Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lost about The Variable

While it wasn't in the same ballpark as The Constant, The Variable is a darn good episode and delivers exactly what we expect from Lost. Four out of five stars.

IMO, the episode did what this show does best: it used flashbacks to not only answer and create the mysteries surrounding the plot, but the episode fleshed out the history of the characters and makes them even more compelling to watch. While I had some issues as to what happened outside of the flashbacks (the 1977 island scenes), the strength of how they presented Faraday’s character and how that propelled the overall story eclipsed most of the problems I had with the story.

Ok. That’s the praise. Here are the criticisms.

The "Daniel Faraday comes clean regarding what he knows about the island" description of the episode was certainly disingenuous. While we certainly learned more about Faraday, he certainly didn't "come clean" with what he knows with the other survivors. He told Jack that he doesn't belong, that he needed the bomb to stop The Incident, and that he believes that people can change the past. That's pretty slim pickings when it comes to what he knows about the island.

What Faraday did on the island in 1977 was to planting a seed of doubt in Jack regarding his destiny, telling Dr. Chang to evacuate the entire island (with presumably their one submarine), and then told Jack and Kate that using the hydrogen bomb would change the future.

As to the first item (talking to Jack about destiny), that felt like an incredibly forced scene to me. I could almost see the hands of the writers steering characters this way and that. Faraday shows up on the island, runs to Jack's house, quickly states that Jack doesn't belong, and then runs out without any further explanation to the Orchid station. Not only doesn't it make a lick of sense, but it was blatantly obvious to be forced scene by the writers to dribble out information. Another great example of this is Hurley having absolutely no idea about the Sawyer & crew being in 1954. After everything the survivors have been through, it seems insane to think that they haven't at least told each other the basics of what happened since they last saw each other. I absolutely hate it when characters in Lost act stupid in order to perpetuate on-screen drama, as it reminds me of the annoying bits of Season 3 (like the Others being upset that the survivors don’t trust them) instead of the far more believable scenes of Seasons 1 & 4.

As to the second item, while the photo of Jack, Hurley and Kate brings Faraday back to the island, what prompted Faraday to suddenly run to the Orchid Station? How does he know that the energy under the Swan and Orchid station was going critical before he eavesdrops on Dr. Chang and the construction foreman? In his conversation with Miles after Dr. Chang leaves, it’s clear that Faraday knows that some of the Dharma folks (like Miles and his mother) will be evacuated. How he learned it is a mystery, and again, Faraday certainly didn’t say anything to give us a clue about it.

The third item, Faraday’s variable theory of time-travel and using Jughead to change history, came totally out of left field. After watching the concept of "what happened, happened" being hammered into our heads for at least an entire season, I was fairly surprised to see Faraday-the-Time-Travel-Expert suddenly claim that free will supersedes destiny. The writers are clearly setting up Faraday’s plan with Jughead and the Swan to be the center point of season finale, and the kick off for whatever twist carries us into the final season. While I’m fine with that, I’m completely at a loss to figure out why Faraday suddenly believes that free will trumps destiny. Everything we’ve seen has shown us otherwise, and frankly Faraday’s death and his mother’s foreknowledge doesn’t give me a lot of faith that he is barking up the right tree.

Erasing the history of the previous five seasons sounds like a really dubious place for the show to go, but that’s exactly what Faraday is proposing. It’s dangerously close to the “Then They Woke Up” method of storytelling, and hopefully it’s just a plot device to motivate Jack. Right now, I am assuming that Jack will use Jughead to create/stop/deal with The Incident and the results will be what has always happened, and thus history will not be erased. Unfortunately, that would mean that time travel expert’s variable theory is wrong, and so Faraday would essentially die for no logical reason, except to provide a plot point.

Pretty crappy options, if you ask me.

As for other items…

Dr. Chang’s research is classified, but he’ll tell the construction foreman that they are trying to manipulate time?

Those submarines are fast. It’s only been a couple days since the new Dharma recruits were dropped off, so a copy of the photo of the new recruits must have been sent back with the sub, and Faraday and the Swan crew in Michigan immediately came back to the island. Perhaps the island is in the Atlantic now? ;)

Desmond doesn’t own bulletproof groceries, and he beat the crap out of Ben after being shot. This guy is still my favorite character on the show. Pity he gets hardly any screen time in Season 5…

Speaking of lack of screen time, Jin is sliding into irrelevance. Beyond his scenes with Russeau in the 80s, and running around the Flame Station for an episode looking for Sun, he’s pretty much been a glorified extra in Season 5. His contribution to this episode is saying that he won’t leave without Sun during the meeting, and then he vanishes into obscurity again.

Penny’s mother isn’t Eloise Hawking, since we know that Widmore was banished from the island after having a kid with an outsider. Since Hawking is an Other, clearly Penny’s unknown mom is that outsider.

Why did Widmore need to sacrifice his relationship with his daughter, and why did he bring it up? Hawking’s real sacrifice of her son makes Widmore’s line seem even more pathetic, and the slap he received that much more deserved. From the cunning mastermind and ex-leader of the Others, that was a boneheaded line from Widmore.

Faraday experimented on himself (and then Theresa) after Desmond’s visit during The Constant. Theresa becomes catatonic and Faraday loses his memory. The only explanation I have for why Faraday’s notebook is filled with Dharma notes (like the Orchid symbol) is that he became mentally unstuck in time during the experiment. He lost his memory, but periods of lucidity allowed him to jot down fragments of what he learned, thus filling the notebook with valuable, but enigmatic, information. I thought that might be why Faraday knows about what is happening with the Swan and Orchid stations, but he’s dead by the time The Incident occurs. How would it explain how he knows that there is only six hours until something catastrophic happens to the Swan, or that some of the Dharma folks (like Miles and his mom) will escape the island? Unless his time travel experiment was even stranger that previously assumed, Faraday never experiences any of this first hand.

Ok. Enough nitpicking. Despite all of the above, just like with Charlie’s death, Faraday’s death sets up Jack & crew to really shine in the final few hours of the season.

The preview for Follow The Leader looks amazing, and I’m sure that combined with the Incident, I’m going to be a very happy camper.

I can’t wait until next week!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A poll to talk about over tea

I just saw this on CNN:
A national Gallup poll conducted last week finds that 48 percent of Americans say the amount of federal income taxes they pay is about right. That's two points higher than the forty-six percent of those questioned who felt that the taxes they pay were too high. It's also the most positive assessment on taxes that Gallup's measured in six years.

"Most of the movement in the Gallup poll came among people who make less than $75,000 a year," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "A majority of people in that category say their taxes are not too high, and they are the ones that the Obama administration has been targeting with their tax policy and their message on taxes. Maybe that message is being heard."

When I'm reading about the astro-turf tea party protests, I can't help laughing when I read stuff like this. Then again, I can't get worked up about the right being outraged over Obama over-spending, considering that the same people were cheerleading the Republican party for eight years of big government excess and spending.

I mean really, what's different? Oh yeah! Their party isn't in power anymore, so I guess it's ok to start screaming about small government again. *snort* Such hipocrates...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

From Spin to Reality

After all the fire and brimestone regarding Jindal, Sanford and Palin refusing to accept any stimulus money, guess who caved and asked for money from the feds? I just read this in Politico:
The list of governors threatening to decline federal stimulus money last month read like a list of Republicans considering running for president in 2012: Govs. Mark Sanford, Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin led the anti-stimulus charge.

But what began with a bang is ending with something closer to a whimper. All three of those governors have been forced to scale back their expectations, to varying degrees, as the push of conservative philosophy gave way to the pull of political reality.

All three found that praise from the conservative movement in Washington meant nothing to furious state legislators of both parties. And in the end, along with other conservative Republican governors, the three submitted letters in recent days asking to be eligible for federal funds, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget confirmed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

[Lost] Can they change the future?

No. Faraday says quite clearly at the beginning of the first episode of the fifth season that you cannot change the future. He goes so far as saying that attempting to change time will always fail. He says in that episode that what ever happens, happened.

The survivors who are currently in the Dharmaville barracks in 1977 are only simply watching a scene unfold. While they are participants, no matter what they do, young Ben will have always been taken by Richard to the Temple. Ben eventually loses his innocence and becomes the amoral killer we know in 1977, and that happens no matter what the survivors do. Not even Sayid shooting young Ben will alter this fact. It's now simply a reason why he had to go the Temple.

That said, Faraday also says that Desmond is the only person that the rules don't apply to, as he is uniquely and miraculously special. Unlike everyone else, Desmond remembers in his present whenever something alters his past. This is because the past and future can potentially be changed around Desmond.

Even so, the universe will course correct around any attempted changes around Desmond. Remember, he couldn't save Charlie from dying, no matter what he did

Desmond did prevent Charlie from being electricuted, drowning while trying saving to save Claire, and being killed by one of Russeau's traps. While Desmond ultimately couldn't stop Charlie from drowning in the Looking Glass station, the universe ultimately did "course correct" in order to insure that Charlie died and that the timeline was restored. Despite that, Desmond was able to change the future, as Charlie wasn't never electrocuted.

That is the extent to which the future could be changed. This means that the our survivors can only make negligable changes the future at best, if they are able to make any changes at all.

As they cannot change the past, they cannot create an alternate timeline. There is only one timeline, and it unfolds the way it has always unfolded. If there are any discrepancies, then it's like as Miles said, we just haven't experienced how it all turns out yet.

Now, it's possible that Faraday is wrong and everything written up above could off base, but I think Lost spelled out exactly what's going on with time travel in the very first episode of the season.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Talk about The Party of No...

After all the hullabaloo about the alternative GOP budget, I was a bit surprised to read this in Politico.

About twice as many Republicans (38 or 20 percent of their conference) voted against the GOP alternative budget -- than Democrats (20 or 8 percent) who nixed their party's spending plan.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


If you are accused of commiting a crime, you get a trial with a jury of your peers, and if you are found guilty, you have to pay the piper.

Losing an election should never be an excuse for dismissing criminal charges. When is the last time you've heard of the government asking a judge to drop the charges *after* the jury has convicted the defendant? Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Justice Department is doing in the corruption case of former Senator Ted Stevens.

Christ, this article is infuriating. What is next? Dismissing ex-Rep. William Jefferson's 16 corruption charges because he lost his election?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Justice Department asked a federal court Wednesday to "set aside the verdict and dismiss the indictment" in the corruption case against former Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, court documents show.

Stevens, 85, was convicted in October on seven counts of lying on mandatory financial disclosure forms.

Stevens hid "hundreds of thousands of dollars of freebies" he received from an oil field services company and its CEO, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Matthew Friedrich said.

Many of the alleged free services were given as part of a renovation of Stevens' Alaska home.

Stevens maintained his innocence even after the conviction, and his sentencing has been delayed amid charges by an FBI agent of prosecutorial misconduct.

Stevens lost a re-election bid in November to Democrat Mark Begich, who had been Anchorage's mayor.

Stevens was appointed to the Senate in December 1968.