Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I will concede that this blog has hit a bit of a rough patch. Aside from a handful of photos one week and an ill-conceived rant the next, I've hit a bit of a wall. I have attempted to eschew music reviews, as I am keenly aware that no one reads them and I'm trying to avoid movie reviews so I can get it all out of my system at the end of the year when I come up with some sort of hierarchy. In one of my first entries, I confessed that this blog existed more as a means for me to express opinions more articulately than I otherwise may have, and should be read as a journal more than a manifesto. I still feel that way, but I wouldn't be linking the entries if it was an entirely solitary pursuit. What I'm saying is; the blogging will be probably be sporadic, and on my terms. This entry will address luck.

I've stopped reading the Oppenheimer biography 'American Prometheus' because it was excruciatingly slow and dry, and entirely too detailed. For Oppenheimer scholars, it may be fascinating to read the minutes of every meeting he ever attended, but I couldn't take any more. Instead, I moved laterally to 'Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself", a 300-page "conversation" between Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky and the late David Foster Wallace in 1996, just as Wallace was finishing his book tour for Infinite Jest and wrestling with his sudden celebrity. While I have only read 'A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again', 'The Pale King', and only made a small dent in Infinite Jest, I consider myself to be a big DFW fan. I hold his Commencement speech near and dear, and am saddened when I realize his output is finite, and some day I will have no new DFW material to read.

What I have been struck by most in Lipsky's book is the humility that DFW has in the wake of the fervor that Infinite Jest produced, and how he dismisses compliments and finds the accolades "scary", in that they are only raising expectations for his next book to unreachable heights. He was a brilliant man, and one who refused to view art with one iota of pretension, instead using it as a means to tease out fundamental, universal truths. He was not one to roll his eyes at cliche, so long as it was effective and not insulting, unabashedly enjoying old country music due to the very deep material it contained, regardless of the surface subject matter. I won't get into all of his intricacies, but it gave me a profound level of respect for him on a different level than I had before. Maybe it's because I see some of myself in him when he discusses his twenties, and it scares me when I consider how his life ended. One of the most devastating passages involves Wallace explaining how incredibly lucky he is, in spite of everything, to be doing what he enjoys. While not an edgy topic, I considered the same, and decided to quantify how lucky I really am to try and visualize it a bit better. So that's what I did. Below are the odds for each of the following characteristics, provided the above is true (for the most part).

These numbers are courtesy of the most recent US Census (

Note: I am not saying any of these attributes are better than the alternatives.

US Citizen: 1 in 22
Male: 1 in 2
White: 1 in 1.5
Middle Class: 1 in 2
Non-Divorced Household: 1 in 2
High School Graduate: 1 in 1.2
Bachelor's Degree: 1 in 2.5
Master's Degree (knock on wood): 1 in 4
No Debt: 1 in 4
Full Time Job: 1 in 1 (Low unemployment rate for MS graduates)
Less than 20 minutes commute to work: 1 in 3
Healthy: 1 in 3 (guess factoring in obesity and all other fatal/chronic diseases)
Good Looking: 1 in 3
Full Head of Hair: 1 in 2
Winning Smile: 1 in 4
Well Read: 1 in 5
Charming: 1 in 3

Total: 1 in 41 million (in all seriousness, more like one in 115,000 if you ignore the frivolous things at the end)

Puts things in perspective a bit, doesn't it? And who knows how far off some of those estimations were.

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