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The Wire theme, Simpsonsized

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 22, 2015

The opening credits sequence of The Wire done using clips from The Simpsons. The theme song and clips are from the third seasons of the respective shows.

We Work Remotely

A total clustercuss

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 24, 2015

I hadn’t realized there was so much cussing swearing in Wes Anderson’s movies. Here are some damn examples:

Just realized what the world is missing: the “fuck fuck fuck” scene from the first season of The Wire, but done in the style of (“cuss cuss mothercusser”) and with the characters from Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The game is the game

posted by Jason Kottke   May 28, 2015

It is what it is. What’s done is done. My name is not my name. My name is my name.1 Derek Donahue found all of the tautologies from The Wire and collected them into one video:

These types of phrases characterize the immovable forces the characters feel govern their lives and actions: poverty, bureaucracy, addiction, institutional corruption, ethnicity, etc.

  1. The juxtaposition of Vondas’ “my name is not my name” from season two and “my name is my name” from Marlo in the final season is one of my favorite little moments in the show. Two men pursuing similar ends going about it in opposite ways.

The sounds of The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 05, 2015

You don’t typically think of The Wire as a show that used audio to great effect, but you’d be wrong. From the show’s use of music only ambient to the scene (e.g. a car radio playing), the season-end montages, and the background soundtracks that accompanied certain characters or situations, The Wire’s use of music and sound was quite calculated and effective. At Reddit, a sound editor who worked on the show shared her experiences.

One of my crew’s challenges, then, was to find ways to evoke mood with backgrounds. When a character is in a crowded situation he is not comfortable with, listen for background laughter. When McNulty is drunk and on the prowl, listen for dogs barking (because he’s a dog - my own private commentary on his character). There was a whole world of work that went in to creating the sound of Hamsterdam and building it from an empty to thriving enterprise.

Working with Felicia Pearson was challenging:

Snoop was tricky. That DeWalt scene wasn’t the first time she was in the show (she’s a scout for Marlo the first time we see him in season three maybe?) but it was the most dialog she had up until then, and the HBO note was that she was completely unintelligible. I had her in the studio to do pretty much the entire scene over it felt like, and whenever I had a new actor in the studio, I would always ask (unless I recognized them from something else) if they had done ADR before because “The Wire” used so many non-actors. She said “no ma’am” so I walked her through the process and she did a great job. Stayed in sync, matched her cadence… and sounded exactly as unintelligible as she did on set!

But so was Dominic West:

McNulty (Dom West) came in often and was awesome, as well. His accent showed most often when the character was drunk or angry. Oddly, the name “Stringer Bell” tripped him up a lot. “Stringa” and then a very over-enunciated end to “Bell-eh.” Also, the words “fuck” and “cunt” came out “feck” and “cahnt” and the only way to break him of it was to stand right in front of him (so he could watch the mouth shape) and say the word over and over again. So a Dom West ADR session often went like this:

Me (with Dom staring at my mouth): Cunt. Cunt. Cunt.
Dom: Cahnt. Shit, do it again, please.
Me: Cunt. Cunt. Cunt.
Dom: Cunt. Cunt. OK, let’s record…
(three beeps, the line starts and):
Dom: …cahnt. Feck! Say it again.
Me: Cunt….

There were some instances where we didn’t bring Dom in for ADR because the emotion and energy of the scene would be compromised if we tinkered with his accent, and I support that decision, but it still pains me to hear those lines and feel like something slipped by me. I was like, the last checkpoint before dialog went on the air.

Which reminds me, the “Fuck” scene (McNulty/Bunk) — when picture came to me, there were only about 30 “fucks” in it. We brought the guys in together and played the scene over and over and slammed a variation of “fuck” everywhere it would fit. I think the final mix tops off at somewhere in the 80 range? My personal contribution was Bunk’s “fuck, fuck fuckitty fuck.”

And Michael K. Williams cannot whistle:

Michael K Williams cannot whistle! It’s totally true. We brought him in and he tried but it just wasn’t happening. Omar’s whistle is provided by a lovely and talented loop group member named Susan, who is an actor and John Waters’ personal assistant.

To which another Redditor replied, “Susan’s coming yo!” The whole thread is great, read it.

The Wire finally coming out in HD

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 03, 2014

Back in September, I posted that HBO was remastering The Wire in HD. The company announced they’ve completed the process; it’ll be on HBO Go this month at full-frame 16x9 HD.

HBO announced today that they had completed the high-definition re-mastering of all five seasons of “The Wire,” which will debut in December on HBO Signature and HBO Go, be sold in digital HD (through iTunes, Google Play, etc.) starting January 5, and on Blu-ray starting next summer. As the press release notes, “The entire series has been beautifully re-mastered in 16x9 Full-Frame HD from more than 8,000 reels of original 35mm camera negative, allowing for a tighter fit on widescreen TVs and computer/tablet screens. The original negatives were scanned, edited, dust-busted and color-corrected with great care and attention taken to stay true to the look and feel of the original Standard-Definition 4x3 version.”

Well, well. That’s a welcome change from what I heard about how the show was shot and how they were going to remaster it (chop the top and bottom off the 4x3 frame). David Simon wrote extensively on how he became involved in the remastering process and came up with something to everyone’s satisfaction.

To their great credit, once we alerted HBO production executives to our absolute interest in the matter, they halted the fall HD release and allowed us to engage in detail. And over the past several months, looking at some of what the widescreen format offered, three things became entirely clear: First, there were many scenes in which the shot composition is not impaired by the transfer to 16:9, and there are a notable number of scenes that acquire real benefit from playing wide. An example of a scene that benefits would be, say, from the final episode of season two, when an apostolic semicircle of longshoremen forms around the body of Frank Sobotka. Fine as far as it goes, but the dockworkers are all that much more vulnerable, and that much more isolated by the death of their leader when we have the ability to go wider in that rare crane shot.

But there are other scenes, composed for 4:3, that lose some of their purpose and power, to be sure. An early example that caught my eye is a scene from the pilot episode, carefully composed by Bob, in which Wee Bey delivers to D’Angelo a homily on established Barksdale crew tactics. “Don’t talk in the car,” D’Angelo reluctantly offers to Wee Bey, who stands below a neon sign that declares, “burgers” while D’Angelo, less certain in his standing and performance within the gang, stands beneath a neon label of “chicken.”

That shot composition was purposed, and clever, and it works better in the 4:3 version than when the screen is suddenly widened to pick up additional neon to the left of Bey. In such a case, the new aspect ratio’s ability to acquire more of the world actually detracts from the intention of the scene and the composition of the shot. For that reason, we elected in the new version to go tighter on the shot in order to maintain some of the previous composition, albeit while coming closer to our backlit characters than the scene requires. It is, indeed, an arguable trade-off, but one that reveals the cost of taking something made in one construct and recasting it for another format. And this scene isn’t unique; there are a good number of similar losses in the transfer, as could be expected.

(thx jeff & @jasonsantamaria/)

Update: HBO Signature is currently running a marathon of all the HD episodes. They’re also available on HBO Go.

David Simon added some before-and-after video clips to his piece about the HD remastering process showing instances where the wider aspect was beneficial and not-so-beneficial.

The Wire, remastered in HD

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 02, 2014

Good morning, good morning. Welcome back from your beach vacation. Settling in? Good, good. Let’s get right to it then: HBO is remastering The Wire in 16x9 HD and rebroadcasting what looks like every episode on HBO Signature starting this Thursday (Sept 4). Here’s a teaser:

We haven’t had news to report on HBO’s The Wire in a long, long time but this tidbit caught our ear. HBO will be rebroadcasting one of its iconic series: The Wire in never-before-broadcast HD glory! The marathon will begin weeknights at 8PM starting on September 4th. You’ll find the episodes on HBO Signature, a channel most, if not all HBO subscribers should have access to.

No idea if these new HD versions will make it to HBO Go or Amazon Instant or even into the mythical The Wire Blu-ray. Hopefully?

Update: A reader writes in:

My friend who works at HBO says they are chopping the top and bottom off the 4 x 3 frame for the early seasons to “fit” 16 x 9. We saw this with FX’s Simpsons Marathon and I really wish companies would stop doing this. It wasn’t cool to chop the sides off Lawrence of Arabia and it is likewise not cool to chop the head and neck off of Stringer Bell.

Boo. Boo-urns. According to IMDB, only season 5 was shot at 16x9. They should just leave seasons 1-4 at 4x3 and make the picture better. (thx, john)

Update: From an extensive piece on how The Wire was filmed:

And perhaps the final contrast to the rest of high-end episodic television, The Wire for each of its five seasons has been produced in good old fashioned 4 x 3 standard definition. DP Dave Insley recalled, “The reason the show has stayed 4x3 is because David Simon thinks that 4x3 feels more like real life and real television and not like a movie. The show’s never been HD, even 4x3 HD and that (SD) is how it is on the DVDs. There is no 16x9 version anywhere.” As a viewer with an HD set I will point out that like much of SD television that makes its way to HD channels, it appears that HBO utilizes state-of-the-art line doubling technology. It may still be standard definition, but line doubled it looks considerably better on a high definition set than it would on a standard definition set.

Insley explained, “When the show started 2001 / 2002 they framed it for 16 x 9 as a way of future-proofing. Then a couple of seasons ago, right before Season 4 began shooting, there was a big discussion about it and after much discussion — David, Nina, Joe Chappelle, the Producers, the DPs — and we discussed what should be the style of the show. David made the decision that we would stay with 4x3. The DPs pretty much defined the look to be what it is now. And it’s been consistent for the past two seasons.”

If the chopping down to 16x9 rumors are true, David Simon cannot be happy about that. I wonder how much creative control he maintains over decisions like that? I am guessing very little. (via @tubofguts)

Update: HBO has confirmed the remastering to EW, but says the timeline for airing has not been set yet.

A promo claiming that a “replay marathon” of the series would start September 4 on HBO Signature ran prematurely, HBO said, and the series will not be airing this month.

(via @WaterSlicer)

Naming the machines

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 29, 2014

Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.

Not everybody gives their computers, smartphones, or wireless networks distinctive names. You’re more likely to see a thousand public networks named “Belkin” or some alphanumeric gibberish than one named after somebody’s favorite character in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

But many, many people do name their machines — and ever since we slid into the post-PC era, we’re more likely to have a bunch of different machines of every different type living together on a network, each needing a name. So, how do you decide what to call them? Do you just pick what strikes your fancy at the moment, or do you have a system?

About three years ago, I asked my friends and followers on Twitter this question and got back some terrific responses. I don’t have access to all of their answers, because, well, time makes fools of us all, especially on Twitter. But I think I have the best responses.

Most people who wrote back did have unifying themes for their machines. And sweet Jesus, are those themes nerdy.

As for me, I’ve switched up name systems over the years, mostly as the kinds of devices on my network have changed. I used to just have a desktop PC (unnamed), so I started out by naming external hard drives after writers I liked: Zora, after Zora Neale Hurston, and then Dante. The first router I named, which I still have, is Ezra.

Years later, I named my laptop “Wallace”: this is partly for David Foster Wallace, but also so I could yell “where the fuck is Wallace?!?” whenever I couldn’t find it.

Without me even realizing it, that double meaning changed everything. My smartphone became “Poot.” When I got a tablet, it was “Bodie.” My Apple TV was “Wee-Bay,” my portable external drive “Stringer.” I even named my wi-fi network “D’Angelo” — so now D’Angelo runs on Ezra, which connects to Dante, if that makes sense.

As soon as it was Wallace and Poot, the rules were established: not just characters from The Wire, but members of the Barksdale crew from the first season of The Wire. No “Bunk,” no “Omar,” no “Cheese.” And when the machines died, their names died with them.

The first one to go, fittingly, was Wallace. I called the new machine “Cutty.” I was only able to justify to myself by saying that because he was a replacement machine, it was okay to kick over to Season 3. Likewise, my Fitbit became “Slim Charles.”

Now, for some reason, this naming scheme doesn’t apply at all to my Kindles. My first one was “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” and its replacement is “Funes the Memorious.” I have no explanation for this, other than to say that while all my other devices commingle, the Kindles seem to live in a hermetic world of their own.

Is Bitcoin a speculative bubble?

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 13, 2013

Bitcoin is a digital currency that has increased in value in US$ by 900% over the past six months. Jason Kuznicki says Bitcoin is definitely a speculative bubble and has three graphs to illustrate his point. I found this one particularly interesting…it plots transactions vs. total Bitcoin market cap:

Bitcoin Transactions

This chart shows a dramatic reduction in the total number of transactions, irrespective of size, per dollar of bitcoin’s market cap, from December 2012 — December 2013. In absolute terms, market cap has generally gone up, and the number of transactions has mostly just bounced around a lot. The total value of bitcoin is going up, but it’s mostly getting parked rather than being put to work. Apparently there just aren’t a lot of appealing ways to spend bitcoin, anecdotal news stories to the contrary notwithstanding.

Instead, an increasing amount of bitcoin’s putative value (as measured in USD) is being squirreled away by larger and larger miner-investors. It’s not fueling a diversifying, all-bitcoin economy: if it were, transactions would be keeping up with or even outpacing market cap, particularly if bitcoiners came to rely increasingly on bitcoins and decreasingly on dollars for day-to-day purchases. That’s very clearly not happening.

The Wire’s Omar Little once said to Marlo Stanfield, “Man, money ain’t got no owners, only spenders.” Bitcoin seems to have the opposite problem. (via mr)

Behind the scenes of The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2013

Adapted from Brett Martin’s Difficult Men, this piece in Slate gives a glimpse of what it was like on the set of The Wire.

In the isolated hothouse of Baltimore, immersed in the world of the streets, the cast of The Wire showed a bizarre tendency to mirror its onscreen characters in ways that took a toll on its members’ outside lives: Lance Reddick, who played the ramrod-straight Lieutenant Cedric Daniels, tormented by McNulty’s lack of discipline, had a similarly testy relationship with West, who would fool around and try to make Reddick crack up during his camera takes. Gilliam and Lombardozzi, much like Herc and Carver, would spend the bulk of Seasons 2 and 3 exiled to the periphery of the action, stewing on stakeout in second-unit production and eventually lobbying to be released from their contracts.

Oh, McNutty. (thx, sam)

Prop Joe, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 18, 2013

Robert Chew, who played Proposition Joe on The Wire, died yesterday aged 52.

Prop Joe was one of the few characters to appear regularly in all five seasons of David Simon’s urban drama. Chew was a mountain of a man with a world-class deadpan, always underselling the character’s juiciest lines. “Gotta say I’m proud of y’all for putting aside petty grievances and putting this thing together,” Joe intones during a meeting of the New Day Co-op, a democratic association of drug dealers whose meetings are run via Robert’s Rules of Order. “For a cold-assed crew of gangsters, y’all carried it like Republicans and shit.”

The Wire, illustrated

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 06, 2012

Illustrator Dennis Culver is offering for sale a poster of 50+ characters from The Wire.

The Wire Illustrated

You’ve obviously got your Omar and String, but you’ve also got Butchie and Lamarr and Horseface. $25 for the poster…that’s about 50 cents a character!

Zadie Smith’s Jay-Z profile

posted by Aaron Cohen   Sep 09, 2012

I liked this Zadie Smith profile of Jay-Z, and not just for The Wire reference. Smith’s got a nice way with words and handles Jay-Z’s way with words nicely.

In “Decoded,” Jay-Z writes that “rap is built to handle contradictions,” and Hova, as he is nicknamed, is as contradictory as they come. Partly because he’s a generalist. Biggie had better boasts, Tupac dropped more knowledge, Eminem is — as “Renegade” demonstrated — more formally dexterous. But Hova’s the all-rounder. His albums are showrooms of hip-hop, displaying the various possibilities of the form. The persona is cool, calm, almost frustratingly self-controlled: “Yeah, 50 Cent told me that one time. He said: ‘You got me looking like Barksdale’ ” — the hot-blooded drug kingpin from HBO’s “The Wire” — “and you get to be Stringer Bell!” — Barksdale’s levelheaded partner. The rapper Memphis Bleek, who has known Jay-Z since Bleek himself was 14, confirms this impression: “He had a sense of calm way before music. This was Jay’s plan from day one: to take over. I guess that’s why he smiles and is so calm, ‘cause he did exactly what he planned in the ’90s.” And now, by virtue of being 42 and not dead, he can claim his own unique selling proposition: he’s an artist as old as his art form. The two have grown up together.

Additionally, you’ll enjoy this profile of a guy who has sent a couple hundred letter-length emails to Jay-Z since 2010, and is pretty sure the emails are being read.

Hit me on my burner

posted by Aaron Cohen   Aug 08, 2012

Burner is a new iPhone app that will give you a disposable, short term cell phone number to give to randos at the bar, weirdos on Craigslist, and Marlos on the corner.

Disposable cell numbers certainly seem like they might be used for nefarious activities, but founder & CEO Greg Cohn said these numbers can be used for any number of purposes in the era when a cell number is so closely tied a person’s identity.

(thanks, Alex)

RIP DeAndre McCullough

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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)

The Lego Wire

posted by Aaron Cohen   Jul 18, 2012

Marissa Mayer has only been CEO at Yahoo! for a day and she’s already creating viral content like a stop motion Lego version of The Wire. Imagine what we’ll get when she’s been there a week.

Audible guffaws at, “What’s up his ass?” “No one likes our season, that’s what.” (via @jonahkeri)

The Wire: The Musical

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 05, 2012

This is amazing…a trailer for a musical version of The Wire done by Funny or Die. Featuring real cast members from the show like Michael K. Williams as Omar, Felicia Pearson as Snoop, and Andre Royo as Bubbles.

(via @monstro)

An oral history of The Wire

posted by Aaron Cohen   Jun 01, 2012

The Wire premiered on HBO 10 years ago tomorrow so Maxim (what really?) is out with a long oral history. It’s all worth reading (and finally proof for the ‘I read it for the articles’ argument), but the more interesting bits to me were towards the end, and I wish there were a few more comments from superfans. Marc Spitz did an amazing job wrangling interviews from the majority of the cast.

New to me was the cop actors and crook actors not hanging out together, and Prop Joe mentoring the kids from Season 4.

Tristan Wilds (Michael Lee, student, Stanfield gang enforcer): Every time we’d get a script all four of us would sit down with Robert Chew go over the script and make sure we had it down.

Robert F. Chew (Joseph “Proposition Joe” Stewart, drug kingpin): A couple of them were not from Baltimore so they did not have the lingo and the dialect, so I’d give them hints on that and just understanding the emotion of the scene.

I also liked this bit about Snoop.

Tristan Wilds: I remember when I first read the script, I was like “Noooo! Why do I gotta do it?” Snoop became like my big sister to me; she was everything. I was actually with my niece a couple months ago and she was watching iCarly -and there was a scene where Sam takes paint ball gun and shoots Gib, but he looks at her before she does and says, ‘How’s my hair look?’ And she says, “You look good, Gib.”

Method Man: I always went online to see the reactions that people would have after someone got killed. Snoop, when she got killed, oh you should’ve seen it. You would’ve thought somebody really died. Like it was a funeral happening: “RIP Snoop, we gon’ miss you,” and all this craziness. They were just two lines short of making “In Memory Of” T-Shirts. Same thing with Omar. Stringer, same thing. Then when I die, it’s like “good for him. They should’ve killed his ass sooner.”

Also on the 10th Anniversary tip, here’s Details on 10 Ways the Wire changed TV and The Atlantic says The Wire feels dated. (via @groveatlantic)

The visual style of The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 11, 2012

In this video, Erlend Lavik compares the relatively spare visual style of The Wire with that of other TV programs.

(via @uxprinciples)

3 recent links tangentially related to The Wire

posted by Aaron Cohen   Mar 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.

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.

Who is The Wire’s greatest character?

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 05, 2012

That is the question that Grantland is attempting to answer with a NCAA-style tournament bracket.

The Wire Bracket

Did we mention that our esteemed editor-in-chief hung out with President Obama last week? Because that totally happened. Just two regular guys, discussing Linsanity, Blake Griffin’s jump shot, what it’s like to pitch a baseball while wearing a bulletproof vest, and — as the conversation wound down — The Wire. Asked to name the greatest Wire character of all time (let it never be said that Grantland does not ask the tough questions!), the Commander in Chief didn’t hesitate: “It’s gotta be Omar, right? I mean, that guy is unbelievable, right?”

With respect to the President, Omar is the most overrated character on The Wire. I mean, I love Omar. I do. He is everyone’s favorite character and easy to love because he’s one of the show’s most manufactured characters. Gay, doesn’t swear, strong sense of morals, robs drug dealers, respected/feared by all…come on, all that doesn’t just get rolled up into one person like that. The Wire aspires to be more than just mere television, but when Omar is on the screen, it’s difficult for me to take the show as seriously as it wants me to.

Mercenary hacker to the stars

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2012

Adrian Chen has an interview with a renegade IT guy named Martin who does social media, hacking, and other tech stuff for “High Net-worth Individuals” and criminals. One of things he does is set up drug rings with prepaid cell phones and a rotating collection of SIM cards a la the Barksdale/Bell drug crew in The Wire.

With Martin’s system, each crewmember gets a cell phone that operates using a prepaid SIM card; they also get a two-week plastic pill organizer filled with 14 SIM cards where the pills should be. Each SIM card, loaded with $50 worth of airtime, is attached to a different phone number and stores all contacts, text messages and call histories associated with that number, like a removable hard drive. This makes a new SIM card effectively a new phone. Every morning, each crewmember swaps out his phone’s card for the card in next day’s compartment in the pill organizers. After all 14 cards are used, they start over at the first one.

Of course, it would be hugely annoying for a crewmember to have to remember the others’ constantly changing numbers. But he doesn’t have to, thanks to the pill organizers. Martin preprograms each day’s SIM card with the phone numbers the other members have that day. As long they all swap out their cards every day, the contacts in the phones stay in sync. (They never call anyone but each other on the phones.) Crewmembers will remind each other to “take their medicine,” Martin said.

That’s clever. The “take their medicine” detail reads like it’s straight out of the movies.

Opening quotes from The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 29, 2011

The beginning of each episode of The Wire featured a short quote of dialogue from that episode…here are the characters saying all those quotes:

(via supercut.org)

Motivational posters from The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 26, 2011

The best of the group, by far:

Where's Wallace?

(via vulture)

What did Stringer Bell do wrong?

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 03, 2011

A great question over at Quora: What were the biggest tactical mistakes that Stringer made in Seasons 2 and 3? Why did he make these mistakes?

5. Not using a knowledgeable intermediary to deal with Sen. Clay Davis. He was clearly out of his league with Davis and had he used an attorney with the correct political connections, he could have likely gained all that he sought with fewer complications than he did.

Kids show references The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 19, 2011

This scene from iCarly, a Nickelodeon show for tweens and pre-tweens, references the scene in season five of The Wire where (highlight text to show spoilers!) Michael kills Snoop.

(via @aliotsy)

You come at the Lion King, you best not miss

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2011

The Lion King movie recut into a five-minute summary of all five seasons of The Wire.

I almost didn’t post this because it dogs on the underrated season 2. (via ★vuokko)

Omar Little, postmodern Achilles

posted by Tim Carmody   May 06, 2011

David Simon put together The Wire partly on his and Ed Burns’s experiences in Baltimore, and partly on the model of Greek tragedy:

Much of our modern theater seems rooted in the Shakespearean 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…

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 macroeconomic forces that are throwing the lightning bolts and hitting people in the ass for no decent reason… Because so much of television is about providing catharsis and redemption and the triumph of character, a drama in which postmodern institutions trump individuality and morality and justice seems different.

I’ve always thought of The Wire’s Omar Little in terms of the Greek hero Achilles, man-killer, the matchless runner, conflicted hero of Homer’s The Iliad — one of the few figures in Greek literature who seems immortal, knows he’s doomed, and doesn’t care.

My theory’s based in part on these two scenes and their related plot points. In the first, Omar identifies the body of his lover/partner Brandon, killed and mutilated by the Barksdale gang:

It’s Hector’s killing of Achilles’s partner (and lover, probably) Patroclus and stripping of Achilles’s own armor from Patroclus’s body, which the Trojans try to seize and desecrate, that drags the sulking Achilles back to battle:

My spirit rebels — I’ve lost the will to live,
to take my stand in the world of men — unless,
before all else, Hector’s battered down by my spear
and gasps away his life, the blood-price for Patroclus,
Menoetius’ gallant son he’s killed and stripped!

… Enough.
Let bygones be bygones. Done is done.
Despite my anguish I will beat it down,
the fury mounting inside me, down by force.
But now I’ll go and meet that murderer head-on,
that Hector who destroyed the dearest life I know.
For my own death, I’ll meet it freely — whenever Zeus
and the other deathless gods would like to bring it on!

The Trojans try to kill Patroclus to send a message to the Achaeans to stop fighting. But it ends up dooming the city, because it brings Achilles back into the fight willing to do anything to destroy them and their heroes.

In this famous scene, Omar shows how much he knows about mythology:

As Omar would say: “You come at the King, you best not miss.” And as fans of the show know, Omar both has his revenge and meets a similarly mythic end. In Greek tragedy as in The Wire, the universe is indifferent to our heroism.

(blockquote transcribed from Robert Fagles’s translation of Homer’s The Iliad)

Snoop from The Wire arrested in drug raid

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2011

Felicia Pearson, who played Snoop on The Wire, was arrested today on drug charges.

Felicia “Snoop” Pearson had served a prison sentence for murder and returned to drug dealing on the streets of East Baltimore, before a visit to the set of “The Wire” led to a star turn on the show and offered a new chance to change her life.

But her past kept creeping back - she was a witness to a murder and was arrested after she refused to testify — and subsequent film and television offers were hard to come by.

Now, Pearson, 30, has been accused of playing a part in a large-scale drug organization, whose members were arrested in raids Thursday throughout Baltimore and surrounding counties, as well as in three other states.

(via df)

Marlo Stanfield is chaotic evil

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 09, 2010

Here are a few characters from The Wire categorized by their Dungeons and Dragons alignment (good/neutral/evil and lawful/neutral/chaotic).

The Wire Dungeons and Dragons

There are a few more alignment charts from the same source, including a Mad Men chart with Betty Draper as chaotic evil (justification). (via @juliandibbell)

The Hour, Britain’s Mad Men?

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2010

Dominic West, who starred as McNutty in The Wire, will play the lead character in a six-part BBC series called The Hour. The show is set in the 1950s and will air next year.

The Hour follows the launch of a topical news show in London set against the backdrop of a mysterious murder. West will play Hector Madden, the programme’s upper-crust, charismatic front man.

The series is being called the UK version of Mad Men:

The only place with better retro fashion than New York in the 1960s is London in the 1950s.

(via unlikely words)