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Shudder 2020 Playlist

January 17, 2021 | Horror, Movies, Streaming | No Comments

Shudder Streaming Service

After partaking in a free trial back in 2019, I took the plunge in 2020 and bought a paid subscription to horror-themed streaming service Shudder. I don’t remember how much I paid to sign up, but it was cheap. I think it was less expensive than a trip to the movies for just myself (pre-Covid). And since I watched over 40 movies on the service last year, I think I got my money’s worth.

Although Shudder’s content is good, their interface leaves a lot to be desired. There’s no way to pull a “previously watched” list from the service, but since almost everything you watch will get stuck in your “continue watching” bar unless you literally wait through the final second of the closing credits, I found the majority of my prior viewings there.

Below, you can see what I watched on Shudder in 2020. It looks like a lot, but it comes out to less than a movie per week, which puts it well behind video games and comic books, and right after Netflix and HBO max as far as time logged in 2020.

My 2020 Shudder Playlist:

  • All the Creatures Were Stirring
  • Anything for Jackson
  • Are We Not Cats
  • The Beach House
  • Body Bags
  • Catcalls
  • Caught
  • Cherry Tree
  • Christmas Evil
  • A Creepshow Holiday Special
  • Creepshow Season 1
  • Devil’s Mile
  • Fade to Black
  • The Fog
  • Haunt
  • Hunted
  • Jawbreaker
  • Let Us Prey
  • Luciferina
  • Mandy
  • Monster Club
  • Monster Party
  • The Mortuary Collection
  • The Mutilator
  • The Night of the Virgin
  • Patrick
  • Prevenge
  • Prom Night
  • Prom Night II
  • The Ranger
  • Re-Animator
  • The Room
  • Satanic Panic
  • Scare Me
  • Scare Package
  • Sleepaway Camp
  • Some Kind of Hate
  • Spiral
  • Super Dark Times
  • Tammy and the T-Rex
  • Turbo Kid
  • VFW
  • Wolf Cop
  • Z

I’ll do a brief review of each of these sometime soon. When I do, I’ll come back here and link to each one. If you want my opinion on any of these earlier than that, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll give you a quick response.

Outing Myself on a Work Call

January 15, 2021 | work, politics | No Comments

Love is Love

I probably didn’t put as much thought as I should have into my outfit or my Teams background today, and I may have outed myself on a work video call. Oops.

Because of the pandemic, my wife and I have both been working from home since March of last year. One of the best parts of working from home for me has been the ability to dress casual. I HATE wearing a tie, and even business casual, which was our in-office dress code, can be a hassle as I have to maintain a more strict laundry and dry cleaning schedule so I never find myself without something to wear to work or, even worse, find myself having to iron something to make it look presentable. Ironing is by far my least favorite chore, even behind cleaning toilets or poop scooping the backyard.

While the weather was warm early last year, I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts on a daily basis. It was great. And when the weather got colder, my shorts were replaced with track pants or sweats. My legs never appeared on camera, so I could’ve Winnie the Pooh’d it and only wore clothes on my top half, but I never did. I always had something on my lower half, just something very comfortable. I did make sure to shower and groom appropriately every morning, but I didn’t put much effort into my wardrobe since people were only seeing my head and neck (maybe as far down as my clavicle) on our video calls.

Well, I recently switched desks at home. I now have an electric desk that can transition to a standing desk, which is a nice change and hopefully a little more healthy than sitting eight hours a day. But the different arrangement of my workspace now allows a bit more of me to be shown on camera. I’ve also changed rooms–moving from our dining room to our unfinished basement–so I’ve started using virtual backgrounds on my calls so people aren’t forced to look at the framing and insulation behind me.

All of this led to today, when it was pointed out to me–in my last meeting of the day, after multiple calls with bank clients–that I may have outed myself as a flaming liberal with my t-shirt/background combo. Not that I care if people know that about me. I’m actually fine with people discovering that I care about other human beings, the environment, etc. But I suppose a Love is Love background and a t-shirt shouting RESIST could be seen as a political statement by some people.

In the end, nobody seemed to care. And who knows, putting my beliefs literally on the wall/on my chest might have educated someone just enough that they’ll avoid saying the wrong thing to me at some point in the future. Maybe that’s something I should be doing intentionally.

I wonder if Target sells a T-shirt that says “keep your racist, sexist, homophobic bullshit out of my face” or “don’t fall for the bullshit, we can change the world”. In the least, I suppose I could add that text to a virtual background so it pops up on the wall behind me.

If I did that, I wonder how long it would take before HR scheduled their own video call with me.

Feeling Sorry for Screech

January 15, 2021 | Television | No Comments

Dustin Diamond

I just read a report that actor/comedian Dustin Diamond, who played Screen on Saved by the Bell, has stage 4 cancer. The article doesn’t specify the type of cancer, but notes that it began in his throat and that he’s beginning chemotherapy.

Every article I’ve read about Dustin over the years–and there have been many, as he’s stayed on the pop culture radar thanks to some unique ventures and notable stunts–has painted him as a big jerk. He’s had a fractured relationship with his former castmates (at least in part due to a tell-all book he co-wrote) and has had his share of personal and legal problems. He sounds like someone who is very unhappy and spreads that unhappiness everywhere he goes (including via his supposedly awful stand-up).

None of that will surprise anyone, as that type of dysfunction seems par for the course for former child actors. Dustin’s breakthrough came on a hit network show when he was just eleven. I have a ten-year-old and can tell you that boys that age are fragile and that’s a very vulnerable stage in a young life. Not to excuse any of Dustin’s behaviors or personality flaws, but you’d have to have a lot of things line up just right to have that kind of success that early and not grow up with some major issues.

Regardless of his reputation, however, it’s important to note that Dustin Diamond is still a human being; someone’s son, someone else’s partner. He doesn’t deserve to suffer or to have his life cut short any more than you or I do. It’s easy to forget in this day and age, when everyone is so divided over so many issues, that we’re all more similar than we are different. We’re all just people–searching for happiness, love, and maybe some small taste of success in a harsh and often pitiless world.

This news about Dustin makes me kind of sad, and I’m wishing him the best today. I have heard many stories of stage four survivors, so I’m hoping this isn’t a death sentence and that Dustin will have some happy years ahead of him. It sounds like it will be a long, hard trek before he’s out of the woods, but my wish for him is that those people who love him will stay by his side so that no matter the outcome, that he’ll feel like he’s not alone on this journey.

And if he comes back from this, I really do hope they give him an appearance on the new Saved reboot. He may have pissed some people off, but if he somehow gets a second chance at life, they should give him a second chance on the show. It’s never to late for Screech to come home.

The Pandemic: Is It Real?

January 13, 2021 | Random | No Comments

Corona Virus

Oh man, what a clickbait title, although I doubt it’s worth SEO cred as it’s probably already the title of a million articles linked from Fox News or Breitbart or mentioned by Alex Jones.

But if you aren’t sure if there really is a Global Pandemic or not (or if you’re a total stranger and are curious about my take on it), stay tuned.

I was at soccer tonight (outdoors, freezing weather, low contact, as safe as we can make it) and I got into a discussion about the current state of public education in Georgia due to everything that’s going on right now. Specifically, we were talking about teachers and how a lot of them are really between a rock and a hard place right now, unable to make the best choice for their health and their families as most of the school districts around here were forcing them to be on-site and teach in person while numbers go through the roof in Georgia, regardless of the age or general health of the teacher (meanwhile, kids get to choose either in-person or virtual).

My friend, who is a special ed. teacher, was talking about how his school has been lucky so far, with very few cases among teachers even though the students have appeared and disappeared as outbreaks and contact tracing absences seemed to ripple through school population.

“But I’m not sure I really believe in all of that, anyway,” he added.

I was confused. What did he not believe in? That kids were actually absent? That teachers were healthy and not just hiding symptoms? Or that there really isn’t a Global Pandemic going on right now that was claiming the lives of thousands of Americans each day and at the worst it’s been to-date?

I’m kidding, I wasn’t confused at all–he was saying he didn’t believe in the pandemic, of course.

And it is. The pandemic is real. Now you know the truth–and which side of the truth I like to be on (hint: I’m PRO-truth).

My teammate had multiple theories (or “solid facts” to him, I suppose) that he’d heard somewhere. The first was that all the Covid numbers were inflated because hospitals got paid big for every Covid death so they counted any death–heart attack, car accident, whatever–as due to the corona virus. This whole last year, the corona virus had just been one big fat sham on the part of the tens of thousands of hospitals and clinics in America, all of whom had secretly agreed to follow the same script to get rich off the…um, this part wasn’t clear…insurance companies, maybe?

I poke fun, but I’ve heard the same suggestion from a surprising number of people within my own and my wife’s families. And having had the discussion so many times already, I was just exhausted by it and couldn’t hold my tongue. But in my defense, I tried to keep this from becoming a full blown argument by not exactly refuting his “hospital pyramid scheme” idea and instead, coming at him with something he may not have considered.

“But have you heard the high number of ‘excess deaths’ in 2020? I just can’t think of anything else that would explain the huge increase in mortality last year if it’s not the virus.”

Excess deaths are defined as the number of persons who have died from all causes, in excess of the expected number of deaths for a given place and time. Put much more simply, how high over the average were we. And the answer for the US is, of course, we were very freaking high.

There were almost 300,000 excess deaths in 2020. That’s 300k more deaths than the experts predicted based on prior year numbers and taking into account ever-worsening trends in public health, rising costs of healthcare, increasing suicide rates (more on that later), etc. We had 300,000 more deaths last year than we should have had. And seeing as how we weren’t engaged in the deadliest war in American history, there’s just no obvious explanation for all of those extra deaths.

“Suicide, man!” my friend offered. He went on to tell me about the grave impact the pandemic is having on mental health and how it’s increasing suicide rates. He was absolutely right on the first point, and most likely will be right on the second (2020 numbers aren’t in yet, but they do expect to see growth–especially since suicide rates have grown 60 percent in the US since 2007 and go up every year). He said something about the cure being worse than the disease, which I’ve also heard repeated by my family members several times.

Come on. The excess death count was around 300k and the US suicide rate has been around 48k a year over the last few years. Unless we’re experiencing an event like in The Happening, where the trees are putting out pheromones that force people to inflict self-harm in order to reduce the US population as punishment for us being bad to the environment, I honestly don’t think suicide really jumped that much in one year. And if it did, no hospital collusion could keep the media from catching wind and bumping both COVID and the Capitol insurrection from the homepage.

Our discussion didn’t go much further. The game was about to start and he was struggling to come up with a counterpoint other than, “Is too.”

I don’t think I changed his mind. I expect he still believes this is Fake News and will surely attribute any dampening of the pandemic due to vaccine distribution to instead being from naturally gained herd immunity. But maybe I cast enough doubt that he’ll at least cover his bets and get the shot?

Because whether he believes it or not, people, the pandemic is real. Don’t believe fictions you can easily dismantle with a quick trip to Snopes.com. Instead, wear your mask, stay home, push off those group parties and other such plans and hunker down.

This, too, shall pass. But not if we all act like idiots.

*I know, this sounds like a spoiler, but I honestly saved you from one of the worst movies of all time. It’s a dark, often gory action film where a high school science teacher played by Marky Mark tries to keep his family safe while pretty much everyone else in the film commits suicide in the most graphic ways possible. What was the cause? It was Mother Nature all along, killing off humanity for not taking global warming seriously, I guess. But it sort of has a happy ending, because she apparently had a target number in mind and once the US population gets low enough, she calls off her dogs and moves on to teach France a lesson. But you’d better not use aerosol hair spray or stuff like that, or she’ll be back. Seriously, it’s terrible.

I’m a skin addict.

January 11, 2021 | Video Games | No Comments

Fortnite Skins

I’ll admit it, I’m a skin addict.

But it’s not what you think–I’m not talking about porn. I mean, porn’s great and all, but there’s something else I enjoy partaking in more, when I’m down in the basement late at night, after everyone else in my family has gone to bed.

Of course, I’m talking about Fortnite. Don’t all forty-somethings play Fortnite obsessively, grinding missions into the wee hours, in pursuit of the next skin to unlock?

…Okay, I just realized “grinding into the wee hours in pursuit of skin” makes it sound like I really am talking about porn. I’m not. This isn’t that kind of website.

I’ve been playing Fortnite since season two (it’s on season five now), and beyond $10 for my first season pass, I’ve hardly put any money into the game in the last two years* but have gotten hundreds of hours of stress relief and an undeserved sense of accomplishment out of it. I keep buying the next season pass using the V-Bucks (Fortnite in-game currency) earned from grinding the season before, so it’s basically my own video game version of a perpetual motion machine.

*Okay, I did pay real money for a Captain America skin. I couldn’t resist.

Anyway, there was a time when I was playing regularly with my kids, but I can’t use them as an excuse now–they’ve since moved on to other games while I’m the one still grinding away. The game has had some ups and downs over the seasons since I’ve started, but it’s still cartoony enough to not feel too intense–it’s supposed to be a stress reliever, after all–and it’s forgiving for a terrible shot like me, as there are plenty of ways to be successful even if you can’t hit an enemy with a shotgun from point-blank range.

I have been trying to cut back on my hours spent on the game. Over Christmas break, I stayed up way too late way too many times and started to become a bit nocturnal, which didn’t mesh well with the old daytime husbanding and parenting bit. Now that I’m back in the office (virtually) and my days start earlier, I can’t afford to be up at 3AM seeking the next Victory Royale.

But I haven’t been able to shake the obsession completely. The game creators do a great job dangling new carrots in front of me each time I snatch the one that’s closest. And I have the kind of addictive tendencies that make me the perfect customer for anyone offering geeky collectibles (see: comic book collection, Mighty Muggs collection, Captain America collection, Pops collection, video game collection, etc.). At least the skins are virtual, so even if they have no resell value, they at least take up less space than the rest of my junk.

I don’t see an end to this cycle, though there should be. I went to a Comic-Con panel years ago where someone asked director Zack Snyder how he was able to get so many projects done at once. “I don’t play video games” was his reply. He had a good point. I’m not working on my next great podcast idea while I’m rushing Loot Lake with my squad.

Of course, the last thing the world needs during this global pandemic is another podcast from a middle-aged white male geek.

So it’s probably a wash.