibits us too much or prevents us from becoming our true, authentic, best selves. The film also gets the point across that TOO MUCH confidence is, well, too much.

That is probably what the uproar is all about: mid-movie Amy briefly becomes a jerk to her friends (played by Aidy Bryant of SNL as Vivian and Busy Philipps as Jane) and we want to LIKE Amy and empathize with her. If she’s confident and thinks she’s great and is enjoying herself, well, we can’t have THAT now, can we? How dare she!?

If you watch the trailer (above), you’ll see the funniest parts of the movie, complete with Amy’s attempt to win a bikini contest (she doesn’t), but, mainly, you’ll see her becoming a jerk as she gives in to her uber confident inner self,  confidence which was triggered by a fall from a Soul Cycle bike that dumped her on her head.  I’m thinking that her in-your-face confidence was just too much for some females to stomach. Be reassured: she doesn’t STAY a jerk.

Girls always seem to accept other girls, or women other women, only if they are sweet and malleable and supportive and “nice,” as my husband euphemistically terms it. It still isn’t acceptable in society to be sassy and funny and irreverent, if you’re female. You still get labeled as “a bitch” if you display any of those characteristics, even though Amy Schumer rose to fame because of  the irreverent salacious humor of her stand-up act (and, yes, I HAVE seen her act, “live”). [It can’t be the men who are complaining and giving the film a thumbs down on YouTube, can it?]

I thought the opening sequence where she is participating in a Soul Cycle class with model-thin women and her bike seat gives away and she experiences a jarring blow to her vagina was note-perfect. She hobbles out with her pants torn and in pain. Have none of you (females) who are giving it a thumbs down on YouTube never experienced the crushing pain of falling onto the metal part of a boy’s bike? No? [Okay, then. It must be just me.]

I’ve also been involved in exercise classes where it was quite obvious I did not belong. My favorite story is the one where, somehow, I ended up LEADING the class and had NO idea where I was to “lead” them. It was a lot like the scene in “Animal House” where the marching band marches into a brick wall. I also remembered my husband once commenting  that I was only equipped to compete in the Olympics in the “400 yard roll” or some such joke. (He WAS kidding, but his humor was lost on me at the time.)

I actually wrote several humorous essays about exercise classes I have known and published them in “Laughing through Life, so if you want to hear all about the types of things that befall Amy in her class, but happened, IRL, to me, you can order a copy on Amazon.

But that’s not the point.

The point of the movie as written and directed by Abby Kohn (“2009’s “He’s Just Not That In To You”) and Marc Silverstein (husband of *BusyPhilipps,”How To Be Single”) to me, was that Amy wants each and every one of us who is female to feel comfortable in our own skins. So what if we have too much junk in the trunk? Forgetaboutit. So what if we are not rail-thin?  Move on. Get over it! Be confident.

BUT, and this is important, do NOT lose good friends because you become an insufferable ego-maniac.

Other good things about the movie:

Michael Andrews selected the music (“This Girl Is On Fire” for one) and it is great. Michelle Williams plays the daughter of a cosmetics icon who has a very soft voice like Jackie Kennedy’s (okay, you’re too young to remember how Jackie’s voice was very soft and not forceful at all, and Marilyn Monroe’s was the same way, so just work with me here) and, therefore, has a hard time being taken seriously. She also is involved in some serious sibling rivalry with her handsome brother, Grant LeClair (Tom Hopper), who comes on to Amy at one point (Amy remains true to Ethan, so why did the haters not note THAT?)

Many critics praised the appearance of Lauren Hutton as Gramma LeClaire (Lily LeClaire) in “I Feel Pretty,” who founded the cosmetics company, which is attempting to turn out an affordable cosmetics line suitable for sale in Target stores.

Lauren appears as a retired model, which she really is. She made her film debut in 1968 in “Paper Lion” and still works as a model, apparently because she is still reed-thin.

Lauren definitely has been out in the sun too much for too long and she has done nothing to diminish the age-related wrinkles caused by too much sun exposure. I actually looked up her age, after the film, since I was hoping she was older than me. She was…but not by that much.

For someone who is listed as 74 (birthday: Nov. 17, 1943) she is thin, but, aside from that, she might consider whether the path she wants to take is the one taken by Jane Fonda, or the one taken by others, which doesn’t have to mean plastic surgery, but does mean trying to diminish age-related deterioration. Yes, I know. This is in direct opposition to the message of the movie, but the message of the movie for a young woman is quite different than for a “mature” (don’t say “old”) woman: society has not moved forward enough to accept prune-like visages that could have remained recognizable if the owner of the face had taken the slightest precautions.

To me, since we are only given one face, it is irresponsible not to at least try to keep it looking halfway decent. While that also applies to our bodies, I agree with Amy that a woman in today’s society ought to NOT have to be reed-thin to be considered attractive. We women have to bear children and cook and clean and, usually, also work,and genetics will get you every time, so not all of us will remain emaciated in our golden years. Lauren is reed-thin, so she gets to keep modeling. She looks like hell, facially, but nevermind that, as long as she is thin.

That, to me, was the message for we “mature” types and, yes, that was a contradiction of the first magnitude, which I blame(d) on the age difference between the character Amy is playing (Renee Bennett) and the one that Lauren Hutton is playing (Lily LeClaire).

And probably something that the writers never considered, either, since the male writer (Marc Silverstein) is also the husband of Busy Philipps, [whois supposed to be getting a talk show this fall] and Abby Kohn might have tried  for Jane Fonda for the Lauren Hutton role—or any other mature actress who has not thrown caution to the winds and abandoned her face to extensive sun damage.

 

 

Tour Dates & Blogs for THE COLOR OF EVIL Tour

FOLLOW COLOR OF EVIL SERIES BY CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON TOUR

Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Sept 29 Review & Giveaway

Gayle Books Reviews Etc Oct 3 Review

Beverly’s Book Blog Oct 13 Review, Excerpt, Interview, & Giveaway

Dawn Bound 2 Escape Oct 10 Excerpt & Giveaway

Angélica Amazon Review Nov 1 Review

Jessica JBronder Book Reviews Nov 8 Review

Shannon The Pulp and Mystery Shelf Nov 13 Excerpt & Interview

Donna Amazon Review Nov 15 Review

Cheryl’s Book Nook Nov 21 Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway

Dawn Bound 2 Escape Nov 28 Review

Dr. Jacques Coulardeau Amazon Review Nov 28

Lisa Lisa’s Writopia Nov 29 Review

Erica Bassgiraffe’s Thoughts Nov 30 Review

Lorna Amazon Review Nov 30 Review

THE COLOR OF EVIL Boxed Set Tour Is “On”

COLOR OF EVIL SERIES BOXED SET

BY CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON

Publisher: Quad Cities’ Press (Aug, 2017)
Category: YA, Psychological Paranormal Thriller
Tour Dates: Oct/Nov, 2017
Available in: E-book, 725 Pages

THE COLOR OF EVIL series presents you with characters who live, breathe and die in small town Cedar Falls, Iowa. Tad McGreevy, the focus of the series, has a paranormal power, Tetrachromatic Super Vision, that allows him to see auras that tell him whether a person is good or evil. At night, in horrifying nightmares, Tad relives the crimes of the evil-doers. Eventually, becomes the target of a particularly lethal antagonist, Michael Clay (aka Pogo the Clown) who wants to eliminate the teen-aged boy. In three books, we witness the power of evil faced off against a good-hearted young boy who just wants to protect those he loves.

Beginning with the first manifestations of this supernatural power at the age of 8, the book quickly takes us forward to the high school years of Tad and the band of friends we come to know well. We follow their progress from their junior year of high school through graduation with danger always lurking in the background. As others have said, it’s quite a ride.

Begin the journey today with this specially-priced trilogy: THE COLOR OF EVIL; RED IS FOR RAGE; and KHAKI=KILLER..

“THE COLOR OF EVIL series is old-school psychological horror, artfully blended with new-school shocks and twists. Bravo!” —Jonathan Maberry, New York Times best-selling author, multiple Bram Stoker winner.

MY THOUGHTS COLOR OF EVIL SERIES BOXED SET BY CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON

by Teddy Rose

I rarely read books like these but have heard so much about them and have enjoyed Ms. Wilson’s writing in the past with her diverse topics. Thus I decided to give this series a try. It has just been made into a boxed set on Kindle.

In this multi award-winning series, Tad McGreevy as a boy discovers that he can see auras. At night he dreams of evil people doing evil deeds and he knows that these aren’t just dreams. He doesn’t know if the evil doing has already occurred or will occur in the future. His parents tell him to keep his power a secret. When he turns 8 years old his third grade classmates are invited to his birthday party. His parents hire Pogo the Clown to entertain the children. However, Tad knows right away that Pogo (real name Michael Clay) is really a serial killer. Of course, his parents don’t believe him and even send him to a psychiatrist who does not believe him either. That is until Pogo is arrested.

Fast forward to Tad as a young adult, In the second book ‘Red Is For Rage’, Tad tries to control his power more. He doesn’t want to end up back in a hospital under a psychiatrist’s care. His best friend Stevie Scranton goes missing. To top that off, Pogo (aka Michael Clay), the serial killer clown, escapes from prison. Tad teams up with a retired policeman and others to try to find out what happened to Stevie. Will they be too late?

Then there is the teenage aghast of Tad and his friend, not to mention that of Stevie’s poor parents during the 9 month ordeal while their son is missing.

The third book, ‘Khaki=Killer’ picks up where the second book leaves off. Melody Harris Carpenter was rushed to the hospital due to an accident when cheerleading at her college. We find out what happened to her. There are budding romances, more people disappearing, and Michael Clay is on the hunt for Tad.

Okay, so even from what I just described, it is clear it isn’t the type of book I would normally read. In fact I would usually stay far away from. However, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this series.

Connie Corcoran Wilson really amazes me with her pen.She can write both non-fiction and fiction effortlessly, or at least it seems the case to me. Will I go out of my way to read more paranormal thrillers? Probably not, but I am glad I read this. I also know that she is working on a fourth, (perhaps final?) book for the series and I will certainly read that.

I recommend you pick up a copy of The Color of Evil series and experience it as well!

PRAISE for THE COLOR OF EVIL SERIES

By Connie Corcoran Wilson

‘The book has all the elements of a compelling mystery and an inventive paranormal twist. One must credit Wilson for treating her teenage protagonists with respect, as they face adult dilemmas and resolve them with maturity and grace.”- Kirkus

“Connie Corcoran Wilson weaves a deftly fine scalpel in an age where a crude blade is more the norm. Her work is a smooth, subtle hybrid mix of science fiction, thriller, and horror that realizes a unique and pointed vision in the great tradition of Phillip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury. Her voice is a wonder to behold, at once dark and somber while maintaining a glimmer of hope that shines in the hearts of her heroes, who cling to the light. Like Stephen King, nothing escapes her discerning eye, the result of which is tale after tale that bleed life onto the page, both literally and figuratively.”–Jon Land, bestselling author of the Caitlin Strong Series

“Wilson’s characters come alive on the page. Comparisons to Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Philip K. Dick aside, Wilson has spent 35 years teaching students in this age range. She knows what she is talking about.”–Gary Braver, author of “Flashback” and 8 other thrillers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MOTHER NATURE

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

RELIGIOUS SYMBOLISM

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

EGOISM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God help us all.

Sincerely,

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

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