Monday, May 25, 2015


Despite all my rage, I'm still just a rat in a cage...
Despite all my rage, I'm still just a rat in a cage...
Someone will say what is lost can never be saved...
Despite all my rage, I'm still just a rat in a cage...

Smashing Pumpkins.

This chorus could sum up LOST.

All the main characters led not "great" lives. They have had professional triumphs, but led painfully lonely personal lives. They may have had criminal pasts or mental issues which led to painfully lonely lives.

One could see the analogy of dropping broken spirited individuals onto an island to see how they interact with each other.

Daniel used a lab rat to experiment with conscious time travel.  In the end, it ruined his and his girlfriend's minds.

The analogy could go further to explain that the whole LOST experience could have been the tortured lost mind of Daniel after subjecting himself to his own experimental backlash.

The conflicting science in the show is the conflicting scientific principles colliding in Daniel's fragile mind which could not explain how his girlfriend was permanently injured. The idea of his step-father, Widmore, being an evil incarnate or his mother being a controlling soul trying to isolate him from the real world may have been phobia and paranoia of a comatose mind. For Daniel broke away from both his parents by imagining himself going back (in time) to an island to "rescue" plane crash victims.

Except, there were plane crash victims to save. Daniel's mind experiments may have unlocked a portal to an alternative universe or dimension which he could interact with the lost souls of Flight 815 as they journeyed through the after life. Daniel in essence was a hitch hiker on others cosmic journey in time and space. The afterlife has no physics or rules so it was hard for an analytical mind like Daniel's to cope with this new reality. A reality that his mind recognized but the other people he had mental contact with did not. The main characters were not aware that they were dead until the end. But instead of being upset by the news, the characters seemed surreal and content by their fate. They did not question how or why they died, or even where they were - - - - it was like a burden was lifted from each of the them with a large sigh of relief. Their experiment or journey was over. They were no longer rats in a cage for survival. They could move on to an eternal retirement.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Many of my friends who were die hard Mad Men viewers felt that the show's conclusion was great. There were several vocal writer-critics of the series end. They did not like the new justification for acclaimed series ending on ambiguities like the Sopranos or even LOST.

But reading more the of back story on lead character Don Draper, I find it hard to connect the dots to the ending. Yes, the McCann advertising agency in real life created that brilliant Coke ad. However, the ad executive who actually did it was trapped in an airport observing fellow passengers passing the time during the delay. The majority of people felt the ending of the iconic commercial was done by a returning Draper to the agency. But that assumption does not follow from what we saw from the Draper character prior to the end.

I had not realized at first that Draper was a con man of sorts. He assumed the identity of a fallen comrade in the Korean war in order to get home. Once back into the states, he assumed this dead soldier's name (and some reputation as being a Purple Heart hero) in order to run away from his troubled past life. These are familiar themes and plot lines in LOST.

In Draper's own mind, his past including his name, was killed in Korea. By erasing his past in such a manner, he was free to become the man dreamed of becoming: a highly successful person with all the rewards of the age - - - wine, women and song.

But big secrets are like one's shadow - - - always there to haunt you when you least expect it.  Apparently, his past would crop up during the series, but he always managed to charm his way to keep it a secret so he could continue his path to wealth and fame.

Part of the cost of keeping such a secret was the divorce to his first wife.

Part of the cost of keeping such as secret was keeping around an associate more ambitious than himself.

Part of the problem of keeping such a secret is that over time it will wear you down. At some point people like you, respect you, love you not for the real you but the illusion that you had created: Don Draper, dapper great advertising giant.

So when his NY ad world collapses around his illusion (with his second divorce, and his small agency being taken over by a heartless giant), Draper reverted to back what he did in Korea - - - he found a way to run away from his problems and responsibilities. In essence, the last couple of episodes was all about Draper killing the Draper persona.

You can tell by the evidence that he started calling himself his old nickname, Dick. It shows that he had discarded his NY life and the fraud that continued to eat at his soul. He could not go back to his hold Dick Whitman life because he killed that off a long time ago (he was officially dead). So this character had now created a man without an identity or purpose; a body without a soul.

So as he wandered out west, bouncing in and out of bed and in and out of trouble, Draper really did not care what would happen to him. In his final phone call to Peggy, to say goodbye, he meant it. He was never coming back to McCann or his old life. It was over. Peggy sensed suicide and she was partially right: Don killed his identity to assume a new one unrelated to his past - - - some new age. transcendent loner.

That is why is it not realistic to believe that Draper suddenly changed his mind to return to NYC and create the iconic Coke commercial of total world peace through soda. That type of illusion was too great for even him to swallow.

This explanation is part of the tone of some viewers who felt "underwhelmed" by the finale. They thought that something unexpected, visual, striking and horrible would happen to Don. Negative expectations are still heightened expectations to viewers. But there was nothing truly negative as most of the story lines were wrapped up in a happy bow. Don's character sitting on a California bluff doing nothing but chanting is the exact opposite of what most viewers wanted to see in the end. But in one respect it is a full circle character arc where the Don persona of being the high profile, respected and wealth ad man is tossed aside to return to a second Dick persona of being a faceless loser and loner who is dropping out of society.

Monday, May 18, 2015


Having only seen the last 2.5 episodes of Mad Men last night (on the recommendation of many), I cannot personally conclude whether the ending was good, bad or indifferent since I don't know all the background stories of the characters (though I had a basic understanding through articles and reviews throughout the years). 

I did observe the New Hollywood thematic plot lines for a large ensemble cast woven into a premise of 1960s nostalgia. Advertising is the illusion to elicit dream fulfillment. Don, the golden boy advertising wunderkind, seemed to have had it all, twice, and lost it because of his personal demons, career pursuits, work stress and the gnawing fear of failure in a high pressure profession. One theme may have been you have to sacrifice everything to get to the top.

But I found two redemptive themes in the finale. First, the cliche that it is always darkest before the dawn as represented by Peggy's story. Our generation had the iron spike of work ethic pounded into our skulls. We were supposed to work hard, focus on the tasks at hand, and advance our careers to the top of our field. Success was measured by titles and bank account balances. But Peggy's story ended with a better reality check: that life is not about just work. You don't have to sacrifice everything for a career. And what may be missing in your life may be right in front of you if you stop and really think about it. Work, like life itself, is better shared with someone who cares about you.

Second, I believe in the principle that every person has one great financial opportunity in their lives. This principle can also be applied to one's own personal life. The problem is that people don't realize the opportunity when it comes along, or are too afraid to take the risk. In Pete's case, he never thought of the Lear job as an opportunity since he was dead set on his advertising career path (to be the next Don Draper). But once he realized it was an opportunity, he was given a second chance (another opportunity) to have the family life he always dreamed he would have, but far away from the corrupt action of NYC. If Pete did not make that realization and put his feelings on the line for his second chance, he most likely would have wound up like Don.

Now, another feature of New Hollywood series writing is the "non-ending ending" to a major character. The creative staff may do this in order to allow the fans to finish the story with their own theories and opinions. Don's story has that non-ending end vibe. He was the anti-hero. For a man who knew the human psyche so well to tap it to make impulse purchases, he could not control his own impulses. He was the focal point of what was good and bad in his generation. Many will think that he had a transcendental awakening on his road trip journey of self-discovery, but I saw it as a selfish guy running away from his responsibilities and problems. We never see him get back to work so it is speculative leap to conclude that Don's spiritual retreat galvanized his creative soul to make the iconic Hilltop Coke commercial (in reality, the idea for that spot was from an ad executive stuck in an airport in Ireland who observed a group of diverse people in the waiting area laughing and joking while drinking soda.)

It also harks back to the LOST controversy, where the final credits rolled over the airplane debris on the beach. Many thought that was the final clue to the mystery that the show's characters died in the plane crash and the plot was all based in purgatory (which TPTB still deny).

Instead of going back home to support his family with the struggles of his ex-wife's impeding death, Don pushed farther west, away from those responsibilities. It is more probable that he wanted to drop out of society, get away from the material culture his subconscious helped create; to be a loner so he would never get hurt again from the pain of meaningful relationships. When he told Peggy goodbye, he meant it. The advertising industry's Great White Whale was going to beach himself to never return to his past. Is that the great redemptive moment for this character? Maybe. Maybe not. There was a segment of the culture that did decide to "drop out" to become part of the Lost Generation.

Many loyal viewers liked how Mad Men ends. Prior to the show, there were many fan theories on how the show could end (including Don jumping off a roof like in the opening sequence.). But that open ended non-conclusion to Don's story line allows fans to project their own ending to their favorite character's journey. I still think that is a writer's cop-out in some respect.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


"Computers will overtake humans with AI at some within the next 100 years. When that happens, we need to make sure the computers have goals aligned with ours." - - - Steven Hawking.

Hawking is one of the great scientific minds of our generation. But he is one of a growing number of scientists who are cautioning humanity on the technology trend and future dependence on artificial intelligence.  He is also a true believer in the law of unintended consequences.

Currently, industry has focused in on "mechanical" artificial intelligence programs, those computers which run machinery instead of trained human workers. The idea that computer controlled machines can do more delicate or detailed work than the human eye is debatable, but the potential cost saving of robotic assembly has been proven.

There are the Terminator fearists that believe that advanced AI systems will find their own "consciousness" and turn on their human masters. The Borg in Star Trek could be considered a flawed computer code turning humans into machines. It is probably the dependence on technology that is most worrisome to scientists because it signals the dawn of "less human intelligence" in the general public.

Think of it this way: if computers are going to do the work for you, solve your problems from making a pot of coffee in the morning to building an entire smartphone in less than an hour, then humans won't have to think about doing any physical work. Humans mental capacity to apply knowledge into a tangible thing (such as making a smartphone) will atrophy. With everything given to us, there would nothing we would give to society. Such were the grotesque human sloths in the movie WALL*E.

One of the better examples of this kind of cause and bad effect is LOST's smoke monster. Since the island could flash between time periods (we only saw it flash to the past, and then back to the present) it is possible that the smoke monster was some form of future technology that got transported to the island. Since it was advanced technology from the distant future, it would be viewed as a mystery, supernatural or magic (as would you handing your smartphone to an 1880s merchant).

There is an analogy that our current technological dreams can manifest in our future technological nightmares.

How would the world be different if Nazi Germany perfected the nuclear bomb prior to the end of World War II? Would half the world now be speaking German?

How would the world be different if the Roman crusades in the Middle East had armored tank divisions against horse drawn Calvary of the Muslims?

How would the world react if a spacecraft landed in Washington D.C. and astronauts from the Mars colony said they have come home after 100 years in space?

One has to put context in the present. But in order to do so, one relies upon the past for experience but also the expectation of the future. As one could say, "the present is the future past."

One cannot readily untangle the twisted time threads in LOST's story lines. The jumps made little sense. The resulting paradoxes never explained or corrected. One cannot say that elements of an unknown future controlled the events on the island. Or that past civilizations were allowed to fully develop in the island cocoon to greater technological advances they we could imagine.

Friday, May 15, 2015


The Bear Cage passion play was the most illicit carnal scene in LOST.

After Kate was kidnapped by the Others, she was told to wash up, put on a summer dress, and meet Ben on the beach for wine and a light meal. It was at this meeting that Ben looked to charm, seduce and use Kate.

We think that Ben's first purpose was to find a new ally in Kate. He knew her background. In some ways, they were compatible: they both had father issues, broken homes, issues with authority, the need to control, highly manipulative and willing to play dirty. Many believe that this beach meeting was an awkward attempt by nerdy Ben to make a pass at Kate. In order for Ben to rule his kingdom, he needed a queen. His last attempt, his try with Juliet, ended in failure. A failure so bitter that Ben sent Juliet's lover, Goodwin, on a dangerous spy mission which would eventually lead to his death. Ben showed Juliet Goodwin's grave and cursed "you are mine." However, the only thing that came from that was an uneasy truce.

With Kate, he could literally find a new partner-in-crime. Ben possessed the one thing that Kate wanted: freedom and the lack of accountability for her actions. Ben could manipulate events in such a fashion where those dreams could come true (and perhaps he did during the O6 arc where Kate basically got no punishment for any of her crimes).

We don't know the full extent of the beach meeting, the proposed deals or what the final response was between the two parties. It seemed that Ben was rejected, and Kate thrown in an uncomfortable choice. She had feelings for Jack (who knew and kept her secrets) but was attracted to the bad boy, Sawyer. When Ben found out about her magnetic connection with Sawyer, he pounced - - - basically pitting Jack and Sawyer in a deadly love triangle.

Ben needed Jack's surgical skills to operate on his tumor. He knew that Jack would not cooperate with him. He tried to lure Jack into cooperation by having Juliet get a professional friendship started between them, then push it towards a pseudo relationship. Ben knew from the beginning that Juliet would play along with the game while at the same time try to double cross Ben. Ben wanted Juliet and Jack to bond so he can control them as a couple. If Jack fell for Juliet, Ben had the leverage to make Jack do his bidding.

Ben made Kate make a choice of who would live and die between her potential lovers. Would she choose Jack, who represented her future, or Sawyer, who represented her past?

Looks and actions can be deceiving; when Kate returned to the Bear Cages after rebuffing Ben's advances, she looked at the forlorn Sawyer in a new light. She must have realized that Ben knew Jack was more valuable to the Others than an independent troublemaker in Sawyer. Perhaps her true feelings swelled up inside her. Maybe it was a small spark of human kindness. But Kate did something she would not have done in the past without some reward - - - climbed into Sawyer's cage and made love to him.

It was a passionate, wanton display of lust that was captured by the security monitors for Jack to see.

This also fit into Ben's grand scheme - - - for if Jack had any romantic feelings for Kate, they were shattered by her shagging his obstructionist rival.

But was Kate's fling with Sawyer true love or pity sex for a condemned soul?

Afterward, Kate and Sawyer were put on a work gang building the runway. Jack began to get closer with Juliet in a way to plot against Ben. So in one respect, Ben's plan was coming together. He had separated the castaways into two groups so they would not work together. He put Juliet and Jack into one joint venture against him; something that he knew about and could out flank.

But Kate's relationship with Sawyer never went any deeper to full, complete romantic love.

In the cages on Hydra Island, Pickett asked Kate if she loves Sawyer and she responds that she does.  After the camp split, Kate went back to the Barracks for a little while, and she and Sawyer spent the night together. As Jack, Sayid, Hurley, Sawyer, and Kate leave the island on the chopper, Sawyer whispered something in Kate's ear, to her confusion. He kisses her and jumps off the chopper and into the ocean.

Prior to the Oceanic 6's return to the island, Sawyer tells Horace that he had a "thing for this girl once", but after three years, can barely remember her face. However, upon seeing Kate, he is awash with nostalgia, but it is short-lived as he reminds a worried Juliet that "nothing's changed", and that he's with her [Juliet]. After a young Ben gets shot by Sayid, Kate and Sawyer attempt to save his life by bringing Ben to the Others.

After Juliet's death, Sawyer leaves the main group, choosing to go at it alone. Kate, worried for his well-being, follows him back to the Barracks. She apologizes for Juliet's death, and starts to blame herself for the death by returning to the island.

Kate and Sawyer appear to be star-crossed lovers by their own choice. When Sawyer winds up back on shore after the helicopter escape, he drinks with Juliet on the beach. When the world goes strange (flash back in time), Sawyer becomes closer to Juliet than he ever did with Kate. So was Sawyer merely using Kate as a companion, or did he ever have true feelings for her. We could assume he did because he sacrificed himself to save her (in the helicopter).

So why did they not complete their romantic bond when both of them left the island in Frank's Ajira plane? Sawyer had lost his Juliet. Kate had lost her Jack. Both had lost their "spouses" after living with them for some time. Kate's relationship with O6 Jack fell a part before they returned to the island. Sawyer's love for Juliet was cruelly taken away from him - - - and he blamed Jack.

We don't believe Sawyer and Kate got together in the post-island mainland since they did not wind up with each other in the Sideways afterlife. So what was the Bear cage sex supposed to represent? Animal instincts? Fear released as passion? A way to make an terrible situation bearable?

One would have thought that the shared island experience, the good and the bad, would have made Sawyer and Kate a close couple in the mainland. They could have lived together happily ever after since their pre-815 personal baggage had been resolved on the island, for good and ill.

When rules of law and order breaks down, humans tend to fall back to their primitive survival modes. They tend to get selfish, self-centered and looking for instant gratification since the rules do not apply anymore. The island was a test ground for the animal tendencies of man when society's rules are suspended and there is little to no responsibility for one's actions. Kate and Sawyer thrived on that aspect of the island. So why could they have not found happiness together post-island?

One explanation would be that Kate never cared for Sawyer. That her "deal" with Ben was to become Sawyer's lover to control him. Kate would be the "double agent" that Ben needed in order to get inside the 815 camp and isolate its power-leaders. Kate stayed with Sawyer for a short time in order to get something she wanted - - - freedom and escape from the island. But Ben would not grant (or could not it seems due to Jacob's candidate power) Kate her freedom while the 815ers posed a threat to his dictatorship. So if you believe Kate was just acting with Sawyer in order to con him into submission, well played Kate. But in the heat of conflict, danger and near death experience - - - we think that Kate really did have true feelings for Sawyer, and his shelter puppy dog looks, to give Kate's heart a jolt of compassion and passion.

For unwritten in her back story is one of abuse. If it was sexual in nature, it could show why Kate's attitude towards sex was more for the manipulation of men than finding romance and stability in her life. She fled Florida when she felt her husband would find out about her past. She fled the island instead of going after Sawyer after he jumped from the helicopter. She got rid of Jack after she got a wrist slap from the court system in the O6 story arc. She never saw men as being a necessary part of her being. She never connected a physical relationship with love, but with power or self-preservation. So Kate's animal instinct for survival difficult situations encompassed much of her relationships with the men in her life. So much so that it clouded her feelings and ability to find and nurture true love.

Kate's passion for Sawyer was real, but it was lost. It may have been the first time that she took charge of her sexual desires and threw herself on a man she thought would be soon dead. She may have thought Sawyer was the one chance for survival and escape. But Kate never saw far enough ahead in a traditional viewpoint of marriage, home and family to have the bond that true soul mates find in their relationships.

Likewise, Sawyer had no basis for truly caring about any woman. His entire pattern was to love them and leave them. He feared stability because that meant he would lose his freedom. It would cramp his style. He could no longer run wild. He would be trapped in his old man's life - - - a dreadful, suicidal life. So Sawyer consciously kept all the women in his life at bay. He would use them, then throw them away. He needed to be constantly in motion, like a shark in the ocean. It was only when he was trapped with Juliet that he found some comfort in a "normal" relationship in a "normal" home life. At that point, Sawyer believed that he would never return to his past. The 1970s Dharma was going to be his life, forever. And Juliet was the best part of it.

How three years with Juliet changed Sawyer to the extent that he was a new man is not out of the question. Animal instincts can be tamed by the right woman and under the right circumstances. In Kate's situation, she also had a three year window of normalcy with Jack and Aaron - - - the suburban housewife, that she would learn to abhor. So it is possible that deep down, in the same comfortable situations of a classic American home life, Sawyer and Kate would not have been compatible.

So the Bear Cage may have been just what it seemed: instinctive animal passion brought upon by the stressful circumstances of captivity, danger and possibility of impending death.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


NBC fall schedule includes a Big Mystery show with a dangerous premise.

Blindspot is billed as a vast international plot explodes when a beautiful Jane Doe, completely covered in mysterious, intricate tattoos, is discovered naked in Times Square with no memory of who she is or how she got there. The FBI quickly realize that each mark on her body is a crime to solve, leading them closer to the truth about her identity and the mysteries to be revealed.

Now, one would think that this is a unique and intriguing premise to a television series. A lead actress who does not know about her past must unravel the clues while dangerous people are chasing her. It sounds a little like Orphan Black.

But it really sounds more like East of Eden, a Japanese anime series. In East of Eden, ten missiles strike Japan, but cause no casualties. This apparent terrorist act is referred to as "Careless Monday" and is eventually forgotten by the populace. The series begins three months later when a young student named Saki visits the White House in Washington DC as part of her graduation trip. When she gets into trouble, a mysterious young Japanese man appears completely naked except for a gun and a cell phone, and rescues her. The man has lost his memory, but learns that he has a bunch of fake passports at his apartment; he chooses the Japanese one which names him Akira. While he and Saki return to Japan, they learn that a new missile has hit.

Akira discovers that his phone carries 8.2 billion yen  in digital money, and that he is part of a game, where twelve individuals are given 10 billion yen to "save" Japan in some way.

Whether Blindspot is going to run the course of mystery-terrorism drama to weird amnesia game show is unknown. But here is why a show creator needs to have a detailed, fixed story line to drop a huge mystery as the beginning point to a series: it has to be believable and have answers be the story engine to move the plot to a satisfactory conclusion.

In LOST, the big premise, the mysterious island, was the hook to get viewers into the show, but despite what was promised in Season One, the creators did not have a set story fleshed out to the conclusion. That is why a shotgun approach to adding new mysteries and twists and turns to tangential science fiction issues to fill each weekly hour did not hit a home run the fans expected from LOST.


We have gone on a little tangent, from excuses the mind gives us to this post on what people think makes them happy.

The University of Bolton (UK) decided to re-run an experiment that  originally took place in 1938.

Back then, an ad was placed in the Bolton Evening News, asking readers to respond to the age-old question, “What is happiness?” Ten options were offered where participants were instructed to rate the importance of each one. 

The  psychology professors followed in the same questions in the 1938 test.

A total of 226 people responded in 1938 and the top three happiness factors, in order, were: security, knowledge and religion. 

Eighty years later,  the top three happiness factors, in order, were: humor, leisure and security.

It is an interesting comparison:

Only "security" tops both lists.

In 1938, we must remember was in the midst of world turmoil. The Nazi build up in Germany, and the echos of the Great War (WWI) was still in the minds of the European nations. So security was in the forefront of everyone's mind. Also in 1938, "knowledge" as in education was the one true means of bettering oneself. The class system still had some tangled roots in England and the whole of Europe. The last 1938 element was religion, which is where many people find solace and comfort and meaning in their lives. In essence, the 1938 participants identified body, mind and soul as the means of their happiness.

Today, the news is filled with even greater world turmoil than in 1938. More nations have nuclear arms. There are terrorists attacking innocent people all over the globe. The news is mostly negative and depressing (if people actually read or view it which is decreasing among the young who are more preoccupied with technology and social media).  In industrialized modern nations, the poverty level has been raised to a point where many people are not dying on the streets. But street crime and random violence is still occurring in the streets (especially in the US). So personal security is still an issue today. But having humor to be the number one avenue to happiness is intriguing because it denotes an immediate endorphin rush. Like Pavlov's dog, humor is a button that needs to be pushed in order to bring on a laugh or smile. Some would say obsessive seeking of humor alone would mean that a person is extremely selfish, self-centered and possibly aloof to the people around them since modern comedy implores cruelty, irony and other people's misfortunes as punch lines.  More readily apparent is leisure as a means of happiness since hard working people need rest and relaxation in order to recharge their inner batteries. But leisure can only be obtained by a safety net of steady income, adequate savings, belief in good prospects ahead, in the sense of a societal normalcy and acceptance of one's life. The study found that religion came in last place in the current survey results.

The study offered a few quotes from the respondents:

Enough money to meet everyday needs and a little for pleasure.” (1938)

I would like a little home, not many possessions … congenial and satisfying companionship, the availability of good music and books.” (1938)
Knowing that my rent is paid on time and I can afford to eat healthily.” (2014)

Engaging in my hobbies, spending time that is free of worry … Simple things like enjoying a nice meal or receiving care and affection.” (2014)

The real interesting pull back from the study that the authors found was that the despite the  cliché, money still doesn’t seem to buy happiness after all. 

“People are realizing they can’t count on money,” said the researchers. “Just because you have a college education doesn’t mean you have a job. Just because you have a job doesn’t mean it’s going to last or you’ll be able to have everything you want with that money. So the average person has learned that just because you work hard, have an education or have training doesn’t mean you’ll have money—or even enough money. But let’s be honest—some people’s leisure activities are going to be expensive, so they’re going to need the money!”

The authors see a shift in priorities from the two studies as a favorable one. “These findings fit with everyone I speak to now. People are all about figuring out what truly makes them happy. And I think this is a really positive spin.” 

It is the desire of every human being to find happiness.  To be happy means a feeling or showing pleasure or contentment; having a sense of confidence in or satisfaction with (a person, arrangement, or situation);  satisfied with the quality or standard of someone or something. The elements of happiness in one's life is needed to balance out the bad times that everyone encounters on their journeys.