I Don’t Have the Words

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After reading my two-parter about why it can be so hard to talk about depression, a friend sent me this article: 18 Words for Sadness & Depression That Don’t Exist in English. It is exactly what it sounds like. Some of the words are helpful. For instance, the Pitjantjatjara (aboriginal Australian) word “Watjilpa” apparently describes a feeling of being disconnected from family and social units. That’s definitely useful for depressed people. Other words did nothing for me. “Dépite” is a French word that they say means, “the feeling of itching irritation or fury (on a small scale) that happens when you’re disappointed by something.” Maybe it works for someone else, but I’ve never felt anything like that when I’m depressed. During a depressive episode, the only thing I’m disappointed in is myself.

English’s lack of vocabulary is something I’ve thought a lot about. I often complain that we use the same word, “love”, to describe our feelings about sports teams, TV shows, our parents, our kids, and foods. How ridiculous is that? I wrote something a few years ago, during a bout of depression, about how there’s a certain kind of loneliness that we just don’t have a good word for in English. I also wrote a piece more recently about the lack of a gender-neutral way of saying my sibling’s kid or my cousin’s parent. As a writer, it comes up surprisingly often that there isn’t a good word for what I’m trying to express.

My friend suggested coming up with my own word if English doesn’t have what I’m looking for. I love that idea, but I’ve never been able to do it. Neologisms are a lot of responsibility. Shakespeare is the gold-standard. If I could come up with a word like “swagger” my life would be successful. I’m more likely to be like whoever the idiot was who came up with “chillax” though. I suppose I shouldn’t let that stop me. What’s the worst that can happen? My explanations won’t become any less clear, right?

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What Is Mental Illness?

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Asking what mental illness is might seem a little silly. I mean depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD, schizophrenia, etc., etc., etc. are mental illnesses, right? Yes, of course they are. But I mean the question more generally. I don’t want examples of mental illnesses. I want to know what makes something a mental illness. AIDS, Covid, and Lyme are all physical illnesses, and they are the body’s reaction to a pathogen. So, in a sense, the pathogen is the illness. With most mental illnesses, there is no pathogen that we know of. Without the infection, what is the illness?

There is debate about this in the world of psychology/psychiatry. This article from Psyche outlines the problem as well as any I’ve seen. The author believes, essentially, that mental illness (he actually uses the word disorder) is nothing more than a network effect of a group of symptoms. He even says in the title that “Mental Disorders Aren’t Diseases.” It’s interesting and has some value. In the article, McNally talks about looking at bipolar as a network and doing some statistical analysis which shows it’s less about mood than it is about energy. Still, I can’t quite get behind the theory and I want to explain why.

I should mention that I am not a doctor or psychologist or psychiatrist or any kind of expert. I’m just some dope with depression who spends a lot of time pondering what’s wrong with himself. So, take anything I say accordingly.

One reason I have some trouble with the idea that mental illness is just a network of symptoms is the word network. I know this isn’t fair, but networks are kind of a fad now. I always think it’s a little too convenient when a natural phenomenon is explained in terms of a hot new trend. The brain isn’t a computer or a steam engine. Networks are better than blockchains, but it makes me a little suspicious right at the top. As I said, not fair. That’s just a bias of mine.

There are, thankfully, more substantive reasons. One is that I’m a little confused about what is being networked. The obvious answer is symptoms, but what does that really mean? When dealing with mental disorders, symptoms come down to mental states. Low mood, irritability, trouble sleeping, lack of energy, and short attention span networked together is depression. But if you swap trouble sleeping for sleeping too much and irritability for disinterest, it’s still depression. So, what about the network, which combination of things, makes the disorder? A lot of mental states are fungible. Does it not matter to the network what is being networked?

Another issue is what causes the states to network in the first place? I hate to think it’s random or spontaneous. Looking at it from the network perspective, our minds are always a network of mental states. When someone suffers from a mental disorder, the network is changed in a detrimental way. But if we focus on the network as the disorder, might we be neglecting the actual cause?

My biggest reason for not liking the networked symptoms idea, I have to admit up front, is an example of a logical fallacy, the appeal to consequences. In other words, this has nothing to do with whether it is true or false. Saying that a mental disorder is nothing more than a network of symptoms is awfully deflationary. It makes it seem like depression and anxiety and bipolar aren’t real. Or at least not really real. I know that’s not at all what McNally means, but it feels that way. If depression is the networked states I listed above, just get some sleep and smile more and the depression’s gone. Easy peasy. Except I know from experience that it’s not nearly so easy. There’s already a lot of people who misunderstand mental illness which adds to the stigma associated with mental illness. I’m afraid this theory could make it worse.

So, getting back to how I started this piece, if mental illness isn’t just a network of symptoms, what is it? Sadly, I don’t know. Remember, I’m just some dope. But I do have a guess. I actually think mental illness, in most cases, is more akin to physical injuries than to physical infections. Depression could be like a broken bone and anxiety is like a hernia. They do have actual, traceable causes. However, once the damage is done, the cause doesn’t matter much. The damage is what has to be treated.

Mental illness is probably a misleading label whether I’m right or if McNally is right or if neither of us is right. Should we drop it? What would we switch to? I’m ok with disorder, but I feel like there’s baggage there. Would mental injury catch on? Do you have any other suggestions?

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I’m Feeling Better Today and Why That’s a Bit of a Problem for This Mental Health Project

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I had a bad day yesterday. It prevented me from writing about what I had intended writing about. Instead, I just tried to describe some of the feelings I was having. I didn’t think it was very good, but a bunch of people reached out with words of support. That was nice even though it wasn’t my goal. I’m feeling better today probably, at least in part, from the words of support. As I was thinking about what to write today to continue the mental health conversation I’m trying to have, I realized there’s problem. Not just with today’s post, but it’s part of why the conversation is hard in general. I probably should have included it in my twoparter except I hadn’t thought of it then. That’s quite the preamble to get to my point, but here goes: When I’m feeling better, I’m not eager to spend a lot of time dwelling on what it felt like when I was feeling bad.

I don’t want to read too much into this. It’s perfectly natural to want to avoid painful things. But, if conversation is required to fix problems, we need to face those painful things at some point. That’s the conundrum. I’m pretty sure distance is the solution. The further away the painful experience is, the easier it is to talk about. Yesterday is still a bit too close. So, for the next few days, I’ll probably stay away from personal experiences altogether. There are plenty of other mental health related things to talk about. We can see how I’m feeling over the weekend or next week.

How’s that sound? Since I’ll be looking for some less personal things to talk about, any requests?

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A Bad Day

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I’m not having a good day. It sucks. There’s the obvious reason it sucks, you know, because I’m having a bad day. But it also sucks because I’ve started this little mental health project and I don’t want to stumble and lose all my momentum after only a few days. But I’m not capable of much today. There’s a lot that I want to write about, too. I had been thinking today I’d talk about how internalized societal norms mess with us. I want to talk about stigma. I want to talk about music and also about how mental health is depicted in media. I also want to talk about the physical manifestations of mental illness. None of that is going to happen today, though. Since I have so little to give today, I thought I’d just try to describe what today feels like. Test what I was saying yesterday. Here goes.

There aren’t any great words for it. Ugh. Hrmph. Blurg. Those are onomatopoeic attempts, but they’re not right. They could just be boredom or grumpiness, too.

One thing going on right now is I feel like I have a headache without the ache. That probably sounds weird since the ache is the defining characteristic of a headache. My head doesn’t hurt at all, but I swear I’ve got a headache. I can’t really explain it any better than that. I even took some Tylenol, but it didn’t do anything.

There’s lots and lots of negative self-talk, as they like to call it. I keep telling myself that I’m going to mess up anything I try to do. So, I don’t bother doing anything. That leads to feelings of failure and worthlessness. That’s always fun.

The sun is shining and the birds are singing. Not in a good way, though. I’m pretty sure they’re mocking me. It’s unpleasant. Too bright and too loud.

There’s a heaviness to everything. A pound easily weighs three pounds.

That’s not all of it, but it’s all I’m sharing today. There’s not much to do but take a nap. Not that I’ll sleep, probably. But if I do, maybe I’ll feel a bit better when I wake up. On the bright side, I’ve felt much worse than this. I got better then, and I will get better now. And I got something written, even if it’s pretty crappy and a bit of a cop-out. Yippee!

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Why Is (Insert Mental Health Condition Here) Hard to Talk About? – Part 2

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When I started this post yesterday, I wasn’t intending to write a two-parter. I was talking about the reasons the mental health conversation is so hard to have, even in an ideal world where everyone is kind and supportive and wants to understand. While talking about how the symptoms of depression make depression hard to talk about, one of the things I mentioned was how depression saps your energy. Of course, I then ran out of energy and wasn’t able to finish the post. Hence a two-parter. Fingers crossed I’ll finish today. In this part, I want to talk about what may seem like a more abstract, or philosophical, reason it is hard to talk about mental illness. Please don’t let that deter you. I think it’s pretty simple once you see it. I’m going to talk about the way experience and language work together (or sometimes at cross-purposes).

The heart of the matter is that the experience of mental illness is quite unique. People often point out that a diagnosed case of anxiety is different than just being worried about something. And those people are right. It’s not even just a matter of degree or intensity. Worry might be similar in some ways to clinical anxiety, but they are not synonyms. This is where the difficulty lies.

With any experience, it is impossible to describe it in itself. We are stuck describing it by referring to other experiences. Color is probably the most famous example of this. No one can describe blue. All we can do is point to blue things and say, “That. Right there. That’s blue.” It’s a step harder with feelings. We can’t point to a feeling. So, we talk about times when we had that feeling or times when we think someone else had the feeling. If it’s excitement, we might talk about Christmas morning as a kid. That’s a fairly common experience of excitement for lots of people and allows us to communicate the feeling.

Mental health experiences are intensely personal. I talked about isolation yesterday. I’ve even described depression as feeling solipsistic. And the thoughts and feelings involved are unlike other thoughts and feelings that I’ve had. When I’m having a depressive episode, I can’t say, “It feels like that time. . .” because it doesn’t. It feels like depression. So, it’s way harder to talk about than regular experiences and feelings.

The best I can do is use metaphors. I’m a writer, so I like metaphors, but they’re not entirely up to the job. I can talk about the feeling when I’m depressed that my body is a machine that I’m clumsily piloting. When I’m functioning well, my body and my self are one. I think the image speaks to the disconnect and the remoteness and the slowness of depression, but I can’t be sure. I don’t know if that metaphor explains anything at all. It’s frustrating.

So, that’s where I am right now. I want to have this conversation. I think it’s important that we do. But it’s hard. I’ll do my best. What do you think? Was my metaphor any good?

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Why Is (Insert Mental Health Condition Here) Hard to Talk About? – Part 1

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If we’re going to have the big mental health conversation, there’s something that we need to get out of the way first. It’s a hard conversation. I mean really hard. And I’m not talking about all the baggage that comes with it like the embarrassment, stigma, shame, resentment, and all that. Those are real and I hope to talk about them. But, even in a perfect world where everyone is open and accepting and supportive and curious, it would be a difficult conversation. I want to talk about that perfect world scenario here.

There are two things I see that get in the way of having a conversation about mental health, even in ideal circumstances. The first is that the symptoms of many of the conditions actively work against talking about them. Sufferers probably know exactly what I mean, but it might need some explanation for everyone else. A way to start thinking about it, hopefully without appearing too flip, is to look at some physical health conditions. Laryngitis and choking are two physical health ailments that actively make talking about them difficult. In both cases, the person with the condition literally has no voice. If that’s not a barrier, I don’t know what is.

Depression, my own personal battle, might not literally make me mute, but it is a good example case. Three of the major symptoms of depression are an inability to concentrate, a lack of energy, and isolation. Being unable to concentrate makes almost everything difficult, not just having a conversation about the illness causing it. Lately, though, I can’t even sit through a half hour TV show and this conversation is much trickier than that.

The lack of energy is pretty self-explanatory. No one wants to undertake a difficult task when they’re tired or worn out. I’ll just add that, at least in my case, depression’s lack of energy is much more than a standard “I don’t feel like it” that happens in normal life. It’s an intense lack of energy, if that makes any sense. Brushing your teeth and taking a shower can be as draining as wind sprints.

The isolation piece is a strange one. At least, when I was first diagnosed with depression, it seemed really strange to me. Someone may think that being around people would fix it, but it doesn’t. I’ve often felt more alone when I’m with other people than when I’m by myself. It’s like being somewhere else even though you’re physically present. Engagement is almost impossible. And I never realized before depression was part of my life just how much energy and concentration are involved in even the most relaxed and enjoyable social interactions.

There are other factors tied in with these. Personally, I hate the idea of ever being a burden on someone and value self-reliance. Simple pride gets in the way, too. I think it’s fairly easy to imagine how other mental health issues could similarly stifle conversation. Anxiety and quite a few phobias must tax energy and concentration. OCD and autism can make regular interactions more complicated. Hopefully you get the idea.

And that’s more energy than I really had to put into this post. When I get some energy back, I’ll tackle the second reason mental health is so hard to talk about in a part 2. Did I miss anything? Did I get anything wrong? Was anything confusing? Do you have anything to add? Let me know.

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Mental Health – Let’s Have This Conversation

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Last year, I wrote a piece for a friend’s website called “The Conversation Around Mental Health Is Long Overdue – and We’re Screwing It Up“. I said we were making two mistakes. The first was that we are focusing too much on celebrity in this conversation. I talked about Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles in particular and highlighted how, even though it’s great that they are seeking help, their circumstances are so far removed from most of us that they cannot be guides for us. The second was that we are treating mental health as a monolith. We are pretending it is just one thing instead of the myriad issues that it is in real life.

At the time, I had planned on following up that piece with more writings on mental health and, especially, depression which is the area of mental health I know best from personal experience. I was hoping to try to have a more productive conversation than the one I was criticizing. Unfortunately, my life got very busy around the same time I wrote that piece. I was still working a job I’ve had for a long time, started a new job, and started taking classes to get my teaching certification. Add taking care of my kid, and I just didn’t have the capacity to write about mental health. I wrote about other things, easier things, instead.

The past couple of weeks, my depression has flared up again. My therapist is calling it a major depressive episode. It’s been a struggle to say the least. I’m doing my best to get healthy again: talking to my doctor, therapist, family and friends, work, and school. The doctor and therapist get it. It’s their job and what they’ve been trained in. Everyone else has been supportive and kind, I’m quite lucky, but those conversations are a lot harder. They’re hard because, outside of the professionals, I have no way of knowing if people know anything about my condition. There is no common baseline of knowledge from which to work. It’s not like cancer where everyone has at least a passing familiarity with biopsies and chemo and such. That has really shown me how important it is, as a society, to have this mental health conversation.

I’m still super busy and struggling with my depression, but I’m going to post about it. I can’t guarantee that what I write will be great, but it will be honest. Hopefully, someone might see themselves in it and realize they aren’t alone. Or someone else might better understand what a loved one is going through. This is going to be difficult for me, so if anyone wants to comment, share, or in any way add to the conversation, please do so. It’ll help me to know it’s worth the effort.

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The Conversation Around Mental Health Is Long Overdue – And We’re Screwing It Up

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I published this piece last year, shortly after the Olympics, on Mentriz.com. I’m not sure what happened, but Mentriz no longer seems to exist. So, I’m reposting it here for the time being.

The past year and a half have been seemingly great for mental health advocates. Starting with the onset of the global pandemic and continuing with Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open and Simone Biles leaving the Olympic gymnastics team competition, there has been a lot of public discourse around mental health. We all know, or at least feel, shining a light on a problem is the best way to educate people and reduce stigma. That would make this current conversation great. Unfortunately, this particular spotlight is obfuscating more than illuminating. There are two basic ways it is going wrong. One is relatively minor but shows a common mistake we all make. The other is huge.

The smaller of the issues is that the current talk about mental health is leaning too heavily on celebrity. It is great that Osaka, Biles, Kit Harrington, and Chrissie Teigen (among others) are being open about their struggles. It is also great that they are seeking the help they need rather than pushing through and pretending that everything is fine. It is even greater that the public and their sponsors are (mostly) being supportive. The problem is that celebrities are simply in a different position than the rest of us who deal with mental health issues.

Most of us don’t have sponsors at all (Although, I’m open to it if anyone is interested in sponsoring me). Taking time off for our mental health risks our jobs. And we don’t have a cushion that would allow us to survive without those jobs. Many people don’t have broad support systems. It doesn’t matter how bad I feel on any given day if my kid’s gotta eat and no one else is around to feed her. Throw in the fact that insurance is less likely to cover mental health issues and, even when they are covered, there are often still large out-of-pocket fees, and most people who suffer from mental health issues can’t deal with it the same way as the role models that everyone is talking about.

Like I said, that is a relatively minor issue. It would be nice to see the struggles of regular people talked about more, but we have to fix the big issue before that would do too much good. The big issue is that we need to stop talking about mental health as if it is just one thing. The phrase “mental health” doesn’t say much of anything. It covers everything from agoraphobia to social anxiety to depression to schizophrenia. Have you ever looked at the DSM? It’s a really thick book. There are a lot of different issues covered by “mental health.” Imagine talking about “physical health” without bothering to distinguish between a toothache and appendicitis or a broken arm and cancer. The phrase doesn’t do any real work.

The reason this is a problem is because, like those “physical health” issues just mentioned, every mental health issue is different. They have different causes, different symptoms, different treatments, and should have different expectations. Some are chronic and some are temporary. Some are inconveniences while others are debilitating. I, for example, have battled depression. Its trigger was my divorce. Insomnia, low mood, overeating, inability to find pleasure in things that should bring me joy, and feelings of worthlessness and failure were my main symptoms. The lack of sleep made simple things like driving legitimately dangerous for me to try. It tested friendships; I was certainly no fun to be around. It put my job at risk (I managed to show up most days, but there’s only so much sick time to use if you’re lucky enough to have sick time at all). Many others with depression are nodding along right now. But someone with obsessive compulsive disorder isn’t going to recognize themselves in that. Nor will someone with anxiety or PTSD or bipolar disorder.

Throughout the pandemic and with the celebrities’ stories the conversation stays at such a high level that we don’t learn anything. For some, COVID brought trauma, for others grief. That was talked about on the news. But, without equal coverage, anxiety and dysthymia have been a lot more common. They can’t and shouldn’t be treated the same way as grief or trauma. With Naomi Osaka (I don’t know what her diagnosis is, and I don’t want to know. It’s not anyone’s business but hers.) avoiding the public was what she needed to get better. For other people, social engagement might be just what the doctor ordered (It helped my depression).

People often say, “Mental health is health.” That is absolutely true, but when we talk about “mental health” as if it is something rather than the myriad things it is, we cover it up. “Mental health issues” isn’t a diagnosis. In order to manage and treat something, we need to know what we are dealing with. And we need to be able to share it with others. We can’t very well expect our jobs to make accommodations without knowing what they are accommodating. Family and friends want to help but keeping things a mystery doesn’t allow that. Someone with a peanut allergy isn’t going to say, “I have a physical health issue,” and expect people to know to keep peanuts away. That person will say, “I have a peanut allergy.” If mental health is health, we need to treat it the same way. I don’t have a “mental health issue.” I have depression. Now, let’s start talking.

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The Humble Harmonica

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There’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. It might sound strange to some people, but why isn’t the harmonica a more popular instrument? It’s often seen as a kid’s toy or lame or dorky. People dream of becoming a guitar hero, a pyrotechnic drummer, or a groovy bassist. They fantasize about being a hot DJ, singer, or rapper. Others go serious into the world of virtuosity. No one even thinks of the old mouth-harp.

The reason I find this puzzling is that the harmonica has everything going for it. People have talked a lot about how the Spanish guitar took over in black music from the African banjo largely because it’s cheaper and easier to make. I’m pretty sure the harmonica is the only instrument where you can get a professional quality model for under $50. A big reason why keyboard instruments are so popular is because they are pretty ubiquitous. Every school, church, community center, some offices, and many homes have one. Harmonicas might be even more readily available. I mentioned children’s toys earlier. Most homes with kids are going to have a dusty old harmonica laying around somewhere. So, availability and accessibility are not where things go wrong.

For some reason, it seems that the harmonica lacks the coolness factor of other instruments. I just can’t figure out why. There’s no shortage of giant superstar musicians who play the harmonica. Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young come immediately to mind. And then there’s Stevie Wonder. They simply don’t make musicians any cooler than Stevie Wonder. It doesn’t matter if you like pop, rock, jazz, hip-hop, R&B, funk, electronic, or what, Stevie Wonder is one of your favorites. And it’s not like the harp is something Stevie just dabbles with. His first hit was basically a harmonica instrumental. It’s the featured solo instrument in tons of his songs. Did people somehow not notice his harmonica playing while they were giving him all those Grammys and Gold and Platinum Records?

On top of all this, the harmonica is pretty easy to play. It was designed that way. It’s always in tune with itself and most unaltered recordings. It takes a lot of time and effort to get to Stevie Wonder levels on the instrument, but most of us can get to a Bob Dylan level in weeks rather than years. So many people try to take up an instrument only to quit in frustration when it takes too long to sound decent. Harmonica solves that problem. Another thing to keep in mind is harmonica is an incredibly versatile instrument. It’s featured in everything from Classical and Jazz to Pop and Folk. Whatever genre you like, harmonica will fit.

Let’s change some perceptions. Go through your closet or junk drawer or your kid’s toy chest, dust off that old harmonica and give it a blow. It’s a lot of fun. You won’t be sorry.

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Some Things I Hate (Arts & Culture Edition)

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I’m not exactly sure why I’m writing this. I think I mostly just feel like arguing about some really low stakes stuff. I’m looking for fun arguments. So, if you respond, please keep it fun. I should also note that this is not an exhaustive list and I’m not going into a lot of detail. I’m focusing on things that are either hugely popular or critically acclaimed or both. Also, I’ll only include things that I have actually engaged with. And I don’t mean I’ve seen one episode of a show or heard one song. I mean I need to have a real familiarity with the artist/film or whatever. These are things from the world of arts and culture that have actively made my life a bit (or a lot) worse.

Television:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – I came to Buffy late, like three or four years ago late. When it originally aired, I was going through a period of not having a TV or relying on rabbit ears. I missed a lot of the TV from that period. But I knew many, many people who loved Buffy. To this day, I know many, many people who say it’s their all-time favorite show. So, when I finally joined the world of streaming, Buffy was near the top of my list. And I hated it. I wound up watching every single episode because I kept telling myself, “It has to get better.” It didn’t. I don’t know if the show didn’t age well or what, but the writing varied between sloppy and bad. It came off as shockingly sexist given the premise. And everything about Willow from the moment she fell in love with a girl was cringey as all heck. The jokes rarely landed. Events were so haphazard that there was never any tension. Maybe it was just over my head or something, but I hated the whole experience.

Battlestar Galactica – This was another show that I missed when it originally aired. Unlike Buffy, though, I didn’t stick it out until the end. I watched the first two seasons and that was more than enough. It was awful. It felt like they were making it up as they went along. The one rule was that there can never, ever, under any circumstances be anything fun or funny.

Music:

The Doors – The Doors is what happens when you take a lousy singer who happens to be a really bad poet, string him out on drugs, and make him the front man for a mediocre garage band. How they became one of the classic rock bands is just beyond me.

Jack White – Jack White really shouldn’t be on this list because, by all rights, I should barely be aware of Jack White’s existence. Unfortunately, I dated a woman for a little while whose absolute favorite musician was Jack White. And I saw the movie “It Might Get Loud”. So, I’ve heard quite a bit of his stuff. It’s, ummm, what’s the word? Oh, not good at all. He’s a hack that got famous. His best moments are aggressively mediocre. And hearing him interviewed makes me think he’s in a world’s biggest douchebag competition. It’s all schtick and no substance.

Movies:

Mad Max: Fury Road – Everyone went crazy for this movie when it came out. People loved it. I had no real interest having never seen a Mad Max movie, but people wouldn’t shut up about it. All the glowing talk made me curious, and I went to see it towards the end of its theatrical run. That stands as one of the biggest regrets of my life. I kept double checking to see if I was watching the right movie. It made no sense, even within its own world. It completely lacked humor. The action was monotonous. The sound design was less pleasant than a dentist’s drill. The story was never developed. But there was a dude playing guitar on the front of a truck for some reason. Ugh.

Deadpool – This is another movie that everyone loved. I mean they loooooved it. They wanted to have babies with it. About all I can say nice about it is that it tried really, really hard. There was just nothing original or clever or entertaining about the movie. The jokes basically amounted to someone saying bad words in inappropriate situations. Garbage Pail Kids are funnier.

Books:

Moby Dick – There’s probably a halfway decent piece of flash fiction scattered throughout this book’s six-hundred and thirty-five pages.

1984 – The less said about this the better. It’s a bad idea to make the reader hate every character in a book. And the book’s rather obvious point has been made much more effectively by many other people.

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