The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

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Jun 282010

I just finished the third book in this series, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. The title hit a little close to home because a month ago I stepped on a hornet’s nest and got two nasty stings. Ouch. It’s the final book in The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, who died suddenly after turning in the three manuscripts.  They are a great read.  While James Patterson writes police mysteries and John Grisham writes lawyer mysteries, The Millenium Trilogy are journalist mysteries.

Lisbeth Salander, as portrayed in the film version of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"

Though the main character is journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who is no doubt based on Larsson himself, the character that makes the trilogy so good is Lisbeth Salander. She is written as a character who most people do not like. She is honest to the point of being offensive and utterly lacking both in subtlety and consideration. Her Wikipedia page claims that she has Asbergers, which seems a stretch, but like John Nash she is both incredibly brilliant and socially inept.

What makes Larsson’s work so amazing is that he makes this socially inept woman someone for whom you genuinely like. She is rude to everyone, doesn’t do much of anything to deserve friendship, and yet you want to be her friend and you want others to be her friend. It’s brilliant writing, but it points to a larger truth that is the subject of this post: everyone is likable.


That’s not to say that I like everyone, or that you should either. But by golly, if so many people can like Lisbeth Salander, then many people can like just about anyone.  The unlikable may take more effort, but they are worth it. Lisbeth Salander is worth it, and the people you and I know are worth it too. If we haven’t figured out why and judge them as being unlikable, that’s our mistake. God made human beings, looked over all of creation and said “It is excellent!” May we find that excellence in others as Stieg Larsson has helped us do with Lisbeth Salander in the Millenium Trilogy.

Absolute Power

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Jun 172010

Fantasy books are not for everyone. I know that. The reason I enjoy them is because they allow the exploration of themes that cannot be dealt with in works based in reality. Plus they’re cool.  🙂

I recently finished a series of books that explore a very interesting topic: absolute power. It’s called The Long Price Quartet, a four book series by Daniel Abraham that begins with A Shadow in Summer. Briefly, in Abraham’s fictional world there are created beings called ‘andat’ who have tremendous power.  The andat featured in A Shadow in Summer is called Seedless. It has the ability to remove seeds from cotton. However, it also has the ability to remove any seed, including those of humans. As the series progresses, more andat are revealed, some of which have far greater powers. One can shape stone. Any stone, anywhere, instantly made into any shape. Think about what that could to an enemy nation in a war. While those who control the andat do not think about that, other nations do. They feel threatened by those who control the andat and seek to destroy them once and for all. This is the setting for The Long Price Quartet.

This got me thinking about God and the common complaint I hear about God, which is that if God is out there, why not do something to make it clear? Why be supernatural? Why not just show up in the clouds and say “Look, here I am!”? This series gave me a reason why: because if God did that, some people would feel threatened. They would rebel.  We human beings don’t like it when others have power over us. It makes us nervous, and if God were to show up in a definitive way, it would turn a lot of people away from God. This is the exact opposite of what God wants, which is a relationship with each and every person. I think God is present in a supernatural way, rather than a natural way, because it leaves the door to relationship open to more people. More people would rebel against a visible God than resist an invisible one. I think.

Caprica Season 2? Let’s hope.

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Jun 082010

The rumors online seem to indicate that there will be a second season of the SyFy show Caprica. This is great news because Caprica is brilliant. During the four seasons it ran Battlestar Galactica was the deepest, most spiritual show on TV, but it had a limited audience. It seems that women would enjoy it until the war scenes started.  My wife would sit with me while I watched it and she was zeroed in until the shooting started. Then she went back to her magazine.  Great show, but it missed the mark with half the population.

So the creators asked “How can we ask the same questions on a show that both men and women will enjoy?” The result was Caprica, set fifty years before Battlestar Galactica. It is ostensibly about the rise of the Cylons, the race of robots that would destroy humanity in Galactica, but so far you wouldn’t know it yet. Instead, it is a compelling drama about families dealing with tragedy as a result of religious terrorism. Along the way it asks a lot of great theological and spiritual questions, some of which are obvious and some of which are not. For instance, there is an internet-type virtual world where normal people can take on ‘avatars’. Two people, however, are avatar only, surviving in cyberspace despite their human selves dying.  Are they human? Are they people? Caprica asks the same fundamental question as Galactica: What does it mean to be human? It does so in a way that appeals to both men and women.

The writers are not afraid to take risks. Heck, on their website they recently posted a video blog exploring morality and how the characters on the show straddle the line between right and wrong.  

These characters learn and grow and change, and each of the last few episodes had a jaw-dropping moment where I couldn’t believe they did that. Yet they did. It’s a great show, and I really hope the rumors are right and that it comes back for a second season, and that more people watch it, because it is television at it’s best.

Robert Duvall on NPR

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Jun 022010

Robert Duvall in "Get Low"


Yesterday Robert Duvall was interviewed on the NPR program “All Things Considered.” He discusses acting, his charitable auction, and to my delight describes the writing in “Get Low” as ‘great’.  Which is unbelievable. I’m going to need all new hats.

Listen here or read the transcript here.

The Prayer of Ricky Bobby

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Jun 012010

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was on cable last night. As my wife and I watched it we again found ourselves laughing so hard we snorted. Even the name is brilliant. “The Ballad”?  You expect an Arlo Guthrie song and instead you get Will Ferrell. That alone is hilarious. 

Ricky’s prayers are great. There are two scenes where he prays, and they’re both worth watching. This is my personal favorite.

I like this not just because it’s funny. I really like the way he talks to Jesus. It’s like Jesus is a person, and that’s just great. Jesus called God “Abba,” which is Aramaic for “Daddy.” There was a familiarity and comfort there. Ricky shows that same comfort taken to comedic extreme, but I still think it’s an aspect of his prayer worth emulating. God doesn’t need big, complex prayers. Just talk about stuff you want to talk about. That’s what prayer is. I’ve seen too many people afraid to pray because they don’t think they’re good enough at it, that they don’t have the stamp of “pastor” or the right diploma or something. But God just wants to hear from us. So talk. Just talk.

Horns by Joe Hill

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Jun 012010

Imagine if you woke up one day and there were horns growing out of your head. And I’m not talking about goat horns or antlers. You know the kind of horns I’m talking about. So begins “Horns,” a book that was so good it made me jealous. 

Joe Hill writes great characters. I’ve always found Stephen King’s characters lacking in depth simply because King resisted going far enough with them. They were always waiting to be explored and yet we only learned enough about them to advance the story. Joe Hill, King’s son, helps us love his characters. As a result what happens to them is even more powerful. “Horns” is tender and heart wrenching. It is also a horror book, so there are moments of terror and grossness that are not for everyone. Still, I loved it. And if I can become one quarter the writer that Joe Hill is, I’ll be ecstatic.

At the center of “Horns” are some intriguing questions about the nature of evil. Do we choose evil? Are we born that way? Are there perfectly valid reasons for becoming evil? Are there reasons behind those reasons? All of these are great questions, and Hill does not answer them. That is the same thing we tried to do in Get Low: ask questions. As a pastor I’ve found that when I toss out answers like candy they seldom stick. When people find answers for themselves, though, they can transform their lives. That was my hope for “Get Low,” and the reviews so far say we’ve done that. I know Joe Hill has, and I hope you will pick up a copy of “Horns.” If you like great characters and deep questions, and can take horror, it will be right up your alley.