TV

Oh, Indeed: ‘The Wire’ and False Choices

Grantland’s ‘Smacketology’ bracket for determining the ‘greatest character’ from The Wire is an exercise in futility; nevertheless, it begs the question(s): What makes a character great, and how can there be only one?

For starters, Alex Pappademas’s March 5 posting on the gloriously seething culture-trap that is Grantland about HBO’s The Wire (and let’s consider that branding for a second, rarely do we feel compelled to write “NBC’s The Office", nevertheless, Home Box Office must be acknowledged), Smacketology, is a beautiful piece of work. Riffing on Bill Simmons’s impressive get of an interview with Barack Obama -- in which the president acknowledged that, yes, Omar Little was the best character on that show -- Pappademas expands into a eschatological experiment that’s really just an excuse to:

A) Confuse the non-schooled.

B) Pop off the kind of comparisons favored by culture-miners of the High Fidelity and Clerks school; i.e.: “If The Wire were the X-Men, Omar would be Wolverine.”

C) Finally find something interesting to do with brackets in March.

D) Start an argument for no good reason other than to resurrect discussion and debate on one of America’s greatest cultural artifacts.

Admittedly, Pappademas acknowledges that the whole setup in which everyone gets to vote on their favorite characters is unfair and highly Manichean. Looking at the bracket of characters divided into their four quadrants, the arbitrariness is apparent: How does Bunny Colvin, the drug-legalizing urban policy martyr of Season Three end up in the Ports while city politico Clay Davis is over in Hamsterdam (the free-dealing zone that was Bunny’s creation)? And Proposition Joe was nothing if not a creature of East Baltimore, so again his landing in the Ports makes sense for no other reason than mathematical and geometric necessity. Also, putting Jimmy McNulty up against Cedric Daniels in the first round is just plain unfair -- these are both guys who deserve to make it into the second round, at least.

Not that this truly matters, of course. The fundamentally frustrating nature of Pappademas’s exercise is this: What makes a character great? Some matchups can be decided faster than it takes some stash-house hoppers to toss the re-up out a window before Omar huffs and puffs his way inside. Snoop vs. D’Angelo? Snoop in a heartbeat. The Bunk vs. Brother Mouzone? Even though Mouzone was no slouch, Bunk was arguably the scarred conscience of that beaten and battered police department; particularly once Lester and Jimmy… well, you know. Avon vs. Prez? Nothing wrong with Pryzbylewski, especially that fourth season rehabilitation of his, but Avon as the heart of that West Baltimore crew (Stringer being its brain) made for some of show’s more wrenching drama.

Other choices are tougher, though, and not just as a question of which character made for more enthralling drama. For instance, up in the Ports quadrant, Tommy Carcetti is put against Duqan “Dukie” Weems. Your choice of character here is really a deeper question about what you take from them. With Carcetti you get the whole fascinating range of frailties that afflict that modern politician who believes he cares (are his ideals truly to make a difference or are they just a different manifestation of towering ego, and does it matter?). But in Dukie you see every kid who, for all his heart and generosity, slips unnoticed between the cracks in a city that can’t be bothered to care. Who is the greater character? This is an impossible choice.

But, still… Dukie.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image