Category: Catastrophizing - THE CATASTROPHIZER
 
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.
 
This is a very exciting day for me. And also a startling one. It's exciting because I had not realized I had branched out into porn, and startling because I had not realized I had branched out into porn.

Despite the fact that this website is obviously titillating, salacious, and (if you look at it from just the right angle) full of boobies, I had not intended it to be a straightforwardly blue endeavour.

But blue it is, says the DANGEROUS SUPER-PORN PORNY PORN WEBSITE warning that has begun popping up on the computers of the people I know who work for the provincial government (and who only visit explicit pornographic sites while on their breaks, or by accident while not on their breaks when trying to search for explicit pornographic sites).

What's truly amazing is that I have managed to become pornographic in the way least calculated to make me more successful. The porn-iness of my website does not reveal itself on the larger internet, so that people searching, say, for "naked Kristen Stewart" (I absolutely put that in just so this website might pop up when people google "naked Kristen Stewart") or "co-ed lesbians" will not be led to my carefully considered meditations on fully-clothed people not having sex with one another. But at the same time, meditative and fully-clothed people not having sex at the Ontario government will now not be able to read me from work, and I will lose out on all those people  frustrated because they can't use Facebook or youtube.

My only hope is that I will be able to tap into an entirely new demographic: civil servants, who, searching for considered, no-sex meditations about things, stumble across the warning message, are intrigued by the notion of porn, remember the website, come home to check out that porn they almost saw, and then find themselves delighted to not find porn.

I also wonder why, despite the fact that my site has been active and gone largely unnoticed for a very long time, they have chosen this moment to block it. I can only imagine they read the last few posts while clutching an imaginary set of dirty-making quotation marks.

From last week's post about the Bloodhound Gang (with added quotation marks):

They are for some reason allowed to moonlight as "private investigators" and regularly able to "foil" villains and their villainous plots by way of things like "pinhole cameras."

The post about the Phantom of the Muppet Show:


Also, it used to make me cry because no one would ever believe that Snuffleupagus existed, even though he'd just "been" RIGHT THERE.

The one about Vader living in my closet:

And before Jedi came out and Vader was revealed to have a boiled-fish, soft-unripened-cheese, triangular, vulnerable under-helmet head, I was more scared of him than of just about anything else, which was unfortunate, because he lived in my "closet."




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

I recently received the following letter from a reader:

I am only two years short of being an official senior. My fingers are arthritic and gnarly. My hair is thinning. I have one or two chronic illnesses. My best friend is dying of cancer. My old house has never been renovated and it is falling apart. My dog is very farty. I don't have any savings. Do you think granite countertops would give me a much needed boost? If so, do you know where can I find someone who would be willing to pay for my new countertops in exchange for my "friendship" (wink. wink.), or something else that I can afford to swap (maybe the farty dog????)?

This letter presents me with an unusual challenge. For the most part, I spend my time transforming seemingly insignificant things into promises of future disappointments, disillusionments, and tragedies. I focus on how one unimportant decision can result in totally unintended and appalling consequences, or how one stupid, selfish butterfly in Brazil can flap its stupid, selfish, flappable wings and cause me to make an unimportant decision that then results in totally unintended and appalling consequences.

What I find it difficult to do is to respond in a flip, glib, or hyperbolically pessimistic way to someone already well aware of life's hazards and griefs. It's the people who burble on about how you should always be positive and how I should really read The Secret I'd like to trick into watching anything by Ingmar Bergman, followed by anything by Lars von Trier, followed by Up

So, because I can't make snarky, negative comments about much of this, and telling someone her life might be really hard at the moment, but her sense of humour and her use of "farty dog" in such a manner as to make it sound like a euphemism for something naughty and distressing should really be a great source of comfort is trite and unconvincing, I'll focus on the one thing I can in good conscience catastrophize: the suggestion of exchanging sex for kitchen renovations.

It's entirely possible that granite countertops would bring you a much-needed and well-deserved boost. I also think it's entirely possible you could find someone who'd provide you with some countertops free of charge if you subjected him to your feminine wiles. The problem is, such a man would undoubtedly be either a) a dangerous pervert, or b) desperately lonely and vulnerable and dull and interested in you for more than your wiles. Either way, you'd find yourself resenting those granite countertops that initially promised so much pleasure and delight.

I have found, though, that feeling smugly superior to other people can also inspire sensations of pleasure and delight. So I recommend the following: visit the houses of people you know who have beautifully-renovated kitchens and bulging savings accounts. Then, concentrate on how boring they are, how much less funny than you they are, and, if they leave the kitchen for a moment, encourage your dog to fart on their counter.


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

 
In order to really effectively and profitably catastrophize, it's occasionally a good idea to brood about something that on the surface may appear to be not much more than surface. This adds variety to the habit of obsessively worrying about things, and allows you to later reproach yourself for being petty and superficial. 

Which brings me to the upcoming Muppet movie.

There are a number of things that went into forming me. I will now enumerate the ones that are least embarrassing: Star Wars, the Beatles, Doctor Who, and The Muppet Show. The recent incarnation of Doctor Who is not awful (although I seem to be the only person not charmed by either River Song OR Amy Pond); I never liked Paul very much, so the fact that he turned out all earnest and chipper and jowly doesn't really bother me.

Which brings me to Star Wars. I don't need to belabor this, because I seem to recall others discussing this a number of years ago... I went to see the prequels, young and full of hope and excitement, and left, an old and broken woman without wonder. George Lucas, who took a break from cultivating his McCartney-esque jowls to break me, romped through the memory of a generation and pooed all over it.

It remains to see whether we will now be pooed on by the Muppets. A new movie is being made. Jason Segel is making it. Jason Segel is kind of charming. Therefore the new Muppet movie might be kind of charming.

However, recent reports indicate that Frank Oz is not happy with the new movie. Veteran Muppet puppeteers considered dissociating themselves from the film. 

So either: a) Frank Oz is right and I will no longer like Jason Segel and another childhood memory will be tarnished; or, b) Frank Oz is just upset because he didn't get to make the movie and is not, in fact, a glorious and magnanimous person, in which another childhood memory will be tarnished.

Muppets fans desperate to reassure themselves in the lead-up to the premiere are reminding themselves that Oz might not be a reliable source in any case, as he was also involved with the Star Wars prequels. At least we know that since Oz isn't involved with this reboot, he won't make Kermit shoot Greedo in self-defense. 


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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After the recent disaster in Japan (referred to puzzlingly as "magnanimous" by an anchor on CNBC), one of my friends posted the following inspirational quotation  from Mr. Rogers on Facebook:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."

That's right, I thought. The human spirit can be a resilient and generous one, I reflected. Unfortunately, I then saw another posting from a different friend on Facebook. As far as I can tell, these comments are genuine. I, naturally, tried to find all these people on Facebook, and some of them  seem to be real, and the ones who can't be found may well have removed themselves after receiving unwanted wall postings from human beings. Even if they aren't all authentic, the ones I found here certainly are. Lest you think that most appalling responses to the situation in Japan are motivated by Pearl Harbour-inspired vengefulness, I present you with a comment from Larry Kudlow.

CNBC host Larry Kudlow (not the aforementioned "magnanimous" one - I'm pretty sure that guy merely got words, rather than priorities, mixed up) managed to find the silver lining in the cloud of devastation, suffering and loss, and shared it with viewers: “The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that.”

So we have violently jingoistic bloodthirstiness and cold, unfeeling soullessness. I'm sure that soon I will once again realize that people can be compassionate, or at least not actively malignant, but for the moment I can only imagine Mr. Rogers saying:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say, 'Look for the haters. You will always find people who are hating.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always chilled by realizing that there are so many haters - so many hateful people in this world."


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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Dear Catastrophizer,
   I recently and unexpectedly ran into an ex girlfriend that I'd not seen in 3 years. She seemed very pleased to have seen me, we had a very pleasant chat and parted amicably with a brief peck on the cheek and an embrace.
   I left with the feeling that that was one relationship I could be proud of, that we had both conducted ourselves like adults and despite having had an unsuccessful romantic relationship we were still able to interact warmly and cordially with all thoughts of bitterness and jealousy buried deep in the past.
   Surely this can't be right?


You have good instincts: of course it's not right. I like a good catastrophizing challenge, being given a scenario that appears rosy so I can apply my intellect to its sullying. Alas, this is not such a challenge or such a scenario. It's like shooting grim fish in a depressing barrel.

1) "...that was one relationship I could be proud of..." The quiet pathos of this sentence would be heartbreaking if I hadn't developed an immunity to quiet pathos by exposing myself to it continually over the course of thirty years. Do we really need to catastrophize this particular encounter when it's clear your life likely already boasts enough catastrophic material to power hundreds of obscure blogs? If a brief, unplanned chat with a woman you're no longer in contact with constitutes one of your few sources of interpersonal pride, you might want to just go off and live on a pillar in the desert and give the whole other people thing up (click here for artists' renderings of the kind of beard you would have to rustle up in order to do so).

2) I am now going to pull off a bravura interpretive performance by linking your unexpected encounter with the current popular revolt in Egypt, in the process cheapening both. People, like nations, behave warmly and cordially for a number of different reasons, the least likely of which being that they are genuinely fond of one another. It is far more likely that people, like many nations, are polite with one another because they don't want to cause a fuss, they don't have time for a lengthy airing of hidden grievances, or they're afraid of destabilizing the region and jeopardizing their relationship with one of Israel's few local allies. One of the things about "thoughts of bitterness and jealousy" is that, as they're thoughts, you can't see them if they belong to someone else. It's all too possible that your ex's head is teeming with malignant thoughts, but that she, like many nations, has decided to protect her own interests by pursuing a non-interventionist foreign policy.


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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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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We are the first generation of Facebook users. Even if you refuse to use Facebook because you have, unaccountably, no interest in discovering whether your grade-six crush got fat, you know people who do use it (which means you can just use their accounts to check up on that girl who told you your one-act play sucked in grade twelve without appearing to compromise your anti-Facebook stand). 

Some of you even have to suffer through drawing-room-farce-like internet antics because your parents have gotten themselves Facebook accounts. They start friending all of your friends and then asking why you look like such a slut in all those photographs.

That's all very well, but what's going to happen as we age (which we will, alas, insist on doing)? Facebook will undoubtedly prove to be a great comfort to many older people because it will allow them to remain in casual contact with friends once they're no longer able to go out because they're so completely infirm. It will mean, however, that it will be impossible to keep using that one flattering photograph from your 20s because you'll be undeniably in your 80s and it would just be embarrassing.  

And if you're morbid, which is the way all right-thinking people should be, you'll already have considered things like which of the people you know will die first. Everyone you know, every single person you know, will die eventually, but in what order will they do so? Because we're the first generation of Facebook users, the people who receive memorials on the site tend to be ones who've died tragically and prematurely. But as they years pass, all those with Facebook profiles will die. 

What will happen to the Facebook profiles of people who've died? For the first while, they'll probably be makeshift memorials. People they knew will post on their walls and express sadness. But after the initial shock? After the mourning period has passed? Will Facebook keep those profiles up or will they be made to disappear? If they remain visible to others, we will find ourselves with a virtual graveyard. Instead of gravestones, we'll have profile pics and an archive of posts about parties and obscure political movements. Our children and grandchildren, instead of just searching Facebook for lost flames, will use it as a genealogical resource, combing it for insight into their forebears. 

And then when whatever's better than the internet is invented and all the kids are accessing it through cyborg-like attachments implanted in their flesh, a few nerdy types will use computers to look up Facebook to find photos of their great-great-grandmothers much as researchers today use microfiche to scan old newspapers for items about ancestors. 

I, for one, am going to start being even more careful about looking svelte in the photos I post to my profile. After all, it's possible that profile will one day be the property of posterity.




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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As anyone who's ever read this site (or run into me casually at a dinner party) knows, I'm terrified of dying. It doesn't matter how much I try to imagine it's like sleep, or like the time before I was born - it scares the crap out of me (as do aging, penury, the limitless expanse of space, any limited expanse of space, and Lloyd Robertson).

However, because I don't like to play favourites, not dying scares the crap out of me as well. It would be kind of like not ever having to sleep. There would be no end. There would be rampant overpopulation. There would probably be no really meaningful vows of marriage. 

Besides, immortality might not mean no death; it might just mean no natural death. If science devised a way to prevent aging and inevitable death, one would not be guaranteed an endless life. Imagine living in society that has banished death by natural causes and then one day getting hit by a car. Well, you say, maybe medicine can now regrow human beings from tiny strands of DNA (my knowledge of science, admittedly, is shaky). Emergency personnel could drag you from a fiery wreck and reconstitute you. Undoubtedly, though, there would be some unfortunate people who would be murdered and then buried. Or otherwise hidden. Really mean or really crazy people would find some way to make sure that dead people never came back. And if you were in a position to live forever, your chances of meeting someone who'd want to kill and bury you would certainly increase exponentially.

It's like any vampire movie. In any vampire movie, a vampire dies. Often many vampires die. Some lucky and now soulless individual thinks "well, it's immortality for me now" and then before two hours have elapsed, he or she has been staked. From immortality to dust. Imagine being immortal and then getting staked by some smart-talking upstart four-foot-tall high-school student who used to cheerlead.

But maybe knowing you were immortal, even if you could be killed by decapitation, would at least make you less afraid because there'd be a chance, at least a chance, that you'd sidestep death. Or maybe it would make you more afraid, because there'd seem to be so much more to lose.

And if death is ever vanquished, there will be a number of poor bastards who expire the day before. I frequently think about the young men who were killed on the last days of the First or Second World Wars. So close. And I fully expect that I will pop off moments before the eternal life serum is unveiled.
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.