Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Geek With (Lots of) Books

My good friend Scott Cupp has just started a new column over at SF Signal. Scott's a writer, an avid reader, and has been a book collector since 1967. He's even co-owned a bookstore (bastard!). If you like books, you'll love listening to what Scott has to say. So head on over and say "Howdy" (and tell him he's not getting his Whittemore's back, no way, no how):

Geek With (Lots of) Books

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Soundtrack of My Life: The Ultra-Lounge Version

I'm sure you've all seen the meme, so here's my personal soundtrack, keeping the randomness, but limiting the choices to these 5 albums from the Ultra Lounge series (Clicking on song titles will get you at least a snippet of the song in question):

1) V17 - Bongoland
2) V8 - Cocktail Capers
3) V7 - Crime Scene
4) V4 - Bachelor Pad Royale
5) V1 - Mondo Exotica

Opening Credits:
Voodoo Dreams/Voodoo - Les Baxter
See? I already like this movie: spooky, mysterious, light jungle drums, a hint of lounge-lizardy cool.

Waking Up:
Latin Fever - Jack Costanzo
For the record, I am never this peppy waking up, but the latin bongos do call to mind the coffee machine and the frenetic pace echoes the caffeine buzz to come.

First Day at School:
Big Town - Laurindo Almeida & the Danzeneros
A director with a sense of humor! Apparently my first day of school will be shot as noir, with me as the world-weary P.I. If you're unfamiliar with the song, think of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the sad, smoky song playing when Eddie Valiant thought about his dead brother.

Falling in Love:
Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - Elliot Fisher
Well, at least the director is thematically consistent, and the portrayal of a sweet, awkward childhood moment as a suave seduction is pretty damn funny.

Losing Virginity:
Harlem Nocturne - Spike Jones New Band
Hee! Speaking of putting a cool, suave gloss on an awkward situation. I like this director--he's funny.

Fight Song:
The Young Savages - Martin Denny
Just the right mix of menace, cool, and goofiness. I would totally watch this movie.

Break Up:
Moderna Muchacha - Joe Loco
Clearly, we're playing this scene for laughs. I think I'm in a 60s sex comedy!

Hey! Bellboy! - Gloria Wood
I am definitely in a 60s sex comedy.

Walk on the Wild Side - Si Zentner
If this were more bouncy and less bluesy, I'd suspect that I was Austin Powers.

Mental Breakdown:
This Could be the Start of Something - Dave Pell
This is such a jaunty breakdown, I'm tempted to think I've gotten a little pharmaceutical assistance.

Hypnotique - Martin Denny
Bongos, recorders, a sitar -- I definitely shouldn't be driving. See speculation above.

Man With the Golden Arm - Billy May
How nice! A drug-fueled 60s sex comedy flashback of the noir movie this started out to be.

Getting Back Together:
Odd Job Man/I Wanna Be a James Bond Girl - Leroy Holmes
The tune: jaunty, jazzy with a bright horn section confirms that this is a happy reunion. The title of the song confirms the Austin Powers-y theme of the movie.

Bali Ha'i - Tak Shindo
On it's own, not out of place at a wedding. This version? Well, let's just say the pharmaceutical assistance is back--perhaps my hunny-bunny is not all that he appears?

Birth of Child:
Mission Impossible - Billy May
I...I...I'm at a loss for words. Suffice to say, in the movie we've seen so far, I bet this scene is hilarious.

Final Battle:
The Girfriend of the Whirling Dervish - Martin Denny
Hee! A farcical final battle full of slamming doors, mistaken identities, and, apparently, dancing girls.

Death Scene:
Melancholy Serenade - King Curtis
Awww. I'm dead. It's kind of sad, but the music is so very, very sad that it makes me believe things may not be what they seem.

Funeral Song:
Caravan - Dick Hyman
We're back in whirling dervish-land, and although somber, there's clearly some kind of bait & switch with the coffins. And given that interlude, my hunny-bunny turns out to love me after all.

End Credits:
Wimoweh - Yma Sumac
You might be more familiar with the Tokens version: The Lion Sleeps Tonight. But this version is odder and much much cooler. Frankly, if Yma Sumac is not in my soundtrack, I don't want to listen.

I would totally watch this movie again!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I Want A Grenade!

I only wish I were cool enough to have a chance at this, but maybe you are:

CONTEST: Are You An Agent of Chaos?

Have you ever struck a blow for anarchy? Done something surreal just because it felt good and they couldn't stop you? Crossed the border just to say you had? Stuck your gun somewhere you shouldn't've? Been chased across countries while trying to remember who you are? Okay, so that last one is the novel "Chaos" by the hot Dutch writing couple Escober, but you get the point. Tell us about the biggest thing you ever done to spread "chaos" and we'll enter you in a drawing for a one-of-a-kind gift pack featuring our new book "Chaos", plus:

A military issue map bag containing:

(1) compass with sighting mirror

(1) copy of the U.S. Army's Guerilla Warfare and Special Forces Ops field guide

(1) beret

(1) grenade (deactivated - you think we're crazy?)

(1) pair of leather bootlaces

(1) camouflage T-shirt, suitable for disappearing without a trace

Send your story of complete chaos to deepeight@live.com before June 30, 2009 to enter.

About Chaos:


by Escober

Now Available from Underland Press

a heart-stopping psychological thriller, in English for the first time.

ISBN: 978-0-9802260-3-4 $13.95

When British soldier alex Fisher returns home from his tour in Bosnia, he’s plagued by blackouts, recurring nightmares, and uncontrollable acts of violence. Escaping to Mexico, he sets off on a globetrotting tour in an attempt to distance himself from the demons in his head. a chance meeting with a mysterious woman introduces Fisher to a far more passionate—and far more dangerous—life. With his grip on reality slipping, Fisher’s demons return in full force, awakening a flood of suppressed memories. as he attempts to sort through his complicated and half-remembered past, Fisher discovers that the truth is harder to accept than the lies.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Return of The Cat In The Hat (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

It was April in Texas
And too hot to play.
So we sat in the house
whiling hours away,
doing nothing much, really,
'cause just yesterday
our parents had taken our TV away.

No video games, cable,
no Pokemon either--
our parents declared it
a "cultural breather."
They said all that stuff
was too much to afford,
so Sally and I sat there

We both heard the BUMP.
We both knew that sound.
The Cat in the Hat
was now hanging around.
He was sure to cause trouble,
get into our hair,
but Sally and I,
well, we just didn't care.

"Hello there, you two,"
said the tall skinny cat.
"Why don't we go play?"
said the Cat in the Hat.

We looked at him glumly
and made no reply
except for the small sound
of Sally's soft sigh:
"It's too hot outside
to have any fun.
It's too hot to walk out there,
much less to run.
In here there's no TV.
There's nothing to do.
No one could have fun today.
Not even you."

The Cat chuckled low
and said, "Don't be too sure.
For your lack of excitement,
I might have the cure.
How about an adventure?
I know of a place
where a famous detective
is out on a case.
He's trying to track down
the Baskerville hound.
The game is afoot.
Shall we follow around?

Should sleuthing not suit you,
we could go, instead,
to the sea,
and a ship full of pirates most dread.
We'll meet young Jim Hawkins
and have hours of pleasure
as he and the pirates
both search for the treasure.

Are pirates too scary?
We could take a stroll
with a small girl named Alice
down a large rabbit hole.
We'll meet a Red Queen,
a Mock Turtle and more.
Just drink from this bottle
and step through this small door.

Or perhaps you're the type
who like dragons and elves.
If that sounds like fun,
then prepare yourselves.
We'll visit a place
that is called Middle-Earth,
and meet Frodo and Sam
as they both prove their worth.

"Can you really do that?"
Sally asked the sly Cat.
"Of course I can, Sally,
as easy as that."
And the Cat crossed the room
to our family's bookshelf
and he said, "You don't need me,
you could go there yourself.

Every book's an adventure,
a new place to see,
full of people like you two,
and even like me!
Just open the pages
and you can set sail
to wonderous places
off of little-known trails.

The more that you do this
the more you will find
that you're getting quite good
at expanding your mind.
And here is a secret
that I'll share with you:
your mind, like your body,
needs exercise, too.

And now I must go,"
said our friend the Cat
as he stood at the door
and adjusted his hat.
"You can find magic
wherever you look.
Sit back and relax,
all you need is a book."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Texas Writers Saved My Life

Okay; maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. I was in grad school in Newark, New Jersey (Don’t ask.), and I was lonely and homesick. I went to a bookstore and saw a book with “Texas” on the cover: The Drive-In, by Joe R. Lansdale. I opened the book, and I was home again — a pretty weird version of home, I admit, but recognizable all the same.

From that point on, I actively sought out Texas authors, starting with those who set their stories in Texas, and eventually exploring other times and places as well. I went on a cattle drive with Gus and Call and Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove). I ran through Dallas in an alcoholic haze with Russell Murray and Neal Barrett, Jr., chased by a little old lady with a pillbox hat and an Uzi (Pink Vodka Blues). I was attacked by a rabid squirrel in Laborde with Hap and Leonard and Joe R. Lansdale (Bad Chili). I worked in a print shop in Austin alongside zombies, Cthulhu cultists, and William Browning Spencer (Resume With Monsters). I explored the mind of a serial killer with Mary Willis Walker (Red Scream). I romanced a moon goddess with Brad Denton (Lunatics). I investigated a murder in the court of King Tut with Lord Meren and Lynda S. Robinson (Murder in the Place of Anubis), and I visited countless possible futures with Bruce Sterling and Michael Moorcock (Schismatrix Plus and (Dancers at the End of Time).

These folks, both the imaginary and the real, have always been there for me, whether I needed a laugh or a good puzzle or a short, sharp, shock. I finally have a chance to thank them, in the best way I know how: by introducing them to you. So please, click around on Amazon or Google, or take a trip to your local bookstore and look around a bit. I’d like you to meet some friends of mine.

Friday, February 13, 2009


I’ve always been a “pattern” reader; i.e., read one type of book, a mystery, say, and then read nothing but mysteries until something else catches my eye. That’s why I was so confused by my recent reading—there didn’t seem to be a connection from book to book at all. Thankfully, I’ve come up with a theory (some might call it a rationalization) to explain my somewhat peculiar reading habits: Literature of Obsession. Think about it. Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil? Obsessive. The Orchid Thief? Obsessive. Orchid Fever, Tulipomania, A Rum Affair, The Arcanum—all about obsessive people. On the other hand, there are books like The Search for the Giant Squid and Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution, wherein a subject that does not normally have mass appeal becomes popular because the author is so crazy about it you just get caught up in the frenzy.

For me, the book that started it all is Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil. The book is technically about a murder in Savannah, Georgia and the subsequent trial of a local art dealer. But what made the book so fascinating is its portrait of the colorful residents of Savannah. How could I not be charmed by the old gentleman who walked the invisible dog every day? Or the raconteur who broke into people’s houses to host massive parties? Or the ineffable, irrepressible Lady Chablis? The murder trial was the least memorable thing about the book.

The same holds true for The Orchid Thief. The particular crime the book is ostensibly about is interesting enough: someone on trial for removing orchids from a reservation claiming he’s not guilty because Native Americans did the actual removing, and they’re allowed to. But just like Susan Orlean, I became fascinated by the orchid subculture. Some people just plain lose their minds where orchids are concerned. In fact, I became so intrigued by these people and their orchid obsessions that I picked up Eric Hansen’s Orchid Fever. To my surprise, Orlean hadn’t even scratched the surface of the weirdness of orchid folk. Plus, this book has one of the funniest opening passages I have ever read; do not read it while drinking.

Next up was Tulipomania, about the Dutch tulip frenzy in the mid-1600’s. Dash’s book gives a very thorough overview of a time when a tulip bulb (i.e., something which had not bloomed yet, might never bloom, and might not be the bloom that was promised) was worth prices up to 3 times an average person’s yearly income. My spate of flower-related reading eventually led me to A Rum Affair: A True Story of Botanical Fraud. This story of a possible botanical fraud (and a fairly recent one, at that) was rendered utterly fascinating, largely due to the wit and style of Karl Sabbagh.

Not into flowers? How about porcelain? Did you know that for centuries, only Asian countries knew the secret of creating porcelain? Neither did I, until I happened upon Janet Gleeson’s The Arcanum: The Extraordinary True Story. Gleeson’s book tells the story of a self-proclaimed alchemist, who convinced a king that he could turn lead into gold. Unable to duplicate his initial “success,” the alchemist was imprisoned until such time as he made good on his claims. He was never able to turn lead into gold, but he did stumble upon the recipe for porcelain. The kicker is that he never really got out of prison—although happy to profit from the sudden fashion for porcelain, the king never forgave the erstwhile alchemist for not turning lead into gold.

I could go on and on about books in this vein: Brunelleschi’s Dome: How A Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture, Longitude: The True Story of the Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, Mauve: How One Man Invented A Color That Changed the World (You can invent colors? Who knew?), The Island of Lost Maps, Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea, The Professor & the Madman, The Scents of Eden: A History of the Spice Trade, Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, etc., all centered around obsessive personalities. But there’s a second kind of obsession that catches my eye as well—folks who are so entranced by their subject matter that you get drawn in to topics you might not ordinarily be interested in.

For me, the master of this is Richard Ellis. If you’ve read my other columns or (heaven help you) had to listen to me in person, you know how obsessed I’ve become with The Search For the Giant Squid. The idea that we know this giant creature exists but have only recently (like, in the last year) seen one thriving in its own environment is a continual fascination to me. But my oceanic obsession actually began with an earlier Ellis book: Deep Atlantic: Life, Death, and Exploration in the Abyss. I picked it up because the white-on-black drawings of the deep-sea creepy critters looked cool. I finished it because Ellis made the story so compelling. Then when I saw the squid book, I had to have it.

I was similarly affected by Richard Fortey’s Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution. I had heard of trilobites, and the cover was kind of cool, so I figured I’d give the book a try. I didn’t expect it to fascinate me. I didn’t expect that I wouldn’t want to put it down. In short, I didn’t expect Richard Fortey. The man is nuts about trilobites. Dotty. Giddy. And darned if I didn’t get all caught up in it, to the point of staff selections and columns like this. Similar books would be Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, Time: Its Origin, Its Enigma, Its History, A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth, Absinthe: History in a Bottle, and Buried Alive! The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear.

The kicker is that all of these books have proven relatively popular, at least when I was in bookstores. I mean, I’ve read most of them (and covet the rest of them), but as we established earlier, I’m somewhat peculiar. What’s interesting is how many other folks are attracted to obsession. Are you a kindred spirit? Have you read and enjoyed one of these books, but didn’t know where to go next? I hope you’ll check out some of these other books. If you do, drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Why Peggy Can't Do Math

In many ways, I’m a typical English major. I wear glasses. I am nerdy and bookish, and I hang out with equally bookish folks. We can talk about books, authors, and even grammar for hours. I am always in the middle of at least one book, and I get nervous if I’m stuck somewhere without a book to read. Heaven forbid I have an overlong stoplight and nothing to occupy my time. I attended college and even graduate school. I can express myself verbally or in writing with relative ease. I am not unintelligent. And yet, when faced with the prospect of doing any math other than simple addition or subtraction, my heart races and my palms get sweaty.

Math has always been my personal bugaboo. I’ve never been good at it, despite my best efforts. Algebra? Geometry? Calculus? I might just as well have been studying Old Testament Greek. In fact, I did study Old Testament Greek in college, and it was much less frustrating than math. I studied the word problems. I did my homework. I tried, dammit, and yet I’ve never caught on. But I think I finally figured out why. All of the available space in my brain that was set aside for math has been taken up with essentially useless trivia I got from books.

For example, I know that “cavy” is what folks in South America call a guinea pig, and that some folk think they’re good eatin’. Why do I know this? Because I read about it in one of Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring novels. Was it a major plot point? Nope. Does it have any relevance to my own life? Nope. And yet, there that information sits, taking up valuable calculating space in my brain.

Who ran MGM studios when Louis B. Mayer was gone? Readers of Gore Vidal’s inimitable duo of Myra Breckenridge and Myron would know the name Dore Schare. (They’d also have the name of Byron “Whizzer” White embedded in the “sine, cosine, tangent” area of their brain, albeit with connotations that cannot be discussed in a family web column.)

Do you ever get the feeling that “they” are watching you? That someone is out to get you? That the Government just might not be your friend? You must have been reading Robert Anton Wilson. If not for works like The Illuminatus Trilogy, I might never be able to distinguish between the Illuminati and the Bavarian Illuminati (or the Freemasons, the Bilderbergers, and so on). The question of whether or not I ever have been or will be called upon to make that distinction is left as an exercise for the reader.

Does the name Oscar “Zeta” Acosta mean anything to you? If not, I’ll bet you don’t have any trouble with fractions. However, we math-impaired folks recognize that name as the legendary “Brown Buffalo,” the attorney flying across the desert higher than Mount Everest in the company of gonzo madman Dr. Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Did you know that the giant squid has the largest eye in the animal kingdom? Yep, even bigger than a whale’s. Their eyes are the size of dinner plates, at least according to The Search for the Giant Squid by Richard Ellis. Is there ever a chance that I will need to know that? Barring an unexpected appearance on Jeopardy, I think not.

Granted, it’s not just book facts overloading my receptors. I’m pretty sure my lack of any ability to figure out percentages can be traced directly to my ability to recognize and in most cases sing along to a staggering variety of TV theme songs and show tunes. Various rude and inappropriate lines to be shouted at a movie screen playing Rocky Horror are, in fact, so deeply hardwired in that solving for x can’t even find an open spot to attach to. Instead that information comes in, scrabbles madly for a purchase, then slips off screaming, to land in a heap with all of the other algebraic equations I’ve attempted to learn through the years. Perhaps my friends have a point: if you're stalking a wild game of Trivial Pursuit, I'm your gal. Just don't come a-knockin' at tax time.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cephalopod Love

You just don't mess with an octopus in love:

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Last Temptation of Hurley, or Hugo Reyes and the Hotpocket of Doom

Peggy: I am officially calling for these episodes to be re-titled "Poor Hurley."

Mark: Yeah, Hurley's being pulled like saltwater taffy, isn't he?

Peggy: It was epic in its awesomeness. Seriously, there was soooooomuch to love here: Hurley's on-point description of everything we've seen so far, nevertheless coming off sounding just as crazy as it does when we try to explain it a non-believer; Hugo's mom: "I believe you, Hugo." And Jorge Garcia's facial expression as Ben took him up on the mountaintop and promised him the world: no more lying, no more crazy, those you love safe, rescuing those left behind, and all you gotta do is kneel down and worship me. DAMN that was fine.

Mark: Why do people keep trying to mess with Sayid? Haven't they seen ANY of the previous shows?

Peggy: Not only can he snap necks with his ankles of steel, dude's DISHWASHER is lethal. What do you think caused the falling out between Sayid & Ben? Simple growing mistrust or something more? I'd love to believe that Ben was behind Nadia's murder & Sayid found out, but I just can't jigger the timeline to make it happen.

I love Hurley & Sayid pulling out of the gas station as Kate & Aaron were pulling in--a flashback-style interaction in the...flashpresent? Damn, but that's going to be a) confusing and b) difficult to talk about.

And how very Hurley that, despite his angry words to Sayid aboard the Searcher, he not only helps Sayid, but trusts him over Ben, who's telling Hurley they're going to do exactly as he wanted to do anyway.

Mark: At any other time in the show's history, Sayid's "do the opposite" advice would have served Hurley in good stead. Now, though, it just puts him at odds with what the ISLAND said he shouldn't do (and how about THAT li'l cameo? And that tossaway line? "Libby says Hi.") I love this show!

Peggy: That cameo was, I swear, put in specifically for me, just so that, right as I launched into a loud, self-righteous, oh, of COURSE they can bring Michelle Rodriguez back despite all her real-world drama, but not Cynthia Watros, oh NOOOOOOOoooo, they could shut me right up with "Libby says Hi". Reason number infinity why I am Lost's bitch.

Mark: Cathy correctly deduced that the island was being moved temporally, rather than physically. I hadn't counted on the complexity of the issue, though. If this whole season is one big time travel mystery that weaves in and out of the past five seasons, I will consider this to be the most brilliant show on television.

Peggy: The TWOP folks pointed out Locke's suspiciously gimpy leg when showing Femi's plane to Boone, God's Friggin' Gift To Humanity. Now, I simply refuse to believe that Ethan shooting Locke in the leg was planned way back in Season 1, but I could certainly believe that TPTB looked back at Season 1 & wrote this scene with the previous one in mind.

Mark: Cathy is predicting that Jin is alive, as well as Michael. For that to happen, there would have to have been some time travel shenanigans to pull them off the boat before it went blooey. We'll see.

Peggy: I suspect we'll see Jin, and maybe Michael, but I don't know whether they'll be alive. But the chronology has now kind of caught up with Taller Ghost Walt, so Walt will probably turn out to be the teenage son that Jeremy Bentham had. Do Walt, Desmond, & Lapidus count in the whole everyone has to come back to the island thing?

And while we're on that, are they even really supposed to go back to the island? Richard says Locke has to die to save the island, not the people on it, and while Ben has certainly proven loyal to the island, he has a, shall we say disregard for the lives anyone who he doesn't feel is integral to the island's health. Do we trust Creepy!Island Claire & Christian when they say that Aaron on the island is exactly where he is supposed to be, or Shadowy!California Claire who warns Kate not to take Aaron back? Was Ana Lucia right when she told Hurley to not get arrested? Is his defiance of Ben a major mistake? I hope not, because I love Hugo. But it's an interesting conundrum: is the enemy of my enemy my friend? Of course we know that Ben is a lying liar who lies, but we still don't know if he's right or wrong. I love that.

Mark: Loved the Faraday cameo at the beginning of the show. So, we're going to see him go into the engine of the island, I think. But, riddle me this, Batman: if the guy said we shouldn't poke a hole in the rock, for fear of the energy getting out and "god help us all", isn't that what Ben did in the last episode of last season? Blow a hole in the wall to get to the big dial? So, we're at "God help us all" now, with the island in flux, right?

Peggy: Or it will be "God help us all" in that seemingly arbitrary 70 hours. Daniel has clearly jumped around in time enabling him to write the Magic Journal of Answers. They seem to go out of their way to imply that he doesn't read ahead (he's always shocked by what he reads), but both reading ahead & being unstuck in time certainly explain his mental state & crying jag when we first met him. He sees the news of 815 being found and some part of him realizes that it's all starting (and apparently can't be changed. Unless you talk to Desmond and he does something, which apparently counts as Desmond breaking the rules, not you.). I love that they make such a huge point of there being Rules for all this time travel stuff, then instantly say," oh, except for that guy."

So much coolness:

The one-liners:

It points north, John.

Why is there a dead Pakistani on my couch?

You're someone who makes the hard choices, Kate.

Libby says Hi.

Maybe if you ate more comfort food, you wouldn't, like, kill people all the time.

The theories:

the whispers we always hear are the voices of the unstuck in time (via TWOP)

the island didn't move, the vector to reach it did, & when it did, the island went back to being invisible to everyone outside of the loop (via TWOP)

Did pushing the button have something to do with keeping the island anchored to one particular place & time? (via TWOP)

How far in the past was that opening? Long enough for Candle's baby to be Miles? It's been implied that Charlotte was previously on the island, and we know that Daniel has, so if Miles has, too, what about Lapidus? (or, according to the fabulous Norman Conquest at TWOP, "I assume that Miles will grow up to become Pierre Chang/Marvin Candle et al. Aaron grows up to become Frank Lapidus. Charlotte grows up to become Miss Hawking. Ji Yeong grows up to become Chang's wife (explains the resemblance to Sun, no?) And Daniel Faraday is his own grandpa..." Heh.)

The moments:

Hurley's dad watching Expose, Nikki's old show.

An Abbadon sighting!

A Vincent sighting!

Rose & Bernard (Neil soooo deserved that. Snapping at Rose? Not on my watch, Frogurt.)

And Neil handing Sawyer his red shirt then promptly dying? Priceless.

Flaming arrows. Who shoots flaming arrows (and do they have anything to do with the Arrow or Flame Dharma stations? or pirates from a land-locked pirate ship?)?

Who tries to cut Juliet's hand off? Dharma? Rousseau's crazy crew? Widmore?
Random crazy military guys?

Scary Time Travel Prophecy Lady returns, and may be Daniel's mom (does this mean it's okay for Des & Penny to be together now, since he pushed the button & saved the world, or does this signal yet another wrench in Des & Penny's story?).

Sun & Kate's scene. I love Scary!Sun, and totally think she sent the goons, knowing that Kate would respond by running away. I think it's significant that she asked if Kate would do anything to keep Aaron, not keep Aaron safe. And using Jin's death like that? Dirty, dirty, dirty pool, and completely awesome.

And still to come, Smokey! And Desmond-spawn! I can't wait!

Mark: I am stoked about this new season!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lost Musings

I've just watched the season premiere of Lost, and it was epic in its awesomeness. But while I digest which parts I really want to talk about (The Last Temptation of Hurley, or Hugo Reyes & the Hotpocket of Doom), I had a more general thought.

I read a couple of message boards, and I follow the Lost threads at Television Without Pity pretty faithfully during the season. There are some terrific theories to be found there, and, bless their hearts, they do a lot of the heavy lifting of finding screencaps or catching tidbits that I missed to help further my discussions with Mark. But sometimes you see a post along the lines of "God, I hate how [character X] was acting tonight. It was totally off-base," and this response:"Well, [producer, writer, or showrunner of the moment] created that character, so they would know best. It's their character, not yours."

I see the logic of this, I really do. But as a semi-recovered Xena fan who had some serious issues with how that all went down, I think I have to disagree.

On the one hand, yes, of course, they created that character out of whatever font such creations come from. The character would not exist without them, and would not be the same character if someone else had created it. And if these creations were hermetically sealed in that mythological mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnall's porch, I wouldn't have a leg to stand on here.

But they're not sealed away. They've been set loose on their own, for better or worse, and that's how we encounter them. Think about it. If a different actor played the part, it would be a different character. If a different writer wrote that episode, it would be a different character (the difference might be minute, but it would be there). If a different director directed that episode, it would be a different character. Is it too much of a leap to posit that we, the audience, have a claim on these characters, too? After all, with a different audience, there would be different feedback, and the plot & characters would spin off in a different way.

And Lost in particular caters to their audience. They tease and drop hints in places only the truly rabid would notice. They create real-world games to amuse the faithful in the off-season. They interact with fans via email, blogs, videos, and message boards. And I believe that this interaction has an influence, however small, on the final product. Remember Nikki & Paolo? Remember the awful attempts to ret-con them into the show's mythology? TPTB may deny it, but when it was clear that Nikki & Paolo were a terrible mis-step, they were summarily 86'd via an arachnid ex machina so ridiculous it was never referred to again.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that my take on Character X is right and its creator's is wrong. But I am saying that other interpretations of the events of the show and how the characters carry them forward have some validity, and we have every right to spit nails if, say Demon & Curse keep saying things like, "Jack is the man Kate should be with; he'd be good for her," or if Libby disappears off the face of the earth with no explanation of her connection to Hurley or if Rousseau is killed after promises of backstory but before any backstory is given.

The showrunners have the final say on how the events will turn out. We can't control that. But we can certainly look at that final product and make our own decisions about what it all means, even if our conclusions don't always agree with theirs. The beauty of Lost is that it encourages and expects a level of participation from its audience, and that's one of the reasons I keep coming back, even when characters or events or creator commentary infuriate me.