Thursday, October 10, 2013


Being basically a contrarian I have a tendency to take the opposite way to what I am recommended: when somebody tells me to read a book or watch a production these end up almost automatically in my black book. 

This was happening even with the TV show Breaking Bad, indicated by many friends as amazing. My stubbornness was eventually defeated by the state of unemployment in which I found myself a few months ago: I started watching a few episodes to cover some of the endless amount of disquieting time I had, just to emphasize how stupid those who prefer a subsidy to work are.   

The deadly combination of 2 elements such as my tendency to laziness and the suspense of the series led me to devour the available episodes on the web, waiting impatiently for a semester to watch the 8 final episodes: they would have added nothing to my evaluation of the show; however, I’ve eventually found out how the creators decided to conclude the TV production which is by far the best among those I have seen.   

What's so exciting about Breaking Bad? The choice of neglecting the descriptive part to underline the essence of situations? The drug issue? The violence which always draws audience? I don’t think these are the main reasons why the show has become so popular. 

According to my view the success originates from the choice of the protagonists: ordinary people who couldn’t be any more normal. Walter White: high school teacher nerd who has to work part-time at a Car Wash; Skyler White: simple housewife and former accountant; Walter Junior: sixteen first-born partially retarded; Marie: Skyler’s sister and cheap kleptomaniac; Hank: Marie's husband and DEA agent; Jesse Pinkman: lonely stoner; Saul Goodman: brilliant lawyer but nothing more than a shyster.

None of these people can be entirely appreciated. The only one who always does his duty is the policeman, with whom it’s hard to empathize since he represents the authority. 

The main characters are insignificant people, precisely like those we bump into every day.   

Here is the key.  

Life can offer scenarios where average individuals are induced to craziness. An ordinary person like Walter White experiences situations ranging from Michael Douglas in "Falling down” to Jean Reno in "Leon".  

He goes through things he would never fear of: drug cartels, pyrotechnic escapes from the police, elimination of any person likely to endanger his family.

All of us are similar to the way Walter White presents himself at the very beginning: good people who respect civil coexistence rules, slightly frustrated by not being unanimously recognized the speciality we delude ourselves to possess. 

Basically civil, because in spite of the sufferance we experience in our lives we rarely feel victims of an injustice too incomprehensible to be accepted.   

But what if? 

If a happening generates that feeling of unacceptability, what would we do to redeem the perceived infamy? What sense would suddenly make the life led up to that moment? And once we experience the loss of meaning of everyday life actions, followed by the rejection of acceptable and accepted habits, how far could we go?   

As far as Walter White is concerned he goes where he never would have dared imagine, even when he chooses the criminal way which is assessed as the only possible; an endless escalation with no way out, partly because it’s not wanted, and partly because when you cross the point of no return it’s no use regretting that decision.   

Once that choice is made the only thing you can do is accept the consequences, knowing that a happy ending is not realistic; you can only try limiting the damage which will inevitably occur on your family who cannot be immune to those radical choices. 

Good and evil are separated by a thin line: the main characters move constantly from one side to the other. Do the ends justify the means? What cost is sustainable? How much can priorities change with respect to personal situations?   

There is no right or wrong, just the consequences of your actions: those consequences may be liked or not.  

The show raises a number of questions with no intent to provide answers, so the viewers constantly change side. 

Nobody is entirely good. No one is pure evil. We are shown as the product of existing conditions: someone is lucky and somebody is not, some people have faith and some don’t, somebody finds it and someone else loses it.

Above all there’s a challenge we face every morning when we get up, because anyone could become Walter White or Jesse Pinkman.

But almost nobody will ever find out...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Zabriskie Point

The trip towards the Death Valley had started with the right foot: the buddies managed to wake up pretty early and have an invigorating huevos rancheros breakfast before jumping on the car they had rented just a few hours earlier in San Diego.

The day was supposed to be pretty long and tough: over 200 miles in the desert. They were happy to find out they could drive up to 70 miles an hour on that narrow street in the middle of nowhere.

No other car was around and their pace seemed to be promising. George and John were planning to reach their accommodation in the early afternoon to rest a bit and then drive back to see the craziest part of the Death Valley when it was not too hot.

George, however, had the somewhat catastrophic idea to say out loud what was in his mind “We are doing fine, I believe in 3 hours we can be at the hotel; fancy what would happen if the car had some problem here in the desert!”. John looked back almost upset “I was thinking the same but I didn’t dare say that”. 

They kept going for 50 miles admiring amazing landscapes and dangerous curves until the GPS took them to an unexpected sign: “Road Flooded and Interrupted”

The two mates look at each other in disbelief, “What the fuck happened?” George asked.
“It happened that we are screwed” John replied, “we cannot continue on this street since it’s closed for maintenance and we cannot take the other one because the sign says ‘Do not continue’”.

George’s mind started flipping, being impatient to complete the remaining 8 miles to end up on the following street of the path shown by their GPS. He was about to propose the insane idea to continue on the original road even though it was closed. 

Sometimes the Lord operates in obscure ways; it takes an open mind to understand that an act of God is not necessarily turning water into wine: out of nowhere a ranger showed up explaining to the mates they were going to risk their lives if they had taken the closed street. 

George and John did the only thing they could: they drove all the way back to the place where they had their breakfast and then looked on the internet for a new path. 

Using all their patience they started following the new pattern illustrated by the satellite navigation system; their schedule was bound to change: they were going to check the Death Valley first and go to the hotel at the end of the day. After a significant amount of miles they came across a new sign which indicated they had to stop in a few meters.

A line of cars was there, waiting for a guy to show them the signal which would allow them to continue on that street; the buddies took that chance to jump out of the car and have a smoke. Out of the fucking blue an F16 fighter jet showed up, flying only a few yards away from the friends,   devastating their ears with its noise. 

A frozen George asked John “is this for real? I was about to crap my pants”
“I believe they are training for Syria”

They continued driving till they came across a rest area where they could hydrate, bumping into 2 Latvian girls. “We are nature girls, we don’t go to San Diego, Los Angeles or places like that. We want to see natural places all the time during these three weeks we are in the States: the Grand Canyon, the Death Valley. And New York obviously, we look forward to spending one week in the Big Apple”

Looking at them George realized how you can go anywhere, in this case so deep in the desert, but that doesn’t necessarily prevent you from hearing that kind of bullshit.
“Enjoy the rest of your holidays!” George told the Baltic girls to cut it as short as he could.

“One more stop before reaching our accommodation: Zabriskie Point!”; the way John said that left no doubt they were going there. 

Once they parked the car in front of that famous spot they realized why visiting the Death Valley was worth it: they could just enjoy being there, taking a look around without any need to say a word.

Surrounded by such a marvel and listening to his own soul George thanked John’s proposal to do this trip: no matter who you are, no matter what waits for you back home, no matter where back home is.

There are moments that simply cannot be missed.