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A recent study, which I believe is credible even though I so badly want to believe in it (I tend to be suspicious of anything that seems to support my prejudices), has found that girls raised in a matrilineal community in India have spacial reasoning skills equal to those of boys raised in a patrilineal community in India, throwing the whole "boys are naturally better at math because evolution makes them want to have sex with more than one woman and woman are naturally better at sharing and hugging because evolution makes them really sensitive" argument into doubt. 

According to an unattributed, but very professional-sounding, quote from a commenter on the story (who is both trustworthy and determined, as evidenced by his/her screen name: "Frodo Baggins"):

"The authors looked at some of the cultural factors that might be expected to explain the difference between the two societies. Males are likely to receive more education in the patrilineal society, and the authors found that introducing education as a factor in their analysis accounted for a third of the difference. Male ownership of the home also had a large effect; the gender gap is only a third the size in homes that are not owned solely by males."

But why would girls in the West have spacial reasoning skills less impressive than than those of the Western boys? They have access to education and are allowed to own their own homes and inherit property.

One possible explanation for the gap can be found in the t-shirt recently discontinued by J.C. Penny because of a totally unpredictable backlash from consumers:

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Aha! The answer is clear: Western girls can't reason spatially as well as Western boys because they're simply too pretty. If their brothers would just stop doing their homework for them, or they became even slightly less pretty, they'd develop new mental abilities. 

Do not despair, though. I firmly believe the gender gap will be eradicated not by helping girls develop news skills, but by taking away the ones the boys already have. Another commenter on the "The Mary Sue" website led me to the following page, which details the exciting bibs now available for both boy and girl babies. While it's true that the "high chair hottie" bib for the discriminating girl baby might seem to stress the importance of her looks, the "flirt", "hunk", and "single" bibs for boys do much the same thing for him. Soon both girls AND boys will be too pretty to do homework, and true equality between the genders will be achieved. 
 
 
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I've finally decided what I want to be when I grow up: I am going to be a courageous, truth-telling cynic who isn't afraid to say profoundly unpopular things as long as I'm being paid for them. I would just have to consistently be able to find unpleasant things to say about topics people feel strongly about. Thankfully, that's not all that challenging, because of the tireless work of trailblazers such as Limbaugh and men and women on talk radio all across the continent. Just argue that the people most people think are unfortunate and sympathetic are, in fact, extremely lucky or entitled or selfish or corrupt. There will be genuinely entitled, selfish, or corrupt listeners/readers who think you're just saying what everyone else is too afraid to say, and there will be gentle, sensitive, thoughtful people who will become very angry with you and question why you're employed. The existence of both groups will ensure your continued employment.

And don't think Canadians lack such a media personality just because we don't have some Limbaugh clone crouching full of hate in a basement next to a ham radio. We have Christie Blatchford, and she has the National Post.

It's all so tedious. Jack Layton, who most people appear to think was a really nice guy, died this week and Blatchford proceeded to write a strange, unpleasant, ranting piece about how he thought too much about politics to be a really reputable politician, how he shouldn't have taken the time close to the time of his death to write a letter to Canadians, and how the outpouring of public emotion after his death was really the result of celebrity death hysteria promoted by the media/internet and therefore cheap and insincere. 

I have already not followed the suggestion I'm about to give, but I'm going to give it nevertheless: let's ignore her. Let's not comment on the webpage, or send her angry letters, or talk about her on the radio. Let's give her the one thing she deserves and is not accustomed to: the cold shoulder. If people stop signing her pay-check with their outrage, maybe she'll just have to give up and go where journalists go to die: Sun TV.


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.
 
 
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We all know that perspective is very important, and that getting it can help an individual feel less sorry for him or herself. Unfortunately, getting that sense of perspective generally involves feeling better about one thing by realizing the stunning awfulness of everything else.

If you find yourself despairing about your life, job, height, personal problems, haircut, etc... you can play the "but I could be..." game, which involves reminding yourself how much more miserable most people are than you and with much better reason. There are, for example, children working in mines. I realize there are levels of terribleness worse even than that, but for some reason, that's the thought I return to in moments of profound self-pity. "So you missed Masterchef this week. Suck it up. There are children working in mines."

You can also choose to adopt a cosmic perspective in order to scare your blues away. Or at least, to scare away the blues you started out with. A few days ago, while contentedly contemplating the imminent collapse of Europe and the inevitability of my own death (you can contemplate both if you cut down on outside distractions), I came across this tweet from Neil deGrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist and all-around amiable gent: 

"In 5-billion yrs the Sun will expand & engulf our orbit as the charred ember that was once Earth vaporizes. Have a nice day."

The really great thing about this observation is that most attempts to not worry about it end up bringing you right back around to the fact of your own inevitable death: what difference will it make if the earth is destroyed in five billion years? You will most likely be dead. And yet, I find it worrisome.

So if you're trying to put your own trials and sufferings in perspective, try one or both of the following strategies:

1) remind yourself that the world is fairly bursting with miseries that make yours seem insignificant; and/or, 

2) remind yourself that the world will not always be bursting with miseries, because at some point, perhaps five billion years from now, it will cease to exist. 

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.
 
 
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I'm pretty sure I've written something along these lines before, but I'm going to assume that either a) you never read it, or b) that you are so profoundly depressed that any memory of it has been squished out of your head.

If you're not depressed, here's why you should be:

1) Youths from an impoverished underclass (along with people finally seizing the opportunity to act like assholes in public) are rioting in London and Manchester (UPDATE: I've since been informed that the rioting has spread to Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leeds, West Bromwich, Bristol, Wolverhampton, Leicester, Gloucester, Oxford, Reading, Milton Keynes and Slough. Only slightly more places than I'd originally listed.).

2) Nations like the U.S. and England are teetering on the edge of some kind of yawning and distinctly unwelcoming abyss of economic disastrousness.

3) A generation of children in East Africa is in danger of being wiped out by starvation. Iman (beautiful, poised, articulate, and married to David Bowie) says that the whole thing was avoidable, but no one cared enough to avoid it.

So: we have metropolitan city-centres going up in flames, the prospect of Switzerland emerging as the source of trust-worthy currency, and children dying for no good reason (as opposed to all those children who die for great and unassailable reasons).

Because I'm alive now, and nobody alive knows what's going to happen, it's tempting to feel as though the world is in its death throes. That we're all just headed for a hellscape of underground bunkers for the Swiss and desperate, cannibalistic, above-ground scavenging for the rest of us (denied, even, the tastiness of the Swiss, regarded by many as the world's most delicious people).

But people can't have felt wonderful at any point in history. I'm sure the Huns weren't always optimistic and sanguine (two qualities popularly associated with the Huns) or the Allied powers jolly.

Which just means that instead of being in the middle of some dire and dreadful world-ending, epoch-ending epoch, we're just, as we always have been, in the middle of an epoch that feels that way. The world probably won't end; it will just go on feeling like it's about to.

Unless, of course, it does end. Just because it never has before, doesn't mean it won't.

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.

 
 
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It has been said by many (and for once I'm not just too lazy to search for the specific source - it really has been said by many people, especially on the internet and in framed, cross-stitch samplers) that we should "enjoy the little things." We're told to appreciate not simply grand triumphs and impressive personal victories, but also particularly rosy sunsets, smiles from strangers who don't then proposition us, and unusually shaped pebbles on beaches. 

It occurred to me today that the same principle can and perhaps should (and regardless, will) be applied to really nasty things. For the past few weeks, I've been contemplating Rupert Murdoch. The evil of him. The shriveled-ness of him. The incredible power he wields. That he uses for evil. And that apparently shrivels him. But it shouldn't take a really hard-to-believe, larger-than-life villain to make us feel hopeless and vaguely sick. We should be able to conjure up that same sense of despairing detestation by contemplating the humbler reprobates.

Just today, I read the following story, about about two civic-minded young men in Salem, Massachusetts, who encouraged a suicidal man poised on the edge of a roof to jump by yelling "jump!" and various choice profanities. One has decided to plead guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct, the other is trying to make himself even more desirable by claiming he did nothing wrong and fighting the charge in court. 

The man on the roof was eventually convinced to come down and no one was harmed, but that's no thanks to the spontaneous intervention of these irrepressible future leaders. 

They simply did what people are always be exhorted to do: they refused to stand silent on the sidelines; they encouraged someone to assert himself; they bravely voiced an unpopular opinion in public. They are proof that such exhortations can be stupid.

They are also proof of the fact that terrible people are not only to be found in positions of power; in every small town across America, across North America, across the world, there are soulless, heartless, brainless people. If they could only figure out how to use those qualities to turn a profit, Murdoch might just find himself a new workforce. He appears to be running surprisingly low on staff. 

 
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.