After Thursday’s episode, I’m not so sure that “Lost” still deserves to be reckoned as one of the greatest shows on TV. Don’t get me wrong, the episode was still good, the acting still crisp and the story still intriguing, but things aren’t quite the same over on the main, non-Hydra Island. The “Lost” that we fell in love with is gone. Gone is the focus on character and exploration of personal redemption; in its place, mystery and obscurity for the sake of obscurity, the introduction of ever more and more organizations for the sake of further narrative complications, and the transformation of Walt into a spiritual Ghost Walt because of the producer’s inability to stop the effects of aging. For shame, Carlton Cuse, for shame.

I’ll say right off the bat that it is without a doubt too soon to write off “Lost.” The third season got off to a slow start, with the show turning into a bizarre version of Cool Hand Luke as Sawyer and Freckles went to work on a chain gang for the others.

katesawyergunpoint.jpg

He Just Bugs the Establishment!

Still, things righted themselves in the end, and season 3 turned out to be incredibly entertaining. If not quite as good as season 1, the show was certainly better than in season 2, and the season 3 finale introduced wonderful new storytelling opportunities that had the show poised for greatness. Unfortunately, that potential is currently being squandered. The creators have unleashed a torrent of new characters rather than working them in gradually; instead of a flash(back/forward) focusing on an individual castaway or other, we received a jumbled flashback of multiple characters. It’s as if the show started to listen to its critics, started to listen to those who said everything was moving too slowly and that nothing was being revealed (legitimate criticisms), only the creators didn’t know what to do and decided just too move everything really fast and to have characters ask direct questions (yet without answers).

Although past experience has told me that the show will probably recover, there are more than a few reasons for concern. To adumbrate but a few:

1) Poor track record with new characters. There have only been two unmitigated successful additions to the main cast: Ben and Desmond. Now think about just how many characters they’ve introduced. Every other one, including Juliet and Ekko, has had a problematic relationship with the show. All the (new) tailies were killed off, casting a pall over the entirety of season 2. Only Bernard is escaped alone to tell thee, and he was a preexisting character. Why were so many new faces introduced only to be killed-off? Were there stories necessary? Why does no-one ever grieve? Each new character presents new challenges, and the show rarely rises to the task, leaving a mess of unsolved problems. We’re still waiting on the Desmond-Odysseus connection and any number of other mysteries. Read the rest of this entry »

Catching Up With…Ourselves

February 6, 2008

With all the movie coverage, football prognostications, and unscheduled breaks, I’ve gotten away from some of my favorite features here at Yesterday’s Salad. And while I know that word of the day columns and mass transit news are of absolutely no interest to most of our readers, herewith are a few tidbits for those whose eyes are brightened with nary a word.

Actually, our WORD OF THE DAY comes to us from the lede to The New York Times article about the Giant’s superbowl victory:

“The Giants were not even supposed to be here, taking an unlikely playoff path through the behemoths of their conference and regarded, once they alighted on Super Bowl XLII, as little more than charming foils for the New England Patriots’ assault on immortality.”

Certainly more playful than your average sports recap (where else are the Giants referred to as “charming foils”?), the lede features one truly bizarre stylistic use, the word “alight.” According to the OED, “alight” primarily refers to landing from above or dismounting from a horse, whence the obsolete definition, “To stop in a course or journey, to arrive.” [There’s also another obsolete verb alight meaning, natch, to make light, and another to lighten up or set fire.] But if it can’t actually be said that the Giants fell from the sky, how did they alight upon the Superbowl?

Another definition of “alight” is “To land, fall, or come upon anything without design,” as in this quote from The Great Gatsby: “I realized that so far his suspicions hadn’t alighted on Tom.” If so, can it really be said that the Giants came upon the Superbowl without design? Did no-one in the front office divine plans to make the Superbowl? Someone in the organization must have had a plan to make the Superbowl, didn’t they?

The Times‘ usage is in fitting with the general archaic sense of the word given by Merriam Webster, to come by chance. Though not as intricate as some of the others we’ve seen, it’ll serve us uncouth Americans quite well. Either way, it’s great to see an archaic sense of an obscure word making the lede to the cover article.

Every blog has its day in the sun. Every blog also has its day in the shade, and for us that day was yesterday. After being the darling of the New New Media for a few fortnights, YS’ traffic has suddenly become more like the darjeeling limited: a lot of primping, a lot of quirkiness, and the occasional mark of genius. I can only posit a few reasons for our sudden decline:

1) The Oscars hypothesis: We’d picked up a lot of readers looking for semi-literate film reviews and oscar odds, but with Dash out campaigning for the Biden-Thompson unity ticket, we’ve recently become negligent in our duties as source. So, to correct: YS went 4/5 on picture nominees missing Michael Clayton (we picked Into the Wild). What happened?

a) Into the Wild was not that good. As with Dreamgirls last year, academy voters will ultimately recognize that a movie is not that good (I hope). Then again, these are the same people who nominated Titanic, Return of the King, The Accidental Tourist, and The English Patient. I really don’t know what captivated America about that movie. In the years since, everyone has become Elaine.

b) Never believe the buzz. Atonement (which we picked) seemed down for the count about a week and a half ago, and Juno also seemed on the ropes. In their place: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (review to come) and, yes, Into the Wild. When push comes to shove, go with the movie your mom and dad told you you had to see.

c) Never pet against the Clooney. Not when the movie is really good.

d) And the best movies the academy probably never considered nominating were: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Superbad, Knocked Up, Meduzot, and King of Kong.

2) The Heath Ledger hypothesis: I’m not going to say much about the death of Mr. Ledger, who really was quite an excellent actor. In fact, the only person upon whose death we have given comment is Jean Baudrillard. I actually think that Mr. Baudrillard would be rather pleased with the way people are responding to Mr. Ledger’s death. A woman in the times claimed that she felt she knew him. Celebrities really are that close to us these days. But Baudrillard would probably be most interested in this: emails from the dead!

3) The Mandrake hypothesis: with America divided, Americans want to know whom to vote for, and who won’t be president. One man gave them answers. Whither?

Note to the Reader

January 2, 2008

You may have noticed that there have been a lot of movie posts recently. We didn’t set out to become a movie blog, but, for better or worse, reviewing movies is a lot of fun and there will be (BLOOD!) more of them in the near future. We’re trying hard to post reviews for almost all of the year’s notable films (Check out The Year in Pictures page). But I know that many of you turn to the Salad for the variety of verisimilitude. Fear not, there are still plenty of things to piss off ibiteyoureyes, and with a transit doomsday coming to Chicago, how can the transit quill remain muted?

When last we left the word of the year dispute, YS had successfully slain the dragon of “locavore” and invalidated the standing of the Webster’s New World College Dictionary to rule on such a matter after their nonsensical choice of the equally nonsensical “grass station.” I was going to leave the matter at that (or at least wait until the American Dialect Society announced its choice), but the New York Times decided to pull me back in. The Times article basically summarizes YS’ findings, and ends with this quote from the Boston Globe language columnist: “I can’t help thinking that 10 weeks of WOTY fever is about eight weeks more than anyone wants.” Clearly she hasn’t spent much time at the Hammerskjold household.
[Note: the rest of this will be quite dry, but there is a cool word coming up, a possible value judgement on the OED’s part, and a betting tip.]

The Times also mentions this Merriam-Webster contest for WOTY which opened the process up to the masses. Here’s how they described it:

Below you’ll find an alphabetical list of twenty words culled from frequent hits to Merriam-Webster OnLine and some popular submissions to Merriam-Webster’s Open Dictionary. We thought this would be an excellent way to cover the waterfront, since many great candidates for the 2007 Word of the Year are still in their infancy and haven’t quite proven themselves worthy of being entered in the dictionary

This description, however, shows the two biggest problems with the methodology: many of the new words do not meet the snuff of professional lexicographers, and many words are well established, really too established for such a contest. My dream is a system both open and closed; I’m not really sure if any of the contests come close.

Still one of the Merriam-Webster candidates is truly a terrific word: sardoodledum. I won’t reproduce the definition as their entry is really quite great; I will, however, add that the OED definition is in the same vein, but different: “A fanciful word used to describe well-wrought, but trivial or morally objectionable, plays considered collectively; the characteristic milieu in which such work is admired.” I’m partial to the OED’s definition, but only because I take “fanciful” to be someone’s qualitative judgement of the word.

For what it’s worth “facebook” will probably be the winner.

Fashion (Turn to the Left!)

December 7, 2007

As a fan of four-year lettermen from solid midwestern universities where continental philosophy is surely not on the syllabi, I’ve always supported that symbolic exemplar of alliteration, the Machiavelli of marksman, Kyle Korver. Based on “values” alone, he probably would have been lbj.jpgmy first choice in the 2003 draft (yet another reason why neither Deconstruction nor post-Colonialism have any place in NBA front offices). But even I can admit that LeBron James should have gone first in the 2003 fashion festivities. From draft night on, when LeBron wore all white whilst everyone else went conservative, LeBron James has led the pack of NBA dressers.

But not everyone is in agreement on the matter of Mr. James’ fashion sense. His decision to wear a Yankees cap to game one of the New York-Cleveland ALDS caused quite the uproar around the blogosphere, even reaching the hallowed pages rss of Esquire (though the author took the “betrayed fan” angle, and did not provide style commentary). But the most egregious of all this sartorial player hating is this claim that LeBron James is a poor dresser. As our fellow wordpress blogger put it, “Heal fast, Lebron. If you had to dig in your closet for that velour mess after only 2 games, I’d hate to see what you show up in next.” [see the photo at right.]

I actually attended the game in question, and, courtesy of devoted reader Jennifer (she thought she was taking ibiteyoureyes), I had seats right by the Cleveland bench, perfect for viewing the injured Mr. James hobble past. In person, LeBron’s jacket was spellbinding, the gold buttons radiant. ( It also appeared to be more suede than velour as cited in the report. ) I wasn’t the only one transfixed by James’ attire; several fans shouted out non-ironic words of encouragement, and the ever stylish Jennifer also loved the jacket. Of course, I’m hardly the first to notice the difference between first-hand experiences and photographic representations. Indeed, the world would probably be a better place if fashion bloggers everywhere read Benjamin’s “Little History of Photography” and “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (full text!) before jumping to ever snarkier conclusions.

And for those who like their sports commentary with even more literary analyses than Free Darko provides, consider In Praise of Athletic Beauty by Hans Ulrech Gumbrecht. This quote sums up his central argument quite nicely:

His central thesis, to round it out a little crudely, is that we watch sports not out of identification with the players but out of a kind of happy absorption in someone else’s ability…In other words, when we watch Joe Namath or Chad Pennington or even Eli complete a pass what we feel isn’t pathetic and vicarious but generous and authentic: we give up a bit of ourselves in order to admire another. [source]

The real fun isn’t to be found in Gumbrecht’s argument, but his excellent readings of sports and literature and his bizarre epigram thanking the Stanford Cardinal Football team, 197?-2048. Prophecies of the end abound!