Music that Has Helped Me Survive the Pandemic

“Blue Skies” – Willie Nelson

A number one hit way back in the day. Willie is a fellow Austinite so I have to show some love.

“Crimson Tide” – Destroyer

Six minutes of perfection. Destroyer might be the most underrated person in all of music. That’s quite the claim, but I’ve felt like that for a minute now.

Fetch the Bolt Cutters – Fiona Apple

Fiona has long been one of my favorite artists. She never ever ever disappoints. How many artists in any medium or industry can you really say that about? And what a blessing to see her drop a classic album right when the world needed it. The track I jam out to the most is “Cosmonauts.”

WHOLE WORLD” – Earl Sweatshirt

Huge Earl fan. I have my old-school favorite rappers, but he definitely cracks my new-school top five.

“One More Year” – Tame Impala

This one didn’t really stick at first, but post-pandemic, at least for me, it’s very sticky. “We’re on a roller coaster stuck on its loop-de-loop” has a whole new meaning now.

“Boku Wa Chotto” – Haruomi Hosono

Just discovered this song but it is effing wonderful. The Japanese pop singer doing a folk number.

“Easy Rider” – Action Bronson

Now that I’m screenwriting again after almost a decade hiatus, I’m back to a practice I adopted in film school: creating a soundtrack for the movie I envision in my head. This song is unlike any rap song I’ve ever heard and was perfect for the twisted Texas thriller I’ve been working on.

“People, I’ve been sad” – Christine and the Queens

It’s true that I have been sad during coronavirus, but this song makes me happy. Soothing as hell. I have a thing for songs that oscillate between English and French (hello, Arcade Fire).

“Violence” – Grimes

Ugh. I cannot stand Elon Musk but I won’t let that stop me from enjoying strong work from his talented wife.

“You and I” – Caribou

Another one of my favorite artists. This song continues to grow on me (as his stuff tends to do). Sometimes you have to be in the right space or place for music to connect. And this finally did.

“Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pts. 1-5)” – Pink Floyd

As far as songs that are great to write to go, this is near the top of my list.

O Superman” – Laurie Anderson

Words can’t really do this song justice, now can they? Every few years I go through a phase where I play it often.

“Laura” – Bat For Lashes

This ballad is somber but I can’t get enough of it. Was obsessed with it when it came out and lately it’s been a constant in my rotation.

“BEST INTEREST” – Tyler, The Creator

A short bop but a bop nonetheless. Love tracks that leave you wanting more.

“She’s A Rainbow” – The Rolling Stones

This is a pretty Stones tune and right now we need to listen to pretty tunes as much as we can. A sonic antidepressant.

My Favorite 30 Films of the 2010s

My favorite 30 films of the 2010s, off the top of my head in no particular order. Apologies to the movies I loved that didn’t make the list (there are plenty!).

Sorry to Bother You (2018) – Boots Riley is one of a kind. Just a genius film. Reminded me of old stuff I cherish like Brazil, How to Get Ahead in Advertising and Eating Raoul.

The Wailing (2016) – Sad not to get more foreign film on here, but there was no way I was leaving this one off. Seriously might be the best movie of the decade. Up there for sure.

Parasite (2019) – I’ve only seen it twice, but I’m not sure any movie hit me harder. Both overtly and with its symbolism, it is the most scathing critique of wealth inequality of the decade along with…

Snowpiercer (2013) – Like this one even better than Parasite, actually. When the movie ends, you want to head right back to the tail end of the train and make the arduous — and bloody — journey to the front again. Was tempted to list another Bong Joon-ho flick on here (Okja).

The Big Short (2015) – How in the hell is a movie about the financial crash so fun and rewatchable, yet informative, without pulling any punches?

Bad Genuis (2017) – A Thai film about a heist over school exams. It’s like Oceans Eleven for kids under pressure to academically excel, but with the intensity of a Christopher Nolan movie. Please hunt this down and watch it.

The Social Network (2010) – This is up there for the best movie of the decade. I know it’s trendy to hate on Aaron Sorkin, and I totally get it, but this is both him and Fincher at the peak of their powers.

Lady Bird (2017) – Greta Gerwig is a national treasure and must be protected.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – Only room for one MCU movie on this list, and this gets the nod to rep them all because this movie is kind of the one that turned it up a notch for Marvel. They started allowing filmmakers to put their personalities in their flicks.

Ex Machina (2014) – There aren’t a lot of movies that leave my mouth hanging wide open, but this one did that.

Frances Ha (2013) – This was in the midst of when I was traveling to NYC constantly for work, and I instantly fell in love with this movie. Big Noah Baumbach fan.

Whiplash (2014) – You will not find a film with better editing and sound editing. My dear god what an effing rush this film is. Edge of your seat for most of it.

Moonlight (2016) – Really glad this one Best Picture. Such a poignant, illuminating film.

Gone Girl (2014) – Fincher is on his own level, and he and Gillian Flynn turned a bit of a guilty pleasure into a cinematic masterpiece. Ben Affleck is perfect in the Scott Peterson role.

Get Out (2017) – This one changed American cinema forever. Jordan Peele is a god damn genius.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) – Arguably, both the best superhero and animated movie of the decade. Maybe the best Spidey movie ever. I’ve seen it at least 5-6 times.

Headhunters (2011) – Nordic Noir is an addiction of mine, so since Girl with the Dragon Tattoo came out in 2009, this underrated gem of a Norweigan crime thriller gets to rep the genre.

Coco (2017) – When I got done watching this at the theater with my wife and future inlaws, we were all crying. What. A. Movie. Favorite Pixar joint since Wall-E.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – The set pieces alone! I didn’t love the other Wes Anderson films this decade nearly this much, so it was a natural selection.

Green Room (2015) – The perfect intersection of horror and thriller. RIP Anton Yelchin. Patrick Stewart as a villain is a god damn treat.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) – Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant had unstoppable chemistry. Haven’t seen A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood yet, but Marielle Stiles Heller is an impressive storyteller.

The Favourite (2018) – Yorgos Lanthimos was the filmmaker of the decade. Was close to picking The Killing of a Sacred Deer and did pick…

The Lobster (2015) – Don’t think there’s been something quite like this made at this level since Eternal Sunshine.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2012) – The best-acted scene of the decade was Leo ODing on ludes and crawling his ass into a Lambo to drive home. Love how this film pulls you into the appeal of greed and then pulls the rug out from under you Goodfellas style.

The Shape of Water (2017) – Always felt Pan’s Labyrinth should’ve won Best Picture. Controversial film, but I love it and its director. Long live Guillermo.

Sing Street (2016) – Who knew New Wave music and a coming-of-age plot where the perfect match? I heart this movie so fucking much, especially since my wife turned me onto it. Sometimes that can make a picture more special.

The Square (2017) – Not even sure how to explain this nutty Swedish movie about the art world, but it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen and really stuck with me.

Moneyball (2011) – I love sports, data and underdogs, plus Phillip Seymour Hoffman forever. *sheds a tear*

Blindspotting (2018) – This buddy movie about friendship and gentrification is heartfelt, funny, and one of a kind. Felt like I had to squeeze it onto the list.

Arrival (2016) – My wife’s favorite of the decade (and she has excellent taste). I’m just as partial to his earlier film, Prisoners, but this one is more unique, so it gets the spot.

Scot Pilgrim Vs. the World (2010) – Did I just squeeze number 31 onto the list? Oops. Couldn’t leave this off, as it’s one that I will always say yes to when asked if I want to watch.

Why I Became an Ape Advocate

When I was a little boy, two of my favorite things were animals and drawing. At my mom’s house, one of the walls in my bedroom was entirely corkboard. I filled it with my drawings of animals. My grandmother and mom would take us to this little toy store in Ward Parkway Mall in Kansas City where they had these amazingly crafted animal miniatures. Every animal you could think of. Before Sim City or Zoo Tycoon were even thought of, we were building imaginary zoos using these miniatures, cardboard paper, crayons, scissors and old-fashioned ingenuity.

Those days were pure. Which is how I feel about animals — they are pure.

Animals aren’t judgmental bundles of stress like we humans. You don’t see animals hold their breathe like we do. Well, except the ones who need to go underwater. Humans hold our breath because we aren’t in the moment, occupying the space in our heads instead of the space we physically occupy. Animals don’t do that. They aren’t thinking about dinner reservations for Saturday, picking up dry-cleaning or what they need to do to get a promotion. Animals just live! They are out there in nature doing this thing called life without overcomplicating it. That’s partially why they inspire such happiness in us. They bring us back to the present, whether we are playing with our dog or marveling at an eagle soaring overhead.

Again, I’ve always loved animals, but in the hustle and bustle of life (it’s been years since I had a dog), I lost much of my connection to that passion. Until recently.

It was a strange combination of events. A period in my life calling me back to positivity, activism that was more universal and less polarizing than just 24/7 politics. Robin Williams died, and I remembered his beautiful meeting with Koko. She had humanity and a sense of humor! I watched War for the Planet of the Apes at the theaters and was blown away. I read the New York Times investigative report: “Smuggled, Beaten and Drugged: The Illicit Global Ape Trade.” I became reacquainted with the work of Dian Fossey through a National Geographic miniseries. After seeing Gorillas in the Mist at the age of 11 or 12, I’ve always looked up to Fossey. Next, I was reading about Jane Goodall again (excited to see the new doc on her, Jane).

My interest level started as a baby silverback rolling down a jungle mountain. By the time it reached the foot of that mountain, it had become a full-grown gorilla. It was an awakening; with my heart beating its figurative chest, King Kong style, refusing to back down from the challenge.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention journalist Yashar Ali and his elephant advocacy as a social media influencer. That really inspired me. After reconnecting with the world of our primate cousins — chimps, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans, really our closest non-human relatives — I wanted to try to have a similar effect on people advocating for apes via tweets and other means. My girlfriend’s parents also steered me in this direction with advice (they are wise). These animals are bright, playful, emotive and capable. In some ways, they are more humane than us humans. Reading about them being slaughtered and trafficked during this time of rediscovery felt like a call to action.

Now I am trying to take that action. What does that look like? I really don’t know. Right now, I share inspiring and uplifting footage and stories about the great apes, while also amplifying conservation causes aimed at helping these species. I adopted a silverback gorilla named Iyambere from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund (pictured above). Not all that pricey for getting to support a 400-pound hulk. I plan on taking Jane Goodall’s Masterclass on Animal Behavior and Activism. I’ve even talked about going to Rwanda or Uganda to see gorillas in their environment. Or helping former US lab chimps find sanctuary here in the States. Lots of possibilities.

Thank you all for following and supporting me on this new-ish journey. If you have any advice on how I can help I would love to hear it.