Thursday, March 27, 2008

Life without LOST? 13 Ways to Pass the Time

So…we have four long weeks to wait until LOST returns with new episodes on April 24th. What’s a Lostie to do, now that our Thursday nights are free? How will we endure the unbearable wait? Never fear! I’ve come up with a few suggestions for ways to spend your time, feel like you’re still a part of the LOST experience and keep the LOST withdrawals at bay.

1. Buy four weeks worth of tropical fruit and eat only that. Throw in the occasional fish, chicken or wild boar. Unless you want to relive Season 2 when the Dharma food drops started; in that case, you can eat any pre-packaged, long-shelf-life foods you want.

2. Anytime you are approached by someone you don’t know (for example, the door-to-door salesman), knock them out, tie them up and keep them in your closet/pantry/basement and interrogate them until they give up their true identity. Keep asking them if they are “an Other.” Warning: this exercise may result in criminal charges and jail time.

3. Purchase and read A Brief History of Time so you can keep up with Desmond and all of his time-jumping adventures.

4. Stop using people’s names and start calling everyone you meet by a witty, yet sometimes derogatory or stereotypical, nickname a la Sawyer. Warning: this exercise may result in you getting punched in the face, or having to sleep on the couch because you called your spouse “Jumbotron”.

5. Don’t want to bother with thinking up witty nicknames? Then just start calling every one “dude” or “brotha”.

6. Wear the same clothes for the next four weeks, while only periodically washing them in the nearest stream, ocean or by standing in a tropical downpour. Warning: you may also end up sleeping on the couch for this one, for completely different reasons. Stinky!

7. Purchase and listen to every Oasis CD in memory of Charlie. (Oh Charlie, how we still miss you!)

8. Your spouse has misplaced the car keys? No problem; just re-trace their steps like a seasoned tracker a la Kate or Locke. Be sure to verbally explain every step you take (you were sitting in the recliner an hour ago) and explain every clue you find. Finally, suggest you make camp in the living room.

9. Whenever you meet someone, be sure to tell them if they are “on the list” or if they are “one of the good guys.”

10. Take a vacation to Hawaii. (Be sure not to buy your ticket with Oceanic Air.)

11. Read every single article on Lostpedia until your head explodes.

12. Re-watch every episode of the new season that you have saved on your Tivo and scour them for any clues or tidbits you might have missed the first time.

13. Write LOST posts on your blog and chat with fellow Losties about your continuing theories and speculations.

Let’s do #13 right now! :)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dudes Who Can Rock

So, I was watching the American Idol contestants as they murdered some classic songs, and it made me long to hear some good singing. It drove me away from the TV and towards my music collection. Thus, the inspiration for this post. Without further ado, here are D's top 10 best male rock singers. I think they represent a wide range of rock and roll styles and subgenres and are also very representative of my music collection.

1. Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog, solo)
Chris Cornell has the perfect rock voice. He can make rock screaming sound wonderful. He has the control to sing a ballad and then drop right into a rocking grunge sound, then hold out a long power note. Most of all, he makes it look effortless, and he puts power and emotion behind every word.
Listen to: Outshined, Like A Stone or Can't Change Me

2. Bono (U2)
What can you say about Bono? He has an amazing range and his voice is crisp and true to every note. I thought Bono had a good voice...then I saw him in concert and was blown away. He doesn't just have a good voice, he has an amazing voice. This choice falls more into the pop/rock category.
Listen to: With or Without You

3. Geoff Tate (Queensryche, pre-1997)
Geoff is the lead singer of my favorite progressive rock band. It used to be my all-time favorite band until they wussed out, lost their lead guitarist, lost their creative drive and Geoff let himself go (thus my "pre-1997" disclaimer). But I digress. Let's focus on the good days. He had amazing control and range. Again, I thought Geoff had a great voice...then I saw him in concert... All I can say is "wow." I wish he and the band were still this good.
Listen to: Take Hold of the Flame or Eyes of a Stranger

As an aside, "Eyes of a Stranger" is from one of the coolest rock operas ever - Operation: Mindcrime. I highly recommend it.

4. David Bowie (solo)
Ziggy Stardust. The Thin White Duke. The Goblin King. Whatever you want to call him, David Bowie has a very distinctive, expressive voice. This one is hard to I'll just suggest you listen for yourself.
Listen to: Space Oddity or Let's Dance

5. Sting (The Police, solo)
As a couple of the contestants on American Idol can now attest to, Sting's songs sound deceptively simple to sing. Not so. He has complicated arrangements, but that's not just it, he actually has the vocal range and control to pull them off. He sounded pitch perfect when we saw him in concert. He put on a wonderful show.
Listen to: Roxanne or If I Ever Lose My Faith In You

6. Elvis Costello (& the Attractions, & the Imposters, solo)
This one might surprise you, but I suggest you take a closer listen. Elvis has some pipes! And I know I'm probably boring you by saying this yet again, but when we saw him live in concert, it only confirmed his amazing vocal abilities. At one point, he stepped away from the mic and sang acappella. You could hear him clearly all the way to the back of the theater. Amazing.
Listen to: She or Pump It Up

7. Roy Orbison (Traveling Wilburys, solo)
Here's a classic. The minute you hear his falsetto (or, rather, his amazingly natural high tenor) it is immediately identifiable. Show respect to one of the greats of rock and roll history.
Listen to: Cryin'

8. Justin Furstenfeld (Blue October)
The lead singer of Blue October has a voice that will haunt you. You can feel the emotional pain that tinges every note. The band members all have a diverse range of musical influences, so within one CD you can have a heartbreakingly honest ballad, a catchy pop song and a heavy metal rocker. Justin's voice is up to the challenge. I especially love the songs where his voice plays off the violin. And I dare repeating myself again, by saying his talent isn't just studio magic, when we saw him live, his voice was just as clear and powerful.
Listen to: Come in Closer (you'll have to scroll down the page and select it - or watch anything on this page - it's all good!)

9. Freddie Mercury (Queen)
I will admit upfront that Queen songs are hit and miss with me. I either love them or dislike them. However, there is no disputing Freddie Mercury's voice.
Listen to: Bohemian Rhapsody or Who Wants to Live Forever

10. Layne Staley (Alice In Chains)
When someone mentions the grunge movement, I think of the sound of Layne Staley's voice. He has that rough-edged, rock/blues grungy sound to his voice, yet retains control and power.
Listen to: Would or Rooster

Honorable Mention: Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle)
Listen to: Judith

Mind you, I did not intend for this to be the list to end all lists. These are just the singers that I never get tired of listening to. Leave me a comment and let me know who I missed, or which ones you disagree with. (There are two glaring omissions that I know the Ape will immediately call me out on.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Let's get LOST! (Episode 8 - Meet Kevin Johnson)

If you haven’t seen this week’s episode of LOST yet…
Don't say you weren’t warned. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk LOST!

So, was it as much of a cliffhanger as you were expecting it to be? I hope you savored every moment, because now all us Losties are going to go into LOST withdrawals until the remaining five shows start airing on April 24th.

I chose that picture above, to give everyone a little refresher on our dear Michael. We haven't seen him since he sailed off into the sunset with Walt at the end of season two (which was two years ago, in our time). Let's not forget, he killed two innocent people (Libby and Ana Lucia), and sold out four other innocents (Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hurley), just to get his son back and get them both off the island. I know it's the whole "what a dad would do for his child" argument... but was that really justification enough for murder? Remember, Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hurley on the dock, tied up, gagged, and giving Michael those dirty looks as he drove the boat away? Remember how much you hated him at that moment? (Or at least I did.) I think I'd like to watch the final episode of Season 2 and then re-watch last night's episode, to help with all the emotional continuity.

Having said all that, and before I get to my favorite moments of the evening, I thought I'd point out one more thing. You may think Michael is trying to redeem himself for his past transgressions, by agreeing to work for Ben in order to "save" the people on the island. However, as an extremely astute member of our viewing party pointed out last night, Michael is still acting out of selfish reasons or motivations. Instead of sticking it out and trying to repair his relationship with Walt, and deal with the consequences of his actions, he just wants to avoid it all by committing suicide. The only way he can die, it turns out, is if he's back on the island, since the "island won't let him die", according to Mr. Friendly. So, he's agreed to go on a suicide mission for Ben. Ben might have presented it to Michael as a way for him to find retribution, but in the end, Michael's motivations are still cowardly and selfish, which is in keeping with his character. There's a lot to talk about with this show, so let's get to it.

I thought this was the most shocking line/revelation of the night:

Mr. Friendly (to Michael): "You've got work to do."
Tied with...
Rousseau and Karl getting shot.

I was not expecting Tom to walk out of the alley, were you? So now we know that Ben and Richard aren't the only ones that can come and go off the island. I thought Michael's plot line, as to how Ben managed to get him to work for him, was well constructed and satisfying. (As an aside, now we also know why Tom told Kate she wasn't his type, when they were standing in the shower room at the beginning of season three. Looks like Tom is a little light in the loafers.)

I think I was more shocked when someone (I'm assuming the Others) opened fire on Karl and Rousseau. It totally came out of nowhere and made me gasp outloud. I really hope Rousseau isn't mortally wounded. That will be the real cliffhanger for me - to see if she lives or dies. I have grown to really like her character. It's funny to think back at how distrusting I was of her in the beginning. She's a savvy, tough old broad... I hope it "'tis but a flesh wound" and she gets up and starts kicking some more tail soon. I wonder if Ben instructed the Others to shoot Karl and Rousseau if they ever saw them again, since we know how possessive Ben can be and how it really ticks him off that his adopted daughter has disowned him for her boyfriend and her mother. I wonder if Ben sending them to the Temple was a set-up? He could kill two birds with one stone (pun intended) - get rid of Karl and Rousseau and protect Alex. Ben is calculating and shrewd enough, I wouldn't put it past him.

I thought this was the most heartbreaking line/moment of the night:

Michael's mom: "I thought you were dead. They said your plane crashed in the middle of the ocean, but you show up here fine and dandy. Only, I can't tell anybody about you or Walt. Can't call you by your real names. He barely talks to me. But he does wake up screaming in the middle of the night and I'm the one that's got to tell him that it's going to be okay. So, until you can explain to me where you were for over two months and what happened, you gave up your rights!"

I don't know who that actress is, that played Michael's mom, but she had me in tears. Which is an amazing acomplishment, since we've never met her before, and there was no emotional build up to that scene per se. She was such a good actress that, in that one small bit of dialog, she really conveyed all the pain her and Walt had been going through. And kudos to the writers, for acknowledging the horrible after-affects of the crash and the consequences of Michael's choices.

And finally, here's my favorite line/moment of the night:

Miles (to Michael): "Your name isn't Kevin... But don't worry, 80 percent of the people on this boat are lying about something."
Tied with...
On LOST, you may be dead, but you're never gone...

I love it that on this show, as an actor, your character can be killed off two seasons ago and you may still have work on the show. I enjoyed seeing Libby again, even if it was only in a vision. We also saw Tom, Naomi and Minkowski. You just never know who is going to pop up.

So, what's going to happen, now that Sayid ratted Michael out to the captain? Is Ben really a good guy or a bad guy? Is Widmore the evil one? Who really is the mastermind behind the fake crash? The captain told Sayid and Desmond it was Ben. Ben and Tom told Michael that it was Widmore. What is Ben and Widmore's history? Why are they rivals? Another question, where does Ben's "list" come from? Is it Ben, Jacob or someone else that decides who the good people are and who should or shouldn't be on the list? (I thought that was Santa Claus' job - nice list, naughty list - get it?) I mean, who has a right to decide which lives can be spared and which ones are expendable?

What did you think? Was the episode surprising? Satisfying? I invite you to share your thoughts and theories in the comments section. But pace yourselves...we've got four weeks to speculate and wait. ;)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Let's get LOST! (Episode 7 - Ji Yeon)

If you haven’t seen this week’s episode of LOST yet…
Don't say you weren’t warned. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk LOST!

You know, I'm beginning to feel like a broken record, because each week I say: "This show is awesome!" "Isn't this show awesome?" "That episode was awesome!" But seriously, and at the risk of thoroughly repeating myself... isn't this show awesome? Here are my favorite moments of the night...

I thought this was the most shocking line/revelation of the night:

Juliet (speaking to Jin): "Sun had an affair with another man. She thought the baby wasn't yours."

Yikes! Juliet totally dropped the bomb on Jin! Didn't see that one coming! Although I'm not so sure I completely understand why Juliet felt that sharing that information would help her win her case and convince Sun that she needed to get off the island at all costs or she was going to die. Why didn't Juliet just describe all the symptoms in detail to Sun, like she ended up telling her later? Why did she feel the need to play that card? As much as I love the writers of this show, and think they are brilliant, I must say I feel like this was a weak excuse for them to get that information out there. It's obvious they needed it revealed, in order to progress Sun and Jin's relationship, and this was the only way they could come up with. Still doesn't change the fact that it was a shocking moment.

I thought this was the most heartbreaking line/moment of the night:

Sun: "I named her Jin Yeon, just like you wanted..."

How could your eyes not tear up at the sight of Sun presenting her newborn daughter to her father's grave? And what a revelation that Jin is dead! he really dead or did he just not make it off the island, and she's lying about his death (i.e. being complacent with the lie that all the other passengers perished, as seems to be the case with Jack, Hurley and Kate). The writers walked that fine line again, where it was just ambigous enough that we can't be sure Jin is truly dead. I guess I was always subconsciously assuming that if Sun were to be one of the Oceanic 6, that Jin would automatically be with her. Why would a married couple be seperated? Why would one leave the other one behind, especially after all they had been through - the reconcilliation of their marriage, the new flowering of their affection for each other, and the miracle of their unborn child? I think I will be seriously bummed if Jin is, in fact, dead and unable to share in the victory of their new life and new child.

And finally, here's my favorite line/moment of the night:

Jin: "Give me time. I've only been married two months."

With this line, it was fully revealed to the audience that the Jin sequences of this episode were actually a flashBACK and Sun's scenes were flashFORWARDS.

Just when we viewers thought we'd gotten a handle on all the flashback and flashforward plot devices, as well as Desmond's time jumping, the writers sent us on another rollercoaster loop. We got totally PLAYED last night, as the writers incorporated a flashback AND a flashforward into the same episode. Nice. I love it that they are playing around with their own conventions, all while staying true to the story and true to the fans. They definitely know the story they want to tell, but they also know their audience as well - and that makes for some fun, good storytelling.

Did you notice that my most shocking moment of the night WASN'T the revelation that Michael was on the freighter? Yeah... I think we all saw that one coming, didn't we? Although I did love the expression on Sayid's face when he shook hands with Michael. It said, "Hello, 'Kevin Johnson', I can't wait to beat you to a pulp later, when no one is looking." So the question now is this - is Michael Ben's inside man? Also, do you think the captain can be trusted? If his story is true, then why in the world would Ben go through such an elaborate and expensive cover-up of the crash? To protect the island? And where did he get all the dead bodies from - Corpse R Us? I invite you to share your thoughts and theories in the comments section. Let the intense speculation begin!

A Graphic Discussion

I received the final installment of the Umbrella Academy: the Apocalypse Suite and savored every moment of it. So I figured it was time to write another Book Bite about the two graphic novels I have read recently. (As an aside, do you call them "comic books" or "graphic novels"? Perhaps that is a debate for another post...)

The Umbrella Academy starts out with a strange worldwide event where 47 women simultaneously give birth. The catch? None of the women were pregnant before that moment. The children are "extraordinary" and a strange millionaire adopts seven of the children, saying they are key to saving the world. He raises them to be superheroes, and shows favoritism to those that have more skill or superhero powers. The story then moves forward to the present day. The children have grown up, and apart, as we are shown the dysfunctional results of their strange upbringing. A funeral brings them back together, and this forced reunion sets events in motion that causes them to reluctantly step into their old superhero roles and the world. I feel like I cannot describe more without giving it all away and I know some of you who are reading this will want to check the series out. I wouldn't dare take the fun away from you.

The story is so very imaginative and unlike anything I've ever read. The writing was tight and unexpectedly witty while other times it was very touching. The artwork is vibrant and perfectly matches the wild creativity of the story, which is filled with alien monsters, talking monkeys, a murderous robotic Eiffel tower, androids, time travel, and classical music. Sounds crazy, but it totally works. I am completely hooked. The story arc of this six-part series was satisfying all on its own, but it's also obvious it is an introduction to a much bigger story and much larger universe. Many things were alluded to or hinted at, in regards to backstory, that I am already desperate to know. I would dare to say it has re-imagined the whole comic book superhero idea and story, but I must confess I am not completely immersed into the comic book world enough in order to be able to confidently make that statement. Either way, I enjoyed it so thoroughly, that I went ahead and bought the bound version of the complete series, even though I own all six comics.

The other graphic novel that I read was Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born, which is based on the characters and stories from the Dark Tower books by Stephen King. King is overseeing the creation of this series, so the quality is top-notch and the comic really does seem to capture the feel or vibe of the strange, post-apocalyptic, Old West meets King Arthur, sci-fi/fantasy world King created in his novels. The story follows the pre-teen Roland and his two friends, as they go through the rite of passage to become "gunslingers." Things don't go exactly as planned and as a result, Roland and his crew are sent to the East colonies as a type of ostracizing punishment. Yet, with a little redeeming grace, they are given a task: to spy on the evil men in that land, who are planning a civil war with the help of a witch. Again, I know there are some of you reading this who have the Dark Tower novels on your reading list, so I will refrain from revealing much more about the story.

The long-term intent of this comic book venture, is to explore areas of the Dark Tower world that aren't covered in the novels (a great idea, since it is such an imaginative and expansive world). However, this particular six-part series covers exactly events that are told in the fourth Dark Tower book, Wizard and Glass. This makes it hard for me to be unbiased when writing this review, since I've already read the story in novel form. Having said all that, when it comes to the graphic novel, I think I enjoyed the artwork, more than I did the actual story. The plot seemed to move by too quickly and a lot of the emotion I felt when I read the original novel just wasn't there with the comic. The artwork is dark and fits the mood of the story but I felt like it was lacking in really expressing the specific emotions of the various scenes. The artist made some weird choices in regards to the expressions of the faces, the stylizing of the clothes, etc. It was distracting, in a way.

Both of these graphic novels, as much as I enjoyed them, also left me very frustrated. I don't know if it's because I've been reading so many novels lately, that I failed at shifting mental gears and engaging the part of my brain necessary to interpret and enjoy the comic book way of telling stories, or that I'm used to getting a lot of details when reading novels, but I felt like they were not adequately telling the story. It seems with both Umbrella Academy and Dark Tower, they were heavy on the visual style and sparse on the text and that was very frustrating to me. Don't get me wrong, I love telling stories through art and line and color. I am an illustrator at heart. However, they weren't telling me enough visually, and the text was so sparse, I kept feeling like I wanted them to flesh it out more.

One last thought...I enjoyed Umbrella Academy better than I did Gunslinger Born, and I can't help but wonder if the delivery/reading time was a factor. For the Umbrella Academy, I read one comic book a month, for six months, until the whole series was complete. As I waited for the next issue to arrive, I found myself re-reading the comics, pausing to really study some of the artwork, and contemplating the characters and wondering what the next issue would hold. The Gunslinger Born, on the other hand, I bought in a graphic novel form, where all six comic books had already been released and were bound together into one complete hardback novel. I blazed through it in one sitting. I wonder if this has anything to do with my level of enjoyment or appreciation? Did my imagination have more time to "click" with the Umbrella Academy and really appreciate it? I wonder...

Do you have any good comics to recommend? What are your thoughts on the medium? Drop me a comment and let me know.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Let's get LOST! (Episode 6 - The Other Woman)

If you haven’t seen this week’s episode of LOST yet…
Don't say you weren’t warned.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk LOST!

Is your mind still reeling from last week's Desmond-centric episode? Do you feel like Sayid? (i.e. "Someone needs to explain to me precisely what is going on!") The Desmond episodes are so good, it's hard to follow them up.

Tonight's episode was good, but not nearly as earth-shattering as the last couple of weeks. However, we did get some more answers. We got confirmation that Charles Widmore is the man behind the freighter, and that he is intent on finding the island. I'm not sure that I buy the reason Ben gave though, for why he wants to find it (to exploit it). Another hatch was revealed (the Tempest) and we got to find out more about why Juliette and Ben's relationship is so tense. The jury is still out on the freighter four - are they good guys or bad guys? One thing is for sure - Locke has definitely lost his marbles. Here are my favorite moments of the night...

I thought this was the most shocking line/revelation of the night:

There really wasn't a jaw-dropping, shocking revelatory moment tonight. Although I was quite shocked that Ben was cruel enough to take Juliette to see Goodwin's rotting corpse. That was a bit shocking...which leads into my next highlight...

I thought this was the most heartbreaking line/moment of the night:

Ben: "Because you're MINE!"

Ben is such a spoiled brat, control freak, cruel megalomaniac. I hate him and his controlling ways, but at the same time, I feel so sorry for him. Michael Emerson is such a good actor, and combine that with the good writing and storyline, and my heart was touched - especially in the scene when he was cooking dinner for Juliette. I could see that, at the heart of things, Ben is still that verbally abused and beaten down child who just wants desperately to be loved. Of course, he's going about it the wrong can't force people to love you.

As an aside, his own adopted daughter doesn't love him now either. He really is a tragic figure in some ways.

Another thought...the psychiatrist said to Juliette, "Of course Ben likes you. You look just like her." Like who? Does she remind Ben of Annie, his childhood sweetheart? Is that why he recruited her instead of some other fertility doctor? Was this Ben's version of an eHarmony match?

And finally, here's my favorite line/moment of the night:

Ben (to Hurley and Sawyer as they look on in shock and disbelief): "I'll see you guys at dinner."

I'm VERY nervous that Ben is on the loose again. He's sneaky, manipulative and cunning. He can't be trusted. What was Locke thinking?!?!

Even though this was technically a Juliette-centric episode, it was almost, in a way, an episode about Ben. I didn't realize that until I picked my favorite moments. What did you think of the show? I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section.