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: Of Local (Quad Cities’) Interest Page 2 of 24

My Paul McCartney Concert Experiences To Date

Sir Paul McCartney onstage at the Taxslayer Center in Moline (IL) on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

My first “live” Paul McCartney concert experience was in 1965 at the San Francisco Cow Palace when he played and sang with a little group called the Beatles. My boyfriend of the time and I had cut class  at Berkeley and drove up on his purple Czechoslovokian motorcyle. We had no tickets. We got there and were able to purchase 2 seats on the end of the 7th row on the floor for $7 apiece. That concert was a classic and deserves its own column, so, moving on.

My second “live” Paul McCartney concert experience was when he was singing with “Wings” and played in Ames at the Hilton Colisseum. By the luck of the draw, my name was drawn first for tickets in the state of Iowa in a drawing that took place outside the Younkers entrance at Duck Creek Mall. Paula Sands (KWQC anchor) came over to me and asked me to purchase 4 tickets (there was an 8-ticket limit) and sell 4 to she and husband, David Sands,which I did. It was a great concert and we were very close to the front.

My third “live” Paul McCartney concert experience was at Wrigley Field a few years ago with my daughter. We were in the upper bowl, but the seats were tiered and were good. I knew every song he played and the fireworks at the end were great. The concert was well worth the money. Interestingly enough, all of the anecdotal stuff he mentioned in concert in Moline he had (also) mentioned in Chicago. He also had exactly the same band with him on Tuesday as he had at Wrigley Field.

Pictures of the Beatles and of Paul in younger days were projected in the background throughout the concert.

My most recent “live” Paul McCartney experience was at the TaxSlayer Center (previously the Mark of the Quad Cities) ,on Tuesday night. I’ve seen so many glowing accounts of the concert—most of which I agree with—that I thought I’d throw in “another country heard from.” I sat down when I reached home and wrote this account of Tuesday night’s concert—where I knew 75% of the songs, as opposed to 100% at the others—to my son and daughter, to let them know how the concert went. So far, no comment from them. [Perhaps they, too, have had to put up with a Bobblehead who just won’t quit and semi-ruins their concert experience.]

I got in on a pre-sale for concert tickets, so our tickets in Section 213, row 11, seats 3 and 4, cost us $213 apiece. While this is not “cheap,” our upper tier seats were definitely not the ones that people were paying thousands of dollars to secure. We climbed 45 stairs to reach the 11th row in the upper bowl. As luck would have it, the 2 seats next to us remained empty and we moved over into seats 2 and 3, leaving a seat on each end (1 and 4), which made us feel less like sardines.

Getting into the venue was not that difficult. We were “wanded” and purses were checked, but it did not take that long and it was not that onerous.

The first sign of trouble came with the realization that a First Class Bobblehead was going to sit directly in front of me for the entire concert. A bobblehead, as you all probably know, is someone who never sits down, screams loudly all the time, is constantly waving fists and arms in the air, and generally seems to have not received enough attention from his or her parental unit as an infant. The one in front of me resembled a small creature that might live on the back of a rhinoceros, to make an animal allusion, because of the size differential between him and the man on the end of the aisle. I say this because the gentleman on the end of the row in front of us (Row 10) was really, really large. He had a very hard time making it up to his seat. I say this with empathy, as I have a bad left knee and am no Birdwoman, myself. He was a red-head and fair and overweight and the SHAKING of his entire body was really concerning, to me. I am not joking about this; he was in distress.

This was my view of the Paul McCartney Concert on June 11th , for 3 hours.

I was very concerned that the man on the end of Row 10 was going to have a heart attack, as he was beet red, sweating profusely and shaking. He immediately began blotting his face with a napkin and guzzling water from a bottle someone in the row below handed up to him, but he was really distressed.  I honestly thought we might need to administer CPR. I looked around for someone to assist us, who might be in an official capacity, but there was no one

The Bobblehead, wearing glasses and his baseball cap backwards  seemed over-caffeinated, went into high gear immediately and never once let up. He seldom sat down and emitted ear-shattering hoots and hollers throughout, singing along loudly to the point that it was hard to hear Sir Paul. My husband cautioned, “Just ignore him” and, as God is my witness, I did. That is why most of my pictures have his arm or hand in them. He did leave once, giving me a clear view for about 10 minutes.

Mid-concert a blonde girl, clutching a beer bottle, came to our row and leaned over and began hugging and kissing Mr. Bobblehead. To do this, she occupied the empty aisle seat, which she soon announced, very belligerently, she intended to sit in for the entire concert. I asked her, “Don’t you have a seat and a ticket for that seat somewhere?”

She admitted that she had a seat “way over there,” (throwing her arms around in a random fashion.) As politely as I could, I suggested that, if she had a ticket for a seat, she should probably occupy her own seat. She didn’t seem to like that logic, but it was pretty obvious that if she were to move into the row we were in, my husband and I would be subjected to even more extreme aggravation that would be IN OUR ROW. We already were having difficulty seeing over Mr. Bobblehead’s appendages, at times, and hearing the concert, at times (Mr. Bobblehead liked to sing along, loudly). With this blonde person in our row it would be a double whammy. She was not very smart about how she threw out this idea, declaring it as a “fait accomplis” without any attempt at asking nicely or explaining why allowing her to shove her way into our row would be a “good” thing for all of us. She did not ask if she would be an acceptable addition to our row or if we would mind. She simply loudly announced that she was going to move into our row and our seats, while sloppily guzzling something from a pink can. She was also very loud.

The blonde clutching the beer bottle left—for a while—but, of course, decided to come back later and pretty much ruin the concert during the Grand Finale number (“Live and Let Die”), which was song number 32 (of 36). At that point, she was truly drunk. When I objected to her inserting herself into a row she did not belong in and SCREAMING as loudly as possible in my left ear, she called me every name in the book, gave me the finger, and then hit me. On the nose. I suggested that she might want to “Go away” or I’d have to find a cop who might escort her somewhere, and that I would press charges if I had to miss the rest of the concert to find an officer of the law.

The original photo had Paul nestling his new-born child within his sheepskin jacket. I wonder if the child was Stella McCartney? Did Annie Leibowitz take the photo? A wonderful picture.

This was RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF the biggest number of the night (“Live and Let Die”) when various flash pots were detonating down below. I missed most of it because a drunk blonde person assaulted and insulted me. Her friend (Mr. Bobblehead) now climbed over the BACK of his seat to get into our row. This put him in between Blonde Drunk Girl and me. If you’re keeping score, there are 2 seats there, and now we have 3 people occupying them. I’m thinking, “This can’t be good!”, but I’m also glad that there is someone between the young girl who had just assaulted me and her.

I believe I said, more than once, “Keep her away from me.” Since she had already hit me once, I didn’t think a repeat performance would be any more enjoyable.  Since I was trying to film the Grand Finale number, I may even have some film footage of this intrusion into our personal space. It’s pretty erratic, but if I can find it, I will post it later.

It was pretty clear that there were not going to be any security officers rushing to my aid. My husband was sitting closer to the stage (seat 4), looking to his right, and  was engrossed in the pyrotechnics going off down below, so he did not notice all of this until it was almost over. When he did, he asked the duo to calm down (both were drunk) and stop.

Mr. Bobblehead, perhaps realizing that his drunk friend (wife? girlfriend?) had gone too far, did take her “away from me” shortly after she assaulted and insulted me. I was able to enjoy songs #32 through #37 in peace. Too bad that the first 31 were ruined by this pair. Good thing that my nose is Irish and small and pug-nosed, as a Grecian honker might have been broken by the blow.

So, when I’m asked (by my husband), “Which concert did you enjoy the most?” I can’t say it was the one where 2 young rude people did their best to ruin it for me (and all those around me). I also enjoyed the Wrigley recent concert more because he played nearly all songs that the audience knew well. I’d have to rate them in order chronologically and say that this was the fourth concert and #4, through no fault of Sir Paul’s.

There were three factors for my rating, beyond the inexcusable  rude behavior of two young drunk concert-goers:

1) Paul played more recognizable songs at the other 3 concerts

(2) My tickets at the Cow Palace for the Beatles and at the Hilton Colisseum for Wings were better (Wrigley was a draw) and cheaper.

(3) Nobody wants to have to put up with rude behavior from two strangers that they in no way have instigated. And I DID pay $426 for these tickets, so…. (In the age of Trump, don’t expect courtesy may be the name of that tune).

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.”

Samsung Television Bites the Dust; We Hit the Road

Bridge views on I-74 bridge.

So, our 17-year-old Samsung television has developed an annoying habit of flickering as though the vertical hold has gone out on a TV, circa 1950. Remember when you used to call the television repairman to come fix this annoying glitch, and, as soon as he would arrive, the TV set would be fine?

 

At any rate, for the past several months the debate has been over whether it was the TV set or Media Com. My husband chose to defend the TV set’s constant, annoying flickering and vertical hold problems and blame it on the box from Media Com, our television provider. It was getting to the point that I felt I might become like a Japanese child and fall on the floor having a seizure before he would admit that we had to do something to get to the bottom of the problem.

Then came the news that tariffs will probably cause prices of everything to rise precipitously. These price increases may not have taken effect yet, but they will in time, and that was the key to getting in the car and driving over to Best Buy and selecting a new Samsung television set (57″) and it will now be installed on Thursday.

Since the new Samsung is at least 5 inches larger than our former set, the next purchase may well be a new couch. I have hated the current couch ever since we bought it. I should never have given it to the always-impatient spouse’s desire to simply be “done” with shopping for a sectional for our family room. It was from a sketchy place (that has since closed) and the only thing it had to recommend it was that (a) it had kick-out foot rests, which my husband thinks is the Cat’s Meow (does anyone in the year 2019 still say “The Cat’s Meow?”) and (b) it was large. It does seat a lot of people, but parts of it have gotten worn down and the support struts underneath were never up to the challenge(s).

There is a small chance that we can move the two pieces we purchased and re-arrange them further back in this room, [which we added on to our house in 1993.] Since the game table was taken to Austin and sacrificed to become our temporary kitchen table (now replaced with a REAL kitchen table set), we have more room behind this couch. I moved the couch table into the front living room, so maybe we can move the green couch(es) around and give ourselves more room to sit back and view the new TV set when it arrives?

Thus, we drove across the I-74 bridge, which has had construction going on it for months and is not due for completion until mid 2020.  One lane traffic into Iowa. I counted at least 18 cranes. Sorry the pictures are not of better quality, but the driver refused to slow down and I had to get whatever photos I could of the many cranes replacing the 1930-era Interstate bridge that joins Iowa with Illinois.

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.”

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson Presented with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award (Who’s Who)

 

EAST MOLINE, IL, May 17, 2019, Marquis Who’s Who, the world’s premier publisher of biographical profiles, is proud to present Connie Corcoran Wilson with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. An accomplished listee, Ms. Wilson celebrates many years’ experience in her professional network, and has been noted for achievements, leadership qualities, and the credentials and successes she has accrued in her field. As in all Marquis Who’s Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson succeeded as a small business owner, a writer, and an educator in the field for over 40 years in the IA/IL Quad Cities. Her work for three online blogs continues, including her own blog (WeeklyWilson.com). After earning a Bachelor of Science in English from the University of Iowa in 1967, with a minor in Journalism, she obtained a Master of Arts in English and education at Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL, in 1972. She was a member of Old Gold Singers (1965-1968), University Choir (1964) and Oratorio Chorus (1963), as well as the University of Iowa Honors program while in college, and received two scholarships to attend Iowa (Freshman Merit Scholarship awarded to the top 5% of the entering freshman class and a Ferner/Hearst Journalism Scholarship.)

Connie began her career as the Chairman of the English department at Silvis Junior High School in Silvis, Illinois (1969-1985). She served 4 terms as Co-Chairman of the Silvis Education Association, and was  responsible for achieving recognition of that group as the bargaining agent for the district’s teachers after a three-year long struggle and electing 4 members of a 7-member school board, which authorized a vote supervised by the League of Women Voters. She resigned her teaching position in 1985 to take a position as Educational Writer for Performance Learning Systems, Inc. (Emerson, NJ) and co-authored their book Training the Teacher As A Champion (1989) with PLS founder Joseph Hasenstab. Performance Learning Systems, Inc., is the nation’s largest teacher training firm and responsible for Project T.E.A.C.H., among other offerings.

Following the completion of the PLS company Bible, Ms. Wilson founded Sylvan Learning Center #3301 in Bettendorf, Iowa in 1987 and the Prometric Testing Center in Bettendorf in 1995. She continued as CEO of both businesses until 2003. Sylvan earned the distinction Best Business of the Year 1993 from the Bettendorf Chamber of Commerce, as well as earning a personally presented Bi-State Literacy Award from First Lady Barbara Bush.  Delta Kappa Gamma Honorary Society for Professional Educators, (of which Ms. Wilson was an invited member), also honored Connie with awards for service to the community on two occasions.

Currently, Ms. Wilson works as the chief executive officer for Quad Cities’ Learning, Inc., a role she has held since 2003. She currently is a contributor to www.TheMovieBlog.com, the third largest on-line film criticism blog, as well as writing for www.QuadCities.com and her own blog (www.WeeklyWilson.com), founded in 2007. Over the course of her career, she has written for 5 newspapers and over 20 online digital outlets, including being named Content Producer of the Year for Politics by Yahoo in 2008. She routinely covers SXSW in Austin, TX, and the Chicago International Film Festival and other film festivals, as well as attending numerous writing conferences, such as the BEA (Book Expo America), ITW (International Thriller Writers), National Federation of Pen Women, and Writers for New Orleans.

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson

Ms. Wilson served as adjunct faculty at Augustana College (Rock Island, IL), Blackhawk Junior College (Moline, IL), Marycrest College (Davenport, IA), St. Ambrose University (Davenport, IA) and Eastern Iowa Community College (Bettendorf, IA). She worked in Public Relations for Kaplan College following her sale of the two businesses she founded. She was a member of the Better Business Bureau from 1986 to 2003. Ms. Wilson completed post-graduate coursework at Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, IL), the University of California (Berkeley, CA), the University of Chicago (Chicago, IL) and the University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA), advancing from a Master’s degree to a Master’s degree + 30, (the equivalent of a PhD.)

A published author, Ms. Wilson’s works include Training the Teacher As A Champion for PLS Bookstores; It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now, and three volumes of short stories, Hellfire & Damnation I, II and III for the Merry Blacksmith Press; Laughing Through Life, a collection of humorous essays; Both Sides Now, a collection of previously published newspaper pieces; The Color of Evil suspense/horror YA series with three entries, and two books on the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House. Mrs. Wilson was the film and book critic for the Quad City Times newspaper (Davenport, IA) from 1970 to 1985 and has continued reviewing film uninterruptedly for the past half century. (*See ConnieCWilson.com for a complete list of books published in paperback, hard cover, e-book and audio book). She also compiled several books of Ghostly Tales of Route 66 on assignment from Quixote Press in both paperback and e-book format.

Honors for her writing include the Midwest Writing Center’s Writer of the Year 2010 (Davenport, IA), and the Silver Feather Award from the Chicago chapter of the Illinois Women’s Press Association in 2012 and 2014. In addition, her three-novel series The Color of Evil was named Best Indie Book of the Year 2018 in audio format by Shelf Unbound online magazine and has won 38 screenplay awards since March of 2018 for the screenplay based on Book One (The Color of Evil). The second book in the much-lauded series is Red Is for Rage, with Book 3, Khaki = Killer honored in various cover competitions for its Vincent Chong designed cover. The illustrations for Ms. Wilson’s 6-book series The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats, illustrated by Hallmark artist Gary McCluskey and written expressly for her twin granddaughters, have also won plaudits.

In Sydney, Australia.

Outside of her professional career, Ms. Wilson has been married for 52 years to husband Craig K. Wilson and has two children, Scott, an engineer living in Austin, Texas, with his wife Jessica (also an engineer) and their twin daughters, Ava and Elise (age 10) and Stacey, a graduate of Belmont in Music Business (Nashville, TN) who worked for Taylor Swift’s 13 Management and currently works for Southwest Airlines. The family has enjoyed a Cancun Easter vacation every year since 1991 and gathers on the Fourth of July for a Family Fest involving the entire clan. With homes in Austin (TX), the Quad Cities of IA/IL and Chicago, Connie continues to write and enjoys reading, movies, swimming, trivia, playing cards, and travel in her spare time, (with Alaska following Australia/New Zealand as the next travel destination.)

In recognition of outstanding contributions to her profession and the Marquis Who’s Who community, Ms. Wilson has been featured on the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement website. Please visit www.Itachievers.com for more information about this honor and www.ConnieCWilson.com for more information about her writing or www.WeeklyWilson.com (her blog) for ongoing discussions of movies, books, politics and travel.

About Marquis Who’s Who®:

Since 1899, when A. N. Marquis printed the First Edition of Who’s Who in America®, Marquis Who’s Who® has chronicled the lives of the most accomplished individuals and innovators from every significant field of endeavor, including politics, business, medicine, law, education, art, religion and entertainment. Today, Who’s Who in America® remains an essential biographical source for thousands of researchers, journalists, librarians and executive search firms around the world. Marquis® publications may be visited at the official Marquis Who’s Who® website at www.marquiswhoswho.com.

Beto O’Rourke Speaks in Davenport at the River Music Experience on May 20, 2019

Beto O’Rourke at the River Music Experience in Davenport (5/20/19).

Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. (Bill Gluba, former Mayor of Davenport, to his right, in background.)

Beto O’Rourke.

River Music Experience, May 20, 2019, Davenport, Iowa.

Beto O’Rourke rally; May 20, 2018; Davenport, IA.

Former Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba at the Beto O’Rourke rally inside the River Music Experience in Davenport, IA. (5/20/19).

Beto O’Rourke taking questions in Davenport on 5/20/19.

Crowd member at the Beto O’Rourke rally. (He said he’d seen JFK when he was 2.)

Alyssia Gaiman introducing Beto O’Rourke at the RME on 5/20/19.

Beto O’Rourke.

Beto O’Rourke; former Mayor Bill Gluba in background (right).

A young future voter at the Beto O’Rourke rally.

The crowd in the room at the Beto O’Rourke rally on 5/20/19. I overheard a member of the traveling press say it was the 3rd largest rally he had seen for the candidate.

Working press; Beto O’Rourke rally on 5/20/19 at the River Music Experience in Davenport, IA.

Beto O’Rourke, potential Democratic presidential nominee, came to Davenport (IA) on May 20, 2019, and spoke to a crowd of about 200 enthusiastic supporters at the River Music Experience. Introduced by former Iowa Congresswoman  Alesia Gaiman, Beto entered, stage left. He may have thanked her with a wrong first name (sounded like a different first name from the press risers), but, if it was a faux pas, it was the only one I heard.

When Beto finished with a brief introduction about his vision for unifying this divided nation, he took questions from the audience for an hour and a half.  Both Beto and the audience acquitted themselves nobly.

Were the questions arranged in advance? I don’t think so, but both the Iowans who spoke and the candidate came off as smart, alert and prepared.

Here were the topics of the questions with Beto O’Rourke displaying an impressive ability to answer without a teleprompter or notes:

Question 1: LGBQT rights and how to restore them.

Question 2: His plans to revise the criminal justice system (with a backhanded slap at former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden for not handling this well enough while in office.)

Question 3:  Advice for a first-time voter who feels overwhelmed.

Question 4:  Will you fully fund the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)?

Question 5:  Immigration issues.

Question 6:  The student debt crisis.

Question 7:  Minimum wage concerns.

Question 8:  Collective bargaining rights for teachers in Iowa (which, aside from pay, have been stripped by the GOP legislature.)

Question 9:  The national debt and what to do about it.

Question 10: Gun violence in the schools and what to do about it.

Question 11:  How would you pay for everything you propose?

Question 12:  Your Middle East policy, especially in regards to Saudi, Arabia.

Question 13:  Solar and wind power and other alternative forms of energy.

Question 14:  The opioid epidemic in this country.

I am not knowledgeable enough about the organization of Democratic politics in Iowa to be able to tell you if these questions were assigned in advance.  I can tell you that O’Rourke pirouetted gracefully from one question to the next with an impressive array of statistics at his command. Did the organizers arrange for questioners (like the  retired Muscatine defense contractor who worked in the Middle East) to be present to ask these very relevant questions? Sounds plausible; seems more likely when a small child asked in perfect English, with no hesitation, about the IDEA act. However, the teacher mentioned coming directly from another meeting about the Iowa Supreme Court decision, and most questions seemed valid and unscripted.

Still, I’ve been to many rallies, starting in 2004 and continuing through every presidential election since then.. (2008 Content Producer of the Year for Politics for Yahoo) and this was a well-organized, well-informed crowd and—perhaps most importantly—a well-informed candidate. Very well-informed.

So let’s hear Beto O’Rourke’s fix(es) for these weighty questions.

Q 1 (LGBQT rights): The individual who asked this question appeared very feminine, with long blonde hair, until the question was asked. The voice was very male. Transgender? Don’t know; can’t tell you. Beto answered the question by saying, “Every American should be treated equally.” He shared that, “In my home state of Texas, you can be fired for your sexual orientation” and condemned such practices, saying, “No state can except itself” from providing equal rights to all U.S. citizens.

Q2 (Criminal justice system). The questioner identified himself as Chris Rice. Beto’s answer to the inequities of the criminal justice system and what improvements he would like to implement as president were: 1) End the war on drugs (2) No U.S. “for profit” prisons. (3) Eliminate the cash bail bonding system.

Q3 (1st time overwhelmed voter): Sharing that he had visited 34 college campuses (as well as high schools and middle schools) Beto reassured Jimmy Feeney by saying, “I’m here and I’m listening.” He said, “Show up (at the polls) with the courage of your convictions.”

Q4 (IDEA question): Yes, Beto would fully fund the IDEA.

Q5: John Dunsheath, who asked about immigration issues was given a heartfelt response about an issue Beto O’Rourke knows only too well, being from El Paso, Texas, a border city. He talked about the train known as “the beast” that immigrants take from Central America to the Mexican border, and said, “Amy and I have these conversations” about what they would do if they were in the dire circumstances that the immigrants seeking asylum endure. He suggested that we should lift visa caps. [*I’d like to refer readers to a comprehensive discussion of Beto O’Rourke’s views on the immigration issue and “the wall” by giving you these links to previous articles on this blog in February of this year]:

https://weeklywilson.com/16733-2/; https://weeklywilson.com/beto-orourke-speaks-out-cont-the-end/; https://weeklywilson.com/beto-orourke-speaks-out-day-3/;https://weeklywilson.com/beto-orourke-speaks-out-cont-2/

Q6 (Student debt): Beto affirmed that “crisis” was the right word to use for the student debt situation. He mentioned the $1.5 trillion outstanding debt and said that 10% of those in debt are either in danger of defaulting or have already defaulted on their student loans. He suggested expanding loan forgiveness programs, making college free, and recognizing that trade occupations are a valid career  choice.

Q7- (minimum wage): Kevin O’Brien, who identified himself as a 40-year union member, brought up the current minimum wage of $7.25, which, he said, was inadequate. He has 5 children (all college graduates), but commented on how expensive his adult children’s medical insurance was in relation to his own. Beto countered that, in Texas, the largest provider of mental health services was the state. In Harris City, Texas, the City Jail costs $110 a day, which entitles the prisoner to health care (and makes the Harris City Jail the largest provider of mental health services in town.) O’Rourke suggested a form of Medicare for Americans who are uninsured or cannot afford the cost of supplemental insurance.

Q8 – (Collective bargaining for teachers in Iowa) – I was way behind the curve on this one. In my defense, I’ve been in Texas since January, but I didn’t know that the Iowa GOP-dominated legislature and governor had stripped teachers’ unions of most collective bargaining rights—-previously in existence for half a century. In reading up on this issue (which is near and dear to my heart as someone who led the charge for collective bargaining rights in Silvis, Illinois, in 1979-1980) I learned that a recent Iowa Supreme Court decision was 4 to 3 to uphold stripping this right to negotiate such items as class size, length of school day, free periods, lunch hour length and everything except pay. A teacher quoted in a Des Moines Register article said, “Morale is very low.” O’Rourke said, “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life” and called it “Penny-wise and pound foolish,” saying the teachers educated in Iowa are not willing to remain in the state to teach. Iowa’s loss is Minnesota’s gain. How will Iowa attract top-notch teachers? Teachers can go elsewhere and have collective bargaining rights, (which simply means a say about the conditions under which they must work.)

Q9 – National debt – Citing a national debt of $22 trillion, which is going up $1 trillion annually, O’Rourke noted that “The GOP can forget about representing themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility.” Pointing to the wars that added $6 trillion to our national debt, unfunded by “W,” Beto suggested that lowering the tax rate from 35% to 21% was a fiscal mistake and re-doing it would help lower our national debt.

Q10 – (gun violence) – Anna Cynthia, a student, voiced her fear over gun violence possibly reaching into her own classroom. Beto mentioned that the government mandated that gun violence and its causes could not be studied, as cigarette addiction because of nicotine was, after Big Tobacco was overruled.  He talked about the deleterious effect of the NRA and gun lobbies, stating proudly that his campaign was not taking any PAC money.

Q11 – (How to pay for all this?) – Beto stated that we must “scrutinize every cent spent” and pointed to the endless war in Afghanistan, going on for his entire lifetime (he turns 47 in September). “Do not lead with the military, but with diplomacy.”

Q12 – Middle East – While acknowledging that MBS in Saudi, Arabia had cold-bloodedly plotted the murder of U.S. journalist Khashoggi, I did not hear the solution to our continuing affiliation with Saudi, Arabia, which leads us into wars  in places like Yemen and Sudan.

Q13 – (Solar & wind power) – O’Rourke mentioned that Iowa is second only to Kansas in harnessing wind power to create electrical power. He proposed a $5 trillion increase in programs to invest in wind and solar power over the next 5 years.

Q14 – (opioid epidemic) – O’Rourke talked about how, in his travels, he has met  addicts or former addicts, sometimes veterans, who describe how they originally became addicted because of prescription drugs. Beto’s solution? Not sure, as this was the last question of the night and the natives were restless.

Overall, it was an impressive performance from the charismatic candidate from Texas. As a winter resident of Austin,(Texas), I identify and was pulling for him when he ran against Uncle Festus from The Munsters—err, Ted Cruz. An interesting ticket would be Biden/Beto.

I highly recommend “Running with Beto,” which I covered at SXSW.  You can read my review of that here or on www.TheMovieBlog.com.

(L to R) Wife Amy, daughter Molly and Beto O’Rourke onstage in Austin, Texas, at the Paramount Theater,  on March 9, 2019, at the premiere of “Running with Beto.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill Duke: An Autobiography Worth Reading

Bill Duke: My 40 Year Career On Screen and Behind the Camera

Bill Duke: My 40-year Career On Screen and Behind the Camera

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield, 193 pages, plus index and photographs (15 pages)

Amazon: Print – $16.47. E-book: $13.99.

 

Bill Duke, with his 62 directorial credits, 17 as a producer, and 4 as a writer, is a face on the screen that movie-goers have recognized since the seventies. It was 1976, in fact, when his breakthrough role as Duane/Abdullah in “Car Wash,” paired with such luminaries as Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Otis Day, Antonio Fargas and the Pointer Sisters gave him his first big break in the 40-year career he writes about in “Bill Duke: My 40-year Career Onscreen and Behind the Camera.”

For me, one of his most memorable roles was as Leon, the gay pimp in “American Gigolo.” His movements were sinuous and catlike; he was an unforgettable character in this story of lust and greed, which focused on Gere and his romance of Lauren Hutton as a neglected politician’s wife and a murder suspect.  Paul Schrader (Oscar-nominated this past year for his script for “First Reformed,” which Schrader directed) was the director. The music by Giorgio Moroder imprints the film on my mind.

Duke admits, “I found it to be one of the high points of my acting career with one of the leading roles of the film. It was outside of my comfort zone, but it was a growing experience. I loved the character I played, and I loved working with Richard Gere.”

Duke goes on to say that “Richard Gere was meticulous with every movement of his character, like the movement of his eyes, the face, the lips, the hands, and the legs.” I would add that this attention to detail and movement goes double for Bill Duke in his roles. Leon was, indeed, a high point of Bill Duke’s acting career, and one I remember well.

I would also say that Duke’s praise of his fellow actors and directors and co-stars is universal throughout the book. “Never is heard a discouraging word.” If you are looking for a “tell-all” book from a Hollywood insider that will open the floodgates on unsavory doings, this isn’t it. Bill does allude to a low period in his own life when he gave in to the temptation of drugs, but the story of the seamier side of life in Hollywood is not this book’s mission.

BACKGROUND

When I was teaching junior high school students in a small town in Illinois, I was happy to find that the local library had a series of 16 millimeter After School Specials.  I could rent these and show them to my students. I selected those where Bill Duke and Kevin Hooks were involved because they would be quality productions with good messages and the length was perfect to show to a class on a Friday afternoon late in the year. I was then (and am now) a film critic. I pay attention to who is in a film, and also to who is directing, writing and producing a film.

Duke has appeared in too many television series to list them all, including stints on those After School Specials as well as on “Cold Case” (2008), “Lost” (2006), “Battlestar Galactica” (2006), “Starsky & Hutch” (1978), “Kojack” (1976), “Falcon Crest, “Fame,” “Hill Street Blues,” “Knott’s Landing,” “Dallas,” and “New York Undercover.” He is still active on “Black Lightning.”

Bill Duke’s feature credits include the two films mentioned (“Car Wash,” “American Gigolo”), which really launched him, as well as “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit,” “Get Rich or Die Trying,” “Deep Cover,” “Hoodlum,” “Predator,” “Menace II Society” and “Not Easily Broken,” to name just a few. He has won NAACP Image Awards and been a nominee for a 1991 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or with “A Rage in Harlem.” Sundance Film Festival awarded “The Killing Floor” (1984) a Special Jury Prize and a Grand Jury Prize.  More recently, the Northeast Film Festival recognized “American Satan” with a Best Ensemble Prize and, in 2018-2019, Bill Duke can be seen as Agent Percy Odell in the television series “Black Lightning.”

Reading about how this 77-year-old African American actor/director/producer/writer rose from humble origins in Poughkeepsie, New York and how he continues to open the door for so many other talented black entertainers was interesting, educational and amusing. He seems to write from the heart with sincerity, although there are a few areas that he treats “once over lightly,” including his own bouts with drug addiction and his personal life.

When Duke talks about Leon, his desire to excel shines through. “Playing that role gave me an opportunity to show other sides of my acting ability.  I was seen by many casting directors as the big, tall, angry black man.  I wanted to show that I could be more than that.  The character of Leon was a soft-spoken brilliant sociopathic businessman, and I wanted the opportunity to let casting directors know that I had more range.”

Duke shares the trials and tribulations of being a television series regular. (“A television series is the hardest work for an actor on the face of this Earth.”) He thanks all those who have helped him along the way and does not speak ill of anyone, but does tell readers that, after appearing on a television series called “Palmerstown,” he could not find work as an actor for 2 years.

He explains, “In those days, they had something called a TV Q score, which was a way to measure how familiar audiences were with an actor, TV show, and so forth.  If you were on a television show that garnered a lot of publicity, you could be considered ‘overexposed,’ which could make it difficult to get hired for another television show or feature because your Q score went down.” He adds that the experience made him depressed and angry and convinced him that he had “better learn how to do more than just act.”

Thus began a career move towards producing, writing and directing and this quote:  “Once I figured Hollywood might typecast me as the police officer, I turned to directing.  That way, I could wait until an interesting project came along.” Duke has also moved into the job of Chairperson of the Department of Radio, Television and Film at Howard University, as of 2000.

[*As an aside, I once interviewed the man responsible for the Q Score system. He had headquarters at that time in Marion, Iowa. At that point in time, he was tasked with making a television star spokesperson out of top model Cheryl Tiegs, something that never really worked. The man had worked for Gallup and took his knowledge of polling into the world of television and movies with the much-vaunted “Q Score” that Bill Duke mentions as having given him two years of idleness, sadness and depression. The Q Score Big Boss didn’t like what I had to say about the Q Score, so the article never ran.  I was paid a “kill fee” after I interviewed him in his Marion, Iowa, offices.]

Duke scored a collaborative job with Joel Silver on “Commando,” which introduced him to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mark Lester (the director) and led, later, to his role as Mac in 1987’s “Predator.”’

PREDATOR STORY

One of the best stories in the book involves “Predator” and the unknown and inexperienced stuntman/actor hired to play the title creature. The actor was dressed in heavy black felt for the filming in the jungles near Puerto Vallarta. The heat and humidity were intolerable, causing the stuntman to pass out at least two times early on.

The director strode over and said, “If you pass out again, I’m going to have to fire you.” The original Predator creature (which did not appear in the film), was a smaller, more nimble creature that flew through jungle trees with speed and flexibility and fully packed laser guns. That Predator was also invisible and could strike his prey at any time. The bodysuit, including placement over the head and face, was originally used to insert computer-generated special effects over the actor’s body in post production. Unfortunately for the actor within the suit, he did pass out again.

At that moment, Joel Silver marched over to him and, as the actor awoke, suffering from exhaustion and dehydration, Silver said, “You’re fired.” The acrobatic, multitalented martial artist flying through the trees in a felt suit in one of his first jobs in America was Jean-Claude Van Damme.

ENCOURAGEMENT

One of the best things about the book is its “never say die” encouragement of young actors, in general, and African American actors in particular. While giving props to all of the heavyweights who have gone before (Sidney Poitier, Spike Lee, etc.), Bill Duke, himself, has proven to be a shining example of an actor who has paved the way for others. His work in Hollywood earned him an appointment to the Board of the California State Film Commission, as well as an appointment to the National Endowment of Humanities under President Bill Clinton. The Directors’ Guild of America honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Tribute. The reader may get the feeling that the author sometimes feels he has not received his fair share of recognition, and his Bill Duke Media corporation may be an attempt to rectify that by producing a great deal more quality film output.

As an unconventional actor—-not known for good looks, but renowned for good performances—Duke has had a career that has had many highs and lows. He shares that, “It’s all about relationships in the industry.” That remark could probably be expanded to any line of work. It may be intensified in Hollywood, but it seems true of many corporations, businesses and industries.

Quote: “Nobody else in this world is like you.  There may be similarities, but nobody is just like you.  You have value, and if nobody has validated that for you, it is time for you to validate yourself.  Let your soul and your spirit out in your writing.  Tell the truth of your experience in life through your writing.  Writing forces you to love yourself and let out your truth.  It takes courage, but the payoff is something that you cannot spend.” (p. 190)

“I wish I could say that writing this book was inspired by me and my courage, but the truth is that it was not.  For many years, people told me that I should tell my story because of all that I had gone through in Hollywood, but I never believed that I had anything important to say.  I thought a lot of people had gone through what I had gone through.  I didn’t think there was anything special about bill Duke in Hollywood. However, when I reached my seventies, I wanted to leave something for those who come after me to benefit from.” (p. 190)

POETRY

Duke shares his poetry with us throughout the book. After reading of his humble origins in Poughkeepsie, New York, and the events that shaped him over the years, including a history of family violence, his poetry reveals a deep, sensitive soul, who arranges the poems on the page in vertical fashion. Lines like: “Nobody really cares. Nobody seems to really care about the other’s pain. For we must laugh and dance and sing and not remind us of anything that resembles fears that we’ve secretly tried to cover by pretending to be devoted lovers of everything except ourselves. “

What came through, for me, was that Bill Duke, at least early on, suffered from self-loathing. Was it his appearance? Was it because of remarks made to him when he was young? Was it because of his father and mother’s sometimes violent marriage? The source is difficult to pin down, as it often is in life.

WOMEN

Related image

Bill Duke during 1987’s “Predator” filming

It sounds as though Bill Duke doesn’t trust women. The reason for this is hinted at: a girl he had a crush on in college led him to believe that she’d spend time with him if he traveled to her school. He did (travel to her school). She didn’t (spend time with him). That seems to be one of the reasons why he stopped trusting ALL women. He had some sexual mistreatment by an early babysitter that also may have affected his views.

He frankly admits (p. 27): “I thought of sex as a game of pleasure from that day on, and maybe the reason I’ve hurt so many women in my life was because I always focused on the act, not the person.  I liked having sex with different women, but I never went beyond that and made emotional connections.  I simply enjoyed the physical act.  Maybe it’s because of the way I learned about sex; I’m not sure.”

On page 171, Duke adds, “One of the many reasons I never got married was that I always thought I was ugly, and I didn’t want to have children that looked like me.” He goes on to say, “After my first love betrayed me, I used that as an excuse to become a scoundrel when it came to women.”

At least this sensitive, introspective man realizes it is an excuse and admits he has, at times, been a “scoundrel” when it comes to women.

TRUST

While Bill Duke trusts himself (“Trusting what is inside you is key”, p. 189) he doesn’t seem to trust many other people. He talks of loneliness this way (p. 178): “You have a couple of friends who are with you throughout your life.  Some stay and some go, but when you’re not successful, not making money, and your career is not going well in our industry, there aren’t many people who flock to you.  That shouldn’t be a shock, because they are hustling and trying to do what they have to do.  If you can’t do anything for them, you are of no use to them.”

The book is good. The stories and experiences are fascinating and interesting. I always liked any film Bill Duke was associated with and that has proven to be prescient. If you’re interested in the film industry in any capacity as a career, this is a good read.

(Connie Corcoran Wilson, www.TheMovieBlog.com, www.ConnieCWilson.com)

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.

Abortion Rights Under Attack in the U.S.

For close to half a century, the GOP has tried to overturn Roe v. Wade and curb women’s right to reproductive freedom. This concerted effort to prevent a pregnant female from deciding not to carry a child to term does not come with adequate funding or societal help to assure that the overwhelmed potential mother would be able to care for said child, in the event that she were forced to go forward with her pregnancy. While chipping away at the social network like a demented woodpecker, the GOP has simply thrown around hot-button words (“socialism,” “abortion”) knowing that they will evoke the crazy response they want in their followers. There has been no GOP up-tick in social programs to assist, for example, women of color with several children and no supportive mate.

Says Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen, “The threat to safe, legal abortion in America is at risk like never before.” In the past 9 years over 400 state laws have been passed restricting abortion services. Eight states have only one abortion clinic left. Exploiting the explosive “wedge issue” has become one of the mainstays of the GOP talking points, along with calling anyone who believes that a woman’s reproductive decision should be hers a “Libtard” or a “liberal snowflake.” Interesting to report, there are no similar liberal perjorative names aimed at the Conservative wing of the GOP, specifically designed to denigrate their political beliefs and, in some cases, not only verbally attack them but physically attack them, as well.

As for the majority of Americans on this divisive issue,  60 per cent believe abortion should remain legal and it is conceivable that one in four women of child-bearing age might decide to have an abortion in her lifetime. Some of these women may have been victims of rape or incest. Others may have health issues that would put their own lives at risk or simply not have the economic or psychological means to support a child at that time in their lives. Still, the anti-abortion foes will paint these women as monsters. The Conservative forces will misrepresent the point(s) at which ethical doctors will perform an abortion, and will continue to use unflattering semantics and Biblical backing from evangelical sects to support their point of view, irrespective of the wishes of the women, themselves. (I remember Dr. Howard Dean, campaigning in Iowa in 2004, telling us in someone’s back yard in Muscatine, Iowa, that he had gone through the records of his home state of Vermont and there had been NO record of a late-term (after the sixth month) abortion in the state of Vermont ever.  This was in response to a question from the Iowa caucus crowd).

In some states—Mississippi, for example—they are in the ongoing process of passing a fetal heartbeat law that bans abortions as early as six weeks, despite the fact that a U.S. district court has already struck down a law in the same state banning it at 15 weeks. Even if the opponents of legalized and safe abortions do not succeed in overturning the laws, the amount of time that these moves take can have an impact. Once closed, an abortion clinic may not open back up. Says Cecile Richards, former President of Planned Parenthood (currently under budget attack from the White House), “Even if Roe is still the law of the land, whether or not pregnant people can actually access abortion is another question entirely.” To all those individuals who are reading this and “tsk tsk-ing” about abortion, in general, I would recommend that you read “Cider House Rules” by John Irving before  becoming too secure in your position. Irving’s father and grandfather were obstetricians and he charts the drop in female mortality rates that accompanied Roe v. Wade. The safe abortion center in Bettendorf, Iowa, was forced to close some time ago, a result of the Conservative right’s concerted and never-ending attacks on them. With a Republican legislature in Des Moines, the service is no longer available in an area of 350,000 people, which, for the state of Iowa, is among its 3 largest metropolitan areas.

Meanwhile, proposed legal decisions like “June Medical Services v. Gee”  and 2016’s “”Whole Roman’s Health v. Hellerstedt” continue to move forward, challenging the current status quo. The packing of the courts by Trump supporters is not a good thing (think Brett Kavanaugh) and 21 of U.S. states are classified as “hostile” or “very hostile” to abortion rights, while only 4 are “supportive” or “very supportive.” Five states currently have so-called trigger laws that would immediately ban abortion if Roe v. Wade fell. The state of Arkansas has no exceptions for rape or incest and would make performing an abortion a felony punishable by 10 years in prison.

According to the National Institute for Reproductive Health, 422 bills were introduced in 44 states and the District of Columbia, which were aimed at protecting reproductive rights in 2018. One hundred were fully enacted into law. “Public support for Roe v. Wade has never been higher that it is right now” says a former Planned Parenthood leader: “If you are one of the majority of Americans who care about access to safe and legal abortion, now is the time to make your voice heard.” Otherwise, the Conservative plan is to make it so hard to access this currently legal right that it will, in effect, cause the downfall of Roe v. Wade without having to actually legislate it out of existence. In 1976, only 3 years after Roe v. Wade went into effect, the Hyde Amendment blocked federal Medicaid dollars from going toward abortions and the Supreme Court upheld that as constitutional in 1980. In “Planned Parenthood v. Case” the court further determined in that 1992 decision that limitations could be put on abortion as long as they didn’t create “an undue burden. (A blanket right was turned into a circumstantial right.)

Julie Rikelman, Director of U.S. litigation for the Center for Reproductive Rights says, “Even if the Supreme Court never utters the words ‘Roe is now overruled,’ it can do a huge amount of harm.” Are the women of 2020 willing to go back to the days of back-street illegal abortions (one of which left a friend and former classmate of mine dead in her apartment in Iowa City, Iowa, back in 1964? I hope that the young women of the United States start paying attention to this area that DJT is also stirring up and, flying the false flag of Conservative evangelical piety, is attacking as he is attacking most other bulwarks of our Constitutional democracy.

Forgetabout Joe Biden’s Hugging Penchant and Concentrate on REAL Problems

Okay…I’ve waited for a while to weigh in, but I’m watching Bill Maher’s show right now and they are discussing the fact that the recent hoopla over Joe Biden’s kissing the back of a candidate’s head (which only now, many years later, she has decided offended her) is “much ado about nothing.” They are discussing the fact that this recent furor might be a generational divide.

I agree.

“Biden has to know better. This isn’t a joking matter.” This was written by a reporter commenting on the child who joined Biden onstage, where Biden actually draped his arm over the child’s shoulder(s) and said he had gotten permission to do so.

Maher says: “Humans are going to touch each other.” Someone just called former Vice President Joseph Biden “a creepy old grandfather.” (Sigh) He may be old, but so is Donald J. Trump, the likely GOP nominee. And so is Bernie Sanders.

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.

I have met Joe Biden on several occasions, primarily because I covered presidential races in 2004, 2008, 2012 and a very small part of 2016. In 2008, it was not unusual to get a phone call in the Iowa Quad Cities and be told by a Biden campaign worker that there was going to be a rally at Doc Seng’s house.

Doc Seng (veterinarian Dr. Seng) is now dead and there probably won’t be any rallies at his old place, but, if Joe Biden does run, there will be rallies somewhere, just as there were in 2008. (Did you know that Joe Biden was the National Campaign Chairman for Jimmy Carter’s campaign?)

I used to chat with Jimmy (Joe’s brother) and Hunter (Joe’s son) and I even interviewed his then-young granddaughter, Finnegan Biden. At no time did then-Senator Biden hug me inappropriately or, from what I observed, hug anyone else in an inappropriate manner. The closest I came to being hugged was probably Christopher Dodd; that wasn’t horrible, either.

It is really difficult, (especially in the light of the Access Hollywood tape), to think that this sudden focus on Vice President Joe Biden’s tendency to hug people is anything that disqualifies Joe Biden from seeking and holding the office of President of the United States.

We should put aside the nattering over nothing and direct our attention and focus to important things, like global warming, the Mexico wall that Trump wants to spend a small fortune building, Obamacare and fixing it, our crumbling infrastructure and fixing it, defending our elections against foreign adversaries, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East, the looming debt that Trump has committed us to, Puerto Rico, struggling farmers, education, and any number of REAL issues and forget about whether some female now working for Bernie Sanders would rather not have had her shoulders touched when Vice President Biden was kind enough to campaign for her in her home state.

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