Monday, May 24, 2010

Not Lost anymore

WARNING: if you still haven't seen the series finale of Lost, this post will spoil it for you. Read on at your own risk.

The writers of Lost have my respect. They’ve done what I routinely struggle to do: weave a story that satisfies only enough to get folks riled up about how unsatisfactory the end of the story is.

I had that same knee-jerk reaction so many viewers – and some of my own friends – had when, by the end, they were all dead. All we were left with was some sugar-coated allegory based around a theme of “letting go” and “moving on,” while it was never clear what really happened. And the idea of bringing polar bears to the island, while already explained, kind of, is still a big WTF.

But then, that really seems to be one of the points of the entire series I’m seeing. The human imagination itself is something to marvel at, and whether we like the explanations behind the visions, the visions themselves really were enough, weren't they?

Working further down the theme ladder from the highest level – the idea that no matter how lonely, flawed or hopeless one might be, there are kindred spirits all around with whom you can bond and learn to prop each other up – it seems that the island and its opposing forces, Jacob and his miserable nameless brother (you’d be miserable too if the only names you ever answered to were “brother,” “The Man in Black,” “the smoke monster” or the name of whatever dead person you decided to make yourself look like) were using regular human beings as pawns in their power play. Kind of a typical good vs. evil plot line that we grew up watching as kids on cartoons, but this time, we were never really sure which side was the good side until the last season. And even at that, few of us were ready to forgive all the questionable tactics of the “good guys.” Kind of like the real world.

I’ll probably buy the complete 6-season DVD set when it comes out, and then I’ll dig deeper into the little details. But for now, since I’ve cooled down over the surface bits that disappointed me – i.e. seeing Sawyer reunited with Juliet (what a mismatch!); never really finding out what the “real” timeline (assuming there ever was one) looked like upon the return of Kate, Sawyer, Lupitas, Miles and Claire; never knowing whether Desmond did get to leave the island, and if so, how it would have happened – I realize that this was a genius way to end Lost. Just like any other storyline, it could have gone on forever. But leaving it the way it did just reminded me of all the times I’ve felt the same way upon the conclusion of a movie with multiple unresolved plot lines. At some point, you have to call it quits. And when you do, a great measure of success is how pissed off the audience is over their pet plot line not being resolved. In that regard, it appears that Lost was a huge success. We cared that much to actually get pissed off.

From a personal standpoint, however, I’m a bit shook up.

I saw a lot of myself in Jack Shepard. And it hit a little too close to home when, of all the main characters, he was the very last one to “get it.” The man of science finally understood the importance of “letting go” and “moving on” at the end of that controversial “purgatory” scene, the culmination of all the “flash sideways” scenes. And at that moment, in death, he achieved what he struggled to do in life.

It shook me up because there are some things in life for which I struggle in much the same way, and often fear that I will not overcome. But then, intellectually I've always known the answer is to “let go.” That’s why I’m reading Larry Winget. That’s why I started taking swing dance lessons. That’s why I’ve latched on so hard to the music of Ash Reiter, not to mention the vibe and friendship of her entire band, this year. And that’s why, not even knowing how this whole saga would finally end, I bought Lara De Garie’s painting “About Patterns” (pictured above) and hung it on my living room wall just 12 days before the Lost finale aired.

I think I get it now, too.

Thanks to my friend Victoria for steering me over to Screen Rant's take, my fuzzy impressions of the conclusion of Lost have been cleared up even further. This is the best take I've seen so far. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Online privacy is NOT news

When I start feeling annoyed at reading the same tired rants over and over, that’s usually a sign that it’s time to speak up – either to say “shut up!” or something a little more intelligent. I’d like to think I’m hitting the mark of the latter here.

There have been, and will continue to be, loads and loads of articles about privacy concerns on Facebook. You can find them with little to no effort by entering the words “Facebook” and “privacy” in the search field of Google’s news site. Or you can just click here, since that’s what you really want to do, isn’t it?

The latest, and potentially most explosive, entry in this “news cycle” is the release of an alleged IM conversation between Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and an unnamed friend. The conversation supposedly took place when Zuckerberg was 19, and given his age at the time, I wouldn’t be surprised if the epithet he supposedly gave to his users at the time was true. Kids at that age can be an impulsive, impolitic bunch.

Though Facebook has since issued a statement to clarify its official stance on user privacy, there’s another issue here that few people seem to be acknowledging: online privacy is NOT news!

After over a decade and a half of mainstream news reports of the havoc wreaked by hackers and spammers, have we not gotten the message that no matter what online service we use, we are all at risk for an invasion of privacy when we submit our personal information to an online service?

No matter how secure an online service is, you are *always* at risk for a privacy invasion. If the company isn’t willing to sell the information to third parties, a hacker may still find a way to steal it. It’s the same reality we deal with when we walk the city streets – no matter who is watching out for us, whether it’s the police or privately-hired security officers, we’re always at risk to be mugged or roughed up in some way. It’s a fact of life.

Not to take away from Facebook’s responsibilities towards its users – the company’s users have every right to keep Facebook in a position to prove itself, and if the company wants to be successful, it will find a way to go above and beyond what’s expected, both in terms of satisfying its user base and its bottom line.

But when it comes down to basics, it’s very simple. The best protector of your online privacy is you. If you don’t feel comfortable having your age determine what products are marketed to you on Facebook, don’t share your year of birth. If you don’t want the world to see those pictures of you getting drunk with transvestite hookers, then don’t upload them! Even if Facebook prevents them from coming up in Google searches, who’s to say that one of your “friends” won’t download the photos and then share them somewhere else that *will* allow Google to index them in searches? There’s only so much Facebook can do. The rest is up to you.

If you ever run into a jam trying to figure out whether you should share something online, there’s a really simple test you can apply. I learned this non-technical exercise from a particularly tech-savvy ex-girlfriend of mine. Ask yourself, “would I want my mother to see this?”

There you go. Now stop worrying and enjoy the web. It’s really fun when you realize just how much control of the experience you really do have.