Twins of Evil (8/10)

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The late-stage Hammer vampire film tries to keep up with the times be amping up the gore and the nudity. It’s nowhere near the levels of Italian cinema sleaze from the same era, but it’s a welcome upgrade. Peter Cushing plays a religious zealot who leads a merry band of heathen burners. Twenty or so guys dressed like Thanksgiving pilgrims, rampaging through the village, and burning random maidens is so ridiculous I could see a comedy being written based around the same premise. Every girl they burn is innocent. And these are supposed to be the good guys! The real threat is the recently vampirized count who seeks to lure a pair of beautiful young twins into his clutches. This is a great looking movie with wonderful performances all around and a well-paced story.

Profile #1 - Wood Engraving

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This year (2019) I forced myself to just site down and make a wood engraving with the last tiny block of resingrave I had in my studio. This is just an image of a random guy, not anyone in particular. This is the first edition that I was able to print on my cheap Chinese book press. Not the most perfect system—the blacks are a little salty—but it worked out well enough.

Revisiting Old Music: Mission Accomplished

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Well, it only took me twelve years. I have finally finished my quest to re-listen to my entire CD collection. This really didn’t need to take more than decade, but in the middle of the process I decided to start reviewing each CD individually. After a while the thought of having to type a new review if I listened to a disc would discourage me from continuing. I finally gave up somewhere in compilations. The world doesn’t need to know that each of the eight or so Back from the Grave compilations sounds pretty much like all the other ones. On top of that, there was an excursion into my vinyl collection in which I ripped all my 45s and then started in on my LPs too. Who knew listening to music was such hard work.

My final thoughts are that I like most of the music that I have bought. Who’da thunk it? At the very bottom there a few stinkers which I keep mainly because either they are my wife’s (A Very Special ChristmasLou Reed) or they have maybe one song that’s worth listening to (Planet PLambadaBob Mould solo crap). I also have a box of freebies that bands have given me and junky Lumpen Media compilations which are mostly crap but I need to keep for archival reasons.

CDs are getting a bad rap these days. Other than a good old fashioned punk rock 45, I still think CD is my preferred format for physical media music. If anyone tells you vinyl sounds better, they are lying. I only wish that instead of jewel cases they were packaged in thinner sleeves. A little known benefit of CDs is that they don’t really appreciate in value which means they are super cheap to buy used. Often cheaper than MP3 albums (Discogs is a great way of building up a killer rare CD collection).

Dance of Death: A Graphic Commentary on the Danse Macabre Through the Centuries by Fritz Eichenberg (8/10)

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Filled with art featuring death (for the most part that means a skeleton… spooky, no?) taunting the living. The reproductions vary in quality from good to barely legible. Mostly the former. Interspersed with the images is the occasional paragraph of word salad from the author. I suspect English isn’t Fritz’s first language. The book closes with a wonderful suite of a dozen or so wood engravings by Eichenburg. Not the most informative book on art, but certainly pretty to look at.

Bonefist - Wood Engraving

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This tiny wood engraving started out as a practice block. I was rendering the bones of a foot. I got bored with that and drew a dude shaking his fist. Inspiration! Anyhow, this is a small wood engraving printed on sekishu rice paper. I have been having a heck of a time getting engravings to print sharply these days so these prints are a little saltier than I like. I’m on the lookout for any advice on hand-printing wood engravings. Leave a comment, commentators!

Mysteries of the Unknown: Mysterious Creatures by Time-Life Books (7/10)

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The first chapter about sea creatures is probably the best part of this book. Lots of great illustrations of ships being attacked. There is a hint of reality to tales of giant squids and the potential of undiscovered deep sea creatures. Then there’s the coelacanth. You cryptozoologists have one example of the discovery of a long-thought extinct creature and you’re just going to rub it in our faces like so much Sasquatch musk. I’ll give you that victory, but I’ll be damned if I am going to accept your extraterrestrial bigfoot sightings.

Tomb Raider II on MS-DOS (6/10)

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This game is part of a Tomb Raider three pack at I tried to play Tomb Raider 1, but I had already played the vastly superior remake, and I felt no need to revisit the same game but with bad controls and visuals. I would like to think that the second game has some technical improvements on the first, but it’s still clunky as hell.

Lara’s movements are slow and take a lot of getting used to. The graphics are as primitive as one might expect, but the animations pretty smooth. Almost too smooth as I was constantly waiting for one movement to end before initiating a jump or drawing out my guns. The thing that really dates this game is the sprawling level design. Completing a section starts to become tedious pretty fast as you are backtracking constantly and always getting lost amidst the repetitive textures and shapes.

Still, the core of Tomb Raider game play is still there. There are plenty of genuinely interesting platforming challenges, especially if your are on the lookout for secret areas. The final few areas were the best part of the game. The underwater areas were the worst.

Mandy (8/10)

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I absolutely hated Beyond the Black Rainbow but felt I had to watch it before watching this. Mandy might be a tad over-hyped, but it is leagues better than that artsy garbage fire. There at least is a story here. Even though it’s kinda dumb. It gives you something to hang on to while you watch the images fly by. I get the feeling that Mandy was just an excuse to make a movie that looks like 70s prog-rock album covers complete with glowing geometric shapes and demonic, shadowy motorcycle riders.

Female Prisoner Scorpion: Grudge Song (6/10)

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The final installment in the Scorpion series is much more straightforward than the previous movies. From what I can tell, most reviewers rank this as the worst in the series but I think I liked it a bit better than Beast Stable. Sure, it’s not as crazy, but there is a more coherent story and a semblance of character development for Nami. There’s a bit of a love story and you think she might find peace. But by the end she still comes off as a variation on Jason or some other mindless slasher villain. You want to root for her, but then she has no moral compass at all and quickly negates any hint of relatability.