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In California wine country, wildfire-fatigued residents weigh the unthinkable: Moving out – USA TODAY

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Robert Hayden and his wife, Alla, have lived in the Spring Lake Village retirement community of Santa Rosa for 10 years and love its beautiful grounds almost as much as the plethora of interesting people they’ve met there – retired doctors, musicians, pilots, writers and executives.

On Sunday, the Haydens were among the approximately 450 Village residents forced to leave their homes as the fast-moving Glass Fire approached. It was the second time in recent years they’d gone through that drill, after fleeing the October 2017 wine country fires that killed 22 people and destroyed 5,600 structures. Though Hayden said the residents were better-prepared this time, the evacuation was still stressful.

“We went outside, the sky was all orange and the air was filled with ash,’’ Hayden said as he sat in his motorized scooter outside the Petaluma Community Center, about 20 miles south of his cottage. “It accumulated on my jacket. I think I still have remnants.’’

At 98, the longtime San Francisco Bay Area resident has no plans to relocate, but he senses a growing frustration among fellow members of the community who are fed up with living under the constant threat of wildfires this time of year.

Last month, some of the same 70,000 people under evacuation orders Tuesday in Napa and Sonoma counties were displaced by a lightning-sparked blaze that became the fourth-largest fire in state history.

‘Like God has no sympathy’: Crews struggle with deadly wildfires racing through Northern California, wine country

The thought of leaving the picturesque wine country, with its abundant top-notch restaurants and pleasant weather, is not typically tempting for those who can afford to live in the area. But the notion may become inevitable for many if the quick-striking wildfires continue to ignite regularly in a region that has grown increasingly dry with climate change.

“I see it in Spring Lakers. They’re beginning to move out,’’ Hayden said. “I think there’s going to be an increased trend of Northern Californians moving to less fire-prone areas.’’

It would be hard to blame them after watching the region bear the brunt of the more than 8,100 wildfires in the state this year, which have charred a record 3.8 million acres. Two years ago, the Butte County town of Paradise farther northeast was virtually wiped out by the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people.

Even infernos with considerably less tragic consequences, like the so-far nonlethal Glass Fire, bring on enormous disruption. Cal Fire said the blaze had destroyed 204 homes and businesses and incinerated 51,266 acres. It was only 2% contained as of Wednesday night.

The Glass Fire is one of two blazes racing through California since Sunday. The other, the Zogg Fire, has burned through 55,046 acres near Redding and left four dead. Containment was at 9% on Wednesday night.

Worse, fire officials fear the Zogg Fire may merge with the August Complex, already the largest blaze in state history, creating a megafire of more than 1 million acres.

The lightning-caused August Complex has blackened 949,672 acres since igniting in mid-August in neighboring Tehama County.

“It’s something we’re looking at, especially with the weather that’s coming,” Zogg Fire incident commander Sean Kavanaugh said Wednesday.

‘Scared to death’: Californians share their wildfire evacuation stories

Luis Garcia Ochoa and his sister Margarita Garcia live three blocks from each other in Calistoga, a Napa County town that was evacuated Monday night. They received cellphone alerts at 5 a.m. and said this was a closer call than the 2017 fires, which did more damage in Santa Rosa.

“It was frightening,’’ said Margarita, a winery worker who along with four other family members is sheltering at her daughter’s one-bedroom apartment. “Plus, my mother’s 89 and we had to pack up her oxygen and her medications. We couldn’t stay any longer because of the smoke and the flames, which were already close.’’

Heartbreaking images: Photos show Glass Fire’s devastating impact on Chateau Boswell winery in California’s Napa Valley

Martha McAllister, also a resident of Spring Lake Village, got an alert late at night Sunday and had just a few minutes to get ready to leave. McAllister, 90, was eventually bused to the shelter in Petaluma.

“Normally she’s the epitome of someone who’s put together, and she came out here in her bathrobe covered with ash,’’ said her daughter Stephanie McAllister, who had run out to buy her mother some clothes. “She’d been up all night.’’

Like the Haydens, Martha McAllister said she knew of Village residents planning to move away, but she had invested too much money on her entry fee into the community to pull up stakes. Plus, her daughter and granddaughter live nearby.

James Weathers, sheltering at the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa with his wife, Linda, and 3-year-old boxer, Cocoa, said he refuses to believe this is the new normal. As with other locals, this is their second evacuation since 2017, although last time it was only for one day and their house was not damaged. 

This time they had to rush out more quickly and forgot their computer – with family photos, insurance information and financial records.

“We don’t know at this point whether our house is still there. I don’t know if we would rebuild here. Probably not,’’ said Weathers, 79, who has managed to keep his sense of humor intact.

“People, myself included, keep joking: ‘Where are the locusts? They’re coming.’’’

Shortly after checking in with his wife at the well-regarded Finley facility, Luis Villanueva recalled the 2017 fires as a “punch in the face’’ to residents who felt relatively safe from the flames. This year’s blaze has hit closer to home: A friend from work had his house burn down.

Fires rage: At least 35 dead as nearly 100 wildfires continue to rage across 12 Western states

An electrical engineer by profession, Villanueva takes an analytical approach to the threat of fires, keeping track of them and realizing the encroachment of developments into wildlands is part of the reason they have proliferated in populated areas.

But his wife, Ana Maria, who uses a walker, is not thinking in those terms, and he acknowledges “she’s scared to death’’ after they had to leave their Santa Rosa house of 18 years under evacuation orders. She knows of plenty others who feel the same way.

“All of my wife’s friends are talking about how this is it, they’re going to move out, but most of them don’t,’’ Villanueva said. “It’s human nature. A week after, two weeks after, I think you appreciate life better, and then they forget. Until the next warning.’’

Contributing: Mike Chapman, Redding (Calif.) Record Searchlight; The Associated Press

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country Davis

Mac Davis, Country Singer and Elvis Presley Songwriter, Dead at 78 – Rolling Stone

Mac Davis, the country music artist and songwriter behind some of Elvis Presley’s most indelible recordings, died Tuesday at 78. According to a tweet from his family on Monday, Davis became “critically ill following heart surgery in Nashville.” His manager confirmed the entertainer’s death in a statement.

Born in Lubbock, Texas, in 1942, Davis would evolve into a country and Adult Contemporary crossover star with solo hits like “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” “Stop and Smell the Roses,” and “One Hell of a Woman.” In 1974, he was named Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music, beating out nominees like Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard. That same year, he was nominated for Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association but lost to Charlie Rich.

Davis experienced a resurgence in the Eighties, thanks to the novelty hit “It’s Hard to Be Humble” (covered by Willie Nelson on 2019’s Ride Me Back Home), “Texas in My Rearview Mirror,” and the rockabilly “Hooked on Music,” which nodded, both lyrically and musically, to his greatest champion: Elvis Presley. In the late Sixties, he cut a string of Davis compositions, including “A Little Less Conversation” and the tale of inner-city poverty “In the Ghetto,” which Davis also recorded. The former was a posthumous hit for Presley, on the strength of a 2002 remix by Dutch DJ Junkie XL, while the latter’s success endeared Davis’s material to Presley. He’d go on to record other compositions like “Memories” and “Don’t Cry Daddy,” both staples of his Seventies live performances.

A member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the National Songwriters Hall of Fame, Davis also had his songs recorded by Kenny Rogers, Glen Campbell, Bobby Goldsboro, and the soft-rock band Gallery, one of many artists who cut Davis’ “I Believe in Music.” In 1989, he recorded the duet “Wait ‘Til I Get You Home” with Dolly Parton for the country legend’s album White Limozeen.

Davis experienced modest success as an actor and TV personality as well, even hosting his own variety series, The Mac Davis Show, from 1974 to 1976 on NBC. In 2019, he appeared in an episode of the Netflix series Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings.

Kenny Chesney counted Davis as an early influence and remembered him on Tuesday as a “songwriting hero.”

“He welcomed me into his home, and turned that tremendous creative light on me. Even though he’d written ‘In the Ghetto’ for Elvis and had so many incredible hits of his own, he made me feel like what I was doing mattered,” Chesney said. “A small town boy who’d achieved the greatest kinds of fame, he remained a good guy, a family man. That was Mac: a giant heart, quick to laugh and a bigger creative spirit. I was blessed to have it shine on me.”

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country Lovecraft

Lovecraft Country Stepped Up Its Game by Going Full Body Horror – Gizmodo

Jamie Neumann as Hillary Davenport.

Jamie Neumann as Hillary Davenport.
Screenshot: HBO

By framing H.P. Lovecraft’s own white supremacist beliefs as the ultimate horror plaguing its heroes, Lovecraft Country’s given itself a way of focusing on scares that are more cerebral and emotional than the vicious, tentacled monsters the author popularized in his stories. But with “Strange Case,” the show spends some much needed time getting into the kind of gory muck that first pulled so many people into the horror genre.

Illustration for article titled iLovecraft Country /iStepped Up Its Game by Going Full Body Horror

The latest episode doesn’t full-on pull back from Lovecraft Country’s larger exploration of the monster that is anti-Black racism, but rather tackles it from a new angle by placing more of its focus onto Ruby Baptiste (Wunmi Mosaku), who up until this point in the series has been largely able to avoid all of the supernatural wildness her half-sister Leti’s been confronted with. “Largely” being the operative word here because “Strange Case” opens the morning after Ruby drunkenly decided to go home and hook up with Christina Braithwhite’s manservant William (Jordan Patrick Smith) who seems to have followed his employer to Chicago in pursuit of the ancient artifact she’s been searching for.

True to what Ruby said in “A History of Violence,” waking up hungover after spending the night with a strange white man she met at a bar isn’t what she would call a new experience for herself. But as she comes to, shock sets in when she realizes William was also being quite truthful when he promised her that he could change her life. As the fog of sleep clears from Ruby’s mind, she initially refuses to believe the truth that her eyes are telling her brain—that for some reason, her hands are unnaturally pale and unlike her own—but within moments of climbing out of bed, she realizes that at some point during the night, her body was transformed into that of a white woman (Jamie Neumann) who she doesn’t know at all.

What makes Ruby’s inexplicable transformation so profoundly terrifying to witness is that even as she’s wandering through the streets in very appropriate hysterics given the situation, the groundwork Lovecraft Country’s laid for Ruby’s personality makes you understand that she’s likely fantasized about something like this in the past. Ruby’s frustration over not getting her dream job at the Marshall Field department store is twofold in that: a) she initially believed that she wouldn’t be considered for the gig because she’s a Black woman, only to learn that b) a Black woman did end up getting the job because Ruby never bothered to apply. Though Ruby clearly loves who she is, the story takes that little voice that lives inside so many marginalized, non-white people that asks “What would life be like if I were like one of them?” and mines that question to arrive at interesting answers.

Scared as Ruby is now that she’s become a white woman, Lovecraft Country very smartly zooms out for a few beats to convey how scary the situation is for all of the Black people in the neighborhood white Ruby stumbles into. When Ruby, who’s having a total white woman breakdown, wanders up to the door of a Black barbershop, a man comes out to inquire if she’s OK as a number of onlookers gather to watch out of curiosity. Because Ruby still isn’t sure what to make of what’s happening, she panics and accidentally bumps into a nearby Black boy, knocking popcorn out of his hand and prompting a pair of white police officers to rush over and throw the boy to the ground believing that he somehow “molested” Ruby.

Ruby, living her best white woman life.

Ruby, living her best white woman life.
Screenshot: HBO

Even though the show very subtly nodded to the life of Emmett Till earlier in the season, this scene, in particular, lays bare the specific kind of danger white women have posed to Black boys and men, something Ruby’s able to bear in mind even in the midst of her episode. She has the wherewithal to tell the officers that the boy did absolutely nothing to her, which they’re both reluctant to accept as the truth, but before they can dwell on it for too long, the pair make a point of putting the still-transformed Ruby into the back of their cruiser and escorting her to her “husband’s” house on the white side of town.

Ruby’s sudden shift from being seen as a would-be accuser to being a sick woman in need of medication and her husband’s supervision encapsulates the ways that the power conferred by a person’s whiteness morphs depending on the situation they’re in and, in Ruby’s case, her gender. As a white woman existing near Black people, she was empowered to use her white womanhood as a weapon to cause devastating harm, but in predominantly white environments, she becomes just another woman meant to defer to the judgments of the men around her. The police think nothing of Ruby’s obvious fear of being brought to William’s home where he scoops her up only to lay her down on a floor covered in plastic as he goes to fetch a number of brutal looking tools. You can see that whatever magic that turned Ruby into her white counterpart is wearing off long before William starts to unceremoniously cut into her body as she wails in pain, but “Strange Case” also telegraphs that Ruby isn’t meeting her demise at William’s hand.

The story shifts to a helpful scene establishing Atticus, Leti, and Montrose were at the boarding house not long after Montrose murdered the two-spirit magical being Yahima. Sudden as Yahima’s death was (within the span of the same episode they were introduced in), Lovecraft Country wants you to grasp the guilt Montrose feels over his actions, even though he committed the murder out of a desire to protect his family from the Sons of Adam. But what Montrose doesn’t want to accept is that Atticus sees learning more about the Sons of Adam and his connection to them as a means of protecting himself, and so long as Montrose stands in his way, he won’t hesitate to fight his father. It’s unclear at first whether Atticus knows Montrose killed Yahima, but when he comes to the conclusion that his father definitely destroyed Titus’ pages from the Book of Adam, he flies into a rage that leaves his father bloodied and their relationship more strained than it’s ever been.

Michael K. Williams as Montrose Freeman.

Michael K. Williams as Montrose Freeman.
Screenshot: HBO

While Ruby makes a valiant effort of pretending to be asleep (surprise, she’s alive) in William’s bed as he strolls back into his bedroom after having had a shower, he soliloquizes about the nature of his transformative, potion-based magic that mimics the metamorphosis caterpillars undergo to become butterflies. When Ruby drops all pretense of being asleep and she and William begin to talk frankly about what happened and what he did to her, there’s an honesty between the two of them that cuts through the abject weirdness of it all. Traumatized as Ruby is, both she and William understand the level of freedom she was able to experience in her brief time masquerading as a woman, and on some level, they both know that part of her wants to feel that sort of freedom again. When William leaves another vial of his potion on the nightstand next to a wad of cash, he’s leaving the choice up to her, and it doesn’t prove to be a difficult one to make as the episode cuts to a montage of Ruby, in her white skin, relishing the opportunity to have a day to herself walking out in public completely unbothered and able to move as she pleases.

“Strange Case” repeatedly returns to the idea of sex being one of the most ultimate exchanges of power as the episode takes Atticus and Leti’s relationship to the next level and Ruby—in her Black skin—and William cautiously circle one another knowing full well that there’s a fair degree of attraction between the two of them. Leti and Atticus hooking up with one another comes as little surprise given their history, but the episode complicates things by having the pair get together only after Leti comes to Atticus revealing that she managed to take photos of Titus’ lost pages before Montrose had a chance to destroy them. Atticus’ quickness to anger as of late is easy to comprehend given everything he’s been through, but the ease with which he’s able to direct it at Leti (and the fact that, as of the last episode, he was quite ready to skip out of town) makes it hard to say whether or not Leti’s setting herself up for more trouble by becoming closer to him.

Ruby and William’s dynamic remains more explicitly transactional as she presses him about why he’s giving her access to his potions and what he’s inevitably going to want in return from her. William insists that Ruby’s simply the woman who happened to catch his eye, which we know to be an obvious lie given that Christina’s also pressing Leti, but Ruby allows herself to give in to the fantasy of it all and uses her newfound trick to get ahold of something she’s always wanted.

With Cardi B’s “Money” anachronistically (but very effectively) playing as her backdrop, white-Ruby, now going by “Hillary Davenport,” returns to the Marshall Field department store with plans finally get herself the job she wants, and in the end, Ruby’s resume is what ends up truly sealing the deal. Over the course of her interview, though, her new boss (Robert Pralgo) takes special care to bring up the fact that a number of the store’s employees quit in protest after corporate management made the decision to abolish its policy barring Black people from working there. The way the man brings this up is meant to work as a sort of temperature gauge to determine how “Hillary” feels about Black people, but for Ruby, it only serves to remind her that the mask she’s wearing is just that—a mask, and not who she really is. The episode spends time examining how the newfound freeness she feels as Hillary has the potential to become so intoxicating a force that it blinds her to the ways that whiteness encourages her to hurt people.

On Ruby-as-Hillary’s first day on the job, she makes a point of singling out Tamara (Sibongile Mlambo), the store’s only visibly Black employee, and putting her on the spot in a way that Ruby/Hillary at first believes to be somewhat encouraging. Ruby’s insistence that Tamara hold onto her confidence and belief in her own professional abilities are well-meant, but coming out of the mouth of a white woman, they land like thinly veiled threats. Things take an uncomfortable turn when Tamara admits that she, unlike Ruby, never graduated from high school. In that moment, Ruby’s self-loathing for having not applied to the job has a chance to morph into judgment of Tamara, even though the truth is that Ruby really should have just applied. Instead of using her position of authority to potentially make the company a more inclusive space, Ruby/Hillary instead finds herself bonding with her white colleagues and, for a time, becoming almost too comfortable in her new skin.

Ruby, freshly back in her own skin.

Ruby, freshly back in her own skin.
Screenshot: HBO

As plot-dense as it is, “Strange Case” makes the solid choice to fast-track through its plots involving Atticus and Leti, and Montrose, in favor of focusing on Ruby. While Atticus and Leti fight over whether or not the magic they’re both hunting for is evil, it’s revealed that Montrose is, in fact, queer the way Tree insinuated in the last episode. In two separate scenes, you see Montrose’s relationship with the barkeep Sammy is sexual, but not exactly intimate, as he refuses to kiss him during a slapdash sex scene that’s pulsing with shame. Later in the episode, though, you see that Montrose does find emotional support and comfort in Sammy and his group of drag performer friends, and for whatever reason, the things Montrose has been going through most recently finally puts him in a headspace where he can be open about his feelings for Sammy.

The night that Montrose accompanies Sammy to a bar where they’re able to feel safe and free enough to kiss one another in public, Ruby-as-Hillary, along with Tamara and all her white colleagues, happen to also be out on the town after the white Marshall Field workers insist on traveling to the Southside to go on “safari.” Whether it’s Ruby’s discomfort seeing her white peers treating the Black nightclub like a playground or her guilt over her treatment of Tamara, something compels Ruby to crush the vial of her transformation potion when her previous dosage wears off and she starts to revert to her normal state in the alley. Light on blood and guts as Lovecraft Country’s been up to this point, “Strange Case” puts Ruby’s metamorphosis on full display, and you see that the process, though magical, is disgusting and involves Ruby quite literally bursting out of Hillary’s body in a cascade of molted human flesh.

Just after returning to her old self, Ruby happens to witness her boss cornering Tamara in the alley and attempting to sexually assault her, but because Ruby’s naked and covered in guts, all she’s really in a position to do is to flee as Tamara breaks free and runs for her own life. Were “Strange Case” to have more tightly compressed its final handful of twists, the episode might have managed to land on a slightly more shocking tone. When Ruby, bloodied, exhausted, and reconsidering just what kind of mess William’s gotten her into gets back to his mansion, she’s alarmed to run into Christina who knows a great deal about what Ruby’s been doing with William’s help. Even though Ruby’s instinct is to call it all quits and put distance between herself, magic, and William, Christina’s able to make her consider whether she merely wasn’t using the potions to achieve her true goals.

When Ruby-as-Hillary returns to Marshall Field the next day to tender her resignation from the store, her supervisor’s stunned and confused until Ruby-as-Hillary convinces him that she’s only quitting so that she can safely act on her burning desire for him. Ruby’s former boss absolutely falls for it because, despite his outward appearance as a family man, he’s a depraved creep. She gets him onto his knees, partially bound and gagged in what he mistakenly believes to be the prelude to some sexually gratifying submission. What happens instead, though, is that Ruby begins to shed Hillary’s skin while using the heel of her stiletto to rape the man. When she’s through, she makes sure that he gets a good look at her knowing that even if he were to tell anyone what happened to him, no one would believe him.

Ruby’s exact motivations for assaulting her boss are open to interpretation, with the most obvious of them being that she went after him in retaliation for Tamara, who he almost assuredly would have raped if he’d had the chance. But the flashes of vindictiveness that surfaced in Ruby while she was living as Hillary suggest that might not be the whole story and perhaps there’s something more to William’s potion than he let on, a solid assumption considering what Ruby learns about him during their next encounter. The moment that Lovecraft Country introduced two platinum blonde evil villains and didn’t immediately establish what the exact nature of their relationship was, you could deduce that something was up with the show. Ruby’s shocked as she witnesses William go through the body-warping shift that she’s become so accustomed to over the past few days, but the moment when Christina steps out of William’s ruined form lacks the holy shit factor the episode is going for. Of course they’re the same person. The real interesting thing now is what’ll become of their relationship now that Ruby knows the truth.

“Strange Case” closes out by bringing its focus back to Atticus as he’s in the throes of deciphering the few pages of the Book of Adam he has access to thanks to Leti, and much to his surprise (but honestly, not anyone else’s who’s been paying attention), what he discovers is more than a little unsettling. When Leti mentions earlier in the episode that the magic Atticus is trying to figure out might be evil and one of the devil’s tools, she’s being a bit extra, but perhaps not wholly off the mark. The deeper they get into this Lovecraftian mess, the more imperiled they all become.


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country Lovecraft

‘Lovecraft Country’ Premiere: The Monster Mash – Rolling Stone

A review of “Sundown,” the series premiere of HBO’s Lovecraft Country (which I reviewed earlier this month), coming up just as soon as my life is saved by Jackie Robinson…

“I love that the heroes get to go on adventures in other worlds, defy insurmaountable odds, defeat the monster, save the day.” -Tic

A television show doesn’t have to lay out its themes, style and/or influences in its opening scene, but it never hurts. Think about Jimmy McNulty hearing the sad tale of Snot Boogie at the start of The Wire, or Walter White’s pants floating through the air to kick off Breaking Bad, or Fleabag talking to us throughout her booty call with Arsehole Guy. Those scenes certainly didn’t introduce every character or plot point, but they more or less laid out the kind of series you’d be watching.

The Lovecraft Country pilot, written by Misha Green and directed by Yann Demange, opens with a scene on a far grander scale than any of those, but it still gives you the show in a nutshell. The picture is black and white, and we are at war, as a unit of African American soldiers battle it out in the trenches with their North Korean opponents. As the combat intensifies, we hear the sound of old-timey movie narration, and audio clips of scenes of a black man enduring racist insults. These are passages from 1950’s The Jackie Robinson Story — in which Major League Baseball’s first black player was cast as himself, opposite Ruby Dee as his wife — and their inclusion will make sense in a few moments. First, though, an explosion brings color to the screen, like out of an ultraviolent remake of The Wizard of Oz scene where Dorothy opens the door to Munchkin-Land. Now our military movie is a science-fiction movie, with flying saucers and War of the Worlds-style tripods filling the screen. A beautiful alien woman with dark red skin descends from one of the saucers and hugs our hero, right before they are threatened by an enormous winged monster, which is promptly split in two by…

Jackie Robinson himself, his trusty Louisville Slugger covered in green alien blood?!?!?!

Suddenly, our hero, Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors from Da 5 Bloods) wakes up from an absurd nightmare into a far more ubiquitous one: He is a black man in mid-Fifties America, sitting in the back of a segregated bus headed north from Kentucky.

And that is how you make an entrance, ladies and germs.

It’s all right there in that wonderfully wild opening. Lovecraft Country will blur boundaries between eras, genres, and subjects. Tic’s very real service in Korea is transformed into a vision from his beloved pulps. But unlike the tales from his favorite — and extremely racist — author H.P. Lovecraft, this is a version where black men get to be the protagonists, and where Number 42 himself is an outright superhero. If outfielder Enos Slaughter’s raised spikes or manager Ben Chapman’s vicious taunts couldn’t stop Jackie from conquering the Big Leagues, then what hope does a winged monster from outer space possibly have? And in the cut from fantasy to reality, we are quickly reminded that real-life monsters — even low-level ones, like the truck driver who doesn’t want Tic and a fellow black passenger riding in the back of his pickup after their bus breaks down — are often far worse, or at least far tougher to conquer, then the imaginary kind.

It’s a contrast of which “Sundown” remains conscious throughout, as Tic reunites in Chicago with his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) and old friend Leti Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) to go off in search of his missing father Montrose (longtime HBO all-star Michael Kenneth Williams, glimpsed in family photos).

Tic’s stay in the city with George, Aunt Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) and their young daughter Diana (Jada Black) is a relatively peaceful, even fun one. There’s time for him to open the fire hydrant at a block party and enjoy watching Leti and her sister Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) inject a bit of extra soul into their live performance of Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” He gets an unglamorous picture of Montrose’s life when he visits his father’s favorite watering hole to ask after him. But the city has a vibrant, relatively protected black community. It’s a haven compared to what the trio encounter on the road to Ardham, the remote Massachusetts community to which Montrose has apparently journeyed.

Jada Black, Aunjanue Ellis, and Courtney B. Vance

HBO

The Chicago scenes, and the characters we meet there, feel warm and fully realized. There are tensions between the sisters, and anxiety between George and Hippolyta about her desire to join him on the road to help research the guide book he writes for black travelers. We get a strong sense of the Freemans as a literarily-inclined family. Both Montrose’s tiny apartment and the garage that George runs are full of books, and among the sources of tension between Montrose and Tic, we learn, is Tic’s fondness for Lovecraft, even as Montrose pointed out the disgusting, racist language the man employed in his work. Diana writes and lavishly draws her own line of comic books with black heroes and heroines that the others gladly bring to read on the trip.

But once the group piles into George’s ancient, seemingly invulnerable old woody wagon (nicknamed, of course, Woody), they are no longer in the familiar embrace of the neighborhood, but out in the ugly, segregated reality of America at that time, when the deck is stacked against them and danger lurks in seemingly innocuous places, like Main Street diners and old country roads. And as the familiar violence of this racist world mounts, a more unsettling, supernatural blend starts to meld with it.

The beginning of the trip is one of the pilot’s masterstrokes. Visually, it’s constructed like a traditional montage meant to compress the relatively uneventful part of a long odyssey into a few lively minutes. Ordinarily, though, such a sequence would be accompanied by a song, perhaps something upbeat and period-appropriate. The pilot has already broken the laws of time by playing “Clones” by Tierra Whack as we see Tic explore the old neighborhood, though other songs like “Whole Lotta Shakin’” and Sarah Vaughan’s “September Song” (which Tic plays on Montrose’s phonograph) are era-specific. The montage, though, eschews music altogether and is instead paired with a monologue: James Baldwin’s opening remarks from his famous 1965 debate with public conservative William F. Buckley. (The passage excerpted starts around here.) It is, like “Clones,” a moment out of time, but one that so clearly speaks to the images on display on this voyage: of the separate line for black people at the snack bar or the movie theater, of a sign threatening travelers like the Freemans not to be found after the sun goes down (foreshadowing the episode’s climax), of the racist pump jockey comparing Tic to a monkey (with a smiling Aunt Jemima billboard in the background), of the long line of weary black working folk waiting for the morning bus in front of a billboard featuring a smiling white family who of course have their own car (“There’s no way like the American way,” the sign boasts). This is the “separate but equal” America through which Tic and his loved ones must try to find their way, and the stark reality of those images, combined with the coolly determined rhetoric of Baldwin, work beautifully together to lay a foundation for all the wildness that’s to come. The surreal parts of the series work because an unmistakable baseline reality has been established first.

The car chase in Simmonsville — kicked off when Tic and Leti realize the diner they’re in had its previous black management driven out through violence, much like what’s about to be applied to them — is the warm-up act. It’s crisply shot and edited, and scary, but the supernatural element doesn’t really kick in until the very end, when their lives are saved by the intercession of a silver Bentley, driven by an intensely blonde woman (played by Australian actress Abbey Lee), that somehow has the power to force the racists’ truck to flip over while the Bentley itself, which should have been T-boned, is unharmed. (It’s as indestructible as George claims Woody is, though Woody will acquit itself very well in a bit.)

It’s the much slower chase which gives the episode its title that’s actually the hour’s most terrifying sequence — yes, even more than the shoggoth attack that follows it. Lost on a backwoods highway en route to their destination, the group has pulled over to study the map (and for Tic to relieve himself) when an infamously racist sheriff pulls up and points out that they’re in a sundown county, where their very presence after sunset would make them subject to arrest — and, almost certainly, something far worse. (Like so many of the awful things depicted in the series, sundown towns and counties were a very real thing in our not-too-distant past.) They only have seven minutes to clear the county line, and, to make matters even more fun for him and terrifying for them, he promises to follow them the whole way and arrest them if they go above the speed limit. Where Lovecraft Country has already played around a bit with time and space, Tic doesn’t have that luxury, and so they have to drive away, inch by agonizing inch, bound by the laws of physics on top of the threat of the vigilante-style lawman who is riding their tail — and, eventually, bumping into it, just for extra kicks. And, of course, the entire game is rigged, because even when they barely cross the border in time, they’re arrested by the cops on the other side, who’ve been alerted by their racist brother in arms.

When the shoggoths — undead creatures introduced in Lovecraft’s fiction, and part of his larger Cthulu Mythos — burst out of the trees and attack the cops, it’s almost a relief. Both monsters are the type that the Freemans and Leti recognize. But where our heroes are utterly powerless against the cops on a mortal playing field, on the supernatural one, they figure out that light (whether Woody’s headlights or the flashbulb from Leti’s camera) can drive away these white, ravenous beasts. They are terrorized by the shoggoths, but also saved by them, and the boundary between the two kinds of monsters vanishes when one of the cops transforms into a shoggoth after being bitten.

It’s a thrilling sequence, more cathartic than either of the car chases, because Tic and Leti and George get to be more active in saving themselves. And it brings the premiere to a suitably unnerving close, as our travelers appear to find their destination: the Ardham Lodge, a hulking Gothic structure, where they are greeted by a man (Jordan Patrick Smith) so white and blonde, he might as well be the twin of the woman from the silver Bentley — which is conveniently parked out front. Letters Montrose left behind had suggested he was on the trail of their family history. The man at the door is happy to address Tic directly, saying, “We’ve been expecting you, Mr. Freeman. Welcome home.”

Best of luck, Mr. Freeman. Nothing about this situation looks good.

Wunmi Mosaku and Smollett

HBO

Some other thoughts:

* This week’s songs included: excerpts from the soundtrack to The Jackie Robinson Story, by Herschel Burke Gilbert; “Sh-Boom,” by The Crew-Cuts; “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” by Etta James; “Clones,” by Tierra Whack; “Alley Corn,” by Earl Hooker; “September Song,” by Sarah Vaughan; “You Upset Me Baby,” by B.B. King; “Recipe For Happiness,” by Jimmy Self; “Cobb’s Corner,” by Arnett Cobb; and Alice Smith’s cover of “Sinnerman.”

* Meanwhile, that was really Wunmi Mosaku and Jurnee Smollett singing “Whole Lotta Shakin’” together. Mosaku sang in the Manchester Girl’s Choir for years, while Smollett comes from a family with musical talent, and she also sang as Black Canary in Birds of Prey. There’s clear tension between Leti and both her siblings over her absence in the aftermath of their mother’s death — among other things — but the sisters definitely tore through that number at the block party.

* Montrose, meanwhile, looms large even in his absence. He’s the reason for the road trip, and also a difficult figure from Tic’s past. George tries to defend his little brother by acknowledging that Montrose is part of a cycle of generational abuse, which only makes Tic resent the fact that George did nothing to protect him when he was on the receiving end of Montrose’s fury.

* I confess to knowing precious little about Howard Phillips Lovecraft himself, but his name and work has had a recurring presence on HBO for a long time. There was the 1991 HBO movie Cast a Deadly Spell, a mix of film noir and supernatural horror with Fred Ward as a private dick named Harry Philip Lovecraft. And the first season of True Detective referenced Lovecraft so often that many viewers were disappointed the mystery had an all-too-human villain at the center. Knowledge of his life and work isn’t essential to appreciating this show, but if you want to know more — particularly about Lovecraft’s white supremacist leanings — you can start here and here (the second one with a bonus appearance by Matt Ruff, author of the Lovecraft Country novel, which I also haven’t read).

* Finally, we’ll be recapping each episode of the series like this. The show has strong serialized elements, while also being very much in the Buffy or X-Files tradition of mixing Monster of the Week stories in with the bigger questions. So there will be lots to talk about on both a macro and micro level. Buckle up.

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Coronavirus country

US coronavirus: The country reported more cases in the last two weeks than it did for all of June – MSN Money

(CNN)The US on Thursday surpassed 4 million officially recorded Covid-19 cases — and a quarter of that count came in just the last 15 days.

The country’s rising daily rate of confirmed coronavirus cases, along with a near-record number of hospitalizations, signals the US is far from containing a virus that is straining hospitals and labs, health experts say.
“We’ve rolled back essentially two months’ worth of progress with what we’re seeing in number of cases … in the United States,” Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health, told CNN on Thursday.
About 59,600 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 in the US on Wednesday — roughly 300 short of the country’s peak recorded in mid-April, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
The US has officially recorded 4,005,414 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. At least 143,820 people have died.
The reported count is picking up speed: The national seven-day average of new daily cases was 67,429 on Wednesday, a record.
It took the country nearly 100 days to count its first 1 million cases, from January 21 to April 28. It took only 15 days to rise from 3 million on July 8 to 3.99 million, according to JHU figures.
Many Covid-19 illnesses went undiagnosed, especially early in the pandemic when testing was less available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said true case totals are probably more than 10 times greater than official figures in most places. One study suggested the US might have had more than 8 million cases in March alone.
But physicians are sounding alarms about rising hospitalizations nationwide, and especially in the nation’s hot spots like parts of Florida.
More than 50 hospitals there have reached capacity in their intensive care units, and only 15% of the state’s ICU beds are available, the Agency for Health Care Administration said.
“Any spike in cases or increase in hospitalizations is going to put our ER system and hospital systems in peril,” Dr. Damian Caraballo, an emergency room physician in Tampa, told CNN.
The spread has promised a bleak outlook for the months ahead, according to both health officials and President Trump.
What comes next is unclear: With now at least 41 states requiring face coverings, some have said strict measures like limiting gatherings and enforcing social distancing and masks can be as impactful as another lockdown. But others aren’t as hopeful.
“Masks will help, but I think we need a lot more than masks to contain this epidemic that’s running through our country like a freight train,” William Haseltine, the chair and president of global health think tank ACCESS Health International, said.
“Until we see major changes of behavior and until we see the public health services here stepping forward with many more resources, we aren’t sure of containing this.”

Birx warns of concerning increases in 12 cities

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, meanwhile, has privately told a group of state and local health officials about a concerning rise in coronavirus cases in 12 cities.
“There are cities that are lagging behind, and we have new increases in Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Jose, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Baltimore, so we’re tracking this very closely,” she said Wednesday, according to audio obtained by journalism nonprofit Center for Public Integrity.
“We’re working with the state officials to make sure we’re responding together, but when you first see that increased test positivity, that is when to start the mitigation efforts,” she said in the call.
Separately, Birx said publicly that a surge in new cases across the South and Southwest has been linked to Americans’ travel around Memorial Day and reopenings.
“This epidemic all appeared across the South and the West after June 10 simultaneously,” she told Fox News. “We saw wide virus spread across counties, across rural areas, across small metros and big metros, all the way across the South, Southwest and West, almost simultaneously.
Some US leaders have admitted parts of the country reopened their economies too soon. And as they did, residents were too quick to jump back to old habits: crowding bars, packing beaches on hot summer days, holding barbecues and spending holidays with friends.
Hoping to stem the spread, at least 27 states have hit a pause or rolled back their reopening plans. In Houston on Wednesday, Mayor Sylvester Turner spoke again in favor of a second stay-at-home order. In Los Angeles, the mayor said the city was on the “brink” of another lockdown.

Louisiana becomes 12th state to surpass 100,000 reported cases

Louisiana, where the governor said earlier this month that progress made in June against the virus was wiped out in weeks, on Thursday joined 11 other states that have reported a total of more than 100,000 infections.
Louisiana reached 101,650 cases, the state’s health department said. The other states are California (with the most cases in the nation), New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia, Arizona, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Texas broke its record for hospitalizations two days in a row this week, with 10,848 patients reported Tuesday and 10,893 reported Wednesday. It also reported its highest single-day number of deaths: 197.
Florida reported its highest one-day death tally on Thursday: 173.
Florida has been sending nurses to hospitals that need more staff. More than 50 hospitals have asked for a total of 2,400 extra nurses, and more than 1,000 have so far been sent, the state has said.
Miami has announced heightened punishments for people who don’t follow its mandate to wear masks in public. Warnings have been eliminated, and the first and second offenses are now punishable by $100 fines. The third could lead to an arrest, the city said Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said parents should have the option of sending their children back to the classroom or having them learn digitally from home, adding the “costs of keeping schools closed are enormous.”

Coronavirus could be 2nd leading cause of death so far this year in Los Angeles County

California surpassed New York for the most cases in the nation this week. With more than 420,000 cases, the state has seen a recent surge whereas New York’s reported infections have slowed significantly. California reached another peak in new cases, reporting 12,807 positive tests in a day, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.
Los Angeles County health officials announced that the virus is on track to be the second leading cause of death in the county — with at least 3,400 fatalities in the first six months of the year.
That would mean the disease will claim more lives than Alzheimer’s disease and strokes, health officials said. Coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death, claimed 6,000 lives in the first six months of 2019.
The news comes after the county reported 2,232 hospitalized patients Monday, breaking its own record of daily hospitalizations at least four times in a week. There were 2,207 confirmed cases hospitalized Wednesday, 27% of whom are in the ICU, health officials said.
Meanwhile, San Francisco is on “high alert” after averaging 79 new cases every day this week and seeing a 23% increase in hospitalizations, Public Health Director Grant Colfax said Wednesday.
Those two numbers play key roles in helping officials determine whether to pause or roll back reopening, Colfax added.

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country Music

Country Music Legend Hank Williams Jr.’s Daughter Dead at 27 – E! Online

Hank Williams Jr., Katherine Williams-DunningInstagram

The daughter of country music legend, Hank Williams Jr., has passed away.

According to multiple reports, from People, USA Today and the WKRN local news station, Katherine Williams-Dunning died in a car crash on Saturday night in Henry County, Tennessee. She was 27 years old.

Her sister, Holly Williams, confirmed the news in a heartbreaking Instagram post that was shared on Sunday morning. The photo Holly posted was a family portrait that was taken on Friday, June 12.

“I have no words. On Friday morning I talked the family into taking this picture and had no idea it would be our last together with my precious little sister Katie,” Holly’s message began. “We all went to my great aunts funeral on Thursday whom we all loved dearly, and now are faced with another one. ALL we need is prayers.”

The Tennessee Highway Patrol confirmed Katherine’s death with the outlets mentioned above and shared that she was driving on the highway in a SUV at the time of the crash. Local officials also told the publications that the vehicle, which was towing a boat, crossed the median highway and rolled over around 7:45 p.m. CST.

Katherine’s husband, Tyler Dunning, was also in the SUV at the time of the crash. According to multiple reports, he was transported to a nearby hospital.

In her message, Holly shared that Tyler was “awake and responding,” however, they “don’t know injury extent yet.”

In Memoriam: Fallen Stars of 2020

Katherine was the youngest daughter of country singer Hanks Williams Jr. and his wife, Mary Jane Thomas. The 27-year-old was also the proud mother to two kids.

E! News has reached out to the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Williams’ family rep for our own confirmation. We haven’t received a response at this time.

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Biden country

Biden says country is “crying out for leadership” amid protests – CBS News

Former Vice President Joe Biden said the country is “crying out for leadership” amid nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd and accused President Trump of using force against peaceful protesters to stage a “photo op” near the White House on Monday.

In an address at City Hall in Philadelphia, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president said Floyd’s death in police custody was a “wake-up call for our nation, for all of us.” Floyd died after an officer pinned a knee on his neck for more than eight minutes.

“The country is crying out for leadership, leadership that can unite us,” Biden said.

Biden condemned Mr. Trump for his response to protests in the nation’s capital on Monday, when mostly peaceful protesters were tear-gassed and cleared from Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. Soon after, Mr. Trump walked through the park and posed for photos in front of historic St. John’s Episcopal Church.

“When peaceful protestors are dispersed by the order of the president from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House, using tear gas and flash grenades in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle,” Biden said.

The former vice president nominee slammed Mr. Trump for “brandishing” a Bible while being photographed in front of St. John’s, saying: “I just wish he opened it every once in a while.” He said Mr. Trump should read the Constitution to understand the freedoms granted by the First Amendment.

“We will not allow any president to quiet our voice,” Biden said. He also addressed institutional racism, a root cause of the protests which have roiled the nation.

“The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism,” Biden said. He said police misconduct “should be dealt with severely and swiftly,” adding that the country also needed to address the “culture” that allows for police officers to conduct unjustified violence.

“We need each and every police department in the country to undertake a comprehensive review of their hiring, their training, and their deescalation practices,” Biden said. He added that Congress should make a “down payment” on this effort and pass legislation to outlaw police chokeholds and review police departments’ use of “weapons of war.”

Biden contrasted his style of leadership with Mr. Trump, who called himself “the president of law and order” on Monday.

“The president of the United States must be part of the solution, not the problem,” the former vice president said. “I ask every American: look at where we are now and think anew, ‘Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be?'”

“I promise you this. I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate. I’ll seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country — not use them for political gain,” Biden continued. “I’ll do my job and I will take responsibility. I won’t blame others. I will never forget, I promise you, this job is not about me. It’s about you. It’s about us. And I’ll work to not only rebuild this nation, but to build it better than it was.”

Biden is expected to deliver several addresses in the coming weeks on how the country should move forward after the nationwide protests and COVID-19 pandemic. He spent time on Monday listening to the concerns of political and religious leaders, including the mayors of St. Paul, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles. 

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country pestilence

Fire, pestilence and a country at war with itself: the Trump presidency is over – The Guardian

Youd be forgiven if you hadnt noticed. His verbal bombshells are louder than ever, but Donald J Trump is no longer president of the United States.
By having no constructive response to any of the mo…
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