Nov 10, 2021–Years ago, when I interviewed the late composer and pianist Mark Hierholzer, one of his tenets was that we need to differentiate between art that is authentic, versus entertainment that is derivative.

The former brings joy; the latter delivers distraction.

His off-hand example was “Beatles=good; Monkees=not good.”

I recognize this as cartoonish, but distilling everything into “good vs bad” is an interesting exercise. It causes us to examine the quality of material we choose to insert into our lives.

So one night, as an alternative to counting sheep, I compiled my own, purely subjective list of what aspects of culture I judge to be “good” versus “not as good.” I expect no one to agree–that is not the point. I’m just sharing what I came up with while going through this exercise.

Let’s play:

Authentic Derivative
Oreos Hydrox
The Andrews Sisters The Maguire Sisters
Buddy Hackett Morey Amsterdam
Bugs Bunny Woody Woodpecker
The Simpsons Sponge Bob
Marx Brothers Three Stooges
Taco Cabana Taco Bell
Apple Microsoft
Toyota Hyundai
Texas Any other state
Marilyn Monroe Madonna
Jackson 5 DeBarge
Osmonds Cowsills
Swanson’s Banquet
Luby’s Furr’s
Leatherman OzarkTrail
Corn tortillas Flour tortillas
Mad Magazine Cracked
Beaver Nutria
Dollar General Dollar Tree
Classical music New age music
H-E-B Kroger
Converse Traxx
Buc-ee’s Stuckey’s
Don Knotts in The Andy Griffith Show Don Knotts in Three’s Company
Classic Western music Modern Country music
Original Saturday Night Live cast Every subsequent Saturday Night Live cast
Butter Blue Bonnet
Dollar Store Dollar Tree
Levi’s Lee
Cotton Acrylic
Crayola Rose Art

Of course your list will look completely different. And it should. If I repeat this exercise a month from now, my list will look completely different.

The actual list does not matter. The value is the process. Before embarking on a project or personal effort, ask yourself, is what you are pursuing authentic, true, and designed to add joy to the world? Or is it a shallow distraction designed to take you away from the important work?

Only you can decide.