We moved last weekend in an epic four-day event that I’d classify as thoroughly exhausting. We did manage to get all but one room fully unpacked and ready for habitation, which was a pleasant surprise. Somehow I’d assumed we’d toil for days and have nothing to show beyond a small corner of a room with a sad mattress on the floor and we’d point to it from across a sea of boxes overflowing with our collected trinkets and say, “See? We live here now!” People—mysterious people with no business being in our home to begin with—would back away slowly, speed-dialing their personal injury attorneys in anticipation of their treacherous journey to the front door.
Instead we managed to coordinate a very pleasant environment to exist within and while neither Nik nor I want to get ahead of ourselves I’m prepared to say that thus far we adore our new digs. Well, I think Nik could do without the wild, mutant turkeys that roam the grounds. They seem docile and prone to avoid human contact, but their beady eyes are black and unblinking, hiding machinations unknown to man. It’s certainly unsettling; I can hardly blame my wife for her apprehension.
There are some peculiarities to the new abode, of course. There are a striking number of mirrors around the place, which is a marked change from our last home where you had your standard bathroom mirrors and that was it. Here, it seems, every room has some vast reflective surface in prominent locations so that regardless of where you are you feel accompanied by a flanking clone. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t fallen out of any kind of self-maintenance routine but as it stands a trip to the restroom holds a minimum of a baker’s dozen screaming reminders that I’m unshaven, unkempt, uncoordinated and unhealthy. I guess it’s some sort of ploy to encourage use of the exercise facilities? I can’t imagine even the most vain among us requiring this many options for self-regard.
Also the baths have these “fancy” gravity plugs that operate with some theoretical physics and while they do an admirable job of stopping water from pouring down the drain when you want it to stay in place, when you do need to dispense of it, the plug slaps against the drain’s rim with a loud and metallic clank. Repeatedly. I first encountered this when a neighbor was draining some water and it sounded like someone kicking the pipes in the wall. I tracked the source of the sound to our own bathroom from which I could hear the flowing water so it sounded like someone flushing the toilet over and over again, kicking it sharply in-between. I couldn’t imagine someone having that much angst over their toilet. Nik happened to be out on an errand at the time: I sent her a text message telling her we were dealing with a domestic toilet abuse situation and, offhand, did she know any hotlines for that kind of thing? Perhaps a listing in the phone book to get me started? Plumbing abuse? Toilet hostility? My efforts weren’t yielding much fruit.
There were the requisite number of maintenance issues as well. We had been spoiled at our last place, a brand-new condo that had never had previous occupants. Here we found cabinet doors that didn’t close, drawers that were broken and not useful for storing, you know, items, dishwashers that practically tumbled out of their niches, shelving units that were missing pivotal brackets and so on. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. We only have one dishwasher. In any case a man I suspect may be or is possibly descended from Hobbit lineage came by to correct many of the problems. He also spoke to our cat with strange yowling noises that I can only guess reveal either a secret Dr. Doolittle-like ability or a severe mental defect, but either way it didn’t seem to affect his ability to repair our home. It did concern me a little that he had much more to say to our pet than to us. Maybe she was relaying pertinent information to him, but I’ve known her for at least seven years and she’s only ever confessed to me a strong desire for fish-flavored cat treats and scraps of roast beef.
We do have one major, nagging issue: The wonderful new TV I just bought doesn’t “go” with the new apartment’s layout. Specifically the cable outlet in the living room is in a tiny corner next to the fireplace. The TV is like four feet long and two and a half feet tall so it’s never going to fit in this corner and the only option I have is to put the entertainment center directly in front of the fireplace. If this seems counter-productive and a little dangerous, you’re absolutely correct. I compromised by pulling the unit out away from the hearth but that leaves the tangle of cables and power strips exposed to anyone with eyes and while I don’t claim to be some interior design guru, I can say that I’ve never heard the phrase “cable snarl chic” used to describe a decor.
My eventual solution will be to have the TV mounted above the mantle, but since I was trained in all manner of home improvement by my father and I lack even his questionable proficiencies, I have to bring shame on the house of Hamilton and spend money to have someone do it for me who is far less likely to install it upside-down or to perhaps knock over the chimney inadvertently. I’ll also need a new housing unit for the various components which stacks vertically and fits in the small corner of the room. I’m trying to console myself by imagining how wonderful it might be to have a roaring fire beneath a glorious HD display some winter evening, like a poetic juxtaposing contrast between the most ancient technology and the height of man’s achievement. Instead I wind up thinking, “What if I melt the screen I don’t think renter’s insurance covers stupidity and the cat might jump on it and it would fall on the hard tile and shatter to a zillion pieces…”
I end the train of thought making the sound approximated in every “Cathy” comic strip since it began to blight our collective culture: “Aaaaack!”
Lost in the Plot
Speaking of TV, Nik and I were catching up on Lost during a moment of tranquility and while I’ve been kind of so-so about the show since somewhere in the latter half of Season 2, I’ve stuck it out mostly because I’m this far in and I might as well find out how it goes. Now we had a couple of episodes left on the TiVo from before the spring break and then the one that first aired last Thursday. I’d heard that the pre-break finale was an excellent episode and, well, I found it to be not excellent. First of all, the Michael character drives me insane (“Waaaaaaalt!”) and the entire episode was an extended flashback.
But then I watched the first episode back (last Thursday’s) and… all of a sudden the whole thing clicked for me. I mean I think I finally am starting to understand what the show is about, what it’s doing and why I’m compelled to keep watching even though they’ve made some questionable narrative decisions along the way.
Now, it’s certainly possible that this is nothing new to devoted fans, message board devotees and so on. But I stopped following the Internet furor about the time I stopped thinking the show was just awesome and started thinking it was merely good enough to keep watching. So for about a year or two I’ve been out of the speculation loop. If this is all retread of ground covered by them, I apologize and if you don’t want specu-spoilers, stop reading now. But this is my unified theory of Lost, for what it’s worth (nothing).
For a long time everyone was trying to figure out what the real setting was for Lost. Is it purgatory? A dream? Hurley’s psychotic delusion? I think the island is just an island. But it’s a very special island, a place with certain characteristics that are in some cases sinister and threatening but in other cases are remarkable and even desirable.
The principal characteristics that make the island unique are:
- It has a certain sentience. There is a kind of awareness the island possesses: It is in tune with humans that live on it, it has a certain degree of influence over them and it seems to occasionally select people who find themselves there to be its agents. It is possible the island itself doesn’t actively select these people but there is a personality type that is drawn to the island, its secrets and its strange persona but the result is the same either way: The island can become an object of obsession with effects that extend beyond the physical location of the island itself.
- The island affects human immune systems. This can manifest in a number of ways: It can present itself as remarkable healing properties. It can work to cause madness or sickness in others. It also acts as a sort of population control, turning the immune system on embryonic life as suggested by Juliet in a recent flashback.
- There is a temporal element to the island’s properties. New (and welcome) character Daniel and the time-traveling Desmond have experienced this but we’ve also seen evidence of it elsewhere. People who are connected to the island via whatever mechanism is attributed to the island’s odd sentience seem to age differently. It appears that Widmore (Penny’s father and Ben’s nemesis) may have been the captain of the Black Rock which clearly ran aground on the island long ago. Perhaps the island’s influence on immune systems is part of it, but it may also be that time simply passes at a different rate on the island and those who spend long periods of time there seem to age less quickly to those outside the island.
- The island is difficult to locate. Perhaps it is the temporal anomalies, maybe it’s just that the island is cloaked in some fashion or a combination of other factors contributes but the island is not readily located. Even once found it doesn’t seem that it can be readily re-located once left. The lack of information on flight 815 in the “real” world suggests this, as does Widmore’s dogged pursuit of the place, despite indications that he’s been there before.
It seems clear that the human influence on the island dates back quite far. The mysterious statue feet seen at the end of Season 2 and the odd runes in the secret compartment leading to what may be the control center for the island’s security system (the smoke monster) suggest some kind of ancient power or perhaps a lost civilization that was able to somehow harness the power of the island.
Also it appears that the island is most commonly found by accident: The Black Rock ending up on the island somehow, Rousseau’s ship crashing there, flight 815, etc. But it does seem that some people have been able to locate and retain the location of the island, including what I suspect is a scientific research commune called Dharma, from which grew the Others possibly because Benjamin Linus became one of the chosen or obsessed and executed a hostile takeover of the island to suit his own purposes. It seems pretty clear now that he wrested control away from Widmore but it’s not known yet whether Widmore represented Dharma or was maybe part of the original “Others” (when Dharma filled a similar role the survivors of 815 now fill), but either way there was a power grab that left Dharma all but abandoned, Widmore out in the cold and Ben Linus in charge.
The show—the current story unfolding as we watch—is about what would happen if a magical island existed in the real world? What if there was a place that didn’t work according to the rules we accept as “reality?” What if people who had nothing in common ended up there? It’s a dangerous place, but it has a certain compelling charm that can change people. The island wants itself to be protected; the people who are enchanted by it want to keep it a secret and hold it for themselves; people who lose it want it back.
The basic arc seems to be that the flight crashes, we are introduced to their plight, we find evidence of the strange things that occur on the island and the things that have come before. Then we begin to slowly meet the key players outside the survivors: Ben Linus and his Others; Widmore and his mercenaries. The conflict that has and will arise is between those who want the island for themselves (Linus, Widmore and I think Locke will be to Ben what he was to Widmore) and the people caught in the crossfire are the survivors who’ve wanted nothing more than to be rescued.
But even they will have to make a tough choice: Stay on the island and enjoy the power it holds but risk the violence that erupts from those who wish to possess or control such power or leave that power behind and escape back to a sense of “normalcy.” The initial narrative device of the flashback allowed us to see the characters of the survivors and other key players has been replaced with flash-forwards designed to keep the audience guessing as to the final showdown which I suspect will be either the season or the show’s finale and somehow ends with the Oceanic Six leaving the island, Ben escaping to hunt down Widmore and most likely a lot of the other cast members dead.
I think by the end of the show we’ll know a lot more about Widmore, we’ll understand much more about the island and we’ll have a pretty good idea about Dharma. I think what we won’t necessarily understand is the significance of the events that happened before, such as the Black Rock, the statue feet, the smoke monster and Rousseau’s party. I think they’ll leave some of these questions open-ended in case they ever want to do a spin-off or a motion picture.
Assuming I’m more or less correct, I actually find myself liking the show a lot more all of a sudden. I was so concerned that there was going to have to be some big twist at the end but I like that it suddenly feels like simply a science fiction story (introduce strange, supernatural elements into an ordinary setting) told over a long and intricate narrative. I grant that this introduces a lot of macguffins and misdirections; but the show itself has seemed to stop introducing randomness just to be freaky and has settled into a groove of knowing (at last) what it’s about and just getting the story told.
If people are expecting a sudden revelation I have a feeling they might be disappointed, but I think it’s only chance to work is to fight the urge to pull the rug out from under the viewers and just let them come to the realization that the island’s significance isn’t why it’s so strange, simply that it is so strange.