Eric is the coauthor of "A Year of Hitchcock: 52 Weeks with the Master of Suspense" (Scarecrow Press 2009), author of "Stuff Every Husband Should Know" (Quirk Books 2011), and the creator of the self-published Pitched! graphic novel anthology series.
So hey, check it out. Breaking Down Breaking Bad: Unpeeling the Layers of Television's Greatest Drama is available for purchase and stuff.
It's from me, so that's kind of cool. It's available for Kindle and Kindle-friendly devices such as iPads and iPhones, as well as in a print edition. It's totally affordable, too. Impulse buy!
This book began as a germ of an idea about a year or so ago, but it wasn't an idea I took very seriously at first. Too much on my plate at the time, dealing with too many other things, juggling too many other projects.
But in the run up to the show's final eight episodes, my fever for all things Breaking Bad reached ridiculous proportions. I spent an absurd amount of time digging into what made this show special with friends like Rick Lundeen (who did that killer cover illustration) and others. And as I chatted up anyone willing to listen, I took notes. Lots and lots of notes. Lots and lots and lots of notes.
Those notes became the seeds of this book. It ain't no collection of random thoughts, though. It's a full-on, real-deal, 20-chapter exploration of the entire show from episode one to the finale, diving into the characters, moments, and motivations that kept us glued to the TV for six years. My goal was to take what I learned during the writing of A Year of Hitchcock and Hitchcock's Villains, combine it with my enthusiasm for the show, and use it to create a book worth reading. I'm pretty proud of it. Hope you enjoy. Check it out on Amazon at this link.
For 15 years, I have recorded noisy, droning music under the name m2.
Okay, it's actually been longer than that. Recording music of this sort long pre-dated the m2 project. It even pre-dated owning a four-track recorder. I used to own one of those old twin-deck cassette stereos with a turntable on top. One day I discovered that if you plugged headphones into the mic jack and dubbed a tape from one deck to the other, you could kinda sorta play with the tape and have it record layers on top of one another. It was messy and ugly, but it worked. You could layer music.
So I promptly took a cassette I had -- I remember what it was, too; a dub of R.E.M. with "Green" on one side and "Document" on the other -- and recorded 45 minutes of guitar feedback. Then I did it again. And again. And again. All on the same tape. Probably five or six times. Each time layered along with the other layer. Each time the tape was more worn and distorted, but sure enough the sounds laid on top of one another and I ended up with an epic blanket of sonic bliss.
I lost that tape many years ago.
And I sure do regret it.
But it tells you where my mind was all those years ago. Even before I discovered bands like Flying Saucer Attack, Azusa Plane, Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and others,. I had a thirst for music that sort of filled up the room with sound yet lacked the hooks and form and structure that defined traditional rock music. So I recorded it myself.
It came to a head in 1998, when I released from seven fields of vision. I figured no one would ever like this junk (and I remain mostly right), but I did it for me, so I was pleasantly surprised when some college station in Phoenix picked it up and a few scattered positive comments came in. Cool!
Nonetheless, I put the project on the backburner. For nine years. Sure, I recorded, but didn't think much of it or do anything with it. Then, in 2007, during a difficult time, all this stuff poured out of me and I posted eight times alone to the Internet. The record was cathartic. It might sound like noise to you, but for me it was pure release. Those songs mean something to me.
It kickstarted something.
Since then, I have regularly plugged in my guitar (LOUD) and recorded ugly soundscapes of overloaded guitar when I have something to get out of my system. For me, records like Dying Mother and Ashes and The Endless Twelve actually mean something to me. I know few people listen. Some do. It may be surprising to learn that there are a few hundred dedicated downloaders for each record (and THANK YOU!), but that's not why I do it.
It has been 15 years this year since I put a name on it. I expect I'll be doing it for 15 more.
Hey, not fer nuthin', but my favorite little Pine Barrens town happens to have a Facebook page, and it happens to have been started by yours truly, and it happens to have all sorts of awesome pictures and facts from this great book about Lakehurst.
In fact, the page has been going for some time now, and it's full of AWESOME memories and pictures and general stuff from in and around Lakehurst, like airships, the Hindenburg disaster, life in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, places to drink great New Jersey beer, and loads more.
So hey, be cool and click on over and give the page a "like." I'd be awful appreciative. I might even smile about it or something.
And hey, it'd be spiffy if you wanted to buy the book, too, because it's pretty great and I wrote it and all so it would be nice. Just sayin'.
This will be my fifth book, collaborative or otherwise, with a sixth hopefully coming out next year in ebook form via the Philadelphia Weekly. (That project is still up in the air.)
The project has actually been in gestation for some time now, practically since A Year of Hitchcock was finished. Basking in the glow of finishing such a big project, Jim and I came up with other ideas. The villains idea seemed promising, so we created a full book proposal to send to publishers ... and promptly put it in a drawer for the next several years, since we (or I, as I'm speaking only for myself) were temporarily burned out on Hitchcock.
Last summer, we revisited the idea. Our publisher liked it. And this book is the result.
Interestingly, Jim and I briefly batted around the idea of getting to this project right here on this blog (check the comments). Six months later, we actually got to it.
I guess I was supposed to be talking about this all along, but there was
life to be lived and all, and self-promotion sucks, so I haven't until now. Blogging is a pain in the ass. But huzzah! Now I have talked about it.
I was given a dose of reality. You have no history of beer writing, he said, so pitching a beer book would be difficult.
Made sense. I may write, but that doesn't mean I could suddenly do a great book on growing great tulips. (I could.) I needed experience. So I started blogging about beer. It was a way to get my feet wet and start building cred in the beer world. To be honest, I only took it half seriously, but good things started to happen. My first professional beer piece was published, and though it's kind of wordy, it got the ball rolling. Soon I was doing a load of beer reviews for Philly Beer Week, interviewing Jim Koch, and these days I'm doing a year-long series on beer for the Philadelphia Weekly. Heck, my blog post about J.R.R. Tolkien and beer has drawn over 12,000 views to date. A beer audience is building. Press releases come my way, beer packages, loads of stuff.
So somehow, I've become a beer writer.
And that's kinda neat.
Which means, I suppose, I need to pull that beer book proposal out of the archives and pitch it again. Because I like to write. And I like beer. The problem, of course, is that beer is BIG right now. So do I have anything new to say about it?
I put my Sopranos series on hold for a while simply because I got busy, but with the recent death of James Gandolfini, it seems appropriate to pick up where I left off. So here are my thoughts on revisiting The Sopranos season 5 many years later. As always, this is written assuming you have watched the season, so SPOILERS ALERTS apply.
At the time I first watched this, I felt this was one of the stronger seasons. I still think so.
a way it's more fragmented than previous seasons, with many short arcs
rather than several large arcs (though those are present, too). The
mafia side of the drama is compelling despite the main conflict being
marital, i.e. Tony and Carmella's split, which is the big story of this season. Stuff with New York is getting
heated by this point, ramping up tension in a big way. Not NEARLY
enough time is spent on this, but what time they do
spend on it is great, and the show wraps up those stories very nicely at
the end of the season. For the first time since season 2 you feel like
you've seen a complete story.
That said, the formula of "old mafioso returns
and causes Tony trouble" almost begins to wear thin here. Really, been there, done that. Thankfully, the new
cast introductions who fall into that category give this old theme a new
spin. The first instance is handled in a new way, the second provides a dramatic
story that sets up all of season 6's turmoil. So that's great.
Oh, and Adriana.
really love how this was handled. You think she has talked Christopher
into flipping, he seems all in, then they cut to Tony calling Adriana
with an emergency. The audience knows the jig is up. But notice this: They never show Christopher telling Tony.
I love that choice. It's played like a mystery -- maybe Christopher
really did try to kill himself -- but we know the real deal, especially
when Silvio comes to pick her up. Brilliant writing and direction.
There is also a great tease
when she's in the car with Silvio. She knows what is about to happen. When
you first see her after the call from Tony, she's driving to Washington,
D.C. with a suitcase next to her. It appears as if she fled. But no,
that was a daydream. She's actually with Sil. Why daydream about driving
away alone? Because she knows what is going to happen but gave in to the inevitability of it.
make the choice to kill her off screen. We don't even see Sil's muzzle
flare. Only treetops and the sound of gunshots. In a show that revels in
explicit violence, this was a bold and effective choice.
The marital drama of this season, however, was less compelling. Carmella
having a brief fling, Tony wanting to get back with her, the kids being
assholes, and finally reconciliation. Eh. I had a hard time caring about
most of this. The story beats were good, but there was too much
screentime spent on it.
As for Tony -- because after all, isn't he what the series is all about? -- you get less and less sympathy for him as the series goes on. In addition to being a thug and murderer, he's an asshole.
That scene when he's having dinner with Janice and Bobby and he
purposely stomps on her happiness ... I hate Janice, bad, but I really hated
him at that moment, too.
That said, most episodes of this season
were top notch. The only dud was, in my opinion, the extended dream
episode late in the season. Very arty and symbolic, but it went on too
long and they played games with the way they revealed the second murder
by Busemi. It was too vital a story beat to do that with.
Blogs are like great weights affixed to your neck, or rather, like a 200-pound sets of car keys. You don't want to carry the damn things around, but the car won't start without them.
It's been a while since I've blogged here. Probably should have stayed current. Should have been updating all along. Could have talked about this project or that, or merely talked about James Gandolfini passing away and why Bruce Springsteen is probably better than I give him credit for and why the Akira manga is crazy good.
Yet the truth is, I'd rather be working on new projects than talking about them. The other truth is, even though it's seen as your authorial duty to plug your upcoming books or whatever else you're doing -- you have to keep yourself out there and all that jazz -- it feels kind of sleazy to me when I do it.
Oh, make no mistake. I do it. Ask any of my annoyed Facebook friends. I do. "Hey, check this out!" Blah blah blah.
But a fan of the process I am not. And so this blog has gone ignored for a while, in part because I didn't want to engage in that and because I struggled to find worthwhile topics. When I've blogged this year, it has been on my Celebrating the Suds blog, in part because it had lead to good things and in part because, hey, beer.
Still, I should keep up with this.
Maybe I'll start a Bruce Springsteen series or a series on video games or a post about the most deadly butterfly in the world.
I've already mentioned that I am writing about Hurricane Sandy from my perspective. Swell, I suppose, but more important than that is trying to tell the story of other people who lived through the storm. My Sandy story, after all, is pretty tame compared to what many went through.
And it really is. Yes, the Hurricane Sandy videos I posted seem kinda neat if you didn't live through it, but that's all they were. Kinda neat. Prior to the videos the water was two feet HIGHER. It sounds kind of nuts, and yes, the night of the storm was WILD, but we still survived. We lived. We moved on.
But what do you do when you CAN'T simply move on? What do you do when your home is demolished and you have no place to live and all you can hope to do is to scratch out an existence with friends and family?
I know many people who have to do exactly that. For the Philadelphia Weekly I have been trying to tell their story. I think the idea of living on the island at the time Hurricane Sandy came in, as well as the days following the storm, is compelling. That's why I'm exploring how two different families coped with the disaster.
The first story of those families starts here. They're from Lavallette, and they have a great tale to tell. Kayaking through turmoil, coming together, guns, chaos, survival. If I was writing fiction I couldn't come up with this! You should give it a read.