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Om a gut boy, Yonny

Longtime fans of this site know that I super hate myself. A lot of this is based in deep-seated psychological issues, but some of it just stems from the fact that I suck. There is virtually no end to the things I am bad at. Even leaving aside things that I simply can't do at all (sew, play a musical instrument, run faster than a baby), there are millions and millions of things that I'm just flat-out lousy at. Drawing, chess, home repair, gardening, pleasing a woman sexually, maintaining relationships, playing video games, personal hygiene -- you name it, I'm no good at it.

Then there are things that I'm okay to good at, but which don't really come easily for me. There are a few things that I flatter myself I'm pretty skillful at -- among them writing, philosophy, shooting, and cooking -- but which are quite difficult and at which I can only excel through a great deal of effort. I was a decent pitcher in high school and college, but it wasn't easy, and I wasn't good enough to carry on doing it at the next level; and I'm pretty good at fighting, but it's hard and painful, not to mention something that I'm basically ashamed of doing in the first place. Most of the things I actually like to do fall into this category.

But today, I'm gonna focus on the positive! Here are five things that I'm pretty good at and which require almost no effort at all, or far less than they should.

1. LANGUAGES. I'm not truly multilingual or anything; German is the only language I speak with anything approaching fluency, with Spanish a distant second. But my German is as good as it's ever been, despite having never spoken it conversationally, never having been to a German-speaking country, and only ever taking two years of German in high school; my Spanish is good enough to get me around easily in Mexico despite being entirely self-taught; and my French -- well, it pretty much sucks, but I could hold my own in very basic conversations after little more than a month of dicking around with some French flash cards. Additionally, I can read all these languages really well (having a strong knowledge of roots and language structure means I can read stuff in original languages far better than I can speak them), and I pick up on the pronunciation of foreign languages with ease. I also retain vocabulary pretty easily. I'm not sure why this is, but languages -- especially in written form -- are pretty easy for me to master.

2. BASIC MATH. I suppose it's not all that impressive for an educated adult to brag about being good at basic math, especially since I suck at stuff like algebra and calculus. But I'm constantly amazed at the number of people who have to sit down with a pen and paper and figure out stuff like long division, complex multiplication, and figuring out percentages (like tips or tax rates or whatever). To me, that's the easiest thing in the world. I can do it all in my head in seconds, because it's just a little trick, and once you figure out the trick, it's easy. I'm honestly flabbergasted that it takes big parties like a half an hour to calculate tips and how much everyone owes on a check; I always tell them to give it to me and I've sussed it in seconds. It's just not that hard.

3. WORD PROBLEMS, PUZZLES AND SIMPLE GAMES. As I mentioned above, I'm not really good at strategy games (too much thinking ahead, too many variables), and I'm decent but not great with other skill-centered games. But word problems, logic problems, basic puzzles, and word and other simple games? Those are easy. I can do even the hardest New York Times crosswords in half an hour, and I never buy books of logic problems or stuff like that at airports, because it never lasts me more than a third of the flight time. Again, I don't think this is because I'm all that smart -- it's just that with most things of this nature, as with basic math, it seems to me just a matter of figuring out what the trick is and then performing the basic operation in your head.

4. DRIVING. Now, here I have to start with a caveat: I can't drive the way race car drivers drive, because I don't have the guts. And some people -- I'm not naming any names, but we used to live together -- would probably take exception to my claim of being a good driver. (In my defense there, I never said I was a good navigator.) But I am a skillful driver, in the sense that I drive defensively -- I trust no one and am always driving with an eye on the people around me -- but not slowly, meaning I can negotiate heavy urban traffic quickly without getting in a fender-bender. I've only been involved in four accidents in the 20 years I've been driving, and all of them were unavoidable situations where my car was stopped and someone hit me from behind. I also drive alertly and skillfully on the freeway, and have never attracted police attention despite many, many, many occasions of driving under illegal conditions. (This, to some extent, plays into another thing I'm good at, which is getting away with crimes, but that is a subject for another day.)

5. RECOGNIZING FLAWS. Not so much in the "you got a fat ass" sense. What I am good at, and I think this is partly thanks to being an autodidact and partly thanks to being a self-hating jerk, is detecting critical flaws in thought, bad planning, errors in argument, and the like. Since I do a lot of criticism and deep readings, I tend to recognize patterns of thought, and it's become a lot easier to notice when those patterns are disrupted or break their own consistency. Also, since I am largely self-educated and didn't have as many chances as a lot of people to subject my own thoughts to a peer group, I've gotten very hyper-critical of my own stuff, in order that I not let any egregiously obvious idiocy slip through, and I've gotten pretty good at applying that same level of rigor to stuff like politics, literature and philosophy. All of which leaves open the obvious question: if you're so good at spotting flawed thinking, self-deluding behavior, inconsistent logic, and errors in systemic thought, how come you're such a fuckup? To which I can only reply: Physician, heal thyself. Good luck with no fuckin head.

What are you good at? Or, rather, what are you good at that you don't have to try especially hard to be good at, or less hard than you think you should? What, in other words, comes easy for you?

Also, to give you an idea of how much I hate myself, this entry -- which is full of self-loathing and which lists only five things I am any good at, none of which are particularly accomplished and which any functioning human being should be able to do well -- strikes me as almost unbearably braggy and arrogant.


Jun. 10th, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC)
I'm honestly flabbergasted that it takes big parties like a half an hour to calculate tips and how much everyone owes on a check; I always tell them to give it to me and I've sussed it in seconds. It's just not that hard.

Seriously! How hard is it, folks??

I am always that person calculating tips for others.
Jun. 10th, 2008 08:16 pm (UTC)
It occurs to me that since math is just a series of numerical functions, I could actually be good at calculus and algebra and stuff if I bothered to learn the tricks, but I hate math and I think it's boring, so I never bothered.
BLANK - littlewashu - Jun. 11th, 2008 01:49 am (UTC) - Expand
BLANK - ludickid - Jun. 11th, 2008 01:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 10th, 2008 08:11 pm (UTC)
Where's the mention of your near-encyclopedic knowledge of all media trivia ever made in history EVER?
Jun. 10th, 2008 08:17 pm (UTC)
I tried to restrict myself to things I'm good at that aren't completely lame and awful.
BLANK - ortho_bob - Jun. 10th, 2008 08:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
BLANK - ludickid - Jun. 10th, 2008 08:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 10th, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC)
you're good at fishing for compliments!

(just kidding. I was going to come up with a real, sincere comment and realized, why not just be a snarky asshole instead?)
Jun. 10th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
You're good at making me cry.
BLANK - zulkey - Jun. 10th, 2008 08:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
BLANK - easyalchemy - Jun. 10th, 2008 09:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 10th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
Have you noticed that no one else is listing what they're good at? Well, I don't really know you, so I guess I don't care if you think I'm bragging when I say I'm good at:

1. Being Nice: I'm considered too nice, even for a Canadian. This actually might be a character flaw, come to think.
2. Kicking ass at Star Wars Trivia: I beat everyone. At least, a few years ago I did. I know things that I'm ashamed to admit I know.
3. Ballroom Dance: I pick it up fast and follow an experienced dancer well. In the past, this has led to the breakup of two of my relationships over dance classes, as the guys I was with at the time couldn't stand that it's sooooo easy for me, and soooo hard for them. Suckers.
4. Being in Charge: I'm the worst lackey in the world, but I can tell other people what to do like nobody's business. This hasn't been an asset in the working world because you have to climb some sort of fucking ladder or something, but in situations where people are milling around aimlessly (emergencies, bar fights, arts organizations) I am a total asset.
5. Breaking Up Fights: Related to above, but different; I'm not afraid to step in between two brawny drunken morons and confuse them long enough to diffuse the situation. This makes me look brave, but really I'm depending on these guys being pre-conditioned not to hit a girl, and also them being drunk/hetero enough that "Grr I wanna fight" turns into "Hey, titties!" pretty quickly.
Jun. 10th, 2008 09:33 pm (UTC)
But "Hey, titties!" turns back into "Grr I wanna fight" again so very quickly, too.

Anyway, good for you for meeting the challenge! See you at the Nicest Person in Canada competition in Swift Current next year!
BLANK - easyalchemy - Jun. 10th, 2008 09:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 10th, 2008 09:34 pm (UTC)
I am good at being able to tell if people are having sex with each other, even if they aren't interacting with each other at the time. I can also tell if someone has recently had sex or not. COMPLETELY USELESS SKILL.
Jun. 10th, 2008 09:36 pm (UTC)
Oh, my God. Seriously? That's fucking awesome! That's not even a skill -- it's, like, a SUPERPOWER. I wanna start taking you to parties now.
Jun. 10th, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC)
The Things I Am Good At (A "World's Shortest Book Club" Alternate Selection)
I am good at being nice also. (I am not Canadian, although I am from Brooklyn, which is kind of like New York’s Canada). I am a good baker. I am good at organizing and designing things. I am good at editing and script doctoring, and at making people understand why the stuff they have written isn’t working, in a way that makes them feel excited about fixing it rather than suicidal about having screwed it up (apparently). I have been told I am very, very good at a particular sexual act, but that was very long ago and perhaps I was only being flattered in the hope that I might do it again, since it’s the kind of thing where even if you do it fairly badly it’s still pretty good anyway. I am good naming things. Give me a thing! I will name it for you. True story. I am good at maintaining my composure when most people would be sticking screwdrivers in other people’s eyes. I am arguably the best unproduced musical theater librettist in New York City, but of course that’s pretty hard to back up.
Jun. 10th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
Re: The Things I Am Good At (A "World's Shortest Book Club" Alternate Selection)
I have been told I am very, very good at a particular sexual act, but that was very long ago and perhaps I was only being flattered in the hope that I might do it again, since it’s the kind of thing where even if you do it fairly badly it’s still pretty good anyway.

This is the same conundrum I face when attempting to gauge the level of my housebreaking skills.

Also, when you say naming things, do you mean, like, screwdrivers, or novels? Because if it's the latter, I might need your help.
Jun. 10th, 2008 09:58 pm (UTC)
1. I can tell, on sight, the dirtiest sex act performed by any mask-less character performer at Disneyland.
2. I provide a handy storage facility for booze and food.
3. If kept on a stack of papers, the wind will not blow them away.
4. I am a cautionary example.
5. That is everything good about me.
Jun. 10th, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC)
If kept on a stack of papers, the wind will not blow them away.

Obviously, subject-object agreement is not one of your strengths.

But what is up with all you people and your sex-detection powers? All I can tell when I look at people is that they aren't having sex with me.
Jun. 10th, 2008 10:21 pm (UTC)
1) MIXTAPES. Maybe it is because I have a ridiculously large collection of stuff spanning a sizeable range of postwar international pop music (genrewise and chronologically), but I tend to do pretty well in stringing together lists of songs that will not only sound pleasurable when played in sequence, but actually fit some kind of thematic tone or fit some sort of cultural or sonic narrative. If you want someone who can string together Kyuss, Bubba Sparxxx and the Pointer Sisters' "Pinball Number Count" song from Sesame Street and make it actually work, I'm your man.
2) FIGURING OUT CONVOLUTED ELECTRONIC/COMPUTER SHIT. I keep forgetting how annoying Vista is supposed to be until I am reminded by someone else of it, since the first day I used my new desktop computer with Vista I managed to, with a minimum of online research, disable and/or reconfigure everything that may have otherwise caused some sort of problem for me (including the "you need permission to do that" prompts). I also managed to figure out everything I would want to know about my overly-complicated flatscreen TV more or less by reflex.
3) TYPING. Last time I checked, I was at about 60 WPM, which seems as though it may be a bit low. I spend so much time writing that I can do it pretty much sight unseen, though my sort of ADDish spazfingers sometimes hold me back a little more than they might otherwise.
4) COMPARING BANDS TO OTHER BANDS. This is sort of a subset of my mixtape skill (or maybe it is a subset of this skill), and out of all the skills I have it has earned me the most money. Hooray!
5) DRAWING PEOPLE WITH PERPLEXED OR RIDICULOUS FACIAL EXPRESSIONS. I more or less gave up being an actual for-reals career-type cartoonist years ago when my dream of becoming an artisan of the funny-animal milieu was ruined by the discovery of people who have sex in mascot costumes. But I still tend to doodle baffled-looking cartoon idiot-people and/or idiot-animals every so often and am ceaselessly proud of how they turn out.
Jun. 10th, 2008 11:27 pm (UTC)
This is sort of a subset of my mixtape skill (or maybe it is a subset of this skill), and out of all the skills I have it has earned me the most money. Hooray!

Many people, myself included, have rightly mocked my tendency to laboriously overexplain why I like things. And yet, sometimes people pay me to do it! I don't get it, but it's a crazy world.
Jun. 11th, 2008 12:06 am (UTC)
I just did see this on a bus right about 20 minutes ago
1. I am good at encountering fictional self-loathing Leonards.

2. I do a flawless Carol Channing. I am working my way to a Carol Channing/Truman Capote in the act of sexual congress bit that will virtually guarantee me a divorce. Such is my devotion to being off-putting.

3. Summarizing.
Jun. 11th, 2008 12:21 am (UTC)
Re: I just did see this on a bus right about 20 minutes ago
Man! It's like someone perfectly captured my life, in fictional goldfish form!

Also, I think you win with Item #2, there.
Jun. 11th, 2008 01:40 am (UTC)
The left lane is the passing lane! You drive on the right, pass on the left!

Thank you and good night.
Jun. 11th, 2008 01:53 am (UTC)
But I drive FAST in the left lane! It's totally forgivable and cute!

You should see the people down here, man. The I-35 between here and Austin, right around San Marcos it widens to approximately eight thousand lanes, and yet there's still some 92-year-old rancher in a pre-war pickup in the far left lane going 6MPH with the hammer down. It's wonderful.

Nothing like driving in L.A.! Which is a picnic wrapped in a cake marshmallow!
BLANK - ninafarina - Jun. 11th, 2008 02:10 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 11th, 2008 01:41 am (UTC)
1. I am good at falling in love with self-loathing writers while maintaining a safe and viable distance.
2. I am good at convincing people from out of town how great Cleveland is.
3. I am good at not getting paid for the aforementioned skill.
4. I am good at knowing which movies will suck and which won't based solely on the trailer. Even the ones that try and trick you.
5. I am good at convincing people I get their jokes about Russian novelists.
Jun. 11th, 2008 01:54 am (UTC)
I wish someone would pretend to get my jokes about Russian novelists.
BLANK - sharpshinyclaws - Jun. 11th, 2008 02:54 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 11th, 2008 01:45 am (UTC)
Performing google searches.

Comedic inflection, sometimes.

Sweating heavily.

Presenting fake stuff (also known as LIES) in a dry manner.

Uselessly remembering pop culture junk.
Jun. 11th, 2008 01:55 am (UTC)
Sweating heavily is a no-fail comic winner.
Jun. 11th, 2008 03:02 am (UTC)
I'm a good cook and a good crocheter and I'm pretty good at small talk, especially after a drink or two, which may not sound like an outstanding skill but it comes in handy at the wide range of wacky activities in which I often find myself. Also I'm good at taking care of animals.
Jun. 11th, 2008 06:26 am (UTC)
I read really fast! And well, actually. Good reading comprehension at speed. And I'm a pretty good dancer, as long as you mean "club" dancing only, because the moment I try to do like swing or anything with steps it's flop sweat and tripping over my partner time. And I am excellent at the amazingly useless in the real world skill of test taking.

That's about it, everything else requires work.
Jun. 16th, 2008 07:13 pm (UTC)
I seem to have a talent for understanding simple to complex machines. I am not an engineer, for I lack any realistic mathematical skill. However, my wife, who is and engineer, says that I should be one, that I'm better at it than most of her coworkers.

The evidence would also suggest that I am good at pretending to be a social scientist, as I received a bachelor of arts in Anthropology and never did any home work or studied for any tests. To be fair though, bullshitting your way through a liberal arts degree doesn't seem like much of a skill to me.

I shoot real good.


flavored with age
Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator
Ludic Log


Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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