Menu:

 
Picture
Vladimir Nabokov was so much smarter than you are. He was so much smarter than you are, he didn't just school you in literature; he also put you to shame in lepidoptery. 

That's right. He managed to write Lolita and to establish himself as an authority on butterflies. Obviously, being really good at two things is greedy and unnecessary, and I'd be consumed by distaste and embarrassed on his behalf if I weren't still quivering with an intense (and, obviously, unconsummated) passion for Pale Fire

"...in a speculative moment in 1945," writes Carl Zimmer in The New York Times, "[Nabokov] came up with a sweeping hypothesis for the evolution of the butterflies he studied, a group known as the Polyommatus blues. He envisioned them coming to the New World from Asia over millions of years in a series of waves."

"Few professional lepidopterists," Zimmer continues, "took these ideas seriously during Nabokov’s lifetime. But in the years since his death in 1977, his scientific reputation has grown. And over the past 10 years, a team of scientists has been applying gene-sequencing technology to his hypothesis about how Polyommatus blues evolved. On Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, they reported that Nabokov was absolutely right."

He has now impressive literary and scientific reputations. Most people will never have either, and are forced to be content with being able to a) occasionally finish a crossword puzzle in one of those newspapers you get free on the subway and b) remember five of the 118 (had to look that up) elements in the periodic table.

However, it's worthwhile noting that Nabokov's theory about the Polyommatus blues was only tested because a Harvard biology professor (Dr. Pierce - let's give her her due) began reviewing his work while preparing an exhibit in honour of his 100th birthday. So even if you do, say, manage to be an inspired lepidopterist, it's entirely possible your claims will never be validated during your lifetime and that you'll never be famous enough in any other discipline for Harvard professors to reevaluate those claims after you're dead.


Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough. Also, I'm not very good at copy-editing, so if something looks wrong, it was put there by accident.


 
 
Picture
Sarah Palin is a more than a talking hairstyle: she is an unendurably stupid talking hairstyle.  However, she and the others on the right who do things like give free guns to babies and deny sweet-tempered grandmothers health insurance should not distract us from the fact that there are also crazy-talking coiffures on the left. I might slightly prefer the cuts of their crazy jibs (a stylish coiffure would never be caught dead without a jib), but that doesn't mean the jibs aren't still crazy.

Last week, Sarah Palin was burbling on about blood libel. This week, Rep. Steve Cohen a Democrat from Tennessee, said the following nutty thing on the House floor about health-care reform: "They [Republicans] say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels." He followed that gem up with:
"The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust." 

I would like nothing better than to be self-righteous. I feel I could be that exceedingly well, and with conviction. But it's very difficult to work up a real lather of complacent self-congratulation and sorrowful reproachfulness when it's not just the people whose politics you dislike who are rushing about comparing their opponents to Nazis. The Republicans have a simultaneously terrifyingly effective and rudimentary propaganda machine ("This health-care plan will kill old people and take your guns away. Are you in favour of killing old people and having your guns taken away?"), but it doesn't seem necessary to call it Goebbelsian. Or to suggest that if people believe what the Republicans are saying about health-care reform, we're in for some kind of Holocaust. 

Are there really people out there who hear such analogies and think: "My God! The Republicans/Democrats are exactly like the Nazis! And the suffering of the Democrats/Republicans is indeed comparable to that of the Jews! In the next election, I'll be voting for Sarah Palin/Alec Baldwin"? And if there are, could they make a point of belonging only to one  political party so that I could choose to support the other one and dedicate more time to feeling monstrously smug?


Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough. Also, I'm not very good at copy-editing, so if something looks wrong, it was put there by accident.

 
 
Picture
Toxic and inflammatory right-wing rhetoric may not be directly responsible for mass murder, but that doesn't mean it's not toxic and inflammatory. Or resilient and resourceful. Today, Sarah Palin added to the already impressively offensive conservative lexicon with her use of the phrase "blood libel." 

"Blood libel", writes The New York Times, is "generally used to mean the false accusation that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood in religious rituals, in particular the baking of matzos for passover. That false claim was circulated for centuries to incite anti-Semitism and justify violent pogroms against Jews." Sarah Palin, courageously aligning herself with the Jews, referred to the claims that she is in some manner responsible for the carnage in Tuscon as "blood libel" in a message posted today on her Facebook page.

This is a very exciting idiomatic development, because for too long parties on both side have been relying on the generous and seemingly random use of "Hitler" as a political slur. George W. Bush was Hitler. Obama is Hitler. Now Palin is expanding and improving upon the WWII analogy by throwing the suffering of the Jews into the mix.

It was certainly unpleasant and distasteful when pundits on both sides (there are only two sides) responded to the tragedy by excitedly finger-pointing, but responding to some of the more hysterical accusations of some left-wing commentators by claiming kinship with the Jews is also unpleasant and distasteful (it would be even if Representative Gabrielle Giffords didn't happen to be Jewish). 

But my primary objection to her use of the phrase involves her choice of forum. Facebook? Isn't it possible there's a more symbolic, more creative, more "no matter how reasonable David Brooks and other moderate Republicans might be, don't forget about all those loons" way to get one's point across?

Enter the Palmetto State Armory, which is, according to (inevitably) The Huffington Post, releasing a limited edition line of AR-15 assault rifles with the words "you lie" engraved on the lower receivers. "You lie" was what Rep. Joe Wilson (R - S.C.) yelled during an Obama health-care reform speech (when the President claimed the new legislation wouldn't provide illegal immigrants with medical care).

If this weapons manufacturer can honour Joe Wilson, could another weapons manufacturer not seize this exciting opportunity to honour Sarah Palin? I think "Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible" would look just dandy on an assault rifle.


Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough. Also, I'm not very good at copy-editing, so if something looks wrong, it was put there by accident.

 
 
Picture
Should the mysterious deaths of thousands of birds in Arkansas and Louisiana be seen as harbingers of doom? Do they speak of the End Times? The American South certainly saw an avian apocalypse, but are Those People on the Internet right in thinking that it was therefore God's go-to place for the first sign of the End of Days (I'm quickly running out of words and phrases that mean the world is going to end)?

While I am perennially convinced the world will probably end, I tend to think it will be because people are stupid and have access to stupidly destructive weapons. I am, after all, an earnest child of the 1970s. However, there is one thing that suggests that what happened to the 5,000 blackbirds and starlings that fell from the sky in less than an hour in a smallish area in Arkansas and the 500 blackbirds, starlings, and grackles that were found dead in Louisiana may well be an indication that Armageddon (last synonym) is on its way: who among us does not think that if God does, in fact exist, and does, in fact, want to kill us all, he'll announce his attentions in Arkansas and Louisiana? Can there be better places for signs of the apocalypse? Can you imagine how ludicrous God would be if He (I'd go with "or She", but I'm not that much an earnest child of the 1970s) decided to announce the end of the world in Denver, or Brampton, or Detroit? Actually, it's possible He is in the process of announcing the end of the world in Detroit. Have you seen Detroit lately? 5,000 dead birds might actually improve its appearance.

Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough. Also, I'm not very good at copy-editing, so if something looks wrong, it was put there by accident.