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Deadwood’s Al Swearengen is the Prototype for TV’s Best Characters

Photo by Sarah Lachise on Unsplash

What does it take for a long-form TV series to endure? Job one may be extraordinary character development. The main players must be nuanced — heroic in some ways and decidedly flawed in others. And quite often they must evolve from one into the other or inhabit the gray terrain between. This often manifests in what I’d characterize as slow turns-of-the-tide.

Look at the extraordinary Deadwood. During much of season one, Al Swearengen is the typical Big Bad. In the first few episodes he presides over the murder of the…


Do yourself a favor and watch him in El Camino

A red El Camino car in a parking lot on a sunny day
A red El Camino car in a parking lot on a sunny day
Photo by Sean Ferigan on Unsplash

To those who first encountered Plemmons during his turn as the affable, self-effacing, but eventually in-way-over-his-head Landry Clarke on Friday Night Lights, the prospect of his being a sociopath might seem dubious.

But that was before Breaking Bad season 5.

Like Landry, Plemmons’ Todd Alquist seems a pleasant enough guy. He’s calm, well-mannered, patient. Among the five members of the crew staging Walt’s brilliant, purportedly victimless methylamine train robbery, the insipid Todd would seem the least likely to kill without a second’s pause.

The contrast is what made the casting so brilliant. And also what makes Plemmons so reliably compelling…


All it takes is 10 minutes a day

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Among the many benefits of shutting your mouth (silence, promoting inner contemplation, not catching flies), is forcing you to breathe through your nose. As common sense and a growing body of research says, this is the one and only way to breathe.

Nose breathing calms you down, filters the air, improves oxygen delivery, and supports proper use of the diaphragm and intercostal muscles.

Mouth breathing stimulates the fight or flight response, inhibits digestion, promotes poor posture, and gives you bad breath (especially if you do it while you sleep).

How does one make the switch?

I suggest a daily practice…


And our adversary is Netflix

Photo by Derek Sutton on Unsplash

What do you want? What are you striving for? Stuff? Security? The good buzz in the body that comes from a day of outdoor work or exercise? Or do you aspire to something higher like combating climate change or helping people heal from disease? Or even something as unassailably simple as being funny? Making someone laugh?

Or maybe it’s some combination of the above.

I graduated college with honors and hence was invited to attend the Phi Beta Kappa address. My father accompanied me. The speech, delivered by a classmate, an exuberant and enthusiastic young…

Joseph Starr

Editor of Designer Pages Media. Aficionado of barefoot life. Work appearing in The Literary Review, D.U. Quarterly, Modern in Denver, and Archinect.

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