Category: - THE CATASTROPHIZER
 
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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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We live in an age of (I love any sentence that begins that way) totally appropriate and defensible analogies. Wisconsin is likened to Cairo; Obama is equated with Hitler. I was going to write something wry and revealing about this enjoyable trend, and I was going to make excellent points about how responsible it is by way of a discussion of Charlie Sheen and Gaddafi. I was going to ask gentle readers to identify whether a quotation was from Sheen or Gaddafi and then make little waspish comments about how popular media outlets would probably ask gentle readers to the same thing, but unironically and therefore indefensibly. 

My constant and adorable pose of bored cynicism held me in good stead when I discovered I had been (unironically) scooped by The Guardian. Yesterday, they released their Sheen/Gaddafi version of Whose Line is it Anyway? (their words).

I was both undaunted and loathe to be redundant. Thankfully, I found a way out of this bind by creating a Crazy Actor/Crazy Dictator quiz that involves neither Two and a Half Men nor Libya, but still manages to be current.

Errol Flynn v Benito Mussolini: whose line is it anyway?

The U.S. actor and the Italian leader have both produced some choice lines. Can you identify which man was responsible for each of the following quotes?


1. Yes! happy and happy when we grow old. For the day's getting on and the night's getting long. Darling please gimme your arm and we'll joggle along, yes, we'll joggle and joggle and joggle along.

2. It isn't what they say about you; it's what they whisper.

3. It's good to trust others, but not to do so is much better.

4. The rest of my life will be devoted to women and litigation.

5. Inactivity is death.

6. There are parts of me that are Dennis Hopper.

Answer Key:
1. Errol Flynn
2. Errol Flynn
3. Benito Mussolini
4. Errol Flynn
5. Benito Musolini
6. Charlie Sheen


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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It's not crazy: Torontonians could rise up against their democratically-elected government and demand democratic elections.
It's easy, when you live in a place like Toronto, to feel intimidated by other places, like, for example, New York and Indianapolis - places bursting with culture and atmosphere and exploitative journalistic practices. When I saw this clip of an Indianapolis reporter roaming the streets making homeless people sing on The Daily Show, I couldn't help thinking: "Why not here? Why not in Toronto? Why can't Toronto's news outlets callously capitalize on the public interest generated by certain current events, too?"

Well, proof that Higher Powers grant my wishes as long as they don't bring anyone any certitude, or peace, or help for pain was not long in coming. Behold the following story teaser from February 8th's Toronto Star

Recent events in Tahrir Square, where Egyptians have been ushering in a revolution, have got us thinking: if the revolution were to happen in Toronto, where would it unfold? The Star's Christopher Hume takes a look.

Magnificent! We're really proving that we've got a media scene the equal of any in the United States. I don't want this kind of cheeky journalistic ingenuity to wither on the vine, though, so I'm offering the following suggestions for future Star articles:
  • The recent to-do over Egypt's unpopular despot has got us thinking: which of our local politicians could be considered the "Mubarak" of Toronto City Council?
  • The recent violent crackdown on peaceful protesters in Egypt's Tahrir Square has got us thinking: if Toronto residents were going to rise up and then be viciously repressed, which animals would those viciously repressing them ride in on? The Egyptian thugs used horses and camels: keep reading to discover our suggestions for a distinctly Canadian battle beast.
And it doesn't just have to be about Egypt. Any topic of considerable contemporary interest will do. Here's an example of a non-Egyptian attention grabber: 
  • The creation of Southern Sudan, the world's newest country, got us thinking: what's changed in the day-to-life of Torontonians since East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, York and the former city of Toronto were amalgamated into a single municipality in 1998?
See? Easy, effective, and fun!


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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The Wikileaks controversy makes me frustrated, then tired, then sad, then disillusioned, then hungry, and finally, sleepy. Oh, and also full of hate. For whom or what do I feel this hate? Here is my hateful list:

1) Conservative loons. O'Reilly's calling for Julian Assange to be executed; Palin wants him to be executed, then dismembered; Beck wants him to be transformed into a tiny puppet for use on his show. According to the booming right-wing patriotic voices of hate, Assange is the worst thing to happen to modern civilization since last week (when probably Obama did something that was really awful).

2) Liberal loons. They love this. They get to go on about democracy and citizen's rights and transparency, all the while positively quivering with self-righteous intensity. They refuse to acknowledge that a state should be permitted, under any circumstances, to not tell its people that it secretly thinks Canada's a sissy or France is badly dressed. And I'm not minimizing the significance of the Wikileaks revelations for the sake of questionable funniness: from what I can tell, these documents either reveal things that have already been revealed or do things like make fun of Angela Merkel's haircuts. It's like hundreds of tween diaries have suddenly been released upon the world.

3) Julian Assange. First of all, he's creepy. He looks kind of like a malignant albino otter. Also, he appears to be a bit of a hypocrite. He demanded news organizations sign confidentiality agreements before giving them access to the documents. Which means he concedes that in some circumstances secrecy is advisable. And in a recent interview, he got up and walked out because the interviewer refused to steer clear of certain subjects (she asked whether he thought the sex assault charges laid against him in Sweden were politically motivated, which would seem to be a not unsympathetic question). Which means that he is willing to champion transparency as long as it doesn't apply to him.

4) Me. I can never seem to be self-assuredly principled. I believe that people should be entitled to know things and that sometimes people should be allowed to conceal things. I hate smug idealists and I hate smug self-professed pragmatists. I'm trying to rustle up the energy to imagine myself an enlightened moderate, but who likes enlightened moderates? Not I.

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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Capitalism has been lured down a dark alley and mugged. Set upon and jumped. In a shocking and dismaying move, BP has caved to communist, nanny-state pressure and agreed to set aside $20 billion for damage compensation. Thank God for Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton, and his courageous championing of the embattled oil company:
Barton is uniquely positioned to comment on this travesty as he is the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the committee that has jurisdiction over:

It's beautiful and refreshing to hear a politician speak out about an issue there's no way he's ever been lobbied about involving people there's no way he's ever golfed with. 

And while he is now being publicly disavowed by a number of high-ranking Republicans, incapable of appreciating the fact that while BP has the money to put towards fixing a large problem it obviously caused, it really shouldn't because that's just mean, there are others willing to stand by him. Rep. Michele Bachmann, speaking at the Heritage Foundation (which doesn't at all sound sneakily racist) referred to the fund as "extortion." 

Thank you, Barton and Bachmann, for being brave enough to call a spade a spade. Or an avoidable catastrophe an "unfortunate accident." Or reparation "extortion". If we don't put a stop to this, what next? Corporations being held responsible for deaths they've caused? Children being told they have to clean up their own messes? Let's forestall the arrival of this nightmare world by apologizing to BP, refusing its money, and accepting the fact that the oceans have had their day. 

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.
 
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Years ago, I read, in a book I can no longer remember the name of, that hundreds of years ago (or so) in Egypt, it was culturally verboten to compliment someone else's child. Instead of saying: "Oh, what a beautiful baby! How adorable! Not at all ugly or shriveled!" one would exclaim: "My GOD, what a dismally unattractive child! I sympathize with you for having to look at such a hideous boil for the rest of its life!"

Why, you probably aren't but I will pretend you are wondering, would friends and strangers subject a child who might well be ugly but still not deserving of such treatment to such treatment?

Because complimenting a child, according to my specialist-level understanding of olden days Egyptian culture, would draw the malevolent eyes of some malevolent gods upon him or her. Someone who is high will be brought low; someone who is already low can only go up (and then down again, inevitably).

This haunting, yet exhaustively informative tale should inform your future, catastrophytes. If you are feeling peppy, immediate cleanse the palate with some wrenching fear, because clearly that enthusiasm will only bring disaster upon you. You do not have to believe in malevolent gods, only the general malevolence of life. 

But remember, though, that avoiding a sense of well-being will not help you, either. As life's malevolence is general and disinterested (so it's not really malevolence, per se, but I enjoy the meatiness of that word and so will use it despite its total inappropriateness), you can be struck by almost laughably unfortunate misfortune when you've already been punched in the neck by life. 

So did their rhetorical cunning help the Egyptians, or more to the point, their babies? Probably not. Because as I've already said, life can smite you terribly at random times, and not just when you're lookin' good.

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.