Gus, Omar on NPR’s Fresh Air

Spurred by this comment to Nancy’s newest post, I dug up the recent Terry Gross interviews of Clark Johnson (Gus) on 1/21/08 and Michael K. Williams (Omar) on 1/22/08. I enjoyed them both immensely.

I might also add that these Fresh Air shows (and other NPR offerings) are available as free podcasts on iTunes.

Mala noticia.

This show is going to kill me yet. How many times have I stood in the crowd during the newsroom-cutbacks speech? Many. The only difference was, our cutbacks were stupider. My scrappy little daily had no bureaus in Johannesburg to close, so our publisher gathered us in the newsroom to announce we were cutting our own circulation. Yes, cutting our own circulation — the “unprofitable routes” at the outer edges of our footprint were being cut, because it cost more to deliver way out there than some bean-counter figured it paid back. If that isn’t the very definition of nose amputation for facial spiting, I’d like to know what is.

I like to say that’s why I knew we were well and truly FUBAR’d, but truth to tell, that was only one in a series. But that’s when I personally threw up my hands.

So I keep reading, here and there, that the Sun storyline is the weakest of the season, and maybe of the series, but I won’t have it. This shit is like reading my diary.

And so we’re back to the lying game. I liked that we’re seeing a bit of how those what’s-the-harm-if-it-gets-me-outta-Baltimore Templeton lies hurt. Twigg’s not the only one with game around here, but Templeton’s killer quote, which he knows he won’t be called on as long as Nerese Campbell is pissed at Gus Haynes (a long time), is still malignant — it could end up bringing down Cedric Daniels, too.

All the buzz this week is about Omar, in…I’m going to say Puerto Rico, but I thought there was nothing more poignant, this week, than the still-too-young-to-drive Dukie and Michael having to hire a gypsy cab to take them to Six Flags? The day offered a rare chance to be a kid again, before the responsibilities of the world came crashing down. I read a David Simon interview years ago where he said one lesson of Season One was: Middle management sucks. Guess it still does.

In the lions’ den


Given that the linear thought plugin for the virgobrain appears to be on the fritz this week, I’m surrendering to some shorter impressionistic posts. Please jump on in with your own riffs if any of my jumble resonates.

During Marlo and Prop Joe’s visit to Our Lady of Laundered Money, the painting Daniel’s Answer to the King by Briton Rivière dominates the initial shots. The painting depicts the morning after Daniel’s dark night, as he answers those who have come expecting to see him devoured and instead find him delivered by his righteousness:

“My God has sent His angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before Him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.”

While pure innocence is not a widely held commodity in The Wire, we are seeing many of our characters (most of them believing their own actions justified, righteous) facing the test of their lives, thrown to the lions either by circumstances beyond their control or as a direct result of their own actions. That, I think, brings us back to the difference between believing, the act of choosing to have faith in one’s subjective interpretation of events (which may or may not have been manipulated by others), and the objective involuntary act of knowing something concrete, that others agree is also true.

Some of our characters believe that in the fullness of time, they will be vindicated. Clay Davis, for example. Others know better, know they’ve reached the end of the line, their faith in what brought them here now lost. Remember the image of Burrell, who lived by the stats, now likely dead by them as well, staring out the window, the paper on his desk by the ringing phone.

Conversely, there’s Lester, as noted yesterday in Racy’s post:

Now we have Lester acting somewhat out of character, going along with Jimmy and the fake serial killer scam. Why? His people are broke, alone and abandoned in the face of a tragedy. They are on the verge of not being players anymore. They think surely we will be rescued. Surely the Government wouldn’t do nothing in the face of 22 murders? This is America, we shouldn’t be abandoned!

Well, give it up Lester. No one is coming to help you!

What about Butchie? There was a discussion in the comments here yesterday in response to Ashley’s original statement that Butchie was not in the game, and therefore, shouldn’t have been a target. I’m not going to say Butchie was an innocent but I think his refusal to talk wasn’t just him being a good soldier. Butchie was never Omar’s soldier. His exact relation is unclear, but what we do know is that they were family, bound by mutual devotion above and beyond the game, and Butchie kept the faith to the end. We see that borne out by the expression on Omar’s face when he gets the news about Butchie.

Which brings us to Marlo, Omar’s opposite god of war in the impending battle. Who among his crew has that kind of devotion to him, has faith in him, affection for him transcending the game? Likewise, is there a soul on earth that Marlo would shed a tear for, anyone or any ideal he wouldn’t give up if the price was right?


Do What It Takes

Simon in the WaPo today:

At the moment when the Internet was about to arrive, most big-city newspapers — having survived the arrival of television and confident in their advertising base — were neither hungry, nor worried, nor ambitious. They were merely assets to their newspaper chains. Profits were taken, and coverage did not expand in scope and complexity.

In my newsroom, I lived through the trend of zoning (give the people what’s happening in their neighborhood), the trend of brevity (never mind the details, people don’t read past the jump) and ultimately, the trend of organized, clinical prize-groveling (we don’t know what people want, but if we can win something, that’s validation enough), not to mention several graphic redesigns of the newspaper.

I did not encounter a sustained period in which anyone endeavored to spend what it would actually cost to make the Baltimore Sun the most essential and deep-thinking and well-written account of life in central Maryland. The people you needed to gather for that kind of storytelling were ushered out the door, buyout after buyout.

Look. Everybody under 30 isn’t some callow youth, and I’m defensive enough to feel a prickle at those comments; I was that inexperienced 20-something in the newsroom who didn’t know everybody’s history instantly, and I took plenty of crap for it from the older folks. Turning us on each other, making the 50-somethings resent somebody who wanted to learn and do well just because she was younger and made less money, was just one more way for management to keep our eyes off the ball. If we’re all pissed at each other, maybe we won’t notice that while we all get screwed out of raises, the boss took home a six-figure bonus.

But that’s a personal, and probably unwarranted, nitpick. What this eventually comes down to is what you’re willing to fight for, and over and over, corporate owners of newspapers have shown that they’re not willing to fight for the paper. Mouth platitudes, sure, and talk about traditions, but they only ever chase the money, and even that, they puss out on. To use a hockey analogy, it’s trying the Jeff Sauer penalty kill: Circle around the net, tight as you can, and pray your opponent doesn’t get a shot off. You might not lose by as much as you’d lose by if you challenged the forwards coming at you, but one thing’s for certain: You won’t fucking win.


Why Lester, why?

Goddamn. I knew something was up with Lester, but I didn’t think it would be… this. Or this soon. Lester is jumping on board with Jimmy’s plan to create a serial killer. Damn, Lester. Why did you do it?

Allow me to get started on the overanalysis.


Continue reading

Great Expectations

To fully understand The Wire, I think you have to go way back. Back to Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. Back to The Corner.

Continue reading

That train thing again

When Chris and Snoop take their first shots in Butchie’s bar, “Mystery Train” (and not the Elvis version, I don’t think) is playing on the jukebox.

Of interest only to me

Last night, while peacefully lining up to march in my Mardi Gras parade for Krewe du Vieux, somebody came up behind me and started whistling “The farmer in the dell“. I turned around, scared out of my skin, and lo and behold it was fellow New Package writer Ray.

That ain’t right.

The weekly “The Wire paralleling reality” post

For the second time in 15 months, the editor of the Los Angeles Times has been fired for refusing to impose budget cuts ordered by his publisher.”

Them folks in Chicago been droppin’ that hammer.

Some pig

Templeton was the name of the rat in Charlotte’s Web. Greedy, sneaky immoral, loathsome. Yet by the end of the book he performs several critical actions for the Good…maybe still motivated by greed, but doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Sort of an anti-hero. He also, ironically, goes to the dump searching for bits of old newsprint that might be useful for Charlotte.

Is our Templeton going to contribute similarly? He gets an awful lot of screentime, more than you’d expect somebody to get just to make the trivially obvious point that “newsrooms contain ladder-climbers who will cheat to get ahead”. What is Templeton’s real role here? He’s a wild card. Like Dukie, I think the simplicity of his character early in the season is a feint to throw us off the trail of what is really going to transpire.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.