Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Happy Friday, all. There’s a lot of news today, so let’s get right to it:

• The New York Times is reporting that President Trump will indeed nominate Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. The announcement should come tomorrow. According to reporter Peter Baker: “The president met with Judge Barrett at the White House this week and came away impressed with a jurist that leading conservatives told him would be a female Antonin Scalia, referring to the justice who died in 2016 and for whom Judge Barrett clerked. As they often do, aides cautioned that Mr. Trump sometimes upends his own plans. But he is not known to have interviewed any other candidates for the post.”

• The Trump administration is fighting back against a federal court injunction that prohibits the feds from ending the Census tally a month early. According to NPR, “The preliminary injunction issued Thursday by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California requires the Census Bureau to keep trying to tally the country's residents through Oct. 31.

• Breonna Taylor’s family today expressed anger over the fact that none of the three Louisville police officers who killed her were charged for doing so. Key quote, from The Washington Post: “Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Taylor’s family, demanded the release of grand jury transcripts in the case, calling for (Kentucky Attorney General Daniel) Cameron to make plain what he did and did not present to them this week and leading the crowd in a chant echoing that plea.”

• Related: The Washington Post examines the tactics that police departments use to keep records from being released to the public. Sigh.

• Rio’s massive Carnival 2021 celebration has been indefinitely postponed, because, of, well, y’know. NPR explains.

Gov. Ron DeSantis pretty much opened the state of Florida sans restrictions today—and banned local governments from issuing further restrictions, for the most part. According to ABC News: “The governor’s announcement Friday allows restaurants across the state to immediately reopen at full capacity—and prevents cities and counties from ordering them to close or operate at less than half-capacity, unless they can justify a closure for economic or health reasons. ‘We’re not closing anything going forward,’ DeSantis said, while insisting that the state is prepared if infections increase again.

• State health officials are saying that California COVID-19 hospitalizations are expected to almost double in next month. Per the Los Angeles Times: “The proportion of Californians testing positive for the virus continues to remain low at 3 percent over the past two weeks, and the total number of COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals continues to decline, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services director. But he said that some other metrics are prompting concern that a feared uptick in the virus’ spread, which public health officials said was possible in the wake of the Labor Day holiday and more businesses reopening, may be materializing.”

Things could get scary in Portland tomorrow. Per Willamette Week: “Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday she's drawing on emergency authority to direct a coordinated response to tomorrow's planned rally by right-wing groups at Delta Park in North Portland. That event is likely to draw a strong counterprotest from the left—and conflict between the two groups could get violent. ‘We are aware that white supremacist groups from out of town, including the Proud Boys, are planning a rally,’ Brown said. ‘They are expecting a significant crowd—some people will be armed, with others ready to harass or intimidate Oregonians. Many are from out of state.’"

• In other news about scary things this weekend: A heat wave and dangerous fire conditions are arriving in parts of California. According to The Washington Post: “The National Weather Service has posted red flag warnings for ‘critical’ fire weather conditions for the East Bay and North Bay Hills near San Francisco from Saturday through Monday. Winds from the north will eventually come out of the east, blowing from land to sea, increasing temperatures and dropping humidity percentages into the teens and single digits.”

• Sort of related, alas, comes this headline from our partners at CalMatters: “California Exodus: An online industry seizes COVID-19 to sell the Red State Dream.” Key quote: “Unaffordable housing. High taxes. A Democratic stranglehold on state politics. The concerns driving transplants like Morris out of the country’s richest state during the COVID-19 era are not new. What is changing quickly is how disillusioned California residents are coming together by the tens of thousands on Facebook, YouTube and elsewhere online, fueling a cottage industry of real estate agents, mortgage lenders and political advocates stoking social division to compete for a piece of the much-discussed California Exodus.”

• On the vaccine front: The U.S. portion of the AstroZeneca trial remains on hold following the death of a British trial participant. Per Reuters: “A document posted online by Oxford University last week stated the illness in a British participant that triggered the pause on Sept. 6 may not have been associated with the vaccine.” Meanwhile, HHS Secretary Alex Azar says the pause proves the FDA is taking vaccine safety seriously.

• Here’s some good news: Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has entered the large Stage 3 trial. According to The New York Times: “Johnson & Johnson is a couple of months behind the leaders, but its advanced vaccine trial will be by far the largest, enrolling 60,000 participants. The company said it could know by the end of this year if its vaccine works. And its vaccine has potentially consequential advantages over some competitors. It uses a technology that has a long safety record in vaccines for other diseases. Its vaccine could require just one shot instead of two … and it does not have to be kept frozen.”

NBC News looks at the leading coronavirus models—and the discomfiting fact that their often grim projections have come true so far. “Many have watched with a mixture of horror and frustration as their projections of the pandemic's evolution, and its potential death toll, have come to fruition. Now, a widely cited model developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington suggests that the U.S. could total more than 378,000 coronavirus deaths by January.”

• Even though the college football season so far has been a mess of postponements, COVID-19 cases and increasing concerns about the disease’s long-term effects on athletes, all of the conferences at the highest level of college football now intend to play this fall, including the Pac-12.

• We’ve previously mentioned in this space the possibility that dogs could be used to sniff out coronavirus cases, and now comes this, from The Associated Press: “Finland has deployed coronavirus-sniffing dogs at the Nordic country’s main international airport in a four-month trial of an alternative testing method that could become a cost-friendly and quick way to identify infected travelers.”

• A professor of psychology, writing for The Conversation, examines how this damned virus is changing the English language. Interestingly, the pandemic has only led to one new word, according to the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary—COVID-19—which is actually an acronym. Instead: “Most of the coronavirus-related changes that the editors have noted have to do with older, more obscure words and phrases being catapulted into common usage, such as reproduction number and social distancing. They’ve also documented the creation of new word blends based on previously existing vocabulary.”

• I had to skip the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week due to a virtual journalism conference, but hosts Shann, John and Brad welcomed guests Dr. Laura Rush, Tim Vincent from Brothers of the Desert and Alexander Rodriguez from the On the Rocks Radio Show. Check it out.

• Finally, you have a reason to live until next week: the start of Fat Bear Week. This has nothing to do with the gents you’d find during a pre-COVID Friday evening at Hunters Palm Springs; instead, it’s an Alaska thing with which we’re fully on board.

Have a safe weekend, everyone. Wash your hands; wear a mask; support local businesses safely and responsibly—and if you’d like to include the Independent on the list of local businesses you’re financially supporting, find details here. The Daily Digest will return Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

If you’re one of the 130 readers who has taken the time to complete our short, six-question survey: Thank you! If you have not taken the survey yet, and you have 90 seconds to spare, please click here.

We’ll close the survey tomorrow (Thursday) night, and I’ll share some takeaways from the survey in Friday’s Daily Digest.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Here are today’s links:

Here’s the most recent District 4 COVID-19 report from Riverside County. District 4 consists primarily of the Coachella Valley, as well as points eastward to the Arizona state border. The good news: Local cases and hospitalizations seem to be edging slowly downward. The bad: The weekly positivity rate remains alarmingly high. Peruse yourself you’d like.

• Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, who has resisted wearing a mask at the Capitol, has tested positive for the coronavirus. I shan’t comment further, because I have no words.

• Meanwhile, California has endured its deadliest day for COVID-19. Again.

• The state linked to this article yesterday: XPrize is offering $5 million to anyone who can “come up with inexpensive, fast, and easy COVID-19 testing that enables effective, data-driven tracing.” Let’s all hope they have to fork out that money—and fast.

The Conversation looks at the impending eviction crisis—and a legal system that, for centuries, has favored landlords over tenants.

• Related: The economies in California and a lot of other states will take huge hits if the new GOP stimulus package gets passed without major changes.

• Also related: California is considering providing the extra $600 in unemployment if the federal government doesn’t extend the benefit … but will need to borrow money to do so.

• NBC News looks at the tactics protesters are using to stand up to federal law enforcement in Portland. Get out the leaf blowers!

• Related: The New York Times reports that those federal agents have agreed to leave Portlandas long as the federal courthouse is secured.

• An NPR analysis shows that the coronavirus is becoming a huge problem in a lot of the nation’s small cities, as more and more hospitals become overwhelmed.

• The fact that we’re talking about what may happen when a vaccine arrives is a good thing, but nonetheless, take note: Now is the time for people to learn about a vaccine’s possible side effectsnot to cause alarm, but to learn.

AMC theaters and Universal Pictures have kissed and made up. AMC had said it’d never again show Universal films after the studio released Trolls World Tour online because of the pandemic. As part of the reconciliation, AMC has agreed that Universal can release films online after just 17 days in theaters; before, that number was at least 75 days.

• Sigh … meanwhile, in Minnesota, a rodeo took place over the weekend. The organizer said there’d be “no spectators,” but invited people to show up to protest “government overreach.” Thousands of people—many of them not wearing masks—did.

• From the Independent: We’ve posted an interesting commentary piece from local PR guru David Perry, in which he asks people to stop calling for a complete shutdown—because those of us who are less privileged can’t “shut down.”

The stock value for Eastman Kodak—a company that has struggled in recent years, because film really isn’t a thing anymore—has gone bonkers, after the feds gave Kodak a Defense Production Act loan of $765 million to start making drug ingredients.

• From the “What in the Ever-Loving $&%# Is Going On?!” files: Random people in at least 28 states have received seeds in the mail, apparently from China … and nobody knows why. If you get them, contact the state, and DON’T PLANT THEM; investigators are trying to figure out whether these seeds are harmful. Man, 2020 just won’t quit.

• Whoever had “Madonna Posts Discredited Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory” on their 2020 Bingo card … step up and claim your prize!

Finally, a bit of … possible local news: Is the Riviera Palm Springs about to become the latest Margaritaville? Hmm.

That’s the day’s news. Wash your hands! Wear a mask. Be kind. If you’re able to send us a few bucks to help fund this Daily Digest and the other things the Independent does, please click here. The digest will be back Friday.

Published in Daily Digest

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

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

The name Black Pussy has gotten the group in question in a lot of trouble.

However, when the band takes the stage, it’s all about good times and rock ’n’ roll. The group is returning to the desert for a performance at Bar in Palm Springs on Friday, Sept. 18.

Hailing from Portland, Ore., Black Pussy is one of the hardest-working bands in America. The psychedelic rock sound the group has labeled “stoner pop” is mighty and loud.

During a recent phone interview, Dustin Hill talked about the origins of Black Pussy.

“I was in another band I’m still in called White Orange, and that was a very huge sound,” said Hill, the band’s vocalist/guitarist. “When I was starting Black Pussy, I recorded the first record by myself, but as I got the guys together, I thought, ‘I want to keep it mellow.’”

However, the band did not stay “mellow.”

“As it’s progressed, White Orange has taken a back seat, and I think some of the White Orange ideas have come into this project, because I’m the writer of both,” Hill said. “We’ve added a lot more speakers, so it’s just kind of evolved over time. Adding the organ and piano, we’ve added more bass frequencies, which means the guitars have to up their tone. It’s just turned into this giant wall. It’s not very loud, in a sense. We push a lot of air, and that’s the neat thing about this project. It’s not just 200-watt Orange guitar amps. ”

Hill said the hype regarding Portland’s music scene is legitimate.

“For sure, it does live up to the hype. I’ve been here long enough, and we’ve been here long enough that we’re truly a part of the Portland scene,” he said. “The Portland scene goes back to the ’70s, but I’ve been here 16 years, and I feel very much a part of a Portland scene. That’s what brought me here. I lived in Seattle, and that scene was getting overrun with the explosion of grunge and the whole ’90s scene, so it got watered down with out-of-towners. I came down to Portland, hung out for a week and checked out bands, and I was pretty blown away by the creativeness. … It’s slowly starting to get watered down now.”

Gentrification has started to erode affordable housing—and, therefore, the music scene—in some cities, including Portland. Hill, in part, blamed one person.

“I’m really disappointed in Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney doing the Portlandia show, because it has fully exploited our scene,” he said. “Now it’s reminiscent of Seattle in the ’90s. It’s still here. None of the old-school bands have left, so it does still exist. But I feel the watering down happening as we speak, and it’s really frustrating. … The whole Portlandia intro is true: You could only work a couple days a week; rents were cheap; you could rent commercial spots and jam and live in them and do all of that. That is gone now. This is the beginning of the end. … That’s going away because of the trendy-yuppiness moving here now, so the galleries become more elite and more of a trendy thing versus an artistic thing. It’s like any other town: Once it gets hip, then comes the gentrification, and that’s the way it is.”

It seems like Black Pussy is always touring. Considering how much equipment the band members take with them, and how many cities in which they play, their nonstop touring is quite an impressive feat for an independent band.

“We wouldn’t be able to tour if people didn’t support us, but we embrace a lot of the old-school ideas from the late ’60s and early ’70s on the way to be in a band, which was you always had to be on tour,” Hill said. “That’s how you gained fans and how you built relationships with promoters and venues, and you just can’t do one tour a year. In the true sense of being a musician, you make a record, and you should be on the road. Early Rush, they’d make a record, tour for nine months, go back home, make another record for three months, and go tour for nine months. The same with KISS and all those early bands.”

Now, as for the controversy surrounding the band’s name: Once you get past the … um … “other” stuff you’ll find when you Google the band’s name (we recommend adding the word “music” or “band” to the search to avoid said other stuff), you’ll find lots of articles about the pressure put on venues to cancel Black Pussy shows, claims that the name promotes misogynistic behavior, and stories about the name and its not-so-obvious meanings.

“I like to say this: It’s connected to whatever you want it to be connected to,” Hill said. “When I came up with the name, I thought it was a great name. I was looking for something kind of sexy-sounding and ’70s, and those two words came to me. I looked up the two words, and the words are ambiguous. It has the marijuana meaning, the black-cat meaning, and multiple meanings. It allows someone to be creative in their mind when they hear those two words. It doesn’t just mean something. There’s no reason for me to put a definite meaning on it.

“I do know this: When I thought of it, I wasn’t thinking of a human being or their genitalia. My mind doesn’t work like that. ‘Black’ doesn’t always mean human or person. There’s a lot of meaning to it. It’s utilized in a lot of rock bands. The same with pussy. … We’re light-hearted; we like to have fun, and we’re out to make some good rock ’n’ roll. … We definitely promote marijuana. Most marijuana-smokers are pretty mellow and peaceful people.”

In March, African-American feminist and activist Sara Haile-Mariam wrote an article for titled “There’s a Rock Band Called Black Pussy—And That’s Not Okay.” She wrote that “a band of white guys from Portland are running around calling themselves ‘Black Pussy’ with no consideration for how that registers in the mind of a black girl who has actually been reduced to that by a stranger.”

Hill claimed Haile-Mariam was being a hater.

“The haters are the people who take offense to it. They remind me of the new fundamentalist religious movement that was against rock ’n’ roll in the ’80s and ’90s,” Hill said. “That’s what crazy religious people do—they take on artists. She has a responsibility as an artist herself, and that’s what I would tell her.”

Black Pussy plans to keep on rolling. The group just released a new EP and is once again out on tour.

“We just dropped a new EP called Where the Eagle Flies, and Magic Mustache came out earlier this year, so that’s two new records for the year,” he said. “We’re going to be touring for two months … and there might be one little tour at the end of the year, and then a (trip to the) studio to make another full-length. We work hard, stay focused, do the art and the work—and we like the work. We really enjoy all the aspects of being in a band and making records.”

Black Pussy always tries to schedule a show in the Coachella Valley—the birthplace of stoner rock and desert rock—during their tours.

“Whenever we play Palm Desert or Palm Springs, we definitely feel that vibe, and we have a lot of bros there like Brant Bjork and the Kyuss dudes,” he said. “We know War Drum, and Waxy, and we did a show with Fatso Jetson. Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson is definitely the dude who inspired everyone. You can basically hear Josh Homme rip him off—in a good way, and in his own creative way—but a lot of the way Mario plays guitar, you hear in Homme’s playing. … When you play shows there, they aren’t packed, but when you’re in any of the hometowns that are the birthplace of something, it’s not what you’d expect. It’s not ripping with stoner-rock fans and shit like that, but it’s relaxed, and it’s a small scene.”

During Black Pussy’s last area show, at The Hood Bar and Pizza in the spring, Hill was sick with a cold.

“I was so sick,” he said. “Hopefully, this time around, I’m on my game. I feel like I owe you guys one for that show at The Hood.”

Black Pussy will perform with War Drum and Ape Machine at 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 18, at Bar, 340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-537-7337, or visit

Editor's note: The Independent received this email from Sara Haile-Mariam shortly after this story's publication:

My name is Sara, I sing and play drums in a rock band called Music Bones.

I was surprised to find myself mentioned and improperly identified in one of your articles today. I was never contacted by your reporter. Statement from my band below.

"Rock and roll was founded by a black woman named Sister Rosetta Tharpe. As far as we're concerned, leveraging your band name to uphold white supremacy and patriarchy isn't very rock and roll. It is our artistic and human obligation to say as much. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ "

Published in Previews

Most people who think of Portland, Ore., today picture charismatic bridges spanning the sparkling Willamette River, cozy coffeehouses and brewpubs on rain-slick streets, and passionate environmentalists bicycling to farmers markets.

But behind the scenes, Portland in the 1990s teemed with crack-dealers and users willing to sacrifice home and family for a night’s partying. And if you were African American, according to author Mitchell S. Jackson, life could be a specific sort of hell fraught with racial profiling and a lack of educational and employment opportunities—unless you were very, very good at basketball.

“Let them quit screaming your name,” he writes of young black athletes in his debut autobiographical novel, The Residue Years, “and worse-case you just might rob a bank (who gets away with that?), just might hatch a (hand to God this happened) flawed murder-for-insurance plot. But maybe it’s just here. In my city. Not yours.”

The Residue Years portrays Jackson’s childhood streets as darkened by poverty, abuse and addiction. Grace, newly clean after losing a corporate job to the allure of crack, finds a sympathetic employer and resolves to do better by her four sons. Champ is the oldest, the collegiate boy. Throughout the novel, Jackson lets the young man and his mother take turns telling their stories, giving readers multiple perspectives on a family dynamic now threatened by Grace’s litigious ex-husband, who hopes to retain custody of their younger sons, and by Champ’s attempts to keep his kin safe … by selling crack.

“You’d be surprised at how many chase heartache,” says one of his customers. “Need it to feel whole.” In adamant, provocative prose, Jackson examines that theme throughout the book, creating unexpected sympathy even for Champ’s mother as she surrenders everything once again to pursue her addiction.

The Residue Years will alter your view of Portland. Despite the Rose City’s impressive gentrification and its mostly genial residents, a desperate population still sleeps on the streets, willing to sacrifice any small gain for a new high. Rather than letting us sidestep their gaunt faces, their sleeping bags, their ragged cardboard signs, Jackson demands that we look at their motivations and ponder such profound scarcity in the midst of bounty.

This review originally appeared in High Country News.

The Residue Years

By Mitchell S. Jackson

Bloomsbury USA

352 pages, $26 (hardcover) or $17 (paperback)

Published in Literature

In November 1971, a man traveling under the name Dan Cooper hijacked a Boeing 727 flying between Portland and Seattle, demanded $200,000 from the FBI, and later parachuted from the plane into history, landing somewhere in the Northwestern wilds.

The FBI has searched unsuccessfully for 42 years for any trace of either the man or the money; as recently as August 2011, agents were still investigating potential leads.

Oregon author William L. Sullivan offers his own convoluted solution in The Case of D.B. Cooper's Parachute, a "What if?" novel set against a backdrop of international art theft, Oregon's community of Russian Old Believers and Portland's infamous Shanghai Tunnels.

Sullivan can tell a riveting adventure tale. His middle-aged, guilt-racked police Lt. Neil Ferguson bicycles around Portland maintaining law and order, and keeping an eye on his autistic daughter. Reports that a "D.B. Cooper" is stealing paintings from a Russian Orthodox church propel the lieutenant into a murder mystery, and in the process transport the reader into Cooper's mind and his possible motivations for the extortion and hijacking.

Those familiar with the Pacific Northwest, as well as lovers of all things Portlandia, will appreciate Sullivan's frequent references to local landmarks. Ferguson's detective work takes him from Portland's Grotto—a Catholic shrine and botanical garden—to the dragon boat races on the Willamette River, and up to Mount Hood's historic Timberline Lodge.

"The man who called himself Cooper was not pleased," Sullivan writes late in the novel. "He shuffled slowly across the Timberline Lodge lobby, pushing his walker past the big stone fireplace with its crackling pine logs. No one had ever discovered his identity before."

As befits a classic mystery, Ferguson teams up with a beautiful and enigmatic woman—in this case, a Russian translator—to solve a series of crimes. Though readers may have trouble untangling this novel's complex political subplots, many of them will find the author's dramatic conclusion convincing enough to declare with satisfaction, "Case closed."

This book review originally appeared in the High Country News.

The Case of D.B. Cooper's Parachute

By William L. Sullivan


416 pages, $14.95

Published in Literature