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The Wire: The Thin Line Between Heaven and Here.

Thanks for reading this far, I’ll make this my last post of The Wire, with what I judge to be have been a reasonably in depth look at the show without going too overboard on the whole topic.  Summing up this show with all its depth would take up more blog space than I am prepared to give on account of books piling up but with such a wide range of things to mention I will venture to add a few more, just to make the show more enticing in case I have failed thus far.

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The directors and writers are of a high calibre such as well-known authors like Dennis Lehane and George Pellecanos, David Simon and Ed Burns have the experience of being a journalist and homicide detective respectively.  It is worth noting that Simon wrote Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and with Ed Burns, The Corner:  A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighbourhood which are both excellent reads, adding more to the real life inspirations behind the show.  There is an experienced excellence to all this work which demands more of an audience and from an audience in thought .

The lack of soundtrack means all those everyday noises are more distinctive and this adds to the realism allowing the actors to take centre stage rather than having their performances enhanced with emotive music.  It’s a case of showing how powerfully an actor can influence the viewer’s feelings without the crutch of any outside influence moving us, highlighting once again the exemplary ensemble cast.  There is music but it is part of the natural order, tunes blasting out from a car or on the radio and so on, the regular soundtrack to life.

Season One does not put a foot wrong, its impact not only on the TV landscape but on the audience has changed the way that police procedurals are viewed, not that The Wire sits easily in any genre, it transcends  the need for being pigeonholed by being all things effortlessly at once.  By the end of the first season it is easy to think that although it will continue to be a challenging watch it’ll also have an established pattern.  Simon is one for changing up his themes though and giving us something new to explore constantly.. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 17/09/2016 in Crime, Journalism, Politics, True Crime, TV

 

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The Wire: All in the Game

The Wire centres on ‘The Game’, which is the colloquial term for the drugs trade but in reality has a much wider scope as an overall set of rules used by drug dealer and politicians alike.  Played by subtly different rules within each group, it’s all about social advancement and the pursuit of power, money and of being remembered.  There are codes that everybody sticks to, unique in their line of business; the internal logic, no matter how disagreeable adheres to rules which reward blind loyalty but also demands a strong sense of self-preservation.

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The disconnection of the people at the top end of politics who make the decisions, from the rest of the populace is palpable, the failing system does more harm than good yet voter indifference seems to perplex these people.  On the side of the drug dealers, it is generally accepted that anybody in the game faces the consequences of their employment, mortality being high and emotion seen as a weakness to be exploited.

The futility of the drugs war – at least as it is fought now – allows institutions on all sides to treat it as nothing more than a contest.  For example the interactions between street level dealers and police are viewed by both sides as ineffective but a routine in which the rules are adhered to blindly, (the inevitability of prison, parole, back to the street). it is expected despite no real conclusion forthcoming but as a form of going through the motions with little respect and no hope of a finish which makes it all the more tragic.

What The Wire does best is offer detachment,  its lack of compromise or sentimentality allows the viewer to debate the morals of the players which are often conflicted but all too painfully real.  The apathy of both sides on the front line is harrowing; especially in terms of the offhanded nature with which murder and overdose are greeted, which is now just accepted as an inescapable consequence of street life. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 29/08/2016 in Crime, Politics, True Crime, TV

 

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The Wire: The game is rigged, but you cannot lose if you do not play

AllWiredUpOn the drug-infested streets of West Baltimore, there are good guys and there are bad guys.  Sometimes you need more than a badge to tell them apart.

From David Simon From David Simon, creator and co-writer of HBO’s triple Emmy-winning mini-series The Corner, this unvarnished, highly realistic HBO series follows a single sprawling drug and murder investigation in Baltimore – one that culminates in a complex series of wiretaps and surveillance.  Told from the points of view of both the police and their targets, the series captures a universe where easy distinctions between good and evil , and crime and punishment are challenged at every turn.

The Wire is hands down the best TV show I have ever seen, partly because it’s the closest to a novel that you can get on a televisual scale but saying that doesn’t really cover just how much depth the viewer is treated to throughout its five seasons.

Now on my sixth watch through, it’s about time I tried to put down – to some degree –  why this TV show is rightly regarded as one of the best shows ever and for me the greatest.  It’s hard to know where to begin, especially as I will be avoiding spoilers throughout so I shall begin with the opening scene which is posted at end this part of the overview.

In under three minutes the viewer is sucked into a story about a street murder as well as being introduced to some of the key themes, revolving around the street and ‘the game’.  Within 14 seconds it’s already established that young children show little horror or surprise about a death so close, the offhand way it’s dealt with is frightening in its own way and the overall feeling is that business must go on.  It’s as powerful an opening as one could want and but a taster of the masterpiece yet to come.

First time viewers need to know that this is a slow burning show that you will need to stick with for a few episodes in order to fully appreciate what it does so stylishly, not to mention working out who everyone is.  It demands the viewer’s attention by not giving an easy ride or compromising its artistic integrity,  which happens so often in the mostly down format of Television.  The plot in itself takes its time and as such culminates into a realisation of just how clever it is when season one ends; the impact is perfectly pitched

The Wire’s way of telling a story was not really suited to TV as it is a medium that demands instant gratification  and the complexity of this show doesn’t allow for such simplistic outlooks. Now it is out on DVD and streaming on the internet, watching a handful of episodes at a time is by far the best way to watch it.  One can only imagine how challenging it would be to watch an episode a week and try to remember who everybody was and what was going on without the benefit of the all the episodes to hand, hence the initial poor ratings. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 25/08/2016 in Crime, Politics, True Crime, TV

 

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My alternative education through 2000AD

In the formative years of my life I had no idea of the stealth education that this comic gave me but through Alistair’s words you can see how kids of yesteryear were being encouraged to think about big ideas so early on in their/our lives.

Alastair Savage

Under the radar, quietly reading in the corner, the kids of 1980s Britain were absorbing a different message from the ones we got from our educators and the media. While politicians ranted and many people looked back to a bygone age of triumph, we were clutching tales of science-fiction adventure that seemed harmless to disinterested adult eyes.

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The 1970s and 1980s were the golden age of 2000AD, Britain’s sci-fi comic. Then, as now, it came out weekly. Printed on shabby paper and sold for small change, it didn’t look at all like the sort of thing that would have an effect on anyone, but for me, it was another sort of education entirely.

2000AD featured four or five continuing stories every week, in black and white with one colour spread. Judge Dredd, the 21st century’s fascistic lawman was almost always on the centre pages. Rather than being an out-and-out attack…

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Posted by on 15/10/2015 in Graphic Novels, Sci-Fi

 

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The Hamish MacBeth Series – M.C. Beaton

Every so often I love to dive onto one of my few guilty pleasures and this time instead of my usual dip into the Crabs horror books by Guy N. Smith which I would recommend as perhaps the ultimate in horror farce, I delved into the Hamish MacBeth series, Death of a Dreamer.

The odd thing about these books is that really I shouldn’t enjoy them much at all, there are a whole slew of reasons for me to not like them, yet here I am writing an overview after finishing the 22nd book in the series of 30, so far.  I’m not a huge Cosy Crime fan but I do like a few easy books to read in between the more thought-provoking ones.  I was ensnared by the simplicity of the stories, the gentleness of the setting (ignoring the murders for that point) and the speed with which I can get through them, usually within a few hours.

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Set in Lockdubh, the stories, not surprisingly, revolve around PC Hamish MacBeth.  I feel a lot for Hamish, he is seen as unambitious because he loves the village where his beat is, a picturesque place that all outsiders think beautiful and want to live there.  Yet everybody views him as a failure which indicative of today’s society which demands you earn more and do better in your job continually, moving upward otherwise you are a deemed unambitious.  It is strange that nobody seems content to just do something and be somewhere they are happy with.

suspending disbelief is key to the books of course, I would have questioned this highland hotspot of murder a long time ago if I was the police but where would be the fun in that?  There is a curious sense of dislocation about the whole thing, there is little in the way of reference to the number of previous murders that have occurred, nothing other than a brief nod for the reader of a singular case usually from the previous book. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 15/08/2014 in Crime

 

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The long Goodbye – Raymond Chandler

Chazza1Down-and-out drunk Terry Lennox has a problem: his millionaire wife is dead and he needs to get out of LA fast. So he turns to his only friend in the world: Philip Marlowe, Private Investigator. He’s willing to help a man down on his luck, but later, Lennox commits suicide in Mexico and things start to turn nasty. Marlowe finds himself drawn into a sordid crowd of adulterers and alcoholics in LA’s Idle Valley, where the rich are suffering one big suntanned hangover. Marlowe is sure Lennox didn’t kill his wife, but how many more stiffs will turn up before he gets to the truth?

This is by far Chandler’s most ambitious novel, doubling the size of its closest rival it’s exceptional example of noir detective literature and one I was most impressed with.

This is the sixth of the seven Marlowe novels – which can be read in any order – and is certainly the strongest.  This is a mature book showing the author getting to grips with the underside of American morals or lack thereof in some quarters.

At some point it became trendy to give the sleuth of any book or TV show  a drink problem or be a single parent or other such obstacles to ‘doing the job properly’ but Marlowe manages to be a fascinating character without these contrivances.  Chandler creates truly flawed characters,not just as a way to control the plot but to question the aims and thoughts of the individual and his or her place in society.

‘Alcohol is like love,’ he said.  ‘The first kiss is magic, the second intimate, the third is routine.  After that you take the girl’s clothes off’.

He’s a loner, an intellectual, although he would not admit it, a lover of Chess and drinking.  He has his ethical code and will stick to it, he does what is right (even if it doesn’t pay) and is capable of deep cynicism yet surprisingly, a strong sense of sentimentality. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 22/07/2014 in Crime

 

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Hercule Poirot’s Christmas – Agatha Christie

51zNl8kJsrLIt is Christmas Eve. The Lee family reunion is shattered by a deafening crash of furniture, followed by a high-pitched wailing scream. Upstairs the tyrannical Simeon Lee lies dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed.

But when Hercule Poirot, who is staying in the village with a friend for Christmas, offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems that everyone had their own reason to hate the old man…

Admittedly not the most christmassy cover in the world but this proves to be more accurate than misleading.  For this is not one of those gentle jaunts but a bloody murder mystery set around the holidays.

There is little mention of Christmas in the whole book on reflection but as any fan of soap operas will tell you Christmas is never really complete without a death or two.

There are all the classic murder mystery elements here, exotic foreigners, family feuds, manor houses, butlers, as well as a really corking plot, with lashings lots of dirty linen to be aired throughout.  Christie is for me, a bit up and down with her plots but this one is fantastic and a proper treat for the season.

I’m not much of a mystery buff admittedly but this one did keep me guessing to the end which is saying something as I think I have seen this on TV before.   I was led down completely the wrong path several times, even though enough clues are hidden in plain sight. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 26/12/2013 in Crime

 

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