Yes, “Breaking Bad” is a brilliant work of storytelling and Bryan Cranston has given the greatest performance in the history of television.
But it took me awhile to jump onto the Breaking Bad train because I’ve lost several childhood friends to the drug. I couldn’t bring myself to watch a show that glamorized meth. Well, it doesn’t glamorize. It proves in every episode that this was the worst decision Walter could have possibly made. Gilligan has been applauded for how realistically they portray the creation and trafficking of the drug. But one aspect of meth that the show kinda glosses over is it’s effect on the everyday users, which is darker and grosser than what we’ve seen on tv. While the stories are realistic, it’s still tv, and we’re watching two incredibly sexy lead actors be badasses. Walter White has become a monster, but part of the genius of the show is that we are still, inexplicably, rooting for him. Anti-heroism perfected.
Cooking and distributing methamphetamines is the worst contribution you can make to society, and I don’t think the show has truly dived into that. Yeah, the plane crash story served that purpose, but it was so fantastical. The “ATM” episode with the little boy that couldn’t speak, who Jesse covered his eyes so he wouldn’t see his dead parents then left him outside for child services to find… that showed the consequences of DOING meth. I think I stood up and clapped at the end of that episode.
I wanna take a moment to tell some stories of the users of meth, moments that the show has me remembering:
1. The first time I saw meth was in 10th grade when my friend “Kurt” rolled up a dollar bill and snorted some in our friends basement. Everyone loved Kurt. His coolness didn’t come from his drug use or any sort of macho nonchalance, Kurt’s popularity stemmed from the fact he such a wonderful person. Very loving, nonjudgemental (think about what a rare trait that is in a teenager), and incredibly talented. Kurt is still one of the best actors I’ve ever known. We did theater together, and he had this natural ability to immerse himself in a character that almost made me angry, because he never had to work very hard. Yet it was impossible to harbor jealousy against Kurt, because he’d get off stage, give you a giant hug, and then you’d feel great.
Kurt is now dead. He didn’t die in some Tuco-like shoot-out ala Breaking Bad… he was found in a parking lot, overdosed. The last time I heard Kurt’s voice was when I came home from college and he left an incoherent message on my mom’s answering machine. She told me I wasn’t allowed to talk to him. I hate that this is my last memory of Kurt, so I try not to think about it.
2. Now let’s tell a funny story, because meth is darkly hilarious. A friend of the family is currently doing time in a women’s prison, for a crime unrelated to drugs. But she wrote me a letter a couple months ago about a woman she’s in with:
Two meth heads arrived at the house of a female dealer, about 8 miles from where they lived. The dudes tweaked, came down, then asked for more. But they didn’t have any money, so they sold their car nearby, walked back to the dealers house and spent the car money on more meth. But now they couldn’t get home because they had no car. The dealer said she’d give them more drugs if they painted her house. So they painted the house, tweaked again, and for the next 2 days BECAME INDENTURED SERVANTS as the dealer kept giving them chores to do in exchange for meth. She was busted when family members of the dudes sent police out on a search, and found them strung out polishing her floors. This woman is now locked up with my friend. And I’m now conjuring up a legal way to lure in dudes to fix shit around my apartment. (Oh right… sex.)
3. Now for the really ugly stuff. There has been a spike in weird, macabre murders in rural and low-income parts of the country, and most of these stories get linked to meth. Anytime you read a headline like “Woman axes her two toddlers” or “Man butchers 13 year old girl with a knife” or “Man attempts to rape a young girl, stops himself thens drowns her”, there is always meth use embedded in the story. Last year there was a case near my hometown of a 15 year old girl murdering a 9 year old friend. The killer was a “meth-baby.” Both her parents were junkies: her dad is in prison and her mom is who-the-fuck-knows-where. She’s been living with her grandma since she was 11, tried to kill herself at 13 and then was put on Prozac. She confessed to murdering the little girl, stating she “just wanted to know what it felt like.” And that’s what the drug does. On the short term it makes you violent and crazy, but on the long term, it kills empathy. It makes you feel nothing.
One major problem was authorities had no idea where to put the murderer. Her attorney said she would not survive adult prison, but there were no high-security facilities for teenage girls, as most incarcerated female teens are in for suicide attempts, theft or petty crimes. Missouri had not seen a case like this. It seems to me we are now seeing events like this occur because the first generation of “meth babies” are becoming teenagers. Children born without empathy. And I fear there will be more.
I cried when I read the story because there were all of these conservatives in Missouri calling for her to get the death penalty. She is certainly a danger to society and needs to be locked up, but I can’t bear the thought of an execution. Not because I have sympathy for the horrible hand she was dealt, though I certainly have sympathy for that, but because I think we can learn something by figuring out what made this girl the way she is. This sounds insanely optimistic, but I believe we can find a cure for sociopathy by investigating what causes it. And if we can’t, well fuck, we owe to ourselves to TRY. The long term effects of meth on the brain could be a clue into why some people become monsters. And maybe a clue to how to turn them back.
So this is the kind of shit “Breaking Bad” has me thinking about. I imagine the show has been a deterrent to some who think of trying it. I hope so, because as bad as the situation is for Walter White and everyone around him, in reality, it can be even worse.
The prayers concealed in what I have been saying is, not that patriotism should cease and not that the talk about universal brotherhood should cease, but that the incongruous firm be dissolved and each limb of it be required to transact business by itself, for the future.
Guys, I don’t wanna make fun of Miss Utah. Of course these girls give stupid answers. They’ve been trained to worry about their tits and their smiles and while they know there’s going to be an answer section and they are more than prepped for it, the culture of the pageant industry has made it clear for decades that thoughtful answers aren’t that important. Which they verified again last night. These girls probably aren’t dumb. Miss Utah probably has a real opinion on women receiving equal pay, that she may be able to express in a less glaring environment where she doesn’t have to worry about the padding in her dress. Like in a real conversation with thoughtful people actually discussing what’s important to them. Not right after she finished checking if her eyelash glue was holding up. It’s a horrifying environment to try and sound smart in.
I watched that stupid fucking pageant every year as a little girl. And every year I dressed up in a sparkly outfit and pranced around my room afterwards. I don’t know at which point politics and punk rock became more interesting, but the point is, it was never the “answer section” that I practiced in the mirror. The answer section is a slapped-on farce the pageant circuit uses to pretend it’s not just a meat market. It’s no less false and garish than the online porn girls who put on thick-rimmed glasses to say “I’m the smart one!”
Miss America should either get rid of the answer section and own up to the cattle-herd parade they always have been, or let the girls actually sit down and talk about what’s important them, how the world can be better, and what a positive role model should be made of.
Of course I hate the whole thing now. I’m not sure if Miss USA or Dolly Parton is more responsible for the iron-clad complex I have about being too skinny (and I forgive Dolly, it’s not her fault she’s a perfect female specimen.) But the pageant industry isn’t going anywhere so they need to make it better. Accept what they are or create an environment in which the girls can truly show what their minds have to offer.
The Palladium is a small, intimate venue as-is. But the Queen of Experimental Pop decided to build a stage in the center of the GA standing area. So it was basically like watching one of the most powerful singers alive do a show in your living room. I’m still spellbound.
This is the first time I’d seen her live. I’ve always loved the timbre of her voice and her expressiveness, but I didn’t realize how huge a sound so effortlessly emanates from that tiny little woman. It’s breathtaking to watch. In the era of enhanced backing vocals, which her synth genre is most guilty of, she uses no help. I know cause I was right up in her grill and could hear the stage noise. It was all Bjork.
There were just 3 musicians: a harpist, a dude with weird percussion instruments, and a mix guy. Then there was the women’s choir who would best be described as “Children of the Icelandic Corn.” 20 blonde badasses who created an array sounds with their voices. In fact, some songs had no instrumentation, just Bjork and the girls. So at times this was basically the worlds coolest acapella show.
Even if you aren’t that familiar with or that in love with her music, anyone who loves theater, art, vocal performances, or awesomeness should check out this tour.