The tiny islet of Riddarholmen, home to a 13th-century church full of entombed Swedish royalty, is an oasis of dead calm in cosmopolitan Stockholm, an odd place to witness the relaunch of an international phenomenon. But it happens to host the headquarters of Norstedts, the publisher of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy (80 million copies strong) and its new sequel, known Stateside as The Girl in the Spider’s Web, written posthumously by a different writer, David Lagercrantz.

“We have had journalists all over the world to come and hear the story about Stieg Larsson and his books,” editor-in-chief Eva Gedin said at the start of Wednesday morning’s press conference. “Tourists have made pilgrimages to some of those places in which his books take place … It has been eleven years since we published the first book in Sweden, and we felt that the time was right for a continuation.”

It’s also been ten years since Larsson died of a heart attack at age 50, soon after signing his book contract, leaving his estate by default to his distant father and brother, and excluding — by law — his partner of 32 years, Eva Gabrielsson, who has fought the family ever since. It seems on the surface an all-too-familiar conflict — a fight for the right to print money off the name of the deceased — but the real quarry is capital of the intellectual kind. It’s a public argument over who has the knowledge, acumen, and integrity to manage a famous author’s estate — not to mention the characters, plotlines, and political messages that run through Larsson’s darkly moralistic books.

In other words, it's just another fraud. I hope someone makes a lot of money off of it, because this is the sort of well that runs dry fast. And I love how every article makes Eva Gabrielsson out to be the bad person in all of this. She's saying "stop robbing from Stieg Larsson's legacy" and, of course, everyone else is saying, "let's wring more blood out of the stone."

The Luckiest Kid in the World


A Taiwanese boy on Sunday punched a hole in an extremely valuable Paolo Porpora painting at a Taipei exhibition after apparently tripping and trying to catch his balance on the artwork, according to the surveillance tape provided by the organizers on Monday.

The 12-year-old boy may have gotten lucky, however, because the organizers will not ask the boy's family to pay for the cost of restoring the damaged painting, displayed as part of "The Face of Leonardo, Images of a Genius" exhibition at Huashan 1914 Creative Park.

According to Sun Chi-hsuan (孫紀璿), the head of exhibition co-organizer TST Art of Discovery Co. (京銓藝術), the 200-centimeter tall painting is around 350 years old and valued at over NT$50 million (US$1.5 million).

Was the painting insured? If so, calm down everyone.

Jonathan Franzen Pisses People Off

Oh, the things you find out when you notice how many people are unhappy when a Jonathan Franzen novel drops:

Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Purity, is partly set in Santa Cruz, a Californian town 70 miles south of San Francisco, where the novelist lives with his partner, Kathy. Their house is in the U-bend of a crescent, on the edge of a suburban housing estate, overlooking a wooded conservation area to the Pacific Ocean beyond. It is, for one of America’s foremost literary novelists, a modest property, overlooked on three sides by neighbours in a way that, say, Philip Roth’s grand pile in Connecticut is not. However, it affords good views from the deck (the novelist is an avid birdwatcher) and the low overheads that permit Franzen to let five years go by without delivering a novel. “I’m not used to talking about this book,” he says of Purity, which, like his preceding two novels, is a 600-page doorstopper. There is a long, Franzonian pause: “I’m trying to figure out how much I should say and how much I should not say.”

That question, as central to the writing as to the publicising of the novel, is one that Franzen has frequently struggled to answer. At 55, he has the earnest, slightly puggish look of a younger man, and the occasional intemperance of one, too. On a refresher driving test he took recently, the novelist scored high on the scale for susceptibility to road rage. (“There are 11 things that are warning signs of road rage, and I had, like, nine of them.”) His fame has as much to do with the fights he has picked – or has had foisted upon him – as with the quality of his fiction; Franzen riles people in a way that is unusual, and perhaps reassuring for a novelist, given the endless debate about the relevance of that role. He has attracted the scorn, over the years, of users of social media, environmentalists, certain stripes of feminist critic, lesser novelists, the lead book reviewer of the New York Timesand fans of Oprah Winfrey.

Franzen just wasn't made for these times. His fish out of water and innocent bystander schtick is old hat and I can't imagine people have gotten over their love of having their own fears confirmed for them. They want to use Franzen as a shield against having to understand why they, themselves, don't want to put anything out there (the fear is driven by the fact that they are boring and racist and everyone knows it, and they're especially afraid that the NSA might have a database of all the things they've said about the black people who appear in their neighborhood).

These are the times that allow people to express themselves and not be shut out by gatekeepers. This is an example of that:

Franzen’s Guardian interview prompted swift response from writer Jennifer Weiner, who in a series of tweets, said: “Frantzen believes he’s locked in a no-win situation, he promotes women writers! And still we hate! ‘Because a villain is needed.’ WELL.”
— Jennifer Weiner (@jenniferweiner)August 21, 2015

3. Franzen believes he's locked in a no-win situation. He promotes women writers! And still we hate! "Because a villain is needed." WELL.

She continued: “Yes, Franzen promotes women writers, in the New Yorker, and elsewhere. (Not on social media, though – which might help their books sell).”

She accused him of hating her “without, of course, deigning to read a word I’ve written”.
— Jennifer Weiner (@jenniferweiner)August 21, 2015

8. Instead, who does Franzen hate? @jodipicoult. Oprah. @michikokakutani. Me. (Without, of course, deigning to read a word I've written).

She added: “Then he whines, ‘It’s like there’s no way to make myself not male.’ Well. We don’t want Franzen unmanned. Just not Franzen unfair. Fin.”
— Jennifer Weiner (@jenniferweiner)August 21, 2015

10. Then he whines, "It’s like there’s no way to make myself not male.” Well. We don't want Franzen unmanned. Just not Franzen unfair. Fin.

Purity, which is out on 1 September and which sees the young Pip Tyler becoming involved with a Julian Assange-like leader of a rival to WikiLeaks, takes on another bete noire of Franzen’s: the internet. The author has previously said he does not go online when writing, and has described Twitter as “unspeakably irritating”.

Yay. Sounds like a winner.

Another Thing Ruined by Steve Martin

But the worst of it is Vinnie—who, as played by the decidedly not-Italian Martin,spends the film effecting an accent that is 80 percent Don Corleone, 15 percentArthur Fonzarelli, and 5 percent Super Mario Brother. He utters lines like “a-RU-gala—it’s a VEG-e-tab-le.” He sports a sharkskin suit that he wears while mowing his suburban lawn. He also sports a hairdo that suggests a closer-cropped, grayer-scaled version of the ones preferred by Troll dolls. The whole effect, a contemporary review of the movie put it, is of “a comedy-sketch mutant—a WASP soaked in garlic.”

Actually, I don't care. But anyone who tells you that Steve Martin is a "movie star" is lying through their teeth and probably doesn't even realize that the lowly Chevy Chase had a better run, but not by much. Martin was rarely good in anything, and great in perhaps two films. Everything else was forgettable and ended up in the remainder bins of American movie rental stores. He doesn't have a Stripes or a Mrs. Doubtfire or aBeverly Hills Cop or a Raising Arizona on his resume. He doesn't even have a Turner and Hooch.

This is a Stretch For George Lopez

It looks like George Lopez will once again get paid for playing a fictionalized version of himself as The Hollywood Reporter reports that he’ll star in and produce a comedy series based in part on his life for TV Land. The series has already been picked up for 12 episodes and will debut in 2016.

The show is called Lopez and will feature Lopez as “America’s most successful Hispanic-American comedian” who will find some way to mine his rags-to-riches life story for comedy. Lopez will reportedly show Lopez straddling two very different worlds: the rich-people-in-Hollywood one and that of his working-class background. These class differences will mostly be played for laughs, so expect to see Lopez muttering in Spanglish over the indignity of being asked to valet someone’s car at his own movie premiere or something.

Lopez, who played a Mexican-American character named George on The George Lopez Show and Saint George, was reportedly selected for his own series by TV Land execs because he is “constantly reinventing himself.” At least the network has put together a veritable comedy brain trust to helm the show: It will be written bySilicon Valley co-creators John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, who will also executive produce along with Lopez, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Tony Rotenberg, and Arrested Development’s Troy Miller.

Here's a great role for George Lopez--anybody but himself. He could play a florist, a dentist, or a drag queen who dresses up in body armor and fights gun nuts. He could do a show about running a winery in the middle of nowhere and it would still be more interesting than trying to do another show about a blue collar guy trying to negotiate the world.

If ever there was a time on television to try something innovative and interesting, it's now.

Fiction on Television

[...] Clarity is an overrated component of storytelling. James Ellroy’s The Big Nowhere, Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, and David Peace’s Nineteen Seventy-Seven are three of my favorite crime novels, and I don’t think I could explain their plots with a gun to my head.

What matters in crime fiction is feeling. It’s attitude, atmosphere, dialogue, mood. It’s the idea of one or more individuals going up against institutions of great power. It’s the idea that the underworld exists, right in front of you, all the time, and you just have to look.

For all the smoky bars, midcentury modern houses, poker rooms, and trips up north, True Detective’s second season had no sense of place. Somehow they set a crime show in Los Angeles and made Los Angeles seem boring. This was a failure of writing, which relied too often on telling and not showing, and it was a failure of the revolving door of directors behind the camera.

You know what show does have a sense of place? The Walking Dead. That's a show that puts you in a place where you have to know the characters and know where they are living before you can fully comprehend the horror of what they face on a day to day basis. This is as much about good storytelling as it is about something more basic--the budget for a season of scripted television.

On TWD, we've seen the following seasons and the following places: the gravel quarry and the horrors of urban Atlanta. Herschel's farm. The prison and Woodbury. Terminus and the road. Alexandria. Think about those settings--they're all firmly embedded into the psyche of the viewer because they are heavy with meaning.

You will never forget that quarry and the hasty camp where everyone gathers around their tents and Dale's Winnebago. The forays into Atlanta and the final attack on the camp, which forces them to abandon the people buried there and take to the road demonstrate a command of place that you just can't expect out of a six episode first season. This use of rural settings would really come to fruition when they discovered Herschel's farm in Season Two.

What I remember about the farm is that it was a set that featured an amazing house and sweeping fields and vistas. The survivors had normalcy there, even though they camped a ways away from the house and went on a series of dangerous forays into the communities around it. There were so many indelible scenes, especially with the well and the barn that took the familiar and made them horrifying. This is what would have been of great benefit to True Detective Season 2--an established sense of place that would combine familiarity and depravity.

Seasons three and four of The Walking Dead used the prison setting as an anchor and that made budgetary sense. They could film outdoors and indoors and use sets that were spare and full of recurring themes. The tombs within the prison were full of caged walkers and could be opened up when needed. When Rick Grimes spends an episode or two at the end of his wits, the black rotary phone becomes a finale callback for Merle, who grabs the unhooked, dead phone and takes it with him, tormented by the same demons. These simple elements could have been used in other forms when telling a crime drama about Southern California.

Now we've seen Terminus, the church, the road, the barn, and Alexandria. These are all elements which inform the storytelling and have become vastly more complex due to the fact that the show is more successful. The simple outdoor setting has morphed into an actual walled development of high-end energy sustainable homes. Virtually every show on television could benefit from understanding the importance of place, setting, and physical location as it relates to how the stories are being told on The Walking Dead.

Everything I've discussed would be a boring, no-frills set anywhere else. These sets provided a place where clarity could happen in the story while leaving a great deal of ambiguity about what lay ahead. These sets were all of the basic elements found in suburban Atlanta and rural Georgia--hardly the kind of thing you'd see on network television, if at all. And yet there have only been a few "boring" detours during the long history of The Walking Dead. Sometimes, the boring places work better than expected in terms of telling the story and keeping the viewers interested.

Remember When it Was Tracy Morgan's Fault?

Yeah, it was totally Tracy Morgan's fault that the driver who plowed into his vehicle was awake for 28 hours because Wal-Mart demands absolute fealty to maximum profits over all other considerations. I'm surprised that their lawyers didn't wring a few million out of Morgan in the process of suing him for almost dying when their driver crashed into him.

Everyone Got it Wrong

A lot of people were wrong about Jon Stewart. At the top of the list would be the man himself:

My own contribution to the history of Jon Stewart’s tenure at The Daily Show is small and ignominious: I trashed his first show.

A web publication that no longer exists had assigned me to write about the new guy taking over from the plasticine, frat-boy finger-puller Craig Kilborn. I had enjoyed Kilborn’s version of the show: solid if not deep, primarily an extended satire of shiny local news kabuki. It poked at the conventions of news shows via Kilborn’s own mundane good looks and laconic sarcasm. He was a younger Kent Brockman, not too far removed from the kind of broad in-joking of theSportsCenter anchor he had once been. His lazy self-confidence was part of the setup, underscoring the tuneless Dadaism of television segues—how viewers are led from tragedy to sports to weather by the same content Sherpa, who never breaks character and always knows what to say next.

Stewart didn’t just seem hapless and overwhelmed by contrast, he declared almost crippling self-awareness from the start: “I feel like this is my bar mitzvah,” he told guest Michael J. Fox. Wearing a suit, said Stewart, gave him “a rash like you would not believe.” Fox responded: “The words ‘ill-fitting’ come to mind.”

At the time, I didn’t object to Stewart’s cringe-worthy meta-commentary so much as feel like it ruined the joke: You can’t satirize the forced smoothness of Eye on Omaha (or the CBS Evening News, for that matter) if you keep drawing attention your own rough edges. Kilborn was a news anchor as Ken doll. Stewart was merely human.

It would be condescending not to mention that the writing on the show exceeded all expectations and created much of the moral authority of the show by assembling facts that would run counter to the "conventional wisdom" of a lazy pundit class.

And here's the thing--to this day, nobody really watches Comedy Central--they watch the videos that proliferate and get shared on the Internet. Comedy Central creates snippets of content and tries to survive with ads. All Stewart has done since day one is deliver and embody the material written for him, and that's largely evident in the book that changed his career trajectory. People had to take him seriously because the country was in terrible shape in the mid-2000s.

Until he ended up on the Daily Show, Stewart was bounced from job to job, trying to land something substantive in a television climate that didn't care about substance. This was the post-grunge nihilist America of the late 1990s. We had so much peace and prosperity back then, the very real threat of a presidential blowjob made people sad and cry a lot.

When these same people saw the horrorshow of Iraq, they reached their moment of zen--a moment of clarity, if you will--and they realized, oh, you really can fuck up the country and turn things into a shit sandwich. The relative ease of living in the 1990s meant that our wars of choice were exactly what we thought they were--terrible, terrible choices made by equally unsavory and incompetent fools. They were all among us, the shitheels were in charge, and their control of the media narrative required some counterweight.

Stewart was the brief counterweight, and his impact on the people who write for the media and comment on blogs was much greater than on the population as a whole, due to the low ratings enjoyed by Comedy Central. The Internet minimized the handicap of being on basic cable, of course, and that's why everyone will have warm and fuzzy memories of a show they really didn't watch.

How would you like to be Craig Kilborn? Someone should go stand in his driveway and ask him how it feels to know that the guy who took his most prominent gig in show business ended up a national treasure. That's the real takeaway here--how is it that Kilborn blew his chance to be the Jon Stewart who will be ushered off stage like a saint and a genius?

Kelly Osbourne Just Talked Herself Out of a Job

I guess there could have been one or two things she could have said that would have been worse:

[...] Kelly Osbourne was a guest host on The View this morning. Like every time she goes on TV, Kelly offered a lot of useful insight to the discuss—just kidding. During a conversation about Donald Trump, she confidently vomited up a racist comment about Latinos and then insisted she did not mean it “like that.”

In an attempt to scold Trump for his own racist comments about Mexican immigrants being “rapists,” Kelly idiotically offered a different generalized view of this group of people: they’re good at cleaning bathrooms! She explained: “If you kick every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet, Donald Trump?”

Let us be fair to poor Kelly--her Mexicans clean her toilets only because she pays them a living wage. What you do with your Mexicans in Hollywood is your business and she certainly did not mean to suggest that the handful of celebrities who manhandle and bamboozle their Mexicans are doing the Lord's work to enrich their lives. Kelly should feel comfortable enough to share her opinions and put her foot in her mouth.  She is setting herself up to be a stern advocate of making quite certain that everyone's Mexican is adequately paid for menial work. Of course she didn't mean it the bad way, even though it came out of her mouth in the bad way as if on purpose and through a great deal of rehearsal.

Does she have a job anymore? Does she need one? Someone out to think about that for a moment.

Yeah, He Should Lose His Gig For This

Here’s an almost foolproof way to tell if someone has just said something wildly clueless and offensive: It’s followed it up with a defense that it was meant to beflattery. So when Atlanta’s Rock 100.5′s morning host Jason Bailey says that “People should be appreciative when they get complimented,” you can rest assured that what preceded that statement was not in fact a compliment.

Last week, members of the cast of “Fantastic Four” dropped by the studio for an interview that rivals Cara Delevingne’s tense tussle with “Good Day Sacramento” on the awkwardness scale. Steven J. Rickman — known to listeners as Southside Steve — didn’t win points with the cast when he boggled over the “obvious” question of how white Kate Mara and African American Michael B. Jordan could play brother and sister. It got worse when he switched to focusing on current Mara’s short haircut, telling her, “You’re way, way hot. Why’d you cut the hair? Your hair was beautiful,” and expressing his hope that “You’re going to grow your hair back.” When Mara seemed uncomfortable, he deflected by explaining, “I’m a toe guy; your toes are fine.”Mara responded with a terse, “Wow.”

None of that is even remotely defensible. If you can't conduct yourself in an interview like you actually know how to be a broadcaster, go sell used cars and put your charm to better use. And I think it's safe to say that movie and television people are going to start negotiating themselves out of press junkets. Who can blame them?