2017 Winners: World Press Photo Awards

Self only has a few minutes to post this, as she’s running here there and everywhere and the only reason she is still in her apartment is because she decided to work a little more on her sequel to “First Causes”: “This Is End” (dystopia, fantasy, apocalyptic, etc what else is new, lol)

Winner:  Associated Press Photographer Burhan Ozbilici, for his image of a gun-wielding off-duty Turkish policeman standing over the body of Russia’s ambassador, Dec. 19

CONTEMPORARY ISSUES

Singles

  1. Jonathan Bachman (USA), Reuters: “Taking a Stand in Baton Rouge”
  2. Vadim Ghirda (Romania), The Associated Press“Migrant Crossing”
  3. Daniel Etter (Germany): “The Libyan Migrant Trap”

Stories

  1. Amber Bracken (Canada): “Standing Rock”
  2. Lalo de Almeida (Brazil): “Victims of the Zika Virus”
  3. Peter Bauza (Germany): “Copacabana Palace”

DAILY LIFE

Singles

  1. Paula Bronstein (USA), Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting: “The Silent Victims of a Forgotten War”
  2. Tiejun Wang (China): “Sweat Makes Champions”
  3. Matthieu Paley (France), National Geographic: “China’s Wild West”

Stories

  1. Tomas Munita (Chile), The New York Times: “Cuba on the Edge of Change”
  2. Elena Asonova (Russia): “Out of the Way”
  3. Francesco Comello (Italy):  “Isle of Salvation”

GENERAL NEWS

Singles

  1. Laurent Van der Stockt (France), Getty for Le Monde: “Offensive on Mosul”
  2. Santi Palacios (Spain): “Left Alone”
  3. Noel Celis (Philippines), Agence France-Presse: “Inside the Philippines’ Most Overcrowded Jail”

2016: Books That Rocked Self’s World

  • March 2016 (read in Mendocino & Fort Bragg): The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins
  • May 2016 (read in London): Watch Me, by Anjelica Huston
  • June 2016 (read in California, various stops on the central coast): The Girl On the Train, by Paula Hawkins
  • August 2016 (read in San Francisco): The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho
  • December 2016 (read in San Francisco): In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

Two 1/2 Years Later, Nothing’s Changed

The Economist, 14 June 2014: Terror’s New Headquarters

  • Perhaps Iraq’s humiliated army will muster the resolve to make a stand, or even retake Mosul. But, with its symbolic victories and an endless supply of young men, that will be of little comfort. ISIS aims to withdraw the map of of the Middle East by creating a Sunni state, starting with Eastern Syria and the heart of Iraq. Its brand of militancy is spreading poison and terror across the Arab world. One day, if they have their way, ISIS’s suicide bombers will also target Europe and America. Without a change of heart in Baghdad and Washington, groups like it will continue to cause mayhem. Even with a new approach, it will be hard to stop the jihad.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Reading: NECESSARY FICTION

“When the shells hit the zoo five-hundred exotic species spurted like awkward pollen and scattered all across the tan streets and plumbing-covered roofs of Baghdad. The leopards ran for the Tigris. An elephant wandered into the middle of the intersection where I sat in the turret of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, praying to the satellite gods to show me the way to a checkpoint that appeared on the intel photo but didn’t seem to exist in reality. Getting lost had been my greatest fear since leaving Kuwait.”

— “Third Order Effects,” a piece by James Stegall (Read the rest of it on the Necessary Fiction site, here)

THE FOREVER WAR, pp. 319 – 320

For some reason, self is still reading this book. She is down to the last pages. It’s terrible. What self means is: Filkins doesn’t have any dead spots in his book (Only, dead people. BWAH. HA. HA)

Before this, she was tempted to blog about a dozen times. Each time she told herself: At this rate, you’ll be blogging for every page. Every page. You’ll be on a plane to Los Angeles, booksigning even, and you’ll be writing your 37th post on The Forever War. Woman, get a grip!

Okay, less than 50 pages to go. Which means, only about a dozen more posts on Iraq and IEDs and marines shooting at people and Iraqis hating Americans and sectarian violence and . . .

Patience, people! The end is slowly approaching!

Here’s the passage that self simply couldn’t resist posting:

“Can you imagine that anyone would ever leave his home, for any reason?” Hanoon said, waving a cigarette as he spoke. “Only bad people and gypsies live in tents. What can you say about women having to live here?”

As Hanoon “prepared to leave his ancestral home . . . not a single one of his . . . neighbors stopped by to say goodbye.”

And that is all.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

The Chapter on IEDs

Filkins includes many descriptions of kids running around the rubble of whatever burned-out city he is reporting from. Sometimes the kids are scouts (to signal the insurgents that Americans are approaching). Regardless, at least in Filkins’s descriptions, the soldiers always have a soccer ball or basketball handy to throw to them.

Some kids will make a slashing motion across their throats at the sight of the Americans. Otherwise will start screeching — a distraction. A few feet onward might be an IED, so the kids don’t want the Americans to notice.

At the end of Chapter 18, Filkins is in Ramadi, riding in a Humvee driven by Lance Corporal Sean Patton.

“Football! Football!” a couple of kids squeal out.

The Americans toss a ball from the turret. The Humvee makes a right turn and heads “toward an intersection with a kebab stand and a pharmacy.” Suddenly the Iraqis on the street start “moving. Walking away. The intersection” is suddenly empty.

The driver stops the Humvee. “They’re going to hit us!” he screams.

A Marine stands up through the turret, “his hands on the MK-19 grenade launcher . . . He’d left a copy of Surfing magazine on his seat.” Filkins picks up the magazine. There’s “an article about the waves in Nicaragua.”

Eventually, the Humvee moves on. But instead of leaving the scene, the driver circles. Every time he enters the intersection, the Iraqis on the street leave. Every time the Humvee makes to leave the intersection, the Iraqis return.

Corporal Patton says, for the nth time, “We’re going to get hit.” He says it every time they re-enter the intersection, his hands “gripping the steering wheel.”

The hit never comes.

This is crazy.

Stay tuned.

Quotes of the Day: THE FOREVER WAR

“I am talking directly to the kidnappers.” (Ahmad, Shiite, Baghdad freelancer. “For eating, Sir!” was his answer when Filkins asked him why he kept a flock of twenty-five sheep on the roof of his home)

“The best sources are often people of marginal repute.” (Filkins) Ahmad’s fee: $250/day

“Sir, it is very complicated.” (Ahmad)

“Not good man.” (Waleed, Filkins’s driver, referring to Ahmad)

“Jill is at the racetrack.” (Ahmad, referring to American reporter Jill Carroll, kidnapped in the middle of the day, in the middle of the street; her translator, who was with her, had been killed)

“a brunette with a streak of pink dye in her hair” (Filkins, describing Jill Carroll)

“She wasn’t there.” (CIA section chief, two nights after Filkins gave him a tip that Carroll was being held at the racetrack.)

“I was afraid now, afraid of everything I didn’t know.” (Dexter Filkins)

“My dealings with Ahmad . . . had sunk to the level of farce.” (Filkins, after he and a fellow reporter end up pooling $6,000 of their own money to pay Ahmad for information on the whereabouts of kidnapped reporter Jill Carroll)

“Your buddy is just playing you.” (CIA section chief, to Filkins)

Self promises she will finish this book sometime today, then start on Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

Stay tuned.

Finally, 232 Pages Into THE FOREVER WAR

We encounter the first American diplomat who speaks “perfect Arabic.”

This is pretty sad. It’s Robert Ford, the American Embassy’s chief political officer. Self looked him up. The Wikipedia page has rather skimpy information. He was a graduate of Johns Hopkins. That’s where he picked up his “perfect Arabic”? She always knew Johns Hopkins was a great school. She wonders if Stanford University offers Arabic? It has to, now, one would think.

Self is still pondering her previous post, about the Blackwater security people who were killed in Falluja, two of whose charred bodies were strung from a bridge over the Euphrates.

Whoever did it knew they were coming. But there was not the slightest trace of apprehension among the Blackwater people in that destroyed car. Either they were just masking their fear, or they had no choice, or they were really that arrogant.

Filkins describes Falluja as “a bomb factory.”

Come to think of it, self is pretty sure she’s read another book by Filkins. All she can remember is the AC/DC moment, hardly anything else. So, nothing prepared her, really for The Forever War. This is such a good book.

She has read soooo many books about Iraq. But the only other one she can remember with any clarity is Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in The Emerald City — nice euphemism for the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Blackwater/ Falluja

All morning (because self is still reading Dexter Filkins), she has been trying to imagine what it would feel like to say good-bye to a friend, then to see, two hours later, on a small TV screen in a bar where one has gone to unwind, that friend’s car engulfed in smoke, all four doors flung open wide, as if someone had dragged something — a body, maybe? Not your friend, surely this is a joke — out.

The car is just sitting there, in the middle of the street, how strange.

There is no connection between the friend you spoke to that morning and the image of that banged up car. None whatsoever.

Because when you said good-bye that morning, his car was absolutely pristine. In good shape. Maybe in need of a wash, but there were no holes in the sides.

“It just happened,” someone in the bar says.

Oh, like, a few minutes ago? And you’re sitting in a bar. Staring.

That’s so-and-so’s car.

How could anyone recognize a car as belonging to a friend when it looks like that? Like a burned-out wreck of a car? Like it’s been through a demolition derby? Who drives a car like that? Why would anyone?

And besides, the TV. Your friends never appear on TV. They’re so small-time, they’re not even. Not the slightest bit news-worthy. Your friends are just people. What an invasion of privacy. Did someone get their permission to film them?

 

To Take a Minaret

Self knows she has read Filkins before. She just knows.

There’s a book that begins with the marines blasting an AC/DC song through loudspeakers just before they try to take Falluja. That was a Filkins book, right?

She cannot tell you how exquisite his account of the battle for Falluja is: For example, the thousands of rounds of ammunition the marines use up in their (ultimately futile) attempt to take out one sniper. One sniper. Who killed one of their own.

The sniper nonchalantly retreats from the targeted building by riding away on a bicycle, unharmed. Though the marines do manage to demolish the building. Nothing is left but the struts.

Filkins and a fellow journalist decide to go into a minaret so they can take pictures, and the marines won’t let them go unaccompanied so they send two soldiers to be point guards. And the only way to the top of the tower is through a long, winding staircase. The two marines go first. And it is so quiet until, “about three-quarters of the way up,” Filkins hears a loud shot, and then a marine is falling backwards, into his colleague. And right afterwards the marines go crazy and attack the minaret: “Young and determined, up the winding stair.”

And it is suicide. Because the stairs can only accommodate one person at a time. So crack! Crack! Crack! go the shots, and one marine after another keeps falling down the stairs.

(You know what eventually happens to that minaret, right? Yup. You know)

Only a week after the battle of Falluja begins, “nearly a quarter of Bravo” company are “wounded or dead.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

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