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: News Page 1 of 12

Rolling Stones Rock Soldier Field on Friday, June 21st, 2019

The Rolling Stones on June 21st, 2019 at Soldier Field.

 

The Rolling Stones played for the 8th time at Soldier Field on Friday night, June 21st, beginning at 7:30 p.m. with the lead-in act, St. Paul and the Broken Bones from Alabama.

Before arriving at the venue, we were told not to bring large purses. Specific dimensions were sent and a suggestion was made that we use quart-sized plastic bags. All metal objects had to be placed in trays as we went through metal detectors up front. I was able to get my plastic bag contents down to cash, one credit card, my cell phone, my small camera,

We were waaay up in the stadium and these were taken with a Canon PowerShot with a 40 zoom.

and opera glasses (that turned out to be useless). Tickets in the nosebleed section were $69.50 and we climbed a long time. (I told my husband, “I’ll just keep climbing until I pass out.”)

The booths selling shirts and the like ($45 for a regular tee shirt; $85 for a hooded sweatshirt) were set up in a particularly problematic way. You  could barely walk through to get to your section because of the presence of several tables selling merchandise.

Mick Jagger.

Finally, we climbed to the 18th row in the highest section. The night was cool and rain threatened, but the four things that amazed me most about the concert this night were as follows: (1) Mick Jagger definitely is in amazing shape for someone his age (75, born July 26, 1943) (2) Jagger is back from the heart surgery that had originally postponed this concert date, but was re-programmed for the original date shortly after he had stents placed in his heart (3) my new small camera (Canon Powershot) with a 40 zoom did a pretty fair job of getting pictures from this far away and (4) how far other concert-

Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood.

goers had come to hear the Rolling Stones. We heard Germany, England, New York, Cleveland, Minneapolis and St. Louis and everyone around us was from out-of-town. In fact, following the concert, we had to provide directions to a gentleman who was to meet his friends at Scout bar on Wabash and Michigan and had little idea how to get back there.

Mick shared that the Stones had played Soldier Field 8 times and Chicago 38 times over the years since 1964. Only 2 of the songs were from later than 1981. Which, as the Chicago Tribune noted, is exactly what the vast majority of fans paid to see.

Other musicians assisting the band included keyboardist Charlie Leavell and Chicago born bassist Darryl Jones ably backing the Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood).

The Rolling Stones, June 21, 2019.

Since 1998, the stones have produced only 2 studio albums, yet they play their hits differently each night. I can vouch for this, having seen them for the first time in 1982 in Cedar Falls, Iowa, at Northern Iowa University and, after that, during the Steel Wheels tour, the Bridges to Babylon tour (2x), the VooDoo Lounge tour, the Tattoo You tour, twice inside the United Center (one of them the No Security tour) and at the Indianapolis Speedway in 2015, as well as tonight’s No Filter tour. Mick had never danced more and I had never seen Charlie Watts AND Keith Richards smile more onstage.

Mick Jagger.

To me, tracking the band in person for 37 years, Keith Richards looked the most changed. Something about the expanse of forehead looked very different. The joke about Keith is that he has looked like he is at death’s door for at least 40 years. He really did look different to me, tonight, and his comment when he spoke was, “I’m happy to be anywhere.”

Keith (Richards) and Mick Jagger onstage.

The Stones have weathered sixties drug busts, seventies heroin addictions, the Jagger/Richards split during the eighties, Keith’s brain surgery after he fell out of a tree in 2006 and, now, Mick’s heart surgery (stents) in March. They sound as good as ever, and Mick danced more, if possible, than I’ve ever seen him, in a “Look! I’m still standing!” move. It was a great show! Even the weather cooperated. The downside was that it took us a full hour to walk across the street from the stadium.

Their play list this night was as follows:

1) Street Fighting Man

2) Let’s Spend the Night Together

3)  Tumbling Dice

4)  Sad Sad Sad

“Brown Sugar,” Mick Jagger.

5)  You Got Me Rocking

6)  You Can’t Always Get What You Want

7)  Angie

8)  Dead Flowers

9)  Sympathy for the Devil

Charlie Watts.

10)  Honky Tonk Woman

11)  You Got the Silver

12)  Before They Make Me Run

13)  Miss You

14)  Paint it Black

15)  Midnight Rambler

Mick Jagger.

16)  Start Me Up

17)  Jumpin’ Jack Flash

18)  Brown Sugar

Encores

19)  Gimme Shelter

Ronnie Wood.

20)  I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Mick, center stage.

Keith Richards

Mick, far left.

 

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Leave White House Post

                Sarah Huckabee Sanders

OPEN ON C-SPAN LOGO OVER CAPITOL:
ANNCR. V.O.: Earlier today former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders testified before the House Special Committee on Impeachment. Ms. Sanders was questioned by Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York about various statements she has made to the media that she later acknowledged were not true.
FADE IN: HOUSE HEARING ROOM. SFX: CAMERA SHUTTERS.
SARAH SANDERS IS IN THE WITNESS CHAIR AND IS EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE.
MR. NADLER: Ms. Sanders, thank you for responding to the court order that you appear.
MS. SANDERS: Well, it was a court order.
MR. NADLER: And had you not obeyed it, you could have gone to prison. Is that why you came today?
MS. SANDERS: …yes.
MR. NADLER: Ms. Sanders, the Mueller Report quotes you as acknowledging to the Special Counsel that you lied to the White House press corps about why the president fired FBI Director Comey. Is that correct?
MS. SANDERS: Yes.
MR. NADLER: You told the White House press corps that the reason the president fired Mr. Comey was that the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in Comey. Was that a true statement?
MS. SANDERS: No.
NADLER: And what did you tell Mr. Mueller about why you had told the press corps that “the rank-and-file of the FBI had lost confidence in Comey?
SHE IS SQUIRMING.
SANDERS: I told Mr. Mueller that I had said that, quote, “in the heat of the moment.”
NADLER: And was that statement true? That you lied to the press corps in the heat of the moment?
SANDERS: Yes. It…it was in the heat of the moment. That happens. People blurt out untrue things in the heat of the moment all the time.
NADLER: Now, you told the Special Counsel something else about that untrue statement, didn’t you?
MS. SANDER: Yes. I admitted that saying that Comey had lost the support of rank-and-file members was, quote, “not founded in anything whatsoever.”
MR. NADLER: You also told the Special Counsel that when you told the White House press corps that you personally had been contacted by “countless members of the FBI,” that had been, quote, “a slip of the tongue.”
MS. SANDERS: Yes. A slip of the tongue.
MR. NADLER: And, in fact, you told my staff in a pre-interview that you had not been contacted by countless members of the FBI complaining about their lack of confidence in Director Comey.
MS. SANDERS: Yes, that had been an outright lie. And I admitted that to Special Counsel Mueller and to your staff.
MR. NADLER: In fact, you admitted that you had been contacted by exactly zero members of the FBI.
SANDERS: Yes. Not one.
NADLER: And you also told us that you felt compelled to tell the truth to the Special Counsel because your testimony to him was given under penalty of perjury?
SANDERS: Yes.
MR. NADLER: And that the reason you told the truth in that instance was that you were afraid of going to prison?
SANDERS: Yes. Very much so.
MR. NADLER: And you know the testimony you’re giving before this committee is also under penalty of perjury.
SANDERS: Yes.
MR. NADLER: And the reason you are telling us the truth right now also is that you are afraid of going to prison?
SANDERS: Yes. I am very, very afraid of going to prison.
MR. NADLER: And yet, two days after the Mueller Report came out saying that you had admitted lying repeatedly to the media, you lied to the media again?
SANDERS: Yes. I lied to George Stephanopoulos.
MR. NADLER: You told Mr. Stephanopoulos that when you lied about the reason Director Comey was fired that, quote: “It was in the heat of the moment, meaning that it wasn’t a scripted talking point. I’m sorry I wasn’t a robot like the Democratic Party.” Am I quoting you accurately?
SANDERS: Yes.
MR. NADLER: But what you told Mr. Stephanopoulos was not true, was it?
SANDERS: No.
MR. NADLER: And it was a lie because, in fact, it had been a talking point, hadn’t it?
SANDERS: Yes.
MR. NADLER: And are you admitting that only because you are under oath here, and you knew if you lied, you could go to prison?
SANDERS CONSULTS WITH HER ATTORNEY
SANDERS: Yes. That is correct.
NADLER: And why, after admitting in the Mueller Report that you had lied to the White House press corps, did you lie to Mr. Stephanopoulos?
SANDERS: I misspoke because I was freaked out and didn’t know what I was saying.
NADLER: You were freaked out?
SANDERS: Yes, I was.
NADLER: Are you freaked out now, Ms. Sanders?
HER ATTORNEY LEANS IN AND WHISPERS IN HER EAR. SHE WHISPERS BACK. THERE ARE A FEW BACK AND FORTHS. NADLER WAITS IMPATIENTLY.
SANDERS: Let me clarify. I was freaked out when I lied to Mr. Stephanopoulos. I am a little freaked out now, but not as freaked out as I was when I was on with Mr. Stephanopoulos.
HER ATTORNEY NODS
NADLER: Ms. Sanders, you swore to tell the truth to this committee.
SANDERS: Yes. And I have. To the best of my ability. Really, Mr. Chairman. I am not good at this. And that is the honest truth.
NADLER: I believe you. But you know that being freaked out is not a legal defense if you lie to the committee?
SANDERS: Yes. And that is why I am just trying so very, very hard to be truthful.
NADLER: So you don’t go to prison?
SANDLER: Yes. That is why I’m freaked out. Because I so, so do not want to go to prison. And I am doing the very best I can to be every bit as honest as I know how. (CORRECTING HERSELF) I mean, even more honest than that. I really don’t want to go to prison.
NADLER: Well then just tell us the truth.
SANDERS: Okay. The truth is I am especially scared of people who do not look like me.
NADLER: Oh, no, no, no. No. You don’t have to bare your soul. Just answer the questions truthfully.
SANDERS: Oh. So, I probably shouldn’t have said that?
NADLER: Well…what you said is very ugly and sad. But I know it was honest.
SANDERS: Thank you. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.
NADLER: Right. Let me ask you something. You’re about to leave the White House, and I imagine you are looking for a job with some public relations firm or maybe setting up your own shop. Do you intend to continue lying to the public and to the media wherever it is you land?
SANDERS CONSULTS WITH HER ATTORNEY. THIS IS A LONG ONE. FINALLY…
SANDERS: Yes. But only if there is no other way to help my clients.
NADLER: Okay. Just know that if you lie again publicly that we reserve the right to call you back.
SANDERS: I understand.
NADLER: But it would be great not to have to call you again.
SANDERS: Tell me about it.
NADLER: You may be excused.
SANDERS: Thank you. Am I still under oath?
NADLER: Actually, no.
SANDERS: Great! (TURNS UGLY) This whole hearing is a witch hunt! The ones you should be investigating are the lefty SPIES in the FBI who bugged Trump Tower!
NADLER: Oh boy. We will stand adjourned until tomorrow morning.
HE HITS THE GAVEL. AS A FOX NEWS CAMERAMAN STEPS IN WITH HIS HANDHELD CAMERA POINTED AT SARAH…
SANDERS: You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Mr. Chairman! To insinuate that I had been lying when this president is presiding over the strongest economy in the history of humankind!
SHE ADDRESSES THE FOX CAMERAMAN
SANDERS (CONT’D): You got that?
AS HE GIVES HER THE THUMBS UP…
FADE

(*The above courtesy of former Senator Al Franken’s Facebook Page).

Warning Re War with Iran: Congress Must Decide

Here’s the quote for the day:  “Now is not the time to trust an untrustworthy Administration. But now is exactly the time for Congress to reassert its constitutional authority.” (“Time” columnist David French on p. 32 of the June 3-10, 2019 issue).

You may think I’m referencing the recent decision by the House to issue Contempt of Congress citations for a few key Trump employees, but this was actually a quote in reference to NOT blundering into a war with Iran. It was written by a man (David French, lawyer, senior fellow at the National Review Institute, “Time” columnist) who served in Iraq during the surge and was deployed close to the Iranian border.

Here are a few of the key take-aways from David French’s short piece entitled “The View Opener.” On May 13th the New York Times reported that the White House was reviewing updated military plans that would send a total of 120,000 troops to the Middle East. That is near the troop total at the height of the Iraq War.

On May 15th the state department ordered all “non-emergency” personnel out of Iraq.  Why? Trump pulled us out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and then declared Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps to be “a terrorist organization.” This increasingly worrisome Iran situation may also be one of Trump’s attempts to deflect attention away from impeachment rumblings, (which is, likewise, true of his Mexican tariff talk) but, if so, Trump may be playing with fire and we may all get burnt.

It wasn’t until May 21st that the administration finally briefed Congress on the alleged nature of the Iranian threats. Lawmakers are divided. Some of the Lindsey Graham Trump-enabler camp were impressed; key Democrats were unimpressed. Meanwhile, the public, the people who would have to fight and die in this potential war, are left in the dark.

War with Iran would be a war against a country whose military is intact and a country which has substantial missile assets. It has the ability to attack American forces throughout the Middle East and possibly beyond. And it would not be an effort with our allies.

“Stable genius?”

So, what sort of diplomacy does the “stable genius” in the White House employ? He TWEETS: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.” In a taped Fox News interview he says, “I’m not somebody that wants to go into war.” So, as usual, back and forth. Bad cop/good cop. And fortunes are made during war, as many can attest.

Nancy Pelosi has detailed Trump’s M.O.  He will first try to flatter you, to butter you up, to get his way. That seems to work with the Lindsey Graham element, which is a sad commentary on the man who used to hold forth that he was John McCain’s “wing man.” (With friends like Lindsey, who needs enemies?) When buttering up doesn’t work, Trump will resort to bullying, as he seems to have done since infancy.  There is name-calling, doctored videos, lies, lies, and more lies, which topped 10,000 some months ago. Trump shows such shifting stances on Syria, North Korea, and every other major issue that he has faced since 2016.

The key thing to remember is that John Bolton has had a long-standing hostility towards Iran. Bolton is a hawk among hawks; he really wants a war with Iran and—make no mistake about this—the cheese would stand alone. No allies would want to be involved, and who can blame them? The article stresses that “tactical decisions made short of war can ratchet up tensions more than the president understands.” Our experiences in Vietnam should have convinced us of that, not to mention some instances in WWII.

This informed veteran’s (David French’s) warning? “Given Trump’s fundamental dishonesty and alarming ignorance, Americans should have zero assurance that their president or his administration is accurately describing the nature of the Iranian threat. More importantly, we, the people, deserve to know what these unnamed ‘threats’ may be.”

Merely receiving an intelligence briefing is not enough.

He concludes:  “The message to the Trump Administration should be bipartisan and emphatic.  There can be no new war without informed congressional consent.”

Fourth-graders Ava & Elise Wilson Report on the Eiffel Tower from Paris

My twin granddaughters, Ava (the brunette) and Elise (the blonde) were with Mom and Dad in England and France this past week. True, they missed one week of fourth grade in Austin, Texas, but who among you would say they would have learned more during the last week of school at Baranoff Elementary than they did visiting Europe? (I actually said that the last week of any school should be avoided at all costs by everyone, if possible.)

My son’s job headquarters (steel company PSI) are in Berlin, Germany, so their engineer father (Scott) decided that his chemical engineer wife (Jessica) and the girls, age 10, should fly across the pond and visit the sights. Because Scott previously worked for a British steel firm, he has colleagues who are British and one generously offered them lodging for a week in England.

I asked the girls on the phone what their biggest impression of England was and the answer was, “They talk funny.”

I’d like to be able to tell you of ALL the places they’ve visited, but I can’t remember them all. Not to worry: Nanna Connie has requested comparison/contrast essays on England versus France and the girls are keeping journals.

It is worth mentioning that, during their time in England and France, Teresa May resigned and, last I heard, Macron of France was losing to LePen. (Do you think they know this? No? Oh, OK.)

Doris Day (My Doppelganger?) Dead at 97

Doris Day A few days ago (May 13th), Doris Day shuffled off this mortal coil at the ripe old age of 97. I remember her well from movies like “Pillow Talk,” with Rock Hudson (one of her best) and—when I was a young college girl, working as a waitress at Armstrong’s Department Store Cafe in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and at the Cherry Blossom Dining Room in Marion (Iowa)—if I had a dollar for every customer who said to me, “You look like Doris Day!”, I wouldn’t have been rich, but I probably would have made more money than I did working as a waitress that summer.

And if I’d had Doris’ job, I wouldn’t have had such sore feet from waitressing. It was a brutal job for minimum wage (a U-shaped breakfast island with a straight part to the left that people could also sit at; you’d wait on the interior part of the “U” and, behind you, people would be seated at the straight bar part that you were not at all aware had come in). All-in-all, both were demanding jobs for paltry salaries. [It was especially brutal the night the Cherry Blossom Dining Room booked a high school reunion (small class) and failed to notify me (the hostess) in advance that several tables of reunion-goers would be sweeping in, en masse, at the peak of the dinner hour). It’s never fun to have to go around and ask 4 to 5 tables of 8 if they’d mind relocating across the room. (!)] However, while fantasizing over Doris’ money made, I have to realize that she was thoroughly fleeced by her “business advisor” (Jerome Rosenthal) who managed her since the forties and by her third husband. It took her until 1979 to recover some of the millions he took in a colossal case of malpractice, which the courts recognized as such, although it took 5 years for Doris to get any of her money back.

Doris Day Doris remained beautiful for many, many years—well into her sixties—and outlived her record producer son, Terry Melcher (who was probably the real target of Charles Manson’s murders, as it was Terry Melchers Hollywood Hills home that Manson sent his acolytes to, where they brutally murdered Sharon Tate and others.) She more-or-less faded into oblivion because the times changed. During 1960 and the 1962 to 1964 period, she ranked number one at the box office, the second woman to be number one four times. She set a record that has yet to be equaled, receiving seven consecutive Laurel Awards as the top female box office star.[57]According to the Hollywood Reporter in 2015, the Academy offered her the Honorary Oscar multiple times, but she declined as she saw the film industry as a part of her past life.[96] Day received a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in Music in 2008, albeit again in absentia.[97] 

One of the roles Doris Day turned down was Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate” (she found it “vulgar” and “offensive”). Anne Bancroft cashed in. Although scheduled to sing at one of the Oscar ceremonies, while strolling the hotel grounds she received a bad cut on her leg from a sprinkler system that required stitches; she had to cancel. She also was in talks with Clint Eastwood, her Carmel (California) neighbor to star in a Clint Eastwood project, but that never panned out.

Doris Day She received three Grammy Hall of Fame Awards, in 1998, 1999 and 2012, for her recordings of “Sentimental Journey”, “Secret Love”, and “Que Sera, Sera”, respectively.[98] Day was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2007,[99] and in 2010 received the first Legend Award ever presented by the Society of Singers.[65]

Day was  a great animal rights activist (much like Brigitte Bardot, post career) and there are some wonderful photos of Doris with Clint Eastwood, receiving Golden Globe awards in the sixties. Day became one of the biggest film stars in the early 1960s, and as of 2012 was one of eight performers to have been the top box-office earner in the United States four times.[1][2] Doris Day’s began with Pillow Talk (1959), co-starring Rock Hudson who became a lifelong friend, and Tony Randall.  Day received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress.[54] It was the only Oscar nomination she received in her career.[55

Doris’ personal life was not so successful. Doris Mary Koppelhoff of Cincinnati, Ohio married three times and basically dumped little Terry (her only child) in Ohio with her mother (also a divorcee) to continue touring as a vocalist with Les Brown (and his Band of Renown). Between 1949 and 1959, she recorded First husband Al Jorden was supposed to have been physically abusive, with a violent temper; she intended to divorce him before even while pregnant with her only child. Second husband was saxophonist, George Weidler. Third husband Martin Melcher adopted Terry and gave him his surname, but Melcher was abusive to both mother and son and managed to embezzle $20 million dollars of Doris’ money. Doris’ last husband (1976-1982) was Barry Comden, a maitre de, who later complained that she liked her canine friends more than him. Doris did NOT want to do “The Doris Day Show” (1968-1973) but found out after Melcher’s death that he had signed her to do one.

Day learned to her displeasure that Melcher had committed her to a television series, which became The Doris Day Show:.

It was awful. I was really, really not very well when Marty [Melcher] passed away, and the thought of going into TV was overpowering. But he’d signed me up for a series. And then my son Terry [Melcher] took me walking in Beverly Hills and explained that it wasn’t nearly the end of it. I had also been signed up for a bunch of TV specials, all without anyone ever asking me.

— Doris Day, OK! magazine, 1996[

Nobody has told me “You look like Doris Day” in quite some time, which may be because Doris remained slim, trim and out-of-sight as much as possible after 1968.  When “All in the Family” was popular (I mention it because of the recent “live” recreation of that Norman Lear hit, produced by Jimmy Kimmel) there was the occasional mention of “Gloria” on “All in the Family,” but I always thought it was the long blonde hair and the lack of height.  Gloria (Sally Struthers) has not retained her youthful appearance, post television, like Doris Day did but, thankfully, I’ve not heard the Sally Struthers comparison since the seventies.

I just thought I’d send out a prayer for Doris’ happiness in heaven. It didn’t seem as though all her stardom and fame translated to a gloriously happy personal life, for her. A contentious divorce (her son’s) kept her from ever becoming close to her only grandson, who regrets the manipulation and maneuvering that kept him from ever knowing his grandmother. By contrast, I (we) just got a call from the grounds outside the Eiffel Tower in France from my married son and wonderful daughter-in-law, with the 10-year-old twins (Ava & Elise) posing in pictures that made it seem like they were balancing each other AND the Eiffel Tower on their palms.

Doris Day Day died on May 13, 2019, at the age of 97, after having contracted pneumonia. One day after she turned 97, she told an interviewer her All Time Favorite Film role was “Calamity Jane.”Her death was announced by her charity, the Doris Day Animal Foundation.[123][124][125] Per Day’s requests, the Foundation announced that there would be no funeral services, gravesites, or other public memorials.[126][127][128]

Doris supposedly thought she was only 95, as her birth certificate confirming she was really 97, was only ferreted out a few years ago.

Au revoir, Doris. May you live on in happy memories. “Que sera, sera.”

View From Atop Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, Pre-Fire

Paris: the view from atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

From Notre Dame Cathedral.

Gargoyles and pillars atop Notre Dame Cathedral.

The view from above: Notre Dame Cathedral.

From Notre Dame Cathedral.

The world has reacted as you would have expected to the news that Notre Dame Cathedral was on fire. There was shock, sadness and, ultimately, a desire to help rebuild.

I read that Salma Hayek’s billionaire husband has pledged $139 million dollars to the reconstruction efforts. Observers on the ground commented on the steeples that fell, which were wooden, carved from a now-long-gone forest. One can anticipate that the steeple of the future may be made of some form of metal.

It is heart-warming to learn how beloved this symbol of Catholicism is not just to Paris but to the world. Almost universally, mourners around the world expressed their grief at the loss of such a beloved iconic structure. Democratic candidate Pete Buttegieg expressed his sorrow in flawless French (he speaks 7 languages and was a Rhodes Scholar). And then there were Presidents Obama and Trump. You can imagine which expressed his sentiments the most eloquently.

One firefighter was injured and we learn that the 400 valiant firefighters were fortunate enough to salvage some important things that were inside the beloved church. The famous Rose Window has supposedly been saved, and I heard that the world famous organ had, as well. I had heard, prior to these more recent updates, that, because the structure was undergoing some reconstruction, various copper statues had been removed before the flames broke out. That would be good news for the world and for France. Supposedly the crown of thorns perhaps worn by Jesus was also saved.

The world will watch as the resourceful French pick up the pieces and soldier on.

Cathedral of Notre Dame Pictures Depicting The View from the Top

View from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.

One of the bells of Notre Dame that the 400 firefighters were trying to save. (I believe they were successful and also saved the remnant of the crown of thorns supposedly worn by Jesus.)

Gargoyle at the top; of Notre Dame, as it was.

The narrow walkway at the top of Notre Dame.

I promised to post pictures that my good friend (and former college roommate) Pam Rhodes took within Notre Dame Cathedral and from the uppermost levels of Notre Dame Cathedral when she was there studying in 2007.

Notre Dame gargoyles.

I can’t imagine that the gargoyles of Notre Dame Cathedral depicted and the view from the top-most parapets will remain the same after reconstruction of the ravaged structure takes place. As the news sources have repeated, Notre Dame was the most visited tourist site in Europe.

My daughter, who posted a bit of video from her visit there this past October, said it was her favorite tourist attraction during her trip. I remember attending mass there during my first trip and I stayed in a hotel quite near the church on the Isle de la Cite in 2007.

The pictures of the fire burning against the Paris sky were riveting and also heartbreaking. News that France’s President Macron had canceled a previous meeting in order to go to the Cathedral makes one realize how deficient our own President is during U.S. tragedies. The question on the lips of many is whether the Pope will make a trip from Italy to Paris.

 

Bits & Pieces of Random News for April 3, 2019

Some random thoughts of the day:

  1. One of the Decorah eaglets has died. Poor little thing had a name/number, like DN10, but he (or she) was one of 2 born in the Raptor Research nest and it appears—judging from the way Mr. North pushed the little bird body off to the side of the nest—

    The Day Shall Come at SXSW. (SXSW Press Photo)

    the chick died only a day or two after being born.

  2. The mysterious polio-like illness that doctors are calling AFM (acute flaccid myelitis) has struck at least 228 known victims in the U.S. in 2018. In an every-other-year cycle, has afflicted more than 550 Americans, including a 32-year-old. More than 90% are children around 4, 5, or 6 years old who come down with a cold that paralyzes them. Those of us who lived through polio epidemics are praying for another Dr. Jonas Salk.
  3. Biden on the caucus campaign trail in Iowa prior to the 2008 presidential race. Don’t worry: I’ll be back to politics by the end of the week.

    Conflicting reports on whether the GOP is going to address health care before or after the 2020 election. DJT has been quoted as saying they should come out with a plan before the election, but having a plan has not been the GOP’s strong suit under this president, no matter what the issue. There seems to be no desire to “fix” the things that would be fixable under Obama-care, because the current occupant of the White House is too obsessed with denouncing, denigrating and destroying the record of his predecessor to really do much beyond “framing” issues and using media to “pose” as having plans on issues, when it seems that little is being done.

  4. Read a horrifying in-depth article (“New York Times”) about Michigan’s schools, which have largely been turned over to a topsy-turvy crazy quilt of Charter schools, which are not doing any better a job with the students than the public schools they replaced. Truly sounds like a nightmare scenario, but this is the scenario that Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, has always tried to foster. She is a native of Michigan and a huge proponent of charter schools, despite her own home state’s dismal record. She also has absolutely not one credential for occupying the position of Secretary of Education.
  5. With Vice President Joseph Biden (then Senator Biden) at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Davenport, Iowa, caucus season, 2008.

    The Democrats continue to attack one another. I would say “eat their young,” but Joe Biden is not young. The latest attacks on the former Vice President come from a woman actively supporting Bernie Saunders and are largely undercut by photos of her with her hands on his shoulders at the same event that she claims so traumatized her. It is sad that campaigning in the year 2020 has come to this.

  6. The weather remains pleasant here in the Austin area, but it sounds like the Midwest is pretty well flooded. With Trump’s typical lack of concern for those in dire straits, whether Puerto Ricans on that hurricane-ravaged island or Midwestern farmers who seem to have pretty well taken it in the shorts with the Chinese tariffs and flooding, it is going to be no fun at all trying to navigate the construction zone for the proposed new I-74 bridge over the Mississippi River, joining Iowa with Illinois. (Construction was delayed by the brutal winter). Not looking forward to dealing with it.
  7. Image from Suzanne Weinert’s “A Good Son.” (SXSW Press)

    The Lagoon in Cancun, Mexico, at sunset.

    Posting a picture of one film I had to leave early in order to make it to “Shrill” and perhaps a photo from “A Good Son” (see interview with Director Suzanne Weinert, above). “The Day Shall Come” had not, to that point, “gelled.” It did have Anna Kendrick and I had an interesting encounter with Ms. Kendrick when I attempted to stop in the women’s rest room at the Paramount Theater on my way to the opening of “Shrill” right next door. A policeman told me I couldn’t enter the rest room. Cop: “I have someone in there.” Me: “A prisoner?” Cop: (Smiling) “No.” Me: “A female someone or a male someone.” Cop: “Female.” At that point, another woman, holding a Big Gulp cup and having just entered the theater from a side alley entrance tried to cut around the two of us out in the hall to gain access to the rest room. She was quickly dispossessed of the notion that either of us could enter. We continued standing awkwardly in the hall, while I tried guessing who or what was going on. Just then, the film’s star, Anna Kendrick, emerged, having been primping in the bathroom for at least 20 minutes.

  8. The Royal Islander, penthouse view (9th floor).

    I’ll be in Cancun in 3 days. I’ll try to post some photos.

The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville & Low Cut Connie, Redux

Earlier in the festivities I did a review of a wonderful new documentary called “The Bluebird,” which is a visit to the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee, which is (apparently) the subject of a television show starring Connie Britton. (I’ve never watched it).

I attended the Bluebird documentary, however, taking many pictures of the director and others on the stage of the Paramount in Austin, Texas, at SXSW on Thursday, March 14th at 6:30 p.m. (It showed again at the Lamar at 11:00 p.m. on Friday, March 15th).

Later on, I received a phone text message informing me that the daughter might be singing back-up for one of her singer/songwriter friends who was going to be appearing onstage at the Bluebird Cafe on their Monday songwriters’ night (featured heavily in the documentary). Lest you think this is unimportant, it launched the careers of both Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift and, although the daughter wasn’t certain she would have a role, I look forward to her ringside seat report of her friend’s performance.

I asked the daughter, who went to school in Nashville and lives there now, to send me a picture of the exterior, but when I went to press, somehow that picture (and a few others she sent) had disappeared, not to be found.

I’m still trying to figure out how to get a small bit of film sent me by the son of Low Cut Connie performing at Lucy’s Fried Chicken in Nashville on Saturday, March 16h, to post on my blog. The file sent me came through as IMG-5643.MOV (5.2 MB) but how does one get THAT to post? In place of it, I shall post the link of Adam Weiner (who is “Low Cut Connie”) appearing on Seth Meyer’s late night show and the 2 pictures of the Bluebird that I now have located.

I am posting the Low Cut Connie link because he and his band will be performing at The Rust Belt in East Moline (IL) on April 18th. I’ve been told that the Rust Belt is somewhere on 7th Street, but look it up and check  it out. (I’ll be in Mexico). I’m hoping that www.QuadCities.com will run a notification when it is closer.

I missed Low Cut Connie when he hit the Raccoon Motel in Davenport, but Craig wanted to be present here in Austin for his birthday celebration with son Scott and daughter Stacey at Lucy’s Fried Chicken. They got to hang with the band afterwards, as one of the guitarists was someone known to the Nashville daughter.

The van at Camp Sandy.

I was covering “Pet Semetary” with stars Jason Clarke, et. al., (that piece has also run previously), so I missed the hilarity (and the chicken) and the music, but I’m doing my best to drum up a record crowd for you, Low Cut Connie (i.e, Adam Weiner) if only because my name IS Connie. The picture to the left represents the van that Low Cut Connie was supposed to play in at Camp Sandy. INSIDE the van. You sit outside and watch the performances on the screens you see mounted on the exterior of the van.

I’m not thinking this would be optimal for an act that is Jerry Lee Lewis Redux times 100. However, I did drive out to catch him there (since I couldn’t be present at Lucy’s Fried Chicken on Saturday, March 16th). There were problems at Camp Sandy, but the Turtle Wax people have reached out and are sending me vats of Turtle Wax to East Moline. Thanks, Eden Zaslow of Zenogroup! That was not necessary. 

Low Cut Connie WAS present on the 16th and, if I can figure out how to post the 5.2MB piece of film sent me by my son, you will be able to see it here some time in the future.

“For Sama,” Named Best Feature Documentary at SXSW: Behind the Scenes of the Siege in Syria

 

 

https://images.sxsw.com/OmkWk_NPatsx2ymZWMOMnGzSbME=/878x0:4955x2912/images.sxsw.com/57/e1a26cc7-d574-4707-8f13-52848b9384e8/under-a-falling-sky-142452 Photo of Waad al-Kateab, documenting the violence in Aleppo, Syria (SXSW Press Still)

“For Sama,” Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts’ searing documentary about the Syrian crisis, was named Best Documentary Feature at SXSW on March 12th. Said the judges, “This extraordinary and harrowing documentary captures an epic personal story of a mother’s love for her daughter and a wife’s love for her husband through the lens of the bloody and brutal siege of Aleppo.”

Waad al-Kateab stayed in Aleppo, where she had been a student in the fourth year of an economics degree at the university. When the rebellion against Assad’s corrupt regime broke out—much of it initially fomented by university rebels—the protesters were hopeful. Waad al-Kateab, a photo-journalist who continued filming for the duration, said, “To try to live a normal life in this place is to stand against the regime.”

Waad al-Kateab’s husband, Dr. Hamza el-Koteab, was one of only 32 physicians who chose to stay in the besieged city to care for the remaining residents; it is clear Aleppo’s remaining residents feel abandoned by the world. “We’re crying out to the world: Help us! ..But no one does anything to stop the regime.”

During the time that Waad al-Kateab spent in Aleppo  across a 5-year span and during 6 months of constant bombing, she and Hamza fell in love, got married, and had their first child, Sama. The film is entitled “For Sama,” their daughter, because Waad wanted to let her daughter know what they were fighting for in staying behind long after others had fled. As Waad says, “Our new life with you felt so fragile…as fragile as our life in Aleppo.”

The family eventually ends up actually living in the hospital, but the hospital is constantly being bombed by the Assad regime with Russian air support. At one point,  8 of 9 hospitals in East Aleppo have been destroyed; Hamza’s is the only one left, seeing 300 patients a day. Waad al-Kateab and Hamza had one hospital bombed while they were out of the facility, which killed 53 people, including the doctor who delivered Waad’s daughter.

There are many heart-rending scenes of adults and children being brought to the make-shift hospital only to die there or be declared DOA. There are dead bodies literally everywhere within the hospital;  one of the most ghastly scenes is of the victims of a mass execution, all of whom were civilians but showed signs of torture and had been shot in the head. Their bodies—at least 30 corpses— laid out in the street as a warning. The burial pit that forms their mass grave instantly summons memories of Nazi Germany. The scenes of the hospital being bombed evoke the “Sixty Minutes” segment that visited Aleppo hospitals  while they were under fire. One heart-warming but tragic moment is of the emergency C-section of a 9-months pregnant woman. Her child is saved, with difficulty; the mother is beyond help.

Ultimately, after 6 months under siege (December, 2016) the United Nations calls Dr. Hamza, who has become a voice for the Syrian people and whose face has become known to the world saying, “If you surrender, they will spare your lives.” The couple faces a harrowing decision regarding their small daughter. The  thought is this: She has a better chance of making it if they (the authorities) don’t know that you are her parents.

Waad al-Kateab cannot leave her daughter behind, however. The couple and their neighbors, who have three children, attempt the perilous journey out of Aleppo and into exile. As they drive, sharp shooters shoot at the ambulance. Waad says, “The silence makes you feel the city is dead.” Each check-point is dangerous. Will they all make it out alive?

The bombed ruins of a once-beautiful city confirm the diagnosis that the city, along with many of its inhabitants, is dead. Waad’s husband, Dr. Hamza says that in 20 days they saw 6,000 patients and performed 890 operations.

This is a must-see story of survival under siege from directors Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts which had its World Premiere (financing by the UK) at SXSW. Hopefully, it will air soon on PBS.

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