A Weird Christmas

It’s been a weird year, so of course it was a weird Christmas. I did a Zoom dinner with my brother and his wife, and a couple of their friends. My brother made Beef Wellington. I made a veggie burger. I don’t really have a lot of holiday-related ambition this year. I didn’t try to do anything special for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and I don’t think I’ll do anything special for New Year’s Eve or Day.

As mentioned previously, in general, I’ve watched a lot of movies this year. I just counted up the movies I’ve watched in December, and I’m up to 25, so that’s an average of a movie a day. A fair number of those were Christmas movies, or at least Christmas-adjacent movies. So I’ve tried to get myself into the right holiday mood. I’ve watched three different versions of A Christmas Carol (the 1938 version, the Muppet version, and the Mickey Mouse version). I watched It’s A Wonderful Life. I watched the Die Hard director’s commentary.

Yesterday morning, I watched Soul on Disney+. That was really my big event for the day. I thought it was a great movie, and a great way to escape reality for an hour and a half. Today, I finished watching season two of The Mandalorian. I wasn’t as enamored of the last couple of episodes as I was of some of the earlier ones. I may re-watch them, and see if I like them better a second time around. Theoretically, now that I’ve seen Soul and all of The Mandalorian, I could cancel my Disney+ subscription for a while. But there are a bunch of new Marvel and Star Wars shows coming up, so I guess I should just keep it going.

I did not talk myself into signing up for HBO Max to see Wonder Woman 1984. It sounds like a movie I’ll want to see eventually, but not a “sign up for a new $15/month streaming service” kind of movie. Likewise, I’m not choosing to pay for a copy of Tenet, either on Blu-ray or digital, but at some point, when it’s available to rent, or the price to buy it drops, I’ll give it a try.

so many movies

I saw a comic recently where the character is writing a “top 10 things I did this year” list, which gradually devolves into a “top 10 movies I’ve watched this year” list. I really identified with that. I’ve actually watched 61 movies so far this year, according to my Letterboxd stats. I know that’s a lot more than usual, though I didn’t really keep track of this stuff, prior to signing up for Letterboxd last year. I’ve watched 14 movies so far this month, and will likely watch several more before the end of the year. Part of the reason for watching so many movies is, of course, being home all the time now. Another reason is just that there hasn’t been as much new TV this year, so catching up on old movies seemed like a good idea. I’ve managed to watch four Kurosawa movies in the last few weeks, for instance.

I’m currently on a bit of a Christmas movie kick. Even though I won’t really be doing much (if anything) to celebrate Christmas this year, I’ve been hungry for a certain kind of Christmas spirit. It’s hard to spell out exactly what I’m looking for, but I’ve been watching movies like Netflix’s Klaus, and Arthur Christmas (which I bought on Blu-ray), and The Muppet Christmas Carol (on Disney+). And I’ve started watching It’s A Wonderful Life (on Amazon). I’m getting some inspiration from Letterboxd’s list of top 25 Christmas movies.

I’m not buying a lot of movies on Blu-ray right now, though I guess I have bought maybe a dozen or so this year. I think I may have dodged a bullet, since I only found out about this auction after it had already happened; I could easily see myself bidding on a box or two of random DVDs, in a moment of weakness. My own Blu-ray and DVD collection is too big, but not 30k+ big. For what I’m watching now, I’m trying to pick movies from the various streaming services I’m currently subscribed to, plus stuff that I already have in my collection.

It’s interesting to see what’s going on with new movies this year and into next year. I happened to stumble across this article, from late 2019, with a look forward at 2020’s movie releases. Of all the movies on the list, most were postponed and eventually released to home video (in one form or another). A few are still being held back, like No Time To Die and Black Widow.

I’m looking forward to watching Soul on Christmas day (or at least on the weekend right after Christmas). And I’m toying with the idea of signing up for HBO Max, so I can watch Wonder Woman 1984 too. I’d also like to watch Tenet, but maybe I’ll wait until I can rent that one (which will apparently be in early January). Or I could just spend the long Christmas weekend re-watching Doctor Who Christmas specials, most of which I have in my iTunes library. That’s always a fun way to escape from reality for a bit.

 

 

The Holiday Season

OK, I know I already wrote one pointless blog post today, and one per day should really be my quota, but, well, that one was spur of the moment, and I have some other stuff I’d been meaning to blog about today.

Now that the Thanksgiving weekend is winding down, I’ve been thinking about holiday stuff and end of year stuff. I don’t really have an important point to make or anything, rather just some random items to note.

Black Friday

I didn’t do much in the way of Black Friday shopping this year. I certainly didn’t do any in-person shopping, of course. I did take advantage of a few Black Friday deals though:

  • I renewed my Pluralsight subscription, at their Black Friday rate of $179/year. I’ve been doing that every year for the last few years. I think I get enough use out of Pluralsight to justify the cost, but I never feel quite sure of that. Either way, I’m set for another year.
  • I signed up for Hulu, via their Black Friday deal, which is $1.99/month for their ad-supported tier, for one year. (So, after a year, it goes to the normal $5.99/month rate.) I guess I can justify $2/month for Animaniacs and Dicktown and maybe a few other things. I’m not sure how annoying the ads are going to be. And I’m not sure I’ll keep it going after the promotional rate expires.
  • I also signed up for one year of Letterboxd Pro for $12. (I guess that’s half their normal rate.) I mentioned Letterboxd about a year ago. I’ve been logging all the movies I’ve watched this year with Letterboxd. And I’ve been keeping track of my DVD/Blu-ray collection with Blu-ray.com. I’m not quite as fanatical about either of these sites as I am about tracking my books in Goodreads. But they’re useful, and kind of fun.
  • I’ve almost talked myself into getting a 4K Apple TV via Apple’s Black Friday sale. That would get me a $50 gift card, bringing the $200 Apple TV down to $150, effectively. And I’d get a free year of Apple TV+. (I don’t really need Apple TV+, but there are a few interesting shows on it.)

Giving Tuesday

I’ve been overwhelmed with e-mail and snail mail related to charities this year, and of course it gets even more intense around the holidays. I generally like to put together a list of charities to give to at the end of the year, and make some donations. I probably won’t be doing that on Giving Tuesday, but I’ll get around to it at some point before New Year’s Day. I probably gave more to political causes earlier in the year (for obvious reasons). Now, at the end, I should look at more traditional charities, like food banks and stuff like that. NJ.com has a good article listing some worthy NJ charities to support right now.

Cable TV

I’ve been going back and forth on the idea of discontinuing my cable TV service for quite a while. My latest cable bill included a notice saying that my promotional discount would be reduced next month, so my cable bill will go up by about $20/month. That’s just about enough to get me over the fence on that. Of course, their customer service department is closed on Sunday, so I’ll have to call them at some point during the week. If I call, and they offer to keep my current discount, I’ll probably stick with cable. But if they don’t, I’ll probably go ahead and discontinue it. I think I’ve just about made my peace with the idea of no longer having access to live TV.

Christmas

I often send out my Christmas cards over the Thanksgiving weekend. Or at least I start working on them. I don’t send out a lot, but I always send out more than I get back. And I seem to get fewer and fewer every year. It’s really tempting to just give up on it this year. I really haven’t been in anything like a Christmas mood, and I think it’s going to be hard to get too enthusiastic about it this year, for a variety of reasons.

But, on a lark, I picked up my dumb little fake Christmas tree from my storage unit today and set it up. So I’m hoping that maybe that’ll start getting me in the right mood. Maybe I can bring myself to do the cards next weekend. I don’t know. Maybe I can talk myself into watching It’s A Wonderful Life at some point soon. Or if not that, maybe Die Hard. Small steps… (Speaking of Christmas movies, Letterboxd’s list of 25 top rated Christmas movies has some good ones.)

Merry Christmas, and goodbye to the 2010s

This is going to be one of those blog posts that could turn into a real monster if I’m not careful. I’ve got no particular plans for today, and a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head. I’ve started seeing a lot of “top 10 (whatever) of the 2010s” articles on the web lately, and that’s gotten me thinking about this last decade. Honestly, if not for all the click-bait articles, I don’t know if I’d even have noticed that a decade was ending. It’s been kind of a blur. Now that I’m thinking back on it, though, there were a lot of changes in my life, and maybe a few things worth commenting on. This might make more sense as a New Year’s Day post rather than a Christmas post, but, well, I’m thinking about it today, so it’s getting written today.

The end of the previous decade was pretty eventful for me, with my Dad passing away in 2009, my Mom passing away early in 2010, and the company I’d worked for through that whole decade going out of business in December 2009. So I started the 2010s in rough shape, without my parents, and looking for a new job. I don’t have a lot of Christmas day blog posts, but this one from 2009 is a little glimpse into how I was doing ten years ago.

I started using Day One in 2014, though I didn’t start using it regularly until 2016. Prior to that, I was using five-year journals, having started one in 2007 and another in 2012. So I’m looking at those, and Day One, and this blog, to try to piece together a bit of my progress over the decade. My initial impression when I started thinking about this decade was something along the lines of Comic Book Guy’s reaction in this Simpson’s clip: “Oh, I’ve wasted my life.” But then I started thinking, and realized that I’ve actually made some progress over the last ten years, and, in some ways at least, I’m in a pretty good place. So here’s a couple of personal highlights from the 2010s:

  • At the beginning of this decade, I wasn’t paying too much attention to my general health or weight. But I had started logging my weight on New Year’s Day in my five-year journal, and I see that on January 1, 2010, I was 223 pounds. I was in the 220s or 230s through to January 1, 2013. I started my diet in September 2013, and got down to 200 pounds by 1/1/2014. I was down to 150 by 1/1/2015, and I’m now maintaining my weight in the 135-140 range.
  • I started the decade working on a time-limited consulting job for the company that bought up the remnants of NMS, the company I’d worked for though the 2000s. That ended in March 2010. I spent April looking for a job and started a new one, with Electric Vine, in May. I took a significant pay cut for that, but it was fun and challenging. I stuck with EVI through to January 2013, when I accepted a job at SHI. I’m still at that job, in pretty much the same position. I’ve been doing pretty well, and I’ve managed to get back to a pretty good salary level. I have a good relationship with my boss, and I think I’m generally doing a good job. I have some concerns about the dangers of professional stagnation, but I’m doing enough interesting work that I’m not too worried about that yet.

In looking through my old paper journals and in Day One, I see some other positive trends over the last decade, but nothing else that I really want to blog about in detail. My personal relationships have changed a lot over the course of the decade, mostly due to people passing away, including my parents and my friend Gloria. The fact that I’m spending Christmas alone in my apartment, writing a blog post, should probably be a warning sign or something, but really I could be spending time with other humans if I wanted to. I’ve just been fighting a bad cold on and off since Thanksgiving and I’m probably better off taking it easy today.

Anyway, that’s about 5% of the thoughts that are rolling around in my head right now. Sorry for writing a self-indulgent and maudlin post on Christmas, but I needed to get some stuff out of my head.

I’m thinking about going out to see the new Star Wars movie today, though I’m not sure that’s a good idea, since I’m still coughing and blowing my nose a lot, and maybe staying home and resting would be better for me. I watched the first two Harry Potter movies last night, with RiffTrax commentary, and that was fun, so I’m thinking about watching some more RiffTrax stuff today, and/or reading some comic books. I’m not planning on doing anything fancy for food today, though I might indulge in some Chinese food for dinner later. So that’s what a sick, single, 50-something nerd does on Christmas, for anyone who was wondering.

 

Eighties Nostalgia and weird Christmas stuff

The new Netflix series The Toys That Made Us looks like it should be fun. It looks like it’s concentrating mostly on toys from the 80s. I’m old enough that I was pretty much done with toys by 1980, but I did (of course) have some Star Wars toys. (Though maybe those were my younger brother’s toys, technically. Either way, they were pretty cool.)

My old friend Mike Pajaro is a guest on a recent episode of an 80s-themed podcast called Stuck in the 80s. The two regular hosts and Mike each pick a Christmas special from the 80s to talk about. Mike, of course, talks about the Alf Christmas Special. I was never a big fan of Alf, and have never seen this special, but it sounds like it’s a doozy. (If you’d rather read an amusing text summary of the special, rather than listen to my friend Mike describe it, read this.) The podcast is pretty funny. The other two Christmas specials they talk about are the Pee-Wee Herman special and the He-Man special.

Which reminds me that I added the Pee-Wee special to my Netflix queue when they added it a few years ago, but never watched it. I may have seen it when it originally aired, but I’m not sure. Either way, I should watch it this year. I haven’t really been in the mood for Christmas stuff this year, but I think I’d enjoy the Pee-Wee special.

And speaking of oddball Christmas stuff, I could really use a new Christmas-themed Radio Rashy episode, but I guess they stopped doing Radio Rashy, since there haven’t been any new episodes since 2015 or so. Maybe I’ll go back and listen to the Santa Claus is a Bitch episode, one of the last ones they did. (I’d love to grab one of their old Christmas Jukebox episodes, but I don’t think any of those are still available. I should have saved those mp3s.)

Merry Christmas

Looking at the “On This Day” sidebar on my blog, I see that I don’t normally write a blog post on Christmas day. But, well, I don’t have much to do today, and I woke up at 5:45am, so I might as well write one now and kill some time. So, Merry Christmas!

Due to circumstances beyond my control (as the saying goes), I’ve found myself on my own with no particular plans today. So this is, I think, going to be my first “free-form” Christmas, with no obligations or expectations.

It should be in the low 60s today, and cloudy (but hopefully not raining), for most of the day. So maybe I’ll go out for a walk or two. I’m thinking about hopping on a train into New York, but I’m not sure what I could do in NYC on Christmas day on my own, aside from just wandering around aimlessly.

I think maybe sitting around at home and watching old Doctor Who Christmas specials might be a good way to spend the day.

more Christmas music

And just to get carried away with the whole Christmas music thing, I also just downloaded the bonus tracks from A Charlie Brown Christmas that are available on eMusic. (I downloaded the original album from them a couple of years ago.) And A Bing Crosby Christmas, just to use up my remaining credits for the month. Boy howdy, I’m in a Christmas mood now!