Thursday, May 25, 2006

My Thoughts on the Season Finale of Lost aka Wherein My Readers Shout "Neeeeeeeeerrrrrd"

Warning: Given that David Fury, veteran producer/writer of Buffy and Angel, decided to leave Lost because he found out its creators really didn't have a plan (which Damon and J.J. wholeheartedly deny), these speculations could be bunk. And why yes, I really should go out more.

Hmmmm, so what did the season finale of Lost hint at? A lost civilization (the four-toed statue) hidden from view from the rest of the world (due to the electromagnetic properties) located in reality in Antartica (remember the polar bear shot in the first season? And the chess-playing Russian in the snow station dudes at the end of the finale?) Oh yeah, let's not forget the whole Dharma initiative, the hints from the Hanso Foundation about social engineering and life extension projects, and a whole lot of mysticism. And from the first season, the plane crash and the miraculous healing.

Now let's take a look at Frank Capra's 1937 movie, "Lost Horizon" based upon the novel of the same name. Plane crashes into an idyllic land located within a frozen waste (the Himilayas) and hidden from the rest of the world by magical properties. A terminally ill passenger is miraculously healed. This idyllic land, Shangri-La, is ruled by the High Lama who claims to be a hundred years old, and is supposed to be a utopia (life extension and social engineering anyone?)

Oh yeah, the idyllic land is Shangri-la, which is really a bastardization of the Tibetan Buddhist term Shambhala (also spelled Shambala or Shamballa), a mystical kingdom hidden somewhere beyond the snowpeaks of the Himilayas. From wikipedia: "Shambhala is believed to be a society where all the inhabitants are enlightened . . . Shambhala to exist as a physical place, although only individuals with the appropriate karma can reach it and experience it as such." Another Buddhist concept is Dharma. Some regard it as an ultimate and transcendent truth which is utterly beyond worldly things. There's too many references to Buddhism for the connection between Dharma and the movie "Lost Horizon" to be just coincidence.

So basically "Lost" looks to be turning to "Lost Horizon," at least for inspiration. If that's so, then the following synopsis from wikipedia of "Lost Horizon" might be helpful:

"Fleeing unrest in China, a small group of airplane passengers is hijacked by the pilot. The plane eventually runs out of fuel and crashes deep in the Himalayas, killing the abductor. The group is rescued by Chang (H.B. Warner) and taken to Shangri-la, an idyllic valley sheltered from the cold. The contented inhabitants are led by the mysterious High Lama (Jaffe).

Initially anxious to return to "civilization", most of the newcomers grow to love the place, including academic Alexander Lovett (Edward Everett Horton), swindler Henry Barnard (Thomas Mitchell), and terminally ill Gloria Stone (Isabel Jewell), who miraculously seems to be recovering. High-ranking British diplomat Robert Conway (Colman) is also enchanted, particularly when he meets Sondra (Wyatt), who has grown up in Shangri-la. However, Conway's younger brother George (John Howard) and Maria (Margo), another beautiful woman they find there, are frantic to leave.

Conway eventually learns that his arrival was no accident. He was brought there by the High Lama to take his place. The founder of Shangri-la claims to be hundreds of years old, preserved, like the other residents, by the magical properties of the paradise he has created, but is finally dying and needs someone wise and knowledgeable in the ways of the modern world to keep it safe.

George refuses to believe the Lama's fantastic story and is backed up by Maria. Torn between love and loyalty, Conway reluctantly gives in to his brother and they leave, taking Maria with them. After several days of gruelling travel, she becomes exhausted and falls face down in the snow. When they turn her over, they discover that she has died...of extreme old age. Her departure from Shangri-la had restored Maria to her true age. Horrified, George loses his sanity and jumps to his death.

Conway continues on and eventually meets up with a search party sent to find him, though the ordeal has caused him to lose his memory of Shangri-la. On the voyage back to England, he remembers everything; he tells his story and then jumps ship. The searchers track him back to the Himalayas, but are unable to follow him any further. In the final scene, Conway returns to Shangri-la, to the waiting Sondra."

So "Lost" may be in essence a retelling of "Lost Horizon" (or at least heavily inspired by it this season). Each one of the characters had been fleeing from some sort of turmoil in his/her life. The hidden civilization, the references to life extension and social engineering, Buddhist traditions, even the whole plane crash.

Of course, Abrams is notorious for f'ing it all up in the third season, so let's hope he doesn't suddenly shift the whole plot like he did with Alias.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Why Yes, I Am F!cking Bored

Legal Terms Rejected by ESPN Sports Center as Catch Phrases:

Dismissal With Prejudice!!!

He's been 12(b)6'd!!!

Collaterally Estopped!!!

He really showed him his Model Penal Code!!! (only to be used when player slam dunks over opponent's head)

Summary Judgment Denied!!!

Demurrer Sustained Without Leave to Amend!!!

Personally Served with a Subpoena Duces Tecum!!!

Thank God for Actus Reus!

He's Violating the Law Against Perpetuities!!!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Japanese Girls

Warning! The following prose has a factor of 10 on the Dennis Miller Obscurity Scale! Consider this a humble (and most likely poor) homage to British novelist M. John Harrison.

"Corruption . . . My lover is in America." -- "Japanese Girls" by Robbers on High Street

In the month of June, a low, grey mist would come off the Pacific to envelope Santa Monica. The mist wavered from being fine drops of dense moisture speckling the glasses of the near-sighted as they huddled to the sides of the Promenade to something less than fog, producing an overcast sky the color of dirty ankle socks. Whatever the outcome of the mist's indecision, it transformed Santa Monica from all gold sands, white modern beach-front houses and blue ocean to a rather gloom-filled town of muted colors and warped wood, more in line with dying lumber towns in northern California or British seaside towns they forgot to close down. The denizens of Los Angeles dubbed the mist rather appropriately and obviously as "June Gloom."

I had rushed into a Starbucks, shivering and cursing myself for failing to bring a jacket. With its faux wood paneling framing deep greens and the tang of coffee, the dark interior and the cold outside simply reinforced the feeling that I was in a dying whaling town from the nineteenth century.

Walking into these public places, I couldn't help but listen those around me--the Persian law students smelling strongly of cologne, slender and well-dressed executives buying scones, a group of Mexican nannies with their charges sleeping in their strollers.

"Which is why you should never date a girl with a boys name."

"And that's the crux of it. The horse. The goddamn horse."

"And I don't know what his fucking problem is. It's not like I've met him in person."

After I grabbed my coffee, I sat down and opened my laptop, an old computer of dust and cracked black plastic. A friend of mine jury-rigged it for wi-fi.

With the June Gloom comes a glut of solicitation e-mails from an on-line match-making account I no longer use. I could comprehend no discernable connection between the mist and the e-mails. However, the e-mails would arrive with predictable regularity every June and October.

Inevitably, they would all be from women in Asia--Nancy from Nanjing, Farrah from Fujian, Sherri from Shanghai. The photos would be invariably airbrushed and the tint so overly bright that the colors would be bleached from the women's faces and clothing. Each woman would have the same pose, the head tilted askew with the chin resting on steepled fingers. With the soft-focus, the use of too strong a flash, and the overdone poses, the photos looked to be from cheap Chinese cinema magazines from the 1960s. Their profiles would be written in the broken English found on chopsticks from cheap Asian take-aways: "I culture very much enjoy. Nice and pretty man of confidence to seek so choose writing for you."

Sometimes, I would wonder about the type of man who would actually respond. Most likely, balding white accountants with psiorosis living in New Jersey wearing threadbear brown suits over yellowed polyester shirts. The type of man who would consider chow mein and a cheap red wine to be the highlight of warm night.

Other times, out of a perverse line of thinking akin to wondering how it would feel to crash one's car into an pylon, I would wonder what a date with Penny from Pusan would entail. The clumsy attempts at conversation followed by equally clumsy attempts to hold my hand, questions about my net worth, my job, my car.

"I do feel sorta bad not getting back to him, but, you know, bad timing. I mean, I didn't plan for things to happen with me and Jordy."

"No, but the alcoholism didn't cause her to fuck the whole sales department."

"Hey Jack, I thought you didn't like Asian women."

I turned around and Wichman was looking over my shoulder. Back in college, Wichman wore pastel-colored Izod shirts, pleated khakis and sported a long blond pony-tail that became shiny with grease and bodily oil. The pony-tail clashed uncomfortably with his pale face and the red, round nose of an Irish drunk. Ten years later, the pony-tail was gone to be replaced by an unruly shag of ear length hair more suitable for seventies sitcoms.

I didn’t offer Wichman a seat, but he took one anyway.

“Wichman, how’ve you been,” I said, not looking up and signing off my account.

“Same old same old. You see cashier? She was totally flirting with me,” Wichman replied with a leer. “For fuck sake, you haven’t settled down yet? You know what you’re problem is?”

When I didn’t respond, he proceeded to answer his own question. “You’re problem is that you don’t believe in God. It’s human nature to worship something, to place another being higher than himself. Since you don’t believe in God, you place women on your pedestal instead. And you know what, buddy o’ mine, the only woman who want to be worshipped are broken women, and that’s a whole mess of trouble. Hey, but you already know that, am I right or am I right?”

I packed away my laptop, looked briefly at Wichman, and gave him a tight-lipped smile. “Yeah, I guess you’re right, Wichman. I guess you are. Sorry to run, but I have to head back to work.”

As I walked toward the door, Wichman shouted, “Jack, you just don’t like Asian women!”

Outside, the mist was beginning to disperse. The sunlight made its way through the sky, all golden and almost buttery, creating an air of nostalgia. I walked by an attractive Eurasian woman in a light blue blouse and dark worn jeans, nodding in time to her Ipod. She caught me glancing at her and smiled. I returned her smile and went on my way.