Nominating Simon Baron-Cohen for the Best Comic of the Year Award

In his recent article on the bugbear of autism, a trashy journalist Michael Hanlon mentions that Simon Baron-Cohen is a cousin of the comedian Sacha Baron-Cohen. I don’t know, in my opinion Simon is such a great comedian that Sacha must find it very hard to compete.

Simon Baron-Cohen’s most recent theory on the horrible and terrifying rise of autism is so hilarious that one can use it to entertain people at parties for years. As an autistic who is always on the look-out for material to discuss at social gatherings, I, for one, feel grateful to Baron-Cohen for his latest exercise in idiocy.

Baron-Cohen begins his comedy routine by introducing the concept of a “male brain.” If you think that a male brain is a brain possessed by a male, think again. Something so straightforward and logical wouldn’t be funny, and Baron-Cohen never allows reason to stop him when he is trying to fashion his latest theory. In the bizarro land this comic inhabits, a male brain is that of an autistic. Even when the autistic in question is female.

Real autistics have “extremely male brains”, whatever that means. For Simon Baron-Cohen, “male” and “extremely male” are terms that stand in lieu of everything positive. Which means that “female” and “extremely female” . . . I’m sure you can continue this simple thought on your own.

You don’t have to be an autistic genius with an extremely male brain to figure out where this comedy routine will go next. The next step down this road is, of course, blaming feminists for women getting smarter and upgrading their stupid female brains in the direction of becoming male. Or even, oh horror, extremely male.

I just imagined a woman’s brain growing a penis and realized that Baron-Cohen is a comedic genius of an incredible range.

So imagine what will happen if two owners of extremely male brains marry. Wait, is gay marriage legal now? That would be good news. Until that happens, though, maybe we should have the courage of our society’s anti-gay convictions and prevent the owners of extremely male brains to marry, what do you think?

And then, the real horror takes place. The owners of extremely male brains can end up reproducing. Baron-Cohen searches valiantly for the best term to describe the abomination such two folks end up creating. Soon, the word is found: it’s an autistic, of course! The mystery is solved. Evil feminists conspired to rob women of their well-deserved position of subservience, and the world has been punished as a result by the advent of all those horribly damaged autistics.

Hanlon finishes his article with,

It is a fascinating theory and we await the results of the new study with interest.

I couldn’t agree more. Baron-Cohen should sell this stuff to a cable network and get a weekly comedy show. Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien never came up with anything even remotely this funny so effortlessly. Baron-Cohen, however, churns out these theories like hot cakes.

Thank you, marc2020, for bringing me this great link!

How to Prepare for the Finals?

As I have shared in the previous post, finals are often an unavoidable evil. This is why I want to share some advice with people who are now preparing for their finals in the hopes that these suggestions will make life at least somewhat easier for people who have to go through this ordeal.

1. The absolutely best thing you can do is allow for some time and space before you finish preparing for the exam and the exam itself. Ideally, you should get a good night’s sleep and not study for the exam at all in the morning right before it. I often see students still frantically going over their notes and leafing through textbooks as they walk into the room where the exam will be administered. This is a big mistake. Knowledge needs time to settle and be absorbed. These last-minute consultations with the notes do a lot more damage than good. Preparing for the exam is important but knowing when to stop preparing is just as crucial.

2. If your exam is in a foreign language course, the best thing you can do is get together with a native speaker of that language right before the exam and chat with them over coffee. If that is not possible, download some music in that language and listen to it on the way to the exam. Read something online in that language. All of these things will help you a lot more than any last-minute revision of verb conjugations.

3. I strongly recommend not pulling any all-nighters before the exam. Getting a good night’s sleep will allow you not to feel listless (or hopped up on caffeine) during the exam. Wake up early and do some gentle exercise. Take a walk before the exam. This will get the blood circulating in your body.

4. After you are done with an exam, do not immediately plunge into preparing for the next one. Reward yourself with some pleasing activity that will help you relax.

5. My grandfather was a doctor and he taught me the following important rule for people who do sedentary work: after every hour you spend working, get up and take a 10-minute walk. Getting up, going outside and walking around the building or down the street and up will help you be a lot more productive. If you remember to breathe deep and not think about your work as you are walking, that would be great.

If anybody has other suggestions for people who are currently preparing for the finals, please leave them in the comments. Let’s help out the students! 🙂

More on Academic Rejection: What If I’m in a Wrong Profession?

Reader Anthony left a great comment to one of my posts on academic rejection. The comment expresses feelings that many young academics, including myself, often experience. Here is an excerpt from the comment that you can read in full here:

After 11 straight rejections I think I am done. I have been submitting papers to peer-reviewed journals since May 2009 and until today nothing has worked out. My tenure is now in serious danger. The point is that I do not want to fool myself any further,the brutal truth is that I am just not good enough. It is normal to find excuses, to complain about the peer-review system, but probably it is just me. . . There is something very very sad about all of this. I am a very hard-working and honest person. I work as hard as I can and put all of myself into what I do. Nonetheless, it is not enough. Getting published is not about how hard you work, it is about how clever and original you are. . . My struggle now is to reach the point is which I am truly totally honest. I am not looking to a strategic way to consider my situation, I only want the truth. A part of me still hopes that may be I am good enough. This part scares me; I feel this part is the voice of my delusion and dishonesty. I feel that this voice is the voice of arrogance, the arrogance of a person who refuses to see his limitation and to say: I am not good.

Thank you for sharing, Anthony. I think I know how you feel, even though my problem is a little different from yours. I think I am clever and original but not very hard-working, so the clever ideas I have always end up delivered in a shoddy, careless fashion. It’s very hard to figure out on one’s own whether one is good enough in research. Maybe let’s try to figure this out together.

First, a few questions:

1) Have you ever gotten published? How many times, when and where?
2) These 11 rejections, how many articles are we talking about?
3) When you are writing or working on your research, how does that make you feel? Like it’s something you do out of a sense of obligation? Or do you enjoy the process?
4) Have you asked senior colleagues in your field to provide feedback?

I don’t know what field you are in but if you are in Humanities or Social Sciences, I can recommend an academic who could look at your work and tell you objectively whether it is hopeless or not. This is somebody who keeps publishing academic books that get extremely high reviews and that come out every 15 minutes. 🙂 Here is his blog. He helps people improve their writing and get organized in their research as a side-line.

And this is an article from another highly successful academic who got more rejections than you.

And this is about all those academics and athletes who do everything and achieve all of their successes effortlessly.

I honestly don’t think you can decide on your own if you are good enough. (“You” here is not personal, of course, I include myself, too). You need feedback from people who know your field and are successful in it. After they tell you whether your stuff is worthless or not, you can start figuring out what it is you are doing wrong.

It’s crucial to ask people who will be able to be brutally honest for feedback. It’s no use asking friends and people who are close to you because they will not tell you the truth for fear of hurting your feelings. Too much damage has been done to me and too much time stolen from me by well-meaning, kind, caring folks who kept praising my writing in order to be “nice.” I believed them because I’m not a native speaker of English and I simply relied on the opinions of these nice native speakers. Until finally an honest friend said, “I’m sorry but are you aware that your writing is really bad?” Until the day I die, I will be grateful to this wonderful person who helped me so much by being honest.

I don’t know a single leading academic who doesn’t have a bunch of rejections to their name. But I also realize that sometimes you just choose a profession (a relationship, a friendship, a pursuit, a hobby) that is wrong for you. You keep putting your best into it but it simply isn’t there. In that case, when the realization begins to dawn that you might have made a mistake and will have to pull out of this field (profession, relationship, etc.), I think you need to start preparing a backup plan as soon as possible. Withdrawing from a field after investing years of your life into it can be crushing. There needs to be something else to soften the blow on your self-esteem.

Many academics are reading this blog. Please share your insights and stories with Anthony and me. When should a person give up pursuing a dream? When should you say, “I’m done. This obviously isn’t for me, so I should go do something else with my life”?