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!

Vice Presidential Race Held in Utah on Oct. 7, 2020

The only vice presidential debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence was held last night (October 7th) and the majority of viewers polled by CNN thought (59% to 38%) that Harris had won the debate.

Some observations:

  • Unanswered Questions – There was a distressing tendency for the participants NOT to answer the question asked. Sometimes it was a complete ignoring of what was asked, as with the question about whether these two second bananas had had discussions with their bosses about what to do and how to do it if their elderly bosses (Trump and Biden) were to be incapacitated.
  • Time Issues – After watching Trump act like the barbarian at the gate during the first (and, so far, only) presidential debate, it was going to be interesting to see if Pence obeyed the rules better than his famously contrarian boss. For me, the answer was that Pence was certainly an improvement, but he still ran long on nearly every question. With each question, I would glance at the second hand on my watch when he began to run long. Pence never went over by LESS than 20 seconds and often went over that amount. With 9 questions being asked, 9 x 20 or 30 seconds meant, to me, that Pence got more air time. At the end of the debate, a figure was put up on the screen that indicated how much time each participant got and it appeared that they felt it was relatively even, but it most certainly did not look or seem like Harris got the same time consideration as Pence.
  • Good Point(s): Pence’s team felt they drew blood on the question of the Supreme Court. In my opinion, the best moments for Harris were her remarks about pre-existing conditions, when she said, “If you have pre-existing conditions, they’re coming for you.”
  • Moderator: Susan Page (USA Today) – She was better than Chris Wallace, but that isn’t saying much. “Thank you, Mr. Vice President” was not an effective way of shutting Pence down when he ran over. When will they either shut down the microphones or put the candidates in glass boxes that can be soundproofed and shut down, when necessary.
  • Chutzpah Award: The fact that Mike Pence could accuse Kamala Harris of “politicizing the pandemic” with a straight face was astonishing. What chutzpah! Most other charges (taxes, fracking) at least seemed to be answered by the participants [when they chose to answer, that is].
  • Does the race change at all? Most say no, except for the age of the presidential candidates, but that is one reason that the question about the transfer of power should have been asked.

Out of 10 people with widgets, 4 said Pence won, 4 said Harris had won and 2 abstained. Most of the experts say the votes ae “baked in.”

  • Truthfuless:  Fact checkers had to step in and say that the claim (by Pence) that Trump had increased manufacturing jobs had to be corrected. Actually, on Trump’s watch there have been 164,000 jobs lost (not the 483,000 gains that Pence tried to claim, incorrectly. The Biden position on fracking might be fluid and that was discussed, as well.
  • Kamal Harris: She got in some good ones, all with a smile. Being female and a candidate brings a certain set of problems for women running against men. When women were polled, 69% said Harris had won, versus only 30% selecting Pence. It was a much closer judgment for men, who said that the margin was still in Harris’ favor, but pegged it as 48% to 46%.
  • Most Interesting Segment: At the point when the BLM situation was being asked about (Brianna Taylor), a large, very visible black fly landed on Mike Pence’s head and remained there for over 2 minutes. As my son said to me, “Mike Pence’s only black friend.” Watch for the skit on Saturday Night Live.

Don’t Cry For Me, White House Staffers

President Contracts Covid-19: Debates Likely Dead

Trump has tested positive for Covid-19.

He was scheduled for a pair of rallies in Wisconsin tomorrow, October 2nd. What now?

Supposedly Trump and Melania will quarantine at the White House, according to the First Lady’s tweet.

In coming back from Cleveland, Trump was surrounded by a large number of advisors and family members.

The announcement comes only a few hours after he said, “the end of the pandemic is in sight.” 

“I think it’s safe to say this president is going nowhere for a while,” said Brian Williams on NBC News.

Hope Hicks began feeling ill while traveling on Air Force One and was quarantined on the airliner.

Ms. Hicks was subsequently diagnosed as having the virus.

“We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” (from a Trump tweet).

As a 74-year-old overweight man, Trump is at high risk.

[This developing story came in at 1:00 a.m. on the East coast.]

SPECULATION

“We have it totally under control.” (Jan. 2020)

Upon hearing that DJT had tested positive the speculation then began to extend to VP Pence and whether he and his team had been exposed. If both men were to be felled, Nancy Pelosi would be next in line. The list of people on Air Force One extended to about 24 individuals, which included the president’s family and close staffers.

Some speculated that the president is attempting to avoid taking part in future debates which, to be honest, the Washington Post, the Atlantic and other leading newspapers have said should be discontinued anyway after September 29th’s fiasco, largely because of Trump’s interrupting opponent Joe Biden 73 times in 90 minutes.

On Tuesday night both men spoke for 90 minutes from podiums that were distanced. Could this expose Joe Biden?  The mask that Joe Biden usually wears was not being worn and, of course, Trump rarely has worn one and did not wear one for the first time until July 11th, 7 months into the pandemic.

Perhaps the realization that this disease is real and does not play favorites may sink in for the man who has persisted in hosting dangerous Super Spreader events at places like Tulsa or Mt. Rushmore.

I wish no one the bad luck to suffer having this virus, especially if they are of an age to make it very dangerous.

Thirty-two days away from the election, the president’s doctor Sean Connolly announced that Donald and Melania have both tested positive for Covid-19. He said, “They are both well at this time. They plan to maintain their quarantine at the White House. I expect the president to continue carrying out his duties without interruption.”

The debates are going to probably be scrapped, which will be a very small loss, based on what went down on September 29th. I will continue to discuss politics (and other topics) on my Thursday night Weekly Wilson programs,. But the talk will not be about the debates, because they (probably) won’t be held. That does not change my announced intent to give away BEE GONE e-book copies FREE on the scheduled debate nights and October 23rd (RBG Day).

Dr. Vin Gupta – MSNBC Medical Director (Remarks from him interrupting Seth Meyer’s late night show):

“This raises the specter of when did Hope Hicks display symptoms?”

This is bigger than just the President and the First Lady as the circle that traveled with them has been exposed.

Did the Vice President’s team become exposed at Case Western on debate nig

There is a pre-symptomatic period up to 48 hours, during which the person can give it to others, although asymptomatic.

Why did the President go to an event today if he knew he was positive and expose other individuals at a fund-raiser today? “That should have raised alarm bells.” Gupta asks, “Who is giving him this medical advice?” (Dr. Scott Atlas?)

Brian Williams raises the point that it may not be Hope Hicks who has exposed the president at all, since he has traveled extensively and has not worn a mask. A massive contact-tracing effort has to be made. “There should be no in-person gatherings for the rest of the campaign. This was preventable. The fact that this even occurred is a damning indictment. This was avoidable if they were practicing the proper procedures and not going to these rallies and attending these events.”

Trump was supposed to have had a conference call about the impact of Covid-19 on the senior citizens. Ironic that this will not now occur.

 

 

Trump VS Biden on Sept. 29th, 2020

BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE

Debate #1 is history and it was largely “sound and fury signifying nothing. Besides probably yukking it up about the complete lack of presidential decorum displayed, it was described by Jake Tapper as “A hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck.”

Others called it “exhausting,”  “ove-torqued,” “monstrous,” “out-of-control” and “frightening.”

Even Republican shill Rick Santorum had to admit, “The President hurt himself tonight.”

THE MODERATOR

Chris Wallace couldn’t handle the one-on-one debate that he was in charge of with Trump that showed a lack of much mutual respect between the two men, held previously. Why did anyone think he would be able to control the notoriously out-of-control Bully-in-Chief?

While wondering why some genius didn’t think to have a button for the moderator to use to cut off either candidate who ran over his supposed 2 minutes of uninterrupted time, who picked Chris Wallace? Was it simply because he is the son of the truly good newsman Mike Wallace? Was it because he is affiliated with Fox News, Trump’s go-to network? Whatever the reason, the choice of someone who seemed to be a bit of a namby-pamby was a bad one.

INTERRUPTIONS

Both men interrupted each other repeatedly, but the true onus of MOST interruptions was clearly weighted in DJT’s favor. Just as his arrogant, obnoxious, self-aggrandizing, pompous proselytizing (“I’m a very stable genius”) is not the kind of behavior that endears the individual to an audience. Trump’s non-stop lying was bad enough, such as his mis-statement of 700,000 manufacturing jobs gained when it is really 270,000 manufacturing jobs LOST on his watch, but the worst thing about the debate is that it showed the nation the Trump that Mary Trump described in her book “Too Much and Never Enough.”

There is criticism enough for the entire nature involving this debacle. Not only did Trump make remarks like, “There’s nothing smart about you, Joe,” but Biden returned fire by calling the President of the United States “Putin’s puppy” and a clown. While both of those remarks are amply supported by evidence, the entire exchange was beneath the dignity of the office and of the ostensible aims of a presidential debate. In fact, analysts on one network said that they wondered if any further debates will be held. (The two are scheduled for 3 presidential debates and 1 VP debate; adjustments are being discussed.)

BIDEN

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

Saying “Everybody knows he’s a liar” and repeating “Here’s the deal” multiple times was not Joe Biden’s finest hour. (“Folks, do you know what this clown is doing?”)

The best part of Biden’s performance was that he looked directly into the camera and delivered remarks as though he were speaking directly to those of us sitting at home. There were no “teleprompters” guiding him and he was more than able to prove that there was “enough gas in the tank.” Both men talked over one another and over the ineffectual moderator to the point that Biden, at one point, said, “Will you shut up, man?” and “Keep yapping, man.”

When the moderator asked a question on Covid-19, Biden had a good line: “It is what it is because you are who you are.” This apparently raised Trump’s ire, as he then threw insults at Biden about his intelligence, his choice of schools, and a barrage of false charges including a remark from Trump that Biden would “kill people all over the place.”

TRUMP

In the midst of the question about the coronavirus that has killed 200,000 American citizens, Trump tried to drag Hunter Biden into the mix, while suggesting that “Our suburbs would be gone” if Biden were to be elected. (Biden’s response:  “He wouldn’t know a suburb unless he took a wrong turn.”) What more can you say about DJT?

He is famous for belittling his opponents and his supporters seem to love it. The lack of decency doesn’t seem to bother the Trump base; I’m sure they think he “won” this shameful display of hubris. Trump spent a lot of time feeling sorry for himself and whining about it (standard) and a fair amount of time making totally discredited and outrageous statements (as with his screed about voting by mail). It was interesting, to me, that Carolyn Maloney’s New York Democratic primary race was brought up by Trump as proving that there was fraud in absentee voting. No less an authority than one of her primary opponents “tweeted” that Trump was totally wrong about that. Another “tweet” came from Rudy Giuiliani’s daughter, who opined that DJT had been horrible and was lying. Fact-checker Daniel Dale called Trump’s remarks: “an avalanche of lying” and said, “Almost everything DJT said was wrong.”

The organization that was laid out beforehand featured questions that were supposed to cover:

  • Trump and Biden’s records in office.
  • The Supreme Court
  • Covid-19
  • The Economy
  • Race and violence in our cities
  • Integrity of the election

 

David Axelrod called the display “Trump’s Greatest Hits” and the talking heads talked about how this sort of chaos cannot become a “normal” part of presidential debates. Wolf Blitzer on CNN called it “an embarrassment for the United States of America” and 4 of 6 voters who claimed to have been undecided prior to the debate, who were hooked up to widgets, said they were now going to vote for former vice president Biden.

 

SUMMING UP

 

I have said, for the past 4 years, that it is impossible to try to teach youngsters to be good kids when we have a Bully-in-Chief in the White House. How do you tell your kids that it is not right to lie, when Donald Trump lies at every turn? How do you tell children it is not morally right to make fun of the handicapped when we have film of Donald J. Trump doing exactly that? How can we convince young people to be kind, not mean, towards others? We already know that Trump did not model good mask-wearing behavior until July 11th (despite knowing about the approaching pandemic 7 months prior). We have heard him talk about “grabbing them by the pussy,” so we know that Trump does not extend respect to women. He admitted as much on an infamous Howard Trump interview.

I thought the final word that came through loud and clear on this night of American theater was that, at the end of the night, only one candidate came across as a normal, regular guy who does care about viewers at home; only one of the two candidates seemed to be an upright citizen who you can trust to try to do the right thing in office.  Calling it “such a low moment in presidential history” was an understatement.

I wonder(ed), when it was all over, whether the next announcement was that there would BE no more debates this election season. I wondered, after the Iowa caucuses, if, come 2024, we’d hear that Iowa was no longer going to enjoy its “first in the nation” caucus designation (stay tuned for developments on that front.)

And so it went from Case Western Reserve Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. Join me on Thursday, October 1st, on the podcast Weekly Wilson on the Bold Brave Media Global Network and Tune-In Radio, a live call-in format, when author Michael Serripica and I (“Conned Conservatives and Led-On Liberals”) discuss the debate live. Call-in number is 866-451-1451.

“New York Times” Reveals Details of Trump’s Tax Records

The New York Times article (which I read) says Trump paid $750 in taxes in 2016 and again in 2017 but no taxes at all in 10 of the last 15 years. “A devastating picture of a president who is counting on the presidency to prop him up.”

That assessment is consistent with the reasons that were given back in 2016 about why DJT finally did what he had often threatened to do and ran for president. He didn’t expect to win, but he felt it would burnish his fading brand.

Keep in mind that Trump has $421 million coming due within 4 years, including a possible $100 million (plus interest) penalty on the refund he got in 2010 for $72.9 million on the $95 million he had paid over 18 years. (Now in dispute with the IRS). It seems that, if you were really and truly wiped out in a bankruptcy, with nothing to show for your former business, you could request a tax refund, BUT, DJT claimed to have lost everything in the financial collapse of his casino when, in reality, he got 5% of the new casino company, which presents a problem for the refund he received.

Trump has always been bailed out by his wealthy father. But Daddy is dead and Trump has not been a good steward of his money, let alone of our country’s money (The national debt has risen by $6.6 trillion on Trump’s watch.)

Very few of the 500 or so companies that make up Trump’s holdings are money-makers. After his good year on “The Apprentice” in 2014, for which he received 50% of the revenue, he bought many properties (something like 12 golf clubs) which was ill-advised. Only Trump Tower of all of his purchases seems to have made money ($20 million a year) and he still has paid none of the principal on the $100 million that is due in 2022. Trump personally guaranteed $300 billion in loans, and they are coming due.

True, there were temporary gains from his run, including an uptick in memberships to Mar A Lago which brought in an extra $5 million a year, but owning country clubs is not a very lucrative proposition and they have consistently lost money for him, including $315 million lost by such courses as Doral in Miami, which he bought in 2012. Trump’s Washington Hotel has also not been doing well, despite the unwritten rule that those paying court to the U.S. President should stay there. It has lost $55 million since opening in 2016.

One of the more troubling bits of information, besides the fact that Trump paid almost no taxes in over 15 years, is the additional information that he paid taxes to other foreign entities, such as the $156,824 he paid on his $3 million in income from the Philippines, or the $145,400 he paid to India on the $2.3 million he made there, or the $15,598 he paid to Panama. He also earned $1 million from Turkey in 2012. At one point, Trump was selling stocks and bonds to raise more money (he only has $873,000 left to sell) and he has always licensed his name ($427.4 to license his name and the image of Trump). The Donald used to like to brag that he “owned the Empire State Building.” He did own the land on which it sat once, but no more.

Then there was the practice of calling Seven Springs in Westchester County (Bedfford, NY) an investment property some of the time and a residence some of the time.

Also troubling: taking a $22 million property tax deduction when a 2017 law says you can only deduct $10,000 a year. Most millionaires in Trump’s neighborhood financially end up paying 24.1% of their wealth to the government, but Trump has always claimed that he has lost so much money that it wiped out his need to pay anything into the treasury. Practices like paying Ivanka “consulting fees” ($747,622) to travel to Hawaii and Vancouver, British Columbia are probably not going to fly with the IRS. Neither will the $1.1 million in “consulting fees” or the $5 million collected from the hotel deal in Azerbaijan.

As historian Douglas Brinkley said, “He’s an outlaw that’s in trouble.”

How quaint to realize that it was Nixon’s only paying $792.81 on his 1970 income of $200,000 that caused it to be considered routine for presidents to release their tax records, something which, until Trump, had occurred with regularity since 1973.

“Infidel,” Starring Jim Cavaziel, Entertains While Subtly Preaching

The film “Infidel,” backed by notoriously conservative producer (and convicted felon) Dinesh D’Souza, opened September 18th with lead Jim Cavaziel portraying Doug Rawlins, the husband of a U.S. state department employee (she deals with trade matters) who is kidnapped in Egypt while on a speaking tour. Doug makes the bad mistake of trying to sell Christianity to the assembled predominantly Muslim crowd.

It falls to Doug’s wife, Liz, to spring into action and travel to the Middle East to try to rescue Doug, much like Angelina Jolie, playing the part of Daniel Pearl’s wife Mariane, tried to rescue her husband Daniel, the kidnapped journalist who was captured in Pakistan and ultimately beheaded.

I attended a lecture by Mariane Pearl, following the events that were portrayed cinematically in that 2007 film. This movie reminded me very much of the 2007 bio-pic, except that Mariane seemed to have a better plan when she set off for what turns out to be Lebanon (and, ultimately, Iran). Liz had interpreters lined up, state department assistance at nearly all points, and didn’t simply wander out of her hotel room and nearly become a captive herself, simply because, as she put it, “I couldn’t stay in my room.”

No, you can’t simply “stay in your room,” but have you lined up any guides or interpreters? Do you have a plan? I think we have all seen how things can go horribly wrong when there is no unified plan for running big enterprises. We have 200,000 dead American citizens because we have no unified national plan. Surely this savvy State Department employee could demonstrate a better plan than is shown in the film.

THE GOOD

First, Jim Cavaziel is a good actor. He has been turning in fine performances in generally good films for a long time. Like the character he portrays in this film, his outspoken uber-Catholicism shot his career in the foot.

After portraying Jesus in 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ” there was at least one instance when Cavaziel refused to play a love scene with his onscreen wife because it violated his Catholic morals. He must have been fairly vocal about it, because it seemed to slow his career down to a snail’s pace. (I would point out that there are other actors who achieve the “no sex scene” rule without being quite as upfront. If you want an example, how about Denzel Washington—who rarely has onscreen nudity in any of his films.)

Cavaziel is probably best known for the television series “Person of Interest” (2011-2016), where he played John Reese for 103 episodes. As mentioned, he also portrayed Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ,” and IMDB says that a second film entitled “The Passion of the Christ: Resurrection” is afoot. [Mel Gibson being the other extremely Catholic Hollywood figure, that sounds plausible.]

Cavaziel was great in 2000’s “Frequency” as the son who makes contact with his long-deceased firefighter father via the radio and, going further back, had a breakthrough role in “The Thin Red Line” in 1998. I saw Cavaziel portraying Jimmy Bierce (the bad guy) in “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” (2017) at SXSW. While that film had beautiful cinematography, the Bill Pullman-starring vehicle was underwhelming in most other respects. (The $8 million-dollar film made less than $8,000 worldwide, while “Infidel” cleared $1,384,296 opening weekend and has grossed roughly what it cost to make, with a $2,674,599 worldwide take as of yesterday).

Others deserving praise for their acting are Claudia Karvan as Liz Rawlins (Cavaziel’s wife onscreen), Hal Ozson who played Ramzi, and Aly Kassem who plays Javid, the man who betrays David Rawlins and is guilty of an Honor Killing.

DIRECTOR

The director of “Infidel,” Cyrus Nowrasteh, both wrote, directed and produced this film, which was shot in Jordan. It opened on 2,400 screens in 1,724 locations, a welcome relief from the drought of original films not being released in the near-empty cinemas open in the United States. “Infidel” was originally intended to open on 9/11. The xenophobia is masked by a thrilling rescue film that portrays Cavaziel as a true believer who isn’t a super-hero and is very lucky to have such an enterprising, well-connected wife.

Nowrasteh is the child of Iranian immigrants who was born in Boulder, Colorado and attended school in Wisconsin, transferring to the University of Southern California to study film. With a cast of 17 and 38 total people, including an outstanding turn by Hal Ozson, portraying Ramzi, Cavaziel’s British interrogator, Nowrasteh has pulled off an entertaining and well-paced film that didn’t make me want to rise to my feet and yell at the woman across the aisle from me, who was applauding after “Obama’s America,” another D’Souza-produced film that was a shameless attack on President Barack Obama. (There have been other D’Souza projects that have been just as one-sided and inflammatory, but Nowrasteh, while certainly critical of the Iranian prison and court system in this one, keeps the focus on the recue attempts, which is good.

Nowrasteh has made one previous film with Cavaziel and, since he is paired with Conservative icon Dinesh D’Souza, seems to have managed to be criticized by liberals and conservatives alike. When Nowrasteh made “The Day Reagan Was Shot”, which starred Richard Dreyfuss as Alexander Haig, liberals criticized him for it and Nowrasteh responded by saying: “’The Day Reagan Was Shot’ provides the first-ever dramatization of a constitutional crisis and government cover-up (both amply supported by facts) and the threat they pose to a nation when a president becomes incapacitated.  This is important and relevant and raises issues that should be discussed openly.”

Nowrasteh was attacked by Liberals for an alleged “conservative bias” in his controversial ABC docudrama The Path to 9/11, which he wrote and co-produced. Nowrasteh describes himself as more libertarian than conservative or liberal.

Nowrasteh’s film “The Stoning of Soraya M.” (2009) was condemned and banned by the Iranian government but thousands of copies were bootlegged into the country and it became an underground hit in Iran, forcing the government to put a temporary moratorium on stoning as a punishment, most notably in the Sakineh Ashtiani case. On this morning’s Fahreed Zakaria program (9/27) the Iranian Ambassador to the U.N. was asked about the recent execution by hanging of  27-year-old Navid Afkari, 27, who was sentenced to death over the murder of a security guard during a wave of anti-government protests in 2018. Afkari said he had been tortured into making a confession.

MUSIC

The music by Natalie Holt is very good. Likewise, the cinematography by Joel Ransom was top-notch.

CAVEAT

It is important to watch this film—produced on a modest budget—and remember that it is hammering home points-of-view that are straight out of the Conservative playbook. Rescuers in the film turn out to be Hezbolleh (where women have a more equal status) but xenophobia reigns in this one.

All that being said, that doesn’t keep the escape portions of the film from being exciting and well-done, nor the acting from transcending the ordinary.

 

  • Production: A Cloudburst Entertainment release, presented in association with D’Souza Media, of a New Path Pictures production. Producer: Cyrus Nowrasteh. Executive producers: Dinesh D’Souza, Debbie D’Souza. Co-producer: Aaron Brubaker.
  • Crew: Director, writer: Cyrus Nowrasteh. Camera: Joel Ransom. Editor: Paul Seydor. Music: Natalie Holt.
  • With: Jim Caviezel, Claudia Karvan, Hal Ozsan, Stelio Savante, Isaelle Adriani, Bijan Daneshmand, Terence Maynard, Aly Kassem.
  • Music By: Natalie Holt

 

FREE Book Give-away Details & October “Weekly Wilson” Programs

The Weekly Wilson program of 9/24 was a pot-pourri of my favorite topics: politics, movies, books and random facts.

I did announce the FREE give-away that will coincide with the debate dates. Consider it your reward for being a good citizen and sitting through the 4 debate nights: 9/29; 10/7; 10/15; 10/22 and 10/23.

What is being given away?

The book BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE, via Amazon, will be totally FREE as an e-book on the debate nights, but only on those 5 days.

 

We are allowed 5 more “free” nights with BEE GONE in e-book format, so we added one additional free night following the final debate. That will be October 23rd, in honor of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

So, the debate nights, again are: September 29, Tuesday (FREE E-BOOK NIGHTS)

October 7, Wednesday (VP debate)

                                                             October 15, Thursday

                                                             October 22, Thursday

                                                             October 23, Friday (RBG Night)

If you have interest in owning a comic-book like award-winning e-book that is a stroll down memory lane regarding the events of 2016, you can order BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE free of charge on those nights. We also put the paperback price down 50% and have reduced the e-book price during this run-up to the election.

UNFIT” DIRECTOR on OCTOBER 15th

On October 15th, I will speak with Dan Partland, director of the Netflix documentary “Unfit” as my guest on Weekly Wilson, the podcast (Thursdays at 7 p.m.).  This was the #1 rental on Netflix this month and I highly recommend it.

DISCUSSIONS WITH MICHAEL SERRAPICA on Weekly Wilson Podcast

Those of you who have listened in to discussions with Michael Serrapica, author of “Conned Conservatives and Led-On Liberals” will be happy to learn that he is probably going to be discussing each of the debates with me, as they occur.

The discussion dates to talk about the debate(s) just past will be:

October 1st, Thursday – Discussion of Debate #1

October 8, Thursday – Discussion of the VP debate

October 15, Thursday – DAN PARTLAND of “Unfit”

October 22, Thursday – Discussion of the 2nd presidential debate of October 15

October 29th, Thursday – Discussion of the final (3rd) presidential debate of October 22nd

Firefly II, 20th Anniversary Prius, Almost Drives A Mile Before Being Rear-ended

Firefly II

It’s Tuesday and I drove to the Toyota dealership to pick up my brand new Toyota Prius.

This wasn’t just ANY Prius. It is a 2021 Twentieth Anniversary Prius, with only 1200 being made, nationwide, with exactly the type of detail, and our dealership (Hiland Toyota) getting only 2 cars: red and white, both with black interiors. I am a Prius devotee and used to take my EICC auto body repair students out to the parking lot to see and test drive my 2002 car, when they were a rarity. The students were then asked to write a 5-sentence paragraph about their impressions of the car. My favorite? “This car is too quiet. I could never pick up chicks in this car.” And then there was the rather large football-player sized student who felt his fingers were too big to work on the engine!

This will make the sixth (6th) Prius I have purchased, beginning in 2002 with the model that looked like a Ford Focus (not a hatchback, in other words) and retailed for $20,050 with a $500 rebate from the government for giving the brand new hybrid technology a try. My husband was                  somewhat skeptical of the claims for the car, but I had been driving a Cadillac, one of 4 in a row, and gas was very expensive at that point in time.

So, I bought the Water Bug (name of the first car) and it served well and honorably, until my daughter-in-law was hit by a BMW. In 2004, I moved up to purchase one of the new hatchback models, because, since I wrote books, it would be a great Bookmobile, which the Firefly was. (As you can tell from the name, it was red—salsa red). I loved this car and I would not have traded, except that the son and wife needed a second vehicle and I really wanted to try out the hatchback, which I loved then and loved now for its convenience and utility.

Then, my daughter graduated from high school and needed a car in Nashville, Tennessee, where she attended Belmont University.

I gave my daughter the 2004 Firefly and moved up to a 2008 Grasshopper (Sea Foam Green). I really liked the lay-out on the green 2008 Prius, as I could put my purse on the center console, rather than on the floor of the passenger side.

In 2013, I moved up to a blue Prius (the Blue Bird), selling the Grasshopper (which is still in the family) to my son and family, as the Water Bug had been felled by the BMW in a small fender bender. When my son went to get his I-Pass off the viser, just for fun, he tried to see if the car would still start up and the motor turned right over. Only the chassis had been crushed beyond repair. (Good bye, Water Bug.)

When we began spending winter time in Texas, we bought yet another used Prius, and it was (also) a 2008, which I have dubbed the Silver Fish. It sits in our garage in Texas half the year.

But, today, with the daughter’s 2004 Firefly beginning to have some issues and with the hope of cheering myself up during a pandemic and with the hope that the used Firefly can be sold by the daughter and help support her as she and the entire airline industry (she flies for SW) try to return to solvency, I went to pick up my Brand New Supersonic Red Prius, Firefly II. It has more bells and whistles than I can list here and I really like it.

We made it to the VERY FIRST stoplight that turns up Kennedy Drive from the Toyota dealership. My new car had only 3 miles on the speedometer, most of those from driving it on the grounds of the dealership. We literally had probably not driven 100 yards to this stop light and had been stopped at it for about a minute when a car with Texas license plates and a driver with NO insurance ran into the back of my BRAND NEW CAR.

Yes, we called the police.

What are the odds, Folks? Just what are the odds.

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Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” Hits Theaters

Director Christopher Nolan started tinkering around with the concept of time many years ago on a much smaller budget with 2000’s “Memento.” I liked it so much that, on a visit to the Twin Cities, I took a girlfriend and her husband to see it, my second time. It was unique, original, interesting, exciting and it didn’t run 150 minutes. It was even nominated for Best Original Screenplay at that year’s Oscars.

We’ve now been treated to “Memento’s” successors from Christopher Nolan: “Insomnia (2002); “The Dark Knight Trilogy” (2005-2012); “The Prestige” (2006); “Inception” (2010 (8 Oscar nods); “Interstellar” (2014); and Dunkirk (2017) (nominated for Best Picture and Best Director). No less an authority than Martin Scorsese said, “Christopher Nolan creates beautifully made films on a big scale.”

Nowhere is that scale more evident than in “Tenet,” which was budgeted at $205 million. It filmed in Estonia, Italy, the UK, Denmark, India, Norway, and cities such as Kiev, Mumbai, Washington, London, and Oslo.

The battle action scenes recall “Dunkirk.” The espionage plot summons memories of “Inception.” A whole lot of people talking through masks echoes “Bane” in The Dark Knight Rises.” (We learn that the reason so many people are wearing masks is that, if you go back through time, you have to take your own air and try not to come into contact with your former self.)

Oddly enough, I actually wrote an entire novel for Lachesis Press (Nova Scotia) where the hero travels back through time (“Out of Time”). The original plot premise was not mine, but a collaborator’s, who then disappeared, writing only one page of the entire two hundred and fifty and giving a whole new meaning to the term “collaboration.”

Time travel as a theme presented many unique difficulties (which I was on my own to figure out). Considering that I dropped out of Physics in high school after Day One, imagine how thrilled I was to read about wormholes and other arcane concepts. Even though I was a fan of television’s “Fringe” when it was on the air, love the works of Philip K. Dick, and have watched numerous films where characters travel through time (“Time After Time,” “Déjà Vu,” “Looper,” “Somewhere in Time,” “12 Monkeys,” et. al.). I remember asking that very question of my instructor in a screenwriting class dedicated to turning my novel into a film script.

“Can a person from the future confront himself in the past?” I asked.

My professor said, “Nobody has ever traveled through time, so do whatever you want.”

Wise words.

My hero (Dante) did confront and speak to himself in the past, and I will reveal one tiny spoiler by telling you that John David Washington confronts himself in a fight scene, because I know that revelation will not ruin the scene for you.

Playing around with time is not a new concept for Nolan.  “Memento,” his break-through film, did just that. However, it was far easier to understand what was going on in “Memento” than it is in “Tenet.”

My notes include this phrase: “Color me confused.”

One critic, in a waggish moment, commented on John David Washington’s facial hair by saying that it probably grew there while he was waiting for Nolan to explain the plot to him. The script line I wrote down indicated that the plot has to do with trying to prevent WW III by using a type of inverse radiation manufactured by fusion. (If that confuses you, join the club.) Another film critic, Mark Keronode, said of Nolan that he is “living proof that you don’t have to appeal to the lowest common denominator to be profitable.”

This, as it turns out, is predictive, as the film has already managed to eke out two and one-half million more dollars than it cost. But it is not the entertaining, original film that garnered Best Original Screenplay Oscar nominations for Nolan. World-wide, the film has made back its considerable investment. It had the potential to be a studio-bankrupting movie like “Heaven’s Gate,” but it is garnering appreciation for the scope of the project, at least, and is currently about breaking even, with a worldwide take of $207,500,000.

I’m not going to explain the opening scene, set in the Kiev Opera House, because to do so would be a spoiler, but suffice it to say that it sets up the first of many magnificent settings. I kept thinking of the tour of locations used in “Game of Thrones.” I wish there was such a tour of the various sets used in “Tenet.”

Others have said the non-stop action, coupled with the gobbledy-gook explanation(s), reminded them of a James Bond movie. To them, I say, “Fair enough.”  But with Bond you often got memorable musical themes like “Goldfinger’ or “Live and Let Die.” Here we are saddled with a pounding often-overly-loud and not-very-melodic score by Ludwig Goransson. [The composer’s name says it all.]

The cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema is gorgeous and the film does confirm that, as “Variety” said, Nolan is “the premier big-canvas storyteller of his generation.” “Tenet” also confirms Michael Mann’s verdict on Nolan as “a complete auteur” but the overly complicated explanations just bore the bejesus out of the audience.

So, everything is going backwards in this film. We’re going to learn about the Grandfather Paradox (don’t ask) and reversing time and hear lines of dialogue like, “Each generation looks after its own survival,” and “You have a future in the past.” There will be discussions about the meaning that will rival the interpretations of the meaning(s) of the ending of “12 Monkeys” (1995), a Bruce Willis time travel opus.

John David Washington is dubbed “the protagonist” in this one. He gets no actual character name. This bit was just used in another Bruce Willis film (“Hard Kill”) where my podcast guest of last week, Sergio Rizzuto (aka, the bad guy) was simply referred to as “the Pardoner,” but at least in that film the explanation involved ripping off The Canterbury Tales. Here, it is just the way it is, without any explanation.

John David Washington (son of Denzel; star of “BlackKlansman”) partners with  Robert Pattinson (“Twilight”) as Neal, his partner, in this one. The female co-star is a blonde 6’ 2” actress named Elisabeth Debicki. Since Washington only stands 5’ 9” and the female lead is three inches taller and wears three inch heels most of the time, she appears freakishly tall in many scenes. I have a theory that she was cast in the part because she was one of the few actresses tall enough to be able to extend her leg from the back seat of a car and unlock the door lock with her toes without moving from the back seat. This could be wrong, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Debicki’s character “Kat” is married to international arms dealer and all-around bad guy Richard Branagh as Andrei Sator. She tries to kill him twice. As they say, no love lost here.  Kat loathes her abusive husband, but they have a son (Max) and she is being blackmailed into staying with Andrei via threats that she will lose her son if she doesn’t do exactly what he says. On a very basic level, “Tenet” is about the extremes of absolute power.

Debicki displays very little warmth in the exchanges with her small son, and his part is so small that he doesn’t even rate a line. There is also no chemistry or love story between the Amazonian Kat and Washington, so the obligatory “I must go back through time to rescue Kat” struck me as a not-very-convincing old trope. For that matter, so was the “small weapon that can inexplicably end the world somehow” a concept used before.

I had just reviewed a Bruce Willis shot-in-Cincinnati movie (“Hard Kill”) in which there is a mysterious weapon that could end the world as we know it; the weapon was about the size of a pack of cigarettes. I complained then that how it worked was never clear and commented on its size. This film features another small weapon and the need to gather all the digits of an algorithm to activate whatever it does, which is never quite clear, although it is explained to us over and over and over.

“Tenet” spends roughly two hours of its 150-minute run time explaining what is happening, why it is happening, and what might happen next.

So much for “Show, don’t tell.”

Despite those lengthy explanations, the movie is still incredibly difficult to follow. Scene after scene of Washington, Pattinson, Branagh, and Debicki trying to convey the plot becomes exhausting.

It’s “Tenet’s” biggest failing and, while its cinematography, sets, most of its actig and its non-stop action are impressive (especially the highway chase scenes that run backwards), it comes off as an overlong exhausting effort.

Reprint of Some Relevant Information

Trump has a long history of racist controversies

Here’s a breakdown of Trump’s history, taken largely from Dara Lind’s list for Vox and an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times:

  • 1973: The US Department of Justice — under the Nixon administration, out of all administrations — sued the Trump Management Corporation for violating the Fair Housing Act. Federal officials found evidence that Trump had refused to rent to Black tenants and lied to Black applicants about whether apartments were available, among other accusations. Trump said the federal government was trying to get him to rent to welfare recipients. In the aftermath, he signed an agreement in 1975 agreeing not to discriminate to renters of color without admitting to discriminating before.
  • 1980s: Kip Brown, a former employee at Trump’s Castle, accused another one of Trump’s businesses of discrimination. “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor,” Brown said. “It was the eighties, I was a teenager, but I remember it: They put us all in the back.”
  • 1988: In a commencement speech at Lehigh University, Trump spent much of his speech accusing countries like Japan of “stripping the United States of economic dignity.” This matches much of his current rhetoric on China.
  • 1989: In a controversial case that’s been characterized as a modern-day lynching, four Black teenagers and one Latino teenager — the “Central Park Five” — were accused of attacking and raping a jogger in New York City. Trump immediately took charge in the case, running an ad in local papers demanding, “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” The teens’ convictions were later vacated after they spent seven to 13 years in prison, and the city paid $41 million in a settlement to the teens. But Trump in October 2016 said he still believes they’re guilty, despite the DNA evidence to the contrary.
  • 1991: A book by John O’Donnell, former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, quoted Trump’s criticism of a Black accountant: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.” Trump later said in a 1997 Playboy interview that “the stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”
  • 1992: The Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino had to pay a $200,000 fine because it transferred Black and women dealers off tables to accommodate a big-time gambler’s prejudices.
  • 1993: In congressional testimony, Trump said that some Native American reservations operating casinos shouldn’t be allowed because “they don’t look like Indians to me.”
  • 2000: In opposition to a casino proposed by the St. Regis Mohawk tribe, which he saw as a financial threat to his casinos in Atlantic City, Trump secretly ran a series of ads suggesting the tribe had a “record of criminal activity [that] is well documented.”
  • 2004: In season two of The Apprentice, Trump fired Kevin Allen, a Black contestant, for being overeducated. “You’re an unbelievably talented guy in terms of education, and you haven’t done anything,” Trump said on the show. “At some point you have to say, ‘That’s enough.’”
  • 2005: Trump publicly pitched what was essentially The Apprentice: White People vs. Black People. He said he “wasn’t particularly happy” with the most recent season of his show, so he was considering “an idea that is fairly controversial — creating a team of successful African Americans versus a team of successful whites. Whether people like that idea or not, it is somewhat reflective of our very vicious world.”
  • 2010: In 2010, there was a huge national controversy over the “Ground Zero Mosque” — a proposal to build a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan, near the site of the 9/11 attacks. Trump opposed the project, calling it “insensitive,” and offered to buy out one of the investors in the project. On The Late Show With David Letterman, Trump argued, referring to Muslims, “Well, somebody’s blowing us up. Somebody’s blowing up buildings, and somebody’s doing lots of bad stuff.”
  • 2011: Trump played a big role in pushing false rumors that Obama — the country’s first Black president — was not born in the US. He even sent investigators to Hawaii to look into Obama’s birth certificate. Obama later released his birth certificate, calling Trump a ”carnival barker.” (The research has found a strong correlation between “birtherism,” as this conspiracy theory is called, and racism.) Trump has reportedly continued pushing this conspiracy theory in private.
  • 2011: While Trump suggested that Obama wasn’t born in the US, he also argued that maybe Obama wasn’t a good enough student to have gotten into Columbia or Harvard Law School, and demanded Obama release his university transcripts. Trump claimed, “I heard he was a terrible student. Terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?”

 

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