CVIndependent

Fri11272020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

On this week's weekly Independent comics page, which can also serve as a very difficult cognitive test: Jen Sorensen examines the GOP's COVID-19 strategy; (Th)ink offers a tip o' the hat to Mary Trump; This Modern World ponders the president's re-election strategy; Red Meat engages in some serious parenting; and Apoca Clips asks Li'l Trumpy about that Chris Wallace interview on Fox News.

Published in Comics

Is it possible—just possible—that the coronavirus has peaked, at least for now, in the Coachella Valley?

Maybe. Maybe not. But maybe.

The county’s just-released District 4 report—District 4 includes the Coachella Valley and points eastward to the state line—shows that hospitalizations, case numbers and the weekly positivity rate are all inching downward.

This is very good news … but don’t break out the party hats just yet.

First: The weekly positivity rate is still 12.8 percent, which, while lower than last week’s rate, is still too high. The state’s overall rate is below 8 percent, and in order for things to reopen open, the county would need to get its rate below 8 percent.

Second: We lost 24 of our neighbors to COVID-19 last week. That’s simply awful.

We need to keep up the fight, folks. We need to wear masks and wash our hands and avoid crowds. If a contact tracer contacts you, for crying out loud, work with them. (More on that below.) If you think you might be sick, STAY HOME. Please.

Today’s news:

• The state shut down “indoor operations” of salons and barber shops last week—a distinction which confused the heck out of some shop owners, because outdoor operations are largely prohibited anyway. Well, Gov. Newsom today clarified things, and explained that under new rules, salons and barbershops can indeed operate outside if they follow certain rules. Now, if it just weren’t 109 degrees outside …

More good news on the vaccine front was announced today, this time coming from the joint effort by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca: Early testing showed the vaccine “increased levels of both protective neutralizing antibodies and immune T-cells that target the virus” in human test subjects, according to Bloomberg News via SFGate. Keep your fingers crossed …

However, Bloomberg News also threw a little cold water on vaccine hopes, in a piece pointing out that the leading vaccine candidates—the aforementioned Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and the Moderna Inc. vaccine—may wind up requiring two doses. This, of course, makes it harder to make sure as many people are vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Yet more encouraging-but-take-it-with-a-massive-grain-of-salt news, courtesy of The New York Times: “A British drug company said Monday that an inhaled form of a commonly used medicine could slash the odds of COVID-19 patients becoming severely ill, a sliver of good news in the race to find treatments that was met by scientists with equal measures of caution and cheer. The drug, based on interferon beta, a protein naturally produced by the body to orchestrate its response to viruses, has become the focus of intensifying efforts in Britain, China and the United States to treat Covid-19 patients.”

Delta Air Lines is keeping middle seats open, while most of its competitors are not. Is it because Delta Air Lines “cares” more? No, it’s because it’s good business, posits this ZDNet article. Key quote: “Why this sudden decency? Because, (CEO Ed) Bastian explained, those empty middle seats are the ‘No. 1 reason’ travelers are booking with Delta.”

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino announced today that all concerts in its Special Events Center slated for 2020 are being postponed.

• Modernism Week today said that its Fall Preview series of in-person events, scheduled for Oct. 15-18, will not take place. Instead, according to a news release: “The Modernism Week team is developing unique virtual programs to be offered online during Fall Preview. Tickets for these virtual events are planned to be released by October 1.” Watch the Modernism Week website for details.

Also announced today, by the California Interscholastic Federation: The start of high school sports in the state will be delayed until at least December or January.

• From the Independent: How will the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the economic downturn effect the local results on Election Day? We crunched the numbers in terms of recent voter-registrations—and it appears the Democratic Party is on the upswing. Kevin Fitzgerald also talked to local party leaders and some others regarding what they’re seeing on the ground.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise published a piece on the problems contact tracers are having in Riverside County—and specifically in Riverside County, where, for some reason, more than half of the people being contacted aren’t cooperating. Key quote: “San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties also have teams of tracers in the field but haven’t had as many problems.” Sigh.

This New York Times interview with freelance journalist Robert Evans is a couple of days old, but it’s worth a read if you want to better understand what in the heck is going on in Portland, Ore. After more than 50 nights of mostly peaceful protests in a small part of the city, the federal government has swooped in with a mysterious force—a force that Portland officials and state of Oregon don’t want there. 

• After seven months of existing with SARS-CoV-2, scientists are still trying to determine the true fatality rate of the virus. Two experts, writing for The Conversation, explain the process—and offer their best estimates based on the data so far.

Also from The Conversation: A University of Oregon journalism professor writes about the devastation the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn have wrought on the country’s newsrooms. Key quote: “COVID-19 has ripped through the industry. In the United States alone, over 36,000 journalists have lost their jobs, been furloughed or had their pay cut.”

As previously reported in the Independent, live music events have been against state rules since the shutdown began—although some restaurants have gone ahead with them anyway. Well, Riverside County is beginning to crack down.

Last night’s episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, now available on YouTube, broke down why conspiracy theories always pop up around major events (like, say, a certain society-crippling pandemic).

• Because of a testing-supplies shortage, the federal government is encouraging pool testing—where samples from multiple people are combined. If the combined test comes back negative, that’s great; if it comes back positive, then the individual samples get tested to figure out who had the positive results. However, Politico makes the case that this strategy simply won’t work. Key quote: “But the U.S. outbreak is now so out of control that health experts and testing labs say it won’t work here. In areas where the virus is widespread, many pools would test positive—requiring additional tests of each person in those pools.”

CNET helpfully (and depressingly) reminds us that flu season is approaching—and “consulted Dr. Nate Favini, medical lead at Forward to help shed some light on what you need to know about both viruses and what to do if you get sick.” Bleh. Is it time for a cocktail yet?

That’s a lot—I think, you’ll agree, it’s enough for today. Please, if you can, consider throwing a few bucks our way by becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep doing what we do—quality local journalism. Stay safe, everyone.

Published in Daily Digest

Since March, the United States has endured its most turbulent period in decades. The fact that the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the economic downturn are happening in an election year leads to an obvious question: How will the turmoil effect what happens at the polls on Nov. 3?

If local voter-registration numbers are any indication, the news is good for Democrats.

The Independent recently reviewed voter-registration data from the Riverside County Registrar of Voters and the Democratic Headquarters of the Desert, comparing political-party voter-registration totals as of April 13 and July 13, in each of the valley’s nine cities. In that time frame, the number of Democrats registered to vote increased by 459, while the number of registered Republicans decreased by 226. Interestingly, voters who chose to register as having no party preference decreased by 700.

We reached out to local party leaders to ask them about their efforts to get voters engaged between now and Nov. 3.

“We closed the Democratic headquarters (in Cathedral City) on March 16,” said Elle Kurpiewski, political director of the Democratic Headquarters of the Desert, during a recent phone interview. “However, all of the phone calls we’ve been receiving are forwarded to me at my home. In one week alone, I had over a dozen people call to register to vote. So what I did was mail the voter-registration form to them if they were not able to (register) online. But here’s where it got interesting: There must have been 10 who were Republicans wanting to switch to be Democrats.

“Another thing that I found interesting was that a very large rally was put on by young people,” the Enough Is Enough rally in Palm Springs on June 6. “We were able to do voter registration safely at that event, (which drew) over a thousand people, the majority of them being young people. We signed up 40 new registrations at that event.

“What’s even more interesting are the young people—I’m talking 16-year-olds—who have been contacting our headquarters, pre-registering to vote and urging their friends to get out and vote this November. They are fully aware of what’s going on. Their focus is not just on Black Lives Matter. In talking with these young people, they’re just fed up, and they’re getting involved. They’re saying, ‘We’re here, and you’ve got to start paying attention (to us).’ I’m very impressed with them. Also, what’s really interesting about (their efforts) is how organic it’s been. This isn’t organized, per se. These are just young people who communicate with each other on Facebook and on Twitter, and they’re saying, ‘We have to do something. We have to have our voices heard.’ It’s been remarkable. The really sweet thing is that they’re not going away.”

Joy Miedecke, of the East Valley Republican Women Federated, said she has talked to a lot of people who are interested in signing up for the GOP.

“If you’re going to go by us, our voter registration has been unbelievable as far as people changing parties from Democrat to Republican,” Miedecke said. “When people try to change from Democrat to, maybe, no party preference or independent or something like that, we try to encourage them to become a Republican, because numbers tell the truth. If you’re moving over to Republican because you believe like Republicans, or you like our president, but you register as ‘no party preference,’ you don’t make a statement. You don’t get Trump on the ballot in the primary, and you can’t join our club. You have to be a registered Republican to be involved. We have over 850 members, so we are no slouchy deal here in the desert.”

What demographics has she seen coming into the valley’s Republican Party in these chaotic recent months?

“I don’t have any hard numbers,” Miedecke said. “But I will tell you that many, many Hispanics are registering as Republicans, and lots of young families. We’re always behind (in the Riverside County Registrar of Voters statistical reporting), but that’s only because ‘no party preference’ is usually (voting) Republican.”

According to the Riverside County Registrar of Voters database, the numbers of registered Republicans declined in seven of the nine Coachella Valley cities between April and July; only Coachella and Indian Wells saw increases in registered Republicans (up 22 and 3, respectively) over the three months. In eight of the nine valley cities, the Democrats increased their registered voters, with the one exception being Desert Hot Springs, which saw decreases in both Democratic and Republican registered voters.

Megan Beaman Jacinto is an immigration and civil rights attorney who serves on the Coachella City Council. She said the Trump administration’s efforts have led many people to get more involved.

“I think that so many things have happened over the last four years that motivated the Latino community, other communities of color, and even white people—who are concerned about the way our communities have been damaged—to stand up and get more active politically,” Beaman Jacinto said. “Some of that has come in the form of protests, or creating new types of groups and associations, or just being more vocal on certain issues. All of that activation, I hope, will be seen in increased voter turnout. But inextricable from all of that is the challenge of COVID-19 and the potential vote-by-mail process. Of course, I support that (vote-by-mail) process, and I’m thankful that our community will be enjoying access to it.

“On the immigration side of things, we’ve done a lot of naturalization over the last four years, which is moving people from their permanent-legal-resident status to citizenship status—and that comes with the right to vote. A lot of the people seeking citizenship in the past few years are specifically motivated by a desire to vote against Trump, and a lot of them are older. They’re people who have been permanent legal residents for decades and now felt compelled to take the final step and become citizens so they could vote. So I’m hopeful that they’ll be reflected in the turnout as well.”

Victor Gonzalez is the project manager at Alianza Coachella Valley. According to the organization’s website, Alianza CV brings together community members, nonprofits and governments to make people active in the processes shaping policies and public funding. One of Gonzalez’s main responsibilities is supervising eastern Coachella Valley students in Alianza’s Youth Organizing Council (YO-C!).

“Our current engagement (group) right now consists of high school students and college-bound or college-attending students,” Gonzalez said. “Most of those attending college are able to vote themselves now. Currently, they’re participating in a focus group to help inform the messaging for the state in relation to the changes that are being made to the voting (process). I believe that there will be a higher emphasis on vote-by-mail. … Our youth are offering a Latino perspective (to the focus group), because most of the students that YO-C! engages are from that background.”

Gonzalez offered some observations about the importance of November’s elections to his student/youth leaders.

“Given the conversations that I’ve had with youth and others, for people who are unable to vote, there’s a sense of disappointment, and they don’t feel that the systemic response to (the societal challenges) has been good,” Gonzalez said. “For the people who can vote, they feel that now’s their time to make a difference. Also, people are messaging to us that the elections and voting (concerns) go beyond the national level, and that what happens locally does inform the national level. So, (the focus) is more on: How do we have people who represent us here locally that will make decisions that are going to benefit all of us, whether it’s Riverside County, the cities or even the school boards? That’s (an approach) that I feel is being emphasized more strongly than I’ve seen since I first starting doing this work. Before, it was like, ‘Local elections don’t matter. It’s all about the president or whoever.’ But now I feel that there’s a broader perspective.”

Published in Politics

Backyard shows—put on by teens, for teens—have been taking place for decades in the Coachella Valley. Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions have silenced the backyard show scene for now—but that doesn’t mean local youth have let their creative voices be silenced.

Take, for example, the Coachella Valley Youth Music Fest, a two-day livestream charity showcase of nearly 20 local acts. From 3 to 5 p.m., Friday, July 24, and Saturday, July 25, tune in to twitch.tv/4nthonyn to watch performances by Koka, Israel’s Arcade, Screams on Silent and others—including a live set from yours truly. Donations made during the event will go to Yemen Crisis Relief, Al Otro Lado, Campaign Zero, COVID-19 Relief, SNaP4Freedom and the NAACP.

“I got the idea for it about three weeks ago; it was literally a shower thought,” said Anthony Noriega, 17, creator of the Coachella Valley Youth Music Fest, during a recent phone interview. “I saw that the Stonewall Inn did a livestream charity fundraiser, so I wanted to create something along those same lines. This thing will be more festival-oriented, though, as some artists will have longer sets, and people will be performing at different times. The same day I got the idea, I contacted everyone.”

Noriega was able to lock in the 19-band lineup in a matter of days.

“I’m a pretty reserved person, but I have a few friends from school that do music, so I was just going to try to ask them,” Noriega said. “I was hoping that I could get some more well-known acts in the desert, like Israel’s Arcade and Koka, and luckily, they agreed right away. I just went out and contacted as many people as possible, because I’d rather have to whittle down sets than try to ask artists to play more songs. I wasn’t sure if a lot of people would even agree to performing.”

The restrictions due to the coronavirus have caused artists all over the world to come up with new ideas for performances. Livestreams in various forms have appeared everywhere, and Noriega is taking in various influences.

“My friend Kiara Thomas is going to be hosting with me, and we’re going to run some test live streams and make sure everything will run smoothly,” Noriega said. “I also have a musician friend from New York named KISOS. He does a livestream every Sunday called Queer-antine, and gives a platform for LGBT artists. I also drew inspiration from him in creating a collective-of-artists livestream. He also helped me out and gave me some advice.”

When Noriega announced the festival and the beneficiary charities, he faced some backlash.

“It’s weird to feel like you chose the wrong charity—when it’s a charity,” Noriega said. “There are foundations that do good things, and it sucks to feel like one is better or worse than the other. I wanted to dwindle down the amount of charities so that when I split up the money, there’s a good money amount going to each charity.

“When I announced the event, there were a handful of musicians who were interested (but not included in the lineup), and I wish I could’ve added them to the set. If I get enough interest among other people, I might try to do a second show and have different charities. It would be so great to wrangle up as much money as possible—because I don’t have a job, so I am not able to donate. I wanted to be able to contribute on a bigger scale and help wrangle up everybody’s few bucks that they have. I feel like this event will really bring people together, and make it feel like we’re all making a difference.”

Some self-doubt came into play when it was time for Noriega to reach out to local acts.

“When I contacted all the performers, I was fully ready for all of them to say no,” he said. “This could’ve been a pop-up idea that just fizzled out. I used my Instagram account that had more followers to message the artists, because people are always getting spam messages on Instagram. If I do this again, I feel like I will have some credibility and be able to have this event under my belt.

“It’s also just my own social fears: I don’t really talk to too many people outside of my small friend group. To be able to put myself out there to a bunch of people I’ve never met before made me worry about what the outcome would be.”

Leading up to the event, social fears aren’t the only thing holding Noriega back.

“I actually tested positive for the coronavirus recently,” Noriega said. “I’m on my better days now, but I’ve been feeling body aches and extreme headaches.

“I’m performing in as well as co-hosting the event, so I’m going to try my best to make it as entertaining as possible. I also hope this will be a good showcase of local talent, and that people will watch. I’m not announcing the times for each band, so hopefully people will stay for the whole show to create a balanced event.”

Published in Previews

Happy Friday! Here’s the latest:

• First, a little good news: Local hospitalizations are beginning to finally move downward, after consistently rising for weeks. You can see Eisenhower Medical Center’s stats here. Now, whether this is a blip or a trend remains to be seen. A key quote from a Facebook post from Eisenhower yesterday: “Today we have only 56 COVID inpatients; a couple of weeks ago we had a high of 85, so a promising sign. We also have 1,533 positive patients that are at home in isolation because they did not need to be in the hospital. We are very worried that they might be spreading the virus to family and friends.”

• After rumblings that some counties where cases are spiking could try to send kids back to school in fall, Gov. Newsom stepped in today and said that, no, that’s not going to happen in counties on the state’s watch list. The Los Angeles Times explains. Key quote: “We all prefer in-classroom instructions for all the obvious reasons—social, and emotional foundationally. But only, only if it can be done safely,” Newsom said.

• From the Independent: The shutdown forced the McCallum Theatre this year to cancel its annual Open Call shows, which showcase amazing local talent. Well, the show must go on—so the theater is showing off these talents in a half-hour show, recorded near The Living Desert, airing tomorrow night on KESQ. Matt King has the details.

• Related and maddening: The White House is blocking officials from the CDC from testifying in front of a House committee next week regarding school reopenings. Why?!

• Similarly horrifying: Federal agents, without agency IDs, have started tear-gassing, shooting (non-lethal ammunition) and detaining protesters in Portland, Ore.—even though city and state officials do not want the federal agents there. According to The New York Times: “The aggressive federal posture has complicated the mission of the Department of Homeland Security, an agency that has spent much of its history focused on foreign terrorism threats and is supposed to build collaborative relationships with local law enforcement partners. And it raises questions of whether it is appropriate for federal authorities to take up the policing of an American city against the wishes of local leaders.” (Spoiler alert: It’s not appropriate.) 

• This weird story broke yesterday: A group associated with Russian intelligence has tried to hack into vaccine-research efforts in the United States, Great Britain and Canada. Needless to say, intelligence agencies in those countries aren’t happy.

Some alarming news out of the Desert AIDS Project: They’re seeing a spike in HIV infections, as well as sexually transmitted infections. “Steadily rising rates of HIV, syphilis, and chlamydia in the Coachella Valley are showing that the last five months of living in the “new normal” has interfered with people taking care of their sexual health,” the organization says.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced today that she’s getting chemotherapy after a recurrence of cancer. Keep the Supreme Court justice in your thoughts, please.

• If you have type-A blood like yours truly, you can breathe a sigh of relief: Further research into whether one’s blood type affects susceptibility to COVID-19 shows a weak link, at best, according to The New York Times.

• I returned this week to the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast/videocast, with hosts John Taylor, Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr, to talk with Dr. Laura Rush about the fustercluck that is the state of the coronavirus in the Coachella Valley.

• Several days ago, we mentioned that the results from Moderna’s small vaccine trial were encouraging. But how encouraging are they, when put in the proper context? An infectious-disease expert from Vanderbilt University, writing for The Conversation, breaks it down. Key quote: “So they are good results; they are promising results; but they are pretty early in the game, so to speak.

• Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said today that he’s in favor of forgiving up to ALL Paycheck Protection Program loans—and that businesses may not even need to verify how the money was spent. Flexibility is good … but this may go a bit too far.

Is fighting the coronavirus as simple as shutting down indoor bars and getting people to wearing masks? That’s what Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health, said yesterday. Per CNBC: “Being indoors, in close quarters, over long periods of time, is just a recipe for spread,” he said, adding that outdoor seating for restaurants and bars is “probably really safe.”

• Related: Dr. Anthony Fauci has a message for local and state governments: “Be as forceful as possible in getting your citizenry to wear masks.

• Related and good news: The nation’s top nine retailers all now require masks, according to The Washington Post.

The Trump administration appears to be ignoring a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling by rejecting new applicants for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

• Major League Baseball appears to be ready to start its delayed, no-fans-in-stands, 60-game season next week, after its latest round of testing revealed few players had the virus. Meanwhile, NFL players want financial guarantees and all preseason games to be cancelled before their season is scheduled to start in September.

That’s enough news for what’s been a crazy week. Wear a mask! Be safe. Check in with a loved one and see how they’re doing. Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep doing what we do—offering quality local journalism, free to all. The digest will return Monday; have a great weekend, everybody.

Published in Daily Digest

Every year, the McCallum Theatre showcases local performers via its Open Call Talent Project—but the series of April shows, like so many other events, was a casualty of the coronavirus epidemic.

However, the show must go on—so Open Call 2020 has moved from the stage to the screen: At 6:30 p.m., Saturday, July 18, KESQ Channel 3 will air a special half-hour video, produced by the McCallum and hosted by Patrick Evans, showcasing the Open Call finalists. The video was filmed in the desert adjacent to The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.

Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, the vice president of education at the McCallum, explained how Open Call normally works, during a recent phone interview.

“It’s a competition where people submit, and then we have callbacks; then we get to about 18 to 20 finalists,” Thuresson-Frary said. “The whole thing is a learning process, but there’s also an added competition element. What we always do with our cast is have all of them participate in a big finale number that is inspired by the finalists every year. A big part of the rehearsals for the show is practicing that finale number. That’s a big learning experience, too, because if you’re a vocalist, you’ll get to dance; if you’re a dancer, you’ll get to sing; and if you’re a musician, you’ll get to do both: Every cast member participates in a choreographed experience. It’s created to be an inspiration for the audience members, who hopefully go home and begin some risk-taking of their own.”

Thuresson-Frary said the McCallum announced this year’s Open Call finalists shortly before the theater shut down in March.

“Had it not been for us already announcing our finalists, we probably wouldn’t have done anything this year,” she said. “We had a few cast members this year who have tried out for several years and finally made it, and I really wanted to figure out a way that we could continue to do the show. We also already had the finale number written.

“We started trying to figure out how to do it this year and thought that we couldn’t really include the competition element. We have several large groups and dance companies, and they wouldn’t have the opportunity to practice anywhere. We have a pretty high standard for the McCallum Theatre’s Open Call project, so if we were to put anything out there that wasn’t at a certain level, it wouldn’t feel like a good alternative. We also were looking at how to perform the finale number—while following the (social-distancing) mandates. We really wanted to try to do something a lot more exciting than all the videos that have been appearing of people that are stuck at home.”

Thuresson-Frary and her team started the process by having the finalists record themselves.

“We met with everyone over Zoom and gave them the music and their parts,” she said. “They worked back and forth with Paul (Cracchiolo), our music director, and worked out a good-quality product to send in. While we were doing this, mandates started to be lifted, and we eventually arrived at a time where we felt it was safe to record a good-quality video that we would feel comfortable putting the McCallum name on. We collaborated with Tracker Studios’ Doug VanSant, and A. Wolf Mearns, who are also musicians. All of us brainstormed a way to complete this project in a way that is safe and good-quality.”

Filming inside the McCallum wasn’t an option; Thuresson-Frary and her team wanted a safe, outside location where mask-wearing and social distancing could take place.

“That’s where The Living Desert came into play,” she said. “We wanted to have a wild desert feel, especially under the circumstances, to be able to pay tribute to Mother Nature and the conditions we live in. We reached out to Judy Esterbrook, who is the sales manager of The Living Desert, and she just so happened to be at Open Call last year and was fully on board for helping us out. They were generous enough to let us use the wild desert area behind their zoo and gardens and provided us with shuttle service that transported our artists individually. There were a lot of logistics to work out, and The Living Desert was very generous and became a very lovely partner. That was the same week that the zoo was allowed to re-open, so everything worked out.”

After she saw the first video cut, Thuresson-Frary said she knew they had made something special.

“It’s now been a month of post-production and a lot of back and forth between Tracker Studios and us,” Thuresson-Frary said. “I didn’t really want to reach out to KESQ (too early), because there were so many variables that could’ve easily put a stop to this project at any point in time. Once I felt confident that we had something that was Open Call-quality, I called over to KESQ and asked for them to partner with us. We feel we have something really special that the community will enjoy. I naively thought that they had a little program that they could stick our (seven-minute) music video into, but they actually asked us to provide them with a whole half-hour. That’s mainly what we’ve been working on, and we’re almost ready to hand it over.”

However, transforming a seven-minute video into a half-hour show was not necessarily easy.

“We were able to already film our usual artist vignettes, so we decided to include those,” she said. “… Each performer will be introduced and have their vignette aired. We also had an intern, an aspiring filmmaker, who created a behind-the-scenes movie for us. I thought that many people wouldn’t believe that all of these performers were in the same place at the same time, so he has some behind-the-scenes footage. The music video is the ending of the 30 minutes.”

While Thuresson-Frary said she’s disappointed that the Open Call shows had to be cancelled, she’s proud that the video will give the talented performers their moment in the spotlight.

“We usually sell out our Open Call series, and we put on four shows, so I know there are a lot of people who really love this project,” Thuresson-Frary said. “There are some people who only come to the McCallum Theatre for our show. This music video can be a testament to the kind of work that we’re able to do for the community, as we’ve been doing Open Call for about 20 years now. … It’s designed to showcase all of the art this valley has to offer. All of these artists didn’t really get to work together, but we’re hoping that this will provide them a sense of community across this divide of distancing.”

For more information, visit www.mccallumtheatre.com/index.php/education/open-call.

Published in Local Fun

Make no mistake: SARS CoV-2 is ravaging the Coachella Valley, with highs in cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

In fact, hospitalizations are so high in the Coachella Valley that a federal medical team has arrived at Eisenhower Medical Center to ease the burden on the hospital’s overwhelmed staff.

Now is the time to take action: Stay home if you can. Wear a mask when you can’t. And wash your hands.

We’ll get through this (again?) (still?); really, we will. But it’s bad right now. So take care of yourself, OK?

More news:

• After that depressing introduction, let’s start off with some good news: More testing facilities are coming—specifically, to RiteAid, including Coachella Valley locations in Indio, Coachella and Desert Hot Springs.

• More good news: After multiple lawsuits and furious university officials spoke out, the Trump administration reversed a mandate that foreign students must return to their home countries if their schools are only holding classes online.

• Yet more good news: The county is reopening applications for its rental-assistance program. Residents who have been unable to pay their rent can receive up to $3,500. Learn more from KESQ, or just head straight to the application website; the deadline for this round is July 25.

Even more good news: Some common antiviral drugs used to treat people with hepatitis C may help patients with COVID-19.

• Let’s keep the good news coming: A scientist writing for The Washington Post offers up these six reasons for optimism as we battle COVID-19.

• And here’s some more: Moderna says its vaccine produced strong antibodies in all—yes, ALL—of the patients who received it. We’re only talking about 45 people—but the news could not be any more encouraging.

• Related and also good: Oxford’s vaccine candidate is ahead of all others, schedule-wiseand, in fact, it could be through human trials by September.

• And more: Walmart is making masks mandatory in its stores. This should have been done three months ago or so, but hey, we’ll take it.

• Oh, and so is Best Buy.

• And more good news! The Palm Springs Cultural Center is now scheduling drive-in movies for Fridays, Saturdays and some Sundays for the foreseeable future. Get the schedule here.

• From the Independent: Our resident cocktail columnist thinks y’all should be cut off after packing bars and causing them to close again so soon—so here are some tips and tricks on how to use fresh herbs and spices to make delicious and even healthy non-alcoholic drinks at home. (Editor’s note: I ain’t cutting myself off, and you should know fresh herbs and spices are yummy in boozy drinks, too.)

Wear. A. Mask. The evidence keeps coming in showing that this one thing, if people did it, could stomp down this pandemic.

More on testing, from our partners at CalMatters: Due to supply shortages, California yesterday announced new guidelines for testing, giving priority to the vulnerable and people with symptoms. The fact testing has come to this is NOT good!

How effective will a vaccine need to be to stop this damn pandemic—considering a disturbing number of anti-vax Americans say they will refuse to be vaccinated? The Conversation crunched the numbers, and here’s what they found.

The possible implications of this are horrifying: The Trump administration has ordered hospitals to stop sending COVID-19 patient info to the CDC—and has told them to instead send it to a Health and Human Services Database.

For the first time since World War II, the New Year’s Day spectacle/tradition that is the Rose Parade has been cancelled.

• If you ever needed more proof that journalism is important: The Washington Post looked at the cases of eight people who were blinded in one eye during the Black Lives Matter protests on May 30—and videos of the incidents often contradict police accounts of what happened. Same goes for The New York Times, which just published an online package proving that even though the NYPD says it used restraint during the protests, it often did not.

Much of Twitter is down as of this writing, after a whole bunch of big-name Twitter accounts were hacked—indicating that the social-media company has a serious security flaw.

Methane levels in the atmosphere are at an all-time high. Great. Just great.

The pandemic has helped revive the market for single-use plastics—which, of course, is bad news for the environment. The Conversation examines whether or not this trend will continue.

At a time when dependable, inexpensive mail delivery is more important than ever (because, you know, we’re all broke and stuck at home), the Trump administration is making yet more moves to hobble the post office. Sigh.

• Another sigh: The Wall Street Journal reports on large companies that are making employees return to the office—even if that may not exactly be the safest thing to do.

• A first, and not a good one: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has become the first governor to announce he has COVID-19. Key quote: “He resisted calls to roll back Oklahoma’s reopening plans, which are being tested by a viral resurgence.” Ugh.

The federal government is offering up to 13 weeks of extra unemployment once state benefits run out—but people may need to reapply to receive them, according to this CNBC report.

American Airlines has given 25,000 employees a heads-up that job cuts may be coming.

Apple just released a six-minute sorta-comedy video about what it’s like to work from home these days. It’s … amusing, if you don’t mind product placement.

Seeing as there are more than 30 links in this Daily Digest, that’s enough for the day. If you value this digest and the other things the Independent does, and you’re fortunate enough to have a buck or two to spare, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Stay safe, all!

Published in Daily Digest

On this week's forced smile of a weekly Independent comica page: Jen Sorensen looks at the Postal Service of the future; (Th)ink watches as Tucker Carlson goes on a fishing vacation; This Modern World uses another parable involving another cliff; Red Meat seeks a large candied nut log; and Apoca Clips introduces Li'l Trumpy to Bizarro Trump.

Published in Comics

It’s July 13. Let’s check and see how things are going!

COVID-19 is running amok.

The state is locking down more businesses again—with gyms, hair salons and churches pretty much ordered to close today in most of the state (including here in Riverside County).

The federal budget deficit last month alone was $864 billion.

More and more small businesses, seeing no end of this mess in sight, are giving up and closing their doors.

• The COVID-19 testing effort nationwide is becoming more and more of a fustercluck by the day, it seems

The White House is openly trying to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Meanwhile, the president is retweeting former game-show host Chuck Woolery’s conspiracy theory that everyone, including doctors (!), is lying about COVID-19.

So … yeah. THAT’S how things are going. Anyway, how was YOUR weekend?

More news from the day:

• Regarding the state’s order that gyms, hair salons and the like in counties on the state watch list (which Riverside County is most definitely on) close: There’s a loophole—according to the county, these businesses can stay open if they move operations outdoors. Given that local highs for the foreseeable future will not fall below 106 degrees, I don’t see a lot of local gyms and barbershops moving outside—but it’s something to watch for regardless.

• While most schools around here will not be reopening for in-person classes for the fall, at least not initially, schools are reopening in Europe and other places—and they offer lessons for the U.S. if we ever get this damn virus somewhat in check.

• Sigh. Will the pandemic ever end? The World Health Organization is reporting that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may only last for a few months in some peoplemeaning people could potentially contract COVID-19 multiple times.

• Could an existing tuberculosis vaccine offer some protection against the coronavirus? CNN examines the evidence.

• Related-ish: The Washington Post looks at the mad dash by glass-makers to make sure they have enough vials ready if/when a vaccine is ever available.

The Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau has put together a short, cool little video called “Mayors Mask Up,” featuring the mayors from eight of the nine valley cities encouraging people to wear a darned mask. The interesting exception: The video features eight mayors plus Palm Desert City Councilwoman Jan Harnik—NOT Palm Desert Mayor Gina Nestande, who has a history of saying less-than-smart things about the pandemic. Good lord!

• Our partners at CalMatters take a look at the varying COVID-19 testing experiences across the state of California. To put it mildly, the experiences vary drastically depending on where one is.

The Conversation takes a look at the fact that there were maskholes, or COVIDiots, or whatever you want to call people who refuse to wear masks during the last pandemic, too.

A study out of UCSF indicates that young people who smoke or vape are at a higher risk for COVID-19.

• Esquire files a report from Rome, as the city slowly gets back to life after one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. Key quote: “While there is beauty to be found in the reopened city—in parks left untended, the grass has grown long and wild, and the landmarks are no longer congested with tourists—there is now a strangeness to everyday life. Bars serve drinks over tables wedged inside doorways, cashiers hide behind Perspex shields, and restaurants have become like hospitals, requiring customers to fill out long forms and disinfect themselves before entry.”

• Now that things are NOT going well in Riverside County regarding the pandemic, the Riverside Press-Enterprise asks: “Was lifting mask orders a mistake?” The answer seems obvious to me—but, hoo boy, the politicians have a lot of excuses.

• Finally … if you need a laugh after all of this, and you haven’t been turned on to the charms of comedian Sarah Cooper yet, please check out this InStyle piece she did about her viral popularity. Her lip-sync re-enactments of some of President Trump’s statements are true gems.

That’s the news of the day. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. If you appreciate what we do here at the Independent, help us continue producing local journalism, free to all, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Stay safe, everyone.

Published in Daily Digest

Many Coachella Valley musicians pull double, triple or even quadruple duty—and a prime example of this is Josh Heinz. He plays for both Blasting Echo and 5th Town; he’s an in-demand solo performer; and he regularly plans shows, most notably his annual Concert for Autism, a two-day festival raising money for the Desert Autism Foundation.

On top of being a local-music machine, Heinz is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. When I first started playing, he was the host of Open Mic Night at The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert. He was extremely accommodating and answered every question I had; since then, he has been a great friend, and has always reached out to invite my bands to share gigs.

Heinz just released his first solo album, Made in Memphis 2003, on every major streaming platform. The record is a post-grunge burner featuring 10 songs with Heinz’s heavy guitar and emphatic vocal deliveries. While the release is new, the album is not: As the title suggests, this album is 17 years old.

“I moved to the valley in 2001, and I didn’t know anyone,” Heinz said during a recent interview. “I was a stay-at-home dad, and I was just writing a bunch of songs. My band in Memphis, Wyndom Earle, ended, and my ex-wife and I didn’t want to raise her daughter in Memphis, so we moved here. In 2002, I went back to Memphis for a wedding, and talked to Robert Pickens (Picon), who produced and recorded Wyndom Earle. I talked to him about all the songs I had written, but I didn’t have a place to record them since I didn’t know anyone in the valley. He offered to record me in Memphis and cut me a deal—so in February of 2003, I drove cross-country to record.

“We recorded all those songs in 64 hours. I hired the drummer who was in Robert’s band to play drums, and he tracked those in 16 hours, after only hearing four of the songs prior to being in the studio. I played all the songs to a click, so we would both talk and figure out the drum parts in the studio. I talked to him through his headphones as to when to hit the ride or crash, and he nailed all those within three or four takes. I was very fortunate to have him onboard.”

The songs feature highly emotional lyrics, with “You’re Afraid Too” hosting a fearless Heinz projecting on the loss of patience and deceit within a relationship. The final track, “Distance,” is a slower song about the past, specifically the struggles of breaking free of things one would rather not keep around.

“A lot of the songs are about my experiences leaving Memphis and my band, Wyndom Earle, ending on a sour note,” Heinz said. “I started writing when I moved here in May of 2001, and when Sept. 11 happened, I felt like I couldn’t write—3,000 people had just lost their lives, and I felt I was in no place to be whining about my life, because I was still alive. The first song I worked on after that is called ‘Closure,’ the fifth song on the record. The lyrics are: ‘So many left alone; so many still unknown.’ It was me trying to put myself in the position of someone who lost a family member, and who might have not had closure with them. Maybe they got in an argument that day, or needed to say something to their loved one that they didn’t get to.”

Heinz said his songwriting approach has changed in the almost-two decades since he wrote Made in Memphis 2003.

“My approach when I was younger was carrying around a journal with me everywhere,” he said. “I would write down lyrics or poems whenever I had ideas, and would apply them to music later. My primary way is music first, though, because it really sets the tone for the song. Aggressive guitar tones can make for a heavier song, and lighter tones can make for something sweeter. There is no one right way; that’s just what I lean towards more.

“Back in 2003, I had no band. I wrote all my music how I heard it, and didn’t consult people for their take or ideas. It was very singular, and that’s how we recorded it so quickly. Robert and some others in the studio would give me a few ideas, but I really had everything in my head already. When I was younger, I was more apt to do that—just show up with the full idea for the song, whereas now things are more collaborative. Some songs with Blasting Echo will be all done by me, but the majority of our songs consist of all of our efforts poured into a song, starting with just a riff. I’ve grown more to asking others for their input, but it’s still good to have that vision and be set on it. As long as you are in a healthy relationship with your bandmates, you can all work together to believe in your vision and trust their thoughts on your idea.”

Why did Heinz sit on the recordings for as long as he did?

“The main idea behind recording this album was to have a calling card,” Heinz said. “When I finally met other musicians, I would show them a track or two, not the full thing. Initially, I wanted to find a band to play these live, and have it be our first album. It didn’t happen that way—and I’m glad it didn’t. I’ve been playing these songs for years, but only as acoustic performances.

“I never thought about releasing something with nothing to show for it live, but recently, I talked to my friends in Wyndom Earle about remastering and releasing some of our old songs. That conversation and also the restrictions of COVID-19 got me thinking about these songs again, and I just thought: Why not? Nobody is playing right now, and my other bands haven’t been able to meet, so I just wanted to get this stuff out.

“The one positive of COVID was being able to work with Michael (Spann) on the mastering, the artwork, and getting it on streaming services. Without COVID, I probably would not have had time to do all that.”

COVID-19 and the restrictions that have come with it have led many artists to reinvent themselves. I asked Heinz how the coronavirus is affecting him beyond Made in Memphis 2003.

“More than likely, the Concert for Autism will not happen, because safety is more important,” Heinz said. “Our dates have been changing with Goldenvoice’s Coachella plans, but the reality of it is that it’s not going to happen. Many of the businesses that support us are hurting as well, so it’d be hard to ask them for donations. We may try to do a virtual performance in place of it.

“I miss Blasting Echo and 5th Town, and I really miss cranking up my amp and jumping around. Our family has to be really careful, however. My wife, Linda, and I have four kids in the house, and one is severely autistic. We have to be conscious of that risk, because if someone were to get sick, it could affect our family in a major way.

“Linda and I have begun streaming every Sunday at 5 p.m. on the Blasting Echo Facebook page (www.facebook.com/blastingecho), and we are lucky to be doing that. It’s been our only creative outlet during these times. We’ve had the tools to stream forever, but never thought to do it until now. It’s been a lot of fun, and great getting to connect with family all over the world, and also people in the desert.”

For more information, visit joshheinzmadeinmemphis2003.hearnow.com.