Diary of a Mad County

Wednesday, June 21
It comes to light that somehow the city of Irvine, seeking to enter into one of those cutesy sister-city agreements with Shanghai, China, had instead agreed that no Irvine official would ever visit Taiwan in an official capacity and that the Taiwanese flag would never be displayed in Irvine or the Taiwanese national anthem played at any official event and Irvine would break off relations with its sister city Taoyuan located in—wait for it—Taiwan.
Officials may have also agreed to get tattoos of Mao on their butts and allow Chinese officials to refer to the city as Nancyland. How did this happen? Mayor Beth Krom says she has no idea. That on May 30, she signed a simple one-page document formalizing the cities' relationship of engaging in a series of cultural exchanges that will eventually lead to world domination and the return of Taiwan to the motherland. Usual stuff. Apparently the glitch occurred when city staffer Valerie Larennewas taken into a separate room—this really happened—and made to sign a separate agreement which contained all the Taiwan-free stuff. Now, Irvine officials will attempt to clean up the mess. First on the agenda is the public denouncing of Krom, who will be forced to wear a wooden sign (white field, red lettering) detailing her crimes against the people. The city is then expected to embark on a five-year plan of agrarian reform. After that, Tibet.

Thursday, June 22
The NHL franchise in Anaheim unveils its new uniforms. The team used to be known as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim until, fortunately, new owners Henry and Susan Samueli decided to de-lamify (hockey term) the team and change it. Unfortunately, with all the possibilities to choose from—the Little Misters, the Postmodern Ennui of Anaheim ("Go Fightin' Angst!")—they decided simply to jettison "Mighty" and left Anaheim with a hockey team named Ducks when no one has seen a duck around Anaheim since Walt Disney had them all killed. Slowly. Anyway, with a "new" name comes new uniforms, and the team unveils them today and they . . . are . . . black. Really black. Not that there's anything wrong with that. And, to be fair, there is a little gold thrown in there and, if you look real close around the letters that spell out Ducks, some orange. The new threads look suspiciously similar to those of their crosstown rivals the Kings, who changed their unis to black and silver years ago to emulate the Raiders, which is a football team but, coincidentally, has won as many Stanley Cups as the Kings.

Friday, June 23
Gaining confidence, awaiting disaster.

Saturday, June 24
Things have been going very well at the Weekly lately. Gustavo Arellano has been featured on more TV shows than Wolf Blitzer and, recently, he and Rebecca Schoenkopf won first place awards for column writing from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies which are sorta like the Oscars in our business, you know, if the Oscars were given out at a Red Roof Inn in Little Rock. I mention this because I'm driving with my son today and we get to talking about Gustavo's recent appearance on The Colbert Report and my son, my flesh and blood, says this to me:

"Dad, it seems like a lot of your friends are getting really famous."


"Like Gustavo being on The Colbert Report and he's already been on Today and all those other shows. And Uncle Markie [San Francisco Chronicle reporter Mark Fainaru, who is the co-author of the bestselling Game of Shadowsdetailing Barry Bonds' steroid useand who also happens to be my son's godfather], he's been on David Letterman and Today and all those other shows. I mean, they're really famous. They're on TV all the time and you're never on TV."

"Well, I've been on TV. "

"Yeah, PBS. But that's not really TV."


At this point, my cell phone rings, and I'm gratefully delivered from the conversation until I hang up, at which time my son asks:

"So what were we talking about?"

"How I'm a complete and utter failure."

"Oh, yeah. Your friends are doing great . . . "

Sunday, June 24
Met a Jesuit today. You should really try it, meeting a Jesuit.

Monday, June 25
Six Flags Inc., the company that brought you that dancing penis guy—no, not Kevin Federline, the other one—announces it may sell its Magic Mountain property in Valencia to a real estate developer. The park, which at one time fancied itself a thrill-packed alternative to Disneyland, has experienced dwindling attendance for some time with some people surmising that the drop had something to do with patrons dying on rides and others attributing it to the park's adoption by gangbangers. Me, I think it has something to do with Magic Mountain being located six exits past nowhere. But a report released today by Price Waterhouse—the people who conspired to give Marisa Tomei an Oscar—suggests that roller coaster-heavy parks such as Magic Mountain are not what families, who make up the bulk of clientele, really want. No, what families really want are parks that prohibit smoking and feature fewer vomit-inducing rides. And they don't like Belgians. The report may not only spell doom for Magic Mountain, but it's also less than good news for Knott's Berry Farm, which, when I was growing up, was exactly the kind of gentle, family-friendly place you went to have chicken dinner and learn about blood-thirsty Indians (another alternative Ducks name totally ignored), but has since morphed into one big psycho-sexual party, especially after being taken over by Midwest amusement park behemoth Cedar Fair, which emphasizes coasters—its flagship Cedar Point park in Sandusky, Ohio, features 16 roller coasters including the recently opened Top Thrill Dragster, which climbs 420 feet, reaches speeds of 120 mph, then plunges riders 400 feet while the track rotates 270 degrees as riders are exposed to bird flu and forced to sign long-term car leases with less than favorable terms. Knott's has gone heavy in the coaster direction—it has seven coasters, five of which were built within the last 15 years—but today's study shows that it would have been wiser to follow the Disneyland model of family-friendly, mild rides that maintain the thrilling possibility of sudden, violent death. With that formula, according to the report, Disneyland drew 14.6 million visitors last year, half of them attending on the Saturday I took relatives from Colorado to the park.

Tuesday, June 26
Driving to Las Vegas. Very hot right now. No, really. Like 112.


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