Numero Group's forthcoming Lost '70s Rock comp feat. amateur D&D art is giving me life...

Posted by Kells, November 21, 2013 02:40pm | Post a Comment
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This past Halloween marked a break in the fog obscuring yet another exciting prospect from the deep diggers and detail sticklers at Numero Group. The past few years has seen the label expanding the scope of their offerings and this one is set to be quite the departure from their former fare, so much so that one might even be tempted to inquire after what they've been smoking. If the above cover art and the amateur Dungeons & Dragons campaign sketches promised to be incorporated into the overall packaging are any indication, I'd wager they got a hold of some good ol' stuff! Slated for a February release, Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles is compilation of lost 70s smokers I can really do with already, like, twenty years ago.  I'm chuffed to bits for their Purple Snow Minneapolis Sound comp dropping in early December, but this sixteen-sided die seems just as destined for niche-interest veneration as their WTNG 89.9: Solid Bronze collection.

Get hyped via this promo vid featuring "Warlord" by the female-fronted and positively pagan-sounding Wrath:


Breaking Bad Maintained Course and Didn't Get Lost

Posted by Charles Reece, September 30, 2013 08:34am | Post a Comment

I found every final showdown Walt had, including with himself, to be emotionally satisfying, maintaining a consistency in characterization to the very end. I'm sure some will say it was all too pat and wrapped up, but the show was never big on narrative realism (it was, however, great at the psychological variety). Besides, the opposite criticism was made of The Sopranos, so there's no way Vince Gilligan and team could satisfy everyone. Also, was the final shot a big raspberry blown at the most notoriously disappointing finale in TV history? To wit:

Found: a cache of 150 "Lost" Thin Lizzy tapes containing up to 700 songs!

Posted by Kells, January 3, 2012 06:21pm | Post a Comment
Tremendous news for Thin Lizzy addicts announced today! According to the Belfast Telegraph a cache of up to 700 Thin Lizzy songs found among 'a treasure trove of tapes stashed away by Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott' have been slated for release later this year as a box set via Universal Music.

Apparently, shortly before the Dublin rocker's death in 1986, the then 36 year old Lynott gave a heap of 150 tapes to a third party for safe keeping - here's hoping the good folks at Universal treat the twenty-six year old find kind.

"This is an absolutely stunning find," Steve Hammonds, project manager behind the new Thin Lizzy box set, told the Irish Independent.

"In every group there's a member who lovingly collects their recordings and in Thin Lizzy that was Phil Lynott, because Lizzy was his baby and his band."

"There are out-takes, unheard versions of Thin Lizzy hits and, most exciting of all, material which was recorded but never released at the time," said Mr Hammonds.

The scheduled June release won't be the first collection in the last few years to feature archive work by the band as it follows on last year's Live At The BBC release, not to mention all those long-awaited deluxe remastered editions of Lizzy's back catalog. [and while we're on the subject, powers that be, howsabout getting around to taking the TBD out of the promised 2CD/DVD edish of Live and Dangerous equation already]

What's really rocking my clock is the fact that the newly unearthed recordings stretch from Thin Lizzy's years with Decca Records, beginning in 1971, to their Renegade album in 1981 - an era that is considered by many Lizzy enthusiasts to be not only Lizzy's finest hour, what with Jailbreak fitting snugly in the middle of those years, but also a rather terrifically crucial period in rock history. Consider this: what would Iron Maiden be like in 1984 had it not been for the Thin Lizzy of 1971-1981? I rest my case.

Lost Their Way? "The End" 2

Posted by Charles Reece, June 13, 2010 11:06pm | Post a Comment
Continuing ...

Is not the ultimate American paranoiac fantasy that of an individual living in a small idyllic Californian city, a consumerist paradise, who suddenly starts to suspect that the world he lives in is a fake, a spectacle staged to convince him that he lives in a real world, while all people around him are effectively actors and extras in a gigantic show? [...] Th[e] final shot of The Truman Show may seem to enact the liberating experience of breaking out from the ideological suture of the enclosed universe into its outside, invisible from the ideological inside. However, what if it is precisely this "happy" denouement of the film [...], with the hero breaking out and, as we are led to believe, soon to join his true love (so that we have again the formula of the production of the couple!), that is ideology at its purest? What if ideology resides in the very belief that, outside the closure of the finite universe, there is some "true reality" to be entered?
--  Slavoj Žižek, "The Matrix, or Two Sides of Perversion

The only interpretation I've come across so far of Lost's ending in that church with Christian opening the doors to white light (why never neon violet?) is that the whole sideways timeline (ST) is a purgatory where all the characters are reunited (having died at various times in the original timeline, OT). Passing through those doors, they'll go on to discover the meaning of it all, reality ground zero. Chief apologist Doc Jensen's reading goes something like that: "the castaways moved into the ''afterlife,'' which I have called 'heaven,' [... b]ut upon reflection, [... m]ost likely, the castaways returned to the Source, the hub of life, death, and rebirth, and their energy was recycled back into creation." Contrariwise, I suggest another possibility, that the island functions like Bugs Bunny sitting at the drawing board, constantly manipulating poor Daffy Duck's environment with a pencil and eraser (thus the white light is nothing more than blank paper). As it is with the cocksure rabbit, Jacob's ability to create arbitrary rules for reality ultimately rests on the unknowable fiat of some other creator, opening a potentially infinite regress of stinkers. What this entails is that Jack's sacrifice wasn't grounded -- wasn't guaranteed significance -- through transcendent means as the other interpretation would have it. Instead, if his martyrdom has meaning, it's because of the material effects on his reality, the OT, what's constituted by his relation to the other characters involved in the Gordian plot of the first five seasons.

Among theists, there are those who filter all of reality through the promise of the afterlife, the transcendent Truth, and there are others who are more concerned with how their faith gets the believer to act. For the former, ontology is paramount; their religious belief is a description of the ultimate foundation. For the latter, representationalism isn't important; the value of their faith is grounded in realworld effects. It doesn't matter to the post-ontological theist if he's believing in a fiction, as long as it's a useful fiction. Paraphrasing David Byrne, who was paraphrasing Ludwig Wittgenstein, of that which he has nothing to say, his lips are sealed. Aren't these two positions similar to what we have with Lost's Alexandrian resolution? The existence of a god qua magical island was never much in doubt (theism was the default narrative strategy), so the theme of faith versus skepticism really comes down to: (1) Were the castaways really working towards some great Truth that justified all their struggles and sacrifices, or were they simply side characters in an old family drama? And (2) did that white light give a meaningful closure to what we, the audience, have been following for 6 years, or was it simply that the creators couldn't figure out anything else to put on the page?  

Like Neo in The Matrix, Locke had faith and chose the "red pill," but it turned out to be the Man in Black (MIB or UnLocke)'s game piece. So, nothing was revealed to him, and he died a mere pawn, asking why. At least, that's the skeptical reading, provided by UnLocke himself. The other reading was given by Jack as he pushes UnLocke into the water on his way to the sub ("The Candidate"): 

UnLocke: "Whoever told you that you needed to stay had no idea what they were talking about."
Jack: "John Locke told me I needed to stay."
In other words, Locke's death had meaning, at least to someone willing to accept it. As the culmination of his fidelity to the island, it was the event that reconstituted Jack's worldview, putting him on the path of accepting the candidacy. Locke's willingness to die for the island led to the central role reversal instantiating the show's major theme: Jack became the disciple to protect the island against its chief skeptic, MIB, embodied in the form of Locke. This ideo-theoretical division was one about existential purpose, not (as it often is in the real world) the existence of supernatural properties (which are a given in fantasy). And, also as it was with The Matrix, this debate gets reduced to a mano-a-mano fistfight (with Kate's bullet becoming the deciding factor). Where would religion be without violence?

As far as I can tell, MIB was correct in every way. There was no reason he couldn't leave the island other than the controlling demands of his possessive Mother. Jacob could've changed the rules as the island's guardian, making it so that candidates didn't have to be dead for his brother to leave, but he was too much the mama's boy. Candidate after candidate died for 2,000 years just to keep the suffering bastard on the island. Even worse, when the island's cork was pulled by Desmond, shutting down the power source, UnLocke changed into an ordinary mortal. That kind of diminished his ability to wreak havoc on the mainland, so why couldn't Jack (as the new guardian) let him go? Revenge for killing Jin, Sun and Sayid, I suppose. Of course, they wouldn't have been killed if it weren't for Jacob's fucked up rules in the first place. And I guess UnLocke might've had his powers turned back on, once Jack replugged the cork, but like most everything else in the finale, all the audience has to go on are ad hoc speculations, since the show didn't provide any ground rules that it stuck to.[*] All we know for sure is that Jack made a commitment and he died sticking to it -- admirable, in a hate-the-war-but-support-our-troops kind of way.

What I dislike about the onto-theological reading of the ST -- despite granting that it's a valid interpretation -- is that when taken by itself it reduces Lost's entire shambolic story arc to the ideological yearning that  Žižek points to in The Truman Show's conclusion. The mere promise of a transcendent Truth (behind the curtain, outside of the OT) is supposed to free the characters of choices made and acts committed. Similarly, the audience is supposed to forget all the dangling plot threads, finding closure in the characters having finally discovered their purpose, whatever that might be. So, my more skeptical (post-onto-theological) interpretation of the ST is that it's a dying dream granted to Jack by the island for service rendered -- a way of making him feel as if he died for something, even if he didn't. Of course, both Juliet and Desmond tapped into this same dream, but are influenced by the same magical island that can read and influence all the characters' thoughts. Think of it as Matrix-styled A.I. software being implemented in their wetware at different times. The ST is thereby rendered an illusion. However, because "The End" is ambivalent (however imperfectly) between these two interpretations, it doesn't require what Žižek demanded of The Matrix, a third pill to get past the forced choice of pure ideological manipulation (the Matrix) versus the unveiling of base reality (the grimy burned out husk of Earth with humans as they really are, atrophied and plugged in). Instead of the red pill enabling Neo to see the reality behind the illusion, the third pill would enable him to see reality's dependency on its ideological/fictional/fantasmatic support. Is Lost's OT the enabling fiction, or is it the ST? As much as I hated the distraction that was the ST, to its credit, the finale seems to answer, "both."

So I ain't satisfied, but that's the most favorable reading I could think of.

Free at last!

[*Since I was pretty sick of picking apart with friends all this season's problems in plot construction, I left them out here, but a raging geek over at Ain't It Cool News' talkback gives a pretty good stream-of-conscious rant that lists many.]

Lost Their Way? "The End"

Posted by Charles Reece, May 30, 2010 11:07pm | Post a Comment
If much in the world were mystery the limits of that world were not, for it was without measure or bound and there were contained within it creatures more horrible yet and men of other colors and beings which no man has looked upon and yet not alien none of it more than were their own hearts alien in them, whatever wilderness contained there and whatever beasts.
-- Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, p. 138

Let's start off with something positive. I'm hard-pressed to think of a better filmed death than Jack's. As someone who's experienced the passing of a loved one after a arduous, painful struggle, I found the serenity in his letting go pitch perfect. Undoubtedly, it's one of Lost's best scenes, sharing a similar timbre with my other favorite death scene, that of Twin Peaks' Leland. Going back to their comment on one of the early blu-ray extras, the showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse knew exactly how they wanted to end their story. According to actor Matthew Fox, they told him the fate of his character during the first season. Unfortunately, what wasn't so planned out was how Jack would get there. "The End" leaves us with five seasons of dangling plot threads that don't add up to much. Instead of having all of that leading to Jack's death, this sequence is constantly interrupted with a bunch of treacle involving almost all the main characters, both alive and dead, meeting up in a church in the alternative "sideways" world to head off into cliché, the afterlife's white light. Evidently, the finale needed an extra half hour just to include a bunch of flashbacks (previous seasons instead relied on audience intelligence) and all the hugging and smiling that goes on in the church. Thus, through parallel editing, the best and worst are presented simultaneously.

The apologia began well before the finale aired, with the showrunners preparing the line of argument by which the most ardent fanboys could defend the ad hoc denouement. Somewhere along the way Lindelof and Cuse must've realized what a non sequitur the sideways timeline was going to be, so they created a preemptive defense that went something like this: This was their story, and they were going to end it the way the saw fit, namely by focusing on the main character arcs and answering only those questions that pertained to this goal. It wasn't their job to spoon-feed us all the solutions to the narrative riddles they'd created. (From what I hear, those wishing to be babied will have to buy the box set, which will include an explanatory extra disc.) And this condescension is pretty well followed in Jeff Jensen's blog, propaganda central for the show. I also heard something similar from friends who were more fulfilled by the ending than I. Isn't that what I was wanting, for an air of mystery to remain?

Well, let's get something cleared up: mystery and plot resolution are not mutually exclusive within a narrative. Fallaciously assuming the contrary is exactly the basis on which Lindelof and Cuse attempt to rest their defense. It's helpful here to consider Noam Chomsky's distinction between a problem and a mystery. The former is a question to which we have a reasonable expectation of an answer somewhere down the road (e.g., who killed Sally?), whereas the latter exceeds all current constraints on our thinking, inviting speculation and/or faith (e.g., why is there something rather than nothing?). Fiction isn't scientific experimentation, so a writer can, of course, play about with what's a narrative problem or mystery. A major problem with Battlestar Galactica was the reduction of all of its mysteries to a jerry-built deus ex machina explanation. To its credit, Lost doesn't have an episode of a talking head revealing the grand design. But its creators, not wanting to do that kind of story, seem to believe mystery alone freed them from basic plot construction.

It served the show well to keep the nature of the island and its properties a mystery (ontologically ambiguous between scientistic explanations of electromagnetism and pure magic, the more muddled attempt at questioning the distinction between free will and determinism, as well as the island's ambivalent status as an allegory for the foundation of morality). In finally committing his life to this mysterious island, Jack provides an example of what's at stake in fidelity to a cause, where there is no clear cut contract with numerous contingencies laid out in fine print. His conversion is a far more convincing case for the need of faith as revealed through grace than you'll ever see coming from stories told by conservative Christians (e.g., The Passion of the Christ). This arc alone is, to me, justification enough for watching the entire series, but it doesn't excuse the faulty construction of the final season. 

If one introduces a narrative element, regardless of whether it's a place, character/group, or even motif, and regardless of whether any of those is supernatural or natural, the audience has a reasonable expectation that it'll serve some purpose to the story unfolding. That is to say, its function is as a problem, not a mystery. And I'm not talking about certain stylistic choices, such as film's shot construction, color palette, or the look of actors (although they can and do have narrative implications), but plot elements (and by 'plot', I mean what the formalists call fabula, an element's status in the cause and effect chain, if you're the type who considers such things). So, when season after season, the fate of Lost's characters is interwoven with the shadowy organization known as DHARMA, or what's left of their presence on the island, expecting some payoff to that isn't a case of wanting to be spoonfed a conclusive interpretation of what it all means. Similarly, when a major character like Juliet is introduced via her role in attempting to solve why babies can't be conceived on the island and that element is tied into numerous other subplots (such as the kidnapping of Claire's child), the audience has a reasonable expectation that all this baby stuff is somehow more significant than just giving the writers a baroque technique for introducing a character. Instead, those threads were cut in favor of introducing the sideways timeline, which then became the primary plot to be resolved in the finale. Obviously, the creators didn't consider wrapping that up as crass demystification.  

Continued ...
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