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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Why, yes, you should receive a Victory Medal for beating the clap.

I mean, why wouldn’t you?

Here at Counterforce, we have three simple rules for dealing with all life:

1. Jai Alai is fucking stupid.

2. Funny, sad, tragic, or fitting, death is always weird, no matter where you go or who the hell you are.

and

3. No sailors. No way.

That said, ruminate on last night’s episode of Mad Men, “The Arrangements.” Normally August Bravo would be here to join me, but, well, he didn’t heed Peggy’s mom’s warning and moved to Manhattan. And he got raped.

Somewhere out there in the ether there’s a t-shirt waiting to be dreamt up: I Moved To Manhattan, Got Raped, And All I Got Was This Lousy Fucking T-Shirt. Oh, And A New TV. I’d wear it, but only to classy parties.

Last week I mentioned that Sally Draper was becoming one of my favorite characters and this week, if you didn’t agree with me, let’s face it, that shit was all over your face. Little Kiernan Shipka acted her way nicely (and, yes, adorably) out of the damp paper bag that was the Grandpa Gene storyline (which I respect so much more now, because Gene Hofstadt was a real grandfather, crazy warts and all), and did so marvelously. And she fits so perfectly into the scheme of the show that it hurts.

Oh, and interestingly enough, for a show that’s all about the multi-faceted horridness of 1960s masculinity, I have to say that Bobby Draper, you’re just not cutting it. You’re just there, kid, taking up space, and taking dead men’s helmets. If you’re not careful, you might go upstairs one day, and like the little sister on Family Matters, just never come back down again…

Families are tough, man. And this was an amazing episode about seeking out familial approval, and how you’re never going to get it. Not really. You may always get their love, but they’ll never really understand you. Not in the way you need to be understood.

And the same for the previous generation. You’ll ache to see out their approval, but it’s not coming. And right now, it really feels like that’s what so much of this show is about, at least this year: Looking to the people older than you for understanding and approval and guidance. And finding nothing. Only more confusion.

It’s not their fault. The older generation of America at this time didn’t know how to love. Maybe they still don’t. But back then they didn’t know how to get past the horrors they’d seen within and without and to connect with another human being.

And saddest of all, they haven’t realized that the world changed around them when they weren’t looking and now they’re hopeless to catch up. They don’t even know they’ve been left behind, much like Roger in last week’s episode.

Though it doesn’t say much in credit of the younger generation when they have nicknames like Ho Ho and think that jai alai is the future. And in color! On all three networks!

Poor Betty Draper. As much as I want to root for her, she keeps falling into the category of the precious sad victim. And as much as I want to feel bad for her, I can’t. This woman is terrified of intimacy, of anything outside a perfect world that hasn’t existed in a long, long time, and even when it did, it may have only been in the revisionist history of her pretty little head. In fact, Betty and Ho Ho have a lot in common in that their parents meant the best for them, but know that their kids are unprepared for the world.

Betty Draper = Worst Mother Of The Year, 1963.

Instead, the Mad Men housewife I do actually feel real remorse for is, of course, Sal’s poor wife, Kitty. Her husband’s a commercial director now, ripping off the finest for ad work, but with a little luck, Kitty’s realized something powerful there about the man she loves. And hopefully it’s not that everyone just wants photographs.

She doesn’t need a lot, Sal. But she does need… tending.

And the saddest part of all? On this show, they’re easily the most functioning couple. The truth may be kept at arm’s length, but there is a closeness there. And more importantly, there’s a mutual respect in their bedroom.

I love that Don Draper operates by a certain set of rules that he holds dear. They may not be the same as society’s, not the surface of what society says anyway, but they’re his rules. He’s a man of few words, and they’re sharp, cutting, to the point when they have to be. Surgical strikes, dripping with wit (particularly the line about the guy going off to direct a feature in Hollywood).  And he has no problem taking money from that guy, Horace, for his stupid jai alai campaign, but he’s going to seek out the approval of his elders, and he’s going to at least warn the guy that he’s a moron.

Question for you: Pete’s line about his father and money: “This is his kind of investment.” Is he just playing the account man, trying to line up the sweet deal, or is this his subtle acknowledge of his father’s own financial failures?

Warning sign #1, Ho Ho: If you have to pitch your idea to the ad men, your idea’s crap. If it’s good, they’re just going to sell it right back to you to get your cash.

I think Pepsi certainly learned their lesson there with the Patio commercial. But like Don says there, even a failure can mean reaching a new plateau. Or, to use the parlance of today’s television lingo, reaching a new “game changer.”

“Game changer” is the buzzword/phrase, I hope, that killed “jumping the shark.” All TV jumped the shark five or six years ago, and now we’re all praying for game changers.

Speaking of Patio, you had to adore Peggy’s satisfied grin as she walked out of that meeting. She was right. Maybe she wasn’t right for the her own reasons, but still, she was on the winning side, no matter what was in or out of her toolbox.

And I think I love Peggy’s new roommate. So much so that I want them to have their own spin off. And it shall be called I Love To Have… Fun!

And Joan, Joan, Joan. The Tex Avery girl brought to life. We saw a little bit of it last season when dealing with Harry Crane and the television scripts, but Joan is clearly meant for more than just being a secretary and house mother figure to a bunch of confused young ladies with” stupid looks on their faces.” Her spicing up of Peggy’s ad was perfect. No more stage directions from an Ibsen play here! Just look at the catch it nabbed Peggy. Just don’t forget, Peggy: A door should only be closed for one thing. You know what we’re talking about.

I have to say it again: Poor Sally Draper. Her path, at least through the rest of this season and, one presumes, next season as well, is going to be an interesting one. Her mother can’t acknowledge her sadness because she’s too busy trying to ignore her own. Her father is doing the best he can but he doesn’t know who he is. And she’s growing up without that guidance or nurturing in a confusing and confused world, raised by people unprepared for the social forces about to knock them down. The pope is dead and monks are lighting themselves on fire.

Before long, she’ll stop mixing Tom Collins for her parents and just making them for herself.