Thursday, May 27, 2010

LOST: The Best Explanation I Found So Far

LOST aired its final episode a few days ago after six seasons of great, intellectually stimulating story telling by its writers. As is the case with great works of fiction, the internet is filled with debates among fans trying to explain everything that happened in summary. The most satisfying explanation I came across so far was from a Digg user. Although he doesn't link to the source, he claims it's from one of the producers. Following is his explanation verbatim (images and emphasis mine).

First ...
The Island:


It was real. Everything that happened on the island that we saw throughout the 6 seasons was real. Forget the final image of the plane crash, it was put in purposely to f*&k with people's heads and show how far the show had come. They really crashed. They really survived. They really discovered Dharma and the Others. The Island keeps the balance of good and evil in the world. It always has and always will perform that role. And the Island will always need a "Protector". Jacob wasn't the first, Hurley won't be the last. However, Jacob had to deal with a malevolent force (MIB) that his mother, nor Hurley had to deal with. He created the devil and had to find a way to kill him -- even though the rules prevented him from actually doing so.

Thus began Jacob's plan to bring candidates to the Island to do the one thing he couldn't do. Kill the MIB. He had a huge list of candidates that spanned generations. Yet everytime he brought people there, the MIB corrupted them and caused them to kill one another. That was until Richard came along and helped Jacob understand that if he didn't take a more active role, then his plan would never work.

Enter Dharma -- which I'm not sure why John is having such a hard time grasping. Dharma, like the countless scores of people that were brought to the island before, were brought there by Jacob as part of his plan to kill the MIB. However, the MIB was aware of this plan and interferred by "corrupting" Ben. Making Ben believe he was doing the work of Jacob when in reality he was doing the work of the MIB. This carried over into all of Ben's "off-island" activities. He was the leader. He spoke for Jacob as far as they were concerned. So the "Others" killed Dharma and later were actively trying to kill Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley and all the candidates because that's what the MIB wanted. And what he couldn't do for himself.

Dharma was originally brought in to be good. But was turned bad by MIB's corruption and eventually destroyed by his pawn Ben. Now, was Dharma only brought there to help Jack and the other Canditates on their overall quest to kill Smokey? Or did Jacob have another list of Canidates from the Dharma group that we were never aware of? That's a question that is purposley not answered because whatever answer the writers came up with would be worse than the one you come up with for yourself. Still ... Dharma's purpose is not "pointless" or even vague. Hell, it's pretty blantent.

Still, despite his grand plan, Jacob wanted to give his "candidates" (our Lostaways) the one thing he, nor his brother, were ever afforded: free will. Hence him bringing a host of "candidates" through the decades and letting them "choose" which one would actually do the job in the end.
Maybe he knew Jack would be the one to kill Flocke and that Hurley would be the protector in the end. Maybe he didn't. But that was always the key question of the show: Fate vs Free-will. Science vs Faith. Personally I think Jacob knew from the beginning what was going to
happen and that everyone played a part over 6 seasons in helping Jack get to the point where he needed to be to kill Smokey and make Hurley the protector -- I know that's how a lot of the writers viewed it. But again, they won't answer that (nor should they) because that ruins the
fun.

In the end, Jack got to do what he always wanted to do from the very first episode of the show: Save his fellow Lostaways. He got Kate and Sawyer off the island and he gave Hurley the purpose in life he'd always been missing. And, in Sideways world (which we'll get to next) he in fact saved everyone by helping them all move on ...

Now...
Sideways World:


Sideways world is where it gets really cool in terms of theology and metaphysical discussion (for me at least -- because I love history/religion theories and loved all the talks in the writer's room about it). Basically what the show is proposing is that we're all linked to certain people during our lives. Call them soulmates (though it's not exactly the best word). But these people we're linked to are with us duing "the most important moments of our lives" as Christian said. These are the people we move through the universe with from lifetime to lifetime. It's loosely based in Hinduisim with large doses of western religion thrown into the mix.

The conceit that the writers created, basing it off these religious philosophies, was that as a group, the Lostaways subconsciously created this "sideways" world where they exist in purgatory until they are "awakened" and find one another. Once they all find one another, they can then move on and move forward. In essence, this is the show's concept of the afterlife. According to the show, everyone creates their own "Sideways" purgatory with their "soulmates" throughout their lives and exist there until they all move on together. That's a beautiful notion. Even if you
aren't religious or even spirtual, the idea that we live AND die together is deeply profound and moving.

It's a really cool and spirtual concept that fits the whole tone and subtext the show has had from the beginning. These people were SUPPOSED to be together on that plane. They were supposed to live through these events -- not JUST because of Jacob. But because that's what the universe or God (depending on how religious you wish to get) wanted to happen. The show was always about science vs faith -- and it ultimately came down on the side of faith. It answered THE core question of the series. The one question that has been at the root of every island mystery, every
character backstory, every plot twist. That, by itself, is quite an accomplishment.

How much you want to extrapolate from that is up to you as the viewer. Think about season 1 when we first found the Hatch. Everyone thought that's THE answer! Whatever is down there is the answer! Then, as we discovered it was just one station of many. One link in a very long chain that kept revealing more, and more of a larger mosiac.

But the writer's took it even further this season by contrasting this Sideways "purgatory" with the Island itself. Remember when Michael appeared to Hurley, he said he was not allowed to leave the Island. Just like the MIB. He wasn't allowed into this sideways world and thus, was not afforded the opportunity to move on. Why? Because he had proven himself to be unworthy with his actions on the Island. He failed the test. The others, passed. They made it into Sideways world when they died -- some before Jack, some years later. In Hurley's case, maybe centuries later. They exist in this sideways world until they are "awakened" and they can only move on TOGETHER because they are linked. They are destined to be together for eternity. That was their destiny.

They were NOT linked to Anna Lucia, Daniel, Roussou, Alex, Miles, Lupidis, (and all the rest who weren't in the chuch -- basically everyone who wasn't in season 1). Yet those people exist in Sideways world. Why? Well again, here's where they leave it up to you to decide. The way I like to think about it, is that those people who were left behind in Sideways world have to find their own soul mates before they can wake up. It's possible that those links aren't people from the island but from their other life (Anna's parnter, the guy she shot --- Roussou's husband, etc etc).

A lot of people have been talking about Ben and why he didn't go into the Church. And if you think of Sideways world in this way, then it gives you the answer to that very question. Ben can't move on yet because he hasn't connected with the people he needs to. It's going to be his job
to awaken Roussou, Alex, Anna Lucia (maybe), Ethan, Goodspeed, his father and the rest. He has to attone for his sins more than he did by being Hurley's number two. He has to do what Hurley and Desmond did for our Lostaways with his own people. He has to help them connect. And he can only move on when all the links in his chain are ready to. Same can be said for Faraday, Charlotte, Whidmore, Hawkins etc. It's really a neat, and cool concept. At least to me.

But, from a more "behind the scenes" note: the reason Ben's not in the church, and the reason no one is in the church but for Season 1 people is because they wrote the ending to the show after writing the pilot. And never changed it. The writers always said (and many didn't believe them) that they knew their ending from the very first episode. I applaud them for that. It's pretty fantastic. Originally Ben was supposed to have a 3 episode arc and be done. But he became a big part of the show. They could have easily changed their ending and put him in the church -- but instead they problem solved it. Gave him a BRILLIANT moment with Locke outside the church ... and then that was it. I loved that. For those that wonder -- the original ending started the moment Jack walked into the church and touches the casket to Jack closing his eyes as the other plane flies away. That was always JJ's ending. And they kept it.

For me the ending of this show means a lot. Not only because I worked on it, but because as a writer it inspired me in a way the medium had never done before. I've been inspired to write by great films. Maybe too many to count. And there have been amazing TV shows that I've loved (X-Files, 24, Sopranos, countless 1/2 hour shows). But none did what LOST did for me. None showed me that you could take huge risks (writing a show about faith for network TV) and stick to your creative guns and STILL please the audience. I learned a lot from the show as a writer. I
learned even more from being around the incredible writers, producers, PAs, interns and everyone else who slaved on the show for 6 years.

In the end, for me, LOST was a touchstone show that dealt with faith, the afterlife, and all these big, spirtual questions that most shows don't touch. And to me, they never once waivered from their core story -- even with all the sci-fi elements they mixed in. To walk that long and daunting of a creative tightrope and survive is simply astounding.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

HBR: The India Way of Leading Business



The India Way of Leading Business - Imagining the Future of Leadership - Harvard Business Review
"When Indian companies, for instance, take over publicly traded American firms — such as Tata Motors' acquisition of Ford's Jaguar and Land Rover divisions in 2008 — research confirms that the acquired firms increased both their efficiency and their profitability. Rather than appreciating the value of the India Way only upon acquisition, Western firms might be well advised to have a careful look in advance. Understanding the India Way and its drivers has become important for business managers everywhere."

Monday, May 17, 2010

SAP Buys Sybase For US$5.8bn


"WALLDORF, Germany and Dublin, California, USA - May 12, 2010 - SAP (NYSE: SAP) and Sybase, Inc., Dublin, California (USA) (NYSE: SY) today announced that SAP’s subsidiary, SAP America, Inc., has signed a definitive merger agreement to acquire Sybase, Inc., in a transaction that will bring the two information technology (IT) leaders together to enable companies to become better-run “unwired enterprises.” As a result of this transaction, customers will be able to better harness today’s explosion of data and deliver information and insight in real time to business consumers wherever they work so they can make faster, more informed decisions. Companies will benefit from greater productivity, speed and agility to help their businesses grow. Under the terms and conditions of the merger agreement, SAP America, Inc., will make an all cash tender offer for all of the outstanding shares of Sybase common stock at $65.00 per share, representing an enterprise value of approximately $5.8 billion."
Read the complete press release here ...


Friday, May 14, 2010

HTML5+h.264+WebSockets == Begining of the end for Flash?

HTML5 defines a standard way to embed video in a web page, using a "<video>" element. What does this mean for us? A few things. Soon all major browsers will support HTML5 (including firefox from version 4). This means that with HTML5 and an h.264 video codec in your system, you no longer have to install a Flash plugin to view video on the web. YouTube is already in beta with their HTML5 player. Which brings up my other find...



Open Standard Media (OSM) Player is an all-in-one media player for the web. It is an industry changing, open source (GPLv3) media player that is written in jQuery to dynamically deliver any type of web media.

Don't just take my word for it, just browse to http://www.mediafront.org/ with your HTML5 supported browser.

Flash! Looks like your days are numbered. Once HTML5 is in all major browsers and toolkits such as JQuery and GWT add API components for the new HTML5 media tags and WebSockets, there won't be a need for 3rd party plugins.

I think Apple just carried out the execution of a technology that's getting outdated in today's media rich and mobile friendly internet.




Friday, May 07, 2010

HBR: Leading from Behind



Leading from Behind - Imagining the Future of Leadership - Harvard Business Review
For now and into coming decade or so, the most effective leaders will lead from behind, not from the front — a phrase I've borrowed from none other than Nelson Mandela. In his autobiography, Mandela equated a great leader with a shepherd: "He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind."

Hasn't this been the ideal for some for at least 2010 years? I always interpreted leadership this way, maybe because as a Christian the ultimate leader was considered the Good Shepherd. Leading the flock, keeping the sheep together and even times abandoning the rest, just to find and bring in that one member of the flock who has gone astray.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

How to Write a Google Analytics Application




Google Analytics Applications are third party applications that uses APIs provided by Google to extend existing functionality of Analytics and Adwords. For instance if you are a marketer looking for better segmentation of your sites users, you can use an app from the gallery or build one of your own.

If you are a developer, read this tutorial for sample code and a demo app.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Open Social Development Environment

The Open Social Development Environment is a nice, Apache 2.0 licensed Eclipse plugin that helps developers to ...
  • Create an Open Social (gadget) project via a wizard
  • Generate a foundation gadget by configuring its properties through a wizard and
  • Preview the gadget using its embedded Shindig/Jetty runtime



Sunday, May 02, 2010

"What your fiercest rival does badly, do incredibly well."



Strategy's Golden Rule - Umair Haque - Harvard Business Review
In difference lie the seeds of disruption. In similarity, only obsolescence, and decay. As Michael Porter and Gary Hamel have both so eloquently discussed, the essence of strategy is discovering meaningful differences that make a firm inimitable, singular, and unique. Strategy's cornerstone, that is how to build a disruptively different business.