Yes! It’s the Third Annual Mindless Diversions Unsolicited Shopping Guide For The Perplexed!
This has been a crazy, crazy year, no? Well, it certainly has been for me. When I sat down to write this post the first time I made a list of all of the awesome 2013 albums, movies, and games that made me say “YES! I can recommend this without reservation!”
Argh! I said to myself. What have you been up to this last year? After a quick recap, I nodded and remembered “oh, yeah” and felt awful that so much time was spent this year doing other than awesome things. “*BUT!*”, I then said to myself, “Don’t you have co-bloggers?”
So we’ve put together a little list of albums, books, movies, and games that will communicate to your loved ones that, hey, you put some thought into this.
On the album front, there’s the aforementioned An Awesome Wave. This disc went into my car cd player and it has yet to leave it. You’re familiar, I’m sure, with Breezeblocks containing the absolutely perfect lyric “she’s morphine, queen of my vaccine”. Well, get this: the rest of the album is even better. Mellow, earnest, weird, accessable, and playful. This is the first album I’ve enjoyed this much in at least a year. We also have Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, I know that Maribou loved it and listened to it for a while, but Sam wrote a post about it here.
Now, as for movies, when I first sat down to think about it, I wanted to say that the last movie I saw in the theater was the one with the Hobbits. Which is insane to me. What the heck happened this summer? I used to see two or three movies a week!!! Then one a week! Then one a month! I can’t believe that I haven’t made it to the theater all year!!!
And, seriously, I started listing the movies that I had intended to see but never got around to it… Riddick. Oz The Great And Powerful. There was an Iron Man movie. There was a Star Trek movie. There was a Superman movie. There was a Jason Statham movie. There was a Stallone/Schwartzenegger movie! HOW DID I NOT SEE THAT??? Anyway, as it turns out, I *DID* see two movies this year and, as it turns out, I can recommend both of them… if not to everybody, at least to those who are wondering if they’d like this sort of thing.
Pacific Rim was a pleasantly dumb Benicio del Toro movie that asked the question: What if giant robots fought Lovecraftian Abominations from the deep? Well, you will see giant robots fight Lovecraftian Abominations from the deep. They’ll fight the crap out of each other. Hey, Idris Edba is in it. What more do you want? An actual *PLOT*?
Well, you might want to watch Oblivion, then. This is a movie that surprised the heck out of me. I thought I was going to be watching Wall-E with Tom Cruise… but then Morgan Freeman shows up and you realize that you’re watching a whole mess of different films. You can even start naming them as they show up. This movie turned out to be Actually Not Bad.
But I think that that’s all I ended up seeing… thankfully, Sam points out that he really enjoyed Monsters University (I bought that one this weekend and it sits cheekily upon the top of the pile), The Heat, and The World’s End (Man, I really wanted to see that one… I love Simon Pegg send-ups and this one looked great).
Finally, when it came to books, I realized that the two I spent the most time with were CompTIA Security + All-in-One Exam Guide (Exam SY0-301), 3rd Edition with CD-ROM and CISSP Exam Cram (3rd Edition). While, technically, I suppose that I can recommend both of these to anybody… they’re not exactly “gifty”. So… I went back through the kid’s books that I enjoyed reading this year.
Poetry for Young People: Wallace Stevens is one of those books that I find myself giving away every couple of years. Hey, I’m a sucker for Wallace Stevens. (The entire “Poetry for Young People” series is amazing… they’ve got Whitman and Frost and Longfellow and, seriously, tons of wonderful folks. They’re absolutely gorgeous too. If, however, you’re looking for something with more of a narrative, Mr. Wuffles! tells the story of a cat who is more interested with playing with some visitors than with his toys (Tthere are a couple of levels to the book… not only is there the straightforward story, there is a puzzle when it comes to the language of the visitors, the ants, and the hieroglyphs on the wall… little kids will love the story (especially if they have cats) and adults will fiddle about with a pencil and paper and engage in some light translation. Maribou also told me about a book called The Very Inappropriate Word. This is a work that tackles the whole issue of what happens when a logophillic child comes across one of *THOSE* words and gives its version of the best way to deal with such a situation. It’s cute. (Edit: Please read the comments. Maribou has some clarifying information!) For somewhat older kids, there’s Monster on the Hill, a book about what happens when your Local Terrifying Monster is down in the doldrums and what you need to do about it.
I asked Maribou for a good book recommendation and she suggested The Young Wizards Series. There are nine (!) books in the series so far but the first one is So You Want to Be a Wizard. If you’re upset that the Dresden book has been moved from This Month to Next June, show Butcher you mean business by starting a new and different series! That’ll show him!
For grownups, Chris mentioned liking Pat Barker’s Life Class and, its sequel, Toby’s Room. The book that I am going to be buying my boss will be Valley of Death: The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu That Led America into the Vietnam War.
Which brings me to… the video games.
Sadly, I haven’t played anything that makes me scream *YOU ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY MUST PLAY THIS!* from this year. Grand Theft Auto V is technically brilliant, but is violent to the point where I can’t tell other people that they should explore it. Batman: Arkham Origins is amazing, but Arkham City was the Mindless Diversion’s 2011 Game Of The Year (remember that?) and so if you played Arkham City and liked it, you probably already got Arkham Origins and are already hip deep in it. (If you were waiting, however, to hear if it delivers? IT DELIVERS.) The Last of Us? Well, it’s yet another “realistic” game that ends up being terribly violent and while the story is pretty strong, as zombie apocalypse stories go, the main thing that I can say for it is that I never said “nobody would do that” when one of the characters did something. The lack of an idiot ball, while admirable, isn’t enough to get me to tell everybody that they need to play this game, though. Over on PC, there have been a handful of nice little games… but they’re all kinda niche. Are you looking for a Diablo game that isn’t Diablo III? The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is pretty good… but it’ll not do much for you if you aren’t into Diablo-kinda games. Papers Please? Fascinating and depressing. I started it, couldn’t finish it. Gone Home? A great story and I loved it… but it was $20 for 2 hours of gameplay and the only thing that really made it worth it for me was making Maribou play it (that said, she loved it too). Redshirt? Yeah, I could probably recommend Redshirt to someone who doesn’t play normal videogames all the time… but not really to someone who plays all the time.
Perhaps I am just getting old.
In any case, if you’re at wits end wondering what you might pick up for the person who has everything already? I hope you’ll find something above.
If there’s something I missed? I would ask that you tell me about it in comments!
Happy Holiday, everybody. I hope you give your loved ones presents that make them inhale sharply and say, for real, “thank you!”