Eternities of darkness.

Conrad Noir sent me this link, told me it was “the most ridiculously happiest and cheesy thing I have ever seen.”

Global warming, increased sea levels, and “ghost states.”

Brain scan reveals what you’ve seen?

Hitler’s skull” actually belonged to a woman.

Sex inspires women to do chores.

Woman gets pregnant while already pregnant!

Dennis Hopper and James Dean’s cock.

Oktoberfest etiquette.

Cosmic rays hit a new high.

The Australian dust storm.

The 10 most puzzling ancient artifacts.

There are two kinds of light.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.”

God is our space pilot.

Capitalism, baby!

Can we survive an asteroid attack?

What we really need now is more pictures of Marilyn Monroe reading.

Music collabs are crazy out of control these days.

“The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.”

-Vladimir Nabokov

Heroes is crashing and burning, at least ratings-wise.

Earthquakes and invisibility cloaks.

The occult and hip hop.

Forgetting in a digital age.

The Get Up Kids apologize for having wrought emo, Fall Out Boy.

Sarah Silverman/Jimmy Kimmel sex tape? Eww.

Stop asking for permission.

Perennial with the Earth.

Speaking of America and advertising

I really like the commercial I saw the other day for the new Levi’s campaign, called “Go Forth.” The clip was essentially just some images of youthful abandon, half dressed, cavorting around with fireworks and in jeans, and was directed by Cary Fukunaga with an interesting visual flair. You can see it here:

The dialogue comes from an old wax sound recording of Walt Whitman reading four lines from his poem, “America.” Whitman has no problem singing the body electric with the young folks of today, it seems.

There’s another commercial from the from same campaign, entitled “O Pioneers!” It’s not as striking, but it’s still got a good visual style, courtesy of director M. Blash. I don’t know much about Blash, other than the trailer for his upcoming Chloë Sevigny/Jena Malone/Leelee Sobieski-starring indie film, Lying, which both bores and fascinates me, and features a great Joy Division-esque song by John Maus. Here’s Blash’s commerical:

The print aspects of the new campaign, and pretty much all of it except for that single commercial, don’t really interest me. Jeans are jeans and this is America – thanks for reminding me, Levi’s/Walt Whitman – not Russia, and I wonder again and again: How hard do you really have to advertise jeans? The same, I would think, could be said for beer, sodas, and potato chips, right? Whatever, I’m not a marketing major.

That said, I do give Levi’s a little more credit at the advertising game just because they seem to continuously go with a more interesting visual in their commercials. Their ad people keep it hip, keep it interesting. Though it aired easily ten years ago or more, to this day I still remember the levi’s commercial featuring Gael Garcia Bernal and “Playground Love” by Air. Good stuff.

Anyway, this new campaign for Levi’s comes from a firm apparently called Wieden & Kennedy. It’s funny, with all the absorbing of Mad Men and Don Draper speak I’ve been doing lately, I feel like I’m less amazed and blown away by the continuous “indomitable spirit” of this fine country and more by our want and desire to be wined and dined, to be performed to and for, to be good and properly sold on a thing. Our dominion, I’m starting to think, is the desire to conquer not new lands, but not ideals, and to think that we possess them.

“Maybe I’m late because I was spending time with my family reading the bible.”

From unexpected visitors to camera obscuras to “fender benders,” starting in media res and not letting up until someone’s soul was signed away (for three years) last night was another great episode of Mad Men. And August and Marco want to talk with you, from their fainting couches, of course, about “Seven Twenty Three” and…

August Bravo: A thousand reasons why I’m so great. Confessions of a Mad Man!

Marco Sparks: You’ll have to excuse August here, ladies and gentlemen. He’s been staring at the sun. That, and he’s both an Ogilvy fan and a Duck Phillips fan.

August: What a great beginning. Where did he wake up? Who cares. All that matters is that Don knows how to clean up.

Marco: Everything about that beginning was so great, from how short each little intro was to the way it effortlessly let us flashback into the main thrust of the story. But there was just something hypnotically perfect about the way Peggy’s arm falls down to the bed, right?

In fact, and it’s fitting that this episode airs (and this is by no means a defense of the man or his crimes, just his films) right as Polanski’s getting arrested, but this episode’s beginning captured a certain sense of dread that’s been missing from the cinema, I feel, since Polanski’s early days (especially in a movie like The Tenant), and is all too rarely ever attempted on television.

August: “Maybe I’m not on time because I was with my family reading the bible.”  The greatest quote of the season? I don’t know, but I think so.

Marco: I think you’re right. “I’m Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some marijuana has faded in my memory, and Don talking to Connie was perfect. I like how Don’s primary mode of respect/getting long with the previous generation involves smart ass remarks. The Draper charm!

August: I’ve never laughed out loud during a scene, not until Don said that to Hilton. I loved that Hilton took the desk and assumed the power in the office, something he proably felt Don took from him in their meeting last week. And what’s with the clapping after Connie leaves? The guys know who he is, but don’t know what’s going on.

Marco: They just know he’s Don Fucking Draper and if Conrad Hilton is stopping by to wish him a good morning and tell him about his weird urges and desires and have him pass some kind of bizarre moral test, well, then they better give him a standing ovation. Whatever happened in that office, you just know it was good. As for what’s going on…

August: I’m not sure Don knows either, especially when it comes to Connie. Why the sudden rush to him? What makes his eye wander?

Marco: Good question. Is it the curse of powerful men with unsatisfiable appetites? Or is it a comment about the Hiltons in general?

August: Uh oh. Contract time for Don. Something he’s not too fond of. Especially talking about it with his family. And why would he? It’s none of their business.

Marco: He’s managed to avoid it before but now they’re closing in on him. But for Roger here, do you think that he called Betty at home out of a dastardly sense of business or was he just trying to stick it to Don in their ongoing hostilities this year? Or both?

August: Definitely business. I don’t think he’s got something against Don. I think he thinks he’s still this young guy, compared to him, who’s going to learn the ropes of the business one of these days.

Marco: I’d say that Roger is certainly hurt and confused by Don’s dislike of him. I don’t think Roger is capable of understanding what it could be that’s caused the rift between them, and these aren’t the most “cards on the table” of men. I love this exchange:

Roger: “I watched the sun rise this morning.”

Don: “How was it?”

Roger: “Average.”

August: I like the recurring return to Betty on the couch. Something happened to everyone in this episode, that’s the point of the beginning and the flashbacks, but it was very clearly something else for her. What’s she thinking about?

Marco: Fucking that guy from the Governor’s office.

August: Yeah, her exchange with him just reeked of an extramarital affair in the making from the get go.

Marco: He doesn’t care about her fucking water tank, but he will stop her from staring into the sun. Like an idiot.

August: Yeah, that really won her over. She wanted him like I want to watch new episodes of Heroes.

Marco: I don’t know what that means.

August: But she won’t get with him, I don’t think. At least not yet. But, seriously, who the fuck is that guy?

Marco: Some Republican asshole who goes around caressing pregnant women’s stomachs at parties and happened to squeeze himself in at a time when her father was dead and her husband was a little too honest about how self centered she is. Just remember: “It’s not adorable to pretend like you’re not adorable.”

August: Something’s definitely always on her mind these days. It makes her a much more interesting character this season. Finally speaking up and expression her opinions.

Marco: Especially when Don explains his thining on the contract situation with her. “They can’t have me,” so of course that makes them want him more. Which is exactly how he’s always treated her.

August: She’s very un-lady-like this season. But in a good way.

Marco: But I think the fainting couch almost screams too loudly as a metaphor at he end of the couch, not just for the wandering eye/mind/spirit of the clearly upset and confused Betty – remember, the fainting sofa, a perfect thing for Betty, was introduced to her by her potential new suitor – but for what she’s bringing into the Draper family home, and what she thinks of it. “That’s your hearth, darling,” the interior decorator tells her. “That’s the soul of your home.” And rather than have it filled with love, Betty’s going to put a tacky couch there, so she can faint and not deal with the world.

But, then again, Betty’s potential suitor is only slightly less interesting than Sally’s teacher, who has locked her sights on Don, and has accepted that relationship with Don is just going to happen. Because, like Peggy pointed out before, he’s got more and is obviously bored.

August: Don’s verbal bitch slap to Peggy was so awesome, so eye opening.

Marco: “You were my secretary.”

August: “You’re good. Get better. Close the door.”

Marco: And the most devastating, in Don’s rage, of telling her that she’s brought him nothing that he couldn’t live without.

August: It does get annoying to see Peggy keep asking and asking for things. Just because you can move up quick doesn’t mean you should keep moving up the ladder that fast.

Marco: I will admit that while Peggy is clearly talented, her rise is unprecedent, obviously, and possibly undeserved. She’s probably very unprepared for a lot of what she’s inherited. But then again, this is advertising, and that’s the nature of that particular game.

And this is why she’ll always be tied to Pete, because in a lot of ways, they are the same. Where she’s good, he’s devious and insidious. When he’s vulnerable and heartfelt, she’s clumsy or scheming. Their individual failings nicely fit the other’s virtues. And so I think it’s interesting that Pete essentially asked for the gig with Hilton earlier the same as Don assumed Peggy was doing when she caught him when he was upset from dealing with the contract stuff.

August: And then there’s Duck…

You are Don’s girl, aren’t you?

Marco: Uncle Herman!

August: Duck should maybe keep his fantasies to himself.  Who just wants to see Peggy everyday?

Marco: I can’t believe that line worked.

August: It’s all about the teeth line.

Marco: Duck is a hungry man. And he was going to give her a go around like she’d never gotten before. Suck it, Pete. Though, comparitively, Duck is very much a man, if a failed one, compared to Pete. And it seems like Peggy really gets amorous and vulnerable to the physical desires afer Don chews her out.

And then it starts all over again and we come back to the end.

August: And the end is the beginning. Don was mugged by a couple of “young lovers.”

Marco: To me, that felt very similar to the California storyline from season 2. Don likes to flirt with crossing the boundaries, both his own and society’s. Especially when his freedom and the persona he’s worked so hard on are threatened.

And don’t forget Archie Whitman, telling Don in a hallucination (on reds!), that he’s a grower of bullshit.

August: And Peggy slept with Duck. And he apparently rocked her world. And Betty… well, who knows what’s really going on in Betty’s mind?

Marco: She’s looking for a little something she can have control over. Something all the characters in this episode seem to have lost a little grasp on. Certainly within themselves.

You mentioned the loss of the sitting behind the desk, hence the power in the room, which makes me glad that Cooper was there at the end, the real fatherly figure to Don. The man who can call Conrad Hilton “eccentric” completely without irony in his tone. The man who can say, “Would you say I knw something about you, Don?”

August: “After all, when it comes down to it, who’s really signing this contract anyway?”

Marco: Good question.

It’s only a matter of time before we all burn.

The other day someone came up to me and asked about the continuing fire situation in the southern California area. “It looks like the end of the world,” they told me and were then shocked when I wasn’t shocked by that statement. They asked me if it was still going on, if the fires were still burning, and they asked this as if I knew the answer. Being primarily a still a Californian deep down in my weird little DNA, I’ll constantly let people know where I’m from (in case it’s not obviously and readily apparent why I’m better than them on a variety of levels), but it’s a double edged sword in that I’m expected to have an answer everytime some new weird or stupid piece of news comes out of the Golden State.

So, my answer to this question about the fires was simply: “I don’t know.”  Then the question came: You know a lot of people there, right? Wouldn’t they know from the constant smoke in the distance? Me: “If you live in LA, or spend signifigant time there, I think you make a kind of peace with a lot of things there being perpetually fucked up. The air, especially.” This answer only prompted confusion.

So I attempted a clarification: “Listen, here’s the thing about how people in California operate: Unless your house is on fire, or you’re personally bein evacuated, or it’s fucking up some sex you’re trying to get or, I don’t know, your pot delivery, or something, you don’t really care about a whole lot of other people’s tragedy.”

That’s of course both true and not true. Californians are not that soulless, not really. On the surface, maybe, but deep down… they’re primarily still human beings. Don’t ask me for evidence of their humanity, but just take my word for it, okay? And if you don’t, I’m sure someone will come along soon enough to make a movie with heart that proves me right. But recently, I saw someone put the situation best: “Because the world is always ending in Los Angeles, we are not necessarily surprised when it does. We are also not surprised when the world keeps going on after that.”

from here.

Anyway, after the question and answer exchange about my home land, I came back to my lair, the whole exchange floating around in the back of my head, and I put on my music player, hit random, and the first song given to me was Death Cab For Cutie‘s “Grapevine Fires,” from their nice enough last album, Narrow Stairs.

The video for the song, see above, directed by the Walter Robot duo, is a lovely affair, very nice and effective, but as with so many music videos, it doesn’t follow the lyrical narrative of the song, which is especially a shame here, I think. Particularly since, for me, one of Ben Gibbard’s strengths isn’t just the sonic aspect of his songwriting, the chords he chooses or how well he plays them, but just the way he manages to capture a tone to flow through his short stories.

The songwriter and his brand new bride.

And “Grapevine Fires” is one of the most lovely, most melancholy short stories I think he’s ever released, a beautiful song, drenched in a harmony fit for a funeral, a juxtaposition of the beautiful and the tragic as a man, a woman, the woman’s daughter, all go for a picnic in a cemetery in the Los Angeles area to watch the fires in the distance. There’s wine and some paper cups for the couple, who may have already been evacuated, as they watch the desolation unfolding and the young girl, not aware of the seriousness, or perhaps despite it, just dances around. “The northern sky looks like the end of days” as the man watches her and realizes that, no matter what, everything’s gonna be just fine. Even when it isn’t. Maybe it’ll rain, maybe it won’t. Either way, it’s only a matter of time. And you’re alive today.

Just because we saw this show doesn’t mean it has to happen.

Flashforward is no Lost.

It’s more of an experiment done in the ABC network labs to try and replicate and cultivate a Lost variation using some stolen cells from the much more interesting, much more popular show that’s “just about a bunch of people on an island.”

It’s Lost season 6 filming now OMGZ!

One of those cells shaved off the original is that annoying little hobbit, Charlie.

I’d like to point out that Charlie was such an integral part of Lost that he was killed off three years ago and half the audience has not only moved on, but pretty much forgotten about him.

from here.

But, no, no, this isn’t going to be nothing but Charlie bashing. That’s honestly too easy.

The same goes for the lovely Sonya Walger, Desmond long lost love on Lost who he was finally reunited with. I feel really bad for Walger, who’s a fine actress, because she’s had to go from jacking guys off on cancelled TV shows to soon to be cancelled shows like this, and her lone quality stop in between the two being her being cast in a role seemingly locked into the heart of Lost‘s mythology, only to then be barely utilized. Desmond’s Penelope wasn’t content to sit around waiting for her husband to return to Ithaca, but then… well, that’s a whole other story.

Flashforward is more of a show for people who (foolishly!) stepped out on Lost a few years ago and now claim “it’s too confusing” for them to dip back into, but really what they mean is that they’re ashamed. Elements of Flashforward‘s pilot (given the appropiate meta title of “No More Good Days”) are essentially the same set up from Lost, just brought over to an urban environment. But done in a not too subtle, not too interesting way. Nothing seems dangerous or interesting on Flashforward.

I’ll admit that Matthew Fox was a gamble for Lost to cast as their lead (as opposed to their original choice, Micheal Keaton), but you’d think that conversley, Joseph Fiennes, would be an incredibly safe lock for a lead on Flashforward. But what we didn’t know is that prior to filming the pilot episode, Ray Fiennes’ little brother had any charisma or allure that he may have possessed surgically removed.

The same could be said for the showrunners on Flashforward: David Goyer and Brannon Braga. Goyer’s one of those guys that’s really only popular with comic book nerds and fans of mediocre TV and movies (his sole “win” seemingly being Batman Begins and the “outline” for The Dark Knight). And Braga’s one of those Star Trek refugees who’s best at mindless, escapist TV that doesn’t require you to care all that much (he’ll be running 24 this coming season, I believe).

It is amusing to me to see Roger Sterling’s wife as the horny babysitter.

And it’s splitting hairs, but the show falls into that category of “That’d never happen like that.” The beginning near-apocalypse seems kind of calm compared to how such a catastrophe would really affect the worlds, and most criminal, after the first twenty minutes, the characters have seemed to make a little too much peace with all the weird shit they’ve experienced. Also, it seems odd to me that the local office of the FBI would be put in charge of the worldwide phenomena that’s just happened…

Also, Seth MacFarlane as the Special Agent in charge of Exposition at the FBI? Ugh. Though MacFarlane is certainly no stranger to derivative entertainment.

The novel the show’s based on, by Robert J. Sawyer, isn’t perfect. In fact, it’s about as flawed and passion-less as the show, which isn’t a direct adaptation by any means, more taking a central concept and a few minor character archetypes and situations over. The novel feels like watered down Crichton, starting with a very interesting premise and then either moving away from it as fast as possible or getting completely mired down in the prattling on of the uninteresting self centered characters. The one thing the novel did have right about itself was that it was primarily set at CERN, and it’s main characters were scientists, afraid that they were responsible for the consciousness of the entire world flashing forward in time, and so it made a little more sense for them to get heavily involved in an investigation into this sort of thing.

For a show that should have a lot more potential and promise than was on display, how sad is it that I was more excited by the productionally challenged V remake’s commercials during the broadcast?

That said, I did enjoy the Oceanic Airlines ad in the background of one scene:

Makes me wish I could flash forward to January 2010 already.

There are two kinds of light.

Can you see time?

How elephants talk to each other through the ground.

Can robots make ethical decisions?

A link about the founder of the Jedi church.

We’re faster at making crises than we are at fixing crises.

Happy Birthday, Brigitte Bardot.

Jennifer’s Body is garbage, but you’d tap it anyways.

“Where’s the light to shine on me?”

Saturn’s moon Titan has a foggy bottom.

“There are two kinds of light — the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures.”

-James Thurber, from Lanterns and Lances, 1963.

Using magnetism to turn drugs on and off.

Anticancer nanotech.

Neolithic carving raises eyebrows.

Send the dark underneath.”

Could we create quantum creatures in a lab?

Animals with “metacognition?”