Jake Conrad

Jake Conrad
Blog dedicated to my writing and whatever else I want: movies, games, books, electronics, music, ... anything Jake. The interior of my mind is a mixture of grindhouse, steampunk, Lovecraft, and 80's pop. Be very afraid.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I've Got Problems - The Curse of Minor OCD

So I made two big New Year's resolutions in January 2010, 3, if you count my quickly abandoned decision to lose 50 lbs.  The other two were much more serious and were linked to each other.  Prior to January 2010, I have been a big movie watcher.  When I say a big movie watcher, I don't mean a couple-of-movies on the week-end movie watcher, I mean literally a movie-a-day movie watcher.  How did I manage this you might ask?  Well, I'm not going to go into too many details but I will say that the custom stereo I installed in my car when I purchased it in 2007 can play a variety of "media"...  As the individual in charge of safety for Burton Lumber that is all I will say without further incriminating myself.  I will say, however, that I have always utilized my 2 hours a day spent in my car commuting from Saratoga Springs to Salt Lake in one way or another.  More important than a fancy car stereo, the real driving force that caused me to watch a movie a day is the streak of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that truly has been passed down from my mother and her family to yours truly and manifests itself in a variety of interesting ways.  Now I'm not saying I'm diagnosable.  What I have is nothing like real OCD that is often debilitating.  What exists in me is more of an under-the surface habitual mania that strongly encourages me to turn my interests into obsessions that usually last 6 months or so.

Examples of this OCD streak?  Reading all 21 of John Sandford's "Prey" Books over the course of 6 months.  During this time I was in 3 different books at the same time reading one in audio format on my commute, one at work on my lunch, and one at home.  Somehow I managed to keep the good guys, bad guys, and everything else straight the entire time.  Another time as a prank I resolved to catch up to a friend's XBOX achievement level.  If you don't know what this means, all the better for you.  Anyway, I lied and told him my XBOX had the 3 flashing lights of death which normally means a month without my XBOX as it would need to be repaired.  Instead I secretly unplugged my XBOX from Live and in 3 weeks earned 10,000 gamerpoints to catch me up to him.  (I also gained 20 lbs during that time and probably lost 5 years off my life, but that probably goes without saying)  As far as this movie-a-day deal goes you have to at least try to appreciate what has to go into such an obsession.  I have used Netflix forever and at one time was getting 5 movies at a time from them.  Then I learned you could rent up to 10 movies from the city library at a time, and you could reserve them ahead of time online.  That tore it.  I would gallop through the entire work of prolific directors in days.  I would wipe out whole sub-genres in a month.  I would role play the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon over and over and over through my rentals.  I devoured Sundance Films like popcorn shrimp and even eliminated TV shows with 5 or 6 seasons in a single bound.  In short, I watched a hell of a lot of movies.

So fast forward to January of 2010.  I had recently completed my 31 days of horror by watching a different horror movie every day in October and had started to feel like I had seen it all.  In some ways I felt like there was "no new movie under the sun" and that I had seen it all, every variation of every genre.  I know that isn't the case, but that is how I felt. Worse than this, I felt numb from all the movies I had watched, because while I had been somewhat discerning, I justified watching even the most base content through various excuses.  I passed up being desensitized to violence and language long ago and continued to fool myself into thinking it had no effect on me.  I came to this realization as well as the understanding that Sol was turning 12 and has always been interested in everything I'm interested in. I had already let him watch The Matrix, and I knew I would start to introduce him to other movies a little at a time.

Some may think this is fine and the natural order of things, but the problem with all of this is that besides being a big movie watcher, I'm also a Mormon and a believer.  This makes life difficult in a lot of ways.  Being a Christian already brings with it a laundry list of guilt, but being a card-carrying Mormon takes that to the Nth degree.  As Church leaders have warned members to not watch movies that are unwholesome and have specifically warned of R-rated movies, I've been ill at ease with my obsession for some time now.

On my birthday I turned 35 and was feeling old and used up and like I needed to make some kind of life change.  I decided to quit watching R-Rated movies.  Now, I'm famous for quitting things.  I have quit drinking caffeine soda (another Mormon no-no that I have yet to give up) like 25 times, so those who know me just rolled their eyes when I said I was a PG-13er or less from now on.  A friend from work who knows how much I love movies just rubbed his hands together like Renfield and said, "You'll be back."  Another friend who I used to go see horror movies at the theater with quite a bit just laughed at me, and my poor wife who always supports me in all my craziness and loves me unconditionally and doesn't judge me, didn't say too much, probably knowing about my history of backsliding.  Not a very supportive start, but it was always about me and never about anyone else.

I had wanted to start reading more anyway and to start reading some classic books to open my mind a bit, but the siren song of the movies was always stronger.  Once I stopped watching R-Rated movies, I found myself with a whole lot of time on my hands. I'll just be honest, there aren't many new non R-rated movies I'm interested in... at least not to where I would want to watch on a day, so my new resolution to read a book a week was easy.  Now catching us up to the present... I'm 6 months dry from the R-rated movie bottle but now I have a new problem...  My reading habit.

I started keeping track of the books I read to see if I could read 52 over the course of the year.  Well, I'm not even through half of the year yet, and I've read 41 books.  Once again my Micro-OCD is in effect, and I can't stop.  So far this is what I've read:

1)      Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Suzanna Clarke
2)      The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History – Jonathan Franzen
3)      The Dharma Bums – Jack Kerouc     
4)      20th Century Ghosts – Joe Hill
5)      Genius – Jesse Kellerman
6)      Evidence – Jonathan Kellerman
7)      Bones – Jonathan Kellerman
8)      Empire – Orson Scott Card
9)      Hidden Empire – Orson Scott Card
10)  Under the Dome – Stephen King
11)  Fiddlers - Ed McBain
12)  Black Dogs – Ian McEwan
13)  The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
14)  Light in August – William Faulkner
15)  Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill
16)  The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
17)  Night Shift – Stephen King
18)  Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
19)  Complete Tales and Poems - Edgar Allan Poe
20)  Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
21)  A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare
22)  Siddhartha – Herman Hesse
23)  An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England – Brock Clarke
24)  The Trial – Franz Kafka
25)  The Colorado Kid – Stephen King
26)  A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking
27)  The Regulators – Stephen King (Writing as Richard Bachman)
28)  The Art of War – Sun Tzu
29)  Common Sense – Thomas Paine
30)  Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
31)  The Nightmare Factory – Thomas Ligotti
32)  Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
33)  The Stranger – Alber Camus
34)  The Final Solution – Michael Chabon
35)  Puddin Head Wilson – Mark Twain
36)  Short Stories of Saki – H.H. Munro
37)  The Age of Fable – Thomas Bullfinch
38)  Turn of the Screw – Henry James
39)  Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
40)  Abraham Lincoln – A Presidential Life – James McPherson
41)  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce – Ambrose Bierce

     Well that's great you say, but I can't help but wonder if I haven't switched the green monkey on my back for a blue monkey...  A little bit of "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." if you will.  Now with the discovery of free books I can download in MP3 format from the library, it isn't uncommon for me to finish a book and start another 2 seconds later.  Am I just a junkie constantly on the lookout for a new tray of junk?  I sometimes wonder if these obsessions will ever end so I can just sit still for a while.  It just seems against my nature to do so.  I always have to be doing 3 or 4 things at once.  Even when I try to do nothing, I look down and I'm doing something.  I have wondered for years if I will be one of those people that die young, and that somehow I know this and am making up for future lost time.  I kind of hope not, at least for Jana's sake, but at night, when I'm trying to go to bed at a decent time, and something inside says, "just finish that book, it's just a few more pages" I really wonder.  

     On the bright side, I have to admit that I have felt a huge change since I began this little experiment.  I have always loved to read and in spite of watching so many movies, I normally managed a couple of books a month.  Lately though, I have found a new fire in my soul for reading and reading good books.  Of course as you see from my list I still have a few servings of cotton candy scattered through my literary buffet, but I have read many good books that I hadn't read before. A long dormant desire to learn has been awaken inside me and my mind is buzzing with ideas and comparisons and parallels at all times.  It is wild and fun and I'm not through yet.  

                       At least I'll leave a beautiful corpse.


  1. I think it's great and you are great. I love your OCD quirkiness and passion for living life to the fullest. I have really loved hearing about these books you've been reading. It inspires me.

  2. The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars...
    Jack Kerouac, On The Road, 1957

  3. Loooooove it:)) And everything I've ever read about being a good writer comes back to being an avid reader....it all adds up:)) Nice post:))

  4. Great post....and don't sweat the OCD thing too much...just work to focus it in a productive direction, at least that's what people tell me when I get fixated on one thing or another. :)

    By your description of OCD, I have similar tendencies but they're coupled with a similar potential "ADD" style diagnosis...in that I fixate on things and go for ultra completion, but then I get bored and switch to something new to fixate. The result is a lot of disparate paths that are completed extra thoroughly but only for the first 20-30% of the road before being abandoned.

    I never got to the full fixation on movies (though I have done the "give up rated R films" and that has certainly limited the amount of movies I tend to watch). I have found, however, that my evenings are usually spent in one of 3 obsessions: video games (I'm an achievement junkie on the 360 as well), books (I have a goal for 1 a week...though I'm not too hardcore about it) and board games (I track my collection, which games are played, ratings, rankings, etc.).

    As someone influential once said 'We should seek balance in all things'...I sometimes interpret that as balancing my obsessions evenly. ;)

  5. Jake. Take it from me. You meet nearly all the criteria for OCD...and some. Not to mention your paraphilia with midgets, knives, and model trains.

  6. Hahahaha. I just saw this post from Jamison. You covered midgets, knives, and model trains, but you missed kazoos and auto-erotic asphyxia.