Progress Report – Months Five and Sixth

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March 28, 2013 by Daniel

Woah, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything stacks-related! Apologies for that, as always; I got super loaded-down with school and band practices and school applications and LIFE, with nothing to whet your stack-bombing appetites except a weekly music feature. I’ve been slacking on my beefy critical pieces due to a massive influx of essays and final assignments, which has rendered my desire to write my own recreational essays moot. Come April, I believe the itch will return.

Sooooooo, a few notes before we get into the nitty-gritty. For month six, I decided to put my video game playing on hold for two reasons: 1) So that I could focus on my reading stacks, which were the reason I started this whole thing in the first place, and, in the interest of full disclosure, 2) because I really REALLY wanted to play the new Devil May Cry game, which was not included on my stacks. I’m happy to report, by the by, that DmC is totally awesome and you should buy it.

On to the stacks!

Books

Midnight’s Children
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid – Done! I liked it. Bill Bryson is always an interesting read, but I sometimes find his writing to be a bit more impersonal than I’d like. With this one being part-“analysis of 1950s America”, part-childhood memoir, that problem is quelched, and we’re left with a book that is both a fascinating document about a very strange time in American life and a very personal story. It ends up being a largely innocent, uncynical view of a time that is commonly perceived in retrospect as consisting almost entirely of deep repression and disturbing undertones. Pretty interesting stuff; I have a longer piece in mind about it but am unsure at this point if it will actually materialize.
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub
Hangover Square
Hip Hop America
Summerland
Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road
Revelations
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Done! Fantastic novel; brisk read, really unique voice. It reminds me quite a lot of Midnight’s Children, in that it’s a fictional family saga wherein the fate of the characters is rather explicitly tied to the political state and identity of the nation in question – India in Midnight’s Children, and the Dominican Republic in The Brief Wondrous Life… In doing so, I came away from the book feeling like I had actually learnt something about a culture that I hadn’t given much thought to. Aside from that, the novels both have elements of magical realism and a particular brand of quirk that asks us to relate to their narrators by using very specific vernaculars. Like Thunderbolt Kid, I may do a longer piece about this, but it also may not happen, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Anyways, excellent read, recommended for peeps who like Midnight’s ChildrenThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and contemporary fiction in general.
The Canon
Moon
Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer
Freedom
Catching Fire
Mockingjay

Comic Wars
In the Studio
Sex Tips from Rock Stars
The Psychopath Test
The Moment
The Man Who Couldn’t Eat
Catch-22

Music

Encoffination – O Hell, Shine in Thy Whited Sepulchres
Lemuria
Algernan Cadwaller
Kerosene 454 – Race
Field Music – Plumb
Shearwater – Animal Joy
Goodie Mob – Soul Food
Last Dinosaurs – In a Million Years
Jawbreaker – 24 Hour Revenge Therapy
The Antlers – Hospice
More or Les – Mastication
Racing Heart – To Walk Beside that Ghost
Holy Esque – S/T
Moonface – With Sinaii: Heartbreaking Bravery
Slugabed – Team Time
The Jazz June
Cursive – Domestica
Laurel Halo – Quarantine
Kid Koala – Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Done! Not sure how I feel about it, to be honest. It’s obvious that Kid Koala is an incredibly skilled turntablist, but I don’t know if it really translates that effectively, at least on this debut album. There’s some great stuff on here, but it devolves too often into random scratching noises that don’t add up to an intriguing whole. I’m willing to bet that his more recent albums are a little better, and it’s worth listening to a couple songs just to hear the unheard-of, crazy stuff that Koala can pull off. But as an album it left me pretty cold.
Crocodiles – Endless Flowers
Caribou – Swim
The National – Alligator
Nas – ILLmatic
Big Nic
Reel Big Fish – Candy Coated Fury
Sik Transit
Foals – Antidotes
Whitest Boy Alive – Dreams
Fight Like Apes
Citizen Cope
Nujabes
Pigeon John – Dragon Slayer
Patrick Watson – Adventures in Your Own Backyard
Dark Time Sunshine
Om – Advaitic Songs
The Motown Story
James Brown – Star Time
Klaatu – 3:47 EST
Joyce Manor – S/T
The Civil Wars
Herbie Hancock – Man-Child
Randy Newman – Little Things
Titus Andronicus – Local Business
Cardiacs
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! 
Jim Noir – Zooper Dooper
Gomez
Explosions in the Sky – How Strange, Innocence and Suddenly I Miss Everyone
Wire – Pink Flag
The xx – Coexist

Video Games

Botanicula 
Skies of Arcadia
Rocksmith
Guitar Hero II (360 version)
Red Dead Redemption
Syndicate
Odin Sphere
God Hand
Condemned 2: Bloodshot
Killer 7
Jet Set Radio Future
Metroid Prime
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Blood Will Tell
Dead Space 1 and 2
Shenmue 1 and 2
Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise
Skyrim
Star Wars Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader
Flashback
Wild Guns
Crackdown
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Asura’s Wrath
Shank
Pokemon Conquest
Hell Yeah!: Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
1000 Amps
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Analogue: A Hate Story – Done! I seriously adore Christine Love’s games, and this one is no different. It’s themes are much grander and pointed than her previous two games are, and it’s wrapped up in an interface that is pretty interesting to interact with. Like Love’s other games, you’re mostly just reading stuff, but there’s a lot of freedom as well as subtly-branching paths that give it a surprisingly high level of gameplay value. If you like games that are ABOUT STUFF – in this case, gender politics and the fear that a screw-up in our technological growth could send us back to the dark ages – this is definitely one for you to check out. I want to do a big feature on Christine Love herself because she’s one of the most unique voices in video games at the moment; it’ll be a ways off but I’m pretty sure I’ll actually do it.
Braid
And Yet It Moves
Cave Story
To The Moon
Vessel
Half-Life
Hotline Miami 
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
Capsized
Intrusion 2 – I played a level of this and thought it was pretty crappy. It’s pretty critically well-received, so I should probably give it another shot, but I really didn’t like it at all.
Lone Survivor
The Longest Journey
Mark of the Ninja
McPixel – I was really close to beating this game, and then I inexplicably stopped. I’ll be picking it back up shortly, likely in short bursts. I can say, though, that it is ABSOLUTELY worth the 5 bucks that it costs.
NightSky
Penny Arcade’s On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episodes 2 and 3
Pixeljunk Eden
Rayman Origins – Started it earlier today, love it already.
Rochard
Stacking
They Bleed Pixels
Thief Gold
XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Done! Oh man. This game is so good. SO DAMN GOOD. The way it makes an infamously tough-to-approach genre totally accessible; the way it revives a dead franchise in ways that are both faithful to the source material and modern enough to make it work in today’s industry; the way it allows for personal story telling despite having tightly-focused gameplay systems. This is a 30-hour game that I am extremely excited to play through again. Definitely would have made my top 10 (probably number 2 or 3) had I played it last year.
Zeno Clash

Comics 

Abe Sapien: The Drowning
Elektra: Assassin
Alec: The Years Have Pants
The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects
Young Liars – Done! I had already read the first two volumes awhile ago, so I re-read those and finished it off with the third volume. It’s a comic series like no other; you never have any idea if what you’re seeing is “true”, and it goes in so many bonkers directions, often all at once, that it becomes a really dense, challenging read. There’s just a lot going on here, and it’s a bit of a shame that it got cancelled so early. Luckily, Lapham wraps it up pretty well, giving it closure while also leaving just about everything in it open for discussion. There’s a kinetic energy to Young Liars that’s pretty rare, in any medium. It’s a bizarre read, and one that I’d recommend wholeheartedly.
Someplace Strange
The Book of Genesis
Too Much Coffee Man Omnibus
THE ENTIRE ULTIMATE MARVEL UNIVERSE – Really been itching to get back into this, so hopefully you’ll get some updates pertaining to it soon.
Last couple volumes of Ex Machina
Stray Bullets
Saga Vol. 1
King City – Done! This is the most recent thing I’ve finished, having completed it just last week. My feelings towards it are pretty conflicted – on the one hand, it’s got a really unique voice and style, it’s pretty funny throughout, it plays with the comic book form in some intriguing ways, and it sets up what could be a pretty interesting world. On the other hand, the three main characters are pretty boring, its overly-sexualized protrayal of EVERY GIRL is troublingly juvenile, and there aren’t really enough “hints” about the deeper world here to flesh it out and make it wrap up into something particularly cohesive. It has some potential – I honestly believe that an anthology series in which different creative teams interpret King City could be amazing – but it left me feeling pretty raw overall.
Automatic Kafka
The Destroyer
Solo
Hitman
Blammo
Enemy Ace: War in Heaven
I Am Legion
Dixon of Robin/Nightwing
Echo
Strange Girl
Strange Cases
Persepolis
Blacksad
The Playwright
The Loneliest Astronauts
Gotham Central
The Incredibles
Three Shadows
David run of The Incredible Hulk
Shadoweyes
Like That
The Goon
Orc Stain
Fear Agent
Literally anything by Brian Wood; I’m gravitating towards Demo because it’s short and has to do with music, which is always a plus.
Elmer
Secret Six
Scalped
Unknown Soldier
Tumor
Ichi the Killer
Oldboy
Ruroni Kenshin
Echo
Green Lantern: Will World
Invincible
The Heckler
Youngblood
World War Hulk
Incredible Hercules
Starman – Robinson and Harris run
Tag and Blink are Dead
Strange Haven
Atomic Robo
Ocean
Route 666
The Other Side
Kill All Parents
Ambush Bug
X-Factor
Bizarro World Halloween
Morrison run of Doom Patrol
Flex Mentallo
Alias
Cragmore
Anything by Linda Barry

Movies

Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus
Frozen
The Godfather
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Pan’s Labyrinth
High Noon
The Dirty Dozen
The Town
Social Network
There Will Be Blood
Seven Samurai
Election
Saving Private Ryan
Apocalypse Now!
Hearts of Darkness
Trainspotting
Dogville
Brazil
Adaptation
Lost in Translation
Oldboy
A Serious Man
World’s Greatest Dad
Let the Right One In – Done! I had actually seen this by my last report, but must have forgotten to mark it down. This is the one movie I watched in my film class that intersected with this list, and it’s pretty frickin’ great. Atmospheric, beautiful, sometimes terrifying but also oddly sweet. Mixing the common melancholy tone of vampire horrifics and coming-of-age stories is frankly brilliant, and the film is a really nuanced portrayal of the complexities that come with growing up prematurely. It’s a haunting piece of work, and I find myself still thinking about it, months after I first saw it.
Special
Raising Arizona
Micmacs
Fireworks
River’s Edge
The Killer
A Better Tomorrow
There’s Nothing Out There
Princess Mononoke
Jaws
When We Were Kings
Battle Royale
Mary and Max
Melancholia
Ex-Drummer
Ai Weiwei
Sukiyaki Western Django
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

TV

Big Windup
Neon Genesis Evangelion – original series and the “rebirth” movies
Star Trek: The Next Generation – seasons 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – all seasons
Veep – season 1
Archer – seasons 1, 2, 3

St-st-st-statistics.

In the past two months, I read two books, listened to one album, beat two video games, read five comics, and watched one film. I feel pretty good about finishing two books, and the fact that I took a break from “stack” games and still managed to finish two is quite good. Whittling down my comics stack a bit is nice to, because it shows that I definitely read a bit more when I chose to ignore my games, which was the original intention. My movies are still MIA at this point, but once the semester finishes (in two weeks, ‘natch) I’ll definitely start knocking out that list. Both my music and TV show consumption have shown little to no increase, which is due to a lack of discipline; I’ll admit that I haven’t been giving either list much thought, choosing instead to listen to albums recommended by recently by my friends, and eschewing my TV list to watch a lot of internet videos (and Adventure Time). Hell, if I took the time that I watch videos on the internet and put all of that towards watching TV shows in earnest, I’d probably be close to done that list by now. Something to think about. I’m really doing quite poorly on both fronts, and didn’t realize how much I had neglected my music list especially until now. So, that’ll be my focus for the coming month.

Books – 5/22 = 23%
Music -22/50 = 44%
Video Games – 16/59 = 27%
Comics – 7/70 = 10%
Movies – 2/42 = 5%
TV – 2/19 = 10%

This will replace New Music Wednesday for the week, as I don’t really have any new music to talk about today. Other than New Music Wednesday the blog will continue to be a little “dead” until mid-April. So, if you’re sick of checking back here everyday only to find nothing new, why don’t you stick your e-mail in that little subscription bar at the top right? Then you won’t have to worry about it anymore!

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