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: travel Page 1 of 15

Texas’ Lt. Gov./Texas’ Attorney General: Time for Changes Here?

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2020 at 3:20 PM

From San Antonio; Reposted on Tuesday, Dec. 8th

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick - WIKIMDIA COMMONS / GAGE SKIDMORE

  • Wikimdia Commons / Gage Skidmore
  • Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

After telling seniors they should be willing to risk contracting COVID-19 to protect the economy (see previous WeeklyWilson article), Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick doesn’t seem to be willing to make a similar sacrifice to serve in the Texas Legislature next year.

Hereford cattle on LBJ Ranch.

Patrick, 70, who presides over the upper chamber, informed state senators Friday that people testifying before committees may need to register three days ahead and take a quick-turnaround coronavirus test 24 hours before they’re allowed into the Capitol building, the Texas Tribune reports.

During past sessions, people have been able to sign up and speak on the same day.

Patrick, a Republican, discussed the safeguards on conference call with the Senate Democrat Caucus, the Tribune reports. During those discussions, Patrick he wants the National Guard to conduct the tests, handling 10 to 12 people per hour.
Such caution seems at odds with Patrick’s partisan pronouncements about COVID earlier this year during TV talk show appearances.

In addition to telling grandma and grandpa they should be willing to risk death to save the economy, Patrick downplayed Texas’ infection numbers and accused the media of ginning up panic. He also dismissed warnings from Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying the nation’s top infectious disease expert “doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

And, to top off the crazy from Texas, where I currently am, the Attorney General of Texas, who is under indictment for Securities fraud and under investigation for bribery, filed a lawsuit alleging that the states of Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona shouldn’t be allowed to confirm their votes on today’s “safe harbor” date (Dec. 8th) which comes in advance of the Dec. 14th vote of the electoral college. Supposedly, the man is angling for a pardon from the departing DJT and is a huge Trump loyalist.

Grape Creek Winery

It is Texas officials like these that drive one to travel far into the countryside (Fredricksburg) and visit wine tastings in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. Time for a change, politically, perhaps?

It was 75 degrees out today and, from the highway (I-290) we could see people swimming in their pool! We also decided to take a leisurely drive through LBJ’s old ranch, something the spouse and I had done but the son and daughter had not done.
Tomorrow, it is supposed to be 82 degrees. Not sure if this is a record, but it certainly beats the Illinois temperatures on a December day.
Aside from the wine tasting, daughter Stacey has traveled to Austin to be with us and her brother took off half a day of work to join us on our wine-tasting adventure. Then, we watched Iowa (#3 nationally) beat North Carolina (#16 nationally) in basketball. Following that, the younger members of the family got in the hot tub, but—once the sun went down—the evening temperatures did not convince me that I’d be warm enough.

LBJ Ranch, with deer.

I re-started my subscription to the “Austin Statesman” newspaper (REAL newspaper) and it was to have started this morning.

It didn’t. (Sigh)
[Other observations above from Sanford Nowlin who writes for the digital edition of the San Antonio paper.]

New Boston, Texas, on Night Three

Day 3 found us driving from St. Louis to New Boston, Texas.

The land was flat and uninspiring. I took several pictures along the way, especially one of a city sign for Pocahontas, Arkansas, in honor of our dear friends who used to live in Pocahontas, Iowa.

Naturally, none of the pictures I took has appeared in my mail, which is par for the course. I’ve sent them from my phone 3 times, but they are not coming through. (Sigh).

I did learn a lot about Pocahontas, Arkansas, today, a community of just over 6,000 residents, according to the 2010 census, versus the 1,910 who lives in Pocahontas, Iowa. It is a community on the Black River and, during the Civil War, when they seceded, it ended up having 35,000 Confederate soliders billeted there during the war at one point. Unfortunately for the town, the Yankees broke through the defenses and burned the downtown to the ground at one point. There were 3 Indian tribes that lived in this area back in the day.

The news tonight says there are 99,000 people hospitalized with Covid-19. I did a division problem that showed that the number of cases identified in November meant that each of the 50 states had 80,000 people ill with Covid-19. (Obviously, this was a simple division problem and some states—notably Maine and Hawaii—have done better than others.

St. Louis, Night #2

We had considered driving straight through to Austin, but an accident on the road slowed traffic to a crawl. I persevered and read on in “The Cartel” (p. 192), but darkness fell and we are now sheltering at the Holiday Inn in New Boston, Texas, just outside of Texarkana, where we ordered a pizza from Pizza Hut.

The news tonight in the U.K. “Guardian” says that Trump’s group is being investigated in a pardons-for-pay scheme.

Interestingly enough, the gas in St. Louis was cheaper than in the Quad Cities, but the gas here in Austin (lowest I’ve seen) was $1.63 a gallon. While picking up groceries, I noticed that the 90% ground beef was $4.57 a pound, while it was $6.47 a pound at the Jewel/Osco store on Kennedy Drive and Avenue of the Cities.

Travels to Texas: Night One

Chicago

On the road again.

We’ve made it to Chicago and here is the view from my window. Way more lights in the South Loop than last year.

On the way in on I-55 there was some sort of accident, so the 40 miles to the heart of Chicago took longer than usual, but we’re here now and on to St. Louis tomorrow.

I brought pork chops from our freezer at home and cooked them (also had an onion from home) and made green beans (also from QC) and there was a little bit of left over chicken from the 5.6 pound chicken (Wilbur) we made for Thanksgiving.

The weather has taken a turn for the colder. You can feel it.

We watched the end of “The Undoing” (disappointed that it ended the way it did) and “Fargo” (also a disappointing and confusing ending) and now I’ve managed to make it through all the morning news

Chicago

shows, so it’s off to bed.

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

Firefly II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, we called the police.

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

.

Andy Warhol Exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago

Andy Warhol exhibit at the Art Institute in Chicago.

We took in the Andy Warhol exhibit in Chicago this past week. We selected a weekday, because the exhibit has been well-received and we thought it would be very crowded on the weekend.

Elvis.

As an advertisement illustrator in the 1950s, Warhol used assistants to increase his productivity. Collaboration would remain a defining (and controversial) aspect of his working methods throughout his career; this was particularly true in the 1960s. One of the most important collaborators during this period was Gerard Malanga. Malanga assisted the artist with the production of silkscreens, films, sculpture, and other works at “The Factory“, Warhol’s aluminum foil-and-silver-paint-lined studio on 47th Street (later moved to Broadway).

Early illustrations of shoes (the subjects of one of his very first exhibits) showed that Warhol had a thing for gold. Many of the pieces in the display reflect this, including the large painting below.

Gold painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warhol began as a magazine illustrator in the fifties and continued into the sixties, establishing a studio in New York City called The Factory.  Within the exhibit are some pieces of film taken within the Factory, whose walls were said to be lined with silver foil.

The Art Institute of Chicago Andy Warhol exhibit.

Warhol was an admitted homosexual, at a time when being gay in America was not accepted. Although his image was that of a libidinous lifestyle, he told an interviewer as late as 1980, when he was 52, that he was still a virgin (born in 1928).

Biographer Bob Colacello provides some details on Andy’s “piss paintings”:

Victor … was Andy’s ghost pisser on the Oxidations. He would come to the Factory to urinate on canvases that had already been primed with copper-based paint by Andy or Ronnie Cutrone, a second ghost pisser much appreciated by Andy, who said that the vitamin B that Ronnie took made a prettier color when the acid in the urine turned the copper green. Did Andy ever use his own urine? My diary shows that when he first began the series, in December 1977, he did, and there were many others: boys who’d come to lunch and drink too much wine, and find it funny or even flattering to be asked to help Andy ‘paint’. Andy always had a little extra bounce in his walk as he led them to his studio.[73]

Attempted murder (1968)

On June 3, 1968, radical feminist writer Valerie Solanas shot Warhol and Mario Amaya, art critic and curator, at Warhol’s studio.[42] Before the shooting, Solanas had been a marginal figure in the Factory scene. She authored in 1967 the S.C.U.M. Manifesto,[43] a separatist feminist tract that advocated the elimination of men; and appeared in the 1968 Warhol film I, a Man. Earlier on the day of the attack, Solanas had been turned away from the Factory after asking for the return of a script she had given to Warhol. The script had apparently been misplaced. Some of the skull paintings that are shown in the exhibit are said to reflect Warhol’s subsequent musing on life, death and mortality.

One interesting painting in the display looked exactly like Melania Trump and, of course, there were the famous Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, and Marlon Brando pictures.

 

 

 

Marilyn Monroe.

Marlon Brando.

 

 

Des Moines businessman immortalized by Andy Warhol.

Melania look-alike at Warhol exhibit.

Four of the Best Casino Scenes in James Bond Films

If there’s one man who has single-handedly popularized casinos, it’s James Bond. First introduced in the novels by Ian Fleming, Bond has quite the penchant for high-stakes action. In the film franchise, we see 007 take on pretty much every casino game under the sun. Baccarat, Roulette, Poker, and even Sic Bo – he’s played them all. There’s even a Roulette strategy named after Bond, and actor Sean Connery had a real-life casino win of his own at the wheel. In homage to this, let’s take a look back at some of the greatest scenes in the film franchise.

  1. Casino Royale (2006)

Casino featured in “Never Say Never Again.” (Photo by Connie Wilson).

What better place to start than with the winner of the
Best Movie Poker Scene poll? Based on the first novel in the Ian Fleming series, from 1953, the film goes back to the beginning, with Bond embarking on his career as a secret agent and earning his license to kill. He’s put on an assignment to bankrupt terrorist financier Le Chiffre.

A large portion of the film takes place in the casino, as 007 enters a tense high-stakes game of Texas Hold’em. It isn’t smooth sailing for our hero, who loses his stake, but CIA agent Felix Leiter stakes him. Midway through, Bond is poisoned and leaves the table, but later returns. All’s well that ends well, and the final hand scene is iconic. The game is down to the last four players. With $120 million in the pot, Le Chiffre believes he’s the winner with a Full House. He is until the final player Bond reveals a Straight Flush to come up trumps.

          2. Dr. No (1962) 

From one of the most recent films to the first now – and an iconic scene. The game of choice for Bond, this time played by Sean Connery, is Baccarat. The film opens with 007 sitting in a casino, playing Chemin-de-Fer. While he’s at the table, he notices a woman observing his game. Bond gazes back at her, before introducing himself using the famous lines: “Bond… James Bond”. The focus may not have been solely on the casino, but the scene alone defined the character and made the role difficult for other actors to emulate.

              3.  Diamonds are Forever (1971)

The seventh film of the franchise is the last time we see Connery play Bond. Throughout the film series, we see the secret agent dispatch of his nemeses in many ways. In the opening credits, 007 eliminates a villain by jamming his head against the Roulette wheel. Okay, so not the most glamorous portrayals of a casino, but a memorable title sequence. You can channel your inner-007 with the best Roulette games online, too. Bond goes on to play Craps at the Whyte House, the casino owned by Willard Whyte – and it’s the only film where he plays Craps. Jill St. John appeared in the film, but it’s here that he meets Bond girl, Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood, sister of Natalie), and of course, in true Bond style, he wins the jackpot.

Monte Carlo Casino used in “Never Say Never Again.” (Photo by Connie Wilson).

  1. 4. Skyfall (2012)

The Macau casino, which featured in one of the most recent films of the franchise isn’t actually in China – it was filmed at Pinewood Studios in London. The fictional casino was based on a real floating establishment, and is still impressive. The Floating Dragon casino features 300 floating lanterns, giant dragon motifs, and beautiful ornate décor. We don’t see much of Bond playing Sic Bo during the scene, as he soon retreats to the bar. But we’ve included it because the casino itself is pretty spectacular.

James Bond and casinos go hand-in-hand. While we’ve listed our four favorite scenes from the movies, there’s plenty more to watch and dissect. Leave a comment  if we’ve missed your favorite.

Last Day at Sea and Last Day of August

The Celebrity Eclipse.

It’s our last day at sea and it is foggy. It was too foggy to see much earlier in the day, but, as we near Vancouver, it is becoming less so.

I went up to the 14th floor to play trivia. (General Knowledge) I was seated near a woman from Australia who was complaining about the cost of the drink package onboard. If you are wise, you’ll invest in a drink package, but whether you plan to drink alcoholic beverages or just soft drinks makes a difference.

Vancouver, Canada.

We have a drink package that will allow most wines and pop, but last night, when I ordered a Bailey’s on the Rocks, there was a $1 upcharge. I normally am simply picking up cans of Diet Coke to take to our room for the small refrigerator, but the small refrigerator gave up the ghost and began leaking about 3 days ago, so no way to keep it cold.

I asked the woman about her gripe regarding the drink package she had selected and she said she didn’t drink enough to make it worth while. I said, “Well, you could just get the one for soft drinks.” Her answer: “I don’t drink pop.” O…..K…. So, according to this Australian native, she will not be cruising again. (This was her first). Hmmmmm. Why buy a drink package at all if you don’t plan to drink ANY soft drinks and barely drink alcoholic beverages? The dining room provides lemonade and iced tea and other such beverages with the meals. You do need to budget at least $175 for having up to 2 devices allowed to use the Internet.

There are a ton of Asian children onboard. We think they are mainly from Canada, which doesn’t start school until after Labor Day. There are special “Asian food” parts in the dining room for lunch.

Last night we were served lobster tail or Beef Wellington and a choice of appetizers (I had a Caesar salad; Craig has been having mainly shrimp cocktail). There has also been onion soup and other delectables, with a dessert menu featuring baked Alaska, tiramisu, ice creams, berry crumbles, etc.

Alaska from the air.

We were sent a bottle of wine to our cabin, but the refrigerator has not been cooperating on keeping it cold. We’re packed and we leave early tomorrow.

Ketchikan, Alaska, on Friday, August 30th, 2019

Juneau, Alaska

Ketchikan is near the southernmost tip of Alaska’s panhandle and is a small town squeezed between mountain and sea.  It gets its name from the Tlingit Indian name, Ketchikan, meaning “Thundering Wings of an Eagle.” If you climb the 3,000 foot Deer Mountain that overlooks the town, the town, a Tlingit summer fishing camp, sprawls in the shape of an eagle in flight. It’s only a small town of 8,245, but it has Hoona beat hollow (our first stop at Icy Strait, Alaska) because that town only has 760 residents AND it takes 3 and 1/2 hours to get to civilization by boat AND that boat only runs 2 days a week! So, as our guide said, “Everybody knows everybody and we have zero crime.”

Helicopter to the Mendenhall Glacier.

Ketchikan, which is near Craig, is known as the Salmon Capital of Alaska, but Salmon cities abound up here in the North to Alaska area. All we have for an “activity” in this town is a trolley pass for the day. We plan to wander in and drift around among the many jewelry stores and those that are touting fur or bamboo goods (because they are softer than cotton).

Hubbard Glacier.

We did our flying (both plane and helicopter) on the past 2 stops, and all I can say for those of you thinking of making this trip is to bring plenty of money for the opportunities to fly over the glaciers. They don’t give those trips away and you’ll be shelling out hundreds, per opportunity. Well worth it? For us, yes, because I don’t anticipate strolling over to Sarah Palin’s house to watch Russia from her porch any time in the future, and this will probably be my only chance to visit our 50th state.

Craig on the glacier. There is actually a town named “Craig” near Ketchikan, where we dock today.

Mendenhall Glacier.

Cruising the Mendenhall Glacier.

Passing ship (the SilverSea?)

Craig and Connie Wilson on Mendenhall Glacier on 8/29/2019

 

This trip ends on Sunday, as we go back to Vancouver, British Columbia to depart for a plane trip back to Chicago, flying through San Francisco, this time.

Mendenhall & Hubbard Glaciers: August 28, 29, 2019

Hoona, Icy Strait, Hubbard Glacier

We flew in a small plane (Cessna) with 8 people on Wednesday to view the Hubbard Glacier and today we went up in a helicopter with a grand total of 5 of us, to view and walk on the Mendenhall Glacier.

The Mendenhall Glacier is about 9 miles outside of Juneau, Alaska. The ice

Craig and Connie Wilson on Mendenhall Glacier on 8/29/2019

is rapidly retreating and, 5 years ago, some of the bluffs nearby were also part of the glacier. Not any more.

We were given walking stick when we landed on the glacier and instructions were very clear as to where to walk (stay away from the whirring blades at the back of the copter.) Anyone over 250 lbs. had to pay an extra $100.

Hubbard Glacier

Merrick was our pilot and the entire time on the approximately 40 degree temperature glacier, for which we were given special boots that go on over your shoes, was about 13 minutes. Not a lot to do on a glacier in August, but one of the help was wearing nothing but a sports shirt and no coat, while I look like Nanook of the North.

Hoona, Icy Strait, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska, 8/29/19. Sixty-nine degrees.

Hubbard Glacier.

Mendenhall Glacier.

Near Hubbard Glacier.

Celebrity Eclipse from the air, Icy Strait, Alaska.

 

A wonderful experience!

Juneau, Alaska, on Thursday, August 29th, 2019

Vancouver Harbor, 8/25/19.

Getting ready to disembark in Juneau, Alaska, capital of the state. Population: 32,500. The largest state capitol by area in the U.S.

Here, we will get on a helicopter and then walk on a glacier, which promises to be unusual, interesting, and, possibly, cold. Not sure how cold it is out today, but it was NOT that cold in Hoona, Icy Strait, and I ended up stowing the huge jacket bought on the boat in the luggage part of the small plane for eight.

These pictures (if they upload) were taken from the plane in Hoona…which I may be misspelling. That “town” had a population of 706. It takes them 3 and 1/2 hours to get to the mainland area, which is a trip only available 2x a week

Vancouver beckons.

The trip by plane was supposed to last and hour and  a half. We left at 3:30 and did not return until 7, so that is plenty long for me. (Some say they last 7 hours.)

Bought a Citizen watch. We leave here tonight at 7:30 p.m. having docked at 7:30 a.m.

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