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Fiction Friction

Posted 5/6/2009

I very much enjoyed your story about Bodie Barksdale, Kenneth Jackson, and their Unwired project ("Last Word," Feature, April 29). Still, I'd like to say that these two guys are full of you-know-what. While I know you were simply reporting the story and the opinions expressed were those of your subjects, I would like to respond to what they said.

Like David Simon said in his response, The Wire is a FICTIONAL show; not one second of the narrative was presented as a factual account. Jackson objects to that notion, pointing out the fact that the story includes "real life characters, names, events, and locations." I would say to Mr. Jackson that fiction and fantasy are two different things. A fictional narrative can have a real-life setting, and can be surrounded by a "real" universe; it is a completely legitimate dramatic device, which is obvious to anyone who cares to open a book or turn on the TV. To characterize the show as an exploitation of those who inspired it smacks of a selfish attempt to capitalize on the show's success (Barksdale virtually admitted as much when he complained that he "didn't get enough paper").

I have no problem with Mr. Barksdale and Mr. Jackson telling the "real story" behind The Wire. It's an infinitely interesting topic, and we fans of the show would love nothing more than to learn about the events and people that inspired such a great work (a few months ago I was enthralled by a biography about "Little Melvin" Williams on BET). But to frame this as an answer to some sort of exploitation or oppression is disingenuous at best. David Simon and Ed Burns worked tirelessly to show people something they had never seen before, and in doing so, gave a voice to people exactly like Barksdale and Jackson--people who had never before had their side of the story told. Their misguided criticism cheapens their own project into nothing more than an apparent money-grab.

Anyway, thanks again for the piece, it really was an entertaining read.

Cory Spicer
Chapel Hill, N.C.

Kenny Jackson and Nathan Barksdale surely took City Paper for a ride in your cover story of April 29.

As a freelancer, I covered all of the major problems inside the Baltimore Police Department, as well as serious crime issues for this newspaper for around 16 years; I still have as many sources as deeply placed within the BPD as I ever had. Some are sources who spoke with not only David Simon, but with me as well.

With a deep, longstanding knowledge of Baltimore's police, crime, and drug trade, I can unequivocally say that I know the fictional characters on The Wire whom both Mr. Jackson and Mr. Barksdale claim to have been based on them absolutely were not. Not even the one detective character--"Bunk Moreland"--whom you claim is based on a real homicide detective--Oscar "Bunk" Requer--bears only a small physical resemblance to him. Both are sturdily built, both drink good scotch. As to whether both are "well-dressed" . . . let's just say that would be in the eye of the beholder. Oscar Requer as a human being is nothing like the character Bunk Moreland.

Also, with no disrespect meant to Drew Berry, as a news director and station manager at WMAR-TV, his job was to shape the news in an overall way--as it is with all news directors. (I worked in Baltimore and Washington television for about 14 years.) The deep knowledge of the drug trade is held by reporters and assignment editors.

What your article managed to do--much to my shock--is raise the two men's street cred. To report what they have to say with virtually no deeper questioning not only misses the journalistic mark, it tends to leave readers with impressions that may not be in the least correct.

Terrie Snyder

The writer is a former City Paper contributor.

Skewed Insinuation, and Sneering Too!

Give me a break, City Paper! Edward Ericson Jr.'s reporting on Beans and Bread's planned expansion was laughably skewed and laden with unsupported insinuation ("Beans and Bread and Circuses," Mobtown Beat, April 29).

I'd like to set aside for the moment any judgment of the validity of the Fells Prospect Community Association's objections, as I can sympathize with homeowners (even those who bought houses in the middle of a warehouse district) wanting to protect their investments. Rather, I'd like to take issue with the sneering manner in which Mr. Ericson tries to paint Del. Carolyn Krysiak's advocacy for a respected charitable organization as an unseemly conflict of interest.

St. Vincent De Paul provides an important community service, working to care for the neediest among us. If the current economic forecasts are to be heeded, the need for their services will only grow in the months (probably years) to come. Del. Krysiak sponsoring a funding bill while serving on the charity's board is hardly tantamount to Dick Cheney securing billion dollar no-bid contracts for a corporation in which he and all his friends own stock. She should be applauded for her dedication to a worthy cause, not derided as though she where personally profiting from it.

The last name in my signature unashamedly reveals that I have a "dog in this fight." The lopsided perspective of Mr. Ericson's coverage forces me to wonder aloud if maybe he has one in it, too.

Paul Krysiak

Pay Mr. Wrong

I know I'm so far out of City Paper's demographic at 52 years of age that I don't even register on the CP radar, but I re-lig-ous-ly read Mr. Wrong because you not only make me laugh, you make excellent goddamn points that I identify with (hope that doesn't depress you) ("God Bless," Mr. Wrong, April 29). Some weeks your column is the only thing I find of value in City Paper; I hope they realize the value of your original voice and PAY you for it. Part of me thinks you'd write because you have to write--but money always helps.

Mark Scharf

Wax Factual

Thanks so much to City Paper and Alex Ebstein for reviewing our show, Wax Actual ("Just the Wax," Arts, April 29). It's always nice to be recognized for your efforts, even when the opinions given are critical. We would like to point out one factual error in the review. Ebstein writes, "Arnold distorts the encaustic pigment by adding sand to the piece where sand is depicted." There is no sand used in either of the pieces by Arnold in this show. She brushes the cooling encaustic paint over the textured surface to get that matte "dirty" effect, and evoke an excavation.

Christine Sajecki
Joseph Young

Editor's note: Tonight, May 6, the finalists for Shoot. Score. Baltimore., City Paper's short-film contest, will be screening at the Windup Space beginning at 7 p.m., and the grand-prize winner will be announced once all the films have been shown. Starting on May 7, look for them at Thanks to all who entered.

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