Thursday, October 3, 2019

LEADERSHIP

Joe DiMaggio said, “A person always doing his or her best becomes a natural leader, just by example.”

In LOST, there were various characters who pushed to become leaders. It was a mix of office politics and mortal combat.

Jack was the Reluctant Leader. He got the job from the 815 survivors because he was a doctor. There were injured people who needed his help. He gave instructions . . . people listened to him. But a few did not like Jack because he got the respect they did not. Sawyer, for example, wanted the appreciation of being a leader without the responsibility. Only after the time flash skip to become the sheriff of the others did Sawyer learn what it took to protect his people.

Locke was the Hopeful Leader. He always wanted to be acknowledged and accepted for his skills so that he could be one of the popular kids. The fact that his foster home orphan upbringing gave him the anger and bitterness that would shape his adult life and decisions was not lost on the writers. For every opportunity to take a leadership role, he failed because he demanded too much. When he came back to camp with food, he thought he would be accepted as a leader. But Jack was still the man. Locke never let go of that rivalry. When Locke was thought of the chosen leader of the Others, one who could dethrone Ben, he took the chance to seize total control over the group. But the one condition he could not meet: killing his own father.

Ben was also an outcast. He grew up in the environment of an alcoholic father who blamed him for the death of his mother (in childbirth). As a result, Ben was a shy, bitter boy who dreamed of controlling his own destiny. When the Others were in a leadership flux, he took control by means of violence - - - slaying his rivals to seize total control like a military dictator. He used fear and threats to become the Absolute Leader on the island. But being a dictator brought detractors in his own group who wanted to have someone to remove Ben from power.

Leadership is a double edged sword. It can be used to offensively consolidate power, direction and support for the common good. Or it could be used defensively to hold onto power, unilaterally force decisions and abuse authority for corrupt purposes.

All of those elements were seeded in LOST's story lines. None of the main character leaders had a good final result. There leadership strengths would turn into their personal weaknesses. Even Jacob, the islands real, True Leader, succumbed to his own hubris.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

DREAM RESEARCH

One of the stronger theories of LOST addicts is that the entire premise of the show was one trapped in a dream.

Whose dream is an open question. As is why humans dream at all.

Scientists are still not sure why we dream.  But new research in mice suggests that the brain might be using periods of deep sleep to clear out residual memories to make room for fresh ones.

Published in the journal Science, researchers in Japan observed the mice's hypothalamus while the mice slept. During their deep REM sleep - - -which is associated with dreaming in humans - - - a type of neuron that produced a hormone called MCH had a sharp uptick in activity. The MCH neurons also appeared to be targeting neurons in the hippocampus, the brain region that consolidates memories.

In an experiment, researchers isolated MCH neurons in the mice's brains for observation. The mice were allowed to sniff and play with two toys, which were removed when the mice had become familiar with them. Later, the mice were given a familiar toy and a new toy. With their MCH neurons artificially activated, the mice sniffed them both—suggesting that their memory of them was worse. When the neurons were artificially deactivated, the mice were able to remember that they had already been exposed to the familiar plaything.

The ability of MCH neurons to go patrolling the hippocampus during REM sleep led the paper’s authors to suggest the brain might use this dream stage to do some neurological tidying up, getting rid of non-crucial information so fresh data can be processed.

Why would we want to forget things? An abundance of information can be overwhelming and inhibit the ability to make sense of new knowledge. But if something is truly important—a birthday, a PIN number, a vacation—the brain will hang on to it.

If you want a technology analogy, it is like de-fragmenting your hard drive. Bits and pieces of computer information (code) is randomly stored on your hard drive media. But over time, accessing bits of information get stored in different places on the drive. When you run a preventative maintenance program, it rejoins the associated information bits for better access.

One of the reoccurring oddities of the show was the frustrating part that the main characters "forgot" key information at important moments. As a viewer, "how stupid!" was a common reaction to a character falling into a known trap. This study could be an explanation that the characters' memories were being erased by new memories (or brain washing).

Also, if the story engine was in the mind of one character, such as Jack or Hurley, then certain stimulus or an overactive imagination could jumble up aspects of his fantasy world to create continuity errors.

Story continuity errors was a big gripe during the show's run. It was bad enough that certain questions were asked but never answered, but drastic errors made some people wonder if the writers were getting lazy or there was a deeper meaning. The consensus in the end was the former.

The dream theory also gets some credence because of the Sixth Season's forced "happy ending" in the church for the main characters. The story and show premise did a 180 DEGREE turn on the adamant "this is not set in hell or purgatory" show runner promise to an after life after show.

This current science study may be a small point in the larger picture of what we do not know about ourselves. Likewise, it also shows how much we still do not know about LOST, the series.

Friday, August 9, 2019

STRANDED

Waltzing through the deep cable channels, I came across an old Simpsons episode. One of the sub-plots was about Homer's obsession with a TV show, called STRANDED. Yes, it was a parody of LOST.

Homer started watching the show on the Internet on his TV. He quickly became addicted to it, trying to solve all the theories with the show. Homer held a meeting to discuss the show with his friends, but he has only seen the first three seasons. Homer gets mad that  they keep telling him future episode spoilers.  Marge, now annoyed at Homer's addiction to the show, then revealed the full plot to the show, upsetting Homer. Homer eventually was invited to her Stranded-style bedroom where Homer was happy to go to bed with her.

 The plot of the fictional (parody) series is described as:

A plane crash leaves several people stranded on an island. One of the islanders opens up a coconut to find his childhood pet cat with the plane flight's number on its collar. Another islander was telling someone else not to believe anything he said in the past because that was not him, but it was him now, but in less than a second he would be gone forever. Then, the lava being takes him away. In an episode stated to solve one mystery, the islanders find a wall covered in a strange writing.
It is revealed that the island is 15 miles from Long Beach , Throwaway 3 leads to Hell, despite the series creator's insistence that it did not lead to Hell and the entire "Strandiverse" is a piece of gravel in a cosmic kitty litterbox. 

Homer is shocked to learn that the characters were stranded on the island due to a plane crash, and also is baffled by a flashback raising more questions than it answered. Eventually, one of the main characters, while opening a coconut, discovered a cat he had as a child inside, as well as his nametag having the numbers of his flight, with the cat purring "purgatory" and their wondering where they were. Homer got so attached to the series that he ended up spending more time watching the show than actually exercising. A major antagonist for the series was the Lava Being. Marge eventually discovers Homer not actually exercising and gets mad, especially when he had earlier blew off the series with her. Eventually, she spoils the last episode, revealing that the island was 15 miles from Long Beach, that the Al, Doorway Three led straight to Hell despite the writers insisting it did not actually go there, and the whole "Strandiverse" was merely a gravel in a cosmic kitty litter box, outraging Homer, although he forgave Marge when she offered a romantic evening to see the last episode.  

While the Simpsons will continue to be shown for eternity on every imaginable broadcast distribution method, LOST will continue to ride along as be a footnote in parody episodes.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

GOLDEN PASS

Daniel Dae Kim has built a golden pass after LOST.

In a recent conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Kim also discusses his preparation for his role in the reboot version Hellboy, and reflected on his moments on the Lost set, as well as his reflections on his final scene as Jin on LOST.  FROM THE INTERVIEW:

Fifteen years ago, you arrived in Hawaii to film Lost's pilot, and it sounds like you haven't left since.

That is correct. If you would've asked me when I was a little kid growing up in Pennsylvania whether or not I would spend the majority of my career in Hawaii, I would've laughed. But, stranger things have happened, and they actually have. I'm here, and it really feels like I found home for me and my family.

Do you still feel Hawaii's laid-back vibe despite living there?

That vibe really does exist, but like any other place, once you're there for more than just a vacation, you learn a lot more about the people and the location that deepens your knowledge base. That can be both positive and negative. It's still an amazing place to live, and the fact that I'm choosing to live here — even though I'm not working here any longer — says everything.

Is it tricky navigating Hollywood from afar? Are you flying back and forth constantly?

Yes. (Laughs.) It's very difficult. I think I've gotten platinum status on two different airlines in the past year. I literally flew 200,000 miles in the last calendar year.

There's a Lost "golden pass" joke that practically writes itself here, but I'll refrain for now.

(Laughs.) Right! But, it's worth it. My family loves it here. My children got to spend their entire childhood here. It's a pretty special place.

When you reflect on Lost, what are some of the smaller memories or in-between moments that surprisingly stick with you, such as Terry O'Quinn playing guitar offscreen?
That's a good question. The first things that pop up are the moments in between takes. Because we were all friends, our time together — between takes — was as special as the time that we were actually shooting. The moments where the guitars would come out, all of our set chairs would be in a circle, so we could all see each other and talk to each other. There were several of us who play guitar and a lot of us who sang. So, spontaneous sing-along sessions would just kind of break out, and certain times we would get so passionate about them that we would delay shooting because we needed to finish a version of "Roxanne" that we were all singing. (Laughs.)

Co-showrunner Carlton Cuse used to talk a lot about how Jin and Sawyer tested at the bottom of cast in the early days of the show. After all you were both antagonists, so you're not supposed to be liked. By the end, your characters were beloved by test audiences. Since you probably didn't know the entirety of Jin's massive arc as of season one, did you lament Jin's reception at first, even though you were fulfilling the role as the writing intended?

Yes. Absolutely, I did. I was very concerned about it. Though I was reassured that the character was going to grow and develop, what I wasn't sure about was how the show would be received. If, for instance, we got four or five episodes on the air and then we got canceled, the entirety of Jin's character would be what you saw at the beginning. To me, that was problematic because it represented a number of stereotypes that I worked so hard to avoid in my career. So, that was my concern. I had a lot of faith in J.J. [Abrams] and Damon [Lindelof] that if the show continued, the character would grow and deepen; they had assured me of that. So, it wasn't a matter of trusting them, it was just a matter of trusting whether or not the show would be successful.

Many fans consider Jin and Sun to be Lost's greatest romance. Their conclusion on the submarine affects me each and every time I see it. Since the show has now been off the air for almost nine years, has your rationalization of Jin's decision to leave his daughter behind changed at all?
 
I can see both sides of that decision, but the thing that I keep coming back to is that he had wronged his wife in many ways. The decision to stay with her was part of his atonement. That's the emotional place where that decision came from. I think there was the rational question of whether or not he would've made it out alive, and I think all of those combined for him to make the choice that he did. To me, it was a very powerful statement about love and making that sacrifice for an ideal and a feeling that is undeniable.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

LEGACY SHOWS

Since LOST there have been many iconic and epic television shows that critics and fans stressed over.

Breaking Bad was a media darling based upon its premise, its script and its compelling actors.

Currently, the fantasy epic Game of Thrones is on everyone's radar. The coffee room talk is very high on this series as fans are eagerly anticipating the climatic ending.

But it is very hard for a show to keep itself on the rails when fan expectations are so far ahead of the ability of the writers and staff to meet those expectations.

There are the big, deep film franchises like Avengers: End Game which will set in the next few weeks a world wide box office record of more than $3 billion.

But there are iconic series, like Star Trek and Star Wars, who have had their spin-offs, sequels and prequels not being received as highly as the original shows. Some of that is viewer burn-out of the franchise's story. In some cases, the original show fan base has aged out and the material does not hook younger viewers. There are more diversions now for people to spend their entertainment time, such as video games, YouTube broadcasts and Twitch streams.

LOST is still considered a legacy show because it long running series that captured the imagination of both critics and fans to the point of obsession on every detail. Game of Thrones has many similar attributes as fans are trying to figure out who will survive to the End. And the End is the key to the legacy of a series.

For many, LOST's ending was weak to a fail. For others, it was the perfect happy ending for their favorite characters. Many thought the questions had to be answered about the mythology of the show. Others thought the final character development was more important. Insiders have tried to conceal many of the production issues which partially caused major shifts in scripts and settings which may or may not have caused the strange, disjointed final season to come together.

The debate of LOST's End is a continuation of the in-season debates about the motivations of the characters, who was good, who was evil, and what everything meant to mean in the Big Picture. This on-line fan community debates were just as important as the show itself.

The only problem with LOST's legacy is that it is frozen in time. People still remember it, but memories will fade over time. It is not in syndication because it is a series that builds upon each previous episode. It is not like a sit-com that has a self contained 30 minute story line resolution. As such, LOST does not have the continuing traction of Star Trek, which continues to be syndicated and shown on a daily basis across the cable spectrum. In that regard, LOST will never be as popular as Star Trek.  But it may be more important to future screenwriters on the pitfalls of expectations in creating a legacy show.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

LOST IN PRODUCTION

In a 2017 article, Jeff Jensen wrote that LOST producers were banking on a massive volcano story line to wrap up the island origin of the smoke monsters, but ABC refused to pay for it.

The use of the volcano was supposed to show us how the smoke monster was created, by Jacob throwing his brother into it. In many cultural myths, sacrifices to the gods used volcanoes as part of the worship rituals. The producers wanted to use a temple with the volcano scenes, but ABC balked because creating temples were expensive.

The show did show a temple with very detailed ancient Egyptian signs and symbols. It was the place where the Man in Black took his angry revenge on the remaining Others. This temple appeared to be the root of Jacob's power over the people he brought to the island. Its priest held forth a cult in which the spirit or smoke monster could not enter until it reached human form.

A BBC article stated:

Often cultures have seen active volcanoes as the abode of gods - typically gods quick to anger.

“I think the creation of myths is essentially the human reaction to witnessing a natural process that you cannot explain, says Haraldur Sigurdsson, a U.S. volcanologist  “So you attribute it to supernatural forces and you say it is a battle between the giants and the gods.”

Was the island story a battle of angry gods, Jacob and his brother?

If true, then how could simple human beings defeat them?

The Man in Black, smoke monster, believed he was trapped or imprisoned on the island. Jacob claimed that he was the guardian of the island. Was Jacob the prison guard to MIB? Was his sole purpose not to unleash an evil spirit upon the world? The island was phasing in and out of the Earth realm to be hidden from humans, because they would be drawn into using the evil to destroy the planet?

Was Jacob bringing humans to the island a means of appeasing MIB? Instead of playing ancient board games, the two devised a game using humans as pawns.

But at a certain point, the brothers grew tiresome of their company and their mutual curse of being trapped on the island. For Jacob to be released, he would have to trick a human to become the new guardian. For MIB to be released, he would have to die which is difficult for an immortal spirit.

It is interesting that the show runners and the network were at odds on production budgets to the point where the story had to change. This confirms some skeptics who said the writers were making up the show on the fly. The fly was the network not allowing them to produce their vision.

But would have the volcano story line "solved" the ending issues?

No. Even if the whole general premise was overlaid with Polynesian mythology of volcanoes, gods and sacrifices, it does not explain the sideways world, the parallel universe, the Flight 815 plane crash and the ending in the church.

Friday, January 11, 2019

THE END GAME

The Sopranos, the crime family drama, is having its 20th anniversary. Some reports state that there may be a sequel in the form of a prequel that begins where the original show ended (in a diner with a jolting, quick fade to black).

It was that ending that inspired other creative types (writers and show runners) to mess with their audience. One of the prime directives of a writer is to tell a compelling and interesting story through characters and their actions. There is a beginning introduction, a middle part of conflict and options for resolution, and a climatic ending to resolve the main plot points of the show. Usually, the ending involves the main character learning a valuable lesson or makes a statement on social commentary. In essence, that is the unwritten entertainment contract between show and its viewers. But the Sopranos ending changed that covenant.

The show just . . .  abruptly ended.

It left the world to scratch their heads in disbelief. What just happened? Something was about to happen. What was going to happen?

Then a simmering vent of anger; WTF?

Because viewers spent a lot of time on getting to know the characters, follow the story, "experience" the events shown to them, they felt entitled to a proper ending. That is not to say they are guaranteed a "good" ending.

Viewers fumed because they thought they were "played" by the writers. Or that the writers "copped" out on wrapping up the loose ends of the plot lines so they just decided to leave everyone, including the characters, hanging in limbo.

Hollywood creative types loved the idea of an ambiguous ending. Instead of offending one group of viewers with a creative choice, you can confuse all the viewers with no choice at all.

It gave other shows the license and cover to not wrap up story lines. In a complex, tangential world of LOST, that is how the writers got out of the corner they painted themselves in. Instead of answering the big questions, they punted with a side world reboot to give the main characters a happy ending (or so it seemed). But that made many viewers madder than a hornet. They felt let down, betrayed by a series that they embraced and discussed in minute detail with friends and other fans.

It was like reading a great novel, only to find out that the last chapter is missing.

In today's more fragmented entertainment consumption model (on demand, binge watching), shows probably cannot get away with this type of shocking ending.