Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thanks, Stieg

I just said good-bye to Lisbeth.

Several weeks ago, my visiting nephew, Ryan, had told me the Stieg Larsson series was very good. I found "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" a little thick off the top, but when it got good, it was very good! The pace of  the second book helped make it my favorite and the New York Times assessment on its back cover, "intricate, puzzle-like...startling and violent", works for me.

The third book was only available in hardcover. After finishing the second, I thought, initially, I would simply wait until the third book came out in paperback. Ha! I managed to hold off two and a half weeks before I caved-in and bought "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest". At least it was 30 per cent off!

During those two and a half weeks, I left Lisbeth at Gosseberga on a kitchen bench with a bullet in her brain. I needed to know she would be OK and that her father would get what was coming to him. I wanted to know what happened to Niederman.

I don't usually go for grotesque, twisted, literary fiction and the series is full of that, but the characters and plot were thoroughly compelling and well worth whatever wincing was necessary to get to the next paragraph.

For the third book, knowing there is no fourth, I would read a chapter on the train into or from work and then listen to my iPod. I didn't want to get to the end and had decided to limit myself to one chapter at a time. This has been going on for a few weeks. This week, because I was so close to the end, I gave myself permission to finish the story and series. I was just sitting out on the back deck in the sunshine reading the last pages.

Author Stieg Larsson had half-finished a fourth book, set in Canada, when he died in 2004. I'm not sure I look forward to Hollywood's version of his stories.

While I may not hear any more about Lisbeth, I will always be hoping that she's keeping out of trouble.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Will You Turn That Thing Down

Susan enjoys several television shows and specialty channels. She regularly falls asleep watching programs on our bedroom television. One of the many great things about Susan is that, once she falls asleep, she doesn't mind me watching sports.

I'm hoping to earn a few points here.

Sports on television come with very particular noises and noise patterns, including bellowing announcers, crowd cheers and repeated referee whistles. These sounds, though at low volume, can seep into the drowsy mind of a sleeping beauty.

Still going for points.

On Sunday nights, early on in our relationship, I would watch Formula One races once she'd fallen asleep. Even though the volume was pretty low, the distinctive and unrelenting sound of the cars would sometimes wake her up. As fate would have it, she's blossomed into a bigger F1 fan than me!

I'm not sure what this says about sports, and it may well say something positive, but watching sports keeps me from thinking. Late at night, it empties my mind, a process generally completed in the blink of an eye, and entices me to fall asleep.

Susan is usually in bed and asleep long before me and so, most nights, the pattern unfolds with few hiccups. Once I negotiate the minefield of squeaky toys, which, when stepped on unexpectedly, squawk so loudly the hair on top of my head stands up, and the rawhide chew sticks, which, when stepped on unexpectedly with all your weight, generate enough pain to bring tears to my eyes, the rest is easy.


The festival of fur must be displaced with the delicate touch of a well-trained bomb dismantler. When I'm not there to claim my territory, the dogs tend to conveniently park themselves on my side of the bed. I try to slide, lift, drag, shift or shove them as gently as possible. If I disturb the dogs too much, they'll just get up and start wandering around the bed, initiating an unpredictable and frightening sequence of events which, all too often, leads to one of them walking across Susan's sweetly sleeping face as my hands stifle the gasp coming out of my mouth and I gawk in shock!

This rather awkward turn of events prompts my perfected "drop and roll" escape maneuvre. Quickly, I drop to the ground and roll out of the room as Susan grumbles and mutters at having been disturbed; at these moments, it's far better not to be caught in her field of vision.

Once I manage to get in bed, I locate a sports broadcast on the television, adjust the volume and then place the remote somewhere within reach. Commercial breaks often find me desperately flinging my arm in the direction of the remote for a fast volume adjustment. Commercials are too loud and much louder than regular programming!

Once I turn down the commercials, I cower and hold my breath to see whether Susan will stir. In the end, I'm forced to choose between hearing the play-by-play and disturbing the precious repose of my darling wife.

That's got to be worth a point, or two.

For me, the choice is clear.

There may or may not be points inherent in that last statement.

On those rare occasions when the remote lands in my hand as we watch television in the living room, I'll just press the mute button during commercials. Most commercials already insult my intelligence; I'd rather not be deafened on top of being force-fed their cheesey propaganda.

The CRTC has been asking for advice on what to do about loud commercials. Tuesday of this week was the deadline for submissions. In two months, the commission received 7,293 written submissions, ten times the number of complaints it had received about television commercials in the last three years combined! Some people claim the problem will get worse before it gets better because in September, Canada will complete its transition to digital signals; digital allows for a greater range of sound than analog.

The US has a law in place requiring broadcasters and distributors, such as cable and satellite carriers, to comply with set volume standards by the end of this year. Canada is working on a solution. The CRTC wonders whether the problem can be fixed voluntarily, or whether it will be forced to crack down, which is what happened in the US.

People are sick of being blasted by advertisers.

Besides, Susan needs her rest.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Kiji-Crazy Like A Fox

It's complete craziness!
Tristan announces he wants an iPhone 4.
Apparently, he's wanted one for a long time but I have not been paying attention.
He plans to use part of his savings to make the purchase.
Naturally, his mother is part of the swindling; she has apparently agreed to buy his iPod Touch, thereby providing him with more helpful cash.
The Apple doesn't fall from the tree.
He goes on kijiji and finds a bunch of iPhone 4's.
I call a couple of sellers on his behalf, but most have already been sold.
Tristan finds another one today and sends an e-mail.
The seller agrees to hold it for Tristan because he was the first one to express interest.
I call and get directions.
We have the guy's phone number, his address and, as we stand on his Terrebonne doorstep finalizing the transaction, his children are walking in and out of the house.
He's a complete strangers to us, as are we to him!
He exposes his home and family to strangers???
Well, in our case, he exposes his home and family to crazed consumers???
The concept is lunacy.
Then again, Tristan walks away with the 32 gig version for $300 cheaper than in a store.