Monday, March 24, 2008


New York magazine did a frame-by-frame analysis of the series finale's concluding montage. Pretty basic stuff, but I find the comments to be the most interesting:

‘The Wire’ Finale's Montage: A Shot-by-Shot Commentary

Also, just as a sidenote, guess what the Arts editor at Baltimore magazine decided to name his blog for our revamped Web site? What else, but All The Pieces Matter.

It should be flattering, Tripp, that you and Baltimore's Arts editor think on the same wavelength.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

And again...

Picked up a City Paper yesterday and, what do ya know, the cover story was an exit interview with David Simon. Let's draw this out even longer by reading it:

Case Closed

It doesn't really offer up anything new: Simon delves deep into the world of journalism, explains why the five seasons were just enough and discusses his future endeavors. But it did offer me even more, pretty necessary, closure.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Simon Says

Yesterday, David Simon posted a letter on the HBO website for fans of the show. It's pretty cool.

Also, here's another interview with him from

Monday, March 10, 2008

React Quotes

I woke up today feeling like a good friend just died.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Alma + D'Angelo 4Ever

Did anyone else know that these two actors have been married for 15 years?

Friday, March 7, 2008

My turn to be Omar!

I came across this the other day. Some people have mentioned that there have been scenes in which Kenard has looked at Omar without fear, and that for them foreshadowed Kenard's murdering Omar. After reading the interview that Jessie posted below, I saw this video and thought it interesting. Dominic West commented that we will see in the last episode who will be the next Omar, McNulty, etc. I couldn't think of anyone who could be the next Omar, until I saw this. Interesting to see Kenard "playing" Omar.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Article in Time Magazine

I was surprised that this article was in Time, because it frankly discusses the realities that "The Wire" confronts so unapologetically. Great article, and it's cool that it wasn't an interview, but rather the article was written by the creators of "The Wire."

Check it out here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Slow Train Comin' (again)(hopefully)

So, I have no reason to think so...but I'm desperately hoping Brother Mouzone comes back in the finale. A few things give me hope.


First of all, and correct me if I'm wrong, but every major character from the show who's still alive has been in the fifth season. Many have been brief, like Randy, Nicky Sobotka, and Colvin/Namond, but pretty much everyone has been back. Brother, I think, counts as a major character. The only other major player we haven't seen is Prez, and we know from the preview he's in the last episode at least a little (and with that RIDICULOUS beard...I'm not usually one to freak out about fashions or anything in movies/TV characters, I usually hate when people do but wow...I'm not saying it's bad but it is INTENSE). I mean, they even brought back Det. Barlow from S1, Judge Phelan (not seen since S3) and Johnny 50 from S2 (homeless now, very sad). So if they don't bring back Brother I think he'll literally be the only prominent living character not brough back.

Although I just realized that's not quite true...DeLonda Brice, Breanna Barksdale and Wee-Bay haven't been in this season. Well maybe Wee-Bay was when Avon was on, I don't quite remember. Even so, all of them seemed like they finished up their stories in S4. Besides, they could still be in the last episode. Terry D'Agostino hasn't been in 5 either, but she too seems like she's finished. Mouzone, of course, was finished too; his entire story (Baltimore speaking anyway) was wrapped up by Stringer's death. But I think he's different. I offer that he's too...well, too a few things to not bring back.

He's too iconic. He is the only character other than Omar who has mystique, the sort of western movie hero/villain Omar was. Like Omar too, he's the only character not bound to one insitution or another. He is self-employed, extremely literate, never curses, and while Omar is gay Mouzone almost seems asexual. You could say he's a Muslim, and what more rigid institution than religion is there, but we don't know that. He dresses like a member of The Nation of Islam, as Cheese pointed out in S2, but the NOI allows no involvement in drugs, so it goes without saying a member could not work for a drug kingpin as protector of his drug trade. The NOI does not allow violence against other blacks unless it is a matter of life and death, and some say not even then, so working as a hitman in urban areas like New York and Baltimore would be problematic. Also, Brother never says he's with NOI. He mentions "[his] god" when Omar is about to kill him, and we see him whispering in apparent prayer, but who knows what god he means or what he's whispering.

Another thing...this could be me just wishful thinking, but check this out, from the bio of Clay Davis on the HBO website: "Shameless as he is personable, Senator Davis is not without his charm, though this was lost on Stringer Bell, who, after finding that he had been duped out of a considerable sum by the senator, wanted to have him killed. Recognizing the boundaries between the political world and the street, Avon Barksdale refused to go forward with that contract, though even at the time of his death, Bell was angrily trying to hire out-of-town hitters to avenge himself." Now, one would think Stringer would never hire Brother, but I don't think Stringer knew Brother knew he'd betrayed him until the very end, so he may have. Also, there was never a mention of him looking to out of town hitters in that epuisode (I checked) so why put it in there? Plus, they KNOW they're teasing us when they say out-of-town hitters, because in Simon's Baltimore, we only know of one (or two, if you count the dude from DC that killed D'Angelo...and Sergei too I guess but you see my point).

And now, here's my theory on HOW it could happen. This may border on geeky fan fiction, so if it does forgive me. Again, spoilers here so be warned. Anyway, Omar is now dead, while Marlo and Chris etc. etc. still live. He seems to have failed in his revenge. But I wonder. Did anyone notice how careless he was being after he went out the window in episode 5 how careless he had become? He didn't wait for his leg to heal, just went on hobbling around everywhere, with increasing difficulty. We saw him out in the open more and more, and he seemed far more cavalier than he ever had. Was I the only one who, in the scene before he actually got killed, was waiting with this awful certainty he was going to get shot in the back while he emptied those drugs into the sewer? The man was fucking up. And while I suppose I understand why he didn't consider Kenard a threat, to go to a convenience store a block from where he'd just raised hell, even I wouldn't do that (although I suppose I wouldn't have robbed a bunch of drug dealers in West Baltimore with a shotgun either...well a man has to dream).

Anyway, consider that, and consider this: maybe Omar knew he was going to die. Obviously he would expect to every day of his life, being the man he was, but after he went out the window I think some part of him knew the end was rapidly approaching. So, since he and Brother were tight in an odd, gunslinger sort of way following Stringer Bell's death, and since he has a shit-ton of money from last season's heist, I think maybe Omar hired Brother to whack Marlo, et al. Of course, Omar could not allow himself to ask for help, and Brother may not have accepted, so what if Omar told someone, one of Butchie's surviving men, maybe Kimmy, maybe Renaldo, whoever, that in the even of his death Brother should be contracted. If Omar did this, and since he expected to die anyway, maybe he went all out throwing caution to the wind knowing he'd either succeed or die, and that meant the one man who might have a better chance of nailing Marlo would come into play. A bit intense, but we know Omar and how focused he is-if he was truly certain his death was imminent, I totally believe he'd put even his own death behind his vengeance.

Now again, keep in mind, this is just a theory I concocted so that there'd be an excuse for Brother to come back, it has no basis in reality. If it does happen, well, I might have a small heart attack. Also, if Brother comes back AND this theory of mine is even partially true, you'll have to take my word for it that I didn't cheat. I only mention this because last year I predicted Bodie's death pretty early and first everyone called me an idiot and then, when it happened, accused me of looking at spoilers or downloaded clips or something. I did not. At the risk of sounding pompous, I am a writer (well, I'm trying to be) and I tried to think like they did. That time I was right. I was wrong about The Sopranos (although who could've predicted that) but I was right about the death of a major character at the end of season 3 of Deadwood, for those of you who haven't watched I won't say who...but watch that show. Man is it good. Anyway, we need Brother to come back.

He's also just too damned good not to. They knew when they created him, I expect, that they'd stumbled on to something awesome. I mean, Prop Joe was actually afraid of this guy. He's definitely among my favorite characters...because he's one of the few left in the show that's a true enigma. I don't (really) have a good reason for how or why it could happen, but I want him back. I almost said I didn't know when either...but then again I do. I have to. It's either this last episode or nothing. The last episode. Jesus I can't believe we're here already.

I think that deserves a post in itself.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Dominic West tells all, well some...

Here's an interview with Dominic West from the LA Times, which hints at the series finale. It also talks about how the condensed 10-episode season affected the storyline and a possible movie that "would have to be a prequel."

One of the more revealing answers:

"It’s an amazing feat of logistics how he has wrapped it up. Little story shoots that were sent out in Season 1 and you never heard of again come back and are sewn up –- I’m mixing hundreds of metaphors here –- but what you find at the end of "The Wire," and I think in life, is that all these characters that you’ve come to know and are fading away are replaced by a younger generation. So you see exactly who’s going to become the new McNulty and the new Omar, because the thing about the police work against drug gangs is they bring down one and a few years later they’re building a case against a whole new one. I suppose it's the idea that relentlessly things don’t change and you keep seeing the same thing again and again."

Thursday, February 28, 2008


As the fifth season comes to its inexorable end (with episode nine by FAR being the most intense yet), you start to explore every possible scenario that could wrap up the series. Guessing may seem silly on a show that's known for its unpredictability, but it sure is fun.

So I have an interesting theory to propose. Subscribers to HBO OnDemand were able to view three prequels: one of a young Omar robbing a man waiting for the bus in 1985 Baltimore; one of a young Prop Joe making business deals at his school in 1962 Baltimore; and one of Bunk and McNulty meeting for the first time in 2000 Baltimore.

It is most certainly not a coincidence that the main characters of the first two prequels have perished so far this season. So what could this last one mean? I have a few ideas (death of a partnership, McNulty's career, etc.) But, I would like to hear what everyone else thinks. Could they actually kill off McNulty or Bunk?

Two moments

Two moments I thought of that aren't on your list:

Du'quon, Randy, Namond and Michael in the vacants - "see, not special dead...just dead."

Landsman in the cube with Ziggy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Just like a forty-degree day

Here are my nominees for the best moments...they are heavy on 3 and 4 but what can I say, those are my favorites. I have not bothered with any from 5 yet, as I know I'll need more distance from it before I can make any judgments. Most of these should be self-explanatory (at least in terms of what scene it is) and I'll defend any of them if asked.

-Snoop learning about the nail gun in 4

-Colvin's paper bag speech

-Freamon and Bunk discovering Marlo's vacants secret

-The opening scene of the series

-Omar and Bunk's meeting on the bench in 3

-Sobotka's argument with his lobbyist ("We used to make shit in this country")

-Marlo's encounter with the store security guard ("You want it to be one way")

-The last meeting between Avon and Stringer "We don't need to dream no more."

-The alleyway stand-off between Omar and Brother Mouzone

-The interaction between Bubbles and Landsman in 4 (it's actually two scenes but they're so goddammed good)

Honorable mentions:
-Brother Mouzone's interaction with Cheese in 2 (left it out cause it's not terribly meaningful, just funny/badass)

-Colvin's speech about police work and what it's become to Carver in 3...left it out cause it's just him ranting again and the paper bag speech is better

-Prez and Freamon's "All the pieces matter" conversation for obvious reasons, I left it out cause it's basically just that line.

-The infamous "fuck" scene...cause that's just too easy.

-Freamon and Bunk talking to all the apparently non-English speaking sailors from The Atlantic Light

-The death of Wallace...cause that also seemed just too easy.

-Slim Charles and Avon in the finale of 3..."If it's a lie, then we fight on that lie."

They gonna beat on your white ass like it was a rented mule

First of all, this might be sabotaging ourselves, but I thought it'd be nice to see another blog with our goals that, incidentally, is (no offense to the other posters) way, way better than us (not to mention much older).

Apparently, in the new or upcoming issue of Vibe, and on a post at the aforementioned blog kicking this one's ass, there's a list of their top 10 favorite Wire moments. I say we do something similar. As the other blog says, there are plenty of obvious ones (Stringer's death, D'Angelo's chess game, all the montages, etc. etc.) so perhaps we might avoid those. I say we each post a few, maybe even ten, then we try to decide which are OUR definitive ten.

I have a few ideas that I'll post shortly.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Socratic Method

(NOTE: there are some who read this blog, and some who post on it, who don't have/choose not to watch OnDemand, so they've only seen up to episode 57, "Took", so please everyone else no spoilers...this would be, as of right now, anything that happens in episode 58, "Clarifications")

Re: his last post, specifically the final paragraph, I totally agree with, uh, Mr. Sulzman.

David Simon has said many times that "The Wire" rips off writers he knows can't sue him: The Greeks. No, I don't mean Vondas and the old guy with the beads who's "not even Greek", I mean those old-school motherfuckers who thought every time they looked up to see an overcast sky they'd pissed somebody off up there.

In ancient Greek tragedy, the idea of Fate, indifferent and all-consuming, is the motivating factor that moves the stories along. The gods up on Mt. Olympus sling curses, hurl lightning bolts and inflict all manner of plague and pestilence upon the hapless humans below, and often for no discernible reason other than, much of the time, boredom.

Fast forward several thousand years and Baltimore is the new Athens or Thebes; instead of Zeus, Athena or Apollo the new gods are faceless, postmodern institutions-the police department, City Hall, a city newspaper, the school system or even the drug trade. No matter where you are in this world, there ain't much chance of getting ahead, and honestly it's hard enough just making sure you don't get your head blown off (to varying degrees of figuratively) in your day-to-day life. You probably won't get to "make something of yourself", but if you can cope with whatever your station in life is, you'll probably be more or less okay. There are exceptions of course, but actually the more I think about it the fewer I think there are; nearly everyone who gets fucked in "The Wire" (certainly every major character) in one way or another deserves it.

Now don't jump on me. Wallace didn't "deserve" it in season 1, and neither did, say, Bubbles in any season but S4 in particular (assuming nothing too awful happens to him in the final two episodes eeeeks). This is true. And Sobotka wasn't the most honest and noble of men but is there anyone who thought justice was served when that fucking undignified cargo net usually used for fish and boxes pulled him naked and brutalized out of the Patapsco? Did D'Angelo deserve dying (and being made to look like a suicide, no less) in a dank, shitty prison library simply because Stringer Bell THOUGHT he might rat on them...someday?

No. But, off the top of my head, there's only two people who were truly fucked in the show that didn't deserve it (ripple effects, e.g. the parents/kids/loved ones of someone who gets killed or something don't count, I only mean characters we've met): one is the little kid who gets killed by the stray bullet during the gunfight between Bodie and co. and the rival corner boys in S2, and Randy Wagstaff's foster mother (who, in case anyone wasn't sure, actually did die from burns and smoke inhalation). Both are total innocents AND, more importantly, neither did anything to incur the wrath of "the gods".

Bubbles, in season 4 (actually late in S3 but basically in 4...I only bothered to make the distinction so that you nitpicking bastards don't take me to task on it) decides to try and ease up on the dope and try to make a real living. Easing up, as he knows, ain't all that easy, and neither is making a real living when he's spent who-knows-how-many years living the game for real out on the street. So, like a true American, he sees a natural money-making niche for himself as a traveling discount all-purpose convenience store, and so he finds himself a shopping cart and Bubbles' Depot is born. Of course now he's sticking his head up, trying to change his station in life, break out of his caste, and the gods take notice and wag their celestial fingers in the form of an un-named assailant who beats the crap out of him and steals his money, goods and hard-earned drugs every time. Ironically enough, from the assailant's perspective, what's more American than that? Anyway, rather than quit, Bubbles keeps selling, and the "bad boy" keeps beating. Finally, at his wits' end, STILL instead of quitting, Bubbles endeavors to remove the "bad boy" permanently...and we all know what happens then.

Do you see where I'm going with this? It's the same thing Dario (I can't call you Mr. dude, at least not until we're in our 30s and/or a professional setting) was talking about at the end of his post. Colvin tried two ways of reforming a broken system, one each for seasons 3 and 4, and what happened? Basically, nothing. His ideas, because they actually were fairly good ones, worked, but nobody cared and they shut him down. That's how he got fucked. Now, this isn't the same as getting brutally beaten daily and accidentally killing your only friend when you try to retaliate, but it's on a scale. I don't think Carcetti, for another instance, will get killed, and since he's probably too astute a politician he'll probably never even be fired as Colvin was, but we see the price he has paid. His ambition for power used to be neck-and-neck with his desire to actually "make a difference", but each episode we see it slipping further and further away. It's not his fault and I don't blame him (one thing I really wish "The Wire" hadn't done was, unbelievably, make me understand and thereby some of the time actually hate less all the politicians); he probably still wants to make a difference but knows he can't if he loses the next election because he spent all his time actually trying to fix things rather than kissing the appropriate rings, cheeks, and other less desirable areas. It's not like those who have the kiss-needing locales are wrong either, they want their particular issues heard, but they add up. They add up to more time than anyone, even the mayor of a major American city, has.

I don't think I need to overly explain the other instances, do I? Sobotka tried both stepping outside his ordained duties to make money illegally and tried affect real change in a time and place that wouldn't allow it. Of course too he was too proud to give in to Valchek over that stained glass window, even though even a suburban white boy like me knows it ain't worth it to mess with the cops, even when they're unconscionable assholes (here's something maybe you didn't know-a great many of them are, it's the kind of job tailor made for good, moral, noble and upstanding men but also for unconscionable assholes). Finally, he decided to rat on his criminal buddies, and all moral judgments about snitching aside it would've been fine had he not gone against all his better logic and reason and met with them that very night.

Wallace tried to toss off his entire previous life and get out of the game, which actually would've worked had he not gotten lazy and/or scared and skipped back to Baltimore. He didn't "deserve" his fate, but he certainly brought it about.

Stringer hit the glass ceiling, as it were, when he realized the drug trade was a finite growth industry and when the growth inevitably stops, there aren't many options and none of them look good. He was smart enough to know that, but not smart enough to immediately make the transition into, essentially, a completely different world. Thinking he was too big for the one he was in and not knowing he was too small for the one he strove for, it led to his downfall.

Bodie? Well, Bodie tried to fit himself into a square hole when he knows damn well he's a round peg. It is no surprise when he gets pissed off and bucks...and it's no less a surprise when he's gunned down. D'Angelo is even simpler-he just said he wanted out. Voluntarily and for no reason other than itself, he wanted out, and as we know that didn't sit well with certain individuals. There are many, many other examples but I think those are the best, and even if they aren't they're enough.

And of course there's McNulty. Every goddammed year, often more than once, it's always McNulty. The central theme of his character, where everything he is comes from it seems to me, is summed up by his/Bunk's quote from the very first episode: "Giving a fuck when it ain't your turn." Nailing Avon/Stringer might have been a good idea, even, gulp, "the right thing to do" in a bullshit high-school classroom-morality sort of world (although, ha, not one in Baltimore) but it was too much for him to take on, so the gods crushed him. In season 2, same basic thing. Then, in season three it was even worse-the gods decided to go even harder on him...and let him win. Avon went to jail, probably for a good long-ass time, Stringer dies and the majority of their crew goes away, and then what? Nothing. He expected maybe a Jimmy McNulty Day parade. Kegs busted out. His name on every officer's lips, saying "Man, Jimmy McNulty? He is natural police." Maybe he is...I am unsure/leaning towards he falls just short of it, and by it I basically mean Freamon but maybe he is. No matter. It's not enough.

So what is? Well, Lester told him already. "A life, Jimmy. It's the shit that happens while you're waiting around for moments that never come." And he STILL hasn't learned, has he? This time, though, it'll be harder for him to get away, and assuming he doesn't the upcoming fucking (sounds like a song by The Eagles of Death Metal doesn't it) will be much harder, and, ah, shall we say, far more comprehensive.

I think one of the main themes of the show is for people to accept their station in life. Not that they shouldn't aspire to do more, but only to do what they know is in their grasp, because, let's face it, when you exceed your grasp 9 times out of 10 you're gonna fail. This makes for amazing TV but extremely depressing material for all us wannabe "artists" of all stripes. Well what the hell, I knocked out this thing easily enough. On the other hand too, if no one ever risked anything we wouldn't have the light bulb, or the iPod, or Penicilin, or them newfangled horseless carriages. Or "The Wire", as I'm sure David Simon would claim (though we know better). Or, to be fair, the atom bomb, or anthrax...or heroin.

And therein lies my favorite tie-in between "The Wire" and the ancient Greek classics of those wild, pre-Christian days: the Greek chorus. You remember them, those anonymous fools standing off to the side, always saying shit but usually only pointing out the obvious, and only later did you realize they were all in mourning, speak-singing a funeral dirge for the characters, the country, the world, humanity itself, driving the point home such that it couldn't be laughed off, ignored, or even have little choice but to see the situation as it is, to awkwardly grope with its enormity, and make what little sense of it your mind will allow.



"Plymouth ROCK yo!"


Monday, February 18, 2008

A Season Coming Together

I haven't posted on here in awhile. Last episode was the first time when I really felt the season starting to come together. Consider the following: The third and fourth seasons were both driven by social experimentation, trying to remake the rules to make society better. In Season 3 with Hamsterdam, in Season 4 with the "street" classroom. Both of these were clear attempts to make society a better place. In Season 5 we have McNulty and Freemon rewriting the rules, but up until this season it was hard to see how the fake-serial-killer storyline was actually constructive. It just seemed like a couple of people, frustrated with their jobs, selfishly fucking with the system. This past week, that changed. McNulty's story finally got legs. And it transorms into more than pure selfishness. McNulty has become a goddamn soup kitchen of police manpower in the homicide department. In the most recent episode we see how utterly depleted the homicide unit has become, not just with Bunk's lab evidence, but with all the detectives who come to McNulty asking for more manpower.

One of the weirdest aspects of the episode is that Lansman seems to KNOW that McNulty is deferring manpower for other projects and ACCEPTS this indiscretion.

Lastly, however, in the most recent episode we see McNulty becoming overwhelmed with the responsibility of keeping his secret intact and properly exploiting the resources his fabrications have produced. One of the dramatic motifs Simon loves returning to, is the anxiety of the creator when his creation comes to life. Like Bunny Colvin, who becomes the "mayor" of a "city of pain," or Tommy Carcetti who looks crestfallen when he gets the phone call that he will be mayor, McNulty is another figure who tries to change the system, only to realize its inherent uncontrollability upon taking the reins.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

To: Katie

Regarding your post:

We know what the theme of the season is, Bunk told us back in episode 1: the bigger the lie, the more they believe. This is, obviously, where Simon and co. are going with this, and I think it's an important point. As far as the investigation has gone at this point, with all the evidence, who would even THINK to question if this killer is in fact real or not? We have several bodies, all linked through the various ways Freamon and McNulty linked them, and we have the "killer" calling both members of the Baltimore Sun and the police department. We know it's fictitious, but no one else does. Keep in mind, too, that people want to believe it. In the "CSI", "Law and Order" "Dexter" America, we love our serial killers and find the whole sick, macabre thing thrilling. Now Baltimore has one, and I imagine its citizens feel more than a little excited. Why, at least at this point, question it?

Which brings me to my next point. In the time span of the show, the killer thing has only been happening for a few weeks, a month and a half at most. The evidence keeps piling up and Freamon (if not McNulty) is smart enough to make it all look convincing. The con would not hold up under long, protracted scrutiny, of course not. They don't want it to. However, as we are seeing, it is rapidly escalating and getting out of control. In these last few episodes, Katie, we may very well find out you are correct: we see that it's not realistic and wouldn't work when it doesn't, when McNulty and/or Freamon are caught, to one degree or another. I hope they pull it off, but the odds are against them.

The one thing I'm wondering is if they plan to pin all these "murders" on someone...and who that will be. It's going to be an exciting three weeks.

My moment of revelation

Tripp is always telling me about those moments when he's watching "The Wire," when it's like lightning has hit him. It can be the way a character looks at another, it can be a one-liner, it can be Chris Partlow asking Rhonda Pearlman for directions to the clerk's office at the courthouse. He has a lot of those moments. I have only had one.

Dukie has gone to Cutty to toughen up at his gym. Cutty is one of those characters who, at first, seems to have escaped the corner. Just as he was about to be released from jail, he met Avon Barksdale, who respected his work and what he'd heard of him. Cutty returned to the streets after leaving prison, acting as muscle (and sometimes brains) for the Barksdale organization. After witnessing a brutal beating of a (very young) suspected thief, he was disenchanted and decided to get out. He began working as a day laborer for a landscaping company. At the same time, he fixed up a gym in which he aimed to teach corner boys to box. He was hoping to show those boys that there is life outside the corner, reputations, the game, and violence. He is certainly seen as a father figure for many of the boys who come to his gym.

Cutty has been one of those characters who speaks more through actions and facial expressions than with words. The look on his face when he was losing Michael said more than words could have. The way he watched Grace from afar as she went about her daily things showed his thoughts better than he could have spoken them. His intense stare has been well-utilized on the show.

For this reason, it was surprising for me to see him speak so candidly with Dukie. Maybe he sees some of himself in Dukie. Maybe he senses the potential that we saw in Dukie when he was in Prez’s class. We’ve seen that Cutty clearly knows (like Dukie) what it’s like to feel out of place (or maybe “ill at ease” is a better description) on the streets. But Cutty has seemed so driven and consumed by his gym that we haven’t wondered how he feels. We thought we knew.

When Dukie shows himself to be a poor boxer, he sits dejectedly with Cutty. Cutty, like Prez, makes general statements about there being more to life than the corner. “The world is bigger than that; at least that’s what they tell me.” For the first time we see that Cutty doesn’t consider himself part of the world, despite his departure from prison, his holding a job with a legitimate company, and his relationship with a nurse. Dukie follows up with, “how do you get from here to the rest of the world?” The conversation ends with Cutty saying, “I wish I knew.”

This knocked the wind out of me. The show quickly moved on and I missed the next few minutes, because my heart was breaking for Dukie. This exchange harkened back to one of the themes of “The Corner,” in which David Simon shows that it’s not the getting clean that’s the hard part, it’s staying clean. We act like there aren’t two worlds; one for addicts and one for the rest of “us.” We act like Dukie should just be able to go back to school, learn, go to college, get a job, and pull himself up by his bootstraps. That’s the American way, right?

The truth is that doing any one of these things is nearly impossible for Dukie, let alone all of them. And it’s not his fault, much as society acts like it is. This moment has haunted me since I first saw it. It’s an amazing bit of writing that was acted perfectly. I hope I’m not the only one who can’t stop thinking about it.

Mrs. McNulty?!

After Jimmy's behavior, you can hardly blame her for wanting David Wain (or that other guy.)

How much leeway I give the Wire (none)

I have to admit that I like Law & Order. Sometimes I like shows like that; they're easy to watch, you don't have to read into them too much, and everything is wrapped up neatly by the end of the episode. Each episode is isolated and one doesn't need to have watched the show previously to "get it." The show is fiction, and obviously so (though often based on real events). So when they have the daughter of a psychologist who studies serial killers becoming a serial killer herself to get her dad's attention, it's OK with me. When an adopted girl's parents are killed and her biological mother tries to take custody of her, only to attempt to kill her for her inheritance, it's OK with me. But when "The Wire" has Jimmy McNulty inventing a serial killer and playing the entire city, it's not OK with me at all.

Until now, "The Wire" has been real to me. The places and people are very real representations of life in Baltimore (aside from the fact that some scenes are shot in places like Midtown-Belvedere and supposed to be on the west side; I'll have you know that Tilghman Middle is four blocks from the Lyric Opera House). But this serial killer crap has me pissed. I'm hoping that David Simon can wrap it up with some stroke of genius in the next few episodes, but for the first time, I'm doubting him.

I was devastated when Prop Joe was killed. I debated the fate of the co-op. I cried for Bubbles when his sister kicked him out of the house when she left for work. I got pissed at Herc for letting Randy slip through the cracks. This is all very real to me.

But cops making up murders so they can work on other murders? It's one thing to exaggerate something to make waves or headlines, but to entirely fabricate it? I just can't get on board with it. It seems too tenuous, too ready to break at any moment, not to mention that I just can't make myself believe it. This season has been exciting, but for this one facet. I know from talking to Tripp that this arc hasn't ended yet (he has On Demand; I don't), and I'm disappointed.

Everything else is exciting, and everything else seems to be building in a credible way. But this just doesn't seem real to me. I hope Simon can make it real in the last few episodes.

Safe Sex

I came across this yesterday by accident and it left both Tripp and me speechless. At first I thought it was some kind of ridiculous joke, but apparently it's not. I don't know what's worse: the creepy smile on Sonja Sohn's face, or the terrifying, horror movie voice they give Robert Wisdom.

Chris Partlow

I'm friends with Gbenga "Chris Partlow" Akinnagbe on MySpace...don't laugh, I know I'm a geek. I asked him a few weeks ago via message if he'd read our blog, maybe even comment, and a few days ago he sent me a message. He said he tried to post but couldn't figure it out cause he's "a simple killa" and asked me to post this:

"thanks for the love and the message on myspace, forgive the delay in response. its good to see people who take time to dissect all the levels of the show. thank you for the support!"


Amazing. If he ever reads this, thanks quite a lot. When I first got that message I had to wait ten minutes or so for my head to stop spinning.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sonja Sohn: Babe

City Paper this week printed an article about "20 Babes Whose Babeness Matters," in response to the yearly February release of the Sports: Illustrated swimsuit edition. At number 14 is the wonderful Sonja Sohn, with this bit (the first four words might be the best part):

"14) Sonja Sohn

Part soul, part Seoul, all hot--Korean-African-American Sonja Sohn's interpretation of police detective Kima Greggs is one of the most finely nuanced performances on television today. The mix of intelligence, strength, tenderness, and humor she brings landmarks the role as a lesbian icon and an instant classic. Are you really, seriously not watching The Wire?"

See the rest of the article here.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Real Scott Templteton

In season five's fictional newsroom, most of David Simon's attacks on The Sun are pretty obvious: the editors' concern with Pulitzers, narrowing the scope instead of broadening it and the buyouts, particularly the firing of veteran reporter Twigg (based on Simon himself, no doubt).

And then, of course, there's newbie reporter Scott Templeton. From the onset, there was something shady about his character and, after the first few episodes, it became painfully obvious that he was fabricating stories. In between writing sensationalized pieces about 13-year-olds in wheelchairs and making up react quotes, Templeton is in cahoots with top editors.

Though Templeton himself is full of shit, his character is far from fictional. Though unconfirmed, it appears that Simon based him on former Sun reporter Jim Haner. Haner, who happened to be tight with one of Simon's foes William Marimow, specialized in urban affairs and investigative reporting. He was a three-time Pulitzer finalist, but was often criticized for his fluff pieces that didn't accurately portray the city. His "reporting" led The Sun to print numerous retractions and Simon has openly questioned his ethics.

Clearly, City Paper was the first jump all over him, with moves such as bestowing him the Best Parallel Universe award in 2000. However, the more informative piece came a month later in their department "Media Circus." The very balanced "Throwing Stones," written by Tom Chalkley, describes Haner from all sides, but leaves one thing undeniable: he is the real Scott Templeton.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Does life imitate art?

I've been reading the Baltimore Sun a lot lately, and several times I've been struck by events in life that are analogous to events on "The Wire."

The first thing I noticed was that there are suspicions that the real Baltimore is juking the stats. The rate of violent crime is on the decline in Baltimore, while the murder rate is again on the rise (it has fallen every year since 1999, but spiked again in 2007). That's interesting, right? Public officials are quick to remind the public that most murders are perpetrated by young black men on other black men, the vast majority of whom are involved in the illegal drug trade. They allay the fears of the taxpayers by reinforcing the idea that some people's lives matter and some don't.

David Simon says Carcetti is fictional, but he may as well be Martin O’Malley. They look alike, they sound alike, and they are the golden boys of Maryland politics. They both have black female heads of city council. They even pull the same political maneuvers. Carcetti demanded that the bodies in the vacants be found before January, so he could blame those murders on Royce’s administration. When O’Malley took office in 1999, he commissioned an audit of that year’s crime statistics. Whereas Kurt Schmoke (the black incumbent who is secretly pro-drug legalization, just like Royce) had juked the stats to make 1999 look like the safest year in decades, O’Malley turned the statistics upside down (his own version of juking the stats). Whereas crimes were being classified as lesser, technically nonviolent offenses, O’Malley’s administration retroactively changed them, making 1999 the most violent year in Baltimore in twenty years. Of course afterwards, he could continue juking the stats just like Schmoke did to make it look like the rate of violent crime was going down. In 2006 O’Malley had the audacity to announce, in a city with a murder rate 7 times that of New York City, that he had been responsible for lowering the rate of violent crime by 40%. Are you fucking kidding me?

On to Wire parallel number two: the city is selling things at half price to developers, essentially robbing tax payers while rewarding developers who have made political contributions. Yesterday the Sun reported that a developer called "Fells Point Station" has purchased a long-vacant police station at 1661 Bank Street for $584,000, well under the building's appraised value of $1 million. While I doubt this is the first instance of this actually occurring, this is the first incident that has become widely publicized. Although the Sun's article on this was critical of the city government's actions, there was one bit that was confusing enough to some people to shut them up. The article lists the appraised value of the building at $1 million and then indicates that thousands of dollars of work will have to go into clearing out asbestos, lead paint, and other hazards. In the comments after this article, many people said it was OK to sell at that price because of the work that needed to be done. But what people don't seem to understand is that those things were factored into the $1 million appraised value. The city was robbed of $416,000. Why?

Because Daniel P. Henson (former city housing commissioner) and A. Rod Womack (CEO of CIMG, a developer) comprise "Fells Point Station." Henson gave $6000 to Sheila Dixon and Martin O'Malley, among others, and Womack has given $3000 to Democrats. A little bit of digging on the part of the Sun revealed that a Catherine Fennell is also employed by CIMG. She was the city's director of development until 2000, when she was forced to step down because it came to light that she was working for the city as well as a developer who had business with her office. What. The. Fuck.

On to parallel number three: guys being shot in a liquor store. This is kind of a stretch, but I don't care. The first thing I thought about when I read the Sun this morning and saw that two men had been shot in a liquor store on North Stricker Street was the incident with Snoop and Chris shooting up the liquor store in search of Omar. Now I know that some people might think that crap like that happens all the time in Baltimore, but that is not the case. Most Baltimore shootings occur in the streets and victims are found in the streets or alleys. You rarely hear about a shooting happening in a place of business (sometimes in a house, sometimes at a party, but rarely at a store).

While I do think these are just interesting coincidences, they're interesting nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"We cannot police our way out of this"

The following link is probably one of the most comprehensive looks at Baltimore's homicide rate in recent history. Written by a former editor of mine who runs the "Murder Ink" column in City Paper, the piece is stat-heavy but still very insightful:

Bloodletting: Can Anything Be Done to Bring Baltimore's Homicide Rate Down?

I always feel hopeful at the beginning of the year, but then again Baltimore's first murder of 2008 did occur on Jan. 1 at 12:02 a.m.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Simon on Simon

Not quite sure how I found this, as it apparently isn't slated for publication till next month. Ah well, it's a damn good story anyhow.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hi Tripp

Hey guys, sorry I haven't posted. To be horrifyingly honest, my dad got rid of HBO and I've only been able to see the first episode of season five. Terrible, I know. But I'm moving out soon/might use some of my friends in the meantime. Tripp I am flattered that you invited me and I assure you that I will post when I get caught up.

For now, though, I saw this on Slate last week and wanted to share it, in case you guys haven't seen it yet:

Quite the tone, huh?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Well it worked for The Sopranos

This is me, yo, right here...

Anybody recognize this fellow? Give it a minute. It's a little shocking.

This is from the Season 5 premier...I just thought it was interesting.

Wire-fans Wettest Dreams

I can't believe they actually did this

Katie sent this to me. Thanks Katie. :-)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Stories Don't Matter

This is a response to Adam's excellent post. The idea that stories don't matter is a chilling concept, at least for someone who, like me and others on this blog, have invested much of our young lives as writers. There was an editorial in the NY Times yesterday by Stanley Fish, trying to defend the value of the humanties. I don't know how to link to it because I'm new at this, but basically after going through and dismissing the standard round of conventional wisdom to have humanities--critical thinking, galvanizing social movements, lessons for life etc.--Fish concludes that what is most valuable about the humanities is precisely their lack of exclusive, tangible utility. They simply enrich. Or, if you prefer a more utilitarian characterization of them, are simply useless and indulgent. The same can be said of stories, and indeed, all disciplines of the humanities are grounded in creating workable narratives to explain human motivation.
But back to Adam's point about the ultimate meaninglessness of stories, as it is expressed in The Wire. I want to flesh this out in the context of the show's previous four seasons and this season as well. For while I think Adam's insight about this scene in The Wire is a good one, it reveals only one side of storytelling, whereas The Wire actually treats the function of storytelling the same way it views the public school system: operating in a dynamic and fluid context.
What I am trying to say, I suppose, is that there are many times in The Wire where storytelling is not dismissed as recycled and useless. Where it instead has real and palpable consequences that affect the lives of many. Consider one of the very first scenes in the show. After D'Angelo Barksdale's acquittal, McNulty goes to his friend, the judge, and tells him a story of two men, Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell, who have colonized the streets of West Baltimore, operate a cartel-like drug trade, and wield such force and intimidation in the community that no individual will testify against them, even when they are an eyewitness to a murder. McNulty is opening the judge's eyes to "the reality", but that does not negate the fact that does so through a verbal narrative. He does not, for example, drag the judge down to West Baltimore to see for himself. And this story has an impact. The judge hears it, puts pressure on the comissioner and the homicide department and a homicide detail is set up as a result.
Better yet is the case of Bunny Colvin and Hamsterdam. He simply re-writes the rules of law to make police work more effective. While the true story stays hidden, the story being told is of a 14% unexplained drop in crime rates.
In both examples, the stories being told, whether true or false, the consequences from their telling are quite real. In other words, if these stories are not told the Detail never gets formed. Hamsterdam is discovered and squashed out while Bunny is still trying to figure out how to get the corner boys to listen to him.
The major strain upon these stories is that their power is constantly atrophying under the force of real life events. In the first season the Barksdale case remains unifinished. In the third season Hamsterdam is quickly taken down when the media catches wind of what Colvin has done. So the feeling we are left with throughout much of the Wire is not that stories lack power, but that this power crumbles a little bit more with each moment after its telling so that eventually it shatters or just dissipates, like Carcetti's ideal vision of Baltimore, into the indistinguishable grime of life.
What Adam points out, however, is that the emphasis on storytelling this season is far more self-conscious. When the newspapermen are commenting on the "Dickensian" story about the public schools we see the simplification necessary for all storytelling, BUT it is the story we have grown to love over the last four seasons that is being reduced to a watery cliche. In this image stories really are useless, but this has much to do with self-consciousness of season five as it does with the actual uselessness of stories. The higher the self-consciousness, the greater the doubt.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Do Stories Matter?

Well done Dario, and welcome to the blog. I think you really hit the nail when you say the resistance to Marlo’s ways - from Bunk, Omar, Bodie and in this last episode Michael - stems from a nostalgia for simpler times.

In this post I'd like to talk about expectations. Naturally, viewers have high expectations this season. The question among Wire fans has not been is season five good, but is it good relative to season four.

After watching episode two, it's clear to me that the two cannot be compared.

I admit I was seduced to compare in the beginning. Given how much I loved season four, it was only natural to wonder if I would enjoy the new season as much. This being the last season only made the question more relevant. For a short time I even wondered whether the choice to make season five about the media was a good one. Season four was billed as being "about the schools," but it could have easily been described as "about the roots." It dealt with where the Stringers, Marlos and Barksdales come from. Wouldn't the roots have been an equally worthy place to end?

Having seen episode two, I know now that the answer to that question is a resounding NO. Furthermore, I am even more eager and excited about season five because I now see why the media is the perfect place to end.

It's complicated, so let me take you through my process:

In episode two there's a scene in the newsroom where, during a staff meeting, the editor proposes a feature piece on Baltimore's schools. He wants to follow the lives of a few children as the move through the system, using their stories to highlight the flaws in the schools. He says he wants it to be a "Dickensian" series of articles.

I immediately recognized this as an allusion to the fourth season made in the language typically used to discuss the Wire by fans and critics. People are always saying the Wire is great because it is "Dickensian," and the fourth season did exactly what the editor suggests (Though perhaps better. The editor's idea is actually rather simple compared to season four. It is really Gus' suggestion to take into account the context of these childern's lives that resonates most as the true plot of season four. And that idea is shot down).

It struck me as a strange convergence on materials in one scene, and at first I thought, has the Wire gone meta on us? The scene is, ostensibly, one in which characters in The Wire are talking about The Wire. But there's more than mere fun and games at work here.

You have to ask what's really going on in this scene. In the most basic sense, reporters and editors are developing a story. The story they develop is a familiar one to us: it is the story of season four. Once you realize this, a tragedy emerges: they're too late. Namond, Randy, Michael, Duquan, and all the other children we never met already suffered the shortcomings of Baltimore's schools. That the newspaper is only now discussing a story about what everyone who has watched season four knows highlights the basic failure of the story. It's come to late to save anyone, to affect any change. That the story The Sun plans to do is really just a watered-down version of season four (since Gus' idea is dismissed) means that not only does the story come too late, but it is also wrong.

I wonder if this will be the great tragedy of season five, the brutal truth we will find: stories don’t matter. They always come last and when they do arrive their subjects are beyond saving. This, I realized, is why season five HAS to be about the media, because ending with a story about how we tell stories is the only place for The Wire to end.

I pose these final questions to you:

If I'm right, then what should we make of The Wire as a series? It’s a story, too. Does this mean The Wire itself doesn’t matter? Have the writers turned the lens inward, suggesting, subtly, that despite the praise leveled upon it the show is too late to help Baltimore…or any of America’s cities. It's a bit self-destructive, and that might make the idea unpalatable, but it could be a beautiful explosion.

What do you think?

Marlow's Militia

I was talking to Adam today about the change between Marlow's tactics of intimidation as opposed to Avon's. Its hard to tell if there really is a difference. Bodie's comments in season 4 after Marlow kills Little Kevin (or is it Lil Kevin?), that Marlow doesn't even bother to find out whether or not someone has or has not snitched before killing them; he acts simply upon suspicion. We see a similar theme revived when Michael questions Snoop and Chris in the car before killing someone (whose name escapes me) simply because they heard he was "talkin shit 'bout Marlow." The nostalgia for a simpler, more just era is a theme that characters return to in both drug circles and police circles. The Wire tends to present such statements in earnest on the part of the characters--see Bunk lecturing Omar--but in the overall context of the show, these statements tend to suggest not a yearning for the past, but an uneasiness about the hyper-mechanization of modern culture. And this indeed is what separates Marlow from Avon. The impression one gets of Avon's "muscle" in the first season (WeeBay, Stinkum, Bird etc.) is of men who simply have the capacity to kill. Their primary qualification for the job is having the nerve to do it without panicking, being impulsive or any of the other problems that we see with Avon's much reduced muscle in Season 3. But many of the images we see of Avon's muscle involve recreation as much as violence. Marlow, Snoop and Chris, by contrast, are always shown "on the job." Even in the most recent episode when it appears Marlow is going into a hotel for some nookie, it turns out to be a diversion for a meeting of Prop Joe's Cooperative. But more than that, Marlow builds his muscle far more efficiently. One of the recurring images we saw in Seasons 3 and 4 was of young black men being trained as efficient killers. Up close, head shot. Further away, aim for the balls. Don't aim for the chest because he might be wearing a vest. They set up simulations with paint ball guns, plan retreats to gorges for shooting practice. They are less a gang and more a militia. The term "muscle" has outlasted its relevance. It implies the use of physical stregnth, and--if you notice--most of Marlow's crew are not physically intimidating. Chris and Snoop are assassins. They would be ideal recruits for Blackwater Security Force.
The larger commentary here is about the marketplace. The man with the most efficient product gets the most business, but in the modern world efficiency means the most ruthless, most mechanical, least human. And this is the disquieting sense that Marlow gives the viewer: that he is almost inhuman in his stolid silence. That he is emotionless.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Big Brother in Baltimore?

As anyone who has been to Baltimore City (or has flown over or driven past on 95) knows, there are several hundred police cameras dotting the city. They have bright blue flashing lights and are usually attached to tall lampposts. They are intended to monitor the roughest areas of the city and to aid in preventing and prosecuting crimes. The first case to bring a conviction from the evidence provided by these cameras was that of a beating on North Avenue in June, 2006.

Whereas I understand how these cameras are helpful, the civil libertarian in me is outraged. I lived in Pigtown, I walked and drove past these cameras all the time. I know that they are meant for good. George W. Bush can't seem to stop saying, "if you're doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about." But I don't like the idea that someone can watch my every move, whether I'm committing a crime, reading a book, or picking my nose. While some might say that this is a great way to deter crime as well as prosecute it after the fact, I disagree. Setting up cameras only moves crime to darker, camera-less locations. It also breeds resentment and mistrust from the people who are being watched. Who wants to feel like they're being babysat? On top of this, these cameras are painfully apparent. The flashing blue lights on them are there intentionally, to broadcast the cameras' presence. If you take a look at Baltimore from a plane or from 95, you can see clusters of them. You won't find a camera in Mount Vernon (at least not as of May, 2007), but you'll find plenty in Washington Hill, along Broadway. If you're driving somewhere and you see one of those cameras, you instantly know you're in a bad area. The cameras say, "everyone knows this is a bad area." I think that's fucked up. We've probably all also heard the quote from Ben Franklin, "those who would give up essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security."

Anyway, now Martin O'Malley, as governor of Maryland, wants to implement another "crime fighting strategy." He was praised for the introduction of CitiStat when he was mayor of Baltimore. This article in today's Baltimore Sun compares O'Malley's new plan to CitiStat. I laughed when I read the last paragraph of this article. CitiStat is a method of gathering information about the city, making sure it reaches the right people, and using it to implement better (?) management practices. Who could argue against that? No one. O'Malley's new plan, to attach GPS units to the ankles of 200 juvenile offenders to monitor their every move, is absolutely ridiculous to me. He has already set aside $1 million to kickstart the program. He should probably set aside another million to use to fight the lawsuits that the ACLU will rightly bring the second we try and slap one of those on someone. Is he fucking kidding? I know that crime in Baltimore is out of control. I know that juvenile offenders are rarely single offenders. I know that they grow up to be adult offenders. I know that this would be a useful tool in determining where someone was when a crime occurred (of course, just because person A was at Ashland and Caroline when person B was murdered, doesn't mean that person A did it or even saw anything). I don't have a soft spot in my heart for the young thugs of Baltimore. But I do have a soft spot for civil liberties, and this smacks of our Orwellian future. We have to draw the line somewhere before we're living in 1984.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

They Stole My Title

As Katie, Jess and some others can attest, a little over a year ago I made my own "The Wire" soundtrack, and I called it "All The Pieces Matter". Now the official, HBO-and-David-Simon-sanctioned one has come out with the same title. Sons of bitches. Anyway, here's a link to it and the Pitchforkmedia review (as you can guess if you're familiar with the site, they like it, but only a little...pretentious bastards).

About a Wire

This is from The Believer, came to me in an e-mail...I thought I'd seen all Simon's interviews but I really enjoyed this one...not to mention the idea of two of my favorite writers sitting around and bull-shitting.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Advances, None Miraculous

Some minor notes here before my next real post. Now I truly know how much it sucks to be an aspiring writer as opposed to an "established" one. I wrote a story in 2003 about cops, not a very good one I admit, but it involved a certain, ah, gimmick. I re-wrote the story in 2007 and actually turned it in to my graduate workshop. It contained the same gimmick and it was pretty much panned across the board. That's okay, it really wasn't all that good, but I remember several people negatively commenting on my gimmick. It would never happen, it was too silly, too coincidental, so on and so forth. And now I fucking see it in The Wire.

**The following is from episode doesn't really have any spoilers, but if you're like me and don't want to know ANYTHING about the upcoming episodes before you see them, stop reading here**

Kima gets to Chris and Snoop's murder scene, which has had uniform cops present for at least a little while, and after a quick examination she follows a weird noise to a closet, where she finds a live, shivering little boy. In my story, the person in the closet was actually the killer, a very stupid and doped up young man who didn't have the good sense to run and chose the first hiding place he could find and the first cops on scene were only slightly less dumb in not fully clearing the crime scene. Okay, perhaps it is a little hokey, and I'm not trying to get the damn thing published or anything, but was my exact idea. Stings, yo.

Second, I love Steve Earle. Having said that, I understand why anyone doesn't like his cover of "Way Down in the Hole". Even I could without the programmed bass beats, or "hot beats" as I've heard some say. For God's sake Steve, this is Baltimore-the gods will not save you, and neither will The Dust Brothers. Still, his voice adds a nice grit to the song, not as soulful as The Blind Boys or Neville Bros., not as horrifically twisted as Mr Waits, not as dark and intense as DoMaJe, but still, it adds a depth and dimension to the song previously (to my mind) unheard. I am biased to like the cover, and his acting, cause I love his music so much. The acting I will stand by, I have no idea how (cause I don't think he's an actor) but the man projects so much gravity and prideful sorrow and fucking truth, he just owns the role of Waylon...I didn't even realize it was him when I first saw it, till I saw the credits. The voice did kinda tweak something in my mind, but I suppose I never made the connection because my subconscious told me that'd be just too crazy. While I'm on the subject, I'd like to comment on the fact that Clarence Fucking Clemons, saxophonist of Bruce Springsteen's legendary E-Street Band, plays Roman in season 3. What the goddamm hell. It's amazing, but confusing. The rock star connection is strange, especially they've managed to get rock stars that can act.

Finally, I'd like to thank Lefton, Katie and Angela for their posts; in just over 48 hours of this thing's existence they've all posted and rocked this blog harder than I'd ever expected; in just this tiny space of time it has already surpassed all my expectations. Hopefully we'll get a few more people with more different perspectives to keep this humming. Rock on.

P.S.-When I watched episode 51 OnDemand, there was no "previously on", not one of the four or five times I watched it. There was for 52, so I have no idea why they left it out. But they did.


I feel ya

Hey Katie, long time no speak or see. I just read your first post about living in Baltimore and I wanted to thank you for sharing it. I think Angela and I go through some similar shit up here in New York.

The hardest thing about it for me is dealing with the loss of control. When you live in a city you're like a pinball, bounced around from bell to bell, flipper to flipper, and a lot of what happens to you is outside of your control. It's okay, at first, because you think I can avoid this, I can avoid that. I can move here, I can go there, and maybe these little decisions can help me feel in control. But then you realize no one is actually playing the game; there's no one in charge and there are no rules. Avoid one street, and you'll find trouble on the next. Leave the problems of one neighborhood, enter the despair another. The game runs itself and so it can't be stopped or paused or understood. You either keep bouncing or give up.

It's so hard to resist the urge to give up.

Simon Strikes Back

David Simon commented on Ubiquitous Marketing about Slate's discussion of the fifth season.


If you are serious in addressing something, then ideas matter, not the man. The Wire's depiction of the multitude of problems facing newspapers and high-end journalism will either stand or fall on what happens on screen, not on the back-hallway debate over the past histories, opinions passions or peculiarities of those who create it.

"The Wire" in Newsweek

There is a 3-page article about "The Wire" in Newsweek this week. While it's great to see it getting some press, it is, of course, hidden towards the back of the magazine. In any case, it's a very well-written article with some interesting comments from David Simon. In deference to the writers' strike, he is refusing interviews at this time (even though I'm sure he's desperate to get the word out about his fucking awesome show). However, this interview was completed before the writers' strike, and Simon agreed to answer a few follow-up questions for that reason.

It's pretty clear that he sees the fire in episode one as a metaphor for urban ills, mostly violence. The reporters watch it, but they don't have jobs unless nothing is done to fix it. The following quote is from the Newsweek article, written by David Simon in an e-mail in December.
He says that the show is "very much a critique [of] the fixation that Americans have with the pornography of violence, as opposed to the root causes of violence. We have zero interest in why the vast majority of violence actually happens and what might be done to address the issue. But give us a killer doing twisted shit or, better still, doing it to pretty white girls, and the media and its consumers lose all perspective."

As for critiques that the newsroom characters lack depth, Simon disagrees. My own opinion is that they do lack depth, but it's not all Simon's fault. We have 10 episodes in which to meet and get to know these characters, whereas we've had at least 13 episodes in the previous seasons, and for many of the characters, we've had all four seasons to learn their intricacies. Simon has said that the ten-episode season will feel accelerated to the viewer. He lobbied for 13 episodes, but HBO offered 6. They compromised at 10.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Reading about the Wire

So I've been reading other people's thoughts on the first episode (here and at Slate), and here are my thoughts on other people's thoughts:

Everyone's being way too critical about the show's treatment of the newsroom. These are new characters! Yes, The Wire's strength is building ambiguious characters. But people forget those characters need to be built, layer after layer. They don't just show up on the screen, frame one, perfectly textured and grey. Could you see the many sides of Herc when we first met him in season one? Stringer? Carver? Any of the dock workers in season two? No, they fit into certain types until events showed otherwise.

Anyone writing about this season needs to give the Sun newsroom time to develop. After four amazing seasons, Simon has earned our patience.

Puss-ai [poo-sahy ] - noun, plural 1. more than one pussy

Bunk and McNulty go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Whenever they're in a scene together, I ache like a frat boy watching girl-on-girl to see them hug or even just pat each other. And despite McNulty's return to alcoholism and infidelity, I'm really happy to see him back together with Bunk. When I saw the previews on YouTube I was incredibly disappointed as I read, "And McNulty's drinking again."

Because Beedy is such a nice GIRL! Even though her son is played by one seriously over-acting kid, I really liked seeing him in their little house with a GOOD woman. But Adam's right - it would be bad writing if McNulty DIDN'T return to his old ways now that he's doing real police work again. And one thing you will not see in The Wire is bad writing. EVER. But I gotta tell you, for a moment at the opening I felt like it was getting a little too, er, obvious. When Bunk informs us that most Americans are stupid I was like, "Uh huh, DUH!" Its context was almost a little too preachy for me, but then I reminded myself what this season is about - the media! If there was ever a place to insert such an anti-American statement, it's at the opening of The Wire: Season Five!

I'm excited to grow attached to these journalists (with the exception of the grubby old men who chain-smoke outside the office while talking about boobies and such.) I especially like the Rupert Murdoch-esque bossman who lords over the staff, manipulating the paper to be less news-worthy and more politically attuned to his own interests and opinions. What an asshole! (Don't watch Fox News.) I've a feeling this character is going to make all of us reeeeeeeally angry.

Bunk's statement comes just in time for this country to prove its smarts by voting for the RIGHT presidential candidate. I'm excited to see all of this unfurl - The Wire's last season and the 2008 elections - side by side. I believe Simon to be a rather prophetic man and think we'll be watching our DVD box sets in the coming years getting chills over how close to reality all of this continues to run.

And back to my man-love theme: WHERE is Omar?! Besides in my heart. (Indeed!) I love that guy and can't wait til he pops a cap in Marlo's ass! He's got such superhero status and BRAVO, Simon, for making him gay! Talk about innovative! He is by far my most favorite character. When he went to jail I lost SLEEP waiting for them to get him out. (Good boy, Bunk!) And did Omar shiv that guy in the scrotum region? He won't say the "F" word, but he'll stab a guy THERE?! Oh, Omar! You so crazy! You can stab or shoot a fool ANYWHERE and bubble hearts will STILL float around my head whenever you're on screen!

I miss the kids though. Michael and Duquan worry me, but frankly, I was far more attached to Namond and Randy. Maybe because those characters emoted more. I love to think of Namond in his REAL house with a REAL dad, but at the level this image warms me, Randy's fate chills me even more. I'll find myself cleaning the stove and thinking, "Why couldn't a nice family have discovered Randy's potential and taken him in?! It's just not fair!"

And that seems to be the real theme of The Wire: The system is whack. Life isn't fair.

However, I still have a lot of faith in Carcetti, even if we aren't inside his head. The fact that he resisted boinking his campaign manager at the end of Season Four was inspiring. (Plus that actress was REALLY pregnant and trying to hide it at the time - maybe he's just not into that.) He should've taken the governor's money though. Still, he's a good guy who really cares. But now we get to see just how useless that sort of caring is to a broke-ass city.

Despite their drunken shenanigans, McNulty and Bunk have QUITE a heavy-handed season ahead of them. Unlike several of my other favorite series which have left us hangin', I trust this final season of The Wire to pan out nicely. Unfortunately, somebody's gonna die fo sho. The only other downfall of this season: The opening song. BLEH! Steve Earle is a fine singer (and he's great as Bubbles' sponsor) but to go to THIS version after listening to so many soulful voices cover it?! It's like listening to Rod Stewart do Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind." It's like eating an Oreo with no creamy center! It's like Omar without his shotgun. (Bubble hearts!)

And you know what, America? The fact that The Wire has yet to win an Emmy only proves how right Bunk is - this country is stupid. Hell, even McNulty doesn't vote!

The Wire: A Baltimorean's Perspective

I am contributing to this blog as a white woman (girl?) who grew up near Baltimore and spent the last half-decade living in various parts of downtown. My posts will probably have more to do with real life in Baltimore than the others. I do love "The Wire," and I've seen every episode, but the reason it's so meaningful for me is because I recognize every shot, I know the slang they use, I know the arcane references to restaurants and places, but more than anything, the show piques a morbid curiosity in me. I grew up in Jay Landsman's hometown, lived on the West Side, went to school where Stringer studied economics, and worked as a bike messenger in every downtown building you see on the show.

I think that part of what makes the show palatable is the mantra of, "it's all in the game." This is reiterated in David Simon's literary works, especially "The Corner." Everyone recognizes this refrain as Omar's tagline in "The Wire." Whether a corner kid is getting shot or metal piping is being stolen from a vacant, the offenders repeat that what they're doing is all part of the game, and so are the victims. However, this is the one area in which I disagree with David Simon and his characters. The victims of the drug trade and urban poverty are everywhere. In Baltimore this is striking because of how the city has gentrified. The best example I can think of right now is Washington Village, aka Pigtown or Billytown. Pigtown is situated downtown, just west of MLK. Until recently, it was indistinguishable from everything west and north of it (the West Side, where "The Wire" is set). Empty houses, trash in the street, lots of "carry outs," etc. Developers decided that this was prime real estate, close to downtown, Lexington and Hollins Markets, museums, and the stadiums, and they would fix a up a few homes and market the crap out of the area. In truth, it is a fine location, but MLK may be an insurmountable barrier to improvement in that area. East of MLK is downtown. West of MLK is ghetto all the way to Catonsville. It's a wide road for a city, three and four lanes wide. I rarely see pedestrians crossing the street (except for the occasional med students who live in the first block west of MLK and go to school one block east of MLK). People started snapping up houses in this area at the inflated rates of the early 2000's, and now people are desperate to get out. Homes can't be completed because their parts are being stolen, people are afraid to walk their dogs at night, and cars are broken into regularly. Now there are corner people and taxpayers living in the exact same place and the corners are winning as the area empties and houses are re-abandoned. These newcomers aren't part of the game. Yet they fell victim to it and are leaving in droves.

When I first moved to the city, I moved to the 400 block of West Redwood Street, a block from University Hospital. The McDonald's at Baltimore and Paca had bars on the windows. Pawn shops and shady convenience stores were everywhere. But two blocks south stand Camden Yards and Ravens Stadium, with the convention center close by. This is another example of Baltimore's dichotomous nature. In two blocks you go from $900 a month studio apartments to stores with bars on the windows to major downtown attractions. One day, on my way back from Lexington Market, I was approached by a large black man. He started hitting on me and trying to get me to stop walking. I looked down for a second and when I looked up I saw the door of a running car on the curb open and the man lunged toward me. Was he going to push me into the car? I don't know. I ran, which caused pedestrians in the area to take notice, and the guy jumped in the car and it sped off. At that point, that was the closest I'd come to the game.

After that incident, I decided to move to Canton. Canton is on the east side along the harbor. It's one of the trendy gentrified neighborhoods downtown and arguably the safest neighborhood in the city. All was well until my bike was stolen in broad daylight at Boston and Hudson by a black guy in a raggy tank top. In tears and in the rain, I walked through the projects east of Little Italy, thinking I might see my beloved bike, my sole means of transportation. I didn't see mine, but I saw many others that were too nice to have been purchased by people on welfare in public housing, probably stolen from people in Canton. Once again I was a victim, but I'm not in the game.

After Canton I lived in Pigtown. Yes, I bought into the whole idea of the area improving because I'm an optimisitc idiot. My running shoes were stolen off my front porch. My front steps filled with trash, needles, and urine. My roommate's boyfriend, a former addict, was sucked back into the world of drugs by the carryout near the corner of Washington Boulevard and Poppleton Street. My electricity bill for a ten foot wide rowhouse was in excess of $300 a month, no doubt because during the renovations that happened just prior to my moving in, someone ran a line out, though I could never prove it. My parents' BG&E bills for a house ten times the size of that one were about $125. I'm still not in the game, and now I fucking hate it.

After Pigtown came Mount Vernon. I was working as a messenger and wanted to live close to downtown, but away from the crime. What was I thinking? It's Baltimore...crime finds you. My first night in Mount Vernon I rode my bike down to an O's game. The next morning, I discovered that overnight, someone had broken into my and my boyfriend's cars. They were both parked on the Biddle Street bridge over the JFX. What's on the other side of the JFX? Johnston Square. A public housing area that is also home to the city jail. It looks like this (this is the 1100 block of Barclay Street; one home is occupied):

That is two blocks east of this picture, taken from my front steps at Calvert and Biddle:

My boyfriend's $1200 stereo system was stolen, as was some Percoset that was in my center console (I broke my back messengering, hence the Percoset). Now, I'm pissed at the game.

Four weeks later, we rode our bikes down to Tide Point to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July. On the way back, we got caught in a huge amount of traffic downtown at Pratt and Light Streets. I got off my bike and decided to walk because there were so many pedestrians moving between the stopped cars. Before my boyfriend could unclip from his pedals (he was clipped in and stopped between two cars; he had a hand on one of them to keep him upright), someone crossing the street tripped over his rear wheel. Before I knew what was happening, three young teenaged yos were beating the shit out of my boyfriend. I screamed in the street at the top of my lungs. I couldn't reach him; both of our bikes were between us and we were wedged between cars. They punched him from behind while he was immobilized, still clipped into his bike. As soon as he could unclip, they walked off into the night. They walked. The dozens of police officers in the area stood motionless on the sidewalks. I made my way toward one. "DID YOU SEE THAT?!" I screamed. Chip followed me, bleeding from him face, his eye almost swollen shut, and an egg the size of a golf ball on his forehead. "Yeah," the cop said. "Do you want an ice pack?" "Are you going to do anything?" I screamed hysterically. "I'm just a medic," he said. At that moment, I felt more alone than anyone has ever felt while standing in a throng of thousands of people. My screams fell on deaf ears, and the police, those who should have protected us, did nothing. We walked home, silent except for our crying. Fuck the game, and fuck the ghetto eye for an eye mentality that we see in Namond, Marlo, and everyone else on the corners.

A few months later, I graduated from college and decided it was time to get the fuck out. The city was getting too dangerous. If I stayed too long, I could end up like Zach Sowers. Or worse. I moved to a town in California that hasn't seen a murder in a decade, but not before my neighbor's car was broken into less than a foot outside my bedroom window. When those yos broke Chip's nose, they broke my faith in humanity. In a month we'd had our things stolen and our physical selves violated. Moreover, the police witnessed it, and did nothing. Now I live in suburbia and am still visited with nightmares about the 4th of July. Every ten seconds or so while I'm out walking the dog, I feel compelled to stop and turn around, to make sure no one is behind me. I don't leave anything except trash out on my front porch. I think twice about where I park the car. I still get nervous leaving my bike locked up outside, even though the wheels are bolted on.

So why do I watch "The Wire?" I miss the city. I fucking miss Baltimore fucking City. I don't even want to visit because I'm afraid I won't leave. It's my fucking home, and nothing else feels like it. The first time I heard Tootsie Duvall talk about "meeyath and sahnce" ("math and science" in Bawldamorese), it brought tears to my eyes. I stop every time I hear myself say, "Bawldamore" instead of "Bal-ti-more," when I order a Jamba juice with "prayotein," and when I occasionally punctuate a sentence with "hon." People ask where I'm from and I instantly say, "Baltimore" instead of California. I crave Utz chips, Natty Boh, Nino's pizza, and Otterbein's cookies. The bloody, corrupt heap of shit that is Baltimore is part of me. I don't feel complete without it. “The Wire” shows Baltimore in all its gritty glory.

Please Don't Evacuate Me!

This piece at New York Magazine addresses the use of "evacuate" on The Wire. According to the article, current usage rules allow for people to be evacuated (it's been allowed since WW II), and if you read the comments below you'll see that an editor-at-large at Webster's confirms this.

I still stand by my point about Guttierez's reaction: it's genuine. But I that a Webster's dictionary she's consulting?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Carcetti for President

Thanks, Tripp, for inviting me to blog here. I think it's one of your best ideas, and hopefully Angela and the others who join us have a lot to say. You forgot to mention you were inspired to start this by last year's Slate blog (they're doing it again, in case you haven't noticed). I've enjoyed the Slate blog, but I sometimes think they focus too much on the social implications of The Wire and Simon's source material. They always return to The Wire as a social mirror, reflecting the real city of Baltimore and the American urban experience. While I love that aspect of the show (I admit it would be a far less weighty and important show without it), I think their blog can fall short of discussing how beautiful the show is as a stand-alone work of television art. That's not saying I don't think those bloggers believe it is; they clearly love the show as much as everyone else. They just get hung up on the real-life of it, the stats, you might say. I'm not one for the stats, but then again I haven't read any of Simon's non-fiction. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me the kind of discussion on the Slate blog is typical of those about The Wire. Maybe someone could explain to me why this is? Why this obsession with the stats and the non-fiction roots of the show? Is it not, by itself, beautiful? Is this why it hasn't won an Emmy? Because the sociological overshadows just how perfect it is as a show?

Until then, on to episode one...

While I think the quasi-religious experience you had watching the opening scene sounds like a blast, I can't help but point out that when the original episode aired on Sunday there was a "previously on" clip before the shot of Bunk's splendid face. I do, however, agree with your impression of the opening scene. Simon writes great openings. This may be the most overtly symbolic opener of the series, though. The message, as you said, is this is a season about lies. But Bunk isn't merely lying to the suspect in this scene. He is molding a lie so that another will see it as truth. It is more dangerous than the simple boy who cried wolf, and I think we'll see that season five isn't about only lies, but also the smoke and mirrors put up to present those lies as truth. It will be about the great lengths people go to turn their lies to truth, and the equally great lengths others go to expose their machinations. Ultimately, it will ask the question: does truth exist at all in Baltimore? Or is it all just sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I think we might already know the answer, but I expect the path the show takes to be brutal.

One of my questions going into the season was how Simon would use the kids. Randy, Michael, Duquan and Namond broke our hearts in season four, and I needed to know how their lives turned out. So far, we know Michael is earning his keep for Marlo and Duquan is still living with him, working on the corner and taking care of Michael's younger brother, Bug. Is it just me, or does Duquan look a lot older now? Michael doesn't seem to have aged a bit, but Dukie is taller, and he no longer has that baby face. No intention on the writers' part presumed (words can't make a kid older), but Duquan's appearance has me optimistic. In this episode Michael takes him off the corner, telling him he can earn his money taking care of Bug. When Duquan asks him what he's supposed to do all day, with Bug at school, now that he's off the corner, Michael tells him his days are his to do whatever he wants. I really hope he goes back to school. He at least looks old enough to stand up to those ninth grade bullies. Maybe he pays a visit to his old teacher Prez to help him get back in the system?

Michael and Duquan were the two kids I was sure would appear in season four. Namond might get some screen time, too; his story didn't seem like it came to its natural end in season four. But Randy - oh it makes me shiver just to think about it - Randy, I'm not so sure we'll see him in season five. When Randy gets beat up during the montage at the end of season four, you get the feeling that it's just going to be more of the same for him for many years. I hope The Wire proves me wrong, but I don't hold out hope it will. It is an unforgiving show. Take McNulty; he's drinking again. Why? Because that is what McNulty does. Believe me, the fan in me wants to see him redeemed, but It would be bad writing to have him do real police work sober.

Before I go, I want to take issue with some posts I read at Slate today about episode one. The bloggers there are unsatisfied with the portrayal of the staff at The Baltimore Sun. One of them wisely points out that perhaps this is due to the fact that they are reporters themselves writing about reporters on television, and are thus predisposed to find the characters trite and cliche. Well, I'm not a reporter, and I have no problem with them. After one episode, they remind me of the dock workers. I didn't care much about Frank, Ziggy and Nick at first, but by end of season two I cried for them (I really did cry for Ziggy).

I like "Gus" Haynes (City Editor). He has a good sense of humor and a likable, as opposed to patronizing, been-there-done-that attitude. And, unlike the blogger at Slate, I LIKED the moment with Alma Gutierrez when she looks up the proper use of the word "evacuate." I work in a business of words too - Publishing - and when I'm corrected by my older colleagues I only truly accept the new information once I've looked it up myself. It is a humble and private moment of self-reflection and growth, and I think that's the intention of the scene. When her young, male cohort asks her what she's talking about, you'll note she doesn't tell him.

As for Marlo and Sergei, I think the king is trying to go around the co-op to find a direct line to the drugs. Do you remember the scene last season when Marlo met with Spiros? He probed him for a direct connect to the drugs. Marlo has been going along with co-op out of necessity only, and I think he's going to try to get to the drugs through Sergei.

You're probably wondering now, what's with the title of this post. Carcetti for President. Well, throughout the first episode I was struck by the eerie similarities between our favorite fallen mayor of Baltimore and the golden boy of the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama. Carcetti promised "A New Day'; Barack: "Change We Can Believe In." They're also both racially atypical. Carcetti a white mayor in a black city and Obama a black presidential candidate in a white nation.

It's a strange coincidence that we Wire fans, many of whom I assume are Democrats (because Republicans are really more the Dancing with the Stars crowd), are watching Carcetti come to terms with the obstacles that lie between the old ways and his new day as Barack, a Wire fan himself, presents to us that same message of change. I hope, for our sake, Barack's a better closer.