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*****Includes spoilers… sort of******

Like any good American citizen, I’m currently in the process of rewatching Breaking Bad. The dark and intense story of Walter White’s transition from mild-mannered to evil drug kingpen has been an incredibly satisfying and grisly development to sit through.

Upon rewatch, the show is even better but no less uncomfortable; the drug business, after all, is not for the faintest of hearts. While this is indeed the story of “Mr. Chips becoming Scarface”, it’s also a show about the relationship and evolution of Jesse Pinkman: the foul-mouthed brat that started the show taking cues lifestyle cues from XXL and the juggalo lifestyle.
But let’s discuss Walt. It’s hard for me to identify with the thought process behind still rooting for the guy. He’s killed, lied and stolen for selfish reasons (the family excuse is most flimsy), he’s always been an arrogant and condescending asshole who talks down to any and everyone and he’s really just incredibly insufferable and has made everyone’s lives worse (especially Pinkman’s but we’ll get to that). Yet on some level, I get it. Many have pointed out that from the beginning, Walt has never been much of a good guy. He was never evil either, he was just the prototypical embodiment of the spineless “Falling Down” white male constantly frustrated by the life unfairly bestowed on him. It’s the story that’s been told a million times, only here it’s done in a more engrossing way.
Walt’s story may have started as the tale of a man who wanted to provide for his family before his death from lung cancer, but it became the tale about a man’s thirst for power and control. The tale of a man who got to finally profit from his genius the way he always felt he should have. Pretty much every murder or pain he’s taken part in–that wasn’t about protecting himself–has been about holding onto control. The only unselfish murder he committed was to protect Jesse in season 3, otherwise he’s made being a terrible person look natural.  But man has he been fun to watch. All love and respect to Brian Cranston, he went from Malcolm’s dad to Heisenberg and he’s been perfect the whole way through.  The only time Walt was ever unbearable to watch happened in the middle of season 4 but that seemed to be purposeful. Walt may not be someone to root for but he has been a great foil and madmen to watch.
Now Jesse is truly the heartstrings of this show. From his beginnings as a scrappy little punk, Jesse has been through hell and back and has truly shown himself to be nothing more than a kid who’s fucked up a few times and has no real direction in life. From the day he partnered up with Walter he’s been shot at, beat up and on the verge of death or depression multiple times.  He’s a kid who probably needed just a few more hugs in order to have lived life as a doctor instead of a junkie dealer. He’s in constant search of a father figure or family; he tries to find it in Walter who, to his credit, has stuck by his side thus far but really Walter only needs Jesse because he trusts him and he’s easily manipulated by his bullshit. Any moment where Walt has the chance to treat Jesse like a peer and deal with what’s troubling him is almost always blown so that Walt can instead focus on himself.  After the events of seasons 2 and 3, Jesse realized what kind of person this life has turned him into and it eats at his soul. It’s heartbreaking because Aaron Paul sells it and it’s tragic because it’s an all too familiar tale of ill-conceived loyalty to anyone who’ll give a damn by someone who just wants to be loved.
And that’s where we’re at as we near the end of the series. A man who’s gone into the darkest spaces of the human soul and embraced it and another man who’s gone to the same spaces and just wants to be held. It’s not completely clear how this story will end exactly but it barely matters. What does matter is who these people end up as by the time it’s over and whether or not the things they’ve done will come back to bite them or just haunt them. These last 8 are sure to be intense but when it’s all said and down I’ll miss these characters because of the richness and tragedy of their stories. The dad and the street punk have come a long ways.

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Chicago is probably my favorite city to look at. Every time I’ve been here, I’ve spent my time taking in scenic views of the city: from the tall buildings and waterfronts to the graffiti-stained, rusty buildings and grimy side streets. It’s Friday morning and I’m on my way to my hotel to freshen up and meet up with my friends before the annual Pitchfork Music festival gets started. This is my second striaght year going to Pitchfork with the same group of friends that I’ve known for at least 4 years through an internet message board and it’s the first time that I’ll actually get to spend all my time here with them.

The day starts with drinking–because of course–and some waffle breakfast tacos (by the way, Taco Bell needs to desperately get on this) and then we finally make our way into Union Green Park to catch the bands for the day. Friday wasn’t my favorite really; I was really only excited for Bjork to get all weird and didn’t much care about anyone else that day. Joanna Newsom was lovely despite the fact that I was way too far away to really enjoy her harp-jamming and subtle and angelic vocals (it says a lot that she could command a crowd of hot, sweaty and intoxicated kids doing this by the way). Meanwhile my friend Katie was still stuck trying to find her appeal or why someone who looks 14 could get so many males to call her hot. Also, I guess it was cool hearing Savages play what sounded like the same song for 45 minutes–at the very least, it’s a good song. For me though,  it was all about Bjork and she didn’t disappoint. Armed with a giant squishie ball helmet and a groovy alien choir backing her up, she put on a great set of noise that people like me somehow think of as music. Of all the sets this weekend, hers was the most technically impressive (M.I..A. was a close second); she had lights and funky screen projections and was all prepared to dazzle until Sharknado showed up to wreak havoc on Chicago and cut her set off early. Afterwards, we braved that hellrain to get to an aftershow featuring Classixx and Chromatics in order to dance ourselves dry and listen to some dreamy dance music. I’m running on almost 48 hours without sleep and still drinking so I’m trying to keep moving and dancing in order to not pass out on the dancefloor (and if you think I’ve never fallen asleep in a club before, you’re sorely mistaken). By the time I made it back to the room I was half-asleep, my feet hurt and at some point me and three people shared a pizza at 2 in the morning: it was a good day.

Saturday was a new day, I’d gotten about 5 hours sleep and I was ready to get the day started and see two of my favorite acts: Solange and Belle & Sebastian. But first we checked out Ryan Hemsworth’s set to dance to hip-hop mashups and donkey kong beats. I’ve never been big on Hemsworth:his mixes are pretty good but I’m not crazy for his original stuff. Still, it is pretty cool that a kid who looks like a castoff from Laguna Beach is playing 3 6 mafia over a Lyfe Jenning’s beat. He also won us over by calling himself Asher Roth and saying to check him out on Datpiff. After that it was on to my mission of getting front and center for Solange and possibly getting a chance to ask her for marriage or at the very least getting to be in her presence long enough to have some of her coolness rub off on me. And she did not disappoint: with a fall of Afro-centric jumpsuit and dance moves that could fit in a Morris Day set, she made the world perfect for 45 minutes. Swoon city. Before long, it was time for me and all my internet friends to get ready for Belle & Sebastian, a band that holds a special place in most of our hearts and also a band that surprisingly put on a really fun, lively set to dance and sing-along to. I wasn’t expect some of these songs to work live as good as they did and singing along to If You’re Feeling Sinister was probably a highlight that it nowhere near as lame as it may seem. That night, we all went to a bar to drink, shoot the shit, drink more, play connect four, sing the Friends theme song with strangers, eat Mcdonalds at 2 am, feel shitty about eating McDonalds at 2 am and then when everyone else had crashed, the few of us that still had energy left made the trek to Millenium Park to watch the sunrise. Easily a top 10 day of my lifetime.

Sunday was probably the only day I wanted to get to the fest early so, naturally, that didn’t happen. Instead I rolled out of bed at 1, grabbed a quick breakfast and went to meet up with everyone and head to the park on what was the busiest day of the festival. I had a debate with a few people about how the R. Kelly set would go with this type of audience. I made the point that there was no way R. Kelly would have a Chicago performance without a typical R. Kelly fanbase showing up in droves and I was mostly right. There in the midst of hipster paradise was what looked like the members of every black person’s family reunion camped out on lawn chairs awaiting Mr. Robert Kelly. I don’t know what racial harmony looks like persay but I imagine that’s the closest we’ll get. It was wonderful. Sunday was probably the most spiritual day of the fest. Between Killer Mike putting on a fun yet conscious show that grappled with faith, the fucked up nature of our country and the violence pervading Chicago. Mike encouraged us all to be decent human beings to each other, which sounds simple but a lot of times simple is what we need the most. I found it especially smart that Killer Mike and El-P used their two separate sets to put on one big show that allowed them to perform their Run The Jewels material–which is a really great record if you didn’t know–but unfortunately, I had to make my way over to the other side of the park to catch Blood Orange who absolutely killed it. Dev Hynes really might just be the new Prince and I’m all for it. R&B is a genre that’s still stuck in a rut musically but slowly it’s making a comeback by pushing it’s sound into different realms and Dev is a big part of that, both with his band and with his production for Solange and Sky Ferreira. Speaking of spiritual, look we can debate the authenticity or musical validity of lil b if you’d like but for me, if nothing else, the music is a lot of fun. Whether it’s genuine or some sort of intense performance art doesn’t really matter much, it’s a misfit kid genuinely enjoying himself making music and taking the time to tell people that they should love each other. That sounds alright to me. Next up was Toro y Moi, who’s actually a whole lot better with a live behind then just behind a keyboard. His show was a fun set to dance around to and enjoy yourself before M.I.A.’s distorted party carnival and R. Kelly’s big close. Speaking of M.I.A., I haven’t been a huge fan for awhile but I’ll give her major props, she puts on one hell of a fun show. The entire crowd was going crazy and she went crazy with them. By the time, She finished with Paper Planes and Bad Girls, it felt like she had the entire festival dancing and singing along.

Ok, so about R. Kelly, look I get that part of this has to do with whatever ironic love he’s gotten from hipsterdom since Trapped In The Closet, Chappelle’s Show and Aziz Ansari jokes, but the thing is 1) He’s actually a really good artist and performer and 2) I’m pretty sure he’s in on it; which is why I had faith he’d put on a really good set. Would there be people who are only there and singing Ignition remix ironically? Sure, but I mean those people obviously don’t have much going on in their lives so why get sour over it. From the moment Kels showed up in all-white and a sparkly T-shirt amongst a choir, I knew this show would be everything. He damn near spent went through the first verse of every song he’s ever done, while also freestyle singing about being hot and needing a towel, performing for 27 years and yes, being a grown ass man. When the set ended with a choir backing him up for I Believe I Can Fly while inflatable doves flew through the sky I knew I was in the right place and I was so happy that I got to share this with my friends before we all made our way back to our respective cities. Thank you Pitchfork and see you next year.

Here’s my issue with depression: It’s a tricky little bugger. There are those who obviously have it, those who think they have it and those who don’t even realize they have it. That third thing is the one I have the most trouble with. Depression shouldn’t be a “maybe” thing, it should just be definite. None of this is to say that I have it or might have it–if anything I just have bad mood swings–this is merely me talking about something that I spend too much time thinking about. If you’ve read this blog enough, you can probably gather that it’s directionless. Like most of my life at this point, it aims to do something but is not exactly sure what… not yet at least. So it just kind of meanders about from topic to topic occasionally presenting itself as… well, “readable” would probably be the most appropriate word. This is all one long, convoluted way for saying sorry there’s no set schedule to these posts; the truth is they come in when they can. Currently, I work a 9-5 to pay bills while I try to turn the writing, photography and editing I do on the side into a business, I write for other blogs (speaking of which my Great Gatsby review is up on one of them now) and I’m helping another (much, much better) artist follow her dreams with a web series she’s created (seriously, go check it out). I try to make time for this when I can because it’s the only time I can be at peace. The internet, in all its chaotic and spastic glory, can sometimes be the best free therapist and analyst (or analrapist) and that’s what this is all about for me: therapy. Right now, I’m in the moment, chasing something that I’m not quite sure what it is or if it’s even real, but I’m chasing it because I spent a year doing nothing and that was a much more depressing time.

Genius is an incredibly relative term. We apply it to people who are skilled at a craft and we use it so much that it doesn’t really mean anything anymore. Everybody is a genius according to themselves and the 2-3 douchebags that they converse with–all you really have to do is have a rudimentary knowledge of any subject (or a really mediocre knowledge of EVERY subject) and you can be considered a genius. As a result, now more than ever, the power of the faux-intellectual is as strong as the stubbornness they apply to their ill-conceived notions. Faux-intellectualism would be endearing if it weren’t so pompous, arrogant and loud. It’s not enough anymore to secretly believe you’re the smartest guy in the room (like just about everyone does anyways), it is now imperative that we exercise our advanced theories of modern life at any given moment. who needs peace and quiet at a restaurant when you can endure a boisterous young go-getter breaking down the problems with the American government and social welfare programs and how, shit is like, not as good as the ’60s, you know, that awesome time that’s so awesome that they can talk about it’s awesomeness despite not being born until the ’90s. Maybe it’s the fault of social media that nobody believes in humility or just fucking keeping things to yourself and the few people willing to indulge you; maybe it’s the idea continuously perpetuated by schools and parents that kid’s voices and opinions matter and are special. Regardless, it’s always been my belief that you should always have enough self-awareness about yourself to know that there’s a chance that you could be wrong–and if you know you’re right, you better have the tactical knowledge to prove it. I only know three things about humanity: 1) We’re all animals with self-awareness at best 2) pie tastes pretty good 3) I don’t really know anything. I will always be a student at life and it’s getting kind of annoying dealing with a bunch of assholes who think they’re professors. I went to college and dealt with asshole professors for four years, I’m not here for you tools whose intellectual babble is the equivalent of a 7th grade writes-upon-request paper.

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