Jim Groom

Pager Paranoia on the GIF Wire #ds106 #wire106

1 min read

This is my attempt at the "Summarize A Wire Episode In GIFs." I chose to pull six (actually seven) animated GIFs from episode 5 of Season 1 of The Wire: "The Pager." It's one of my favorite episodes because the theme of being watched and a more generalized sense of paranoia creeps into the episode constantly. 

This is one of the earlier, if not earliest, episode where we hear the refrain: "Omar's coming!" As we all know, "the cheese stands alone!" ---and he'll be coming for Avon soon.

cheese_stands_alone 01 

There's a lot of warnings in this episode, and I found an interesting parallel between Omar's raid on the East Side stash, and the young hopper's in the pit calling the warning for "5-0" that Stringer Bell and D'Angelo hear while talking about there being a snitch in D's ranks. Again, this constant sense of being watched, betrayed, and generally under someone else's control.


5-0-5-0_coming_up 01 

Jim Groom

Wire 106: S01E12 "Cleaning Up"

2 min read


For this video discussion of Season 1 Episode 12 of The Wire, "Cleaning Up," Paul Bond and I were joined by UMW internauts Maggie Stough and Imran Ahmed. This discussion was generative because I realized it might be useful to coordinate discussion details with students before we go live. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants in all things, but a bit of structure for these discussions makes sense. I'll be working on sharing an ongoing video discussions document wherein folks can share the particular things they want to talk about for each episode. Iteration 4life!
Another thing about this discussion, and why I am learning to hate Google more and more, is that they threatened to stop the discussion midstream if we shared another clip from the show. We were sharing a couple of minute long clips from The Wire to contextualize the discussion we were having and they threatened to shut us down. Total bullshit. This is an excellent example of how out of control the media lockdown on our culture has become, and how our convenience-driven dependence on third party services reinforces that reality. I have to get our own video setup together for these wire106 discussions soon, because I am so tired of having advertising companies dictate how we interact with the media culture defines us. 
Also, I keep calling this episode "The Clean-Up," but it's Cleaning Up." So much for exactitude.

Jim Groom

First Wire 106 Lunch

4 min read

After returning to teach ds106 as an online course at UMW for the first time in over a year, I decided to experiment with an idea Mike Wesch mentioned while in Irvine this summer preparing for Connected Courses. He noted that he goes out to lunch with a different student of his every day. I loved this idea. And given that most of the students taking the wire106 version of ds106 this Fall are residential students, I decided to organize group lunches for anyone interested. Today was the first one, and it was pretty awesome.

Maggie, John, Ien, and Meredith joined me at a local eating establishment to get to know each other over lunch. After working through the expected initial awkwardness, we sat down, ordered food and started talking about The Wire. And, interestingly enough, we all got into it. They confessed to binge watching, admitted using ds106 to procrastinate doing other class work (a badge of honor), and generally acknowledged they were hooked on the series. Needless to say, I was fired up. We talked about Wee-Bey's exotic fish fetish, the tragedy of Wallace, the existential angst of D'Angelo, Greggs as natural police and much more. It was fun.

On top of that, we came away with some idea for class activities, assignments, and projects that Meredith was kind enough to capture at lunch before they slipped away.

Live Tweeting Episodes
It even produced some ideas for both wire106-themed assignments and possibilities for coordinating activities for the class to come together. For example, watching episode 1 of Season 2 together by starting it at a predetermined time and live tweeting out our reactions. This is something we need to make happen.

Opening Scene Episode
Take all the opening scenes from the 13 episodes of season 1 and edit them into a video wherein they play one after the other chronologically to see how it would flow as it's own episode.

Beginnings and Endings
Juxtapose the opening and closing scenes of each episode in season 1, noting how much they play off each other in a number of episodes. One good example to start with is episode 10, "The Cost."

Wire Colors
Another assignment that came up was doing an analysis of the use of color in the series. And we're still thinking about how we would frame that as a compelling visual assignment. Ideas?

Wire 106: Messing with the Macguffin
John suggested an assignment that would have a character saying something that changed the nature of the episode, if not the series, all together. Like, for instance, Deputy of Ops suggesting a Bust and Buy on a case with a wire would be out of the question. Poor Kima. Kinda like a Wire 106-themed "Messing with the MacGuffin" assignment.

OG Technology
If you were to change the technology in a scene, how it would be different today. Could there be a season 1 Wire without pay phones?

Where are they now?
Playing off the fact many of the actors in The Wire have gone on to successful careers, do a where are they now assignment that plays with the before and after. Perhaps even creating a fiction story around the changes. This could be very interesting for Wallace, Stringer Bell, Snoop and more.

Clothing Change Ups
A design assignment that has you photoshopping one character’s set of clothing onto another character.

Putting Words In Their Mouth
Giving a quote that one character said to another character.

Wire on the Twitter
Create a twitter account for each character in an episode then tweet the dialogue of that episode. This might be a group project later in the semester, it would take some interesting coordination, and the tweets might be an awesome subtitle to a live projected episode at the end of the semester.

Audio Commentary
Provide a polished, rehearsed audio commentary to an episode. Make it a special feature anyone can download and play as part of their watching of the series.

The idea of coming up with fun assignments over lunch is a really appealing focus for these sessions, at least for me. And it could be one approach we take to these get togethers. But the real goal is to simply get to know each other. The idea of residential online learning that Mike Caulfield has written about is still very appealing to me. An hour and a half lunch with four different students twice a week, over 13 weeks, means I could spend almost 5 hours with every student for focused, relaxed, and  personalized time to get to know them, have a good meal, and get creative about what we can do with the class. That to me is what online makes available for a community like UMW. More time to get to know each other, have fun, and re-imagine how we learn together. And what better venue that !

Jim Groom

Creating GIFs with Text in GIMP #wire106 #ds106

1 min read

Here is a quick screencast showing you how to add text to GIFs in GIMP. And keep in mind, GIFs don't necessarily need text for the summary assignment.

Jim Groom

Wire 106: S01E11 "The Hunt" #wire106 #ds106

1 min read

Meredith Fierro, Jessica ReingoldPaul Bond and I discussed Episode 11 of Season 1 of The Wire: "The Hunt." This was special for me because it's the first time we had UMW students enrolled in ds106 join the discussions about the show. This will now be a regular, ongoing component of these video discussions, and based on this one it's going to be a lot of fun to start featuring everyone's readings of the series. If you're interested in being part of tomorrow's discussion of episode 12, "Cleaning Up," you can sign-up here to join in.

Jim Groom

Institutional Noir

2 min read

A shot Paul Bond captured from episode 4 of The Wire, "Old Cases," highlights the corporate institutional spaces much of the police work revolves around in this season. In his commentary for episode 1 of the season, David Simon refers to the office furniture as more akin to an insurance office than an old school police department. Unlike the reassuring heavy wood furniture reminiscent of Barney Miller, the furniture in police headquarters is alienating and impersonal (although the detail's basement office begins to take on the feel of another era, when they actually did police work?). The set design reinforces a broader shift in the culture. Thinking about Simon's comment about insurance agencies reminded me of Billy Wilder's classic noir Double Indemnity (1944).


The murder in Double Indemnity was investigated by an insurance agency, rather than a police department. It's as if the vision Wilder had in the 1940s had become a reality fifty years later. Police departments being run by numbers and margins much like insurance agencies, and Keyes discussion of statistics in the following scene of Double Indemnity might be a sign of things to come for police work with CompStat:


The alienation at the heart of one of Double Indemnity is everywhere apparent in the design of the modern institutional spaces, not unlike The Wire. James Naremore's book More than Night isolates the offices and locations of this film to discuss the "industrialized dehumanization" at work in the culture at large:


Wilder frames the dehumanizing design of industrial capitalism in 1940s Los Angeles through bowling alleys and grocery stores---massification of the moment.


The Wire similarly explores the dehumanizing design of post-industrial capitalism in contemporary Baltimore through a sterile police department. But what's also striking in this series are the cuts from the pit and the project towers to the power elite. The show constantly reinforces how deeply divided the haves and have-nots are in the city, and the following shot is an excellent example of just that from episode 4. The following scene takes you from the pit directly into Judge Phelan's office by way of a nice angle that shows you, as the episode epigraph notes, there's a thin line between heaven and here.

Jim Groom

The Lego Wire---it's all in the game!

1 min read

Could for an interesting class project ;)

The Lego Wire from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

Jim Groom

Wire 106: S01E03 “The Buys”

1 min read


Paul and I discussed "The Buys" last Thursday, and above is the video. We range in our discussion and I just did a pretty extensive post on it that I lost in Known (sometimes I am spoiled by WordPress). I'll keep this one very short. Below are the three video clips we discussed in some detail. After that we explored the recurrence of noir aesthetics through sight and sound that Paul breaks down nicely in this post. I want to talk more about the idea of "institutional noir" ---which I'm starting to feel is one name for the aesthetic of Simon's series.

It Ain't Gotta be Played Like That

All Business

King Stay the King

Jim Groom

The Wire Everywhere #wire106

1 min read

While walking around the new building I now work in at UMW---I realized I was seeing The Wire everywhere. Specifically, in the carpet.

The carpet is a constant reminder, at least for me, of the iconic image that is associated with the series on its main Wikipedia page.

So I took a picture of the rug and then add a quick title (still working in PowerPoint  ;)) and took a screenshot.

You can see a comparison here. 

I would give myself one of the two stars I attributed to "The Wire Everywhere" assignment I created for this semester's ds106 visual assignments. For it to be awesome, I would need to use Photoshop or GIMP to make the colors of the rug match those of the series icon. I'll revisit this, but for now consider it yet another star, and a new assignment to boot :)