Thursday, March 26, 2015

SHANNON PORTRAIT

Shannon may have been one of the best characters to symbolize low self-esteem. All the money in the world, or even a doting parent, her father, could give her the independent character to survive on her own.

Shannon had a reverse daddy issue. Her father spoiled her. He gave her money. He protected her against the real world. He got her out of trouble. When he remarried, he was the buffer between his daughter and her step-mother. But when in the emergency room, Jack made the choice to "save" Sarah instead of Shannon's father (since both were critically injured), this set Shannon's life on a slow, downward deadspin.

It appears she never held a real job. Being a cute girlfriend, a rich bitch or a party girl were not lasting career choices. She did have the gift of flirtation and sexual promise. But as in the series itself, she was more a cardboard cut-out, a centerfold without a soul, a wasted opportunity to have an interesting life story.

After her father passed away, Shannon was left on a family island. Her stepmother treated her poorly. She was put down. She had no place in the family business. Shannon was not a hard worker because her old life had been handed to her. Without a drive, personal goals or dreams she would wander aimlessly from bad boyfriend to bad relationship.

Lostpedia summarized her as follows:

Before the (Flight 815) crash, her father had died in a car crash and she had been cut off by her stepmother, who also refused to give her any of her father's money. She used men, especially Boone, to get what she wanted, which eventually led to a one night-stand with Boone. After the crash, she was very selfish at times, refusing to help the other survivors, as she insisted they would be rescued. However, she assisted in trying to get a signal on the transceiver, and used her French skills to translate Rousseau's signal. She also had an asthma attack when her inhaler ran out, but Sun eased her symptoms. She eventually formed a romantic relationship with Sayid which helped her realize her selfishness and led to a change in attitude. As she and Sayid went for a picnic, Boone fell out of a plane and died of injuries. After Boone died, Shannon sought revenge on John Locke, attempting to shoot him, but Sayid interfered. She eventually forgave Sayid, but began to have strange visions of Walt who she thought was on the raft. On Day 48 she ran from camp with Sayid to search for Walt; however she collided with the Tailies and was unintentionally shot in the stomach and killed by Ana Lucia Cortez after chasing another image of Walt.  She died in Sayid's arms having finally gained his confidence and belief in her. 

Many viewers did not find Shannon's character compelling; many felt that the death scene was merely an actor's clip reel (since so many of the characters would succumb in the next episodes). She was a "taker" and not a giver. She had to rely on other people (Boone, Sun, Sayid) in order to cope with the very basic daily routines most people take for granted. Her loss was not taken as a great defining moment in the series. 

Even after her death, her character drew ire from some fans. Why would a week long island affair be more important to Sayid than his lifelong quest to find his true love, Nadia? When Sayid wound up with Shannon in the after life, most fans were disillusioned because it really made no sense. Shannon had made no great leap or redemption in the sideways world to merit "a reward" of companionship in the next world. Further, it upset people that Shannon got what she wanted (a man to care for her forever) while Boone sat alone in the sideways church. Boone, the guy who cared and loved Shannon, and who died trying to get her rescued, got nothing for his effort.

It is a sad commentary that Shannon, the spoiled rich girl can be the Cinderella in the end by not doing anything.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

BEACH CAMP

Just above everybody loves the beach. Approximately 70 percent of the world's population lives on or next to a body of water like an ocean. There is something hypnotic about sitting on the sand and watching the waves slowly roll in from the horizon.

In LOST, the beach camp was the center of the survivor's island life. However, we rarely saw it. It was merely snippets of time, events, gatherings or cutaways from larger, grander stories of jungle missions or other locales. So most people have vague memories of the camp. But in some stills, it shows that like in life, it was a messy place.

The first beach camp was abandoned (that is where the airplane wreckage washed ashore). Death and the boars made the campers flee to a new beach location. But for no rational explanation the aircraft debris vanished or washed out to sea.

So the castaways were left with what they could carry on their backs or forage from the jungle palm tree line. The ragamuffin look of the camp site tended to bring a sense of reality to the show. It was not a sporting goods show sales booth.

But since the beach camp was the center of the castaways lives, why did it not factor as the main set for the series?

Part may have been production values. The lighting of a show can be affected by the glare off the water. Also the wind, surf and sand can wreck havoc with electronic equipment.

Part may have been to focus away from large scenes with extras to more personal, up close relationship shots of the main characters.

If LOST would be adapted into a stage play, the beach camp would be the main set. It is the only logical place where every characters; stories would intersect.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

THE OTHER STORY

Viewers got a glimpse into the background story of the Dharma Institute. But we never understood how a bunch of 1970s academic researchers "found" the island, and then were able to build massive research stations while surrounded by hostile natives, the Others.

There is a massive black hole in logic and story telling.

Prior to any known character coming to the island, Crazy Mother was alone as the guardian. When a Roman ship wrecks, she steals two newly born children, Jacob and his brother. Jacob's brother yearns to leave the island after he finds a survivor camp. He uses the knowledge of the Romans to try to harness the power of the island to get back "home," which would be Rome. Jacob's brother embraced technology in order to find a way to get to his dream or goal.

Crazy Mother and Jacob did not embrace technology. They lived in a primitive camp, making due on a self-sufficiency level including weaving their own materials.  Crazy Mother destroyed the camp and its technology in order to stop Jacob's brother from leaving the island. At this point in time, Jacob and his brother stopped aging. She decreed that neither could harm the other. But when Jacob's brother killed her, Jacob's rage set off events that eventually killed his brother.

When Jacob's brother's body floated into the light cave, we see the smoke monster fly out. We would later find Jacob's brother's body down stream. Some speculated that the brother's death created a smoke monster, but most believe that smoke monsters existed prior to this event as Crazy Mother's actions in wiping out the Roman camp was the work of a smoke monster. Temple graphics from an apparent earlier age depicts the smoke monster seated in the ancient Egyptian underworld. The smoke monster then took the form of MIB in order to pester and engage Jacob in conversations and games. Both Jacob and MIB were immortal beings, and the "rules" did not allow each other to harm the other.

MIB said that he was growing tired of Jacob bringing humans to the island, since they eventually turn greedy and corrupt and die.  It seems that Jacob and MIB were playing a human pawn game of philosophy or Senet.

So if Jacob was playing a game, and he was the only person who could allow people on the island, then why did he allow technically advanced people (like the ones Crazy Mother hated and killed) to build massive research facilities. MIB was the only person aware that there could be a technology answer to allow it to "leave" the island.  Apparently, smoke monster(s) are imprisoned on the island even though they are thought to be "security systems." If MIB absorbed all the memories, emotions and logic of Jacob's brother, then MIB's purpose probably changed to match his: find a way to leave the island.

So MIB would have wanted technology advanced humans to come to the island, so it could manipulate them to find the answer that Jacob's brother was so close in finding. The question remains why would Jacob allow that? Jacob was stuck on the island for as long as he was the guardian. Perhaps that was the bargain: humans came to the island as candidates to replace Jacob while at the same time puzzle pieces for MIB to find a way to leave the island barrier.

Some believe that Jacob was himself a smoke monster. When he visited Jack at the LA hospital, the lobby smoke detector went off for no apparent reason. So if Jacob as a smoke monster could leave the island, why could not MIB?

This leads to two alternatives. First, Jacob was not a smoke monster so he could leave the island. Second, Jacob was a smoke monster and the off-island scenes we saw were illusions. That would mean that Jacob learned about mental manipulation technologies from the Dharma researchers and used it to create vivid holographic (Star Trek NG) worlds so real that humans could not tell any difference.

So it is possible that both Jacob and MIB wanted new technologies present on the island to meet their own goals. If Jacob truly wanted to release his obligations as eternal guardian, he would need to create such an environment where some human would want to become "a hero" in order to save his friends. The only way to become such a hero would be to accept the island guardianship, thereby releasing Jacob from his duties.

But that does not explain how resetting the light cave cork made MIB mortal or made an immortal being like Jacob dead. One could argue that MIB and Jacob were not real beings but holographic horror projections that seemed so real that the humans accepted them as real.

Which gets us back to the opening question. If Dharma was brought to the island for its knowledge and research, why were there other less tech people (the Others) still on the island? Perhaps the conflict between two groups was part of Jacob's plan to find his "hero."  It also could be that MIB kept certain human "pawns" to play the game with Jacob. Or, another alternative would be that the Others were actually Dharma members who splintered off from the group because they did not like the research paths established by Horus. The latter conflict would have made a good side story on why the Others were so hostile to outsiders and what were the island's true powers.

For if LOST was solely about the origin story of Dharma and the island, it would have been just as interesting as the actual story lines.

Friday, March 20, 2015

SOCIAL REGULATION

In the past few weeks, there have been many international stories revolving around the concept of free speech, its regulation and concepts of political correctness. As one commentator put it, the world is wired together but torn a part by the notion of the apparent need for "social regulation."

In the U.S., the FCC turned the internet into a telephone utility by enacting 400 pages of new rules which will be challenged in court. Internet advocates wanted the FCC to make certain that the internet be neutral, i.e. that service providers could not block content, charge extra for higher speeds, or throttle down heavy users like video streamers. That is all well and good, and opponents said market forces already regulate business plans (such as the cellphone data plan changes and unlocking of phones from contracts).

But with the FCC rule making comes with it the first government step to regulate content on the internet, something net neutrality advocates failed to understand. The FCC has "content" rules for broadcasters, what can be said when, on television using the public airwaves. Cable got around some of those restrictions because it was a private, pay service. But even then, regulators got involved mandating parental controls and v-chips to limit certain content access.

FCC utility regulation also can involve regulations which raise the cost to consumers, such as forcing internet providers and broadband services "open access" to their networks, i.e. subsidizing poor rural areas or consumers. Those costs will be added to everyone's bill.

Also in the U.S., there have been an assault on college free speech. Under the constitution, free speech is immune from government regulation or censorship. Even what some people would consider offensive or politicially incorrect speech is protected under the law. Some college administrators and some students themselves, have been trying to limit the type of speech on campus. One incident was the vote to ban the display of the American flag in campus buildings.

Social media has ratcheted up the amount of public intolerance to other people's opinions. We no longer have civil debates on important public issues by discussing facts. Today, social media are bursts on condensing snipes and snark aimed at shaming another person or organization to change their point of view. This builds a culture based on intolerance.

The waves of social regulation has to erode the pillars of society over time. Culture can overwhelm and undermine the basic moral and political foundations of a civilization.

With this current background, one can look back at LOST to see if the setting, character dynamics and stories foreshadowed today's current culture clashes.

There was always a heavy shadow of authority in the series. At one early level, the authority figure than seemed to repress, control and dominate the characters lives were fathers. The "daddy issues" element seemed to dominate many characters' focus. Jack was only on Flight 815 because of guilt over his unresolved daddy issues. Kate was on the flight as she was running away from her crimes based in part on bad daddy issues. Locke was also running away from his daddy issues by trying to become an outback fantasy survivalist. Claire was abandoned by her baby father, so she was in the midst of abandoning her own baby.

The next authority figure on the island was Dharma. It had a paramilitary bent to dominate and control the island over the alleged "native" population, which probably were taken over and destroyed by the Others (the remains of the potential candidates from Jacob's game with MIB.) Since only Jacob could allow people access to the island, everyone of the island was subject to Jacob's power (whether they realized it or not). Within Dharma and the Others camp, there was an internal struggle for power and control by leaders. It took Ben's sociopathic mass murder of the Dharma folks to solidify his complete dominance of the island. Ben's mental breakdown and quest for power has to be considered in his hatred for his own father blaming him for killing his mother.  Just as the Others felt distrust and anger toward Dharma, the Others turned on the castaways in order for Ben to control "his" island (again, even though Jacob brought the 815ers to the island as candidates to replace him.)

Even if Ben felt Jacob was his surrogate father, Ben turned on him by murdering him in a classic manipulation by Flocke. Once Ben killed Jacob, his power base was destroyed and only the mercy by one of Jacob's last followers spared Ben's own life. It was probably the harshest lesson of humility on the show, if you don't count Locke's life.

Locke continually lashed out against authority. "Don't tell me what I can do!" was his personal battle cry. But Locke never understood himself. He felt he was a strong, leader, a popular jock, a man people would look up to, respect. Except, in reality, Locke was a follower. And since he could not come to terms with his own conflicted personality, he became a fool.

Locke died a meaningless death after living a meaningless life of his own creation. In physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In humanity, a person's action will elicit a reaction. It is how a person deals with those reactions is how he or she fits into her social circle.

Locke did not fit well into the survivor's camp. The Hatch and the dumb Numbers input gave Locke an actual purpose. But when he got fed up with that, he thought he knew better - - - but he was wrong and the station went critical and time flashed the island setting off dominoes to his own demise.

The characters on the show pretty much said their own minds. Sawyer was as politically incorrect and verbally cruel as one could get . . .  but since there were more important risks to be met, his behavior was secondary to survival. One could say the more comfortable one is in their life (emotionally, financially, etc) the more one has time to criticize others. Like an old aristocratic parlor game of dunning and belittling the lower classes.

The beach camp did have his own high school-ish clique system. You had the "cool" kids (Jack, Kate, Sawyer), the nerdy outcasts (Hurley, Charlie, Sayid), the cheerleader-jocks (Boone, Shannon, Claire) the foreign exchange students (Sun, Jin) and the hip faculty (Rose, Bernard). But just in high school, these groups did function at one level together, but socially operated separately.

And these sub-social groups did start to regulate conduct amongst themselves. The cool group began to dominate the planning and execution of missions and priorities. The beach camp extras like Artz and Frogert, who may have been intelligent and had certain skills, had their opinions neutralized by the dominate voices of Jack, Sawyer or Kate. Jin and Sun took a secondary role because they knew they did not fit in with the Americans. Rose and Bernard slowly worked their way out of the politics and danger of the games the leaders were playing to set up their own retreat in the jungle.

If Jacob and MIB were the puppet masters in their island theater, they regulated the actions and interactions between the various competing social groups. There was placed in many minds that the other group was "dangerous" or "out to get them."  This mistrust was a foundational story element. Even if it was irrational and being manipulated by the shadows, it was a form of social regulation. The rules (unwritten and confusing) were the rules. But that order often created disorder.

The beach camp may have began as a democracy with everyone allowed to speak their own mind. But in the end, a new caste system emerged from the dominant personalities instilling their own cues on the rest of the group. Peer pressure may have ultimately fused followers to leaders out of a sense of necessity. In the Others camp, Ben's followers walked on egg shells around him because one offensive remark or action could lead to their own death.

It is said that television mirrors modern society. In some respects, LOST did show that even in a diverse cast of characters, a clear pecking order will emerge in any society. And once that dominance is established, social regulation certainly follows.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

TECHNOLOGY ANGLES



In some ways, LOST was highly technical-scientific. But it is also very out-of-date in applying technology.

With all the available technology to super wizard Sayid, the castaways could never get themselves rescued from the island.

The Dharma computer systems were old. The radio tower was an ancient telecom relic. The one highly advanced piece of technology was the Frozen Donkey Wheel, built by Jacob's brother in Roman times 2000 years ago.

As a commentary on modern technology, LOST has a nostalgic nod to it but it did not help the actual characters solve very many problems.  In most cases, technology (and its downfall) was the cause of many of the LOST problems. A modern aircraft falls from the sky. A modern freighter gets blown up at sea. A helicopter runs out of fuel and crashes into the ocean.

The Dharma stations were merely sets in the story lines and not important pieces to the LOST puzzle. They could have been critical clues but became irrelevant and immaterial in the end. The Hatch and the Numbers were supposed to solve key questions on what was the island and who were the Others. Neither were important in the story's conclusion: the hatch was not made by the Others or had any useful purpose in the mission of rescue, and the Numbers were arbitrary candidate designations by a supernatural being called Jacob.

We still don't know whether the smoke monster was an organic life form or some advanced nanobot technology.

The writers led viewers down the paths of scientific reasoning to answer posed mysteries. But science did not play a large role in characters final resting place, in an after life world. Even the mechanics of getting to the after life place was glossed over by the writers - - -  was the island a purgatory underworld step to achieve some form of enlightenment in order to get to the sideways reward or was the island truly a nightmare, real world existence?

The use of technology to tell the LOST story could have been better executed by the writers. Even if the technology answers were made up or irrational or theoretical (like most science fiction genres), viewers would understand that prose and move on concurrently with the character stories. But the inability to answer mysteries posed by scientific clues is like the unwanted party guest who overstays his welcome. It is annoying, tedious and disrupts the final enjoyment of the party.

Monday, March 16, 2015

MEMORY WIPES

One body of LOST theory is that the show's premise resides solely in the mind(s) of a character(s).

It is a tempting premise because it discounts any factual, scientific and memory errors in the actual story lines.

A few key clues in these theories were the fact that the Others (and Dharma) brain washing facility was known as Room 23. We got two references of this room. First, Walt was taken prisoner there and subjected to the high intensity film images. It seemed the sheriff used it as a punishment tool, for which Walt respected and therefore behaved himself. Second, we got an intense look at it when Ben put Karl in the room. We got the aspect of cult programming in that scene with early reference to "Jacob loves you."

23 was also the Number for Jack, which most believe was the central character of the story. Tying the two elements together, Jack was also subjected to mind control games at Hydra, and possibly at the Barracks (or Room 23 facilities) when he integrated himself in a game a football with Mr. Friendly.

The idea that LOST was a nightmare of Jack's subconscious has some merit. Because in the End of the series, Jack got the one thing that he wanted: a chance to see his father again. And Jack's mind rewarded his imaginary friends with happiness and a sense of belonging (especially with the couples).
But the one other big clue is that Aaron, who was born on the island, was also born later in the End. That can't physically happen. So it must be mental.

Jack's mind could have forgot about certain memories in the course of concluding his dream series.

And science backs up the notion that our brains "over write" memories when recalling other ones.

Forgetting certain memories while remembering others may be a normal part of brain function, new research shows. In short, the very act of remembering may cause people to forget other memories that are overridden in the retrieval process, according to the study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Researchers from the University of Birmingham and the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences unit in Cambridge, England, discovered that intentional memory recall isn’t as simple as mentally reawakening a memory. In fact, the act of remembering can actually trigger the brain to forget other competing experiences that interfere with memory retrieval.

“Though there has been an emerging belief within the academic field that the brain has this inhibitory mechanism, I think a lot of people are surprised to hear that recalling memories has this darker side of making us forget others by actually suppressing them,” study co-leader Maria Wimber, PhD, said.

While there are other studies on memory interference, researchers say this is the first to isolate the adaptive forgetting mechanism in the brain. It’s this mechanism by which remembering dynamically alters the aspects of our past that remain accessible. 

Researchers used MRI scans to monitor patterns of brain activity in study participants while they were asked to recall certain memories based on images they had been shown earlier. Over the course of several retrievals, participants were asked to recall a specific memory, which became more vivid with each trial. The results showed that competing memories were retrieved with more difficulty with each trial carried out.

The findings are not limited to specific memory types — semantic memory, episodic memory, and recently acquired short-term memories are all impacted. In fact, though people differ genetically, researchers say that it is thought that all brains are capable of inducing varying degrees of this forgetting mechanism.

There is a bright side to the study. “[Forgetting] can be incredibly useful when trying to overcome a negative memory from our past. So there are opportunities for this to be applied in areas to really help people,” Wimber says.

Friday, March 13, 2015

FRIDAY THE 13TH

Friday the 13th is an unlucky day. It is a superstition passed down from generation to generation, culture to culture.

The number 13 was said to be unlucky because when archeologists researched the Roman Coleseum chambers where the slave gladiators were housed, the best gladiator scratched only 13 victories before his death. Once you got to 13 wins, the next time you would die, hence 13 being an unlucky number.

Why Friday and 13 got a bad rap is probably because in the modern work week, Friday was supposed to be the start of the weekend, relaxation away from work. There is a possible dread that the boss will complicate your life by adding a ton of work on that day, ask you to work on Saturday, or make an unreasonable deadline in which upsets your plans.

In any event, numbers played a role in causing Hurley to have his own bad luck. It was not his curse, but a crutch, an excuse, to smooth over his own insecurities and faults. At times, negative thoughts can instill negative behavior and actions. Even when Hurley won the lottery, his negative thoughts appeared to manifest itself in death, destruction and bad luck all around him.

There is an old saying that a person makes their own luck.

Luck is the success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one's own actions or a chance considered as a force that causes good or bad things to happen. Many believe luck is something regarded as bringing about or portending good or bad things, a pre-state of mind.

Some lucky bastards are more lucky than good, and that ticks some people off with envy, jealousy or hatred. Why is this person wealthy, prettier, successful, stress-free, or happy? Why can't I have those things? He or she is not better than me!

You can see how a negative perception of one's self can lead to an internal circular argument that some outside influence, luck, is creating your personal state of unhappiness.

The LOST world was mostly an unhappy world. Every day seemed to be like Friday the 13th. The main characters shadows were their ever present fears, phobias, anxieties and dark behaviors. Over time, these shadows began to eat away at their mental outlook on life. For some, it took them deep in the pit of despair. For others, it took them deep into irrational behavior, like Ben.

But Hurley was the one main character who readily admitted his bad luck, that he himself created bad luck, and that people should not be around him because he was bad luck.  This is the grand excuse of an introvert and loner. A hermit who built excuses to isolate himself from interacting with the real world, with real people, and to make real friends.

Locke had a similar path, except he did admit he was unlucky with family, friends, career or goals. He pretended to be an extrovert and leader, with grand ideas and hopes, but with no means to accomplish them because he could never forge true bonds with other people in order to fulfill his dreams. He built his own isolation from anger about how the world around him did not understand him, that he was smarter, better and more entitled to have the wealth, happiness and prosperity of his bosses. He was more like a hermit crab striking out at others, which reinforced a negative stereotype to others.

So Locke and Hurley created their own bad luck. And they suffered for it because they could not change their own personal outlook on life. Locke never achieved any reformation. Hurley, as best we could tell, found some peace of mind (but apparently only in the after life).

So on any Friday the 13th take heed not what is around you, but what is inside you.