Tuesday, August 24

Happy LOST Day!

Today's an auspicious occasion. LOST, the complete muthafunkin' series, is being released. Commence your happy-dances.

I'm well aware that some folks were underwhelmed by the final season, and as I've said previously I can't blame them. There's a lot to love there, but there's also an increasing sense of frustrated/frustrating ambiguity that most people (myself included) weren't expecting at all.

We entered Season 6, aided and abetted by ABC's nefarious marketing department, convinced we were going to get ANSWERS, ANSWERS, ANSWERS! Instead, we got .....answers?

If you're like me, who found much of my enjoyment from the show in puzzling around its various mysteries, references, allusions and pop culture debris, then the final season served as a summation of all that had made LOST both energizing and aggravating. The answer to the puzzle was more puzzle, to put it too-simply.

And I loved it, warts and all.

Work on Back to the Island: The Book continues apace, and now that the complete collection has been released I'll be incorporating what we learn from that set into the text. But primarily what I'll be doing (at first) is simply enjoying a dip back into this show's singularly-intoxicating world. I know that many of you will be doing the same thing, and I'm looking forward to talking about it.

Have you picked up the set yet? Have you watched its special features? I'll be providing a space for us to talk about them in the near future. Consider this post an initial exclamation point of excitement. In the meantime, I encourage you to use the link in the sidebar to pop over to Verbosity, where I'm now posting regularly.

Monday, June 14

Back to the Island: The Mailing List

So it turns out that gmail is, like, the worst when it comes to Mass Mailing.

Since I'm not savvy with the technology, I had no idea that this was the case.

I'm looking into some simple, free/cheap services to help me get the first email out to those of you on the Back to the Island mailing list, and should have things worked out by weeks' end.



Lost & Found: And The Winner Is....

The first show to be renewed on Lost & Found has been chosen!

Click here to discover its identity

Friday, June 11

Lost & Found Is Here

The Lost & Found introductory column has been posted as Lost-withdrawal methodone. Please vote!

Monday, June 7

Lost: Odds and Ends

Morning, all.

The first "Back to the Island: The Book" email will be going out soon. If you haven't signed up for the mailing list, you can do so by shooting me an email at WhatIsWater@gmail.com. By expressing interest in the book you'll recieve updates, exclusives, contest stuff, and probably some baking recipes.

For those of you who haven't already seen them, head on over to io9 and watch the original audition tapes of folks like Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway and Matthew Fox.

Or, if you're feeling a little more script-oriented, check out the scripts for the Pilot episode, Two For The Road, and Fire and Water (for some reason, Lost's writers enjoyed peppering their scripts with copious F-bombs).

Got any fun Lost links to share? Post them in the comments!

And if you haven't had the chance to pop over and check out Verbosity!, my new non-Lost site, might I suggest that you give it a try? Today we're offering up a fresh-baked game of Pass The Sentence.

Have a great week, all.

Friday, June 4

Verbosity! Is Here

Hola, everybody!

After almost a full year of pouring my Lost-related thoughts into this here blog, I'm making the transition to wider, wilder pastures. Today marks the debut of Verbosity! - my new, all-inclusive site.

Before you shut down the computer for the weekend and head out into the shimmering summer sun, might I suggest that you bookmark it? I'd be pleased as punch if some of you decided to make the move over there with me. Head on over and check it out, if you're so inclined. You'll get some sense of what to expect, and you'll have the opportunity to submit your own sites and blogs to me for inclusion in the sidebar.

Finding such an intelligent, (com)passionate, entertaining audience for my musings has been, without a doubt, the most rewarding part of my Back to the Island gig. If your interest in my ramblings ends with Lost allow me to say thank you, sincerely, for your time and your comments. This site will remain up and running, occasionally updated, and open to all of you. As I work on Back to the Island: The Book, I'll post updates and thoughts here, and I'll notify folks of that stuff on Verbosity! so it doesn't get lost.

Enough with the excess verbiage. This isn't goodbye. This is hello.



Wednesday, June 2

The End (S6, eps. 17 & 18)

The column for The End has let go for your reading pleasure on Chud.com.

It's been an honor and a privilege, everyone. I hope it's enjoyed.

Verbosity Is Coming

Those of you interested in following me to my new digs - a blog site meant to host all manner of writings unrelated to Lost - should consider dropping by here on Friday.

Back to the Island will remain exactly as it is, and will continue to be updated with new/interesting information about the show and with info on the progress of my book.

Friday, May 28

The End: An Update

Hola, all.

The good news: I'm really enjoying this column. I think you will too.

The bad news: It won't be up until Tuesday morning, after the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Why? Well, it mostly comes down to me deciding that I don't want to post it in two parts. At this point, what was Part I is in pretty good shape, but the structure of the whole thing sort of demands that it post as one (enormous and over-long) piece, and Part II is still an ill-formed, shambling mess (moreso than usual). It also comes down to my wanting more time with it. There's a lot I want to say, and I'd like to say it well.

I don't see this as being a huge deal in terms of "missing the window of discussion" on the finale, since folks are still hotly debating it all over the 'net. That's not going to change over the next 2-3 days, and I feel comfortable taking the time to construct the entirety of it for your (and my) pleasure. I do, however, realize that some of you really look forward to my ramblings and so I apologize for the delay.

I hope that's understood, and as always I appreciate your patience with me.



Thursday, May 27

Your Back to the Island Teaser Quotation for The End

“Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. Today’s risks are different. The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the “Oh how banal.” To risk accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Of overcredulity. Of softness.” – David Foster Wallace, E Unibus Plurum

Monday, May 24

Lost: Season 6, eps. 17 & 18 (and then some) Discussion


I've started work on the column for The End. While I'm trying to include as much in the way of "summarization of concepts" as possible from the run of this column and the show, it's going to be a highly-truncated version by dint of the fact that I could easily write a treatise on this stuff large enough to tear a hole in the fabric of space/time/Chud. If you're interested in delving even deeper into the "meaning" of The End, and into the kinds of themes, allusions, references and overarcing subtextual stuff that makes this show so much fun for some of us, you should consider shooting me an email (WhatIsWater@gmail.com) and signing up for my Back to the Island mailing list.

You'll get information on the progress of Back to the Island: The Book, as well as sneak peeks (including sections of the text as it evolves and stuff like the now-in-progress cover design which, thanks to the volunteer efforts of one of the column's readers, promises to be awesome) and the opportunity to influence the book's content through your votes, among other things. There is no obligation to buy, as the infomercial said to the overeager consumer. If you've enjoyed these columns and you'd like to show your support for them/me, please consider signing up.


Communion. Community. Communication. Connection.

Lost ended as it began - with a disparate group of wounded individuals finding their meaning in one another. As Christian Shephard flung wide the doors and in poured the Light, I felt filled with the same Oceanic sensation that united them beyond death. I've never been much of a television person overall, so maybe this feeling is typical to finales. I wouldn't know. What I do know is that this episode/these episodes was/were everything I wanted it/them to be.

To see Hurley assume the Island role and ask Ben to help guide him moved my soul. To watch the Castaways connect and draw closer to rising, to converging, gladdened my heart. To witness Jack and Anti-Locke in mortal combat as the Island shook around them thrilled the blood. To hear the awe in Richard's voice when he regained his mortality made me smile in it's quiet, obvious wisdom.

I could do this all night - name moment after moment and attach superlatives - but I sort of want to bask in the afterglow of this. I want to let the image of the stained glass with it's panoply if religious symbols float in my brain for a bit. I want to recall Ben's sad/happy, sorry/grateful talk with John outside the church, and John's beneficent forgiveness. I want to savor the fact that it's Kate who finally lands the killing blow against Anti-Locke, a mother protecting the cause of life against death (with a killer one liner no less). I want to savor Jin and Sun and Charlie and Claire and Kate and Jack and Sawyer and Juliet (!) as they awaken.

I'm doing it again. I want to know if this moved you as it moved me. I want to know what your thoughts and feelings, comments and criticisms are, directly following The End. Let me know in the comments, and let me know if you're free Thursday night, for another Lost get-together. Thanks for reading, and Namaste.

Original Post:

Discuss here. I've been stuck on an airplane for 8 hours, so I haven't had time to write up a proper intro for this post. Really though, what can I say that hasn't been so wonderfully well-expressed by all of you over the past week. I hope it's enjoyed by all of us, and I hope you'll grace me with your thoughts, comments and reactions after The End ends.



Sunday, May 23

Reminder: Liveblogging The End

Join me tonight at 9pm EST on Chud.com, where I'll be liveblogging the finale during commercial breaks. Expect the requisite overstock of terrible jokes, some occasional insight, and my in-the-moment reactions, all delivered in short bursts of Twitter-esque prose. BYOB.

Enjoy the finale, and come back here after the fact to discuss it!

Saturday, May 22

Times Talks Teaser, courtesy of Back to the Island reader Gravyboat

Afternoon, folks!

Due to circumstances beyond my control I had to miss the Times Talks interview with Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse that took place Thursday evening. Happily, Back to the Island reader "Gravyboat" attended. Here's his report. Hope it's enjoyed! GB, thanks for taking the time to write this out for your fellow fans:

By now, Lost show runners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are possibly the most-interviewed storytellers in at least a decade.  For the past six years, they’ve steadily released podcasts, recorded DVD commentaries and cut interviews with media outlets, educational institutions and hobbyist communities around the world.  In addition, they’ve been the cornerstone of a press blitz leading into the show’s final episode that rivals the publicity pushes behind most major tent-pole films.

As a result, most Lost enthusiasts already know what to expect from a “Darlton” interview:  Collegial and self-deprecating banter, an obligatory reminder that they care more about character than about mystery, coy evasion of questions no reasonable person could expect them to answer, a comment about having known the very end from the very beginning, and gentle jabs at the over-enthusiastic nature of their own fan base.

Their nearly two-hour interview with The New York Times’ Lorne Manly on Thursday night didn’t do anything to undercut the affable, geeky and slightly self-important brand they’ve built for themselves, but it did introduce some new areas of discussion for them and offered viewers deeper, more honest answers to some familiar questions.  It also probably helped many fans in their respective grieving processes, serving as an appropriately sweet and exciting send-off to something that has been much more than just another adventure show to so many of us.

Conducted at the Times Center in New York City and simulcast to select movie theaters across the U.S. and Canada, the interview bounced between the behind-the-scenes process that goes into making the show to their takes on the story’s literary resonance to—of course—fan questions about the plot minutiae of seasons past.

As is to be expected after putting the finishing touches on the final episode—they finished scoring the finale Monday, a process that Lindelof’s loud weeping apparently made difficult—a significant portion of the interview was retrospective.

Lindelof never expected the show to become popular, and fully expected it to be canceled after ten episodes.  (He also expected to be “revealed as a fraud,” and “for people to come to [his] house with torches.”) Cuse’s influence is what he said helped the writers and producers keep going in the early days.

“He infused us with a sense of optimism,” Lindelof said.  Cuse encouraged the crew to take the show one episode at a time and not project two or three seasons ahead.

“The day the pilot aired, the ratings came out, Damon came into my office holding the ratings sheet, practically in tears,” Cuse laughed.  “And he asked, ‘Does this mean we have to keep doing this?’”

Manly was plainly a fan, and had a keen interest in the shepherding process they went through as they ushered the show from freshman success to the glorious mess that it’s become today.  

They looked at the climactic scene from season two’s “Orientation”—the iconic argument between Jack and Real John Locke about whether the button really does anything, and about the fact that Locke can’t handle the pressure of believing alone—as a case study in how they handled the show’s science fiction elements in a way that has a broader thematic relevance.

“In most science-fiction genre shows,” Cuse said, “the approach to the scene might be that the characters are sitting around talking about how this button is connected to whatever detonation device.  ‘How do we dissemble it?  How do we take it apart?  How do we stop the timer?  Who built it?’  Those kinds of mechanical questions that are very plot-oriented—this scene distinguishes the way we approach story-telling differently than other shows that are in this genre.  Instead of having characters talk about that, we take this theme of faith and use that as the nexus of what would actually drive the discussion between these two characters.”

They managed to keep the more fantastic elements of the show relatable and interesting by, as Cuse put it, trying to change "what" questions into "who" questions: We may have spent half a season wondering what's in the hatch, but when we finally found out, we cared about it because we were now (presumably) more curious about who was in the hatch.  When the Smoke Monster started to play a more significant role in the plot this season, whether it could go past the circle of ash and which dead faces it could assume didn't matter to the story nearly as much as who the Monster was and what he wanted.

Over the six years of the show, they never had any major battles over where to go with the story, a fact they credited to the intensely collaborative nature of the way they worked out each season’s arc and each episode’s story.  Enthusiastic fans are already familiar with the process: At the “very beginning of the show” they came up with “what the very end of the show should be, and that actually has stayed the same since then.”  Between seasons one and two, free from the pressure of day-to-day writing and production, they fleshed out the show’s mythological outline.  Between each season, they hold a “mini-camp” where they plan the details of the coming season’s arc with the other writers.  Finally, episode-by-episode, they work with the full team of writers to break each story and assign script duties.

“We’re not J.K. Rowling,” Cuse said.  “We’re not completely in control of our own universe.  We collaborate with 425 people on Lost.”

Lindelof said that the two questions people ask most frequently are whether they are “making it all up as they go along” and what impact the fans have on the development of the show.

“People want the answer to the first question to be, ‘We are not making it up as we go along.  We have a binder, and everything we’re going to do is in there,’” he said.  “And they want the answer to the second question to be, ‘The fans have enormous impact on the show!’  But both things can’t coexist … We have to live between the space.”  

They cited a few examples of subtle ways in which the fans actually have impacted story-telling decisions over the years, including the season two story-line centering around Hurley hoarding foodstuffs from the Dharma Initiative’s storehouse.  

“We thought it was kind of odd,” Cuse mused, “because everybody’s really well-groomed and nobody’s saying, ‘Why does Kate’s hair look so nice?’  Nobody looks like Tom Hanks in Castaway on our show, but for some reason the fact that Hurley wasn’t losing weight seemed to be bothering people.”  

The long-standing common wisdom amongst Lost fans has been that the introduction of the characters Nikki and Paulo in season three was another example of the producers responding to fan questions—this time a recurring question of who the rest of the 50-odd survivors of Oceanic 815’s tail and fuselage sections were.  

Lindelof, though, says that that’s only partly true:

“We introduced Nikki and Paulo at a time where we didn’t have an end date yet, and had to start packing our refrigerator full of food—even food we didn’t want to eat … We needed to start stacking the deck.”  

In an attempt to give themselves story-telling fodder for—well, they didn’t know how long they’d need it—they were going to once again introduce new characters at the start of the season, much the way they opened season two by introducing the audience to Desmond and to the tail-section survivors.  They knew that they would be introducing Juliet, Ben and several minor Others, but added Nikki and Paulo to the roster as a capitulation to fan pressure.

Now that the end is in such close sight, the question they’ve been getting asked most often recently is, “Am I going to be really disappointed by the finale?”

The writers said that by following the show for six years, one of the things fans should be prepared for is the fact that they may find the finale disappointing.

“One of the reasons we believe people watch the show is because you’re like ‘This could end catastrophically,’” Lindelof said.  “There’s a part of all of us that, when we go to see the high-wire act at the circus, we’re like, ‘I kinda wanna see him fall.  It would be terrible—but it would be interesting.’”

“There’s been a spiritual quality to the final season of the show,” said Cuse, referring to the hard nod back toward the mythic that irked some fans this season.  “And we felt like that is something we wanted to be very much a part of the concluding episode of the show.”

So, they didn't come right out and say whether they think people will be disappointed or not, but throughout the evening they did tease the audience with information about the finale.  Some teases were minor (there is apparently going to be a Star Wars reference in the first seven minutes), others were larger (the interview mentioned at least three people the audience will be surprised to see Sunday) and some were just abstract (Desmond’s second-season advice to Jack to “lift it up” may or may not be of thematic relevance).  

The tidbits--including a complete scene from Sunday's episode--were just enough to stoke the audience's excitement for the finale without satiating any of our curiosity.  That's a difficult tightrope to walk, but Lindelof and Cuse are good at it.  They've had a lot of practice.

Friday, May 21

What They Died For (S6, ep. 16)

The Back to the Island column for What They Died For has been given vague, magical, Island-protecting powers for your reading pleasure on Chud.com.

Thursday, May 20

Your Back to the Island Teaser Quotation

Good morning, everyone. I'm going to be away for the day taking care of some personal stuff (and because of this I'm afraid I'm going to have to miss the Times Talks simulcast tonight - my sincere thanks to Gravyboat for the invite, and my sincere apologies for having to bow out) but before I vamoose I wanted to give you a teaser quote for tomorrow's installment of Back to the Island. I loved "What They Died For," even moreso the second time through. I think that'll come through in the final column, which will post tomorrow as usual. Have a great day, take care of one another, and thanks once again for reading.

"Most of us have learned to be dispassionate about evil, to look it in the face and find, as often as not, our own grinning reflections with which we do not argue, but good is another matter. Few have stared at that long enough to accept that its face too is grotesque, that in us the good is something under construction. The modes of evil usually receive worthy expression. The modes of good have to be satisfied with a cliché or a smoothing down that will soften their real look.” – Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose

Wednesday, May 19

Lost: Season 6, ep. 16 Discussion

Instareaction (updated further below):

Spoilers ahoy.

We all knew it was coming, that Jack would take this step. In the end, the decision and what followed felt spare and quiet - a foregone conclusion rendered poetic in it's unavoidability. This is a point that the whole show has been building toward - a point wherein, depending on your point of view, Jack's need to fix things either transcends it's often-petty, daddy-issue-driven origins or succumbs completely to them.

What They Died For was a return to the edge-of-my-seat Lost I was hoping for. It gave us Answers, it gave us deeply character-rooted emotion, it gave us (at times on the nose) dialogue that confirmed Jacob's essential standing as the god of the Island, thematically speaking. It also confirmed some of my and your speculation from last week - that Jacob wanted to give these people a choice, because he never had one (and I like that he seems to believe this, yet has no problem with them having been brought to the Island), that only someone "like" Jacob can find the heart of the Island, that the Man in Black wants to return to the Light.

All of that and I haven't even gotten to Ben, who finally faces Widmore in what might have been great, but is instead really good, or the fact of this curiously-scrubbed Rousseau, or of Desmond's beating of Ben and the accompanying flashes, and of Ben's seeming turn back to the dark side which looks much like a suicide run. And what about Off-Island Locke's change of heart, and the prospect of Jack operating on him during the final episode? I haven't touched on Desmond, and how he's now Sheperding these Castaways toward some specific task, or how his dismissal of Ana Lucia ("She's not ready yet.") indicates that there's something here to the ideas of reincarnation and second chances that have been Second Snaking their way through these columns. And what about Richard? Is that it? Somehow I doubt it.

What I liked most about this episode of Lost was how it knocked away the most pressing pieces of character mythology and left us with 2 1/2 hours of television left to go. We know exactly what these people are fighting for now, and we know exactly what Anti-Locke really wants (we've suspected this part for a while). What the heck happens now? Presumably, Off-Island Jack is going to need to make a fateful choice after he and Locke remember their Island narratives. Desmond will descend into the Island's Underworld, perhaps acting exactly as Anti-Locke is hoping he will. Enough of this. Point is, I liked it. Can't wait to watch it again.

Terrific stuff. Finding it hard to concentrate. Perfect time to start writing, then. What did you think?

Edited to add:

I woke up this morning even more charged up about this episode. Everything about it - the surprisingly large amounts of jet-black humor, the suspense, the Answers given, the steps taken - feels correct, feels purposeful and moving and definitive and yet still-mysterious in so many ways. I love that there's every possibility that Jack can die now, since we've finally seen him take up the mantle. I love the possibility that Jack might decide to make his fellow Castaways protectors as well, turning the job of Jacob into a communal position. Most of all, I love the sense of open-ended possibility that this episode left us with. We're more sure than ever of what, generally, will be happening in the finale and yet we're also less sure then ever of how it will all play out. Glorious, I say.

....But that freaky, Willow-ish old lady who narrated the end-episode teaser? What in the heck was that about, ABC? Really? You go with what sounds like the voice of a 1,000 year-old dwarf grandmother who lives under a magical toadstool?

Original Post:

I have it on good authority that tonight's episode is very, very good.

Will that be enough to wash the sour taste of Across the Sea out of some folks' mouths? To be honest, I don't find that question very interesting. Having written way too much about last week's divisive episode I've found myself in a nice, comfy place about it and I cannot wait to jump back into the main storyline with the surviving (sadface) Castaways.

Yet, I can also easily wait. I sort of want to wait forever. I'm at the point now that I always arrive at when I read something I love - if the book is good, really really good, then I almost always stop with around 100 pages to go and take some time off. I don't like it when good things end, even if that ending is also a good thing.

I'll be back in here after the episode airs with a very brief InstaReaction. My week is time-crunched up the wazoo on Thursday and Friday, so in order to get the column to you by week's end I'll need to jump right into it.

Enjoy the show!

Tuesday, May 18

Life Is Getting Stranger, And Requires More Virtual Real Estate

So apparently I'll be interviewing Tim Roth in the near-future.

I have no real business doing so, any more than I did in interviewing Hiroyuki Sanada. And yet, here I am - very pleased and more than a little confused.

Due to the non-Lostian nature of this kind of stuff, I'm going to be setting up a new site for all non-Lost related writings. From the tone of the communication I recieved, it seems likely that this will not be the last interview I do. I need a place to put them, along with the other, non-book ideas I'm looking forward to tackling in the wake of Lost's finale.

So, if you've enjoyed the me-writing part of this blog even close to as much as you've enjoyed the what-I'm-writing-about part, I'd like to invite you to join me over there too once I get things set up and do a little tidying. It'd be great to hold on to some of your intelligence and civility once the weekly Back to the Island column closes it's figurative doors.

Incidentally, if you've got any questions for Mr. Roth (my first: how did you manage to keep yourself from murdering yourself on the set of Rob Roy every day? Didn't looking into a mirror make you want to travel back in time and strangle yourself as a baby?*) please shoot me an email or leave me a comment and let me know. I'd appreciate some intelligent options from you all.

As always, thanks for reading.

*Believe it or not, this is a compliment.

Your Favorite Dialogue

With Lost winding down I'm feeling inspired to solicit your favorite lines and exchanges from the show - the goofy, the stirring, the profound or the bizarre.

I'll start us out with a few of my own favorites:

Locke: "If it’s not real, then what are you doing here, Jack? Why did you come back? Why do you find it so hard to believe?"
Jack: "Why do you find it so easy?"
Locke: "It’s never been easy!"

Ben: “You guys got any milk?”

Carmen Reyes: "Jesus Christ is not a weapon."

Tom: "Well look at that! You got yourself a fish biscuit! How’d you do that?"
Sawyer: "I figured out your complicated gizmos, that’s how."
Tom: "It only took the bears 2 hours."

Nikki: “Razzle Dazzle!”

Locke: "The man from Tallahassee? What is that? Some kind of code?"
Ben: "No, John, unfortunately we don’t have a code for “There’s a man in my closet with a gun to my daughter’s head.” Although we obviously should."

Hurley: "Let's look death in the face and say: 'Whatever, man'!"

Jack: "John Locke told me I needed to stay."

Post yours in the comments section. As many as you'd like.

Back to the Future Island

It's the last Lost Tuesday. Cause for celebration and for some good old fashioned premature grieving. Ease the pain of losing a television show by buying some stuff! Tee Fury continues its tradition of Lost-shirt Tuesdays today with this little number:

Cute. I picked up an Ab Aeterno T last week, so my back-monkey has been sated. But for those of you who haven't found that perfect piece of Island-themed attire, this might fit the bill.

Discussion column goes up in a few hours. Enjoy the day!

Monday, May 17

Morning, All!

Are you ready for the last Tuesday episode of Lost?

I am. I'll be spending it with friends, 'geeking out' together through this story's penultimate chapter. If the buzz is to be believed we're going to be a very happy fanbase this week. Several folks have been nice enough to email me their impressions of the episode without spoiling a single detail (thank you, sincerely, for not doing that Internet-jackass thing where you intentionally toss major spoilers into an email/PM - you guys kick ass) and based on those reactions, and on the level-headed, thoughtful nature of the column's readers, I think we've all got good reason to be very, very excited.

In two weeks, this site will become the hub for my book, also tentatively titled "Back to the Island." I'll be posting info here about what I'm doing with it and what you can expect from it, but if you want to get glimpses at the book itself, or recieve the sneak peeks I intend to send out as I work on it then you'll need to sign up for my mailing list. Doing so does not bind you in any way. If you haven't dropped me a line yet (another round of sincere thanks to those of you who have, and for the ridiculously kind words) you can do so at this address: WhatIsWater@gmail.com

Have a great day.

Friday, May 14

Wednesday, May 12

Reminder: Have A Beer With MMorse


That was a lot of fun.

My thanks to The Colonel, Gravyboat, Peyton, Dan and Sabrica for making the trip downtown. We had vastly divergent views on last night's episode, ranging from love to, well, not-love and yet, despite this, there were a total of zero fistfights. Take that, MiB.

Hopefully you folks enjoyed yourselves as well.

Original Post:

When: Tonight! At 7 PM!

Where: Professor Thom's, located on 2nd Avenue between 13th and 14th streets

I'll be in a purple Vikings baseball cap, and I'll have a drink in hand. Come on by, say hello, and let's discuss some Lost. Bring a friend if you'd like. Remember to treat your fellow fans with the same respect you'd like to be treated with.

Lost: Season 6, Episode 15 Discussion


Apologies for the lateness of this "Instareaction." After the show ended I was sort of stunned, in ways both good and bad. I had no idea how to begin writing about this episode. On the one hand, there was a lot to like - Titus Weliver proved to be another of Lost's smart casting decisions. His performance was worth the price of admission. I genuinely loved the sense of uncertainty that surrounded Alison Janneymom's character, and I think that continuing the theme of Island protectors who don't seem to truly understand what they're protecting, or why, is a fascinating one. Many of the individual scenes were captivating, and yet, at the same time, if I'm being honest, I'm sort of cool on it as a whole. Part of this is due to my own overinflated expectations. I was expecting a LOT of Across the Sea, and that's not the show's fault.

Most of the problems I have with the episode involve unanswered questions. Is the Smoke Monster actually Jacob's (still unnamed! What's up with that?) brother? Is what was released by The Man With No Name's body the embodiment of "pure evil"? If so, why can't Smokey hurt Jacob? Is Smokey "bonded" with the MiB? It has to be that the MiB's trip down the "rabbit hole" results in his being replaced/fused with something dark/evil by passing into the light. Otherwise, to be honest, I don't have much of a problem with the MiB leaving the Island. I mean, his mother was murdered, he was lied to, and when he tried to escape he got beaned in the back of the head with solid rock.

And what's with that claim anyway? Why can't they hurt each other? I assume "hurt" actually means "kill," since we see Jacob knock the snot out of his lil bro twice. Unnamed Alison Janneymom gave Jacob wine from the same bottle that Jacob used to give Richard wine. Does that mean the wine is responsible for immortality, and not Jacob's touch? I could go on, but then what would I write about for Friday? Unanswered questions are a problem I can deal with, and it makes the prospect of writing this week's column both exciting and very, very daunting.

I can't lie - some of my problems came from what seemed to be real problems in the story - how does "mom" manage to slaughter an entire village and burn it to the ground? Does she command Smokey? How did she cave the well in? Smokey? Did we really need to see heavy-handed flashbacks to Season 1 in order to figure out who Adam and Eve were? Why hasn't anyone else on the Island stumbled over the Big Glowing Hole In The Ground? For that matter, why couldn't the MiB find it again? Wait 'til dark, then walk around looking for the spot where eerie golden light is spilling from the ground. And was Alison Janney's essential Alison Janneyness distracting for anyone else? For as much as I loved seeing glimpses of the early civilization on the Island, I can't help feeling as though there were missed opportunities here, and that some aspects of the show (the look of it, the costuming, and the ham-handedness of some of the exposition) simply don't rise to the same level of realism and subtlety that Ab Aeterno did.

For all of that complaining and kvetching though, I didn't hate the episode. I'm just having an honestly-mixed reaction and, lucky you, you get to experience my reservations through the power of the internet. One of my much-appreciated Twitter peeps made the observation that this episode should have been the Season opener. I sort of agree in that I think I'd feel kinder to it if it had come, say, directly after The Substitute. In fact, in the future I think that's where I'll choose to re-slot this installment. It fits in perfectly there.

To sum up: I liked much about the episode's themes, it's ambition and it's seemingly-purposefully-veiled mythology. I had trouble with what felt like stilted acting in places, some clunky exposition, and the sense of ongoing confusion that resulted by episode's end. I'm looking forward to talking about this one tonight with some of you down at Professor Thom's (2nd Ave btwn 13th and 14th streets @ 7 pm), and to (drunkenly) rewatching it afterward, because I think there's a lot to chew on here and because I'm frankly hoping that it'll work better for me on the second go-round. This is without a doubt the single most divisive episode of Lost. I'm still on-board for the rest of the ride. Unlike some of my more hyperbolic colleagues, I didn't hate the episode and I don't think Lost has jumped the shark/sh*t the bed/pulled an "Episode 1"/whathaveyou - but for the first time this season since Recon I'm surprisingly underwhelmed.

Let's see what happens when I watch it again. Your thoughts?

Original Post:

"Somewhere, beyond the sea
Somewhere waitin’ for me...
My lover stands on golden sands
And watches the ships that go sailin’.
Somewhere, beyond the sea
She's there watchin’ for me...
If I could fly like birds on high
Then straight to her arms I’d go sailin’.
It's far beyond the stars
It's near beyond the moon
I know beyond a doubt
My heart will lead me there soon."

- Beyond The Sea, Charles Trenet/Jack Lawrence

Tonight brings to us "Across the Sea," the third-to-last episode of Lost. It's strange to type that.

The title of tonight's installment recalls the title of "Beyond the Sea," the timeless standard that's been interpreted by the likes of Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra, and which was featured (in French!) back in Season 1 of the show.

What can we expect? Well, for one, we can expect not to see much (if anything) of the show's regular cast. We can expect some of our questions about the Island, its history and its mysteries, to be highlighted. We can expect a very special, very surprising guest-star. And we can expect Titus Welliver and Mark Pelligrino to deliver on the acting front.

If you're clueless about the subject matter of this installment I'm not going to spoil things for you any more than that. All I'll say is that this is the episode I've been waiting all season for, . I'll be back here after the episode airs on the East Coast to give my InstaReaction, and I'll have, I think, plenty to say about it at that point. If you're in the NYC area tomorrow night (Wednesday, May 12th), come by Professor Thom's at 7 pm. I'll be there with my purple baseball cap on, sipping a beer and looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one.

Tuesday, May 11

Yet Another Note On Plagiarism And The Internet


It's been pointed out by two nice people from red and white kop that the comments posted below about plagiarism were essentially sarcasm/jokes. That's good to hear.

I won't lie - I'm sort of humorless when it comes to the topic of plagiarism. The word itself gets my hackles up, and I wasn't even aware I had hackles. About three months ago I ran into someone online who'd begun posting great, big chunks of my work without attribution, and who was claiming to be me on another message board. I'd never experienced anything like that, and like Patton Oswalt (whose shoes I am not fit to shine) I found myself weirdly bothered by it in a way I hadn't expected. I suspect that experience colored my reaction today.

So, as stated in the comments, I'd like to offer you good folks at red and white some (virtual) milk and cookies. I clearly missed the humor and went straight to the sadface. Timbo and Rusty, my apologies. Let's get back to talking Lost, and cracking terrible jokes.

See you all here tomorrow, where I'll have your exclusive excerpts of the Back to the Island column for Across the Sea before the column posts on Chud. I'm moving this post down further on the page to make room for what actually matters here.

Original Post:

Hola, all.

I'm working on tomorrow's mammoth Back to the Island column, and I'm looking forward to your reactions. Having had a fantastic discussion about it last night with you all at Professor Thom's, I'm supercharged at the moment, and I hope that'll come through in the final product.

That said, I'd like to take another moment here to discuss plagiarism.

A kind soul with the moniker of "Red in Holland" over at a forum called "red and white kop" apparently linked to my Instareaction for Across the Sea, and in clicking over there I was very gratified to find that folks there are actively reading my work. That's a heck of a compliment.

What's less complimentary are the weird accusations of plagiarism. I'm speaking specifically of the following:

"It looks as if old Morsey baby - without acknowledgement has pinched from a few of my recent posts on his forum to pull tongues within his latest piece at the show's detractors by saying that whatever criticism you level at the show one thing you cannot dispute is that it will remain for a very long time the most ambitious series TV anyone within that medium has ever attempted."

"He did the same with my points about Sayid's arc this season being pointless and aggravating whilst the nature of the infection remains unaddressed. Not impressed with his plagiarising like!"

I'm not shy about posting those remarks here because I find them baseless, bewildering, and frankly insulting. I've made a point of vocally criticizing the act of plagiarism, and I try - much harder than you probably realize - to single out folks here and elsewhere who've inspired my thoughts on each column. I have no interest in taking credit for other people's ideas. I find it hard to believe, on some level, that either poster is entirely serious. I've "plagiarized" the idea that the show is ambitious? I've "plagiarized" someone's disappointment over Sayid and Infection? You may as well say that I've plagiarized by saying "this episode was good" (because someone else said that too!).

That's ridiculous.

I thoroughly enjoy reading everyone's comments here, and I'm thrilled that you've chosen to make Back to the Island a site that you choose to visit. I respect each one of you, and when one of my readers comes up with something I want to feature in the column I credit them for that. My track record backs that up.

I'm not sure how to 'prove' this conclusively without excluding myself entirely from the comments, or by taking away the comments completely. I don't want to do either of those things because interacting with you all is a big part of what makes this fun for me. So instead, I just want to air this out in the open. It's with sincere respect to both of the above posters/apparent readers that I say the following: If you think you're being stolen from (and you are not), then do not post here. You won't have to worry about me "plagiarizing" you, and I won't have to worry about you libeling me.

My sincere thanks to Red in Holland for reading, and to all the folks at red and white kop who do so as well. Go Liverpool!

Stylish, Ab Aeterno

Tee Fury is a site devoted to showcasing one cheap, limited-edition T-shirt each and every day. Sometimes these are game-related, sometimes they are film-related. Typically, Tuesday is their "Lost day."

I haven't been inspired to pick up any of their creations during this season, but today's offering, designed by M. Brady Clark, snared me. Maybe it'll snare you too. The design is posted directly above, and I'm a fan. If you're interested in purchasing it you can visit the Tee Fury site by clicking this link. At $9 (plus $2 in shipping and handling) it's a good deal. Remember: It's a one day thing. This time tomorrow, it'll be Lost to you.

Monday, May 10

Lost With Cuse, Lindelof and the New York Times

Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Back to the Island reader "Gravyboat," I'll be attending the live simulcast of Times Talks Live: Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, moderated by New York Times entertainment editor Lorne Manly (who, I can only assume, has a cousin named Max Power).

I'll be reporting on the event, after the fact, right here on Back to the Island. The Times is accepting questions from us regular folks before the event, so if you've got something you'd like to ask Cuse or Lindelof, submit it here: timestalks@nytimes.com.

After the show both men are switching to "radio silence," and won't be speaking to the press for a while; this is your chance to try and have your question(s) answered before they vanish.

Include your name and your location (City and State) with your submitted queries.

My thanks to Gravyboat for totally making my day.

Reminder: Have A Beer With MMorse

Morning, You All Everybody.

Just a quick reminder for everyone that I'll be at Professor Thom's (2nd Ave btwn 13th and 14th st.) on Wednesday night, starting at 7 pm. Come on by and introduce yourself. Feel free to bring a friend.

Friday, May 7

The Candidate (S6, ep. 14)

The Back to the Island column for The Candidate has been boobytrapped for your reading pleasure on Chud.com.

Have A Beer With MMorse

Hey, folks.

Next week brings the arrival of "Across The Sea," potentially the most brain-shattering episode of Lost yet. While I'm sure that we'll get a ton of great conversation started right here on Back to the Island, I'd like to invite those of you in the NYC area to join me on the night of Wednesday, May 12th, to relax, kick back, order a beer, and chat about our shared obsession.

Where: Professor Thom's, on 2nd Avenue between 13th and 14th street

When: Wednesday, May 12th, starting at 7pm.

I'll be the guy in the purple Minnesota Vikings baseball cap. Come on by, grab a cold one, and let's talk about what's sure to be a fascinating installment of the show. Shoot me an email if you're interested, so I know how many people to expect.



Thursday, May 6

Wednesday, May 5

A Brief, Self-Promotional Aside

Some of my readers have been kind enough to ask me what I'll be doing with my time once Lost comes to a close. Check out this week's Back to the Island column on Chud.com for the first hints about my post-Lost plans. If you've been enjoying my ramblings I think you'll be pleased. If you haven't been enjoying them, I can promise you renewed pain and displeasure.

Tuesday, May 4

Lost: Season 6, Ep. 14 Discussion


Congratulations, Lost. You have emotionally devastated me. Not one, not two, not three, but four characters take a ride with the Reaper by the end of this thing, and while some folks are bound to cry 'overkill' (literally) this felt pitch perfect in it's clockwork-precise tragedy. Our friends in the UK haven't gotten the episode yet, so I'll warn those folks now - names are discussed directly below. Turn away, or be spoiled.


Goodbye, Sayid Jarrah, Frank Lapidus, and Sun and Jin Kwon. Watching as the figurative tumblers in Anti-Locke's gambit clicked into place (a gambit that I feel compelled, immodestly, to point out that I've been predicting throughout the season, though the specifics were better than anything I'd imagined) was awful and yet gruesomely satisfying at the same time.

I'm still trying to process everything here, and it isn't easy. I've remained emotionally invested in Lost's characters, and watching them topple like dominoes was a legitimately emotional experience for me. With Sayid dead the question of infection seems abandoned, which is going to irritate me in the future, but his selfless death and last-minute words to Jack went a long way toward making his arc enormously, tragically satisfying for me. I knew Frank was a dead man as soon as it was announced that the plane was so longer an option, since his sole purpose this season has been to serve as possible pilot. And what is there to say about Sun and Jin? Well, I'll tell you what my wife said: " yeah, that's tragic, but they just left their kid to be an orphan." My wife is smart. That's pretty selfish. But i bought their decision, selfish or not, and the way that the whole sinking sub scene recalled the flooding of The Looking Glass, Sun and Jin's drifting hands calling to mind Charlie's drifting body, gave me chills.

Some of you have let me know about Devin Faraci's new column on Chud, which apparently bemoans the circularity of the show's storytelling, among other things. Tonight, Sawyer's dialogue affirmed for us explicitly that this circularity is very much intentional on the part of Lost's writers. The Castaways have been traveling in karmic circles for six seasons. Tonight, those circles were renewed and shattered at once.

There's so much here - Widmore's seeming efforts to protect the Castaways, Anti-Locke's true plan, Jack's revisitation of his dynamite conversion and the failure of James Ford to trust, Kate's increasingly-serious wounding, the bleeding of John Locke's consciousness, Anthony Cooper's fate and the reversal of off-Island Jack and Locke's positions of Men of Science and Faith, Bernard's creepy-yet-warm knowingness, so similar to Charlie and Desmond.

At this point all of my Island questions are decidedly secondary to my concern for the fates of these characters. And that is, to me, the true feat of tonight's episode.

We're hours away from The Candidate, tonight's new episode of Lost. Loved having a week off, so to speak, but it's great to be back in the saddle again. So, let's recap where we left off: Sawyer and the castaways are on Hydra Island, and they've just been taken prisoner/positioned for execution by Widmore's team of surly Insurance Salesmen. Jack took a literal leap of faith and returned to the Island, where we promptly did his best "man near-exploded by a rocket" impression and was rescuedby none other than Anti-Locke. Sayid's still hanging around with the Man In Black, but it looks as though he's not following orders quite as zombirifically as he has been. Does this mean that Desmond's now roaming the Island? Still stuck in the Well? Have Richard, Ben and Miles made it back to Dharmaville yet? Will Ben end up damning himself? Will Jack figure out what he's meant to do? Will the timelines converge? Will it all be revealed as a Second Snake? The result of the MiB's escape? Will Widmore do some third party Castaway slaughtering? Will Frank Lapidus develop a purpose, besides being the resident quipster when Sawyer's not around?

With just five hours left (!) can Lost stick it's landing? And will tonight be interesting/emotional/exciting enough to distract me from the fact that next week brings what's arguably the most anticipated episode of the season, other than the finale itself?

Leave your thoughts, hopes, comments, criticisms and predictions right here. I'll be in after the show airs at 9 pm EST to give my InstaReaction. Enjoy the episode!

Monday, May 3

Every 108 Minutes - By Colin Denney

Hola, everyone!

It's the start of a new week, the continuation of Lost's final season, and time for this author to get off his @$$ and start writing again.

...but before I get back on my trusty WordHorse (let's call him "Thesaurus"), I'd like to take a moment to appreciate the creativity and skill of our fellow fans. Colin Denney is a reader of Back to the Island, and apparently a skilled designer. Check out his poster-work, entitled "Every 108 Minutes..."

I like the minimalism of the piece, and I like the way that the design evokes the 70's-style aesthetic of the Dharma Initiative. Nice work, Colin! Thanks for sharing, and for reading. If you've done Lost-inspired work that you'd like to share with the rest of the reading audience, drop me a line at WhatIsWater@gmail.com.

Friday, April 30

A Brief Apology

It's been pointed out to me that my promised column for this week hasn't appeared. I'm here to say "sorry about that."

I've done, I think, a fairly good job of balancing the day job with the writing but sometimes the former has to take priority over the latter - especially in these superfun economic times. I wish that weren't the case, but then, I wish I could write about this stuff for a living, and if wishes were horses....

Anywho, the point is that there won't be any Lost-related ramblings until next week despite my promises to the contrary. I'm tired, and I can assure you that whatever I'd have produced would've reflected that. I'd rather not subject myself or you good folks to the virulent toxicity of half-baked Morse prose. The topic I'd planned to discuss will be featured in my forthcoming book.

Tune in over the weekend and early next week - I'm going to be showcasing some of our readers' artistic endeavors and offering some thoughts up on the show's final stretch. As always, I look forward to your comments, thoughts, and baking recipes. I very much appreciate your patience and your loyalty to this lil' blog o' mine.



Apropos of Nothing

Morning, all!

I don't want this page laying dormant all week, so how about the first official picture of Chris Hemsworth as Thor?

Grip your mighty Mjolnir in excitement and click here.

Thursday, April 29

A Convergence of Good Fortune

Good morning, everyone.

Please join me in taking a moment today to say congratulations to Back to the Island reader Sam Balcomb, whose promotional video, "Convergence," just won ABC's contest. If you missed out on Sam's work you can find a link to his video at the end of the column for The Last Recruit.

Wednesday, April 28

Lost in NYC II

Hola, all. Hope you're enjoying your week off from all things Lost. It's been a nice opportunity for me to recharge the ol' mental batteries before we charge into the Final Four.

I've been thinking about organizing a casual get-together for readers and myself, something relaxed and fun before the finale. I'd appreciate a chance to put faces to the names of the folks who post here, and I think it'd be fun to grab a few drinks and talk Lost.

Anyone in the general NYC area interested in doing this? We'll pick a spot in Manhattan and a time that's good for everyone. Post a yay or nay in the comments section or shoot me an email at WhatIsWater@gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 27

Lost In NYC

Just off 14th Street, Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Friday, April 23

The Last Recruit (S6, ep. 13)

The Back to the Island column for The Last Recruit has tossed itself off a boat for your reading pleasure on Chud.com.

Thursday, April 22

Your Back to the Island Teaser Quotation

The column for "The Last Recruit" will publish tomorrow on Chud.com. In the meantime, here's your teaser quotation:

"Nature is like the chain of the Ferris Wheel, endless and infinite, and these little carriages are the bodies or forms in which fresh batches of souls are riding, going up higher and higher until they become perfect and come out of the wheel. But the wheel goes on. And so long as the bodies are in the wheel, it can be absolutely and mathematically foretold where they will go, but not so of the souls. Thus it is possible to read the past and the future of nature with precision. We see, then, that there is recurrence of the same material phenomena at certain periods, and that the same combinations have been taking place through eternity."

See you all mañana...

Passing the Conch: The Back to the Island Guest Column

Aloha, folks.

I'm currently hard at work, piecing together another of my shambling creations. It'll post tomorrow on Chud.com, and I hope it's enjoyed. In the meanwhile, let's pass the Conch and cede the stage to Musicologist, Music Journalist, and Musician Josh Cutchin.

Josh shot me an email this week pointing out some interesting musical trivia about this week's episode. Seeing as he's the Musicologist, and I'm the dude with a blog, I thought I'd offer him a chance to share his thoughts with all of you. He came back to me with a really interesting piece. So put your virtual hands together for Mr. Josh Cutchin, who's musical stylings can be sampled by clicking this here link.


The Last Recruit was a very special episode of ABC’s LOST. Not because of any ground-shaking, earth-shattering revelations, but rather because it was the first episode of the six-year series that dared to approach its musical content with the same fervor and depth it usually reserves for themes, mythology, and imagery.

Please don’t misunderstand me: LOST has used music in very successful ways before. The continuity of themes is admirable – Beyond the Sea and Catch a Fallen Star have popped in and out of the series in significant ways that are meaningful to the plot and its themes. However, the original score, by Michael Giacchino, has done little to inspire. In most cases, the score of LOST does what every film score should do on its most basic level: it complements the music and stays out of the way. In The Last Recruit, however, Giacchino’s score aspired to do something more, to impart meaning.

Approximately twenty-five minutes into the broadcast (eighteen, for you online viewers), I was struck by what sounded like a paraphrase of Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 third movement. Compare the Chopin to this excerpt from The Last Recruit (MMorse - I've attempted to add Josh's mp3 file to this post without success. Fortunately, Josh has helpfully provided you with the approximate time of the score snippet in question. I'll see about figuring out how to get the actual file on here). The similarities are striking.

Both compositions are built on top of a repeated minor third quarter-note ostinato; the Piano Sonata third movement (commonly know as Chopin’s Marche funèbre: Lento, or “Funeral March”) is in Bb minor, while Giacchino’s composition is only a half-step higher, in B minor. Moreover, the melodies of both compositions are built around minor thirds, while the sequence of long and short notes is strikingly similar. If the time was taken to transcribe Giacchino’s composition, more similarities would undoubtedly surface.

So why imitate Chopin’s “Funeral March”? Well, some of the reasons are obvious to fans of the series. At this particular point in the story, the ominous “Man-in-Black" is leading his ragtag group of followers through the jungle on a literal march – when coupled with the longstanding deathly connotations of Chopin’s composition, the connection is obvious. The Man-in-Black is leading them to something less-than-desirable.

M. Ziem, a fellow artist and longtime associate of Chopin, wrote this about the Funeral March’s composition:

"Some time later Chopin came into my studio, just as George Sand depicts him -- the imagination haunted by the legends of the land of frogs, besieged by nameless shapes. After frightful nightmares all night, in which he had struggled against specters who threatened to carry him off to hell, he came to rest in my studio. His nightmares reminded me of the skeleton scene and I told him of it. His eyes never left my piano, and he asked: “Have you a skeleton?” I had none; but I promised to have one that night, and so invited Polignac to dinner and asked him to bring his skeleton. What had previously been a mere farce became, owing to Chopin's inspiration, something grand, terrible and painful. Pale, with staring eyes, and draped in a winding sheet, Chopin held the skeleton close to him, and suddenly the silence of the studio was broken by the broad, slow, deep, gloomy notes. The “Dead March” was composed there and then from beginning to end."

“Nameless shapes,” albeit coincidental, certainly conjures up images of the Man-in-Black’s alternate guise, that of the Smoke Monster. Confronting one’s mortality also seems to be a theme prevalent on LOST. Most striking and important, however, are the less-obvious connections between Chopin’s composition and LOST.

Giacchino’s theme appears once more following the Sawyer’s explanation of his plot to double-cross the Man-in-Black – the former has decided to ditch the latter in a bid to escape the island. On the surface, Sawyer and a handful of his comrades are allied with the Man-in-Black. In reality, they are planning to rebel against him and leave. University of Pennsylvania and renowned Chopin scholar Jeffrey Kallberg claims that the “Funeral March” is as much about the November Uprising as it is about death.

Chopin, a Polish nationalist, had deep sympathies for his countrymen in their effort to seek independence from the Russian Empire. Needless to say, the effort went poorly, with over 7,000 Polish soldiers dying in the battle. Upon learning of the failed attempt, the grief-stricken Chopin composed his Piano Sonata No. 2. Chopin’s first biographer was so struck by the result that he heard “the pain and grief of an entire nation” within the third movement.*

At this point in LOST, there are various factions working towards numerous ends. In the case of Sawyer, he is trying to assert his independence from the Man-in-Black; however, the similarities between Michael Giacchino’s score and Chopin’s “Funeral March,” with all of its baggage, simply do not bode well for our protagonists.

*The Marche funèbre was played at the funerals of Chopin, President John F. Kennedy, and Joseph Stalin.

Tuesday, April 20

Lost: Season 6, Episode 13 Discussion


Everyone feel that engine kick?

Tonight's episode pushed things forward for the characters on a number of levels (off-Island folks converging! On-Island folks fleeing!), seemed to answer a few questions (the MiB was Christian! Maybe! Sayid was brought back by the MiB! Probably!), highlighted some other questions, and delivered a lot of flat-out exciting stuff (Zoe: "show them what we're capable of.").

There's a ton of fun things to talk other in this one. Did Sayid shoot Desmond (my money's on 'no')? Is Sayid capable of 'redemption'? How about Sun's trauma-induced recognition of Locke? Widmore's sudden change of heart w/r/t Sawyer and the others? Jack's decision ("This feels wrong.")? Desmond's off-Island Jacobosity? The Jack and Anti-Locke sit-down (with a surprising lack of Jackface)? Claire's comment that Anti-Locke had spoken to Jack, making Shepard 'his'?

I loved it. It was an episode fully driven by attention to it's characters and observing how they've changed, how they remain the same (how great was that Sawyer/Kate scene off-Island?). It pushed us closer to The End firmly but slowly, as if daring us to peek over the edge before shoving us over it.

What did you think? Was Anti-Locke telling the truth about being Christian? That's been my longstanding theory, but Terry O'Quinn pregnant pause gave me room enough to doubt. If he can't leave the Island, how did Christian appear off-Island? On the other hand, Claire asks Jack if he's been told that the MiB was Christian, and we saw her hanging out with her dead dad in "Jacob's" cabin back in Season 4.

The MiB seems to have brought Sayid back from the dead (and Sayid calls himself a zombie in this episode, mirroring his previous denial ("I am not a zombie.")). How'd he do it? Richard says that he's never seen the dead brought back to life on the Island. Does that mean this is the first time the MiB has done this? Just that Richard was never aware of this? And what does it "mean"?

Original Post:

"There's no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going
There's no knowing where we're rowing
Or which way the river's flowing
Is it raining, is it snowing?
Is a hurricane a'blowing?
Not a speck of light is showing
So the danger must be growing
Are the fires of hell a'glowing?
Is the grisly reaper mowing?
Yes, the danger must be growing
For the rowers keep on rowing
And they're certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing!"

Those are the lyrics to "The Wondrous Boat Ride," the memorably insane and completely creepy song from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. If you've seen the Gene Wilder original, you know exactly what scene it is: the one with the Boat, obviously, and also the one in which someone chops the head off of a chicken on the wall of a darkened tunnel.

It's messed up. And I can't wait to scar my as-yet-nonexistent children with it.

That song provided the musical basis for last week's teaser, creating an aura of menace and madness (and more than a little of-a-certain-age nostalgia) that promises events both Great and Terrible. Will we get our answer to the question of "infection"? Will Sayid speak the words "I have no choice"? Will we come to understand the Man in Black's true name/identity? Will the meeting between Jack and Locke be as brain-meltingly awesome as I'd like it to be?

Only one thing is more-or-less for certain:

There Will Be Jackface.

Leave you comments, criticisms, hopes, fears, and whathaveyous here in the comments section. I'll be in after the episode airs in the US on the East Coast to give my Instareaction. Enjoy it while it lasts, people. This is truly The Beginning of the End.

Monday, April 19

The Zombie Debate Continues...

Regular visitors on Back to the Island have probably seen my correspondence with an intelligent German reader who questioned my comparison of Sayid to the concept of "philosophical zombies" (or "p-zombies"). While that gentleman and I agreed to disagree on the applicability of the term to Sayid's character, we both agreed that calling him a "zombie" was pretty apt.

Now it looks like Naveen Andrews, the actor who so capably portrays Sayid, might also agree. The new issue of TV Guide features cast photos of the main Lost actors, alongside their responses to TV Guide's question: If you could place your Lost character on another show, what show would it be? Here is Andrews' answer:

"HBO's vampire series, True Blood, where a character as dysfunctional - and potentially undead - as Sayid would actually fit."


Read the entirety of the article (which isn't much - what's up with the trend of running GIGANTIC PHOTOS alongside smatterings of text in magazines? Are we collectively that illiterate these days? /End Old Man Rant) right here, at the Hollywood Reporter.

Everybody Loves Hugo (S6, Ep. 12)

The Back to the Island column for Everybody Loves Hugo has taken it's life-long love of Chicken and used it to create a benevolent Empire for your reading pleasure on Chud.com.

Thursday, April 15

An Interview with Hiroyuki Sanada

Good morning, everyone. My interview with Hiroyuki Sanada (Dogen on Lost) has been posted on Chud.com for your reading pleasure. If you enjoy it, please Digg it, or whatever it is that the kids are doing these days.

Hope it's enjoyed!

Tuesday, April 13

Lost: Season 6, Episode 12 Discussion

The Instareaction:

So were you left grinning ear-to-ear, nervous and amped up; almost absurdly energized by tonight's episode? Or was that just me? Further confirmation of the Love Snake theory, a warm and touching reappearance from Libby, a splintering of purposes, Death By Water Bottle, Jack's willingness to trust, Desmond's lack of fear, The appearance of another of the Island's Lost Boys (was that the MiB as a child?), the knowledge that some of the dead are trapped on the Island (echoes of my well of souls theory) and that the Whispers are the voices of those Purgatorial souls, the way that Desmond acts as a kind of Jacob in the Off-Island world, and the way the episode ends.....

Is this show really going to stick the landing?

After tonight I'm more confident than ever that the answer is 'yes.'

Original Post:

Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia) would like to petition JJ Abrams for more Lost, according to a bunch of different online sources.

I'd sign that petition - and I never sign petitions for television/film/entertainment. See, counting tonight's episode there are just four (FOUR!) episodes of Lost left until the finale. How did this happen so quickly? And do they make a form of Methadone that's strong enough to deal with the withdrawal symptoms I'm going to be dealing with?

Some of you already know that once Lost ends I'll be turning my attentions toward The Book (which you can contact me about at WhatIsWater@gmail.com) and toward new material, so it isn't as though I'll be leaving this show behind completely or quit writing altogether. That said, I've been writing on/about Lost for almost a full year now and the transition away from that and onto other things is going to feel very, very weird.

But that's a subject for a month-and-change from now. Tonight it's all about the new episode. Leave your thoughts and comments here - I'll be in after it airs on the East Coast to give my Insta-reaction.



Apropos of Nothing

Joss Whedon is in final negotiations to direct The Avengers.


We now return you to your regularly-scheduled Lost-centric programming.

Monday, April 12

Island Reviews: Waking Sleeping Beauty

"Waking Sleeping Beauty" (WSB for the rest of this review) is one hell of a home movie. Want to see what a young Tim Burton looked/acted like while crammed into one of Disney's old animator offices, or want to catch tantalizing glimpses of folks like John Lasseter and Glen Keane?

Of course you do. People like Burton, Lasseter and Keane are titans in the animation industry, and the idea of seeing archival footage that features them working at Disney during the studio's infamous fallow period (late seventies through the end of the eighties) made me salivate like one of Pavlov's puppies. Even more promising: Don Hahn (veteran animator, Oscar winner, and home-video-enthusiast) has worked at Disney from the age of twenty, and he was present and filming on all of Disney's "second golden age" features, from Little Mermaid through the Lion King.

It's a shame then, that for this viewer WSB ends up feeling both unfocused and wrongly-focused at the same time. The film spends most of it's running time split between (1) the efforts of Disney Animation to produce relevant (read: "fiscally successful and ripe for ancillary product creation/exploitation") films again following a string of critical and financial disasters and (2) the now-infamous relationship between Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner.

But by splitting the focus (and arguably spending FAR too much time on the Katzenberg/Eisner details - there's nothing that's said that couldn't have been succinctly expressed with a few minutes of voiceover or one judiciously-chosen interview) the film abandons its initial promise. WSB doesn't truly tell you HOW Disney Animation shifted from making clunkers to making new classics. Instead, the film just tells you that it happened.

That sin is compounded by what Hahn DOES choose to share with us. Why are we spending time on Katzenberg and Eisner when there's footage of Howard Ashman (lyricist for Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and most of Aladdin) playing "Under the Sea" for the first time for a group of delighted animators and looking adorably self-conscious in the process? Why do we spend too much time listening to Roy Disney's behind-the-scenes grievances when there's footage of Robin Williams riffing as the Genie in clips that never made it into the finished film?

This pattern repeats itself over and again. Either we're shown the "what" without the "why" or the "how" (Controversial animation figure Don Bluth managed to steal half of Disney's animators away from the studio. We learn that this happened, but not why or how) or we're shown yet-more footage of Eisner playing Cheerful CEO for the cameras or Katzenberg on a couch.

That's not to say that "Waking Sleeping Beauty" isn't worth seeing. If you're a fan of animation in general (as I very much am), or of Disney, or of the specific films from this period, WSB is very much worth a rental, if only to watch as Howard Ashman gives a very specific set of intructions to the voice of Ariel and cements a classic moment in Disney history. But if you're hoping for something deeper, something that focuses on the true creative heart of Disney's animated films - the animators - then you're likely going to be a little disappointed. We see their faces (in truly endearing home-video shots), and we hear a bunch of them say hello, but we never get a sense of who these people are/were, what they did, why they did it, or what the process was.

What we get instead are the reminiscings of one animator and a scattered array of really great moments captured on film. While Don Hahn is warm, engaging and blissfully armed with vintage archival footage, that warmth is overshadowed by two titanic egos who've already had their stories told and told in detail. Katzenberg and Eisner's feud marrs "Waking Sleeping Beauty" just as it seems to have marred Disney's breathtaking Mermaid-to-Lion-King track record.

The Verdict: Rent it.

The Back to the Island E-Mail Bag: P-Zombies, "Infection," and Very Intelligent Germans

After the Back to the Island column for The Package was published on Chud.com I received a comment admonishing me for drawing a potential comparison between Sayid’s “infection” and the idea of philosophical zombies (just click on the link to go to the column in question and refresh your memory). I invited the commenter to explain to me and the audience just why it was that the comparison didn’t fit. And while that commenter never responded to my invitation, I did get a lovely e-mail from a German gentleman (let’s call him “Our Mutual Friend,” since I haven’t received his permission to use his name) that attempted to do the same thing.

We had a brief but interesting exchange, and I thought that you folks might want to read it. It’s dense on his end with some pretty heady philosophical language, but I think it’s worth your time if you’re interested in delving a little deeper into Lost’s Pool of Potential Philosophical Touchstones. You can read the exchange by clicking here.

My thanks to Our Mutual Friend for sharing his copious knowledge, and for engaging in an intelligent and respectful dialogue. The majority of people who've contacted me since I started this blog have been a pleasure to communicate with, and I'm pleasantly shocked to have found so many sincere and kind people inhabiting the virtual world.

Saturday, April 10

Happily Ever After (S6, Ep. 11

The Back to the Island column for "Happily Ever After" has experienced enlightenment for your reading pleasure on Chud.com.

Thursday, April 8

Lost: Season 6, Episode 11 Discussion

UPDATE (04.08.10)!!

The Back to the Island column for "Happily Ever After" will be published tomorrow, not today, on Chud.com. Part of this is due to my having far too much fun yesterday, but most of it is due to the fact that there is a LOT going on in this episode, and I want to give the hour it's due.

Thanks for understanding, and for your patience - I can promise that the wait will be worth it!



Buh-bye, Second Snake theory? It sure seems that way, judging from the events of tonight's episode. The off-Island and on-Island universes bled together in Happily Ever After. What to make of everything? I'll be sussing it out over the next day or so, but here are some initial thoughts:

Eloise Hawking/Widmore as Mastermind of space and time? It's certainly hinted at here, as Hawking/Widmore reveals that she knows far more about Desmond's situation than he does.

And in that vein, what was up with Minkowski? Didn't he seem a little too eager to fulfill Desmond's every wish?

Desmond as Dr. Manhattan Island...Did anyone else think of Alan Moore's Watchmen as Desmond was caught in the EM field? And how bizarre was his sudden "enlightenment" at episode's end? What to make of him wandering off into the jungle with his old buddy, Sayid? Is he working off of some kind of "enlightened" state, aware that he's "supposed" to go that way? Is he aligning himself with the MiB? And what does he want with the Oceanic list? Is he looking to reunite the castaways and the potentially split timeline?

Back in Season 4 I talked about the idea of the castaways' conciousnesses becoming aware of their "past lives," and that's to some extent what we saw tonight. Consciousness was again an enormous theme in Happily Ever After, Along with the notion of Love as a powerful connector, drawing consciousnesses across whole worlds. If unabashed romanticism isn't your bag, then the Constant talk of love tonight probably made you groan. Im not allergic to the particular brand of sincerity (or schmaltz, depending on your POV), and so I found myself touched by the sentiment, rather than put off over it. I suspect results may vary. There's a ton of fun stuff to chew over in general this week - I'm looking forward to writing this.

Original Post:

Judging from the (often misleading) promo that runs after each new episode, this week's installment of Lost promises to make us all weepy. Will someone die tonight? It sure seems that way. Leave your thoughts on the episode here. I'll be popping in after it ends to give my Insta-reaction.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Thursday, April 1

The Package (S6, ep. 10)

The Back to the Island column for "The Package" has been gratuitously exposed for your reading pleasure on Chud.com.

Wednesday, March 31

The "V" Clock

So it seems as though people are pretty ticked off about the omnipresent "V clock" that ran in the corner of the screen for the entirety of last night's episode. I sympathize, since I can't stand any of the "cute"/translucent corner advertisements that are run during what seems like every show I watch now.

But I'm not hear to bitch and moan about it. I'm just curious as to who thought that this specific stunt was a good business idea? In effect, what that clock was saying was "Don't worry - you won't have to wait much longer to watch 'V.'" Only, no one was worried. Those of us watching Lost were tuned in to ABC for the express purpose of watching Lost - not to sit around agonizing over the wait for banal lizard people. "V" isn't the Superbowl, and Lost isn't the pregame. It certainly isn't as if the commercials we got at every break weren't ample reminder that Morena Baccarin's eerie haircut would be among us again soon.

So, the clock serves absolutely no "positive" purpose whatsoever. It is, all annoyance aside, just really terrible advertising. It doesn't cater to anyone. It doesn't fulfill a need or effectively evoke a need. It just serves to irritate people. That strikes me as being a bad marketing decision. So who thought this was a good idea? And what was the reasoning?

What do you think? Do in-show corner-of-the-screen ads bother you? Did last night's experiment in giving everyone what no one wanted send you into a frenzy of pissy Tweets? Or, like me, were you just left wondering how this was justified as smart or effective advertising?

Tuesday, March 30

Lost: Season 6, Episode 10 Discussion

Insta-Reaction: That was a very solid episode with no real answers, but some very tantalizing suggestions. Widmore is a Jacobian? Possibly. Desmond as weapon? Maybe. Sayid as a Hollow Man, in the manner I theorized about earlier in the season? Seems likely. Anti-Locke is going to use Ajira flight to leave the Island? Seems that way, but who is going to pilot it? After all, Anti-Locke doesn't seem to care about Frank at all, and he knows that Frank's the pilot.

Near as I can tell, nothing in this episode disproves the Second Snake theory, and I enjoyed the turns that the off-Island story took tonight. I'm betting that there are going to be two points of controversy among fans after tonight - Sun's sudden and bizarre Ephesia (sp?) and the lack of Answers. This isn't bothering me at all at the moment, actually, since I'm increasingly sure that we're going to get direct answers to only the "major" questions, leaving the audience to connect the dots on many of the minor questions. What did you think?

Original Post:

As of today there are eight episodes and nine hours of Lost left to go.


That said, I'm really looking forward to seeing the story advance for the on and off-Island castaways, and I'm hoping that revelations about Smokey, the MiB and the "infections" are forthcoming.

Following the episode I'll be here with an Insta-reaction (which will be slightly delayed, since I'm heading to a friend's place to watch it, and there will be beers). Looking forward to your comments, thoughts, criticisms, etc.!

E-mail: P-Zombies and "Infection"

This post refers to a discussion between myself and "Our Mutual Friend," regarding the connection I proposed between the idea of philosophical zombies (p-zombies) and Sayid's "infected" condition. To get context for this post, please visit this link.

The E-mail exchange between Our Mutual Friend and MMorse:

From: Our Mutual Friend
To: MMorse


I'm enjoying your Lost recaps a lot - a little more than I'd care to admit to friends - so congratulations on having at least one German reader. However, unfortunately you're on a bit of a wrong track when it comes to philosophical zombies and how they relate to Sayid's "condition". A genuine p-zombie is ex hypothesi absolutely (!) indistinguishable from a non-zombie. You could perform as many experiments and interrogations as you'd want without ever being able to determine whether he has qualia or not. (Kirk's thought experiment about slow zombification is known to be either inconsistent or incoherent, so that won't help!) What a p-zombie is decidedly NOT is emotionless, cold, without a conscience et cetera.

The whole argument revolves around the notion of epiphenomenalism or the idea that conscious experience (= the redness of red or QUALIA in general) is causally ineffective. If consciousness doesn't supervene on the physical, i.e. if zombies are logically possible, then science is screwed. Sayid isn't just losing qualia - he acknowledges the change, it has physical consequences! He's losing his moral compass, his conscience. Also, if it turns out that Locke-ness is in fact just a mad philosopher who robs his minions of phenomenal content, there's gonna be a shitstorm of epic proportions in the non-metaphysical parts of the fanbase...

From: MMorse
To: Our Mutual Friend

Thanks so much for your email, and for the informative download of Zombie info. Clearly your knowledge of, and level of comfort with, these concepts puts mine to shame!

That said, and speaking on a symbolic/metaphorical level, I'm not certain that the distinction you're making here precludes Sayid from being a metaphorical zombie. My understanding of the concept includes the idea that the person in question (Dan, in the example I'd posted in the column) would acknowledge the changes that were occuring inside of him, would express dismay (as Sayid does in the episode) and would recognize the accompanying loss of sensation (see the example again as it relates to both the physical experience of pain and the emotional experience of anger).

The test that Dogen administers to Sayid specifically seems designed to measure his experience of pain in some way, and seems to me (again, strictly symbolically) to reference the numerous tests that a doctor might perform on a potential p-zombie (as in the example). As you say, according to people much smarter than I, such a test would not (or maybe it's more accurate to say 'could not'?) indicate any change in him. And indeed, from what we see of the test there is no change in Sayid. But, given that this is a fiction, and that it deals openly with scifi concepts, despite the apparent lack of 'evidence from the test, Dogen seems to understand that something has changed, that 'darkness' is growing within Sayid.

Metaphorically, can't this darkness be seen as the kind of senses-deadening zombification that the Stanford encyclopedia and the author of the paper linked to also refer to? Aren't there more similarities between the symptoms of Sayid's condition and the notion of the p-zombie as described by the authors referenced in the column then there are differences (again in the metaphorical sense - as you say, if it turns out that AntiLocke is literally some kind of rogue philosopher/human alchemist, it'll probably tick some folks off)?

I'd love to hear your thoughts, and I thank you for reaching out and sharing your knowledge. Recieving intelligent comments like yours is one of the best things about writing for Chud.

From: Our Mutual Friend
To: MMorse

I appreciate your response! Your basic point seems clear: the zombification of Sayid is quite apparent. But I suggest that he's turning into a much more terrifying entity than the (relatively harmless) p-zombie. Here is why.

First, let's take something as fundamental as experiencing pain. One has to differentiate between two aspects of this process. On the one side there's a mainly functional component: Whenever a bunch of C-fibers in your hand is stimulated accordingly, your afferent nerves will transmit a small electrical current towards your brainstem which will be relayed to parts of your brain (e.g. the amygdala and so on). This is where your higher-level cognitive apparatus kicks into action. You quickly move your hand, you say "ouch", you learn to avoid, say, hot surfaces (if that's what burned you). Maybe you decide to consult a doctor or put your finger in cold water. All of this functional processing is impressive but can/could be achieved by a sufficiently advanced robot or computer. Now, on the other side, there's a further aspect - the phenomenological one. The functional process of experiencing and reacting to pain is, as you know from experience, accompanied by the raw sensation that is pain; so-called pain qualia. That's just what it FEELS LIKE to be in pain. Your robot can function just like you without actually FEELING pain as you do. Qualia are perfectly natural as we experience them on a daily base but utterly mysterious once we think about them. Why are they necessary? Why does being a human being feel like anything? Why are we not just robots?

Anyway, once we separate the two levels of experience (functional and phenomenal), it becomes a little more evident why Sayid is no zombie in the qualia-related sense of the word. A p-zombie is an atom-for-atom physical copy of a "real" person that is functionally isomorphic to a regular Joe without experiencing any qualia. Those guys don't really exist (I think) and they may even be physically impossible, but you can imagine them. Now let's have a look at this zombie-dude. He seems normal. That is, if you decide to punch this person in the face - let's call him Kenny - he will take the blow, say "ouch", his neurons will fire just like ours, he will react, learn, punch you back, develop a grudge against you et cetera. To cut a long story short, there's EX HYPOTHESI nothing that would tell us from the third-person perspective that he's in fact a fucking zombie! Otherwise he wouldn't be a proper p-zombie. It's just what we are stipulating to prove our point. A p-zombie isn't a real thing - he's a logical possibility.

So you're quite right: Lost is a scifi show dealing with (often pseudo-)philosophical concepts. But I'm not sure your metaphor is apt. Sayid undergoes a decidedly more radical change than Kenny. He loses functional stuff as well. After all, this tormented Iraqi tells us that he doesn't feel anything; he doesn't give a shit about Claire offering Kate the old knife treatment; he does Anti-Locke's presumably evil bidding. That's not the Sayid of previous seasons, it's a functionally non-equivalent person, ergo (again ex hypothesi) quite the opposite of Chalmers' zombie buddies because we can easily tell that something has changed.

Second, about the thought experiment you mention: What Kirk is going for in the case of Dan is that some people (with Dennett being the most prominent proponent) flat out refuse to believe that p-zombies are a consistent suggestion, i.e. that they are at all possible. Such philosophers claim that imagining Kenny (or any other p-zombie) is like imagining a square circle, or 4 being a prime number, or a fat thin person - but without being as obviously self-contradictory. Now, this is where Dan the zombie comes into play. If his story is coherent and gradual change into a proper p-zombie is possible, then zombie-fans win. If not, then we (the zombie-opponents) need to give a coherent argument regarding the point where the gradual zombification goes wrong. At least that's the idea. What Kirk forgets is that his p-zombie is more like a Sayid-zombie: He's not functionally equivalent to a regular person as he notices that he's turning into a qualia-less bastard. But that's all details and shit.

What's important here is this: Kirk's thought experiment does NOT describe an actual zombification. A proper zombie is indistinguishable from a normal person. He doesn't behave differently, he has (functional) emotions that guide him, he processes pain and love and stuff just as we do. But there's no phenomenal experience behind it. So Sayid may be a p-zombie - but in any case he's much more than that. He's becoming a REAL ZOMBIE (which, dramaturgically, is way more compelling).

I ABSOLUTELY love the fact that you brought up p-zombies! Modern philosophy (of mind) is highly fascinating stuff. However, in this context using such a technical concept for the sake of a metaphor seems a bit shaky. If there's anything unclear or if you think I'm on the wrong track, please let me know.


Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to write back just yet. But I thought that it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this back-and-forth. Our Mutual Friend is clearly far more well-versed in this topic than I am, and he makes a number of good points. I’m left admiring his knowledge but still of the opinion that Sayid’s condition metaphorically resembles the hypothetical p-zombie state as it’s described in the column for The Package. What do you think? And why? Your comments are always read, and always appreciated.