Author - David Simon

Policy & Law Posts by Subject

You did it, Mr. Bernstein. Now own it.

That elected officials will lie, dissemble and reverse course to avoid a proper public accounting is no remarkable thing.  Politicians, bless their hearts, are very much akin to those fabled pigeons in B.F. Skinner’s boxes.  If they peck diligently at the little metal bar, they expect to receive — every two or four or six years — another food pellet, or failing that, a painful electrical charge. It’s no wonder that such constricted and vulnerable creatures gravitate toward reptilian moments.  Other than to let the lower brain hold sway, how can an elected officials be sure to acquire the certain and scheduled pleasure and avoid the certain and scheduled pain? Often, the lies are nuanced and careful, lodged as they are in relative safety of vague generalities and uncertain facts.  An equivocation works best when there isn’t a long, contradictory reality trailing behind.  But every now and then, someone lets go of something so bald, so shameless that it’s just plain amusing...

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Politics Posts by Subject

Mitt Romney paid taxes at a rate of 13 percent and he’s proud to say so. Redux.

A month back I ventured a brief post on this site in which I expressed my astonishment at the spectacle of a multi-millionaire presidential candidate assuring Americans that he had paid no less than 13 percent taxes.  It generated some commentary back and forth.  But as a startling addendum, we must now consider Mr. Romney’s comments at a private fundraising event at which he didn’t know he was being surreptitiously videtaped, with the tape now leaked to Mother Jones magazine and hitting the internet on several sites: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.  All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That, that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote...

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Policy & Law

Fourth and long. Delegate Burns needs to punt.

If you haven’t enjoyed this elsewhere already, here’s the background: Recently, Baltimore Raven linebacker Brandon Ayanbadejo angered State Del. Emmett C. Burns, Jr for publicly speaking in favor of Maryland’s legislation for marriage equality. Delegate Burns wrote to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti: “I am requesting that you take the necessary action … to inhibit such expressions from your employee.” Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe heard about this.  He penned the following: Dear Emmett C. Burns Jr., I find it inconceivable that you are an elected official of Maryland’s state government. Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level. The views you espouse neglect to consider several fundamental key points, which I will outline in great detail (you may want to hire an intern to help you with the longer words): 1. As I suspect you have not read the...

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Politics Posts by Subject

Mitt Romney paid taxes at a rate of at least 13 percent. And he’s proud to say so.

Can we stand back and pause a short minute to take in the spectacle of a man who wants to be President of The United States, who wants us to seriously regard him as a paragon of the American civic ideal, declaiming proudly and in public that he has paid his taxes at a third of the rate normally associated with gentlemen of his economic benefit. Stunning. Am I supposed to congratulate this man?  Thank him for his good citizenship?  Compliment him for being clever enough to arm himself with enough tax lawyers so that he could legally minimize his obligations? Thirteen percent.  The last time I paid taxes at that rate, I believe I might still have been in college.  If not, it was my first couple years as a newspaper reporter.  Since then, the paychecks have been just fine, thanks, and I don’t see any reason not to pay at the rate appropriate to my earnings, given that I’m writing the check to the same government that provided the economic environment that allowed for such...

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My Books Treme

DeAndre McCullough (1977-2012)

To remember him as we met him, twenty years ago, is to know everything that was lost, everything that never happened to a boy who could surprise you with his charm and wit and heart. At fifteen, he was selling drugs on the corners of Fayette Street, but that doesn’t begin to explain who he was.  For the boys of Franklin Square — too many of them at any rate — slinging was little more than an adolescent adventure, an inevitable rite of passage.  And whatever sinister vision you might conjure of a street corner drug trafficker, try to remember that a fifteen-year-old slinger is, well, fifteen years old. He was funny.  He could step back from himself and mock his own stances — “hard work,” he would say when I would catch him on a drug corner, “hard work being a black man in America.”  And then he would catch my eye and laugh knowingly at his presumption.  His imitations of white-authority voices — social workers, police officers...

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Places Posts by Subject

Random notes from a summer vacation

So I am standing today with my son outside the cathedral in Pisa, Italy staring at the famous tower and watching it do what it does best in the world.  And my son, who understands hard-science, practical stuff better than I ever will, takes in the spectacle and says, more or less, “Woah, that is truly a mess.  Amazing.” And he smiles, glad to have seen such an oddity. Me?  I’m supposed to be the pessimist.  I’m the guy who is reputedly drawn to a constant parsing of human failure.   The Leaning Tower should be pretty much in my philsophical wheelhouse, right? Instead, I’m standing there thinking of the taller belltower in Firenze, or the Great Fire Monument in London, or the Shot Tower in Baltimore, or the Space Needle in Seattle, or the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings in New York.  I’m thinking to myself, “It’s a Homeric fucking triumph that every other one doesn’t just tilt on over.  It’s a victory for all of humanity...

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Published Elsewhere Treme

Pickles and Cream

The following is reprinted with permission from Lucky Peach #4, published by McSweeney’s.  It is on sale now.  And, yes, payment for this essay will require co-publisher David Chang slaving over a hot stove.   *      *      * I want to embrace the best of the kitchen. But if DNA is destiny, and genetics holds any sway at all over the human palate, then I have much—probably too much—to overcome. The Simons come from peasant stock, and by that I don’t mean the countryside of Alsace or Tuscany or any other place where cuisine makes the days true and beautiful, where gardens and orchards and farms and village butchers conspire for a cuisine both purposeful and ingeniously simple. We are not the progeny of any agrarian ideal worthy of Impressionist paintings. No, my father’s people were kicked-to-the-ground-by-Cossacks peasants, wandering Pale of Settlement Yids who lived with one or two bags always packed and spent the early moments of the last century running ahead of whatever...

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On Police/Crime On the Drug War The Wire

Mr. Bealefeld’s Come-To-Jesus Moment

Embedded in a recently published interview of former Baltimore commissioner Fred Bealefeld is an extraordinary utterance — something that would and should be a lot more heralded if America were paying sufficient attention to the growing costs and failings of its drug prohibition: “Professionally,” declares Mr. Bealefeld in a brief interview with the Baltimore Sun Magazine,  “I think our war on drugs has failed…We invested a lot of this country’s blood and resources and didn’t achieve the results. Developing real educational and job opportunities for somebody would have been much more meaningful in neighborhoods than some of the work we built into putting people in jail. That’s why I think it was so misguided. We wound up alienating a lot of folks in building this gigantic jail system in our country.” The former commissioner also credited a strategic de-emphasis of the drug war with enabling his department to focus on violent crime:  “I always...

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On the Drug War

A Fight To The Last Mexican

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it the superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.” So wrote Thomas Paine against monarchy, the morally bankrupt ethos of his day.  But then, it was a less fearful time, and the political leaders of Paine’s moment were scarcely risk-adverse.  Indeed, they were willing to address the moral questions before them to the point of treason. Not so today, when we can hold a national political contest and neither candidate — nor their respective parties — can find the courage to speak a word about the policy disaster and dishonorable fraud that is the American drug war. So here, for the hell of it – and because it can never happen in American political discourse – let’s take a solitary moment to be honest with ourselves about why we remain addicted to drug prohibition. Addicted is the precise word, too...

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Policy & Law Posts by Subject

Dirt Under The Rug

This is the dry story of a statistic. By which, I mean to say, it is a story that today’s newspaper is no longer equipped to cover very well. And it is certainly not a story that could be easily gleaned by anyone who hasn’t at some point been a full-time beat reporter, a veteran who has covered an institution like, say, the Baltimore Police Department or the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office for year after year, learning to look behind the curtains, knowing enough not to accept a stat at face value. You’re reading it here because I once covered crime in Baltimore for a decade and a half, and because I still live in Baltimore and still spend time now and then with detectives and lawyers in that ville. And after years of shared experience, some still talk freely enough in my company. I have no doubt that a few simplistic souls will note that this is appearing on a blog, and that I am therefore, technically, a blogger. And if the story itself finds any...

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Politics Posts by Subject

Kwame Brown: Another federal case, another Head Shot.

I was driving my daughter to her grandmother’s house today, and I heard a panel on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show waxing righteous about the rather meager charges against D.C. councilmember Kwame Brown.  Now, I am not focused on Kwame Brown.  He may indeed be a corrupt politician.  He may be Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Brown Goes To Washington” for all I know. This isn’t about him. The only federal charge that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington could bring against Mr. Brown was for bank fraud.  He falsified statements to a federally-insured bank while seeking a loan, claiming more income than he had received.  A misdemeanor charge for violating campaign financing rules was also filed in local court, and Mr. Brown will apparently plead guilty.  But the larger charge has nothing to do with his public function or with public business. Now lying to a bank on a loan application or providing false information in a loan application is wrong of course.  It is also...

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Journalism On Newspapering and Journalism

Columbia Journalism Review: Free For All

For the last few days, I’ve been heartily engaged in the comments section of a couple CJR items that originated from the New Orleans Times–Picayune‘s travails.  I advocate for the industry-wide adoption of online pay walls to sustain high-end journalism. Others regard this as a disastrous suggestion. As the comments began to pile up, I saw some insight and a lot of argumentative fallacy.  People do love to call names. But I kept at it, hoping to draw others into the fray.  Maybe even get CJR to use their publication to revisit at this moment the idea of news as a product and whether that product can — in any environment, and under any conditions, not merely today’s dystopic newspaper dynamic — command a price commensurate with its cost, or much of its cost  (residual advertising revenue still being present  both on- and offline).  The New York Times just reported that Wall Street analysts are saying subscription revenue from the paywall adopted by...

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The Wire

Wire! The musical…

The Wire: The Musical with Michael Kenneth Williams from Michael Kenneth Williams I woke up this morning to an email from Michael K. Williams, with this video linked  Hilarious.  Just great. Felicia’s turn alone is worth the time.  Ya hair look good, Snoop. Someone hand me a burner and Sondheim’s number. Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInRedditEmailPrint

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Commencement Addresses

Graduation Remarks, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School

They don’t usually vote on the graduating senior least likely to be invited back as the commencement speaker, or for any other reason. But if they had, I was certainly a favorite for the class of 1978.  Nonetheless, the powers-that-be at my old school inquired, and because one of my great childhood friends, Gary Zinkgraf, was going to be there to celebrate his daughter Molly’s graduation, I took the gig : First off, I imagine some of you out there – if you’re familiar with my writing, my rhetoric or my general demeanor – are wondering, can he do a high school graduation? I mean, on an occasion such as this, a certain decorum is required, right? Well, truth is I am under contract at HBO, and the network requires me to use at least one profanity every ten minutes in every possible venue. So those of you expecting pristine commencement remarks, well, you’re shit out of luck. But I’ll try to hold it down as best I can. On the other hand, anyone out there worried that I’ll take into...

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Treme

End of Treme 3 filming

Back home in Baltimore after a long, involved shoot. How long, you ask?  How involved? Well, if you must know, the following figures were compiled by fellow producer Joe Incaprera.  They were delivered to the crew after the last shot of season three, outside a warehouse in Algiers amid champagne and cake. Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInRedditEmailPrint

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Commencement Addresses

Commencement Address, Georgetown University

The greatest commencement address ever is now more than three decades old. And it’s safe to say it will never be surpassed or even equaled. It belongs to the ages. In 1979, its author summed up the condition of modern man by noting that, quote, more than at any other time in history, humanity is at the crossroads: one path leads to despair and utter hopelessness; the other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly. Unquote. Bang. That’s all she wrote. With that one paragraph, Woody Allen, filmmaker and philosopher-king, made Graduation Day his bitch for all time. No point in any of us trying to bring anything new to this game; Woody has killed it dead. That he never actually gave the remark at any commencement is beside the point. True, it appeared only as a column in the New York Times, but so what? Linked as it is to no actual college or university, Allen’s address is now the preserve of graduates everywhere. It was mine when I slipped the surly bonds...

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Memoriam Music

The Great Chuck Brown Has Passed

Just heard the news that the father of D.C. go-go has died.  He was 75. Having heard Big G, The Backyard Band and the Soul Searcher horn section bring their funk to New Orleans last Friday, the news lands strangely.  The guys on the stage of Tipitina’s last week are very much the proud children of Mr. Brown and his Soul Searchers. This man, who invented a musical genre and grooved so hard and for so long, is not yet in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.   The Dave Clark Five, however, are comfortably settled in the shrine. Argument enough to burn that motherfucker down to the Lake Erie waterline. Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInRedditEmailPrint

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On Newspapering and Journalism Published Elsewhere

Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite

My alma mater, the Baltimore Sun—though something of a fraile grey lady in this internet age—is nonetheless celebrating her 175th birthday this year. Sun alumni and other Baltimoreans were invited to contribute essays to a special edition to be published this weekend. My offering is an homage of sorts to one of the metro desk veterans who raised me from a pup. www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/sun-magazine/bs-sm-david-simon-20120513,0,5336130.story Thanks, Dave.  And no, I will never forget the First Rule of Rewrite:  “Shoot It Down.”  Or as you once sagely argued: “There are always salmonella outbreaks.  I don’t see why we have to write about this one.” Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInRedditEmailPrint

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Baseball

Mariano Rivera

The video of Yankee closer Mariano Rivera being carted off the field after tearing his ACL and, perhaps, ending his magnificent career, stays fixed in the mind, perhaps because of the open, earnest smile that Rivera flashes to his teammates as he rides the cart back to the training room. The look on his face is so benign, so genuine that in a single image, it seems to summon everything about the man. Okay, I’m an Oriole fan.  And before I moved to Baltimore, I grew up in D.C. with the Washington Senators.  The Yankees — damn them — are my lifelong bete noir.  And I have seen Mariano Rivera go lights out on the home team in so many one- and two-run games that I should rightly be unable to summon anything more than a basic, casual amount of empathy at the idea that at forty-two years of age, with Cooperstown dusting a spot for him, he might not to be able to do it anymore. Except that warm, sheepish smile — as if he’s embarrassed this happened while shagging outfield...

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Music

Notes from Jazz Fest in New Orleans, 2012

Told myself I wasn’t going to battle the crowds to see Springsteen close out the first weekend.  No disrespect to Springsteen, but I usually hover around the smaller stages at the fest, hoping to see music in a more intimate setting. But it happened by degrees.  First, my son lured us closer to the Acura stage with lurid talk of strawberry shortcake from the vendors nearby. Then, following that shameful little spectacle, we noticed that Al Green wasn’t on the Congo Square stage for another forty minutes. “Let’s check Springsteen out for half an hour, and then catch Al Green.” So we waded into the sea and found ourselves somewhere in the great, white mass of Bruce fans, feeling as if Al Green was receding in possibility with every step. Wondering where we might stand without offending anyone behind us,  we were suddenly clasped on the back.  I turned, expecting to be challenged by a couple trespassed-upon mouth-breathers from, say, East Rahway, New Jersey...

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Parenthood

No man is a hero to his 17-year-old son

So I am vegetating on the sofa with my kid and a Domino’s Pizza ad comes on the tube.  The Domino guys offer up their analysis of the national crisis in cheese-bread quality: “Undercheesing is rampant,” they declare. My son repeats the phrase, mulls it for a second, then: “That should be the name of your blog.” What? “Undercheesing is rampant.”       Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInRedditEmailPrint

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The Wire Treme

HBO’s TREME vs. THE WIRE Battle of the Bands at Tipitina’s

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—In a coals-to-Newcastle spirit of brave provocation, an East Coast musical contingent associated with the HBO drama The Wire is coming to town – and challenging two of New Orleans’ sturdiest and funkiest ensembles to a Wire-versus-Treme battle of the bands. A charity fundraiser for two key charities in the New Orleans music community, the May 11th event at Tipitina’s Uptown pits Galactic and the Stooges Brass Band against Baltimore’s funk-jazz pioneer Lafayette Gilchrist and Washington D.C. go-go icon Anwan Glover & The Backyard Band. “Who brings music to New Orleans?” said David Simon, producer of both HBO dramas.  “Who comes here and throws down against badass outfits like Galactic or the Stooges?” Originally from Baltimore-D.C. but familiar with the New Orleans music community, Simon insists that the evening could prove epic.  “I tried to warn them about New Orleans, I tried to hold ‘em back.  But Lafayette and Big G won’t be told.  They’re coming. ...

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By Way Of Introduction

Introduction

I’ve had a leasehold on davidsimon.com for years now.  People smarter than I am told me that even if I had no sense of its use at present, I should throw a few shekels down in case.  But until recently, I saw no reason to do much of anything with the site. My ambivalence rests on a couple basic ideas: I’m a writer, and while I’m overpaid to write television at present, the truth is that the prose world from which I crawled — newsprint and books — is beset by a new economic model in which the value of content is being reduced in direct proportion to the availability of free stuff on the web. In short, for newspapers and book publishers, it has lately been an e-race to the bottom, and I have no desire to contribute to that new economy by writing for free in any format.  Not that what is posted here has much prolonged value — or in the case of previously published prose, hasn’t soured some beyond its expiration — but the principle, in which...

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Places

Oh, Baltimore…

Returning to Baltimore this weekend, and the wife went down to the Royal Farms Store on Key Highway early on Saturday morning.  Two mallards were hanging by the store entrance, all twitchy and hopping, trying to blend with the pigeons. They looked really nervous, like white kids trying to cop off a westside corner. Nice to be home. Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInRedditEmailPrint

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Music People Treme

Levon Helm

I can’t even begin to get good words around how much this man’s voice and musicality meant to me,  and how much his work colored my sense of American music.   From West Helena, Arkansas to the world. We’re now filming the last episode of the third season of Treme.  In the original beat sheet for that episode, there is a story arc in which one of our characters performs with Helm and his band in Woodstock, at one of his legendary Midnight Rambles.  Helm himself had conversations with one of our producers about the possibility.  And having had the chance to attend one such Ramble in his barn there, I wanted it to happen badly.  Those homemade concerts were pretty damn magical, and I relished the thought of using the drama to cast a little more light on Helm and what he meant to roots rock’n’roll. A couple months ago, we got word that Helm had again stopped singing, and, too, we had exhausted a good chunk of our travel budget for the production.  We...

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Journalism

The Awards Culture Revisited

It seems that a stray reporter did something unthinkable within the established and calcified hierarchy of the New York Times.  He up and put his own work in for a Pulitzer Prize and then, as an additional affront, he managed to win the award for international reporting. When the Pulitzers were announced earlier this week, Jeffrey Gettlemen had won for the Times with his reporting on famine and conflict in East Africa, a corner of the globe routinely ignored as a matter of course.  A petulant Times foreign editor, Joseph Kahn, was quoted in the paper’s own coverage as noting that “while some reporters might have felt his editors knew best” about the nomination, Jeffrey put himself forward for the Pulitzers — and for that, Jeffrey, bless your heart.” What arrogance.  What narcissism.  What ego. Not Mr. Gettlemen, mind you.  But rather Mr. Kahn in as much as his words represent the prize-culture temperament at America’s last great newspaper. All in...

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Drug War The Wire

I meant this, not that. But yeah, I meant it.

An unarmed black teenager was shot to death in Florida recently. You probably read about it or caught the controversy on the tube.  A lot of people are saying that the kid deserved it, that he attacked the fellow with the gun, that he was a thug, that he’d been suspended from school, that he wasn’t so innocent as people think.   Others are saying the gunman is racist, that he’s a self-appointed vigilante, that he had no business trailing the kid, that he’s kind of a nutcase. And day after day, as the case winds toward a trial date, this beast that we have for a modern media culture will parse it  with a few more shards of information and rumor, true and false. Trayvon might have shoplifted the Skittles.  Zimmerman had no visible injuries.  Zimmerman had injuries but they didn’t show on camera. Trayvon smoked pot. It’s what we do. It’s all that we do, really. If we can manufacture a good guy, we can exalt him. If we can manufacture a bad guy, we can degrade him.  If we...

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On Police/Crime Published Elsewhere

Welcome to Florida. Beware of gunmen standing their ground

The Miami Herald, March 25, 2012 Reprinted with permission. Almost a quarter-century ago — in the halcyon days when human life was seen as more precious than property and people were regarded as something more than impoverished and non-influential corporations — I happened to be present at the tragic and needless shooting death of a black teenager.It was 1988 in Baltimore, Maryland and I was a journalist embedded in the city’s homicide unit, a bystander to a particular tragedy involving an elderly white homeowner and a black kid shot in the head while trying to steal a dirt bike. As the kid crept from the homeowner’s rear yard with the bike, the old man stood in his rear window, raised a rifle, and shot the juvenile dead. He readily acknowledged that he had done so, noting that he had been a victim of prior thefts and that given his age, he saw no other way to stop the crime.After all, it was his son’s bike. And it was his home. And in shooting the teenager to death, he was protecting...

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On Newspapering and Journalism Published Elsewhere

“Homicide” cop battling life on the streets once again

Former Sun writer tells how a character in his book faces another reckoning with the bullets he survived 25 years ago From The Baltimore Sun, March 11, 2012 Reprinted with permission. Photo by Gene Sweeney for the Baltimore Sun. Seven-baker-twenty-four unit turns at Mosher and rumbles past that stretch of Appleton Street where Gene Cassidy took two in the head for the company, the first one stealing his eyesight, the second lodging in his brain beyond the skill of a surgeon’s knife. Cassidy was 27 then, not even four years on the job, strong and lucky and hard-headed Irish enough that he refused to do the obvious and inevitable thing. He did not die. At University Hospital that night, the other patrol officers and detectives were told it was certain, that their friend would not make it. But Cassidy breathes still, and Appleton and Mosher looks much as it did in October 1987, when Cassidy tumbled out of his radio car to jack up a man wanted on an assault warrant. The same...

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Admired/Reviewed

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, by James Agee and Walker Evans

This came in response for a request to write on a book that was an essential influence. Thank you, Bob Benjamin, for stuffing it into my hand way back in 1982. FROM GENTLEMEN’S QUARTERLY Reprinted with permission. A suburban boy’s father marks up his English essays, explaining both the wit and weaknesses of leading sentences with gerunds. He tells stories of fierce heroes, word warriors: Broun, who loved the street parade, and Pegler, who sat next to him all those years, despising the common man; Bigart, selfless and understated, or Mencken, who believed in only Mencken. But all of them so gifted, so deft, so able to trick a phrase. Here, says the father, read this transition. Here, look what he does with the second graf… The father takes the son to a Front Page revival at a D.C. theater. The boy is oversold. He will be a newspaperman, a journalist. Years later, he is on the metro desk at an old gray rag, Mencken’s old paper, the youngest and last-hired...

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On Television Published Elsewhere

A forced move, actually

It had been three years since The Wire stopped airing on HBO, and in Baltimore, a certain settled tolerance for the drama had become the norm.  So I was surprised when the current police commissioner asked a question about The Wire at a public forum, vented openly.  This was a sleeping dog; let it lie, brother.  Instead, the commissioner insisted that we had smeared the city and that the slander would “take decades to overcome.”  He said those of us who worked on the drama owed Baltimore an apology. The comments hit the internet, but at first weren’t picked up anywhere and seemed to slip below the waves.  Just as well, I thought, because I haven’t been in a rush to tell Baltimore officials what they need to think about Homicide, The Corner or The Wire.  They’re entitled to dislike the work if they do.  My battles with city officials were always contained within the argument that they could express any opinion they liked, so long as they didn’t try...

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Admired/Reviewed

Introduction: Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb

I was honored to be asked to write an introduction to the Penguin Classic edition of a reissued “Paths of Glory,” one of the great literary legacies of the First World War and a novel that remains essential reading, I believe, in this new century.  I also had the chance to meet and shake the hand of Mr. Cobb’s lovely grand-daughter.  What follows is reprinted with the permission of Penguin’s editors. —DS [hr] Humphrey Cobb gave us our last, failed century in a single, basic narrative. He told us of men devoured by the very institutions they served, without recourse, and for purposes petty, mechanical, and abstract. Indeed, given how little mankind truly learned from the charnel house that was the twentieth century, Cobb may have given us a blueprint for human suffering that will carry us through the next hundred years as well. To say that Paths of Glory is a novel ahead of its time is problematic, however. Cobb’s careful representations of the state of...

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On Television Published Elsewhere

“Treme” primer: Curtain-raiser, New Orleans Times-Picayune

From The Times-Picayune Sunday, April 11, 2010 Reprinted with permission. In the first episode of “Treme,” to be broadcast tonight on HBO, a character will reach into her purse and produce an apple-flavored Hubig’s pie. She will do this in late November 2005. With the rest of her dessert menu no longer available, the character, a local chef, will then serve the local delicacy to a patron of her restaurant. We offer this bit of information freely, as Exhibit A in what will surely become a long list of cited inaccuracies, anachronisms and equivocations through which New Orleanians reassure themselves that not only is our little drama a fiction, but that those who have perpetrated this fiction are indifferent to facts, chronologies, historical possibilities. True, the Hubig’s bakery in the Marigny did not reopen until February 2006, and true therefore, any such pastry found in a woman’s purse should by rights be a pre-Katrina artifact and therefore...

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Obits, Appreciations

Obituary: David Eugene Mills

From the Times-Picayune, Reprinted with permission. David Simon, co-creator of HBO’s “Treme,” first worked with David Mills, a “Treme” writer and co-executive producer who died Tuesday (March 30) at age 48, when they both wrote for the student newspaper at the University of Maryland.  With “Treme” aiming for an April 11 premiere on HBO and the production aiming to wrap its 10-episode first season in late April, Simon wrote his friend’s obituary Wednesday.  It was distributed, unsigned, by the network.  Here’s the complete text: David E. Mills, an Emmy-award winning television writer who worked on dramas as varied as “Homicide,” “NYPD Blue,” “E.R.” and “The Wire,” died suddenly Tuesday after collapsing on the New Orleans set of his new HBO drama, “Treme.” He was 48. A former journalist who worked for the Washington Post, the Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal, Mills was on the set of the post-Katrina drama as it filmed a scene at Café du Monde in the French Quarter when...

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On Newspapering and Journalism Published Elsewhere

Build the Wall

Note the date that this ran in CJR – and even that was late for the industry to come to a reckoning.  The New York Times has now embraced a pay model as its future and is beginning to see a profit from its subscription base.  True, the NYT is a unique entity, in terms of content, but that’s why it needed to jump first.  The next step is for other papers with a national presence  – The Washington Post, the L.A. Times – to follow suit.  What they are waiting for, I have no clue.  If you can’t charge for your product, you have no product – a freshman marketing major can tell you as much.  And again, content and copyright have value.  They matter. –DS/em> [hr] The Columbia Journalism Review, July 2009 Reprinted with permission. Most readers won’t pay for news, but if we move quickly, maybe enough of them will. One man’s bold blueprint. To all of the bystanders reading this, pardon us. The true audience for this essay narrows necessarily to a pair of notables who have it in...

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On Newspapering and Journalism

Testimony, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, Hearing on The Future of Newspapers

David Simon, former Baltimore Sun reporter and creator of the HBO series The Wire, testified before the Senate Commerce Committee during a hearing on the future of journalism. These are his prepared comments. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet Hearing on the Future of Journalism, May 6, 2009 [hr] Thank you all for the invitation and opportunity to speak on this issue today, but I start by confessing reluctance. My name is David Simon and I used to be a newspaperman in Baltimore. Head and heart, I was a newspaperman from the day I signed up at my high school paper until the day, eighteen years later, when I took a buyout from the Baltimore Sun and left for the fleshpots of Hollywood. To those colleagues who remain at newspapers, I am therefore an apostate, and my direct connection to newspapering –having ended in 1995 – means that as a witness today, my experiences are attenuated. Ideally, rather than...

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On Newspapering and Journalism Published Elsewhere

In Baltimore, No One Left to Press the Police

By David Simon Sunday, March 1, 2009  Reprinted with Permission, The Washington Post BALTIMORE In the halcyon days when American newspapers were feared rather than pitied, I had the pleasure of reporting on crime in the prodigiously criminal environs of Baltimore. The city was a wonderland of chaos, dirt and miscalculation, and loyal adversaries were many. Among them, I could count police commanders who felt it was their duty to demonstrate that crime never occurred in their precincts, desk sergeants who believed that they had a right to arrest and detain citizens without reporting it and, of course, homicide detectives and patrolmen who, when it suited them, argued convincingly that to provide the basic details of any incident might lead to the escape of some heinous felon. Everyone had very good reasons for why nearly every fact about a crime should go unreported. In response to such flummery, I had in my wallet, next to my Baltimore Sun press pass, a business card for Chief Judge...

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On Police/Crime

A Municipal Moment Worthy of Orwell

Reprinted from the Baltimore City Paper February 25, 2009 (Image by MEL GUAPO) Police work, it is said, is only easy in a police state. So welcome to the city of Baltimore, where a police officer who uses lethal force and takes human life is no longer required to stand behind his or her actions and suffer the scrutiny of the public he or she serves, where the identity of those officers who use lethal force will no longer be known, where our communities are now asked to trust in the judgment of those who clearly don’t trust us. A 61-year-old Baltimorean is dead, shot by a Southeastern District Officer Feb. 17. His death may well be a reasonable, if tragic outcome. It may even be good police work, though any veteran city prosecutor will acknowledge that having a shooting ruled “justified” by the state’s attorney’s office should in no way be mistaken for such an assessment. But if we let stand Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld’s new policy of...

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On Newspapering and Journalism

A Lonesome Death

William Zantzinger’s business card says he is an equal opportunity realtor. DS [hr] From The New Yorker, January 26, 2009 Reprinted with permission.  In February of 1963, twenty-four-year-old William Zantzinger, armed with a toy carnival cane and wrecked on whiskey, made a spectacle of himself at the Spinsters’ Ball at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore. He was a drunken country mouse in the big city, at a time when the notion of racial equality had barely shown itself in the neighborhood of his father’s tobacco farm. When the hotel’s black waitstaff was slow to serve Zantzinger another drink, he yelled racial epithets at Hattie Carroll, a barmaid and a fifty-one-year-old mother of eleven, and he rapped her on the shoulder with his cane. She became upset, then collapsed and died of a stroke. Bob Dylan read about the case in the newspaper. He wrote the magnificent “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” with the paper splayed on the table of a Seventh Avenue luncheonette. Zantzinger was...

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On Police/Crime Published Elsewhere

Two Americas: A primer for Europeans

On the heels of The Wire becoming a hot ticket on British television, The Guardian asked me for a curtain-raiser on season five — the media season — with a Baltimore dateline in their Sunday edition.  By this point, it had become clear that The Wire was something of a phenomenon over there; American dystopia plays better the farther one travels from America, apparently.  And too, it had become clear that many viewers in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe were content to believe that The Wire was representative of the urban U.S. in its entirety.  Moreover, some of them were expressing a good bit of schadenfreude in this. So in The Guardian, I tried to walk the line between affirming what I thought was truthful in The Wire and making clear the geographic limitations of the drama.  Not sure it worked at all, or that anyone took the point.  But in my mind, at least, it boiled down to an interior stance: We can say this shit about ourselves.  And at times, we will.  But fuck you...

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My Books

Green sheet: Terry McLarney rates the intern

Behold the wit and wisdom of Det. Terrence Patrick McLarney, philosopher-king and comic provocateur of the Baltimore Police Department: Green sheets are the semi-annual performance evaluation forms undertaken for all officers by their direct supervisors. Halfway through 1988, the year I spent as a police “intern” following one homicide shift, I walked into roll call to find a completed green sheet in my mail box.  My listed duties:  “In-house armchair quarterback.  Kibbitzer.” It scans poorly so allow me to quote some of the best parts: “…Intern Simon generally shows up to work though his schedule remains something of a mystery.  He is an avid reader and since he has no actual function or responsibility he has become quite adept at telling the rest of us what is going on around here.” “Intern Simon never acts as O.I.C. as there are others more qualified.  He has been observed in the company of females on several occasions.  However, the...

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On Television

Justifiable

Published in Sports Illustrated Reprinted with permission. In their series’ five years on NBC, the producers of Homicide: Life on the Street have used police tape to cordon off  fictitious murder scenes on streets and back alleys all over Baltimore.  But the show had never tried to stage a crime at the city’s best- known setting: Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The idea that Peter Angelos, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, and the Maryland Stadium Authority would permit Homicide to portray some grisly murder there, made-for-TV or not, seemed hopelessly far-fetched. But in what producers David Simon and Jim Yoshimura describe as a moment of  “pure, unencumbered genius,” they jiggered the plot so that the ballpark brass not only embraced the idea but also happily allowed Orioles pitchers Armando Benitez and Scott Erickson to make cameo appearances. In this season’s second episode, which is to air on Friday, the victim and the killer are both obnoxious men with thick Long Island accents...

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On Newspapering and Journalism On Television

The Wire’s Final Season and the Story Everyone Missed

From the Huffington Post, March 17, 2008 Reprinted with Permission Well now, it’s been a week since The Wire‘s final episode and a certain calm has descended, leaving a little less agita and a little more reflection. A moment for one last question: That wasn’t too vicious, was it? Sure there was a fabulist and, yeah, he snatched the big prize. Couldn’t resist, sorry. That was a bit beyond the historical reality; at the historical Baltimore Sun, he was a mere Pulitzer finalist. And okay, the city editor, the honorable fellow, the one for whom journalism was an ethos, he got slapped down and thrown to the copy desk. We did that, too, because hey, to criticize such a newsroom culture did indeed carry those risks in Baltimore. Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInRedditEmailPrint

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On the Drug War Published Elsewhere

From Time Magazine: End The Drug War

by Ed Burns, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, David Simon and William F. Zorzi Jr. From Time Magazine, March 17, 2008 Reprinted with permission. We write a television show. Measured against more thoughtful and meaningful occupations, this is not the best seat from which to argue public policy or social justice. Still, those viewers who followed The Wire – our HBO drama that tried to portray all sides of inner-city collapse, including the drug war, with as much detail and as little judgment as we could muster – tell us they’ve invested in the fates of our characters. They worry or grieve for Bubbles, Bodie or Wallace, certain that these characters are fictional yet knowing they are rooted in the reality of the other America, the one rarely acknowledged by anything so overt as a TV drama. These viewers, admittedly a small shard of the TV universe, deluge us with one question: What can we do? If there are two Americas – separate and unequal – and if the drug war has helped...

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