“I also think it is time for people to start admitting that what they say matters. This is the classic Jon Stewart dilemma. Once a year, he goes on The O’Reilly Factor or Crossfire or whatever and he lets everyone have it, which is great, but while he lets everyone have it, he himself hides behind the “I’m just a comedian and my show should not be taken seriously” shield. That is a dumb shield and it is full of holes! Because no one cares more about what Jon Stewart has to say than Jon Stewart himself. That’s not a criticism in any way. I am just saying, let’s all own up to both our opinions as well as our hard-earned place in the conversation. Yes, Jon Stewart is a comedian, yes, The Daily Show is a comedy show, yes that means that it needs to be judged by very different criteria than anything on CNN or FOX News or any other ostensibly fact-based outlet. But that doesn’t mean that Jon Stewart isn’t working very hard to make sure people listen to what he has to say and take some of it to heart. One of the main reasons he and his show are successful is because he clearly has strong and thoughtful convictions about so many of the issues of which he makes light. Good! That’s a good thing! But so don’t pretend like it doesn’t matter or is trivial or unimportant or that it is somehow beside the point as soon as someone who disagrees with you dares to argue back.”—Gabe weighs in on Louis CK weighing in on Tracy Morgan. (via marathonpacks)
In the city of Chihuahua, some friends of a friend who worked in the Santa Eulalia Mine sold Belascoarán two sticks of stolen dynamite, promising him that though they were a little bent, they were good. Since he had some daylight left, he went to ruminate in the little plaza in front of the cathedral, where the statue of an irresponsible conquistador pointed his finger at the ground, saying, “Here we must build a city.” The historic justice was that pigeon shit covered the statue. The front of the cathedral, on the other hand, was of a terrible beauty, the arid excess of the baroque, that grew colder as one advanced farther north.
Belascoarán, unlike the authors if crime novels, liked complex stories, but only those on which nothing happened. His was not the religious but the everyday baroque, possible without wounds or death. He had it up to his balls with violence, particularly when that violence came down on him. He felt sad, disinherited, alien, a Robinson Crusoe in the middle of the busiest street in Tokyo. Branded. Sickly. Slow. Foreign. That’s what all this goddamned story had to do with: being a foreigner. It wasn’t Héctor’s story; they weren’t his characters. Natalia wasn’t even Natalia. Nat letting herself fall into his arms with a sigh in the middle of the high school stairway was one thing, but this Phantom Woman surrounded by shady characters, each one carrying a history in his pocket that unraveled and shifted, was another.
-from Frontera Dreams by Paco Ignacio Taibo II, translated by Bill Verner
He had to move fast, make up for the time he’d wasted. Half an hour later he stepped into the main offices of Vallina and Associates, Accountants, stared in greeting at Vallina-and-Associates-Accountants (which, like God, was merely a single individual with a triple identity), and asked if he’d finished his review of the Costa family’s financial records.
Vallina handed a folder across his desk. The elbows of his suit shone with wear. There was a photograph on the office wall showing him standing next to the Queen of England (while the Queen was real enough, the man in the photo was only somebody who looked like him).
"I whipped it off for you in two hours, Hector. That makes us six to four."
"In your favor or mine?"
"Who are you kidding, Hector? Mine, of course."
"I guess I owe you two, then."
Vallina nodded, took out a handkerchief, and blew his nose enthusiastically. Little bits of snot hung onto his mustache. Despite his best efforts, Vallina had never quite grasped the secrets of success in the capitalist system. All he could do now was wait for the revolution for his chance to get ahead in the world.
"How about if I collect them both at once?" he asked. "I’ve got a couple of things I need you to look into for me."
Hector walked over to a small refrigerator in a corner of the room.
"How about if we make it another time? This case I’m working on now has me full up. And I’ve already got another one. I can’t exactly go around like some amateur trying to cover six jobs all at once.
The light in the refrigerator was burned out. There was half a chorizo and an open bottle of of flat soda pop. Hector shook the bottle to test its age and took a cautious sip.
The entire newspaper side of Season Five was a failure. Perhaps because of Simon’s own connection to it? But instead of exploring a culture by following intriguing characters around, the show erected a few facile bodies, peppered the place with sedentary cameos, spent at least half its time whining about budget cuts. You’d think a show that built itself around a sprawling cast of interconnected characters would take advantage of a situation where its new faces could interact in interesting ways throughout its many levels. One legitimate argument would be that the pared-down modern newsroom *is* isolated from the community it covers! But the news vets the show wanted us to worship were mostly shown at desks, reciting facts or sly quotables, and all the extra time spent in that room was stifling. CUT TO: Thrilling copyediting session. Reporters seen at press conferences were now just recognizable faces in pat situations. Reporters seen out reporting were not ever shown doing anything interesting, ever — which I suppose is why it’s good there was some doofus making stuff up. A second valid point the show might have been making was: Reporters and reporting are not interesting, at all. So hey, show, thanks for making that point for half a season.
I feel for the Clark Johnson character. A little because he was the nurturing, concerned, ethical center we’re supposed to think as ideal, a little because he was ultimately too soft and non-confrontational to be that ideal, a lot because I remember the actor fondly from Homicide. Templeton’s not so much a character as an embodiment of sensationalism, and McCarthy played him as too much the obvious putz (without having the status to go to Athertonian extremes, thankfully) to make him anything more complex than that. We can assume some things about his egotism and sense of inadequacy. Did we ever go home with him? Was there ever anything other than in-pool professional criticisms, banal interpersonal exchanges, or the ploddingly doled-out escalation of his fantasy work? At least the showrunners didn’t have him actually kill a homeless guy, but the show was so far off the rails and bored with itself that I thought they might.
And how disappointing is it that Lester, Mr. Follow the Paperwork, was reckless enough to refuse to think that basing his takedown of Stanfield on an illegal wiretap wouldn’t lead to some sort of complication? I’ll buy the Above the Law ego because it was flying hard this season, but the self-defeating inevitability of the outcome made it too obvious a frustration to seem like an injustice.
As I said, I was fine with most of the wrap-up. Omar, Bubbles, the new Omar, the new Bubbles, etc.
Now Season Three, that was superb. After two seasons illustrating futility, they put into play two people looking to actively break the cycle: Stringer Bell, who wanted to graduate to a different Game, and Bunny Colvin’s Hamsterdam. The Bell/Barksdale struggle was not only the culmination of a lot of groundwork — how well you understood who they were and why they needed each other — but a great bit of misdirection. It always seemed like Barksdale’s soldier mentality was short-sighted, but proven formulas win out. It was Bell’s growing detachment from the code that doomed him.
As Simon points out in that interview I linked to last time, Hamsterdam was far more ridiculous than McNulty’s doctored serial killer. No way no one would have noticed, as long as they didn’t. But it was a worthwhile construct because it was offered as an experiment and not a prescription, because its potential cut across most of the concerns with which the show had involved itself, because it gave us a new kind of community to observe. Its political unraveling set a structural precedent that caused Season Five to feel even more redundant. Season Three felt bold, and new, and like it cared about things enough to ask “Why Not?” Season Five felt ridiculous, tired, and kvetchy.
Even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Wire apologist, you know he’s right. Though I love all of the seasons like my adopted children, 5’s easily the weakest, and (real-talk) was sort of an inside-baseball bummer of a wrap-up. Simon’s retirement fête as season-long bro-hang.