Excerpts: Part 1

May 2, 1997 If I had a skywriting plane, I would have been flying over the El Toro Air Show this past weekend, trailing puffy, cloud-like letters spelling out "Good fucking riddance."

Since I'm old and American, not that many things can make me ashamed anymore, but the air show sure does. This was the last of the annual shows, only because the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station is closing, but its like goes on elsewhere in the country. And they remind me of those parades the Soviets used to have in Red Square, in which they'd flaunt their tanks and cannon and, in so doing, their insecurities. What an ugly, uptight, straitjacketed, fear-ruled nation they were. And when they fell, all that armor only made sure they thumped that much louder.

The Soviets were beset on all sides by enemies. What's our excuse? We can't bare our fangs at enemies anymore, since we have none of consequence if you overlook that dastardly Arab attack in Oklahoma City.

Oh, sorry. I forgot for a moment that the accused there is an ex-U.S. Army boy, which shouldn't suggest to us that nearly six decades of unbridled militarism has made us a violent, paranoiac nation.

Look, I am genuinely grateful to the people who have put their lives on the line to defend the nation (during the rare times it has been at stake), but one reason I'm grateful is because it is such a horrific gig. And it's an innately un-American gig, one in which your freedom, your moral choice, your very humanity are ceded to "superiors" who sanction for you when and where murder isn't murder. That the military is a necessary evil does not exempt it from being evil. It is a thing whose necessity we should regret, not celebrate.

Jim Washburn, Lost in OC

May 2, 1997 James Edwards Sr.—the Newport Beach multimillionaire who put the "mega" in movie megaplexes—died on April 26 at age 90. Despite what you've heard, the founder of the nation's 15th-largest theater chain was not interred in a popcorn tub with extra-hot butter and remembered at services on April 30 at 11 a.m., 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 p.m. However, to memorialize his passing, all Edwards Theaters will go dark at the beginning of each screening from now on.

Matt Coker, A Clockwork Orange

May 9, 1997 Like sex, you never forget your first GWAR show. My first time was at the Hollywood Palladium five years ago. While the torrents of blood streaming from the stage made a big impression on me, the subtle parts of the show made it really memorable. The cartoonish Gothic costumes that created a band of monsters. The slave boys with elephantine schlongs masturbating with chains and ejaculating streams of Silly String into the audience. The human meat grinder that made hamburger out of some lucky woman from the audience. The addled T-Rex—Gor Gor—being born, eating most of the dozen or so grotesque characters running around the stage, and finally being maimed and destroyed by lead singer Oderus Urungus and his mighty sword.

And then there was the blood. Showers of blood. Gallons of blood. Streams of blood. Tsunamis of blood. All ultimately making its way into the audience. Walking out onto Sunset Boulevard, I looked like the living remains of Leatherface's prom date. GWAR was profane, loud, crude, evil, childish, perverted. It was one of the greatest nights of my life.

Tom Vasich, "Kings of Gore: Blood becomes GWAR."

May 16, 1997 The effort to shut up normally powerful local politicians—there are 12 of them on the board of directors—has a déjà vu quality; it has only been a little more than two years since officials tried to keep a lid on the tumbling fortunes of the county's investment pool. But the cover-up has also created a climate of fear and mistrust on the board. When I asked one director if the agency was trying to mask impending financial ruin at the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), I was met with silence, and then: "Does anyone know that you are calling me?"

"No," I said. "Why?"

"Because they have threatened us—forcefully—to keep our mouths shut. They don't want the public to know the truth, that the toll road is a financial disaster. They are desperate for people to believe everything is rosy," the board member said. "And they have promised to get any member of the board who talks."

"Who is behind this?" I asked.

"Basically, it's members of the TCA's senior staff. They act as if the agency belongs to them personally and is not accountable to the public," said the board member. "A few weeks ago, members of the board were approached privately. The staff was hoping that no one on the outside would find out about this. But there is a document. Under the guise that it was simply routine, the staff told us to sign a three-page nondisclosure form guaranteeing that none of us would tell what is happening at the toll road. Last week, the staff called a private, closed-door meeting and lied—claiming the session was to discuss litigation. But it was really to find out who leaked that there is a nondisclosure form circulating. It's just unbelievably arrogant that the bureaucrats think they can get away with this, but it shows the crooked mentality running the TCA."

R. Scott Moxley, "Road to Ruin"
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