I am frequently grateful for the fact that Facebook did not appear until I was well and truly aged. Not because of the fact that I would probably have been made fun of a lot by vicious grade-eight classmates who would then go on to become successful grown-ups with children and pets. Or because Facebook clearly states the number of friends you have and allows for the convenient and unfair comparing of such numbers. No - I am glad it didn't exist because I would have regularly, insistently, and publicly made an ass of myself.

1) I would have posted song lyrics.
When I was in grade eight, I had an assignment that involved public speaking. We were supposed to recite a poem or some song lyrics. "Aha!" I apparently thought. "This is my chance to show my WHOLE ENTIRE CLASS that I am sensitive, introspective and FULL OF UN-IRONIC AND HUMOURLESS PAIN." So after one guy performed "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" and another guy did a really quite moving and dramatic interpretation of "Parents Just Don't Understand," I proceeded to stand up and, with total sincerity, recite the words to Simon and Garfunkel's "I am a Rock." That's right. If you don't remember the lyrics off the top of your head, here are some gems: "I've built walls, / A fortress deep and mighty, / That none may penetrate. / I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. / It's laughter and it's loving I disdain. / I am a rock, I am an island." Oh, and then there's: "I have my books / And my poetry to protect me; / I am shielded in my armour, / Hiding in my room, safe within my womb. / I touch no one and no one touches me. / I am a rock, I am an island." I concluded with a ringing, "And a rock feels no pain; / And an island never cries," and looked up, fully expecting to see that the eyes of my classmates were now wide with understanding and compassion...It went down pretty much like anyone with any sense and a passing acquaintance with fourteen year olds would expect. They laughed at me. I can't really blame them. The person I DO blame is my grade-eight teacher, WHO ALSO LAUGHED AT ME. Of course, he also brushed his eyebrows before class, so he wasn't totally credible.

If Facebook had existed when I was in grade eight, and in this alternate world I was as deluded and earnest and self-pitying as I was in the real one at that age, every other status update would have been that kind of song. 

2) I would have worn clothes.
The other week, I mentioned the fact that I purchased a Ramones t-shirt in grade seven. And I did. I totally did, and I loved it, and I still have it. Unfortunately, I also had and wore other shirts at that age. I recently found a photo of myself from grade seven in which I was wearing a shirt I'm pretty sure I was pretty proud of at the time. It had some bars of Handel's Messiah on it, and it said...wait for it... "Handel With Care." I did not like this shirt in some kind of ironic, hipster way. I was probably on some level convinced that all I needed to do to win over my contemporaries was provide proof that a) I liked classical music, and b) I liked puns. 

Unfortunately, fate and a stylish camera bag conspired to block the t-shirt's full message. Did I, by the way, feel the need to choose between the hilarious shirt and the floppy hat? I MOST CERTAINLY DID NOT.
Facebook would have been the perfect vehicle for proving to an even larger number of people how much I appreciated classical music and puns.

3) I would have chosen totally embarrassing and misleading profile pictures.
I am chatty. I am really quite chatty. I also used to be one of those unfortunate chatty people who do not accept and embrace their own chattiness and instead spend much of their time wishing they could be silent and French and look mysteriously out windows. I would, therefore, probably have filled Facebook with really embarrassing photos of myself looking in a wistful and longing and continental fashion out widows. (And then really disappointed people when I opened my mouth and sounded like a less charming version of the girl from Real Genius.)

If Facebook had existed when I was fourteen, this is what you would have seen:

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

Recently, doctors have begun to warn of the dangers of "Facebook depression." According to this article, young people can start feeling low because of repeated exposure to "status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times."

This is a problem not limited to the young, as I can attest. So many people I knew long ago have moved to exciting places, have been to parties, have visited cottages. So many people have jobs and handsome dogs and way more friends than I have. Facebook shows me this, and Facebook cares not. 

Then there are the blogs. Oh, THE BLOGS. My friend (who does not even live here but whose good taste defies geography) brought the following blog to my attention: It's written by a young woman from Toronto and features attractive, light-drenched things. There are photos of gorgeous, delectable meals (from restaurants at which, theoretically, I could also be dining as I live in the same city), and photos of relaxed but hopelessly stylish living rooms (which I could at least be working towards by way of yard sales and a keen eye for sales), and photos of attractive women in relaxed and hopelessly stylish clothes (all my pants are the same colour. Why are all my pants the same colour?). Also, why am I not accompanied everywhere by dancing motes of sunlight?

This kind of blog creates in me a feeling it took me awhile to find an appropriate name for. I considered "envog" (envy + blog), and "blinferiority" (blog + inferiority) , and "bluilt" (blog + guilt), but in the end settled on "blahg." Such blogs make me feel blahg. 

But then I thought: "Surely there must be others who stay in on Saturday nights with their best friend Robert Osborne...who will never be comfortable pairing shorts with tights...who will never be in a position to craft their own letterpress wedding invitations..." Surely there must be others who live untidily and unstylishly and in a way that would embarrass blogs and Facebook pages alike. 

So to counteract the effect of the blogs that make me feel blahg, I offer the following three photos of my apartment, all totally unstaged.

1 bag of Swedish Berries (empty); 1 bottle of cheapest-available Argentinian wine (not drinking during the day - just neglected to put it away the night before); 1 copy of New York Times (largely unread)
1 bottle of wheat germ (never sure exactly how long that's supposed to last; doesn't yet have the rancid smell the internet warns me about); 1 extremely large and aged bottle of tonic from long ago when my friends came over and we had some with gin; a cucumber for my guinea pig.
1 vibrantly grey sweatshirt-like shirt I got at Old Navy; 1 vibrantly grey cardigan I got at Jacob at some point in the 1990s and continue to wear.
It's not that I want people to stop having beautiful things, and making beautiful things, and looking beautiful; it's just not nice when you think that everyone around you is living a beautiful life while you're busy throwing out some questionable leeks (that you never used because you never got around to making that quinoa recipe) while watching an NCIS episode you've already seen and didn't like the first time. 

But if I could convince myself that in living rooms everywhere regrets are cultivated while leeks go bad and Mark Harmon looks weary and worldly-wise, I'm sure I'd feel a whole lot better.

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

Toxic and inflammatory right-wing rhetoric may not be directly responsible for mass murder, but that doesn't mean it's not toxic and inflammatory. Or resilient and resourceful. Today, Sarah Palin added to the already impressively offensive conservative lexicon with her use of the phrase "blood libel." 

"Blood libel", writes The New York Times, is "generally used to mean the false accusation that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood in religious rituals, in particular the baking of matzos for passover. That false claim was circulated for centuries to incite anti-Semitism and justify violent pogroms against Jews." Sarah Palin, courageously aligning herself with the Jews, referred to the claims that she is in some manner responsible for the carnage in Tuscon as "blood libel" in a message posted today on her Facebook page.

This is a very exciting idiomatic development, because for too long parties on both side have been relying on the generous and seemingly random use of "Hitler" as a political slur. George W. Bush was Hitler. Obama is Hitler. Now Palin is expanding and improving upon the WWII analogy by throwing the suffering of the Jews into the mix.

It was certainly unpleasant and distasteful when pundits on both sides (there are only two sides) responded to the tragedy by excitedly finger-pointing, but responding to some of the more hysterical accusations of some left-wing commentators by claiming kinship with the Jews is also unpleasant and distasteful (it would be even if Representative Gabrielle Giffords didn't happen to be Jewish). 

But my primary objection to her use of the phrase involves her choice of forum. Facebook? Isn't it possible there's a more symbolic, more creative, more "no matter how reasonable David Brooks and other moderate Republicans might be, don't forget about all those loons" way to get one's point across?

Enter the Palmetto State Armory, which is, according to (inevitably) The Huffington Post, releasing a limited edition line of AR-15 assault rifles with the words "you lie" engraved on the lower receivers. "You lie" was what Rep. Joe Wilson (R - S.C.) yelled during an Obama health-care reform speech (when the President claimed the new legislation wouldn't provide illegal immigrants with medical care).

If this weapons manufacturer can honour Joe Wilson, could another weapons manufacturer not seize this exciting opportunity to honour Sarah Palin? I think "Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible" would look just dandy on an assault rifle.

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.

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.
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.