Losing the agenda

From July 2015 to March 2016, I managed to write 200 stories, more or less one story a day. At the time, I just wanted to set down the many crazy ideas I had, without much thought of the final product. It is only in hindsight that I see a progression in the manner of my writing.

Whereas the earlier stories read more like things that I wanted to say, the later ones don’t seem to be trying to say anything in particular. Whatever values I hold are reflected only when taking into account the story as a whole, as opposed to any single voice.

Now I see what was most important about the past year’s writing project: I lost my agenda. Previously, I’d attempted to put down my grand visions of the time, and with such an end in sight, the resulting effort came across clunky and contrived, if not manipulative. I suppose that this time around, it was the focus on the habit or process of writing, as opposed to the goal of changing the world, that made for a difference.

Is ‘losing the agenda’ valuable only in fiction, as opposed to nonfiction? I thought so at first, but when I recall the times in conversation that I’d tried changing the other person’s beliefs, as opposed to making clear another point of view (mine), I was met with understandable defensiveness if not resentment. Even when writing essays, focus is just as important as substance.

Has my writing actually improved since before writing the 200 stories? I’d like to think so. I don’t get bogged down as much in irrelevant technical explanations inserted in the text just because it seems ‘important’ to mention. To the degree that I’ve been detached from an agenda, I’ve been better at making characters’ voices distinct from one another. They sound less like my mouthpieces.

Maybe more importantly, expressing diverse viewpoints has been a means of forgiveness, of others, and of myself. The struggle isn’t over; there is always something more to say.

10 favorite scenes from ‘The wire’

The more I watch ‘The wire,’ the more I’m impressed aesthetically, and the more insightful its social commentary appears. David Simon got in the heads of his characters – and there are hundreds of them – better than any other writer did, in any medium. And the show’s sense of humor is unrivaled by any other non-sitcom. The following scenes, to me, are most revealing of the brilliance of ‘The wire.’ It’s difficult to arrange the scenes in order of greatness, so I don’t bother.

  1. Bunk tells off Omar

“All this death, you don’t think that ripples out? You don’t even know what the fuck I’m talking about.” Omar’s eventual fate is hinted at in this beautiful scene. While Omar remains one of the coolest characters in television history, his moral reasoning – of seemingly only preying on ‘players’ – is ultimately flawed.

  1. Cutty leaves the game

After a brief encounter with his old lifestyle, newly-released ex-convict Cutty realizes that his heart is no longer into the game. And Avon Barksdale is left in admiration.

  1. Slim consoles Avon

The above heading is a joke of sorts. Slim was giving more of a pep talk to get Avon back into fighting mode, after the death of another member of the organization. War is not about right or wrong, but life or death. Loyalty is such a premium commodity in the game because you need trust in one another to survive.

  1. Snoop buys a nail gun

Snoop was as funny as her scariness allowed it. Amusing in this scene is the varying facial expressions of the store clerk as Snoop goes on with her murderous tale.

  1. Carver, McNulty hang out with Bodie

It was only on my third viewing of the fourth-season premiere that I came to appreciate Carver for the sympathetic and effective cop he became. In the beginning of the show, Carver was no different than his best pal in the unit, the all-muscle, no-brains Herc. But the ‘Hamsterdam’ experience of season three opened Carver’s eyes to a different approach to communicating with the corner kids in contrast to the usual street nabs. In this easy-to-overlook scene, he bonds with Bodie, Lex, and Kevin through light-hearted ball-busting (“Just words”), thus investing in long-term information extraction. Because, “Bust every head, who you gonna talk to when the shit happens?”

A bonus is McNulty coming in to join in the fun with praise for Bodie’s natural smarts, and Caliccio being a typical asshole.

  1. Omar in jail

The best scenes of ‘The wire’ were usually non-action ones, but Omar’s stay in jail is an exception. You could see the overwhelming fear on Omar’s face when left alone, but when it came down to defending himself, he acted very deliberately and left a great impression on the other inmates.

  1. Omar visits Proposition Joe

The best thing about the scene is Proposition Joe’s speech. It was like David Simon used Joe as a mouthpiece for all the brilliant metaphors he could think a thug would say, and this is just one of many shows of eloquence that makes Joe my favorite of the mob leaders.

  1. Freamon finds the bodies

Lester Freamon is a favorite cop of mine on the show, along with Colvin and, more recently, Carver. On little more than somewhat of a side comment by his intellectual opposite Herc, Freamon solves the case of the missing bodies hounding the homicide division for a year. Bunk, unable to keep up, needs some time to take the whole thing in, before uttering the last words of the episode: “Fuck me.”

  1. Omar takes on Slim

The scene displays Slim’s ready-to-die warrior mentality, and Omar’s recognition and respect for that, and for Slim’s tight logic.

  1. Bubbles speaks out about Sherrod

You root for Bubbles through all his fuck-ups, and this scene appears to be a new beginning for him, after a long adulthood of addiction and petty thievery.


Another viewing and I might be more inclined to favor other scenes. There is an element of subjectivity to this, after all. Hell, after making this list, it occurs to me that I forgot Bunny Colvin’s great paper bag speech, which should be up there! Probably replacing Omar’s visit to Joe. You may notice that I give little attention to seasons one and two, which I love too. But single scenes do not a show make, anyway.

Still, I’d give honorable mention to:

McNulty and Bunk interrogating D’Angelo – Police work is a dirty job, when you consider the need to take advantage of a criminal’s good side to outsmart them; and

Rawls consoling McNulty – Rawls dishes out the worst insults to a guilty, helpless McNulty, whom he detests. Which is actually a rare display of kindness from Rawls.

Plus, there are the popular ‘chess’ and ‘fuck’ scenes which are just a little too contrived for me, but are still very entertaining. Also, as much as I hate watching violence, characters’ deaths were done very classily, and were insightful of the characters involved.

I love watching shows, and of all the shows to name the best-ever, I would nominate ‘The wire.’

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