Tell him that Omar says that Marlo is not a man for this city

I am officially two episodes away from the end of the fifth season of The Wire.

There are only two episodes of The Wire, in exsistence, that I haven't seen.

I'll miss it more than any other TV show I've ever watched. Even more than Buffy, Arrested Development, Freaks and Geeks, and Clarissa Explains it All combined.

The fifth season has been far, far too short, but the writers have done their best to wrap-up a show that has always flaunted its disdain for tying-up loose ends. The season's central story arc is shorter and less intricate than the other seasons' have been, but the absence of a new major police investigation (replaced this season by McNolte's serial killer) allows for the writers to make brief forays into the rich history of minor characters the show has introduced over the course of four seasons. One of my favorite examples of this occurs when Bunk ends up questioning an older, angry Randy Wagstaff, who has made clear progress toward ridding himself of his snitch label by adopting a confrontational, agressive persona. Between this season the fourth, Randy has become as unknowable and foreign to Bunk (and the audience) as every other hopper on the corners of Baltimore.

This short glimpse of a sad fade out is the farewell chosen for many of the series' peripheral characters, as we can also see in Nicky Sobotka's impotent protesting of Carcetti's pet project, the gentrification and demolition of Baltimore harbor's port system, and in Omar's casual murder of Savino, a former Barksdale muscle who switched loyalties to Marlo out of simple necessity and survival.

Two episodes shy of the finale, I can say that I fear for McNulty, who seems destined to prove one of the The Wire's more cynical codas ( that long-established social institutions will easily control most people, and ultimately destroy those who try to operate outside of them) correct. Like Stringer Bell, Bunny Colvin, and Prop Joe before him, McNulty's manipulation of the bureaucratic machine he operates within may prove to be his downfall. Stringer's attempts to reshape the Baltimore drug trade as a non-violent open market environment were undermined by his own moral failings, some of which lead to his assassination. McNulty's plan to redistribute the city's major crime budget with a fictionalized serial killer is similarly undermined by McNulty's own delusions of grandeur and deeply-buried insecurities about his own intelligence and worth to the department. While I don't see a shotgun blast to the chest in Jimmy's future, I'm not sure the likely alternative is much better.

Well, I'm off to watch #9, and then last night's Lost. Steve told me that it has been called one of the best episodes ever. Steve is capable of exaggeration, but I want to believe this too much to not get excited. I also want to watch 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days sometime this weekend, but I have a lot of general life stuff that I really need to take care of first.

Jeez. Real life. Always getting in the way of the really important things, no?



more people need to say it

Nathaniel Tyson

[edit: the pictures are links to, respectively, a television show, a movie, a band, and a play that I am digging at the moment.]


A Real-Life Exchange Related to Me by mollyo

Random "Yeahdude" on Bus: (laughing) Oh, yeahdude, so I found this fuckin AWESOME video online the other day. These fuckin American soldiers, were, like, in Iraq, totally WASTING down this street, fuckin, in one of those crazy-huge Humvee. They were like fuckin' all these other Iraqi cars up; just totally bustin them out of the way. And dude it was so fuckin' HILARIOUS cause that song, you know, that "MOOOOVE BITCH, get out tha WAY" song, was totally playing in the background! (more laughter)

mollyo: (after a moment of deliberation)...That's, um, kind of offensive, dude.

(ten minutes of silence)

Yeahdude: ....so, do you like State Radio?


For purposes of clarification: A yeahdude is a subclassification of Massachusetts-area Bros. Yeahdudes are irrisistably attracted to MollyO and her dreadlocks. They frequently approach her with appeals towards her musical taste; namedropping bands like State Radio, Phish, Moe, or even The Disco Biscuits.

don't want to talk about, just so sick about it under my umbrella to the left, to the left

So, I think I'm a little late on this one, but I'm really impressed with just how awesome "United State of Pop" is.

The "US of P" (for those who have actual lives and can't spend quite as much time obsessing about pop culture as I can) is a mash-up by San Fransisco's DJ Earworm that blends 2007's 25 biggest singles into 5:14 of pure bliss.

It's available at his site for free. Check it out. You can both download it directly, and stream it from the site. It's legal and all, for you scaredy cats out there.

"I mean yooouu! Crank dat soulja boy! You ain't cuz you not!"

My favorite sample that he uses is actually the "but I don't believe it's true anymore, anymoooore" from "Makes Me Wonder" by Maroon 5. It works sooo well out of context. Adam Levine is the Akon/T-Pain of pop rock.

Also, it's great to hear Beyonce right next to Rihanna and T-Pain next to Akon.

Things this proves to us about the state of pop

1. "Hey There Delilah" was one hell of an anomaly. Rock singles are for the most part non-factors in the singles game, excluding Maroon 5, who appear to be the only rock band that has any staying power on the Top 100 singles chart.

2. Timbaland's production both literally and figuratively can be heard in almost every major hit last year. His actual songs, like"The Way I Are" & "LoveStoned/I Think She Knows", aren't used quite as much in the mix as the Tim-influenced songs like "Umbrella" & "This is Why I'm Hot", but he has obviously shaped pop. Then again, we knew this already, this is just support for the argument.

3. "Girlfriend" is even better when you consider the other songs in the top 25. Not to say it's the best song of the bunch, but when it showed up the first time I was listening, I felt my heart flutter with unexpected joy.

4. This world isn't big enough for both T-Pain and Akon. But we knew this already, this is just support for the argument.
edit: If they teamed up, they would obliterate the east coast within 48 hours, easily.

Nathaniel Tyson


Prof. Wikipedia presents: "What it means to be a White American: A study of privilage, cluelessness, and absent-minded colonialism"

What, exactly, is White Culture in America?

The recent laughs provided by Things White People Like had me running over this question in my head. Don't get me wrong, I have my own definition (it mostly consists of a deep analysis of Murphy Brown and Everybody Loves Raymond), but I began to ponder what White America itself had to say on the subject.

So, I went to Wikipedia.

I decided that a direct search would work best, so I searched 'white culture', and was redirected. Considering the very subculture that Wikipedia is produced and used by (ie college students and young people with regular access to a computer with internet), the brevity of the wiki on White American Culture is quite amusing. I was naturally dissapointed, but it still provided a smile.

My favorite part? This:
"In the United States, the term "suburban culture" is considered a euphemism for White American culture and is sometimes used as a racially neutral alternative."

I can just imagine someone euphemistically referring to how the housing prices are spiking thanks to this insidious "suburban" influence. Oh wait. I guess they already do that.

Searching a little further, I discovered that the White American wiki is somewhat more developed. According to the entry, a White American is any American "having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa". The wiki points out that this definition (the same one used by the US Census) puts half of the Hispanic population of the U.S. into this category. So, naturally, this definition leaves a tremendous amount to be desired.

The article continues by introducing two other definitions: one social, the other based strictly on societal influence.

Wiki's social definition, as supported by quotes from Karen Brodkin & David R. Roediger, posits that "whiteness" is a European concept stemming from a need to distance slave-owners from their non-white slaves, to unite Europe in the face of the "discovery" of "non-white" continents such as Asia and Africa (for example, former non-whites: the irish, the italians, the greeks, ashkenazi jews, germans, etc), and to legally divide those of European descent from those of African or Asian descent (ie, these laws did not divide based on race, they created race). This section is still too technical however, to truly explain what a White American is today. It does, however, point out the people who take great pains to make sure that everyone knows they are not a White American (ie. everyone we've [Britain, America, Europe, etc] ever oppressed or tried to colonize).

The last definition Wiki provides is based on inherited societal position, and it may hit closest to the definition I have in my head. By this definition, a White American is anyone who benefits from white privilege. In some ways, I suppose that is what race has become in America: a division based on your societal and cultural capital. This section also contains my hand-down favorite scholarly paraphrase about White America ever. I'll just post the whole definition and highlight my favorite part:

As whites are the dominant racial and cultural group; according to sociologist Steven Seidman writing about the most prominent perspective among researches, "White culture constitutes the general cultural mainstream, causing non-White culture to be seen as deviant, in either a positive or negative manner. Moreover, Whites tend to be disproportionately represented in powerful positions, controlling almost all political, economic and cultural institutions." Yet, according to Seidman, Whites are most commonly unaware of their "privilege" and the manner in which their culture has always been dominant in the US, as they do not identify as members of a specific racial group but rather incorrectly perceive their views and culture as "raceless," when in fact it is ethno-national (ethnic / cultural) specific with a racial base component.

This quote is pretty much the bluntest way to say "you're white if you inherit white privilage, you're especially white if you don't know what 'white privilage' is".

This article temporarily sated my thirst for truth. Afterall, it had provided me with three somewhat accurate definitions and even something about how clueless white people are to the existence of the White American identity. But even with these great elements, my favorite part of the article is the selection of the six definitive white Americans in the photo area:

Madeleine Albright - I guess to emphasize just how directly White Americans are linked to Europe; she was born in Prague afterall. Also, she is a powerful white woman in America, which rarer than a powerful white man...but infinitely more common than a powerful non-white woman in America (minus Oprah, of course...I'm sorry Mrs. Winfrey, it'll never happen again).

Marilyn Monroe - I completely agree with this, she deserves the title "Definitive White American", one of the top White Culture Icons for sure. Blonde, busty, fatally self-destructive, willing to take her clothes off, and publically vapid...she had it all.

Abraham Lincoln - The "see, we're not all completely clueless racists" selection. Lincoln: not definitive...or maybe he is. Perhaps Lincoln represents white people's acceptance of progress in the face of absolutely no other choice. He is also known as The Patron Saint of White Guilt, and The Best Neo-Liberal President the 19th Century-era Republican Party Ever Produced.

Jose Romualdo Pacheco Jr. - I had to look this guy up [ie click on his name], but he was a California-born American politician of Mexican descent [see, when he was born, California WAS Mexico...goes to show you how stupid national origin as racial definition is, don't it?] who was the first [and, so far, only] Hispanic governor of California. Wow. I understand that he's meant to show the true range of "whiteness" in America as described by the first (and technically third) definition, but what an obscure choice. Tokenism, anyone?

John F. Kennedy Jr. - Along with Marilyn, JFK's persona and mythology embody the values, ideals, and attitudes of Baby Boomer/Post Greatest Generation White America better than almost any one else I can think of. In the 1960's (a tranformative decade for White American culture) JFK was busy facing the future, changing the world, publically loving the blacks, tolerating and gently exploiting the hispanics, and dreaming of an America that greatly resembles the all-white European Court of King Arthur; all achieved with only a politically-connected father, the Chicago mafia, millions of dollars, and incredible good looks to fall back on. JFK: every liberal, white man over the age of 45's hero.

Raquel Welch - Born Jo Raquel Tejada , Raquel Welch was an iconic actress/pinup (slightly under the giants like Monroe and Rita Hayworth) who worked during (and defined) the 1960's in America. She brings two things to this list: Firstly, proof that White American actresses of Hispanic descent have always been accepted in Hollywood...as long as they pretended that they were in no way an American actress of Hispanic descent (a lesson Jessica Alba has updated into "talk constantly about how you're not really one of those scary Hispanics"). Secondly, Raquel earned her place on this list twice over: she appears in the iconic 1994 White Culture classic Shawshank Redemption on a poster used by Tim Robbins to cover his escape tunnel.

Well. There you go. If Wikipedia is the internet's dictionary, then these six are the internet's selection of White America defined.

What would my list look like? Kind of you to ask. Here are my Top 6 Definitive White Americans of All Time (in no order):

Albert Einstein

John D. Rockefeller

James Dean

Eleanor Roosevelt

Leona Helmsley

Judy Garland

I would provide explanations, but I am tired of thinking about this. God bless us all, white and non-white by all definitions.

Nathaniel Tyson

umm....I'm sorry about this

Some of my friends and I have a ridiculous(ly stupid) inside joke involving the timely utterance of "in your butt?" Think "that's what she said" and you've got the gist. I have to shamefully admit my role at the architect behind this joke, and I swear to spend the rest of my life finding a way to destroy this monster I have created.

Anyways, the reason I bring this up: two of my friends just pointed me towards a video that put me in my place.

Evidently "in the butt" as a hook can be applied to more than just pot-head humor:

What what? Indeed.


Evidently this is a viral video from over a year ago. Samwell (the name of the singer) rode his fame all the way to a record deal with Fatboy Slim. I guess if it was going to be anyone, it was Fatboy. Remember that "Fatboy Slim is fucking in heaven" song? That was about on par with this, I think.

But that's not the end of it. The most bizarre development surrounding this comes courtesy of Wiki, of course:

"What What (In the Butt) was an official selection at the Milwaukee International Film Festival and the Mix Brasil Film Festival."

That's hilarious.

Evidently, 2008 will bring us the official retail release of "What What (In the Butt)" (great use of parentheses in song titles always gets me going), which I'm sure will tear up the charts...in some weird Scandanavian or possibly Latin country where they still say "discotheques" and do a lot of E.

Nathaniel Tyson

As a way of starting us off, two long-ass pieces

Pt. 1: This is why my girlfriend thinks I'm crazy, or: If she didn't before, she does now

I typed up my "live" reactions from last night's Oscars (which I watched in Fort Thank You in the hall lounge), and saved them to Listology. Sadly, I am not well-trained in the "live-blogging" department, so my reactions will probably only resonate with those who saw the telecast and can put my non-sequitors into context.

Anyways, here it is.

My feelings the day after? That was the most rewarding, but least dramatic, Oscar season I have ever followed. Great performances and great films seemed to be unbeatable the entire time, and the upsets that occurred last night (though I haven't seen La Vie en Rose) were pleasant surprises rather than disastrous mistakes; but without a powerful villain (i.e. a mediocre film), a hero (No Country) has nobody to battle.

Pt. 2: Love to all our non-white, non-American Heroes, or With great power comes great cultural insensitivity

And with that last metaphor there, I've realized that my recent Heroes binge is affecting me in strange and upsetting ways.

Before I begin to talk about my major problems with the show, I feel the need to explain my love for the show. I initially avoided it (despite my love of its older-brother-in-concept, X-Men) because I hate campy spectacles that give genres I love a bad name (sames true with Musicals). Early vewings were spotty at best, and I kept tuning in right as the show focused on Niki and Micah, the worst plotline of the first season. But after "Company Man" (still the best episode of the first season), I was kicking myself for jumping the bandwagon so late. While I still find certain racial elements problematic (I'll explain, in [too much] detail, below), and I acknowledge that some of the writing and acting can veer into the campy or wooden categories, I was evetually so wrapped-up in the storytelling that I could forgive the show and continue watching. But the second season brings both good and bad omens.

That? That's one of the bad omens.

Right now, I've got two episodes left in the second season, and I'm tempted to call it underrated. While I agree with the criticisms of the early episodes (far too slow, repetitive, and familiar to be that engaging to new or old viewers), the second half of the season seemed to actually recover quite nicely. I'm digging the general themes of gray-area morality, corruption of power, and the dreadfully (in a good way) slow realization that some of our current heroes are most likely tomorrow's villains.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that the character development of the second half of Season 2 (especially that of returning characters) was far superior to the first season's vague archetype building. I was afraid that with seemingly all of his secrets revealed, Noah Bennet (HRG) would fall to the wayside, or become (gasp!) predictable; but the twists and turns of the Mohinder/Bob/Noah moral triangle actually surprised me. The temptations of Matt Parkman, Maya (a character who has only grown on me slightly), West (who I pray they turn into a villain), and , of course, Takezo actually make for compelling TV. And the aftermath of the corruption these characters narrowly avoid (minus Takezo) are pretty well-embodied by Elle, Maury, Bob, Angela, and, of course, Adam.

Pete's flirt with darkness seems like a narrative dead-on in many regards, however. We know that he is the central figure of good, so the seduction of the minor characters has more pull, more chance of surprising us.

On the other hand, other storylines this season proved far more problematic than even the first season's Niki/DL/Micah plot. While Niki is given something somewhat interesting to do (almost die...I assume almost), Micah is still justsitting there...with that hair. (Is that a jerry-curl? Is what I just said offensive? Who knows?) His cousin's muscle mimicry is a great power in that it provides us with a special effect and person/power dynamic (not really a curse as much as just plain awesome and easy to master) we haven't encountered yet. But (and this leads me to my real point) Monica is just another in a long string of "ethnic" characters on Heroes whose powers or personalities are troublesome at best. Let me sum up:

  • D.L. Hawkins (black) - former street criminal seeking to be there for his wife and son who he "abandoned". Has the power to make his body intangible, which has (up until Season 2, episode 9) only been stated or shown to help him break into buildings, escape jail, dodge bullets, and crack safes. He does, however, put his fist through a dude's head. That earns him points.
  • Monica Dawson (black) - Katrina refugee who would have been the first person in her family to attend college. Her power as a muscle mimic also lies solely in her body (not cerebral or elemental), to the extent that she becomes unaware of moments in which she exhibits it. When she isn't kicking thug ass, she is busy not snitching and talking about how Katrina changed (or defines) her life.
  • Mohinder Suresh (Indian) - A brilliant doctor, just like his father (they both also drive taxicabs at some point, but this is not so much unintentional as the characters comment on this...but still), Mohinder is tall, skinny and very, very Anglo in both his accent and his facial features. In the first season, Mohinder's scenes in India read more like he is a tourist who bears little resemblance to the more "Indian" world around him than a natural citizen. He has no power, but his intelligence and daddy issues prove almost as strategically powerful as any character's "gift".
  • Ricki & Caitlin (Irish) - The bar-owning, family-loving, heavy-drinking ringleader and traditional sister-of-the-ringleader-who-falls-in-love-with-our-protagonist of an Irish gang of thieves. I believe there is an IRA joke or two. Ricki has Peter sworn into their criminal family using a vague Gaelic-looking tattoo after knowing him for approximately two days.
  • Maya and Alejandro (Latino/a) - These orphaned twins are introduced heading towards America ("illegally") in an attempt to save the deeply-Catholic Maya's life. They end up picking up and trusting the villainous Sylar based on Maya's religious faith (his name is Gabriel as he tells them) even though Alejandro points out that Sylar is obviously going to betray them. They also manage to run into not one, but TWO old latina women screaming "diablo" at the top of their lungs; not to mention Maya's catfight with her slutty sis-in-law who cheats on Alejandro less than an hour after marrying him. Maya also slaughters a group of pseudo-Minutemen at the border.
  • The Haitian (Haitian) - A silent (but not mute) partner to Noah Bennet who is only referred to by his country of origin. The show even has characters who briefly spot him describe him as "the haitian" w/o them having anyway of knowing his country of origin. I suppose "a Haitian guy" sounds better than "a scary black man". Not only is his personality unrevealed, but even his power is mysterious, unexplained, and his presence is always presented with an air of mysticism. However, the writers' most thoughtlessly offensive moment lies in Season 2 as the Haitian becomes one of the first characters to contract a deadly virus, whose spread, affects, cure, and prevention are all mysteries. The virus goes on to reflect AIDS/HIV even more directly by crossing over from the meta-human into the general population, against everyone's expectations.

I'll stop there, but I'm sure you see my point. If the producers and writers don't bother to address this major issue with their show, I'm not sure how long I can enjoy the parts of their show that are less problematic.

While we're looking forward, I should probably address a fear for next season that already has me wincing. Initially, I was thrilled to hear that Jamie Hector would be joining Heroes in the third season this fall. In you don't know him, Jamie Hector is a young talent from a TV show that deals with a diverse (in race, class, ethnicity, etc) cast with a sensitivity, frankness, and thoughtfulness that Heroes can never achieve: The Wire.

Hector is exceptionally good as the mysterious, brutal drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield. His characterization digs deep beneath Marlo's skin; Hector creates a full-bodied, complicated man without falling into the suffering saint/sociopath dynamic that TV usually allows for a black character is a drama; especially those playing characters orbiting the drug game. While Marlo is introduced as a frighteningly emotionless cypher, recent episodes have dealt with Marlo's rise to greater power, even touching on his shifting class, and Marlo's reaction to this. Black characters are rarely given the kind of backstory and material that Marlo has, and we're lucky The Wire is around to introduce us to actors like Hector.

So, of course I was ecstatic when it was announced that Hector would play a major new villain in the third season of Heroes. I'm always thrilled to see actors from The Wire getting parts. But then I looked closer at exactly how Hector's character was being described.

Here is an excerpt from the casting call for Hector's character, according to the HeroesWiki for Benjamin "Knox" Washington, the bolding is my doing:

"[KNOX] 25. MALE. AFRICAN-AMERICAN. Frightening and intense - with the eyes of a predator --Knox has returned to New Orleans with plans to reclaim the criminal territory he used to run before he was sent to prison...."

Sweet jesus people! While Hector has beautifully communicative eyes, I'm not sure the role will provide him with much more to do than play every middle-American's idea of a dangerous "gangsta".

There's also rumor that his character's power is to take on metallic properties to increase his strength and make himself invulnerable. In the Heroes universe, it appears that it was not just our government/history that painted America's black community into a corner, it was also God and his choice of genetic "gifts" designed to make crime easier.

Let's hope this September brings new things to Heroes...ie non-white writers.

Nathaniel Tyson