Poison

I think what causes me a lot of stress is my inability to distinguish what is worth waiting for and what isn’t. I try to be patient, but when the thing I’m hoping for just isn’t going to happen, aren’t I kind of just wasting my time? Have you ever done something just so you can cross it off your to-do list? It’s not a very healthy way of living, but it’s still a trap that I fall into every now and then. The hardest thing for me to do is convince myself that there actually is enough time to do all of the things I need to do. And part of the reason I can’t convince myself of that is that I still don’t fully believe it.

The old saying is that living well is the best revenge. Well, I just broke a record. The past week marks the first time that I have lived in one place for over three months since May 2011. It also marks the passing of one of my formative influences as a writer, a man whose boundless enthusiasm and phenomenal talent attracted my attention when I was still in middle school and inspired my eighth grade self to rent the nine-hour Holocaust documentary Shoah and spend my spring break working through it. That’s just one example of the ways in which Ebert shaped my thinking. He was as quotable as any critic I’ve ever read, providing keen insights into the subtleties that made great films work and tearing apart stinkers with one-liners so vicious that in at least one case, the review became more famous than the film.

I’m trying to hammer out a set of guidelines as to how to distinguish snark from criticism. I spend a lot of time on the internet, and try as I might to lessen my dependence on shit like Facebook to help me deal with stress, the fact remains that much of the work that I do is simply not possible without a computer. Which means that my temptation is always present, and while an alcoholic can rid their house of beer so that they will have to at least leave the building to get shitfaced, I’m basically being forced to carry around a six-pack all day, if you follow the metaphor. I’d like to make it through an entire day without using the internet just once, but it’s hard, because the pressures that I face aren’t quite as intense as they used to be, but they’re more constant. So it’s hard for me to set aside a time during which I can just do whatever I want. The internet, as you are likely aware, is a hotbed for negativity. Basically, people sit around and nitpick the least little thing, such as whether their favorite website’s content has slipped in quality over the last twelve hours and whether this is indicative of an overall trend that shows that the writers and editors are going soft in their advanced age (which, in internet terms, means being over 30). When I comment, I try to say things that will provoke discussion rather than just give me the last word. Occasionally, it works, but just as in real life, people have a distinct tendency to completely ignore what I’m saying in favor of something that sounds nice. I hate it when that happens.

My roommate’s girlfriend has stayed over every night for the last one week-plus. I don’t know why, and I haven’t bothered to ask (interacting with people continues to terrify me), but it’s starting to annoy me. I signed on for two roommates (there’s another whom I rarely see), not three, and while I don’t have a problem with her visiting every now and then, it seems kind of presumptuous of him to just assume I’d be okay with having someone else around all the time. I dunno, maybe one of them is going through a rough patch and needs the other one around, maybe she’s having a problem with her own apartment. It’s not that big of a deal, and I generally get along with this dude. I’m just saying it bugs me, although I wonder if the best way to deal with it is to just shut my mouth and let shit pan out by itself.

Roger Ebert was often criticized for being too generous, for inflating his grades just because the movie in question had a unique visual style or worked on its chosen level, even if that level was just a dumb kids’ movie. His response was that star ratings aren’t relevant, that it would be wrong to assume that, say, Garfield is a better film than The Life Aquatic just because he gave the former three stars and the latter two stars. Even Ebert’s fans will admit that they disagreed with him a lot, and he is on record as the only critic I can find who enjoyed Speed 2. What I learned from him is that you must never watch a film looking for reasons to dislike it. Christopher Hitchens (my other great nonfiction influence) was beloved because he was so unafraid to take controversial positions and so relentless in his skepticism. Ebert had a passion for movies and yes, life itself, that could touch the heart of even a devoted cynic. It’s a rare Onion article that can have you fighting back tears. He was gracious to the people he criticized, too. Sometimes, they were even gracious back.

I think that’s enough of that for now. Here’s an article about Zac Efron and dildos.

[T]hank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies. --Roger Ebert, two days before his death.

[T]hank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies. –Roger Ebert, two days before his death.

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