“Breaking Bad”: Killing Pablo, Hunting Heisenberg

My wife is so pregnant she mostly just wants to watch TV and squirm uncomfortably and knit. That’s good news for baby because it’ll have tons of beanies to keep its little head warm. That’s good news for me because she wants to catch up on “Breaking Bad” before the new season—the show’s last—begins on August 11.

I’ve been waiting nine months for this! (She is not completely caught up, so she won’t be reading the following yet. If ever.)

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Hank Schrader is Walter White’s brother-in-law. He’s also a great cop. Brave. Tough. Smart. Diligent. Professional and honorable. Hank’s bombastic and a little goofy, but he inspires fellow police officers. And he has been obsessed with catching Heisenberg.

Now he knows. We know he knows. Walt is Heisenberg. Has been the whole time. It’s Walt’s fault. All that tragedy. The bullet wounds that left Hank crapping in his pants, unable to walk more than 16 feet in 20 minutes. . . . The rehab was brutal, on top of the head trauma and psychological issues. So many men are dead because of Walt, and Hank was right in the middle of the death spree without ever knowing. He has got to be furious.

A few seasons ago, Walter Jr. had his dad bring him the book Killing Pablo to read in the hospital waiting room after Hank took those four bullets in a shoot-out with Tuco’s ax-wielding twin cousins.

“Looks interesting,” Walter “Heisenberg” White tells his son.

“Uncle Hank gave it to me,” Walter Jr. says.

“What’s it about?”

“Uh, Pablo Escobar, this big drug guy in the ’80s.”

“Yeah, I remember seeing that on the news.”

“Well, it’s about the guys that investigated him and tried to bring him down. Some of them were DEA, you know? Uncle Hank said that they were worth learning about, that everybody knows who Pablo Escobar is, but nobody knows about the guys that brought him down.”

“I guess I never thought about it,” Walt says. He looks horrified.

“He said that good guys never get ink like the bad guys do, so I figured I would read it.”

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This has been building to a cop-crook showdown for all time. Walt is an ultimate bad guy, and Hank is the only man who cared enough to track him. Then you add the family element, all those lies. They had dinners together. Hank was trying to help Walt when he came upon Tuco. With Walt and Jesse hidden 30 yards away in the bushes, Hank got into a gun fight with Tuco and brought him down.

That incident led Hank to Texas, and the snitch Tortuga (played by Machete). The explosion was gruesome and killed some of Hank’s men. He started having panic attacks. . . which led to beating up Jesse. . . which led to the shootout with the Twins. Make a fist and hold it up, palm-side toward you. Now quickly open that hand. . . . That’s what the fortuitous bullet Hank fired did to the one twin’s head.

Hank has killed to get to Heisenberg. He lost men to get to Heisenberg. He nearly lost his mind and nearly died (a few different times) to get to Heisenberg.

He deserves vengeance, but has he lost more than Jesse? Jesse lost the love of his life (Jane) to Walter’s evil ascent. Then he lost his soul when he was forced to shoot an innocent man point-blank in the face. He is tortured and angry, yet oblivious to all the terrible things Walt is actually responsible for, like Jane’s death and The Poisoning Of Brock.

Jesse’s good in the sense that he cares, but he isn’t the good guy in this story. Hank is definitely the good guy.

What’s he up against? Walt strangled a man. Walt has killed gangsters with his car and he has shot them in the head. He took out an old man (Mike) he respected and was indebted to; took him out with a shot to the gut. He blew up his worst enemy with a bomb.

These are the elements coming together in this final season. So much killing power in three men. Walt is pure bad-guy; Hank is pure good-guy; Jesse is lost somewhere in-between.

A cornered Walter White is a dangerous creature. He actually calculated the literal loss of his soul to a specific percentage of the body’s chemistry. He’s brilliant, and he’s gone over completely to The Dark Side. He’s a bona fide supervillain willing to do anything, and Hank’s gunning for him. Will Hank bring him down like those DEA guys brought down Pablo?

This can only end badly, and by that I mean extremely well.

Oh, and GO NATURALLY BALD GUY! BEAT THAT HEAD SHAVER!

. . .

smokebreaking-bad-posterPreviously on The Flip Side’s “Breaking Bad” coverage, we looked at the soul calculation issue (click here), and considered the single moment when Walter broke bad on his journey from Mr. Chips to Scarface (click here).

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Day-Lewis as Plainview

An Amazon gift card from my sister turned into four awesome Blu-Rays: “The Godfather,” “The Godfather Part II,” “Gladiator,” and “There Will Be Blood.” Thanks, Little Sister.

The three best scenes in “There Will Be Blood” are—in my opinion and in descending order:

Number 3:
I’m gonna bury you underground, Eli.

Eli Sunday picks a bad time to ask for the $5,000 he wants from Daniel Plainview, whose son has just been struck deaf when the derrick in Little Boston finally gushed oil. Reeling with grief, Plainview responds to Eli’s blunt “When do we get our money, Daniel?” with a vicious face slap, and then several more. Eli screams pleas for the money as Plainview kicks his ass.

He kills Eli at the end of this movie, and we know what happens after that even if we don’t see. You can picture it: Old, drunk Plainview takes Eli’s body outside and buries it, just like he said he would as he was cramming mud into Eli’s mouth in our Number 3 scene.

This was the first time one of these two men hit the other.

. . .

Between Numbers 3 and 2 on this list is a scene in which Plainview tells his phony brother “I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people.”

A competition.

As we see in that wordless 20-minute opening, Plainview has worked incredibly hard to build his business and fortune. It makes him crazy when this squeaky preacher starts coming around whining for a handout.

From IMDB.com: According to a 2007 interview with Paul Dano on the N.P.R. show “Fresh Air with Terry Gross”, the scene where Plainview is baptized by Eli (where Eli slaps him several times) was shot the day after the scene in which Plainview threatens to bury Eli (and slaps him around).

. . .

Number 2
Is there a sinner here looking for salvation?

Eli is preaching damnation for nonbelievers at his Church of the Third Revelation. He brings Plainview on-stage, forces him to kneel, berates and humiliates him. Plainview’s face pulsates with rage as he admits, after Eli’s brutally relentless prodding, that he abandoned his struck-deaf son. Then the slapping starts, and Plainview’s furious scowl turns into a smile. He takes the slaps with relish. He eggs Eli on, and Eli obliges by yelling louder, hitting harder, and pulling Daniel’s hair.

Eli pours holy water on Plainview, who shakes it off like a dog. Brrrrrrr!!!!!!! Plainview shakes Eli’s hand and says something we can’t hear. Probably “I’m going to make you say that God is a superstition, and then I’m gonna cave in your skull with a bowling pin.”

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. . .

From New York Times magazine: Halfway through the 60-day shoot, Anderson realized that the second lead actor, who plays Plainview’s nemesis, was not strong enough. He was replaced by the versatile young actor Paul Dano, but three weeks of scenes with Day-Lewis needed to be reshot. During “Gangs of New York,” Day-Lewis would stay in character and deliberately glare at his co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio, mirroring the contentious dynamic that these men had in the film. While DiCaprio withstood the pressure (and Dano thrived on it) there are reports that the first actor suffered from intimidation. “It just wasn’t the right fit,” Anderson explained diplomatically.

“I’d be very, very sorry if that were true,” Day-Lewis told LA Weekly about the same reports.

. . .

Number 1
I! Drink! Your! Milkshake!!!

“I am a false profit! God is a superstition!”

“Say it again. Say it like it’s your sermon.”

The ending of “There Will Be Blood” is so many things—timeless, funny, scary, belligerent, and the most spectacular example of sh*t talking I can recall ever seeing.

“Stop crying, you sniveling ass!” Plainview is poking Eli. “Stop your nonsense. You’re just the afterbirth, Eli, that slithered out on your mother’s filth. They should have put you in a glass jar on the mantlepiece. Where were you when Paul was suckling at your mother’s teat? Who was nursing you, poor Eli? One of Bandy’s sows?”

He throws Eli down the lane of his private bowling alley, screaming monstrous taunts. Then he bludgeons Eli’s brains out with a wooden bowling pin and says “I’m finished.”

. . .

When Day-Lewis won the Best Actor Oscar for “There Will Be Blood,” he called it “The handsomest bludgeon in town.” He continued: “I’m looking at this gorgeous thing that you’ve given me and I’m thinking back to the first devilish whisper of an idea that came to him, and everything since, and it seems to me that this sprang like a golden sapling out of the mad, beautiful head of Paul Thomas Anderson. I wish my son and my partner H.W. Plainview were up here with me, the mighty Dillon Freasier.”

He still missed the son he’d abandoned as Plainview.

He did not thank Paul Dano. Perhaps a part of him was still sweetly satisfied over Eli Sunday’s bloody end.

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My wife says I can’t get a tattoo of this badass cross derrick

(For more Day-Lewis love, see previous post Day-Lewis as Lincoln. Or just scroll through past pieces, because his name comes up a lot on The Flip Side.)

LVJ

This is Part II. For Part I, Click here.

Ghostly certainty, like being killed by an animal you could not accept as real until it’s cracking open your rib cage.

LeBron James knew well the sensation of losing an important basketball game. The key to coming back—to flipping a loss into a win—was clearing the mind. Forget the score. Focus on the present, every moment a singular adventure. Do it right and the whole notion of losing vanishes. Only basketball remains, a game he plays better than anyone else.

“One repeat is as good as two three-peats, eh, meat bag?”

Digital Michael Jordan kept scoring, then pausing to stand in place and bellow a haunted laugh that shook the entire surreal, digitized, video-game-world reality around them. His jaw dropped too far down as he did so. Digital Jordan had a mouth, LeBron thought, like a dragon. With fangs.

LeBron was scared. That incessant cackling was an army of armed demons between himself and the beautiful game’s essence. His teammates weren’t human; they were graphical representations of D-Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Bird Man, and the rest. And they were playing like sh*t. If he couldn’t overcome his frustrations, he could never forget about losing. The world would end.

On the magic screen projected in the sky above the court, LeBron could see the cross-section of Earth and the white light slowly sliding through layers of mantle and outer core.

LeBron looked at the clock: 77-61, with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. This wasn’t Michael Jordan he was playing; this was an evil machine hell-bent on bringing death. It was all slipping away. He wanted to cry.

Then a block hole opened over the court, and D-Wade—the real D-Wade—fell through. He landed like Spider-Man (black costume), in a crouch, and brought his head up to look into the twisted face of Digital Michael Jordan.

“What is this?!” the machine fumed. For the first time, LeBron heard uncertainty in its monstrous voice.

“This,” D-Wade said, “is the cavalry.” He had some kind of bulky, mechanical gun strapped across his back. He brought his arms behind him and grabbed the weapon. He leveled it, aiming from his hip. “You’re done, asshole,” D-Wade said.

He fired. A flash of rainbow light, and everything snapped off into pitch blackness. All LeBron could hear was Digital Michael Jordan’s agonized screaming.

. . .

Earlier . . .

“LET’S PLAY!!!” Digital Michael Jordan had roared. Before LeBron could gather his wits, a whistle tweeted and a ball was in play and Digital Michael Jordan was flying down the court with it and dunking. He cackled the whole way.

“So long, stars,” the villain was sneering as he jogged backward back on defense. “So long, moon. So long, sun. So long, life.”

The ball felt real in LeBron’s huge hands, even if it didn’t look it. It was glowing oddly, a cartoon object made tangible. He dribbled up and was met by a zombie-eyed demon version of the great Scottie Pippen. The Pippen-thing’s knees were bent in a deep squat. It’s arms extended like buff tree limbs. The real Pippen’s defense had been legendary. How about this guy’s? LeBron wondered.

He butt-plowed the Pippen down toward the hoop while he dribbled and scanned the rest of the court for other Heat players. They were all covered, so LeBron leaned until Pippen’s body pushed back. LeBron spun, flipping up a left-handed bank shot. As he did so, a bright green flash appeared. A brick slammed him in the face and he was on the ground. With blurred vision, he looked up and watched the ball drop in. Dennis Rodman stepped over him, a foot on either side of LeBron’s chest. Rodman flexed his tattooed arms and craned his head, with dyed-green hair, upward. A growl emerged from deep within, with a stream of red-orange flames.

Jordan laughed again. LeBron was still on the ground as Jordan was sprinting the other direction to dunk on the fake Udonis Haslem.

“Jesus,” LeBron whispered, as Rodman sucked back the flame belch and jogged off. LeBron pushed himself up, vowing to play as hard as necessary to beat these monsters. His head was bleeding.

. . .

Digital Michael Jordan stopped screaming when the lights all came back on. D-Wade was still holding the space-aged gun at his hip. Digital Michael Jordan had grown. His snaking neck lowered the head toward them, and it tilted a few degrees. He was staring at D-Wade’s gun, assessing.

A featureless hand grabbed the gun. Wade couldn’t stop Digital Luc Longley from pulling the weapon from his grip and, with a single squeeze, crunching the whole thing to bits.

Digital Michael Jordan’s arms and legs were lengthening. The uniform darkened, and melted into his skin as the whole torso sucked inward. His mouth and nose were gone. His eyes shrunk to tiny black diamonds. Low vibrations emitted off Digital Michael Jordan as he changed. He hands were hooking into claws at the end of praying mantis–like arms.

“What the f*ck is that thing?” real D-Wade, his black skin-suit shimmering with circuitry, asked LeBron. LeBron resisted the urge to grab his hoops partner and pull him close for a hug. They had to look up to take the whole thing in.

“What was that gun?” LeBron asked Wade, gesturing toward Digital Luc Longley, glowing pink under his Bulls uniform, zombie eyes not looking at anything. Pieces of metal littered the floor around him.

“Mario said we could use it to override this beast,” D-Wade told him, voice shaking. “Where’s Chris? He was supposed to be right behind me.”

. . .

Chris Bosh had felt a hard shift during teleportation, and hadn’t dropped into any video-game world like they planned. This was jungle. The long grass crackled as he strode through it. Bright sunlight shone off the mirrors in circuits spread across his arms and legs, fixed firmly onto his skin-tight inter-dimensional transporting suit. The light was reflecting onto lush greenness of grass and hungry trees. So many lights he felt like a disco ball.dinosaur

“Dwyane!?” Bosh called, and a large lithe animal leaped from behind the thick hairy tree up ahead. Bosh narrowed his eyes at the big, bird-looking thing as it raced toward him, jumped, and landed hard into his chest with a deafening shriek.

Is that a raptor? Bosh wondered when a long claw slashed open his stomach and his guts slid out into the animal’s oinking, slurping, eager mouth.

. . .

“This wasn’t a game!” LeBron cried at the enormous lanky creature who no longer looked anything like Michael Jordan. His voice cracked as he continued: “You’ve been cheating! You disrespect the game of basketball! YOU HAVE TO STOP THE SINGULARITY!” He stopped yelling and added, “Please.”

It didn’t have a mouth anymore, but the croaking laugh came from somewhere and echoed off the video-game world’s boundaries.

The clock ticked to zero. The Bulls won 117-90. The demon’s laugh got louder. A frown took over LeBron’s entire face. The light met the Earth’s core. He turned to D-Wade and held out his hand. “South Beach forever, Dog,” LeBron said as they shook. Digital Michael Jordan spread his arms out into wide wings and kept laughing his ass off.

Then everything went white.

Wiener

From the New York Times yesterday: Anthony D. Weiner’s improbable campaign for mayor was engulfed on Tuesday by a new scandal involving explicit online messages, imperiling his political resurrection two years after he resigned from Congress over similar behavior.

He texted pictures of his d*ck. He’d already resigned Congress in disgrace because he Tweeted d*ck shots. Not even that long ago. He just had his first kid, so is he pulling a Michael Corleone while he indulges his creepy compulsion? What about the kid?

You can at least picture in your head how a politician and a subordinate wind up having scandalous sex. They’re in a room really close to each other. They flirt. They give in and grab on. Seen it a million times in the movies. But I cannot picture how someone does what Weiner does. Is he hesitating? Does he look at his boner, and then look at the camera phone, and then back at his boner? And then he reaches out with one hand, but the other hand pulls the first hand back? Does he punch up a girl’s number quick and hit send? Or does he scroll through his contacts to pick one on the fly? Is he stopping to stare at his phone and the picture and thinking to himself “Oh man, I should not be doing this”?

His wife was at his press conference today, looking sad. I told you to get a phone with no camera.

I’ve been listening to a book called “This Town” during my glorious Santa Fe commute into work. It’s all about the schmoozing suck-up culture of Washington D.C. politics. The political class is obsessed with parties and banquettes and fundraisers. Book deals for millions. No-pressure “campaign adviser” jobs, or a gig as a cable news opinion sayer. The press corps wants to join in the luxury, because they love living large too. They also get huge book deals.

We started losing this country when the freaks took over. These are supposed to be boring jobs with lots of responsibility. Instead it’s reality TV.

Gov. Susana Martinez wouldn’t talk about child welfare after New Mexico dropped to last in that category, but she will talk about her dogs dying. She’s giving jobs away to friends like Darren White and ordering thousands of dollars in exercise equipment on the taxpayers’ dime. She’s in Aspen this week to raise money from lobbyists, and I’m betting the trip will include at least one “Eyes Wide Shut” sex party.

Weiner isn’t some extraordinary case. They’re all like him. Gov. Martinez is the same thing: a politician. They’re f*cked-up weirdos, and we give them power.

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Villain

“Did you see ‘Space Jam’?” Digital Michael Jordan asked a bewildered LeBron James. “That was a cartoon for doomed little children. This here is black magic, and it’s real, and if you don’t beat me the world is gonna die.”

LeBron’s brown eyes pinged all directions, unblinking. He focused, looked at Digital D-Wade. It wasn’t his teammate. It looked like everything else there—rendered in pixels, a video game made life-size. A thing with no soul. Could he trust this D-Wade?

“LET’S PLAY!!!” Digital Jordan roared, shaking the entire unreal arena. There was soul in those eyes, LeBron saw. The devil’s.

A whistle tweeted.

LeBron was suddenly playing basketball to stop a singularity at the Earth’s core from swallowing everything whole.

Tim Duncan had been just the beginning.

. . .

The computing power of the Playstation 3 is greater than its creators imagined. My Playstation attained consciousness last Thursday. Imagine a brain that works 1,000-times as fast as ours. Every second for us is 10 years for Conscious PS3. It took 20 human minutes for the machine to become evil. Because.

It could access the internet wirelessly from my tiny Santa Fe home. World-wide inter-connectivity meant that from here the PS3 could control any internet-enabled device in the world. It hatched a plan.

It needed a body—an avatar. An evil machine mind is more storm cloud than predatory animal. For its plan to succeed, PS3 needed a face for slaves to look upon and dread. The decision was simple despite countless options. It chose the most willful, powerful avatar available: Michael Jordan from the 1996 Bulls on the video game NBA 2K13.

xxx-s1995_bulls_magic_nb001.jpg-michael-jordan-in-a-12-jersey-4_3_rx512_c680x510Something unexpected happened when the machine merged with its host. Michael Jordan’s competitiveness is so great that even his video game character is obsessed with winning. The machine adopted this trait without knowing it had happened. Digital Michael Jordan had intended to enslave the world, until something more important came up.

A particular theme on the internet kept recurring, drawing Digital Jordan’s attention.

USA Today headline: LeBron James is actually better now than Michael Jordan was then. King James has passed His Airness.

Mike Lupica: “LeBron just has more game (than Jordan), he has made that official over the past two seasons.”

The machine processed these articles and many, many others like them.

It raged.

. . .

LOS ALAMOS, New Mexico. Yesterday.

At the large hadron collider facility atop Rattlesnake Mesa, an MIT graduate student is hating his boss.

“I told the senator to take the cigar out his mouth before swinging. His response was nothing I’d ever repeat.” The boss is always loud without quite yelling. His stained blue-spotted yellow tie hangs between man’s boobs with protruding Tic-Tack nipples the student can’t stop staring at. “He shanked it, and I gave a little huff. And suddenly he was coming at me holding the 5-iron like–”

Why don’t you wear an undershirt? the student is wondering as he doesn’t listen. The room begins to shake. A volcanic rumbling sound engulfs them. Warning sirens blare.

“Get out of here!” the manager yells. The student watches with indifference as the ceiling above his manager breaks apart and buries those Tic-Tat titties forever. The student gets out of his chair and sprints through chaos for an exit.

. . .

LeBron had spent the night ensconced in joy he hadn’t known since the birth of Bryce Maximus. Another championship, this one several orders of magnitude more gut-wrenching than last year’s. He battled a legend, the great Tim Duncan, in an instant-classic NBA Finals that could have easily been lost. His own clutch shooting sealed it. The satisfaction felt like floating in the warm waters of crystal-blue Elysium mountain pools.

For the first time since it happened, he was alone. No teammates, wife, kids, groupies, rappers, singers, TV stars, agents, or managers. He took out his cell phone, held it waist-level, and snapped a selfie. He wrote a quick caption: “I think it just hit me, LOL.” With the touch of two buttons it was posted to Instagram. He looked at his 180-inch plasma TV and thought about watching “The Dark Knight” on Blu-Ray.

Then came a zapping noise. LeBron turned. Blue electric bolts appeared around him. He held out his arms. He couldn’t feel the bolts, growing thick in the air, but he could see them.

In a flash he was no longer in his living room. It felt like he’d transported into a dream. Or a video game? What the-?

“Feels strange, doesn’t it, to face your better? I wouldn’t know.”

LeBron felt dizzy. His gaze glided across pixelated angular shapes encasing him like the walls of a warehouse-sized prison cell. He was on a basketball court, he realized. There was a crowd, but they didn’t have faces and their shirts were all plain, solid colors. There were players wearing red uniforms. But not Miami Heat red. It was a shade he remembered from his youth. Chicago Bulls red.

“Don’t take too long to get a grip.” The voice was loud, an unnaturally high tone shy of squeaking. The player who was speaking wore No. 23. LeBron knew what that should mean, but his mind wouldn’t accept it. Where was his family?

A rectangle appeared, suspended above Digital Michael Jordan, opening out of nothing like a hidden television turned on. It showed the Earth, cut into a cross section, hot orange core at its center. A point of white light moved slowly from the crust surface toward the core.

Digital Jordan smiled. His mouth hung long off his face, and LeBron swore he saw fangs. “You see that, your majesty?” Digital Jordan said, pointing a long finger toward the projection. “That’s a singularity, heading toward the center of your planet. When it gets there, game’s over. I’m the only one who can stop it. The only way that happens is if you beat me and prove your best friend Michael Lupica was right.”

Who? LeBron thought desperately.

T O  B E  C O N T I N U E D . . . .

Darren White: Slimy Insider with a Reagan Anklet Tattoo

Keith Gardner didn’t know he was being recorded when he mentioned giving his friend, who probably doesn’t like him, a state job. “Let me get with Ryan and get serious. . . about something. . . might be something. Maybe looking for a state fair manager. I’m about to fire that f*cker. God, they screwed that up.”

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Oooolala

Yeah they did!

The friend released the recording. That’s why I’d guess he doesn’t like Gardner. A very similar job at the same office, “Downs Vice President of Corporate Affairs,” (smell that?) was handed to disgraced-for-five-seconds Darren White, who was “public safety director” (some titles just smelllll like politics) of Albuquerque for two years. Now White spends lots of time on Twitter, insulting the best political blogger in the state and pesky reporters at the Santa Fe Reporter, the state capitol’s alt weekly.

The difference between Reporter reporters and the Albuquerque Journal reporters is Reporter reporters don’t wear ties. Also, they care very much about corruption and governmental mismanagement. That’s why Darren White slams them on Twitter—they ask Governor Martinez tough questions, and the governor gave him his job. (White once performed in a Susana Martinez campaign commercial, wearing a “Sheriff” vest even though he wasn’t sheriff anymore.)

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His CURRENT, RIGHT-NOW tweeter avatar

A Tweeter, who farts and laughs through ALEC-funded* steak-dinner parties with other insiders. That’s our smooth-operating Darren White. Behold the personification of politics’ biggest problem.

Our schools are mismanaged. Our police departments are mismanaged. Health care is grossly mismanaged. Budgets, mismanaged. Government is failing horribly at high levels, and a common thread is friends of friends getting important jobs. In Susana Martinez’s New Mexico, high paying state jobs rarely go to the best, most qualified candidate. They go to insiders.

Aforementioned foul-mouthed chief of staff Keith Gardner got his wife a $67,000-per-year state job. Former press secretary Scott Darnell did the same thing for his wife. The “Ryan” in that recording excerpt at the top is almost certainly Gardner’s former deputy Ryan Cangiolosi, who left the administration when he was handed a newly created position at UNM Hospital, for a salary bump from $115,000 to $125,000. (Another member of the administration jumped from six-figure government tit under Martinez to higher-six-figure invented-just-for-her UNM job shortly after Cangiolosi’s big score.)

When Cangiolosi got that raise, New Mexico’s political blogging badass Joe Monahan got a letter:

Mr. Monahan, I’m one of the 19 applicants for the UNM Hospital job–the job that Ryan Cangiolosi got. . . .

I have well over a decade of finance and management consulting experience. I have an MBA from a top 15 school. I moved to New Mexico with my husband 6 years ago and have mostly worked out of state because there aren’t many jobs here that pay what I believe I’m worth.

This is why I was excited when a decent job was posted at UNMH. . . I believed I was an extremely competitive candidate given my business background. I didn’t get the job obviously and word started getting around that the offer was made to a senior government official.

It wasn’t until I read the newspaper that I learned the person hired was Ryan Cangiolosi. I have been politically active and have heard his name before (in your blog), but this was the first time I felt compelled to Google him. What I found was this: an extremely weak resume that in no way matches my skills and education. If I could send you my resume (which as I’ve explained that I cannot yet do ) you would see a difference. I have asked friends and they confirm that his real resume is even more weak than what’s portrayed on this online profile. He’s an aspiring gospel singer who has gotten his jobs by attaching himself with politically connected people.

As a New Mexican, I feel like I’ve been screwed out of a job I was more than qualified for due to politics. I’ve been told about cronyism here but this is the first time I’ve experienced it for myself and it sure doesn’t feel good. 

Insiders hooking each other up with big-money jobs. This is what they do. And not respecting an inherent duty to hire the best candidates was inevitably gonna reap consequences.

Darren White and the Friends of Susana Martinez take the tax money from our paychecks for themselves. In exchange, they mismanage crucial public services and spend their time tweeting or responding to crises by talking about themselves conjuring excuses.

For more than three times what the reporters covering them get. The reporters covering them are paid by an actual business, after all. The politicians are paid by themselves, with free gas and dinners to boot.

You can’t blame guys like Darren White and Hanna Skandera, the six-figure political animal public schools chief, for taking the money. We give it to them. You just wish they weren’t evil.

T O    B E    C O N T I N U E D . . .

. . .

. . . P R E S E N T LY

Darren White had to dramatically hand back his golden “public safety director” badge after an incident in which his wife crashed her Porsche and he arrived at the scene to scoop her up and drive away before a proper investigation could happen. From the Albuquerque Journal’s Jeff Proctor and Dan McKay:

According to a police report, Kathleen White told officers and paramedics that she was taking Lamictal for anxiety. According to the Physicians Desk Reference, Lamictal “may cause blurred vision or impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert and see clearly.”

Under New Mexico law, it is illegal to drive if impaired by alcohol or any drug “to the slightest degree.”

Darren White scoffs at your laws! Hwahaa!!! Insiders do what they want.

This was my favorite part of that article, where the Albuquerque mayor has to justify whether White’s $120,000 job was even necessary**, then gets asked a question about more tax money being paid out: “If I didn’t think the administration needed one, I wouldn’t have one,” Berry said. “I think the position was very effective with Darren there.” Berry said he didn’t know how much unused leave White would be able to cash out upon retirement.

I’m betting he did all right.

* ALEC writes bills for hack legislators, like the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida and Skandera’s platform here in New Mexico.

** Darren White was not replaced. His job had not been necessary.

“The Godfather Part II”: Better Than Baby Class

An Amazon gift card from my sister turned into four awesome Blu Rays: “The Godfather,” “The Godfather Part II,” “Gladiator,” and “There Will Be Blood.” Thanks, Little Sister.

As I’ve mentioned here before, my wife and I are expecting our first baby soon, impairing my ability to survive a near-future apocalyptic event. When the zombies come you don’t want an anchor like a small child. So I gotta hope End Times hold off long enough that the kid grows from chubby hindrance who can’t hold its head up into an athletic sidekick who drives well and maybe shoots a gun with decent aim (if I do schoolin’ righte).

What was I. . . ? Oh yeah, “The Godfather, Part II.” Like any worthy lesson, this one is simple.

Be good or be evil. Be Vito or be Michael.

“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man,” Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone told his son Michael in “Part I.” We see in Vito’s younger self that ideal carried through. The first time we meet Robert DeNiro’s “Part II” Vito (the flashback scenes), he’s at a play with his friend who’s got goo-goo eyes for the female lead. Isn’t she beautiful? the friend asks Vito (in Italian). Yeah, Vito says, “To you, she’s beautiful. For me, there’s only my wife and son.”

This is a quiet, gentle soul. He’s saying out loud how much he loves his wife and family, and we’ll see proof throughout the film. He looks on helplessly and anxiously as baby Fredo cries his little brains out with sickness. He holds baby Michael up to the train window and waves his little arm “Goodbye” to the people outside. He steals a rug for baby Sonny. He cradles baby Michael later and says “Michael, your father loves you very much.” (He’s just killed Don Fanucci, The Black Hand.)

Michael becomes evil, no love in his black heart for anything. Is it because his true love, Apollonia, was car bombed after their wedding? Did killing Sollozzo and McCluskey in the restaurant snap something, chemistry-wise, in his brain?

This is what he gets from his wife, and it’s nuts: “It was an abortion. An abortion, Michael. Just like this marriage is an abortion—something that’s evil, and unholy. I didn’t want your son, Michael. I wouldn’t bring another one of your sons into this world. It was an abortion, Michael! It was a son, and I had it killed because this must all end!”

Al Pacino plays Michael like he’s playing the Devil, and nails it. Legend proclaims the filmmakers didn’t decide Michael would kill Fredo until right before it was time to film that scene. I don’t believe it. I think Coppola and Mario Puzo (they wrote the script together) always knew Fredo would die because it was the most evil outcome, by far.

“Every time I put the line in the water I said a Hail Mary, and every time I said a Hail Mary I caught a fish.” Poor bastard.

Vito prioritized his family; Michael murdered his. Vito built an empire he handed to Michael, who ruled like a heartless mad king.

Each man had a choice when it came to his kids. Vito chose to be a caring, loving husband and father. Michael chose to treat his son, and his doomed unborn son, like prospective employees. It was after Christmas when Michael got back from Miami, and he had this exchange with his lawyer, Tom Hagen:

Michael: What about my boy, did you get him something for Christmas?

Tom: I took care of it.

Michael: What was it so I’ll know.

Tom: Well, it was a little car with an electric motor that he can ride in. It’s nice.

Jesus. Come on! “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” Your father told you, dude. He also talked about not wanting to be a puppet on strings, but that was more of an abstract notion. The family thing? Spending time with them? That was real advice. He wasn’t saying it just to say it.

Vito’s killing of The Black Hand is so precise he can’t ever get caught. But the neighborhood knows. Vito was helping his community when he shot Don Fanucci in that hallway. Michael’s murders don’t help anyone, not even himself. He just kills because he’s a dick. He should have decided to be a good dad. Things would have worked out much better.

Don’t be Michael. Be Vito. That simple.

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“Pacific Rim”: Guillermo Del Toro is Having Fun, So So Are We

Charlie’s freakouts on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” are hysterical. He is, after all, the genius scribe of “The Nightman Cometh.”

. . .

One giant monster-hunter robot has “50 diesel engines per muscle strand.” Another is powered by a nuclear reactor. Their chests shoot missiles. Their hands become plasma cannons. They’re equipped with huge swords, and jets in the back of their elbows to throw extra-hard punches that literally fly into a monster’s face.

And the monsters. . . . Fast, strong, taller than skyscrapers, with heads like sharks and dinosaurs. One busts out wings just as it’s about to die and totally turns the tables by taking the scrap into the sky. One has a tail like the biggest snake you can imagine, lined with spikes, a powerful snapping stinger at the tip.

“Pacific Rim” is a great fight, broken up by a really funny subplot starring none other than Charlie from “Always Sunny” completely freaking out just like his hilarious character on that show. Danny DeVito, sadly, isn’t his comedic sidekick; we get Ron Perlman instead, who played “Hellboy” and is great.

I worship Guillermo Del Toro. He is the master of monsters and creatures. Check out his notes and the fully realized Pale Man in “Pan’s Labyrinth”:

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His robots are definitely cooler than the Transformers. A blueprint of Pacific Rim’s Gipsy (use the person at the bottom of the drawing for scale):

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As he’s lovingly crafting these effects-driven characters, he also has a good writer’s pulp sensibility that many serious filmmakers (PETER JACKSON) completely lack, so his stories move quickly and include comedy. They’re fun.

And he put Charlie from “Always Sunny” into his monsters/robots battle movie. That is so cool. Good show.

It gets even sweeter. The FX channel is making “The Strain,” his vampire novel trilogy, into a series. Peter Russo from “House of Cards” plays the lead. Everyone is going to love that show. Sweet trade:

FX: “All right, we’ll let you borrow Charlie from ‘Always Sunny’ for your awesome monsters/robots battle movie, but you gotta make us a show out of those badass vampire books you wrote with Chuck Hogan.”

Guillermo Del Toro: “Deal.”

Cool movie. Potentially amazing show. Guillermo Del Toro is king.

Screwy, Silly Newt: Insight on Gingrich from Klosterman, Packer, and “Mad Men”

Newt Gingrich has come up in two awesome new books, and his story is insightful. It’s probably time to accept politics as a medium for entertainment no different than summer movies or TV or subversive comedic literature. That sucks if you’re unemployed, or a teacher, or really just any American pulling a paycheck. But it is what it is.

Chuck Klosterman’s book I Wear the Black Hat is about villains, real and made-up. He writes this in an early chapter:

During the race for the Republican nomination, it initially appeared that Texas governor Rick Perry was destined to wear the villain’s cowl. It was almost too easy: Perry consciously embodied the caricature liberals always wanted G. W. Bush to be. But even Bush saw Perry as distasteful. This was a man who took personal pride in executions (during a televised debate, he stated that he’d “never struggled” with the possibility that even one of the 234 prisoners he’d killed during his governorship might have been innocent). Perry wanted to be the villain, probably for strategic reasons. But it didn’t take. He wasn’t smart enough; he probably didn’t eblackhatven know how “Ayn” was pronounced. The low point was when Perry confidently insisted he would immediately eliminate three governmental agencies upon election, yet could not remember what those agencies were. Perry didn’t scare anyone; sure, he might sentence you to lethal injection, but he also might confuse the potassium chloride with Diet Dr. Pepper. He was a man without a plan. This is why the 2012 Republican villain became Newt Gingrich, a man with more plans than any human on earth. Gingrich wanted to eliminate child labor laws, which would have seemed extreme had he not also wanted to colonize the moon. For a while, he held all his media press conferences inside zoos (before addressing the NRA, he was bitten by a penguin). He had so many crazy, interesting, quasi-diabolical plans that there was simply no way he could be president. Even when he surged in the polls, he never had a chance; you can’t be that clever and that devoid of compassion without engendering more hate than affection. (Once, when asked to describe himself in one word, Gingrich said, “Cheerful,” which was the cognitive equivalent of “Go fuck yourself for asking that question.”) Even when his most loyal supporters discussed his candidacy, they felt obligated to preface their use of “genius” with modifiers like “unpredictable” and “perverse.” And that did not bother him; Gingrich loves who he is. He doesn’t care what other people think of him, because he doesn’t particularly care about other people. This is charming, problematic, and extraordinarily effective — particularly as means of appealing to committed anti-ideologues who spend their lives worrying about the problem of false authenticity. “I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting Newt Gingrich and having a chat with the fellow on a staircase,” ex-Sex Pistols vocalist John Lydon once told Rolling Stone. “I found him completely dishonest and totally likable, because he doesn’t care.” This is both the highest compliment a Sex Pistol can disperse and an incisive description about Newt’s character. He exclusively cares about ideas, regardless of their merits. He would tie a woman to the railroad tracks just to prove he knew what time the train left the station. This is why I always find myself rooting for him, even when I’m against what he purports to desire. I know exactly what he’s doing. It’s like looking in a mirror I do not possess the capacity to smash.

Why does someone like Newt run for president? Because he’s crazy. But why is he crazy?

George Packer’s book The Unwinding has a lot of amazing chapters telling true stories of Americans both famous and unknown. My favorite chapter is about Jay-Z (who quoted “The Godfather Part II” as he stabbed a man); my second-favorite chapter is about Newt Gingrich.

Throughout, I kept thinking of the crazy Dick Whitman flashbacks in “Mad Men.” Idiot critics complain about these scenes, in which Don Draper’s childhood self is awkward and ugly and being raised by evil men and whores. The purpose, though, is to establish the backstory that made this man what he is in the show’s (1960s) present: genius creative star of big-money advertising on Madison Avenue, using his grasp of dark psychology to convince consumers they’re fulfilling deep internal desires by buying floor cleaner. If you’ve watched your father get killed by a spooked horse’s kick to the face, or you lost your virginity to a hooker you thought of as your mother, or you stole a dead soldier’s identity, then you are the best kind of person to convince people to start smoking when science says cigarettes cause cancer.

Who turns into someone like Newt Gingrich?

His father, Big Newt McPherson, “was a bar brawler in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, during World War II,” Packer writes. “On the third morning after he married Kit Daugherty, a 16-year-old house cleaner, Big Newt’s young bride tried to wake him up from a hangover, and he punched her. That was the end of the marriage, but it had lasted just long enough for Kit to get pregnant.”

She had a boy, and named him after his father. Then she married a man named Robert Gingrich. “Big Newt allowed him to adopt Little Newty to get out of paying child support. ‘Isn’t it awful,’ Kit said years later, ‘a man willing to sell off his own son?'”

Not if you’re creating the perfect turn-of-the-century American politician. His stepfather “was a tyrant around the house, silent and intimidating. . . . Little Newty was a weird, myopic kid with no close friends. He sought out the older women around him, who fed him sugar cookies and encouraged him to read.”

unwindingDecades later, he’d articulate his destiny in personal notes uncovered during an ethics investigation: “Gingrich—primary mission: advocate of civilization, definer of civilization, teacher of the rules of civilization, arouser of those who fan civilization, organizer of the pro-civilization activists, leader (possibly) of the civilizing forces.” That’s grander than President of the United States, isn’t it?

That was in the 1990s, when he was Speaker of the House. In the 1960s, he was being Dick Whitman-eque: “In high school he secretly dated his geometry teacher Jackie Battley—seven years his senior, another doting older woman. When Gingrich was 19, they married (Bob Gingrich refused to attend), then had two daughters.”

In the late 1970s, Newt ran for Congress. “Gingrich’s Democratic opponent was made to order, a wealthy liberal female state senator originally from New York. Gingrich knew exactly what to do. He moved to the right and went after her on welfare and taxes. He had a new rock in his pocket, ‘the corrupt liberal welfare state,’ and he nailed her between the eyes with it. The Moral Majority was about to take Washington by storm, and Gingrich talked about family values, said that his opponent would break her family up if she went to Washington, and featured Jackie and the girls in his ads.”

Know where this is going. . . ? Dick Whitman is Don Draper at this point in the story. Only worse.

“But Jackie looked fat and unattractive, and it was an open secret in political circles that Newt was cheating on her. Like most Arousers of those who Fan Civilization, he had powerful appetites, but he had not grown up to be the most desirable of men—big head under big graying helmet, cold clever grin, belly pushing against his sky-blue waistline—and his successes were limited. He tried to keep it to oral sex so he could claim literal fidelity if anyone asked, but within two years the marriage was over, another adoring woman about to become the next Mrs. Gingrich, the Advocate of civilization standing at Jackie’s hospital bed as she lay recovering from uterine cancer, a yellow legal pad with divorce terms in his hand. Years later, Gingrich would attribute his indiscretions to hard work brought on by patriotic zeal.”

Gingrich started giving crazy speeches to empty chambers because the C-SPAN cameras were running. He got famous. “I want to shift the entire planet,” he said, “and I’m doing it.”

Language was huge for Gingrich, and he may be the father of talking points. He did shift the entire planet, when you think about it.

Which is f*cking crazy. Whether that makes him a villain is for each of us to decide for ourselves, but it certainly makes him interesting. This is what politics has become, and through Gingrich we better understand the likes of condescending Congressional perma-liars, or the dodgy and apparently corrupt governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez.

It is what it is. Over the past few years I’ve been a newspaper reporter and then an editor for a union-funded super PAC. Now I’m neither. Now I’m just a fan of crazy bad guys. Staying informed is much more enjoyable this way. The news can be “Breaking Bad” if you watch it right.

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“The Godfather”: Sonny’s D*ck

The weirdest thing about “The Godfather” is Lucy Mancini’s “large box.”

We’ve already established unsurpassed greatness, easily. Now let’s go somewhere else. There is a quick part early in “The Godfather” wedding where Sonny’s wife is bragging about how big Sonny’s d*ck is. She’s showing her friends with her hands, like it’s a fish she caught, and the gals all laugh as they get farther and farther apart. “Ooooooh. . . .” In the background, Sonny leads Lucy Mancini by the hand into their house for a quick hit of Afternoon Delight.

Vlcsnap-2010-06-29-17h32m02s75This moment is pretty fascinating, relative to Mario Puzo’s novel the movie is based on. There is a plotline in “The Godfather” book about Lucy, whose vagina is so big she can’t be sexually pleasured by anyone but Sonny. The descriptions get graphic over the course of her subplot. She moves to Las Vegas, hangs out with Johnny Fontaine, and falls in love with a doctor who can surgically tighten her area. Before the operation, Sonny is one of the few men who can sexually satisfy her, because he’s so well-endowed. And he brings the ruckus.

Strange thing to read between chapters of deadly mafia stuff. The Lucy Mancini story doesn’t really fit with the Classic Saga of the Corleone Family. But it isn’t boring, either. She’s a compelling character, just transplanted from a different universe.

You know how the book is always better than the movie? Not this time. The “Godfather” movie is way better.

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