Sunday, March 30, 2008

All of this for a 15 minute movie? Are you kidding me?

As has long been a policy of mine, If a reader ask me to review a film, the majority of the time, I will review the film. Well, last week, I was asked will I do a review of this 15 minute film. "FITNA" I said yes. Well I have watched the film and here is the review.

the movie

(At the time of writing this review, the above link was hosting the video)

Fitna Wikipedia Site

The film starts off with a disclaimer that there are some very graphic videos and photos that will be shown in this movie.

For 15 minutes you are shown act of terrorism, People speaking about hatred towards the USA, UK and some very anti-Semitic speech highlights. You are also shown words from the Koran that incite hatred towards all non Muslims. It shows some very graphic scenes of the brutality thrust upon women. The last part of the film talks about the Muslim population in the Netherlands and then links radical Islam To the Nazi's and the Communist.

(Please read the Wikipedia link for more information)

Well the film ask one very interesting question? Will the west surrender to radical Islam? (My vote is no!)

In the study of propaganda, I learned a fact a long time ago. If you scream a lie, loud enough and long enough, the lie will soon become a truth. This is why I am puzzled by the reaction to this movie.

The maker of this film went after the radicals, who are using terrorism to achieve their means. He listed worlds from the Koran that state to kill or burn your enemies. He also showed speeches given in Mosques that incite war and hatred.

Now readers, All followers of the Muslim faith are not terrorist and he clearly shows that in this film. He is showing how the holy words on the faith are being mangled and used to incite those to kill in the name of ones love of their God.

In my opinion, the films goal is to warn against the radicals of Islam. In that part the film is correct. If you believe in freedom, democracy and liberty, then the radicals speeches that the film maker has captured will show you that they are a very determined enemy that want you to conform to them.

At the end of the day the final decision about the film worth or worthiness will not be decided by me, it will be decided by those who believe in free speech. I saw no hatred of all just a select few who are extreme. If you believe that this is a criticism of all Muslims then, you are sadly mistaken.

After I watched the film i was reminded about the movie Jesus Camp when I saw the 3 year old Muslim girl say that Jews were pigs and that the Koran said so. I recall the extremist in this film also. One is being called a hate video while the later was nominated for an Academy Award for Documentary Feature.

What will the west do?

Release Date Online March 28th.
Bby's visit

Well for the 2nd year in a row, my friend Brian (McLovin)Sims flew over from Purdue University and spent his spring break with me.

Man did we have a week of fun.

It all started on the actual day of Bry's arrival, We were waiting for a friend of his ride to come to the airport, when all of a sudden, We saw this huge crowd of girls gather and then I heard names being shouted at. I thought, "Oh No, Not the Backstreet Boys" and guess what we saw a crowd of girls chasing after the Boys as they left the airport. I told Bry, well you wanted a crowd, i got you the Backstreet boys.

Once again, we took the KTX back to Daejeon and then We dropped of his bags and then we went to the Horse races at Brickhouse. He actually won a few races, i could not believe it.

tHen the next day we did a few things, Bry wanted to see a Korean Movie, SO I took him to see "The Chaser" I still can not believe that for, 2 years in a row, Bry has actually seen a good Korean film. We also went to the baseball game and saw the Kia Tigers play the Hanwha Eagles, in a spring training game. We had a great night out over Daejeon. This was just the first 24 hours.

For the next few days, we went to Songtang, Busan, (Where Bry wanted to try some Russian food) We took the KTX to Busan and BACK. We sure did like the fast train rides. I took him to Cool bar, J-ROCK, Santas,Brickhouse and a few others. I showed him where THE SIDEWALK FOOD WAS AND Bry ate a lot.

Then I took him to a few of my classes and the students seemed to like him. We also had a very nice St paddy's day green beer party. I got him a few vcd's for his collection home.

My friend had a great time and once again enjoyed his stay in Daejeon.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Dutch politician Geert Wilders' anti-Muslim short film "Fitna" is finally available on the Internet. Wilders' PVV political party put a link to the 15-minute-short on its Web site at 7 p.m. Thursday Dutch time. English- and Dutch-language versions of the film are offered at via a link to


Immediately after the news, the Dutch government went into a crisis meeting to discuss a reaction to the film. It is expected that Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende will give a response to Wilders' action later tonight.

"Fitna" contains images of the terror attack on the Twin Towers, the bombing of railway station Atocha in Madrid and the murder of director Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam. The film starts with a warning that it offers shocking images. The production, difficult to view because of many downloads, ends with a Danish cartoon of the prophet Muhammed hit apparently by a bomb. Wilders combines the images with various texts from the Koran, including quotes urging Muslims "to strike terror in the hearts of the enemies."

The Dutch politician said in an interview tonight on Dutch national television that his intention is to condemn the ideology of the Koran. "I do not hate the Muslim people," he stated. He also announced that his party will organize meetings in the future to start a dialogue with Muslims.

"Fitna" was originally to be presented at a March 28 press conference in the Hague, the Dutch center of politics. Due to extreme security costs, the event was canceled.

Last week, U.S. Internet provider Network Solutions refused to host the film online.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

the 2000 water dumping


My "The Host Movie REVIEW"

March 18th, 2008 at 10:33 am

GI Myths: The 2000 Yongsan Water Dumping Scandal

» by GI Korea in: USFK

A persistent GI myth that continues to be perpetuated around Korea is the dumping of formaldehyde down a drain on Yongsan Garrison in Seoul in February 2000 by a USFK mortician. Spectacular headlines were splashed across Korea’s media outlets especially on the internet about how the mortician had exposed the millions of people in Seoul to cancer causing chemicals. This incident reached such mythical proportions in Korea that the most popular monster movie in Korean history was based on it.

This incident all started when the so called environmental group Green Korea released reports over the internet about the dumping of formaldehyde on Yongsan and led protests against USFK. Green Korea, a group no one had heard of before, quickly became the darlings of the Korean media.

Here is a press release they released concerning the 2000 water dumping:

Nowadays the U.S army’s toxic fluid dumping to Han-river is main issue in Korea. On February 9th, in the US Eighth Army Mortuary Building, 480 bottles of formaldehyde, used for embalming were dumped in a drain without any detoxification. It has been confirmed that the US Army has been releasing Formaldehyde for long periods of time into the Han-River.

Mr. Albert L. McFarland after issuing an order to pour these fluids down the drain, was refused by his subordinate on the basis that the drain led to the Han River, and that the chemicals are known to cause cancer and birth defects. Mr. McFarland swore at the soldier, and ordered him to execute the order. Do you know why Mr. McFarland ordered like that? The only reason is that the boxes were covered with dust.

This case was reported to the Headquarters of the Eighth Division in a statement made by the soldier who executed the order. On July 10th, the Headquarters concluded that, ‘there was no problem if the chemicals were diluted with water’. Formaldehyde is a very toxic chemical. This is the label of the bottle. It was written like this Poison, Can not be made none poisonous.

This case serves as an exemplar for how the US and US military is deceiving, purposefully or not, Korea and its people. They asserted that the American bases in Korea caused no harm or damage to the environment, and that the US military is abiding by US EPA regulations, and that it is environmentally much safer than Korean bases or companies. However, the fact that the US military is disposing of toxic fluids such as formaldehyde in the Han River, where 10 million people use it for household use, is in itself an outrage and mockery to the Korean people. [Green Korea United]

These accusations by Green Korea were repeated over and over again in the Korean media with one editorial in the nation’s largest newspaper the Chosun Ilbo asking, "Would they dump toxic chemicals into the Potomac River?":

These toxic chemicals are widely known to cause cancer and birth defects. The Han river supplies drinking water for over 10 million citizens residing in metropolitan Seoul and its satellite cities. Are Koreans disposable people?

The news is ethically repulsive. Environmentally, the act is destruction-friendly. In psychiatric terms, it comes close to an act of quasi-murder [oh my!]. For, what matters here is the sick mind and attitude that made possible the dumping of the cancer-causing substance. Whether or not the quantity of the discarded was enough to cause cancer is not the issue here.

Notice how this article sounds almost exactly like the Green Korea press release. It makes you wonder if Green Korea wrote it for the Chosun Ilbo. Green Korea and their media and political allies demanded the imprisonment of the USFK mortician and even the resignation of the USFK commander. These sensational headlines also caused widespread public condemnation of USFK in Korea with no one in the media actually interested in finding out what really happened. Of course the truth of what really happened that day on Yongsan is of no concern to these people, establishing the mythology is.

Let’s look at what really happened that day. There was formaldehyde dumped down the drain on Yongsan Garrison in February 2000, that fact is not in dispute. However, a number of the myths surrounding this fact are in dispute. The first myth is the amount of chemicals dumped. Green Korea claims that 60 gallons of formaldehyde was dumped into the Han River when in fact only 20 gallons was dumped. The next myth are the claims that the people of Seoul were exposed to cancer causing chemicals. The formaldehyde was diluted first of all by running water, then was processed through the Seoul waste treatment system, and finally through the Nanjido central metropolitan treatment plant along with 1.9 million gallons of other sewage and waste that was processed through these facilities that day.

To further clarify this point let’s look at the man in the middle of this controversy Mr. Albert McFarland. To this day, this man is the subject of widespread condemnation in Korea with no one reporting his side of the story. The ROK Drop has come into possession of some documents from the investigation that clearly shows McFarland’s side of the story that further clarifies that the formaldehyde was no danger to the public. Note that none of the excerpts from the documents I am showing here are FOUO or classified:

McFarland was taking over and trying to clean up the facility he inherited when the prior supervisor had to return to America due to an illness in his family. Part of the clean up was to dispose of the old formaldehyde. McFarland decided to dispose of the old formaldehyde the same way he was trained to do it in the United States and has always done it, including his prior assignment in Panama. This was all done in accordance with prior established procedures. I guess that answers the question the Chosun Ilbo had if Americans would dump formaldehyde in the Potomac River. It makes you wonder why the Chosun Ilbo didn’t bother to investigate and find out how US morticians are trained before making such claims. Than again when you are into myth making what use are facts.

The rest of the excerpt of this document concerns another myth put out against McFarland that he recklessly put the people who worked under him in danger. As can be seen in the document an Industrial Hygiene Survey was done prior that rated the mortuary as being of "normal limits" which classifies its workers as not needing protective equipment. Here is another excerpt from a document that further shows how absurd this claim is:

Like I said absurd.

The next myth is that McFarland made racial slurs towards the Korean workers, once again there is always another side to the story:

Reading through the documents and witness statements it is clear that McFarland has a big mouth. The other Korean witness confirms that McFarland would often call Mr. Kim stupid and another soldier that worked at the mortuary said that McFarland used to call Kim stupid and that he acts like a child and would make off color comments to him. McFarland was definitely unprofessional in how he spoke to Mr. Kim, but none of the documents supported any claims of racial slurs used by McFarland.

It is clear that Mr. Kim had plenty of reason to dislike McFarland. Reading through to documents even more discloses that Mr. Kim had even more reason to dislike McFarland:

So McFarland is the new boss and he begins making the employees and soldiers actually do their jobs and not hang out in the commissary all day and is extremely critical of the work they are doing. It makes you wonder what the two Korean workers were doing at the commissary in the first place, but I’m sure people can draw their own conclusions on that. Also if we have learned anything from these documents, it is that you don’t want to die while stationed in USFK:

Yes, the hero of the Korean environmental movement is a guy that throws away people’s body parts because he too lazy to put them back in the person’s body.

Obviously Mr. Kim did not like McFarland and preferred the prior supervisor Mr. Pool because he let him hang out in the commissary all day. It doesn’t take any stretch of the imagination that Mr. Kim saw an opportunity to get back at McFarland when he had him dispose of the formaldehyde down the drain that day. After disposing of the fluid he contacted Green Korea and staged pictures in the mortuary and then Korean media sensationalized the story.

So why was Green Korea and the Korean media so interested in sensationalizing this incident? Well let’s go back to that prior Chosun Ilbo article to answer this one:

"Are they here to defend us? Thanks but from whom?" The answer to the question is in a sense becoming more and more ambiguous and ambivalent in the post inter-Korean summit detente.

Frankly, some Koreans are also scared of the idea of a defense by those who commanded to dump the toxic substance; who murdered many Korean hostesses, the poor souls, who had to sell sex to earn their subsistence; and, who care little about those Koreans suffering from constant bombing exercises like the one in Maehyang-ri. Why are they reluctant to fully disclose the facts about Nogun-ri massacres? Is the SOFA really a fair arrangement?

This incident happened in February 2000, but didn’t make massive headlines until July 2000. The first inter-Korean summit between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il happened in June 2000; the public in Korea was delirious with unification fever and perceptions of North Korea changed dramatically from one of animosity to one of a misunderstood uncle. Today we know that the summit and the follow on Nobel Peace Prize to Kim Dae-jung was bought with a $500 million dollar bribe to Kim Jong-il by Kim Dae-jung. We also know today that the bribe and follow on aid packages given to Kim Jong-il in the name of the Sunshine Policy went on to expand his military and advance his ballistic missile and nuclear programs to the point that North Korea now possesses a nuclear bomb.

The Sunshine Policy is now recognized as an utter failure, but back then the Korean people thought very differently and this led the anti-US movement in Korea to exploit this change in sentiment by trying to create a perception that the United States was the reason for the continued division of the country and not North Korea. They also used this incident to demand changes to the US-ROK Status of Forces Agreement which they claim is unfair, which is of course another GI myth. They used this incident to further their aims which to this day this incident continues to be demagogued in South Korea with continued hatred of Mr. McFarland and claims of US environmental crimes.

So what ended up happening to Mr. McFarland? Well he was investigated by the military and was the focus of vicious protests against him by Koreans that wanted him tried and jailed. Here is what the military investigator concluded:

Yes in the investigation he was found to have done nothing wrong and it was recommended no action be taken against him. The commanding officer disagreed and ended up suspending McFarland for 30 days without pay probably to appease the Korean public’s anger. Well as history has shown us now, offering sacrificial lambs to appease public anger in Korea does not work. The demagogues just whipped the masses into more of a fury and used the suspension of Mr. McFarland as evidence that USFK is committing great environmental crimes and don’t care about Koreans. They continued to protest and make demands that the USFK commander resign.

Then the South Korean Ministry of Justice got involved even though they have no jurisdiction over McFarland since the incident happened on duty and on a US military base which the US-ROK SOFA agreement states is a case that is in US jurisdiction. McFarland did not attend the trial but was fined $4000. USFK paid the $4000 fine, probably once again in the hopes of appeasing public anger. Of course this only encouraged the anti-US movement even more.

Unhappy with the results, the Seoul District court ordered a re-trial. Yes you heard that right, McFarland was convicted once and since the anti-US groups didn’t like the verdict another trial was ordered. That is how it works in Korea, it is "rule by law" instead of "rule of law". It is this manipulation of Korean law for clearly partisan political purposes, why a SOFA agreement with Korea exists in the first place.

The new trial sentenced McFarland to six months in jail, which was more jail time than a taxi driver that raped a newly arriving American Army private at Incheon airport ever saw because his original conviction was overturned because the US private did not show enough evidence of resisting the rape. Folks this is Korean justice for you.

What else is so hypocritical about the protests, anger, and down right demagoguery of this issue is that when Korean companies contaminate the Han River, Green Korea could care less:

It is shocking news that 29 timber companies were found to have released 271 tons of formalin over the past three years into streams feeding the Han River, the main source of drinking water for Seoul and Kyonggi Province.

Formalin is basically a watered-down version of the highly toxic formaldehyde.

The discovery vividly testifies to the futility of the government’s campaigns to preserve water resources and protect the environment. […]

The timber companies have used the chemical to prevent the decay of their products to preserve the original patterns and the quality of wood used to make furniture or flooring.

Although the companies had the financial capability to install facilities for treating the polluted water, they simply did not bother. [Korea Times]

Lumber companies dump 271 tons of chemicals directly into the Han River with no treatment at all and it is worthy of a brief mention in the Korea Times; a Yongsan mortician drains 20 gallons of formaldehyde mixed with water down a drain that is the established procedure for disposing of the fluid, which then gets processed through not one but two water treatment plants and months of protests occur, an entire nation is brainwashed to hate the mortician Mr. McFarland, he is tried twice and jail sentence give to him, and even a blockbuster monster movie is created to further exploit this myth. Truly incredible, and yet people wonder why there is SOFA Agreement in place?

In a bit of poetic justice, in October 2006 it was discovered that a number of anti-US groups including those in the Korean environmental movement like Green Korea were linked to the Il Shim Hoe North Korean spy scandal; not that the people invested in perpetuating this myth really care.

Further Reading:
The Mortician’s Tale - Asia Times
Great Dumping Scandal of 2000 - USinKorea

COMMENTS FROM THE ABOVE ARTICLE.........................................................................................

Kalani, I agree the treatment of the bodies is definitely disturbing and I can understand why McFarland was so pissed off about it. This may also provide additional motive on why Kim went to Green Korea and the media to have leverage to save his own skin for obvious incompetence of his official duties. If I was the parents of deceased soldiers processed through that mortuary I would be highly upset about what was going on there.

I looked around Green Korea’s webpage and they have been active with the Saemangeum affair since 1997 however they didn’t start making big headlines until 2000 along with their Kooni Range activities that also became big news in 2000. My opinion is the group is a anti-US front group which has to pick a few non-US environmental issues in order to keep the appearance of being an environmental group instead of the anti-US group that they really are. The fact that the Korean environmental movement was linked to the Ilshimhoe spy scandal only further validates this.

Pete, As far as I know McFarland is still working at the mortuary which I actually find to be a good thing because he obviously cares about the job he is doing and that mortuary is probably extremely squared away right now. As far as being employee of the year I do not know but judging by his efforts to fix the mortuary I wouldn’t be surprised.

He was sentenced to jail but the sentencing was all show because the Korean court system does not have the power to send him jail due to his SOFA status. So the whole conviction was a sham and was nothing more then legal theater for the anti-US groups to bash USFK with.

CPT Kim,

As far as Mr. Kim I do not know what his status is but judging by his documented incompetence in caring for the bodies processed through the morgue as well as his actions in allowing unauthorized pictures to be taken in the mortuary I wouldn’t be surprised if he was no longer working there.

Also just the fact that Mr. McFarland is still working there leads me to believe that Mr. Kim is probably gone because I can’t imagine those two still being able to work together, but like I said I do not know for sure and would appreciate anyone who knows to leave a comment.


You Know I wonder if, “The Host 2″ will be the revenge of Mr Kim?

I also wonder if “The Host 3″ will be about the canal and Korea awaking a Soju Godzilla.

Could make for some interesting films.

Mike McStay on March 19th, 2008


USFK made a big mistake allowing the fine to be paid and not stone walling the Korean courts. This was clearly a line of duty infraction, and if don’t repect the SOFA, who the hell will? It set a bad precident and gave credence to the likes of Green Korea.

Also, back in 2000, and for some time after that, the Green Korea site had nothing but USFK-related material on it. I checked the site frequently for a long period of time, and in my memory, the notes about the reclamation project and other affairs not related to USFK or the US Embassy were not put up until months or a couple of years after the dumping incident.

The way it seemed to me based on watching the site and reading up on this years several years ago, Green Korea did as frequently happens in Korean civic groups as it gained in recognition thanks to the press championing it against USFK in 2000 —- it began taking onboard other environmental groups that were already operating before Green Korea became a national figure or were organized afterward. Either way, it seemed clear to me they had affilitated themselves with Green Korea in the typical umbrella fashion of Korean civic groups.

It wasn’t until this expansion that Green Korea really seemed to become a national movement, and from my looking at the site back then, unless I’ve gotten knocked in the head hard between now and then and dreamed all this up, none of the non-USFK, US Embassy stuff was on the site before the group mushroomed.

I do remember they had up one typical base waste oil page up that focused on a ROK installation, but I did not see the land reclamation or any other non-US related stuff in Korean or English when I was watching back then.

As for the new documents, they did clear up one big question I had never been able to satisfy before: how long had Mr. Kim been working for USFK?

When the images were staged of him dumping the chemicals came out from Green Korea, I wondered if he were a new employee and a plant.

The USFK documents seem to clearly show what GI Korea said: it was a classic case of a new boss coming in and taking charge and shaking things up and the old employees becoming disgruntled.

usinkorea on March 20th, 2008
Now Its time to catch up a few things that I have missed in the last month.


PLEASE ENJOY THE LETTER......................................................


In 1994 I was 14 years old. As I assume is the case with a lot of teenage boys, there wasn't a whole lot that my dad and I didn't fight about. In fact, I am positive that we fought about everything. To say that we had a rocky relationship is putting it mildly. But the one thing we never fought about was baseball. It was the one thing we could truly see eye to eye on. We would spend each spring, fall, and winter yelling at each other, but when summer rolled around things would magically get better.

When I first learned of the impending strike in 1994, I was devastated. In fact, I can remember talking to my mom with tears rolling down my eyes because I knew this would be the longest summer of my life. The way I saw it, a bunch of millionaires were taking away from me the one thing my dad and I had in common.

My mother must have told my dad about the conversation because shortly after that, he told me he wanted to take me to a baseball game. My parents didn't make a lot of money, so needless to say, this was a very special occasion. I was even more thrilled to learn that this trip to the temple was just for my dad and I, and my mother and two little brothers wouldn't be there. On the way to the game, he told me about why we were going. I had never listed to the Ticket up until this point, but Dad was a P1 Day 1, so I knew you guys existed. Once he told me about the plans to leave the game, I wasn't too happy about it. But I thought to myself, it's at least a couple innings of live baseball, so I'll take it. On top of that, doing something like this was a big deal for Dad, so I was sure that he would end up staying for the whole game anyway.

We were sitting in the outfield bleachers, just to the left field side of the grassy knoll. Then came the moment. The first pitch in the third inning had just been thrown. And I remember this moment like it was yesterday. It looked to me like thousands and thousands of fans stood up and left the game. I know it wasn't that many. But at that age, I was naive enough to believe it. After watching some people around us stand up and make their way to the aisle, I looked at my dad. He was already standing, wearing his blue, worn out throw back Ranger hat and a Ranger shirt that had to be from the 70's. He looked at me and said, "Zach, it's time to go". So we followed suit with the other fans from our section. Without a word, we all filed into the aisles and walked out. My dad and I didn't say two words to each other the entire walk back to the car.

By the time we got back to the car, I was furious. My dad had managed to personally ruin the one thing we had in common. But then something happened. We hopped into his 1989 Pontiac, put the windows down, and then he looked at me and smiled. As we pulled out and began our trek home, he began to tell me why we did what he thought we should have done. And he made it all make sense. There was something different about him that day, and I could tell that he was proud of it, as corny as that may sound. We took the long way home that day (another rarity). My dad and I talked the whole way home. The radio never came on one time. Sure we talked some baseball (we always did), but there was more to it than that. We talked about life, love, politics. We talked about his childhood and the day he met my mother. It was a wonderful trip home. I asked for advise, and he gave it. I laughed, and he laughed harder. It was the greatest hour and a half of my life.

I don't know what it was about that day. My assumption is that he was a very hard working man who never showed much emotion, so he finally got the feeling that his voice was heard. And he was proud about that. And he was even more proud to share that moment with his oldest son. I know this sounds cheesy and too good to be true, but the fighting between my father and I ceased that day. We became friends that day. Sure we have had our differences since then, but still to this day, he remains my best friend. And it started with the Ticket Stick It.

I don't know what kind of effect that even had on the big picture, and I have no way of knowing what you guys got out of it. But for me, it was the day in which I regained a relationship with my dad. A day I will never forget.

Well I got on the bus and it was a long-ass 6 hour ride and I did not even think about booking a hotel room. (THAT WAS A HUGE MISTAKE) So instead I took a taxi and found a 135$ room for the night. (Yes I know, sucker, but is was an ok room and next time I will not make that same error again)

This time I took the 22$ shuttle and I liked it. I had about 4+ hours to wait so I was in no hurry. I got to the ChristChurch airport and went looking around the stores.

I saw a great place for souvenirs and I picked up a lot for the family back in Texas. I got ,hats, shirts, cups, key rings and TY bears for my sister.

I went and found the bar and they were showing the NASCAR race and I was happy. I had Speights and racing. It was a nice time to wait for the plane.

I then flew from Christ Church to Auckland. I had to spend the night, once again no reservation, but I go there early and found a nice place and a nice price. I watched the OSCARS and yelled when "THERE WILL BE BLOOD" lost!

I ordered domino's pizza and rested the night.

The next day I knew was going to be a long one. I had to return to Korea from Auckland-Hong Kong- Seoul. Once again I feared no sleep on the trip and once again I was right. I absolutely hate the fact that i can not sleep on a plane.

I got to the airport early and checked in. I was reminded about having to pay $25 before I COULD LEAVE NZ. I later learned from "Mc LOVIN" that you have to pay 100 pounds before you leave one of London's airports. So I grumbled and bought a 25$ stamp and showed it a few times before I checked in.

I found a newspaper and i found a "MCD" and drank another huge-ass slurpee.

I checked in and was waiting for the flight. I saw the NZ news and realized that I was actually watching it and knew where this city was.

It was time for me to take the flight and before I got on i turned around and said, "Thank you New Zealand for showing me an awesome vacation"

I then got on the plane and headed off to HK.

Once again when i got to HK, it sucked. I really do not like the airport. They need a better place to eat and for it to be closer. It was not a good layover.

Then it was time to go to Korea. I caught a good seat and enjoyed the flight. The flight crew looked like they were very unprofessional. i was wondering in Cathay does what Emirates Air does, if you have seniority, you do not have to work Korea. The flight staff were very unprofessional and it showed. I could not believe it when they gave me a survey. I filled it out to the max!

The flight was finally over and I got my bags and went to an ATM and looked at the watch. It was 2140. i knew that the last train left Seoul Station for Daejeon at 11pm. It was not going to be the KTX. So I caught a bus and made it in time for the train. If I did not I was going to ITEWON and crash the night there.

I finally caught a quick nap on the train.

i recognized the station and got off. I was able to catch a cab and went back to site "e" and went to my room and collapsed.

I had returned back to Korea and had made it back safe and sound.
Well it was now my last day in Dunedin.

I was sad about having to leave Dunedin. I like the beer, the Meat Pies, the octagon and esp the chocolate.

I had finished packing up when I saw Dan and Greer return from the hotel room. I looked at them both and realized that they were both legally married. They were going on their honeymoon then next day and they were going to Greece. I told Dan to please try and go to Sparta and to the Battle of Thermopylae site. since we saw "300" on IMAX.

Greer stated that her Dad was going to have lunch and later went there to have lunch. It was such fresh food and VERY DELICIOUS. i was able to secure a later bus passage and spent the day with my friends and the delicious food.

I saw they they were now married and that they were looking at their wedding gifts. It was a very nice day spent with my friends.

It was time for me to catch the 6 hour bus ride to Christchurch. I hugged both of my friends good bye and got a ride to the bus station.

While I was waiting for the bus and during the ride to ChristChurch, I was thinking about this week that I spent in Dunedin. It was a very beautiful city and one that I would like to see again. I had a great vacation.

I watched Rugby and now I watch cricket sometimes here on online tv. I miss Speight's and meat pies.

To Dan and Greer, thank you for inviting me to the wedding and thank you for showing me around Dunedin. To the parents of the couple, thank you for telling me the stories and for showing me around Dunedin also, I had a great time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

reception photos 1

photos 2

photos 3

Now I had never been to the Custom House while I was in Dunedin. It is right near the harbor and it was a very beautiful night. I went outside a few times and looked and was just totally blown away by the view and the water. It was great weather that night. It was an open bar so I was drinking Speight's all night.

I was so happy that my friends were now officially man and wife.

While we were waiting for the dinner to be served. I started to talk to Fraser. He likes US Sports and I found out that we were both huge fans of the HBO show "The Wire" he had not seen season 5 yet, I told him that when I returned that I would mail him a copy of season 5 (Which i did). I offered to tell him updates but he passed.

He is studying geology and i hope that he graduates one day. I really enjoyed talking to him for the 2 days that I could.

I told Dan and Greer many times that night, that I was so happy for them. I told Greer, Well he's yours now!

It was finally time for dinner, I sat in the back and just watched with amazement with all of the people that were there. My friends looked so happy and I was so happy for them.

Then a few things happened that i was not expecting.

Richard gave a speech about how happy he was. a bit later someone asked who knew the couple and he should say something. I told Richard, I'd do it and he said ok.

I got up and said this (or as close as I can remember)

Hi, my name is Mike McStay. I have know the happy couple probably the least amount of anyone here. I met the couple when they worked in Korea.

I said, I remember when I first met Dan and Greer, I thought that they were a nice cute couple, I wonder how they would survive in Korea. i then talked about how I saw these 2 interact, When Dan was weak Greer would be strong and when Greer was weak, Dan would be strong. I looked at them and thought, Wow, this is love.

I then told them about how I saw Dan mature in front of me (DAN joked,no way) but I have seen it with my own eyes. I saw their love grow. I told them about some of our times together, IMAX, birthday, Dan's mother seeing and liking the photos of Dan's no pants episode. I said, I should be honored but it was his mom I had no idea what to say.

I told the crowd, that I told the couple that if they got married that I would be here and that I would suit up. I also stated that Uncle Mike would more than be happy to baby sit any future children that they would have (later on Kim,the brides-maid said in her speech that, like Mike stated, Auntie Kimberly would love to baby sit also)

I then had a quick idea on how to end the speech.

I said, at the end of your journey together, where ever you might be, living on the moon or living in Dunedin, when that time comes, may you 2 look at each other and be able to say to each other, thank you for selecting me. To Dan and Greer, I love you 2 both very much. I raised my glass and said, to Dan and Greer.

(Later in the evening Richard and Greer both told me that they loved the speech and that a lot of the crowd comment that they did also. I told them both that it came from the heart and what I said was very true)


(Now here is where I am going to take a break and tell something that I did not tell Dan nor Greer. I kept trying to get the couple into a Karaoke bar.The reason was that if they had this one song that I would personalize it for them.)

I can love you like that

(I told the couple that in Texas we don't have singing room and that we sing in the open, at bars. I told them a few of the songs that I sing, Johnny Cash, Kid Rock, Rick James, Comedy Songs and other songs. If we were able to go, I wanted to sing the above song for my friends. This is the song with the extra words added to personalize it for my friends, I hope you 2 like it.)

I CAN LOVE YOU LIKE THAT By John Michael Montgomery.

They read you Cinderella

You hoped it would come true

That one day your Prince Charming

Would come rescue you

You like romantic movies

You will never forget

The way you felt when Romeo kissed Juliet

All this time that you've been waiting

You don't have to wait no more...


Dan can love you like that

Dan would make you his world

Move Heaven and Earth if you were his girl

Dan will give you his heart

Be all that you need

Show you you're everything that's precious to him

If you give Dan a chance

He can love you like that.

Dan will never make a promise that he don't intend to keep

So when Dan says forever, forever's what he means

Dan's no Casanova but he will swear this much is true

He'll be holdin' nothing back when it comes to you.

You dream of love that`s everlasting

Well baby open up your eyes


Dan can love you like that

Dan would make you his world

Move Heaven and Earth if you were his girl

Dan will give you his heart

Be all that you need

Show you you're everything that's precious to him

If you give Dan a chance

He can love you like that.


You want tenderness-Dan's got tenderness

And Dan will see through to the heart of you

If you want a man who understands

You don't have to look very far.

He will love you, Dan will love you like that.

(My friends, my wedding song to you 2)

Then the second thing happened that I flat out was not expecting.

Greer's Speech. (Once again, I am doing this from memory and I did not record it.)

Greer stood up and gave a very simple but great speech, I darn near cried my eyes out.

Greer started by saying that there was one person missing and that it was Rebecca, due to a their former boss, that she could not be their.

Greer then talked about the family that they made back in Korea. (I was not expecting what came next) She personally thank me for flying down for the wedding and that they could not believe that I was there. (The crowd cheered and I was just in shock) She also mentioned people that they wish could have been their but could not (Trey, Mark, Megan, Nichole and Marta) (I emailed the above people and told them about this speech and said you may have not been there but you damn sure were not forgot)Greer then thanked some more people. I was just in shock by her speech, I was not expecting it. I really felt like crying but I did not.

Dan even said a few world, but Greer's words are what I will remember for the rest of my life.

We finished eating dinner and then we mingled a lot more.

I talked to Phil Morey (He is living in England and he flew back home for the wedding. I have no idea when he will come back to New Zealand, to me, he has some more traveling to do.) I found him to be a very interesting person.

I also talked to Abey. She has been one of Greer's friends since there were in middle school together. She was a very interesting person to talk to.

Later on in the evening Greer gave me a big hug for the speech I gave. I told her how humbled I was by her speech. I told her, Well Dan is now your and what are you going to do with him. I told her to love him and take care of him and did they give a frying pan as wedding gifts. I told her that in Texas frying pans were given as wedding gift to cook and to hit the man upside the head if he steps way out of line.

I was their when someone gave Greer a plate that had a bird on it. The person stated that these birds mate for life and that they (D & G) had matted for life. I thought it was such a cool looking plate. If you click the photos at the top of the page you will see a photo of the plate.

Then later on Dan looked like he was taking off his pants, I rushed to him and was going to join him. I had already told Dan, that if he drops his pants tonight that I was his man and that I would drop mine also. (I even wore Spongebob boxers in case we did the Dan "No Pants" Dance.) He kept the pants on. I have no idea if he believed me but I was ready to go pant-less for my friend. It sure would have been funny.

I took a lot of photos of that night with the happy couple together. They make such a great couple and their love was showing and it really showed on the photos.

I told more stories of those 2 about their time in Korea with me and all of the crazy things that we did, The IMAX stories, the hooters stories, the baseball stories, (my 40th birthday story and how they saw me dancing with the female cheerleaders on the big screen)I told Dan's mom the story behind the photos that she liked of how I saw the "full Monty" on DAN (Which I never want to see ever again). Though out the night I kept looking at the happy couple and I was smiling every time I saw them look at each other with love in their eyes.

I also noticed how happy Richard was (Greer's Dad) He told me that he liked the speech and that a lot of his friends told him that they loved my speech also. He was really happy that some of the people that were at his wedding were also at the wedding of his daughter. I heard that a lot from his friends also, they they were happy to be at Greer's wedding also.

When someone said that,I was thinking about "The Lion King" and the "Circle of Life" The wedding was at the the brides grandparents home. Friends of her parents were at their wedding and their daughters wedding. part of Greer parents wedding reception was also held at the Grand parents home. It was very nice weather and I kept thinking that the great weather was a gift from heaven from her grandparents. I was also thinking about the big Moa bird story at the museum. Greer's grandmother had taken her their as a child and that she would take their children their also.

I then took a lot of photos of the happy couple and I took a lot of outside photos with their friends. (Click on the top page link too see them all)

Near the end of the reception, I took, what I called the money, shot of the reception.

Abby gave me her camera and asked me to take a photo of (Kim,Greer and Abby)together I still can not believe how great the photo turned out and, once again, someone used a photo that I took as the main photo on their Facebook page (Abby's). I love this photo of these 3 friends together.

Dan and Greer were going to spend the night at a Bed and Breakfast, it had the title of Great view in its name. (I forgot the name of the place, Dan said the breakfast was so-so but the place had a great view.) I was due to leave tomorrow at noon, so i said good-bye to Dan and Greer both (I was not sure if I would see them again in the morning) I was so happy about the speech and that i loved them both.

Richard drove me back to their home and I got the sofa sleeper ready to go.

I went to their computer and logged onto Facebook and updated my profile with this simple line all in caps.


I went to sleep and when I woke up I logged back onto Facebook and read the comments congrats to Dan and Greer about their wedding.

The reception was great at the Customs house, It was a great party and we were all happy that our friends were married and ready to start their life together.
Well it was Saturday and it was the day of the wedding.

Dan,Simeon and Nathan Kerr (The best man, who just arrived on holiday from the NZ Army) had to get their outfits for the wedding. I later found out that the happy couple almost saw each other at the octagon. I just stayed at the place and got myself ready. I later learned a nice saying about, "They scrub up very well" I heard that a lot at the wedding. Then all 4 of us got ready for the wedding.

Wedding photos #1


I was being taken to the wedding location by the Brides parents. Thats when I finally meet Greer's brother Fraser. (I later found out that he is a huge fan of "The Wire" So when I mailed 3 cd's full of photos and wedding videos, I mailed a copy of Season 5 of The Wire, for him. I hope that he likes it.)

I had not yet gone this way yet so I was looking at all of the new scenery and once again, was amazed by the beauty of Dunedin and beyond. The car finally stopped at a house and I saw all of the chairs and thought that this was the place for the wedding.

I later learned that the site of the wedding was at the home of Greer's Grandparents. Sad to say but both of them had passed on, but I knew that they were in heaven watching the wedding and were very happy.

They were serving Speight's while we were waiting for the wedding to start. I walked around and talked to a lot of people. I soon found out that a lot of the people there were friends of the brides parents. Richard told me that a lot of the people here were at his wedding and now they are here for his daughters wedding. I thought it was so cool.

I still could not believe that I was going to watch my friends finally get married.

Well we mingled around for awhile and then it was time for the wedding.

I found my seat and saw the men stand on their aisle. Dan looked really nice in his suit and thats when I heard the once again, that he scrubs up well. The the maid of honor walked down the aisle.(There should have been 2 but Rebecca could not get free for the last few days of her stoopid contract at their old school)Then it came time for the bride to walk down the aisle. She looked very beautiful in her dress and both of her parents walked her down the aisle. It was so beautiful.

It was a very short 8 minute wedding. Both Dan and Greer both wanted a very simple ceremony. It was very simple and very beautiful. The bride was starting to cry and I thought that I was going to also. The bride looked so happy and I know that Dan was also.

When the said man and wife, I was cheering in the inside and I was so happy.

I was able to get a lot of photos and I have a video copy of the wedding. It really was a very nice wedding.

We then mingled after the wedding and the photographers took a lot of good photos.

I could not believe that by pure stoopid luck I was able to get one heck of a great shot at the wedding.

I was waiting by the Limo and I saw the couple waiting by an old barn and I said hold on, this would make a great photo. I looked and centered the shot and took the picture. I looked it at and thought, this is a good picture. When I uploaded the photo on Facebook, I looked at it and said that it was a great photo. I can not tell you how happy I was when Greer put that photo as her display photo on Facebook.

I caught a ride to where the reception was going to be held at.
Well Now it was Friday.

Greer and the ladies were gathering for a lunch at a nice place. Dan had a few things to do, so I walked around town and took a lot of photos of Dunedin.

photos of Dunedin

Dan had told me to take a look at the Train Station, It was named one of the 100 places to see before you die. After seeing it I can understand why. In its day it must have been a beautiful place to arrive at. Sad to say the trains no longer ran from ChristChurch to Dunedin. I would have had loved to have taken the train instead of the bus. What can I say, Korea has gotten me used to trains.

I could not believe how beautiful the town of Dunedin was. I was so happy to take the photos that you see in the link above.

I had told Dan that we, the guys, should get together. Me, Dan, Simeon, His Dad and Greer's father. We all met up at The Velvet Hamburger. (Man I wish we had one of them in Korea also)We went outside and had a great time.

Now Dan's father told a great story about how Dan was a 2 year production. (I definitely see where Dan gets him humor from)I was LOL and Simeon was just looking shocked. (My friend you were a 2 year production and you married someone who loves you, what a 2 year production)

I looked around town for awhile longer and then caught the bus back to the place.

Something interesting happened and once again, I knew that these 2 were right for each other.

I had told Dan earlier, that he was so lucky to marry a lady like Greer. Greer had not and did not go Bridezilla at any time. She wanted a very simple ceremony. She told me that she just wanted to be married and the heck with the ceremony. I really think that she did not want to be the center of attention. I told her, you are the bride, you will be the center of attention.

I also told Dan that he was very lucky getting married to her. The families like each other, the dad's play golf together, the moms get along. I reminded him how rare that was. i told him of all of the wedding stories that I had done.

The Princess wedding, the wedding that the families hated each other. The father that flat out refused to put the hands together after the father daughter dance. I have seen a lot of things go wrong. He was so lucky and that they were so lucky.

Greer finally snapped a little, I really could not believe what she told me. She was sailing along when at the dinner someone stressed her out. She came back to the house where me and Dan were and told us what had happened. Then, mature Dan, kicked in. He talked to her and I saw all of Greer's stress go away. I made a note to myself, way to go you 2.

They had a wedding rehearsal and they both went off together. I just walked around town and was so happy, my friends were getting married in less than 24 hours and I was going to watch it.

That night Greer spent the night at her parents place. Me and Dan were back at their place, we talked for awhile and then I crashed on the sleeper sofa. The wedding was on.
Well Thursday night was very interesting.

We went to the fake US Pizza place and it was a great night.

We got there and I remember meeting some of the people a few days ago. I started to listen to all of the stories.

I remember Kim, Greer and Abby we talking and I asked Dan how long they had known each other, Dan said that it had been since they were in grade school together. I was very impressed with that.

Then I did something later on, I hit the table and spoke.

Dan and Greer said that on their wedding that there will be no speeches, they said nothing about tonight!

So I started this little speech.

I have known these 2 the lest amount of time here. When I first met Dan and Greer, they were these kind nice kids, I thought to myself, How in the heck are these 2 going to make it in Korea? As I saw these 2 together, I kept noticing something, when Dan was weak Greer was strong and when Greer was weak Dan would be strong. It just happened together. Now I told these 2 that if they got married I would be there, so to my friends congrats and lets get these 2 married!!!

A few other people stated a few things and we will all happy that these 2 were getting married in 48 hours. It was a very happy night and it was 2 days to go to the wedding.
Speight's Tour

Well it was Thursday and I was off to do a tour of the brewery where they make the delicious Beer that I was drinking in NZ. It's called Speight's and I liked it and I wish that they sold it in Korea.

I first went to the Octagon area and made a little video of the downtown area. it is such a great spot of town with a lot to do. In my week their I saw a radio car, NASCAR race on tv, a toga gathering, nice food, cold beer and a nice movie chain.

Dunedin Octagon

I walked around and ate more meat pies and drank some very cold diet coke and went to the Brewery. Greer had call for me a reservation and I check myself in, paid the fee and looked at the gift shop.

I had never toured a brewery before and it was a nice tour, as you can tell by the photos that I took.

After the tour I tried some samples of the Beer. I am definitely not a dark ale person. I love the lite ale.

I went to the gift shop and bought 2 shirts and 1 huge blanket.

i sure wish that they sold Speight's in Korea!!!

Below are 2 commercials that I just loved from NZ about the Beer.

So as they say, thanks for the beer tour and, "GOOD ON YOU MATE"


After the tour, I ate another of those delicious Velvet hamburgers and went to Hoyt's and saw "The Bucket List" on the big screen. It was a nice day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Travel day 1

Travel day 2

Wednesday was the travel day. Greer's father was going to show me around Dunedin.

The 1.5 albums above are from that day.

We drove around and I was shown seals, birds, a lot of animals and water. I could not believe how much water is near Dunedin.

We also saw a fire happen at a building, It really went up fast.

I must admit the 2 highlights were the penguins and the fake American pub.

They have a penguin colony near Dunedin and we were able to see them. I was so happy. For anyone who knows me, one of my favorite cartoon has always been Opus the Penguin and when I saw that I would have to chance to see them live, I jumped at the chance.

It cost 35 NZ$ and it was worth it. I got to see some live penguins and I was so happy.

I had asked Greer's dad (Richard) if we could go to the Philadelphia bar. (There was going to be a gathering there tomorrow and I had no idea what it was about)

Now this is going to sound strange what happened next, but to me it made scene.

I had a pizza and a Beer and I was watching the England-New Zealand Cricket test (Greer had earlier shown me at a high school students playing cricket and teaching me the scoring and the rules)Because of that, I was saying that's 1, 2 4, or 6 runs. I was able to see a pull hitter and I notice a defense shift. I could not believe that I was watching cricket and it was just so normal. (Now that i am back in Korea, I have watch a few games online and have enjoyed them)

It was a great time with Mr Richard and Once again I thank him for showing me around that day.

We once again had a nice dinner and it was nice to see all around my friends beautiful city. I can not believe that they left this for Korea. I do hope that if they want to buy a home that they can.
now for day 3 and 4

It was a Monday and I had the day to myself. Dan had to take a test and Greer had some wedding things to take care of. So I was off to a place called The Octagon. I went to the sports bar, in hope of seeing the Daytona 500 on Tv. I went to the sport bar and they were showing a stoopid Texas A&M basketball game. So I went to have another hamburger at a placed called "Velvet Hamburger" I have no idea what they use but the food was delicious. I was going to a movie theater, when I passed a bar that had the 500 on it.

I went to the bar and said, I will have a Speight's and I thank you for showing the race. I ended up meeting a waitress from Canada, who was going to school at the college. I immediately stood out because, I knew who the racers were. She figured out that I was an American. I told her that I was here for a wedding. I also drank a ginger beer and something else. They were ok. I was a little upset that Dale Jr. had a bad late run. I thanked her for some great service.

I then went to a theater called Hoyts Cinema in Dunedin and wanted to see what a NZ theater was like. They do not sell hot dogs nor nachos. They sell great chocolate and some ok popcorn, The fresh ice cream was delicious. The price was 13.00 NZ$ for the ticket. The seats were great and the commercials were in English, so it took a bit to get used to it. The film previews were nice and I hated the 10,000 BC preview in NZ also.

I decide to take the bus back to Dan and Greer's place after the movie. I was a bit worried so I asked and I was told that this was the right bus. The cost was 1.30 NZ$ and it was a nice little ride. I got off and realized that I was very close and I was not lost. That is always a good sign.

I met Dan and Greer back at the place and told them of my day. Dan had passed his test and Greer had taken care of her wedding items. Greer told me that her dad would show me around town on Wednesday. I was hoping to see the penguins. We had fun that night and it was good to talk with my friends and see what was going on in their lives.

Tuesday was a nice day also.

I had my first meat pie. It was very delicious (and I want them here in Korea ASAP) I also saw they they sold more slurpees here, so that made me happy also. I went and got them a 230 converter for the dvd player that I got them. I walked around town again and met some of the people on the tour boat that stopped in Dunedin. I could not believe how warm it was in NZ. It was summer down in NZ and it sure beat the cold weather that I had in Korea. I went and saw another movie and then the night got interesting.

We went to a bar on the Octagon and it was a nice time, then I saw a lot of people walking and mulling around wearing togas. I noticed that I was the only person staring at them. So I asked the question WTF?

It looks like they have a very interesting orientation week at the Otago. The first night I was in Dunedin, I had heard that a huge party was going on and that tonight was going to be a huge toga party.

I have no ideal who any of these students are but the girl saw me taking the photo and she raised her hands. It was a great shot.

Later in the evening I was actually able to see a satellite actually moving in the sky. I could not believe how beautiful the night are in NZ. It was just nice to drink a beer and watch the sky move.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Now the second day was interesting. I actually slept for awhile. I could not believe it. When I woke up I saw Dan and Greer in the back yard and I still could not believe the view.

I did 3 things of note on this day.

1. I met Greer's Mom and Dad. He is a veterinarian and has a nice job, I think working for the government of NZ. Her Mom was awesome. I can see where the humor comes from, but, in my opinion, I think she is more like her dad. He cooked some very nice meat for us and we had a great time at their place. I found out the her brother, Frasier, was in a week long class and would have to rush to get to the wedding on Saturday.

2. We went looking around downtown. I could not believe that they had a K-mart, subway, McDonald's and KFC. I wanted to apologize for the rush of American food here. We also went walking around and if you look at the photos, here you will see a lot of different looks around town. I was shown the Cadbury chocolate factory and I could not believe how much I liked this chocolate (I have heard that e-mart sells it). We also went to a museum and I was listening to Greer's story about how her grandmother had taken her here and how she was afraid of a bird called Moa. It was a very interesting story.

#3. The 3 of us went to a movie, my treat, and we saw, on the big screen, "There will be Blood" It was so much better on the big screen that the small one. DAN got a huge kick out of the, "I'll drink your milkshake" speech.

Once again we had a great day.
Part 1 photos from NZ

Its been about 1 month now since my vacation to New Zealand and I am so sorry that I have not been able to post the photos before. Now for the stories that happened during my great vacation.

Well I promised Dan and Greer that if they got married, I would be there. I was able to book the tickets in December 2007 and I took a trip to Busan to purchase the tickets. Dan recommended that I fly from Auckland to ChristChurch (Next time I am flying straight to Dunedin, the 6 hour bus ride stunk.) and to take a bus from ChristChurch to Dunedin. So the flight and buses were book and I was on my way to a wedding. I even told Dan that if he wanted to drop his pants that I would also (He is called no pants DAN for a reason.)

I was able to book a flight from Seoul-Hong Kong-Auckland, using Cathay Airlines.

I left on Feb 14th, 2007 at 0340 am for the long flight. I was able to catch the early bus. Now what I did not know was that the bus was non-stop and when I woke up from a nap, I thought that I was near Cheonan for the stop, but when I saw the signs for Incheon Airport, I could not believe it.

Then something very interesting happened. I renewed my visa and had it marked on the back of the alien registration card. It looks like it was a single entry only, so imagine my surprise that I had to get a re-entry visa for Korea at the Immigration office at the airport. It cost 30,000 won and i was set. I was upgraded to business class from Incheon to Hong Kong, I exchanged my won for NZ $ and I was ready to go.

I went to the computer lab and updated Facebook so Dan and Greer could see where i was. I ate a subway sandwich and then caught the flight to HK.

I had never been to business class before and i could not believe how nice it was. I had leg room and sat down and enjoyed the flight to HK. I watched "Atonement", ate a very nice meal and once again got zero sleep on the flight.

I arrived in HK and went looking for a nice place to eat and found nothing. I had heard that HK had a great airport, well maybe they do but the transfer part stinks and I hated it. I did not have a nice time in HK Airport. I did get some HK $'s for keepsakes.

Then it was time for the flight from HK to Auckland. I was told that it was going to be about 12-13 hours, so I got comfortable and once again, did not sleep on the flight. I really hate the small seats but, hey I got to sit in the aisle and my legs felt good so it was ok.

Then I arrived at Auckland and I ate breakfast at McDonald's and then I saw something that made me very happy, Slurpees! I could not believe that they sold them here in a big container. I had one with breakfast.

Then it was off to the domestic part of the airport. I caught a nice shuttle and was at Air new Zealand's counter where I met a very nice young lady. She gave me a nice seat and then I went to check in. Once again I still had not slept so i was running on energy. I checked in and finally got on my flight to ChristChurch. I slept for about 40 minutes. I landed in Christchurch and found my paper and took a taxi to my hotel. (Now that was a huge 50$+ fare, they have this shuttle for 22$ that I used on the way back and I have the card, if you are going to CC then please email me and I will email you the # to call for the service.) I checked in at my hotel and was given a container of milk. The milk was for the coffee and tea.

I took a nap and crashed for about 4 hours. I then went to a pizza place and I was a hit there. I was the first American that they had seen in a while, I ordered pizza's and we talked about my trip and why I was in New Zealand. Now at the same time on TV was Rugby Super 14. Now I had never heard of this but it had teams from Australia, NZ and South Africa playing in a league. Nothing else was on tv so throughout the night while sleeping and awake, I watched 3 games. I even saw the the town that I was going to, Dunedin, had a team called The Highlanders (The 2 weeks that I was their, they did now win a single match. I was watching it with amazement. I kind of understand it now but a few more games need to be watched before I understand it.

I finally got a little more sleep and soon checked out of the hotel, now here is where I made a great error, I should have booked a room for my return night in CC but but I thought that I could get a better deal, I did not, and it was an overpriced place that i stayed at when I left CC the 2nd time. (Thanks Ben for booking me into the nice hotel)

I took a taxi to the bus station and I was off on a 6hr bus ride to Dunedin.

Now what I did not know was that the bus had a lot of freshmen students going to the college at Dunedin its called the The University of Otago. So when I said that I was an University professor, I got a lot of strange looks. They were telling me of why they were going to college and what they hoped for. It was nice to listen to these students and see that we all share the same dreams and hopes, it was just expressed differently.

It was a long-ass bus ride with one 30 minute stop. I could not believe what I was seeing when the bus pulled past the city of Dunedin sign.

I saw a lot of hills. It was a very hilly place and I was wondering what kind of city will I be staying at for this week. The bus drive said that if you were waiting for someone to please take your luggage and wait at a spot, I was in the middle of moving there, when I saw 2 very familiar faces coming towards me, Dan and Greer's. I was so happy to see them. I still could not believe that in one week that they would be married.

They drove me to their rented place and I LOVED IT. It has a great view of the harbor and of the Pacific Ocean. I unpacked and gave them my wedding gift to them, an all-region dvd, divx player with movies that I knew that Dan and some that Greer would enjoy.

That night they said that they were going to meet a lot of the people that would be at the wedding and asked if I wanted to come along. I said sure and then I was off to met some of the people who would be at the wedding and some of their college friends.

Now I had heard of DAN'S BROTHER. Dan had told me stories about him and after a few moments, I realized that Dan had described him fair enough. I met Simeon Snyder, he was one of Dan's best man at the wedding. I met his girlfriend also. She sure did like all of the music videos that I had on my Ipod.

I met a few more people and then I realized that I did like the local beer that was brewed their in Dunedin. Its called Speight's. I drank a lot of it while I was in NZ and sad to say its not sold in South Korea.

Now, I have no idea who told me, but when i asked what Speight's meant I was told this "Special Piss Enjoyed In Great Hotel's Thru South" When I heard it I did not noticed who said it, I was laughing too hard and when i got back to Korea and when someone asked me about the shirt that i had, I stated the exact same thing.

Please enjoy the commercials for the Beer.


I must admit it, I had a great time that night with their friends. I also found out that one of their friends,Phil, who now lives in the UK, came back for their wedding also. I recall also being told that Nathan, Dan's other best man at the wedding, Was in the NZ Army and would be here on Saturday. This was that end of day one in NZ.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

“Troubling Crackdown” in Tibet as Chinese Military Kills Civilian Demonstrators
» by GI Korea in: China

The Chinese government is continuing business as usual in Tibet:

TIBET’S main exile group has confirmed reports that Chinese authorities killed 30 Tibetan demonstrators and injured many more during protests against Chinese rule.

The Tibetan Government in exile, based in the north Indian town of Dharmsala, offered no details about those reported dead and gave no details on its sources.

The new statement only said "there have been 30 confirmed deaths until today, and over 100 unconfirmed deaths”.

Protests by Buddhist monks in Tibet have turned violent in recent days, with shops and vehicles set on fire and gunshots fired in the streets of the region’s capital, Lhasa - but independently verified details remained slim.

China maintains rigid control over the area, foreigners need special travel permits to get there and journalists rarely get access except under highly controlled circumstances.

Earlier reports gave lower death tolls. China’s official Xinhua News Agency said 10 people had been killed. [AFP]

CNN is reporting that the death toll is at 100 people dead, but details are hard to come by because of the Chinese government’s lock down on the Tibetan capitol of Lhasa. This video smuggled out gives a good idea of how large the demonstration was. Also this British Channel Four News report offers more images of the violence in Lhasa as well as video of how the Tibetan protests have spread out of Lhasa and to neighboring cities to include even into India:

Here is another pretty good report from Sky News:

Of course in times like these what would a major international news story be without in depth analysis from a Hollywood actor, here is Richard Gere:

On a side note I do have to say the US media coverage of these protests is shockingly poor while the British media has been all over this story. It kind of makes you wonder why that is?

What is even more pathetic about this is that this is far from being the first time that Tibetans have been gunned down by the Chinese military. Some may remember this video taken last year by international climbers of Chinese soldiers sniping Tibetan pilgrims:

Could you imagine what the headlines would be if US authorities beat down hundreds and killed 30 demonstrators? You would have endless claims of the Bushhitler’s police state yet when Chinese gun down demonstrators what do the human rights organizations call it? Here is your answer:

The Chinese authorities have engaged in a number of troubling crackdowns on activists and minority groups in the past week. On Tuesday, eyewitnesses reported that Chinese police used teargas and electric prods to disperse 500 demonstrators in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

The demonstrators were seeking the release of fellow monks held after the previous day’s protests.

It was also reported that 11 protesters, including nine monks, were severely beaten and detained outside Tsuklakhang cathedral in central Lhasa on Monday. They had been demonstrating to mark the 49th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s flight from Tibet after the failed rebellion against Chinese rule. Some 50 monks have also been detained across the capital. [Amnesty International]

This is the first time I have ever seen a gunning down of civilian demonstrators described as a "troubling crackdown". The Amnesty report does not even mention the fact that Tibetan monks have been killed. Also if you go to the Amnesty International webpage this story is not even headlining the site. The killing of Tibetan demonstrators is just a story on their side bar of rotating news reports. The headlining story is of a Palestinian family who had their house demolished by the Israeli army. Let’s see what is the more important human rights story, possibly a hundred people gunned down and a city in flames for simply protesting against Chinese occupation or someone having their housed bulldozed probably for supporting a terrorist group in Israel (Of course the AI story doesn’t say)? Let’s also not forget the continued Gitmo links on their frontpage as well. Kind of shows you what Amnesty International’s priorities are.

I am also curious to what Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s reaction to this will be. The parallels between the occupation of Tibet and the Japanese colonization of the Korean peninsula are quite similar. If any nation knows about an unwanted colonization of their country, it is the Koreans. You can read much about how Koreans criticize the United States for not speaking out and doing anything to stop the Japanese colonization of Korea, but here is a chance for Koreans to speak out and do something about an occupation and colonization of a country by the Chinese government. Does anyone think Lee Myung-bak will show moral courage and condemn the Chinese occupation and crackdown in Tibet? I doubt it, just like the rest of the world will show little moral courage as well. Quickly and quietly as possible the protesters will be either killed or silenced and then the news cycle will move on and this whole story will all be just a vague memory similar to last year’s protests in Burma. When it comes to making excuses for human rights violations, China has many more apologists then just Amnesty International.

A whole lot more of good information, videos, and links over at One Free Korea as well.


China may be the O.J. Simpson of thuggish regimes. Gutter thugs like the rulers of Sudan and Burma have justly earned their international pariah status after calculating that the consequences of slaughter would be manageable and acceptable. China’s regime has learned from Saudi Arabia’s example, lining its avenues of commerce with expensive lobbyists and P.R. firms, thus escaping most of the consequences of its behavior and even buying its way to quasi-legitimacy. But even the Chinese know that this strategy has limits.

Although the Chinese authorities have almost certainly managed to suppress the true body count — anywhere from 10 to 100 dead — the situation in Lhasa today sounds like a real slaughter. CNN says that “up to a third of the capital may be on fire.”

Channel 4 News calls this “the biggest show of defiance in Tibet for more than 20 years.”

What perfect timing, just days after the custodians of America’s values dropped China from the list of the world’s worst human rights violators, even as the regime is rounding up and beating up dissidents in China proper.

As with last year’s uprising in Burma, which was also crushed with Chinese ammunition, money, and backing, the Tibetan uprising grew from a protest by monks in their monasteries.

The Tibetans are attacking ethnic Chinese and burning their shops, which is both regrettable and inevitable. Ordinary ethnic Chinese in Lhasa aren’t personally responsible for the brutality of the regime and its police, but I can understand things I don’t condone. After all, the Chinese have forcibly occupied and colonized Tibet. The Tibetans can’t vote, speak, write, or publish their opinions. They have no peaceful or democratic recourse. China has therefore legitimized violent resistance against Chinese troops and police, but not against shopkeepers.

I see two acceptable alternatives to licensing China’s slow-motion Chinese genocide of Tibet. One is that some philanthropist will start shipping the Tibetans some decent sniper rifles. Or, China could allow the Dalai Lama’s calls to abstain from violence to be broadcast all over Lhasa, as a prelude to permitting them some non-violent avenue to self-rule.

And since neither of those things is going to happen, let’s hope the Tibetans take enough pictures of the massacres to come to completely f*ck up the Beijing Olympics and put a price tag on the regime’s brutality. China can’t get away with this. The Tibetans have what North Korean refugees in China don’t — Hollywood on their side.

Update: More pictures here.

Update 2:Maybe China Shouldn’t Be Hosting the Olympics.” You don’t say. China and its PR firms are fond of saying that the Olympics shouldn’t be politicized, which is all you really can say if you can’t defend China’s behavior. Fine, then. Let’s have them in Taipei next time. Not only has China frequently politicized the Olympics in the past, much of Beijing’s preemptive brutality this year is being done for the specific purpose of making sure this year’s Olympics are dissent-free.

Update 3: More pictures here.



The Tank Sports Jerk of 2007. I voted, but I voted for Michael Vick.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Wire: David Simon Q & A

Posted by Alan Sepinwall March 09, 2008 10:34PM

Categories: The Wire

This interview with "The Wire" creator David Simon was conducted over two different days shortly before the 9th episode of the final season aired. (But after I had already seen the series finale.) We discuss several characters' final fates in detail, so if you haven't already seen "-30-," what are you doing reading this? (Also, if you're looking for my review, click here.)

Because the interview was conducted in pieces and we bounced back and forth between topics, I've deleted certain sections that were redundant and moved others around so that, for instance, all the discussion of the Baltimore Sun storyline is together. I haven't given this the full Templeton, though; all the answers are exactly as Simon gave them, and if I have to rephrase a question here for continuity's sake (say, because it originally involved a transition between two topics that are no longer back-to-back in this version), I'll put it in parentheses.

Also, since this is long -- David indulged me with a lot of time, and as you should realize by now, the man is not short on opinions or the words with which to express them -- I'll also try to put up subject headers where possible so if, say, you're more interested in discussion of the characters instead of the problems the show is about, you can do so. And if it's still too long for you to read, I'll have an abbreviated version up first thing tomorrow morning, duplicating what will be in The Star-Ledger.

SYMBOLISM (and my inability to find out about it)

I'll start with the obvious one. The show's ending, this is your last chance to do this: What the hell do the train tracks mean? (NOTE: Simon has in the past expressed surprise that no critic has ever correctly interpreted the symbolism of why McNulty and Bunk's drunken bull sessions usually take place beside train tracks.)

No shot. You're not getting it out of me.

Oh, come on!

To talk about symbolism, if people get it, they get it. if they don't, telling it to them ruins it. You know that.

You're talking to the man who couldn't get David Chase to explain the Sopranos finale.

Well, I totally agree with David Chase. He's got that right. If you like it, you like it. My sister was an abstract painter. If you asked her what the painting was of, she would look at you and say, "It's whatever you think it's of."

(A day later, I try to slip this one in) This is one about themes but also because I make the damn typo six, seven times each week: Marlo and Omar L. as anagrams. Intentional? Accidental?

Now you're getting into symbolism again. You've got to let people argue about something. It's not fair if I explain everything.


What else did we miss, besides the train tracks?

What do you think the main thing that happens in the newspaper story? What is the most dramatic consequence depicted? I'm going Socratic on your Jersey a--.

They're covering a story that doesn't exist and they're devoting all their resources to it.

Ehh! Try again.

They're demoting the one guy in the newsroom who knows what he's doing?

(Disappointed sigh) Oh, Alan, Alan, Alan. "The Wire" is always about subtext. What isn't happening?

They're not writing about the stuff that matters.

Ding ding ding! We know that they mayor is cooking the stats so he can become governor. We know that he's taking apart the Marlo task force. We know that he's backing No Child Left Behind, and hyping a dubious gain in the 3rd grade test scores though the schools remain an unmitigated disaster. We know that these politically charged prosecutions of Clay Davis are being undercut behind the scenes by a variety of conflicting interests, that there's turf wars that result in complete lapses of any anti-corruption effort. We know that Prop Joe is the biggest drug dealer in the city with the main connect, and when he's killed, it's a brief. We know who Omar is -- and, listen, you'd need a really good police reporter to write a story about Omar, but it could happen, but it certainly isn't going to happen at that paper.

The main theme is not the fabulist and what he is perpetrating. That's the overt plot. The main theme is that, with the exception of the bookends -- at the beginning, the excellent effort at adversarial journalism that begins the piece in episode one and the genuine piece of narrative journalism that concludes it, with Bubbles -- it's a newspaper that is so eviscerated, so worn, so devoid of veterans, so consumed by the wrong things, and so denied the ability to replenish itself that it singularly misses every single story in the season.

What I'm loving, it makes me warm all over, is that a lot of the obsession of journalists in the evaluating -- I think (Brian) Lowry mentioned it, you mentioned, a couple of others mentioned it as being fundamental to the story -- (isn't that theme) but whether Whiting is as big an a--hole as Valchek, "Is Gus more of a hero than Colvin?," "Do they have to put suspenders on that guy?," "I can't believe any editor would say that," "Why would Alma drive all the way over there?" I'm loving it. It's this onanistic, self-obsessed world of journalism -- which is the problem. In their heart of hearts, the guys who are running my newspaper and a lot of newspapers, they now cede the territory, the moral and essential territory, of whether we're asserting for our society, our city, our community.

This was a story about a newspaper that now -- on some fundamental basis -- fails to cover its city substantively, and guess what -- between out-of-town ownership, carpetbagging editors, the emphasis on impact journalism or Prize-culture journalism and, of course, the economic preamble that is the arrival of the internet and the resulting loss of revenue and staff, there are a f--k of a lot of newspapers that are failing to cover their cities substantively. That is the last piece in the Wire puzzle: If you think anyone will be paying attention to anything you encountered in the first four seasons of this show, think again.

(We get sidetracked by something unrelated, and then Simon continues...)

If you would allow politicians and school administrators and police officials and union leaders to blog and to write, you would be pilloried every season. And maybe we deserve to be. Because you know what? We're a television drama. Life is anti-drama. On some level, all we are is storytellers. We believe in our stories, we believe they have resonance and meaning. We did it for four years, and in each of the four years, our allegiances were with middle management and with labor, and they always are. The Valcheks and Rawls of the world are the Whitings and Klebanows of the world are the Royces and Clay Davises of the world. That's how we do.

The film template in my head -- the dramatic template were the Greek plays -- is what I regard as the most important political film of the 20th century, which is "Paths of Glory." If anyone wants to look at "Paths of Glory" and think it doesn't speak to the essential triumph of institutions over individuals and doesn't speak to the fundamental inhumanity of the 20th century and beyond, then they weren't watching the same film as the rest of us. That film is essential, and as meaningful today as the day it was made. If you look at George Macready and Adolph Menjou, I believe you have Rawls and Valchek.

One of the great overstatements was always made about "The Wire" is "There's no good guys or bad guys." I was always amazed by that. Marlo's not a bad guy? Do characters acquire a bit of nuance as you live with them longer? Of course. The more time you live with them on screen, the more chance you have to add nuance. And I know I said good and evil bored me, but the notion that all characters are treated equally is sort of a misunderstanding of point of view.

It doesn't matter whether Adolph Menjou and George Macready show you their warm fuzzy side and assert that they have puppies at home. They serve their role in the story. That story, the point of view is with Kirk Douglas, and it is the point of view of middle management. Always in storytelling, choices are made about what is the center of a picture and what is the frame. Every season of "The Wire," that choice is made. I've been amused by the notion that the editors are any more venal than anybody else who has been in command of an institution on The Wire.

And we've both worked with guys like Templeton at certain points in our careers.

I've had three people at the Sun make up stuff. The one that is obviously Templeton -- I'm not saying Templeton is any of those guys, but I am saying one of them had a severe case of it, and a couple of other guys who made up the most marginal, inconsequential things. It was almost like a cry for help; it was heartbreaking. One of them was fired, one was chastised but not fired because his wife was an (editor). And the third one was protected and had his stuff, even after the scandal, submitted for a Pulitzer. I think the vast majority of reporters are utterly conscientious, but if you're suggesting to me that all these guys -- Kelley, Blair, Bragg, Cooke, the guys in Boston who got fired, the guy in Baltimore -- everyone I know who's worked in journalism 6, 8, 10 years at a major paper knows a guy like this, and it is the great unspoken thing. To discuss it openly in journalism as if it's a commonality is to be the guy who farted on a crowded elevator. What else can I say? I can't put it more poignantly than that.

Even Gus, who's been accused of being too perfect, misses a lot of things.

Yeah. He knew Ricardo Hendrix but he didn't know Prop Joe, Prop Joe was quieter about a lot of things. Part of that is a testament to Joe and how Joe did business, but part of it is you don't have Twigg around anymore, and when a murder comes in, it's a twentysomething who's doing the best job she can, and she's conscientious, but you bought out your veteran.

As far as the fabricator goes, I don't think that needs any defense for including. I saw Tim Franklin, who's the editor of the Baltimore Sun -- I have absolutely nothing against him, I think he's a good guy presiding over a horrible moment in terms of the paper's history in terms of these cutbacks and buyouts, but I've had lunch with the guy, he's a nice guy -- and at one point, he said he thought the usage of this was a cliche. I thought it was an awful word. Something's only a cliche if it keeps happening over and over. I guess in that sense, it's a cliche all right, and it's a little wearying.

But you know what? Last poll I saw, 60 percent of Americans believe there are reporters who routinely make stuff up. I don't believe there are many of them, but I believe there are enough that there's a reason 60 percent of Americans believe that. And as the pond shrinks and as people's ambitions are more and more dependent on the strength of their resumes, some people with less conscience than others are going to go down that road. And man, the pond is shrinking. Today, it was the LA Daily News I heard about.

The other thing I would say is that it sounds as if the journalists en masse have been pounding on the show, and that's not really true. Most of our reviews from the TV guys have been really strong. The exceptions were Baltimore, tellingly, and LA, where John Carroll was. But off the entertainment pages, I just did a viewing at NCTA the night before last in Washington that was attended solely by journalists. The rank and file, the same thing happened that always happens: the bosses say, "That's not our police department," and the sergeants and detectives and uniforms, they seem to be loving it for the most part. I don't know if that's your experience. And people who don't like it aren't going to send me an e-mail saying I think you're full of s--t. But my e-mailbox has been full of, not only old Sun veterans, but some names of people in journalism that anybody would recognize saying, "This is the nightmare I feel like I'm living." And I got a lot of those.


Are you satisfied with how the final season came together? Is there anything that didn't live up to your expectations now that the product is finished?

No. I'm satisfied with all my films. Does that mean it's a perfect film? No. Films are always abandoned, they're never finished, you do the best you can, there are parameters of time and space and budget and personnel that require certain priorities. Would I have done some things over differently? Sure.

In terms of priorities, how was the storytelling different, did any stories have to be abandoned when it wound up being a 10-episode season as opposed to 12 or 13?

The main stories were told exactly as they would have been. By the way, I was given 10 and a half. When I realized I needed more than 10, they asked if I wanted 11, and I said, "No, I need 10 and a half." If I said I needed 12 halfway through the season, from Carolyn (Strauss) at that point, I could have gotten it. They came to me early on, I asked for an extra episode, a 13th, for season four, because we had to add some elements of the political spin-off that didn't get made, so we had to deal with the election and the schools in one season. So I asked for 13, and they gave it to me, and then when we came back for the last season, they said, "School story's over, election's over, you have this one remaining theme, can you do it in less?" And I said, "I think I probably can."

But it was an open question. They said, "Can you do it in 8?" I said, "No f---ing way." They said, "How many do you need?" I said, "I don't know. Maybe 10. Maybe 11." So they said, "Okay, beat it out, see what you need." I told them 10 after I beat it out with Ed -- and, by the way, this is also in a year when they're giving me 7 hours of "Generation Kill," so they're not being parsimonious -- and then as we started making it and got towards the end, I realized I might need more story and I said, "Can I go to 10 and a half? Can I do a 90-minute episode if I have to?" And they said, "Sure. Tell us which one you need." At that point, I'm one hour away.

If they gave me 12, and said you have to take 12, then the truth is, certain storylines that were branches on the three that couldn't be serviced in 10, like Prez and Cutty would have had storylines. The main storylines would have had no more or no less work done on them. We said what we wanted to say on them. We would have had more time to service characters who at that point had become peripheral but were favorites of the writers. But at the same time, we talked about it, the writers, and we realized Prez has reached his stasis, as has Cutty. What redemption there has been for them has been achieved, and that's where we want to leave them anyway, so all we're doing there is gilding the story a little bit. A decision was made that that's not really what needs to happen here with the story.

But the truth is, if I'd have gone to Carolyn and said 'Look, I'm too tight,' then she would've fixed it. She would've helped me fix it. And in fact when I did go to her and said, 'I'm too tight. I may need 11, I may need 10 and a half,' it was like, 'Do what you gotta do.'

Were there stories, more over the run of the series than this season, that you wanted to tell about certain characters that you never got to?

Baltimore's a big world, as any city is. The thing is very much a picture in a frame. At any given moment, regardless of where you focus and regardless of what your intentions are directed to, there are things on the fringes of the frame at the boundaries of the story that could be stories themselves. But at a certain point, the thematic intention and content of the show starts to feel redundant. We made our point about where we think urban America finds itself and why, and to continually demonstrate that point by pursuing additional characters or additional arguments using other institutions becomes artistically redundant.You can always make more characters, you can always make more story.

I was talking more about more stories with these particular characters. There's clearly, at least based on the last names and the bios on the HBO website, a connection between Randy and Cheese (NOTE: the bios essentially state that Cheese is Randy's dad, a fact Simon would publicly confirm a few days after we spoke), and that's something you never really got into on the show.

Actually, that is something that we were going to play a little bit of that and reference that in season five if we had had a little bit more room. But ultimately it would have been incremental. It would not have added to the overall theme or to either of those characterizations of Cheese or Randy. It would not have resolved in any unique way that would have revealed anything more about the character than we otherwise revealed. It would have just been more story and more scenes. So at a certain point, on a practical basis, you have to ask what you're accomplishing if you go further.

Did we lay other groundwork? We did. We could have cannibalized Rawls' moment in the gay bar and advanced that moment, but I'm not sure we would have created any more theme, and on some level it was very satisfying just to grant the notion of a closeted gay man's sexuality a moment on screen and then move on. There was something very compelling and real about just acknowledging that but not making it into grist for a storyline that didn't add anything to our portrayal of Rawls. We were always laying pipe that could be picked up later. It doesn't mean that you should pick it up.

So it sounds like you're done with this, like there are no plans for books or movies or other continuations of this world in your future.

I would never say never, but I don't have a story idea for a movie. I think the thing doesn't lend itself easily to a movie. Some of the actors have come to me and expressed a desire, and have gone out of their way to try to get funding for it. While I think that's heroic and dedicated, I would have to hear a story that warranted potential return. I have no interest in doing it just to do it, and I don't have a story. Job one is the story. I've got nothing in the tank.

I think a prequel is problematic in terms of the age of our cast at this point. Not that they've done anything but age gracefully, but we are about 6-7 years down the road from when we all started doing this project. We've really genuinely ended the stories where we wanted them to end. I'm not sure a sequel is practical for other reasons. I certainly admired the effort and intention of some of the cast members to figure out a way to proceed. I just got nothing on it right now.


You gave everyone their endings, but is there a part of you that, as you were writing these endings, was thinking about what comes next? How does McNulty deal with life as a civilian? What is Marlo going to do given that he's risking prosecution if he's back on a corner again, etc.?

I don't think we were making anything certain by that moment with Marlo's return to the corner. I think we were speaking to a hole in the center of his soul that has to do with who he believes he is and was and what is now being denied to him by events. Going up to the corner and basically asserting for your standing and your manhood, I don't know if that's the return to the corner to which Pearlman was referring.

But it's kind of a parallel thing: what does Marlo do with his life if he's not on a corner, and what does Jimmy do with his life if he doesn't have a badge?

Obviously, that was the intent of those scenes: it was two men without their respective countries and tribes, and what do they do? Don't you think that's a good question to leave with viewers? I'm not sure I want that question answered definitively. I have my opinions, but you'll never get them out of me. I think that's a good argument to have if anyone feels like having it.

(Another digression about another critic wishing he could have watched Cheese's death scene in a crowded movie theater filled with enthusiastic "Wire" fans leads to...) How did you decide that Cheese would take a bullet to the head, where Chris and Marlo are more okay to varying degrees?

Well, Chris is in jail for the rest of his life and Marlo is cut off from the source of his power, desperate to rescue his name. To me, the great irony is that Marlo ends up being granted what Stringer wanted -- and he has no use for it. To me, to a guy like Marlo Stanfield, hell is a business meeting with a bunch of developers. For Stringer, it was all he wanted.

Why does Cheese take it? It was a betrayal too far and Slim had some feeling for one of his old bosses. We weren't trying to gratify anybody more than the moment would allow, but it seemed like that was a forced move if you're Slim Charles.

By the way, I thought Method Man played the hell out of that scene. I should say something, because there's always been this crowd of rappers who wanted to be on The Wire, and this was the only guy who walked into a casting office and read and said, 'Okay, tell me about the part.' We didn't take him because he was Method, we took him because he was the best read for Cheese. I'm glad we did.

The last couple of episodes have a couple of moments like that. There have been these people who refuse to accept that Jamie Hector is a really good actor and is not just playing himself or being stiff, and then he gives the 'My name is my name' speech, and you realize this is what he's been holding in all this time.

It's been a singular act of gorgeous restraint to play Marlo Stanfield. The film we found him in, we found him in a short film by Seith Mann, and that's how we found Seith Mann, called "Five Deep Breaths." Bob (Colesberry) noticed him right away, noticed the direction and Jamie as the lead, and he's the presumptive hero of that piece, the kid with heart and the kid with a conscience and we cast him as Marlo Stanfield! Right away we knew his range. It wasn't a surprise to us. We knew what he could do. But part of that character required a willful restraint, and the only place where it made sense for him to lose control was in that precise moment.

It's interesting, that moment when he does go to the corner -- for most of the series, people have been assuming a lot of his power comes from Chris and Snoop around him as the muscle -- and you see that, no, all this time, he's been perfectly capable of handling himself. He's just chosen to delegate it to other people.

Most of the guys who survive to get to Marlo's level, they come complete with their reputations. They did stuff on the street to get to the point where people would surround them. First you have to earn it, and after you've earned it, then comes the posse.

How far in advance were all of these various endings planned? When you introduced Sydnor, did you know that he would one day replace McNulty? With the kids, did you know all along that one of them would become Omar and one would become Bubbles?

We knew it would be cyclical. We knew that the ultimate star of the narrative was Baltimore, and by extension the American city, and by extension America. Whether it was going to be Greggs or Sydnor who walked into the judge's office was still something we were arguing about in season four and at the beginning of season five. Whether it was going to be Randy or Dukie who followed Bubbles down that path was an early debate, which of the four would have which outcomes. It became apparent in the start of season four as we started to talk through the characters. But we knew someone was following Bubbles and somebody was following Omar and someone was following McNulty, and ultimately the cyclical manner of the institutional prerogative was going to be asserted.

We knew where we were going; there's always an argument to be had in the writers room, and the arguments are the fun of it, in a way. The aggravation and the nightmare while we're having them, it sucks, but it's what makes it better.

I think if you had asked people a season, two seasons ago, they would have said that Kima would definitely be McNulty, but watching the way it played out, I thought it worked well, and I'm reminded of way back when when she got shot and refused to ID Wee-Bey, because she has to do things straight.

At a certain point, while she emulated McNulty in her willingness at points to lose herself in the job and to be indifferent if not oblivious to the psychic costs on her personal life, at the critical moment where she was presented with a fundamental choice, she made one based on who she was.

Getting back to the endings of the characters, were there any people whose final fates in the show you wound up softening or making tougher than originally intended, whether out of affection for the character or something else?

No. The guys who had a good ending earned it. Some of the guys who had a bad ending didn't earn it. And that just sucks.

Clay gets away with everything, Rawls is made head of the state cops...

(laughing) How could Clay not get away with everything?

Of course. A show where Clay went to jail would be betraying everything you've been saying for five seasons.

Here's where I softened it slightly: I didn't have Clay raising his arms in victory at the end with Carcetti on the stage. I didn't put him in background on the slimmest basis, which is he's kind of a backroom guy. He doesn't need to be on the stage. He'll get his later. I softened it that way, big softie that I am. I'm a giver, Alan. I give and I give and I give.


You brought back almost every surviving character in the history of the show. Ziggy, Brother Mouzone, Horseface, maybe one or two others didn't come back. Was there anybody this season you wanted to bring back but just couldn't get it to work, either because of actor availability or because there was no way to fit into the story?

I didn't think those cameos were gratuitous. I thought they were each saying something about this world going on and where people end. We weren't putting them in to reprise moments but to advance moments. If we had a character we couldn't advance in any credible way -- like, for example, there was no point in advancing Ziggy. With Randy, there were open questions about what it meant to be in that group home. In a single scene, you could put the coda on that story. I'm not sure you need a coda on Ziggy. The end of season two with him in that prison uniform in that line of guys was the coda.

Who didn't come back? Mouzone didn't need a coda, he was a force of nature. If we needed it, if it added it to the film, we banged the last nail in, and if we didn't need it, we didn't pick up the hammer.

It was funny -- and again, it comes down to one of those things where people want the show to be something it isn't -- how throughout the Omar storyline, people kept saying, "Why doesn't he just call Brother Mouzone and have Mouzone come down and help him?"

It's a Greek tragedy, and everyone's trying to think Antigone or Medea or Oedipus out of the box. Which is understandable. When you go see those plays performed, if they're done well, you know the ending with absolute certainty -- and yet you can't help but think somewhere in act two that the fates are not the fates. And, listen, American entertainment does nothing but sell redemption and easy victories 24-7.

I'm not saying that "The Wire's" unique in that respect -- there's a lot of other high-end television that is dark and continues to be dark -- but I agree with Chase in one respect. I read an interview with him where he said what American television gets wrong relentlessly is that life is really tragic. Not a lot of people want to tune their living room box to that channel. It's an escapist form. There are people who are willing to look at it for something else. It's not a mass audience, but possibly some portion of that mass audience finds its way to something else, and then they expect to be treated as they've always been treated. There's nothing the writers can do about that, other than twist themselves into hacks trying to please people with what they want. What are you gonna do? We weren't doing it to be mean, we were doing it cause this is the story we cared about.

Do you think the fact you're telling stories in different ways than is traditional, and it has this darkness to it, was that the big barrier to the show becoming more popular than it was? Would you say it was the racial makeup of the cast?

There were a lot of barriers. The racial makeup of the cast was problematic and we knew that going in. The complexity of the serial itself -- the fact that you couldn't miss a couple of episodes and feel comfortable watching it. Though I think that HBO was a wonderful vehicle for that with the multiple viewings, the DVDs and ultimately with On Demand. It was less of a problem as the show went on.

It was also less of a problem as people who watched the show got used to its rhythms. The first season was on some level training the audience to watch television a little bit differently, and reducing the expectations in terms of pacing, in terms of cliffhangers, in terms of the requirement to absorb detail or even to look for symbolism. Those were problems.

The other problem is, no easy gratifications, other than some real effort at careful characterization and humor. That was it. Without the humor, it would have been unbearable. Without an acknowledgement of the humanity of the characters, despite all their flaws, their vanities, their absurdities -- if on some level, you can't make people care about the characters, you've got a problem no matter what you're doing. We had some obligations to people if they wanted to watch, but a happy ending was not among the list of obligations.

There were small happy endings throughout the series. They were rare, but they did happen. When I was rewatching "Late Editions" to work on my blog entry of it, when Namond shows up at the debate, I swear to God I'm not sure I've ever been as emotionally affected by the show as that -- just from knowing what had happened to the other three boys.

But it was earned. And nothing is more earned in the history of a happy ending than Bubbles, at least in this medium. We laid the groundwork for that, and we tried to bring him to a point where he's standing up at that meeting or going up the steps felt like it was entirely earned. There are a lot of cheap victories in TV. When we had a victory, we really relished it. I think The Wire is affirming of people's basic humanity, and an argument that even though it may be futile to rebel, it's the only alternative if you want to salvage anything that remotely resembles human dignity. I'm butchering Camus there, but somewhere in there is a quote that I'm stealing -- or trying to.

Some people have called it a cynical show. I don't know that I would agree. I doubt you would.

I think it's a misuse of the word "cynical." I think it's a dark show. I think it has a great deal of sentiment to it. I just don't think it's sentimental. I think it's intensely political. I think if you want to suggest that it's cynical about institutions and their capacity to reform themselves or be reformed, I would have to plead guilty to that. The only thing I would cite is to say that, given where we're at as a culture right now, cynicism therefore becomes another word for "pragmatically realistic."

I don't think it's cynical about human beings. I think that's why viewers were so committed and loyal, because the human beings that were traversing this rigged game were entirely worth the time spent following them.


Was Omar originally going to die in the shoot-out with Wee-Bey in season one, or is that an urban legend?

It's an urban legend. It came from some early interviews that Michael (K. Williams) did. I've never corrected him, because he wasn't saying it (out of bad intentions). I think he got a little confused in this regard: In the first season we told him he's only doing seven episodes. That's as many as we needed. We said, it was seven and we didn't know if there was work to be had next year, because we didn't know if we'd be renewed. And I think he took that to believe he was going to be killed after seven.

If the show continued, Omar was going to return. No, he was not going to die in that shoot-out. There was nothing to suggest that we didn't have some fundamental plan for him. Nor did we write more to the character because of how well Michael played him. Omar was going to have to exist for narrative purposes throughout. Did we write the lines a little differently? Did we enjoy a moment or two that Michael could give us that another actor couldn't? Absolutely. That's what you do. that's the biofeedback that goes on when the dailies come back and you see what you have. The idea that he was going to be killed off and he marched his way back in the show, I think he just misunderstood when we told him, 'You only have seven this year.'

So when you introduced Kenard in season three when they're playing outside the stash house shoot-out, even back then you were planning, "Okay, this little kid is going to kill Omar a few seasons from now"?

With one caveat. We did introduce him, and I had it in my mind that I wanted a moment like "The Shootist" or the buried moment in the gunfight at the end of "Wild Bunch." The character that was most in the Western archetype -- and George had a lot of fun with this -- was Omar. The inner city is now the Wild West, the new frontier in terms of American storytelling, it has been for several decades now. We played a lot of our Western film themes and archetypes through Omar's story. I always had that in my mind. There were arguments to be had in the writers room -- there were guys who didn't want to kill Omar, there were some guys who did, some guys who didn't but came around. Everyone gets a say when you argue it down on the merits. I definitely wanted to plant the beginnings of that story if we wanted to go that way.

We took the best kids for that part, but at that point, these actors are so young and there's no guaranteeing that they'll stay either in the business or that when they age out they're going to be able to handle more dialogue and if they're going to have the chops to get there. If it didn't work out, it was going to be another kid. As it turned out, Thuliso turned out to be a pretty good kid actor, and he got better and better as he aged into the role. And so it became a practical opportunity. But sometimes you bury something like that and it just doesn't work and you go another way.

Where there other instances of you planting things very early on that would pay off much later, like that Kenard scene in season three?

We knew that if we got a long enough run, all three of the chess players would be out of the game, so to speak. Prison or dead. We did not chart all of their fates to a specific outcome, but we knew that the Pit crew would be subject to an exacting attrition.

We knew, for example, that when Carcetti declares that he wants no more stat games in his new administration that the arc would end with his subordinates going into Daniels' office and demanding yet another stat game. Or that McNulty would end up on the pool table felt like Cole, albeit quitting rather than dead. Or that Carver's long arc toward maturity and leadership would begin with him making rank under ugly pretenses and then being lectured by Daniels about what you can and can't live with. (It's at that point that Carver slowly begins to change, not merely when he encounters Colvin's integrity.) We knew that the FBI file that Burrell would not be put into play in season one would eventually be used to deny Daniels the prize.

Is it true that Donnie (Andrews, the inspiration for Omar) in real life jumped off a balcony the same height that Omar did?

Actually, two floors higher.

Two floors higher?

The Murphy Homes. He also jumped off the rail bridge at Poplar Grove, onto the rail bed. That was probably about three stories. And he hurt his ankle. It's just true. Those jumps, by an athletic person, can actually be made and are made, routinely. By a non-athletic person? if I made it, I'd be all over the pavement and they'd pick me up with a spoon. If you made it, they'd pick you up with a spoon. When 28-year-old Donnie Andrews makes that jump because he has to, sometimes he makes it. It's funny: I'm doing this thing now with recon Marines, "Generation Kill." And some of them had no problem with the jump. They just started telling stories about recon training. I don't know whether to believe them or not, but I do believe Donnie.

It was a story I actually used, I wrote about the first time back in 1990. That story was all through the ghetto: "They had him cornered, and motherf---er jumped off the railroad bridge and kept running. Did not want to die that day." But we did want it to feel a little bit mythic, and "What the f--k?" because it fit with the general arc of Greek tragedy.

Do you think that, much like the humor, the larger-than-life aspect of Omar and the things he does, helps make the more brutal moments on the show bearable?

Yes. There is a desire to lean towards the heroic and to hope for the highest aspirations human beings can have, for what they might achieve as heroes. That's in all of us. It's why people have had such a problem with McNulty this year. He's the center of the show, and he's been the s--t-stirrer, and we've shown you his faults and we've shown you his rage and his arrogance and his self-destructiveness and the way in which alcohol, for him, acts as a trigger. We spent four years giving you all the evidence for why he'd be driven to something as confrontational and as outrageous as season five. And yet, for all we've shown you, the fact that he's trying to do something that society would regard as heroic at least in its intent -- catch a brutal, murdering drug trafficker -- when he fails you as a person and as a hero, there's a great deal of fury that goes along with that.

I remember -- and this was on a much smaller scale -- when I was a kid, couldn't have been more than 10, I saw "Bridge on the River Kwai" on TV, and I finally realized that Bill Holden really didn't want to go back. He did not want to go back to that bridge, and he was f---ed and he had to go back because he'd lied. He had no interest in going back. He didn't care about the bridge. He just wanted to stay on the beach with the girl. That isn't as far adrift as McNulty making up the serial killer, but by the standards of 1970 and what was in the ether in terms of American heroes and film iconography, that was unbelievable. Hey, this guy's not the hero. He may act heroically and he may even be martyred, but he's not the hero. I saw that, and it was like a kick in the head.

It happened again with my son, when my son was about 8, we watched "Kelly's Heroes," which was the direct antecedent to "Three Kings." There came a moment when he realized these Americans were just robbing banks. And it was Clint Eastwood! Ethan looked at me and said, "Dad, they're really not doing the right thing." 'Yep." He goes, "They're Americans." I go, "Yep. Just preparing you for the 21st century, son."

It was a funny moment, but I think on some level, that's what we were offering up for season five. We sort of expected people to be pissed. They're right to be pissed off. It is a disappointment. You thought the guy could do better.


I know some people have wondered whether you thought Jimmy and Lester were justified in what they did, and it sounds like you don't think so.

I don't think it matters whether they're justified or not. They're playing a rigged game. It's hard to say that what they did was any more irrational than continuing to play the game. I can argue it from both sides. It was certainly self-destructive. As it turned out, Lester had his 20 years and for reasons of a lie turning out to have political import, as a like like that would have, he's allowed to walk with his pension. Jimmy doesn't get his pension because he's only got 13 years, but in some ways, I think Jimmy was ready to walk anyway. I actually think getting out -- I actually have some hope for Jimmy. He was doing something that was killing him.

He seems oddly at peace there in those final scenes.

Absolutely. I think so. Not that anyone has to have my opinion. Dominic West might feel differently, Ed Burns might feel differently. I'm not sure I know. But I do think that, just as he said a fever had passed at the end of season three, at some sense he did walk away from the fever, I think he's now recognizing the fever for what it is. Maybe a little self-awareness crept in. Certainly, when you see him kneeling over the body of the homeless guy and realizing he's the proximate cause of another death, I think that was a hard lesson. I think on some level, he knows he didn't deserve to be a cop anymore.

When people have complained about the serial killer fraud, I said that this is a show that spent season three legalizing drugs in West Baltimore. Do you think what McNulty does here is any more extreme than what Bunny did?

I think it's less extreme in this sense: it was easier to sell. I was in the morgue one day in 1988 when this exact thing came up. An Anne Arundel County detective was telling the story that the Baltimore County detectives tell in episode two. I don't know if you caught that, but those were two of the characters from Laura (Lippman)'s novels, Nancy Porter and Kevin Infante. I had to get permission from her publishers to use them. I gave it to Baltimore County detectives, but it was an Anne Arundel detective who had a guy who overdosed, did a header caught between the toilet and there was post-mortem bruising, and that is the one way in which a pathologist can mistake a murder. I remember interviewing the then-chief medical examiner of Maryland, and he said 'This one catches us now and then, especially if the body is descending.' If you raise up the body so that the blood flows to the head, it creates the bruising dramatically. In 1988, I put that in my back pocket. You can actually make a murder? That one I loved.

The second thing is, you would only need to fool the medical examiner and you only need to let a certain number of people in on the true nature of the secret. To an extent, they cheated, the guys who were doing the surveillances for them didn't know there was not a serial killer. It was a couple of guys was all you'd need on that one. (With Bunny), the Western District has 150 cops in it. Every cop who drives into that district, they answer calls from other districts, you're talking about 3-400 cops, all these detectives from CID who may find themselves over there, and that thing went on for weeks. It's interesting how people are credulous when they want to be, and when they don't want to be, they're not. I didn't have any problem with that, in terms of showing it to myself. You should have heard that Anne Arundel detective, he was screaming at the guy, 'What the f--k am I gonna charge? A paramedic?'


Let me ask you about The Greek and Marlo working together. Given that Joe was such a reliable business partner and fit the quiet, uncomplicated modus operandi that they had, why was The Greek willing to throw him under the bus and give Marlo his blessing to kill him?

I think he realized, much as Joe did not, that Marlo was going to kill him anyway. Marlo would have killed him and taken lesser dope in order to be the top guy. Getting the connection would be icing on the cake and would allow him to wholesale to the co-op, to co-opt the co-op. But if the Greek had said no way, he would have killed Joe and then come back. The way we felt about it was this is pure power and pure power is inexorable, there's no mitigating it. Pure capitalism recognized pure power -- takes one to know one. The way he said 'He kept coming back with money and wouldn't take no for an answer.' They both didn't exchange the 'I am that I am' moment with each other, but they did in their eyes. And he says it to Vondas: 'He would keep coming back.'

For The Greek to choose this guy, it's not so much of a choice except it establishes a different dynamic for the supplier, on a practical level, if you have given the guy the wink and said, 'Do what you're gonna do and we'll talk later.' You're now in a position where there is some degree of gratitude, as opposed to Marlo coming back into the diner saying, 'Well, Joe's dead, I killed him, here are my terms if you want to keep wholesaling in Baltimore.' That whole thing was Aesop's Fable of the turtle and the scorpion and Joe didn't recognize the scorpion. The Greek did.

It's interesting, then, that pure power winds up, if not imprisoned then taken away from his power, where pure capitalism in the end continues on exactly as it always has.

Right. Right. Change governments... That's exactly right.

This one I'm paraphrasing from a reader: Given the show's roots in Greek tragedy, how different are modern institutions from ancient institutions?

Well, no one's tried to feed Ed Burns any hemlock lately. I don't know what to say to that. I think there are some core dynamics in terms of how humans govern themselves and how they route power and wealth and authority that are eternal. And the notion of democracy goes back to the city-states, and Athens in particular. Obviously, the contradictions and complexities of democracy have been a source of struggle ever since the form was suggested and practiced. It was his relationship to the democratic ideals and the problems inherent in the democratic ideals that got Socrates the hemlock. It has always been a point of intense conflict as to how people are going to be allowed to govern.

I just think at this point the institutions in America -- and by that I mean the manner in which power and money are actually routing themselves and controlling the political infrastructure -- I live in a state where 9 times out of 10 my vote will not matter. My vote will not matter in this coming election. Why does it not matter? Because the voting structure of this country has been set up since the birth of this country in a manner that is anti-democratic. It is oligarchal. When 40 percent of the people elect 60 percent of the senators, as is true in America, you cannot call it a democracy. You can say it has some democratic principals, it has some democratic roots. You can mitigate it however you want. But if 40 percent of the people elect 60 percent of the higher house of a bi-cameral legislature, it's an oligarchy. We're being led by the rich and the powerful, and I don't know about you, but I sure wish they were doing a better f---ing job.


Do you see any hope in America? People right now are looking to Obama the way people in the fictional Baltimore looked to Carcetti, and we know what happens when Carcetti starts running up against the machine.

Not that I'm announcing my support for anybody, but I'm impressed that Obama got this close to being a nominee just being part African-American. There's a part of me that looks at that and says, "Damn, we're getting healthier on some things." Now, is Obama any more able to address the fact that we're a money-obsessed oligarchy and not a democracy? I don't think so.

I think for change to happen on a level that actually affects the structure of that oligarchy, a lot of distressing things will have to happen, and more people are going to have to suffer a great deal more. More struggle for the working class, and the middle-class is going to have to be marginalized. Wages will have to go a lot lower, the recession will have to go a lot deeper -- and I think we're in a recession and headed for some bad economic times. I think it's going to have to go a lot deeper.

At some point, the Sunis that we paid out with money and guns are going to have to wait until we fashion whatever escape we have from that war and start ripping the country up and reducing it to a civil war. I think we've built a Lebanon, and once it becomes clear that we've built a Lebanon and condemned that region to generations of internecine violence, and it cost us 4000 troops and a veritable treasure -- I hope we get out of there before it's more -- I think people are going to be angrier.

Right now we have the illusion that we're fixing things. I don't know for sure; I'm not there on the ground. But I'm sitting here in a room with Even Wright, who just was in Baghdad and spent weeks there interviewing everybody there and talking to Petraeus and to people on the ground, and his take on it is we've built another Lebanon. Right now, we're paying people not to shoot at each other, and we're giving people guns and saying, 'Please don't use these.' At some point, somebody's going to assert for power there, probably after we're gone, and we'll realize that this was over nothing, over absolutely nothing.

When that happens, maybe the next war gets harder, and when the economic structure fails to a point where people begin to realize en masse that they've been cheated and that their future has been marginalized, at that point maybe there's another New Deal coming, maybe there's another reckoning. But short of that, as long as it's just some people in places like Baltimore, and it's only 10 percent or 15 percent of the population we don't need, I'm sorry, I think there's a lot of money to be spent by a lot of people in order to keep people pacified.

You know why I like talking to you? You always make me feel so optimistic.

It's my job, man. By the way, if you want to not focus on what the f--k's going on, read the newspapers. Suffer the journalism, and don't worry: the big picture will elude you nicely.


How closely do you follow fan reaction to the show, on-line or elsewhere?

I generally check in from time to time to see what people are talking about. But it's not a Talmudic assessment. It's always interesting to find out (what people think), especially on certain websites where the level of discussion is at least more substantive. There's places that I don't go. And by the way, some of the places I go where the critique might be quite harsh at times, and some of the places I don't go are places where it's sort of fawning. When websites critique your show in a way that's silly, it's hard to go back. But that's what the Internet is, right? Your colleague's site, I read it for the other film criticism. Never mind 'The Wire,' I'm reading it just because I don't know some of this stuff. That's a place to learn stuff you don't know.

I imagine one of the places you don't go back to too often are the boards.

I get a little tired of the "more gangster than thou" stuff, yeah. I'm not particularly interested in that.

This season, more so than any others, it seemed you used more people either playing themselves or people similar to themselves, instead of trained actors.

I think it's about the same as every other season. You just don't know 'em. You don't know how many gangsters and ex-gangsters were layered through the first four seasons, how many school officials were in season four, how many police officials. It's just that a lot of the media people are known for exactly who they are. But the guy cutting Avon's hair is Jim Hart, and I know who Jim Hart is, and everyone in West Baltimore knows who Jim Hart is.

There have been some people who, for one reason or another, feel like a Melvin Williams or a Snoop Pearson doesn't deserve to be on a TV show given what they've done in their life.

To quote Snoop Pearson, quoting Clint Eastwood, deserve's got nothing to do with it. You come in, you read, if the portrayal is worthwhile, if you're the right actor for the right moment. Certain roles were going to be cast out of Baltimore, we didn't have the money to bring in actors from NY for every part. We were just looking for interesting people, and we weren't going to preclude people who had trouble with the law and had served their time, and having served time were on the street looking for something different. I'm not sure that's our role, to make that judgment.

Having said that, I find it sort of remarkable that that would be uttered in a country, that right now, today, if you looked at the New York Times, seems content to put 1 out of every 100 of its adults behind bars. There's a fundamental illness in this country when it comes to incarceration, how it's used and who it's used on. If people choose not to recognize it, that they marginalize people, if they exclude them from the economy because they have previously been incarcerated, I don't know what to do with that. Should we have left Snoop in East Baltimore to fend for herself? She showed up to read. She's an interesting character, she committed to it wholly, she took acting classes, took voice classes.

Certainly, it's better that she's playing a killer than to be out on the street where she might have opportunities to be one.

I hope so. I hope people see the distinction.

And you've shown on your show that people like Cutty who have done bad things can be returned to being useful members of society.

And Donnie. I mean, I don't have a hero bigger than Fran Boyd.

Is the New Orleans show (a proposed HBO drama about musicians in the Big Easy) definitely a go?

I have to put finishing touches on the pilot before I turn it in. If I could get two days off in a row from post production on "Generation Kill," if I could get a decent weekend, I could turn it in. I've been going six days a week between New York, Los Angeles and London and stopping in Baltimore to change dirty laundry for clean. That's not an exaggeration. I just don't have the time to take the last notes for people and clean up a couple of storylines and turn it in. I think my first week off is in the middle of March.

Do you think you could have gotten The Wire on HBO today, or was it the halo effect of "Sopranos" and other shows at the time that made it possible?

They signed the deal with me to write it, and "Sopranos" wasn't on the air yet. Obviously, Sopranos was on the way. But I was coming at it after "Oz." "Oz" was, to me, the groundbreaker and the one that made me believe that "The Corner" could be on HBO, and "The Corner" gave me entree to talk to Carolyn about a continuing show. When "Sopranos" came out, we were already working on "The Wire," I believe.

Having said that, there was a notion that they could almost put anything over, that if it was good enough they could sell it to everybody. And I think there was a little hubris in that, because "Check me out, dog. My cast is 60 percent black and my story is all this dysfunction and I'm filmed in Baltimore and nothing makes sense until episode 4. Come get me." I think I disproved the theory that HBO could sell anything to everybody! I taught them a lesson, didn't I?

But having said that, I'm a huge admirer of "The Sopranos," and of "Deadwood" as well. Now I'm getting to watch them in order. Before, I'd seen enough of the shows to know what they were and admire them, but I had resisted watching them in some systemic order. I wasn't worried about raw plagiarism, but I was worried about having these very significant themes that Chase and Milch were pursuing in my head. I didn't want it to start, in any suppressed way, conflating with anything I was doing on "The Wire." Since they were dealing in a similar medium, in a similar venue if not a similar vernacular, I just didn't want to have it in my head. I now get to crawl up in my boxed sets like everybody else.


The last shot of the series is of the show's main character: Baltimore. You have all these people from past seasons wandering through this season. Munch shows up at one point. Is this your goodbye to Baltimore?

It's certainly my goodbye to doing a cop show in Baltimore. There are a couple of ideas for features that I would love to do. They happen to be comedies. There is one true crime story that there's a lot of interest in, and we're working on a script for that. It happens to be in Baltimore, it's a true crime story, but it's not the overarching depiction of a city that I think gave Baltimore such angst for so long. It is saying that after a lot of years of making television about crime and Baltimore, yeah, it's a goodbye.

The Munch thing was just very gentle. I certainly didn't want to blow anyone out of the water with it or upset the apple cart in terms of verisimilitude. It served Richard's amusing purpose of having the character be on everything from Sesame Street to X-Files. It served my purpose as a little tip of the hat to people who mentored me in show business and showed me how to do this. It was just a small moment. If you let it bother you because this guy was at the bar, then I'm sorry.

You do realize you've now placed The Wire in the same fictional universe as The Simpsons, among other things.

And in whatsisname's...

Tommy Westphall's imagination. The show never existed.

You know what? The show was fictional.


I have to say, it was fictional. We did make some stuff up. I checked my WGA card and on the back it says I'm allowed to do that. My Baltimore newspaper guild membership card, long expired, would not have allowed it, but my WGA card seems to approve.

Alan Sepinwall can be reached at