Breaking Bad: The best TV in the last 5 years

I picked up on Breaking Bad from some workmates during the third season. They told me it started well and remained strong through the second season which is almost rare nowadays. So I decided to give it a go.

Breaking Bad tells the story of Walter White, who’s had the rough end of the pineapple for most of his life: clearly a brilliant chemist, he was a co-founder of a company but left for personal reasons only to see it grow into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. He is relegated to teaching high school chemistry to uninterested, disrespectful uninterested students, and takes a second job cleaning cars at the local car wash to supplement his income. He’s married, and has a teenage son with Cerebral Palsy. He’s just turned 50, and has found out his wife is pregnant. And that he has inoperable terminal lung cancer.

Knowing he will soon die, he must find a way to ensure their financial security after he is gone.

Watching a news report on a drug bust, he is impressed by the amount of money confiscated by the authorities. He accompanies his DEA brother-in-law on a drug bust and sees a former student, dropout Jesse Pinkman, fleeing the scene. Later he looks up Jesse using the school records and forms a partnership. “You know the business, and I know the chemistry”.

The series explores the changes overcoming Walter as he deals with his own mortality. As the series progresses, he becomes darker and more sinister but at every turn he is only doing what he thinks is best to provide for his family. Pride, at losing out on selling his share of the company he founded for $5000, is also telling and changes how he views his new successes.

HeisenbergIndeed, he changes his whole persona and appearance taking on the Mr Hyde of “Heisenberg” to his own Dr Jekyll of mild mannered Walter. After his cancer goes into remission he becomes an unstoppable force, feeding an insatiable need to succeed and build an empire.

Breaking Bad is full of strong characters and memorable dialog. We’re half way through the last season with the last episodes coming in August. These two videos are a great summary of the show and should be enough to convince you to pick it up if you haven’t already.

 

I’m popular with the Preop Transexuals

Status

I’ve had about 150 hits since Monday night resulting from google/bing searches for “Rebecca Twigley”, probably as a result of the Brownlow. I’ve also had about the same for “Preop Transexual” and “Miriam”. Is she in a new show or something?

I don’t know how I feel about my blog getting hits on “Preop Transexual”.

If Suzanne was on MasterChef

Suzanne

Matt Preston

Brian Gary Mehigan

Brian Well, what have you brought us tonight, Suzanne? It looks wonderful. You were under a bit of pressure there to get things all together on time towards the end, weren’t you?

Eat it all up. I don’t want to hear any complaints.

It seems like a rather unimaginative mix, like you haven’t put a lot of thought into the presentation. It doesn’t seem to flow or have a lot of “soul”. The carrots and mashed potato are nice but there seems to be an oversupply of  meat for my liking. This is supposed to be “you” on a dish but I’m afraid you were holding back.

Too bad, there’s nothing else for dinner. That’s it.

Brian The main course was fine, very subtle and fresh and elegant. But I also saw you working on something a bit extra. Is there  a dessert to go with this?

You’re not having any dessert until you eat everything on that plate. I want it all gone.

Brian The idea of this show is that you make food and we judge it. We can’t judge it if you aren’t going  to give it to us. I want my dessert.

Well, then, brush your teeth and go to bed.

But..

NO! I don’t want to hear it, you had your chance. Off you go!

My first TV crush

Suzanne asked me last night, out of the blue, about my first TV crush. I had to be careful here. Was this on the level? Was some kind of entrapment? Fuel to be added to a fire of mistrust, hurt feelings and damaged egos? After I’d worked out that she’d just been chatting with a friend on Facebook (imagine that!) about Dieter Brummer, I decided to cautiously proceed towards an answer.

A flood of images came to me, as I’ve crushed on pretty much everything I’ve seen from a very young age. But after thinking about it long and hard I narrowed it down to Colonel Wilma Deering from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, played by Erin Gray. It was 1979-80, so it would have been around the right time. Behold:

Colonel Wilma DeeringShe is, predictably, a sexy sci-fi chick. But sexy nonetheless. I mean how is a young man supposed to stand a chance against that purple jumpsuit?

So, who was your first TV crush?

Mark Webber and Numerology: It all adds up to a win in Barcelona

Fifth in Australia, fourth in Malaysia, third in China, second in Turkey. Mark Webber hasn’t lead for a single lap this year (Vettel has lead for 184, Lewis Hamilton is next on 16 or so which shows how dominant Vettel has been this year), but he’s on Pole for the start of Gran Premio de Espana Santander 2011 at Catalunya. I know where I’ll be in about 2 hours: glued to One HD watching the race!


Game of Thrones – as good as Rome?

My commute to work includes a 50 minute train ride from Mandurah to Perth. This, along with the wonders of my Android phone and a set of headphones, has allowed me to watch some great TV shows I wouldn’t normally be able to watch for want of time. I’ve been doing this for a while since I moved down here. Last year I watched the entire Alias series straight through. At two episodes a day, it took me around 11 weeks to get through. And boy it was hard going for most of the last season but I figured I had to finish it because I’d already invested in watching 90 episodes.

Of late I’ve picked up on a few other good shows, including Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which was the first season and Spartacus: Gods of the Arena which was the second season. The first series told of an unnamed Thracian soldier (later renamed Spartacus) captured by Romans, sold into slavery and trained as a Gladiator by Roman by the name of Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Batiatus, who was played as a completely evil man without a shred of morality, scruples or dignity by John Hannah. It’s said that an audience will hate a good villain but love a great one…well, Batiatus certainly qualifies as the latter. Hell they could have made the entire show center around him and it would have been just as entertaining. The second series Gods of the Arena was a 6 series prequel showing the rise of Batiatus. The entire Spartacus series had completely over the top violence, and showed little subtlety or restraint.

Rome, another sandles and swords genre show, I found was the antithesis of Spartacus. Over two series it tells of the political intrigue and treachery of the classical Roman era around 52BC: Julius Caesar’s friendship of and Betrayal by Pompey Magnus, and the aftermath of Caesar’s assassination being a struggle between his son Octavian (later crowned as Emperor Augusts Caesar) and Marc Antony. The whole story is told from the perspective of two minor characters, an unlikely odd-couple of Roman Soldiers named Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo. This method of storytelling was used famously in The Hidden Fortress by Akira Kurosawa and by George Lucas in Star Wars. For example, Star Wars is told mostly from the point of view of two droids named R2-D2 and C-3PO, but the story is about Anakin Skywalker. This method has a name but I can’t remember. Little Help? Anyhow, Rome is a grand production with lavish sets, fantastic costumes and great acting. And, importantly, from what I understand, it is mostly historically accurate. If you missed it when it showed on TV, then do yourself a favour and find a copy. I thoroughly recommend it.

My new must-watch series is Game of Thrones from HBO, the same producers that brought us Rome. It’s only one episode old so far but it has the same grand scale and ambitious production values. Among others it stars Sean Bean and Lena Heady, and tells political and familial intrigue in a fictitious land. Rome has set expectations very high, but the early verdict is that Game of Thrones is going to be awesome.

Seriously, don’t watch any of these shows with your young ‘uns. You will see lots of sex, lots of explicit violence and hear lots of rude language. But if you can get over these issues then Spartacus and Rome still have entertainment value as well as educational value, though Spartacus very much less so.

Abbott happens

He's got massive earsBecause of my commute to and from work, I don’t get to watch the TV news very much. I try to keep up at work and late at night, hitting News.com.au, Reuters,  CNN, CBC, BBC and others during downtime in between calls just so I can keep a handle on what is happening in the world. Also of value are the forums at sites like Fark where discussion and debate on current affairs ensue.

I am ashamed to say that the first I heard of Tony Abbott uttering his now infamous “shit happens” was last Monday or Tuesday night on The 7PM Project, an idiotic show trying to find a happy medium between comedy and current affairs, but failing hard in both. To be fair, it wasn’t me who turned it on; I think nobody had bothered to change the channel when the CH10 news finished.

I was only half listening to it, focusing  more of my attention into some mindless Facebook game to wind down for the day when I heard the hosts prattle on about a politician saying a swear word. “Great”, I thought. “Nothing better to report on, so how about a hatchet job on a pollie who said a bad word”.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t condone swearing or cursing, and I have been known to use a few from time to time.  But the thing is, you’ve got to use them in the right place and at the right time. Repeating a swear word over and over again when you cut yourself with a knife or hit your thumb with a hammer soothes better than any balm an the market.

So with my attention divided, I wasn’t exactly sure that I heard the story right. “Really? Did Abbott actually just say “Shit happens” when referring to soldiers killed in action?” I thought.

Shit's going to happen later, for sure.

The next part of the “report”, and I use that term advisedly, showed Abbott being confronted about it. “It was taken out of context”, he cries. “Well, can you explain the context?”, asks the reporter.

What followed next was an excruciatingly long, awkward silence shared between the reporter, Abbott and the rest of Australia accompanied by a nervous tick in Abbotts eye. “Say something, you idiot! Anything!” This had to be one of the rare times that a politician was unwilling to open his mouth. After what seems an eternity, Abbott  finally utters “Um, I’ve given you the response you deserve”.

Here’s a Channel 9 story which probably ran a half hour before what I saw on The 7PM Project:

Firstly, I’m not accusing Abbott of deliberately making light of a trooper’s death. I’m going to stop a few millimeters short of it and give him the benefit of the doubt. But, like the slain soldier’s father, I was pretty shocked and offended at his dismissal of of this man’s life under the circumstances. “Shit happens” is a phrase that acknowledges that bad things happen to people for no particular reason. I’d like to think that Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney died for something, no matter how righteous or unjust the reason.

Secondly, I can only guess at what Abbott was thinking during this ambush. “How can I spin this? How can I make myself look less like a bad guy?” It must have taken a while for him to realise that this task was impossible, so he tried for some ineffective menacing stare-down and trite avoidance of the question.

What concerns me is that this guy may be Prime Minister one day. If he were to send my kids into war on his behalf and dismiss my loss when they were killed in action as “shit happens” then I’d pretty much give up on this country and live elsewhere. I’d have to turn my back on a man and the country he represents if he didn’t value my child’s service and sacrifice.

You know how those who practice the fine art of pugilism will come in with an unseen or disguised haymaker to knock their opponent out after a few rounds? It’s the knockout punch that sends the other fighter to the canvas, so powerful and unexpected and perfectly timed that there’s no defense? How about this, for a knockout: say, plainly, that you made a regrettable mistake and you’re sorry!

How could anyone with even the slightest political competence not be able to come out and spin that comment into, “Yes, that’s exactly what I said. No matter what we do to try and keep our brave men and women on the front lines safe, sometimes situations turn bad and there’s nothing you can do. It’s a tragedy that a young life ended so needlessly and, after the fact, all we can say is that sometimes these things just happen. Now, if you’re trying to say that I dismissed that young Digger’s ultimate sacrifice? Never. You know as well as I do that was never my intent and I’m offended that you are trying to insinuate as such through this pathetic attempt at gotcha journalism. My apologies to the family and people of Australia if I caused any offence.”

Seriously, that line took me a minute to think up and I don’t have decades of being a professional asshole under my wings. How’s he going to perform under more stressful or important circumstances if he can’t even handle this?

Yet, with a month to prepare, he came off looking like a severely autistic child when the music stops.