Sunday, February 28
Joe Hill's "Horns" - a brief review.
Joe Hill is a gifted writer. Capable of deftly etching interesting characters, constructing a compelling plot, and turning a nicely evocative phrase, Hill is an exciting talent in the world of fiction. I wasn't sure what to expect when I started his new novel, "Horns," but I quickly fell into the mystery of Ignatius Perrish and the devilish horns that appear on his forehead, seemingly conjured in the middle of the night.
Halfway through this ambitious book, however, the initial thrill of Hill's plotting and prose gave way to something approaching disappointment. The deeper I got, the more the world of Horns seemed to shrink. From a truly intriguing premise, something relatively pedestrian emerged.
None of which is to say that Hill's written a bad novel. It's simply a novel that doesn't know what it wants to be. Hill succeeds in preparing you for a gourmet meal, but ulimately fumbles in the final presentation.
It seems to me that a novel which attempts in part to explore the nature of evil, the role of satan in the world, and the hidden (awful) depths of the human heart ought to feel a lot less safe than Horns ultimately does. The book opens with the idea that it's main character has done something 'terrible' he can't remember, and that this terrible "something" led to his horns. But that something, when finally revealed, isn't much of a something after all. And that same sensation of things being less interesting, less complex, and ultimately too unexplained permeates enough of the novel that i don't think I'd recommend it.
While I appreciated Hill's characterizations overall, the friendship between Perrish and Lee never reads as believable, and ultimately, some of Hill's larger concepts (I'm looking at you, 'Treehouse of the mind') feel like the sort of hyper-important-yet-unsatisfactorily explained deux ex machina devices that Hill's father, Stephen King, so often falls prey to.
The novel that Horns ends up being fairly comparable to, in a number or ways, is "Lisey's Story," by King. There's the same sort of admirably and movingly rendered portrait of loss, the same intriguing but totally unexplained sense of magic (re "Lisey's Story": What the heck was up with the brother who sort of maybe turns into a werewolf or demon or maybe doesn't, but is all feral and touches himself and they keep him in the basement or something - which you don't typically do unless the kid is actually a monster but King never tells us which is sort of cool but also ultimately kind of frustrating and ends up making things feel incomplete and not purposefully vague and which is maybe what both writers were attempting with this stuff, but it doesn't really satisfy), and the same sense that in the end, things turned out smaller and less interesting than they'd seemed when the book was opened.
Kind of like this review, really.
Friday, February 26
Wednesday, February 24
I recently had the opportunity to interview Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays Dogen on Lost, and that interview will be up on Chud in the near future. You'll find a link to it, and to each week's column, on this site. You'll also find the Rewatch project that I did prior to this season, and a collection of 'Too Much Information' columns that go into (arguably stultifying) detail about various aspects of the show. I invite you to poke around, comment freely, and continue to honor me with your presence.
Tuesday, February 23
Saturday, February 20
1. The Venture Brothers - Fans of Lost's knottily plotted narrative and the comedy stylings of folks like Mike Judge (Office Space, King of the Hill) and/or Ben Edlund (The Tick, Firefly, Angel) should give The Venture Brothers a shot. What begins as a goofy, potty-mouthed parody of shows like Johnny Quest quickly evolves into an intimate epic about the death of our jet-age dreams and the complexity of family. But hilarious. The show isn't for everyone - especially those people who don't enjoy a good off-color joke - but I'd recommend it to anyone with an off-beat sense of humor and an appreciation for intelligent storytelling.
2. Fela - My wife and I had the opportunity to catch the show 'Fela' on Broadway recently, and we were both blown away. Fela is the (basic) story of musician Fela Kuti, Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and political activist, told through dramatization and through Fela's songs, none of which I was familar with before the performance. If you're in NYC and you've got the opportunity to attend 'Fela,' I'd advise you to see it. Antibalas, the Afrobeat orchestra who've worked with TV On The Radio and DJ Logic, serves as the production's house band, and they set the place on fire.
3. Locke & Key - Ever read a comic book? Even if you haven't, as a fan of Lost you should consider picking up Locke & Key, published by IDW. L&K is written by Joe Hill, son of Stephen King, and his writing contains the same gift for creating characters that his father possesses. Hill is very much his own man, however, and L&K is a terrific showcase for his authorial voice. Why will Lost fans want to read this title? Besides the emphasis on character, the book is also a compellingly-plotted mystery about the Locke family's ancestral home, Keyhouse, the special doors and keys that lay within it, a potentially world-changing/ending secret hidden deep in the caves that lie beneath the house, and a generational struggle between the forces of light and dark that's told largely through hints, allusions, and suggestion. Highly recommended.
4. The Conference of the Birds - Ever read an epic poem revolving around the Sufi belief system? Me too! The Conference of the Birds is an allegorical fable about the source of, and the primacy of, divinity. It's written entirely in short, clever rhyme, and it's got a twist ending worthy of Lost. It's also arguably relevant to Lost's larger themes, though that's solely my opinion. If you're looking to do a little mind-expansion with your pre-sleep reading, give The Conference of the Birds a try. At the least, you'll enjoy the richness of the language. I'll be talking more about this poem in the next Back To The Island column.
Enjoy the weekend!
Thursday, February 18
Despite said-happiness, I'm also a slacker, which means that I'm looking to you, my appreciated reading audience, to provide suggestions on what questions you'd like me to ask. I'm not a total slacker - I'll be asking my own, and I've got one or two I'm looking forward to posing - but you folks are intelligent, and you're likely to have some good ideas.
So, whaddyawant asked? I won't be trying to sneak any spoilers out of him, and he can't talk about what hasn't already aired, so please keep that in mind. My sincere thanks first and foremost to Devin Faraci of Chud, who asked if I'd like to conduct the interview. And thanks in advance to you, for any help you can provide.
Wednesday, February 17
Instant reaction: My favorite of the season so far.
Five things about The Substitute:
1. Helen suggests that Locke invite his father to the wedding.
Say it with me now: 'Whaaa?' Does Locke have the relationship he wanted with his father off-Island? Is Helen simply unaware of Locke's history with his father?
2. Numbers and Names - Anti-Locke takes Sawyer to a proto-Dharma station located in a cliff face, where the names of certain castaways are scrawled on the walls and ceiling, alongside the infamous Numbers. Again: 'Whaaa?' Where did Jacob get these names? Why isn't Kate's name up there with a number?
3/4. Bloodyboy Jacob(?) and Smokey-sight - a young boy who seems go be Jacob (but could also be an older Aaron - and remember that the two might be one and the same) appears to Anti-Locke in the jungle and tells Locke that 'killing him' is against the rules. So it seems that even Smokey himself can see 'the dead' on the Island. Does this imply that Smokey (who claims he's a man) was once a candidate too? And what was up with the MiB seeming to 'mirror' the character of Locke, yelling 'don't tell me what I can't do'?
5. The 'Evil Dead cam' used to show Smokey's POV was pure awesome.
Let me know what you thought in the comments!
Saturday, February 13
Believe it or not, I actually manage to watch/think about a few things other than Lost each week. Each weekend, I'll be posting briefly about/commenting on non-Lost related media that I'm currently digging/trying out/mad at. It's my hope that you'll feel motivated to share your own finds, favorites and follies. If you're here strictly for your Lost fix, skip right over these. You'll barely notice them.
1. The Lost Room - Every once in a (great, great) while, the SciFi channel produces something worth watching. The Lost Room is one of those miraculously not-terrible productions. In fact, it's kind of great. Originally meant to serve as the opening 'chapters' in a planned, ongoing show, The Lost Room ended up as a three-part miniseries. It's self-contained, and basically stands on it's own as-is, but the untapped potential of the world this show created will make you wish that someone had had more faith in The Lost Room's prospects.
There's real intelligence to the writing and world-creation, and like Lost, the show's creators were clearly trying to communicate some pretty heady ideas within the context of their kooky genre story. There's a good chance that I'll be rewatching The Lost Room once Season 6 of Lost comes to a close. If I do, I think I'll invite those of you who are interested to rewatch it along with me. It's that good.
2. Supernatural - I've been enjoying Eric Kripke's blue collar monster soap opera since it began, and while I wouldn't label it great television I would call it pulpy, very entertaining tv. If you're a fan of Neil Gaiman (from whom the show cribs liberally this season), Clive Barker, Buffy or Angel, then chances are you're already watching this show. But on the off-chance that you aren't, allow me to play Captain Obvious and recommend it. While I've been sorta underwhelmed by this season so far, the past two installments have been excellent.
3. Whip It - My wife rented Drew Barrymore's directorial debut this week, and I was genuinely surprised to find myself enjoying it. It's good to see Daniel Stern working. Whip It is the opposite of 'consequential,' but Whip It's mixture of grrl power, indy shoe-gazing, and genuine warmth made for a nicely sweet experience - one that I'd favorably compare to Adventureland. Between this film and the entirely-underrated 'Roll Bounce,' competitive rollerskating has now produced two surprisingly-watchable films. Color me bewildered, but pleased.
4. The Brothers Bloom: original motion picture soundtrack - I like to listen to music whileI write, and this week's selections included Nathan Johnson's ridiculously good score for this film. I'm not a big film score buff, but this album stands on it's own.
Enjoy the weekend!
Friday, February 12
Tuesday, February 9
When Season 3 of Lost came to its justifiably-lauded conclusion, after I’d processed what had just happened, I turned to my then-girlfriend and asked: “How the heck did we not see that coming??”
Among its strengths, Lost is masterful when it comes to the art of slight-of-hand misdirection. While you and I are staring in one direction (“Why is Jack all emo and Grizzly-Adams-y? When did this happen in the flashbacks?”), the show’s writers are quietly, busily working in another direction, setting up twists that seem obvious after the fact. It’s the mark of a great magician, and it’s precisely what the writers pulled off during that finale. The Season 3 reveal that Jack and Kate had somehow left the Island represented the writers’ biggest and most brazen bit of slight-of-hand to date. It was such a shocking bit of business that the show's writers gave it a nickname: "the rattlesnake in the mailbox."
Arguably, it shouldn't have worked as well as it did. Giving Jack a previously-unseen beard and showing him slumped in a room with a giant map plastered to the wall ought to have given most of us a giant clue that something was up here - but most of us were too busy watching the magician rolling up his sleeves to notice his assistant loading doves into his jacket. To torture the metaphor a little further: if it'd been a (rattle)snake it would have bit us.
The question that I found myself pondering this weekend, after a long day and a cold beer, was whether there’s a new snake and a new mailbox, so to speak.
Despite Lost’s wonderfully weird ‘mythology,’ it’s tendency to mix polar bears and inhospitable environments, it’s love of ‘ghosts’ and Whispers and apparent-gods, the show’s writers have always claimed that “character comes first.” For the most part, I agree. The show has fairly consistently emphasized the characters and their relationships over and above the Island’s mysteries. The off-Island “flashes” featured in the Season 6 premiere do just that. While there are a bunch of “coincidental” path-crossings, there’s close to zero mythology in the off-Island segments (the main exceptions being the shots of the underwater Island, and the disappearance of Christian’s coffin - which may be mythology-related, and may not be). All the Island’s weirdness is so far largely confined to the “on-Island” flashes. And I’d like to suggest, with absolutely no evidence at all to back me up, that this is both intentional and a potential clue.
Lost’s Season 6 premiere featured two separate storylines – one in which the Jughead group was pushed ‘forward’ into the ‘present day’ on-Island, and one in which it appears that the crash never happened, that Oceanic 815 and its passengers landed safely at Los Angeles International Airport. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have both stated that the question of how these two storylines match up is a “slow burn” question that will be answered as the season progresses.
Are the castaways "split" into alternate versions of themselves, the way an atom is split to create a nuclear explosion? That’s certainly very possible, and the “quantum worlds” theory fits in well with much of what we’ve seen hinted at and explored on Lost in terms of scientific theories.
Are the castaways simultaneously experiencing "dual time-lines"? Have they created a separate "stream" in the river of time? That’s also a good, solid possibility, given everything we learned about the show’s conception of time in Season 5.
Those are the two most popular solutions to this particular question, as far as I’m able to tell. It’s likely that one of them will be proven correct over the course of the season. But there’s a third option here, and it’s one that I personally haven’t seen discussed. This is the figurative “second snake,” and if I'm right, Season 6 is the mailbox.
My nutty theory:
What if these off-Island segments are not an alternate universe, not an alternate timeline, not an alternate anything? What if, instead, these off-Island segments are actually the “second half” of Season 6, playing concurrently alongside the "first half" for the audience? What if all that we saw “off-Island” in the premiere comes about, not because of the Jughead detonation (which, as we’ve seen, has moved the castaways forward to the present on-Island), but as a result of everything we’re seeing play out now on the Island? What if Jack and Company need to see their Island destiny through before they can "go back" to the beginning and try again?
In other words: Maybe Season 6 itself a kind of giant version of the Season 3 finale. Maybe the off-Island segments in the premiere are the effective equivalent of Jack’s “flashbacks” from that finale, taking place "after" the events on-Island that we're also watching.
Why this isn't (totally) the ravings of an insane person:
At its heart, Lost has always been a show about human connection, about the value of community, of seeing things from another’s (an Others’) point of view, of the importance of reaching out to sustain each other in life.
What better way to emphasize this character-driven philosophy while still holding the audience’s interest with Smoke Monsters and kooky Temples and ash-barriers and whatnot, than to simultaneously show both the final act (on-Island) and the denouement (off-Island) at the same time? And what better way to emphasize the primacy of the human spirit and individual choice over warring pseudo-gods and mythical Islands than to give these characters the opportunity to truly heal each other, away from ooky-spooky Hatches and jungle-dwelling Others – back in the real world where that kind of healing and connection is so genuinely important?
Structurally, doing this ‘mirrors’ their past Season 3 finale and, more than that, it mirrors the season itself, with each “half” of the season mirroring the other half. In this way the show itself becomes a kind of metaphorical “spiral,” like the Orchid Station symbol, in which the Seasons reflect each other from opposing, increasingly-close sides.
While the journey of the characters is the focus of this show, this is the final season and, realistically, once you’ve told people about the nature of the Island, the identity of the Monster, and answered many of their burning questions, are people going to want to sit around and watch a few episodes worth of off-Island interactions which end up emphasizing the show’s themes? Would those stories really “matter” as much to the audience once the thrill-ride portion of the season was finished?
I suspect that the answer, realistically, is no. And that’s pretty reasonable, really. Think of Stephen King’s “The Stand” – a novel that Lost’s writers have cited as inspiration. I can only speak for myself but, as enjoyable as those final wrap-up chapters were, they felt like an inevitable let-down after the showdown in Vegas. Structuring the final season so that the audience watches both the “exciting conclusion to the mystery” at the same time that they’re watching character-based resolutions to individual story arcs solves this problem, and it adds potential “value” to the season. If I’m right (and again, that’s a HUGE if – this whole theory might end up disproved by tonight’s episode), then structuring the season this way encourages people to immediately go back and rewatch it once it’s concluded, so that they can experience the “ending”again.
What do you think? Should I be locked up? And are you as amped for tonight's episode as I am?
Wednesday, February 3
The Column for "LA X" has been revived in a mysterious spring for your reading pleasure on Chud.com.
I liked it. I liked it a lot. People have already pointed out a number of things I missed, and they're worth relisting. Here are a few of them:
1) Sun is called 'Ms. Paik' when she's off-Island. Are they not married in this "universe"?
2) Apparently, Sayid's passport was Iranian, which is consistent with the "mirroring" theme.
3) The character of Bram is staked through the heart in this episode, which is a pretty sly allusion if it's purposeful.
4) This is speculation, but I like it (from commenter "antilucid"): "My theory on the spring is that it can reverse time in a way that heals the person. Sort of rewind them to a time when they were not hurt....When Sayid wakes up and asks what happened, I am willing to bet his last memory is going to be from during their trip in 1974."
That's pretty brilliant. Nice theorizing, "antilucid." Feel free to post other things I might have missed in the comments!
Tuesday, February 2
Lost begins it's final season tonight, and if you're like me you're having a little trouble staying focused. I thought I'd toss a post up to give people the chance to comment on the premiere both before and after it airs. Feel free to use it to talk about what you'd like to see, what questions you're dying to have answered first, and your reactions after the fact.
I'll have my own comments and reactions up on Chud.com tomorrow afternoon and I'll probably check in later tonight after the show airs with a brief reaction.
The final rewatch column for "The Incident" should be up on Chud.com in a few hours.