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Greatest Hits, 2020: My 15 favorite essays from my least favorite year.

Ah, so this is dystopia. As I annually do, I’ve curated a list of my favorite pieces from the year that was, each with a small snippet of director’s commentary.

In last year’s edition, I remember saying: “I initially wanted to cut this list to a Top-10, but, sadly, dystopia has been very good for business and has given me a lot to talk about.” Well, in 2020, we reached a level of hell that depressed me past the point of wanting to say much at all.

I wrote significantly less this year than I did in either 2018 or…


Sisi and the ladder.

Photo by Antonin Duallia on Unsplash

“I want to see them,” Sisi said to her mother. “Now.”

She was seven, a young Venezuelan long before the time of Bolivar, and, as children often are, she was unafraid to dream.

“Well, Sisi,” said her mother as she ushered the young lass outside, “The stars are right here for you to see. See?”

Mother was right. The stars bespectacled the night sky, flickering and shining bright as a young girl’s eye.

“No, mother,” Sisi insisted, “I don’t just want to see the stars — I want to see them up there. I want to go to the stars…

The annual list (belatedly) returns: Here are 10 great writers to read in (what’s left of) 2021.

Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash

Great writers — I mean, the ones who really stand out —are conduits through which you unearth a greater understanding of the world, of your line of work, and also of yourself. They’re as rare as they’re also necessary.

Not all good writers are great writers. I’ve read whole J-Schools full who are solid, convincing, technically proficient, and utterly forgettable. Most freelance columnists at mainstream media publications fall into this bucket.

And, not all great writing is even good writing. I love the shit out of Cormac McCarthy—he’s probably read in more high school English classes than his works, if…

Why the world feels more unhinged than ever.

Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash

Let me start by saying the world’s not overpopulated, it’s overburdened. There’s a difference; by the end of this essay, I’ll make that clear. Still, it’s obvious that our current way of life was not designed to support eight billion people. If you’re looking for proof, well … look around.

The North American west and interior of Australia burn regularly. Superstorms pummel parts of the North American eastern seaboard, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. Texas froze to death in February. (I was there.) That’s just the climate-related tragedy of it all, and I’m leaving plenty out.

The US, UK, Russia…

Art is dead and content is king. Is there any going back?

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“Genius is insanity that turns a profit.” — John Gorman, Los Angeles Fine Art Show (January 19, 2012)

Oh, how I’d adore if you could — after reading this magnificently overwrought and underthought essay, of course — listen to the new Twin Shadow record.

God, it’s lovely: immersive in the sense that for even the briefest of moments during its scant runtime, you forget how hellish the world can be when you take your headphones off and fix your gaze upon the nearest screen.

The sweepingly tasteful guitar solo from “Alemania” whirrs about and bleeds into your head long after…

Take a deep breath, and let it all go.

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You do not need to rampage deep into the sleeping city — adrift with the demons who cast you down, chasing some mythical white elephant’s ivory, hunting to feed the insatiable village of voices inside your cranium who beg for bigger, better, badder, bolder.

You do not need that seventh whiskey — that fire-water set ablaze to drown the doubt that creeps into you as you saunter your way across the dimly-lit bar ready to ask that comely one to play the romantic lead in a play you’ve yet to write.

You do not need that Mercedes C-Class, what with…

Postscript: P.S. I Love You Essay #135

Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

It was 3 a.m. and I was stoned to the fucking skies, man. I was not yet 21. I’d just finished a late-night serving shift at IHOP in Buffalo, New York, which meant I spent about six hours working, and another 90 minutes in the back parking lot toggling between hotboxing in some nameless degenerate’s rusted-out sedan, shivering, and learning to skateboard poorly.

On my way home, I bought a 32-ounce strawberry/lemon-lime Gatorade and ordered pizza from a place called — I shit you not — Ying's Wings and Things & BAR. [The stylization is important: It was a Chinese…

A commencement address to the Class of 2021.

Photo by Pang Yuhao on Unsplash

[*taps mic*]

Alright. Every year at this time, some quasi-dignitary who meets some trendy definition of success stands at one of these here podiums and blows smoke up your ass for 45 minutes about how you’re the greatest generation and you’re going to change the world and when they look out into this sea of young, impressionable faces, they’re filled with hope.

And they’ll do so with gravitas. All the while — half of you drift in and out of sleep and the other half tap away in group chats coordinating party plans.

I’m not going to do all that…

A trip to Las Vegas taught me how to succeed without really trying

Las Vegas, NV, USA // Photo: John Gorman

I went to Las Vegas over the weekend in what was my first honest-to-goodness vacation since October 2019. I don’t typically love Vegas — I don’t club, gamble, or enjoy touristy things or bro-y meatheads — but there are few better cities in the U.S. for food, sunshine, and feeling like you’re “off the clock.”

You say you’re going to Chicago and work will send you texts and emails. You say you’re going to Seattle and work will assume you’re there for a job interview. …

John Gorman

Essayist and storyteller on life, liberty and the battle for happiness. Several million served. Words at Human Parts, Forge and PS I Love You. IG: heygorman

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