Monday, May 27, 2002

The Night We Called it a Day

OK, as I really should every week I begin this week's piece with an apology. I apologize to all those contributors to the newsletter last week for any mistakes and typos that appeared in your articles. Let's just say that the last week's publication production occurred in a bit of a sleepless induced haze (thanks to some furious law making at the Capitol).

Not to whine about my work (day and night) because when it comes to work I know we all have it tough, but I worked Friday evening into Saturday morning watching a mostly empty committee room where the stadium conference committee was supposed to be meeting to finalize the Twins' ball park bill. I got home around 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning. I was back at my desk at 2 p.m. after having stopped at the warehouse to pick up all the newsletter copy that was ready to go. I spent the next few hours half paying attention to the House floor activity and one-fourth paying attention to typing and editing the articles. The other 1/4th of my attention? Either it was thoughts of my ailing kitty, or my dear sweet sweetie, or it was just off in the ether somewhere.

By the time the House finally adjourned at 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning I zipped on back to the warehouse to pick up any remaining copy. I then went home, fed said snarly kitty and took a brief nap so I would have enough time (and some energy) to finish the newsletter. I was thankfully reminded that the all time best music to listen to after pulling an all nighter on top of nearly another all nighter after putting in godless other hours during the previous week is without a doubt Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde. That thin mercurial sound and daffy lyrics are best absorbed if your mind has no defenses left. "Now the rainman gave me two cures/Then he said, 'Jump right in'/The one was Texas medicine/The other was just railroad gin/An' like a fool I mixed them/An' it strangled up my mind/An' now people just get uglier/An' I have no sense of time/Oh mama can this really be the end?"

I was mostly recovered by Tuesday or as recovered as I can ever truly be. Tuesday of course is the big night for TV viewing, and this Tuesday was bigger than most featuring the season finales of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and 24. After watching both shows I was struck by an insight (or as insightful as I can ever be especially with a fried brain)- there is a huge difference between good TV and good artful TV. The episode of Buffy was again, one of the most thought provoking, emotionally wrenching things I've ever seen. 24 on the other hand has been a pretty decent show was straight ahead this is what TV usually is, stuff.

I shared my 'been too long since the last time' enlightenment with Mr. Max but he didn't seem to get it. He just seemed overly alarmed that I was acting rather wound up after I had been comatose for so long. Buffy was intense. It was the kind of two hours that you aren't sure if you can continue to watch, as gut gouging and unlike anything you've ever seen and spooky as it is, yet you can't take your eyes off because it is so masterfully done. After an extremely dark season of the show the finale ended with a edifying release, a stepping into the light, an affirmation of friendship and family that I'm sure left viewers nationwide from teens to dorky males in their late 30's, from lesbians to Wiccas, marveling at the magnificence and unpredictable storytelling with so much to reveal.

I began watching Buffy five and a half years ago on a lark and quite by accident. I happened to be channel surfing like a bloated and bored Beach Boy and stumbled across the show. I thought I'd continue to watch to see if it was as stupid as its name implied. Instead its wit, and the clever writing and acting immediately impressed me. As big of a fan of the show as I've become I doubt anyone could ever have envisioned the incredible and uniquely rewarding journey that writer/producer Joss Whedon and cast have taken us on over the years.

A lot of my all time favorite works of art have been validated by the most prestigious critics (or maybe because someone with a mind greater than mine authenticated the works is what made them my favorites in the first place): Citizen Kane, The Great Gatsby, Pet Sounds all have a regular place in my art appreciation attention rotation.

And now the undisputed bible of the highest art, TV Guide has again reinforced my own critical beliefs. A couple of weeks back, the magazine selected its list of the 50 greatest shows of all time. Seinfeld, The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, and The Sopranos all deservingly topped the list. Buffy thankfully was recognized, finishing number 41. "Stylish, scary, sexy, and smart, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (has any series ever been less well served by its title?) is a genre-busting original, defying and impressing skeptics with cleverly crafted allegories of good and evil," those speakers of truth spoke.

This year's season finale pitted the once upon a time shy and self conscious brainiac now all powerful grieving Wicca witch Willow against the still not so sure why she is here fast food slinging slayer Buffy. It wasn't exactly a premise I could relate to but sometimes it's good to use your imagination. I marvel at those of you out there that still have friends that you made in grade school and growing up. I'm lucky to have a friendship that lasts more than a few months (something about my really annoying personality may account for that). In the show Buffy was at a loss at what to do- she had to stop Willow from ending the world and she watched in horror as Willow literally skinned the man responsible for the loss of her lover, yet at the same time before destroying just the latest apocalyptic threat Buffy couldn't forget the thought that this was her long time friend, a friend who has repeatedly been the steadying force in her own life.

While it must be nice to have friendships that last that long what do you do when one turns against you and turns into something monstrous? The ultimate answer came in the episode's climax with the last person you'd expect to be the hero, the self pitying Xander who earlier in the season chickened out of his wedding because he questioned if he was good enough to spend "eternity" with the once vengeance demon Anya, gently bringing Willow down (and back) by expressing his love of her as a friend. It's nice when friends actually listen to what you have to say (even if you are a chronic mumbler). The season has largely been about how the various characters have struggled and have found a lack of comfort from those they once felt closest to, and to have the season end on such a reaffirming message was nice to see.

Buffy, bummed out all season that her friends brought her back from the dead thinking they were rescuing her from some hell dimension but instead were ripping her from heaven, finally is able to come to see some light again. Contrast this with one of the darkest episodes I've ever seen in any mass medium, the episode a few weeks back when Buffy poisoned by a demon (and others), finds herself bouncing between realities. One is the one she has always known; the other a life in a mental institution being talked to by her now gone parents trying to convince her that the world she thought she always knew (and we did too), where she is a slayer and where vampires and demons intermingle and intertwine with human every day life is a delusion. What is to believe? She's not sure and she's equally unsure what world she really wants to return to even if the one she chooses is the mirage. The arc of the alternate story line was as impressive as the depth of the variety of emotions evoked. This is really special stuff and the finale, unlike other series almost impossibly brings everything we've seen thus far together while leading us down a continuing unpredictable but constantly rewarding path.

As experiencing the greatest art allows us to blessedly do, those of us watching along even the bleary eyed among us, got to share in her vision. The timing couldn't have been more impeccable- it was a necessary release, like a puff on a filtered cigarette, a welcome cleansing after yet another icky all night law making session.

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