Past Prologue: October, 2010.

The end looms large, but it 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…

Previously: September, 2009 in parts one and two.



10/02/10: And Then…” by one Marco Sparks: Pictures and Borges and links to previous Counterforce posts… Sigh. The more things change, the more they don’t seem to matter, right?


10/04/10:Tongues Of Flame by yours truly: Pictures of girls in some sort of relationship with the water, and the horizon, and the poetry of T. S. Eliot. Well… Who knows what I was thinking or where I was coming from back then. I mean, I could tell you, but who cares?

It seems like the hipsters are all shit talking Eliot now, but I don’t care. I still like him. Whenever I’m at my most lost, there’s usually a few lines from Eliot that can perfectly describe where I am, what I’m feeling, and sometimes that’s enough. Also, this poem was quoted in The Magus, which was a notoriously bad movie.


10/04/10: The End Of The Story Is Unwritten by myself: I really like Harlan Ellison, though it is sometimes to do so. I think at this point, when I was writing this post, I had yet to see the documentary about him, Dreams With Sharp Teeth, which is a fine film.

I’ll always be a science fiction nut – maybe you’ve noticed? – but once or twice or thrice a year I really get back into it, and Ellison is one of those writers I go back to. To me, he’s the ur-Neil Gaiman, but less magical and twee. I respect that Ellison doesn’t suffer fools well, that he’s serious about his craft and those who practice it. In many ways, it would appear that he is not a human at all, but a new creature, one best described in works of his favorite genre: all sharp edges and protected, wounded heart and acid and witty talent.


10/06/10: Powers And Responsibilities/Up, Up, And Away We Go by myself: Spider-Man and Superman! Perhaps some day I’ll write a book about super heroes, and how they’re trapped in our world and in desperate need of being given life beyond it, and just get it all out of my fucking system, you know?

Also, it’s not like I need a reason to do a post with copious amounts of Emma Stone pictures. Seriously. And: Jon Hamm really should be playing Superman/Clark Kent.


10/06/10: Crucifixes by myself: I like Richard Pryor and I don’t like religion. In fact, if I remember correctly, I shit talk about it a little on the latest episode of our podcast. But that’s a whole other story, and one for another time.

If I were to get into the nuts and bolts, a post like this comes about like so many others that exist out there in the internet: I saw it somewhere and I liked it. Someone shared it with the world and I was one of those folks in the world who saw it and wanted to pass it along to the rest of my own little corner of the internetting world. I came, I saw, I reblogged.


10/08/10: Animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others,” by myself: Pictures by Dave Eggers, quotes by George Orwell and Voltaire, links from the internet. What a bizarre mixture.


10/09/10:Nobody told me there’d be days like these,” by myself: People who have problems with authority always gravitate towards John, don’t they? Lennon is the favorite Beatle of the perpetually disenfranchised and the smart, smug assholes. I look back at some of these posts and want to delve into a little of the making of them, but… I don’t know. Sometimes it’s all right there in the post, you know? I wanted to do a post about my favorite Beatle, and maybe I was itching for a little Instant Karma.


10/09/10: Vendettas by myself: Tom Gauld!


10/12/10: Running by myself: This is just another thing I saw online and thought was funny. Also, it’s October, the month of Halloween, the time for goblins and things that are a bit ghoulish and macabre, right?


10/12/10: Who Is Natalie Portman Fucking These Days?” by myself: One of my favorite posts on this site, actually. If we talked about solely about celebs, then… Well, I imagine it’ll be something like that. Of course now this post is severely dated… Black Swan has come and gone and we all know who Natalie Portman is fucking these days, and thankfully it’s not John Mayer.



10/14/10: Video Killed The Internet Star,” by myself: Videos and links about movies and shit I found on the internet. You know… whatever. And a picture of Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly.


10/14/10: Meditations by myself: “Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.” That sounds about right.

Some of the things you notice already about this month: Too many posts by me, which is boring. Lots of doubling up on days, with two posts a day for some reason. Lots of just little things from around the internet. The blog was the pin board for things I found interesting from around the web. Well, I guess in a lot of ways that’s what it always was.


10/16/10: Chaos Reigns by myself: Ahhhh, YouTube comments. They are frequently a treat. I don’t even understand why people bother to engage in “intelligent” discourse there.

In fact… most conversation on the internet is flawed. Severely. Nobody wins an internet argument. Like the famous webcomic says, you can spend your whole life standing vigilant, the sentinel against the raping of the truth, strong against the fact that Someone On The Internet Is Wrong, but there are no winners. You’ll never best someone with your logic. Your insults and your put downs will never be properly scored. All people will see is that you were in an Internet Argument and everyone will be pronounced “Loser.” State your case, and move on. Also, fix your typos.


10/16/10: The Patient Labyrinth,” by myself: Again, I was mesmerized by Borges and the ideas of puzzles and mazes of our own design during October of 2010. That was the theme running around somewhere in my head back then, I guess, and it was weakly explored, for sure.

(Also, you’ll notice another picture of a young woman who has a curious relationship or proximity to the ocean…)

Again, I apologize that all these posts are just me. The difference between myself and my co-authors, I believe, was that they wrote when they had something to say and the energy to say it. I always had something to say on this blog, and usually pursued that impulse even when I didn’t have the energy to do it right, or as coherently as it should’ve been. I think it’s fair to say that I deserve the lion’s share of credit for any failings of this blog. A lot of my favorite posts on Counterforce were those written by the others.


10/18/10: Red Dawn by myself: Ahhh, Laura Leighton. Proto-Emma Stone, perhaps? Perhaps not.


10/18/10: Bad Things by myself: True Blood! Looking at this, I’m just reminded of how weird the finale of the latest season of the show was.


10/19/10: I Got You Babe by August Bravo and myself: This is us talking about Mad Men‘s fourth season finale, “Tomorrowland.” Just so weird to see us looking over the episode and being curious and confused and pondering where the show would go next.

And now, two years later, we’ve seen the season that followed it and saw where things went from there and we’re still left wondering, What’s Next?


10/20/10: The Fate Of The Blogger by myself. I’ll be brief on this one: I like Eddie Campbell. Also, it’s two years later and I’m still pondering the fate of the blogger.


10/21/10: What a man is is an arrow into the future and what a woman is is the place the arrow shoots off from,” by myself: Ha ha. A mash up between Sylvia Plath and Saved By The Bell.


10/22/10: I Walked With A Zombie,” by myself: Links and funny pictures, but there’s something else here too… Something that I sense and feel now, but perhaps didn’t notice at the time, a kind of darkness. Beyond the seasonal darkness, I mean. I guess that would make sense. The second half of The Year We Make Made Contact was especially hard on me.


10/23/10: The Boob Tube by myself: This is me ranting about what’s wrong with popular TV and how it could be fixed/saved. And now Benjamin Light and I do a podcast about this. We’re on a mission to civilize! But, anyway, a lot of these notes still make sense and feel relevant, and desperately need to be read and followed by the people running some of these shows. Now more than ever, perhaps. The thoughts about The Office and Community, especially. But thankfully The Office is (finally) ending after this season, and Community is most likely ending this year (if they ever decide to air the new season at all). Why? Because NBC is dumb as shit and they’re not afraid to show it.


10/23/10: The Year Of The Depend Adult Undergarment by myself: David Foster Wallace!


10/24/10: Nintendo Power yours truly: The idea of the “friend zone” is total bullshit but I just thought this image was funny and wanted to share it. Thanks, Mario, but…


10/25/10: All Things Truly Wicked by myself: Ernest Hemingway! Paper Hemingway was a mean, messed up old bastard, but I still like him, despite all his flaws. And I feel that every time I start to accumulate those flaws, just the obvious ones, and add them up… Well, then I’ll see one of his quotes out of the blue and it’ll just fit into something missing puzzle piece in my brain at that moment and I’m flashing back to what a great writer he was. Also, it’s funny, but we still get a decent number of hits to this particular post from an old BuzzFeed post from a year ago that’s nothing but pictures of Ernest Hemingway partying like a maniac.


10/25/10: This Is Still True by myself: Again, more authors and pictures and quotes. This time, it’s Vonnegut. I hope the kids these days are still reading Vonnegut. His was such a delicate balance of moral righteousness and self loathing, but married together so charmingly.


10/27/10: Which Came First by myself: I don’t know what to say about this post, though it’s weird to look at these almost a full two years later.


10/27/10: Ma-Sheen Manby myself: From pictures of and quotes by famous authors to… this. I regret blogging about Charlie Sheen. About Charlie Sheen and so many other things.


10/27/10: You were an island and I passed you by,” by yours truly: Not the greatest post, but one of my favorites by myself here on the site. Roger Ebert has a great quote in his recent Cloud Atlas review: “Any explanation of a work of art must be found in it, not taken to it.” I agree with that wholeheartedly, but I keep thinking about the questions and the digressions of thought that come out of the works of art. I keep thinking about the way works of art can act as explanations for ourselves, for our lives, for the way we live and exist and make our way through the complicated cosmic murals we’re all sloshing around in.

Anyway. If you know me or not, illustrated in this post about Lost is basically a diagram for how my own personal thought processes tend to work, bouncing from thing to thing, riding along the little connections, going from medium to medium and then essentially looking back at where I started from. As you’ve seen, it’s a convoluted process, and one that doesn’t always yield the most fruitful results, but hopefully it’s been fun at times for you. It certainly has for me.


10/29/10: Vampire Sluts by myself: Kate Beaton! I really like Hark! A Vagrant. I like it a lot.


10/29/10: The risk of going too farby myself: Pictures and links and words by T. S. Eliot. Too far is never far enough, right? Or something.


10/31/10: Samhain by myself: I like how this post starts “Another year, another Halloween.” It’s said with such weariness, or, at least, that’s how I perceive it now. That’s how I feel now, anyway. Another year, another Halloween, and a little more of the magic is gone. The masks are getting heavy, folks. Also interesting that the second line is about how once Halloween arrives you have to accept the inevitable: the year is fading away. The same can be said for now, just as it was back in the year we made contact, only when this year fades away, so does this blog.

Edited to add: I meant to post this at the tail end of October and obviously that did not happen. Sorry. Real life shit got in the way.


10/31/10: Las Ruinas Circulares by myself: This is one of my favorite stories by Borges. Fitting for the time of the year, perhaps. I’ve always felt that there’s a tenuous connection between dreams and the dreamer of those dreamers, something akin to the chicken and the egg. That may be a little too heavy.

from here.


10/31/10: Season Of The Witch by myself: Ha ha. Christine O’Donnell. Ha ha.

The odyssey of the Republican party in the last ten years or so has only gotten more sad and tragic, and Christine O’Donnell is just another one of their sad war stories, I think. Ignoring her for the most part, or this Gawker story about some guy’s claims of having had a one night stand with her, what I really was interested in was the comments section on that post. Internet comments are, of course, terrible. Trolls begetting trolls, all hiding under their bridges and flinging out their shit and hate upon the world with no consequences. And I guess that’s what fascinated me: the way people weigh in on things when there’s no rules, no consequences.


10/31/10: Paradise Circus by myself: I first heard this song in an episode of True Blood‘s third season and it just floored me. A few years ago, during a particularly hard time I was going through, this song was my summer jam, which kind of tells you what that summer was like for me, I think.

It was during that summer that I first started watching the cop show, Luther, a British show starring Idris Elba as the titular detective, and “Paradise Circus” was the theme song for the show, which instantly tells you that it’s going to be unlike any other kind of cop show that you can imagine. Luther is a fun show, a bit silly at times, but darkly interesting and all the actors on the show do very interesting work, Idris Elba especially. I’m glad that he backed out of playing Alex Cross to keep doing (other) movies and eventually a third series of Luther.

And Ruth Wilson, who is exceptional on the show as his sociopathic ally of sorts, is rumored to be in the next Avengers movie. I kind of doubt that will happen, but I’d really like to see it.

But anyway, that’s another thing for another time. Again, in a less interesting way, this post was similar to the one about Lost from a few days earlier… Just a glimpse into the way a thing will pop up into your life and spawn legs and connect to other things. And those things, be it songs or TV shows or whatever, will just find you. Claim you, when you think you’re claiming them. It couldn’t been tackled in a much more interesting or succinct way, definitely, but that stuff still fascinates me.

And that’s how the month of October, 2010 ends. Maybe we didn’t create the blog. Maybe it created us?

* * *

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?

Orbital decay.

A few things:

One: When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was The Gods Must Be Crazy. I didn’t exactly understand it as a kid, obviously, but I still enjoyed it for some reason.

I’m happy to say that at least I understood, as my parents explained it to me then: It’s the story of an African bushman and his tribe who have no knowledge of the world beyond their own, of different cultures and advancements in technology, etc. They have everything that their gods provide them with and they’re happy with that.

One day a plane flies over their neck of the woods and someone throws a coca-cola bottle out the window and it somehow lands unbroken. The members of the tribe discover it and at first thing that the sky is falling. Then they presume that it is a gift from the gods, and they discover so many uses for this bottle. But with that comes an even more dangerous element in their world: property, possession, ownership of a limited resource. And with that comes envy, jealousy, hatred, violence.

The item must be removed from their world so that their tribe and worldview can be saved. So the protagonist decides to take on the task of carrying the bottle away, to find what he presumes will be the edge of world, and he’ll throw the bottle over the side and save his people, and the world. He is the ringbearer and he will travel to Mount Doom. But to do so he must journey for the first time into Hell, which comes confusingly in the form of the the modern world and western civilization.

There’s other elements to the story, of course, but that’s what I always remembered from it: The view of our world as interpreted by the limited perspective of someone from outside that world. Hilarity ensues, and as Arthur C. Clarke told us, to less advanced cultures the toys and tools (and tethers) of more advanced cultures would be indistinguishable from magic.

Two: A “Yes” is better than a “No” almost every time. But it really does matter how you pose the question.

Don’t believe me? Ask John Lennon.

Two Point Five: I’m amazed that we (the royal we) haven’t talked more about John Lennon here.

Three: This blog will be going away soon. Soon-ish. Probably some time this year.

The only people who knew that it was ending was Benjamin Light and myself, and that was only when we decided that it was ending. But like ourselves, I’m sure the two and a half actual readers of the blog were barely surprised with the official announcement.

Once they read it, one friend emailed me and asked me how I felt about the imminent closing of Counter-Force’s doors and I literally shrugged upon reading the email. It’s not like it’s my child or anything, but I’ve enjoyed being a part of the thing and will miss it. The next question this particular friend posed to me was whether or not I felt as if the blog had been successful. That made me scratch my chin. Eventually I was able to answer: “Yes.” To me, by a certain set of definitions, yes.

This blog has allowed me to do things and talk about things and share things that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do. It’s given me license to explore things that I’ve enjoyed learning about. It’s given me regrets and little moments of agony, things that I wouldn’t have had in the same way without this blog as the starting point, and for that, believe it or not, I’m thankful. Bad times will teach you just as much about yourself as the good times will, if you play them right.

Could the blog been more successful by my definitions or any definitions at all? FUCK YES. But it is what it is and it’s been great when it’s been great, and the game is different than when we started.

Take a look around at the blogsophere now, and compare what you see today to what that landscape looked like four years ago. Everything changes, which is great, and the only constant in the universe, but it’s bizarre how things change.

All of my favorite blogs from way back when are struggling now, it seems. They’re meandering, trying not to waiver in this quantity and qualitiy, but obviously there’s diminished output and even more diminished returns. All my favorite bloggers, those who aren’t struggling along with their blogs, have gone to print media, or to the netherworld that is the writing staff of sitcoms, and they’re flourishing. And they’re not just celebrated and envied now, but also respected. Which may or may not be new.

Four: Just out of curiosity, do websites and blogs still get turned into books, or at least book deals? Do twitter feeds still get turned into sitcoms?

Five: I would kill for the ability to travel in time. In fact, if someone were to put an ad in the personals looking for someone willing to go back in time to kill, like, Hitler, then I would do it. Sure. Sounds legit enough to me.

Picture a narrative, like a story in a computer file opened up in front of you, on your desktop or laptop. Look at the cursor. It can move forward or backward. It can highlight, change, control. The power is at your fingertips. That’s time travel.

Sorry, that’s a bit out of nowhere, I know.

Six: It’s funny to me how the old monsters are still around and still happy to scoop up the sexy younglings into their bosom. And then eat them.

And it’s understandable. A job is a job. A chance is a chance, even in a market or medium you don’t respect. Maybe you can change the system from the inside, but probably not, but who cares? A foot or even a toe in the door is more than what so many of us have now.

We all analyze and talk shit and then sell out. And then shit out some kids. And then die. That’s the cycle of life.

If Benjamin Light were here, he’d tell you that network television is soon to be a thing of the past. He’d tell you that the networks will all be dead or in their cancerous last stages in five years. I don’t disagree with him, but I would disagree on his time table. I think it’ll take a lot longer for them to die and for the new thing that comes after to really get its foothold. “What is dead may never die,” sure, but some things never really die, just shrink for a while. Like print media. Like publishing. I suspect that they may never fully pay the Iron Price, if you will. But it will certainly look like that at times.

All that said, if I were offered a job to write for a network sitcom, I would do it in a heartbeat. Are you kidding me? Of course I would. Fuck yeah. Any shitty ass job too. Two And A Half Men starring Ashton Kutcher dressed up like Steve Jobs? Only seen about five minutes cumulative of the entire show ever, but fuck yeah, I’d take a meeting or submit a spec script or whatever. I’m trying to think of an even worse example…

(FYI – This whole blog thing is obviously winding and grinding down, so if anyone out there wanted to offer me a job, let me just say… I’m cheap. And easy.)

I would literally pitch a buddy roommates sitcom starring Dane Cook and Carrot Top if I thought it meant the slightest possibility of a pay check and to be a breath closer to a creative industry I would like to be a part of. I can’t say that I’d love that job, because… Well, of course, I wouldn’t. But I’d do everything in my power to take that thing that I hated and try to make it something that I can hate less, and I’d much rather have a thing to let go than to never have had it at all…


Seven: Here’s an excerpt from a conversation Benjie and I had the other day…

Benjie: This article kind of captures some of the reason that I don’t like blogging anymore: “The Web Is a Customer Service Medium.”

Marco: Interesting article. The last quote in the article kind of sums up a nice train of thought, I think.

Benjie: New potential podcast name: Pedantic Asshattery.

Marco: The medium is the message, and to this day, I still don’t think people understand what the internet medium really is or why things work, or why you should do something other than, “well, someone else is doing it.”

We should start a little dialogue here and turn it into a blog post – which would be so hip – and talk about why we’re bored with blogging, and why Counter-Force is ending, which would the exact opposite of a 5by5 practice.

This follows an earlier discussion/bit of theorizing we were doing about why John Gruber mysteriously or perhaps not so mysteriously moved his podcast, The Talk Show, from one podcast network to another. Also, there’s some ongoing discussion between Benjie and I about a new name for our podcast… Perhaps we can discuss that on the next episode of our podcast?

Also, check out our fucking podcast! Or, rather…

CHECK OUT OUR FUCKING PODCAST! Please. The latest episode is called: “K-Stew Has A Shotgun.”

Benjie: I guess for me, this article articulates why I want our podcast to be “this is entertaining to listen to,” not “I have some opinions on stuff.”

Marco: Well, the tactic that I intend to employ in the podcast, the one that I’m assuming will work for me, is that I’ll have things to say to you. I only ever kind of think about the fact that we’re recording and distributing that recording in some way. That may bite me in the ass later on, but hopefully people will just enjoy listening to us. But hey, it’s free.

Benjie: I live my entire life as though an audience is watching.

Marco: The only audience that I care about consistently is myself. And the million different voices in my head.

Benjie: There is an idea of a Benjamin Light, some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me; only an entity, something illusory…

Marco: “…but even after admitting this there is no catharsis, my punishment continues to elude me and I gain no deeper knowledge of myself; no new knowledge can be extracted from my telling. This confession has meant nothing.”

Anyway, I don’t think the internet is going anywhere, and I think it’s always evolving and expanding, but it’s a shallow ocean. And there’s lots of waves with groupthink and LOLcats and porn bobbing up and down all over the place.

Benjie: I don’t think the internet is going anywhere, and what you see on it is just a reflection of culture.

Marco: Right. It’s not going anywhere and it’ll change, as cultures change, but the internet, to me, dances a fine line between not being all that real and being a little too real at times.

Or maybe not real enough? Excuse me, I need to go return some videotapes…

Eight: Was Marshall McLuhan the first academic rock star? I would say yes, at least for our somewhat modern times. Perhaps the first academic rock star was Galilleo, or Isaac Newton. They seemed like real chill bros of science.

But anyway, I’m just bullshitting here. This is just me carrying out some thoughts to their natural conclusions, for now. But if I could further borrow from the man…

Oh yes.

Nine: Here’s one of my favorite McLuhan fun facts…

Not long after he started teaching at Fordham university, and became a full on Academic Rock Star, McLuhan still felt the pressure for people to back up his ideas and philosophies with facts, with proven experiments. So he did so: He split up one of his classes into two, and showed both halves a movie. With the one half of the class, he showed them the movie on a movie screen. They sat there in the dark, watching a large screen with reflected light bouncing off it. The other half of the class was shown the same movie, but on a TV screen.

The result? The two halves took something different from the experience, one side able to discuss the film objectively and the other subjectively. Those who watched the film on the movie screen were able to comment on and critique the film itself. Those who watched it on the TV screen talked more in terms of themselves, how the film made them feel, what they took from the whole thing, etc.

Ten: I hope you enjoyed that story. I’m going to record myself saying that story on a podcast, then film it, then translate it into Japanese, and then back into English, and then I’m going to split this blog’s two and a half readers down the middle and I’m going to show one half that video, spliced into every second and a half frame of a super cut video of keyboard cat versus the Japanese further ruining what we think think/know of porn, and the other half is going to have the video broadcast straight into their nightmares.

The Aristocrats!

Eleven: I don’t mean to be continuously, in the parlance of the internet, fap fap fapping about McLuhan, but the dude was seriously smart, and had some good ideas that only become more applicable as the global village gave way to the world wide web. He was smart enough to realize that the book wasn’t just an invention of ease to deliver information and entertainment, but that it was also technology. The Gutenberg Man had his whole consciousness changed by movable type and technology isn’t just something that mankind creates, but something that recreates mankind. Hence… The medium is the message, we create the medium, which in turn recreates us, new media, old shit/new shit, blah blah blah, fap fap fap.

Here’s another quick McLuhan fun fact…

When they did his book which was to feature his famous slogan, “The medium is the message” as the title, they discovered that when the galleys came back that their was a pretty huge typo present: The Medium Is The Massage. Everyone was furious, except for McLuhan himself. He was a smart guy and probably had a good sense of humor, but now he suddenly saw his simple thought presented as a series of puns.

The message is massaged into the Mass Age which gives way for the onslaught of the Mess Age.

Peace be with you.

Twelve: I don’t know a lot of about the more technical side of the internet, and perhaps I don’t know enough about human beings to even go slightly pop psychology about the larger social networking that happens between us wee simple folk. Memes and SEO and the idea of the ecosystem are all extremely fascinating to me, but feel like they’re still in their infancy. Even with as tired and overplayed as they are in our brains.

I remember at the tail end of last summer Benjamin Light and I were having lunch at our favorite tacqueria and he was trying to explain to me the big tech patent wars that had been erupting over the summer. You know the one? The one in which millions of people who don’t understand how our patent system works anyway were complaining that it was broken? That one. Anyway, Benjie was telling me increasingly humorous stories about CEOs and chief legal officers of these massive corporations shit talking each other in blog posts and in YouTube videos. It was either the battle (of attrition) for public opinion or the ongoing struggle to get the last word, I don’t know, but it was funny.

At the time I made some kind of comment like: “The battle for the Internet will be fought to extremes, but with the tools of the Internet, which makes it ridiculous.”

Here’s a fun fact about me: When I originally typed up that half remembered statement just now, instead of “fought,” I wrote “thought.” Weird.

Anyway, I think the patent wars of last year were actually about phones, or something. Whatevs.

Thirteen: Anyway.

The old media may be dying, but it’s dying very slowly. We’ll have quite a bit of shade here underneath those falling giants.

Or, put another way: Orbits deteriorate constantly. Things fall out of the sky all the time. It usually takes a while, longer than you might think, and they tend to burn up before you’ll ever hear a THUD. And some things are pretty when they’re burning away into nothing.

Or, put another way still: 97 posts to go. It may/may not get a little messy on the way out. And then…

“Existing by momentum only, but pretending always otherwise.”

This is a picture of Tao Lin:

from here.

This is a picture of Tao Lin’s most recent book:

…which is the novella Shoplifting From American Apparel, which I reviewed here for your extreme pleasure.

But! More importantly, for today anyway, is this book:

…which is Bed, Tao Lin’s first collection of short stories.

After I read/reviewed SFAA, Tao was kind enough to send it to me and this, this bit of bloggery that you’re currently reading, is going to swell and blossom into a review of said collection of short stories. That review will be called: Cull the Steal Heart, Melt the Ice one, Love the Weak Thing; Say Nothing of Consolation, but Irrelevance, Disaster, and Nonextistence; Have No Hope or Hate – Nothing; Ruin Yourself Exclusively, Completely, and Whenever Possible. It’s also the quite charming title of one of the stories in the collection.

Before I really start, I want to share that infamous Miranda July quote with you about Tao Lin: “Tao Lin writes from moods that less radical writers would let pass—from laziness, from vacancy, from boredom. And it turns out that his report from these places is moving and necessary, not to mention frequently hilarious.”

A lazy writer/reviewer/blogger would just post that quote and call it a day. Miranda July is right about a lot of things usually, and in this case, Tao Lin included.

Okay, enough foreplay, a review:

The characters in Bed are people like you and I, most likely, in their early twenties, and primarily from Florida and going to school in New York. Or having moved back to Florida afterward. There’s a different writer on work here than in play in SFAA and Eeeee Eee Eeee, and Tao Lin is doing acrobatic work with casually smart wordplay, showing us characters looking for something or running away from something, or sometimes just upset and confused and not sure which they should be doing. They think a lot and they observe but mostly they feel things. They exist in relationships that are stressed and strange and in different stages of coming to an end.

There are some variations on this essential theme, but there is also a sense of deja vu that can be felt as you continue through each story as you experience what feels like a different scenario involving the same elements in some places. I don’t think it’s enough to take you completely out of the world set up by each story, and you could make the argument that this is very much a post-9/11 book, even if it only references the events 9/11 in two stories, but there’s that same sense of dread, confusion, and waiting for something to happen in an existence where each day feels exactly the same.

You can find a table of contents of Bed‘s nine stories here, and online you can read three of the stories:

Love Is A Thing On Sale For More Money Than There Exists.”

The aforementioned “Cull The Steel Heart, Melt The Ice One, Love The Weak Thing; Say Nothing Of Consolation, But Irrelevance, Disaster, And Nonexistence; Have No Hope Or Hate – Nothing; Ruin Yourself Exclusively, Completely, And Whenever Possible,” which is also known as “Leftover Crack In Red Hook.”

And “Sasquatch.”

And if you click here, you can find Tao Lin talking about each of the stories, giving each one mini commentary and talking about the songs he was primarily listening to while writing them, all over at Large Hearted Boy. He also mentions there that a lot of this collection was written and submitted in undergraduate writing workshops at NYU, which makes the story that primarily takes place in a writing workshop all that more interesting and funny to me, and that he studied the styles of Lorrie Moore and Joy Williams while crafting these fine tales.

These are stories that I think the internet can understand, at least the internet elite, those who understand/appreciate/tolerate Gawker. People who know what it’s like to be a “jobless bitch” or have ever felt “shadowy.” People who want to try and understand things by talking, sometimes aimlessly, who walk around thinking things like “Motherfucker” all the time. If you know what the void is like, what it’s like to hover over it, to ponder the big issues over sushi, and to hang out with teenagers for the sake of companionship and to get something out of TPing a house, you can appreciate these stories. These stories are, whoever you are, worth your time. Unless you’re an asshole.

Two of the best stories in the collection are excerpted up above, those being “Three-Day Cruise,” a lovely tale of a family, starting with how everyone in the family meets their eventual demise and then going back through their entire lives leading up to a family vacation they go on. At the end of life, there is no more fear of death, they realize.

In emailing Tao the other day, I gushed about “Three-Day Cruise,” but really, I should’ve been gushing about “Sasquatch,” the final story, which is nothing short of beautiful. The ending is magnificent. Every story here feels like you’re taking a tour through an aspect of Tao Lin’s life, but in a few of the stories, such as “Sasquatch” and “Three-Day Cruise,” something else begins to happen, as if Tao’s journey as the documentarian, sharer of words and thoughts and feelings and experiences, a raconteur and writer all merge in a warm transcendence of transmogrification. In the last story, I feel he loses something that turns off most potential readers, the deadpan voice, the sense that he’s just collecting, absorbing, regurgitating. There’s a whole world between the lines of “Sasquatch,” shared with you in Tao Lin’s usual style, but conveying more than just cleverness. There’s something in that last story that will stay with you a while after you’ve finished the book, set it down, and reviewed it online somewhere, be it on tumblr, Goodreads, or your own personal blog.

Bed was released concurrently with Tao’s first novel, Eeeee Eee Eeee, via small press publisher Melville House, based in New York. For cool visual aids of that first novel, I give you again a picture of Counterforce’s own Peanut St. Cosmo reading the novel:

When he sent me Bed, Tao mentioned that it was in an obviously different style than SFAA, and told me that it was his “least shit-talked book.” You have no idea how much I wish other authors could be so frank.

But, as I said in my previous post on him, Tao Lin is an author who has always embraced the wide world of shit talking that’s out there. In fact, when he announced the release of his short story collection just four short years ago, he was pretty clear that he wanted all possible blurbs, from the good, to the bad, to the ugly. And let’s face it, to embrace “shit talking” is nothing short of embracing the nature of the internet and the new ways that literature interacts, thrives, and penetrates it.

Prof. Leonard Kleinrock doing some crazy internet shit back in the day @ UCLA.

And Tao Lin is very much a writer who, if not created exclusively by the internet or ARPANET scientists based out of Taiwan, then a writer who has been nourished by the internet, who has thrived upon it. Someone who’s experienced it’s ebb and flows, it’s weird writer’s workshop vibe and vitality, from “shit talking” to extreme self promotion to the way that humanity analyzes and experience itself on the internet, always comparing itself to something else and finding the touching, slightly heartfelt emotion hidden there.

Put simply: The internet is the perfect metaphor for the world we live in: Terrorism is the same as heartbreak, isolation is the same as sushi, fighting with your girlfriend is the same as sleeping on your brother’s couch. childhood sleepovers are the same as movies you can buy from Wal-mart that make you feel good, Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwiches, aside from being delicious, are the same as humming the Star Wars theme during sex. Eschatology is the same as the Lochness Monster (or the Locke-ness Monster), Natalie Portman is always interesting, even when she’s in a movie like Garden State, and “it would take three Chopins to beat up Glenn Gould.” That is to say, these things happen, and sometimes they’re far away and sometimes they’re here and they’re now. It’s how you experience them. Sometimes it’s scary and terrifying and you don’t know how to feel or what to do and it feels like non-fiction, and sometimes it’s quaint and clever and a little bit silly and exciting, kind of like a story in a book.

Chopin vs. Gould!

Tao Lin’s website can be found here.

His tumblr presence can be found here.

His twitter presence can be found here.

This is his “tweet” about my previous post about him:

If you click here, you can see a video of his parents ordering at a McDonald’s in a semi-rural/mountainous area of Taipei, Taiwan.

If you click here, you can see Tao Lin’s reading diary.

If you click here, you can read about the iphone app he’s creating, entitled “North American Hamsters.” Previews: The “BSG” Hamster, which thankfully does not stand for Battlestar Galactica. The Morbidly Obese Hamster. And the “Winged Hamster.”

Tao Lin will also be featured in the upcoming Coming & Crying: Real Stories About Sex From the Other Side Of The Bed, edited by Melissa Gira Grant and Meaghan O’Connell. Also featured are incredibly talented people like Tess Lynch, Tyler Coates, Katie West, Stephen Elliott (and, by clicking here, you can read the interview with Tao Lin on Elliott’s website, The Rumpus), and Counterforce’s very own and very amazing, Maria Diaz.

And if you click here, you can find his short story for Nerve.

Write something about Tao Lin online. He will probably google it. Also, his second novel, Richard Yates, is coming out on September 7, 2010. The cover looks like this:

The Fucked Generation.

This is a picture of Tao Lin:

This is his new book, his fifth, Shoplifting From American Apparel:

This is a picture of his new book, Shoplifting From American Apparel, which is a novella, being sold at an Urban Outfitters:

from here, here, and also here.

And this, that which you’re about to read, is my review of Shoplifting From American Apparel, a review I am calling: “Oscar Wilde said a genius is a spectator to their own life, to the point that the real genius is uninteresting.” Please enjoy.

Before I begin, you can click here is an excerpt from the novella.

Or, you can click here for another excerpt.

Or, you can click here for yet another excerpt.

And click here for an interesting interview with Tao Lin over at The Rumpus.

The plot of  the largely autobiographical Shoplifting From American Apparel, which was originally a short story in Vice, is a simple one: Two years in the life of Sam, a New York writer with a cult-like following, as he moves through life, dealing with “two parts shoplifting arrests, five parts vague relationship issues,” hanging out with friends, talking on gmail chat (from here on referred to simply as “g-chat” or just “g chat”), “feeling” and discovering “things” all from a surface perspective. It is a story that is described by it’s author as “a shoplifting book about vague relationships,” or more accurately, “an ultimately life-affirming book about how the unidirectional nature of time renders everything beautiful and sad.”

One review has compared the author and his new novella to this piece of internet art…

…and it’s an interesting comparison, and a somewhat accurate one, for sure. That particular piece of art, like I said, is one that I’ve seen online many a place (especially in the world of tumblr) and likewise, Tao Lin is an author that I could only discover online. Tao Lin is a creature that could only be nurtured and pushed forward by the internet, whether it be his interesting “PR stunts,” constant self promotion, or his sponsorship team up with Hipster Runoff’s Carles (and I’m still not convinced that they’re not one and the same), and likewise, the main character of his novella, Sam, of whom the essential DNA is supplied by Tao Lin himself, is a character who is constantly talking to friends through via g-chat, hanging out with people he’s met through the internet, or living the life of a young man “caught in the soft blue light of Internet Explorer.”

Speaking of the internet and Tao Lin’s “PR stunts,” I should mention that in the spirit of full disclosure that a few weeks ago Tao Lin offered a free copy of his book to anyone who agreed to review it online. Now, I consider myself a “fan” of the author, but free? The price was certainly right. This is a recession after all. Review? Gladly. And a previous “PR stunt” by the author was to offer a free copy of his book to anyone who blogged 1500 words about him (or posted at least a 500 line g-chat about him online), something that Peanut St. Cosmo and myself were very seriously planning on doing (but were collectively too lazy to finish).

Speaking of which, here is a picture of the lovely and amazing Peanut St. Cosmo reading Tao Lin’s first novel, Eeeee Eee Eeee:

The simple gist of any review about Shoplifting From American Apparel from yours truly: I enjoyed it quite a bit, with some reservations. Then, as I pondered it over the course of an afternoon, then an evening, then a week that followed, I realized that I enjoyed it quite a bit. As a character within the novella would say, I liked how it made me feel. It’s not a book for everyone, nor is Tao Lin an author for everyone, but as I said, it all goes back to the internet. Those who would seek out such a book and author will be happily rewarded. Tao Lin, though a bit “twee” of course, is a brave step forward, both a lover of literature and someone who seems to want to live in literature, immersed in it’s warmth, and to help further fan it’s flames. If you have a problem with that, you should probably stick with your fucking James Patterson books.

Even more simply put, Tao Lin is not my favorite author. Not even close, I’m afraid. But he is the living author that I most want to succeed. The next time he goes to check his Amazon rankings, I hope he’ll find that they’ll have risen exponentially and that he will feel “happy.”

I mention the author quite a bit because it seems that you can’t talk about his books without doing so. Sure, his writing is minimalist, and yeah, it dabbles in “K-mart realism” at times, but it’s also aggressively one of a kind. It saddens me that 9 out of 10 articles/reviews/write ups about him just have to mention (including this write up to now, it would seem) that his blog, once upon a time, was called “READER OF DEPRESSING BOOKS.” Then, as a joke, he changed it’s title to “SERIOUS LITERATURE.”

And now, appropriately, it’s simply called “heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.”

An early review of Shoplifting From American Apparel compared it to a hipster version of My Dinner With André. I like that. I mean, I like Louis Malle’s My Dinner With André, quite a bit in fact, but maybe I don’t like hipsters so much. I consider myself quite the opposite of a hipster, though I do like a lot of the same things they do. So, at the point I read that review, I was all jazzed for a novel that was nothing but a transcript of a g-chat between two people. I can live with that, I figured, if I could enjoy two men talking about life and themselves and exploring the existential dread and ennui all around them in My Dinner With André, or if I could enjoy two people talking about sex in Nicholson Baker’s Vox. And I could.

“Ennui,” is another thing that people harp on about Tao Lin’s work and his persona. Not inaccurately, I don’t think, but just too much. Much like you could say that the works/persona of Tao Lin are about ennui and drenched in ennui and doing somersault-ish backflips for show into the great lakes of ennui, as much as you could say that, and be right, a reviewer will probably say it a hundred million more times.

But that’s not all there is to a Tao Lin book, especially not Shoplifting From American Apparel. There’s ennui, and there’s more. There’s the slow realization that the characters in the novella live in a world without any meaning, at least not a readily apparent one. Friends come and go, narratives change every twenty pages, and your ex-girlfriends end up in mental hospitals. You touch things and you don’t know what they are, but you touch them all the same. You give them new names. Everything around you is merely a surface detail, and it’s up to us to supply the meaning. Your generation may be “fucked.” Time passes. It always passes. One moment you’re having a stare off with Moby, the next you’re looking at youtube videos of child prodigies with a girl you’re in an uncertain and vague “relationship” with, and the next thing you know you’re going to a Ghost Mice show and sleeping in an empty bus, just like Christopher McCandless, only in Florida. And then you play some music on your macbook, you shoplift some headphones, and you lust after a Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich.

Oh, in a quick glance, I noticed I was wrong about that review calling Shoplifting From American Apparel a version of My Dinner With André for hipsters. Actually it is “like a version of Malle’s My Dinner with André written especially for glue-huffers and self-loathing masturbation addicts.” Eh, maybe. But that’s a far more noble goal than just being a thing for hipsters, right?

That said, in case, you were wondering, my favorite bit from the book was:

“Don’t steal shit for a while,” said Luis. “And try to make yourself happy in some way.”

“Okay,” said Sam. “I’ll buy a new emo CD.”

You have to feel bad for people/characters named Sam. It’s such an unfortunate name.

A possible sequel?

That same review I just mentioned also says “Tao Lin writes in impotent, staccato sentences, like Hemingway after a lobotomy and a sloppy castration.” Parts of that sentence are true and parts are unnecessarily cruel, I think. Also, Tao Lin clearly likes authors such as Lorrie Moore, Richard Yates, Raymond Carver, and Ann Beattie, but who knows how he feels about Ernest Hemingway.

You could just about the meanest, harshest criticism of Tao Lin and you know what’s most interesting about it? It’s probably true. It’s hard to argue with some of his flaws because he is an imperfect novelist. But he’s good at it. If you dislike his works or if you dislike his online persona, you can’t argue that he is a serious writer. Always pushing himself forward, working on something, constantly writing in an age where everyone else bitches about writer’s block. And regardless if you like or don’t like a writer’s style, I think an admiration for having a style has to be cultivated.

I think the brilliant and adorable Peanut St Cosmo agrees with me. I think.

Again, Tao Lin’s website can be found here.

His tumblr presence can be found here.

His art can be found here.

And the original short version of the story, from Vice, can be found here.

My second favorite line from the book is: “When I’m talking to someone I think ‘can I use this dialogue in a book,'” said Luis. “If the answer is no I try talking to someone else.”

According to two of Tao Lin’s former roommates, the events of the book are more or less true. But they do suggest that you don’t discount the mischievous trickster aspect of the real Tao Lin. Here are some examples.

And if you click here, you can read Tao Lin’s review of Thomas Bernhard’s Woodcutters, or Cutting Timber, depending on the translation. I read this review quite some time ago and the next day, I bought Bernhard’s novel on ebay for all the “shit talking.”

My third favorite line from Shoplifting From American Apparel is: A few minutes later Sam walked out of American Apparel holding an American Apparel shirt. Why? It’s the titular moment of the story and to me, there’s something genius in the fact that you don’t even realize that this is theft until a plain clothes security guard says something.

This is a video of Tao Lin reading his poem, “I went fishing with my family when I was five,” and at first you’ll think it’s brilliant, then it’ll annoy you, and then it’ll annoy the shit out of you. See here:

…but afterward, it may just brilliant the shit out of you.

Speaking of the “shit talking” up above, if you click here, you can read Tao Lin talking about “K-mart realism” at This Recording. It’s a good post, but I especially mention it because if you scroll down to the comments, you can find one commenter who does some “shit talking” and says that he doesn’t get the appeal of Tao Lin. So Tao Lin tells him to drop him an email and he’ll send him a copy of his book. I like that. I think that’s cool. It can only happen on the internet, of course. Then again…

I received this for for free, but you can buy it here.

This is artist Jeffrey Brown illustrating a line from the novella:

from here.