27 July 2010

Books: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (2010)

In the finale of this series, Stieg Larsson pulls out all the bells and whistles to give us a satisfying ending to the arc started in "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" and continued in "The Girl Who Played With Fire."

In "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest", we begin only moments after the second book ended, with Lisbeth Salander near death after being shot and buried alive by her father and half-brother. Of course, she does survive. But survival comes at a cost. While she’s been cleared of the murders she was accused of in the second book, she still is facing charges related to her attack on her father. But the sinister forces that had her declared mentally incompetent and that had sent her to a cruel institution when she was a child are reactivated due to the events of the second novel. Their goal is too get her locked up again and are working to have her charged with two murders along with the attempted murder of her father, that Russian gangster.

The only one who believes she’s innocent of everything is faithful Millennium publisher Mikael Blomkvist, who now must risk his life and those who surround him, to prove to the courts that Lisbeth Salander maybe antisocial, violent and stubborn, but she does have a moral code. And that her civil rights were violated and someone needs to pay for that.

The novel works in Cold War conspiracies and along with what was probably Larsson’s life work: some men’s hatred of women, and the threat to Swedish democracy posed by right-wing elements in the security service. Through Salander -whom Larsson said is a twisted version of the popular Swedish children’s heroine, Pippi Longstocking - the author gives voice to those who would do anything and everything to degrade women. Some have accused Larsson of being a misogynist, by creating such female character as Lisbeth -who seems to be bisexual, who gets her ass kicked from time-to-time, without being able to do anything about her victimization and other such things. However, I think that was his point.

The same, I guess, can be said about the subplot in this book dealing with Millennium’s Editor-in Chief, Erika Berger. She takes a new job as editor of a major newspaper and butts heads with the male dominated editorial staff and quickly acquires a stalker who begins sending her notes calling her a “whore.” It has no bearing on the main story, and really seems to be there to show the female readers of his books that he is aware of all those oppressed women in the work place. Norma Rae he might not be, but he understands their issues.

Larsson ties up most of the storylines begun in the first two books, and yet, if I’m not mistaken, there was a hint at where the series would have probably went next -the search for Lisbeth’s twin sister -rumors fueled by Larsson’s long-time girlfriend suggest a fourth book was near completion when the author died in 2004. If there is no more, the trilogy ends with no major plots left unsolved.

In the end, the phenomena that is Stieg Larsson and his bestselling Millennium series can overcome certain aspects of books -the lurid tales of dirty old men who hate women and will do anything -including murder - to keep them down. They are intelligent, well paced thrillers that will make you want to tell your friends and family to read these books.

James Patterson only wishes he could write this good.

24 July 2010

Quote of the Day

The Sherrod affair has unfortunately confirmed my suspicion of the Obama administration: it has no backbone.

The administration seems not to realize that American politics is a contact sport, not a cerebral exercise. An attack demands an immediate counterattack. Smearing Shirley Sherrod was an attack; firing her was not a counterattack, it was a misguided attempt at damage control.

The Democratic position on virtually every issue (including, or especially, the economy) is far stronger than the opposition’s, but the administration’s defense of its policies is tepid at best.

The Sherrod affair shows that the right keeps on attacking, even when it is wrong, and the left keeps on retreating, even when it is right. For this Democratic president and this Democratic Congress, this is not a formula for success.

Charles T. Grant
Minneapolis, July 22, 2010

19 July 2010

Casting Judas Kiss

Julia Morizawa
Tim Foutch
Timo Descamps

Julian LeBlanc

These are five more stars of director J.T. Tepnapa's film JUDAS KISS. Written by Carlos Pedraza and J.T. Tepnapa, the film begins production next month.

Go to www.judaskissmovie.com for more info.

The casting of Judas Kiss

Charlie David
Richard Harmon
Brent Corrigan

These are three of the stars of director J.T. Tepnapa's film JUDAS KISS. Written by Carlos Pedraza and J.T. Tepnapa, the film begins production next month.

Go to www.judaskissmovie.com for more info.

16 July 2010

Books: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson (2009)

The Girl Who Played With Fire picks up almost two years after the events of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and we find Lisbeth Salander -who was more of a secondary character in the first book - becoming central to the complex plot of the second. Now flush with money she stole, Lisbeth has started to change her life. But when she returns home, she finds -as many do - that it's very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present.

As it happens, Mikael Blomkvist and his magazine Millennium have hired a couple who are researching the sex trade in Sweden. When the two are murdered, it appears Lisbeth Salander is connected to them -her fingerprints are on the gun that killed them. She is also wanted for the murder of the man who was responsible for her, Nils Bjurman. Her guardian raped her in the first book, only to be punished by Salander herself - she gave him a humiliating, homemade tattoo. Since then, Bjurman has been plotting revenge. Not as smart as Lisbeth, but very clever, Bjurman is planning to have her taken out by a hitman -which leads to his death.

Blomkvist is convinced she is innocent, despite the fact that he has not seen her since the events of the first book. Slowly, he begins his own investigation as to why the couple was murdered, supplying information to Lisbeth through his computer -she being the expert hacker, they begin a slow reconciliation.

As the plot unwinds, the back story of Salander is revealed.

This second novel relies a lot on coincidence, but Larsson has created real characters that are complex, believable and appealing, so you can forgive him for that. Lisbeth Salander maybe a bit cartoonish - even actress Noomi Rapace who played Salander in the three Swedish movies based on this series told Buzzine “it’s hard to believe that she can do all of these things, especially since she’s small, anorexic, only eats junk food and smokes all the time, yet Lisbeth can fight ten guys and win." - but you have to like her, even when she makes poor decisions.

The sad aspect maybe is that Stieg Larsson never lived to see how popular these thrillers would become all over the world, and not just his own country of Sweden. His death at age 50 in 2004 has left the world wondering what he could have really done, yet his gift to the world may be these three thrillers (The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is next). Recent articles seem to indicate a fourth novel was nearly completed when he died, with a potential fifth and sixth volume to come. I wonder if they’ll ever see the light of day.

HOT!!!! HOT!!!!

Like earthquakes, hot summers are expected in Southern California. But this summer, like the entire year, has been on the mild side. We had 7 straight months of average or below average temps -another words, no huge spikes in temps. It was getting nice, if not rather boring. But this week changed all of that. We basically went from mid 80's in the daytime with low 60's in the night to 100 plus in a day. Tuesday really started it, but the oven was turned on the next day, with temps (locally) hitting 106. Thursday was also 106. Today, when I got home from work, the high here was 109. The heat wave continues through the weekend, and if the weather people are right, by Tuesday we should feel a measurable change in the temps.

The other thing about these last few days has been how humid its been here. With a huge high settled over the south and midwest, the monsoonal flow from Mexico has kicked in and is riding up theHigh sending warm, humid air over the foothills and mountains. This creates unstable air, and storms form with heavy rainfall and lightening for those in the desert communities. We get the humidity, and maybe a few drops of rain here in the LA basin.

So, for now, I'm trying to stay cool with the air on and fans blowing. I'm also not going to pend too much time on the computer. It's just too hot to do anything but read.

Hope you all have a good weekend -going hiking on Sunday (which should prove an adventure).

14 July 2010

Time Slider

My alarm is set to go off at 5:55 am. I’m usually awake before it ever goes off, anywhere between 10 minutes up to 25 depending on how much I have to go pee.

And let me add that I consider myself someone who can pick up clues and solve riddles. This seemed to fail me today. The story goes that I woke up, looked at the clock. I’m convinced it says 5:35 am. I roll over, and lay on my back, and for about a two minutes I wrestle with whether to stay in bed until 5:55 or get up and pee -my bladder is usually getting ready to burst. I get up, and go to the bathroom. I noticed then the bright sun shining through the living room windows. I sighed, realized it was going to be a hot day. I close the blinds to stop some of the rays from heating up the house so early. I go back to bed and lay there until 5:55 (or so I assumed). I showered, shaved and did the rest of the stuff I do before going to work. At about 6:20, I’m ready to leave.

Through the open kitchen windows I can hear the cars coming to the school I live across from. The students from Summer School are arriving. It was then I noticed ants crawling all over the kitchen counter. So before I left, I had to clean up that mess, which took about 10 minutes.

I then left the house, got in my car and headed out of the alley onto Evergreen and then to the corner of D Street and Evergreen. Traffic is heavy now because of High School kids coming into summer classes. I say to myself, this is why I like to leave early, to avoid this traffic.

Anyways, I get out of this mess and eventually head towards the freeway. All this time, mind you, I’m thinking something is odd, something is out of place. But for some reason, I’m not connecting the dots.

But all of that changes when I get on the East bound 210. The first thing that occurs to me is that the sun is not my eyes. Why is the sun not in my eyes? It’s always in my eyes when I got to work at this time. Why is the sun not in my eyes? I glance down at the clock in the car and realize its 7:35 and not (as it should be) 6:35. I overslept by an hour -or just missed my usual wake up time, considering I never really slept until 6:55.

How did I not realize that I was an hour behind? I had some clues. I mean, besides 47 clocks that decorate this house, the sun beaming into the living room and the kids going to school should have tipped me off that I was not in the right time zone.

How could I not notice that I was exactly one hour behind?

My co-worker Jenn said I probably only paid attention to the minutes and not the hour aspect of the clock, which is pretty true - I have my mornings pretty well timed out on the weekdays.Plus, I think, because it was an exact hour and not some random time, my brain never made the connection.

Work was fine, and instead of working 7-3, I worked 8-4. Still it was weird. Right, it was weird?

Oh, and it was a hot day. 106. Hot. And its suppose to be that way for the rest of the week.

Super. Took summer long enough to get to the LA area.

11 July 2010

The Death and Life of Stieg Larsson

Author Stieg Larsson died in 2004 at the age of 50 from a heart attack. A year later, his first novel - up until then, he had written many short stories in the sci fi genre - was published in Sweden in 2005 as Män som hatar kvinnor ("Men who hate women"), published in English in 2008 as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -coined by his British publishers. The novel went on to win the 2005 Glass Key award, given annually to crime novels by authors who are from Nordic countries; and its follow-up, Flickan som lekte med elden (The Girl Who Played with Fire), received the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award in 2006.

The third novel, Luftslottet som sprängdes (The Girl Who Kicked a Hornets Nest), was released in May here in the States, though like the previous two, were available overseas before then.

Larsson, a journalist by day, wrote all three novels as a way to relax at home. According to Wikipedia, “Larsson was initially a political activist for the Kommunistiska Arbetareförbundet (Communist Workers League), a photographer, and one of Sweden's leading science fiction fans. In politics he was the editor of the Swedish Trotskyist journal Fjärde internationalen. He also wrote regularly for the weekly Internationalen. As a science fiction fan, he was co-editor or editor of several fanzines, including Sfären, FIJAGH! and others; in 1978-1979 he was president of the largest Swedish science fiction fan club, Skandinavisk Förening för Science Fiction (SFSF). He worked as a graphic designer at the largest Swedish news agency, Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (TT) between 1977 and 1999. Larsson's political convictions, as well as his journalistic experiences, led him to the founding of the Swedish Expo Foundation, similar to the British Searchlight Foundation, established to "counteract the growth of the extreme right and the white power-culture in schools and among young people." He also became the editor of the foundation's magazine, Expo. Larsson quickly became instrumental in documenting and exposing Swedish extreme right and racist organizations; he was an influential debater and lecturer on the subject, reportedly living for years under death threats from his political enemies.”

Since his death his popularity has grown outside his native country, even as his family and former long-time girlfriend battle for control of is ever growing massive estate. Like his novels, which gave an intricate look within Swedish government, its financial life and its dirty little secrets about brutality towards women, his passing has shown the reality of what happens when a will does not exist. Under Swedish law, all of Larsson's estate, including future royalties from book sales, will go to his father and brother. This has put his long-time partner Eva Gabrielsson on the outs with the family, as she claimed in a Vanity Fair article that Larsson had little contact with his father and brother and is now petitioning the right to control his work so it may be presented in the way he would have wanted.

Part of the reason they never married was due to Larsson’s activity in uncovering the unsavory aspects of Swedish life. His life had been threatened and according to Swedish law, when a couple enters into marriage, all their personal history, including home address, become public record. Essentially, marrying would have presented a security risk to both Larsson and Gabrielsson. So, it appeared they were granted some sort of masking of that information so he could continue to his journalistic duties.

Until some sort of agreement can be ironed out, what remains of Larsson’s work will remain in limbo. If, according to claims by Gabrielsson are confirmed, it seems Larsson left about three quarters of a fourth novel on a notebook computer, which is in her possession, along with potential synopses or manuscripts of the fifth and sixth books in the series. It is rumored that the computer could contain enough material for 10 novels. One assumes she wants the ability to find the right author to complete these stories, and earn the monies that come from them.

In the meantime, three Swedish language movies have been made of Larsson’s books, with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo released in limited release (the art house circuit) here in the United States back in March and is now out on DVD. The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked A Hornets Nest will be released later this year.

And because the movie has sub-titles, and average Americans refuse to watch films with sub-titles, Sony Pictures has scooped up the rights to the first three novels and will remake then in English, with the first one that will probably hit the cinemas in late 2011. Rumor suggests that Sony wants David Fincher to helm it. Interestingly Noomi Rapace, who played Lisbeth Salander is not interested in recreating the role for the America remakes. She told Buzzine magazine that she became Salander too much that she was “so influenced by Lisbeth when we were shooting the film. She kept me in some kind of cage when I was her. I was really angry. I sat in a corner drinking coffee and not talking to anyone. I was very asocial and isolated.”

I guess some people don’t want to relive that sort of darkness.

05 July 2010

Weekend ramblings

Saturday started like most over since work ended with HFP Productions, with a jaunt over to my local Starbucks (I awoke at 5:30 with a headache. Since I was tired, I grab some aspirin instead of Excedrin, because of that's pills high dose of caffeine and went back to bed. I cat napped for about two hours, but the headache, while reduced, was still there). I had posted a week earlier that I was going to read The Girl Who Played With Fire, but I did not really start it until this Saturday. I'm now over 200 pages into it.

After that, I came home and puttered around the house. Ate lunch, read some more and eventually headed over to Disneyland with my friend Kes. Spent five hours there, having fun.

Yesterday, I again had a headache when I woke up, but this time I was able to get rid of it pretty fast. I spent the morning back at Starbucks, then came home and went to the store to pick up a few things for dinner. Then sat outside the rest of the day watching the people arrive for the fireworks, which take place on the school grounds/park area here in La Verne directly accross the street from me. They started packing Bonita High School parking lot at around four, and as a people watcher, its fun to see the wide variety of people who interact here.

My housemate got home at about 5:30, and he grilled up the hamburgers we had for dinner (I'm a great cook, though I cannot for the life of me cook on the grill). At nine the fireworks started.

It was a nice day, all said and done. The weather here has been perfect, and apparently today was the 18th day in row with below normal temps, and we're in our 7th month straight of below normal temps. So when the high of 82 yesterday and 81 today -when it could be near 100 - I'm not complaining. The heat, however, arrives towards the end of the week. Next weekend we're suppose to hit the mid 90's (though in Palm Springs and Las Vegas, the temps are where they normally are during this time of year). But it's a dry heat, they say.

Watch the skies

Fireworks from my front door

Above is the front of the house
Turn around 180 to the park across the street. In the distance, a rental truck
Zoom in a bit
Zoomed in even further. This is the best part of living here. No driving, no traffic to get caught in.

01 July 2010

New Peter Parker, part 2

So, one day after I post another actor had been cast, today Sony turns around an announces some one else. The gits.

"After a comprehensive worldwide casting search, Andrew Garfield has been chosen to portray Peter Parker when Spider-Man swings back onto the screen in 3D on July 3, 2012. The new film will begin production in early December directed by Marc Webb from a screenplay by James Vanderbilt. Laura Ziskin and Avi Arad will produce the film from Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios."

For many Doctor Who fans, Garfield -born in Los Angeles, but raised in the UK - played Frank in the two-part episode Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks.

So, with a good script, and new up and coming lead actor they are still resorting to 3-D? Nice way to say, "We have no confidence our product is worth our time or your money."