Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself [The Wire]

March 8, 2008

From McSweeney’s:


by Scott Blaszac

– – – –

For five years, I’ve begged you to watch the best show on television, but you didn’t listen. That’s why I’ve kidnapped you, my closest friends and family members, and locked you here inside my apartment. I know how tired you all are of me telling you about The Wire‘s deliciously complex plotlines, its unflinching sociological commentary, and its note-perfect gallows humor. Well, I’m tired, too.

And so here we are.

Check the top of the TV for the DVDs of the first four seasons—over 40 hours of television. When you’re done with those, the fifth and final season is available via OnDemand. Just hit the red button on the remote. Sounds daunting, but don’t worry: I’ve removed any and all possible distractions from the apartment. You have no other options, so don’t try any of your usual excuses.

You feel me?

Be sure to watch every episode carefully. (It’s all connected!) On the coffee table, you’ll see multiple-choice tests that assess your grasp of the show’s plot and characters. Finish them as you complete each season, and then slip them under the door. A score of 80 percent or higher and you’ll be rewarded with a day’s ration of food and water. Score below that and, well, I’ve hired some muscle from down on the corner to “help out” should you need further motivation.

But you’re all going to pass. I know it.

Please understand that holding the dearest people in my life hostage is not something I take lightly. It’s risky, expensive, and technically illegal, but sometimes you have to listen to your inner McNulty and take justice into your own hands.

Besides, the show is so fucking good. (It’s all connected!) I’ve told you this day after day, year after year, and you all ignored it, preferring to watch American Idol and Wife Swap. I mean, Jesus Christ. Wife Swap?

I realize, Mom, this isn’t the best timing, what with your chemo and everything. And, Jim, buddy, your absence from work is going to be hard to explain to your firm. But what choice do I have? How can I stand by and allow you to miss the conclusion of the smartest, most resonant drama in the history of television? So, yeah, Jim, maybe you’ll get fired. And, Mom, it’s possible that tumor of yours will make a reappearance. But it’s a small price to pay.

Just trust me on this one. When it’s over, you’ll thank me. For real, yo.

Recent Reads: Then We Came To An End [verdict: awesome]

February 22, 2008

Read this book.  That’s really the only important sentence in this review.

If you need further convincing, I started this book with a library copy. 70 pages in I went and bought it. If you know me you know that it’s not possible to be cheaper than I am.  But whatever fraction of a cent made its way back to the author I wanted to do my part.  If he’d have put his address in there I’d have sent him a check.

Incredibly written, wickedly smart, painfully funny.  To say more would only waste time that you could be reading.

Pre Baby Pictures

February 15, 2008

In an effort to help my wife elude the firewall at her work I’m posting these pictures of two small girls locked in a pre-natal cage match for supremacy.

Can I Be Reincarnated as AMC: Breaking Bad

January 22, 2008

While the networks are hitting you over the head with Gladiators and reruns AMC has quietly followed up it’s Golden Globe award winning first original series, Mad Men, with something off to an equally stellar start, Breaking Bad.  Starring the former Malcom in the Middle head of household as a desperate chemistry teacher who’s somehow still in his underwear, it again lays waste to the theory that a pilot episode usually sucks and that a show takes a while to find its legs.  I don’t know what they’re doing at AMC but they fire their first episodes out of cannons.  Very dark cannons in this case.

If you don’t have, or can’t find AMC, you can get caught up online by typing the words ‘Breaking Bad torrent’.  If you’re the type to pay for things, try hitting itunes where you can catch the pilot for 1.99 ahead of this sunday’s episode.  Surely Mad Men’s globe has taught you to trust me.

Unnecessary Movie Reviews: Cloverfield

January 18, 2008

A good way to tell if you’re in the target demo for any movie is to see if the previews are for the kind of movies you’d like to see.  By the third preview before Cloverfield I knew I was in bad shape.

Basically, you’ve got the Blair Witch Project with an effects budget and some people in heels.  Now, I’m not a woman, so I don’t know the protocol, but I was continually stunned by the commitment to some of these chicks to keeping their heels on.  Building to building leap, sure.  Dead sprint through darkened tunnels, no problem.  Sadly, this was the most impressive thing about the movie.

I am easily scared.  If my refrigerator hums wrong I sleep with a knife under my pillow.  But honestly, there’s nothing frightening or chilling or ultimately engaging about this movie.  There’s a rubbernecking quality to seeing lots of shit blow up, but that’s it.  The interpersonal stories and the attempt to develop and service them under these circumstances are incredibly comical.  The ‘man with a camera’ POV is even harder to sustain here than in Blair Witch.  And fundamentally, while big scary things are big and scary, they’re not threatening in the same way as small scary things, something the filmmakers were clearly aware of and tried to deal with.  Without going into too much detail, they didn’t go far enough.

Finally, there is no sense of satisfaction or closure from the finale.  It is exactly like driving by a wreck on the freeway.  It grabs your attention, you wonder what happened, and then you’re back to trying to find a decent song on the radio.  If that sounds like a fun way to spend 84 minutes, you could see this movie, but honestly, you’ll probably be more entertained just driving around looking for wrecks.

Unnecessary Movie Reivews: Charlie Wilson’s War

January 16, 2008

Just looking at the pieces, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and an Aaron Sorkin script, it’s hard to imagine this going wrong, and it doesn’t, but when you see what Hoffman is able to do with his role it makes you wonder what kind of movie might have resulted with other actors in top two spots.

Hanks and Roberts aren’t bad by any stretch.  But Roberts especially is one of those actors who specializes in playing Julia Roberts.  She can be Julia Roberts the hooker, or Julia Roberts the crime fighter, but she’s always Julia Roberts.  Same thing with Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise.  They do great work, but they’re the kind of people who shine through their characters, not disappear into them.  Hoffman, on the other hand is a person who creates something new and different every time he’s on screen and here his CIA agent steals every scene he shows up in.  It makes you wonder what might have been if someone with that sort of chameleon quality, say a Meryl Streep, had been putting on the big Texas Hair wigs instead of Julia.

That said, it’s a great film from a fantastic, punchy, speedy script.  It doesn’t do anything groundbreaking, it just does everything well.  By the time you start to wonder if there’s really enough here to keep the story going, it’s over and gone.  By the time you get to your car, you kind of miss it.

Recent Reads: Born Standing Up

January 16, 2008

Steve Martin’s memoir about his career in stand up comedy is the kind of thing you could read while standing in the bookstore, both because it’s that engaging and that short.  It’s a fascinating look not just at the mechanics behind a life in comedy, but the life that led to it, and away from it as well.

Most interesting to me was the way he manages to explain the troubles of celebrity in a way that doesn’t sound narcissistic.  It’s less about endless autograph seekers ruining dinners than about it symbolizing the end of the experimental and creative burst that led to his fame in the first place.  Once you’re famous people expect something, something very specific, from you.  Famous people aren’t supposed to be fresh or interesting.  They’re known quantities and when when they don’t deliver what we expect, people get upset.  That’s why people boo when musicians won’t play their hits.  And that’s why musicians start to hate their hits.  And ultimately that’s why you won’t see Steve Martin in a white three piece suit anytime soon.

But the book is not a lament, it’s an examination, an attempt to uncover what happened and how.  It’s honest, sometimes strikingly so, and fascinating.  If you desire a peek inside the mind of those who make you laugh, you probably won’t find a better guide than this.

Gift Receipts Are Garbage

January 2, 2008

If you’ve tried to return something already you probably know this.  Giving a gift receipt is like not giving a receipt at all.  Stores will take back the item but only let you walk out with a nifty gift card.  Of course, the last thing you got from this store you liked so much you’re in the process of returning it, so maybe a gift card is not high on your list.  Well, tough shit.

Back in the day, meaning the last time I was paying attention, a gift receipt was a good as a regular receipt but it saved the person from seeing the embarrassingly small amount you spent on them unless they went to make a return.  If they did, they got the money free and clear, to blow in any way they saw fit.  That’s what Christmas was all about.  And with nothing more than an unworn item with the tags still on you could trade for a gift card, which wasn’t ideal, but given your circumstances, it beat wearing that pink sweater.  But now the game has changed and a gift receipt is worthless, no different than just having the tags on something.  So, please, spread the word, stop with the gift receipts.  They’re a sham!  They’re a lie!  If I didn’t need a mini vacuum I don’t need a gift card for the mini vacuum store!  Only the real receipt will save Christmas!