Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Wire

A couple years ago our son started talking to us about The Wire. He always puts us on to really interesting series. The Wire is an HBO series, like Rome

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Season 1 starts with a new unit being set up to interdict the drug trade in Baltimore. Season 2 re-unites the team to combat illegal imports and illegal importation of sex slaves out of Eastern Europe and Asia. Season 3, my favorite season of all, is back to the drug trade, but with a difference.

In Season 3, one police district changes the rules. They clean up their neighborhood and send all the drug traders and sex trade workers to one area. The area doesn’t legalize crime – not exactly – but the police leave that area alone. As they explain it to the primary drug dealers, it’s a little like Amsterdam. The homies don’t understand; they call it “Hamsterdam”. I laugh everytime I hear it.

The series doesn’t focus strictly on the police – we get to go inside to watch how the drug dealers organize and divide up the city. We learn how drug lords use big business management modules to streamline their supply and demand, and to stay ahead of the police technology. And they are masters at manipulating the judicial system.

There is brutality. There is sex. There is love and there is betrayal. Sometimes, it isn’t easy to tell who the “good” guys are. There are bad guys who show decent values and there are police and politicians on the take. You get the impression it is probably pretty real stuff. In one season 3 episode, a policeman is shot in the line of duty, and they hold a wake in an Irish pub. They are all very very drunk, and vomiting out in the streets. It isn’t pretty.

And all the same, when each season ends, we can hardly wait for the next one. It is gripping drama, vintage HBO cutting edge production. It keeps you on the edge of your chair. You can read more about The Wire at it’s HBO site, where I just learned that The San Francisco Chronicle calls The Wire “the best television show of the year.”

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March 12, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Communication, Crime, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, Detective/Mystery, Family Issues, Fiction, Financial Issues, Language, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Tchotchke

I used this word in conversation the other day, and my friend wasn’t familiar with it. I said it is something maybe sparkly, that catches the eye, but isn’t necessarily valuable, like the way Ravens go after a piece of tinfoil. Here is the official version, from Wikipedia.

Tchotchke (originally from Yiddish tshatshke (often spelled in a variety of other ways because there is no standardized transliteration) (trinket), ultimately from a Slavic word for “toys” — Polish: cacka, Russian: цацки) are trinkets, small toys, knickknacks, baubles, or kitsch. The term has a connotation of worthlessness or disposability, as well as tackiness. For example, an overly ostentatious piece of jewelry, valuable or not, might be referred to as a tchotchke.

The word may also refer to swag, in the sense of the logo pens, keychains and other promotional freebies dispensed at trade shows, conventions and similar large events. Also, stores that sell cheap souvenirs in tourist areas like Times Square and Venice Beach are sometimes called tchotchke shops.

The term was long used in the Jewish-American community and in the regional speech of New York City. It achieved more notoriety in mainstream culture during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. In addition, the 1999 movie Office Space features a tacky restaurant called “Chotchkies.”

Leo Rosten, author of The Joys of Yiddish, gives an alternate sense of tchotchke as meaning a desirable young girl, a “pretty young thing”. Less flatteringly, the term could be construed as a more dismissive synonym for “bimbo” or an attractive, but not very intelligent, female. Some consider this usage sexist and it is not widely used outside Jewish circles. The term (in the form tzatzke) is sometimes used in modern Hebrew as a slang word equivalent to “slut.”

March 12, 2007 Posted by | Communication, Cross Cultural, Language, Words | 3 Comments