What Was Lost? Where Television’s Most Extraordinary Series Came From and Where It Took Us
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Devoted to media matters, politics, poetry, creativity, the evolution of consciousness, and autobiographical reflections, "The Laverytory" is the blog of David Lavery, literature, film, and television scholar/critic, and Director of Graduate Studies in English at Middle Tennessee State University.
What Was Lost? Where Television’s Most Extraordinary Series Came From and Where It Took Us
The sundering we sense, between nature and culture, lies not like a canyon outside us but splits our being at its most intimate depths the way mind breaks off from body. It is still another version of that bitter bifurcation long ago decreed: our expulsion from Eden. It differs from the apparently similar Cartesian crease across things in the fact that the two halves of us once were one; that we did not always stand askance like molasses and madness logically at odds but grew apart over the years like those husbands and wives who draw themselves into different corners of contemplation.
--William Gass, "The Polemical Philosopher"
The mind is as much in the body as the body is in the world. The body penetrates the mind just as the world penetrates the body. We like to believe, since we see ourselves as enclosed within a shield of skin, that we are demarcated from the world by the envelope of skin, just as a theater curtain separates the audience from the stage before the performance. But the skin is a porous membrane. Electrically and chemically the world moves right through us as though we were made of mist. . . .
Some exceptional people occasionally have this sense of "seamlessness" of the unity of the world. They are known in the west as mystics. Others have it all the time, and they are known as schizophrenics.
--John Bleibtreu, The Parable of the Beast
The soul has always refused to live in peace with the body. . . . The dispute was—and is—far from trifling. Mind would rather ignore matter altogether. In the thirteenth century mind did, indeed, admit that matter was something—which it quite refuses to admit in the twentieth—but treated it as a nuisance to be abated. To the pure in spirit one argued in vain that spirit must compromise; that nature compromised; that God compromised; that man himself was nothing but a somewhat clumsy compromise. No arguments served. Mind insisted on absolute despotism. Schoolmen as well as mystics would not believed that matter was what it seemed—if, indeed, it existed;—unsubtantial, shifty, shadowy; changing with incredible swiftness into dust, gas, flame; vanishing in mysterious lines of force into space beyond hope of recovery; whirled about in eternity and infinity by that mind, form, energy, or thought which guides and rules and tyrannizes and is the universe. The Church wanted to be pure spirit; she regarded matter with antipathy as something foul, to be held at arm’s length lest it should stain and corrupt the soul; the most she would willingly admit was that mind and matter might travel side by side, like a double-headed comet, on parallel lines that never met, with a pre-established harmony that existed only in the prime motor.
--Henry Adams, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres
But man is not only the magnificent and unhappy soma: he is also the supremely lucky soma, for by being blandly driven to attack and transform his frightful environment, he has created a new environment that has lost its biological frightfulness; and he now has no choice but to adapt once more to this radically different environment. Man is the unhappy soma who spent eons developing a magnificent mind for a threatening environment, and now, with his achievement of a benign environment, he will adapt and survive only by, in large measure, losing his mind.
--Thomas Hanna, Bodies in Revolt
Toyota has recalled the Matrix. They should have recalled the sequels. They sucked.
We had some really great anti-Islamic rancor going in this country, and this guy [Michael Enright, who slashed a Muslim cab driver in New York] had to go and turn it ugly.
After nine years' study I can set my mind completely free, let my words come forth completely unbound as I speak. I do not know whether right and wrong, gain and loss, are mine or others. . . . My self, both within and without, has been transformed. Everything about me is identified. My eye becomes my ear, my ear becomes my nose, my nose my mouth. My mind is highly integrated and my body dissolves. My bones and my flesh melt away. I cannot tell by what my body is supported or what my feet walk upon. I am blowing away, east and west, as a dry leaf torn from a tree. I cannot even make out whether the wind is riding on me or I am riding on the wind.
Maybe nothingness is to be without your presence,
without you moving, slicing the noon
like a blue flower, without you walking
later through the fog and the cobbles,
without the light you carry in your hand,
golden, which maybe others will not see,
which maybe no one knew was growing
like the red beginnings of a rose.
In short, without your presence: without your coming
suddenly, incitingly, to know my life,
gust of a rosebush, wheat of wind:
since then I am because you are,
since then you are, I am, we are,
and through love I will be, you will be, we’ll be.
Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations. …
Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. “It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects.” Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.
You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes, to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks – all those conversations that began with, “When we’re married”, and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” – all those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” – and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.
The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word.”
Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same. For after today you shall say to the world – This is my husband. This is my wife.
Total Episode Running Time: Approx. 5,252 Minutes
Peggy Olson is pretty much my dream woman in this episode ["The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" on Mad Men]. She zips around an empty room on a motorcycle! She gets excited about a drinking bird! She always seems slightly uncomfortable, even as she knows she's the best person ever! I want a Peggy Olson action figure.
--Todd VanDerWerff (Onion TV Club)
If John Locke (pre-Man in Black) was the most sought-after companion for anyone venturing into Lost’s mysterious island, it is impossible to imagine a better guide than Nikki Stafford for the viewer exploring the incomparable complexities of the now completed series. Whether tracing narrative threads, explaining the meaning of Lost’s many intertexts, probing the motivations of a character, identifying nitpicks and nailing goofs, elucidating mysteries, or defending the controversial finale, Stafford never fails to be funny, candid, informative, and brilliant. We will be reading and consulting her Finding Lost series, now complete, as long as Lost itself is remembered. I suspect it will be required reading even in the Sideways World for anyone seeking to move into the light.—David Lavery, co-author of Lost’s Buried Treasures and editor of The Essential Cult TV Reader
Death, having been augmented by human strength, has lost its appointed place in the natural order and become a counter-evolutionary force, capable of destroying in a few years, or even in a few hours, what evolution has built up over billions of years. In doing so, death threatens even itself, since death, after all, is a part of life: stones may be lifeless but they do not die. The question now before the human species, therefore, is whether life or death will prevail on the earth. This is not metaphorical language but a literal description of the present state of affairs.
--Jonathan Schell, The Fate of the Earth
Chuang-tzu's wife died. Hui-tzu came to say how sorry he was, and when he arrived Chuang-tzu was squatting on his heels, beating a tinpan and singing. Hui-tzu said, "The woman lived with you and raised your kids, now she's gotten old and her body has died; well, if you don't cry, all right. But to sing and beat a tin pan, isn't this too much?"
Chuang-tzu said. "I don't think so. My wife, when she died at first I . . . well do you think that I'm so weird I wasn't moved? But then I thought about it. In the first place, she once had no life, and not only she had no life, but once she had no form. Not only she had no form, but once she had no vital breath. She was mixed with the elements; the elements changed, and she had vital breath; the vital breath changed, and she had a form; the form changed, and she had life. Now she's changed again and come to death. These things lead each to each like Spring, Fall, Winter, and Summer move on. She lies asleep now in the Great Room if I sobbed and then cried for her, it would seem to me to show I didn't understand our appointed destiny, so I stopped."
We're out of Iraq, and best of all, we got out two weeks ahead of schedule. Now Iraq will always be known as the war that ended early. Who knew? That snuck up on us. Folks, this is a significant achievement, so let's give credit where credit is due--to George W. Bush. After all, if this man hadn't lead us into war, it certainly wouldn't be over now.
To feel strange, to retain throughout life the sense of being a voyager on the earth come from another sphere to whom everything remains wonderful, horrifying, and new, is, I suppose, to be an artist.
Is it possible that something in the organism of a creative artist, something of which he is not aware . . .may also at times result in biochemical reactions of the kind that cause him to respond in comparably abnormal-supernormal ways?
--Stanley Burnshaw, The Seamless Web
From the root the sap flows to the artist, flows through him, flows to his eye. Thus he stands as the trunk of the tree. Battered and stirred by the strength of the flow, he molds his vision into his work. As, in full view of the world, the crown of the tree unfolds and spreads in time and in space, so with his work; nobody would affirm that the tree grows its crown in the image of its root. Between above and below can be no mirrored reflection. It is obvious that different functions expanding in different elements must produce vital divergences. But it is just the artist who at times is denied those departures from nature which his art demands. He has even been charged with incompetence and deliberate distortion. And yet, standing at his appointed place, the trunk of the tree, he does nothing other than gather and pass on what comes to him from the depths. He neither serves nor rules he transmits. His position is humble. And the beauty at the crown is not his own. He is merely a channel.
Joss Whedon: Conversations
Edited by David Lavery and Cynthia Burkhead
"I wanted [Buffy the Vampire Slayer] to be a cultural phenomenon. I wanted there to be dolls, Barbie with kung-fu grip. I wanted people to embrace it in a way that exists beyond, 'Oh, that was a wonderful show about lawyers, let's have dinner.'"
No recent television creator has generated more critical, scholarly, and popular discussion or acquired as devoted a cult following as Joss Whedon (b. 1964). No fewer than thirty books concerned with his work have now been published (a forthcoming volume even offers a book-length bibliography), and ten international conferences on his work have convened in the U.K., die United States, Australia, and Turkey. Fitting then that this first volume in the University Press of Mississippi's "Television Conversations" series is devoted to the writer, director, and showrunner fwho has delivered Buffy the Vampire Slayer (The WB, 1997-2001; UPN, 2001-3), Angel (The WB, 1999-2004), Firefly (2002), Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (Webcast, 2008), and Dollhouse (FOX, 2009-10).
If Whedon has shown himself to be a virtuoso screenwriter/script-doctor, director, comic book author, and librettist, he is as well a masterful conversationalist. As a DVD commentator, for example, the consistently hilarious, reliably insightful, frequently moving Whedon has few rivals. In his many interviews he likewise shines. Whether answering a hundred rapid-fire, mostly silly questions from fans on the Internet, fielding serious inquiries about his craft and career from television colleagues, or assessing his disappointments, Whedon seldom fails to provoke laughter and reflection.
David Lavery, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is a professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University. Among his numerous publications are Finding Battlestar Galactica: An Unauthorised Guide; Unlocking the Meaning of "Lost": An Unauthorised Guide; and Saving the World: A Guide to "Heroes". Cynthia Burkhead, Athens, Alabama, is an English instructor at the University of North Alabama. She is the author of Student Companion to John Steinbeck and the coeditor of Grace Under Pressure: Grey's Anatomy Uncovered.
In my own mind, I have the same political philosophy I've always had--basically libertarian but tempered by Burkean small-C conservatism. But I am no longer a member of the Republican Party and no longer consider myself part of the "conservative movement." That's not because I changed, but because I believe that they have. The Republican Party of today is not the party of Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan that I was once a member of; it stands for nothing except the pursuit of power as an end in itself, with no concern whatsoever for what is right for the country. In a recent interview with The Economist magazine, I characterized the Republicans as the greedy, sociopathic party. I stand by that.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
Time as duration is the identity of things, the consistency of their color and dimension. To this we must add . . . that the duration of things tempts us to assume that they do not change but remain the same. The world then becomes dry and nameless; ultimately even nothing but a formula. The tempo of things can induce us to believe in a "lawless," arbitrary, even enchanted world. Both these extremes must be rejected. Things not only have duration but also tempo.
In the period 1740-1900 duration was overestimated. That wouldn't have been possible if things hadn't presented themselves as having much duration and little tempo. Things with more duration than tempo impress us as dead or dying. It is no coincidence that in the period 1740-1900 the idea arose that through the irreversible process of cooling, the world as a whole faces death by cooling, or, in official terms, heat death. Between 1740 and 1900 things were already more or less dead. At any rate, they lost their luster, which is seen in the fact that the era was characterized by its inclination to strip things of anything that would inspire wonder. One who denies the wondrous aspect of things—that is, their changeability—loses respect for them. Once this respect has suffered, one can handle things casually. One handles them in this way when one passes over them quickly. He who moves with speed through a landscape proves that he has little respect for the things in it. Thus, the increasing velocity of locomotion in the period 1740-1900 can be seen as the expression of the overestimation for the duration of things that prevailed at that time.
J.H. van den Berg, Things: Four Metabletic Reflections
The tragic grandeur of modern man is bound up with the fact that he was the first to take on the work of Time in relation to Nature. . . . man in modern society has finally assumed the garb of Time not only in his relations with Nature but also in respect to himself. On the philosophical plane he has recognized himself to be essentially, and sometimes even uniquely, a temporal being, taking his existence from time and bound by actuality. And the modern world, to the extent to which it asserts its own greatness and fully accepts its dramatic role, feels one with Time in the way that nineteenth-century science and industry urged it to be. For they proclaimed that man can achieve things better and faster than Nature if he, by means of his intelligence, succeeds in penetrating to her secrets and supplementing by his own operations, the multiple temporal durations (the geological, botanical, animal rhythms) required by Nature in order to bring her work to fruition. The temptation was too great to resist. Through innumerable millennia man had dreamed of improving upon Nature. It was inconceivable that he should hesitate when confronted by the fabulous perspectives opened out to him by his own discoveries. But the price had to be paid. Man could not stand in the place of Time without condemning himself implicitly to be identified with it, to do its work even when he would no longer wish to.
--Mircea Eliade, The Forge and the Crucible
And that's a good thing. If there was an immigration law the Indians could have had us deported.
We determine our own reality by mirroring our perceptions of a fleeting time in our body's function. Having convinced ourselves through the aid of clocks, watches, beeps, ticks, and a myriad of other cultural props that linear time is escaping, we generate maladies in our bodies that assure us of the same thing xxx for the ensuing heart disease, ulcers, and high blood pressure reinforce the message of the clock: we are running down, eventually to be swept away in the linear current of the river of time. For us, our perceptions have become our reality.
--Larry Dossey, Space, Time, and Medicine
Aesop, that great man, saw his master pissing as he walked. "What's next?" he said. "Shall we have to shit as we run?" Let us manage our time; we shall still have a lot left idle and ill spent. Our mind likes to think it has not enough leisure hours to do its own business unless it dissociates itself from the body for the little time that the body really needs it.
--Michel de Montaigne
Hey mighty brontosaurus
Don't you have a lesson for us
You thought your rule would always last
There were no lessons in your past
You were built three stories high
They say you would not hurt a fly
If we explode the atom bomb
Would they say that we were dumb?
--"Walking in Your Footsteps"
By the time you get to sixty (I think) the brain is a place of incredible resonances. It's packed full of life, histories, processes, patterns, half-glimpsed analogies between a myriad levels. . . . One reason old people reply slowly is because every word and cue wakes a thousand references.
What if you could free that, open it? Let go of ego and status, let everything go and smell the wind, feel with your dimming senses for what's out there, growing. Let your resonances merge and play and come back changed . . . telling you new things. Maybe you could find a way to grow, to change once more inside . . . even if the outside of you is saying, "What, what?" and your teeth smell.
But to do it you have to get ready, years ahead. Get ready to let go and migrate in and up into your strongest keep, your last window out. Pack for your magic terminal trip, pack your brain, ready it. Fear no truth. Load up like a river steam-boat for the big last race when you go downriver burning it all up, not caring, throwing in the furniture, the cabin, the decks right down to the water line, caring only for that fire carrying you where you've never been before.
Maybe . . . somehow . . . one could.
Dr. Alli Sheldon / James Tiptree, Jr.