Doc Jensen dives into a quest for the hidden meaning of Island-related monikers: Dan Norton, Jughead, C.S. (Charlotte Staples) Lewis, and John Wheeler. Plus, your names -- when you sign reader mail, which the Doc answers here
Editor's note: In this installment, Doc Jensen offers an invocation for the new season of Lost theorizing; suggests that the Greek god Pan, whose name means ''involving all members'' and whose two faun feet total four toes, might have something to with ''Live Together, Die Alone'' thematics and other arcana; and finds a possible Lost link for Dan Norton (played by Tom Irwin, a.k.a. Angela's dad on [sigh] My So-Called Life), the lawyer who demanded Aaron's blood from Kate.
In Lost, names mean something. So when the season premiere included a fleeting scene involving a new character who made a point of identifying himself, I began searching the Web for ''Dan Norton'' in hopes of unearthing a connection to Lost. But after a few weeks, the best I could do was find a comic artist named Dan Norton who has such a wide array of credits, one of them was bound to have something in common with a time-travel TV show with a blood-seeking lawyer. (Vampire By Night, perhaps?) I wasn't satisfied, so I kept digging, and just when I was about to quit, I stumbled upon a 1952 academic tome called Classical Myths in English Literature, co-authored by...Dan S. Norton. More than that, my Google search took me to one page in particular, and I was electrified by a sense of Eureka! discovery. It was like stumbling across a hidden hatch in the middle of the jungle and finding my purpose inside.
Now, to be clear, I don't quite understand all of the following passage, mostly because it involves poetry, and Doc Jensen doesn't do poetry that well. But the rest of it seems to make sense for a show that traffics in allusions and Easter egg clues both highbrow and lowbrow. So consider it my eye-rollingly pretentious, smarter-than-I-really-am, but passionate and well-intentioned invocation for a new season of earnest (yet not-so-serious) Lost decoding. And I dedicate this following excerpt from Norton's book to Joley ''Nick Fury'' Wood, who does this stuff better than anyone. Persevere, my friend.
''Many readers or students of poetry in this latter day undoubtedly consider the use of Greek myth by English poets merely an annoyance. A poet's references to unfamiliar and rather absurd tales and persons as if they were known to every reader may serve to exhibit his erudition, but they are a hindrance to the full enjoyment of his poetry. Either they interrupt the music until they can get themselves explained, or they are passed over and discounted as unintelligible. Or so it may seem.
''Earlier poets might have retorted — rather obviously — that when they sang, the myths were a matter of common knowledge, common to them and to their audiences. Present-day poets, however, cannot offer this retort because, for some unhappy reason, the knowledge has ceased to be common. The twilight of the gods has deepened into almost total darkness.
''In the sophisticated Roman days of the Emperor Tiberius there came an Egyptian sailor to Rome with a tale that on his voyage he had heard a strange voice off the islands of Paxi calling on him to proclaim: ''The great god Pan is dead!'' What if, in this our more sophisticated day, preoccupied as we are with science and material things, great Pan really is dead?
''Yet Pan was still alive to the poet Keats, who prays to him:
'Be thou the unimaginable lodgeFor solitary thinkings; such as dodgeConception to the very bourne of heaven,Then leave the naked brain: be still the leavenThat spreading in this dull and clodded earthGives it a touch ethereal — a new birth:Be still a symbol of immensity,A firmament reflected in a sea;An element filling the space between;
Cryptic crumbs torn from the crust of tonight's episode — ''crumbs,'' because we know it doesn't take much to get you psyched for Lost. And because we are stingy. It's the recession, dude!
Episode 3 of season 5 is entitled ''Jughead.'' Wikipedia tells us that the word ''Jughead'' can refer to many things. Jughead can refer to a search engine. So maybe ''Jughead'' means that the Island is zipping through the world wide web of time looking for something. (Free amateur porn, probably. Naughty Island!) Jughead also can refer to a progressive rock band founded by Ty Tabor, also the lead singer of the Christian prog-rock band King's X, whose first album, Out of the Silent Planet, was named after a science fiction book by Lost-linked author, C.S. Lewis. And Jughead can refer to the Canadian name for the Kool-Aid mascot, that half-man, half-pitcher creature that smashes through walls and growls ''Oh yeaah!'' Kinda like Smokey:
Of course, Jughead also refers to the Archie Comics character of the same name. Curious fellow, this Jughead. For quite a while, nobody knew his real first name. Kept it a secret. Ironically, in tonight's episode, you will meet two characters whose first names are deliberately withheld from us until late in the hour. One made me gasp; the other made me get all misty. Jughead also wore a sweatshirt with the letter ''S'' on the front, and I'm told that for many years, the comics kept the significance of this conspicuous detail as secret. I'm really no Archie fan, so I can't tell you what the 'S' stands for... but I'm going take a stab and say it's not Smokey.
But here are my favorite bits about Archie's beanie-wearing buddy. First, his last name is Jones. Keep your eyes peeled for that name in tonight's episode, too. Second: Jughead once starred in a spin-off comic called — and I'm not making this up — Jughead's Time Police. Check out the cover from the first issue and then peruse the synopsis. The story concerns a character whose family tree is being erased from history, thus negating the character's existence. Didn't Charlotte Lewis — who shares a surname with C.S. Lewis name and has red hair, just like the girl on the cover of that Jughead comic — didn't she complain in the last episode about forgetting her mother's maiden name?
But the best Jughead reference lies within this:
THE GREAT SMOKEY DRAGON OF LOST
Or, Meet the egghead who might be turning the sci-fi wheels of season 5.
His name is John Wheeler, a super-important physicist who used to hang with Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. He died last year, at the age of 96, on April 11, 2008 — or 11 days before ''The Shape of Things To Come,'' if you keep track of time by seasons of Lost like I do. Wheeler was the man who coined the term ''black hole.'' He also coined ''wormhole.'' He also coined the phrase ''it from bit,'' the idea that, in his words, ''every item of the physical world has at bottom — a very deep bottom, in most instances — an immaterial source and explanation.'' You know, just like Lost. Right? RIGHT?!
Wheeler was opposed to pseudo-science — supernatural stuff like psychic phenomenon — and yet he championed a concept that to ordinary folks may sound very mind-over-matter weird. Wheeler suggested that we live in a ''participatory universe,'' a form of time loop theory. From a 2002 Discover Magazine article about Wheeler entitled ''Does the Universe Exist When We're Not Looking?'': ''Wheeler's hunch is that the universe is built like an enormous feedback loop, a loop in which we contribute to the ongoing [creation] of not just the present and the future but the past as well.'' (Wheeler's premise is linked to a theory called the anthropic principle; for a user-friendly articulation, check out John L. Casti's 1989 popular science book, entitled — get this — Paradigms Lost.)
Gonzo? Hell yeah. But remember the opening sequence of ''Because You Left:'' We saw Daniel Faraday present in — nay, participating in — the Dharma Initiative past. And didn't we see Dharma workers on the verge of excavating the ancient donkey wheel, the mechanism that presumably activates the Island's time jumps? Does that ''wheel'' = ''Wheeler''?
Wheeler's theory of a participatory universe leans heavily on Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, which contains the idea that the very act of observing impacts what is being observed. With this in mind, recall again that we now have two Dharma stations that were devoted to the act of surveillance: the Arrow, which was tasked with spying on the Island natives; and the Pearl, whose occupants monitored the action in Station 3, the Swan, and recorded every detail. If the observer can affect the observed via the act of observing, consider the implication for these stations: The people inside those hatches could have been manipulating the people and shaping the events they were watching. If this is accurate, we must wonder about the people who could have been in those hatches. If they end up being some or all of our time-traveling castaways, then you have an allegorical dramatization of Wheeler's ''participatory universe'' concept. The castaways would not only be contributing to the present and the future, but to the past as well. Fun fact: ''Pearl'' was the name of a character in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Starlight Express, a highly allegorical opus about an electric train set that comes to life. Each car of the train is personified by an actor. You know what part of the train Pearl is? Yep: the observation car.
But my favorite discovery about John Wheeler — the one that gave me chills — was the colorful, monstrous term he invented for Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Wheeler called it...''The Great Smokey Dragon.'' Wheeler came up with the phrase after the famous Copenhagen debate between Einstein and Bohr, in which the latter scientist argued that the uncertainty principle always allows for a glitch in a system, a fatal flaw in any well-ordered plan. You might say that The Great Smokey Dragon...changes the rules.
And...SWOOSH! We flashback to the Ben/Widmore ''He changed the rules'' episode ''The Shape of Things to Come,'' whose title now seems so many shades more ironic in retrospect:
Tonight, you will see a story that illustrates one of John Wheeler's concepts in a different way, one that I found both absorbing and emotional, and one that doesn't require any of this pocket protector hoo-ha to totally enjoy. But lest you wonder if I'm merely projecting Wheeler onto Lost, as opposed to identifying Wheeler within Lost, I offer this proof: John Wheeler's middle name.
Long for Archie, Jughead's best friend.
John Archibald Wheeler.
John. Archie. Bald. Wheeler.
Or in other words ...
READER MAIL!(And you think I don't read all the emails you send to me at JeffJensenEW@aol.com! I do! I do!)
Hey, Doc! What was that thing swinging in Ms. Hawking's science lab at the end of 'The Lie'?'' —Luke in Los Angeles
Luke, I'm pretty sure that was a Foucault's Pendulum, a tool that's used to map the Earth's rotation. Of course, Foucault's Pendulum is also the name of an Umberto Eco book with great Lost resonance. In fact, the Ms. Hawking sequence that concluded ''The Lie'' — in which we saw her slinking around a laboratory wearing monk robes, then lighting candles in a church, then clucking nervously about finding Time Travel Island — could be seen as an elaborate evocation of Eco's first three novels: The Name of the Rose (about a super-sleuth monk investigating a murder mystery that may or may not be linked to demonic possession and the second coming of Christ); Foucault's Pendulum; and perhaps best of all — and the title is so Lost season 5 — The Island of the Day Before, about a castaway trapped on a shipwreck in a harbor located on the international dateline. The book is comprised of more than three dozen brief chapters whose titles link to Lost arcana or theory, including: ''Mundus Subterraneus,'' ''An Enquiry into the Nature and Place of Hell,'' and my favorite, ''Monologue on the Plurality of Worlds.''
''What's your theory as to why the Zodiac boat got to make the time leap with the castaways?'' —Kylie in New York
I was actually planning to lay a huge theory on you guys about this, but then got sidetrack by my Jughead/Wheeler discoveries. The short version: These time jumps aren't random, but rather guided/determined by an intelligence. The castaways are being moved to specific points in the Island's history like pieces on a chessboard. And the chess player in question isn't making it up as he goes along, but executing a strategic attack. Call this player ''God,'' or ''Fate,'' or ''Maxwell's Demon'' (look it up) — but for now, I'm just going to call it ''the Island.'' Yes, I think the Island is a sentient, living entity, and it is either carrying out some business that was always fated to happen, or executing some kind of repair job caused by whatever cosmic damage that was done by the departure of the Oceanic 6. Recall the great rule: ''Live together, die alone.'' The Island has a symbiotic relationship with these castaways — and they now depend on each other for their mutual survival. (You know, just like a TV show needs good characters/actors to stay and play in order to thrive — another permutation of ''The Lost Theory of Lost.'') These jumps in time could be in the service of creating events that facilitate the return of the O6 to the Island. This is all to say: The reason the castaways got to keep the Zodiac was simply because the Island needed them to keep it so they can do...whatever it is the Island needs them to do. Sure, kinda arbitrary — but also rooted in well-argued time travel theory. (See: the "course correction" argument of David Lewis' resolution to the grandfather paradox.) (Man, the nerd coils in this column are totally overheating, aren't they?) Fun fact: Did you know that the Marvel Comics character the Thing — also a sentient mound of rock — has a name? It's...Benjamin Jacob Grimm.
Hey, Jeff. Could the Numbers ''4 8 15 16 23 42'' correspond to the length of the castaways' shifts in time?'' —Howey in Holly Hill, Florida
Dude, I LOVE THIS. And it just might work. If the first shift sent the castaways from January 2005 to the day the drug plane crashed on the Island (presumed to be the late '90s or early '00s), that could be a four- or eight-year jump. If the second shift took them to a point in time after the Hatch imploded and drug plane crashed, that could be a 15- or 16-year jump into the future, and if the third shift took them to the Desmond era, then...uh...okay, I'm losing the math. But this is cool. I want it to be true! Someone make it work for me!
''Hey, Doc. Loved the recap of last week's premiere! One quick correction (to your assertion that Sun has no reason to want Ben dead): Sun has every reason to blame Ben for Jin's death, particularly if she's been visited by Jeremy Bentham. It was Ben who killed Keamy despite knowing about the deadman's switch — in flagrant disregard for the lives of everyone on the freighter. I'll bet Bentham told Sun all about it.'' —Bigmouth of Eye M Sick
Bigmouth of Eye M Sick, thank you for the kind words — and good point.
In the premiere, we saw that Dr. Pierre Chang was raising an infant child on the Island during the Dharma days. Do you think the baby was born on the Island? If so, how does that square with the others' baby-making problems? Do you think the baby is a clue that whatever caused the Island's conception dilemma was due to something Dharma did? Maybe ''the incident''? Maybe some time travel accident that won't allow new life to be born until it is corrected? Also, make sure you call your mother this week.'' —Dad
No joke, folks! This was an observation made by father, as paraphrased by me. He's a detective, and a pretty smart one, so he's good at noticing stuff like that. Or maybe being Totally Lost just runs in the family...
And with that totally organic and not-at-all forced segue, I am pleased to introduce the season premiere of our new weekly video series, Totally Lost. Hosted by yours truly and my colleague, pal, and fellow Lostophile Dan Snierson, Totally Lost will offer previews and teases of new episodes, and recap and analysis of previous episodes. It also features a huge dose of wacky humor which, for better or worse, pretty much sums up Dan and me. At the very least, it’s rich in Lost passion — and sprinkled with cool Lost teases. I can promise you at least five tidbits about ''Jughead'' in the video you’re about to watch ... should you choose to watch. And I hope you do.