Scripting News for 11/22/2006

Werner Vogels on the Dutch election. Blogs are playing a big role in Netherlands politics. (Vogels is Amazon’s CTO.) 

Fresh Air interviewed Ed Burns of The Wire today. They play a clip with one of the most terrifying Season 4 characters, a kid who kills people with a nail gun. The salesman in a hardware store explains the product to him, in the opening scene of the season, as it dawns on him that he’s selling a murder weapon to the kid.  

Kevin Murphy, via email, says the nasty murdering kid is actually played by a girl!  

New toys arrived today from Amazon. 1. Bluetooth mouse. 2. Logitech surround-sound speakers. The new music, below, sounds really cool on the new hardware, and one less wire on the desktop is nice too. 🙂 

I pre-ordered Love, the re-mix of Beatles stuff, by George Martin. I couldn’t stand the wait, so I downloaded it through BitTorrent, as I imagine many people are doing. Listening now. Some of it is very weird, but it’s also generally really good. You could almost imagine that they might have mixed the music this way the first time around. Of course it’s controversial. 🙂 

It’s got a heart-breaking rendition of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, one of George Harrison’s anthems. Anyone who says this album is bad has no fucking heart. 

And I hired a wiring company to install Ethernet between the den downstairs and the office upstairs. They did a professional job, at each end is a wall plate that I plug the cable into. I bought another Netgear router for the office upstairs, so now we’re styling. Now I gotta hire a Berkeley-based programmer (I have someone in mind), and we’re off and running.  

Kevin Tofel: “I’ve already got podcasts on the Zune and it was a simple matter to be honest.” 

Dylan: “Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters.” 

Scoble explains the diff betw TechCrunch and Valleywag. 

The Wire peaked sometime in Season 3 

I’m now just beginning the fourth season of The Wire, the one that’s currently being shown on HBO. Somewhere in the third season something changed, and the plot no longer surprised. The great thing about the first two seasons is that you had to watch every scene carefully and tune into every single word, because the damn thing moved so quickly, and the plots were so tricky, and rich, the betrayal so delicious, by everyone from the police to the drug kingpins and the stevedores and the Greeks and Russians, everyone is so damned evil on this show, and death comes so quickly, one second in the middle of a conversation the character is apparently just passing the time and boom, he’s dead, and that’s it, never to be seen again. And sometimes you can see it coming, episodes in advance.

There are no flashbacks, time marches forward relentlessly, they never go back and explain what happened, if you missed it, you missed it. That is until season 3 when it loses its edge. You can wash the dishes, flip through a B&H catalog, eat some soup, all without missing a thing. There were times when I wanted to turn the damn thing off, or just skip to the end of an episode, I was so disappointed. This doesn’t seem to appear in the reviews of the show, or did it? Maybe it’s just me, and I figured it out, and it no longer has the power to suprise?

Now that’s not to say that there aren’t delicious moments in season 3, there are. But the first two seasons are the best TV I’ve ever seen.

Mike Arrington is wrong on this one 

And so is Jason Calacanis.

First, read this bit by Mike, who takes Nick Denton apart for daring to challenge some assumptions that Jason Calacanis has left out there, just aching to be challenged.

Now Mike is wrong in so many ways, I don’t think I’ll be able to list them all, but I’ll try.

First, there’s nothing wrong with what Nick did. Jason is a public figure and made a lot of public statements about, most of which weren’t examined more than superficially, and as long as Nick discloses that they are competitors, in case anyone is confused about where he’s coming from, he can say whatever he wants. I thought the question he raised deserved a straight answer from Jason, without the obfuscation that came from both Mike and Jason.

Did the experiment at work? My guess is that it didn’t. Why? First, for the obvious reason, people don’t quit so quickly when their latest venture was a success. If it worked (and note that Jason doesn’t say that it did) why quit so soon? Because there’s new management at AOL? With all due respect to Jason, that doesn’t make much sense to me.

Denton asked the only question worth asking, and backed up the answer with numbers. If Jason has other numbers, let’s see them. I want to learn what worked and what didn’t because I’m always thinking up new things to do with the Internet, and it helps to know what other people’s experiences were. The new Valleywag (which Mike disses, and I don’t think he’s right about that either) is providing that new service, where the old one just focused on who’s zooming who, as if Silicon Valley was some kind of Hollywood. I lived in Silicon Valley for 20+ years, and trust me, there’s not much to report on there.

And Mike, isn’t it good that Nick is focusing on business instead of the salacious stuff? Wouldn’t it be nice to go to the bathroom at a conference and not worry about whether your sanitary habits might appear in Valleywag (true or not). Maybe Mike is protesting because the new Valleywag is getting a little close to TechCrunch? Nahh, couldn’t be. 🙂

Note that Nick has more or less said he’s aiming Valleywag at TechCrunch. So when Mike gives Nick grief for challenging a competitor well, Mike ought to be careful about that, because he appears to be doing the same thing.

And finally, I’m glad someone is digging in on these things. The more this happens, the more likely that bullshit is exposed, quickly — the more careful people will be with slinging bullshit. And believe me, Silicon Valley has no shortage of that!

Postscript: I think the world of Mike and Jason. They’re both great guys. Alan Kay once said the Macintosh was the first computer worth criticizing. Jean-Louis Gassee said that as the monkey climbs the tree, the more people can see his derriere. Mike is at the top of the tree these days, what he says matters. And I say competition is good, it keeps you on your toes, and no one loves you as much as your competitor. And I also say it’s good to take a break once in a while, to get your thoughts in order. I love talking with both of these guys, they’re smart, they’re curious, and they learn. Both of them would be more than welcome at the Bronx Science for Adults. And I don’t know Nick as well, but I suspect he would be too. 🙂

17 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by elle on November 22, 2006 at 9:34 am


    You’re right about Mike Arrington on this one. This doesn’t help the credibility of Arrington, Denton or Calacanis.

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on the fact that this was the top story on TechMeme this morning. As more and more bloggers comment on stories they see in TechMeme, the “news” that rises to the top increasingly tends to be these sort of gossipy discussions between polarizing bloggers.


  2. This must be a sign I’m supposed to put The Wire in my queue. I read your review, then get in the car and what’s the first thing I hear but Terri Gross interviewing Ed Burns on Fresh Air today. I often like the same entertainment you like, Dave, though I can’t make myself get into Deadwood. I think I’ll put that in my story.


  3. I have to admit that I thought Season 3 to be one of the slowest, but I think a combination of factors contributed to that. Burns and Simon made a conscious decision to turn their attention to the political side of the story they are telling. They also show the politics seeping into both sides of the story–the police and the drug-dealers. You get to see Marlo consolidate and rise to the top of the Baltimore drug trade, and you see how truly screwed the system is considering the political nature of the beast.

    As someone who lives in Baltimore–and one who was born here–there is an element of truth here. Moreso given Burns, Simon, and other advisers connections to the Baltimore PD. This season is tough, since you see promise in what Bunny Colvin does in Hamsterdam, only to see it dashed for political expediency.

    Season 4 tackles the problem at the root level, and from what I have heard Season 5 will look more at the socio-economic roots of the inner-city ills.

    Sure, it may not cast my hometown in a great light, but it is damn good story-telling.


  4. If it weren’t for my DVR, and it’s instant replay feature, I would never have made it through the first two seasons of The Wire. It’s the densest TV I’ve ever seen. It’s not only fast, but is filled with slang, cant, and impenetrible accents. There were some bits I had to play three or four times before I got it. Sometimes, I even had to turn on closed captions.

    I’ll bet the network considered this a two-edged sword. “Could you possibly make the show a little more accessible to viewers?” “Do you have to make your audience work so hard to keep up?”

    James Thurber once wrote an essay on radio soap operas that examined how they were deliberately written for listeners who weren’t paying close attention or who might miss episodes. The radio soap (and the TV versions that followed) were background chatter for people doing housework. Endless conversations in which characters explained the plot to each other. You could miss weeks at a time and catch up.

    The first two seasons of the Wire is the polar opposite. You can’t miss a nanosecond.


  5. sorry about the apostrophe. (Dave… can you provide a preview feature or an edit feature for comments?)


  6. Posted by Larry Bouchie on November 22, 2006 at 10:44 am

    Dave — wonder if you’re surfing too quickly. The “Nail Michel” blog post you link to is actually taken from Scoble’s post.


  7. I am confused — the post that you refer to as from “Nail(sic?) Michel” is a quote from Scoble isn’t it?

    Why didn’t you just read/point to Scoble?

    Or is this an oblique joke?


  8. If you just started season 4 – don’t give up on it. I, too, was disappointed in the way season 3 got kinda loose and that bled into season 4, but the last couple of episodes have been much better (once they got past the primaries and really started focusing in on the kids).

    To clarify another posters comment about season 5 (which will be the last season) – it is my understanding that S5 will be focusing in on the media’s role in the whole mess of politics, crime, poverty, and drugs.

    That said, even the worst episodes are better than anything else on television. The Wire is the perfect blend of social commentary, story telling, and outstanding acting. My only disappointment is that not enough people watch it. If they did, then maybe we could eliminate some of the absolute crap that is on TV and replace it with quality content (Wife Swap – I am talking to you).


  9. Posted by Alexis Sarthou on November 22, 2006 at 2:31 pm

    i couldn’t agree with you more about ‘the wire’…both about the first two seasons being the best television maybe of all time, and the somewhat let down in season three…

    however, so far, season four has risen to the standard set by the first two seasons, and might be the most heartbreaking of them all…the kids storyline is incredible…and i have a feeling that the end of this season will not be ‘hollywoodized’, nor happy, nor expected…

    “All in the game yo, all in the game.” – Omar


  10. This is going to sound painful, but now you have to watch the Wire again. On the second watching, the third season stands tall. The fourth season is still marinating.


  11. Here is a link to the NPR interview I mentioned


  12. I did the same with the LOVE album today, as it happens. I quite like it. But not all of what they have done to the originals that I grew up listening to, once I had worked out what the wooden thing in the corner with all the black circles did. 😉

    Oddly enough, I have been listening to alot of The Who recently too, after watching a great rockumentary on them on BBC4, which rekindled a desire to hear it all again.


  13. And fwiw, I’m diggin Lost and Prison Break from this side of the net too 😉


  14. Posted by Daniel Morris on November 22, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    Love The Wire too. Snoop doesn’t use the nail gun as a murder weapon. He uses it to nail shut abandoned houses where he and Chris leave each of their murder victims marinating in lime.


  15. Is there another jonathan boutelle besides me? Or is someone taking my name in vain? ;->


  16. Now that you have surround speakers I hope you ordered the 2 disc version of Love. You can pop in the DVD and listen to the Beatles in surround. It’s great for revealing things you may not have noticed before and in some cases much more emotionally involving.


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