Talking about comic books, TV shows, movies, sports, and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lost 5x07: The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham

The life of Jeremy Bentham played out, for the most part, as we expected. He got off the island, went about the business of trying to convince the Oceanic Six to come back to the island, and ultimately dying. Sure, there were some surprises along the way: Widmore, claiming to be the good guy, set Locke up with the Bentham identity and provided Abaddon to chauffeur him on his mission, Locke discovers Helen has died and he and Jack share a charged scene.

But the death of Bentham was the big surprise of the evening, as Ben continues to shock us and keep things murky by strangling Locke to death moments after talking him off the ledge, so to speak. In addition to giving us the origin of Bentham, this episode further managed to blur the lines drawn in the sand by Widmore and Ben. If they are the players in a game for control of the island, with Jack and the others as the pieces, then who do we want to see win? If there's a war coming, which man is on the right side of it?

Ben murdering Locke did far more to make me rethink the assumption that Widmore is the bad guy in this scenario than his protestations of innocence to Locke at the beginning did. Widmore claimed that as leader of the Others he peacefully kept the island hidden for thirty years; attacking the US soldiers in 1954 and casually snapping the neck of his fellow Other casts doubt on his claim. He also maintained that the actions of Keamy last season were necessary to remove Ben from the island and cement Locke's ascension, yet Keamy was given orders to kill everyone on the island. While it's certainly possible that Keamy was overzealous in his interpretation of the orders, Widmore is still responsible for his actions, having hired him in the first place.

While Ben did murder Locke, it is entirely possible it was done at the urging of the island; perhaps a suicide would invalidate the power of the island to resurrect him; perhaps Locke was destined to die at Ben's hand for some mysterious reason and Ben was playing his role. The mention of Ms. Hawking seemed to set off Ben, yet if the events of "316" take place within a few days of Locke's murder, it would seem that at this point, Ben was already in contact with Hawking. And Ben did seem genuinely saddened as he said goodbye to Locke at the door of his hotel.

Then again, perhaps neither Ben nor Widmore are the "good guys." Both believe they are working in the island's best interests, but perhaps both are so far removed from the island's counsel that neither truly are. After all, despite actively working against one another, Ben and Widmore both wanted the same thing in this episode: for Locke to bring back the Oceanic Six. Perhaps the "good guy" is the island itself, and through Jacob/Christian, it's trying to protect itself from both men. There are times the island seems to be working against Widmore (the island getting moved so that Widmore can't find it) but also times when it's clear that Ben's actions aren't 100% in synch with what the island wants (Christian's assertion that Ben wasn't supposed to turn the wheel).

If the entire series can be seen as a chess match between two players for control of the island, perhaps its not a matter of Ben vs. Widmore, but rather the island against Ben AND Widmore, with the two men merely fighting over who gets to move the pieces.

Favorite Bits:
“Your parents had a sense of humor when they named you, so why can’t I?”

The emotionally charged scene between Jack and Locke. One of the best of the numerous confrontations between the two.

Tidbits of Note:
One of the Life magazines that Caesar sees at the beginning is entitled "“Color Pictures of the Hydrogen Test" and seems new (or at least, not 55 years old).

The boats amongst the 316ers were the same ones Sawyer and Company found near the 815ers abandoned camp in "The Little Prince."

Locke staring out across the water from the beach at the beginning recalls his similar position in the pilot episode. He also told a complete stranger (Illana) a big secret (he was dead, but now isn't) just like he told Walt that he could miraculously walk on the island shortly after the 815 crash.

Locke, obviously, arrived prone and vomiting at the same spot in Tunisia and in the same state that Ben did after moving the island (as seen in "The Shape of Things to Come"). It seems that since Widmore learned Ben was off the island, he's installed a surveillance system to watch that spot for other island evacuees.

It's been 4 days since Locke last saw Widmore, in 1954.

Bentham's passport is Candian and lists his birth place as New York, which explains why his obit said as much. For whatever reason, Canada is strongly associated with the Others. Ethan Rom said he was from Canada in the first season, and in the third season, Ben had told everyone that the two women manning the Looking Glass station were on assignment in Canada.

Bentham's passport lists his birthday as February 15, 1948, 8 years earlier than his actual birthday in 1956.

The philosopher Jeremy Bentham's beliefs were more or less the polar opposite of John Locke's, hence Widmore's comment regarding Locke's pseudonym.

Widmore tells Locke he can be reached by dialing 23 on the phone he provides.

Widmore refers to Ben as "Benjamin" something know one else, that I can recall, does.

Walt seems to sense Locke's presence before he sees him, and is having dreams about Locke. He now refers to Locke as "John" whereas on the island, he was always "Mr. Locke." Abbadon has adopted Walt's former nomenclature for Locke.

Hurley was painting a picture of a sphinx. When Abbadon visited him in the season four premiere, it was igloos.

In the scene with Locke and Jack in the hospital, we see the early beginnings of Beardo Jack. He also seems to be drunk/hepped up on pills.

It seems Locke's assertion that Christian is alive is what pushed Jack over the edge, after having seen visions of him off the island.

Locke bought the extension cord with which he intended to hang himself from Angels Hardware.

There are some goofy time elements in the story as presented. There must be a span of time between Locke and Jack's meeting in the hospital and Locke's death: we see the beginnings of Jack's massive beard, and even if it grows fast, we know from the first flash forward that Jack spends "every Friday" flying over the pacific trying to get back to the island, but it seems unlikely that the amount of time between Locke's death and the events of "316" is any greater than a week, meaning that when Locke dies, Jack should be in full on Beardo-flying-over-the-Pacific mode. Yet when Ben tells Locke that Jack bought a ticket from LA to Sydney and back, the implication is that Jack is just starting his attempts to get back to the island. The moment works in showing that Locke got through to Jack, but suggests that Locke was dead for at least several weeks before his obituary appeared. Even if his body was embalmed and preserved by Ben and his off-island crew, what took the obituary so long to appear?

Locke, Caesar, Illana and the other survivors of 316 appear to be on Alcatraz 2.0, the small island off the main island where Jack, Sawyer and Kate were held at the beginning of season three, and home of the Hydra Station. Caesar at one point leafs through some maps, including a barebones version of the one Ben gives Rousseau to guide Alex to the temple in season four. Perhaps Frank managed to land flight 316 on the runway Sawyer and Kate were building in season three (assuming they are in 2007).

How long as it been since Flight 316 crashed? Caesar and Illana seemed fairly comfortable rooting around the Hydra Station.

Why did Caesar hide the gun from Illana?

DID the plane crash? It seemed relatively intact on the beach.

Where did Frank go? What woman did he leave with? Sun? Where are they going?

Where did the 316ers find the catamarans? Were they part of the Hydra station's supplies?

Are Locke and the 316ers in the same time as Jack, Hurley, Kate and Jin?

Why didn't Locke, Ben and Frank vanish along with Jack, Hurley, and Kate? Where are Sayid and Sun?

Why was Widmore so captivated by his encounter with Locke in 1954? Relatively speaking, the two didn't interact THAT much, or at least, that significantly.

Was Penny born on the island? The timeline as given by Widmore to Locke would suggest it's likely she was (or else Widmore is considerably older than he seems, or she is adopted, or her mother left the island without Widmore).

Is that maybe why there's a problem with pregnant women on the island? Did Widmore truly get tricked by Ben into leaving with Penny, and the island punished Ben for his trickery by making it impossible for his people to give birth? Is that why Ben was so insistent on fixing the problem, because it proved the island wasn't happy with his ascension as leader?

How true was everything Widmore told Locke? Was Widmore the Other's leader? Was he tricked off the island by Ben, or is that his skewed take on the event?

Is Helen really dead, or his her tombstone a smaller version of the faked 815 crash site?

In the season four finale, the Oceanic Six went out of their way to refer to Locke as Bentham, even amongst themselves, and it seemed odd, in retrospect, that they wouldn't use his real name. Now it's even odder, as the only person we saw Locke give the Bentham name to was Sayid. He never told Walt that name, yet when Walt visited Hurley last season he referred to Locke as Bentham. Do we just chalk it up to creative license (since the creators wanted to keep Locke's placement in the casket a secret) or were there other visits between Bentham and the Six we haven't seen yet that make it clear why they used his pseudonym so universally?

On that subject, why did the Bentham obituary mention a teenage son? What in Locke's surroundings at the hotel would lead anyone to believe he had a teenage son?

Did Ben really shoot Abbadon? It makes sense that he did, and while he did admit as much, when was the last time Ben admitted anything that was 100% true?

Next Week:
Reunions aplenty, it seems. But the question still remains: when the hell are they?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

X-amining X-Men #3

"Beware of the Blob!" 
January 1964 

Writer: Stan Lee 
Penciller: Jack Kirby 
Inker: Paul Reinmen 

Professor X detects a new mutant presence and sends the X-Men to recruit the mutant. At a nearby carnival they discover the Blob, an immovable, invulnerable sideshow attraction. The Blob returns to the X-Mansion with the X-Men, but ultimately refuses to join the team. Before Professor X can wipe his memory of all the X-Men's secrets they just told him, he flees, and returns leading the carnival in an attack on the X-Men. While the X-Men battle the carnies, Professor X creates an "intensifier" device needed to wipe the Blob's memory. Once he succeeds, he wipes the memories of the Blob and the carnies, leaving them none the wiser about the X-Men. 

Firsts and Other Notables
The Blob makes his first appearance in X-Men #3. A largely invulnerable mutant with some measure of super-strength and the ability to become immovable by any force outside of his own volition, he's introduced here as a headline act, though he ultimately goes on to become a stalwart partner/henchman of other villains (most notably as part of Mystique's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants/Freedom Force). He will return to the series in short order. 

Beast is shown to be quite intelligent for the first time, and he comments at one point on the irony of being called "Beast" despite it. 

This is also the first time Cyclops is referred to as Scott Summers (as opposed to "Slim", as in X-Men #1). X-Men #3 is also the first time he laments the "awesome power" of his optic blast, and how it prevents him from having a normal life. Get used to it; it becomes a bit of a thing with him.

Professor X detects the presence of the Blob on his own ie without the mutant-detecting computer Cerebro, which has yet to appear. As is often the case with Cerebro, it's unclear what led him to detect the adult Blob who has presumably using his powers in the carnival for some time now (maybe it's when the carnival came to town). His detection is also inexact, as the X-Men spend the first few moments rushing in various directions as Xavier tries to pinpoint Blob's location. 

A Work in Progress
Whereas the professor had no problems affecting the Vanisher's mind last issue, this issue he must build a Kirbytech "intensifier" gizmo to successfully wipe the Blob's memory of the X-Men's secrets (the hang-up seems to be one of volume; he presumably needs the device to wipe the memory of Blob and all the carnies at one time).  

Ah, the Silver Age
Well, the X-Men fight carnies. You don't see that too often nowadays. I particularly enjoy the menagerie of circus animals that get involved in the fighting, including Beast going toe-to-toe with that staple of the Silver Age, the gorilla, while a giraffe kicks things off by stealing Iceman's ice cream. 

Upon learning of a possible new mutant, Angel expresses his desire that the mutant be as hot as Marvel Girl. Stay classy, Warren.

"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!"
It's not just Professor X in this one, the X-Men as a whole are pretty much assholes. When Cyclops meets the Blob, he invites him back to the mansion and adds that "the X-Men don't take 'no' for an answer!" Really? They don't? Ever? When the Blob asks him to scram, Cyclops calls him fat and blasts him for it.
After running through some tests back at the mansion the Blob declines an invitation to join the the X-Men. While Professor X is so flabbergasted that he never conceived the notion that a mutant might say "no" to him, the team attacks him. So the Blob flees, and decides to come back with his carny buddies to even the score. I dunno, but I think the X-Men had it coming.

Look at it this way: The X-Men meet the Blob. They ask him to come back to their mansion. He says no. They say "thank you for your time, enjoy your life with in the carnival" and go home. Or maybe they stay and play some games and have a fun day at the carnival. I dunno. Either way, things turn out much better for them by simply taking "no" for an answer. 

Young Love
Cyclops's growing feelings for Jean are acknowledged, but of course, he can't act on them because of his terrible power. All the male X-Men fight for the opportunity to escort Jean in the search for the Blob, including Iceman (who was indifferent to her presence in the first issue). She chooses to go with Cyclops, but Angel makes off with her regardless. This issue also contains the infamous moment in which Professor Xavier declares his love for Jean (seriously, it's a Jean lovefest for two or three pages). They can't be together, according to Xavier, because he is "the leader of the X-Men and confined to this wheelchair." Not because he is her older teacher and she his teenaged student.
Yeah Chuck, the WHEELCHAIR is why you can't profess your love...

It seems that even Stan Lee recognized the inappropriateness of this, as Xavier's feeling for Jean were only ever brought up in this way twice more: once by Chris Claremont in the 70s when Jean was hospitalized and believed to be dying shortly after her emergence as Phoenix and decades later as part of Onslaught's origin in the 90s (Xavier's romantic and inappropriate feelings for Jean were part of the repressed bundle of emotions that became Onslaught). 

Teebore's Take
This is the X-Men's first truly goofy Silver Age story and I like it a whole lot more now than I remember liking it when I first read it via an X-Men: The Early Years reprint back in the day. In addition to the great X-Men-on-carny action at the end, there's a hilarious sequence at the beginning as the X-Men are searching for the new mutant Professor X discovered. One by one they see things they believe must be caused by mutant powers only to have them debunked, including someone on the sidewalk lighting paper on fire for some reason (he's actually using a magnifying glass in his hand) and someone at a carnival game who is shooting over his shoulder with unerring accuracy (turns out the shifty carnies have the game rigged and the shooter is in on it). Plus the term "rube" is tossed out generously throughout the story. 

Of course, the X-Men themselves don't fare too well in the story. In addition to being dicks to Blob for no good reason, they more or less get their butts handed to them by the carnies (and their menagerie) before Professor X steps in to save the day. Which means once again, the villain of the piece is defeated by having his mind manipulated by Xavier's telepathic power, rather than by anything the X-Men actually do, which is more or less the same resolution as in the previous issue. But those concerns aside, this is the first issue of the series to really capture the freewheeling vibe of Silver Age Marvel comics, the first one, despite the flaws and inconsistencies of a new book still finding itself, to be fun to read.  

Next Issue
Magneto returns, and he's brought some (evil) friends along, in X-Men #4!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Heroes 3x17: Cold Wars

Harrison Ford: Primatech's demise
While this episode didn't offer any additional background regarding the Company, as I naively hoped it would, I did appreciate the effort was made to clarify that the Company was shutdown at Angela's insistence, not simply because one of its offices burned down.

Harrison Ford: Peter's a badass
How sad is it that Peter, with one power (and a relatively lame one at that, offensively speaking) is more effective than Peter with two dozen powers? Still, it was fun to see Peter use his power creatively and effectively throughout the episode.

Harrison Ford: Containment vs. Extermination
While Nathan could have avoided the whole issue entirely by keeping his yap shut about people with super powers, setting him up as a lesser evil to Danko's (and presumably, members of the government's) desire to simply exterminate everyone with an ability makes Nathan's role as the villain of the volume far more intriguing than previously established.

Harrison Ford: Angela and Bennet
The final scene between Angela and Bennet on the park bench was beautifully shot. I particularly liked how Angela was wearing white (marking her as the "good" against Nathan and Danko's "evil" with the morally gray Bennet caught between them) with black gloves (because while Angela might be the White Hat in this scenario, her hands aren't clean). And having Noah give her back his retirement watch was a subtle way to show the audience that Bennet is ultimately working for her (well, subtle for this show...).

Harrison Ford: Focus
The episode benefitted greatly from its focus: no side trips into Claireland, no adventures of Hiro and Ando, the Bumbling Duo, and no updates on the Sylar road trip. It had a story to tell, and it told it. I'm not saying I'd like EVERY Heroes episode to be like this, but a little narrative focus now and then helps a lot.

Tommie Lee Jones: Daphne losing her power
I'll reserve judgement until we see the final outcome, but it looks like we're heading in a direction wherein Daphne becomes the first person to receive the "cure" Nathan is trying to get Mohinder to create. The tragedy for Daphne, should this happen, of course, is that her power keeps her healthy. And the tragedy for us would be the loss of power for one of the few characters on the show who seems to genuinely enjoy having one and can use it without hours of soul searching.

Wesley Snipes: Another Apocalyptic Portrait
I hate to end on a low note, especially since this was one of the better episodes we've had in a good long while, but seriously, another picture of foreboding doom? They still haven't managed to explain last volume's apocalyptic portrait (how, exactly, did Arthur's plan to give everyone super powers result in the world splitting in two, as was painted all over the place?). I thought this season was moving away from the whole "we have to save the world from being destroyed in the future" plot. Do they not know anything else to do with these characters? The idea of people being on the run from the government and trying to find a way to survive/fight back can carry the story of the volume without introducing yet another "avert the future" plot.

And seriously, Matt and Peter go back to Isaac's Loft/Mohinder's lab? Because no one would think to look for them there? Because Danko doesn't have cameras trained on a location central to numerous fugitives' recent lives?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

And the Oscar Goes To...

Teebore's picks for the 81st Annual Academy Awards. I won last year's pool, so the pressure is really on this year:

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:
Amy Adams "Doubt"
Penelope Cruz "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Viola Davis "Doubt"
Taraji P. Hension "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Marisa Tomei "The Wrestler"

Another toss-up year for a category that is traditionally either a forgone conclusion or entirely up-for-grabs before the ceremony. Amy Adams is likely to split "Doubt" votes with Viola Davis, but if Doubt wins in this category, it will be for Davis's short-but-much acclaimed performance.Taraji P. Henson's straight-forward but heartfelt performance is a surprise nominee from "Benjamin Button" who has that film's numbers on her side. MarisaTomei , with her third Oscar nomination, could further repudiate the critics of her "My Cousin Vinny" win with a win in the same category again, but in a movie defined by the performance of its lead, it's doubtful. So I guess I'll go with Golden Globe winner Penelope Cruz in Woody Allen's latest, as Allen's supporting ladies tend to do well at the Oscars. Davis is my second pick as a possible upset, but don't be surprised if someone else goes home with this award entirely.

1st Pick: Penelope Cruz
2nd Pick: Viola Davis

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Josh Brolin "Milk
Robert Downey Jr. "Tropic Thunder"
Phillip Seymour Hoffman "Doubt"
Heath Ledger "The Dark Knight"
Michael Shannon "Revolutionary Road"

While Robert Downey Jr. was easily the best part of "Tropic Thunder," his nomination for a comedy performance is likely his award as far as the Academy is concerned. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, meanwhile...

Seriously, who are we kidding? It seems like Heath Ledger won this in July; the ceremony on Sunday is just to make if official.

1st Pick: Heath Ledger
2nd Pick:
Heath Ledger.

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Anne Hathaway "Rachel Getting Married"
Angelina Jolie "The Changeling"
Melissa Leo "Frozen River"
Meryl Streep "Doubt"
Kate Winslet "The Reader"

In what is largely seen as a head-to-head showdown between Academy Vet Streep and Academy Bridesmaid Winslet, the edge goes to Winslet. She's been racking up award after award this season. While many critics believe her work in Revolutionary Road to be superior than for what she's nominated, it seems likely the Academy will make the six-time nominee a winner. But don't countStreep out entirely; despite her huge number of nominations, she hasn't won since '82's "Sophie's Choice" and the Academy may want to honor "Doubt" with a win. If they're in the mood for an upset, look forStreep to emerge victorious.

1st Pick:Kate Winslet
2nd Pick: Meryl Streep

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Richard Jenkins "The Visitor"
Frank Langella "Frost/Nixon"
Sean Penn "Milk"
Brad Pitt "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Mickey Rourke "The Wrestler"

Like Best Actress, this award is seen as a contest between Penn and Rourke. While Rourke won the Golden Globe and had lots of early buzz, the tide has shifted towards Penn recently with most prognosticators giving him the nod. "Milk" on the whole received more nominations than "The Wrestler," including a Best Picture nod, showing stronger support within the Academy for that film. For now though, I'm going with my gut: Hollywood loves a comeback story, especially one that has the main character coming back from a self-inflicted exile, and giving Rourke the Oscar would be the Hollywood ending to his comeback.

1st Pick: Mickey Rourke
2nd Pick: Sean Penn
(But I may end up flip-flopping this a few times before filling out my official ballot).

Achievement in Directing
David Finchner "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Ron Howard "Frost/Nixon"
Gus Van Sant "Milk"
Stephen Daldry "The Reader"
Danny Boyle "Slumdog Millionaire"

Danny Boyle's been riding "Slumdog Millionaire's" success this award's season, and all indicators suggest that won't stop on Oscar night. Stephen Daldry's nomination is mainly notable because he's now been nominated for all of his first three films ("Billy Elliot" and "The Hours" as well) but a win tonight seems to be along shot. Ron Howard suffers from the general malaise towards winning that is affecting "Frost/Nixon" elsewhere, leaving Gus Van Sant and David Finchner as possible upsetters. In the end, I guess Finchner has the best shot at taking down Boyle, but at this point, that seems highly unlikely.

1st Pick: Danny Boyle
2nd Pick: David Finchner

Best Motion Picture of the Year
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Reader"
"Slumdog Millionaire"

The plucky little indie that could, "Slumdog" (as the kids say) is the easy favorite to win. It's been gobbling up pre-Oscar awards like a hungry, hungry hippo, including the Golden Globe and the SAG, DGA, PGA and BAFTA awards. Which is not to say an upset isn't possible: "Brokeback Mountain" was in a similar postion a few years ago before "Crash" crashed the party (pun intended). What's tricky here, though, is figuring out which movie has the best shot at upsetting "Slumdog Millionaire." "Frost/Nixon", having been largely shut out at other ceremonies, seems to be the token film for which the nominations are the only recognition it's going to get. "Milk" has a decent chunk of nominations, but its largely seen as an "acting" movie. There's been some scuttlebutt that HarveyWeinstein is applying his usual Oscar guerrilla tactics to "The Reader" but many view it as the fifth nominee as is. Which makes "Benjamin Button" the film in the best position to upset. Maybe. It does have the most nominations this year and is the kind of movie of which traditional Best Picture winners are made. But it too has been racking up nominations throughout the awards season while going home empty-handed.

In the end, its likely a moot point, as all indicators are pointing at this being Slumdog's night.

1st Pick: "Slumdog Millionaire"
2nd Pick: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lost 5x06: 316

Without a doubt, this was the most narratively straight-forward episode since season three's "Flashes Before Your Eyes": we got an initial setup, then a flashback that flows linearly from start to finish before returning to where it started. Like Desmond in "Flashes," the story of this episode was focused solely on one character. By showing only what Jack did in the time between meeting Ms. Hawking and boarding Flight 316, this episode created in a 36 hour period of time a season's worth of flashbacks.

With the events unfolding just from Jack's perspective, the episode felt like "Pulp Fiction" or "Go", in which the same story is told from the perspective of different characters. Now that everyone's back on the island, we can flashback to Ben's 36 hours and see the events surrounding his phone call to Jack, or find out what happened between Kate and Aaron before she popped up in Jack's room for a little pre-crash roll in the hall.

What's more, for the first time in a long time, Jack's story was once again compelling in this episode as he struggled through his transition from a Man of Science to one of Faith. When was the last time we cared about a Jack-centric story? It's been awhile. Even the first flash forward only became interesting in retrospect, after its true nature was revealed.

Jack's joy upon waking up on the island and his belief on the plane that everyone being together meant something were very Lockian. Is that what the island's been after all along, someone who is equal parts Jack's skepticism and reason and Locke's blind faith and zeal? Has it been Locke's destiny all along to temper Jack into the true leader of the island, making Locke the Moses of the island, destined to lead his people to the Promised Land but unable to enter it himself? Note that the first thing Jack does upon his return is to take a heroic dive into the lagoon, perhaps baptizing himself anew as an island believer?

Just as Ms. Hawking instructed Jack and the others to recreate Flight 815 as much as possible, the episode was filled with references to the first episode and the lead-up to the crash: Jack waking up in a suit in the jungle to cries of help, Jack drinking at a bar before his flight, Hurley reading a comic book in Spanish, Jack making arrangements for the transportation of a coffin (though he had a much easier time of it with Locke...Ajira Airlines must be more lenient when it comes to physical remains than Oceanic).

Assuming these parallels continue, it will be no surprise when Locke is resurrected in some form upon reaching the island. It seems his entire purpose in dying is to serve as Christian's proxy, to fill Christian's shoes, so to speak, so it's safe to assume he'll rise from death in some way upon reaching the island the same way Christian did.

Favorite Bits:

I chuckled heartily at Ms. Hawking's admission that Ben probably wasn't telling the truth.

Hurley buying up as many seats as possible to save people from being on the doomed airplane.

Finding out that Frank was piloting flight 316. "We're not going to Guam, are we?"

Tidbits of Note:
The Lamp Post station is clearly an allusion to the lamp post in the Chronicles of Narnia; in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe the lamp post marks the far edge of Narnia, and is the major landmark the Pevensie children see upon entering Narnia via the wardrobe. In The Magician's Nephew, it's revealed that the lamp post was transported into Narnia from Victorian London, making it a unique piece of the "real world" in the fantastical Narnia, sort of the inverse of the Lamp Post station.

The US Army photo Jack noticed in the Lamp Post was dated 9/23/1954, almost fifty years to the day of the crash of Flight 815 (9/22/2004).

Eloise seemed relatively unconcerned regarding Desmond's message from Faraday; technically, we still don't know for sure that she is Daniel's mother.

Jack is surprised to learn that Locke killed himself, and Ms. Hawking specifically says that obits usually don't mention it...but the obit that Jack read in the season three finale's flash forward implied suicide by hanging: the Internet PORED over that obit in the break between season's three and four, looking for clues to the identity of the person in the coffin.

The time stamp after the opening said 46 hours earlier, yet Ms. Hawking said Flight 316 left for Guam in 36 where did the other ten hours go? Jack might have been unconscious on the island for ten hours, but I doubt Hurley struggled in the lagoon for that long. Perhaps the time difference between island time and off-island time is now ten hours?

Now that we know the Oceanic Six flew Ajira airlines back to the island, it seems more likely that the water bottle discovered by Sawyer and company back on the island is somehow from the Six. However, the belief is that when Sawyer found that bottle, it was at a time in the island's "future", a time we haven't seen yet. But the Oceanic Six seem to have landed in the island's past.

While the phrase "they all have to come back" has been used to describe the Oceanic Six in general, it seems the requirement for returning to the island is having been on the original 815 flight, which excuses Desmond, Aaron and Lapidus, but not Walt. I assume he's been given his own exception by the island, especially since enough off-island time has passed that the actor's growth isn't as much of a problem.

Ben's association of Jack with Doubting Thomas is another example of that name (or derivatives of it, such as Tom) popping up on the show. It's been used a lot.

The rabbit in the magic show was reminiscent of the island bunnies, like the one Ben used to con Sawyer in season three and the one that participated in the Orchid orientation film.

Now we know why Jack's dad has been wearing tennis shoes on the island.

Perhaps in light of last week's revelation regarding Ben, I got the distinct impression in this episode that Ben was doing his best to piggy back the Oceanic Six back to the island; I'm curious if his presence on Flight 316 screwed things up.

Hurley was reading a spanish copy of a Y: The Last Man graphic novel. Y was written by Brian K. Vaughn, one of Lost's writers.

I'm assuming the instrument case Hurley is toting as something to do with Charlie; perhaps another vision of Charlie is what convinced Hurley to get on the plane?

If the purpose of the Oceanic Six is to recreate Flight 815 via Flight 316 it makes a certain karmic sense that Frank is the pilot, considering he was supposed to be the 815 pilot.

Even Ben's snark is a lie: "How can you read?"/"Because my mother taught me." Except she didn't: she died in childbirth.

All those Lost analysts that have been putting off reading it groaned when they saw Ben was reading James Joyce's Ulysses, a dense and head-scratching loose adaptation of Homer's Odyssey (Ulysses is Odysseus, star of Homer's Greek epic, in Latin). The book frankly scares me, and I've read Faulkner.

It may be nothing, but its worth pointing out that Ben walked away from Jack and off camera, shortly before the "crash."

The flash on the plane was, of course, exactly like the time flashes experienced on the island...which makes sense when we find out everyone is seemingly back in the 70s.

While the title of the episode is clearly referencing the Ajira airlines flight number, it could also be a nod towards the famous John 3:16 passage from the bible: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

The sixteenth episode of Lost's third season was "One of Us," which flashed back to Juliet's arrival on the island while in the present she retrieved medication to help Claire, which helped ingratiate her with the Losties. It turned out that was Ben's plan all along.

Why did Ms. Hawking have Locke's suicide note?

She said the island isn't done with Desmond yet; what role does he have yet to play?

What favor did Ben leave the church to perform? Is Penny okay? How did he get so beat up?

If Dharma used the Lamp Post station to locate the island, how did they know to look for it in the first place?

What further significance does Jack's grandpa have to things? We have to assume he'll be back in some capacity, otherwise why introduce him this late in the game?

What happened to the plane? Did it crash? What about the other passengers and Frank? We know from the previews of next episode that whomever was escorting Sayid seems to have survived, and I have a feeling we'll be seeing the guy who offered Jack his condolences, too.

Have we now seen the entirety of the terrible things that happened because the Oceanic Six left? Because, frankly, things weren't that terrible...

So when is the island now? I'm pretty sure they're back in the 70s during the Dharma heyday (considering we've seen Daniel in that time) but then again, Jin could just be wearing an old Dharma jumpsuit and driving the bus Hurley fixed.

Oceanic Six questions:
Sorry, Kate: where's Aaron? Who/what changed her mind regarding returning to the island?

What about Ji Yeon? Did Sun tell anyone she'd most likely be gone for awhile? Is Sun the worst mother ever?

Who convinced Hurley to get on the plane?

How did Sayid get there? Why was he in custody? Who was the woman escorting him?

Next week:
The secret origin of Jeremy Bentham. Locke rises from the grave (well, coffin).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

X-amining X-Men #2

"No One Can Stop the Vanisher"
November 1963

Writer: Stan Lee
Penciller: Jack Kirby
Inker: Paul Reinmen

Plot: When evil mutant the Vanisher threatens to steal America's continental defense plans using his teleportation power, Professor X sends the X-Men to Washington DC to stop him. The X-Men are ineffective against him, so Professor X uses telepathy to erase the Vanisher's memory of his power and intentions when the criminal shows up on the White House lawn to collect his ransom for the plans. The X-Men then make short work of the Vanisher's gang of hoodlums.

Firsts and Other Notables: The Vanisher makes his first appearance. He'll continue to appear sporadically through the years, remaining a relatively minor X-Villain.

FBI Special Agent Fred Duncan, the X-Men's government liaison, also appears for the first time. Duncan (and the government's more amiable relationship with X-Men) shortly gets downplayed as the notion of anti-mutant prejudice takes root, but he pops up later in the Silver Age and will decades later have a behind-the-scenes role in the origin of 90s villain X-Cutioner.

A Work in Progress: Professor X is referred to as "Dr. X" and Marvel Girl's telekinesis is referred to as teleportation. Xavier projects mental images on a wall for the X-Men.

Ah, the Silver Age: Iceman hitches a ride to the mansion in the back of an ice cream truck.

Also, the various hoodlums the Vanisher attracts are incredibly fawning for a group of criminals, especially the guy furthest to the right:

"The Vanisher, the Vanisher, omigod you guys, shh, the Vanisher is going to say something!"

Young Love
: Marvel Girl swoons after Cyclops helps her during a training exercise.

Angel is mobbed by a gaggle of girls, and he and Marvel Girl flirt with each other.

Human/Mutant Relations: The public turns against the X-Men after their failure to stop the Vanisher, but the concern regarding their secret identities plays more to the Spider-Man-esque paranoia of the Marvel Universe than to the fact that the X-Men are mutants.

Teebore's Take: It's interesting that in only their second appearance the X-Men are basically outclassed by their foe and Professor X must save the day (of course, one has to wonder, if Xavier can so easily erase all memory of their foes' powers and evil intentions, why doesn't he do that to ALL their villains?). This reinforces the notion that the X-Men are students and not the most powerful characters in their own book, something that sets them apart from other super-heroes of the day.

Similarly, the Vanisher is a product of his time: he wears an outlandish costume (commented on in the story) for no reason but for the fact that super-villains wore outlandish costumes back then. Teleportation is a pretty weak power, but in context, the X-Men's inability to hit their problems away makes the Vanisher seem god-like. Of course, as times changed and the heroes, villains and their powers became more sophisticated, teleportation became a less effective offensive power. Perhaps that's why the Vanisher never really caught on, and, aside from a few appearances throughout the years (notably as the main antagonist of the minor mid-80s Fallen Angels limited series), remains relatively obscure and unused.


I...I'd like to say something about this but....I'm speechless. I have no idea what to say except that this has to be an early April Fool's Day joke....doesn't it?

Heroes 3x16: Building 26

Tommy Lee Jones: Waffles
The Bennet Family is, of course, eating waffles for breakfast.

Harrison Ford: The attack on Sylar
Sylar's quest for his father is dangerously close to slipping into Hiro in Japan/Matt in Africa-esque irrelevance by being entirely too removed from the main narrative of the volume. However, having the government continue to attempt to apprehend him helps keep the story from straying too far.

Wesley Snipes: Sylar's return
While I was a bit irked that Sylar took the damn kid along with him after going back for the agents' laptop, I was too busy being confused at the staging of the scene in which he did so to care too much. The way the scene was setup, with the truck suddenly stopping, shaking and then Sylar emerging dressed as a goon, suggested that Sylar somehow snuck along with the Goons in disguise and waited until that moment to attack. But we saw him drive away, which means Sylar should have just caught up with the Goon Squad in his car and took them out. So why did he emerge from inside the van, dressed as a goon?

Wesley Snipes: The Indian Picture
Maybe this is just me being dense again, but where in Matt's drawing was it made clear that Hiro had to stop a wedding? All I saw was Hiro, clearly in India, standing between a fallen man and a woman. Yet somehow, Hiro and Ando look at the same painting and somehow know they are intended to stop a wedding.

Tommy Lee Jones: Hiro and Ando's Indian Adventure
On the one hand, I appreciate that Hiro and Ando's jaunt to India wrapped up quickly (as compared to their numerous side trips in the overly-revered first season) and didn't involve too much slapsticky bumbling on the part of either.

On the other hand, it seemed like a colossal waste of time to hammer home the point for Hiro that he can be a hero without powers. A little sidekick envy is fine, but a little goes a long way. The impression I got from the volume's premiere, with Hiro all setup to be Alfred for Ando, was that Hiro was comfortable with his new status, which makes the conclusion reached here all the more a waste of time.

Wesley Snipes: Claire's emotional rollercoaster
I am beyond tired of the emotional rollercoaster Claire rides seemingly every episode: I hate my dad, I love my dad, I hate my dad, I love my dad. Pick one and stick with it for awhile, girl.

Wesley Snipes: HRG's Motivation
As enjoyable a character as Bennet is, it's long past time his motivation for doing evil extends beyond "protecting Claire." Even lying to Sandra is nonsensical at this point. It seemed clear to me that by now, Bennet was done lying to his family. Sandra knows about Claire and what Bennet has done in the name of protecting her. While I could understand if he didn't go into details with Sandra (such as the fact that he's helping to round up ALL Specials, not just dangerous ones) it doesn't make a whole lot of sense that he wouldn't at least tell her that yes, he's hunting Specials for the government now. Except that the plot needed him to leave home so that Peter and Co. could pull a pseudo-Haitian Whammy on him (which, granted, was a fun ironic moment).

Tommy Lee Jones: Gill Man
I have a pet peeve that carries over to multiple stories: why is that whenever a character discovers an extraordinary ability, no matter what it is, their initial reaction is to assume they're a freak and keep it hidden? If I discovered I had a super power, even a relatively lame one like breathing underwater, I'd talk to my friends about it, show it off, try to figure out how I got it.

And for that matter, why is the government wasting its time hunting down this kid? Seriously, if I was that DHS overseer woman, my first question to Nathan would be "why are you wasting resources capturing Aquaman-lite when far more powerful and potentially dangerous people are running around?"

Wesley Snipes: Tracy's escape
The idea was well conceived: Tracy thinking Nathan set her free to prove his point to the DHS overseer only for us to find out it was actually the Hunter who remorselessly did it. The execution of that idea, however, suffered from major plot-hammering. Why, exactly, did Tracy freeze and kill her hostage, when keeping him alive was her only leverage towards escaping, except for the fact that the plot needed her to kill him in order for the point to be made to the DHS gal? A well-crafted idea that needed better execution to work.

Tommy Lee Jones: Rebel's identity
Rebel either has to be Angela at this point, or a new character. Sending the fax to Hiro and Ando made it clear that Rebel is operating on a scale larger than just texting Claire, and the message that they needed to save Matt Parkman suggests Rebel is, or has access to, a precog, as we see Parkman at roughly the same time as Hiro and Ando read the fax and he isn't in need of saving. Angela, of course, could have dreamt Parkman's upcoming need for help and also dreamt when Hiro and Ando would be India, enabling her to send the fax at the right time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Much Ado About A-Roid

I feel sorry for Alex Rodriguez. I'm just saying that so you realize that nobody can really get away with saying that. Why? Because he once signed a contact for $252 million. So even if he loses a leg people will say "I'd rather have $252 million dollars and one less leg than both legs with my salary." Nobody can say they feel sorry for A-Rod and get away with it.

However, money aside, I can recognize unfairness when I see it. And A-Rod has been treated unfairly throughout his career. He's been called anything from a greedy SOB to the man who ruined baseball. And for what? He did what any other person would do and signed with the team that offered him the most money. The venom originally aimed at A-Rod never made sense.

Ever since the $252 million dollar contract with the Texas Rangers Alex Rodriguez's career has been under a microscope. I suppose that's understandable, but the microscope was unrelenting. No matter how well A-Rod would play, it wasn't worthy of $252 million. And baseball fans would delight when A-Rod or his team wouldn't do well. Then Alex Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees: a team with a fan base that you can NEVER please and a team every other baseball fan hates. A-Rod's move to the Yankees cemented his place in baseball villainy despite him having little choice in the matter.

This is not to say he hasn't made his situation worse. Announcing he's opting out of his contact during the World Series is a apparently a really bad PR move. Running around with strippers when you know the media is watching you like a hawk isn't smart either. A-Rod's real problem, though, is that he always tried to make the public like him, but the more you want the public to like you the less likely they will. Of course, there's no excuse for taking steroids and lying through his teeth in his press conference after being caught doesn't really help matters either.
Which brings me to my main point. Alex Rodriguez was recently outed for using steroids. In the 2003 season Major League Baseball performed no-penalty steroid testing just to see if there was issue with steroid use in baseball. 104 players tested positive for steroids that season. The records of the failed steroid tests and the players associated with the tests was supposed to be kept private, permanently. In 2009 one name (and one name only) was leaked from those failed tests, Alex Rodriguez. What was that I was saying about A-Rod being treated unfairly?

I suppose this is a good time to bring up the point that I'm not pro-steroids (or HGH or whatever, let's just call them Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) from now on). I'm stating now that I'm anti-PEDs. But I'm against PEDs for seemingly different reasons than everyone else. I'm against them because they're illegal, and more importantly, they're dangerous. If you allow PEDs in baseball you create a culture where to be able to compete in baseball you need to take PEDs and jeopardize your health. I don't want to watch a sport where a player is almost forced to take a drug with potentially harmful side-effects in order to compete. (This was how baseball was from 1993 - 2003. And who was turning a blind eye to it all, Bud Selig?)

It seems to me people are against PEDs for completely different reasons than what I stated. People seem more obsessed with PEDs "tainting the record books." They think most of the current record holders in baseball are fraudulent and that's their problem with PEDs. And to that I say BS. Quit your whining.

First of all, as far records are concerned, people say that PEDS give hitters today an unfair advantage over the hitters of yester-year. Which is true. But hitters of the present will always have advantages over hitters of the past regardless of if PEDs are involved. The longer a sport exists the better the training the players will get, the better the nutrition the players will get, and the better the medical attention the players will get. Players 30 years in the future will have advantages that players today don't have. That's just the way things are.

Every baseball season you're going to hear about some pitcher who has a ligament tear in their pitching arm. You know what happens? They get Tommy John surgery where the torn ligament is replaced by a tendon from another limb. After a year of rehab they will pitch as well as they used to, and in some cases, better. Yes, it's been know to happen where a person pitches harder and faster after Tommy John surgery. But nobody cares about this type of "performance enhancement" pitchers of the past never had. Shouldn't we throw away any stats a pitcher accrues after Tommy John Surgery since if it was 50 years ago that pitcher simply would have never pitched again?

After the news of Alex Rodriguez's failed steroid tests the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, said he was surprised. And as an aside, I call shenanigans on that. Are you telling me Bud Selig doesn't know anything about these tests and who failed them? These tests have been around for 5 years and he's the freakin' commissioner! Give me a break.

Oh, and all you players\managers feigning outrage over the A-Rod 'scandal', get off your high horse. We all know that if you weren't taking them, then you were aware of teammates who were. So, shut up.

Anyway, Bud Selig is threatening to erase Alex Rodriguez's stats from 2001 to 2003 (the time frame A-Rod admitted to using steroids). Which may sound reasonable except for the fact that he did in fact play during that time and did hit home runs. You really can't take that fact away from him. They counted when the game occurred and appear in the game's box score. Or are you seriously planning on going through every game and taking away any RBI or Run A-Rod may have scored? Couldn't that change the outcome of the games in which Alex Rodriguez had RBIs or Runs? Are you going to change in the record books who won those games? My point is, you really can't just say something didn't happen when they did happen. And let's keep in mind Alex Rodriguez was operating under a culture that Major League Baseball tacitly endorsed.

People say that PEDs are the greatest threat to Major League Baseball. That is completely false. Take a look at this website. As you can see, the website consists of MLB's official list of all the World Series Championships. You notice anything odd? Look at year 1919. According to the website the Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago White Sox fair and square. However, there's a piece of information missing. You see, that World Series was as fixed as any WWE wrestling match you've ever seen. Bookies paid off the White Sox to throw the World Series and it completely illegitimized everything sports is about. (And yes, Kevin Costner, Shoeless Joe Jackson still tried his hardest despite accepting the payoff money.) To MLB's credit, they've done everything possible make sure it never happens again. However, casting doubt on the competitive nature of a sport, especially in its championship game, is THE greatest threat to any sport. Yet still that World Series stays on the record book like any other Worlds Series. There isn't even an asterisk. But we want to erase A-Rod's records because of PEDs? PEDs are bad, but fixing a game is worse.

Another topic is the Hall of Fame. A lot people are saying Alex Rodriguez cannot be a Hall of Famer now. Bill Simmons at said it best, "The Baseball Hall of Fame is a museum." The Hall of Fame is designed to tell us of the major players throughout the history of baseball. A-Rod is one of those players. Not putting him in the Hall of Fame would be denying history itself. It would be like saying Richard Nixon shouldn't be considered as being a president because of Watergate. We may not like it, but Richard Nixon was a president and A-Rod is a Hall of Famer. It's the Hall of Fame not the Hall of Baseball Players We Really Like.

However, I'm willing to entertain the notion that cheaters should not be allowed in the Hall of Fame. So I did some digging. Check out this page for Gaylord Perry from the National Baseball Hall of Fame's website. From reading that page it sounds like Gaylord Perry was a great pitcher. He was. He has great stats. There is something missing, though. Can you guess what it is? No? Well, apparently Gaylord Perry's pitching stats were accrued by mostly using a pitch that was deemed illegal in Major League Baseball since BEFORE HE WAS BORN! Gaylord Perry was the master of the pitch called the 'spitter'. (The term 'spitter' in this case is actually a bit of a misnomer. Gaylord Perry used more snot and Vaseline than saliva.) Oh, and there's no allegedly about this. He freaking wrote a book about it! Yet Gaylord Perry is in the Hall a Fame without any asterisks whatsoever but A-Rod should never be allowed in Hall of Fame? Where's the consistency?

In the end, what I'm asking is for everybody to take a deep breath and realize that what has happened has happened. There have always been "Eras" in baseball. There was the Dead Ball Era, the Coked Up Winter Wonderland 80's Era, and now there's the PED Era. Each Era's stats can be examined individually by baseball historians. As the game moves forward I am confident that people will be able to keep the inflated hitting stats of the PED Era in perspective.

You can take away Alex Rodriguez's stats, but there's still 103 other players who tested positive whose stats will remain. And that's not counting those who weren't caught or those who used HGH which Major League Baseball still can't test for. Let's face it, there's no way around the PED Era and the players, the owners, MLB, and even the fans are all at least partially responsible for it happening. But now MLB is on the road to becoming PED free (as free as it can be) and that's a good thing.

I'm all for stiffer penalties on PEDs now. But the past is the past and A-Rod's transgressions took place 5 years in the past when there were no penalties for steroid use. But if you really insist on A-Rod's stats being erased and him being denied the Hall of Fame, then I'll let you babies have your bottle. However, the other 103 names need to be made public or else I really would feel sorry for Alex Rodriguez. Well...not really....but you catch my drift.