You Tryna Get Real Depressed?

David Simon believes the children are our future.  Thing is, David Simon hates children.

Wait, that’s not true at all, but check out what dude says about their future.

[image via Big Think]

If you want details about our great nation’s inevitable crumble, watch the amazing Bill Moyers interview below.  It’s plenty long, so bookmark it if you have to.  You’ll be better for it.

[videos and original commentary via Fixing the Economists]

January 20, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Video. Leave a comment.

Saying “Bunghole” Is Presidential

Put This On has already unpacked this video so well that I won’t even try:

In 1964, Lyndon Johnson needed pants, so he called the Haggar clothing company and asked for some. The call was recorded (like all White House calls at the time), and has since become the stuff of legend. Johnson’s anatomically specific directions to Mr. Haggar are some of the most intimate words we’ve ever heard from the mouth of a President.

January 18, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Video. Leave a comment.

Inside the Mind of a Genius

Google any phrase like “best television show” and The Wire is sure to dominate your results.  It wasn’t always this way.

Back in September of 2000, David Simon (one of 2010’s MacArthur Genius Grant recipients) made the pitch to HBO.  About what you’d expect.  79 pages of proposed episode synopses and thematic sketches.

What surprised me the most were the ample changes throughout.  Here’s a rundown:

Conspicuously absent

  • Wallace
  • Wee-Bey
  • Poot
  • Pryzbylewski

Names changed

  • Stringy Bell = Stringer Bell
  • Aaron Barksdale = Avon Barksdale
  • Jimmy McArdle = Jimmy McNulty
  • Doughboy = Proposition Joe
  • William “Bunk” Moreland
  • Lester Weeks = Lester Freeman
  • Shakima = Kima

Character differences

  • Slim Charles is fat.  Really fat.
  • Herc is really into steroids.

Significant plot deviations

  • Bubbles has AIDs and dies by the end of the first season.
  • Kima gets murdered by Slim Charles at Orlando’s.
  • Orlando’s undergoes a name change to Odell’s afterward.
  • Herc gets busted for steroids and gets fired.
  • Santangelo is still a rat for the Major in charge of the homicide department, but also for Stringer Bell.  This sets up a situation where a Barksdale crew tries to kill D’Angelo, Lester, and Sydnor in a motel room.  Santangelo eventually gets arrested for this and Lester and Sydnor beat him up badly in a bathroom.

I know, right, Michael?

[David Simon’s pitch to HBO via Kottke]

[images via Blake Hicks & Variety]

October 21, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

Smart-Ass Pawn

I’m not sure what initiated this article, but for whatever reason, Lorrie Moore wrote a very welcome piece about David Simon and The Wire. Here’s a nice excerpt:

The Wire, of course, is a deliberately far cry from Adam-12 and Dragnet, the cop shows of Simon’s childhood. Its newness as a narrative art form is underscored most convincingly by its power on DVD, where it can be watched all at once, over sixty hours: this particular manner of viewing makes the literary accolades and the comparisons to a novel more justified and true. On the other hand, so engrossing, heart-tugging, and uncertain are the various story arcs that watching in this manner one becomes filled with a kind of mesmerized dread. In this new motion picture format the standard, consoling boundaries and storytelling rhythms are dispensed with—mostly. One is allowed a wider, deeper portrait, a panorama, of entrepreneurial crime, government corruption, a harassed underclass, and faulty institutions of every sort—sprawling portraiture that aims at inclusivity.

Even though its city hall has been mum, Baltimore’s Police Department has given The Wire its endorsement, as have the kids of East and West Baltimore. Moreover, the show’s themes can seem reiterated everywhere in the world, from out-of-work shrimpers and autoworkers, to the meth cookers of the Ozarks, to the poppy growers of war-torn Afghanistan (oddly, Hamid Karzai has two brothers who live in the Baltimore area). It is sometimes hard to think about the world’s troubles without thinking: “This is just like The Wire.”

I concur. You probably know by now that David Simon just won a MacAurthur Genius Grant for his television work. Very few humans get this award. If you were waiting for a reason to watch this show, this is it.

[Lorrie Moore @ the New York Review of Books via the Browser]

[image from personal favorite: Blake Hicks]

October 1, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

Election Criteria

We’re on the cusp of election season and I think I have a new prerequisite if a candidate wants my vote:

You must have seen all five seasons of the Wire.

I got this idea from the new Mayor of Reykjavik (the capital of Iceland), Jón Gnarr. This guy used to be a punk rocker, a comedian, and an actor, but now he’s running the show. Gnarr didn’t win a majority, but did garner a plurality. In seeking out a coalition partner he,

… ruled out any party whose members had not seen all five seasons of “The Wire.”

There it is. I’ll get my prospective ballot ready and e-mail the contestants one by one. I can’t think of any better selection criteria given the wide-spread duplicity of the average politician (i.e. I don’t trust their proclamations).

[More about Mayor Gnarr via Kottke & The NYT]

[image via Televisual]

August 13, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200.

You remember what Avon Barksdale says about prison, right?

You only spend two days inside. The day you go in, and the day you get out.

Yeah maybe tough guy, but I’ll put my own cards on the table: roughly one in 40 people in America are currently either imprisoned or on probation, often for very minor offenses. This rate is extremely high and obviously inappropriate.

There are over 4,000 federal crimes, and many times that number of regulations that carry criminal penalties. When analysts at the Congressional Research Service tried to count the number of separate offences on the books, they were forced to give up, exhausted. Rules concerning corporate governance or the environment are often impossible to understand, yet breaking them can land you in prison. In many criminal cases, the common-law requirement that a defendant must have a mens rea (ie, he must or should know that he is doing wrong) has been weakened or erased.

“The founders viewed the criminal sanction as a last resort, reserved for serious offences, clearly defined, so ordinary citizens would know whether they were violating the law. Yet over the last 40 years, an unholy alliance of big-business-hating liberals and tough-on-crime conservatives has made criminalisation the first line of attack—a way to demonstrate seriousness about the social problem of the month, whether it’s corporate scandals or e-mail spam,” writes Gene Healy, a libertarian scholar. “You can serve federal time for interstate transport of water hyacinths, trafficking in unlicensed dentures, or misappropriating the likeness of Woodsy Owl.”

Read on.

[The Economist via The Browser]

[image via HBO]

August 11, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

Exhaustive interview with David Simon

The tiniest excerpt from the best ever interview about The Wire:

We were always laying pipe that could be picked up later.

[What’s Alan Watching via Luke Johnson @ Proof of Blog]

[photo via Can’t Stop the Bleeding]

July 23, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.