The Week In Review 7.15.12

The Week In Review is my attempt to turn the old into new. Alchemy, you might say. At the end of each week, I’ll summarize many of the things I wrote about, offering commentary when appropriate. Also when inappropriate. Please forgive me. This should only be slightly more boring than listening to A Prairie Home Companion.

This week began with a piece I had been thinking about for a while. It turned out like this: a story about the arbitrariness of certain taboos and the usefulness of others. The first germ was planted when the media started salivating over the recent batch of ‘zombie’ stories involving drugs and some seriously misplaced appetites. That got me thinking about cannibals. The piece really came together, however, when I stumbled on some unthinking blogger expressing her beatnik birthday wish that everyone just learn to live together, and to hell with the baggage of taboos—because, like, what were they good for anyways? I thought she didn’t do her homework. These two items got me thinking that there needed to good reasons for why taboos play such a powerful role in societies. So I try to answer the question: what do taboos do for us? I also try to add a little acid twist by questioning the idea that the social logic behind taboos is always rational. Sorry, I know this is horribly dry, but wait until you hear the anecdote about the guy who sampled his own penis right before he consented to be eaten by a German psychopath. I hope that evens out the scales.

Next came a light piece about using public transportation in L.A. I turned to my friend Zeke, whose name I’ve fictionalized for anonymity. Zeke and I used to live in a triplex in East L.A., above an insurance salesman and a tattoo artist. One summer, a young Armenian boy living next to me was killed when a white car tore down our street before dusk and collided with his body. His mother kept vigil across the street on a dusty patch of weeds near a telephone pole. For weeks after the accident, she took trips to the vigil just before nightfall, flanked on each side by sisters or cousins who walked slowly and dressed in black. They helped her mourn—only the mother was permitted to show grief—leading her back into the apartment after lighting some candles. The men scowled and smoked cigarettes underneath a pomegranate tree.

All this illustrates something important: be thankful for the things you do have, for the people who have shown you love and taught you optimism, for the time you have left. No one owes you anything. The world has a wicked sense of comic timing. I don’t necessarily mean that as a compliment, world.

Next came news of a different kind of disaster: apparently, no one reads books anymore, but when they do, they read trashy tripe like Reille Hunter’s latest memoir. Maybe you remember Reille Hunter. She was the lady that John Edwards, former presidential candidate and populist poster boy, had an affair with. Then a kid popped out. Then Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. Then the whole facade came tumbling down. Accusations and imprecations were slung back and forth like feces. It did not end pretty. If anything, though, this ditching-your-wife-on-her-deathbed incident goes to show that both Republicans and Democrats have mastered the technique equally efficiently. Here’s to solidarity, folks! I’m looking at you, Newt.

Finally, I had a little fun with a sports post, which I hadn’t done in a while. It’s about the former co-host of a sports show on ESPN called SportsNation. Her name is Michelle Beadle, and of her I am quite fond. The only problem is that she left SportsNation for bigger and badder pastures, and now ESPN has tried to replace her with a robot. Not exactly. They’ve dug themselves into such an unimaginative little hole that their only option is to try a really unimaginative gambit. So far, it doesn’t seem to be working. Take a read!

Thanks for sitting through my folksy Garrison Keillor shtick. I hope I’ve given my small-town listeners a little part of the big-world blues.

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