Tuesday, November 25, 2014

JACK WAS NOT A DOCTOR

Jack was not a medical doctor. He was never a great spinal surgeon. He never saved Sarah. It was all a lie or illusion.

Jack's back story is that of an incredibly talented surgeon. In 2001, Sarah's spine was severely crushed, and Jack told her she would never walk again. This bluntness bothered Christian. Sarah's fiance responded superficially upon hearing her condition, and Jack overstepped his professional relationship with Sarah, promising "to fix" her. He initially believed he failed, but a stadium runner named Desmond  suggested he may not have. Jack tearfully informed Sarah of his failure. She then wiggled her toes, and Jack realized he'd fixed her. The problem is that medical science would not have allowed such a miracle to happen. One cannot reconnect severed nerves.

In July of 2004, a nurse observed Jack's  intoxicated father botch a surgery. She called in Jack, who failed to save the patient. Christian asked he sign a falsified death report absolving him of blame, and though Jack initially refused, he later agreed. He then saw his father console the deceased woman's husband, who was threatening legal action, and learned the woman was pregnant when she died. Jack revised his statement, blaming his father's drinking for the patients' death. This cost Christian his medical license. In reality, Jack's conduct also would have cost him his medical license due to unprofessional conduct and malpractice under strict California regulations.

So Jack's back story is highly suspect. However, he could have "believed" that this happened to him because of the inner, subconscious desire to be "better" than his father, so Christian would acknowledge him. But if Jack as a boy was driven to prove himself to his father, but failed because he lacked the talent or will, then one could assume that would lead Jack down a dark path, emotionally and psychologically.  It could have led him into depression, drugs and alcoholism.

On the island, "miracle doctor" Jack had a horrible track record. Jack could not save the Marshall, Boone, Shannon or Sayid.  He refused to help an injured Colleen, which violates his oath as a physician. Beyond basic first aid, Jack really did not perform any highly skilled medical miracles on the island.

But it was his conduct with Ben's medical problem that is a real issue. Jack's review of Ben's spinal x-ray was wrong. The tumor was diagnosed on the wrong lumbar number. He later incorrectly stated that Ben's symptoms would be in his fingers and toes. Such symptoms are generally characteristic of cervical tumors - in the neck, not lower back (which would be toes only). Then when Jack now agreed to operate on Ben,  he deliberately cut Ben's kidney sack during the surgery, which based on the state of the OR and lack of personnel and blood, would have killed Ben, especially after he woke up during the surgery!

So what about the two different "versions" of Jack? The pre-island miracle doctor vs. the ordinary man on the island.

It could be argued that the pre-island version of Jack was Jack's own ego. A dream, fantasy, a mental condition of greatness because Jack could not equal his father's accomplishments. This puts Jack as a candidate for the theories that the LOST premise was all made up in the mind of a mental patient, or at least someone trapped in their own deep fantasy world.

It would stand to reason then that the pre-island back stories could also not be true. They could be the fantasies of the characters - - - such as Kate murdering her abusive father. She never did it; but she thought about it. The same would be true for Sawyer. He never became a con man to track down his parents killer.

But that still opens the question of whether the island was "real" or part of an imaginary, collective community dream (or massive on-line game, the latter being characteristic for all the "loners" in the series). Assuming that Jack landed on the island under his own cover of being a doctor, it is odd that no one challenged him when he made medical mistakes. Was everyone else naive, scared or plain dumb? Or, again in a game setting, it really did not matter. You chose your own character.

The idea that Jack was not really a doctor is intriguing because it opens up other avenues of investigation into the unanswered mysteries. If one part of the LOST experience was not "real" in the sense of actual events (such as Jack's back story), that may help explain the massive continuity errors in island events. It could also give us a clue to the basic premise of the show.

Monday, November 24, 2014

MINIMALISM

Minimalism was a trend in sculpture and painting that arose in the 1950s and used simple, typically massive, forms. It is also an avant-garde movement in music characterized by the repetition of very short phrases that change gradually, producing a hypnotic effect.

Is it possible to strip away all the tangents, subplots, tangents and secondary characters to find a Minimalistic LOST

By looking to simple, large story elements, can LOST be condensed into a more focused driven drama?

I think you could condense the entire series into five characters trapped on the island. You don't have to change the characters personalities or motivations. You just have five large puzzle pieces to focus the action and interactions. If LOST was about relationships, then a concentrated, intense story between these characters living through in untenable situations would be epic.

I think you can start with the starting point of a single person living on the island (like Crazy Mother when Claudia's Roman ship wrecked off the island's shore): Ben.

Then, like in that back story, only four new characters need to wind up floating ashore (from a plane crash, ship wreck, booze cruise disaster-fight going overboard into the ocean, etc.): Sawyer, the con man; Locke, the bitter dreamer; Kate, the fugitive muse; and Jack, the miracle doctor.

The island, through Ben, is a dark and dangerous place. Ben's back story is simple. He was brought to the island by his bitter, alcoholic father (who blames him for his mother's death). Ben is extremely unhappy being a peon in the Dharma labor camp, so he seeks revenge against everyone because no one acknowledges him. He kills them all. And once he is alone on the island, he goes a little crazy.
(There is no need for guardians, magic, time travel or any other twisty tropes.) Just a young boy who turns himself into a serial madman.

 The rest of the characters could have been plane crash victims, a charter plane that goes off-course from Fiji, and ditches in a storm. The minimalistic background for each person on that plane:

Kate: still running away from the authorities for murdering her father;
Sawyer: searching for his parents' killer;
Locke: having quit his job, he is seeking adventure and purpose in his life; and
Jack: having a Thailand-like booze vacation to forget about his father's sudden passing.

Each of these passengers realize that surviving the plane crash was their second chance to live their lives the way they thought they would have if not sidetracked by the events in the back stories.

The plot lines are also fairly simple.

Kate, being the lone woman, would use her charms to get the men to protect and serve her.
Sawyer, also being a charmer, but a territorial possessive person, would push back to get what he would want.
Jack, being the lone professional, would seek compromise, balance and common sense to survive their ordeals.
Locke, being mindless and reckless, would seek to claim the island as its new demi-god.
Ben, who for all purposes, the current island god, would seek to enslave, manipulate and control the new arrivals until he tired of them or found them of no use.

Ben could start off as a sympathetic figure: a long, lost survivor of a different "tragedy." He can help the new castaways with food and shelter as a means of gaining their trust. A trust that his mental condition will twist over time into betrayal.

Kate could also have the initial upper hand. Men are drawn to her magnetic, gregarious personality. She is a little of "the girl next door" and a little tomboy. She is clever, witty and flirty. It is possible that she could see the benefit of getting close to all the men on the island. In fact, her charms would be the catalyst to learn the backgrounds of the other characters.

Sawyer is an anti-social element. He is a loner. He can find a person's weakness in order to exploit it to his own advantage. He had seduce women to steal their money. He seeks a challenge, and on the island that turns to Kate. He would find conflict in following other people's orders or directions. He could easily be labeled a saboteur by evil Ben, as he starts to divide and conquer this group.

Locke has the arrogance of self-delusion of greatness. He believes himself to be the great outback hunter trapped in a shipping clerk's body.  His lack of leadership skills (and results) will put him at the bottom rung in the new island order. The others will not take him seriously. He will become resentful, cold, and at times, lash out verbally and physically. This could parallel the madness that engulfed Ben during his long time on the island.

Jack is not only trapped on the island, but trapped in his own ethics of "saving" people. He will do anything to save his fellow islanders, to the point of being blindsided by their manipulations of him. He may be an initial figurehead leaders, but the people around him are trying to be the puppet masters behind the facade. He will be challenged first by Locke, then by Sawyer. He will be betrayed by Ben (and Kate, who uses Sawyer's physical desires to her advantage.). The love triangle turns into a Bermuda Triangle of hate, suspicion, arguments, and shuffling of alliances.

Things would get to the tightrope stage when Ben makes his move on Kate (like the beach scene when she was kidnapped with Sawyer and Jack and taken to the Barracks). When Kate is repulsed by Ben's advances (and his "deal" to make her queen of his island paradise), Ben turns into a raging smoke monster of hate and revenge. This would pit two hot blooded avengers (Ben and Sawyer) against each other. This conflict would appease both Jack and Locke, for they have positioned themselves in a faith vs. science resolve for survival, with each believing their position will lead to safety, rescue or most of all, winning Kate's heart.

But at a certain point, Kate realizes that all her flirtations, manipulations, promises and passions have turned the other characters into cavemen. She can see their personalities change, and she become afraid at what she has done. The more she attempts to withdraw from their conflicts, the more the anger and resentment levels increase.

The close quarters of just a few strong characters could lead to excellent drama, action and plot twists without using the ruse of magic, time travel, supernatural elements or invading mercenaries.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

CONVERGENCE


Convergence?

One of the worst film and TV tropes  is when a character has a very important piece of information, but refuses to explain what’s going on because “you just have to see it or figure it out for yourself.”

To the average viewer, this proposition is almost never true; it’s just a contrived way of dragging out a scene for a dramatic effect or to stretch story arcs with filler material.  In reality, there are very few events that cannot be explained in one sentence.

How many times during LOST did you yell at the screen telling a character to ask an obvious question to another character?!

In their end chats, the producers are keen to say that part of the appeal of LOST was the questions and not the answers. Well, yes and no. Yes, viewers were captivated by the mysteries and unanswered questions, but no, the vast majority of viewers wanted answers to those mysteries and questions. And the funny thing is, any answer would have been okay.

The collision of two parallel universes with the island as a focal point. Fine.
The collective delusions of a mental institution patient roster. Fine.
The surreality of phasing between realms like heaven and hell. Fine.
The overlapping world of invisible dopplegangers. Fine.
It was all a dream. Fine.

A bad answer is still an answer. It is a matter of subjective opinion.

But not to answer is a matter of objective scorn.

Mysteries and questions create the action which must converge with answers in order to resolve the story plot issues. Otherwise, it is mostly a mental roller coaster ride of nothingness, just the fleeting thrill of the plot twists and turns.

If you want to leave the viewers to figure it all out by themselves, then you must give them actual clues and not dead ends or red herrings to get to the answer. Agatha Christie does not end her books with a a blank page after the sentence, "and the murderer is . . ." LOST gets poor marks from giving clues in context and continuity to paint the final picture for viewers.

Some believe that the "filler" or the roller coast ride so to speak dragged down and altered the LOST experience. The idea of the Other 48 tail section passengers was clearly filler. In the Star Trek universe, they were Red shirts (fodder to be killed off). The back story of the Dharma folks was immaterial and irrelevant to the castaways story of survival. The back story of Jacob and his brother was also not a focal point to move the viewers toward Season 1 and 2 answers. The time travel story arc was a continuity mess and weakest part of the show.

If you strip away the layers of filler paint, what is left on the canvas?

The producers claim that the big picture was The Big Question: life and death.

But they did a poor account of communicating their position on the meaning of life and the purpose of death. There was no moral center in the stories. There was no judgment or punishment for sins. There was no redemptive moments. TPTB that the ending was more spiritual than anything else. But that is not an answer, it is a white wash because spirituality can mean thousands of different things to a thousand different people. How did Jack become "spiritual?" He never did either in life or in death. He had no religious convictions or contemplation of the universe during the series. So it is specious to say that the show was about Jack's spiritual journey.

The only thing that converged in the end was Jack's soul to his body in some after life church. But that does not answer how or why Jack got to that point of existence, or for that matter, what existence Jack had before entering the church.

Perhaps the writing of the show was parallel to early first person shooter video games, that run through various levels of game play (the action) with no real end point or goal.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

WAKING UP DEAD

"He woke, and remembered dying." - Ken MacLeod, The Stone Canal.

That opening line has been considered one of the great starts to science fiction novel.

I have not read it, but the premise is an excellent leaping off point to a story.

In the case of LOST, the seminal Season One scene is Jack opening his eyes in the bamboo grove.
Some would now say, he woke up and did not remember dying in the plane crash.

Because the stated mechanism to "resolve" the series story lines was to "awaken" in the sideways world and "remember" you were dead, it could be logically concluded that Jack was dead on the island but he did not realize it.

Adding the Egyptian mythology sewn into the fabric of the show, that makes sense. Jack's soul ("the ba") would have passed to another dimension (the sideways) while his body and mind ("the ka")would have to journey through the underworld (the island) in order to be judged worthy of "reuniting" with his soul.

This simple premise makes the most sense in dealing with the polarizing, negative debates on what really happened in the series.

It also validates two different theories and beliefs.

The characters were "alive" on the island. Yes, they were alive on the island because they did not know they were dead. What happened on the island did happen to Jack's "ka," but only to part of his spiritual being in physical form. For all intensive purposes, Jack was living in a physical form.

The other part of the character's mortal being, the ba, were transported to what we would consider an afterlife realm, a forehell or purgatory, in which the souls are also "unaware" that they have lost connection with their physical, mortal, human body. These souls are continuing their former "lives" on memories in a spiritual form. The characters were in an illusion of physical beings; the reality was shown when Christian opened the church doors to show the reality of their realm was only white light.

The spiritual circuit can only re-connect when the character's island ka realizes that it is dead at the same time the character's ba realizes that it is also dead. Jack's moment of enlightenment happened at Christian's coffin, and his father replied that everyone has to die sometime.

Friday, November 21, 2014

DEJA VU

Have you ever been somewhere that you have never been before, but felt like there was something about it that struck a chord in your mind and seemed familiar? If so, you've experienced the mental phenomenon known as deja vu.

Deja vu happens to most people but it's something that no one has yet to fully understand. Approximately 60 to 70 percent of people have experienced deja vu on at least one occasion in their lives. When it happens, one of our senses - be it our sight, sound, smell or taste - can convince us that we have lived through an experience before even if we know on a rational level that we have not.


Scientists have come up with physiological hypotheses of why deja vu exists but to date nothing has been proven conclusively. It is important to stop here and note that deja vu, which is being convinced that a first visit to a place seems known or familiar even when it is not, is not the same as other similar phenomena such as precognition and clairvoyance.

Precognition is when an individual has a premonition about an event that will occur in the future. Clairvoyance is when an individual is able to perceive something that is out of the natural range of any of the five senses. These two phenomena are closely linked to deja vu but are not exactly the same.

In the context of LOST, this can be a possible explanation of the split universes, the island vs. the sideways world. Even in the apparent island time line, where Desmond meets Jack at the stadium for the first time, there is a deja vu moment. And when Jack meets Desmond at the Hatch, there is a immediate flash back connection even though their past meeting was minor and short. Likewise, the characters in the sideways world are living lives with a certain deja vu that something is hidden under the surface; things are not quite right.

Deja Vu Categories

Deja vu can be broken down into two categories. These categories include associative deja vu and biological deja vu.

Associative deja vu is more common. This is the kind of deja vu that the average healthy individual experiences. In this case the person can see, hear, smell, or touch something that evokes a feeling in them that is associated with a similar sensation to something they have experienced in the past. Researchers believe this kind of deja vu is connected to the memory centers found in the brain.

Biological deja vu happens to those individuals who suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy. In fact, these people often have an unusual experience such as this before they have a seizure. deja vu of this kind is often described as being very intense. It's an easier way for scientists to study the phenomenon and has helped them identify the parts of the brain that play a role in the sensations that arise. However, many researchers believe that associative deja vu, sometimes called typical deja vu, and biological deja vu are very different in nature.

Theories Regarding Deja Vu

Many individuals, including those in the scientific and medical community, have tried to explain away the phenomena of deja vu. Is it a psychic phenomenon or is it not? Why do some people experience it and not others? What is at work here when a person believes they have visited a place before but in reality have never set foot in that spot? These are all questions that at present defy answers.

Parapsychologists are psychologists who study paranormal phenomena. These professionals have theorized that deja vu is a past life experience re-emerging in a person's mind. Some individuals believe that it's an emotional response to an event that taps into some incident from the past.

Still others believe that the brain is short circuiting and that it is a neurochemical action taking place that has no connection whatsoever to any life events. In other words, an individual is overcome by a strange feeling and connects it to a memory when really it is something that is all together new and unfamiliar to them.

At the present time deja vu remains yet another one of the fascinating mysteries of life that involves secrets locked away in the brain that it is not ready to reveal. It is believed that the sense of sight is most often connected with the experience but that, too, is up for debate and requires more research. The knowledge we have gleaned about deja vu is only the tip of a much larger iceberg.

And here is where LOST intersections with the mysteries of science.

If deja vu is a paranormal phenomena, then the symptomatic use of deja vu in the series could be considered a clue as the premise of the show. There is an underlying medical condition to a primary character(s) who feed upon a mental abnormality to create the action we viewed throughout the series. This goes beyond a theory that this is all in Hurley's head (living in a mental institution with imaginary friends). This could postulate that the feelings of deja vu are more interdimensional memories and thoughts that bleed through time and space (life events on island bleed through to the sideways world, or vice versa). Deja vu is the packet (like computer signals on the internet) of information that registers in a person's subconscious, which other researchers believe is the key to evaluating and making later conscious decisions.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

THE QUEST

In all great historical stories and myths, there is a difficult quest that the main character must endure in order to find his answers.

A quest is a long or arduous search for something important.

In the series, various characters were looking for answers but few were truly on a quest.

Locke was an angry, lonely child - - - bounced from foster home to foster home. He had no father. He had a crazy mother. He longed to be popular, but his intelligence outcast him to the geeky group in school. Throughout his life, he turned away from applying his natural talents in order to chase the illusion of grandeur of the high school jock, or adventurous outback hunter. In the show, Locke continued on his fantasy illusion, not finding answers but running into the same societal judgments and roadblocks that angered him so.

Sayid was also an angry child - - - having to do the dirty work for his older brother. He was the one who became tormented by family honor to become a self-hating soldier. He knew he could not fit into normal society because his training had created a monster within him. He ran away from his homeland, feebly chasing a vision of his dream girl, but only to wind up in a miserable place with people weary of his background and his purpose.

Sawyer was also an angry child - - - having his parents killed by a con man's greed set him on the path of revenge. Finding the man who ruined his life became an obsession that ruined Sawyer's own life. Instead of learning from the experience, he became what he hated most: the con man. In the show, Sawyer never changed his self-preservation mode.

Most people believe the LOST mythology best suits Jack. Jack was a child who wanted the attention and admiration of his father. But he never got it. This void motivated Jack to become a miracle worker surgeon. And that got nothing from his father but criticism. So when his father died suddenly, Jack had no means to get the acknowledgement from his father. He was lost in his own psychic pit of growing despair. It was on the island that Jack chased the ghost Christian to find an answer to the hole in his heart. But in the end, the long journey led Jack not to an answer, but to a cruel, unfortunate death. There was no grand revelation. There was no grand moment of enlightenment.

It does not fit the classic pattern as used in Star Wars. Luke is also a lonely child, his parents gone. He is living on a desert planet doing mindless work. He has no prospects and has no adventure if he stays on his home world. But once his family is killed, he is set on a course to fight against the tyranny of the Empire. He joins forces with an old wizard and slowly learns the way of an ancient religion, to grasp and combine with the Force to defeat his enemies. Along his journey, Luke meets up with a cast of misfits, royalty and evil masters - - - so he has to confront danger, and defeat it in order to protect the people he cares about. Luke overcomes his sparse upbringing to become an enlightened Jedi Knight.

Jack's journey does not have all the elements of Luke's. Jack is not transformed into an enlightened individual. He would have met up with his father in the after life no matter what happened to him on the island. The people in the church were people he knew from the island, but they did little to mold him into a better person (some would say his island experience threw him into deeper darkness and despair). And what did Jack find in the end? The anti-climatic twist was that he was dead, everyone was dead, and it was time to "move on."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

INTERCONNECTION

Advice columnist Ann Landers made in the 1990s this observation on the benefits of the Internet:

"It's wonderful for the lonely. There are a great many lonely people out there, and it makes them feel that they're a part of the living world. They can talk to somebody. Somebody will talk to them. And I think it's wonderful."

The characters in LOST fit that description a decade after she wrote those words.

Each of the main characters in the series were alone. A few had abandonment issues; a few had self-esteem issues; some were socially awkward; some harbored deep pain and resentment that they could not share with anyone. Loneliness is a yoke that chokes off a person's socialization in their community. Loners tend to withdraw into themselves. They tend to live in their own room, isolated from outside contact. There are few avenues of expression. They guard themselves against anything new, because they believe they will get hurt in the end.

So the characters have issues, deep issues.

The series focal point was Numbers, people as data. The candidates were numbers. The airplane was a number. The survivors were numbers. Numbers equate to a mathematical system, such as the basis of computer programs, modules and levels.

Some theorized that LOST represented the in-game, on-line community of loners who find their own community playing a survival game called LOST on the internet. Each person shown in the series is a representative avatar of a real person isolated in their dark, lonely room, waiting for interaction and missions with their "on-line" co-players. Like in any game, there are teams competing for something (power, control, territory, kills). The island is their game map. Exploration is part of the fun. Danger is part of the game play. How players interact with other is a key component to the outcome of the game itself. And that final reward for "winning" the game (through escape, sacrifice, redemption or whatever sub-code reward there is) was going to Heaven.

Simple ending to a complex on-line game which had little rules (or at least confusing rules).