Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lost Vegas Review

It's not easy to write a book. I've written one, and you can't read it, even if you ask nicely. It's really bad. I finished it my senior year of college as a directed study, and while some parts of it are OK, the majority of it is unfiltered dreck. And I was really trying hard to write something good, too, at least most of the time. At least half of the time. Three nights out of a hundred, at least. Maybe four. OK, I wrote it drunk.

So, like I say, it's really hard to write a book. It's even harder to write one that works; thus I must say with some small authority that Pauly must have worked his Rutherford-the-Brave off (if you know what I mean and I doubt that you do) in order to pull off Lost Vegas.

It's Pauly's memoir of being in Vegas at the height of WSOP madness. It also is about Lime Toss. It's also about desperation. You'll see.

You should check it out. It's on sale here. It's not a slanket, but it would still make a darn nice Christmas present for your kids, provided your kids are degenerates*.

Oh, here's the review I wrote for Al Can't Hang over at Poker From The Rail.

*They are.
___________

From March 21-23 of 1970, the Mint 400, an off-road omni-vehicular race of dune buggies, motorcycles, and other modes of transportation both 2-wheeled and 4-wheeled, tore through the desert outside of Las Vegas in a miasma of dust and diesel fumes. Journalist and madman (not in that order) Hunter S. Thompson, himself tearing around in a miasma of ether and psychedelic pharmaceuticals, was at that race, in body if not entirely in spirit. He was on assignment to cover the race, and what he produced was a book that was almost entirely not about the race at all. It was about . . . well, that’s up to you. It was about bats, for sure. Beyond that it all sort of starts to blurrrrrrrrr . . .

I say all that to say this:

In 2005, a young fellow name of Pauly “McGrupp” McGuire, journalist and madman (not in that order) was in that same town, murking his way through a fusty fug of Axe body spray, casino cleanser, cheap perfume and deadbeat desperation — by which I mean the World Series of Poker. Pauly was on assignment to cover that event, which by all accounts he did, if you read LasVegasVegas.com or his own fine blog Tao of Poker. Out of that experience, and several years following, he wrote a book of his own, Lost Vegas.

I’m here to tell you, brothers and sisters of the congregation: Lost Vegas is about as interested in poker as Fear and Loathing was in the Mint 400. Sure, WSOP happening in the background, but Lost Vegas is not about poker. It’s almost not about poker as a mission statement. Instead, it’s about being in that time, and that place. More specifically, it’s about being Paul McGuire in Las Vegas; there during the World Series of Poker, sure, and covering it, sure, but that’s just the wallpaper. These are impressions of a lifeguard on duty when a singularly large and greasy wave swelled out from the sea of the American Dream, lapped up on shore, elevated a few, killed many others, and, for the rest of us, got a bit of sand between our toes.

So yeah: poker. But I’d be hard pressed to tell you that there’s a single hand of poker recounted. Bracelets are won and championships are mentioned in throwaway lines, as just another part of the scenery and the madness. It’s as if Hamlet is murdered offstage by running spades, while Rosencranz and Guildenstern spend an entire fascinating chapter playing a made up game called “lime toss.”

This is not a bad thing. It’s actually a good thing. You’ve already read enough about poker, haven’t you? It’s all on the Tao if you haven’t, and here on the Full Tilt blogs, and many other fine sources. See, that was the Lost Vegas revelation to me. I’d expected something somewhat different: a tell-all about the pros you know, perhaps, or something sordid about Norman Chad’s personal life. Or, perhaps, it was something else. A piece about how awesome it is to be up front and personal as Dreams Are Made® and Only In Vegas® and It Could Happen To YOU!

Nope. This is not the propaganda. It’s not even The Truth, or at least not The Truth of Poker. It’s more like The Truth of Pauly. In short, it’s a memoir; I suspect the first of several. Don’t buy it if you want to find out what Phil Ivey is really like. Buy it if you want to know what it’s like to be in Vegas because you have no place else to be, to be love with something you hate, to be consumed by what you consume. To come back to something because it’s all you’ve got. For Pauly, it seems that poker is the sore tooth he can’t stop touching because it feels so much better to touch it than not to.

I have a growing sense I’m making the book sound like a downer. There’s a very good reason for that: It actually IS a downer. However, I should be clear, it’s not always so. Lost Vegas doesn’t try to make the Poker Dream seem like anything other than a pretty mirage, nor does it try to inflate its author into the big damn hero; however, in the cracks and seams of the seamy side, it finds tiny transcendent moments. When a book manages to be honest about the shortcomings of its own subject, it can make the beauty more honest, too, somehow more hard-earned. There’s not gold at the end of the rainbow, but the silver lining, it expands.

Paul McGuire wrote a book, y’all. Why not pick it up? It’s a safe bet you’re not going to read another poker book like it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Your Weekly Dose Of Awesome

Give it about 30 seconds to scramble your eggs.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Your Weekly Dose Of Crazy

Just doing my part to help fight the war against the war against the War On Christmas. Here's a great big Denny's skillet platter full of "Christmas", courtesy of those goofy 32-year-old "teenagers" of 90210.

After about a minute of this, your brain will fall out and start crawling toward the nearest vat of spiked eggnog.

200 Christmases In 2 Minutes from Cinefamily on Vimeo.




Ludichristmas, guys. It's Ludichristmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Two Point Oh

So what did I miss?

I've been underwater for a while. Let's leave it at this: About two months ago it became clear that it would be a very good thing professionally if I completed a massive and complex project in a (relatively) very short period of time. So I've spent the time between now and then with a handful of very talented people doing something that is (a) completely incredible; and (b) completely uninteresting to almost everybody.

Let's say I'm looking forward to writing something other than tariff code. Did you know that entirely one percent of the code is given over to Zinc? The umbrellas are jammed in with the riding crops like cattle in steerage, while zinc is sitting first class all by itself. It's discriminatory.

Ahem.

I'm back. Feel free to return me to your feeds if you like. Alert the media, and also alert the media bias.

*

Honestly, I am mulling over what the blog is going to become. I think I've mentioned before that I feel like I've pretty much said my peace on the topic of poker. I'm still playing, and I'm sure that the muse will strike from time to time, but in all truth if I'm going to keep this thing interesting, it's going to move in a lot of different directions. Not that anybody actually cares about this (at least I don't think so -- let's say I probably weeded out anybody looking for serious poker commentary a while ago), but it does leave me as writer with the question, 'what else?' I guess it seems to me that whatever-this-thing-is is on the cusp of an evolutionary leap.

Or, you know, maybe I'll just go dark for another few months. I'm a fickle goat.

What next?

I guess I'll start off with some unfinished business. I never did tell you what the worst thing I ever did was, did I? Guess it's about time.

And fiction, of course. Hopefully, there will always be fiction.

I think I am going to start a semi-regular political article, so if there's a topic you'd like to hear from me on, let me know. I do requests, as you all should well know by now.

I am pretty sure I'll have to start writing movie reviews again, before FilmChaw becomes a permanent fifedom of the Real Dawn Summers. Regular posting is nine tenths of possession.

And I'm looking forward to writing music stuff, before Pauly wonders who this "Goat" is he has on his contributors list over on Coventry.

And, if God and AlCantHang is willing, BBT6: The Sickening would be a great time to revive Donkavatar.

Doses of crazy and awesome for everybody!

I guess we'll see.

Be excellent to each other.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm Not Dead

I'm just resting.

Lovely blog, The Goat Speaks - beautiful plumage.

Be back in a few weeks.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Your Weekly Dose Of Awesome

This is awesome both because it is well acted and funny, and because a year earlier, I wrote a freakishly similar story with basically the exact same premise.

"We are two peas in a pod! Just two peas in a pod!"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Your Weekly Dose Of Crazy

Crazy continues to bleed into awesome. I bet you've seen some of these before, but what is astonishing to me is that there is SO MUCH of this sort of thing on film. Even accounting for some of it being staged, after a while the sheer number of close calls starts to have a trancelike effect. By minute six, you'll probably at least half-believe in guardian angels.

Check it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The New Deal

All right, I'm putting my foot down. Enough is enough. I've taken all I can stands, and I can't stands no more. This far, no farther. The buck stops here. No more fooling around. You can't get fooled again. I've had it up to here.

I'm talking about the nicknames for poker hands. Aces are rockets or bullets, kings are cowboys, Queen three is the gay waiter, fives are presto. Enough. From the Bellagio to www.casino.org, from Pacific Poker to . . . I don't know, is there an Atlantic Poker? -- these are the names that are used.

I say no more. Let's change it up a bit.


AA - Ah, the best hand in Hold 'Em. Unfortunately, I and everybody I know thinks that this means we are entitled to win with them every time we get them, and thus the losses hurt not just from chips lost but from a sense of entitlement thwarted. Aces are like the spoiled trust fund kid with serious entitlement issues who is just begging to get punched in the face while the crowd cheers his pain. Let's call these Spencer Pratts, or just "Pratts" for short.

AK - I'm going to refer to this one as Chthulu, because it seems very powerful, and also it eats my soul. Remember, when you find AK in the void, the void finds AK into you.

AJ - I recommend we call this one The Leno. It's so much more inferior to any other hand that it will ever meet in a big showdown that you're just infuriated when it comes out on top over greater value.

JJ - Call them Doc Hollidays, and you're a daisy if you do. Good to have in a fight, but eventually they'll die hacking blood into a doily.

JT - This is a hand that a whole lot of players seem incapable of folding, usually (I suspect) because it is actually a playable hand, and once a certain type of player has decided to play with a hand, no action after that decision can change their decision, even though JT is really at the bottom of the playable hand stack. Let's use the initials then, and, as a public service announcement of sorts, start calling the hand Just Trash.

T4o - I say we name this hand The Greatest. I think it just needs some attention and a self-esteem boost. It's been folded like 600,782 times in a row.

72 - No, I'm kidding. This will always be The Hammer. Don't mess with the best.

23 - It's the hand you'll never see coming when it guts you on that 223 board. Impossible to imagine that somebody has it, but under the right circumstances it can destroy the mighty. Let's call deuce trey Frodo and Samwise.


More suggestions?

Implied Odds

As soon as it turned up on my screen I knew it was trouble. It was the type of flop to make a 50 year monk break his oath of poverty. It was the same kind of flop that convinced Julius Caesar to ignore the sleek headed men around him. It was the fifth shot of tequila. The tipping point.

The time was last Friday, late, and the scene was a typical one. Poker Stars was not so much a room I hadn't given up on as it was a room that had yet to give up on me, and 180-seaters were just anonymous enough. My hand was pocket Jacks, otherwise known as My Two Sons. The action, juicy. My sentences, choppy, terse as a chaw of jerky recently discovered under the car seat.

My name's Goat. I carry a badge. And a hammer. I look into the hand histories that nobody else will look at. What I find isn't always pretty to look at, but looking at it keeps the lights on. Except this time I was the monkey dancing on the hook.

I'm not much of one to expect things in this life. The only thing I can count on is what's between my ears. That, and the fact that a couple Old Fashioned will get you where you need to go most of the time, that the joints which are the best online casinos rarely have time for me, and that a snub nose in the small of the back makes a better bribe than a C-note slid under the desk. Those are my expectations, and I don't expect to add to the list any time soon, certainly not with some kind of wet-eared nonsense like "the best hand holds."

But now this flop had come and dropped a golden monkey wrench on the felt.

"Mr. Goat," she simpered. "I've just offered you top set and it's uncoordinated."

I smiled and tried not to eye her Jack of hearts. It was begging me to fall in love.

"That's very pretty," I said, maybe a little too quickly. "What's your business with me?"

The flop slinked around my desk and pushed back my hat. The sort of thing that if a man did it I'd be glad enough to show him his throat, but now I was just glad enough to let her do it.

"Slow play, Mr. Goat." she whispered. "You're four-handed, and you know that one of these monkeys will shove on you."

I didn't want to believe her, but it made decent sense, as far as these sorts of things go. "And what's your interest in this? You want a cut?"

She laughed. "Hardly, Mr. Goat. I simply want to prove to you that I can be trusted. After that . . . well. After that, I may need to ask something of you that will make me need to trust you."

Never listen to a flop with looks that make you want to stop listening, I thought, but I checked all the same. One of my opponents, ImTheBoss, pushed forward 10,000 even, about a third of his stack and about a quarter of mine. It folded to me.

"Just call," the flop said. She offered her cigarette in a cheroot for me to light. I obliged both requests.

The turn was a Queen that put a second heart on the board. I didn't like the look of that. Neither did ImTheBoss, it seemed. He checked.

"Check again," she said, with a toothy smile. "Draw him in."

"The hell I will, sister." I snarled, and then I saw her mask crack, just for a moment. She was good. Very good.

"But . . . "

"You just wanted to lead me down the primrose path, didn't you? But when the bell tolls, there's just one sap here it'll be tolling for. I'm contacting Stars support."

She threw herself at me. "No, Mr. Goat! No, I can't go back to --"

"Back?"

"Never mind."

"Yes. Never mind. That's good, 'never mind.' Never mind that he's sitting there with 21 outs. Just check and give him the goods, and never mind who's goods get ganked."

I shoved, and the flop smiled, letting me know I'd been guffed. ImTheBoss tabled his pocket ladies with a grin.

"Thank you, Mr. Goat. I don't think I'll have any further use of your services."

Never trust a flop.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Your Weekly Dose Of Crazy

Perhaps this is your weekly dose of wrong. Or your weekly dose of Things That Should Not Be. Or maybe even your weekly dose of awesome.

This is my weekly dose of I Don't Even Know Anymore.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Worst Thing I've Ever Done 03 - Yute & the Peanut Butter YumYums


Everything fell apart immediately. Isn't that just like everything?

The first shoe to drop was the Mad Valdez, who decided that he just couldn't get out of work the next weekend for the shoot. This was most perplexing, as Valdez had been working for the same large independent book chain for the past five years, a stretch that was sure to give him some kind of seniority over the summer vacation college kids when it came to claiming schedule time. But this was Valdez for you. He could slide through logic like a minnow through a lobster cage.

"What do you mean, you can't get out of work? You still work weekends?"

"I'm sorry, Goat. I used up my last favor. I had to do some fancy footwork just to get away last weekend."

"You used your last favor on this trip last weekend?" I asked.

"Yeah."

"So . . . you used your last possible day off to get away for a time when we didn't actually need you?"

"Yeah."

"And did you know when you got the time off that you were calling in your last favor?"

"Yeah."

"So, last weekend, which you knew we weren't going to need you, during which weekend we were making plans which included you, did you know at that time that you weren't going to be able to get the time off?"

"Yeah."

"Makes sense to me. So there's nothing you can do, is that what you're telling me?"

"You have no idea how hard it is to get a break in this schedule, Goat."

I gave up. The guy was way too meek to throw around any advantage like seniority, possibly because he didn't even realize he had any advantage. In any event, the central character of the central skit was not going to be played by the guy for whom I'd written it. It was going to have to be Morgan, I decided. The guy could bring a crazy vibe to things. He was probably the only one of us who could pull it off, but he was probably going to be a little too normal no matter how broadly he carried it off. The whole thing would play darker and more uncomfortable than I had envisaged. So it goes.

So, Morgan was in as Tommy Falicki Girl Scout, . But that meant that he'd be playing the Tommy part in the governor skit too, which meant that he couldn't play the governor. Furthermore, he'd been cast in both the Stu and Jerry skit with me and the Old Farts Commemorative Coin skit with Valdez and Lee. (Three young guys sitting around in old age makeup doing Grandpa Simpson impressions -- what joy. I'd been happy to cast other members of our nascent troupe in the thing.) That meant that Morgan was going to have by far the most time on set -- which would be just fine, except that Morgan was also the guy who had expressed the least desire to do this thing. Not that he wasn't interested, he was, it's just that he was also equally not interested. Either way, really, was OK with him. Resting the entire enterprise on Morgan's rather ambivalent shoulders was foolhardy at best, and . . . well, also foolhardy at worst. It was foolhardy; that's my point.

Clearly, I needed another cast member to fill the gaps. The problem was that I knew of no other people who were both a) definitely capable of acting and b) contactable by me in these pre-Facebook days. I decided to throw a Haily Mary. The long bomb to end all long bombs.

I asked Yute.

Yute was the team leader in my department at work, a little guy with a Southern Indiana accent and an infectious gregarious nature. Almost ridiculously competent, full of energy, good hustle, could take initiative. He was clearly one of the best we had.

Here's the thing: The competent career guy was just Yute's alter ego. His Bruce Wayne, if you will. Off hours, Yute was the most amazing drunk you've ever met, the Batman of booze. By six o'clock PM on Wednesday he'd be as drunk as Winston Churchill, the center of the table of nine to fivers, ordering shots and slaying everybody with whatever popped into his skull, which was usually of the most inappropriate possible content and delivery. He was crazy, but I also knew that he was deeply, deeply funny, and probably game for something as odd as traveling a few hundred miles north to shoot comedy skits with his boss and a bunch of strangers. He had a certain spontaneous comic genius, if it could be harnessed.

This was a pretty big 'if'.

I have to tell you this, if you haven't ever asked somebody who works with you if they're interested in shooting comedy with you up in Ann Arbor for a weekend . . . well, there's not an un-awkward way of doing that, so just jump right in with an awkward way. The amazing thing is this: Yute said, "sure!" And that's how I found myself shooting up after close of business on Friday with my ultra competent office lieutenant, as well as a guy who I knew would likely be putting on the booze bat-suit and getting batshit hilarious soony. I'd already called Tiff, who as director needed to know that Valdez was out as Tommy and Old Dude #3, Morgan was in as Tommy, and out as Stu, the governor, and Old Dude #1, Yute was in as Old Dude #1 and Stu, and I was going to have to (sigh) take my place in the bald cap as Old Dude #3. Also, we needed a governor. Also, the stage blood looked terribly fake, so we'd need to shoot Sorry I Killed Your Mom in black and white, and cover Lee's shirt in chocolate syrup, which was going to require some consideration for the transition from that skit to Tommy. These are the sorts of things that you need to deal with in skit comedy, it seems.

I also wanted to talk with Tiff about something she'd said about location for the Old Dude Commemorative Coin skit. We had already secured locations for all the other shoots, but Coin had been written on the fly at the end of the planning session last week. I'd specifically written it so that we could just shoot on the back porch, but Tiff had other ideas.

"I called my grandmother's nursing home," she said. "The Director of the facility is really excited to have us come shoot there."

This seemed odd to me, but Tiff insisted that she had spoken to all authorities and it was cool. Besides, we had enough other things to discuss in our brief phone conversation, so I just let it slide for the time being.

When we arrived, the final pre-shoot issue presented itself. Lee had gone quietly insane.

"It was filling my room with cookie boxes that did it," Herring said, on his way out the door. Herring could smell disaster in the same way that koalas can smell chocolate cake frosting (according to Wikipedia). He was clearing out and crashing with his girlfriend for the weekend to avoid the oncoming madness. Also, his room was full of a seriously ridiculous number of faux girl scout cookie boxes.


This made it sort of hard to sleep in there. Or stand. Or breathe.

"Lee was up two nights running getting them all set up and the effort's pretty much left him a shell," Herring said. "A crazy shell. He's lost it. He's up on the roof now."

Thankfully, there was also good news. The cookie boxes looked amazing. Lee, though insane, was proud. When I poked my head out the window to thank him, he interrupted himself -- busy as he was smoking Dunhills and staring off into the middle distance -- to smile gratefully to me for my approbation. "I made three flavors," he confided. "Peanut Butter YumYums, Peppermintallions, and Doublestack Choco-splosions."

"Well done, soldier," I said, and left him to his work.

Also on the positive side of the ledger, Yute had made himself as drunk as Uncle Jessie within twenty minutes of our arrival -- and, I noticed with more than a little hope, was immediately cracking everybody up. It didn't appear that chemistry was going to be a problem. Even better, Tiff and Morgan had already gone out and shot some genuinely funny footage of Morgan lost in the woods for the governor skit. This could just work out, I allowed myself to think.

"GOAT!" Yute blared. "These friends of yours have got the BIGGEST GODDAM CANS OF BEANS I HAVE EVER SEEN! Look! Look!" He ran out and came back with a can the size of a pony keg under each arm. Both marked BEANS.

"I'm going crack one of these bad boys open and EAT 'em COLD in the skit tomorrow," he proclaimed, suddenly serious.

The thing I learned about Yoot is, when he becomes suddenly serious, he's going to do what he says he'll do.




In a quiet moment, I asked Tiff:

"Are you completely sure that the person running your grandma's nursing home WANTS us there?"

"Totally, Goat. Totally. Trust me on this, she's begging us. She is BEGGING us."

"Has she . . . has she read the script?"

"No, but she just really wants us there."

"We're going to get like our own area to shoot in, right?"

"But look, is it necessary? I mean, old people don't have to be in a nursing home, right? We could just use the porch . . ."

"No, we really can't. The lighting is terrible in there, it'll look washed out, awful. Plus this way we can get a lot of establishing shots."

We wouldn't need establishing shots if we weren't randomly putting these characters in a nursing home, I thought, but then remembered that I wanted to lend my support to her as director, that I wanted to be a team player, that I wanted to show that I could do this without having to have control over every little thing.

Of course, within 12 hours, the only thing I'd want would be a quick and merciful death.

NEXT WEEK: What I Did

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Pauly Hits Poker From The Rail

As you've probably noticed, I've been true to my words and started phasing out poker until something fresh and original comes to me. It's happened to better than me. I mean, sweet fancy Moses, people, Iggy hasn't posted in about three years. Now I know what Paul Simon meant when he mourned, "where have you gone, Joe DiIggyo? The nation turns its lonely eyes to uber." Or something like that.

So I'm busy confessing to horrible things I have done, rather than making poker videos in which I interview King Ten offsuit. I guess the world will go on. At least I'm still blogging. It's probably just my perspective, but I feel like there's me and 12 other writers looking up and down the street of our nice Detroit neighborhood, wondering where all the people have gone. Blog foreclosures as far as the eye can see. They're all out in the suburbs of Facebook and Twitter. Someday, gentrification will hit and I'll be forced to move into Dane Cook's abandoned MySpace page, where I'll sleep with a painter's mask on to avoid the lethal levels of Axe body spray in the air. Until then, I write. I was late to the party, so I think I'd better be late to leave.

Oh, the humanity. You guys remember that one, right?

There's this one guy, however, whose font of inspiration in all things poker seems unlikely to dry up -- Dr. Pauly doesn't just write in Tao of Poker, but lets it spill over into at least three other blogs, a book (Lost Vegas, my review forthcoming) and now over to my occasional stomping grounds, Poker From the Rail. You should probably check out Paul's inaugural post up there, about the Durrrrrrrrrr Challenge. It's a pretty big deal, this Durrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr challengeification. The two opponents are going to play between 10 and 400,000 hands, and at the end if Tom Dwan is behind to challenger jungleman12, he has to give the victor like a billion dollars and three of the 'r's from his name (reports that jungleman12 will use them to become jrunglermarn12 are unsubstantiated as of this writing, as are rumors that jungleman12 is Mary Kate Olson).

You can see why I'm not given plumb poker journalism assignment. Pauly checks his sources, I make mine up. Welcome to the Rail, doc! Here's hoping it's not a one-off.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Worst Thing I've Ever Done 02 - The Mad Valdez and the Giraffes


The skits were going to run together in a loop.

"Jerry and Stu" was going to open with the titular characters watching explosions on TV and laughing, and then we'd go to credits. After credits, we'd open back up with "Sorry I Killed Your Mother". This would segue into "The Tommy Faliki Story" as the mother-in-law slaughtering (but good-natured) husband's explanations were interrupted by wannabe Girl Scout Tommy Faliki, age 23. Tommy would be selling girl scout cookies in an futile attempt to impress the troop and be allowed to join. The documentary-style skit would follow his foolish quest for inclusion, and would culminate in a brief news story in typical "little lost white girl" cable news style, about Tommy Faliki, completely incompetent at scouting, and now lost in the woods. From here, we'd toss to the governor's mansion, where the services of Biff Tarkington, Wilderness Savior had been called upon. Tarkington was barking mad, unfortunately, and after tormenting Tommy from a hidden camera, would set off a series of explosions. These would be heard off-screen as the camera pulled back to show that the Tarkington skit was being watched on TV by Jerry and Stu, who were laughing at the explosions. The end.

In college, I had generally handled the casting as I put the script together, and so I took that liberty now. As long as you managed to give everybody one good part, you wouldn't get much blowback from a jilted actor, and in any case, since this time we were doing my own skits instead of long-time favorites from Monty Python, there wouldn't be any jockeying for a favored role. I was proud of my first attempt, but this wasn't exactly Dead Parrot-quality material.

I'd determined already that, given that Tiff was going to be busy actually directing and setting up shots, most of the rest of the troubleshooting -- last minute prop procurement, on-the-fly re-writes, acting adjustments, various and sundry details -- would probably fall to me. For that reason, I planned on taking mostly supporting roles. However, I decided to give myself one plum part, Jerry, from the "Stu and Jerry" skit, which had a monologue I knew I'd particularly enjoy. Morgan would be playing Stu, the more depressive of the two. Lee would be playing the murderous husband in the black and white, 50's era, "Sorry I Killed Your Mom" and Morgan's girlfriend, blonde and perky, would be perfect for the housewife. Lee's boisterous attitude seemed just about right for Biff Tarkington. Morgan would play the governor.

The linchpin skit was "Tommy Faliki", though, and the crucial key role was going to be Tommy. Because the humor of Tommy stemmed from his innocent pathos at being excluded from the girl scouts, I knew that we needed to get the tone exactly right. Tommy's utter obliviousness to the creepiness inherent in the disparity of gender and age between himself and the troop needed to be absolutely convincing or the whole thing would take an icky turn that would ultimately mean comedy death.

The answer was the Mad Valdez. Valdez was a 97-lb. first generation Latvian emigrant, possessed of an encyclopedic knowledge of film and literature. He'd spoken only Latvian at the time he'd been enrolled in 2nd grade by well-meaning parents, and the resultant culture clash had mashed his potatoes. Here's the thing about the Mad Valdez: He was a total innocent, interested in writing and pop culture and being left free to indulge in these things, kind enough that he was always in danger of being taken advantage of, self-possessed enough to counterfeit an air of aloofness as a defensive mechanism, incorrect enough in his pronouncements to occasionally appear unintentionally comical, and slight enough to resemble Mr. Burns of The Simpsons to an uncanny degree. Here's the other thing about the Mad Valdez: He was a genuinely weird person, and on stage, his sui generis presence would result in only one of only two possible impressions:

1) That guy is completely out of character! Let's laugh at him!

2) That guy is HILARIOUS! Let's laugh at him!

The only way to get option 2 instead of option one was to cast him in a character who was supposed to be odd in undefinable ways. So, if you were putting on Much Ado About Nothing, you would find yourself in the middle of a first-degree disaster were you to put him in the role of Leonado, but you could cast him as Dogberry and just sit back and collect the laughs.

It's hard to say if Valdez acted. To say that he "acted" would be like saying Einstein "did math." To be sure, Valdez did take upon himself an affect while on stage, so that he clearly became distinguishable from his everyday persona. And, certainly, Valdez would emote as he delivered his lines. But acted? I just can't say. He just became whatever it was that he was going to become, and from that he would not deviate. In truth, it's likely he could not. Not that it mattered; whatever that was would be entirely convincing . . . for what it was. The trick would be to adjust so that whatever Valdez was doing fit into the whole. Mad Valdez was the cosmic hippo of sketch comedy. He was the improbability drive. He was the martini with a beach ball garnish. He was the halibut that orbits Jupiter. But one thing that The Mad Valdez could not be was threatening.

What I am saying to you is this: Only Valdez could be Tommy. Furthermore, Valdez would ONLY be Tommy, the better for him to come out of nowhere, delivering maximum oddness effect, and then disappear.

I picked up Valdez in Lansing on my way up to Ann Arbor, and he told me his theory that Apocalypse Now was actually a dream that existed exclusively in the head of the cow that was butchered in the film's climax. I nodded sagely and laughed at him, but Valdez didn't mind.

It was 'round midnight when we got into Ann Arbor, and a party, as expected, was in swing. This was fine; I had no thoughts to attempt anything businesslike until late morning at the earliest. No point in trying to redirect the path of a mighty river. However, at one point Tiff buttonholed me with the shoot on her mind.

"I'm glad you're here. Nobody else is taking this seriously."
"Good to be here," I said, and I meant it -- but Tiff's statement wasn't exactly surprising. This was a lark for everybody else, but for her it was a grade.
"Listen, you've got to help."
"If I can."
"Just make sure that you back me if there's some question about how things need to be done."
"Sure," I said.

Tiff didn't know it, but she'd struck a nerve.

I will now take you on a lengthy digression, which will hopefully eventually seem relevant.

My first experience on stage had been a bit part in a Neil Simon one-act farce my freshman year, and the student director (a ninny who'd spent a term in England and now sported a fake British accent) had exhibited a profound lack of understanding of even the most basic rules of the genre. Allow me to give you the most pertinent example:

The premise of the play is this: An hour before her wedding, a bride has locked herself into the bathroom of her parents' suite at the Plaza. The parents spend the entire play freaking out in comical-but-still-believable ways to try to get her out, all the time exhibiting the kind of marital example that has given their daughter cold feet about her own impending nuptials. Finally, the mother and father, out of options, call the groom, who comes up, listens to a brief synopsis of the situation, nods, walks to the door, says, "Mimsey. It's Borden. Cool it!" and then walks right out without waiting to even see if Mimsey (that's the bride) will come out. Which, of course, she immediately does. That's the joke. All that running around, yelling and screaming and fussing and fighting, and it's all solved by one simple "cool it."

Borden's the groom. The guy who says "cool it." In case you didn't guess, that was me.

Now here's what Miss Fakebritish wanted to do. She wanted to make sure that the audience understood that I, Bordon, was the hero. Here's how she decided she was going to make that happen:

1) I was to leap in through the door with one hand outstretched, like Errol Flynn. Or Richard Simmons.

2) The mother and father were to fall on one knee before me.

3) There was to be a loud sound cue for trumpet fanfare.

4) I was to rip open my tuxedo shirt to reveal a Superman shirt underneath.

5) I am not making one of these things up.

What you have probably noticed by now, even as a casual (and bored) observer, is that the director was preparing to totally blow the punchline to the entire play. She was taking a moment that needed to be as naturalistic and matter-of-fact as possible in order to work, and putting a clown nose on it. She was basically deciding to engage in the theater equivalent of laughing at her own joke.

As a freshman in my first college play, I didn't understand it like that. Here's what I said:

"That's the stupidest idea I've ever heard in my life. It's like comedy cancer. I won't do it."

We went to war about it for the whole rehearsal. Eventually I got it talked down to Errol + knee, but no trumpet and no Superman shirt. It still killed the joke, because of course it did.

I wasn't in another play for over a year. Eventually I heard through the grapevine what should have at that point been evident: It turns out that directors talk to directors, and, if you have a bit part with one line and decide to hold up the whole rehearsal to fight with the director, you're going to be (rightly) branded a problem even if you're generally correct on substance.

I am telling you all this to tell you this: When Tiff asked me to back her, I determined to do so, even if I didn't necessarily agree. I decided not to be proprietary about my skits.

This is what is known in narrative fiction as "foreshadowing."

The next morning the main troupe met to make sure we had all of our flakes frosted. Tiff and I went over the inventory/costume/props list to see what we needed to procure. Lee had agreed to set design, which essentially meant that he had agreed to make fellow house-mate Herring's bedroom look like it was full from floor to ceiling with girl scout cookies (Herring having agreed to clear out and crash at his girlfriend's place while we used his room). Lee, having been given a challenge that would be as difficult as it was ridiculous, was enthused and clearly up to the challenge. "I probably only need to make about 20 individual boxes," he said. "I'll just mock up long printouts that look like the sides of cookie boxes and paste them up against solid cardboard pillars."

Morgan made an appearance, but as it was generally understood that he'd only be acting, it wasn't problematic when he disappeared. "As long as we can find him next week when the cameras are rolling," Tiff muttered.

The Mad Valdez sat on the couch, watching TV. He handled all the cigarette smoking that was needed, and was doing a fine job. The ashtray was starting to invade the coffee table.

There were two main obstacles.

The first was location. I'd purposely written the material so that our series of apartments and parks could realistically accommodate them, but we were going to need an upper-middle class home, furnished, for "Sorry I Killed Your Mother", and we would need a study that could reasonably pass for one found in a governor's mansion for "Biff Tarkington." Eventually, we settled on Tiff's parents house for "Killed" and Morgan's parents study for "Biff."

The second obstacle was Lee. He had an idea for a skit. Not, as far as I could tell, a workable one.

"... and so THEN it turns out that the commemorative coin for the commemorative plates actually turns him into a racist, so he is saying all these outrageously racist things, and so then his friends have to break the plates with lasers, and so then the third plate breaks and a giraffe appears, so we have this shot of him and a few circus clowns leading the giraffes down the street on a leash . . ."

"Let me stop you right there," I said, "And I'll tell you why."

What you always had to remember when dealing with Lee was that he was, psychically speaking, Barry Sanders. There was no stopping him, there was only containing him. You had to make him run laterally for 2 minutes and a 3 yard gain. For that reason, it was plain to me that trying to stop this skit from happening would be futile. I needed to focus the skit into something comprehensible or Lee was going to be taking a fast train to obsession. Besides, this man had agreed to create over 1000 fake girl scout cookie boxes for me in a week's time. I owed it to him to make at least some of his vision came into being.

"You mentioned a commemorative coin that commemorates a series of commemorative plates," I said. "That's pretty funny. Let's focus on that. My grandpa collects the state quarters, and he's really excited about it. What if we focused on how the commemorative industry targets old people?"

We hatched a skit about a commemorative coin that commemorated a line of commemorative plates that commemorated the commemorative figurines for the 10th anniversary of The Golden Girls premier. Then, when the scam is realized, the company apologizes by putting out a commemorative coin commemorating the scam and how sorry they are for it all. Not bad. It was a simple and workable skit with a funny hook.

With such simple and unassuming beginnings is a soul crushed.

NEXT WEEK: Yoot.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Your Weekly Dose Of Awesome

More writeology soon. But for now . . .

One nation under a groove, knuckling under to the dictatorial regime just for the funk of it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Your Weekly Dose Of Awesome

Ever wonder what would happen if you combined the last 20 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey with Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse, and the entire comics page?

Here you go: Betty Boop and Beyond the Infinite:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Your Weekly Dose Of Crazy

Hi there.

Get ready to never stop screaming.





It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault.

The Worst Thing I've Ever Done 01 - Zoom Culture Calling

Here it is. I'm going to confess. The worst thing I've ever done. And I'm guilty, too. I did it. By the time I was done I'd be hunched over, both in body and soul.

It involves a bald cap, a chocolate coin, a cane, a drunk named Yoot, a camera, a retirement community, the oldest lady in the world, and a fatefully bad decision.

Wait. Let me back up a bit, so I can change the names of the innocent, and especially of the guilty.

Also, let me collect my thoughts. This is as much about how I got to that point as what I did when I got there. Maybe you'll see where I went wrong. But I hope you understand.

It started with a phone call from Lupo.

Lupo was the entrepreneur among my friends. You have one too. Always hustling. He had an intensity that belied his hacky-sack meets Birkenstock vibe, and a tangle of hair spaghetti mashed over thick glasses, but there was never any doubt that this was a business mofo. Lupo published my first book, a run of 100 copies. We advertised the book on college listserves and sold off the pool table in my fraternity house common area. Me? I'd have never even thought of it as a possibility, but Lupo just paid the printer in cash, and the printer coughed up 200 copies. Lupo was loaded through the college years, at least by typical college student terms. He would cold-sell educational books door-to-door all summer and drive in on orientation day in a new car and thirty grand in the bank. As a result, Lupo had his own place, a spare townie property rented from a hippie professor, where we'd go to stay clear of campus safety.

Now Lupo was on the phone, hustling.

We were three years out of college, and I was white-collaring in Indianapolis. Lupo was calling me from the North Carolina tech triangle, where he was an integral part of a late-nineties internet startup that wanted to put up online videos. They were like Shockwave, or Heavy, but with a twist: They wanted to put the power of production in the hands of the people. No. Not Youtube. These were some of the other guys. I'd visited Lupo in Chapel Hill, where he'd shown me around the offices and introduced me to this weird new search engine by the name of Google. The name of this startup was Zoom Culture, but don't hold that against them. They'd give college kids and other interested parties special Zoom Culture cameras to shoot what they would, and then ZC producers would load it up. "Why not let the people just upload right to your site?" I'd asked, in one of my very few moments of brilliant foresight. "You save production time and let the people decide what works and what doesn't."

"Not our business model," said Lupo, who probably didn't appreciate the way I'd just eliminated his entire job. "We need to push the best stuff forward and control our content." I shrugged. He was probably right, I figured.

That's right. I invented YouTube back in 1999. You can't prove I didn't.

But that was four months prior. Now he was on the phone, and he thought I might have the right stuff. The Zoom stuff.

"Goat," he said, "You have to make some skits for me." My friends and I had been theater geeks, and I had done four straight years of comedy troupe skits. Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, that sort of thing. Nothing original. I'd write the connective material, arrange the skits, put together the props and costumes list, and direct. We'd gotten decent at it, too. (Yes, there is video. No, you can't see it.) Now Lupo wanted me to make some original content for him. Create a sketch comedy troupe; something I'd always wanted to try.

"Make a half hour," Lupo declared. "If it takes off and gets hits, we'll talk business."

So I wrote the skits, sent them to Lupo, and Lupo-as-producer approved them.

It was time to round up the gang. Which meant that I was going back to Ann Arbor. To do skits, you should have around four or five people, and two of my still-viable prospects were living up there in the same house.

The way I figured it, we all had our role. I was the writer, the settled-down guy down Indianapolis with a corporate job. I was pretty good at straight man roles, or parts where the comedy came from how crazy the otherwise regular-seeming person was behaving. Also I could play a squirrel, if need be, but we all hoped it wouldn't come to that.

Morgan and Lee (along with my good friend and non-participant Herring) were living the dream in a house that was quickly becoming area legend-fodder. Essentially it had become a room of our fraternity house, expanded to house size, plus money. It was nearly completely void of responsibility, nearly completely full of rapidly accumulating garbage and cigarette butts, and nearly completely fun for the first 23 hours of a 24-hour visit. After that, it sort of became hard to breath for a weekend warrior, which is (I had to face it) what I had become.

Morgan was a mad scientist, driven by curiosity. An engineering grad, sort of, he could figure out how to do it, as long as long as you wanted it done in the most interesting and inefficient way. In his room was his bed and two broken floor-to ceiling amps that he'd found out on the curb in the rain, broken. He had a plan for them, which may have involved converting them into homeless shelters for raccoons for all I know, but that plan was still coalescing (or congealing). In the meanwhile, he had to climb over the things each night to crash, if he wanted to crash in his own bed. As a result, Morgan typically crashed at his girlfriend's place. Morgan was a solid actor, but had a unique style, which involved doing odd things that completely trashed the scene, except when they were total comic genius, a style that I figured would be perfect for multiple takes. A body of pipe cleaners set at acute angles, with a perfect oval, a recumbent egg, of a head on top. Quick movements. If you were in the right frame of mind, he reminded you of a man-sized newt. An odd newt, yes, but he had a certain intensity and conviction that helped him with the ladies (his lady friend of the time was quickly recruited to play the wife in "Sorry, I Killed Your Mom"). He spoke in insistent staccato, and was perhaps the best person you'd ever want to have around if what you desired was a long and complicated debate, topic beside the point. He was rarely correct, but then again, he was rarely wrong, either. He was uncommonly competent and totally impossible to count on. He loved MDMA like a Marine loves his rifle. He was going to be good at the off-kilter character actor bits, probably a lot of juicy roles. That is, if he showed up.

Maybe he still has those amps.

Lee was a hurricane, driven by pure energy. Physically verbose, outsize in appearance, personal attire, accoutrement, and scope of ambition. He had Elvis muttonchops and drove a cherry red 1973 Caddy with white vinyl soft-top, and the 8 track inside it was usually blasting soul power. Lee never thought of an insane project that didn't sound both possible and immediately necessary. He brought a certain frenzied commitment to his characters. His stage laugh was improbable and off-putting. Imagine a polite and nervous titter, the kind a librarian makes when confronted with Bootsy Collins. Now, imagine a boisterous roaring laugh, the kind of laugh a lumberjack makes as he cuts down a sequoia. Now, imagine them both together. Now you have Lee's stage laugh. For us, Lee was going to play apoplectic dads, hyper-intense authority figures, Santa Clauses, chimney sweeps, simple man-children, lawn chairs, things like that. And, unless things had changed in the three months since my previous visit, his girlfriend, Tiff, was a U of M film major. In other words, Tiff had access to things that daunted me, like cameras and editing equipment, and any understanding whatsoever about how to operate a camera or editing equipment. I called. Things had not changed. And Tiff was excited to dovetail a semester's end project with a potential business venture.

I sent the skits. I asked if they'd be interested in performing the skits. They said they would, and Lee agreed to be set designer, so it was on like Megatron. I planned to jam up from Naptown the next week, and we'd work a bit on the script, scout locations, and get as many props and costumes together as possible.

Now I needed to find my fourth main cast member. I needed the wild card. I needed The Mad Valdez.

Next Week: The Mad Valdez, The New Skit, and A Favor to the Director

Story and Art by Julius_Goat.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Spewday 02: Electric Somethingloo

The inaugural Spewday was big fun, yo. A heady mixture of Mookie regulars and Cardrunners types, a few of them red pros. Deep stacks, deep thinking . . . who am I kidding? It's a spewfest, get in there!

Let's play two!

Tuesday Spewday
Full Tilt Poker


Tournament #174055893
Tuesday, Aug. 3
21:00 ET -
NLHE Deepstacks
password: spewday

Tournament #174065188
Tuesday, Aug. 3
21:00 ET
NLHE Super Turbo KO
password: spewday


Get in there and say you were part of the inaugural event! I did. You should, too. I didn't even mention the best part: Winner gets a million bucks and a pony*!



* This may or may not be true.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Advanced Monkey Enragement Methods!

Read this:

Monkeys Hate Flying Squirrels, Report Monkey Annoyance Experts.

First of all, I don't think there can be a better headline this year. Not possible. A few extrapolations from this:

1) There are monkey annoyance experts.

2) They have developed ways of enraging monkeys.

3) These ways are not as efficient as they could be. I imagine this sort of scene playing out in countless laboratories over the decades.

Scientist 1: Are the monkeys enraged yet?

Scientist 2: Well. Yeah. They're pretty angry.

Scientist 1: But are they ENRAGED?

Scientist 2: I think so.

Scientist 1: You . . . THINK?

Scientist 2: They're peevish.

Scientist 1: Dammit! That's just not good enough and you KNOW it, Hector!

Scientist 2: I've been showing them Season 3 of Heroes on a loop for days, I tell you, days! If you know of a better way to piss off a primate, I'm all ears, Skellan!

Scientist 1: I don't know a better way . . . [puts on sunglasses] But I'm going to FIND one.


4) It is important to be able to enrage monkeys, and it is important enough to fund research on finding new and more advanced ways of accomplishing this.

5) They've found one!


The world is a better place now that I know this has been happening all along.

Years from now, we'll all be sitting around, reminiscing about a time when it took a dog, a tube of lube, and three pounds of jalapeno poppers to fully enrage a single monkey. And even then you're talking about an all day project.

Now? You can go from sleeping monkey to full on Hulk Monkey in like 3 minutes.

Thanks, science!

Your Weekly Dose Of Crazy

You know, I want to laugh at this guy, but I think if all the messages I've ever left on voice mail boxes and answering machines were collected, the average level of coherence would be similar.

In case you think this is just "deer in the headlights" syndrome when faced with cameras and an (invisible) audience of thousands, however, a trip to his website shows that he may be reading his own prepared speech off of a teleprompter.

Money quote: VOTE FOR ME AND IF I WIN I WILL IMMUNE YOU FROM ALL STATE CRIMES FOR THE REST OF YOU LIFE!

What the hell, he's still be more speak English good than Palin.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Your Weekly Dose Of Awesome

The Real Dawn Summers thinks that - Tyler Durden style - Astin and I are the same person, even though he's Canadian (hockey jersey) and I'm not.

I think I am the Tyler Durden in this fantasy, though perhaps I flatter myself. If I had a nickel for every time I had been compared to Brad Pitt, I would have no nickels.

I always scoffed at Dawn, but no more.

Finally, we have video evidence.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday? SPEWday!

Hey, LJ has got a bold and refreshing new flavor in Blogger Tournaments!

Let's play two!

Tuesday Spewday
Full Tilt Poker


Tournament #174055893
Tuesday, July 27
21:00 ET -
NLHE Deepstacks
password: spewday

Tournament #174065188
Tuesday, July 27
21:00 ET
NLHE Super Turbo KO
password: spewday


Get in there and say you were part of the inaugural event! I did. You should, too. I didn't even mention the best part: Winner gets dinner with Phil Ivey and a free trip to Monte Carlo on his private jet*!



* This may or may not be true.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Your Weekly Dose Of Crazy

Why not make Monday crazy day for now?

Here's a guy who stuck bananas to his face and then put what appear to be firecrackers in the bananas.

You know, like you do.



Keep watching. Maybe he'll do something besides keep exploding his facenanas, or maybe he won't (he won't).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Next

Hi everybody.

Here's the problem:

You'll never believe it. I don't know a single member of the November Nine. I, for one, am relieved. You would not believe the level of animosity and contempt I faced from the Mainstream Elite of poker for my findings over the past two years.

Fact is, I think the Meet The November Nine series has run its course. It was fun, but it's been done.

So has Stupid/System.

So have the table profiles.

So has . . . well, poker. For me, at least. For now.

Folks, I think I might be out of crap to make fun of when it comes to this game of ours.

Don't get me wrong: I'm still interested in poker as a game. Poker is a constantly changing, constantly evolving system. There's no end to the permutations and angles and strategies and cunning reveals and new ways of looking at how to play this variant or that variant, how to counter this development or that one. The scene continues to be an interesting one to follow. But my perspective on the game was always that of the jester and absurdist, poking and pun-ing and generally just messing with the gravy, and that sort of deal really requires a new recipe each time. I'm out of herbs and spices.

Or, to put it another way, I've always just written whatever occurred to me to write. I'd ruminate and look down into the murky pool of inspiration, and, after a time, something would start to float up to the surface, gradually taking shape as it rose. I wouldn't know what exactly it was going to be . . . but I'd know the general outline, and I could tell when it was going to be a big multi-post sort of deal, or maybe just a one-off. As it surfaced, I'd finally see it for what it was, and then I'd write it up. What I'm saying is, right now, there aren't any shapes rising up. Not for a poker blog.

So, for me, now what? Strategy posts? No good. You've all seen me play, and my stats are only a Sharkscope or an Official Poker Ratings away; you'll just laugh me off the blogosphere. Insider poker news? I'm not an insider. Also, I'm in Michigan. Also, I'm lazy.

I've gotta say . . . it might be time to stop thinking of this as a poker blog, and just start thinking of it as a blog. It's either that or shut up shop, because I sure ain't getting the donuts made this summer on the topic of poker.

"But Goat, we NEVER thought of this as a poker blog!"

"Isn't this a LOST blog?"

Shaddap, you.

What, then, shall I blog?

LOST propped me up this year, but LOST is dead and buried, though still rewatchable (especially if you check out Maloney's Chronologically LOST project). Other TV shows? No. They don't seem to have the same level of complexity and ambiguity that rewards week-by-week blogging. Politics & religion? Well, maybe . . . but only if I think it can stay civil. Fat chance. Fiction? Mmmmmmaybe. Thing is, I'm writing fiction right now; it's just not for the blog, but rather it is for down the road, and hopefully well worth the wait. Movies? Well, I could cross-post from Filmchaw, should I ever start posting there. Music? Ditto the previous utterances, replace Filmchaw with Coventry blog.

So what, then? I'm not sure. I'm just sure that I'm not done with this space yet. I'm well aware that this is the sort of blog post that greets a 17 month silence, followed by one of those, "yeah, I guess this blog is dead" posts.

But I don't think so. Not yet. I'm looking into the pool, and I see some shapes down there. They just aren't stacked like poker chips.

Let's see what rises to the top.

Friday, July 2, 2010

July 2 Is Hammer Day


SIR WAFFLES. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those Aces yet coming
Now out th' deck today!

KING IGGY. What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Waffleman? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to bust, we've chips enow
To do our bankroll loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of payout.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one ace more.
By Jove, I am totally covetous for gold,
And care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me bad if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell well in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet bracelets,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not rockets from th'dealer.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As se'en deuce more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Waffleman, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his buyout shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not ship in that blogger's company
That fears the hammer now to bust with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Grubby.
He that outlives this day, and ships this pot,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Grubby.
He that survives day 3, and sees th' final table,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Grubby.'
Then will he forward his hand history,
And say 'These beats I had on Grubby's day.'
Will you please check them out for me?
I think I played th' King Queen right.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
Sick bluffs he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Iggy the King, Pauly and Hoyazo,
Lucko and CK, Poker Grump and Astin
Otis, Bayne, LJ, and many more -
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the degen teach his son;
And Grubby Grubby shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of bloggers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my blogger; and I shall follow his tweets,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in Vegas now online,
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their blogrolls cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Grubby's day.

Amen.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Won't Anybody Think of the Children?

Hey, donkeys. Oh Captain has set up a charity tournament at Mook time, and Buddy Dank has moved the Mookie aside for a week to help the cause. Proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House, which is not a house that serves fast food to kids. It's actually a really, really awesome and positive thing.

Poker, like clowns and country music, proves that even something ridiculous and creepy can sometimes be used for good.

So if you have children, or if you have ever been a child, or know a child, sign up. Do it even if you won't play (you weren't going to win anyway). It's the right thing to do.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Your Dose Of Crazy

This is my 500th post. I think that we can all agree that 500 posts of my nonsense is exactly halfway to 1000 posts of my nonsense.

Some people do something introspective on a milestone post like this one. Perhaps a retrospective on what has been, or a look forward.

Me? I present you with MonkeyChickenDuck. It's just how I do.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

So.

Now what should I write about?

Monday, May 31, 2010

LOST 000: Conclusions of Grandeur

"And what's the return on the faith I've provided? I think that I know now . . . but I haven't decided."
-Phish, "Julius"


Here is John Locke. He said that the island had shown him its heart. He said that it was beautiful. He believed that he -- that all of them -- had been called to the island for a higher purpose. A destiny. Something important. He was right. But he had been tricked into acting against that destiny. He was incapable or unwilling to investigate what his faith told him he needed to do. What he wanted seemed always out of his grasp; his reaching just pushed it further away. He believed that he had a destiny, that it wasn't all random chance. He was right. But he died thinking he was wrong. His dying thoughts were I don't understand . . .

John Locke. He knew so much. He knew nothing.



Here is Jack Shephard. He believed that there was no purpose to his arrival on the island. He thought that John Locke was a dangerous lunatic, deluded by messianic delusions of grandeur. Jack was right in ways, but in more important ways he was wrong. The price he and others paid for his enlightenment was great, but in the end, as he died, he understood his place in the universe. He truly had seen the heart of the island, and had become the island's guardian, however temporarily. He'd been given insights into the nature of reality that few would ever grasp, yet it seems clear that even from his extraordinary perspective, he made his decisions regarding the defense of the island only tentatively, using intuition, not knowledge. And, as he passed through to the next life, he stubbornly held on to the old one. He was the last to let go.

Jack Shephard. He knew so much. He knew nothing.



Here is the Enemy. He is a being of almost limitless power and malevolence. He was taught at a very young age that human beings were dangerous, worthless, corrupt beings who would destroy all they came in contact with, and very little he has seen has served to change his mind. In time, his view of human nature has caused him to view the greed and jealousy and rage of mankind as a tool, very useful because it is so very predictable. He specializes in presenting people with the chance to commit violent and destructive acts that appear to be in their self interest, and he has found that they almost never turn down such an opportunity. He knows every inch of the island. He even has seen the heart of it, and understands its power like none other, except perhaps one. His deathless life was even born there. He is infinitely clever, and has learned how to exploit the physical nature of the island's power in amazing ways. Ways he is willing to teach those who might be useful to him.

And yet . . . he is bound by a higher authority. He has never been beyond the island. He knows nothing of what is beyond the walls of his cage. It is unlikely he knows of where he is on the planet. He may only have a rudimentary understanding of a "planet." He dies with his curiosity still unquenched.

The Enemy. He knew so much more than any of us ever will know. He knew nothing.



Here is Jacob. For two thousand years he has been the island's guardian, and wielder of its power. He knows how to bind reality itself to his will. He can manipulate matter within time, creating artifacts that bend time and space. He's made a lighthouse. He's hidden his island 30 minutes in the future, secreted away, undetectable and in motion. He knows how to use the light. He knows what The Enemy is. He believes in people's ultimate goodness. He's been off the island and seen them. He calls them to his island.

But he's been lied to by his mother. He is stunted emotionally, unable or unwilling to connect or approach, unaware of the true nature of the light he protects, just as it is likely she was unaware. He has created The Enemy, and he is powerless to stop it.

Jacob. Possibly the most powerful living entity on the planet. He knows so much. He knows the answers to mysteries we'll never be told. He knows nothing.



Here is the Island. We know that sits on an immense pocket of pan-dimensional energy. We have very good reasons to believe that this energy -- which manifests itself as electromagnetism -- is a sort of a portal between various realms of consciousness. We have very good reason to believe that it is in motion, and that it is out of sync with normal space/time. We have seen for ourselves that the breach of this energy would be catastrophic for the island, and, we suspect, for the whole world, and perhaps beyond. We know that there is a cave, and in the cave a waterfall, and at the bottom of the waterfall a basin fed by streams, and in the basin a hole plugged by a stone. We know that removing that stone would be catastrophic, perhaps in a different way than the piercing of the energy, but no less catastrophic for all that. We know that it has historically had a human Guardian, to whom it gives vast powers, and, perhaps, restrictions. We know that the spirits of the dead are drawn to it.

This is all we know. This is all we will ever know.

It is so much. It is absolutely nothing.


And here we are. We are interested in all these people, and others as well. We are very interested in the island, and what it is. More generally, outside of our TV viewing, we are interested in our lives, and our place in this messy and chaotic and indecipherable world in which we find ourselves. Is there meaning? Are we called to something, and, if so, what? Is it all just random chance? What does it all mean? What do we mean? Do we matter? Across the globe, this drama plays out. And, when we come to the end, how much more will we know than we did at the beginning? What is the nature of the universe, anyway?

One thing (besides taxes) is certain. You will die. You, reading this, will die. And me. And then what? Some of us are very certain about the "then what?", though like Jack and Locke, our certainties may not match. Or may, over time, shift.

Will our dying thought match those of John Locke?

Every day, we know so much more than we knew. And what we mainly learn is this: We know practically nothing.

It's not enough. It's all there is.

About our life, the universe, and our place in it we know what we know. Is that enough for you?

Is it enough?

What if you knew more? Would that be enough?

How about a little more? What if you pushed it out just a little further? Would that be more? Or would you still have more questions?

Is it ever enough?

We'll never stop asking. We'll never stop wanting to know more.

And really, in the end, what do we know?



Guys? Where are we?


L O S T



Like it? I loved it. As I continue to reflect, it really is the ending that the story needed.

Just like that, here we are. It's done. It's the end of this fascinating, amazing, endlessly creative and infinitely frustrating television program that has captured so many of us. And yes, I loved the series, and I at least liked this extraordinarily challenging and opaque season, and I loved the finale. And yes, I am still frustrated and rather baffled at the sheer perverse audacity at the sort of series that would raise such large questions and leave them open-ended, hanging, unresolved, even as I am amazed and continually impressed at the way so many amazing stories are left there, complete and waiting for us, with only a few spare points of light to let us see them if we look hard enough.

That method of storytelling is challenging to both creator and audience. It walks a very fine line between bravery and foolhardiness, and I am not the guy to tell you that they didn't tip over onto the wrong side from time to time. I am frustrated that we didn't see more about Widmore and Ben. I am frustrated not to know where the island is. I am frustrated not to know a bit more about the nature of Jacob's powers, and a lot more about the rules. There are any number of little tidbits and assumptions and theories that I would love to see sketched in and confirmed.

The frustration and the asking, and even the not knowing? That's what this show is about.

You, not liking that? Even hating that? Even feeling that it was all a waste? That's what this show is about.

Others deciding that they love it, and thought it was brilliant, or at least satisfying? This show was about that, too.

Uncertain how you feel? Wish you knew more? Why all this mystery? Why unresolved in so many cases?

The question is the answer.

The debate is the point.

At the risk of sounding didactic, LOST revealed itself, in the end, to be a narrative that was about the human experience, presented as a mystery show, precisely because the human experience contains within its very DNA so many perplexing and frustrating mysteries. A mystery show is about the mystery, not the answer, and, even when answers are forthcoming. I think I can say with certainty after six years of twists and turns and long cons and double-blinds and mind screws that the creators of this show, whatever their strengths and weaknesses, did not have fulfilling our expectations as a priority. Quite the opposite; they seem to take immense pleasure in confounding our expectation. (Jacob is an all-knowing God! Wait, no, he's a flawed person, too. ) That is their weakness, and it is their triumph. *

*I'm going to footnote a very long discussion about answers and the lack of them to the end of this, so anybody who just wants my episode review can get to it, and just skip all the blah blah blah blah at the end.


Leaving aside that which was not answered, let's spend a couple hundred thousand words on the big things that WERE answered, and what they probably mean.

1) The Sideways World is the afterlife, or, for those of you that are disinclined toward all things afterlife, it is a dimension beyond time that our consciousnesses would understand as an afterlife. It would appear that in this afterlife, you construct for yourself a version of the life you lived, in which you play out various issues and personal conflicts that were central to your life. It would further appear that, while you have no memory of your previous life, and think of your life in this realm as being your actual life, you can be "woken up" by interaction with people who were very important to you in your previous life, or by extreme trauma, or by extreme trauma inflicted upon you by people who were important to you in a previous life. Upon waking up, you appear to move on, together with the group of people most important to you, to another, higher, level of reality/consciousness.

It is not clear if all the people in this realm are actually real, or if some are just constructs. Specific question marks in this regard would be Jack/Juliet's son, David, and Claire's infant son Aaron. However, most evidence is that all these people are actually the "real" them.

It is not clear if death can occur in this realm. Keamy appears to have died along with his goons, but then again, we see him shot a lot in the chest by Sayid, but then when Mikhail returns, Keamy is still alive, albeit groaning and not much in the mood to eat some of his good eggs. The police claim that Sayid killed them, but then again the "police" are Sawyer and Miles, playing out a delusion in which they are gay love---I mean, on the right side of the law. John Locke appears to heal in record time from what looked like a fatal hit and run. Sun heals from getting shot in the gut. Charlie survives swallowing and choking on a heroin baggy. Charlie and Desmond survive a car-meets-the-ocean scenario. I'm saying people are even more resilient here than on the Island.

It does not appear that the people that you "move on" with are necessarily the people you most loved, though you may be very fond of them. Rather, it appears to have been the people with whom you did your most important life's work, and it appears that this life's work is typically collective in nature. This would suggest that the Oceanics were basically some version of what Vonnegut referred to as a karass and Stephen King calls a ka-tet. People the universe brings together to do something.

It is not clear what happens to you upon moving on, except that you enter a light that seems to resemble the light underneath the island.

It is stated that this realm occurs in a place outside of time.

It is almost perfectly clear* that all of our friends made their way into this afterlife after their death. In Jack's case, this was shown in the closing minutes of the show, as he bled out from the enemy-inflicted stab wound and whatever the electromagnetism had done to him down in the cave before it (apparently) expelled him. In the case of most of the other deaths we've seen, this happened during the show's running time. In the case of Kate and Sawyer, Claire Miles etc., this probably occurred many decades after Ajira 316 escaped the island. In Hurley's case, and maybe Ben's, this could have happened thousands of years after the events of the series.

*I say "almost perfectly" because some people are reading the island as being something that happened only from Jack's frame of reference, and that everything -- island and sideways -- were part of Jack's redemptive arc after dying in the original Oceanic 815 crash. I don't think the story supports this very much at all, but it doesn't outright refute it, so if you want to strip all the meaning and resonance out of the series for literally every other character besides Jack, be my guest.


2) What's in the cave is a waterfall. At the bottom of the waterfall, there is a basin, fed by streams. In the middle of the basin is an opening to the light, with the rock on top of it. Taking the rock off of it does things. Bad, bad things.

It also removes Smoke Monster powers from the enemy, which was apparently information that Jack-as-island-Guardian had access to. But the other thing it does is change the light from white to red, causes earthquakes, and (eventually) sinks the island.

Restoring the rock puts things right again. That's one important rock. For my money -- and probably yours -- the idea of a cork was perhaps something that worked better as a metaphor than a physical reality. A little too pat. A little too on-the-nose. I think that's what happens when you take something that is numinous and mysterious and make it something that is mechanical and literal. See also: donkey wheel. Something to keep in mind if you were hoping to find out what exactly makes the island move or where exactly the island is (and I do want to find those things out).

So, what can we take from these two major reveals?

Well, first of all, we have an island that is sitting on an immense pocket of light. Scientifically speaking, this light reveals itself as electromagnetic power, and appears to allow the island to break rules of time/space. Metaphysically speaking, it appears to attract spirits like a moth to . . . I don't know, another moth? Moths like moths, right?

With the direct correlation between the Light that Christian leads our heroes into at the end of the Sideways interlude, and the island's Source Light, I would say that what is found in the island's Source Light is the Sideways afterlife, and/or what level of consciousness comes after it.

Think about it. The Sideways world exists outside of time. "There is no Now, here." If the island light is the afterworld light, we have a little more of an idea why such light would put the island in an unusual situation regarding time/space, to say nothing of why Desmond, exposed to copious amounts of it, might find himself observing other realities/possibilities and jumping through time. And why are there are spirits on the island? It's the gateway to the afterlife, that's why.

Shorthand? The Guardian of the island is guarding the portal to the afterlife. And, if the island goes . . . then something goes very wrong with that portal. It somewhat resembles a different place.

The island is kind of a big deal.



3) And, Jack succeeded. He let Desmond take the cork out long enough to kill the Enemy, then saved Desmond and took the electro-shock of putting the cork back in himself. Perhaps unnecessary, right? After all, Desmond is immune to electromagnetism. Well, Jack's always Mr. Big Shot Hero, so that probably explains it, but here's a brief piece of total speculation on my part.

First, I've already speculated that Mother, who destroyed an entire camp and filled in an enormous hole in the ground, was probably a smoke monster. She definitely knew to warn Jacob that to go into the light would be a "fate worse than death."

Second, I have reason to believe that smoke monsters have always been around on the island. I do get into that WAY further down in this post.

Third, we do see how at least one Smoke monster is made. After Mother is killed, Jacob pushes his brother down there and the Smoke monster, complete with his brother's consciousness comes out. Separately, his brother's dead body is expelled.

Let me speculate that Mother was both Guardian and Smoke Monster. That Guardian is a job, and that Smoke Monster is its body. That Jacob took on the role of Guardian, but did not take on the body that provides really good guardian abilities. That, when his mother passed on guardianship, the totality of her powers were returned, and the body was waiting for the new Guardian, Jacob, to take on. Which his Mother told him not to do, for she knew what it was to be a monster. And, after his Mother was murdered, Jacob sent his brother to take the fate worse than death. He sent him to take the Guardian Body.

So Jacob made an unkillable beast that wanted him dead. Luckily, he and his brother were under Source Light Fiat not to kill each other, and so the Guardian Body was unable to kill the Guardian, whom he hated. The Guardian, Jacob, was killable, but would not ever die by normal means. His reclusive nature and his Light-Given powers made him very difficult to have killed. It took a long time.

When the light that provided the Guardian Body with power was disrupted, it became human and killable.

But if that happened . . . didn't it return to its source? Wasn't Jack expelled much like Jacob's brother? Didn't he die shortly thereafter?

Who got Hurley's Guardian Body?

Did Jack save Desmond from a fate worse than death?

Anyway. This speculation leaves a lot of questions. It really doesn't have much to do with the story. There certainly isn't very much to suggest that this is true. There's just enough to suppose, that maybe, maybe . . .

Move along . . .


4) The episode itself had so many great moments.

* Jack standing on the high ground, Locke on the low. Final showdown. Chills.


* "I saved a bullet." Kate! Were you just awesome for a second? Now I don't know what to believe.


* Hurley taking the Guardian job was wonderful. Jorge Garcia played it so beautifully, and it was great to see the most fundamentally good person on the island get this important gig. It wasn't until later that it occurred to me that the island was full of the ghosts of people who couldn't move on, and the Guardian was somebody who could talk right to them. What do you think Hurley did on the island? I think he cleaned up the mess, spiritually speaking.

I don't think Michael is still stuck on the island for eternity, is what I am saying.


* Ben, meanwhile, shows us that the island isn't the only place where a soul can find itself unable to move on. I loved the exchange between Ben and Locke, and the little coda between Ben and Hurley, as they acknowledge a long and unseen partnership on the island together. The look on Michael Emmerson's face when Hurley offered him the job he'd wanted so long was heartbreaking. Nobody has ever chosen him. Now, finally, somebody has. You want a really cool piece of symbolism/parallelism/synchronicity? We've only seen a few people give other people Apollo candy bars, but each time it seems fraught with meaning. Jacob gave one to Jack, for instance, in the scene which depicts the moment, it is suggested, when Jacob drew Jack to the island.

And Hurley gave one to Ben. It was a minute-long scene that meant nothing to the plot. Just a cool (and funny) little character beat.

And I bet if you watch the series again, at that moment, you'll get a little smile on your face. Hurley choosing Ben, before even he realizes he has. Payoff.


* "I don't believe in many things, but I do believe in duct tape." Amen.


* It still bugs me that Sayid's awakening came via Shannon, when so much of his character motivation has been caught up in Nadia. Here's a pretty decent rebuttal to that way of thinking, but the fact is that they wanted to bring Maggie Grace back for some reason. I still don't like it, but then I never bought Sayid in love with Shannon. Oh, well.


* Every single moment of "awakening" drew on our awareness of the long history between these people for maximum emotional impact. I have to say, I really didn't think that Sideways world could have a resolution that made it worth spending so much of Season 6 there, but beyond all odds, they did it. I mean, look, I can understand that the ultimate ending might not work for you if you aren't inclined to believe in the afterlife, but those montages? Don't tell me you could be unmoved as Hurley just beams at his old friend Charlie, or as Jin and Sun look at Sawyer with new understanding, or when Kate told Jack, "I've missed you so much." If so, are you made of stone? "It worked," as Juliet would have said, and speaking of that, WOW. Wasn't the Sawyer/Juliet reunion the best of the bunch? Let's just say it got a little dusty in the living room, as Sports Guy would say.


* I think most people were awakened by the person that is their constant, or else a reminder of one of the most important moments of their life. This makes it all the more funny that Ben's constant is apparently a vicious beating. Some things never change.


* I get the feeling that Ben is now going to play Desmond to a bunch of "his" people from his time on the island. I gotta say, awakening Alex and Rousseau is going to be awkward for Ben. What you do in real life matters, at least in the LOST world.


* Interesting that in the sideways world, the island is finally dead. Outside of time, was it lost, or is the battle no longer necessary?


* Jack. Bamboo. The sneaker. Vincent. The eye closes. Full circle. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.


So, there you go. I loved it. But fear not, LOST-haters! It's not all love here. There's little doubt that some balls were dropped along the way. Let's face it, some of them were real hum-dingers, boy howdy! Gadfreys!

Look, LOST. If you want to devote half of your final season to an afterlife, and you want to have people totally confused about what it might mean, and you want to mis-direct so that it is heavily implied that the afterlife is actually an alternate dimension caused by the explosion of an H-bomb, that's fine. But you know what? You need to stop piling on mystery after mystery over in island world. I get why you are leaving some large questions about the nature of the island up for grabs, but we really really need to know what is at stake. We really need to know what the rules are that constrain the Enemy, and we need to know -- know, not just sort of suspect -- what exactly the Enemy would do if he got off the island. What exactly would happen to the world or the universe if the Island's quite literal cork does stay unplugged? We need to know these things so that we are invested in the story. We need to know exactly why Jack needs to succeed other than, "if you don't, things are going to get really bad." Not enough, LOST. Not enough. Mysteries left mysteries for thematic reasons? Good. Mysteries left mysteries because they dont' involve the central story? OK. Withholding data that actually cuts the tension and hurts the story, and (and here's the capper) doesn't really help the theme? Weak sauce. Especially since the only reason I can think of to keep this information away from us is to set up the big reveal with the submarine bomb, that OMG the Enemy is trying to kill them! We kind of already knew that. Knowing The Rules would have helped, not hurt.

Furthermore, introducing new mysteries at the end is OK, but they have to GO somewhere. Introducing the candidates was good, because the candidates were clearly a crucial element of the struggle between Jacob and the Enemy. Even if we didn't know exactly why they mattered, we knew THAT they mattered. On the other hand, infection? What's infection? What? It matters until it doesn't? They have good and evil scales? Actual scales? The scales, like the stone "cork" of the island, is something that takes the mysterious and makes it a little too actual, but unlike the cork, it suggests nothing other than itself. My problem isn't entirely that I don't understand the infection. It's that I have no idea why I even need to understand infection. In fact, I pretty much have to assume that it is based in the Jacobians' own misunderstanding of how the Enemy does business, and if that's all it is, we should have spent less time on it. No time would have been fine. If it's meant to indicate that the Enemy has superhuman powers of persuasion, it just wasn't shown very effectively. He was persuasive, but as far as I could tell, it was normal human persuasiveness. There were a number of these annoyingly botched operations in Season 6.

So yeah. Season 6, while containing some of my favorite LOST moments and some of the best episodes in LOST history, has to go down as one of the weaker seasons, probably around Season 2 level, though not quite as dire as the start of Season 3. That would put it in B+ territory, though, so it's all relative.

In the final analysis, though, I am just grateful. Grateful for amazing, complex, and iconic characters, and unbelievable performances from Naveen Anderews, Michael Emmerson, Dominic Monaghan, Jorge Garcia, and Josh Holloway, with particular honors for Terry O'Quinn. Grateful for a show that rarely pandered, never compromised, and was brave enough to stay crazy after all these years. Grateful for all the discussions and arguments and epiphanies and lessons in how it is story that matters in the end. Grateful that I was able to write about it in a little corner of the Internet and actually have people read it. Grateful to have taken part, in a small way, in the collective viewing experience.

Raise your cups.

To LOST. You kept us guessing the whole way, and -- son of a bitch! -- we're still guessing, and we will always be guessing.

To LOST. You doubled down on your audience's intelligence. You didn't waver.

To LOST. We won't see your like again.


And, hey? Guys? All of you? You who actually wanted to read my thoughts on all of this? Thanks for reading.

You all. Everybody.


L O S T




*Now, back to the concept of un-resolution, answers, mysteries, resolution and the lack of it.

This video has been making the rounds, and I think it makes an instructive entryway into the levels of mystery and levels of un-resolutions and perceived un-resolutions. You won't have to watch it in order to get my points, but if you haven't watched it yet, it's still kind of fun.

.
I'm not presenting this video because I agree with it (though in places I do), or because I disagree with its assessments (though in many place I do) or to rebut it point-by-point (which a lot of other sites have done). Actually, I think this video is valuable precisely because it contains such a wide array of questions, some of them actually quite good, and some of them trivial in the extreme. Furthermore, some of my own very largest questions are ignored entirely.

In LOST as in life, everybody's got their own set of burning questions about the nature of reality, but some people aren't even asking very good questions, and some are either missing the point entirely, or only touching briefly upon it.


The "unresolved mysteries" seem to break down into a number of categories.


Questions That Are Actually Answered
. If you really are concerned about that horse that Kate saw? Well, we've seen Others -- particularly Charles Widmore -- riding horses on the island.

So . . . there are horses on the island. Kate saw one. That's the deal with the horse that Kate saw.


Personal Bees In The Bonnet & Random Trivialities.
These are questions like, "why does the smoke monster make mechanical sounds"? The answer is "because that's what he sounds like." I honestly don't see how on earth the story was beholden to answer this. Was anybody expecting it to? There are a bunch of these. If it is something you're wondering about and you didn't get it, it might be helpful to first ask what, if anything, the answer would bring to the story.


Acts of God.
These were developments on the "real life" side, pretty much beyond the control of the creators. Malcolm David Kelly grew two feet and the timeline just didn't support such a spurt. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje wanted off the show and just like that, Eko was gone. Apparently, in the case of the mysterious "outrigger shooters", they had a scene in mind but couldn't get the actors together to put them in that other boat. In cases like this, you pretty much just have to take your lumps and move on. However, these are clever people. I think not addressing it is not the best way to go. A few key lines, even placed years later, from Ben, or from Juliet, or Richard, among others, would go a long way.


Brain Farts.
Given that we're dealing with 120 hours of serialized television, there are going to be moments that seemed huge at the time that were just the creators messing around, and there are going to be flat-out mistakes. Example: Christian Shephard in the cabin, and then suddenly mysterious eye in the foreground? If Christian was the Enemy, then who's the other guy in the foreground? I mean I suppose that the Enemy may have been using Christian's real body in the chair and then scared Hurley in another form, or Hurley may have seen an actual ghost trying to scare him away from the influence of the Enemy, since Hurley sees ghosts like that (actually, I kind of like that one). But really? It's more likely that they just did it for effect and it slid through even though it doesn't make much sense. In these instances I think the best thing to do is what was usually done. Just put your hands in your pockets, whistle, and move on. It's an error, and it doesn't help the story, it's always going to be clunky when you rewatch it, but it was already in there. What are you going to do? What happened, happened.


Acts of Necessary Omission.
Look, you can't be upset that we don't know where Mother came from, or what happened to the real Henry Gale, or what happened to Ben's childhood friend. Or, more to the point, you can, but how far do you want this to go? Did you LIKE the Jack's tattoos episode? Does Henry Gale actually need to get an episode explaining his origin? If you get one, will you then be asking, "but who made the silk that went into Henry Gale's balloon?" What happened to Ben's childhood friend? Well, what happened to your childhood friends? I would presume that they went off and had a life and married somebody and gained 40 pounds and took up photography or something. Maybe someday Annie will get a Facebook account. The story has boundaries. No story needs to -- or should -- explain everything. Who made Charlie's guitar? Why was Eko wearing that shirt? What was Charlotte's archeological thesis on? How many Yemmis can dance on the head of a plaster Virgin Mary?


Acts of Implication. These were mysteries that were left vague, but with a heavy-to-moderate number of clues suggesting a larger picture. Much of the doings of Widmore, Ben, Dharma, and the others are of this type. In fact, most of the "unresolved" mysteries are of this type. I have to say, I think that the vast divide between people who enjoyed the show and people who either lost interest or began to slowly become embittered toward it lies in each person's willingness or interest to engage in this sort of dot-connecting.

Here's what I think happened: To an unprecedented degree in TV, the creators of LOST actually figured out and fully realized the back story far past the point of the main story and into the margins. They did this so that even the most tertiary details could feel as lived-in and important as the main thrust of the story. This served two purposes: (1) it made it harder to figure out which were the real big mysteries and which were the red herrings, which allowed even greater surprises and pleasurable confoundation for the audience, and (2) it created a more immersive world, one in which you always felt that the story was highly detailed, right into the margins, but one in which you always felt there was more to be told, and more to explore, in any direction. They created the impression of a story without boundaries. The thing is, the story does have boundaries, so not all parts of every story were ever intended to be told. However, precisely because even the periphery of the story was told with such precision, the expectation of resolution was there. The good news is, precisely because the periphery was told with such precision, the dots are still there to be connected, should you want to.

Most of the mysteries are not further questions. They are the answers.

Example? Example. Two of dozens that I could choose from that video alone.

Who built the statue? Why are the caves covered with hieroglyphs? Well, it's a statue of Taweret. Taweret is an ancient Egyptian goddess. Thus, I'd say ancient Egyptians probably built it. Egyptians also wrote in hieroglyphs. I'd say the ancient Egyptians probably are behind that, too. This is obvious, right? Am I waaaaay out there to suggest that ancient Egyptians built the ancient Egyptian god statue? Can we just say that, because we didn't see the Egyptians building Taweret, that the building is to be taken as writ, and the story of the builders is not relevant to the story? We don't see who made Rosebud in Citizen Kane, and, even though Rosebud is the central part of the mystery of Charles Foster Kane, not seeing that is not troubling, because we are interested in the mystery of Charles Foster Kane, not in the mystery of a sled. We presume that the creation of Rosebud is not really a part of Charles Foster Kane's story. Rather, it is what Rosebud comes to mean to Charles Foster Kane, and how Rosebud comments upon his character, rather than Rosebud's origin, which lends Rosebud its significance. Rosebud is the answer, not the question.

Can't we take this further and say that the very presence of the statue and hieroglyphs indicate that the history of the island stretches back into antiquity? In fact, aren't the statue and the island answers to the question: "How long has this sort of thing been happening on this island, anyway?" Oh, and by the way, since the statue is a goddess and not a god, and since Jacob chooses it as his home, can we perhaps just make the briefest logical leap between our knowledge that Mother has been on the island as Guardian and that statue exists? So, how long has Mother been on the island? It's not really a part of the story, so nobody says it. But if you really want to think for a second about it, you kind of know how long, don't you? If I say that she has been around since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians, and that she has in some way influenced their own cosmology, am I making that up? If that's not a good enough explanation for you, who cares? It's not really relevant to the Oceanics. But I find it impressive that the story remains solid all the way to the margin.

Why does the statue have four toes? Well, I'd say it's because a hippo has four toes, and Tawaret's lower body is a hippo. Not exactly complimentary to Mother. No wonder she hated people. But even this answers a more general question, which is: What was the relationship of the Guardian to the island people way back in ancient Egyptian times? And the answer is: "They thought of her as a God, and, by their hieroglyphs honoring the smoke monster, they also apparently worshiped a smoke monster."

And I could go on. Not making stuff up. Just noticing which questions have been answered.

Am I really doing the writer's work for them? Or am I just noticing the work the writers actually did?

Here's a trick, not just for LOST but for any work of fiction or nonfiction that is somewhat challenging. Stop asking, "what's the deal with ___________." Start asking "what does ________ add to what I already know, and what does that imply?"


You don't have to look at it this way. But I recommend it. It's a lot more fun.


Acts of Obtuseness.
These are really the ones that I think make people mad, and you know what? I'm with you, even as I recognize why they did it. A large part of the reason for this is that sometimes those answers really should have been forthcoming, given what we know of the characters. They are huge questions that were left unanswered and pretty much without any signposts to guide us. And, a lot of these are especially galling because there are people on the island with that information and with either no reason or no reasonable ability to withhold it. Example:

"Hey Dogan, what's in the pill?"

"It's something for your friend, but he has to take it of his own will. "

"But what is it?"

"I can't tell you that. Will you please convince him to take it?"

"OK, you know what? I'll take it. Now what, punk?"

"NOOOOO! It's poison!"

"WHY POISON?"

"He's infected. So is your sister."

After that, I think my follow up is "What do you mean by infection? And, by the way, you're going to have to be very specific with me. You're going to have to explain everything you know about everything, really."

Also: Once he's on their side, nobody has any questions for Ben? Really? None?

I think not knowing is frustrating. Not even knowing why we don't know? That's rough. And not giving a reason for not giving answers, when there are clear and obvious reasons to do so, that's rough too. I think this is a valid ding on LOST, because sometimes they just don't sell the information withheld as being true to the characters to withhold.

One thing they have done fairly well is make it clear that even the characters, such as Ben or Richard, who we thought would know everything, obviously know not much. They've been duped, too.

But I understand and (to an extent) share the frustration of everybody who really wanted the big, big questions answered. Here's a question that I almost never hear asked: WHY did the show's creators choose to leave the nature of the island unanswered? How does it shape the overall narrative?

I think I will close with another video, which shows the final moments of the show side-by-side with the opening moments of the entire series, in reverse.



This was a meticulously crafted series. I'll miss it.

Lost.