Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday Classic Video: Open Bar as a Young Child

The Daily News picked up this story out of Sumatra. Another link to the story here. As a new parent, this is actually encouraging, because it is now officially impossible for me to be the worst dad of all time. Or maybe this was just one of those things where dad finds son smoking, makes son smoke entire pack to teach him a lesson, and it totally backfires. I don't know.

Hey Open Bar . . . jealous much?

Said the proud papa of terrible two-year old tobacco toker Ardi Rizal: "He looks pretty healthy to me. I don't see the problem."


After publishing this I realized it would make a great installment in our Real Men of Genius series, so here goes:

Sung: real men of genius.

Spoken: we salute you, Mr. letting-your-toddler-smoke-two-packs-a-day, guy. When you heard that adults who smoke two packs a day can die of cancer in their 50s and even their 40s, you had the courage to ask why your son should have to wait that long.

Sung: can I bum a smoke, dad?

Spoken: you understand that when your kids want to start smoking cigarettes, there's just no way to stop them. Even if they're two.

Sung: (inaudible, then coughing)

Spoken: and so here's to you, oh professor of parenting prowess and perpetual puffing: your wife, the government, international media outlets, and the most basic notions of common sense may say your wrong, but -- cough -- you said "fuck 'em, son, let's have another."

Sung: Mr. letting-your-toddler-smoke-two-packs-a-day, guy

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Awesome Music Week: The Shins

I've decided that Awesome Music Week will now last indefinitely. As such, this will be the last time I justify squeezing a band into awesome music week even though it ended like a year ago.

Most interesting part about this post: My suspicion is that, despite his uppity musical tastes, I really feel like LJT would like this album. That should be enough of a review, but, inexplicably, I'll keep typing.

The third album from The Shins, Wincing the Night Away, is awesome. Their first two albums are also very good, but, right at this moment, Wincing has hit me in the sweet spot. The thing about the sound of this album is that it's poppy and catchy and melodic while at the same time having a drama and maturity about it. Ok, I'm officially a pretentious douchebag for using the word maturity to describe a band, but that's the best I can come up with at the moment. The thing about this is that it sortof takes a pop type formula but turns it on its head.

I'm really having trouble putting this sound into words, so I apologize. It's a bit like if a band from the 80s evolved from a fluffy new wave type thing into a band who learns to play their instruments and use other sounds. The mellow vibe of this album really lets it stand on its own without the sense that the band is trying too hard. It's slickly produced, but not overproduced.

I'm guessing that I'm the only who has the album by The Script, but you may have heard their song Breakeven on the radio, if you still do the radio thing. The Script album is really good, but what you notice most about it is how polished it is, in particular for a debut album. Again, while it is a good album, they were trying too hard. This album by the Shins is just as polished, but with a deftness that reflects the actual level that the band is on.

I had trouble picking just two songs to represent this album, but I think these two do it well.

This song is called Sea Legs. Good example of the melodic thing mixing with the drama thing.

This one is called Split Needles.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I'm Starting To Get, Wait For It, Frustrated

Ok, so I just watched the season finale of How I Met Your Mother. This was the 5th season. We have yet to meet the mother. At the end of the 4th season finale there was a scene where Ted was teaching a class and said something to the effect of, "as you know kids, your mother was in that class." And then the whole following season, no freaking mother. There was an episode this year, one episode, where Ted dates this girl who is the mother's roommate. But he never meets the mother. And they never mentioned it again.

I'm not gonna say that this is at Lost levels of frustration, but I am officially disappointed with How I Met Your Mother. We must meet the mother. We must. You guys have already used a lot of the cute couple material on Lily and Marshall, so I know you can do it. There's a whole relationship between meeting, dating, engaging, marrying, and so forth that is ready to be explored. Please, season 6, let's meet the mother. Thank you.

Reflections on the Finale

I really, really enjoyed the final episode of Lost last night. In many respects, it was perfect. In a few respects, it was a little weak. I have tried to organize my thoughts into coherent prose, but I am not sure whether or not I succeeded. Here are my observations on what I liked, what I thought was weak, and my lingering questions. Note: I read about six or seven reviews of the finale before writing this. I have given credit to any ideas I have borrowed, but I did not link to the specific review, because I did not keep track of which ideas I took from each review while reading (and it was too much of a hassle to go back and do it after writing this). But where I am tossing out someone else's theory, I have indicated as much.

Thoughts and Observations -- here is what I liked about the finale.

Jack vs. John

Mrs. Side Bar and I watched the season premieres and finales of Seasons 1 and 2 yesterday before watching the series finale. It was a clear reminder that the battle between Jack and Locke, even though it was ultimately not-Locke, had been brewing from the very start. Last night's finale did not disappoint in bringing this conflict to its climax and resolution. First, the actual scenes between them were excellently done (if somewhat murkily explained, see below). The two of them peering down into the glowy cave - an obvious reference to the two of them looking down into the hatch (so obvious that smokey even jokes about it) - was awesome. And the actual physical battle between them - with Jack leaping off of the cliff to attack John - was legitimately exciting. (Side note: as one critic pointed out, the commercials got a little tedious last night, but they did add to the drama. The best example of that was Jack leaping off the cliff to attack Locke, only to be suspended there by a commercial break - a literal "cliffhanger"!!! (not my line)). Coupled with the nice juxtaposition to their relationship in the flash-sideways, where they are trying to save, not destroy, one another, and I just do not see anything left on the table between these two characters.

Jack = Jesus

Some people may not have found the overt references to Christianity/religion too interesting or moving, but I liked them (particularly because the show had a sense of humor about itself (as it did throughout this episode). "Christian Shepherd"? Kate asks, incredulously. Yeah, right). And for anyone who was left wondering, the show pretty much came out and told us that Jack was a Christ-figure. This was not an altogether shocking revelation, but they made sure we got it last night. The chalice, from which he takes a ritual sip, and then teaches his disciple to do the same. The cut in his side, just before he is crucified so others can live. His reunion with his father after he has died (not to mention his trip through hell and purgatory to get there). Mrs. Side Bar also made a passing comment yesterday about Locke, Jack and Desmond being Father, Son and Holy Ghost, respectively. And that was before last night's episode, when the three of them enter the glowy cave together. A holy trinity indeed.

The Island Story

Notwithstanding one of my mild complaints/criticisms below, I think the show did an excellent job of telling the story of the Island. From "Across the Sea" we know that the Island must be protected, and that Allison Janney, then Jacob, then Jack will protect it. Last night, Jack surrendered that responsibility to Hurley, who enlists Ben to help him (in a Richard-like role). Some of us spoke earlier about wanting to know what was different about this cycle; why was this story being told, rather than the one of Allison Janney, or Jacob, etc. But I am not sure we need to know that. When Hurley remarks that no one can leave the Island, Ben says "maybe there is another way." In response to our question, then, maybe the answer is that each cycle is unique, or special, because of the person in charge. Either way, we know that Hurley and Ben remained on the Island as its protectors for a while, because they each compliment each other on the job that they did as "number one" or "number two" in the final scene. In fact, since Hurley was the one largely responsible for the other characters' awakenings in the flash-sideways, you could even wonder (as one critic has) whether the "other way" that Ben spoke about was this gathering: a "gift" from Jacob/Hurley/the Island to its one-time inhabitants. But maybe that's a stretch.

The Flash Sideways

I was equivocal about the flash sideways all season until last night, when we finally understood what it was. And then I loved it. I think the best way to look at the flash sideways is as the self-contained plot for this season. When you think about it, each season of Lost had a duality to it: it contributed to the overall arc of the show, but also had a self-contained plot (btw - "character arc," and "the show's arc" and all this other "arc" stuff has been just abused by everyone discussing and wring about Lost, but whatever). Season 2 told the story of the Hatch, Season 4 was about the Freighter and the Oceanic Six, Season 5 was about time travel and the Dharma Initiative, etc. Season Six was about the flash-sideways: a self-contained story about how each of the passengers' lives might have turned out, but didn't, and how they became aware of the fact that their lives had ended The shocker at the end of Season 3 was that we were seeing Jack in the future, not in the past. The shocker at the end of Season 6, as he appears to stand over his father's empty coffin, is that we weren't really seeing Jack at all. Brilliant.

The Awakenings/Enlightenments

The highlight of last night - and the reason that the episode will go down for me with "The Constant" as one of the best ever - were the moments when each character became aware of where they were, and who they had been. And, to the show's great credit, it wasn't the "wake me with true love's kiss" bullshit, it was more intimate, more simple moments. Sun and Jin seeing their daughter on the sonogram; John wiggling his toes just as he had done in the pilot; Claire and Kate delivering Aaron; Charlie seeing Claire and Aaron; Jack placing his hand on his father's coffin (I left out the Sayid/Shannon moment because it did not really work for me, but whatever). And, in what might have been the most powerful scene of the whole episode, Sawyer and Juliet finding each other again in the hospital. These scenes were really beautiful, legitimately moving, and -- for the most part -- not sappy or campy. Mrs. Side Bar was a puddle by the end, but the rest of us may have gotten a little misty-eyed, too. And, as a bonus, these scenes even allowed the producers make this a little bit of a clip show in a way that was not at all boring or lazy.

Jack and the Arc of the Show - the Last Scene

It may have been predictable, but the bookends of this show - starting with Jack's eyes opening in the first scene of "The Pilot," and closing in the last scene of "The End," were marvelous. After all that we had seen on the island, it felt incredibly cathartic and appropriate to close the circuit as neatly as they did. Even if they had no firm idea of what the large middle would look like, the creators of Lost plainly know where they were heading with Jack from the very start. The last scene of the show, cutting back and forth between Jack's death on the island and his awakening in the church before moving on to whatever lies next is stunning. And, as always, the music on this show took a good scene with good acting and elevated it to something almost breathtaking. I really, really encourage you guys to go back and watch that scene again; start it when Jack walks in to the rear of the church, then run it to the end. It is extraordinary.

Weak Points -- A couple of thoughts on places where I thought the episode missed a step.

The Glowy Cave

The show basically wants us to accept that the cork in the cave was holding down some evil, and when Desmond removed the cork, the evil got out for a second. Then Jack corked it back up. But what was really going on here? Jack's "plan" - if you could even call it that - seemed pretty instinctual and not altogether well thought-out. Likewise Smokey, who has had thousands of years to figure this shit out, only to be completely and utterly wrong about the impact of removing the cork. I will buy the mysticism to a point, but I thought that if this whole piece was not going to be explained more, it could at least have been developed a bit more so that we could try to explain it for ourselves.

Ben's Accident

Maybe I am being nitpicky here, but Ben was pinned by a tree, announced that Locke had a boat, and then was not pinned by a tree anymore. If the show was going to put us through the utterly pointless exercise of seeing Ben pinned under a tree (from which he could not escape but suffered no injuries whatsoever) I think it is fair to show us how he gets out. Not a big deal, but just a pointless thread to leave hanging.

Open Plotlines

I am not going to be one of these people who finds every little open question that remained unanswered and then complains about it, but there were some significant questions that were asked and then not addressed. Walt was a hugely important character in Season 1, but that importance was never explained (or, to borrow from my point above, developed so that we could try to explain it). Likewise the numbers (which Open Bar and Chuck have addressed already). Dogan and the Temple was a very weak open to Season 6, so maybe it is better that they left it alone. And if you think back to Season 1 and Season 2, there was much importance to who the Others were taking and why. Remember the two kids that got kidnapped and the lived with the Others? WTF? As Chuck correctly pointed out, I didn't ask these questions, the show did. So give me something to work with in resolving these questions. But having said that, it was clear once we got to the last episode that these important-but-not-paramount plots were not getting answered in the finale. So maybe this is a more of a critique of Season 6 generally, not last night's episode in particular.

Claire's Story and Return Home

I had a difficult time feeling anything other than indifference to Claire when she was, at first, refusing to leave the Island, but then ultimately agreed to go with Kate. One critic I read this morning proposed a "My Two Mommies" Aaron-based sitcom spin off. The silliness attending Claire's storyline this whole season, to me, suggests that it could have been done better, or not at all.

Questions -- for discussion (other than the first, I don't think these are questions that could be/should be answered; rather, they are just my thoughts today):

What was with the shots of the plane crash at the very end with no people around? Was this meant to suggest that everyone died in the crash? I really do not think so, but why was that shown to us? I found it odd and I insist it was shown for a reason.

Why did some people make it into the church and not others? Some passengers from 815 were missing, other were there. And some people who were not on 815 were there, too (Penny). If this was Jack's farewell, were these the people most important to Jack? I might like that explanation.

Why didn't Ben go into the church? Does he get to stay in the sideways world with Danielle and Alex? That would be sort of cute and nice, but I don't think it would be consistent with how we are supposed to think of the sideways world.

What did Eloise Hawkins know when she asked Desmond if Daniel was going to leave? Like Desmond, she has always had a heightened consciousness of shifting realities; did she understand exactly what was happening?

How long did Hurley and Ben protect the Island? Was there a hint when Christian told Jack that some of the people in the room died "long after" he did?

Thoughts on Lost Finale Without Having Discussed it With Anyone

Please feel free to post on top of this post as soon as you want to. I haven't really put too much thought into this. I liked the finale. I'll say that first because immediately after thinking that I liked it, these thoughts came into my mind.

You know, I never thought to take the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 and put them together for no reason. That string of numbers meant absolutely nothing to me until you guys spent like two seasons going on about how they were all important. If they really weren't all that important, then you shouldn't have brought it up in the first place.

Now, they did answer this question, albeit not actually on the show. Something about the numbers being the roots of the Valenzetti equation, which describes the end of humanity, and the purpose of the Dharma Initiative being to change the roots of that equation. They were unsuccessful, by the way. The whole plot line with the Dharma Initiative was essentially dealt with online and never really on the show. I have to do like extra credit work in order to understand the story you're trying to tell me.

I feel like they got in over their heads with the whole island thing. After the first episode we knew that there was an island that had a bunch of mysterious properties. After the 120-something episode run of the show we don't know all that much more about it. Something to do with electromagnetism relating to a light. I don't know how or why it's there. And not for nothing, but there wasn't a smoke monster trying to escape the island until Jacob created it. Why would it have been bad if Jacob's brother had left the island? In particular before he turned into the smoke dude. And it's all "How do you know that when you hook up that wheel and then run the water into the light that it's going to work?" and then the answer is, "Because I'm special, mother." So if Jack didn't put the cork back in, the island would have definitely been destroyed, but would that also have meant that the whole world would be destroyed? I didn't get that sense from the MIB when he talked about leaving. Although if it wouldn't have destroyed the world, then they should have just left it out.

Given that they never really told us anything about the island, what would have made for a really interesting show would have been to explore the roots of the Dharma Initiative, the Valenzetti equation, how they found the island in the first place, the efforts to change the factors, their ultimate failure, and the consequences of that failure. That story in conjunction with the Others already being there and serving some alternate and opposing function on the island were the most interesting story lines.

If my job was to protect the fate of the world and then I was hiring my replacement, I would be sure to explain the whole job to him. There's not really room for on the job training.

I figured it out, I think. Jacob had Asperger's syndrome. If that motherfucker had any social skills whatsoever, all of this would have been avoided. All he needed to do was explain himself clearly to one person at one point. Richard, maybe. Or Ben. Widmore. Jack.

So going into the light would be worse than death, and turned Jacob's brother into the smoke dude, but Jack just died. Desmond was special, fine, but Jack?

Ben, really? Out like a lamb.

So is Claire not evil? And who the fuck was that Japanese dude talking about evil people? Sayid wasn't all that evil at the end of the day, either. Again, why even bring that up? Looking back, when Ben said to Michael that the Others were the good guys, I guess he was right, but they clearly didn't know what they were doing.

I feel like the flash sideways was really successful. The dead thing was interesting. If it had been an alternate timeline after the bomb blowing up, I think that would have been interesting, too. In fact, there would probably more material to explore in that scenario, but given the show's capacity for doing too little with too big a story, I'm happy with this one. It's not like Michael was the only one who killed some people. Why doesn't he get to go to the party? It's because he's black, probably.

I feel like when they first conceived of the show they wanted the island to be purgatory and everyone would get their own personal reckoning at some point. But when all the fans guessed that the island was purgatory and they were like, "No, that's not it," then they had to come up with a new plan. But the in the end they came back to that with the flash sideways.

I don't need you to spoonfeed me, but if you're gonna open this can of worms, at least give me a lid so I can contain them once I get them back together. You raised all these questions, not me. What are you, Socrates now? At the moment, from my perspective, the island serves absolutely no function. Everything would be much simpler if it just wasn't there, Occam's razor style. I could be wrong, but I don't get the feeling that all the pieces of the puzzle are on the table. After a bit of perspective you realize that The Sopranos did give you what you were looking for, you just didn't realize it. When you take a step back from it, Pulp Fiction turns from a phrenetic mess into a fascinating tableau. I don't get that from Lost. Again, I don't have that perspective, but I don't see where the explanations are coming from. They seemed to go out of their way to not explain things.

I do think this is one of the better shows on television in the last little while, but that, I think, comes with a certain responsibility to live up to that. At the end of the day the arc of the show for me was this: Season 1, awesome; Season 2, good; Season 3 and 4, awful; Season 5, really good; Season 6, averaged to good, but with a huge standard deviation ranging from bad to amazing; Finale, about what I expected. I'll have more to say about this, most likely.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lost's finale approaches

A by-no-means-comprehensive list of things I want from Sunday's finale:

1. The Glowy Light doesn’t matter.

Okay, so that's more like a guess of what's gonna happen, but it's like this: Much like Jacob’s answer to Kate when she asked why her name was crossed off, the whole Magic Glowy Light thing shouldn't be some all-controlling metaphysical force to which everyone and everything must submit. I'm hoping that now that Jack is Island Guardian, he'll be all "Fuck this stupid Light. I'm running shit now." And then the characters themselves will take control of their futures, ideally breaking the awful cycle that's existed on the Island for so long. That would be a good reason for telling us this particular story over the past six years. If everything just goes on like it always has, then why the hell did we just watch all this?

If that happens, that seems like it would be a good way to start merging the two timelines. I have no idea how that would work, but I have to think that dealing with the Light will be involved.

2. A shot of Locke becoming Smokey. Please show the smoke emerging from his mouth and then his body fading into the smoke. Bad. Ass.

3. To find out how Jacob leaves the island. Right now we know that you can take a sub, a plane, a boat, or pull the Frozen Wheel Thing and end up in Tunisia. Somehow, I think Jacob had a different way.

4. Ben to play a big role. Preferably by outsmarting and then killing Smokey.

5. Richard needs to return and demonstrate how important he is (like Ilana said). On Tuesday, Smokey kicked the shit out of him, but if he’s dead, that would be super-wack. “Ab Aeterno,” the Richard episode from a few weeks ago, was IMO the strongest episode of the season – due greatly to the staggeringly good performance by Nestor Carbonelli (sweet name, brah). The character deserves a proper sendoff, one in which he plays a consequential role in the final outcome.

Things I’m curious about, but don’t insist that the show address:

1. Why can’t Smokey go over water?

2. How did DHARMA find the island? Were they brought there by Jacob?

3. Is there a reason so much electromagnetism is concentrated on the Island?

4. Is there anything else we need to know about The Numbers, or are they just numbers?

Whatever happens, I'm sure we'll have lots more to discuss. Doesn't that please you, LJT?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More thoughts on 'Lost' because LJT doesn't watch it and screw him, he can write his own post if he's bored

I just found this list of questions I had about “Lost” that I wrote down prior to the start of season 5. That was back in my “Either this show answers some of my goddamn questions or it can go fuck itself” period. “Lost,” of course did not answer any of these at that time, so we had to break up. But we’re back together now, now that the show realized it was wrong and apologized and told me it was lucky ever to have me in the first place and besides it can’t hear that “Milkshake” song without thinking of me (it was our song back in ’04). Anyway, here's what I was wondering last winter:
  1. What is the hell is the Black Smoke Monster? (not surprising that was at the top)

  2. How did Ben “move the Island”?
  3. What are the Whispers?
  4. How did the Black Rock get there? What is it?
  5. What was the goal of the DHARMA Initiative?
  6. How do the Island’s healing powers work? (a la Locke, Rose)
  7. What’s the deal with the pregnancy issues?
  8. Why do the Oceanic 6 need to go back to the Island?
  9. Who is Ben? What’s his deal?
  10. What’s with all this seeing-dead-people stuff?
  11. What are The Numbers?
  12. How come Richard doesn’t age?
  13. How can Desmond see the future?
  14. What’s with this time-traveling stuff?
  15. What is the source of the Island’s electromagnetic power?
  16. How does Widmore know about the Island?
  17. Who is the black guy from “The Wire”?
  18. What is the four-toed statue?
  19. Where’s Claire?
1, 3, 4, 10, 12, 16, 17, and 19 all got pretty clear answers, or were addressed enough so that we now have enough information to form valid interpretations or guesses. As I said after "Across the Sea," it's not the writers' job to fill in the whole circle -- just enough so that we can fill in the rest on our own.

For example, number 7 (the pregnancies) hasn't been directly confronted, at least not in the way that the Whispers was. However, after seeing what Mother (Alison Janney) did to Claudia after delivering the twins last week, my guess is that the Island has basically "cursed" childbirth. Not entirely, as we would later see Claire give birth on the Island, but it does offer an explanation as to why no woman who conceived on the Island could carry her pregnancy to term: The Island would not allow it. Of course, even if you do conceive off-Island, while you can still give birth there, your child will be kidnapped (Claire, Rousseau) or orphaned (Claudia, Sun). Or, worse, grow up to look like this guy.

(Okay, so partway through typing that stuff, I checked this out and realized that the whole pregnancy thing is a bit murkier than I thought. But anyway, moving right along…)

Most of the rest of them have since been further explored, if not fully answered (no. 5, 8, 9, 10, 14), or can simply be chalked up to the Island’s Weird Powers and Stuff (no. 6, 13, 15). No. 18 is Taweret, the goddess of childbirth and fertility, natch.

That leaves just two. As for no. 11, I’ve come to think that The Numbers are really just numbers. And I’m fine with that. It was Hurley who made the numbers The Numbers.

And lastly, no. 2: How did Ben “move the Island”?

Who gives a fuck. That’s probably the dumbest thing that ever happened on “Lost” -- including spending entire episodes on Jack's stupid tattoos and Hurley getting that van to work because Cheech was mean to him -- so if everyone just ignores it and pretends it never happened, that’s probably best.

Anyway, I've got some more "Lost" stuff coming up, but I figured we should kick off the conversation.

Here's one thing from last night -- it was minor, but I really thought one of the best parts of last night's episode was sideways-world Ben's reaction after Danielle told him how much he meant to Alex. It was, I dunno, really sweet and touching. And a great counterweight to the return of the utterly ruthless Ben in the Island world. I can't help but think that if anyone can outsmart Smokey, it's Benjamin Linus. With apologies to the Desmond-philes out there, I really think Ben's gonna go down as the best character on "Lost." We'll soon see what his fate is, but I for one sure am glad he managed to stick around for longer than the producers' original three-episode plan for him.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Awesome Music Week: Ra Ra Riot

I guess it's not really awesome music week anymore, but I'll bring it back for these guys. Speaking of Awesome Music Week, the reason I did that was because of three bands in particular, The Ting Tings, Glasvegas, and Phoenix. Out of those three I must say the one that has really stuck with me is Phoenix. Their most recent album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is just great. If you don't have it yet, then get it.

Anyhow, this band Ra Ra Riot is fucking dope. Tons of energy, catchy, poppy, violin filled, indie style rock band from Syracuse, NY. Remember when indie bands were called alternative? Why can't they just be called rock bands? I can't get enough of this album at this point in time. A lot of the reviews of this band compare them with Vampire Weekend, who I have spent a couple posts on in the past, including one during awesome music week, but I don't really get that. Ra Ra Riot is way more like Phoenix and they actually remind me a little bit of Keane. Dude, if you don't have the first Keane album, Hopes and Fears, then you need to go out and get that one, too. You really don't even need to go out, just download it.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for violins in rock music. I'm pretty sure the violin thing is what initially drew me to the Dave Matthews Band. I didn't realize until just recently that a lot of people associate me with DMB more strongly than they associate me with anything else. I think that's kindof interesting. In particular since I feel like I've personally sortof outgrown them. That's not to say that I don't still love them, but they do not occupy the singular space in my life that they once did. This doesn't have anything to do with the current post.

In conclusion, Ra Ra Riot is awesome.

I like this song the best at this moment in time. It's called Too Too Too Fast. I dare you to listen to this chorus and not bop your head around.

This is a really interesting video for their song Dying Is Fine.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Blogging Is Awesome

I got home from the dentist today at like 3pm. It's 7:17 right now and I've just spent the last 4 hours scrolling through the archives of this blog. I'm about to go watch the Mets game, lest I would keep digging through. Frankly, it may be a better idea that watching the game.

I just want to pull a Diesal and point out the moment right now. I'm really glad that we've spent the last 3 years writing this blog and I hope we continue to do so with at least a moderate amount of vigor. (I know at least the ending of Lost is good for a couple more posts.) It's entertaining in real time when we actually take the time to post and comment, but it's also incredibly entertaining to go back and read the archive from time to time. I've sat here smiling and sometimes LOLzing (I love actually using that term in print. I apologize.) for the past 4 hours without realizing that all this time has passed. It's just a great record of these past years. Thank you for being a friend.

Some observations. LJT definitely writes the best posts. Open Bar definitely has the best/funniest comments. Side Bar has the one-liners coming out of nowhere. And I suck. And big ups to Walt Clyde Frazier for being our most dedicated non-author reader.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

And then there were two ... more "Lost" episodes, following last night's basket of kickass

Interestingly, the grade I would assign last night’s “Lost” episode is the same as my answer would be if you asked me what I thought of it:

Fuck-ing A.

Finally, after six seasons of buildup and mystery-upon-mystery; after thrilling me with two of the best seasons of television I’ve ever seen; after frustrating me enough to force me to Will-to-Skylar-“I don’t love you”-style dump it; after its sweet song of “One last season,” I reluctantly returned; after countless utterings of “TELL ME WHAT THAT FUCKING SMOKE MONSTER IS ALREADY!” -- after all that, we got “Across the Sea.”

While the episode didn’t address every remaining question (nor could it, nor should it), it seems quite clear that “Lost”’s creators understood that it was about damn time to feed the starving viewers. And what we got weren’t scraps. We’re talking filet mignon. Exquisite endangered polar bear filet mignon. The best mignon.

There’s a great LA Times “Lost” blog, and in its recap of “Across the Sea,” it had this to say on the topic of Answering the Big Questions:
"To that end, as a "Lost" fan, the success of "Across the Sea" is almost wholly dependent on what happens in the three-and-a-half hours that will close out the season. The cave of softly glowing light? I suspect we'll get an explanation for that. What happened to the proto-Man in Black when he went down in there? I hope we'll get an explanation, but I fear the producers think "He became the Smoke Monster! Or something!" will suffice. Who was the Woman who raised the twins? How long has the Island been around? Where did any of these people come from to begin with? I fear that the producers think these questions have been adequately answered. I'm not going to say I need all of them answered to be satisfied with the ending -- I daresay the show could get away with answering none of them -- but by raising all of them at once this close to the end, "Lost" risks disorienting its audience even more than usual, particularly as we still don't have a terribly good idea of just what happens if the Man in Black gets off the Island beyond vague rumblings of doom."

I disagree with much of this. I need no further answers from the writers regarding the Glowy Cave, the origin of the Smoke Monster, who The Woman was, the age of the Island, or anything like that really. (Except for how Jacob learned to leave the Island.)

Contrary to what the writer says, it is those questions that I've spent years already wondering about (rather, DEMANDED ANSWERS TO!!!), and finally, I feel like my thirst has been quenched. After last night, we know these Big Things (though perhaps without 100 percent clarity, but come on -- it's incumbent upon the writers to fill in, say, 3/4 of the circle; it's our job to fill in the rest with our own imaginations and rolling discussions):

1. What is the Smoke Monster and how was it created? (ALWAYS my biggest question, since the pilot episode)
Smoky was “born” when Jacob, in a fit of vengeance after seeing his murdered mother, kicked the shit out of his brother and thrust him into the Cave, which we are told is “worse than dying.” My best guess is that the Brother’s soul or essence or whatever you want to call it was torn from his body, transformed into the Black Smoke, and imprisoned on the island -- forever prevented from that which he always wanted: to go home.

2. What makes this Island so special?
The Cave, which is “life, death, and rebirth.” In other words, it’s The Thing That Is Everything. We need no further specifics, but basically whatever metaphysical or supernatural explanation you want to use is fine, as long as it’s along the lines of the Cave being the Most Special Place in the World.

3. What the hell is going on in this freaking show?
Well, the basic gist, it appears, is that there’s this Cave on this Island with incredible powers and properties, and it has a Protector. The Protector has been at least two people whom we’ve met (The Woman and Jacob), plus The Woman’s mother, and presumably, one of the Oceanic 815 survivors, who will be the next Protector. From The Woman’s comment that “Every question you ask will only lead to more questions,” we can ascertain that this Protector cycle has been going on for a very long time, probably forever.

The Island, specifically Jacob, attracts people as a way of testing them -- to see if Jacob or his Brother is correct about the nature of man: Is he inherently good or evil? Once on the island, all the people there go through various and extreme trials in an attempt to reach a final answer to that question. Throughout, the Smoke Monster plays the villain, tormenting and even killing many of the Island’s visitors, while Jacob seeks an example to prove he is right about people -- a candidate, if you will. Thing is, it doesn’t seem like the Smoke Monster cares all that much about whether men are good or evil; he has made his choice: Men are “greedy, manipulative, untrustworthy, and selfish.” What he cares about is getting off the damn island, which is all he has ever cared about since his true mother visited him as a ghost when he was 13 and told him that “there are many things across the sea.”

I’m guessing that whoever winds up taking over for Jacob (I’m leaning toward Jack, the obvious choice, yes; though there could certainly be a surprise) will somehow change everything. Otherwise, what’s the point of the whole story we’ve been watching for six years? Why is this particular cycle worth telling so thoroughly? Maybe this will be the last cycle. Maybe the Protector job will end with Jack letting Smokey off the Island. I know we’ve been led to believe that TERRIBLE THINGS will happen if Smokey leaves, but seriously, how much damage could he possibly wreak off-Island? If your biggest weakness is water, then are you really that big a threat to a planet 70 percent covered by it? And from what we saw last night, Smokey’s goal of leaving the island was never to destroy; it was simply to go home.

Now, it’s possible that when Jacob condemned his brother by sending him into the Cave that the “good” side of the brother was killed, leaving nothing but evil and malevolence in the form of Black Smoke. And it’s also possible that the Cave, along with the Smoke thing, endowed this monster with other supernatural gifts. (He can also turn into ghosts, after all.)

And then there’s this, also from the LA Times thing:
“So what do we think happened to the MIB when he disappeared into the cave? Was some part of the Man in Black absorbed into the Monster, leaving the body behind? Or did his soul somehow co-mingle with the Life Force of the Island, meaning that, in a very real sense, he IS the Island, and if he were to leave, it really would mean the end of all things? The latter is my wife's interpretation, and I sorta think she's right. (Added evidence: The light in the cave goes out.)”

That sounds very convincing.

Anyhow, “Across the Sea” managed to accomplish two essential things: answer Big Questions, and perfectly set the table for the final three and a half hours. By learning what we did last night, we can all now devote our full attention to the fates of the characters we’ve been getting to know for so long. And that -- regardless of how awesome the Smoke Monster is or exactly what happens down in the Glowy Cave -- is what really matters on “Lost.”

UPDATE: Uh, spoiler alert?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Things That Are Overrated: The Stock Market

So, Greece can't get their shit together and they have a financial crisis. Some other countries are trying to think of ways to help them out. All of a sudden, someone is concerned that there might not be an easy way to help them out. Therefore, the stock market in America plunges. The Dow Jones Average dipped by a billion points or something today based on the fact that there was nothing that happened in Europe.

This stock market thing is a fucking sham. Some freaking scrote didn't have anything better to do with his time when he thought up this one. We'll raise a bunch of capital by selling shares of our company to the public and then once we do that, anyone with a few bucks in their pocket can go and buy that piece from the other gie and then he owns a little piece of the company. That one little piece of the company is essentially worthless save for the fact that it's value is constantly changing and maybe this gie can unload it for more than he got it for at some point in the future.

And then all of the stock prices are interrelated in some sort of Adam Smith invisible hand wet dream for absolutely no reason whatsoever. There isn't anyone on Earth who knows how this thing actually works. The fact that Jim Cramer is considered an expert on anything other than his own masturbatory habits is just downright disconcerting, but this is the guy that people look to for advice on this sort of thing. The notion that the entire market should cycle up and down when it represents companies that do entirely different things is just dumb. The whole "times are tough" thing is just a vague notion that no one really understands.

You can step in if you like with some sort of macro argument and the entity that is known as the "national economy" or even moreso today the "global economy", but all of that just doesn't sit with me. The whole notion is nebulous, and is, by it's very nature, indecipherable by anyone. The fact that people take this shit so seriously in conjunction with the fact that people can't see shit coming with any clarity whatsoever is just proof that this is a system that somehow everyone just got suckered into.

I'm happy to accept the idea of a stock market as a single trading post to represent all of the companies that want to participate. It's essentially a farmers' market for shares of companies. I am unwilling to accept the notion that the entire market in aggregate represents the state of things in the world. The few people who are privy to a more objective view of the market don't try to improve the state of business or the world, instead they try to exploit its weak points before anyone realizes what they've done.

In my opinion the stock market is proof of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. The more we observe the state of the market, the less accurate is our knowledge of the market in what would otherwise be its natural state. We are bombarding the market with metaphorical photons and not allowing it simply be the electron that it wants to be.