The Wire creator David Simon | Interview


Some things television is good for:
Depicting the “other” America
Pissing off the mayor

Three or four years ago, I got an email from a friend in which he described The Wire as the best thing he’d ever seen on TV, “apart from Abigail’s Party.” Here was a recommendation designed to get anybody’s attention. No mention of The West Wing, or The Sopranos, or Curb Your Enthusiasm, or any of the other shibboleths of contemporary TV criticism; just a smart-aleck nod to Mike Leigh’s classic 1977 BBC play. It reeled me in, anyway, and I went out and bought a box set of the first series.

I’d never heard of the show. It’s not widely known or shown here in the U.K., although whenever a new season starts, you can always find a piece in a broadsheet paper calling it “the best programme you’ve never heard of,” and I didn’t know what to expect. What I got was something that bore no resemblance to Abigail’s Party, predictably, and very little resemblance to any other cop show. At one stage I was simultaneously hooked on The Wire and the BBC’s brilliant adaptation of Bleak House, and it struck me that Dickens serves as a useful point of comparison; David Simon and his team of writers (including George Pelecanos, Richard Price, Dennis Lehane) swoop from high to low, from the mayor’s office to the street corner—and the street-corner dealers are shown more empathy and compassion than anyone has mustered before. The hapless Bubbles, forever dragging behind him his shopping trolley full of stolen goods, is Baltimore’s answer to Joe the Crossing Sweeper.

We talked via email. A couple of weeks later, we met in London—David Simon is making a show about the war in Iraq with my next-door neighbor. (Really. He’s really making a show about the war in Iraq, and the producer literally lives next door.) We talked a lot about sports and music.

—Nick Hornby Continue reading

Review – Distant Voices, Still Lives

Distant Voices, Still Lives

Terence Davies


The tale of a working class English family, getting by in the 1940s and 50s, before and after the death of their puritanical father.

The plot of this film is as simple as the sentence I have just given it. But it seems like a disservice to describe it in such simple words. Through nothing more than a static shot, a song or a scream this film shows the whole human emotion. Distant Voices, Still Lives is divided into two separate films, shot 2 years apart. The first film is a study of domestic abuse and familial struggle with a father who is psychopathic. His violence permeates the whole family’s life. The second film, Still Lives, is a great deal more upbeat, focusing on the years after the father’s death. Through both films we hear various traditional pre-war songs sung in pubs. The magic of the film comes from the images, the music and the emotion of the direction. Every shot is lovingly framed like Davies knows the settings like the back of his hand.

There are very, very few directors (if any) like Terence Davies working today anywhere in the world. His films deal with the human heart more honestly than almost any other and the fact that most of the time he finds it near impossible to make a film inside the British film industry and doesn’t have money showered upon him by the government, by British film producers, by anyone is farcical.

Milestones in Photography

World’s First Photograph
Joseph Nicéphore Niépce

Centuries of advances in chemistry and optics, including the invention of the camera obscura, set the stage for the world’s first photograph. In 1826, French scientist Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, took that photograph, titled View from the Window at Le Gras, at his family’s country home. Niépce produced his photo—a view of a courtyard and outbuildings seen from the house’s upstairs window—by exposing a bitumen-coated plate in a camera obscura for several hours on his windowsill. Continue reading

Charles Bukowski | Alone With Everybody

the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
and nobody finds the
but keep
crawling in and out
of beds.
flesh covers
the bone and the
flesh searches
for more than

there’s no chance
at all:
we are all trapped
by a singular

nobody ever finds
the one.

the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill

nothing else

Review – True Grit (2011)

True Grit

Joel and Ethan Coen


“The world itself is vexing enough”

A maddening, headstrong young girl embarks on a journey to see her father’s killer brought to justice. With this in mind she enlists the help of Rooster Cogburn, an old, fat, intrepid, alcoholic marshal who knows the Indian Territory they will travel and isn’t squeamish when it comes to killing a man or two.

Many people were worried and some downright upset when they heard a remake of True Grit was being made. As if this version would erase the former one from history. Well it didn’t. It’s still around and I assume well stocked at HMV. All this film did was take the story and improve the plot, photograph it better, make it funnier and more solemn and stay more faithful to the book (if that sort of thing interests you). Jeff Bridges is spot on as Rooster. He is both repulsively charming and charmingly repulsive. Matt Damon gives the best performance of his career as La Boef, a Texas Ranger full of equal parts pride and shit. Hailee Steinfeld holds her own against Kim Darby from the original (whom after Justin Bieber got famous I can’t take seriously) as Maddie, the real heart and the ‘true’ grit of the film.

I don’t want to suggest that I don’t like the original True Grit. It’s a good film and worth seeing. But the Coen’s simply made a better film from the same material.

John Keats | Ode to a Nightingale

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stainèd mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmèd darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast-fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:— Do I wake or sleep?

Film Review – Life Without Principle

Life Without Principle

Johnnie To


Set during the economic crisis of 2010, people from different walks of life find themselves struggling to cope through the financially turbulent time. The options to which they find themselves could lie heavily on their futures and their consciences.

Continue reading

Review – The Man Who Wasn’t There

The Man Who Wasn’t There

Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (uncredited)


“What kind of man are you?”

A surburban barber is interested in investing in a business opportunity a client peddles to him one day, but to get the money means blackmailing his wife’s boss and lover. All does not go to plan.

The Man Who Wasn’t There is a wonderfully constructed film. From the poster you should be able to tell that this is the Coen’s in a more serious mood (it’s more Blood Simple than Raising Arizona), but as with most of their films (No Country for Old Men aside), there is an essence of knowing charm and wit for which they are famous. Although this film is technically brilliant (the cinematography is shot in a beautiful noir-ish tint and the lighting and production design all top notch) it’s the performances that make this film what it is. Billy Bob Thornton is fantastic as Ed Crane, the languid protagonist caught up in something he cannot control, his narration I found hilarious at times. Jon Polito as the business man is also terrific, playing it on the edge of confidence and ridiculousness. The best performance in the film was Tony Shalhoub playing Freddy Riedenschneider, a greedy, arrogant and brilliant lawyer. From the first minute he is on the screen everything has been conveyed. It just rang completely true. If a more famous actor had played this role half as well, they would have been Oscar nominated.

Salvador Dali – Adolescence

This painting, Adolescence, by Salvador Dali features the young Dalí with his beloved nurse, Lucia. Her head and back are also the nose and mouth that, combined with the eyes in the hills, complete the paranoiac-critical face. The face might be Gala, with whom Dalí was becoming more and more infatuated at that time. Dalí loved his nurse very much so there is a symbolic reason to use her figure as the completing elements of Gala’s face.

This painting was stolen at gunpoint from Scheringa Museum for Realism in Spanbroek, Netherlands in 2009 and is still missing.

Taken from