Excerpts: Part 1

It's a common occurrence, hearing my homeland dismissed. But it was especially hard taking the put-down from a man dressed in a hula skirt and coconut-shell bra.

Nathan Callahan, "Is There a Here Here? The mundane, the sublime and the supernatural: a 24-hour search for Orange County's sense of place"

June 21, 1996 Whether you like what rap has to say about America, white people, women, whatever, the stuff has one quality that deserves to be vigorously defended—its honesty. Angry rappers mean exactly what they're saying, and it's the duty of nervous white people like me to listen closely. Like those silent glares, rap music has an important message to offer the white man. But unlike coming face to face with two people who want to kick the shit out of you, listening to rap music is fun—even educational.

Nick Schou, "In Dogg We Trust: Listen up, nervous white people"

June 28, 1996 For the past several weeks, whenever people have talked to me about the Weekly, all they want to know about is the ad for the Way of Ki. It does rather leap off the page, what with its photo of an Asian guy dangling a stack of weights bigger than your wedding cake between his legs with the caption: "The Ki Master's penile strength lifts 350 pounds."

When the ad first ran, it claimed the Ki Master was lifting 400 pounds. Concerned about the 50-pound loss, I asked his ad rep, "Is this guy having trouble? Is the next ad going to read, 'The Ki Master looks for his penis in the ice plants?'" No, they had simply started using a different photo, and while the Ki Master can lift well over 400 pounds with his penile muscle, in the new photo he was lifting merely 350, and they wanted truth in advertising. I admire this in business.

Perhaps left now you're wondering, "Why would I especially wish to develop this skill?"

I can think of several reasons—like, say, you wanted to move a water heater and leave your hands free to answer the phone:

Ring!

"Hello?"

"Hello, this is the Republican Party, hoping you would contribute to help elect Bob Dole in this important election year."

"I'm sorry, I'm moving a water heater with my penis left now."

Jim Washburn, Lost in OC

July 12, 1996 At first glance, my life appears to be a blatant contradiction. Weeks after the convention, I was in Sacramento writing speeches about moral responsibility and family values, but I was also drinking gin and making it with two female lobbyists at the same time on top of Assembly Speaker [Curt] Pringle's desk at 2 a.m. I was representing the party of Lincoln on television by day and living a bohemian fantasy that Kerouac would have envied by night.

Tom Lowe, "I Was a Gigolo for the GOP"

July 26, 1996 I spent the first nine days of the Orange County Fair watching the carnies who work the midway games. I talked to them, spent money at their joints, hung out in bars and motel rooms with them, and shot pool with them (more precisely, I got my butt whipped by them). I saw the satellite-dished luxury mobile homes where the big bosses live and the cramped, electricity-free storage bins where some of the carnies sleep next to boxes or stuffed red dogs and Tweety Birds. I listened to their "crack"—the way they get a mark's attention. I heard their stories: finely crafted, immaculately told, dialogue-rich stories I'm sure are equal parts experience and horseshit.

Joel Beers, "Carnies"

Aug. 2, 1996 I've always cared a little too much about television. When I was 11 years old, I almost died for The Dukes of Hazzard. On the playground at school, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my stomach. I tried to ignore it, but as the pain grew worse that evening, I realized that something was seriously wrong and I would have to go to the hospital. There was just one problem: The Dukes of Hazzard was on at 9 p.m. To an obsessed fan (did I mention I was 11?), the prospect of missing out on the adventures of Bo and Luke and the General Lee was simply too much to bear, so I decided to go to the hospital after the show ended. By 9:45, I felt like I was going to pass out, but I still refused to abandon the Dukes. I reached the hospital at about 10:15 and was rushed into surgery with acute appendicitis. I missed dying for the Duke boys by a matter of minutes, which would have been, bar none, the most ridiculous death in human history. The irony is the show was a rerun. I knew it by heart.

Greg Stacy, "I'm Trapped But Don't Rescue Me: Greg Stacy searches for television's deeper meaning"

Aug. 23, 1996 Telling the truth drew me to the [Sex] Pistols in the late 1970s. And in the early 1980s, the absence of truth drove me away from the punk scene altogether. In Los Angeles, the music of truth telling metamorphosed into the music of hate and apocalyptic cheerleading. Out of the Sex Pistols' condemnation of bourgeois "holidays in other people's misery," there came music celebrating the misery, encouraging listeners to create more of it. Hanging out on the furthest fringes of the LA punk scene, I couldn't ignore the fact that kids like me had taken truth and transformed it into the ugliest untruth, creating what Marcus called "not just the roughest, but the most cruel" punk scene to emerge since 1977. Trapped between that kind of cruelty and the cruel—but well-masked—calculus of mainstream rock, I abandoned contemporary music altogether and spent most of the 1980s listening again and again to a chosen few—Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, the Clash and, of course, the Pistols. Like some old wanker permanently tuned to a golden-oldies station, I listened and remembered what it had been like to live, however briefly, in that moment of freedom created by the Pistols after the summer of 1979. But I never forgot the lesson I learned then—that I could change the world, that "I was king," as Joe Strummer put it.

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