You Must Be Joking

•March 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

For those of you who might not believe me that there are scammers on online job searching sites, take a look at one of my most recent email responses from an “employer”:

Hello

Glad to hear from you, concerning the position! I am after an Administrative Assistant urgently to run errands until I return back to the United States by the second week in May. I am unable to meet up with you to talk about this job in person as I am currently away working on a program in Scotland.

1. You must be detail-oriented to perform your tasks effectively and Proficiency with computers is required, accuracy and meticulous work regime is required.
2. You will be prepared in advance to do my business shopping.
3. You will receive my packages which will be shipped to your address or to a post office near you and then you can pick it up at your convenience. The content of the packages are ancient antiques, art works and personal letters, You will be required to open the packages, to check content and condition.
4. The packages will then be shipped to my clients. (You don’t have to pay for the shipment. All expenses and taxes will be covered by me)
5. You will work between 15 and 20 hrs a month, variable depending on amount of work needed and your work rate.

The pay is $350.00 per Week. regardless of hours worked, but i envisage no more that 8 hours in any week. I need your service because I am constantly out of town. I Buy Companies that have financial difficulties and I am trying to start an Art Gallery here in Scotland. I will return to USA in May so this process will be on going till then. If you don’t mind, I will meet up with you when I return and then we can talk about the possibility of making this long term.

Well, let me know if you are able to handle the position. I will email you the list and pictures of what to shop for when I am ready. No heavy packages is involved! You can do the shopping at any nearest stores. You will be shopping for ancient antiques and art works. I will provide you my personal UPS account number for Shipping. All you have to do is provide my account number to UPS and shipping charges will be applied into the account. I will provide clear set of instructions for each task I need done as well the funds to cover them. If I were to mail you money to do my shopping plus up front payment for your service, where would you want it mailed to? How should your name appear on the paycheck? Could you provide me with the following details below:

Your Full Name:
Your Full Address with apt # (NO P.O.BOX)
Your Cell/mobile phone number
Your Home phone number
Age:

I will be look forward to hearing from you soon!

Bullshit. Total bullshit.

LOST Cranks It Up to Eleven

•March 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Sayid finally goes off into the deep end... literally

All my fears about LOST’s sixth and final season have now been assuaged. No matter what happens, no matter how crazy or ridiculous the twists and reveals are, I’m on board. To put it in a working man’s terms: last night, LOST kicked ass. Gone is the slow-burn pacing of episodes 2-4, in fact as my buddy Nate pointed out after we watched last night’s episode, “Sundown” almost felt like four different LOST episodes crammed into one delicious package. You had so many storylines going on at the same time but they all felt managed- there was the flash-sideways plotline, Sayid & Dogen’s story, as well as Claire & Kate’s awkward reunion. This is the kind of pacing I felt the show needed to have right out of the gate, but now that it’s sped up I actually appreciate the slower and more upbeat episodes that preceded it. “Sundown” was so dark and epic that it would have been inappropriate to put it earlier, and we wouldn’t have gotten the chance to know Dogen and Lennon before Sayid committed double-homicide.

Those are stupid fucking glasses, Lennon. Prepare to die you hippie bastard.

While we didn’t exactly get the bevy of answers last week’s promo promised, we did get a pretty upfront explanation for what the Monster is and how he works. Gotta hand it to LOST for having a Japanese guy describe their primary antagonist as “evil incarnate” and making it work; Dogen’s character has always been in danger of slipping over into the realm of cheesiness, but the show is a wealth of great acting, and Hiroyuki Sanada is no exception. Now that Dogen is gone I look back on his character with fondness. I think he and Lennon were killed off at the right moment- we had just begun to figure out who they were and Dogen literally told Sayid his backstory before getting drowned in the ex-Fountain of Youth. As neither seemed to have any idea how to stop the Man in Black, their characters had more or less outlived their usefulness, but I think it’s awesome that this show introduced two of the LOST universe’s most important characters only to kill them off four episodes later. It’s a gutsy move, but one that worked- with Dogen gone not only is the Temple useless, but as a viewer you get this ominous sense of dread, like nothing can stop the Monster now, and there’s no one left (other than Jacob’s ghost) to tell our heroes what to do.

One has to wonder if Dogen was telling the truth; if Sayid had stabbed MIB before he spoke, would he have died? I wonder if we’ll ever know, but it’s just as plausible that Dogen only wanted to send Sayid to his death. I don’t think so, though- Dogen suspects Sayid’s infected, that he’s susceptible of becoming one of the Monster’s thralls like Claire. So I doubt he would expect the Monster to kill one of his potential allies. No, I imagine if Sayid hadn’t hesitated, LOST’s supervillain would have dissipated into a cloud of smoke and disappeared. I’m not so sure my earlier idea of how infection works is still accurate, though- it does seem like Sayid was given a choice to be good or evil, and that he chose to let his internal scale dip into the black. I think what’s most frightening is the idea that the Monster has such a powerful influence that even a sentence can seduce a mortal into joining his side.

Nate felt very adamantly that the show was a pretty on the nose allegory for the Bible, with Ben as Judas, Jacob as Jesus, etc., etc. The Monster certainly exhibits many of the characteristics of Satan- he can change his shape, is practically invincible and can bend men to his will with words alone. He tempts with empty promises, but is clearly at his core, evil. I know the show’s throwing a lot of smoke and mirrors our way, and has intentionally written characters like Jacob, Richard, Dogen and Lennon to be untrustworthy and sinister so that the line (or scale, I suppose) between good and evil is unclear. But I think at the end of the day, it’ll become clear that the Monster really does want to kill every living thing on the Island, and he’s just twisting our characters like pawns to make his job easier. As I wrote in an earlier recap, he probably also needs some of the numbered characters (already has Sawyer and Sayid) to help get him off the Island. Nate also thinks Sayid will ultimately redeem himself, and that he’s right when he calls himself “a good man.” But I think Sayid finally turned to the Dark Side, and as any Star Wars fan knows, there’s only one way to escape it. If Sayid does redeem himself it will have to be through a fatal sacrifice, but I feel it’s more likely one of our other heroes will be forced to put him down.

Overall, a really fantastic episode. A+. It was a really dark installment but it didn’t leave me feeling depressed, although I am both at a loss for what is going to happen next, and afraid for what few characters have yet to join the Monster’s side. I mean at this point it’s Hurley, Jack, Richard, Ilana, Miles, Frank, Ben & Sun vs. MIB, Sayid, Claire, Sawyer & all the surviving Others. And god knows what’ll happen to Kate and Jin, who I guess are more or less captives at this point. “Sundown” was a really great closer for the first act, and leaves me craving more in a way none of the season’s other eps did. Next week’s installment, entitled “Dr. Linus” is presumably a Ben flash-sideways episode, and I’m a little worried he might not survive the outing. I mean, the narrator said he would “face his demise” next week- that doesn’t sound too good. Ben is one of those characters I just can’t see surviving until the end of the series. I mean, what do you think Ilana’s going to do to him when she finds out he killed Jacob? But I hope his arc is resolved in an extra-satisfying matter, as he is one of the series’ most memorable characters and deserves it.

Now for some theories:

The Flash-Sideways are also Flashforwards

This is a theory that’s been floating around the internet and one that I agree with. What made me come up with this idea on my own was the moment where Jack notices the cut on his neck. It seems like such an important moment, and it’s odd that Jack wouldn’t remember where it came from. Nor have we, the audience, seen it yet, unlike the appendectomy scar. I think the reason our flash-sideways characters seem subtly aware of their previous existence, as well as each other, is because they’re actually the same people we’re watching run around on the Island right now. By the end of the series our heroes will change the past, and their consciousnesses will somehow be transferred to the new reality, although all memories of what transpired before will exist only in their subconscious. I think Jack’s bloody neck is a wound we have yet to see, maybe even a fatal one that he receives in the original timeline, a final vestige of the life he once lived.

And Jack’s Ex-Wife Is…

Come on, everyone on the internet’s sayin’ it, and I know you’re thinkin’ it, too. JULIET. On the one hand, it seems unlikely since none of our characters seem to know each other in the alternate reality. But it just seems so perfect… and if it was just Sarah all over again they wouldn’t have made it so ambiguous. After all, she was afraid of having a child with Jack in the original timeline and ended up becoming pregnant by another man. And of course, there’s David Shephard’s bright, blue eyes. C’mon… you know you’re thinkin’ it…

Who Does Jacob Want to Bring Back to the Island?

The name written by 108 on the lighthouse mirror (which was also crossed off) was Wallace, which could be a new character, but is more likely a pseudonym for someone we’ve already seen or just simple misdirection. It could be Desmond, especially since Eloise Hawking told him the Island “wasn’t done with him yet.” He’s such an integral part of the show I would be surprised if we didn’t see him appear in the original timeline at least once more. But my bet’s on Charles Widmore. I know, I know- he tried to kill everyone on the Island, Smokey-style. And even if he didn’t explicitly tell the mercenaries to commit a massacre, he did hire Keamy, possibly the most insane merc you could ever find. But his turn last season, when he seemed genuinely interested in keeping Locke alive and getting him back to the Island to fight in the war, seems to suggest something he’s a changed man. It’s possible he was working for Smokey and wanted to send Locke back to the Island so the big bad could take his form, but we’ve been told the Monster’s been trapped and I doubt he’s had any means of communicating with the outside world. More likely Jacob came to Widmore personally and told him he would have another chance to see the Island before he died, as long as he did as he was told. Widmore has money and resources that could come in handy in the current situation, although as Smokey seems totally invulnerable I don’t know what good it would do. Nonetheless, Widmore still seems like the most likely candidate (see what I did there?).

The Sorry State of the US Job Market, Part 1

•March 2, 2010 • 1 Comment

I have been looking for steady, paid work since April 2009 with little to no success. The best gig I managed to wrangle during that time was a really awful internship for a start-up that digitized people’s old home movies and photos. It wasn’t really a company- just a middle-aged dude and a Brooklyn-Italian lady he used for tape transfers. My job was to deliver/pick up tapes, film reels and photos from lazy/rich people’s houses in upper Manhattan and Westchester, in an old and crappy station wagon that was neither registered as a commercial vehicle nor possessed commercial plates. This meant it was practically impossible to drive in Manhattan, or anywhere really, without getting a ticket for standing in a no-standing zone. As my “boss” was only willing to cover two tickets for me, which I figured was because he was barely turning a profit as it was, I decided to quit after I met the quota. There was more drama to my departure which I won’t go into, and to avoid getting sued or something I won’t give the name of the company. But let me tell you, you DO NOT want to get your videos, especially your film reels, transferred by this dude. Since he doesn’t have a company, just a computer w/ FinalCut, a scanner and some tape decks, he outsources film reels to CostCo, who at one point spliced several different reels from several different clients together. He also often left people’s tapes and videos in the back of the car overnight, just begging some hobo to smash his ancient rear window and take someone else’s precious memories.

This is just one of the many problems with our country’s job system that I have encountered over the last year. Considering the state of the economy, you’d think people would be playing it safe, but for whatever reason there seems to be 2 billion new small businesses and start-ups popping up everyday. In most cases, the central idea for the business is decent, but is most likely already being done by someone else who has more money and resources (as was the case with the digitizing gig). Even if there isn’t competition, it seems like so many of these small companies start up without the funding they really need to succeed. I’ve had interviews with lots of these kinds of people, and I’ve noticed trends. They’re relatively young, usually somewhere between 20 and 40. They’re very passionate about their very mediocre idea and think it’s going to revolutionize the world. They’re not particularly intelligent, but appear to have recently come into a large sum of money, which may or may not actually be from their wealthy family. I once got a call for an internship from a guy who was 20 years old. 20 YEARS OLD. How dumb is this kid to think that I, a graduate of Tisch who studied film and TV, would want to work for little to no money for someone who’s not only younger than me, but felt compelled to mention that a hot chick had just walked by him on the street while interviewing me over the phone?

The worst travesty these small business owners commit is the little to no money they pay their fresh, young employees. In fact, I’ve found these people specifically seek young people (I’ve been asked my age in follow-up emails, which is technically illegal) because we are of course equal parts naïve and motivated. We’re dying to work anywhere, for anyone, and our desperation means we’ll work for crumbs. In fact, it seems employers both big and small seem to assume that US citizens aged 18-28 don’t really need to be paid. Internships are rarely paid, and when they are it’s usually minimum wage, which at $7.50 an hour is nearly impossible to live off of in NYC. The unpaid internship is one of the most unjust institutions in this country, and the worst part of it is that no one’s talking about it. Sure, 20-somethings are all complaining to each other about how much it sucks, but when’s the last time you saw CNN cover unpaid internships? Or heard Obama talk about it? It’s just an accepted fact of life, an evil that none of us can change, and one we must simply learn to live with.

It’s even worse in the film industry. In certain cases, I understand why crew members can’t be paid, although I’m shocked anyone works for free. That’s probably just because I don’t find production work that fun, but I know a lot of lovable lunatics who find working for 15 hours non-stop w/o pay to be the bees’ knees. Small, independent productions and short films simply cannot scrounge up a large enough budget to reimburse everyone who works on it, and that’s understandable. What’s not understandable is why feature films also hire unpaid interns and production assistants. I worked on the 2006 Bruce Willis vehicle 16 Blocks as an unpaid intern for the locations department and didn’t even get credited. I don’t blame any of the guys from the locations department because they were all awesome and it’s not their fault the producers didn’t put room in the budget to pay the handful of interns they hired. But maybe if a sizable portion hadn’t gone directly into Mr. Willis’ pocket, then there would have been room for me to get minimum wage. And it just seems so insulting to me when employers say, “Oh, there’s just no room in our budget to pay the interns.” WHY DON’T YOU JUST NOT PAY JENNIFER ANNISTON 30 MILLION FUCKING DOLLARS?!!! SHE’S NOT EVEN A GOOD ACTRESS!!!! How can you even look someone in the eye and say that to them, knowing it’s simply not true?

Which brings me back to my original point: employers think 20-somethings are idiots. They really do. They think we view the world as a rainbow and daisy-covered fantasy that’s always hunky-dory, and that just getting hired is compensation enough for us. How did we get here? How do we live in a society where people work but are not compensated? Is there any way to define that other than servitude? Employers often say the experience is compensation in itself, especially since putting the internship on your resume will allow you to get jobs in the future. Well if that was true then maybe I wouldn’t complain about internships so much. I would never condone them, but maybe I’d keep my mouth shut if all the experience I’ve culled since I took my first internship in 2005 had actually amounted to something other than more unpaid internships. If you include the bullshit delivery job, I had seven internships during my four years at college and not a single one lead to a full-time paid position or anything other than a recommendation, recommendations that have yet to land me a paying gig. So at the end of the day, what was the point? Granted, I did gain some valuable experience from some of the better ones, namely the locations department gig and my eight-month stint at Pressman Films, for which I am grateful for. But I can’t help but feel like all these promises of valuable experience and recommendations are just lies designed to perpetuate a system that keeps young, college-educated citizens working for free. I mean, when’s the last time you took an internship where the description said “possibility of turning into a full-time paid position in the future” (and they ALL say that) and actually meant it?

This post rant ended up being way longer than I expected, so I broke it up into two parts so that people would actually read it. Coming up is the second half, plus more LOST theories and my Top 10 Movies of 2009. Also, alexhilhorst.com is nearing completion…

The Island- Wondrous Paradise or Jungle Hell-Hole?

•February 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Hmm... I wonder what Scott Wolf is up to...

It’s been a slow burn so far on the final season of LOST, and while I loved “The Substitute” and dug “Lighthouse,” I’m about ready for the show to kick it into first, which I’m quite certain they’re going to do in next week’s “Smokey attacks the Temple” ep, “Sundown.” With the exception of the Numbers reveal, both of the previous episodes were more character-driven than plot-driven, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except that I feel as if the season should have had a faster pace in its first act. Thus, I haven’t had much to say about these eps, so instead of doing a recap I’m just going to do a quick list of thoughts/theories/ideas and questions the show has left me with. Oh, and I’d like to point out that so far the order of character-centric eps is the same as it was in season one- Ep. 2- Kate, Ep. 3- Locke, Ep. 4- Jack. By that logic next week’s episode should be Sun-centric, but I’ve read that it is in fact a Sayid episode.

Is the Island Worth Protecting?

The debate of whether the Island is special has raged on since Jack and Locke first bitched about whether or not to blow open the Hatch with unstable dynamite, and it is one that has crossed over to fans of the show as well. I think the question comes down to this: do you, like 90% of the characters, look at the Island as a place of danger, death and horror (“This place is death!!!”), or are you a born-again walkabouter like Locke, who believes it is “a place where miracles happen” and needs protection from the outside world? I think it’s hard to argue that the Island isn’t special (healing properties, fountain of youth, time traveling donkey wheel, oh, and um… the Monster?), but just because something’s special doesn’t mean you shouldn’t blow it to hell and back with a good ol’ hydrogen bomb. Alison is strongly in the “this place is death camp,” and is constantly calling the Island a horrible place when we’re watching the show. Personally, I think there’s more to it than what we’ve so far. Sure, lots of people die there, but perhaps that’s due to the caustic presence of the Monster. Maybe if you removed him from the equation the Island would be an eden. Regardless, the way I look at it is that the Island is magic, and as far as we know it is the only source of real, unabashed magic in the known universe. And therefore, hell yes it deserves to be protected.

Don’t Trust the Man in Black

My ol’ pal at Entertainment Weekly, Doc Jensen, has recently been discussing whether the Man in Black is actually an evil figure and whether Jacob, who has seemingly been manipulating/ruining our heroes’ lives, is in fact the villain of LOST. The writers are being very clever/talented at keeping the conflict ambiguous, and by making MIB a rounded and nuanced character. But just because the guy pretends to be on our heroes’ side doesn’t mean he is, and I think we’ll all get to see just how nasty MIB is next week, when he kills everyone at the Temple… well… probably not everyone. To me, MIB seems like a superpowered version of Ben. His game is manipulation, kind of like Satan, and whatever he says must be taken with a grain of salt. I believe him when he says he wants to get off the Island, and it seems likely that he needs some “recruits” to help him do so. But I also believe Richard, and think that after Smokey has discovered how to escape the Island, he’ll kill Sawyer and the rest of his recruits, and maybe everyone else on the Island just for good measure. He’s a bad dude, and if you don’t believe that, you’re just being naïve. Don’t forget he can turn into an unstoppable pillar of black smoke, or what Eko’s final words were after Smokey pummeled him to death UFC-style- “You’re next.”

Which of the Ghosts We’ve Seen Have Been the Monster?

This has been really bugging me this season and I don’t know if we’ll ever get a definitive answer, at least not in the show. I could see the producers doing a podcast once the show’s over and listing all the ghosts, but for now I just have to speculate. In my post on “What Kate Does,” I postulated that the Monster can probably only take the form of people who’s corpses are on the Island- this seems congruent with confirmed Smokey manifestations- Eko’s brother Yemi and John Locke. But what about Ben’s mother, or Hurley’s imaginary friend Dave? And most importantly, what about Christian Shephard? Before last night’s ep, I was convinced he too was the Monster, as he was manipulating both Locke and Claire, and because he told Frank and Sun to wait in Ben’s house until John Locke showed up. Course we all know who John Locke really was. But Claire had a curious line last night- when asked how she knew the Others had taken Aaron, she said “first my father told me, then my friend told me.” By the end of the ep we knew “her friend” was actually the Man in Black. But Claire knew it was him even though he was in Locke’s shape, which means she know he can change form. So it seems unlikely that she wouldn’t realize her dead father is actually “her friend.” Either way, new Claire scares the crap out of me.

There’s More to the Numbers & Candidates Than the Show Is Letting On

I don’t want to believe the Man in Black’s claim that the Numbers correspond to castaways who are candidates for Island protector, mostly because I think it’s just not a cool enough reveal. But knowing LOST, it isn’t. There’s gotta be more to it, or they wouldn’t have dropped that mythological bomb in hour four. Also, the person who told us all this info was the completely untrustworthy MIB. I thought we were going to get Jacob’s side of the story in “Lighthouse,” but all we got was a lighthouse that can see our heroes’ houses. Although the scene didn’t illuminate much, the magical mirror was really cool, and I’m left wondering who was at 108 degrees, and how exactly did the mirror work before Jack went all Jackface and smashed it?

Richard’s Origin

I’m still crossing my fingers for the Richard flashback episode that may never happen, but in the meantime I’d like to discuss my theory as to his origin. For some reason I’ve always felt that Richard came from the Black Rock, especially since we’ve seen him building a model ship. Originally I thought he was part of the crew, but when MIB said “nice to see you out of those chains,” I decided he wasn’t a crew member but a prisoner. Perhaps the Black Rock wasn’t a slave ship like everyone thought, but a prison ship. When it ran aground, Jacob freed Richard and brought him to the Spring, where he was granted eternal life in exchange for undying devotion to the big J. Since I was right about Flocke being the Smoke Monster being the Man in Black, I’m gonna go ahead and call this one and say that Richard came from the Black Rock. I’ll take your bets now.

That’s all for today. The blog section of the new alexhilhorst.com is almost complete, so soon you’ll be reading these there. I’m also going to get my Top 10 Movies of 2009 up before the Oscars. See ya.

I Think I Just Figured Out What’s Going On on LOST

•February 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Dudes, I have like, the WORST hangover ever

A lot of people seem disappointed with last night’s episode of LOST, mostly because the writers dialed down the pace and neglected to show Sun, Frank, Ben, Richard, Ilana or Smokey. The show does have a history of floppy second episodes- there’s Season Two’s “Michael, Sawyer & a shark” episode, Season Three’s “Sun has been a cold hearted bitch ever since she dropped that glass ballerina” and last season’s “Hurley told Sayid he wouldn’t help him but when shit hits the fan, ol’ Hugo’s a softie.” Personally, I liked the ep, and felt it was one of the best Kate-centric episodes ever, right along with Season Five’s “Whatever Happened, Happened.” But I’m not really here to recap it, I’m here to talk about the quickly emerging mythology that I think I’ve caught on to.

Most of the show’s wacky intrigue came from the scenes in the Temple, where a just-resurrected Sayid was tortured for no discernible reason, while Jack reminded all of us that he’s perfectly capable of being a badass. At first I thought the Others were worried Sayid was the Monster, and were torturing him to make sure he wasn’t impervious to pain (remember how Bram’s bullet just bounced right off Flocke?). But when Dogen dropped the term “infection” I remembered Rousseau’s obsession with an Island-borne sickness, and how she kept telling the castaways to keep an eye on each other for signs of an infection. This was further elaborated on last season, when we saw that the infection wasn’t a traditional disease, but instead a supernatural possession related to the Monster. It was revealed that Rousseau killed her husband and the rest of her crew because they had become violently obsessed with protecting the Monster after going into the Tunnels to save a one-armed Montand. Robert acted all nice and lovey, but when Rousseau lowered her gun he immediately tried to kill her, insinuating that the Monster is capable of compelling people to do anything it wants.

We know the Monster can absorb the memories and take the form of dead people, and only seems able to do this when said person’s corpse is actually physically on the Island. The first time we saw the Monster do this was with Eko’s brother Yemi, as well as Alex Linus last season. With the reveal that Claire has also been infected by the Monster, it seems quite obvious that Christian Shephard is also the Monster. We can also presume that the Monster can only be in one place at one time, so he can’t be taking the form of Locke and Sayid. No, Sayid has merely been infected, like the French team and Claire, and once the infection spreads, Sayid will no longer be Sayid, he will merely be a mindless thrall of the Monster. Going on the evidence we’ve been presented so far, I’d venture to guess that the Monster can only infect people who have been wounded or nearly died. For instance, Claire became a thrall after almost getting blown up when the freighter mercenaries raided New Otherton. Sayid was shot, then died.

Now, about the Spring. Clearly the Spring possesses supernatural healing properties. It’s definitely what saved Ben’s life, and is probably the source of Richard’s immortality. It seems linked to Jacob, as once Jacob was murdered it turned from clear to a gross shit-brown. Remember when Richard told Flocke “I’m this way because Jacob made me this way.” Perhaps he was referring to Jacob’s connection to the Spring. In any case, my theory is that Sayid has been infected because the Spring is now tainted by the Monster, and that the Monster got into him through his bullet wound. These exact specifics of how Monster infection works are just speculation, but I am quite positive that that is what has happened to Sayid, and that it has happened to Claire and the French team as well. Perhaps the war Widmore told Locke about is one that will be fought between the Others and the Monster’s legion of thralls. Whatever the case may be, I am absolutely in love with this fantastical mythology. There is still the question of why Claire saved Jin’s life, though…

ZOMG- LOST Season 6 Premiere

•February 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

SPOILER ALERT

I CALLED IT. I TOTALLY CALLED IT. Last year, after the LOST fifth season finale, I totally predicted that the Man in Black would be revealed as the Monster in physical form, and tonight I was proven correct. Flocke even declared it himself, telling Ben “Sorry you had to see me like that” after wiping out Bram (another fake-out character) and the rest of Jacob’s bodyguards. But this is LOST, and the writers wouldn’t being doing their job if they weren’t constantly surprising me, which thankfully, they still are. I mean, who saw that opening teaser coming? Possibly the best LOST teaser of all time, if not their most surprising twist. At first I thought it was a trick, a fake-out, and was sure Jack was just unconscious and dreaming, lying on the island in 2007. Which he was, but he was also in an alternate reality that he created, and this conceit may be one of the writers’ cleverest moves. It satisfies all fans of the series, both those who wanted Jack to fail and have the 1977 survivors meet up with Sun, Frank, Ilana, Richard & Ben, and those who wanted our heroes’ futures to be rewritten. Even as the camera pushed through Jack’s plane window and zoomed down through the clouds, I still thought I knew what was happening- I figured it would zoom down to the island, where Jack would wake up in his DHARMA jumpsuit a la the season one opening “eye shot.” Once the camera was underwater I had no idea what was happening, a feeling that persisted throughout most of the episode, but one I welcomed. I didn’t give a shit about expectations or mysteries or plot holes. They had me. I was along for the ride.

This was an amazing episode of LOST, and I loved every second of it. What I liked is how it focused on character, and didn’t rush to reveal any mysteries, other than the Man in Black’s true nature. We had the long, painful, but emotional departure of Juliet, as well as some creepy moments with Flocke. Lots of seeds were planted, but this definitely felt like an initial chapter- the story’s just beginning and you could feel it. I loved the Temple reveal and its über-Other inhabitants, especially the hippie guy with the glasses. The Japanese dude seems pretty badass, but his karate and bonsai trees could get cheesy. The art direction gave the series a much more fantastical feel, and it’s nice to see the show embrace its more supernatural elements. For instance, the Man in Black is depicted as an evil spirit or demon, who can be warded off with things like ash circles. I assume “the spring,” as the Others called it, or “fountain of youth” as I like to call it, is what saved Ben’s life, and has extended Richard’s and presumably Four-Eyes and Jackie Chan’s as well. What I’m wondering though is how Sayid managed to come back after it was rendered inert (remember how the Japanese dude dipped his wound in the water?), which I presume was due to Jacob’s death. And why is Sayid so important? Four-Eyes dropped a recurring lost line, saying that if they didn’t save Sayid they were all “in big trouble.” Is Sayid going to be some kind of warrior messiah?

The ep’s final moments added even more intrigue, especially in the interchange between Richard and Flocke/MIB. “Last time I saw you, Richard, you were in chains.” Is that supposed to mean Richard does indeed come from the Black Rock as I had previously theorized? Whatever the meaning, it was that particular sentence that told Richard who Flocke truly was, and the terrified look on his face told you all you needed to know.

Before I finish, I feel I should touch on the new alternate reality flashbacks or whatever you want to call them, and how down I am with them. I can’t imagine how the writers are going to explain how this new universe, where it appears the Island was destroyed in the hydrogen bomb detonation, can exist while our heroes are still on the Island in 2007 (my only guess is that the Island is immune to time-changing events, but that doesn’t explain why it’s underwater in the other reality), but I love watching what could have happened. It’s neat to see that Jack and Locke could have been friends, and it’s fun to root for Kate as she continues her life on the run. I can’t wait to see the next episode, and have high hopes that one of the best television series of all time will go out with a bang.

Alex’s Best of 2009, Day Three- Music

•January 30, 2010 • 2 Comments

I should start by saying I have an eccentric taste in music. I grew up on classical, jazz and the Beatles, and love music from pretty much every genre, although my country really only goes as far as Johnny Cash or the occasional Willie Nelson song. I even enjoy a good pop song, but I have to admit that despite what the critics and pretty much everyone else in America thinks, this was possibly the worst year for mainstream music on record. The airwaves were littered with shit like Lady Gaga and the incredibly overrated “Empire State of Mind,” and even the indie music scene felt weak with the most talked about band being the lackluster Phoenix (is it me, or do all their songs sound exactly the same?). I utterly despise Lady Gaga. I do not understand her appeal and find her attempts at intellectualism (i.e., Kermit outfit) laughable. Her songs are catchy but in that annoying, grating away, not because they’re good. Her lyrics are almost more idiotic than LFO’s “Summer Girls,” and in many ways I feel she represents everything that is wrong with American culture and the music industry. I could go on and on about my hatred, but that is a topic for another blog. Just know that there won’t be any fucking “Paparazzi” on this list.

1. Mastodon- “The Czar- I. Usurper II. Escape III. Martyr IV. Spiral”


From the album Crack the Skye

Yeah, that’s right. I put Animal Collective at number two. So what? They may be the best thing to happen to Brooklyn since they cleaned up the Gowanus canal, but even the glory that is “My Girls” could not match the epic awesomeness of “The Czar.” As a lover of metal I simply had to put this over-the-top 10 minute rock opera at the top, because it proves that the genre is still alive and kicking. Instead of following the general metal mantra of “more intensity is better,” Mastodon decided to recall a simpler, more melodic time in the genre’s history, specifically the early 70s, when giants like Black Sabbath, Mötorhead and Diamond Head roamed the land. “The Czar” feels cool because it so clearly tells a story, albeit a completely incomprehensible one, but it’s the operatic nature and the imagery that makes it feel classic. As the title implies, it’s broken up into four very distinguishable sections- “Usurper” is a slow build-up to the two middle sections, both of which feature badass guitar work and solos. This is bookended with a slow come-down in “Spiral,” which leads right into the next song on the album.

When a song has lyrics like, “By the light of the moon/You must escape into the deep back of the night/Fight the devil inside/Enemies poison deep within my second sight/Wasting valuable time” how can you not love it?

2. Animal Collective- “My Girls”


From the album Merriweather Post Pavilion

I’ve been a fan of Animal Collective since high school, but they were never really one of my favorite groups until they went electric with 2007’s Strawberry Jam. “My Girls” takes what was great about Jam’s best songs, like album-opener “Peacebone,” and takes it to the next level. Animal Collective have always been great, and have always succeeded at achieving intellectualism while avoiding the pretentiousness that often comes with being an indie darling from Brooklyn, but before their music often felt like a grab-bag of different styles all vying for the spotlight. Merriweather and “My Girls” take what’s best about Animal Collective- their love of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys and their nü-folk roots- and transforms it into a catchy, dancy hit. What I love most about this song is how utterly simple the lyrics are. Dude just wants some adobe slabs for his girls, yo.

3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs- “Zero”


From the album It’s Blitz!

Often when a band decides to completely change their style the gutsy move completely backfires and they end up looking like a bunch of shallow fools. KISS taking their makeup off comes to mind, as does Bon Jovi going country, although both those bands sucked before they did that anyway, so… Fortunately, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ switch to dancy synth-pop was a welcome change, and didn’t entirely eliminate their original punky sound. It’s Blitz! is without a doubt their strongest and tightest album, with nearly every song a standout track, especially “Heads Will Roll” and “Dragon Queen,” but none are quite as excellent as the album’s first single and opening track, “Zero.” When it came out last February I must have listened to it five times a day every day on my iPod. That’s how catchy it is. And not “shorty fire burning on the dance floor” catchy- really catchy, good catchy. It has so much re-playability because there’s so much going on in it. At first it sounds like a pretty standard indie dance track, but then after the bridge there’s that synthetic howl, and suddenly there’s ten times more electro, bass, beat, and to top it all off, an accompanying guitar riff. It feels like a warm summer day transformed into four and half minutes of aural bliss.

4. Bat For Lashes- “Daniel”


From the album Two Suns

Bat For Lashes caught my eye when Paul Fitzgerald, my music video professor in Dublin, showed our class the music video for the band’s breakout hit single, “What’s a Girl to Do.” The video and song were so good that I downloaded the whole album, but unfortunately it didn’t exactly meet my expectations. There’s really only one song I can even remember besides “What’s a Girl to Do,” and while that song is good, it isn’t particularly original (its opening drum beats sound exactly like the opening to “Just Like Honey” by The Jesus & Mary Chain). Two Suns on the other hand, completely exceeds all expectations. It’s an expertly crafted and structured album, and reminds me of why I love LPs and CDs so much- when an artist actually puts effort into them they’re almost like musical novels, a story told through song. “Daniel,” another single, is the standout track , and is awesome because it’s the saddest dance song you’ll ever hear. Natasha Khan’s vocals are at their most haunting here, and even though her sad tale of lost love makes you want to cry your eyes out, you can’t help but bob your head while you do it.

5. Them Crooked Vultures- “Gunman”


From their self-titled debut

I was pretty dubious about this alleged supergroup when it was first announced. For starters, supergroups are usually lame- even ones that should be good like Damon Albarn’s The Good, the Bad and the Queen. And upon listening to the thirty second iTunes samples, I couldn’t help but feel like Them Crooked Vultures were nothing more than a slightly tweaked version of Queens of the Stone Age. There’s obvious similarities, most notably the fact that they share the same singer and guitarist- Josh Homme. But “Gunman” exemplifies the major differences between TCV and QOFTSA, and that’s probably why I like it so much. The song would be nothing without its catchy central guitar riff, which rarely changes but is so badass that I feel like I could listen to it looped for a full hour and not get bored. This is combined with an unusually dancey beat from Dave Grohl, one that you wouldn’t find in any QOFTSA album, even the one Grohl drummed on, Songs for the Deaf. Obviously you won’t like Them Crooked Vultures if you don’t like QOFTSA or at least Eagles of Death Metal, but if you do, rest assured, this isn’t just QOFTSA plus one dude from Led Zeppelin.

6. Passion Pit- “Little Secrets”


From the album Manners

At a glance, Passion Pit seems nothing more than a post-MGMT electro indie darling. And while there’s a lot about them that I’m not crazy about- the lead singer’s doing that indie rock thing where you have to sing in high pitched girl-like falsettos, and the album itself isn’t really all that great. Like MGMT, Passion Pit is currently nothing more than a singles band, but at least they’re producing good singles, namely “Little Secrets” and “Sleepyhead.” I like “Little Secrets” because it’s really catchy and because while it does sound a lot like MGMT, it also has its own thing going on, namely the child choir. I’m a big fan of choruses sung by child choirs, and the “higher and higher” refrain always gets me singing along.

7. Mew- “Cartoons and Macramé Wounds


From the album No More Stories / Are Told Today / I’m Sorry / They Washed Away / No More Stories / The World Is Grey / I’m Tired / Let’s Wash Away

Unlike most bands these days, Mew seems wholly uninterested in the single and near-obsessive in their desire to craft a storybook album. Their breakout album “And the Glass Handed Kites” caught my attention back in 2006, and I loved the way the band made every song lead into the next, so that it almost felt as if there weren’t any songs at all, just one, long, continuous piece of music. Granted, they also sing in the girlish indie rock fashion, and as a fan of heavy metal I can’t help but shake my head when a man sings like that. But sometimes it works, and in Mew’s best songs I can’t imagine any other kind of vocal inflection being used. Those high-pitched wailings make me feel like I’m listening to a band of Danish pixies.

No More Stories… is definitely a huge step forward for the group. It’s got much more re-playability, and has some darker sounds and themes than the previous album. I have no idea what the lyrics of this song are about, but what I do know is that it’s frakkin’ epic. The first half isn’t all that interesting, but when the electronic bass comes in at the end and the song starts to build and build, you can’t help but get lost in it.

8. Vitalic- “See the Sea (Blue)”


From the album Flashmob

Vitalic is the least famous French electronica group I listen to, but may just be the best. They don’t have the poppy accessibility of Daft Punk or the awesome slap bass samples of Justice, but they do have a certain weirdness that neither of those groups do. When you’re listening to Vitalic you naturally want to bob your head and/or get up and dance, but you also feel a little unsettled, like there’s just something off about your dance music. Vitalic is the Dexter of dance music.

“Sea the Sea (Red)” opens the album, but its sister, the “Blue” version, is much more epic and inventive. In a lot of ways it sounds much more like Daft Punk than Vitalic usually does, but it’s still got that characteristic weirdness. It’s a great dance song , with lots of elements being layered and layered upon each other as it progresses, but it all sounds like it’s playing in a giant hollow space, like an abandoned cathedral or something. Vitalic’s sophomore album did not receive the critical success of OK Cowboy, but it’s well worth a listen and shows the group still knows what they’re doing (and by group I mean the one French guy who makes all of this on his MacBook Pro).

9. Dinosaur Jr.- “Said the People”


From the album Farm

Sadly I must admit that this is the only Dinosaur Jr. album I have ever listened to in its entirety. The rest of my collection consists solely of the greatest hits comp Ear-Bleeding Country, and for that I am ashamed. But I suppose it shows the extent to which J. Mascis’ music has touched me, that I felt compelled to pick up his highly acclaimed new work without extensively studying the rest of his discography first. If the rest of Dinosaur Jr.’s albums are anything like this one, then they are truly masters of post-punk, shoegaze and alternative rock. That’s what’s great about Dinosaur Jr.- they don’t represent any one particular style, and seven-minute epics like “Said the People” defy classification. All I can say is that it’s rock n’ roll. And it’s awesome. It’s sad and melancholy, especially the lyrics (“save me” is repeated over and over), but the guitar work is engaging and the solos feel like they were transported from a classic Aerosmith song. It’s nice to see that some musicians never sell out, and stay true to their roots while trying new things.

10. A Place to Bury Strangers- “Dead Beat”


From the album Exploding Head

A Place to Bury Strangers claim to be “the loudest band in NYC,” which is kind of a stupid thing to be proud of. I for one, will probably never go to one of their shows for fear of my ears bleeding. I got into the band when I was doing my shoegaze radio show for WNYU, but to be honest they’re only mildly shoegaze. They’re like My Bloody Valentine, if MBV decided to play their songs really fast and really loud. APTBS create the same kind of walls of sound synonymous with shoegaze groups, but in a much more hard rock kind of style. Exploding Head, their sophomore album, is definitely a step above their self titled debut, and there is nary a bad song on it. Dead Beat stands out because it sounds like some kind of twisted rockabilly song. The opening riff is straight rockabilly, like The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” on acid, and somehow the surfer style, shoegaze influence and hard rock roots all seem to coalesce into something really catchy.

Next up is my Top 10 Films of 2009, which I’ll try to coincide with the Oscars. I apologize for these belated entries, but I’ve been sort of busy looking for a job/being depressed.