Monday, January 4, 2010

A Few Notes On 2010

I was jabbering with my sister over the holidays about good television this year and the subject of Twin Peaks came up. In many ways, it was the first show to attempt the union of soap opera formula with something besides amnesiacs and hospital employees. People die in soap operas, but Twin Peaks was unique at the time for the strong emphasis on Agent Cooper and the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer. I usually tell people to watch up to about half-way through Season Two and then watch David Lynch’s movie Fire Walk With Me, which acts as a prequel. After the plot twist the writers had to reinvent the show’s driving force while David Lynch had wandered off to go do…David Lynch type things. It falls apart without the driving mystery and Lynch’s eccentric touch, replacing the concrete formula of who killed who with ham fisted mysticism and convoluted motivations.

My sister disagreed with this advice about skipping the last few episodes, arguing that the ending was a valid statement about the show’s nature. What, after all, is the defining flaw of every great show these past few years? They fuck up the ending. For shows that are all about mystery and watching people interact, tying up loose ends is inherently never going to be satisfactory. It will always disappoint. While a show like The Sopranos chose to end on a touching note before cutting to black, Lynch came back to direct the last episode and end it on an enormous cliff hanger. There are various reasons for this choice, he wanted to coerce the network into funding another season and probably had a few more stories in his head to tell. But in the end, the bluff has a larger meaning in the context of a show about people’s lives: they don’t really end. Something is always going to be happening, interesting or not.

I’m opening with that point because we’re going to talk a bit about 2010. I graduate in May from school and will be spending the summer studying for the BAR. It is not a forgiving test. You take seven 3-hour essay question sections (for each area of law) followed by a multiple choice test that covers everything they left out. I have to pass six out of the seven and correctly answer a certain percentage of the multiple choice. BAR passage is not determined by your score but rather is based on the top percentage of scores so that only so many people pass per year no matter what. Very smart people take this test. This is going to put a damper on my blog output. I will be producing the bi-monthly column as scheduled but I can’t really produce the rest of it anymore. I may discover that I still need a personal escape and continue to write posts while studying or I might be even build up a large enough surplus that you won’t even notice. More likely is that when I have a free moment I will have a glass of whiskey, a good cry, and slap myself into studying more. I’ll be done at the end of July and then I am unplugging from everything. Internet, video games…everything. I’m going to do some backpacking in Montana to figure out what to do with myself and the mess I’m in. I don’t find out my BAR results until November and there is fuck-all chance of me being hired until a firm knows whether or not I’m dead weight. I am in trouble if I don’t pass, but we’re not going to dwell on that.

This isn’t really a resignation post. I’ve got about 9 blog posts already written and have several more sketched out. That puts me well into March and probably April for when I will actually run out of material. Furthermore, Hell will freeze over before I ever quit writing. But I doubt I’ll come back quite the same. The schedule that allowed me to produce all of this material was never a realistic one, just what you can get done if you’re the sort of person whose sick of giving a shit about school and just wants their diploma. I thought about doing a bi-weekly post or maybe some ‘Link of the Week’ gimmick (I mean like jacking someone else's post and rephrasing it, not an aggregate) but I’m not really interested in half-assing something with my fake name on it. Not everything I’ve written is good, but it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying.

The finale of Twin Peaks is confronted with the same issue that is becoming the Achilles Heel of most television shows (or some games) today: how do you explain your big mystery? The second half of the season deals with a serial killer obsessed with the Red Lodge, a mystical place where evil spirits dwell and escape into our world. Cooper, at first only visiting there in his dreams, eventually steps through a gateway into the Red Lodge to be greeted by crashing symbols and dark flashing lights. People he has met appear, others he is only seeing for the first time. He walks about, people say weird things, and we are clued into the fact that something very bad happens to Cooper there. Not much else is ever really discussed (though do check out Fire Walk With Me if you have the inclination). What irked me about that scene was that here is the ultimate moment of the second season’s plot arc, here is the equivalent of ‘Who Killed Laura Palmer’? And it just goes by. We see the mystical place, and then the story keeps on chugging along. I suppose I resented the audacity of that, enough to tell people to skip it, but as I find myself writing this post I think I appreciate it a bit more. You’ve got to tell people something, yet all you’re really telling them is that it’s you who's changing.

So, posting will continue as normal into March or April. After that, I’ll be going on hiatus for a bit. I figure if you care enough to read my personal blog, I owe you the heads up.


Radek said...

Well, I certainly applaud the discipline it takes to write so much material ahead of time. God knows I have trouble putting things aside once they're done even though I fully realize that such distancing is almost always beneficial.

Best of luck on the BAR!

Rob Zacny said...

Having pulled a few vanishing acts myself, I can get where you're coming from. Good luck on the BAR, and good luck finding your path.

L.B. Jeffries said...

Thanks to both of you. I was calculating how much stuff I'd have to write and by when over the break and it was just way more than I could deliver. I have a feeling I'll be back though, especially since I've still got to write columns into December this year.

Nels Anderson said...

Good luck L.B.! I'm sure you'll give the BAR what for.

And enjoy Montana on the other side. I grew up in Wyoming and if there's somewhere do some losing and finding, it's around those parts.

David Page said...

good luck, i've only just recently discovered your blog so I have lots to catch up on still.

I'd like to say thankyou for making me think about games a bit more. hell, pop culture in general!

good luck again

Ben Abraham said...

Just adding my voice to the choir - good luck with your Browining Automatic Rifle test. I don't really get why they're testing you, since they gave them out to grunts all through WWI and you're at least smarter than all of them - but anyway. Good Luck.