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I'm not in favour of piracy on the high seas, but I am delighted by anything that leads to consternation and the erosion of ideals. 

Remember that heroic sea captain? Richard Phillips? Of the Maersk Alambama Phillipses? Well, it turns out he might not really have been all that heroic. Or safe. It seems he may have ignored repeated warnings to steer clear of the waters in which he ended up being captured by pirates. Those warnings may, MAY,  have read something like: "Pirates up ahead. Sail elsewhere" or "Really. We weren't kidding about the pirates. They're just ahead and they're more blood-thirsty than swash-buckling."

And remember how he told the pirates to let his crewmen go and take him instead? That didn't happen either.  Even though the publisher of his book said that's what happened while publicizing said book. "I didn't give myself up," he said (or CNN claims he said). "I was already a hostage by then." He added, "I think you're forgetting they had guns." No. I think YOU'RE forgetting that one of the ONLY REASONS YOU WERE HAILED AS A HERO was that you were willing to deliver yourself into the hands of these pirates EVEN THOUGH they had guns. 

It's hard to say, though, what really did happen. Because life is forever and always uncertain and "facts" are in the eyes/mind of the beholder/thinker? No. Because there is a lawsuit involved. Some of the more serious allegations involving Phillips' disregard for the safety of his sailors he cannot publicly because his sailors are suing him. Or Maersk. Or the sea. I can't remember. They claim he's a megalomaniac who laughed at their reports of pirate sightings. (His response? "I'm not someone who laughs a lot. Ask my crew, do I laugh a lot and tell jokes? I think the majority will say no.") He claims that his loyal crewmen are lying because they want a payout. 

This is wonderful stuff. It makes the media look bad because they are more interested in making a story interesting than in making it accurate (did I just blow your mind?). It makes heroic sea captains look bad because they might actually be greedy, pirate-welcoming madmen. And it makes loyal crewmen look bad because they might really be dollar-craving liars. We might never know who the heroes are, or at least who the less craven and hateful sea-going people are. What this story does is make us question every story of heroism or self-sacrifice, every tale of brave pirate-fighting zeal. It makes us more cynical, skeptical, and buzz-killing. For bringing us this bedeviling bounty, I'd like to thank those Somali pirates. 
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.
 
 
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It's true. I miss the man. He was one of the greatest worry warts of all time. A "worry wart" in the Catastrophizer's lexicon is not one who worries, but one who reliably and repeatedly creates worry for others. He or she is a wart about which others must worry. You can trust him or her to consistently produce cataclysms about which catastrophizers can fruitfully obsess. Without much help at all, life will produce disasters, but a good worry wart can capitalize on the basic miserableness of life by making everything that much more malignant. "Worrisome" or "worrying" wart would probably have been more appropriate, but they would have been less catchy, and I'm always trying to appeal to the kids.

Dick Cheney was a larger-than-life-sized wart. He multiplied the catastrophizing opportunities available at any given time through his outlandish evilness. Conspiracy theories could not be easily dismissed while he was around, as any number of sinister plots seemed plausible. An army of bat-winged minions operating a secret prison camp in Dennis Kucinich's pants; an underground fortress in which kidnapped children repeatedly reenact the Civil War; zombie underlings who can be fed only by the tears of babies or of Dennis Kucinich. Who says those things didn't happen? Who believes Dick Cheney would not have been capable of such things? What wasn't possible when he was around? Catastrophizing was easy then.

Maybe it's good he's dropped out of sight. (by which I mean retired to Fox T.V. to make incendiary comments about the current administration - or is that Karl Rove?). It was too easy to catastrophize when he was in the White House. I'm not suggesting the world is any less corrupt or that politics are any less appalling now; I'm just saying there is no one figure (in the White House) who embodies all that is Darth Vader-before-the-helmet-came-off evil. Unless you look a little closer at that Malia...
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.
 
 
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Why we owe BP a big, fat Catastrophy:

1) Wet threats. It's so easy in this day and age to focus on the cataclysms that will reach us by way of the land. Earthquakes...landslides...Wolf Blitzer...Every now and again we need to be reminded that the large parts of this earth that are watery can also kill us. Who knows what will happen when the oil leak brings about aquatic genocide? Marine biologists? Maybe. I prefer to speculate without the benefit of knowledge. Perhaps the oil and the other exciting chemicals that have been poured into the water to stop the oil will result in marine devastation, or perhaps they will create the conditions necessary for a new kind of life to emerge. An angry kind of life. A kind of life fueled by hate and bent on revenge. 

2) Incompetent threats. It's so easy in this day and age to believe that multinationals are evil, because they seem to do so many things that are straight-up evil. But in our concentration on their obvious evilness, aren't we ignoring another, potentially even more worrisome thing about them? I'm referring, of course, to their incompetence. Yes, they are evil. But evil alone would not bring about such delicious, madcap "uh-ohs." Incompetence brings to the table the necessary unpredictability, the spirit of impertinent devilry, that makes evil seem almost mundane. Yes, BP wields a sickening amount of power. Yes, the people who run it appear to be hideous and bad. But how much more unnerving is it to realize that they also DON'T SEEM TO KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING? They are not evil geniuses who conspires to run the world according to their malign appetites; they are an evil "guy who sat next to you in social studies who was kind of a jerk" who conspires to run the world but isn't really all that bright. They are hugely powerful; they are probably evil; they are not very bright. That is one disasterrific trifecta. 

BP has given us more novel and exciting things to worry about, but I can't enumerate them here as I feel moved to catastrophize NOW. Thank you, British Petroleum, and Haliburton, and the other company I can't remember the name of, for making catastrophizing feel brand-new again. 


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.


 
 
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Joelle Steele writes an advice column about "art and creativity". And now, so do I. 


 I am a 44-year-old amateur artist. I would like to go to college next year and fulfill my dream of being a professional artist. I can afford a four-year college or an art school, and both are nearby, but I don't know how to evaluate which will give me the best career opportunities after I graduate.

Neither. That was the short answer. Here's the longer answer: neither will provide you with any career opportunities (unless you consider being regularly rejected by temp agencies a career opportunity).

The only real difference between these two institutions is that at a four-year college you'll have to deal with bratty 19-year-olds talking about Derrida, while at the art school you'll have to deal with bratty 19-year-olds talking about how they made their entire outfit out of doctoral theses as a comment on the commodification of culture. 

Very few phrases (I'm thinking "self-published novel" and "this is a song I wrote about my recent break-up") strike as much fear in the heart of a right-thinking individual as "amateur artist". I'm not saying that's fair, because I trust that you're already thinking that. It's possible you are truly talented. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean you'll have any success in life. It's far more likely, though, that you are untalented, and while that doesn't mean you will necessarily fail professionally, it certainly doesn't work in your favour.  

Why not instead spend the money you've saved on footwear or various kinds of sandwiches? Better still, why not give me the money you're willing to spend on art school?  I don't have artistic ambitions, but I wouldn't mind going back to school to learn something practical. Then those temp agencies would be forced to take me seriously. 



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.

 
 
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Mrs. Web: the purveyor of web advice so nice, I've visited her twice.


I have known a guy for years. We have been friends for a long time. He recently asked me out four times in a row. He always used to say he would never date the same girl twice unless she was "the one." I don’t think anyone has ever felt the way I feel about him!! Do you think he thinks I am "the one?"


1) He HAS to think you're the one!! After all, you know that feelings don't change and if he once said he'd only date a woman more than twice if she were the one, then that is sure to still be true. Just like you must just be friends because you've always just been friends. That doesn't sound right. Either he thinks you're the one because what one has said before remains true or he sees you only as a friend because you've always only been friends. Voila!

2) He HAS to think you're the one!! You can be assured of this because people's catchy, throwaway phrases and philosophies are always carefully considered. If instead of saying any girl he saw more than once would have to be the one, he'd said, "Oh, I'd like to KILL that Sally Field," you should have called the police. He was clearly intent on murder. And might still be.

3) No one HAS ever felt the way you feel about him!! Strong and passionate feelings are rare. Wanting someone you've known for years to love you is almost unheard of. 

4) The two of you are sure to be happy together forever. As people continue to mean what they've once said and no one has ever felt for anyone the way you feel for him, I can see nothing but good romantic fortune in your future. Especially because presumably he's never had more than one date with any other woman, so his heart hasn't been damaged by experience. 
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.
 
 
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Apparently lofty morals, poor web design and Victorian-ish clip art are all you need to become the Mrs. of the Web.
Dear Mrs. Web,

My best friend wants to be a singer and she is really good.  I 'm afraid that when we grow up, she might become famous and not remember me.  What do I do?


You're right to be afraid. And kudos for being so afraid at what is presumably an early age. Many people squander what could have been years of fear development because they don't yet realize that friendships don't last forever and other people are more talented than they are. 

Assuming your friend
is talented and you are not simply in the thrall of some deluded, pint-sized would-be diva, there are a number of things you can do to try to render yourself memorable. 

1) Support everything she does and agree with everything she says. Famous people don't like downers. By the time she becomes successful, she'll be so used to having you around to prop up her unstable sense of self she won't be able to forget you if she tried.

2) Try to become the one person who knows her most embarrassing secret. Compromising secrets aren't all that compromising anymore (you'll also learn to adopt a cynical view of fame), so embarrassing is the way to go. Coke habit at ten years of age? Who hasn't had a tween stint in rehab? That's nothing. Become the only person to have documented your songbird's problem with flatulence and you'll have a friend for life.

Of course, it's altogether more likely that your friend will grow up to be a mediocre singer with a crumbling marriage and a dependence on whatever drug she was prescribed after that operation she had. She won't ever forget you because you're the one person who reminds her of her early promise and turned out to be even less successful than she is. 

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.