Friday, April 30, 2010

Make Way for the Moondancers!

A reminder that not everything introduced into a long-running comic series becomes a permanent fixture. Nor does everything deserve to be.

According to Wikipedia, the Moondancers — Crescent Moon, Harvest Moon and New Moon — are a trio of “radical pacifist terrorists.” The phrase seems like an oxymoron until you learn that they aim to destroy various manifestations of the military-industrial complex. And they begin do just this in their debut 1983 comic until Batman and Superman make them stop, at which point they are not seen or heard from again until a 1990 issue of Animal Man, which, as Obscure DC Characters notes, features the Moondancers as inhabitants of “comic book limbo.” Indeed. Nice knowing you, ladies! I’ll try not to find too much glee in the irony of a one-off team of 80s-glam wannabes making their debut by shouting “Make way for us!” and then promptly moving to the side so other, worthier characters can enjoy the spotlight.

(Source: Comics Make No Sense, via VoVatumblr.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Zirconia Ztolen!

Here, finally, are the results to the abstract music suggestion game that I encouraged everyone to play two weeks ago. I actually expected to have this up far earlier, but I was downright stumped by some of your suggestions. Today, I finally paired the last one with an actual song. Prepare yourself for the oddest, most mismatched album ever.

In no particular order:

Alice suggested “nostalgic sighs.” To this, I respond with Andrew Bird’s “Oh No.” Though lyrics about chest-embedded calcium mines may not draw up feelings of nostalgia, I feel the instrumentation on this song does, especially for a simpler era in which string sections and whistling were more common in pop music. “Oh No” tends to make me feel happy and sad at the same time, and I consider nostalgia to be the recollection of a memory that makes you feel these ways simultaneously.

I offer Electric Light Orchestra’s “Twilight” as a match for Tom’s suggestion of “A song to play in the future, as you stand on the corner of a large space cube, having defeated all the Nucleon Tessalators with only the power of your Thor-suit.” I’m probably influenced a bit influenced by the fact that I associate “Twilight” with its use in the promo cartoon for Daicon 4, a neat little audio-visual treat that I’ve blogged about before. In fact, that version of the song might be an even better match, since it has the galactatastic spoken intro. Of course, any version of “Twilight” is wonderfully spacey and triumphant.

Godaigamer suggested this: “I want a song that brings back the relief that my 8-year self felt while playing Chemical Plant Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 when he found an oxygen-bestowing bubble with less than a second to spare. In other words, something with a ‘times were tough, but everything's going to be groovy’ feel.” Difficult, right? This one actually gave me quite a bit of trouble, and I felt I would be remiss if I ignored the music associations I have with Sonic the Hedgehog. After skipping over The Hollies’ “Air That I Breathe” — because a bad match and yet still OBVIOUS — I instead chose to match the idea of calm-extreme panic-calm again. The best I could come up with is Andy Votel’s “Return of the Spooky Driver.” Odd, I guess, but at least blippy enough to not be completely inappropriate for a Sonic-based suggestion.

The anonymous suggestion of “the plight of captivity,” was easy: The Mountain Goats’ “Thank You Mario But Our Princess Is in Another Castle,” a surprisingly good song and one of the few works to not only narrate a story from the point of view of Toad but also to aptly use him as a metaphor.

Dina saddled me with “Theme song for a sitcom about a small dog and its best friend, a can of baked beans,” along with the following visual aid:

I respond with the Sam Lanin version of “Yes! We Have No Bananas.” I know, I know — it’s about bananas and not baked beans, but the instrumental opening could certainly work for this awful sitcom. Of course, the show will be black and white. How could it not be?

From Rey Flowers: “A man rocking a fro, clad in only a headband and cargo shorts, sayin’ to his buddy, ‘The colors man... Do you see the colors?... Cuz I sure do.’” I went with my first association, Olivia Tremor Control’s “A Sunshine Fix” — a good, trippy song in the spirit of 60s psychedelic pop.

I think I may have interpreted Darren’s suggestion — “Finding a moment of purity and beauty amidst seedy decadence, but only a moment. Then it is gone” — a little loosely. I could be way off, but when I read the words “beauty amidst seedy decadence,” my thoughts went towards noir. From there, it was only a short movement to the main title theme of Blue Velvet, which plays over the film’s opening credits and which seems to deliberately recall the melodrama of old detective movies. Too often, characters in these films experience something deep and profound, despite their surroundings, but this connection only lasts briefly. That’s my thought process for this one, anyway.

I’m not sure what Ben’s suggestion of “dinosaur tummy time” was supposed to mean, but he gets this:

It’s from a video game. I’m not ashamed to admit that. And it happens to be the first and only thing I could associate with the suggestion. DINOSAURS ARE EATING YOU!

From BigStompyRobots: “A song to play ironically over the top of an action sequence where someone plows a muscle car into a horde of hipster zombies.” To that, I offer something knowingly retro-sounding, inappropriately upbeat for carnage and finally something those very hipster zombies would likely delight in hearing. It’s “Moto Shagg” by April March, who’s perhaps best known as the woman who sings the closing credits song in Death Proof, which perhaps influenced my choice.

Don’t ask why, Bri’s suggestion of “Those aren’t pandas” in relation to Pedobear made me think of in-your-face, inappropriate sexuality and I wound up with “Purple Wail,” better known to the world as that horn-heavy stock song that plays whenever something comically sexual happens ever.

B’s suggestion — “Sukiyaki. The dish. If the song doesn't have anything to do with the dish, what song should?” in reference to my post on the actual song “Sukiyaki” — confounded me until I stumbled onto an old Elvis Presley song that I hadn’t heard since I was a kid: “Ito Eats,” which he recorded for Blue Hawaii. It skews more toward tiki culture than anything authentically Japanese, but I think the song works, at least according to that mid-twentieth-century worldview that collapses everything between the Caucasus Mountains and the California shore into the category “over there.” While listening, please note how the instrumentation, the beat and Elvis’s voice makes the song sound oddly similar to a song from Vampire Weekend’s first album — from before they became boring.

Because why not? After B posted a comment directly after Bri, I realized that they were not, in fact, the same person. They were different people, posting from opposite sides of the country. Don’t know why I assumed they were the same person, but I commented about it. In honor of this realization, I give a schmaltzy, mediocre song that happens to have a very appropriate title: “I’m Not Lisa (My Name Is Julie),” by Jessi Colter.

Lameness of the song notwithstanding, that’s a pretty awesome title for anything — and a very neat way to shorthand someone as being easy to forget.

Finally, there’s Julia’s suggestion of “I was walking in mud and lost my boot. Now my sock is all dirty.” For this, I give The Woods’ “Rain On.” From the opening strums sounding like heavy footsteps to the general sense of melancholy the song gives me, I think “Rain On” actually matches the suggestion pretty well. Either that or the combination of the song title and the band name made me think of mud. Take your pick!

To close out this playlist, I want to offer one bonus song, which I came across recently and which I realized would be the best song ever to load onto someone’s phone and a prank default ringtone: “Monster (in My Pants),” a solo effort by the B-52s’ Fred Schneider. (“For business meetings, weekly worship services and first dates, let “Monster” be your choice to mortify friends and enemies alike!”) The song is worth a listen for the opening lines alone, though if you could somehow make the phone play the entire track — like, lock all buttons until the song ends — that would be especially good. Can anyone get on this?

You get the whole video element for this one, just because it’s kind of amazing.

And to all you commenters, thanks for playing.

Monday, April 26, 2010

They’re Carrying More Than Moonbeams in Those Jars

A back-to-back viewing of two superficially unrelated articles has managed to concern me about matters over which I have no control. Like always.

Article number one: Boing Boing’s posting of NASA’s first-ever photo of Earth from the planet Mars. It looked like this:


Article number two: Professional smart guy Stephen Hawking relating his belief that contact with aliens may not be beneficial for the meatbags living on good ol’ Earth. In short, someone whose opinion matters is voicing my deep-seated fear that when the tentacled ones do come, they will neither steal our women or blow up our landmarks. No, they’ll just take all the stuff that supports life and go merrily on their way without a second thought, much in the way a beekeeper might not think much of taking a hive’s store of honey.


The Nicotine Robot

Another bit from the “cloudbush” thread: Heat Man, the boss from Mega Man 2 with the fire-based attacks, was clearly modeled after a Zippo lighter.

original concept art
revised concept art

I never noticed this before and find it kind of amusing. Furthermore, the arcade game Mega Man: The Power Battle, has unused animation frames that show Heat Man smoking.

Previous items cloudbush posts:

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Windmills > Tigers, Apparently

At one point in my childhood, I can remember being driven all around California in an effort to show me what my home state had to offer. As part of this experience, I was also given a coloring book — a kid’s collection of tourist locations around California — to help me remember where I’d been.

But being a kid who couldn’t concentrate on much for very long, I never colored most of it in. For example, take a look at the page for the San Diego Zoo, which I loved to the point that I considered running into the landscaping, hiding and then just living at there. You couldn’t tell from the coloring book, however.

As you can see, I inexplicably chose only to color in the clothes and hair of the two children zoo-goers, their balloons and half the shirt of the man standing next to them. In a rare burst of creativity, I also seem to have attempted to put my own spin on the one balloon by giving it a sharp tail or antenna, which leads me to believe that at this point in my life I had never ever seen a balloon in real life, since they have neither antennas or tails.

So, clearly, this coloring book wasn’t my thing. I must have preferred more exciting activities, right? Mostly yes. However, there is one page that colored close to completion.

Solvang. Fucking Solvang. The city I’d come to revisit as an adult and that overwhelmed me with its lameness. This city — which should only appeal to wine buffs, antiques collectors, knickknack hoarders and Denmark aficionados — somehow made enough of an impression on my young mind that I chose to not only color in the picture but actually do so in a chromatically appropriate way — no orange sky and green skin. And I’d say that seems very strange, if it wasn’t for the fact that Solvang would later push me toward mildly creative pursuits, even after I’d realized that it’s a festering swamp of suck.


Solvang, you are and forever will be a mystery to me.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

“Moving in the Direction of the Bushy Hairstyle”?

I tend to misread certain words. Infarction, for example, I often read as infraction until I realize that the sentence makes no sense. Who knows how many times a sentence may have made sense with either word and I just continued on, thinking that someone had broken a rule when they actually were suffering from hypertension or atherosclerosis. The word of the week works similarly, for me at least. I only recently learned of it, but, now that I consider the situation, my eyes could have easily passed over it and wrongly thought it was the much more common word it resembles.
froward (FROH-werd or FROH-erd) — adjective: willfully contrary; not easily managed.
As I type this, I notice that Word’s autocorrect function keeps changing my every mention of froward to forward, so even computers may not be immune to the confusion between these two words. But maybe this little post will remind us all that this word exists and is not necessarily a typo.

Although froward can be explained as the opposite of toward — you know, as in to and fro? — toward isn’t often used in this sense anymore. In addition to the more common use of toward as a preposition (for literal directions, as in toward the house, or figurative ones, as in his attitude toward women), it can also mean “about to come,” “going on” (in the sense of There is work toward), “favorable,” or in obsolete senses, even “promising” or “compliant.” But while the definitions of toward that most apply to froward may be obsolete, froward apparently is still in use. It’s just not used very often.

The Online Etymology Dictionary explains that froward comes from the Old English fromweard, “turned from or away,” and could be also used to mean “about to depart,” “departing” or “doomed to die.” The word appears in various versions of the Bible. The King James version uses it in Psalms 18:26: “With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward,” which gets translated in other editions as something like “To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.” Froward also gets used in the King James version of Proverbs 4:24: “Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee,” which would be stated in more contemporary speech as “Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put devious speech far from you.”

To me, this word seems hard to pronounce. If I don’t concentrate, I’ll say it as something like “frerd.” Must be something about the “W” being stuck between “R” and “R” that brings out my inner Elmer Fudd. I wonder if froward fell out of use because it was just hard to say and easy to confuse in its written form with forward?

And finally, because I couldn’t resist:

Previous strange and wonderful words:
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Friday, April 23, 2010

Japan Improves Upon the Common Axolotl

Of course, axolots are cuteness incarnate. This is not a debatable point. To deny that these often-smiling, baby-faced amphibians are anything other than adorable is to admit that your brain is diseased or your eyes don’t work or you’ve somehow associated the word axolotl with some other creature. Please, if you doubt me, examine these images of these real-life Pokémon doing the one task they have in life: frolicking carelessly in their watery homes.

However, for axolotl advocates and deniers alike, I have news: As it always does, Japan has managed to amplify natural cuteness levels to dangerous new degrees, for in this fantastical island nation what we call axolotl is instead known as the wooper looper. An improvement? Yes. Should we have expected anything else from Japan. Certainly not. Japan’s top export is cuteness, after all. I’m unclear exactly why this specific term would have been applied to this animal, as the internet doesn’t seem to be hiding an etymology anywhere. I’m also not sure that wooper looper originated in Japan, where it would be pronounced something like “oopa roopa,” though one site claims that the term arose from a Japanese marketing campaign that aimed to get people to purchase and raise these critters. That site, however, is a Pokémon wiki, so I’m not sure how believable its non-Pokémon-specific information should be. And, yes, there is apparently an axolotl-inspired Pokémon, Wooper.

Note to Japan: Removing a thing’s legs is not a good way to make it seem cuter.

Since we’re on the subject, the word axolotl comes from Spanish via Nahuatl, from atl, “water,” and xolotl, “slippery or wrinkled one, servant or slave.” I also enjoy that any language has a word that can mean “slippery one.”

Weird animals, previously:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Looking Through a Glass Onion

Hey there, Google, take note — Intelius People Search is doing a much better job of digging up information on me. That is, of course, is if potential employers, stalkers and long-lost relatives are specifically wanting to learn about what I was like five years ago as per my MySpace page. Maybe they’re trying to write a book about what I was like immediately after I graduated college?

I honestly think anyone would be better off finding me in a phone book and just calling to find anything out about me.

On Planet Deschanel, Emotion Is Forbidden

Has it ever occurred to anyone else that the Deschanel sisters — singer and (500) Days of Summer star Zooey and Bones star Emily — have made names for themselves by portraying emotionless robot women? That’s an overstatement, I guess. Perhaps “flat affect, pale-skinned beauties whose faces rarely betray any emotion” would be more appropriate.

emily deschanel zooey deschnael model shoot
emily and zooey exchanging long protein strings
In the case of Emily, she is chiefly known for playing the protagonist on Bones as a Sherlock Holmes-style genius whose inability to socialize, interpret emotions or understand anything besides literal speech renders verges on the level of autistic. She grows more comfortable around other humans as the series progresses, but this awkwardness is one of the character’s most defining traits. With Zooey, she has played multiple roles in which her physical beauty is contrasted against an emotional coldness, distantness or absence. In some cases, her characters open up over the course of a film — Elf, for one — while in others she remains inscrutable and deadpan until the end — The Happening or Summer, among others.

I guess it’s not so unusual that two sisters raised by the same parents in the same environment could have such similar public personas, if not similar actually personalities as well. But I feel like it’s a rare enough sort of character that it seemed notable that two sisters would have done it almost exclusively throughout their careers. The only explanation I can possibly give is that Zooey and Emily’s mother is Mary Jo Deschanel, who played Donna Hayward’s mother on Twin Peaks. And David Lynch having had access to any member of your family, at any point in time, is enough to explain away most instances of weirdness. My guess: In preparing for her role on Twin Peaks, Mary Jo took her daughters to a screening of Eraserhead, mistakenly thinking it was suitable for children. The girls were never the same. That, or Hollywood should prepare for invasion of Snow White-looking automatons that seek to eliminate facial expressions from motion pictures.

I kid, and I feel comfortable doing so because I actually like both sisters, but I also can’t imagine what it would be like to join the Deschanel family table for a holiday meal, what with all the big-eyed pretty people sitting around, not laughing at jokes and speaking in staccato computer voices. “Turkey. Is. Good. More. Food. Units. Please.”

Zooey, previously:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wishes You Should Avoid Making to a Malevolent Genie

And, of course, they’re all malevolent.
“I think I’d like to lose a lot of weight — and real fast.”

“I’ve always wanted my life to be more exciting.”

“I’d like to stand out more.”

“I just wish I’d never have to worry about anything or suffer ever again. Is there anything you could do about that?”

“In fact, I’d like it that no one in my whole family every has to worry about anything or suffer again.”

“Did I say ‘family’? Because I meant ‘the whole world.’”

“You know what? I can’t think of a thing. Why don’t you just pick something out for me. Blank check. I trust you.”
Previous lists:

Not Everyone on Lost Is Named After Philosophers

A friend was catching up on old but new-to-her episodes of Lost not long ago and, upon being introduced to a new character, responded with “Is everybody on this show named after philosophers?” I can’t remember who, exactly, prompted this response, but let’s be honest: There’s a whole lot of characters that could have. To answer the question, however, no, not everyone on the show gets their name from dead philosophers. Lost characters also seem to take their names from scientists, authors, works of literature, and some surprising pop culture sources. So here, then, is a quick list of speculative origins for Lost character names. Consider this a companion post to two others I’ve done on shows I love — Arrested Development and Pushing Daisies, both of which also put a lot of care into naming their characters. For this post, the vast majority of info came from the vast compendium of Lost knowledge that is Lostpedia. Consider it the source unless otherwise noted,

A quick aside before the big list: There’s one character whose name I won’t really be discussing.

And that’s Squirrel Baby, the horrible thing Feral Claire has been keeping in her sad little island bassinet. I realized while writing this that I’d so far neglected to give a shout-out to Squirrel Baby, who quickly became one of my favorite characters in this, Lost’s final season. And now, as of last night’s episode, Claire boarded a boat and sailed away from Squirrel Baby. Yes, after being abandoned herself, Claire has abandoned her little ALF-looking substitute child. Squirrel Baby, you may not have gotten his own flashback and you may not be as important to the show’s overall plot as I had hoped, but I at least will carry you in my heart — and not my arms, because you’re creepy and I wouldn’t want people to see me with you.

After the jump: names, names and more names. (And no Squirrel Baby, I swear.)

So even though not all Lost characters take their names from philosophers, quite a few do. Bear, if you can, a quick run-down of these Losers before we move on to other sections.

Names from philosophers:
Most obviously, there’s John Locke the Loser and John Locke the Famous British Thinker. The latter is credited as being the “father of liberalism.” His thoughts on the nature of the self, ideas and their origins may be of particular importance to Losers currently achieving various levels of awareness.

Upon leaving the island, Locke takes the pseudonym Jeremy Benthem. Jeremy Bentham, spelled only slightly differently, was another British philosopher who today is remembered for supporting utilitarianism, the notion that the morality of actions should be determined by their outcomes.

Locke’s father, Anthony Cooper, shares his name with two different historical figures. The first — Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Early of Shaftesbury — is the more notable of the two in terms of Lost as he mentored a young John Locke.

For Desmond Hume, there’s the similarly Scottish philosopher David Hume, an associate of the historical Locke whose thoughts on free will and fate — conflicting, sometimes to the point of seeming paradoxical — would seem to have some bearing on Desmond’s repeated struggles to sort out what could happen from what will, should and must happen.

Though Juliet is the more important to Lost than her husband, he happens to fully share his name with Edmund Burke, an Irishman who advocated the protection of free will and who defended the American Revolution but critiqued the French Revolution. Given that Juliet betrayed the Others and helped the Losers overthrow them, I’d say the Burke’s legacy in regards to the American Revolution should apply to her as well — that is, at least, when she wasn’t living up to the Shakespearean half of her name by being a perpetually star-crossed lover.

Juliet finds an enemy in Harper Stanhope, community therapist for the Others and the wife of Goodwin, with whom Juliet has an affair. The philosopher Edmund Burke faced opposition from British statesman Charles Stanhope, who vehemently disagreed with Burke’s take on the French Revolution.

shares a name with the thirteenth-century Japanese Buddhist monk Dōgen Kigen who founded the Sōtō school of zen philosophy and whose essay Shōbōgenzō (“The Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma”) discusses such subjects as monastic practice, language, being, time and the underlying oneness of existence.

Gerald and Karen de Groot, cofounders of the Dharma Initiative, share their last name with the Dutch writer and philosopher Hugo de Groot, better known by the Latinized version of his name, Hugo Grotius. Upon reading about his life’s work, however, I don’t see any clear parallels between his work at that of Lost de Groots. If you do, I’m all ears.

Savage woman Danielle Rousseau would seem to reflect some of the beliefs of Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He advocated the notion of the noble savage — that is, man born into nature as pure and escaping corruption by avoiding society.

And, finally, there’s one-eyed Russian bad guy Mikhail Bakunin. He has the exact same name as a Russian anarchist and critic of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s. There’s little anarchical about Lost’s Bakunin, but Entertainment Weekly’s Doc Jensen has noted that perhaps the associations with the name manifest on the show through chaos — a type of all-bets-are-off strangeness that seems to take over when the one-eyed one makes an appearance.
Names from scientists and other academics:
It seems likely that Eloise Hawking takes her last name from Stephen Hawking, physicist and author of A Brief History of Time, which is glimpsed in the episodes “Not in Portland” and “The Man From Tallahassee.”

Daniel Faraday may have been named in tribute to English electromagnetism researcher Michael Faraday both in and out of the continuity of the show. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have stated that his mother, Eloise, gave him the surname Faraday to protect him from his biological father, Charles Widmore. Eloise’s choice of name may well have been inspired by the nineteenth-century physicist, since her time on the island, near its unique electromagnetic properties, may well have given her opportunity to learn about the works of Faraday. One of the real-life Faraday’s scientific discoveries — the Faraday constant, or the magnitude of electric charge per mole of electrons — may also be referenced with Daniel Faraday’s theory of a an emotional constant as a means of not succumbing to time travel-induced brainmelt. Also, we today measure capacitance — the ability of a thing to hold an electric charge — in farads, named in honor of Faraday.

Richard Alpert shares his name with a real-life psychologist who palled around with the likes of Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley and Allen Ginsberg. He eventually became a prominent Hindu spiritualist — now known as Baba Ram Dass — and in 1974 founded the vaguely-Dharma-like Hanuman Foundation, an organization promoting spiritual well-being.

George Minkowski
, communications officer for Widmore’s freighter, shares his last name with Hermann Minkowski, a German mathematician who created the geometry of numbers to solve the theory of relativity, among other problems.

New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherford is widely credited as being “the father of nuclear physics.” And though he shares a last name with bygone Loser Shannon Rutherford, I can’t think of a single reason why this similarity should be meaningful.
Names from authors and characters in literature:
The nickname Sawyer could be a reference to the orphan protagonist of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Both characters are orphans who excel at manipulating others. Furthermore, the opening of this book’s sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, — “You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain't no matter.” — may be reflected in the first line to the letter young James writes to the conman responsible for his parents’ death — “You don't know who I am, but I know who you are.”

When Ben is first introduced to the show, he says he is Henry Gale and claims that he innocently landed on Four Toe Island while sailing about in his hot air balloon. The name seems like a reference to Dorothy’s uncle in The Wizard of Oz, another story about someone who gets taken to a fantastical place by strong winds. A theory on Lostpedia takes the Ben-Oz connection one step further: Just as the initially fearsome wizard in Oz is revealed to be the lowly schmuck behind the curtain, the Lost episode “The Man Behind the Curtain” shows that Ben’s leadership of the Others was never exactly as he explained it to the Losers. In fact, he never communicated with Jacob and therefore had hardly any more insight as to island goings-on as anybody else.

Boone shares his last name with Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle. In Carlyle’s body of work is the book Heroes and Hero Worship, which discusses the flaws of heroes. In this context, it seems interesting to note that Boone’s first name is associated with an American folk hero and that Boone’s bungled attempts to be a hero ultimately caused his own death.

Lostpedia points out twice that Eko’s name could be a reference to the author Umberto Eco. It seems like a stretch to me, since Eco’s novels Foucalt’s Pendulum and The Island of the Day Before better parallel the show itself rather than this specific character. However, it’s worth noting that Pendulum features characters at a publishing house inventing alternative histories and Day Before features a shipwreck survivor trapped on an island, with the International Date Line separating him from another boat he can use to escape. Thematically appropriate, but to the show in general.

Lost’s own Indiana Jane, Charlotte, shares numerous similarities with British author C.S. Lewis. Both attended Oxford, and both have the same middle and last names — Clive and Staples. Finally, the way Charlotte’s mother convinces her that she imagined her time as a child on the island is reminiscent of how Chronicles of Narnia heroine Susan eventually also comes to think of her time spend in the world beyond the wardrobe as being imagined. Charlotte’s backstory also parallels the life of Charlotte Brontë in one way: Both Charlottes are the oldest of three sisters.

It’s possible that Eloise Hawking’s first name may be a reference to the story of Héloïse d’Argenteuil and Pierre Abélard, though in a roundabout way. Héloïse — whose name can also be rendered as Eloise — was a scholarly woman who has an affair with the philosopher Abelard. She became pregnant, exposing the affair and ultimately getting Héloïse tossed into a nunnery and getting Abelard castrated. On Lost, Eloise is similarly learned, and her pregnancy proves troublesome, though in a much different way — she ultimately has to kill her son, Daniel. And I guess one could view Eloise as a sort of nun in the main timeline — matronly, presumably unmarried and devoted to the voodoo of Four Toe Island instead of an actual religion. The possible Abelard analogue, Charles Widmore, matches a bit more closely. Widmore gets punished for fathering a child, though it’s not Daniel but Penelope. Leaving the island to carry on with a woman gets Widmore exiled from the island — relieved of some of his power and figuratively castrated. Speaking of names, the child produced from Héloïse and Abélards affair was the unfortunately named Astrolabius, who shares his name with an instrument once used for navigation and astronomy. Daniel may have been shot dead by his own mother, but at least he didn’t get stuck with Astrolabius for a name.

Ethan Rom’s name always reminded me of the title character in Ethan Frome, who himself may have been an analogue for book’s author, Edith Wharton. The character’s unhappy marriage had several parallels with Wharton’s own, and she initially called the character Ethan Hart. If you take Ethan as a suitable masculine substitute for Edith and note that Hart is embedded in her own last name, the connections become clearer. Knowing all this, from the moment Ethan Rom was first introduced on Lost, I wanted to assume that there was more to him than he was telling. Being an English major does this to you. (By the way, shouldn’t Ethan’s last name be Goodspeed in all continuities? Do you think we’ll ever find out why he introduces himself with the last name Rom?)

Penelope, of course, is the one I like to call “obvious Odyssey allusion.” In the flash-sideways universe, where she and Desmond never met and therefore had not married, her surname is Milton, in clear tribute to the author of Paradise Lost.
Names from the Bible, Christianity or other religions:
Jack Shephard’s last name reflects his leadership position among the Losers. It seems especially appropriate given the show’s fixation on Psalm 23, which famously contains the line “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall be in not want.” Though I think Jake is a more common of a nickname for Jacob, Jack can be one too. Time will tell if there is any significance of Jack’s nominal association with Jacob — the Lost one or the Biblical one.

Along the same lines, Christian Shephard’s name has some obvious connections with Christianity, foremost among them a literal interpretation of it that would identify him with Jesus Christ. Also, like Jesus, Christian rose from the dead — or appeared to, anyway. There are other connections, but I’ve been more concerned with the ways the Lost character defies comparisons with Christ — namely by being a dick throughout much of the show and, as of last night’s episode, being outed as never having risen and instead just having been impersonated by the Man in Black.

Claire’s poor little island baby, Aaron, shares his name with Moses’s brother, who helps lead the Israelites out of desert. However, because the Biblical Aaron is known for being an eloquent speaker and because the Lost Aaron can neither talk nor lead a group to a promised land, I assume his name is purely symbolic.

Speaking of Claire, I feel like there’s a connection between the Lost character and the Catholic saint Clare of Assisi, who renounced worldly pleasures and led a very austere lifestyle — though not quite as spartan as the Danielle Rousseau-style one Claire Littleton leads after she gets left behind on the island. The order of nuns Clare of Assisi founded is known today as the Poor Clares. And if there’s anything that this Lost character’s tribulations has ever made me utter, it’s “Oh, poor Claire.”

As I mentioned in one of my “women of Lost” posts, Naomi’s name is also of Biblical original — from the Book of Ruth. In the linked post, I talk about the origin as justification to conjecture about the Lost character’s sexuality. That being said, it’s also worth nothing that Naomi debuts in the episode “Catch-22,” which also features a Ruth in one of Desmond’s flashbacks.

Widmore’s operative Matthew Abaddon has a name that invites some rather nasty end-of-the-world interpretations. In the Book of Revelations, Abaddon — rendered in Greek as Apollyon and variously meaning “a place of destruction,” “the destroyer” and “depths of Hell” — is both the king of tormenting locusts and the angel of the bottomless pit. How fun for him!

Season four big bad Martin Keamy has a name that hints twice at the character’s violent tendencies. The name Martin is derived from Mars, the Roman name of the god of war, while Keamy is a homophone for kimi the Mayan astrological sign for death.

Some have attempted to link the first name of Dharma honcho Horace Goodspeed with the homophonous name of the Egyptian god Horus, especially given all the ancient Egyptian motifs existing on the island.
Names drawn from other historical figures:
Somewhat more complex is James “Sawyer” Ford. The character’s real name could be a reference to those famous Wild West outlaws Jesse James and Robert Ford.

Ana-Lucia Cortez’s surname could be a reference to the sixteenth-century Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernán Cortés. If you wanted, you could draw parallels between the colonization of the New World and Ana-Lucia’s iron-fisted rule over the tail section survivors. But that would be a stretch. After all, Cortez and Cortes are fairly common Spanish names.

Richard Alpert’s story and name are reminiscent of Albert Richardson, first mate on the doomed merchant ship Mary Celeste, which was found in 1872 in the Atlantic Ocean and inexplicably devoid of any human inhabitants. Draw your own parallels with Lost’s equally ill-fated Black Rock.
Names from miscellaneous pop culture figures:
I actually have nothing of interest to say about Kate Austen’s name. However, I did enjoy that in the episode “What Kate Does” she gives her name as Joan Hart, which a lot of viewers presumed was a reference to the fact that Beth Broderick, the actress who plays Kate’s mother, played an aunt and mother figure to Melissa Joan Hart’s character on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. I don’t know if anyone has interpreted much meaningful from Kate’s other aliases: Monica Callis, Katherine Dodd and Maggie Ryan.

Though many Lost analyzers try to put Ben Linus in the context of the Biblical Benjamin or the Linus of Greek mythology, I think the best explanation for this character’s name has been offered by Doc Jensen: the Peanuts character Linus van Pelt, Charlie Brown’s friend, whose unshakable belief that the Great Pumpkin will appear one Halloween sends him out to the pumpkin patch year after year. His faith remains even though he never sees the thing he believes in. What a better analogy for Ben’s belief in Jacob and the powers of the island? At least up until he does see Jacob and kills him, anyway.

Bernard and Rose may be preceded by two characters in Alan Moore’s Watchmen — one minor and one unseen. In the graphic novel, a Bernard runs a newsstand, which he says he opened as a means to meet new people after the death of his wife, Rose. Incidental, yes, but perhaps not beyond the realm of plausibility, given the associations many Lost scribes have with comic books.

Lostpedia points out that Naomi having jumped onto the island from a helicopter makes her an analogue of sorts for a similarly named character from the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. This Naomi pilots a helicopter for the film’s big bad — the reclusive villain Karl Stromberg, who lives in a submersible lair and thus could work as an analogue for Lost’s submarine-riding villain, Charles Widmore. Depending on how you look at the film, it may also be notable that the Spy Who Loves Me Naomi is the first female character “indisputably killed by Bond,” as Lostpedia puts it.

, an Other, appears in three episodes as one of the guards in the Looking Glass, a Dharma station at the bottom of the ocean. Given that she dies down there, mere feet from the watery moon pool entrance to the Looking Glass and in the presence of Scotsman Desmond, the lyrics to the old Scottish folk song seem appropriate: “My Bonnie lies over the ocean.”

As I’ve noted previously on this blog, the doomed news reporter named in the episode title “Tricia Takana Is Dead” has almost the exact name of a recurring character on Family Guy, Asian reporter Tricia Takananwa. I have to assume the similarity is intentional.

Charlie’s brother, Liam Pace, seems like he’s probably named after Liam Gallagher, member of the British rock band Oasis alongside his brother, Noel. It’s easy to make parallels between Oasis and the Pace brothers’ band, Drive Shaft.

Sawyer’s jilted lover Cassidy Phillips seems like a double reference to The Mamas & The Papas, which would make sense given how often the show has used Cass Elliot’s song “Make Your Own Kind of Music.” Mama Cass’s real name was not Cassidy, but the two names are similar enough that I’m willing to buy a possible connection, especially in light of the fact that fellow band member John Phillips could be a likely source for the Lost character’s last name.

Cassidy and Sawyer’s daughter, Clementine, also has a musically themed name that seems especially appropriate given her lack of a relationship with her father. The folk song lyrics “You were lost and gone forever / Dreadful sorry, Clementine” neatly sum up what Sawyer’s relationship would be towards this little girl.

And bespectacled Other Lennon got his name because he looks just like John Lennon. Doy.
Wordplay names:
At the 2009 Comic Con, the Lost panel featured a montage memorializing all the characters who had died so far. Included in the montage was Libby, with her name being displayed as Elizabeth “Libby” Smith. To some, this answered the question of what the character’s last name had been. It had never been spoken on the show and therefore some people assumed she could have been Liddy Wales, a character in the non-canon Lost Experience game, while another source had stated her full name as Libby Franklin. To me, however, I feel like slapping the last name Smith is the creative team’s way of writing out the character, seeing how Smith is one of those generic last names, like Johnson or Doe. At the time, actress Cynthia Watros had said she wasn’t interested in reprising her Lost character for the final season, and perhaps this was an initial attempt at closing the book prematurely on the mystery that is Libby. Just a thought.

Similarly, the name of Other bigwig Tom Friendly also wasn’t revealed until the Comic Con video. Before that point, Mr. Friendly has been a nickname assigned the character by Lost crew and eventually fans as well. After the video, the name was confirmed as canon when it appeared as one of the crossed-out candidate names Jacob’s lighthouse in the sixth season.

In an article in Entertainment Weekly, Damon Lindelof was quoted as saying that the Miles Straume character was named because “it would be cool if his name sounded like maelstrom.” So there’s that.

Though I don’t know of anything special being coded into Pierre Chang’s name, the pseudonyms he gives in the various Dharma orientation films each relate to candles in some way. He variously identifies himself as Dr. Marvin Candle, Dr. Mark Wickmund and Dr. Edgar Halliwax. It so happens that another Lost character has a last name that would fit in with the pattern, Cindy Chandler, the Oceanic flight attendant. But that’s probably just a coincidence.

Though most anagrams of Lost names seem at best coincidentally appropriate for the characters they’re attached to, I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that the letters in Naomi Dorrit’s name can be switched around to spell maid in rotor and raid monitor — arguable references to the fact that she flew a helicopter to the island and that she likely intended to wipe out the Losers, per Widmore’s orders.

Other tempting anagrams can be made form the name of Others ambassador Ethan Rom, including other man and more than — as with the earlier analysis of his name, both point to him having more secrets than he’s letting on. Pushing the anagram theory even more is the fact that Juliet, when she’s being courted by the fake company Mittelos Bioscience, meets Ethan, who poses as an employee. Mittelos is an anagram for lost time, a phrase that applies to both Juliet and the show as well.

The last name of ill-fated science teacher Leslie Arzt means “doctor” in German. Furthermore, Arzt had a Ph.D., so when characters refer to him as Dr. Arzt, they’re literally calling him Dr. Doctor.

I have read that Sayid’s last name, Jarrah, translates directly from Arabic as “cutter” or wounder” — appropriate for a man with so much blood on his hands. However, the figurative meaning of the word would be “surgeon,” meaning his last name means something fairly close to what Arzt’s does.

I couldn’t help myself from trying to read the name of short-lived other Bea Klugh as be a clue. But then she was unceremoniously killed off after three episodes and I stopped caring what the clue might be.

And, finally, there’s Zoe. I wonder if her name might be a reference to actress Zoe Bell, whose role in the third season of Lost was cut short by the production schedule being jumbled up by 2007-2008 Writers Guild strike. Perhaps naming this character was a tip-of-the-hat towards Bell. Or perhaps the character got an end-of-the-alphabet name because she is the last recurring character us Lost viewers will every be introduced to. (Prove me wrong, Lost. Prove me wrong.)
Mysteries: Neither I nor anyone else that I know of has posited anything about the meaning or significance of the following characters names: Michael Dawson (and his alias, Kevin Johnson), Walt Lloyd, Nikki Fernandez, Charlie Pace, Charles Widmore and Ilana Verdansky. Anyone got theories about these? Also, I’m sure I overlooked a few characters in compiling this list, so don’t hesitate to tell me.

Previously on Lost on this blog:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Grammar of Seatbelt Safety

Of all people, Drew Mackie the Typo King probably has the least room to criticize others for stringing their words together in strange or unpleasant ways. But this fact has never stopped me before, I so I shall continue on. (Take that, conspicuously dark-colored kettle!) If you live in the United States and ride in wheeled vehicles, you have likely seen a certain safety slogan that bothers me — and probably me alone.

Yep, it’s “Click It or Ticket.” And, at least on the verbal level, it sucks, regardless of how many life-saving seatbelt burns it may be responsible for. I had no objections to “Click It or Ticket” whenever I first encountered it, but then a friend pointed out how it’s grammatically awkward and now I can’t help but to remember this every time I see the slogan on roadside signs or electronic highway billboards during non-Amber Alert time periods. It bothers me a little more each time, and one day, I’m sure, it will sufficiently distract me from driving safety that I’ll cause an accident

My problem has to do with the two choices given: “Click It” and “Ticket.” The first could be a grammatically complete sentence, if it wanted to be, with the understood subject of you — as in “Hey, you! Dumbass!” — and then the imperative verb click and even the direct object it. The second is just the word ticket, sitting by itself all awkwardly, without a verb to complete the thought. It’s like an unbalanced equation, this offering of two grammatically unequal choices. Or it’s like twins, with “Click It” being the one that got all the good womb food and left “Ticket” malformed and sickly.

In general, “Click It or Ticket” seems like it wants to mimic a more successful rhyming construction such as “Be There or Be Square,” which offers two grammatically equal choices, both of which are imperatives with the understood you. With “Click It or Ticket,” I can mentally supply the you for the first part, but I feel like it’s asking too much to insert the missing words in the second part until it makes sense. “[You] Click It or [Get a] Ticket”? “[You] Click It or [You Will Risk Receiving a] Ticket”? “[You] Click It or [an Officer Will Pull You Over and Issue You a] Ticket”? Nope. Asking too much, all of these. I will say, at least, that the American slogan reminding motorists about basic safety is better than its British equivalent, “Clunk Click Every Trip.” Because slant rhymes kill.

My suggestions: “Get Strapped to the Seat or Smeared Across the Street,” “Fasten Your Belt or Death Is Dealt,” and “Make the Buckle Click or You’re an Inbred Hick.”

The Truth About Kelly Kapoor

The following is one sentence from the Wikipedia page for Office character Kelly Kapoor, complete with footnotes.
Although there are a few major alterations between them,1 her closest counterpart on the original UK series is Donna.2
  1. For instance the race of each character is different. Donna is vaguely related to her boss, while Kelly is not.
  2. They are both sales reps, they have relationships with their office temp and are both vain.
I just want to point out how funny it is that some crazed Mindy Kaling fans not only posted this information about the character but chose to do so using the words they did — and in footnote form, no less. Fools, when I click a Wikipedia footnote, I expect links and sources and grand, scholarly elaboration the likes of which simply couldn’t fit the general text. This footnotes did not meet my standards. “The characters aren’t exactly the same because one of them has brown skin” is not worth bringing up anywhere, much less in a footnote. To you, I say this: You may know about Kelly Kapoor, but you much to learn about academic citation.

Monday, April 19, 2010

You Don’t Know Where That Bear Has Been

As a young television viewer, I initially had access to only three channels — NBC, ABC and a very fuzzy feed of Fox. Eventually, my parents sprung for a satellite dish and this enabled me to see all manner of programming inappropriate for someone my age. Included in my young education of violent, sexual, violently sexual and otherwise disturbing movies was stuff like Lawnmower Man, Halloween 4, strange British sitcoms, the Rocky Horror Picture Show for some reason, and episodes of Dirty Pair, all of which I thought were AWESOME because I didn’t know better. Also on this list is the 1981 movie Heavy Metal, the first adult cartoon I’d ever seen. I loved it, and just this weekend I re-watched it to check the accuracy of my memories of its greatness.

In case you’ve never heard of Heavy Metal, have a look at its poster, which communicates all you need to know about the film’s theme and general imagery.

Overall, Heavy Metal wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be, and at times I actually thought it was about as cool as it seemed when I was a kid. Perhaps more than anything else, I found myself surprised by the quality of bands supplying music for the soundtrack — Blue Öyster Cult, Stevie Nicks, Cheap Trick, Grand Funk Railroad and Devo, just to name a few. Certainly not the screeching, thrashing kind of music the name Heavy Metal suggests.

Along the lines of music, I noticed something else, too. In “Den,” one of the film’s vignettes, a bare-chested barbarian dude must rescue a soon-to-be-sacrificed maiden from an evil cult. The ceremony is led by an evil queen — also bare-chested, of course — and her outfit get-up has a familiar-looking symbol blocking the view of her hoohah.

(image has been modified to prevent you from being scandalized.)

This was the best image of the ceremonial thong I could find, but I think you can make out enough detail to note how much it looks like the Radiohead “evil teddy bear” logo.

Right? Like, normally when confronted by an alleged pop culture connection like this, I’d say “Oh, those look similar, in a general way.” But these two look similar to the point that I’d actually bet that Heavy Metal influenced the Radiohead logo. I wish I could find out for sure, but my attempt at research yielded only that the bear logo was designed by Thom Yorke and artist frequent Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood. Beyond that it’s hard going, since any search terms that could lead me to an answer — “heavy metal,” “radiohead,” “queen,” etc. — also turn up thousands of shitty music sites. All I can say for now is that it doesn’t seem out-of-the-question that Yorke or Donwood would have seen Heavy Metal and used it as inspiration, given its status as a cult film existing at the exact intersection of music and weird art.

I guess I can just hope that someone Googling their way here might be able to point me in the right direction.

Previous assertions of my visual literacy: