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Posts Tagged ‘Breaking Bad’

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…….in case you missed it…

Ann Engelhart did an interview with the Brooklyn Diocese television network – it’s a great introduction to the book, with a peak into her studio.

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Jan Hooks died! Sad!

Some of you might remember Jan from SNL or Designing Women or Third Rock from the Sun   As for me and mine, I remember her from way back, even before that, back to the earliest days of WTBS.

Those of you who care or pay attention know that WTBS out of Atlanta was Ted Turner’s first station, the origins of an empire which led to TNT, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies…etc.

But before any of that was WTCG – channel 17 –  an independent station that showed reruns, the Atlanta Braves and featured one Bill Tush as new anchor and entertainment impresario.

I am not sure how – I’m assuming the earliest stages of cable – WTCG reached our house in Knoxville.  When I was in high school, Bill Tush had a very strange, wild, late night news show.

A couple of years after that, he had a sketch comedy show called, appropriately, “Tush,” featuring a merry band of comedic actors and writers, including Ed and Bonnie Turner, and …Jan Hooks.


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When the news came across the wire (okay..Twitter) today than Jan Hooks had passed away, I was shocked, not only that she had died, but that the headlines reported that she was 57 years old.  Wait, what? I’m 54.  No way she was only 3 years older than I am….I mean…wasn’t I a teenager when I became a fan, and didn’t I at the time peg her has about ten years older?

I don’t know. I guess I got confused, thinking that “Tush” was what I’d watched in high school…but no. It must have been just Bill Tush’s crazy late-night news antics then. “Tush” was a few years later and now, re watching what’s available – sad YouTube renditions – geez, you’d think that someone would get us a decent set – I can see how young she was.

Rest in peace.  What a talent.

(The oddest thing about revisiting these Tush sketches today was how familiar they were.  I must have VCR’d them back in the day because today, 30+ years later, I could almost recite some of them…)

— 4 —

Michael and I took a field trip this week on our only available day – Wednesday.  We (I) drove about an hour to Oneonta, to Palisades Park, which provided us with a decent little woodsy hike and some views, and then to a couple of covered bridges.  Blount County, Alabama boasts of three covered bridges.  We’d been to one a couple of years ago, so today, we crossed off the other two  One was small and nothing to brage about, but the other – Horton Mill Bridge – was quite impressive.

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It’s the highest covered bridge in the United States – 70+ feet above the waters of the Warrior River.

What was even more impressive was the approach.  I drove north of Oneonata on 231….putter, putter…and saw the sign.  It pointed left and said, “covered bridge.”  I turned, expecting to drive a bit more before I hit it. Nope!  It was RIGHT THERE!  Still in use, not two hundred feet from the state highway.  Well.

— 6 —

Michael and I attended a short presentation on a cultural/historical matter at a local cultural institution this week.  In the midst of the very mediocre presentation, the presenter referred to Michael and said, “I know you must be bored…”

…when in fact, what I’m sure he was thinking, “I’m nine and I know more about this than you do lady, so yeah, maybe I AM bored..”

— 7 —

Oh, people, I was a Junior Brown fan long before this.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Quick Breaking Bad Thoughts

I know, I know.  So late and so lame.

The usual excuse:  Home education is sucking out my brains.

Also:  I find myself unable or at least unwilling to go to town on commentary until the whole thing is over.  It really is like a novel now – you have to see how it ends in order to make a judgment.

It’s not that I am demanding that it end in a certain way.  I certainly have my opinions on what seems artistically and philosophically “necessary” – but Gilligan and crew have not let me down (much) yet, so I’l withhold all that and let them be in charge. Because, you know, they are.

But….

  • Brutal.   I sat on a footstool 2 feet from the television screen for an hour.
  • When Walt started his (second) phone conversation with Skyler, I was taken aback and started rapidly thinking, Wow, this is awful.  This is crazy.  I wonder if he has brain cancer.  And are they going to play the brain cancer card and blame his behavior on that?  Oh, this has jumped the shark.  This is the worst show ever.     But then…..aaaaahhh…I get it.  Well played. Well, sort of. In a complicated sort of way. 

I was thinking – back to the expectations game – what it is I “hope for” in terms of this show, and specifically the character of Walter White.   “Redemption” is tossed around and found wanting, and rightfully so, I think.   That calls for a larger and slightly different universe than the Breaking Bad world.   But…atonement?   How about that?   Even the recognition of its necessity? Admittedly, a trunk full of firepower and a pocket full of ricin does not promise much of either redemption or atonement, but who knows.

Me, hanging out at the White’s before things got really hairy.

Oh, and this:

Chuck Klosterman made a good case in his Grantland article that Breaking Badis unique because Walter White’s sins are “not the product of his era or his upbringing or his social environment. It’s a product of his own consciousness. He changed himself. At some point, he decided to become bad, and that’s what matters.” Yet the most important feature of Walter’s transformation is not merely the fact that he chose it, but that he continued to choose evil each step along the way. In terms of his ultimate destination, the earlier decisions were just as harmful as the later ones. As Jackson Cuidon put it, “Walt’s pride at a dinner table is ultimately as important to the villain he becomes as his murder, his lying as corruptive as his violence.”

It’s important here to note that Breaking Bad is not a story of a good person gone wrong; we see nothing in Walter’s character in the first few episodes to suggest that he is an exemplar of virtue. Rather, it’s that finally the opportunity has really opened up for evil, and he chooses to take it.

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First reaction?  Even more superficial than normal considering the circumstances of watching, which of course, requires a confession. 

In a hotel room in Florence SC, having sent the boys, first to the pool for the duration, a plan that was shot up when I peaked out to see them sitting by the side, wrapped in towels, declaring that there were bugs and it was too cold.  Wait till first commercial break.  Take the Ipad  and go in the lobby.  

I know.

WORST MOTHER.

Well, no.  I’m not SKYLER, at least, people.

(Where was that baby during this episode, anyway?)

So, I really do need to watch the whole thing again, in peace, unimpeded by maternal guilt, but for now, what I have to say is:

The intricacies of plotting are breathtaking (and mostly plausible, with some leaps).  Even though we know that it’s not at all pre-planned from day 1 of production  6 years ago and details are usually plotted out after the bigger picture is sketched, still, it amazes, sends a chill, a frisson and a shudder of – paradoxically – both surprise and recognition.

Surprise because there are, indeed, twists and abrupt turns.

Recognition because we know it’s just true.  It’s hyper-dramatized, but it reflects a deep, inarguable truth.

The plotting is tightly woven, and it’s about tightly woven actions.

Everyone is implicated.  The title of the episode involves a plural noun. There is certainly one with the most guilt, one Original Perp, but behold how everyone else has become entangled.  The levels vary:  Some aid and abet, some are practically as guilty, some are entangled because they unknowingly benefit and don’t ask questions and a very few really are innocent victims.

But the actions of the Original Perp pull everyone in , cast a shadow on every choice and yes, stain every soul.

Is there a way out?

Who then can be saved?

"breakaing bad" confessions

 

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Buried

I have no patience with being coy about spoilers, so, you know, if you haven’t seen it and you’re going to, don’t read this post.

 

(I, myself, will be in that boat next week, as I will be traveling Sunday night and might not be able to watch the next episode until Tuesday…..)

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Ozymandias as read by Walter White.

But, okay….

What will Hank do?

"breaking bad"

Some of us can hardly wait to find out.  Some pre-premiere thoughts:

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Live Free or Die

So…thoughts?

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Mine are after the jump.

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Should Walter White die?

We’re at fever pitch around here, ready for tomorrow night.  Phone lines and digital waves are burning between me & my adult kids who watch it, the playlist is loud and steady:

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Previous owner was going for a “Tuscan” paint job in the kitchen. Someday, I’ll try for..something else.

This is one of my favorite parts of this house – the very mod sound system – that works fantastically.

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Even a speaker on the bathroom ceiling. Which can be startling.

There are speakers in every room on this floor and I can be retro and hipster at the same time (or are they the same??) as I plug my Ipad into it and listen to Breaking Bad tunes as we fix a marble pound cake (for some reason. Just seemed like a good idea. It’s raining off and on today.  No pool.)

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Cake. Martha Stewart’s Marble Cake. Click on pic for the recipe.

(Now Playing: This one.)

Discussion of the question in the title after the jump:

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As I mentioned below, one of the weird and stupid reasons New Mexico popped into my head as a vacation destination was Breaking Bad. 

(A 2-year old blog post from the midst of my initial immersion in the series.)

I had another link to New Mexico: my aunt – my father’s younger sister, lived most of her adult life there.  We had visited once, probably when we "amy welborn"lived in Lubbock, so when I was around 3 or 4.   I swear, the only thing I remember – and I do remember it – was the decorative concrete blocks that made their carport wall.  For some reason, the look and texture of that stuck , and up to this trip, if you said the word, “Albuquerque,”  that’s the background image that floated through my brain.

The blocks evoke more, too.  Mixed up there with Albuquerque, they evoke “hot,” “dry,” the early sixties, and going on trips in big, heavy cars.

Quite a bit.

But that was it.  They had moved to Clovis a while back, and then my uncle died, and then two years ago – a year before my dad, her brother, my aunt died.

So no family called me there any more. Just the landscape, the history and culture, the food, and, yeah, Breaking Bad. 

I didn’t take us out of our way to see any Breaking Bad sites.  Because this is the world of the Internet, and people are crazy, there are, of course, detailed maps of shooting locations – for every scene – of the show, which is completely shot in and around Albuquerque (one of the reasons it is one of the more expensive shows on television: it’s all shot on location.)

So, as we wandered the city last Thursday, I checked in at a few places that were on our routes.

The hotel where we stayed is near the airport (pardon me…Sunport) and hence, just a mile or so south of UNM – and this duplex is very close – it’s the duplex where Walt’s former student and current meth cooking partner lived, found his girlfriend Jane, and where…really bad things happened, one of which Jesse still doesn’t know about, and when he finds out…well.

Jesse's duplex from "Breaking Bad"

Jesse and Jane’s Duplex of Death

By the way, you may be wondering what Breaking Bad is about.  It’s about sin. It’s about why not do..whatever..if there are no apparent consequences.  It’s about those consequences, which are not so illusory after all.  And at the core of it, it’s about the perversion of the teacher-student relationship, about what Mr. White does to Jesse Pinkman. It’s an intense, fascinating and sobering hint of creative process to know that the original intention was to kill Jesse off during the first season – I can’t imagine what the show would be like without him.  Not just because Aaron Paul is superb and the character provides an odd sort of moral core, but because, as I said, that relationship reveals the most about the corrosion of Walter White’s soul – more than his relationship with his family, more than his relationship with his “customers” whose lives are destroyed by his “product,” whom he never seems to think twice about.  Jesse Pinkman is all of them, in one wiry, wide-eyed, nervous package.

Okay. Then it was east to the Sandia Crest Tram.  The Schrader’s house is right on the way, with the mountain in the background.  Very nice neighborhood.

Schrader's House

Hank and Marie’s Purple Palace, on the slopes of Sandia Mountains.

(Hank and Marie Shrader- Walter White’s brother and sister-in-law (his wife’s sister) – Hank is a DEA agent whose presence in Walt’s life was partially responsible for planting the notion of cooking meth in his head at the beginning…and who, we can be sure, will be part of the end of it.)

One the way back from the tram to the Old Town area, we could stop at the White’s house.

Walter White's House from Breaking Bad

The White’s house. No pizza on roof.

Saul Goodman’s office – where the Hooligan’s sign is – is in a strip mall, a little more than a half mile from the White’s, which surprised me.

Better call Saul!

Then, after Old Town, Tuco’s HQ.

Tuco's HQ

Tuco's HQ from Breaking BAd

Looking away from Tuco’s HQ to downtown. No junkies in sight.

I had wanted to go to the car wash and Los Pollos Hermanos (which is a branch of a local chain called Twister’s), but they were out of the way – well, I don’t think the car wash was, but by the time I figured that out, we were on the other side of town, and were going to to try to hit the Petroglyph National Monument (failed- dust and then rainstorm came up).

It was all quite fascinating to me, the chance to compare reality to the unreality of what ends up on the screen.  I’ve noticed before, when I’ve seen, for example, television sets in person, how smaller everything appears, how less shiny and perfect.  Same way with these Breaking Bad landmarks. Most startling was Tuco’s HQ, which is not, as it turns out, a ratty run-down office building in  a slum with junkies and hoods peopling the sidewalk, but rather a coffeeshop just a quiet block away from downtown.

The magic of television.

(These pics on my Pinterest board)

Something similar – but different – happened north of this, in Rancho de Taos.

This image is almost iconic.

Not by Ansel Adams

People come from far away to paint, draw, and photograph the back – not the front, just the back – of S. Francisco de Asis church.  Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keefe being the most well known, of course.  It is the lines, I’m told.  And they are striking.

So the day we took the High Road to Taos and were just wandering around up there, I made a point to look for this church, to see it for myself.  From all the various renderings of it, I had somehow come to think that the structure was located in an open space somewhere  – perhaps on a hill, just off a side road, with nothing else around.

Which is why, despite the GPS on my phone, I couldn’t find it at first.  It kept taking me to a rather congested area, and I kept thinking, “it’s not here. Can’t be. There are too many other buildings – I know it’s in open space.”

But it’s not at all.  Yes, there is a small plaza surrounding it, but it’s smack in the middle of a lot of other structures lining a busy state highway.

S. Francisco de Asis in Taos

What I have been thinking about since seeing all this has concerned the process of making art of any kind.  When I stand,  myself, in person, in front of Jesse’s Duplex of Death or the White’s house or Tuco’s lair, I see all sorts of things.  I see the buildings themselves, I see the houses next door, the streets behind and in front, I see the big metal neighborhood mailbox right up against the porch.  But when I see these same places on television or on a photographic print or canvas, all of those other things disappear, and not just because they’ve been edited out or covered up.  That is certainly part of it, but it’s also because they eye of the artist directs my eyes to what he wants me to see.  He is telling this story and he is using this setting to tell it in his way, and so at the moment, that’s what I see.

My greatest struggle as a writer is settling on a story to tell.  I start on anything, and my mind immediately starts traveling down other possible roads, because I can see all of them, they all appear interesting and suggestive, and I find it a huge challenge to settle on one moment in one spot and direct my energies to excavating the truth waiting to be revealed there, rather than being fearful that if I don’t take in all that’s in the periphery, I will miss something, leave something out.

One of the most surprising Breaking Bad-related points about Albuquerque was the landscape.   The visual perspective is (outside of the city)  overwhelmingly flat desert with mountains in the far distance.  It is where Walt and Jesse go to cook.  It is where they run, drive, escape – rattling around on dirt paths carved through scrubby desert plains.

I was amazed to see that the city of Albuquerque is dominated by a mountain.  The Sandia mountains loom to the east, and in fact, border the city.  There are enormous peaks which, especially on the other side, turn almost Alpine.  For decades, people have skied these mountains.  On the day we were there, it was misty, damp and sixty degrees on top.

I thought…now there’s a choice. 

The choice was to situate the show looking west and south, to place the story in the context of scrub, desert, rocks, dust and only distant dark mountains.  How would the narrative and sensibilities been different if, instead of the desert, the forested mountain, with its crags, recesses, rockfaces, bears and coolness, had provided the primary visual setting?

I’m not arguing – at all – with the decision to look east and south to the desert, to Mexico – but just as seeing those houses, so much dingier and smaller in real life, just as seeing S. Francisco, so hemmed in by business and noise – that mountain dominating the city in a way that I would never have known from just absorbing Vince Gilligan’s narrative of the story he’s telling in that place – it made clear to me that there’s nothing to be afraid of in clearing out the frame.  In the anxiety to take it all in, you end up taking in nothing.  You’ve got to choose what to see and tell, and be brave about it, or else no one ends up seeing anything at all.

After all, what is it I remembered about Albuquerque? Was it everything?
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Maybe.

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The last night of what has been a fascinating vacation. (UPDATE: Actually, as I finish it …the last morning. Flight leaves in a couple of hours. UPDATE: Well, none of that worked. So finishing at home.) Random notes that won’t be fitting in over at Booked.

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Will probably end up in a frame.

There always seems to be a dog. One always shows up at our rentals. This one – the small beagle-type animal in the lower center-left – was named Dot and lived across the road. But every time she’d hear someone emerge from “our” house,across she would dart and scamper up the rocks with whoever was climbing. I can’t decide if it’s a sign that we should get one or assurance that it’s not necessary – one will be provided when the yearning seems unendurable.

— 2 —

I like New Mexican cuisine, I’ve discovered – and I came to a (probably superficial) understanding of what distinguishes it. I had green chile stew in a couple of places and will certainly make that one at home. Red Chile Posole and Carne Adovada will also be added to that particular Pinterest board. Brought home some Chimayo chile.

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I had thought about driving out to New Mexico from Birmingham.  You know, Fun! Road Trip!

Very glad I didn’t.

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Me at Tuco’s lair – actually a coffee shop named “Java Joe’s.”

We had many reasons forgoing out there. I’ll admit to you that this was on the list. Far down, but yeah, it was on it. Gave it a little extra kick.

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The trip gave me a lot to think about re: home/road schooling. Still happening, but I see how much organization and (self) discipline this is really going to take.  Duh. Might want to get cracking on that.

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On Saturday evening, we attended Mass at Cristo Rey parish – the history is here.  The enormous retablo is made of stone and had been in storage at the Cathedral until the parish was built in the 1940’s.  I snuck this photo in of a post-baptismal procession around the congregation, in which the two babies baptized that evening were taken around the church and signed with a cross by those at the end of the rows, while the entire congregation sang (something in Spanish). It was lovely and a moment bursting with promise and hope.

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It was a marvelous week.  New Mexico was a revelation.  I found it historically and culturally fascinating, stimulating and simply gorgeous.  The weather was far better than it was here in Birmingham.  Hotter than normal, everyone told me, but still not uncomfortable at all – even climbing amid stones and desert in the afternoons. The boys enjoyed it too, as they had ample time to scramble over rocks every single day, and saw new things and places.  But I do think that one of their strongest and fun memories will be from the evening of July 4th, spending three hours alternating between swimming pool and basketball court at the Albuquerque Residence Inn, fireworks exploding in the background.

Mine, too, come to think of it.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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“You okay with that? You accept?”

“No.”

“About time.”

“I’m pretty much agnostic at this point in my life. But I find atheism just as hard to get my head around as I find fundamental Christianity. Because if there is no such thing as cosmic justice, what is the point of being good? That’s the one thing that no one has ever explained to me. Why shouldn’t I go rob a bank, especially if I’m smart enough to get away with it? What’s stopping me?”  -Vince Gilligan. Creator – Breaking Bad. 

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