Barrett Brown Is Bored Out of His Mind in Jail
Earlier today, Barrett Brown’s legal counsel sent us this letter on behalf of their imprisoned client. They’ve told us to expect more writing from Barrett Brown in the near future.
Like a lot of pompous, insufferable people, I didn’t watch television when I was previously “out in the world,” as my fellow inmates say. And if I were being held in a regular federal facility like a normal detainee, I wouldn’t be exposed to it while incarcerated if I preferred to avoid it. This is because federal prisons (along with holding facilities where inmates await trial) are relatively humane affairs equipped with separate areas for various activities—for instance, sleeping and watching television are done in distinctly different rooms. The problem is that all the federal facilities here in the Northern District of Texas were filled up with inmates awaiting trial or sentencing when I became incarcerated. This isn’t simply because Texans are an inherently criminal bunch—although of course they are—but rather because, in addition to prosecuting actual crimes against property and persons, the federal government is also in a great big contest with the Chinese to see who can imprison the most people for bullshit non-crimes like selling drugs.
At the same time, Congress has decided that the best way of dealing with illegal immigrants from Mexico who threaten to increase our GDP is to imprison them at great expense to the public. There are other factors at play here, all of which point to the ongoing degeneracy of the American people. Suffice to say, because of Texas’ booming incarceration industry, I was not one of those lucky-ducky federal inmates who got to kick back in a real live federal facility—because these babies are filled to the brim. Rather, I’m “housed,” as they call it, in a privately-run city facility used for government overflow. And this place is filled up, too. Nor was it built to house people for more than a few days or perhaps weeks; until a couple of years ago, it functioned as a lock-up for area arrestees while they awaited transit elsewhere. As such, my fellow inmates and I spend our time in cramped eight-man cells opening on to a day room the size of the cheapest Manhattan apartment that’s shared by 24 men. A few times a week we get to go outside onto a caged concrete strip and walk back and forth for an hour. This comprises our world, and is where I’ve spent most of the past year.
Thirteen Alternate Endings for Breaking Bad
1.) In a psychotic break following the discovery of his dad’s true nature, Walt Jr. goes on a meth binge, buying up as much of his father’s blue product as he can get his hands on and eating it in maniacal sadness, leading to frenzy. He robs three liquor stores and spends the cash on breakfast cereal, which he rolls around on in huge piles alone and naked in his room. He breaks into cars and drives them into walls, laughing and pissing on the wreckage. He burns down his parents’ car wash and their home, followed by his Aunt Marie’s home, and his high school. The next day he is found dead inside a local Denny’s, having broken in overnight and gorged himself on raw eggs, bacon, and waffle batter in a food-fisting binge-party before doing so much meth his heart exploded. Walt, upon learning what his son has done, blows his head off in a men’s room outside Portland after his own last breakfast at Denny’s, in his son’s honor. The show concludes with Skyler spreading the ashes of her dead husband and son in the desert behind a Denny’s.
2.) An international cartel leader, played by a heavily prosthetic-enhanced Tom Cruise, shows up in town looking for Heisenberg. He follows leads to each of Walt’s major relations, shaking them down for information and then killing them in broad daylight. After reading about the string of murders in the paper, Walt comes down from his snowy hideout furiously angry and ready for vengeance, armed only with his wits. An anticlimactic showdown between Walt and Tom Cruise occurs when, as they finally come face to face, the cartel leader takes advantage of Walt’s tendency to have a long discussion before killing someone, and simply blasts him in the face. The show concludes with Tom Cruise buying a case of breakfast sausage at Costco before returning to his native land.
TV Party! by Kate Carraway
“Cable television is a disease. I have it now, and that means I also have the TV listings in my bookmarks and that’s a problem. TV is for the one-hour toast-inhaling impasse you have in between working and going out, or hangovers/the flu. That’s IT! TV is so good now but it’s never stopped being the fucking worst.” I wrote that for VICE a year ago and, yeah, I was wrong. Maybe “mostly” wrong: TV created a renaissance for itself, in content and delivery—let’s call it post-TV—but watching shows on trad-TV or not, if watched passively or by rote, is still the fucking worst. So I was like half wrong?
Television has gone from 99 percent daggy to the medium that feels most expansive and inclusive (I’d make a lemonade-bet that there is more diversity of people and genres across a cache of your fave shows than your iTunes library or w/e), and the medium that collective-cultural life, one zillion smug tweets, and a TV-recap-industrial-complex all orbit around, while the novel moves further out into darkness (remember, “For every reader who dies today, a viewer is born,” wrote Papa Franzen, forever ago; remember, The Flamethrowers got less attention than Badger’s Star Trek scene in Breaking Bad).
We’re in the weird sort-of midst of the “fall season,” where previews and reviews and finales and premieres are happening all at once, which seems to be a just-fine whistle stop on the milk run toward whole seasons of TV being available all at once, Netflix-style. So, here, some select-selections from the lineup of brand new shows where the rubric for inclusion is about as sophisticated as “what I feel like” and, you know, what might turn out to be good. TV party tonight! TV party tonight! TV party tonight!
We Went to a Breaking Bad Finale Party in a Cemetery
This post contains spoilers, obviously.
Danny McBride Talks About the Final Season of Eastbound & Down
Last week 19 million people watched the narrative landfill known as The Big Bang Theory. It makes me wish Charlie Sheen and the nutso Seventh Day Adventist who played his nephew on Two and a Half Men would go on a drug-fueled killing spree, using data from Nielson boxes to pinpoint the exact location of their prey. Or maybe they could just develop a primetime comedy show based on this premise. They could call it The Big Bang Theory, for Real; I know more than a few people who’d watch it.
But enough bitching. Streaming and on-demand services have provided an audience for amazingly well written and produced TV shows that otherwise might’ve been canceled after their first seasons. Breaking Bad, the series finale of which aired last night on AMC and now has the entirety of the internet creaming its pants, is one such example.
Another is Eastbound & Down, which coincidentally entered its fourth and final season on HBO minutes after the tale of Walter White came to its bitter end. While in many ways a deeply dark episodic drama about a science teacher turned meth kingpin is diametrically opposed to a balls-out comedy about a washed-up Major League relief pitcher with a mullet and a penchant for cocaine and jet skis, they both share many important core elements: meandering but believable story arcs that constantly introduce new characters, locations, and conflicts; they rely on unexpected plot twists that, without careful consideration and writing, could easily alienate audiences who have been conditioned through blatant foreshadowing to know what will happen next long before the characters become aware; and protagonists who, like real people, adapt and change according to the situation at hand.
And so the story of Kenny Powers—played by the show’s co-creator Danny McBride—continues. I was fortunate enough to preview the first two episodes of the new season, which I have been absolutely assured will be the last. It takes place at an undefined point in the future, which judging from the age of Kenny and April’s son seems to be about a four or five year leap forward from when we last left the troubled couple. In case your memory is fuzzy: the first episode of the third season (which, when first announced, was said by the show’s creators to be its last run) saw April leave Kenny and their son in the middle of the night, and from there the newly single father was drafted by a minor league team in Myrtle Beach where he struggled to find his stride. In the end he manages to get an offer to reenter the majors, but instead bleaches his hair, fakes his own death, and returns home to find April and commit to becoming a family man.
In the first episode of season four it appears that Kenny has finally submitted to his fate, content with the comforting routine of being a husband and father who works at a car rental agency. But things quickly change, of course. They always do.
A few days before the season premiere, I spoke with Danny to ask about how his life has changed along with the show and to glean some insight into what happens to Kenny Powers in the end.
VICE: So is this really the last season? I am somewhat dubious, given that you guys have said that before.
Danny McBride: I think it’s definitely the last season. Maybe there will be a time where we’ll come back to this character again years from now. From the outset though, we approached every season as if we weren’t going to have an opportunity to do it again. Even when we were shooting the pilot, we kind of were like well you know maybe who knows who will pick this up, but at least we’ll have a 30-minute short film. But this season was definitely more of a surprise just because we kind of thought that we were done after the third season and, you know, HBO called us and just wanted us to do one more. [Co-creator] Jody [Hill] and I were kind of looking at each other and we felt good where we left things off last year, but they were just very persistent about it.
They pretty much asked us what would it take to get you guys to do this again. Originally, our third season was going to be about Kenny and April together. But Katy Mixon, the actress who plays April, was on Mike and Molly so we found out after we started to write the third season that we were only going to have her for two episodes, so it kind of fucked up what our plan for the whole season last year was gonna be. We had all this material, all this stuff, all the angles that we basically had to just throw out the window. So what we told HBO was “Look, we liked last season but we weren’t really able to do what our original plan was because we didn’t have Katy.” So they were like if we could get her would you guys be interested in doing it again? And sure enough, they got her, and we said, “Alright well why not, let’s do it.”
Look What Spike Jonze Sent Us in the Mail
By now, you’ve probably heard we got nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series for our HBO series, VICE. The awards ceremony is on September 22nd, and we’re all pretty stoked. Our buddy, the esteemed Spike Jonze sent this letter to our office and it’s all starting to feel more real. This is actually happening. Excuse us for blushing.
While we wait to see if we get to take home a fancy gold statue, why not check out our HBO site, watch outtakes and clips from the show, and write VICE in hearts all over your high school notebook. I guess we’re going to have to get tuxedos.
Watch the North Korea Episode of VICE on HBO Right Now, for Free
Chances are, the first time you heard of our HBO show was when news outlets around the world reported that we took Bad-as-I-Wanna-Be NBA Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman to North Korea, along with members of the legendary Harlem Globetrotters, to take on the Hermit Kingdom’s national team in a friendly, if entirely absurd, experiment in basketball diplomacy. As you probably know, the enigmatic young ruler of the country, Kim Jong Un, showed up to the game, making us the first American news organization to meet him. It was pretty much the most thrilling thing that could have happened, and when pictures were beamed back to Brooklyn that day, the poured-concrete floors of our offices rippled in cracks and dents as our jaws collectively hit the floor.
Our trip to DPRK is the glorious capstone of the first season of VICE. Here it is, in all its absurd glory.
Psycho, Psycho, Psycho – by James Franco
What’s in an adaptation? What’s in a remake? How does the transference of material from life into art differ from the transference of material from one piece of art into another? And what about the approach? Meaning, when we take from life, do we do it as a documentary (nonfiction), a feature film (fiction), or as reality television (depressing)? And when we do a remake, what are we remaking? The story, the characters, the structure, the way it was shot, the way it was written?
The story of Psycho began with Ed Gein, a real dude who lived in Wisconsin in the 50s. Gein was a sick bastard who liked going to the cemetery and digging up recently interred bodies of women whom he thought looked like his mother. (Gein must have been doing a ton of digging, especially considering he was all by himself! I had to dig a grave once in a recent adaptation of As I Lay Dying, and that shit ain’t easy.) He made furniture out of their body parts—lamps out of their skin, bedposts out of their skulls. He seemed to be into collecting the parts as much as he was into the actual killing. You can see a list of flesh bits that were found in his house on Wikipedia. It was stuff like vaginas in shoeboxes and heads in bags.
Watch Episode 1 of VICE on HBO for Free, Right Now
Our Emmy-nominated HBO show recently wrapped up its first season, and complaint numero uno that we got throughout its run was: “I reaaaalllyyy want to watch your show, but I don’t have HBO.” Well, your cries have been heard. Today we are releasing the first full episode of VICE for you to watch right here, for zero dollars. But we know one episode is something of a tease, so tomorrow we’ll be putting up episode four, and next Monday and Tuesday we’ll release episodes nine and ten, respectively.
In this first episode, Ryan Duffy travels to the Philippines to explore the rampant political violence during election season and VICE co-founder Shane Smith heads to Afghanistan to speak with would-be child suicide bombers who were captured before they could kill themselves and others.
Watch the episode
So on that token, do you think the war on drugs is effective? Especially on our border with Mexico?
I’m kind of agnostic on that subject. I don’t know if it’s the best possible way to go. I don’t know if decriminalization of certain drugs is the way to go, either. You’d think I’d have a stronger opinion on it, but I spend all my time thinking about this one character and not the politics at large. Having said that, I know there are a lot of well-intended men and women trying to stop the flow of drugs and I know these cartels in Mexico, to use one example, are the cause of a great deal of pain and suffering and death. Having said that, is it the right way to go to hit them even harder and keep it all criminalized, or should we suddenly take them out of the market by making all that stuff legal? Hard to say.
Have you ever tried meth?
No, definitely never actually tried it. I suspect I would be more of a downer drug guy than an upper.
—The Time We Tried to Talk Drugs with Vince Gilligan, Creator of Breaking Bad