Sunday, February 28, 2010

The FITmedia Difference

Gone are the days of the large institution. Yet, it still continues to go through its once productive motions, buying up people's lives where it can, producing nothing but real-life zombies (no pun intended). These "cards" can be traded or terminated at the will of the mother institution, having no real freedom but the choice of reaction to the institution's cannibalistic actions. This choice of reaction is subject to the individual's attitude, which is in large part influenced by his intellectual diet, or lack thereof. Therefore, a diet of liberating and enlightening media would produce positive responses even to negative stimuli. And the total exclusion of limiting and disheartening media would change the zombie-esque "reactive" mentality into a spiritually vibrant "proactive" mentality.

Media is the source of many, if not all, of our cultural "instincts." The Media is, in itself, a large institution. As such, it is a friend and promoter of other large institutions by proxy. While it may glad-handle small business concerns in an effort to appear gregarious with the little guy, its high-aim is always to consolidate power and grow as a whole, rather than to enable its constituent cells to grow individually and then be dependent upon their donation of power to the central agency. Big institutional propaganda flows out to the masses, its effect is one which subsidizes the thought that big institutions are inherently good, despite the growing feeling that they have become largely dishonest.

In his book, The Coming Aristocracy, Oliver DeMille (Liberal Arts educator and founder of George Wythe College) discusses the concept of "mini factories." He defines it this way: "A mini-factory is anything someone does—alone or with partners or a team—that accomplishes what has historically (meaning the last 150 years of modernism) been done en masse or by big institutions." It is a process of individuals operating independently and with initiative because they care more and perform better for themselves and their families/communities than for a large, impersonal institution. These individuals and small groups can then share best practices through free-association.

At FITmedia, we want to enable mini-factories by hosting this free-association. As an institution, we will grow only as large as is necessary to effectively improve the whole, but never through controlling the whole. Because we believe in free-association and the sharing of best practices, we are a learning organization, seeking as much to understand the needs of the media creators and marketers we represent as to help them understand why certain practices work better than others to improve their respective productivity.

The idea is that the very best products and services are always created by those who are truly independents. Free people always follow their passions, because that is what they are made to do. It is not so much the path of least resistance, as it is the path of greatest motivation. The heights to which a person takes his passion is limited only by the weakness in his structure of action. This weakness is only as great as his ignorance of the truth. To facilitate this trend, FITmedia has made its front line the development of Truth in Fiction, which intends to institute a viral spread of entertainment media which also challenges people to improve themselves—their interest being invested in the speed of this spread.

Individual mini-factory media projects would seek their own funding and sponsorship from financiers and marketers who must of necessity agree with the mini-factory trend. There would be no interest for large organizations to fund these media projects unless they agreed with the truth contained therein. If this is so, then the organization is likely not dishonest.

The consortium of independents created through this process would have an interest in the continued trade of their resources as a part of this community. Loyalty would only be sustained to the degree that the whole consortium (or at least units of a certain size) continue to operate with a spirit of freedom, integrity, and truth.

That is the FITmedia difference.
FEATURED MEDIA: The Coming Aristocracy by Oliver DeMille. An easy to read, but still informatively dense, book about the rising powers of the elites in the upper class. DeMille succinctly lays out how the conflict is not "liberal" vs. "conservative," but independent vs. aristocratic. A must read for any free-thinker and a great place to start if you don't think you are.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Wait for the Harvest

In continuation of my previous post about starving artists, I want to discuss an old-fashioned concept. One which I think is seeing a resurgence in the information age: waiting for the harvest. In the agricultural age, no one expected to get paid at the end of the week. Farmers had to prepare the field, plant the seeds, pull the weeds, and otherwise care for the growing plants until the plants themselves were mature enough to put out a healthy crop. Only then could the crop be harvested, sorted, and sold. It was then that the farmer's hard work paid off.

The internet has given us so many ways to communicate and an enormous crowd with which to communicate. Social networking sites give the average internet user the potential power to utilize a compounding effect (or "viral" spread) of virtually any piece of information or idea. Digital tools have have placed photography and film squarely within reach of any artist so long as he has a good idea and a desire to pursue it. A low investment, with an unlimited amount of compounding potential is available to those who are patient enough to wait for the harvest.

What is stopping the average person from living his dreams is the desire for a "secure" paycheck. Most people have a short-term vision and cannot see past the next round of bills, if even that long. Partially this the media's fault for selling us on short-term solutions, but it is also our own fault for demanding those solutions in the first place. It is also in part the fault of higher education, whose purpose has become more specialized and vocational, than liberal and philosophical. That being said, it is our own dollars spent in ignorance that perpetuate this trend.

It is true that we need specialists and people with high technical abilities, but the demand for those people has been greatly exaggerated of late. The reality is that we know much of what there is to know about manufacturing, healthcare, and the politics of the legal system, so there is little growth in these industries. Until a change is made that either revolutionizes manufacturing, prevents the baby-boomers from dying, or vastly expands regulations that need untangling; the need for the classic high-paying positions of engineers, doctors, nurses, and lawyers will continue to decline while the number of potential candidates rises. If you're the best of the best, good for you! You've probably found your calling, but the rest of us may need to sow some seeds and wait for the harvest.

The hard work of your art, whether it's fine art or the art of persuasion, is giving without receiving. At least, not at first. As I said, one needs to plant seeds if there is to be a harvest. I am reminded of the parable of the sower who went into his field sowing seeds. Some fell where they were exposed and eaten by birds. Others fell where it was rocky and grew not the roots to withstand the sun. Still others fell among weeds and were choked out. Yet some did live and flourish, having fallen on good soil. Trial and error is a necessary part of creating art. The essence of what makes it compelling is the struggles and experience behind it.

Whatever is your purpose, whatever is your art, this process is not really hard if it is what you do. Only your passion will carry you through the trials necessary to produce the final product, and only a final product fired in the kiln of these trials is worthy of a bountiful harvest. Make no mistake, this is an unstoppable art.
FEATURED MEDIA: The Pursuit of Happyness - The compelling true story of Chris Gardner, who finds himself homeless with his young son as the result of a bad investment. Chris catches the dream of being a successful stockbroker, and pursues an non-paying internship despite his difficult situation. He demonstrates extreme perseverance, and goes on to get his harvest.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"LOST: Lighthouse"

DISCLAIMER: In a previous post, I discussed the importance of ABC's "LOST." Therefore, I am beginning a series which briefly explores thoughts on the show with respect to FITmedia and Truth in Fiction. Being as the posts are philosophical in nature, I will try to keep story spoilers to a minimum. However, because many of the philosophical pillars are tied to critical events, it is impossible to discuss without some spoilers. For those of you not following the show, I hope that these posts will be worthwhile on their own merit, and should they inspire you to watch the show, that they will not have ruined the plot for you. You have been warned.


Perhaps, I'm just not seeing it this week, but I feel like this episode is rather devoid of philosophical discussion. It's not that I would call it a bad episode, but it feels more like the span of a bridge which is farthest from its supports. It is interesting to note that a friend of mine, who I regularly go over the episodes with, felt this was the worst episode of the season so far. For us to share a similar feeling about an episode which seems to lack depth, is evidence that it lacks "Truth in Fiction." There is great content, revealing several useful connections, but it does not ask deep questions or give any answers which we did not already suspect. The most surprising element was learning that Jack has a son, David, in the flash-sideways timeline.

Through this relationship, we learn something deeper about Jack's relationship with his father. Jack was apparently terrified of his father, who had at least once told him "you just don't have what it takes" ("White Rabbit"). Despite David's distant, teenager-like attitude, Jack is persistent in his attempt to communicate. He says he just wants to be a part of David's life. It turns out that David is afraid for his dad to see him fail. Jack admits his love for his son, saying he can never fail in his eyes. Simply getting the issue out in the open, despite difficult emotions, has a healing effect.

This resolution to the flash-sideways seems to be in keeping with the sense that conflicts are quickly righted in the absence of the Island's influence. Which therefore furthers, in my mind, a growing sense that the Island is somehow malevolent. Perhaps the Man in Black does not recognize the Island as in need of protection because it is not the Island that Jacob and his followers are protecting from the outside world, but the outside world that they are protecting from the Island. Then again, if Jacob was supposed to be protecting the outside world, he either wasn't doing a very good job, was losing to the Man in Black, or was sacrificing his own "Queen" for a checkmate.

All the same, we lack enough solid information about the Island's original inhabitants to examine the lighthouse, which Jack and Hurley visit after another "uncharacteristic" step into leadership by Hurley. It appears that Jacob has been using it to watch certain people. We again see the names of the "candidates," but learn no more of their significance. Jack's lack of emotional intelligence once again closes doors by which we could have learned something. And Hurley is left bewildered in the presence of Jacob, who seems to have expected this chain of events to unfold.

The only significance I can draw from these events presently are the larger themes of leadership and destiny. Jacob tells Hurley that some people can just be told what needs to be done—demonstrating that Hurley is both a good leader (he was effective) and a good follower (he did what he was told on faith)—while he says other need to "stare out at the ocean for a while," referring to his understanding that no one can tell Jack what to do, he must find it on his own. This hearkens back to Locke's advice that "a leader can't lead, unless he knows where he's going." ("White Rabbit")

We also visit Claire's camp, which is eerily reminiscent of a cross between Rousseau's beach camp in "Dead is Dead" and her underground hideout in "Solitary." She helps Jin by sewing up his injuries caused by a bear-trap she set (also reminiscent of Rousseau). She asks Jin if he is still her friend with a subtly ominous air, as if treatment of his wounds (and possibly his life) depend on the correct answer.

In addition to Jin, she is holding one of the Others captive, who she plans to torture in order to gain information about the whereabouts of her son, Aaron. In what I can only conclude is a contrast between good and evil, Jin emphatically tells Claire that Kate took Aaron off the Island, temporarily saving her captive's life. Claire then kills the captive, seemingly out of spite. There is a stark difference between the good-natured flash-sideways Claire from "What Kate Does" (see blog post) and this apparent demon-fellow, whose actions seem to indicate the nature of her friend, the Man in Black.

So the battle lines seem to be between a dark-humored (if not wholly evil) Man in Black, who is "claiming" certain pieces on a cosmic chess board, with no apparent concern for life or death; and a solemn but confident Jacob, whose apparent manipulation of "candidates" has cost many lives on the path to some greater purpose. The question is, who is really the evil one? Does Jacob's purpose justify the loss of lives? If not, then is the Man in Black—and not Jacob—ultimately responsible for the deaths?
FEATURED MEDIA: Pre-order Season 6 of LOST!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Monetize the Starving Artist

I've found, through personal experience, that it is considerably difficult to balance the need to express one's art with the need to sustain oneself financially. Because one's art is entangled with one's sense of purpose, the artist can fall into the trap of self-satisfaction and the sacrifice of all else. In other words, it is easier to relegate one's art to the realm of the hobby and spend only a minimal amount of time bringing in a salary. This is, of course, the old concept of the "starving artist."

Since this type of person is typically not uneducated, they are not trapped in low-income jobs due to lack of ability, but lack of applicable desire. They are independent in spirit, and would rather not exhaust their mental and physical faculties on anything but their art. For the same reason, they do not want to subject their independent expression to the arbitrary restrictions of a boss, who generally has other motives than the perfection of his constituent's art.

And so, there is an army of "unproductive" geniuses, who are not so much doing the wrong thing, as doing it the wrong way. The fundamental problem is the assumption that one has to do what he does for someone in order to receive compensation, or if he wants to avoid the consent of a third-party, he must do something else for someone. That "something else" will naturally never get the artist's best efforts, which are saved for the art—or, as in the former event, his best efforts are not appreciated.

Most people are stuck in an employee-mentality, which means they look to one or two sources for their income. Even a self-employed person or freelancer can fall into a rut for their income; settling into working with one or two big contractors. Especially if their job is not their passion, this is the easier route. Ultimately, this system prevents a person from doing what they love to do and being adequately compensated for their subsequent skill in that area.

The concept they are unaware of is the idea of "monetizing" their art, or more liberating, monetizing their lives. To put it simply, good art has a way of attracting and retaining a crowd simply by virtue of its quality. So too, does the artist creating the art. An artist who demonstrates mastery in art, is a person who has achieved some level of mastery over his life. Therefore, his opinion about the value of things matters. If he recommends a movie or a book, that means it's worth seeing or reading. If he uses a product, it is likely to be world class.

Traditional media and marketing know this, but have abused this with the impersonal hand of mass communication technology. The reality is, we all feel more comfortable buying something from someone we can know and trust. What I speak of is not sales, but endorsements. Most people only think this is open to the Olympic Gold Medalists and other athletic heroes, but that's not true. Look at any website that has something for sale, many have commission opportunities for independent individuals who can gather a loyal crowd. Take the Amazon Associates program, which I use.

Never fear, it may take time, but the degree to which your art grows in quality is the degree to which you gather followers, especially with today's social networking opportunities. The degree to which you gather followers of your high art is the degree to which your endorsements of other people's art is valuable to them.
FEATURED MEDIA: "(500) Days of Summer" - A young man who dreams of being an architect, is trapped in a dead-end job as an illustrator for a greeting card company. At his job, he meets a girl named Summer, who proves to be a sort of muse. As the movie says, this is not a love story.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Emotional Attachment

Recently my son destroyed one of his toys. I highlight the word "destroyed" because that is not really what happened, but that is how my brain described it. What he did was tear most of the decals off a toy car parking deck. Its basic functions still remained in tact, and no plastic was bent or broken. What was really destroyed was my efforts. See, I kept him at bay on Christmas while I painstakingly put the sticker on. So for him to remove them was a bit of an emotional injury for me.

Which brings me to my topic: "emotional attachment" of this kind is unhealthy and ought to be exercised from a free thinking person's mind. This isn't to say that emotions are not valid, but a good rule of thumb would be that emotions are for people, not things. Two exceptions of polar opposites would be a passion for the protection of an important historical artifact, or the desensitization of prison guards toward the pleas of convicted criminals. However, generally speaking emotional involvement with the inanimate is a handicap.

Take the movie, Lars and the Real Girl, for example. I highly recommend this film to anyone interesting in having their perspectives challenged. It is not to say that this is a difficult film to watch, its very enjoyable, but it is to say that it goes down a very unexpected path.

Lars Lindstrom is, to a painful degree, very shy. He has almost no social life outside of this brother and sister-in-law, who's garage he lives in. So they are surprised to find he has met the girl of his dreams. However, to this social hermit, the "girl of his dreams" turns out to be a sex doll he ordered on the internet named Bianca.

Here's where the story heads down the road less travelled. Lars is not interested in sex, but a deep, meaningful relationship. Since he doesn't know how to interact with real girls, it seems his only option is to invent one. Because the people of his small town care for him, they decide to play along. The local doctor is also a psychiatrist, and pretends that Bianca has a rare condition that must be treated regularly. During this time, she is able to talk to Lars about his strange attachment.

I won't go any further into the story except to say that it is a truly heartwarming story of healing—one that is distinctive and edgy enough not to be sappy. For me, it provoked a lot of thought about how we assign a certain spirit to inanimate objects, as well as pets, which they really don't possess. Usually, this is a harmless practice from childhood imagination, which can be beneficial, as it was for Lars. Though such attachments can be abused.

To borrow the plot of this movie for analogy's sake, what if the doctor had insisted that Bianca needed a certain expensive prescription (one that paid a high commission). Or what if a local car salesman used Bianca's condition to sell Lars a new car? What if Lars decided Bianca needed a credit card so she could get the high-fashion she needed?

This is precisely the sort of thing that unscrupulous advertisers seek to do: tap your emotional weak spots in order to push on you a product which you really don't need. FITmedia seeks to create writers, producers, and distributors who understand that the only products that should sponsor true art are truly artful products. Whether it be scientifically advanced food products, or high-quality literary entertainment.

FEATURED MEDIA: "Lars and the Real Girl" - The story of a meaningful relationship with a sex doll.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Value and War

In the spirit of free thought, I want to discuss a controversial subject. Many times, certain subjects which require mature examination do not get the analysis they deserve. As a society, we tend to grab ahold of generalized judgments in lieu of thinking for ourselves, especially were much thought has already been done. René Decartes is said to have written his treatise on human emotions "as if no one had written on these matters before." However, it is vital to the free thinking man or woman to examine difficult ethical dilemmas from an objective standpoint, even if a heart-felt response ultimately is deemed proper.

It came to me to ask the question, what is wrong with war profiteering? Actually, the term "war profiteering" is by definition, wrong. The phrase embodies the concept of abusing power as the result of limited commodities and limited competition over who is providing those commodities. In effect, it constitutes theft from an already overwrought people. That is why it is wrong.

However, several things get conveniently labeled "war profiteering" which may not be wrong. Basically, free nations produce goods through private enterprise. This means that the munitions, rations, clothing, and other supplies are often manufactured privately and sold to the military at a profit. This is not, inherently, "war profiteering." It is merely profit made in a time of war. If a nation (or alliance of nations) is fighting for freedom against foreign oppressors such as Nazi Germany in WWII, then it makes little sense for any nation to strip its own citizens of business freedoms. Those entrepreneurs have more at stake than most if the freedom of the nation disappears—be it from without or within.

What does create a problem is when a dishonest third-party shows up on the scene to take advantage of the situation. As with Oskar Schindler in "Schindler's List." Schindler acquires an enamelware factory in Poland after the German invasion, staffing it with Jewish workers, who represent free labor. Based on a true story, he made a lot of profit on the business, but ultimately began helping the Jewish people escape the death camps through employment at his shop. In a famous scene, Schindler lamented that he could have found more money to save more lives. The profits he extracted ultimately served the higher purpose of saving nearly 1200 lives.

We need not forget the power of the most horrific events to warm even the coldest heart. To assume that such profits never produce guilt even when guilt is deserved is to disregard the moveable heart of man. To be sure, one can avoid seeing the results of his work, but can anyone truly avoid knowing the results of his work? Is it possible at all to profit in ignorance of the end results? I think not.

"Schindler's List" - The true story of a Nazi business man turned hero.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Media Vegetable

The partnership between media and marketing has led the unscrupulous purveyors to take unfair advantage of the consumer. With today's hectic lifestyle, shrinking incomes, and downsizing employment, it's no wonder that people want to "veg out." I mean, who wants to think after 5 o'clock? Most people's brains are spent—not on important, life-shaping matters—but on menial, repetitive tasks. These tasks do not stimulate new ideas, but merely tie up bandwidth in the brain.

So after getting chewed out for showing up 3 minutes late to a job you hate on a Monday morning, you make your way to your work station. Here you will be worked by your superiors like some sort of mechanical device—as a part of the machine you might be standing or sitting in front of. Perfection is expected, but speed is a priority. Criticism and irrational demands replace the real human contact of teamwork. Indeed, you have likely been chewed out for spending too much time "socializing."

So you go home to chores of one kind or another. Work doesn't stop because you go home. You're too stressed out about today or tomorrow or the next presentation to think about thirty years from now when today's habits compound to cause your death by heart disease. So you order a pizza, easy right? Of course you get diet soda with it, because somewhere [on a commercial] you heard that aspartame is healthier than sugar.

Then you plop down in front of the TV, physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. You watch what's easy to watch. Plot-driven, formulaic, escapist programming. Shows interlaced with car commercials, prescription drug ads, credit cards, and insurance—anything to make your life easier. And because you are emotionally vulnerable, and in no shape to think about what you're watching, you get suckered into buying.

All that said, you are not the victim, but an accomplice to your own destruction. Henry Ford said, "Thinking is the hardest job there is, that is why so few people engage in it." It's true, but it's still your responsibility. Who will protect your most valuable asset—your mind—if not you? What will protect your body and your life if not your mind? Certainly not the large organizations, most of whom are on a track that makes your day job harder (so they can cut costs), and your nightlife dumber (so they can sell you the fix).

So how about it? Ready to begin thinking through your intellectual diet, or are you going to die of cronic consumerism?

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Necessary Fall from Grace

For some time, I have been pondering a philosophical concept that seems best described as "a necessary fall from grace." Basically, it is related to the "prodigal son," but focuses more on cause and effect. It describes when a person believes one thing, but through a chain of events, practices another—only to learn the true meaning of what he once accepted on blind faith. In reality, this should propel a person to greater heights, though it seems that the media uses this only to justify mediocrity.

What do I feel is embodied in the phrase "necessary fall from grace"? For a thing to be thought of as "necessary," it must be vital to affect a particular end. If the end is important, then it is also necessary that the end be greater than the beginning—else the fall be a loss. The meaning of the word "grace" in this context is inseparable from the colloquialism, "fall from grace." So I am not talking about a forgiving attitude, as such, but the state of having a clean slate. Therefore, the beginning of this process is any given state that is deemed a position from which one could fall.

To fall from a position requires a certain height above normal. No one ever describes falling from average, only falling to less-than-average. It also requires a force outside oneself as a catalyst. A person cannot affect his own fall, and while he can seek to fall or risk a fall, he can only jump by his own conscious decision. Often the catalyst for this fall from grace is a certain frustration with the position itself. When one reaches an equilibrium with his own understanding of morality, he becomes frustrated with the sense that he will never reach higher climbs. When this happens, he either turns the frustration outward, becoming judgmental of others, or inward, where he may abandon his sense of morality in search of another way. This is the necessary fall from grace, which must be endured time and time again lest we become judgmental and trapped.

This is something that happened to me shortly after I got out of high school. Without going into details, I naively thought of myself as "perfect." I was willingly ignorant of my ignorance. I couldn't seem to move further in life—being trapped between what I felt I wanted and what I knew to be right. So I abandoned what I knew to be right and embraced what I knew to be wrong. My sins redefined my sense of morality, and through a series of events I found my way back to the old position of grace, but with an understanding that allowed me to pass my previous ceiling.

A famous example of this type of story is "It's a Wonderful Life." George Bailey has dreams—big dreams, great dreams, exciting dreams. He wishes for a million dollars and wants to travel the world, but he does the right thing in his estimation and watches the family business while his younger brother goes off to college. Obstacle after obstacle assail poor George, and he becomes tired and frustrated.

At the very moment when he is about to do something rash, we have an intervention in the form of an angel, who shows George what the world would be like if he was never born. In a way, George experiences the lessons of a fall from grace without actually going through the motions. In the end, he realizes that he really has had an impact on the world around him and that his life really is "wonderful."

The only difference is that while George does temporarily go astray, he does not reach new heights in the end, but merely comes to a greater understanding and appreciation for what he has. I suppose that from there, he can move to new heights. Though, to me it seems to disregard the importance of his dreams. George's angel is a pre-modern solution to the question of destiny and a person's fit. In other words, God put him where he is to serve others, but he cannot expect his own wishes to come true. He is honor-bound to learn to appreciate what he has been given and what impact he has made.

By contrast, the idea of a necessary fall from grace activates that soul searching that all men (I can only speak for men on this) do at critical points in their lives. Instead of fearfully pondering the why and wherefore, the fall requires action and risk—and a sincere questioning of all ones moral beliefs. Even if those beliefs turn out to have been 99% correct, would not the wisdom earned be worth gaining that last 1%?

It's a Wonderful Life - One of AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"LOST: The Substitute"

DISCLAIMER: In a previous post, I discussed the importance of ABC's "LOST." Therefore, I am beginning a series which briefly explores thoughts on the show with respect to FITmedia and Truth in Fiction. Being as the posts are philosophical in nature, I will try to keep story spoilers to a minimum. However, because many of the philosophical pillars are tied to critical events, it is impossible to discuss without some spoilers. For those of you not following the show, I hope that these posts will be worthwhile on their own merit, and should they inspire you to watch the show, that they will not have ruined the plot for you. You have been warned.

"The Substitute"

As with many titles in LOST, the title of this episode has multiple meanings. Not only does it refer literally to John Locke's new job at the end of the episode, but it also refers to the selecting of "candidates" to replace Jacob. It is difficult to say what makes them candidates. Given their histories, only two of the remaining candidates could definitely be labeled as "good" (#8 Hugo Reyes and #23 Jack Shephard).

As for the remaining four, #42 is listed as "Kwon," which could be Sun (who I take to be good), or Jin (who is good, but has a cruel history). Sayid is listed as #16, and while serving the good of the survivors on the Island, he has history as a torturer and an assassin. Number 15 is James Ford, a con man apparently by nature, though it is possible that Jacob's intervention ("The Incident") led him down that path. And finally, #4 is John Locke, the focus of this episode who is no longer a candidate.

The Nature of Good and Evil

In the Judeo-Christian faiths, good and evil are analogous with "light" and "darkness." I take this to mean that evil is then defined as the absence of good, just as darkness is the absence of light. Up to this point in the show, it is difficult to say that anyone can really be defined as evil by this definition. All the characters have shown some redeemable qualities (even Ben, who refused to kill baby Alex, then felt remorse for her death). However, the Bible also refers to people "walking in darkness" which seems to indicate a state of being lost more than the act of doing wrong.

By that definition, Locke is a character who fluctuates in this capacity. However, if good is the adherence to purpose and evil is the lack of purpose, then perhaps it is not in the capacity of people to be truly evil. That being said, to willingly ignore one's own purpose in pursuit of another purpose may constitute spiritual theft. To keep another person blind to his purpose for the sake of one's own purpose or stolen purpose, is an evil, in my estimation. To sense that one has a purpose—and to have a need to fill it—is a prime motivator for man, and the entire discussion of philosophy.

Which brings me to the philosopher, John Locke. I highly recommend at least reading through his Wikipedia page for material to ponder along with the character's story, but it is very important that anyone interested in thought and philosophy add Two Treatises of Government to his reading list. The interesting thing to note is that while fictional John Locke calls himself a "man of faith" and a "hunter" ("Further Instructions"), his namesake is a scientist—a man of rational thought.

His postulate that man is born a blank slate or tabula rasa, seems to contradict the whole struggle that is our fictional character, and indeed is the whole show. LOST Locke desires to be a hunter and a man of faith, but his nature is that of a farmer and a scientist. Is a person bound by the laws of his own nature, or can he rebel against his nature successfully? If he can, should he—or is it a form of sin to rebel against a set nature? Can a person change his nature, thus negating the argument? Are we born with a purpose and an an innate nature, or are we a culmination of outside influences on a blank slate (nurture)?

The Life and Death of John Locke?

This episode seems to mark the absolute death of John Locke. We see his body in the coffin ("There's No Place Like Home"), we see how he died ("The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham"), then we see his body on the beach ("The Incident"). Yet the question remained, "Is he really dead forever?"

Enter Season 6 with its flash-sideways and we see John Locke alive and well in "LA X." There was hope that this character was not dead to the series. However, with this episode, the writers of LOST seem to have finished off the character of John Locke—the man who could miraculously walk again ("Walkabout"), the man of faith ("Man of Science, Man of Faith"), the man of wisdom ("White Rabbit" and "The Moth"). In "The Substitute," we see the clearly decaying remains of Locke lowered into the ground amongst all the other "survivors" of Oceanic 815. And his name is crossed off by the Man in Black, in Locke's form.

But what of the surviving Locke—the man that did not crash on the Island, but went home to his life? He gives up. He sells out. He buckles under the weight of what he "cannot" do. He decides that there are no such things as miracles. It seems that the absence of the Island has stolen Locke's very spirit, unless, of course it was not his spirit to begin with. Perhaps that Locke we knew in Season 1 was not really the real Locke. Perhaps he was always an frustrated man who never was special until he came to the Island.

I found myself identifying with this character, so for me, this is especially painful. I love the archetype of the wiseman, who knows his place and seems to be in tune with nature. I even felt his pain as he began to struggle with deeper questions about his purpose, becoming lost in the darkness for a period of time. Even though he doubted his own faith, circumstances proved his doubt wrong ("Live Together, Die Alone"), and his vision was cleared. This process repeated, of course, but it always left him closer to his destiny as the leader of the Island. Or so we were led to believe.

However, it seems that this entire process was merely for the benefit of the Man in Black to use him to get to Jacob. I am inclined to believe that the Man in Black is evil simply because of this manipulation. As I said earlier, it seems to me that the theft of purpose is an evil, and the substitution of a false purpose for a real one, certainly counts as theft. For a character like the Man in Black—one who purports a faithlessness toward people and toward the Island—to manipulate a man of faith in order to kill the one man who asks for the faith of his people, seems blasphemous (if that is not too strong a word).

And yet, the sideways timeline seems to reveal that Locke found his calling as a teacher and a [soon-to-be] married man. Is this the life or the death of John Locke?

LOST Season 6!
Two Treatises on Government by John Locke.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Producer's Mind

The idea of production is, in its most basic form, the refining of raw materials into a valuable end product. The materials can be anything from metals to crops, from labor to vision. Whether the process is the engineering and manufacturing of a product, or the splitting of large bulk orders into progressively smaller lots, that process's goal is to refine a profitable end product and get it into the hands of the end consumer.

Therefore, a successful producer must be able to manage input and output. He must know where he is in the chain of production, what his immediate customer wants, and what the end consumer wants. He must then understand the "raw" material which he is buying, its cost and value. He must be aware of the business politics of his vendors, and to what degree they can be trusted. Basically, to be a success, he must be a gatekeeper of value.

By contrast, a person who primarily fills the role of a consumer only has the need to identify value on one end of the equation. That is, he is "free" to buy what he needs at a price up to what he has or can get through credit. When he uses up his purchase, he must either buy more, or go without. It is a reactionary lifestyle, mostly dependent upon the fluctuations of the larger economy.

The written word is no different. A person who reads to simply pass the time, consumes the words with no potential for output. Mass fiction is little more than a time waster, as it leads to no exploration or personal discovery. It cannot spark conversation of any substance, and it does little to motivate the reader toward any action but turning the page.

A person who reads with a writer's mind (or intakes any media which he also creates), is inclined to seek value in the written word. He hopes to extract lessons, start discussions, and generally be inspired to break his writer's blocks. The greater he wishes his finished products to be, the greater the products he wishes to digest. If he is part of a collaborative effort, he is willing to let his own contribution be overruled by a better idea.

If we want for people to intake better information, it is a waste of our efforts to attempt to get everyone to digest the greatest works. There are those who already do read the Great Books, simply because they know the value in them, even if they have no specific outlet. Some understand the concept, and even read literature from time to time, but would be more inclined to dive into more challenging material if they saw a specific result. Others need a little more encouragement. They need media that is in between what appears to be the daunting challenge of Great Books, and what is the simple ease of genre-based "page turners" and mind-numbing TV.

Make no mistake, there is a need for the thinking-man's media. Even if it comes in the form of "easy" TV and entertaining trade paperbacks. We need people to produce this content, not seek to tear the system down.

"Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain...and most fools do." - Dale Carnegie

How to Read a Book. By Mortimer J. Adler, founder of the Great Books of the Western World

Monday, February 15, 2010


Censorship is a hotly contested, often misunderstood practice. One where the very use of its own related words gets people into such an emotional lather of indignation that no one seeks first to understand the meaning of the words. As words like "ban," "boycott," and "censor" seem to have different meanings to many. I know I've been guilty of proposing a "ban" on something when the word I should have said was "boycott."

Censorship is an official practice of using state powers to remove offensive material from media. The consequences of what might seem to be an act of goodwill, is that the responsibility to understand the difficult and ugly side of life is taken away from the people. Broadly applied, this has the same effect on the human mind that modern antiseptics have had on the human body. The more we are removed from any sort of hardship, the more susceptible we become to infections that get past our defenses—mentally or physically speaking. If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger.

My recent experience with censorship is not from so large an organization as the government, it is from the video game company, Nintendo. It seems that Nintendo has found it prudent to ban certain names from its online gaming network. Below is the email I sent to the company about the issue. I don't know for certain if my concerns are founded on actual company policy, or the irrational assumptions of gamers who have too much time to air complaints on forum, but I'm hoping to get to the bottom of this issue.

I am contacting you regarding the apparent banning of certain Mii names on the WFC. I was going to play Mario Kart Wii online with my son, Killien, using his Mii, but was confused to find that his Mii name was restricted. Upon further research, I could only find fairly angry comments on gamers' forums discussing the banning of the "Hitler" Mii. At least I can understand the rationale of banning Hitler, even if I don't agree with it. I'm not a racist and I'm not Jewish, but he's just a cartoon version of a historical figure—why the censorship?

I did also find several entries stating that names containing the word "kill" were banned. However, "Killien" is my three-year-old son's NAME. I'm not interested in changing his Mii name, and he is not old enough to understand why I have to. I don't mind explaining it to him, but I would like to hear the reason from the horse's mouth. Are you going to ban the name "Shelly" because it contains the word "hell"? Or what about the name "Dick"? Doesn't the need to explain these things in itself unnecessarily expose children to the uglier aspects of the world in which we live?

In any case, I found no information about bans at all on your official website, so I am inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt and to assume that I am mistaken as a result of the rash assessment of other gamers. That being said, I would like to know how my son's name can be approved for the WFC. Or where I can officially complain about the ban, if in fact, censorship is Nintendo's official policy.

PHOTO CREDITS: ©Elizabeth Klueck

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sell It Not

"Buy the truth and sell it not; also wisdom, instruction, and understanding." (Proverbs 23:23)

This is a verse from the Bible that I have pondered for some time. In light of my theories about profitable stories through Truth in Fiction and my very own Amazon Store, some clarification is in order. I could go into great length about its context, quoting the original Greek, and such. But it is more upon my heart to share what it seems to say to me.

According to Seth Godin, in a recent blog post, "Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording... but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art." To me, the Biblical commandment to "buy the truth" is a commandment to those who seek wisdom to volunteer a fair compensation. It is not the job of the wiseman to demand pay for his thoughts, but the responsibility of the seeker to offer.

Any man who would take art (even "free" art) without feeling the need to return the value, surely is in need of the wisdom it possesses. This reminds me of a story I once heard about a thief who broke into a Christian home.

The thief took what he could of value from the home. He was indiscriminant and irreverent. He even grabbed the family Bible, but seeing no value in it, he tore several of the fine paper pages from the book and discarded the rest.

As the story goes, his intention was to use the paper to roll his cigarettes. However, he wound up reading the pages, and was eventually led to Christ.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, would you agree that this fictitious scenario demonstrates the principle of the above verse? Perhaps we should be less concerned with our rights of copy and more concerned with the wisdom contained therein.

The value of capturing truth is in becoming an authority on truth. Should you desire wealth, or the fruits thereof, your honest endorsements will make you a millionaire.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Seth Godin's newest book.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

God is Green

Today, I saw a bumper sticker on a mid-sized SUV, which read "God is Green." Aside from the apparent hypocrisy in the context, I couldn't help but judge a few other things about the driver's thinking. First, I recognize that it is wrong to consider my judgements in any way correct. I could not have stopped the driver to ask if he or she was the one who applied the sticker (perhaps it was a son or daughter). I have no way of knowing why that person needed an SUV, perhaps they do have a lot of kids and frequent need to carry equipment for their work. Perhaps they own an organic food store, and judged the SUV as a necessity of business. I don't know.

However, the thoughts that scampered across my mind were as follows. First, "That's true." Second, "Who doesn't agree with that?" Third, "Why do they need to tell me?" Fourth, "Are they suggesting the typical action of government regulation?" I appreciate their sentiments, but the sticker did not send me to a website as is common with statements of an activist nature. If they were trying to do anything but label themselves as green-conscious (which is fine), then they left me with two options in response: pray about it (they invoked the name of God) or go the other "higher power" (the government).

But this article is more self-expository than it is revealing of that driver's intentions. What in my brain left we with those two choices as a knee-jerk response? See, upon further thought, I could look up a green nonprofit with which to get involved, or I could start one. I could also modify my own personal actions and business concerns to reflect my agreement with that statement. All these would collectively have a greater positive impact than that of government meddling, in my opinion.

My understanding is this: if most people believe that God is Green, or to put it another way, green practices are in sync with the nature of the physical world, then wouldn't such bumper stickers have the effect of reminding them to buy green? If so, doesn't that mean that the market favors those businesses that satisfy that demand? If you agree, then why does government need to regulate business into being green? We the people are through our spending habits, we need give no more taxes to the issue.

The answer, of course, is a lack of thinking. Or, more kindly put, a functional blind spot. Big media is the platform of the dominant political parties, both which now continue to "campaign" throughout their terms, rather than settling into non-partisan activities. The result of this is that we are held to believe, by any political discussion in all mainstream media, that our [legitimate] choices are liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. I put the word "legitimate" in brackets because they'd rather not suggest there's even a poor third choice, and indeed they rarely do.

Now, I'm not writing this to suggest that you vote for a green party, but at least that's thinking outside the box. It is another choice, but it is still a government solution to a private problem. I submit that mainstream media is often an enforcer of limiting beliefs, if not its primary provider. This is especially true with network television, which relies upon revenue generated through the advertising of mediocre products (not cheap, but not necessarily the best). Subsequently, network television has an interest in hosting ideas that are also middle-of-the-road (not wrong, but also not completely right). They like to stick to big labels and stereotypes that are easy to identify by viewers. They fear if TV is too smart, their audience will dwindle.

Independents are thinking people, and are growing in number to the degree that they become disenchanted with the two party system championed by mainstream media. If God is Green, but God has no place in government, then ought we look elsewhere for the care of our environment?

For more information on Independents in modern political times, check out the blog at The Center For Social Leadership.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"LOST: What Kate Does"

DISCLAIMER: In a previous post, I discussed the importance of ABC's "LOST." Therefore, I am beginning a series which briefly explores thoughts on the show with respect to FITmedia and Truth in Fiction. Being as the posts are philosophical in nature, I will try to keep story spoilers to a minimum. However, because many of the philosophical pillars are tied to critical events, it is impossible to discuss without some spoilers. For those of you not following the show, I hope that these posts will be worthwhile on their own merit, and should they inspire you to watch the show, that they will not have ruined the plot for you. You have been warned.

"What Kate Does"

It has been pointed out by executive producer, Damen Lindelof, that "like all good mythologies, it ultimately comes down to the battle between good and evil." The unique thing about LOST is the ambiguity with which it has always approached the concepts. For example, time and time again, we find ourselves wondering if we can trust Ben Linus, even though he is a self-confessed liar ("The Incident"). Also, despite their ominous nature, the Others maintain that they are the good-guys.

So let me ask the question that the show implies: how do you define good and evil. It seems to me that Jacob and his nemesis are on opposite sides of that fence. Though, despite the colors they wear, we are not clear what actions are attributed to which character. For example, when Ben was sent to kill Danielle Rousseau, but discovered baby Alex, he was concerned that the baby's death would not have been what Jacob wanted. So who gave the order? Was it Jacob, for the larger service of the Island? Is the Island worth the life of a baby? Is Jacob evil for ordering such a thing, or was it really Nemesis who gave the order? It is unanswerable, therefore, we cannot assume that the man in black is evil and Jacob is good. To make this ruling, one must define evil. Then one must identify its source.

Which brings me to the predominant philosophical theme of this episode: guilt. I don't exactly mean the feeling of guilt, but the fact of guilt. Who is responsible for a given action or its results? Jack had already taken responsibility for Sayid's death in "LA X," and maintains his guilt in this episode. The fact that Sayid is now alive, is a subject I will return to momentarily.

The episode centers around Kate, whose story is the very definition of guilt as a matter of fact. This episode, we discover that, like the Kate we know, "sideways" Kate is also under arrest for murder. Interestingly, she has a remorseless demeanor in spite of her guilt. This is another thing they still share. In previous flashbacks, we find that she feels justified in her actions ("What Kate Did"), and is shocked that others do not agree.

Sayid expressed remorse for his actions, when he pondered his impending death last episode. He reminds us of what he has done and asks where he will go in the afterlife. In contrast to Kate, Sayid does not seem to feel justified in his actions, but expects something terrible. We find he is partially right as made manifest by Dogen's "diagnosis," which Sayid considered torture despite the lack of questions asked. This harkens back to "The Brig" where the idea was presented that the Island is like Hell for those who deserve it.

That being said, James "Sawyer" Ford is enduring the emotional agony of having lost the woman he loves, Juliet Burke. He recants Sayid's crimes by way of saying it's not fair that a torturer gets a second chance. Kate tries to reason with Sawyer by saying it's her fault that she got on the sub ("The Incident"), preventing his escape. But Sawyer feels nothing for Kate, and again she seems suprised. Sawyer blames his own selfishness because he talked Juliet into staying on the Island. In a twist of irony, it was because he didn't want to be alone that he talked her into staying, and now he is alone.

We learn that Sayid's hell is possibly owed to the fact that he is "claimed" by some "darkness." It seems apparent that this refers to the Nemesis. This bears a similarity with the way characters are taken by the dark side of the force in the Star Wars Trilogy. However, unlike Star Wars, we learn that Claire has already been claimed. Archetypically, Claire has represented what is good and nurturing, even being a stand-in for an angel or the Virgin Mary in Charlie Pace's vision ("Fire + Water").

In the flashsideways, Kate takes Claire to the hospital, an action that is strange in the context of their recent interactions. It is as though the good nature of Claire awakens something human in the hardcore fugitive that is Kate. Claire helps her escape in return for her help. When Kate suggests she might be innocent of her crime, Claire seems to make a character judgement and replies to the effect that she could believe it. On-Island Claire seems to be the antithesis of what she has always been, unless we simply do not understand the nature of good. Very thought provoking.

Perhaps the Nemesis is the rightful inhabitant of the Island, righteously sworn to protect it by any means. I submit the story of the Ark of the Covenant from the Bible. When God told them not to touch it, He meant it. As the tale goes one of its carriers tried to stop it from falling over, and he was struck dead. Perhaps the Island is that important, and Jacob and all the people he brought are merely intruders.

Or perhaps we can take the Nemesis at face value, perhaps he is over stepping his bounds. Maybe he wishes to control the Island when it is not his place. To reference the Bible again, this is similar to the conflict between Satan and God, where the evil one was the highest of angels, but was cast out because he wanted to be God.

What do you think?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Media and Monsters

Many of you know that I am the proud father of a bright three and a half year old son (but I'm biased, I know). It is as much for his sake as anyone else's that I do what I do. The influence of media on people's minds starts at around 18 months. My wife and I have tried, to the best of our human abilities, to take the hard road in raising him.

Many people fall into the trap of letting their children watch too much television, because it's easier than perpetual playtime. I'm not condemning, I know how tempting it is to let them sit there quietly.

I've settled on a compromise. Children's movies, if not always perfect (and no subtitute for imaginative play), are often repeated again and again. This gives willing parents the chance to discuss themes with their children and weave lessons into daily life. It is important for this reason that children's programming be suitable for adults as well, and not limited to shapes and colors.

My favorite is "Monsters, Inc." In my opinion this is Pixar's best film to date (though I've yet to see the critically acclaimed "Toy Story"). It is solidly entertaining and well developed at every point, and holds my attention and his attention alike. It has been a spark for imaginative play (with my help) and a reference for concerns.

The basic plot of the movie revolves around a company (Monsters, Inc.), which harvests children's screams as a source of energy (i.e.: instead of coal). "Scarers" travel through portals from the factory floor through the closet doors of human chidren to scare a scream out of them and collect the power.

Ultimately, a child gets loose in the monster world, and it turns out that monsters are more afraid of us than we are of them. Despite their jobs, the main characters are portrayed as good-natured and heroic, in contrast to the antagonists who have compromised their morals to get ahead during the "scream shortage."

In the end, the hero discovers an alternative energy which is ten times more powerful and does not require scaring children. So innovation triumphs over tradition and bureaucracy. And this is a kids' movie!

The reason I thought to do this article was that just tonight, Monsters, Inc. allowed me to talk to my son about monsters in his closet. I was able to comfort him with the thought that most monsters are nice and reasonable. I even "worked out a deal" so they wouldn't come through his closet.

Sure this kind of parental guidance requires imagination on my behalf. Sure it's not always easy, but it will be worth it when he grows up to face his fears with a clear head rather than paranoia.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Media and Marketing

In order to discuss the union of these two concepts, one must first define their differences. Because they are so intertwined in the post-modern world, many definitions simply consider them the same thing. At the very least, I believe they are different branches on the same tree, if not separate and distinct trees altogether. They both possess their own aspects of both science and art, while I think it is their art (and not their science) that creates the greatest divide.

Permit me to save a lengthy discussion of the etymology of the word "media," and just say, for our purposes that media is referring primarily to entertainment mass media such as television, movies, novels, and their digital kin. The content of such media is a creative (if not artistic) endeavor, which by its nature attracts a crowd. The easier such media content is for people to access, the bigger the following will be. Therefore, it is only natural that such media would ideally be free and widely accessible.

Marketing is about getting products and services into people's hands. Because it is, at its core, merely a transfer of information, it requires some form of media to have a mass effect. (As a side bar, it should be noted that the most effective form of marketing, word-of-mouth, does not inherently need any form of media at all—though visual aids help.) The art of marketing is not in convincing people they need the product, but in finding those people who do. Therefore, it is ideal that the products and services being offered are of the highest quality and directed at the individuals who understand that quality.

In the early days of radio, companies like Colgate-Pamolive realized that they could increase sales to their target audience by providing dramatic, serialized programming. These "soap operas" were designed to develop loyal listeners comprised mostly of the company's target audience (housewives, in this case). The company could then market new products or additional services to the audience in the form of mass advertising. Because companies advertised high quality products to individuals who understood that quality, those companies developed enough profits to expand the funding for the production of media.

As companies began to grow in size and new forms of media (like television) were invented, advertising became its own industry—and entertainment media exploded along with it. While the Motion Picture industry kept itself independently funded (until product placements) through ticket sales and the like, television (at least in the US) had always been a free service funded by advertising. The consequence of this was that the entertainment was primarily influenced by commercial interests.

Television, as it became mainstream, became the culture in America. Because of its accessibility, it became the most widespread source of information, and therefore one of the widest influences on people's thinking. As industrial innovation slowed, companies shifted from larger-scale manufacturing to smaller-scale consumer production. This drove them to enlist mass advertising, rather than learn how to market to customers directly. The rising demand for advertising space, in turn, threatened to over-saturate the market, driving demand for larger audiences. "Larger audiences" were not defined by the quality, but by the quantity of viewers.

Therefore, the advertising industry called for media programming which was directed at the lowest common-denominator. Psychologists, and other marketing "experts" were employed to make the process more efficient. The result of which was the realization that media could teach audiences to be emotionally susceptible. An individual with low emotional intelligence, was more likely to impulse-buy, buy on credit, and buy non-essential or luxury items.

If media, however, is set up as the driving force of the media-marketing continuum, then the results might be quite different. Markets fluctuate—that is just a fact of economics and people—but what people never need less of is good information. If media takes the lead, then the leading media would be that which possessed the best information or the most truth. The very best entertainment, valuable for the mind and spirit; the very best news and documentaries, definitely truthful; and the demand for the very best products as sponsors, once again.

How would media "take the lead"? Well, if the best media imparts the most truth, then simply by refusing to be dependent upon any entity whose purpose is not truth. This is a decision that requires emotional maturity. There is no reason that media cannot be provided for free, but the costs have to be covered by a source that has no control over what the media creators decide to do. Ideally, the media creators would own the marketing concerns (more on this later).

The interesting thing is that if media takes the lead, but maintains funding from marketing, its growth is restrained by the markets. There are many examples in the history of free enterprise to indicate that those who have a passion for their business will figure out how to adapt. Basically, this will give media creators the incentive to understand the marketing process and fix the problems, further informing their creation of compelling and wise media.

Friday, February 5, 2010

What I Say When I Talk to Myself

Doing things wrong is a temporary byproduct of doing things different. When we want different results, we need to put in different actions. Different actions are naturally foreign to us and must be honed through experience. The byproduct of the hands-on training required for experience is that you will likely mess some things up. That's OK.

Albert Einstein apparently said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. For a scientist, this is obvious. To even test a theory requires changing a variable in the experiment and looking for changes in the result. This is true in our lives as well. If you continue to operate at the same level of performance in your job, can you likely expect a bonus or raise? If you and your spouse are growing apart emotionally, wouldn't it be wise to try turning off the TV, quitting a sports league, and/or setting up a date night to rekindle the flame? If you continue to watch the same kinds of shows and read the same kinds of books, doesn't it follow that you'll get the same kinds of information? And if you find yourself feeling frustrated and hopeless, shouldn't you look for different information?

Sure changes can be scary, they're out of your comfort zone! That's the point. Our distraction-laden modern lives can have the effect of shrinking our comfort zones. We have so many options for pleasure, that we forget about chasing true happiness. Happiness, which only comes from doing what we were built to do, requires constantly pushing our comfort zones and trying new things. This process can look foolhardy at first, especially when we're new.

Imagine if a world-class runner decided to race a world-class wheelchair a wheelchair. Who would win? The wheelchair racer, of course, because he has experience that the runner (though fit and strong) does not have. Would the runner look like a fool? To the unknowing audience, probably. Could he learn to beat the wheelchair champion with training? Certainly. Would it make him a more well-rounded athlete? Absolutely.

So what about the failures and laughter of the audience? First, failure is a part of learning to be a success. Second, the audience likely does not understand what they are witnessing. Finally, who cares what other people think? Don't be so selfish. Let the ignorant have the pleasure of their laughter, while you chase the happiness of your dreams.
What to Say When You Talk to Yourself: By learning how to talk to yourself in new ways, you will notice a dramatic improvement in all areas of your life.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"LOST: LA X, pt. 1 & 2"

DISCLAIMER: In a previous post, I discussed the importance of ABC's "LOST." Therefore, I am beginning a series which briefly explores thoughts on the show with respect to FITmedia and Truth in Fiction. Being as the posts are philosophical in nature, I will try to keep story spoilers to a minimum. However, because many of the philosophical pillars are tied to critical events, it is impossible to discuss without some spoilers. For those of you not following the show, I hope that these posts will be worthwhile on their own merit, and should they inspire you to watch the show, that they will not have ruined the plot for you. You have been warned.

"LA X, parts 1 & 2"

As a perfect preface to any discussion which might contain spoilers, I refer you to an article from, entitled "Surprise fan reaction to leaked 'Lost' hour". Apparently, the prescreening in Hawaii of the Season 6 premiere had some pirates in attendance. The entire first part of "LA X" was made available on YouTube via cellphone bootlegs. However, much to the credit of LOST fans, many refused to watch the episode until it aired. Now tell me there isn't something magical about a story that inspires that kind of loyalty!

And tell me there aren't principles in the show to emulate as we move forward. In my recent post, I discuss two concepts of "truth of events" and "truth of existence." I believe that existence—that is, the philosophical realm of man—must of necessity be accurately captured in any story to elicit the type of loyalty that LOST has earned. One can earn superficial loyalty through truthful events like sexual themes or compelling murders, but if the motives behind these actions are not accurate, eventually the stories will fall flat. Truth of existence liberates the author to take the viewer on a fantastical journey of mystery and imagination. And that is precisely what makes this show so good.

So what about this season?

Season 6, as you are likely aware, is the final season of LOST. Basically, this is the writer's most challenging season yet. The show is driven by dynamics between characters—and I include the Island as one of the characters—with most of them being in the dark about what is happening to them. Given that the show has a hidden mythology and that revealing secrets (slowly) is the basis of its plot, this season becomes a question of how they are going to reveal the remaining secrets while keeping us fans guessing until the last second.

As it stands, the show has deftly explored the concepts of "science" and "faith," (see "Man of Science, Man of Faith" [spoilers]). Essentially, these words embody the epic philosophical struggle between "thinking" and "feeling," or what could be called "Reason" vs. "Passion." Jack Shepard, the main protagonist, has been the champion for the concrete, refusing to believe in miracles and their kin—at least until Season 4. John Locke, Jack's antagonist by default, has been the champion of destiny, believing that the Island is "a place where miracles happen" ("There's No Place Like Home" [spoilers]).

Toward the end of Season 4, when a certain major "Earth-moving" event transpires, this philosophical train is brought to a close. Season 5 opens with a new direction, driven by a mysterious conflict between a man named Jacob and his unnamed nemesis. Jacob seems to represent the concept of free will, having told at least one character that he has "a choice." Despite this undercurrent, Jacob has been represented as a meddler in history, if for no other reason than to bring people to the Island. By contrast, Jacob's nemesis, who I will refer to as "Nemesis," seems do be a manifestation of force. In conversation with Jacob, Nemesis reveals his opinion that people are always corrupted and cannot change this basic nature, while Jacob asserts that progress is being made long-term.

So what about "LA X"?

LOST have been defined by its non-linear narrative structure, which has featured both flashbacks and flashforwards. Due to time traveling introduced in Season 5, it even featured two different times (1977 and 2007) running concurrently. In Season 6, this narrative structure is being called "flashsideways." As "The Incident" has apparently created two parallel time streams. The story now flashes back and forth between the characters who safely landed in LA X (hence the episode's title), and the same characters who continue to exist on the Island (though they've jumped from '77 to '07). [Good luck following this season, Dad.]

In "LA X," we learn more about the nature of Nemesis and his presence in previous seasons, as it is confirmed that he is the "Smoke Monster." We also learn more about his relationship to the confused character of John Locke, who he has apparently been manipulating since Season 1 ("Walkabout"). Nemesis describes Locke as pathetic and "shouting at the world" not to tell him his limitations, "even though they were right." I personally find it a bit disturbing that we, the audience, invested so much time in the story of Locke's struggle, just to have him end up dead as a pawn. This is where an element of faith is required by the fans. True, he is still alive in LA X, but if that Locke never switches places with the dead Locke, then his story is in vain and the Nemesis was right to kill Jacob. But if Jacob is right, it seems that Locke must also be more "special" than Nemesis thinks. Which is why I think the two streams will overlap (or something along those lines), and dead Locke will resurrect. It is this sort of reasoning that is [hopefully] possible because of the writers' integrity to the truth of existence.

More importantly however, we learn that Nemesis wants to go home, which presents the underlying motive power to his actions. It also suggests that Jacob and his disciples, "The Others,"are not as innocent as they make themselves out to be. Nemesis's home—presumably the Temple—seems to have been stolen from him by Jacob and/or his people. This opens the question of who has the greater right of ownership—something I'm certain we will be discussing again.

This brings us back to the question of free will vs. pre-destiny. We get a unique glimpse into the consequences of different choices, which seems to indicate a trend toward free will. The show has, in past episodes, demonstrated the theme of an unchanging universe. In Season 3 ("Flashes Before Your Eyes"), Desmond Hume learns of the universe's ability to "course correct," meaning that small things can be changed, but the large ends are still the same. In "LA X," Charlie Pace nearly dies choking on a bag of heroin. When Jack saves him, Charlie says he was supposed to die—a theme that was dominant in Season 3, ending with his drowning in the Looking Glass station ("Through the Looking Glass").

The interesting thing to ponder as we go through this season is: what net effect have the little changes made, despite the large course corrections? After all, Charlie not dying at any one of several moments when he could have, ultimately let to major movements in Season 4, despite the fact that he did die as he was "supposed to."

I look forward to digging into this season, and hope to hear your comments!

The Final Season of LOST!