Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Texas Page 1 of 8

“American: An Odyssey to 1947” Profiles Orson Welles at Austin Film Festival

Director Danny Wu

“Director Danny Wu takes us back to the 1940s with a collection of stories leading to the year 1947. Most notably exploring the life and politics of Orson Welles from his days at the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock, Illinois, to his shocking decision to leave for Europe in the prime of his career.” So says the IMDB synopsis, but there is a story about Civil Rights pioneer Isaac Woodard and Japanese interment in WWII also shoe-horned into this interesting documentary.

Chinese director Danny Wu can (and has) done it all. He is listed as a producer, director, cinematographer, editor on this 102 minute documentary and apparently did everything except the music, which is credited to Sean William. The Canadian picture was akin to watching one of the documentaries that Ken Burns releases, which inform us and educate us while entertaining us. The documentary was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Austin Film Festival; it was released October 20th in the U.S.

There is so much information crammed into this film that explains some of the enduring cache of “Citizen Kane,” long regarded as one of the best (if not THE best) films of all time. I came away feeling that it wasn’t just the quality of “Citizen Kane,” —-although, for a director releasing his first picture, the excellence was astounding—but the crucifixion of Orson Welles at the hands of William Randolph Hearst and J. Edgar Hoover, finally leading to his exile from his native land for the last 20 years of his life, that may account for some of the enduring popularity of “Citizen Kane.”

For me, the realization of how politics shaped the world’s reception to “Citizen Kane” was akin to the realization that Elizabeth Taylor deserved to win an Oscar, but probably not for “Butterfield 8.” Why then, did Taylor win in 1960, when she didn’t win in 1957, 1958, or 1959 (“Raintree County,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Suddenly, Last Summer.”) Explanation: she nearly died just prior to her win in 1960 and suffered a tracheotomy. Was her role as Oscar-worthy in “Butterfield 8” as it was in “Raintree County,“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” or “Suddenly, Last Summer?” No. Politics entered the decision.

In Orson Welles’ case, born in 1915 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, he was exceptional early on. His mother’s death when he was 9 and his alcoholic father’s death at 15 left him in the care of the Todd School at a time when its new director, Roger Hall, had taken the boys’ school in a very progressive direction. The school had a very good drama department and young Orson excelled at acting and directing and became the drama department head’s right hand man while very young.

Following his schooling, the young Orson went to Ireland and was hired to be the villain (Jew Suess) in a production at the well-regarded Gate drama school. While the job did not last, later, at a cocktail party hosted by the University of Chicago, he met Thornton Wilder and, when telling Wilder about himself, learned that the playwright had seen the performance and been quite impressed by it. Wilder put him in touch with drama mavens Katharine Cornell and Alexander Woolcott and his performance in a Shakespeare play was seen by John Houseman, who believed in him deeply. Orson Welles’ early luck was quite fortuitous.

However, Orson Welles’ early good luck would turn to bad luck when media baron William Randolph Hearst took offense at “Citizen Kane,” feeling it was modeled on his own life. With the assistance of J. Edgar Hoover,  Hearst began a campaign to attack Welles’ reputation. The fact that the attack was largely political is supported by the fact that an FBI file on Welles was not opened after the world famous Mercury Theater “War of the Worlds” broadcast, which made Welles an international celebrity. The file did not start after that October 30th, 1938 broadcast, but, instead, in 1941, when Hearst had become more and more disenchanted with FDR, especially FDR’s plans for a graduated income tax, which Hearst vehemently opposed.

Welles was a big supporter of FDR and, in fact, once stood in for him in a debate with opponent Thomas Dewey. It was Orson Welles who gave an eloquent eulogy at FDR’s funeral. FDR’s WPA project, which gave the arts in the United States $6 million 700 thousand dollars to put unemployed Depression-era citizens back to work, was a great impetus to painters and actors and artists of all kinds in the U.S. During the WPA’s hey day, Welles was put in charge of the Negro Theater at the age of 19 and produced a historic version of Macbeth with a huge cast.

Unfortunately, one of the victims of Hearst’s wrath, was the WPA funding, which fell victim to Hearst’s conservative beliefs. Hearst had originally supported FDR for the presidency, but he had fallen out of love with FDR; the axing of the money for the arts was offered up to placate Hearst. Hearst also blocked “Citizen Kane” from appearing in any of the theaters he owned, and that ultimately led to the film incurring a loss of $150,000 as a result of being  available in so few theaters of the day.

Nelson Rockefeller approached Welles, soon after he had filmed (but not edited) his second movie, “The Magnificent Ambersons,” to travel to Brazil and do a somewhat light-hearted look at Brazil at Carnival time in Rio. This was part of FDR’s concerns about Latin America possibly selecting the wrong side to support in WWII.

Welles thought he would be able to edit his second film while in Brazil, but things were taking a turn for the worse and he was not only evicted from his Mercury Theater but the studio—which was supposed to have given him Final Cut on all his film projects—took over his second film and ruined it. There had also been a change of ownership at the top of RKO and the previous head of the studio, who had stood behind Welles’ auteur-ship, was replaced by a hostile force.

All of Welles’ previous good luck seems to have turned to bad luck after “Citizen Kane” and, with the formation of the House Unamerican Activities Committee, with 4 screenwriters actually sent to jail and many others hounded about Communist ties, Welles saw the writing on the wall. Famous names like Ring Lardner, Jr., and Dalton Trumbo had their lives ruined. Orson decamped for Italy for an acting role and remained there for the rest of his life.

At this point, two other documentary topics enter the Orson Welles story. One of them is fairly well-connected, because the abuse of Isaac Woodard, a decorated soldier in the Pacific theater in World War II, was a cause that Welles took up at the request of the NAACP.

Woodard was in uniform and riding a bus in the South, when he asked to use the rest room on the bus. The driver objected, based on the “whites only” Jim Crow laws of the time. Welles was opposed to all such racial inequality and began broadcasting the story of Isaac Woodard on his radio show, reading Woodard’s affidavit to the police on July 18, 1946, aloud and continuing to inform the U.S. public about Woodard’s ordeal (until Welles lost his radio show and was removed from the air in October of 1946, a continuation of Hearst’s persecution.).

Woodard continued on the bus to the next stop (after his bathroom request) where police confronted him and asked him if he was still in the Army. Unfortunately, he admitted that he had just been mustered out; the police who confronted him beat him and gouged out his eyes, blinding him. Welles campaigned to find out the name of the assailant (Lynwood Shull), but the kangaroo Southern court took only 20 minutes to acquit the assailant, falsely claiming that Woodard had been “drunk and disorderly.”

Welles was also instrumental in the benefit concert for Woodard, at which performers like Nat King Cole, Billie Holliday and Joe Louis sold 36,000 tickets, turning away another 10,000 would-be attendees. The money raised helped Isaac Woodard to start a foundation to fight for racial equality. Julian Bond—a hero of the Civil Rights movement of the Sixties—said that Isaac Woodard was a true originator of the Civil Rights movement that consumed the 60s.

This nominee for the Grand Jury Award at the Austin Film Festival does lose its way a bit when, into the mix of Orson Welles’ career and his assistance to black Civil Rights pioneer Isaac Woodard  an entire segment about the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima and the interment of Japanese American citizens during World War II is inserted.

The information was riveting and interesting, involving, as it did, the eye witness testimony of a Japanese American survivor of the Hiroshima blast who was at the very epicenter, yet survived with his brother and his grandparents.  It detracts from the focus of the film. The film is supposed to be primarily about the career and times of Orson Welles. The Japanese interment during WWII deserves a documentary of its own. Its inclusion and the testimony of the Hiroshima eye witness, one of the few survivors at the epicenter of the blast, seems to lack focus.

Peter Bogdanovich

Having said that, the documentary is a terrific achievement to have gathered all this archival footage and all the testimony of the best scholars and authors who have written about Welles. I couldn’t help but think of the appearance of Peter Bogdanovich at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2018. He was there with Orson Welles‘ long-delayed film The Other Side of the Wind, which was filmed in the 1970s and featured a prominent supporting role by Boganovich. Bogdanovich had long hoped to complete it, was released by Netflix to critical acclaim and shown at that year’s Chicago International Film Festival. Bogdanovich, who began life as a film historian, would have been a great interview subject for Director Wu, but, unfortunately died in January of 2022 from Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 82.
“American: An Odyssey to 1947,” through rare archival footage and 3D modeling, immerses the audience in the era. We do discover much about one of cinema’s most iconic directors, and how he shaped the culture of Hollywood. The information about his enlightened views on race relations were welcome, but the Japanese segment needs (and deserves) its very own documentary, my only criticism of an excellent and absorbing documentary.

“Sam & Kate” Makes World Premiere at Austin Film Festival with Star-Studded Cast

“Sam & Kate” cast onscreen at the Austin Film Festival on October 28th.

October 28th was the World Premiere of the film “Sam & Kate” at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas, during the Austin Film Festival.

“A life affirming family dramedy that takes place in a small town in the heart of the country. Dustin Hoffman plays BILL, a larger-than-life Father to Sam (Jake Hoffman) who has returned home to take care of Bill and his ailing health. While at home, Sam falls for a local woman, Kate (Schuyler Fisk). At the same time, Bill starts to fall for her mom, Tina (Sissy Spacek).”  That is the synopsis provided by IMDB, but the movie is far more intricate than that.

Darren Le Gallo, husband of Amy Adams and a first-time director, was present at the World Premiere of “Sam & Kate,” which featured veteran Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman and Sissy Spacek appearing as the parents of their real-life offspring.  Hoffman plays Bill, the father of Jake, and a crusty old guy in the tradition of Clint Eastwood’s character Walt Kowalski in “Gran Torino.”

Writer/Director Darren LeGallo.

Sissy Spacek, mother of co-star Schuyler Fisk, gives an outstanding performance as someone afflicted by a hoarding disorder. Her bathroom scene is one of the best examples of Oscar-caliber acting from a female put onscreen this year.

There is also a back-story for her daughter, Kate, too, which makes Kate, a bookstore owner, unwilling to become romantically involved with the persistent Jake of the title, well-played by Jake Hoffman.

The stars of the film took the stage at the Paramount for a Q&A after the film screened, and both agreed that they’d been looking for something to do together when this script came their way. “It was just serendipitous,” said Spacek.

Dustin Hoffman in Austin, Texas, on October 28th.

Hoffman the elder commented that, “People get set in their ways if they’re single for too long” as explanation for why the younger couple are  older than those still single in society. Jake Hoffman’s character of Sam remarks that he can’t believe that Kate is still single, since she is obviously a beautiful and eminently eligible woman.The younger couple shared a funny story from the stage. There is a post-coital scene when Sam and Kate finally do spend a night in bed. During the set-up for filming the scene, the younger Hoffman said, to Schuyler Fisk, “I want you to come to my (real-life) wedding.” Jake also told the audience how his father told him about the script in the first place, asking him if Jake wanted to play the part of his son. When Jake heard the title of the film (“Sam & Kate”) Dustin Hoffman said, “Yeah, you prick.  You’re the lead.”

Sissy Spacek remarked on the “wonderful layered relationship” of the characters and said that doing the film “Was a no-brainer.” She described working with her daughter as “thrilling” and “exciting.”

Hoffman ended his remarks from the stage by commenting on the different ways of working that a director may select. “Some directors,” he said, “have a vision in their heads as the filming begins and they want you to duplicate what they see in their heads.  By allowing you the liberty—and, amazingly, it’s his first time out—Director LeGallo let us take the film outward and into ourselves.” He also remarked on the audience that sat patiently waiting for the Q&A with very few audience members leaving, saying, “You’re a very special audience. You were gold.” (This remark also would extend to the Opening Night audience for “The Whale” on Oct. 27th.)

 

The film was a sad, but ultimately uplifting tribute to love and kindness. Jake (as Sam) tells Kate (Schuyler Fisk) after his crusty father’s death, “It got me thinking about what I would regret, and that’s you, Kate. I can’t imagine dying without telling you what you mean to me.”

 

Elizabeth Faith Ludlow (Mary) and Elizabeth Becka (Beth) in Austin at the World Premiere of “Sam & Kate.”

Also quite good in the film was the music by Roger O’Donnell and the appearance by Henry Thomas (of “E.T” fame) as Ron, complete with singing and guitar-playing. The supporting roles of Mary (Elizabeth Faith Ludlow) and Beth (Elizabeth Becka) were also completely on target as supporting players. The duo sat together in the audience and enjoyed the film’s World Premiere.

 

“Sam & Kate” is a small indie film that Vertical films allowed the festival to screen for this Writers’ Festival, where it was definitely appreciated and enjoyed.

 

 

 

“Vengeance” (B.J. Novak) Is A Great First-Time Film from “The Office” Star

The film “Vengeance” is written and directed by B.J. Novak of “The Office” fame. The synopsis of the plot reads: “A writer from New York City attempts to solve the murder of a girl he hooked up with, and travels down South to investigate the circumstances of her death and discover what happened to her.”

As the film opens, B.J.—who plays the main character Ben Manalowitz in a sort of early Woody Allen-esque fashion modeled on the “Annie Hall” template—is out and about in New York City with John Mayer, the singer. Mayer essentially plays himself. It is well-known that the singer (“Your Body Is A Wonderland”) has practically made a career out of dating numerous female pop icons. The conversation between Mayer’s character (John) and B.J.’s character of Ben, which seems to take place atop a New York City rooftop party, is all about hooking up with various women on a casual basis. The two are using their cell phones to revisit past and present conquests and agreeing with one another (without really communicating) with the rote response “100% !”

The next step in the plot has Ben (B.J. Novak) answering a late-night phone call from someone who says his name is Ty Shaw (Boyd Holbrook). Ty describes himself as the brother of a one-time hook-up of Ben’s named Abilene Shaw (Lio Tipton). Ty assumes that Ben will be coming South to Texas for Abilene’s funeral. Ben is at a loss to process this suggestion, as he barely remembers Abilene at all.

Where, in Texas, is this home town? Three hours from Dallas and five hours from Abilene, so literally in the middle of  nowhere in west Texas. Ben tries to beg off, saying, “I’ll be there in spirit,” which causes Ty (the brother) to respond that he will pick Ben up from the Spirit Airlines terminal at the airport.

Ben does fly to Texas, because he has the idea that his experiences in rural Texas might provide good raw material for a podcast topic he is pitching to a radio executive, played by Issa Rae as Eloise.

When Ty picks Ben up at the airport, he lays out a case for Abilene, an aspiring singer, having been murdered. They are in Ben’s pick-up truck and  Ben is quite taken aback, exclaiming “I don’t avenge deaths. I don’t live in a Liam Neeson movie.” This leads to a wry conversation with Ty about Liam Neeson movies, with Ty proclaiming “Schindler’s List” to be “a huge downer.” Hard not to laugh.

It also sets up the scene at the burial of Abilene where Ben—who barely knew the girl—is asked to get up and say a few words about his “girlfriend.” Ben does an excellent job of uttering platitudes along the lines of “I never expected to be in a situation like this.” He goes on to mention banal remarks about “spending more time” with someone (“All of us”) and mentions how she “loved music.” It should be mentioned that Jessie Novak actually wrote one of the songs entitled “I Finished My Shift at Claire’s” and B.J. Novak gets credit for one with a title something like “When I Get Signal.” Andrea Von Foroester was in charge of the music and Cinematographer was Lyn Moncrief in this Jason Blum production.

The eulogy from Ben graveside gets him off the hook with the family (re his relationship with Abilene) for the moment, but, because he needs more material for his podcast proposal, Ben is talked into staying at the family home and actually sleeping in Abilene’s old childhood bedroom. Ben keeps humoring Ty in his quest for vengeance, which, in one insightful line, the script explains is the new reality that the truth is too hard to accept, so people are always looking for someone to blame. There are also some deep nuggets concerning social media adding to the proliferation of conspiracy theories and those who hold forth their own opinions as everyone’s truth (without proof), so the film is not just all fun and games and searching for killers who may or may not exist.

The piece starts out to be a somewhat snobbish look down Ben’s nose at the fly-over country he is visiting, a land where, according to the locals, “In Texas, we don’t dial 9-1-1.” It ends up failing to endorse the proposal that all city folk are smarter and sharper and better. The sincerity of the locals cannot fail to impress. However, you do come away with the impression that the bright lights of the rural Heartland won’t win fame and fortune unless they move to a city where their talent can be recognized, so you tell me if that is a vote for west Texas or, like Sam Kinnison’s act, someone screaming, “You live in the desert. Move to the water.”

As it turns out, Abilene—(who initially is misrepresented as someone “who wouldn’t even touch an Advil)—did have a bit of a drug problem, and the reason seems to be the dead-end life she was living in rural Texas, her New York City dreams having not panned out.

Abilene attended a party near an oil field, where cell reception was poor. The party took place at the intersection of four competing jurisdictions off Highway 29. This meant that neither the local Banefield Police Department (Officers Mike and Dan), the border patrol, the DEA, nor Sheriff Jimeniz really would care enough to investigate a party like the one where Abilene died, which seems to have been a routine event in the area.

The Shaws are a family where the younger brother of Abilene’s (Eli Bickel as Mason) is routinely referred to as “El Stupido.” When Ben objects to categorizing the middle school-aged boy this way, Ty, his older brother, says, “It’s okay. He doesn’t speak Spanish.”

Ty is portrayed as “a good old boy” and a typical Texan. Only Quentin Sellers seems to have a clue about the Big City. At one point in the dialogue, Ashton Kutcher’s character mentioned that he had moved to this godforsaken spot from another state. I’d have to see it again to tell you if it was Iowa or Idaho, but we all know that, IRL, Ashton is from the Cedar Rapids/Amana area, so please let me know if Iowa got a plug.

The movie makes fun of the Texas fascination with the Whataburger franchise. The simplistic reason for liking it is given as “because it’s right there.” However, when Ty is pushed to explain further, he says, “You just love it, and that’s how love works.” This “heart to heart” theme comes off as perhaps superior to the lack of compassion or empathy evinced by city dwellers, early in the film.

Many of the snobby Jewish boy’s pre-conceived impressions about the South are shown up for what they are: prejudice. In a revealing debate with one of Abilene’s sisters (Isabella Amara as Paris Shaw) about literature, it becomes clear that Paris has actually read the source material, while Ben has not. (Harry Potter books abound in Abilene’s bedroom, thanks to 2 female set decorators who grew up in San Antonio and are about the same age as Abilene of the film.) Ben is merely reciting rote opinions without being as well-informed as this Texas high school girl, but he has retained an air of superiority. Alex Jones, without the shouting.

Ashton Kutcher, who has not appeared in a major movie role since roughly 2013 (“Jobs”) appears as Quentin Sellers. The Iowa-born native recently revealed that he had been suffering from “a super rare form of Vasculitis” that he contracted three years ago. The disease attacks the veins and arteries and is an auto-immune disorder that involves inflammation and can cause organ failure or aneurysms in its most severe form. Kutcher said, “Like two years ago, I had this weird, super-rare form of vasculitis,” Kutcher shared these experiences in an exclusive video clip released to “Access Hollywood” from an upcoming episode of National Geographic’s “Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge.”

“Knocked out my vision, knocked out my hearing, knocked out like all my equilibrium. It took me like a year to build it all back up.”

Therefore, it was a treat to see a healthy 44-year-old white-clad Kutcher playing Quentin Sellers, founder of the Quentin Sellers Music Factory in the middle of Texas. Quentin gives an inspiring speech about “all these bright creative lights with nowhere to plug in their energy,” as he holds himself out as a music impresario in the middle of nowhere. His wardrobe is a plus (mostly white) and he looks great.

The writing is extremely insightful. The actors do well with their parts, and, for a first-time director, Novak has hit a home run. The dry humor (see trailer) leaves you laughing out loud.

My only criticism would be the denouement of the film. It seemed out of character for the protagonist. I won’t say any more than that, because this is one you’ll want to rent and enjoy for yourself.

I look forward to B.J. Novak’s next writer/director outing.

Will the Texas Power Grid Prevail in These High Energy Times?

I’m sitting in the Illinois Quad Cities, where it is currently 95 degrees. And humid. Very, very humid. It’s 100 degrees in Des Moines and 91 degrees in my old hometown in northeast Iowa (Independence). Because of the humidity, it feels more like 107.

In Austin, Texas, our home away from home, it is 97 degrees. One wonders how the weird Texas power grid will hold up, given its spectacular failure in February of 2021. Texas wanted to have its very own power grid to escape and avoid federal oversight, but they are “on their own” in such power emergencies. And when it’s hot in the summer, AC is a power emergency. And when it snowed in Austin (a rare occurrence) it was a power emergency on the other side of the dial.

“Daily Kos” reported that “intensifying Texas heat is poised to test the power grid on Thursday with demand seen topping 80 gigawatts for the first time ever.”

Running turbines are expected to bolster electricity supplies, reducing the threat of outages as homeowners and businesses crank up air conditioners across the second-largest US state, according to data from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc. [ERCOT]

We lived through the power outage in February of 2021 in Austin, Texas, that killed hundreds and cost many homeless people the total loss of their toes and/or feet. It was truly NOT a good thing. We had to melt down our snowman to be able to flush our toilets! We had to use Saran wrap on dirty plates because there was no water with which to wash dishes (or anything else). Not fun. The catastrophe totally upended businesses like the HEB food store shelves, which were largely bare for at least a week after the storm hit.

Elsewhere today (8/6/2022), near the White House, lightning struck and killed 3 people, critically injuring 4 people. Donna and James Mueller, grandparents from Wisconsin, died. Kentucky has been hit by floods. Missouri also experienced torrential downpours. The U.S. hurricane system will produce an above-average series of storms, up 60%, says the National Weather Service. Death Valley National Park has 1,000 people stranded there amid flooding, and water is becoming a precious commodity in the western part of our nation, where fires have ravaged states like California

The drought is so intense that there is no absorption of any rainfall. Fires have been everywhere in the west, while states like Washington, and cities like Seattle, where only 40% have A/C, are suffering in this nationwide heat wave. Yellowstone shut down. Our national parks are proving to us that these are different days and we should have fought harder to install Al Gore, who probably really won in 2000 and championed global warming. (Just think how much better off we would have been with a president who championed curbing climate change for 8 years, rather than one who started 2 unwinnable wars simultaeously.)

Cities are hitting 110 temperatures in Scottsdale, AZ, and in  Phoenix, the current temperature is 106. Heat stress is real. It takes a toll on our GDP. Emergency room visits; Health care costs. All are affected. Cooling centers and city planning will be affected in our murky future.

I hope that Texas’ weird power grid system makes it through this hot period, before I arrive in the fall. Personally, I think it is very unfair to turn the Texas Power Grid into a “money-making” scheme, operating much like surge pricing by Uber and Lyft. More is charged during “peak periods” and the bills, currently, are staggering in cities like Dallas.

By NOT being part of the East or West power grids of this country, the state also misses out on the ability to borrow power from other states in an emergency and on the ability to sell excess power to other states. Only El Paso escaped the chaos in February, 2021, as they had joined one of the two national power grids, which was wise.

Amidst all this chaos, the $369 billion climate investment of the new bill passed by the Democrats and the Biden administration seems very, very sound, if, arguably, not large enough.  The goal is to decrease fossil fuel emissions by 40% by 2030. [The bill that is passing today will also provide health changes, including capping Medicare out-of-pocket costs at $2 k and giving Medicare the power to negotiate some drug prices, while also extending the Affordable Care Act for 3 more years].

One wonders how much longer the GOP  will continue to maintain that there is no global warming, Donald J. Trump won the election, and Covid will go away when the weaather gets warmer.

 

List of Sitting Lawmakers in IL, TX, TN, Who Betrayed Our Democracy

As the January 6th Commission convenes in Prime Time on Thursday evening (7/21), it is good to remember those representatives and Senators who betrayed our democratic values on January 6th. I have listed the states where I live and where my son and daughter live, as the names on the lists below do not deserve our future votes for office.

Here is an opinion reprint from “Daily Kos” that names the traitors in office.

by Brandi Buchmann

Now that the January 6th committee has spent more than a year investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, they have unearthed evidence, in physical records and eyewitness testimony, that overwhelmingly suggests former President Donald Trump desperately schemed to retain power after losing the 2020 election and saw this plot aided or advanced by an increasingly craven series of lawmakers, lackeys, lawyers,  aides, and right-wing extremists.

Many of those lawmakers who parroted Trump’s meritless claims of voter fraud did so at relatively the same clip he did, using their sizeable platforms, power, and influence to promote conspiracy theories about the results of the election that were disproven by the nation’s Justice Department and intelligence apparatuses and dismissed by court after court and judge after judge—including those judges Trump appointed.

When Congress finally met for the joint session on Jan. 6 to count certified elector slates and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gaveled in, throngs of protesters would breach Capitol police barriers just minutes later. Trump, live from the Ellipse, was finishing a speech where he urged his supporters to march on the Capitol. One line encouraging this in his draft speech, according to White House records provided to the committee by the National Archives, shows Trump ad-libbed this call to action four times on Jan. 6.

Testimony and other evidence collected by the committee indicate too that Trump initially tried to conceal a plan to march on the Capitol even as he, members of his campaign staff, and rally organizers moved full steam ahead. This detail drastically undercuts claims by Trump and his allies currently in Congress that say January 6 was a peaceful protest that spontaneously went awry.

The committee has also shown evidence of at least six Republican lawmakers seeking preemptive pardons from Trump in the wake of the insurrection. In a request spearheaded by Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, he went so far as to ask for a preemptive pardon for all 147 members of Congress who lodged an objection to Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Brooks also requested pardons for 126 Republicans who joined an amicus brief filed in Texas that sought to challenge election results in Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.

Brooks has since defended his ask while simultaneously trying to distance himself from his own inflammatory remarks delivered at the Ellipse on Jan. 6.

It was Trump who told Brooks to make the pardon request, he wrote, in a Jan. 11, 2021 email.

Notably, Brooks said he was making his inquiry “pursuant to a request” from Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. More than six weeks after Trump finally left office, it was reported for the first time by The New York Times that Gaetz was under investigation for alleged sex trafficking and sex with a minor.

In addition to Brooks and Gaetz, Hutchinson specifically named House Republicans Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Andy Biggs of Arizona, and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. All have issued various denials about the pardons but remain vocal, staunch supporters of Trump and have continued, until now, to cast doubts or aspersions on the Jan. 6 committee’s work and standing.

Trump never issued the pardons and Brooks fell out of favor with him after he urged prospective voters during his failed campaign for a Senate seat to put the 2020 election “behind them.” Trump said Brooks went “woke” and endorsed his opponent.

The Senators who voted to overturn the 2020 election after the insurrection are:

House members in Texas, Illinois and Tennessee who voted to overturn the 2020 election results after the insurrection:

One additional Texas legislator on the list has subsequently died.

 

 

Radiation Ends on July 18, 2022

I had my final radiation session (of 33) today at Trinity Hospital (Unity Point). It is July 18, 2022, and my birthday is in 5 days.

The staff has you ring a bell (which I had never noticed before today) and I was given a small stone engraved with Courage, Love, Strength and a card with what looked to be about 30 names.

I have been driving down to Trinity at a quarter to 1 p.m. every week day since May, with a hiatus after session 19 when we went to Texas for our Family Fest (family reunion).

During the sessions, I have gotten to know Brie, Lora, Alysson, Susan and some of the other technicians and they have performed admirably. Alyssa will graduate this coming Thursday from her online university program in radiology.

I wanted to take something to the girls, and, of course, food was the first thing one thinks of, but I, for one, do NOT need another doughnut and I think perhaps some of the technicians don’t, either, o I tried to think of something tied to my recent Texas trip.

The bags that were given each of us who came to the reunion were so colorful and nice that I asked my daughter-in-law for 4 of them. Then I had to think of what to put IN the bags.

After some soul-searching (tee shirts? Key ring?) I realized that I had an entire basement full of books…books that I wrote over the years since 2003 and on many different topics. In addition, since I have at least 2 series with 3 books in them (novels and short story collections), they could mix and match and share with one another, selecting the ones they felt they would enjoy most. If none of them suits their fancy, they can donate them to a local library, but these are books that I painstakingly wrote, myself, so there is a personal element in giving them something I “made.”

I read (on WebMD) about other gifts from other patients, but almost all were food. I do admit that food is tempting, but that will be my next big hurdle: shaping up and not eating bad foods, so I went with books. I do wish I had been “dressed” in my street clothes when asked to “ring the bell” but I had just climbed down from a radiation table and, as you can see, had on a beautiful hospital gown of nondescript style.

I had a meeting with my radiologist, Dr. Stouffel, who felt I had done well. I will see him again on Aug. 11th.

It sounds like, from this point on, I merely take the Anastrozole pills I have been on since February and then I have a follow-up mammogram no less than 6 months after the end of radiation. That will be January and I will be in Texas. When I asked whether I should find a mammogram place there or wait until I returned to this area, the doctor said I needed to do it here so that the previous monograms taken could be compared. That will be more like 10 months before the next mammogram will take place.

I asked if this was in any way risky and he said it would not be.

So, from now on, while awaiting my August colonoscopy, my dental exam, and my vision screening, I am done (I hope).

I hope for a return to normalcy and an end to the 70 doctor visits I’ve experienced in 8 months’ time

The Roaring Fork, Austin, Texas: Family Fest Farewell

End of Family Fest 2022.

Time in Austin is dwindling and the return to the Midwest is upon us.

As a result we journeyed out to my favorite downtown restaurant, The Roaring Fork. I don’t often post pictures of food, but I’m going to post a picture of the dining room, the bar, and my favorite dish on the menu, the chicken with dressing and green beans, which retails for around $24 and is delicious!

When we headed downtown, we had planned to stroll around after dinner and see what might be going on downtown, but when the temperature hit 108 and it was still 95 degrees at 9 p.m., that plan died a grisly death.

The other random topic I want to address is the Minions fad of dressing up to attend the new Minions movie.

The Roaring Fork, Austin, Texas.

It immediately reminded me of a long-ago field trip with my class at Silvis Junior High School. We were going to be sharing the movie auditorium with another junior high school (John Deere Junior High) and I wanted my students to behave. It had not escaped my attention that the day we were set to make the field trip was also the day that our school normally had something called Dress Up Day.

So, on the blackboard of my classroom, I wrote “DUD Day” and explained that that meant Dress Up for Deere day.

The kids got behind the idea and showed up looking like they were going to Sunday church or out on a fancy date. The girls looked lovely; the boys were also dressed like those attending the Minions movie that I’ve seen. My students were very well-behaved, and I think their attire was part of that equation. John Deere Junior High’s? Not so much.

I was never so proud of my wonderful students as when they got behind the idea of DUD Day and behaved  like the ladies and gentlemen I knew they could be. They were on their best behavior.

I think dressing up for movies and other formal occasions–something my generation did as a matter of course—is a wonderful idea. It’s nice to know that it’s not totally dead, even if the dressing up, this time, is for a totally digital online fad/reason. (And no throwing bananas if you’re dressed up at the Minions movie!)

The Roaring Fork’s chicken entree. Delicious!

 

Armie Hammer Is Now A Time-Share Salesman

Armie Hammer and wife (2018 SXSW Festival, photo by Connie Wilson)

I never thought I’d type the words “Armie Hammer is now working as a time-share salesman.” I’m guessing that Armie Hammer never thought he’d become one, either.

I met the actor at SXSW (with  his then-wife) hyping a film directed by Stanley Tucci. The film, released in 2017, was “Final Portrait.” It was “the story of Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti.” The movie starred Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer and Tony Shalhoub. It was written and directed by Stanley Tucci. Tucci—who is, also, coincidentally, the brother-in-law of “A Quiet Place” star Emily Blunt (married to her sister)—was not there in person, but he sent Armie Hammer and it was shown in the theater right next door to the Paramount, the Stateside (formerly the State Theater) on Opening Night, a theater where I had previously seen a troupe of trained cats entertain my granddaughters. [Some of the cats escaped during the show and we were cautioned about opening the door to the lobby.]

“Final Portrait” Red Carpet at SXSW.

This theater was built in 1935 and, after renovations through the years, what remains looks every one of those 86 years of age. It comfortably seats 305 today. In 1950 it was announced that it seated 997; I cannot imagine how that was possible, unless the patrons were stacked like cordwood. The theater itself fell on hard times in the 70s and suffered a water main break in June of 2006 that  delayed its 70-year anniversary celebration.

“A Quiet Place” was going to be opening the festival next door at the Paramount.  I had secured a ticket to “A Quiet Place” because the writers of that film were Bettendorf (IA) natives Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. I decided to see if I could hit both at once, leaving “Final Portrait” early because, honestly, I had little interest in this obscure Italian painter and sculptor, but was intensely interested in how “A Quiet Place” would do as Paramount’s Opening Night Film at SXSW. It was a wise decision.

Armie Hammer at the Red Carpet at the Stateside Theater in Austin (Tx) for Final Portrait, Stanley Tucci’s directorial debut. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Troubles began immediately. We were all crowded into a tiny lobby of the Stateside Theater, but the projector wasn’t operative or the film was flawed or some other technical problem was causing those in charge to attempt to carry a laptop computer to the control booth. The plan, as I overheard it, was to show us the film from the computer stream. That didn’t sound like the Opening Night experience I had in mind, so, after meeting and greeting the extremely handsome Armie Hammer, I split for “A Quiet Place” next door at the Paramount—but not before taking the pictures you see here.

Then came news of Armie’s infidelities and his texts about cannibalism and other such revelations. Still, he was the “star” of “Death on the Nile” and was in too many scenes to remove him, so Armie had another day in the sun. And Armie’s family is extremely wealthy, as profiled in a “Vanity Fair” article.

Now, according to the “Daily Globe,” Armie’s days in the sun are spent in the Cayman Islands selling time shares for $2,000 a week or $21,000 for 10 years at Morritt’s Resort. At least, he was spotted there in June pricing a unit with potential buyers, although his agent denied  this when asked.

In another weird story, Elon Musk is not going to spend $44 billion buying Twitter and will probably be sued for backing out of the deal.

I was tempted to entitle this story “Death in the Caymans” (but you’d have to be aware that Armie Hammer was in that 2022 movie).

After all, Armie’s family is still filthy rich and he’s still extremely handsome, so it’s hard to feel too sorry for him, even now. His downfall was caused by inappropriate texting, a fascination with cannibalism, and infidelity; hard to blame anyone but Armie for his demise.

 

 

Elon Musk: Father of the Year?

Elon Musk arrives at The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/MG22/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue ); Shivon Zilis http://www.shivonzilis.com
Credit: Kevin Mazur/MG22/Getty; Shivon Zilis/shivonzilis.com
YIKES!
Elon Musk apparently had twins right here in Austin (Tx) where I am now, just 8 months ago—and also had another child with singer Grimes, and do we know whether or not he is the father of Amber Heard’s daughter?
Wow.
I am…..speechless, and wish to give full credit to “People” magazine for keeping track of this guy, since it must be pretty difficult, since he really gets around! Here’s the “People” report:

“Elon Musk secretly welcomed twins last year.

The 51-year-old Tesla CEO fathered twins with Shivon Zilis last November, according to court documents published by the Insider Wednesday. The twins were born in Austin, Texas.

The papers reveal that in April, Musk and Zilis –– who is the project director at his Neuralink company –– asked a Texan county court to change their babies’ names so they would “have their father’s last name and contain their mother’s last name as part of their middle name.”

The twins’ sexes were not made public and their names were redacted from the documents.

An Austin judge granted their request in May, per Insider.

A representative for Musk did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment. Zilis also did not immediately respond.

The twins’ arrival came just weeks before Musk and his former partner Grimes welcomed a baby girl via a surrogate in December, despite the pair splitting up in September. She revealed the birth of Exa Dark Sideræl, who they’ve nicknamed Y, in a cover story for Vanity Fair. They also share 2-year-old son X Æ A-12.”

July 6th: Post Family Fest

Today is July 6th, Wednesday.

The Texas heat is still here (it will feel like 105 tomorrow), but at least we don’t have the storms that seem to be hitting the Midwest.

The last of the Family Fest revelers will be leaving tomorrow at 9 a.m.

We are here through July 11th and I have a desire to dine at the Roaring Fork at least once before we go back to the Midwest.

Beyond that, our euchre club meets on Wednesdays and that might beckon tomorrow.

The last 5 days have been very hot, but very event-filled. Kudos to the son and daughter-in-law, who put it all together.

I began doing some research on the driver’s license renewal laws for Illinois versus Iowa versus Texas. There is no real reason for this, other than I will have to renew mine in 2024 (I renewed it last year) and I was curious. Perhaps you will find this as interesting as I did.

  1.  Illinois:  In Illinois, if you are past 75, you have to drive with the driver’s license examiner in the car and you only get a license for 2 years. Naturally, vision tests and insurance proof are required. I also would mention that the minimum wage in Illinois is $12.00.
  2. Iowa:  In Iowa—where the minimum wage is $7.25, just what it was when I owned 2 busineses back in the 80s, 90s and through 2003—you get a 2-year license, but you have to show up in person and take a vision screening (and, sometimes, a written test). You do not have to drive with the examiner every time.
  3. Texas:  In Texas, between the ages of 79 and 85 you get a 6-year license. You can renew it online. There may be a vision screening/written test, but there is no driving with the examiner requirement. The minimum wage is $7.25. So now you know.

    Connie, Stacey, Craig and (nephew) Michael Wilson at the outdoor Armadillo Bar in Austin, Texas, on July 3, 2022.

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