Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Year: 2007 (page 1 of 24)

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.

And, yes, that’s the same New Years’s picture I used for both ’06 and ’07. Call it a tradition.

I’ll be back sometime after the 1st.


Friday Cat Blogging: In His Natural Habitat

It’s important to provide an animal with a stimulating environment.

Here we see Simon in the house cat’s natural habitat surrounded by Scotch and good old Dickens. The finer things are all they ask, really.

Seagull Tuning Peg

This is one of the tuning pegs on my Seagull S6.

I love the little dings and scratches that a guitar earns over the years. You don’t try for them, but when they happen, each one makes the guitar a little bit more your own.

The Lost Book Club: Our Mutual Friend

Our Mutual Friend was my first forray into Dickens since reading (a probably abridged version of) A Tale of Two Cities back in 8th grade. It’s a weighty tome, but in a year of reading that included Don Quixote and The Brothers Karamazov, I figured my long-book mojo would see me through. And, besides, anything for Lost, right?

Once I got used to Dickens’s paid-by-the-word style, I began to enjoy it. It was uneven, but it left me wanting to read more of Dickens’s work.

Our Mutual Friend is about money, specifically the effects of John Harmon’s inheritance on a great many Londoners of all social classes. Unfortunately, the young Harmon died before he could collect his inheritance, and so the money went to his father’s servants, the Boffins, who haven’t seen John since he was a boy. The thing is, though, Harmon isn’t dead. He faked his death to escape his money and win the heart of Bella Wilfer on his own merits.

Now, the Boffins are newly rich, and John is newly poor. Adding to the complexity of the situation, Dickens presents us with a ponderous cast of con artists, thugs, scavengers, aristocratic lawyers, a psychotic schoolmaster, a dying orphan, members of parliament, a creepy taxidermist, and captains of industry all of whom have either a desire for (and schemes to match!) or opinions about the money and its inheritors.

There are also two love stories. The first is between the lower middle class Bella and the wealthy John. The other is between dirt-poor working class Lizzie Hexam and the young aristocratic lawyer Eugene Wrayburn. Neither is a relationship that should occur, particularly the latter, as they violate the rules of class. These class rules are at the heart of Our Mutual Friend as Dickens examines the effects of love and money on various segments of mid-nineteenth century London society.

Since it was originally a serial, the book has an episodic feel, and one gets the impression that Dickens may have been making some of it up as he was going along. It’s kind of like television. Kind of like Lost, too, in that it has large cast and most of the characters are connected in ways they often don’t ever see.

So how does Our Mutual Friend connect with Lost?

It appears several times in “Live Together, Die Alone,” the Season 2 finale. The episode is the first one to explore the pre-Island life of Desmond. As he is checking out of jail (after serving two years for what we don’t know) he gets his personals including a copy of Our Mutual Friend. He says he’s read every word Dickens wrote except for this, his last novel. Desmond says he checked it with his personal effects because he didn’t want to be tempted to read it in prison since he wants it to be the last book he reads before he dies. I hope he has a few weeks notice; it’s kind of long.

Because he didn’t read it in jail he never finds the letter that Penny Widmore, the love of his life, hid inside it telling him she loves him and that she always will. As we learn more about Penny and Desmond’s romance, both in “Live Together, Die Alone” and in Season 3 flashbacks, we learn that their relationship has always been haunted by her father’s disapproval. Desmond, is not from Penny’s social class, and as a result, her father frowns on his aristocratic daughter hitching her wagon to Desmond’s working class star.

His desire to prove himself worthy of her love is what drives Desmond on his attempt to sail around the world. Of course, he gets shipwrecked on the island and is presumed dead, much like Dickens’s John Harmon. And like the lovers in Our Mutual Friend, Penny’s love is too strong to give Desmond up for lost (har-har), and her defiance of her father and desire to find Desmond are what drives her on her search that may or may not have led that boat to the island (we’ll have to wait for Season 4 to know who’s in Not Penny’s Boat).

Given the relationship between Penny and Desmond is one that transcends social class, it is fitting that Our Mutual Friend, a story of love between classes, should be the book Desmond clings to. It’s also fitting that it should appear on Lost, since so many of the characters are connected in the flashbacks by mutual friends whose mutuality is unknown by the characters on the island. Indeed, Desmond is both Jack and Libby’s mutual friend.

Lostpedia has a pretty good write-up of Our Mutual Friend that takes a look at other connections with Lost including father-daughter relationships and scavenging/hoarding.

For a list of my other Lost Book Club posts click here.

And, with a hat-tip to Brian at Lost…and Gone Forever, here’s the preview for Season 4:


Today was a beautiful day for a ride. The sky was clearÂwinter blue with temps in the 70’s and a constant chill breeze making it seem even milder. The sweet warm smell of cedar was thick on the air along the trails. So glad I don’t get cedar fever.

As I rode, I watched a ghostly pale moon slowly climb the afternoon sky, and I decided to count birds species as I did last June on the day after the Summer Solstice.

That day, I saw 20 birds on a 20 mile ride. Today, two days before the first day of winter, I saw 8 birds in 14 miles:

Turkey Vulture… circling lazy, selecting from a veritable buffet of dead deer along the road

Black Vulture… three circling, as lackadaisical as their cousins

Common Grackle… swarming the parking lot at HEB

Great-tailed Grackle… also at HEB, but looking more regal in their iridescent purple than the common ones

American Coot… paddling the lake

Mockingbird… cut fast across the trail and away to the trees

Mallard… a small flock kicking it in a secluded bend in the creek shielded by cedar

American Crow… exploded from a tree on the edge of a meadow, caw-cawing in angry circles as I rode below

It was a good day for the black birds.

The Lost Book Club: The Fountainhead

Sorry, George, I know you tried to save me, but I had to do it. In fact I had already finished Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.

And I liked it.

I’ve long been suspicious of Rand’s books, but curious as well. Perhaps it was all the years spent training high school debaters how to beat back Randian Objectivist arguments, which seem more than anything an especially culty take on libertarianism (I know, I know Rand disavowed Libertarianism). But we’re not here to talk philosophy, though perhaps we should: Lost is, let’s not forget, a show with a cast of characters named for philosophers (John Locke, Desmond David Hume, Rousseau, etc.), but I digress.

Once you put aside the fact that The Fountainhead is clearly a philosophical manifesto written as fiction, it’s hard to get around the fact that it’s a hell of a story. Architect Howard Roark is a brilliant artist. He fights for a new modern aesthetic that rejects the slavish devotion to the past, a past all but worshipped by the New York architectural establishment. He is misunderstood and society does everything it can to destroy him.

Roark cares only for his work and nothing for fame or riches. He is committed to his art and would rather live in poverty breaking rocks in a quarry than compromise his artistic vision. Rand clearly believes that a man is a failure only if he compromises his beliefs, ideals and vision.

Rand contrasts Roark with a fellow architect who only lives to please the establishment, a socialist who manipulates unions and other weak-minded collectivists to build his own power, and a media tycoon who could have been an ideal man like Roark but sold out his principles. Roark must face each of these people who would destroy him by forcing him to sell himself out.

The Fountainhead can be read several ways. As a statment of artistic principles and the importance of an artist adhering to his vision despite opposition from those who don’t get it, I really liked and identified with The Fountainhead. Rand is right that when an artist compromises his vision to satisfy the almighty dollar and win the accolades of an indifferent public, he sacrifices a piece of his soul. The title itself comes from Rand’s belief that “man’s ego is the fountainhead of human progress.”

It is also a statement of political philosophy that argues that self-interest and enlightened selfishness are the best values upon which men should base their lives. Government regulation and unions are tools of oppression that destroy freedom. Many conservatives of the libertarian stripe consider Rand a genius among political philosophers. The notion that natural resources are meant to be exploited and the environment is not perfected until man has worked his will on it especially rankled. I kept hearing Saruman chuckling about how Fangorn Forest would “burn in the fires of industry.”

Still, it’s an incredibly gripping read. I expected to hate it, but I couldn’t put it down. The characters aren’t realistic – they are all archetypes and ideals. The situations, particularly the romantic (lowercase r) relations are especially strange, but the fact that the whole thing is just a bubble off from reality, that it is so deeply and passionately felt gives it a cool Romantic (yes, uppercase now) vibe that adds to its celebration of the artistic spirit.

What I really liked, though, is the way Rand evokes the skyscrapers and streets of a New York that for me exists only in black-and-white photos, smoky jazz solos, and images of taxi cabs and rain soaked streets. I felt as if I had seen The Fountainhead rather than read it, and throughout the lengthy book, her descriptions of the city at all times reinforce the mood of her characters in much the same way that filters and lighting are used to adjust the lanscapes of film to evoke internal states.

Having lived through the Bolshevik revolution and escaped to America, I can understand Rand’s profound pro-capitalist outlook and rejection of any idea that bears a hint of socialism. The book was published in 1943, and I kept wondering what would become of a comitted individualist such as Roark when the US entered World War II. The novel stops before the US entry into the war, but a part of me imagined him getting drafted and forced to suffer what for him would be the ultimate degradation: taking orders from another man. Despite the book’s triumphalist ending, I kept picturing Roark winding up getting court martialed and sent to Leavnworth for insubordination. And now, I’m off on a tangent…

Hands down, The Fountainhead is the most interesting book I’ve read this year.

So, how does it fit in with Lost?

The Fountainhead appears in the Season 3 episode “Par Avion.” It is one of the many books that we see Sawyer reading on the beach over the course of the series, so presumably he found it in the wreckage of Oceanic 815. I bet he loved it too.

If there is any character on Lost who would hold to an objectivist philosphy of rational self-interest it is Sawyer. He only acts for his own benefit, which as in the case of Roark often happens to correspond with the greater good, but for Sawyer that is purely secondary. Like Roark, Sawyer is an individualist who sees no need to take orders from others nor to act for them. Placing The Fountainhead in his hands is a subtle reminder of the internal conflict Sawyer experiences on the island as he learns to be part of a community, balancing his self-inerested ego-driven nature with his desire to belong.

But, “Par Avion” isn’t about Sawyer. In fact, his role in this episode is practically just a cameo. It’s a Claire-centric episode in which she comes up with a plan for rescue: By capturing a migrating seabird and attaching a message to it, perhaps the message will be found when the birds migrate to a civilized area. It’s farfetched and Charlie and others aren’t shy in pointing that out, but like Roark, Claire sticks to her vision and by singlemindedly pursing her goal, she is able to make it happen.

An index of all my Lost Book Club posts can be found here.

The Lost Book Club: Through the Looking Glass

The Season 3 finale of Lost took its title from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland (referenced many times on Lost – see my post here).

Through the Looking Glass finds Alice dreaming again. This time she travels through a mirror into Looking Glass World where she has adventures traveling through a sort of live chess game in which she encounters Tweedledee & Tweedledum and Humpty Dumpty as well as an assortment of live chess pieces and talking flowers. She also discovers the wonderful nonsense poem Jabberwocky. It’s a fun and clever read, though not quite as entertaining as Alice in Wonderland.

The most obvious connection with Lost is the fact that the underwater hatch discovered at the end of Season 3 is called the Looking Glass Station. I’ve already theorized about the idea that the Looking Glass Station acts as a kind of portal between timestreams much as the actual looking glass that Alice enters takes her into a different world/time. Rereading Through the Looking Glass only reinforces my thinking about the Season 3 finale, which is that Lost has finally shown its hand as a show about travel between alternate timestreams/realities.

From my post on the Season 3 Finale:

The island exists between timestreams or parallel dimensions/universes (“snow globe, brotha”). The only way on or off the island is to go through the looking glass station (or possibly also along a very precise set of coordinates which would explain the Dharma food drops and Michael and Walt’s escape last season).

We know this because Charlie talked to Penny Widmore in the looking glass station – the link to the original timestream – and Penny had never heard of Naomi. I actually believe Ben is telling the truth when he says that Naomi isn’t who they think she is. Ben knows she didn’t come through the looking glass station and therefore can’t be from the universe/dimension/timestream that the survivors came from before being sucked onto the island when Desmond let the counter run down in the Swan Hatch as revealed at the end of Season 2.

In Carroll’s book, Alice finds characters who live their lives out of chronological order, she finds things are the opposite of how they should be in the world she left. In fact, Looking Glass World is not quite a mirror image of Alice’s normal world, it is a reflection through one of those twisted funhouse mirrors that distorts and changes things beyond all recognition. The only constant is that the rules of Alice’s normal world do not apply.

Of course, it is all just a dream. Hopefully Jack’s flashforward in the Season 3 Finale was something more substantial, but I think Jack is in Looking Glass World and Season 4 will be about him getting back, where he will hopefully not realize that the whole thing was just a dream he had while playing with two kittens.

Check out my other Lost Book Club posts here.

The Lost Book Club

It seems that the just-released Lost Season 3 DVD has a featurette called The Lost Book Club. I haven’t seen it since my copy is still wrapped up under the tree, but since I’ve been writing posts about the Lost book club for a year-and-a-half, I figured I should resurface them.

The books associated with Lost fall into two categories. Those seen on the show (usually read by Sawyer) and those referenced either in the show or by an episode’s title. Here’s the list of the ones I’ve already posted about.

I’ll be publishing my posts on Through the Looking Glass, Our Mutual Friend, The Fountainhead, and Island over the next few days.

Friday Monday Hound Blogging: Fishy-eye Joe

Now that my hosting issue is resolved, I can blog again! Here’s last Friday’s Hound Blogging on Monday. Who says Monday must be all bad?

There’s something fishy about that new lens. Joey trusts it even less than a regular one.


Chipping Sparrow

The chipping sparrows came back a few weeks ago when it first started to feel like fall. This guy let me get pretty close. He looks a bit different from the ones I shot last spring, but those were in their breeding plummage.

They left back in March about a week after I first started paying attention so I’ve been waiting to see when they would show back up. I’m glad they found us again.

I just wish I could white balance a little more consistently.

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