“For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.”

Like my previous post, this will be just a few things, some half way there thoughts…

One: The sky is still falling, and this blog is still coming to an end. We’re getting there, but slowly.

After this: 89 posts to go.

Have you listened to our podcast? You’ll notice that a majority of the posts now are just tools for you to download each new episode (but we’ll be on itunes soon). Not every post from now til the end – from this time to the end of time – will be solely about episodes of the podcast, but a good chunk of the rest of this blog will be eaten up by the creature that is consuming it and evolving out of it.

Evolution imagery is gruesome and interesting.

Two: It’s probably been a hundred years since I saw the Star Trek episode from this post borrow its title.

I vaguely remember it had a premise that sounded less interestingly like a very interesting (at least in its promise and potential) show that Harlan Ellison created way back, called The Starlost.

I won’t rehash the show’s plot, especially since you can just read about it on the Wikipedia link, but from what I gathered the show was terrible. But in reading what’s there, to me, I see the potential for something amazing, something that could be brilliant with a little bit of re-conceptualizing and competent execution.

Brilliant and intriguing puzzle/mystery box shoes still seem to be highly lusted after by network TV execs in these post-Lost wilderness years, but it seems like no one has the time to invest in competent conceptualization and execution. So it goes. Instead of our altars, we’re building our own coffins.

Three: Speaking of The Starlost, also read up on the idea of generation ships, and holodecks, and the Danger Room from X-men comics, the Dreamatorium from Community, and Arthur C. Clarke’s Rama series.

And see also: the “Mystery In Space” and “Rendezvous” issues of Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary comic series, which was one of the best pieces of storytelling that I’ve had the pleasure to read in the last ten or so years. On its surface, it’s about mystery archaeologists, but in reality its a love letter to certain kinds of storytelling from the previous fifty years of our culture.

Four: We eat our young. Only those lucky or tough enough to crawl away are potentially worthy of living to tell the tale.

Five: This is the new decade. There’s bigger and better thinkers who are more capable of this, better suited to the task, but I wonder what this new decade will look like. What innovations and disasters and pop confectioneries will define this new unit of measuring time.

And from that, I say… Does this decade, still in its relative infancy, still feel remarkably similar to the latter days of the previous decade? Isn’t that how it goes? Did the initial years of the 80s feel similar to waning years of the70s? Did the first few years of the 90s look anything like the middle years of the 90s?

Six: I’ve never seen Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World On A Wire, but I’ve always wanted to. I guess that, amongst other things, what’s been holding me up is that it’s a piece of old 3 1/2 German sci fi. That and it wasn’t readily available until the it was released not too long ago as part of the Criterion Collection.

The Criterion Collection. Of course.

The movie is based on an old novel, Simulacron-3 by Daniel F. Galouye, and I have seen the American movie adaptation of that book…

Seven: When something is said, or when art is created, mixed with business and pleasure, how often does it come from a real, authentic place, answering questions or curiosities that are out there amongst the community? Or, especially when you lean more towards business rather than pleasure, or the pleasure of business, does it come from the perception of an interest within the larger community, the popular imagination, or a desire to create and inspire that perception and then make money off of it?

Eight: In the 90s, especially towards the beginning of the 90s, but a little at the end of it, it seemed like we didn’t know what we had on our hands. Not yet anyway.

It’s like Murphy Brown’s baby, that was born amidst a certain level of generated/unnecessary controversy. It was raised by the guy who was painting the house for years and years and wouldn’t be named until it could be deciphered, or understood. I know that kid eventually got a name, but wasn’t he, like, twenty at that point?

In Sci Fi trends in the 90s it seemed like they were mixing the 70s paranoia rehash that was being re-conceptualized in The X-Files with this desire to pursue the new, the fringes of oncoming technology and the things that we assumed would be important.

Spoiler alert: I’m going to start talking about virtual reality in a moment.

On top of that, you had boy bands and you “alternative rock” and I remember going to high school and hearing bullshit arguments about who was or what constituted being a “poser.” I heard some kids of being accused of being “wiggers.” On one hand we were growing up to want to start living lives out of the movies that had raised us when our parents were busy, and on the other hand we were accused of appropriating lives and roles that it was felt we had no right to. In music and society and goofy cultural matters there was this question of authenticity.

Perhaps you’re not real. Perhaps you only existence in the simulacra of someone else. And perhaps because you think, therefore you are…

Unless you’re just programmed to have thoughts, or to think you’re having thoughts. Who is telling this story? And to whom?

Anyway.

The American movie that came out of Simulacron-3 in the 90s was The Thirteenth Floor, starring Craig Bierko, Gretchen Mol, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Dennis Haysbert. It’s a murder mystery set within a company that’s created a new simulated reality, and there’s a twist. The twist is not hard to guess.

from here.

The tagline for the movie was “Question Reality.” I find that interesting since the tagline for American Beauty, which came out int he same year, was “Look Closer.”

Is it possible that we’re missing something?

The Thirteenth Floor was/is not a bad movie, just a movie that wasn’t thought out far enough to its natural conclusion. It reminds me in some regards of a movie that would come today in that it seems like it’s two drafts of a script away from being much, much better. It’s a very American movie that’s concerned with the nature of our reality, with existential paranoia, mashed up with echoes of a film noir feeling.

But then again, a lot of its problems can be summed up with two words: Craig Bierko. Another bizarre, failed experiment in creating a leading man out of literally nothing.

Nine: Granted, The Thirteenth Floor was not a movie from the early 90s, and in fact came out in 1999, around the same time as The Matrix, a movie with an arguably incredibly similar premise, especially concerning how many elements it ripped off from Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles.

Also, there was David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ and Alex Proyas’ Dark City (which I never saw cause it looks stupid), and The Truman Show, which had similar heavy overtones. But earlier in the decade you had the short lived Fox TV show VR.5 which, if I were to watch it now, I’m sure I’d more than cringe at, but at the time, I thought was incredibly intriguing. That show starred Lori Singer, Anthony Stewart Head, Will Patton, and David McCallum.

Ten: At the start of this I talked haphazardly about the idea of a newborn decade dreaming of the past, but really it’s a matter of the new decade dreaming of the future, of what is to come? I should be talking about Christopher Nolan’s  Inception here probably. Something something something THIS DREAM IS COLLAPSING.

Eleven: From Borges to Pynchon to Phillip K. Dick, so much of our fiction comes back to questioning the layers of reality and how we perceive it. What is real? What is really happening? And what is the reality of what is happening, real or otherwise?

Reality may be real, or it might not be, at least not real in the sense that we think of, but we share it, and we create it together, don’t we?

from here.

Twelve: Personally I would state that the experience of an event is the reality of it, at least in the moment. Reflection is easy, but it only casts a shadow over reaction in retrospect.

Thirteen: For now, this blog is moving forward, but it’s marching onward to its eventual demise, of sorts. Even on the internet, matter can only change forms, not be fully destroyed (I hope). Soon, what is currently thought of as Your Friendly Neighborhood Counterforce will become a time capsule, once it’s fallen completely out of this virtual sky that we’re all looking at together.

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…

Meta.

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…

Sweet sensation.

In honor of what will and what will most likely not happen tomorrow

Sonic Youth’s “Do You Believe In Rapture?”

Contact.

It’s 365 years later and the end of another year. Was it a good one? A bad one? A combination of the two? Did you make “contact” with something?

from here.

Are you optimistic about the future? What about just tomorrow? What about just tonight? What do you think when you look back on this year that just ended? Are things going according to your plans or are you finding yourself constantly delivered into new and different and exciting and altogether unforeseeable outcomes? Are we living in the future? Or are we just dreamers lost in our own magic spells and writing the story as we trip over the words and the lines and the chapter breaks?

Do you have more questions than answers, or vice versa? Which do you prefer more, sunrises or sunsets? Beginnings or endings? Or are they intrinsically tied together, just like all of us, in the grand scheme of things?

Just curious.

This was an interesting year. As much one full of little victories and joys as it was of big failures and sadness. For me, at least. Things happened. The players moved the pieces across the chessboard. The game continued. It was exciting, it was heart breaking, and sometimes it was just one or just the other, and sometimes it was both. The wheel kept turning.

from here.

Next year is possibly the year before the year the world ends, and that kind of puts everything into some kind of perspective.

If you’re reading this now or read it before, then some kind of contact was made. With you, with us, with it, with “the other,” with nothing and everything and anything that falls in between all of that.

It’s really up to you there, though. It’s all subjective. Just as you choose your own level of involvement in all things (but especially the future), you also bring your own meaning to the equation. In the end we’ll all be getting exactly what we what. The angels of tomorrow will all be speaking the same language: glossolalia.

Things can seem small in one moment and in one kind of light, and loom large in another. Understanding has to be unearthed and earned and meaning was to be extrapolated. We keep guessing, we keep surmising, we keep poking and attempting things and shining our torches into the dark.

And if there’s something out there, then have no fear, we’ll find it.

“People care what I think. I have a prestigous blog, sir!”

Once again, RIP Party Down. Goodbye, Roman.

from here.

All of these worlds are yours.

Meanwhile on the internet:

Ricky Gervais: Why I’m An Atheist.

The objectification of writers.

Alf drops the n-word.

Escape From Spiderhead” by George Saunders.

Quite frankly, Argentina has better dance reality shows.

Ten of the most intriguing movies of 2011.

Sarah Palin’s gloomy new poll numbers.

What has always been missing from your life and will now make it more complete: A mash-up between Fiddler On The Roof and You Got Served.

Eisenstein, Mickey Mouse, and the synthesis of ecstasy.

WikiLeaks and Nerd Supremacy.

15 things that Kurt Vonnegut said better than anyone.

The scientist who lit up the Dark Ages.

These screencaps, of course, are from Peter Hyam’s 1984 adaptation of 2010: The Year We Make Contact.

One of the absolute best comics of the year: Phonogram: The Singles Club.

One of the absolute worst comics of the year: When Kevin Smith took a big, smelly shit on Batman.

Does our universe show “bruises” from where it collided with other universes?

Angry people in local newspapers.

“Look at your God. Now look at me.” Cthulhu and Old Spice!

You were an island and I passed you by.

Okay, for today, let’s start at something we know and go somewhere we don’t and end up… who knows?

1. This man:

Sawyer from Lost. Remember him?

2. This is a picture of Sawyer reading a book:

That’s in “Eggtown.” How odd was it that Sawyer was the most prolific reader on the show? And Ben came in second place. We saw lots of glimpses of Ben’s and Jack’s bookshelves but Sawyer was the one we always saw actually reading (and Ben just occasionally). I wonder if Sawyer and Juliet (re)started a book club somewhere in their three years in the 1970s DHARMA Initiative… Hmm.

2 1/2. I’m all about Sawyer and Juliet reading Erica Jong‘s Fear Of Flying, I gotta say.

Go ahead, say it with me now: “Zipless fuck.” That felt good, didn’t it?

2 3/4. Like I said…

Ben actually read sometimes. In his mind, it goes like this: James Joyce > Stephen King. And I’d have to agree with him.

Sorry, Juliet.

3. Anyway, that book that Sawyer happens to be reading there is this:

The Invention Of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares, written in 1940. It’s about a fugitive who ends up on a mysterious island where strange things are happening…

4. That particular cover above is based on the fact that the lead female role of the book, a character called Faustine, is based on silent film star Louise Brooks, whom is on the cover. This is another picture of her:

It’s also been said that the book was written, in part, as a reaction to the decline of her career at the time.

5. The plot, rather roughly, is: a man hiding from the authorities ends up on a mysterious island. Eventually a group of people come and the fugitive falls in love with one of the women with them. He keeps a diary, in which he talks about observing these people and their actions all the while trying to not be discovered by them, and how they seem to repeat some of the same conversations over and over, and then disappear. The fugitive tries to confront the woman, Faustine, and tell her how he feels about her but, as Wikipedia puts it, “an anomalous phenomenon keeps them apart.”

6. This is the original first edition cover of the book:

And another:

…which were designed by Norah Borges, the sister of Jorge Luis Borges, one of the author’s closest friends and a serious advocate of this novel. Borges even wrote a prologue for the book in which he said: “To classify it [the novel] as perfect is neither an imprecision nor a hyperbole.”

7. Supposedly the novel was inspired in part by earlier novels, such as 1934′s XYZ, by Clemente Palma, which I don’t know much about, but also the much more popular novel, The Island Of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells.

8. This is an image from the 1996 film version of the movie:

9. And below is a joke that was inspired by that little detail:

Yeah, that’s right.

10. I only saw that 1996 version of The Island Of Dr. Moreau once, which was directed by John Frakenheimer, and it was incredibly long ago, probably not long after it came out, but I love hearing accounts of the considerably rocky production, which suffered all kinds of shake ups, script rewrites almost daily, the original director being fired just three days into shooting on location in the tropical wilderness of North Queesland, Australia and, of course, the perfect storm that is Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando.

Anyway, so just a day or two after they got to their tropical location shoot, Kilmer decided that he wanted his role (as the lead character who happens upon the unethical villainy of the mad Dr. Moreau) cut by 40%. Some of this was because, yes, Val Kilmer is insane, but it was also right around the time he was going through a painful divorce. And after quite a bit of examination, it was discovered that there was no way to cut down the role Kilmer had been hired for, so he’d have to trade roles with David Thewlis, who had been cast as one of Moreau’s creepy flunkies.

11. Only slightly related: “I’m Val Kilmer. Take me to the strip club!”

12. Val Kilmer, even at your greatest heights, you’re still no Charlie Sheen. That’s a fact to both be ashamed of and to take pride in.

13. Speaking of weird actor bullshit on the set of a movie, if you ever get a chance, and are bored enough, you should go read up on the crazy demands that Marlon Brando came up with on the set of 2001′s The Score starring Rober De Niro, Edward Norton, and Angela Bassett. It’s some great stuff like not wanting to wear pants (so therefore a majority of his scenes are shot from the waist up) or refusing to take direction from director Frank Oz, whom he would only refer to as “Miss Piggy,” which lead to Oz having to sit in a van outside the set with a monitor and relaying direction via walkie talkie to De Niro to give to Brando.

Honestly, it’s enough to make you want to get really huge (mostly in a fame and talent sort of way, but possibly also in physical size) and just go really splendidly crazy, you know?

14. Getting somewhat back to our original topic… The Invention Of Morel. Interestingly enough, it was adapted into film in 1974 and starred the lovely Anna Karina, famous from so many Jean-Luc Godard films, and who was also in the film adaptation of The Magus. But that shouldn’t be held against her, should it?

15. But more interesting than that is the theory that the novel was a serious influence on the classic and notorious Alain Resnais film Last Year At Marienbad.

Many a person hate the film, which has inspired so much satire and so very many attempts at deciphering it, at finding meaning in it’s voluptuous qualities, but that’s an almost impossible task to do definitively.

16. If you’ve never seen it, shame on you. But if that’s true, I’ll try to sum the film up succinctly as best I can:

At a European château, a man approaches a woman. He claims to know her, but she doesn’t seem to know him. He tells her that they had met last year at Marienbad and that she had told him that she’d be waiting here for him now. He’s positive of this but again, she doesn’t remember. Her husband shows up. There’s a question of dominance at play, a power struggle, and the continuing effort to try and convince the woman of what the first man says is the truth. The characters have no names, but in the screenplay, the first man is X, the woman is A, and her husband’s name is M. Conversations happen again and again throughout the château, and reality seems to be a changing whim and there are many a haunting, cryptic voiceover hanging over lush, ambiguous tracking shots.

This is a very necessary film if you have any plans of calling yourself a pretentious film buff or a lover of the French New Wave.

17. The film is a thrill for guessing at, for surrendering yourself over to it’s masterful pace and tone, and then for pondering over with enlightened friends after a viewing.

18. Trust me, the film becomes a lot more fun and the guess work far more potent if you take on the assumption that it’s a science fiction story. Or a ghost story. Wander through that same mesmerizing landscape as the characters in the story and you’ll have a fun time.

19. Of course this all kind of ties into Lost, with certain echos of similar scenarios throughout the show and it’s mysterious island setting.

One example of that would be: Horace appearing to John and talking about Jacob’s cabin while chopping wood in a continuous loop. Of course, this was in a dream, but it’s an interesting visual representation of stone tape theory.

Remember back in the early, glory days of Lost theories, there was always stuff like “The Monster is nanotechnology,” which took a long time to fade after repeated denials from the producers, but that I always liked was holograms. Like “Jack’s dad is a hologram” or “Eko’s brother is a hologram,” meaning that they weren’t ghosts in the classic supernatural sense.

20. Last Year At Marienbad inspired the video for “To The End,” a 1994 single by Blur from their album Parklife

Jesus, remember Blur? Fuck, I miss Britpop. Damon Albarn has held on pretty strongly musical, both with Gorillaz and more recently complaining somewhat unnecessarily about Glee. Anyway, in the lovely video, that’s Albarn as “X” and Graham Coxon as “M.”

21. Albarn vs. Coxon? That’s fitting.

22. A year after “To The End” Blur would use another film as fuel for pastiche in a music video with “The Universal” from The Great Escape. Viddy well:

The film this time being Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, interesting enough. And the single’s cover was reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

23. It should be pointed out that these both songs that I like quite a bit, as well as their videos. It was a smart move on Blur’s part, I think in doing these pastiches, not only because it makes them appear more stylistically interesting and intellectual (or as intellectually far as an homage can take one these days), but it really reinforced the strong roots that the 1960s held within the foundations of Britpop.

24. Going back to Last Year At Marienbad, another video:

This short film, called “The Arranged Time,” by a filmmaker named Scott Johnston, clearly owes a debt to the mysterious dream logic of Resnais’ classic, but is also it’s own intriguing thing. It’s well worth the viewing, but if you don’t want to favor the tip of the hat to Last Year At Marienbad, I can always offer you the hipster version of a reference: It’s remarkably David Lynch-ian.

25. I should probably loop this thing back around somewhat, back to where we started…

…but to a slightly different starting point…

…with that guy.

from here.

26. Here’s a nice fun fact for you: Matthew Fox has never seen a single episode of Lost.

Apparently he’s just really uncomfortable with watching himself “act.”

I can just imagine him watching the show and thinking, “Oh man, this Jack guy is just too fucking intense.”

27. This is a great picture I found today…

28. I like Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, but I also really liked Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne.

28A. It’s kind of like how I’d rather watch a Tony Stark movie than an Iron Man movie.

29. Staying mostly on target here… Don’t forget: They originally wanted Michael Keaton to be Jack on Lost. Granted, had that happened, they would’ve killed him off in the pilot (to shock you!) and Kate would’ve become the lead of the show, but had they kept him, I feel confident that he would’ve mustered up a decent quota of Jackface on a regular basis.

The problem with casting a seasoned film actor like Michael Keaton in the role of Jack would’ve been that he just wouldn’t have taken the chances that a seasoned and angry television actor like Matthew Fox (who always seemed to have something of a chip on his shoulder, a kind of unresolved anger residing within him after Party Of Five) would have and did end up taking. It’s shocking to think and say this in a way, but I just don’t think that Michael Keaton would’ve matched Matthew Fox’s intensity.

30. I made mention the other day, somewhat jokingly, that I kind of assumed that The Venture Bros. would end with the titular characters’ father, Rusty, putting himself out of his own misery (which is a much larger conversation, of course), but in thinking about that in the days since I typed those words, I couldn’t think of a moment in Lost where we saw Jack actually reading a book. Which makes sense for a lost of reasons, one being that Jack always had shit to do, was always on the move. He wasn’t a lounger like Sawyer or Ben or Locke. But, speaking of Locke, that was the only instance I could think of where Jack had a seat and read something rather significant…

…that item being Locke’s suicide note. That’s heavy, right?

31. This picture is funny:

32. It’s a nice thought, thinking back to the humble, mysterious beginnings of Lost

I’d love to someday see a book from Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse talking about all the various things they had wanted to do on the show that didn’t work out. On one hand, obviously, it wouldn’t matter. The show is the final product and that’s all that really matters, but even still, from the perspective of creating and writing and running a big show, one as ambitious as the one they produced, I’d be dying to know tricks they had up their sleeves that didn’t work out (Nikki and Paulo), how things would’ve gone if certain tricks hadn’t worked out so well (the character that became Benjamin Linus was only supposed to be around for three episodes and wasn’t intended to be the leader of the Others but Michael Emerson was just too good), and how they got to where they did.

Just imagine all those creative ghosts that are alive and wandering around the Island of Ideas.

33. All of that said, right now I’d figure this would be the last time that we really talk about Lost on this blog, but I can’t commit to that notion, not fully. To me personally, the show was such a broad, interesting thing that I feel like something can always come along that has relevance with the show. Especially, if you’ve noticed so far, since I have a particular interest in the way things align and connect with each other.

Who knows, maybe we’ll never talk about Lost again here. Or maybe we’ll be talking about it again tomorrow. Memories and locations intertwine differently for all of us and we can only bring our own unique meaning to them. The past has an amazing power over us, a constant hold, but it’s different for everyone. I would love to have a new show come along that inspires and interests us and ignites our imagination just like Lost did, but right now I’m not holding my breath. Maybe we’ll never leave the place we made together.

Odyssey Two.

Last night I came home after a particularly hard night at work, a late night too, and all I want to do is lay in bed and do some reading. Somewhere I’ve got Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama that I picked up a few days ago. But, because I wanted to read that, of course I couldn’t find it. Days that go bad usually tend to stay bad, right? I mean, isn’t that how it always goes?

So, instead, I just laid in bed and watched 2010: The Year We Make Contact via youtube on my phone. It’s not something I’d necessarily classify under our glorious “sci fi tomorrow,” but it’s some shit I couldn’t have done as a kid, right?

Writing through time and space.

So, in my talking about the works of Russell T. Davies, especially on Doctor Who and “The End Of Time,” parts one and two the other day, I totally neglected to mention this:

The Writer’s Tale, a compilation of emails sent back and forth between Davies and journalist Benjamin Cook over the course of one year in the production and creation of the show, from the “Voyage Of The Damned” Christmas special and thru the fourth series to the following Christmas special, “The Next Doctor.”

This is quite an amazing book, more than the usual fluff that might be put out to cash in on the show’s fame, but more of an in depth and beautifully honest discussion by two people. And Davies is quite the figure, ever the “real” writer, primarily existing in the lonely twilight, chain smoking and pounding away on a keyboard, ironing out frustrations and finding the mad joy in the stories he’s making. Now, no book can truly capture the spark of creation that exists in a writer’s mind just the same as no science text can really tell you about the Big Bang, but this is a fascinating attempt.

Somehow Cook is both silent in the tale, letting Davies assume the full spotlight as he should, letting him become amazing candid, and also conjuring up the landscape to prompt more from the screenwriter. You eavesdrop on these men for something like 500 pages and it’s brilliant, sometimes cheeky and sometimes guilt-ridden and scared, letting the media personages fade away. You’d think this would something solely for the Doctor Who nuts out there, but it’d make a lovely gift for a writer who understands what it’s like pull shapes out of the ether, and Davies gives the craft the size and the majesty it deserves. And somehow, the book just doesn’t feel long enough.

…which lead to good news, I discovered quite by accident, since they’re revising and expanding the book for it’s upcoming paperback release, retitled to The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapter, and presumably covering the creation of the last specials to feature David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor before Steven Moffat and Matt Smith take over. I can say that, without a doubt, I’ll be getting that as soon as it comes out.

Should be exciting. And I can only hope that Steven Moffat would do a similar project someday. As good as Davies is at these big crowd-pleasing and sweet, sometimes metaphysical, romps of adventure and romance, Moffat is just the same, but simpler, more tragic, more dark, and more human. He falls into the same category, for me, along with writers like Charlie Kaufman or Darin Morgan or Joss Whedon or Amy Hempel or Don Delillo or even Grant Morrison, creators whom I’d love to dissect the inner workings of their creative impulses, the way they move and think. And ultimately steal some inspiration from too, of course.

I’d possibly through Neil Gaiman on that list too, who I mentioned briefly and in passing here, because, while I don’t love everything he puts out, I admire his relentless entries into the creative. Not that Gaiman isn’t famous enough, but he really deserves the empire we’ve handed so easily to Stephen King. Of course, in my mind, the persistent rumors that Gaiman (and also possibly His Dark Materials‘ Phillip Pullman as well) might pen an episode of Doctor Who under Moffat’s tenure don’t exactly hurt either.

by Ape Lad, from here.

Speaking of writers…

How To Talk To Girls At Parties” by Neil Gaiman.

A short film based on Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama.

Picasso’s Guernica and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666.

Tk’tk’tk” by David D. Levine.

A Study In Emerald” by Neil Gaiman, a brilliant combination of the world of Sherlock Holmes intertwined with the Cthulhu mythos. As good as this story is, I should warn you that it’s really for those “hardcore” fans of the Holmes stories.

Warren Ellis talking about hauntology.

Bruce Sterling on the state of the world here in 2010.

The Nine Billion Names Of God” by Arthur C. Clarke.

I, Cthulhu” by Neil Gaiman. Is it Cthulhu Cthursday, right?

Oliver Wetter’s The Call Of Cthulhu, from here.

The Year We Make Contact.

It’s finally here, people. 2010. Pronounced “Twenty Ten.”

I remember first watching the movie version of 2010, the sequel to Arthur C. Clarke/Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, when I was a kid and thinking about how far off that was, how ridiculously deep into the future that was. Oh, science fiction. How you captured and enraptured my stupid little brain even back then. How you can give me such enticing glimpses of a far off tomorrow (not that 2010, the movie, was all that enticing), and through it all, I don’t stop to actually notice how similar tomorrow is to today.

It really hits me now, especially, since tomorrow is now today.

This is our science fictional future? I want more. And who knows, maybe more is right around the corner. This is “the year we make contact,” after all. Right? And if it’s not, then why can’t it be? Why can’t it be the year that we make contact?

And I think we will somewhere in the vicinity of the next 365 days. We’ve been hovering around a vein, I think, us humans, us earthlings, and I think we’ll tap into it in some way. Maybe not with aliens, but with something. With science. With space. Maybe, and this is more importantly, maybe with something within ourselves, something beautiful and precious. Or maybe something deep and dark.

from here.

Sitting here and reading this right now, you, maybe you’ll be the one who makes contact with something. The next act of your journey. Maybe one of our readers will win the lottery or finish their novel or self portrait or get their blog-to-book deal that they’ve desperately longed for. Maybe we will, but who knows, it might be you. Maybe this is the year you find inspiration, or inspire someone else to greatness. Maybe we’ll meet the love of our life. Or, more importantly, the love of our life will meet us.

from here.

But “The Year We Make Contact” shouldn’t be about “maybe this” or “maybe that.” It’s not just about new understandings and expanding. It’s about conquering. When you’re done reading this blog, quietly minimize the internet, and go do. Go be. Become something.

Two things, and stay with me just another few paragraphs even though I know you’re hungover, but two more things and then I’ll finish my say and let you have yours. One is slightly raunchy: I have this aunt, old as shit and half crazy, I’m pretty sure, but she’s always had this ridiculous saying. She’d always say, “At some point you have to stop jacking off and start coming.” A dirty little bit of wisdom, that.

And secondly, and lastly, like the song says, this will be our year. And it took a long time to come. Make it worth it. Earn it. Go make contact.