". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, February 11, 2008


January/February 2008 Atlantic Monthly

The Angriest Man In Television by Mark Bowden

[ How David Simon’s disappointment with the industry that let him down made The Wire the greatest show on television—and why his searing vision shouldn’t be confused with reality. ]

This article is interesting for three reasons: 1) it does speak to the deeply critical view Simon has about our current capitalist system that devalues everyone except the fortunate few; 2) the criticism that the show is 'too dark,' which leads one to suspect, at least to a degree, that the journalists, who are getting theirs this final season, overtly presented as a systemic part and cause of the inter-system problem, most deifinitely not part of the solution, are feeling a need to counter that by criticizing Simon; and 3) an analysis of why one should never confuse fiction for reality, no matter how many elements of realism the author successfully transfers to his work of creation -- and why, then, an author who is deeply involved with the evil of the real world, may then, need to turn to fiction, to best present her argument, worldview, vision.


Esquire, January 11, 2008, 5:02 AM

A Newspaper Can’t Love You Back by David Simon

This article too, is about writing, about reality, about getting it right, and the difference between reality and getting right in journalism and fiction. Most of all, it's about the thrill of getting all the information, getting right, and making that information public. That's the thrill of journalism, and there seems to have been nothing else quite like it for Simon, and he's not forgiving journalism for taking that away, for becoming a whore for the systemic national degeneration, lies, and corruption.

One of the peripheral interesting developments for me, re The Wire, is that Richard Price has been writing for the show. He initially made his reputation as a writer with a 'youth gang' novel, The Wanderers, back in 1974. It was also the first novel of his I read, sometime at the end of the 80's, I think. Price had the great fortune that this first novel was turned into a film within a couple of years of publication, which allowed him to flounder around, fictionally speaking, for a while. I say 'flounder' because I read the books he published after that, as I was working for Penguin USA by then, and Plume-Signet-NAL I think, was re-issuing them all. Those next books lacked the snap and the sense of being in the world, so to speak, that you got immediately out of The Wanderers.

Fictionally confused and blocked, with alimony, child support, mortgages, etc., he fortunately displayed an authentic talent for writing movies himself. Among those movie scripts was The Sea of Love, which I liked very much, even if mostly motivated to do so because of the sound track, built around the great "Sea of Love" song, written back in the day by John Phillip Baptiste (aka Phil Phillips) and George Khoury (released in 1959), was performed by many artists throughout the movie, including Tom Waits. Ellen Barkin was in the movie, with Al Pacino, but best of all, John Goodman. The only thing I didn't like about the movie was a sex scene between Barkin (well, her body double) and Pacino -- it went on forevah! which is always a dull time if you aren't one of the principals yourself.

Price also has the rare and lucrative writing talent that works well in the slick magazines, of which there were more then, and they paid very well. In 1992 came the magnificent Clockers.

You might say Price is one of my favorite writers, and I wouldn't argue.

That Price's turned up writing for The Wire is exactly right. The corner boys needing to 'clock' -- Price created that term for his Clockers (which wasn't a bad movie, but which didn't approach the brilliance of his novel) -- which the corner boys from all over picked up, once the movie came out. The Wire's corner boys have to 'clock.'

It's all about the reserach, how good, how true, how real. It's also about not confusing writing journalism with fiction. The world, at least in this country's establishments seems to have given up the true and the facts in favor of 'different information,' if the facts don't suit. Simon and people like us still call that fiction at best, and lying at worst. This is why people like us think The Wire is the greatest writing you're going to find on television.


Phil said...

Glad to see you have excellent taste. I will stick my neck out and say The Wire is the best TV series I've ever seen in all my 30 years. Apparently it's portrayal of life in Baltimore is so realistic with one exception - everyone in Baltimore watches The Wire, and no one in the show does! lol

I love it and will be very sad to see The Wire end. I hope the writing team get to work on a new project very soon, preferably set in Baltimore. A Bunk/Omar spin off, anyone?

Flimsy Sanity said...

Regarding journalism: This weekend Malcolm Gladwell was on and he gave a funny talk about starting out in the newspaper industry. He talked about making mistakes that caused one company's stock to plummet and how he and a friend had a competition on who could get a phrase in the paper the most times. Did you catch it?

Foxessa said...

Phil -- The next project this team wants to do is post Katrina New Orleans. I hope they manage to pull it off. The actor, Wendell Pierce, who plays the 'Bunk', was born and bred in NO, his parents still live in Ponchartrain Park, part of the Gentilly District, and he's deeply involved in the rebuilding project there. He's a terrific person. Simon and team have been spending time in NO, researching.

The thing is that a horrible NO series broadcast this fall, called K-Ville (for Katrina, get it, hahaha) -- all cops and killers all the time, except set in NO instead. It was one of the networks and thus there was no soul there. No authentic NO -- the residents hated it, and for good reason. Evidently the audience hated it too. Writers strike ended it, and there are no plans to continue. New Orleans was merely a gewgaw for the show, it wasn'y integral to it, it didn't expand your sense of anything -- just lots and lots of gore and bangbang, of which NO has way too much already. And they did the same with the characters. This wasn't an arc show, of course, like HBO's The Wire.

I do some volunteer work at a small, poor college across the river re the library. At the moment the school is talking about finding some money for me to teach a 'special' intensive seminar in humanties for a month. My idea, if the money can be found, is to teach The Wire in connection with sections of 'realist' classic novels from both the U.S. and English Victorian novel era, especially those that feature treatement of children, the hypocrisy of the institutions of church and state and education that deal with the poor and children, etc.

By the way, the actors in The Wire didn't know how their characters were going to fare until the end, anymore than did the audience. Sometimes it was so close that it wasn't until they were taping that day that an actor learned his character would get whacked. They didn't get the script pp. until at most, a day or two before-hand. That helped keep the freshness throughout the taping season.

Love, C.

Foxessa said...

Flimsy -- I was out for much of the weekend so I didn't hear much radio -- only "Selected Shorts," I think, while working out!

I've heard him a few times in the past, in connection with his books on our local variety talk public radio shows -- but I haven't like, yanno, actually READ his books.

Love, C.

Frank Partisan said...

Post Katrina NO is a subject that drastically needs to be done. You don't hear about it from the Democratic candidates.

Graeme said...

I've got to see this show

Phil said...

If anyone's going to do Katrina justice, it will be The Wire team. I hope a few actors from the best show ever turn up in it too.

Btw anyone hear that Munch of Homicide/Law&Order/SVU is supposed to cameo in this final season of The Wire. What happens if he meets Clark Johnson's character, won't he be like "don't I know you from somewhere?" ;)

Foxessa said...

Ren -- We met friends in town for the weekend for brunch on Sunday. (It was for the premiere of the movie, Jumper, very, very loosely based on the YA novel written by the husband of the couple back in 1992). We were talking about the state of New Orleans because of the failure of the levees, and how so many people in all the media insist nothing that deals with the consequences of all that will sell. The wife's response to that was, "It's because we don't want to look at it. We don't want to SEE it, because of the information this situation contains. We don't want to KNOW who we and this country really are."

Love, C.