“Different items, different stores”
|January 14, 2013|
Breaking Bad, AMC
From London Review of Books:
There’s a scene in Breaking Bad, a third of the way through the 54 episodes shot and screened on US TV so far, that marks a significant moment in the gradual passage of its central character, Walter White, from hero to villain. Walter, a middle-aged high school chemistry teacher who’s become a manufacturer of illegal drugs, is walking down the aisle of a DIY superstore in his home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico, buying paint for his basement, when another customer’s laden trolley catches his eye. Walter realises the stranger is buying precursor chemicals to synthesise methamphetamine, ‘meth’, the same addictive, feel-good narcotic Walter and his partner secretly cook up in the back of a jumbo camper van in the desert.
At this point in the story Walter’s hours in the meth lab and violent encounters with drugs trade players are interspersed with sessions in the classroom, where he grades papers and, with evident pleasure, talks teenagers through the intricacies of valency and oxidation. It’s from this side of his personality – the patient teacher, pedantic, pernickety, but eager to help a future colleague – that his immediate reaction to the stranger’s shopping list comes. He tells him he’s buying the wrong matches.
‘What?’ asks the stranger, a shambling, dead-eyed wreck of a man. With gentle muzak warbling in the background, Walter clues him in:
Those matches, they’re the wrong kind. Red phosphorus is found in the striker strips, not the matches themselves. You need to get the big 200-count case of individual matchbooks. More striker strips, you understand? Those only have the one.
Walter the educator can’t stop. He has an irresistible urge to share the drugs lab lessons he has so painfully learned.
And don’t buy everything in one place. Do it piecemeal. Different items, different stores, attracts less attention. Are you following me here?
The stranger panics and rushes away. At first Walter laughs and makes for the checkout. But as he waits in line we see his face harden and the new Walter assert himself: the criminal businessman with a market to protect from rivals. He marches into the parking lot and faces down the stranger’s meat-mountain boss. ‘Stay out of my territory,’ Walter says, with utter conviction in his own menace; without a word, his nascent competitors flee the scene.
In the smile that creeps over Walter’s lips after his act of intimidation we see an early glimpse of the real allure that drives him on, although he doesn’t yet realise it. As Peter Robb writes in Midnight in Sicily:
The colossal wealth brought by the drug trade brought no improvement to the lives of those who risked their necks for it. The furtive enjoyment of a fast car or a gold Rolex or expensive clothes was cold comfort in a life of hiding, sexual misery, mistrust, the constant fear of betrayal and death. The old mafia reward hadn’t been wealth but power. ‘Giving orders is better than fucking,’ was an often-heard mafia saying.
Walter is played by Bryan Cranston, previously best known for comedy roles – the father in Malcolm in the Middle and the dentist Tim Whatley in Seinfeld. Walter White is, for Cranston, a great mid-life unfolding of talent meeting opportunity: the challenge of a part within a part, an actor playing a man who is constantly forced to be an actor in order to preserve what he has, up to and including his life. White has to lie to his pregnant wife, Skyler, and his disabled son, Walter Jr, about his mysterious absences and who’s paying for his cancer treatment, but also to his brother-in-law Hank, a senior agent in the Drug Enforcement Agency. He has to lie to his partner in crime, young Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), and the various dealers, users and killers he works with and against. At first, the lie is to make him seem more dangerous and ruthless than he is. As the story goes on, the lie shifts and we see Walter claiming the root personality of a decent, civilised man, forced by circumstances into temporary lawbreaking, even as the evidence mounts that his first lie wasn’t a lie at all; that he is the most dangerous and ruthless of them all.
Merleau-Ponty’s Child Psychology
As much as death signals the end of the self, birth is just as mysterious. Both extend out to infinity and signal the brevity and contingency of our lives. As mysterious are those first few years of life that one does not have access to as an adult, I know I existed before my earliest memories. I know I interacted with others, I learned to walk and talk. I was willful from my parent’s tales.
William Pope.L: Reader Friendly
William Pope.L is famous for (among other things) carrying a business card that identifies him as “The Friendliest Black Artist in America.” It’s a clever gag because it makes itself true, in a way, every time it draws people closer. The card must be especially useful when Pope.L does business with people who dread Black men or Black artists.
10 Things the NSA Has Seen Me Do
One winter in my early twenties myself and some good friends — a merging of art, music and literary ladies of New York, full-grown girls aspiring to be women — got together, had a lovely dinner, some wine and delightful chat. Then we decided to spend an hour practicing “Teach Me How To Dougie”. NSA — can you teach me how to Dougie? You know why? “Because all my bitches love me.”
You may also like :
How fitting and dispiriting that an opera so determined to adapt to the times was produced by a company that ultimately failed to do so. The libretto by Richard Thomas is a vibrant mash-up of contradictory attributes, at once slangy and poetic, filthy and elevated, hilarious and touching. The most trenchant lines were delivered by the chorus, a hortatory crew who in the NYCO presentation were as admonishing as any band of onstage commentators since the ancient Greeks, though rather more profane
It is nine at night on my last day in the South before my great-aunt Nancy and I start making fried chicken. The whole thing came about this way: Suddenly, after eating Nancy’s cake for cousin Judy’s birthday, I was filled with unaccountable remembrance of how, years ago, almost as a kind of ritual, my grandmother used to tell me that if I wanted to make good fried chicken I should ask Nancy. “You mean Alice,” Nancy corrects when I ask her to tell me about chicken. “Everyone knows Alice's was the best.”
These social paradigms derived from the code of the network constitute the second characteristic, for while agency is explicitly exercised at the level of the individual, the interaction or mode of affect between these individuals occurs in spaces where network activity operates under less visible, but equally significant imperatives. It should be noted that Anonymous did not begin as a series of sporadic, disconnected cyber-attacks, but was conceived through an exchange of ideas on the imageboard site 4chan, a space initially built for fans of Japanese popular culture.