Monday, March 2, 2015

THE ANTI-HERO

We live in dark times in culture and literature, partly because of the long malaise of a deep recession and less opportunities for young graduates in their career fields. Modern culture has a clear dystopian future vibe.

In many respects, LOST also culled that genre.

An anti-hero is a flawed hero, and therefore, much more interesting then the more traditional heroes.

Anti-heroes can be working on the side of good, but with a serious flaw, or a horrible past, or for reasons that are selfish and not entirely "pure." They can also be working for the side of evil, but with hidden noble intentions, or other underlying complexities. These darker heroes can be jerks, pathetic, hard, jaded, or mean. However, all anti-heroes must have enough heroic qualities, intentions, or strength (physical including attraction or mental) to somehow gain the sympathy of the audience.

The show was filled with many (maybe too many) anti-heroes.

Ben had an immediate and strong fan base. The portrayal of a cold, emotionless psychopath was a brilliant hook to apply real danger to the series characters.

Sawyer was the traditional anti-hero. He was a loner, a criminal, a charmer and a thief. He was so easy going to be likeable and despised at the same time.

Kate was also an anti-hero but wrapped up in the mirage of the girl-next-store image. She was entirely selfish and manipulating the men who crossed her path, usually ending in very bad trauma.

Locke was never a true hero. He was the door mat that other characters used to scuff on on their way to their goals. He was a dreamer who could never connect to his dreams. He was naive, and heroes are wise. He had self-esteem issues while heroes can look beyond their own faults to the common good.

The body snatching by MIB to create an evil Flocke did nothing to restore any honor to the Locke character.  MIB, as an intellectually evil smoke creature, had similar qualities of Ben, but with no thread of heroic intentions. MIB vowed to somehow leave the island, but we don't know why nor did we care. One has to care about their heroes, including the anti-heroes.

Jack should have been the traditional hero. He had the skill set, being a "miracle" surgeon. He had the calm intellect to command order within the group. But once he got out of that traditional role to begin lead missions into the jungle or attack the Others, he fell out of favor with many in the group. The castaways first leaned on Jack for survival, but once rescue was lost and the beach camp settled in Jack's traits were no longer needed by them.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

INFECTION

One of the compelling plot points was the concept that the island had a mysterious "infection." People had to be given shots to ward off death.

Claire was told that she had to take shots in order to save her baby.

Desmond was told outside the Hatch was a hazmat zone, but he still had to take shots to ward off the infection.

The Others pregnant women continually died while in their third trimester, which some blamed on the island/infection.

Without a clear understanding of "what" the island really was, many people believe the "infection" story line was merely a ruse to control people.

But Juliet, who appeared at first to be an ethical doctor, gave Claire injections - - - if false, would violate her duty and oath as a physician ("do no harm to a patient.") Even a placebo that causes mental anguish as an intended result would violate that oath.

Perhaps, at one time, the infection plague was true. It was just passed down as a story, a myth, by the island natives and Others as a means of making visitors leave their island.

An infection is defined as the process of infecting or the state of being infected by a disease.
It is also defined as  the presence of a virus in, or its introduction into, a computer system.

The origin of the word is late Middle English: from late Latin infectio(n-), from Latin inficere ‘dip in, taint.'

The dictionary definition raises two points. The island infection could be a metaphor for people becoming "tainted" or infected by something, such as evil, if this was a place of the underworld, or judgment. The events on the island were merely tests of character and morality.

Another possibility is that the infection was actually a computer virus. Computer avatars would see a computer virus as a disease that could kill (delete) them (their program).  If you buy into the theory that LOST was merely a large MMOG, then the infection was one of those booby-trap hurdles one had to pass in order to level up to the next mission.

In any event, the infection angle showed a great deal of dramatic promise. But it quickly faded away without resolution.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

PARALYSIS

Even when you sleep, you mind can get you.

If you've ever woken up unable to move or talk, you know the feeling can be absolutely terrifying. It is so alarming that it has become the subject of folklore across the world and is often associated with the supernatural. The good news is you're not being attacked by the unknown, what you're experiencing is a medical condition called sleep paralysis.

Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor of FoxNews.com, recently received an email from a viewer about this phenomenon:

Q: There have been times when I wake up out of a dream and am not able to move. I am fully conscious and aware of my surroundings but I am completely paralyzed. Is there anything I can do to stop this from happening?

Sleep paralysis is a jarring occurrence that leaves you temporarily paralyzed while being fully conscious. It is often seen in people who have sleep apnea or narcolepsy and can also be found in those who suffer from bipolar disorder and are taking certain medications for conditions like ADHD and substance abuse.

In addition to the helpless feeling that one may have while being cognizant and unable to move, the fear surrounding sleep paralysis is heightened by the fact that it's usually coupled with a feeling of pressure or choking and troubling hallucinations. Visions ranging from home intruders to demons have plagued those who suffer from sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis usually occurs during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, a phase where your "brain is active but your muscles are turned off,” Dr. Shelby Harris, a sleep specialist at Montefiore Medical Center, told FoxNews.com. It occurs when you mentally awaken before the REM cycle is finished, but your muscles remain turned off.

According to Harris, as long as there is no known underlying cause for sleep paralysis, there is no need for concern. She recommends maintaining healthy sleep habits and managing stress to reduce the frequency of the condition. She adds that if you are still bothered by it, you can consult a sleep specialist who can prescribe certain medications and treatments.

As an aside to the recent LOST posts, the concepts of sleep paralysis, including  temporary paralysis while being fully conscious, fear  heightened by the fact that it's usually coupled with a feeling of pressure or choking and troubling hallucinations ranging from home intruders (the Others?) to demons (such as smoke monsters?)

The one aspect of LOST which is still open to interpretation is the "awakening" clue. The characters had to "awaken" their island memories in order "to move on."  If the characters are patients in some deep REM experiments (gone wrong), waking up from the dream state is the only way to save them from the mental anguish of sleep paralysis. People do not realize that vivid REM sleep only lasts seconds to minutes even though dreamers perceive those dreams as lasting for hours. The entire series of island events, adventure, misadventure, danger and chaos could have actually been imagined in one long night of a dream patient.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

MIND OF ITS OWN MIND

Adding another post on the science of the mind.

BBC.com recently reported that several studies indicate that the old notion that a person "controls" their conscious mind (while some psychologists propose that we don't have full control over our subconscious) is wrong.


We feel that we are in control when our brains figure out puzzles or read words, says Tom Stafford, but a new experiment shows just how much work is going on underneath the surface of our conscious minds.

There's an under-mind, all psychologists agree – an unconscious which does a lot of the heavy lifting in the process of thinking. If you ask yourself what is the capital of France the answer just comes to mind – Paris! If you decide to wiggle your fingers, they move back and forth in a complex pattern that  you didn't consciously prepare, but which was delivered for my use by the unconscious.

The big debate in psychology is exactly what is done by the unconscious, and what requires conscious thought. Or to use the title of a notable paper on the topic, 'Is the unconscious smart or dumb?' One popular view is that the unconscious can prepare simple stimulus-response actions, deliver basic facts, recognise objects and carry out practiced movements. Complex cognition involving planning, logical reasoning and combining ideas, on the other hand, requires conscious thought.

A recent experiment by an Israeli research team scores points against this position. They used a neat visual trick called Continuous Flash Suppression to put information into participants’ minds without them becoming consciously aware of it. It might sound painful, but in reality it’s actually quite simple. The technique takes advantage of the fact that we have two eyes and our brain usually attempts to fuse the two resulting images into a single coherent view of the world. Continuous Flash Suppression uses light-bending glasses to show people different images in each eye. One eye gets a rapid succession of brightly colored squares which are so distracting that when genuine information is presented to the other eye, the person is not immediately consciously aware of it. In fact, it can take several seconds for something that is in theory perfectly visible to reach awareness (unless you close one eye to cut out the flashing squares, then you can see the 'suppressed' image immediately).

The  key experiment involved presenting arithmetic questions unconsciously. The questions would be things like "9 - 3 - 4 = " and they would be followed by the presentation, fully visible, of a target number that the participants were asked to read aloud as quickly as possible. The target number could either be the right answer to the arithmetic question (so, in this case, "2") or a wrong answer (for instance, "1"). The amazing result is that participants were significantly quicker to read the target number if it was the right answer rather than a wrong one. This shows that the equation had been processed and solved by their minds – even though they had no conscious awareness of it – meaning they were primed to read the right answer quicker than the wrong one.

The result suggests that the unconscious mind has more sophisticated capacities than many have thought. Unlike other tests of non-conscious processing, this wasn’t an automatic response to a stimulus – it required a precise answer following the rules of arithmetic, which you might have assumed would only come with deliberation. The report calls the technique used "a game changer in the study of the unconscious", arguing that "unconscious processes can perform every fundamental, basic-level function that conscious processes can perform."

These are strong claims, and the authors acknowledge that there is much work to do as we start to explore the power and reach of our unconscious minds. Like icebergs, most of the operation of our minds remains out of sight. Experiments like this give a glimpse below the surface.

This adds some context to the LOST use of Room 23. It may have been twisted into a mind control room by Ben and his minions. But originally, we don't know if the "light" experiments were similar to these recent studies on consciousness and behavior. If what can find the "unconscious" between the subconscious and conscious, and that is really the control center of a person, there are great ramifications to this finding. Our human beings just organic animals or is there an energy being using the bodies like space ships or robots to chemical process the world around it?

Monday, February 23, 2015

BRAIN SWITCHES

In the last post, we discussed certain dream theories.  One thing about the brain that is fascinating is that it is the most complex organ in the human body, and the least understood.

For example, did you know certain brain activities can be turned on and off like a light switch?

It has to do with stimulating or deactivating certain areas of the brain associated with a certain aspect of life.

Researchers know the control center for thirst is somewhere in the hypothalamus,  an almond-sized section of the human brain that regulates a number of our basic functions (hunger, sex drive, temperature). But recently, neuroscientists identified two specific populations of neurons in the hypothalamus of mice that control the impulse to hydrate, and they wanted to know what happens when they’re activated. By using a process called optogenetics,  they manipulated these cells to make them sensitive to certain wavelengths of light. Then, fiber-optic cables were implanted in the brains of mice that when illuminated, turned the corresponding neurons on or off. They found that one group of thirst neurons “evokes intense drinking behavior” when activated. How intense? Mice drank up to eight percent of their body weight in water when these neurons were switched on. That’s the equivalent of a human drinking a gallon and a half of water in ten minutes. The second group of neurons reduces the desire to drink, even when the animal is deprived of water.

Using the same optogenetics technique, scientists found the brain cells  that control hunger. When these cells are activated in mice, the rodents are compelled to stuff themselves well beyond the point of being full. But when they’re shut down, the mice ignore food, even when they should be hungry.
 
Consciousness and self-awareness are defining characteristics of human life. But these traits can be turned off and on like a light switch in a lab setting. At George Washington University, researchers accidentally flipped the switch while using electrodes to stimulate different parts of the brain in an epileptic woman.  When they stimulated a section called the claustrum,  the patient lost consciousness, but she didn’t pass out. Instead she sat motionless with a blank stare and showed no response to cues around her. She snapped out of her trance when the stimulation stopped, and had no memory of the lapse.

Other studies have shown the human brain may switch off self-awareness when we’re stressed, without any help from researchers. In 2006, neurobiologists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel observed that when humans are forced to focus on a difficult task (particularly under a strict deadline), the area of our brains associated with introspection, the cortex, becomes quiet, and we go into a sort of robotic mode until the task is done. This ability could have evolved for purposes of self-defense.

Pain can be eased with certain drugs, but many treatments come with side effects like dependency and tolerance. Saint Louis University researchers found a way to treat chronic pain caused by nerve damage, including the physical agony caused by chemotherapy and bone cancer. By turning on the “A3 adenosine receptor” in the brain and spinal cord, they were able to block pain caused by nerve damage in rodents, without any of the side effects associated with drug treatments.

Beyond just physical traits, researchers have looked into emotional components to brain activity. What if we could reduce the human urge to fight? New York University researchers  zoomed in on the hypothalamus, the previously-mentioned hub of bodily functions, to look at the specific neurons that fire during acts of physical violence. By stimulating those neurons using optogenetics, they were able to turn male mice into vicious fighters that attacked anything in their vicinity—including inanimate objects, and both male and female mice. But then the team could also calm them, quelling their violent urges by silencing these neurons. 

These vast different research projects tend to lend some real world perspective on the fictional forays into science with the DHARMA compounds. Turning on and off brain switches have vast potential and power to those who control it.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

ALL IN HIS HEAD

Some new recent fan posts follow an old theory, that the premise of LOST was all inside the head of a character. In this latest versions, it was Jack's mind.

This theory infuses Jack's background. We first met Jack in season one, he was a doctor with an alcoholic father and some "daddy issues."  As we learned more about his background, we started to learn about his relationship and commitment issues, along with suicidal tendencies and deep regret for mistakes made, often made in the operating room. The question is whether these dark emotions and mental illness are first and foremost, or secondary to the pressures of being the son of a famous doctor. If it was the former, Jack may never have been a physician; the "miracles" of his skills were all fantasy.

As another flavor on this theory, the entire island experience was Jack trying to work out his personality issues by his subconscious creating characters to "work things through."  Many scientists believe that humans dream for a reason; it is the down time that frees up the brain to run a series of calculations and scenarios of real life issues so the waking person has some idea how to handle them.

Each series character represents a different part of Jack's  personality. For example Kate could have been the part of him that wanted to be strong and kind, but couldn't let go of his past. John Locke could have been the part of him that wanted to stop being told what or how to do things, and was just downright angry. Shannon could have been the part of him that wanted to be taken care of, and so on. 


As he worked through different issues and overcame challenges on the island, the "parts of him" started to die. When he realized that his father was kind of at the center of everything, the island Jack (subconscious) died, because he had finished what needed to be done, and alternate Jack (reality) met up at the church with everybody else.  Jack being "dead" in the sideways church was "awakening," or leaving the dream state. For one last time, his subconscious memories joined together since Jack's brain had figured out how to cope with his problems. The island was his dream state making sense of what was happening, and the other places and adventures were a way of working through his problems. At the end when it was between MIB and Jacob (Good/Bad) He had a hard decision and realized that he needed to choose to be the guardian of the island, which represents real Jack taking control of his own life.  When he did even though he would lose everybody close to him (even though they were parts of him) he was ready to move on. So in conclusion, each character was a part of him. When he worked through the problems represented by that person, they would die. As it narrowed down to the harder stuff ( Oceanic 6) he had harder decisions. When he made the right choices and worked through his problems, he was alone, but that meant he had figured out that aspect of his problems.

A different take on the psychological aspect of Jack's dream series is that the method of his unconsciousness could have been from an actual plane crash. Under this theory, the whole series of events on LOST happened inside Jack’s head. He was in a plane crash, got rescued, taken to a hospital where he spent some time in a coma. The Island was his coma dream.



When the show used  terms like "constant" and "projection" it was a clue to describe how Jack’s mind formed the surrounding imaginary environment. A projection is something that Jack experienced in his life, some strong emotion for example, and then it appeared/usually reiterated in his dream, while a constant is some part of the physical environment that imposed itself into the dream world. Like for example, the phone starts ringing while you are asleep, and this appears in your dream in some abrupt occurrence. It is similar to a constant in LOST, in a sense that it is something that exists in both worlds - inside and outside of the dream. A link. Both are just different instances of something called “dream incorporation.”


Dreams objectify that which is subjective, they visualize that which is invisible, they transform the abstract into the concrete, and they make conscious that which is unconscious. They come from the most archaic alcoves of the mind as well as from the peripheral levels of waking consciousness. Dreams are the kaleidoscope of the mind.

Further, there were clear clues that the show was about "illusions."  There was a boat in the O6 marina by that name, when Jack had to make (and convince the desperate elements of his own personality) to go back deep into his subconscious ("go back to the island) in order find his final answers. Remember, it never made any sense that they were going back to "save" the people they left behind, because by their own experience, the island disappeared and everyone was dead. People represented as dream characters can always come back to life, inside one's head. That is what happened when Jack "returned" to the island. 

The dream theory (no matter whose character is the center piece) is one of the lasting fan theories of LOST. It helps explain a lot of the inconsistent mysteries and odd tangents of the show, including the Ending.


Friday, February 20, 2015

INTO THE LIGHT

Part of the evolution of man was the innate fear of the dark.  Man was not the alpha predator. There were various wild animals that could kill man. Many current top predators feed at night, when their prey are resting and cannot see properly.

One of the aspects of man's assent to the top of the food chain was the ability to gather in groups. Groups allowed for more eyes, ears and senses. There is truly safety in numbers. The more people who looked out for each other, the better. Once families merged with other families to create communities, tribes and later settlements, the fear of wild animal attacks subsided. But the fear did not go away, because in nature the competition for food and resources is always present. Fear of animals may have turned into fear of other tribes attacking for their resources.

One of the earliest safe guards to attack was the domestication of the wolf. Less aggressive wolves came to be trained by early man as canine protection devices. Dogs have more than 10 times the smell perception of humans. They also have keen eye tracking abilities. With the taming of dogs, man brought into his shelter the first "alarm" system. The dog would forewarn his master of trouble before the master could recognize it. It was a beneficial relationship, since the dog was fed and cared after by the tribe. Dogs would help man in hunts. This man-dog bond lasts to the present day.

Everyone knows dogs are man's best friends.

But in LOST, we are not so sure.

For some, Vincent, Walt's dog, was the only animal associated with the survivors. Yet, Vincent rarely did anything to protect Walt or the castaways. In reality, Vincent was briefly used as a conduit for the viewers to find the early characters, such as awakening Jack in the bamboo jungle, or to lead a character into the jungle (to be surprised by something like an Other or smoke creature). In all of the dangerous missions, including foraging for wild boar, Vincent was not part of any of those sojourns.

This is very "non-dog" like behavior.

Vincent really was not that close to Walt.  Once Walt left, Shannon took it upon herself to watch over him, but she was not very good at anything. And then Shannon died. He would eventually walk away to live with Rose and Bernard, who left the group to isolate themselves from the politics, danger and mistrust of the remaining beach castaways. In that regard, Vincent was pretty smart to find a new traditional "home" setting with Rose and Bernard.

But even Bernard scolded Vincent for not being a good guard dog.

In a few fan theories, Vincent is not really Walt's dog, but the smoke monster reflection of memories of Walt's dog. It would be a classic spy inside the enemy camp. No one would suspect a dog as a supernatural creature. It would explain why Ben had so much information on each castaway (not withstanding the reference to a large communication center that Patchy used to run). Information seemed to be the premium currency on the island, as both Jacob and MIB needed it to manipulate their followers.

If the island was truly a dark place, where lost souls had to shudder at the thought that their personal demons were in the shadows, then the only light of purity was Vincent. He seemed to be above all of the fray. He never attacked, nor was he attacked. He had the most freedom of any character. When he wandered off, no one seemed to mind (except Walt). But once Walt was gone, no one seemed to take a vested role in Vincent. Perhaps, it was symbolic that the people on the island were resigned to their fate that their freedom (and going home) was lost.  Only Vincent's actions kept alive even the impression of hope.