stupid fun

Thank you so much for your recent submission to our magazine. Unfortunately,

My life is too short to read that sort of crap.
We ran out of toilet paper.
It’s Wednesday.
You really need a pen name.
Your envelope was so pretty that I didn’t want to spoil it.
I didn’t like it.
We don’t work with your kind here.

Lisbeth Salander is back, with 3 billion Kroner(400 million U.S.) in her pocket and an apartment to furnish. So of course she heads to the exclusiveThe Girl Who Played with Fire, Stieg Larsson's ode to commerce.
The Girl Who Played with Fire,
brought to you by IKEA and 7-11
IKEA, purchasing two Karlanda sofas, five Poäng armchairs, two clear-lacquered birch side tables*, a Savansbo coffee table, and several Lack occasion tables. And that’s not a quarter of what she buys, but don’t let me spoil your fun. Pick up a copy of The Girl Who Played with Fire today and read the complete list. And hold onto your Verksam chair for the shopping trip of your life.

While it’s easy to blame the excessive product placement in the Millennium Trilogy on a combination of an overly-greedy trust and an author too dead to protect his own work, it’s equally as easy to see how product placement fits hand in glove with Stieg’s writing style. Namely that he documents every single little aspect of his characters’ day, forgetting no meal and leaving no cup of coffee to the imagination.

I’ve been deluded by the belief that writing was life without the boring parts, but Stieg bucks this trend, detailing every action in adjective-less prose reminiscent of a shopping list. So obsessed is he with detail that the first 250 pages of this seven hundred page tomb pass by before the action gets rolling. Unless you consider buying frozen pizza at the 7-11 action. Because that happens a lot.

Here are a few spoilers:

On p.198, Salander goes to the OnOff on Sveavägen and buys a laser printer cartridge (but prints nothing during the entire book).The Burger King at Odenplan
The Burger King at Odenplan, key source of
sustenance in this edge-of-your-bib thriller.

On p.283, a couple of police officers eat at the Burger King on Odenplan (Modig had a Whopper and Bublanski a veggie burger).

On p.649 it’s revealed that Salander owns a Palm Tungsten PDA.

So, seeing as how Stieg had already put the fascinating in filler, what publisher could resist bidding out the branding? Certainly not Alfred A. Knoph.

*inexplicably, the model name is not mentioned.

So in preparation for my upcoming trip to Thailand, I wanted to learn some of the basic phrases. Now I’m well aware of Thailand’s reputation as a place where helpless white men got to get laid and/or married, but I really had no idea how bad it was until I stumbled upon the Thai Talkboard app for the iPad:

The Thai TalkBoard for helpless white men.

Just the phrases they include on their short list is a warning sign: “Are you married?” or “You are a pretty girl.” (or my favorite: “What’s your phone number?”, as if anyone using this app could managed a phone call in Thai…)

Of course, I’ve run into this before. Some years back I grabbed a Lonely Planet French Phrasebook for a trip to Paris, and found it useless beyond eating, drinking, and securing a prostitute. I feel that the Lonely Planet people, like the Thai Talkboard folks, are just playing off of people’s fantasies: that foreign women are so easy you merely have to learn the words to ask. And I did see a lot of coupling happening the bars, though it was usually between a couple of travellers who already spoke the same language.

But it wasn’t the contents of the application itself that raised my eyebrows, rather its reviews. The top two went like this:

Great App *****
My wife is Thai and speaks very little English. This app does a nice job for basic communication…

What?, I think. This guy managed to get married to a woman that he needs an app this simplistic to communicate with? And what did he do before he bought the app? I hate to judge, but that doesn’t sound too romantic to me.

Wrong meaning **
When clicking at “are you married?”, it asks for a phone number instead. Please correct…

Again, ‘What?’ You speak this little Thai, yet you used this app to ask some woman if she was married? Did you say it yourself, or did you just hold it up and press the button, attempting to mesmerise the woman with your electronic gizmo? Of course, considering that the iPad, while common enough here in the states, costs a half-year’s salary in Thailand, that might well have been enough.

So while I won’t be courting any Thai women with a pre-canned, ‘I love you,’ one phrase that I’ll make good use of is, “I need a drink.”

Now everyone can get in on the action…

The Cat in the Hat with Zombies

In honor of the spy exchange in Vienna over the weekend, I was re-watching The 3rd Man. Somewhere in the middle, I realized that the man playing the lowly assistant to the detective was Bernard Lee, who went on to play M, the head of the British secret service (James Bond’s boss). My first thought was, “He’s done well for himself,” by which I meant his promotion.

The truth is, they’re both bit parts (in fact, his role in The 3rd Man is somewhat larger than his Bond appearances), but for some Martin Sheen: from lowly captain in one of the best movies ever made, all they way up to TV President!
Martin Sheen’s rise from Vietnam-era
captain to President of the United States: the
stuff that(John Kerry’s) dreams are made of.
reason I associate his rise in fictional rank with some sort of real-world success. Take for example our forty-third President Martin Sheen. Or four-time General (and occasional private eye) Stacy Keach. These are powerful men. Especially compared to slackers like Marlon Brando, who never rose past Colonel. Or Humphrey Bogart, a Captain at best. And what about that Johnny Depp? He has yet to amount to anything…

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