kottke.org posts about The Wire

Naming the machinesJul 29 2014

Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.

Not everybody gives their computers, smartphones, or wireless networks distinctive names. You're more likely to see a thousand public networks named "Belkin" or some alphanumeric gibberish than one named after somebody's favorite character in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

But many, many people do name their machines -- and ever since we slid into the post-PC era, we're more likely to have a bunch of different machines of every different type living together on a network, each needing a name. So, how do you decide what to call them? Do you just pick what strikes your fancy at the moment, or do you have a system?

About three years ago, I asked my friends and followers on Twitter this question and got back some terrific responses. I don't have access to all of their answers, because, well, time makes fools of us all, especially on Twitter. But I think I have the best responses.

Most people who wrote back did have unifying themes for their machines. And sweet Jesus, are those themes nerdy.

  • A lot of people name their computers, networks, and hard drives after characters, places, and objects from Star Wars. Like, a lot of them.
  • Even more of my friends name devices after their favorite books and writers. My favorite of these came from @DigDoug: "All of my machines are named after characters in Don Quixote. My Macbook is Dulcinea, the workhorse is Rocinante." (Note: these systems are also popular among my friends for naming their cats. I don't know what to make of that.)
  • Science- and mythology-inspired names are well-represented. Mathias Crawford's hard drives are named after types of penguins; Alan Benzie went with goddesses: "The names Kali, Isis, Eris, Juno, Lilith & Hera are distributed around whatever devices and drives I have at any time." (When I first read this, I thought these might have been moons of Jupiter, which would both split the difference between science and mythology and would be a super-cool way to name your stuff.)
  • Wi-fi networks might be named for places, funny phrases, or abstract entities, but when it comes to phones or laptops, most people seemed to pick persons' names. Oliver Hulland's hard drives were all named after muppets; Alex Hern named his computer's hard drive and its time capsule backup Marx and Engels, respectively.
  • Some people always stuck with the same system, and sometimes even the same set of names. A new laptop would get the same name as the old laptop, and so forth -- like naming a newborn baby after a dead relative. Other people would retire names with the devices that bore them. They still refer to them by their first names, often with nostalgia and longing.

As for me, I've switched up name systems over the years, mostly as the kinds of devices on my network have changed. I used to just have a desktop PC (unnamed), so I started out by naming external hard drives after writers I liked: Zora, after Zora Neale Hurston, and then Dante. The first router I named, which I still have, is Ezra.

Years later, I named my laptop "Wallace": this is partly for David Foster Wallace, but also so I could yell "where the fuck is Wallace?!?" whenever I couldn't find it.

Without me even realizing it, that double meaning changed everything. My smartphone became "Poot." When I got a tablet, it was "Bodie." My Apple TV was "Wee-Bay," my portable external drive "Stringer." I even named my wi-fi network "D'Angelo" -- so now D'Angelo runs on Ezra, which connects to Dante, if that makes sense.

As soon as it was Wallace and Poot, the rules were established: not just characters from The Wire, but members of the Barksdale crew from the first season of The Wire. No "Bunk," no "Omar," no "Cheese." And when the machines died, their names died with them.

The first one to go, fittingly, was Wallace. I called the new machine "Cutty." I was only able to justify to myself by saying that because he was a replacement machine, it was okay to kick over to Season 3. Likewise, my Fitbit became "Slim Charles."

Now, for some reason, this naming scheme doesn't apply at all to my Kindles. My first one was "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," and its replacement is "Funes the Memorious." I have no explanation for this, other than to say that while all my other devices commingle, the Kindles seem to live in a hermetic world of their own.

Is Bitcoin a speculative bubble?Dec 13 2013

Bitcoin is a digital currency that has increased in value in US$ by 900% over the past six months. Jason Kuznicki says Bitcoin is definitely a speculative bubble and has three graphs to illustrate his point. I found this one particularly interesting...it plots transactions vs. total Bitcoin market cap:

Bitcoin Transactions

This chart shows a dramatic reduction in the total number of transactions, irrespective of size, per dollar of bitcoin's market cap, from December 2012 -- December 2013. In absolute terms, market cap has generally gone up, and the number of transactions has mostly just bounced around a lot. The total value of bitcoin is going up, but it's mostly getting parked rather than being put to work. Apparently there just aren't a lot of appealing ways to spend bitcoin, anecdotal news stories to the contrary notwithstanding.

Instead, an increasing amount of bitcoin's putative value (as measured in USD) is being squirreled away by larger and larger miner-investors. It's not fueling a diversifying, all-bitcoin economy: if it were, transactions would be keeping up with or even outpacing market cap, particularly if bitcoiners came to rely increasingly on bitcoins and decreasingly on dollars for day-to-day purchases. That's very clearly not happening.

The Wire's Omar Little once said to Marlo Stanfield, "Man, money ain't got no owners, only spenders." Bitcoin seems to have the opposite problem. (via mr)

Behind the scenes of The WireJul 09 2013

Adapted from Brett Martin's Difficult Men, this piece in Slate gives a glimpse of what it was like on the set of The Wire.

In the isolated hothouse of Baltimore, immersed in the world of the streets, the cast of The Wire showed a bizarre tendency to mirror its onscreen characters in ways that took a toll on its members' outside lives: Lance Reddick, who played the ramrod-straight Lieutenant Cedric Daniels, tormented by McNulty's lack of discipline, had a similarly testy relationship with West, who would fool around and try to make Reddick crack up during his camera takes. Gilliam and Lombardozzi, much like Herc and Carver, would spend the bulk of Seasons 2 and 3 exiled to the periphery of the action, stewing on stakeout in second-unit production and eventually lobbying to be released from their contracts.

Oh, McNutty. (thx, sam)

Prop Joe, RIPJan 18 2013

Robert Chew, who played Proposition Joe on The Wire, died yesterday aged 52.

Prop Joe was one of the few characters to appear regularly in all five seasons of David Simon's urban drama. Chew was a mountain of a man with a world-class deadpan, always underselling the character's juiciest lines. "Gotta say I'm proud of y'all for putting aside petty grievances and putting this thing together," Joe intones during a meeting of the New Day Co-op, a democratic association of drug dealers whose meetings are run via Robert's Rules of Order. "For a cold-assed crew of gangsters, y'all carried it like Republicans and shit."

The Wire, illustratedDec 06 2012

Illustrator Dennis Culver is offering for sale a poster of 50+ characters from The Wire.

The Wire Illustrated

You've obviously got your Omar and String, but you've also got Butchie and Lamarr and Horseface. $25 for the poster...that's about 50 cents a character!

Zadie Smith's Jay-Z profileSep 09 2012

I liked this Zadie Smith profile of Jay-Z, and not just for The Wire reference. Smith's got a nice way with words and handles Jay-Z's way with words nicely.

In "Decoded," Jay-Z writes that "rap is built to handle contradictions," and Hova, as he is nicknamed, is as contradictory as they come. Partly because he's a generalist. Biggie had better boasts, Tupac dropped more knowledge, Eminem is -- as "Renegade" demonstrated -- more formally dexterous. But Hova's the all-rounder. His albums are showrooms of hip-hop, displaying the various possibilities of the form. The persona is cool, calm, almost frustratingly self-controlled: "Yeah, 50 Cent told me that one time. He said: 'You got me looking like Barksdale' " -- the hot-blooded drug kingpin from HBO's "The Wire" -- "and you get to be Stringer Bell!" -- Barksdale's levelheaded partner. The rapper Memphis Bleek, who has known Jay-Z since Bleek himself was 14, confirms this impression: "He had a sense of calm way before music. This was Jay's plan from day one: to take over. I guess that's why he smiles and is so calm, 'cause he did exactly what he planned in the '90s." And now, by virtue of being 42 and not dead, he can claim his own unique selling proposition: he's an artist as old as his art form. The two have grown up together.

Additionally, you'll enjoy this profile of a guy who has sent a couple hundred letter-length emails to Jay-Z since 2010, and is pretty sure the emails are being read.

Hit me on my burnerAug 08 2012

Burner is a new iPhone app that will give you a disposable, short term cell phone number to give to randos at the bar, weirdos on Craigslist, and Marlos on the corner.

Disposable cell numbers certainly seem like they might be used for nefarious activities, but founder & CEO Greg Cohn said these numbers can be used for any number of purposes in the era when a cell number is so closely tied a person's identity.

(thanks, Alex)

RIP DeAndre McCulloughAug 07 2012

David Simon remembers his friend DeAndre McCullough, who died last week. You might remember him as Lamar (Brother Mouzone's assistant) from The Wire and was also profiled by Simon and Edward Burns in The Corner.

At fifteen, he was selling drugs on the corners of Fayette Street, but that doesn't begin to explain who he was. For the boys of Franklin Square -- too many of them at any rate -- slinging was little more than an adolescent adventure, an inevitable right of passage. And whatever sinister vision you might conjure of a street corner drug trafficker, try to remember that a fifteen-year-old slinger is, well, fifteen years old.

He was funny. He could step back from himself and mock his own stances -- "hard work," he would say when I would catch him on a drug corner, "hard work being a black man in America." And then he would catch my eye and laugh knowingly at his presumption. His imitations of white-authority voices -- social workers, police officers, juvenile masters, teachers, reporters -- were never less than pinpoint, playful savagery. The price of being a white man on Fayette Street and getting to know DeAndre McCullough was to have your from-the-other-America pontifications pulled and scalpeled apart by a manchild with an uncanny ear for hypocrisy and cant.

(via @mrgan)

The Lego Wire Jul 18 2012

Marissa Mayer has only been CEO at Yahoo! for a day and she's already creating viral content like a stop motion Lego version of The Wire. Imagine what we'll get when she's been there a week.

Audible guffaws at, "What's up his ass?" "No one likes our season, that's what." (via @jonahkeri)

The Wire: The MusicalJun 05 2012

This is amazing...a trailer for a musical version of The Wire done by Funny or Die. Featuring real cast members from the show like Michael K. Williams as Omar, Felicia Pearson as Snoop, and Andre Royo as Bubbles.

(via @monstro)

An oral history of The WireJun 01 2012

The Wire premiered on HBO 10 years ago tomorrow so Maxim (what really?) is out with a long oral history. It's all worth reading (and finally proof for the 'I read it for the articles' argument), but the more interesting bits to me were towards the end, and I wish there were a few more comments from superfans. Marc Spitz did an amazing job wrangling interviews from the majority of the cast.

New to me was the cop actors and crook actors not hanging out together, and Prop Joe mentoring the kids from Season 4.

Tristan Wilds (Michael Lee, student, Stanfield gang enforcer): Every time we'd get a script all four of us would sit down with Robert Chew go over the script and make sure we had it down.

Robert F. Chew (Joseph "Proposition Joe" Stewart, drug kingpin): A couple of them were not from Baltimore so they did not have the lingo and the dialect, so I'd give them hints on that and just understanding the emotion of the scene.

I also liked this bit about Snoop.

Tristan Wilds: I remember when I first read the script, I was like "Noooo! Why do I gotta do it?" Snoop became like my big sister to me; she was everything. I was actually with my niece a couple months ago and she was watching iCarly -and there was a scene where Sam takes paint ball gun and shoots Gib, but he looks at her before she does and says, 'How's my hair look?' And she says, "You look good, Gib."

Method Man: I always went online to see the reactions that people would have after someone got killed. Snoop, when she got killed, oh you should've seen it. You would've thought somebody really died. Like it was a funeral happening: "RIP Snoop, we gon' miss you," and all this craziness. They were just two lines short of making "In Memory Of" T-Shirts. Same thing with Omar. Stringer, same thing. Then when I die, it's like "good for him. They should've killed his ass sooner."

Also on the 10th Anniversary tip, here's Details on 10 Ways the Wire changed TV and The Atlantic says The Wire feels dated. (via @groveatlantic)

The visual style of The WireApr 11 2012

In this video, Erlend Lavik compares the relatively spare visual style of The Wire with that of other TV programs.

(via @uxprinciples)

3 recent links tangentially related to The WireMar 20 2012

We likes The Wire. We likes reading about The Wire.

1. Aaron Bady, of The New Inquiry, earns a 'tie-today's-story-to-The-Wire' badge by thoughtfully comparing the recent revelations about Mike Daisey's one man show to Jimmy McNulty serial killer creation in Season 5. People as a whole don't end up looking too hot when Bady is done with us.

After all, Jimmy McNulty's problem is not only that he's an unscrupulous narcissist, but that he combines that quality with a streak of good intentions, a kind of idealism and desire to do some version of the right thing. Cynics and fatalists wouldn't fall into this trap, because they've never expected the world to be different, or never imagined that they could change it.

(via e-migo @djacobs who accurately referred to the above piece of deep analysis + Apple + The Wire as #kottkebait)

2. David Simon, creator of The Wire, recently penned a story worth reading for The Baltimore Sun about the recent health issues of Baltimore cop Gene Cassidy. Cassidy was shot twice in the head, and the investigation and prosecution of this shooting is the basis for Simon's 1991 'Homicide'.

3. In more uplifting news, actor Wendell Pierce who played Bunk, is opening up grocery stores in New Orleans. Neighborhoods need supermarkets, and Bunk is on it.

But grocery stores have not rebounded in the same way. Before the storm, there were 30 in New Orleans; today, there are 21. Most that have reopened are in wealthier neighborhoods: a Tulane University survey in 2007, the latest data available, found that nearly 60 percent of low-income residents had to travel more than three miles to reach a supermarket, though only 58 percent owned a car.

Bonus: Last week Omar Little was crowned The Wire's best character in Grantland's tournament. Jason is reportedly disconsolate. Even though he didn't make the tournament, my allegiance was to Slim Charles for that one scene. You know the one.

Update:
And a Kima update, too. Sonja Sohn recently spoke with NPR about ReWired for Change, a nonprofit she founded with Pierce and Michael K. Williams that attempts to cut down on crime with arts and mentoring programs.

Who is The Wire's greatest character?Mar 05 2012

That is the question that Grantland is attempting to answer with a NCAA-style tournament bracket.

The Wire Bracket

Did we mention that our esteemed editor-in-chief hung out with President Obama last week? Because that totally happened. Just two regular guys, discussing Linsanity, Blake Griffin's jump shot, what it's like to pitch a baseball while wearing a bulletproof vest, and -- as the conversation wound down -- The Wire. Asked to name the greatest Wire character of all time (let it never be said that Grantland does not ask the tough questions!), the Commander in Chief didn't hesitate: "It's gotta be Omar, right? I mean, that guy is unbelievable, right?"

With respect to the President, Omar is the most overrated character on The Wire. I mean, I love Omar. I do. He is everyone's favorite character and easy to love because he's one of the show's most manufactured characters. Gay, doesn't swear, strong sense of morals, robs drug dealers, respected/feared by all...come on, all that doesn't just get rolled up into one person like that. The Wire aspires to be more than just mere television, but when Omar is on the screen, it's difficult for me to take the show as seriously as it wants me to.

Mercenary hacker to the starsJan 25 2012

Adrian Chen has an interview with a renegade IT guy named Martin who does social media, hacking, and other tech stuff for "High Net-worth Individuals" and criminals. One of things he does is set up drug rings with prepaid cell phones and a rotating collection of SIM cards a la the Barksdale/Bell drug crew in The Wire.

With Martin's system, each crewmember gets a cell phone that operates using a prepaid SIM card; they also get a two-week plastic pill organizer filled with 14 SIM cards where the pills should be. Each SIM card, loaded with $50 worth of airtime, is attached to a different phone number and stores all contacts, text messages and call histories associated with that number, like a removable hard drive. This makes a new SIM card effectively a new phone. Every morning, each crewmember swaps out his phone's card for the card in next day's compartment in the pill organizers. After all 14 cards are used, they start over at the first one.

Of course, it would be hugely annoying for a crewmember to have to remember the others' constantly changing numbers. But he doesn't have to, thanks to the pill organizers. Martin preprograms each day's SIM card with the phone numbers the other members have that day. As long they all swap out their cards every day, the contacts in the phones stay in sync. (They never call anyone but each other on the phones.) Crewmembers will remind each other to "take their medicine," Martin said.

That's clever. The "take their medicine" detail reads like it's straight out of the movies.

Opening quotes from The WireNov 29 2011

The beginning of each episode of The Wire featured a short quote of dialogue from that episode...here are the characters saying all those quotes:

(via supercut.org)

Motivational posters from The WireAug 26 2011

The best of the group, by far:

Where's Wallace?

(via vulture)

What did Stringer Bell do wrong?Aug 03 2011

A great question over at Quora: What were the biggest tactical mistakes that Stringer made in Seasons 2 and 3? Why did he make these mistakes?

5. Not using a knowledgeable intermediary to deal with Sen. Clay Davis. He was clearly out of his league with Davis and had he used an attorney with the correct political connections, he could have likely gained all that he sought with fewer complications than he did.

Kids show references The WireJul 19 2011

This scene from iCarly, a Nickelodeon show for tweens and pre-tweens, references the scene in season five of The Wire where (highlight text to show spoilers!) Michael kills Snoop.

(via @aliotsy)

You come at the Lion King, you best not missMay 10 2011

The Lion King movie recut into a five-minute summary of all five seasons of The Wire.

I almost didn't post this because it dogs on the underrated season 2. (via ★vuokko)

Omar Little, postmodern AchillesMay 06 2011

David Simon put together The Wire partly on his and Ed Burns's experiences in Baltimore, and partly on the model of Greek tragedy:

Much of our modern theater seems rooted in the Shakespearean discovery of the modern mind. We're stealing instead from an earlier, less-traveled construct--the Greeks--lifting our thematic stance wholesale from Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides to create doomed and fated protagonists who confront a rigged game and their own mortality...

The Wire is a Greek tragedy in which the postmodern institutions are the Olympian forces. It's the police department, or the drug economy, or the political structures, or the school administration, or the macroeconomic forces that are throwing the lightning bolts and hitting people in the ass for no decent reason... Because so much of television is about providing catharsis and redemption and the triumph of character, a drama in which postmodern institutions trump individuality and morality and justice seems different.

I've always thought of The Wire's Omar Little in terms of the Greek hero Achilles, man-killer, the matchless runner, conflicted hero of Homer's The Iliad -- one of the few figures in Greek literature who seems immortal, knows he's doomed, and doesn't care.

My theory's based in part on these two scenes and their related plot points. In the first, Omar identifies the body of his lover/partner Brandon, killed and mutilated by the Barksdale gang:

It's Hector's killing of Achilles's partner (and lover, probably) Patroclus and stripping of Achilles's own armor from Patroclus's body, which the Trojans try to seize and desecrate, that drags the sulking Achilles back to battle:

My spirit rebels -- I've lost the will to live,
to take my stand in the world of men -- unless,
before all else, Hector's battered down by my spear
and gasps away his life, the blood-price for Patroclus,
Menoetius' gallant son he's killed and stripped!

... Enough.
Let bygones be bygones. Done is done.
Despite my anguish I will beat it down,
the fury mounting inside me, down by force.
But now I'll go and meet that murderer head-on,
that Hector who destroyed the dearest life I know.
For my own death, I'll meet it freely -- whenever Zeus
and the other deathless gods would like to bring it on!

The Trojans try to kill Patroclus to send a message to the Achaeans to stop fighting. But it ends up dooming the city, because it brings Achilles back into the fight willing to do anything to destroy them and their heroes.

In this famous scene, Omar shows how much he knows about mythology:

As Omar would say: "You come at the King, you best not miss." And as fans of the show know, Omar both has his revenge and meets a similarly mythic end. In Greek tragedy as in The Wire, the universe is indifferent to our heroism.

(blockquote transcribed from Robert Fagles's translation of Homer's The Iliad)

Snoop from The Wire arrested in drug raidMar 10 2011

Felicia Pearson, who played Snoop on The Wire, was arrested today on drug charges.

Felicia "Snoop" Pearson had served a prison sentence for murder and returned to drug dealing on the streets of East Baltimore, before a visit to the set of "The Wire" led to a star turn on the show and offered a new chance to change her life.

But her past kept creeping back - she was a witness to a murder and was arrested after she refused to testify -- and subsequent film and television offers were hard to come by.

Now, Pearson, 30, has been accused of playing a part in a large-scale drug organization, whose members were arrested in raids Thursday throughout Baltimore and surrounding counties, as well as in three other states.

(via df)

Marlo Stanfield is chaotic evilDec 09 2010

Here are a few characters from The Wire categorized by their Dungeons and Dragons alignment (good/neutral/evil and lawful/neutral/chaotic).

The Wire Dungeons and Dragons

There are a few more alignment charts from the same source, including a Mad Men chart with Betty Draper as chaotic evil (justification). (via @juliandibbell)

The Hour, Britain's Mad Men?Nov 17 2010

Dominic West, who starred as McNutty in The Wire, will play the lead character in a six-part BBC series called The Hour. The show is set in the 1950s and will air next year.

The Hour follows the launch of a topical news show in London set against the backdrop of a mysterious murder. West will play Hector Madden, the programme's upper-crust, charismatic front man.

The series is being called the UK version of Mad Men:

The only place with better retro fashion than New York in the 1960s is London in the 1950s.

(via unlikely words)

The Wire MonopolyOct 07 2010

A version of Monopoly based on The Wire.

Wire Monopoly

(via @tcarmody)

David Simon's original pitch for The WireOct 05 2010

David Simon was just awarded one of the MacArthur Foundation's $500,000 genius grants, so I thought it would be interesting to revisit Simon's original pitch of The Wire to HBO (PDF).

But more than an exercise is realism for its own sake, the verisimilitude of The Wire exists to serve something larger. In the first story-arc, the episodes begin what would seem to be the straight-forward, albeit protracted, pursuit of a violent drug crew that controls a high-rise housing project. But within a brief span of time, the officers who undertake the pursuit are forced to acknowledge truths about their department, their role, the drug war and the city as a whole. In the end, the cost to all sides begins to suggest not so much the dogged police pursuit of the bad guys, but rather a Greek tragedy. At the end of thirteen episodes, the reward for the viewer -- who has been lured all this way by a well-constructed police show -- is not the simple gratification of hearing handcuffs click. Instead, the conclusion is something that Euripides or O'Neill might recognize: an America, at every level at war with itself.

From my original post on this in April 2009 (which also contains links to three episode scripts):

The list of main characters contains a few surprises. McNulty was originally going to be named McCardle, Aaron Barksdale became Avon Barksdale, and the Stringer Bell character changed quite a bit.

Stringy Bell just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

Mayor of ReykjavikAug 04 2010

Comedian Jon Gnarr recently won election as mayor of Reykjavik and has already gotten to work on his campaign promises of free towels at public swimming pools and a drug-free Parliament by 2020. Gnarr founded the The Best Party late last year, and other Best Party candidates, including members of the Reykjavik punk rock community, won 6 of the 15 seats on the City Council. The best part of all is that Gnarr "needed a coalition partner, but ruled out any party whose members had not seen all five seasons of 'The Wire'." That seems like sound policy to me.

On The Best Party, Gnarr has this to say:

No one has to be afraid of the Best Party, because it is the best party. If it wasn't, it would be called the Worst Party or the Bad Party. We would never work with a party like that.

(Via Balloon Juice)

Toy Story + The Wire mashupJun 17 2010

Woody = McNulty, Buzz = Stringer, and Mr. Potato Head = Bunk. (via stevey)

Complete DVD set of The Wire, $90Jun 03 2010

If you haven't seen The Wire by now, maybe you're never going to. But if you finally want to give it a try, Amazon has the entire series on DVD for $90 (that's almost 65% off, today only). (via @sportsguy33)

Horse names from The WireMay 05 2010

Some of my favorites are Prezbo, My Name is My Name, Hamsterdam, Always Boris, Fuzzy Dunlop, and Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeit. Glaring omissions? Hit Me on My Burner, Snot Boogie, and Pack o' Newports. The full list. (thx, tash & nathan)

The Avon Barksdale StoryJan 07 2010

Here's the trailer for The Avon Barksdale Story, a documentary about the real-life Baltimore gangster than inspired the Avon Barksdale character on The Wire.

Barksdale's real name, Nathan Avon Barksdale, and his nickname, "Bodie," were both used in the series as composite characters. Avon Barksdale was The Wire's first season's central character. The storyline focused on the Barksdale clan and their ruthless hold on Baltimore's underworld and the intense efforts of law enforcement to stop them. Barksdale was a real crime figure in Baltimore.

(thx, mark)

The 100 best quotes from The WireNov 17 2009

This is really well done. (thx, joris)

Update: The next 100 greatest quotes from The Wire. (thx, charlie)

Summer of The WireMay 29 2009

Alan Sepinwall is watching season two of The Wire this summer and posting reviews. Here are his episode one reviews: one for newbies and another for veteran viewers. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, season two is underrated and if you didn't care for it the first time through, I'd give it another shot. (thx, david)

Hating The WireMay 06 2009

During a discussion with friends the other day, someone wondered, "Who doesn't like The Wire?" The show is easily one of a handful of shows considered the best ever and even those who feel that The Wire is overrated still don't dislike it. But someone's gotta hate it, right?

In the spirit of Cynical-C's excellent You Can't Please Everyone series, I went to Amazon and looked for bad reviews of The Wire season one DVD. There were six one-star reviews and four two-star reviews (versus 190 five-star reviews). Three of those were customer service complaints and one read like a five-star review that was accidentially mis-rated; here are parts of the remaining reviews:

I have watched 6 episodes of Season 1 and have desperately tried to get into The Wire. Despite the hype, and all the trendies saying what a mahhvellous show it is, actually it is pretty dull. Boring characters, little conflict, confusing scripts, same stuff repeated ad nauseam. Frankly, the lives of petty drug dealers in Baltimore don't do it for me, and not do the cops who are a pretty unattractive bunch with few dramatic qualities. I know that Prison Break was appallingly acted but at least it had a story line. The Wire is like an improvisation at one of those let it all hang out stage schools which never produces particularly great actors.

I had 1000's of hours of viewing movies, television series, and television programming behind me before I sat down to watch this series on DVD, season one, the box in my hand. I was very dissapointed. This series stinks. I watched only episode 1, and have the experience and perception to know that it won't get any better. [...] If watching cheap white trash and cheap black trash destroy themselves and probably each other interests you, this is for you. I have a better way to spend my evenings. I experience enough negativity in the world on a daily basis, that I don't have to put it in my dvd player after dinner for it to "entertain" me.

I really disliked this show, i watched the entire first season in two days, i only did so because i was waiting for it to become interesting. After so many glowing reviews, i could not belive how just plain awful this show turned out to be. I would rather watch reruns of Barney Miller, you get the same effect of watching the Wire except with slightly more enjoyment. I know it's not The Shield and it's not supposed to be but i implore you to purchase that series if you want to enjoy a television experience.

I got the Wire because I thought I was missing the boat on 'the best show on TV'. Well...I must be missing something because after watching 5 episodes I don't get it. I kept thinking it was going to get better..not that it was bad...it just wasn't that interesting. The only reason I kept watching was to see Idris Elba who plays Stringer Bell cause he is a cutie!

Perhaps it is in the office where the show falters the most, sometimes having camera shots zoom in on a person for three seconds at a time while they are thinking about nothing. Then there is the whole thing with the detective using a typewriter. Okay, did I miss something? Is this 2008 or 1978 people?? High Profile crime unit using typewriters, sure I buy it and a bag of that counterfeit money they had in the first episode.

I tried it sober; perhaps I should have tried it drunk. Ham acting, cliched backdrops (pole-dancing was an idea already on its last legs before The Sopranos ran it into the ground) and dialogue which may possibly be realistic but certainly is dull. I labored manfully through the whole first episode. I shall not torment myself with a second.

If Barney Miller is more your speed, season one of that show is also available on Amazon with reviews almost as good as The Wire's.

Update: I had totally forgotten about Andy Baio's Amazon.com Knee-Jerk Contrarian Game.

David Simon interviewApr 20 2009

Short video interview of David Simon.

You know, newspapers are gonna say, "We already let the horse out of the barn door. How can you charge for content? Information wants to be free." All that bullshit. As I remember, there wasn't an American in America 30 thirty years ago who paid for their television. Television was free 30 years ago. Now everybody's paying 16 bucks a month, 17 bucks a month, 70 dollars a month.

Related: the NY Times recently ran the poignant story of a interracial Baltimore couple who turned to The Wire for comfort when the husband underwent treatment for cancer.

Also related: read David Simon's HBO pitch for The Wire from Sept 2000.

The Wire BibleApr 16 2009

This is quite a treat. Someone got ahold of some scripts from The Wire and posted them online. [Update: I've mirrored the files for convenience.]

Season 1, episode 1, "The Target"
Season 1, episode 9, "Game Day"
Season 5, episode 10, "-30-"

But the real gem is a document dated September 6, 2000 that appears to be David Simon's pitch to HBO for the show. The document starts with a description of the show.

The Wire Bible

Simon had the show nailed from the beginning. Near the end of the overview, he says:

But more than an exercise is realism for its own sake, the verisimilitude of The Wire exists to serve something larger. In the first story-arc, the episodes begin what would seem to be the straight-forward, albeit protracted, pursuit of a violent drug crew that controls a high-rise housing project. But within a brief span of time, the officers who undertake the pursuit are forced to acknowledge truths about their department, their role, the drug war and the city as a whole. In the end, the cost to all sides begins to suggest not so much the dogged police pursuit of the bad guys, but rather a Greek tragedy. At the end of thirteen episodes, the reward for the viewer -- who has been lured all this way by a well-constructed police show -- is not the simple gratification of hearing handcuffs click. Instead, the conclusion is something that Euripides or O'Neill might recognize: an America, at every level at war with itself.

The list of main characters contains a few surprises. McNulty was originally going to be named McCardle, Aaron Barksdale became Avon Barksdale, and the Stringer Bell character changed quite a bit.

STRINGY BELL - black, early forties, he is BARKSDALE's most trusted lieutenant, supervising virtually every aspect of the organization. He is older than BARKSDALE, and much more direct in his way, but nonetheless he is the No. 2. He has BARKSDALE's brutal sense of the world but not his polish. BELL is bright, but clearly a child of the projects he now controls.

The final section is entitled "BIBLE" and contains draft outlines of a nine-episode season. I didn't read it all, but the main story line is there, as are many plot details that made it into the actual first season. (thx, greg)

Got to. This America, man.Mar 11 2009

Some think it's unfair that the former president of Countrywide Financial, a mortgage company that played a big (and negative) role in the subprime mortgage debacle, is now the head of a company making big money buying troubled mortgages from the US government for cheap and then refinancing with the owner, making big money in the process.

But as a Baltimorean explains to McNutty in the very first scene of the first episode of The Wire, that's how America works.

McNulty: Let me understand. Every Friday night, you and your boys are shootin' craps, right? And every Friday night, your pal Snot Boogie... he'd wait til there's cash on the ground and he'd grab it and run away? You let him do that?
Suspect: We'd catch him and beat his ass but ain't nobody ever go past that.
McNulty: I've gotta ask you: if every time Snot Boogie would grab the money and run away... why'd you even let him in the game?

(thx, aaron)

David Simon, back on the beatMar 04 2009

David Simon, formerly of The Wire and The Baltimore Sun, noticed an underreported Baltimore shooting involving a police officer and decided to investigate it himself. What he found is not good news for the citizenry.

Well, sorry, but I didn't trip over any blogger trying to find out McKissick's identity and performance history. Nor were any citizen journalists at the City Council hearing in January when police officials inflated the nature and severity of the threats against officers. And there wasn't anyone working sources in the police department to counterbalance all of the spin or omission.

I didn't trip over a herd of hungry Sun reporters either, but that's the point. In an American city, a police officer with the authority to take human life can now do so in the shadows, while his higher-ups can claim that this is necessary not to avoid public accountability, but to mitigate against a nonexistent wave of threats. And the last remaining daily newspaper in town no longer has the manpower, the expertise or the institutional memory to challenge any of it.

In other Simon news, apparently he's doing a pilot for HBO for a show called Treme, "post-Katrina-themed drama that chronicles the rebuilding of the city through the eyes of local musicians". The cast will include Clarke Peters and Wendell Pierce, who played Lester and Bunk on The Wire.

And speaking of The Wire, the latest issue of Film Quarterly has several articles devoted to the show. Only one article is online so you best send Lamar out to the newsstand for a paper copy. (thx, david & walter)

Another class on The WireFeb 06 2009

Regarding Berkeley's class on McNulty & Co., Jason Mittell is teaching a class on The Wire at Middlebury College this spring. More information is available on the class blog, including the course schedule. This class *will* include the underrated season two.

A class on The WireFeb 05 2009

UC Berkeley is offering a class called What's so great about The Wire?

Discerning critics and avid fans have agreed that the five-season run of Ed Burns and David Simon's The Wire was "the best TV show ever broadcast in America"--not the most popular but the best. The 60 hours that comprise this episodic series have been aptly been compared to Dickens, Balzac, Dreiser and Greek Tragedy. These comparisons attempt to get at the richly textured complexity of the work, its depth, its bleak tapestry of an American city and its diverse social stratifications. Yet none of these comparisons quite nails what it is that made this the most compelling "show" on TV and better than many of the best movies. This class will explore these comparisons, analyze episodes from the first, third, fourth and fifth seasons and try to discover what was and is so great about The Wire. We will screen as much of the series as we can during our mandatory screening sessions and approach it through the following lenses: the other writing of David Simon, including his journalism, an exemplary Greek Tragedy, Dickens' Bleak House and/or parts of Balzac's Human Comedy. We will also consider the formal tradition of episodic television.

They're skipping season two? Shameful. (via unlikely words)

Brother Mouzone implicated in Notorious B.I.G.'s killing?Jan 22 2009

When The Notorious B.I.G. was shot dead in Los Angeles, a composite sketch of the shooter done shortly after the killing depicts a clean-cut black man in a suit and bow tie. Was Biggie's killer the partial basis for Brother Mouzone, the bow-tied hitman from The Wire?

Biggie Mouzone

At least until I hear from Mr. Mouzone's lawyer, I say: case closed! (thx, alex)

Complete DVD set of The Wire on sale for $82Jan 22 2009

The complete series of The Wire on DVD (all five seasons) is on sale today only at Amazon for $82. That's a whopping 67% off the recommended retail of $250. (thx, doug)

Update: The box set is back to its regular Amazon price of $135 (still pretty good).

Update: Amazon lowered the price on the box set a bit...it's now $124.99, a full 50% off the list price.

Update: As of 12/10/09, they lowered the price to $99 again. (thx, martin)

If the cast of The Wire was a football teamJan 14 2009

The Ravens are looking good in the playoffs but Mark Lamster imagines a football team made up of characters from The Wire. The most inspired choices:

Offensive Coordinator: Lester Freamon
FB: Thomas Hauk
MLB: Wee-Bey Brice
MLB: Cheese Wagstaff
Kicker: Ziggy Sobotka
Fan club president: Roland Pryzbylewski

The Wire, rapped upJan 08 2009

A five-minute rap video that summarizes all five seasons of The Wire.

Police chief, yeah, his rank is proper
'Cause of the window, he starts a war with Frank Sobotka.

MIA's Paper Planes is still my favorite Wire-inspired song, but this is pretty sweet. (thx, about 2000 people)

Photos of The Wire soundstageJan 05 2009

Photos of the abandoned soundstage for The Wire.

So I found out yesterday that the soundstage for "The Wire" still existed. I wasted no time in visiting it and was there almost less than 24 hours. It's one of my favorite TV shows ever and I had to see this before everyone ruined it. The building is also scheduled for demolition and they are going to build a super market on it.

(thx, hurty)

Dubbing The Wire into GermanDec 10 2008

An interview with a translator about the difficulty of dubbing The Wire into German.

To bring over the style of the speech out of the slums or ghettos, we haven't used very exact, grammatically correct German. Nobody says "Wegen des Fahrrads" (because of the bikes), rather "wegen dem Fahrrads" ('cause of them bikes), for example there we use wrong German. Here and there we've used other phrases, sometimes with an English or American sentence structure.

The interview itself was translated from German to English. (via panopticist)

Way Down in the Hole coversNov 06 2008

Two covers of Tom Waits' Way Down in the Hole, the title song for The Wire: Tom Waits and Kronos Quartet and MIA and Blaqstarr. (thx, brandon)

The Wire gets politicalOct 29 2008

Some of the cast of The Wire appeared in a "get involved" commercial for Barack Obama. Related: Carcetti for Mayor tshirts, re-elect Clay Davis shirts, and Pray for Clay campaign buttons. (thx, farhad)

The Dark Knight, Wall-E, and complete The Wire out on DVD/Blu-rayOct 09 2008

If kottke.org had a movies and TV store, here's what I'd be selling today:

- The Dark Knight on Blu-ray or DVD. Out Dec 9.
- Wall-E on Blu-ray or DVD. Out Nov 18.
- The Wire: The Complete Series on DVD. Out Dec 9.

MP3 of The Wire discussionAug 26 2008

An mp3 of the entirety of last month's discussion of The Wire presented by the Museum of the Moving Picture is online. Participants included David Simon, Richard Price, Wendell Pierce (The Bunk), and Clark Johnson.

A Wire event tonight in NYCJul 30 2008

This is late notice and who knows if there are even tickets left, but David Simon and several cast members of The Wire (Carver, Daniels, Gus, Lester, and the Bunk) will be discussing the show in NYC tonight in a Museum of the Moving Image program.

Too Weird for The WireJul 23 2008

Too Weird for The Wire, a story of a number of Baltimore drug dealers and their unusual "flesh-and-blood" defense in federal court. It's a tactic used by white supremacists and other US isolationists groups in tax evasion cases and the like.

"I am not a defendant," Mitchell declared. "I do not have attorneys." The court "lacks territorial jurisdiction over me," he argued, to the amazement of his lawyers. To support these contentions, he cited decades-old acts of Congress involving the abandonment of the gold standard and the creation of the Federal Reserve. Judge Davis, a Baltimore-born African American in his late fifties, tried to interrupt. "I object," Mitchell repeated robotically. Shelly Martin and Shelton Harris followed Mitchell to the microphone, giving the same speech verbatim. Their attorneys tried to intervene, but when Harris's lawyer leaned over to speak to him, Harris shoved him away.

David Simon, I believe you've got enough here for a sixth season of The Wire. Hop to.

Bunk and McNulty go skiingJul 03 2008

We interrupt this vacation for an important message: there's a new episode of The Wire where Bunk and McNulty go skiing. Here's a screenshot.

David "The Wire" Simon's new show, GenerationJun 12 2008

David "The Wire" Simon's new show, Generation Kill, starts on HBO on July 13 and will continue for six Sundays after that.

The Wire, season five, DVDMay 22 2008

Season five of The Wire on DVD is available for pre-order on Amazon. Release date is August 12, 2008. (thx, marshall)

HBO on iTunesMay 13 2008

As rumored yesterday, the iTunes Store has added some HBO shows to their lineup. The initial offerings are the first seasons of The Wire, Flight of the Conchords, Rome, and Deadwood, as well as seasons 1 and 6 of the Sopranos and all of Sex in the City. Prices are between $2-3 per episode. (thx, dhrumil)

The Wire, Simpsons styleApr 29 2008

A few drawings of characters from The Wire drawn in the style of The Simpsons. Here's a scene from season one; D'Angelo tries to teach chess to Wallace and Bodie:

Wire Simpsons

This might be my new favorite thing on the web. (thx, andy)

Paul Ford has plans to make aMar 20 2008

Paul Ford has plans to make a better TV show than The Wire, "set in even worse parts of Baltimore".

I'll use cave paintings as the model for my series. Omar will chase mammoths through the streets and Carcetti will wear a robe made from a wolf and Beadie will chew bear meat for her children before passing it from her mouth. And everyone will speak proto-Indoeuropean without subtitles and the hidden cultural theme that no one sees will be land-bridge migration and phenotype variation.

I have already pre-ordered seasons 1 through 261,492.

Long long but good good roundbrowser** discussionMar 18 2008

Long long but good good roundbrowser** discussion about which is the best TV drama ever: The Wire, Deadwood, or The Sopranos.

MZS: And I would be, frankly, stunned if, as great an actor as Ian McShane is, he ever did anything that was as demanding and as complex as what he did on Deadwood. Same thing for Gandolfini. And there are even smaller players I think that's true of as well. Molly Parker, you know, my God, look at all the things she got to do. When is she going to be able to do all those things again?

AS: A lot of that comes from the fact that these people were doing series, and now they're trying to move on to movies, and no movie part will ever be as complex as Tony Soprano or Al Swearengen or Bubbles.

MZS: Is that an inherent strength of the medium, then, as opposed to movies?

AS: Yeah.

Obviously, there are spoilers here if you haven't seen all three shows in their entirety.

** A roundbrowser discussion is a roundtable discussion that takes place online. Ok, yeah, I didn't think it was all that clever either. Oh well.

Tyler Cowen has a short review ofMar 17 2008

Tyler Cowen has a short review of Peter Moskos' book, Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District.

This is one of the two or three best conceptual analyses of "cops and robbers" I have read. It is mandatory reading for all fans of The Wire and recommended for everyone else.

Sheeeeeeeeeeit.

The end of The WireMar 11 2008

WARNING, **EXTENSIVE SPOILERS** ABOUT SEASONS 1-5. So, The Wire is over. The 60th and final episode of the show aired on Sunday night. I watched it last night and felt very sad afterwards. Sad that it's over and that doing a sixth season could not and would not work. A good chunk of my morning was spent clinging to the show's final moments; I must have read close to 50 or 60 pages of interviews and analysis concerning the end of the show. Here are a few of those articles worth reading:

Heaven and Here is providing their usual excellent coverage of the end of the show.

I don't know if Cheese's speech about the game was one of the more definitive the show's ever put forth, or the ultimate in dime store Wire-isms. I also don't know which way it was supposed to be perceived by the characters. But that it was immediately followed by a murder that contradicted everything it contained -- one that went against a lot of what's been both depressing and demoralizing about the show -- was kind of awesome.

Alan Sepinwall has the definitive end-of-the-show interview with David Simon. It's long but oh so good.

We knew that if we got a long enough run, all three of the chess players would be out of the game, so to speak. Prison or dead. We did not chart all of their fates to a specific outcome, but we knew that the Pit crew would be subject to an exacting attrition.

We knew, for example, that when Carcetti declares that he wants no more stat games in his new administration that the arc would end with his subordinates going into Daniels' office and demanding yet another stat game. Or that McNulty would end up on the pool table felt like Cole, albeit quitting rather than dead. Or that Carver's long arc toward maturity and leadership would begin with him making rank under ugly pretenses and then being lectured by Daniels about what you can and can't live with. (It's at that point that Carver slowly begins to change, not merely when he encounters Colvin's integrity.) We knew that the FBI file that Burrell would not be put into play in season one would eventually be used to deny Daniels the prize.

Sepinwall also wrote an extensive recap of the final episode.

Heather Havrilesky's interview with David Simon on Salon covers some of the same ground as Sepinwall's interview but is still quite fine. Here's David Simon explaining what the whole season five newspaper thread was all about:

[The season] begins with a very good act of adversarial journalism -- they catch a quid pro quo between a drug dealer and a council president -- which actually happened in Baltimore. Not necessarily the council president, but between a drug dealer and the city government. That whole thing with the strip club? That really happened in real life. It was news. The Baltimore Sun did catch that, it was good journalism, so I was honoring good journalism. It ends with an honorable piece of narrative journalism, about Bubbles. And the Baltimore Sun has, on occasion, done very good narrative journalism.

In between those bookends, which I thought were important, because in our minds we weren't writing a piece that was abusive to the Sun or any other newspaper ... the paper misses every story. They miss that the mayor wants to be governor, so ultimately the guy who was the reformer ends up telling people to cook the stats as bad as Royce ever did. Well, in Baltimore that happened. And they missed the fact that the third-grade test scores are cooked to make it look like the schools are improving, when in fact it doesn't extend to the fifth grade, and that No Child Left Behind is an unmitigated disaster. They set out to do a story on the school system, but they abandoned it for homelessness because they're sort of reed thin. Prosecutions collapse because of backroom maneuvering and ambition by various political figures, speaking of Clay Davis ... And when a guy like Prop Joe dies, he's a brief on page B5.

That was the theme, and we were taking long-odd bets that very few journalists would even sense it. That would be the critique of journalism that really mattered to me, because we've shown you the city as it is, and as it is intricately, for four years. It was all rooted in real stuff.

The last of Andrew Johnston's recaps for The House Next Door. He remains skeptical about the newspaper part of season five's main plot:

In my decade-plus as a professional journalist, I've seen a lot of people compromise their principles in order to stay employed, but never have I seen so many people compromise so much. At the risk of seeming terminally naive, I have to ask if things are really that much worse in the newspaper world than they are in the magazine biz (and now that I've raised the question, I'm sure more than one person will provide evidence in the comments below that yes, things are that bad).

Yanksfan vs. Soxfan views The Wire through the lens of Baltimore sports.

From the air, the picture isn't quite so romantic. The satelite image above shows the site that was once home to Memorial Stadium. An entire neighborhood is oriented in a horsehoe around it. But there's practically nothing on the site now. It's a void. The last remnant of Memorial Stadium came down in 2002. That was a concrete wall dedicated to the soldiers who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars. It read, "Time will not dim the glory of their deeds."

The Orioles moved into Camden Yards in 1994. You'd think that, when the city agreed to build a new home for the team, there would have been a plan for the old site. But that's not how the development game works. A rising tide doesn't necessarily lift all boats. The money was downtown, and that's where it stayed.

Assorted other articles that I'll leave unexcerpted: AV Club interview with Simon, final episode recap from Thoughts on Stuff, and a letter on HBO's site from David Simon to the fans of the show.

And finally, a few other tidbits.

  • According to Simon in his interview with Sepinwall, the superhero-like jump taken by Omar in season five from an apartment balcony was based on a real-life experience by the real-life Omar.
  • Did you catch Simon's cameo in the newsroom at The Sun? Did Ed Burns have a cameo of his own at McNulty's wake?
  • Aside from Ziggy Sobotka, Brother Mouzone, and maybe Horseface, season five featured every surviving main character in the show's five season run. Mr. Prezbo was the last to turn up as the subject of Dukie's transparent short con.
  • At the beginning of season four, I wished that season five would be a Godfather II-style prequel showing how the main characters (Avon, Stringer, McNutty, Daniels, Omar, etc.) got to where they did. Turns out that Simon and company had that in mind all along; in seasons four and five, we simultaneously see the beginnings and ends of several characters. Michael and Dukie are explicitly set up as the new Omar and Bubbles, respectively. Carver is the new Daniels. Sydnor is the new McNulty (with some Freamon sprinkled in). I'm also guess that, more or less, Kima is the new Bunk, Kenard is the new Avon/Marlo, and Randy is the new Cheese (Simon has confirmed that Cheese is Randy's dad). Namond is the only season four kid that doesn't really morph into one of the other characters...maybe Bunny.
  • Slim Charles shooting Cheese in the head was the most satisfying moment I've ever witnessed on TV.

Now that it's done, I think we're going to cancel HBO and everything but basic cable. I doubt it'll be missed much...aside from sports and movies, The Wire was only thing we watched on TV.

There was a big bust in ChinatownFeb 27 2008

There was a big bust in Chinatown yesterday...32 vendors selling counterfeit watches, sunglasses, and handbags were shut down. All up and down Canal St today, not only are the busted stores closed but all the other shops selling fake goods are shuttered as well. And not a single person asked me if I wanted to buy Juno on DVD.

What's funny about the whole thing is how open the vendors are about what they're selling. These are actual physical shops like the Apple Store or the Gap, not a bunch of purses out of a garbage bag set up on a rickety card table. And uniformed police are around all the time, doing absolutely nothing about it. And then all the luxury fashion houses get the mayor's ear, he can no longer ignore the problem, and Bloomberg ends up at the scene, grandstanding for the cameras and calling the whole thing a big problem that they're working on tirelessly. A friend said this morning it reminded him of the "dope on the table" scenes in The Wire...little more than constabulary theater.

No spoilers, no spoilers. It appears thatFeb 25 2008

No spoilers, no spoilers. It appears that the very last episode of The Wire will not air a week early on HBO OnDemand like all the previous episodes have this season. Air date is Sunday, March 9...the show appears OnDemand the next day. The series finale will clock in at 93 minutes, longer by 15 minutes than last season's finale.

Some thoughts on The Wire, season 5Feb 07 2008

NOTE: don't read any further if you haven't watched episode 6 of The Wire's 5th season. SPOILERS.

I've been meaning to write a post on my thoughts about season 5 of The Wire but luckily Heaven and Here beat me to much of what I was thinking. The highlights:

Too many characters, too many stories, too much telling and not enough time for showing, which is why it feels more like a conventional TV show than in years past.

Unnecessary cameos. What is this, a reunion tour? Hi Nicky, hi Randy! (Although I think the Randy thing is interesting in relation to his dad...did Cheese get the way he is through a similar trajectory? And I suspect that Randy will come back into play...the season 4 kids are the only ones, besides the drug dealers themselves, who have any evidence of wrongdoing by Marlo, et. al.)

How are they going to wrap this up? I don't care what happens to Carcetti or McNulty or Freamon or Daniels and we're obviously going to get some sort of closure on either Omar or Marlo, but if they leave the Dukie, Bubs, and Michael threads significantly hanging, I'm gonna be pissed. (Prediction: if Marlo gets got, it will come from within...either Chris or Michael or both.)

The whole McNulty/Freamon thing: blah. Same thing with the newspaper angle...not as interesting as I thought it was going to be.

But all the rest of the seasons started slow and built into something...they coalesced. Maybe this one will as well?

The only thing I really like about McNulty's manufactured investigation is how it affects so many different things in the system. Carcetti running for governor on the homeless issue. The newspaper switching their focus from the schools to the homeless. All the little things that pull resources and energy away from the Marlo Stanfield case. Pulling Kima off her triple. Motivating Bunk to reopen the case files on the bodies in the vacants. Everything is connected, unexpectedly.

Oh, and I love the "Dickensian" stuff in the newsroom...it's Simon's little shoutout/fuck you to the real media's coverage of the show, frequently called Dickensian. Heaven and Here on the term's misuse:

Something that has been bothering me about the deluge of stories on the show lately (which is , as Shoals said to me earlier today, "split now between nay-sayers and people drowning in their own adulation,") is the loose use of the term "Dickensian." Some stories are simply grabbing onto the upcoming plotline of the Sun editor assigning a story on "Dickensian" kids, but more often than I like, I see lazy writers using Dickens as a sort of shorthand for intricacy, urban despair, and nightmarish institutional breakdown, as if he owned the patent on all that.

Maybe much of the media criticism we were promised in season 5 is meta?

The Sound of Young America's Jesse ThornJan 11 2008

The Sound of Young America's Jesse Thorn interviews Wendell Pierce and Andre Royo, who play The Bunk and Bubbles on The Wire. (thx, jesse)

Sudhir Venkatesh recently sat down with someJan 09 2008

Sudhir Venkatesh recently sat down with some real gang members to watch some episodes of the The Wire.

The greatest uproar occurred when the upstart Marlo challenged the veteran Prop Joe in the co-op meeting. "If Prop Joe had balls, he'd be dead in 24 hours!" Orlando shouted. "But white folks [who write the series] always love to keep these uppity [characters] alive. No way he'd survive in East New York more than a minute!" A series of bets then took place. All told, roughly $8,000 was wagered on the timing of Marlo's death. The bettors asked me -- as the neutral party -- to hold the money. I delicately replied that my piggy bank was filled up already.

(thx, matt)

With The Wire final season premiere approachingJan 03 2008

With The Wire final season premiere approaching rapidly (the episode is already on HBO OnDemand and the first two are on BitTorrent), news outlets everywhere are covering and reviewing the show. My favorite article -- because it's something different and critical for a change -- is a profile of David Simon by Mark Bowden in the Atlantic Monthly. He starts out slow with a comparison of fiction and nonfiction in telling stories:

Fiction can explain things that journalism cannot. It allows you to enter the lives and motivations of characters with far more intimacy than is typically possible in nonfiction. In the case of The Wire, fiction allows you to wander around inside a violent, criminal subculture, and inside an entrenched official bureaucracy, in a way that most reporters can only dream about. And it frees you from concerns about libel and cruelty. It frees you to be unfair.

But then you get to the part describing Simon's vindictiveness and how it has shaped him, which adds some depth to the earlier fiction/nonfiction comparison. Worth a read.

Also of note is that the full text of The Believer conversation between Simon and Nick Hornby has been put online.

With the new season right around theDec 27 2007

With the new season right around the corner, Heaven and Here, an excellent group blog about The Wire, is starting back up again. The latest two posts are about season two, the most underrated season IMO.

Radio interview with Felicia Pearson, who playsDec 17 2007

Radio interview with Felicia Pearson, who plays Snoop on The Wire. It's apparent from the interview that she doesn't so much act in The Wire as play herself. "I have patience." (thx, adam)

New episodes of The Wire, available now!Dec 05 2007

New episodes of The Wire, available now! Well, sort of. The Amazon page for the season 4 DVDs contains three mini prequels to the series: one with a grade school-aged Prop Joe, a teenaged Omar, and McNulty's first day with the homicide unit.

Found while browsing HBO OnDemand last night:Nov 30 2007

Found while browsing HBO OnDemand last night: the first 4 episodes of The Sopranos and the entire season 3 of The Wire. Go nuts.

Big Screen Little Screen has some infoNov 29 2007

Big Screen Little Screen has some info of the upcoming season of The Wire. It begins Jan 6th and the episodes will appear OnDemand a week early (they did this last year, yes?). The post also contains 5 promos for season 5. Almost here!

Long profile of David Simon and TheOct 15 2007

Long profile of David Simon and The Wire in the New Yorker this week. Haven't read it yet, but digging in now.

Update: Ok, all done. I thought this observation about the two main groups of fans of the show (urban poor and media critics) was canny:

Sometimes the fan base of "The Wire" seems like the demographics of many American cities -- mainly the urban poor and the affluent elite, with the middle class hollowed out.

The last bit of the article talks about a new show that Simon's thinking of doing for HBO about New Orleans musicians.

Season 1 of The Wire is currently showingOct 09 2007

Season 1 of The Wire is currently showing on HBO OnDemand. I presume seasons 2-4 will follow as the January premiere of season 5 approaches. (thx, michael)

Speaking of, here's a short teaser promo for season 5. (thx, gary)

Update: The post originally said that season 2 was OnDemand...I corrected it to read "season 1".

Amazon just sent me an email aboutSep 28 2007

Amazon just sent me an email about my preorder of The Wire season 4 DVD. They say the shipping date has slipped a little, but the page still says it'll be out on Dec 4. Anyway, they made me verify the "change"; if I hadn't, they would have canceled the order, which seems a less-than-optimal solution to the problem. If you preordered, you might want to watch your inbox.

rating: 4.0 stars

A Prairie Home CompanionSep 10 2007

It's been a few weeks since I saw the movie, but I still can't get the Rhubarb Pie song out of my head:

But one little thing can revive a guy,
And that is home-made rhubarb pie.
Serve it up, nice and hot.
Maybe things aren't as futile as you thought.

Mama's little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb,
Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.
Mama's little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb,
Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.

Related "fascinating" facts:

Garrison Keillor got the idea for doing A Prairie Home Companion (the radio show) after writing an article for the New Yorker about the Grand Old Opry in 1974.

While driving in unfamiliar territory in an episode of The Wire, Bodie Broadus ends up listening to A Prairie Home Companion on the radio when he can't find any hip-hop.

A breaking addendum to Wednesday's update onSep 09 2007

A breaking addendum to Wednesday's update on The Wire: the season four DVD of The Wire is now available for pre-order at Amazon. Release date: December 4.

On the TVSep 06 2007

What with the newborn taking up much of my days, I didn't have too much time to watch TV this summer. I did catch a few shows, however.

Ninja Warrior. This is my new favorite show to truly zone out to. It's an obstacle course competition program from Japan called Sasuke, repackaged by the G4 network for an American audience. This YouTube video -- featuring my favorite Ninja Warrior competitor, fisherman Makoto Nagano -- should provide you with a decent taste of the show. Wikipedia has more information than you probably want to know about the program. Time/place: G4, all hours of the day (but officially 6pm & 10pm ET).

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? See Idiocracy. See also Miss Teen South Carolina. I couldn't click away fast enough. Time/place: not even gonna tell you.

Deadwood, season one. Finally got around to checking this out after many recommendations from friends. Big fan so far, through 10 episodes. Gem Saloon owner Al Swearengen is one of the best TV characters in recent memory. Aside from the obvious -- Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, and Deadwood itself -- I was surprised to learn that many of the characters, events, and establishments in the show actually existed and took place, including Swearengen, E.B., and the Gem. I imagine there's an extensive discussion on the web somewhere about how much the show deviates from recorded history, but I'm staying away for now for fear of spoilers, having already made the mistake of learning of Wild Bill's story arc in a book about the Wild West. Time/place: HBO2 is currently rerunning season one at 8pm ET. Also available on DVD, anytime.

The Wire, seasons one, two, and three. Everyone dogs on season two of The Wire (relatively speaking), but after a second viewing, it's right up there with one and three for me. Collectively the best program ever shown on TV, case closed, next topic, I'm not even gonna discuss that with you. G.O.A.T. However, up for debate: despite being everyone's favorite character on the show (but not mine), Omar Little is actually the least realistic character on a show defined by its realism. A gay thief/killer/felon who doesn't swear and adheres to a personal code of conduct? Come on! Time/place: BET is showing episodes of season three on Thursdays at 9:30pm ET, but edited for content and with commercials. Which is like viewing Titian's nudes with all the naughty bits pixelated out and a "Sponsored by AXE Deodorant Body Spray" banner draped over it. Just get the DVDs...beg, borrow, or steal if you have to.

Planet Earth. A highly recommended nature series that originally aired on the BBC in early 2006 (with David Attenborough narrating) and jumped to the Discovery Channel earlier this year (with Sigourney Weaver narrating). We caught several episodes on Discovery HD, which is a spectacular way to watch the series. My favorite scenes depicted the symbiotic relationships that develop in the wild: snakes and fish hunting together, dolphins and birds herding fish, spiders diving for prey trapped by pitcher plants. NY Times review, Washington Post review, detailed Wikipedia entry. Time/place: Not on TV in the US anymore, as far as I know. Your best bet is on DVD or, if you have an HD player, get the full effect on HD DVD or Blu-ray. Get the Attenborough-narrated version if you can. Oh, it looks like there's a few highly pixelated complete episodes of Planet Earth on Google Video...get 'em before they get taken down.

Summer news regarding The Wire (including season five info)Sep 05 2007

Show creator David Simon talks with author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, etc.) in the The August 2007 issue of The Believer. The entire interview isn't available online but one of the three best bits is:

My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell.

Simon goes on to talk about the overarching theme of The Wire: the exploration of the postmodern American city and the struggle of the individual against the city's institutions. Many of his thoughts on that particular subject are contained in this Dec 2006 interview at Slate. But in talking with Hornby, Simon draws a parallel between these city institutions and the Greek gods:

Another reason the show may feel different than a lot of television: our model is not quite so Shakespearian as other high-end HBO fare. The Sopranos and Deadwood -- two shows that I do admire -- offer a good deal of Macbeth or Richard III or Hamlet in their focus on the angst and machinations of their central characters (Tony Soprano, Al Swearingen). Much of our modern theatre seems rooted in the Shakespearian discovery of the modern mind. We're stealing instead from an earlier, less-traveled construct -- the Greeks -- lifting our thematic stance wholesale from Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides to create doomed and fated protagonists who confront a rigged game and their own mortality.

But instead of the old gods, The Wire is a Greek tragedy in which the postmodern institutions are the Olympian forces. It's the police department, or the drug economy, or the political structures, or the school administration, or the macroeconomics forces that are throwing the lightning bolts and hitting people in the ass for no reason. In much of television, and in a good deal of our stage drama, individuals are often portrayed as rising above institutions to achieve catharsis. In this drama, the institutions always prove larger, and those characters with hubris enough to challenge the postmodern construct of American empire are invariably mocked, marginalized, or crushed. Greek tragedy for the new millenium, so to speak.

The NY Times still deals in the Shakespearian and tells us the story of Donnie Andrews and Fran Boyd (thx, nirav), whom Simon and The Wire co-creator Edward Burns introduced to each other. Andrews was the inspiration for the popular Omar Little character on the show and Boyd was depicted in a previous Simon/Burns collaboration called The Corner. The Times also has their wedding announcement.

And finally, some news about season five. Sadly, instead of 12 or 13 episodes, the final season of the show will only consist of 10 episodes. The shooting of the final episode wrapped on September 1 and the season will premiere on Jan 6, 2008 (both facts courtesy of a Washington Post article about the end of the show). The season 4 DVD should be out a month or two before that. Two actors from Homicide: Life on the Street (based on a book by, you guessed it, David Simon) will appear in the final season: Clark Johnson (who also directed the final episode) and Richard Belzer, who will reprise his Homicide role as Detective John Munch.

Last 100 posts, part 8May 30 2007

Here are some updates on some of the topics, links, ideas, posts, people, etc. that have appeared on kottke.org recently (previous installment is here):

The Celluloid Skyline exhibition at Grand Central is well worth checking out...I was up there this past weekend. Pentagram collaborated with Saunders on the exhibit and wrote up a brief piece on how it came together.

My short post on Nina Planck's reaction to the recent "death by veganism", as she calls it, of a baby boy is a good reminder that I don't always agree with the things I link to. My only criteria for posting a link is that it's interesting, whether I think it's right or wrong or am still trying to form an opinion about it. Anyway, I got lots of mail about this one, much of it that said that the parents' veganism was beside the point -- which the prosecutors and jury in the subsequent criminal case agreed with (thx, matt) -- and that a headline like "Death By Stupidity" was probably more appropriate. After all, you don't see "Death by Omnivorism" headlines every time a baby with a more traditional diet dies of starvation.

Debra from Culiblog pointed out that contrary to Planck's assertion that "there are no vegan societies", the Jainists practice vegetarianism and veganism. On the other side of the aisle, meat fan Michael Ruhlman chastised Planck for going too easy on vegans, saying that "Veganism is a colossal arrogance, a refusal to admit to our own nature, a denial of our humanity. Sometimes it kills people. And it's not very much fun, besides." You can imagine the discussion that generated...although it was nothing like the 300+ comment thread on MetaFilter.

My opinion of Cars improved with a second viewing.

Discover's chat bot conversation reminded a reader of this old interview with the Ask Jeeves search engine (thx david). Back in 2002, I interviewed ELLEGirl magazine's AIMbot:

jkottke: Do you do anything to celebrate or recognize the changing of seasons?
ELLEgirlBuddy: do you do anything to celebrate or recognize the changing of seasons? that's a tough choice.
jkottke: yes, to celebrate or merely recognize. that is a toughie.
ELLEgirlBuddy: yes to celebrate or merely recognize that is a toughie? i dunno.
jkottke: you seem like an actual 13 year old girl.
ELLEgirlBuddy: i haven't really made a decision 'bout that.
jkottke: growing up is tough, isn't it?
ELLEgirlBuddy: i dunno.

And whoever posted the chat bot story to Digg (5696 Diggs and counting!) used the exact wording from my original post. You're welcome!

Prime, David Burke's quarter-million-dollar Black Angus bull, has his own web site. (thx, brian)

Regarding Alex Reisner's excellent baseball statistics web site and, in particular, the pennant race graphs, here's another interesting visualization of the pennant races...you can see the teams race to the end of the year like horses. (thx, scott)

Re: my post on better living through self-deception, I've heard that pregnant women tend to forget the pain of childbirth, perhaps because "endorphins reduce the amount of information trauma victims can store". Also related tangetially is this article on research into lying and laughing, which includes this simple test to see if you're a good liar:

Are you a good liar? Most people think that they are, but in reality there are big differences in how well we can pull the wool over the eyes of others. There is a very simple test that can help determine your ability to lie. Using the first finger of your dominant hand, draw a capital letter Q on your forehead.

Some people draw the letter Q in such a way that they themselves can read it. That is, they place the tail of the Q on the right-hand side of their forehead. Other people draw the letter in a way that can be read by someone facing them, with the tail of the Q on the left side of their forehead. This quick test provides a rough measure of a concept known as "self-monitoring". High self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be seen by someone facing them. Low self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be read by themselves.

High self-monitors tend to be concerned with how other people see them. They are happy being the centre of attention, can easily adapt their behaviour to suit the situation in which they find themselves, and are skilled at manipulating the way in which others see them. As a result, they tend to be good at lying. In contrast, low self-monitors come across as being the "same person" in different situations. Their behaviour is guided more by their inner feelings and values, and they are less aware of their impact on those around them. They also tend to lie less in life, and so not be so skilled at deceit.

The skyscraper with one floor isn't exactly a new idea. Rem Koolhaas won a competition to build two libraries in France with one spiraling floor in 1992 (thx, mike). Of course, there's the Guggenheim in NYC and many parking garages.

After posting a brief piece on Baltimore last week, I discovered that several of my readers are current or former residents of Charm City...or at least have an interest in it. Armin sent along the Renaming Baltimore project...possible names are Domino, Maryland and Lessismore. A Baltimore Sun article on the Baltimore Youth Lacrosse League published shortly after my post also referenced the idea of "Two Baltimores. Two cities in one." The Wire's many juxtapositions of the "old" and "new" Baltimore are evident to viewers of the series. Meanwhile, Mobtown Shank took a look at the crime statistics for Baltimore and noted that crime has actually decreased more than 40% from 1999 to 2005. (thx, fred)

Cognitive Daily took an informal poll and found that fewer than half the respondants worked a standard 8-5 Mon-Fri schedule. Maybe that's why the streets and coffeeshops aren't empty during the workday.

Beyond Chron: "In San Francisco, neighborhoods thatMay 14 2007

Beyond Chron: "In San Francisco, neighborhoods that have defeated gentrification have been treated as 'containment zones,' meaning that unreasonable levels of crime, violence and drugs are tolerated so that such activities do not spread to upscale areas. The Tenderloin has long been one of the city's leading containment zones, but those days are over." Sounds a bit like Hamsterdam from season three of The Wire.

Generation Kill is the newest project forMar 01 2007

Generation Kill is the newest project for HBO from David Simon and Ed Burns, creators of The Wire. It's a 7-hour miniseries based on Marines fighting in the Iraq war. "Gritty mini will look at the early movements of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion and depict the complex challenges faced by the U.S.-led mission even in the war's early stages." (via crazymonk)

BET is showing season one of TheJan 18 2007

BET is showing season one of The Wire. Not the best way to watch the show (with commercials and edited for television), but handy if you don't have other access to it.

Googling from the futureDec 13 2006

A few years ago, I wrote about the potential hazards of watching time-shifted entertainment. Meg and I were watching a Red Sox-Yankees playoff game on TiVo and were about 20 minutes behind realtime events when Meg's phone rang:

She picked it up and looked at it, distracted by the game and unsure of what to do with it. I immediately realized it was her parents, calling with word of the completed game.

"No, no, don't answer it!" I yelled. "It's your parents! They're calling from the future!"

In promoting season four of The Wire, HBO sent out screener DVDs of the entire season to reviewers. By mid-October, some enterprising person ripped those DVDs and made all season 4 episodes available online, more than a month before the final episode was to be shown on TV. Unfortunately, those early viewers did some Googling about upcoming plot points which ended up in the referer logs of Heaven and Here, a popular blog about The Wire. (Note: if you haven't watched all of season 4, DON'T CLICK THROUGH to Heaven and Here...major spoilers!!) A spoiler-free excerpt:

Finally, I would like to say a few words on spoilers, On-Demand, and the concept of the collective. My big spoiler moment came about halfway through the season, which is rather a lucky break for me considering how much material I have been traversing each week related to the show. It was in the search terms for this very site, and it came in just three words: "[redacted]" It's the image you see for a second, recognize that you don't want to see, and quickly turn away from but can never even hope to forget. [...] I was able to avoid other spoilers, which again is kind of miraculous, but that note rang in my head all season, and it also had to be this ugly secret i kept while discussing the show here and with friends.

Who says time travel hasn't been invented yet?

Fantastic interview with David Simon in Slate.Dec 04 2006

Fantastic interview with David Simon in Slate. If you're a fan of The Wire and caught up on season four, I really recommend reading this. When Simon was asked what the show was about, he said: "it's about the very simple idea that, in this Postmodern world of ours, human beings -- all of us -- are worth less. We're worth less every day, despite the fact that some of us are achieving more and more. It's the triumph of capitalism."

Google Maps satellite view of where MarloNov 29 2006

Google Maps satellite view of where Marlo hangs out on The Wire. (thx, turbanhead)

Long but great NPR interview with EdNov 27 2006

Long but great NPR interview with Ed Burns, writer and producer of The Wire. We just finished season 4 last night and it took the stuffing right out of me. I haven't been this depressed for months. (thx to the several people who recommended this)

Profile of Felicia Pearson, who came offOct 26 2006

Profile of Felicia Pearson, who came off the streets of Baltimore to play Snoop on The Wire.

Video of a Steven Levitt talk onOct 26 2006

Video of a Steven Levitt talk on the economics of gangs and why gangbanger is not such a good vocation (for one thing, the job pays less than McDonald's). The board of directors stuff made me think of the co-op on The Wire.

Clay Davis: Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeit. This is right upOct 17 2006

Clay Davis: Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeit. This is right up there with Khaaan! (thx, david)

Short Q&A with David Simon about The Wire.Oct 17 2006

Short Q&A with David Simon about The Wire.

Because of his open source programming connection,Oct 15 2006

Because of his open source programming connection, Hans Reiser's arrest for his wife's murder was big news in that community. After his wife disappeared, Reiser bought 2 books on murder, including David Simon's Homicide. Simon is the creator of The Wire.

Eyes on the PrizeOct 03 2006

I posted a link to this earlier, but after watching the first two hours earlier this evening, I must strongly caution against missing Eyes on the Prize on PBS this month. Using nothing more than archival film footage, on-camera interviews, period music, and a narrator's voiceover, the stories of Emmitt Till, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the desegregation of southern schools riveted me to the couch like few viewing experiences have. As compelling as the history of the civil rights movement in America is, the production of the film deserves some of the credit for its power. To hear the stories of these momentous events told by the participants themselves, without embellishment, is quite extraordinary. From a media perspective, watching Eyes on the Prize gives me hope that we can survive the era of the crescendoing musical scores and 20-cuts-per-minute editing and still tell powerful, engaging stories without worrying about window dressing. I won't soon forget the calm determination in the look and voice of Moses Wright or Mississippi governor Ross Barnett thundering away about segregation.

(For me, Eyes is also a nice companion piece to my twin obsessions of late, The Wire and The Blind Side, both of which deal with contemporary race relations in their own way. The PBS web site for the film lists dozens of resources for further exploration of the topic...does anyone have any specific recommendations for books about the civil rights movement? Lemme know.)

Update: Thanks for the recommendations, everyone...I posted a listing of them here.

Sounds like a tactic out of TheOct 02 2006

Sounds like a tactic out of The Wire: instead of mass arrests, law enforcement officials in a North Carolina city have been using pressure from families and the threat of arrest to drive drug dealers out of business. (thx, micah)

Short Rolling Stone interview with The Wire'sSep 29 2006

Short Rolling Stone interview with The Wire's David Simon, part of a longer interview from the magazine. "I thought Katrina was literally America having to pause for a moment and contemplate the other America that somehow, tragically, Americans forgot. It's like America looking across the chasm saying, 'Oh, are you still here? Oh, and you're wet. And you're angry.'"

Long piece on the opening titles ofSep 26 2006

Long piece on the opening titles of The Wire. Contains nearly endless seasons 1-3 spoilers. The site also offers comprehensive weekly episode recaps...here's the one for episode 40.

Update: Edward Copeland also does The Wire recaps.

From Anya Kamenetz's recent HuffPo piece onSep 25 2006

From Anya Kamenetz's recent HuffPo piece on The Wire, we learn about a group blog on The Wire called Heaven and Here, a pretty meaty exploration of the show. Show creator David Simon checked in recently.

Each week at Slate, writer Alex KotlowitzSep 22 2006

Each week at Slate, writer Alex Kotlowitz and Steve James (director of Hoop Dreams) dissect the week's episode from the fourth season of The Wire. Warning: they are unabashed fans of the show. AOL recently interviewed The Wire creator David Simon. (via dj) Negro Please is posting fourth season episode synopsiseses summaries...here's 4.2.

Update: Season four of The Wire scored a 98/100 on Metacritic, the highest score for a TV show on the site.

Slate's Jacob Weisberg on The Wire: "noSep 14 2006

Slate's Jacob Weisberg on The Wire: "no other program has ever done anything remotely like what this one does, namely to portray the social, political, and economic life of an American city with the scope, observational precision, and moral vision of great literature".

Stephen King: big fan of The Wire. "Sep 14 2006

Stephen King: big fan of The Wire. "The Wire keeps getting better, and to my mind it has made the final jump from great TV to classic TV." Warning, some season 4 spoilers. (via crazymonk)

The Wire season five wishlistSep 14 2006

Season four of The Wire just started, but I've got a season five wishlist item to share. I'd love to see an entire season that flashes back to Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale establishng their operation, say 5-6 years before the start of season one. Maybe we'd also get to see McNulty's days in the Western with Bunny, Daniels' dark days, Bubs getting hooked on the junk, some backstory on The Greek, a bit of the Sobotka clan, and more Omar (there's never enough Omar). This isn't unprecendented; The Godfather: Part II followed the first movie's saga of an aging gangster and his three sons with a look at how Vito Corleone's operation came to be. With the way they've handled The Wire so far, I think the show's creators could pull off something similar in effect and acclaim.

(Now that I think about it, they're sort of doing that this season anyway. Marlo is kind of a young Avon and in the young school kids, we get a look at drug dealers in the making. Not related at all, but the best line of the series so far is from Clay Davis in the second episode of the 4th season: "Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiit." Laughed my ass off.)

Oh, rejoice and be glad...there willSep 13 2006

Oh, rejoice and be glad...there will be a season five of The Wire. "Balancing small audiences again critical acclaim, HBO has picked up a fifth season of drama The Wire." The season may focus on the media's role in politics. (thx, mark)

Bill Simmons, who writes at ESPN andSep 12 2006

Bill Simmons, who writes at ESPN and is one of my favorite sports writers, recently penned a rave review of The Wire (scroll all the way down at the bottom). "Omar might be my favorite HBO villain since Adebici. And that's saying something." He also sings the praises of David Foster Wallace's article on Roger Federer.

The Wire influenced a Baltimore hip-hop producerSep 11 2006

The Wire influenced a Baltimore hip-hop producer to make a mix tape called Hampsterdam and now season four of the show will be featuring more of the local music scene there. (thx, doug)

The WireSep 10 2006

It's difficult to talk about The Wire without wanting to reveal all sorts of plot details, character developments, and other spoilers, so instead I'll tell you how excited I am about the season four premiere tonight on HBO. (It's been available on HBO On Demand for a week or so now, but I've been out of the country so Meg and I are watching it tonight the old fashioned way: live.) Before we left for Austria, we burned through all 37 hours of the first three seasons in about four weeks, and in my opinion, The Wire is one of the very best television shows ever.

Despite being critically acclaimed, The Wire is also unfortunately one of HBO's less appreciated shows audience-wise. So, a little plug: get the season one DVDs from Netflix (or Amazon), park your ass in front of the television, and watch it. All the seasons tend to start a little slow but stick with it and ye shall be rewarded. (I was almost bored watching the first 3-4 episodes of season three, but the the payoff in the later episodes...oh man.) Alright, get to it.

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