Down in the hole


Down in the hole
Yes, just as it’s not possible to be a good, smart, uncompromising, idealistic human being and become president of this nation of thieving whores, so, too, is it impossible to spend more time with your kids and hold your tongue. There is no one on the face of the Earth who writes works of literary genius and has an ass like a basketball. Intensely creative geniuses do not answer the phone with a happy voice, listen with focus or even shower regularly. If you’ve read about people like this, people who are friendly and smell good and also write brooding masterpieces and have rock-hard glutes, you are reading works of propaganda, created by corporate publicity machines that want you to believe that you were born dumb, lazy and ugly and you can only buy your way out of it. Yes, it’s true, you were born stupid, slow and stinky, but so were the rest of us.

And even if it were possible to be good and brilliant and healthy and full of high-minded principles, you still wouldn’t get very far in this world, populated as it is by self-serving thugs and charismatic charlatans and oily tricksters and uninspired, beaten-down drones who experience talent and originality and bold, new ideas as, at best, an inconvenience and at worst a direct threat.

Just ask David Simon, creator of “The Wire”, which returns to HBO on Sunday night (9 p.m. EST) for its fifth and final season. In the dystopian vision of Baltimore that Simon depicts, personal responsibility and ethical standards are consistently crushed by the greed and thoughtlessness of high capitalism. If those with principles and talent ever manage to wriggle their way into the circles of influence, they’ll inevitably be exposed to countless indignities and insults until their most cherished beliefs and their strong commitment to public service are abandoned for the cynic’s weary sigh. In Simon’s Baltimore, self-serving politicians and careerist law-enforcement officials and scheming drug dealers are cut from the same short-sighted cloth.

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And maybe that’s a vision that’s a little too dark for most Americans, who prefer the manic cheer of morning shows and upbeat radio hosts, who chow down Happy Meals and forsake updates on the Iraq war for “Dance War: Bruno and Carrie Ann.” But for those who find almost every single aspect of American culture at this particular moment deeply disturbing, for those who’ve cringed as self-interested blowhards ran our once-at-least-somewhat-honorable nation into the ground in the name of “freedom,” Simon’s vision looks right on the money.

Now typically, self-righteous anger at the state of the world is more likely to yield a rambling, unreadable blog entry than it is to produce a work of art this nuanced and wise and brave and lovely. But in the show’s final season, Simon and his writers don’t just trot out a few new plot twists and wind up for a big ending. No. Every single scene of “The Wire” is meticulously scripted and dramatically riveting. In each scene, we witness a character experiencing a dilemma, infused with passionate impulses, conflicting emotions and inner turmoil. Whether we see a young drug dealer who’s rising in Marlo’s ranks become party to a crime that makes him disgusted with his life or watch a once-idealistic mayor struggle to solve budget problems without selling his principles up the river, Simon and his writers make big, uneasy problems feel intimate and personal. In our day-to-day lives, it’s not hard for most of us to skip the news item about the neglect of our public schools or the endless corporate takeovers threatening to all but eviscerate the richness of American culture. But Simon and his writers force us to look directly at the human face of what it all means, the price we pay in American lives for our sloppy, neglectful policy choices.


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