‘Magic Lessons’ author Alice Hoffman talks pandemics, plagues and love potions

Given her practical nature, it seems ironic that novelist Alice Hoffman sprinkles magical realism through most of her novels. There’s an abundance of it in her new “Magic Lessons,” the prequel to 1995’s “Practical Magic” and 2017’s “Rules of Magic.”

“Magic Lessons” (Simon & Schuster, $27, Oct. 6) is the origin story of Maria Owens, the ancestor of the witchy Owens women who populate “Magic Lessons” and “Practical Magic.”

We follow Maria’s life in the 1600s from England to Curacao and on to New York City and Salem, Mass. Along the way, she is schooled in the Unnamed Arts and becomes a healer – though many call her a witch.

When she is betrayed by the man she loves, she lays down a curse “on any man who ever loves an Owens woman,” bringing tragedy and grief to her descendants.

“That’s what it is for this family, because they’re not completely mortal,” Hoffman said from her Boston home, taking a break for a chat. “I’m not saying things can’t change, but basically you have to deal with what you’re given. It’s a continuing lesson throughout our lives.”

That’s Hoffman’s pragmatism talking. Her other voice is inspirationally optimistic, as represented by her universe of characters who survive the worst that life can deliver and then move forward.

“The message in my books is about possibilities, survival, hope and the triumph of the human spirit,” she said. “Writing about Maria Owens was very inspirational for me because she will not let herself be beaten down by circumstances.”

Hofmann is known for her fluid storytelling and versatility, with 30 books for adults and a dozen for young adults and children (one of them, “Moondog,” was in collaboration with her then 16-year-old son, Wolfe Martin).

Three of her titles have been made into movies: “Aquamarine” (2006), “The River King” (2005); and “Practical Magic” with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman (1998). Her original screenplay about spousal abuse became the 1983 (non-alien invasion) movie “Independence Day.”

Hoffman, 68, grew up on Long Island as, she says, a “working-class girl who never thought about going to college.” She changed her mind when she discovered that “studying was easier than working,” eventually graduating with a master’s degree in creative writing from Stanford University, where she wrote her first novel, “Property Of.”

While she prefers not to discuss her family life, she said, “I will talk about my dog. Shelby the Polish sheepdog is a great writer’s dog because she just sits around and doesn’t like to do much.”

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What have you been doing during the pandemic?

A: Everything that’s not important kind of falls away, so I’m writing a lot. I’m working on the fourth and last “Magic” book, (the sequel to) “Practical Magic.” Maria Owens started the family curse, so now how do we end it? I would never have done it if my readers hadn’t asked me for it. I feel really lucky to have spent 25 years with this family, who have taught me such huge lessons. It’s an ending that’s very emotional for me.

Q: There are literal “magic lessons” throughout the new book, but they double as life lessons: Be true to yourself, do what you know is right, what is broken can always be mended…

A: I wrote “Magic Lessons” in such a dark time, I really feel like I was writing it as lessons to myself. I remember thinking, “Yeah, there are some things you have to do no matter what the world is like.”

Q: There’s one lesson that recurs throughout the “Magic” trilogy: “Always love somebody who will love you back.” That’s profound advice for any era.

A: It’s very important and I wish somebody had told me that, but it’s very difficult to give something to somebody who doesn’t want it. A lot of (village women) come to the Owens women for love charms and spells, but you can’t make something be true that isn’t true. That’s one of the things they learn.

Q: “Magic Lessons” is set around the time of the Great Plague of 1665 in London, which had ramifications in New England.

A: Yes, there were a lot of fears about what was contagious; it has a lot of echoes to what’s happening right now that I didn’t intend when I started the book. The women who were healers, like Maria Owens, had a bigger success rate (with patients) than the physicians, and really the reason is because they washed their hands.

Q: Women were cruelly affected by the politics of the century; men treated them horrifically.

A: To research in-depth the whole Puritan-Salem situation (in the late 1600s) was disturbing in how it targeted women. The whole idea that women who were alone or knowledgeable – especially women who could read – were evil and not to be trusted.

Q: You also did a lot of research on herbal remedies and magic spells.

A: Yes, a lot of things that have been used throughout time that were so effective are still being used. I’m not against modern medicine, but a lot of healing can happen herbally.

Q: As you discovered more and more magic spells, were you tempted to try one?

A: I’m not experimental, so I would rather you try it. I always feel like I’ll be the person who adds one too many ingredients.

Q: You practically grew up in libraries, where you found “the explanation of the world’s beauty and cruelty” in fairy tales.

A: They speak a psychological truth that other literature doesn’t. A lot of them are cautionary tales about how to live in the world. They’re very brutal, but so is the world.

Q: As a writer, your job is to live lives that aren’t your own.

A: It’s a huge escape. I read books (as a teenager) because I wanted to escape from my life and know about other lives and other worlds. It’s the same thing as a writer, only more intense because you’re creating it, so you’re more fully involved. The reason I read and the reason I write are basically the same.

Q: Where do things stand regarding the HBO series adaptation of “The Rules of Magic”?

A: It was going to start filming in the spring, but that didn’t happen. But one day it will. It’s really exciting because it’s going to include all the generations of Owens women from beginning to end.

Q: If you were interviewing yourself, what would be a question you would ask?

A: I would ask, “What would you have done if you weren’t a writer?” It’s very hard to think about what might have been if you had turned right instead of left. But I would not have been happy with a life that didn’t include books.

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What happens to Disneyland’s Critter Country after Splash Mountain makeover?

Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore will be left all alone in a dead-end corner of Disneyland when Princess Tiana takes over Splash Mountain and annexes the popular log flume ride into nearby New Orleans Square.

Which raises the obvious question: What happens to the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh dark ride and the remainder of Disneyland’s Critter Country when Splash Mountain gets a “Princess and the Frog” makeover?

Could the Pooh ride that started life as Country Bear Jamboree be in for another makeover? Will the Hungry Bear restaurant become Tiana’s Palace? Could Critter Country be transformed into the Hundred Acre Wood? Will the Pooh Corner store revert to the Crocodile Mercantile once again?

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SEE ALSO: What to expect when Disneyland rethemes Splash Mountain

Disneyland remains closed indefinitely while the Anaheim theme park awaits still-unreleased state guidelines for safely reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Walt Disney Imagineering announced it had been working for more than a year on a “Princess and the Frog” makeover of the Splash Mountain rides at Disneyland in Anaheim and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida following an online petition signed by tens of thousands of supporters calling on Disney to retheme the log flume attractions to Princess Tiana.

A Winnie the Pooh ride can be found at every Disney theme park resort around the world except Disneyland Paris. The Florida, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Japan parks all put their respective Pooh rides in Fantasyland. Disneyland’s 2003 Winnie the Pooh dark ride replaced the 1972 Country Bear Jamboree attraction in Critter Country.

Tokyo Disneyland also has a Critter Country — although the land is home to only Splash Mountain and a canoe-rowing attraction.

SEE ALSO: Disneyland removes ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’ from playlist as part of Splash Mountain makeover

At Disneyland, simply absorbing all of Critter Country into New Orleans Square doesn’t make sense from a thematic storytelling perspective.

Pooh and his pals fit in a land themed to furry critters, but they have nothing to do with Louisiana. Winnie the Pooh stories are set in the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England.

Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes make a bit more sense in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square since the King of the Wild Frontier hailed from Tennessee — connected to Louisiana by a long canoe ride along the mighty Mississippi River.

SEE ALSO: Meet the Disneyland cast member who wants to change Splash Mountain’s story

Disneyland has announced no plans to retheme the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh along with Splash Mountain. At the moment, it makes more sense to recast the area around the Pooh ride as the Hundred Acre Wood rather than reducing the already-small footprint of Critter Country even further.

Shanghai Disneyland has done something like that — creating a Hundred Acre Wood section of Fantasyland that is home to a Pooh dark ride and Hunny Pot Spin teacup-like ride.

Florida’s Magic Kingdom takes visitors through an interactive Hundred Acre Wood that includes Tigger’s Bouncy Place, Rabbit’s Garden, Eeyore’s Gloomy Place and Pooh’s Hunny Hives. The high-touch play area incorporated into the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction queue doesn’t work very well in the age of coronavirus and has been temporarily deactivated at the reopened Magic Kingdom.

SEE ALSO: Disneyland demands Newsom reopen California theme parks now: ‘It’s time’

The area now known as Critter Country has gone by several other names in Disneyland’s 65 year history. It began in 1956 as the Indian Village before becoming Bear Country in 1972 with the addition of the Country Bear Jamboree dark ride. The land was rechristened Critter Country in 1988 in anticipation of the debut of Splash Mountain.

According to a 1988 Los Angeles Times article, the Critter Country name was inspired by a quote from Disney’s controversial 1946 “Song of the South” film: “Where the folks are closer to the critters and the critters are closer to the folks.”

The Pooh Corner store next to the Splash Mountain exit has also had many themes through the years — from Indian Trading Post to Crocodile Mercantile. Louis the trumpet-playing alligator could host a store dedicated to Princess and the Frog merchandise.

SEE ALSO: ‘Princess and the Frog’ star Anika Noni Rose wants Disneyland to build Tiana’s Palace restaurant

It’s not hard reimagining Disneyland’s Hungry Bear counter-service eatery as Tiana’s Palace, the restaurant remade by the heroine in the movie.

Actress Anika Noni Rose, who voiced Princess Tiana in the 2009 movie, told People magazine she wants to see Tiana’s Palace from the film realized as a real restaurant at Disneyland and Disney World.

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Chargers live updates: QB Justin Herbert to start against Panthers

Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert will start his second consecutive game inside SoFi Stadium as the Chargers host the Carolina Panthers. The game starts at 1:05 PM PST on CBS.

The rookie had four days’ notice, unlike last Sunday when Tyrod Taylor’s lung was accidentally punctured by a team doctor.

Coach Anthony Lynn said Taylor would still be his starting QB if healthy, but what if the rookie shines like he did in last week’s debut?

As Herbert continues to settle in with the offense, expect the Chargers to lean on their backfield to accumulate yards and eat up the clock.

Live updates below:

A Twitter List by JHWreporter

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LeBron James’ latest heroics leave Lakers teammates, opponents in awe

You know what they say: Don’t take LeBron James for granted.

It seems like an outlandish premise, perhaps, that anyone would overlook his ability as he stormed to his 10th NBA Finals in 17 seasons.

James, of course, had his ears open last offseason for whispers that he might be “washed” after a groin injury slowed him in his first season in L.A. and curtailed his personal 13-season playoff streak. And he found any such sentiments quite motivational, it turns out.

But don’t count anyone on or near the court in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals among James’ doubters, not Saturday, and likely not ever — especially not after he soloed for a decisive nine-point charge in the fourth quarter of the 117-107 series-clinching victory, all but singlehandedly snuffing out the never-ever-quit Nuggets, who’d rallied from 16 points down to as close as 2 with 10:25 to play.

“When you just step back and look and marvel at what LeBron is doing at this stage of his career, how he continues to find ways to improve and get better and take whatever team he’s on to new heights, that defines his greatness,” said Denver coach Michael Malone, who coached James in Cleveland between 2005-10.

“He’s one of the greatest to ever do it and his resume speaks for itself. In a Game 5, closeout game, when the game was hanging in the balance, who took over? The best player on the floor.”

James’ starring sidekick Anthony Davis hit big shots and played staunch defense in the series against Denver, but when it was time to close the door, he was happy to let James slam it shut it so hard it shook the bubble.

“He told us it was his time, he told me it was his time and everybody just kinda got out the way and let him be him,” Davis said. “And he brought it home for us. He’s always capable of doing that, he makes the right plays, he makes the right reads and tonight, the read for him was to get to the basket and finish or make a play. All of them was good reads and he carried us tonight.”

The way Lakers guard Alex Caruso described it, being on the court as a witness as James went to work was something of a gift.

“It’s just super cool for me to be able to have this experience and play meaningful minutes, and to play well and be on the court with LeBron scoring (nine) points to close out the game in big time moments,” Caruso said, going on to describe the confidence James instills in his side when he gets going in crunch time.

“Once LeBron starts making outside shots late in the game, I kind of know that it’s over for the other team, just because I know we’re gonna get stops eventually, we’re gonna make enough plays down the stretch to get the game under control. And a guy like that, what else do you want to do? Just give him the ball and let him be himself. He’s one of the greatest players to ever play for a reason.”

Or, as Lakers guard Danny Green put it: “He hasn’t let people forget, this guy’s the greatest player in the … damn world.”

For his part, James said he never really relishes the moments like the other players who were part of his audience Saturday, even now, as he’s aged and developed more perspective.

“I don’t, unfortunately,” he said. “I wish I did. They happen so fast and my mind is still so locked in on the journey, that it’s hard for me to take in and appreciate what we just accomplished. Just how I’ve always been. I always say that when I’m done playing the game, hopefully I look back on it and enjoy it — and hopefully I will. Hopefully I can, because I don’t think I enjoy it enough when I’m in it, because I’m so engulfed in the process until the final call.”

LeBron James said he doesn’t savor games like this one, or fourth quarters like this one, more now that he’s older. He says he’s too engulfed in the process to celebrate what the Lakers have achieved so far. pic.twitter.com/lsQt7vxsP5

— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) September 27, 2020

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Angels rookie Elliot Soto knocks first big league hit after 10 years in minors

After Elliot Soto’s 10-year minor league odyssey culminated with his first two big league hits, he was asked what made him stick it out so long.

“I don’t know,” the Angels’ 31-year-old rookie said on Saturday night. “I never wanted to give up. I’m a cucaracha. I’m a cockroach. Never die.”

Although the Angels lost 7-6 to the Dodgers in a meaningless game, Soto and Jahmai Jones provided the happy storyline at the end of a mostly disappointing season.

The two infielders had become close since the first spring training back in Arizona and the bond grew as they worked out together at the Angels’ alternate training site in Long Beach.

Each had made his major league debut already, but on Saturday they were in the starting lineup for the first time, Soto at shortstop and Jones at second.

“In BP when we were turning double plays, I’m like ‘Wow, this is comfy,’” Soto said. “This is normal. We’ve got good chemistry.”

The feel-good vibes continued into the third inning, when each stepped to the plate for the first time.

Jones went first, and lined a single up the middle, driving in the Angels’ first run of the game. Soto followed and poked a single into right.

It was the first time in Angels history that players picked up hits in their first big league at-bats in consecutive plate appearances. The last time it happened was in 2016, when Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin did it for the Yankees.

“Everyone was super happy,” Soto said. “It made it a super special occasion for me. And Jam going right before me and getting his, it kind of pumped me up.”

While the moment was obviously unforgettable for Jones too, it came amid a much different context than for Soto. Jones, 23, was a second-round pick in 2015. He had gone through a position change and some swing changes, but he ultimately didn’t reach the big leagues too much later than a normal timetable.

Soto was in his sixth season toiling in the minors when Jones was drafted. His 11th season as a professional nearly ended without an official at-bat anywhere, because of the coronavirus shutting down minor league baseball.

The Angels kept him around as a utility infielder, and he’d traveled with the big league team as part of the taxi squad earlier in the season. He finally got his chance to be on the active roster this week, when Andrelton Simmons opted out.

And on Friday night, Luis Rengifo hurt his hamstring, which gave Soto the chance to get into a game on defense. On Saturday, with the Angels eliminated, he got the chance to start.

To Manager Joe Maddon, who speaks often about his roots in player development and the minor leagues, writing Soto’s name in the lineup was special.

Maddon spoke before the game about Soto’s exceptional defensive skills and he flashed those with a barehand pickup to throw out Chris Taylor. Soto also chipped in a second hit, a double down the right field line.

“Spectacular,” Maddon said. “You saw how good of a player he is. What you saw tonight is no fluke. That’s what he is. That’s what he looks like. He showed tonight why he belongs on the big league level.”

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Coronavirus state tracker: Cases and hospitalizations in Californa down more than 60% from their previous highs

California agencies reported 4,159 new cases and 80 new deaths of the coronavirus as of Saturday,  according to unofficial totals from public health websites.  The cumulative number of coronavirus cases is 805,133 and 15,556 deaths.

The seven-day average of 3,336 new cases from the coronavirus represents a 66% decline since its high of 9,935, July 23, while the seven-day average of 85 new deaths is a 44% drop from its Aug. 15 high of 150, according to an analysis of data from public health websites Saturday.

Hospitalizations statewide are down 62% from their July 21 high of 8,820.  According to health agencies, there were 3,307 people in the hospital for COVID-related reasons on Saturday, 177 fewer than reported the previous day.

All data on the state tracker is preliminary and subject to change.

 

According to the California Department of Public Health several counties were lowered to less restrictive levels of the state’s monitoring system on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Riverside County was the only Southern California county to move; it was lowered from the most restrictive purple tier to red. Once a county’s tier has changed it must remain there for three weeks.

A county must also meet criteria for the next tier in daily coronavirus positive cases per 100,000 and testing positivity for two consecutive weeks in order to progress down a level.

Modoc, Alpine and Mariposa counties are the only three of the state’s 58 counties to reach the minimal (yellow) level.

 

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johns Hopkins University, the World Health Organization, the California Department of Public Health, The Associated Press, reporting counties and news sources

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Coronavirus: Orange County reported 165 new cases and 10 new deaths as of Sept. 26

The Orange County Health Care Agency reported 165 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, Sept. 26, increasing the cumulative total to 53,069 cases.

There were 10 new deaths reported in the county as well, raising the death toll to 1,214. The data on deaths in the county is compiled from death certificates or gathered through the course of case investigations and can take weeks to process, officials say.

Of the 1,214 deaths in Orange County, 446 were skilled nursing facility residents, 85 were in assisted living facilities and four was listed as homeless.

The county’s breakdown of deaths by age is as follows:

  • 85 and older: 31% (376)
  • 75-84: 22% (256)
  • 65-74: 20% (246)
  • 55-64: 13% (175)
  • 45-54: 9% (105)
  • 35-44: 3% (33)
  • 25-34: 1.3% (18)
  • 18-24: <1% (4)
  • 17 and younger: 0% (1)

It is estimated about 90% of the cumulative reported cases, or 47,742 people as of Saturday, have recovered. The count of people who have recovered is based on the prior 28-day cumulative case count.

The county reports a total of 838,045 tests have been given since testing began, and at least 9,986 tests were reported in the last 24 hours.

The county also reported 156 patients in hospitals with the coronavirus on Saturday and 47 patients in ICUs.

Data posted each day is preliminary and subject to change, officials emphasize. More information may become available as individual case investigations are completed.

You can find the Orange County Health Care Agency dashboard here.

Hospitalizations and deaths:

 

Orange County total cases by ZIP code for Sept. 24:

Case demographics as of Aug. 20:

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Black Lives Matter protest – and counter-protest – underway in Yorba Linda on Saturday

A protest against police brutality and systemic racism is getting underway in Yorba Linda on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 26.

Counter-protesters also are gathering in the vicinity.

I am at a “March for Equality” on Imperial Highway in Yorba Linda. There are lots of counter protesters here who have already weighed in. Watch for a story at https://t.co/evem3Y7qYx https://t.co/O5ZXpkdq1m

— Brian Rokos (@Brian_Rokos) September 26, 2020

The march is expected to take place along Imperial Highway,

This man is shouting at BLM protesters across the street: “Terrorists go home,” and “George Floyd is not a hero.” pic.twitter.com/bxeUsj0LwX

— Brian Rokos (@Brian_Rokos) September 26, 2020

This story will be developed. Please watch for updates.

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What they’re saying before Game 5 between the Lakers, Nuggets

Follow Southern California Newspaper Group’s Kyle Goon as he covers the Lakers Inside the Bubble in Orlando. Updates and social media reaction of Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals best-of-seven playoff series between the Lakers and Nuggets.


Previews and what they’re saying before Game 5 between the Lakers, Nuggets

Lakers closeout reputation will clash with Denver’s comeback magic in Game 5

On a question from @Rachel__Nichols, Anthony Davis talked about how Rajon Rondo was one of the first people he called after his trade to the Lakers to tell him he wanted him to come back because he respected his leadership and will to win. pic.twitter.com/IYztJ8hGbc

— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) September 25, 2020

On a question from @Rachel__Nichols, Anthony Davis talked about how Rajon Rondo was one of the first people he called after his trade to the Lakers to tell him he wanted him to come back because he respected his leadership and will to win. pic.twitter.com/IYztJ8hGbc

— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) September 25, 2020

“I knew it was winning time.”@KingJames on his fourth quarter stretch, the #Lakers offense and Dwight Howard’s presence on the glass. pic.twitter.com/kdzXEAiX4B

— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) September 25, 2020

“He asked for the assignment… Nothing was really working to slow him down until LeBron took that assignment, so game ball to him for that.” Coach Vogel on @KingJames choosing to guard Murray and his takeaways from tonight’s victory. pic.twitter.com/EWCw49fypU

— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) September 25, 2020

“If [Rajon Rondo] wins this title, I think we should start putting him in the conversation of being a Hall of Famer.”

@KendrickPerkins pic.twitter.com/JjM8GgcMEI

— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) September 25, 2020

.@KendrickPerkins on LeBron asking to guard Jamal Murray in the 4th quarter:

“That’s what the Greatest of all Time does.” pic.twitter.com/fuynBnE6sS

— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) September 25, 2020

“LeBron is showing again in these playoffs, when it matters most, he’s the best player in the world STILL. I was wrong to try to take that crown from him and give it to Kawhi last year.”

👀@maxkellerman 👀pic.twitter.com/t0UkqVUQaC

— First Take (@FirstTake) September 25, 2020

When the Lakers go up 3-1 but you realize theyre playing the Nuggets pic.twitter.com/K8KrhFI8oy

— Tom 🇫🇮 #FreeAouar (@afctomm_) September 25, 2020

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Geek Squad van stolen in Temecula, recovered when suspect crashes in Santa Ana

A man was arrested after stealing a Geek Squad van from the Best Buy in Temecula and then leading police on a chase into Santa Ana before crashing, the California Highway Patrol said.

The theft happened at about 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24, at the store on Temecula Parkway. A man entered the van as the driver was unloading it, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said.

“As the victim approached the driver-side door, the suspect drove away from the area at a high rate of speed, causing the driver to fall to the ground,” sheriff’s Cpl. Lionel Murphy said in an email.

Law enforcement caught up with the van and pursued it from Riverside into Orange County, where the CHP’s Santa Ana officers took over the pursuit. The driver eventually crashed into a tree and ran into a building at Tustin Avenue and 4th Street, the CHP said.

Officers from the Tustin and Santa Ana police departments helped the CHP capture the driver. He was not publicly identified.

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