Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hope and Despair in Iraq

When I came home from a business trip this week, a large brown envelope awaited me in the kitchen. I recognized NerdBoy's writing on the outside. I opened it up, and there were about 16 photocopied pages of an article from a German magazine. And accompanying it was a note:

"I could not get the digital version of this article, so I send you this copy. In my eyes one of the best pieces ever written on Iraq, and it is a well-balanced text...I do not know if Spiegel Online will publish the English version...

I think many people should read this, especially those who think and speak about Iraq and the US-troops only one-dimensionally."

So the next day, I sat down an read it...and it was a page turner. And I want to thank the German reporters for going over to Iraq, and researching this piece. I was telling my boyfriend how great the article was and how I lamented the fact that it wasn't in English, and this morning, he sent me an email...he had found the text in English.

Please, go read this article. It is long, but worth it. Here is a teaser to start:

The world has become deaf to the word "peace" -- at least when conversations turn to Iraq. It is as if the world were blind to the possibility that the situation in this country straddling the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers could be anything different from the constant stream of increasingly devastating films of the latest car bombings. For most people, Iraq has become nothing but a series of attacks, a collection of images of bombings and victims, a tale of failure, a book about historical guilt and a symbol of the moral decline of the United States of America.

But the real story in Iraq cannot be summed up in short news clips and quick, shaky television images. Body counts and names of the dead tell only part of the story of Iraq today. Research for this story took me on a three-week journey throughout the country, my fourth trip to Iraq in as many years. Under the protection of the US military, it led us to the northern city of Mosul and its suburbs, to Ramadi and to Baghdad. The military did not choose our destinations, SPIEGEL did. Apart from a few technical and strategic details, nothing was censored.

The trip included nighttime helicopter flights across villages and cities, journeys in Humvees through landscapes of burned-out buildings, rides in an armored personnel carrier through war zones and walks through both enemy territory and peaceful markets. This kind of travel is the only way for a Western journalist to work in Iraq. Without a military escort, reporting can only take place from afar, from the relative safety of well-guarded hotel rooms. Of course, hotel rooms aren't the best vantage point from which to grasp the true complexity of the situation. At no point during this journey, even in places where there was gunfire or bombs had recently exploded, were the images entirely consistent.

(Thanks, Nerdboy!)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Prank calls...Meow

Okay, because somebody said I had to write something new, I am writing about a little event in my day that made me beam with pride. Prank callers, perverted prank callers, had been calling the office and harassing the girls answering the phones....all day long. I told the girls they weren't to get upset with these guys, because that is what they wanted...they loved the game, they like making their prey squirm, but if you don't squim, or even better, make them squirm: game over. You have to make THEM hang-up, not the other way around.

So, I took a call just after one of the girls had hung up on someone bothering them. He started off by saying: "one of your colleagues just hung up on me, I would like to complain." (I heard laughter in the background...I guessed their age at about 14 or so.) So then I said, I would help him with his query. So then he asked me: "do you ship to My-anus, Nebraska?" I responded: I don't see why not. Why, have you had any problems getting things up there before?

Tee hee...

He hung up.

But aha...I guess, his friends egged him on to call again. He couldn't lose face. So he called back and said: "Is this the pimp line?" I pretended not to recognize that he had just talked to me. "Nope, you have the wrong number." And then he launched into: "do you have big titties?" So I then did what I recommend everyone does, if you want to actually enjoy a prank call, or turn the tables: meow. Seriously. It is hilarious! Like in that movie Super Troopers, where they add meow to the end of their sentences, just to see if people notice, and call them on it. But different. Just react to everything they say by meowing.

So, I meowed: Meow. (Not all kinky or anything. Just a plain old meow.)

So he was stumped: He replied: "huh? Meow isn't a breast size."

So I replied: Meow. Meow.

*Silence.* His friends laughing in the background.

And then he hung up.


And they never called back again.

I seriously can't wait for the next prank call.


So there, Jen...was that worth a few months' wait?