Saturday, October 05, 2013

A note on editing dialogue:

This really just dawned on me. It is something I have been doing for some time as a writer, but I only really just identified how I was using it. Hopefully it will be of some use to some one out there.

I tend to put as much as I can on the page in a first draft - often its not enough in some places, but mostly it is overwriting and I wouldn't have it any other way. From there I scale back. It happens in stages, but there is no point at which the stages are mutually exclusive. If something needs doing and I recognize it, I almost always do it in the moment (unless it is a distraction from a bigger task.) First I look for wording that is unclear and or unnecessarily complex. Sometimes there is a purpose for convoluted wording, but usually I was wrong in the first pass. Next I strip away most of the conversational dross. I write SO many sentences that start with "well", "but", "yeah" or "okay" almost none of which adds to the core ideas or character voice, and almost every single one of those sentences work better simply by clipping that opening verbal detritus. Repetition also gets a good scrubbing at this point too.
Doing these surface-level changes first means that I read the script a few extra times (Usually I read it at least once without making a change before any of this.) to re-familiarize myself with the details as much as possible.
Once these first changes are done things get more complicated and much more tailored to the specifics of the writing - the theme, the plot, the characters. An element of this is what I had a realization about.

I'm going to use my actual dialogue to demonstrate:

A: I refuse to be seen as someone who would condemn millions of people to death.

B: If it came to that, your self-image would be moot.

(That first line is actually the last sentence of a longer passage, but it is all that is immediately relevant.)

My first pass - the really surface stuff - resulted in the first line being scaled down to:

A: I refuse to be seen as someone who would condemn millions to death.

B: If it came to that, your self-image would be moot.

The "people" is pretty clearly implied - especially with the context of the preceding dialogue (you can take my word on that.)

My next pass...

A: I refuse for that to be seen as my legacy.

B: If it came to that, your self-image would be moot.

Much shorter, and again we know from context what 'A' means.

The next version is where I really had my epiphany.

A: That will not be my legacy.

B: If it came to that, your self-image would be moot.

Half the length of the original sentence, and 'A' doesn't hint at it being a matter of how they will be seen by the world. Because 'B' says it all. This changes 'B' in big ways. Instead of simply reacting and cutting 'A' for being worried about how 'A' will be perceived, 'B' actually does some mental work and reads right through to the sub-text of what 'A' says and in the end accomplishes all that was intellectually there before and more.
In the final tally this: 1) makes it more entertaining dialogue, 2) is more concise, 3) does more interesting things with both characters, 4) Doesn't pander to the audience!

As is so often the case, less is more.

Like I said, I've been doing this kind of edit for quite some time, I just hadn't quantified it and thereby realized what I was doing.

Good luck!

Monday, September 16, 2013

How We Broke Bad With Walter White


If you are not up to date with Breaking Bad, this post is going to spoil stuff from pretty much episode one right through the third to last episode.  Consider yourself warned.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

I haven't spent anytime on social media since last night so I don't know the broader reaction, but last night's (third to last) Breaking Bad was one of the hardest TV viewing experiences ever. (9/11 and similar news trauma notwithstanding.) After sleeping on it and taking in The Newsroom's uplifting finale as a palate cleanser, I've had time for reflection and processed my feelings somewhat.

I'm betting that there are viewers out there who are feeling betrayed, and that is an easy to understand knee jerk. If, after last night's episode, you still think Walt is a hero, or even an admirable anti-hero, then keep the hell away from my family. But if you are an emotionally and morally grounded individual, there was no escaping the reality that Walter White's descent has become irredeemable.

And here is where the real brilliance of Breaking Bad and Vince Gilligan comes to surface... We, the audience, were seduced into breaking bad right along with him. It was easy to go along on that ride down with him. Walt was a sympathetic (and initially simply pathetic) everyman in a very difficult position.  Expecting to die soon from cancer, he had to find a way to do right for his nearly destitute family - including pregnant wife and handicapped son.  How could we NOT be on his side?  Sure he went down a questionable road - cooking meth - but it was for his family!

And on it went.  Walt's choices were always for the right reasons and he solved his problems with ingenuity - it was always easy to look the other way.  Looking the other way was of course how Walt's descent really started to take control of him.  All Walt did when Jane was overdosing was (not quite literally) look the other way.  It was something that was happening anyway, Walt simply didn't intercede. And he was doing it for Jesse's best interest.  Partnering with Gus Fring allowed Walt to work in his sweet-spot (as a chemist) and avoid the dirty-work while still making a metric fuck-tonne of money for his family.  Convincing Jesse to kill Gale was simply understandable self-preservation, right? And it's not like Walt pulled the trigger.

By this point the slippery slope is getting quite apparent from our position of privileged hind-sight.  But back then, it all made sense - dark sense, that was apparent, but I know I went along for the ride and I am pretty certain I wasn't the only one.  If I had been the only one, the show would have been cancelled way back then.

I am of course skipping over all kinds of details and focusing on a handful of major events along the way.  Walt engineers the demise of Fring at the hands of Salamanca in one of the more brilliant machinations of the entire series.  How could we not admire Walt for that? After all it was, at that point, kill or be killed and Walt avoided being any more than the proximate cause of Fring's death. Poisoning Brock in order to get Jesse back in line...? Well of course Walt had to do something, right? And its not like Brock died - as Walt has pointed out himself, he knew exactly the right dose to administer in order to walk the line.
Killing Mike?  Well Mike was clearly not a good man, so killing him ought not be seen as a particularly bad thing, even if Walt did have to pull the trigger himself... again ultimately out of self-preservation.

The killing of an innocent boy... that was never on Walt.  Right?  It was Todd.  That was all Todd.  Todd did it.  Walt had nothing to do with it.

Are you calling bullshit?  Yes.  So am I.  But how easy was it to turn a blind eye six months ago?  That was an amazing episode and Todd's actions represented the darkest moment of the series at that point, yet Walt was our hero and the heist had been cleverly executed (who can resist a good train robbery?) so it was easier to look past the collateral in service of the larger narrative.  But what wasn't quite so apparent was that being inured to that violence - the dead of a complete innocent was the larger narrative.

I don't know about you, but last week when the action of the fire-fight cut to the credits, I found myself thinking that our man Walt was going to come up with some way out of his predicament.  He always had before.  And the only other way out was that Hank would be killed and that would just lead to disaster.

Well, disaster has descended upon the White family, Walt in particular.

We have been berated for going along with it - or was that Skyler?  No, actually it was us.  Skyler was merely the vehicle for Marie and Jr./Flynn to deliver the severely deserved chastisement through.

I don't know when it happened for you - one friend identifies Walt's spite filled admission about Jane as her point of no return - but for me, it was the confrontation with his family and ultimately the kidnapping of Holly that did it for me. (For others I know it was the phone call, which for me was merely proof of what I had already determined.) I even spoke out loud to the screen as the camera fell upon Holly and we knew Walt was taking her with him. "No Walt. No."  I knew that if (I was momentarily undecided) I could get past the knife fight with Skyler (she did pull it on him) that taking the baby would definitely be a step too far.  And even that as a father I can understand the instinct of... and hey... he did return Holly of his own free will, and he did it cleverly in a way that avoided capture.  But no... even with those justifications I can't do it.  Walter White is a bad man.  He may not have begin as a bad man.  He may have become a bad man by trying to do the right thing and even by making good choices on the way to the dark side.  But there was no turning back - Walt is Heisenberg - a bad man and has been for a lot longer than I was willing to admit.

I am unsure how I will be redeemed for going along with Walt so far.  We have two episodes to do it in.  I feel pretty confident that Walt cannot be, nor should be.  We, the audience will get our reward by having seen the error of our ways experiencing the catharsis of seeing Walt get his just desserts.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Sports Fandom is a Breeding Ground for Irrational Thought

I've been meaning to write about hockey in general, and the Canucks specifically for about two months now. Obviously it hasn't happened yet until today.

It has been a crazy few years to be a Canucks fan and its kind of hard at the moment to not think that this past weekend had to be the turning point one way or the other - and its kind of hard to imagine the good version, but I'm going to try.

I'll be the first to admit that my view of my team is perpetually rosy, and that by many measures it is hard to see an argument that justifies that position.  But I also try to be level headed and rational - which is something that if you read much fan commentary is a very spare commodity.

Pulling just a few comments that I've read just this morning:

 - "Luongo is a terrible goalie and has nothing to show for it."
Dubious grammar aside.  This one is just flat out wrong. as of this writing has Luongo ranked as #25 of all-time. His GAA is in the top third of active goalies. He is #2 of all active goaltenders in shut-outs (of course Brodeur is #1 and has nearly twice the number of SOs.) which isn't so much a measure of current quality, but you don't reach that point without a heap of talent. He is also second in wins (again Brodeur - arguably the greatest goaltender to ever live - is first.) His save percentage - third.
I'm sorry - no, I take that back... "Luongo is a terrible goalie" is such an asinine statement that I have nothing to be sorry for when I say that anyone who says that is egregiously wrong.
As to the second half - "has nothing to show for it."  Again, this is wrong.  If the commenter wants to amend that to "has no Stanley Cup to show for it" - which does seem to be the subtext of most comments along this line - then they are correct.  But that is not what they wrote.  Luongo has a Jennings trophy.  The Canucks won two President's Trophies with him in the pipes as well as winning the Western Conference finals once and topping their division every year since 2009.
And of course at the 2010 Oly...
The commenter continues: "You can't count the gold medal."
Uh.... why not?  Because it is the biggest single piece of evidence disproving your claim that he has nothing to show for it?  I suspect that yes, that is the reason for the commenter's cherry-picking of facts.  But the reasons they present are that 1) "its not the NHL"; and 2) "he let in a clunky goal at the end of the third requiring the Canadian team to win in OT."  My short hand argument to both assertions is "so fucking what?" But in the interest of rational discourse I shall elaborate.  1) The discussion is whether Luongo is a terrible goalie or not. Under which umbrella he is a good (or great) goal-tender has nothing to do with the overall question.  Eliminating the data of the olympics is like ignoring the results of one scientific study over another - simply because you don't agree with the results of the one you are discounting.  2) I don't recall anywhere in any hockey rule-book there being a rule about how almost losing is the same as losing.  I've said it a million times it seems, but the goalie's job is to stop one more puck than his competitor at the opposite end of the rink.  If he does better than that, great.  Other than that it doesn't matter when, where or how.
As to "clunky?" There is a heap of traffic in front of that net, including two US players behind the Canadian defense.

The entire argument also wilfully ignores the game-saving stops Luongo did make in the contest - including a doozy in the extra period.

None of this means that I don't think Luongo has his issues. He has shown a propensity for emotional fragility. He has blown more high-pressure games than he has won (but the reality is that in any given year 29 of the teams in the league do so). He did stink up one too many games in the 2011 Stanley Cup final. But he was also brilliant in that series too.  Only two goaltenders have ever posted two shutouts in a Cup final series.  Luongo and Tim Thomas - both in the same series.  Overall, he did fail the "stop one more goal than your rival" test in the final.  But he got us to that final, and the other side of the coin, in order to "stop one more goal than your rival" your team has to score - and that was something that the skaters largely failed at in the games the Canucks lost in that series (game six is the only game that really could have been saved by better goal-tending if you really want to be honest about it.)  For that matter, if you look at the four games of the 2013 first round sweep of the Canucks by the Sharks, Luongo was the better goalie in the playoffs, and in the games he played was actually the best player on the ice for the Canucks.  Yes, it was a sweep.  But most of those games were a lot closer than the series outcome implies.  I'm not going to break it down, but no less than two of those games were lost to either a bad play by Canucks skaters or unbelievably bad calls by the officials.  No reason to make the goalies the scapegoats - or worse yet, make one goalie a scapegoat for circumstances outside of their control, but not do the same for the other.

 - "The Canucks will never win the Cup because they've never won the Cup."
Where do you start with this one?  There is no causal relationship here.  Yet, this statement and similar sentiments are remarkably common.  "The Canucks suck because they have never won the Cup."  Uh... what?  I would love for the Canucks to win the Stanley Cup - and I have total faith that they will some day - but "they suck because they have never won the Cup" can only be one of two things.  Trolling, or a pretty astounding lack of appreciation for the actual game.  A lot of great teams have failed to win the cup in any given year.  There is ALWAYS more than one worthy team in the playoffs, but only one ever hoists the hardware.  The Canucks have been a pretty great team for most of the last dozen years, and it really sucks that they haven't managed to go all the way in that time (or ever), but that doesn't actually make them a bad team. (Not to beat a dead-horse, but if it DID mean they were a bad team, then conversely there would only ever be one good team int he league in any given season.)  Statistically speaking they are behind the curve.  42 years in a league with 14-30 teams, they ought to have won the Cup by now.  But you can say the same for Buffalo who entered the league the same year and have only made it to the final once. Worse yet, you can say the same of St. Louis who had an extra three years, made it to the Cup finals each of their first three years (due to the NHL equivalent of affirmative action - where the playoffs set the expansion teams against the O6 teams, so one expansion team was destined to play in the final) and have not come closer than the conference finals (twice) in the 42 years since.

- "The Devils become an instant contender with Schneider."
Wow.  This HAS to be a poe.  HAS TO BE.
You almost have to know absolutely nothing about hockey to say something this dumb. In fact, if you've bothered to read this far, I probably don't even have to explain how barking this is.  But in a sentence... Martin Brodeur (arguably the best goalie of all-time - see above) has been between the pipes for NJ forever, winning two Cups and taking the team to the final two other times - INCLUDING LAST YEAR.
Schneider will be good for the Devils' future, 'cause Marty is going to wake up one day in the next 24 months and very suddenly have become a mortal being. Quality tends to turn over fast for goalies.  Schneider will be there to catch the team when Brodeur hangs up his jersey, but he isn't making them a contender.

And so it seems I have inadvertently transitioned into the Schneider trade...

I was as shocked as anyone.

Disappointed even.

But upon sober reflection, I don't think there was another way.
I (obviously) am a Luongo proponent, but when Cory took over in the 2012 LA/Van series I "knew" it was over, and thought that for the good of all, that it should be. Luongo would be better off being moved, the team would have a change that could be mentally circled around for a morale boost, and the PR nightmare would be done once and for all.
Fast forward to the 2013 entry draft.... oh, boy....
After a year of not being able to move Luongo, and all the kudos that went to both net-minders for handling the situation well, who gets moved? Schneider.  And though there are folks like me who still love Luongo for being the best goaltender the Canucks have ever had (go ahead, make an argument against that - the statistics say you are wrong) I knew that if I felt, at best, mixed, that the majority of Canucks fans - who are largely Canucks fans, not hockey fans, if you get the distinction - would be anywhere from alienated to outraged.  I find it agonizing that in this market that public opinion has as much sway on hockey decisions as it does.  It has to.  I understand that.  I'm also relieved that Canucks brass has the cajones to stand against it as much as they do - but it is a balancing act.  And this Jenga tower has tumbled.

But here's the thing... there was no other way.  That sucks.  But that's the way it is.

It comes down to Luongo's contract.  That record-breaking, rule-bending, precedent-setting contract.  There was some genius in it when it was signed. The way it creatively accounted its way around salary-cap issues... fucking brilliant.  And that is why it was the template for a schwack of contracts around the league that followed it.  But it bit back.  It made Luongo un-tradeable.  That is self-evident now.  If Luongo could have been traded, he would have been traded by the deadline last year, and if there was any doubt about that then, it is abundantly clear now.
So what options did we have with goalie-gate?
Not many.
1) Compliance buy-out on Luongo and send him on his way for nothing.  Less than nothing. It would cost them 13.5 million dollars just to say goodbye.
2) Keep both. Ha ha. Right.One short season of that worked better than it should have, but the cap-hit alone simply won't stand.
3) Renegotiate Luongo's contract downwards. Not actually an option. The NHLPA would set fire to Rogers Arena.
4) Trade Schneider.

Realistically there are only two options there. #1 and #4. Both were going to be PR nightmares.
Of course we ALL know better than Mike Gillis - just read the comments online, its apparent that anyone who has been watching 2 games a week plus playoffs for 25 years knows more about hockey than a guy who has spent his life in the business and lives and breathes the behind the scenes details of his team that we will never see. Just ask any of them. They all think Gillis is an idiot.
I do think Gillis is on shaky ground. He has one season, I figure, to do something to change the state of the team - and more power to him, he is giving it all he's got.
I'm not confident that trading the younger, still improving, cheaper goalie was the better choice, but I don't think the other option was clearly a better option.  At least this way the team got something back.  A lot of the grumbling seems to stem from a fiction that there was another option - trading Luongo. And that, as I've already pointed out, was clearly not in the cards.
The next tier of dissent among fans is that assuming Schneider had to go, that we didn't get enough in return.  On the surface it certainly feels that way, doesn't it?  Schneider is exactly what New Jersey needs for their future and they got him for a first round draft-pick who may never wear an NHL jersey.  But the question is not "what is Schneider worth in trade?" The question is "what could we get for him when the moment Gillis mentions him in a trade discussion it confirms what every GM in the league ought to already know - that they have Gillis over a barrel?"  He was doomed to get screwed. It would have been nice to get a roster player in the trade, and I think that in most other circumstances that would have been warranted.
Bo Horvat, the player we got with our pick looks promising. Hes an OHL MVP and as close to a lock for the NHL as the average first rounder gets. The beauty of being 9th is that you aren't first. There is all kinds of room for disappointment in those first picks.  The focus on the top three or so picks is usually unrealistically high, setting up a failure to meet expectations. Drop down a few rungs and there is room to exceed.  The jury is out and will be for at least the season or two it takes for Horvat to get into the league, but he has the all the boxes ticked for a player who could be the future of a team.  With all the talk about how our present is slipping away, this isn't a hollow move for the organization.

Speaking of the future...
What is Luongo's future?
He has few options right now. He can take the path of least resistance (at least professionally, I'm of the understanding that his wife has never supported Vancouver, and for all practical purposes has never lived here... gee thanks, Honey. Perhaps we shouldn't be vilifying Roberto for his emotional fragility and looking at his support network.) and commit to Vancouver with all that he's got. That is what management expects.  Or he could retire. Heh.  Or he could refuse to report to training camp.  Its not out of the realm of possibility.  At this point if he feels fucked over, that is his deserved right.  But at the same time, he did make this bed himself by agreeing to the contract that has caused the issue.  If Luongo doesn't play in Vancouver - either by retiring (simply not going to happen yet) or by refusing to report - then we are hooped.  That is a reality that the fans need to embrace and accept.  And that means getting behind Luongo, making him feel welcome and appreciated.  We need to encourage him to be the goalie of his resume, not the goalie of his reputation.
At 34 he is getting close, if not past, the point where goal-tenders start to decline, but the good news is that it is very common for the tail of an elite goalie's career to be quite long.  Take Brodeur as an example for the umpteenth time in this post.  Luongo could easily have another 5 or 6 years as one of the best goal-tenders in the league, and it is not out of the question that he could still make an argument for being the best active goalie in the next few seasons.  His contract was built with exactly that possibility in mind. He will still be being paid more than his actual cap-hit for another five years - that is a plus of sorts, albeit one that wouldn't be relevant with a different contract.  Luongo could still be the player he is expected to be.  Many a player has been less than their perceived legend until they've won a Cup (Yzerman springs to mind.) and many many great and beloved players have never won cups at all.  We have no choice now but to hope he is the former, not the latter.  Accept it and get with the program, 'cause he will be a better player with our support than without it.

Think of all the money that will be saved now that this doesn't have to be removed from the arena.
I can hardly believe I've made it this far without mentioning the name John Tortorella.
Two days ago it was a subject that would have been the bulk of this post.

My short-form opinion is that I am not pleased with the match.  I just don't think that he's the right guy for this team. I will be very happy to be proven wrong.  I will be curious to see how his feisty presence works here, both with the team and with the media, but the guy was fired from Madison Square Gardens because his team didn't score enough.  Is that really what we need here?  Granted that may be exactly the kind of style that Luongo flourishes under, but I'm not so eager to watch that kind of hockey.
Vigneault had to go.  I liked him, but it was clear that a change had to be made, and I'm sure that if AV hadn't been shown the door that Gillis would have been (and as I indicated earlier I don't think Gillis has much room left to work with without results.)  With that in mind I had hoped that we might bring Patrick Roy back to the NHL behind our bench.  But the Canucks were a day late firing Vigneault for that to even be a possibility.  And as the job was available in Colorado, I don't think it ever really had been an option for us.
So I guess I hope that Tortorella coaches the team he has and makes all the pieces function at their peak and doesn't try to shoe-horn it all into a system that isn't in the DNA of the team.  I hope the players recognize that, whatever the changes are from AV to Fonzie, that the status quo wasn't working and that a reasonable shift in the system could be fruitful if everyone buys in.  (Oh gawd... usually when a team "buys in" to a system, isn't the unspoken part of that; "to an un-entertaining, if effective system"?)
There is a temptation to compare Tortorella to Keenan, but I don't think that can fairly be done beyond the temper.  Tortorella was not brought in as the buddy of a hired-gun superstar, like Kennan was with Messier. (Who I loved, but his Canucks years were the among the worst for him and the team.) The team is not actually skidding the way the Canucks were in 1997 and though the teams' system needs an upgrade, there is no indication that the country-club atmosphere of the late 90s is an issue now.  Lastly, Keenan had trading power. Tortorella doesn't, and I don't think there is any chance that that kind of mistake will ever be made again on Abbott St.

Hopefully the team can pick up an interesting UFA (Lecavalier* has experience in the Tortorella system - doubt that we can fit him into our payroll though.) and give the fans something to think positively about before the first puck drops.  After that, all bets are off.  Things are extremely in question right now - volatile, even - but once the heat of this past weekend (literal and figurative) has passed there is actually plenty of reason to continue to expect the Canucks to be a contender.

A bit of a tangent as I wrap up...

Regarding the notion that there is a conspiracy to keep the Canucks from ever winning a Cup:

First off.... Why?  What purpose does that serve?

I will grant there does seem to be some favouritism in the league.  In the past 20 Cups (21 years, due to the lock-out season) an O6 team has won 9 times. (Montreal - 1993, Rangers - 1994, Detroit - 98, 98, 02 & 08, Chicago 10 & 13, Boston 11). So perhaps - maybe even probably - there is some favouritism that creeps in via the officiating and trickling down through the media. Its hard to come up with an argument other than "an unlikely confluence of events" that explains how those specific teams should have a disproportionate number of wins amongst them.  But there is a LONG way between "subtle refereeing bias" and "conspiracy."  Furthermore it doesn't explain why only five of the O6 teams are represented in that list - in fact the team with the biggest market in the entire league, the Maple Leafs isn't on that list at all (and haven't won since before the Canucks were in the league (against St. Louis in those affirmative action years of early expansion.)
That said, there have been rules, circumstances and traditions in the past that favoured the O6 teams.  Note that for those first three years of expansion mentioned above that the Blues did not win a single game.  Also did you know (obscure fact time) that the Canadiens have the right to veto the pick of any team selecting a French Canadian player in the entry draft in order to select that player as their next pick.  (This rule was only exercised once and has since been changed so that all other GMs in the league must agree to said veto - which isn't going to happen - but the rule technically still stands.)
There is also a similar conspiracy theory - that the league doesn't want Canadian teams to win (and it has been since 1993 when the Habs last won). The basic standard explanation being that they need to keep the interest up in the States by continuing to bring the Cup there.  Really?  If it was a question of keeping interest high in struggling markets Wayne Gretzky would have his name on the Cup as the coach of the Coyotes.
On top of that, all standard arguments about how logistically difficult it is to maintain a conspiracy apply (in a nutshell, the number of people necessarily involved in this case would be too big for there not to be a leak) not to mention the un-equal danger of negative fall-out should such a conspiracy ever come to light.  The NHL would have its own Erik Snowden by now, if there was such a conspiracy.
So, conspiracy - no, bias - possibly.

This has been long.  I've said most of what I can imagine to say.

Go Canucks!

*EDIT: I wrote this several hours ago. About 1 minute ago I got an alert that the Flyers have signed Lecavalier.  So nix that.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What the end of The Sopranos means, now that the other option is no longer possible...

 If by any chance you plan to watch The Sopranos through to the end and haven't yet done it, just be warned - this post is predominantly about the very end of the series.  If by any chance you've avoided knowing how it ends, do yourself a favour and don't blow it by reading this.  Go and watch the rest of the series, come back here once you are done.

Okay, now that that is done...

It is six years ago now that The Sopranos aired the final episode and it was brilliant.
There was an immediate out-pouring of confusion and anger at the ambiguous ending, but it was that ambiguity that was part of the brilliance.
David Chase gave the audience an ending that, if the demand for more Sopranos - an additional season, a movie, you name it - was great enough that it could be taken out of mothballs and the cast's demands could be met (all of which was unlikely, but was discussed publicly) the story could be taken up, with the interpretation of the end being something to the effect of the tension & paranoia of that final scene is a reflection of how Tony will have to live the rest of his life.  (Yawn... wasn't that paranoia why Tony was having panic attacks in the pilot episode?  Chase is a better story teller than that.) However, if you were paying attention to the show - both that scene as well as the previous few seasons - it was fairly easy to deconstruct the true ending.  And now that James Gandolfini is dead, that IS the real ending forever and ever amen.
Like Mr. Gandolfini, Tony has left us.
It is actually quite simple.
For seasons (without going back to re-watch and check, I'm going to say "three seasons") we were told several times some variation on "You never hear the bullet that gets you."  And really, it doesn't take much more than that to parse the ending.  However, if you must... break down the scene in the diner - we keep getting shots of the door from Tony's point of view, the ten seconds of black... that is Tony's POV too.
I expect that someone somewhere has detailed far more completely than I have - some people were really fanatic about that show, and would have taken that end apart like a forensic investigator.  They could probably tell you which customer at the diner pulled the trigger.  I don't know that that even matters.

One last point - this interpretation has been attacked (to my face) by the argument that "The show is called The Sopranos.  It is about Tony Soprano.  If he died, they would show it.  They would HAVE to show it!"  Uh... no.  The show is called The Sopranos.  It is about Tony Soprano.  He is the main character.  It is HIS story.  When he is dead, the story ends - abruptly and with far more art than showing it would have had.  If they had shown it, obviously we wouldn't still be having this debate.  If they had shown it, it wouldn't have been an ending worth discussing.

Rest in Peace James.  
Your greatest work will remain secure as it was intended to be.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

A bit of a ramble on Nirvana

It was the 19th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide this past week. Jodie asked me whether Nirvana or Pearl Jam has been more important to me.
It isn't really a linearly equal question. She did know this.
Obviously Pearl Jam has had an opportunity that Nirvana never had - that of longevity. But beyond that, my discovery of the two bands was, naturally, unequal.
In April of 1992 at a party my friend Ian mentioned that he has been listening to a band called Pearl Jam. I saw the Evenflow video soon thereafter and bought the album. I enjoyed it, but it did not immediately change my life. In two months time I would be on tour myself with the Juanabees and Ten would get left behind - only to be championed later that summer by fans (of both Pearl Jam and the Juanabees) in my home town. It was then that PJ would take permanent hold in my aural aesthetic.
Meanwhile on a transcendental plane...
Nirvana on the other hand came to my attention quite spectacularly a month or more after Pearl Jam, and it was a moment I have previously chronicled where "everything changed."
The Juanabees paid comical tribute to Smells Like Teen Spirit on that tour and Nevermind was in high rotation in the tour van.
But as huge a comparative impact Nirvana had on me that summer, by mid-autumn Pearl Jam had out paced them in my heart and, without diminishing my enduring appreciation for Nirvana, we've never looked back.
The question arises, of course; what would have become of Nirvana had its trajectory not been abbreviated?
Well, who knows?
Obviously, at the time we were unaware that there was a visionary lurking in the ranks of Nirvana whose talent may have out shone Cobain. We don't have a lot to go on, but the growth from Bleach to In Utero was comparatively nominal. The best of tracks on the bookends would not have raised the high water mark of Nevermind by much. Which does speak to consistency, but not necessarily favourably.
Meanwhile, while Ten was a spectacular album, Vs managed to be even better and Vitalogy it's equal while for the first time truly showcasing the band's need to serve their own artistic needs, not merely the expectations of their audience. Beyond that point it becomes hard to compare. Would the raw soul-baring post-punk aesthetic of Cobain mature, or would it prove to be his one gift? Could Dave Grohl have blossomed in that circumstance and brought new depth to Nirvana, or was it necessary for him to find his own place, as in reality he did fronting the Foo Fighters? Could Krist Novoselic, surrounded by that much talent have become more than a lucky dabbler? Or was he always destined for political life, perhaps some one else might have filled his shoes. Hey, Pearl Jam got Matt Cameron behind the kit after a run of drummers that rivalled Spinal Tap. Almost any band could benefit from his presence. Imagine a universe where Les Claypool joined Nirvana. Geez... There is a combination of these factors where Kurt Cobain is the least talented member of the alternate reality Nirvana.
Okay, now lets get silly and add Trent Reznor and Mike Doughty to the line up... Fuck... Now THAT is a supergroup I'd pay to see.