Wire 106: S04E01 – Boys of Summer

thewireseason4In this Wire 106 video discussion, Paul Bond and I to look at season 4, episode 1 of the The Wire“Boys of Summer.” This episode introduces the season about education, or as is noted on the DVD set: “No Corner Left Behind.” We get introduced to four of the most memorable characters in this episode: Randy Wagstaff, Duquan “Dukie” Weems, Namon Brice, and Michael Lee. The boys of summer. The idea of innocence lost is at the heart of the season, and one of the themes that comes up in our discussion, and an idea that will be revisited repeatedly over the next 12 episodes.

I was really taken with David Simon‘s and Ed Burns‘s commentary on the DVD for this episode. Turns out after serving as a police officer in Baltimore for twenty years, Burns worked as a middle school teacher in the city for seven more. His experience working in the school system is the premise for the season and, as Simon notes, this is Burns’s season.


This season also has an amazing opening sequence featuring Snoop getting schooled on the Hilti DX460 powdered-actuated, .27 caliber Lexus of nail guns. And the opening sequence of the first episode is, according to Simon, an allegory for the season at large. Wonder where this is headed:

There is so much to talk about with this episode, and Paul and I spend an hour trying to scratch the surface. Below are some screenshots of a few scenes we discussed during this discussion:

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Wire 106: S03E12 – Mission Accomplished

In this Wire 106 video discussion, Paul Bond and I were joined by Brittany Scites to look at season 3, episode 12 of the The Wire“Mission Accomplished.” This episode pushes home the season-long allegory that parallels the politics behind the War on Drugs with those propelling the War on Terror. This theme had been around since season 1, but season 3 is when The Wire defines twelve episode narrative that follows the arc of the falling towers in episode 1 (in this case the Terrace Towers stand in for the WTC), the emergence of Marlo’s rival gang (the insurgents in Iraq), and Barksdale’s crew going to war on a lie in this final episode (the weapons of mass destruction lie). Now that’s television!

The highlight of this discussion for me was Brittany’s weaving back in some of the audio details Jen Ralston discussed back in week 4.  It’s awesome, take a couple of minutes and watch the clip and her explanation starting at minute 20, you won’t be disappointed. Im including the clip below as well so you can get the full effect in the event the Google Hangout version is as poor quality as I imagine.

The following images were various scenes we discussed, included the aftermath of Stringer’s demise, the lie we fight on, Stringer’s apartment, Colvin’s right, Mohammed Ali, mixed media, Eunetta Perkins, and the final scene.


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Wire 106: S03E11 – “Middle Ground”

Heads up: The S03E10 discussion has been posted, but Google has muted the audio making it useless.

In this Wire 106 video discussion, Paul Bond and I were joined by Amy Wallace to look at season 3, episode 11 of the The Wire“Middle Ground.” This episode opens up with Omar and Brother Mouzone facing off in an alley. It’s one of the most memorable sequences of the series, and it seems to be directly quoting the aesthetics of Sergio Leone‘s Spaghetti Westerns and the gun comparison scene from Red River:

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The opening sequence led us to discuss the changing aesthetic of The Wire over the three seasons we’ve been watching. The almost documentary-style grit of season 1 seems to have given way to increasingly stylized—at times dreamlike—cinematic moments like the opening of this episode. Amy, Paul and I discuss this and much more. Below are some screenshots of some of the scenes we discussed.

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Acting Commissioner Burrell

faison1Earlier in his career, before he acted as Commissioner of the Baltimore Police, Ervin Burrell had a number of other jobs, including truck driver and apartment building superintendent. He also worked for the New Orleans PD. Here we see him in Cat People, the 1982 remake of the Jacques Tourneur classic of the same name.


The top picture makes him look like a saint while the lower one makes him look like Shaft. My wife questions my choice of movies. But Cat Videos approves!


Inspired: If You Need Us, We’re on the Radio

Grant Potter’s ds106 bumper inspired by The Wire is not only awesome, it also captures a brilliant moment when you get a sense how confined Bodie Broadus’s world is. He thinks the radio is going out, but the fact is they’re just leaving Baltimore—something he’s never done before—that become for some awesome character development without much overhead. The Wire at its very best.

See the inspired post here.


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The above GIF is from an episode of The Wire from Season 2. The docks are ubiquitous in season 2, and this particular image is a visualization of a cloned machine that captures the vanishing container—presumably filled with illegal cargo. I’m fascinated by the representation of technology throughout the series, but season 2 in particular is really interesting. There’s the digital technology of camera, the web, GPS, and much more that’s constantly being discussed, but there’s also the radical changes to the physical technology of the dock. The first part of the following video features the presentation from Season 2, Episode 7 about the automation of the port of Rotterdam.

Sobotka refers to this as a “horror movie” noting the eroding need of stevedores, but more generally labor. The automated container technology becomes a sign of labor’s vanishing past.


At the same time the metaphor of the container systems that have redefined the way shipping works have come to servers thanks to Docker.


To the degree I fully understand it, Docker provides an open platform for building, running, and shipping distributed applications. In other words, you can get a pre-configured container through Docker that has the proper server environment for running a specific application. For example, if you want to run the the forum software Discourse or the blog engine Ghost (which is what Tim Owens has figured out recently for Reclaim Hosting), we have a server that has the docker engine installed which allows us to quickly fire up different application environments and run them for anyone who requests it.


And we are grabbing those application images from an open repository of virtualized possibilities that helps us avoid become overly dependent on a close platform like Amazon Web Services, which is a major bonus. Additionally, Tim is playing with Shipyard, which allows you to manage various containers and resources on your server. What strikes me about all of this is how the metaphorical language of docks, shipyards, and containers helps me wrap my head around this technology. What’s more, it’s cool to see it both through the eyes of Sobotka and Tim Owens—two of my heroes :)

Wire 106 Weeks 11-12: Video Essays, Swedes, Final Projects and More Video

We will be treating weeks 11 and 12 as a single unit, so there will be only one weekly summary due for the work over the next two weeks by  Sunday 11/16 at 11:59 PM.

Wire Episodes
Season 3, episodes 11 & 12, Season 4, episode 1 (week 11)
Season 4, episodes 2, 3 & 4 (week 12)

Video Discussions
Week 11
Season 3, Episode 11: 7:30 PM, Tuesday, Nov 4th
Season 3, Episode 12: 7:30 PM, Thursday, Nov 6th
Season 4, Episode 1: 10:30 AM, Friday, Nov 7th

Week 12
Season 4, Episode 2: 7:30 PM, Tuesday, Nov 11th
Season 4, Episode 3: 7:30 PM, Thursday, Nov 12th
Season 4, Episode 4: 10:30 AM, Friday, Nov 13th

Sign-up here, and remember, we have only 3 more weeks after these, so be sure to get your video discussions scheduled.

Commentary Listen Along
For people who are interested in the episode commentaries, I scheduled commentaries for episodes 11 and 12 for Tuesday (11/4) and Wednesday (11/5) nights at 9 PM on ds106radio this week. You’ll be expected to tweet along with one of the two options using the #wire106 hashtag. If this is an issue let us know.

Video assignments: 16 stars

We’ve been looking at video all semester, and last week we started to dig in to putting videos together. Now it’s time to go all out with video storytelling.

Pay attention to Video the ds106 Way from http://ds106.us/open-course/unit-10-making-movies/ in regards to including credits, more complex audio, write-ups, etc.

Also, we are going to do things a bit differently these next two weeks. Of those 16 stars we will be asking you to focus on two assignments in particular:

Swede an Episdoe from The Wire(4.5/5 stars):
Take any episdoe from The Wire and recreate it. Extra bonus points if you work together with other people from wire106 to create a more elaborate scene, and good practice for what’s to come.

The Wire Video Essay (5 stars)
Using the commentaries as a model. Do a close, in-depth commentary of one of the episodes. Rather than commenting on the episode in its entirety, choose specific scenes to discuss how they develop particular themes, reinforce an aesthetic, etc.

Final Projects

Pick a character from The Wire (first come, first serve) and develop a transmedia campaign. You can read more about the project here. To sign-up for a specific character (only one character per student) claim them in the comments of this post.

Daily creates: 2 each week

Inspired: X-Files Minimalist Movie Poster

xfilesThe artist behind this piece, Kaileyck, is in Jennifer Polock’s section of ds106 this semester. I’ve been following her work through Twitter thanks to the #ds106 hashtag, and I’ve become a fan of her art. Here minimalist poster of The X-Files was striking to me because while stark, the shadows, color scheme and composition suggest the complexity of designing something so stripped down. So many elements have to work well together to lull you into a sense of naturalized minimalism, and this piece did that so quickly for me that I was taken by it. The “X” does so much of the work here, and its placement askance on the page and part of it out of the frame suggest the truth is out there in terms of the rest of the X, we just can’t see it :)

Wire106 – ep08 Moral Midgetry


I see Fredericksburg is in on the action.


Colvin is getting ready to retire, to hang up the gloves. On the other hand, Cutty is getting ready to start a boxing gym. The Deacon, in the foreground, is connected to both. Considering what happens later on in the series, this feels like foreshadowing.


We’ve been seeing Greggs turn into McNulty. This shot is set up so she’s staring into the bottle – not a bright future


Omar when he was little


Clay Davis walks String through the golden doors. It looks impressive, but we all know it’s not real gold, just a front.

I like the layering of sounds here. You can hear the footsteps in the background as Devonne walks across the street, Chris up close readying his weapon, the changing point of view as the vehicle moves. The explosion of glass that coincides with the gunshot doesn’t sound quite right to me, like the shards are too big for auto glass. But then we hear the alarms, the dog barking, all the people shouting. They sound more angry than fearful.

Wire 106: Week 10 – “Let’s Go to the Videotape”


Actually, it’s not really tape, it’s all digital these days.

So now it’s time to start putting all the different digital media we’ve been exploring this semester—photography, design, and audio—into motion. Video is a magical medium in that it combines so many powerful elements into one, but that’s also why it can be difficult to do well. We’ll be working on just that these next two weeks.

Reading Movies
Take a look at the Reading Movies unit for the open ds106 course, there are a ton of great resources there. And while we’ve been reading The Wire closely all semester, this week serves as reinforcement. It’s high time we start formalizing the things we’ve been talking about. This should raise the quality bar going forward. But also since we’ve been analyzing all along, this week’s concepts should be easy for everyone.

For a quick overview and some inspiration watch the short Ken Burns clip on storytelling with video:

Read the late movie critic Roger Ebert‘s article “How to Read a Movie,” you’ll be coming back to this for the “Look, Listen, Analyze” assignment explained below.

Finally, watch the first seven minute’s of Fritz Lang‘s masterpiece M and reflect on how he is providing exposition and creating narrative tension cinematically in this opening sequence. How does he get across such a huge amount of information, simply, subtly and naturally?

Look, Listen, Analyze

This week you need to do the “Look, Listen, Analyze” exercise outlined here, the only difference is you should use a scene of your choice from this week’s episodes of The Wire.

Tag: readingmovies

Tools of the Trade

For the work over the next few weeks, you will need to be using software that allows you to combine, edit, augment, re-sequence video, as well as being able to add or even replace the soundtrack within a video.

Reference the Tools for the Trade for links to software you might want to use as well as our new Video Guide for video resources and tutorials.

We most strongly recommend you use the applications that come with your computer- either Windows Movie Maker or Apple’s iMovie, these are generally the easiest to get started with and should be available on your computer.

Note that students often face challenges in Movie Maker and importing MP4 type videos (the most common format you will download videos in), you may have to install extra video codec software or find converters that will translate MP4 videos into AVI or WMV formats (try http://www.online-convert.com/ or http://zamzar.com).

But for this unit’s work, you will only do basic editing. If you don’t have a machine that can handle editing videos, the Media Editing Lab on the first floor of the Convergence Center is open and available, as are the Macs on the first floor of the library.

For making small clips from downloaded videos, get a copy of the free MPEG StreamClip, an application for Mac OSX and Windows that makes it easy to mark and export the exact portion of a video – see our tutorial that shows you how this is done.

Basic Editing

We recommend using video editing software that allows you to cut and re-arrange clips on a timeline, and to add, and layer audio tracks. Most typically this is the software that came with your operating system- iMovie on Macs and MovieMaker on Windows PCs (but feel free to look at some of the other options in the ds106 Handbook).

Many of the assignments will require downloading of clips form YouTube (we have a tutorial if you need it). PC users may have challenges in importing the downloaded mp4 video files into MovieMaker (We have been told that the Windows Movie Maker Live can import MP4)- you will either have to install codecs to read mp4 videos, or use a converter to change mp4 into AVI or WMV file formats. See the ds106 Handbook for some video converter options.

Other resources that may help include:

Digital Knowledge Center

The Digital Knowledge Center (on the 4th floor of the ITCC) is open for business between 10 Am and 6 PM Monday through Thursday, and from 10 Am to 3 PM on Fridays. They are awesome, schedule an appointment to get focused help with using these video tools—you might even meet a fellow classmate :)

Video Assignments

Do ten stars, involve The Wire in at least one assignment.

Season 3, episodes 8, 9 & 10

Video Discussions

  • Episode 8 on Tuesday, 10/28 at 7:30 PM
  • Episode 9 on Thursday, 10/30 at 7:30 PM
  • Episode 10 on Friday, 10/31 at 1:30 PM

Sign-up here.

Daily Creates: 2

Inspires: 2 Building on last week, keep inspiring one another.