The Wire

An exchange on wallace-l

An exchange on the David Foster Wallace mailing list after reading this remembrance from a Pomona colleague:

Me: Since you mentioned it, I have to ask: was he fond of The Wire? The Wire, to me, comes very close to the ideal he wrote about in his Dostoevsky essay about the modern novel, even if it was more of a telenovel.

KF: He was, in fact, extremely fond of The Wire -- he stopped me in the hall one day last year and said, look, I really want to sit down and pick your brain about this, because I'm really developing the conviction that the best writing being done in America today is being done for The Wire. Am I crazy to think that?

And all I could think was -- David Foster Wallace wants to pick MY brain?

For some reason, this exchange put me in a much better mood.

Tue, 09/16/2008 - 4:11pm
  • What happens when four black Baltimore drug dealers on trial for murder and conspiracy use an unusual legal defense manufactured by white supremacists decades ago? That's what "Too Weird for The Wire", a longish but fascinating article, is about.
    In [2004], nearly twenty defendants in other Baltimore cases had begun adopting what lawyers in the federal courthouse came to call “the flesh-and-blood defense.” The defense, such as it is, boils down to this: As officers of the court, all defense lawyers are really on the government’s side, having sworn an oath to uphold a vast, century-old conspiracy to conceal the fact that most aspects of the federal government are illegitimate, including the courts, which have no constitutional authority to bring people to trial. The defendants also believed that a legal distinction could be drawn between their name as written on their indictment and their true identity as a “flesh and blood man.”
    (39) #
  • NPR's Terry Gross interviewed The Wire creator David Simon yesterday -- listen here. (There are spoilers if you are not caught up.) With the series finale airing this Sunday, will this be my last Wire post ever? (thx, drew) (2) #
  • The creators (David Simon, Ed Burns) and the high-profile writers (Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Richard Price) of HBO's The Wire have written a pledge in Time to practice jury nullification when it comes to non-violent drug offenses:
    If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun's manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens.
    (thx, luddite robot) (18) #
  • It looks like Isiah Whitlock Jr., who plays Clay Davis on HBO's The Wire, has used his trademark "Sheeeeeeet" on other projects. Slate links to two uses in Spike Lee's The 25th Hour, and wonders whose idea it was to port it The Wire. (2) #
  • Obama loves The Wire, although he missed last night's premiere because he was, you know, campaigning. Someone should ask him what his thoughts are on Hamsterdam. (0) #
  • The Wire creator David Simon rants about New York City:
    I mean, here is a fact... an honest to God fact: last year, there were more corpses on the three Law & Order franchises, which were all set in Manhattan... there were more dead people shown on that show than there were actual homicides in Manhattan.
    (3) #
  • Multiple people have sent me this semi-critical article by Mark Bowden on The Wire, which starts it fifth and final season on HBO this week. Bowden respects the show and its verisimilitude, but takes on David Simon for letting his personal anger get in the way of "accuracy and evenhandedness." I don't buy the argument that the show's bleakness is exaggerated, although I do think the show has become more didactic in its later seasons. I also dismiss the argument, which I've seen elsewhere, that the show merely serves to comfort the guilt of liberal viewers -- one might as well make the same argument about any great work of social realism. Thoughts? (0) #
  • The New Yorker has a lengthy profile of David Simon, who recently wrapped filming of the fifth season of HBO's The Wire, which premieres January. It also discusses his next episodic series in the works, about musicians who live in post-Katrina New Orleans. (thx, terry) (0) #
  • This week, with the final episode showing up on HBO on Demand, marks the end of The Wire's fifth fourth season. Here's an NPR interview with creator/writer/producer Ed Burns, and a great Slate interview with creator David Simon:
    In our heads we're writing a Greek tragedy, but instead of the gods being petulant and jealous Olympians hurling lightning bolts down at our protagonists, it's the Postmodern institutions that are the gods. And they are gods. And no one is bigger. By the way: If at any point any character on the show ever talks as I'm talking right now, it would suck. It's crucial that the characters can't lecture us.
    (2) #
  • And speaking of The Wire, here's Stephen King's rave review of the show, calling it "a staggering achievement."
    The Wire keeps getting better, and to my mind it has made the final jump from great TV to classic TV — put it right up there with The Prisoner and the first three seasons of The Sopranos. It's the sort of dramatic cycle people will still be writing and thinking about 25 years from now, and given the current state of the world and the nation, that's a good thing. ''There,'' our grandchildren will say. ''It wasn't all Simon Cowell.''
    (thx, Levi) Update: Slate also thinks it's the best TV show of all time, and will be hosting weekly TV club discussions. (2) #
  • Variety is reporting that HBO has just renewed The Wire for Season 5, which "will examine the role of the mass media in Baltimore." Season 4 started on Sunday with the usual slow burn, but if previous seasons are any indication, things will begin to heat up soon. And if I haven't said it already, The Wire is probably one of the best TV shows I've ever seen, and more than that, one of the best social narratives I've encountered, in print or on screen. (via AICN) (64) #
  • The Riddim Method's Lemon-Red mix. I'm not in the habit of posting DJ mixes here, but this one, mixing "dubstep, hip-hop, dancehall, bass, merengue, soca, bmore, rai, dub, electro, doo-wop, ragga house, and boston bounce, among others," is particularly good. Plus, they mix in the theme song from the greatest television show ever, HBO's The Wire. (0) #