Daily Archives: July 16, 2010

Disappointment with Stieg Larsson’s finale

I just finished the final book in the millennium trilogy.  After his second book I said that Larsson was really clever for challenging our notions of heroes by making his main protagonist (Lisbeth Salander) engage in behavior that is ethically and legally questionable.

In this third book, I seriously had to consider the possibility that Larsson wasn’t as clever as I originally thought and, in fact, was quite substandard.  Larsson’s third book lacks just about any of the qualities that made the first two books worth a read.  The characters were flat (Salander fades into the background for the vast majority of the book, popping up only to act as a Deus ex machina), the plot was predictable and it resolved weekly.

Larsson’s villians are evil.  That’s cool.  They’re supposed to be.  But they’re also grossly inept.  So inept that they would be at home with the lamest stormtroopers or other minions.  Every decision they make is wrong…fortune breaks against them at every step…every assumption they make is delusional.

Alternately, Blomqvist and Salander are blessed by the gods.  Every long shot pans out, every guess becomes fact.  Despite the fact that Larsson occasionally tries to build suspense by writing things like ‘She knew she had to get away or she’d be dead…but there was no way out!’ (Ok, not an exact quote but not far off).  Before you can even feel a bit of suspense, however, the situation magically resolves itself and usually with a prize of a new critical clue.

In Larsson’s world you can quickly determine if you’re supposed to root for characters.  Heterosexual men who aren’t too old to have sex are either:

  1. incompetent government employees
  2. sadistic sexual predator
  3. part of a secret government conspiracy (usually combining one and two above)
  4. Michael Blomqvist

Likewise, you’ll know if women are important characters in the story if:

  1. They’re bisexual
  2. They sleep with Michael Blomqvist
  3. They are totally cool with the fact that Blomqvist is only interested in casual sex and has multiple partners
  4. Men refer to them as ‘bitches’ or other sexist terms with amazing frequency

Women who don’t meet those criteria can be counted on to totally cave when placed under pressure or be murdered violently.

Through long stretches of the book I was actually hoping that the main characters would get whacked by a decent hit man.

The one trick that Larsson brought back from the second book (which I’m increasingly coming to believe was unintentional) is that he makes his protagonists copies of the antagonists.  So, the villians violate the constitution, attack and kill to further their own ends?  Hey…so do the heroes.

It’s like a socialist version of Death Wish.  500 pages of revenge fantasy.  Larsson pretties it up to rationalize all sorts of illegal activity but at the end of the day it’s just not clear what separates the ‘bad’ from the ‘good’ apart from the favorable press of Larsson.

I’d recommend the first book but after that, save your time.

Kvick Tänkare

Ta-Nehisi has a great post about the case of the D.C. detective pulling a gun on a bunch of people throwing snowballs.  The detective is claiming that he thought an angry mob of  anarchists were threatening him and he feared for his life and so pulled his gun.  Yeah…cause anarchists attack a whole lot of cops…and snowball them to death.  Maybe…maybe, he’d have a case if the G20 was meeting at the time and he was in the area of protests.  But no, Baylor was in civilian clothes and a civilian vehicle.  There was no way he’d have been identified as a police officer.  That means Baylor had to be under the assumption that these ‘anarchists’ were on some sort of racial attack.  Yeah…cause as widespread as anarchists attacking police officers is, it’s even more common for them to lynch random black people.

As Coates sums up:

…it’s good to know that Detective Baylor won’t be, like, fired or anything. Wouldn’t want a cop who feels endangered by snowballs to be bounced off the force. The rough streets of D.C. need men with that kind of mettle.

If you are the sort of person that worries about the carbon footprint of food, don’t feel guilty about bananas.

Bananas are a great food for anyone who cares about their carbon footprint. For just 80g of CO2e you get a whole lot of nutrition: 140 calories as well as stacks of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and dietary fibre. All in all, a fantastic component of a low-carbon diet.

• They are grown in natural sunlight, which means that no energy-intensive hot-housing is required.

• They keep well, so although they are often grown thousands of miles from the end consumer, they are transported by boats, which per kilo of freight transported emit only 1% as much CO2 as planes do.

• There is hardly any packaging, if any, because they provide their own. (You might sometimes see a bunch in a light plastic bag or wrapper, but this probably pays for itself carbon-wise by reducing the chance of customers ruining the fruit when they try to split a bunch.)

“You get to play with very large toys in the oil industry.”  A great explanation of the science behind the BP oil spill.  (h/t Phronesisaical)

I was never a big fan of Andrew Sullivan’s ‘View from your window’ (probably because he refused to publish my own, most excellent entry) but he’s now got a contest where you guess the location of the shot.  It’s quite amazing to read the logic people use to figure out where the picture was taken.  I only wish they published all the guesses.  Great critical thinking exercise.

Blue Oyster Cult Friday

Originally this song was titled ‘Subhuman’ but was renamed ‘Blue Oyster Cult’ in the Imaginos album.  You don’t see lyrics like this every day, my friends…


I am becalmed in virtue
Lost to nothing on a bay of dreams
Warm weather and a holocaust
The tears of God flow as I bleed

Left to die by two good friends
Abandoned me and put to sleep
On a shore where oyster beds
Seem plush as down
And ripe enough for the luxor dream

Recall the dream of luxor
How fluids will arrive
As if by call or schedule
Resume through the morning tide
Where entry is by seaweed gate
And plan the plan of dreams
To lose oneself in reverb
In all that is and all that seems

So ladies, fish, and gentlemen
Here’s my angled dream
To see me in the blue sky bag
And meet me by the sea

The oyster boys are swimming now
To claim me back from the dead
The creatures back from vertigo
They fear to fall but haven’t fell
Will reclaim tries and try again

The oyster boys are swimming now
Hear them chatter on the tide
Of the lost and language lost
Hear them chatter on the tide

We understand, we understand, we understand
And so do I
We understand, we understand
But fright is real
And so am I

So ladies, fish, and gentlemen
Here’s my angled dream
To see me in the blue sky bag
And meet me by the sea

The entry to lost vestibule
Opens on the bay
An instant shape of mercury
Lost and then retained
An instant is an eyelash
Caught on the tide
Imaginos!
Below this bay
And then besides…

The oyster boys are swimming now
One deal is what we made
Forest keys and whirlwind cold
Green keys too and keys of gold
Even locks that won’t explode
When the skies become a scroll
Having lost its interest
See that’s the deal we made
Just to join the Oyster Cult
The Blue Oyster Cult

We Understand, we understand – Blue Oyster Cult