Monday, January 28, 2008

Roger Johnson on the State of the Union

Who is this odd-looking person writing for the New Statesman?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Recollections of Notable Cops

"I knew cops who were matches for the most learned and unscrupulous lawyers at the Baltimore bar, and others who had made monkeys of the oldest and crabbedest judges on the bench, and were generally respected for it. Moreover, I knew cops who were really first-rate policemen, and loved their trade as tenderly as many art artists and movie actors. They were badly paid, but they carried on their dismal work with unflagging diligence, and loved a long, hard chase almost as much as they loved a quick, brisk clubbing."
H.L. Mencken (Newspaper Days, 1942)
One imagines that Mencken would be as impressed as any with The Wire, now into its fifth and last season, though it is another question whether he would recognise its depiction of his city a century on from his first days as a Baltimore journalist. While the massive, rotting projects and their sprawling, grinding heroin trade might represent something new to him, it's possible he would appreciate its portrait of bloated institutions and failing systems marred by conflict and grubby motives. This new season might be of particular interest to the great hack. After absorbing not just the intricate rivalries of the drug gangs and the police departments, but the starved, corrupt docker's union, the vicious politics of the City Council and Mayor's Office, and the creaking public school system, The Wire now shifts its attention to the workings of The Baltimore Sun, Mencken's old paper. We can expect more subtle comedy and morose reflections as the journalists work a losing battle against cutbacks and disinterest, and the manipulations of the city's other fine institutions. These hacks are well aware of their illustrious predecessor. In the latest episode, a recently laid-off Sun journalist recalls over a beer the epitaph: "If ever I depart this vale, and you wish to remember me, pardon some poor sinner and wink at a homely girl." "Fuck Henry Mencken," sympathises his colleague.

We are all blessed in that the new season was wrapped up in time to avoid the writers' strike, but I am already mourning its end. To be honest, it's probably even better than Deadwood. Here's Charlie Brooker explaining why.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Vital Commentary on the Primaries

Yes, it's finally happening. Some two weeks after the Iowans caucusly shuffled and strutted across their floors of democracy, and a week after the New Hampshireites (is this really what they're called? New Hampshireans? New Hampshiremen?) braved the snow to surprise John Zogby, I have come online to share the news on my half-arsed opinions.
One of the drawbacks of democracy is that I generally hate elections. Not the voting - that's fun - but the horrible, queasy entropy of the weeks, months, and now apparently years of campaigning that precede it. Fortunately, I am quite enjoying the US presidential campaign so far. This is largely because none of its outcomes are by any means a foregone conclusion, save that it heralds the end of George W. Bush's presidency. It's been surprising, exciting and weird, and it's also happening far away so I don't have to pay attention if I'm getting upset.

I'm a bit out of practice at blogging, so I'm already getting a bit tired, and will thus reduce the potential reams of insightful analysis to a few snappy predictions and observations:

  • Barack Obama and John Kerry are in love, and want to be running mates
  • Ron Paul should run as an independent, cause a big scene, and then retire quietly to his network of caves in South Texas.
  • I will support whichever GOP candidate can prove that he loves Ronald Reagan the most, preferably through the art of poetry.
  • Hillary Clinton should probably not hold up Lyndon Johnson too much as a president she wishes to emulate - though she should start to curse like him.
  • Fred Thompson is leading the competition for best quote of the campaign with: "I can out-poor any of them. I grew up under more modest circumstances than anybody on that stage."
  • I loathe Rudy Giuliani so much that I sometimes wonder if it stems from a Hollywood-inspired, irrational fear of Italian-Americans, until I remember that Mario Cuomo should have been president.

That's enough for now, though I shall endeavour to keep up the coverage.