erin judge writes this

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I'm Erin Judge. I'm a comedian and a writer. I live in Los Angeles. Let's hug.

September 26, 2008

Catholic League, say what?

"Witchcraft is a sad reality in many parts of Africa, resulting in scores of deaths in Kenya over the past two decades. Bishop Muthee's blessing, then, was simply a reflection of his cultural understanding of evil."

That logical doozy is excerpted from a statement from Bill Donohue, the President of the Catholic League.

Let's unpack that one, shall we?

The phrase "witchcraft is a sad reality" is, um, fascinating. What, exactly, is he saying is really real, is really happening? Does witchcraft or the attempted practice thereof cause humans to murder other humans? Or do certain witchy Kenyans actually conjure evil magic from Satan or something in order to kill people?

Bill, my friend, I believe you to be deliberately obfuscating here. And that purposeful vagueness is just another pirouette in the careful ballet that global Catholicism must try to dance.

I once saw a movie based on a Gabriel García Márquez story that I've never read. In it, a Latin American man must exhume his deceased young daughter's body because the above-ground cemetery where she rests is being knocked over to build a Coca-Cola-bottling-slash-banana-exporting-slash-right-wing-guerilla-training facility or something. So anyways, dude dives into his daughter's little alabaster drawer and discovers that her body has not decayed at all. Post-mortem corporeal preservation is, in Catholicism, an indicator of sainthood. So, after struggling with the Church bureaucracy in his homeland and getting nowhere, dear devoted dad does what any of us would do: he shoves his darling daughter's perfect corpse into a guitar case and heads for the Vatican.

Once there, a whole bunch of stuff happens involving an opera singer and a very macabre merry-go-round ride, but mostly this guy is cooling his heels and getting the run-around from the Church. Ultimately, while waiting around a Church office once again, our dude overhears some conversation about how they should really declare this chick a saint, since, you know, those countries, the wacky poor ones, with the regular-ass non-elite people, they NEED stuff like this. It'd be good P.R. for the Church to throw another saint their way, right?

Disgusted and insulted, our hero picks up his progeny-laden guitar case and storms out, and soon after he realizes he can do stuff telepathically and that in actuality he is the one imbued with miracle-working powers, not his daughter, so he just brings her back to life, and they cavort happily and have a much less macabre merry-go-round experience.

But the condescending message of the Church, with its high-level personnel base in secularizing, theology-heavy Europe and (mostly-)rational America, is what has always stuck with me about that movie. Church leaders are always trying to stay a teensy bit consistent with cosmopolitan thought evolution in the West (like newfangled science, even heliocentrism!) while still shoring up their power base in the developing world, where the interference of spirits and demons is sometimes seen as a very normal part of everyday life.

Bill Donahue's statement above neither confirms nor denies that witches cast spells that contain black magic that make people die. He just says that "witchcraft" is "a sad reality" which ultimately results in deaths. Everybody wins! Except the victims of witches, of course.

Fortunately, Sarah Palin will not be another witchcraft statistic, for she has protection. The only thing she's still vulnerable to is her own remarkable ignorance and utter lack of qualifications.

September 24, 2008

forging ahead to right right now

I'm in the middle of my least-responsibility-laden time of life since childhood. So far, it's an extraordinary and challenging experience. I'm all over the place when it comes to handling myself at a time like this. Some days I bustle from dawn until late into the night, writing and working out and cleaning and cooking and meditating and shopping and paying bills and making social calls and telling jokes and lining up gigs and updating my website and buzz buzz buzz. Other days I sit on the couch like an oversized piece of lint and read shitty blogs I do not care about and watch episodes of "Sex and the City" I've already seen eighty trillion times.

During my two years of IB hell in high school or my four years of too many extracurricular activities in college or my six years of day job plus comedy comedy comedy plus dating plus learning how to be a freaking grown-up, all I wanted was some time to relax and find balance. Some TIME OFF. I craved it, I dreamed about it, I hatched a crazy plan and toiled for years until I made it happen. Finally. A break.

A break is a funny thing. It turns out, none of our habits or impulses necessarily change, even when our day-to-day circumstances shift radically. Balance is not innate, and I lack experience with it, in my own life or in the examples of the people around me.

I'm trying. That's all I know. I'm trying to take really good care of myself, to devote myself to my favorite pursuits, to work diligently and intelligently, to say stuff, to challenge comfortable and harmful habits of body and mind. I've discovered -- or perhaps at last simply processed the immensity of -- a great open-ended longing inside of me. Achievement, success, personal discipline, material possessions -- none of these things take the edge off for more than a couple of days. The aching longing is for something else, and it's finally clear to me that it's satisfaction with what I have and who I am. Right now. Every molecule and atom that constitutes my being at this very moment, even as I deposit pieces of myself into the air and onto my keyboard. I long for me to be okay with me.

And that acceptance is on its way. Or at least the elements seem to be gathering....

September 23, 2008

guest blogger

Today's blog is guest-written by the part of me that is filled with self-doubt and self-criticism.

Hang on, what's up? Oh, you're thinking about getting back into writing? Well, that's hilarious on account of how much you suck at it. You have no mind for prose, and you have nothing interesting to say anyway. What tales do you have to tell? Anything about your own life just sounds needy and bitter, and anything you make up sounds pathetically contrived. Your attempts to write fiction are too chatty and your attempts to write non-fiction are too intellectually irresponsible. You're boring. You're self-indulgent and self-obsessed. You're not funny or witty, you're just neurotic and circular. You're like the QUEEN of telling rather than showing. If you did write some piece of fiction, the world would just regard it as vapid chick-lit and smart people you respect would look down on you. You need to at least take some kind of class on stringing together a narrative or writing a decent description, and even then you would just see how everybody else had a lot more talent than you and hopefully finally give it up. Anything that you come up with and put out there will probably set back the causes of women and all of humanity by a couple of decades. Come on, do you really want everybody you know to read some piece of shit thing you write, and then have to have awkward conversations about it at reunions and holiday parties? You're not an artist. You're just a narcissist. Get over yourself and grow up. Or don't grow up! Fine! How about just kill yourself instead?! Awesome, now you're a blog cliche. Congratulations. Now I'm embarrassed for both of us.

Whew! Thanks, guest blogger! That was quite a mouthful! Now, please excuse me; I've got some writing to do.

September 15, 2008

thoughts on pain

"[I]n the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance..." -david foster wallace

"Slogans saved my life. All of them — the dumb ones, the imperatives, the shameless, witless ones." - david carr

My first reaction to David Foster Wallace's death was one of shock, followed by immediate recognition and easy explanation, then anger at myself for making assumptions about him. His work is a world of pain, varieties of which he taxonomized and translated. His voice was soft and his speaking pace was measured, and he seemed thoughtful. He certainly thought. He may have thought himself to death.

Certain deaths are tragic and not at all surprising, which, in the case of a young person, always amplifies the tragedy. Kurt Cobain. Anna Nicole Smith. People can die from private pain worn on their celebrity sleeves, and the microscope of every type of celebrity can reinforce the horrible belief that a person's own pain is inescapable. You've won awards for your explanations of pain. Everybody's watching your pain and reporting on it and consuming it on their train commutes. So it must be, like, bigger-than-big pain, just like it feels. If everybody is looking, it must be a spectacle, right? Tautologically? It must be objectively Big Pain.

According to the New York Times, David Foster Wallace has suffered with depression for 20 years. Since he was 26. I doubt that. It seems to me that he's been treated for depression for 20 years. He published his first novel when he was 24. He was already a working artist by 26. Do you know how hard it is to disentangle your pain and your art, especially when that art has already born success? I do, and I don't; mostly I can only imagine. People would rather destroy their own personal lives, destroy their own minds and bodies, than get better when they fear that their work hinges on their problems.

Of course, that's just stupid, right? David Foster Wallace knew that was stupid and narcissistic, to believe one's pain is tied to one's work, to believe that one's success hinges on misery. He knew enough to see that. He knew enough to see the opposite. He had enough power and empathy to see every side, to see every reality, to berate and mock his own beliefs and those of others. He was at sea in a storm of seeing.

The quotes at the beginning of this post by Wallace and David Carr show a humble kind of lucidity, or perhaps a lucid kind of humility: self-defined intellectual men with great, macho successes under their belts bowing humbly at the Power of Positive Thinking (TM). We humans, for whatever reasons, have evolved with a startlingly consistent need for a Higher Power, and for a Truth that we can cling to like a MobileMart sign in a hurricane. (I swear to those of you who haven't read it that O magazine should just be re-titled "How To Believe In Something When You Don't Really Necessarily Believe In Anything But You Know That People Who Believe In Something Are Happier And More Successful But You Often Find Yourself Too Cynical And Reality-Based To Delude Yourself" magazine.) For all of us godless (and pantheist and monotheist and seeing-all-sides-ist) folks, and for those of us who worship diction and feel truth when synaptic manifestations can be formed into correct-seeming strings of characters and words, platitudes and banal slogans can be a starting point (or at least a convincing, if embarrassing, stand-in) for belief.

You can think your way out of everything, except the problem of thinking too much. Sure, you can use your mind to free yourself from your mind, but that's different from thinking. You do other things. You distract. With purpose, you meditate. You liberate yourself from thoughts, and you do so in terror if your livelihood and bridge to humanity and very SELF feel dependent on your constant curious thinking and churning little brain. You've pitied the deluded forever. Pitied, and envied, but not really, but yes entirely envied. It's hard. It's a great big mindfuck is what it is.

David Foster Wallace tried. And for that, I love him. From the New York Times:

[David Foster Wallace's father] James Wallace said that last year his son had begun suffering side effects from the drugs and, at a doctor’s suggestion, had gone off the medication in June 2007. The depression returned, however, and no other treatment was successful. The elder Wallaces had seen their son in August, he said.

“He was being very heavily medicated,” he said. “He’d been in the hospital a couple of times over the summer and had undergone electro-convulsive therapy. Everything had been tried, and he just couldn’t stand it anymore."

Well fuck. Fucking fucking fuck shit fuck. He tried.

Those of us who have survived something like suicidal depression have a unique variety of survivor guilt. Because our minds can still see every way, we know it could be us in the casket with an extra thought or one less notion here or there. Timing, people, circumstance are all so crucially important to our survival. Every suicide is an accidental death.

And nobody will ever write like him again.