Monday, June 30, 2008

Re-watch: Tabula Rasa


This, the third episode of season 1, really doesn't have much island-important material in it, at least to my eyes. The main "mystery" it deals with is Kate's background, and the fate of the marshal on the island. Sawyer attempts to kill him with the only remaining bullet in his gun, but somehow misses his heart, leaving Jack to clean up the mass and presumably euthanize the marshal.

The one exchange that seems to me somehow to speak to the nature of the island and the deeper questions of Lost is Jack's line to Kate: "Three days ago we all died. We should all be able to start over." Except they didn't really die. Did they? Unless you buy the "purgatory" idea for the show (which has been shot down again and again by tptb). To the outside world they died three days ago. And maybe, maybe, in some alternate timeline of a weird plot twist another version of 815 crashed into the Sunda Trench three days earlier. But all that stuff we won't know anything about until the last season of Lost imo.

Also, the name of the ep "Tabula Rasa" hints at a connection with the philosopher John Locke (yeah, name does sound familiar...):

Tabula rasa (Latin: blank slate) refers to the epistemological thesis that individual human beings are born with no innate or built-in mental content, in a word, "blank", and that their entire resource of knowledge is built up gradually from their experiences and sensory perceptions of the outside world.

Generally proponents of the tabula rasa thesis favor the "nurture" side of the nature versus nurture debate, when it comes to aspects of one's personality, social and emotional behavior, and intelligence.

And here's the reference to John Locke:

In fact, our modern idea of the theory is mostly attributed to John Locke's expression of the idea in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding in the 17th century. In Locke's philosophy, tabula rasa was the theory that the (human) mind is at birth a "blank slate" without rules for processing data, and that data is added and rules for processing are formed solely by one's sensory experiences. The notion is central to Lockean empiricism. As understood by Locke, tabula rasa meant that the mind of the individual was born "blank", and it also emphasized the individual's freedom to author his or her own soul. Each individual was free to define the content of his or her character - but his or her basic identity as a member of the human species cannot be so altered. It is from this presumption of a free, self-authored mind combined with an immutable human nature that the Lockean doctrine of "natural" rights derives.

And if you want to compare and contrast John Locke and, say, Jeremy Bentham:

Bentham's attack on Blackstone targeted more than the latter's use of tradition however. Against Blackstone and a number of earlier thinkers (including Locke), Bentham repudiated many of the concepts underlying their political philosophies, such as natural right, state of nature, and "social contract." Bentham then attempted to outline positive alternatives to the preceding "traditionalisms." Not only did he work to reform and restructure existing institutions, but he promoted broader suffrage and self (i.e., representative) government.

Just more things that make you go "hmmm". And make you think that the writers of Lost use Google a lot.

Screencaps thanks to Lostpedia and lost-media.

Re-watch Continues: Pilot Part 2

Re-watching both parts of The Pilot, really drives it home how great a show Lost was (and still is) and how different it seemed when it crashed into my home once upon a time. Freaky, scary, funny, gorgeous and unpredictable.

Scattered thoughts
Holloway looks so damn different than he does now. Is it just that Sawyer has longer hair now and more scruff? Or did he lose some weight too to make those cheekbones "pop"? Something happened. And he dropped the smoking habit at some point. Just as well! Evangeline Lilly also looks different. Weight-loss probably accounts for some of it, and the fact that the eyebrows are plucked differently. Jorge Garcia has also changed: I know he's still a big guy, but I think there's some weight loss there too, and maybe something with the hair? Longer? Different hairline? I don't know.

And oh, now I remember how I detested Shannon! Good bitch-role! And how I wanted to punch Sawyer in the nuts... I mean gut... for most of S1. His redemptive arc has been very well done on the show: I'm glad he doesn't give me hives anymore! Also, his relationship with Kate has had a good arc to it as well, from The Pilot's mocking/flirting thing, to the exchange between them on the helicopter in "There's No Place Like Home". The dynamics between Sun and Jin are almost gut-wrenching in these early eps: he's so controlling and hard. I can barely stand it. I hope that's a couple that will eventually get a happy ending in spite of exploding freighters and the like. (Come on! Jin can't be dead yet, can he?)

And the polar bear shows up and gets shot, poor thing. WTF are those polar bears doing on the island? Did Dharma bring them? Or did they end up there some other way, maybe the same way The Black Rock and Yemi's plane ended up there: somehow attracted by the island or ending up on it when it moved? (Though I'm still not sure whether the island moves in time and space or just in space or just in time... gah, this show can be totally, mind-achingly frustrating at times!)

Locke and Walt
The scene with Locke and Walt on the beach when they talk about backgammon is so excellent. It makes me think that NOT bringing Walt back next season for more interaction with the island and, hopfully, Locke would be a crime. The relationship between them was excellently played by the actors and very well-written as well. It seemed to hint at so many things... I just hope tptb don't just drop that storyline (again!). And the dialogue in the scene: two sides, one light, one dark... The island anyone?

At the end of the scene, Locke asks Walt if he wants to know a secret: what was that secret? Was it that Locke has been in a wheelchair until the crash? Is that what he told Walt? I can't remember whether we ever found out what that secret was.

Claire, Jin, sushi and Aaron
Maybe the episode's most mysterious scene is the one where Claire eats the seafood Jin brings her. The baby has not moved since the crash, even though she has eaten since then. Then she eats this, the first food "of the island", and immediately Aaron kicks and Claire feels with certainty that it is a boy. Is that scene somehow greatly significant? Was Aaron in dire straits and then became "possessed" by the island somehow when Claire ingested the food? Did something important happen there? Reincarnation? Possession? Or just a baby finally getting enough energy after the shock of the crash to kick his mommy again?

The line of the episode, it may even be the tag-line of the show, is Charlie's question (yet to be completely answered):

"Guys, where are we?"

Screencaps thanks to Lostpedia and lost-media.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Re-watching The Pilot Part 1

So last night I re-watched the first part of The Pilot, thinking that all these years of Lost-dom would make me see many hidden messages in this first episode of Lost. And I was kind of right, and kind of wrong.

Like I've posted before, I do think that the very first bit, with Jack waking in the jungle and running for the beach could very well be from a different time than the rest of the episode. That is, that particular part of it, may be what we'll see again at the very end of Lost, but then realize that it has a different context than we thought originally.

However, I see very little evidence of Jack acting as though he's been through it all before. Same for everyone else. Kate sure doesn't seem like she's been through it all before: she's a lot more vulnerable and scared than she is these days on Lost.

The one big question for me in The Pilot, pt 1 is: Why does the smoke monster kill the pilot of flight 815? Was it just a plot device to strike fear into the heart of us viewers and show us that the island is very, very dangerous right off the bat? Or did that death have a reason more rooted in the myth and general story-arc of Lost? In that case, then what is that reason? Smokey has been very reticent about killing people. I mean, he didn't even kill Keamy! Eko was killed by it, supposedly the spiders that killed Nikki (blech) were also Smokey, and one of Keamy's underlings died. And that pilot. Now what did the pilot do that was so bad? I really wonder. I also really wonder whether we'll ever find out.

It's also interesting that the monster sounds so mechanical in this episode. Very machine-like. It's purpose seems to be to keep the Losties on the beach, scaring them of the jungle. So was it controlled by someone? Ben? Jacob? Or was this just its usual "security behaviour"? Sigh. If I could fast forward to ONE answer on Lost it would be the answer to "What is the monster?".

And what about Vincent? He's there when Jack wakes up, then he's there watching as Kate, Jack and Charlie set off to find the cockpit. Was he reporting back to Christian? I wonder.

Watching The Pilot also makes me realize how far the characters have come. Boone and Shannon dead. Rose reunited with Bernard. Sayid off the island, married, then working for Ben. Kate a mother to an "adopted" son. Claire off in who knows where doing who knows what with who knows whom. Sawyer gone from a menacing smoking guy (does he even smoke anymore?) to a quippy good guy. Charlie dead (still miss him... Dominic Monaghan was really good). Sun and Jin no longer the dominant/submissive couple they seemed in the beginning. Walt about 3 feet taller! Michael dead after his ordeal.

Hurley really hasn't changed much. That first night after the crash he got everyone some food from what was left on the plane. The social networking guy, the guy looking to the needs past life and limb. Slipping Claire that extra food tray.

And Jack, well Jack really didn't change much before he got off the island imo. He was still the doctor, the go-to leader (sometimes reluctant), trusting in himself and his abilities, somewhat ornery and obnoxious... just as he is in The Pilot. Jack's big change is still to come imo. We saw the first part of it in the flashforwards at the end of S3, and then more in S4. I can't wait to see what happens to Jack: Matthew Fox' portrayal of this not-easy-to-like hero with some serious flaws is some seriously great acting.

I wonder if we'll find out more about the crash of 815 in S5? In S1 we found out about it from the viewpoint of the losties. In S2 we saw the tailies side, and Desmond's: how he failed to push the button and brought down the plane. In S3 we saw the crash from the viewpoint of the others. And in S4 we saw the other wreckage, at the bottom of the Sunda trench. Was it put there by Widmore or Ben? Or is it somehow a real 815 from a different timeline/different past/different future? Again: sigh. 2009 seems a loooooong way away.

Screencaps from The Pilot Part 1, thanks to Lostpedia and lost-media.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Guillermo, I Think I Really Really Like You

Frosty over at Collider.com managed to ask Guillermo Del Toro some questions when he was on the red carpet at The Saturn Awards. (He's representing for Hellboy II.) The interviews are here, and they are well worth a look. Not just for the answers to questions that range from casting for the hobbit, creatures for the hobbit, Hellboy II, Pan's Labyrinth and more, but because it's neat to see the future director of The Hobbit up close and personal. In what I imagine might be a rather rushed situation on the red carpet, and with a very knowledgable and enthusiastic interviewer who just happens not to be a world famous talking head on TV, GDT still comes across as absolutely devoted to answering the questions, not just brushing it off.

I'm impressed with what I see there. GDT seems not only well-versed in The Hobbit, but earnest, friendly, open and interested in giving good answers to good questions. He is also funny, certainly, but there is definitely a serious, and yes earnest, edge to him that I appreciate. Somehow he seems so geeky! In the best of ways.

Now I have to snap up a copy of The Devil's Backbone.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Lost Time Loop Speculation

So I'm reading about time-loops all over the board at The Fuselage. That Jack have been to the island before and is slowly regaining his memory of a previous stay over the course of the show. That Ben seems to know what's going on all the time. That all the losties may be doing it all for the second or third or more? time. That Kate's search for that little toy plane was the search for a constant. (Though I thought constants had to be people? Maybe not?)

However, imo, it would kind of cheapen everything that has happened so far if it was all a do-over for everyone, or even just for Jack. Plus he doesn't act, again imo, like someone who has been through it all before. He acts like someone who is honestly trying to figure it all out without losing his mind or his reliance on science. Even when science (at least science as he knows it) seems to fall short.

I've said it before though: the one guy really acting as though he's doing some time-traveling is Daniel Faraday. I think he might be doing something like what Desmond was doing, ie his mind is jumping between some point in the future into various points in the past. That would explain why he cried when he saw the (faked?) wreckage of 815 on TV, any why he seemed to somehow know that Juliet would not make it off the island when she turned down his offer of a ride.

And about that wreckage. Was it really faked? Or is it the wreckage as it "should" have been? From some sort of alternate future timeline where 815 did NOT crash on the island? And does that mean that the pilot of that 815 was Lapidus? And would it also mean that the Losties were on the plane? Or maybe that they were not: maybe all those coincidences that almost made them miss the flight actually ended up making them miss the flight? Locke, Hurley, Sayid, Sun... maybe in some alternate timeline they all missed the flight? And then it crashed in the ocean and ended up at the bottom of the Sunda trench?

Maybe what the ultimate endgame will involve, is to somehow reset the timeline, and "clean up" the alternate future where some of the 815ers survive the crash and end up on the island? (Or maybe the clean up will be more extensive, going back to before Dharma found the island?) Maybe, in the end, what is needed is for someone to do something on the island that reboots everything. Jack? Is that what is really happening at the very beginning of The Pilot when he wakes up in the bamboo? Not that the crash is happening for the second time, but that those first scenes before he finds the plane, are from his second time on the island. And he runs to the beach to see what time it is... and in the final Lost episode there will be no crashed plane there.

That would also mean that the mobisode "So It Begins" is actually how it ends. Because in my scenario, that scene is playing out when Jack does come back to the island

And will someone else be there too with him? Kate? Maybe. And his dad. And Vincent! No alone time...

The one problem I have with many of the various time-loop theories put forth at The Fuselage is that they seem too complex and too unwieldy to introduce on a show like Lost. Sure, there have been a lot of weird stuff going on on the island, but none of it has ever required much talk to explain it: a little Dharma video, some Daniel Faraday mumblings and some Ben snappishness and off we go! See how they introduced the Frozen Donkey Wheel? A little bunny-movie, Ben throwing out some one-liners and that was it. Lost is getting more and more sci-fi-ish, but it's still a character-driven drama in many ways. Whatever is going on with time-weirdness in the end, I don't think it will involve:
  1. physical doubles of people (aka paradox twins like in Back To The Future when a past and future version of a person can meet)
  2. physical time travel to the past - though the scene with Alpert and Locke when Locke was a boy makes me wonder... still, the rules for and examples of time travel we've seen so far, are all about being sent into the future - except that one dharma polar bear in the desert. Either it was pushing the donkey wheel a looooong time ago, or it was shoved into the past somehow... hmmm
  3. any of the Losties being revealed as having been through the whole island/crash thing before - like I said, I think that would cheapen everything we've seen on the show... but then again I thought it would be cheapening it if people could be resurrected, and now tptb are strongly hinting that Locke will be resurrected...
Somehow the time weirdness will be explained hastily and summarily. Not necessarily in a satisfactory manner... just think of how much there is to wonder about Desmond's time travel! But the scenario will be less complex than a lot of the fan theories, that is my firm belief and hope.

Like I posted at The Fuselage recently, any complicated scientific matter will probably be explained with
[blurry Dharma video]
[Daniel Faraday techno-babble]
Hurley: "So, like, the island dumped you guys in the past/future/alternatve timeline with all that... exotic matter/singularity vibrations/whatever?
Sawyer: "That's about it Snuffy!"

Or something like that...

Screencaps from Confirmed Dead, The Pilot and There's No Place Like Home thanks to lost-media.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Any Women In Here?

There are no female roles in The Hobbit. Really. None. Zip-o. Sure, bystanders and background characters there might be, but no big female roles for any actresses. No Arwen, no Eowyn, no Galadriel. Just male hobbits, dwarves, wizards, elven king and assorted other elves, human heroes and villains, Beorn, wolves, eagles, goblins, trolls... all male. Will Guillermo del Toro add some females just for the heck of it? Maybe some Galadriel just to show that she was on the White Council with Gandalf and Saruman (though there is no scene from the White Council in the book of course). Will Arwen make an appearance at Rivendell? I wonder.

I've read comments so many times from people who think Tolkien, and certainly his work, was sexist, that he didn't like women, that he didn't understand women, or just plain didn't care about them. Now usually I just shrug people off if they don't like Lord of the Rings or Tolkien or fantasy. Whatever. Their loss. Some people just don't get it and they don't have to. But in the case of the female element in Tolkien's work, I actually think people who say those things are ignorant and just plain wrong. Sure, there are very few female characters in LOTR and The Hobbit combined. But in The Silmarillion? Lots. And some really important ones too. If you're going to diss an author, at least read his work or make yourself familiar with it before you diss!

Luthien is without argument one of the most important characters in The Silmarillion. She is the first elf to marry a human man: Beren. She gives up her immortality for him. She goes to the halls of death to save him when he dies. She gives up her family, and her people, for the man she loves. But not just that: she is the more powerful one in the relationship. Beren would have never regained the silmaril without her help. She is the one who manages to subdue Morgoth so that Beren can cut the silmaril from his crown. Again and again she is the one who saves Beren's hide. She is a true heroine: brave, loyal, powerful. Considering she was based on Tolkien's wife, I think it's safe to say that he had a very high opinion of women and also, the portrayal of her vividly illustrates that women are not necessarily in the background and weak damsels in distress.

Galadriel figures in both LOTR and The Silmarillion. She is one of my absolute favourite female characters ever. I just wish Tolkien had written more about her! Way back when the world is still young, she is born in Eldamar and when Feanor incites the elves there to leave the land of the Valar, she goes with him. Not because she believes what Feanor has to say about the Valar necessarily. She had her own reasons.
But Galadriel, the only woman of the Noldor to stand that day tall and valiant among the contending princes, was eager to be gone. No oaths she swore, but the words of Feanor concerning Middle-earth had kindled in her heart, for she yearned to see the wide unguarded lands and to rule there a realm at her own will.
(The Silmarillion)
She is brave, headstrong, even hungry for glory. No shrinking violet, that's for sure.

When Peter Jackson's LOTR movies came out, some people were upset at the scene when Galadriel appears all threatening to Frodo and Sam at Galadriel's Mirror, but I loved that scene. It showed part of her true nature: a powerful, dangerous elven woman who had done, and would do!, great deeds in Middle-earth. No shy, retiring, kindly lady.

And then there's Eowyn, the shield maiden. I often wonder if Tolkien based her on someone he knew. His portrayal of her is so vivid and seems to true. A woman capable of great deeds in battle who is hemmed in by society's rules for female behaviour, a woman held back and thwarted at every turn in her young life. She falls in love with someone who does not love her back, and the grief of that drives her to join the battle in secret. And then she faces and helps destroy one of the most evil of evils in Tolkien's universe: The Witch King of Angmar. She is another amazing female character. Some people seem to think she betrays her own true self when she eventually falls in love with Faramir and gives up the sword, but I don't think that's true. Tolkien doesn't think that anyone should want to live for battle and war. Pretty much all the heroes of LOTR (Boromir maybe being the exception) yearn for peace. They fight in the war, but they don't crave battle and blood. Once the war of the ring is over, they all want to live in peace. And so does Eowyn.

It's also interesting to me that Eowyn, arguably the most "masculine" of Tolkien's female characters, ends up marrying the arguably most "feminine" of his male characters: Faramir. The parts of LOTR that deal with their love story are beautiful. True romance in Middle-earth!

I think the lack of female characters in Tolkien's work is because so much of it deals with war and battle, something he obviously thought was an area reserved mainly for men. He had been in the army himself, and that was obviously a very male world in his day. Because LOTR and The Hobbit are both very "war and battle" centered, there are few women on display there. In The Sil however, that deals a lot more with "behind the scenes" stuff, times of peace and wandering, love and marriage, there are many more women. Luthien is the strongest, most prominent one of course, but Galadriel is there and so is Idril Celebrindal, the headstrong Aredhel, Elwing (mother of Elrond), all the female Valar, and not to forget: Melian the Maia who marries and elven man and is the mother of Luthien.

I know most people who say "Tolkien didn't "get" women" won't read The Sil. But if they did, and even if they read LOTR with an open mind, I think they'd know they were proven wrong.

Screencaps from The Lord of the Rings movies, thanks to TORN. That first one, of Arwen mourning Aragorn, always makes me so sad. It seems to perfectly illustrate Tolkien's words from the appendix to LOTR: "and the light of her eyes was quenched, and it seemed to her people that she had become cold and grey as nightfall in winter that comes without a star." *sob*

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Who Is Richard Alpert?

We first saw him try to recruit Juliet in "Not In Portland", then later on we found out he did some legwork for Ben off-island, that he at some point recruited Ben and, most mysteriously of all, that he visited the hospital where Locke was born, all while looking pretty much the same age (and sporting the same fab eyes and eyelashes!).

So who is he? Or rather: what have tptb decided to make him? Because it is not for certain that their plans for Alpert when he first appeared on the show was to make him the Panchen Lama of the island. Actors who do good on Lost can indeed change the future of their characters! That's something we've seen before on the show (Ben and Desmond being the prime examples).

Here goes: what are the clues that Alpert's appearances have given us as to who he really is?

(Information from Lostpedia's entries on various episodes, episode transcripts and their Alpert profile.)

Not In Portland & One Of Us
These two episodes from S3 show us how Juliet was brought to the island. In both of them we see Alpert acting as something of a recruiter for the island, trying to convince Juliet to come work for Mittelos Science. Maybe this is something of his prime function? Because later on of course, we see him attempt to recruit young Locke and successfully sign up young Ben. The dynamics of his conversation with Juliet right before she's drugged and taken to the island is interesting:

RICHARD: I know that erm, six months sounds like an eternity but, you're gonna be amazed at how time flies once you're there.

JULIET: I can't wait to find out where there is.

ETHAN: Doctor Burke? Wanna have a seat, I'd like to take some of your vitals. If that's OK with you?

JULIET: Yeah, sure.

RICHARD: You know everyone at the company's really excited about you coming down Doctor Burke. And I think your research is really gonna have a major impact on us.

[Juliet sees Richard pours a substance into a glass of orange juice]

JULIET: What is that?

RICHARD: That, is orange juice, with a considerable amount of tranquilizer mixed in.

JULIET: [Pause] You want me to drink it?

RICHARD: Oh yes [Smiles], you're gonna wanna be asleep for the trip Doctor Burke.

ETHAN: It can be [Chuckles], kind of intense.

JULIET: Er, OK, I was fine with signing all over your paperwork. Fine with agreeing to not talk to anyone in my life for six months. Fine with the fact that no-one in the medical community has ever heard of Mittelos Bioscience.

RICHARD: Why were you fine?

JULIET: What?

RICHARD: Why were you fine with those things? It seems like, er, quite a leap for a job opportunity. I mean we're not paying ya that much. I think you're fine because deep down a part of you knows that the place we're taking you to is special.

JULIET: Special huh.

RICHARD: Let me ask you, Juliet. You took a woman, your own sister. Whose reproductive system was ravaged by chemotherapy, who was sterile. And you made her pregnant. You created life where life wasn't supposed to be. That's a gift, Juliet. You have a gift. And don't you think you're meant to do something significant with it? Where we're going, you can do just that.

JULIET: Where exactly are we...

RICHARD: I can't tell you that. But what I can tell you is that, you'll see things there that you never imagined. Now, no-one is forcing you to do anything, so if you change your mind we're happy to take you back to...

[Juliet takes the glass and quickly gulps down the entire drink]

I love that bit when he turns it around on her and asks why she was fine with all the other weird stuff. Ben is maybe Lost's most obvious master manipulator, but I have to wonder if he didn't learn some of his skills from Richard Alpert. It's also interesting how he stresses to Juliet that she has a gift.

There are hints of a more sinister side to Alpert in "Not In Portland". Juliet originally balks at going to work for Mittelos, saying that her ex-husband (the man she works for), would never allow her to go.

ALPERT: What if I told you that you could have complete freedom and money to find out? We think you're special, Dr. Burke. And we want you to lead a team of highly trained people because we think you're just that good.

JULIET: I can't.

ALPERT: Why can't you?

JULIET: My ex-husband wouldn't let me. I...

ALPERT: He wouldn't want you to have this opportunity?

JULIET [upset]: No, he doesn't want me to have anything. He would never give the okay. It's...

ALPERT: Maybe we could reach out to him on your behalf?

JULIET: Don't bother.

ALPERT: There must be something that he would respond to.

JULIET: If he were hit by a bus. How about that? That would work. [she gets tears in her eyes, then is embarrassed] How totally inappropriate.

ALPERT: No, no, no.

"We think you're special". And then Juliet mentions the bus thing. And then her ex does get hit by a bus. Did Richard orchestrate that? Was it just an accident? Or did the island somehow do it (or Jacob?), because it (or fate?) wanted her to come? Is that how the other Losties ended up on flight 815? Fate? Jacob? Human interference?

In "One Of Us" we also see what is supposedly Richard right after the crash of 815. Ben gets Mikhail to contact him in Miami so that they can prove to Juliet that her sister and the sister's child are alive and well.

BEN: Can we uplink to Richard in Acadia Park please.

BEN: [To Juliet] Yesterday you called me a liar. I was hurt by that.

[Ben puts on headphones and talks into a speaker]

BEN: Hello, Richard can you hear me?

[A monitor shows a newspaper front page and then a park]

BEN: Notice today's date, this is live. OK, Richard.

[The camera pans out and tilts to a woman playing with a little boy. It's Rachel. Juliet runs to the monitor crying]

JULIET: Oh my god. Oh! Oh my god!

BEN: A little over two years ago, to everyone's complete surprise, Rachel's cancer went into complete remission. Shortly after she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. His name is Julian. [Holds headphones] OK, thank you Richard. You'll wanna get back here as soon as you can, we may have some new visitors.

Ben had told Juliet her sister's cancer was back, but that if Juliet stayed on the island, then Jacob would cure her sister: "Jacob said he would take care of it himself." But did that cancer ever actually come back at all? Was it all a fakeout? Or did Richard cure the sister? Alpert sure seems to have been traveling around a lot off-island with relative ease. I wonder how he got off the island and exactly how he and Ethan got Juliet to the island originally.

The Man From Tallahassee & The Brig
In these two episodes we see Alpert interacting with Ben and Locke primarily. Alpert was apparently sent off the island by Ben about 8 days after the crash to go fetch Locke's dad. Why? One can only wonder. So that Locke can kill his father? Why? To manipulate Locke? It would seem that at that early stage already Ben, and probably Alpert (knowing what we now know about his backstory with Locke) knew Locke was going to be important somehow. One thing I just thought of: IF Alpert can time travel with relative ease, is it possible that he went back into Locke's past at this point (ie right after the crash of 815) to investigate Locke some more? If he did not time travel, but had in fact already been to see Locke when he was a child, it must have seemed rather important to him that John Locke had finally made it to the island!

Then comes "The Brig", where Locke is told by Ben that he has to kill his father. And he is given a knife to do the deed with. Is it the same knife Alpert once offered to Locke as a young boy? The one item he chose that seemed to upset Alpert? Maybe, because Alpert gives Locke a way out of killing his dad: get Sawyer to do it.

RICHARD: It's beautiful isn't it. No matter how much time you spend on the Island you just never get tired of this view. We haven't been formally introduced, I'm Richard.

[They shake hands]

RICHARD: You mind if I, join you here.

LOCKE: Nah sure.

RICHARD: He wanted to embarrass you.

LOCKE: I'm sorry?

RICHARD: Ben knew you weren't gonna kill your own father. He put you in front of everyone in our camp just so they could all watch ya fail.

LOCKE: Why?

RICHARD: Cause when word got back here that there was a man with a broken spine on the plane who could suddenly walk again, well, people here began to get very excited because that, that could only happen to someone who was extremely special. But Ben doesn't want anyone to think you're special, John.

LOCKE: And why are you telling me this?

RICHARD: Ben has been wasting our time with novelties like fertility problems. We're looking for someone to remind us that we're here for more important reasons.

LOCKE: What do you want from me?

RICHARD: I want for you to find your purpose. And to do that, your father has to go, John. And since you're not gonna do it, I'm gonna suggest someone else.

Again with the "special" thing, again with the intimation that the person being "recruited" has a purpose they need to fulfill, just like with Juliet. Why does Locke's father have to die? I still have no idea about that.

The Man Behind The Curtain
Once Locke brings his dad's body to Ben, Locke demands to find out "everything" about the island (boy, will he ever be disappointed!). What Ben tells Locke is interesting as it pertains to Alpert, and also because Ben is lying:

BEN: You probably think I'm the leader of this little community, but that's not entirely true. We all answer to someone, John.

LOCKE: And whom might that be?

BEN: His name is Jacob.

LOCKE: Okay, then. Take me to Jacob.

BEN: I can't do that.

[John gets up and heads to leave]

BEN: Where are you going?

LOCKE: Hell, Ben, if you don't wanna take me, maybe someone else will. I'll just go and ask Richard...

BEN: Why would Richard take you? He doesn't know where Jacob is. He doesn't talk to Jacob...

LOCKE: Well, who talks to him?

BEN: I do.

LOCKE: So you're the only one who talks to him?

BEN: That's right!

LOCKE: And no one else knows where he is?

BEN: I was born here on this Island. I'm one of the last that was. Most of these people you see—I brought them here. So Jacob talks to me, John. He tells me what to do, trusts me.

LOCKE: And no one else has ever seen him?

BEN: That's right.

LOCKE: How convenient. You know what I think, Ben? I think there is no Jacob. I think your people are idiots if they believe you take orders from someone else. You are the man behind the curtain, the Wizard of Oz. And you're a liar.

And of course he is a liar. He wasn't born on the island. Is he also lying about being the only one who can see and talk to Jacob? And about how Richard can't do either of those things? Is he maybe even lying about being able to see and hear Jacob himself? Is that why he is so shocked when it turns out Locke does see and hear something in Jacob's cabin?

Alpert looks shocked when Ben says he's taking Locke to Jacob. Mikhail states that it's a bad idea. Why is Alpert so shocked? If he thinks Locke is special, why would it be a bad idea to take him to Jacob?

In a Ben flashback we get to see how he is recruited in a fashion by Alpert. Ben has seen his dead mother appear outside his window and tries to find her again. He heads off into the jungle, outside the sonic fence:

BEN: Mom..? Mom? Mom! Mom! Mom!

[Ben hears the whispers, and then turns to see a long-haired Richard Alpert standing behind him]

RICHARD: Whoa whoa whoa whoa. Whoa. Whoa, hey, hey, whoa, I didn't mean to scare you. Wait, wait! Are you lost? Wait!

BEN: Are you one of them?

RICHARD: One of who?

BEN: A hostile.

RICHARD: Do you even know what that word means? What's your name?

BEN: Ben.

RICHARD: Ben? So you wanna tell me what you're doing in the middle of the jungle all by yourself?

BEN: I left home, and...I'm looking for my Mom.

RICHARD: You think she's out here?

BEN: You wouldn't believe me.

RICHARD: Try me.

BEN: She's dead.

RICHARD: Did she die here, on the Island?

BEN: No. When I was a baby.

RICHARD: Did you see her, out here, Ben, in the jungle?

BEN: She talked to me.

RICHARD: What did she say?

BEN: That I couldn't come with her. She said it wasn't time yet.

RICHARD: You should go home now, your people will be looking for you.

BEN: I don't want to go back there! I hate it there! Take me with you.

RICHARD: Maybe that can happen, maybe. But if that's what you really want, Ben, if that's what you want, I want you to really think about that. And you're gonna have to be very, very patient.

Alpert's questions are interesting. He doesn't question the fact that Ben has seen his dead mother, but he wants to know specifics: did she die on the island? did Ben see her in the jungle? Why are those things important? Do the answers mean that Alpert is fishing for information about whether Ben is "special"? Seeing dead people who died on the island is somehow different than seeing dead people who died elsewhere... Things that make you go hmmm.


Greatest Hits & Through The Looking Glass
In these two episodes, Alpert doesn't really do much except take orders from Ben who doesn't tell him that he shot Locke after they went to see Jacob.

RICHARD: Ben, what's going on?

BEN: Where's Ryan?

RICHARD: He's at his tent, are you....

BEN: It's time to get them.

RICHARD: [Mumbles] But you said tomorrow.

BEN: Jacob wants it to happen now.

RICHARD: Look, what happened out there--did John see...

BEN: John had an accident.
And from Through The Looking Glass:

RICHARD: We're going to the radio tower?

BEN: Not we, Richard, me. You're going to take everyone to the temple as planned.

RICHARD: Now might not be the best time to go tromping off on your own.

BEN: Oh really and why not?

RICHARD: Because people are asking questions, Ben. About leaving home, about what happened to Locke, about Jacob. Not to mention the rapidly spreading rumour that everyone that went down to the beach is dead.

People are asking questions about Jacob? What would they be asking? If he exists at all? What does Richard know about Jacob?

Cabin Fever
Well, this episode is fresh in everyone's memory. Alpert is there when Locke is in his incubator as a newborn. A nurse asks if it's the father but Locke's grandmother says she doesn't know the man. Then Alpert shows up doing his Panchen Lama thing with little Locke, admiring his smoke monster drawing and then becoming upset when Locke picks the knife. (What should he have picked? The book of laws?)

RICHARD: Okay, now tell me, John, which of these things belong to you?

JOHN: To--to keep?

RICHARD: No, no, John. Which of these things belong to you already?

(John takes a vial of some kind of substance, a compass and after a pause, a knife.)

RICHARD: Are you sure the knife belongs to you, John?

(John nods)

RICAHRD: You sure about that?

(sighs)

RICHARD: Well, it doesn't.

(Richard snatches the knife away)

WOMAN: How did he do?

RICHARD: I'm afraid John isn't quite ready for our school. I'm sorry I've wasted your time.

So did Locke fail or is it just that Alpert doesn't want him to know that he passed? And is the whole thing time-travelly or was Alpert legitimately there in the 1950s? Inquiring minds want to know! ASAP.

There's No Place Like Home
In this episode we see Alpert take Kate and Sayid prisoner in the jungle, then apparently make a deal with them: if they help The Others save Ben from Keamy, then Kate and Sayid will be able to go free and leave the island. This mirrors the deal that was made with Michael when he went to free Ben to get Walt back. Ben seems unsure of his standing with Richard when he sees him again, but he doesn't question the deal (maybe because he knows that if people have "work to do" on the island, the island will make damn sure they come back?).

BEN: Thank you for coming, Richard.

RICHARD: My pleasure.

(Ben reaches his bound hands toward Kate, who has picked up Keamy's knife that Sayid dropped in the fight.)

BEN: Could you cut me free, Kate?

(Kate cuts the plastic bindings off of Ben's hands.)

BEN: What was the arrangement?

RICHARD: They, uh, help us free you, and we let 'em off the island.

BEN: Fair enough. The helicopter is yours. You and Sayid have a safe journey back.

KATE: So we can go? Off the island? That's it?

BEN: That's it.

Why did Alpert recruit Kate and Sayid? By what we've seen The Others do, they could have freed Ben themselves... And Richard does end up shooting Keamy when he tries to kill Sayid. Alpert seems interested in freeing Ben, but not that worried about him... which is a bit weird I guess. And then, Alpert's last line in S4:
RICHARD: Hello, John. Welcome home.
Alpert saying Locke belongs on the island. Even though we know that Locke eventually ends up dead OFF the island. And that "bad things" happened after the O6 left. How many times has Richard experienced the island moving I wonder? Is he ancient? Is he from the future? All I know is this: S5 or S6 better have a juicy Alpert flashback.

All screencaps thanks to Lostpedia.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lost Mysteries Of Season 1

I always figure that the basic mystery of Lost is: What is the island? Sure, there are other mysteries: Dharma, Widmore, Smokey... but in essence, everything comes back to and is grounded in the nature of the island. There is something about the island that makes Smokey possible, that makes time weirdness possible, that made Dharma build their hatches and start their research and makes Widmore want to find it so badly. And to me, season 1 of the show has to be key when it comes to clues, hints and mysteries that are majorly important to figuring out what the island is all about.

Why? Well, I figure that when the show started, tptb didn't know how long they had to tell their story. Maybe they'd only get one season. So it stands to reason that they'd put enough information into the show's beginning that they could have, somehow, cobbled together some kind of ending. Yes, it would probably have been rushed and unsatisfactory and we'd have missed out on Alpert, Ben and Desmond, Juliet, Miles and Daniel... and that's a whole lot to miss! But anyway, S1 has to have some serious goods in it. Which is why I went back and read up on the eps (watching them all will have to wait a while) to refresh my memory as to what came first.

Smokey
Smokey the "monster" (or whatever it may turn out to be) was introduced right from the start in The Pilot. We saw it chase Kate and Charlie and Jack, we saw it kill 815's pilot and generally make noise and misbehave. Since then we've seen a lot more of it, but I'm guessing it will be S6 before we get any big answers here.

The Black Rock
How did the ship get to be way up on an island mountain side? What happened to the people on it? This also ties in with how Yemi's plane could have reached the island. Do Alpert and/or Richard have a connection to The Black Rock? Does Widmore?

Polar bears
These seem to have gotten their explanation once we saw that the Others had cages for polar bears. But I'm not convinced that totally explains it. Charlotte found a several thousand year old polar bear skeleton in the Tunisian desert wearing a collar with a Dharma symbol. How did that happen? Turning the donkey wheel bumped Ben into the future, not the past. And how did the bears get there anyway? Maybe the island was in a polar region at some point?

Walt's powers
Walt is special, that much the show seems to have confirmed early on, but we've never really gotten an explanation as to what he's capable of doing. The Others interest in him was not just because they can't procreate and therefore would need children, as was shown in the mobisodes, they were doing something to him and what he did in turn freaked them out. We've seen birds fly into windows a lot when Walt is upset. And later there's his whole turning-up-soaking-wet-and-talking-backwards-to-people schtick. And even more recently turning up all grown up to tell Locke to get a move on. Clearly, Walt can appear in places where he is not physically present. Clearly he can affect his environment somehow. Hopefully he'll be back in the cast for next season so we can find out what the heck is really going on there.

Vincent
After seeing the mobisode "So It Begins", I'm convinced that Vincent may actually feature a lot more in the last two seasons of the show. If he was "communicating" with Christian every time Walt and Michael were looking for him, then what were they communicating about? I want a Vincent flashback ep that shows us everything he's been up to when he was off in the jungle!

Dead man walking
Very early on we saw that dead people can be seen by the living on the island. Christian showed himself to Jack in "White Rabbit", seemingly to guide him to water and the caves. Just like we later saw with Yemi, his body disappears but he sure doesn't. Is he a manifestation of Smokey? A zombie? The island somehow projecting itself? The theme of dead people being able to interact with the living and communicating with them seems to run throughout the show and the addition of Miles to the mix this past season makes me think we might finally start to find out what that's all about.

Adam and Eve
Jack and Kate find the two skeletons at the caves. On the bodies is a pouch with one white and one black stone. According to tptb, once we find out who Adam and Eve are, we'll know that they knew where the story was going right from the start. Some people say that Adam and Eve will turn out to be Desmond and Penny. However, I find it more likely that they are two people we knew from S1. Jack and Kate? My own favourites are Rose and Bernard.

Healing
The island heals Rose's cancer and fixes Locke's legs. The island's "energy" may be responsible in some fashion, but then how come Ben gets a tumor and Jack gets appendicitis? Because the island is "displeased" with them? Just like when it won't let them die, but, you know, the opposite? Is it the island actually, actively healing them (as in: it's acting like a person), or is it more that it's properties and fate and destiny and time somehow make these things happen "naturally"? Ben tells Juliet that Jacob cured her sister's cancer. Is Jacob somehow able of making people sick and healthy? Is he the island? Ugh. Just another one of the mysteries that seems like you have part of it figured out but when you think about it some more, you really don't know anything...

Whispers
I already wrote about them. Some of them may be the Hostiles/Others communicating but a lot of them have to be something more. Dead people still able to make themselves heard? That's what I'm starting to think after S4 and seeing Miles in action.

The vaccine
What the heck was the vaccine all about? Ethan was injecting Claire with something. Much later we saw Claire get sick and bleed, and this was somehow triggered on Ben's orders. So was it a vaccine or just part of that ruse? Charlie worked really hard to get Aaron and Claire vaccine in one episode and we know Desmond used it too... We've never gotten a satisfactory explanation about the vaccine and what it actually was supposed to do.

Aaron
Claire's psychic told her that her child should not be raised by another/an other. Then said she should give the baby up for adoption in America, basically putting her on flight 815. And in "Raised By Another", Claire has a very weird and possibly prophetic dream about Aaron:

Claire wakes up in the night. A baby's cry is heard. Claire sits up with a confused and concerned expression on her face; she looks down and feels her stomach, noticing that she is not pregnant. She hears a baby cry again and starts off into the jungle in a daze, apparently looking for the source of the crying. Claire sees a light in the jungle and walks toward it, where she encounters Locke sitting at the table at which she received her psychic reading (in her flashback later in this episode); the psychic's electric lamp is also present. As she approaches, Locke is drawing what appear to be the psychic's cards from a deck one by one as he stares down at the table (the first one making the sound of a metal against metal, like a knife being unsheathed); they exchange a few brief words:

CLAIRE: What's happening?
LOCKE: You know what's happening.
CLAIRE: But I don't understand. Why --?
LOCKE: He was your responsibility but you gave him away, Claire. Everyone pays the price now.

As Locke finishes saying this, he looks up at her with a creepy expression on his face and has one black eye and one white eye.
Yep. Something is up with Aaron. Not sure what yet. I guess he has to go back to the island in S5, but I really wonder how they'll make that happen. I just don't see Kate taking a little kid back there.

The numbers
I don't think these will ever be totally explained. The possibly canon explanation of The Valenzetti Equation is probably as much as we'll ever get.

Conclusion
My conclusion is that we really don't know a hell of a lot more about the island than we did in S1. Yes, we know more about what's been going on there, but no real answers about what it really is and why it's so special. Lots of hints (Daniel talking about light refracting oddly, donkey wheels, Dharma, hatches) but nothing concrete that actually explains what it is and how it does what it does. I guess this is because the actual nature of the island is the key to all of Lost, and we won't find out until the very end. Hopefully we will find out then at least!

All screencaps thanks to Lostpedia.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Whispers & Whisperers

I remember the first time I clicked on the Whispers topic at The Fuselage. My head just about exploded. Seriously. In a show full of mind-benders and mind-blowers, the whispers still stand out as either one of the biggest mysteries or the biggest mind-screws around.

There are different whispers on Lost. Some everyone can kind of hear: like that time Sawyer was hunting a boar in "Outlaws", or when we saw Keamy and his men attacked at the chopper in "There's No Place Like Home". Others are hidden in the soundtrack, under other sounds and noises. Only with special audio equipment can you weed out the voices talking beneath it all. But yes, they are apparently there on purpose and must, I hope, have a purpose.

I know some people don't really believe it, but the whispers are legit. One of Lost's soundguys had this to say in Home Theatre Magazine March 2007 (and I'm quoting LostLaura's opening post of the whispers thread):

Question: Do you guys have any inside dope about where Lost is headed?
Tom de Gorter, Supervising Sound Editor: "They do give us advance knowledge on certain story lines we need to know about, but we can't talk about them. I will say there are sound effects in some episodes that provide clues about stuff that will be revealed later on. You could call them Easter eggs for very careful listeners."
To see what I'm yammering on about, read the transcripts. There were whispers in S1 and there were still whispers (and presumably whisperers) around in S4.

Some of the whispers make it seem like it's a group of people watching the losties from far away somewhere. Others make it seem like there's a group almost right there, with them, in the jungle but unseen, even if they sometimes seem to fear detection. Like in this scene from "Outlaws" when Sawyer's walking around the jungle:
(Sawyer breathing)
There goes another poking his head in here
(could be 'There goes somebody')
Yeah, let's see what he's doing
Let's
Let me decide
Come back
Wait
I see another one
It'll come back around
(Frank Ducketts voice)
------
Oh my god there's a guy out there
Dennis (?) find out what's going on
Did he see us?
Maybe
Open it
Did you see what direction he went?
Right through those trees
Go and get him
There is an explanation (resolution?) and I bet you haven't thought of it
What is it?
He's been in a plane crash
Are you sure?
I know what it's like for a plane to crash
Complain, complain, complain
I want to get closer
I know what you said, but he's looking around
What if he shoots us or something
------
There may be something, but it may be slack (?)
Let's go
Has he seen us?
(Alarms go off)
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry
(faint...could be echo from alarm)
Intruder, Intruder
Hide against the bushes
Open the door
I know what it's like for a plane to crash
Complain, complain, complain
I know what you said, but...

Like they're right there, afraid to be spotted by Sawyer.

And remember when Shannon was shot in the jungle when she walked into Ana Lucia and her group? Here are the whispers from that scene in "The Other 48 Days":

Relax Dude, I think she likes the guy
You're life
Ich Weiss Nicht
(German for 'I don't know')
Look out
Ana’s the trigger
You're gonna kill her
Move on
(Gun shot)
See ya
(Like a chorus singing just after the gunshot)
------
Shannon
She likes the guy, she likes the guy
Shannon
Your life and and time is up
Help me
Shannon, meet me on the other side
Her song
('Ana-Lucia' when reversed)
(Gun shot)
------
Relax dude, she likes the guy, she likes the guy
Shannon
(In the background)
I know it all I know it all...
(In the background)
Dying sucks
Shannon
I don't think you should tell her when she comes
Obviously she likes you
Who's the guy?
I want to see Shannon
Eye to eye
(In the background)
Who's the guy?
Fire Lucia
The brothers that help us
Are you done with it?
Her song
('Ana-Lucia' when reversed)
(Gun shot)
Fire
Yeah. Crazy right. But the one scene which is probably crazier than any other whisper scene is the one from "?". When Eko is listening to the autopsy-tape recorded when the girl who has supposedly died from drowning wakes up on the autopsy table, there are whispers. Yes, OFF island. In a scene in a mortuary in Australia. WTF does that mean? That the whisperers are off island? That they are watching things take place in Australia too? And are the whispers on the tape, that is at the autopsy, or are they in the room with Eko when he listens to the tape?

Remember: the girl who "died" was related to the "psychic" who told Claire to take Aaron on the 815 flight. And the girl also told Mr Eko he would soon see his brother, claiming she had met Yemi when she was "dead".
Doctor: This is a Caucasian female. She's 161 cm, 51.3 kilos, body prepped and washed by the very lovely Valerie McTavish
Assistant: Ian, stop it
Doctor: Commencing with the post
Whisper: That's her (or) That's enough
Doctor: This is a clear case of drowning. I'll begin with a thoracic...
Charlotte Malkin: John! (screaming)
Whisper: She's alive
Whisper: How will we know
Assistant: Oh my God!
Doctor: Valerie!
Assistant: She's Alive!
Doctor: I think she's trying...
Charlotte Malkin: Let John Locke go (on)!
Whisper: She's not dead
Whisper: I found it
Doctor: Try and calm down
(Assistant screaming stop, stop)
Doctor: Valerie get... she's crying, don't just stand there do something!
Whisper: We’re sending them in (or) Let’s hear what she says
"I found it?" Found what? And how are they looking exactly? In another whisper scene from "Abandoned" when Ana Lucia and Eko are in the jungle, someone whispers "I'm in someone's dream". Which is a quote I love, but it's also seriously weird.

More recently, in "The Man Behind The Curtain", when Ben sees his mother in the jungle, there's a man whispering:
Man: "Ben, You're my prisoner and- (inaudible, but most likely: "and we are ready" or "and you are mine". Perhaps both in overlay.)
In the same scene there is this:
1. Talk to him (11.10)
2. Tell him that you're his mother (12.1)
3. Tell him to be patient (14.9) this mp3 also has # 4 on it...
4. That'll just make it worse (16.29)
{Ben: Mom?} (20.1)
{Mom Vision: Ben Don't!} (27)
{Ben: Mom...} (33)
Mom Vision: { It's not time yet, Benjamin.} (34.5)
Freaking me out even reading it now. What the hell are these whispers and who is whispering? Are they the Hostiles, as in whatever natives have lived longest on the island, like Alpert for example? Are they alive? Are they somehow directing and shaping events? Are they time travelers somehow? In short: W T F?

Thoughts
Considering this season's addition of Miles the Ghost Whisperer, I do wonder whether the whispers are what he hears. He seems to be able both to communicate with the dead and to "read minds" in some capacity (knowing Michale and other people on the freighter were lying, knowing Charlotte had been looking for the island).

Regardless, once I read the transcripts and realized that this stuff is actually real and somebody on staff at Lost is putting this into the show... well, that really bends my mind and twists it into a pretzel. I really hope this is explained somehow in the coming two seasons of Lost. If it's not, I'll be kind of pissed off. Because that autopsy whispering? Is totally making my skin crawl when I think of the implications of it being off-island.

Screencaps of Sawyer from "Outlaws", Ana Lucia from "The Other 48 Days" and Miles from "Confirmed Dead", thanks to Lostpedia.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tolkien's Recurring Themes

If you've read LOTR, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion you definitely start to notice that JRR Tolkien had various "themes" that return again and again in his stories. This is pretty much true of any writer and doesn't necessarily mean their work is repetitive in any way, just that there are certain subjects and situations that are of great significance to the writer and therefore keep cropping up in their creative process.

I'm sure others can think of many recurring motifs Tolkien's work, but the ones that especially stand out for me are:

Orphans
I don't even know how many orphans there are in Tolkien, but there are a lot. Frodo was orphaned at an early age and eventually adopted by his uncle Bilbo. Aragorn lost his father early on, then his mother and was raised by Elrond. Elrond himself was orphaned as a small child when Elwing and Eärendil sailed off to Eldamar and ended up saving Middle Earth but never came back. Eowyn and Eomer are orphaned and raised by their uncle. Faramir and Boromir lose their mother at a young age. In The Silmarillion there are many, many more examples. The fact that Tolkien himself lost his parents, his father died when he was quite small and his mother when he was 12, no doubt plays a big role here.

Man of the people marrying up
This happens frequently in Tolkien's stories. If the two parties getting married are not of "equal" standing, it always seems to be the man who is of "lower" birth than the woman. This is further emphasized when it is elven women marrying human men: elves being the innately more noble and refined race (not to mention immortal) compared to human beings. Aragorn and Arwen, Beren and Luthien, Idril Celebrindal and Tuor... Even in the case of Galadriel and Celeborn, it can be argued that she is "above" him since she was born in Eldamar while he had never been to the lands of the farthest west. Does this mean that Tolkien had an idealized and romanticized view of women? To some extent probably yes, though imo he shows few signs of misogyny in his work and has actually created some of the most interesting and complex female characters in speculative fiction. I'll write more about that another day!

The reluctant father-figure
This kind of goes with the above theme. The father-figure who is reluctant to let the couple in love get married is a recurring plot point in Tolkien's work. This very much mirrors the situation Tolkien found himself in when he wanted to marry Edith Mary Bratt (the ur-Luthien and! another orphan!) but got the cold shoulder from his guardian. To quote Wikipedia:

His guardian, Father Francis Morgan, viewing Edith as a distraction from Tolkien's school work and horrified that his young charge was seriously involved with a Protestant girl, prohibited him from meeting, talking, or even corresponding with her until he was twenty-one. He obeyed this prohibition to the letter, with one notable early exception which made Father Morgan threaten to cut short his University career if he did not stop.

On the evening of his twenty-first birthday, Tolkien wrote to Edith a declaration of his love and asked her to marry him. Edith replied saying that she had already agreed to marry another man, but that she had done so because she had believed Tolkien had forgotten her. The two met up and beneath a railway viaduct renewed their love; Edith returned her engagement ring and announced that she was marrying Tolkien instead.
This same situation crops up with Aragorn, Elrond and Arwen. It's very significant for the tale of Beren and Luthien's relationship that her father Thingol is against their union. True love usually perseveres, even against horrific odds and it's not just the man who has to show his bravery and perseverance: in both the Aragorn/Arwen situation and especially in the Luthien/Beren story, the woman shows great courage and tenacity too.

Jealousy but no cheating
I can't think of a single occasion when either a married man or a married woman cheats on their significant other in a Tolkien story. Not even evil men do this it seems. Maybe it's because Tolkien thought cheating on a spouse too base to contemplate for his style of storytelling, but I still think the omission is interesting. There is plenty of jealousy. Maeglin the elf is jealous of Idril and Tuor's love for each other. Daeron the minstrel is jealous of Luthien and Beren. There is lots of jealousy and greed in Tolkien's stories, but again, no unfaithfulness. Maybe Tolkien never experienced it first hand? I can only speculate, but I think that on the whole, he must have been a rather happily married man.

Children are good
I also think Tolkien must have liked children. (And I don't say this just because he wrote children's books! Lewis Carroll did that too, but I don't think he really liked children very much at all.) Children are not featured all that much in LOTR or The Hobbit, but when they're seen, they are usually fun-loving, playful, endearing and rather intelligent. Look at Bergil, Beregond's son who befriends Pippin in Minas Tirith. Read the description of hobbit children in LOTR when they're mentioned in the description of Bilbo's party. Remember Farmer Maggot's household and his children. Children in Tolkien's world seem to be essentially good, though they are sometimes hit hard by tragic circumstances, but they are never annoying, stupid or "in the way". The only time someone talks disdainfully of children, it's in the words of Saruman, speaking to Theoden: "What is The House Of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek, and their brats roll around on the floor with their dogs!"

I find this affinity for and often clearly expressed liking of children one of Tolkien's most endearing qualities. There are other recurring motifs of course: spiders, darkness, trees... but this will do for now.

Images of Frodo & Sam, Arwen, Elrond and Faramir & Boromir from the LOTR movies, thanks to TORN and Tolkien Gateway.

Hola Beorn?


Last night I watched "No Country For Old Men". Loved it. The ending was rather abrupt, but the movie was excellent and confirmed my low for gnarly old coot Tommy Lee Jones. This was also the first time I'd seen Javier Bardem in a movie and afterwards I was thinking about his peculiar "look": everything about him is so big. Big eyes, big nose, big chin, big head... and it came to me that he would make a really, really good Beorn. Built big and heavy and with a deep voice, acting skills aplenty. Of course I have no idea if he'd be interested in a fantasy movie, but Del Toro is Spanish as well... so you never know!

I mean, just look at this picture of him from imdb.com! If that's not a Beorn in the making, I don't know who is!

McAvoy Would Totally Say Yes

IESB: Can you confirm or deny The Hobbit?

JM: I can completely deny it. It just seems to have all been rumors.

IESB: Nobody talked to you?

JM: No, not at all. Neither Peter Jackson nor Guillermo Del Toro have got in contact.

IESB: Would you want to play Bilbo?

JM: I think I’d need to see the script first. From what I hear them saying, they don’t even have a script. So you’d have to see if you’re right for the part, although I’m sure if I was wrong for the part, they wouldn’t even bother asking so who knows. We’ll see.

The quote is from IESB, via TORN.

I'd say he'd be interested if he was approached, but no one has officially approached him since there is no script yet.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Does This Character Make Me Look Fat?

Choosing what you're going to look like is always fun. As a matter of fact, in an MMORPG it's a lot of fun. I often wonder how other people choose what races to play and how to customize their appearance. For myself, I definitely favour short and wide. Yep, if there's a race of short stature, that's what I'll pick as my main: hobbits, halflings, dwarves. In RL I'm 172 cm tall, which isn't gigantic or anything, but a decent height. But like I said, for some reason I prefer the small folks when I pick a toon. Why is that? I don't know. Does it somehow reflect my inner self? How I see myself? How I want others to perceive me?

Maybe some kind of insightful pshychological profiling might be gleaned from how people design their toons in online games, but I'd rather not try too hard. I just know that elves (usually a tall race in any game) tend to look too brittle and weak for my taste. Humans, yeah, I've played some (one of my toons in LOTRO is a human minstrel), but it usually feels a bit too ho-hum to be just human when there are other varieties to pick from for once.

Way back when I was in the EverQuest beta, I played a half elf. If anyone reading this is familiar with the game, you'll know that a) all female characters in EQ had a newbie outfit that looked like a cross between a thong and a ... well, it looked like a thong with a skimpy bikini top; and b) half elves were tall and extremely busty. And shortly after creating this character I had the misfortune of running into some pixellated idiot who kept hounding me with tells about the size of my imaginary breasts.

Now, this is just my opinion, but if you're sexually harrassing a character in a computer game, you are a sad and pathetic loser. Once EQ launched, I picked a female dwarf as my main and never looked back. I got a lot less of the sex-addicted commentary in tells and a lot more interesting conversations than I ever did playing wood elf or half elf. Though it should also be noted that when I played my wood elf alt, I did receive a lot more free stuff from male characters. Yes, apparently running around whacking bats and spiders while wearing a skimpy swim suit and having big boobs is conducive to making people help you out. Which is funny and sad all at the same time.

When LOTRO launched, I was kind of bummed that there would be no female dwarves. One piece of advice though: Do not bring this issue up in the LOTRO forums. It has been hashed and rehashed and then hashed again until it's all hashed out. Short version: There are no female dwarves because Tolkien said that they look like the male dwarves and can't be told apart by outsiders. So supposedly the dwarves in LOTRO are neither male nor female. Except that they all have beards (Tolkien may or may not have said they do) and if you use the in-game adoption system, your dwarf is always "father of" or "son of". So they are totally male. Being a Tolkien geek I know the lore-reasons behind the decision against female-looking dwarves but COME ON! The game has spells being cast left and right, an inordinate amount of boars (did Tolkien ever mention boars? certainly not in numbers like this), dragons en masse, dwarves riding around on horses, hobbits going off and fighting in Angmar willy-nilly, etc etc... TONS of lore-breaking or lore-challenging things but the ONE thing that was deemed totally unacceptable was female dwarves.

I'm ok with that. Totally not annoyed or bitter or rolling my eyes. As you can tell.

Anyway. Like I described in a previous post, I made a male dwarf my main toon in LOTRO. He's rather dashing: dark and handsome and all that. Of course it's not quite the same as when I played my female dwarven cleric in EQ all those years ago, but hey, I'm ok with that. Really. Mostly anyway.

How do other people choose their toons? I know from first-hand experience that many short women play tall elves in-game. I know a lot of rather homely looking men who choose big, brawny characters or very pretty, buxom female ones. It probably does say something about your psyche, but who the heck am I to judge since I'm cross-dressing at the moment.

Screenshots of my current toon Ellanora the hobbit guardian from LOTRO, my old woodelf ranger Tayrina from EQ and my dwarven hunter Volgan from LOTRO.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm Going Soft

So this morning I'm driving around and Blue Rodeo's "Lost Together" comes on. And even though I detest the lurve-triangle on Lost, and cringe everytime they play up that "who will Kate choose/kiss/sleep with now" thing... I still thought the lyrics kind of fit with the feelings of the parties involved.

Strange and beautiful
Are the stars tonight
That dance around your head
In your eyes I see that perfect world
I hope that doesn't sound too weird

And I want all the world to know
That your love's all I need
All that I need
And if we're lost
Then we are lost together
Yea if we're lost
Then we are lost together

I stand before this faceless crowd
And I wonder why I bother
So much controlled by so few
Stumbling from one disaster to another

I've heard it all so many times before
It's all a dream to me now
A dream to me now
And if we're lost
Then we are lost together
Yea if we're lost
Then we are lost together

In the silence of this whispered night
I listen only to your breath
And that second of a shooting star
Somehow it all makes sense

And I want all the world to know
That your love's all I need
All that I need
And if we're lost
Then we are lost together
Yea if we're lost
Then we are lost together
And yeah, if I knew how, I'd totally make one of those montages with this tune and clips from the show. I don't even care if it's Jate or Skate or JackSaw (heh), just any of them in any combination. If I saw such a montage I'd probably even cry. I'm totally going soft in my old age!