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Lost and Found
September 30, 2005 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Not Lost After All Given recent posts proving and disproving various meanings of the ongoing numbers references on the television program Lost, I figured that some of you would be interested that a person over on Flickr seems to have a much better explanation: they're simply geographic coordinates.
posted by luriete (67 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
looks like some creative decemal placement to me. I mean, the pacific is so large, I'd be willing you could chart a point in the pacific given any set of digits.
posted by delmoi at 10:45 AM on September 30, 2005


From a comment at that Flickr page: "Each number also corresponds with the character's seat assignment on the flight, which you can figure out on your own by going here."
posted by ericb at 10:48 AM on September 30, 2005


Okay, well mapquest requires your numbers to be less then 180 in order to map. But any logitude greater then 100, and any string of digits as lattitude (if you just take the first one as the significant one) will land you in the pacific.

So this is not very intresting at all.
posted by delmoi at 10:52 AM on September 30, 2005


Similar results from good ol' Google Maps.

The question is ... is said point about 1,000 miles from Tahiti?
posted by grabbingsand at 10:53 AM on September 30, 2005


I agree with delmoi — weak. I'd be much more likely to agree if you tried to tell me it was 4°8'15' and 16°23'42'. But is that N or S? E or W? South and West at least in the ocean. I don't watch the show.. is it known what rough part of the globe they're in?
posted by Plutor at 10:54 AM on September 30, 2005


Another comment from that page: "I also like the theory that this whole thing happened to them because of the Red Sox" -- which is interesting, because Jack's father uttered the phrase a couple of times: "Yeah ... like when the Red Sox win the World Series."
posted by ericb at 10:55 AM on September 30, 2005


If using GPS coordinates, wouldn't it be simpler to use those six numbers a deg, min, sec?
posted by linux at 10:55 AM on September 30, 2005


Rather, the phrase he says is actually: "That's why the Red Sox'll never win the Series."
posted by ericb at 10:57 AM on September 30, 2005


Um. Okay, so Tahiti (about +7°, +149°) doesn't seem far enough.
posted by grabbingsand at 10:57 AM on September 30, 2005


1) Insert completely random numbers into mystery series;
2) Watch as fans desperately try to assign meaning, divining patterns where none actually exist;
3) Chuckle evilly;
4) Profit? Who needs profit with that kind of entertainment value?

Just a thought. :)
posted by Malor at 11:04 AM on September 30, 2005


Spot on, Malor!
posted by JeffK at 11:08 AM on September 30, 2005


Plutor, it's somewhere in the South Pacific.
posted by linux at 11:11 AM on September 30, 2005


Some folks are really obsessed with the numbers...

The LOST Numbers Reference Guide - Season 1.

www.4815162342.com
posted by ericb at 11:15 AM on September 30, 2005


Ahh, the Law of 5s in action. Hail Eris.
posted by JeremyT at 11:16 AM on September 30, 2005


The key is in the Kabbalah.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:17 AM on September 30, 2005


because of the Red Sox

Actually, that may be Yankee Stadium...and if so, this is the inspiration for the Lost writers - "Did you know that the numbers that are the center of a mystery on Lost (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42) are all numbers that have been retired by the New York Yankees? In order, Gehrig, Berra/Dickey, Munson, Whitey Ford, Mattingly and Jackie Robinson."

Nonetheless the writers are having fun weaving the numbers throughout the script. We'll see if there is any rhyme-or-reason that connects storylines together, or not.
posted by ericb at 11:18 AM on September 30, 2005


Nice speculation, but it doesn't really fit with what we already know -- the numbers on the side of the hatch, and the computer countdown dealie from the latest episode...
posted by Robot Johnny at 11:22 AM on September 30, 2005


Not too rain on anyone's parade but were there any clues in the last season that even hinted that there was a guy with a set a of mirrors, a gun and a logo hiding in the hatch? Even ones that could have been deciphered to reveal that, or something close to that?

Has anyone correctly predicted anything that would happen on the show because of the clues?

No, and that's what ruined the show for me. The clues mean nothing.
posted by 517 at 11:23 AM on September 30, 2005


If I can ask a dumb question, is it possible to watch the series without paying any attention whatsoever to all these puzzles and number sequences and whatnot? or is a requirement?
posted by funambulist at 11:26 AM on September 30, 2005


Sayid already said they weren't coordinates. The truth is that they're all dead and going through purgatory in the mind of a daydreaming autistic child.
posted by brownpau at 11:27 AM on September 30, 2005


517... 517... those numbers must have some kind of significance! He's just trying to throw us off the scent.

Funambulist: yes. They can kind of enrich the experience because humans in general are pattern matchers and get a little thrill when they detect a (false or not) connection-- but the show is pretty well-written and easily watchable if you don't care about such things.
posted by JeremyT at 11:27 AM on September 30, 2005


were there any clues in the last season that even hinted that there was a guy with a set a of mirrors, a gun and a logo hiding in the hatch? ... No, and that's what ruined the show for me. The clues mean nothing.

There was an episode in the 1st season in which after several futile attempts at opening the hatch, Locke suddenly saw the light that was coming from within... the lights we saw in the premiere this season.
posted by Robot Johnny at 11:31 AM on September 30, 2005


Actually, that may be Yankee Stadium...

Gaaahhhh...that is definitely Fenway. How dare you denigrate the Stadium? I weep.

This is all moot though- everyone knows the red sox are responsible for everything that's wrong with the world, up to and including global warming, the existence of Ann Coulter, the war in Iraq, and the senseless death of kittens.
Tis a scourge they are.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 11:40 AM on September 30, 2005


I could totally see the show as being one of those endless stories where one set of writers does one show, throws out a bunch of bizarre details, the next set of writers does the next show, incorporates the previous details and adds some more, etc. So, for example, one of the early episodes threw out a meaningless sequence of numbers, and its up to the subsequent episodes to do something interesting with them.

And nobody, including them, knows where it will end up or what the numbers "mean" -- yet.

I do, however, hope the big explanation is non-supernatural -- that always ruins Stephen King movies for me. I mean, make the island part of a military genetic experiment or something, but please no spirit worlds, time-travel, etc.
posted by LordSludge at 11:40 AM on September 30, 2005


Grrr... its => it's...
posted by LordSludge at 11:42 AM on September 30, 2005


If you're in the UK and still in the middle of season one, please ignore 517. The show's ruined for him and he wants to do the same for you!
posted by NinjaPirate at 11:42 AM on September 30, 2005


JeremyT: thanks. I'm only halfway through the first series and while I'm not a big fan it sure is watchable, so I was sort of fearing all the unlikely mysteries and secrets become a lot more annoying later on.

(right now, after suspending disbelief about a ton of things I'm only wondering wtf is a woman with electrocution equipment doing in the middle of a jungle in a deserted island, except to sneak in a topical exploration of torture in Iraqi prisons during Saddam and all under the guise of a flashback. I hate when they do that.)
posted by funambulist at 11:45 AM on September 30, 2005


NinjaPirate: if you put it like that, it makes me want to click that link so bad :)

Ok I'll leave the thread before I do that.
posted by funambulist at 11:46 AM on September 30, 2005


Sorry about that ninjapirate, I wasn't aware of the setup.
posted by 517 at 11:48 AM on September 30, 2005


No, and that's what ruined the show for me. The clues mean nothing.

517, you nailed it. It's easy to be cryptic. It's easy to be suspenseful without sufficient payoff. Where the difficulty lies, and the true creative talent, is in crafting mysteries that actually make complete and total sense in the end - and have your audience slapping themselves with, 'Of course! Why didn't I think of that?! How simple!"

Then again, I don't find the most engaging fiction to be on my television set.
posted by NationalKato at 11:49 AM on September 30, 2005



I could totally see the show as being one of those endless stories where one set of writers does one show, throws out a bunch of bizarre details, the next set of writers does the next show, incorporates the previous details and adds some more, etc. So, for example, one of the early episodes threw out a meaningless sequence of numbers, and its up to the subsequent episodes to do something interesting with them."


It's like a TV version of Exquisite Corpse
posted by delmoi at 11:53 AM on September 30, 2005


BAD WOLF
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:01 PM on September 30, 2005


the nearby island...is there a name for it? (you may need to clear the popup)
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:01 PM on September 30, 2005


That's a silly idea brownpau, everyone knows this is just the bad dream of a psychologist who shares an office with a dentist.
posted by cmfletcher at 12:02 PM on September 30, 2005


The truth is that they're all dead and going through purgatory in the mind of a daydreaming autistic child.

Nah, it's yet another crazy Bob Newhart dream.
posted by NoMich at 12:08 PM on September 30, 2005


Personally, I think it would be a great if they went the whole postmodern angle, and the secret is really that they're all actors on a bad tv show.
posted by iamck at 12:09 PM on September 30, 2005


If you're in the UK and still in the middle of season one, download the bittorrents. It's not rocket science.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:11 PM on September 30, 2005


517, you nailed it. It's easy to be cryptic. It's easy to be suspenseful without sufficient payoff. Where the difficulty lies, and the true creative talent, is in crafting mysteries that actually make complete and total sense in the end - and have your audience slapping themselves with, 'Of course! Why didn't I think of that?! How simple!"


If doing this is easy, why don't you do it? The guys making Lost are becoming enormously wealthy doing what you seem to think is easy. This is a great opportunity for you to make some easy cash.

It is the beginning of the second season of a television show that will most likely last 5 or more seasons and people are complaining that it has no resolution. Should the premier episode resolve the mystery of the island and the rest of the season be spent on Michael and Kate's Beach Dance Party? Actually that doesn't sound so bad...
posted by aburd at 12:11 PM on September 30, 2005


The map also ignores the obvious fact that the numbers are in order from lowest to highest. While it's possible that that just happens to be the case, it seems far more likely that it's the set of numbers, rather than the sequence, that's important.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:15 PM on September 30, 2005


What's lost? What numbers? What are you guys talking about?
posted by iron chef morimoto at 12:15 PM on September 30, 2005


Is this some sort of geocaching thing?
posted by iron chef morimoto at 12:17 PM on September 30, 2005


Ahh, the Law of 5s in action. Hail Eris.

I haven't even finished watching the season 1 DVDs, but I have been getting the same feeling. Hail Eris, indeed.
posted by mkhall at 12:19 PM on September 30, 2005


517 = LIS upside down. LIS = Lost In Space.

(I have no idea what that means, because I've never watched Lost and have no idea what it's about)
posted by iconomy at 12:30 PM on September 30, 2005


517, you nailed it. It's easy to be cryptic. It's easy to be suspenseful without sufficient payoff. Where the difficulty lies, and the true creative talent, is in crafting mysteries that actually make complete and total sense in the end - and have your audience slapping themselves with, 'Of course! Why didn't I think of that?! How simple!"

But it's not the end of the show yet.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:33 PM on September 30, 2005


Iamck: please become a writer immediately. That pomo (non)resolution would be wonderful, but of course we are few and far between. The masses would call for their heads! he he.
posted by uni verse at 12:41 PM on September 30, 2005


Is this some sort of geocaching thing?

Yes, yes. That is exactly what it is. Of course, you would have to be familiar with the acting skills of Janeane Garofalo to know this.
posted by Sheppagus at 12:41 PM on September 30, 2005


I think that if everyone would just stop a moment to read my spiral notebook full of exceedingly small handwritten script and arcane collages of newspaper headlines, this entire mystery would be solved by now.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:50 PM on September 30, 2005


If doing this is easy, why don't you do it? The guys making Lost are becoming enormously wealthy doing what you seem to think is easy. This is a great opportunity for you to make some easy cash.

aburd, I am doing this. hopefully, my own pilot will get produced and i can make that 'easy money.'

in the meantime, i'll continue to voice my opinion about the level of complexity and intelligence lacking from the writing of current television productions. it's not that they're all poor, or that i'm so much better than they are (as i feel you assumed i was implying), it's that i would like to see less red herring and more layered coherence.

besides, i wasn't saying Lost was a hack effort...you probably got defensive about that as well. instead, i was merely commenting on the difference between cryptic clues to nowhere and carefully crafted mystery.

From Entertainment Weekly's September 9th Fall TV Preview issue:

++
[The producers] admit to leaving plenty of room for changes along the way. "The show tells us a lot about what it wants to be," explains [Carlton] Cuse. For instance, when the writers came up with those bad luck lotto numbers, they initially thought to put them on Rousseau's map just because they wanted to see a confrontation between Hurley and the crazy Frenchwoman - not because they had some sort of grand numerological plan. "We never expected the numbers to become this phenomenon," Cuse says. "When one of the producers came to our office and gave us a coffee mug [he bought on eBay] with the numbers on it, we were like, 'This is insane.'"
++

[emphasis within quote is from article, outside of EW quote is mine]
posted by NationalKato at 12:52 PM on September 30, 2005


delmoi: It's like a TV version of Exquisite Corpse

Erm, not Exquisite Corpse, really, but more sequential -- I know there's a name for it... Here, let me start off:

"Episode 1, by LordSludge: Kelly wandered through the woods, naked and confused. Suddenly, she heard a loud crash behind her. They were coming..."

"Episode 2, by JaneDoe: Teresa, frustrated, ran after the toddler, her husband, Greg, hot on her heals. What would the neighbors think? Finally, she caught the baby, swept her up, and exclaimed, 'Kelly, you musn't run off during bathtime, you little roo!' Greg staggered up, still drunk..."

You see how this goes. We did this on MonkeyFilter once or thrice, but I can't find the link(s).
posted by LordSludge at 1:00 PM on September 30, 2005


I interested in your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. *in genuine, naive tone*
posted by uni verse at 1:09 PM on September 30, 2005


David Fury (who won an emmy for one of the episodes he wrote and who is no longer working on the show) did an interview with Rolling Stone in which he says that they basically make it up as they go along (which I understand is true of almost all tv shows):

The Lost creators have often claimed they know where the show is going and that everything will ultimately add up. Well, the current creators, anyway. "There was absolutely no master plan on Lost," insists David Fury, a co-executive producer last season who wrote the series' two best episodes and is now a writer-producer on 24. "Anybody who said that was lying.” "On a show like Lost, it becomes a great big shaggy-dog story," he continues cheerily. "They keep saying there's meaning in everything, and I'm here to tell you no -- a lot of things are just arbitrary. What I always tried to do was connect these random elements, to create the illusion that it was all adding up to something." Many plot elements were concocted on the fly, Fury says; for example, they didn't know Hurley won the lottery until it came time to write his episode. "I don't like to talk about when we come up with ideas," Lindelof demurs. "It's a magic trick. But we planned that plot: We seeded references to it in earlier episodes." Fury disagrees. He says scenes with those references were filmed much later and inserted into earlier yet-to-air episodes: "It's a brilliant trick to make us look smart. But doing that created a huge budget problem."
posted by amarynth at 1:11 PM on September 30, 2005


Those coordinates are fairly close to Kosrae, FM 96944. I suppose you can't be very lost if the US Postal Service delivers your mail.

I think it's odd that just at the time when people can never really be lost, where Google Earth gives a picture of every square inch of the planet and GPS devices are Cracker Jack prizes, that people use TV to fantasize about being on deserted islands. This show takes the fantasy pretty far, but it isn't so different than Survivor, The Amazing Race, etc.
posted by rschram at 1:18 PM on September 30, 2005


isn't so different than Survivor
Woah: Unpolished, cringe inducing, unadorned, in your face display of humanity which usually shows itself to be mundane and pathetic in survivor is what we are sheltered from in Lost. Also, bad (un)actors. If we want to see humane beings, we don't want reality (shows), we want sweet, sweet fantasy.
posted by uni verse at 1:26 PM on September 30, 2005


Lost is a great show to watch even if you are not into the numerology (or assume it is all bunk being made up as they go)

The characters are very well developed and fleshed out. The first season made a point of telling the story of each of the survivors leading up to the crash in flashback, often ending with a killer twilight zone style mindfark (locke) and sometimes just telling an involving dramatic story. (the korean couple)

I kind of figure it is going to end up like 'The Prisoner', with a final episode which makes no god damn sense and reveals nothing but doesn't make you think less of the series.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:37 PM on September 30, 2005


I don't know, I like the show. Television is television. I expect it to be what it is -- which is not the source of great literature or even an outlet of it, but rather something that's entertaining enough to sometimes DVR. Maybe all of this plot business doesn't offend my intellect because I think of the show as character based. "Here are these people with these issues; what happens if we put them in weird situation X."

That, and let's be honest -- before we knew that Hurley won the lottery, we basically knew he was a big, nice guy. He wasn't firmly established as anything but Happy Funtime Hurley until then, so it really doesn't make any difference to me when they came up to it, as long as it makes some decent amount of sense in the end.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:43 PM on September 30, 2005


"going through purgatory in the mind of a daydreaming autistic child"

Been rummaging through autistic children's minds again,
have you?


And what the heck is "Lost"? Is it shown in the US?
posted by bat at 2:41 PM on September 30, 2005


Never mind I looked it up. I'm glad to know it wasn't a secret club I wasn't invited to join.
posted by bat at 2:44 PM on September 30, 2005


"On a show like Lost, it becomes a great big shaggy-dog story,"

That's too bad. I remember the viewership of Twin Peaks dropped off after audiences realized there was no master plot and got bored of nothing being resolved, the same thing might happed Lost. 24 is written as they go along too, but at least each season concludes at the end to some degree.
posted by bobo123 at 3:26 PM on September 30, 2005


bobo123 - you beat me to it. twin peaks was a HUGE disappointment and i have a feeling this show is going to peter out the same way.
posted by centrs at 6:46 PM on September 30, 2005


The problem with shows that depend on a mystery...is that the show is over when you solve the mystery.

Networks try to milk these shows for too many years (Yeah, talking about you x-files) but if they are willing at the start to accept a limited number of seasons these type of shows can be the best on TV.

But why should they bother producing such a show when they can do 10 seasons of American Idol? What is in it for them?

Quality TV does not equal money for the networks. That is why TV is a bad medium.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:47 PM on September 30, 2005


aburd, I am doing this. hopefully, my own pilot will get produced

Well, J.J. Abrams has at least two shows that have done well, so you're still a bit short.

And what the heck is "Lost"? Is it shown in the US?

Please. Be quiet and buy a TV, citizen. No one is impressed.
posted by yerfatma at 6:55 PM on September 30, 2005


Metafilter: Michael and Kate's Beach Dance Party.
posted by sudama at 8:05 PM on September 30, 2005


Well, J.J. Abrams has at least two shows that have done well

The count is actually three.
posted by aburd at 10:32 PM on September 30, 2005


Please. Be quiet and buy a TV, citizen. No one is impressed.



No one was trying to be impressive, except perhaps you?
posted by bat at 10:48 PM on September 30, 2005


I remember the viewership of Twin Peaks dropped off after audiences realized there was no master plot and got bored of nothing being resolved, the same thing might happed Lost.

Here's an essay complete with bibliography that makes that same point.

I don't quite get the comparison with Twin Peaks though. Sure it became a mess as it went on but you didn't watch it just to know who killed Laura Palmer or what was going to happen next or what would be revealed and explained. It would have been disappointing only if you expected it to make any sense, but I don't see how you could have those expectations from the way it was set up right from the start. I don't know, I didn't pay much attention to the plot. I don't even remember the details of the story, but I still remember the characters, individual scenes, bits of dialogue, the places, the photography, the donuts, the sheriff, the voice of the secretary, all the little quirky bits... it was something else entirely that was fascinating about it than getting answers. It was a completely different kind of bizarre, and the pace of the story was a lot slower, like in old movies, it had a lot of the style of classic film noir. Lost is structured more like an action movie, everything is very fast paced. So ok both series rely on mysteries and secrets but apart from that I don't see anything in common there.
posted by funambulist at 6:31 AM on October 1, 2005


Lost is already at the point where's there no plot advancement and no character development.
Many of the plot turns happen for silly reasons.
(Don't get me going about just the hatch alone.)

To the poster above who said: "Try doing this yourself." I am a writer. I know how difficult it is. That's why I have become so disappointed in a promising premise so thoroughly ruined.

But there's no talking to LostHeads. Trying to discuss how their little show makes no sense is like trying to have a reasononable discourse with someone who insists they see the Virgin Mary in their bowl of Rice Chex.
posted by NorthernLite at 7:03 AM on October 1, 2005


Gosh, all these strong opinions and so very little to back any of them up!

Line to line, Lost isn't a particularly powerful piece of writing, but its plot is an involving mix of familiar cult/conspiracy shapes, old-fashioned deserted-island storytelling (cf. Swiss Family Robinson etc.), and often interesting bunch-of-pseudorandom-people-in-an-enclosed-space social conflicts. Not for nothing is the number 23 in that list, which along with the I Ching symbols and resonant character names can suggest a whole mess of paranoid theories without pinning the creators down right away - smart from a development standpoint.

The characters on the show are pop-psych agglomerations of the usual sort, but the acting varies between serviceable and compelling (the guy playing Locke is fantastic, for instance, while the male lead, Matthew Fox, is just good) and the flashbacks have doled out backstory in intriguing ways. If the connections between characters are at times arbitrary, we needn't be too amped up about it; the point is presumably not going to be the nature of the connections but the fact that they're all bound up one way or another with each other and with the island. And the episodes that really fire on all cylinders - e.g. those written by departed executive producer (and importantly, Buffy alum) David Fury - give the pleasures of Big Movies and of character-driven TV drama all at once. Complaining about the mode of production - a certain 'shoot from the hip' style - seems churlish. After all, Douglas Adams made up HHGG as he went along. Not for nothing is 42 in the list of numbers as well.

There's a fair amount of Robert Anton Wilson percolating under the show, particularly the Illuminatus! trilogy, a drug-fueled conspiracy-nut Rosetta Stone (which revels in the paranoid overreading parodied by Umberto Eco in Foucault's Pendulum). The writers hav also spoken of the importance of Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman, an alternate-reality story awash in fake-science and surreal narrative shifts. See as well Michael Crichton's extremely low-rent thriller Sphere for some of the psychic byplay that hangs out at the edges of Lost - a pretty common theme in a lot of speculative fiction, of course. Churlish as well to expect a magic island story to push the same buttons as Dawson's Creek, if you ask me.

Look, the pilot of Lost was as riveting and assured as any pilot ever made, and if Abrams et al. don't have the psychological deftness of Milch, Whedon, Chase, can we really begrudge them their best attempt? So the numbers suggest more than they're gonna pay off - fine! And the whole thing isn't all thought out years in advance - so what? For the next couple of years those of us who enjoy the show will be living inside a viscerally thrilling story world rendered by capable actors and writers (and very capable directors). Speculating is fun, and not every show can attain the grandeur and poetry of Buffy (seriously).
posted by waxbanks at 6:03 PM on October 1, 2005


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