The Millennium Trilogy movies – Swedish style

My wife and I gave the Swedish version of the movies about Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy* a viewing this past week. We came away extremely impressed and entertained. The movies and books are called:

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,”
“The Girl who played with Fire,” and
“The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest.”

We watched the movies in Swedish with English subtitles. They star Noomi Rapace as the girl with the dragon tattoo, Lisbeth Salander, and Michael Nyqvist as the lead journalist (and publisher) named Mikael Blomkvist for the investigative Millennium news magazine. There are numerous actors that have large screen time based on the movie and plot. Lena Endre plays Erika Berger, the editor of the Millennium and past and sometimes present love interest of Mikael. Mikael’s sister Annika, played by Annika Hallin, is an attorney whose role is more pronounced in the final Hornet’s Nest movie.

There was an English version of the first movie starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara which did well, but I think the movies need to be seen in Swedish as the culture and language lend themselves to the plot. Plus the two leads, Lisbeth and Mikael are so well played by Rapace and Nyqvist. The physicality and stoicism of Rapace brings so much to Lisbeth who has seen (and does see) more trauma than anyone should ever have.

The plots are detailed, but fast moving. The physical action is present, but not like the CGI movies where it is constant. There is lot to unpack through the dialogue, which is good. Subtitles help greatly as you can rewind and read what was said. To me, the Swedish language lends itself to the dialogue as it is not as overdramatized as American English sometimes is in movies. In fact, some of the best scenes are where Lisbeth just stares back at people who are there to use her rather than give them any fuel to add to the fire. And, when she does speak, she disarms people with her intellect and memory.

Each movie is rated highly by Rotten Tomatoes as is the English version. A key reason is each story and screenplay has a captivating plot and intrigue. If you have not seen the movies, give them a look. If you have, let me know what you think? Also, if you read the books, let me know how close the movies follow the books.

*Note: Per Wikipedia,

“Millennium is a series of best-selling and award-winning Swedish crime novels, created by journalist Stieg Larsson. The two primary characters in the saga are Lisbeth Salander, an asocial computer hacker with a photographic memory, and Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist and publisher of a magazine called Millennium.

Larsson planned the series as having 10 installments, but completed only three before his sudden death in 2004.[1][2] All three were published posthumously by Norstedts FörlagThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in 2005, The Girl Who Played with Fire in 2006, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest in 2007. Larsson’s novels were originally printed in Swedish, with English editions by Quercus in the United Kingdom and Alfred A. Knopf in the United States translated by Steven “Reg Keeland” T. Murray. The books have since been translated by many publishers in over 50 countries. By March 2015, 80 million copies of the first three books had been sold worldwide.”


North Carolina Republicans vote to make it easier to get a handgun

With all of the mass shootings going on with regularity and suicides being the number one gun death, I woke up to this headline in my home state. Hannah Schoenbaum of AP News penned the following piece “State Senate votes to override gun bill veto, sends to House.” Per the article:

“North Carolina’s Republican-controlled Senate voted Tuesday to override the Democratic governor’s first veto of the session on legislation to loosen gun restrictions, teeing up the House’s first test of party unity under new operating rules.

The Senate voted 30-19 along party lines to revive a package of gun access measures that would scrap a requirement that handgun buyers obtain a permit from their county sheriff.”

So, if you are keeping score, this veto override, if passed in the Republican led House, would make it easier to get a handgun. This truly boggles the mind. I am truly disillusioned and disappointed that a group of adults which includes parents, grandparents and aunts would pass such a bill in light of our America’s inability to govern guns. And, as noted in the surveys cited in my previous post, Americans, in majority, want better governance not worse.

The majority of people want better gun governance – yet another redundant plea

Another week, another mass shooting in America. Ho-hum. Children killed, that is unfortunate, but the right to shoot someone supercedes the right to life, even a child’s life, in some folks’ minds. Another day, more suicides by impetuous acts and more homicides by uncivil arguers. Boring. And, of course, we have the inevitable accidental shooting by a curious child and discovered weapon. This does not seem to bother anyone, either.

The following is a repeat of post from three (and also one) years ago. It is a variation of a post I have written countless times. Yet, we do not seem to care. I am glad the president is going after ghost guns, but that is only part of the problem and we passed some watered-down language last year after this post was last made. But more is needed, much more. When the leading US gun death cause is suicide, by far, you would think legislators, especially Republican ones, will stop counting the NRA donations and do something about this obvious problem.

From an article called “Polls find Americans mostly are supportive of stricter laws on guns” by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughn of the Raleigh News and Observer, please note the following cited survey results. Note these results have been fact checked by the paper’s Fact Checking Project.

– Gallup’s poll from August, 2019 noted “61% would support a ban on semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles.”

– The Civitas Institute (a conservative policy group) poll from September, 2019 showed “58% of respondents saying gun laws were not strict enough.” Note of the Civitas poll respondents, “48% either owned a gun or had someone in their home who owned a gun.”

– A Quinnipac University poll from May, 2019 showed “61% of Americans support stricter gun laws. The same poll showed 94% of Americans support required background checks for gun buyers. And, 77% of those polled support ‘requiring individuals to obtain a license before being able to purchase a gun.’”

– In 2017, Politifact Wisconsin “found multiple previous polls citing support for background checks ranging from 84% to 94%.”

The numbers 58% and 61% are meaningful, but let’s focus on the 94% (or even 84% to 94%) of respondents who want required background checks and the 77% who want a license before hand.

These are consequential majorities. Earlier this week, the Houston Chief of Police challenged his two Texas Senators (Ted Cruz and John Cornyn) and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to act after yet another police officer was killed.

The NRA has spoken. Now, we need to set their ardent, sales focused rhetoric aside and act sensibly. Just the two items highlighted above will help – background checks and pre-buy licensing. No loopholes. Cars require ownership and driving licenses to operate. Yet, they are not designed to kill.

I am long-ago tired of the standard “thoughts and prayers” line offered by legislators followed by “now is not the time to discuss changes.” Since people are dying everyday by suicide and other reasons, waiting for a time with no deaths will not happen. Further, the mass shootings of more than a few victims are happening with alarming frequency.

To be brutally frank, Democrats should push this issue to the nth degree. Although, the Senate and president acted last year, we are not addressing the issues in a holistic and dramatic manner. It matters not who pats themselves on the back – JUST DO SOMETHING that will address the problems. And, these legislators are in my “thoughts and prayers” to actually act like the parents and grandparents we hope they would be.

And, if this were not enough lack of better gun governance is just one of several issues that causes UNICEF to rank the US as 37th on children well-being. By my count, that places 36 countries ahead of us and means we are barely in the top 20% of all countries. That is not exceptionalism. That is beyond poor stewardship.

Tuesday sign posts

It is the last Tuesday in March, so let’s touch on a variety of topics offering a few needed signs. In no particular order:

Signs need to go up in our US airports where foreign visitors arrive saying “Welcome to America – we hope you are packing heat.” Our country values the right to shoot someone over the right not to be shot. So visitors, be safe and keep your head down. Also, legislators are in my thoughts and prayers to show some wisdom and courage to act like parents and do something tangible about our gun governance in a positive way.

Signs need to go up in the halls of legislature around our country saying “You owe your citizens the truth.” In my latest call to the Speaker of the US House I shared with a staff member we need for the Speaker to be a leader and not a gaslighter. We have too many elected officials and pseudo-news folks who are gaslighting the American people. To me that is beyond poor form and for Congresspeople is in violation of their oath to the Constitution.

Signs need to go up at the beginning of each article that quotes politicians saying “The quotes from the politicians within this article have been rated based on their level of truthfulness.” Of course, in an article quoting Donald Trump or Marjorie Taylor Greene, the words “Mostly False” or “Pants on Fire False” would be pervasive.

Signs heading south on the Florida/ Georgia border should read “Welcome to Florida. Please understand your rights may be restricted more so than you are accustomed to.” In small print it would add “This is especially true if you are currently considered in a minority group.”

Signs, signs, signs. The one I most want to see is one that says “Welcome.” That one speaks volumes.

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel – four more terrific human interest stories

I have written before about the monthly sports show called “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” being the best sports show on the air. It is actually a human interest investigative show where sports are just the front. It uses a cadre of great journalists to support the efforts of Gumbel.

On the March, 2023 show, once again Gumbel’s team have highlighted four great stories, a couple of which will have you reaching for the Kleenex. Let me offer a brief summary of each starting with the two tearjerkers:

Chris Snow is a key analyst and advisor to the Calgary Flames professional hockey team. He has long been a user of data to help the team recognize flaws and make improvements and take advantage of their strengths and the other team’s weaknesses. He also has a rare form of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) which has an accelerated impact based on a faulty gene. His father, two uncles and a cousin have all been diagnosed with this and died within a year. With some new medication, Snow is now in year four.

The story is about not only his efforts to continue to be a husband, father and employee, but how his family of four deals with his illness. His wife Kelsie is the greatest of heroes as his caretaker and mother to their two kids, now eight and eleven. While he cannot move his arms, he can still walk for now and speak with difficulty. He plays with his kids who have an adult like understanding of what is going on. What is also scary is he and his wife know that there is a 50% chance of his kids getting this. Kleenex is required.

Tom and Luke Stoltman are or have been called the strongest men in the world. These two Scots are also brothers, with the younger Tom suffering from a form of autism. Yet, the older Luke became a mentor to Tom throughout his life, especially when their mother passed away with cancer. His mother asked of Luke when she died to look after Tom to which he replied “Mom, I got this.” Seeing how wonderful Luke is with Tom is beyond admirable. The affection and respect for him are visible.

Tom and his now wife noted how the regimen of working out and eating to a schedule have been very therapeutic to his autism. Autistic folks prefer rules and regulations as they offer comfort. It calms them down. So, now an autistic man is the strongest man in the world, thanks to his and his brother’s efforts. And, man are they strong just watching what they can lift with strength and agility. Keep the Kleenex box out for this one too.

The other two stories are quite meaningful as well. The Houston Astros were piloted to the baseball World Series title with Dusty Baker at the helm. He has long been considered not only a great player, but a great manager. Yet, being a championship manager has escaped the 73 year old Baker until now. What is also telling is his story travels through Atlanta where he got the opportunity to play with and befriend Henry Aaron, who fought racism to surpass Babe Ruth as the all-time home run hitter. Aaron was a man of quiet dignity, but he looked to move racial relations forward. Baker recalls being in Aaron’s house with Jesse Jackson, Congressman John Lewis, Julian Bond, among others. Seeing how they addressed issues had a calming and informing impact on the previously argumentative Baker. The segment also showed his young son who is now a major league caliber player as he played against his father. When he was four years old, as bat boy for his father’s San Francisco Giants’ team, he almost got run over by a player trying to score who scooped him up to safety.

Finally, the voice of Canadian hockey is a Punjabi Canadian man named Harnarayan Singh, who is a Sikh. Previously, Singh did play by play in Punjabi for people who spoke that language. He was so entertaining, people who could not speak the language listened in. He also invented Punjabi terms that have made it into the English speaking hockey culture, even for opposing teams. Singh has now been promoted to call the games for the network in English for the larger audience. His excitement transitions well to his English call of the games. He has a large following, but does have a few anti-immigrant haters who find fault with him. His story makes you smile as he has an infectious enthusiasm.

Four great stories. Give them a watch. “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”

We need Trump – Really?

I saw a MAGA fan of the former president holding up a sign that said “We need Trump.” My response is “really?” A person voted by over 150 presidential historians as in the bottom five as one of the worst presidents ever? I am sure this poll of historians does not make many far right’ news blips.

The rationale for such a low rating, per one of the historians who so voted, is on top of his policy decisions and making America’s standing in the world fall, his poor handling of the COVID pandemic and his role in the seditious insurrection against a branch of government pull him down. It is not a surprise that his sycophants are trying to re-write history on these two issues.

But, these two issues do not stand alone. Here are a few other things to chew on:

  • His one focus his first year was to take away people’s healthcare which would have harmed his constituents as well as other Americans. Thank goodness his efforts failed as a Republican led Congress could not come up with a suitable replacement or follow a better process to get there.
  • He decided to set aside a regulation that would require investment advisors to be fiduciaries, meaning they would be responsive to the needs of their customers first and foremost. In other words, this populist president sided with the investment sellers not the buyers. (Sidebar – investors should insist their advisors be fiduciaries).
  • He decided to place tariffs on goods and services from China and our allies, which caused rebuttal tariffs on US goods. History has shown tariffs are not very successful at their stated goals and the consumers are the ones who are punished (he consistently lied about the impact on consumers, as well). He also upset both supply and sales chains, causing buyers and sellers to take action.
  • He took credit for turning the economy around, but he inherited an economy that was in its 91st consecutive month of GDP growth, with 2 + million per annum job growth for six straight years, and a more than doubled stock market from his predecessor. It did continue on his watch, was made better by a sugar rush of a tax cut before waning  and then going into recession with the pandemic.
  • He passed a tax cut that primarily benefitted the wealthy and corporations providing some breaks for lower paid workers but punishing the middle class with caps on state and local tax deductions. This not only increased the debt by about $2 trillion per the CBO, but it only gave us a brief increase in the economy for a brief time (like a sugar rush).
  • He pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord making us a significant outlier in the fight against global warming. Note, this change was made a day after Exxon shareholders voted to require management to advise them on what they are doing to fight climate change.
  • He elevated the exposure of far right, white nationalist groups allowing them to come out in the open. One of the worst things he said after Charlottesville is there are good people on both sides normalizing oppressive behavior.

Note five of the above examples of this populist president are harmful to the broader population, including those folks who are so enamored with him. This is keeping with what I have said for many years as a former Republican, that most Republicans are voting against their economic interests have no idea they are.

I will say I do agree that he made other NATO countries start coming to the table with the agreed upon funding. Yet, his manner in so doing is off-putting as it is in so many things. But, there is not much I support that this president put in motion. Yet, when you throw his actions leading up to, during and following the insurrection, coupled with his poor handling of the pandemic, his ranking in the bottom five is well-earned.

So, do we need Trump? Certainly not in the White House.

Touring Canada and the US with my sons (a priceless reprise)

I was looking to repeat an old music post and came across this wonderful memory. It is definitely worthy of a repeat. Our musical blogging friend Clive may enjoy some of their I-phone music recommendations toward the end.

The MasterCard commercials which speak of the cost of various purchases and then conclude with something special you bought with the word “priceless” was defining my week with my two sons. Oldest Son graduated from college in early May and we decided to take the opportunity to pick up Youngest Son from a summer college term in Vermont as a good reason for a tour. So, Oldest Son and I flew into Cleveland and rented a SUV. We had an absolute ball at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is a must see, spending about four hours there listening and watching.

From Cleveland we drove into Canada through Niagara Falls to see one of the great wonders of the world. Note to US citizens, it is much better viewing from the Canadian side. From there we ventured around Lake Ontario to Toronto, which is one of the great cities on our continent. We did many tourist things, but we capped it off by attending a Second City Comedy show. This stage had been home to Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Bill Murrey, Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, Mike Myers, Tina Fey and many other comedians.

From there we ventured over to Ottawa, which is a pretty cool city as Canada’s capitol. The architecture is terrific and it has a good vibe. It is also a good walking city. And, before heading down to pick up Youngest Son, we went to Montreal where we had been before. Our trip there was brief, but for US citizens who want to experience a taste of Europe, go to Montreal and Quebec City. The architecture of the churches alone are magnificent in Montreal, but there is so much more to do and see.

Youngest Son goes to college in Burlington, VT which is a very eclectic place. It reminds me of Asheville, NC which is in my home state. Since, Youngest Son is even more eclectic than all of us, he is truly in the right place. He has a favorite tea house which is where we met him before loading up the SUV. If you picture three tall guys being attacked by boxes and luggage, that would be what we looked like in the van.

We ventured south breaking the trip into two days. We went to a wonderful hole in the wall Italian place in New Jersey for dinner and it was terrific respite. Also, we stopped at a German restaurant in the Virginia mountains appropriately named “Edelweiss.” But, the best part of the two-part journey was being with my guys. We traded puns, observed beautiful scenery and just had a great time hanging out. We had some neat conversations on a range of topics.

We went through both sons’ I-Phone music playlists which was neat. Both are very global in their tastes, so we listened to great music from a Blues artist in Israel (Dani Dorchin), a Japanese singer (Yoko Kanno) who sounds like Melissa Etheridge, several rock and roll Irish bands (The Dreadknoughts and Flogging Molly, who is actually from the US, with Irish roots), a very good heavy metal band from Australia called Wolfmother, an instrumental duo with a cellist and guitarist called Montana Skies (very unique sound), and two Scottish folk bands called Old Blind Dogs and The Silly Wizards, both of whom are excellent. We went through some bigger names with Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Billy Joel and Muddy Waters to name a few, plus many others while catching some Big Band/ Ballads from Count Basie and Benny Goodman and some classical stuff on the radio, so we covered the gamut.*

The guys loved the fact I liked hearing their music and liked a great deal of it. I had heard some of it before, but this was extra special as we had so much time to go deeper into the playlists. We had a big time and it leaves me with great memories. I get a sense they feel the same. It was definitely worth the expense as what it bought was priceless.

*By the way, my daughter has an eclectic and wide range of musical tastes as well ranging from Broadway shows to country to Frank Sinatra to pop to indie rock, et al.

Friday follies in early spring

Happy Friday all. I have a few odds and ends for your reading (hopefully) pleasure.

-Seeing these commercials where you can get your pay two days earlier got me thinking. If you do this every pay period, haven’t you just adjusted your pay day forward by two days? In other words, the move benefits you once.

-Reading where opinion hosts on a certain news network not only knew the former president’s Big Lie was false, but actually questioned management about their concerns, it shows how the gaslighting of its audience was even more calculated. It also helps make Dominion Voting Systems case against the network.

-Yet another politician has equated a government policy with the Holocaust and received push back. As I have said a number of times, the person better be talking about some pretty heinous action to make such a comparison. When done so flippantly, it shows that person’s argument should be dissected further. Name calling and labeling are not debate; they are a diversion.

-Last night in the NCAA basketball tournament, Markquis Nowell, a Kansas State player got 19 assists to lead his team to victory against Michigan State. Assists are awarded for passes that lead to a teammate scoring. Assists are the most unselfish plays on the court as the scorer gets the glory. But, it is a delight to see great passing be so effective. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird knew this, but other players could learn a lesson.

-A certain former president continues to speak of violence if he is arrested for his most recent set of offenses in court (there are more to come). He must feel this will dissuade the prosecutors or make the issue political to garner favor. As numerous reputable sources have noted, it would be politically motivated not to charge him with his alleged crimes. It should be noted last summer his company was convicted of tax fraud and fined $1.6 million and while president, he settled a case against his Foundation and had to repay, ironically, $1.6 million back that he used for his own purposes, before the Foundation was terminated and monies distributed to charities per the bylaws. So, being charged with crimes is not new nor will it grow old with what is coming down the pike.

-Comparing the last two stories frames a larger issue. On one hand, you have a player who wants his team to win and passes the ball unselfishly to others. On the other hand, you have a politician who wants personal glory – he wants to score – and his team (country) benefitting is secondary to that goal. As his niece said after he lost the November, 2020 election, her uncle will burn it all down to avoid losing the election. That is not leadership; it is narcissism.

There’s a lot of “money” in songs – a reprise

Since we’ve been talking about a predatory industry that wants to tie up your money with them for the rest of your life and your heirs’ lives if you will it to them, here is a fun post about money in songs, I posted five years ago.

After hearing me sing (of course singing is kind) a few lyrics to “Money,” by Pink Floyd, my daughter suggested a post on songs with “money” in the title. The song begins with a cash register ringing up sales, then proceeds with a well-known base guitar lick. Here are the first few lines:

“Money, get away
Get a good job with good pay and you’re okay
Money, it’s a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash”

I think the most famous money song is by The O’Jays called “For the love of money.” It is based on the biblical verse from Timothy, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” The song starts with the words “Money, money, money, money…money,” Then they repeat it five more times before heading into the gist of the song. Here is a verse late in the song:

“I know money is the root of all evil
Do funny things to some people
Give me a nickel, brother can you spare a dime
Money can drive some people out of their minds”

Another favorite is courtesy of Donna Summer. “She works hard for the money,” is a pulsating disco song that she is known for, but this one has more meaningful lyrics like this one:

“It’s a sacrifice working day to day
For little money just tips for pay
But it’s worth it all
To hear them say that they care”

Shifting gears to rock-n-roll, an early Dire Straits song poked fun at MTV with “Money for nothing.” Mark Knopfler was joined on this song with a haunting harmony from Sting. In essence, it is hard-working people wishing they were MTV singing stars as they lament without realizing the hard work and dues they had to pay:

“Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Lemme tell ya them guys ain’t dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb.”

Two other songs about money are worth mentioning. AC/DC sang of money in “Money talks” and Notorious B.I.G. rapped on about “Mo money, mo problems.” The former speaks of how popular one is with money noting all the things they can buy, while the latter speaks to how that popularity causes more problems with folks coming out of the woodwork asking for some.

Let me close with a song which comes from the play and movie “Cabaret.” It is quite the comical farce and force in the play with a title similar to that of Pink Floyd’s, “Money.” Here is a sample:

“Money makes the world go around
The world go around
The world go around
Money makes the world go around
It makes the world go ’round.”

Money is needed to provide a roof over our heads and feed and clothe our children. These songs look at its acquisition and power from a variety of views. From the documentary movie “I AM,” the key lesson is money cannot make you happy, but the absence of money can make you unhappy. That sums it up nicely.

Wednesday walkabout with John Oliver this early spring day

Armed with generic Flonase spray and a Cetrizine tablet, I am ready to brave the pollen and get outdoors. I am hoping we get the promised spring shower this morning to cleanse the air of that nasty stuff. As I walk, here are few random thoughts I will be thinking about.

-On John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” show this past Sunday, he had two pieces that were quite illuminating. Like Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show,” Oliver’s show is a comedic news show, but one that does its homework. It is actually far more informative than many pseudo-news shows that are on the air and far more accurate than any of the well-known opinion hosts could offer, as he deals in facts amid the humor.

-Oliver first focused on the troubled Silicon Valley Bank, who decided to fail Banking 101 and mismanage risk causing a run on the bank. Yet, what was comical is to see Oliver show how four separate Fox News opinion hosts told their audience that the bank’s failure was due to its “wokeness.” These opinion hosts even referenced it as the “woke bank.” Oliver had a field day making fun of this inanity. One banking analyst responded to these absurd accusations by saying “that is like saying the color blue is the answer to 1+1.”

-Oliver’s larger piece on the show was around the predatory time share industry and its surrounding permutations. This is where you buy a set week of vacation at a resort or a week of points at multiple resorts which last a lifetime and even beyond. One telling thing is time share contracts have a clause which one attorney called a “license for the sales agent to lie clause” where the company says they are not responsible for anything the agent says. The industry is built around not just the initial sale, but the maintenance fees and upgraded contracts that give you more access. And, they focus on a key word in the contract – perpetuity meaning they make it quite difficult to get out of.

-What I found interesting as well, is the number of fly-by-night time share exit companies that are also predatory. These folks sell you on an upfront fee to get you out of your time share or sell it if they cannot. These companies sound convincing, but many close up shop and set up one under a new name. If they are around too long they get sued for malfeasance. Yes, they are too good to be true.

-So, the key take away per Oliver is DON’T BUY A TIME SHARE and warn anyone you know who is considering one. This truly is the best and maybe only defense against this predatory industry. And, if you are willed a time share, you need to move quickly to say in writing you do not want it or you get on the hook. Some states have a time limit on your ability to do this.

Fortunately, my wife and I never did bite on the offers to sell us time shares. I feel for those who have as it sounds like they were running uphill against this industry.