Once upon a time, comics didn’t make jokes about their own neuroses.  I honestly don’t know how they survived.  [Numerous authoritative accounts point to booze, drugs, and sex as their preferred coping mechanisms.  -ed.]  Luckily, those dark ages are over.   And thus now, not only do comics get a more direct way to channel their deep-seated pain into their art, but also we in the audience get a cheaper source of mental health advice.   For example, I think the following’s pretty good advice:

 I prefer not to think of myself as depressed.  I prefer to think of myself as paralyzed by hope.

Maria Bamford


(For those who were amused by this joke and are tickled by mental health humor generally, note that Maria’s new half-hour special on Comedy Central should be repeating umpteen times over the course of the next month.)


Valentine’s Day Poetry

February 14, 2007

So, after an utterly unplanned 8 month hiatus, I’ve decided to resume blogging. I plan to start slowly in order to make sure I don’t pull a blogging muscle or sprain my brain. So, don’t expect any long original essays for a while… just some links and quotes. Along these lines, given that today’s Valentine’s Day, it’s pretty obvious what to do: find some pithy poems about love, quote ’em, and call it a day. But this is in fact pretty tough, especially as I feel one should somehow not only pay tribute to the intoxicating ideal of pure, eternal love, but also pay heed to the bittersweet reality of conflicted, transitory love. After some thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that the middle verses of Regina Spektor’s song “On the Radio” best fit the bill:

This is how it works
You’re young until you’re not
You love until you don’t
You try until you can’t
You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath

No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again

While the lyrics are quite swell all by themselves, the song really deserves to be heard. On the off chance that you don’t immediately want to part with your hard earned cash and buy Regina’s album Begin to Hope just on my say-so, you can hear the song free via the radio player on Regina’s website. The more-or-less direct link is http://www.reginaspektor.com/radio/begtohope/radio.html. Click through to the 4th track.

So now that this blog's been reincarnated, I suppose I should post something. My normal bloggy habits were to read or see something horrible, become obsessively aggravated by it, procrastinate tremendously on my real work by doing an absurd amount on research on it, and then finally write a post that usually included just a teeny-tiny fraction of all that obsessive work. (Did ya check out the references on the bottom of my Hiroshima and Nagasaki post? I really went out and looked for just the right table in the US Strategic Bombing Survey. I have Excel analysis of it—cross-referenced against Morris's Fog of War documentary to boot—that I didn't include since, well, that'd just make y'all think I'm clinically obsessive. 🙂 )

Thus, I think this time around I should actively try to check this habit or, failing that, at least try to keep it to manageable proportions. So this post is about a teeny-tiny horrible thing, rather than a world-historical horrible thing. But, man, it's horrible in its own special way…

Read the rest of this entry »

Well, it might be the sleep deprivation talking (I’m trying to shock myself into being a morning person once again), but I thought this following bit by Marc Maron on Air America Radio’s Morning Sedition about allegations George Lucas is trying to criticize George W. Bush with Revenge of the Sith was utterly hilarious:

MARON: Now there’s been a lot of talk, Yoda, about this being a political movie.

YODA: Hmmm! Biased this movie is not.

MARON: But some political–some Republicans–are very upset…

YODA (interrupting): Whack, these bastards be!  Nothing but haters, these bitches are.

MARON: So you’re saying you don’t play partisan politics, and this movie doesn’t either?

YODA (sheepishly): Well… Hillary 2008!

Do you love taking multiple choice surveys, but worry that the surveys you take don’t have a thick enough veneer of social scientific rigor to allow you to admit you’ve taken them?  Well, worry no more.  These surveys at www.blogthings.com will satisfy all your dreams of fufilling the grand, Socratic injunction to know thyself simply by filling in little bubbles.

(Hat tip: Matthew Yglesias.)

Some of the quizzes are a bit personal.  But here’s a question appropriate for public discussion among the millions of strangers on the internet: Just how regional is your idiolect of American English?   Mine turns out to be overwhelmingly "Yankee".   (You already might have guessed this–and in particular that I’ve been infected with that annoying sociolect "Harvard" within "Yankee"—since I used the words "idiolect" and "sociolect" in a sentence.)

My Linguistic Profile:

60% Yankee
20% General American English
15% Upper Midwestern
5% Dixie
0% Midwestern
What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

Who would have guessed that spending all of my formative years in New England with family and friends who overwhelmingly did the same could have so affected my diction?

Looking back on the year just past, I see that I have all too often neglected both my body and my blog.   I thus resolve to eat less and blog more.  Indeed, I intend to combine these two activities and add fat-burning fuel to my diet by blogging.   Despite the fact that four years of PhD work in physics here at MIT has amply proven that major mental effort doesn’t really burn all that many calories, I’m not yet ready to return simply to the cardiovascular training, weightlifting, and martial arts that kept me svelte in my youth.   Instead, I’m hoping that combining major mental effort with intense righteous indignation in that way that only blogging provides will kickstart my moribund metabolism into a lean, mean, calorie-burning machine.    

I’ll let y’all know how this works, and if it does work, expect to see Blog Yourself Thin!  — The Self-Righteous Way to Shed Unwanted Pounds on bookshelves by Christmas 2005.