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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Mariachi Band Protests @ Ted Cruz Home

Texas Tales of Mismanagement on Feb. 21, 2021

Texas Tales:  “Our Government in Texas Failed Us This Week”

That quote from a Texas representative Lizzzie Fletcher interviewed on CNN at 2:17 p.m. (CT).

Other words of wisdom come from folks like John Bridges, the Executive editor of the Austin American-Statesman.

In Texas, the buck doesn’t stop here; it just gets on a plane to Mexico, [making Ted Cruz one of the first Latinos to flee the United States for a better life in Mexico]. 

Governor Abbott spent more time in his 4-days-too-late Press Conference talking about the Green New Deal than he did talking about the raw deal he and his cronies have dealt the state of Texas. The recommendations for winterization of the power grid were decades old, but Texas authorities in power sought to shift the blame to wind and solar panel, when that is not the truth.

The very idea of a Republican politician lying to protect his political future is not new, but it was refined to a daily performance art under DJT. And, in Texas, the man who said of his initial time in office in a 2013 speech to fellow Republicans,”I go into the office in the morning, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home,” now has had to ask the federal government for help in a crisis that could be more costly than Hurricanes as famous as Katrina. President Biden will visit Texas this week to see how the federal government can help the state—14 million of us still boiling our water, if we have any—recover from the debilitating effects of a severe weather event that combined freezing temperatures with power and water failures.

First, in an attempt to shove the responsibility off onto solar and wind power not performing during the freak winter storm, Abbott went on Sean Hannity’s television show and blamed the entire mess on Green renewable energy. This was false. The power outages were due to freezing temperatures affecting natural gas plants, with uninsulated pipes causing gases with heavy carbon chains to liquify and intake or outtake pipes freezing. Oil wells can freeze up and did.

According to ERCOT’s Fuel Mix report, the state’s largest energy source last year was natural gas as 46% of the state’s energy needs. Wind supplied 23% and, if properly weatherized as experts had warned the blades should be, these fixtures continue working in sub-freezing temperatures. Coal supplied 18% of the state’s power, nuclear 11% and solar only 2%.

Actually, although half of the state’s wind supply turbines were frozen, on Tuesday the unfrozen turbines collectively produced up to 1,000 megawatts more energy than grid operators expected, because of the high winds that the snowstorm brought. ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said, “It appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural gas system at large.”

In an editorial headlined “Texans Deserve to Have Government That Works” Executive Editor John Bridges (Austin American-Statesman) noted that, “For too long, Texans have elected people more interested inn dismantling government than actually running one.  As we painfully learned this week, small government sounds good right up until the power goes out and the faucets run dry.”

Bridges further noted that the priorities of our elected officials, like Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Paxton, have been (1) their own political futures (2) their cronies and (3) their business interests. Right now, in fact, Paxton is embroiled in several legal investigations into impropriety with a local real estate developer, and his entire staff has blown the whistle on him, calling his behavior towards them punitive. Those lawsuits and others involving Paxton highlight why he was the Attorney General who filed the complaint attempting to throw out the electoral college votes of 6 other states on behalf of former President Trump. (The Trump administration didn’t really want Paxton, because of his unsavory reputation and the various investigations into his unethical behavior, but he was the only volunteer to come forward to lodge the spurious lawsuit.)

Bridges goes on to focus on the issues that these elected officials chose to waste time on, rather than making sure our power and water would work if there were a catastrophic weather event.  What were those other oh-so-important issues that tied up much of the Texas legislatures time?

  • The use of transgender bathrooms.
  • Restricting access to abortion.
  • Promoting or protecting the out-of-control gun culture.
  • Suing the federal government for political sport—at least 44 lawsuits during the Obama years by Abbott.
  • Restricting local taxing authority, much of which is spent on public safety.
  • Forbidding cities from controlling their own police budgets.
  • Finding ways to further restrict voter access, such as the ONE mailbox that was to serve as the drop-box for voters in a large Texas city of millions.

Rick Perry—-Abbott’s predecessor as Governor of Texas—famously said that Texans would rather endure a few days of blackouts than have the feds (the department he recently and ironically ran as U.S. energy secretary) involved in Texas’ energy grid. Let’s not forget that this is the same Rick Perry that Donald Trump mocked, saying he put glasses on to “make himself look smarter” and the student who got a grade of “D-“ in a college class entitled “Meat.”

So, as Bridges says, “Speak for yourself, Rick!”

Texans shivering in their own homes, burning candles and their own wood furniture for warmth, and harvesting snow to flush toilets do not agree. If Texas wants its own power grid and wants to run it “the Texas way,” its government must tirelessly regulate, inspect, and enforce the efficiency of that power grid.

An Abilene man froze to death in his bed.  The 60-year-old’s death was one of six tied to the freezing cold reported in and around that western Texas city this week, the Associated Press reported.  A Houston woman and her child died from carbon monoxide poisoning after seeking warmth in their car. As snow blanketed much of Texas on Sunday, an 11-year-old boy in the Houston area gleefully played outside. Seeing the snow was a first for the boy, who came to the U.S. from Honduras two years ago with his mother, she told the Houston Chronicle.

Less than 24 hours later, as temperatures plunged to near single digits and homes across the state lost power, that boy died.

Early that same morning, a San Antonio man left his house for a dialysis appointment — but he never arrived. His wife found him unresponsive nearly two hours later in the frigid weather.

A Black Austin renter described how he grabbed a few belongings from his back-of-the-house apartment and ran for his life. The couple in the front of the house, who had tried to heat the building with their barbecue grill, died in the fire.

The Houston Chronicle reports that more than two dozen people in Harris County alone have died from events related to this week’s icy weather. And the threat is far from over. Thousands of Texans are still without electricity, food and clean water. The entire state is under a boil order for water.

Texas was not prepared for the lowest temperatures it has experienced in 70 years and recent inspections of the power grid that declared it ready for the winter were wrong. It wasn’t.

Much like the unwillingness to acknowledge the problem, Texas stuck its governmental head firmly in the Trumpian sand and did very little to prepare for the onslaught of the pandemic that has now killed 41,000 Texans. Given months to develop a plan for the vaccine rollout, both state and local governments failed to develop and communicate a workable plan.

We are in the “1b” group of citizens with pre-existing conditions, older than 75, who should have been contacted to schedule an appointment for a Covid-19 shot. We have been trying for literally months to find any source of vaccine. The state website crashes immediately. Once you fill out your name, rank and serial number, including selecting a password, you learn that you must “check back later” to see if there is any vaccine availability. (There never is). Lately, when we attempt to sign in, the site says our passwords are wrong, despite having noted them upon entry. We then try to get a “new” password and the site promises to send a note to our mailboxes, but does not. Therefore, the state health site is worthless.

Then there are the sign-up lists for Walgreen’s, CVS, HEB, and the like. Yes, we’re on all of them, too, plus lists that exist in cities as far-flung as Houston and Dallas. It is nearly March and our constant “checking back” yields only the words “No vaccine available. Check back later.”

I even went so far as to secure a local doctor, hoping that having a local doctor for our winter months’ residence, might help. It hasn’t. I fear that our April trip to Mexico is going to see us as the only older members of the family group who have not had even one Covid-19 shot. While we may have some small amount of immunity from contracting a mild case in October, will that be enough? Or will we, too, become victims of this failure to try to protect the citizens of Texas and the United States.

As Bridges says, in his concluding remarks, “Texans don’t ask much of our government. But is it too much to ask that government not try to kill us?”

Texas in Turmoil: Firsthand from the Front

Store shelves in Texas on Saturday, 2/20/2021.

From this morning’s “Austin American-Statesman,” comes this assessment of our Texas water problem. 

We’re here in Austin (TX), experiencing the black-outs and lack of water along with the rest of the state. The cold weather meant below freezing. As a northeast Iowa native, not impressed by the cold part. However, down here, things immediately went to hell in a hand basket. Nobody could/would/should drive! So, that’s how it started, but that’s not how it’s ending. Now that it’s back in the above freezing range, things are changing, but there are still major, massive issues that we are right in the middle of, unfortunately.

“Tens of thousands of leaks in the system have wreaked havoc on Austin’s water supply,” said Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros.  That has been compounded by an untold number of burst pipes in homes. Tuesday night and Wednesday morning Austin Water saw 325 million gallons leak out of the system, where, typically Austinites typically use 100 million gallons a day.

Meszaros:  “That is an incredible amount of water and nothing I’ve ever seen before at that rate,” said Meszaros, “So that’s what we’re managing is to not return to that state of affairs, where 100 million gallons of water could leak out of our system in one night.”

This means that Austin Water will need to methodically restart portions of the system to prevent leaks.

“It’s going to be a multiday process to restore pressure and service and then clear the system for use.  It’s really difficult to give precise timelines for portions of our section of our system.  We don’t know what we don’t know. And we don’t know how long some of them are going to take to fix.”

Reservoirs are now being refilled.  Thirteen million Texans are under boil water notices, including us. The effect has been acutely felt in the city, where a loss in water pressure forced evacuations at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center late Wednesday. All surrounding cities (Pfugerville, Bastrop, etc.) are also affected by the boil order.

Water systems under a boil water notice likely will face a logjam from state regulators as water pressure stabilizes.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requires testing to ensure no unsafe bacteria is in the supply before lifting the advisories. Timelines for water service to return to normal remain elusive.  Said one official, “I just feel like this is such a catastrophic failure on every level. If I wasn’t so consumed with finding a functioning shower or a functioning toilet, I would be so angry.”

Supposedly, 13 million of us have no water, at the moment. Thirty-plus people have died, estimated.

Now, say the officials, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requires testing to ensure no unsafe bacteria is in the supply before lifting the advisories.  The environmental commission is coordinating with the EPA to bring in mobile testing labs from out of state.

PULLING A CRUZ:  I have suggested that we go home to Illinois temporarily. Craig is always in such a Big Hurry to go home to “do taxes”, so I’m not sure why he is resistant to going back to Illinois, but he is. I refer to it as “pulling a Cruz.”  When we hit Wednesday and I’ve gone one full week without a shower/bath or hair wash, that could change. And we cannot, for the life of us (literally) get a Covid-19 shot here, despite putting ourselves on lists in Houston, Dallas, and about 10 places in Austin. We are definitely old enough for 1B and I have 4 underlying health conditions (things like asthma), so there’s that. I even went so far as to go find a doctor, thinking that might help. No such luck.

If I were to try to go home alone, I’d face all kinds of things that have been “turned off” that I know nothing about turning back on. I have to admit that I did not go to the basement and fart around with the water heater, etc. so if I go home alone, I’d face figuring out how to get things to “work” at home, or I’d be in pretty much the same situation I am here. I’m not afraid to fly (despite the pandemic) and we can fly free, thanks to the daughter’s job with Southwest Airlines, but it pretty much needs to be both of us going and only one of us votes for returning to the deep freeze so that we have running water.

Stacey, the daughter, who lives in Nashville has been with us since last Saturday. She is going to make a pilgrimage to the Walgreen’s (which finally opened for restricted hours and closes at 6 p.m.) to try to get us some dry shampoo.

I last had a bath and washed my hair on Wednesday, February 17th. It is now Saturday, February 20th.

I had 4 prescriptions that I had phoned in before the deluge. I was fearful that they would go back on the shelves. When Walgreen’s opened for limited hours (closes at 6 p.m.) I was Car #12; it took 35 minutes to get to the drive-through window to pick  up my prescriptions. Mission accomplished.

We have no water.  We tried to order pizza to eat, but very few pizza places were open. The one we found that WAS open had run out of pizza dough, but we were able to get lasagna, as long as we ordered right then, because they were closing down at 6 p.m. (It was 4:30 p.m. and we ordered right then.) Many gas stations are closed, because they are out of gas.

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

El Paso has largely avoided this disaster because they learned from the 2011 freeze that hit. They planned for colder weather and, as a result, the built-in redundancies that should have been built in WERE built in. It is also not on the same power grid as the rest of Texas. They are on the western power grid. Texas is the only state to have its very own power grid. ERCOT failed Big Time. Other states can turn to their neighbors, but Texans, in general, don’t want to depend on their neighbors. El Paso took itself OFF the Texas power grid (ERCOT) and went ON to the western power grid (there are only 3 power grids, nationwide) after a 2011 bad freeze. Therefore, El Paso avoided the woes we are currently experiencing, firsthand. And I do acknowledge that, initially, we had power (pretty much throughout) and only lost our water completely yesterday. Before, we had very low water pressure, but we had a little bit of water. No more. Our laundry and dirty dishes are building up. There was talk of putting a garbage bag in the toilet and pooping into it, to keep flushing down.  I’ll be on a plane to the Midwest before it comes to that. People are putting saran wrap on plates, so that they don’t have to deal with a “dirty” plate that cannot be washed.

I’m planning on a small spaghetti jar for tonight’s dinner, as we had one lb. of hamburger in the freezer and we have spaghetti noodles. The hard part will be the water. While we have a bathtub full of water, we have very little bottled water. The feds are supposedly sending water in, but where is it? No idea. [Probably the same place our Covid-19 shot is: unavailable to us and met with the response, “We don’t have any.”]

After the spaghetti and some grilled cheese, we have a few frozen things (that, fortunately, did not go bad because our power stayed on), so we can eat our way through a couple steaks, some frozen pot pies. We have some canned food (soups, vegetables), but we are leaving the land of “What’s for dinner?” with a regular menu. I’ve made salmon and steak and a 10-lb. turkey and we are pretty much “out” of food, with no grocery stores having any for sale, apparently, since Craig just came back from Randall’s a few minutes ago declaring the shelves bare. The HEB stores warehouse all of their stuff in San Antonio warehouses and, until today, roads were considered pretty impassable. Now, with the warming temperatures, driving up to restock their stores from their warehouses is do-able, but did the warehouses storing the food lose power when the outage was statewide, like the stores did, and, if so, is there anything up in San Antonio that is still good that can restock the HEB stores here in Austin? I know that one employee had half-gallon jugs of milk in a wheelbarrow on her front porch in our subdivision, inviting the neighbors to “help themselves.” All were gone within minutes and good luck in finding eggs or milk or water, since then.

We are using water we melted from the snow to flush the toilets, sparingly. I’m pretty much treating the flushing like when we took the lobster dinner cruise on those old pirate ship look-alikes, which would not let you put paper in the water because, although they had toilets, they were not great toilets.

So, yes, we have power.

(Craig just tried going to the grocery store: no eggs, no milk, no chicken, no water. A line waiting to get in. I had to wait for 35 minutes in my car to get the prescriptions that I had phoned in well before the cold weather arrived. I was the 12th car in line. They were closing down early and have adopted early closing as their norm now.)

So, I’m not sure what is going to go down here in the next week. I’ve agreed to give this “we are camping out” lifestyle a green light for the week, but I honestly do not think they will have this situation “fixed” in a week, and I wonder how long it WILL take.

Obviously, there are going to be investigations and studies about the power failures. The headline on p. 5B today reads: “Just crippling: Texans Devastated.” It details the people trying to find food at HEB, which had to close 10 stores in the chain, because they, too, lost power. By Thursday the number in Texas without power was down to 450,000 from 4 million.  Harris County officials have a feature where residents can click through and see which major food stores are open. As bad as this was, it was almost worse, being second or minutes away from a catastrophic power outage. Texas makes more power than any other state in the union, but the weather disaster was unparalleled. Coldest it had been in 70 years, and it wasn’t really THAT cold, but it was below freezing, and that’s all it takes, in Texas.

The charges that wind turbines froze, were bogus. Forty %  of power is natural gas; 18% from coal; 11% nuclear; Wind power was under 30%—more like 27%. “No single fuel source can be blamed for this event.” Neil Chatterjee, the head commissioner of the energy commission.

The lesson is that the entire system has to be prepared for severe weather conditions. “Clearly, they have got to winterize everything.” The coal, nuclear, natural gas could have been winterized. “Climate change is having a dramatic change on weather.”

To me, it seems as though—just as Trump’s time in office revealed the true frailty of the U.S. in so many areas and destroyed our image abroad—this Texas freeze has revealed Texas’ image under Republican Governor Abbott as being full of holes. Texans like to think of themselves as hardy and “can do” types (just like Americans, in general, come to think of it).  Well, we can do as long as we have power and water. When we have no water, things become dire fast.

To me—especially in light of our complete and total inability to secure Covid-19 shots here, either—I feel like YOYO is the prevailing Texan and U.S. philosophy, these days. What do I mean?

“You’re On Your Own.”

Rush Limbaugh Dies; Leaves Legacy of Hate & Divisiveness

In the wake of Rush Limbaugh’s recent death, “Newsone” compiled a list of some of Limbaugh’s most offensive remarks. A companion piece to these quotes would be the article in the most recent issue of “Rolling Stone.”  He did more than anybody to create the conditions for an ever-more-radical GOP that drove straight around the bend when Trump took the wheel.

Rush Limbaugh Did His Best to Ruin America

Without further ado, here are some verified Rush Limbaugh quotes:

  1. “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?
  2. “Right. So you go into Darfur and you go into South Africa, you get rid of the white government there. You put sanctions on them. You stand behind Nelson Mandela — who was bankrolled by communists for a time, had the support of certain communist leaders. You go to Ethiopia. You do the same thing.”
  3. “Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.”
  4. “The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”
  5. “They’re 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?”
  6. [To an African American female caller]: “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”
  7.  “I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.  They’re interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well.  I think there’s a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn’t deserve.”
  8. Limbaugh’s many attacks on Obama.

Limbaugh has called Obama a ‘halfrican American’ has said that Obama was not Black but Arab because Kenya is an Arab region, even though Arabs are less than one percent of Kenya. Since mainstream America has become more accepting of African-Americans, Limbaugh has decided to play against its new racial fears, Arabs and Muslims.

Despite the fact Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law school, Limbaugh called him an ‘affirmative action candidate.’ Limbaugh even has repeatedly played a song on his radio show ‘Barack the Magic Negro’ using an antiquated Jim Crow era term for Black a man who many Americans are supporting for president.

Rush Limbaugh made racist attacks on four of the most admired and respected people of African descent in the past one hundred years, in Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Colin Powell and Barack Obama. He  claimed that Joe the Plumber, who isn’t even a plumber is more important in this election than Colin Powell, a decorated military veteran who served honorably in three administrations.

  1. “We need segregated buses… This is Obama’s America.”
  2. “Obama’s entire economic program is reparations.”

THE TWO CONTESTED QUOTES

We ran these two quotes as part of our original list of ten. However, in the fall of 2009, this post surfaced in the debate that followed Limbaugh’s dismissal from an investment group attempting to purchase the St. Louis Rams. NewsOne has, as yet, not been able to determine the veracity of these quotes. We note the following for the record:

  • These two quotes were both sourced from a book by Jack Huberman called “101 People Who Are Really Screwing America,” published by Nation Books in 2006. The author of this book, in turn, claims that he procured these quotes from a source which he has refused to reveal “on advice of counsel.”
  • Rush Limbaugh has vigorously denied that he said these things.

In sum, NewsOne can no longer vouch for the accuracy of these quotes. Nor can we trust Limbaugh, who never denied saying the other eight racist quotes on our original list. We keep them in our post for their news value as a controversial, and perhaps dubious attribution. Segregated, of course. Which should make some  very happy.

  1. “I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”
  2. “You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray [the confessed assassin of Martin Luther King]. We miss you, James. Godspeed.”

 

A Touching Tribute to Rush Limbaugh from DJT—-Sort Of

Smile All the While (And Don’t Forget to Boil Your Water)

 

Tilting at Windmills

Jimmy Kimmel and Trevor Noah touched on the issues Texas has faced this week after a winter storm overwhelmed the state’s power grid, leaving millions of people without hea

“I know people were praying for Texas to go blue, but not like this,” Noah joked. “I mean, is it too much to ask for just one apocalypse at a time?”

“Some people are putting up Scotch tape and blankets. That’s not how people should keep heat in their house; that’s how you hide the weed smell from your R.A.” — TREVOR NOAH

The electricity crisis in Texas, which has its own grid to avoid federal regulation, was largely caused by freezing in the natural gas pipelines that provide the majority of the state’s power supply. But conservatives and fossil fuel advocates have blamed wind power and even the Green New Deal, a climate proposal co-sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“The main reason Texas has plunged into darkness is that its natural gas industry has been crippled by this storm. And that might — might — have been preventable, except that Texas deregulated its power supply in the ’90s, which was clearly not the wisest decision. I mean, trust me, as a man who lived through the ’90s, you should probably rethink most of the decisions you made in that decade.” — TREVOR NOAH

“And this just goes to show you, you can’t put profits over quality and safety. Money’s not worth a whole lot if you have to burn it to keep warm.” — TREVOR NOAH

“I mean, this is the state that prides itself on its oil and gas industry, and now, that industry has failed spectacularly. This would be like Jason Momoa needing help opening a pickle jar, which is probably why state officials and their allies on cable news are working so hard to blame someone else.” — TREVOR NOAH

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas “has been working hard to somehow push the blame to Democrats and the Green New Deal, which doesn’t even exist yet. And Tucker Carlson is helping him out by blaming it on windmills.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“These guys are so desperate to just let fossil fuels off the hook, that they’re blaming A.O.C. and the Green New Deal — which, by the way, hasn’t even happened yet — for something that’s happening in Texas right now? But this just shows you, no matter what happens, no matter how far removed she is from the problem, conservatives can and will always find a way to blame the boogeyman, A.O.C. Rick Perry could have broken his arm as a kid and he would have blamed it on A.O.C.” — TREVOR NOAH

“Let’s kick off the show with the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the reason you keep refreshing vaccine websites like they’re selling Coachella tickets.” — TREVOR NOAH

“Last night, Biden promised the vaccine will be available to every American who wants it by the end of July. And then we can get back to spreading the old stuff — herpes, gonorrhea and good times!” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“The White House is said to be in talks with Amazon right now to help distribute the vaccine. The way it will work is any Prime member who can prove they’ve watched all six seasons of ‘Bosch’ will get vaccinated.” — JIMMY KIMMEL

“And with over a million Americans getting vaccinated every day, everyone is anxiously looking forward to a time when they can get back to doing normal things again, like going out to eat, or not thinking about the welfare of the people who deliver their packages.” — TREVOR NOAH

“Weekly Wilson” Podcast of Feb. 18th: Ryan Bliss, Writer/Director of “Alice Fades Away”

Some of you may have noticed the movement from politics to film on the blog, of late.

It has always been my goal to go among three topics: books, film and politics.

In addition, I sometimes convey information about my travels, whether that means Texas or Mexico or Alaska.

While it is tempting to bring up for discussion the feud that is currently playing out between Mitch McConnell and Donald J. Trump, I shall bypass this low-hanging political fruit, for the moment. Or the death today of Rush Limbaugh might send me off on another political thread, but I’m sticking to movies for the rest of February, and then I’ll be taking a break from the Weekly Wilson podcast.

If you are curious about which of the 45 or so podcasts I’ve done are interesting, I’ll be happy to list them for you, but I’m not sure if they remain “up” after my show goes into a hiatus, which may be permanent.

While I’m proud of the shows I’ve managed to put “in the can,” I’m also more than ready to return to writing—possibly a fourth book in The Color of Evil series.

But, this week, I’ll be interviewing the first-time director of “Alice Fades Away,” a film I reviewed here previously, and the week of February 25th I will speak with the Chicago director of “100 Days to Live,” Ravin Gandhi.

So, remember to tune in to listen to the conversation with Ryan Bliss, director of “Alice Fades Away,” on Thursday, February 18th.

James Corden, on January 19th, Salutes the Inauguration with “One More Day” from Les Mis

When Your Fellow Republicans Try a (Failed) Coup D’Etat, What Next…?

The Capitol, Washington, D.C.

The most recent sign of trouble ahead for the GOP is a serious discussion among dozens of former Republican officials to form a “center-right breakaway party” to go head-to-head with the Republican Party for conservative voters. “More than 120 of them held a Zoom call last Friday to discuss the breakaway group, which would run on a platform of ‘principled conservatism,’ including adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law—ideas those involved say have been trashed by Trump,” writes Reuters.

This is just one of a handful of recent events that suggest the Republican Party is headed for calamity, at least in the short term.

Here’s a few other notable factors:

  • Voters are fleeing the GOP: Voter registration data from states across the country show an unusually high exodus of people changing their party affiliation away from Republicans following the Jan. 6 insurrection.  The New York Times has some updated numbers this week, including the loss of more than 10,000 voters in Arizona, nearly 8,000 in North Carolina, and more than 12,000 in Pennsylvania—all states that will figure prominently in control for the Senate in 2022. “Nearly every state surveyed showed a noticeable increase” in GOP defections, writes the Times.

The Republican Party’s image is plummeting: Americans’ views of the GOP have slid seven points since early November to being seen favorably by just 37% of the public, according to Gallup. It’s not the historic low of 28% the party reached when its leaders forced a government shutdown over their doomed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but the trend line also hasn’t evened out yet—so who knows. Nonetheless, it’s a damning data point when paired up with the voter registration fallout since the Capitol siege. It also does not bode well for the GOP ahead of a vote on whether to acquit Donald

“100 Days to Live” Is Chicago-Based Thriller, Now Streaming

 

“One Hundred Days to Live” is a first feature from Writer/Director Ravin Gandhi of Chicago, who is the founder and CEO of GMM Nonstick Coating in Chicago. Ravin holds a B.S. in Accounting and Finance from the University of Illinois and an MBA in Entrepreneurial Studies from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His bucket list had always included making a movie, and, for the past 2 years, Ravin undertook to do exactly that, helming “100 Days to Live” and winning Best World Premiere and Best First-Time Director Honors at the San Diego Film Festival.

PLOT

The log line for the film: “When a serial killer abducts a young woman’s fiancé, she must race against the clock to discover the identity of the killer, and more importantly—his motive.” The film is quite an accomplishment for a mid-budget indie with a rookie director who did not major in filmmaking. While it boasts no big A- or B-list names, it more than makes up for it with solid actors, who would not typically be cast as leads in higher-profile films. Good performances with  a lot of emotion and complexity given to the characters of Rebecca, Gabriel, and the killer, Victor.  Rebecca, is fantastic as she carries most of the film. (*Listen to my interview with Heidi Johanningmeier on episode 42 posted on my blog, WeeklyWilson.com on February 4th).

The biggest plot hole answers that nagging question, “Why would anyone want to make a serial killer film that revolves around the sensitive subject of suicide?” Some critics have criticized the script for failing to go deep into suicide and to treat it as the sensitive subject it is. This film is not for families of suicide victims or those who think all references to this family tragedy should play out like a documentary.

This is a thriller and, while we can debate the sensitivity of the killer called The Savior, who leaves behind scrapbooks labeled “Sarah (etc.) Was Saved”  that’s a debate for another day. The Writer/Director is trying for a psychological thriller and  this isn’t a documentary or a PSA on Suicide Prevention. It’s a thriller—and a fairly innovative one, with a couple of innovative dream sequences, great cinematography and beautiful shots of the city (plus interiors of Ravin Gandhi’s condominium within the iconic Hancock Building), good music, and that twist ending we all crave.

ACTING

The lead role of a young suicide center counselor is played by Chicago actress Heidi Johanningmeier as Dr. Rebecca Church. Heidi shared that they shot the film in 29 days. She does a great job. (It’s really hard to believe that the lovely Heidi, from Mt. Ayr, Iowa, has 2 young sons and an artist husband. She lives in the Chicago suburbs, working full-time in the Windy City.)

At the end of the film, Writer/Director/Producer Gandhi appended a note thanking his family for vacating the family digs so that he could shoot there. Heidi acknowledged during our interview of February 4th that Mrs. Gandhi was a great sport about being asked to vacate her home for the duration.

The views from the Hancock Building are spectacular ;the exterior shots in Chicago (Pelago Ristorante, Millennium Park, lakefront cityscapes) are equally impressive. Even the costuming is top-notch, which Heidi and I discussed at length on February 4th in my interview.

Colin Egglesfield plays Gabriel Weeks, Rebecca’s boyfriend, who disappears—one of several victims. Police determine that the dead all shared a history of previous suicide attempts. Even the counselor reveals, in the course of the film, that she had a failed suicide attempt. When she was 18 she had suicidal impulses; she took 40 Seconal pills as a student in graduate school, roughly 2 years prior.

Gideon Embry plays the villain, Victor Quinn.  Heidi explained in a podcast conversation of 2/4 (up now at WeeklyWilson.com) that the make-up people worked on villain Victor’s tattoos longer than they worked on her make-up.  Victor has every victiim’s name tattooed on his torso. Victor says, “I won’t waste my time on non-believers.” Heidi shared that Gideon, in real life, was the opposite of the murderous Victor. “I live,” says Victor in the script, “so people like you can die.  I’m your salvation.”

CINEMATOGRAPHY & MUSIC

Nicholas M. Puetz is responsible for the cinematography. He captures some spectacular Chicago skylines, as well as handling two ambitious dream sequences, one involving Rebecca’s being sucked down the drain in her luxurious bathtub and a second set in a bedroom of the Hancock Building condominium. There are shots reflected off the light and music by Mima Fakhrara and Navid Hejazi.  The music contributed to evoking the appropriate mood at the right moments in the film.

The film makes you think about the precept in the film: What are you grateful for today?

It also makes you wonder what each of us would do if we knew, for sure, we only had 100 days left to live.

VERDICT

I freely acknowledge that the underlying plot premise may seem a bit implausible. For those who want a serious discussion of suicide, this film isn’t it. But don’t dismiss the entire project out-of-hand. If you accept the Writer/Director’s basic plot premise and go with it, the film is a psychological thriller with  a lot to recommend it.

 

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