How to be a Tortured Intellectual

Major in the Humanities, preferably English or Poli Sci.    If you have a degree in engineering, forget it: you’ve sold out and you’re automatically disqualified.

Avoid mainstream commercial radio like the plague.   Only listen to NPR (or the CBC, if you’re Canadian).

Same thing goes for regular network TV.  If you must, permit yourself to only watch PBS….barely.

Hairstyle tips for women:  the shorter, the better.  For men, it’s the opposite  (give yourself bonus posits if you have a pony tail).  For either gender, never display your natural hair color either.  Dye it in a primary color.

Complain that the Pyörgen Kibòlshivik’s documentary on Ecuadorian textile workers should have gotten an Academy award.   The only reason it didn’t is because of those Fat Cats in Hollywood that control the film industry.

Eating animal protein is a definite no-no.    Be a vegetarian.   No, wait, make that a vegan.    Better yet, why not just sit there, with your arms spread out, and photosynthesize?

What to wear:  Jet Black, Coal Black, or Angst Black.   Wear multiple layers as though it’s freezing outside, regardless of what month it is.

Only frequent coffee establishments that know what “biscotti” and “venti” means.    If they happen to serve donuts there,  LEAVE at once.

Remember:  anything based on Western Judeo-Christian values is automatically considered paternalistic, imperialist, and wrong.  But anything coming from repressive third-world countries is to be tolerated, nay, accepted and celebrated as part of our multicultural mosaic.

Have at least one tattoo with oriental symbols, but don’t have any idea what they mean.

Use words that end in “ism” a lot. (Geo-morphism and astigmatism don’t count).

Buy eclectic CD’s that embrace interesting fusions of third-world traditional music with established Western genres.  (Buddhist Hip-Hop and Himalayan Bag Pipes, anyone?)

Be able to quote the most obscure poetry and literature references, but have absolutely no concept of what a carbon dioxide molecule is.

Attend an anti-globalization protest wearing your Nike shoes and Levi jeans.   Stop at Starbucks on the way home for a double-frappuccino-venti-fallopian grande espresso, and complain to your friends how large corporations are ruining the planet.

Roll your eyes when people tell you your poetry doesn’t even RHYME.

Hang African sculptures around your apartment, even if your ethnic origins might be Norwegian.

Develop a taste for Fair-Trade, Cruelty-Free granola.   Pack some of it into your ears.  This helps prevent you from hearing the propaganda from the Neo-conservative  right-wing biased media.

Let everyone know that there are cars out there that can get 100 mpg, running on sheer willpower alone.   The only reason we don’t see them on the streets is because of those Fat-Cats in Washington that control the oil industry.

Don’t forget to have a worldly, self-righteous, holier-than-thou sense of SMUG (never mind that you’re earning 7 bucks an hour and living in your parents’ basement).

Be offended by this list.

Do NOT, under any circumstances, display any muscle tone, get a tan, or appear well-fed (How are you supposed to appear tortured, otherwise?)

Last but not least, lose all ability to laugh at yourself.  If necessary, have your sense humor surgically removed.

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66 Comments on “How to be a Tortured Intellectual”

  1. veredd Says:

    Ha. There are plenty of these here in San Francisco. 🙂

  2. Friar Says:


    In Canada, it’s Toronto! 🙂

    As much as I hate to admit it, I think there’s a bit of tortured intellectual in all of us (especially those of us who write).

  3. veredd Says:

    Nah, not me. 🙂

    OK except that I often wear black.

    Oh, also the worldly, self-righteous, holier-than-thou sense of SMUG – yeah, OK, I have a bit of that too.

    Hmm… I guess there IS a bit of tortured intellectual in me!

  4. Friar Says:


    I should have assigned points to each questions, and turned this into one of those quizzes (“How much of a tortured intellectual ARE you?”)

    I, myself, an closer to the opposite. (One of those “illiterate” opinionated engineers that the tortured intellectuals like to look down their nose upon).

  5. Karen JL Says:

    Except for the vegetarian thing, I think I’m an untortured moron. Yay!!! 🙂

  6. Friar Says:


    You like Southpark. That automatically disqualifies you. 🙂

  7. Steph Says:

    Friar: Karen is cringing. You spelled South Park as one word again.

    Am I a tortured intellectual for pointing that out??

    Hmmm, I am vegetarian!!

    BUT I can laugh at myself. I thought this post was hilarious!!

  8. Friar Says:


    Oh, no! (I knew I spelled South Park wrong last time…(Karen gave me shit for that!)

    So I deliberately spelled it as one word this time, thinking that was the RIGHT WAY).


    (Aww…screw you guys, I’m going HEWHM!) 😉

    Oh, and I knew we had a few vegetarians in the crowd, and I’d get a bit of flack for it. But being vegetarian by itself doesn’t necessarily make you a T.I. There are other factors to consider.

    In fact, a T.I. wouldn’t even be AWARE of South Park (because there’s NO WAY they’d stoop so low to recognize such low-brow humor!).

  9. OMG you just described friends of mine. Not every point, but I think 98%. I hang out with them because a) I play a game with myself to see how pretentious they can actually get and b) because I know darn well at their core they are just as normal (oh ya, Brett, Friar and Kelly are going to run with that one) as me. It is my goal to get them to expose their true selves. I think it is a noble goal.

    I wonder why they hang out with me?

  10. Friar Says:

    @Urban Panther

    Oh, with your sense of humor, I can just imagine how CONSTRAINED you might feel around your serious tortured-intellectual friends.

    Maybe you’re the token “illiterate”, that’s why they let you hang out with them. 🙂

    I don’t have any T.I. friends…I think I’m banned from their club.

  11. @Friar – token illiterate! ROFL

  12. Kelly Says:


    I score about a 30%, but I’m way too laid-back to be tortured. You had me worried because the first 3 were me me me, but then after that I said oh goody, not me.

    You forgot: breastfeed until the kid can walk. To college.

    Also: Paint beautiful, soaring watercolors, occasionally get caught writing deep articles, praise your Mom like the Earth-child you are, while decrying hicks, knobs, AND the rest of the world’s intellectualism. 🙂 That’s big on the torture scale. Can you say conflicted Renaissance Man?


    You got me beat for normal, so I’ll stay quiet. People in glass houses should not throw stones…



  13. Karen JL Says:

    @ Kelly – hahaha at the breastfeeding thing!! Is they *anything* more disturbing than that? (Well, yeah probably…but *still*…ugh) If the kid can chew steak, it’s probably time to stop already!

    @ Steph – Yes. Yes I did. (Vegetarians unite!)

    @ Friar – gives virtual *smack on the back of the head* 😉

  14. Rita Says:

    @ Brett,
    Hey, how are you. I haven’t heard from you today, but I have a GREAT story that will leave you LYAO.
    Hope the zombies haven’t gotten to you yet. Hey, when do we get our follow-up on the zombies, anyway? We’re about due, you know.
    It’s raining here- should I be worried. I mean not just raining, but raining REAL hard. Like POURING!

    Maybe I should go find the axe. Yeah, I’ll go find the axe.


  15. Rita Says:


    Help man! I can’t find the axe! Is there some OTHER thing I could use?


  16. Friar Says:


    I know I have SOME artsy-fartsy tendencies. But I don’t consider myself tortured.

    Because if I happen to be around a Tortured Intellectual, it’s like Oil-and-Water. If I act like myself, they just roll their eyes at me and I piss them off to no end. I’ve even been called “redneck” more than once (including by my own family!) 🙂

    @Kelly and Karen
    Don’t laugh…I know people who breast-feed like that!

    I was once asked “Who’s to judge when it’s appropriate to stop breast feeding? What are YOUR standards?”

    My answer was: When a kid eats Halloween candy and left-over pizza , then it’s time to STOP 🙂

  17. Rita Says:


    What do you think of this idea? A while back, Friar (man, he cracks me up) wrote a blog on utensils or something. I don’t know, but I ended up being like a stapler – some crap like that.

    Do you think that Friar might have something on his blog – the one about household stuff or whatever he was trying to say – I don’t remember – but anyway, Brett, do you think I should go through Briar’s archives and see if that post is still there?

    Let me know what you think, ok. Because it is F*&king POURING here. And the zombies might be coming.

    Maybe I’ll go see if Friar has something in his archives on it. Yeah, maybe.

    Hey, thanks Brett. Good chatting with you.


  18. Friar Says:


    No, DON’T COMMENT about what I just wrote! Just pop by, and ask for BRETT!

    (Maybe you’re getting back at me for being such a smart-ass on your blog yesterday!) 🙂

    Dunno where he is today. (Even at the Widget Factory, he’s been quiet).

  19. Rita Says:


    Cool post. Awesome. Really awesome.

    Let me know if you hear from Brett, ok?
    Thanks, man,


  20. Friar Says:


    If you bump into Rita, here is that link she was asking about.

  21. Brett Legree Says:


    That Viking axe is on the next bus out to New York. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the axe and plunge it into the skull of every zombie you meet.

    This message will self destruct…

  22. Brett Legree Says:

    Hmm. I actually posted another comment that was really good (trust me, it was) – but I was on such a roll that I’ve forgotten what I wrote, and WP ate it.


    Save us, oh Lord, from the wrath of the Factory.

    (with apologies to the Norsemen)

    Seriously though… I’ve been giving awareness training all day, and will be doing that again shortly. I believe forcing an engineer to give awareness training, or write inane procedures, or attend slip & fall training, makes that engineer a tortured intellectual.

    Wouldn’t you agree Friar?

  23. Friar Says:


    Any training with the word “Awareness” in the title, automatically counts as tortured intellectual.

    Lord, I can just imagine what they’re making you lecture about. (I guess I’ll find out tonight over beers).

  24. Writer Dad Says:

    “Be a vegetarian. No, wait, make that a vegan. Better yet, why not just sit there, with your arms spread out, and photosynthesize?”

    I’m offering you a dollar. Thirty three cents a sentence. If you don’t accept, I’m stealing them anyway.”

  25. Friar Says:

    @Writer Dad

    Feel free to borrow that anytime! 🙂

  26. Rita Says:

    @ Brett,

    Thanks, man. Am anxiously awaiting axe. I know precisely where I’ll start…shhh….


  27. Ian Parker Says:

    Funny list and oh, so true.

    For a period of time, I wore a lot of black and had a pony-tail.

    Also, I went without a television for three years. I’ve got one now, but still don’t watch it all that often. This is a time constraint more than a political stance, however. I will always think that television sucks even if I do watch it. It’s my cynical self-indulgence.

  28. Friar Says:


    Like I said, we all have a bit of tortured intellectual in us. Just sounds like you’d just rate a bit higher up on the scale than me.

    To quote Seinfeld: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!” 🙂

  29. Marelisa Says:

    This was great!I think majoring in Russian lit and boycotting cars altogether in favor of walking or taking the subway would definitely qualify you as a tortured intellectual. (I think you left a message on my blog and I erased it by mistake Friar 😦 ).

  30. Friar Says:


    Hmmm…those are great suggestions. (Sounds like you have some experience in this!) 🙂

    What would be even better, though, is to get a PhD in Russian! 🙂

  31. Rita Says:


    It was a DAMN good post, and had me peeing my pants, as usual. I see these moms going into Victoria’s Secret up at the mall to ge their daughters a training bra, and then they go to the “mommy section” and breast feed the kid they just bought the bra for! I swear, there oughta be a friggin’ law!

    And what these women think totally baffles me – I mean the kid’s already got MOLARS!




  32. Rita Says:


    Just one more – when these kids latch on, they REALLY latch on! Like to the point where you gotta breaak the suction by inserting a wet finger between mouth and breast! This is some serious stuff!


  33. Friar, Friar, Friar,

    ypu make me smile .

    and I was going to order a new black turtleneck sweater for the cooler weather….:-)

  34. Friar Says:


    At least some Mommies do it discretely, quietly, in a corner. Other Mommies are just so thrilled, they plop the thing right out, in the middle of an intersection, latch the kid on, and they have to show the WHOLE WORLD.

    Yes, yes. You reproduced and split your DNA. Good for you. Whatever.

    As for kids getting too old. Oh, I probably gotta watch what I say (some people I know very closely migth be reading this and get their nose out of joint).

    Oh, to hell with it.

    I know one Mom, that went to age three and a half. The only reason she stopped, is that Baby #2 came along. Another one I know is presently up to age four (with still no indication of stopping).

    In my Humble Opinion, if a kid is old enough to eat a f**king HAPPY MEAL, then maybe it’s time to WEAN the little sucker.

    But that’s just me, of course. (Though I can just picture, now, getting angry letters from the Laleche Society).

  35. Friar Says:


    Does it go with your artists beret?

    (Do you wear a smock with a large bowtie, like Jughead does when he paints in Archie Comics?)

  36. Steph Says:

    Aw hey, the veggies here are COOL veggies (right Karen?) There’s no way that South Park is beneath us. I laughed all the way through the Piius and Smug episode, didn’t you??

  37. Steph Says:

    On the other hand, I do spread out my arms and photosynthesize, I swear. Literally. I spread out my arms in the sun. A lot. Without the sun I’m nothing.

  38. Friar Says:


    I have a niece like that. I swear, the kid never eats anything. I think she gains nutrients from the air, like a fern.

  39. It goes great with my beret!

    ( Ooh a smock AND a bow tie… and ballerina flats. I am good with that. What would Archie be wiithout a cool sidekick? I used to paint in an old white dress shirt my sailing partner gave me . He was a big guy so it came down to my knees. I’d put on white athletic socks. That way I could slide around on the hardwood floors when I needed a dance break. Paint a little, dance a little.:-) )

  40. Friar Says:


    Lucky, watercolors aren’t messy, so I dont’ wear anything special.

    The rare times I did oils, I’d wear crappy clothing (I get paint EVERYWHERE).

    Last time, I used a company T-shirt from the Widget Factory that they gave us. (So sense in ruining REAL clothing, eh?)

  41. Karen JL Says:

    @ Steph – the *coolest*. 🙂

    I’m a cool veggie because…well…I kinda don’t like vegetables all that much.

    (don’t even *ask*, Friar…)

  42. Friar Says:

    @Karen JL

    (Shaking my head….).

    And you don’t even LIKE them….???

  43. Excellent use for Widget Rags. LOL.

    Wait, Karen is a vegetarian and she doesn’t like veggies? That is so perverse….in a good way…

  44. Friar Says:


    I think Karen is a closet Meata-tarian. 🙂

  45. Karen JL Says:

    @ Friar – I *said* don’t ask!

    And I’m not a closet meata-tarian. Meat grossed me out even when I ate it. So no.

    OK, I don’t like veggies very much. I try. But I’m also a lazy ass and veggies are too much work sometimes (yes, I’m *that* lazy). If someone were to cook for me everyday, I’d eat more of them.

    BUT I love animals much more than I hate veggies. So I just can’t eat animals (and haven’t for 20 years). So I’m an unhealthy vegetarian. I like pizza and pasta and easy stuff to make/heat (I hate to cook) and everything that pretty much is making me overweight.

    Ugh. There. My horrible confession is out on the interwebs and now I’ve been guilted to go buy shit to make damn salad. Thanks a LOT! 😉

  46. Friar Says:


    Well, if it’s any consolation, I’m going to eat some tomatoes that I grew in my own garden. 🙂

  47. Rita Says:

    Mr. Friar,

    As spokeswoman for the LaLeche League, I MUST take exception to the comments written on this so-called “blog.” Though you think that this is a funny issue, it is critical for both nutritional and bonding reasons for EACH WOMAN to make the decision as to when to stop breast feeding her chuld. The nutritional value and immunity ingredients of breast milk are NOT to be taken for granted.

    Were you to actually educte yourself on the history of breast feeding, you would understand that societies exist where nothing BUT breast milk is offered to the child. At my son’s wedding, after he and his wife had finished the “feed each other cake” picture, I made sure that my gown was of the type that he was able to wash down his wedding cake with the proper milk. Of course, though I could not drink a SIP of champagne to toast his happiness, it was still worth it to me.

    When we were together on the honeymoon, I was in the next room, as I understood the need for “privacy.” However, my obligations as his mother also necessitated that I be availalable for his nutritional health and growth. When his wife went to restaurants, we joined her, and my son took his meal from the ONLY place that made sense – my breasts.

    Now, Mr. Friar, if you do NOT come over to today’s blog and say something totally unnecessary, hilarious or completely out of line, I will be terribly hurt. Especially since I am blogging about you – YES YOU – tomorrow.

    I advise you to act NOW!

    With sincere regards,

    R. Ita

  48. Rebecca Says:

    LOL. Friar, I know so many of these people it’s not even funny. (Well, yes it sort of is.) Very well written, as always 🙂

  49. Karen JL Says:

    @ Friar – I hate tomatoes. 🙂

    (and I don’t know Rita but she’s starting to scare me…)

  50. Rita Says:


    I seem to have that effect on a lot of people. You’re in good company. 🙂


  51. Friar Says:


    Shhh….don’t give my friends breast-feeding ideas.

    And gee, I’d love to make a clever comment on your blog today…but with that kind of pressure, Gee, I got performance anxiety. (Especially since I batted .000 yesterday!) I’ll have to wait till I have something worthwhile saying.

    I’m lucky…I happen to hang out mostly with engineer/science types (not by choice, it just turned out that way). So I don’t’ have to deal with the tortured souls like you do.

    Hahah! You’re one conflicted vegetarian, aren’t you?

    (I always thought it would be cool if my garden could grow pizza and cheeseburgers, instead of tomatoes and carrots). (At least that would eliminate the animal part, wouldn’t it?)

  52. Rita Says:


    My blog tomorow IS truly on you, Brett, Writer Dad – and I just had to add Steph. You’ll see why…and as far as I’m concerned, you batted 1,000 yesterday. I was cracking up all day because of you – and I didn’t even need to leave my own space to do it.

    No performance anxiety…take a little blue pill, and comment when ready!


  53. Kelly Says:


    You are rocking with the comments today! Wow.

    Vermont, a stone’s throw from my parents’ place, is the New England capital for tortured intellectuals. That’s what made me think of the breastfeeding issue. It appears that it’s rather a big deal there. I’m all for it, but at some age, come on!

    If you don’t want to live in VT locals have to vacate New England and head for Manhattan. If you can’t afford that, there’s always Woodstock. You’d hate it, Friar, but oh, the torture-vibe there is something!

    I like tortured intellectuals in theory. In practice, though, I can’t take as much of them as I think I can.

    Janice: I claim to like color, but I own more black shirts of every description than I do socks. I don’t even wear them that often, but I seem unable to resist purchasing “just one more.” Art school flashbacks, maybe.



  54. Friar Says:

    Oboy, I can’t wait! :-). What are you going to inflict on the four of us?

    I have a bit of a skewed view of Vermont…I see it in the winter, at the ski resorts where the yuppies form Boston and New York come up to hit the slopes on the weekend.

    Haven’t come across any tortured intellectuals yet (but then again, skiing is an outdoor sport in cold weather that takes some physical skill). So the T.I.’s probably shy away, and come out during the warmer months.

  55. Jenny Says:

    That was absolutely hysterical and true! Leave it to you to put it all out there!!

  56. Friar Says:


    It’s all my years in University, and all the knobs I met while studying there. I couldn’t help but become an expert on the subject!

  57. Brett Legree Says:


    That was so damned funny, I just spit milk out all over the place.

    Was it breast milk? I’m not sayin’ nuthin’…

    @Karen JL,

    Hey, I like pizza pops and/or pizza a lot. A LOT. As in, my kids get mad at me when I eat all the pizza pops. And I do like meat and veggies too. But hey, PIZZA POPS.

    So I know where you’re coming from…

  58. Rita Says:


    Talk to Brett..and you’ve let me down today. WAHHH! 😦 I truly can’t imagine why you feel that making somebody wet her pants requires AN APOLOGY. As I said, apology NOT accepted because you did NOTHING WRONG – except for being breast-fed by a nurse-maid until age 37.


  59. Friar Says:


    Are you having a bad day? Do you need a Time-Out? (I can have Wendi send you to your room, if need be!). 🙂

  60. Friar Says:


    I remember kidding with a bleeding heart relative. I said that breast-feeding isn’t natural. Breasts should be used for sex…NOT for giving milk. That’s not what they’re designed for. It AIN’T RIGHT.

    Oh, you should have seen the lecture I got.

    “Oh, Friar, a mother nursing her child is the MOST NATURAL BEAUTIFUL THING in the WHOLE WORLD, there is NOTHING MORE PURE and WHOLESOME than the bond between mother and baby”.

    (Gee…Thanks for the lecture. DUhhh…thanks for educating me….me not realize what boobies are for!)

    The humor totally escaped her. (Guess she musta been a tortured intellectual). 🙂

  61. Karen JL Says:

    @ Brett – mmmmmm…pizza pops…. 🙂

  62. Friar,

    Did I hear you calling me? Someone needs to be sent to their room? What? Oh Rita? For Nursing her son on his wedding day? Yes…that does qualify…Rita, really woman, you should have used your breast pump, he was entitled to a day of privacy.

    Off to your room. FOr at least an hour…and no more pouting either.

    Friar….too funny.

    I don’t know if I am a tortured intellectual. First of all, I’m a carnivore. Sorry folks. I’m eating all of your animals. Morning noon and night. I’m so aneimic that even with eating them I’m hardly standing up. I’m not going to stop now just because Bambi has big eyes. Second, I make it a point to try not to use a word I have to look up in a dictionary. I mean I know them, but really, what’s the point, if it has more then three syllables, I’ll just misspell it anyway. And…I gace away my black clothes when I lost weight. I like bright clothes. And I don’t like talking about war, and all religions are equally fine with each their own, as long as you can manage to be nice.If you aren’t well then…it’s not really serving the point then is it?

  63. Friar Says:

    No, Wendi, you just have too much common sense to qualify as a Tortured Intelletual!

    PS. Thanks for sending Rita to her room. (I think she needed that!) 🙂

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