The Second Annual Mindless Diversions Unsolicited Shopping Guide
Well, once again, we find the local lite-music station to have switched to 24/7 Christmas songs. This means that, once again, Holiday Kinetic Action is upon us. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!
As such, we may not have as much time to have done our Holiday Shopping research as we feel we might have wished to. For what it’s worth, I’m here to help.
You may have kids you want to give presents to and find yourself vaguely wondering if you can get away with giving a book. Rest assured, you can.
For the littlest of little ones, I recommend A Rule Is To Break: A Child’s Guide to Anarchy. You *MAY* wish to stop reading this to the baby around the time you consider starting calling the little one “a toddler”. Or you may wish to keep going. I’m not going to tell you how to live. I will tell you, however, that I laughed several times reading this lovely little picture book.
For the kids who are a little bit older than that, I can tell you that the three Fangbone books were a *HUGE* hit in our circle. As in, we bought the first two books for one of the nephews who just didn’t like reading. He thought reading was dumb. Well, we found these and gave the first two to him and, a few days later, we came home to a phone message that said “Mr Jaybird and Ms Maribou, could you tell me where I can find the next books in this series?” Well, the third book had come out a mere couple of days earlier and we rushed over to put it into his hands. He was excited to get it but disappointed to hear that there were only three (so far). We had a conversation with the mom last month: he’s reading voraciously now.
For the oldest kid in our tribe, we’re giving Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin. This is an absolutely gorgeous book that is *DENSE* with pictures and information. If you’ve a kid who loves science and will not be daunted by a wall of text? You should definitely pick this one up.
Most of the movies I’ve watched so far this year that I can (wholeheartedly) recommend are, ahem, kid’s movies. I asked Maribou if she knew of any grownup movies and she pointed out the number of papers she’s had to write so far this year. As such, here is our list of movies that we can recommend:
For the younguns who are old enough to receive the talk about firearms, I wholeheartedly recommend The Iron Giant. It’s a wonderful moral fable about a boy who makes best friends with a giant robot. Have some kleenex handy. You’ll be surprised by how much like this one.
For those who are old enough to receive the talk about the death penalty, I wholeheartedly recommend Superman vs. The Elite. This is the movie version of “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and The American Way” from issue #775 of Action Comics. This is a story that was *MADE* for Superman and will provide you and yours some good arguments.
Of course, for those older than that, we’ve got both The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. Two universes, one heck of a Friday night.
When it comes to the stack of stuff we really, really *WANT* to see, and, as such, assume that you and yours will want to see it, we’ve got Safety Not Guaranteed, Pariah, and The Secret World of Arrietty. (Argh. If only we had more *TIME*.)
When it comes to television shows, however, I’ve watched a great deal of Fringe and Burn Notice (and Maribou wishes to point out that she is a *HUGE* fan of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, The Complete Series of Gilmore Girls, and The Complete Series of Farscape.)
Now, perhaps you’ve someone in your life for whom you say “I wish I could buy this person a video game…”
Well, I have a couple of levels for you. If you only want to spend 10 bucks, you can buy them FTL, an addictive little Rogue-like for PC. They’ll die 50 times before meeting the final boss, then die fighting the final boss 20 times… then something will click and they’ll pretty much be able to beat the game whenever they want with their favorite build of ship. Then you can ask them “Have you beaten it on normal yet?” and they can throw themselves back into a frenzy. (Out of all of the games I’ve played this year, this *MAY* be the one I’ve played the most. It’s this year’s Skyrim.)
If you’ve got 20 bucks and you know that they are a huge fan of old schooly D&D RPGs, you can get them a copy of Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition. This is the game that many of us sunk 100 hours into back in the 90’s… only updated for today’s PCs. And it’s only 20 bucks!
If, however, you’ve got 50 bucks to spend, you should know that XCOM: Enemy Unknown
is the Mindless Diversions Game Of The Year (as Batman: Arkham City was last year). This is ID4, The Game. Space Aliens, Tactics, Shooting, and yelling in frustration then restarting the game: IT’S ALL HERE.
If, instead, you’ve got someone in your life who still listens to CDs and says stuff like “they don’t make any decent albums anymore!”, you can get them the following:
M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. This is some nice mumbly electronica. The Silversun Pickups came out with Neck of the Woods, a mellow alternative album that makes for some excellent cruising music, and Brian Eno returned to form with his album Lux. It’s not a movie soundtrack, but you’d sure as heck want to see the movie if it were. Finally, Tori Amos came out with Night of Hunters, a classical music-inspired concept album that I bought for Maribou and Maribou said that she loved.
Next, I asked Maribou if she had any special book recommendations and she suggested the following:
Arcadia, by Lauren Groff – beautiful language here and the story will resonate with anyone who grew up as a hippie but isn’t really one. Despite that, my book club friends loved it even though they didn’t have those experiences (her other book, the monsters of The Monsters of Templeton, is also amazing).
Gordon Korman’s Ungifted is a fun and subtly subversive story about a kid whose gift is troublemaking being sent to a School For The Gifted through a paperwork screwup. It’s really funny and kind and anti-authoritarian without resorting to caricature. GK still has it.
Finally, The Chronicles of Narnia 7-Book and Audio Box Set is blessed with brilliant readings by Jeremy Irons, Vanessa Redgrave and others. The whole set is worthwhile and I gained a whole new appreciation for the silver chair. (When I was asking her about these, she wanted to point out that it’s *THIS* *PARTICULAR* set that she means. The other audio book versions are good… but this one is *GREAT*. She explicitly told me to get *THIS* version.)
There may be those of you who have a crazy cat person in your life. For this person, I recommend the Catit Design Senses Treat Maze. Put a half-dozen of your kitty’s favorite treats in the middle of this thing and watch the fun. Heck, if your cat eats dry food, swap this thing out for the feeder. The food is on a number of levels with holes at the edges. As the cat pulls the treats twards herself, it will fall down to the level beneath, then again, until it falls into the bowl at the bottom. You’ll never laugh so much at watching your cat eat.
Wrapping up, I know that there still may be someone disappointed. “Jaybird,” I hear you say, “I need to buy a present for my boss’s boss! I can’t buy any of this kid stuff!” Well, then, let me tell you about Orin Swift. He’s the guy who came out with The Prisoner wine a few years back? Well, he’s moved on. He’s now got Abstract. This is a nice 30 dollar bottle of wine that comes in an absolutely gorgeous bottle. Just say “It’s Orin Swift” when they look at it. They should say “oooooh”. “Okay, the boss’s boss is covered… what about my boss?” “Well… there’s Orin Swift F (for France) and Orin Swift E (for Spain). These will run you closer to 18 bucks and you’ll still be able to say that it’s Orin Swift.”
From us and ours to you and yours: Happy Holiday, everyone.