Stuff I Like - Saints Row

Here's the thing about the Saints Row games; they're insane. At least parts 3 and 4, which are not so much parodies of sandbox games as they are far superior versions of those games, the way Hot Fuzz is now only an amazing comedy but a better cop movie than most of Michael Bay's output. I could blather for a few paragraphs about the characterization and how much fun it is to run around at super speed and all that, but really, all I need to show you is this.

That is the player character on an alien ship, finding power armor, and smashing his way through the warlord's forces while The Touch by Stan Bush plays.

My work here is done.

Stuff I Like - The Meg Langslow Mysteries

When it comes to mystery novels, I am much more likely to drift towards the hard-boiled section of the bookstore. Give me a good private investigator, Spenser, Kinsey Milhone, Atticus Kodiak before he got all weird. Or a talented amateur in formal wear, Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey, et cetera. The only subgenre of mystery that never really did anything for me is the cozy. A cozy is one of a series of mysteries that are usually pretty light in nature; the victim is dispatched quickly, without much fuss, and generally had it coming in one way or another. The protagonists are women more often than not, and the book is pretty evenly divided between the actual mystery to be solved and the lead character's interactions with the colorful supporting characters.

...you know, going by that description, the Spenser novels kind of ended up as cozies.

Anyway. Not really my scene is what I'm saying. But a few years ago, I was desperate for something to listen to on a road trip and stumbled into the Meg Langslow series by Donna Andrews.

Meg is a blacksmith in the college town of Caerphilly, Virginia, where she serves as the only source of common sense to her large, daffy extended family. The first novel, Murder with Peacocks, sets the tone of screwball mystery; Meg has been suckered into planning three consecutive weddings, including one for her own mother. Someone turns up dead, and someone else did it, but the reason to read these books is for Andrews' excellent characterization. You'd happily read a novel of Meg dealing with the residents of Caerphilly without any bodies turning up.

A new Meg Langslow book has become a summer ritual for me, something to read in the sun.  The next in the series, Lord of the Wings, comes out August 4. ...yeah, I should have mentioned, after a while, the series took on bird-related puns as its titling theme. The birds generally have very little to do with what's going on inside. Check out Meg, I think you'll like her.

Stuff I Like - The Smithereens

Yes, I didn't get a post up yesterday. Yes, I am going to put up two video heavy posts in a row. No, I do not care. This is music and you should have it in your ear holes.

The Smithereens! They are a band! They are an excellent band! You will click on these videos! You may dance! I'm not gonna tell you how to live your life!

You... will also probably make fun of the 80s/90s fashion. Look away from the 80s/90s fashion. Just enjoy the music.

..or the 90s video effects. Ignore those too.

...or the time they made a video with Jean-Claude Van Damme. A shirtless, open-vest wearing Jean-Claude Van Damme.

...man, the 90s. Man.

Stuff I Like - The Avengers

It is Friday, which means I am doing a Friday Flop. Tonight, let us discuss The Avengers. No, not those Avengers. These ones.

Why? That's... that's a good question. The Avengers is not a good film. The thing of it is, you can sort of see where it could have been good. If you squint. According to the IMDB trivia, after a test screening went badly, the studio executives decided to chop almost half an hour out of the film and release it in August. The reasoning there is... flawed. "The audience didn't like the movie! Quick! Shorten it so we can squeeze in more screenings!"

As it is, the film is frustrating but fascinating. For instance, here is the theme to the original TV series.

Sprightly, isn't it? Puts some pep in your step! Gets you energized for whatever's about to happen! Now, here's how the film starts...

...huh? Sorry, I nodded off, what was I talking ab--oh, The Avengers, right.

The finished product is just so odd. You can see the places where an amusing comedy tries to shine through. And there is unparalleled weirdness in the sight of Ralph Fiennes as a smiling, forthright action hero.

I think mostly I'm writing about this film because I have so many questions. Why would you cast Eddie Izzard as a character who doesn't talk, when that guy is so very good at talking? Was it embarassing when Diana Rigg said "Yeahhh, I've got other things to do that day: when they asked her to film a cameo? You guys had a chance to cast Emma Thompson and didn't take it? And what the hell is this?!

Poor Sean Connery. Turned down Gandalf in The Lord of the RIngs, turned down Morpheus in The Matrix... said yes to this. But hey, at least one of those teddy bear suits found a good home on another Jeremiah Chechik project... The Middleman!

Like a circle in a circle, like a wheel within a wheel.

My point, insofar as I do have one, is that while The Avengers isn't a good movie, it is an eminently watchable one. Check it out the next time it rolls around on cable, it'll scratch that Flash Gordon/Street Fighter itch. And hey, Warner Brothers, you've got the Warner Archive for a reason. Let Chechik put his cut back together and throw it up for download. I'll buy it.

Stuff I Like - Professor Elemental

I've liked steampunk since before I knew the word; I didn't know about guys like K.W. Jeter, Tim Powers or James Blaylock when I was a kid, but I knew H.G. Wells was chasing Jack the Ripper in a time machine, and that was rad as hell. It's something I've been interested in as long as I can remember, but I never thought that steampunk and music went together.

Then came The Professor.

Professor Elemental arrived on the scene with "Cup of Brown Joy," almost certainly the first hip-hop song about tea ever devised by humans. He's since released three albums, as well as a few others in his non-steampunk persona of just plain Elemental. They are all worth your time.

And since we are all about the positivity this month, the Prof's tunes are well suited to the topic at hand. (That does not sound like a sentence. I am very tired.) Anyway, a great deal of the Prof's songs-- the ones that aren't about zeppelins or octopi-- are about self-acceptance, celebrating our differences, and how to behave on the Internet.

Professor Elemental's music can be found here, as well as most places you buy music online. More information on the man himself is at his home base. But come on, the man was on Phineas and Ferb, you know he's all right.