RyThoJo's Blah'g
30 Reasons to Stop Reading Self-Help Lists

For some unholy reason, this blog has gone viral over the past few days. A thousand people have reposted it on my Facebook feed. Usually this stuff brushes past me and saunters off into the abyss where new agey advice goes to die. But this time, I clicked, I read, and I became indescribably pissed off.

Here’s the form of the article: It’s a list of 30 things the authors assume you are doing to damage your life, things that only they have the insight to warn you of, accompanied by an image allegedly supporting each lesson. Most of it consists of obvious nuggets of wisdom you should have figured out by the time you left college. They are mostly givens for an adult life. I only take issue with a few of them. Most of my problems are with the shoddy web design/image choices. Here are some highlights.

#1. Stop spending time with the wrong people

Pretty simple idea. Hopefully, you nailed this one the first time your junior high buddy spit milk on your Sloppy Joe and set it on fire. The sentiment is valuable. I have a problem with the image.

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Image by pongboy

Is this frog supposed to represent a shitty friend? A bad romantic relationship? Look at that guy? What did he ever do besides not bathe like a human? Sure, he’s covered in mud, but he’s amphibious. That’s more than you can claim, Big-Handed-Self-Help-Jerk-Ready-To-Toss-A-Forlorn-Frog-Aside-Guy. How about a rule encouraging people to not judge animals because they’re dirty?

#4. Stop putting your own needs on the back burner.

Again, a worthy argument. Here’s the picture.

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Whoever took this picture isn’t putting anything on the back burner except possibly pruning the grapevines adorning his opulent Mediterranean estate. Don’t worry. This guy took your advice long ago.

#5. Stop trying to be someone you’re not.

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This kid is probably…No, this kid is definitely blind. If he’s trying to convince Mr. Rogers that he’s not blind, he’s doing a pretty crappy job what with the unfocused eyes and all the face-touching. But moreover, this is a poor metaphor for the article’s audience. They’re probably encouraging you to abstain from telling the hot babe at the bar that you’re a film producer. They really intend for you to not rent a Porsche for your class reunion. But blind people will generally hit a higher wall than you trying to convince others that they are not blind, usually when it comes to meeting TV hosts or crossing the street. The next time you meet a blind person, ask him how many times he’s tried to convince others that he can see. Then note the dexterity with which he can clock you in the face.

#6. Stop trying to hold onto the past.

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Image by Max Rossi/Reuters

This is an image of the Costa Concordia disaster in which 32 people lost their lives and 5 crew members were found guilty of manslaughter by way of negligence. I guarantee - No one involved in this event is trying to hold onto the past. Everybody would be pretty darned happy to forget the whole thing, including the dummy captain who turned off the navigation system and ordered the boat into rocky waters so he could wave ‘Hi’ to his family. Nobody is enjoying themselves except for the cynical retirees sunbathing by the watery grave of strangers. Is this supposed to make me chuckle and say, “Hey, we all make mistakes”? People died here, man!

#10. Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness.

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Image by Andy Hutchinson

Stop looking to others for happiness. Now enjoy this picture of a gorgeous island you don’t live on.

#11. Stop being idle.

Everyone should read Bertrand Russell’s classic essay "In Praise of Idleness". The point he makes is that the adage of sweaty work being the only path to a virtuous life is a scam handed down by a caste of landowners reaping profit off the toil of others. He posits that in an equal society, we could spread out the work, still make profit, and take some time off to enjoy our friggin’ lives before we die. Before you start shouting, “Communist!”, don’t worry. He makes a good point of noting how the USSR mucked it up and pretty much became the same as their predecessors. 

The larger point is that idleness is the seed of all creativity. Don’t get me wrong. It comes in different forms. Putzing around on Facebook and watching Jersey Shore are forms of idleness that make you feel as if you’re being active even though you’re not. Hours pass and all you’ve done was yuk at a bunch of LOLCats. But it’s no accident that the great thinkers of the world have gotten their best ideas in the shower. Why? Because all they’re doing is worshing the ol’ nuts. They are distracted by nothing. It is the most common and most pure form of meditation. Advice like “Stop being idle” is, frankly, a symptom of a go-get-‘em mentality dead set on financial success and bereft of any inquiry towards wisdom. I advise a balance of work and play. Make some money. Then take some time to make a card house or stare at the wall. You might strike upon an idea to build robotic dragons or you might not. But at least you’ll have enjoyed a few minutes of your life and quit worrying about striking it rich.

Now, here’s the picture.

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Image at betterphoto.com

Is that girl…Is she jumping into a sea of bones?!

#15. Stop trying to compete against everyone else.

Here’s the picture.

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Image by claudio campa

Alright, don’t worry about competing with everyone else. But shit, try to keep up! Don’t dangle off the side of a mountain solo just so you can tell your hippie friends how independent you are.

#18. Stop holding grudges.

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Look at this guy. He couldn’t hold a grudge if it was slathered in bacon. He is a blissful beast mystified by the miracle of snow. Again, unlike this blog’s readership, it’s not that he’s overcome holding a grudge. He can’t hold a grudge. He is a simple, thumbless dummy as unaware of the troubles of the world as he is of the leaf on his head.

#22. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments.

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Image by Mike Killian

Yep, stop overlooking the beauty of small moments…like the Asgardian ring of fire shooting through the sky!! In which country do we regard this as a “small moment”, and when can I move there? Are the lakes made purely out of cocktails?

#23. Stop trying to make things perfect.

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W…T…living…F, self-help blog! Did you think that rat was taking a cozy nap and cuddling up to his favorite human? That rat is dead, and that child just had her first brush with mortality. I, for one, actually think that rats can be cute and make great pets…in the right circumstances! But I’m going to lay down money that this picture was not taken in an OSHA-approved world. I’m betting that hydrogen peroxide won’t be found for miles and miles.You just showed me a picture of a little girl of the Third World devastated by the loss of the only friend she ever knew, a dead rat currently leaking rabies all over her. I get that we don’t have to make things perfect, self-help blog. But do we have to make them this awful?

#29. Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen.

THIS IS AN ENTIRE LIST OF THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO HAPPEN! Not to play semantics, but I haven’t read one thing you want me to actually do, self-help blog. You’ve given me 28 arduous Whole Foods-culture commandments of shit you don’t want me to do, shit you assume I’m already doing. And now you’re going to encourage me to get active? Active at what? I can’t find the link for 30 Things You Should Be Doing to Yourself. Here’s the picture.

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Image by Sarolta Bán

You know what I really don’t want to happen? I don’t want a little girl to get eaten by a bear. That is clearly the next image in this series. Here’s a pro-tip for all you new parents out there. The next time the cinematographer from The Ring offers to shoot pictures of your little one petting a forest-dwelling carnivore that survives solely on the bodies of smaller beings, politely decline.

You can read the rest of the thing if you’re into that stuff. Better yet, I’ve got my own list:

30 Things to Stop Doing Altogether

#1 - #30. Stop wasting your time reading new agey tripe on the internet. Close your laptop. Put down your phone. Walk outside. Go hear a band and don’t take pictures. Stare at the sky. Read a book. Read another book. Eat a donut. Eat a salad. Lie on the floor. Boink your significant other. Find someone to boink. Go to a museum. Go to an island. But for the love of Crom, stop taking the advise of any yahoo who knows HTML tags, including me, and go experience something.

The Best Ideas are Simply Ideas

Doing my part to cut through the swarm of information. I haven’t had the patience to write something similar myself (appropriately enough), so I’ll just repost this link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/opinion/sunday/the-elusive-big-idea.html?pagewanted=3&ref=general&src=me

Keeping it Classy, DeGraaf

Just read this article about Kansas state Rep. Pete DeGraaf arguing that if a raped woman wants an abortion, she should prepare for it ahead of time because, as he says, it’s just like keeping a spare tire in your car. Go ahead, read it: http://blogs.pitch.com/plog/2011/05/pete_degraaf_rape_flat_tire.php

The writer of this particular article got brownie point from me for showing some journalistic gusto and sticking DeGraaf’s work and home phone numbers up there, as well as his email address. Here’s what I wrote to the quack…

Really, Mr. DeGraaf? Really?

I just read your comment made during the recent House discussion regarding a woman's need to
prepare for a rape baby as a similar situation as having a spare tire in one's car. Let us disregard for
a moment that it displays utter ignorance on your part as to the milk of human kindness or any
judgment as to the spectrum of human suffering. But on a simple careerist level, weren't you aware
that this is the sort of thing that is like hemlock to a politician? Didn't you consider that some of your
constituents may have very well been raped in their past and may not want to reelect a man who
thinks of their wombs as a busted Michelin?

I do not doubt that you have already justified this for yourself. I do not doubt that you still have
some voters who think that you "tell it like it is". But your argument lacks both logic and compassion.
Based upon your argument, you should already be seeking out extra insurance plans to protect you
against boar attacks, nuclear fallout, and British invasion. Because, hey, those could happen! Better
get some insurance for it, right? Or you could consider the fact that humans can do some ungodly cruel
things to one another, such as rape, and know that these attacks can occur surprisingly and in a manner
that can affect a woman for the rest of her life. You could also probably be a true conservative, petition
for less government involvement in private business, and exemplify this by allowing private insurance
companies to make their own decisions. And as a religious man, you may take some time to meditate
on this since, currently, you have clearly abandoned any sense of love among humankind.

Why you no write?

If anyone should happen to come across my blog and wonder why I don’t have anything up, it’s simple. I’m an utter Luddite. I haven’t sent one tweet, nor am I convinced that I can express any thought worthy of global publication within 140 characters or less. I expect that when I do make use of it, it will only be used for shameless self-promotion or the occasional socio-political cause that gets my dander up.

But that’s a micro-blog. This is a blog blog and I get to use many more words! So why nothing so far?

I hated the idea of blogs when they first arose because they started initially as a person’s diary. Except whereas the average diary is something you keep when you’re 13 and you want to hide it from the world, this diary was available to anyone with an internet connection. Stupid idea, in my book. They have deformed the practice of journalism and skewered objective reportage, making the Glenn Becks of the world a much more palatable option for those wanting to learn about world events. Really screwed the pooch on that one, blogs!

But I will admit this, blogs have revived the modern essay and have opened an audience up to reading essays in a manner that had been missing for some time. Me? I like essays. I’m glad to see that they’re hip, in a manner. And I think I’ll finally dip my toe in the self-indulgent water and have a go at it.

Mind you, this blog won’t be daily. I have a really good thought about once or twice a month. The rest of the time I’m trying to earn money, get food, and seek affection like everyone else. But when one of those thoughts do pop up, and I have the wherewithal to compose it in an interesting manner, I’ll let ‘er rip.

For this first exercise, I like a year end wrap up. It’s been 2011 for exactly two hours and twenty-three minutes right now. So for my own personal satisfaction (not yours), I’m going to mark out some of the things I’ve done this year.

- I acted as music director for Forbidden Zone: Live in the 6th Dimension at Sacred Fools Theater. This job had me writing horn charts for the first time, rehearsing two alternating 7-piece bands, teaching and rehearsing vocal harmonies with 13 actors, teaching some to sing for the first time, convincing great musicians to play for little money, learning and transcribing Danny Elfman’s first (sometimes baffling) movie score by ear, dealing with the sound issues of putting a mini rock orchestra into a small theater, and playing keyboards and conducting every night of the show. It may be the most challenging thing I’ve done to date. I lost 15 lbs. because of the stress. BUT it was an enormous success, I made countless new friends, I got to know some stunningly talented musicians, performers, and techs, and I stretched the hell out of what I thought I was capable of. Very fulfilling.

- I continued on with the theater company by writing a score for Watson. It was an all string quartet score. No synths. Real players. Again, I got to step into unknown territory and come out with a relative sheen.

- I scored some online shit for Burger King that they never used. Good practice, though.

- I played banjo, accordion, and stylophone on a Sean Lennon track thanks to the approval of the fine folks at HitRecord.org. So, if nothing else, I and the son of a Beatle are jamming on a recorded something.

- I played at a memorial for a really stand-up guy who I didn’t know long, but found no less inspiring.

- I became an uncle on the same night I saw Pee Wee Herman.

- I saw many, many pictures of this niece shown to me repeatedly by my obsessed fiancee and admit that I enjoyed many of them. I also took that same kid to the zoo, pushed her around in a plastic car, tossed her around to make her laugh, and learned that she cries if I’m unshaven (she’s stylish).

- I spent the whole year being engaged.

- I got three of my songs played on the Dr. Demento Show!

I also went to the gym more than usual and made some money in voice over, but who cares? Things were good and they’re getting better. More, hopefully insightful thoughts, in the future.