A little estrogen.

This was the week that Iceman met Riverbend and Chaffin and that other whiskey tango piece of shit met an actual female soldier. “Concertina bush” — jeez, what a pig. I was so repulsed by that, not the least by the writer’s co-yuks with his new homies. Seeing as how this is an all-girl blog, anyone want to take that one on?

The grooming standard.

During my final days in the newspaper business, the editor of my tiny (and getting tinier by the quarter) p.m. daily had the idea to send someone to Afghanistan. As our paper was not the sort to keep a foreign bureau, the hook was the time-honored “follow some local troops” angle. The only problem is, our local troops were on, shall we say, a really boring mission. They were an ordnance company. One of my fellow copy editors was a veteran, and when she heard this, said, “I can see the stories now: ‘Today we delivered some bullets here. Then we delivered some bullets there.'” (And you know what? She was right.)

But of course, that was only part of the hook. The rest was a big, newspaper-sponsored support-the-troops hoo-ha, in which the paper raised funds to send “care packages” to the front. I suggested we fill them with Cpl. Person’s suggestions: Some good porn, maybe a flask-bottle of bourbon, you know the drill. They went out with paper and pencils, “fruit-flavored drink mix,” diaper wipes, the usual. Watching the troops read the kids’ letters in Episode 1, I suspect they were received the same way.

But never mind that. As you can see, I’m getting to this game late, having vacationed through episodes one and two and only getting caught up recently via OD. I’ll confess to a little early disappointment; Burns and Simon are far out of their usual territory, at least geographically. It took me an hour or two to see that some things — incompetence up the chain of command, mainly — never change, whether in Nasariya or Baltimore. And these two are about the best chroniclers of that particular problem we’ve got.

Still, I can see Nancy Franklin’s point when she wrote, in the New Yorker, that none of this feels particularly new. It’s not as though the tragedy of this war is a secret. We don’t see the depictions of top-down lack of planning, supply-chain shortfalls, muddled orders and the rest of it as revelations, at least not if we read “Fiasco,” and who hasn’t?

But. I’m enjoying the way “Generation Kill” is taking the clichés of military movies — mainly the way a group of ethnically diverse soldiers work, or don’t work, together — and making them fresh again. I suppose they can be freshened because they’re true; the military has been one of the great American mixing bowls throughout our history, throwing together people who normally wouldn’t encounter one another in a lifetime and requiring them to sleep, eat and shit in close proximity for months on end. The lesson close quarters teach you is how to get along, and it’s entertaining to watch.

I wonder what sort of viewership this is getting. Franklin’s point is, I think, part of the reason Iraq-war movies are tanking all over. This is going to go down as a painful period in our history, maybe even an epochal turning point, and frankly, it’s a big fuckin’ bummer and you can’t blame people for wanting to watch something else. Bummers on screen can be strong black coffee or brussels sprouts, both of which can be a bear going down.* But only one leaves you energized.

I’m looking forward to the next four parts, just the same. These things are important and, besides, hasn’t Blown Deadline shown us they know how to do this?

(This might be the stupidest sentence ever written. I leave it in to remind you you’re reading a blog, and not The New Yorker.)

The Co-Prosperity Sphere.

In all the excitement of wrapping up OUR REASON FOR LIVING THESE PAST TEN WEEKS OH DESPAIR OH KILL ME NOW, let’s not forget one little detail: Laura Lippman, whose New York Times obituary will note how she appeared to have been “stuck in cement” for her Wire cameo, has a new book out today.

“Another Thing to Fall” features Lippman’s P.I. character, Tess Monaghan, investigating a death on the set of, um, a TV show filmed in Baltimore. I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not that one.

Attitude problems.

You know what I like about Roger Ebert’s movie criticism? He likes movies. Really. He shares a trait with the best pop-culture critics I’ve known through the years: He walks into every movie with an open mind and open heart, expecting to be entertained. Overwhelming experience has taught him he’s as likely to be disappointed as not — hello, Deuce Bigalow — but he’s hopeful. He wants to like it. It’s like the teacher tells you on the first day of class. “Everybody has an A right now. If you get anything lower, it’s your doing.”

Everyone knows “The Wire” has been one of the most highly praised shows in TV history, garnering the sort of over-the-top plaudits that can make even the person receiving them despair. How does David Simon top “The Wire?” He’s not even 50 yet. “Generation Kill” — now with super-duper, extra double-dog Simonizing genius! You gotta feel for the guy, if only a little.

As one of those people who slung those superlatives, I plead guilty to going into this season like sunny Roger Ebert, expecting to love it. And guess what? I did. I won’t call Season 5 “a rare misstep” or a huge letdown, or anything else. It was a nice package, a little light at 10 hours, but not stepped-on at all. If pressed to single out favorite seasons, I’ll go with the evens — two and four. But five was fine.

So I’m sorry that the series’ final act was such a deep, deep disappointment to so many people who have columns and high-profile blogging sinecures, and could write with a straight face how surprising it was that David Simon, with such a finely tuned ear to the music of the street, could have it all fall apart when he tries to write the newsroom. Oh, please. Like these college-educated white boys supplement their incomes slangin’ on the corner, absorbing the nuances of the local patois. Continue reading

Did somebody say…Dickensian?

You better know what you’re talking about when you talk to David Simon, or you’re going to get skooled:

After watching Simon lead a lively talk at USC about the relationship between journalism and the public, a fresh-faced young man in rumpled khakis started speaking to Simon about the “Machiavellian” nature of a few of this season’s characters. As the post-chat reception continued around him in a narrow law school hallway, you could see Simon’s wheels turning.

“It’s not Machiavellian. You’re misusing the term,” he said flatly, tossing aside the rest of the young man’s statement. Simon then outlined the finer nuances of the “very specific” behavior characterized in “The Prince,” and though the student weakly tried to defend his usage, Simon would have none of it. “[The characters] are ruthless, but they’re not Machiavellian,” he finished with a slight smile.

Did anyone catch McNulty’s reference to “evacuate” this week? It’s almost as though Simon, with the fearsome powers of the Genius, planned it that way!

Wire mirroring reality #739: Templeton works at the Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel

Nancy’s too modest to post this up here, but she has done Gus-like yeoman work, and has found that Tim Goeglein, White House Public Liaison officer and Karl Rove gopher, is a stone cold red-handed plagiarist.

Look for the chatter to come down from Romenesko today like wild.

Kudos to Nancy.  Kudos to Gus. 


Update: Tim Goeglein resigns.

I need to lie down.

Didn’t write much last week, I know. I watch my Wire On Demand, spend the week thinking about it, then post something after you proles without superpremium cable get caught up. And as you know, the new episode goes up a mere two hours after the last one airs for the first time.

And after watching Ep. 8, I felt…as though…how to put this? As though a little kid had walked up to me in a convenience store and put one in my dome.

Requiescat in pace, Omar. I knew it was coming, and yet, when it did, it still flattened me. That’s saying something. Continue reading

Loose lips.

You people are ignoring the 900-pound gorilla: Who leaked the grand jury documents? This is key, I think. Grand jury secrecy is serious stuff, and while it’s breached all the time, it’s usually by an involved lawyer to a journalist or some other party with a vested interest in making the secret public. (Hello, BALCO.) Who would have leaked sealed testimony about drug dealing to Prop Joe? Someone in the courthouse. Who?

This is nagging me like an itch in the middle of my shoulder blades.

As for me, I’m going to start with some James Brown records and take it from there. See you all later this a.m.

CSI: Baltimore, et al.

Forget how he feels about the Baltimore Sun. David Simon hates “CSI.” This whole season is like a backhanded bitch-slap to Team Bruckheimer. I like how the titillation of the mythical serial killer — he makes phone calls! he taunts! — runs headlong into cruel reality when Bunk and Kima visit the crime lab and see, firsthand, what happens when you eliminate Latin from the high school curriculum. It was a plot twist right out of “Idiocracy,” only funnier because, you know, it’s true (enough).

Seriously, though, that’s what chaps any thinking person about today’s violence-porn TV procedurals. Even in Vegas they don’t have the money to throw 17 crime-lab techs at a series of john robberies (that is, clients of prostitutes who wake up after a tryst and find their wallets missing). The reality: The freezer breaks down and six months’ worth of blood samples are lost in the thaw. The temp scrambles the trace evidence. And people, if you take nothing else away from this blog, take this: DNA SAMPLES TAKE WEEKS TO CULTURE, ANALYZE AND PROCESS. The next time Marg Helgenberger says, “I’ll put a rush on it for you,” tell her she’s a liar. You’ll feel better.

Otherwise, I finally found a false note I can unequivocally dislike: Drunks talking to statues belongs in “CSI,” not “The Wire.” But given that it came in an episode that featured Nick Sobotka’s Toothless Revenge and Omar’s doctoring of his own broken leg, well, I can forgive.

[WARNING: Some comments below contain spoilers.]

Some-a that pepper steak.

David Mills is taking credit for co-writing episode five, so I’m giving him credit for the gleeful cannonball into the racial-politics pool last night. Not to take anything away from Our Hero — and I’ll be switched if I find out later that co-writer David Simon came up with the scenes I’m about to mention — but I’m thinking it takes an African American writer to tackle some of this material. Continue reading

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