Wednesday, February 10, 2016

THE CON MAN

Author Maria Konnikova recently spoke to Business Insider about her book about the psychology of con artists. She said three attributes make a good con artist:

The dark triad is three things, obviously, including psychopathy, the inability to feel emotion in the way that normal people do. It's kind of a lack of empathy. Your brain is actually different, you process emotional stimuli differently. To you, they don't mean that much. It's very difficult for a non-psychopath to understand, but basically everything that would really make you emotionally engaged would leave you cold as a psychopath, so that's one part of it. 

The second part is narcissism, this overblown ego where you not only think you're just the best thing that's ever happened to anyone, but you also think you deserve a lot. You deserve basically everyone to bow down to you. And you have it coming to you, all these good things. So if you notice a lot of the con artists in the book, they want shortcuts, they don't want to work hard for their rewards, because they think they deserve them. They are people who steal credentials because they don't feel like getting a Ph.D. But they think they're smarter than the people with Ph.D.s.

Finally, it's Machiavellianism, or the ability to manipulate people into doing what you want. Kind of like Machiavelli's Ideal Prince, you have your own ends and you use whatever means you want to get there. And you're very good at tricking those people and getting them to do what you want.

The reason those traits are so important to con artists is that you are taking advantage of people, and in order to do it well, you can't think that you're taking advantage of people, because the moment you do, you start feeling bad for them. What this triad allows you to do is not have to deal with that, you don't feel bad for people, because you don't feel empathy. And you don't think you're doing anything wrong, because you deserve it. And you have the means, because you're Machiavellian, and so you're very good at convincing other people that what you say is correct. Those three things can really operate in tandem to create the perfect story. That said, and one thing that I do say in the book. It's not destiny. There are plenty of people who have these traits who don't become con artists. And there are also con artists who probably don't have the entire dark triad of traits.

Lacking emotional empathy. A belief in deserved alpha dog status. Ability to manipulate other people.

This was the blueprint for a few LOST characters. Sawyer was a known con artist, a process which he adopted in order to get revenge on another con artist, Cooper (Locke's biological father). Ben also conned Sawyer into submission on the Hydra Island kidnapping story. And Kate regularly conned men to do her bidding - - - such as helping her break into a safety deposit vault. Shannon manipulated men to pay for lifestyle of doing nothing constructive. 

Of the main characters, Ben showed the strongest abilities in the three elements of the dark triad. Sawyer had spats of remorse during his cons. Kate did not think she deserved a lot, except for her freedom. Shannon was more of a spoiled brat than psychopathic behaviorist. Cooper was a close second to Ben on tricking people to give up their prized possession - - - like an internal organ from Locke.

So there was a clear scientific basis for the character traits of the theme of con artists in the series.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

LOST DREAMS

There are various resources to interpret one's dreams.

Dreams are often viewed as a subconscious exercise to try to figure out what is bothering your conscious self.

If you dream about being "lost," it could mean several different things. One source states:


To dream that you are lost suggests that you have lost your direction in life or that you have lost sight of your goals. You may be feeling worried and insecure about the path you are taking in life. If you try to call for help, then it means that you are trying to reach out for support. You are looking for someone to lean on. Alternatively, being lost means that you are still adjusting to a new situation in which the rules and conditions are ever changing.  
To dream that someone else is lost represents some unresolved issues or feelings pertaining to the person that is lost. Consider what aspect of that person you may have lost within your own self. Perhaps you need to recapture and re-acknowledge those aspects.

In both instances, the main characters in LOST could have been in a dream state interpretation. Individually, they had lost their direction in their life either personally or professionally. They may have pieced together a collective imagination of strangers with similar problems in order to cope with their own issues. The main characters struggle is trying to acknowledge and accept various aspects of their life, their character and their fate.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

DREAM POLICE

Throughout history, literature came in standard format elements such as metaphor, symbolism, satire, exaggeration and codes. At times, the authors used those devices to criticize their leaders so as not to lose their heads. Writers use these methods to allow a reader's imagination to fill in the gaps. One of the most successful books that have been used over and over again as examples are the parables in the Bible.

As with the vagueness of LOST's premise and main plot line, many different themes and theories have arisen to explain the totality of the series. Was it purgatory? Was it a parallel universe? Was it time travel? Was it the avatar representation of players in a video game? Was it all a dream?

The latter has been a highly investigated topic. Many theorists have focused in on Jack's character as the source of the dream theory. It was Jack's eye opening to start the show's mythology that got people to thinking it was a link to the mind's eye, or subconscious state. It seemed to hold water when Jack's last island shot was him closing his eyes in the bamboo jungle after defeating MIB.

However, after recently hearing Cheap Trick's "Dream Police," there may be another suspect.

The dream police
They live inside of my head
The dream police
They come to me in my bed
The dream police
They're coming to arrest me
Oh no

You know that talk is cheap
And rumors ain't nice
And when I fall asleep
I don't think I'll survive

The night the night

'Cause they're waiting for me
Looking for me
Every single night
(They're) driving me insane
Those men inside my brain


What if the duality state of psychic responses was not in Jack's head but in Kate's?

It may make more sense because Kate's story line features all of the main character story elements. The show was supposedly all about character development more than plot.

The lyrics of the song pen a simple premise for Kate's dream state.

What was the major focus of Kate? To run away. To not accept responsibility. Not to grow up to make adult decisions toward accountability. And where do many people run to in troubled times? Into their own heads. The factually incorrect assumption through the series was that a U.S. Marshall was chasing down Kate for an Iowa state murder. The U.S. has no jurisdiction over murder, a state offense. And when she was "tried" for that murder, it was in California, another state without any jurisdiction. Those errors were so big and stupid it cast the whole series writing in doubt. 

The only real explanation for those egregious errors is that they were not real. 

If we accept the premise that Kate's story is fantasy, then a workable theory can be made from it.

When know the basic elements of her character: she was a rural child living with her working mother and lazy stepfather. She wanted attention so she caused trouble. She learned early how to manipulate young boys. She longed to get away from the chains of her family and to have adventures. But her family had no resources to send her away, and Kate seemed to have no attributes to better herself to go to school or college to make her own path.

LOST could be considered Kate's dream flight away from her boring life. Besides, Kate is the only person in the O6 story arc to have a "happy" outcome, i.e. getting her murder charges dismissed with a wrist slap. All the other O6 characters had brutal disappointments, including Jack turning into a drug/alcoholic, Sayid seeing the love of his life killed in an accident, and Locke being murdered by Ben.

And the other characters are elements of her personality, as depicted in Disney's recent movie Inside Out.

Shannon represents a vanity, a pretty but lazy girl who wants to be showered with gifts and attention. Locke represents her adventurous side. Sawyer represents her devious wants and desires. Hurley represents her shy but crazy side. Charlie represents her hidden creative talents. Ben represents her repressed anger against her parents. Jack represents conformity, the responsible person she is trying to avoid. Sayid represents the exotic problem solver. Claire represents the little girl trapped inside her head. The smoke monster was her deepest fears; reality. Mars, the marshal, represented her parents and the societal pressure to conform, behave and be accountable for your actions.

Throughout LOST, Kate was seemingly in the middle of every major event. She went on all the missions. Out of nowhere, she was an "expert" tracker. When she needed to be an expert marksman, she was. She got in and out of danger with barely a scratch. She always got what she wanted: escape and freedom. All the main story threads had Kate as a major factor: the plane crash, the O6 story arc, and the sideways world. In fact, Kate's story is exactly the same in both the island world and the sideways existence while the other characters had major differences. That is because Kate's mind was in control of both story worlds, bouncing back and forth like a pleasant dream to a nightmare. 

But as Kate got deeper and deeper into her fantasy dreams, the more dark they became. Add in "the Others," people who don't know her but want to control her. Jacob and MIB, tyrants who are trying to hurt her, kidnap her and enslave her mind - - - take away her freedom. 

Her Dream Police, her imagination,  were authority figures who were making demands on her. All the characters did indeed live inside her head. And when she was asleep, they tried to "arrest" her - - - take away the fantasy of adventurous freedom by putting her (and her character elements) in danger. There were times she felt she would not survive: as the plane was crashing, as she was chased into the mangrove roots by the smoke monster, when Ben held her captive, when MIB attacked the temple, when Claire lashed out at her, etc. 

So we may never really know who Kate really was. She could have been a transference of Libby, the mental patient in Hurley's group day room. As the song said, the dream police were driving her insane.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

AN ENDLESS BATTLE

One of the layers themes of LOST was akin to sibling rivalry.

We begin with the LOST mythology of using a waking eye. It is said to have symbolized an ancient Egyptian god.  The Eye of Horus was a powerful protective symbol, and represents the eye of the god Horus that was injured in a fight with the god of chaos, Set.  This battle was for control of the underworld from the god Osiris. 

Jacob and his brother were locked in a battle for the island. Jacob agreed to protect it, while his brother demanded to leave with the outsiders. But Crazy Mother said Jacob's brother could not leave. He killed her, then Jacob caused his brother's demise - - - and creating an eternal monster called The Man in Black, or a smoke monster. At some point there was a truce; and then a odd game between themselves using humans as pawns.

Then there was the battle of control over Dharma. Horus was challenged by Ben, who sided with the native Others. Ben used mass murder to overthrow Horus and eliminate any outsiders.

There were several rivalries around Jack. First, Jack had a rivalry between his father. His father's lack of interest or acceptance of Jack gnawed on his son. Second, Jack had a rivalry with Locke over the direction of the survivor's camp. Locke wanted to embrace the island. Jack wanted to find a means of leaving it. (The theme of mirroring as in the Jacob-MIB dynamic). Jack wanted the camp to move to the fresh water caves, but Sawyer, another rival, did not. And when Kate stayed on the beach with Sawyer, Jack had to suffer his first leadership defeat.

There were other personal battles. Desmond battled Widmore for Penny's affection. Hurley battled his own personal demons, including his "imaginary friend" Dave, for his own soul. Then there was Locke's rise to power in the Ben's Other's camp. The test was whether Locke could kill his father to become the leader. He could not, but since the Others had grown weary of Ben's tyranny, Alpert gave Locke a loophole to become king of the island.

So LOST could be viewed as a series of vignettes about two people butting heads. Stubbornness, anger, bruised egos, headstrong demands, illogical actions . . . . those were several key traits from the main characters draw out by the conflict between themselves.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

TWO LOSTS

There is a position in the LOST universe that says that the fans who hated The Ending never understood it. Or that they were never real fans of the show. Or they expected too many answers to the questions posed in the story lines.

In order to justify this viewpoint, it is said that the final season of LOST was its own universe, its own independent story - - - its own self-contained bubble. It's features and attributes do not reflect what was happening in the island world. In other words, the fact that the characters in the sideways world were dead did not mean that the characters were dead all along. But that in itself is only a supposition.

Except, there were connections between the two worlds. In the sideways world, it was a character's "awakening" that flooded back island memories to re-bond with lost friends and lovers.

But if you do want to separate LOST into two distinct, independent stories, here is what you get:

THE ISLAND world would apparently have ended with Juliet detonating the bomb, killing everyone on the island. Or, as the science would tell, you can't detonate an atomic bomb with a rock (there needs to be a complex chain reaction explosion to detonate a nuclear device), so the bomb did not work. That would mean the island characters were still "alive" and battling among themselves in the Jacob-MIB feud.

THE SIDEWAYS world would be totally different. For example, none of the characters were ever in a plane crash or lived on the island. They were normal people with normal problems. Ben was a school teacher taking care of his disabled father. Locke was a disabled substitute teacher who was happily married to Helen. Jack was divorced but from Juliet. He had a son. Hurley was a successful businessman after winning the lottery; a confident community leader. Sun and Jin had made it to the US. She was expecting their child.

Now, complete separation of the characters time lines has to be part of any independent universe view. In the linear story telling of the show, the sideways events happened AFTER the island events. And that creates a clear paradox. The children were born in the prior island time, but were not born in the sideways world until the end. And the End was a place of death so how can children be born in the sideways world? Again, the theory that the sideways is self-contained means it is not fair to ask that broad question.

Then you have to look at LOST as two franchises. The island and first 5 seasons were the original. The sideways episodes were the "re-boot" of the franchise (as JJ Abrams did with Star Trek). But that seems too confusing and inconsistent with what the show writers were telling fans at the end of Season 5.

One could divide the worlds into one where the gritty danger of real life engulfs a person with one where a person's dreams and imagination of a perfect life controls. If you take the sideways world as the collective dreams of the island characters, folding it like whipped cream into a cake batter, then you would discount Season 6 as mainly unimportant filler.

If, as some fans thought at the time, the sideways world was truly a glimpse of the characters if Flight 815 did not crash, then that would be fine . . . . until the point when the writers merged the fantasy with the island "awakenings" and the poor choices to conclude the series, such as Sayid embracing his alleged soul mate, Shannon, instead of Nadia. In fact, the whole structure of Season 6 was premised upon Eloise trying to keep Desmond and Penny a part in the sideways world - - - because she knew it would open a Pandora's box of memories to the characters which would cause her son, Daniel, to remember how cruel she was to him.

The two LOSTs explanation is one way of looking at the series. Two distinct character studies of the cast members. But that is a dry, academic explanation. And really unnecessary. If you wanted to show the good and moral side of a character, such as Ben, you could have made those changes in the island world story. You could have had the characters leave the island and try to adapt to LA instead of creating a conflicting, parallel universe.

LOST was one show and one series. It has to be accepted as being one, complete, and coherent story. The last part is what continues to cause fans the most problems. The blanket explanation that the show was only about the characters and their actions and reactions to events is shotgun logic. It does not explain the important mysteries the writers gave us to solve. It does not give closure. It just keeps fans debating the merits of the ending.


Monday, January 25, 2016

X-FILES REVIEW

The X-Files ran on Fox TV for 9 years, ending in May, 2002. It returned to the small screen after a 13 year hiatus through the work of the original creator, Chris Carter, and the original cast.

It started as a cult hit then morphed into a cultural phenomenon. The government conspiracy theories of the show's mythology hit a cord in the public, and spawned other science-fiction series and "alien" speculative shows that congregate today on the History Channel.

So I wanted to believe that the show re-boot could be well made. However, I did not have high expectations because the show leveled out and then faded away with answers to most of the big questions that the show runners had posed early on in the series.

By the end of the series it was revealed that a stealth group of men, The Syndicate, acted as the  liaison between mankind and a group of extraterrestrials that intends to destroy the human species. They were usually represented by "The Smoking Man," a ruthless killer, masterful politician, negotiator and the series' principal antagonist. As the series went along, Mulder and Scully learn about evidence of the alien invasion piece by piece. It is revealed that the extraterrestrials plan on using a sentient virus, known as the "black oil,"  to infect mankind and turn the population of the world into a slave race. The Syndicate—having made a deal to be spared by the aliens—have been working to develop an alien-human hybrid that will be able to withstand the effects of the black oil.

In between that main story arc, FBI agents Mulder and Scully went on paranormal and monster investigations of strange cases. Scully, a physician, was skeptical at first but slowly turned as she started to not being able to explain away conflicting scientific evidence. It was the chemistry between the two main characters that made the original show very good.

But in the re-boot premiere, there was no real chemistry between the main actors. David Duchovny went on monotone rapid fire speeches and Gillian Anderson looked tired and wooden in her performance. The only believable actor was John McHale's protrayal of a conservative conspiracy nut who has made a personal fortune out of poking a stick at government shadows. It is through McHale's character's television show connections that Mulder resurfaces from his apparent Unibomber retirement existence, while Scully is working with surgeons at a hospital who correct rare birth defects in children.

Part of the problem of the premiere was the forced writing to bring a new audience up to speed with the 9 years of past episodes between the main characters. It did not work.

The main reason Mulder and Scully are re-united in a new investigation is to meet a young woman named Sveta, who claims to have fragmented memories of having her fetuses stolen from her during her alleged alien abductions. She hints that Mulder had interviewed her and her family before, but may not have believed her. If she does possess alien DNA, Mulder asks Scully to run a DNA test.

 Later, McHale's character, O'Malley,  takes Mulder to a secret location where human aircraft built from alien technology is being housed by the next generation of the Lone Gunmen, but with much more resources and capital. Mulder is amazed by the alien spacecraft replica that runs on "free" energy and can disappear/teleport. We are led to believe that this is what the bad guys are after.

During her medical examination, Sveta makes several observations which allude to Scully's strained relationship with Mulder, making her uncomfortable. She remarked at one point that it was very difficult for her to contact Mulder, who appears to be living underground in some state of echo paranoia.  There is a throw-a-way line from Sveta that infers that Mulder and Scully had a child. When the test results on Sveta's blood come back, Scully orders it re-examined but we don't know why. Later, Scully herself takes a blood test to check herself.

Because of what O'Malley has shown him, Mulder comes to believe that he and Scully had been misled all along during their original career with the X-Files. Mulder's suspicions are confirmed when he with the old doctor from the Roswell crash site. Mulder tells him that he believes that alien technology was used on people and made to look like aliens had done so. He also outlines a global conspiracy involving hoarding and testing alien technology to prepare for an attack on America. The old man tells him he is close to the truth.

Following these revelations, Mulder begins to doubt his belief that aliens are the primary force behind the global conspiracy against humanity, but is instead a group of violent ultra-fascists armed with alien technology attempting to subvert democracy and assume power over the United States and then the Earth. He rattles off a list of government intrusions into America's private lives, liberty and constitutional rights since 9/11 (all done for "national security") plus the "distraction" of many different wars across the globe.

However, at a meeting Scully lies to Mulder and Sveta about the DNA test results. She states that she found no alien DNA. This puts a major hole in the hole conspiracy evidence chain. It unravels Mulder's entire theory.

Before O'Malley can go public with his claims, there is a counter strike: O'Malley's website is shut down, Sveta goes on TV to tell the world that O'Malley is a liar and a fraud, the replica space ship and scientists are killed by men dressed in military uniforms, and a UFO stops then destroys Sveta's car, seemingly with her inside. Mulder and Scully meet in a dark parking garage and Scully reveals that she has alien DNA, just like the girl O'Malley introduced to them. Mulder states that she is the key to exposing the testing and those responsible.

The episode ends revealing the Smoking Man, cancer having taken his throat,  alive in the present day, stating that the FBI unit, the X-Files,  has been re-opened to apparently re-start an investigation into his sinister group.

It is okay to manipulate and twist the main character into doubting his old past into a new conspiracy direction, but the premiere did it too swiftly and awkwardly to make us truly want to care about what is about to happen. By turning the original premise that aliens were coming to Earth to set the stage for a global invasion and world enslavement on its ear may not sit well to original fans by now claiming that the aliens are not the enemy but a band of human Illuminati taking alien technology to rule the world.

For the first part of the premiere, it was underwhelming. The second part of the premiere needs to bring back the action and clever writing between the main characters or the short series will turn into a very bad relationship counseling session between two old, tired and uninteresting main characters.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

MIRROR MIRROR

One of the props and themes of LOST was the mirror. Characters would look into a mirror to contemplate a decision or change. The main characters personal issues seem to mirror each other.

But what is a mirror? 

A mirror is a reflective surface, now typically of glass coated with a metal amalgam, that reflects a clear image. It also means something regarded as accurately representing something else: the stage is supposed to be the mirror of life. In Computing, it is a site on a network that stores some or all of the contents from another site.As a verb, mirror means to show a reflection something such the clear water mirrored the sky.
It also means to correspond to, such as gradations of educational attainment that mirror differences in social background.

The origin of the word "mirror" is Middle English: from Old French mirour, based on Latin mirare ‘look at.’ Early senses also included ‘a crystal used in magic’ and ‘a person deserving imitation.’


And the early sense may be the basis for the plots of LOST.  Ben told Locke that the island was "a magic box," and if wished hard enough, he would get his wish granted. In Locke's case, his wish was to confront his devious father, Cooper, for one last time. In that situation, Cooper said that he was driving along then he was run off the road in an accident - - - and suddenly wound up as a prisoner on the island. Cooper clearly believed he had died and gone to hell.

Sideways Jack once looked into a mirror and saw unfamiliar scars, scars from his childhood or injuries from the island plane crash. That could have meant that Jack was looking at his future self, or that Jack was looking through a portal to another universe. 

The main characters in the sideways world would frequently confronted themselves in mirrors or reflective surfaces. According to Jack Bender, executor producer and director of LOST, these scenes showed the characters figuratively and literally "confronting their images and the reflections of themselves." The visual metaphor expressed the flash sideways' theme of introspection, and also represented how the flash sideways showed "what you wish for or what you're scared of."

That may be a too simple, too vague explanation of this device.

And it does not explain why the series added a second dimension of the sideways world into the main story line.

The various fan theories on mirrors from lostpedia are:

Deja Vu


  • The mirror moments correspond to characters' brief *remembrance* of their lives on the island, before some major shift causes the alternate timeline to take over their lives and cause fairly complete amnesia. The reflective gaze is especially apt to triggers these memories, though it need not be the only way a character experiences deja vu.
    • This seems to be supported by Jack's behavior. He notices an inexplicable bruise on his neck at LAX airport and later suffers similar confusion over his appendectomy (albeit via direct body inspection, not mirror use).

Parallel "Bleed Through"


  • The moments when alt-timeline characters observe themselves in mirrors represent the effect of a bleed-through with the simultaneously occurring main time line.

Mirror as Window into Different Timeline


  • Gazing through a mirror, either on the Island Lighthouse  or within the alt-timeline, provides a means of seeing into the other timeline.  Jacob uses the mirror to gaze into many different possible outcomes, past, future, and within the flash-sideways. Characters in the flash-sideways gazing or reacting emotionally to a mirror are subliminal accessing a different chronology/reality.
 But coupled with the other evidence that the frozen donkey wheel was a time-space portal, the link between the mirror (magic) and the two different worlds (island, sideways-after life) leads to different universes theory.

Many scientists believe that there are multiple parallel universes that exist simultaneous in the same space. Think of it like your car radio - - - each separate station is a different universe but in the same space of your vehicle. Just like when a storm or electric power lines cause radio interference, two stations may blur today on the sound speakers. This overlap may be what was happening at certain points in the LOST story lines. Mainland Jack was seeing images of Island Jack; Sideways Jack was seeing images of Island Jack. But each Jack was a different "person" in a different "universe." That would explain the major differences in Jack's personal life: in the Mainland, he had been married without a child to Sarah; but in the Sideways world he had been married to Juliet and he had a son. "Jack" never reconciled the differences in his personal life between the Mainland and the Sideways realities. Maybe, he did not need to. Perhaps his "death" in the portal island world collapsed his various separate lives into one universe - - - the sideways one. 

That would explain why Juliet suddenly fell for a complete stranger, Sawyer, with only a glancing touch. Their island universe experience suddenly rushed into their sideways world and overwhelmed their sideways past experiences.

Three different universes. Three different Jacks, Juliets, Sawyers, etc. Their lives seem to collapse into one time line like the matter at the event horizon of a black hole.