Alan Wallach

“Breaking Bad” Marathon

My wife and I just finished a marathon TV watch of Breaking Bad. I am glad it’s over so that now I can get some work done. Besides the emotional drain, a few things occurred to me at its conclusion. First, It makes Hamlet, as a tragedy, seem like a farce by comparison. I’ll spare you the details in case you want to undertake your own Netflix marathon. You can experience the pain yourself. I wonder just what the Bard would have done it he’d had television and could drag a story on for upwards of fifty hours. Another thing involves the virtual ease with which methamphetamine can be produced. Having a degree in chemistry, I was fascinated how close they came to chemical reality. I understand that a couple of chemistry teachers tried to copy Walter White’s process and got caught. It shows only that while producing meth is easy if you know a little and have the ingredients (which are also commonly available) purchasing them in any quantity is a dead giveaway and would have the DEA on your ass in moments.
It’s been a long time since I was a chemistry student but the show refreshed my memory of how fascinating organic chemistry was. To those who don’t know anything about it, organic compounds are like tinkertoys. The reason is that carbon atoms can connect with each other making molecular chains and rings which have no real limit to their lengths and sizes. The possibilities are literally infinite. New compounds are synthesized all the time by putting these building blocks together.
As an aside, I recall we often worked in the lab on weekends unsupervised, to finish projects. I remember a group of us mischievously making pure ethyl alcohol in the lab (ethyl alcohol you buy is denatured purposely making it unfit to drink, unless of course it’s in wine, whiskey or beer) I took a swig of it diluted with orange juice. To this day I can remember the taste. It was the opposite of “smooth.” It literally burned my throat. The only thing I can say for it is it wasn’t poison.
But the main thing I got as a writer is the answer to the comment, “You can’t make this shit up.” Yes, you can.