i’ve nearly finished the wire and i can’t quite believe it. i started watching a yearish ago, on the strong recommendation of my boyfriend joe. he started watching it in the first year of uni, spending freshers week ensconced in his room watching back to back episodes, he would walk around with his hood thrown up and his cans on, listening to the beats of baltimo’ hiphop. says it made him feel “street”. it’s his fault i watched it, so, props to joe. (thank you, thank you, save the applause).
i’ve never quite seen anything like the wire before. its a bit of a disconcerting mix between dark, brutal reality of the streets of baltimore, maryland (by this i mean drug dealers, hookers, dysfunctional families, desperate dock workers and immoral hacks) and the light humour of human reality. one of my favourite scenes is when omar little, one of the big and terrifying names of these mean streets, goes off in hunt of breakfast for his current squeeze. they have no honey nut.
the wire is endlessly quotable, and can make even the most white, middle class girl feel like a ghetto mama from murderland. it took me a while to get into, because let’s be honest, those unused to the african american dialect used gets some getting used to. i’ve heard those who NEED to have to have the subs turned on when they watch the wire - pussies, yo. that’s the thing with the wire - it takes effort. i should say now i was so determined to get to grips with it i did my second year coursework on it - i do english lit and lang, and spend 2500 words analysing the dialect used in episode 1.
you have to sort of force yourself through the first series (i’m not going to pretend i wasn’t bored to tears at some points, probably because i had no clue what was going on)
- WOAH FUCKING HELL OMAR JUST DIED AND A LITTLE KID KILLED HIM HOLY FUTHERMOCKER -
because it’s moments like that which make the wire a bloody good watch. people die all the time, some when you least expect it. some of those deaths just happen and you become a bit immune to them, but others are completely heart wrenching because you don’t realise how much you liked a character till their brains are in a bloody pool on a corner shop floor.
it’s subtle, the wire, and it doesn’t talk down to its audience. you have to be a bit clever with it, that’s why watching it and getting it feels like an accomplishment. so i’ve got two episodes left. there are five series in all, each focused on a seperate bit of society, but a central bunch of characters running through them all. i’m talking about mcnulty, bunk, lester, kimi et al - the latter’s character arc particularly interesting. i don’t know exactly what is coming, would be a bit shit if i did, but i can tell you now my heart is in my mouth.
you got to play the game. this america, man.
So, it’s been a while - despite the fact that I saw it on the day of release (ok, day after), I’ve only just got round to penning my thoughts. Ah well. It’s taking Peter Jackson three 3 hour films to translate a 200 page book, so I’ll not beat myself up too much.
Right, so down to business. I’ll be straight with you and admit that I liked the first one a lot. I know there were many naysayers (“More like Bilbo BAGGY”, “Too much kitchen sink drama”, “What the fuck is Radagast on”, blah, blah, blah) but I found it a rollicking ride. Yes, it was too long, yes, there was too much slapstick and no, it didn’t compare to the orgasmic masterpiece that is LOTR, but I thought Jackson done good. We know it’s pretty much his personal wankfest, that’s why it’s so long, but still. It’s set in Middle Earth.
Bearing this in mind, I wasn’t one of those who was expecting the worst.
But I got it.
Nah, just kidding. It was great! I have a couple of problems, which I will address, no fear, but overall it beat the first one hands down. We got great landscapes, great action, ok dialogue, and a nice bit of Jackson Added Backstory, which I quite enjoyed. I liked the inclusion from the appendices when Gandalf ran off to Gol Guldur and saw Sauron blossoming into being (although I take the point of a valued critic who dismissed the FX as a bit eighties). Beorn and Bard were highlights - I liked the way they did Lakeland, it made me want to visit. Stephen Fry was suitably grim as the Master, and Richard Armitage was nicely grumpy as Thorin. He did dragon greed good. I was also a fan of the opening scene in Bree, the young Barliman Butterbur was a nice touch. Martin Freeman did his thing, looking baffled but brave, and I wasn’t the only one to squeal when he spoke to Smaug for the first time (ermagerrrd, Sherlock and Watson, willtheywon’ttheyyyy). Overall, the arrival at Erebor was decent, if a little overlong - the cinema was freezing and I needed the loo, so by then I was ready to take what I had and leave.
As a whole piece then, it was good but long - a familiar criticism. And it’s not as long as Gone With the Wind
My issues, then.
The inclusion of fantasy she-elf Tauriel has definitely split opinion. I wasn’t particularly against her, Evangeline Lily was pretty good and I liked seeing Legolas again (although Orlando Bloom was once again beaten in the looks stakes by a rugged brunette: Bard) - I knew that PJ had put his stamp on it so I was prepared for these additions. Mirkwood was done well, and Legolas’s dad was a miserable fucker. So all good, fine, let’s have a new elf and bring back blondie.
The love triangle. Ouch. I detested this, I’m not sure why, maybe I’m just jealous of Tauriel (gotta love Aidan Turner) but I just did not like that whole thing between Kili and Tauriel. It just felt a) forced and b) unnecessary, and distracted from the rest of it. Time was being wasted, and if you cut that whole palava we could all go home a bit earlier. As standalone characters, they’re fine, but it didn’t seem to click in The Hobbit. Sorry.
Also, the Pale Orc thing again I am a bit tired of. He’s a scary villain, yeah, but do we need him as a threat when we have Sauron, a dragon and the impetus of returning to the fatherland to get our heroes going? I feel not.
But in all honesty, these are pretty mild criticism - I liked this installment, but again am wondering what PJ is going to do for There and Back Again. There isn’t a whole lot of material left - but I trust him. If Return of the King is anything to go by, Jackson does third parters with style.
(Forgive the title - I’m just fed up of hearing radio pundits debate how to pronounce the bloody dragon’s name)
So, in case you were unaware, Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013. I heard in an Oxford pub, just after buying an overpriced (yet delicious) mulled cider. A headline update from the Guardian buzzed through my phone; I was shocked, and immediately told all my pint-toting peers, who were equally dismayed.
But we knew it was coming. He’d been ill for months, was 95, and had even been medically dead for a short amount of time. The world had been on tenterhooks for a good few months (my boyfriend’s Dad works for the BBC, and they have someone whose job it is to rebook the plane tickets to SA in case of emergency), yet when it happened we were all gobsmacked.
Reading the coverage, of which there has been a lot, I was mainly struck by those journalists from the generation who actively protested against apartheid, who were hollering ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ when it came out, who rallied at the Springboks match at Old Trafford. They can write about Mandela’s death now, knowing the contemporary situation and reception. They can record their own personal feeling about him, knowing how it felt to see him radically change the face of South Africa. They, to use that awfully clichéd term “were there”.
Honestly, the most I can know about Mandela is from books and the interweb. The most I have discussed Mandela with friends it related to the fact that Wadham college play The Specials at every bop. There are those who will come to know him by Idris Elba’s portrayal. It all seems a bit…lacking.
This, however, isn’t a piece about Mandela. I write, wondering whether there will ever be a figure like Mandela again. Students followed and lauded Mandela so much because he was an icon separated from them – he represented a wild struggle against a white, oppressive authority. That’s what students dreamed of doing, but from their enclaves in Bristol, Leeds or Manchester, such cause was hard to find. Mandela encapsulated that rebellious spirit, fighting in righteous anger. So students could rally behind a man who was fighting for human rights so ferociously.
I don’t think we’ll have that again. I think the comparable, current cause is sexism – women and men are swept in a gallant fight against misogyny, and it gets us riled. Comparable, too, are the fee hikes and cuts to education – I recently covered a march through Oxford which culminated in an occupation of exam schools. Admirable, but slightly laughable, as I saw young protesters shouting angriy whilst the university staff looked nonchalantly on.
That’s about as radical as it gets, nowadays. Who was the last individual political icon our generation fought for? All our politicians are either evil Tories or slightly uninspiring quasi lefties. Don’t get me wrong, I like Ed Miliband and his love for Robbie Williams, but he’s not going to have me marching in his name.
I guess I’m sad that we’ll never have someone like Mandela to watch with awe. Furthermore, even if we did, it may escape our notice. We’re in an age where we’re bombarded with so much news and so many people it’s hard to process it, let alone care about it, all. I love that I can get news wherever I want, in that little Oxford pub, but because I can, I wonder if it becomes part of everyday life all too easily. It’s harder for things to stand out anymore.
We need something or someone to care about. Let’s get angry.
Benjamin Franklin spent his mornings naked. Patricia Highsmith ate only bacon and eggs. The path to greatness is paved with a thousand tiny rituals (and a fair bit of substance abuse) â but six key rules emerge, says Oliver Burkeman
This can’t be said enough
my new simile for everything
A few weeks ago, I was privileged to spend some time at the BBC, working on a show called ‘World Have Your Say’. Now, those familiar with the World Service will also be familiar with the ground breaking programme. For those that aren’t, here’s a brief. It pioneers collaborative journalism, gathering voices from around the world to comment and debate upon a topical story. These voices aren’t necessarily specialist or connoisseurs, but those who are affected or react to a world news event – as the show’s editor, Mark Sandell, told me, it has been criticised for not having enough experts on. He made the point that they are all experts, ordinary people with something to say.
WHYS “reacts” to the news, it doesn’t make it, and that’s what made the program so interesting to listen to, and to work on. In those few short days, it helped to broaden my world view, as I was surrounded by opinions that differed from my closeted, liberal English eyes. Why is there such a high culture of rape in India, for example? Not because Indian men are lawless animals, but, according to one speaker, the economical situation is so dire. People can’t afford to get married, so they get sex in other ways. Of course, I have my own opinions on the matter, but the point is there are a million others out there, and who am I to say which is right, which is wrong? People think what they think for a reason, and until you know those reasons, there’s no judgement here.
It was the topic of vigilante justice that led me to one of the most moving and illuminating conversations of my life. Given recent events in Mexico, with “Diana” the alleged bus driver hunter killing men in vengeance of those women raped and killed, we led with cases of vigilantism in general. Is it ever right to take the law into your own hands? In India, amongst the Pink Saris and Red Brigade, one woman who did was Suzette Jordan. I called Suzette to ask her whether she would like to appear on the program. She graciously accepted, and went on to tell me about her story.
Suzette had been enjoying a night out in Kolkata, when she became friendly with a man who started chatting with her. He offered her a lift home, and given they had got on well throughout the night, Suzette accepted. However, the night turned when he, instead of driving her home, took her to a hotel room. He was soon joined by several of his friends. They proceeded to torture and gang rape Suzette, before throwing her out on the street.
Feeling ashamed, she reported her ordeal to the police, where she was met with disrespect and humiliation. They didn’t believe her, and blamed her for the rape as she had agreed to accept a lift. Later, after encouragement from her aunt, Suzette approached the press, who helped publicise her story and went again to the police. She was then seen by a female officer, who listened and, after a long 13 months, two of her perpetrators were charged with gang rape.
This is not enough. Suzette’s point was that the authorities, there to protect and support women, do nothing of the sort. They ignore their pleas, and at worst, debase and disgrace them. Suzette was only taken seriously when another brutal rape case reignited the debate, and she revealed her identity to the media, something unheard of in India. Suzette stood up against the police, told the world she had no shame, and that women should not live in crippling fear. She stresses that there is a very long way to go, and a war to be fought – but it can be won.
Hearing Suzette’s story was transformative for me. Speaking to her from an office in the middle of London, we couldn’t be further apart, yet she shared with me an intimate and distressing experience. In the end, we are both women who want justice. I was so humbled by that twenty minute conversation, and whilst I know I’m pulling out all the clichés in the book, I felt changed – and I told her that. Perspective is a valuable thing, and I feel I gained plenty with my conversation with Suzette, and the others I had during my time at the BBC. I learned that broadening horizons is essential if you want to understand the world and fundamental if you want to change it. The more people who hear stories like Suzette’s the better. We spend most of our time in a solipsistic bubble, and while I get how that can sometimes be necessary to function in everyday life, it can lead to a selfish immunity. Now and again, listen to something you know you’re going to find hard. It’s the least we can do.
They beat women, Nancy. They hate women. The only reason they keep Qumari women alive is to make more Qumari men.
So what do you want me to do about it?
How about instead of suggesting that we sell the guns to them, suggesting that we shoot the guns at them? And by the way, not to change the subject, but how are we supposed to have any moral credibility when we talk about gun control and making sure that guns don't get in the hands of the wrong people? God, Nancy! What the hell are we defining as the *right* people?
This is the real world and we can't isolate our enemies.
I know about the real world and I'm not suggesting we isolate them.
You're suggesting we eliminate them
I have a briefing...
You're suggesting that...
I'm not suggesting anything. I don't suggest foreign policy around here.
You are right now.
It's the 21st Century, Nancy. The world's gotten smaller. I don't know how we can tolerate this kind of suffering anymore, particularly when all it does is continue the cycle of anti-American hatred. But that's not the point, either.
What's the point?
The point is that apartheid was an East Hampton clambake compared to what we laughingly refer to as the life these women lead. And if we had sold M1-A1's to South Africa fifteen years ago, you'd have set the building on fire. Thank God we never needed to refuel in Johannesburg!
[nods] It's a big world, C.J. And everybody has guns, and I'm doing the best I can.
They're beating the women, Nancy.