The Goddamn Batman.

from here.

From the internet:

RIP Leslie Nielsen.

RIP Irvin Kershner.

Your 2010 holiday gift shopping sorted.

Here’s something you clearly (don’t) need: pocket chainsaw.

The top 5 most shocking things about WikiLeaks.

Vladimir Putin is Batman and Dmitry Medvedev is Robin.”

Celebrities quitting twitter for charity.

from here.

This Spider-Man musical sounds like just the kind of crazy train wreck that you want it to be.

Here’s what Christopher Nolan thinks of your Inception fan theories.

Natalie Portman, Halle Berry, and Tom Hanks to star in the Wachowskis’ version of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas?

Actor decapitates own mother in Masonic attack inspired by The Matrix.

The bad sex in fiction awards!

Fox Nation reprints anti-Obama article from The Onion, doesn’t mention (or possibly realize) that it’s a joke.

Music by David Lynch.

Previously on Counterforce.

An interview with Jorge Luis Borges.

from here.

This is just weird: Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal.

From 1993: The future of the internet!

David Foster, from 1998: “I’m not a journalist and I don’t pretend to be one.”

from here.

Klaxons “Twin Flames.”

The little white lies of online dating revealed.

Is this the year that we make contact? Maybe.

Doctor Doom vs. Doctor Who.

Are we about to be inundated with a wave of movie versions of the works of Haruki Murakami?

Batman and Robin investigate “The Carbon Copy Crimes.”

from here.

D. J. Caruso on why he quit the Y The Last Man movie. Wants to make it a TV show instead, huh? Someone owes me a check. You fuckers.

Suck on this: Animated Southland Tales prequel.

How does Commissioner Gordon really feel about Batman?

Do women avoid talking to their fathers because of evolution?

Edgar Allan Bro.

Hercule Poirot kitties. LOL.

from here.

Shocking link between people who like Batman and people who like pornography.

How to survive a mass extinction.

A Spanish woman claims that she owns the Sun and you can bet your ass she wants you to pay her for its usage.

from here.

“With your feet in the air and your head on the ground.”

From the internet:

Schizophrenia: the insanity virus.

The return of literary magazines?

Bill Clinton to be in The Hangover 2.

How the CIA used modern art as a weapon.

Darren Aronofsky’s Wolverine sequel to be called simply The Wolverine.

Carey Mulligan considered the front runner for Daisy in the Baz Luhrmann/Leonardo Dicaprio adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

The reign of right-wing primetime.

J. J. Abrams’ Undercovers canceled.

Thankfully: Satoshi Kon’s last movie to be completed by Madhouse.

The future of reviews.

Previously on Counterforce: Gravity Girls.

Pictures in this post by Stephen Morris, from here.

Six x-rated comics you can read without shame.

Six steps to being the coolest person at media/tech parties.

My crush is engaged! :(

Facebook’s “gmail killer” coming on Monday?

Aaron Sorkin’s four big problems with the WGA.

Natalie Portman wasn’t the “Deep Throat” for The Social Network.

…but she has written a new “raunchy comedy.”

Kanye West’s “media trainer” reportedly quit within a week.

According to John Lennon: Yoko does not sweat.

The words “Thom Yorke” and “photobomb” are always funny in the same sentence.

“Try this trick and spin it, yeah.”

After the tragic death of Party Down, Rob Thomas (no, not that cunt) has a new FOX sitcom.

When Tyler Coates met Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

Iain M. Banks on uploading oneself and living forever.

Jonathan Lethem on They Live.

Caveman science fiction.

Embarrassing Moments” by Megan Boyle.

We wouldn’t have this pithy little thing you call “civilization” if it weren’t for beer.

Psychic wars.

A comprehensive glossary of GIFs.

Can we see into the future?

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.

Powers and responsibilities/Up, up, and away we go.

Two announcements made in the last 48 hours after quite a bit of speculation online:

1. Zach Snyder will unfortunately be directing the next iteration of Superman, this one produced by Christopher Nolan and written by David Goyer and Nolan’s brother, Jonathan.

2. Natural blonde Emma Stone has been cast as love interest Gwen Stacy in the next Spiderman movie, to be directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield, recently of Never Let Me Go and The Social Network.

Some thoughts on these two prospects:

1. Zack Snyder? That’s fucking ridiculous.

2. Wait, didn’t we all think that Emma Stone was going to be playing Mary Jane Watson (who, if you know your true Spiderman lore, plays Peter Parker/Spiderman’s love interest and eventual wife after the death of Gwen Stacy), right?

1. The original short list of directors that Christopher Nolan was considering for this project included Darren Aronofsky (the presumed front runner who everyone seemed to assume would bring Natalie Portman along as Lois Lane), Duncan Jones, who directed Moon, Matt Reeves, of Cloverfield and Let Me In, Tony Scott, and Jonathan Liebesman, who’s doing a movie called Battle: Los Angeles that’s getting a lot of buzz but no one has seen yet . That’s not to forget that names like Robert Zemeckis (who is directing a new live action time travel movie, thankfully) were being thrown in as well.

Look at that list and tell me that if you had to rank those directors that you wouldn’t put Snyder dead last. Hell, I don’t think the guy would even win in a game of FMK.

2. Alternately, the list of young female actors that Emma Stone was possibly competing against for the primary and secondary female leads in the new Spiderman movie included: Dianna Agron from Glee, Mary Elizabeth Winstead from Scott Pilgrim and the upcoming unnecessary prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, Imogen Poots from 28 Weeks Later, Emma Roberts, Teresa Palmer (who had been cast in George Miller’s Justice League movie that didn’t happen), Lilly Collins, Ophelia Lovibond, Dominique McElligot, and Mia Wasikowska, who was last seen in Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland.

Presumably Mary Jane is still in this movie, but just in the background, not taking center stage until a second or third movie?

1. Supposedly the choice of helmer for this project was Christopher Nolan’s, which, of course, would then have to be approved by the studio. But, based on the very realistic take that Nolan has always adopted in his previous films, can you really believe that Zack Snyder was his top choice? I call studio bullshit.

And if that’s the case, then it’s a shame. Warner Bros,  you’re not MGM, you know. You can afford to make some good decisions. I mean, shit, did you guys even see Watchmen? And can you actually look at the teaser trailer for Sucker Punch and say that you actually want to go see that? I’d hate to unfairly malign frat boys and date rapists in the same lumping, but let me put it this way: I wouldn’t want to be rubbing elbows with those kind of people at the theater on the opening night of a movie like Sucker Punch.

2. A lot of this ranting might really just equate to a thinly veiled reason to post pictures of Emma Stone. Sorry.

1. The minor story details that are leaking out of this Superman project are that it’ll include General Zod in some form, which is… whatever, and that it’ll ask and supposedly the answer of “Why Superman?” with young Clark Kent traveling around trying to decide if he should put on a pair of red and blue tights with a cape and go about doing super heroics to restore the status quo. Great. On a related note, who the fuck is still watching Smallville?

2. I’m not really sorry.

1. Now I’m reading that Snyder was not the studio’s first choice for the big chair – OF COURSE – but that Goyer’s script was a bit of a rushed mess, which isn’t all that surprising, and they wanted a director that would turn the project around quickly (most likely because of the stringent deadline imposed on them by that lawsuit recently), not spend time making the project a beast of quality and beauty like Aronofsky might.

A brief history lesson: Along with Terry Gilliam and about a thousand other people, Aronofsky was briefly (in Hollywood development hell terms) in charge of a Watchmen adaptation. I think this is a golden lesson for what happens when you let a guy like Aronofksy fall off a movie like Watchmen: you get a piece of shit director like Snyder instead.

2. I should say something else here rather than just posting copious pictures of Emma Stone, right?

I’ve got to say that while it was fun but not great, I was glad to see Sam Raimi go back to his roots with Drag Me To Hell after he finished with that first Spiderman trilogy. If, for nothing else, he needed a creative win, but it also pointed out, I think, that back in the 90s, directors like him and Peter Jackson really level jumped far too much past their station of talent with the Spiderman movies and the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

If you give a bunch of low budget silly horror guys far too much money and responsibility and power, they’re obviously prone to a disgusting amount of melodrama, wacky musical numbers/”dance” sequences, and excessive slow motion shots.

1. I’m also seeing that now they’re offering Wolverine 2 to Arnofosky. This is not much of a consolation prize. I’m sorry, Darren Aronofsky, but the winner in this is not you. Nor us.

I’m terrified of who they’ll try to cast as Superman now. I didn’t necessarily love Brandon Routh, who will definitely not be coming back for the new film, but he was hardly the worst thing about Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. The worst thing was clearly the plot. And I’m think I’m paranoid about this because in the past the studio has seriously tried to cast Nic Cage, Ashton Kutcher, Brendan Fraser, and some dude from Mutant X as the last son of Krypton.

This especially all troubles me because A) given the chance, this will be fucked up, and B) we all know who desperately should be cast as Clark Kent/Superman:

Ladies and gentlemen: Jon Hamm.

2. I could really go either way on Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker but it just occurred to me: how great would Jon Hamm be in a Spiderman movie? Right?

3. For all the trouble that these super hero movies and their assorted bullshit can be, can Joss Whedon’s The Avengers come out already?

4. Side bar: Finally got around to seeing Kick-Ass the other day. That movie is fresh, raw bullshit. And was so incredibly boring. I could really see Chloe Moretz become a kind of adolescent Milla Jovovich-type action heroine (but better, of course), but I’m just sad that the road to that hard to start through a movie like this. Not that I was excited about X-Men: First Class before, but I’m somehow less excited now. If possible.

Though those pictures of January Jones as Emma Frost/The White Queen are giggle-inducing.

1. Keep thinking about that Jon Hamm brilliance. Why? Because it’s perfect. Jon Hamm could play Clark Kent and Don Draper could play Superman. Benjamin Light even pointed out it in because, well, do you remember that episode of Mad Men a few weeks ago where Don’s secret identity is about to be found out by the government and he’s having a massive panic attack? He comes into his place with Dr. Faye and tears open his shirt, buttons flying everywhere, and a lot of were thinking, “SUPERMAN!” But now we’ve got Zack Snyder and I can’t help but think that I just got INCEPTED.

But with the dream casting of Jon Hamm one would hope to not cast some 20 year old actress as Lois Lane, I would think.

2. I was re-watching scenes from (500) Days Of Summer and again have to mention how technically impressive that movie is. Marc Webb’s work in that film kind of reminds me of Fincher, to a small degree, who’s probably one of our most impressive working directors as far as the technical aspect goes. Makes me kind of wonder what he’ll do with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo other than just cash in on a hit a la Ron Howard and The Da Vinci Code. That said, I imagine that Fincher could produce a better film version of the Stieg Larsson book than the original Swedish version in his sleep.

You know how it’s upsetting to us when there’s a fine foreign movie that gets an American remake to dumb it down for the audiences on our shores? Well, I’ll go ahead and say what you should all be really thinking: The original Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is not that great. As a film, it’s actually kind of ridiculously poor. Noomi Rapace is fine in the movie, but the rest of the movie is very poorly constructed (not to mention that the book itself is hardly what I’d call “cinematic”). This isn’t a case similar to Let The Right One In and Let Me In.

1. I’m glad that they’re at least making an animated feature of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All Star Superman, which is the quintessentially greatest Superman story ever. Oddly enough, Lois Lane in that is voiced by Mad Men‘s own Joan Hollway, Christine Hendricks.

2. Emma Stone.

5. Stringer Bell! Apparently Idris Elba has a deal with Marvel’s film people, which could mean either a Luke Cage movie or a rebooted Blade film or both. “Sweet Christmas!” That’s wild. And it looks like he’ll be joining Nic Cage for a Ghost Rider sequel. That’s… less wild.

from here.

1. Zack Snyder, I think I hate you. Is your version of Superman going to look like a cartoon?

2. If I only had two words to use here in conclusion, I’d say simply: Emma Stone. Like you didn’t see that coming. If I had three words…

Teenage kicks all through the night.

A companion rant to my previous mention (below) of Kick Ass

…which is based on a comic book by writer Mark Millar and comic book artist royalty John Romita, Jr. and of which…

Continue reading

They are in love. Fuck the war.

It’s been a prevalent notion. Fallen sparks. Fragments of vessels broken at the Creation. And someday, somehow, before the end, a gathering back to home. A messenger from the Kingdom, arriving at the last moment. But I tell you there is no such message, no such home — only the millions of last moments . . . nothing more. Our history is an aggregate of last moments.

-from Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, page 148.

But it is a curve each of them feels, unmistakably. It is the parabola. They must have guessed, once or twice — guessed and refused to believe — that everything, always, collectively, had been moving toward that purified shape latent in the sky, that shape of no surprise, no second chance, no return. Yet they do move forever under it, reserved for its own black-and-white bad news certainly as if it were the rainbow, and they its children. . .

-from page 209.

But out at the horizon, out near the burnished edge of the world, who are these visitors standing . . . these robed figures — perhaps, at this distance, hundreds of miles tall — their faces, serene, unattached, like the Buddha’s, bending over the sea, impassive, indeed, as the Angel that stood over Lübeck during the Palm Sunday raid, come that day neither to destroy nor to protect, but to bear witness to a game of seduction . . . What have the watchmen of the world’s edge come tonight to look for? Deepening on now, monumental beings stoical, on toward slag, toward ash the colour the night will stabilize at, tonight . . . what is there grandiose enough to witness?

-from page 214.

He lies on top of her, sweating, taking great breaths, watching her face turned 3/4 away, not even a profile, but the terrible Face That is No Face, gone too abstract, unreachable: the notch of the eye socket, but never the labile eye, only the anonymous curve of cheek, convexity of mouth, a noseless mask of the Other Order of Being, of Katje’s being — the lifeless non-face that is the only face of hers he really knows, or will ever remember.

-from page 222.

It’s been almost ten years since I sat down one day with the firm decision in my tiny head that I was not only going to start but also finish Thomas Pynchon’s hyper novel, Gravity’s Rainbow. The infamous 1973 book, which is only a little bit more readable than Joyce’s Ulysses, was originally slated to win the 1974 Pulitzer prize for fiction until the other 11 members on the prize picking committee overturned the 3 person fiction panel’s pick, calling the novel “unreadable, turgid, overwritten, and obscene.” I don’t know about you, but that’s just a few of my favorite things.

This is the cover to the most recent paperback edition of the novel I’m aware of, which a cover by Frank Miller.

Sadly, I never did finish the novel way back then, but to my pleasant surprise a few years ago, my comrade Benjamin Light did start the novel and through a steady face of wading through it’s sometimes complex, sometimes naughty, and sometimes just insane prose, actually finished. An all too rare feat these days. I don’t want to speak for him here (and it’s not out of the question that one’s thoughts on this novel could be complex, to say the least), but I think he enjoyed it. In fact, I think he was inspired enough by an element or two of the book to go start a blog of some sort out there in the fringe wastelands of the internet.

Which leads me to this morning when I discovered – bizarrely, amazingly, happily, wonderfully – that the notorously reclusive Pynchon, who is 71 years old and released a novel, Against The Day, three years ago to many a surprised fan’s delight, is releasing another novel. This year, in fact. It’s due out in August and is entitled Inherent Vice. Where’s the plot description:

It’s been awhile since Doc Sportello has seen his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly out of nowhere she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer whom she just happens to be in love with. Easy for her to say. It’s the tail end of the psychedelic sixties in L.A., and Doc knows that “love” is another of those words going around at the moment, like “trip” or “groovy,” except that this one usually leads to trouble. Despite which he soon finds himself drawn into a bizarre tangle of motives and passions whose cast of characters includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, a tenor sax player working undercover, an ex-con with a swastika tattoo and a fondness for Ethel Merman, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists.

In this lively yarn, Thomas Pynchon, working in an unaccustomed genre, provides a classic illustration of the principle that if you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there … or … if you were there, then you … or, wait, is it … Part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon — private eye Doc Sportello comes, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L.A. fog.

Kind of new with Pynchon seemingly tackling the mystery/private detective genre straight on, but also very reminiscent sounding of his older stuff like V and The Crying Of Lot 49. All of that sounds good to me and I think you could classify me as excited.

The above is the cover to the single “Gravity’s Rainbow” by the Klaxons.

I’m proud to say that I’m friends on Facebook (which, I know, really doesn’t mean shit) with Tristan Taormino, whom Wikipedia describes as an “award-winning author, columnist, editor, pornographic film director (and occasional actress) and self-styled ‘anal sexpert.'” With a resume like that, why wouldn’t I want to be her friend? She also happens to be the niece of Thomas Pynchon.

There was no difference between the behavior of a god and the operations of pure chance.

-from page 323.

What are the stars but points in the body of God where we insert the healing needles of our terror and longing?

-from page 699.

Illustration of page 222 by Zak Smith from his illustrations of every page from the novel.

Klaxons “Gravity’s Rainbow” (mp3)

Thursday “This Song Brought To You By A Falling Bomb” (mp3)

“I want to break out — to leave this cycle of infection and death. I want to be taken in love: so taken that you and I, and death, and life, will be gathered inseparable, into the radiance of what we would become. . . .”

-from page 724.


Who’s baby are you, Batgirl?

The latest issue (#10) of Frank Miller’s comic book The Goddamn Batman All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder was recently pulled from shelves because of adult language which wasn’t quite censored well enough for powers that be at parent company DC, and because quite possibly, a lot of the foul language revolved around teenage heroine Batgirl…

Clearly, as you can see above, Batgirl takes care of business. The little black bars over the offensive words (as you can also see above) weren’t printed dark enough, so you could also make out comments from the crowd such as “little jail bait CUNT’s making us look bad… we cut her, come on…” and “…sweet little piece in sweet slices… tasty sliced booty the little CUNT…” (Miller is obsessed with throwing certain words into all caps for crazy amounts of emphasis.) So far (the fact that there’s actually been ten issues of this full blown off the rails crazy ass trainwreck amazes me), this is the best part of the comic which was depicted Batman as a borderline psychotic (which may be a fair assessment) doing a bad Clint Eastwood impression, especially since he’s abducted a 13 year old boy and subjected him to some rather bizarre things, then had sex with Black Canary right after beating up a gang of thugs (“We leave the masks on. It’s better that way”), and shown heroes like Superman and Green Lantern as spineless morons. In fact, one of the few things I do like about this series (besides Jim lee’s overdrawn but occasionally beautiful art), is the depiction of Wonder Woman as an incredibly tough Amazon who’s disgusted by the lack of balls and inaction of the ubermensch in man’s world.

Oh, and shoehorned into this great big mess is Batgirl, too.

The purpose of the All-Star line of comics was to present to the reader a purer version of their favorite iconic characters, without all the hassle of continuity and paying lip service to all that’s come before. You could distill a simple story down to it’s basic and most essential elements, as delivered to you by the best and the brightest in the industry. It’s part of the reason why All-Star Superman (which just ended) is one of the greatest fucking things you’ll ever read, making Superman not only relevant again, but perhaps making Krypton’s last son actually interesting to this generation for the first time. But those same guidelines are what makes Frank Miller’s bat shit crazy, women hating serial so fascinating in a bizarre sort of way.

There was talk a while back of doing an All-Star Batgirl, which I would’ve enjoyed seeing because I’ve realized from how bad Frank Miller’s comic is that I really like the character. In fact, if my love of the teenage heroines of Neal Stephenson’s work and of stuff like Buffy proves anything, I like seeing teenage girls as lead characters in stories. Maybe I just like looking at attractive young women kicking ass? Well… yeah, but who doesn’t? But I also just prefer female characters (I should add “well written female characters” there, because that is something of a rare commodity), just because women tend to be more rational and logical, and possibly at times more emotional, which frankly makes for better storytelling. Especially in the teenager years, when all the pain and frustration and curiosity and excitement of growing up beings to crystallize. For guys during that period of their lives, it’s nothing but sex fantasies and getting high in their rooms with Bruce Springsteen albums, but as pop culture has shown us in the last few years, for girls it’s all about going out into the night, taking on impossible odds with nothing but a reliance on one’s self, a limited arsenal of weapons and and deadly puns, and making the world a better place.

And that’s the kind of thing I can get behind.

The Batgirl used in the Miller’s comic is the classic and best known: Barbara Gordon, daughter of Batman’s ally on the police force, Commissioner James Gordon. Here she’s only about 15, but in other iterations she’s been adult (head of the Gotham City Public Library at one point). She’s not the first version of the character, but she’s by far the most popular.

The original Batwoman, whom the original Batgirl was copied off of, seemed to be to be exactly what the critics called her: A cheap imitation of Batman, an attempt to pander towards women. The Sarah Palin of comic book heroines, if you will. The two of them were retconned out and in came the new version, the Barbara Gordon Batgirl. Inspired to action by her hero, the Batman, Babs took the Bat motif as her own and instantly made it her own. For a long time she was on her own, with no support or acknowledgement from Batman, but soon her skillz and efforts had to be appreciated and she was welcomed into the Bat family with open arms (especially by the Robin of the time, whom developed a life long crush on young Babs). The Bat family, it should also be pointed out, was an attempt to prove Wertham’s Seduction Of The Innocent wrong and show that something much more wholesome and American was going on in the Batcave.

The nice thing about DC comics over it’s rivals out there is that the characters are allowed to grow and mature and change, even if it is only glacially. Whatever demons and inner drive that Barbara Gordon felt that compelled to her put on a mask and costume and those fancy boots and risk her life day in and out, she eventually was able to work through it and move past it. She didn’t have that certain crazy that Batman and his teenage wards had. It wasn’t a junkie thrill or unbeatable obsession for her, like it was for them, and eventually she retired from the costumed vigilante game, deciding to be a normal young woman with a normal young life. It was a nice ending for the character. Or, at least, it should’ve been. Of course, this is back before we had a name for the woman in refrigerators syndrome.

One night, while enjoying a quiet evening in with her father, there was a knock on the door. And at the door was The Killing Joke, the classic 1988 Batman tale by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland that changed everything forever for Barbara Gordon. The Joker, wanting to prove to Batman and the Commissioner that all it took for someone to end up as crazy as him was just one bad day. And he made Barbara Gordon, unaware that she was ever Batgirl, the subject of that bad day by shooting her through the spine, crippling her, and then sexually assaulting her and photographing it to show her father later. The story is good on it’s own terms, and was one of the many research pieces used in preparing for The Dark Knight, even while it steps on the characters that many fans loved. It also manages to end both on both a very emotionally true ending that also manages to feel incredibly false as the Joker and Batman share a good hearty laugh.

Somehow the Joker survives all of this, as a testament to Batman staying true to his own morals and not resorting to murder, despite what the Joker did to Batgirl or that he killed one of Batman’s partners. And the story, while good, proves one of the major points of the women in refrigerators syndrome: Big events such as these in a male character’s story are something that usually easily reversed, but for female characters, they’re permanent. In Bab’s case, that’s (sadly since she’s been put in this position) probably a good thing because of how callous it would be to see her suddenly overcome being handicapped.

But instead, she became very handicapable, and possibly became one of the most realistically powerful characters in the DC universe of comics. She, still in her wheelchair, adopted the moniker Oracle, letting her intellect take center stage (while still being very capable in a form of martial arts called eskrima despite her paralysis) and became a sort of information broker to the heroes. She backed up the Justice League with her super computer skills and eventually formed a group called the Birds Of Prey, made up of other female heroines that, as written by Gail Simone, who started the Women In Refrigerators website, provided a shining example of female characters done right in comic books.

In the mainstream DC universe, that’s still where she essentially is, until something new and horrible is planned to have happen to her (current editor-in-chief Dan Didio seems to be on a personal mission to kill all the pretty girls). And the Birds Of Prey concept briefly became a TV show on the CW (well, WB back then) in the kind of watered down Smallville format (thankfully they didn’t go with the young Bruce Wayne show). I’ve seen bits and pieces of a handful of episodes and wasn’t really impressed despite the fact that I thought Barbara Gordon was played well by Dina Meyer. They even did a flashback episode to her days as Batgirl:

But when you think of Batgirl on TV (more so than the excellent 90s Paul Dini Batman cartoons)(or I guess the more recent cartoon The Batman, whose only saving grace seems to be the theme song by The Edge), you think of Yvonne Craig…

…who was brought in towards the end of the 60s Batman show with Adam West and Burt Ward as an infusion of fresh blood to hopefully stave off the declining ratings. She represents everything that you remember fondling and despise about that show: It’s bright, ludicrous campiness, it’s purely bubble gum attitudes towards everything, and it’s pop sexism. While not having as much impact as maybe Julie Newmar as Catwoman (or Eartha Kitt for that matter), I’d definitely say that Craig’s Batgirl caught my eye since she was my first introduction to the character. I mean, even though it was fake in that particular series, who doesn’t love a red-headed superheroine? No one, that’s who. Enjoy this incredibly ridiculous theme song they gave her:

“What is your scene, baby? We just gotta know!” Amazing stuff right there. “Yeaaahh, who’s baby are you?” Since Barbara Gordon hung up her yellow cape and boots in the comics, there’s been at least three more women to wear some form of the outfit and name, with one of them being an incredibly good match (despite her initially not being allowed to speak, seriously) for the title, but has been since turned evil (under Didio’s edict that if we can’t kill off the pretty girls, then by God, we can ruin them!), but that move proved both awful and absurd, so they’ve been working to slowly counter it. Something similar was done to one of my favorite teen heroines, but it’s been clear that as they attempt to restore them to status quo there’s just no editorial emphasis on doing it right or making the characters interesting again, just on minimizing complaints. Sigh.

It’s a shame. And while I don’t expect to, or really want to for that matter, see an incarnation of the Batgirl character in the current film direction, I would like to suggest that Warner Bros. consider that they do have a small goldmine in this character. A smart, cute girl who can be strong and fragile, dressed in black leather, swinging from the rooftops at night, kicking ass and cracking wise? That’s a license to print money right there. Or, at least slutty Halloween costumes:

The last comment I’ll make is about those who would say that Wonder Woman is the ultimate feminist super hero icon…

Normally I’d agree with you people. Especially back when it looked like Joss Whedon might be handling the movie, because at least then you knew you’d get a character treated with some class and dignity who’d be taken seriously and that there’s probably be a pretty decent movie coming out of the whole thing.

But does she have to wear that outfit? Whenever I see her in that getup, I can’t stop thinking about patriotic porn… which is cool.

Apparently the poorly censored isues of All Star Batman #10 are going for outrageous prices on Ebay.

I’d really like to kick Frank Miller in the balls.

A physicist has proven that The Dark Knight is not real.

Here’s Wikipedia’s page on alternate versions of Barbara Gordon, and their page on her various adapations in different media. And this is, naturally, a link to some Batgirl fan fiction. Enjoy yourself. This one goes out to the cute chicks in leather!

Florence & the MachineKiss With A Fist