Producing a healthy mix of insightful commentary and snarky frivolity since 1607.

 

Snippets of an Overheard Phone Conversation Involving a Woman Who Almost Certainly Should Not Be Permitted to Raise Children (And What She Was Really Saying)

Woman: “…Sitting them down facing a wall is too harsh. I believe in a good firm swat on the butt…”

"I have trouble properly prioritizing things."

Woman: “We signed a contract to raise a good, responsible person.”

"We are in a cult."

Woman (derisively): “Should we sit them down with some milk and cookies and explain to them what they did wrong?”

"COMMUNICATION IS FOR PUSSIES! LET THE KID GUESS WHY HE’S GETTING BELTED!

I would totally stop paying attention to politics if that wasn’t what leads people to elect economic terrorists who do things that make me want to stop paying attention to politics.

I should have been keeping this blog during the period in my life when interesting things happened daily.

Looking Forward to Breaking Bad: Season 4

Note: This post contains SPOILERS for the first three seasons of Breaking Bad.

Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) arc over Breaking Bad's third season seemed pretty straightforward: after learning in rehab that the first step to recovery is accepting who and what you are, Jesse decides to accept and embrace that he is “the bad guy.” To that end he spends most of the season posturing as the amoral drug dealer; he coldly and calculatedly connives to screw his parents on the sale of the house they evicted him from, seemingly severing that relationship permanently; he throws himself back into the meth game with a newfound ruthlessness and zeal; and he generally conducts himself not with the affability which had heretofore characterized him, but with a dead-eyed stare, monotone voice, and callousness to the concerns of others that protests too much, “I am a sociopath.” But Jesse can only pretend for so long; when he discovers that his boss, meth kingpin Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), employs underlings who use children to deal and carry out hits, including one on his friend Combo, Jesse's inherent sense of right-and-wrong wins out—he may manufacture drugs, but in no way can he condone enlisting children into a life of meth-slinging and murder. Jesse devises a plan to kill the guys responsible, but is ultimately prevented from carrying it out, and it is at this point that Jesse realizes what we in the audience have long suspected: that, for all his general cluelessness and wannabe gangsterism, it is Jesse, and not square protagonist Walter White (Bryan Cranston), who is this series' moral compass. Despite his earlier protestations to the contrary, Jesse is not, at heart, “the bad guy.”

And then Jesse murders Gale.

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems on Breaking Bad, and creator Vince Gilligan is not afraid to upend the status quo. The high concept description of the series—high school science teacher Walt receives a cancer diagnosis and begins cooking crystal meth with former student Jesse to leave money behind for his family—makes Walt sound like the series’ everyman, and in the most basic terms of plot he is. Walt is the upstanding citizen, the ordinary man who finds himself embroiled in extraordinary circumstances, while Jesse is already a criminal when the story begins, but these characters are sketched too specifically to be just types. Fueling Walt just as much as, if not more than, his external circumstances is his own pathological self-destructive streak, and the deeper he digs himself into this criminal underworld, the more we see that it was only the strictures of society keeping his worst impulses at bay. Jesse, meanwhile, may be a minor drug dealer when the series starts, but we quickly glean that this is due more to a lack of motivation and guidance than to any true malevolence, and the great tragedy of the series seems increasingly to be that, when Jesse finally finds a strong and nurturing mentor figure willing to give him individual attention, it is not the Walter White who tried to teach him chemistry in school, but the Walter White who’s ready to break bad, cook meth, and transgress any moral, social, or legal boundary obstructing his path.

Vince Gilligan pitched his show to AMC as “Mr. Chips becomes Scarface,” but the show’s true trajectory seems to be one of showing that Mr. Chips was Scarface, deep down, all along. In The Sopranos, mob boss Tony Soprano often wondered if he would have become what he was if he had not been raised in a criminal environment; as that show progressed, Tony’s inherent vindictiveness and sociopathy signaled that the answer was pretty clearly, “yes.” In his own way, Walter White is who Tony Soprano might have been had he been afforded the opportunities Tony was denied; Walt has to overcome the social stigmas against murder and lawlessness that Tony never had to contemplate, as well as the general learning curve a straight citizen faces becoming a successful criminal, but he overcomes these pretty quickly, and the trade-off is an understanding of and ability to operate in regular society, a Nobel Prize, and an intelligence and respectability that Tony Soprano could only dream of attaining. And when it comes to morally compromising and corrupting the loved ones around them, Walt has proven himself just as adept as Tony; he has trained Jesse to be a better, more careful and motivated criminal and induced him to commit murder; he has compelled his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), to be complicit in covering up his criminal misdeeds; and now that he is paying for his DEA Agent brother-in-law Hank’s (Dean Norris) medical care with his ill-gotten finances, it is only a matter of time before Hank finds out the truth and has to decide whether or not he, too, will break bad. Walt’s cancer may be in remission, but the malignancy of his criminal misdeeds has spread far beyond the bounds of his own body, infecting the lives of everyone around him.

It’s hard to predict, meanwhile, what effect Jesse’s murder of Gale (David Costabile) will have on Jesse, on Jesse’s relationship with Walt, or on the rest of the show itself, and indeed, those effects might not be immediately apparent in season 4’s premiere episode, as Walt and Jesse have more pressing matters at hand than dealing in matters of conscience. Jesse only killed Gale, reluctantly and at Walt’s insistence, as a last-ditch effort to ensure their own safety with Gus because Gale was the only person who could reproduce Walt and Jesse’s trademark blue meth. If season 4 begins immediately where season 3 ended, it will be with a Walt and Jesse who are only alive owing to Gus’ economic necessity, who will probably be his captives, and who will likely need to devise even more desperate and unsavory schemes to further ensure their survival. The moral reckoning and ultimate effects of the murder on Jesse’s soul could still be several episodes away, but whatever happens, it’s bound to be breathtaking.

When targeted advertising fails:

No, Facebook, I am not interested in the Lolita Clothing Store, and I’m not sure what makes you think I would be.

When I hear Ravel’s “Bolero” I think of two things:

1.) A wonderful afternoon/early evening spent in Barcelona’s Parc Güell with my girlfriend, and

2.) The heist scene at the beginning of Femme Fatale.

If you only write when inspired you may be a fairly decent poet but you’ll never be a novelist.

Neil Gaiman

I should tattoo this somewhere I’ll see it everyday—like backwards, across my face.

It’s always nice to take a nap and see your long distance girlfriend in your dream.

Even if it’s a fucking strange dream, where you’re traveling by covered wagon despite all other indications pointing to the dream taking place no earlier than the 1970s, and where you find yourself being chased at one point by a rottweiler through a shopping mall in Minsk, it’s still nice to get some imagined face time with the gf. Love you!

You know, LeChuck was a deviant, obnoxious, slithery, creepy-crawly sort of guy, but I’ll say one thing for him: he sure looks nice exploding against the night sky.

- The Secret of Monkey Island (1990)

Happy Fourth of July, everybody!