erin judge writes this

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

April 2, 2009

productive member of society

Last night at Grendel's Den in Harvard Square, I overheard, as one does, some Harvard-connected people having some Harvard-connected conversation. Apparently, one of them knows an undergraduate busted for possession of cocaine with intent to sell. Pretty serious stuff. My fellow restaurant patron was commenting on how this undergrad was going to get off with a slap on the wrist, which is terribly unfair, he said, since a teenager from East Cambridge in the same situation would almost certainly face harsher penalties. (FYI for my non-Cantabridgian readers: "A teenager from East Cambridge" is a euphemism for "a local black or latino teenager" who would be in the same jurisdiction as our friend the Harvard kid.)

"Of course," said the dude telling the story of the Ivy League coke dealer, "this guy will be scared straight and then become a productive member of society." Implying, perhaps unintentionally, that the East Cambridge drug dealer SHOULD have the book thrown at him, because he's demographically incapable of being scared straight or becoming a productive member of society.

A productive member of society. Interesting. An entitled young man with enough criminal connections to have a quantity of cocaine intended for resale distribution who gets a slap on the wrist when busted at Harvard is somehow sure to be both "scared straight" and converted into a "productive member of society."

I was so mad I almost butted in. Had I done so, I would have said this:

"Hello, excuse me, hi, I was just wondering, what the hell about the current horrifying idiotic global economic shitshow indicates that overconfident Ivy League dudes who've gotten away with pretty much everything they've ever done wrong suddenly become these awesomely 'productive' members of society?"

If you take a look at this commentary, you'll find some stats at how disproportionately Ivy Leaguey Wall Street had become in the couple of decades leading up to the financial-products-induced meltdown. If you look at the trajectory of these financial firms over the past decade, it's easy to see that the individuals working in the sector were either massively delusional or directly negligent (or worse) in everything from their entanglement with CDSs to their deliberately inflated and conflict-of-interest-laden ratings systems. They thought they could make lots and lots of money out of pretty much nothing. Instead, they broke their balance sheets. They screwed everything up. Real, real, real bad.

Now, I'm not saying that every Ivy Leaguer is a narcissistic delusional planet-destroying douche. Far from it. But if you were already getting away with selling cocaine (which we all know is a drug that appeals to a very specific undergraduate demographic: rich, white, rich, mildly disaffected, extremely rich) at Harvard, what kind of Ivy League alum are you most likely to become? If you said "narcissistic delusional planet-destroying douche," you win a half-price entree from 5 to 7:30 pm!

And what are the consequences of the "products" of these particular members of society? According to (my hero) Kristof's column today, "the global economic crisis will cause an additional 22 children to die per hour, throughout all of 2009."

January 6, 2009

time time time

The closest thing I have to a new year's resolution is to try my best to accept myself as I am and stop conceiving of myself as a work in progress. My wise friend -- who has watched me struggle for years with setting rules for myself and constantly trying to reinvent and drastically alter my self, self-image, habits, lifestyle, and priorities -- had an interesting question. "Wow," she said, "What are you going to do with all that extra energy?"

Yeah. I hadn't thought of that.

It turns out that, other than criticizing myself and resolving to change change change every single day and designing complicated disciplinary architectures for executing this vaguely desired change, I don't really have many hobbies. I like reading. I like writing, but that's something I view as an arm of my professional comedy career (because I write hilarious shit like this sentence, see?). But especially now that my comedy job is my main job and I don't have to work 35-hour weeks on top of nights spent on the road and at clubs, I find that I have a lot of extra time. And, as my friend suspected, I have a lot of extra energy.

Of course, my impulse is to use all this time and energy to enact MAJOR CHANGES and OVERHAULS on myself!

So what's the deal with the thing and the habits and the dying hard?! And so on.

Maybe I should just take up macrame.

January 5, 2009

I inspire so little confidence

Number1Mom48267: I'm pissed off that I didn't tape Oprah today
I wanted to watch her mea culpa

me: what is today?

Number1Mom48267: monday, jan 5

me: no I mean what is on oprah today
I know what day it is mom

January 4, 2009

so what is art for?

2009. It's a new year. we go:

I finished Infinite Jest, and after reading it I agree with the first half of the title. I picked up the book (with both hands, exerting considerable force to heft its 1079 pages) in March, put it down (ahhhhhhh!) in late March, then picked it up again after David Foster Wallace's suicide in September.

It was...good!

I'm not the only one who thinks so.

But there are so many issues. And several different kinds of issues, which is why it's still bugging me. There are plot-related issues that arise when one finishes the book, such as:

* Wait. Is that IT???
* What the fuck just happened?
* Well then what the fuck happened in the middle?
* Wait, but this part and this part and that part were real, right? RIGHT!?
* Well how does he know him if he never met him?
* What the hell happened to that one guy then?

And so on.

And then there are philosophical issues, like:

* If everything was really that bad, would everything really be THAT bad?
* Is it just me, or does anybody else who's read this think it's not okay to be that overtly fucking racist?
* Are women really just moms and hot girls, especially to post-reductionist reductionist pomo white dudes?
* Obsession: is it all addiction, or can some of it be real achievement?
* Can we find redemption in life? Can we find it in the legacy of our art?

And of course those last two lead into all the art-philosophical issues, including:

* When we create, is it a project of taking down or building up?
* Do we have a human obligation to put some hope into our creations?
* Is the project of describing the brutal, the painful, or the tragically banal ever complete, yielding that energy to other pursuits?
* Should art make us suffer? The consumers? The creators?
* Do artists need to suffer for their art?

I feel like I could go on forever listing all the issues raised by the act of creating Infinite Jest and then killing oneself. Of course, as I mentioned in my earlier entry on DFW's suicide, this would conflate the artist's work with his psychological problems, which is a perilous leap of causality (for either) at best. But when we have great big brains full of great expanses of understanding and comprehension and empathy and possibility, is it inherently deep to use them to plunge the depths of complex dysfunction? Are we all just chasing Tolstoy, being delightfully distinctive by the personal ways in which we're fucked up? And didn't Wallace seem to think that everybody who was fucked up had more in passé-ass common with other fuckedupwads than they might think, and wasn't that at least some passing part of his whole thesis?

Depth conflated with pain, art conflated with suffering, geniuses who espouse the value of banal aphorisms who still ultimately meet demise through a plague of thought. These are the stakes. Ideas have consequences. As development economists will surely tell you, a misconceived theory can kill, and that obviously applies in other disciplines, from abstract-ass art to concrete-and-hilarious-roadrunner-ass physics.

So it boils down to this: I'm an artist. And I pretty much wanna be deep, but I pretty much don't wanna die. Can you dig?