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"The Wire": A Panel Discussion at Harvard

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Longtime _floss blog readers may recall my fanatical devotion to The Wire, an HBO show that recently wrapped up its fifth and final season. In my view, The Wire is important because it's smart TV -- it's a demanding, complex show that poses difficult questions and hesitates to give in to happy endings. It prompts thinking and discourse among its viewers, but manages to remain entertaining. While I appreciate "junk TV" too, I feel like smart TV is an important form to nurture. If you haven't seen The Wire, the first four seasons are currently on DVD and the fifth will arrive next month.

Last week, the Harvard University Institute of Politics hosted a forum entitled: The HBO Series The Wire - A Compelling Portrait of an American City. It's a ninety-minute discussion of the series and the issues it raised, with a panel including:

* David Simon, writer/producer of The Wire
* Nora Baston, Deputy Superintendent of the Boston Police Department
* Geoffrey Canada, author of Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America and president of the Harlem Children's Zone
* Sudhir Venkatesh, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and author of Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets.

The discussion was moderated by William Julius Wilson, Professor at Harvard University and author of When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor.

Topics include: why it took a TV show to bring the drug war back into the national discourse; the difference between academia, journalism, and dramatic TV; how to get a Pulitzer prize at a modern newspaper; how The Wire is a show about "something" (an implicit Seinfeld comparison there); what's wrong with "Just Say No"; the effects of the drug war on the U.S. prison population; how environmental (social) factors affect kids; and lots more.

You can watch the discussion online, but you'll need the RealPlayer plugin installed.

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Animals
Watch a Rogue Pet Dog Interrupt a Russian News Anchor on Air
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Last week, a Russian news broadcast briefly went to the dogs after its host was startled by a surprise co-anchor: a friendly black canine that wandered on set, announced its presence with a loud bark, and climbed onto her desk.

 

As TODAY reports, Mir24 TV anchor Ilona Linarte went off script for a few minutes, telling viewers "I've got a dog here. What is this dog doing in the studio?" After the initial shock wore off, she gave her furry guest a tepid welcome, patting its head as she gently pushed it off the desk. ("I actually prefer cats,'' Linarte remarked. "I'm a cat lady.")

Linarte’s query was answered when the TV station announced that the dog had accompanied another show’s guest on set, and somehow got loose. That said, rogue animals have a proud tradition of crashing live news broadcasts around the world, so we’re assuming this won’t be the last time a news anchor is upstaged by an adorable guest star (some of which have better hair than them).

[h/t TODAY]

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Falcon Heavy and Dragon. Image credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0
SpaceX Is Sending Two Private Citizens Around the Moon
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Falcon Heavy and Dragon. Image credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0

Two members of the public are set to take an historic trip around the Moon, according to an announcement from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. As The Verge reports, the anonymous private citizens have already placed substantial deposits on the commercial space flight.

The private spacecraft company SpaceX revealed on Monday that the Falcon Heavy rocket will be launching with its Crew Dragon spacecraft in late 2018. The mission will consist of a circumnavigation of the Moon, passing over the body’s surface before traveling farther into space and returning to Earth. In total, the trip will cover 300,000 to 400,000 miles and take a week to complete.

A noteworthy part of the plan is the human cargo that will be on board. Instead of professional astronauts, the craft will carry two paying customers into space. The passengers, who’ve yet to be named, will both need to pass several fitness tests before they're permitted to make the journey. According to The Verge, Musk said the customers are “very serious” and that the cost of the trip is “comparable” to that of a crewed mission to the International Space Station. The goal for SpaceX is to eventually send one or two commercial flights into space each year, which could account for 10 to 20 percent of the company’s earnings.

[h/t The Verge]

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