Archive for June, 2012

I bet this picture is what inspired the kid to change his hair.


You know, THIS ONE.

I’m serious. I am damn tired of hearing one or both of the multiple versions of this song every single time I get into my car and go somewhere.

Please, please, please take pity on those of us who must rely on the radio because we don’t have CD players in our cars or company to drown out the music with and RETIRE THIS TRACK ALREADY. I’m talking to you, 94.9 and 99.7 FM. And 101.3 and 97.3. I heard this song playing simultaneously on all four of these stations once not too long ago and it made me want to cry real tears.

We get it, okay? Gotye has a broken heart and managed to turn it into American’s current #1 hit song. It’s nothing new – there are at least 3 other major artists being overplayed at this very moment for the same reason –  and honestly, I’m sick of his whining.

Still, I didn’t think it was a bad track until radio ruined it by overplaying. Thanks a lot. Now get over it already! UGH.

(Please and thank you.)

The book: No one I’ve talked to so far likes what I have to say about this book. I was not impressed. I’ll admit that a combination of distrust in anything that caused such giddy fanaticism in so many preteen/teenage readers and lukewarm feelings about what I knew of the plot had me skeptical from the beginning, but I tried my best to put that aside as I read. The plot was not bad. There could have been more done with it, but I have an inkling that the storyline becomes more compelling in the second book. No, my real problem with it was the way it was written. I can’t fault Collins for adopting a less than sophisticated tone, given that her target audience has embraced Twilight like something Shakespearean. It’s not even about developing the characters a little bit more so that their relationships are more complex than one standing in the way of another’s survival. It’s that this book is so obviously written for production. I feel like it was intended to become a movie and not to contribute to the pleasure of reading, and for some reason that just doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe it’s the blatant attempt to milk the idea for way more than it’s worth by having a book and a movie…or maybe it’s that the book is written with such a heavy hand that there are very few elements that can’t be conveyed to their fullest impact on screen.

That said, I really like that Collins has created a strong female character. The bow and arrow bit has been done to death, but hey, it did the job. Also, the book’s darker, more sober themes don’t entirely overshadow typical teenage concerns. I think this is probably why it did so well with the middle- and high-school crowd. Overall, I thought the book was more imaginative than what’s become the average and it definitely elicited some reaction from me. Not a bad read, but way too many things are done just for dramatic effect, and I don’t like that that’s the point.

Also. The only black kids in the movie came from the district where everyone works on a plantation? Does that sound, erm, nostalgic to anyone else? I understand that everyone is pretty much treated like a slave, but that’s a flimsy excuse and you just cannot ignore such significant real-life historical context in that way. I can’t tell if that was done on purpose to highlight how much society has regressed in this new world, or if it should be cause for controversy. The distinction should have been made VERY clear and that’s a pretty heavy strike against Collins in my book. No writer has any business touching such a sensitive period in human history if they don’t intend to address it.

The movie: The cast all did a wonderful job. The book translated well onto the silver screen, but then again, the entire structure of the plot doesn’t make that very difficult. The graphics and cinematography were well done, but there was nothing stellar about them and to be honest, I kind of expected it because Suzanne Collins all but put out shots for the director. There was nothing overly witty or creative about the dialogue and I don’t remember seeing anything beyond what I expect every time I go to the movies. It was entertaining, but they were cheap, transparent thrills and overall, I found the movie largely unremarkable.

What I really want to talk about in relation to the film is this.

This is not Suzanne Collins’ fault. Nothing she – or anyone else – writes can do anything about the utter depravity that led those children to make those comments. I just wonder how she feels about inadvertently exposing this repulsive truth. I wonder if she feels any disappointment in the fans who have supported her. I would.

Quotes from an inspirational speech Steve Jobs gave at Stanford’s commencement ceremony a few years ago, combined with Rihanna and Nicki Minaj’s hit song. Sorry the video’s so boring (I didn’t make it), but I hope you enjoy the song!

Lisbeth Salander, ladies and gentlemen. And she’s outdone herself this time. I feel myself turning into a fangirl quicker than this summer will turn into fall. I can already tell that this blog will be very dragon tattoo-heavy.

I was not a happy reader during the two and a half days it took me to finish this book. I stayed up long into the wee hours to finish just one more chapter (and then just one more, and then just this one last one), and even when I did sleep, I got nightmares. From a book. I haven’t even seen the Swedish film yet. This has never, ever happened to me before.

There is this one scene where Larsson describes one of the supporting characters seeing a creature in the woods. It’s never fully explained and for some reason has stuck with me even though I’ve seen my share of gory horror films. I can’t do any better than he did at describing it, so I’m just going to include the passage:

“He could not imagine why anyone would want to spend their free time in such an isolated place. He felt suddenly uncomfortable when he shut the car door behind him. The forest seemed threatening, as if it were closing in around him. He sensed that he was being watched. He started towards the cabin, but he heard a rustling that made him stop short.

He stared into the woods. It was dusk, silent with no wind. He stood there for two minutes with his nerves on full alert before, seeing it out of the corner of his eye, he realized that a figure was silently, slowly moving in the trees. When his eyes focused, he saw that the figure was standing perfectly still about thirty yards into the forest, staring at him. 

He felt a vague panic. He tried to make out details. He saw a dark, bony face. It appeared to be a dwarf, no more than half his own size, and dressed in something that looked like a tunic of pine branches and moss. A forest troll? A leprechaun? 

He held his breath. He felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck. 

Then he blinked six times and shook his head. When he looked again the creature had moved about ten yards to the right. There was nobody there.”

The irony of this passage is that it’s just a manifestation of this character’s fear of ghosts, the dark, and basically all things unknown. When you consider the fact that he is a seven-foot-tall blond giant with a plethora of genetic abnormalities that block all pain and give him the ability to throw punches like the Hulk, these fears should seem childish and laughable, but they actually turn out to be a huge part of his character.

This is the guy who almost kills Lisbeth near the end of the novel. He even buries her, and then loses his mind completely when she appears out of nowhere covered in blood and dirt to get her revenge. He knows that the creature in the forest was never real, but now here she is, seemingly back from the dead and about to hack him to pieces. Does it take a lot to imagine how terrified this dude would be? This aspect of his character serves a practical function by saving his life because Lisbeth realizes that he has some kind of mental illness and stops herself from killing him, but it also gives a whole new dimension to the encounter that I’ve never seen before.

Larsson portrays every other character – and there are probably close to two dozen in this book – with the same meticulous, rich detail. The plot is just as intricate and many-layered. And Salander is a total badass. I absolutely loved this book.

Again, I’ll remind you that this is a very adult series and you’ll have a miserable time reading it if you don’t have the required maturity yet or are just looking to be entertained. It gets deeper into some of the themes that came up in the previous book (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and introduces some more compelling world issues as well. It’s fantastic, but it’s not light reading. Oh, and think about having the final book by your side as you finish this one up. You’re going to want it.

Looking at some of the comments this video by Jenna Marbles got on Youtube, I feel compelled to clarify that she is not actually serious (although that should be pretty obvious). I also think I should give anyone who is actually reading my blog fair warning that she swears quite a bit. Then again, if you’re familiar with even a few of the artists she talks about here, you’re probably used to that.

That said, this girl is HILARIOUS. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched this video and many others of hers since I discovered her, but they never cease to make me laugh. They’re so unpretentious, and so true. She’s also very, very different from what she looks like at first glance, so you should definitely check some of her other stuff out if you liked this video.

She really is a fan of rap and hip-hop music and I am (somewhat) as well, but I totally agree with what she says in this video. Tupac was one of the greatest and his music was really inspirational. There are lots and lots of other good artists in this genre who convey a real message with their music, but you gotta admit, some of this stuff is just ridiculous.

Like that dumb Nicki Minaj song she talks about that’s playing on the radio all the time right now. I’ve never listened to that song all the way through and I don’t want to. Even my 14-year-old brother doesn’t want to. Maybe it’s just because I’m not the kind of person who can enjoy rhythm and melody without listening to the lyrics. Or maybe the song is just stupid. I can’ t really hate on Nicki Minaj, though. I like some of her stuff and she and Rihanna made a tribute to Steve Jobs out of their song Fly that I absolutely loved. She’s a kook, but a cool one (like Lady Gaga).

But I just don’t see Drake’s appeal anymore.  At first I really liked his songs. Then he started doing the same stuff over and over again and I was like “Okay, he’s clearly a studio artist who would sound awful if he couldn’t use auto-tune as a crutch, but what else is new?”  After that, I stopped being able to tell the difference between most of his songs. Jenna must have made this video before The Motto was released, or else I’m sure she would have bit into that one like a See’s chocolate. Y.O.L.O. You Only Live Once. First of all, I cannot for the life of me understand why that is such a huge revelation to so many people. All he did was take “carpe diem” and turn it on its head to mean “you only live once…so go get drunk and high and catch all the STD’s you can”. The entire song is thoroughly unoriginal as it is, but “the motto” is so old that it was actually written in Latin first. Come on. Really?

The parts about Ace Hood and Pitbull just made me burst out laughing and wish I could give Jenna a high five. Perfectly done. She has another video in which she does an impression of Pitbull if you’re interested.

All in all, she puts a witty and entertaining spin on everything from the institution of marriage to reality TV. I apologize in advance for getting you addicted to her. (But not really.)

Girl/Dragon Tattoo bookThis is without a doubt the most intense book I have ever read (with the possible exception of the rest of the series, since I haven’t finished them all yet). No kidding. I have to say I sincerely regret that Stieg Larsson passed away before his trilogy got the recognition it deserves. There are many bestselling authors who could have learned a lot from him (ahem, I’m talking to you, Stephenie Meyer).

Nevertheless, the acclaim this book has received recently has been well-deserved. I bought it in the winter of 2011 at the airport on the way to Canada, started reading on the plane, and wasn’t able to tear my eyes away the entire time I was in the great white north. More than half a year later, it’s as unforgettable in my mind as the Harry Potter series for a number of reasons.

Let’s start with the journalist, Mikael Blomkvist. He’s one of the central characters and his characterization alone is more complex than the Twilight series in its entirety. He comes off as the meddling do-gooder – and he certainly does have a moral compass that would be the envy of many real-life journalists today – but there are so many more aspects to his personality than that. This in itself is refreshing and quite an accomplishment since it has become so common to create conflict simply by having single-faceted characters who continually clash with each other. He’s openly described as an unscrupulous ladies’ man whose marriage fell apart because he couldn’t keep his hands off one Erika Berger (a married woman herself) who also happens to be his boss. The book begins with his being sentenced to two months in prison for libel, which he completes without a word to his teenage daughter Pernilla, who later surfaces to provide a vital clue to the investigation Blomkvist has taken on and is never thought of again. All this is more than enough to make you raise your eyebrow, yet Larsson writes him in such a way that you can’t help but be enamoured with the man.

Larsson uses the same ability to make Lisbeth Salander (the title character) the most enthralling heroine for a long time to come. Almost immediately upon her introduction, you know that she is not your friend. She is not someone most people can relate to in the slightest, nor someone you would ever want to be. All the usual avenues to making a character stick in a reader’s mind are closed. I could say that her appeal lies in the reader’s hearing more of  her thoughts, knowing more about her dark and horrendous reality than any of the other characters, but that’s only a part of it. Maybe this just means that I haven’t read enough, but I don’t remember the last time I came across a female character as incredibly strong and complicated as this skinny twenty-four-year-old who looks fourteen and acts completely insane. She antagonizes anything and anyone she comes across to some degree, which has earned her a formidable criminal record and a psychiatric evaluation totally at odds with what she really is. But she is so ridiculously skilled and possesses so many talents without thinking twice about them that I can’t bring myself to say a word against her. That’s the special thing about Salander. As a reader, you’re not forced into liking her out of pity and respect for the fact that she’s still alive and taking care of herself in spite of all she’s been through. There is not a single scrap of victim mentality in her. Instead, she not only steamrollers everything in her path to survive, but continues being many times more brilliant than anyone around her with very few people (other than Blomkvist, eventually) ever realizing it.

That’s the other unique thing about Salander. Usually when characters have even one of the rare talents she does, it’s a package deal with a bloated sense of entitlement and self-importance. Salander’s secretive about hers, even embarrassed when Blomkvist finds out about one of them (a photographic memory). That’s not to say she doesn’t use them in questionable ways, though – at the end of the book, her excellence as a hacker allows her to steal millions from a fraudulent financier (Hans-Erik Wennerstrom, Mikael’s mortal enemy and the reason for his imprisonment) as she exposes him and indirectly brings about his death.

The book is fraught with such contradictions and dilemmas. I’ve barely skimmed the surface and haven’t even touched on the main plot, primarily because I don’t want to ruin the whole book and also because writing everything I have to say about this masterpiece would probably take me, like, a week.  The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo deals with misogyny, religion, journalistic ethics, the evils of bureaucracy, open and gay/lesbian relationships, and many other themes in an admirably un-preachy way, while offering a thoroughly engrossing murder mystery to boot. This is probably one of many posts I will write about the trilogy. I would not recommend anyone under seventeen to read it, just because it will probably give you nightmares and I don’t even think you’d enjoy it, but if you’re a true-blue adult, here’s some summer reading for you. Go buy the book, rent it, check it out from your local library, whatever (and no, watching one or both of the movies is not the same thing) and then come talk to me. I’d love to discuss it with someone who’s read it.

Paradise by Coldplay

You’ve probably heard the song, but have you seen the video?

Lots of people don’t get the elephants and choose to ridicule Coldplay’s zany choices in this music video instead of trying to understand them. Those are the people of our generation who are used to the most crass, mindless, and shallow lyrics and videos ever to come into existence. Sadly, that’s the down side of current music.

It takes a little thought, a little creativity, and a lot of comfort with ambiguity to appreciate this kind of a video. The up side is that most of us have a lot of this – just check out the comments and various thoughtful interpretations on Google to know that’s true.

I like to think that it’s about “the elephant in the room” becoming real and running off to find other elephants and a sense of belonging. It’s about creating your own sense of belonging rather than just sitting in the cage that someone or other has told you you belong in. Are you really an elephant if you’ve never seen another elephant or done what elephants do in nature? Who knows?

That’s not too complex of an interpretation, but it fits well with my personal experience. And let’s be real, it’s pretty difficult to come up with a deep analysis for a video in which a man rides a unicycle wearing an elephant suit. I’m more inclined to just sit back and enjoy it and smile. I hope you do too!