Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ruminations on LOST (before the finale)

OK I’m hooked on LOST too. Each episode was well-directed/acted/written, intensely mixing drama, pathos & hungry curiosity. As a writer I don’t believe all questions must be answered! (See my earlier posting: Land of the LOST!)

LostfinalseasonverticalposterNo, what bugs me is the “Yoda Effect.” Persuading millions that a “good wizard” (Yoda/Jacob) is good, just because he says so, when his every action and effect is near-pure evil.

But let's hold that thought and start with the issue of LOST leaving a million questions unanswered. Sometimes it is good to answer everything at the end of a story cycle. For example, I tied up ALL of Isaac Asimov’s loose ends in Foundations' Triumph! And the Asimov fans were very happy. But I don’t expect that from a saga like LOST, where the writers, though brilliant, were also clearly passing around a bong at every story session, shouting at each other “Hey, wait! What if they then turn around and see THIS!!!”

I was frustrated, of course, by unanswered questions. Some were small, but grated endlessly, like the AIR DROP OF SUPPLIES that landed near the hatch, allowing the castaways to eat a while… supplies from a Dharma Initiative that did NOT seem to be defunct and that indeed could find the island by air! I kept waiting for their counter-attack! Okay, it’s a small thing that rubbed like a blister in my boot. Far worse, from a storytelling point of view, was the utter absence of a persuasive voice speaking up FOR the Dharma Initiative, and its very human ambition to satisfy human curiosity about the island and its powers. Hey, at least let’s hear their side once?

Ah, but even the Dharma Initiative was stupidly secretive. Oh, sure secrecy can help propel a plot (ALL Michael Crichton “science is foolhardy” novels depended on dumbass-secrecy to propel their Big Mistake scenarios and to prevent science from simply correcting the problem.) Still, shouldn’t somebody, some time, speak up for just telling the world about the island? Telling people, all the people (like those millions watching the show), about something wonderful, that might elevate us all and be better handled by open institutions than a few, self-selected, pompous “island protectors” who always act viciously, leaving corpses and mountains of regret in their wake?

As it turns out, there is one character who did that – speaking up for openness and trusting people, a world, humanity, civilization. The only character with a scintilla of actual wisdom in the whole show. The fellow who always turned out to be right, even though nobody would listen to him.

Hurley. Hugo Reyes, who kept saying “Hey, dudes, why don’t we just tell everybody the truth?” Heck. Just as you cannot name a time when a policy of Jacob or his followers did not lead to evil, you cannot name a time when Hurley actually proved to be wrong.

In contrast, poor likable but unwise Jack is nearly always wrong, nearly all of the time, but we trust him. Why? Because he’s handsome and sincere? Tellingly, he is at his best when performing his mission in life. Not as island messiah, but as a doctor.

Which brings us to this parallel world riff… which BTW is charming and enjoyable! But can you name a character who is not better off in the world where the H-Bomb sank the %%$$#! Island? There is one, poor Rose, who now will die of cancer. And Kate is not in great shape in the normal world. Still, everyone else is happier and better off in the reality where the island’s dumb old “light” got extinguished.

Oh, there will be illogical tidbits that rankle. Didn’t Miles’s Dad stay on the island after sending his wife and baby Miles away, just before the H Bomb went off, so wasn’t he doomed in BOTH universes? And what about the KIDS on Oceanic 815? They were “pure” and taken to the Others. What’s with that purity, eh? Who were the murderous Others to judge it? And the fatal-pregnancy effect and the “disease” and…

Okay, let it go. (Anyway, I am writing this before watching the Sunday 2 hour finale.)

But really, I can dig it. The writers are pot-heads, but not coke heads. They routinely lose memory and focus, but no actual brain cells. They are creative wizzes and they do characters very well and they gave us all a great time.

No, what bugs me is the same stuff that finally turned me against Star Wars. A matter of very very very basic morality. I will not follow the allure of the Yoda Effect. Just because a wizard is pretty and claims to be a “good” protector of light, that does not free him from responsibility for the evil that he spreads, and that is done in his name.

Moreover, as in Dune and Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, having a terribly evil enemy does NOT automatically get you off the moral hook, just because your brand of oppressive nastiness is a little less openly murderous than the version practiced by Darth or Palpatine, or the Harkonnens, or Sauron, or Voldemort. Or a smoke-monster brother

Setting up a sneering/awful, mass-murdering (and ugly-looking) villain is NOT enough to make your “good wizard” truly worth rooting for! It is lazy, romantic trickery. And while Yoda and Jacob may fool millions that way, they do not fool me.

61vBJVMWSKL._SL500_AA300_A plague on both their houses. And I am with Hugo. Here’s to civilization! An open civilization. The one that invented democracy and science and television and TV shows and an Internet to discuss them on! The civilization that gave the writers of LOST absolutely everything they ever valued or loved and the opportunity to dazzle us with their wit. A civilization that will someday actually be shown some gratitude and love, by screenwriters and directors in Hollywood. (Yeah, right. As if. Ever.)

But then… maybe the finale will make me happy! Yep. Hope springs, eternal….

[See my earlier posting: Land of the Lost]

David Brin
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Wayne Eddy said...

Agree 100% about Hugo, of the remaining central characters he is the most likeable & sensible. I thought the 5th season was by far the best. It seemed as though the show was changing from fantasy to science fiction. I was disappointed when the alternate Daniel Farady turned out not to be a physicist. I thought perhaps the island might be result of an experiment gone wrong in the other reality. I'm still hopeful that the whole alternate universe thing is relevant to the plot somehow, but that might be a bit to much to ask for.
There was one episode that suggested everything was just a dream of Hugo's. Perhaps that's the answer. Perhaps the series will end with Hugo waking up from a bad dream / coma.

William said...

Definitely, not all mysteries must be solved. For example, that was what made "Lungfish" so chilling.

But I think that kind of thing works better at short-story length. After investing the time to read a novel -- or watch a long TV series -- you kind of expect answers. Now, Lost is the greatest mindfuck in the history of TV since at least The Prisoner, and that ended satisfyingly (to me) with no real answers, but it was only one season.

Still, whatever answers they give are going to end up disappointing a large segment of the audience. Certainly, the answers of the last two episodes in particular have been disappointing to me. The Lost honchos once said that it would end up with a "Michael Chricton-like" explanation (ugh), which in context appeared to mean a science fictional explanation, but now they seem to be going the fantasy route.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure it wasn't the H-bomb that sank the island in the alternate time line. That's what I thought at first, too, but now it seems that it must have sunk much earlier. Ben Linus was also on the island at that time in the original time line, but in the alternate, he's not only survived, but I don't think he was ever there.

And yes, Hugo is the real hero of the show. Maybe the finale will end up backing us up on that. But if they do the "it was all a dream" ending, I can't imagine anyone but David Letterman being happy with that.

Tacitus2 said...

To my already encyclopedic list of shortcomings it must be added that I have not watched a single minute of LOST. Tried to read a summary once and it sounded to me like the writers had enough good ideas for a pilot and in their fondest dream, a single season.

After that they had written themselves into a corner from which no honest escape was possible.


Tony Fisk said...

My tally of 'Lost' is the same as T2's (except I haven't even read a summary)

Just because a wizard is pretty and claims to be a “good” protector of light,

"All that glitters is not gold" - Gandalf

It comes over more strongly in the later novels than in the movies, but HP does contain a growing moral sense that wizards are not above it all: Harry sees Snape's memories of victimisation by Harry's 'hero' father, and how other magical folk like goblins view the snooty 'wand bearers'.

B5 has been covered before.

George Martin's Song of Ice and Fire cycle contains a galaxy of 3D characters; virtually none of whom are purely good (or bad)

Freakangels comic (think Gen-X meets the Midwich Cuckoos) focusses on 12 seriously mixed-up young ones who have full-on telepathic powers and who overdid their 'leave us alone' statement to the rest of the world. New girl Alice sums it up nicely when she tells Jack:

"A week ago I thought you were fooking wizards or somewhat. Today I wonder how you lived past the age of eight"

... their moral development was hardly helped by an admission that they seldom went to school, just plucked what they needed out of other people's heads. (shades of my recent reworked apple parable)

They still beat the Olympians by a country mile, though.

John Kurman said...

This is the place to be contrary. I add my vote to not caring for 'Lost'.

I don't have much time for Prime Time TV, but I did catch a few of the early shows and a summary show. I was never engaged. I'm introspective enough to wonder whether TV has ruined my attention span, and I need everything resolved in a half-hour, or hour, or two. No. The whole thing was just too contrived.

I understand the importance of suspense in mystery, but I also recognize that some open questions are artificial, and do nothing to drive the narrative or develop the characters. (Much the same as action movies throw in a 'false velocity' of fast edits and shiny bits to seem like things are happening).

'Lost' was just too much melodrama, not enough drama, IMO.

Enjoy your finale though.

Jonathan S. said...

We all know what the ending will truly be.

Pull back from the island to reveal that it's really a snowglobe, held in the gaze of an autistic boy.

Pull back further to show that the boy is currently in St. Eligius hospital...

Anonymous said...

I don't think the Dharma airdrop needs to be explained. Remember how things can arrive on the island much later than you'd expect, as seen with Faraday's rocket experiment? This is just a more extreme version of that, with the airdrop meant for the Dharma folks arriving decades too late.

As for the Yoda effect, I definitely agree that something more needs to be said about the motivation for all that Jacob does. There better be a really good reason why the Smoke monster has to stay on the island and why the light has to be protected. My guess is that some really bad stuff is going to happen in the alternate universe in the last episode, to justify the actions taken in the main universe.

David Brin said...

I think Anonymous is totally right.

Prediction... something will show that the alternate universe WITHOUT the Island is somehow much worse than the one that has the island in it. Even though all but one of the characters is vastly better off without the island or Jacob's (Yoda) meddling, some writer contrivance will make all the characters yearn for an island they never saw.

Though how you make Jack "better off" than having a terrific son...

I hope I am wrong.

Chimeradave said...

I like David Brin a lot. He's one of my favorite authors but, I think he went too far. The tone of his post was that of a man on high (a novelist) criticizing those below himself (television writers).

He says they are "passing around a bong at every story session, shouting at each other "Hey, wait! What if they then turn around and see THIS!!!"

He seems to be of the opinion that he is the highest form of writer on the planet and that everyone else is just getting high and not putting out a good project.

When of course at the beginning of the article he confesses that he has been just as enthralled with Lost as the rest of us.

It's just very easy to criticize. I should know I sit down and let the words flow from my poisoned keyboard (please excuse me updating the phrase)on a daily
basis. But, though I dabble with writing, I don't supposed to be any better a writer than the next guy.

Mr. Brin is a fantastic writer, but he is still as guilty as those he criticizes. Has he really tied up every loose end in his own stories. I'm still waiting for more answers in the Uplift series.

But Brin, like the many authors of Lost, focused on what they thought was important storywise and then moved on. That's the way it is and just because someone writes for television rather than novels doesn't mean they are a lower lifeform, not to me anyway.


David Brin said...

John, what the heck?

This is the comments section in a little blog. It is where people let their hair down. You are saying I can't have an opinion about the chaotic lack of plot consistency of a show that I like... without being a preening, superior sob?

Did I harm those fellows? Go into their places and attack their characters?

(In fact, you came into my realm here and deliberately dissed MY character. Making judgments about my morality and maturity, something I did NOT do about the LOSt writers...

...I merely said (and they would probably laugh) that their cavalier plot consistency seemed BOTH bright and artistic AND a bit like guys who are mildly stoned.

Hey, you are welcome here. But get less prickly. I got as much a right to my opinion as you have to yours.

tvindy said...

I'm watching it now and nearly busted a gut laughing when Hurley said that Jacob was worse than Yoda. I guess Hurley *is* always right.

David Brin said...

Wha???? He did????

We haven't seen it yet in California.


Chimeradave said...

I apologize Mr. Brin,you're right that this is your place and I should have introduced myself before jumping on you like that. You see I'm a New Yorker so sometimes I lack tact.

I should have started by saying that I frequent a science fiction message board ( and that one of our posters reads your blog religiously and posts about it on our board when he thinks it's relevant.

I wrote my above post as a reply on that site, but I thought 1) you'll never see it and 2) it's worse to question behind someone's back

You see you are one of our most discussed authors on the message board. The Uplift Series is a sort of touchstone for us, since it elicits so many ideas for discussion.

As an example we sometimes discuss animals and how they are more intelligent than people realize. Have you seen the article about how dolphins in captivity learned how to lure seagulls with fish and than pounce on them. One dolphin learned it and then taught others. Here's an article about it.

Also I have been quite taken with some of your blog entries. Such as the recent one where you discussed how American policy for the last 50 years has carried other countries up by the bootstraps economically. I'd never thought about it that way, and for the first time in years I was proud to be an American.

I mention this all to say that I do indeed have the deepest respect for you and I will do my best not to be "prickly" and to remember this is your place, but I can't promise I won't disagree with you.

Stefan Jones said...

I never saw an episode of "Lost."

Here is why:

Television shows are potentially better than ever.

The are potentially smarter, potentially more consistent, and potentially better written than ever.

And the really good ones demand attention and involvement. Commitment.

But we're still dealing with television shows.

You have to pick and choose carefully, lest your commitment be wasted.

I was really, really ticked when the moody, ominous "Twin Peaks" turned out to be have been made up as they went along, without any real aim.

I chose not to pursue "Lost" because of the caution I feel about not devoting time to what might be "iffy" propositions.

The continuing-plot series I'm watching only include one SF-ish entry, "FlashForward." It has been cancelled. I hope the season finale delivers at least some answers.

David Brin said...

John.... you are most welcome here.

And we all have thick skins in this blogmunity... providing people are -- like you -- willing to reasses their remarks.

Please pass on my best to that other community!

Oh, and yes, ain't critters wunnerful? I hope uplift happens.

Tony Fisk said...

Apparently a wild dolphin in South Australia started to teach her pod to 'tail-walk'. This hasn't been seen in the wild before. It is suspected she picked it up the trick from a visit to a dolphinarium.

Beach Bum said...

I have one question that never got answered. If the island was so hidden who put the nuclear bomb on the island that setup the alternate reality and how did they find the island to begin with?

I apologize if my ignorance is because I missed an episode or two.

David Brin said...

The US military placed the H bomb there. And the Others then killed the detachment and all the scientists. Bizarre that a test would be ordered for an island that can't be found...

====comments after the finale====

Find one other place where anyone called the Jacob=Yoda comparison!

Indeed, Jacob was pretty much dissed and dismissed at the end. Hurrah.

I expected Jack to emerge as a smoke-being... only white for good, of course.

Okay, they may be pot-smokers... but the writers are all right by me.

Acacia H. said...

@Tacitus2: I'm in your boat here. Never watched Lost. Of course, I don't watch TV as a general rule. I don't have Cable and don't have an antenna so the only shows I'd watch are those I catch briefly when visiting a friend or family. And most of the time, it'll be news I watch.

Mostly I avoid television as too derivative and suffering from idiot-ball plots and the like. Even more "intelligent" shows such as the Battlestar Galactica remake suffered from instances of idiot-ball plots and Corporate Meddling which would threaten to derail the entire series with their "suggestions" on what they "thought" would make the show better.

Why bother? There are far more interesting and worthwhile stories in print, on the web, and showing up as shorts on YouTube. The age of the amateur is upon us... and the amateurs are showing that they are better than Corporate Tapioca because their dream is undistilled and fresh. (Admittedly there is a lot of trash out there as well. But that's the hazard that comes with amateur works. Finding the diamonds amidst the trash.)

As for Lost? Nothing I've heard makes it worth my while. Not when there are only so many hours in the day, and so much more to do in that time.

Rob H.

dmon said...

Brilliant call re Yoda!

I also expected Jack to emerge as a smoke monster, and him and Hurley to carry on the Jacob/Man-in-black balance charade. Too bad.

My biggest unresolved question: what about Walt?

Best line in the script, thrown out there just after the Yoda mention: "I have a bad feeling about this."

Tony Fisk said...

Sounds like the writers had 'Star Wars on Trial' in the reference shelf

Acacia H. said...

You know, I must admit some curiosity. How would Star Wars have changed if Kenobi and Yoda had just been honest with Luke? If they said from the start "your father was one of our best and brightest, but was corrupted by the Emperor and the Dark Side of the Force."

You could even have certain aspects remain similar. For instance, what if during Kenobi's final light saber duel he offers to surrender to Vader if Vader let the Millennium Falcon go... and upon getting Kenobi to lower his guard, Vader cut him down without hesitation? Would that not show Luke that his father was indeed lost to the Dark Side? (Would Luke still think Vader could be redeemed after this brutal betrayal?)

Hmm. I don't know if that would work as an "alternative worlds" Star Wars, or if I should wrap the basic concept into its own fantasy story loosely based on the Star Wars story.

Rob H.

Tim H. said...

If George Lucas was thinking that far ahead 35 years ago, he might well have used that.

JuhnDonn said...

'nother non-LOST viewer here. I prefer my deus-ex machina to be rather blatant. We watched Doctor Who last night. 9 year old daughter is really getting in to it. Just wish I could get her interested in the old Star Trek. Oh well, maybe one day.

Anonymous said...

It worked. I know my wife won't be satisfied by the religious imagery, and the treatment of the alt-reality as a sort of Buddhist Bardo - but it worked because the MiB, Jacob, Jack, Widmore and Ben Linus were all wrong.

Because, as Mr. Brin suggested before the finale, it was Hurley with his honesty who managed to break the cycle.

And because Desmond, who had no mission except his ordinary, human love for Penny, chose the opposite of perfection.

JuhnDonn said...

Is Paul Krugman following this blog?

Well, here’s the thing: regulation demonstrably does work where tort law doesn’t. Consider the environmental issue: in reality, the perpetrators of oil spills never pay most of the cost; but in reality, environmental regulation has led to much cleaner air and water. (Look up the history of Los Angeles smog or the fate of Lake Erie if you don’t believe me.)

So why does regulation work? If polluters can buy off the system ex post, after a disaster, why don’t they manage to totally corrupt regulation ex ante? There’s a lot to say about that, and I’m sure there’s a literature I haven’t read. But one thing we tend to forget in this age of Reagan is the importance and virtues of a dedicated bureaucracy: when you have professional government agencies with a job to do, and treat them with respect, that job often gets done.

On the other hand, if you degrade and devalue that bureaucracy, it will do a heckuva job. But that’s not the way it has to be.

--Paul Krugman - Why Does Regulation Work?

David Brin said...

Krugman's people never answered my notes, offering to send him FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH. I sometimes meet people who say -- "My assistants spammed you? Rats!" But what can you do. Any of you know a way to get a message to him?

LOST: I think having some light STEAM rise from Jack could have hinted at the "good" smoke monster thing. A million quibbles of course.

-Penny was never on the Island but she's at the church
- What's with all the blondes? Never noticed cause Kate and Sun are in front, but all those others...

- Yeah, the Bardo thing; sucks. Symbolic reason? Jack's son. Easily the best, among many, bits of proof that the people in the Sideways Universe are better off (except Kate & Ruth) by far, than in the Island universe. Yay H Bomb!

Still. Hurley, terrific. The Sci fi nerd who believes in opneness and who was always right, left in charge... did I call that? Yep! Jacob as Yoda/dumbass-creep. Did I call that? Did anyone else? Anywhere?

So let them have their creepy bardo ending. I envision Jack and the others having their mystical church moment, then shaking off the hallucination, burying Christian, and getting on with their lives... lives enriched by "memories" and loves acquired on another plane of reality... but still glad to be living onward in this one.

Without an island.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Interesting... I asked my co-worker that I carpool with about it on the way in this morning, because he follows Lost (I never had any interest in the show myself), and the way he explained it, the alternate reality was heaven, that the events on the island had actually taken place, and that the alt-reality was them meeting up again in the 'afterlife' after they all died some time after the events of the series finale.

Frack: Captcha just won an internet.

Acacia H. said...

It looks like they're going to have to revive the debate on what makes a planet a planet once more: the star Upsilon Andromedae has three planets with different orbital inclinations, with to of the outer planets having orbits that appear to be inclined about 30 degrees with respect to each other. Looks like Pluto's "slight" inclination twist is insufficient to claim it's not a "proper" planet. And hey, the Earth hasn't cleared its orbital path, as all those NEAs have revealed. So unless Earth is also not a planet, and these massive gas giants are not planets, then I cannot see how they can claim Pluto isn't a planet anymore.

Rob H., a proud Plutoist

Ilithi Dragon said...

I thought the Pluto classification change was based on size?

Acacia H. said...

It's based on orbital inclination, size, the fact it hasn't "cleared its orbital path," and the fact that an American astronomer found it. Though I'm sure the esteemed body that banned Pluto from the planetary records would claim the last one never entered their little thoughts.

Rob H.

rewinn said...

"... The age of the amateur is upon us... and the amateurs are showing that they are better than Corporate Tapioca because their dream is undistilled and fresh..." if we put a million monkeys on the internets with a million webcams, viewer feedback will encourage further efforts by the more skillful or lucky monkeys, and imitation by others. It's a form of memetic evolution.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Spoiler Alert for anyone not wanting to have the last episode of Lost spoiled:

It seems to me that the Island is a sort of "Purgatory" on earth. An interesting concept. The characters were all "dealing with their flaws alone" and so Jacob brought them to the island in the "greek tradition' of the Gods needing things to be interesting.

Since nobody really dies, or they were all actually dead -- or the afterlife is a reward, it's OK to have messed with everyone's life. The mechanism for How is not explained, as when other characters drink from the cup (I think a biblical reference for the Holy Grail), and take on Jacob's powers -- they don't ever exhibit any powers.

If anyone has really followed this show and can explain this better -- like what did Dharma Initiative want besides power and knowledge, and what the heck were the "others" about?

Making it a crucible to "improve people" and have interesting memories -- is kind of satisfying but I think it was really a compromise since NO storyline could really sum this story up.

I just wish it had gone into Sci-Fi mode.

>> I was seriously hoping that the explanation would be along the lines of Pohl Anderson's Xanth novels (the early ones, before it became just bad puns) -- in those stories, the magical world was really the "imagination" of a sleeping Demon. I'd replace the demon with a super advanced being -- and that it's mind warped reality -- or perhaps, rationalized it in a way that allowed other "minds" to effect changes.

>> The ultimate issue I have, was why the island needs protecting -- there were all those tunnels built to experiment with electromagnetism, and it's some sort of loadstone that blocks magma -- which creates a spring (of eternal life, I suppose). But if it is ultimately Purgatory to "improve souls" then someone pulling out the loadstone or not doesn't really matter.

Anyway -- I look forward to some sage comments because I've only half-followed this epic. I'm avoiding Fringe entirely, because I don't think they even bother for logic in a "sci-fi" format. Kind of what turned me against Star Wars as well.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Another "definition" of a Planet, is that it has enough gravity to "pull the mass into a sphere."

However, I'm not sure of the exact definition of "how spherical" something needs to be. But I think it's an attempt to find a way to differentiate between a large asteroid and a planet. But calling Pluto a moonlet isn't fair either.

I would have just said; "Pluto is 'grandfathered in' -- anything BIGGER and mostly round is a planet and Pluto is the bottom rung on these standards." OK, maybe that's too honest.

David Brin said...

Agh! Pohl Anderson conflates Frederik Pohl and Poul Anderson... two great storytellers BTW. Poul was the most bardic writer of our time. And NEITHER of them wrot Xanth! That was Piers Anthony.... a writer who was very mixed and undeven. Occasionally inspired.

But I get yer point

Wonder why nobody mentions the “magic box room” where Ben Linus pulls out Locke’s father. WTF?

nobodez said...

I really liked the LOST finale.

But, I liked it because of two big things.

First, I read this blog beforehand, and so when Hugo started mouthing off about Yoda and Bad Feelings, I was in my happy place.

Second, I knew what was going to happen, since I watched it on HULU Monday morning, and I read both the io9 summary and the wikipedia summary on Sunday night.

Because I knew what was going on while I watched it for the first time, I was able to get a better grasp of what was going on. I knew that the flash-sideways world was "purgatory" and that they were there to "move on". I knew that Hugo was going to be the new-new-Jacob, and so I smiled every time he went towards that point. I knew that Ben was going to redeem himself and become Hugo's number two, so again, happy thoughts each time that came closer.

So, because I knew what was going to happen (in broad strokes), I was able to enjoy the little bits and pieces that filled in the spaces between those major plot points.

I wonder what it would be like to re-watch all of LOST now that I know how it'll end. Wonder as the Lost-aways stumble about the island, discover polar bears, and first encounter the DI and the Others.

I knew from the first season that each character was connected to the others before they got to the island. These people were connected just like all of us are connected. Because it's a TV show, the connections are deeper and less tenuous, but they are still there. Every person on that plane was connected in some way to someone else on that plane they didn't know. Perhaps in the same place at the same time during a pivotal point in their lives. But, they, through quirk of fate/God/Jacob, came together on the island, and even though they were connected, they still never found out, but we the watchers did.

That's my favorite part of LOST, that we, as watchers, knew more about what was going on than the characters did. We knew how connected they all were, because we could see outside of what they themselves could see. And those connections were part and parcel of who they were.

Kate wouldn't be where she was if the woman James conned hadn't been at that truck stop. James wouldn't be where he was if Locke's dad hadn't conned his parents. Jack and Claire wouldn't be on the plane if Christian hadn't escaped to Oz to leave his troubled marriage. Those connections put the characters where they were, and then something amazing happened to them, and then, finally, they realized that something amazing had happened to them, and that they all had a connection beyond just the crash.

But, that's just me.

sociotard said...

A quick read:

We have pleanty of privacy advocates. I want to be a publicness advocate.

Acacia H. said...

Here's a few more non-Lost news stories (for those of us lost on Lost ^^):

First, here's a rather insightful book review of David Owen's "Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability." The article takes an interesting look at the key aspects of the book and does a good job of talking about the strengths and weaknesses of the book. For people interested in urban studies and the like, I think the review may be a fun read. From the sounds of it, it's probably a better read than the book reviewed, but that's just the cynic in me speaking. ^^;;

Next, The GOP is trying to join the computer age with a new Republican website to encourage dialogue to let Republicans see what issues Americans consider important. It sounds like it could be a valuable tool to try and lead Republicans away from the current nihilistic tailspin and toward a more moderate leaning, especially if Moderates and Moderate Liberals go to the site and utilize it as a place of intelligent discourse to point out the need for cooperation and dialogue with Democrats. Hey, I can dream, can't I?

The Wall Street Journal has an interested article concerning a decline in crime rates last year in cities across the U.S., despite the recession. Both violent crimes and property crimes went down, which is an interesting contrary to "perceptions" that crime has increased. Especially telling was this bit on Arizona: "Arizona's major cities all registered declines. A perceived rise in crime is one reason often cited by proponents of a new law intended to crack down on illegal immigration. The number of kidnappings reported in Phoenix, which hit 368 in 2008, was also down, though police officials didn't have exact figures."

Not that facts and statistics will have any bearing on attempts to get Arizona to lighten up on that anti-Hispanic law of theirs. We've already seen that Culture War is against facts and statistics and considers them to be evil. No doubt the Culture War fanatics will claim that "reported crime" has gone down, but that people are "too scared" of the illegal immigrants to report crimes by them. (Or is my cynicism running rampant again?)

And finally, on a more humorous note, Stephen Colbert interviewed the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis for "The Colbert Report," and from the sounds of it the interview was most amusing. Especially amusing was Colbert "getting" the astronauts on how batteries should be weightless in space and the Shuttle crew laughing that the space program was a fraud and that Colbert had caught them. I'll have to find a link for the Colbert Report online to watch it, it sounds like it was a lot of fun.

Rob H.

GeodesicGnome said...

I watched the Lost series from pilot to finale, but never reached the level you might call "fan". Had a lot of fun with the show, but it became apparent early on that they were making it up as they went along. I had the impression it was written by a committee that lost and gained members over time, leading to dropped story lines and introduction of new ones somewhat inconsistent with earlier episodes, but the pothead idea would also explain it.

Some other series seem to have thought out the meta plot in detail before episode writing begins. Seems to me BSG and even Bab 5 were in that category. That may have been true with Lost, but I'm left unconvinced.

I was, however, fascinated how they were stepping outside of the boundaries of the episodes for a while. Remember the fake Hanso Foundation commercials and web site back in 2006? I think Lost may have been the first time I noticed this. I later discovered that the Donny Darko movie had done something similar earlier with a mysterious web site presenting some explanatory background not in the movie and citing a non-existent book. Not sure how pervasive this kind of thing is in the industry, but I liked it.

Lost is a great example of how to keep people interested even without explaining everything or staying consistent. Of course there were great characters and personal conflicts, people to love and others to hate. The Jack-Kate-Sawyer love triangle. A father with a lost child. Lots of people doing bad things but thinking of themselves as justified. (Remember when Ben reveals that the murdering, child-stealing Others think of themselves as the good guys?)

But Lost added huge questions and we were all sitting on the edge of our chairs eager for answers. Eventually we suspected answers would not be forthcoming, but by then we had new questions. They were masters at keeping us interested without really having any answers to give.

Then there were the tidbits for the true fans. Remember that shark that swam past the crumbling raft momentarily revealing a Dharma Initiative symbol on its skin? You had to rewind and watch frame by frame to see it. Tidbits for true fans. Genius! So what if it was never explained.

And the finale was great, IMHO. We got to see some favorite characters again and they were all happy and going to a better place.

So, in the end it wasn't great literature, philosophy or religion, but it was a fun ride and I'm thankful. And I learned something about what it takes to keep people interested for so many years.

P.S. I'm surprised to hear people liked and trusted Jack. My wife and daughter took an almost instant dislike to that character which I came, in time, to share. I got to the point of gritting my teeth when I heard another "you have to trust me on this" from that dufus.

David Smelser said...

What's up with characters named Jack (on 24 & LOST) running around saying "trust me" over and over again? Why don't they ever learn that a little bit of transparency would make their lives easier.

I don't mind that they didn't resolve questions from earlier seasons. However, I'm not sure they did a good job with the big plot point of the last season. Does the given explanation for the flash sideways (it is a purgatory) fit with the episodes of this season?

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Sorry Dr. Brin -- I should have spent 20 seconds on Google and dredge up the name Piers Anthony. It's been so dang long since I've had the extra time to sink into a Sci-Fi book,... alas.

Anywho - don't you think the "super demon" idea would have been better than a Purgatory to settle the Lost dilemma?

The problem with Lost is that the DI and all the scientists using coordinates and timing to Get to the island -- I just don't see science working with a Purgatory -- even if the Island was some sort of "anchor" for heaven.

Just seems like a compromise.

If you had a dreaming super-demon, you could say some of the randomness was "a bad dream" -- and that covers the pot smoking weekend where the B-Team strayed from your story Arch.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

I'm pretty good at modeling a few things in my head -- and I THINK I have something that MIGHT work for the gusher in the Gulf;

For this situation, I'd say you would start with a Robot sub, attach it to some solid structure or concrete. Then feed a stiff metal wire down into the bore hole -- don't even try to use a siphon pipe because the area and pressure are too massive.

If you can feed a thin wire perhaps 500 feet down into the hole, then you can start to rotate it. A flange at the end would be used to secure it to the side -- the main thing is that you start to get it to twist into a coil (some metallurgists might consider an electric current on a "memory wire"). As you rotate and push more wire into the opening, it's going to coil round and round the inner circumference of the bore hole/pipe. If you keep pushing down more wire, it will eventually reduce the size of the hole with the mass of the wire.

As the last bit of coil is tightened down, you can follow that with a "screw-like" drill, and that will twist and tighten it even more as the screw will draw itself down into the threaded hole you've created -- it will eventually get almost as hard as solid steel. Leave the drill head and shaft in the wire-wound hole.

Repeat with all the other holes.

You have now sealed an irregular hole that has too much pressure to be capped.

>> The other option is to float in a REALLY MASSIVE, two-ply fabric filled with liquid concrete. You lower it down (about two-football fields in size), and it has an area where you can pump oil and water out in the center.

If it covers the entire area -- drill base and all, and you can get some negative pressure with the pumping, you might be able to then pour more concrete on the edges of the curtain/blanket and seal it off. Then it will "draw in tightly" on the well head as you pump seawater and oil out. After a few ours it should set, and you would have at least a contained area that you could backfill over and eventually use to seal the well.

>> From what I'm reading, Nukes would be a BAD idea. The are good for opening up fissures and releasing oil. I'm also worried that it could collapse the sea floor and cause a chain reaction in the methane hydrates (all depends on the geology and what a chemist might know at those depths).

Here's some links from an actual Nuclear Engineer who thought it was a really bad idea;
The Concept and Testing of Formation Fracturing and Nuclear Explosives, and Thoughts on Future Application

Nuclear Explosion Petroleum-Stimulation Projects, United States and USSR (Cost you something since you're not a nuke eng. with the right memberships)

The Bronco Oil Shale Study

>>Also, they might try using Aerogels to bond with the oil and expand it with the methane -- it's an oil loving substance.

>> If Desperate, take an old sub, and drive it into the hole at ramming speed. Bruce Willis might volunteer for this suicide mission. Then fill with concrete as the motors whine against the 1000 lbs/per square inch pressure ... OK, that wouldn't exactly work, but it would at LEAST show some sort of heroic concern for an ocean that is soon to die.

It's this pathetic, bureaucratic "wait and see if BP can do this on the cheap" that tells me if we destroy the human race, it will be with a whimper and not a bang.

David Smelser said...

My understanding is that the island is real, it is only the flash sideways (the plot complication in the last season) that is 'purgatory'.

David Brin said...

Well, I hated the "purgatory-Bardo" thing. Maybe they were backed into it, because the non-island world was simply BETTER than the world with an island in it.

Ticks me off for Jack's son to be a fake. Jack was at peace and happy being a dad and a doc, two things he did far far better than being a "Leader" or a mystic guy. Hurley was better at both, by far.

ppnl said...

Keeeerist people. I stopped watching Lost before the first season ended. Good acting good characters and good story in the individual episodes. But when the writers spin out mystery after mystery and it becomes clear that they themselves neither know nor care what the answer are I jut got bored.

Really, how long would you allow the writers to keep jerking you around?

Tacitus2 said...

Nothing wrong with Dr. Brin enjoying Lost.

I have a neighbor, nice guy, who is an NFL ref. I asked him the other day if he was able to actually enjoy watching football, say at the high school or college level. He thought a while and said, no, not really. When he watches a game he is expending maximum brain power calculating lines of sight for referees, thinking several plays ahead for possible challengable calls, working out if the ball was spotted a bit too much this way or that.

If a writer of speculative fiction can enjoy a "busman's holiday" watching some himself, well, that's a better attitude in my opinion.


Acacia H. said...

That reminds me of one of the drawbacks of learning how to draw (through books, back in 2002 when I drew a webcomic). While the comic only lasted a few months, I have noticed a tendency to view people and other things in terms of geometric shapes and consider them from an artistic perspective. I suspect that people who have drawn for years undoubtedly go through this as well.

I also have noticed that I tend to view literature in a somewhat more critical perspective. Poor grammar, misspelled words, and the like will drag me out of the story and lessen my enjoyment of the book. ^^;;

Rob H.

Stefan Jones said...

Heck, the serialized TV I look forward to most is Mad Men.

Part of the fun is watching the characters -- swaggering 60s vintage advertising men and their families -- go about their business not knowing what extraordinary changes are in store for them, and imagining how they'll react.

JuhnDonn said...

David Smelser said... What's up with characters named Jack (on 24 & LOST) running around saying "trust me" over and over again?

Check out how many guys named 'Mike' are real asses. Gets kinda' spooky when you pay attention to it.

David Brin said...

One episode of Madmen I watched. Daughter was playing spaceman with a drycleaning bag over her head. Mother said "Young lady, that had BETTER not have come off my new dress!"

SteveO said...

I can't read the post (might someday watch the finale) but I did see this: Dr. Brin is amongst the very few who paid extra to the national debt:

Individuals Pay Down National Debt

There was someone who donated 1.5 million, though....

TwinBeam said...

Robert: Re the AZ law and crimes in 2008.

Most kidnappings in AZ are of illegals by coyotes, or of and by those engaged in the Mexican illegal drug trade. Largely hispanic victims and criminals.

It seems likely to me that the recession reduced illegal immigration, especially by paid coyotes, resulting in fewer kidnappings.

1070 isn't a bad law, regardless of any good or bad motives of its creators. But it probably won't do much to resolve the illegal immigration situation either - it's a few rocks tossed into a river.

David Brin said...

Gevalt! only 1500 people donate against the debt? Fewer if you elim jokers?

Heck 10% of them are probably people who started because I publicly urged it!

I've done it since the 1980s. Am I the only $#$! one?

Geez, if there only was a patriotism genie. Okay military heroes go ahead of me. But I get to rub the lamp.

Tony Fisk said...

1280 donate more than $100 for a total of about $11 million. A drop in the ocean.

Well, I think you said it was a symbolic gesture!

Ian Gould said...

That's pathetic.

Do they let non-citizens donate?

Acacia H. said...

A couple more news links for people: the hypersonic X-51A "Waverider" managed to reach Mach 5 in tests today using jet fuel (instead of hydrogen/oxygen mixtures like other hypersonic craft). While the craft didn't reach Mach 6 in its first flight, there are hopes that future flights will reach that goal. It is thought that hypersonic craft that run off jet fuel could not only result in a new generation of hypersonic missiles that are impossible to intercept, but also an eventual generation of aircraft that can achieve low earth orbit and allow the launch of satellites utilizing far less fuel and infrastructure than existing rockets.


On an environmental note, federal agencies are predicting a high to very high level of hurricane activity this year. While last year's hurricane season was a dud, two things suggest this year's predictions will be accurate: higher-than-normal temperatures in the Atlantic (four degrees warmer, according to NOAA), and a weakening El Nino. Naturally, global warming deniers will refute it as an "outlier" rather than a prediction of what may come as a result of global warming.


Finally, man has successfully infected himself with a computer virus. More specifically, it's an RFID chip, and the virus was implanted into the chip and was found able to replicate itself into recording devices and then to other RFID chips. So it looks like we'll have to start installing virus checking software in cybernetics. ^^;;

Rob H.

Rob Perkins said...

That's pathetic.

Do they let non-citizens donate?

I'm sure they do. If someone has the address handy, post it for him, and they'll take the check.

David Brin said...

Department of the Treasury
Bureau of the Public Debt
PO Box 2188
Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188

Actually an envelope that just says 26106-2188 will get there.

I figure anything less than $10 may waste much of its benefit in overhead. You get a nice acknowledgment letter. It also gives you something to say during political arguments, that buys you a moment, while the other guy rocks back in surprise.

I am a member of a civilization.

Acacia H. said...

Here's an interesting article by Time on how immigration is linked to reductions in crime; while people may cry out that "these immigrants are taking our jobs!" (that the shouters wouldn't take even if unemployed and destitute), it seems that the best solution for the illegal immigration problem is? To legalize them and make it easier to enter (and exit) the country.

Rob H.

Unknown said...

From the Onion: Scientists teach gorilla that he will someday die

TwinBeam said...

You're not helping solve the problem by donating to "reduce the debt" - you're making it worse.

The more they get, the faster they spend; the faster they spend, the more they need in the future, and the faster the debt piles up.

Despair is a sin - and I am a sinner.

Acacia H. said...

You sound like one of my anti-tax friends who absolutely hates the idea of adding new taxes because we need to "starve the government" out of spending. This is despite the fact that the government doesn't reduce spending and just borrows more instead. It is the path to ruin if only people thought it through. The best way to reduce the deficit is through an increase in taxes and a reduction in spending. And we can start by reducing military spending. Except both Dems and Repubs refuse to do that because they have jobs at stake (through contracts for useless military hardware).

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...

As someone who is at least partly employed thanks to those useless military toys (or not so useless in our case, since the stuff we make parts for is designed for the kind of combat operations we're currently engaging in), I can understand why there's a lot of reluctance to reduce military spending. There ARE a lot of jobs linked to it, after all, and a reduction in military spending (even gradual) would result in a reduction in a lot of manufacturing jobs.

That said, it's still not enough of an excuse to not cut military spending. If manufacturing job losses are a concern, then cut military spending and transfer the money to fund civil projects, or provide assistance programs (perhaps a 'cash for clunkers' program for independent truckers, or just big trucks in general, and then all the infrastructure maintenance or repair we need, plus long-overdue infrastructure additions like high-speed rail lines across the country).

Rob Perkins said...

You could cut military spending by an almost unnoticeable amount, relative to the military's half-trillion dollar budget, and by redirecting the funds to education, you probably double the operating budgets of every fiscally responsible school district in the nation.

Around here, the stimulus money helped our schools not have to furlough any classroom teachers.

Ilithi Dragon said...

The total defense budget (including wars in Iraq/Afghanistan, and defense-related spending outside of the Department of Defense) for 2010 is going to be between $880 and 1,030 billion dollars. Our official military budget is $663 billion (plus a potential $40-50 billion supplement for Iraq and Afghanistan over the summer). That's over twice the military spending of the entire rest of the planet. The only two things that could possibly justify that level of military expenditure are a cold war or hot war with an opposing superpower, or a secret war with the Goa'uld.

We could cut our military spending in half and not be one ounce less secure, while freeing up 300+ billion dollars a year to either pay down the national debt, or invest in infrastructure and civil projects and programs.

David Brin said...

The cult notion to "starve government" and make it not work so that people will hate it... is half effective.

It succeeds in making government less effective and making people hate it. It has never, ever, ever made government smaller.

It has led to two consequences, however, both of them intended:

1) Massive reductions in govt effectiveness at limiting criminal activity, especially tax avoidance by the rich and bribery by industries like big oil,

2) skyrocketing public debt.

It is a grotesque "theory" that is preposterous when viewed from any angle other than the purely sophomoric.

To actively want your government - an important part of your civilization's accountability system -- to fail is really pretty much the same as wanting the civilization to fail.

Ian Gould said...

"...a secret war with the Goa'uld."

I've long had a horrible suspicion that if the Republican Party leadership were privy to prooof that the world was doomed in the next couple of decades, their fiscal and environmentasl policies would make a lot more sense.

Ian Gould said...

Scientists propose using sailboats to generate power.

The idea is essentially to use paert of the wind energy propelling the boat to power a submerged hyfro-power generator.

I'm not sure what the advantage of the wing arrangement over a simple marine turbine is supposed to be (especially since there are reversible turbines that could double as auxiliary motors).

But overall the idea has a lot going for it:

You can bring the boats in shore during storms unlike offshore wind generators which have to be built to withstand the harshest possible storms.

You can move the boats to the most favorable wind conditions (and orient them to maximize energy rather than being essentially fixed like wind turbines).

You could shift the boats aroudn ot match peak demand - sail them between the northern and southern
hemispheres to meet seasonal peak energy demand;relocate them if energy prices vary bettween regions.

Eventually you coudl have massive windjammer-sized ships sdailing perpetually around the world in the southern ocean.

Both sailing and marine trurbines are mature mainstream technologies os it shoudl be pretty easy to expand this if it works.

Anonymous said...

Hey, David? You dislike LOTR's tropes, and Harry Potter? Then get a load of these:

The author (of both) is an AI researcher of some renown, and seems to hold many of the same opinions on various topics as you espouse here. Including that the left-right political axis is a source of "us vs. them"ism that obscures the real issues.

TCB said...

Anonymous, I've been reading that Potter piece 'cause David Brin mentioned it already, but no foul to mention it again. It's great, and there are newer chapters!

Re: shrinking government down to nothing: ever notice how even a government too weak to provide essential services could still round up a truckload or two of soldiers to shoot you and steal your pigs, etc.? Small government is one of those talismans that certain people believe will solve all manner of problems, based on scanty evidence. Me, I think we'd be better off right now with tens of millions in government job programs like in the New Deal, installing passive solar panels and cleaning pelicans, planting permaculture gardens, all that sort of thing.
I once read that almost all GOP/conservative policy was in some way related to keeping labor cheap: busting unions, punitive drug laws, removing tariffs, etc. etc. and keeping unemployment high is part and parcel of that modus operandi. Also, job-insecure people don't get politically active... they're afraid to rock the boat.