Past Prologue: September, 2009.

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…

Right, so:

01.

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.

from here.

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.

02.

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.

03.

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.

from here.

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.

04.

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.

by Andy Vible, from here.

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.

05.

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?

06.

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.

by Lily Camille Clark, from here and here.

07.

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.

08.

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.

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.

10.

09/09/09: 09/09/09 by myself: It doesn’t take much to amuse me, I tell ya.

11.

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.

12.

09/11/09: The Food chain by Benjamin Light: LOL.

13.

09/11/09: NEVAR FORGET by yours truly: Well…

14.

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.

15.

09/14/09: RIP Patrick Swayze by myself: Seriously. RIP Patrick Swayze. I’m going to go watch Road House again.

16.

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.

17.

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!

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Robin Masters.

A few things:

1. Today at work I endured a conversation with a random stranger about the seminal television program MacGyver. I love MacGyver, but I wouldn’t go back and watch it now if I could. In my memories it’s still great, and I don’t want those memories to be ruined, shattered, broken, rendered meaningless.

This random stranger really enjoyed MacGyver too, but not as much as I do, or did. Her devotion is not as strong as mine, nor her love as pure. Also, she kept saying “Magnum” when she meant “MacGyver.”

2. After she left, my co-worker and I made fun of her in a very subtle way. We started talking about Magnum, P. I. but we kept saying “Matlock.”

3. RIP Andy Griffith.

4. Remember the episode of Magnum, P.I. where he had to tread water in the ocean for, like, forever? Or, at least for near 45 minutes.

Yeah, it was good. At least… that’s how I remember it.

5. Remember the one where he died and was in a coma, more accurately, and was all astral and ghost-like and was floating around and hanging out people and solving a mystery but no one could see him or hear him?

You think I’m joking but that was totally real.

6. Unrelated… This is a picture of a dog and a bunch of tacos:

7. I can’t testify to full and clear total recall of the episodes, but I am positive that I have seen 100% of MacGyver the TV show (and TV movies after the show ended) in my life. I would wager that I have watched 87% of Murder, She Wrote the TV show (and TV movies after the show ended) in my life (some of it, or rather, a lot of it in the past year alone). I have probably watched something like 69% of Magnum, P.I. in my life, including the one where that show and Murder, She Wrote crossed over with each other, which I remember happening but don’t fully remember the details of, much to my chagrin.We’re not even going to waste our time talking about the time that Magnum, P.I. crossed over with Simon & Simon. We’re just not.

If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve probably only seen like 34% of Matlock the TV show in my life.

8. Did you ever watch The Rockford Files? It was good. I like James Garner. He’s one of the older actors that I tend to just like in whatever he’s doing.

He played Phillip Marlowe once. You should watch it. It was a silly movie, but highly underrated. Also, it had a really goofy but not terrible Bruce Lee bit part (and a famous scene) in it.

9. I don’t think that Tom Selleck would’ve made that great of an Indiana Jones.

Or, at least, you can only imagine his Indiana Jones as something so incredibly different from the one we all know and love that it is almost incomprehensible.

10. When I was a kid, my father had a great big mustache and wore a lot of Hawaiian shirts and baseball caps and short shorts.

He made faces like these a lot:

So, clearly, the fictional character of Thomas Magnum was my father’s style icon, right?

That seems weird now but maybe it wasn’t so weird back then. How the fuck should I know.

11. No joke: The Magnum, P.I. theme song has been my ringtone for over a year now. It’s the ringtone for calls from numbers that aren’t already in my address book. It was weird to me, considering that, when I spontaneously found myself in this conversation today at work.

12. Maybe it’s not all that weird.

13. Maybe it was fate?

14. Probably not.

15. T.C. was cool but Rick just seemed like an asshole to me.

16. A few nights ago Benjamin Light and I were talking about the future of our podcast and the caterpillar-like life of our blog and how it’ll soon turn into a beautiful and bewildering butterfly – watch for future announcements – and we were also mutually browsing around the internet, just talking and shitting the breeze and I remember reading somewhere that in other countries there confusions and mistranslations and people assumed that the title of the show was Magnum PI

Get it?

17. Anyway.

What a strange coincidence… The ringtone and the random factoid read about the internet and then the strange occurrence of the spontaneous conversation with a stranger about MacGyver but calling it Magnum and I’m trying to fix the broken web of time and it all leads to a journey down the clips show metaphor that is memory lane for me…

18. Maybe it’s not a coincidence. Maybe it’s just a thing, a thing that happens, and it has no meaning other than that which I assign to it?

19. Perhaps it’s no more important than anything, and not even real. Maybe I’m not real. Maybe I’m me, the me that I think I am and only sometimes comfortable with me. Maybe I’m really Zhuangzi, and I’m dreaming that I’m a butterfly.

20. It’s a bit of a stretch, I know, but my mind is still trudging through similar ditches as we slowly make our way towards the end of this blog. Perhaps I’m dancing around things, then taking a few steps backward before marching forward. The past can be a special place, and an odd place where things have different values and meanings assigned to him. Analyze what you can and appreciate the bizarreness of other things and leave them as they are, unmolested, uncontested. Making peace or at least coming to an understanding with your memories is a kind of time travel, and it’s how some of the best mysteries are solved, but don’t forget: The past can be a grotesque animal and you should always be mindful of how you’ll escape it.

21. Like I said… That’s a bit of a stretch, sure.

Also:

“Father figures” by Kevin Wada. I love it. Except for the KISS parts. Oh well.

22. After this… 82 posts to go.

Can you guess how it’ll end? I have an idea…

23. Maybe like this:

Tales told by an idiot…

So, yesterday I was thinking about the idea of “today” and today is yesterday’s tomorrow and you could really go on with that kind of talk forever. And it gets you thinking, every single yesterday and today and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…

And of course I’m talking about the soliloquy from Act 5, scene 5 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. You know, that thing they made you memorize back in high school. The scene itself is brilliant, starting with Macbeth learning of his wife’s death and followed by the news that his enemies are fast approaching and that the prophecy that will end him is unfolding before his eyes, but there in that brief moment, Macbeth has some time to himself alone in his own ruin, and he can wax on with resignation and anger about the dreaded continuation of life, the despair and the agony and the lack of choices we get, and the futility of it all. Death comes. It always comes. But it’s left up to debate if Macbeth is possibly choosing his own death right then and there.

In fact, that was the nice thing about how we have Shakespeare’s plays now, so lacking of most stage directions, leaving them open to a vast majority of interpretations. And when you’re thinking about tomorrow, whether you’re dreading it or eagerly looking forward into it’s complicated winds, the last thing you want is anything written in stone, right? Things should always be open, breezy, the path changing along with you…

Anyway, some videos. Above is Ian McKellen tackling the role in 1978 (with Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth) and the soliloquy and below is Jon Finch doing it in Roman Polanski’s 1971 adaptation (with Francesca Annis as a younger, softer, more determined Lady Macbeth [who did her sleepwalking soliloquy – “Out, damned spot!” – in the nude]). They’re obviously differently staged since Polanski’s is an actual film treatment of the play and McKellen is starring in a TV adaptation of Trevor Nunn’s run with the play, but McKellen’s just absolutely seething and nearly exploding with presence and Finch just looks like a guy doing a bit of acting after a few rough weeks or maybe a bender or two. To me, anyway. But while watching the video above, I got a little bit of a flashback to James Marster’s peformance as Spike on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I wonder if the works of young Ian McKellen informed Marster’s English impression/accent? Or maybe that’s just me too.

And, because I find it interesting, below I give you Sir Patrick Stewart (with something of a porn star mustache) giving you a little advice on how to perform the “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech just as it was given to him by McKellen. I think it’s interesting that they both stress that the word to be emphasized is and.

“A rather tawdry device.”

“A rather tawdry device” is how Orson Welles describes “Rosebud” in his Citizen Kane, saying that it’s the part of the film he’s least happy with, and then he refers to it as a “Freudian gag.” This is from Welles’ famous 1960 interview in Paris which was conducted with Bernard Braden, and which I believe just came out on DVD, and is an interesting peak into the filmmaker’s life at that particular moment in time, when he was passionate and still very much immersed in his own powers of making magic. It’s a treat both for completionists and passing film buffs equally. Below is just an excerpt, which I encourage you to check out (as well the interview in it’s entirety which you’ll find linked to above), especially since Welles has some fascinating insights about the films he’s worked on, still working on, the actors he admires, and how Rome, his home at the moment, is being urbanized to the point that it’s starting to feel like “Philadelphia with spaghetti.”

F is for Friday.

The introduction to Orson Welles’ 1975 masterpiece, F For Fake. Watch it and love it. If you look hard enough, the entire thing is on youtube. The film is not just a brilliant tackle of forgery, fakery, conning and swindling, but also of art, in a lot of ways. “Almost every story is a kind of lie,” the film says, and then offers you a promise, further celebrating trickery. And the editing of this experimental essay is just brilliant. Give it a look.

The Auteur Theory: Univeral languages.

“Film is one of the three universal languages, the other two: mathematics and music.”

-Frank Capra.

In the past, August Bravo and I have talked about a few of our favorite films and how we’d like to see them become Criterion DVDs. Why the Criterion Collection, you ask? Because we’re low brow film snobs and the Criterion Collection just looks sexy on a DVD shelf. I don’t want to speak for August here, but I’m a film nerd and kind of a completionist in that regard. Electronic copies of things are great, but just like my very sexy bookshelf, I like having an awesome selection of DVDs of album chilling there for me to admire and really take the time to decide: What do I want to watch today?

Which also ties wonderfully into me celebrating my own awesomeness, which is something I’m finding it harder and harder to say no to these days, ha ha!

That said, at some point August and I will probably do another one or two posts on those movies we like in a classic sort of way and at some point, we may actually jump into the auteur theory for which we took as the name of our series. But until then… chomp down on some of our past posts on the matter…

“The fact that it doesn’t have a completely satisfying ending, or maybe it does, is something I thoroughly admire about this film. I enjoy thinking about a film days after I’ve watched it, or at least, I like movies that stick with you for days after you’ve watched them. Not many have that kind of staying power anymore, but this film stays with you for years.”

-August on Shadow Of A Doubt, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

“I hate to use the word satire more than once (and I do use it again in this post) but this movie is a perfect example of satire done right, perfecting showing you a world very much like ours, and very much like ours will become. In fact, the only detriment to this entering the Criterion collection to me is that it still feels a little too fresh. Maybe in another ten years it’d be more than perfect.”

-myself on Sidney Lumet’s still frighteningly brilliant Network.

“After many flings with a great many women he’s still left confused. The ending is one of the best I’ve ever seen. With almost no structure, the film is probably meant to confuse the shit out of everyone, an initial reaction that Fellini probably not only expected but counted on. As probably one of the most imaginative directors there was, I’m sure he had many reasons to make this the way he did. And I wouldn’t change a thing.”

-August on Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2., which is getting the musical remake treatment as Nine, directed sadly by Rob Marshall and starring interestingly Daniel Day Lewis. That aside, clearly August’s metier is endings.

“Polanski is a master filmmaker, and he’s particularly good with one single element of life: That sense that something is off and just not quite right. Sometimes it’s paranoia, and suspicion of one’s surroundings, but that’s if you’re lucky to nail the feelings his films inhabit so perfectly down into words, if you’re able to describe that real life sense of nameless dread that feels like a hand reaching for your neck while you’re wide awake in the dark.”

-myself on Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.

“Among other untimely events, the film takes you back exactly to the beginning. It seems this is something I find fascinating in movies, or I guess you could say that I just hate resolution in film? Not everything needs to be a happy or unhappy ending. But an ending, just a regular, ordinary ending is what I feel should propel this movie to that ultimate and pivotal infamy of the Criterion collection.”

-August on Steven Spielberg’s Munich.

So there’s something for you to catch up on while you eagerly await our return to blowing up the internet with film nerdery.

The Auteur Theory, part two: The ribbon of dreams.

“A film is a ribbon of dreams. The camera is much more than a recording apparatus; it is a medium via which messages reach us from another world that is not ours and that brings us to the heart of a great secret. Here magic begins.”

Orson Welles.

And here we continue with part two of our films that we love, and perhaps even adore, that we feel should make the jump over to the Criterion Collection, if, for no other reason, just to make ourselves a little happier. But here we hit a little closer to home with some domestic picks…

Marco Sparks: My first choice is Putney Swope, 1969, directed by Robert Downey, Sr. and it’s a simple and easy choice.

This film is red hot burning satire, hilarious at times, and an excellent example of what an American film can look like. We’ve all seen it and it’s been better described elsewhere, so I don’t have to say a whole lot here, but if for some reason you haven’t seen it (and you’ve certainly seem homages to it if you’ve ever seen a single P.T. Anderson film), get your ass on it. It’s worth your time.

Obviously, a Criterion no brainer, I would think. August?

August Bravo: Shadow Of A Doubt, 1943, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Probably my favorite Hitchcock film (David Mamet’s, too), and most likely Hitchcock’s as well. I had the pleasure of watching this for the first time in my cinema class. My teacher told the class to pay particular notice to the number 2 in this film, something I thought nothing of until much, much later.

The story is about a man named Charlie. The first scene shows him on the run from two men. Not much is known, but one thing etched into my memory are the bars over his face, coming from the shadow cast by the window. A great bit of foreshadowing. Or maybe not. He visits his married  sister, and her kids. His favorite of the kids is also named Charlie, who’s ecstatic to see her uncle. Weren’t we all like that as kids? So excited to see family, but now as adults we do anything we can to get away from them. But maybe that’s just me.

I don’t want to reveal too much, but the relationship between the two Charlies and how it develops throughout the movie is something that I’ve always found interesting. There’s a pretty strong theme here for 1943, something I still find eerie to this day.

Once again, not having a completely satisfying ending, or maybe it does, is something I thoroughly admire about this film. I enjoy thinking about a film days after I’ve watched it, or at least, I like movies that stick with you for days after you’ve finished them. Not many have that kind of staying power anymore, but Shadow Of A Doubt stays with you for years. Several of Hitchcock’s other films have made their way into the ranks of the Criterion collection and I feel that this film strongly deserves that same level of infamy.

Marco: August has just shamed me wonderfully since Shadow Of A Doubt is one of the few films by the master that I have yet to see, along with Notorious. I’ll get there, man. I’ll get there.

But for my last film for today, I’m going to keep it painfully simple: My Dinner With Andre, 1981, directed by Louis Malle.

There’s quite a bit I could say about this film, which is easily in my top 5 of all time and one that I watch at least once a year, so the trick here will be to say the least. I saw it written somewhere that this film is about two men who meet for dinner, eat in real time, and talk. Yeah, but that’s kind of missing the point, and they don’t even really eat in real time, but there’s such a fine attention paid to detail here that you probably do feel like you’re the silent man at the table during the conversation that takes place here.

Semi based on their real selves, Wallace “Inconceivable!” Shawn is a playwright on his way to dinner with an old friend, New York theater director Andre Gregory, “a man I’d been avoiding, literally, for a matter of years,” who had troubled out of sigth for a while, reportedly traveling the world. But one day a friend encounter Andre  leaning against a building in Manhattan and weeping, having just walked out of an Ingmar Bergman film, where a particular piece of dialogue had left him devastated: “I could always live in my art, but not in my life.” This is what sets up their dinner encounter.

And what an encounter it is. Andre has indeed been around the world and seen some amazing things, and the stories he has for Shawn are incredible. Shawn, a man of simple desires, who wants merely to have a littl money and to be able to lay in bed with his girlfriend, warm under their electric blanket, and read his biography of Charelton Heston, has his eyes opened by a Gregory’s almost explosively adventurous and spiritual look at the world. And so did I. What starts like the ravings of a mad man from Gregory will slowly begin to show you that there is so much more to life if you take one second to not be content with just being another fat, dumb, and happy somnabulist.

Both men are wonderful here and the script was compiled from their real life conversations together, and when you add to the beautiful way that Malle photographs this film, it’s perfect. Like I said, I watch this movie at least once a year and I’d love to tell you that it’s my litmus test for people to pass or fail as they enter my life, but I can’t. Everyone would fail, sadly, and this just isn’t a film for everyone.

I’ll end with this bit from Roger Ebert’s review of the film: “Someone asked me the other day if I could name a film that was entirely devoid of cliches. I thought for a moment and then answered, ‘My Dinner With Andre.'”

Anyway, August and I will be back tomorrow or the next day with a few more domestic selections from you, continuing and possibly concluding our series. I don’t want to leave you with a cheesy statment, like… “Go watch a good film!” so instead, I’ll just say… Watch your step.