Scottish Manes.

On our Star Wars podcast a few weeks ago, I was threatening that I was going to write a monograph about Ewan McGregor’s hair in films, and I’m sure Benjamin Light thought I was just joking. He probably – rightfully? – hoped that I was.

Scottish manes.I wasn’t. Thought Catalog was nice enough to publish a piece by me the other day: A Selection Of Films Rated On The Quality Of Ewan McGregor’s Hair In Them.”

Here’s the sad thing: I could have gone on and on, and in quite a big of greater detail than I did. Their might be a strange little e-book on this topic in the future so, you know, beware.

* * *

At some point, I feel like I could write another piece (though a much shorter one) on the hair of prominent comic book writers, especially those in the Marvel bullpen. In short: They’re all bald! Sometimes they have the wall of hair on the side, a power move that I’m sure is called “The Captain Picard” in barber college. Sometimes they just go for the shave and shine, electing to try to convince us that they chose to shave their head, not that they were losing a war with genetics. (“Make it SO!”)

I can see you!

Oh well. These are the people who decide who of our favorite four color heroes will die (like Peter Parker recently) or get raped and stuffed in a refrigerator.

FYI: TV Tropes informs me that it is actually referred to as “Bald Of Awesome.”

* * *

Benjamin Light informed me tonight that Ewan McGregor was rated as #5 on GQ‘s list of Most Stylish Men. I could tell you who was rated higher than him, but it’s bullshit. At least it wasn’t Michael Fassbender or Channing Tatum.

Men in suits.

Fucking Channing Tatum.

* * *

The blog is just days away from ending!

And, as always, I’m going to ask and suggest that you check out our podcasts…

Podcasts!

Time Travel Murder Mystery is on a very short hiatus currently, but I imagine that you can expect new episodes again in early January. Meanwhile, Greedo Shot First, our Star Wars podcast for people who hate Star Wars fans, is still going strong. I believe that the subject of our next episode will be a rewatching of The Empire Strikes Back. The haircuts in that movie were really just so so.

The earth is doomed…

…yeah, but what else is new?

Mad linkage:

How to be a retronaut!

Superman is no longer an American citizen. Deal with it.

The uncensored version of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture Of Dorian Gray to finally be published.

How to build a religion.

They might actually release Joss Whedon’s Cabin In The Woods.

Lars Von Trier and the apocalyptic whimper.

Unlike with Natalie Portman, don’t expect a post here called “Who’s January Jones fucking these days?”

Budget cuts curtail the search for alien life out there. :(

Also, Natalie Portman’s dad self-publishes a novel about severed heads, stolen presidential embryos, and mysterious clones.

May Day, 1871: The day “Science Fiction” was invented.

Emma Watson leaves Brown.

Speaking of which, the new Harry Potter trailer is kind of epic.

Ayn Rand’s first love and mentor was a sadistic serial killer who dismembered little girls.

Charlie Sheen and Chuck Lorre: Honestly, who gives a fuck anymore?

Mitt Romney’s bullshit is back and it’s not off to such a great start.

RIP Joanna Russ.

Bessel beams are cool, but don’t actually exist.

FYI: It’s Walpurgisnacht!

Before he retires Steven Soderbergh will make Channing Tatum’s male stripper movie.

I don’t know where you are but summer’s here.

Is Netflix helping to reduce movie piracy in the United States?

Giant black holes discovered in the nuclei of merging galaxies.

An interview with Chuck Klosterman.

Big Boi and Modest Mouse are finally working together.

How bacteria could generate radio waves.

Iggy Pop was considered for a judge slot on American Idol and Fugazi may actually reunite some day.

Scientists create stable, self-renewing neural stem cells.

The 10 greatest apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic music videos.

All living humans are more closely related than you might think.

Vigilantes band together to protect NYC sex workers.

What can we learn by comparing the old and the new covers for the Left Behind series?

Unemployed ninja for hire.

from here.

Last night I had the strangest dream…

In the dream, it was the end of the world, or, well, it was the last night on Earth, and the following morning it was all going to end. In fire and flame, buried and suffocated in ash, or via instantaneous evaporation into total nothingness… the how I didn’t know. Things are vague in dreams. They change moment to moment and you just feel things, just know them. And I felt like it wasn’t this year, not 2011, but maybe it was next year, or maybe it wasn’t.

In the dream, some people had known that the end of was coming for a long time. The crazy people, we called them and always had, but they were the ones who had been having the dreams for years now. That’s how we all knew, every living thing on the planet, I mean, that’s how we knew that it was expiring the following morning: we had dreams. Most of us started having them about six months before that final night. In the dreams we were told that our time was finite and we woke up with the certainty of it. The sad, cold certainty of it.

We knew from the dreams and from intuition that most wouldn’t accept this, that there would be fights and attempts to stop it and plans concocted to spirit away or just generally save the human race, and that every effort must be made. But from the dreams we knew that all those plans would come up with nothing, all those efforts would be ultimately fruitless, and in the end… it would come down to the simple question of how would you want to spend your last night alive?

In the dream I had last night, I had tried to get in touch with my friends, but they were all on the other side of the world from me. Whoever they were and wherever I was, they were somewhere else. They had lives to finish living and people to wrap their existence up with. It was just me, me by myself, just as it had always been. And I was thirsty with nothing to drink in the house, so I went to a bar. There were strangers there living like there was no tomorrow, which was fitting because there would be no tomorrow, and everyone was laughing and talking and loud and very, very drunk. A band was playing. It felt like a celebration. The band wasn’t that great, but for the occasion, they were amazing. The music was so loud, so perfect. It felt like it wasn’t just coming from their instruments and their speakers and souls, but that it was coming from inside me. And they were playing this song:

This morning I woke up and the sun was shining. Dogs were barking down the street, my neighbor was mowing his yard, and car alarms were going off somewhere. And I had to pee really, really, really bad. For the briefest of moments, beyond anything else that could possibly be going on, it just felt good to be alive.

A universe that doesn’t fall apart two days later.

So what does everyone think of the Avatar trailer?

It’s so weird to me to see it actually existing now, not that it’s particulary great or anything, but just because I think I first heard of this project what… ten years ago? It’s easily one of those Chinese Democracys of cinema.

And we all know how well Chinese Democracy turned out.

Maybe perhaps because of this trailer being released in the past week, or maybe just because certain strands and tendrils of the future are bending that way, I’ve been seeing lots of bits and pieces about augmented reality popping up in the various weird shit I read on the interwebs lately. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, right? There tends to be no more powerful thing that coincidences.

The really real world of augmented reality.

Maybe it’s just me, but I guess I expected more from the trailer for James Cameron’s long awaited film. I expected things that it obviously couldn’t really live up to, since it’s been talked about and speculated about so much in the past decade. What’ll be interesting is to see what it really is when it comes to life in this reality.

But one of the things that gets me is that the trailer really favors what looks like simple CGI effects work, not terribly dissimilar from things we’ve seen in the past 5 or so years. The Na’vi creatures, in trailer form, don’t strike me as spectacular creations at all. I’d much rather just look at Zoe Saldana in one of those outfits as she is. Actual look-wise, I get the same vibe from the tall, blue alien race/tribe that I got from seeing the Hulk in Ang Lee’s 2003 film (which, I don’t care what anyone says, is still a fine movie, especially if you chop off the last half an hour).

But then there’s a real story somewhere in Avatar, with real actors like Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez (is it me or is Ana Lucia the only character you haven’t heard about returning for Lost‘s final season?) and Giovanni Ribisi, which I’m not sure I’m all that interested in. If you know nothing of Avatar, I’ll spare you, but it’s essentially The Last Samurai or Dances With Wolves in outer space.

Also, apropos of nothing really, I find Giovanni Ribisi ridiculous. I don’t know why, but I just can’t help it. He’s good with comedic roles, but I can never take him seriously in dramatic roles. Maybe he’s just too good at what he does (which is shit like co-starring in the Gone In Sixty Seconds remake with Nic Cage and that episode of The X-Files, “D.P.O.“). Anyway, that picture below gives me a total Airplane! vibe.

Anticipation for Avatar is a mixed bag, certainly. On one hand, I like a lot of the projects that James Cameron has unleashed in the past, or been involved in, such as the career of his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow or producing Soderbergh’s Solaris remake. He hasn’t put his face out there in a while, but the man is a pillar of the cinema, and someone who actually cares about pushing the technology of moviemaking forward, augmenting the reality for creators (even if it does involve rising movie ticket prices). But I still get a negative vibe from him, you know, as a person.

What can I say? The guy seems like a dick. Right?

But then again, I don’t have to like him (and doesn’t he look like somebody’s uptight dad from an 80s teen flick?). I always enjoyed True Lies, but it took me years to see it as a parody of sexism and not just a fun spy parody that also happened to be sexist. I could be wrong though in my interpretation. James Cameron may have actually intended it to be sexist and that all women are “biscuits.”

Eh, Avatar, whatever. I want it to be good. I’m hoping that it plays out like a nice counterpart to something like Where The Wild Things Are, with Spike Jonze’s take on the Maurice Sendak book being something for the kid in all of us…

…And Avatar being something for the adult in all of us who’s worried about the environment and indigenous peoples and fucking weirdly hot alien girls.

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

-Phillip K. Dick, from “How To Build A Reality That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later.”

Skeletons awaiting the flesh and sinew of images.

I’ve been inspired by Woody Allen week to revisit a lot of old Ingmar Bergman stuff. I’d seen the classics – Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal and Persona, of course – years ago, but there’s a lot I still haven’t seen. I have Cries And Whispers on VHS somewhere in my bunker and I really need to find that. And August Bravo gave me one of the versions of Fanny And Alexander a few years ago. Also, you know which of his movies I’ve always wanted to see? The Silence. For real.

Bergman and Ingrid Thulin during the making of The Silence, 1963.

Woody Allen on Ingmar Bergman, part 1:

“Film as a dream, film as music. No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul. A little twitch in our optic nerve, a shock effect: twenty-four illuminated frames in a second, darkness in between, the optic nerve incapable of registering darkness. At the editing table, when I run the trip of film through, frame by frame, I still feel that dizzy sense of magic of my childhood: in the darkness of the wardrobe, I slowly wind one frame after another, see almost imperceptible changes, wind faster — a movement.”

-Ingmar Bergman

A sterling example of how film lovers are smarter than non film lovers: one of the first things we’ve learned is that you don’t play chess with Death!

Woody Allen on Ingmar Bergman, part 2:

“During a career that spans some four decades, he has made about 50 movies, and in those movies he has created an immediately recognizable world. Whether it is the distant allegorical realm of The Seventh Seal or the banal domestic one of Scenes From a Marriage, this world is a place where faith is tenuous; communication, elusive; and self-knowledge, illusory at best. God is either silent (as in Winter Light) or malevolent (as in The Silence), and Bergman’s characters find themselves ruled, instead, by the capricious ghosts and demons of the unconscious. More persuasively than any other director, Bergman has mapped out the geography of the individual psyche — its secret yearnings and its susceptibility to memory and desire.”

-Michiko Kakutani

“Among today’s directors I’m of course impressed by Steven Spielberg and Scorsese, and Coppola, even if he seems to have ceased making films, and Steven Soderbergh — they all have something to say, they’re passionate, they have an idealistic attitude to the filmmaking process. Soderbergh’s Traffic is amazing. Another great couple of examples of the strength of American cinema is American Beauty and Magnolia.

-Ingmar Bergman, in 2002

Did Bergman get a pass over his Nazi past that Gunter Grass didn’t?

Ang Lee on Bergman.

Bergman and Woody Allen.

Roger Ebert on Persona, not just once, but twice.

A nice review of The Silence.

“I write scripts to serve as skeletons awaiting the flesh and sinew of images.”

-Ingmar Bergman in The New York Times, January 22, 1978

The Unhappy Art.

Andrei Tarkovsky on the cinema:

His Solaris, the second one (there’s been three adaptations), based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem, is very interesting, though I won’t lie, I prefer the Steven Soderbergh remake starring George Clooney. You download and read Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic, the novel that Tarkovsky’s classic film Stalker is based on here. Someday they’ll put out a decent release of Stalker and I’ll be very, very happy.

Fires on the moon.

It’s Saturday night, I’m staying in, relaxing a little, catching up on a few movies, and I wanted to talk briefly about the moon. To howl at it, if you will. And I wanted to share with you old Counterforce links, to invite you to take gander back at some of our older posts…

Primarily Occam Razor’s post peak oil series, something you should be re-reading constantly. Maybe every other week? That’s about right, right?

That’s what I wanted to do, but I noticed we’ve been getting a lot of hits the past few days for one tag/search term in particular: Autoerotic asphyxiation.

Primarily in reference to my post on the passing of David Carradine, but also on the post from way back when about the death of David Foster Wallace. Is it me, or are people fascinated by weird masturbation attempts gone horribly wrong?

Probably, but I’m not sure I want to explore it too much. Cause eventually that conversation goes Michael Hutchence (sometimes you kick, and sometimes you get kicked!), which is fine, or Soderbergh’s Full Frontal, which is also fine, but it also goes to Ken Park, and that is not fine.

Also, there’s a fine line between being sensitive to a subject and enjoying the outrageous humor in it. It’s a kind of class that I’m not sure I currently possess, to be honest with you. But my basic rule on the subject goes like this: If you’re going to masturbate and someone walks in on you, no matter how awkward or embarrassing it is, make sure they know you’re getting yourself off, okay? And if you’re going to kill yourself, make sure that whatever is left is easily identifiable as, well, a suicide, okay (unless you’re framing someone for your “murder,” which is cool)? Make it easy on those left behind! No “Oh no, he killed himself, or actually… Oh, I think he was trying to… See the way that thing is… Oh… Oh… Oh, dear,” okay?

Just a little bit in the way of mad linkage:

The building 2012 paranoia may be a bit stupid.

How to be single and stay that way.

The-Dream feat. Kanye West “Walking On The Moon,” a song that I love for a lot of reasons, especially it’s Michael Jackson-ness. You can make an army of babies to The-Dream’s album, but I also like this song because it’s… what’s the word… more sweet and goofy, less sexist than the rest.

John August is doing an interesting experiment with a short story of his, entitled “The Variant.”

And speaking of writing, if you’re a little saddened by the declining state of literary culture, then Dave Eggers would like to send you a personal “Buck up” about it.

The flag of Earth.

Io, a moon on fire.

Man Bites Dog.

This just in…

American Apparel vs. Woody Allen’s sex life.

Quantum lasers!

And setbacks for Warp Drives!

Experimental Ebola vaccine!

Lobbying more profitable than the cocaine trade.

Speaking of which, the guys from DEVO once did coke with Sarah Jessica Parker and Jamie Gertz when they were 15 or 16 on the set of Square Pegs. That’s awesome.

Roman police find sewer children.

The year 1998 was a great time for bullshit, especially if you were selling it and especially if it came with the magic suffix .com attached.” That’s from an old Wired article I’m reading about Brock Pierce, former child actor (he was in the first two Mighty Ducks films), a dot com executive by 18, fleeing to Spain at 19 to avoid scandal and child abuse charges, and now a millionaire from selling virtual gear to players of online games.

Microwaves can diffuse bombs from afar.

The trailer for Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, starring Sasha Grey.

Star crust is 10 billion times stronger than steel.

Dude, you’ve got problems.

In case you’re attacked by a bear

This just in: CNN not too concerned with having integrity anymore. This goes way beyond parachute journalism.

High school cheerleaders take field trip to male strip club. Awesome.

Sex spray to hold off orgasm: “burning sensation in vagina” and “rash on penis.” Orgasm, consider thyself staved off!

Inside the world of the oil fixer.

The mystery of the rising sea level.

Newsweek to turn new page with relaunch.

Why newspapers are like department stores.

Thanks to Sweden, the guys from Pirate Bay are fucked in a new and unprecedented way.

Thank God Oprah is on Twitter now. Finally, some validation.

The Edge to environment: “Fuck you, environment.” But not really.

Bush administration approved the use of insects in interrogations.

The Vatican is upset that people think that the Pope is crazy for saying that condoms aren’t the answer to helping stop AIDS in Africa. Just a suggestion from your friends at Counterforce: Wrap your junk up. Perhaps twice.

The Elements Of Style still fashionable after 50 years.

Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” is the most popular song to be play at funerals these days.

Speaking of which… A man shot himself during a viewing of Watchmen. That’s a hell of a review.