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Some days are OK. Other days, not so much.

That seems to be the experience most of us are going through as we approach the three-week mark of California’s stay-at-home order. (Yeah, the statewide order hasn’t even been in place for three weeks yet; it came down Thursday, March 19.)

Yesterday was an OK day for me. I got up and did some work. I took a nap. I did a little more work. I made a delicious dinner—shrimp-and-scallop ceviche, and London broil—and then the hubby and I watched Last Week Tonight With John Oliver and various cooking/food videos on YouTube. My mood throughout the day was, while not exactly exuberant, OK.

Today, not so much.

My funk started off with what should have been fantastic news: My orthopedic doctor cleared me to resume playing softball. I dislocated my right elbow almost nine weeks ago, and while my arm is not yet 100 percent, it’s stable and healthy enough to play, albeit with some restrictions and cautions.

Logically, this is wonderful. It means all the physical therapy and the at-home exercises and hard work I’ve put into my right arm has paid off. But emotionally, it was a stark reminder that there’s no softball anymore—or, well, anything else outside of the house anymore—at least not for the foreseeable future.

Then the news about Boris Johnson hit me. Now, I am not a fan of Boris Johnson. In fact, I think he’s kind of a putz. But the fact that a prominent world leader—the prime minister of Great Britain!—is fighting for his life in an ICU because of COVID-19, for some reason, smacked me upside the head. Again, I don’t know why it did. It just did.

Then I read this. In yesterday’s Daily Digest, I referred to a story about a tiger in a New York zoo that apparently got this damn virus from a zoo employee. Well, yesterday, the American Veterinary Medical Association—while making it clear there’s very little evidence pets can be threatened by, transmit or get ill from SARS-CoV-2—said this: “Out of an abundance of caution and until more is known about this virus, if you are ill with COVID-19 you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just as you would restrict your contact with other people.”

Dammit. That was it for me. The funk was solidified. F--- this damn virus.

I debated just saying screw it and going to bed. But I didn’t. Instead, I listened to more silly ’80s music, and then I watched a couple of videos that, while making me weepy, managed to make me feel a little better.

As for the first video, you may have seen it already, given it’s already gotten nearly 4.2 million YouTube videos in less than 24 hours: the second episode of John Krasinski’s Some Good News. It’s worth the not-quite 17 minutes of your time it’ll take to watch it, I promise.

The second is more personal. Here’s a 90-second video from a TV news station in Reno, Nevada. It’s about a family that gets dressed up in unicorn costumes and wanders around nearby neighborhoods every night—just to bring good cheer. The matriarch of the family, Jaunice, has been a friend of mine since middle school; her husband, Matt, has been a friend since we were in high school. I may have been the best man at their wedding. Anyway, at the -54 second mark, they visit a woman in a little maroon-colored house. That woman is my mom, and that visit came at the tail end of a scary illness, involving a lot of coughing, that my mom picked up a couple of weeks ago. (What was that illness? Dunno. She was never tested. I just know it scared the hell out of my family.) I requested that the Unicorn Squad make her a visit a while back, and they obliged. That visit made my mom’s month.

I hope these videos make your day—or at least make it a little better, as they did for my day.

And now, today’s links:

• Our beer columnist points out that there’s never been a better time to make your own beer at home. If you’re interested in homebrewing, here’s how to start.

• Want to know why it’s good to wear a mask, and why it may or may not be good to wear gloves, when you go to a store? A UC Riverside epidemiologist explains it all.

• Seen ads or news about an at-home COVID-19 test? They’re not really a thing, at least not yet, according to the Los Angeles Times.

• The Desert AIDS Project continues to help lead the way in the local battle against the effects of COVID-19. The latest move: DAP has started a support group for people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

• In related news, our friends at Wabi Sabi Japan Living have started a virtual food drive on the Desert AIDS Project’s behalf.

• Some good news: Gov. Newsom says the state has enough ventilators for now, so he’s loaning some to states, including New York, that currently don’t have enough.

• While we humans stay inside, animals keep on keepin’ on—including the mountain goats at The Living Desert. Meet one of the baby mountain goats that was just born.

• Here are more specifics on Palm Springs’ eviction moratorium. And this literally came in just as we were about to hit send: The state Judicial Council has halted evictions statewide.

• The California Desert Arts Council and the La Quinta Arts Foundation have created a $50,000 fund to help artists. It’s called Keep Art Alive.

• Because so few people are driving these days, Allstate insurance is giving $600 million back to its auto-insurance customers.

• First, Dr. Drew Pinsky made the TV rounds, dismissing COVID-19 as a threat. Now he’s trying to use copyright laws to erase videos of him making these dangerous and irresponsible comments from the internet.

A lot of people won’t get stimulus checks because of their tax status. NBC News explains.

• Rep. Raul Ruiz gets some love from The New York Times, in this piece about doctors and medical experts in Congress—and how some of them, if not all of them, have been speaking out.

• More video cheer: Randy Rainbow is back with another delightful song parody. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Andy!

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. If you’re an artist, send us art for our coloring book by Friday. If you can spare a buck or two, help us continue to do quality local journalism that’s free to all. Be safe. Reach out to an old friend and see how they’re doing. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

We put the finishing touches on the March print issue on Thursday, Feb. 16. (Yeah, it was a little earlier than normal, because February is a short month, and we have a narrow window with our printer.)

That particular day was, to say the least, a completely bonkers news day. On a local level, Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin announced he was filing corruption charges against former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet and developers John Wessman and Richard Meaney. According to Hestrin, Pougnet took in $375,000 in bribes. All of a sudden, the status of Palm Springs’ big downtown redevelopment project is very much up in the air.

Meanwhile, on the national level, the president held a press conference during which he sounded completely unhinged—a term I do not use lightly.

He claimed he inherited a mess from the previous administration. He said his administration was a “fine-tuned machine.” He viciously attacked the press for reporting on various leaks from his administration. He called reports that his campaign advisers were in contact with Russia “fake news.”

The New York Times, which is generally rather restrained, put it this way: “The session was marked by an extraordinarily raw and angry defense the likes of which has never been seen in a modern White House. At times abrupt, often rambling, characteristically boastful yet seemingly pained at the portrayals of him, Mr. Trump seemed intent on reproducing the energy and excitement of his campaign after a month of grinding governance. He returned repeatedly to his contest with Hillary Clinton and at one point plaintively pleaded for understanding.”

Holy shit.

This brings us to this March 2017 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, which is hitting streets now. While the news on the Palm Springs corruption charges broke too close to deadline for us to cover them in any meaningful way—watch for that later—we did include two features in our expanded news section about the mess that is the 45th president’s administration, which you can read online here and here.

Meanwhile, for the second straight month, we’re featuring art—in a big way—on our cover. Why would we do this two months in a row? Well, this month’s subjects—the La Quinta Arts Festival, and the brand-new Desert X—are fantastic. Just for starters, did you know the La Quinta Arts Foundation has given out $1.23 million in scholarships to local young artists over the years? Wow.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Independent, and be sure to pick up March 2017 print edition at one of 380-plus valley locations.

Published in Editor's Note

Both the La Quinta Arts Foundation and its La Quinta Arts Festival are celebrating 35 years in 2017. While the festival—taking place Thursday, March 2, through Sunday, March 5, at the La Quinta Civic Center Campus—is very well-known, the mission behind the festival is not so well-known.

Part of the mission of the La Quinta Arts Foundation has always been supporting local visual artists looking to continue their educations—and the LQAF has done so in a big, big way.

“The visual arts scholarship program began in 1984, a few years after the festival began, and to date, the scholarship program has awarded $1.23 million to 376 individual students pursuing higher education in the arts,” said LQAF President and CEO Christi Salamone. “We have students in school as film administrators and educators, (as well as in) studio art, craft, architecture, curatorial practice, fashion design, photojournalism and every visual-art-related field.”

Recent scholarship recipients include Sofia Enriquez, Kaho Akiya, Jake Hill and Katrina Hahn, just to name a few. (Interested students should visit the LQAF website for more information; the scholarship deadline for this year is Friday, March 24.)

Salamone said at this critical time, when arts-based education is being cut from schools, the arts are as important as ever.

“We all know that statistics show exposure to the arts and instruction in the arts promotes critical thinking, and I think when you look at any kind of innovation and the ability to think creatively, it really will be the future of how we problem-solve, and how we express ourselves,” Salamone said. “The arts are critical and need to remain in schools.”

The list of artists who have benefitted from the scholarship program is rather impressive, including Armando Lerma, artist and owner of the Date Farmers studio in Coachella; and multifaceted visual artist Cristopher Cichocki.

“There have been so many successful students in the valley who have benefited from our visual arts scholarship—people such as Phillip K. Smith III. One of our first scholarship recipients was Bert Bitanga; he received the scholarship from 1988 to 1991, and he is now the head of the architecture and environmental design program at College of the Desert.”

Some of these aforementioned artists, including Lerma and Smith, are participating in the site-specific Desert Exhibition of Art, aka Desert X; see the accompanying story.

Salamone said the La Quinta Arts Foundation is honoring its scholarship recipients during this year’s festival as part of its 35th anniversary celebration.

“We are spotlighting a lot of the former scholarship students throughout the festival and highlighting many of their accomplishments,” she said. “They’re doing great things within our community and around the world. We’re paying homage to them.

“What people don’t realize is that by attending the festival, purchasing art, buying tickets and buying food and drink, they’re ensuring future generations of creative endeavors that will enrich our lives.”

Salamone talked about some of the more interesting artists taking part in this year’s festival.

“We have Chris Sanchez, a local artist who is going to be doing an installation,” Salamone said. “We have Marnie Navarro; she’s going to be in the Splash Lounge doing some sound and performance installations. … Brittany North has led a group of seniors from the Coachella Senior Center, and they’ve created this yarn-bomb installation.”

All of the aforementioned artists are LQAF scholars, by the way.

Salamone said she’s proud the La Quinta Arts Festival has such a remarkable reputation throughout the country.

“There are 4,500 major arts festivals throughout the nation,” she said. “The La Quinta Arts Festival is consistently ranked among the Top 5 in the nation by all ranking sources. When you consider that we’re always the top-ranked show west of the Rockies—and the only show in California ranked in the Top 10 consistently—and ranked No. 1 in 2014 and 2015, and that the art sales have totaled $47 million throughout the tenure of the festival, that’s pretty remarkable.”

Not so coincidentally, the Coachella Valley art scene has continued to grow since the LQAF has been around.

“I think there’s always been a thriving art community in the valley,” Salamone said. “Our founders knew that the desert’s natural beauty could provide inspiration for artists and artistic pursuits. They thought it would be a haven for artists to come and create—and that’s why they started the foundation.”

The La Quinta Arts Festival takes place Thursday, March 2, through Sunday, March 5, at the La Quinta Civic Center Campus, 78495 Calle Tampico, in La Quinta. Tickets are $17 for a one-day pass, or $22 for a multi-day pass. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.lqaf.com.

Published in Visual Arts