Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

October 4, 2012

MRP Day 4 – BTTI 2.23 – Live Together, Die Alone Part 1

I did kind of plan to sing the praises of Atomic Robo in today’s Relentless Positivity outing, but I only have the electronic versions from Comixology and my wife had the iPad all evening. But that bad-ish news borders dangerously close to negativity, so we will veer wildly off in a new direction.

I wrote the first half of this Lost review so many weeks ago that I had forgotten most of what happens in the episode. Which means – hooray! – I get to watch it again. And while it may be less that crystalline in its perfection, it’s a pretty good one. Technically, it’s only half an episode, since the Season 2 finale screened as a double-length episode – but the DVD boxed set divides it into two, so once again that’s how I will review it. Besides, there’s quite a lot going on, so splitting it up makes things easier on me. And that makes me happy! Yay!

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August 26, 2012

Back to the Island 2.22 – Three Minutes

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — lexifab @ 11:50 pm

Deadlines are drawing nearer on several writing competitions that I plan to enter. Why, then, am I using up my precious time on Lost reviews?

Good question. A better question would be “Why did I just spend all weekend playing the last mission in Tropico 4 over and over again?”

The answer is, of course, because it was hard.

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August 24, 2012

Back to the Island 2.21 – ?

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — lexifab @ 8:35 pm

It’s been a bit of a trying week or two. The workshop that I’ve been preparing for and planning for all year finally arrived (and went off without a hitch, which was a great payoff for the three sleepless nights and the possibly-cracked tooth that preceded it). Now it feels a bit like a weight has lifted off my shoulders. While I’m sure I’ll yoke up a new one there soon enough, for the moment I actually have a clear head, which feels good. I am going to try to knuckle down and get my fiction on this evening, because that’s been the primary victim of my recent deranged preoccupation with my day job.

But before I get to that, here’s some more Lost. I hate losing momentum on this because I am enjoying the rewatch, so I am going to try to use these reviews as warmups for the fiction writing. I will be curious to see whether that affects their quality at all.

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July 15, 2012

Back to the Island 2.20 – Two for the Road

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — lexifab @ 11:05 pm

Back to the Island 2.20 – Two for the Road

“I don’t believe that parents and kids should work together.” – Christian Shepherd

Summary: The survivors debate what to do with Henry Gale right up to the moment Michael turns into a monster.

The Best Bit: Well, hell, the last thirty seconds are utterly devastating, but it seems a bit of a copout to rate the whole episode according to its punchline. So rewind a little while to the scene where Jack admits to Locke that he was right not to trust Henry’s story. Locke, with a completely straight face, tells him “You did what you thought was right at the time you thought it, Jack”. Which may not have been intended as a devastating smackdown of Jack’s entire attitude, but that’s certainly what it is.

The Worst Bit: Considering what happens at the end of the episode, it seems churlish to complain that Ana Lucia’s “cop who regrets taking the law into her own hands” back story is a bit on the trite side. All the same, in the absence of time to develop some layers of complexity, Ana Lucia ends up coming off as two-dimensional. Her entire backstory arc is: she is hurt, she takes revenge, she regrets it, she goes on a short journey of discovery and she gets over it. It’s more than Shannon and Boone ever got, mind you – at least it’s a complete story.

Also, the worst bit is Ana Lucia’s seedy seduction of Sawyer to get his gun. Not only does it seem out of character for her, she’s not exactly subtle about her plan – Sawyer comes off looking pretty stupid to fall for a chumpish amateur con.

And really, the worst bit of all is the sinking realisation you get as the closing title credits come up that you are never going to learn what the deal with Libby was.

The Mythology: Christian Shepherd returns to play boozy plot enabler, talking Ana Lucia into playing bodyguard (which I assume is his code for “good looking drinking buddy”) for his trip to Sydney. Sawyer’s appearance gives us context – it’s the night that Christian drinks himself to death. This episode also marks the first mention of the “great man” who purportedly leads the Others, although the reference (uttered by Henry Gale) is deceptive.

The Literature: Sawyer is reading the manuscript of Bad Twin, the Lost tie-in novel purportedly written by one of the crash survivors. Jack, a philistine, burns the last few pages to get Sawyer’s attention. Such a dick! In other literature news, Hurley expresses his admiration for the instructive romanticism of the 1989 John Cusack classic Say Anything. I only mention it because I still like that movie.

The Episode: Ana Lucia is the focal character, but she’s more of a plot device than a protagonist in both the Island and flashback sequences. Christian Shepherd swings in and takes over her flashback, making it all about him, in the usual style for that family. On the Island Henry tries to kill her, at least ostensibly out of revenge for her killing of Goodwin, the Others’ infiltrator into the tail section survivor group. In the end of each sequence, she takes a courageous stance route and is immediately punished for it: she decides to return to LA to face the music for her extra-judicial murder, and her plane crashes; she chooses not to kill Henry in cold blood and is shot dead. I don’t think there’s another episode where the spotlight character is such a passenger as Ana Lucia in ‘Two for the Road’.

Locke allows his frustration at the various mysteries of the Island to boil over. He demands that Henry explain why he tried to kill Ana Lucia but did not hurt Locke when he had an opportunity to do so. “Because you’re one of the good ones, John,” replies Henry, before going on to spin a web of enticing fantasies that play right into Locke’s spiritual neediness. Henry had been on his way to bring John in, to introduce him to the man in charge, to reveal the truth of the Island to him. It’s amusing because by this point Locke, appearing to be the only character left who really cares about what’s going on with the Island, is obviously standing in for the audience. And Henry is blatantly taunting him with lies (or at best half-truths) about what’s going on. On top of that there’s a scene with Michael describing the Other’s primitive living conditions, about half of which he’s making up off the top of his head. At this point at least half the audience must be developing the suspicion that the producers are raising a middle finger at them…

‘Two for the Road’ is entirely dedicated to maximising the impact of the shocking ending, in which Michael shoots Ana Lucia and Libby and then himself, to spring Henry Gale from imprisonment. It works, but there’s some blatant manipulation going on. Every scene with Libby is there to remind us how sweet she is, how intriguing is her underexplored past and how invested we have become in her relationship with Hurley. Until bam! Wrong place, wrong time. The ending is a hammer blow, no doubt, but it props up what is otherwise a disappointing episode. Six out of ten, for a flabby, liver-spotted long arm of the law.

July 4, 2012

Back to the Island 2.18 – S.O.S

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — lexifab @ 12:01 am

Back to the Island 2.18 – S.O.S

“That man doesn’t know the difference between an errand and a fool’s errand” – Rose Nadler

Summary: Bernard formulates a bold plan to get everyone rescued without consulting Rose, which is just plain dumb-headed.

The Best Bit: The flashback jumps across several points in Rose and Bernard’s lives together, from the night they met up until the day they board Oceanic 815. The first is their mildly argumentative but sweet first meeting, the third is Significant and the fourth establishes that Rose met Locke in his wheelchair and so is one of the only people to figure out that the Island cures people. But it’s the second scene, in which Bernard’s romantic proposal to Rose at Niagara Falls is only slightly derailed when she tell him she’s dying of cancer, that rules this episode. Both actors are wonderful – L. Scott Caldwell always plays Rose with knowing dignity, but in this scene she is just heartbreaking, radiating poise and acceptance but showing the tiniest of cracks in her composure at causing Bernard distress. And Sam Anderson’s Bernard is sweet and stoic in response. Splendid acting (and tonally a nice counterpoint to the grumpy spat they are having on the Island).

The Worst Bit: There’s nothing too terrible, so I will pick on the gratuitous scene in which Kate and Jack, who have been avoiding each other over the past few episodes, are stuck together face to face in one of Rousseau’s rope traps. Their ironic acknowledgement of the uncomfortable eroticism of the situation does not do quite enough work to disguise the heavy-handedness of them being forced to confront their raging sexual attraction. Maybe we should just blame this one on the Island, which is not always subtle about getting what it wants? Nah. (Fortunately in subsequent episodes Sawyer will take this ham-fisted ‘caught in a net’ metaphor and run it hilariously into the ground).

The Mythology: The Significant flashback scene sees Bernard hijacking their Australian honeymoon to take Rose to see the grotesquely-named ‘Isaac of Uluru’, a somewhat risible outback faith healer. (As portrayed by Wayne ‘Scorpius from Farscape’ Pygram, Isaac amazingly emerges from his stupid story function with some dignity). Isaac’s healing powers are based, he claims, on pockets of energy which may be “geological or magnetic or both” (sic). He then tells Rose that she needs to find her place somewhere else – meaning the Island, though he doesn’t appear to know that. By now we know that there are strange magnetic things going on beneath the Swan Station. What does it all mean? Does the Island have some kind of magic healing energy?

Well, yes, clearly it does, because Rose is cured of her terminal cancer more or less upon arrival and Locke, who was paralysed and manages to get himself horribly wounded every other episode or so, can walk. So the question becomes, what does that even mean?

Oh, and when Jack demands Walt back, Michael shows up instead, which proves that if nothing else the Others have a sense of humour.

The Literature: Nothing. Henry might have finished The Brothers Karamazov by now.

The Episode: A sweet story about a touching relationship that endures every kind of setback and challenge, “S.O.S.” avoids descending into saccharine hell. Rose and Bernard are allowed to be prickly, grumpy, uncommunicative and sometimes belittling, but at the same time they are utterly devoted to each other. It’s not the most important or original lesson that Lost ever attempts to impart, but it’s not a bad thing to centre once in a while on two characters who don’t much care what goes on as long as they have each other.

Rose says something rather provocative to Bernard at one point, which is to the effect that he always wants to do something, rather than accept the situation and let things be. That’s an interesting narrative dynamic. Jack (seen here making the impatient and probably insane decision to trade ‘Henry Gale’ back to the Others if they will return Walt) is a man of action – a decider, shall we say – while Sawyer, who is not all that broken up to be left out of the action this week, is more of a Let It Be kinda guy. Lost might have been a very different series (though probably not one with as many exciting shootouts) if that had been the core conflict in the first couple of seasons.

“S.O.S.” is fine, though the structure pops a seam here and there. Rose and Bernard are unusual audience-proxy characters, inasmuch as they don’t actually care overly about the dramatic situations. They just want to live their lives on the Island and stay out of trouble. It’s nice that they get the spotlight long enough to let us know what the normal people are up to. A slightly creaky eight, or two hands clasped in unconscious abiding affection.

June 7, 2012

Back to the Island 2.18 – Dave

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 10:54 pm

I attended my first short story critiquing circle last night, courtesy of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. It was a wonderful experience, to sit down with other writers to work through each others’ stories, talking through what worked, what didn’t and finding all the bits that don’t make any sense. To my certain discredit, I inflicted my eye-straining Twitter-inspired story on them. Much to my surprise the group took it in stride and came through with some very cogent analysis. Not to mention pointing out some blindingly obvious ideas and solutions that not once during the writing and editing of the story itself ever occurred to me. There was a consensus that the sense of creeping menace worked which i was not at all sure about) and that the jokes were funny.

It was a very rewarding and somewhat intoxicating experience. Apart from the very direct benefits of coming out of the other side with a better story (pending another rewrite, of course) there is something deeply satisfying to the process of helping someone else to make their work the best it can be. I tend to feel most at home in collaborative environments, and this was certainly that. I walked out (into a crispy sub-zero Canberra evening) feeling refreshed and invigorated and inspired to keep writing.

Many thanks to Mitch, Cat, Mik, Shauna, Ian and Donna – I’ll be back next month. I just need to write a new story before then, I guess.

Meanwhile: Here’s the next episode of Lost reviewed. I had been stalling on reviewing this one, having convinced myself that it was terrible. When I finally did watch it, I realised that I was deeply incorrect.

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June 3, 2012

Back to the Island 2.17 – Lockdown

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — lexifab @ 12:17 am

My last Lost episode review was yonks ago, long enough for me to forget how enjoyable Michael Emerson’s early appearances are. He’s in full flight in this episode, which is Locke-centric to boot.

Less enjoyable was the discovery last night when I sat down to resume my cruise through Season 2 that the DVD drive in my laptop is apparently now a chunk of useless slag. Huh. Well, I only have myself to blame, probably, not upgrading the laptop from Vista.

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March 28, 2012

Back to the Island 2.16 – The Whole Truth

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — lexifab @ 11:58 pm

It’s late, I’m tired and I spent the evening crafting necessary correspondence rather than diving into the tricky exposition scene about magical Tibetan counterinsurgency that I need to get done. Well, it won’t be any less nonsensical in the morning I guess.

March is proving to be a month of major disruptions to my routine and April’s not looking much less wayward. I’m about as productive as a Footy Show brains trust this month. I have a short story half-written that will only be readable once a laborious formatting effort has been applied (i.e. fundamentally unsaleable and possibly unreadable). I’ve written a few hundred words on the novel. And there’s this Lost review, which is at least finished.

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February 21, 2012

Back to the Island 2.15 – Maternity Leave

Filed under: back to the island,fitter/happier — lexifab @ 11:28 pm

I am ridiculously tired and a little bit sick. But enough meaningless conversation niceties – here’s the next  Lost review. I will return tomorrow or sometime with some badly edited short fiction or a protracted explanation of why I have no short fiction, badly edited or otherwise, to give. Spoiler alert: my excuse is likely to be sickness-related and feeble.

On the plus side, according to my pedometer I cracked 20,000 steps today, which is equal to about 14 and a quarter kilometers. That was a bit of a fitness milestone. Oh, and before you ask – no, I was sick before I started walking this morning, I’m not *that* feeble.

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February 7, 2012

Back to the Island 2.14 – One of Them

Filed under: back to the island,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 2:04 pm

It’s the day after Lost Review Monday, so you know what that means, right? That’s right, it means yesterday’s review is late. I’ll wait here while you politely feign surprise.

So, it’s possible I have intimated before now that I struggle to finish long-term writing projects. I have no problems with starting them in a series of controlled bursts of energy and enthusiasm. What I don’t find so easy is keeping up that momentum once the initial passion passes. (Insert sniggering libido analogy here. Go on, you’ve earned it). As a bit of a metric, I’ve gone from writing about 900 words a day in the first month of this novel to the current miserly output of about 2000 words in the past couple of weeks. The risk I face is that the longer the period of hesitation and uncertainty, the less motivate I feel to resume the work.

Now I am determined to get through this and finish the novel, so this isn’t a pathetic plea for words of encouragement (though those are always welcome). What I do want to toss around are the tricks I’ve been trying – and the tricks I plan to try – to get around a hesitancy that I am refusing to empower by calling it writer’s block. (I’m not blocked, I’m just not confident).

First up – sleep. For the most part my writing doesn’t really start until after 9 pm most nights, after the kids are in bed, dinner is eaten and whatever else has to happen about the house has happened. Add in an hour or two of transparently procrastinatory behaviour with Twitter, a kindle, this blog or one of the infinite range of timesinks to be supped direct from the intertubes, and often the knuckling down doesn’t start until 11. By that time of night, there’s 90 minutes of writing time – tops – available before sentence coherency begins to fall prey to roaming packs of wild fatigue toxins.

The obvious solution to this one: write first, then reward that effort with whatever shiny, beeping distraction I crave, but only *after* the writing is done. Because it’s much less unsatisfying for tiredness to derail a waste of time like inattentively scanning blogs than to have to cut short a productive writing session because the slow blinks are coming every fifteen seconds now.

You would think this is obvious, but it’s a habit I let slide all too easily.

Second – Emma suggested the Pomodoro Technique, which is basically making focused effort in 25-minute bursts followed by a mandatory five minute break. Repeat until done. I don’t know if those particular timeframes would work for me (at least not until I tried them) but it’s objectively true that I work best in short bursts. I should play to that.

Third – Stop editing. Don’t rethink that poor word choice. Don’t correct that typo (caveat: unless it’s genuinely unreadable). Don’t worry that I just typed something that the character wouldn’t know, that nobody would say or flatly contradicts what I wrote two minutes earlier. Just keep going.

To be honest I don’t know if that last one is good advice for me or not. I don’t think I consciously control my impulse to hit the Backspace button to fix mistyped words. I don’t know if I can get through the pause that comes with knowing that there’s a mistake of grammar or logic or dialogue in a preceding passage. I do know that I often let it stop me cold though, so it’s a habit that needs to go.

Fourth – outlining. I’ve mentioned this already as something that’s pretty new to me. It makes sense that if I have a good idea of what needs to happen next, that’s one less thing obstacle I need to dodge around while I’m chewing through a scene. All the writing I have done in the last couple of weeks is basically brainstorming a path to the end of the book (plus some background stuff thatI realised that I needed to know along the way). When I get back to the real job of adding words to the manuscript, I expect things will be a bit easier with the outline in place.

That’s all I have for the moment. If you’ve got a got “keep things moving” suggestion, shout out in the comments. It doesn’t specifically have to be about writing.

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