The Year in Bits:July - December

RALPH CRAMMED IN All of the 950 seats inside Chapman University's Memorial Hall were filled for the Oct. 20 Green Party rally. About 100 more people listened from the lawn in front of the old white-columned building. But when a drab-suited, slightly hunchbacked egghead arrived, the scene evolved into a rock concert: Ralph Nader was in the building. During an impromptu press conference, the Green presidential nominee remained incredulous that he'd been banned from debates between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George Dubya Bush. "It is so demented—so cowardly," Nader said of his exclusion. "They didn't talk about the power of the few over the many. You never hear the words corporate power, corporate crime, corporate welfare and corporate regulation of our lives." When he ambled onto the stage moments later, it might've seemed like Eminem had arrived given the roar of the young audience. Nader proceeded to pound away at Gush and Bore, noting the only difference between the two "is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on the door." Imploring young people to vote, he said, "You see what happens when large numbers of people in this country don't turn on to politics; politics turns on them."

PAY TO PLAY Mall developers designed the Block at Orange to appeal to young people, but now that teens are swarming all over the place, adults are scared, reported the Oct. 27 Los Angeles Times. What are the teens doing that has everyone so alarmed? Hanging out. "It's terrible at night," the paper quoted a 34-year-old Riverside mother of two as saying. "It gets bad on weekends. They act like this is their territory. Maybe they're up to nothing, but I don't know." A crack Times investigative team even spotted this horrific scene: a group of kids "acting as if this was their back yard." The message was clear: young people paying hourly rates at Vans Skatepark, ringing up the registers at Mars Music, or making the cinema the highest-grossing theater complex in Southern California is fine. But once they stop spending money and start standing around, it's time to break out the mace.

WATERWORLD Movieland Wax Museum's Titanic exhibit nearly suffered from too much realism on Oct. 28 when a 20-foot-by-20-foot section of roof gave way, breaking a sprinkler pipe and causing water to fill up offices and the main lobby. "I guess you could say our water delivery for the new Titanic set came in a bit early," guffawed Rodney Fong, a spokesman for the Buena Park tourist trap. Fong credited quick action by the Buena Park Fire Department with keeping to a minimum damage to the waxy re-creation of the sappy scene in which Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio cling to the doomed ship's bow. Heavy early morning rains were identified as the cause of the cave-in, but we couldn't help noticing the suspicious smirks that couldn't be wiped off the faces of the Laurel and Hardy likenesses.

THE PRAYER WITCH PROJECT Sandi Ciz and a friend got more than they bargained for when they entered what they believed to be a typical haunted house in the parking lot of the Block at Orange on Halloween night. Called "Heaven-n-Hell," the joint featured live actors re-creating a murder, a suicide, slavery, torture, prostitution, a drunk-driving accident, a trip to hell for not worshiping God 24/7—in other words, a weekend at our place. But this creep-a-thon concluded with a tour guide telling everyone how evil the world is, blessing those who identified themselves as Christians, and handing out a brochure on the Bible. "This is something that was extremely misleading to the people paying $5 per person to enter what was thought to be innocent Halloween fun, only to be more of a brainwashing-type sermon," Ciz told us. "I myself believe that religion is important and that people have the right to believe in what they want, but it's a different story to entrap people in order to preach to them." Oh, it's worse than that, missy: when Bible-thumpers start horning in on perfectly fine pagan rituals, frogs and locusts falling from the sky can't be far off.

NOVEMBER

FRIED RICE, HOLD THE EGG ROLL University of California, Irvine researchers published a study in the Nov. 3 issue of Science that found the world's rice paddies emit ozone-depleting gases into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, China Daily reported six days earlier that male sexual problems such as sterility, erectile dysfunction and prostate hyperplasia are rising, due to serious environmental pollution. In other words, a guy can't go outside in China without risking bouts of skin cancer and impotence. Insensitive types might call this cost-effective population control, but all things considered, we'd rather be in San Clemente.

FAT CAT NATION! It wasn't easy to miss Dana Rohrabacher at the Republican Party's Nov. 7 election-night shindig at the Sutton Place Hotel in Newport Beach. His shiny gold tie accentuated the congressman's gray pants, gray windbreaker and white button-down shirt. When the beaming Rohrabacher wasn't posing for pictures with adoring GOP housewives, he shook hands with men who wore crests on their blue suits or with gangly, pimpled kids sporting YAF buttons. "We just saved America," Rohrabacher told the Weekly. "And the party's on!"

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