The Dance of Death by Hans Holbein (8/10)

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This is a weird, hybrid art book. Not exactly coffee table ready, and not exactly an art history paperback. The main point of the book is the reproductions of the entire series of Holbein’s Dance of Death woodcuts and his Alphabet of Death. The images are clear and are reproduced at about twice the actual size of the miniature prints. I would prefer a much more finely crafted, museum-quality book of images, but this is good nonetheless. The second half of the book is an long essay on the life of Holbein leading up to the creation of this series and the historical context of the Protestant reformation.

Matchless (5/10)

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Matchless is a late 60s euro-spy spoof about a reporter who finds a magic Chinese ring of invisibility and then gets recruited by the U.S. government. I think this is supposed to be a comedy but the direction is so clunky that none of the jokes really land. Henry Silva gives it his all playing the bond-style henchman but that’s about the best part of this dud.

Hippopotamus by Sparks - CD (9/10)

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After Exotic Creatures Sparks kinda disappeared into collaborations, Swedish operas, and Hollywood musicals. Six or seven years later they finally returned in proper form with Hippopotamus. This release continues more along the same lines as the aforementioned Exotic Creatures with a large sampling of quirky pop-rock songs. Sonic experimentation would be reserved for their soon-to-come musical, Annette, with mixed results. Overall, I think this record is much, much more hit than miss (Sparks always have the potential for catastrophic failure). “Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me),” “Scandinavian Design,” and “I Wish You Were Fun” are each great tracks and there about a half-dozen more that are almost as good. My pre-order copy included a one-sided 7″ of the title track. What’s more punk rock than a one-sided 45?

The Mezzotint by Carol Wax (8/10)

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This is probably the definitive guide to the history and process of mezzotint printing. There are tons of images and the technical information is exhaustive. If you want to learn how to make mezzotints, this is your best resource. Unfortunately, the actual history of the process is not terribly interesting. It’s mostly a laundry list of various publishers who were focused on copying others’ work rather than exploring the process on its own merits.

Cool story: I own a copy of one of Carol Wax’s mezzotint prints entitled Remington Striptease.

Paura: A Collection of Italian Horror Sounds from the CAM Sugar Archive by Various Artists - CD (9/10)

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This is an excellent and diverse compilation of music from various (mostly) 70s horror films and thrillers. There are all the usual suspects—Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai, and Riz Ortolani—but there is also many composers that I don’t know much about. Most of the tracks have a rock or jazz feel with only a couple of exceptions that feature more conventional soundtrack orchestrations. The highlight of the album is the super-funky closing track by Daniele Patucchi called, “Minaccia sulla città.”

When this record was released there was a fantastic marketing campaign that featured a black-gloved killer’s POV of him (or her) opening the boxed edition of the album.

Legend of Grimrock 2 on PC (9/10)

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The second Legend of Grimrock takes the retro dungeon crawl mechanics that worked so well in the first game and expands them into an open world RPG experience. You are still confided to the grid, but now that grid is decorated with a variety of natural environments and dungeon types.

While much of the game remains the same, there is a greater emphasis on puzzles. I generally enjoyed the environmental challenges that relied on exploration and trial-and-error. There are, however, a number of riddle-based puzzles which I was not as keen on. Maybe I’m just a big dummy because found myself turning to the Internet to get past a few of these.

If you are not familiar with games like Dungeon Master, the combat can seem weird. You are constantly shuffling back-and-forth to avoid damage, but still clicking characters in a turn-based style to fire off attacks. Casting spells becomes a frantic race to draw symbols on the screen, move around, and maintain the health of your other characters. It’s weird, but I find it very satisfying and would highly recommend trying this series out.