Halloween - October 2023 Part 2

No games in October, just horror movies.

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ğŸŽƒ Happy Halloween and all that. As is my personal tradition, I’m doing nothing whatsoever while barely noticing that there’s a holiday everyone’s talking about. I have little contact with the world these days, to be honest.

Gaming

Zero games. None whatsoever. As a reminder, I grew increasingly irritated with Baldur’s Gate 3 Act 3 and stopped playing it to watch movies instead.

Increasingly I find that I don’t miss games when I’m not playing them, yet I still feel embarrassed to say I’m not playing any games because of some weird cultural gravitational pull to maintain a gamer lifestyle so I “fit in” with my gaming peers. Weird. Has gaming jumped the shark then? Is gaming now as uncool as your grandparents’ weekly golf or card game? Are my gaming peers not really my peers anymore? Have I entered a new epoch in life? 🤔

Still, I noticed there’s a new ARK: Survival Ascended in early access. As far as I can tell, it’s the exact same game, just with a new name, and it’s been recompiled for Unreal 5 instead of Unreal 4. Hardly seems worth a new release.

I enjoyed conquering ARK on my own solo server once upon a time, but I can’t imagine anyone thinking this new one would be a sensible purchase. These are the kinds of thoughts that make me wonder if the gaming lifestyle has jumped the shark. You know, sensible thoughts.

It’s tempting to try it anyway, but I’m almost positive I would return it immediately.

Media Production

Just uploading Baldur’s Gate 3 videos and hoping one day I will feel inspired to finish the game before I run out of videos to upload.

I had an idea for a media-adjacent creative hobby that I haven’t quite had the nerve to turn into a reality. The idea is loosely inspired by a Taskmaster task from season 14. Let’s just say I looked on Amazon for hand puppets and leave it at that for now.

Media Consumption

Audiobooks

I listened to The Exorcist audiobook read by the author, William Peter Blatty. It’s okay, but I had an expectation that it would be more “real” and frightening than the movie’s cheesy 70s makeup effects could embody, but it wasn’t. It was a bit meandering.

I got a bunch of newer Stephen King audiobooks to use up audio credits, and I started listening to If It Bleeds, a collection of four novellas. I finished the first one, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, which is pretty good, since Will Patten is one of the better audiobook narrators you’re likely to find. Apparently a movie version just came out last year. I don’t expect it to be very good–it’s on Netflix after all–but I’ll put it on my watch list. (It’s not very good.)

I also finished the next novella, The Life of Chuck, just before press time, thanks to waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep. It’s quite brilliant and touching. A film version is also in production. Expect something along the lines of a Stand By Me or Shawshank Redemption. Bring tissues, if they do it right.

Television

Taskmaster Series 16 is still ongoing, and I completed re-watching (or, to be honest, re-listening to) most all of the previous seriesess again.

Series 3 of David Mitchell’s Outsiders began, which is sort of an off-brand Taskmaster whose main attraction is David Mitchell’s brand of wit. I watch it on ukplaytv through a VPN.

Horror Movies

This is where I’ve spent the vast majority of my leisure time. In the second half of October, my binging of horror movies has morphed from watching what everyone else is watching, to watching movies I’m finding through a proprietary algorithm of random selection.

This month I’ve watched a lot of horror movies I’d never seen before. Currently over 80. The number is considerably higher than I thought would even be possible. But it turns out if you live alone, abandon every other hobby, and hyperfocus on the one thing, you can watch a lot of movies on weekends and weeknights. Especially if you fast forward through the ones that aren’t very good.

Here are some of my favorite discoveries:

  • Let The Right One In (2008)
  • Triangle (2009)
  • Byzantium (2012)
  • Bone Tomahawk (2015)
  • Get Out (2017)
  • Saint Maud (2019)
  • Last Night in Soho (2021)
  • The Menu (2022)
  • Nope (2022)
  • Knock at the Cabin (2023)

I’ve also spent a considerable amount of time on a system of documenting what I’ve watched with an emoji review and a short paragraph.

I’m working on a bit of a project. I wanted to find a favorite horror movie released every year I’ve been alive, and even beyond that if I could. It turned out to be quite a bit more of a daunting task than I thought, because there are (or were) a lot of years where I haven’t seen any horror movies, and a lot of years where I haven’t yet seen a horror movie I’d describe as a “favorite.”

I’ve been searching IMDB year by year, sorting titles by box office receipts and popularity, and selecting the top two or three that look interesting to watch, in order to fill in the yearly scorecard with titles I’m happy with. (I’m generally ignoring franchise sequels, though, which removes a lot of movies from the running.)

Here’s the list so far.

It’s a struggle to find movies from earlier years. Let’s face it, the odds of finding genuinely engaging horror movies prior to 1980 (or even 1990) that still hold up today is pretty slim, beyond the usual handful of suspects. But even the usual suspects are suspect.

The Exorcist from 1973, which by all accounts was the most influential horror movie that brought the fear of Satanism to everyone’s kitchen table, is kind of cheesy by today’s standards. (The book isn’t that great either.)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, from 1974, is incredibly boring for about 75% of its runtime, and the remaining 25% is some underdeveloped character of a woman shrieking constantly in your ear, leading not to chills or thrills but a pounding migraine from the distorted audio.

In the end I might just have to mark popular movies with an asterisk to indicate that I didn’t particularly enjoy the movie, in the sense that I wasn’t emotionally invested or immersed in any way, but it’s the best I could find and I’m not likely to encounter anything better without the technology to time travel back to a period in history when these older movies might have genuinely affected me.

So in my movie database, I’ve added a boolean field “canonical” to annotate such movies. It means a movie that didn’t particularly affect me as a modern viewer, but I recognize its cultural importance in the history of the medium. In a sense, it’s a movie where the story about the making of and reception to the movie is a better story than the movie itself.

The biggest takeaway from this endeavor is that I’ve learned a lot of new emojis. ğŸ§‘â€ğŸŽ“

Development

Related to the movie binging, I’ve spent some amount of time trying to work out a data-driven solution to document and present lists of movies I’ve watched. Writing them in a blog post or multiple blog posts was way too cumbersome, and I don’t want to use things like Letterboxd or Goodreads to track movies or books because those are social media sites and I don’t particularly want to tell everyone and their data collection overlords everything I do all the time.

I previously worked out a way to incorporate a data source of books I’ve read into the blog site using a combination of AWS technologies, but this time I just went with a plain old YAML file and some Hugo code.

It’s an imperfect solution but it allows me to tweak things exactly the way I want to. Unfortunately Hugo doesn’t excel at using alternate data sources as web pages.

So I wrote a tool (a Python script) that takes the YAML movie data file as input and generates a directory full of Markdown posts, which Hugo turns into HTML pages and an RSS feed. Another imperfect solution.

It’s too late to reveal it, since I probably will stop watching horror movies after October, but the page is here and the RSS feed is here. There you can find my reactions to a frick-ton of movies this month.

Day Job

Another slow sprint. Very little to do while organizational priorities shift. Waiting for new project plans to be written.

In the meantime, I’m learning a bit about Python-centric Apache Airflow, which will feature in an upcoming development project. Python isn’t my favorite language. I think of it more as a scripting language than an application development language.

World Context

I haven’t been on Twitter since whatever day it was that they made Tweetdeck unusable, so my ability to keep up with daily news has been severely compromised. I have to remember to say “play the news” into my phone in the morning, which I frequently don’t.

  • Failed bids for Republican House Speaker: Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan, and Tom Emmer, who lasted only a few hours. But finally, Mike Johnson was elected the new Speaker of the House, ending nearly a month of self-inflicted paralysis. Everyone was sad that they couldn’t work out a way to keep the House of Representatives, the drunken college frat house of elected government, out of commission longer.
  • Ongoing Trainwrecks of the Year: 2024 Presidential Election, War in Israel, War in Ukraine, Hollywood Strikes, Nigerian Coup, Sudanese Civil War.
  • Celebrity Deaths: Suzanne Sommers (actor), Richard Roundtree (actor), Richard Moll (actor), Matthew Perry (actor). A bad month for the nostalgic.

Bye!

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