Saturday, May 31, 2008

I am on a very strong antibiotic. I am on the mend, I think. I had to sleep part of the night in a chair last night because I thought I was choking and my lungs felt like they were collapsing. I have learned three important things from this illness.

1.) As soon as you feel sick, stop exercising.
2.) Don’t get on a plane.
3.) Get enough sleep.

I know, I’m a genius!!!!!

Something I’m reading: “Kluge” by Gary Marcus. I recommend it HIGHLY. I had a binge of economics/biology book buying. I got “Nudge” by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein, which was okay. Then I read “The Economic Naturalist” which wasn’t that great, more like an interesting set of explanations… sort of. But then I read “Kluge.” OH it’s so good. And elegantly written to boot. It’s about how our brains evolved, what our weaknesses are because of it, how the oldest part of our brain can take over, for better or worse results. And the book is short, I read it today. And I am reminded again how impulsive we all are. And how critical thinking is something that is acquired, not innate. Even though evaluating cost and expense of any given opportunity is innate, it’s just that we aren’t naturally good evidence gatherers. We have horrible confirmation bias, we tend to be unrealistically optimistic, and we can be overwhelmed by visceral experiences – seeing someone attractive and sexually available, the smell of food, the over-response to a scary story in spite of statistics. Anyway, I recommend this book SO much. I already think it’s on my Christmas book list. Maybe by then it will be in paperback.

I am about to start reading it again.

Here’s the thing I wanted to blog about.

This week, on the plane back from Portland, I listened to a conversation between the two people, a man and a woman, behind me. They hadn’t known each other before the plane ride. I could make out that they were both religious. He said he was a retired psychologist that worked for a church organization – which one I didn’t catch. She said she was Catholic and proud of it. She told him she converted to Catholicism as an adult. He asked her why. (You can imagine that at this point I was pressing my ear between the seats so I could hear…) And she said, “Oh I became Catholic because our kids were getting ready to go to school and I there was a Catholic church and school nearby and the people there seemed really nice and like the people I like to be around, really family oriented. And my husband was raised Catholic, so he liked it.”

This reminded me once of another plane conversation, this one with someone I was sitting next to, and actually in the conversation with. He told me he lived in Salt Lake City, and in fact he had just moved there four years before. Then somehow it came out that he was Mormon (I might have asked him this point blank.) I asked him if that’s why he moved to Salt Lake City. He said no, he set up a business there. For some reason, I guess, it was a good place for his business. Then he said he converted to the Mormon church after he got there. I said, “Why?” He said, “Well, when in Rome… And people there are all Mormons and he wanted his kids to be like the other kids around and it was good for business because everyone else he was dealing with was Mormon.

First of all, I give both these people major points for honesty. I think they were speaking the truth. I mean, you could argue that the Catholic woman was telling her pragmatic side of the story for being Catholic rather than her religious reasons because the person she was talking to was a psychologist from another church and maybe she thought it would be too disagreeable to say something like, “I am a Catholic because Jesus is the Son of God and he appointed Peter to be the first Pope by saying, ‘On this rock I build my church” and the current Pope is the mouthpiece of God now.’” So I could see that even if she felt this way, she might not have said it, because it wasn’t such a neighborly thing to say.

But my hunch is that she really is Catholic because of the reasons she said and not for any other reason. And I think the Mormon guy on the plane a few years ago is Mormon for exactly the reasons he told me and nothing more.


Now if someone asked me why I was an Atheist, I would probably go into a long and boring account of why I don’t think there is an ultimate designer in nature and get into some philosophical reasons why I think there is no God.

Imagine if I said, “Well, a lot of really cool people are Atheists. In my neighborhood everyone is reading Dawkins and Dennet and Sam Harris and I want my kid to be accepted by their kids so that’s why I’m an Atheist.” I think the other person would be floored. I think they would immediately write me off as superficial and shallow and I think they would be right to do that!

But I suspect if I challenged the religious people on the plane this way, if I said, “Wow, how cooly pragmatic that answer is.” I think they would be really offended and think of me as persnickety and holier-than-thou (how ironic!)

On the other hand, I thought of it this way. What if my answer was “I am a Catholic.” And when they asked why I said, “My family was Catholic. I became accustomed to Catholic ritual. It is a comfort to me. I like the architecture, the medieval overtones, the outfits of the religious, and I especially love the music, in particular Bach.” Would that be less superficial? Because I could see myself saying that if I had not become a-religious.

So, I just thought I would throw that out there. I think it’s interesting, is all.

Friday, May 30, 2008

I can’t believe I’m sick AGAIN. I just had the flu in January, and now I have a hellish cold. It’s hellish in that I feel almost well for about an hour a day, just long enough to convince myself that I can go on with life as usual, only to find that no, I am slogging through with clogged sinuses and ears and weepy eyes (weirdly stuff is like, leaking out of my eyes, and it’s not tears because I am not unhappy, I am PISSED that I am sick again) and I can’t taste anything.

You would think not being able to taste anything would be a boon to someone who wants to lose a few pounds. But my reaction to not being able to taste anything is a strange desire to eat constantly - everything, anything, just trying to get some amount of taste.

It’s as if my appetite isn’t really so much about calories as it is about getting satisfactory taste and flavor and when that function is compromised, I have this urge to try and try and try to get that taste and flavor. So I eat thousands of calories and hate every bite. ARG.

I went to Portland on Wednesday and did a question and answer session, along with a little talk about creativity and “believing in yourself” and skepticism at this very famous advertising firm: Wieden & Kennedy. I loved the building. And the people. It was all great and fun -- except for the constant sniffles.

That night, I did an hour and ten minutes of “Letting Go of God.” I got to do this in a church! That’s the first time that’s happened and what a treat. The audience was welcoming and listened and was very supportive and open and I was really honored to be there.

Except I probably shouldn’t have been, because I began to lose my voice and I coughed a lot and ICK. Oh! I shouldn’t have shook people’s hands. I thought I was on the mend, I didn’t have a fever or anything. I feel awful about that.

So I came back to L.A. yesterday – the plane flight was excruciating, my ears have still not recovered. And I cancelled my trip to New York for the World Science Festival for this weekend. That just kills me. Just kills me, I tell you. I was even meeting my mother-in-law there and she was already in the city.


I also found out that in spite of our greatest wishes, the radio pilot I did with the CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) did not get funded. I had such a great time working on that and really wanted to do more of them. My producer, Mary Beth, is not giving up and we have a lot of interest from some other public radio places, and I guess there is a window even for going back to the CPB – possibly – at some future time – for funding… but… oh… oh…


It’s hard not to think about completely reorganizing your life when you are sick and have gotten a few pieces of bad news.

Like, I need to slow down. I need to focus on a few things and do well on them and stop this running around doing shows here and there. I need to stop going to conferences. I need to finish my book, write my pilot (the only well paying job I have right now) and get this movie launched. I need to get really tough about accepting invitations.

The thing is, my appetite is so big. Not just with food. With everything, I always want to do everything. I want to be a mom, I want to write books, I want to do my stage show all over the place, I want to create TV shows, I want to be ON TV shows. So I’m spread out all over and I’m constantly frazzled.

All right. Enough of the pity party. I am going to get well and write more some other time.

Monday, May 26, 2008

This is a quick note before I begin more regular blogging.

The show in Ridgefield, Connecticut was cancelled. They hadn’t sold enough tickets. I feel a little bad about it. But on Wednesday night I am doing “Letting Go of God” in Portland, Oregon for 850 people, so my defenders say that this is all due to poor press and publicity. In any case, I am really fine about not doing the show there. It takes a lot of effort to do the show, and now that the movie is nearly available, it seems that the movie should do the work from here on out. I really feel bad about the people who did buy tickets, but I guess they will be refunded.

In the meantime, I am doing an appearance at the science festival in New York City this weekend. Portland on Wednesday, then off to New York for the weekend. That seems like it’s going to be really fun. I’m also planning on attending some of the other events as well.

I really got wiped out by the wedding, which was more wonderful and meaningful than I imagined it would could be. Thanks so much for all the well-wishers! I’m still recovering from it.

Other news before I call it a night:

Jill and I plan on opening the “Jill & Julia Show” sometime around August 23 in Los Angeles. We are hoping for a several-month run through the end of the year. This is why I also cancelled the Iowa “Letting Go of God” show. I knew we would be up and running the J & J show, and it would take me out of two weekend shows in order to do that show. Basically, except for readings, I have stopped performing the Letting Go of God stage show.

On the movie front, I am really excited about the movie premiering at the Seattle Film festival on June 13. Seattle’s Women in Film are throwing me a cocktail party after the Friday screening, which is really nice. Today I worked with my graphic designer on the poster for the movie, and I really like it. The trailer is basically done too. I’m really tickled with it – I got a great producer to make it, it’s very good.

My website it really out of date, and I promise that I will update it in the next day or so.