Friday, September 21, 2007

Curiouser and Curiouser...

Ok, well, I'm back. It's been too long, internet. First of many backed-up posts, weakest first.

So I read Alice Adventures in Wonderland, but my honest opinion is that it has basically bugger-all to do with our show. It's just a long series of silly weirdness, without much deeper meaning. Furthermore, it's clever little nonsense tone really gets under my skin. Haha puns! Math jokes! Long parodies of poems people had to memorize back in the 1800s! I'm sure it was funny once. If you were Lewis Carroll.

Alice and Wonderland is pretty high up there in terms of number of direct references. In the first season episode "White Rabbit", Locke encourages Jack to follow his vision of his Dad, comparing it (him?) to the titular rabbit. There were more literal white rabbits all over the place in season 3: being shaken to death, leading lil' Ben towards his dead mom, being eaten. And, of course, the season 3 finale was called "Through the Looking Glass" --same as Alice's sequel-- and our new station "The Looking Glass" has a little bunny logo.

So I was hoping for some really profound clues, but all I really found were puns. If you've seen the Disney movie you know everything interesting that I have to say. Quick highlight reel: Alice follows a white rabbit (with a pocket watch and clothes) down a hole, falls for awhile, unwisely follows the advice of 'Eat Me' cakes and 'Drink Me' bottles, goes to a Mad Hatter Tea Party, meats a Cheshire cat, plays croquet with a flamingo-mallet, eats some mushroom (because a hookah-smoking caterpillar told her to), almost gets beheaded by the Queen of Hearts, and then wakes up. Because it was all a dream. Great.

It's not that it's not fun, because it is. But for every cool image and clever joke there are three or four that don't work for me. It's fun, but it's all surface. I think a search for deeper meaning here is the surest way to suck the life out of it. It's a story about a convoluted journey through a place where logic works against you and what should make sense doesn't. Don't ask me to take it any farther without magic mushrooms, or at least some "Drink Me".

That said, it seems to me that the sequel, Through the Looking Glass, has a chance of being more relevant. It has time distortion, opposite mirror-selves, a giant chessboard, and a Jabberwocky. So I'll give that a shot, even if it all turns out to be all a joke about binomials and Tennyson.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Apocalypto: I liked it, and it is relevant.

First things first.
We're not dead. In fact, we just got steady internet service, so hopefully we'll be back with a vengance. We have, however, come to an impasse. We've read most of the easy (less than 500 page) books, and are left with, basically, The Fountainhead and Our Mutual Friend (ok Catch-22, The Mysterious Island, Tale of 2 Cities, etc). Aurora's got tons of posts to make--she's listened to the Odyssey and Alice in Wonderland on Librivox, she read the Tommyknockers....I'm almost done with the Time Quartet. It's had its ups and downs , including the death of its author, Madeleine L'Engle. She will be missed. In TV world, we've been watching The Prisoner! Also, I managed to get my sister and mom through the entire series up to this point. It was nice to see my mom hate and then love Sawyer, see the Sun-Jin switch, see the Michael switch, see Tess stay faithful to Sayid, or, as she calls him, " Number One Iraqi ".

And yes. Last night we watched Apocalypto. All the negative Mel Gibson buzz aside, it was a pretty decent film --it was amazing to look at, and steeped itself so deeply in a people and a time that is rarely represented, while at the same time being a pretty simple story of human determination, human flaws, and the problems that come with power. Sound familiar? Well, I think so. So does she...It didn't help that the film started out with a tapir (relative to the wild boar) getting gored by this really awesome really primitive trap. The film leads us to identify with this village of Mayan natives who are pretty unassuming and sometimes play jokes on each other and so forth. Then, lo and behold, the big-city punks come in, a bunch of the old dudes get killed, the young-and-able get captured, and all the kids get left behind. On the arduous walk to the big city, they encounter a small, really creepy child who tells the big-city meanies that their society is going to fall. She reminded me of vision-Walt. In the big city, they realize that they're not being taken to work, but to be sacrificed. Pretty brutally. Our hero escapes this fate because there is a solar eclipse which makes the boss guys declare that the sacrifice should stop--instead the rest of our village friends are taken out back and killed for sport with arrows, javelins, and big-ass rocks. Fortunately, our hero escapes, and spends the rest of the movie leading his captors on a chase through a waterfall, quicksand, poisonous snakes, man-eating jaguars, and that awesome impaling trap from the beginning of the film. Finally, he gets home to his wife and child--only to find the white man arriving on the beach. She says "What are we going to do?" and he says "We're going farther into the jungle," which is totally the right thing to do cuz the white man is a bitch. And the white man is just going to bring another big, ugly power structure that twists people into doing really bad things in the name of society.

SO. I think it sounds familiar--besides the jungle with big bodies of water nearby, there are some really interesting things going on with society asking people to put a really low value on human life...which the corporations on LOST could easily be doing...which real-world society (which Lost draws from) does all the time with our really dumb wars and police actions, and which lots of people stand dumbly by for, or cheer on. But hey, isn't there a temple in the big city of Apocalypto? So maybe the bad guys here are sort of like the Others, with a pretty flawed power structure and a lot of myth and superstition to bolster them. Ultimately, though, I think the movie is about the inevitable rise and fall of civilizations--not just these Mayans, but Rome and the U.S., and everybody. The thing is--I could see this story playing out on the Lost island hundreds of years ago--see it being played out now--and see it being played out again on the future island. And that is spooky, and also totally awesome. The power of the same story playing out over and over again, unable to be stopped, only briefly avoided, is part of why Apocalypto is good, and why LOST is great.

And that's that. I just found out Our Mutual Friend is on Librivox. That is going to make things 10 times easier.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lions and Aliens and Christians, Oh My!: C.S. Lewis Kicks Butt.

I am working my way through finishing C.S. Lewis's book-length works.
C.S. Lewis has been in my blood for a decade, both because he is a great storyteller and a pretty darn well-reasoned spokesperson for Orthodox Christianity. But what does that have to do with LOST? Well... In both the Chronicles of Narnia and the Ransom trilogy (which I'll be talking about), a great mythological world that seems, in some ways,very unlike our own, teaches Christian morality and belief in action without reducing it to 10 commandments or a Golden Rule. It's harder to pin that sort of thing down on Lost and it definitely has less of a clear message about what the "right thing to do" is, but I think there are some interesting points of contacts nonetheless. Let's dive in....

The Ransom Trilogy makes the most sense. In the first book, Out of the Silent Planet, Ransom travels to Mars, meets and befriends its fauna, and gets to know about the way God (who in this case is pretty Christian) works on other planets. But not in a hokey "everything is like Earth" way, but rather in a "Maybe Earth is a little bit less in tune with God than other planets"...which actually in some way or another, seems to be a pretty loud tune in SF. In the second book Perelandra, Ransom is charged with the duty of protecting Venus's ethereal Adam and Eve from their own Fall. He is successful, and Venus looks like its shaping up to be a very different world than fallen Earth.

But the most relevant book, and the last, That Hideous Strength, takes place right here on Earth. That Hideous Strength finds Ransom back on earth, preparing to manage an interplanetary response to the threat of apocalypse. The devil's arrival, it seems, is about to come at the hands of overeager scientists and academics who really messing with the natural order, some knowingly and some because of their own ignorance and disconnectedness from the real world. They are a pretty nasty bunch of academics, lets say. Eventually, albeit briefly, Ransom gets Merlin on his side and calls down the gods (from their corresponding planets) to foil their plans. Merlin and the gods as ancient magic are neutral, so its okay that the Christian heroes co-opt them. Which, needless to say, I love, since it takes a big man (LEWIS!) to really celebrate the reality of non-Christian elements being important in the Christian tradition....

Which, to come back to LOST , seems apt in a world where Christian(Eko of course, and others by way of their virtues...and by allusion in the show) and Pagan(The Island) have to put down their own suspicions of each other to fight something more evil than they seem to each other. At least I hope that's what is going to have to happen with the Losties and the Others. Yep. And maybe it goes with my continuing feeling that Dharma really wasn't up to any good, and the purge might have actually been justified. Although I don't think Clive Staples would have been on board with that. Anyways, the point that those who are calling the shots aren't always the good guys and make it hard sometimes for you to see how bad they are, is an important one.
But in the end, in the very end, someone good is going to call the shots. Kapish? Hm. Just read it.

Narnia is a little bit less clear, since it is, after all, a children's story. Since it is in another time-space... and Carlton has said something to that effect. I felt a connection most seriously in "The Man Behind The Curtain" actually. In The Last Battle there is a False-Aslan (a donkey put in an Aslan suit by a tricksy monkey, seriously) which people are mistakenly worshiping, and Narnia is falling apart. People who believe in him are wrong, people who don't believe in him decide not to believe in Aslan at all, the southern people who believe in Tash instead of Aslan (thinly veiled Muslims) are arguing about his meaning....and Aslan is nowhere to be found.
Plus the Monkey cultivates everyone's reverence for the False Aslan by way of smoke and mirrors and complicated ritual, which real Aslan didn't need.

So when Ben was getting all up in Locke's face being like "I'm going to take you to see Jacob" and everyone was all "ooh Jacob! We've never seen him but we here he's pretty great," I was pretty skeptical about him--I know Wizard of Oz came first but if Jacob is the Island/the Island God/imaginary or false Island-God or what have you, he has a lot more in common with Aslan/False-Aslan than with little Mr. Marvel. But we saw Jacob...right? I'm not ready to believe Jacob is what people think he is, or if he is, Darlton and Co. did a pretty good making it hard to tell what he is. It's not a one-one correlation,but The Last Battle does focus on what the Followers think and do with regards to their Leader as much as on what that leader is. And isn't that we've been watching the Others do for the last season?

Well--I know I haven't done justice to my favorite guy in the world, so, seriously, read his books.
He balances myth-making and very serious meaning really really well. Sort of like LOST!

What's coming up?
Well--I guess I took a little break to read comics. Our Mutual Friend and The Fountainhead are still being slogged through, and I'm reading the Time Quartet, and school is starting! But we've got a bunch of hiatus to go, and plenty of books to read, both long and short and Stephen King-y.
Plus we've started The Prisoner. So creepy. So...
Be Seein' You!


In which everything turns to a mush in my head, or what Jack should learn from Buffy

This isn't about any book specifically, it's just random rambling on my part. Spoilers for all Harry Potter and Buffy (and Star Wars, but that seems ridiculous). So as I've been totally reabsorbed by Harry Potter, Emilia and I have been working out way through Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it got me thinking about the importance and awesomeness of "the trio". Which got me wondering about whether other trios can give us any hints about how things might work out for Lost's main triangle. So let's take a moment to ignore all the other characters and focus on Jack, Kate and Sawyer. Just pretend it's the start of Season 3. Jump with me, won't you?

Seems to me there are two basic structures, with Harry Potter and Buffy in one camp and Lost and Star Wars in the other. Harry, Ron, and Hermione square up eerily well with Buffy, Xander, and Willow, as the brave, whiny, and burdened by destiny hero, the loyal, earnest dork, and the clever, insecure and socially awkward brain. Lost's big three of Jack, Kate, and Sawyer line up with Luke, Leia, and Han Solo as the earnest, whiny, daddy-issues hero, the tough, ballsy heroine, and the scoundrel with a heart of gold.

Now I do have a couple of actual points here, besides that archetypes are fun. First and most personal, why is it that the hero always seems to have issues with being a little whiney-pants? Dear to my heart as all these stories are, there are moments in all of them when I find myself yelling at the screen (or book) for the hero to shut up already. I guess it’s sort of the problem with being the hero: it really is all about you, and at some points that's a real burden. There are times when you just gotta deal with that by yelling at your friends for no reason (Harry), running away and being a waitress (Buffy), straight up ignoring Yoda (Luke) or some good ol' crying in the jungle (Jack). The good news is, by the end of the three finished stories, Harry, Buffy, and Luke have all pulled it together to the point where they are (usually) able to focus calmly on the mission, drawing on the strength of their friends and family, and act as brave and selfless leaders. Jack has a ways to go on every front.

Ok, the next, sort of counter-intuitive thing I notice is that the hero hardly ever gets the girl (or guy). It seems that in all four examples, romance within the trio is between the two seconds, not the hero and a second. All of them have false starts, misleads or confusion in the other direction. Xander likes Buffy, Luke is entranced by Leia, Jack loves Kate, and Harry and Hermione….well I don't see it, but there are enough mixed signals to start a huge shipping war lots of 13-year-old girls still have internet scars from. But none of those couples get farther then a kiss- the real chemistry and balance was in a hero-less pairing.

Of course, if you watch Buffy you know that Willow and Xander didn't work out either, but they had a real, if screwed-up, romance (you have to give Buffy some leeway. Unlike the other three stories I'm talking about, Buffy was never planned out farther than a season or two ahead, and the constant need for drama frequently eats through long-term story satisfaction. We are talking, after all, about a show that suddenly decided in season four that Willow was a lesbian). And I'm sure that our Lost triangle is (groan) far from resolved. But if Ron/Hermione and Han/Leia are any clue, bet on the couple that bickers.

Something else I notice about the three finished stories is that by the end, the hero has to face death in a very clear, conclusive way. Harry, Buffy, and Luke step willingly, defenses down, into the arms of certain death. In DH, Harry accepts that he will have to sacrifice himself, faces Voldemort wandless, and dies. Buffy has the distinction of dying twice, first in season one when she faces her prophesied doom at the hands of the Master, and more certainly at the end of season five when she dives into a dimensional portal to save her little sister (and the world). At the end of Jedi, Luke presents himself to Vader, and goes willingly into the Death Star (I love George Lucas, but subtle he's not), fully expecting to die.

I'm not saying Jack will die- all the characters I just named are smiling contentedly as the credits roll on their stories. I'm also not sure that I'm right about the way the triangle will play out. I'm just guessing about the way this will work, but it seems clear to me that the three finished stories point in particular direction, especially for Jack.

If Jack is going to step up and be the hero of the story, he's gonna need to get in line with the hero path. First, he should stop pushing people away and bogging down in his own shit. Less Order of the Phoenix all-caps Harry, season two sad Buffy, whinny can't lift the X-wing Luke. Be the leader and the hero, stop letting your problems push you away from the people you need. Second, he's gonna need to step fully out of the way of Kate and Sawyer. However that plays out, it's not about him, and him staying in the picture is dragging everyone down. Finally, there is going to come a time when Jack's going to need to step between his people and death, and he'd better be ready for it. And I'm not talking "I'll get off the island and come back for you guys" sacrifice. If the other stories are any guide, our Doc's gonna have to accept death with open arms. I really hope he's up for that.

Ok, coming up next, a Jurassic Park post. Also, someday we'll blog about old BBC show The Prisoner, which based on the pilot is basically Lost, but with funny jackets and an evil balloon. Don't laugh, it's totally terrifying.


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: the best book title ever

Dear Stephen King,

I love you. Have you heard? I love that you do not require me to make a commitment to a world outside of my own understanding, let me read a book in a few days, and manage to set stories in a very specific time by mentioning such cultural identifiers as Surge soda and Tubthumping, and that you don't require me to be a devoted fan to have a lot of fun with any individual book.

I really love The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, a short novel about a 9 year old girl who gets lost on the Appalachian trail. She strays from her mother and brother's bickering for a moment, and ends up having to fend for herself in the wilderness for quite a long time, to the tune of a few weeks. She hikes and falls, tries to sleep, wades through pretty large marshes, makes wrong turns that take her to Canada, and has a prolonged vomiting and other bodily emissions spell as her body adjusts to its primitive diet of nuts, berries, raw fish, and dirty stream water. Eventually, hallucinating like crazy, she finds her way to a forest road, she confronts the fear that has been chasing her through the woods, and a hunter finds her and takes her to the hospital. Although he's interested in putting her through a lot of pain, King is interested in letting the girl die... but in how she manages to live.

Although the book isn't mentioned or read in Lost, it was featured on a Lostpedia Stephen King connections list, and with good reason. The whole scenario of being thrown off the beaten path and surviving on your wits has been played with on Lost--There was plenty of survival questions being asked in Season 1 that the introduction of the Hatch sort of diverted us from.
Remember the good old days of Locke skinning boars (and the camera dwelling on it for long periods of time). Of Charlie trying to catch a fish to impress Shannon? Remember when everyone would sit around the fire and talk and the montage-y music would play and the camera would pan out to the stars? Sigh.

In The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, survival doesn't depend on society..the only other person out there is an hallucination. Trisha has her Walkman with her, and is able to tune in to Boston Red Sox games for a few days before the batteries run out. Tom Gordon, the relief pitcher, is her hero--she wears a Red Sox hat and his jersey while in the woods. She talks to him, and sees him with her every so often, and he keeps guiding her through the woods when she feels like giving up. Along with this good spirit, she also senses (and King hints spookily at) another, malevolent, presence, whom she decides is "The God of the Lost," who basically wants to get her and tear into tiny pieces. These visions, like those on LOST, serve a clear (albiet spooky purpose for the seer. Furthermore: both good and evil in the supernatural--since we don't know what is good and evil on LOST at this point, I'm going to make a guess that things like the Smoke Monster and Jacob are a little bit of both. There's even the slightest hint of a yearning for God: Trisha thinks back to her father's belief in "the subaudible", the spiritual essence in everything, and gets mad. The Subaudible isn't going to help you when you're lost in the woods for days on end--she needs real protection and more importantly, strength, and in Tom Gordon she gets it.
I guess it might be nice to mention, too, that King doesn't go very big in making up mythologies and supernatural stuff for this book (which I think makes it sort of unique for his work?)...which makes it kind of like Lost, in that its just enough to whet your whistle.

So basically it's great, there's survivalism, cultural context, good and evil, and a little yearning for divine protection. Thanks Stephen King! So what else is on our plate: I'm going to report on the Ransom trilogy (I just finished it! Yay!!), Aurora's still going to talk about trios and Harry Potter and other nerd things, and she's slogging through The Fountainhead while I slog through Our Mutual Friend. But as she pointed out recently, we've got 7 months to go. We've got plenty of time to get through lots more books.

A couple of tidbits, survivalism+Lost related.
I read a piece about Jeffrey Lieber, who gets created by credits, but envisioned the show as way more just about survivalist, Lord of the Flies type stuff. The article is a little whiny, but interesting. I Love The Monster, so...I can't be too sad he wasn't kept on.

ALSO: Yesterday I found out the Terry O'Quinn is from Newberry, Michigan!!! This explains so much! I've been there a few times. It's in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, near Lake Superior, pretty far from much of anything, especially in the Very Very Snowy Winter. It's not hard to see how he could have some seriously engrained experience with big,scary woods and basic survival skills up there. As if it weren't already big enough, my love for him grows and grows. How could it not?... Bye!


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Island: Will Tantric Yoga save the world?

This is a tough one. Aldous Huxley's Island than a little bit pontificating, so its going to be sort of hard to talk about it as though it had a plot. But it's definitely food for Lost thought. isn't excellent--it's kind of manifesto-ish and moreThe novel is set on the Southeast Asian island of Pala, which is the namesake of the "Pala Ferry" mentioned in the Pearl Station Orientation video and the General Orientation video in Ben's flashback. Its unused dock is where Michael's boat takes off from (and where Jack, Kate and Sawyer are bound, gagged and hooded) at the end of Season 2, and where Sayid and Co. dock their boat at the beginning of Season 3. Still, even with all the action going on around it, (surprise, surprise) it's not entirely clear what the Pala Ferry seems to have taken Dharma members from station to station and possibly from island to island.

Aldous Huxley's Pala is a little bit more clearly defined. The book serves as a corrective to the dreary distopia of Brave New World by presenting a working utopia that benefits from a synthesis of western science (especially medicine) and eastern spirituality (especially Buddhism). We learn about Pala from its inhabitants alongside a British journalist who has been sent there to scope out its oil resources for his boss (hello Widmore?) but who ends up getting pretty enthralled by what the Island has to offer. What is that exactly? Aside from the initial thrill of learning how much the Island inhabitants value tantric yoga, there are also carefully administered magic mushrooms, Mutual Adoption Clubs where children aren't tied to one set of parents for their whole childhood, and shared communal duties, both physical and intellectual, which strengthen all of the society...there's a really nice little jab at Western intellectuals who study one thing to the exclusion of others and become gross little blobs instead of whole people.

Of course there's a little bit of conflict thrown in for good measure...the soon-to-be rightful ruler (of a ruling family that had control over the island since before this utopian period) and his over-bearing mother, aware of the money they can get from selling off Pala's lucrative oil reserves, are about to really ruin things by cutting a deal with a nearby island that has westernized too fast, leaving a huge gap between the haves and have nots. Having something like this to be in opposition to makes the smooth functioning of Pala all the more appealing.

This could be a really great story, I think, but as it stands, it reads more as Huxley's own musings on the ideal society. And do I put this? I am a little skeptical. And not only because the book was constantly proposing Buddhism-based alternatives to Western Christian attitudes about the way society should be. I will digress here: it is a noble effort for someone, like Huxley, so concerned with the problems of Western civilization, to offer an alternative, but the fact remains that he is a Western thinker and can't completely explain or understand Buddhism. Anyways, I'm skeptical because I think that any working utopia is going to seem a bit far-fetched. It requires too many people to be in sync with each other, or else it has to be so self-contained (as in the case of this island), that it hardly seems like a viable solution for the rest of the world. Which I guess is okay, if a little sad. Plus, dystopias are just so much more fun!

In the end, Pala's new ruler sells the place out for that all too-tempting oil money which he can use to buy himself happiness, by way of material posessions (like scooters purchased from catalogs). Although I hadn't bought into the Pala utopia wholesale, it's easy to see how depressing it is to give up a mellow and equitable society for industrialization, pollution, and gross economic disparities. But the ending of the book seems to suggest that, though the society was destroyed, it lingered in the hearts and minds of its adherents nonetheless.

So where's Lost in this? The Palan establishment is probably just a teensy bit like Dharma, which has ideals and goals that are intellectual, spiritual, and community-building in nature. Admittedly, its not working as well as Pala was (with folks like Roger assigned to one duty that just pissed them off), but maybe the name was chosen in a spirit of high hopes bythe Dharma Initiative.

Then there's the threat of big oil spoiling the fun. Although it doesn't seem like its going to be Big Oil, the corporations who are threatening to ruin the Lost Island(s) seem to want something, and maybe want to send others in to do it for them. I think its entirely probable that some of the Losties could be unwitting pawns for the Bad Guys who are also capable of being turned to the preferability of Island Life (like the reporter character in Island). At the same time, somebody had an inside man (a native son like Pala's ruler) in Dharma once: Ben. Although of course, the Hostiles were around before Dharma was...nonetheless, the crossing paths of the outsiders accepting a society that they were originally sent to hate, and of the natives betraying it are an important part of the big Lost Puzzle.

All that said, I think it's time to admit that the Others/Dharma/Hostiles/Natives jumble has gotten me so mixed up that the more times I allude to it, the less I know what I'm talking about.
Recently Aurora pointed out to me that I was operating on the assumption that the Hostiles (specifically Richard Alpert) were the good guys. And I said oh yeah, he is pretty evil, and I was embarrassed. But really, I think that the "special properties" of the Island have been protected by something good(?) for some time (as in centuries)...does that mean that there's been a bad around all this time too? Oh, man, I cannot wait for some of the Island mythology. If only for the simple fact that I could chase it around in my head for weeks and never get anywhere on my own.

Finally, in fun Huxley facts from Wikipedia, this was Huxley's last book, written after he was diagnosed with cancer. Near to death, he asked his wife to inject him with LSD, which much like the magic mushrooms in Island, eased his mind in his dying moments. His death got little public mention, though, as he died on the same day as President Kennedy and...get this..C.S. Lewis!
I love C.S. Lewis.

On that note, adios. I'll be dropping by for a short post on The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon soonish. I've started Our Mutual Friend (oof!) and want to finish the RansomTrilogy and talk Lewis a bit. Aurora should be doing a bit on literary and cultural threesomes (um?) and what they can tell us about looking at Jack/Kate/Sawyer. I for one, am looking forward to it.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Wizard of Oz: I can't come back, I don't know how it works!

What can really be said about The Wizard of Oz that hasn't already been said?
Not too much, especially since its not all that complicated of a book, and most of what people say sort of ruins the fun. Besides, its lasting fame is due just a little more to the 1939 movie then to the 1900 book. LOST , for one, references a line from the movie in one of its most awesome episodes: 3x20: "The Man Behind The Curtain". In the book, after all, he's behind a wood screen, not a curtain. And the red shoes on a man buried under rubble that Desmond sees in Flashes Before Your Eyes come from the movie--in the book they're silver.

In the interest of not rehashing a plot that anyone with much interest in popular culture probably knows, I'll talk about where I saw connections and had questions, giving a little bit of thought to the differences between the film and the book.

One of the best things about The Wizard of Oz in any form is the well-developed characters and their interactions with and concern for one another. Along the way they all demonstrate that the gifts they seek are already inside of them. Sound familiar? Well, I think so.

I was really trying to develop some theory of who was who in the merry band. Some have lovingly lined up the characters with Michael/Jacob's list for the Others --Kate, Hurley, Jack, and Sawyer are Dorothy,The Cowardly Lion, The Tin Man, and The Scarecrow respectively (thanks, Lostpedia). I'd totally get behind Hurley as the Cowardly Lion--he has a lot to offer but has some trouble doing it, as he showed in the last few episodes of Season 3. Other than that, I pretty much disagree. I think Sawyer's the most like the Tin Man. In the book, particularly, the Tin Man goes back and forth between making sure not to step on cute little bugs and (on multiple occasions!) decapitating beastly enemies that threaten his comrades. Sawyer, in his own words, is "a complicated guy, sweetheart." He's maybe the biggest romantic on the show, but he's also probably the most hardened by his pre-island situation. Plus, he comes through in a pinch. I think the one connecting factor between him and the Scarecrow is his straw-y hair. So who do I think is the Scarecrow? Hm. I'd really like to give this to Jack. He's a know-it-all, he's bossy, and um, just dumb sometimes. There are also times when he's a good leader, and his brand of bravery pays off. Similarly, when the Wizard of Oz leaves, he leaves the Scarecrow in charge of the Emerald City...Hm. Is someone going to put Jack in charge?

Which brings us, rightfully so, to the love of my life, John Locke. Sigh. He can probably be the Scarecrow too--he's wrong as often as he's right, but when he's right its pretty useful. But I'm going to have to make a weird case. I think he's Dorothy. Sorry Kate, being pretty and a girl isn't going to cut it. So here's why: Dorothy is in a different position than the others in her little band. She's more curious and more amazed by the entire world of Oz because she is truly a stranger to it. For her, the whole trip is an exploration. Nobody has picked up on seeing the Island as a fascinating new world to explore more than Locke has. For another thing, Dorothy has the power of the silver/ruby slippers pretty much from the get-go. Locke's got something going on in the magic department early on too, with his miraculous ability to use his legs and all. And...although Locke doesn't want to go home and Dorothy really does, both of them are interested in asking the big questions and getting sufficient answers. I'd also like to make the case that Dorothy infiltrated the Wicked Witch's castle most successfully since the Wicked Witch can't touch her due to the shoes, and that Locke most successfully infiltrated the Others and wasn't touched for similar reasons (they might have been a humbug, of course). But well, does that fall apart when Ben pits him? Maybe. Ok, there's my wacky little assessment.

That takes us to titular Wizard. Aside from some physical resemblance to Locke (short and bald!), I'm going to argue for a split bill between Ben and Jacob. The case for Ben is that he's definitely keeping some things for the Losties, and, as evidenced by the tumor and the ensuing mess he gets into with his fellow others, he doesn't have as much power as he'd like to make it seem. Be that as it may be, he's still the boss, even if he's pulling some humbug. So why'd he call himself Henry Gale--wouldn't he be more aptly named Mr. Marvell? I know, its not a one-one correlation, but I must think about it.

I'm going to throw Jacob into the mix now. I know that The Wizard, the Man Behind the Curtain, is a humbug, but there's plenty of real magic in Oz too. In the book, particularly, The Wizard makes himself appear in different forms to the different visitors--to Dorothy, a giant head, to the Scarecrow a beautiful woman, and so forth. I'm on the "Jacob appeared as an older Locke" train, and the smoke monster appears to people in different forms, I think the idea that different people see the Wizard differently ties in well. If Jacob/The Island/The Smoke Monster is being controlled, who's making Jacob appear the way he does?

So is there really a humbug in The Wizard of Oz? Clearly--in the book, everyone in the Emerald City wears green glasses so that everything will appear green, and the Wizard is a fake. But there's plenty of real magic in the Land of Oz too--heck, there's a living scarecrow, flying monkeys, and magic shoes! I think its sort of the same on Lost. There's certainly some humbug going on, but there's magic bigger than the humbug too.

And ooh! Who reveals the Wizard in the book and film? Toto! Who makes sure that "nothing stays buried on the Island for long"? Quite arguably, good old Vincent! Hooray for the weird dog as plot device!

There are a couple of other loose ends--The name Oz recalls the poem Ozymandias, which is about pride and the fall of empires and which.... everybody loves! It comes up in other LOST influences like the Watchmen, and Lost's four-toed statue has been seen as a reference to the broken-down statue of the ancient king. In the Wizard of Oz, likewise, The Wizard is the ruler of an opulent city at the center of a much simpler kingdom. The story has been seen as a populist fable (which I don't want to spend much time on, really)... are the tyrants supposed to be falling in LOST and is the common man to be championed? Well, I hope so, but I'm not really counting it. The rise and fall of empires is fascinating, no matter.

There's also this experiment I got to in my Wikipedia searching. Make of it what you will. But the whole human-technology interaction thing rings a bell with me. And of course, it's mighty nifty that Oz is a nickname for Australia. I'm sure you got that, but its fun.

Thats all I've got. I think the Wizard of Oz is totally relevant--it presents a cool mythology but relies on character development, it employs both real magic and slight of hand, and it keeps getting at that question: who's in charge and what does it mean for the little guy? Read it, watch it... enjoy it. In the mean time, I'm still working on the Ransom Trilogy. I love C.S. Lewis, you know. Aurora will be working on Harry Potter for a good while... so it might be a few weeks. In the mean time... read!


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Stranger in a Strange Land: a Cocktail Party to which I was not invited

I decided to read Stranger in a Strange Land because Wrinkle in Time got me so keen on science fiction. And Stranger in a Strange Land is billed as "the most famous science fiction novel of all time." Um. Give me a break. I guess I might be cynical, but this book was light on science fiction and heavy on early 1960s hangups dressed up as radical breaches of authority. Ugh. So perhaps it is apt that it gave its name to the worst episode of LOST ever (sorry), The One With Bai Ling. I wonder if that was on purpose...

So here's how it goes. Years before the book started, a crew of astronauts landed on Mars. Though they all died, one of them had a kid, who was raised by Martians. When another crew of humans picks him up years later and brings him back to Earth, it becomes clear that life on Mars has changed the way he experiences things--he can make people disappear if he is displeased with them, he goes into catatonic states for long periods of time, he can speak into peoples minds and see through their eyes. In short, he is in the business of "grokking" things, which is a combination of understanding and loving and being a part of them. Cool, right?

Well, what do you with that sort of guy? He teaches people about Mars, but he also teaches them about themselves. The book gets caught up describing the political details involved in the rescue of the Man From Mars (Mike Smith) and subsequently spends a lot of time describing the swinging lifestyles of Smith's coterie, which includes a number of beautiful, free-spirited women and an oldish wise man who also happens to be sort of a swinger, named Jubal. Jubal guides Smith's education, which involves a lot of dissing on organized religion and a lot of learning to find women very, very attractive. Eventually, after a visit to the Fosterite Church (an early prediction of the importance of the jazzed-up mega-church phenomenon), Mike sort of gets it in his half-martian head to start his own religion. What this basically consists of is everyone walking around telling each other "You are God" (ugh) and enjoying the benefits of free love (or more accurately, free sex). He's also teaching them how to be more like Martians, in terms of clairvoyance and seeing through other peoples eyes and so forth and the Martian language. In the end, though, good-old future Americans can't handle his blasphemy and stone him to death, whereupon his followers eat his body in order to fully "grok" him (because thats what they do on Mars). Bleh.

There is some Urban Legend stuff about Charles Manson loving this book, and my parents tell me that all the druggies liked it in their high school, so apparently it was pretty brazen. But it seems like the Man from Mars was just a cheap excuse to talk about and praise sex and rock+roll in a 1961 context. And even then, it seemed insincere. It is hard to make good literature which attacks social mores at length unless it comes from a position with some willingness to actually explore the workings of those social mores. Science fiction, at least in this personal story over broader political fable story, doesn't quite seem to be the right medium. And this dwells far too long on whats wrong with the world, taking it on faith that we agree. Some critics suggest that the book is a satire of attitudes, but I guess that either I don't enjoy that and that the joke seemed too messily and obtusely executed. Also, I don't think that those druggies took it as a satire. Finally, I don't think that LOST brings with it this attitude of insincere dismissal of social mores, and doesn't really show any hint of changing them. As far as religion goes, whether it loves or hates it, LOST is gladly in debt to its stories and attitudes. And as far as sex goes, Aurora says "It's almost neck in neck with Buffy for the sex is bad theme." Even if it ends up anti-religion and pro-promiscuity, I already know that Lost did a good job exploring the cultural norms that those go against. End complaining.

There is one thing I think might be of some use--the Martians have a signifier for a level of being beyond corporal existence. These folks are called "the Old Ones", and are more or less guiding spirits who dictate Martian life. The existence of wiser, bodiless creatures who direct the planets affairs might be of some use to our conception of the Island--both the whispers and Jacob could be this sort of thing, although just how wise and controlling they are is up for debate.

There is too, the alternate way of looking at this in terms of LOST, which I like better--simply that it refers to the verse of the bible.. Exodus 2:22: And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land. Or to Oedipus at Colonus:

Patience, stranger--
here in a strange land, poor man,
hate with a will
whatever the city holds in rooted hatred,
honor what the city holds in love.
The implication of these, I guess, has something to do with the person who doesn't fit in anywhere but has to fit in somewhere to go on, a characterization which could apply to many of our Losties. Are they strangers in a strange land on the island? Will they be strangers in a strange land when and if they return to the real world? Is Richard Alpert a martian? (teehee)...Is Bai Ling an alien?! Or is it simply about Jack, who, his escapades in Asia as proof, is a little less together and has a little more trouble fitting in then he'd like to let on? His tattoo says that "he walks among us but is not one of us." Hm... I know its easy to say there's more about our characters than we're seeing, but Jack has something other than his dad and his divorce and his waning power over the Losties bothering him. And I have no idea what it is. Do you?

So, I'm reading the C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy now as a break.
He presents a much more affable version of mars, and I am enjoying it. Sometime I will blog about the Space Trilogy, and also The Chronicles of Narnia, as they relate to our show. Which I think they do.

Also: Locke's dad plays Jason Segel's mean dad on Freaks and Geeks. He's so scary! Bye!


Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Wrinkle in Time

Nothing will ever beat the Chronicles of Narnia for me. There is my prejudice. However, I am starting to realize I must acknowledge its peers and competitors: this and the Dark Compass books, and later, perhaps, The Lord of the Rings, and maybe, when I am 50 or so, Harry Potter. Sawyer reads Madeleine L'Engle's story in 1x19: Deus Ex Machina, in his sexy Frankenglasses. That's right, I'm putting a picture of them up. Here.

A Wrinkle In Time is a pretty short, and very tightly written--alot of fantastic things happen without too much fanfare. We're set up with a sort of grumpy, but intelligent, teenage girl named Meg and her weird little family. In particular, her much-younger brother Charles Wallace seems to possess some extra-ordinary connections. Her mother and long-absent father are scientists. The book starts out with a bit of ambiguity about their work, but that is only so that the rest of the plot is all the more interesting. There are three witchy types( Mrs Who, Whatsit and, Which) who end up transporting our heroine, her brother, and a boy from her school to far-off planets, to save Meg and Charles Wallace's father who is trapped on a planet called Camazotz. This planet is consumed by"the dark thing" which also threatens to consume Earth, so our heroes get a chance to see what they must, in later books, save the earth from.

But how do they get around, you ask? Well, this is probably the most obvious Lost-esque element of the story. We found out gradually that Meg's parents have been working on the concept of "tesseracts", which are more or less the titular wrinkles in time of the story. By folding time, people and non-terrestial beings can travel very great distances very quickly, to other planets, especially. Yes, LOST's time-space continuum movement methods are blurry at present, but if they're as simple as this, then I say hooray.

One of my favorite fantastic conceits from the book is the planet of Camazotz. It was the classic industrial-type distopia: everyone does everything in unison--children bounce balls in perfect time, mothers call them in all at once, anyone who shows the slightest sign of weakness, like a common cold, is quietly exterminated, and creativity and self-expression are non-existent. I couldn't help but think of my favorite film, Brazil. Ok, that envisions a world where everything is supposed to be regimented but is in reality a huge mess...but well, I just like that thread that something that seems so ordered can be so deeply messed-up. So is this what the Island is protecting the world from? Is the black smoke anything at all like the black thing that looms over Camazotz? The Smoke Monster seems to have good reason for attacking the people it attacks on-island, but maybe it has bigger consequences.

Another important point brought up in the book is psychic communication. The evil ruler of Camazotz, "IT", speaks directly into the brains of our heroes, and eventually takes control of Charles Wallace. While plotting how best to save him, Meg, Calvin, and her father end up on a planet where eyeless, tentacled, fuzzy monsters engage in some less sinister mind-to-mind communication. While again (surprise!) we don't have hard evidence of psychic communication on the island, psychic powers do seem to be a strong theme, and communication could well be one of them.. could mind control be?

Finally, there's the cultural and intellectual milieu that this book is set in. One of the witchy types talks only in philosophical and artistic quotes, usually in different languages. One of the great evils of Camazotz is its lack of concern for art and beauty. The black thing threatens to sap the world of these things. Although I think that the conscious cultural reference thing is a parallel with LOST, I maybe resented them in a book intended for kids...I think LOST does it better. The one place where I didn't mind it, was in a quote from the Bible in the final chapter of the book...

"The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, bretheren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called, but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are." —1 Corinthians 1:25–28

Sigh. Thanks, Bible. Now I am not saying that I think that the Losties are particularly foolish, but I think in a lot of cases they have shown themselves to be less than mighty. And thats a good thing: they might have the world to save from the hands of the mighty, after all.

Finally, this book ties science and magic and religious faith together, without any of them seeming particularly false or contradictory to one another. I think LOST does that too, with equal or exceeding panache, and it is pretty rare these days, so I really value it. Anyways. I think its definitely worth a read, if only because its not very hard and has a few really elegant images of other worlds. Yep. That's that.

I'm currently working on Stranger in a Strange Land. Here's a preview: I think its insidious. We will find out if that is the right word. I'm also trying to read Out of The Silent Planet. They are confusing themselves in my mind. Oh space travel. Adios.


Thursday, July 5, 2007

Rainbow Six or Showing My Pinko Colors, for reals.

I think I confused Tom Clancy with John Grisham, and eagerly picked up this book.
Unfortunately, I am not a White, conservative, deeply heterosexual 35-65 year old man interested in paramilitary secret service members of a similar demographic, their guns, their nemeses, and the innocent women and children that they endeavor to save. And I did not completely admit to the error of my ways until I was about 400 pages into a 700 page book. Oh good Lord. Now don't get me wrong, I like morality plays, and I like stories about the world in peril, and I am not really against maintaining social norms, but Rainbow Six rubbed me the wrong way. We'll discuss.
Rainbow Six was seen on the Swan Hatch bookshelf in 2x03-Orientation.
Lostpedia points out that R6 was published in 1998 so could have come in a supply drop.

Rainbow Six chronicles the founding and early missions of an international counterterrorist organization. Conveniently, our heroes are pure-blooded Americans--ok, one of them is Hispanic- with stalwart values. There's an exciting encounter with plane hijackers in the first chapter, but after that the terrorist incidents they deal with seem predictable and relatively small-- a bank holdup, Marxist idealists holding up some rich dudes Castle, Basques or a close approximation thereof holding hostage sick children at pseudo-Euro-Disney, and finally (horror of horrors!) the provisional IRA taking our heroes wives, one of them pregnant no less, hostage at the hospital they work at. The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and the good guys always win with maybe one casualty on their side, and plenty of pontificating on the nature of their Very Important Work. Perhaps the best part of this plot line is how quaintly "terrorism" was defined less than a decade ago, and how exciting the start of the internet age is--some time is taken to explain the wonder of "e-mail" and other computer technologies. Aw.

The other plot, which is interwoven with the counterterrorist one, is a bit more interesting and relevant to our show. Some folks, whose identity eventually becomes clear as a major drug company, abduct some homeless dudes and then some young career women and start testing some deadly virus on them. It is sinister and shrouded in mystery, and sort of fun to read. As it turns out, the culprits are planning to release a virus at the Australia(!) Olympics which would eventually wipe out most of the world's human population. It's sort of ingenius, but their motives, again, are sort of cheesy: They want nature to be returned to healthier balance...some of the members of the organization are even...*gasp*..vegans.

The Rainbow group intervenes in the eleventh hour, of course, and literally saves humanity. Not that I'm not grateful, but really, I'd like to think that the implications of mass plague ( as in The Stand) are more interesting than just the threat of it. Interestingly enough, the tip-off comes from a master terrorist named Popov, who had been coordinating the terrorist incidents in the book as a sort of middleman between the world-annihilating corporation and the terrorist groups. When he realizes who he's really working for, he bolts and saves the day. Although he's a sneaky, sly, amoral Russian, a eye-roll worthy stereotype in many respects, ultimately, he knows where to draw the line. And he was probably the one thing in the book I couldn't predict from chapter to chapter.

So what does this have to do with our show? Some looming threat of bio-terrorism on the broadest scale in one form or another, certainly( there's some intimation of this in the Lost Experience, apparently). Along with that comes the balance between the natural world and the encroachment of man: I don't think LOST comes down for either over the other, but they're definitely in some conflict. Then there's the evil of big corporations (which is sort of a relief in the conclusion of this book after the parade of unpopular political separatists who I'd probably side with over whitey in some situations). What I hestitate to say this book shares with LOST is its world-view. It is so simple and black and white. LOST doesn't approach its storytelling in that way, and doesn't present morals without some nuance. That's not to say that there aren't moral extremes on the show, as in Evil Under The Sun, good and evil do exist and are real. But they can't be taken care of by secret services, at least in the conventional sense.

Here's what I think: the book was in the Swan Hatch, and Kelvin Inman was there (he was sort of a cutie). Kelvin was in Sayid's flashback as a member of the American forces in the Gulf War, and tells Desmond that he was a spy, "but left because ' followed my orders.'" It's unclear how he came to the Island, and its debatable what his true work there was. His arrival, after the first Gulf War, would also be after the Dharma Purge, and the initiative would be defunct. So, was he a true or misguided Dharma-ite, or was he an Other in Dharma clothing? Oof. I don't know, but a military book read by a military dude on an Island whose nature (both regular and super-type) people struggle to retain control over, seems to make some sense.

So that's it. I don't want to talk about it anymore. And like that, it is out of my life. Read it, if you have tons of time or if you don't feel guilty doing some skimming. It could be a much better story in someone else's hands, since the structure of it doesn't completely stink. Or play the video games. They seem to be pretty popular. And I'll get back to reading!


Watership Down: "It's about bunnies."

After much thought, and more thought, and some research, and some semi-absurd surprisingly long discussion, I am still confused about the extent of the relationship between Watership Down and our old trusty show. It's not that I don't think it has to do with LOST- I do think it relates. But just how is another matter...Lostpedia gives some basic points and the LOST Community is doing a book club which very recently put together an in-depth podcast on the bunnies. Check it out! The book first showed up in 1x08-Confidence Man, as Sawyer reads it on the beach. Boone had been reading it on the plane (aw, Boone), and Sawyer took it from his luggage. He's also seen reading it in 3x15: Left Behind. Geez, Sawyer, finish it already.
In the meantime, we've seen plenty of bunnies and bunny books and so forth: the White Rabbit episode, Ben's #8 Bunny, Of Mice+Men, and Alice In Wonderland. So, here goes.

Watership Down is the story of a group of male rabbits who leave their warren to join or form a new warren in a safer place. They're not sure when they set out. They decided to leave on the advice of Fiver, a runtish type with some unexplainable connection to the rest of the natural world. There are some inevitable and interesting hurdles: they spend some time in a spooky new-agey warren,which it turns out, is being provided for, and taken from, by a farmer who lets the warren grow but takes rabbits for food at his leisure by way of a fencing system (hello, electric fence thing). When they get out of that mess, they establish a happy warren on Watership Down, and start making friends with the surrounding wildlife, most notably helping a wounded gull named Kehaar, who in turn will help them. With what? Why with getting does and procreating of course!

The climatic conflict of the book is their infiltration of the Efrafa warren. Efrafa is run by General Woundwort, a rough sort who rules with an Iron Fist, organizing his warren in a military fashion with groups of rabbits who patrol so that no one can get in or out of the warren's lands. The warren is well-provided for and well-guarded, but sort of miserable-some does are unable to have babies (hello, baby theme!) because they are so unhappy, and the Watership Down guys are doing them a service by taking them. So they take some does, by seemingly supernatural means (at least to the Efrafran rabbits): they enlist Kehaar to attack and confuse the Efrafrans and they escape in a boat! Eventually, though, Woundwort follows them back to Watership to retrieve (and punish) his errant does. Our heroes fight him and his thugs off through sheer will and another trick--A dog released from a nearby farm. Then they settle down, a bit worse for the wear, but able to have babies and have a happy, more or less utopian (in a not creepy sense) existence.

So here's the party line, which I think is great in some ways. The Losties are Fiver's gang, they're trying to start a new, better life that is safe. There are differences of personality and of talent within the group as there are in the Downies. Fiver especially, with his intense connection to the natural world (which leads to his premonition about the doom of their previous warren) could be compared to Walt, Desmond, or my favorite candidate, Locke...(since he's most deeply connected to the island, not to the general psychic world). Other rabbits are good leaders (Hazel), good problem-solvers (Blackberry), good strong-armers (Bigwig), etc. They have to learn to work together, and they manage to succeed by making the Right Choices. I can pretty much get behind this.

The general consensus is that The Others are the Efrafans, and Ben is more or less of a Woundwort figure, ruling with an Iron Fist, somewhat militaristically, dispatching his minions at his will, telling them only as much as is necessary, punishing them harshly if they try to leave, and making some of them (like ol' Juliet) just plain miserable and eager to get the hell out. In the end, Woundwort's choice to flex his own military muscle outweighs what's really best for his people, and does him in. Will Ben's?

Ok, I think this works. Or I think it worked pretty darn well, before the events of the last few episodes of Season 3 went down. So I will propose two alternate theories. My first theory, dismissed by my blog colleague to some extent, is that the book was introduced early enough that the extent of the Other's evilness wasn't quite fleshed out. This book expertly hints at the problems of society-building that the Losties were going to encounter in a somewhat general sense (with great nods to breeding, psychic, and supernatural themes and their later importance) but maybe it doesn't predict the show arc, which may not end so simply. Which is fine with me.

My alternate theory is fairly crackpot, but I need to say it because other fans haven't, to my knowledge. I don't think that Ben is like Woundwort, and I don't think that the Others are Efrafa. For one, Ben is a Trickster, not a General..he's vicious, sure, but as of the end of Season 3, I think there's something to his pleas of being the "good guy". For another, it seems like the Others have some higher purpose, and I found Efrafa so depressing because they seemed so regimented and ordered and banal like the real world, which the Others lives don't. Furthermore, the Others more or less initiate contact, not the Losties, just as the Downies, not the Efrafans, are the infiltrators. Its really tough for me to parse out who is who.

And here's where my hypothesis gets screwy: I think if the Others can be tied to anybody, its the farm-fed warren with the inexplicable customs and self-delusion (which is what the Dharma Initiative turned out to be, in a way). The Watership Down warren ends up integrating some members of that warren, some rabbits from the nearby farm, and some of the Efrafans, who all bind together to defeat Woundwort. Just as I think the Losties are in the process of binding together with nominal Dharma-ites (Desmond), and Others like Juliet, Alex and Carl, and seeming foreigners to both groups like Danielle (who's been compared to Keehar)...against some Big Bad who is bigger, a lot bigger, as in the whole world bigger, than Ben. SO...I think its Widmore and Co. But I am pretty big on this Corporations are the Bad Guy thread of Lost. So ....There you have it. They're up against The Man.

So what about the storytelling? Glad you asked! What I loved most about Watership Down was not the society-building, but the importance of stories both as history and as religion. W.D. has interludes of El-ahrairah, legends of the trickster rabbit who all living rabbits looks up to. The book is careful to make note of the different ways these stories are told in different warrens as indicators of how they operate, and also to make clear their continued relevance to the values and actions of the Downs warren. The ending of the book is by far my favorite part. Our heroes hear their stories being told to baby rabbits, with a little exaggeration, as legends of the rabbit god...and in the very end, Hazel, the chief rabbit, old and content, hops off into the bunny afterlife without a great deal of fanfare.

Also, Richard Adams lays bare the importance of Watership Down as a social allegory and as influenced by other stories of society building, by way of quotes from philosophers, Shakespeare, Robin Hood, and so on.

At the risk of sounding way too entranced with Lost (who, me?) I think it has a similar reverence for the value of storytelling as a transmitter of values and of history, since LOST itself is very complicated storytelling with an important in-show mythology! Like Watership Down, too, it makes clear its debt to other stories and societal ideas by naming them or showing them--By featuring what Sawyer reads, it reminds us what it owes to other stories, and what maybe someday other stories will someday owe to it.

Next up: Rainbow Six (ugh) and A Wrinkle in Time (hm). Hooray!


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Moon Pool

This is the book when I realized I was going to see Lost everywhere I looked. The Moon Pool itself has never been on the show, but people think that constant mentions of the moon pool -aka submarine dock- in the Looking Glass Hatch might be a reference to this classic early science fiction novel. Me, I'm not sure, but it was interesting anyway.

MP is a classic pulp science fiction adventure story from 1918 (Project Gutenberg has it). Basically, it's about this mysterious island and the people stealing monster it contains. Unlike our monster, this one is made of pure, shining moonlight. "The Dweller" or "The Shining One" steals people to feed off their emotions, and holds them captive thrall forever. The monster comes with an eerie cysteine tinkling sound, and when someones sees it their face contorts with "utter agony and utter ecstasy".

The story follows a very international little group, drawn to the island for different reasons. The main character, Doctor Walt Goodwin (spooky) is trying to find his old friend, who has been taken. He is joined by adventurous Irishman Larry, a Norwegian looking for his wife and child, and a evil Russian looking to harness the monster for his own sinister purposes.

So far it's very Lost, right? Well, I'm sorry to report that once they get to the Island, we break pretty hard with the show (at least as far as we've seen). On the island they find an ancient lost civilization, and the story gets really tangled in the technologies and politics of this world. And dwarfs and frog people. The plot is pretty standard science fiction stuff about two races, one dominant, lead by an evil priestess. The priestess and her ilk worship the shining one, the good people (including beautiful handmaiden Lakla) worship and older trinity called "The Silent Ones". Eventually there's an epic battle I'll talk about after I stop and explain some things.

There's some character alignments that are pretty eerie, although it might just be that everybody's using the same archetypes. The Irish guy, Larry, is a wisecracking, nick-naming, adventurous ne'er-do-well who's always clutching his pistol. He's the past's more innocent version of Sawyer. The Doctor is very Jack: earnest, brave, and constantly pointing out that he believes in science, not supernatural crap. Larry falls hard for native lady Lakla, and they hook up while the Doc looks on pathetically. The friend Doc is going after? His name is Throckemartin, called Throcke, and he chides the doctor for his inability to believe in higher power, or the unexplainable.

Back to the plot. It turns out that The Shining One was actually made by The Silent Ones. They're remnants of an ancient race, who believed that they had grown so wise that they could create powerful life. But this belief was prideful, and their pride infected their creation, and it became warped. It fed off negative emotions, and grew stronger. First they made sacrifices to it, but it's gotten out of control and started taking people. The evil priestess (and the evil Russian) are going to try to use the monster to take over the whole world, so its time for an epic battle between good and evil. The Shining Ones tell Larry that the only way to stop the monster is with great sacrifice. Larry and Lakla will have to throw themselves into the Shining One, and the force of their love and purity of their sacrifice will kill it. They choose to do this.

Except for no good reason, it doesn't kill them, just the monster. It dies, and its thousands of captives fall : "no longer dead-alive, now all of the blessed dead, freed from their dreadful slavery!" Yay. Larry and Lakla decide to hang around and help rebuild her society, and the Doc seems inclined to do the same, but all of a sudden the Russian (suddenly back from the presumed dead) knocks him out, and he wakes up locked out, with no way back in. Everything that was is covered by the sea. "There was no road to Larry- or to Lakla! And there, for me, the world ended." Poor lil' dude.

I have to say I see parallels. Or at least potential parallels. The show hasn't gotten close enough to the question of what the monster actually is, let alone the ancient lost civilization that the ruins have hinted at, for me to have anything but a feeling that this seems relevant. And the mix of ancient power and modern greed is very Lost. The idea of the captive dead fits for me too, depending on your interpretation of the way the whispers and visions work. It's interesting to consider the monster as a being that feeds off negative emotions and is rebuffed by positive ones, although I hope Lost could be a little subtler about it. Reading this book made me reconsider the importance of our monster, who's been lurking in the background lately. I wonder if the end of the show could include a similar final showdown with the monster, possibly including a parallel noble sacrifice.

I recommend this book if you like science fiction, especially older stuff. Anyone else is probably going to get bogged down in the middle. I think there's a lot that connects to Lost here, but I genuinely can't decide whether it's intentional, or if its just because they're both working from the same stack of sci-fi tropes and character archetypes. Either way, it's a good excuse to read some melodramatic pulp adventure, and I say take it.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Evil Under The Sun: I think TV Mysteries are better than Book Mysteries.

Agatha Christie is something of a new-comer to the LOST Literary List, and I'm a new-comer to her work. Evil Under The Sun, a complicated mystery set on an island, is read by Sawyer during 3X14-Exposé and Lostpedia says, one of Christie's best. In it, Hercule Poirot must find the killer of the beautiful, vamp-y Arlena Marshall amongst the vacationers staying at the Jolly Roger which is on a secluded island. This, helpfully, narrows down the number of usual suspects to a manageable list, some of the standouts including her husband, her step-daughter, her lover, her lover's wife, a spooky, certifiably crazy minister, and a jovial man involved in the heroin trade. Well, well, well.

I don't want to talk too much about the plot because I don't particularly want to give it away and its one of those complicated mystery plots. Instead, some plot elements that I thought were pertinent: good and evil (mostly Evil), an isolated island, heroin (yay!), the practice of witchcraft, and messing with time. The best part of this messing-with-time thing is a stealthy adjustment of a wristwatch. Would that our LOST time conundrums could be explained so elegantly and simply! Alas.. So what's it got to do with LOST? Beside those basic plot elements which I won't explain further,
at the very basic level of being a mystery, it reminded me of the basic operations of interpersonal mysteries on the show. As a reader of Evil, you must be conscious of everyone and trust no one. There are specious alibis and informational gaps galore. There are overlapping and equally probable motives which cause characters to act in certain ways. No real surprises here.

Also, I think that it's particularly interesting that it was in Nikki and Paolo's episode. It's sort of fluffy: they're sort of fluffy. It's sort of conventional: They're sort of conventional! They do some unfortunate and deadly rich-person blackmailing, and there's some hint of that in Evil. Also, I personally, was a little let-down by their death, after being won over by them in the course of the episode, just as I was a little saddened by finding out the identity of the killer in Evil, as I'd grown to like them. Oh well.

Here's my favorite quote from the book though, as spake by the Crazy Reverend Guy, apropos of not much: "Nowadays, no one believes in evil. It is considered, at most, a mere negation of good... but, M. Poirot, evil is real! It is a fact! I believe in Evil as I believe in Good. It exists! It is powerful! It walks the earth!" ..He is a crazy reverend guy who was in the looney bin, but I think, going out on my own religious limb, that there's something to this statement. What with the prevalence of religious motifs on Lost, and the questions of morality it likes to pose, I think it takes Evil into account as a real force. Uhm. How? Meh.

I don't think this book is terrific--It made me realize how thankful I am that there are mysteries on TV--it's just not as easy to keep track of characters and all their motives, alibis, etc. in book form. I know, it's a little harsh, and I think it makes me sound lazy. Read it if you want to... Aurora's mentioned a weirder Christie,And Then There Were None, which is also set on an Island and has stronger character parallels. Maybe, if you're looking for something weird, check that out instead. Go ahead. I very well might.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Laughter in the Dark

I'll talk about other things in the post, but part of me really thinks that the whole reason they showed us Laughter in the Dark is one quote. The main character is hooking up with his new mistress for the first time. "As in his most reckless visions, everything was permissible; a puritan's love, priggish, reserved, was less known in this new free world than white bears in Honolulu."

Charlie found LitD in Sawyer's stash in "Flashes Before Your Eyes", and Hurley picked it up and started to read it. It's from the same author as Lolita, but it's less disturbing, less sexy, and just generally less good. It's a long and twisty story, but here's a basic plot. A basically happy married dude, Albinuis, becomes infatuated with a teenager, and eventually leaves his wife and daughter for her. But she's no angel, manipulating him for his money and influence. She starts hooking up with an old lover, and Albinus doesn't notice for about 50 pages. He finally figures it out, but then he almost immediately drives into a telephone pole and is blinded. So he has to rely on his mistress for everything, and he convinces himself he was mistaken. Mistress and old lover sneak around him in all these crazy mean ways, and are only stopped when Albinius's brother-in-law steps in and saves him. Or he would be saved, if he didn't decide he had to shoot mistress. Do you remember he's blind? Not surprisingly, it doesn't go well, and he ends up dead.

So there's a little bit of Lost stuff in there, with the conning, and the attempted revenge, but I think it's a bit of a stretch. There's a couple of big coincidences—old lover just happens to be a business associate of Albinus's, Albinuis turns out to have a painting that's actually a forgery that old lover made years ago—but they don't seem like Lost to me. They're handled a little too ironically. The whole book has a detached melodrama to it that's not very Lost at all. So I guess I really think it was just the polar bear quote. It's a fine book, and I enjoyed it, but I can't see as it's very relevant to our beloved show. Read Lolita instead.


Of Bunnies and Ben

When I first saw season 3's "Ever Man For Himself", which features Of Mice and Men very prominently, I was confused. EMFH is the Sawyer episode where he recalls his time in prison (reading our book); Ben fakes him out about the pacemaker, and generally breaks his spirit. Sawyer makes a casual reference to the book, and Ben quotes him a long passage. At first, I couldn't figure out why they picked this book, but now that I've reread it, it makes more sense to me. I think this book is meant to connect particularly with this episode, and less with the larger show.

OMaM is a simple story about two wandering farmhands in the depression. Tough George and sweet, slow Lennie have been together for a long time. Lennie is obsessed with touch and soft things, but he doesn't understand how to be gentle. George tells Lennie again and again that someday they'll have a farm all their own, with rabbits for Lennie. They work on a farm, get a little ahead, and for a moment it seems like that dream might actually become a reality. Then this terrible woman tries to seduce Lennie. He gets his hand caught in her hair, panics, and accidentally snaps her neck. He runs away, and when everyone else on the farm finds out they set out to try and kill him. George finds him first, and, calmly telling Lennie about the farm for the last time, shoots him in the back of the head.

It's pretty brutal. Now, there's a lot in the story that has straight up nothing to do with Lost: the importance of a man working his own land, how the bossman sucks, how hard it is for a man to get ahead on an honest wage. Whatever. But there's one theme that makes sense to the show, and I think especially to this episode: the importance of "having somebody" in a mean world. Other characters, and George himself, constantly raise the question of why George puts up with all the trouble and hassle of Lennie. The answer is that a person can't travel alone, it's just no good. Here's the passage Ben quotes: "A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. It don't make no difference who the guy is, long as he's with you. I tell you, I tell you a guy gets too lonely and he gets sick."

Ben's making the point that no matter who Sawyer pretends to be, no matter how many times he tells Kate "It's every man for himself", it just isn't so. But, as OMaM shows, our inescapable bonds to other people come at a cost. Ultimately Ben doesn't break Sawyer with the pacemaker, or even the impossibility of escape. He, just like Kate and Jack, are held tight by bonds of love.

Okay, one more paragraph and I'll shut up. There's a great parallel between Ben and the character he quotes, 'Crooks'. Crooks "the Negro stable buck" is a bright but deeply lonely man, twisted literally and figuratively. A painful spinal problem twists his back to the left (which side was that tumor on?). Because he's black, he isn't allowed to bunk or assiociate with the other men, so he spends all his time in his room in the stable reading and thinking. In the scene the quote comes from, he toys with an unaware Lennie, taunting him with the idea that George will abandon him. When Lennie freaks out, Crooks apologizes, explaining his behavior with the quote. It continues "A guy sets alone out here at night, maybe readin' books or thinkin' or stuff like that. Sometimes he gets alone and he got nothing to tell him what's so and what ain't so....He got nothing to measure by. I seen things out here…" It's interesting to consider Ben as a man warped, maybe to the point of losing touch with reality, by isolation.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Recent Discoveries

Yo dudes,
As webmaster par excellence (teehee), I am always thinking about the blog. Out of love.
And Lost, out of what I'm coming to realize is a debilitating obsession. Eh? To that end, I just started my mom and sister on the show.

For the blog's sake, I did a little serious google searching and found other sites dedicated to Lost Books. Here's the best one I've found, someone who is doing basically the same thing: Coyote Mercury! Way to go guy, I think you are awesome, and will try not to crib from you.
A different approach is going down at the the Lost Community Book Club, where readers are invited to read and discuss one book a month, this months is Watership Down.
Consequently, I'll be taking Watership Down and Evil Under the Sun on my trip this weekend.

But here's the real reason I'm posting, lets be honest. Aurora showed me a fan video yesterday, and it is just too good. So Ladies and Dudes, here it is: Sawyer/Gaston!


Monday, June 18, 2007

The Third Policeman: DeSelby, Desmond, and the Living Dead

Weird books merit weird entries.
This book is actually summarized pretty well on Lostpedia, and also on least as well as you can explain a Flann O'Brien book. I don't even know where to start on this one. Thinking about it is terrifying me. The book is seen on Desmond's shelf in 2x01 and he grabs it as he leaves for his exile in 2x03: Orientation.

The Third Policeman starts out like a regular old book. Our beloved narrator tells us of his sad childhood and his current situation, running a pub with a friend named Divney. Divney decides they need to kill a man named Mathers and steal his black box full of money. They do kill him, gruesomely, with shovels, our narrator (somewhat unwillingly) giving the final blows. Divney refuses to give him any of the money, instead hiding it, only telling him where it is after a year has passed. The box is hidden in the floorboards of the murdered man's home. As our narrator goes into the house to get it, the book moves into its second movement: the one where nothing makes sense and there is no real plot.

It's basically one long hallucination. Our guy finds himself in the house, unable to get the box, but in the company of two policeman whom, he eventually realizes, know that he killed Mathers, and are preparing to hang him. In the meantime though, he walks around his town, I guess, and describes ill-defined buildings which he is stuck in, has arguments with them about the nature of bicycles, and goes to sleep a few times. Ugh. And did I mention the extensive footnotes (written by the narrator) on the non-existent philosopher DeSelby which hoard page space in otherwise reasonably long chapters? It's fun at the exact moment that you are reading, but once you close the book, you have no idea what you just read and no idea what you'll be coming back to when you start reading again. It's pretty futile for much of the book, and all you need to know is that something went terribly wrong when he went into the house.

The LOST connections are pretty well outlined, the most interesting of them being a map on the ceiling of the police barracks which shows a map of the town... one policeman avers that "I did not [make it] and nobody else manufactured it either. It was always there and MacCruiskeen is certain that it was there even before that." The policeman also says that it shows the way to eternity. Does that bode well or ill for the Hatch map?

So they go to "eternity" by way of some sort of elevator. In Eternity, no-one ever need shave since their hair never grows (hmm...Jack?). Also, they come upon a cabinet/machine that produces objects which "lacked an essential property of all known objects"--it reminds me of the smoke monster...there is a certain unexplainable, or as Charlie points out in 1X02 "a certain gargantuan quality" about it.

The Third Policeman
also contains a suspicious story about an incident with a hot-air balloonist: when his balloon was pulled back to earth, he was nowhere to be found--but when the balloon was sent back up without him 2 weeks later and then brought back to earth, he was in it "without a feather out of him." What? I don't get it either.

Finally, there's the issue of the titular of the Third Policeman. HM! He apparently never comes into the police station, and no one sees him, and he's busy all the time...He's sort of Jacob character, hazy but important. So whats up? Wait for it...when the narrator finally meets the third policeman, he seems to be Mathers, the man he killed! It turns out that the narrator's been dead this whole time, and he's in a sort of hallucinogenic hell! The book ends with the narrator finally tracking down Divney, in a classic ghost story moment where he doesn't realize that he's the ghost. It's been 16 years, and Divney has a wife and kids, but the sight of our narrator gives him a heart attack and kills him. The end of the book starts the whole cycle over again, with Divney going through the same things alongside the narrator, and no one the wiser, including US, the readers.

So wow. What does this really have to do with our beloved show?
Well, first of all, it seems to give some (more) credence to the Purgatory theory, which, I know, I know, has been debunked, but nevertheless continues to serve as a guiding force for the way the show toddles along, passing judgment on its characters through the smoke monster. The blurry line between the living and the dead, and the punishment meted out to the narrator by his victim (like the visions of Eko's Brother or Ben's mother) also seem quite Lost-like.

Less positively, the inclusion of this book also suggests to me something about the dead ends, and things that just don't make sense on LOST..they might very well not get explained. To some extent, as with The Third Policeman, analysis is futile. I'd like to think that just some of our analysis is futile. To spin that another way, I think this could be some sort of indication of Desmond's psyche more than anyone else's--the inhabitant of the Hatch and "flash" sufferer that he is. I'm going to go out on a pretty shaky limb here and say that he isn't experiencing reality in quite the same way as everyone else, having more than the just the flashes to worry about... I don't think we need to doubt everything we're seeing on the island, but we may need to be more skeptical of some characters' perception of it. UM. yep.

As crazy as this book is, it hasn't stopped people from reading it. In fact, after being featured on LOST, it was bought by so many fans that an extra print run was warranted.
That's awesome. I just wonder what all those Lost Fans thought after they read it.

In other news, Desmond's one fine-looking crazy guy.



I think I am getting suckered by this whole quest to read all the books from LOST, because, well, I've enjoyed every book so far (with the exception of Rainbow 6, in progress)... Lancelot ,by Walker Percy, in particular. Sawyer is seen perusing this book in 2X15 Maternity Leave. I'm still puzzling over it being in this particular episode.

has some superficial connections to Lost. So here's the plot, where the superificial connections are. There's a guy in the looney bin (like Hurley) named Lancelot, who was once a sort of twisted sort of Southern gentleman (like Sawyer) and at the same time an emasculated overly-educated middle-aged loser who loves his Bowie knife above all (oh, Locke, I love you). The book revolves around his discovery that his wife was cheating on him and had a child with another man (Sun+Jin-esque), a fact he didn't figure out until his daughter was about 6. When he figures it out, he plots revenge on the culprit, which ultimately results in the explosion of his home. He narrates the story to a friend of his from his youth who in the intervening years became a doctor and then a priest (Jack/Eko?...I'm pushing it). He talks about how he's (creepily) into the girl in the room next to his in the asylum (Libby-like)...

There are also an important Kate connections, I think...
Sawyer's Kate predicament echoes Lancelot's, since Lancelot's wife is at once his and not his. Lancelot notes a couple of things in particular: that he could "gauge her sexual desire by her freckles," and spookily that his "jealousy is an alteration in the very shape of time itself. Time
loses its structure. Time stretches out."'s also worth noting that Kate blew up her father, sort of the reverse of Lancelot..although Lancelot manages to get his daughter out of the house first. I'm not sure what to do with that.

Then there's the way the house getting blown up occurs. Lancelot goes to punish Jacoby, who is sleeping with his wife. He ends up cutting his throat in the glow of a kerosene light in the middle of a hurricane. The whole scene seemed sort of eerie in a Man Behind the Curtain sort of way.
After Jacoby is dead and Lancelot's wife is pleading with him, he relights the lamp which somehow blew out. This spark ignites a methane leak which destroys the house and blows him out of it, "wheeling slowly up into the night like Lucifer blown out of hell, great wings spread against the starlight." Could another shadowy exchange with LOST's Jacob end this way? Um, I hope not.

There are broader literary connections too--The narrative style is retrospective, flashing back to the main events of the story. The narrator is constantly concerned with the past, present and future, especially when it comes to morality and restoring it: "I will not tolerate this age. Millions agree with me and know that this age is not tolerable, but no one will act except the crazies and they are a part of this age." Finally, and I don't think I'm pushing here, he's effectively trapped in a Purgatory of his own making, mixing delusion with the truth and morality with perversity at every turn. In particular, the final pages of the book turn into a cryptic dialogue with what may be the listening friend (who is hazily defined) or may simply be his own troubled conscience (a device also used in The Third Policeman)...he states that he's getting out of the asylum but the final feeling is one of extreme, inescapable claustrophobia: he's never really getting out.

My strongest feeling about this book didn't have much to do with Lost, however. Lancelot, when all was said and done, seemed not unlike Humbert Humbert of Lolita (whose progenitor, Laughter in the Dark, is on our reading list)--He's a major creep who forces you to be in his head alone. Lancelot says pretty crude things about the people around him, particularly women and black people, while at the same time insulting the morality of others, and assuming that people think he's enlightened (he's a sometimes-civil-rights-lawyer and a historic home repairer)...when he knows, and we know, that he's not. He reflects nostalgically many times on his first wife (who sounds like H.H.'s childhood sweetheart Annabel) and his final confrontation is with a portly naked man (like Quilty in Lolita) there a Humbert Humbert in the LOST world?

If I had to add it up, I'd say this book was Lolita+Kurt Vonnegut+Lost.
As with most of these books, I don't think it has a ton to say about the big questions themselves, but it does say well that personal morality is a tricky thing...the choices we make and the way we execute them are often quite hard to understand outside of our little heads. Also, to crib from Aurora's words, I'm realizing that LOST uses a lot of standard literary tropes, which is why we are seeing so many connections--and that's a good thing. Its skill is really in the way it weaves them together. Good Job, LOST.

P.S. Check out near the end of Chapter 5 starting with "Lock, I need a favor..". I think it describes Locke pretty darn well. adios.

Coming up: The 3rd Policeman, addenda to TOTS and Of Mice and Men...