what happened, happened

Trying to piece together the "reality" of something like LOST, or like the plot of Alan Wake, strikes me a bit like trying to figure out whether Shakespeare wrote himself into Hamlet, or whether John Shade's dead daughter is the narrator of Pale Fire.

We can play those games all day long, and they can be fun, but in the end they don't have any bearing on our lives. To ask whether or not the events of LOST, or Alan Wake, actually happened is to ask an incomprehensible question because 1) they're fictional constructs and did not actually happen and 2) we watched it and responded to it, so it must have happened. Therefore they simultaneously happened and did not happen.

Let us not ask incomprehensible questions, especially of human constructs, which will offer us no ultimate Answers (which people seem to want from a show like LOST).

Let us rather ask, first, what emotional effect the work had on us. We must start there. We can play games later, but let us be honest about how we responded emotionally to the work.


notes on LOST finale

rearrangement of tropes into different patterns, configurations: basic level of storytelling. it is: aliens; it is: government conspiracy; the answer is: mayan ancestors, etc. no answer at that basic level will ever be satisfactory on a human level; humans are multi-story creatures, multi-narrative; we encompass many languages at once and therefore perceive many viewpoints at once (though we view them all through our own)

LOST allows us to rearrange those tropes as we guess and guess our way towards the conclusion. the rearrangement of tropes as the series develops is a fun experience; a story unfolding. but ultimately it is a story about letting go and moving on, about the problem of death interrupting life -- interrupting narrative. no one narrative will ever be satisfactory because it ends; it dies. LOST shifts forms, trying to escape death, but cannot, and comes to accept its own end (the shot of the empty island, the crashed plane): here is my corpse.

is it merely the story of a man's dying vision? well no. his father tells him that this is real, and that what happened was real. was it Real? well no. clearly not. it's a television show. so clearly it inhabits some realm between non-existence and the reality that we, the viewers, experience, and the status of that realm is up for debate. indeed, the show itself debates its own reality, again and again, posits it as an obvious and self-evident question. (even parodies itself in the Expose episodes).

the more interesting question to ask is: why am I uncomfortable with the thought that it was all Jack's dying vision? (if you're very upset by that thought, consider: he's not wearing the clothes he crashed in; he sees a plane successfully leave the island -- a plane which is clearly a metaphor for a soul leaving the body. yes, but is not entirely that metaphor -- it's a plane taking off, too).

do I want so much to believe that this fictional construct 'actually' happened that I am upset when I am told it did not 'happen'? clearly the show raises the question of quantum realities, and even if it was all in Jack's mind it still 'happened'.

but why it upsets me is the thought that these people who i began to identify with never loved each other -- that they never met each other except when they flew on an airplane together and then crashed and died. i don't like the thought that they never loved each other, never knew each other.

i have difficulty believing that all this was a vision to help jack accept his impending death because it seems strange to invent unfamiliar personalities to help him on his journey -- surely he would have taken people from his own life to help him

also if it was all a death-vision it's a rather cynical story, even a kind of joke the writers play on their audience: none of this happened, lol owned. these characters are too convincingly and tenderly rendered to be part of the writers' cynical joke.

the idea that the finale, the series, can mean many things to many people is in line with the series' experimentation with multiple realities

what is clearer than anything is that the writers intended these questions to be raised and not easily settled, that reality -- realities -- cannot be bedded so easily, nor resolved. who expected answers? people who seemed to have forgotten that LOST is a human construct, and that while the generic conventions make it appear as though the superhuman truth which the characters pursue is accessible to us, the viewers, it is only bits and pieces of truths we (they, the writers, all of us) have assembled as humans.

what is important isn't whether or not it was aliens, holy magic, mayan prophecy, electromagnetism, but how the arrangement of those tropes increase our appreciation of the infinitely mysterious bonds which connect us all

a lot of the unanswered questions are ultimately generic questions i.e. why was the dharma symbol on that shark? what was the glowing light? and the writers' answer is essentially what jack's been told over and over: "let go."

what's essential to the show and to human experience is emotional connection to other people, and the show's ending, as i interpret it, is clearly "we are all inextricably bound together in ways beyond our understanding, and Answers, Ultimate Truths, are only valuable insofar as they increase our reverence for those bonds."

what is the island? it is whatever we need it to be in order to 'die to self', to surrender to our commitment to other people

the man in black is a man who throws off his commitment to his family in order to pursue self-actualization; his actions isolate him forever from the human race.

"what happened, happened." also, LOST is a story about faith. if we want to believe that these things actually happened to the losties -- then we can. the show leaves that option open to us.


no robocoppers allowed

Rand Paul has cackled in the news over his 'brilliant' false equivalency: if the Federal government is determined to limit businessess' right to deny service to folks on the basis of gender, race, etc., then no business can bar access to a customer carrying a weapon, either.

Apart from being a bizarrely broad reading of the Second Amendment (as tea partiers are wont to do), Paul's willfully overlooking the fact that we aren't born with guns growing out of our skin.

Which is why I'd love to see a skit where a reporter's covering the story about how Robocop has been denied access to a restaurant, and thanks to the courageous sit-ins of tea partiers he's allowed to eat there once again -- but the reporter, who's Black, is forced to interview him from outside, through the restaurant's front window.

press A to have an epiphany (tap A rapidly for a brainstorm)

The morality plays of the video game world have little bearing on our actual lives, insofar as they represent a highly stylized reality in which our most important decisions our also our most demonstratably dramatic.

Gaming conventions ironically reduce this overblown drama to the most trivial of actions: pushing a button. Cold War-era dramas, particularly Fail Safe, exploit the inanity of such a button-press having such terrible consequences; nearly all video games overlook the dramatic potential, taking inanity for granted.

Take Revenge (press A) or Grant Clemency (don't press A).

This is supposed to be high drama, you see. And like any medium, if you're willing to buy into its conventions, I suppose it can be.

But whether such convention has any bearing on life is highly questionable. Binary, split-second decisions make for high drama in many media, but at least in the novel (esp. Dostoevsky, et al) the protagonist is 'given' the opportunity to make his/her ultimate decision throughout the novel -- or rather given opportunities to prepare for that ultimate decision by finding oneself thrust into situations that foreshadow the ultimate one.

In the novel, high drama is arrived at gradually, and the pivotal moment operates from a humming clockwork of prior, formative moments.

Video games merely mimick this approach, and only because they seek to mimick the successes of previous media. Their resemblance to other media is surface-level. The video game's success as a medium must be measured on its creators' ability to employ original mechanisms to power its generic engine.

A button press cannot 'stand in' for the moral mechanisms which underlie the day-to-day decisions we make -- or at least if it attempts to it is immediately transparent as a poor substitute.

Silent Hill 2's approach is much more interesting than the binary QTE solution presented by something like Grant Theft Auto 4: the game's outcome is dependent on how many times we have, say, reread an old letter, how often we ignored a potential ally, etc.

These choices are made, generically speaking, through button press -- but certainly not a single button press, and not 'in the heat of the moment.'

Our outcome is arrived at through a series of gradual choices, and the mechanism which drops us into one ending or another is more or less invisible to the player.

This arrangement resembles life much more closely than other, more common generic arrangements. It is also much more satisfying, i.e. horrifying, as befits a horror like Silent Hill 2. (Whether it is satisfying because it resembles life is up to debate, but I would say yes.)



I like to wake up to old albums, ones I listened to growing up that annoy me now. Helps me get out of bed.

So when I helped myself to a listen of the new Wolf Parade, Expo 86, I realized the first track reminded me of a SevenMaryThree song -- and let out this long, slow breath that ended in a chuckle and an Oh, man...

Not that the new album is bad. It's not. It's just boring, which is a shame because With Apologies... is one of my favorites in the last few years.

Not that I'm in much of a position to judge what's boring and what isn't. I get a kick out of the fact that store in Russian is "mah-gah-ZEEN."


note to self: you are dumb

A/LSE/D/A for 5/17/10: 8/7/7/6

Now I'm feeling anxiety because my scoring system leads me into making the mistake of scoring my low self-esteem and my depression as low numbers if I'm feeling those things, but scoring anger and anxiety high numbers if I'm feeling those things. It's not a very good system. I am dumb. (Adding/deducting points by the second.)

It ought to be: The more I feel an emotion, the higher its corresponding score.

I'm certain I will forget this, feel just as dumb upon re-realizing it, then feel even dumber that I realized it previously.

remote viewing

Have laid aside Invitation to a Beheading indefinitely. Picked up Pnin, which is taking me over a week to read because I am a lameass. I took a stab at my own project over the weekend, and am establishing a rough outline day by day. Added a lamp to my library, too -- the novel and its womb gestating simultaneously.

Been watching a lot of X-Files. Some series lend themselves particularly well to the fanfiction impulse, especially series which present their characters as revolving around a single, core obsession or trait.

This trait becomes the central focus of 'important' episodes but is almost never absent from any given episode, even when it plays an ancillary role. Its deployment resonates with each episode's theme and with the series's larger theme -- but almost always returns to a neutral, beginning, undeveloped position by the next episode.

Scully, for instance, has her skepticism increasingly challenged over the course of the series but she is always "the skeptic." Mulder makes increasingly bold references to Scully's physical attractiveness, and the series implies his sexual appeal to and appetite for other women, but the sexual relationship of the two main characters is perpetually pending.

This 'development sans development' is a key feature of television series, comic books, manga, etc.: forms that lend themselves, intentionally, to fan participation, i.e. fanfiction. The series does not consummate the development of these characters, forcing/encouraging the fans to do it themselves. These thematic tensions are therefore 'remotely consummated' as a form of wish fulfillment -- fulfilling the wishes and fantasies which fiction itself has inspired in us, e.g. the perfect romance.


research & development

I still find it difficult to put my observations into words. I feel I could have received a better education. My intellect could be so much keener, but instead I'm stuck with this rattling, hissing contraption.

Putting Invitation to a Beheading aside for the time being. Reading Conscience of a Conservative by Goldwater as research for the novel I'm taking notes on. It's 50 years old; today's conservative would call Goldwater a liberal. The man supported unions! He did make the point that participation in and support of a union should be voluntary, and that large unions should be busted up by the government just as it had busted corporate and industrial monopolies 80 years previously.

Are these notions that should make a liberal Democrat seethe? I've heard much denigration of "right-to-work" laws from the left, but subjugation of the worker by a faceless union discomfits me as much as such treatment by a corporation. It doesn't seem illogical that a union can be just as easily corrupted as a corporation, and it makes as little sense to allow a union with mandatory participation to force a fee which goes toward political contributions and campaigns if we also feel that corporations have no business influencing our governments' laws.

I was waiting for Goldwater to draw a false equivalency between mandatory union fees and governmental taxation, but he does not do so -- explicitly, anyway.

It's all so tiresome. It is good that federal government has established a welfare state, because there are days, weeks, months when I want the world to rot. Surely I'm not the only one who experiences these despondencies, and wouldn't be a horror if indigents relied solely on "private charity" -- a euphemism for the whimsy of the wealthy.

I am depressed today, and do not feel like feeding you. I am angry today, and want you to suffer.

What is it like to disregard other humans, utterly without heat? My personal agony, which I share with Raskolnikov, is to countenance the consciencelessness of the psychopath while suffering my own conscience; to envy someone who can do anything while I burn in the knowledge, the feeling, that I must do the right thing and only the right thing -- therefore experiencing none of the pleasure of benevolence and shared humanity and all of the shame of iniquity.



I have damaged the cover of my new copy of Invitation to a Beheading. Normally I'd just walk into the bookstore with my receipt, put the book back on the shelf and take a different copy -- but in this instance there is bodily fluid involved. A blood-spattered copy of Beheading oozes a certain charm. (Oh if only it were blood.)

Luckily I'm not enjoying it as much as I've enjoyed Nabokov's other works, and the cover is one of my least favorite in this series of recently reissued editions. All the same I'll probably cave and repurchase it at some point, used. The novel's commonly described as Kafka-esque, which may have ruined it for me. I loved The Trial and The Castle. I like Kafka just fine. Kafka-esque, on the other hand, comes off like a class clown trying too hard to fit in. Just be, man. Just be.

Not that Nabokov was aiming for Kafka. In fact, he insists he hadn't read Kafka when he wrote this novel. All the same, that voice may be all I'm hearing as I read; it's too early to tell whether or not I can consciously shut out echoes of The Trial.

I read this morning that Tulsa's mayor has requested a proposal to privatize the Tulsa Performing Arts Center -- as if art could ever be solvent.


Put up the last bookcase I bought, completing the set of 3. Reveling in the aesthetic pleasure of arranging the books just-so: facing the ones with the best covers, placing my favorites at eye level: an immediate tonic upon entrance.

Mowed and weeded, too, on this unseasonably cool day. Was afraid I'd stumbled around in some poison ivy and had my arms wrapped in towels for an hour or so until the rash went away.

Pale Fire features the most unreliable narrator I've ever encountered, whose pathologic obsession with himself ranges beyond humor into malevolence.


mikhail bakhtin + the stage

One of the pitfalls of stage acting (and to a lesser degree film acting) is reciting lines as though one has memorized them and read them from a page. This happens when the actor has not sufficiently internalized the language. There are numerous techniques to strengthen one's ability to internalize language for the sake of the stage. It would be interesting to see such a technique adapted from the literary theory of Mikhail Bakhtin.

And by "language" here we mean what Bakhtin meant by language: not language in the common sense (French, Italian, Russian) but by all lexicons arrived at over time & through usage. We mean, e.g., the language of the stockbroker, the Utopian Socialist, the punk artist as much as or more than we mean the language spoken by the Francophone, the Russophone, etc.

The emblem of fluency in any language is not just breadth of vocabulary but ease of usage. To be fluent in English is to know when to say "How do you do," "A pleasure to meet you," "What's up, bro?" etc. Knowing when to say these things is not a matter of knowing the meaning of the word "pleasure," for instance, but weighing the sound, cadence and connotation of that word with past experience and textbook knowledge.

To put it another way, if one wants to render an utterance comprehensible as being from and of oneself, it is a matter of speaking that utterance without quotation marks. It's as if say, "I am not saying this because I read it in a book and understand it intellectually to be the proper thing to say in this situation, but because I know it and feel it to be appropriate." Such an utterance Bakhtin called "self-persuasive," in that one who speaks self-persuasive language not only knows and feels it to be true and appropriate but the utterance, once spoken, reinforces its own truth (or at least the confidence in its own truth).

What may be interesting with regards to acting technique is using Bakhtinian theory to speak not only utterances which a character considers self-persuasive but to discover and ferret out those utterances which she does not consider self-persuasive; that is, language she's borrowing from other sources to parse and navigate new and unfamiliar situations (which happens very often in theatre!).


the brothers karamazov 2: orthodox boogaloo

Just finished that Dostoevsky biography. I wonder, if he had lived longer, would Alexander II have been assassinated? The youth accorded Dostoevsky so much respect that the proximity of those two men's deaths seems like no coincidence; perhaps Dostoevsky's essays and political writings had sustained the Russian Socialists' faith in dialogue. Deprived of their greatest critic, their ideas went unchallenged -- or without the challenge they felt their ideas deserved -- and they devoted their energies to action instead of conversation.

Dostoevsky's notes indicate that the sequel to The Brothers Karamazov would have been Children, and would have related the history of Alyosha's adult years putting Father Zosima's philosophies into action as a Christian and a Utopian Socialist. I wonder how, if Dostoevsky, who people of all social strata regarded literally as a prophet, had been allowed to model a socialism founded on Christian principles, the course of human history would have proceeded.