Diary of a Mad County

Wednesday, June 22
We find out today about the passing of the man who invented the computer transistor. His development changed the world, yet his passing goes largely unnoticed because he isn't currently dating Angelina Jolie, married to Jessica Simpsonor ever spent the night in Michael Jackson's bed. The passing of the guy, and the amount of attention it is given, is a measure of where our world is today. His invention, which won him the Nobel Prizebut, sadly, never earned him a People'sChoiceor Golden Globe, ranks him with the giants of science, technology and industry—Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, whoever invented Netflix—yet there is a key difference. Ford and Edison were famous in their time, very famous. People knew of them, what they had accomplished, what their thoughts were—an unfortunate thing in Herr Ford's case. The point is, Americans have always been enamored of celebrity, but there was a time when there was enough celebrity to go around for professions other than acting. Serious writers like Joyce, Fitzgeraldand Hemingwaywere celebrities in their day, when the term "famous novelist" didn't seem like such a punch line. There were famous conductors—Toscanini, Bernstein—and famous physicians—and no, Dr.Philand Dr.Lauradon't count, though one suspects the latter would have gotten along swimmingly with Commandant Ford. I mean, there was a time when Jonas Salkwas among the most famous people in the world and pulling in more tail than Einstein. But we have become so Hollywood-centric these days that the other day, my son, while watching a commercial for Mr.andMrs.Smith, asked me if Jolie wasn't the one that BradPitthad gotten pregnant. No, I said. "But they are dating, right?" "Well, that's the word, and apparently Jen is devastated. But close friends say others say they simply respect each other immensely. You know, Angelina is great with kids and won't let anything come between her and them. Fresca?" So let the death of, you know, Mr. Computer McPuterkinbe a lesson to all of you. This man devoted his life to a technology that made computers what they are today and, because of him, you are now more quickly and easily able to see and construct images of women having sex with chain gangs with celebrities' heads grafted onto their necks. We owe him a great debt. Godspeed, um, guy. The next time we get 14 e-mails advertising barnyardsexor read a rumor that the Mennoniteswere behind 9-11, we'll think of you.

Thursday, June 23
Newport Beachofficials unveil plans for the float that will represent the city in next year's Rose Parade. The float, which honors the city's 100th anniversary, is called "Sailing Through a Century" and features a sailboat with a drunken sailor flashing a dinghy full of Dennis Rodman's girlfriends. The sailboat will be adorned with dolphins, shells and a beautiful floral mosaic of Dick Nichols, in poppies and snapdragons, squirting sunblock at some Latino visitors.

Friday, June 24
Note to the fine folks at Southwest Airlines: I think I speak for everyone when I say your little jokeyreparteeis just precious but, you know, if the choice is between another witty one-liner like "I think we're going to make it" and quiet competence, I'll take the latter. Ding.

Saturday, June 25
Welcome to Reno, World's Littlest, Big, Browntown. The hills are brown, the buildings are brown, the water is brown. About the only thing that isn't brown are the bands they import to entertain the penny slot players; they're all gray. Lemme give you a little rundown of some of the acts I've seen ads for since I've been here: Queensryche. Need I go any further? I will anyway. Judas Priest, Rick Springfield, Quiet Riot, The Turtles. . . You know, when people talk about a breakdown in society, they rarely talk about the breakdown in the once-solid pact between rock stars and the listening fans. The deal was they got sex, drugsand fame—even if they sucked—and in return they agreed to diebefore they got old, preferably in some ghastly way that serves as a cautionary tale to our kids and makes us feel better about our own sad existence that, though boring, does not involve choking on one's own vomit. All in all, it's a hell of a deal. They get to do more living in 30 or so years than the rest of us will ever do, and we don't have to see them and be reminded how we once carved "Breaking the Law" into our used 240Z's dashboard.

Sunday, June 26
We get a clear answer to the question on all American lips, "Why do they hate us?" Because we're big fat assholes, and we're not speaking figuratively. Proof positive comes in today's LATimes, which comes with an "extender" from the good folks at Charmin, and, no, this is not the kind of extender you keep getting junk e-mails about. Those things are not only a complete ripoffbut way too complicated. No, this extender is a plastic toilet paper spindle large and long enough to fit Charmin's new Ultra MegaRolls, rolls of crap wrappers with "4 times the sheets per roll as a Regular Roll of Charmin," says the coupon that comes with the device. Who's producing such colossal piles of droppingsthey require four times the number of sheets as other people? Could it possibly be the people who hail from the land of BigGulpsand Triple Bacon Pastrami Peanut Brittle Frosting Cheeseburgers? The coupon includes a diagram showing an immense California grizzly—as big as a 10-year-old's poop—wrestling with the new, gargantuan MegaRoll, suggesting it weighs in at roughly three tons and stands nearly 6 feet tall. It also suggests you'd do well to hold your nose whenever in the vicinity.

Monday, June 27
Well, apparently there really are no free lunchesor freeimplementsto clean up the mess of a Double Gravy Smoothie. A report published today in Health Affairssays that private health insurance spending on obesity-relatedillnessesincreased tenfold from 1987 to 2002. The figure is a whopping $36.5 billion. ???Scientists, munching on porkrindsdipped in drawn butter, say they're baffled about the reason Americans are suffering from so many fat-related diseases but think they'll be able to think more clearly after they've had their afternoon allotment of chocolate-covered bacon.

Tuesday, June 28
Deatheverywhere, and I'm not talking about Southwest Airlines anymore. First, if you were wondering what happened to Carl'sJr.founder Carl Karcher, apparently he died. Was the world's most Catholic man done in by those Carl's commercials showing ParisHiltonrobbing the innocence of a neophyte sponge? No, it was the LA Times. In a story about Callawaygolf clubs, the Timessays Carl died in 1992, later correcting itself to say that it was Carl's brother, Donald, who was dead. Does the Times' bloodlustknow no end? Second, saw today where the Black Eyed Peas, well-known NBA and Best Buy spokesmen, are hitting the road with GwenStefanion the Harajuku Lovers Tours; Harajuku Lovers referring to the fashion line Stefani is launching. No word on when the tour will hit Reno, but it will, oh, trust me, it will.



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