Good Time Proves Rob Pattinson Can Act

I’ve known Rob Pattinson is a highly talented actor for years now. I was one of the few who watched his performance in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis. The movie isn’t for everyone (it made about three Snickers bars’ worth of money at the box office), but it more than sheds the pretty boy image Pattinson earned for his role in the Twilight saga.

He’s great in Good Time. Better than great, in fact: he’s Oscar-worthy. He likely won’t receive so much as a nomination due to the politics of the so-called awards shows they broadcast on TV, but damn does he deserve it.

It’s been a long time since I was so utterly convinced that I was watching a genuinely real human being on the big screen. And in the film’s case, the person seems to be the antithesis of Pattinson.

Good Time is a great film: it’s kinetic, brutal, and ultimately a tear jerker. The ending is one that I’ll remember for ages.

Bravo, Rob. Bravo.

Good Time is available for rent. I streamed it last night.



One of my favorite passages from Stephen King’s IT is when the main character, Bill Denbrough, revisits his hometown as an adult. As a child he rode “Silver,” his bike, with reckless abandon. He returns to his hometown as a 38-year-old man and watches another child ride a skateboard with similar bravery:

‘Bill felt love for the boy, and exhilaration, and a desire to be the boy, along with an almost suffocating fear. The boy rode as if there were no such things as death or getting older. The boy seemed somehow eternal and ineluctable in his khaki Boy Scout shorts and scuffed sneakers, his ankles sockless and quite dirty, his hair flying back behind him.

Watch out, kid, you’re not going to make the corner! Bill thought, alarmed, but the kid shot his hips to the left like a break-dancer, his toes revolved on the green Fiberglas board, and he zoomed effortlessly around the corner and onto Jackson Street, simply assuming no one would be there to get in his way. Kid, Bill thought, it won’t always be that way.’

King, Stephen. It (p. 773).

Damned if that doesn’t say more about life and growing up in two paragraphs than most could say in two years…

With Age Comes Clarity

Age reveals truth. Time removes the cultural mob of the moment’s gunk to reveal the diamonds in the rough.

I’m referring to all the crappy bands and movies that popular culture and its self-congratulating awards shows and social media trendsetters tell us to like. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a corporate entity shoving down my throat the idea that a product is “high art,” whether it’s a Facebook paid-for ad or RottenTomatoes hysteria. I don’t give a fuck. It’s manufactured greatness.

Conversely, there are so many great bands and films out there that the mob of the moment tells us to hate or ignores entirely. No, I’m not talking about the Oscar winners that make five dollars. I’m talking about the true outside-the-box stuff. Films and music that make you feel, but are labeled trash for whatever reason. Work that pop culture goes out of its way to shun, either out of fear, peer pressure, or a total lack of understanding

For example: after watching them back-to-back, I’ve concluded that The Force Awakens is an inferior film to The Phantom Menace. Disney bought out a horde of critics and pressured them into liking the aforementioned. It’s a remake of A New Hope without the fun or ingenuity. It’s boring! It sucks! I don’t care how many dumb social media posts insist it’s a masterpiece: I was in a theater full of people checking their damn watches for the full two hour runtime!

Phantom Menace had genuine emotion, thrills, and imagination. Darth Maul was a compelling villain. His final battle with Obi-Wan far surpasses anything in The Force Awakens. 

Another example: Limp Bizkit is actually a badass band. To hell with people who say their lyrics are trash. That’s the point!

The point is to have fun, and Limp Bizkit is fun. Imagine Dragons isn’t fun; it’s an assemblage of maudlin clichés. Likewise with all these pretentious crooners in the line of The National, Mumford and Shits, and Coldplay. YAWN!!! Their lyrics are just as dumb as Limp Bizkits, but they manufacture the sort of lines that the mob accepts as thoughtful.

Limp Bizkit is for kicking ass. The National is for vainglorious hipster crybabies.

“So where the fuck you at punk
Shut the fuck up and back the fuck up
While we fuck this track up!”

This is going to be the chorus sung at my damn funeral one day. I hope a 90-year-old Fred Durst sings it, and I’m gonna prop my coffin up so everyone can see my smiling corpse giving the onlookers the middle finger.

On another note: I’ve come to some realizations from living in another country and peering at America “through the looking glass.”

China actually banned most American social media, and though I consider myself a “free speech” kind of guy, I don’t see how this has hurt the Chinese in any way. In fact, Americans seem significantly more depressed and anxious since the advent of smartphones and social media outlets.

I truly do not believe social media has helped the world in any way, shape, or form.

That’s why I stick to WordPress. I can actually have fun without having to worry about John Smith from high school and the beautiful babies he just had. More importantly, I don’t have to succumb to groupthink, which is inevitably what social media leads to. Every post must display a tribal allegiance on Twitter and Facebook these days. Every rant is a cause someone fights for.

The consequence has been shallower causes backed by fewer principles and higher tensions.

It’s really all just fodder to control what people think about all day.

But I’m my own tribe. It’s the tribe of “I’m shredded and think for myself.” It’s pretty great actually.


Some Moments I’ll Always Remember

When I have large gaps of free time, I tend to overthink. Or maybe it’s not overthinking, but rather it’s the important things clamoring for attention, things that got a little too dusty in the cellar of memories suddenly creeping back up, reminding me that they exist inside my head and need some attention.

I thought about Will today, my old college friend who took his own life.

My clearest memory of Will is from a night 13 years ago. I was at a house party and feeling particularly lonely because I lacked the courage to talk to anyone. I felt uneasy, anxious, and isolated. I was never good with partying; I think my DNA is made of film celluloid, not booze. Will noticed and offered to take me to the Dobie Mall theater. I needed an escape, and he was the only one watching attentively enough to notice. He didn’t like parties much either, which made us sort of kindred spirits. We went together and caught the midnight showing of Ghost in the Shell 2. 

Memory is an odd thing. I barely remember breakfast two weeks ago, but I remember the film that Will and I saw 13 years ago. I only watched it once, and I still remember most of the scenes.

Today I thought about how he grew more distant from me over the ensuing year, and I remembered the shock when Poston, another friend of mine, told me with tear-filled eyes that Will passed away. I remember hugging Poston and hating everything. I remember months of asking myself what could have happened differently to prevent such a thing.

I also wondered what it is about human nature that can make such a generous and loving heart overwhelmed with such despair.

You get older, and you see people drift in and out of your life like the feathers under the disposal of the wind in Forrest Gump.

I was also thinking about Clark. I remember the last time I saw him in person. I was watching B-movies with him and another high school buddy, Drew. I had recently graduated college, and we were all trying to figure out what the hell we were going to do with our lives.

I remember we all shotgunned beers towards the end of our evening together. I insisted that I shotgun a 32 ounce Evil Eye beer, which left them both nonplussed. I managed to down the entire thing, but puked my guts out ten seconds later. It was Clark’s house. I expected him to be pissed, but he was crying with laughter. I apologized emphatically. He assured me there was nothing to apologize for because what I attempted was the greatest thing he’d ever seen.

The three of us walked to a nearby grocery store and bought some cleaner. We all cleaned up the mess together. We watched each other grow up, and now here we were, looking at our young adult selves, wondering what the hell was next besides age and work.

“It was great to see you again, Matt,” Clark said with a smile. “I’ll always remember that you tried that. You’re a champ, not just in the pool.”

Clark passed away about a year and a half after that night. That night was the last time we ever spoke.

We can’t always save the people we lose. In fact, we rarely can. But we can cherish the memories they gave us. However brief their time on the planet, and however long mine ends up being, I’m a lucky person to still remember these nights.

Not the Bees

I was talking about American cinema with a Chinese friend of mine today. We discussed Forrest Gump at length; it was a film that impacted both of our childhoods, and one we both often cite as a favorite.

I don’t actually have a favorite film, but Forrest Gump is as good a choice as any. The purpose of cinema, in my opinion, is to make you feel something. No film has made me feel such a wide range of emotions as Forrest Gump.

Is life one of predetermined fate, or are we all just feathers floating around in an indiscriminate and chaotic wind? Gump concludes that it’s a bit of both… and I agree.

I can’t remember how or why my friend brought up The Wicker Man with Nicolas Cage. He had no idea I’m a huge Cage fan either, but he still managed to bring up it. For those who don’t know, most regard the Cage starring Wicker Man as one of the worst movies ever made. I consider it the best bad movie ever made.

Here was his summary of Wicker Man. Much to my appreciation, he is also a fan:

“A good-hearted police officer is sent to an island to help a woman. He falls in love with this woman, and only wants to help her. But she betrays his love, and all the other women on the island turn on him too. He even went to great length to help her by disguising himself as a bear to uncover the island’s secrets! For doing the right thing, the police officer is punished and ultimately killed… by bees and fire. It is a great tragedy, what happens to this officer.”

I like Cage because he’s so utterly unpredictable. I’m glad to see that overseas, they understand his greatness.

“How’d it get burned!?”


The Good Ole 4th Graders

Classes in China tend to be big. Like, 45-ish fourth graders big. Spaces are narrow between rows of desks, which line from one end of the class to the other. I have enough difficulty just navigating around. So, it’s also difficult to get to know every student when you have upwards of 20 classes a week.

At the beginning of every class I like to ask, “How are you today?” Students will raise their hands and start screaming, “Me me me, pick me! Teacher, pick me today!”

Answers range from “I’m very happy because I have English class!” to “I’m hungry and want an American hamburger!”

One little boy answered this week, “I’m happy because my teacher is a cool American, and I love America!” Then he chanted, “USA, USA, USA!”

I looked back cautiously to make sure the Chinese teacher wasn’t offended; she was laughing a little herself, so I gave the kid a high five.

Moments like that make the days go smoothly.



Renting Beats Home Ownership

Most studies have proven that over the past few decades, home ownership has been largely ineffective at wealth creation.

Statistics show, time and time again, that in the vast majority of cases, a person builds more wealth by renting if they invest the money they saved from avoiding a house down payment. Here is the latest:

So why, then, do home owners still hector the renter with their tired arguments of “renting is money down the drain”, if in fact renting tends to create more wealth than buying a home? It’s insecurity, as well as a need to defend a doctrine they themselves had lived by. I am a numbers guy. I objectively go where the statistical evidence leads.

I’ve been pressured by more people into home buying than marriage, which is stunning because had I ever bought a home, I’d not only be incapable of living my preferred “travel heavy” lifestyle, I’d be a lot poorer. And it’s always the same simple argument, with little data to back it up. Simply parroting the old adage “renting is money down the drain” is as effective an argument as saying “Santa is real because I said so.”

Anyone with knowledge of compounding interest and reinvested dividends knows why, exactly, hectoring renters is a stupid thing to do. So ignore the bullies who pressure you into home buying for the sole reason that it’s what they do. Ignoring them will do you no harm. I avoided their constant nagging, and I’m doing a lot, lot better than I would have if I caved.



Good Riddance to These American Things

To be fair, there are some things in America that I genuinely miss: Carolina bbq, NFL football, indie films, heavy metal shows, and the ability to easily read, to name a few. But this is more about the things I’m glad to say good riddance to for awhile:

  • Cars. Cars, in general, are something I’ve always hated. The cost outweighs the benefit of owning a car, and the scale isn’t even close to being even. A car is a wallet leech, and the US transportation system is a scam set up to give people the illusion that they are inferior without ownership of a vehicle. Owning a car is a life of fearing the next accident, the next ticket, the next insurance payment, the next registration fee, and the constant dread of wondering if your car is nice enough to give you a social status that means nothing in the grand scheme of life. Life’s about more than social status games for me. To hell with cars. No, I’ll probably never buy one again. Next time I find myself living in the US, I’ll either find a place with decent public transportation, buy a scooter, use Uber, or all of the aforementioned. There are plenty of people who successfully live without a car, so no, owning one is not “essential” to comfortable living. It’s essential for phonies.
  • Health insurance. I won’t delve into the politics of this, but US health insurance is utterly disgusting. Once again, companies make a bang from your buck by instilling fear into you that makes you think the maximum premium is totally justified (and the government forces you to pay a tax if you refuse). It’s so damn expensive now, most of us just buy the high deductible plans anyways. And what the hell does a high deductible plan actually cover? Not much… it’s just fat bill at the end of the month for most people. I’m a perfectly healthy individual: probably healthier than 99.999% of America, and that’s a humble estimate. No, I don’t need US health insurance right now. It’s a scam. And save yourself the “what if something bad happens to you” nonsense. Statistics reveal truth, and the statistics suggest the odds are heavily in my favor that I’d save a lot of money not having any insurance for the next thirty years. I hate to argue that China has a better healthcare system, but they do. If you’re sick, you go the hospital and pay a reasonable fee. The devilish middle man is usually cut out.
  • Social media. Social media seemed like a good idea upon the advent of Facebook and Myspace. It didn’t take long, though, for the master puppeteers behind the sites to see it as a valuable tool for mind control. Mind control is what social media boils down to: a way to cluster people into a collective “one-thought” mob, kept downtrodden and angry by hysterical headlines. Like an opiate drug, it only allows temporary “fixes” from the addiction in the form of status updates: there is always a need to maintain updates in a constant quest to attain at a certain status. And of course, the media headlines are designed to elicit the same trite reactions from everyone. These headlines focus users’ dissatisfaction in the places that corporate conglomerates dictate, thus filling peoples’ minds with the thoughts and ideas that satisfy said corporations (political or otherwise). Being rid of social media has made me feel closer to the world than I had since my early teens, back when the Internet was still a pup.
  • Fatness. Americans are fat. Really, really fat. And yes, having been around the globe, I can say that it’s the butt of a lot of jokes in other countries. It’s not just disgusting how fat Americans are, it’s unhealthy. And the fatter Americans get, the higher insurance premiums become. Americans have become so fat, in fact, that the fatties have become the majority. Thus we now have “anti fat shaming” campaigns telling people that it’s completely normal to be carrying around more lard than the average human, when in fact science dictates otherwise. It isn’t fatness, these campaigns suggest, running counter to every health study ever conducted on obesity. The aim seems to be to scapegoat anyone who mocks fat people. The result is fat people feeling more empowered to engorge themselves with cake in a quest for an ever-expanding girth and ever-worsening heart.

So yeah, there’s a lot that I don’t miss about America. I’m glad to be rid of that (phony) stuff; it’s a gorilla on the backs of many, and sadly they don’t know the gorilla exists, having been born with the gorilla already hanging there.

I read recently that the average 65-year-old in America takes 5 different types of medications a day. Is this the American evolution so many are striving for?

Those yearly visits to the optometrist, the dentist, the dermatologist, the physician… are they worthy investments if the average 65 year old still needs to pop 5 pills a day to stay afloat? I’m thinking no…

I’d honestly rather avoid these extraneous doctor visits when possible and live a healthy life instead. These are, ultimately, industries that survive by fear mongering. Belief that a visit would save your mouth, or your eyes, or your flesh… it’s just an extra car for the asshole doctors who frankly need you fearful to stay rich. The last three dermatologists I visited didn’t so much as look at my face before prescribing me an expensive medication. So no, many doctors don’t work to save people. And yes, I’m glad to be away from all of that for awhile. I’m glad to not have to listen to the assholes who act astonished that I’d rather avoid an eye doctor appointment and use the money for something I love, like music.

I don’t think I’ll be out of the US forever–after all, America is still my home, and I still love it–but to all of these things I say, good riddance for now.

Wrecking Ball

My musical tastes haven’t evolved much over the years, but I do find myself more frequently turning to early 90’s alternative rock and grunge. It encompasses about half of my playlists at the moment; metal takes up the other half.

I especially love The Smashing Pumpkins. I might be in the minority on this, but I find their recent albums to be as strong as Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie, the albums that made them rock music staples.

Billy Corgan seems like an awesome dude. I saw the Pumpkins on tour with Marilyn Manson two years ago, and he totally won me over with his down-to-earth attitude and powerful stage presence. Listen to his recent podcast with Joe Rogan and you’ll find an artist full of humility, depth, and introspection.

His voice added a new, more soulful, and downright nostalgic dynamic to “Wrecking Ball”, in my opinion. Talk about tugging my heartstrings.


Heavy Metal, the Antidote

I don’t know where I’d be without heavy metal music, but I know it’d be far worse off than I am today. Damned if metal didn’t get me through the worst of times and keep me sane during the best of times. I don’t deal with failure well, but I struggle equally at dealing with success.

I remember my Junior year in college–I was on a swim team trip to Arizona for a competition–when my roommate remarked that I must be “pretty fucking hardcore to fall asleep to Slipknot”, which is what I did every night (sometimes I still do).

I’m really not that hardcore a guy. It’s just music I can relate to. Yeah, I listen to death metal, but I’m also the guy who couldn’t step on a spider to save his life.

Even so, angst, isolation, and anxiety were common feelings for me growing up. Angst at what? I guess I hated the idea that fate was predetermined, I hated the discovery upon adulthood that much of the world is full of malice, and I hated that some people existed solely to judge and bring others down. I think these are good grounds for being upset. And I was upset at my own limitations, which like any teen, I was discovering. Maybe some of the kids I went to school with were too busy worrying about Homecoming or whatever to think about these things. I dwelled on them.

I also legitimately struggled to relate to people, and I genuinely like people. In high school, I had what in hindsight I would deem “extreme social anxiety.” My freshman year, I was too scared to eat in the cafeteria. So, I either ate outside on a bench alone, or didn’t eat at all. I don’t think many people realized that about me because I also was one of the fastest swimmers in North Carolina history. But yeah, I was reserved; I never spoke in class. Speaking a lot just stressed me out.

It was a similar story in college. I would have been a perfect member of Stephen King’s “Loser’s Club.”

I’m by no means an extrovert now, but I’m more comfortable in my skin.

Being an introvert is a blessing in disguise. I do speak easily with fourth and fifth graders in English class. I’ve always spoken easily with the middle and high school kids that I coached on various swim teams. It was with the genuinely awful people that I struggled with, and I’ve met a few, especially in Los Angeles. I think I struggled because I sensed their wiring was toxic, which sent off alarms in my subconscious. Maybe my anxiety is a sixth sense telling me to steer clear of shitheads.

I was upset back then, but along came bands like Disturbed, In Flames, Slipknot, and Killswitch Engage, and the music seemed to be perfectly in sync with my soul. And more oddly still, it didn’t suggest anything unhealthy. Contrarily, it was therapy, and in 32 years I’ve had no better therapy. It seemed to be saying, “Hey, we are other humans who know exactly how you feel, and we’re here to tell you there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” When it’s said so poetically–and I would argue that it is a poetic genre–it puts you at ease. And yes, you can even fall asleep to it.

Did I mention they’re technical wizards at guitar?

I envy metal guitarists. Anyone who can grasp these feelings, which I think are born at a soul level, and transfer them to a musical instrument, has an extraordinary gift. I believe it’s supernatural. When metal is good, the notes of the guitar capture every powerful emotion a human being has ever felt. They then send these feelings to another listener.

It’s the most beautiful courier service ever devised by man.

So yeah, I’m the heavy metal/horror movies guy. I always have been, and that will never change. I spent my high school weekends stocking up on Nightmare on Elm Street Sequels and rocking out with my buddy Taylor to some Static-X that blared from his parents’ stereos. At twice that age, I’m much the same.

My music tastes haven’t changed much. The only difference between then and now is that I fall asleep a little earlier and need some earplugs at the shows. Back then, though, I was apologetically me. Now I’m unapologetically me.