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 19

Chaos and Confusion in the Corn State

Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.

Iowa drops the ball on caucus night, February 3. We still don’t know the results of the Iowa caucuses of Monday night, and it’s Tuesday afternoon.

Donald J. Trump will, no doubt, say something along the lines of, “Look at the Democrats. They can’t even hold an election. How can they run a country?” when he makes his State of the Union address tonight. I’d like to see the Iowa Democratic Party delay releasing the tardy results until the exact moment that the Orange One begins talking. That would be poetic justice.

I’ve actually been to the Iowa caucuses, in 2008. I wasn’t voting, but observing. What I observed in Des Moines was orchestrated chaos that was very home-spun and folksy, but not that efficient. There were all sorts of journalists from all over the globe snaking through the lunch room of the elementary school where my college roommate and I went so that she could caucus.

One thing that remained constant from 2008 to 2020 is that Joe Biden was among those one could vote for at both times. So was John Edwards back then, and I was an early Edwards supporter, while friend Pam caucused for Joe.

I’ve been watching the results (or non-results) of the caucus last night “live” on television since last night. I watched Precinct 38 in Des Moines weigh in, with 2 delegates going for Warren, 2 for Mayor Pete, and 1 to Sanders. Then, the talking heads switched to Cedar Rapids where 437 caucus goers  had gathered. There were 2 ruined ballots, we were told, but Mayor Pete got 26.5%, Warren 19.8%, Amy 18.4%, Sanders 18.4% and Joe Biden 16.8%.

The talking heads today are saying, “Old School was faster.” The back-up of paper ballots is what the Iowa Democratic party is now falling back on to laboriously count them by hand in 1700 caucus locations. “It’s beyond Old School. It’s really rudimentary,” says CNN’s Dana Bash.

During the evening, we viewers were also taken inside Drake University’s Field House (gymnasium) where 400 people had turned out. Sixty-six people would make a “viable” candidate.

In North Liberty, Iowa, just outside Iowa City, bigger numbers were expected than appeared. 591 showed up. Eighty-nine caucus goers meant that one’s candidate was “viable.”

In Cedar Rapids, 900 voters were expected, but 437 showed up. It appeared that Pete, Warren and Sanders prevailed with Biden in 4th and Klobuchar down there in the standings with the former VP. In another Des Moines precinct, 356 people showed up and we were told that fifty-six people would make for a viable candidate. Pete, Sanders and Warren were prevailing. Would the more rural districts weighing in change all this? Don’t know; can’t tell you. Just like the Iowa Democratic Party.

One group, forming 16%, refused to be categorized. They were originally Cory Booker delegates, but there were not enough bodies for Cory to prevail without throwing in with others, and that is what happened, with Biden and Klobuchar people forming an “uncomittted” group. It was weird.

“State of the Union” tonight.

By midnight, nobody knew anything, although, in Grinnell, large screens were lowered from the ceiling that showed the images of Warren, Biden and Pete, at one precinct in this college town.

Overall, it was complete confusion and the much-vaunted “app” seems to have been part of the reason why. One wonders if older volunteers who had done this “the old-fashioned way” for over 20 years were quick to pick up on “the app.” I was reminded of me trying to teach my mom how to program her VCR.

When all was said and done, it appears that Mayor Pete and Elizabeth Warren and Bernie seem to have done well, while Biden is in trouble, both monetarily and in terms of live bodies that showed up. It is now 12:15 p.m., the afternoon of the day AFTER the caucus, and there are still no definitive results known. There are 41 delegates at stake, which is not that many, but the real fall-out is going to be for Iowa.

If Iowa loses its “First in the nation” designation, the millions spent on television and radio spots go away. The economic boom for housing and feeding all of the campaign workers who come from afar goes away. The idea that Iowa can give candidates a boost, as it did for Obama in ’08, goes away. Iowa’s position as national “influencers” goes away.

I would posit the idea that this is a very bad day for Iowa and Iowans. The state looks like it doesn’t know how to conduct a caucus, and they’ve had many, many years to get the process down.  Now the talking heads are all saying they want to see the caucuses “go away.” That means no more visits from national candidates to the Hawkeye state, and it is the state itself that will be hurt the most.

The delay in reporting results may work to the benefit of such old soldiers as Joe Biden, who did not seem to be doing well early in the evening. It seems that the new kid on the block, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were the ones who came on strong, from what little we know. It remains to be seen if the money is going to be sufficient for candidates like Klobuchar and Biden, whose coffers are becoming increasingly bare.

It makes one wonder if Mike Bloomberg of the bottomless pockets had thought this through and decided to go all in on being there as an alternative candidate when former Vice President Biden collapsed. Did the “smear” in the Senate (the Ukraine thing) take its toll? These are points that will be debated for years.

Meanwhile, the beat goes on in New Hampshire.

E-book Titles on Sale & Radio Show Coming

I’ve been offering some titles for sale (on Kindle) for $1.99 this month, and it seems like a good time to mention which ones are (still) going to be reduced in price for the rest of January and February.

Taken during a McCain rally at the Cedar Rapids Municipal Airport during the 2008 presidential campaign. Cover of Volume II of “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House.” (Available on Amazon in paperback and e-book).

January 26, “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vol. 2, will be on sale for $1.99.

February 1, (Sat.), the second volume of “Obama’s Odyssey” will remain on sale for this one day only for $1.99.

February 8 (Sat), 2020:  “The Color of Evil,” Book #1 of the 3-book series. This book is currently priced at something like $7.95 in e-book and will be $1.99 for one day.

February 15 (Sat.), 2020:  “Red Is for Rage,” Second book in THE COLOR OF EVIL series.

February 22 (Sat), 2020:  “Khaki = Killer”, Third book in THE COLOR OF EVIL series.

I’ll be starting a radio show entitled WEEKLY WILSON on Bold Brave Media, discussing movies, politics, books and whatever else interests me. Expect me to start off with politics; my newest book is BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE. Call in format at  866-451-1451.

Dr. Jill Biden Addresses Supporters in Clinton on January 2, 2020

Dr. Jill Biden and Eric VanLanken in Clinton (IA) on Thursday, January 2, 2020, at Biden Headquarters on 2nd Street.

Dr. Jill Biden came to Clinton, Iowa’s Biden headquarters at 415 South 2nd Street and spoke to a crowd of approximately 30 faithful Democratic supporters who agree with former Vice President Joseph Biden’s wife that, “Anyone can tell you what they want to do, but Joe Biden can tell you what he’s done.”

Dr. Jill Biden in Cinton, Iowa, on January 2, 2020.

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of VP Joe Biden, in Clinton, Iowa on January 2, 2020.

Most of us also agree with her assessment that Biden is the one candidate in the field with the national reputation and experience to defeat Trump in 2020.

A career educator (over three decades teaching at high school and community college levels), Jill Biden holds two Master’s degrees in English, education and reading, as well as PhD degrees, and continued to teach full-time throughout Vice President Biden’s time in office. She is thought to be the first wife of a Vice President to continue her full-time job while her husband was in office.

The granddaughter of Italian immigrant signalman Dominicki Giacoppa, the family anglicized the name to Jacobs and Jill Biden’s maiden name was Jill Tracy Jacobs. Her father, Donald C. Jacobs (1927-1999) became President of a Savings and Loan in the Chestnut Hill area of Philadelphia.

The attractive blonde was due in Clinton at 4:00 p.m., but, with 3 previous stops on Thursday, she arrived about 5 p.m. and was introduced by Eric VanLanker, Commissioner of Elections and County Auditor.

Dr. Biden talked about such initiatives as education, alternative energy (wind and solar), the Affordable Care Act and promised that there would be “no late-night tweet storms” if Biden were elected. With only 32 days until the Iowa caucuses, the push was on to secure Iowa voters who would commit to caucus for Biden on February 3rd and to find others to volunteer in various capacities.

No Tweet storms at 3 a.m.! Yeah!

In the most amusing malapropism of the early evening, Dr. Biden noted (to her amusement and that of the assembled crowd), “We can’t stand 4 more years of a Donald J. Trump pregnancy.” Quickly correcting pregnancy to presidency, the personable blonde posed post remarks with each and every person willing to line up for a selfie.

With packing for warmer climes on my mind, I was forced to depart immediately after her remarks, leaving three books in the care of a staffer to deliver to Dr. Biden,  including “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Volumes 1 and 2, and BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE.

Finnegan Biden, granddaughter of VP Joseph Biden, son of Hunter Biden, in 2008.

I hope she enjoys the books, including the picture of Joe Biden’s granddaughter Finnegan Biden in “Obama’s Odyssey,” Volume I, taken in 2008, when I interviewed her at the annual Jefferson/Jackson dinner in Davenport, Iowa. Hunter Biden’s daughter, the lovely 10-year-old, is now twelve years older and, no doubt, just as lovely a young lady.

“Knives Out” Opens Denver Film Festival & Entertains in Chicago

The Denver Film Festival opened on Halloween (Oct. 31, 2019) with a showing of Rian Johnson’s (“The Last Jedi”) film “Knives Out.” The director was there in person to accept the John Cassavetes Award and discuss the film in a Q&A afterwards with John Wenzel of the Denver “Post.”

The film is a throwback homage to the Agatha Christie-style films that often starred Angela Lansbury…films like “Death on the Nile,” with a tip of the hat to television’s “Columbo.” Johnson admitted as much in Chicago when he said, “I just unabashadly love Agatha Christie.” His goal was to “hide a who-dun-it behind a thriller.” Like many Hitchcock films, the audience is even let in on who the guilty party is mid-film.

If you’re a fan of “Succession” on television, imagine that the scion of that family (Brian Cox) dies and there is a suspicion that one of his heirs has done him in. That, in a nutshell, is what we have here—murder or suicide?  The opening scene of German Shepherd guard dogs patrolling a house that looks like a haunted “Downton Abbey” owes much to production designAll Categorieser David Crank. (“The guy practically lives in a Clue board.”) The house really is a big part of the film’s plot in many ways.

At first, it appears that the successful thriller novelist head of the Thrombey family (Christopher Plummer as Harlan) has committed suicide by cutting his own throat. The plot, as they say, thickens. An anonymous party hires noted private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) to investigate the death.

Michael Shannon and Director Rian Johnson at the Chicago premiere of “Knives Out.” (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Daniel Craig, who was hired first for the star-studded project, plays the investigator as a cross between Foghorn Leghorn and Hercule Poirot. For me, he was the least effective cast member. After all, audiences had Michael Shannon (the second hire), Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans,Jaeden Martell, Frank Oz, M. Emmet Walsh, Lakeith Stanfield, Noah Segas and new-comer Ana de Armas in the pivotal part of the nurse, Marta Cabrera, to share screentime. Some of the cast have little to do, as a result. The true perpetrator of the movie’s mayhem is pretty easy to spot early on, but there are still a few unique twists.

One of the enjoyable and unusual aspects of the who-dun-it plot is that Johnson incorporates a lot of humor. You may have seen the scene where Chris Evans (“Captain America”) enters and says, “CSI? KFC?” Or there is the put-down of “Gravity’s Rainbow,” the 1973 novel by Thomas Pynchon that was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, (even though the committee found the book’s content to be offensive and it was described as “unreadable, turgid, overwritten and obscene.”) After a mention of the work, a character says, “I’ve never read it.” “Neither have I,” comes the response, “Nobody has.”

Another source of humor is the inability of the Thrombey family to remember what country the nurse, Marta, is from. The attempts to make a point about the immigrant crisis and inequality of income don’t really “work,” but the fact that the characters who claim to feel that Marta is “a member of the family” don’t even know if she is from Ecuador, Uruguay, Brazil or Paraguay is telling. Point made.

Ana de Armas, who plays Marta Cabrera, is central to the plot. Director Rian Johnson said, “I wasn’t really aware of Ana.  Her part was really, really tricky and it’s a lot to step into the middle of a cast like this. It was really critical.” He added, in an interview from the Toronto International Film Festival where he predicted great things ahead for the actress.  The filming began in January, after 4 years of making the Star Wars film, and the shooting was finished by the following Christmas.

The night I saw the film, Johnson was joined by Michael Shannon in Chicago, for Shannon’s very first viewing of the film. He commented that it was “a pretty remarkable cast” and added, “I don’t really think Walt is reprehensible.  He’s just not fully formed.” Shannon described the appeal of the role as “I had never done a movie like this in a genre like this.” It was quite obvious that director and star became close friends during filming, as Shannon draped his jacket over Johnson’s head on the Red Carpet and Johnson joked that, “I want to do a version where Shannon plays every character.” The director also identified Shannon as the second actor to sign on to the project after Daniel Craig, saying, “He was actor bait.  This film has got some real talent!”

The director also gave major props for the humor in the film to Shannon’s improvisational nature, saying, “Basically, all the funniest lines in the movie are ones that Michael just spouted out on the day.”

Chicago actor Michael Shannon greets the crowd at the AMC Theater in Chicago at the premiere of “Knives Out.” (Photo by Connie Wilson)

On a serious note, Michael Shannon was asked about the recent passing of Robert Forster, with whom he worked in 2018’s “What They Had.” He shared that his father, a former DuPaul college professor had recently died, and said, “When they both died, it was rough.” Of Forster, Shannon said, “He was very kind, a very sweet man.  Something that has never happened to me on a set before was that Robert brought all of us—including my wife whom he had never even met—a present.” Seriously (in what was otherwise a light-hearted series of exchanges) Shannon said, “He was a very kind and sweet man and one of the most grateful actors I’ve ever met.  I did two movies with him.  He was a very lovely person, and I’ll miss him very much.”

Genre:  Comedy/Drama

Writer/Director:  Rian Johnson

Cast:  Daniel Craig, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Christopher Plummer, Jaeden Martell, Frank Oz, M. Emmet Walsh, Lakeith Stanfield, Noah Segan.

Length: 130 minutes

Cinematographer:  Steven Yedlin

Opens in U.S. Nov. 27; in UK Nov. 29; In Australia Nov. 28th

“Waves” Directed by Trey Edward Shults Premieres in Chicago on Oct. 20th

Taylor Russell and Kelvin Harrison, Jr., stars of “Waves” at the Chicago Premiere. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Acclaimed Writer/Director Trey Edward Shults brings “Waves” to the screen with a cast that includes both new and seasoned performers, all in top-notch form. The film’s camera work is beautiful, which makes sense when it is Shults, who learned so much working with the legendary Terrence Malick. (Shults gave huge props to his D.P., True Daniels.

The screen goes  black  5 times, as though the film was over, a la the film “At Eternity’s Gate” (Julian Schmabel). The film is beautiful, whether it is the two leads frolicking in a sprinkler or a sunset or a party scene.

(L to R) Writer/Director Trey Edward Shults, Chicago Cinema Artistic Director Mimi Plauche, Taylor Russell, and Kelvin Harrison, Jr., at the Chicago Premiere of “Waves” on Oct. 20th. (Photo by Connie Wilson).  

“Waves” is really two films in one. You can’t tell what the movie is really about from the trailer. Suffice it to say that w become vitally interested in young athlete Tyler Williams (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) as he tries to live up to his father’s dreams for him to go to state as a wrestler and to succeed  in life. The romance between Tyler and Alexis (Alexa Demie of “Euphoria”) comprises the first half of the film. As the song used put it, “What a difference a day makes.” The Wiliams family (Father Ron, Step-mother Catharine, sister Emily and Tyler) will never be the same following the Tyler/Alexis storyline. A line of dialogue: “All we have is now.” (Clifton Collins, Jr., is wasted in a very small role as Alexis’ father). The cast includes Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”) as the demanding father and Oscar-nominee Lucas Hedges as Luke, the boyfriend of Emily. (Fellow director Harmony Korine of “The Beach Bum” is listed in the credits are Mr. Stanley. His films are image-heavy and story-light and he listed painting and art as major parts of his career.)

The first half of the film focuses on Tyler and Alexis.

Writer/Director Trey Shults, and stars Taylor Russell and Kelvin Harrison, Jr., are interviewed on the Red Carpet in Chicago on Oct. 20th at the Chicago Premiere of “Waves.” (Photo by Connie Wilson).

The second half focuses on Tyler’s sister Emily (Taylor Russell). Her budding romance with Lucas Hedges as Luke includes a touching scene with Luke’s dying, estranged father. But the entire Williams family unit is affected by what occurs earlier between Tyler and Alexis.  Losing sight of Tyler almost completely in the second half doesn’t benefit the film’s plot, which director Trey Edward Shults said was largely autobiographical and/or “personal,” in that it had happened to people close to him.

The film is a cinematic  tour de force, which has been true of the films with which Shults has been associated, including “It Comes At Night,” which also featured Kelvin Harrison, Jr. in its cast. In the Q&A following the film, audience members got a crash course in aspect ratios. (185, 133, 240, 266, native anamorphic et. al) and there’ll be more from the Q&A in a more complete review. Opens November 15th.

Genre: Drama

Writer/Director: Trey Edward Shults

Stars:  Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown, Lucas Hedges, Alexa Demie, Renee Elise Goldsberry.

Length: 135 minutes

 

55th Chicago International Film Festival Begins October 16th

The 55th Chicago International Film Festival starts Wednesday, October 16th, opening with Edward Norton directing and starring in the film adaptation of “Motherless Brooklyn” (with Bruce Willis co-starring). The book, by Jonathan Lethem, won the New York Book Circle Award some years back and it has been a long time coming to the screen. “Motherless Brooklyn” will open the 55th year for America’s longest-running film competition, which runs from October 16th through October 27th.

THE WHISTLERS
It hasn’t opened to the public yet, but critics have already had the opportunity to see the new film from Corneliu Porumboiu, “The Whistlers,” which will be the Czech Republic’s entry for the Academy Awards. The involved noir tale follows the adventures of a corrupt, middle-aged policeman named Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) who travels from Bucharest to the Canary islands to study the ancient Aboriginal whistling language, which allows criminals to communicate clandestinely. Director Porumboiu, in interviews from Cannes, says he became interested in this authentic language after seeing a piece on television describing it. There’s a femme fatale named Gilad (homage to Rita Hayworth intentional), quick clips of “The Searchers” (which is one reason the original title, “La Gomera,” was changed to “The Whistlers”) and a gorgeous opportunity to see lighted garden display in Singapore, which runs 12 minutes and shows two times a night. It’s a complicated caper plot. When asked about the finale Hong Kong Gardens light show and how he knew about it, Porumboiu said, “YouTube.” (Romanian English with subtitles, 97 minutes).

8 – A SOUTH AFRICAN HORROR STORY
This film from director Harold Holscher has a wonderfully moody, menacing, supernatural plot and the South African cinematography is gorgeous. It revolves around a black man named Lazarus (aptly named) and his interaction with a South African family returning to their family farm after many years. A little girl named Mary will be the focus of the film and the spine-tingling, creepy, well-acted central performance by Tahamano Sebe as Lazarus holds the film together. The female performances, especially the ingenue, Mary, are not as impressive, but there are visceral scares and a heartbreaking plot. (98 minutes)


FORMAN vs FORMAN
This documentary traces the life and achievements of Milos Forman, who won Oscars for directing both “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1975 and “Amadeus” in 1984. There are a multitude of film clips of young Milos, his parents, Prague where he grew up, and some personal shots from his widow. Forman died on April 13, 2018, and this documentary about his life, directed by Helena Trestikova and Jakub Hejna is a treasure trove of archival footage that traces Forman’s life and career. Both of Forman’s parents are taken away to concentration camps when he was young, leaving him feeling like an outsider in the world. (His mother died in Auschwitz and his father in Buchenwald.) It’s well worth a look. (78 minutes)

JUST 6.5
Saving the best of those I’ve seen so far for last, from Iran comes this riveting story of detective Samad (Peyman Maadi, of “A Separation”), whose mission is to bring down powerful drug kingpin Nasser Khakzad. The first 8 minutes of this film is as riveting and intense as the opening of “Shallow Grave.” There is a foot chase through winding alleyways that forces the runner over a fence and (inadvertently) into a deep hole where he is buried alive. The film was a hit in its native land and it’s easy to see why. It’s a high-octane look at the drug trade and the criminal justice system in Iran. (Farsi with subtitles, 135 minutes)

Beaux Arts Fair in Davenport, Iowa, on September 8th, 2019

Vik Muniz: Hand Remade, 9/8/19

After learning that the Beaux Arts Fair was in town this weekend, I drove over to our Figge Art Gallery to check out the treasures. Over the years, I’ve bought many pieces of jewelry, pottery, and some metal or wood work at the Beaux Arts Fair. This year was no different.

I walked up the 22 steps to the landing (right next to the Figge’s entrance) and admission was FREE (normally $6 to $10, depending on age), so I first toured the exhibit on the 3rd floor, which was “Vik Muniz: Hand Remade.” Artist Vik Muniz is known for manipulating familiar materials by hand, like chocolate sauce, diamonds or pieces of garbage, and re-composing iconic images from art history or pop culture.  The creations are temporary, while the photographs he takes of his arrangements constitute the final artwork.

Catherine DeNeuve, at the Davenport Art Gallery, by Vik Munoz.

This exhibit featured the “Pictures of Garbage” series, one of Muniz’s most recognized, as well as recent work, from the Handmade” series. He worked with materials such as paper, rope and fabric. As you entered, you were presented with a large portrait of French actress Catherine Deneuve, which was formed by laying out crystals on a black surface. It was more impressive as you approached up close and realized that he had laid out all of the small zircon-like pieces to form her image. As you enter the final room, you see this picture:

Davenport Art Gallery, Vik Muniz.

Next, you enter the room with the portraits that Brazilian Muniz made by going out to the garbage dump near his Sao Paulo home and photographing garbage. If you look closely at the image below, you will see a figure within the brown garbage. These portraits of garbage are among his most well-known. This picture was on loan from a New York City gallery.

 

From “Pictures of Garbage” series.

 

There was a “do it yourself” exhibit of small paper plates on the floor. I would have moved them around to form a Peace symbol, but I feared I would never be able to get back up off the floor, if I did, so what you see (below, left) is what you get.

Davenport Art Gallery, DIY art.

Now it was time to move outside and visit the locals. Most were from places like North Liberty, Galena, the Amanas.

Julie Spangler of Galena Glass Jewelry at work at the Beaux Arts Fair on 9/8/19.

First, I got a ring and earrings from Julie Spangler of Galena, Illinois. (GalenaGlassJewelry.com). Julie’s pieces were modestly priced (mostly $22) and the rings were adjustable. She was selling lockets that have small pieces of cloth inside, which you are instructed to drench with your favorite perfume. I didn’t buy one, at first, but, later, I went back and bought one of the last three. One of the more unusual ways to freshen jewelry by combining the olfactory with the visual.

Next, I bought a dragonfly from A.J’s Copper Garden and Metal Art Gallery (proudly made in the Amana Colonies). I think the name of the young man who assisted me was Sam. He told me he grew up near Ashton Kutcher’s original home (Williamsburg), did not attend college in Iowa City (as one would assume), and had been making a living with his art ever since graduating from high school. He travels to the northern suburbs of Chicago a lot.

From A.J’s Copper Garden & Metal Art Gallery at the Beaux Arts Fair, 9/8/19.

 

Metal art at the Beaux Arts Fair.

My final purchase was a retooled old watch that had been made into both a necklace and earrings. When I mentioned these purchases to the young man from A.J.’s Copper Garden & Metal Art Gallery of Homestead, Iowa (3146 Hwy 6 Tail, Homestead, 3.3 miles south of Amana on Hwy 151), pictured above, he pulled out a money clip that looked just like my new watch pendant and noted that he had been seeing these quite frequently in his movement around the art fair circuit.

Caramel corn (large) completed the day, and it didn’t rain. (Hooray!)

 

I

 

Bee Gone: A Political Parable & new Christmas Cats Book Are Discussed on CUTV News on July 31st

“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” 6th book in the Christmas Cats series (www.TheXmasCats.com).

Bee Gone: A Political Parable is up on Amazon Kindle (Kindle only, at this point) in a pre-sale due to go “live” on July 31st for $2.99. If you order early from the link at the bottom of this article, it will automatically be delivered to your Kindle that day. If you DO order this amusing book, please leave a review on Amazon. (Thank you!)

July 31st was selected because Connie will be interviewed “live” for 30 minutes that day by New York radio station CUTV’s Jim Masters.  Connie is the author representative for their current female empowerment series of programs.

Anyone wanting to ask a question on July 31st (Wednesday) can phone in at  347-996-3389 at 1 p.m. CDT (2 p.m. EDT)

“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” sixth book in the Christmas Cats series (www.TheXmasCats.com).

Connie will be talking about her new illustrated rhyming book “Bee Gone: A Political Parable” and the sixth book in her Christmas Cats series, entitled “The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” scheduled for release closer to Christmas. “Bee Gone: A Political Parable” is available in e-book only, but the Christmas Cats book will be available in paperback, hard cover and e-book. (www.TheXmasCats.com).

Bee Gone: A Political Parable is a rhyming, illustrated short e-book that examines the thought (articulated by Barack Obama), “Elections have consequences.” Given its timing, perhaps it will encourage those who did not vote in 2016 to go to the polls and vote in 2020.

In a very short story about a disgruntled drone in a bee hive who wants to take over the hive from the queen bee, the key take-away can be described (in the words of the book) this way: “So, the hive lost its honey, its Queen, and its money. It was really a mess, and that isn’t funny.”

The outstanding illustrations by illustrator Gary McCluskey are spot-on. They are both amusing and illustrative of today’s political situation. (Gary says, “It’s the most fun I ever had at work.”)

No matter what your political affiliation, no matter how divided in our individual beliefs, we all agree that citizens in a democracy must exercise their right to vote in order to insure that our democracy continues to function properly. Elections must be fair. Citizens must participate. Elections must be supervised to assure that they are not influenced illegally by outside forces.

If you’re a Democratic or Independent voter, you will probably chuckle all the way through this book.

If you’re a die-hard Trump supporter, maybe not so much.

Whatever your political leanings, enjoy the excellent illustrations and let’s try to remember that, so far, in this country, we all are allowed to express our opinion(s) under the First Amendment to the Constitution. Let’s hope we never lose that.

Lighten up and enjoy Bee Gone: A Political Parable! Order your copy today.

 

Independence: “Our Fame Is In Our Name” on July 4, 2019

Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.

I’m from a little town in northeast Iowa called Independence. It is 38 miles north of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and  20 miles to the east of Waterloo/Cedar Falls,at the junction of Highways 150 and 218. It is the Fourth of July and it is an election year.

The last line of the paragraph above reminds me of the famous line from “The Blues Brothers” that laid out the situation for Belushi and Ackroyd in that film. Elwood: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

Joliet Jake:  “Hit it!”

Beto O’Rourke in Independence, Iowa, for the Fourth of July parade.

[It should be noted right about now that the Blues Brothers were traveling to Chicago from Rock Island, Illinois, which is where I’ve lived the last 52 years of my life, in the Illinois Quad Cities.]

So, for today, the operative line goes like this.

Woman on the far left is gaining on the candidate in Independence (Iowa).

Future President of the United States?

Go, Joe, Go!!!

Joe Biden: “It’s 38 miles from Cedar Rapids, we’ve got me,  Beto O’Rourke, a street full of voters in lawn chairs (plus one woman huffing and puffing alongside me like she’s running in the Boston marathon), Beto’s got a kid on his shoulders, and we’re both wearing sunscreen.”

Beto O’Rourke and unidentified child in Independence, Iowa, Fourth of July parade.

Beto O’Rourke: “Hit it!”

So it was in my small hometown this day—the day that DJT chose to threaten the infrastructure of Washington, D.C., with both tanks and planes for his politically themed Fourth of July celebration in our nation’s capitol, a departure from hundreds of years of decorum. (When asked, DJT said, “Decorum? What’s that?”)

I called my partner in political gate-crashing, Sue Ann Raymond, who also involved Dorothy Malek, I believe, in securing images of the Independence (Iowa) parade this fine July day. Sue Ann and I once crashed a “W” rally in Denver, Colorado, and she took a photo of an elderly man being dragged away by the Secret Service (after he held up a sign that read: “You lied and my son died”)  She appeared on the evening television news, much to the dismay of her friends in the community. [It isn’t every day that an Episcopalian minister ends up on the evening news as the photographer of the day, but Sue Ann, now the pastor of St. James Episcopalian Church, is just that good!]

Watching the scene in downtown Independence took me back to the many times my dad—the town banker—would load us into the car and drive us out towards the Mental Health Institute (or the dump, it varied) to watch the fireworks in Buchanan County, Iowa. Dad spent 4 terms as the Democratic County Treasurer before starting the Security State Bank on the corner of the downtown (right across from the Farmers’ State Bank and, in my day, Infelt’s Drug Store, which is long gone)

                     Go, Joe, Go!!!

Dad would have enjoyed the parade today, which consisted of more photographers than marchers, from the looks of it, and was well-attended. I still remember Dad driving a team of Clydesdale horses down the street and throwing out wooden nickels to the crowd from the Security State Bank when Independence had its sesqui-centennial many years ago. (We sat on top of the bank and, when the Blue Angels flew over, we were so startled that we nearly fell off!) Robert Ray was the Governor and all was right in the state—then.

Let it be known, for purposes of figuring out whether Donald J. Trump’s parade cost taxpayers $2.5 million—stolen from national parks moneys—or $92 million, as reported elsewhere, that running an F135 jet for an hour costs $140,000 and a Blue Angel plane costs $10,000 per hour to run. No Blue Angel planes in Independence this day.

Happy Fourth of July, America! Happy Moment in the Sun, Independence. “Our fame IS in our name!”

Nelson G. Peterson Shuffles Off This Mortal Coil June 24

My best in-town friend, Nelson G. Peterson, age 95—almost 96—died today (June 24th) at 9:10 a.m. I was planning on popping into Heartland (nursing home and rehabilitation center) to visit him before leaving for Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take pictures at the National Federation of Press Women Conference, but another good friend of 50 years’ standing (one of our foursome) unexpectedly showed up in town from the Des Moines area, called me wanting to get together,  and I didn’t stop on Wednesday. I left town on Thursday.

Today is Monday. Nelson died 5 days after my visit with Judy, another fellow teacher and bridge player (whom I also taught to play the game). In May, when we returned from Texas and I went to visit Nelson for the first time in 4 months, he hugged me and cried, “Oh, Con! It’s been so long!” (No one had ever been so glad to see me that they cried.) 

He went on to apologize for his emotional outburst and said, “I’ve outlived everyone.” He answered this way when I asked him about his Swedish relatives, saying he had outlived them all, too. I remember my own mother, who lived to be almost 95, saying much the same thing to me during her final days.

I had been trying to find a pair of slippers to replace Nelson’s heavily worn slippers and showed up with a “normal” pair, only to find that his feet and legs were “extra wide.” They were, in fact, wrapped in heavy white constricting bandage-like garments. This may have been a sign of the sepsis that, they say, took his life after less than 24 hours in the hospital.

Nelson was a veteran of World War II. He had been involved in the Battle of the Bulge. Even more remarkably, his father was a veteran of World War I and my daughter once took Nelson’s dad’s little  WWI diary with “Kilroy Was Here” cartoons to history class when in high school.

Nelson and me.

I met Nelson in 1969-1970 when I began teaching Language Arts at Silvis Junior High School. He had begun teaching history there after another career and he put in 25 years. Prior to that, Nelson worked at the Arsenal, tasked with tracking the delivery of Arsenal products to their destination. He didn’t like pushing paper clips around, he said, and went back to school to retrain   to become a history teacher of 7th and 8th graders. He never bothered to learn any of his students’ first names, preferring to call them “Miss or Mr._______.”

Every morning, Nelson would leave the door to his classroom open. Through the door, before school started, would come the strains of  Edith Piaf from a recording on a turntable. His mother, a Swedish immigrant, worked as a maid in the wealthier homes of Moline, and Nelson spoke fluent Swedish. In his eighties, he still corresponded with relatives in Sweden. He is, to this day, the only person I know who installed a walk-in tub in his home. [A forward-thinker, even then.]

In 1986 Nelson had cancer surgery on the very same day that my father had colon cancer surgery. (I was warned NOT to call Nelson to report on my dad, because now he was hospitalized with the same ailment.) My father only lived six months after the discovery of his condition in the spring (March). Nelson lived, with a colostomy bag, for an additional 33 years and even traveled with that inconvenience to Sweden at least once.

I’ll always hear Nelson’s chipper voice saying things like “If you’ve got the money, honey, I’ve got the time,” (an old joke). He used to tell us that his job when in WWII was to teach the soldiers about sexually transmitted diseases. I never knew if that was true or not, but it always got a chuckle. I’ll never forget the many diets we tried together. (Nelson was the darling of the Weight Watchers set). I finally quit after HE got a cookbook, and I got bubbkas. Each of the 3 others of us was to bring lunch to school one day of the week. Nelson’s idea of “lunch” was to open a cold can of tuna fish and a cold can of green beans, while we were preparing warm sandwiches in the Home Economics room oven and thinking up tasty recipes.

I taught Nelson to play bridge.  I must say, he was the worst bridge player I’ve ever seen. He would lead with a King, no matter what. It got so bad that we made up our own rules of the game. One of them was that we dealt the cards face-down, and the four of us (Nelson, Judy, Linda and me) had to bid without looking at them. If this sounds like far from serious bridge, you’re absolutely right.

I will always think of Nelson in his little house in Moline, with his baby grand piano and his small room full of books. I will always remember the time I went over to show Nelson my new snakeskin shoes and scared his elderly mother, who didn’t see well enough to know what I was wearing on my feet. (“I’m scared!” she said in a quavering voice). 

Nelson took care of his mom at home until the day she died. He never married. He was engaged a few times, but the romance with Kay (and others) never bore fruit. He had no children. The nursing home staff thought I was either his daughter or his granddaughter.

Nelson was a World Class Sweetie, and he was my friend through thick and thin. He never excluded me from his life for any reason. I was “good enough” for Nelson just the way I am. I wish I had been invited to his 93rd birthday party at the Cellar in Geneseo, but at least I have these pictures from his 94th birthday, when my husband and I took him out to eat at Short Hills Country Club. He dressed up in his suit and wore his patriotic pins and we tottered on down to the dining area in style. And on his 95th, I took a large cake to his nursing home dining room.

I am too sad to write more. “Dust to dust. Ashes to ashes.” 

I love you, Nelson. Rest in Peace.

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