Sunday, December 06, 2009

Cracking Jokes at a Wake

As we approach the end of a year, and the end of a decade, it is a good time to draw some conclusions and think about the future... of the blog you are currently reading. I started it a few years ago, as part of an effort to promote a book I was writing. That went quite well, and in the process I built a small but enthusiastic audience of people who clamored for more.

They tended to be forward-looking, independent-thinking types who couldn't help but see that an American collapse was coming and were quite worried by this prospect. I was able to ease their minds, from several directions. Based on my first-hand observations of the Soviet collapse, I was able to add a lot of mundane detail, which is helpful in developing a realistic picture of the future and forming reasonable expectations. But perhaps more importantly, I was able to do so with a sense of humor. I find that a sense of humor is absolutely indispensable for preserving one's sanity. Furthermore, I feel that people who lack a sense of humor tend to be dreary, awful company, risky to have around, and a potential mental health hazard. (By the way, according to such people, that's not funny.)

To me, dead-serious people have always seemed much more dead than serious. Humor is not just about taking the edge off: most interesting critical thinking seems to happen at the cusp between seriousness and humorousness. Judging the serious and humorous aspects of each statement allows us to become cognizant of the expressive limitations of contemporary language and the imbecilic clichés with which it is riddled, and liberates us somewhat from conventional modes of thought. But what can be a benefit can also be a limitation: I find it hard to adequately express myself without recourse to parody, satire, absurdity, double entendres, gallows humor, irony or sarcasm. These are all arrows in my quiver, and I never go hunting without them. But humor, as it turns out, has its limits.

Over just the past year, based on the numerous blog comments and emails I have received, I could see the mood of the audience shift. First, the audience got much larger: collapse has gone mainstream. Second, the mood went from light-hearted and humorous to earnest, to serious, to concerned, to angry. This is, of course, perfectly understandable. Over the course of the past year, it has become clear that Obama is just the next political fraud-in-chief, that national bankruptcy is unavoidable, that economic recovery is a pipe dream, that Washington and Wall Street have congealed into a single kleptocratic monolyth impervious to popular influences, that Pax Americana is at an end throughout the world, and that if you aren't absolutely certain that you are high-class, then you must be low-class like the rest of us, because the middle class ain't no more. Funny, isn't it, the difference just one year makes?

I was lucky, because when I started writing about the collapse of the USA, it was still an arrogant, self-assertive, self-satisfied country that believed in its full-spectrum dominance and thought it was heading for a "new American century." In short, it was a country that could still take a joke rather than being one. What before seemed witty is now perceived as a mockery or an insult. Not only is it impossible to joke away pain, grief and despair, but attempts to do so are in rather questionable taste, and that, more than anything else, gives me pause, because if there is anything I detest more than humorlessness, it's mauvais goût.

And so, the time has come to make some changes. Henceforth, this blog will be for publishing perfectly serious articles about climate effects on the shoreline, sail-based transport, and my next book.

Happy Holidays!


Rick B said...

Say it ain't so...!

David said...

Thanks for all the laughs. Maybe you can be serious but wry?

Doyu Shonin said...

Oh, but we will SO miss the humor. What's not funny about U.S. pomposity walking, waterless, in circles in the desert sun, talking of a coming ice age?

Lee Grove said...

Kollapsnik said:
"Henceforth, this blog will be for publishing perfectly serious articles about climate effects on the shoreline, sail-based transport, and my next book."

May the climate effects on your next book be benign.

Degringolade said...

Dang Dmitry:

I can understand your desires here, but I for one will miss your humor.

I took my own meager offerings off line a while ago because of troll and other such nonsense. The vacation was needed and refreshing. But in the end I came back.

I for one am thinking about the simple expedient of not allowing comments or even more simple, not reading them.

I would hope that you would reconsider.

Anonymous said...

or you could just close comments and not be bothered with them. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant, beautiful and well-timed. Cheers

Angry Midwest said...

Oh God, please don't become serious. The world hardly needs more serious doomers. I come here because I WANT to hear gallows humor.

Let the serious ones clog up other websites. (Though please feel free to update with as much frequency as you desire :)

Trebor Resro said...

Add dead-pan/dry to your list of humorous devices . . . (re: last paragraph)

Bev said...

I hope you're joking.

Grego said...

Dmitry, don't get caught up in the drama of the blogosphere. You have a silent majority of readers that has better things to do than enter the neverending comment fray with the ones who you seem to be worried about. On behalf of myself and all these invisible others, please keep up your intelligent, humorous, informative posts!

Lee Grove said...


You'll have to listen twice to the intro to believe she said what you think see said:

Anonymous said...

And happy holidays, or Christmas, to you, Dmitry! I think there are some good jokes left in the old collapsing carcass... and I don't think you will be able to resist making them.

I mean, the next time that people in some town _pray_ so that the price of oil goes back down, are you going to resist?

Keep it up, I say...

Anonymous said...

Another good post.

You are my favorite blogger!

I noticed a shift in your CC posts. Unlike collapse, which you treat as inevitable and perhaps an opportunity for improvement, You want to DO SOMETHING about CC.

Did you ever want anyone to do something about preventing collapse like you want to prevent CC?

You make good jokes at the expense of Transition Town efforts (which I quite enjoyed as I was involved with TT at the time).

Preventing CC is a great idea, and Jay Hanson explains why collapse is the only CC mitigation effort that has a chance of influencing CC.

By all means, develop a 12 step program to educate Nascar Morons about CC, but be sure to add the last step of CC to the process!

Dr. Doom said...

Dmitry, let me be the first to say hahaha, you can maybe take the humor out of the subject, but not out of the man (or woman). So I'm sure some sarcasm will creep in there, somewhere.

Sure has been a crazy year. I wonder how many moron crazy years like the last one a society can take?

Years ago, my wife and I would visit a couple that lived on their sail boat. We would mostly just hang out, and in all the years we knew them, we only went sailing once, from where they had the boat dry docked back to the lagoon where they moored it. Our suspicion was the owner was somewhat afraid of the open sea. We did discuss the merits of having a sail boat, and they had a very fine one made of New Zealand Kauri pine wood, single mast, sorry I don't recall the type name, about 30+ feet. It was then the term "doomsday getaway" craft was introduced to us, although it seemed like such a distant prospect that I gave it no further thought--that was about 30 years ago--until relatively recently, of course.

So serious boat talk and climate discussion sounds good to me, just leave a little room for your strong suit, wry humor. Cheers!

bryant said...

(By the way, according to such people, that's not funny.)

I had to laugh!

My brother commented to a woman he knew that "she had no sense of humor" she promptly kicked him in the shin. As he hopped on one leg and massaged his shin, she said "now that's funny!"

Please keep cracking jokes at America's wake...maybe the humorless bastards will just move on! Perhaps if you just delete their posts unanswered they will figure out that they are no longer welcome; Club Orlov could become a more exclusive club.

Anonymous said...

Far be it for me to tell you what to write...but I hope you won't let anyone else tell you what to write either. Please continue to write, tho! Very good stuff is found on this blog, and even a few gems in the comments are available. Sometimes.

Please realize that there are a few upperclass folks who don't particularly like a large low-class population that is educating itself. Ignorant people are easier to manipulate. It doesn't cost much to post drivel or abrasive off-topic crap on someone's blog, but it does make some poor blogger have to work harder to moderate things. If the blog comments go unmoderated, the signal to noise ratio is lessened, and a skilled propagandist might be able to start boring flamewars or useless discussions about Tiger Woods. While such actions are perhaps unethical, they are not illegal.

I hope you find a way to keep on speaking truth to power. You've seen so much more than some of us (like me!) and you have important things to say, imho. Turn off the comments if you must, or perhaps find a volunteer or three to help moderate things, but please keep the Orlovian wit and knowledge coming!

SG said...

hmm. your humor instinct is pretty entertaining. some of us will miss it.

hopefully, old habits will prevail in the end.

Anonymous said...


Maybe you've read it right, maybe not. But before I read the little italicised note above your previous article, I felt that was likely to have been a turning point, what with worldly intelligence not being the 'be all and end all' of what makes us all worthy of some respect.

It wasn't the more eccentric of the poorer folk patronising Walmart who have brought us to the cusp of this economic and ecological cataclysm, was it, but people with all too focused a worldly intelligence, wealthy high-achievers.

Anyway, I hope you can see I'm not moralising or presuming to judge you in any kind of negative way.

I hope you don't keep to that intention to avoid peppering your articles with that sardonic wit of yours. Such black, ironic humour brings magic to our lives.

How could anyone work for an advertising outfit, and not have some of the more brittle kind of cynicism regarding the more decent and trusting consumers brush off on you. The marvel is you're still clearly a rounded compassionate human-being.

It was more high-spirits than any genuine empathetic deficit, I expect, clouding your judgment as it often does to us all in various ways, if we have any vitality.

You're also a 'one-off', yourself, so maybe we'll see you one day in Walmart in a Commodore's outfit!

Best wishes.

the Rev Jerry Gloryhole said...

Don't expect the trolls to not infect everything.

These are days when men and women must finally face the fact that much of what they hold to be true is bunkum. God, American exceptionalism, capitalism, being the Crown of Creation, two weeks of summer vacation; all shorn of their clothes, and seen, naked.
Being apes, we will not take status threats lightly.

Which is where the humor comes in. You won't lose it, because it's one thing that keeps you sane. But if the knuckledraggers insist on superstition and ignorance and fear being the sharpest arrows in their quiver, then how can we not mock them?

Your friend at sea,
The Reverend Jerry Gloryhole

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Dmitry don't do it! Your witty humour is crucial. And anyway, tearing it out of your writing would be like tearing your own vitals out. It's indivisible.

Degringolade has the solution to you quandary. We can't let the nibelungen win! Delete, or don't read on as soon as you get to the first insult, or just disable comments altogether till the malevolents go away. If they can't screech insults, they won't stay for long.

Sooner a Club Orlov with no comment facility than no Orlov humour.

Anonymous said...

As someone who doesn't post or read your comments much, I will truly miss your comic relief. Maybe it's because I lived through the collapse of Argentina... but I totally understand your frustration in watching Americas pride become ravenous anger. You should definitely consider just disabling comments.

For those of us who connect with you... Your insights will be truly missed.

Anonymous said...

Look, this doesn't make sense. Your blog will become just as humorless as the humorless? You're going to try to avoid offending the offensive? To hell with these a-holes. I wouldn't waste a single minute (or suppress a single joke) trying to make them feel better. They deserve our mockery. Very soon the world will be a place that no longer coddles them, so why should your blog coddle them? Prodding them now, as roughly as necessary, is the greatest service you can do for them. If they don't appreciate it, at least you tried, and had fun doing it. If I were you, I would take their outrage as a sign that I'm doing something RIGHT. The higher the degree of outrage, the greater my success. Because outrage in this case occurs in direct proportion to truth. The pain they feel when they hear the truth, exists because they are still clinging to LIES. That's why people say the "truth hurts," but really it's the lie that hurts.

Honestly, no more humor? What reason will I have for reading this blog then? One less reason, anyway. I'll have to see if a bone-dry discussion of coastal flooding is sufficient to hold my interest. Honestly it sounds to me as though you simply got some hate mail and it hurt your feelings or frightened you. I hope you'll find the courage to continue just as you've been doing. If need be, turn off the comment notifications and ignore the comments. Right after you read mine of course! But above all, do not let bullies scare you; that's the same old trick by which they manage to shut people up who are much smarter than they are, such that the only ideas left in the debate are their idiotic ones. Recall the mainstream US news media, and you'll know exactly what I mean. They don't have the guts for this, the political establishment doesn't have the guts for it. But unlike them, you are not financially beholden (in fact you're in no way beholden) to these morons.

Glenn said...

I can only hope that your last paragraph was a typical example of your dry ironic humour.


Anonymous said...

dude. as a sage once said. feet don't fail me now. you da feet. we da legs. the rest of the population is appropriately or not various other parts. where you go, we'll not only follow, but hopefully help you get there. JUST DON'T STOP GOING EH? glubglub ain't gonna be my last phrase as I ride the titanic. think of how the baastaads would prefer to cheer you down so as to make you quiet. all of us quiet. so keep on keepin on. seriously funny. not silly stuff that comes from desparate folk. seriuosly funny stuff from folk who keep on since there's nothin else to do. like the man fallin off a building asked at each floor: "how's it going?" the only answer that works? "so far so good." hang in there and we'll all keep going 'till we can't eh?

James Kalin said...

Hmmm. How are things going otherwise? Run into a rough patch of luck? Your boat have serious keel rot? Did some nutjob nail a metaphorical dead cat to your door? It's hard to imagine you censoring your sense of humor out of your writings: no doubt the result will show it, like spaghetti without the sauce, or bread without the yeast, etcetera. Don't mess with success.

fritz said...

It just occurred to me. Given the readership here, you're about as likley to be forevermore (Edgar Allen Poe reference intended) serious as the religious right christianist taliban are to give up their SUV's and move into urban brownfields to install windmills, pv panels and organic sustainable urban gardens.

Both are seriously frightening prospects. Please remember and honor the courage of George Carlin and Richard Prior (pre cocaine issues of course). Or Bill Cosby:

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."

“A word to the wise ain't necessary, it's the stupid ones who need the advice.”

“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.”

“Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.”

“Women don't want to hear what you think. Women want to hear what they think -- in a deeper voice.”

Not sure that last one applies, but I like it so much, I'm willing to try to make it apply. Thank you for being you.

Jason said...

Thank goodness. You were never funny anyhow.


fritz said...

Anonymous at Sunday, December 6, 2009 3:52:00 PM EST, has a good idea: Orlovian Assistants.

From past volunteer experience, I suggest the OA's get paid. Hard to supervise let alone fire a volunteer. We all care what our paymaster thinks about our work though.

And yes, I'm available a few hours a week. Now the problem becomes what to pay the OA's. US Dollars would be ironic but not very funny.

Perhaps we can work out a deal on horizontal axis windmills? Gridtied or untied inverters? Deep cycle batteries? Land next to a trustworthy Amish clan? A team of good draft horses?

Kevin said...

I'm a painter. When I went to Hawaii with the idea of moving there, I visited many galleries to show my work. To the owner of one, who happened also to be an artist, I said I meant to change my style to suit the Hawaiian market. He told me, "I thought I'd be be able to do that too, but when I got here it turned out I couldn't." I suspect that your natural tendency to humor will come through, no matter how you resolve to suppress it. And that's probably just as well.

I very much appreciate the things you've published here and elsewhere online, and am very interested in the Sail Transport Network. I mean to relearn sailing after a *very* long hiatus, very much in response to your writings on that topic.

I'm rather sorry to learn that doomerism has gone mainstream. I thought I'd gotten in on the leading edge of something, ahead of the curve for a change. Alas! But so far the handful of people to whom I've broached the subject don't seem very responsive. I think that, bad as things have gotten, the vast majority remain as oblivious to events that will inevitably affect them as they can currently get away with.

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

And wojja mean 'mauvais gout'? Never seen the smallest hint of it in Club Orlov.

Just recently, a friend bought a seventy-foot steel boat, good, but in need of some serious work. (Not a toy. Something he needed seriously for his way of life) Immediately he'd got it, he had a sudden bout of doubt and depression: "Oh God! I'm forty-something, my back's bad, my energy's not what it was. Look at the SIZE of it! I can't do this any more. I've made a terrible mistake! I think I shall have to sell it again...."

It was quite a bad faltering of his spirit, and several of us, his friends, had to apply liberal doses of commiseration, encouragement, offers of help, and so on.

Within a week, he was recovering and coming round to his old state of mind, working on the vessel (in the open, in a British Winter) and the results were already apparent and -- as usual -- impressive. (He's an exceptional craftsman)

I take it that you're going through a similar crisis of confidence, Dmitry. All I can say is: Hang in there! This stream of supportive comments is a small feedback of the deep satisfaction of an urgent need which your unique insight/humour gives to a whole constituency of seekers, not just in the US, but worldwide. What you do is so essential -- even if it IS bloody-well cracking jokes at a wake -- that it would be a tragedy if you went quiet with it.

And anyway, haven't you ever been to an Irish wake? Fifty percent of that is humour and laughter, food and drink and celebration, all the life-affirmations, even with the dead one lying there in the open coffin. Being out on the extreme edge of Europe where they tend to get the worst of new customs only patchily, many very ancient things survive there. Their old, deeply-wise attitude to the catastrophe of the death of someone they love is absolutely right.

Goddammit Dmitry, keep being LOL-funny. In this time of universal catastrophe it's just essential.

Rural Idiocy said...

Cheer up Dmitry, and get yourself a pair of these:

Anonymous said...

i look forward to u'r 'perfectly serious' posts, & book which i hope it is how to build sailboats.

please do add in any interviews/presentations; that media is especially helpful to some of us.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like someone who is sick and tired of hate mail and winter darkness. Remember to eat that cod liver oil every day.

I'll send you a love mail, a diploma for best blog on the net and the recipe of Norwegian cabbage-in-mutton one day.

I don't know if you know this in the States, so: don't forget the bright side.

Anonymous said...

Dmitri, to quote some wise man: 'We have met the enemy and he is us'

We are all in this together, the ignorant and the cognizant. We will all suffer, although some more than others.

I have lived near and worked on Native American reservations for many years. The one thing I can tell you is that they have a sense of humor! Every one of them laughs more than any white person I know. And it is wonderful. Humor, compassion, community are what make life worth living. Don't give up on the humor!

I third the idea of moderators for the comments, and I would also be willing to volunteer. I don't know what help that would be, but if the other options are turning off comments, or losing your sense of humor I choose losing the comments.

Unknown said...

I took your idea of growing guinea pigs in the city seriously. It worked in a small backyard in the bronx. Chickens are too large and require imports, but the cavies survived off the grass and wildflowers. After they escaped from their open-bottom cage, they managed to avoid the alley cats and remained in the yard.

Looking forward to your new topics and next book.

Anonymous said...

Dmitry -
I will sorely miss the wit and sarcasm. These sure signs of a functioning intellect make the bad news somewhat more potable. It is my deep and sincere hope that you run out of self control before you run out of topics. So, to address your concerns of cracking jokes at a wake, I'd like to quote one of the great lesser minds of his generation and say, "Bring it on!"

Waldenswimmer said...

Dmitry, in the first place, your humor is too inextricably tied up in your world view and style of expression to actually disappear, or even to be subdued for very long. The topics you want to write about in the future are fine, but I hope you won't really stop opining about the whole American "scene." As pathetic as we can be, Americans can definitely take it - it's the flip side of Exceptionalism. Your vantage point is unique -- experienced with collapse (as a reality), humane, scientifically rigorous and informed throughout with unusual intelligence. We need you as a guide as we go deeper into the dark tunnel!

Phlogiston Água de Beber said...


Been loving your blog for quite awhile now. There is another fine old phrase you should not ignore.

Illegitimi Non Carborundum.
(Don't let the bastards grind you down.)

It has recently been discussed over on The Automatic Earth about the benefits of maintaining humor in spite of bad stuff.

thomas saranacas said...

been reading since your "Black Swan" post, and I want to thank you.

I htink your perspective is honest, accurate and honest, that you are the only one stating it. Lonely path I would guess. So, go out and get drunk. No thought, preperations, or writing. Just get away. Enjoy this fragile world a bit before its lost.

You know that in the end waking up will be more satisfying, but enjoy the dream a bit.

Elliiot Lake said...

NO no no. That's not good!!

I enjoy your humor, I often look in here specifically for it! In fact, I have a friend who has read one of your books and I call her and read delightful satirical humor from your posts here to her, as she doesn't have internet access at home.

-----If they can't take a joke, you can't help them anyway, you dig?

Alex Balashov said...

No! Please! Your hitherto engaging, thought-provoking and incisive writing would not be the same without its wry humour and sarcastic brilliance.

fritz said...

Dmitry, is the depth and breadth of this response getting through to you any better than the trolls did?

Ironic that we're all arguing with you - as though you ever had to try in the past to be humorous. All you had to be was (and is) accurate. The irony and humor jump out on their own.

Rhisiart Gwilym - you're only half right:
"And anyway, haven't you ever been to an Irish wake? Fifty percent of that is humour and laughter, food and drink and celebration, all the life-affirmations, even with the dead one lying there in the open coffin."
It's 100% of the above items and it's especially with the dead one lying there. Thank you much. My first Irish wake when I was 10 was what I thought of when I first read Dmitry's "Cracking Jokes" post.

Ian. Seriously. Guinea Pigs? Try rabbits. Ann Kanable's "Raising Rabbits" is getting us ready for our first fur, and later on meat rabbits.

Dmitry, please do continue highlighting all of our country and planet. It's the world's current management that we're poking and prodding. And that we're trying to dodge when this rabbid bully of a beast lashes out at us.

Your blogs are invaluable in sorting out the Rendon Groups' and MSM's various head fakes and thrusts.

About the only idea I can imagine that might make one as calmly focused as you go quiet is if the powers that be and the MSM start to take you seriously and put you in their sites. That's hard to figure. Perhaps Noam Chomskey would be willing to talk w/ you as to how he's been able to keep fascist regime after fascist regime ignoring him.

Either way, please do keep writing on topics that help those of us more landlocked and hence destined to ride out collapse here at home in the Midwest.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding? How can a person change their personality? Nah. You're just a bit pissed off with some commentators. You'll get over it.
How do can you recognise an intellectual. It's someone who walks into a room, sees a tea cosy on the table and resists the urge to put it on their head.

Anonymous said...

I've been following your blog for awhile now, but I've never commented and rarely read the comments until now. It's some serious business when a man starts talking about curbing his sense of humor. Someone needs to put their foot down! Then in, out, and shake it all about... Henceforth I'll be reading your blog wearing womens underwear (probably my wife's, but don't let her know)and picking my nose. Just so you know.
Warmest regards,
David the Bald

Anonymous said...

You are important. What you say is important. How you say it is important.

A lot of us would like to be able to speak as you do, but alas cannot. So your messages are crucial. And the way you deliver them is also crucial.

We love to read you.


Anonymous said...

One bit of sarcasm from you is worth 10 billion comments.

Just turn off the comments!

Anonymous said...

I do think the Internet fosters and nourishes kooks who like to vent, disrupt, propagate nonsense and so forth, but there is a danger in not allowing criticism. A chorus of people who agree with one another is likely to cover up real problems.

For example, the question of global warming itself has many facets, it is poorly understood and even the appropriate time scale in which to place it is in doubt. Physics does not provide any certainty, in this case, other than measuring the temperatures and following trends (with a time scale problem built in, just for fun). By the way, and because I have seen it mentioned repeatedly, there is no "climate science" worthy of the name. The subject, as a scientific discipline, is in its infancy when we compare it to other branches of physics. The computer power is huge but so are the problems, and the models are quite crude. If either propagandists or deniers of the phenomenon claim that "climate science" is on their side, they don't know what science is or they pretend not to know.

Just to give a comparison, there is much about fluid mechanics that we still don't understand, and that is an old discipline. And the study of climate and weather is incomparably more complicated.

The most tragic thing of all is that a natural phenomenon became a "controversy", in the worst possible sense of that term. Such a "controversy" cannot bring anything good with it, in my opinion. Only a command of the facts, which we are very far from, could be useful.

Anonymous said...

The main reason I read this blog is the humor. The facts about the collapse are usually well known, nothing interesting there.