Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Note: This is not a book review, it is just my attempt to distill random thoughts which have come up after reading this book.

Every time I think about the title of this book, I start to sing it to the tune of "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side."*

A year ago, my cousin was told that the woman he was getting very serious about (to whom he is now married) was all wrong for him. The friend (and I use that term lightly) who told him this finished her critique with the observation that if the girlfriend is supposed to be so smart, "How come she has read the books I have?" As you can imagine, this has led to a lot of snarking and giggling on our parts, with us pointing out to one another that reading The DaVinci Code is not an indicator of one's intelligence, unless The DaVinci Code is the only thing you have read. I can't imagine a man questioning the intelligence of another man because of his recreational reading. Because it is such an odd thing to pick on someone over, I am almost inclined to chalk this up to the frenemy nature of the woman in question, but I find myself reconsidering the insult in light of this interview with Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult regarding their charges of gender bias and literary snobbery at the New York Times with regards to the books they review and champion. Are women, who do read fiction of all kinds in greater numbers than men, so insecure about our intelligence and the books which are marketed to us and us alone that we can't accept that smart people also read dumb books, even when those dumb books are so aggressively male oriented as Dan Brown's?

I wish I could say that this snobbery was exclusive to frenemies and the New York Times, but I will admit I encounter it among my friends. Almost every cultural phenomenon book I have read has gotten at least one sneer when I mentioned I was reading it by someone who had not read the book. While I can definitely understand someone who had read Twilight hating it, I can't understand what anyone who has not read a book has against it except that it is popular. And popularity breeds contempt.

We don't exist in a vacuum. A problem, well not a problem, but a factor in reading a book which is a cultural phenomenon is that it is impossible not to be aware of that fact and to read the book with one eye on the phenomenon. I go through a period of avoidance, intending to be that one person who has not read the book, but then, of course, I am overwhelmed by curiosity and a desire to talk to people about this thing they are so into and give in. I approach the book with a certain hostility, a certain desire to not believe the hype and I find myself either surprised or irritated or confused as I get through the book, depending upon the book. Invariably, no matter how great I find the book to be, I am left wondering why this particular book became the book that everyone has to read in order to be a contributing member of society.

So, all that being said, I found The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo to be gripping. I stayed up all night reading it. I plan to read the next book in the series. I liked the light it shines on sexual abuse against women, especially women who cannot fight back--this was something which never was mentioned in all the chatter about the novel and it shocked me to such a degree that I almost stopped reading when I got to that part of the book (I made Fred tell me that things got less awful before I would continue). I don't think it is a spoiler to mention this and I do have to wonder why it never came up. Do people find it too awkward or do people not care that much about the sexual abuse of imaginary women as much as an imaginary mystery?

*I started to write a Weird Al Yankovic-esque song, but then I realized that A LOT of the original Smith's song would apply to Lisbeth Salander, so you can just go read the lyrics and make the appropriate adjustments where you see fit.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Not How I Planned To Spend My Sunday

Yet another thing we can file under "funny because it is true."

Also, in case you needed to know, the plural of hepatitis is hepatitides, NATO and other military services uses the Mondopoint shoe sizing system, and previous to receiving the first Ph.D in Anthropology from Columbia, Alfred Kroeber received an M.A. in Romantic Drama.

Oh, yeah, and the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy nor Roman nor an Empire. Discuss.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

YA Fantasy Showdown

If you haven't been following the YA Fantasy Showdown, go check it out.

My prediction is that the final will be between Katsa (from Kristin Cashore's Graceling) and Eugenides (from Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series). If you haven't read those books, do yourself a favor and read them.

When The Serpent Swallows Its Tail

This remains one of my favorite songs and one of my favorite videos. I don't have anything profound to say about it or have any grand revelations about the role it played in my life. Even now when I see it all I can think is, "Sigh, Peter Murphy."

I have been meaning to comment on Peter Murphy's cameo in the latest Twilight film. What disappoints me is that he wasn't in any of the vampire films that have been made between The Hunger and Eclipse. I mean, how great would it have been if he had been in Bram Stoker's Dracula or Interview With The Vampire? Why did so many years have to pass before someone thought of putting Peter Murphy in a vampire movie? Or maybe there should have been a scene in Ed Wood where someone (played by Peter Murphy) informed Ed about the death of Bela Lugosi (you know we would still be giggling about it now: "Mr. Wood, I regret to inform you that Bela Lugosi's Dead"). As far as I am concerned, a lot of directors have just dropped the ball on this and they should be ashamed of themselves.

And while it goes without saying that that I won't be rushing out to watch Eclipse, sigh, Peter Murphy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Yes, I Sometimes Try To Be Funny

So for a while I have been saying that someone (SNL, Second City, et al) should do a "Decision 2016 Presidential Debate: Palin vs. Blagojevich" spoof.

in light of recent events, I have decided that someone should write a romance novel/Lifetime Movie based on this premise:
He was a tough city kid trying to make his immigrant steelworking dad proud.
She was a small town girl trying to prove she was more than just another runner up from a beauty pageant.
At first, the only thing they seemed to have in common was their enormous self-love and sense of victimhood, but they each came to realize that their outsized sense of entitlement could only be satisfied by the other.
In a world of rules and regulations meant to protect the citizenry from corruption, they would not be contained, spending other people's money in all fifty states.
Sarah Palin
Rod Blagojevich
Not Without My Aqua Net: A Tale of Two Governors
Of course, considering that both Sarah and Rod have scoffed at the accusations leveled against them as being distractions from the real problems, Fox News could always create a reality TV show with Sarah and Rod where they must go undercover to "bust the real bad guys" in politics:
Once upon a time, there were two little kids who went to the governors office: One from Chicago, the other from Alaska. And they were each assigned very hazardous duties (show them having to sign legislation, kiss babies), but I took them away from all that, and now they work for me, my name is Rupert.
Come on, you know you would pay good money to see them disguised as nuns and/or having to infiltrate the roller derby.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Future Is Now

From my favorite episode of The Simpsons.

Whoever Writes Headlines For The Christian Science Monitor Deserves A Raise

There are studies in monkey antagonism? Alas, if only I had known that there was money to be made by annoying monkeys, or that people were searching for ever more advanced ways to piss off small primates, my life may have turned out quite differently. I'm not saying I want to enrage our smaller cousins, just that I find it odd to learn that there are whole careers dedicated to such things.

Unfortunately for the forces of surrealism (but extremely fortunate for the macaques and anyone who cares about the humane treatment of animals) the behaviorists studying the animals seem to be viewing behavior in the wild and are not purposely engineering situations wherein flying rodents freak out monkey communities.

Biologists and psychologists have long studied macaques' complex social interactions for insights into human evolution and behavior.

However, much remains unknown about how macaques get along (or not) with other creatures. Better documentation of such encounters could reveal more about macaque societies as well as that of our shared primate forbears.

"Human evolution occurred alongside primate evolution from a common mammalian ancestor," Onishi told LiveScience. "Therefore, it is important to learn the evolution of primates in understanding the previous steps in human evolution."

So, yeah, not what the headline would lead one to believe. So huge props to the person who came up with this brilliant way of getting people to read a somewhat dull article about an animal behavior study. And thanks to boingboing for alerting me to the brilliance in the first place. Yay science!