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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…

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?

Photo by Dippyaman Nath on Unsplash

“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.

Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

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

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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. …

How I quit my day job and made $X a month, doing Y. For $Z, you can, too.

Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash

Look. What I’m about to tell you isn’t, like, a new idea. Ain’t even new to me. Ever since college, when I laid awake baked off my ass at 2 a.m., hoovering Tostitos and queso, watching Matthew Lesko hawk federal grant money in his bullhorn-loud Riddler-meets-Bill Nye getup, promising riches if you paid $49.99 for his book, I’d been thinking of saying this.

I’m certain it’s already been said. Maybe it’s been said by one of your favorite writers or LinkedIn influencers. If this post goes viral, maybe one of them will definitely rip this off and try to pass…

LOL but but but but ... *why* did you binge on self-help books in 2020?! I *know* you knew the jig was up by then. :)

Sadly, I think while self-help in a vacuum is dead, there will always be a desire--maybe now more than before, given how awful we're (to varying degrees) getting it from the powers that be--to dream of being someone else: someone who seems like they have their shit together, someone who has what we want, someone who's in better shape than we are, someone who's in cinematic love, someone who doesn't have to work so…

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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