Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

On this week's filibuster-proof weekly Independent comics page: Apoca Clips listens in as two soul-sellers ponder a grave; Red Meat enjoys a liberating break from hygiene; This Modern World examines the Thing That Ate America's Brain; Jen Sorensen spins the Wheel of Dystopia regarding climate change; and The K Chronicles tells an anecdote from Keef's new Hulu series.

Published in Comics

On this week's mercifully gender-reveal-party-free weekly Independent comics page: The K Chronicles does some humble bragging about Keef's new Hulu series; This Modern World tries to explain 2020 to 2014; Jen Sorensen ponders the dangers of the suburbs; Apoca Clips features Li'l Trumpy's unfiltered opinions on the military; and Red Meat appreciates the splendor of hummingbirds.

Published in Comics

It’s almost fall already? Time flies when you’re … what’s been going on? The spring and summer were a bit of a blur, for some reason.

September is usually loaded with TV premieres, but 2020 is leaner than previous years due to delayed productions and overall existential dread. At least new seasons of The Boys (Prime Video) and A.P. Bio (Peacock) have dropped, though they don’t make up for the cancellations of Drunk History (Comedy Central), High Fidelity (Hulu) and Altered Carbon (Netflix).

But! There are actually some fresh shows streaming in September, pandemic be damned. Here are eight new series, and one returning champion, all premiering this month.

Raised by Wolves (Thursday, Sept. 3 on HBO Max): A pair of androids, known as Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim), are charged with raising a group of human children on newly discovered planet Kepler-22b. Sounds perfectly utopian, so of course humans—from outside and inside the tribe—are going to cock it up. Raised by Wolves is hard, high-concept/higher-budget sci-fi from Ridley Scott, with a side of religious jabs. (Ultra-Christians destroyed Earth!) Set expectations accordingly.

Away (Friday, Sept. 4 on Netflix): If you like your sci-fi a little less science-y, here’s Hilary Swank as an astronaut leading a mission to Mars—but she has to leave her husband and daughter behind! All the feels! Away comes from producers behind TV tearjerkers like Parenthood and Friday Night Lights, so no one’s going to confuse this melodrama with Netflix’s otherwise-very-similar Another Life. Netflix should have just dropped Season 2 of that Katee Sackhoff series and sent this Away.

Woke (Wednesday, Sept. 9 on Hulu): A comedy about racism? The times are (always) right. Woke is based on the life of cartoonist Keith Knight (The K Chronicles/(th)ink, which run in this fine publication), starring Lamorne Morris (New Girl) as “Keef,” a Black artist who avoids politics and social issues in his work—that is, until he’s roughed up by cops for no reason, and the trauma manifests as his cartoons coming to life and hilariously prodding him to finally take a stand. Woke handles heavy topics with a light, surreal touch—watch and learn.

Julie and The Phantoms (Thursday, Sept. 10 on Netflix): Talented teen Julie (Madison Reyes) loses her will to sing after the death of her mother—until cute-boy “rock” trio The Phantoms suddenly appear … literally. Yes, they’re ghosts of a band who never made it before their demise, but now they have a second chance with Julie on the mic. (People can see The Phantoms when they play with her.) Julie and The Phantoms is dumb, High School Musical-ish fun, but just imagine if she’d been haunted by Motörhead instead.

Coastal Elites (Saturday, Sept. 12 on HBO): In what could have also been titled Hot Liberal Porn Action, Coastal Elites is an ultra-now commentary on the state of the union and deplorables in MAGA mode. (Fox News should produce a rebuttal movie called The Deplorables.) Bette Midler, Dan Levy, Sarah Paulson, Issa Rae and Kaitlyn Dever deliver Zoom-style monologues that were meant for the theater stage before COVID-19 hit, some better than others. (Maybe fast-forward through Midler’s rants.)

Ratched (Friday, Sept. 18 on Netflix): Speaking of Sarah Paulson, she’s taking on the classic role of One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest’s Nurse Ratched for Ryan Murphy. Sure, Murphy’s productions have been hit-and-miss affairs for several years, but the 1940s-set Ratched recalls the colorful camp-gore glory of American Horror Story: Murder House and the underrated Scream Queens—and Paulson owns every second of it. Also featuring left-field cameos from Rosanna Arquette (!) and Sharon Stone (!!).

Utopia (Friday, Sept. 25 on Prime Video): It’s way too soon for a conspiracy thriller about a deadly global pandemic, but here’s this: A group of comic-book geeks discover a veiled threat to humanity in their favorite graphic novel, Utopia, and soon learn that’s all too real (and already under way). Upping the prestige, Utopia was adapted by Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn from the British original, and co-stars John Cusack as a sketchy biotech mogul and Rainn Wilson as a college professor with The Answer. Damn, 2020.

The Comey Rule (Sunday, Sept. 27 on Showtime): It’s way too late for a conspiracy thriller about the 2016 U.S. election, but here’s this: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (Brendan Gleeson) and then-FBI Director James Comey (Jeff Daniels) go from bros to foes during Trump’s rise to power. The Comey Rule, based on Trump Sucks Book No. 105, Comey’s A Higher Loyalty, is a miniseries with no heroes—just a spectacle of actors playing real-life politicos. It’s for wonks and masochists only; real humans, steer clear.

Fargo (Sunday, Sept. 27 on FX and Hulu): It’s been three years—three years!—since the third season of Fargo, a wrongly derided chapter that I would recommend you rewatch. (It’s better than you remember, not unlike the second season of True Detective.) Season 4 is set in 1950s Kansas City—Fargo is just a state of mind now—and stars Chris Rock as a crime boss employing Black escapees of the Jim Crow South (shades of HBO’s Lovecraft Country). Weirdest S4 casting: Indie-rocker Andrew Bird.

Published in TV

The state of California’s response to the pandemic, as of late, has been a big mess.

First: The state’s COVID-19 data reporting is all messed up. According to the Los Angeles Times, the state is dealing with a backlog of up to 300,000 test results—and is in the process of developing a whole new tracking system, because the current one is not up to the admittedly massive task:

“(Dr. Mark Ghaly, the California Health and Human Services secretary) said the state would work through the backlog of records, which include COVID-19 tests and other health results, over the next 24 to 48 hours. He said state missteps compounded a problem that began with a server outage and promised a full investigation.

“The data failure set off alarm bells this week as total deaths surpassed 10,000 in California, a state that leads the nation in COVID-19 cases despite the undercount and has struggled to mitigate the virus. The delayed results could significantly increase the confirmed spread of COVID-19 from a total of 540,000 cases in the state as of early Friday.”

Sigh. Meanwhile, county health officials—already upset about the state’s arbitrary and odd reopening criteria—are being left in the figurative lurch without accurate data from the state.

Second: The state was tardy in issuing guidance to the state’s colleges and universities on how to handle student housing, in-person instruction and other important matters. Again, according to the Los Angeles Times: “Many campuses, including USC and Claremont McKenna, say the lack of clear and timely state guidance has caused them to spend enormous energy and money preparing for varying reopening scenarios—without knowing what will be allowed amid a surge of COVID-19 infections.

For the record, the state finally released that guidance today. Check it out here—if you’re bored, crazy or into dense 34-page lists of rules.

In the state’s defense, this pandemic and its effects are so huge, all-encompassing and unforeseen that mistakes and delays are not only understandable; they’re inevitable. But still … state officials need to do better than this.

Also worth noting: Gov. Gavin Newsom gave a news conference on Monday, when he touted the news of statewide COVID-19 case decreases—news that we now know may not have been accurate, because of the data mess, which people began learning about on Tuesday.

Newsom hasn’t given a news conference since. Not good, governor.

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More news links :

Here are some stats we can trust … we think: The COVID-19 stats at Eisenhower Medical Center are trending in the right direction.

The extra federal unemployment boost has ended. PPP loans are running out. And our federal government can’t agree on what to do about it. Sigh.

• Per usual, I was a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week, with hosts Shann Carr, John Taylor and Brad Fuhr. Hear me rant more about the state data fustercluck, as well as the crappiness of most talk radio!

• As more and more vaccine candidates get closer to what we all hope are successful finish lines, we’ve been bombarded with news about them—often spun by the profit-driven manufacturers themselves. Well, MedPage Today just published a nice, concise look at these vaccines, how they’re different, and what we do and do not know.

• The Washington Post today posted an excellent interactive piece examining what it will take for the United States to reach herd immunity, be it by letting the virus run its course, or via a successful vaccine. The piece also looks at where we are now regarding antibodies and possible immunity. Spoiler alert: If you’re someone who thinks we should adopt the Sweden 1.0 approach and just let the virus run amok … that’ll likely mean a million or more dead Americans.

• So after the vaccines (hopefully) arrive … then what? HuffPost asked some experts to predict what life in the U.S. will be like in the years that follow a successful vaccine. Hint: Don’t expect a return to a February-style “normal.”

• According to Desert Healthcare District CEO Conrado Barzaga, the district is focused on “strengthening our healthcare infrastructure, improving our community’s health, and providing protection to vulnerable populations while still fighting a pandemic.” If you are involved with an entity that can help do any of that, take note: The DHCD will be holding a webinar at 3 p.m., Monday, Aug. 10, via Zoom to introduce five new strategic funding areas, and to demonstrate how to apply for grants or mini-grants. You need to RSVP; get details here.

A partisan elected official is responsible for writing the wording of each ballot proposition … and, well, that partisanship often affects what is written. This leads to numerous lawsuits—but judges almost never step in to change what Attorney Xavier Becerra’s office has come up with. Our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent, look at this mess—and possible solutions.

More airlines are getting very serious about mask use. Hooray.

Two stories about this week’s devastating explosion in Beirut worth reading: A Los Angeles Times reporter writes about his experience surviving the explosion; he notes that he probably should be dead, but a motorcycle helmet saved his life. Meanwhile, for you science nerds out there: A blast-injury specialist examines the physics of the blast, and compares it to what we know about the only other comparable non-nuclear explosion on record, which happened in 1917 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

• Also from Wired: The magazine recently sat down for an interview with Bill Gates, who does not have nice things to say about the federal response to the pandemic. Beyond that, he has a lot of other revealing things to say. Key quote: “Now whenever we get this done, we will have lost many years in malaria and polio and HIV and the indebtedness of countries of all sizes and instability. It’ll take you years beyond that before you’d even get back to where you were at the start of 2020.

According to The Conversation, it’s becoming more and more apparent that wearable fitness devices may be able to let you know if you’re suffering from possible early coronavirus symptoms.

• Federal employees, including some who work at prisons, are suing the federal government. Why? They think they deserve hazard pay, according to NPR.

• Related: State prison employees are also taking legal action: Their union has filed a grievance claiming the state’s misdeeds have led to uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreaks in the state’s prison system.

• CNBC talked to experts regarding legitimate medical reasons people could possibly have to not wear a face mask while around other people. The conclusion? Unless you have a specific facial deformity or a “sensory processing disorder,” you should be masking up.

• Much has been written about Donald Trump’s … uh, baffling moves to ban TikTok. Well, as MarketWatch points out, his executive orders went well beyond TikTok—and could hamper everything from Tesla to streaming sports to the world’s most popular videogames.

Oregon voters will decide in November whether to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of all drugs.

• Barring a change of plans, the Mission Inn Festival of Lights in Riverside will indeed happen this year—albeit without the crowd-gathering events and parties.

The Apple Fire continues to burn, with some residents of Pioneertown and Morongo Valley being told to prepare to evacuate.

• And now for something completely different: Regular readers of the Independent have enjoyed Keith Knight’s comics, (Th)ink and The Chronicles, for years. Well, a new show based on his life is coming to Hulu on Sept. 9. Check out the trailer for Woke here—and congrats, Keef!

Have a safe and happy-as-possible weekend, everyone. Be safe. The Daily Digest will return Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

Happy Thanksgiving! On this week's gravy-slathered weekly Independent comics page: Apoca Clips learns the real truth behind that ridiculous Tesla truck announcement; Red Meat makes plans for a solo Thanksgiving; This Modern World looks at the perspective of wealthy Democrats; Jen Sorensen wonders what happens if a president commits crimes, but almost half the country doesn't believe it; and The K Chronicles has a Hollywood moment.

Published in Comics

On this week's gag-order-violating weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorensen wonders why people like dumb politicians over smart ones; The K Chronicles smiles about a comment made during the making of his TV pilot; This Modern World watches an alien broadcast praising the Supreme Leader; Red Meat makes an embarrassing confession; and Apoca Clips examines Li'l Trumpy's love of the flag.

Published in Comics