Another year is slowly—dare I say tediously?—drawing to a close, and the air here in the Combat! blog offices has taken on a philosophical tang. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of the Christmas season. Maybe it’s the end of an undeniably weird decade. Maybe it’s that we’re 32 years old and spend almost every night alone reading the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius in our house in the mountains. Probably it’s something you did. The point is, time moves forward with the inexorable confidence of like a time train or something, and we mortals can only note its passage. Change wins the day with the coming of every night, and the only certain thing in our lives is that each of us will eventually die. In the meantime, we have trend pieces. Won’t you join me in the news of the day? Who knows—it could be your last. Merry Christmas, everybody!
Even after life on Earth stops entirely, we’ll still have the New York Times to make it up for us. This week’s news in news that you can’t prove isn’t happening is that young people dress nicer than old people now because of Mad Men. “Today the well-off 55-year-old is likely to be the worst-dressed man in the room, wearing a saggy T-shirt and jeans,” David Colman writes. “The cash-poor 25-year-old is in a natty sport coat and skinny tie bought at Topman for a song.” According to Colman, the younger generation is obsessed with sharp, classic suits and minute details of grooming and accessorization, in part as a rebellion against the Baby Boomer’s obsession with remaining casual in all things. That could be why your dad has worn his Breckenridge t-shirt tucked into his jeans to every social event since you graduated college, whereas you have ranked your sport jackets using a letter system, but it could also be that he’s 60 years old and married with adult children, while you could still easily die alone as a result of wearing the wrong shoes. That’s just conjecture, of course—your parents probably aren’t married and never were—but Old People Are Kind of Slovenly is not a headline likely to be preceded by shouts of “extra!” from the corner newsboys.
We still have corner newsboys, right? The good people at McSweeney’s wish we did, and they’ve published a 300-page, full color newspaper that retails for $16 in an attempt to bring ’em back. The San Francisco Panorama is a biannual, produced by Dave Eggers and an independent staff of doubtlessly well-dressed 28 year-olds, whose inaugural issue includes an entire section devoted to Stephen King’s assessment of the World Series, a short story by George Saunders, and an article about NASCAR by Andrew Sean Greer. In other words, it is to newspapers as an Aquaman comic book is to the Pacific Ocean, or as Eggers himself probably is to his own parents—completely unsuited to the original function, but somehow awesome. The Panaroma appears to be a newspaper in name only, but—all nostalgia aside—do we really want to go back to newspapers for breaking news at this point? CNN.com has it all over the Des Moines Register when it comes to actually telling me about the events of the world in a timely fashion. I miss the newspaper because you can spread it out on your girlfriend’s living room floor on Sunday afternoon, or in my case wrap yourself in it while you imagine what it would be like if such a person existed.
Of course, we all know that the true purpose of the written word isn’t to amuse us on the weekends or inform us of current events; it’s to educate small children about death. That’s why children’s author Laine Garrick has written Losing Papou, a book that you can read to your children aloud in order to prepare them for the inevitable death of their grandparents and, presumably, you. I’m sure there are many books of this nature on the market, but Losing Papou seems to be the only one that advertises on Google Adsense (which is how I found it) and boasts a website so simultaneously maudlin and humorous. Am I the only one who giggles at the very concept of a children’s book about death? Not as long as Ben Fowlkes is alive. I now know what I will get his children for their birthdays, should he ever acknowledge them.
All this death must have a counterweight, as Conor Oberst said before he completely lost his mind, and if God called your grandpa up to heaven it was only because the gradual disintegration of his body that followed the shutdown of his reproductive system rendered him unfit to compete for food. It’s a raw deal for Papou, but it’s great news for life on Earth as a whole, as this article from Wired about a new species of finch in the Galapagos reminds us. Props to Smick for the link. Peter and Rosemary Grant, a husband-and-wife team of ornithologists (sexy,) have been watching geospiza fortis gradually diverge into two species since 1981. Presumably, their field study of birds in the south Atlantic involves a lot less pot-smoking and handjob-giving than it did thirty years ago, but it’s still the first scientifically documented instance of evolution as it happens. That’s one for Darwin, you guys. Scientists have yet to witness God creating new animals from out of nowhere and asking us to name them, although there have been reports of this happening.