Just some things I like today…
by Grant Snider, from here.
Also, this: Literary Fiction is a genre: A list.
After this: 60 posts to go.
The end looms large, but is still a ways away and down the road a bit. But I kind of wanted to look back a little, month by month, at this blog. Maybe not every single month, but most, if I can. I guess I’m getting reacquainted with what I’m saying goodbye to? Or maybe in the back of my mind I’m always remembering that you have to put the chairs up before you turn the lights off and go home…
09/01/09: “The House Of Mice/Ideas,” by yours truly: This was back when it was announced that Disney had bought Marvel comics. Such a weird idea at the time, the idea of a mash up between your favorite comic book characters and your favorite Disney characters, or the concern that a certain “family friendly” and “neutered” aesthetic might bleed over into the monthly tales of your friendly neighborhood super powered costume fetishists.
Also, a chance to share links! I like sharing links. I like sharing a little bit of what I’m reading with anyone who might give an inkling of a shit.
The thing about the links posts is that I don’t claim to always endorse those links, their content, or their authors. I’m not saying, “I read this and I loved it and now you must read it and fall in love with it!” Hardly. Half the time when I would post these “mad linkage” posts, I had not read some of these stories I’ve linked to… yet. They were place holders, something easy for me to get back to and read later. Counterforce is and was my portal to the internet, just as I had hoped it would be for you as well.
09/01/09: “Apocalypse Please“ by Benjamin Light: I like this post. Usually Benjie trucks primarily in words, and yet I think he sets up a nice mood with a preamble of pictures of doom and destruction. As he’ll eventually say in the text bits, there’s a collective mood there, a seductive one of embracing the end (though not necessarily being consumed by it), that I think is somewhat universal.
09/02/09: “Humans Being“ by yours truly and “Lollipop Gomez,” otherwise known as the immensely talented Maria Diaz: This is us getting down and dirty and talking about the sexualized fascination and symbiotic relationship between man and machine, or whoa!-man and machine. In other news, (hu)mankind doesn’t want to just rise up and meet the approaching Singularity, we want to have sex with it. That’s either how we understand things, or how we go about not having to understand things.
In case you’re wondering, this is pretty much what it was like whenever Maria and I would talk. Pretty much every one of our continuing gmail/gchat conversations would be like this, and some nights we were just “on” more than others. I think about halfway through some of those conversations we realized that we were going to save this conversation and post it online somewhere. So perhaps during the second half we’re performing a little more. Posts with Maria were always some of my favorite because they were less about writing, and more about just being, and us bullshitting and having fun, which lead to some of the writing I most enjoyed reading.
09/03/09: “Between The Covers“ by Occam Razor, Maria Diaz, and Conrad Noir: We never did a lot of big group posts like other blogs and websites, but I think this was an interesting one, especially since it’s such a funny idea, the writers of Counterforce talking about summer reading selections. Perhaps because we’re so outside the norm of what other people on the internet would talk about for their summer reading, perhaps that’s why I like it so much.
Plus, it’s always nice to see anything from Occam Razor and Conrad Noir. Those guys are awesome. Looking back, the original title for this post should’ve been “The Pimp Game, Globalization, and Revolting Youth.” I don’t know. Something like that.
09/04/09: “F Is For Friday,” by me: Orson Welles’ F For Fake is a great movie. Half documentary, half essay, and an extra one half magic trick. What else needs to be said?
09/05/09: “Super Secret Smile Saturdays“ by myself: Labor Day weekend, links, and a lot of videos. This is kinda sorta what my average internet browsing probably looks like when I’m pretty substantially bored.
09/06/09: “1960s Dance Party“ by Conrad Noir: This is before I got Conrad hooked on Mad Men. I think this GIF perfectly represented what he saw whenever he saw people gushing about the show online.
09/07/09: “Why, yes, you should receive a Victory Medal for beating the clap,” by myself: So weird to read this now. Not just because it’s old, but because it’s from a different time in Mad Men. The new status quo on Mad Men is so ingrained in me now, I guess, that it’s weird to time travel further back into the 60s and see Don and Betty still married, dealing with the trials and tribulations of their lives together, etc.
Also, I always enjoyed doing the Mad Men posts with August Bravo. It certainly kept me more on focus, I think, and made me ramble less, maybe. He would’ve been involved with this one, but he didn’t heed certain advice, moved to Manhattan, and got raped by some sailors, or something.
09/08/09: “The Kids Of America“ by myself: The Republicans were being dicks to Obama, trying to deny him even the most rudimentary respect deserved by his being our elected President of these United States. Funny how few things change. Stay classy, Republicans. Keep celebrating the fundamental lack of education within your party.
09/09/09: “09/09/09“ by myself: It doesn’t take much to amuse me, I tell ya.
09/10/09: “In my younger and more vulnerable years…” by myself: The Great Gatsby really is a great book, and truly one of the Great American Novels. I used to despise it because it was too simple, too easy, such a perfect textbook for a high school class, but now I suspect that’s part of its charm. I used to think the movie starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow was incredibly boring, but now I’m dreading the new one with DiCaprio and Sally Sparrow and the Peter Parker I’m hoping we can all forget about. At least it’ll be in 3D, as if that mattered.
09/11/09: “The Food chain“ by Benjamin Light: LOL.
09/11/09: “NEVAR FORGET“ by yours truly: Well…
09/13/09: “Bloodletting“ by myself: Just a nice reminder, I think, of how good the first two seasons of True Blood were. That’s not to say that the subsequent seasons have been terrible, because they haven’t, but the first two seasons were just excellent, I thought. Just a perfect balance between the human and the supernatural, between comedy and horror, between mystery and romance, between the darkness and the light.
09/14/09: “RIP Patrick Swayze“ by myself: Seriously. RIP Patrick Swayze. I’m going to go watch Road House again.
09/14/09: “Are you aware of the number of handjobs I’m gonna have to give“ by August Bravo and myself: Once someone says “hand jobs,” then BOOM, there’s August Bravo, suddenly out of nowhere.
Looking back, this was a very interesting episode of Mad Men, the biggest aspect being the birth of baby Gene Draper, but there was so much more going on there. Both in the episode and in our writing about it, talking about Kanye, for example, and for me finally realizing how truly amazing Alison Brie was.
09/15/09: “The Development Of Strange Things“ by myself: I like Harper’s magazine. I like it a lot. But I especially like the “Findings” section at the end, as you may have noticed here on Counterforce time and again.
* * *
Months are longer than we think, especially since we posted something every single day of September, 2009 except for one, so let’s take a break here and resume this after a…
TO BE CONTINUED!
But neither did you. And neither did a large chunk of the rest of North America.
I saw it today though, two weeks (perhaps?) or so into its run.
CON: It’s long. Not super long, no, but they could’ve cut about twenty minutes or so down and it would’ve felt like a sharper bullet fired at the audience (in the hopes of making a trilogy-sized wound?).
A somewhat similarly related CON: Another light breeze through the script could’ve helped. Michael Chabon does a decent job, definitely, but they should’ve brought in a seasoned script doctor (like Joss Whedon from the late 90s) and let them punch up the dialogue a little more, toss in a few more one liners.
Neither a PRO, nor a CON: It’s just funny to see McNulty in this movie. Does he only play incredibly sleazy bad dudes in his film work? I would’ve killed for a “What the fuck did I do?”
Also, neither a PRO, nor a CON: Ciarán Hinds and James Purefoy, reunited. Interesting. I wanted to scream, “CAESAR, LOOK OUT!” Purefoy’s only in the movie for about five and a half minutes, but he’s the only character really having a lot of fun, it seemed like. Which is weird because, at the same time, given the kind of characters that Purefoy usually plays, or doesn’t, I felt like he was ready and willing to take over Dominic West’s role in a heartbeat should he have felt ill or something.
Related, but neither a PRO or a CON: You really could’ve unleashed this story as an HBO show, especially in light of success with properties like A Song Of Ice And Fire on HBO and Spartacus on Starz. Everything seen here in this movie would’ve made for a very strong first season.
I remember going into the theater to see the last Mission: Impossible film, humorously subtitled Ghost Protocol, with no real expectations at all, mostly because the trailers and advertising were so sub par. Obviously I liked The Incredibles and Brad Bird’s talent there was undeniable, but there was no real clear indication in the advertising for Ghost Protocol as to what that would look like in Bird’s live action debut.
Long story short, Ghost Protocol was good. A real solid, fun popcorn flick. Definitely worth watching. I walked out of that thinking that, rather than jerking us or themselves around, Tom Cruise and J. J. Abrams and their associates might as well just lock Brad Bird down for another Mission: Impossible film. Will they? Who knows. Probably not. He’ll probably return as a “producer,” but they should.
PRO (continued): A little of that though, that ambivalence, is why I just wasn’t jazzed to see John Carter. I read more good reviews than negative ones, but nothing in that trailer was making my cock stand up, you know what I mean? I mean, I’ll probably go and see The Hunger Games, and I’ll most likely hate it and curse Gary Ross’ name in the dark, but I’ll see it out of obligation. The flat out suck is more than apparent already in The Hunger Games‘ trailers. I’m going to go out on a limb and say right now that Gary Ross will probably have spent more time obsessing over weird costume designs and facial hair and shit than developing strong stories, interesting action sequences, or interesting characterizations.
The difference between that instance and the one I’m somewhat talking about here in this post is simple: Gary Ross is a fucking hack and Andrew Stanton is the real deal.
Spoiler for all The CONS listed in this post: The marketing and advertising for this movie is fucking terrible and all the blame for the film’s poor Box Office performance should reside squarely on their shoulders.
PRO: There’s about ten minutes of this film set in the Old West, and every bit of it was more exciting than the entirety of Cowboys And Aliens. I’m very glad that Jon Favreau got shown the door from this production.
PRO: You get the sense that Stanton gets film, gets how it should flow and feel, especially the big popcorn munching blockbuster, in a way that can only be viewed in another modern filmmaker in the likes of someone like the aforementioned J. J. Abrams. Their style is original, using the tools of today, but it also feels like a respectful homage to a 70s style as well, something from George Lucas or Spielberg. I don’t say that in a bad way though. They’re not like the average Tarantino beast, inserting 13% original creativity into a mutant wearing a t-shirt that says “BIG SLOPPY HOMAGE” on it. But I feel like Super 8 was just Abrams addressing the fact that he knew what he was doing, where his style was born. I feel like John Carter is doing that too, but in a much more quiet voice.
Tons of them, in fact: Starting with cutting this film down a little bit, not in the editing room, but at the drawing board stage, just tightening some things up, some of the chases and what have you, and punching up some of the dialogue. Some diversification of the character designs, especially the warring civilizations, and primarily the “red people,” the humanoids from the warring city-states. There should’ve been a mindset in place for the fact that this movie should be for KIDS, and also adults who accompany them. And more of a mindset than just slapping the tiny little Disney logo on top of the posters.
PRO: Taylor Kitsch doesn’t seem like a very interesting entity to be pushing upon filmgoers, but I guess I like him better than Sam Worthington. That said, Kitsch (Sorry, that’s a terrible last name for an actor) does a fine job in this film, but the rest of its cast is fascinatingly seasoned:
Lynne Collins as Dejah Thoris, as well as Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, David Schwimmer, and Art Malik are in there with the aforementioned Hinds, Purefoy, Polly Walker, and Dominic West. And with a cameo by Jon Favreau. And thankfully no cameos whatsoever by Harry Knowles (taking the cheapest of shots here: we would’ve needed something a little bigger than IMAX for that).
Taking a smart note from the original Star Wars there is that you have a unique mixture of British pedigree there, all chewing on that Martian scenery.
CON: The shortened title. I get Stanton’s reasoning, that this film is about John Carter becoming of Mars. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah blah. But still. I don’t know how many Tarzan and/or John Carter and/or lovers of old pulpy sci fi were out there, horny with desire at the thought of this finally coming to the big screen, but still. The OF MARS at the end of the title would’ve really clued you into something going on there. Something different. Simply titling the film John Carter tells me one thing about this movie: I don’t know what this is. Is it a film about a high school basketball coach who applies tough love to his students? Is it about a guy who starts his own company and starts a relationship with a receptionist and also has cancer? Is this a lawyer and/or a doctor flick?
CON, continuing: Leaving the “Of Mars” at the end of the title should’ve lit a fire under the advertising people’s asses too. And perhaps the production design as well. No one on this production should’ve been afraid to go weird here. Obviously they weren’t too precious about the original source material (who is these days?)(other than the people adapting Game Of Thrones), which is fine, because there was nothing too precious in Burroughs’ source material, but there should’ve been some steps outside of the box.
I like Lynn Collins, and I’m glad with how they reinvented her character for this story. The original idea of Dejah Thoris in the books seems like a castoff wet dream from Robert E. Howard’s Conan tales, and can rightfully belong in the wet dream and basement apartments of fan boys. This is the real world. “Tits” and “Ridiculous nudity” are not character qualities.
The princess of Mars, by Bruce Timm, from here.
Sorry, CON, continued: There should’ve been more steps outside the box in every aspect of this film’s production, really.
There’s no denying that filmmaking has gotten so much lazier since the late 90s, but that goes hand in hand with how much lazier advertising these films has gotten since then. And yet, the advertising budgets for studios is getting bigger and bigger, going through the roof, even when they’re seemingly returning less and less profits. The budget for John Carter is supposedly $250 million dollars, which really means that it’s total budget with the marketing is, what, a minimum of $350 million? Ugh. I’m sure they’ll make that back, but not quickly enough.
But I guess you could say that the film was doomed by the time its first teaser was released.
CON, still continuing, becoming more and more of a bitch session about modern movie marketing and more of a circle jerk over the original Star Wars: The beauty of the original Star Wars as that, to then modern cinema-going audience, it was new. Sure, all that Joseph Campbell shit was old, but they didn’t know that, not consciously. All the fat little nerds weren’t sitting in movie theater lines in 1977 waxing poetic over the hero’s journey. No, they wanted to see a good story and some cool shit, and the film fucking delivered. George Lucas took stuff from primal storytelling archetypes and he took a little from classic pulpy sci fi and he managed to remix it into a very new style.
I’m guess I’m telling you that John Carter has a little of that (but not enough). I guess I’m telling you that we desperately need more of that. We need that potential and we need marketing that delivers the suggestion of a little of that to audiences.
PRO: Again, the movie just solid, and fun. Not perfect. Not a home run, but better than a lot of the shit that you could end up seeing in theaters these days. I’m going on and on about the sins of films these days and how they’re slaves to the advertising departments, but the thing I really want you to take from this is that John Carter is a pretty good movie, even if the trailer would’ve lead you to that assumption, or to any kind of assumption of what kind of movie it is.
One last CON: The ending. It ends somewhat ambiguously, but in a happy way. It wraps this story up in a way that works, even if it means that there will never be a sequel, which could very well be the case. I was somewhat reminded of the adaptation of The Golden Compass from a few years ago, which was not great. I’m a huge lover of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, of which The Golden Compass was the first entry, and I was ready to forgive a lot of the sins of that film adaptation, of which there were so fucking many, but the one I could never forgive was that they cut off the last thirty pages’ worth of the story’s ending, which they had filmed, with the intention of moving it to the beginning of the proposed sequel, which never happened.
And they did that because I guess they were afraid to end the film on a slightly downer of a cliffhanger. The fools. They needed that cliffhanger so badly. And The Golden Compass was edited like they weren’t expecting to be filming the follow up any time ever, so why not go for broke?
I’m not saying that John Carter needed to do that. They could’ve though. Rather than tying up the one last lingering plot point, such as they did, they could’ve thrown a mystery into your face. That’s another lesson Star Wars that a lot of the so called modern myth makers seem to not see: If you want to have a nice, large tapestry, it better have a lot of complex threads in it, any one of which could produce an interesting story. You walked out of A New Hope not quite sure of what was going on with that Darth Vader dude, or Luke’s dad, but you knew there would be an interesting story there if someone ever brought the story back to the movie theater near you…
So after all these fucking years they finally made a movie out of The Rum Diary…
Quite frankly, I’m amazed. And Johnny Depp’s in it too, which is both shocking and expected. Good for you, Johnny. Nice to see you doing a movie that I wouldn’t rather have cancer than see for a change.
Fascinating that they’re seemingly presenting it as essentially a prequel to Depp’s filmic version of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (and thankfully making it nothing like Bill Murray’s Where The Buffalo Roam, which was ghastly). The novel itself – which was Thompson’s second, after the still unpublished Prince Jellyfish – was a pretty straightforward Hemingway-esque affair and it’s interesting to see that they added quite a bit of “zany” to the story and, of course, changed a lot of the characters around and the story too, it would seem. And by “change the story,” I clearly mean that, if the trailer is accurate, they’re trying to add one here. For example, they beefed up the character that it looks like Aaron Eckhart and his mighty chin play and turned him into some kind of villain to be defeated through wacky journalism and a lot of what would amount to alcohol poisoning in a normal person.
The attempts to bring this adaptation to life over the past decade have been cute to read little tidbits about, but I find myself actually surprised that it actually, you know, took. Thankfully it didn’t happen until now when Thompson himself is dead because it seemed like he was a bit… sensitive to anything of his when it came to the movies. And it’s directed by the guy who directed Withnail And I! This should be a beautiful mess, certainly. Considering the movies that do get made these days I still find that I’m surprised to say this but: I can’t wait to see this.
Kitty Ravenhart: I nearly never use my credit card. It may not change your behavior as much as you think.
Peanut St. Cosmo: Yes, it definitely does make you feel like an adult. But its so easy to get carried away spending when you don’t keep track like you do with a debit card. Be careful with those things.
Benjamin: Oh, I plan on using my CC everywhere I would normally use my debit card, then I’ll just pay it off every month. My intention isn’t to be able to spend money I don’t have, just to use a CC with fraud protection instead of putting my own bank account at risk.
Marco Sparks: You need to start saying “I’m gonna charge that shit!” everywhere. Like an adult.
Benjamin: Yeah, I suppose I’ve just read too many articles about card skimmers and online sites getting hacked.
Peanut: I’d pay good money to be somewhere with Benjie as he says, “I’m gonna charge that shit.” Preferably somewhere really *classy* like Sizzler.
Marco: People charge the shit out of things at Sizzler.
Peanut: I fucking hope so!
Peanut: Oh fuck me, I hope so! I’d have a whole lot more respect for him!!
Marco: I had such a great response to this but I don’t think I’ll post it. It’s a bit dirty, and you have to love before you can be relentless, or suicidal. The punchline involves Franzen not fucking Peanut at Sizzler, but letting her sit at his booth with him while his girlfriend gets up to get another plate of shrimp. Yada yada yada, if someone plays their cards right: fingerbang.
Editor’s note: By “fingerbang” what Marco Sparks clearly meant was: fingerblast. Obviously.
Peanut: Whoa, what? I get fingerbanged by Franzen? I don’t know what to say about that… Does he leave his glasses on?
Marco: Well… Of course he does. When you “charge that shit” they give you a receipt and all, but there’s tiny print on it. Hard to read. Also, he has trouble reading the directions on all his pill bottles. These days those glasses are practically glued to his face. And don’t worry cause he washes his hands like 13 times a day.
Kitty: If she’s in a Sizzler at all do you think she cares that the fingers in her vagina have been washed?
Benjamin: This has gone to such a wonderful place.
Kitty: Wait, is the wonderful place Sizzler or Peanut’s vagina?
Marco: People will be asking that same question long after we’re all gone, Kitty.
And… You’re forgetting that he’s a famous author. You don’t snub Oprah and get your face on the cover of Time magazine AND THEN go fingerbang girls with nasty, dirty fingernails. Ick. No. He’s not a member of the goon squad!
Peanut: Oh yes, I care about those fingers, Kitty! Thank god, you can’t let anyone who washes their hands less than 10x a day go sticking their fingers in your pikachu. I mean if you had one, you know? Oh Franzen, I’ll help you read all your little pill bottles! And defrost your weed you keep in the freezer!!! 🙂
Marco: Just be thankful you can’t see his hands.
Peanut: They were under a table @ Sizzlers!
Kitty: I’m going to borrow the pikachu euphemism sometime.
Marco: Right now Jonathan Franzen’s girlfriend is folding her arms over her chest and looking at you and your pikachu with a very, very disapproving look, Peanut.
Also, I feel like Cormac McCarthy also eats at the Sizzler, but J-Fran pretends not to see him whenever they nearly bump elbows over by the ice cream machine.
As if dudes aren’t confused enough. Now our girlfriends will come into the bedroom at night and say, “Wanna play some Pokemon?” and we just won’t get it. Ugh. What the fuck else is new?
Benjamin: Really? I think “Pokemon” is pretty obvious.
Speaking of mood statuses, I had occasion to be looking at myspace earlier today. I miss all my old over-sharing blogs and current mood settings. 😀
Marco: Jonathan Franzen’s girlfriend does have bad hair, you’re right. It’s like she works at a fucking Wal-Mart or something.
Kitty: That would explain the dinners at Sizzler.
Peanut: Who is this chick? I’ll challenge her to a dance off or something? Yes, myspace blogs and oversharing were pretty great 🙂
Benjamin: Maybe you guys could have a home perm-off.
Peanut: Benjie, my hair is too awesome for home perms.
Marco: But not too awesome for dance offs or getting fingerbanged in a booth in the middle of a Sizzler’s. We read you loud and clear.
Kitty: That does pigeon-hole you in a very narrow range of awesome.
Marco: Very narrow.
Benjamin: You might have, I’m older.
Peanut: Barely. Dick.
Marco: Would Billy Zane be judging this dance off?
Peanut: No Billy Zane, but maybe Paula’s available?? If I had a steady pill supply for her anyway. No, I don’t watch those dancey idol talent shows.
Marco: They play them on the TVs at Sizzler. You’ll be fine.
As you may have gathered from some of my past writing, I’m a big Neal Stephenson fan. He is one of my favorite authors. I was discussing with Marco the other day how when reading, say, the fifth Harry Potter book, it felt like Rowling’s editor needed to step in and convince JK to tighten it up a bit. But with Stephenson, even when he’s plowing into a chapter-long tangent, you don’t mind, because he takes you interesting places. That’s not to say that Rowling is not a talented writer, but the voice that Stephenson writes with is just on a different, more stylistic level. His sometimes indulgent asides are what make him so much fun.
I’d like to talk about a concept of punishment he puts forth in his novel Anathem. It’s called the Book. A brief primer: Anathem takes place in a world similar to our own, but where scholars live a quasi-monastic life of simple means behind the walls of big stone concents, cut off from the rest of society for a period of one, ten, 100 or 1000 years. This separation allows the “avout,” as they are called, to dedicate their lives to scholarly work without distraction or interruption. While there are your typical chores and kitchen duty that can be assigned to reprimand bad behavior, there is also the Book. When an avout needs sterner discipline, the administrators can “throw the Book” at them.
The idea of the Book, as the main character Erasmas explains it, is to punish the mind of the wayward avout. It’s 12 chapters long, filled with inane, inaccurate and possibly insane content that must be memorized and tested against. Imagine a mathematician being forced to learn and apply false proofs, or a writer who must memorize incorrect definitions. The Book is designed to poison the mind, taking a sledgehammer to the foundations of an avout’s critical thinking and logical faculties. And each chapter is exponentially harder than the one before. In the novel, it’s said that only 3 men ever completed all 12 chapters, which took a lifetime, and they were all thoroughly insane when they finished. That the avout have dedicated themselves to learning makes it all the more heinous a punishment to them, as they are forced to corrupt their minds and waste their time working counter to their own life’s work.
One example Erasmas gives is a chapter full of nursery rhymes that almost, but do not quite rhyme. Another is five pages of the digits of Pi. In the novel, he is assigned the first five chapters as penance, which takes him several weeks to complete. And the idea is that, if you get in trouble again, you could get assigned even more. It is suggested that going higher can permanently damage one’s ability to process and organize information effectively.
I mention all this as prelude to my latest movie review:
Surely, if the Book were real, Chapter 6 would be the shooting script to Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon. And the less said further the better.