Friday, June 02, 2006

How to Eat Fried Worms

That was the title of a popular children's book when I was growing up in the 1980s. It was up there with the Beverly Clearly "Ramona" books and "Encyclopedia Brown" as a staple of elementary school libraries everywhere. I read it as a child, but I don't think it influenced my decision to actually eat a worm as a teen-ager. I also ate (and drank) sundry other things that wouldn't be on the menu at any restaurant. The explanation for why I did those things is fairly simple. If someone offered you ten bucks to eat a french fry, would you do it? To me, a worm wasn't quite as tasty as a french fry, but I've always had the ability to put mind over matter. It was purely an economical decision. However, I failed to consider the sociological dimension of my actions, particularly the long term effect it would have on others.

I've recently been reminded on a couple different occasions of my former habit of eating non-food items, though I haven't engaged in the activity in about ten years. (I think the last time was eight years ago when I ate a spider just to freak out an eight-year-old. I'm more mature than that now). Last week a commentator on my brother's blog, who I never knew personally, remarked that seeing me comment took the luster off a legend. He had previously known me only as a "mythological creature who ate stuff." This week I'm doing freelance radio broadcasts announcing games for my old high school. Both the head coach and the assistant coach were around when I was a student statistician ten plus years ago, and both brought up my former habit.

Now, I could be remembered for many things. I'm probably the only kid in my graduating class who could name the presidents of the U.S.A. in order (not talking about Christopher Ballows or whatever that bald guy's name is). Why am I remembered as the kid who ate stuff as opposed to the kid who knows the presidents?

You could argue that the former is more sensationalistic, but I don't think that totally works as an explanation. Urinating on the Alamo is also pretty sensationalistic. I never did that, but Ozzy Osbourne did. Ozzy did a lot of crazy stuff, and he also recorded some pretty decent songs, but he will always be known to a certain generation of people as the guy who bit the head off of the bat.

I think our culture, at least since Upton Sinclair wrote the "Jungle" has been subconsciously afraid of what is in our food. Very few of us prepare our own food from scratch, so we rely a lot on faith. Evidence of paranoia regarding our food can be found in the large number of urban legends (check snopes.com) and in the intense media attention whenever a legitimate issue of food contamination is found. Heck, I think the children's book referenced above speaks to the issue.

I think most people subconsciously bury their fears, but when some brave soul confronts those fears head on, it shocks them to such a degree that they can't put it out of their mind. It may be, after all, that they've eaten worms without realizing it. To see someone actually eat a worm hits too close to home. My advice: settle down. I'm not sure how to eat fried worms, but they don't taste too bad raw.

EDIT: I've been thinking more about this issue, and have some further thoughts. One question I had previously failed to consider: why would people pay me in the first place to see me eat weird stuff? Most of the people who paid me were (ostensibly) my friends, and they likely wouldn't have taken a great thrill in paying me ten bucks to say, step on a rusty nail. No one would have derived any entertainment from that.

My new theory ties into my old, but with some modification. In making me the site of aberrance, in reifying me as one who consumes the aberrant, they are more easily able to circumscribe themself within a realm of supposed normality. Their subconscious thinking runs along the lines of "I don't eat worms. How do I know this? Because Azor eats worms and I am not like Azor." Reading from this perspective, the money they paid me is indicative of participation in an exchange economy. The money I acquired was insurance against any necessity on their part to consume what they fear.

Of course, I was consciously aware of the futility of this symbolic exchange, and was only too happy to subvert it to my own ends. Unfortunately, my ignorance of the symbolic intent blinded me to the lasting repurcussions of the exchange. I assumed the exchange would have roughly the same lasting value as the regular economic exchanges I entered into. I did not realize that the power of the symbolic exchange would long outlive the monetary acquistions I made, and in hindsight I think that is unfortunate.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i looked here, 5 minutes ago, looked back, new post. cool.

12:03 PM  
Blogger kevin said...

not only did ozzy pee on the alamo, but he did it in a dress. interestingly, people do usually know him as the one that bit the bat, but the first instance was during a meeting with executives to discuss his album. ozzy got hold of a dove during the meeting while heavily intoxicated and chomped down on it. the bat this was a complete accident while on tour. *ozzyhead.com is the source for full story and a picture of the dove incident*

2:56 PM  
Anonymous nWo 4 life! said...

when me think of ozzy i usually think of the premature death of the great randi rhodes. Or ozzy licking up Nikki Sixx's urine and snorting a line of ants.

Beaver Dump is still good at baseball?

4:01 PM  
Blogger Azor said...

Beaver Dam actually had their first losing season in decades this year, though they looked pretty good to me in the two games I broadcast. They beat a good Oconomowoc team and were within a strike of knocking off the defending state champs.

11:32 PM  
Anonymous nWo 4 life! said...

I've decided to retire from posting comments on blogs (sorry fans this also goes for the tim show). I've come to believe the blogosphere ain't worth the time. I'm better off sleeping, watching tv, eating nachos, etc.

So long everybody. You've been reading the nWo 4 life blog commenting network.

6:46 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

about time retards stopped posting

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i liked that heidi.
at least i won't have to deal with moron's extensive grammatical errors.

7:26 PM  
Anonymous kelly said...

does he have fans?

7:26 PM  
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