Recipe: Corn pudding is a delicious dish you can make with 4 ingredients

Southern-style corn pudding is so delectable, it may be a challenge to eat just a single portion. It’s easy to prepare, boasting only four ingredients plus salt and pepper. I make it in a 1 1/2-quart gratin dish, but any 1 1/2-quart ovenproof casserole will work.

To remove the kernels from the cob, cut the stem off the corn; then stand it, large flat end down on a rimmed baking sheet. Cut kernels off, running the knife from top to bottom next to the cob, rotating when needed to remove kernels on all sides.

Southern Corn Pudding

Yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

Butter for greasing pan

2 1/4 cups fresh corn kernels, from about 3 ears of corn

2 cups whole milk, heated

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional garnish: Minced fresh parsley

PROCEDURE

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 1 1/2-quart ovenproof casserole.

2. Mix all ingredients in bowl. Pour into buttered casserole. Place casserole in small roasting pan that is large enough to hold the casserole. Add enough hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the casserole, being careful not to get any water in the casserole. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until it is firm.

Have a cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at cathythomascooks@gmail.com

 

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Disneyland ‘Blinkin’ Lincoln’ animatronic used to go crazy and smash his chair in a robotic fit

The Great Emancipator who has starred as an audio-animatronic historic figure in Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln for a half century at Disneyland got off to a rough start in 1964 when he would go crazy from power surges and smash his chair in a robotic fit.

“Mr. Lincoln would sit in this chair and he would start to get up and all of a sudden he would go into this robotic fit and fling his arms around,” Disney historian Bill Cotter said in a new Disney+ show. “He literally smashed his chair into kindling.”

Walt Disney Imagineering takes a behind-the-scenes look at Disneyland’s Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln in the new 10-episode Disney+ series “Behind the Attraction.”

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SEE ALSO: 7 Disneyland rides made into movies — plus 7 more possible projects

Future episodes will feature Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland and the subsequent Hall of Presidents at Florida’s Magic Kingdom along with It’s a Small World, Disneyland Hotel, Disney theme park castles and Disney trains and monorails. The first five episodes of the new Disney+ show focus on Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Star Tours, Haunted Mansion and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror/Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout.

Walt Disney wanted the Abraham Lincoln animatronic attraction at Disneyland to combine education and entertainment.

“What Walt said was, ‘We have always tried to be guided by the basic idea that in the discovery of knowledge there is great entertainment, but in all good entertainment there is some grain of wisdom, humanity or enlightenment to be gained,’” Disney Imagineer Gary Landrum said in the upcoming “Behind the Attraction” episode.

SEE ALSO: Which Disneyland rides, shows, restaurants and shops remain closed

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and the Hall of Presidents were inspired by a pavilion exhibit at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair that displayed wax figures of all the U.S. presidents with recorded voice tracks explaining their roles in American history. Walt Disney thought he could bring the presidents to life with Imagineering’s burgeoning audio-animatronic technology in the 1960s.

The Hall of Presidents was originally planned for a Liberty Street expansion off Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland, but the $4.4 million price tag to build animatronic figures of all the U.S. presidents proved too expensive. Disney decided to press forward with a show based around Lincoln.

“Walt was really upset,” Disney Legend Bob Gurr said in the Disney+ episode. “He showed us this Lincoln and it was very heavy and had hydraulic leaks in it. I remember he looked at this thing and he says, ‘Bobby, I want twice as many motions and half as much weight. Can you do that?’ It was obviously another one of the jobs where you say, ‘Yeah, I’ll start.’”

SEE ALSO: Why Silver Dollar City deserves to be ranked among America’s best theme parks

Disney signed an agreement to create a Lincoln animatronic as the centerpiece attraction in the Illinois state pavilion at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. Despite tireless efforts, the Lincoln animatronic was not ready for opening day of the fair.

“Mr. Lincoln was a terrible disaster,” Disney Legend Marc Davis said in the Disney+ episode.

Imagineers could not get the Lincoln animatronic to move through its programming successfully. Honest Abe kept throwing robotic fits — flailing his arms and smashing his chair to bits. The Imagineers were at a loss for solutions.

“They would go and get him another chair and he worked two or three days in a row,” Cotter said in the Disney+ episode. “They would bring the press and he’d stand up and smash the chair into kindling.”

Finally, the Imagineers figured out the problem. A nearby World’s Fair pavilion called the Tower of Light was shining a giant beam into the sky. The powerful light beam was creating an electronic anomaly that caused the Lincoln animatronic to “go crazy.”

“When they fired this thing up the transient circuits that would go through the ground made Mr. Lincoln get feedback and he’d go crazy and smash his chair,” Cotter said in the episode.

The debugged Lincoln animatronic proved wildly popular among fairgoers, with a newspaper headline declaring: Blinkin’ Lincoln a Fair Wonder. Audience members were convinced the blinking, breathing and even perspiring Lincoln animatronic was an actor rather than a robotic machine.

“In all truth, he really did perspire because there was a migratory oil in the skin that came to the surface and we had to pat that off,” Disney Legend Harriet Burns said in the episode.

The Lincoln animatronic’s troubles weren’t over yet, though. Mischievous children came up with a sure-fire way to prove Robot Abe was a real person. Kids began firing ball bearings through soda straws like spit wads during the show — gathering their ammunition from the free samples handed out at the nearby SFK Industries pavilion.

“People would go into Mr. Lincoln and start shooting Mr. Lincoln with the ball bearings,” Cotter said in the episode. “He’d get one in his cheek and it would stay there for the rest of the show.”

After the New York World’s Fair, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln was brought back to the Opera House at Disneyland. Imagineering eventually built Liberty Street — which became Liberty Square when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 complete with a Hall of Presidents.

SEE ALSO: Disneyland rolls out mini parades in preparation for Halloween parade

The “Behind the Attraction” episode ends by making a connection between the Lincoln animatronic and the Spider-Man stuntronic that soars and somersaults over the new Avengers Campus in Disney California Adventure.

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Photos: L.A. Art Show rolls into Convention Center

  • Art enthusiasts combed through the Los Angeles Convention Center West Hall for the L.A. Art Show in Los Angeles on Friday, July 30, 2021. The event featured exhibits of traditional contemporary, modern, digital and new technology art. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

  • Charmaine Harris, 45, walks past a large painting on exhibit at during the L.A. Art Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center West Hall in Los Angeles on Friday, July 30, 2021. The event featured exhibits of traditional contemporary, modern, digital and new technology art. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

  • Art enthusiasts combed through the Los Angeles Convention Center West Hall for the L.A. Art Show in Los Angeles on Friday, July 30, 2021. The event featured exhibits of traditional contemporary, modern, digital and new technology art. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

  • Art enthusiasts combed through the Los Angeles Convention Center West Hall for the L.A. Art Show in Los Angeles on Friday, July 30, 2021. The event featured exhibits of traditional contemporary, modern, digital and new technology art. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

  • Art enthusiasts combed through the Los Angeles Convention Center West Hall for the L.A. Art Show in Los Angeles on Friday, July 30, 2021. The event featured exhibits of traditional contemporary, modern, digital and new technology art. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

  • John Rowe, 66, a local artist from Los Angeles walks through one of the many art galleries on exhibit during the L.A. Art Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center West Hall in Los Angeles on Friday, July 30, 2021. The event featured exhibits of traditional contemporary, modern, digital and new technology art. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

  • Atossa Nankali, 56, of Los Angeles looks at a wall of art during the L.A. Art Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center West Hall in Los Angeles on Friday, July 30, 2021. The event featured exhibits of traditional contemporary, modern, digital and new technology art. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

  • Art enthusiasts combed through the Los Angeles Convention Center West Hall for the L.A. Art Show in Los Angeles on Friday, July 30, 2021. The event featured exhibits of traditional contemporary, modern, digital and new technology art. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

  • Art enthusiasts combed through the Los Angeles Convention Center West Hall for the L.A. Art Show in Los Angeles on Friday, July 30, 2021. The event featured exhibits of traditional contemporary, modern, digital and new technology art. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

  • Art enthusiasts combed through the Los Angeles Convention Center West Hall for the L.A. Art Show in Los Angeles on Friday, July 30, 2021. The event featured exhibits of traditional contemporary, modern, digital and new technology art. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

  • Art enthusiasts combed through the Los Angeles Convention Center West Hall for the L.A. Art Show in Los Angeles on Friday, July 30, 2021. The event featured exhibits of traditional contemporary, modern, digital and new technology art. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

  • Art enthusiasts combed through the Los Angeles Convention Center West Hall for the L.A. Art Show in Los Angeles on Friday, July 30, 2021. The event featured exhibits of traditional contemporary, modern, digital and new technology art. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

  • Art enthusiasts combed through the Los Angeles Convention Center West Hall for the L.A. Art Show in Los Angeles on Friday, July 30, 2021. The event featured exhibits of traditional contemporary, modern, digital and new technology art. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)

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The Los Angeles Art Show, which will run through Sunday, kicked off Friday with an eclectic array of creations.

The event features a comprehensive lineup of exhibitors ranging from traditional contemporary, modern, digital and new technology art.

Remaining show hours will be from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets are available here.

The show is being hosted at the L.A. Convention Center, West Hall, 1201 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles.

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Florida coronavirus cases jump 50% as surge continues

By Terry Spencer and Adriana Gomez Licon | Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s coronavirus cases jumped 50% this week, the state Health Department reported Friday, continuing a six-week surge that has seen it responsible for 1 in 5 new infections nationally, becoming the outbreak’s epicenter.

The release came shortly after Gov. Ron DeSantis barred school districts from requiring students to wear masks when classes resume next month, saying there is no evidence they prevent outbreaks among students or staff.

More than 110,000 new coronavirus cases were reported statewide over the past week, up from 73,000 last week and 11 times the 10,000 reported the week of June 11, six weeks ago. Case numbers are now back to where they in January, just before vaccinations became widely available.

The Florida Hospital Association also said Friday that statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations are nearing last year’s peak. More than 9,300 patients are hospitalized, up from 1,845 a month ago and nearing the record 10,179 set on July 23, 2020. On a per capita basis, Florida now has more people hospitalized than any other state.

The state reported 409 deaths this week, bringing the total to more than 39,000 since its first in March 2020. The state’s peak happened in mid-August 2020, when 1,266 people died over a seven-day period. Deaths usually follow increases in hospitalizations by a few weeks.

DeSantis has blamed the surge on a seasonal increase — more Floridians are indoors because of the hot weather with air conditioning circulating the virus. About 60% of Floridians 12 and older are vaccinated, ranking it about midway among the states. DeSantis said barring mask mandates at schools will improve students’ experience and make it easier for them to focus on learning.

“I have (three) young kids. My wife and I are not going to do the mask with the kids. We never have, we won’t. I want to see my kids smiling. I want them having fun,” DeSantis said at a news conference in southwest Florida a few hours before he signed the executive order. DeSantis is seeking reelection next year and has been positioning himself nationally for a possible 2024 presidential bid. But his critics are blaming his unwillingness to mandate mask wearing, such as his executive order barring mask requirements at public schools.

“We know that masks are a simple and effective way to help prevent virus spread, and from a medical perspective it makes absolutely zero sense to discourage their use,” said Dr. Bernard Ashby, head of Florida’s progressive Committee to Protect Health Care. “DeSantis’ power grab will put the health of kids and teachers alike at risk.”

DeSantis’ decision came after the Broward County school board voted to require masks and other districts and colleges around the state were considering it.

“We will have to change our policy,” Broward board member Debbi Hixon told the South Florida SunSentinel. “I am not looking to defy the governor. I believe it is an irresponsible decision but if it is the law, I will agree to follow it.”

The Florida Education Association, the state’s teachers union, said DeSantis should leave the decision to local officials rather than impose a statewide edict — a position he once held. When the pandemic began in March 2020, DeSantis said local officials should control the response, that the business closures and mask mandates imposed in Miami, Tampa and other big cities wouldn’t work in small, rural counties.

“Gov. DeSantis continues to think that Tallahassee knows best what all Floridians need,” union President Andrew Spar said in a statement. “We reject that kind of thinking. Instead, we ask Gov. DeSantis to allow all Florida’s citizens to have a voice by empowering the elected leaders of cities, counties and school districts to make health and safety decisions locally.”

Meanwhile, Publix, the state’s largest supermarket chain, announced Friday that employees will again be required to wear masks and several hospitals said they are postponing elective surgeries and limiting visitors.

At Tampa General Hospital, the 90-plus patients hospitalized with COVID already exceeds the previous high of 86, said Dr. Seetha Lakshmi, medical director of its Global Emerging Diseases Institute. She said the hospital, like many, can’t hire enough staff and it is leaving those working exhausted.

“It feels like we are getting hit by a train, the pace is so fast and uncontrolled,” Laskshmi said. “I just don’t have any words anymore. This is awful, just awful and it is going to be awful.”

She said last year, her patients’ median age was in the 70s. Now, it is just over 50, with the younger patients getting sicker than in the past.

She pointed to a patient in his early 30s whose lungs “sound like Velcro” being pulled apart. A father of young children, he will likely have permanent damage and might need a transplant eventually, she said.

She said 83% of Tampa General’s COVID patients are unvaccinated while the others have immune-deficiency issues that prevented the vaccine from working.

Gomez Licon reported from Miami.

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Analysis: Lakers face a tricky, expensive path to build around their Big Three

If he’s said it once, he’s said it a dozen times: Frank Vogel loves talking about getting players to “star in their roles.”

Back when the discourse was if the Lakers would ever find a third star, or if one of their other players would rise to be a foundational piece like LeBron James or Anthony Davis, Vogel stressed that the team didn’t need one as long as everyone played their part.

“We need guys like that to star in those roles if you’re going to have the ultimate success,” Vogel said during last season.

Now the Lakers have a third star, pulling the trigger on a trade for Russell Westbrook from Washington to give the Lakers a former MVP and a formidable trio of All-Star players. But with a thinned-out roster, rising salary and intensely competitive market for minimum contract-level players, finding new “star in their role” candidates will be a difficult task requiring more than a little luck and guile for general manager Rob Pelinka and his front office.

While last postseason was disappointing for the Lakers’ supporting cast, waving farewell to longtime role players like Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will probably hurt at points this season, because it will be tough for the Lakers to find equivalent players to fill out the roster.

The Lakers find themselves in a large-scale roster rebuild, even though the pillars are well-established. Outside of James, Davis and Westbrook, only Marc Gasol ($2.7 million) is under contract for next season. And yet the Lakers have about $123.5 million in salary committed to those four players, with their star trio all on max deals. The NBA’s salary cap is about $112.4 million, meaning the Lakers have no money to spend on free agents except the deals they can get signing their own players back, or on exceptions.

Those high salary numbers also mean the Lakers can’t operate under a hard cap as they did last year. With the NBA’s hard cap figure set at about $143 million, the Lakers wouldn’t have space to fill out the 15-man roster on minimums, much less re-sign key players like Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker (who are priority targets, according to a person with knowledge of the team’s offseason goals). That means bringing in another big star like DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry on a sign-and-trade is out, as is using the full midlevel exception (which the Lakers used last season to sign Montrezl Harrell for $9.7 million annually).

Some fans have fixated on the idea that the Lakers can send out Dennis Schröder, now made redundant by Westbrook, in a sign-and-trade to another team to recoup some assets. The biggest problem is that the deal would require Schröder’s consent. The 27-year-old German guard had strong hopes at the beginning of the offseason that he would return to the Lakers, according to a person with insight into his thinking; it might sting to involve himself in a sign-and-trade deal that would make the franchise better without him in the picture.

Schröder has also made no secret that he’s looked forward to going through free agency for the first time in his eight-year career, and it’s more straightforward for him to leave the Lakers for nothing and join a team with cap space, like New York or Chicago. The only exception would be if Schröder and a prospective team without cap space want to make a deal happen and need the Lakers’ help to seal it.

The Lakers can go above the cap to re-sign key pieces: Caruso is one of the team’s best perimeter defenders and has shown a knack for playing alongside James, and even though he could command more than $10 million annually on the market, the Lakers will be motivated to bring him back. The same goes for Horton-Tucker, who is just 20 and is now the best young piece remaining – the Lakers can match any offer he receives in restricted free agency. Both may spur competition for their services, but with limited alternatives, the Lakers will have a lot of incentive to hammer out deals to bring them back.

They could also bring back Markieff Morris, a 2020 title winner who didn’t have a great season last year, but who the Lakers can use to fill out the roster as a stretch big if he can find his shooting touch. Alfonzo McKinnie, who was little used last season, has a non-guaranteed deal worth $1.9 million that can add depth.

From there, it gets tricky – and expensive. The NBA luxury tax figure is $136.6 million, which the Lakers are guaranteed to surpass. Every dollar they spend above that amount adds to their tax bill, which is liable to make them one of the most costly rosters next season. They can use the mid-level exception which is just over $5 million, and then they can sign players to minimum contracts. Expect the team to keep roster spots open to perhaps pluck up someone from the buyout market next season, similar to how they acquired Andre Drummond last season.

One problem for the Lakers is that there will be a number of contenders looking for the same type of player: a minimum-level veteran who can shoot threes and defend. Those players will have their pick of Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and other likely contenders. Without more money to offer, the Lakers may have to dangle other kinds of incentives – like playing roles.

The Lakers added a pair of promising two-way players to their roster Thursday: Gonzaga’s Joel Ayayi and Oklahoma’s Austin Reaves. Both undrafted players could figure into playing mix if the roster winds up light, and it seems telling that both are mature players with lots of college experience.

It’ll be all hands on deck this coming fall, no matter who the Lakers are able to pull into the roster around James, Davis and Westbrook. And hang on through the next week – the seas might get a little choppy.

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Old Town Tustin party celebrates restaurants and shops for surviving pandemic

It was an evening for the Tustin community to take a breath and celebrate local businesses for hanging in there during more than a year of pandemic slow-downs.

On Thursday, July 29, a few streets in picturesque Old Town Tustin were closed to traffic for a big block party.

  • Bryan Ruiz makes a move in a giant chess game in the middle of the street as Old town Tustin celebrated its reopening after coronavirus shut downs with a street fair Thursday July 29, 2012.
    (Photo by Greg Andersen, Contributing Photographer)

  • Jewelry on display at “The Fairy’s Touch” booth as Old Town Tustin celebrated its reopening after coronavirus shut downs with a street fair Thursday July 29, 2012.
    (Photo by Greg Andersen, Contributing Photographer)

  • Allan and Camila Perez, of Tustin, try out their bowling skills as Old Town Tustin celebrated its reopening after coronavirus shut downs with a street fair Thursday July 29, 2012.
    (Photo by Greg Andersen, Contributing Photographer)

  • Cora Lay, 6, left, and Lex Delu, 6, play a Connect 4 game as Old town Tustin celebrated its reopening after coronavirus shut downs with a street fair Thursday July 29, 2012.
    (Photo by Greg Andersen, Contributing Photographer)

  • Camila Perez, 8, of Tustin, tries her hand at the Megawire game as Old Town Tustin celebrated its reopening after coronavirus shut downs with a street fair Thursday July 29, 2012.
    (Photo by Greg Andersen, Contributing Photographer)

  • Alexis Campos, of Placentia, shops for a waist chain as Old Town Tustin celebrated its reopening after coronavirus shut downs with a street fair Thursday July 29, 2012.
    (Photo by Greg Andersen, Contributing Photographer)

  • A guitarist from the band ‘Ingredient 10’ performs as Old town Tustin celebrated its reopening after coronavirus shut downs with a street fair Thursday July 29, 2012.
    (Photo by Greg Andersen, Contributing Photographer)

  • Folks stroll down the avenue as Old Town Tustin celebrated its reopening after coronavirus shut downs with a street fair Thursday July 29, 2012.
    (Photo by Greg Andersen, Contributing Photographer)

  • ‘Mystic Minerals’ owner Tess O’Hara talks with customers as Old Town Tustin celebrated its reopening after coronavirus shut downs with a street fair Thursday July 29, 2012.
    (Photo by Greg Andersen, Contributing Photographer)

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Starting in late afternoon, and continuing on past dark, the fete featured live music and outdoor shopping. Restaurants also opened to an influx of visitors.

“Smiling faces were abundant,” said Tustin Mayor Letitia Clark. “It was a great opportunity for our vendors to interact with Tustinites on a warm summer night.”

And it won’t be the last. “With the help of the Tustin Chamber of Commerce, this event will continue on a regular basis,” Clark said.

 

 

 

 

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Festival Pass: Learn some Greek (Theatre) history; Head in the Clouds releases lineup

Festival Pass is a newsletter that lands in your inbox weekly. But during prime festival season you get bonus editions, too! Subscribe now.


This week, we have festival news for metalheads, dreamers and more. And we have a look back at some important musical icons with stories on Sublime’s 25th anniversary of its self-titled album, MTV’s 40th and the Greek Theatre’s 90th (plus one).

Before I forget: One of the strangest festivals I ever covered was Slipknot’s Knotfest in Devore. While the band brings the touring version of Knotfest to Banc of California Stadium in L.A. in November, I hope they leave the dead goat heads out of the Slipknot museum set-up this time. See the lineup and find out how to get tickets.

A cloud-filled forecast: We already knew that the Head in the Clouds festival was moving to Pasadena and expanding to two days, but now we have the lineup, which includes Saweetie, Rich Brian, Joji, Niki, Japanese Breakfast and more. Get the ticket details and find out who else is on the bill.

ICYMI: In the latest episode of Can’t Feel the Heat, we time traveled back to Coachella 2008, when Huell Howser brought his “California’s Gold” program to the festival and he climbed into the “Steampunk Treehouse.” Check it out on Apple podcasts and Spotify.

What we got: When Sublime first started performing live, concert producers didn’t know where to book the Long Beach band that combined punk, funk, ska, reggae and hip-hop. But once the band’s self-titled album came out, the band’s sound skyrocketed into the mainstream. Kelli Skye Fadroski takes you on a deep dive into one of Southern California’s most iconic albums, which turns 25 this week.

Get them to the Greek: The Greek Theatre finally reopens this weekend and will kick off its belated 90th season with Joe Bonamassa. Kelli Skye Fadroski talked with Bonamassa and more legends for a look back into the iconic venue’s history. Check out the lineup of who’s playing the Greek this season so far.

I want my MTV: MTV celebrated its 40th anniversary on Aug. 1. We rewound the tapes in our head and Peter Larsen compiled 40 of the most interesting factoids over the channel’s history, from controversies to music to reality TV. I’m just sad Jesse Camp didn’t make our list. However, our colleague Chuck Barney did dive into how MTV paved the way for reality TV.


Get Festival Pass delivered to your inbox weekly.

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Orange County’s number of fentanyl deaths is skyrocketing each year

The number of fentanyl-related deaths in Orange County more than doubled in 2020, with Orange County coroner’s officials attributing 432 deaths to the potent opiate compared to 165 fatal overdoses the year before.

Just six years ago, there were 16 such deaths, with the annual figure since then continuing to skyrocket.

Those killed by fentanyl are the young to the old from across Orange County, said Sgt. Todd Hylton, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman.

The death toll represents “just the tip of the iceberg” in the fentanyl crisis, said Dr. Bharath Chakravarth, vice chairman of research for UC Irvine School of Medicine’s Emergency Medicine Department.

“People are probably overdosing and surviving without anyone even knowing it,”  Chakravarthy said. “But many of them do come to the emergency department … blue, barely breathing and with pinpoint pupils.”

It’s not immediately clear why the county’s number keeps rising, but the pandemic may have played a role in last year’s spike. Some experts theorized that those with difficulty accessing health care during this time might have turned to drugs or alcohol instead, Chakravarthy said.

The jump in deaths last year does coincide with a rise in the volume of fentanyl showing up on the street.


Hundreds of blue pills that tested positive for fentanyl were strapped beneath the clothing of a man stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agents based in the San Diego area on Tuesday May 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

A growing amount of the drug is making its way into California through the state’s border with Tijuana, said Agent Jacob MacIsaac, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The volume of fentanyl seized by agents based in San Diego jumped from 108 pounds in 2019 to 384 pounds last year.

As little as two milligrams of the synthetic drug can lead to a fatal dose, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. When used properly, it is a prescription drug “typically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

But it is cheap to produce, and its extreme potency allows dealers to maximize profits by lacing it into different narcotics. Fentanyl is often disguised as oxycodone and other opiates.

“One might think that they’re taking Vicodin or Percocet, or heroin for that matter, and wind up overdosing on something way more potent,” Chakravarthy said. “So if you think you’re taking x amount of heroin, and it’s actually that amount of fentanyl, that could mean a matter of life or death.”


Forensic scientist Terry Baisz shows pills, masking as other pharmaceutical drugs but they are actually fentanyl, at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department crime lab in 2015. (Photo by MICHAEL GOULDING, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER/SCNG)

Added Hylton, the Orange County sheriff’s sergeant, about the drug when made illegally: “This is being manufactured by people who are not scientists.”

More of the drug is apparently turning up in Orange County in the form of counterfeit pills, Hylton said.

In 2020, the Sheriff’s Department confiscated more than 64 pounds of powdered fentanyl in addition to 1,761 pills. This year, deputies have already seized 87 pounds of raw fentanyl and more than 57,000 pills.

Taking fentanyl off of the street strikes at the “supply side” of the opioid crisis, but is only one of numerous efforts needed to combat it, sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Gunsolley said. Warning people before they encounter the drug, especially Orange County’s youth via workshops and outreach, is a key part of the department’s strategy.

For people who survive abusing fentanyl or other narcotics, the goal becomes finding a path to some form of treatment, Chakravarthy said.

“Having people come into the emergency room and then, afterward, just turning them around and saying, ‘OK, your life’s saved, now go back,’ well, that’s a disaster,” Chakravarthy said. “Because it’s likely going to happen again.”


The number of deaths linked to fentanyl in Orange County skyrocketed over the past few years, according to data from the Orange County Coroner’s Office. (Orange County Register)

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Those electronic speed signs are there to help you, not cite you

Q. Honk, on a stretch of La Veta Avenue in Orange the city has installed electronic speed-limit signs. On each sign is a mounted camera that flashes when you are going too fast. California lawmakers have not passed speed cameras into law. Is Orange issuing tickets for speeding, even though there are no posted signs warning you that enforcement is in play?

– Roy Miyaji Cypress

A. A federal grant covered the cost of 12 such signs, and the city placed them in clusters of four on different roadways. They were installed a month ago and were flipped on about two weeks ago.

“They record speed, but they are not used for enforcement,” said Dave Allenbach, a traffic analyst for Orange. “There are no cameras with these signs. The purpose of the signs is to get people to slow down.”

They might be installed, for example, in places where there are a lot of pedestrians.

The signs are set to show your speed if it is within 5 mph of the posted speed limit. If a driver is going more than 5 mph above the limit, a strobe light goes off and, so as not to encourage knuckleheads, the sign flashes “Slow Down” and not the actual speed.

Honk has seen what you are referring to, Roy, in years past in the Washington, D.C. area and in Arizona: Roadside devices that take photos or videos of speeders, who receive tickets in the mail.

In California, though, an attempt by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, to set up a five-year pilot program with the automated, ticket-producing systems on various streets, including in Southern California, was shelved by the Legislature in May.

If ever approved here, the penalties apparently would be much less than a typical speeding ticket; the goal was to reduce deaths and injuries.

Q. I don’t know if you have mentioned it, but I read somewhere that the Department of Motor Vehicles’ automatic extensions for the pandemic do not apply to commercial driver’s licenses.

– John Bowen, Los Alamitos

A. Turns out truckers got a break, too, because of the coronavirus.

Honk reached out to the DMV in Sacramento and learned that those with commercial driver’s licenses that were to expire after March 1, 2020, were extended until Aug. 31, 2021.

Those with suspended driver’s licenses, of course, didn’t get the extension. Driver’s licenses weren’t updated, but the licenses remained valid with law enforcement notified.

For commercial driver’s licenses that expire starting Sept. 1, it’s back to renewing online or in a DMV office.

A commercial driver’s licenses, or an endorsement on a license with such privileges, are required to drive certain vehicles including semi-trucks, buses and cement trucks.

Honkin’ fact: LED lighting, to boost safety, is coming to the 55 Freeway between the I-405 and the 91 freeways, said Darcy Birden, a Caltrans spokeswoman for Orange County. Other stuff, such as new median barriers and modified signage, is coming, too, but motorists will have to be patient as the $25 million project likely won’t start construction for a few years and is slated for completion in 2028.

To ask Honk questions, reach him at honk@ocregister.com. He only answers those that are published. To see Honk online: ocregister.com/tag/honk. Twitter: @OCRegisterHonk

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Ailing Durst’s defense team wants judge to ‘put a stop’ to trial

INGLEWOOD — Robert Durst’s lead attorney urged a judge on Thursday, July 29, to “put a stop” to the New York real estate scion’s murder trial and grant an emergency motion for a mistrial, saying his client is “too sick to continue.”

Superior Court Judge Mark Windham said he took the motion very seriously and would take the issue under submission.

Twice within recent months, Windham has denied the defense’s bid for either a mistrial or an indefinite delay in the trial because of health conditions affecting the 78-year-old Durst, who is charged with the December 2000 killing of Susan Berman at her home in the Benedict Canyon neighborhood near Beverly Hills.

“Mr. Durst is too sick to continue,” defense attorney Dick DeGuerin told the judge at Thursday’s hearing. “He’s too sick to make the decision whether to testify. It’s cruel and unusual for Mr. Durst to be put through this in his condition. You should put a stop to this.”

Deputy District Attorney John Lewin countered that “what is very clear is Mr. Durst wants a mistrial any way he can get it.”

“… What this is is not a request for a mistrial. What this really is is a request for Mr. Durst to get a go home, get out of jail free card and never be tried again …,” Lewin said.

The prosecutor noted that Durst had “very serious cancer in 2005” and “he’s still here.”

“He will probably outlive us all,” Lewin added.

A doctor who examined Durst twice and reviewed his medical records at the defense’s behest cited a number of medical conditions Durst has and said he believes the defendant should be immediately hospitalized.

“Is he presently at serious risk to his health and survival?” DeGuerin asked Dr. Keith Klein during a court session outside the jury’s presence.

“Absolutely,” the physician responded, adding later that Durst’s medical conditions are affecting his cognitive abilities.

Klein said he had concluded that Durst was too sick to continue in trial and that it was “inconceivable” that he could testify on his own behalf.

In his opening statement last year, DeGuerin had told jurors that they would hear testimony from his client. He reminded the panel again in June that they would hear from Durst after the trial resumed following a delay of more than a year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Durst is charged with murder for the shooting death of Berman, a 55-year-old writer with whom he had been close friends for years after the two met at UCLA.

The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation that she was killed because she was a witness to a crime.

The prosecutor told jurors when the trial resumed this year that the evidence would show that Durst shot and killed Berman “out of survival” because he feared she would tell authorities about his involvement in the disappearance of his first wife, Kathie.

During his updated opening statement, Lewin called the cases of Kathie Durst and Susan Berman “interrelated,” and told jurors they would hear evidence that Durst killed his wife and used Berman to help cover up his part in the crime, and that he subsequently had to kill his neighbor, Morris Black, in Galveston, Texas, in 2001, because the man figured out who Durst was and was putting pressure on him.

Durst was acquitted of murder in Texas after testifying that he killed Black in self-defense in September 2001. Los Angeles County prosecutors allege that Durst was in Galveston, Texas, while posing as a mute woman after authorities began a new investigation into what had happened to Kathie Durst.

“Susan Berman never saw what happened. She never knew it was going to happen. She turned around because she trusted him because he was her close friend. He was not someone to fear … She took a few steps and he basically blew her brains out,” Lewin told jurors.

Durst’s lead attorney countered that his client had “no motive” to kill his longtime friend and had “nothing to gain” from her slaying.

“Bob Durst did not kill Susan Berman and he does not know who did,” DeGuerin told the panel twice, reiterating his opening statement to jurors in March 2020 shortly before the trial was stalled for more than a year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Durst’s attorney said the disappearance of Kathie Durst and Berman’s killing were “completely dissimilar” to Black’s shooting death.

“Whoever killed Susan Berman left no clues. Kathie Durst disappeared without a trace. After Morris Black’s death, the police found hundreds of clues,” the defense attorney told the jury.

DeGuerin said Durst went to Berman’s home in December 2000, found his close friend dead and “freaked out,” then sent a note to Beverly Hills police about her body.

DeGuerin also told jurors that his client — whom he said suffered from what has been known as Asperger’s syndrome — has “been considered a little bit weird” and run away all of his life and “doesn’t make what we would consider good decisions.”

The defense attorney also disputed the prosecution’s contention that Berman made a phone call posing as Kathie Durst and called Berman a “storyteller” who had a “great imagination” and “made things up.”

DeGuerin told the panel that a six-part HBO series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” in which the defendant was recorded saying “There it is, you’re caught” and “killed them all, of course,” was “heavily edited” and “not a documentary.”

The defense attorney said Durst “wanted his story out,” but chose the wrong people to tell that story and realized by the time the fifth episode aired that it was a “hatchet job.”

Durst has been behind bars since March 14, 2015, when he was taken into custody in a New Orleans hotel room hours before the airing of the final episode of the HBO series, which examined Kathie’s disappearance and the killings of Berman and Black.

Durst has been long estranged from his real estate-rich family, which is known for ownership of a series of New York City skyscrapers — including an investment in the World Trade Center.

Durst split with the family when his younger brother was placed in charge of the family business, leading to a drawn-out legal battle, and ultimately reached a settlement under which the family reportedly paid him $60 million to $65 million.

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