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!

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“The Bikeriders” At Theaters On June 21, 2024

“The Bikeriders” screened as the closing film of the 59th Chicago International Film Festival on October 22, 2024, at the Music Box Theater with a presentation of the Artistic Career Achievement Award to Writer/Director Jeff Nichols. The film was inspired by the 1967 iconic photographs and tape recordings of photographer Danny Lyon. Writer/Director Nichols gave great praise and credit to Lyon, saying, “He really was supportive, but without being prescriptive.”

PLOT

Cast of "The Bikeriders"

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 17: (L-R) Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, writer/director Jeff Nichols and Norman Reedus at the Los Angeles Premiere of Focus Features’ “The Bikeriders” at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 17, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Focus Features)

“The Bikeriders” recounts the evolution of a Midwestern motorcycle club, called the Vandals in the film. (The Outlaws, originally). The photos drove the film. The interior of one bar was actually reconstructed from Danny Lyon’s photo.

The cast is top-notch, featuring Austin Butler, Oscar-nominated for “Elvis” as Benny and Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve,” “The Last Duel”) as Kathy. Tom Hardy (“Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Revenant”) is Johnny, the leader of the motorcycle club, which originally existed for the members to race their choppers.

Jeff Nichols

Jeff Nichols at the screening of “The Bikeriders” on October 22, 2023 in Chicago. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

As Nichols (“Take Shelter,” 2011; “Mud,” 2012; “Loving,” 2016) told Jack Giroux 5 years ago, “And what I’m talking about making a movie about is its transition from this golden age of where it was less criminal and it was more just a place for outsiders to gather, but then how that kind of morphed and turned into somewhat more of a criminal organization.” He described the film as “A complete portrait of a subculture; maybe none of these guys needed to feel like outsiders, but they did.”

The cast is stellar, also featuring Michael Shannon—a close friend of Director Nichols who has made five films  with him—Bas Zipco. The breakout star of the “West Side Story” remake Mike Faist appeared as the photographer Danny Lyon.  Of Faist, Nichols said, “We were lucky to have him. I think he’s gonna’ have a great career.” Norman Reedus, from “The Walking Dead,” portrays Funny Sonny, and Boyd Holbrook (“Logan”) is Cal.

BACKGROUND

Nichols shared that the projectionist at the Music Box Theater in Chicago where the film screened was Danny Lyon’s daughter Rebecca. He also told the audience that he had only  learned last week that the characters Benny and Kathy, in real life, had a son who was present for this screening.

Jodie Comer and Austin Butler

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 17: Jodie Comer (L) and Austin Butler at the Los Angeles Premiere of Focus Features’ “The Bikeriders” at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 17, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Focus Features)

Jodie Comer’s character of Kathy is the central character telling the story of the rise and fall of the motorcycle group from 1965 to 1973. Saying “I used to be respectable” she details how the club went from a place where motorcycle enthusiasts could get together and talk about their choppers to something more sinister.

Comer has been mentioned for a potential Oscar nod; the struggle between Kathy and Johnny for Benny’s allegiance is a central conflict in the film. Describing some of the crazy things that Austin Butler’s character of Benny does, she says, “It can’t be love. It must just be stupidity.” Describing her time riding with Benny, she says of the Vandals, “The whole point of these guys is they can’t follow the rules, but as soon as they formed, they started making up rules.”

Jeff Nichols

Jeff Nichols in Chicago at the closing night of the 59th Chicago International Film Festival on October 22, 2023. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Jeff Nichols has a way of exploring the inner rage of a character, as with Michael Shannon’s star turn in “Take Shelter.”  (Shannon told me in 2017, when I asked him on the Red Carpet for “The Shape of Water,” that “Take Shelter” was his favorite role.) In the case of Austin Butler’s character, Benny, we are told “That kid’s f**ing crazy.”

He is also extremely handsome (Nichols says even more so, in person) and comes across as iconic in the book. Nichols said, “I didn’t know Austin Butler even existed when I wrote this. ‘Elvis’ hadn’t come out yet. There is calculus beyond me just thinking he’s pretty.” (laughter from the crowd). Nichols secured Norman Reedus (“The Walking Dead”) after meeting him while serving on a jury at Cannes and is friends with Tom Hardy’s manager, Jack Whigham, who is the younger brother of actor Shea Whigham (“Take Shelter,” “Waco,” “Boardwalk Empire”).

At the beginning of the evening, commenting on his nervousness, he remarked, “I know this is Mike’s town,” referencing his close friendship with Chicago native Michael Shannon (to audience approval.)

MICHAEL SHANNON

Michael Shannon

Michael Shannon on October 13, 2023 at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival.

 

Shannon, who heard Nichols talk about making a movie from “The Bikeriders” for years, once said, “You’ve been talking about that damn idea for so long. You’re never gonna make that s***.”

Nichols acknowledged that he had, indeed, been trying to make this film for a long time and described it as his “most ambitious” project. Five years ago he told interviewer Jack Giroux (Oct. 19, 2018), “There are just a lot of things that intimidate me about it, but I truly hope one day I’ll get my s*** together and do it.”

VERDICT

Well, he has, and “The Bikeriders” is very good. References to 1953’s Marlon Brando picture “The Wild One” to 1969’s “Easy Rider” to television’s “Sons of Anarchy” aside, this is an-depth look at the characters in a Midwestern motorcycle club. It is a 116-minute study of the outsiders who started the club.

Although Chicago is prominently featured, the actual shoot took place in Cincinnati, Ohio, in October of 2022, completing filming in December of 2022. It premiered at the 50th Telluride Film Festival on August 23rd.

It’s a totally compelling character study from Jeff Nichols, who has given us such great films as “Take Shelter,” “Mud,” “Loving,” and “Midnight Special.” A great addition to the motorcycle films that have gone before,  fictionalized somewhat, but founded on real-life research, which makes it even more relevant and enjoyable.

Cher at "The Bikeriders" premiere

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 17: Cher at the Los Angeles Premiere of Focus Features’ “The Bikeriders” at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 17, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Focus Features)

The Bikeriders Poster

The Bikeriders

Jodie Comer

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 17: Jodie Comer at the Los Angeles Premiere of Focus Features’ “The Bikeriders” at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 17, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Focus Features)

Austin Butler

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 17: Austin Butler at the Los Angeles Premiere of Focus Features’ “The Bikeriders” at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 17, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Focus Features)

Gold Coast Art Show, 2024, Is A Hot One!

Mark Ferguson & Connie Wilson

Mark Ferguson of Asymmetrical Jewelry and me, at the Gold Coast Art Show on Sunday, June 16, 2024.

Today was Sunday, June 16, 2024,  the last day of the 2024 Gold Coast Art Fair in Chicago. I only learned that it was going on this weekend when we drove by Grant Park on our way to see Seth Meyer’s stand-up show at the Vic. I immediately began saying I wanted to go. The Gold Coast Art Show is always wonderful—for me. For my spouse? Not so much. He isn’t really in to strolling past  250 booths and debating the merits of various purchases I  make. Plus, he thought the Cubs were playing (although it turned out that, for mysterious reasons) the Cubs were playing the Cardinals only on Roku. (W-H-A-A-T?)

My husband urged me to go “early.” As anyone who knows me knows, “early” for me is any time before noon. However, I promised to be readying myself no later than the time I get up to play Hand-and-Foot Canasta in Austin, Texas. That is 9 a.m., so I was up “early” and getting ready to walk to the park. I was very tired, because I am a Night Owl of the First Magnitude and being able to fall asleep earlier than 2 a.m. is often difficult. Keep in mind that I write, and—[in my defense]—I write at night. So, promising to get “up and at ’em” by 10-ish was early, for me. It would not have been my first choice of times to attend. But, aware that we faced a 3 and 1/2 hour drive home to the Illinois Quad Cities, I agreed that I would attempt to hit Grant Park at 10-ish.

 

66th Gold Coast Art Show in Chicago, June 16, 2024

My impatient husband offered to drive me down to the Park, which was very nice of him. In years of yore I routinely walked to the Art Institute and back, but that was before one full year of cancer treatment, which blew out my left knee and put me in a wheelchair or hobbling with a cane from September of 2022 until March of 2023. (Thanks to the Oak Brook Joint Pain Clinic for the 32 m. of anti-inflammatory injections and 6 ml of Durolane, which helped restore me…sort of.)

Asymmetrical Jewelry necklace

Another of Mark’s Asymmetrical pieces. ([email protected]).

The adjuvant therapy pills (specifically, Anastrozole) have not been “berry, berry good” to me. Let’s not forget that—thanks to Mom and heredity,— I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes in 2017 and have to doctor for that, too. Minor ailments (fibromyalgia, asthma, osteoarthritis) I shall set aside for the moment. Either of the major ailments would make me vulnerable to extreme heat, And I honestly think that the excessive heat was primarily responsible for chatting with Mark about how he and his hosts went to the Red-Headed Piano Bar and a blues club the preceding night. At one point, in our car on the long drive home, the thermometer said 97 degrees. Yikes!

I remember in high school, when I (unwisely) I played intramural basketball (I’m so old that the game was 6 on 6) and—right before I would become so fatigued that I’d pass out—I’d turn beet red, except for the area right next to my nose, which would be stark white. Below is a picture taken less than 24 hours earlier, at the Seth Meyer show at the Vic Theater, for contrast. I do not appear to be beet red and disheveled in that one, do I?

AT SETH MEYERS on JUNE 14, 2024

Connie Wilson with BEE GONE book at the June 14th Seth Meyer stand-up show

Waiting at the Vic Theater in Chicago to give Seth Meyer a copy of BEE GONE after his June 14, 2024 show.

I direct your attention to the picture atop this page. Who knows what was going on with my blood sugar? I didn’t take the time to eat anything prior to being delivered to Jackson intersection (a fairly long way from the entrance. I should have gotten off at Madison). You can compare the picture from Friday night when I look fairly happy and healthy with the sweaty, overheated shopper who, after about 30 booths, became dizzy as hell and nearly passed out. Okay. Maybe I DID pass out (briefly), but I was seated at the time. I believe that Mark is too kind and honest to make up the nodding off that he says occurred right after I commandeered his chair for my own purposes. (Ahem).

I had purchased many items by that point, and I was aware that the temperature was REALLY REALLY HOT. I attempted to buy something cold at a small booth nearby that had a bunch of beverages for sale in cans, but the beverages all were warm and had alcohol in them, which is pretty much verboten. Plus, the only one I would have liked (Sangria) was warm. Warm sangria in a can for $10 did not sound appealing. So, yes, I was not very well hydrated, I was tired, and BOY, was I HOT!

GOLD COAST PURCHASES

My kind husband and I sought Madison futilely on our way down, because I had read online that it was the entrance. Of course, I had also read online that admission was $5, which may have been true if you bought tickets in advance. That left me out. Admission was $15. At least I managed to find an entrance from the Jackson intersection and I proceeded to quickly determine that (a) there were a lot of paintings (b) many of them cost $1,800 and up and (c) Boy! It was hot in the sun! (I haven’t felt that hot since I tried to bicycle to Willow Springs on a similarly hot day many moons ago and collapsed in someone’s front yard. Those people weren’t nearly as kind to me as Mark. As I recall, the lady of the house yelled, “Don’t go near her. You don’t know where she’s been!” The husband had to come and pick up me and my bicycle and ferry us home. (Is there a pattern here?))

Necklace from Asymmetrical Jewelry

Necklace from Asymmetrical. ([email protected])

By the time I had bought several pairs of earrings for various birthdays and my own use, I began to feel dizzy.

I was only about 1/3 or 1/4 of the way through my planned circuit of all 200+ booths, but I honestly thought I might pass out. I had just found a booth operated by a lovely British gentleman, Mark Ferguson of Manchester, England, who can be contacted at [email protected]. I saw that Mark had an empty chair (for himself, of course) behind the counter of his booth. Since I felt as though I might collapse at any moment, I asked if I could temporarily occupy Mark’s chair.

HEAT HITS HOME!

He was so great about my near collapse at his booth!  THANK YOU, MARK! Not only did he get me some water (and a fan, which he borrowed!) he swears that I passed out as soon as I sat down in HIS chair. This may be true. I would not know, as I was (apparently) unconscious. Just what every jeweler hopes for: a customer who stops by, takes their chair, and then passes out in it!

Now came the security person, wanting to know if I wanted to be taken to a hospital.

Uhhhhh…that would be a resounding NO,

Mark Ferguson of Suzanne & Mark Ferguson Asymmetrical Jewelry

Mark Ferguson (of Suzanne & Mark Ferguson Asymmetrical Jewelry) at his booth on Sunday, June 16, 2024.

But I did think that calling my husband (of 56 years) might be a good idea and, between Mark and a very nice lady who gave my husband directions about how to find Madison entrance (which we never did find initially) I was spared the necessity of walking a couple of football fields back to the Jackson intersection that we had originally agreed I would phone him from for pick-up.

MANY THANKS to Mark Ferguson (and Suzanne) of Manchester, England. If you see some things that speak to you in these photos, you can probably contact them at [email protected]. I had already bought three pair of earrings before unceremoniously commandeering Mark’s chair,  so I can attest that his “asymmetrical” idea of not having to “pair” earrings is a godsend. My daughter will be the beneficiary of the earrings that I got before I collapsed and left poor Mark to deal with me. He even escorted me to my spouse’s car. (Husband Craig did find the Madison entrance after the nice lady told him how to get there.)

I haven’t been so embarrassed since I missed a step at the Chicago International Film Festival, fell, and hit my head (and my bad knee). That didn’t lead to the hospital, either, but it did cause me to go have X-rays of the bum left knee when I made it back to the Quad Cities. That knee is going to be bad for the rest of time, I fear.

Here are some additional photos of Mark and Suzanne’s reasonably-priced and creative jewelry items, including some Cubs earrings (I bought 2 pair) and others. Not sure what the delivery options are, but, if you see something you can’t live without, the Fergusons have relatives in the Chicago area and perhaps you can contact them at [email protected] and make arrangements for mail delivery.

Earrings from Asymmetrical Jewelry

Asymmetrical Jewelry ([email protected])

Thanks, again, Mark!

Seth Meyer, Ribfest and the Gold Coast Art Show in Chicago (June 14-16, 2024)

lead singer of Hello Weekend

Hello Weekend at Ribfest on June 15, 2024.

hello weekend chicago highlights youtube

The cover band “Hello Weekend” consists of six members:  Christina Bagby and Connie Baltzell on vocals, Chris Brown on guitar, Scott Steele on bass, Ivan Dunki on drums and Bob the Bunny (who did not seem to be evident this night at Chicago’s Ribfest.) This line-up list was from a September 17, 2014 in The Daily Egyptian that serves Southern Illinois University, so the line-up may well be different 10 years later. (I definitely did not see someone who fit the description Bob the Bunny wearing a mask.)

There was a lot of discussion about the sexual identity of the lead singer. I maintain that the lead singer is female, but, at the point when the singer took off the long blonde wig to reveal a bald head, the discussion increased, with votes pro and con. Whoever sang lead, he/she was very good and very powerful. The Lady Gaga material seemed to be his/her favorite, which gave my companion some evidence for his point of view that the lead singer was simply a cross-dresser. Regardless of Christina’s true gender, she was one hell of a singer and we enjoyed the Chicago performance at RibFest, which followed a performance by an Irish folk band earlier at a different stage.

folk band performing at Chicago's Ribfest on June 15, 2024

Irish folk band also performing at Ribfest on a different stage on June 15, 2024.

The weekend began with the Seth Meyer performance at the Vic on Friday night, which was going to be filmed for a network special the next night. Much of the material had to do with Meyer’s three children, ages 8, 6 and 2. His description of his two-year-old daughter meeting President Biden was very funny and all of his material was fresh and fun. His lead-in was a comedian from Dubuque, Iowa, who likened his appearance as the lead-in to being the lead-in act for Pearl Jam when he would attend their concerts in his youth. He told a truthful story about his time as a ticket seller at a movie theater in Dubuque (which no longer exists). It seems that his entrepreneurial spirit caused him to charge ticket-goers for adult prices while ringing them in as children and pocketing the difference in the ticket prices. This ultimately led to corporate stepping in and closing the theater, firing all the employees, including Brooks, the comedian.

Tomorrow will be the Gold Coast Art Show within walking distance in Grant Park.

lead singer of Hello Weekend in Chicago

Lead singer of Hello Weekend at Ribfest on June 15, 2024.

Ribfest, June 15, 2024

Ribfest in Chicago on June 15, 2024

Connie Wilson at the Vic Theater in Chicago following Seth Meyer's comedy performance.

Waiting at the Vic Theater in Chicago to give Seth Meyer a copy of BEE GONE after his June 14, 2024 show.

Scott Steele, bass guitarist for Hello Weekend

Scott Steele, bass guitar for Hello Weekend, at Ribfest.

Chicago in June: “Six” and Georgia O’Keeffe

"Six" the musical

“Six,” the musical, in Chicago

Chicago beckoned and, more specifically, the musical “Six” and the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.

I thoroughly enjoyed “Six,” the musical, which filled me in on the six wives of Henry VIII. I’m going to have to look up more about these six women, but the cheeky presentation with fantastic costumes, great songs and wonderful singing was all I had hoped it would be. One of my favorite exchanges came when one wife says, “What is more painful than a broken heart?” And Anne Boleyn sidles up to her and answers, “A severed head.” Two of Henry’s ex-es were de-capitated, as you may remember, but this Cliff’s Notes version of history focuses more on clever singing, costuming and dancing and less on a prose historical recitation of Henry’s marital woes. Since pictures within the auditorium (the Nederlander, formerly the Oriental Theater) are strictly forbidden, the picture of the playbook cover and the crowd outside will have to suffice.

After the play—which ended up costing me dearly, especially for parking at $67.50 for 24 hours, when I only needed 2 hours—I walked across the street to Macy’s and enjoyed their chicken pot pie in the Walnut Room while doing a bit of shopping.

Chicago

Chicago

Chicago

"Six" crowd before the play

Outside the Nederlander Theater before the matinee showing of “Six” on June 5, 2024.

The next trip was on foot to the Art Institute of Chicago, which I have been a member of since about 2003. Thursday afternoons are free after 5 p.m., but I needed to re-up my membership, anyway, and strolled through the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit.

I have to admit that all I knew about Georgia O’Keeffe was that she was a female artist associated with painting close-up pictures of flowers and the American Southwest. I knew  little about her other than that, so I sat at a table and read a children’s book about her life, which began in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, on November 15, 1887. O’Keefe is considered the “Mother of American Modernism” and died on March 6, 1986 at the age of 98.

One fact that was not in the small children’s book was that her painting Jimson Weed/White Flower #1 was purchased for $44,405,000 in 1932. This was a record amount for a painting by a female American painter. Someone really liked her close-up pictures of flowers. Those close-ups of flowers created controversy when Okeeffe’s husband (Alfred Stieglitz), who was a world class photographer, published some racy photos of O’Keeffe, thereby fueling the suggestion that the floral pictures she painted actually represented female genitalia (she denied this.)

A salient fact in exhibiting O’Keeffe’s work in Chicago is that, after graduating from high school in Madison, Wisconsin, with time also spent in Williamsburg, Virginia where her family had moved in 1902, she studied in Chicago at the School of the Art Institute until 1920. (Georgia was the second of 7 children and had 3 sisters—Ida, Anita and Claudia— and 3 brothers.)

Georgia O'Keeffe painting of NYC

George O’Keeffe painting of NYC skyscrapers

Georgia’s career got off to a faster start when Alfred Stieglitz, who owned an art gallery, decided to champion her work and put on an exhibit of her work. That exhibit took place in 1917, although the children’s biography I was reading suggested that they did not, initially, hit it off personally. By 1924 that had changed, as Alfred, who was married, dumped his wife to marry Georgia on December 11th of 1924. They would live on the 30th floor of a hotel in New York City and Georgia would paint many pictures of the East River that was visible from their apartment and, also, would put her impressions of the New York City skyscraper environment on canvas.

However, in 1929 she began spending time in New Mexico, going back and forth to New York City, while Alfred took up with a younger model. He was old at the time and the couple did not divorce, with Alfred dying in 1946. Alfred was deeply jealous of Georgia during their marriage; his own field was photography, which he felt should be just as important in the art world as painting. Although the couple stuck it out and did not divorce, Alfred is often described as “abusive.”

Georgia O'Keeffe SW painting

Georgia O’Keeffe Southwest painting

Following Alfred’s death Georgia moved to New Mexico permanently in 1949, staying there for 40 years and spending time at what was called Ghost Ranch in Abiquia. She ended up, ultimately, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her most famous works, therefore, center on the American Southwest but this exhibit contains many pictures of New York and New York City, a sub-set of her output.

Georgia and Alfred did not divorce and she did stay with him till the end of his life, but, like so many other widows, she lived to the ripe old age of 98, having been widowed at age 59. So, for 39 years Georgia was making art that you can see on exhibit now at the Chicago Art Institute.

 

“Georgia O’Keeffe: ‘My New Yorks’” — the subtitle borrowing a phrase the artist coined for these urban works — offers the first major look at this subset of her abundant output. It opens June 2 and runs through Sept. 22nd.

Georgia O'Keeffe skull painting

Georgia O’Keeffe skull painting

Spectators at the Chicago Art Institute.

Spectators at the Chicago Art Institute on June 6, 2024.

Spectators at the Chicago Art Institute on June 6, 2024.

Spectators at the Chicago Art Institute Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit on June 6, 2024.

Georgia O'Keeffe painting at the Chicago Art Institute on June 6, 2024.

Georgia O’Keeffe painting at the Chicago Art Institute on June 6, 2024.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Georgia O'Keeffe painting of the East River from the 30th floor of her New York City apartment.

Georgia O’Keeffe painting of the East River from the 30th floor of her New York City apartment.

 

 

 

 

This painting represents the view of New York City’s East River from the 30th floor of the hotel where Georgia and Alfred Stieglitz lived.

 

 

 

 

FAMOUS GEORGIA O’KEEFFE QUOTES:

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life—and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” “To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.” “You get whatever accomplishment you are willing to declare.”

“Interest is the most important thing in life; happiness is temporary, but interest is continuous.” •

“To create one’s own world, in any of the arts, takes courage.” • “Singing has always seemed to me the most perfect means of expression. It is so spontaneous. And after singing, I think the violin.”

Four Days on the Road to the Land of Lincoln

Dallas

Driving through Dallas.

DAY ONE: Our annual trek to and from (in this case, from) Austin, Texas is over.

We stayed in town for the Premiere of “Hit Man” at the Paramount in Austin (see previous article below) and I have included a pictorial representation of the journey.

First up: Dallas skyscapes. You will note that there is what appears to be precipitation on the highway. This is because we drove through a 400-mile wide derecho, which was NOT fun. It was so bad that we saw one truck which had crashed into the retaining wall without being forced there by another vehicle. By the time we passed that point on our 4-day journey the driver was gone—probably to a hospital, judging from the looks of his vehicle, which was facing the wrong way and had a smashed-in driver’s side.

Dallas during the derecho.

Driving through a derecho, near Dallas.

The weather was so bad by the time we reached Waco—which isn’t that far away from Austin—that we needed to get off the road and try to wait it out. We stopped at a Denny’s, only to be told that they had been struck by lightning and were unable to cook anything. They were running on a generator and the owner of this Denny’s, who was far away in Houston, had instructed them to close down for the day soon, as the generator would only work to keep their foodstuffs good for that amount of time.

I asked, “Can you at least give us a Diet Coke?” The waitress acknowledged that they could do that much, and I pushed further and asked if they could make us a sandwich, since it was still pouring outside and it was so bad that it was difficult to stay in your lane because you could not see for the downpour. We spoke with our son back in Austin and the deluge that had hit us twenty minutes earlier had now descended on Ava and Elise at their school, who were soaked as they awaited pick-up.

They did make us a club sandwich and poured me a Diet Coke and my spouse an iced tea, The sandwich was really good and we had promised payment in cash, since the cash register could not be operated due to the power outage.

Durant, Oklahoma, Indian casino.

Choctaw Indian Casino in Durant, Oklahoma.

FIRST NIGHT: We had pretty much had it by the time we reached the Choctaw Indian Casino in Durant, Oklahoma. This place has to be one of the largest casinos anywhere, with a variety of towers and the like. I failed to take a picture of the exterior from the road, so I have scavenged one from the Internet.

We were pretty tired from battling the elements and we decided to check into this extremely large mini Las Vegas in the wilds. But, as usual, we had the two suitcases meant to be taken into motels, the cosmetics bag, the spill-over bag with food in it for the trip, my twelve-pack of Diet Dr. Pepper, the laptop on which I am now typing this (in a pull case) and a jacket to compensate for A/C which, inevitably, would be overdone. We needed a cart to transport this assorted paraphernalia, although my husband suggested that we simply “pull our suitcases.” (Ha!) I had just seen a gold cart go by, although he had not and asserted there were none. I went over to the Manager of the suitcase-dropping-off area to ask for the use of one, since we were self-parking (Parking was $20 if they did it, but the parking lot was vast and very close). The guy literally spit on me (by accident) while denying that carts to move luggage existed.

Me: “I just saw a gold one go by.” (in incredulous tone)

Manager: “Well, we have to have someone go with the cart.”

I was standing next to a young man who seemed to not be doing much of anything. So, I said, “He wants to go with us.” (I will change his name to protect the employee, who had only been on the job for a short time, calling him Juan.)

He (Juan) was more than happy to accompany us to the tower—although he did not know exactly how to get there.

We found it and, on our way to the 7th floor, Juan shared that he was new and said “my manager is an a******.”  He described a previous job that sounded even worse, which was at a big box warehouse. [I hope that my husband tipped Juan well.]

Still wiping the spit from my arm from the unpleasant manager who lied to me about the existence of carts to transport our bags,  I agreed completely with Juan’s assessment. The goal was to force the cars into the “check in” lane and charge an additional $20 for the overnight parking, which was roughly 10 yards away and could easily be done yourself, if you didn’t buy into the whole “Park your car for you” thing. I understand the casino’s desire to make an additional $25 or so on the check-in portion of  entering the casino, but bald-faced lying to the would-be guest that suitcase carts don’t exist was weak.

Dallas skyline.

Dallas.

We decided on naps and casino, in that order, rather than eating after our Denny’s club sandwich. That meant that we had only a club sandwich for a meal all day.  I found myself eating Doritos in the wee hours of the morning, which was not a great idea. But, hey! We’re on the road. (I paid for that indiscretion with an upset stomach for hours. I needed Tums for half a day.)

The casino is so large that we could not find (or understand) half of the machines, which is all I was willing to play, since the cheapest Blackjack table was $25 a hand. My available cash after the Denny’s “you must pay with cash” experience had left me with $40 in ten-dollar bills, Period. The cash was left over from the recent Cancun trip, or I probably wouldn’t have had even that much, but I definitely did not have enough to bet $25 a hand at an Indian casino.

We wandered around trying to find the machines that let you change the game to be played from poker to Blackjack.  We did not find any. We found one that had Blackjack only and had a side bet called “Lucky Charlie,” which apparently was lucky only for Charlie. My kind and generous spouse gave me a $20 bill to put in the machine, which I promptly lost. I inserted one of my few remaining $10 bills and lost that, as well. So, minus $30 down, for me.

My much-luckier than me spouse lost $20—but he won most of his back in the morning hours while I slept in, stomach destroyed by Doritos in the middle of the night.

SECOND DAY

Next day: Friday. We ended up in Springfield, Missouri, after driving through Oklahoma, which has to be one of the least scenic states to traverse. We stayed at the Embassy Suites, which was definitely a blast from the past. The hotel resembles the hotel interior popularized by the Mel Brooks film “High Anxiety.” The Radisson in downtown Davenport, Iowa, represents the same floor plan. The hotel did not have a refrigerator in the room (bad) and there was no small coffee-maker. However, in its defense, the breakfast was great! Fresh omelettes were made for us, and that carried us all day, just as eating at an I-Hop (breakfast eggs, pancakes, French toast,bacon, ham, sausage) had sustained us the previous day for our one on-the-road meal.

Uranus Fudge Factory in Missouri.

Part of the Uranus Fudge Factor and General Store complex along the Route 66 which we traveled for “Ghostly Tales of Route 66” books.

Uranus Fudge Factory in Missouri.

Part of the Uranus Fudge Factory and General Store complex in Missouri.

Uranus Fudge Factory in Missouri.

Uranus Fudge Factory and General Store.

On the last leg of the journey, we passed large billboards advertising Uranus Fudge Factory and General Store in Missouri. Since we had now deviated from the road to experience the casino, I suggested that we stop at Uranus, which turned out to be quite crowded with people with similar intentions.  They sell Route 66 paraphernalia, as it is on or near Route 66, which I know a lot about, after driving it and writing about 10 books focusing on “Ghostly Tales of Route 66.” It was a fun pit stop and we purchased one of their tee shirts for Mark’s June 7th birthday, as well as fudge to be eaten as dessert after dinner in St. Louis.

THIRD DAY

Uranus General Store.

The Uranus General Store.

Saturday we arrived at Uncle Mark’s house and got to see his new addition (still slightly under construction. Niece Megan and husband Aaron and their almost 3-year-old daughter, Winnie, came over and accompanied us to dinner. We all watched Saturday Night Live on the new porch addition and wished Megan and Aaron well as they await the birth of Child Number 2, a boy, in late June.

FOURTH DAY:

Today is Sunday and we are back in Illinois, where, last year, we encountered a completely ruined kitchen that took four months of work to fix. This year, so far, so good.

Dinner in St. Louis.

L to R) Craig, Mom-to-be Megan, husband Aaron Eddy, Mark Wilson, Winnie Eddy, me.

Glen Powell Inducted into Texas Hall of Fame (5/15/2024)

Glen Powell

Glen Powell onstage at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas, at the screening of his new film “Hit Man” on Mau 15th, 2024.

Hollywood heartthrob and Austin (Texas) native Glen Powell was inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame at the Paramount Theater in downtown Austin (Texas) on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Powell’s newest film, directed by Austin director Richard Linklater, “Hit Man” screened after his remarks to the assembled audience.

The Netflix extravaganza was by random drawing from those who were members of the Austin Film Society and there were assigned seats throughout the venue. While I would normally have attempted to apply for Press Credentials, our original plans were to leave town on Monday, but things changed for us and, when I learned I would be in town after all, I applied and was selected for the screening.

Lots of directions were sent to us, including where to park for free parking. I, of course, could not find the right parking area, and ended up paying $51 for parking. But the movie (and the free popcorn and pop that was provided) were well worth that price of admission. Much like tickets to movies in Chicago for members of the corresponding Chicago film society, you have to show up early to claim them, and that meant 5:45 p.m. I thought I’d dine at the nearby Roaring Fork restaurant in downtown Austin, my favorite restaurant in the city, but that was not to be, as we were herded in and basically spent the time waiting around for the induction of Powell, which was to precede the showing of his new film at 7:30 p.m.

Hit Man Ticket.

Hit Man Ticket.

I was given a seat quite near the front of the stage, which was great. My only problem was that all the photographers working kept standing in front of me, but I still managed to get the shots you’ll see here.

Powell was introduced by local Austin director Robert Rodriguez, who shared that he had been the first to cast Powell in a film when he was 14 years old. (Powell is now 35). The film was “Spy Kids 3D: Game Over” and young Powell worked alongside Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Holland Taylor, Ricardo Montalban, Sylvester Stallone, Salma Hayek, Mike Judge, Cheech Marin, Salma Hayek and Alan Cumming. Rodriguez wrote and directed the film and it started Powell on a film career that has included such films as “Top Gun: Maverick (2022), “Anyone But You,” “The Dark Night Rises” (2012), “Hidden Figures,” “Devotion” and—coming soon—“Twisters.”

When we entered the theater, there were white cowboy hats on some seats, which were assigned to Powell family members. At the end of the entire evening, many of the friends and family that Powell called out during his brief speech joined him onstage for photos.

Powell family members gather at the end of the evening for photos.

Richard Linklater and Glen Powell

Richard Linklater and Glen Powell on May 15, 2024, at the screening of his new Netflix film “Hit Man.”

Powell seems to be a genuinely good guy, who thanked four of his teachers, present for the film and the ceremony. Peggy Langford, Powell’s kindergarten teacher earned a shout-out. Fifth grade teacher Julia Allen earned kudos, with the additional comment that she taught him about working for what you want and delayed gratification. “Thank you for that lesson,” he said. “It’s really paid off. Coach Wood instilled in Powell the importance of “showing up” and a counselor (whose surname I will probably butcher), Michelle Caterez helped young Powell “work the system” when he continued to try to continue acting. “Thank you for continuing to game the system” he said, with a smile. Tenth grade Creative Writing teacher Dr. Shack let Powell attempt to learn screenwriting while still in high school, and introduced him to Director Richard Linklater, as well as Linklater’s long-time editor, Sandra Adair, who was the editor for this night’s film. It’s pretty impressive when someone famous hands out kudos to the teachers who helped them along the way, (says the teacher who taught from 1969 until 2005).

The most touching moment came when Powell thanked his always-supportive parents, who were always there for him. “It’s incredible to have wonderful parents,” he said, “truly incredible.” (Brief pause) He described how his parents were present for every one of his 26 performances in “The Sound of Music” as a young boy. He also said that his kindergarten teacher had told his parents to encourage his interest in performing.

Richard Linklater.

Writer Director Richard Linklater in Austin on March 15th.

He threw in mentions of Aunts Honey and Taffy, sisters Lauren and Leslie, and his father, the original Glen Powell.

I’ve attended other inductions into the Texas Hall of Fame (and photographed same). This one was more personal and more meaningful, as it highlighted a rising star who has already achieved his goal but will undoubtedly continue on an upward trajectory.

Director Robert Rodriguez and Glen Powell.

Powell with Robert Rodriguez, his first director.

Retta in Hit Man.

Retta at the Paramount.

Connie Wilson

Enjoying the evening. which was truly memorable. My new found friend (in line) was in the Mezzanine.

Glen Powell

Glen Powell

 

Adria Arjona

Adria Arjona, co-star of “Hit Man” onstage at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas on May 15, 2024.

 

Glen Powell & Richard Linklater Hit It Big with “Hit Man” on May 15, 2024

Austin’s own Richard Linklater and Netflix showed his latest film, “Hit Man,” to a packed audience on Wednesday, May 15th at the Paramount Theater in downtown Austin. Prior to the showing of the comedy/film noir, its lead and co-writer, Glen Powell, was inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame, established in 2001 by Linklater to honor those Texans who excel in the film world.

The film was a delight and will start streaming on Netflix in the very near future. It will also be showing at the Alamo Drafthouse Chain in Austin (release date June 7, 2024).  The 1 hour 55 minute film is well worth your time. It is based on a true story, as is often the case with Linklater’s films, but poetic license has been taken with the plot. There really was a Gary Johnson, however, who was profiled by Skip Hollandsworth in “Texas Monthly” magazine. Gary Johnson was a college professor and tech guy turned mole for the New Orleans police department (70 arrests). Linklater, who knew the man and had access to records of Johnson’s police work, described him as “the chillest dude ever.”

Richard Linklater and Glen Powell on May 15, 2024, at the screening of his new Netflix film “Hit Man.”

The synopsis on IMDB describes the plot this way:  “A professor moonlighting as a hit man of sorts for his city police department, descends into dangerous, dubious territory when he finds himself attracted to a woman who enlists his services.”  I was reminded of “BlacKkKlansman,” where the real-life exploits of Ron Stallworth as a Black man joining the Ku Klux Klan were explored. The difference in tone between the two films, however, is vast. That’s good news for the audience.

This “Hit Man” (not to be confused with the Michael Fassbender recent release)  is a screwball comedy/film noir with an original plot and excellent acting by Powell, co-star Adria Arjona (“Father of the Bride”) and Retta (“Good Girls”). The screenplay, co-written by Linklater and Powell, was hammered out during phone calls during Covid (“we were never in the same room”), and the film premiered at the Italian film festival in September, during the writers’ strike, causing Linklater to appear pretty much solo to his expressed chagrin.

Since the title character, Gary Johnson, is a college professor, moonlighting as a pretend hit-man, we get some uncharacteristic depth of thought about life and “the eternal mystery of human consciousness and behavior.” Powell’s character says, “I had a knack for being the person they needed me to be” of his hit man persona and adds, “I had somehow found my stage.”

Glen Powell onstage at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas, at the screening of his new film “Hit Man” on Mau 15th, 2024.

The talented (and good-looking) Powell, seen in the comedy “Anyone But You” as well as “Top Gun: Maverick” (2022), has been aiming at a Hollywood career since age 14, when he appeared in “Spy Kids 3D: Game Over.” His remarks prior to the film reveal an Austin native who loves Texas and loves making movies. (“The most fun job on the planet.”)

More about his touching remarks about family (he choked up at one point) and significant teachers (he called out four of them in the audience by name) after discussing this truly interesting look at the life of a bogus hit man.  Powell says “All pie is good pie” a lot, in the encounters that we see onscreen, and I’ll add, “All plot twists here are good twists” building on that.

THE SCRIPT

The screenwriting duo (Linklater and Powell) apparently had a great time writing the script during Covid and the cast contributed by improvising some of the best lines that remain in the film. Co-star Sanjay Rao (Phil) said his favorite line (of Retta’s) that made it into  the final film was her remark that she would “rip out my IUD for Ron,” the cool guy persona that Gary Johnson adopted for his encounters with would-be customers. (That line brought a big laugh from the crowd).

It is not often that we get a philosophical discussion of the difference between cat people and dog people in an otherwise comic film. “Dogs are too needy. They’re like people. We beg for more…embarrass ourselves for the scraps of others.” Another line that amused was the remark that if a man is sitting alone, reading “Catcher in the Rye,” “historically speaking, that is never a good sign.”

The depth of the discussion(s) of change and role playing, the Id versus the Ego, and morality, as such, is unusual for a comedy that we might call “lightweight.” It IS lightweight, in the sense that this expert ensemble has turned a complex plot with loads of frothy humor into an exploration of so many deeper issues., one being change.

A few lines to illustrate:

“Your reality will change over time in ways that you cannot even imagine.”

“Seize the identity you want for yourself. Life is short. You gotta’ live on your own terms.”

And, in a line reminiscent of Tom Cruise in Risky Business, “Sometimes, you just gotta’ make a move.” (Sidelight: Cruise, who headlined “Top Gun: Maverick” (2022), where we see Powell playing beach volleyball, paid for Powell to take flying lessons, so Powell is now a registered pilot.)

THE SEX SCENES

Editor Sandra Adair (who visited Powell’s classroom when he was in high school), after editing one of the film’s truly hot sex scenes said, “I thought the screen was going to melt in the editing room!” (Side note: the film’s 35-year-old leading man supposedly broke up with his model girlfriend in 2023.)

Adria Arjona, co-star of “Hit Man” onstage at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas on May 15, 2024.

There are so many good sex scenes that it’s hard to point to which ones are the best. There’s the dancing sene in a nightclub called Virgo. There’s the tub scene. There’s the role play when Aria’s character, Madison “Maddy” Figueros, dresses up as a flight attendant to play seductress. The chemistry onscreen is hot, hot, hot. After the movie, during the Q&A, Adria Arjana said, “You have seen a lot of me tonight.”

The IMDB website gives the release date as June 7th. It’s a very good movie. It’s original, and you’ll enjoy it on so many levels. The cell phone scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Don’t miss this Hit Man. And remember when discussing the plot’s resolution: “There are no absolutes, oral or epistemological, in life.”

(*Induction into the Texas Hall of Fame remarks to follow; stay tuned).

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Holds Rally on May 13th, 2024 in Austin, Texas

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Holds Campaign Rally in Austin, TX is now available for viewing in the C-SPAN Video Library.

Let’s not forget that I covered the Presidential races of 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 and wrote 3 books on the candidates, often focusing as they came through the Iowa caucuses. I was named Content Producer of the Year for Politics in 2008 by Yahoo and my two books on that race are “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vols. I & II. I am also responsible for BEE GONE about the 2016 election, which I was not allowed to advertise during DJT’s tenure, since it is a comic book rhyming presentation that was hilarious, but which the MAGA folk did not like at all. [One of them called me “Hitler with breasts.” Perhaps that one did not hear about my breast cancer diagnosis?]

If you want to try to find THAT one, your best bet is to go to ConnieCWilson.com and scroll down to “other” books and look it up that way. It is truly hard to find on Amazon and, last time I looked, they only had one copy (which I sent to a friend), If you want one, send me a note.)

 

 

I traveled to downtown Austin tonight to hear Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., deliver a speech. The main message of the evening was that RFK, Jr., has gathered enough signatures (more than enough) to get on the ballot in Texas.When I got there, I was told that the speech was not going to be held at that venue. It had been moved to somewhere on Brazos Street and was going to be live-streamed by CNN. The nice volunteer said she doubted that I could get in, but told me it would be available on C-span, live-streamed, which suited me fine.

I left the book that had RFK, Jr.’s picture in it (p. 33“Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vol. II) and went home, where I watched the speech on C-Span. This was a good thing, because out of an hour and 39 minutes, Bobby Kennedy (Jr.) didn’t come on for a very long time. With it being live-streamed, you could fast forward past the introductions and Nicole Shanahan’s speech.

The wealthy Nicole Shanahan, his running mate, gave a speech about soil.

Interesting, I thought. Something that everyone came for—[NOT].

I fast forwarded past all the greeters and announcers and the VP who is helping finance RFK, Jr.’s campaign (and paid for his SuperBowl ad) and listened to what Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the doppelganger of his famous father, had to say. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Holds Campaign Rally in Austin, TX is now available for viewing in the C-SPAN Video Library.

The first 2/3 of the speech (look it up on the C-Span archives) was random.

Then came RFK, Jr. Bobby told a lengthy story about an Amish farmer who does a podcast. This sounded like a contradiction in terms. Kennedy addressed that by saying that the 35-year-old young man (apparently an Ohio expert on soil and pesticides with very bright blue eyes) could not allow himself to be photographed. RFK (Jr.) had promised not to show the tape of his comments to the world. The conversation concerning the young Amish man’s encyclopedic knowledge of pesticides went on (and on) describing 2 rows of melons on the Amish podcaster’s farm, one of them grown without pesticides and, therefore, far healthier and more pest-free than the other. One was healthy. One was sickly. What this had to do with anything was hard to determine (but keep in mind that I skipped past the Shanahan soil speech, so shame on me). I am onboard with the idea that pesticides and pollution and the variety of pollutants that are covered so well in the documentary “Plastic People” that I reviewed during SXSW are harming us irreparably, so I will assume that RFK (Jr.) is as concerned about this as the Canadian documentary-filmmakers.

After talking about soil and Amish farmers for a rather lengthy time, the 70-year-old Kennedy talked about what a sick country we are, sharing the data that we have only 4% of the world’s population but, during the Covid pandemic, we had 16% of the world’s deaths. There were more remarks about how good health is not found at the end of a hypodermic needle (anti-vaccine position). I just watched (and reviewed) a documentary called “Plastic People,” mentioned above, and much of what RFK, Jr., was talking about this Canadian documentary supported, so I’m not throwing stones here. I have an interest in such things as why the incidence of breast cancer in young women is so much higher than in years of yore. Not to mention colon cancer in younger people, infertiity, and autism disorders.

The reason the CDC said so many of us succumbed to Covid, (said Kennedy), was that those who died had 3.8 pre-existing chronic diseases. Chronic disease was a recurring phrase and topic.  Kennedy named cancer, asthma, food allergies and then blanked out. He sought a disease to represent the fourth chronic disease, soliciting it from the predominantly young crowd. The crowd finally coughed up “diabetes.” (Heart disease did not rear its ugly head, and I wasn’t sure that food allergies qualified, but nevermind. Obesity might have made the list, based on another statistic he threw out about 40% of us being obese. No idea if any of these facts and figures were precisely accurate; just reporting what the candidate said,)

This is not a fact-checking article—so go ahead and listen to the speech (link above) for yourself. But don’t omit reading up about the candidate’s background, because we have already been “conned” once in 2016 and elected someone who built a totally fabricated background for himself based on being a success in business, when, in reality, that was very far from the truth. And don’t fail to check the candidate(s) out for their strength of character. We’ve seen THAT happen before (John Edwards, anyone?) and we don’t want to constantly be conned into accepting uncritically media presentations (Fox News, I’m talking about you.)

TRUST IN GOVERNMENT

One refrain that did strike a responsive chord for this seasoned political reporter was the remark that we no longer trust our government, because it’s been lying to us for years. To illustrate this, Kennedy repeated the Francis Gary Powers story.

For those of you who are too young to remember that 1960 U-2 event, Powers was shot down over Russia in a super-secret plane. Wikipedia:  “On May 1, 1960, Powers’ U-2A, 56-6693, departed from a military airbase in Peshawar, Pakistan,[13] with support from the U.S. Air Station at Badaber (Peshawar Air Station). This was to be the first attempt “to fly all the way across the Soviet Union. Powers was shot down by an S-75 Dvina (SA-2 “Guideline”) surface-to-air missile[15] over Sverdlovsk. A total of 14 Dvinas were launched,[16] one of which hit a MiG-19 jet fighter which was sent to intercept the U-2 but could not reach a high enough altitude.”

Attempted deception by the U.S. government

“When the U.S. government learned of Powers’ disappearance over the Soviet Union, they lied that a “weather plane” had strayed off course after its pilot had “difficulties with his oxygen equipment”. What CIA officials did not realize was that the plane crashed almost fully intact and that the Soviets had recovered its pilot and much of the plane’s equipment, including its new top-secret high-altitude camera. Powers was interrogated extensively by the KGB for months before he made a confession and a public apology for his part in the espionage.”

Kennedy’s point: that the American public quit trusting their government about the time that JFK was shot dead in the streets of Dallas and Bobby’s father was shot dead in Los Angeles, California, as a result of lies like the Francis Gary Powers incident, rang a bell with me. I am not a conspiracy theorist,  but I have always doubted the “single bullet” theory of JFK’s death. So did RFK, Sr.

If Bobby Kennedy (Sr.) had gone on to be elected, he had vowed to get to the bottom of his brother’s assassination. (I know this from reading the book by his nephew, Christopher Lawford.) I don’t doubt that there  would have been a much better inquiry than the Warren Commission provided. An investigation that Bobby (Sr.) would have conducted might have come to different conclusions about who was responsible for the death of his brother Jack (JFK).

RFK (Jr.) took a few shots at the national debt and how it is chewing up half of our tax moneys now, simply to service the interest on the debt. He pointed out that neither of the geriatric candidates has really addressed that very important issue. I do have one tiny bit of rebuttal there. While it is true that, “The national debt has increased by around $3.5 trillion under the Biden administration, as data from Statista shows, currently standing at $31.46 trillion. Year-on-year the debt has never decreased since 1957, according to Treasury data.”

However, it is also true that Biden is far from indifferent to the pressing need to reduce the national debt. Between 2020 and 2022, he was responsible for $1.7 trillion in deficit reduction. The exact quote that Biden gave was, “”I might note parenthetically: In my first two years, I reduced the debt by $1.7 trillion. No President has ever done that.” Obviously that is a drop in the deficit bucket and the GOP immediately began  to see investigating to see if it held up. (Does anyone besides me remember when Democratic President Bill Clinton left us with a budget surplus?)

Biden gets precious little credit for all of the good things he HAS done and selling a national debt decrease is going to be a hard sell. But it IS true that the debt went way up under DJT. (And the GOP would point fingers at Obama, before him.) We could also point out that desperate times call for desperate measures and some of those increases in 2020 on were created by the pandemic crisis. Was there graft and corruption during a tough time when we were navigating a nationwide pandemic? Is the Pope Catholic?

Fleeting references to the Issues of the Day (abortion, the border) were made. Bobby seemed more critical of the Republican candidate than of the Democratic candidate,  (despite the YouTube video that says the opposite). In fact, Bobby said that he, like his supporters in the room, needed to be independent of party noise. He added that he, therefore, had divorced himself from the Democratic party which so many of his relatives served. He said that divorce from being a Democrat was painful, as it went waaay back, even unto grandfathers and beyond. Traditionally, running as a third party has not worked well, even for Teddy Roosevelt and his Bull Moose Party,

The opening of the rally should be mentioned, as it had his famous father repeating some of his most famous quotes in that memorable voice (which, sadly, the younger Bobby cannot emulate because of spasmodic dysphonia, a disorder that causes his voice to quaver and makes speech difficult). He traveled to Kyoto, Japan, to have a titanium bridge inserted between his vocal cords to treat the condition.[315

]The film that  ran at the opening of the rally was very professionally done. It was certainly better than listening to a choir of January 6th miscreants singing from prison (and being hailed incorrectly as “hostages.”) Bobby Kennedy, Jr., was onscreen in this opening film introduction, but the voice was his famous father’s.

Many of the people introducing RFK, Jr. were Hispanic. The Big Announcement of the night was that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s name will be on the ballot in Texas with over 235,000 signatures and that the campaign will next move to New York to get on the ballot. He described these two states as the most difficult states to get on the ballot. Kennedy claimed that Texas had actually introduced legislation raising the threshold from a smaller number (150,000?) to one that the Texas legislature thought was too high to ever be reached.

I think the number the team actually secured was more than what they needed. I remember it as being 235,000, but I’d have to wade through the speech on the CNN archives all over again to actually establish that. Feel free to do so and correct me.

To me, it seemed like getting on the ballot was so difficult that, in some way, RFK, Jr., has conflated that  with actually getting the electorate to vote for him. Lord knows the country would like a younger leader.  Bobby Kennedy is 70, so is that what is meant by “younger?” He is the 5th member of his family to run for President, said Wikipedia. (Don’t ask me to cough up the names of the others: I could only think of JFK, Bobby Kennedy Sr., Ted Kennedy and—-? Maybe running for VP counts? Didn’t Maria Shriver’s father have a flirtation with elective office? Help me out here!)

Bill Maehr on his show criticized Kennedy’s lack of government experience, We all know about putting someone in office, an office for which they have literally no training or experience, and how that works. Or doesn’t. RFK, Jr., doesn’t fall into that category, as you will see for yourself if you visit his Wikipedia page. There’s a lot there to unpack. There is also this Internet page:https://www.kennedy24.com/

And then the rally was over after 1 hour and 39 minutes.

“Civil War” Provides Much Food for Thought in 2024

The main characters in “Civil War” are four journalists. The film introduces the journalists as they cover a clash in New York City between what appear to be police forces from the official government and violent members of the opposition. The alliance in the civil war has paired Texas and California. This group is either known as WA or WF. (I, initially, thought WF referred to the Western Front, and it was only in reading about the film that I saw the initials as WA, so you’re on your own there.)

There are references to other military groups, including the Florida Alliance and the Portland Maoists. As writer/director Alex Garland scripts it, “There is no communication between the secessionists.”

When the film opens, Joel (Wagner Moura) predicts, “D.C. is falling and the President is dead within a month.” This sets us up for the journey to follow, the journalists determined to get the shot or film the fall in D.C. It’s an overland drive with the miles ticked off as they drive…508 miles to D.C…289 miles to D.C…176 miles to D.C…. They are joined by a new-comer, a young wannabe journalist named Jessie, played by Cailee Spaeney (Priscilla Presley in the bio-pic “Priscilla”).

Kirsten Dunst plays Lee, a legendary white female photojournalist in the tradition of her namesake Lee Miller. The film this instantly made me think of was 2018’s “A Private War” with Rosamund Pike playing Marie Colvin alongside Jamie Dornan as her photographer. Prior to that was Juliette Binoche as a war-time journalist in “1000 Times Good Night” (2013).

In this film, Dunst is partnered with a South American-born reporter named Joel (Wagner Moura). It’s unclear whether Joel ever actually writes anything or is primarily there as a chauffeur and bodyguard for Lee.

The third member of the troupe is the elderly Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson), a seasoned Black journalist who doesn’t want to give up reporting but is past his prime. Having both Sammy and Jessie in the back seat of the car causes Lee to say, “The back seat is both kindergarten and an old folks’ home.” Lee has reservations about taking the inexperienced Jessie with them, but Joe prevails. Lee also isn’t keen on having a relatively immobile old Black guy along for the trip, even though he “writes for what’s left of the New York Times.”

Lee Miller (Kirsten Dunst), portrays a journalist who has won various accolades during her storied career. She reminded me of three movies about such real-life veteran journalists, including “The Year of Living Dangerously”(Sigourney Weaver),  “A Private War” (Rosamund Pike) and Juliette Binoche in “1,000 Times Good Night” (2013).

As an active voting member of the Illinois chapter of the Illinois Women’s Press Association and the official photographer at the National Women’s Press Association in Baton Rouge, I drew on my days as a journalism major in college (I attended on a journalism scholarship) and my coverage of four presidential campaigns to empathize with the much more dangerous mission this quartet has embarked upon. The movie really does paint a picture of modern-day journalism and journalistic ethics.

I’m an “Old School” journalist. In “the olden days” we were taught that we were to remain neutral and objective, not endorse one side of an issue over the other.  I appreciated the film as a piece about contemporary journalism, as much as a film about a possible Civil War in the United States. My focus was covering the presidential races of 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016, with two books on 2008 (“Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House”) and an award as the Yahoo Content Producer for Politics in 2008.

I will say that the total brutality of the images, coupled with multiple fight scenes, seemed like the way it really would be after the lowering of civil standards brought on by the Trump years. Even the campus protests taking place nationwide now lack the slightest civility that used to prevail. In the days of refusing to adhere to the peaceful transfer of power after an election the total brutality of the civil war participants seemed sadly likely.

Alex Garland is known as mainly a science fiction storyteller. He wrote “28 Days Later,” “Sunshine” and “Dredd,” adapted “Never Let Me Go” from Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, and wrote and directed “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation.” I thoroughly enjoyed those films and am particularly fond of “Never Let Me Go.”

This is a great, well-paced, engrossing movie that tells it like it is in a world where half of the residents embrace any lie that their chosen leader decides to tell them. It has echoes of dozens of other films and novels, and I’m old enough to remember when “Z” was groundbreaking in its hand-held cinematography.

Face it. Things are just going to get worse as we move into the world of AI and the heat of the 2024 presidential race. Let’s just hope things don’t disintegrate to the levels depicted in “Civil War.”

Cancun, 2024, Is In the Books

This will be a stream-of-consciousness column from Cancun—sunny, windy Cancun, Mexico.

This is either our 29th or 30th straight year of spending two weeks in Cancun at Royal Resorts time shares we purchased in the nineties. Last year was our last year at the Penthouse 9th floor digs (#4492) and the Royal Islander has been sold in its entirety to Holiday Inn Vacation Clubs.

When we first started coming to Cancun we stayed at the Fiesta Americana Condessa, which still exists. We needed 2 rooms, one for the kids, who were then 7 and 26. We stayed there for 2 years, but beach-front rooms cost us $3,000  30 years ago. No kitchen. And no connecting rooms the second year, which was a real problem, because the then-7-year old couldn’t open the doors by herself and her brother was off hitting the nightspots.

Our third year in Cancun we rented a unit at the Royal Mayan from a woman from Indianapolis who dropped a Big Gulp cup on my foot while showing pictures of the unit to those who had stayed in it that week.

An enterprising salesman named Ricardo pointed out that buying into the then-new Royal Islander would give us almost 30 years of time before Mexico took it back, while the Mayan clock had been ticking for a while. He was right.

The Mayan is no more and has become a different hotel entirely with a name like the Emporium. Meanwhile, the Islander is off the market right now and I’m not sure if it is going to be retooled as another resort or made into apartments or what. All I know is that the fantastic walk to our penthouse unit (the highest floor that the Royals ever built was #9) will be missed. We loved our time there.

It used to be that a fixed-week time share owner could stroll from the Royal Mayan to the Caribbean to the Royal Islander and, ultimately, to the Royal Sands. There were dining rooms at each of the properties, which would have made an All Inclusive deal slightly more attractive. The Conquistador has closed as has Captain’s Cove and both were traditions for us.

Now, there is just the Veranda and Sisal and they are supposed to be building more restaurants, which, if they are going to continue to push people onto the A.I. plan, they are going to need. We prefer eating breakfast and dinner in our unit, from food that we can buy locally at the Soriano market within Kukulcaan Plaza (or at the small resort store, for a much higher price). We like to dine out at the nice restaurants in the evening, although doing so with 13 to 17 people is quite the challenge. This is still my Paradise on Earth, “the poor man’s Hawaii” and I remind all in the family that it was MY find and we’ll be deeding this family tradition on to the son and daughter until the year 2050, which will mean when our oldest child (father of the twins) is 82–older than we are now, even.

Now, within the Royal Sands,  we move from the first floor to the fifth floor and we have a decent view of the ocean, but not the spectacular penthouse view we had at the Islander. Still, time marches on and we are adjusting to our new digs this week.

The son and wife and granddaughters had to leave a day early. Elise had a volleyball tournament in Dallas. Go, Elise! They are still playing as I write this.

The daughter left today (picture below) traveling back to her home in Nashville and her job with SW Airlines.

We have five more days in Paradise.

Here are some photos. Enjoy.

Daughter Stacey and granddaughter Elise Wilson in Cancun, Mexico.

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