kottke.org posts about David Simon

Mind the income gapDec 09 2013

We are divided by an increasingly wide income gap. Often, this gap can be seen from across a street or park (even if we sometimes try not to look). The NYT takes us for a journey into the world of a homeless girl named Dasani in a multipart piece called Invisible Child:

On the Brooklyn block that is Dasani's dominion, shoppers can buy a $3 malt liquor in an airless deli where food stamps are traded for cigarettes. Or they can cross the street for a $740 bottle of chardonnay at an industrial wine shop accented with modern art.

Here's David Simon, creator of The Wire, on the two Americas:

I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It's astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.

RIP DeAndre McCulloughAug 07 2012

David Simon remembers his friend DeAndre McCullough, who died last week. You might remember him as Lamar (Brother Mouzone's assistant) from The Wire and was also profiled by Simon and Edward Burns in The Corner.

At fifteen, he was selling drugs on the corners of Fayette Street, but that doesn't begin to explain who he was. For the boys of Franklin Square -- too many of them at any rate -- slinging was little more than an adolescent adventure, an inevitable right of passage. And whatever sinister vision you might conjure of a street corner drug trafficker, try to remember that a fifteen-year-old slinger is, well, fifteen years old.

He was funny. He could step back from himself and mock his own stances -- "hard work," he would say when I would catch him on a drug corner, "hard work being a black man in America." And then he would catch my eye and laugh knowingly at his presumption. His imitations of white-authority voices -- social workers, police officers, juvenile masters, teachers, reporters -- were never less than pinpoint, playful savagery. The price of being a white man on Fayette Street and getting to know DeAndre McCullough was to have your from-the-other-America pontifications pulled and scalpeled apart by a manchild with an uncanny ear for hypocrisy and cant.

(via @mrgan)

3 recent links tangentially related to The WireMar 20 2012

We likes The Wire. We likes reading about The Wire.

1. Aaron Bady, of The New Inquiry, earns a 'tie-today's-story-to-The-Wire' badge by thoughtfully comparing the recent revelations about Mike Daisey's one man show to Jimmy McNulty serial killer creation in Season 5. People as a whole don't end up looking too hot when Bady is done with us.

After all, Jimmy McNulty's problem is not only that he's an unscrupulous narcissist, but that he combines that quality with a streak of good intentions, a kind of idealism and desire to do some version of the right thing. Cynics and fatalists wouldn't fall into this trap, because they've never expected the world to be different, or never imagined that they could change it.

(via e-migo @djacobs who accurately referred to the above piece of deep analysis + Apple + The Wire as #kottkebait)

2. David Simon, creator of The Wire, recently penned a story worth reading for The Baltimore Sun about the recent health issues of Baltimore cop Gene Cassidy. Cassidy was shot twice in the head, and the investigation and prosecution of this shooting is the basis for Simon's 1991 'Homicide'.

3. In more uplifting news, actor Wendell Pierce who played Bunk, is opening up grocery stores in New Orleans. Neighborhoods need supermarkets, and Bunk is on it.

But grocery stores have not rebounded in the same way. Before the storm, there were 30 in New Orleans; today, there are 21. Most that have reopened are in wealthier neighborhoods: a Tulane University survey in 2007, the latest data available, found that nearly 60 percent of low-income residents had to travel more than three miles to reach a supermarket, though only 58 percent owned a car.

Bonus: Last week Omar Little was crowned The Wire's best character in Grantland's tournament. Jason is reportedly disconsolate. Even though he didn't make the tournament, my allegiance was to Slim Charles for that one scene. You know the one.

Update:
And a Kima update, too. Sonja Sohn recently spoke with NPR about ReWired for Change, a nonprofit she founded with Pierce and Michael K. Williams that attempts to cut down on crime with arts and mentoring programs.

David Simon's original pitch for The WireOct 05 2010

David Simon was just awarded one of the MacArthur Foundation's $500,000 genius grants, so I thought it would be interesting to revisit Simon's original pitch of The Wire to HBO (PDF).

But more than an exercise is realism for its own sake, the verisimilitude of The Wire exists to serve something larger. In the first story-arc, the episodes begin what would seem to be the straight-forward, albeit protracted, pursuit of a violent drug crew that controls a high-rise housing project. But within a brief span of time, the officers who undertake the pursuit are forced to acknowledge truths about their department, their role, the drug war and the city as a whole. In the end, the cost to all sides begins to suggest not so much the dogged police pursuit of the bad guys, but rather a Greek tragedy. At the end of thirteen episodes, the reward for the viewer -- who has been lured all this way by a well-constructed police show -- is not the simple gratification of hearing handcuffs click. Instead, the conclusion is something that Euripides or O'Neill might recognize: an America, at every level at war with itself.

From my original post on this in April 2009 (which also contains links to three episode scripts):

The list of main characters contains a few surprises. McNulty was originally going to be named McCardle, Aaron Barksdale became Avon Barksdale, and the Stringer Bell character changed quite a bit.

Stringy Bell just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

2010 MacArthur fellowsSep 28 2010

...aka, the genius grant. Among them are type designer Matthew Carter and David Simon, creator of The Wire. The fellows get $500,000, no strings attached.

David Simon interviewApr 20 2009

Short video interview of David Simon.

You know, newspapers are gonna say, "We already let the horse out of the barn door. How can you charge for content? Information wants to be free." All that bullshit. As I remember, there wasn't an American in America 30 thirty years ago who paid for their television. Television was free 30 years ago. Now everybody's paying 16 bucks a month, 17 bucks a month, 70 dollars a month.

Related: the NY Times recently ran the poignant story of a interracial Baltimore couple who turned to The Wire for comfort when the husband underwent treatment for cancer.

Also related: read David Simon's HBO pitch for The Wire from Sept 2000.

The Wire BibleApr 16 2009

This is quite a treat. Someone got ahold of some scripts from The Wire and posted them online. [Update: I've mirrored the files for convenience.]

Season 1, episode 1, "The Target"
Season 1, episode 9, "Game Day"
Season 5, episode 10, "-30-"

But the real gem is a document dated September 6, 2000 that appears to be David Simon's pitch to HBO for the show. The document starts with a description of the show.

The Wire Bible

Simon had the show nailed from the beginning. Near the end of the overview, he says:

But more than an exercise is realism for its own sake, the verisimilitude of The Wire exists to serve something larger. In the first story-arc, the episodes begin what would seem to be the straight-forward, albeit protracted, pursuit of a violent drug crew that controls a high-rise housing project. But within a brief span of time, the officers who undertake the pursuit are forced to acknowledge truths about their department, their role, the drug war and the city as a whole. In the end, the cost to all sides begins to suggest not so much the dogged police pursuit of the bad guys, but rather a Greek tragedy. At the end of thirteen episodes, the reward for the viewer -- who has been lured all this way by a well-constructed police show -- is not the simple gratification of hearing handcuffs click. Instead, the conclusion is something that Euripides or O'Neill might recognize: an America, at every level at war with itself.

The list of main characters contains a few surprises. McNulty was originally going to be named McCardle, Aaron Barksdale became Avon Barksdale, and the Stringer Bell character changed quite a bit.

STRINGY BELL - black, early forties, he is BARKSDALE's most trusted lieutenant, supervising virtually every aspect of the organization. He is older than BARKSDALE, and much more direct in his way, but nonetheless he is the No. 2. He has BARKSDALE's brutal sense of the world but not his polish. BELL is bright, but clearly a child of the projects he now controls.

The final section is entitled "BIBLE" and contains draft outlines of a nine-episode season. I didn't read it all, but the main story line is there, as are many plot details that made it into the actual first season. (thx, greg)

David Simon, back on the beatMar 04 2009

David Simon, formerly of The Wire and The Baltimore Sun, noticed an underreported Baltimore shooting involving a police officer and decided to investigate it himself. What he found is not good news for the citizenry.

Well, sorry, but I didn't trip over any blogger trying to find out McKissick's identity and performance history. Nor were any citizen journalists at the City Council hearing in January when police officials inflated the nature and severity of the threats against officers. And there wasn't anyone working sources in the police department to counterbalance all of the spin or omission.

I didn't trip over a herd of hungry Sun reporters either, but that's the point. In an American city, a police officer with the authority to take human life can now do so in the shadows, while his higher-ups can claim that this is necessary not to avoid public accountability, but to mitigate against a nonexistent wave of threats. And the last remaining daily newspaper in town no longer has the manpower, the expertise or the institutional memory to challenge any of it.

In other Simon news, apparently he's doing a pilot for HBO for a show called Treme, "post-Katrina-themed drama that chronicles the rebuilding of the city through the eyes of local musicians". The cast will include Clarke Peters and Wendell Pierce, who played Lester and Bunk on The Wire.

And speaking of The Wire, the latest issue of Film Quarterly has several articles devoted to the show. Only one article is online so you best send Lamar out to the newsstand for a paper copy. (thx, david & walter)

A Wire event tonight in NYCJul 30 2008

This is late notice and who knows if there are even tickets left, but David Simon and several cast members of The Wire (Carver, Daniels, Gus, Lester, and the Bunk) will be discussing the show in NYC tonight in a Museum of the Moving Image program.

Too Weird for The WireJul 23 2008

Too Weird for The Wire, a story of a number of Baltimore drug dealers and their unusual "flesh-and-blood" defense in federal court. It's a tactic used by white supremacists and other US isolationists groups in tax evasion cases and the like.

"I am not a defendant," Mitchell declared. "I do not have attorneys." The court "lacks territorial jurisdiction over me," he argued, to the amazement of his lawyers. To support these contentions, he cited decades-old acts of Congress involving the abandonment of the gold standard and the creation of the Federal Reserve. Judge Davis, a Baltimore-born African American in his late fifties, tried to interrupt. "I object," Mitchell repeated robotically. Shelly Martin and Shelton Harris followed Mitchell to the microphone, giving the same speech verbatim. Their attorneys tried to intervene, but when Harris's lawyer leaned over to speak to him, Harris shoved him away.

David Simon, I believe you've got enough here for a sixth season of The Wire. Hop to.

David "The Wire" Simon's new show, GenerationJun 12 2008

David "The Wire" Simon's new show, Generation Kill, starts on HBO on July 13 and will continue for six Sundays after that.

The end of The WireMar 11 2008

WARNING, **EXTENSIVE SPOILERS** ABOUT SEASONS 1-5. So, The Wire is over. The 60th and final episode of the show aired on Sunday night. I watched it last night and felt very sad afterwards. Sad that it's over and that doing a sixth season could not and would not work. A good chunk of my morning was spent clinging to the show's final moments; I must have read close to 50 or 60 pages of interviews and analysis concerning the end of the show. Here are a few of those articles worth reading:

Heaven and Here is providing their usual excellent coverage of the end of the show.

I don't know if Cheese's speech about the game was one of the more definitive the show's ever put forth, or the ultimate in dime store Wire-isms. I also don't know which way it was supposed to be perceived by the characters. But that it was immediately followed by a murder that contradicted everything it contained -- one that went against a lot of what's been both depressing and demoralizing about the show -- was kind of awesome.

Alan Sepinwall has the definitive end-of-the-show interview with David Simon. It's long but oh so good.

We knew that if we got a long enough run, all three of the chess players would be out of the game, so to speak. Prison or dead. We did not chart all of their fates to a specific outcome, but we knew that the Pit crew would be subject to an exacting attrition.

We knew, for example, that when Carcetti declares that he wants no more stat games in his new administration that the arc would end with his subordinates going into Daniels' office and demanding yet another stat game. Or that McNulty would end up on the pool table felt like Cole, albeit quitting rather than dead. Or that Carver's long arc toward maturity and leadership would begin with him making rank under ugly pretenses and then being lectured by Daniels about what you can and can't live with. (It's at that point that Carver slowly begins to change, not merely when he encounters Colvin's integrity.) We knew that the FBI file that Burrell would not be put into play in season one would eventually be used to deny Daniels the prize.

Sepinwall also wrote an extensive recap of the final episode.

Heather Havrilesky's interview with David Simon on Salon covers some of the same ground as Sepinwall's interview but is still quite fine. Here's David Simon explaining what the whole season five newspaper thread was all about:

[The season] begins with a very good act of adversarial journalism -- they catch a quid pro quo between a drug dealer and a council president -- which actually happened in Baltimore. Not necessarily the council president, but between a drug dealer and the city government. That whole thing with the strip club? That really happened in real life. It was news. The Baltimore Sun did catch that, it was good journalism, so I was honoring good journalism. It ends with an honorable piece of narrative journalism, about Bubbles. And the Baltimore Sun has, on occasion, done very good narrative journalism.

In between those bookends, which I thought were important, because in our minds we weren't writing a piece that was abusive to the Sun or any other newspaper ... the paper misses every story. They miss that the mayor wants to be governor, so ultimately the guy who was the reformer ends up telling people to cook the stats as bad as Royce ever did. Well, in Baltimore that happened. And they missed the fact that the third-grade test scores are cooked to make it look like the schools are improving, when in fact it doesn't extend to the fifth grade, and that No Child Left Behind is an unmitigated disaster. They set out to do a story on the school system, but they abandoned it for homelessness because they're sort of reed thin. Prosecutions collapse because of backroom maneuvering and ambition by various political figures, speaking of Clay Davis ... And when a guy like Prop Joe dies, he's a brief on page B5.

That was the theme, and we were taking long-odd bets that very few journalists would even sense it. That would be the critique of journalism that really mattered to me, because we've shown you the city as it is, and as it is intricately, for four years. It was all rooted in real stuff.

The last of Andrew Johnston's recaps for The House Next Door. He remains skeptical about the newspaper part of season five's main plot:

In my decade-plus as a professional journalist, I've seen a lot of people compromise their principles in order to stay employed, but never have I seen so many people compromise so much. At the risk of seeming terminally naive, I have to ask if things are really that much worse in the newspaper world than they are in the magazine biz (and now that I've raised the question, I'm sure more than one person will provide evidence in the comments below that yes, things are that bad).

Yanksfan vs. Soxfan views The Wire through the lens of Baltimore sports.

From the air, the picture isn't quite so romantic. The satelite image above shows the site that was once home to Memorial Stadium. An entire neighborhood is oriented in a horsehoe around it. But there's practically nothing on the site now. It's a void. The last remnant of Memorial Stadium came down in 2002. That was a concrete wall dedicated to the soldiers who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars. It read, "Time will not dim the glory of their deeds."

The Orioles moved into Camden Yards in 1994. You'd think that, when the city agreed to build a new home for the team, there would have been a plan for the old site. But that's not how the development game works. A rising tide doesn't necessarily lift all boats. The money was downtown, and that's where it stayed.

Assorted other articles that I'll leave unexcerpted: AV Club interview with Simon, final episode recap from Thoughts on Stuff, and a letter on HBO's site from David Simon to the fans of the show.

And finally, a few other tidbits.

  • According to Simon in his interview with Sepinwall, the superhero-like jump taken by Omar in season five from an apartment balcony was based on a real-life experience by the real-life Omar.
  • Did you catch Simon's cameo in the newsroom at The Sun? Did Ed Burns have a cameo of his own at McNulty's wake?
  • Aside from Ziggy Sobotka, Brother Mouzone, and maybe Horseface, season five featured every surviving main character in the show's five season run. Mr. Prezbo was the last to turn up as the subject of Dukie's transparent short con.
  • At the beginning of season four, I wished that season five would be a Godfather II-style prequel showing how the main characters (Avon, Stringer, McNutty, Daniels, Omar, etc.) got to where they did. Turns out that Simon and company had that in mind all along; in seasons four and five, we simultaneously see the beginnings and ends of several characters. Michael and Dukie are explicitly set up as the new Omar and Bubbles, respectively. Carver is the new Daniels. Sydnor is the new McNulty (with some Freamon sprinkled in). I'm also guess that, more or less, Kima is the new Bunk, Kenard is the new Avon/Marlo, and Randy is the new Cheese (Simon has confirmed that Cheese is Randy's dad). Namond is the only season four kid that doesn't really morph into one of the other characters...maybe Bunny.
  • Slim Charles shooting Cheese in the head was the most satisfying moment I've ever witnessed on TV.

Now that it's done, I think we're going to cancel HBO and everything but basic cable. I doubt it'll be missed much...aside from sports and movies, The Wire was only thing we watched on TV.

Short teaser for Generation Kill, David SimonJan 20 2008

Short teaser for Generation Kill, David Simon and Ed Burns' next project for HBO about the Iraq War. It's from October but I hadn't seen it until now so maybe you hadn't either? The 7-hour miniseries is based on Evan Wright's book of the same name. This video discusses the book and its subject matter. (thx, david)

With The Wire final season premiere approachingJan 03 2008

With The Wire final season premiere approaching rapidly (the episode is already on HBO OnDemand and the first two are on BitTorrent), news outlets everywhere are covering and reviewing the show. My favorite article -- because it's something different and critical for a change -- is a profile of David Simon by Mark Bowden in the Atlantic Monthly. He starts out slow with a comparison of fiction and nonfiction in telling stories:

Fiction can explain things that journalism cannot. It allows you to enter the lives and motivations of characters with far more intimacy than is typically possible in nonfiction. In the case of The Wire, fiction allows you to wander around inside a violent, criminal subculture, and inside an entrenched official bureaucracy, in a way that most reporters can only dream about. And it frees you from concerns about libel and cruelty. It frees you to be unfair.

But then you get to the part describing Simon's vindictiveness and how it has shaped him, which adds some depth to the earlier fiction/nonfiction comparison. Worth a read.

Also of note is that the full text of The Believer conversation between Simon and Nick Hornby has been put online.

Long profile of David Simon and TheOct 15 2007

Long profile of David Simon and The Wire in the New Yorker this week. Haven't read it yet, but digging in now.

Update: Ok, all done. I thought this observation about the two main groups of fans of the show (urban poor and media critics) was canny:

Sometimes the fan base of "The Wire" seems like the demographics of many American cities -- mainly the urban poor and the affluent elite, with the middle class hollowed out.

The last bit of the article talks about a new show that Simon's thinking of doing for HBO about New Orleans musicians.

Summer news regarding The Wire (including season five info)Sep 05 2007

Show creator David Simon talks with author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, etc.) in the The August 2007 issue of The Believer. The entire interview isn't available online but one of the three best bits is:

My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell.

Simon goes on to talk about the overarching theme of The Wire: the exploration of the postmodern American city and the struggle of the individual against the city's institutions. Many of his thoughts on that particular subject are contained in this Dec 2006 interview at Slate. But in talking with Hornby, Simon draws a parallel between these city institutions and the Greek gods:

Another reason the show may feel different than a lot of television: our model is not quite so Shakespearian as other high-end HBO fare. The Sopranos and Deadwood -- two shows that I do admire -- offer a good deal of Macbeth or Richard III or Hamlet in their focus on the angst and machinations of their central characters (Tony Soprano, Al Swearingen). Much of our modern theatre seems rooted in the Shakespearian discovery of the modern mind. We're stealing instead from an earlier, less-traveled construct -- the Greeks -- lifting our thematic stance wholesale from Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides to create doomed and fated protagonists who confront a rigged game and their own mortality.

But instead of the old gods, The Wire is a Greek tragedy in which the postmodern institutions are the Olympian forces. It's the police department, or the drug economy, or the political structures, or the school administration, or the macroeconomics forces that are throwing the lightning bolts and hitting people in the ass for no reason. In much of television, and in a good deal of our stage drama, individuals are often portrayed as rising above institutions to achieve catharsis. In this drama, the institutions always prove larger, and those characters with hubris enough to challenge the postmodern construct of American empire are invariably mocked, marginalized, or crushed. Greek tragedy for the new millenium, so to speak.

The NY Times still deals in the Shakespearian and tells us the story of Donnie Andrews and Fran Boyd (thx, nirav), whom Simon and The Wire co-creator Edward Burns introduced to each other. Andrews was the inspiration for the popular Omar Little character on the show and Boyd was depicted in a previous Simon/Burns collaboration called The Corner. The Times also has their wedding announcement.

And finally, some news about season five. Sadly, instead of 12 or 13 episodes, the final season of the show will only consist of 10 episodes. The shooting of the final episode wrapped on September 1 and the season will premiere on Jan 6, 2008 (both facts courtesy of a Washington Post article about the end of the show). The season 4 DVD should be out a month or two before that. Two actors from Homicide: Life on the Street (based on a book by, you guessed it, David Simon) will appear in the final season: Clark Johnson (who also directed the final episode) and Richard Belzer, who will reprise his Homicide role as Detective John Munch.

Generation Kill is the newest project forMar 01 2007

Generation Kill is the newest project for HBO from David Simon and Ed Burns, creators of The Wire. It's a 7-hour miniseries based on Marines fighting in the Iraq war. "Gritty mini will look at the early movements of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion and depict the complex challenges faced by the U.S.-led mission even in the war's early stages." (via crazymonk)

Fantastic interview with David Simon in Slate.Dec 04 2006

Fantastic interview with David Simon in Slate. If you're a fan of The Wire and caught up on season four, I really recommend reading this. When Simon was asked what the show was about, he said: "it's about the very simple idea that, in this Postmodern world of ours, human beings -- all of us -- are worth less. We're worth less every day, despite the fact that some of us are achieving more and more. It's the triumph of capitalism."

Short Q&A with David Simon about The Wire.Oct 17 2006

Short Q&A with David Simon about The Wire.

Because of his open source programming connection,Oct 15 2006

Because of his open source programming connection, Hans Reiser's arrest for his wife's murder was big news in that community. After his wife disappeared, Reiser bought 2 books on murder, including David Simon's Homicide. Simon is the creator of The Wire.

Short Rolling Stone interview with The Wire'sSep 29 2006

Short Rolling Stone interview with The Wire's David Simon, part of a longer interview from the magazine. "I thought Katrina was literally America having to pause for a moment and contemplate the other America that somehow, tragically, Americans forgot. It's like America looking across the chasm saying, 'Oh, are you still here? Oh, and you're wet. And you're angry.'"

From Anya Kamenetz's recent HuffPo piece onSep 25 2006

From Anya Kamenetz's recent HuffPo piece on The Wire, we learn about a group blog on The Wire called Heaven and Here, a pretty meaty exploration of the show. Show creator David Simon checked in recently.

Each week at Slate, writer Alex KotlowitzSep 22 2006

Each week at Slate, writer Alex Kotlowitz and Steve James (director of Hoop Dreams) dissect the week's episode from the fourth season of The Wire. Warning: they are unabashed fans of the show. AOL recently interviewed The Wire creator David Simon. (via dj) Negro Please is posting fourth season episode synopsiseses summaries...here's 4.2.

Update: Season four of The Wire scored a 98/100 on Metacritic, the highest score for a TV show on the site.

kottke.org

Front page
About + contact
Site archives

Subscribe

Follow kottke.org on Twitter

Follow kottke.org on Tumblr

Like kottke.org on Facebook

Subscribe to the RSS feed

Advertisement

Ads by The Deck

Support kottke.org shop at Amazon

And more at Amazon.com

Looking for work?

More at We Work Remotely

Kottke @ Quarterly

Subscribe to Quarterly and get a real-life mailing from Jason every three months.

 

Enginehosting

Hosting provided EngineHosting