Self-Congratulation and Self-Criticism

Sometimes, I do a good thing. Not a great act of heroism, but a simple, fundamentally decent thing that helps someone else.

When that happens, I congratulate myself for doing the right thing.

Then I criticize myself, since I don’t deserve congratulation for doing the “right thing”. After all, everyone should do the right thing.

Then I congratulate myself for being so humble and morally strict.

Then I criticize myself for bragging about my own humility.

My record for this is four cycles. I almost always stop on self-criticism.

Perhaps there are two kinds of people in the world: People who usually stop at self-congratulation, and people who usually stop at self-criticism.

Which kind of person are you?

Spoken Word

Based on a recent conversation with two real people (“R” and “J”).


R, science writer and non-poet, standing on balcony:

“What if I’d done spoken word poetry at Yale? How would I be different?”

AG, writer and non-poet, also on balcony:

“Well, you’d have done spoken word, for one. That’s different.”

J, scientist and non-poet, also on balcony:

“There would be more poetry in your life.”


“And in this other world, if you’d still made the choices that led you to this balcony, you’d be standing on this balcony and wondering what would have happened if you hadn’t done spoken word.

“And then I’d say: ‘Well, you wouldn’t have done spoken word, for one. That’s different.’

“And J would say: ‘There would be less poetry in your life’.

“I mean, in this alternate reality of yours, we’re still the same people we are in this reality, right? We’d still be giving the same unhelpful advice.”



It’s good to know that some things in our quantum multiverse never change.


Other Conclusion:

There is a more frightening possibility: Had R done spoken word, she might have become the kind of person who wouldn’t even wonder about the path of her life without spoken word.

Then again, we lose something every time we make a big decision — not just the possibilities we are aware of, but the possibilities we will never be aware of if we follow another path.

Two Muffins

“Two muffins are sitting in an oven…”

In the vein of The Aristocrats. This time, built around a joke that was popular with my fifth-grade classmates.


Here’s the story. 

Warning: Contains profanity, and one instance of extreme pain.


If you know of any jokes you’d like to submit to this treatment, send them to aaron at gertler dot com. These are pretty good writing exercises!

20 Things I Wish I Knew At 20

I may be only 20 years old, but there are many things I wish I knew.

So, in honor of these endless lists:

1. Who wins Super Bowl XLIX?

Vegas is already accepting bets. I could use the money.

2. Which of the 715 books on my Amazon wish list are worth reading? 

I just know I’m going to waste weeks threshing my way through all the chaff.

3. When will the next big earthquake hit Los Angeles? 

Frankly, I’m shocked that this wasn’t on the other lists. If I knew this, I could save thousands of lives. Think big, people!

Continue reading

Skrillex Visits His Hometown Barbershop

I’m fond of thinking about stuff that must have happened, even if nobody ever saw it—probably for the same reasons as the good people of Cracked. Famous people and people in the past lived real human lives! They lived those lives for many years. And they all got their hair cut at some point, which is the inspiration for this short screenplay.

Here’s the story. I still need to work on my dialogue and character development before I make any short films, but for a conversation that happened in my head over the span of a single shower, it could be worse.

Partly inspired by B.J. Novak’s One More Thing, perhaps the best book of short stories ever written by a well-known television actor. Lots of celebrities in that book—though I guess B.J. knows them all personally.

I do not know Skrillex personally, but I’d love to meet him: He seems like a really nice guy

Bonus track: