Diary of a Mad County

Wednesday, Feb. 2
Just a day into Black History Month, and Orange County is already abuzz with festivals celebrating the fact that 1.7 percent of Orange Countians are African-American, making them one of the fastest-growing minorities in the county behind "other" and whatever that dude is who lives over the Beckmans' garage, you know, the one who always smells like burned hair. Clearly, Orange County has made enormous strides in race relations, having become a destination for a wide variety of African-Americans ranging from professional baseball to professional basketball players. What's more, there hasn't been a cross burning in the county for nearly two years, when a 10-footer—known in the business as the Alabamer—was set ablaze in Anaheim Hills. The fact is Orange County has always had a special relationship with African-Americans. Why, back in the '70s, several of my African-American high school friends would tell me how they always knew once they drove into Orange County, there would be a helpful law-enforcement officer nearby to ask where they were going, how long they planned to be there, and if there was anything, anything, he could do to help speed them on their way?

Thursday, Feb. 3
The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) publishes a survey, Rip-off 101: Second Edition, that says most kids are paying way too much for textbooks—$900 per year on average, which, in the case of local Cal State students, seems an awful lot to be paying for required biology texts such as Pat the Bunny and Everyone Poops. CALPIRG mostly targets Thompson Learning, a widely used publisher responsible for pricing some of the most expensive books, such as those for calculus and chemistry. It says Thompson sometimes releases new editions every three years that are 12 percent more expensive, even when no new material is presented. What's more, CALPIRG says the textbook industry makes a profit off its high inflation rate, which surpasses the inflation rate for all finished goods by four times the amount. For instance, the sixth edition of a macroeconomics book increased in price by 21 percent from the fifth edition of 2002, when inflation for that year was only at 5 percent. Now, I have no idea what any of that means—Weekly contributor Rosheila Robles wrote most of this for me—but I do know this: everyone poops.

Friday, Feb. 4
I was supposed to have an article done yesterday, but I couldn't finish. This weighed on me so that I just spent a fitful night dreaming of vampires who looked like dead relatives who not only wanted to join the undead, but also wanted me to say hello to my mother for them. Then I dreamed I was a pall bearer for some dead guy who wasn't in a casket. Instead, his body was lying on a giant piece of aluminum foil turned up at the ends as he was in a pool of . . . I won't say scrambled eggs; it was more like a frittata with onions and peppers and, seemed to me, a bit too much salt. We lifted the foil and carried him over to his casket, and when we slipped him in, his eyes opened, and I realized it was Hubert Humphrey. This is all true. If you're looking for some deep meaning, well, you may have noticed the dreams all centered on the dead and near-dead and the story I'm struggling to finish is about shopping mausoleum Triangle Square in Costa Mesa.

Saturday, Feb. 5
The Orange County Registerruns a story that claims that in just over a year, 10 of the 27 SuperLotto winners have been from Orange County. The 10 winners won a total of $348 million, with the latest winning $16 million just last week. The piece is disgusting in its detail, pointing out that the odds of winning the SuperLotto are 41 million to 1—or the same odds of running into an African-American male who doesn't play for the Lakers in the county.

Sunday, Feb. 6
Orange County's other big daily newspaper—ironic cough—the Los Angeles Times runs a story about local politician Van Tran, who is the first person of Vietnamese descent to serve in the state Legislature. It's one of those longish, only-in-America pieces that concludes with a description of Tran's office and its many plaques, among them, "OC Weekly's Hottest 25 in 2004, with his name highlighted in red." Um, yeah, see, we never ran an OC Weekly's "Hottest 25 in 2004." We have run stories about Tran, but they've been less about being "hot" and more about being a "red-baiter." There was one in which he was included among a bunch of politicians under the headline "Pussies Galore," which, theoretically, could have been hot, but was not. The Hot! piece, as I'm sure you've already figured out, appeared in business-lifestyle mag OC Metro, which throws around "Hots!" like their subjects throw around multimillion-dollar donations to local universities to divert everyone's attention from the fact they've neglected their children. Geez, could the Times be any more outta touch? You get the feeling the OC address is pretty much just a P.O. box at this point so the kids can attend the local magnet school. I mean, if two publications were any more different, it would be the Metro, which tends to write stories about white guys selling stuff (Hot!), and the Weekly, which tends to do stories about sex with amputees (Hot?).

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