Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Seeing the Light -- Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo

I read this in just a few hours today, the day after Thanksgiving--fitting, given what the book's about. I'm happy to say that this book also is maybe the first of Jo Nesbo's books that I haven't been at least a little chagrined with. It's also in 1st person, but it doesn't cop-out like his latest non-Harry Hole, Blood on Snow. That one had a short chapter at the end that was in 3rd person, after the whole book previously had been in 1st person. This one doesn't cheat like that, and is told in 1st person the whole way.

Nesbo plays with his following here, as he knows he's known as a writer who writes about potentially bad men who try to be good, and it doesn't work out for them. (See: Blood on Snow.) This one almost has the same set-up, but the big difference here is that the fixer here never fixes anybody, even at the end, when he really needs to. Well, then he does, but that's okay. And this guy--who calls himself Ulf--had even stolen all that money to pay for a little girl's cancer treatments. Nesbo goes out of his way here--perhaps a bit too much--to show us that this guy is a good guy. He is that, perhaps a bit unrealistically.

Speaking of that, this is yet another book in which the main character falls head over heels for a younger woman with a young child and no husband. While this occasionally happens in real life, what doesn't normally happen (or, shouldn't) is that said woman puts herself and her child in danger by helping out said main male character. We've all heard of stories in which a parent sadly chooses bad man over her own child, but even in real life, it doesn't happen like this. Stephen King has had a mini-genre doing this--See: Bag of Bones--but it's beginning to get to me a little bit. The female character always says she can't be with the guy or help the guy because she has to think of her kid first, and then she does it anyway! Now if the said character were a bit scattered to begin with, this may be a bit easier to swallow, but most of these female characters--including the one here--is so straight-laced and responsible that it comes across as unrealistic. It does so here, for me, anyway. It doesn't detract from the reading, but it made me roll my eyes a bit. I mean, we all understand the pipe dream, and it seems to effect writers when they hit 45 or so, but, come on...These woman, of course, also profess their love for these shadowy guys. In this case, she literally throws herself at him. Hey, you take your ego trip, I'll take mine, I guess, but, jeez...

But I digress. Obviously this was a good read, as I began and finished it's almost-300 pages in a few hours. There's a bit of philosophical and religious pondering here, which has slipped into Nesbo's work lately, and the narrator again seems to know a little bit more about--in this case--William Blackstone (who founded Blackstone, Massachusetts, which is a lot closer to my neck of the woods than it is to Nesbo's Oslo), Kierkegaard, and other blokes that, I'm guessing, your typical Norwegian fixer wouldn't ordinarily know. This speaks more of Nesbo, I think, than it does his characters, and it may be time now for him to look at that. I've got a philosophy degree, so I certainly appreciate that he tries to go there, but, really, how many fixers who say they don't know anything about anything will actually know this stuff?

But I digress, again. Sorry. The fact is that this is pretty entertaining stuff, even if you wonder why the woman, in a town of about 50, lets herself be seen with this guy, alone in her house, driving with him...and, yeah, she runs into her sort-of brother-in-law after a 45-minute drive to Alta, a bigger city, which is sort of like me running into one of my exes when I go to Fenway. Not yet. And they run into a woman he'd just been with--on the same drive! But it works, somehow. There are a few oddly amusing passages where you'd least expect them--this happened in Blood on Snow, too--though here they seem more purposely out of left field, like we're given permission to know that it won't all end up like the previous, very similar novel and 1st person narrator.

It doesn't, and you'll probably be able to see how it's all going to come together before it does, which I suppose is part of the charm. This narrator isn't a bad guy, at all, after all, and so we feel he deserves to get away, though readers and writers shouldn't moralize. So if you were disappointed with the last one, which I was, although it deserved the otherwise good write-up I gave it, then you'll be very satisfied with this one, as it's almost a complete opposite of the same story, with the same set-up and almost the exact same situations. You'll probably roll your eyes, as I did, but you'll wish well for everyone, and it'll turn out the way you'll want it to.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Photo: From

Things I'm Thankful for in 2016:

--I've got a better half who's great to me and for me. I haven't always been with someone who was both (or either), so this is a welcome change. Many people don't have someone special at all. Some who are married can't even say that. How many miserable unmarried people do you know? I know some happily married people--and I know some that make you wonder.

--Jackson the Greyhound is 14 and still living the high life. Which, for him, revolves around eating and sleeping, and going for strolls and rides.

--My good career and benefits. Lots of people don't have either of those, too.

--Purpose outside of my job. I have someone and something to come home to. Many come home to a TV or computer. I have those (and I have blogs), but I have more, thank God. I know too many couch potatoes and phone slaves. No thanks.

--Creative ability. Not all the writing sells, but that's okay. Keep on keeping on. Boredom is a death to me, so I really appreciate this. I'll throw hobbies into this, too, as I think they're a branch of creativity.

--Respectful neighbors.

--Not too many financial pitfalls, though I probably need brake work as I'm typing this.

What I Want to Say I'm Thankful for in 2017:

--Better time management skills. I should be writing more, and more consistently.

--That the USA hasn't come under chaos or martial law by this time next year. I hope I look back upon this next year and chastise myself for worrying too much. We'll see.

--That the better half and Jackson are as happy with me then as they are now. Or happier!

What're you thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Comic Con 2016 -- Christian Slater

Some pics from Comic Con this November in Providence, RI.

Me and Christian Slater:

This was Christian Slater's first-ever Con of any kind. He's eligible for Mr. Robot, his current show, which I haven't seen, and from his guest role in a Star Trek movie. (If you know which one, you're much more of a fan than I, though I've seen all of the original films, and all of the rebooted Kirk films.)

But the majority of the talk at the panel was about Heathers, of course. For example, in this pic, where it looks like I'm in the picture I'm taking, but it's not me:

Slater was an extremely friendly guy when I met him for his picture and autograph. Not just faking it, as many of them do, and not sounding like he's uncomfortable or disgusted. He's aged well, partly perhaps because he seems like a very nice, laid-back guy. My better half also says it's because he married someone outside the business, which is also a possible reason. He seemed to be having a good time. Only time will tell if he's the same way after his 100th Comic Con, but he was cool here.

He said he got the cameo in that Star Trek movie because his mother was casting for the film, and someone had just dropped out of the role, and they were ready to shoot. He'd been on the lot shooting a show and a movie, and his mother asked if he had a moment. He was a fan of the show, so he agreed to the spot start.

He also received a lot of questions about Pump Up the Volume, which I suppose was a little ahead of its time. Message-wise, not high school. But we could sure use Harry now! I got a chance to comment to him about Murder in the First, a very overlooked movie, and one which I wished I'd had more of a chance to speak to him about. I got in line at the panel, but they ran out of time, so me and three others had to sit back down. But I brought the movie up to him in person, said I liked it, and he said, "Yes! Of course!" which he said to a great many things. But it was his first Comic Con, so he'll have to work on his instant responses. But at least it wasn't fake. As usual, an honest guy, no BS.

Coming soon: Michael Cudlitz, recently departed of The Walking Dead, at Comic Con.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo -- A Book Review

[::Long, deep sigh:: Let's get through the next four years together, Reader, you and I. Okay, moving on...]

Photo: from, via this link

Very tight story, in 1st person except for the last short chapter--a bit of a writerly cheat, that--about a professional hitman, sort of like Leon, who is told to "fix" his boss's wife. He falls in love with her from a distance, of course, and instead wants to save her. Or does he? The story descends (not in a bad way, but you feel the story is a descent of some kind) from there, with a bit of self-deception. You might like the ending, or you might not, but there's no denying that it fits. He waits for a woman to take stock of her business before closing for the night, but he instead "takes stock" of himself. (GET IT?) And, like the rest of us, sometimes, especially in our darkest nights, he doesn't like what he sees.

It's noir, so each of his nights is our darkest night. That's the genre, take it or leave it. By the way, rumor has it that Leonardo DiCaprio has been attached to an adaptation of this book since 2014. IMDB says it's "in development," but it's been in that stage of purgatory for two years now.

The book reads a bit like Stephen King's Blaze, in the sense that it's taut and interesting, and it moves, though you've seen it all before, and probably will again. That's okay here; in fact, it's part of the allure, maybe. You know the wife will be up to no good--she's cheating on her husband, after all, which is why he wants her "fixed"--and wait until you see who she's cheating with. That's probably the new slant of this story. You probably haven't seen that before. I can't remember the last time I saw it. [Austrian accent.] What do you think about that, Dr. Freud?

It's American Noir taking place in Norway, which doesn't exactly make it Nordic Noir. Harry Hole, Jo Nesbo's main cash cow, is more Nordic Noir than this is, so this is a welcome relief if you've tired of Nesbo's series, as I have. (Couldn't stand it when he killed off Hole's female partner, without anyone shedding a tear, and even had her cut up in many little pieces. Worse, you could see that coming a mile away, as all the characters, including Hole, are just standing there with their thumbs in the air.) Anyway, this really could have taken place anywhere, though the ending needs a frozen night. But, hell, you can get that around my neck of the woods, and it's blizzards right now in the Midwest.

So this is a good, quick read, which I ate up in about four total hours over two days. As usual with a Nesbo book, I had a minor bad taste in my mouth at the end, this time about the writer cheat of telling the book in first person, except for the very short third person final chapter. (A recent read, from Frank Tallis, did the same thing, except Tallis steps around the cheat by giving us some medical reports that we were expecting, rather than a blatant break of the wall.) The ending made sense in a thematic way, though it may not end as you'd hope, though why it matters with someone who's killed scores of people is maybe a mystery, and a testament of a sort of Nesbo's ability to humanize the monstrous main character. Again, no denying Nesbo's writing ability, and maybe I'm the only one who walks away slightly disappointed with every Nesbo book. I feel that it is more me than him, which is why I'm rating it like I am.

But, still...

Coming soon: Movie reviews of Hacksaw Ridge and Arrival, plus this year's Comic Con in RI.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

I Voted to Protect Those Who Apparently Didn't Need Protection

In a quick vomit, because my gorge rises at it, a few things about Election Day:

--I'll call them the Reality TV Voters: they apparently are so de-sensitized by bad behavior, like they see on reality TV (which was heavily controlled and scripted), that when it happens in actual reality, they don't care--or perhaps they don't notice the difference. This is exemplified by the fact that Hillary did not get the younger vote like Obama did. (Or not enough of them voted.) I also have to conclude that today's society simply doesn't care as much about decent behavior. I don't want to sound like that old guy, and certainly I'm no paragon of appropriate (or even good and decent) behavior, but then I'm not running for President, either.

--Also, obviously nobody cares about experience. Hillary's vast experience, as Secretary of State, as Senator, and tons of other things, worked against her. The voters wanted someone who literally has never held a political office of any kind. Not even as someone on a school committee or city council. Possibly for the first time in history, we have a President with absolutely zero political experience of any kind, not even on a neighborhood level.

--53% of all white women who voted did so for He-who-must-not-be-named. While this means that they frankly just didn't like her (which is Hillary's fault), it also means that, overall, voting American white women did not care that he sexually assaulted other American white women. This speaks volumes about our current stance towards women, sex, and men who sexually assault women. And the women who do not give a sh-t about it. We should not support those who oppress us.

--Hillary did not get the female vote. Not that women should automatically vote for a woman, but probably they should vote for any candidate who a) is a woman, AND who b) has not sexually assaulted women. Probably women should not vote for a man who not only sexually assaulted other women, but who also bragged about it. And who obviously assaulted many other women who have not come forward. And who has bragged about it when he was not being recorded doing so. It makes no sense to me that the oppressed and the suppressed support those who oppress and suppress them. Unless they believe that he really didn't do these things. If so, they better also believe that Bill Cosby also didn't do the same things. Which he clearly did. Is it possible that many of them believe that the black guy did these things but not the white guy? Or does Cosby not matter? What does matter?

--Apparently we were not ready for a female president, specifically this one. I conclude that angry bitter white men, who for the past 8 years have seen a) a black president; b) gay rights; c) gay marriage; d) transgender rights and e) free health care for the very poor, looked at a woman president and that's where they drew the line. (And so did the white bitter angry women married or related to them.) Okay to A through E, but a woman president? "F--k no!" they said, and voted that way.

--Let's not also forget to be angry at Hillary herself. Fact is, she ran a sh-tty campaign. Though I don't understand it, she did not carry the female vote, the black vote or the Latino vote. (Or, not enough of them voted overall.) I have to conclude that the majority of those three groups didn't vote at all, which is also strange, since they have the most to lose if she lost. It's like they didn't feel the need to protect themselves, like he didn't scare them enough that they felt they needed to vote against him. I, a middle-class white guy, felt I needed to vote against him in order to defend them, so the fact that they didn't feel the need to defend themselves strikes me as inexplicable. But while we blame them, let's also blame her, because she needed to court them and she didn't. She felt, I guess, that she automatically had them, because of how vile his behavior was towards them, and she was wrong. Her assumption, while understandable, is not forgivable in the political game. All she had to do was bury the media with TV ads of him saying these horrible things, especially from a clip of the tape (even if something needs to get beeped out), and constantly remind those three groups of what they had to lose, and she probably would've had them. Had she gotten the female vote and the minority vote, especially the Latino vote (or if more of them had voted overall), she would've carried Florida and Pennsylvania and she would've won. She didn't even try to do that. So she didn't win.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I'm Seeing Red

Photo: An unwelcome visitor in my life today, about 12 hours before another one. Except this bug, which has an uncanny resemblance to he-who-must-not-be-named, won't last another 4 years. Maybe Trudeau can use it as Trump's icon for Doonesbury.

I guess we don't mind that our leader assaults women, physically and verbally (as women themselves don't, since 53% of voting white women voted for him), doesn't pay his taxes, is biased towards anyone who's not a white male, and mocks the disabled. We're going to get the chaos we apparently want. Strap yourselves in. It's going to be a looooooooooooooong 4 years.

Where's my passport? I think I'll go retire to southern France or Spain. Who's with me?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I Almost Voted for Hodor

My vote today won't be a surprise to you if you've been reading this blog for the last month or so. Though I felt like I was choosing lounge chairs on the Titanic, I voted for Clinton. I wish there was a way I could affix an asterisk next to the oval I filled in, so that beneath it I could write * with extreme reservations. But you can't do that, so I filled in my ovals and moved on. I took a 20-question poll afterward, which took a lot longer than did the voting itself. I live in a rather small community, so the vote took maybe 5 minutes, max, starting with me approaching the women at the table who had the books of eligible voters. (One of them yelled my name aloud, which may have woken an astronaut on the moon. Can someone tell me in a comment why they have to do that?)

Someone asked me recently why I would vote for Clinton. Even if that person has read my blog (he hasn't), it's a fair question. You may have noticed that I wrote a lot of blogs about why I won't vote for Trump, but not one blog about why I'd vote for Clinton. In essence, that's my answer: I'm more voting against Trump than I am voting for Clinton. I almost wouldn't mind voting for one of the other candidates (as a friend of mine did, who voted for Jill Stein), except a) that would take a vote away from Clinton, which essentially is a vote for Trump, which helps him win--and I simply cannot do that; and b) the other candidates seem a little screwy, at best. They are not awesome alternatives.

So that's my answer, really. I'm voting against Trump, not for Clinton. I suspect that a very large percentage of people voting for her would say the same. That leaves a bad taste, but nobody promised me a rose garden, and I'm a little too long in the tooth to think that everything needs to be fair in this world. To emphasize this point, I almost voted for a write-in candidate: Hodor. Because I wanted to make a bumper sticker that said: Don't blame me. I voted for Hodor! But I chickened out.

Photo: If anyone wants to start a Vote Hodor! campaign, count me in

Despite the dozens (or perhaps, literally, hundreds) of offensive, stupid, arrogant, ignorant, harmful, disrespectful, biased, xenophobic, and misogynist things Trump has said and done, he lost me a long time ago when he physically and verbally mocked a disabled New York Times reporter, imitating both his slurred speech and his uncontrollable movements. My President simply doesn't do that. Chances are, if my high school teachers wouldn't tolerate that behavior in the classroom, I'm not going to tolerate that behavior in my President. Mine will not mock and make fun of the disabled. It is that simple. My President also will not hate women, physically abuse women, say hateful things to and about women, and cut corners on taxes for 18 years if he's a billionaire (You don't think Bill Gates and Oprah also know those loopholes? But they've given millions to charities--and they pay taxes).

My President will not hate. And that's what this man does--or, at least, is what he wants us to think he does. He hates. He's shockingly bitter and angry for a very rich, very privileged white man. I don't know why such a pampered rich guy is so hateful, but he is. I suspect a personality disorder, such as narcissism, is to blame. Maybe a sociopathic issue. Or maybe he's just a butthole. Nobody's got the right to be a d--chebag anymore. I'm betting that with him, it's just that simple: he's just an a--hole.

And so that's it. I'm looking forward to the end of this fiasco, by far the worst of my lifetime. I suspect that elections with the likes of John C. Calhoun and others around Lincoln's time were far worse than this. I remember that a vice-president (Alexander Hamilton) was killed in a duel, after all. And then they made a musical out of him. I'm guessing there will not be a Trump musical.

Even if you disagree, please go out and vote. People all over the world are dying in their battle to get this right. You can't complain about the winner, or anything at all about politics, if you don't vote.

And for a hilarious send-up of Trump, called Darth Trump, using famous Star Wars scenes, go to