Sunday, 10 May 2015

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Louie, you disappoint me I can't think of a better way to win friends on social than to write an article in which I bag on Louie and defend beat cops: As any television critic will tell you, there are two constants when it comes to televised drama, “cops” and “doctors,” and the current moment is no exception. For example, you have a wide selection of police procedurals to choose from: old hats like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”; more family-oriented fare like “Blue Bloods”; shows that are only tangentially about cops, but are still police procedurals, like “Elementary” or “Person of Interest” or “Bones”; and you even have comedies that work within the trappings of the police procedural, like “Brooklyn 99.” Except none of those are actually “cop shows,” because they’re all about detectives. (Which is, yes, technically a rank, but is conventionally depicted as entirely different profession.) In fact, the majority of shows aren’t about cops at all — they’re about individuals too intelligent or talented to be lowly patrol officers, who have transcended the beat and work in the rarefied world of investigation. That is not to say that uniformed officers don’t make an appearance on these series, because they do, but when they’re not relegated to bit players at crime scenes — the blue drones in the background collecting evidence or being asked to canvas a neighborhood — they’re inevitably fucking up. This dynamic was neatly encapsulated on a recent episode of “Elementary” — CBS’ loose adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes– in which Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is asked by the daughter of the New York Police Department’s Captain Thomas Gregson (Aidan Quinn) to assist her in breaking up a ring of thieves hitting up local drug stores. Hannah Gregson (Liza Bennett) is just a lowly uniformed officer, so she seeks out Watson’s help — and Watson isn’t even an actual detective, she’s an assistant “consulting detective” — in order to discover the identity of the thieves, a problem that’s been vexing Officer Gregson for weeks. Two scenes later, Watson has not only discovered who the thieves are, but how to use them to infiltrate a much larger prescription drug smuggling operation. She hands Officer Gregson a file containing everything she needs to initiate what could be a career-making bust, and what does the beat cop do? She immediately arrests the low-level operators, thereby allowing those running the criminal enterprise to go to ground. Why does she do this? According to her own father, Captain Gregson, it’s because she’s not that bright — she settled for the small score because her beat-cop-brain isn’t capable of conceptualizing the abstract connections required to take down a smuggling ring. “She is what she is,” Captain Gregson tells Watson. “I love her, but I love this job too, the people who can actually do it.” And on that note, the episode fades to black, as if it’s a fact of precinct life that current uniformed officers just don’t have what it...
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Memorial Day weekend Sunday Funnies: Ari Kelman and Jonathan Fetter-Vorm's Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War You can read the whole thing here, but here's a taste: “Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War” is a remarkable achievement both as a work of history and visual literature, providing a broad overview of the complex circumstances that gave rise to the bloodiest conflict in American history, while simultaneously making those deaths meaningful by capturing fleeting moments amid the slaughter in panels so beautifully wrought as to beggar description. The book is a collaboration by Penn State historian Ari Kelman, who won the 2014 Bancroft Prize for “A Misplaced Massacre,” about the unecessary 1864 slaughter of the Cheyenne at Sand Creek, and Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, whose 2012 graphic novel “Trinity” worked as both a detailed history of the building of the first atomic bomb and a philosophical meditation on its impact on humanity. In short, it would be difficult to imagine a creative team better suited to capturing the tragic magnitude of the Civil War on an intimate and harrowing scale. Its engagement with actual history is on par with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s engagement with fictional history in “Watchmen.” If I still taught visual rhetoric, I could easily see pairing the two books and discussing the way in which, for example, Kelman’s stunningly concise summaries of the troop movements and Washington politics impact the reader’s experience of the pages that immediately follow. Consider, for example, what Kelman told me was his favorite sequence in the book, which begins with an update on the war’s progress via an ersatz edition of the Harrisburg Bulletin...

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