Past Prologue: September, 2009 – Part Two.

Continued from Part One.

As I said in the previous post: 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…

And we continue.

18.

09/16/09: Children Are Our Future by Conrad Noir: Linking to the then current Newsweek cover story, “Is Your Baby Racist?” And in the comments section, you’ll see that Peanut St. Cosmo offers a good point on this.

19.

09/17/09: The Post-Modern Prometheus,” by yours truly: I’ve always been fascinated by the Frankenstein story, inside and out. The story itself, the way it’s constantly adapted and how it is, but also with its writer and the creation of the story.

There’s one more post in September of 2009 about this, and I was going to do a whole series of things, just exorcising some of my fascination with everything to do with Mary Shelley and her monster and the connections I was seeing between that and other things I was interested in. The series fell through, obviously, and I never said everything I wanted to say, and sadly, that moment has passed. For now.

But it still interests me, the way we focus all of our frustrations and excitements and failings into the characters and monsters that we create, and then we let them loose into the world. Sometimes those monsters redeem us and sometimes they destroy us. Sometimes they live on long after we’re gone, stuck between the darkness and the light.

20.

09/18/09: Hell Is A Teenage Girl by myself: Speaking of Megan Fox and whoa!-mankind and monsters. Jennifer’s Body was not a great movie, but it was certainly an interesting one. Easily the best possible vehicle for Megan Fox (and for Adam Brody).

21.

09/19/09: Spirits and Sexy Singularities in the Noosphere by myself: This post is so typically me. Honestly, this is the kind of wacky shit that I’m reading about all the time.

It’s just interesting to me now to see discussion of The Lost Symbol turning into Dan Simmon’s The Fall Of Hyperion, then turning into talk of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Omega Point, and a thinly veiled pondering/lusting about 2012.

22.

09/20/09: The Post-Modern Prometheus, part two: Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves,” by yours truly: Again, with the Frankenstein, but also tying into that classic (it is a classic, right?) episode of The X-Files. Otherwise known as “The Cher Episode.”

What can I say? This series, or longer essay, or whatever you want to call it, was going to start small and then get bigger. Instead, it just stayed small. The lack of further movement on it really betrayed its connective tissue.

23.

09/21/09: American Jokes Are Better Than British Jokes,” by August Bravo and myself: Ha ha. This was a great episode of Mad Men. Ahhh, the tractor episode. The British are coming, they came, and then they left, and they left part of their feet behind.

Also, August Bravo is barely hiding his desire to be physically dominated by Ken Cosgrove here.

24.

09/22/09: There Are Two Kinds Of Light,” by myself: More links, interesting quotes, and pretty pictures. The light that glows, and the light that blinds: that’s interesting, and charming wisdom from Thurber.

Part of why I started with this month to look back on first is that it’s September, just like it is now, here in 2012 as I write this, but also because it was just a little over a year after the blog had started. You’d think we’d have found our legs a little, kicked off some of the training wheels, for example. In intrigues me to notice that when Counterforce was really rolling, there was always two kinds of themes to each month, as if each month was its own issue of a magazine or some kind of periodical: the theme that was intended, and the one that was unintended.

I know, I know, that’s some hardcore Wittgenstein-like wisdom there.

25.

09/23/09: Because It Needs To Be Said,” by me: Well… yeah. What’s said is here is as true in 2012 as it was in 2009, only more so, I guess. Enough said.

26.

09/24/09: PSA by me: Whatever. Cthulhu is funny to me. We create our monsters to embody that which we most find fault within ourselves, and then those monsters proceed to drive us insane and enslave humanity and collapse reality upon itself. It’s just one of those things.

27.

09/25/09: Just because we saw this show doesn’t mean it has to happen,” by myself: I wonder how similar me ranting about the pilot to Flashforward is to Benjie ranting about the pilot to Revolution.

Neither of these shows is or was the new Lost, and I think that’s important to say because clearly the ghost of Lost still haunts network TV. They were trying to resurrect it with Lost even before the show was officially over.

I remember reading Robert J. Sawyer’s novel, Flash Forward, and thinking it was interesting, even if it was a little weak. There were certainly elements there to create an interesting TV show out of it, but David Goyer and the rest of the show’s makers clearly avoided those parts altogether. Instead Flashfoward the TV show plays out like the most pathetic of all Sideways Universes, in which Charlie and Penny Widmore are still out there somewhere, and things are just really, really mediocre.

28.

09/26/09: Cosmic Caturday.” Meow.

29.

09/27/09: It’s only a matter of time before we all burn by myself: I really like that Death Cab song, and it’s interesting how music can transform and transport you. In this case, a song took me back to a place that I used to live in, one that only exists in my memories now, and was on fire.

Also, this was back when Benjamin Gibbard and Zooey Deschanel were still married, LOL.

30.

09/28/09: Maybe I’m late because I was spending time with my family reading the bible,” by that fucker August Bravo and myself: Again, it’s just weird to me to relive this season of Mad Men through these posts as I look back at them. The show was always so good about the connection between and identity and a name, about crossing boundaries, and playing with all of those things at the same time.

And Don’s always been very hard on Peggy, hasn’t he? Telling her what he’s needed to hear, as if he’s fully recreated himself within her. I’m looking forward to how they keep her character integrated into this show as it continues, but that’s the future, and that’s another place, especially when we’re talking about the past.

31.

09/29/09: Perennial with the Earth by myself: I really liked this ad campaign, or at least, it stuck with me as a piece of art, beyond it’s creation as a piece of advertisement. The perfect marriage of Walt Whitman, jeans, and the “idea” of America.

32.

09/29/09: Things that make you say, hmm…?” by the always amazing Peanut St. Cosmo: Roman Polanski and Woody Allen. Someone should remake My Dinner With Andre just starring those two guys. Maybe it could be directed by Peanut St. Cosmo, who is always sorely missed when she’s not appearing in Counterforce.

33.

09/30/09: Eternities Of Darkness by myself: The month ends like it began, with links and pictures. But now there’s men and women, pictures in black and white, and words by Nabokov. The continuation of that quote, which is from Speak, Memory, is: “Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour.)”

As I’ve said before, my favorite band name (but certainly not my favorite band) is I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, which is just a great name.

And that’s how this month, September in 2009, ended, with us declaring our love for you (perhaps), and abandoning the light for a time to sail away into the darkness.

* * *

I enjoyed doing this, so I think I’m going to do a few more retrospectives of other months in the history of this blog before it becomes permanently just that: History. Again, I don’t think I have the time, space, nor total desire to do every single month, but at least a few more, if I can help, and quite a few more, if the universe is kind. Any suggestions for which month to look back on next?

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The Post-Modern Prometheus, part two: Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves.

I was watching the premiere of the new season of Fringe the other night, and man, that show is still… it’s just not there, you know? There’s a nice little reference to The X-Files in the episode, entitled “A New Day In An Old Town,” and while watching it, I kept thinking back to The X-Files, and The X-Files when it was at it’s height, mind you. It’s not hard to let your mind drift like that when you consider how decent the production values on a show like Fringe are, and how horrible the writing is. That, and I was still thinking about the idea of Frankenstein, and that reminded me of the episode from season five of that series, “The Post-Modern Prometheus,” otherwise known as “the black and white episode” in which Mulder and Scully go hunting for a modern day Frankenstein monster in the heartland of America…

Though highly gimmicky, it’s actually one of my favorite episodes of The X-Files, both funny and weird, but still really getting to the core of the show. In fact, looking back now, you could almost say that the show did it’s fluffy light-hearted fare than it did some of the paranormal elements? Maybe.

This is how we all started to feel towards the end of this show, but when it was good, it was damn good.

I don’t want to say too much about the episode, other than it involves a Elephant Man/Frankenstein monster that’s not all that he seems, and who has a serious love for Cher, and it was from the season right before the movie came out. The season after the movie was an interesting one if, for nothing else, you could tell that Chris Carter was seriously bored with the show and just doing whatever he could to keep himself awake (examples being the body switching two parter with Michael McKean, which was excellent, and Mulder’s time travel Nazi hunting vacation in the Bermuda triangle, also excellent).

There’s a whole fansite, called Goodnight, Dr. Frankenstein, and it’s devoted to just this episode alone. Very interesting. Good stuff. I’d suggest you check it out if you get the chance and as for Frankenstein, I’m not done talking about the monster yet, or the literary mad scientists who created it…

All the best and weirdest shit is happening on the Fringe, baby.

Thirty five minutes into the pilot of one of the most anticipated shows of the summer, one of the main characters says, “I just pissed myself. Just a squirt.” I’d say that line accurately sums up my excitement level for this show and it’s succeeding payoff.

A confession: I’m a fan of the big and the weird. I mean, how can you not be? Fringe science, more accurately and typically called psuedoscience usually (or junk science, if you’re a cynic), on which the show is reportedly based, is my guilty little pleasure (though I don’t feel that guilty about it). In fact, I’m almost a Fortean nut for it. Remember old Michael Crichton? Before he became a nutjob asshole? Back when he represented classic, smart speculative fiction that bled pure sci-fi wonderment, heavy on the science? Good times, am I right? You get glimpses of it these days in the work of authors like Warren Ellis and Neal Stephenson, but it’s fleeting and you don’t see it out there too much more.

Which is why I’m incredibly excited about a show like Fringe coming on the air, and on a major network (though with that major network being Fox, I have to wonder if there’s a looming countdown to it’s inevitable cancellation) with major network budgeting and ability to do justice to imaginative scope of such ideas. Finally, the return of big weird sci fi on TV! Speaking of ideas, let’s talk about the first episode…

You’re looking at those flashlights and you’re thinking that this show is already ripping off the X-Files big time, but you’d be only half right on it’s source material, because in what has to be a slight nod to it’s spiritual cousin Lost, the show starts with Glatterglug (which translates as “smooth flight,” how ironic) Flight 627, en route from Hamburg to Logan Airport, in Boston. Something goes wrong, horribly and wonderfully wrong and the end result is that people’s faces start melting off. It’s creepy as hell, but in that vein, it’s so, so cool.

From there, we go to our main character, FBI agent Olivia Dunham (played by Anna Torv, an Australian actress who’s done just about nothing before this, and further proving that J. J. Abrams knows how to pick excellent leading ladies for his projects), who’s tucked away in a motel with her secret boyfriend, a fellow FBI agent. She’s our update of Agent Scully for 2008: Just as sexy and smart, but taller, blonde, and right at the beginning, she’s inviting and shows us her heart, especially when it comes to her lame secret boyfriend. Their post-coital one sided “I love you’s” are interrupted by a call from their superiors about the plane landing at Logan. An inter-agency task force is being set up to investigate the incident, headed by a Homeland Security agent played by the brilliant, stone-like, and enigmatic Lance Reddick, who’s got a bit of a prior beek with Dunham (and the first of several incredibly sexist characters, I was surprised to notice). Anyways, shenanigans happen, and a chase after a suspect (the eerie twin brother of a man who was on the plane) leads to an explosion in a lab that seriously injures Secret FBI Boyfriend, leaving him so badly burned and exposed to the chemicals in such lab that his skin turns translucent and he has to be placed in an immediate coma. This gives opportunity for a wonderful cameo by Peter Outerbridge, who was an asshole FBI agent in the last season of Millennium and starred in a Canadian science drama called Regenesis which I’ve grown to love, as Secret Boyfriend’s doctor.

Dunham’s search for anything similar to WTF she’s just witnessed leads her to one man: a scientist named Bishop who was set up by the government to do WTFever he wanted in the 70s, but was locked away in a mental institute for the past two decades. She needs him, but the terms of his incarceration state that he can only receive visits from immediate family members. Sure, she’s a G-man and could go in waving the Patriot Act all over the place, but Matthew Abaddon tells her to play it cool and just find Bishop’s last surviving immediate family member: Pacey.

Pacey‘s character is both a highlight and a serious lowlight of this opener, typically getting all the best lines, but playing the cliched loner with the genius IQ, but who dropped out of high school and has spent his years kind of roughing it, doing every job imaginable, including some time as a wild land fireman, cargo pilot, and a few months as a chemistry professor (We’re told that he falsified a degree from MIT for that one and even got a few papers published before he was found out). I think the key to his character, especially in the scenes with the female FBI agent and the scenes with his father, is not that he’s a cool leading man type, but rather that he’s a snarky asshole. He’ll either become highly watchable as the show progresses or the most insipid character on television. Plus, he speaks Farsi.

Through Pacey‘s character, we get his father, the now mentally damaged scientist who had his finger delved deep into the scary and weird, and who may be the heart of this show in a cracked sort of way. He supplies the hard fringe. He’s fascinated by the perspective delivered in Spongebob, and when it comes to a matter of needing to find the suspect who got away but coming up short because the only person who can identify him is Secret Boyfriend in the coma, he comes up with the simple answer: Load up Dunham with ketamine and lysergic acid diethylamide, then strip her down (fondly recalling the X-Files pilot) and put her in an isolation tank (Altered States!) and synchronize her brain waves with Secret Boyfriend in the coma and he can share with her the suspect’s face via synaptic transfer. And quite frankly, it’s not nearly enough in TV these days that you get to hear a character gleefully say, “Excellent. Let’s make some LSD!”

Does it work? Fuck yeah, it works, man (though the special effects in that sequence are not terrible, they’re certainly the weakest of the episode and remind one of VR5). Just like Bishop told us it would (you can use the same method to question a corpse too, he assures us, within the first six hours of it’s death, a detail that becomes very important later, we find out). Despite his wandering mind and his questionable bladder control, Bishop will be the element to watch on this show, I believe. Dunham provides us with the coolness of Scully, but with a more relaxed believer in the Mulder archetype, and Pacey provides us the everyman rational asshole perspective, but the Bishop character… Well, I’ll just refer you back to when Dunham fills Pacey in on just a few of the things his father was involved in researching back in his heyday: Mind control, teleportation, astral projection, invisibility, genetic mutation, and also reanimation.

Oh, and don’t let me forget that the episode also includes the hint of an evil Bill Gates type looming on the horizon, some kind of super evil mega corporation (and possibly more out there than the Hanso Foundation) with their (advanced robotic, on the level of Terminator-esque advanced) fingers in everything, including “The Pattern…”

The Pattern! More on that later, but the real question you’re asking yourself is, “Is this a good pilot?” Yes, for the most part. It’s not as good as Abram’s Lost pilot, which was pure perfection in retrospect, and may or may not as good as the pilot for Alias (the Bishop character would have to be a modern day equivalent of Milo Rambaldi, that show’s seer/inventor/wunderkind macguffin, and I could easily see this show copy that series’ breezy blue collar sci fi vibe), but there is quality here. They put $10 million into this hour and a half, and it shows (the only downside to the look of the show, and it’s not that big of a deal is that it was clearly shot in Toronto). Plus, this is just a simple aesthetic thing, but I love the location chyrons that are huge and 3D in each new locale and seem to float right at the camera as if they were living architecture (and they very much appear to be in the Baghdad scene). That said, more than this initial episode itself, you definitely get a feeling that you’re being handed a laundry list of (like any good pilot does) what’s to come as far as big wild weirdness.

Beyond anything else though, this is easily the best new show of the fall and one of the best on TV currently.

I’ve said a lot about the show as it is, and my perspective is completely clouded by the possibility of this being a show that scratches me right where I itch. Is Fringe a little too out there for you? Understandable, but I implore you to give it a try… while you can. It’s on Fox, people. You know the executives are just masturbating at the idea of canceling this and Dollhouse already.

Hawking bets that CERN mega-machine won’t find “God’s Particle.”

Speaking of which, has the LHC destroyed the Earth yet? The answer is no, not yet.

Neal Stephenson: Science Fiction as a literary genre.

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

I forgot to mention that during the “limited commercial interruptions” during Fringe, they played the commercial version of the new Quantum Of Solace trailer. It’s not bad at all.

How to disappear in America without a trace.

The new EP by Stars is excellent.

Is Kim Jong Il?

Giant penis needs re-chalking, please.

How would the U.S. military fight a zombie army?

I guess it’s official, Shirley Manson’s a Terminator. Lord knows she’s already terminated my heart. And stuff.

Jesus was a community organizer, and Pontius Pilate was a governor. Sigh.

Matt Damon on Sarah Palin.

Speaking of the hotness of Shirley Manson and the villainy of Sarah Palin, robots are coming to replace us all!

The triumph of fringe science!

TV On The RadioHalfway Home (from their new album Dear Science)