Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sopranos Suspenseful, but Super, Stupid, or Special?

Two days after the long-awaited finale of the Sopranos, I still have trouble getting my mind around the cut-to-black conclusion that left me wanting so much more.

The episode, up until the last 15 seconds, was amazing, filled with a level of suspense and anticipation that has rarely been produced by any television show or movie. At every turn I expected one of the show’s many loose ends to be tied up, probably with a bullet through the back of the head.

While only one loose end was tied up that definitively, that being the much hated Phil Leotardo, I had no issue with most of the plot-lines being left in limbo. But I, like every other person who watched all 85 previous episodes, was hoping to find out the fate of the hero, Tony Soprano. Will he live or die? Go to prison, flee the state, or even take over Phil’s family? I guess we’ll never know.

That is what is so vexing about the ending to this show. For so many seasons, Tony has become an odd hero. We see his flaws as clear as day, but we also see the other side to him, and perhaps we all identify with some of the issues he faces. I have cheered for him in season after season, to get through the various challenges he and his family have faced. How can I not know if he prevails through these challenges?

I’ve been reading a ton of opinions on the finale, and drawing my own conclusions. At first I felt that David Chase was trying to say that the Soprano family was moving back to business as usual, and that Tony’s life would remain relatively unchanged, which is a great thought. I also thought that this could be the precursor to a Sopranos movie, which many have speculated over the years, but that would be a horrible way to promote the next endeavor.

But perhaps this is something else. Perhaps this is a level of genius that is rarely seen in our day and age. Had we been given a conclusion to the series, a true ending, I suspect that invariably many people would have been disappointed. But with this lack of ending, the number of possibilities is endless. The viewer is left to his or her imagination to determine what really happens to Tony.

Maybe the man at the counter or the man in the bathroom will come and shoot the whole family, including Tony, or maybe one will pass Tony the information to get him out of his legal troubles. Maybe meadow will be hit crossing the street, maybe she will witness the death of her father, or maybe she’ll have a legal solution to defend her father and keep him out of jail. With this ending, we can find out own ending.

This isn’t the first time that an artist has used ambiguity to provoke the audience’s imagination. What is the Mona Lisa looking at? How did Schubert envision his 8th Symphony ending? Only time will tell, but perhaps The Sopranos, ground breaking in so many ways, will one day be seen as a work of art itself. If so, the ending will certainly be cited as provoking similar levels of discussion as other historical masterpieces. In the mean time, I’ll just choose to believe that Tony is alive and eating sushi.


Posted by Scottage at 12:37 AM / | |  

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Teaching, and the Road Towards Adulthood

One of the true blessings in my life is that I get to teach 7th grade Hebrew school here in Rochester. These students are preparing for their Bar and Bat Mitzvah’s, which denotes their movement into young adulthood. These students are finding their place in the world, and discovering themselves in the process. I believe it’s my role to help them discover what they believe and who they are, apart from the many influences each student feels.

As such, my curriculum is a bit out of the ordinary. I focus on getting my students to think, to challenge the normal perspectives and find their own voices in the world. What’s more, I push the students to use these voices, to make themselves heard and felt. I challenge them to make a difference in the world, and to stand up for what they believe.

Both my years I’ve been fortunate to have students that have the potential to make a difference in the world. But in an age where apathy runs rampant, and where people are taught that it’s best to go along to get along, the key is to motivate these students to actually make a difference.

This year, I’ve been called upon to speak at the Bar and Bat Mitzvahs of my students, due to the recent passing of our beloved Rabbi. And while I mourn the loss of the Rabbi’s words to these young adults, the situation has provided me the opportunity to give each of the students one more message, hopefully some memorable words that can guide them as they do find their own identity.

To me, it’s all about these boys and girls filling their potential as men and women. Each of them truly has the ability to be special, and to make a difference in a world that needs difference makers. I’m trying to use the speeches to point that out to these remarkable individuals the potential they have, and to motivate them to use it.

In the end of the day, I am playing a minor role in the lives of these students, and I’m privileged to play any role in their development. But if, by some chance, I can use these parting words to help push them to reach their infinite potential, then I know that I, too, have made a real difference in the world today. And that is a privilege indeed.


Posted by Scottage at 1:20 AM / | |  

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Difficult Passing

I went to a funeral today for a member of my fellowship, a really good guy who we’ll call TH for now. I must admit, it was more than a little heartbreaking, and I find myself reeling from the loss.

TH was a 34 year old doctor, and a great guy. He always seemed to have a smile on his face, and there was a certain freedom to his laugh that, if you heard it, you would remember. It came from deep in his gut, and said clear as day that this was a person who was having a good time.

TH was the type of guy you can count on, the type of person who was there for you if you ever really needed anything. People knew they could count on him 100%, and that he was a great listener. He was the type of person who you wanted in your life. It’s hard to imagine why someone like that would be taken so young.

Two weeks ago, I was hurting from a particular set of incidents. They weren’t the end of the world or anything, but they were enough to get me inside of my head, and that’s a dangerous place. TH was obviously busy, but he took the time to talk with you, to put my situation in perspective, and to get me laughing.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I couldn’t help but wonder why a guy like TH was taken, and why time after time I’ve been spared. I’ve been in near death situations so many times now, and each time I survive, while these great people have been taken. Maybe it’s just self pity, but I can’t figure out why he would be chosen for this freak accident instead of me.

In the end of the day, I can’t know God’s will. But it is difficult to see good people, people who help others and contribute, taken so early in life, while I am spared time and again. I suppose the best I can do is to try to make the most of my time here, and to make a real difference in the world for the people who are now unable to.

I’ll miss TH, the laughter and the smile. But maybe I’ll also learn from his passing, and improve myself as a result of it. Another member of my fellowship says no one is truly gone if they are still remembered, and I will always remember TH.

Go in peace, friend. Know you will be missed!


Posted by Scottage at 6:13 PM / | |