Nobody Knows Where They Might End Up

(Nobody Knows)

It’s tough to keep a show going after ten years. Scripts start getting creative. Having a helicopter land on someone’s head becomes normal (Oh ER, when are you going to end up on Netflix?), and you lose sight of who the characters are amidst the drama.

I started watching Grey’s Anatomy in the middle of season 3 and vowed to stop watching last year when Sandra Oh’s Cristina Yang departed.

Best. Laid. Plans. When the show premiered again this fall I was back, ready to hear of the happenings at Grey-Sloane Memorial Hospital including, spoiler alert, the introduction of yet another sister for Mer.

But this is not a post about Grey’s Anatomy. This is a post about diversity and storytelling from Shonda Rhimes the creator/writer of Grey’s, Private Practice, Scandal, and the executive producer of the new How to Get Away with Murder. Two weeks ago she gave an interview for the Smithsonian Associates at the National Museum of Natural History, and I thought what she had to say about diversity and storytelling was worth repeating.
Continue reading “Nobody Knows Where They Might End Up”

Damn, Victoria! History, Mystery and Whodunnit

Excerpt from the final scenes of Mulgrave Manor:

DAVIS (shaking his head): When we really first met. We were in London they had just announced the end of the war and you were there taking care of Lady Weschester….that night…it changed my life. It gave it meaning.

S. HARROW (shaking her head violently): We talked. Nothing more. You’re reading into it too much–what about Lady Victoria.

DAVIS: Damn Victoria! It is you that I love.

The invitations were sent. The silver polished. Footman stood at the ready for one of the finest soirée’s Buckinghamshire had ever known. All that was left was for the director to call action.

For the last two years I’ve participated in a murder mystery club. It started with a friend’s birthday party which was set in the 1920’s–your typical murder mystery out of a box with villains, heroes, heroines and of course……murrrrrrrrder.

Somewhere along the way three of us started to write the mysteries ourselves, taking a gander at figuring out motive, means, opportunity and a gaggle of red herrings to confuse and bewilder our guests. In the past these investigative forays took place in the Wild West, the land of fairy tales or at an intergalactic peace accord signing (guess who wrote that one). For this spring’s adventure I embraced my love of pop culture, gossip and history and set the tale on the set of a Downton Abbey rip-off called Mulgrave Manor.

Continue reading Damn, Victoria! History, Mystery and Whodunnit”

2012: Turning, Turning, Turning Through the Years

writingWhen I started this blog in 2009 I had intended for it to serve as an outlet for these words I constantly have churning in my head. Words floating around after I step out into the world, asking–begging to be written down. These words are more than just a way to express myself, they are a way for me to paint a picture, tell a story, form a narrative. They are letters that form sentences that lead to ideas.

So when I look back at my words this year, I realize that 2012 was filled with milestones. When this blog goes live it will be my 108th post*, and the nineteen posts that made up this year have a few common themes. Some were labors of love (the history of Jim Crow, and my piece on public history, the American Revolution, and 1865) while others looked to my travels from Wisconsin to Washington State. I also attended some gorgeously produced theatre productions that pushed storytelling to the next level (not to mention the big Disney buys Lucasfilm news). With every word I put down I tried to embrace the connections between what we read, see, and watch and what we think following these experiences.

Continue reading “2012: Turning, Turning, Turning Through the Years”

Hodge Podge: Old Houses, Athletic Traditions, Parody, and Loss

It’s been a busy summer. I’ve ended up having a lot more vacations then expected (which is great) and not enough time to work on some upgrades to the blog that I wanted (which is not so great). I did however manage to purchase a domain name so this blog is now thisiswhatcomesnext.com. Other changes should come in early fall.

This month’s Hodge Podge is what its always been. A collection of thoughts. A sense of appreciation. A tribute. It’s also a bit random with no clear connective tissue beyond the history and links to storytelling. I end this post with a collection of links because when I haven’t been writing here I have been writing for PreservationNation.org, Fangirl, and Homespun.

Continue reading “Hodge Podge: Old Houses, Athletic Traditions, Parody, and Loss”

Downton Abbey and the Pull of Place in Popular Television

I’ve been angling for a reason to write about Downton Abbey on this blog, and an opportunity presented itself in this fun Friday post that went up today on the PreservationNation.org blog. You can read the post with the awesome-as-usual Downton Abbey images here but I’ve also included the text below.

PS: I also use it as an excuse to mention other awesome shows like The West Wing, LOST, Dr. Who, and Battlestar Galactica. Because what would each of these shows be without the familiar hallways of the White House, the forests of our favorite Island, and a spaceship serving as home for a drifting civilization (or in the case of Dr. Who, the ability to hop from place to place in time)?

Downton Abbey and the Pull of Place in Popular Television

 

I think by now many of the regular readers on this blog know three things about me. I love history. I love writing about history. And I pretty much think about history, and place, and the past about 367 million times a day.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I think about the power of place and the past when doing the most mundane things — walking, cooking, and watching television.

Like many, many people, I’ve been enamored with the British period drama Downton Abbey, which just finished its second season run on PBS. For those that haven’t seen it, it begins in pre-World War I England and gives viewers a glimpse into the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants through the intervening years.

What I love about Downton Abbey is that the story centers around the estate, a magnificent house full of both grand (for the lords and ladies) and humble (for the staff) public and private spaces that serves as a mechanism for how a family and their employees lived in the early 20th century. The way the building is used over the two seasons reflects society and class as changes in women’s roles, war, and disease take its toll. But Downton is used as more than a set piece. The home is a crucial character in itself, and plays a crucial role for how each of the characters defines themselves.

This isn’t necessarily something new. After all, the whole premise of the show Cheers is to tell the story of a group of bar patrons in a particular space. Then there are three of my favorites — The West Wing, LOST, and (nerd alert) Battlestar Galactica — which are incredibly place-centric, as ninety percent of each episode occurs within their respective main locations: The White House, an island, or a giant spaceship that serves as the only defender against the enemies of humanity (try saying that three times fast).

What other shows out there use place to tell their story? We know of course that there are plenty of serials and sitcoms that use cities as the backdrop to their storylines. The stories in Mad Men, for example, are integrally tied to their place in mid-century New York.

The point, perhaps, that I am trying to make is that as a preservationist and a historian, I’m drawn to shows that integrate where they are with the people whose lives intersect in those spaces. And it’s the same for the real world, since the places we save are often inherently important because of the mark of individuals or groups on them, or our own modern interactions or associations with them.

I recently watched an episode of Dr. Who (a show with a time-traveling theme) where the main character presents a theory that there are fixed points in time that can never change — that events will always happen in this time and this place no matter what tries to influence them. It’s a fanciful idea, one that appeals to me as a historian because of how we think about the “power of place” — that an important way that we can tell the story of our past and make it tangible is by recognizing the confluence of people, places, and events in time.

What do you think? Do you love a television show because it reminds you of history, place, or preservation? Sound off below!

Twenty-Eleven/Twenty-Twelve

It has been a long, strange, year. On one hand it felt like it disappeared without a fuss, slipping away, month by month, day by day. Winter became Spring, Summer then Fall in a blink of an eye, but so much happened, both in the world and personally that it has its own weight and import.

And now here we are. Over the anticipation and into the 3rd day of the year two thousand and twelve (try saying that three times fast) with resolutions crying to be made, and best of lists flooding the Internet. I’ve had a year of personal triumphs and losses along with professional challenges that forced us to embrace change.

So 2011, Twenty-Eleven 2-0-1-1 I’d like to bid you adieu.

Guaranty Building in Buffalo, NY

I am grateful for another year of family. For a wedding that made it grow, and for support when personal losses flew in unexpectedly.

I am grateful for another year of friends. As my thirtieth year on earth begins, having known some of these people for up to ten years has enriched my imagination, my world view, and my heart in the ways that only friends can do.

I am grateful, once again, for a year where I could walk into work and write and talk about something I believe in and love, even when it was hard (and at times, it still is). Change is a funny thing. When you know it is coming it can be frightening, a looming monolith–daunting, but as it sweeps in it can force you to look at old ways of working and push you in new directions. Optimism is my greatest weapon.

I know I haven’t made mention of some of the larger events of the year—of stories that we’ll be talking about as historians for years to come. Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Tornadoes changing the narrative of nations and small towns for decades to come. Believe me those larger events made an impact on how I view the meaning of place and where we came from in a new light. And the death of a friend this summer emphasized that life is fleeting, and that so much of what we have needs to be embraced right here, right now. 

Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ

And then there  are the typical “best of” lists. As always this is a reflection of things I’ve discovered/read/listened/saw this year.

Books : The Help, People of the Book, The Hunger Games Series
History Exhibitions: Maximum India, Taliesin West, Martin Luther King Memorial
Music: Sigh No More (Mumford and Sons), Collapse into Now (REM), We Are Young (Song by Fun. As heard on Glee and Chuck).
Television: Game of Thrones, Downton Abby, The Hour, Doctor Who
Movies: The Help, The King’s Speech, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
Theatre: Les Miserables, Hamlet, The Heir Apparent

Many of the items on this list I wrote about on the blog this year, while others have flown in under the radar (including my recent love for David Tennant and Dr. Who. As a historian, watching a Time Lord fly around space during different historical periods is amusing and at times, surprisingly poignant.) Downton Abby (Season 2 starts January 8, Season 1 is available on streaming via Netflix Instant and PBS.com) and The Hour are two other series that I haven’t talked much about on the blog, the first has been written about in many places—great acting, great drama. The Hour, a six episode series set in England during the 1950s about a one hour news program, has an intensity that surprised me.

Each of these pieces of pop-culture fed my creative soul, made me learn something new about storytelling, and were, above all else, fun to listen to, watch, and see.

So….Twenty-Twelve, what can I expect from you?

My resolutions for the year are complicated. They range from the personal (eating habits, work out goals) to the aspirational (write more, dream more). Above all else I see 2012 as the year of getting organized, to continue to live my life in a way that helps others and sends love, peace, and kindness out in the world.

It is certainly going to be an exciting year. The Olympics, the 2012 Presidential Elections (to name two) that are sure to make headlines. There will be stories to be told, and lives that will be changed.

It is also a year of moving the needle, and raising the bar. Challenging myself to take risks and leaps that I have only taken tiny, hesitant steps towards in the past. Figuring out what does come next for me personally, professionally, and creatively. So no matter how we write it 2012, Twenty Twelve, 2-0-1-2, this is the year of living life.

Preservation in Pop Culture: How I Met Your Mother

As I mention in the description of …and this is what comes next (and perhaps as can be evidenced by my inordinate love of the television show LOST) I am both a historian and a pop culture fanatic. This year one of my favorite shows, How I Met Your Mother had a long running story line about an old hotel and one woman’s fight to save it. There are lots of hijinks along the way, but in the end the way the storyline portrayed preservation wasn’t pretty.

In response, my friend Will (who works at the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota) and I wrote this blog post over at the PreservationNation blog where we talked about the plot line and what it says about preservation in pop culture.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Another Day, Another Year

What’s an end-of-the year blog without an end-of-the-year list? I’ve tried to fill 2010 with a lot of history—from great trips with my family to intelligent conversations with colleagues in San Francisco, Austin and Portland. At every step I’ve learned a little bit more about life, and a little bit more about myself. Below is a list of my top 3’s for the year. Some, like my music picks, are not necessarily from songs released in this year—but since they were new to me, I’m going to count them anyway. Others on the list you might recognize from other posts on this site.

Top 3 Books
Faithful Place by Tana French
French’s third book in the Dublin murder squad series is gritty and gripping, raw and emotional all at the same time. (Like how I used those adjectives without telling you anything?) Anyway if you like great mysteries that are well written check out this book. While reading In the Woods and The Likeness might be helpful it isn’t 100% necessary.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
History. Science. All with a very clear consequence for every individual in the United States and abroad. And all due to one woman whose life changed forever with her death.

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
Like I said some of these picks that are new to me—but after watching the BBC/PBS adaptation I had to read the real thing. Dickens, while always providing a dearth of genius does an amazing job showing the shifts between the rich and the poor—and the circumlocution office is just icing on the cake. Not to mention the vivid detail and characters in all walks of life.

Top 3 History Fun
I wrote a lot about these three experiences on this blog. I learned much about the western immigrant experience in San Francisco, saw how you can tell the story of times past through the remains of ordinary people, and catch a unique vision of America (one that is cleaned, up and brightly colored). For that I choose Angel Island, Written in the Bone, and Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

Top 3 Music Picks
Rodrigo y Gabriella: Awesome strains of drifting guitar, rich in melodic sounds and rhythmic beats.

O’ Children by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: This song was featured in the latest Harry Potter movie, but once I downloaded it I found it entirely engrossing in texture as his voice mixed with the chorales.

Wicked Soundtrack: I am a sucker for musicals and while I did love my purchases this year of the latest Green Day CD I found this to be the album that I am in love with the most. Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel’s voices are remarkable and for a show with such a fantastic message you can’t go wrong with a song about fighting gravity.

Top 3 Television Picks
Fringe: How can you go wrong with parallel worlds and creepy X-files like cases. What really brings in this show, however is the phenomenal acting this season by Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv and John Noble. I know many are all about the awesomeness of cable, but sometimes its shows like this that can tell a story within network constraints that I love.

Masterpiece Theatre (Little Dorrit, Wallander, Sherlock): All three of these mini-series were at the highest caliber of storytelling. Little Dorrit, as I mentioned above, is one of the classics; Wallander had gripping mysteries with an awesome soundtrack (and Kenneth Branagh blew it out of the park); and Sherlock which looked at the classic stories with a modern day slant.

Lost Season 6 Finale: I know this was a controversial ending for those who once loved the show, but even now months after the finale I can say I loved the ending for the series. I’ll admit that there were times this last season that it was clunky and could have had a tighter narrative, but it ended just as I would have wanted it to. Most of what I said right after the episode aired still holds here.

Top 3 Movies
My top three movies for the year are all fairly popular ones. The first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was amazing. While the book is still superior, there were elements of the film that had me emotionally involved, not to mention mesmerized (the scene where we are told the story of the Three Brothers). In the same vein Inception proves that you don’t need 3D to tell a story, and to be an excellent entertaining film. The fight in the hotel hallway is probably one of my favorite parts. Lastly, what can we say about Toy Story 3 that others haven’t already said. Any animated movie that can have you at the edge of your seats and cheering has my vote.

Now while this is a top 3 list, I do have to also give props to my favorite Hindi film of the year—3 Idiots which was compelling, and funny at the same time (though some of the songs could have been more memorable), and Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon in Invictus were excellent.

And the rest….

I’ve also had the chance to see some pretty great theatre. As a season ticket holder for the Shakepeare Theatre I was blown away by The Liar and more recently Candide. I also saw Wicked in early January and as I mentioned with the soundtrack the actual musical was beyond words.

Which brings me to 2011. What are my resolutions for the coming year? Well I hope to work on my two National Novel Writing Month projects—cleaning them up, tightening characters which will in turn help with my overall attempts at fiction writing. I also would really like to try my hand at learning Hindi, a language that I’ve never quite grasped, despite hearing it at home for most of my life. I am also looking forward to working on an exciting archive project not to mention my New Year’s Resolutions for preservation. I’ve also realized that this blog is now over a year old—so happy birthday blog!

Add to the list! Tell me what your best ofs for 2010 are, or what your new years resolutions are.

Farewell Twenty-Ten
I guess I knew you when
And while this year was not great
I’d like to think, not the worst to date
But 2011, here we come
Looking for brighter skies, and then some
With something for the spirit too
After all, I’ve got all of you

Happy New Year!!

Hodge Podge: Going to the Theatre, Television and the Future of History

I thought I needed a post that sort of cleaned out the attic. Something that talked about all the little random things that I’ve been thinking about in the last two weeks, but don’t really fit into a larger post.

All’s Well That Ends…..

Meh. Well, that’s not being entirely fair. As usual the Shakespeare Theatre Company did not disappoint. Beautiful set, great acting, however I do think I may have found a Shakespeare play I didn’t love. At first glance the show seems to turn the usual Shakespeare woman on her head–Helena is forward, a little bit manipulative-while Bertram is weak and less…realistic (as loosely as the term may be applied). An argument can be made that my dislike is grounded in the fact that this is one tale of the Bard’s that I have never read, but there was something about the way Bertram had to be tricked into loving Helena that just seemed wrong.

But I guess I’m looking at it from a “today” perspective–but apparently in Shakespeare’s own lifetime it was not well received due to the break from the expected “role” of  a woman of Helena’s class–and maybe that is what makes this typical Shakespeare. Changing role’s, identity switches, all a commentary on established norms of the time. Maybe, but I don’t buy Bertram’s one line switch from hate to adoration for his wife–just because she managed to fulfill the two impossible conditions he had put before her (get his family ring, and have his child).

On a random note I was listening to this episode of Radio Lab and was surprised to find out how many words and phrases that are now part of day-to-day speech that are all a part of Shakespearean Lexicon. Cool.

Television

So my dad taped two segments of the CBS show 60 Minutes for me from this past week. The first was on the archaeological dig at what is believed to be the City of David in Jerusalem. In short, the story was about the meaning of the City of David to the Jews in the city, and how the current political situation and peace talks will effect the dig. The story also emphasized the difficulty and the role of the past in the identities of the Jewish and Arab people in that region–along with the volatility of the conflict between settlers and the Palestinians. As I’ve said over, and over, that the connection of people to history is alive and well–and you could see the passion for that history in the eyes of both sides in the dispute.

The second story was a detective story surrounding an 11 minute reel of film that depicts the trolly ride down Market Street in San Francisco. What’s remarkable about the story, aside from seeing all the pieces come together, was just how a film historian pinpointed the date of the film by looking at the water on the ground, the construction levels of the building–the license plates on the cars in each frame to narrow the time frame of the film down to early April 1906. Having just been to San Francisco I knew the meaning of this date before the story actually told us–that just days after this film was shot the city, this street, was destroyed by the earthquake and subsequent fire.  What this segment really illustrated for me was just how a piece of the past, an object or a filmstrip can evoke wonder and awe–especially when that last connection is made, that glimpse pack to a past on the brink of catastrophe, a world that would no longer exist in the same way again.

Then there was this week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother entitled “Architect of Destruction.” The episode as a whole was hilarious, as usual, but the storyline that dealt with the destruction of a New York City landmark hotel (that had fallen to hard times) with a new construction (though well designed) bank building. I hated how the one who wanted to protect the building was depicted as a crazy activist loon, and that the idea of incorporating the existing structure into the design was merely a ploy for Ted to get the girl…and when he couldn’t he didn’t consider it worth his time. I know, I know its a sitcom and shouldn’t be taken seriously, but really?

Not to mention that during the whole episode no one used the words historic preservation even once. Food for thought.

NaNoWriMo: The Future of History

So this year I am participating in National Novel Writing Month for the second time. Unlike last year where I jumped into the process on November 1 with no planning, I’ve been thinking about what I want this year’s project to be about. It’s a bit complex (translation–not completely formed) so I won’t bore you with details, but I am aiming to mix my two loves science-fiction/fantasy and history and am looking for ideas for what futuristic historical tools might look like. One of my characters is a sort of an archaeological detective, and is trying to suss out the past using updated digital versions of what we use in the historical trade. For example–archaeologists look at stratigraphy as one way of dating the objects they find in the ground–would a future version of dating a midden, or a series of objects be as simple as a fast, instant scan? Is it going to be about getting information faster, or would it be a flashier version of ground penetrating radar–just dressed up differently? Anyway–just looking for some ideas from fellow historians to kick off the brainstorming.

Note: In the next week I’ll be at the National Preservation Conference in Austin, Texas. Check out the virtual attendee page to keep track of what’s going on, and check back on the blog to see what I’m up to!

LOST…..and Found

Note: Below are spoilers for the entire series of LOST. Specifically the Series Finale “The End.”

Dharma: Performing one’s duty, or the path to enlightenment.

 

At the end of tonight’s episode there was a window, a fragment of stained glass each with a series of symbols, the iconography/visual culture of spirituality. The icons of faith.

Inside this church, inside the building that, in the real world, housed the Lamppost, waited a Shepherd, Christian who watched for his son so that he could reveal the truth. So that their love could bring, finally, some enlightenment, some answers….that death comes to us all, and with it the ability to move on.

He said:

The most important part of your life was the time you spent with these people. Nobody does it alone. You needed all of them and they needed you.

Which I think is, in the end the ultimate message of the series. That the murder, the anger, the decisions, the choices, the manipulations were real. That evil was evil, but that it had made a choice to be evil, and that choice had consequences. When Desmond finally looked at Jack and said, “Nothing matters,” our consummate man of Science reached out to remind Desmond with newfound faith that “No. All of this matters.” That you have a duty to the people that surround you, that your actions and reactions are all a part of your personal history. Everything is real, and yes ““No shortcuts, no do-overs, what happened, happened.”

Here is what LOST meant to me.

Breaking Barriers

When LOST first started six years ago one of the best things included how it took the time to step beyond the archetypes. We had a murderer, a thief, a conman, an addict, the abusive Asian man, the submissive Asian woman, the terrorist, the spoiled brat, the handsome leading man doctor, the priest,and comedic fat man. You name it, LOST had it.

Of course over the course of the series, those archetypes fell away—sometimes creating new ones, but other time creating competing viewpoints and actions that stretched the imagination. We learned through shared experience that Sun and Jin had once been in love, that their history had pulled them apart after they fought so much to stay together. We read a letter by a little boy to the man who destroyed his life and watched as he shot that man dead, and stood by as our comedic man who never seemed to lose weight became a leader in his own right.

Most of all what this final episode shows is that sometimes what we see is not what we get. That every individual comes with a shared history, and that sometimes we cannot understand how to fix that history until we pass on into another existence….which is all the more reason why we should take care with the time we are given.

Another science fiction show that ended this year claimed, that “everything has happened before, and everything will happen again.” It looked at the flaws of humanity and claimed that the lessons will be learned eventually, but that we live in a continual cycle until that end point is achieved, if ever.

LOST, saw “the end” as a fixed point. That what intrigued us for six years was the story of Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Jin, Sun, Hurley, Miles, Lapidus, Claire, Charlie, Mr. Eko, Rose, Bernard, Desmond, Penny, Libby, Hurley, Ana Lucia, Michael, Walt, John Locke, Benjamin Linus and of course Vincent—and that for them those experiences were about trying to make a fresh start, that when faced with an inescapable situation some were able to believe in themselves and break free, while others consciously had to take the bomb and save those who he had come to love in order to find redemption.

While I don’t believe that the sideways world or the island were purgatory per-se, I do see them as weigh stations, one in life and one in death that allowed our castaways to finally be true to themselves and yes….move on.

On Mysteries, Hatches, Whispers and Ghosts

I think out of everything that happened in the 2.5 hour finale, the mysteries are what got short-shrift. We learned about the whispers, we learned about the island, but in the end we, as an audience, were expected to take those solutions on faith. To not ask answers to questions that can only be answered with more questions. While many of our characters were scientists, they lived within a world of coincidences and miracles—each a number on a compass, possible guides to the future of the island.

This is probably what is going to anger many viewers, but I think that I can live without these answers. That a series of events led each of these passengers on Oceanic 815 to the island so that they could remake themselves and pass “through the looking glass,” and into the light.

This confluence of science and science-fiction, faith and religion is, to some extent, a reflection of our actual reality. That we live in a world full of contradictions and hypocrisies. That we can have faith, but be faithless—or believe in the existence of God and Evolution at the same time. That the search for answers to miracles and mysteries can be obstacles to actually looking yourself in the mirror and changing your life.

We saw this with Jack and Locke, time and time again as they became obsessed with pushing a button, hunting down the others, searching for water, food, or some method off the island. In each case these hatches and mysteries which were all pieces of investigation for the Dharma Initiative, were also steps in each heroes journey (to pull from Joseph Campbell) to achieving dharma the path to enlightenment.

Good versus Evil

In all good science fiction and fantasy there is a struggle between dark and light, good and evil. Up until this season good has been personified by our castaways, with ultimate evil coming in the shape of one Henry Gale/Benjamin Linus. I’m going to miss Ben Linus—and while I’m glad that in the end he found his own sort of peace and happiness it is difficult to actually forgive a man so heinous with his actions (don’t forget he in essence committed genocide on the Dharma Initiative). That being said I think he is the key figure in the overall LOST conversation about redemption. That in the end, he chose to wait outside, to wait to atone a little bit longer speaks volumes for Benjamin Linus’ changes over the length of the series.

Of course in the last three seasons that duality was replaced with that of the Man in Black and Jacob, and the island itself—sitting on a well of darkness that if destroyed would let forth all the evil into the universe. Take it, or leave it, but this idea that someone had to protect the island, that someone had to in the end sacrifice their off-island destiny was ultimately “the point” of the entire LOST experience didn’t feel real until Jack leaped towards Flocke on the top of the mountain to finally kill the Man in Black. I keep coming back to other science-fiction tropes that at one point the hero has to descend into the well of darkness to find his way out again. That some come out forever changed, while others become that darkness, they become Darth Vader or even Gollum whose need and greed for the “one ring to rule them all” pushed him over the edge and into Mount Doom. That being said like all mythical “good” figures mistakes were made along the way—and I am convinced that Jacob was a figure of malevolence in his own right. That we had to know his story so that we could understand Jack’s is clear—but I think that Ben stated it quite clearly in “The End” when he told Hurley that in effect they did not have to play by Jacob’s rules any more. They could chart their own destiny their own fate.

This show had it all, it had the overarching evils, mixed in with more personal, realistic choices between right and wrong, good and bad (or in some cases bad-ass). After the darkness follows the light and that’s what we got with the sideways world—which in the end was ultimately about humanity.

Science Fiction: Faith in the Narrative

I am an apologist. Which means I am willing to accept contradictions and things that just don’t seem to make sense (sometimes finding ways to get them to make it work as Tim Gunn likes to say). So it probably won’t surprise many of you that the most important part of this series was the story—that the world building and the emotional joyride we’ve been on for six years was made all the more stronger by the other-worldly environment. That a show about a group of castaways wouldn’t have worked in this day and age without the mysterious, science fiction elements. Now I’m not going to give everything a pass, since there were points where we seemed to veer off course (the temple, which I suppose in hindsight was an integral part of Sayid’s journey to self-realization.) but this story could not have been this story without the polar bears, the hatches, the fantastical methods to push us to look beyond the fabric of reality and see that unexpected things can occur to ordinary people. In doing so the narrative gave us something that I’ve never gotten in any other television series to date—a window into a truer reality one where love, faith and reason trumped death, loss and tragedy. That we could, despite never finding it on Earth find peace together. That we did not have to “live together, and die alone,” because in death we are with those that make us whole.

Reflecting Outward, On History

A few final thoughts, since this is—first and foremost, a history oriented blog. One of the key elements that makes history matter is its relevance to the reader. While we can write large tomes and detailed analysis of actions during a war, or a place in time it is up to the reader, the public writ large, to internalize that piece of the past into their identity. For some history doesn’t mean anything, and bears little relevance to our personal pasts, but for others it is an integral part of who we are and why we exist.

I brought all of you here because I made a mistake. A mistake I made a long time ago.” –Jacob

I didn’t pluck any of out of a happy existence. You were all flawed.” –Jacob

LOST, to some extent did just that. It put us in a place with a group of people who were trying to escape their pasts—to remake their histories so that they could attain a “good” life. Instead of starting a-new in LA they were brought to the island by someone else who was trying to escape his own mistakes, and found “in the place they all made together so they could find each other,” that their histories were more than just the actions they took, but also the people they loved.

Memorable Quotations:

  • I’m real, you’re real. Everything that has ever happened to you is real, all those people in the church are real.
  • Everybody dies sometime. There is no now, here.
  • To remember, and to let go.
  • Hurley to Sayid: “You can’t let others tell you what you are. You have to decide for yourself.”
  • I have a bad feeling about this”
  • He’s worse than Yoda.”

Don’t agree? Comment below!