Sunday, June 28, 2015


Despite all the physical poking and question &  answer probing, we really don't know how the human brain functions. We think it is like a hard drive, but we cannot download its information. We can test stimulation to see where electro-neurons fire in a brain CAT scan, but don't know how information is stored in a biochemical, electromagnetic or other way. It may be the most important and confusing organ in our bodies; it plays a central role in both our intellectual and emotional states. In fact, the overlap between intellectual and emotional is razor thin.

WIRED published a recent article on how science is trying to probe further into mental illness.

A brain surgeon begins an anterior cingulotomy by drilling a small hole into a patient’s skull. The surgeon then inserts a tiny blade, cutting a path through brain tissue, then inserts a probe past sensitive nerves and bundles of blood vessels until it reaches a specific cluster of neural connections, a kind of switchboard linking emotional triggers to cognitive tasks. With the probe in place, the surgeon fires up a laser, burning away tissue until the beam has hollowed out about half a teaspoon of grey matter. 

This is modern psychosurgery: ablating parts of the brain to treat mental illnesses. 

Instead of a big scalpel, it is a narrow focus beam of light that cuts away gray matter. This is the new lobotomy, which was once in favor in the 1930s to treat aggressive, demented, or otherwise affected people.

Removing parts of a person’s brain is always a dicey proposition. But for people who are mentally ill, when pills and psychiatry offer no solace, the laser-tipped probe can be a welcome relief. Physicians perform these procedures as a last resort only on people who’ve failed to respond to at least three types of medications, and for whom months on a counselor’s couch have had no effect. 

In the 1990s that physicians  brought them back to treat a mental illness: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Without any visible biomarkers, obsessive-compulsive disorder is difficult to treat with drugs. But neuroscientists have narrowed down the faulty wiring involved in the disorder to fewer than a half dozen places in the brain—some of which psychosurgery can target. Probably the best target is a region called the anterior cingulate cortex. Put your finger on your temple, then move it about an inch back. If you were to triangulate a point between your fingertip, the top of your head, and the center of your forehead, you’d land roughly on the right spot.

This may seem strange, but drilling a hole and inserting a fiber optic tube to fire a laser into your brain sounds science fiction like Ghost in the Shell. But since medical science is not at the Star Trek stage of being able to diagnose at the molecular level, physicians are still fishing with hand grenades.

One can easily see the road being built in this field of study. And the pit falls. If one can insert an optic thread into the brain to destroy, alter or control a person's mental state, why can't at some point pull out the brain's information to be placed in another vessel (like a computer core). That's very Max Headroom. And considering the whole field of cryogenics is to keep people alive forever, keeping their brain, consciousness or information stored on a hard drive seems to fall in a solid second place.

We don't know how a patient reacts when parts of his brain are being probed by psychosurgery. Does he hallucinate? Does he dream? Does he travel to a dangerous tropical island to fight smoke monsters (the subconscious representation of a laser burning brain cells to ash)? Science gives a plausible sci-fi foundation for many LOST mental illness premise theories.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


There is a fine line between the strong bonds of friendship to the depth of romantic relationships.

Love is defined as an intense feeling of deep affection; a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone. It also means a great interest and pleasure in something like "his love for football" or  "we share a love of music."

Because the two definitions overlap, it may cause problems between two individuals on what each perceives as their status together.

The word "love" comes from Old English "lufu," of Germanic origin; from an Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit "lubhyati" meaning desires and Latin "libet" for  ‘it is pleasing,’ libidodesire.’ 

We attempt all the time to please our friends. It is a means to maintain and strengthen one's friendship. We do so by sharing time together, events, memories and ideas. A good friend wants to reach out to support another friend in a time of need. 

When things get criss-crossed is when one so loves being around a friend of the opposite sex that deeper feelings begin to well up inside.  It may stun or frighten the other friend to find out that affection for each other has turned into attraction.

Affection is an emotional state of a gentle feeling of fondness or liking that can have physical expressions of these feelings such as greetings or hugs. It's roots come from Middle English and Old French from Latin "affectio" from "afficere" to mean to influence.

Closely related (and hence confusing) is attraction.  Attraction is the action or power of evoking interest, pleasure, or liking for someone or something. It is a quality or feature of something or someone that evokes interest, liking, or desire. It also comes from Middle English from Latin "attractio," from the verb "attrahere" (to attract).

Attraction is the action to cause (someone) to have a sexual or romantic interest in someone; "it was her beauty that attracted him."

The tightrope is very narrow. Friends have affection (love) to be around each other because of mutual interests, experiences and support. That is the internal emotion state. Attraction is the action of taking affection to another level (to "be in love" with another person). 

It is because these two emotional states are so close together but represent two vastly different concepts that gets people into trouble. You can only try to make someone fall in love with you. Some people try too hard. Some people don't try hard enough. Some people get caught up in a moment. Some people make mistakes confusing affection with attraction, to the point of destroying a good friendship.

Many people may find attraction the first and only means of finding true love. It may be shallow, but in a subconscious, guarded way it makes sense because we one wants to test the waters you first go to the shallow end and not dive into the more dangerous the deep end. But there is no rule against doing it the other way - - - since most couples want their lover to be their best friend.

There is little to no logic in this situation. This is an emotional gambit that can end three ways: working out, breaking up or maintaining the status quo of friendship. The sad fact is that many great friendships have been lost by the mere fact that affection turns to non-mutual attraction.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


LOST has always been a fertile field of conspiracy theorists.

Theories run the gamut from how the show was structured, created, and written with and without trying to decode clues, red herrings and story tangents.

It was one of the things that made LOST interesting and engaging to fans.

But LOST was not alone in creating or reading way, way, way too much into even the tamest of shows.

For example, the simple, iconic comedy series Gilligan's Island. What could be so "hidden in plain sight" about a show about shipwrecked castaways?

Some theorists believe that the setting of Gilligan's Island is not an island, but rather Hell, and that its sinful inhabitants all perished in the crash of the S.S. Minnow. According to this theory, each character on Gilligan’s Island represents one of the Seven Deadly Sins. 

The millionaire Mr. Howell represents Greed, while his work-averse wife represents Sloth. Sexy movie star Ginger stands in for Lust, while innocent farm girl Mary Ann envies Ginger’s beauty and lifestyle. The smart Professor is prideful because he can't admit that he is unable to fix the ship or get them off the island. Skipper, meanwhile, symbolizes two deadly sins: Gluttony and Wrath, because he’s always taking something out on poor Gilligan. Not that you should feel bad for the titular dimwit; these fans believe that Gilligan represents Satan. He's constantly screwing up the group's plans for rescue, and what's more, he's always wearing red. 

That is quite a theory based upon general traits of the characters.

If you add in the mythology that departed souls travel to the underworld by ferry (boat), and that this shipwreck symbolizes the travel through a purgatory, it is easy to see the premise begin to unfold in the mind of a theorist. In fact, this mirrors the early LOST purgatory theories because it was presumed that no one could have survived a high altitude mid-plane break up over the Pacific Ocean.

And with the unassuming Gilligan cast as Satan is quite the plot twist. On LOST, there were numerous characters who could have been Satan: Jacob, the master mind behind the island; MIB who is a dark mass of shape shifting like the serpent in the Garden of Eden; and even Christian who wound up manipulating people's free will. One could create the ultimate premise by saying that Earth itself is Hell - - - we all are born in a purgatory with our "lives" are redemptive steps from a past we know nothing about.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


How canines became man's best friend is one of evolution's great mysteries. Dogs are essentially domesticated wild animals. But at some point, mankind and dogs connected at a family level.

There had to be a mutual benefit. For a small family unit of hunter-gatherers, a dog with its keen senses, could help with safety and security of the camp against other wild animals or attacks from other clans. A dog could also be useful in the hunt to gather food. A dog could also be a comforting companion in the camp when the men were aware foraging for food or shelter materials. Dogs could also give the children a sense of love and play that we often see in nature specials with various canine pups.

From a dog's perspective, becoming part of a human family had its benefits as well. Humans were the top predator and dogs have an innate sense of hierarchy structure. Canines also have the instinct to bond with other members of their pack in a family structure of mutual support and protection. Those values are similar to those in the human family unit. That is why dogs and humans get along so well.

They may be different but at some core level they are the same.

In today's modern society, dogs continue to play an important role in people's lives. Dogs do provide a sense of security against strange noises in the middle of the night (especially if you are a single woman). Dogs do provide owners with unconditional loyalty and affection. Dogs also provide their owners with a sense of balance in their daily lives; a diversion against the normal grind. People need to impart themselves in a tangible way in order to feel good about themselves. Dog owners are kind, giving, generous and supportive of their pet's needs. A dog gives in return a non-judgmental, pure and unconditional love that feeds a personal's emotional state (heart and soul).

Dog owners tend to live healthier lives. According to WebMD, households who have pets have less frequency of allergies or breathing ailments.  Pet owners tend to have more opportunity for social engagements as they walk their dogs in parks. From a physical standpoint, pets require their owners to exercise more (through walks and household play).

Pet owners are far less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. The benefit is especially pronounced when people are strongly attached to their pets, according to several studies.

People in high stress positions or had high blood pressure who had pets had less stress and lower blood pressure than did people without pets. People in stress mode get a burst of harmful chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine can negatively affect the immune system. Some of these chemicals are linked to plaque buildup in arteries which is a precondition for heart disease.

Like any enjoyable activity, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine -- nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties. Therefore, dogs have a natural healing element with the relationship with their owners. Dogs allow owners to have a sense of balance, purpose and a better quality of life than those without pets.

Human beings are social animals. Men and women need relationships in order be complete and fulfilled in their lives. Dogs and pets are not a full substitute for a lasting pair bond, but dogs do elevate the happiness factor in a person's life.

In LOST, Vincent was Walt's dog but in reality he was everyone's dog. He was a wandering presence throughout the island who would attach himself to anyone who really needed an unspoken friend. He was there when Walt lost his mother. He was there when Shannon lost her brother. He was there to silently comfort Jack in the end when Jack closed his eyes in the bamboo field for the final time.

A dog is a valued member of a family. When we lose a pet, we lose a family member. There is sadness. There is grief. Perhaps that is another basic reason man brought dogs into their family was to teach their children the cycle of life and death since pets lived shorter lives than men and women. The takeaway is that pets enrich and fulfill people's lives in an uncompromising way. And when they are gone, they are never forgotten. Their inner strength, affection and friendship is what remains forever in a dog owner's heart.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Are you happy? Do you know how to be happy?

After decades of studying and working with tens of thousands of patients, researchers at the Mayo Clinic say they’ve cracked the code to being happy, according to CBS New York.

The Mayo Clinic is one of the most prestigious health organizations in the world with as many as 8,000 ongoing studies exploring every imaginable condition — including unhappiness.

Who doesn’t want to get — and stay happy?

Psychiatrist John Tamerin says for many people the root of everything we’re chasing, a better job, more money or true love, is happiness.

But this endless pursuit often backfires.

“If you lead your life always waiting for a great thing to happen, you probably will be unhappy,” Tamerin said.

Now, after decades of research nd a dozen clinical trials, researchers at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, say they’ve actually cracked the code to being happy, and published it in a handbook.

The research team says the first and foremost way to be happy is to focus our attention.

“You can choose to live focusing on what is not right in your life,” Dr. Amit Sood said.

Experts say the human mind is instinctively restless, wandering from good thoughts to sad thoughts, scary thoughts and everything in between.

But if we learn to command our thoughts, shifting perspective away from the negative, and embrace the positive, we will be happier, experts say.

“Resiliency has everything to do with happiness,” Dr. Sood said.

The Mayo Clinic’s research also shows the degree of happiness people enjoy has to do with how resilient they are to life’s many curve balls. Happy people are very good at compartmentalizing and creating boundaries.

“So for example, if you’ve had a difficult day, when you get back home, for the first three minutes, forget about it, park it, and meet your family as if they’re long lost friends,” Dr. Sood added.

And perhaps one of the biggest hindrances to being happy is too much thinking about one’s self, research shows.

“Complainers are never going to be happy,” Ketchian said. “Happiness is a decision.”

So why did the Mayo Clinic decide to study happiness? Studies show happier people are healthier people.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Buzzfeed asked 51 TV writers for their best written show moments.

Damon Lindelof of LOST wrote:

One of the most agonizing questions writers get asked is “Where do you get your ideas from?” It’s frustrating because most of the time we don’t know… or we probably stole it from somewhere and we don’t want to be identified as plagiarist hacks. But I know exactly where this idea came from…

The final scene of “Through the Looking Glass” — the third season finale of Lost — was stolen from the movie Saw 2.

If you have not seen Saw 2, all you need to know is that Donnie Wahlberg is in it and that the twist at the end involves tricking the audience into thinking they’re watching something unfold in present time, when in fact, it is unfolding in the PAST. Also, Donnie Wahlberg is in it. Did I say that already?


Carlton (my co-writer) and I had just finally won the battle to have ABC announce an end date to the show (albeit three years out), which finally allowed us to break from the monotony of character flashbacks (we had one that explained where Sayid had his hair styled all lined up) and launch into flash-FORWARDS. But the divine inspiration of Saw 2 led us to the inevitable conclusion that the best way to do this would be to make our first flash-forward LOOK like yet another flashback. And then, in the final scene, we drop the hammer. Boom. You’re in the FUTURE, BITCHES!!! TAKE THAT, DONNIE WAHLBERG!

Writing that scene — the one where Jack waits on the outskirts of LAX as a car pulls up… the door opens… and out steps KATE — was awesome. My process is riddled with doubt and self-loathing, but this was one of the rare instances where I felt like I was doing something undeniably great. I felt like I had been crouched down in the darkness of someone’s apartment with all my best friends (the writers) waiting to shout out SURPRISE to our unexpected birthday boy/girl (the audience) — and I KNEW they’d be thrilled when we did.

And by time Jack was shouting, “WE HAVE TO GO BAAAAAAAACK!” (yes, I added all those extra A’s in the script) and I typed SMASH TO BLACK, my eyes were wet. I was inside the thing… feeling what these characters were feeling… knowing we were, at long last, working toward an actual ENDING now. And finally…for one fleeting moment…

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Classic John Locke.

It sums up what he was all about: bitterness.

His anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly with resentment were the key traits of his character.

He was abandoned by his unwed, teen mother.
He was further abandoned by his con artist father.
He was further abandoned by a series of foster parents.

Was this the foundation for a mental condition or just welded into his mind as self-esteem, self-worth and unresolved parental issues.

But bitterness can cause illness.

New research suggests constant bitterness can make a person ill.
In the study, Concordia University researchers examined the relationship between failure, bitterness and quality of life.

“Persistent bitterness may result in global feelings of anger and hostility that, when strong enough, could affect a person’s physical health,” said psychologist Dr. Carsten Wrosch.

In his research, Wrosch examines why some people avoid bitterness at different stages of life and why others don’t.

Over the last 15 years, Wrosch has investigated how negative emotions, such as regret or sadness, affect people. Most recently, he has focused his attention on the impact of bitterness.

Feelings of anger and accusation are often found with bitterness.

Unlike regret, which is about self-blame and a case of “woulda, coulda, shoulda,” acrimony points the finger elsewhere — laying the blame for failure on external causes.

“When harbored for a long time,” Wrosch said, “bitterness may forecast patterns of biological dysregulation (a physiological impairment that can affect metabolism, immune response or organ function) and physical disease.”

One expert has proposed that bitterness should be recognized as a mental illness. German psychiatrist Dr. Michael Linden argues that bitterness is actually a medical disorder and should be categorized as post-traumatic embitterment disorder (PTED).

He estimates that between one and two per cent of the population is embittered and by giving the condition a proper name, people with PTED will receive the therapeutic attention they deserve.

While experts continue to review this perspective, Wrosch and Renaud say bitterness can be avoided.
They hold that if people who experience failure can find other ways to fulfill their goals they can avoid being bitter.

If they cannot discover alternatives, then individuals need to disengage from futile efforts (e.g., to get promoted, to save a marriage) and reengage in something that’s equally meaningful (e.g., a new job or passion).

This process is called self-regulation. Researchers state that meaningful activities to disengage and reengage can be necessary for a person to avoid bitter emotions.

“Any effective therapeutic intervention,” said Renaud, “hinges on the affected individual finding ways to self-regulate.”

In some cases, overcoming bitterness demands more than self-regulation. When bitterness arises from blaming other people, then recovery may involve others.

“In order to deal with bitter emotions there may need to be something else required to enable a person to overcome the negative emotion — that something is forgiveness,” said Wrosch.

Monday, June 8, 2015


The age old question is "when does life begin?"

Politically, this question has been hijacked in the abortion debate (which itself was a very early, fleeting theory that the childlike behavior of the main characters showed that they were not really adults but kids projecting themselves as adults in a fantasy world - - - one created because these characters were actually souls of aborted babies who never had a chance to live a life.)

But this is not a post about family planning (if anything, LOST was the anti-family planning show with unplanned pregnancies, abusive parents, foster care, etc.)  

What is life?

 Life is defined as the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death; living things and their activity.

A person's life is existence; either of the two states of a person's existence separated by death (as in Christianity and some other religious traditions) or any of a number of successive existences in which a soul is held to be reincarnated (as in Hinduism and some other religious traditions).

As LOST was not a religious show, more a secular mash-up of Western and Eastern philosophies with a heavy dose of ancient Egyptian death rituals, we should avoid defining life as merely a religious context.

At the base level of all life is this simple formula which I have developed over the years:

The purpose of life is to gather, store and consume energy.

All organisms, plants, animals, humans fit into this simple formula. How each life form goes about gathering its energy needs and resources are the variables in life.

Higher life forms like mankind think about the basic needs in more complex ways. To distinguish themselves from dumb animals, man has created his own mythology about creation, life and death. It was to explain the unexplainable. It was to comfort those against the impending losses (since everyone is born with a death sentence.) It was to create a greater purpose and foster hope for an unlimited future. 

The fundamental purpose of life to pass on one's own life to the next generation. That is the cycle of renewal that most people understand and can fully grasp. It is the belief structure upon death that separates the believers from the non-believers.

Some may think that our existence on Earth is merely an embryonic state in which, like a larva turns into a butterfly (releasing a soul) upon the death stage to the after life. Others believe that man is just a chemical factory of complex neurons that returns to its inert, organic state to be renewed by other organisms. 

LOST is more hopeful than that. At least the main characters found a way to another level of existence in the sideways world. Even if it was purely a dreamlike fantasy after death, where a person's own memories fuel an everlasting loop of dreams, that is still better than chemical decomposition theory.

But what is missing is clear: life still needs to be lived. Lived to the fullest. The LOST characters were anchored in misery by their own regrets and failures. They failed to use their own mistakes, failures and faults to become better human beings. Being better people would have made them happier, fulfilled and loved. They would not be bitter loners just waiting for the end. They would have cherished their moments with their loved ones so as not to care about the end.

Life was described as a bowl of cherries, which sometimes contains the pits. It is navigating around the pits that makes life worthwhile.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


The BBC ponders this:

Don't panic, but our planet is doomed. It's just going to take a while. Roughly 6 billion years from now,the Earth will most likely be vaporized when the sun dies and expands into a red giant that engulfs Earth.

But the Earth is just one planet in the solar system, the Sun is just one of hundreds of billions of stars in the galaxy, and there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the observable universe. What's in store for all of that? How does the universe end?

There was The Big End Question asked in LOST when the alleged motivation to stop Flocke was that if he escaped the island, the world would be destroyed.  But what world?

We assumed it was Earth. But how? 

Flocke was a smoke monster, an intelligent being that could shape shift matter, take human form and steal human memories. It may have lived on fear. It had emotions that anger, rage to violence.

If the island was its prison, a containment field of electromagnetic energy, would Flocke's release into the universe or solar system expand its smoke powers to levels that would destroy the vacuum of space as we understand it?

We were told that Flocke escaping would destroy the planet. Could Flocke's mere presence in the atmosphere or orbit could shape shift, change or destroy the planet? If it had that much power to begin with, how could the tiny island contain it?

Of course, the destruction of the universe could have been a lie. A con. A reason Jacob had to recruit and keep his candidates at bay. But it seemed that there was a real possibility that Flocke would harm anyone or anything to get his way. But we never really knew where Flocke wanted to go.

Some rationalize that Smokey could be Satan, a fallen angel, whose only goal was to leave his personal hell on Earth to return to Heaven. But if he is not welcome in Heaven, then the disruption of the afterlife world would happen. Could that be the ripple in time and space (between dimensions) that the island's "cork" was really trying to keep steady? A parallel universe could collapse or engulf our present universe like a dying sun? If that was spelled out clearly in the series, we could probably get a greater purpose in the final showdown between the candidates and Flocke. This seems to be an important plot point that should have been explained to the viewers.

So we don't know if the "death" of Flocke was really the end of danger or merely the trigger to switch planes of parallel universes. If one believes in parallel universes, each of us has a doppelganger in that other world. But through experience, chance, free will and personal decisions, our doppelgangers can be different people. If the release of energy (memories) from one universe to another could be just as catastrophic, the sideways world view becomes clearer. If the main characters began to "awake" with memories from the wrong universe - - - that could destroy the belief system in their universe. It could disrupt the natural flow of energy, time and space that separates universes much like the different currents in the layers of an ocean.

We don't know if the awakening of the characters in the afterlife was just the end of a journey, or the actual cause of destruction of an entire universe.