I shouldn’t expect too much from the free weekly paper in a rich flat right-wing suburb fifty miles south of Los Angeles, but I’m very disappointed in the Orange County Weekly’s “Best of O.C.” issue. It’s an unreadable mess of office in-jokes, arch post-ironic snark, inaccuracies, logrolling, and delusions of grandeur. It is, in short, the Waiting for Guffman issue.
It begins with a bizarrely academic leader which is precious as hell but probably the best-written thing in the issue. It belongs in a painfully literary college humor magazine.
Almost all of the rest of the issue is devoted to an in-group of 25ish partyers. This leads to “My Favorite Things” spreads for a fundraiser party organizer who like Lhasa Apsos and those old 90s records, some random community college student with one of the new-fangled “blogs” who is therefore a social critic, an activist stereotype straight from the pages of The Onion, and a Chapman prof who is claimed to be a novelist but appears to be Adam Sandler playing one in a bad movie. Oh, and an apparently very nice guy who is a computer dude and DJ and stuff but is oddly described as a Renaissance man. Maybe he buys drinks for them a lot. He does seem pretty cool.
About a third of the items are in Long Beach, which is not in Orange County. However the 25ish partyers all live and hang out there and this issue is for and about them, not about their readers.
Clearly the ad salesmen did way too good a job. The issue is big and fat, and even with the high ad-to-editorial ratio they run, that was a lot of inches to fill. But they do have two or three good writers. Arellano and Moxley are of national quality, and Nick Schou is capable and talented. But instead of letting some people with skill work on this thing they just dumped in a load of garbage they could giggle to each other over. They compound the problem by adding on a few “I beg to differ!” items to the end of each “best of” item. This gives you the charming sensation of being next to their group as they pass in-jokes back and forth. I fail to understand why anyone would care which El Pollo Loco these people prefer, much less be present at a cute little fake argument about the choices available.
I suppose it doesn’t matter that my local weekly paper blows so hard. People read it for the listings and the ads, the same way they read the L.A. Weekly. The good writing goes as unnoticed as the bad by almost everyone, and this particular crowd of drunk scenesters is fooling themselves about their importance as much as I did 20 years ago at a free weekly paper, myself. But it could be good, and I wish it was. There are a lot of great things to write about here, enough to fill a Best Of issue with, some Worst Of, and with a lot more cultural and political substance and way more actual fun.
I sincerely wish these people saw their opportunity and took it.
As they say in their own post-everything bad-is-good ode to cosmetic surgery, truly it is another nail in the rational coffin.
P.S. No one thinks you’re badass for hanging out in Santa Ana at night except your mom. They’re all going to laugh at you! They’re all going to laugh at you!