Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lost Visions

[note - for some reason this post didn't take the first time so I am posting it after the Feb. 21 episode instead of just before.]

It's almost time for a new Lost and I haven' said anything about the last one, yet.

First the reruns. ABC has been saying that they will never shw a rerun of Lost ever again. Instead they scheduled Lost "encores". At 9:00 they show the episode from the prior week.

Huh? How is this not a rerun?

As long as they are showing "encores" it would be nice to show an older one. The Feb 14 episode was all about Desmond. It would ave been nice if they had repeated the season 2 cliffhanger instead of the Feb 7 show. The much of the Feb 14 episode referred to the cliffhanger which we only saw once, eight months ago. Instead they repeated the only episode we have seen this year.


All three survivors of the hatch explosion have had visions that seemed to involve direct communication with the island through some sort of spirit guide. Locke induced a vision through his sweat lodge. His spirit guide, Boone, gave him a symbolic view of everything going on in the island.

Eko's vision was induced through his delirium with his brother as spirit guide/judge.

In the middle of a temporal fugue, a spitit guide in the form of a jewelry dealer stopped to explain the workings of the universe to Desmond.

I feel a little better about the season after realizing this.

Things that worry me about the season:

The rules of the universe as explained to Desmond sound a lot like Final Encounter - a set of B-grade horror movies.

The show was always about the relationships between characters with each episode changing the mix. None of that has happened this season. Most of the episodes have either been about Kate/Sawyer and Jack/Ben/Juliet. The exceptions have been single character episodes. The backstories in the episodes featuring Locke, Eko, and Desmond crowded out the current story. I want to see more time on the island and less time in flashbacks.

Ratings have suffered. At its peak the show had 20+ million viewers. It was down to 14.5 million on Feb. 7 and 12 million on Feb 14. At this rate, the producers will not have time to tie things up before the show is canceled.

Updates on the Feb 21 episode:
They promised to answer major questions. I'm not impressed. What did we learn?

  • The others live on the main island and work on the Hydro-base island. This was obvious.
  • The kidnapped passengers are ok. They said this several times. Now we know for sure.
  • Jack's tattoo says, "“He walks amongst us, but he is not one of us.” This was very low on my list of mysteries. In fact, the show could have ended without revealing this and I never would have noticed.
A few new questions that probably will never be answered:

  • Since when is tattooing a near-religious rite in Thailand?
  • Why does someone who is "reading" and "marking" people in a near mystical rite dress like a hooker?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Not LOST, just delayed

Last Fall the producers of Lost said that they would wrap up the second island plot by the end of the mini-season. Instead they ended on a cliff-hanger. What happened?

I think that the bosses at ABC decided that they wanted to start their new series early. They must have had high hopes for it. So they cut Lost's Fall season short one episode and moved it to the Winter.

Bad move. After a three month gap some of the plot points were a little hard to follow. I have a great memory for plot details but when Alex popped out of brush my first reaction was, "Oh yeah, she's here, too." It's been close to six months since Karl made his first and only appearance so he was even more obscure.

So, now we are at a fairly good point for a break. Kate, Sawyer, and Karl are on their way back to the main island. Jack's fate is on hold for a while. There is enough of a break in the minute to minute continuity to stop for a breath but still enough to pull you back.

Except they showed it at the wrong end of the break.

Also, this was the first time one of the Others had a flashback. The flashbacks in the mini-season were all for people who have already had multiple flashbacks. Including Juliet's flashback would have helped with the staleness I complained about recently.

So the producers erred by focusing too much on Jack, Kate, and Sawyer and ABC erred by being too eager to premier a show that flopped.

BTW, the rig they had Karl in was reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange. In this movie, a violent, antisocial gang leader is given a special treatment to make him incapable of further violence or violent sex. He is strapped down with his eyes clamped open and forced to watch clips of violent movies while being given a drug that makes him feel sick. The idea was to build an association so that further violence made him sick. The character's name was Alex which is probably a coincidence.

Presumably we will learn something from Karl about what they were doing to him and why. It looked like they were trying to force good citizenship on him.

So Alex is Ben's daughter. As far as we know, she is also Danielle's daughter. In the 9 o'clock clip show they reminded us that Danielle claimed that she had never seen the Others, only heard them. Was she lying?

And what was a fertility specialist doing on the island?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Sword Blogging

Normally I don't buy movie tie-ins just because I like the movie. I've made an exception on some of the Lord of the Rings merchandise, particularly some of the weapons. There are a few reasons for this. First, I like both the movie and weaponry. Just as important, the weapons are well-made. These are real swords. Finally, I found a really cheap source.

The weapons I have gotten are not licensed movie reproductions. I suspect that they are identical to the licensed ones except without the licensing costs and huge mark-ups. I have a whole collection for what one licensed sword would cost.

Here's what I have and my impressions.

Ranger's sword
In the book, Strider only carried one sword and it was broken for half of the first book. In the movie the idea of a ranger running around with nothing but a broken sword to defend himself was rejected. They gave Strider a rather plain sword and he carried it until Elrond presented him with the reforged sword in the third movie.

This is a copy of the sword that strider carries most of the time. It is a solid broadsword. Like many of the LoTR's swords, it has a two-handed grip. This gives it a good balance when used one-handed. It's a bit short for a two-handed sword but it works well as one.

Ringwraith's sword
The edges of this sword are uneven. The idea was that the Ringwraiths left their swords sitting around, unattended for hundreds of years. This sword was originally wider and some of the edge has rusted away. Regardless, the sword is still sharp and dangerous. You can see this sword held by the flying Nazgul who confronts Frodo in The Two Towers.

This is a real two-handed sword. It is longer than the Ranger's sword but made with a thinner blade. Even though the edges are uneven, they managed to arraign it so that the sword is still perfectly balanced.

I have two complaints about this sword. One is that there are points going up the blade from the pommel. These do not touch the blade but the blade is flexible enough to bang against them.

The second complaint is that the blade is a bright stainless steel. It does not look like something that rusted away. I fixed this by treating it with soldering flux multiple times. This is a mild acid that is corrosive. After several treatments it started to look rusty.

Witchking's sword
In my favorite scene in the book, the orcs have broken the gate to Gondor. Instead of rushing in, they fall back so that the Witchking can be the first in. He is riding a horse. His hood is pulled back and his crown appears to be floating atop his invisible head. He draws his sword and pale flames flicker along the blade.

Opposing him is Gandolf. Before they can meet, the horns of Rohan are sounded. The Witchking hurries back to his flying steed.

In the theatrical version, this is cut completely. In the extended DVD, Gandolf is hurrying to save Faramir when he is confronted by the Witchking with his flaming sword. He shatters Gandolf's staff but hurries away at the sound of the horns.

This is the sword. It's a bit shorter than the ringwraith's sword but it is still a two-handed broadsword. Like the other swords, it is light enough and well-balanced enough to be used one-handed.

Unlike the ringwraith's sword, this one has a special finish that looks just right.

Since hobbits are so small, what passes as a sword for them was originally a long elf-made dagger. Unlike all of the other elven weapons in the movie, this has a straight, leaf-shaped blade.

The reproduction is about right as a long dagger. This was the first LoTR weapon that I bought and I was surprised that it was a real weapon. The shape of the blade gives it enough weight for cutting.

The handle is painted (as it was in the movie) and I assume that this would rub off eventually. A bit of elvish starts on the cross-guard and runs down the blade naming the sword.

There is also a convincing plastic version of this sword. When you flip a switch the blade glows blue. I've never seen this for less than $50 so I don't have one.

Aragorn's dagger
Galadrial presents gifts to the nine as they leave Lothlorian. Strider gets a dagger. This is used several times. In the fight at the end of Fellowship he loses his sword and uses the dagger. Later an orc throws the dagger at him. Finally, he re-sheaths the dagger as he says, "Let's hunt some orc." In The Two Towers he stops Eowyn's sword with the dagger.

The dagger is a cross between an over-sized bowie knife and a short scimitar. The handle is a nice red wood. Elvish is painted on the blade and it came with a nice leather-covered sheath.

Daggers of Legolas
When he is not using his bow, Legolas draws a pair of daggers. The rest of the time you can see them sticking up from his quiver.

These are unusual-looking daggers. I mainly got them because of the greenish wood handles. For daggers, these are pretty long. If you put your thumbs along the handle they have the feel of a machete. There is enough weight in the blades for cutting as well as stabbing.

Saruman's staff
The top of Saruman's staff has points duplicating the top of Orthanc. It has a marble ball that is reminiscent of the tower's Palantir.

The reproduction took a few shortcuts. The points are made from thinner metal, they used a glass ball instead of a marble one, and the ball is loose.

I considered replacing the ball. Instead I used a felt furniture pad to keep it from bouncing around. I put a red LED in the pad with a hidden battery and wires so I can press on the right place and it lights up.

To make shipping easier, the staff unscrews into two parts. The joint is not obvious.

Gandolf's staff
Gandolf actually has four staffs in the movie. The first one looks like a small tree grew out of a hill. The roots that form the top all go in one direction. There is enough room in between them to hold his long-stemmed pipe. You can see it clearly when he is talking with Saruman. There is also a thong hanging down that he can tie his bag of pipeweed to. Sauruman takes this staff.

Later Gandolf has a similar staff but without the thong.

After his death and resurrection, Gandolf has a new, white staff. It appears to be carved from wood and has a fancy head. In the book, his white clothing was given to him by the elves of Lothlorian. Presumably they made this staff, also. During siege of Gondor, the Witchking shatters this staff. Gandolf grabs a lance from a soldier for a bit but he has a new white staff by the time they attack Mordor.

Mine is based on the white staff. The head it cast metal, screwed into a steel shaft. Like Saruman's staff, this one splits in half. Unlike that one, the seam is obvious.

This was the most disappointing reproductions. The head is made of four cast pieces and they do not fit together well. The seams are obvious. On top of that, it was painted in a high-gloss white paint that made it look cheap.

I fixed a lot of that. After filling the seams with putty, sanding the paint, and putting on a new coat of flat white it looks a lot more like it should.

I may mount a blue light in the head.

Update: I should make it clear that I have no illusions about ever using these weapons for real. It is more fun to get a workout practicing weapon drills than doing calisthenics. I do get satisfaction from going to Renaissance Fairs and beating up people half my age with practice swords but that's as far as it goes.