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This is going to be one of the most boring things I have ever written. I know this because it is one of the most boring things I have ever thought about writing (of course, I'm assuming I'm capable of assessing the boring-ness of my own thoughts, which is probably a stupid assumption.)

It might be one of the most boring things I have ever thought about writing—but never have I been more emotionally affected by and invested in my topic.

I made such a terrible dinner. It was genuinely awful. It was so awful, I feel as though it has spread a yucky layer of disappointment over my whole evening.

It's not even a dramatic and interesting failure. It's just that I've run out of tamari, and at some point, tamari appears to have become the foundation for all of my varied baked tofu dishes. So I keep thinking, for some reason, that because I'm now savvy enough to actually have ingredients I use for things, and recipes I've learned about those ingredients from, I can be one of those people who "improvises," and does things like substitute binder clips for capers, or inadvertently aged alcoholic cider for panko.

There's a delicious salad dressing I enjoy (that involves miso and tahini and mustard), and I thought "my background in the not-having of resourceful and successful food-related ideas makes me confident that baking tofu in this dressing would result in deliciousness." I only had medium-firm tofu, which I've used before and thought would be fine, and I just bought some cheap miso, which I was confident would not be disgusting at all, and so I used that too.

I baked it all up for a good forty minutes—I kept thinking the tofu would "firm up" given another five minutes, and yet it kept dissolving further into a giant puddle of squished grey-ish sloppiness. Aha! I thought (convinced that the one thing that would undo one misguided food plan was another food plan that would surely not turn out to have been misguided)—what this unsightly muck needs is to become fried unsightly muck.

So I fried up the tofu, and voilà! It had shape! And now also had an odd and unpleasant mealy texture!

I could have made three normal meals in the time it took to prepare this one, and I don't think I've ever eaten anything simultaneously so mushy and so salty.

I was indeed wise to stock up on frozen breaded mozzarella sticks: I will need them tonight.




POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you're not entertained, fair enough.
 
 
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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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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.
 
 
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Various Important Lessons that can be conveniently illustrated thanks to a cursory examination of CNN's website
1. Trouble Doesn't Save You From More Trouble.
Some sadly inexperienced and unimaginative people believe that once they have been burdened with a terrible weight of pain, the world will somehow see to it that they are given no more of it. It might make is less likely that you will suffer great hardships after already having suffered great hardships, but that doesn't make it beyond the bounds of possibility. Never, ever, believe yourself to be safe from additional tribulations.

Case in Point: Fires burn across Detroit as high winds knock down power lines.

2. Sometimes Hollywood movies aren't far-fetched; or, death from above.
This morning, a "small" (still very large) asteroid passed "very close" (still very far away) to the earth. Another is slated to do so later on today. NASA is calling on people to care about astronomy beyond just taking one undergraduate course in it and arguing there is a need for "closer monitoring of near space for Earth-threatening encounters". This is all very disturbing, as A) we could all at some point be killed by objects from space, and B) NASA could be on the verge of admitting we are all "harvested beings" living in a facility, but way less attractive than Ewan McGregor and Scarlet Johansson.

3. Your position is never unassailable.
No matter how successful, gorgeous, and rich you are (and if you are any or all of these things, I refuse to believe you visit this website), you must never consider yourself immune from the nasty tricks Fortune has a tendency to play. 

Case in Point: Just when Texas thought it was a shoe-in for the Craziest State in the Union title, who should come of nowhere but Florida? Texas spent all that time changing its text books so that the slave trade would now be referred to by schoolchildren as the "Atlantic triangular trade" (not kidding) and trying to get approval for the Institute for Creation Research to offer a master's degree in science education (not kidding), and now it might all be for nothing. The Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainsville, Florida, plans to hold "International Burn a Quran Day" on the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attack on the World Trade Centre. If you are unable to make it to Gainsville, never fear. I'm sure there's still a way for you to purchase one of the church's "Islam is of the Devil" t-shirts or mugs. Don't think, though, that combatting the spread of radical Islam (by which they mean plain old Islam) is their only occupation. They also make time to condemn Craig Lowe, the openly gay mayor of Gainsville. A sign on the church's front lawn reads: "Aug. 2 Protest, No Homo Mayor, City Hall."  

4. If you have no obvious talents, you don't have to become a serial killer to garner media attention and win your place in history.
At minimum 56 episodes of Criminal Minds feature some unfortunate white male in his 30s who concludes that only by killing numerous young women in a particularly gruesome way can he ensure he will be remembered after his death. If you have always wondered what small animals look like "on the inside", but don't yet own or rent a storage locker, never fear: there are other ways to catch the attention of posterity.

Case in Point: "11 Students Stung by Yellow Jackets in Dover."
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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The Catastrophizer isn't simply good for realistic and dispiriting relationship advice. Read as I do what Scientific American couldn't: provide a reasonable answer to the following question.

Where will the U.S. get its electricity in 2034?

This question needs to be rephrased. It should read: "Where will those in the U.S. still able to afford electricity get their electricity in 2034?" For by 2034, American society will have become even more dramatically and irreversibly stratified. From their fortified mountaintop aeries, the wealthy (employed either by aerie fortification service providers or a CSI spinoff) will gaze out over a landscape dotted with melting ice caps and adorable baby animals that are the last of their kind. 

The poor will live largely underground, partly because their eyes can now function only in near-darkness and partly because the baby animals are hungry.

Oil reserves will have been exhausted and natural gas will have been ruled out as too obvious. So the question remains: where will the rich get their energy?  The answer is proof that innovation will not be extinct in future times. The engineers of the future, now gripped by Bieber fever but soon to be gripped by the terrible, terrible cold, will have devised a way to power their remaining luxury devices by harnessing the energy produced by the burning of other countries. People the world over will still want to move to America, because they will be on fire.  


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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I have received my second reader question! From someone who is not in the least related to me! Read on:

Let's say you're the parent of a very successful catastrophizer--should you feel pride, because so much of you lives on in a new generation? Or sadness and regret because your offspring has arguably been infected by your own congenital and over-arching pessimism?

      -
Anonynomous Individual Not 
        Responsible for Fathering the
        Catastrophizer


Before going any further with this answer, I should make one thing very clear: you should always feel sadness and regret. Very occasionally, you may allow yourself to feel pride, or joy, or elation, but only because those sensations will add a certain piquancy to your subsequent feelings of sadness and regret. Don't be concerned about having to force the return of the sadness and regret; they will come back without much prodding because life is full of things that cause them.

Feeling pride that part of you lives on in the next generation can quite easily be made to result in profound depression (although all things, obviously, can be made to result in profound depression). First of all, that pride is necessarily bound up in the fact that you yourself will die, a fact which is likely to be interpreted as a downer. The individual in whom your qualities (fine ones, I will admit) will live on will also die, possibly without issue. Even if that individual were to produce offspring, those offspring would eventually die, and so on. Even if you belonged to a family that regularly produced progeny, all of whom inherited your qualities, remember that the world itself will most likely shrivel up and disappear at some point in the vast expanse of future time. Your pride will, one way or another, be short-lived.

You should absolutely believe that it is because of your style of parenting/doomed genetic bequest that your child has developed catastrophizing tendencies, because as you've indicated, that line of thought will undoubtedly produce more sadness and regret. However, if you were lucky/unfortunate enough to produce an even vaguely observant child, that child, one way or another, would have grown up catastrophically. The beige and brown Ford Fairmont had nothing to do with it.

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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If the apocalypse predicted for December 2012 is correct and he has not, for some reason, succumbed to other, more personal ultimate catastrophes, what's a boy to do? Could you please Go Survivalist?

If, against all odds, the self-proclaimed experts are right and, against all odds, humans of the earth have not all expired mysteriously of natural causes by that point, this self-proclaimed expert recommends that...well, you see, it all depends.

My answer to the question from "what's a boy to do"  was predicated on the idea that the earth would be destroyed completely. Decimated. Annihilated. But you're right, right-thinking critic, the previews for That Film suggest various cataclysms, not total ruination. Of course, if the latter had been represented, it would have been a very different film. Possibly a better film.

But the problem with cataclysms, you see, is that they're so very unpredictable. Floods might hit one area; earthquakes might afflict an entirely different area. Lightning might knock out one power grid, leaving another completely untouched. I just discovered (damn you, Nova Science Now!) that there are mysterious tremors under the American midwest that presage a coming earthquake disaster. I've been avoiding California for years, and now I realize that unintentionally avoiding the midwest for years has also been prudent. 

I haven't even begun to address the issues that will be raised by the roving bands of human criminals. They exist now; they will certainly exist in the world after Event Two (Event One being the Big Bang. I'm trying to lay the groundwork here for my own post-apocalyptic mythology so that eventually I can write and sell a film script). People will smash windows and steal food; people will kill one another over canned beans and the right to repopulate the world by breeding with Nicholas Cage.

Should you stockpile weapons that will most certainly be repossessed by The New Authority (film script again) and used to kill you? Should you retreat to a bunker that will be shaken and shattered by earthquakes? Should you retreat to a midwestern cabin and then discover you should have watched Nova Science Now

Absolutely. Do any or all of those things. Amass canned and dry goods. Learn how to hunt local vermin and cure their meat. Keep band aids around. That kind of paranoid preparation is the hallmark of a good catastrophizer. However, every good catastrophizer should also know and be haunted by the fact that whatever preparations are made, they will be undoubtedly prove to be either disastrously inadequate or disastrously futile.

Happy New Year!


POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.