Real Thugs Watching The Wire 02/22/2008
Of all the weekly postmortems of episodes of season five of The Wire (in Slate, Salon, Variety, and a zillion other places), one of the most unusual and insightful, not to mention the liveliest and most entertaining by far, is the one in the New York Times Freakonomics blog, "What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire?" It's a weekly discussion of each week's episode by a group of real gangstas (mostly retired) from the New York area, moderated (if that's the word) by Sudhir Venkatesh, a Columbia sociologist and author of Gang Leader for a Day. The gentlemen of this informal seminar, which is fueled by beer and pork rinds with hot sauce (which sounds pretty great, actually), go by Wire-worthy sobriquets like Shine and Flavor and Tony-T, and they've already made a number of wonderfully astute predictions, which I won't spoil for you by telling you what they are. It's also a lot of fun to watch the Grey Lady Herself trying without much success to disguise the casual obscenities lacing their conversation. Apparently even the Times' web editors take that "fit to print" business seriously, so you get locutions like "m—er f—ing," which is kind of like the itsy bitsy, teeny weeny string bikini of a bleep that Comedy Central lays over the obscenities on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. You wonder why they even motherfucking bother.
Dominic West on Season Five 02/20/2008
Here's a really interesting interview from the LA Times with actor Dominic West (aka, Jimmy McNulty) about season five of The Wire. As the intro to the interview says, there are a few lines that might be considered oblique spoilers, so read it at your own risk. It doesn't give away anything crucial, though, if you ask me, and it goes a long way toward explaining why this season feels rushed and more implausible than earlier seasons: to wit, HBO cut the season from the usual 13 episodes to only 10. If Simon and his writers had had the extra three episodes, I'm confident Jimmy McNulty's derailment (and Lester Freamon's astonishing decision to join in) would be a lot more credible. It also explains why Clay Davis's trial, which would last weeks in real life, lasted only a day in the show.
King Zor Is Fighting Mad! 02/13/2008
Looming out of my childhood comes this monster from my id, circa 1963 (clip courtesy of my brother Mike in Los Angeles). I only dimly remember this commercial—which seems to have been art directed and photographed by the same people who made Star Trek a few years later—but christ almighty, do I remember King Zor. He appeared under our Christmas tree that year, bright green, already loaded up with batteries and armed with ping pong balls. The switch (I dimly recall) was on his underside, and he rolled around on two wheels, with a tinny, recorded roar that was only just barely louder than his junky, grinding little engine. In retrospect, he seems like the kind of toy that you'd play with a lot on Christmas morning, but get bored with by Christmas afternoon, yet I remember playing with him for months afterwards, until his motor burned out. Who knows what this says about me. I usually played with him down in our finished basement, where Zor could wheel and lurch and grumble relatively freely on the tile my dad had laid down—and where I could play with him without bothering my mother, who found him pretty annoying. The point was not just to let him roll around and bump into things, it was to shoot at him with the equally bright green plastic raygun that came with him. The gun fired those darts with little suction cups on them, and the idea was to hit the broad disc at the end of his tail, which would make him wheel around and fire a ping pong ball at you out of the hump on his back. (Just like a real dinosaur, natch.) Come to think of it, the whole exercise was kind of counterintuitive—instead of the dart "killing" King Zor, or incapacitating him, or even just slowing him down, all it did was piss him off and make him more dangerous. Like I say, just like a real dinosaur. Just like a lot of things in life, come to think of it.
More Shameless Plugs 02/11/2008
Since I'm singing the praises of my friends, I also thought I'd mention my pal Jennifer Howard's new blog. It's funny, it's droll, and it's your one-stop source for all things James Wood. Kidding! Kidding!
A Shameless Plug 02/10/2008
Today, a shameless plug for a new book and a new movie from my good friend John Marks over at the Purple State of John. John's a gifted novelist, a veteran journalist, a fluent speaker of German, a lover of country music and barbecue, and my partner in horror movie self-indulgence (Rawhead Rex, anyone? Hellraiser IV? Tombs of the Blind Dead? No?). Here are three things you need to know about John:
In which I mostly write about books, movies, and TV. An all-purpose spoiler alert: Sometimes I will talk about these works on the assumption that the reader's already read or seen them, so if you haven't, be forewarned.
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