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Errol Morris, the director of superb documentary films who has on more than one occasion invited deluded, unpleasant, and/or simply odd individuals to reveal themselves as deluded, unpleasant, and/or simply odd in front of a camera, writes a series of articles for The New York Times. I think he's a show-off.

In "
The Anosognosic's Dilemma: Something's Wring But You'll Never Know What It Is", Morris writes about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which describes the effect created when "our incompetence masks our ability to recognize our incompetence." David Dunning, a professor of social psychology at Cornell, explains his theory by way of a man who is undoubtedly an intellectual touchstone for all Cornell professors: Donald Rumsfeld.

"Donald Rumsfeld gave this speech about 'unknown unknowns.' It goes something like this: 'There are things we know we know about terrorism. There are things we know we don't know. And there are things that are unknown unknowns. We don't know that we don't know.' He got a lot of grief for that. And I thought, 'That's the smartest and most modest thing I've heard in a year.'"

Stupid people are unaware that there is a very important unknown they don't know, namely, that they are stupid. A hallmark of intelligence, says Dunning, is "knowing that there are things you don't know that you don't know."

How should all of this be incorporated into the haunted thoughts of a catastrophizer? If an intelligent person knows there are things he might never realize he doesn't know, then a catastrophizer should be actively obsessed with the fact that there are things, probably really important things, that he will never know he doesn't know and that maybe he'll never know them because, let's be honest, he's actually pretty stupid.



Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HEREI 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's been a difficult couple of days for me. Which is not surprising as most groupings of days are trying in some way or another.

This week, though, my disillusionment has come from a totally unexpected source: PBS. I love PBS. PBS makes me feel like an elderly ex-Brit who once studied political science (although it's true that Goldie of 1980s Buffalo PBS fundraising fame once made me feel like a homicidal elderly ex-Brit who once studied political science). I would like Jim Leher to be my uncle.

Now, though, PBS has been unexpectedly a) irresponsible, or b) cravenly fearful. Anderson Cooper's new segment The RidicuList (clearly grounded in the same journalistic integrity that inspired his reporting from war-torn nations and the sites of natural disasters) reveals that PBS "edited" Tina Fey's acceptance speech at the Kennedy Center when she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor (or was it the Yahoo Serious Yuk-Yuk Super Prize extravaganza at the Newark IHOP? So hard to keep things straight).

So PBS made it seem like Tina Fey was being quite gracious about Sarah Palin and upstanding Republican ladies, when in fact she was being devastatingly critical of such ladies.
Now, I also love Tina Fey, which is not altogether surprising as I am also a bespectacled young lady who looks a bit like a badger and is passionately fond of cheese and Star Wars. I lack only her talent and charm. So it's kind of like my Doris Kearns Goodwin-dating uncle told my better self to shut up for questioning the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

Shame on you, PBS! What's next - NPR only letting you think that all things are being considered?


Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HEREI 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've always had a soft spot for Keith Olberman, despite the fact that he's both cantankerous and self-righteous about being cantankerous. Perhaps it's because I've always admired former sportscasters (where have you gone, equally smarmy Craig Kilborn?!). Perhaps because it's nice for left-wingers to have access to a bright blowhard who's not Michael Moore.

Pardon me while I engage in a tangent that will in the next paragraph (or so) prove to be brilliantly, commendably relevant. It was an established fact of my youth that on a regular basis, three-foot tall, spotty boys would give reasonably attractive girls a complex about not being hot enough. It's just how things were done. In today's world (after using that phrase, it will come as no surprise that I'm busily planning a sixteen-part series about how Facebook may be bringing us closer together virtually, but is in "reality" driving us farther apart), young girls, having seen boys with abdominal muscles in unfairly fanciful films, are beginning to subject their grade nine beaux to a similar kind of scrutiny.

Part of me thinks that's wonderful and hilarious. And part of me, the better and less likable part, thinks that all this means is that more men will learn to be more insecure at a younger age and then grow up to be worse husbands to their tragically insecure wives.

And now for the brilliant tie-in, the moment I relate Keith Olberman to teen dating without leaving myself open to charges of libel. Olberman, although he has spoken out against conflicts of interest and other people being biased and stuff, was recently suspended for contravening NBC rules by donating money to three Democratic candidates for Congress. Liberals everywhere rallied to his defense. "FOX is worse!" they cried. "But it's different when someone I agree with!" they exclaimed. I absolutely agree that Olberman is an individual and not a news organization and that he doesn't in any way or at any time claim to be fair and balanced. I agree that Fox is worse, and that's not just because I suspect all the women on the network are Christian hooker robots. But just because Fox news is REALLY bad doesn't mean that a liberal should get to be kind of bad without being criticized for it by other liberals. 

Just to make sure my analogy has been understood: teenage boys (the mean and judgmental ones) = Bill O'Reilly; insecure teenage girls from twenty years ago = painfully upstanding and morally correct liberals; mean and judgmental girls of today = Keith Olberman. There. Analogies can be convoluted things. Mine might have been convoluted, but at least it also had the virtue of being protracted. You're welcome.


Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HEREI 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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Yes, it's true. There's blood in the water. Democratic dolphin blood. That's irresistibly drawing Republican sharks. While minnows (young people) and stingrays (independents) leave the dolphins undefended because they're too busy being disillusioned and unemployed. Or something.

Although I feel my analogy was apt, consistent, and unforced, I am going to set it aside for now. As most Americans have set aside the dreams of the Democratic party.

I am thrilled that Americans have rediscovered Republicans and embraced diversity by electing an orange man to the House, but my joy is muted. Many of my favourite candidates were unaccountably passed over. Christine O'Donnell (anti-masturbation, "I was a witch"). Sharron Angle ("Don't I look Asian?"). Carl Paladino ("My eyes only fully open when I see a woman having sex with a horse"). 

Most distressingly, Rich Iott of Ohio failed to win election to Congress. This despite the fact that for years, he proved how much he loves politics, history, and costumes by participating in a Nazi re-enactment group. He very plausibly claimed to belong to this group because of his love for politics, history, and costumes, and because he was looking for a way to bond with his teenage son. Makes sense. My father and I used to regularly reenact Ukraine's Holodomor in an attempt to appreciate one another more. 

Rich Iott's courageous example, though, has not been in vain. An exciting news story out of Campbellford, Ontario proves that the Iott approach to historical re-enactment has caught fire north of the border. 

At the Campbellford Royal Canadian Legion's recent Halloween party, two unidentified men won the prize for best costume for a delightfully cheeky - and educational - joint get-up: one man appeared in full KKK regalia leading his friend, in black-face (inevitably) around by a noose. I don't know whether to laugh knowingly or be informed!

I can only conclude that they identified Halloween as a teachable moment par excellence. That they, like Rich Iott, believe history must continue to live in order to bequeath its lessons. You never know - maybe those two men were also father and son and they found the perfect way to turn bonding into bondage.

Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HEREI 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.