Friday, January 01, 2021

2020 In Review

Well, that was a year.

As you may have heard, a deadly pandemic sort of ruined the world in 2020. Vaccines are starting to roll out, so it may be less than a year before this all seems like a hazy dream. I guess that makes it important for me to write down how this affected me, because this period is deeply weird right now, but may fade to a trivial “wow 2020 was kind of crazy” blip in my memory if I don't preserve it.

Personally, I was in a best-case scenario for a pandemic to hit. I already worked from home for a company that was well set up to thrive in a world where everyone stays home. Much of the time, I actually like staying home, and having excuses to avoid social situations. We adopted a perfect dog, Pepper, just before the great dog shortage of 2020, who has made my life so much better, and allowed the part of my heart reserved for furry best friends to open up again.

So, 2020 was, for me, strangely fine?

That’s not to say there was no suffering. Even those in a best-case scenario suffered. Meg briefly lost her job (twice) due to effects of the pandemic, which turned out to be more than okay, but the uncertainty sucked. More importantly, people I know lost family members directly to the virus, and I feel terrible for them, as well as angry at the monsters who still (still, after nearly a year of this) think it’s “just the flu,” or a tool of government control, or that wearing a mask for 15 minutes is too much discomfort to literally save someone’s fucking life. My grandma died this year. Her death wasn’t due to COVID-19, but the fact that she couldn’t have a proper funeral with her geographically-dispersed family was.

I don’t need / want constant parties or hugs from acquaintances, but a funeral would have been at least normal. I also miss just going to the coffee shop and getting a coffee and drinking that coffee there in the coffee shop. Maybe running into someone I know and chatting for a maximum of 5 minutes. That stuff is nice and I hope it comes back soon.

That was my life in 2020. Before I go on to my usual yearly review of music, movies, TV, and games, remember, I’ve started writing at the group blog Across the Board, so you can find more of my stuff there. It’s mostly focused on writing, even though I didn’t write much in 2020. I don’t know why, but it’s like a switch flipped as soon as lockdowns started, and I went into “just get through the day” mode. Since writing isn’t my primary source of income, it faded away, and free time got taken up by activities that take as little thought as possible, like movies and video games. Writing is fun for me, but it’s not an escape; in many ways, it’s the opposite—an intense dive into the struggles of what it means to be human. Maybe I couldn’t handle that in 2020. Maybe it wasn’t healthy to avoid it. But I got through each day.


Music

As usual, this is just an uncurated list of the top 20 albums I listened to most, courtesy of Last.FM.

First, some honourable mentions for albums that came out late in the year or didn’t make it on the list for other reasons:
  • Doves - The Universal Want
  • JARV IS... - Beyond the Pale
  • Kiesza - Crave
  • Poppy - I Disagree
  • The Dears - Lovers Rock
  • Metallica - S&M 2
  • Miley Cyrus - Plastic Hearts

And the top 20:

20. BTS - Map of the Soul: 7

19. Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher

18. Pearl Jam - Gigaton

17. Cults - Host

16. Five Seconds of Summer - CALM

15. Taylor Swift - folklore

14. Thundercat - It Is What It Is

13. Glass Animals - Dreamland

12. Selena Gomez - Rare

11. Ellie Goulding - Brightest Blue

10. The Weeknd - After Hours

9. Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia

8. Yves Tumor - Heaven to a Tortured Mind

7. Hayley Williams - Petals for Armor

6. Carly Rae Jensen - Dedicated Side B

5. Tame Impala - The Slow Rush (I've started taking baths and listening to music this year, which lends itself to deeper indie music that can be slowly pondered, like Tame Impala's reflections on the passage of time)

4. Lady Gaga - Chromatica (Not her best, but decent)

3. Ozzy Osbourne - Ordinary Man (This album gives off the vibes of a much less subtle Blackstar, and if this is indeed Ozzy’s last album, he went out on a high note)

2. In This Moment - Mother (They are always on this list; just can't get enough of this cheesy heavy shit)

1. Halsey - Manic (This is probably on top of the list because Halsey is on every radio station and playlist non-stop, but it is a good album too)


Television


I liked these shows:
  • The Circle
  • Cobra Kai
  • Connected
  • Doom Patrol
  • The Haunting of Bly Manor
  • How To With John Wilson
  • Locke and Key
  • Long Way Up
  • Love is Blind
  • The Mandalorian
  • Moonbase 8
  • Murder on Middle Beach
  • Ozark
  • Picard
  • The Queen's Gambit
  • Song Exploder
  • Tiger King
  • Too Hot to Handle
  • The Umbrella Academy
  • Upload
  • Years and Years (I'm cheating because this didn't come out in 2020, but I loved this show a lot)

Movies

These are the best movies I saw in 2019. They may not have come out in 2019, who cares. I'm just listing recent-ish movies I rated 4+ stars on Letterboxd, so go there for full reviews.
  • 1917
  • American Murder: The Family Next Door
  • Arctic
  • The Art of Self Defence
  • Black Bear
  • Blood Quantum
  • Color Out of Space
  • Come to Daddy
  • Crawl
  • Escape Room
  • Feels Good Man
  • Guns Akimbo
  • Hail Satan?
  • Host
  • Hubie Halloween
  • I'm Thinking of Ending Things
  • In Fabric
  • The Invisible Man
  • Joker
  • Just Another Christmas
  • Knives Out
  • The Lighthouse
  • The Lodge
  • One Cut of the Dead
  • Palm Springs
  • Parasite
  • The Peanut Butter Falcon
  • Tell Me Who I Am
  • Tread
  • Uncut Gems
  • Upgrade
  • Vivarium

Games

This was an active year for video games, after barely playing any in 2019.

I got an Oculus Quest, which is an affordable standalone virtual reality system. That really renewed my interest in games, but also in doing things in 3D electronic form that would have previously been done in person, like going to the gym and socializing. 

I also got an Xbox Series X, which is a nice upgrade to the Xbox One. I don't know if I can go back to 30fps games now.

Here are the games I played and liked. Add me on Xbox Live or Nintendo or Oculus to play with me.

Xbox:
  • Assassin's Creed Valhalla - After ignoring this series for years, I got really into this game. Like, playing it for over 100 hours into it.
  • Watch Dogs: Legion - Everyone's talking about Cyberpunk as the unplayably glitchy sci-fi game of this year, but let's remember there's another buggy mess in Watch Dogs: Legion. I enjoy it, even if it's still hard to play with all the issues due to the rushed pandemic-time next gen..
  • Borderlands 3
  • A Plague Tale: Innocence
  • Dead Cells
  • Carrion
  • Overcooked 2
  • Alan Wake - Which is ancient now, but I've been playing it off and on for 10 years, and finally finished it.
  • Overwatch - Still.

Nintendo Switch:
  • Hades - Just got this yesterday for the Switch, and loving it so far.
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons - As usual with games like this, I played it every day for a few weeks, then suddenly stopped, with no interest in ever playing again.

Oculus Quest and Mac:
  • Supernatural - Not really a "game," but a workout app that's gotten me moving in virtual reality on the Oculus Quest.
  • Population One
  • Pistol Whip
  • The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners 
  • The Jackbox Party Pack - Essential for Zoom hangouts with friends.

Okay, that's the year. I hope the next one is better, for me and for you and for everyone. Later.