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.

The Catastrophizer will now, for the very first time, respond to a reader's anxious question for Dear Catastrophizer. This is the very first anxious query Dear Catastrophizer has received and I am pleased it takes as its subject a classic catastrophizing issue: the end of the world. I can only assume that questioners-on-the-cusp will be moved by the manner in which I inflame his anxieties and send in their questions as well, as this is also the only anxious query Dear Catastrophizer has received.

Dear Catastrophizer: I fear we are living in the end times. The Bible, the Mayans, Nostradamus, the Knights Templar, the Illuminati, all point to these being the end of days. Predictions say this will be the last Pope and the last President. It's all gonna blow on December 21st, 2012. What's a boy to do?

Well, a boy should catastrophize. That's the short answer. However, I've always been of the opinion that short answers are the hobgoblins of little minds, so I will elaborate (and do this despite the fact that I suspect the questioner, desperate to capitalize on the negative buzz generated by this site, is a representative from the publicity arm of the studio responsible for that Nicholas-Cageless-Nicholas Cage movie released recently).

If the prognosticators are wrong: It doesn't really matter, because you will ultimately and inevitably face your own personal apocalypse in that you will die. Ultimately and inevitably. As Philip Larkin wrote in his poem "Aubade": "Most things may never happen: this one will." The world may endure forever and forever after all those Illuminati have begun to fertilize sickly and shifty-looking geraniums, but that will make absolutely no difference to you personally because you'll be very dead. Will that catastrophizing be for here or to go, sir? Either way, you'll be needing it.

There is a good chance that the prognosticators will prove to be entirely wrong, because, and listen (because I assume you're reading this to yourself aloud in order to invest it with the proper resonance) carefully, gentle catastrophyte, because this will prove to be an invaluable aid to you in the future: when it comes to the future, nobody knows jack. 

If you want, find a few friends who are also fond of cowled robes, start meeting at mysterious, preferably ruined locations, convince yourself you're controlling the fluctuations of US currency, and issue a decree through some well known, alarmist website indicating that the world is going to end on some random future date. If you're going to try to do this thing right, go to the trouble of ensuring that this date corresponds with the world-ending date posited by another cowled-robe crew. Then simply wait and see how many people, on the eve of your Day, throw their belongings into the sea. I'll bet there will be a few. People like to get themselves worked up every fin-de-siecle or two.

If the prognosticators are right: please see paragraph one of "if the prognosticators are wrong" above.

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

Calling All Catastrophytes!

I must begin with an apology. I am intimately familiar with apologies, as I offer them to myself on a regular basis for being so profoundly disappointing. But let us return to the apology I was beginning to be in the process of making: I have been guilty of megalomaniacal catastrophizing. I have been assuming that I am capable of imagining all of the varied disappointments and disasters that might be afflicting the imaginations of the world's catastrophytes. 

Beware the snares of complacent negativity! Because if I know anything, and I can assure you that chances are good that I don't, it's that no one is capable of forecasting the kinds and sizes of troubles the will haunt the minds of other people. Forgive me, gentle catastrophytes, for assuming I was in a position to envision all of your projected catastrophes! 

Allow me to regain your trust and admiration by doing you a service; allow me to minister to your miseries by teaching with you, rather than simply at you. Are you concerned about your tortured romantic life? Your wilting professional life? Your barren inner life? Send me your queries, your problems, your questions about the uncertain future, and I will reveal just how uncertain it is and how undoubtedly grim it will be in my brand new "Dear Catastrophizer" section.

Think of me as your Ann Landers of dark possibilities, your Miss Manners of missed or squandered opportunities. Better still, write to me so that I'll be able to more effectively spread the dread this holiday season. 

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

The decision to launch was truly wrenching because it set into motion a catastrophism, a whirl of catastrophisms, so fast-moving, so dizzyingly depressing, that I was almost unwilling to concentrate on anything else. Only rarely does a truly breathtaking catastrophic cloud materialize in one's life, and "blogging" seems a petty thing by comparison. Thinking about blogging is the truly absorbing pursuit. 

Would people "out there" be receptive to the Catastrophizer? If people were receptive, would that mean that my personal catastrophisms were no longer warranted? If people weren't receptive, would I be even happier because that would mean that I was right to think all of my pursuits would be dogged by failure? But would that very satisfaction make the failure too satisfying and therefore equally undermining of my personal catastrophizing? 

As you know, gentle catastrophytes, I have been auto-catastrophizing madly for days now. This site provides me with diverse inspirations I never could have anticipated when I spent the bulk of my time catastrophizing about my eventual death and my choice of shoes. Would I ever be able to catastrophize with and for you again in a larger sphere?

Thankfully, I was reminded of My Purpose. What ultimately convinced me to return to the doling out of catastrophic life lessons was the thought of how much others might benefit from my informed and nuanced guidance. I imagined young women, blithely believing they were lovable and attractive, never considering the possibility that they were irritating and growing ever fatter. I was touched by an icy (and imaginary) hand when I thought of young men, told by their parents that they could achieve great things, never considering the fact that their grandparents probably also told their parents that and what did their parents ever accomplish apart from popping out sons and then trying to live vicariously through them? 

Parents unaware of the fact that their children are most likely going to become middle-management. Children not yet ashamed of the fact that their parents are middle-management. Mediocrity going unmourned, ugliness unrecognized. Everywhere, everywhere are opportunities for catastrophizing, and everywhere I hear people being exhorted to love themselves and hope for the best. These influences must be ignored, nay, suppressed entirely! 

You're not "exotic-looking"; you have irregularly-sized features. You're not "quirky"; you're annoying, especially when you refer to yourself as quirky. You're not on a fascinating "journey"; you're facing down advancing age and increasing infirmity and no one wants to read your journal entries.

As a said, I did not make the decision to start this site easily. That said, I did not make the decision to wear long-underwear today easily and I'm currently brooding about the fact that my guinea pigs almost certainly don't like me. 

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

..but I didn't think it would happen quite so soon after launching the site.

                    I've said it all.

Or rather, I've said what I thought was most pressing, and now my brain is largely preoccupied with random thoughts about my fear that my feet are odd-looking. My grand philosophy of catastrophizing has been elaborated and then made elaborate and public. Some relevant posts followed. To what am I to turn now for inspiration?

If I actually managed to set some kind of standard with the original posts, then I am in danger of violating it with any subsequent Musings ("Musings" is one of the words that must always be capitalized. So too is [the] Catastrophizer. And "So Too Is" also, really). If my Early Works (another example) were in fact disappointing even to those readers who had no expectations, then I suppose I could simply content myself with maintaining that questionable momentum.

I feel as though my thoughts are less clear now, but it's entirely possible there is little or no connection between my instincts and the actual quality of what I produce. A feeling of haziness might indeed indicate that I'm zipping along mentally from the perspective of someone else. A restful, smug sense of accomplishment, by contrast, might be associated by a non-Catastrophizer only with vague and sluggish ramblings.

But how will I know, really, whether my posts have been successful? How would success even be judged? It's surely a possibility that someone I would think is mentally deficient will think this is the best site since that other one by that new mom. And that someone I feel grudging respect for will believe, based on a reading of my posts, that I myself am mentally deficient. 

So what am I to do? How am I to judge anything at all, come to think of it? I certainly can't trust myself, because I'm the one who wrote those other posts, and they're clearly garbage.

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

Too tired to worry? Feel as though you have too many responsibilities already? What with the job, the kids, the obsessive need to keep up with contemporary fiction so as not to feel intimidated by those pricks from college, it can be difficult to fit in a good bout of catastrophizing. 

Do not fear! Or rather, fear away! Here are a few tips for catastrophizing in hectic times:

Don't disregard what might seem like lost or vacant time. Waiting for a bus, for examples, seems like a good opportunity for listening to ponderous slow songs on your portable music player or doing inconspicuous physical exercises, but did you realize that during the time it takes to listen to one Antony and the Johnson's song or to slowly and imperceptibly clench your buttocks, you could have crafted a catastrophism that would have taken you mentally from that moment to the unavoidable fact of your own death? 

The next time you're on public transit, don't lose minutes or hours to aimless angst. Try a few exercises to keep those catastrophizing muscles toned. Look at the people around you and try to predict the reasons they are failing or will fail in life. The woman in the taupe pantsuit with an unopened copy of
A Suitable Boy; the bulgy man with the battered rucksack clutching a battered book about the Illuminati; the clean-cut, frat-boy-banker type, who is clearly wishing he weren't still a teller so that he could buy a car and stop having to take public transit. All of these strangers should represent inspiration to the mindfully morose mind, a mind otherwise given to questioning why it is on the way to a temp job when it was so celebrated in theatre school. 

Catastrophize with Others. While solitary catastrophizing is irreplaceable, pair/group catastrophizing also has its place. 

If you have, just have, to go out with friends from work, why not turn that time to good use? Help your friends understand, for example, why it is that the new management change will undoubtedly lead to the loss of your jobs and eventual penury; gently indicate to them that their love of cheese appetizers is what just might be making them so surprisingly wobbly. A good icebreaker could involve asking them what they wanted to be when they grew up; this has the effect of immediately calling to mind their failure to achieve their dreams and the dreadfulness of their current unwanted but long-held jobs in HR. 

If you are currently in a romantic relationship, opportunities for pair catastrophizing abound. If you, say, bought a copy of a brand new video game instead of downloading it because you respect the integrity and creativity of those who produced it and because it would be impossible to download anyway because they're now guarding against things like that, well, see that as an example of a lack of thriftiness that will result in maxing out that line of credit you never really should have gotten in college anyway. 

It is difficult to maintain a relationship in times of stress, so then imagine together how economic trials will cause him to confide in the totally sympathetic admin assistant at his work and her to confide in that totally sympathetic admin assistant at her work. Envision realizing your relationship was based on the responsibilities brought about by history and leaving one another for admin assistants who, it will turn out, really LOVE
Cougar Town and/or Manswers and are inclined to wear Uggs around the house. 

These are mere suggested jumping-off points for the catastrophyte. The avid and dedicated catastrophyte will eventually be able to look at the world, at his/her friends and loved ones, and turn every observation into a presentiment of catastrophe!

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

If you were a movie or television show, which one would you be? Would you be: The Seventh Seal (not to be confused with the searingly honest Demi Moore / Michael Biehn vehicle The Seventh Sign); Ally McBeal (dated reference that might no longer have any purchase with today’s youth); High School Musical (compensating for the previous example with bracing contemporaneity); or, the first three-quarters of Hannah and Her Sisters?

Why not find out by taking the Catastrophizer’s Are You Bergman, Efron, Woody or McBeal quiz? I know “Woody” stands out because it is the first name rather the last, but I was worried you’d think I meant the Alexander Viets Griswold Allen.

1. What do you think when you hold a friend's newborn baby?

a) Oh my God, I'm going to drop it. Or sicken it. Or otherwise ruin it.
b) This child is beautiful, as is life, which alas is doomed to end in death.
c) This child will soon be a toddler, and then a teenager, and before you know it, it will be as annoying as its parents.
d) I love babies. They're ADORABLE.

2. How do you respond when you've gotten a new job?
a) Have I forgotten my security pass on my first day? Did I lose my day-planner? Are these nude nylons form-flattering?
b) However long this job lasts, it cannot last forever, as nothing lasts forever. We are all doomed to die.
c) It might start off well, but soon I'll be disappointing my coworkers, and then my bosses, and then they'll fire me, and soon this whole nauseating cycle will begin all over again.
d) This is awesome! I'm going to dress appropriately and make new friends!

3. What's your attitude towards a new romantic relationship?

a) Why didn't I wash my sexier underwear? Are my nails dirty? Should they be dirty? Does that mole look worrisome?
b) It doesn't matter if this relationship succeeds, because ultimately we'll both die.
c) If tonight I say something that he/she finds irritating, the rot will begin to set in, because inevitably I'll do it again, and then it will seem like a pattern, and he/she will break up with me. I won't mourn forever, thank God, because ultimately I'll die.
d) He/she is so hot! I love love. It's awesome,  just like my friends' babies.

4. How do you feel about your personal appearance?

a) Is one of my breasts and/or testicles larger than the other? Is that normal? Will my boyfriend and/or girlfriend think that's normal? Why is my torso so unusually long?
b) I will never be more attractive than I am right now, because each minute that passes, I age and sag. Ultimately, I will die.
c) I don't mind the way I look, but there's no guarantee that anyone else will ever find me attractive, or that even if they say they do, they can be believed. 
d) I'm super-hot, not like my friends who have babies.

Answer Key: 

A: You're A Nervie!
If you tended to choose A’s, you are dangerously neurotic and resemble Ally McBeal. She has, however, ended up with Han Solo, so maybe there’s a rakish space-pirate with a hidden heart of gold in your future.

B: You A Bergman!
If you were drawn to the B’s, you are dangerously morbid and fond of the films of Swedish tear-mongerer Ingmar Bergman (not to be confused with Ingrid, who was not quite as hot). His real first name was “Ernst”, but “Ingmar” is clearly hotter.

If you consistently selected the C’s, you love the first three-quarters of Hannah and Her Sisters (Mickey: A week ago I bought a rifle, I went to the store - I bought a rifle! I was gonna, you know, if they told me I had a tumor, I was gonna kill myself. The only thing that might’ve stopped me - MIGHT’VE - is that my parents would be devastated. I would have to shoot them also, first. And then I have an aunt and uncle - you know - it would’ve been a blood bath), but think it goes downhill at the end by embracing hope and the promise of new life. 

D: You're An Upbeat!
If you are a “D” person, why are you reading this? Go out and play some ultimate frisbee. 

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

One of the great and unavoidable truths of life is that we have no idea what’s going on in another person’s head, not even if they tell us. 

I recommend the following exercise for the would-be Catastrophizer, the Catastrophyte, if you will: during a conversation, wait for a brief pause and then ask your talking partner what he or she is thinking about. He or she might say: “I was considering carefully what you just said about representative democracy” or “I was unable to stop focusing on how the colour of that shirt makes your eyes pop.” What you must learn to do is understand that those responses are almost certainly lies. What your partner was actually thinking was probably along the lines of: “I can’t think of a topic more murderously boring than representative democracy, or a person more selfishly tedious” or “How that shirt makes his or her eyes bulge as though he or she is being strangled. How I wish that were happening now.”

Once you’ve accepted that behind the smile or deeply thoughtful expression on your companion’s face lies a hidden world of criticisms, you are ready to progress to the next level of conversational catastrophizing. The Catastrophizer-in-training must become a master of projected interpersonal judgements and disappointments. Before you speak, imagine the internal negative response your companion will have to your comment; then try to imagine the next comment you will make in response to your companion’s silent and concealed condemnation; repeat. 

It should go something like this:

Catastrophyte: Canadian television is laughably amateurish.

Catastrophyte’s inner monologue: Oh God - I remember possibly having heard something about how my conversational partner has occasionally enjoyed watching the Royal Canadian Air Farce.

Catastrophyte: Well, I mean SOME Canadian television is somewhat lacking in terms of quality.

Catastrophyte’s inner monologue: Oh God - I remember possibly having heard that my companion’s romantic partner is an actor and was once punched in the face by Eric Peterson. Did I sound too laudatory?

Catastrophyte: Especially Eric Peterson. Does he have to be in every Canadian show? Or am I wrong? Are there just five different male Canadian actors who look very much like Eric Peterson?

Catastrophyte’s inner monologue: Oh God - doesn’t his/her partner look like Eric Peterson? 

Catastrophyte: Although Eric Peterson is incredibly sexy. I mean, I think about having sex with him ALL THE TIME.

At this point, the Castrophyte should become so dizzied and terrified by the unavoidable misunderstandings that occur every time two people speak that he/she will fall into a brooding silence and internally vow that in the future he/she will speak only to people so lonely that any criticisms will be tempered by gratitude.

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