In Which The Facial Hair Of Will Forte Dominates The Mise-En-Scène

Control Freak

by DICK CHENEY

The Last Man On Earth
creator Will Forte

There is no lonelier man than Phil Miller (Will Forte). Since Forte, creator of the new Fox show The Loneliest Man On Earth, could not think of anything new a man would consider worth doing if he was alone somewhere, he gets a bunch of soccer balls and baseballs like Tom Hanks in Castaway and talks to them. There are several long scenes in which the former temp worker that Forte portrays talks to the balls, giving them names and imbuing personalities on them. He also shits in a pool.

Reacting to this fictional depiction of a man doing what it is he feels is right, The White House yesterday strongly condemned Forte’s actions. “He’s trying to create a wedge between Israel and the United States,” said U.S. national security advisor Susan Rice.

Running water is so bougie

There is in fact a lonelier man in America. He will address Congress at the behest of John Boehner, and our President is so mad. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s timing is perfect, since he seems like an iconic rebel crusading on behalf of his country just before he defeats Isaac Herzog to win a fourth term as prime minister. Obama’s timing could not be worse, since House of Cards just came out and Frank Underwood/Obama comparisons are unavoidable.

Tucson would not be my first choice even within Arizona

Phil lives in Tucson, in the nicest house he can find. He has ransacked the finest museums America has to offer, and brought a bunch of European art into his surroundings. He has only searched the continental 48 states for other people; never venturing into Mexico or Brazil was perhaps not the smartest choice considering these countries have the finest women in the world. Instead he meets Carol Pilbasian (Kristen Schaal), an office manager at a hot sauce company.

Kristen Schaal is a beautiful woman, and I resent this negative depiction of her sheyna punim.

At first Phil finds Carol objectionable on every level. She fulfills none of his basic requirements of feminine beauty, and he is made furious by her many demands: stopping his SUV at stop signs, not living in an environment of total disgusting filth, and using correct grammar. Having to rely deeply on a person who on some fundamental level is completely different from you is the foundation of diplomacy.

It is a king who takes offense; a president is supposed to rise above such notions for the good of his country. Phil is more the first type of ruler, and his kingdom is fairly revolting. Much of The Last Man On Earth consists of Forte coming up with gross things for Phil to do, like poop in a swimming pool or murder fish with bowling balls. Watching Phil do whatever he wants is fun for the first of the eight montages included in the show’s first two episodes, but it gets old quick.

And they say print is dead.

Speaking of getting old quick, Warren Buffett has already proclaimed that Hillary Clinton is going to be the next president. Since he has a lot of money, he is almost certain to be correct about this. House of Cards based its humorous depiction of Raymond Tusk on Buffett’s no-nonsense Nebraska lifestyle, but even Raymond Tusk did not have the balls to come out and announce who the next president is going to be.

Of all the things to take from the Oval Office, Phil grabs the rug. The Last Man on Earth codifies a lot of American ideas about the larger universe. Phil doesn’t bother exploring the entire world to see if everyone is left alive; he doesn’t even bother taking a quick run up to Toronto, where there is most likely more than one desperate woman. America is it.

hopefully he will shave at some point during this season

No one seems to internalize nationalistic ideas about their countries more than their leaders. Obama’s mad just because someone is giving a speech without his permission. Paranoia reigns supreme.

Phil is worried when Carol decides to move her mobile enterprise into the home next to his in the ritzy Tucson development he calls home. Her invasive maneuver eventually leads to the obvious conclusion these two need to repopulate the earth. Their population science might need some work, though. If they are truly alone on the planet, there is no chance of producing a successful working civilization again. Unless their children are geniuses, this will just lead to a bunch of half-Jews ransacking supermarkets for canned food. So basically, the world as it is today.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

“The Truth” – Mya (mp3)

“Patience” – Mya (mp3)

In Which Until We Were Twenty-Eight We Had A Kind Of A Buried Self

Seek to Hide

The tragic and disturbed life of Anne Sexton began with a rocky and abusive childhood, and ended with an adulthood roughly along the same lines. Despite the harm she suffered and inflicted on others, her honest comments about her introduction to the world of poetry in these interviews with Patricia Marx and Barbara Kevles appear level-headed. Beneath that cold logic existed a hidden, sometimes mistaken faith in the world; as she wrote of her friend Sylvia Plath, “Something told me to bet on her but I didn’t know why.” (In the following excerpts, these two interviews have been abridged and combined.)

You were almost thirty before you began writing poetry. Why?

Until I was twenty-eight I had a kind of buried self who didn’t know she could do anything but make white sauce and diaper babies. I didn’t know I had any creative depths. I was a victim of the American Dream, the bourgeois, middle-class dream. All I wanted was a little piece of life, to be married, to have children. I thought the nightmares, the visions, the demons would go away if there was enough love to put them down. I was trying my damnedest to lead a conventional life, for that was how I was brought up, and it was what my husband wanted of me. The surface cracked when I was about twenty-eight. I had a psychotic break and tried to kill myself.

Didn’t anyone encourage you?

It wouldn’t have mattered. My mother was top billing in our house.

In the beginning, what was the relationship between your poetry and your therapy?

Sometimes, my doctors tell me that I understand something in a poem that I haven’t integrated into my life. In fact, I may be concealing it from myself, while I was revealing it to the readers. The poetry is often more advanced, in terms of my unconscious, than I am.

About three or four years ago my analyst asked me what I thought of my parents having intercourse when I was young. I couldn’t talk. I knew there was suddenly a poem there, and I selfishly guarded it from him.

About three weeks ago, he said to me, “Were you beaten as a child? I told that I had been, when I was about nine. I had torn up a five-dollar bill that my father gave to my sister; my father took me into his bedroom, laid me down on his bed, pulled off my pants and beat me with a riding crop. As I related this to my doctor, he said, “See, that was quite a royal strapping,” thus revealing to me, by way of my own image, the intensity of that moment, the sexuality of that beating, the little masochistic seizure – it’s so classic it’s almost corny.

Once you began writing, did you attend any formal classes to bone up on technique?

After I’d been writing about three months, I dared to go into the poetry class at the Boston Center for Adult Education taught by John Holmes. I started i the middle of the term, very shy, writing very bad poems, solemnly handing them in for the eighteen others in the class to hear. The most important aspect of that class as that I felt I belonged somewhere.

How about Holmes or the poets in your class, what did they say?

During the years of that class, John Holmes saw me as something evil and warned Maxine Kumin to stay away from me. He told me I shouldn’t write such personal poems about the madhouse. He said, “That isn’t a fit subject for poetry.” I knew no one who thought it was; even my doctor clammed up at that time. I was on my own. I tried to mind them. I tried to write the way the others, especially Maxine , wrote, but it didn’t work. I always ended up sounding like myself.

And Lowell, how did he strike you?

He was formal in a rather awkward New England sense. His voice was soft and slow as he read the students’ poems. At first I felt the impatient desire to interrupt his slow, line-by-line readings. He would read the first line, stop, and then discuss it at length. I wanted to go through the whole poem quickly and then go back. I couldn’t see any merit in dragging through it until you almost hated the damned thing, even your own poems, especially your own.

I wrote to Snodgrass about my impatience, and his reply went this way: “Frankly, I used to nod my head at his every statement, and he taught me more than a whole gang of scholars could.” So I kept my mouth shut, and Snodgrass was right. Robert Lowell’s method of teaching is intuitive and open. After he had read a student’s poem, he would read another evoked by it. Comparison was often painful. He worked with a cold chisel, with no more mercy than a dentist. He got out the decay, but if he was never kind to the poem, he was kind to the poet.

Are you ever influenced, or do you ever learn anything from critics?

Oh, they’re very disturbing. I don’t know what I learn. I just want to say, “Gee whiz, kids, that’s the best way I could do it,” something like that. One prolific poet who I greatly admire can hardly write a damning review without mentioning my name in connection with “mechanically bad writing.” What should I do? Send him a telegram? I carried one very bad review in my wallet all over Europe. The good reviews I left at home. But even over there I was still Anne. I couldn’t change her. I think mostly reviewers are upsetting. You just love the praise, and you try to shut out the criticism. I don’t know how much they can influence you. I don’t think they always read you correctly, but you always think the ones that like you are reading you pretty well.

I wonder what is the relationship between form and making a poem function like an axe. In what way do you approach a poem stylistically and in what way does content dominate?

Content dominates, but style is the master. I think that’s what makes a poet. The form is always important. To me there’s something about fiction that is too large to hold. I can see a poem, even my long ones, as something you could hold, like a piece of something. It isn’t that I care about the shape of it on the page, but the line must look right to me.

Is there any time of day, any particular mood that is better for writing?

No. Those moments before a poems comes, when the heightened awareness comes over you and you realize a poem is buried there somewhere, you prepare yourself. I run around, you know, kind of skipping around the house, marvelous elation. It’s as though I could fly, almost, and I get very tense before I’ve told the truth – hard. Then I sit down at the desk and get going with it.

1966, 1974

“These Things I’ve Come To Know” – James McMurtry (mp3)

“Deaver’s Crossing” – James McMurtry (mp3)

The new album from James McMurtry is entitled Complicated Game and it was released on February 24th.

In Which We Name Our Detective After The Painter

David Simon’s Afterbirth

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Bosch
creators Eric Overmyer & Michael Connelly

Were you potentially interested in a show that is a lot like The Wire, but you know, not? Amazon Studios’ ten episode series Bosch, based on the character from Michael Connelly’s mediocre novels, gruffly enters the scene. A white man made us and shall save us.

The highest art made from the lowest original source material is a ticklish subject. I guess the right answer would be Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox? This rarely comes up; truly bad books are rarely made into magnificent anything. Bosch is nowhere near magnificent, but simply through Eric Overmyer’s involvement, it becomes a major improvement on the novels about the too often fictionalized Los Angeles area.

Hieronymous Bosch (Lost‘s Titus Welliver) is one hell of a homicide detective. I mean, he allows a serial killer to nearly escape from his clutches, spends two months trying to solve a decades old cold case for no reason, causes a suicide and two other deaths, shoots an unarmed man who he says is a killer, and consumates a relationship with a junior officer in his department (Annie Wershing). Besides that, the man is a damn genius.

Bosch is also a terrible father. His ex-wife is a retired FBI profiler who lives in Las Vegas and competes against whales in high stakes poker. Her new husband is every bit the father Bosch does not want to be, because our detective has “cases.” He actually only has one case for most of Bosch, and it takes him forever to solve it. Vegas is only a few hours away, but he never goes there.

Bosch’s superior is Deputy Chief Irvin Irving (Lance Reddick), who is basically reprising his exact role from Overmyer’s The Wire for no reason I can discern. Reddick’s low voice is his signature. Emoting and bringing vibracy to an underwritten scene is not really his signature. There is one moment where Reddick talks to a prosecutor while both sit in cars that happens on all of Overmyer’s shows, because it is the kind of thing that occurs in real life, and Overmyer loves stuff like that. But here the tête-à-auto accomplishes the opposite effect it makes everything seem fake.

The thing that was actually good about The Wire was not the writing or the performances both varied greatly in quality. What made the show different was that every scene had consequences, unfolding the butterfly effect through bleak streets and inside quiet homes.

Bosch’s house, which he supposedly bought from the proceeds of a movie adapted from one of his cases, is completely open to the world. Massive windows look out on the metropolis below. (Bosch’s daughter has never even been there.) His girlfriend is not invited to this inner sanctum at any time, but she shows up unexpectedly and Bosch begrudgingly invites her in. What would she want to do with this monster?

In order to make someone so devastatingly banal sympathetic, Connelly has created a detailed backstory that involves Bosch’s mother being a prostitute who was murdered, and him being raised in an abusive Catholic orphanage. It turns out the serial murderer (Jason Gedrick) came through that same orphanage, where a dark room with a soiled mattress isolated the most disrespectful boys.

Because we see no actual evidence of how this impacts who Bosch is, the context feels fake. Everything around Bosch is actually more fascinating and vibrant than he is: a lesbian police captain (Amy Aquino) with a child, a repressed homosexual serial killer, Bosch’s divorced African-American partner (The Wire‘s brilliant Jamie Hector), his rookie love interest who has her growing pains, his sympathetic but hard-nosed ex-wife (24‘s Sarah Clarke). All these characters get plenty of screen time, as Overmyer smartly emphasizes the ensemble.

But the focus is too often on Bosch himself. Welliver tries his best to imbue the thankless role with a brusque charm, but he fails partly because he is never given anything to do. He has one costume change in the entire run of the show. (He takes his shirt off once to have sex.) He never moves quickly or decides something at once from all appearances the only thing he is any good at is drinking and smoking.

Nobody watched Treme, even though it was the best musical by far that has ever been created. It was also hard to follow without detailed notes. Overmyer takes Bosch in a much simpler direction: instead of a thousand storylines, we get one procedural stretched over an entire season of episodes. The plotline of Bosch would have been wrapped up in mere minutes by any other detective. I understand the idea of following a single character over the expense of a large group makes television easier to follow and understand, but airing as it is on Amazon Prime, Bosch did not need to appeal to that audience.

As long as Bosch waited to become a show, and as much as it cost Connelly personally to buy the rights back from Paramount, did we really need another white cop who doesn’t follow the rules, unless he is portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal?

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

“Lovit” – Marian Hill (mp3)

“Wasted” – Marian Hill (mp3)

The new album from Marian Hill is entitled Sway and it was released on February 17th.

In Which We Do Not Know How To Get Along With Him

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,

I am five months pregnant with my first child, a boy. My husband Theo and I are very excited for this new addition to the family, but lately I have been feeling a bit fixated on the guy who Theo wanted to be the godfather, Mark. Mark is a friend of Theo’s from college, and he still acts like he is still in college despite being closer to middle-age. He smokes pot and drinks, which would be fine in itself, but he frequently inebriates himself to the point of not remembering his activities. 

I’m worried Mark will continue this kind of behavior around the baby. Theo decided the godfather thing would be a bad idea, but says that Mark will probably grow up by the time our child is old enough to notice. Am I right to be worried?

Ashley T.

Dear Ashley,

Mark sounds like a bunch of human garbage, but he’s not going to be the baby’s parents: you are. Sometimes children need a bad example to understand how things can go so terribly wrong. You know those cautionary tales that head into juvenile prisons to educate youths on the dangers of drug addiction, prostitution and reading the Atlantic? Mark could play this key role for your chile. Upon his departure you can quietly exhale to your son, whose name will probably also be Ashley, that Mark just didn’t make the right choices in life. “Mark thinks Cristela is a really light-skinned black woman!” you can crow deliciously as this ne’er-do-well leaves your child’s house.

Also, Mark will probably be dead in a decade or more, so why worry about things that may never come to pass? Just pretend to be accomodating now and put your foot down later.

I assume you’re having a water birth?

Hi,

My stepsister Joann recently got married to a wonderful man and is pregnant with her first child. The two are planning a wedding before the baby arrives. With the prospect of a baby shower, an engagement brunch (no clue what that is), a bachelorette party, bridesmaid dress and other incidentals, Joann’s fertility is probably going to cost me in four figures. I don’t have the kind of income where I can absorb these expenses; on the other hand I don’t want to let my stepsister down. What should I do?

Kate T.

Dear Kate,

Marriage is a wonderful institution, except when Lauren Bacall married Humphrey Bogart: that was completely gross.

Whatever you do, do not bring this problem up to Joann. Create an entirely independent drama that requires your attention. For example, your car broke down and needs a new hamburglarator. She has bigger issues on her mind, she’s not going to check if it’s actually part of a car. For a more plausible excuse, humbly reveal that you have to take a weeklong trip during her bachelorette party to accomplish a continuing education bonafide. For some reason, using the word “education” justifies any expense or behavior.

Failing that, is there the possibility of suggesting Joann’s fiance may not be the father? Because that could really shake up this loathsome set of obligations on your plate. Also, when you lie, don’t touch your face.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording’s mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

 

“Underground” – Ben Lee ft. Angie Hart (mp3)

“Protect Me (From What I Want)” – Ben Lee ft. Sean Lennon & Neil Finn (mp3)

 

In Which She Leaves Her College Town After Everyone Else

The Meadows

by STEPHANIE GORTON MURPHY

When I was twenty-four, I lived in a grand, minimalist apartment in Edinburgh, on the south side of the Meadows. That wide expanse of green is crisscrossed by wide, lonely paths, and each way into the park has its charm: a gate in a stone wall, an arch formed by the giant jawbone of a whale. In centuries past the Meadows had been a loch, but after an episode of plague it had been filled in. Now lush elm trees and emerald grass grew where there had once been sixty acres of murky water.

Every day I would wake up in my high-ceilinged room, walk across the Meadows and the Old Town, duck through a narrow alley that seemed ripe for murder and into the courtyard of the company’s building, and land at my post in the editorial department. There I would stay until past dark most days, except in midsummer when our northern latitude kept the day going past nine. It was that summer, when my life seemed perfectly shaped and yet strangely stalled, that the blindness of my thinking propelled me into something unplanned, messy, and far from everyone I loved. There was a realization that I still struggle to explain, and then an escape, and now looking back I’m not sure which life was the borrowed one and which held permanence, that one I had or the one I flew off to.   

The good news came, as it often does, in a manila envelope. I tore into it and tipped out my passport, which fell open to a new, stiff, pink page. My own stern face looked back at me from a visa that said I could stay for five more years, and have the option to become a British citizen after that, if I wanted. I called my British-American-Lebanese parents in London and we cheered over the phone. I looked at the passport again, and then put it in the drawer where it belonged. How neat my life now looked on paper, how free I ought to feel. The night passed in inexplicable, suffocating panic, and I found myself dreaming of the day when I could quit the whole scene — the beautiful home, perfect job, maybe even life itself. For the first time, it seemed impossible to want what I was supposed to want.

The stamp meant an option I had furiously hoped and worked for. Six years before I had come to Edinburgh for a weekend, and decided I needed to live there. I’d gone from one student visa to the next, to a work permit called the Fresh Talent designation. But now, at twenty-four, my Fresh Talent had expired. I had gathered hundreds of documents and put a heavy paperwork burden on my employer in a bid to get sponsored, unskilled as I was. They had had to advertise my job, and interview other candidates for it, which was chilling to watch. I had even made a backup plan with a friend from the Highlands, that he and I would get married if the visa was denied. And yet, now that the bureaucratic nightmare was over, I looked around at my painstakingly assembled world and wanted to flee. 

The poet Kapka Kassabova wrote about living in Edinburgh: ” … nothing changes here except in memory … The haar that [creeps] in from the sea. The cemeteries bumpy with centuries of flesh … The way nobody is too interested in you – a great British quality.” Like Kassabova, I was certain this city was home. I liked being an American abroad. It allowed me to sneak into a close acquaintance with a place, but always as an observer. I could abstract myself when I needed to, ask the most naïve questions, drift from one scene to the next, and treat others as though I was unlikely to stay. At the same time, this was the place I had forged the beginning of a self-sufficient life.

When I was a child, each successive move or change of schools made me even more impatient to grow up. I wanted to find a place no one in my family had been before, make it my own, and dig in for good. My rebellion was making my life predictable. Edinburgh had given me a start: six years, and another would pass before I left. Surely I owed the place more commitment. Two weeks after my passport was returned, I cautiously mentioned the panic to my father. He analyzed me via Groucho Marx: “You don’t want to belong to any club that will accept you as a member.” Was that it?

But my home was becoming a strange place, outside of my control. It started in August, when Edinburgh is one great performance. There are festivals that turn every surface into a stage or screen, the city’s population triples, and locals complain of the throngs who make regular life and sleep impossible for a month. Music blared through my office window, and the long shadows in the morning and evening drew gorgeous shapes from the steeples and crags over the noisy streets. Drunk couples slumped over each other in buses and parks, like pale, elfin Hogarth etchings.

The less photogenic seams of the city were there too. I loved my workplace, but had little left to learn from my job. My college friends moved to bigger cities, and my long hours left little chance to make new ones. The Bush years were finally over, but my accent, which refused to soften, still attracted the wrong kind of attention from men at the pub. On hearing me place an order, they often launched into joyous anti-American rants or, on countless occasions, smilingly asked if I “liked Bush.” Then there was Roderick, my roommate, a high school English teacher nearing thirty who spent his evenings working on a novel. He had seemed perfect, a bright-eyed redhead who might set me up with his friends.

Three days after he moved in, Roderick casually mentioned that he had a young daughter in Japan; his plan, sprung on me after the lease had been signed, was that she and her mother would spend the summer with us. Soon after that, I got home early from work to find the bathroom door open, a bath running, and Roderick dipping a toe in, completely nude with a fat joint glowing between his lips. I couldn’t help but laugh. But he mistook laughter for approval, and over time I would come home to find Roderick undressed and high in every room of the apartment, including my own. In the midst of this, excited at the fact that I worked for a publisher, he sent me his manuscript-in-progress. It was a series of violent, self-aggrandizing fantasies about the women in his life. The fact that I had invited this person to live with me — that I had chosen him from a handful of Craigslist responders — gnawed at the trust I’d once had in myself.

Maybe if I’d been attached, my relationship to the place would not have been the test of character that it was when I was so often alone. Long before my visa application, I had broken up with my boyfriend of three years because I couldn’t see us living the same life. Within weeks he was with someone new, and I waited confidently to fall in love again too. But my affections seemed to have gone to sleep. On the evenings I didn’t hit a pub with coworkers, I ran. I plugged myself into headphones and let my strides eat the town, the alleyways through the Meadows, the road around the cold, humped volcanic hill of Arthur’s Seat.

It was a spare, deliberate life for a young person, and it’s sad evidence that few people can love forever what they loved at eighteen. I think of Edinburgh as someone I tried to marry and missed the mark. “One’s prime is elusive,” lectured Miss Jean Brodie in Muriel Spark’s most famous Edinburgh novel. “Recognize your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur. You must then live it to the full.” I knew I was not in my prime, and this was bad, because surely twenty-four is everyone’s prime. Looking at my totem of acceptance, the UK visa, it was clear that another version of myself could have been happy there. I was close to being that version and wonder if it will be hard to see the city again when I go back. For in the end, I had to leave the city to get away from a sad love that sat like fog over a swamp until I flew to new, dry ground.

I reformatted my CV with American spelling and ran it by the few people I knew in New York. A year later, in mid-August, I moved back across the Atlantic. I had a job and an apartment, both unsuitable, and neither would last long. But on that flight, I realized I was waking up again. The plane taxied to a halt, the airport doors swung open, and a well of humidity and taxi horns embraced me.

Stephanie Gorton Murphy is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Providence. This is her first appearance in these pages.

“Let It Rain” – Mat Kearney (mp3)

“Ghost” – Mat Kearney (mp3)

The new album from Mat Kearney, Just Kids, is out today.


In Which We Hire Saul Goodman At Our Own Convenience

Guilty Conscience

by DICK CHENEY

Better Call Saul
creators Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould

I would do anything to never to hear my wife utter the words fan service again. Did you see the trailer for Ant-Man? This tongue-in-cheek shit has got to end. Instead of, you know, working on something new, the people behind Breaking Bad have an assembled an hour long drama around the concept that anything even peripherally associated with Jesse Pinkman is fantastic and interesting. And you know what: they might have a point.

You know, I’m starting to think there might be some problems with the criminal justice system.

Seven years ago Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) has his own quirky cast of characters surrounding his single room law practice in the rear of a downtrodden nail salon. Returning from Breaking Bad is Jonathan Banks, who looks about twenty years older than he did on the previous show despite this chronologically predating everything on Breaking Bad. Tuco (Raymond Cruz) also makes a substantial appearance in the new show, but most everything else is completely new.

This is an incredibly ineffective way of getting a paper towel roll.

Whereas Breaking Bad was about doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, Better Call Saul is about doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Watching Odenkirk struggle with his conscience quickly gets old. We’re supposed to think that he was slowly corrupted into Saul Goodman over time, little by little. Since we already know the end result – an amoral bag of garbage – we can’t help but be disappointed by the pace of the process. No one thinks to themselves, “Jeez, Mussolini was such a nice little kid!”

If this is the last cul-de-sac I ever see, it will be too soon.

The problem with the basic concept is that we only have reason to encounter minor characters. Hank Schrader is not suddenly going to show up on Better Call Saul, and even if he did he would probably look like Mason Verger and all we would think about is his ignominious end in Breaking Bad. Fan service (ugh) only actually works when we have a positive nostalgic feeling about what is being revisited. There is no such need to be reminded of how we left Walt’s family or friends.

Despite the fact that I have loathed Jonathan Banks for three decades and his appearance on Community should have given him a life sentence in jail, I have to admit that the character of Mike is a great one. When Saul meets him in Better Call Saul he is merely a parking lot attendant at a courthouse, which is unlikely but amusing as a one off joke.

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“The Kettlemans” will be the next spin off. Jesse Pinkman will settle down with the divorced Mrs. Kettleman in Ronkonkoma.

The real fun will begin when Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) enters the picture. Although we explored his homosexual South American heritage in a flashback that still brings tears to my eyes to this day, I really hope we get the full origin story of Gustavo Fring. A lot seems like it was left out, and Gus was a very effective businessman who just happened to trifle with the wrong high school science teacher. Greatness can come from low places, I believe Scott Walker once killed a guy? Need to check my facts, but I’m pretty sure.

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if you just photoshop out his hair, you have the sixth season of Breaking Bad

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a wee bit tired of the emotional shots of the New Mexico landscape. There may be nothing left to really explore in this bleak environment. Breaking Bad did a great job of making very few locations seem like an open, impossible world, but the same budgetary constraints seem to apply here.

There is little in the way of big time action or set pieces promised – after all, Better Call Saul features a relatively small story about a lawyer. The reason that networks produced legal dramas and films in the first place is because they were so inexpensive – Better Call Saul does a wonderful job of tricking their way around these limitations and making the show into a crime drama like its predecessor. Still, at times Better Call Saul feels like so much less.

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Maybe throw some concealer and a wig on? Just a suggestion.

Once you make something successful, people want more of it. I understand this, just as I understand the basic impulse to elect another child of George W. Bush, or put someone else named Clinton in the Oval Office. We are afraid of change, especially Jonathan Banks, who has been doing the same gravelly voiced character since the 1960s.  

Better Call Saul ends up as a compelling show with a fantastic cast, so my complaints about repetition fall on deaf ears. We will shout, “Oh Walt!” probably at some point when Bryan Cranston does his first guest shot after pissing away all his Lyndon Johnson/Godzilla money on snickerdoodles. I only wonder if we could have gotten something even better.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. Visit our mobile site here.

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“Sisters” – Gods (mp3)

“Misled” – Gods (mp3)

In Which The Snow Could Be Covering The Hole

Midwestern Dates

by KARA VANDERBIJL

5 minutes: Pay $14.95 for an Illinois fishing license

3 minutes: Put on old jeans, two shirts, a sweatshirt, socks from the Army/Navy surplus store, snow boots, down-filled coat, hat, and fleece-lined mittens

7 minutes: Load the sled with the necessities, e.g., beer, whiskey, an empty plastic bucket, an auger, a skimmer, two poles, two plastic condiment containers filled with wood shavings and maggots, a sonar scope, a heater named—no joke—”portable buddy”

15 minutes: Drag sled across frozen lake towards the best fishing spot, into the wind, trying not to slip

~2 minutes: Reach the other huts, realize I’m the only other woman on the ice

1 minute: Screw the auger into the ice until a deep scent, reminiscent of summer, pokes through the freeze and water bubbles through the hole

1 minute: Repeat

1 minute: Skim slushy lake water off the surface, stare deep into the murky hole

20 minutes: Attempt to raise the collapsible shelter in 20-30 mph gusts

3 minutes: Sit inside the shelter, freezing, while Jens attempts to tie down the back flaps

2 minutes: Scream when the wind catches the shelter through the open door and drags the whole thing three yards across the ice with me in it

2 minutes: Watch as Jens slips and slides after the fish bucket and a single glove that have blown away

10 minutes: Figure out how to fortify the shelter against the wind with a series of disconnected metal poles and no instruction manual

1 minute: Breathe gas as the portable buddy kindles to life

30 seconds: Stab a maggot with a hook

30 seconds: Drop the line into the hole and watch the bait flicker green on the sonar scope

20 minutes: Wait for fish

2 minutes: Laugh when Fleetwood Mac starts playing on Pandora. “It’s like they know,” I explain to Jens.

30 minutes: Wait for fish

5 minutes: Have to pee, pull down pants, squat over the hole, feel like the most ridiculous being that has ever walked the planet

30 minutes: Wait for fish

3 minutes: Hear a conversation —

“Don’t walk through the snow, you’ll break your fucking leg.”

“It’s not as slippery!”

“The snow could be covering a 10 inch hole, you idiot.”

2 minutes: Study the intricate patterns crystallizing inside the strata of the ice

3 minutes: Freak out, briefly, about the fact that all however many hundreds of pounds of us are sitting on eight inches of ice above twenty feet of water

1 minute: Marvel

20 minutes: Drink a beer that’s so cold it makes my teeth hurt

5 minutes: Squat over the hole again

2 minutes: Attempt to tickle Jens through five layers of clothing

2 hours: Wait for fish

10 minutes: Insult fish

30 minutes: Wait for fish

5 minutes: Decide to call it a day

25 minutes: Pack it all up, slip-slide across the lake back the house hand-in-hand

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. You can subscribe to Hors Sujet here.

Paintings by Katherine Bradford.

rokepfoekwopk

“Sail” – Awolnation (mp3)