Sunday, May 30, 2010

Battles of Heart and Mind

Memorial Day is more than just the beginning of the Summer tourist season and a great excuse for an extended weekend, beer, and barbecuing. It is a day meant to commemorate those who have died in service for this country—or rather, those who have died for the cause of liberty. I agree that there are many things wrong with our world today, especially politically speaking, but if the idea of memorializing veterans fills you with pessimism as to the purpose of their deaths, let me remind you that there were days of glory once.

To be sure, the masses at any given moment have always been largely a selfish group, consumed with their present plight and unable to see clearly the glorious future won of present suffering and sacrifice. However, every era of human civilization has its cast of heroes, who shape the course of history. Whether they are divinely guided or whether their own reason enables them to take the longview, may well be a question that is not answerable. One thing is certain though, through the actions of heroes, the human race is carried to higher levels.

Certainly, the veterans of physical warfare, remembered at Arlington National Cemetery and other places, are the most obvious heroes to memorialize. However, there are many more unsung heroes: those both of ages and battles past, and of present battles fought in everyday life. I'm talking about the battles of heart and mind. Many people live in the grip of ignorance and fear. Many more live with a knowledge base that keeps them afraid. To do anything of significance, fear must be overcome.

This is mankind's greatest battle. It is only most obvious and most unavoidable in physical warfare, but it is no less present in the mind of a young professional who conceives of a brilliant idea to change his industry. In the mind of an artist, fear can stop the very buds of imagination like an unexpected freeze. Whenever something significant comes to light, it always brings change. Change is uncertain, change can be bloody.

However, physical wars are rarely (if ever) started suddenly in a time of peace, however the papers may read. Wars are—with no exception I can think of—the result of individuals delaying confrontation and change. Physical wars are the inevitable results of political turmoil and dogmatic stubbornness, which is allowed to go unresolved. Free thinkers know it doesn't stop there, however. These problems aren't quarks of political and social systems (though they might exacerbate the situation), instead they are flaws in individual character.

When people of like minds come together, they must be careful not to bring like flaws. If they do, the flaw becomes compounded into a significant blind spot. These blind spots, in turn, cause turmoil which each party in the conflict blames on the other. Therefore, the more groups (political, social, or religious) that are founded on developing individual character, the less flaws will exist in the world. Less flaws, less turmoil—more peace.

On Memorial Day, let us also remember the brave souls fighting to do what is right—no matter how small the act. There are different stumbling blocks for different people. We each wage daily wars against our personal vices—something which goes unsung. I know you're fighting that battle, and I appreciate your efforts.

Never give up the good fight.
FEATURED MEDIA:
1776 - An intensely interesting account of American history, lush with quotations from actually letters written by the people who where there—Generals and privates, alike. It begins in 1775 with the rebels preparing for a siege on British-controlled Boston, continues through the Declaration, and ends after Washington's famed crossing of the Delaware River.
The Anatomy of Peace - This is a remarkable book which brings to light the deepest issue behind all human conflict: the heart at war. When our "way of being" toward others is not founded on a heart at peace, we create conflict in all of our relationships. The challenge is accepting that we are to blame for many of our problems, but we also hold the solution.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"1776" by David McCullough

Few of us Americans really appreciate what struggles where borne by the Continental Army during the long war for American independence. Nor do most of us care. Years ago, I would have given you a vile (and ignorant) opinion of the revolution, based solely on my simple disgust of present day politics. I also would have been entirely unable to explain what was meant by "independence."

In his book 1776, David McCullough gives an enrapturing account of the events of that historic year, beginning with what I feel is a fair treatment of the situation on both sides. He tells of the splendor and good character of George III, and of the many loyalists who resided in the colonies at the time. He also extols the virtues of George Washington, who had just taken command of the then nameless "rabble" which barely constituted an army.

Chronologically, the account begins with British forces trapped in Boston by the American rebels. It continues to describe the major figures on both sides, supported with accounts from privates and non-military persons. The siege of Boston was a brilliant one in the history of military action, and was very successful.

The next move was the defense of New York, which went terribly for the rebels. Being a water-laden city and the British Navy being world-class at the time, the Americans could not hold it. McCullough details Washington's failures in the New York campaign with an honesty too gentle for a critic and too, well, honest for traditional American bias.

McCullough's telling of the tale demonstrates the brutal conditions in vivid color, allowing one to be transported to the time and place and situated among the ranks. From those suffering from sickness and wounds, to those who deserted both sides, to those who fled the battlegrounds in terror, it is a raw and detailed account—well-supported by preserved documentation where it exists, with fairly labeled speculation used where it is not.

Overall, a must-read for free-thinking people about one of the most important battles in human history.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Mechanics of the Status Quo

We are fighting not for the liberation of bodies, but for the liberation and subsequent independence of hearts and minds against a machine commanded by those who wish to create a rigid class-system which will benefit the interested parties' respective political and commercial interests, and which seeks to fortify those benefits against all development of merit in the lower classes.
This is a statement, which I believe sums up the whole of the battle of the mind being waged under our very noses. It is precisely the battle to which FITmedia seeks to introduce people, that we as a democratic society may learn to hold our own against such an attempt. There are many more worthy organizations already engaged in the creation of truthful media—especially in books and blogs. However, support is lacking for the cause of changing large-scale media (such as television series) from a firmly entrenched propagator of the status quo into the intellectually challenging liberal art, which it can and should be.

Too many of us see the world through the "either/or" filter given to us by political pundits. Every societal issue is increasingly judged as either Liberal or Conservative. This and that, us and them. No matter what we are encouraged to think of ourselves and our parties (political or otherwise) as being in the right, while those in opposition to us are totally in the wrong.

Neither are we aware, nor do we question, the source of our convictions. Often we find that at some point in our lives we bought into an ideology, given to us in total by the media we individually selected on preference. Hunting or shooting enthusiasts have an interest in the NRA, and are therefore sold into the hands of the Republican Party. Animal activists have an interest in PETA, and are therefore sold into the hands of the Democrats.

Of course, these are stereotypes or broad, sweeping generalizations, and that is precisely my point. In this case A ≠ B ≠ C, or for the symbolically disinclined, the path of association is a contrived one—largely invented by mainstream media in an effort to market to the greatest number of interested persons. It is the opinion of the people running the machine that if you have a particular interest, then you must agree completely with the most general and largest organization that supports that interest. It follows along the same faulty line of reasoning that you would then fit into the political party which promotes that organization's interests.

The devastating thing to our society is that, largely, those in control are correct—at least, based upon the results of their actions. Our total experience in life (from education to religion to the media) rarely if ever encourages us to understand those with opposing opinions to our own. Not to criticize any one site, but we are bombarded by "smart" marketing, which tries to tell us what we would like, based upon what we already bought. However, the consequences of this is a tendency for people to live in a world of their own design—unknowingly shielded from the challenge of differing opinions. They become close-minded, almost through no fault of their own, but in their ignorance of the big picture they play the hand that is dealt them.

The two party system is irrelevant. Both sides have their strengths and weaknesses. Both are right and both are wrong. The true split lies not in the smoke and mirrors of bipartisan issues, but in the difference between those who seek to create change, and those who seek to avoid change. The former group sees the future as bright. They want to develop themselves, create abundance, and help others to do the same. The latter group sees only past failures and future risks. They seek only to develop their personal comfort, while using what power they can obtain to show mercy to the "helpless" individuals whom they favor (mostly for selfish reasons).

If you and I are to rise in life (whatever our current stations), we must develop ourselves, become truly open minded, and gain a peaceful heart. We must seek out the challenge of opposing information, taking upon ourselves the responsibility of discerning the truth. We must understand that to be truly successful as an originator or distributor of media, that media must be of the highest level of truth—its very gravity creating stability, viral spread, and genuine change.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"LOST: The End"

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 End

There is so much to say now that LOST is officially finished. In fact, I hardly know where to begin. Of course, now that the series is closed, a serious discussion of its philosophical implications can truly be undertaken. I plan to periodically post (though not yet on a set interval) observations on the series with regard to everyday life, just as I do with other media. I also plan to revisit the unanswered questions post in the near future.

For this post, however, a standard (yet solemnly respectful) treatment is in order.

THE END

Two words that are at times either a relief or a time of mourning. A time of new beginnings or a time of utter despair. As many of you know, I had the distinct privilege of watching the Finale at the State Theatre in downtown Traverse City, MI. Until then, the largest group I had ever watched the show with was 6 or 7 people. Throughout the show, the crowd cheered at the crucial appearances of various characters—especially when Frank turned out to still be alive—and tears where shed over the touching moments.

The energy of the crowd was amazing. In dispersing from the theatre, the crowd that gathered outside was very reminiscent of the characters' interactions in the church scene. It's not so much that we will never see our fellow LOST fanatics again, but it felt like it would be different. To me, it felt like graduating high school—for better or worse, you'll never have that group together again. I will see my friends again, but our respective relationships with the characters on the screen are forever frozen—never to develop further.

I wasn't chosen, I volunteered.

It had long been apparent that Jack was the logical choice to take Jacob's place—a fact that was mocked by the Man in Black. For all Jack's new post represented, the questions it answered were disappointingly few. The vague concept of "rules" given to us by the young Man in Black in "Across the Sea," stand as the only explanation for many of the loose ends and odd powers which Jacob and/or the Island has.

One thing seems to circumvent Jacob's fixed rules: that the protector of the Island must be one who does not want the position. The Island represents power. A person who desires the position is a person who will be tempted to abuse that power. Unlike the One Ring from the Lord of the Rings, the Island is not inherently evil. It is only the influence of someone like the Man in Black that can corrupt another man. In effect, it is more like "the Force" from the Star Wars universe, with its light and dark sides—a comparison the creators have made personally.

Jacob remained the protector of Island for as long as he did because he did not abuse the power, such as the Man in Black was seeking to do. Jack also sought to use the power, as Widmore had apparently intended, to kill the Man in Black—who was impervious to harm until Desmond pulled the "key." This shared intention ended poorly for all three men. Widmore did not even fulfill whatever purpose Jacob assigned him to. The Man in Black, though correct about destroying the Island, was surprised to find that he was mortal once again.

Jack was mortally wounded by the Man in Black during their brawl on the cliffs. Ultimately, he would give his life for the Island and for his friends who had yet to escape it, an action which is widely regarded in our culture to be the greatest expression of love. He saved Desmond, taking his place in the pool of light after transferring his job to Hurley—the most reluctant, but arguably best-suited candidate. (Kudos to my wife for calling that one!) Ben suggested to Hurley that he might run the Island however he wants, with the aim of helping people as his main philosophical objective.

Prior to the church scene, Hurley commends Ben for having been a great right-hand man. Ben, in turn, tells Hurley the same. This implies that their "reign" was long and successful—a fact which, in reality, would conflict with the old axiom, "Absolute power, corrupts absolutely." That being said, one could argue that one does not really have absolute power if he gives it away, which Hurley would have.

Time has no meaning in this place.

The church scene that summed up the great mystery of the flash-sideways has to be the most creative solution to the ending of a story, even if it does feel a little contrived. By explaining that the most important time in the characters' lives were the times told in the series, the writers simultaneously provided us with a cohesive, happy ending; a definitive death of the main character; and the potential continuation of the survivors. "The End" delivers us our pick of ends while allowing us room to speculate about the continued lives and eventual deaths of those whose stories would have ended in ellipses...
FEATURED MEDIA: Preorder the final season!
The Lord of the Rings - The epic fantasy by JRR Tolkien, which defined an entire genre of books, and was masterfully reconstituted in movie form by Peter Jackson. It is an immersive tale of love and war for the fate of all mankind.
Star Wars Trilogy - The followers of an ancient order utilize a power known as "the force" to affects the ends of good or evil. Those who fight for the good side, struggle to save the galaxy from a tyrannical Empire, whose intentions are dark.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

LOST: The Unanswered Questions

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 Unanswered Questions

And now for the Questions... This is by no means a complete list, nor do I want it to be. I hope to include some of the more obscure, but significant (I think) loose ends which will hopefully be tied up in the finale. Enjoy and discuss...

What happened to Christian Shephard's body?

In the original timeline, Christian's body apparently furnishes the Man in Black with a new form ("The Last Recruit")—unless he's lying. Assuming the body was in the coffin on the plane, this loose end is easily justified by assuming it was moved by the Man in Black in order to fool Jack ("White Rabbit"). However, without the influence of the Island, we have no such justification in the flash-sideways.

Was every appearance of Christian (after his death) actually the Man in Black?

Assuming the MiB answered Jack truthfully, we know for certain that the suit-wearing Christian was him. After the Ajira crash, "Locke" appeared wearing a suit, but later changed into hiking gear. Christian seems to have done the same. Claire confirms that the Christian who talked to John Locke in the cabin ("Cabin Fever") was the MiB. However, the Christian who dismisses Michael on the freighter and especially the Christian who greets Jack at the hospital after they return from the Island violates the apparent rules about the MiB not leaving the Island. For a normal TV show, Jack could have been simply hallucinating, but for LOST that is a significant loose end.

Who were the two men in the cabin?

When Hurley falls behind the group ("The Beginning of the End"), he suddenly stumbles upon Horace's cabin, which is out of place. Peering through the window, he sees Christian seated in a chair. Suddenly, another face comes into view. If Christian is an incarnation of the MiB, was this second man supposed to be Jacob? Or is there another explanation? My first thought was it looked like Locke, who subsequently finds Hurley after the cabin disappears. However, Hurley's later question regarding where the cabin is seems to catch Locke off guard, confirming that he wasn't the other man.

What exactly happened when Ben and Locke first visited the cabin together?

Ben has not only confirmed that he was pretending about seeing Jacob in the chair ("The Man Behind the Curtain"), but also that he did not expect things to start flying around. I believe that Executive Producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse confirmed in the podcast that the man who appeared briefly in the chair was Jacob. Perhaps I'm wrong, or perhaps they renegotiated that particular element due to story changes. In any case, I re-pose the question: who was that? And why did he say "help me"?

What exactly was the purpose of the ring of ash around the cabin?

When Ben and Locke first visit the cabin, Ben steps carefully over the ash, while Locke stoops to examine it. Neither of them seem to have caused the break in the ash line found by Ilana in Season 5, even after fleeing the disturbance in the cabin. We know that the ring of ash is a barrier to the MiB, but it is unclear whether it was intended to keep him out or in the cabin. Since it seemed undisturbed, we could surmise that it was to trap in whatever caused the disturbance, but it could not have been the MiB because we had seen or heard the Smoke Monster elsewhere on the Island many times by then. Perhaps it was a safe-haven for ghosts.

How do the whispers teleport people and things?

Or are the whispers merely ghosts. It seems that the cabin was physically moved from its former location to where Hurley found it, and it seems that Harper physically appeared to Juliet ("The Other Woman")—though we don't know whether she is alive or dead. Ben warns young Rousseau to "run the other way" when she hears whispers ("Dead is Dead"), which suggests there is something to see for people other than Hurley. She was also described as "insane," so perhaps she was able to see what others could not.

What is the deal with the pallet drop?

At the end of "Lockdown," a pallet of food is discovered in the jungle. A parachute suggests that it was dropped by a plane, though no plane was sighted. Given what we know about the Island's physical properties, there might not be much explanation needed. What is more curious is why was it sent? The Dharma Initiative seems to be entirely out of commission (except for Desmond in the Swan Station), so the more interesting question is who sent it?

Who is Dave?

In the episode "Dave," the pallet of food seems to trigger a psychotic episode in Hurley who sees a bald man in a bath robe and chases him through the jungle. It turns out he's Dave, Hurley's best friend from the mental hospital—only he's apparently an imaginary friend. It is revealed that Libby was also in the mental hospital with Hurley. When she gives Desmond the sailboat ("Live Together, Die Alone") she reveals that her dead husband's name is David. Is it possible that Dave is the ghost of Libby husband? (Also, as a side note, Desmond's middle name is David and Jack's son in the flash-sideways is David).

What was Libby doing in Sydney?

In the flash-sideways, Hurley meets Libby for the first time while she is on a "field trip" with other patients from the mental hospital. Therefore, she was not on Oceanic 815 in that timeline. Since she was also in the mental hospital in the original timeline, the question is what caused her to check out and go to Sydney? Was she stalking Hurley? Or is there more to the story?

Who were the people Sayid killed?

Ben claims they were Widmore's people, who needed to be killed to protect those who remained on the Island. Since basically no more has been said on this matter since Sayid finished his task, we can likely assume that their link to Widmore is real. Whether or not killing them actually protected the Island is therefore a matter both of Widmore's and Ben's respective intentions for the Island.

Who is "R.G."?

In "The Economist," Sayid woos a woman named Elsa with the intention of getting at and killing her employer, an economist who works "in emerging markets." Since his name was on the hit list and Sayid claimed to have killed everyone on it ("He's Our You"), the economist is likely dead (at least in the original timeline). When Sayid reveals his intentions, we discover that Elsa was lying about her job. After Sayid kills her, he notices a metal bracelet on her wrist, which is the same as one Naomi is wearing on the Island. Inside is the inscription, "N, I'll always be with you. R.G." Assuming Elsa's bracelet said something similar, these two women seem to be linked to a mysterious third party.

What is the deal with Ray Shephard?

The writers of LOST are not in the habit of doing anything without double meaning or deeper significance. In "316," Jack is told that his grandfather, Ray, had again tried to escape from the retirement home were he resides. Ray claims he will one day escape, saying, "They won't ever find me, either." After a short talk, Jack finds a pair of his father's shoes the bags Ray packed—a belonging he needed as per Eloise's request. We are meant to think this is the only purpose of this scene and that his eventual escape to a place he cannot be found is merely an allusion to Jack's future. However, this seems far to elaborate a set up for merely this. I believe Ray will figure into the finale, or at least the writers were intending to use him for such a purpose. I hope they do.

What is the significance of the number 32 and its relationship the number 42?

We are all used to the number 42 as the last number in the sequence which appears throughout the show, eventually being revealed as corresponding to Jacob's candidates—the number 42 in particular referring to Sun and/or Jin. However, when Hurley and Miles take Dr. Chang to the Swan worksite, Hurley sees two men stamping the numbers into the Hatch. The one who is reading off the numbers says the last one is smudged before deciding it says "42." When Desmond fled the Hatch and Locke took over his job, the first sequence of numbers he entered ended in "32" before Jack corrected him. It is interesting to note that 32 is a reversal of "23"—Jack's number. Miles asked Ben for $3.2 million dollars, to which Ben responded, "Why not 3.3 or 3.4?" Once off the Island, Ben goes to the butcher's shop to drop off Locke's body. When he takes a number, it is "342"—"32" interrupted by "4" (Locke's number).

What caused the condition where pregnant women die on the Island?

Much of Season 3 labored over this point, though Richard pointed out to Locke that it was a lesser problem meant, by Ben, to distract his people. It is likely that somewhere between Ben's healing at the Temple and the Incident, this problem arose. It did not effect Amy Goodspeed, who gave birth to Ethan in 1977.
FEATURED MEDIA: Preorder the final season!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"LOST: What They Died For"

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 They Died For"

Sorry for the lateness of this post. For this penultimate episode, I wanted to switch it up a bit. Usually I attempt an analysis of implications and significance, in which I take a shot in the dark about the show's core mythology and its relevence to modern life. In this post, I'd like to bring up some unanswered questions about the series, which I think are central to the show.

But First... A Brief Analysis

I thought Jacob avoided the question when Kate asked him "what they died for"—referring mostly to Sun and Jin. He proceeded to explain to her and the other remaining candidates that he did not pull them out of a happy existence—that they were flawed, they were alone. The Kwons, at least, had each other—for better or for worse.

Perhaps they died for no other reason than to prove Jin's promise that he would never leave her again. However, it seems like they died senselessly at the hands of the Man in Black—not directly, of course, but via Sawyer, who expressed his guilt only to be reassured by Jack that he was merely a pawn. According to Jack, the Man in Black could not kill them himself directly because it was against the rules.

What power is it that protects them from harm? Ben credits the Island itself as "being done with her" when Ilana dies ("Everybody Loves Hugo"), suggesting that the Island itself was protecting her. However, Michael is dismissed by Christian before the freighter explosion kills him ("There's No Place Like Home"). Current evidence all but proves this is the Man in Black.

Both Ilana and Michael carried with them an unfinished purpose. This purpose seemed to keep them safe, but—like the amulet of protection from the Sandman series—allowed the next most convenient death sentence to be enacted once the purpose was fulfilled.

Sayid died to save those that survived, but what of Frank and Richard? What final purpose did they fulfill, or are they still alive? If Frank is truly dead, then isn't the plane rendered useless? However, it is interesting to note that Locke said he had gotten his pilot's license in the flash-sideways ("The Candidate").

It was no surprise to me that Jack accepted Jacob's position as his purpose fulfilled. As Jacob literally passes the torch, we wonder just how much changed for Jack in that instant. The survivors in Jack's camp are tasked with killing the Man in Black—something no one is certain is possible.

Through Jack, we will hopefully learn a host of secrets in the finale, like how Jacob left the Island to tell Widmore about the "error of his ways," and what "exact purpose" Widmore was to be fulfilling before Ben killed him. What exactly was the error—the mercenaries, the freighter, or the ideology that inspired the mission? Was his purpose at long last to inform the Man in Black about Desmond? Because that was the last thing he did.

And speaking of Desmond, I can think of no other solution to these questions than that he is able to cause the Oceanic passengers in the flash-sideways to travel to the original timeline—in body or consciousness. Widmore seemed surprised at Desmond's sudden cooperation ("Happily Ever After"), which suggests this was not part of the "failsafe" he had in mind.

If this failsafe had something to do with destroying the Island—like blowing the dam at the Hatch ("Live Together, Die Alone"), then how is that not a threat but an asset to the Man in Black? Perhaps he expects to be transported off the Island the same way Locke was apparently transported out of the Hatch ("Further Instructions").

To be continued...
FEATURED MEDIA: Preorder the Final Season of LOST! 

The Sandman - This ten-volume graphic novel epic by Neil Gaiman follows Dream—one of the Endless beings—from his capture by occultists through his history to his "end" where he is replaced by a new Dream. The Sandman is to comics what LOST is to television.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What If You Got Paid?

There was a time when people were self-sufficient. They worked only when there was work to be done. The rest of the time they spent with their families and friends. Now we have debt and other financial obligations. We have to work to meet these obligations. We do it begrudgingly because somewhere inside we know that most of these obligations could have been avoided with better information and planning.

The trouble is stuff—consumer stuff. None of this stuff amounts to anything really, but the people who created the stuff told us a good story and we bought it. Good for them—they have to eat too—though this raises difficult ethical questions, which I will not discuss here. Suffice it to say, some people create stuff and other people buy the stuff, but it's a house of cards built out of hype, status, and comfort.

TV media creators (for one example) want you to watch their shows so that you'll view the commercials. The commercials drive sales for the businesses being marketed. Increased sales means increased value, which results in more revenue being paid to the media creators. But what does the audience get?

Sadly, the answer is usually a punch in the gut or a knife to the kidney. Media and marketing deliver empty entertainment, funded by useless stuff, financed by shady credit companies who pretend to be your friend. What's in your wallet? Media promotes the lifestyle, while marketing sells the tools to pretend.

Here's the point: there's a lot of money being transferred here, but the viewers don't see a dime that isn't coming out of their pockets. So if they want us to watch their stories, chase a lifestyle, and buy the accessories of that lifestyle, then why not cut us in on the money, too?

What if you got paid to do what they wanted you to do? You watch a show or a movie, you get three friends to watch it with you. How much is that worth to the creators?

A lot.
FEATURED MEDIA: Wall-E - Another great movie from Pixar! 700 years in the future, Earth is overrun by the trash created from its consumer culture. The people have flown to outer space aboard space cruise ships. A lone robot performs his duty of cleaning up the planet until he finds himself on a journey to return the people to the newly sustainable Earth.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Underground is the New Mainstream

Companies have an age. It isn't measured in the years they've been in operation. It isn't measured by the age of any of its employees, partners, or shareholders. It has little to do with the customer base, though it can be used as a gauge of its effects. And last, but not least, a greater age is usually not a good thing—at least, not anymore.

I submit the following colloquialisms: "You're only as old as you feel," and "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Are you starting to catch my drift?

There was a time when older was better. More experience meant a better product, more customer satisfaction, a broader, livelier media image. Those days are gone. Industry is saturated. Media is saturated. Yet the system still values seniority. The ones that float to the top are the biggest and most bureaucratic, while the companies and people that matter are pushed out of the mainstream.

Nevertheless, communication is booming, and those who are looking for innovation are looking to smaller sources. Social leaders with the ability to create media and products that resonate with a smaller, but more invested crowd, are creating a mosaic that is hidden behind the obviously smoke and mirrors of big media. The underground is the new mainstream.

Companies that are young-at-heart—enthusiastic and a little naive—feel so much more like home than a mahogany boardroom, even if it does have 150 years of experience. So what? The best of the best is found in books, and FIT media creators are fighting to put truth out there in the mainstream.

Forget the stream, the riverbed is changing.
FEATURED MEDIA: Launching a Leadership Revolution - The groundbreaking book about servant leadership in the information age.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Heart of a Child, Mind of a Scholar

What we need is less fear. We have been trained by the media, by society, by school that failure is bad. We foster a catalogue of these failures and their supposed, intrinsic, negative value. In a word, we "regret" our lives away. The older we get and the more we listen to what comes our way without thought of implications, the more fearful we become of regrets.

You see, most of us don't really fear failure. We don't like failure. We want to avoid failure. However, the amygdala (what Seth Godin calls "the lizard brain") fears pain in its most general sense. In "caveman" times it was there to keep us alive, but in modern man, it largely causes us to shy away from abstract discomforts. So we fear not the failure, but the baggage or stigma of that failure. We fear regrets.

Young children don't know what regrets are. They lack the social conditioning that produces fear of the past. Their fears are useful, like fear of the stove, or fear of a bully. They don't fear social interactions that are not (in their eyes) overtly threatening. However, the thing that makes children magical creators, is the lack of the very thing that is necessary to be productive—experience.

The challenge is maintaining the heart of a child while gaining the knowledge of a scholar. Knowledge brings both fears and comforts. Those who are inundated with fears seek only their own comfort, while those who are comfortable shut out the knowledge that brings risk and fear. We live in a world of stone-headed economic realists, and starry-eyed "follow-your-heart" idealists.

Neither are in touch with reality. Until we can bridge the gap between these two—develop individuals that are both—we will continue to have a degenerative state of war in our public consciousness.
FEATURED MEDIA: The Anatomy of Peace - This is a remarkable book which brings to light the deepest issue behind all human conflict: the heart at war. When our "way of being" toward others is not founded on a heart at peace, we create conflict in all of our relationships. The challenge is accepting that we are to blame for many of our problems, but we also hold the solution.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"LOST: Across the Sea"

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.

"Across the Sea"

There is both much to say and not much that can be said about this episode. This episode is very central to the show's core mythology as we now understand it. It is the first episode in the series not to feature new footage of any of the Oceanic survivors. And to be quite frank, it could have done without replaying the Adam and Eve sequence from Season 1 ("House of the Rising Sun").

Every question leads to another question.

We now know the root of the Island's mysterious powers, even if we are at a loss to explain its rules. The light inside the Island apparently shares a little piece of itself with every person in the world, so if it goes out, it goes out everywhere. The question is: does each "pocket" of light or energy on the Island have different powers, or had the Dharma Initiative and others just used them in different ways.

If the pockets have different powers and each person has some of the Island's light inside them, then perhaps each person has different "special" abilities. Otherwise, perhaps anyone is capable of seeing dead people or surviving extreme electromagnetism under the right conditions. It isn't clear why the young Man in Black could see the ghost of Claudia, but young Jacob could not. It is also unclear how young Jacob had been sighted by both Sawyer and Desmond approximately 2000 years after he grew into a man—and many days after his death.

Then everyone will follow your rules.

When Jacob pushes his brother into the light, it is the most significant event the series has revealed so far. The Man in Black's "fate worse than death" is to become the Smoke Monster. However, we don't really know what that entails. The light seems to have gone out after the Monster clears the cave, yet if it seems not to have gone out everywhere. If this event is connected to the statements Widmore has made about what would happen if the Man in Black got off the Island, then presumably Jacob's job went from protecting the light to keeping his brother on the Island. Effectively, he changed the rules.

Yet their common past seems to echo throughout the history of the Island. The story of a distressed or sudden birth—where the mother is insistent on the baby's name—is a theme shared by Locke, Ben, and Aaron. The theme of mothers dying violently is prevalent in the Island's history. While the Man in Black killed his foster mother, she killed Jacob's and his biological mother. Ben's mother died in child birth, and the Others under his leadership suffered a plague of pregnant women dying. It is possible that the writers intended to imply that each child is causing his mother's death, much the way that the Man in Black did.

I made it so you can't kill each other.

Currently, the conflicted relationship between Widmore and Ben is a microcosm of the one between Jacob and the Man in Black, I believe, respectively. The two mortal men seem to be locked into the same rules of engagement as the twins. The method or magic by which the woman made that rule is unknown, as is the reason it also applies to the two mortal men.

This concept has always reminded me of the Mark of Cain from the Bible, where God made it so that no one would harm him. Biblical Jacob had a similar protection from God. Though, in neither case was the protection extended to the sibling—Cain having already killed Abel, and Jacob being in hiding from Esau. It is interesting to note that the biblical archetypes (and not the roles of good and evil) are a potential role reversal. Whereas biblical Jacob was encouraged by his mother to be dishonest (he was her favorite), wrestled with an angel (Samael, an angel of death), and went to live among other people, where he built a well; LOST Jacob cannot lie, is not his "mother's" favorite, and yet lives with her in the jungle. It is the Man in Black who wrestles with demons and goes to live with other people where he builds many wells.

Jacob doesn't know how to lie.

The Man in Black's ability to be dishonest seems to be a point of pride for his mother. Even though she vehemently criticizes men and their corrupt ways, she is a murderer and a liar herself. It is the ghost of the twins' biological mother who eventually reveals the truth. Strangely, she reveals it to the young Man in Black, who was told he was special by his "mother." Perhaps being told he was special is what triggered this special ability to see the dead, or perhaps something about his corruptness allows him to see.

Yet again, the ghosts may well be manipulators controlled by a third party whose agenda has yet to be revealed.
FEATURED MEDIA: Preorder the final season!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Story is a Cypher

Give your audience all the secrets of your story, but give it to them in code. Then treat the remainder of your tale as that code's key. The earlier you give this information, the more concise you have to be, and the more central the symbols you use are.

LOST is coming to a close. Only one episode left before the series finale. The show has demonstrated this formula since the pilot episode, and we are only now beginning to understand the significance of symbols from Season 1. I will go more in depth in my weekly LOST post tomorrow.

This approach requires a firm understanding of the world in which your story is told. It doesn't have to have the same rules as the real world, but it has to have and follow its own rules. Moreover, the audience has to get the sense that what is happening (strange as it may be) is happening according to unknown rules. This is difficult to do without revealing secrets. The creator has to demonstrate the patterns of truth and the story's integrity to that truth by using symbols and "microcosms."

The audience is ready to suspend its disbelief when it agrees to partake of your story, but that suspension is limited to the introductory parts. After that, the audience's trust is won by keeping the promises made early on. It is better, I think, not to ask your audience to suspend its disbelief, but to give a story upon which to rest its belief.

The creators ultimately need to know where they stand on deep human issues (issues of nature and nurture, good and evil). Without this understanding, it is impossible to create integrity within the story. Without that integrity, it is impossible to create the stability necessary for a rabid ├╝berfanbase. So a fair foundation of humanity is essential to a megahit.

The symbols and microcosms must be anchored in philosophy, even if its not explicit. In fact, the philosophical discussion should wait until the resolution phase of your story. A tangible code—one which resonates with people—will compel the search for answers, developing loyalty. The answers must then be worthy, or the audience will feel betrayed.
FEATURED MEDIA: LOST - The groundbreaking epic about life and purpose, and more specifically, getting lost on the path.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bells and Whistles

My wife and I are planning to restore a 1965 MGB, hence my previous post. For those of you who are in the dark about this particular vehicle, as I was, let me explain the project. MG (which stands for Morris Garages) manufactured several models of small british sports cars. Like many higher end automobiles, MGs are known only by model number (or in this case model letter). The MGB followed the MGA and so on.

What's interesting about the '65 MGB is that we're told it tends to increase in value (appreciate) faster than later cars in its class. Also, the parts for restoration are surprisingly inexpensive, and more importantly, available. Contrast this with the late 30s - early 40s Bentley, which was also in the shop. The Bentley, which is a notoriously expensive, hand built automobile to begin with is apparently very difficult and expensive to find parts for.

The MGB is both more rare and more distinguished than an old Camaro or Mustang (granted those are muscle cars), but a relatively simple and inexpensive undertaking for a beginner (or someone who wants an innovative way to own a car outright without saving up $8000 in the bank). A classic car (especially a sports car) is a good place, in my understanding, to put your money. By all means, do your research!

The lessons that can be learned from a tangible investment like this are numerous, and most of the principles apply to more intangible ventures like building a business. Also, not much is under the hood of those old cars that isn't in our current cars... that is to say, not much is under the hood of those old cars, period. One wonders what all the modern complexity is for, except giving the mechanics at the dealership "job security."

By and large, many of the additions to automobiles since the fifties have been about style and comfort—the "modern conveniences." These things aren't bad, but they served customers in a boom-time when those customers had money to spend on such things. Media continued to hype the status of these luxuries far beyond the boom cycle, to the point that we're really unaware of what "barebones" means. It's a problem because, economically, we as a culture don't know how to scale back except to cut the money we "spend" on investments.

Oops. A true investment (something that gives you more money later) is the last thing you want to stop putting money into, and the first place you ought to start when you carve out anything extra. A classic car—one that's actually an investment—is both a fun and utilitarian solution in tough times.

Why buy junk, when you can buy an classic?
FEATURED MEDIA: The World's Fastest Indian - Based on the true story of Burt Munro, a New Zealander whose dream is to race his restored and modified 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle on the salt flats of Utah.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The DIY Factory

Have you ever stopped to think that 66-75% of the cost of a car comes from the labor? I never have! But here's another question: what if you learned how to build a car from scratch? How much could you save?

Obviously, most people couldn't even fit that into their brains. A car is just too complicated. That may be true, but a car is also a logical system, with logical step-by-step manuals. We've all built Legos. Maybe you're just too busy to learn, which is fair. However, not having the time is a matter of re-examining the situation.

Few things are better bonding projects than rebuilding a classic car, and even fewer amount to good investments. Yes, modern cars are complicated with their computers and bells and whistles, but cars that constitute classics are not that tough. The biggest drawback is money and perhaps the availability of parts, but both problems can be normally addressed by simply delaying the finish date. If it's a classic, it isn't depreciating like that brand new sedan—so what's the rush?

I refer you to the scene from LOST where Hurley is a kid helping his dad fix up an old Camaro. It's a milestone in Hurley's life where the unfinished car represents an incomplete relationship with his dad, who leaves the car and his young son with the message, "You make your own luck." Years later, the car remains unfinished, but Hurley never sold it. Fathers have this sort of bond with their sons, for better or worse.

That brings me to my usual connection with media and marketing. We're sold on buying the newest, most expensive, right now, on credit. But that is not intelligent. I don't mean to judge, but it's not. We have all done it, plan to do it, even think it's a great idea because a car is an investment. Largely though, they're not. What that debt hustle does is keeps people employed doing the labor (the 66-75%) so they can afford the debt they should have been educated against in the first place.

With the auto industry in its current slump, we're all largely aware that it isn't even keeping people employed. So what if we started preserving history by doing the labor ourselves—what Oliver DeMille calls mini-factories. Smaller DIY projects like this are not only going mainstream, they're essential to this country's economy righting itself. If you're looking to change your economic future, forget the big factory and join the DIY factory—you might save 66-75%.
FEATURED MEDIA
LOST - The groundbreaking epic series that spans a whole range of human issue from the petty to heart-breaking. An odyssey of fate, faith, and sci
The Coming Aristocracy - A phenomenal book about the current class-based economic system in America, how it's failing, and what individuals can do about it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"LOST: The Candidate"

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 Candidate"

What a powerful episode this was! We discover that "The Candidate" was a trick title. This episode does not reveal who the final candidate to replace Jacob is (I think it's clearly Jack), though it does eliminate three other candidates.

The title refers to Locke in the flash-sideways being a candidate for an experimental spinal surgery. This becomes the center for discussion of this episode's main theme, "letting go." Locke refuses the surgery because he cannot forgive himself for turning his father into a vegetable.

It is interesting that Jack is now the man of faith in both timelines. Each timeline invokes Locke's former belief. Jack says, "I wish you believed me," as Locke wheels away after refusing the surgery. In the Island timeline, Jack tells the Man in Black that it was John Locke who told him not to leave the Island.

They attempt to defy the Man in Black by getting on the sub without him, and inadvertently fall into his trap. In a reversal of his usual style of reactionary leadership, Jack implores Sawyer to leave the bomb alone. He reasons that the Man in Black needs them dead, but is "not allowed" to kill them himself. By messing with the bomb, Sawyer takes on the responsibility for killing them.

It was, however, Sayid's idea to pull the wires. Understanding that Sawyer's actions have placed them in jeopardy, Sayid carries the bomb as far away from them as he can. He reveals his goodness by sacrificing himself for them.

The explosion gives them an escape route, but injures Sawyer and pins Sun behind some rubble. Unwilling to let go of his wife but unable to free her, Jin drowns with Sun—their hands clasped to the end.

And at last, the story confirms that the Man in Black is the greater evil between him and Widmore. Despite his callous attitude, Widmore is attempting to protect them—a plan which only fails because Sayid apparently does not feel the pain of the sonic fence and was therefore able to shut the power down.

The quality of character demonstrated by the candidates seems to be the only thing capable of foiling the Man in Black's plans. Ultimately, the candidate who replaces Jacob will be the one who stands on principles (no pun intended) and refuses to be corrupted.
FEATURED MEDIA: Preorder the final season!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

April '10: The Month in Posts

I have decided to narrow this month down to three posts that are particularly diverse, yet seem to resonate with one another. The plan is certainly coming together, I hope everyone is beginning to see where we can go in the future. Enjoy.

Failed Marketing - April 16, 2010
What I propose is an additional "sophistication" rating. For example, if a person dislikes "R" rated content, but is dissatisfied with the lack of intellectual challenge in "PG-13" movies, that person should be able to select "PG-13" content with an "25+" story. By contrast, if a person has a high tolerance for "R" content, but isn't looking for a challenge, he should be able to select a movie with a "13-17" story. (read more)
A Storyteller's Promise - April 24, 2010
It seems to me that every story comes with a promise. This promise is threefold. First, the promise is to conclude the story. Second, the promise is to balance the equation. Third, the promise is that the ending is worth the time spent listening. This is a sort of unwritten law which governs our reading, listening, and viewing experiences—a natural law, perhaps. (read more)
Based on a False Story - April 25, 2010
You could argue that doctors, lawyers, and cops are a part of our contemporary life, and therefore a part of the culture thereof. This is a fair argument, but allow me to ask: how often do you associate with these professions? Unless you work in one of those three fields, have a medical condition, or are a criminal, you likely don't enter that world. So why the media coverage, and at what cost? (read more)

Thank You For Smoking

I was at the bar last night (gasp!) because I've been craving hot wings. Brady's Bar in Traverse City, MI has the best wings I've ever had. It's a little place which caters to a more laid-back older crowd, what with its hunting and fishing themed decor. It's a great place to meet and socialize because the music is always low, it's rarely crowded, and there's never a cover.

Michigan recently passed a law banning smoking from all public buildings (including bars). The law even bans smoking on patios and requires that bar owners attempt to restrict smoking in the parking lot. It was by complete coincidence that we where there on May 1st, the day the law went into effect. I'm not a smoker, though many of my friends are. I am however, an advocate of freedom.

To me, the choice to smoke or not to smoke should be in the hands of the individual—a freedom that is increasingly under fire by activist groups—or at least in the hands of the bar owners. There are many, many smokeless bars all throughout the state already. (Most restaurants that have a bar have been smoke free for at least a decade.) We all know that smoking poses health risks, and that second hand smoke is no exception.

However, second hand smoke is as much of a choice as is first hand smoke. Despite what the media says, second hand smoke is not as bad as first hand smoke for at least two reasons. One, the smoker's lungs absorb many of the harmful chemicals, therefore reducing a lit cigarette's toxins by a certain degree. Second, the smoker has a regular habit and is exposed to smoke more regularly than a non-smoker in a bar.

The most upsetting thing about this experience was the group of middle-aged women from the local hospital who where apparently doing a pub-crawl to hand out "I [heart] MI smoke free air" stickers. I refused a sticker due mostly to their hypocrisy. Excessive smoking may kill more people annually than drinking, but alcohol destroys more families, kills more young people (who would otherwise quit as they get older), and damages more property than smoking.

What we need is more innovative education about both smoking and alcohol. What we need is more tact. The anti-smoking mantras are just white noise to people, or worse, they're outright irritating and oppressive. Don't we learn anything from history? I appreciate their cause, and applaud them for standing up for their principles—but where were they before they had the state on their side? Not in the bar, that's for sure... it's too smokey.
FEATURED MEDIA: Thank You for Smoking - Nick Naylor is a tobacco lobbyist, whose job it is to fight off anti-smoking policies and other threats to business. However, despite what most people think, this movie is not about smoking. That's just the platform. This movie is about personal choice, and the ability to argue your point. It is a must-see for any free thinker, and a movie that should be recommended to and discussed with "closed-minded" people.