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!

“Recovery,” the Comedy, Will Help You Recover Your Smile at SXSW Online

“Recovery,” a film written by Whitney Everton and Stephen Meek was my first film of Day #2 of SXSW Online Film Festival. Two sisters, Jamie (Whitney Call) and Blake (Mallory Everton) Jerikovic stage an across-the-country trip to rescue their Nanna from an old folks’ home during the pandemic.

It is one of the few—-perhaps only—films I’ve seen that completely embraces Covid-19 in its storyline. I don’t mean documentaries, of which I’ve seen several, but a feature film with Covid as a central storyline with the emphasis on the light side.

The traveling sisters (Whitney and Mallory) have actually been best friends since the age of nine in real life. The delightful home-made videos at the end confirms their easy familiarity. They are also sketch comedy veterans of “Comedy C” and do a wonderful job of embodying their characters and (for Mallory) in writing the screenplay.  Comedy is not easy to write. It needs to be as light and fluffy as a souffle. These two seem like the likely heirs apparent to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

When the film opens, Jamie (Whitney Call) is celebrating her 30th birthday. The coronavirus is not yet a thing. Jamie is a teacher of 4th graders. She is thinking about buying airline or hotel stock and investing in a pricey gym membership. Sister Blake (Mallory Everton) has just had a one-night stand with a cute guy named Scott; that is another topic of conversation. They are unaware that they are about to be frozen in time by the pandemic. In the background of the next few scenes we hear the disheartening news of 51,000 deaths on March 30 of 2020. (If nothing else, this film will be a great, but not depressing, time capsule.)

Upon learning of the ravages of coronavirus on  Nana’s nursing home, the pair, headquartered in New Mexico, at first are counting on their older married sister, Erin (Julia Jolley), who lives in Washington closer to Nanna, to ride to the rescue. Paulina Jerockova (Anna Swerd Hansen), their beloved Nana,  needs to be moved out of the nursing home as quickly as possible—a plot point that is  factual, as one-third of all deaths in the United States took place in the close quarters of nursing homes.

The husband of Whitney Call, Stephen Meek, helped write and direct this light-hearted film, and I recommend it for those who want to see the comedy stars of tomorrow.

Unfortunately, Erin (Julia Jolley) is off on a cruise with her husband. (“The tickets were so cheap,” to which the sisters in New Mexico respond, “Yes, because it’s a death trap!”)

There are so many funny things in this 80-minute film that I enjoyed, even if I did have to watch it at 10 a.m. after covering some late-night films.  I was relieved to discover that it wasn’t a grim documentary about surviving some horrible illness (since I had forgotten exactly what I signed up early for), but a light-hearted distraction that audiences perfect for our time.

First, there is a sub-plot about the fourth grade class pet mice. Before the duo rides off to rescue Nana, Jamie must make arrangements for the mice to be cared for by one of her students’ families. Student Jacob Harper promises to take care of the mice, Bert and Ernie. It turns out that Ernie should have been named Ernestine and gives birth to mice babies. This does not go over well with Mrs. (Ainsley) Harper, who threatens retaliation. This plays out as a cell phone conversation

There’s a funny bit about the girls really getting into their music while driving and pounding on their car horn as they tool down the Interstate. Next to them on the highway is an elderly man on a motorcycle. The girls roll their window down to explain their innocent exuberance. Thinking that they are honking AT him, the Hell’s Angel Senior spits through the open window of their car.  The panic over strange spit is merited and very funny.

There is the potential hottie “Scott,” of whom Blake says, “I seriously met him at the worst moment in history.” After sending Scott several funny (but meant to be endearing) memes, she gets a text from Scott’s roommate, saying Scott has died of Covid-19. Now THAT doesn’t sound “funny,” so….

Scott has simply panicked. He tried to think of a way out of responding appropriately to Blake’s memes. His idea of an “appropriate” response is, [after revealing that he is NOT dead], sending an inappropriate personal picture and then texting Blake to ask her for her Hulu password. (Someone calling himself “LibraryGuy” once sent me a totally unwelcome pic. Use your imagination on this one.)

The excuse for Scott’s inexplicable behavior? “He’s probably just stressed about Covid.” That, or he is incurably out-of-it, but the lengths to which Scott has gone do come off as funny in the expert comic hands of our two leads.

Then there’s Nana’s dog Bruce. The girls need to collect Bruce—who has been farmed out at at an acreage with a completely weird dog-sitter— along the way. Nanna has also been very fond of Fred, a fellow inmate in her nursing home. Fred has been making nightly visits to Nanna’s room. The girls are explicit about telling Nanna NOT to let Fred in, as he may have the coronavirus. The adventures retrieving Bruce and repelling Fred are enjoyable.

Blake and Jamie are trying desperately to be the first family members to reach Nanna’s nursing home before Erin,  the older sister from the cruise ship, arrives. That, too, presents some humor, which the girls explore to the fullest. [I could really relate to the cruise ship scenario, having just come back from a cruise to Alaska before all hell broke loose.]

There is  an interlude where Blake races off while divesting of the jumper shorts she is wearing. I don’t know what the accurate term for this fashion choice is, but, when pregnant, I called it my “Humpty suit.” It is largely shapeless, with straps, and very comfortable. Blake takes them off and throws them into a tree, declaring them to have been “too chafey.” You had to be there, but it just “works.”

I also really enjoyed the simple asides about how Nanna used to drive her car by using a mop handle on the accelerator. (I had a friend who used a brick, but nevermind. Really.) And then there’s the “go-to” strategy for distracting older sis Erin by asking her to share “the birth story.” [Every family has a similar story that will set one of its members off on a long stroll down memory lane.]

“Recovery” was genuinely funny and well done. I had forgotten exactly what this one was about. Stumbling out early in the day to view it after struggling through the drug overdose stories,  Isis captivity stories and  horrible illness films (most notably, multiple sclerosis), I was delighted to start my day with “Recovery.” Try it; you’ll like it.

“Recovery” will help us all to recover our good mood(s).

“The Lost Sons” Is An Intriguing Tale at SXSW 2021

In 1960s Chicago, a baby is kidnapped from a hospital. Fifteen months later, a toddler is abandoned. Could he be the same baby? In a tale of breathtaking twists and turns, two mysteries begin to unravel and dark family secrets are revealed.

The incredibly twisted tale of a new-born baby snatched from Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago in broad daylight in April of 1964 is brought to the screen with authentic film footage of the day, excellent music, and interviews with the principals.

Dora and Chester Franczak of Chicago, were crushed when their newborn son, Paul Joseph Fronczak, was kidnapped from the hospital by a woman in a white nurse’s uniform. It was a brazen day-light theft and it went unsolved for 15 months. Or was it solved at all?

The couple had already lost a child previously, so this second loss was devastating. “Why has God done this to me again?” cried the new mother.

A young student nurse in the hospital room with Dora when the interloper carried off her baby (saying that the doctor wanted to examine him), Mary Trenchard Petrie, described her duties, which were to stay by the new mother’s side all day. (Dora had not yet been told of the disappearance of her son.) Both women contribute their remembrances of the woman who had carried off Dora’s baby.  Mary shared how devastating the news was, when, at day’s end, the truth was finally revealed to the young couple.

 In the summer of 1966, a young boy is abandoned in Newark, New Jersey. He was left in a nice pram, but was sporting a black eye. The FBI brought the young boy back to Illinois to be reunited with the Oak Lawn couple. They asked  Dora and Chester if  this was, indeed, their kidnapped son.

What would the couple say? Without any hesitation the couple claimed the young boy as their long-missing son and the family became a family of four by November, as Dora was pregnant with another son. As Paul’s mother says, of the now 57-year-old Paul in the documentary, “You were such a beautiful boy…If I said no (to accepting him as their missing child), I would live with that all of my life. Regardless, we felt like we did the right thing.”

It wasn’t until young Paul was in elementary school (and searching for hidden Christmas presents) that he found, hidden in a crawlspace in a trunk, newspaper clippings that detailed his kidnapping and the search for a missing child. He asked his mother whether these clippings were about him. She  angrily told him they would never speak of it again.

But they did speak of it again, because Paul, after he was grown and had left home, began to wonder about himself. His story is not that different from that of any adopted child who grows up in a good and loving home. Do I need to find my biological parents?

In Paul’s case, was he an “adopted” child, or was he really and truly the biological offspring of Dora and Chester? About the time his own wife gave birth to his daughter, Ellen, he wanted to know.

Thus began a long and twisted story of volunteers who became known as The Search Ants and numerous searches for identity and reality, which lead in many interesting and unexpected directions.

First, was the foundling abandoned in New Jersey really the child kidnapped in Chicago?

Second: if Paul is NOT the biological son of Dora and Chester, who is he, really? What, then, is his real birthday? And is the “real” Paul Franczak still alive and well?

To say that there are numerous twists and turns in this fascinating story is to put it mildly. Director Ursula Macfarlane keeps the interest high and the cinematography, with shots of a number of cities (Chicago, Las Vegas, Atlantic City, etc.) is gorgeous.

The story and the CNN documentary are fascinating and, as Barbara Walters proved in a 2020 interview, “Everybody wanted in on this story.”

It’s a great conversation-provoker for anyone who wonders if they would want to know their biological background, if they were an adopted child—or not. Is it necessary to seek for these answers, or should one simply leave well enough alone?

Check this one out if you have asked yourselves these questions in your life. And find out what DNA tracing, today, can do to pin down your origin(s).

 

 

“The Oxy Kingpins” Screens at SXSW 2021 and Describes the Origins of the Opioid Epidemic

“The Oxy Kingpins” (SXSW Online Film Festival 2021).

This documentary, directed by Brendan Fitzgerald, is a look at the opioid epidemic in America and how Big Pharma was complicit in causing the deaths of over half a million Americans. Former drug dealer Alex tells us as the film opens that oxycontin is really just heroin. Given the over-prescribing by the medical establishment, within a 2-week time the patient could become addicted and have a $200 to $300 a day habit.

The film tells the story of how big pharmaceutical companies raked in the profits without a thought to the harm the drug was causing.  Telling the story is  Pensacola attorney Mike Papantonio, whose fifteen-attorney firm (Levin and Papantonio) is hard at work prosecuting the drug companies for greedily promoting their product, even though it was obvious it was addicting an entire generation. As the film says, “At the end of the day, they were just getting rich.”

The Purdue Pharma Sackler family saga is referenced as a RICO investigation, (which means it was Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization.) Meanwhile, other big pharmaceutical companies were distributing the pills to small towns, sending 12 million pills to a town of 5,000 people without any attempt to stop the resulting addiction. In fact, at one point, an e-mail from the top  clearly warns pharmaceutical company employees NOT to use the word “suspicious” because to do so would mean that an investigation might occur. Instead, McKesson Corporation (MCK), the Number One deliverer of all drugs in the United States, made $194 billion in one year and its CEO, John Hammergen, was paid a yearly salary of $700 million.

Mike Papantonio and his investigators pin their hopes on the state of Nevada, which has a policy of unsealing all court documents. In the past, court cases against pharmaceutical concerns like McKesson or the #2 and #3 distributors in the U.S., Cardinal and Amerisource, were sealed. The company would pay a fine of $10 or $15 million,  but insist that the incriminating documents be sealed. As Papantonio said, “We have a drug that is killing people and it’s kept from the public.”

Driving home the point that drug manufacturers and distributers were only too willing to look the other way in order to make profits, Papantonio referred to these actions by men like CEO of Cardinal Health George Barrett as “white collar corporate crime.” Men like Alex, the drug dealer now gone straight, spent 8 years in prison for distributing drugs like Oxycontin, but the Big Pharma profiteers walked away with millions.

Papantonio chose Nevada to use for a prosecution which  dragged on for 3 and ½ years, because of Nevada’s policy of unsealing court records. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez also turned down the defense’s request for one (of many) delays.

“The distributors chose rural areas that were areas of despair” and customers like Anna, shown onscreen, bought as much as they wanted from their local Safeway Pharmacy. She was born in Hawthorne, Nevada, population 4,772 in Mineral County, a part of Nevada with the second-largest consumption of Oxycontin in the state and the fourth highest death rate where 3,100,100 doses were distributed with barely an eyebrow raised.

It’s a good documentary, although more real-life stories like Anna’s rather than concentrating quite so much on the attorneys would have driven the case home even more intensely . I was immediately reminded of the indie film “Shooting Heroin,” about the opioid problem in Pennsylvania. It’s a situation that was drawing attention, including Senate hearings in May of 2018, but the pandemic  pushed the opioid deaths from the news.

Fictional films that have dealt with the same crisis in the last few years, which would make good companion films for this factual treatment, would include “Ben Is Back” (Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges) and “Beautiful Boy” (Timothy Chalamet and Steve Carrell).

“Lily Topples the World:” Domino Art Reigns on Day One of SXSW Film Festival Online

My favorite film of the first day of SXSW Online Film Festival was “Lily Topples the World.” It is the story of Lily Hevesh, who posts her domino art under the name Hevesh5 on YouTube. At one point Lily shares that 100 dominos cost $10 and I wondered how much money she has tied up in the tools of her trade.

As the film opens Lily is entering Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a student—a somewhat famous one as the professors know who she is. (She later shares that she is probably going to drop out to pursue a career doing what she loves: domino art).

Her domino art—a pursuit since her days in elementary school—has attracted over 101 million views and her fans include actors Hugh Jackman, Will Smith and Jimmy Fallon. Will Smith used one of Lily’s creations in a film and Lily was hired to create one for Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show and, also, for Katie Perry.

Adopted in 1999 from China by a loving family in New Hampshire, Lily was an abandoned child, the result of China’s “one child” policy that saw parents sometimes, abandon female infants. There was no identifying information left with little Lily. The only thing that her loving parents noticed about the young girl was that she seemed to have a continuing fear of abandonment. Lily’s dad, Mark, co-produced the documentary and he and Lily are shown shopping for a toy company to help develop a Lily Hevesh brand of dominos for stores that Lily would promote to her many followers.

Lily herself says, “Dominos have helped me to become a better person. I’ve found myself because of dominoes.” Indeed, a small tribe of fellow domino geeks appear onscreen both setting up the art and chatting with Lily.

She has, indeed, found herself and—in the process of delighting in her childhood hobby has become the acknowledged master of domino art. Lily was hired to produce a large installation for the Jimmy Fallon Tonight Show and another promoting the lottery in Washington state.

The music used to accompany the triggering of Lily’s many projects is particularly appropriate. It is original music composed by Carly Comando of Deep Elm Records.

As the documentary ends, Lily has cut a deal with a toy-maker and her dominos are appearing on store shelves. It is a happy ending to a happy story.

SXSW (Online) Film Festival Kicks Off on March 16, 2021

The first offering of the day, for me, on the first day of SXSW Virtual Film Festival, was a documentary directed by Andrea Nevins entitled “Hysterical.” The documentary did a good job of giving kudos to nearly every famous (or less well-known) female comic in the business, but I wanted to hear more of their routines, which didn’t happen.

“The Oxy Kingpins” (SXSW Online Film Festival 2021).

The second film up was “The Oxy Kingpins,” which covered the reasons behind the opioid epidemic in America, explained through the eyes of Pensacola attorney Mike Papantonio, whose 15-member firm has been prosecuting the big pharmaceutical companies that facilitated the addiction of thousands of Americans. Chief among the pharmaceutical companies examined is the McKeeson Corporation headed by CEO John Hammergen, who makes $700 million annually in salary.

The entire strategy of the 3 largest pharmaceutical distribution companies—McKeeson, Cardinal and Amerisource—was to distribute drugs like oxycontin in rural areas that were areas of despair, like Mineral County with a population of 4,772 people, which was given 3,100,100 doses of oxycontin.

The film shows efforts to prosecute the drug companies in Nevada, which has a policy of unsealing documents that show guilt, as the e-mail correspondence within the McKeeson Corporation between Tracey Jonas and employees clearly did. The employees were told not use the word “suspicious” about large orders going to small towns. The film had real potential,but spent a bit too much time focusing on Papantonio, while not letting us hear from as many of the victims as would have been good.

“Demi Lovato: Dance with the Devil” (Credit: OBB Media @ the SXSW Online Film Festival 2021.)

The Aretha Franklin Genius documentary came next, but, when it turned out to be talking heads trying to promote the soon-to-be released documentary starring Cynthia Erivo as the Queen of Soul I chose to take in “Introducing, Selma Blair” instead.

Blair was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in August of 2018 and this film takes us through her stem cell transplant at Northwestern in Chicago.  It’s pretty bleak, but not nearly as bad as the evening’s opening documentary, “Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil.”

As most will remember, Demi Lovato over-dosed on July 24, 2018, while smoking heroin laced with fentanyl. She suffered a heart attack, 3 strokes, brain damage (she cannot drive because she has visual blind spots), pneumonia and multiple organ failure. She also claims, in this documentary, that her drug dealer took advantage of her when she was under the influence of the near-fatal overdose.

“Lily Topples the World” was the most upbeat of all of the things I saw today, with the story of domino artist Lily Hevesh, who has been posting YouTube videos of elaborate domino installations since she was a small child and has now made it into an occupation. In fact, in one of the few bright spots of today’s viewing, by documentary’s end Lily has cut a deal with a toy company to endorse a “new improved” brand of domino that would sell in stores. If you want to see some of Lily’s elaborate designs, check Hevesh5 on YouTube.

Last film of the day was an eleven-minute short entitled “The Thing That Ate the Birds.” It was one of the best of the day, but this Irish investigation of possible alien life ended much too quickly for my tastes. I would have loved to have this short eleven-minute story spin out to become a feature length film, but, alas, it was not to be.

Lengthier reviews of individual films to follow.

Blasts from the Past

Cecile DeFrance, female star of “Hereafter” and me, after the Chicago premiere of Clint Eastwood’s new film.

With John C. Reilly at the Chicago Film Festival.

William F. Nolan & Connie Wilson. Austin, Texas, Horror Writers Conference.

Connie Wilson & Deidre Sommerville with the Silver Feather Award.

Author Jane Smiley, winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for her Novel “1,000 Acres” and me at lunch in Honolulu at Spellbinders Conference.

Antonio Villaraigosa, the Mayor of Los Angeles since 2005 and Chairman of the Democratic Party.

A few seconds before this was taken, Dennis Massoud cautioned me about touching the sand on the sides of the “chair.” Quantas Airlines sand sculpture in Sydney, Australia

Book signing in Australia.

Craig and I at a restaurant in Darling Harbour with our friends Don and Cath Zartarian.

Four-year-old twin granddaughters Elise (left) and Ava (right) Wilson, to whom the book is dedicated. (They’ll be helping me write them, from now on.)

With Harry Connick, Jr., backstage at the Chicago Theater on my birthday.

Illinois Women’s Press Association Silver Feather Award (2nd win in 3 years).

With Rob Reiner in Chicago at the Icon Theater on June 18, 2014 preview of new film “And So It Goes.”

With Liv Ullman.

With New York Times Best-selling author Jon Land.

Rolling Stones, July 23, with the daughter, down front.

Haskell Wexler and me, May 22, 2012, Grant Park, Chicago

Jerry O’Heir (Lenny in “Middle Man” and Jerry Gergich on “Parks & Recreation”) at the Chicago Film Festival.

At Lake Okoboji, less than one week from delivering daughter Stacey in 1987.

(Left to Right) Scott Beck, Connie Wilson and Bryan Woods at SXSW (Austin, TX) on March 10, 2018.

Opening Night of the Windy City Film Festival in Chicago, as a Screenplay Finalist.

(l to r), Connie Wilson, Patrick of the omnipresent hat, and Meiling Jin, CEO of Studio Meiling Productions, LLC.

San Antonio Film Festival.

Belmont Town Hall Press Room at the Belmont Town Hall Meeting, 2008, Nashville, Tennessee, 2008.

Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Yes, I go all the way back to Lincoln), Too bad his beard is falling off!

Press, inside of the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado at the DNC in 2008.

New Year’s Eve in New York City’s Times Square.

Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. (And isn’t that Johnny Depp on the left?)

Hawaii Spellbinders’ Conference.

Elise (L) and Ava (R) at the Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Chicago.

Midwest Writing Center Writer of the Year Award.

Scott, Mom and Stacey,

SXSW Film Reviews to Come: Looking Back at One Year “Sheltering in Place”

“Lily Topples the World,” SXSW Online Film Festival, 2021.

Today is March 13th, Saturday, and it sticks in my brain pan as the day that my husband and I went out to see “The Way Back” at a local cinema. The place was deserted and, when I asked about upcoming films, the news was not good.

By that weekend, we were “sheltering in place” and we were going to be sheltering in place for one full year. My hair appointments became non-existent, My nails grew out and became a problem. I was giving hair cuts to my husband. I would not enter a movie theater for 7 months to see “Tenet” at the Regal Cinema (now closed) in Moline, Illinois.

During that long Covid-19 year my husband and I would contract the virus and be sick for two weeks (in October). We would venture out perhaps twice (once to a drive-in) to see movies, but the flow of new films would cease, so the sacrifice that no movies means, to me, as a bona fide movie buff, was slightly mollified by the realization that there were very few new good films coming out. All of us were glued to our respective television sets, and that is where I would cover the Chicago International Film Festival, the Denver Film Festival, Sundance, and, this coming week, SXSW, virtually, online.

I am Press at SXSW, again, and the films I will be seeing from March 16-20 will include the following, (with reviews here and on The Movie Blog.com and perhaps a few on QuadCity.com):

Tuesday- March 16th

“Demi Lovato: Dance with the Devil” (Credit: OBB Media @ the SXSW Online Film Festival 2021.)

“Hysterical – top female comics perform in a special.

“The Oxy Kingpins” – a documentary.

“Aretha” – a documentary about Aretha Franklin

“Lily Topples the World” – young girl sets up blocks to “fall.”

“Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil” – the story of Demi Lovato’s close call with death from a drug overdose.

“The Thing That Ate the Birds” – horror

Wednesday, March 17

“Recovery” –

“The Return: Life After Isis”

“Tom Petty: Somewhere You Feel Free” (documentary)

Waze & Odyssey” with appearances by George Michael et, al.

Not Going Quietly – feature film

United States vs. Reality Winner – a documentary about White House leaks

Offseason

Thursday- March 18

“Swan Song” (Credit Chris Stephens, SXSW Online Film Festival 2021).

“Swan Song” – I actually have already seen this one, about a hairdresser called out of retirement in the nursing home to do a dead friend’s hair. The dead friend is Linda Evans (“Dynasty”). The hairdresser is German actor Udo Kier. The co-star is Stiffler’s Mom, from “American Pie,” Jennifer Coolidge.  Todd Phillips directs.

“The Lost Sons” – fascinating documentary about a boy kidnapped at birth from Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago only to be returned to his parents  2 years later. Or is the boy found in New Jersey really their son? A fascinating documentary with many twists and a Chicago setting.

“Cruel Summer” – Jessica Biel’s project; teen-aged cast.

“The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Mary Johnson – one of the few feature length films

“Violet” – a Justine Bateman project

“Alone Together” – a documentary about Charlie XCS

“Sound of Violence”

“The Spine of Night” – animated, with voices by Patton Oswalt and others. The last 2 are “midnight fare,” meaning scary films.

Friday, March 19th

“Late Night Girls Club” – Samantha Bee and Amber Ruffin

“Cruel Summer” Q&A”

The festival does not end until Saturday, but my husband and I are scheduled to get our second Pfizer shots on Saturday and Sunday, which is his birthday. We are making a true celebration out of it, staying at the VanZandt hotel downtown in a pricey room and dining out with the son and daughter-in-law, so no closing night film for me. Check back at WeeklyWilson.com for reviews of the above.

YOYO Philosophy Prevails in Texas (*You’re On Your Own)

View from Room 808 in the Sonesta Hotel in downtown Austin.

Today’s Austin American-Statesman column by Ken Herman contained the headline: “Abbott to Texans:   You’re On Your Own.”

In addition to thoroughly disapproving of Governor Abbott’s recent dictum to the state that all mitigation effort are off and everything is 100% “open” in the state of Texas now, Herman ended his column with these words:

“Abbott’s bottom line is we’re all on our own to do what we think is best.  Businesses are free to open to whatever capacity they want.  And customers are free to choose which businesses to patronize.

Sounds very Texan.  The problem is the worst decisions of the worst among us could become a determining variable about when real normalcy returns for the rest of us.  As we have seen since Day One of this life-threatening mess, we’re all still in this together.

Snide sidenote:  Hey! It could have been worse.  Abbott could have put ERCOT in charge!”

 

(*ERCOT, for the non-Texans out there, stands for The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which turned out to be ironically named when the entire system failed.)

Was Trump Truthful During His Remarks at CPAC?

For those of you who have not investigated Donald J. Trump’s remarks at CPAC, here is a run-down of the veracity of his remarks.

  • Trump:  ‘Had we had a fair election, the results would have been much different.” 63 court cases were either thrown out of court or denied outright. There are always isolated cases of fraud and irregularities, but none that would have changed the outcome of the election.  Joseph R. Biden won by an 8 million vote margin.
  • Trump: “The Democrats used the pandemic as an excuse to change all of the election rules without the approval of their state legislatures, therefore making it illegal.”  The “change” to election rules was to allow more voters to use absentee ballots, since there was real risk from voting in person during a pandemic that has killed 500,000 citizens. The Constitution leaves the matter of how elections are conducted to state legislatures.
  • Trump: “This election was rigged, and the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.” Texas tried to overturn the election results of 4 swing states. Only Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito thought that the Supreme Court should be hearing such a case. The Trump administration looked high and low to find a state attorney who would lodge the lawsuit for them and—finally and reluctantly—agreed to let the less-than-virtuous Paxton of Texas file the case. Courts at all levels, many of them with GOP-appointed judges, threw out all but one of Trump’s challenges, and the only one that held up allowed observers to move closer to those counting the votes. Even if the Supreme Court had agreed to throw out Pennsylvania’s votes, Joe Biden would still have won in the Electoral College.
  • “Bee Gone: A Political Parable”

    Trump: “We seem to have more votes than we have people in Detroit.”  Detroit has a voting-age population of 503,934. Detroit’s City Clerk’s website says that 250,138 residents voted.

  • Trump: “In Pennsylvania, they had hundreds of thousands of more votes than they had people voting.”

3 million voters requested absentee ballots by the Oct. 27th deadline. In total, about 6.9 million votes were counted in Pennsylvania’s presidential election. The number of registered Pennsylvania voters in 2020 was just over 9 million.

 

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a man who told something like 35,000 documented lies while in office found it difficult to speak the truth at the CPAC conference.

Vaccination for Covid-19 Becomes a 4-month Task

Twenty-three million Americans are now completely vaccinated against Covid-19 and 70 million have had the first (of two) shots. I am among the seventy million who just received the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, today, at 12:30 p.m., at an HEB grocery store in Austin, Texas.

Stephen K. Austin Sonesta Hotel, 701 S. Congress Ave., Austin, Tx.

Sonesta Hotel, formerly the Intercontinental Hotel in Austin, Texas.

We have been placing ourselves on various lists (State list, HEB, CVS, Walgreen’s) for months now. I even got a local doctor, thinking that might help (it didn’t).

I finally took to tweeting to various entities and wrote an e-mail to HEB, since the state website seemed completely unworkable. That site would ask you to select a pasword, which we did. When we’d try to check back in to see if there was any vaccine available (usually not), it would not accept our passwords, even though we knew what they were. We would then be forced to say “Forgot password.” The site would say it was going to send us an e-mail (to our e-mail boxes), an e-mail which never arrived.

I pinned my hopes on HEB, which has performed brilliantly during the pandemic for well over a year. Their Favor delivery service has been phenomenal, and far better than similar services in the Midwest. Today, I spent 20 minutes sitting in a chair waiting for my name to be called outside the pharmacy inside the HEB store at 2701 E. 7th St. in Austin, Texas. Later, I wrote to HEB, “You may have literally saved my life.”

We are slated to travel to Mexico near Easter and the thought of travel at this time is scary and travel without a vaccination is terrifying. We already had Covid-19 in October, but getting the vaccination, as many of you know, has been an arduous process.

So, I kept pestering anyone I could think of to pester, with tweets, phone calls and e-mail. After writing about this to HEB, I called one of their stores and asked to be connected to the pharmacy. I held for a “live” person for a long time, but after we spoke she said there was one spot, at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28th (today). As she was making that appointment for me, another opened up and she said she only had 8 minutes to fill it, for my husband, who was booked on Saturday, Feb. 27th. This means that our second shots will take place on or near his birthday (March 21st).

It also means that I got the Big Bright Idea of driving downtown and getting a hotel room nearby for one night. We dined at the Roaring Fork and made it to our appointments and I have included pictures of the Stephen K. Austin Sonesta Hotel, which used to be the Intercontinental Hotel at 701 Congress Avenue (until a month ago.) I had always wanted to see the rooms in this hotel, since it is Grand Central Station during the normal SXSW Film Festival.

Enjoy!

 

 

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